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Seattle Rabbi David Basior Eulogizes Former Congregant Killed by Hamas, Says Occupation Must End

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As more details emerge about the shocking Hamas attack on Saturday, we speak with Rabbi David Basior of Kadima Reconstructionist Community, a progressive Jewish group in Seattle focused on social justice. Basior’s former congregant Hayim Katsman was among those killed in Israel by Hamas militants who stormed Kibbutz Holit. The 32-year-old was a gardener, mechanic and peace activist who worked with anti-occupation groups. During the attack, he shielded a woman from bullets with his own body, saving her life at the cost of his own. Katsman’s family have said that he would not have wanted his death to fuel retribution against Palestinians. “Life is the utmost. It is the most core teaching that I have received from my tradition, from my ancestors,” says Basior, who evokes the phrase “never again,” used in remembrance of the Holocaust and other genocides, and says that precept means the violence against Palestinians “must be spoken out against.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We go now to Seattle, Washington, where we’re joined by Rabbi David Basior of Kadima Reconstructionist Community. One of his congregants, Hayim Katsman, died on Saturday in the Hamas attack on the kibbutz where he was living in Israel.

Hayim’s mother said, quote, “I just think it’s chilling. My father grew up in Poland. He survived the Holocaust with false papers. My mother was a refugee from Germany who left after Hitler came to power. It’s chilling to me that my son died hiding in a closet,” she said.

The death toll in Israel has now topped 1,300 after Saturday’s attack. Meanwhile, the seven-day Israeli bombardment of Gaza has killed at least 1,500 Palestinians.

Rabbi David Basior, welcome to Democracy Now! Condolences to you and your whole community. And I say that for Hayim, the Ph.D. student who returned to Israel, lived in a kibbutz and was killed on Saturday, part of your community, and also for what is happening in Gaza, because you are well known for speaking out on behalf of Palestinians, as well. Rabbi Basior, tell us about Hayim Katsman, what happened to him, and what you feel needs to happen right now.

RABBI DAVID BASIOR: Thank you for having me, Amy. And thank you for those condolences.

Hayim dedicated his dissertation to all life forms that exist between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And so I join in that dedication today in speaking with you and your viewers.

Hayim was a very warm, very loving, very humble and very willing educator and student in our community. He came to us from Israel, where he grew up. And he was in Seattle studying for his Ph.D. I had a very last-minute opening for a Hebrew teacher in our program for young people, and he applied, never having taught young people before and never having taught Hebrew to Americans before. And yet he was willing. He was game. He was creative. He became beloved over the two-and-a-half years that he worked with us. And our young people have very fond memories of talking about the politics of the situation with him during the pizza dinner break on Tuesday evenings in Seattle, here on Duwamish land. And he will be missed. I last saw him in 2021 when he came to defend his dissertation at the University of Washington. And I learned of his death first thing Sunday morning.

AMY GOODMAN: And if you can talk about what happened on the border, the Hamas attack, called the worst mass slaughter of Jews since World War II, and yet why you continue to talk about the end of the occupation and how critical that is, the occupation of Palestinian territories?

RABBI DAVID BASIOR: Yeah. Thank you, Amy.

The attack against civilian Jews in Israel on Saturday was shocking, was terrifying, was awful. It shook many in my community and myself to the core. Many Israelis in my community, themselves critical of the Israeli government and the occupation, but having family throughout the state, myself having friends in the land, as well, was — it was terrible to hear about, just as I was setting up for Simchat Torah services on Saturday morning, where we then danced around with the Torah to music similar to Brivele, who we just heard. We did so to sanctify life.

And that ultimately is why I have been outspoken against the Israeli occupation for a few decades now. Life is the utmost. It is the most core teaching that I have received from my tradition, from my ancestors, the idea that “never again” means never again for anyone, means that in the West Bank and certainly in Gaza right now, where we are on the verge of a complete nightmare, must be spoken out against, must be called back toward reason, toward the interdependence, toward the ways in which Jews, Israelis, Palestinians and everyone living in the region, our fates are intertwined. Bombing is bombing all of us, is bombing hope, is bombing reason.

We need to deescalate the situation. I can do what I can do from Seattle. We all must move out of hopelessness and into action by either calling our representatives, by coming together, by reaching out to Palestinian friends in the diaspora, to reaching out to Jews, Israelis, who have friends and family in harm’s way. The situation has been terrible for many, many years. And the context of the occupation, of the atrocities from — for the last 75 years must be reconciled. To face them is not to say anyone is bad. No one deserves to be killed. And yet we have to face them. We have to make things right. It is the teaching of the tradition that I came up in and now represent as a rabbi.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to and end with the words of Hayim’s brother, Hayim Katsman’s brother, Noy Katsman, speaking on CNN.

NOY KATSMAN: The most important thing for me, and I think also for my brother, was that his death won’t be used to kill innocent people. And sadly, my government is using, cynically, the deaths of people to just kill. Like, they promise us it was going to bring — it’s going to bring us, like, security. But, of course, it’s not security, because they always tell us, oh, that if we’re going to kill enough Palestinians, or they’re going to — so, it’s going to be better for us. But, of course, it never brings us peace, and it never brings us better lives. It just brings more and more terror and more and more people killed, like my brother. And I don’t want anything to happen to people in Gaza like it happened to my brother. And I’m sure he wouldn’t have any — either. So, that’s my call to my government: Stop killing innocent people. And that’s not the way that brings us peace and security to people in Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Noy Katsman, the brother of Hayim, who was killed by Hamas in a closet in his kibbutz on Saturday. Rabbi David Basior, I want to thank you so much for being with us, of the Kadima Reconstructionist Community in Seattle, Washington.

Coming up, for more on the Gaza crisis, we speak with Noura Erakat, Palestinian human rights attorney. Back in 20 seconds.

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