israel and palestine religion

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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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This is an important essay. Philip Weiss’ aim is not only to debate the merits of Zionism but moreso to raise the question of why the merits of Zionism are never publicly debated!

Weiss believes that the lack of discourse if a vital part of the strategy for keeping Zionist policies in place. These policies need to be challenged, but they can’t be properly challenged if their belief-framework is beyond the bounds of acceptable discussion.

Father Dave

source: mondoweiss.net…

It’s time for the media to talk about Zionism

by Philip Weiss on December 4, 2012

Last week, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan characterized me as “the anti-Zionist Jewish-American journalist who writes about the Middle East.” That’s my reputation; I can’t take exception to her words. But when Sullivan quoted Jeffrey Goldberg, she did not say he was Jewish or a Zionist–or that he had once emigrated to Israel because he believed that America was unsafe for Jews, and served as an officer in Israel’s army before coming back here and recommending Israel’s militant policy toward Arabs to America.

Sullivan’s double standard is indefensible, but it is typical of a standard of censorship in our journalism. American media are not talking to their readers about Zionism. They are not even attempting to describe the ideology that is at the heart of the problem in Israel and Palestine. The media are honest with their audiences about other movements of a religious character, from evangelism to opposition to stem-cell research to radical Islam. So they should be honest with them about Zionism.

Zionism is a 115-year-old movement inside Jewish life that says there is a need for a Jewish state in Palestine because Jews are unsafe in the west and Jews have a biblical connection to Palestine. Some people say that this is too complicated a concept to explain to Americans. (Norman Finkelstein joked that Zionism might as well be a hairspray and it’s irrelevant to the discussion at the New School in October). I don’t think so. Beliefs are very important; and Americans have a right to know why so many American Jews believe in the need for Israel at a time when this concept is warping our foreign policy.

It’s not enough for a reporter to say that someone is pro-Israel. Zionism draws on a person’s worldview and has a religious character, it supplies meaning to his or her life. It is often a core understanding that drives that person’s positions in other areas (see Neoconservatism). And it is deeply enmeshed in the official Jewish community.

I believe the media have refused to explore the Zionist issue because it would involve a lot of squeamish self-interrogation on the part of Jews. Imagine Ted Koppel having a panel where Wolf Blitzer, Robert Siegel, David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, Richard Engel and Ed Rendell would have to explain what Zionism means to them. The acknowledgment of Jewish prominence in the Establishment, and of the power of Zionism, would make a lot of Jews uncomfortable, so the conversation is verboten.

But so long as these beliefs are not examined, and Israel and its supporters continue to play such a large role in our policymaking, the silence is bad for Jews. It allows people who are justifiably angry over our foreign policy to believe that all Jews support Israel, or suspect that we disguise our dual loyalty with misleading prescriptions about American security. It allows Zionists to seek cover for our country’s blind support for Israel by stating that there is no difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism– when there is absolutely a difference. See Jewish Voice for Peace. See Hannah Arendt. See Judith Butler.

And it allows Jews to avoid very important historical/existential questions that we really ought to be asking publicly, and urgently answering: Do I feel unsafe in America or Europe? If I feel unsafe in America what am I doing here? (A theme of Shlomo Sand’s new book.) If I feel safe do I need Israel? Do I believe in the need for a Jewish state? At what price? Who is Israel making unsafe in my name?

I think all Jews should be openly debating these matters; but they won’t till the belief question is raised by the mainstream media. There are signs that the ice is melting. Last week Andrew Sullivan, an influence leader if anyone is, published a mini-essay (attacking the liberal Zionist Spencer Ackerman’s dream of a laser war) in which he stated that Zionism is another hurtful 20th century “ism” that has run its course, and modern political reality is inconsistent with the goal of a Jewish-majority state. Ethan Bronner (a reputed liberal Zionist who seems to understand that Zionism has lost its way) boldly gave Rami Khouri space on the front page of the New York Times during the Gaza assault to attack Zionism. On NPR Jim Fallows said bravely that there has always been a tension between Israel’s creation as a Jewish state and a democracy; you really can’t be both, he was suggesting.

As Fallows and Sullivan seem to know (and Matt Yglesias and David Remnick will surely come to profess some day, and Jonathan Cook knew years ago, and the late Ibrahim Abu-Lughod knew when he was a teenager in Jaffa) the contradiction between democracy and Jewish nationalism has been inherent in the Zionist project from the start, but has always been described as a tension rather than a contradiction so as to make Zionists and their friends feel better about their undertaking. The Nakba of 1948 continues today with the ethnic cleansing of Area C on the West Bank and the pulverizing of Gaza. But liberal Zionists have given themselves permission to dither about the destruction of Palestinian rights by calling this longstanding contradiction a tension that will be resolved when there is a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish-majority state. As if tomorrow Palestinians will gain their rights in the context of an expansionist Jewish state. As if Oslo is a more meaningful political paradigm than the Likud Party, which draws deeply on Zionist ideology and grows more rightwing by the minute.

Zionism came out of the real condition of Jews in Europe in the late 19th and 20th centuries. I can well imagine being a Zionist at other periods of Jewish history. I would have been a Zionist if I had been in Kafka’s circle in Prague in the 19-teens with the rise of anti-Semitism. I would have been a Zionist if I had been born into the family of my mother’s best friend in Berlin in the 1930s.

But I was born in America, in the 20th century. In my lifetime Zionism has been a dangerous ideology for Palestinians and for the wider Middle East. Zionism has endorsed the Iron Wall strategy of militancy on Israel’s ever-moving borders. Zionism has created a Sparta, just as Hannah Arendt predicted that it would in 1948 when she saw that Israel was born in war, and saw the purging of Palestinian refugees from the Jewish state to be.

I consider myself a liberal anti-Zionist, or a non-Zionist (because the label is less confrontational to the Zionists I am trying to wean from their mistaken belief). I like liberal traditions of personal freedom in the United States, including the tradition of tolerance of religious and ideological claims I find preposterous. These liberal principles have guaranteed my freedom as a minority in the U.S. and granted me a darn good life, including jobs in the First Amendment business and marriage to someone who is not Jewish-a marriage that could not take place in Israel where there is no civil marriage.

I am an anti-Zionist because I reject the entire religious nationalist program: I don’t see a need for a Jewish state, I don’t see Jerusalem as my home any more than Kenya, where my people came from before the temple period. I don’t subscribe to the racial theory of the Jewish people. I take America at its word. I don’t like political separation of people on an ethnic basis and first class citizenship granted to one over the other; and I see the current militant and totalitarian aspects of Israeli society as flowing from a belief system, Zionism, the way that Soviet oppressions grew out of the Politburo’s interpretation of Communism.

I oppose Zionism, too, because the Israel lobby plays such a hurtful role in our foreign policy, and the Israel lobby is inherent in Zionism as it has evolved. From the beginning Zionism depended on the support of imperial powers. Herzl turned to the Kaiser and the Sultan, Weizmann turned to the British Prime Minister, Ben Gurion turned to the American president. “We became part of what is perhaps the most effective lobbying and fund-raising effort in the history of democracy,” Alan Dershowitz said. Yes, and that lobby helped generate the conditions of 9/11, the Iraq War, the murders of Robert Kennedy and Rachel Corrie and Furkan Dogan, and the hysteria about Iran.

The sooner we have this conversation, the greater diversity we will see in the Jewish community and American foreign policy. We can transform the special relationship and isolate Israel for human rights violations and pressure it to transform itself.

When we have this conversation, liberal Zionists will be pressed to decide what they believe in more, liberalism or Zionism. Leading writers like Matthew Yglesias, Eric Alterman, Richard Wolffe, Peter Beinart and Spencer Ackerman, who have kept their liberal and Jewish nationalist dishes spinning forever in the air alongside one another without having to deal with the fait accompli of that ideology-the cruel joke that Oslo has been for the Palestinians, the prison that is Gaza– will have to come down on the democracy side or the Jewish state side. And I am sure many will come down on the democracy side. I am sure that many will answer as I have, and say that they prefer a society where minorities have equal rights to one in which one group is privileged over another.

But we should not give them cover. We must have a real and open conversation in the American Jewish community for all to see. Are you a Zionist, and why? Do you feel unsafe in America? And what sort of unsafety have your beliefs created in a foreign land?

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Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa has been living in Israel for 22 years and is the head of the Franciscan order in the Middle East.

Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa

Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa

source: al-bushra-updates.blogspot.com……

We have received various requests to express our views on what is happening in Gaza. Honestly, we have not said anything until now, because one does not know what to state any more.

The ecclesiastical Institutions already update and express their views regarding the matter and therefore it does not seem necessary to repeat what others have already published, in the context of the usual rite of balanced and correct declarations.

In certain occasions, then, the usual exhortations inviting to the cessation of hostilities and calling for dialogue, even though they are very true and necessary, seem so cut off from reality as to seem hypocritical messages.

On this useless bloodbath that is taking place for the umpteenth time, we must however make some considerations.

1. Once again, violence, death and destruction are the common language in which we are finding ourselves. There is no sense in beginning to discuss on who has initiated the conflict, or to count the dead or to attribute the responsibility. We only know that no solution has been found and that it will only be a matter of time until everything will start all over again, in a kind of useless and vicious circle. Unfortunately a comprehensive solution seems still to be very far away.

2. We hope that such violence will not degenerate in new attacks and other forms of retaliation, which will take us back in time. It is necessary that all those who are responsible will work hard to return to moderation and to control every form of dangerous deterioration of the situation.

3. In front of so much violence and of the helplessness of all, for us believers, prayer remains the only resource. Prayer is as necessary as the air we breathe, because it permits us to look at what is happening around us with the eyes of faith. The believer should look at the world with the eyes of God who is a just and merciful Father. It is the only way not to fall into the logic of violence and refusal of the other, of which this umpteenth conflict is witness. In spite of all that which is occurring, we need to believe once again in the Other. Without God, everything becomes impossible.

4. Our religious Communities should strive, once more, to play their part in the many small initiatives of dialogue and peace. They will not change the world in the Holy Land, but they will provide the oxygen which will make people realise that, in spite of everything, there are still many persons who refuse this logic and are ready to play their part in a serious and concrete way. It is, above all, the duty of the Institutions that work with young people, to whom our future is entrusted, to take initiatives in favour of dialogue.

5. While in the Middle East historic transformations are taking place, it seems that, in the Holy Land, everything has remained unchanged. In the Holy Land, as well as in the rest of the Middle East, however, the Christian Communities are called to give witness, to transmit trust, and not to give space to helplessness.

Jews, Muslims and Christians have been called, here, in this Land, by Providence, to live together. We want to show, with our life, that this vocation is possible and can be realised. And we are ready to start all over again with this certainty.