Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, recently addressed the Israeli parliament (Knesset). To make a long story short, it didn’t go over too well.

evil speech

By Rabbi Ari Enkin

Speaking in German at the Knesset last week, Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, repeated a couple of lies about Israel, leading to a protest walkout by a number of Members of Knesset. Among his accusations, based on what he had heard from the Palestinians, were that Israel prevents the Palestinian people from receiving an adequate water supply and that the Jewish communities in the Biblical heartland of Israel are an obstacle to peace.

These claims are simply untrue. Jews and Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) have equal access to water resources. And regarding the claim that the settlements are an obstacle to peace – let me ask you: What was the obstacle to peace between 1948 and 1967, when there were no settlements in Judea and Samaria? What was bothering the Arab terrorists then? Were the wars that they started and the acts of terrorism that they committed the result of their anger over the price of gefilte fish? Of course not!

The settlements are not the obstacle to peace today, just as they were not the obstacle to peace over 40 years ago. There is only one obstacle to peace: The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state, as the homeland of the Jewish people, as the place where every Jew should be free to live. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said in recent times that the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland is the only issue in the way of a comprehensive peace agreement.

As Moti Yogev of the Jewish Home party commented, Schulz was merely repeating the lies that were fed to him by the Palestinian Authority earlier in Ramallah. From a Torah perspective, Martin Schulz’s performance can be summarized in just two words: Lashon Hara – Hebrew for “evil speech.”

Lashon Hara is the Torah term for gossip, slander and character assassination. Evil speech is literally one of the worst transgressions of the Torah. Why? Because with each word of Lashon Hara one could simultaneously transgress numerous commandments, such as “Do not lie,” “Do not bear false witness” and “You shall love your fellow as you love yourself” – among many others. Imagine that! A bad deed that is a simultaneous violation of more than a dozen commandments! There are very few sins of that magnitude. Evil speech is one of them.

According to Torah law it is forbidden to speak negatively about another person, even if it is true. One should certainly never believe evil speech that one hears about others. At the very least, one should always suspect that the gossip is an exaggeration, if not an outright lie. We are required to judge others favorably.

There are many Scriptural examples of Lashon Hara. In fact, Lashon Hara is one of the first transgressions documented in the entire Torah. We find Lashon Hara early in the Torah when the evil snake tempted Eve to eat from the forbidden fruit. As part of his ruse, the snake spoke Lashon Hara against God Himself! Joseph spoke Lashon Hara about his brothers when he would tattletale about them to his father Jacob. There is also the episode when Miriam spoke negatively about her brother Moses; consequently, she was afflicted with a skin disease, known as tzara’at. Even their brother Aaron, who merely listened to the Lashon Hara, was punished. Another example is the episode of the twelve spies who were sent to scout out the Land of Israel prior to the Jewish People’s arrival. Unfortunately, 10 of the 12 spies did not learn from Miriam’s mistake and they spoke terrible Lashon Hara about the Land of Israel. As a result, God decreed that the Jewish People should wander 40 years in the desert!

It seems that Mr. Schulz should work on his evil speech, and if and while he does, some words of apology are certainly in order.

Author: Ari Enkin,
Rabbinic Director, UWI
Date: Feb. 17, 2014