In 1996 I was working for the International Center for Peace in the Middle East, a now defunct NGO based in Tel Aviv. One of the things it did was lead trips of various sorts in Israel and the Occupied Territories. For example, a trip with loads of journalists from the Arab world (Morocco, Jordan), Israel, Palestine and other countries – and a smattering of diplomats. I was a coordinator of the trip, though my main function was fundraising.
So there I was on a bus in Jerusalem, at the height of the imploding peace process. Rabin had already been assassinated, and Hamas was pushing back against both Arafat and Peres with suicide bombers. Anyway, it was March 4th and a suicide bomber detonated himself at Dizengoff Center, on a cross walk, It was Purim evening, just before 4pm, which was pretty close to the time that my daughter Esther was to be picked up from her pre-K childcare situation, over on King George Street. Right by the corner of Dizengoff, you know – right by Dizengoff Center.
We are all on the nice tourist bus in Jerusalem, listening to the radio describe what is known about the latest bombing. Multiple victims. Many children. And of course the cell phone towers couldn’t handle the traffic spike, so it wasn’t possible for me to call my Esther’s mom and find out if she is safe. Traffic gridlocked from one minute to the next. And right then, in front of all the diplomats and Arab journalists, I lost it and began crying hysterically as the entire bus retreated into silence, that is, except for the radio which continued to speculate on the number of casualties.
That was the last time I can credibly say that I’ve ‘lost it’ and I can’t help but hope that my capacity to do so is gone forever. FYI my daughter was unharmed and pretty far away from what happened.
Let me go out on a limb and say that all of us have different ways of dealing with traumatic events. I spent a few hours today coming up with funny/tasteless one liners (“they hate us for our Nikes”).
Living in New York City, I bet there are lots of folks who experienced what I did back on 9/11. And a few more who went through that today, in Boston. The world being what it is, you can count on the number of folks with this type of experience to increase over time, even in the United States. And if I could speak to all of those folks at one time, I’d ask them if they have any tasteless jokes about what happened today.
This thing we humans do, to look on a tableau of death and suffering and find that one thing that makes us laugh or snark – that’s a precious thing. Don’t feel like it has to die as well. At a time like this, it might be laughter or falling apart. That not a choice we can make for anyone but ourselves.
So says Larry Derfner – he was canned for a blog post he wrote (now removed) titled “The awful, necessary truth about Palestinian terror.” Apparently, a lot of Jerusalem Post subscribers cancelled their subscriptions after reading his post.
Shame on them.
I’m taking the easy way out by blaming a large group of people that I have no control over (I tend to like making arguments about things I can actually have an effect on) but this is just one more instance of a trend in “civilized” communities the world over – Israel & the Jewish community at large being no exception. Reading something you consider disagreeable or even abominable in a publication you subscribe to is generally a bad reason to unsubscribe from that publication. Media organizations exist to challenge the way we think about the world, and rejecting any opinion that doesn’t fit with our existing notion of how the world works completely undermines that purpose.
Derfner makes a really solid point here:
By skewing my words so badly, today’s Post column, the Web commentaries and what the Post will publish on page one tomorrow portray a writer announcing that he wants Israelis to get killed, instead of one who’s trying to stop that from happening.
Putting myself in the position of those who cancelled their subscriptions, I can understand being shocked by what Derfner wrote (although I haven’t read the original column). He doesn’t seem ashamed of that. But saying that he wants Israelis killed is the last refuge of a scoundrel. After all these years, we shouldn’t have to keep saying that just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they want civilians exploded, children shot, or puppies killed. Seriously, folks.
How many more of these “X was fired from her/his position at Important Newspaper after writing a column criticizing Netanyahu/settlers/terrorists/the flotilla/etc.” stories am I going to write? Cutting down the number of smart journalists writing about Israel-Palestine is going to help exactly no one.
I have this red notebook. I bought it when I was at Pardes during the summer of 2005. It’s red, and thick, and I never managed to use all of it for class things, so now, it’s full of clippings and photos and testimonials and articles on the disengagement from Gaza. I left the country a few weeks before the disengagement actually happened, and when I came home, I became completely obsessed. Not with the political implications, not immediately, but with the settlers-the young girls sobbing, the folks in the synagogue the night before demolition, in sleeping bags on lawns, standing on roofs, holding signs, wearing orange.
The same thing happened last summer after my tour of Hebron with Breaking the Silence. I remember seeing the settler kids near the Tapuz Gross checkpoint and thinking what a hateful thing it was to bring children into a place like this for ideological reasons. When I got back to Jerusalem, I looked for everything I could find on Shalhevet Pas.
Currently, I cannot stop thinking about Tamar Fogel, who came home to find all but two of her family members dead in Itamar on Friday night. Who is taking care of her and her two younger siblings? What will her life be like? Will she become (further) radicalized? Will we hear her advocating for peace and co existence? What right does anyone have to ask anything of her? (I’m going with none.)
I don’t think I’m unique here. I know I’m not the only one who has this predilection, whose imagination is engaged by the religious settler community (as opposed to those who are in the Territories for economic reasons, which is an important distinction), in spite of/because of the politics I hold about ending the Occupation and the settlements as a barrier to doing so. My obsession, or fetishization or whatever it is, stupefies me. On one hand, it creates an empathy that I’m not sure what to do with, and on the other, thank Gd for empathy. This world could use a little more of it.
Of late, for a variety of reasons, I haven’t gone to my Chicago shul much. Between indie-minyans and leading services for the Jewish elderly, there’s not been much occasion for me to enter the institutions into which I purportedly refuse to set foot…
Still its scary to learn of the plot this week by getting emails from them about these bomb threats.
Mr. Al-Quesadilla, please dont’ bomb the the shul that I don’t set foot in. If its not going to be there for future generations of Jooz to use, I want it to be because of my principled stand, or at least the one I am purported to take (until I too have kids), rather than a due to your clumsy but scary terrorism attempt.
At the very least, I would prefer the aleph-bet soup Jooish defense organizations to exploit this event by soliciting funds in the name of defending Jooz from the very real turbaned boogey-men under our beds and laser printers. That way even more of us can be turned off by heavy-handed scare tactics (like we haven’t had enough of that with the elections…). It is not without irony that I hear the whir of printer drums warming up to spit out millions of fear-filled solicitation letters.
My rabbi made a bold move during his d’var Torah on the first day of Rosh Hashanah services this year. After a brief word on Park 51 earlier in the service, in which he condemned the bigoted opposition in the strongest terms I could have imagined, I wasn’t expecting too much more fire and brimstone, especially on Israel-Palestine. And he looked sort of nervous to me – who wouldn’t, facing such a large crowd (this is Rosh Hashanah, mind you, so we’re talking every Jew in town) that was by and large far more conservative than you. Yet he called for an end to the Gaza blockade and asked congregants to write a letter to Netanyahu’s office urging him to fully engage in the peace talks and bring home results. Strong stuff.
Nine years after the attacks of 9/11, I want to stop and think about framing. How we frame conflicts, both in our mind and externally, has a lot to do with more concrete things like foreign policy, or the nature of the domestic discourse on an issue. 9/11 was an attack on the core of Americanism, and not only because of the physical spectacle of the WTC being leveled by a bunch of reclusive angry dudes. It represents the clash of two worldviews – an American constitutionalist perspective in which personal freedom is of the highest importance, and a religious fundamentalist one (which religion it is is completely irrelevant) in which those who think wrong, believe wrong, act wrong, are to be punished by those who know better. It’s disgusting no matter who it comes from.
In that bin Laden most likely knew what the U.S.’ response to 9/11 would be (“We have raced to Afghanistan and Iraq, and more recently to Yemen and Somalia; we have created a swollen national security apparatus; and we are so absorbed in our own fury and so oblivious to our enemy’s intentions that we inflate the building of an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan into a national debate and watch, helpless, while a minister in Florida outrages even our friends in the Islamic world by threatening to burn copies of the Koran,” says Ted Koppel), he made a masterful calculation in goading us into it. But I can’t help but think that he also gave us the greatest opportunity ever to definitively rise above the war-on-terror paradigm. It’s not too late to change course and stop trampling on the mangled remains of the constitutional freedoms (see above links, courtesy of Koppel) bin Laden sought to demonstrate the inferiority of, an effort for which we’ve done far more than he ever could have. This would take a reframing at the national level, something Obama did a bit of in his Cairo speech, but, more importantly, it would also take people of conscience standing up to bigotry at every level. Park 51 is the starkest example we’ve seen so far that this society has yet to move past the paralyzing ethos of American vs. un-American. Or, in simpler terms, a lot of people in this country are still racist.
And so, G()d’s children are still drowning. And until we end the war on terror abroad and the war on Islam at home, and until we, as my rabbi urged, truly walk in the other’s shoes and know their pain as we do our own, the water rises higher. May the memories of the 3000 innocents who died on 9/11, and the thousands more who have died since in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, and more, not be forgotten.
Lawrence Bush’s daily Jewdayo email reminds us that
Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein) was fatally wounded by an assassin in Mexico on this date in 1940. After years of activism and imprisonment, Trotsky helped to lead the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and was the founder and commander of the Red Army, which was victorious in the civil war that followed the revolution. After the death of V.I. Lenin, Trotsky lost a lengthy power struggle with Joseph Stalin and ended up in exile, pursued by Stalin’s agents, one of whom finally buried an ice axe in his head. Trotsky founded the Fourth International in 1938 as an international communist alternative to Stalin’s Comintern. By then Trotsky was the world’s best-known leftwing critic of Stalinism and had his name invoked by the Soviet dictator throughout the Moscow Trials and other purges as the shadowy source of treachery and sabotage.
“I have followed too closely all the stages of the degeneration of the revolution . . . I have sought too stubbornly and meticulously the explanation for these phenomena in objective conditions for me to concentrate my thoughts and feelings on one specific person. . . I have never rated Stalin so highly as to be able to hate him.” —Leon Trotsky
Celebrate the Yarzheit with David Ives’ comic meditation on what it means to take 36 hours to die after being stabbed in the head with an icepick.
In the wake the Gaza Flotilla episode many labels were tossed about describing those on the Mava Marmara. It became clear quite early on that they were not peace activists solely interested in getting their cargo to Gaza. They were interested in provocation, in challenging the Israeli government against what they believed was an illegal blockade depriving Gaza’s citizens of food, clothing, and building materials. M.J. Rosenberg in the Huffington Post likened them to blacks who sat at all white lunch counters in the South during the Jim Crow era. They weren’t there for the pancakes. Some even called those on the Mava Marmara “terrorists.” This is an odd appellation given that they were not armed with deadly weapons nor were they travelling to Gaza to wage a battle against Israeli citizens.
The use of the term “terrorist” has become common nomenclature in Israel of many who openly and actively challenge its policies regarding the Palestinians. Of course, Israel had, and has, it own “terrorist” organizations (the Irgun and Lehi, more recently the Jewish Underground and today those who terrorize the Palestinians cave dwellers in the South Hebron Hills). And some of the members of the Irgun and Lehi ended up becoming prime ministers of the country, i.e., Menahem Begin and Yizhak Shamir. This irony rose to the surface this Sunday when I opened the New York Times Sunday Magazine and read Deborah Solomon’s interview with Tzippi Livni, the head of the Israeli Kadima party.
Solomon asked Livni:
Your parents were among the country’s founders.
They were the first couple to marry in Israel, the very first. Both of them were in the Irgun. They were freedom fighters, and they met while boarding a British train. When the British Mandate was here, they robbed a train to get the money in order to buy weapons.
So, Livni’s parents, who were both members of the Irgun, an organization that not only engaged in acts of terror against the British Mandate but was also guilty of killing Arab civilians, are called freedom fighters. Livni proudly and without solicitation speaks of how her parents robbed a British train to take the money to buy weapons. One could only assume the illegal weapons were used to commit acts of violence. But Livni’s parents are not terrorists while those on the Gaza Flotilla who were engaged in what began as a non-violent act of provocation (that is, until their ship was boarded in a pre-dawn raid by Israeli navy seals) are called “terrorists”? Here is one dictionary definition of terrorism: Terrorism is the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
We all know the answers from both sides, repeated ad nauseum. However, given the volume of this crisis and the loose ways in which “terrorist” is used by Israel, I find Livni’s proud declaration of her parents criminal and ultimately violent behavior somewhat jarring. Freedom fighter’s indeed.
These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the ADONAI ELOHIM made the earth and the heaven. (Genesis 12:15)
Why does the creation begin with the Divine Name as the Creator and end with two Names, ADONAI ELOHIM when concluding the creation story? The Midrash explains: This may be compared to a king who had some empty glasses. The King wondered: “If I pour hot water into them, they will burst; if, however, I pour cold water, they will contract (and shatter).”
What then did the king do? He poured in a mixture of hot and cold water so the glasses would remain whole. So, said the Holy One: “If I create the world on the basis of mercy alone, its sins will be oppressive; on the basis of judgment alone, how would the world be able to exist? I will create it with justice and mercy together and then, maybe, it will be able to endure!” (Midrash Genesis Rabbah)
Ever since Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced the release of convicted Pan Am bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi this past Thursday, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the precarious balance between justice and mercy.
As you are no doubt aware by now, Scotland went ahead and freed the terminally ill Megrahi on “compassionate grounds” over the furious objections of the American government. Whatever your opinion of this incident, you have to admit it has made for some pretty fascinating reading. I can’t say I ever recall reading so much about the ethics of compassion vs. justice in the op-ed pages before.
The United States was right to complain to British and Scottish authorities, who now have a great deal of explaining and investigation to do in order to demonstrate the integrity of their handling of the entire matter. At the very least, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who granted al-Megrahi release on compassionate grounds, ought to lose his job. Probably he is not the only one.
Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 killing 259 aboard the 747 passenger jet and 11 people on the ground. Libya and its leader, Moammar Gadhafi were blamed and, ultimately, Libya gave up al-Megrahi. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
This gives us the first reason why the release was wrong. The man was sentenced to life. He served eight years. MacAskill ordered the release on compassionate grounds because the prisoner had terminal prostate cancer. People die in prison all the time, which is, in theory, what phrase life in prison means. Even compassion has its limits and it is warranted in this case only for the victims’ families, the victims themselves having been denied it by their murderers.
MacAskill could have washed his hands of this issue and simply had a terminally ill man spend the few remaining days of his life in a Greenock prison cell. Few, beyond the masters of the British petroleum industry, would have demurred. Certainly not Downing Street, whose haunted incumbent would have been praying for such a verdict, and certainly not America whose default position on justice is: “When in doubt, hang them from the neck… especially if they are poor, black and uneducated.” In the Arab world, there would have been desultory protests but nothing more. Baghdad, Helmand, Kabul and the West Bank are of far more pressing concern than the final resting place of a man they all wished to forget.
But this unprepossessing minister of justice sought to ignore all the serried interests of the global supermen. Instead, he found refuge in the fundamental principles of a judicial system that has served Scotland soundly for more than 400 years. For 16 years now, our statutes have given us leave to release from prison anyone who is deemed by competent medical authority to have three months or less to live. It was a concession rooted in compassion, pity and forgiveness. Few in the United Kingdom have ever taken issue with it. It is a good and just law. MacAskill simply applied it.
Regardless of what we might think about MacAskill’s judgment (I’m personally struggling with this myself), I don’t think it is fair or accurate to claim that his actions were politically motivated. Based upon everything I’ve read so far, it seems to me that he simply acted upon what he considered to be values of compassion and decency. When was the last time we could say that about the actions of a politician?
PS: Couldn’t help but notice that Megrahi was freed on Rosh Hodesh Elul. (I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’…)
What to make of the news that a neo-Nazi gunman killed a security guard at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington DC? Rabbi Marvin Hier says it shows “that the cancer of hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism is alive and well in America.” According to President Obama, it means “we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms.”
I don’t know, I’m not sure that we really needed this particularly horrid act to remind us that hatred and prejudice exist in our country. But it does seem to offer an important sign that for all of our angst about international terrorism, we’d do well to recognize that it’s alive and well in our own backyard.
And it seems to be working. The New York Times reported today that the late Dr. George Tiller’s Witchita abortion clinic has now closed permanently…
It has been over a week since an act of domestic terrorism. At the funeral of Dr. Tiller, protesters waved signs, including “God Sent the Killer!” Hate begets hate, and I would like to see talk radio hosts, Fox news personalities, and others who encouraged and incited the murder of Dr. Tiller charged under the law. If people who play “supporting roles” in other acts of terrorism can be arrested, they should be too.
While the halakhic parsing of abortion is complex, Jews do not have the same definition as Christians: life does not start at conception. For a week now, I’ve been wanting to post about the Jewish understandings of abortion. A counter to the “religious right’s” view. Each time I’ve started to write that post, I’ve become too saddened and angered by the rampant infringement of women’s rights to their bodies in the US. So instead, I will share Rabbi Young‘s personal Eulogy for Dr. George Tiller:
I have been to Wichita only once—April 9th to 15th, 2006. Natalie and I met Dr. Tiller, and spent time with him in his clinic for a week. We did not want to go, but to us there was no real choice. About a month before our ordination and investiture from HUC, Natalie was 34 weeks pregnant, and we discovered that the baby had microcephaly and lissencephaly. In plain English, the head was too small, and the brain was not developing. The first, second, and third opinions all told us the same thing. Our baby would not live outside the womb. So Natalie and I made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy.
Throughout our week there, Natalie spent a lot of time asleep or in a drug-induced haze, so I had a lot of time to sit in our hotel room and think. I kept a journal when I could handle it emotionally, and I read. I read emails and magazines, and studied a little Mishnah. I took in the words of Tractate Niddah (5:3) which says, “A day-old son who dies is to his father and mother like a full bridegroom.” This phrase stuck in my mind, especially the use of the word “bridegroom.” There are many words the Talmud uses to distinguish different stages of life. It could have said elderly man, full-grown son, or young man with equal gravity to describe a parent’s loss. Using “bridegroom” must be intentional, and it works on two fronts.
The first is independence. A bridegroom is clearly of an age where the parents have completed raising the child until he is ready to be on his own. They know who he is, the kind of person he is, what interests he has, and what his aspirations are. Their loss equals the loss of a fully developed human being, no matter what age he is.
The second speaks to emptiness. Even before a woman gets pregnant, she is making plans for the child’s life. When a couple discovers that they are going to have a child, the plans begin. If this is the birthday, then this will the Bar Mitzvah. This will be graduation, and hopefully around here is the chuppah. Who knows, maybe by this year we’ll be grandparents! Describing the loss as “like a full bridegroom” reminds us that we are going to miss out on every simchah that might have been, from birth to the wedding and beyond.
I sat down to write a review of Dan Fleshler’s recently published book Transforming America’s Israel Lobby ahead of schedule because I’d heard the Jerusalem Post had dismissed it as irrelevant. The primary criticism JPost levels against the book is that the ideas of Fleshler’s many involvements — IPF, APN, BTShalom, J Street — have “failed gain traction” because those ideas are unpopular. Giving up land to bloodthirsty Palestinians who “reject peace” is the reason Israel has no choice (no choice!) but to pursue her own security single-mindedly.
But those of us who do the work that Fleshler does, building the pro-peace movement, know the real dynamic. The real dynamic is an American Jewish public that has slowly, over the past 20 years, come to realize that Israel is slowly rotting from within, that her politicians are Bushes and Cheneys, and that her military is beginning to lose its professionalism. The year 1948 is over already, and Israel is the dominating power in the region, her military expenditures and GDP are higher than all her neighbors combined.
This is not 1967 either. The Arab League and the Islamic League (72 nations in total) have offered her sweeping acceptance and diplomatic ties in exchange for the one thing Israel should want the most: freedom from managing an occupied territory. Egypt and Jordan, once Israel’s chief enemies, constantly barter her security in the form of ceasefires and intervene diplomatically.
This is not even 2002. The Second Intifada is over. Terrorism is at an all-time low, even counting Hamas’ rockets. Meanwhile, Palestinians are more impoverished, disconnected and ghettoized than ever before — particularly in Gaza. The barrier, checkpoints, and settlements are more pervasive than ever. The failure to produce concessions from Israel via Fatah’s negotiations has yielded newfound support for Hamas’ terrorism. The real question is, when does the Third Intifada start?
American Jews know this, or rather, they couldn’t give you a list like I just did. But they can feel it. The bellicose bluster emanating from the Conference of Presidents feels…odd. Each time Israel overreacts and directs tanks, helicopters, laser-guided precision bombs, airborne drones, cluster munitions, and white phosphorus against a guerrilla terrorism network that relies on bomb belts and home-made rockets, American Jews squirm inside. The discontinuity is palpable. It’s like wearing an itchy sweater.
The left is growing. We’re already the dominant segment of American Jewry. But translating numbers into political power is the subject of Fleshler’s book. The right wing is deeply single-minded about Israel and they represent the old guard of American Jewish leadership. The new leaders of today are rarely found in the organized mouthpieces that speak in Congress.
Just Wednesday, I participated in a feedback session at the White House organized by J Street and Jumpstart in which 30 representatives of grassroots, innovative Jewish nonprofits met Obama’s office of faith-based initiatives. The 30 orgs in the room represented just 10% of the 300 small orgs founded in the past ten years.
This is the future of the American Jewish community, particularly the 58% of unaffiliated Jews (according to J Street’s poll). This burst of orgs share 400,000 members and a budget over $100 million — if you were the White House, wouldn’t you want to meet an org of that size?
Consider specifically the cornucopia of more progressive groups that exist now that didn’t 20 years ago: Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, JustVision, UPZ (now a part of J Street), J Street and its PAC, Encounter, Jewish Voice for Peace…not to mention over 25 Israeli civil and human rights organizations like Yesh Din, Gisha, ACRI, Breaking the Silence, Ir Amim and B’Tselem. We must learn to become bigger than the sum of our parts, not less, as Fleshler suggests we presently do.
Read Dan Fleshler’s book for a primer on how AIPAC is “not the 800 pound gorilla in the room…just the 400 pound gorilla in the room.” Learn from the past mistakes and triumphs of the pro-peace camp and see how AIPAC’s relations with government have begun to fray over the years. Kick ‘em off their pedestal and consider anew the size of the left and why it’s growing.
Fleshler — a life-long advocate of peace since the beginning — is providing a young person like me invaluable perspective on how far we have come. Now the question for us is, what book are we going to write when we’re 50?
There are Jewish organisations, including the JCCs of North America and HUC, offering scholarships to American rabbinical students who wish to become military chaplains. The US Army’s chaplain recruitment webpage states,
“Army Chaplains are expected to observe the distinctive doctrines of their faith while also honoring the right of others to observe their own faith. The Army is a pluralistic environment. “
Honouring the right of others to observe their own faith. That seems key to me. Both for the individuals in the armed forces, and the citizens on the countries they invade. If chaplains from different faiths are expected to work side by side, and serve that “pluralistic environment” of different faith soldiers, how can the following be permitted?
U.S. Soldiers have been encouraged to spread the message of their Christian faith among Afghanistan’s predominantly Muslim population, video footage obtained by Al Jazeera appears to show.Military chaplains stationed in the U.S. air base at Bagram were also filmed with Bibles printed in the country’s main Pashto and Dari languages.
In one recorded sermon, Lt. Col. Gary Hensley, the chief of the U.S. military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling Soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility “to be witnesses for him”.
“The special forces guys — they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down,” he says.
“Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That’s what we do, that’s our business.” [read more.]
Unacceptable. The army’s mandate is not to convert, not to be missionaries, not to proselytise. If a military chaplain of a different faith were to encourage soldiers to act on a similar mission (say, convert everyone to Judaism, Islam, or Hinduism), this would be a giant story, with the majority of Americans angrily protesting. But converting to Christianity? No one makes a stir.
Okay, okay, not “no one.” “Some of the Soldiers” were reprimanded, and the army confiscated some of the Bibles that had been printed in Pashto and Dari (Afghanistan’s main languages). We know that this is bad for US diplomacy, it’s unconstitutional, and the Army doesn’t allow it… So why isn’t it being fully investigated? Why aren’t all of the soldiers being reprimanded? How come this was allowed to happen in Iraq as well? And why does hasn’t that chaplain been reprimanded?
This second episode of Israeli talk show “Within an Occupier” is featuring New Profile, an Israeli organization seeking to raise introspection about the role of the militarism in Israeli society. This interview is incredibly sensitive to the questions: What does it mean to be militaristic? Is Israel unreasonably militaristic considering it’s been living in a war state of mind? Is the draft necessary? What are the effects on society of “security” becoming more than a state of affairs and instead of state of mind?
What I find so endearing about these women and their work is they’re sincerely coming to an awakening from inside a seige mentality to realize their own society’s framework. For us on the outside, who life in safety and prosperity, it’s obvious that Israelis have been living too long in a state of fear, shellshock, and danger.
And I say this not to patronize their revelations — the revelations of visitors to Israel are just the reverse. We realize how intense it is to live in a such an environment, we feel guilty for our safety, and most of us are not attracted to living in such a place permanently. Our Diaspora mental freedom is an opportunity to share with Israelis something they’ll not find at home but must find a way to inculcate. Without it, I doubt that democratic principles will endure long.
The most cogent point to me is around minute seven when women’s rights activist Ilana Sugabker suggests that the focus around national security has overwhelmed personal, economic and social security. “Security” is done a disservice when it has only one context of importance, she implies when she says, “How can we talk about violence against women when there’s a war in Gaza? When the situation in Sderot is so dire, or in Lod and Ramle?” (Those two cities are Arab-Jewish mixed living cities in Israel where relations are tense.) The problems facing everyone as a whole, or women as a whole, or men as a whole, are prevented from being addressed because Jews vs. Arabs is the dominant paradigm.
Overall, I thought the program was very well produced and a beautiful view into Israeli civil society asking the important questions. Without saying security concerns aren’t important, I advocate that a way out of the conflict will have more benefits for Israelis — beyond deaths prevented — than we can possibly understand.
This has been reported in afewotherplaces, no doubt you’ve seen it already. But for those who can read Hebrew, I want to make available the excerpts of the pamphlet which have caused (in some circles) righteous horror and (in disconcerting places) yawns of unsurprise.
IDF Chief Rabbi Avi Roznik Rontzki distributed a booklet to soldiers called Go Fight My Fight: A Daily Study Table for the Soldier and Commander in a Time of War, published for Operation Cast Lead. The text borrows the most war mongering traditions of Judaism — of which there seem to be plenty fodder, albeit a selective reading — and teachings from cheif fundamentalist Rabbi Shlomo Aviner. The purpose: “to fill them with yiddishkeit and a fighting spirit.”
Understatement. of. the year. Israeli groups Yesh Din, Rabbis for Human Rights, and Breaking the Silence have called for Roznik’s Rontzki’s resignation, and rightfully so. Excerpted pages in JPG and translated quotes below the fold, with the resignation request to Ehud Barack.
It’s worth remembering when confronting this material that this is fringe Judaism, a tiny and ugly hole within which the worst of our people festers, the same ugliness that can be found in any people. But the problem is, this is our people. And I will work to end this type of Judaism the same as I will this type of Islam, Christianity, or anything else.
And for those who are upset that I post ugly material like this, I’ll explain why next post. More »
Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater is the spiritual leader of the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center in Pasadena, CA. He serves as National Secretary of Brit Tzedek V’shalom, the largest grassroots Middle East Peace organization in the country.
In every generation, if we are lucky, there rises to the top of our collective human existence, a voice; a voice that captivates us, motivates us, inspires us and moves us toward the greater good; a voice that calls on us to hear the Divine angels inside of us and love one another, care for one another, treat one another with dignity, compassion, respect and equality; this voice cries out from the wilderness of our lost humanity, and calls us back to the central focus of our existence: to create a world of peace, justice and fairness for all. We listen for these voices; we need this voices. This weekend we honor two great voices of our recent generation, voices that started alone, each strong, unique, and purposeful, yet in the end, found harmony together for a short period, joining with a chorus of other great figures, calling for justice and peace in their time. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, whose yartzheit, the anniversary of his death, we observed this past week, and Rev. Martin Luther King, whose birthday we observe this coming week, were such voices. These were voices that changed hearts, moved minds, and created a pathway of hope for the next generation; what we have done with that pathway is a mixed bag, and we will examine both sides of the bag a bit in this short exposition.
To state the obvious: Tuesday’s inauguration is a ringing success for the work of Dr. King, and our country should be proud and in awe of the progress we have achieved as a nation to see an African American be sworn in as president. More »