Culture, Global, Israel, Justice, Politics

Quick fisk: Commentary's hack job on Occupy Yom Kippur

We’ve already written about the Kol Nidre service that Jewschool founder Dan Sieradski organized at Occupy Wall Street, as well as the companion services at other Occupy events around the country.  Other media took quite a bit of notice as well, including this rather shoddy Commentary piece:

Last week, a self-described “new media activist” posted a Facebook event page for a Kol Nidre service at the “Occupy Wall Street” protests. The turnout the event generated, as well as the discussion it has so far provoked, are deeply troubling trends that all who care about the Jewish future would do well to take seriously.

Aren’t we usually concerned that the Jews of today don’t care about being Jewish anymore?  Yet when an event comes along that brings together hundreds of Jews on less than a week’s notice, it gets criticized because it’s too effective?

During the years, those whose politics tend toward the right have had to accustom themselves to the unthinking sanctimony of leftists who rage against any semblance of an alliance of religion and right-wing politics…

“Those whose politics tend toward the right” vs. “leftists.”  Notice the difference in language?  It’s an attempt to paint “those whose politics tend towards the right” as inherently more reasonable than those crazy “leftists.”  Liberals are blinded by their rabid ideology, while conservatives hold informed and moderate beliefs.
Furthermore, what we liberals tend to object to is not the “alliance” of religion and politics.  Rather, we object to the use of political power to advance a religious agenda.  Occupy Yom Kippur is the opposite of that: it’s a call for political change based on religious beliefs about morality.  Having religiously-based opinions on political issues is perfectly legitimate: it’s protected by the free exercise clause.  Using political power to influence religious matters is prohibited by the same (or by the establishment cause, depending on the context).

It must be said there is of course justification to be found for specifically economic protests of a leftist variety in the prophets, perhaps most especially Isaiah. But it stretches truth far beyond the breaking point to claim such texts based on conditions in ancient Israel offer much guidance for the policy questions of our day…

Here’s a post on Commentary’s blog that describes Itamar, the settlement where the Fogel family was brutally murdered, as located in “Samaria,” “an area with biblical significance.”  I expect Commentary will quickly correct that language, since it’s “based on conditions in ancient Israel” that don’t “offer much guidance for the policy questions of our day.”
Oh, and I found that post by searching “Samaria” on Commentary’s site.  It was the top hit.  Here are two more recent articles from the first page of results where Commentary uses or expresses support for the biblical name for the territory now known as the West Bank.

Let their successes be few, and the passage of their movement from the American Jewish scene swift.

Seriously, I just can’t get over the pretension implicit in so much of the Jewish mainstream media.  One minute they’re telling us all to stick together in the face of adversity, dire threats to Jewish peoplehood, and (gasp!) anti-Zionism.  The next they’re condemning a Jewish grassroots movement that has a lot of people very excited.  I understand that they disagree with the movement’s goals.  That’s their right.  But the condescension with which they approach it is reminiscent of, well, the rest of the mainstream media.  In other words, they’re not exactly in good company.

7 thoughts on “Quick fisk: Commentary's hack job on Occupy Yom Kippur

  1. This is pretty infuriating, and I couldn’t agree more with your take on it. That said, Commentary is a self-professed neocon publication, and I don’t think we can really expect a measured, balanced, or accurate take from them, or really anything but seething rightist partisanship.

  2. For my part, I’m condemning Commentary to hell. For good measure, a pulsa d’nura ceremony will be held calling for the of a random neo-con Jew in Washington DC. Our resident kabbalist assures us that the victim will appear to have died through natural causes.
    Ceremony will be held on Zuccotti Park, this Saturday, shortly after the havdalah service. Please bring blank sheepskin parchment. We’ll have enough ink blessed by the Baba Sali (zzl)and quills for all.

  3. For what it’s worth, while I agree with the upshot of this post, the following phrase (and underlying idea) troubled me as hypocritical/nonsensical: “[W]e object to the use of political power to advance a religious agenda. Occupy Yom Kippur is the opposite of that: it’s a call for political change based on religious beliefs about morality.”
    How is this any distinction at all? Isn’t objecting to conservative Christians (or Jews) making religious arguments to further anti-abortion or anti-gay policies identical to OWS’s objecting to tax, health-care or military policies on the basis that they violate religious beliefs about morality? It’s disingenuous to simply state that your beliefs/positions are “beliefs about morality” and the other side’s is “a religious agenda.” Reasonable people can and do disagree about what beliefs, practices and policies may be moral

  4. Marc and DCC, I agree a blanket accusation against faith in politics would be hypocritical. But if there is a distinction to be made in this case, it would be between faith-informed values in politics vs. literal interpretations of scripture in politics. Particularly when the right wing’s use of politics is to enshrine Christian dogma into law. The use of religion in the case of Occupy Judaism is absolutely universalist and compatible with any faith tradition (or lack thereof).

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