Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jews for Justice

“I appreciate your bumper sticker.” She said. I turned and there stood a lady admiring my “Free Palestine – End the Occupation.”

“And I am Jewish,” she added. “I want to support the State of Israel but right now I cannot. I hate what Israel is doing to the Palestinians but when I say that in my synagogue, I get ostracized. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one. It gets sort of lonely.”

I didn’t have the foggiest idea who she was or where she had come from but there we were talking in the parking lot for a few minutes. Then we each went our own way. As soon as she was gone, I thought of many things I wish I had said to her, starting with, “You are not alone.”

I think of Michael Lerner, editor of TIKKUN, one of the leading Jewish magazines in America which has been calling Israel to a more civilized behavior for years. Back in 1990, Lerner wrote:

Stop the beatings, stop the breaking of bones, stop the late night raids on people’s homes, stop using food as a weapon of war, stop pretending that you can respond to an entire people’s agony with guns and blows and power. Publically acknowledge that the Palestinians have the same right to national determination that we Jews have, and negotiate a solution with representatives of the Palestinians[1].

And I wish I had told her of Marc Ellis, a prolific Jewish author whom I claim as a friend. He stayed in my home while lecturing in Atlanta. Ellis has written, among other things, Beyond Innocence, (1990) a sharp indictment of Israel’s non-Jewish policies and Unholy Alliances. (1987).

And I wish I had asked her if she were familiar with the works of Noam Chomsky. My mind kept racing across the many great Jewish authors who for years have struggled to reconcile the ethical and moral teachings of their faith with the immoral and brutal practices of the modern state of Israel. If I knew who she was, I would send her a list of books by Jewish authors who have influenced me; I would begin with:

1982 – Jacobo Timerman, THE LONGEST WAR, (pp167).
Timerman was actually tortured in Argentina because he was a Jew, Yet looking at Israel, he writes:

In these past months, I have left behind many illusions, some frustrations, several obsessions. But none of my convictions. Among all these things, there is one that shatters me beyond consolation, I have discovered in Jews a capacity for cruelty that I never believed possible.[2]

1983 – Noam Chomsky, wrote a classic, THE FAITHFUL TRIANGLE,
(pp 469.)
It is long, but well worth the read.

1990 – Marc Ellis with Rosemary Rather Ruther wrote, BEYOND OCCUPATION,
(pp 298.)
This was one of the first books to open my eyes to the truth of what is happening in Palestine and Israel’s brutality.

All of these authors, writing twenty to twenty-five years ago, left me with the feeling of embarrassment. I claim to be an educated person and yet, I did not know this history. Jewish writers are still making the same claim: Israel is out of control.

2003 – Michael Lerner – HEALING, ISRAEL/PALESTINE. (pp 184.)
This marvelous book seeks to tell the story from both sides, but as the more powerful, Lerner holds Israel responsible, saying,” Israelis, have increasingly used methods to secure the Occupation that violate international standards of human rights and make a mockery of the highest values of the Jewish tradition.”

This hard hitting book documents the real history of Zionism’s conquest of Palestine.

2006 – Ilan Pappe, THE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF PALESTINE, (pp.261.) This is the most provocative book I have recently read documenting the real motive behind Israel’s imperialism and its savage brutality toward the Palestinians.

2007 – Joel Kovel, OVERCOMING ZIONISM, (pp 247.)
Kovel describes his own passion. “I wrote this book in fury about Israel and the unholy complicity of the United States and its Jewish community that grants it impunity?”

When non-Jewish authors write, they are immediately labeled as anti-Semitic. When these Jewish authors write and criticize Israel, they are writing out of a great concern and commitment to their Jewish heritage and moral standards ingrained in them by their Jewish tradition…and they must be heard and respected.

I would refer my Jewish lady to the magazine TIKKUN, published by Rabbi Michael Lerner, and ask her to Google Ha’aretz, a leading Jerusalem newspaper. In many ways, it seems that the Jews of Israel are far more free to criticize their own government than are the Jews of America.

No, she is not alone and those sharing her concerns are increasing every day. She is one among an ever growing number of Jews who have chosen to live out their faith above everything else, regardless of the cost.

Thomas Are
July 23, 2009
[1] Marc Ellis and Rosemary Rather Ruether, Beyond Occupation., p.100.
[2] Jacobo Timerman, The Longest War, Israel in Lebanon, p.158.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Dangerous Threat

On the campaign trail last year, Hillary Clinton said that if Iran attacked Israel America would be able to “totally obliterate them.” That was a foolish threat then and it's even more dangerous now. Yet, last week, she again brought up the possibility of a “preemptive strike, “ by “someone”, saying, “If they believe that the United States might attack them the way that we did attack Iraq, for example…”

George Stephanopolos interrupted her, “Before they attack, as a first strike?”

“That’s right, as a first strike … to make clear to the Iranians that their pursuit of nuclear weapons will actually trigger greater insecurity, because right now, many of the nations in the neighborhood, as you very well…

Stephonopolic interrupted her again, “Because Israel will strike before they can finish?

Clinton: “Well, but not only that. I mean, other countries, other Arab countries are deeply concerned about Iran having nuclear weapons.”

Throughout the entire interview Clinton made it, “clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States.” [1]

Is the new Secretary of State claiming the right to commit genocide against the people of Iran if their government does not cease its effort to obtain nuclear power?

My main concern is the casual way in which she addresses the subject of going to war. Has she forgotten the wars we are already in and cannot afford or seem to get out of?

Jim Wallis spoke to the Celeste Zappala, the mother of a fallen soldier in Iraq about the cost of war:

“What happens,” she asked, to the “souls of soldiers who have picked up their friends in pieces, or fearfully fired into a moving car – to discover a shattered Iraqi family a moment later?” She talked about the many victims, on two continents. “An Iraqi mother searches a morgue for the familiar curve of the hand of her child beneath the pale sheet; an American father watches his son beheaded on videotape; an Iraqi child wakes up in a shabby hospital in excruciating pain and without his arm; an American girl writes letters to her dead soldier father; a young vet wraps a garden hose around his neck and leaps away from the nightmares that beset him.” And she recites the tragic numbers: “1,950 U.S. kids lost a parent; 25,000 wounded and struggling through the V.A. system; scores and scores of suicides; 500,000 and more dead Iraqis; 2 million refugees…”[2]

No one is suggesting that there are not some dangerous people out there. But maybe pre-emptive strikes are not the best way to deal with them. Wallis says, “Fighting evil with evil, as recent events show, just adds fuel to the fire. How about overcoming evil with good? If you want to deprive jihadists of ammunition, make it hard for them to persuade others to hate us.”[3]

We could seek to put clean water in every sick and hungry village on the globe. Or, we could stop bombing Arab nations for oil. Or, we could cease protecting Israel’s crimes with our U.N. vetoes. Or, at least, we could cease threatening to obliterate Iran with our military force if it seeks to defend itself against an Israeli attack.

Do you think the Apostle Paul might have been on to something when he said , “Live in harmony with one another…Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in sight of all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God…No, if your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12: 16-21) Sounds risky, but does anyone actually still think that violence can be defeated by more violence? Can’t we find ways to defeat our enemies without killing them?

Thomas Are
June 12, 2009
[1] This Week, with George Stephanopoulos, ABC, June 7, 2009.
[2] Jim Wallis, The Great Awakening, (Harper One, New York, 2008) p.242.
[3] Jim Wallis, ibid, p. 262.