Departure from Yemen: An Editorial

from The Forward:

The Politics of Rescue

“It was Maimonides who said that there is no greater religious duty than pidyon shevuyim, the redemption of captives, an injunction with deep biblical roots and plenty of historical illustrations. This obligation fueled the movement to free Soviet Jews and undergirds the contemporary Israeli impulse to strike lopsided deals and embark on military campaigns to redeem its soldiers. It’s the reason that Gilad Shalit has become a household name in Israel and beyond ever since the Israel Defense Forces soldier was abducted two and a half years ago.

So the plea to rescue Jews who are in distress in countries hostile to them resonates in an almost tribal way. Who among us wouldn’t want to save one’s sibling and, by extension, a member of the (very) extended family? That’s why it’s hard to criticize the basic motivation of the rather odd collection of Jewish organizations who are trying to rescue the remaining Jews in Yemen, a secret operation reported in this newspaper last week after an embargo on the story was broken by the Israeli press.

…It is impossible from this vantage point to judge which depiction of the situation of Yemeni Jews most accurately fits their reality. But it is fair to question whether Jewish organizations should be involved in trying so hard to rescue Jews who may not want to be rescued. And it is fair to question whether the demand for secrecy wasn’t used as a way to evade accountability on the part of leadership to their members.”