RHR2010: How Long Before Indefinite Detention Without Charge Becomes Permanent Betrayal of Our Values?
The day begins with shacharit (my favorite moment: singing a snippet of our abbreviated Hallel to the tune of "Maoz Tzur" in honor of Chanukah) and breakfast. After a word of welcome from (and a brief commercial for) UJA / Federation New York, we begin our first plenary session of the day:
How Long Before Indefinite Detention Without Charge Becomes Permanent Betrayal of Our Values?
This session features Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union; Gabor Rona, Human Rights First; Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights; and Rabbi Marla Feldman, Union of Reform Judaism.
"Indefinite detention is another form of slavery," says one of our welcomers. We read just two weeks ago about Joseph being put into Pharaoh's prison -- "that was a form of indefinite detention!" But even if some of the prisoners in Guantanamo could interpret dreams as Joseph did, that wouldn't get them out of prison.
"Nearly a decade after the horrific 9/11 attacks, we're still living very much under their shadow," says Donna Lieberman. "Of course the pain of those who lost loved ones is very fresh. But the collateral damage to our civil liberties is remarkably ongoing." Government behavior which would have once been unthinkable has become the new normal: indefinite detention, surveilance, all in the name of "national security" and the global war on terror. Many of us thought that when the Bush regime was over, the worst offenses would cease -- but we know now that this has not been the case.
Lieberman introduces our panelists (I'm not taking notes on their bios -- you can read about these folks if you click on the links to their names, above) and then we get rolling. Our first speaker is Rabbi Marla Feldman, who begins by laying out the Jewish foundation of our thinking on these issues and explains that after she starts with these basics she'll speak more directly to the subject of this panel. We often speak, she notes, of the notion of human beings being created in the divine image, b'tzelem Elohim. "That means that all human beings should be treated with dignity, as equals, with one another." Jewish tradition also impels us to treat the strangers in our midst as one of our own, "for we were strangers in the land of Egypt. So citizens and non-citizens were governed by the same laws" in the ancient world, she says. "Jewish tradition commands us to treat them as one and the same."