Eva R. Cohen: There is a Lack of Empathy for Israel

"I guess there’s a certain feeling of maybe a lack of empathy or a lack of appreciation for the gravity of [October 7]. It was an attack on civilians, and many are not drawing a clear moral line there."
By | Apr 16, 2024
JPVP 2024
Eva R. Cohen

This interview is part of Moment’s Jewish Political Voices Project. To learn more about the project, click here. To see our other participants, click here. To see all posts from Eva, click here.

Age: 36
Occupation: Rabbinical student and leader of a Humanistic Jewish congregation

Location: Minneapolis, MN
Jewish Denomination: Humanist
2020 Vote: Joe Biden
Current 2024 Vote: Joe Biden
Family: Married; 4-year-old daughter
News Sources: The New York Times, NPR, Pew Research Center, JTA, Haaretz, Jewish Currents, Autostraddle, The Star Tribune, MinnPost, Sahan Journal, Instagram, Reddit

In the wake of the October 7 Hamas attack, have your views on American politics or the upcoming election shifted?

In terms of October 7, I think what has connected Jewish communities to Jewishness globally is the heaviness that we’ve all been sitting with. I think for myself, I’m concerned about the significant harm done to Israelis and the suffering of Palestinian civilians and I’m trying to hold all of those truths at the same time. 

It’s been a challenging moment, and I’m trying to offer support to folks in my community with different politics around the issues. I have congregants who have close relatives who are Israeli, people who saw and experienced some pretty awful things. 

In terms of impact, I was going to vote for Biden before October 7 and I’m going to vote for Biden after October 7. I don’t think the way that he has responded to the crisis and his engagement with the Netanyahu administration has been particularly different from what any other American president in his position would have done. I did find it significant that in some of his earlier remarks he offered some caution to the effect of: Don’t make the same mistakes that America did with Iraq, with Afghanistan. 

I think like many Jewish Americans who are politically progressive, in the immediate aftermath of the attack, I felt some trepidation and some concern about some of the responses that I saw from other progressive folks who are not Jewish or not connected to Jewish communities. I guess there’s a certain feeling of maybe a lack of empathy or a lack of appreciation for the gravity of the attack. It was an attack on civilians, and many are not drawing a clear moral line there. And there are moments where I feel some trepidation, where I have been disturbed or troubled by the establishment Jewish response and a failure to recognize issues of military overreach or maybe a lack of concern for Palestinian civilians and their suffering. It’s a complicated, challenging time.

Are you concerned about whether the upcoming election will go smoothly?

January 6, 2021, is an indicator of how unwilling Donald Trump and his supporters are to submit to the norms of the democratic process. It’s deeply concerning, and in many conversations I have in my circles, this is a concern that I hear people expressing.

What other issues are you thinking about?

I care about human rights issues, immigration, racial justice, climate justice, the rights of LGBTQ people. I’m thinking about transgender people and transgender youth whose rights are under attack in a lot of states. And that’s something where I appreciate the DFL’s (Minnesota’s Democratic Party) legislative efforts that have been successful in affirming that this is going to be a state where we’re going to safeguard those rights and we’re going to defend the rights of LGBTQ people.

Are you satisfied with the options in the presidential race?

On the Democratic side, I’m concerned because, broadly speaking, voters do not seem excited about Joe Biden. And levels of support for Trump across a pretty broad swath of demographic groups appear to be surging. It is looking like there is much broader support for him than was the case in the past election cycle, and that’s concerning.

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