Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
she beheld her tender Child
All with scourges rent:
For the sins of His own nation,
saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.
Sorry it's taken me a little while to respond to your second comment. But maybe it's a good thing that some time has passed and there is more information about the statement we've been discussing. It has also given me a chance to think some more and talk some of this over with a couple of friends.
As far as the "My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel" statement goes, either
a) Cindy Sheehan didn't say it, or
b) she wants to distance herself from any such statement
"[T]hat doesn't even sound like me," she said to Anderson Cooper. It does not sound like her now, anyway, and I affirm what she is doing now. If she did say it, I think I would have advised her to distance herself from the statement a little differently, but she did solidly disown it. I have to agree with you when you say, "People can change and people make mistakes."
A friend of mine reminded me of a Jewish ethical principle that was very important to my father—dan b'kaf z'chut, judging others (and yourself) in the scale of merit.
Our Rabbis taught: A person should always regard himself as though he were half guilty and half meritorious. If one performs one good deed, happy is he for weighing himself down in the scale of merit. If one commits one transgression, woe to him for weighing himself down in the scale of guilt, for it is said, “But one sinner destroys much good” (Ecclesiastes 9.18). On account of a single sin which he commits much good is lost to him.
R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon said: “Because the world is judged by its majority, and an individual too is judged by the majority of deeds, good or bad, if he performs one good deed, happy is he for turning the scale both for himself and for the whole world on the side of merit; if one commits one transgression, woe to him for weighing himself and the whole world in the scale of guilt, for it is said, ‘But one sinner.’ – on account of the single sin which this man commits he and the whole world lose much good.' ” (Talmud, Kiddushin 40a)
In the end we are judged by the sum total of our actions, and right now Cindy Sheehan's message is unambiguous and morally compelling.
I think my friend DK is correct that currently the world sees Cindy Sheehan as a living Stabat Mater—making it rather difficult to think clearly about anything negative that might be attributed to her. It is therefore a good thing that we can look at the remark in question by itself, uncolored by any ideas of what Cindy may have meant by it.
So let's go back to the statement: "My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel." Speaking to you as a Jewish person who is opposed to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and who supports the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to political self-determination, I am saying the statement trades in—or, at the very least, invites—antisemitic conspiracy theories about Jewish control of US foreign policy.
Perhaps to support this claim, I should elaborate on the history of the antisemitic tract, Protocols of the Elders of Zion and link to current examples of the kind of thing I think the statement comes from and encourages more of. Perhaps you would want to debate whether assertions that the war in Iraq is a war for Israel are antisemitic. However, I do not think I need to debate the rights of others to criticize Israel. Asking me to do that inappropriately changes the subject.
Consider this scenario. It's December 2002. Trent Lott has recently spoken at the birthday and retirement party for Senator Strom Thurmond, saying, "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." You bump into an African American friend who asks you if you've heard about the Lott statement and immediately starts cursing him out for being a racist.
In an effort to be fair minded you tell your friend, "Hey, Lott's entitled to criticize the American electorate. After all, it is true that Mississippi has a terrible economy and its schools are a mess. I think Lott just means that Thrumond's a Southerner who understands the problems of the South and is uniquely qualified to address them."
Your friend storms off, really pissed. To her, it doesn't matter what Thurmond may understand about the special needs of Mississippi or anywhere else in the South. To her any praise of Thrumond's agenda is praise of states' rights, segregation, Jim Crow. But if you didn't already know the history, you needed to have asked her why she thinks supporting Thurmond is inherently racist, above all else. If you'd asked that question, instead of launching into a defense of Lott's right, on principle, to be critical of the American electorate, your friend might have rattled off from memory the quote from Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign speeech:
I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigger race into our theatres into our swimming pools into our homes and into our churches.
I know the analogy isn't perfect. But I hope it makes the point.
(Special thanks to hf and to b.)