December 2012 Archives

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Deeply encouraging are the wise words of Rabbi Arthur Waskow. He calls a spade a spade – labelling the Israeli government’s lust for power as a form of idolatry.

Listening to Rabbi Waskow, the words of Jesus concerning Nathanael come to mind: “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47)

Father Dave

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

source: The Shalom Center

Israel, Palestine, & Torah: Toward a Deeper Understanding

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Dear friends,

For me, the most important physical danger threatening the Jewish people, as part of human civilization and the web of life on Earth,  is the climate crisis;  and the most crucial vision and values the Jewish community can offer the world are those that help us all walk away from the Climate Cliff.  So if facing that issue is both most urgent and most helpful, why do I still spend time on Israel-Palestine and related matters?

Because the right-wing Government of Israel and its state-supported right-wing Orthodox rabbinate, with considerable help from many other Israelis and from the official leadership of most American Jewish organizations, are trying their best to poison the bloodstream of Torah.  Above all, to pervert and poison the very value, rooted in Biblical and Rabbinic wisdom, that is crucial to healing our planet and our society: “If you have power, Do Not Over-reach! Do Not Domineer! Seek communion, not domination!”

Perhaps I and others should have expected that. To draw on one aspect of the Hanukkah story, I have often said about the Emperor Antiochus’ ancient order to enforce idolatry, that it is the very job description of a king: Make the people bow down to idols – first of all, the Idol of the king himself. Torah saw that power tends to addict, and absolute power addicts its holder absolutely. (See under: Pharaoh.)

So I am disgusted but not surprised when the Prime Minister whom some Israelis call King Bibi (I prefer, in honor of Jonathan Swift & Gulliver, “King ‘Yahu”) carries out a whole series of aggressive and violent acts calculated to prevent any negotiations that might possibly lead to a free and peaceful Palestine alongside Israel. (Nothing assured – some Palestinian officials have their own record of rejectionism – but possible openings are now being slammed shut by ‘Yahu.)

A crucial question: Why has the Israeli people elected ‘Yahu and kept moving to the right?  (After Likkud’s recent internal primary and its alliance with “Yisrael Beiteinu,” its slate and the next Knesset will be even much further to the right than this one.)

I understand this process as rooted in the dark underside of one of the best teachings of Torah, “Love the stranger, the pariah, for you were strangers, pariahs, in the Land of Egypt/ Narrowness.”

Its dark and bloody underside is this: It is repeated 36 times in the Torah. Why? Because to repeat the command so often means it is being rejected, disobeyed.

For the first impulse of those who have been abused and enslaved is:  “I will grasp as much power as possible to prevent such enslavement ever again, and if that means enough power to abuse and oppress others, so be it.”

But the Torah out of the experience of many generations comes to warn us: That response is a profound ethical and practical mistake. It turns our empowerment to free ourselves into top-down power over others, and into arrogant Over-reaching.

And that leads not only to spiritual but also to political and physical disaster. Remember, “Pharaoh’s Army was drowned, deep in the Red Red Sea.”

Far wiser to empathize with the oppressed than to identify with the oppressor.

Hard to learn, but crucial.

For the Torah, that oppression was Egypt. For Israeli Jews today, it was the Holocaust. And the policy of some Israeli political and cultural forces has been to reiterate and deepen that post-traumatic response. For those Israelis who have been cozened by the restimulation of the trauma, I have great compassion – though that does not diminish my strong opposition to the policies that flow from it.

The Palestinian people has also experienced a deep trauma, and for some of them too, that leads to unethical and self-destructive violence and rejection. Again, what I feel is both compassion and strong opposition.

What we need instead, for both peoples, are spiritual and cultural and political practices aimed to transcend trauma, not to intensify it.

The trauma continues among some American Jews, but American society encourages a more generous direction.

In the story of the Maccabees, much worse than the Imperial edict ordering idolatry was that parts of the Jewish community obey the power-addicted King/ Emperor Antiochus, and bowed down to idols. It was only when some in Mattathias’ own home town bowed to idols in the public square that Mattathias went berserk, or sane, and went underground to organize a guerrilla rebellion.

Just so, I am most outraged when some among my own “kinfolk” – that is, not only the donors and leaders of some ”official” American Jewish organizations but even some who claim to be seeking to renew Judaism – bow down to the Idol of power-addiction and aggressive violence in the Israeli government when they would never justify such actions by any other government, including that of the USA.

Some American Jews are driven internally into this idolatry by their own traumatization. Others – especially some among the “official” leaders – know and will say in private that they understand the Israeli government’s policy is leading to disaster, but perks of prestige and money dispensed by King ‘Yahu and his courtiers keep them captive, far more supportive of the King than are the grass-roots members of their own organizations.

For example: Some in America justify the Israeli government’s murder of a Palestinian leader, General  Jabari of the Government of Gaza, who was preparing to sign a long-term truce agreement that the Defense Minister of Israel had approved. The murder came precisely to prevent his signing, and precisely because the killers knew it would lead to a violent response. Both means and ends were violence, intended to prevent a cease-fire that could lead toward peace. (For a careful investigative report on this event, see Israel’s leading newspaper, Haaretz)

Even though the murdered Palestinian had been violent before, the murder cannot be justified. Suppose an angry Palestinian had murdered the former terrorist Menachem Begin, precisely to prevent his signing the peace treaty with Egypt when he became Prime Minister of Israel. Would that have been condonable on the principle that Begin had been a terrorist?

Were the ancient Rabbis not talking about precisely such a case when they describe God, about to save Ishmael’s life in the wilderness, being challenged by the angels: “Don’t You know how he behaved toward Your people in the past, and how his offspring will in the future?” And the Holy One responded, “Where is he NOW, THERE, RIGHT NOW?” The angels admitted he was not being violent.  So God saved his life, and that is why a seemingly extraneous “Sham, THERE,” appears in the text. (Gen. 21:17)

Moreover, noch worser, some have asserted it would have been ethical and legitimate for the Government of Israel to prepare a truce agreement and pretend to be willing to affirm it precisely as a ruse to trick General Jabari to appear in public so that he might be more easily murdered.  Reading such a statenent, words fail me. Indeed, my bowels and belly fail me.

This was in fact the strategem of Dina’s brothers when they pretended to welcome the men of Sh’chem into their community through circumcision and then, on the third day when the Sh’chemites were in most pain, murdered them. (Gen. 34)

As their father said to them, “You have made my name stink!”

Do we any longer have a sense of smell sensitive enough to know when our names begin to stink?

Shalom, salaam – Arthur. My Hebrew name is  “Avraham Yitzchak Yishmael Yam: Abraham Isaac Ishmael Ocean.”  I am proud to bear ALL those names, even through it is hard to bear the pain when the children of the first, through the children of the second and the third, murder each other.

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Bishop Shomali

Bishop Shomali

source: Al-Bushra.org…

Jerusalem Prelate Says God Can Work Miracles Even in ‘Incurable’ Conflict

JERUSALEM, DEC. 10, 2012 (Zenit.org…).- Being a Christian in the Holy Land is not a simple coincidence — it’s a vocation, says Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem. And for Christians to stop their exodus from the land of Jesus’ birth, there must be lasting peace, the prelate affirms.

To stop the Christian population from dwindling, Bishop Shomali told the charity Aid to the Church in Need, prayer is the only solution, because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “incurable” and requires God’s help.

Describing how Palestinian Christians suffer from the same problems affecting all those living in the Palestinian territories, such as lack of work and restrictions on movement, the 62-year-old bishop said the situation in the town of Christ’s birth is particularly dire: “In Bethlehem, people suffer on welfare. Thirty percent of young people have no work.”

“However,” he added, “the more pilgrimages there are, the more the tourist industry functions, and then the more work there is to be had.

“Last month for example, there were several thousand pilgrims.”

“Peace creates a very positive atmosphere,” Bishop Shomali reflected. “Without it, there is insecurity and the economic situation becomes precarious. Then, work must be created.”

Called to witness

Echoing Benedict XVI’s exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” the bishop declared that Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories are called to be witnesses to their faith.

“Spiritual encouragement and holding on to faith are of the greatest importance because being Christian in the Holy Land is not issuing from a simple coincidence — it is a vocation,” he said. “If the Christians consider it a privilege to be born in the Holy Land and have a testimony of faith to share, they will be motivated and this spiritual motivation is worth more than all material motivations.”

God’s work

Bishop Shomali also stressed that only God can provide the lasting peace the region needs.

“I continue to say to my pilgrims that in human terms there is no solution for the Israeli-Palestinian problem, for the nature of the problem is ideological,” he explained. “And so, in this Year of Faith, we must know that nothing is impossible for God. No, nothing is impossible for God.

“In general terms we pray when we cannot do for ourselves the things we want to do.

“For example, if I am suffering from an incurable illness, I ask God to help me, and I know that God can perform miracles.

“And so, this conflict is incurable and that is why we must believe that prayer can attain peace, despite all appearances, for God can surprise us as he often has in the history of the Church and in the history of humanity.”

Considering a trip to the Holy Land? Discover the real Israel/Palestine, touring with Father Labib Kobti. Click here for more info.

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Father Roy writes: Another front in the Battle has opened up.  The front of which I speak is in England: The Plight of the Rev’d Stephen Sizer.  The article pasted below will explain. 

It’s a serious matter.  I’ll write no more about it now, but lots of people will be writing about it in the near future.  Sami Joseph wrote this morning that Stephen is under a great deal of pressure.  The Jewish Establishment is standing adamant against him.  Stephen’s Bishop has asked him to write a letter explaining himself.  Here’s background information on the subject: stephen sizer – AOL Search Results.  The article pasted below is quite comprehensive.

Peace,Roy

Rev. Stephen Sizer

Rev. Stephen Sizer

Board of Deputies makes formal complaint about Stephen Sizer to Church of England

The Board of Deputees has issued a formal complaint to the Anglican Church, about Rev Stephen Sizer:

In a move believed to be without precedent in modern times, the Board of Deputies has lodged a formal complaint against Revd Stephen Sizer under the Church of England’s disciplinary process – an Act of Parliament known as the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003.

The complaint is based on statements made by Revd Sizer that the Board regards as antisemitic and a series of instances where Revd Sizer has posted internet links to articles on racist and antisemitic websites.

The BoD website has also published an opinion piece, evidence in support of the complaint, and an appendix.

Earlier this month, Stephen Sizer hosted the UK branch of Jews For Jesus, who did not challenge Sizer publicly about antisemitism, but used Sizer’s church as a platform to promote their own organisation. One wonders if Jews For Jesus is surprised by this development.

The BoD complaint follows a complaint from the Council of Christians and Jews about Sizer made this past year, and also a lengthy blogging campaign to highlight Sizer’s dalliances with antisemitism, much of which has featured here on HP.

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Sonja Karkar of Australians for Palestine writes about Michael Leunig’s article, defending his cartoon, “First they came for the Palestinians …” Leunig’s article also appears below. To see the actual cartoon itself click here.

When a celebrated Australian like Michael Leunig speaks so eloquently and sensitively about the appalling situation of the Palestinian people, it does give many people pause to consider their own attitudes, long skewed against the Palestinians by decades of demonising propaganda.  

Normally a man of few words, Leunig always finds a way of paring down the issues to their core to touch what is human in us.  Today though he gave us more:  today he explained why he cannot be silent in the face of oppression and the systematic destruction of one society by another.  He may have been speaking about his moral duty as a cartoonist, but all people of conscience would have to ask themselves why they have neglected to speak in defence of a people so long maligned and so mercilessly denied justice.  It will be the

beginning of the end for those perpetrating the injustices once people discover the human in themselves and refuse to quaver before the worn and age-old catch cries intended to savage reputations and ambitions and focus instead, as Leunig says, “on the plight of the subjugated, the ones most neglected, severely deprived and cruelly afflicted.”   

Sonja Karkar, Editor of australiansforpalestine.com…

Michael Leunig

Michael Leunig

Link to the original article in ‘The Melbourne Age’: www.theage.com……

Just a cartoonist with a moral duty to speak

by Michael Leunig

SEVERAL years ago I was invited to speak at Melbourne’s Jewish Museum on the subject of ”The cartoonist as society’s conscience”. I gladly accepted but within a week was informed by the museum that the invitation had been withdrawn because of my views on Israel. Although I had been somewhat critical of aggressive Israeli government policies I had never publicly outlined my broad views on Israel and was puzzled by the cancellation and bemused by the gross irony of being excluded from a discussion about conscience because I had acted with conscience in my work.

Upon reflection I wondered if an internal philosophical disagreement lay behind this peculiar cancellation. Whatever, a door had been closed to me.

I relate this tale as a backdrop to more recent circumstances in which it has been publicly inferred that I am anti-Semitic because of a cartoon I created expressing sad dismay at the plight and suffering of the Palestinians in the recent bombardment of Gaza.

As a cartoonist I am not interested in defending the dominant, the powerful, the well-resourced and the well-armed because such groups are usually not in need of advocacy, moral support or sympathetic understanding; they have already organised sufficient publicity for themselves and prosecute their points of view with great efficiency.

The work of the artist is to express what is repressed or even to speak the unspoken grief of society. And the cartoonist’s task is not so much to be balanced as to give balance, particularly in situations of disproportionate power relationships such as we see in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a healthy tradition dating back to the court jester and beyond: to be the dissenting protesting voice that speaks when others cannot or will not.

My recent cartoon (“First they came for the Palestinians … “) was a lament based on the famous lines attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller that neatly highlight the way apathetic or frightened silence in the face of injustice is a dereliction of moral duty. It is interesting to note that Niemoller had been an active Nazi supporter but a decade after the war became a pacifist.

Although greatly valued in contemporary Jewish culture, the poem’s message is universal and eternal; it could apply to any oppressed group, including the Palestinians who, even with their relatively feeble rockets, are so obviously oppressed.

In spite of all the highly organised rhetoric justifying Israel’s actions, the intuitive, heartfelt moral shape of the situation is becoming clearer and more obvious to the world the longer the conflict goes on. When all is said and done, it looks like the Palestinians have been massively robbed and abused, and are engaged in a desperate struggle for survival and liberation.

Israel on the other hand would appear to be conducting an imperialistic campaign of oppression supported and substantially armed by the most powerful nation on earth. My cartoonist’s duty and conscience compel me to focus on the plight of the subjugated, the ones most neglected, severely deprived and cruelly afflicted.

I am not against Israel but I am opposed to what I regard as its self-defeating, self-corrupting militarist policy, which is not only excessively homicidal and traumatising but sows the seeds of irreversible hatred and can never bring a lasting peace. One expects more from a prosperous democratic country. It’s as if this young nation Israel has not yet come to maturity; so delinquent, irresponsible and unwise are its actions.

I sense that the Jewish community in this country is itself increasingly divided on the question. I also suspect that the more aggressive Israel supporters fear this moral unease and quiet doubt in their community and are angered by any cartoons or commentary that might encourage such doubt. In spite of what the bullies say, I suspect they are not really upset by any “anti-Semitism” in my cartoons (there is none) but by the possible impact of a cartoon on the doubters. The better the cartoon, the more it must be discredited. What cheaper way to discredit than the toxic smear of anti-Semitism.

I am not sure whether it is legal to publicly call someone an anti-Semite without evidence but it certainly feels like hate talk to me, as well as a damaging thing to say about someone who does not agree with you. That’s often why it is said of course.

At my advanced age, I know I am not an anti-Semite, not even vaguely or remotely, but others would seem to know better as false accusers always do.

If only there was some sort of test I could sit for to clarify the situation, but there is no science to this obsessive and vapid denunciation.

It’s cynical, it’s bullying and it’s lazy. Stupidly, it’s also a case of the boys who cry wolf.

Over the years it has been implied that I am “a second degree anti-Semite”, “a new-world anti-Semite” and a “latent anti-Semite” as well as a simple old-fashioned common or garden anti-Semite. I now learn to my amazement that to make comparisons between Israeli policy and any Nazi behaviour is in itself an anti-Semitic act. So much for free speech. I say all nations that throw their military weight around, occupying neighbouring lands and treating the residents with callous and humiliating disregard are already sliding towards the dark possibilities in human nature.

My cartoons have also had me labelled a misogynist, a blasphemer, a homophobe, a royalist, a misanthrope and a traitor, to name but a few. I would sum it all up by saying: I am a cartoonist.

Michael Leunig is an Age cartoonist.

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Father Roy writes:   Avigdor Lieberman is irate that the EU is calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.  Tzipi Livni sees no resemblance between the EU’s policy towards Israel and Hitler’s policy towards Jews.   Peace, Roy

Tzipi Livni

Tzipi Livni

source: www.haaretz.com……

Livni to Lieberman: EU policy on Israel bears no resemblance to Holocaust

Foreign Minister on Tuesday rebuked Europe for ‘once again ignoring calls to destroy the state of Israel’; Livni: Israel’s policies must change.

By Barak Ravid

Opposition leader and Hatnuah Chairwoman Tzipi Livni on Wednesday blasted Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for comparing the European Union’s policy toward Israel on the Palestinian issue to the behavior of European countries toward the Jews during the period of the Holocaust.

“Comparing Israel’s situation today to the Holocaust is contempt for the Holocaust,” Livni said during a conference organized by the Jerusalem Post in Herzliya. “It’s an incorrect comparison, and incomprehensible. There is absolutely no similarity between the situation of Israeli citizens today to that of European Jews then. Not everybody is against us, and not everyone is anti-Semitic.”

The fact that the international community criticizes the policies of the current government does not mean that the world does not accept Israel as a state, Livni added.

“I think this policy must change,” said Livni, “not as a favor to the world, but because it is in Israel’s basic interest.”

“Renewing negotiations with the Palestinians won’t just maintain Israel’s value as a Jewish and democratic state, but will also stop the erosion, and will give Israel back the legitimacy for military action when necessary, and for preserving its security interests,” added Livni.

In an interview to Israel Radio on Tuesday, Lieberman was asked to react to the EU foreign ministers’ decision on Monday to condemn Israel for advancing the plan to build in E-1.

Interviewer Aryeh Golan also mentioned the report in Newsweek magazine to the effect that United States President Barack Obama intends to let Europe apply pressure to Israel on the issue of the peace process with the Palestinians. “Are you satisfied with this?” Golan asked Lieberman.

In reply, the foreign minister launched into a fierce, and perhaps, unprecedented attack on the EU. “I can tell you what I am not satisfied with,” said Lieberman. “I am not satisfied with the position of Europe, which once again in history is ignoring calls to destroy the state of Israel … Europe is keeping silent. The call yesterday [Monday], what we saw, is not a condemnation of Hamas statements but rather a call to the heads of Hamas to refrain from incitement. We have already been through this with Europe at the end of the 1930s and in the 1940s.”

In his remarks Lieberman related to the speeches by Hamas political bureau head Khaled Meshal this weekend in Gaza, during the course of which he called for annihilating Israel. Contrary to Lieberman’s statement, along with the condemnation of Israel the European foreign ministers did in fact condemn Meshal’s remarks. “The EU finds inflammatory statements by Hamas leaders that deny Israel’s right to exist unacceptable,” they declared.

The radio interviewer asked Lieberman whether he is accusing the EU of anti-Semitism. “It isn’t an anti-Semitic motive but rather it’s a narrow motive of interests,” replied Lieberman. “They [the EU] are sacrificing all values in favor of interests. Then too, back in the 1940s. They already knew by the start of the 1940s exactly what was happening in the concentration camps, what was happening with the Jews and didn’t exactly act. Today they admit that even in the 1930s they prevented Jews for coming to the land of Israel.”