Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass Press Release: On Tolerance, Hatred, and Respect (including response to Stephen Bannon appointment)

PRESS RELEASE

SUMMARY

The Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass (JFB) issues a call for tolerance, a rejection of hatred, and a respect for all. The JFB also asks that President-elect Trump reconsider his appointment of Stephen K. Bannon.

———

STATEMENT

THE JEWISH FEDERATION OF THE BLUEGRASS CALLS FOR TOLERANCE, A REJECTION OF HATRED, AND RESPECT FOR ALL

The Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass issues a call for tolerance, a rejection of hatred, and an embrace of diversity and pluralism.

In recent months, we have seen a spate of incidents of intolerance and prejudice in the U.S. and abroad. Numerous instances of bullying, vandalism, violence, ugly language, and name calling targeting ethnic, racial, and religious minorities have led to a climate that both adults and children find unsettling and even frightening.

The appointment of Stephen K. Bannon, especially, as President-elect Donald Trump’s “chief strategist and senior counsellor” has caused consternation among many Americans, and particularly in the Jewish community.

All presidents should have the right to make their own choices as to who advises them on strategic and other matters. We respect the latitude necessary for a president to work efficiently and productively on issues of national and ultimate global significance.

Yet, Mr. Bannon, through his position as chief executive of Breitbart News, has associated himself with a variety of radical views that fall into the categories of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and misogyny. For these reasons, white nationalists and neo-Nazis celebrate him as one of their own. No one with these associations should be in the White House, especially among our president’s closest advisors.

It is the responsibility of our Federation to support and defend the rights of the Jewish community and all minority communities against all forms of bigotry, racism, hatred, and persecution.  We understand that prejudice, including anti-Semitism, exists at both ends of the political spectrum. History has taught us that silence is both unacceptable and dangerous.

We urge President-elect Trump to demonstrate his commitment to the pluralism, diversity, and respect for all Americans he pledged in his victory speech when he promised to “bind the wounds of division” in America.

As a first step in this endeavor, we ask President-elect Trump to reconsider his appointment of Stephen K. Bannon. We also request that he reach out and show in all his personnel appointments his desire to work toward genuine healing in our divided society.

Our Federation, along with other federations, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, continues to stand for the values we have always upheld: welcoming the stranger, fighting injustice, repairing the world, supporting Israel and Jewish communities around the world, speaking up for the voiceless, and protecting the orphan and the widow.

Hate is neither a Jewish nor an American value. We urge local, state, and national leaders on both sides of the aisle to speak up against this threat to American democracy, to uphold inclusion, to fight against bigotry and discrimination of all kinds, and we encourage other community groups to join in our efforts to combat prejudice and abuse.

Share

TRUMP, HITLER, AND THE RETURN OF FASCISM

TRUMP, HITLER, AND THE RETURN OF FASCISM

Laurence H. Kant

 

Many, including Melania Trump, have assured us that Donald isn’t Hitler. Some commentators object to the comparison outright; others simply bleat the equivalence hysterically, without further explanation. All should contend with the evidence:

 

  • Trump’s tweeting a Mussolini quotation and retweeting neo-Nazis, white supremacists;
  • Trump’s belated (and weak) disavowal of David Duke and the KKK;
  • Trump’s refusal to condemn or even rebuke Jew-hating tirades—including death threats and concentration camp oven imagery—against Jewish journalists who’ve criticized   him (Bethany Mandel, Ben Shapiro, and Jonathan Weisman);
  • Official association of Trump’s campaign with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, giving talk-show host, James Edwards, a VIP press parking space and interview with Donald Trump, Jr. at a Memphis rally, and designating William Johnson a California Trump delegate to the Republican convention;
  • Ivana Trump’s Vanity Fair statement (1990) that her husband kept a copy of Hitler’s collected speeches, “My New Order,” in his bedside cabinet (which Trump acknowledged);
  • The right-arm salute Trump invokes at his rallies, recalling the Nazi salute (some dispute this, but, given his media skills, it’s safe to assume that Trump knows the symbolic effect of every image he uses);
  • Trump’s use of “America First,” alluding to an isolationist, early-40’s U.S. movement that was rife with Jew hatred and called for negotiations with Hitler;
  • Trump’s October 13 speech that refers to international bankers, media, and global elites that allegedly strip the U.S. of its rightful power—a trope that recalls the classic Jew-hating screed, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” , and has numerous and widespread parallels in other Jew-hating rhetoric as well;

 

Does anyone really believe that this self-described “really smart” Wharton grad draws on the Nazi tradition of political rhetoric, symbolism, and ethnic/racial scapegoating unawares?

The onus should be on those who deny the obvious connections to explain in detail why they’re not relevant.

Countless other items of evidence connect Trump to fascism more generally:

 

  • Using threatening gestures, encouraging supporters to beat up protesters and intimidate critics;
  • Forecasting (and encouraging) “riots” at the Republican convention;
  • Calling reporters “scum” and implicitly threatening them, and barring major media organizations (left and right) from his campaign events;
  • Calling to change libel/slander laws to curb criticism of public figures;
  • Demonizing ethnic groups: labeling Mexicans “rapists” and “drug addicts,” calling for mass deportation of 11 million undocumented aliens, advocating a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., and demanding the recusal of a judge as biased and unqualified because of his ethnic heritage;
  • Targeting the disabled by mocking the arm and facial movements of New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski;
  • Praising dictators, including North Korean Kim Jong-un, for murdering potential  enemies; Chinese rulers, for cracking down on Tiananmen Square protesters; and Vladimir Putin for being “a leader’’;
  • Openly and frequently calling for the jailing of his political opponent, Hillary Clinton—this happens as a matter of course in totalitarian societies from the Congo to Cuba to North Korea;

 

No, Trump doesn’t outline a genocidal philosophy or well-thought-out plans to implement discrimination—what coherent policy strategy has he ever enunciated?—but he is aware of Hitler and Mussolini and riffs off of them. He knows who they are and borrows their ideas—most notably the use of intimidation and violence to acquire political power.

Does this make him more like a third-world dictator (Marco Rubio’s assessment)? Would Mussolini serve as a better comparison than Hitler? Silvio Berlusconi?

We don’t know what he sincerely believes, but does that really matter? We can only judge him by his words, his actions, and what he promotes.

We d­­­on’t know what Trump would actually do if elected president. Given the American system of checks and balances, his attempt at authoritarian rule would likely be limited by the realities of governance. Yet, is that a risk worth taking?

Why don’t commentators address the specific evidence instead of asserting that Trump isn’t Hitler? Many in the press minimize the Trump phenomenon by laughing off his words or by rationalizing the crazy stuff he does. The reason is clear: because the evidence is so troubling and disturbing, and the implications so appalling, that they would rather it simply go away.

If we’ve learned anything from the holocaust, it’s that we can’t take on the role of bystanders and let troubling events transpire by ignoring or glossing over them.

Too frequently in the past, politicians and commentators trivially compared political adversaries to Hitler and the Nazis, leading to what many call “Godwin’s law”: the inevitable invocation of Hitler or Nazis to refute an argument. Neither mindless name-calling nor willful ignorance force us to face the facts before us.

The facts are clear: Trump uses language, images, and tactics that directly recall those of the Nazis and Hitler, along with other fascists. To allow him to speak destructively by incorporating this pernicious tradition and to permit him to encourage violence without calling him to meaningful account does nothing more than offer him a media get-out-of-jail free card. It amounts to an abdication of the sacred responsibility the founders gave the press in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Who is willing to stand up and be counted?

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Laurence Kant
Share

Mizrahi Nation: Middle Eastern Jews in Israel and a Brief History of Jews in the Middle East

MizrahiNation1

A superb article by Matti Friedman, one of the best of I have seen not only on the history of the Mizrahi (Middle Eastern Jews) in Israel, but on what it means to be Israeli, Jewish, and living in the Middle East. This article offers a perspective that is rarely found in discussions about Israel and the Israel/Palestinian conflict. After reading it, you may find your views on Israel, Jews, and the Middle East at least a little different.

I particularly enjoyed his characterization of the “religious vs. secular” Jewish dichotomy as a Western/Ashkenazi labeling. For Mizrachi, that distinction doesn’t exist. They have their own “liberal” form of Judaism which is not Orthodox, but “traditional”/Masorti–the name for Conservative Judaism, but different, because it has its own history and application that is completely different from the European-based movement. For example, some Mizrachi may go to Synagogue in the morning, head to the beach in the afternoon, text to one another, while celebrating Havdalah (end of Shabbat) later.

Overall the Mizrachi are much more “liberal” in practice than the Ashkenazi (European-based) religious, but more politically conservative than many Ashkenazi. Their conservatism is not based on ideology (as is typical of Ashkenazi on all sides of the political spectrum), however, but more on experience in having lived in the Middle East for many centuries (well before Islam ever got there).

http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2014/06/mizrahi-nation/

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Laurence Kant
Share

Media Bias and Israel

FriedmanMatti

More on the bias of Western media coverage of Israel by a former AP reporter, Matti Friedman: hostile fixation on Jews and Israel; censorship of Gaza coverage under pressure from Hamas and failure to report Hamas using civilians as human shields; and failure to report on an Israeli peace proposal. The original story discussed the failure of Western media to report on the corruption of the Palestinian Authority; the all-consuming media criticism of Israeli society and politics, with virtually no criticism of Palestinian society and politics; intense documenting of Israeli violence against Palestinians, with no corresponding, remotely equivalent documenting of Hamas’ brutality and vast military infrastructure; failure to report on Hamas intimidation of reporters; failure to describe the Hamas charter, which call for the genocide of Jews and uses the notorious Jew-hating Protocols of Zion to call for the murder of Jews; failure to report on Israeli peace proposals prior to the Netanyahu government; failure to report on the tiny size (both geographically and demographically) of Israel in contrast to the Arab/Muslim world; failure to connect Hamas to other extreme, exclusivist, violent Muslim religious movements (e.g. al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, Taliban); and the overall equivalence of Israel as bad oppressors and Palestinians as sympathetic victims.

I am a strong critic of many Israeli policies (settlements, racism against Arabs, too much religion in government, the Netanyahu’s goverment failure to engage the Palestinian Authority), but it’s appalling how media coverage is so one-sided and tilted against Israel (and Jews as well) and so relatively non-critical of Hamas (which advocates genocide of Jews, believes in forced conversion to Islam, supports brutality and violence, and opposes democratic and secular values) and the Palestinian Authority (which is notoriously corrupt, inept, suspicious of democratic values, and refuses to accept Israel as Jewish): http://tabletmag.com/scroll/184707/ongoing-controversy-around-the-most-important-story-on-earth

Here’s the original article by Friedman: http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/183033/israel-insider-guide?all=1

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Laurence Kant
Share

The Christian Left and Jew-Hatred

bruce-shipman

Hard to see how anyone can rationalize Jew-hatred (antisemitism) by blaming it on Israeli policy, but many are doing just that now. Shipman and anyone else have the right to criticize Israel as they reasonably see fit (and I would do so as well), but they don’t have the right to excuse hatred–which is exactly what Shipman and others are doing. Attacking Jews on the street and putting swastikas on synagogues and fraternities does not happen because of Israeli policy. It happens because some people hate Jews. Period.

No one on the left (which is what many apparently consider me) would attribute assaults on women to provocative dress or police brutality toward African Americans on black-on-black violence, but somehow it’s OK for liberal Christian activists to do so when it comes to Jew-hatred. They don’t see how they’re drawing on 2000 years of ugly history. All this exposes the ugly underside of Christian prejudice toward Jews. Jewish-Christian dialogue has made progress since the Holocaust, but not as much as we had thought. We’re now seeing the public viewing of what was always there, but hidden.

All people have prejudices that are unknown even to them. I’m no exception to that. It’s part of the human condition. However, the most dangerous people are those who act as if they are immune to prejudice. If Shipman had apologized and reframed what he said differently, we could have moved beyond this. Not only does he refuse to do so, but he plans to continue in his crusade. Clearly we still have a long way to go: http://time.com/3340634/yale-chaplain-bruce-shipman-israel-anti-semitism/

Share

Gaza, Israel, and Media Coverage

Why are the global protests all focused on Gaza? Many more are dying in Syria: 700 over a two-day period.

Israel is the bogeyman for world media, but no one gives a hoot if Arabs are slaughtering other Arabs. What does this say about Israel and about antisemitism (yesterday protesters looted and ransacked Jewish businesses in a Paris suburb)?

Part 1: RESPONSE TO A COLLEAGUE ARGING THAT MEDIA COVERAGE OF GAZA IS SO EXTENSIVE BECAUSE OF ISRAEL’S FAILURE TO AGREE TO A CEASEFIRE

I don’t agree with you that the ceasefire issue is what drives the media.

The reason everyone pays attention to Gaza, and not to Syria, is because no one in the West gives a darn about Arabs and Muslims dying, but they do enjoy scapegoating Jews wherever they are. Whatever problems there are in the Middle East, blame it on the Jews. Now Muslims and Arabs have joined in on this. Take a look at Paris and its suburbs, where protesters have now burned and decimated French Jewish businesses. This is not primarily because of Gaza, but because fundamentally, at root, people blame Jews for whatever problems exists in their communities and cultures.

It’s sad, but it’s a fact. I don’t see a lot of people in Europe attacking Russian churches and community centers, because Russian separatists shot down a passenger jet. Where are the protesters on Iran’s treatment of the Bahai? Israelis are trying to protect their civilian population. You can argue about their tactics and effectiveness, but they do have a good argument based on self-defense.

No, fundamentally, the media and most people are fixated on Jews. This is a 2500-year-old problem, deeply rooted in history and culture. Those of us who devote our lives to working on antisemitism, Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations, must face this on a daily basis. That’s the reality, and no amount of rationalizations get around this fact.

PART 2: RESPONSE TO A COLLEAGUE ARGUING THAT EXTENSIVE MEDIA COVERAGE OF GAZA IS DUE TO LIMITED FINANCIAL RESOURCES

a) It’s not just Syria that the media ignores. Last I heard France is pretty good digs for reporters. Yet how much media attention is focused on protesters burning down Jewish shops and businesses, calling Jews “pigs” and shouting “kill the Jews,” vandalizing and storming synagogues, and hunting Jews on the streets? There were similar (though less destructive) events in Germany. I don’t see much on the TV about that. Iran is a police state, but it’s relatively safe to travel in. Where is the attention on the Iranian treatment of the Bahai, who are viciously persecuted and murdered? What about the Iranian treatment of their native Arab population and political dissidents, whom they like to hang from cranes? Where is the attention on the destruction of indigenous communities worldwide (including in the US and Canada) for corporate profit (oil, minerals, gems, whatever)? What about China and Tibet? What about the treatment of women and gays in the Arab/Muslim world? How much media attention is there on that compared to Israel? I could go on and on. The fact of the matter is, the media, and people in general, are obsessed with Jews. Israel is a good proxy for that.

There is one financial factor you did not mention: Israel coverage markets well to a public that is focused on Jews and Judaism. In other words, “Israel” sells. As the newspaper people used to say, “Israel” makes good copy.

That said, I do agree that the safety and cheapness of travel to Israel is a factor in media coverage of Israel. Part of the attraction is also that Israel is a pleasant place to which to travel and a democracy with a free press. There’s just a lot more to it than your explanation.

b) Israel is in the news all the time. The media always has stories about the Palestinian situation–not as intensely as Gaza right now, but these stories are all over the place regularly. They’re hard to miss. I don’t see nearly as much attention on the stuff I describe above as I do on Israel, even when Israel is not involved in a war.

Beyond that, there has been massive violence (with concentrated deaths in short periods of time) in other locations over the past decades with relatively little media attention: Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Congo, Ivory Coast. Back in the 1960s through the 1990s we saw hideous numbers of deaths in conflicts in South America, Africa, and East Asia (remember East Timor) without comparable attention. Naturally disasters such as occur in Bangladesh and India attract relatively little attention. These are not all impossible to cover (not as easy as Israel, but not Syria), and yet we saw very little on them. I would not expect the equivalence of Gaza, but I would have expected a lot more than we got.

Somehow the media figured out a way to cover our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Vietnam. The media covered the breakup of Yugoslavia, including Bosnia/Serbia. They covered the Tiannamen Square uprising in China. They gave blanket coverage to the Indonesian tsunami. They focused on the 2009/10 election protests in Iran. In the U.S. the media covered the Tea Party, but much less the Occupy movement.

If it wanted to do so, the media could cover Syria to a greater extent than it has recently. Yes, it’s not easy, and, yes, it’s more expensive. Coverage of Syria would never equal coverage of Gaza, but the media could give Syria much more attention than it has–even without a lot of reporters on the ground. It chooses not to, because Syria, Arabs, and Muslims just don’t hold the attention of the public or of news decision-makers. They’re just not sexy or meaningful to enough people.

I’m not saying that it’s unreasonable to give Gaza a lot of attention. And I’m not saying that a Jewish fixation is the only reason the media focuses on Israel/Gaza/West Bank. I am saying that Gaza has attracted much more attention than other stories of similar magnitude and that part of it has to do with the public’s fascination (for both good and ill) with Israel and Jews. I’m also saying that the media picks and chooses what it decides to cover, in part based on what it thinks sells best. And Israel sells real well. And it has since 1948, especially since 1967.

And I can tell you this. Unless a miracle happens soon, stories about Israel’s conflicts with its neighbors will continue to abound (massive deaths or not), while stories about Ukraine and Russia will have long since faded into oblivion. This does have to do with the prominent place of Jews (in spite of their small numbers) and Israel in human culture and history.

c) All in all I just don’t buy this argument. It does not pass the smell test. The amount of coverage on Israel/Palestine (the former British Mandate), a tiny piece of land with a miniscule population of Jews and Arabs is massive and overwhelming, even without the current Gaza conflict. The overwhelming coverage cannot be explained away simply by reference to limited media resources. An alien from another solar system who dropped onto earth and saw the media coverage would assume that Israel/Palestine must comprise a large continent and a major portion of the world’s population. Obviously, that’s not the case. There are other reasons why the public and the media are obsessed with this little slice of our planet. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

d) I do think antisemitism is a major factor, but not the only one. It’s fixation on Jews that’s really at the core here. Even some supporters of Israel are motivated in part by the Bible and by their belief in Jews as part of God’s plan. And there are philosemitic non-Jews who focus on Jews and on Israel for a whole host of reasons. I wouldn’t call that antisemitism, but it does reflect a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Jews and Judaism. So fixation on Judaism is not simply antisemitism, but can actually be philosemitism as well. I would certainly rather have the latter than the former, but even that is a sword cutting more than one way.

I think it would be best for Jews if others would simply live their lives and leave us be. At the same time, I admit that Jews sometimes cultivate this fixation, and I’m certainly uncomfortable with that. There should be dialogue and conversation–not as an attempt to convert or to preach, but in order to learn and grow. I think it’s much better for Christians to become better Christians than to become Jews or something else, and I think it’s much better for Jews to become better Jews than to spend our time distinguishing ourselves from Christians and others.

As for one-sidedness, that’s a red herring. There are lot of one-sided conflicts in the world (some of which I already mentioned above) that do not get the same attention as Israel/Palestine. In Tibet, it’s mostly Tibetans getting killed, not Chinese. In Iran, no government officials get killed, only dissidents and disfavored minorities. In Central America, governments killed rebels and dissidents far more than the latter killed the former. In France, supporters of Israel are not attacking pro-Palestinian demonstrators, while Palestinians supporters are engaging in numerous attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions. Right now in Syria, ISIS seems to be inflicting most of the damage.

Actually, the death toll in Gaza is now over 700 Gazans and 32 Israeli soldiers, plus two civilians. Of course, that’s because Israelis try to protect their civilians, while the goal of Hamas is to have as many civilians as possible killed in order to promote their PR/media campaign. It’s amazing (though sadly not surprising) to me that the media mentions this only in passing or skeptically. Also, we have no way of knowing how many Gazan civilians vs. soldiers are being killed–Hamas is not exactly a trustworthy source for this kind of info.

In any case, the media would do well to spend more time looking more deeply at what’s going on and not simply reporting death numbers as if it’s a football game. From that perspective, however, Hamas is winning. For them the side with the most dead is the victor. So on the media scoreboard, Hamas is currently ahead of Israel, c. 1,058 vs. 53. That’s a lopsided victory for Hamas. I’m sure Hamas’ leaders are thrilled. The culture of death is winning in a landslide over the culture of life.

Perhaps, however, the distancing of other countries from Hamas that I have observed recently is a move in the right direction. That would certainly show some sophistication in not simply accepting Hamas’ explanations at face value. I hope the media will move in that direction as well.

 

PART 3: ON ISRAELI AND ARAB POSITIONS ON A PALESTINE STATE (INCLUDING THOMAS FRIEDMAN WHO WANTS ISRAEL TO FOCUS ON DEVELOPING THE WEST BANK AS A THRIVING DEMOCRACY)

I’m not a fan of Netanyahu and have never supported him or Likud. I’m not sure he’s as opposed to a Palestinian state as you think, but I’m not sure he believes in much of anything–except his own political survival. And I wrote on this blog that most Arab governments don’t want a Palestinian state either: see the same thing here-http://mysticscholar.org/whats-really-going-on-in-the…/

As far as the West Bank goes, Friedman is right in principle, but that’s no easy task either. Fatah is corrupt, inept, and non-democratic, and there is not much of a prospect for more salutary groups or institutions that could take the lead. The West Bank would need a massive shift in culture and outlook for what Friedman suggests to happen. And Arab governments, as well as Iran, have no interest in an autonomous, free, democratic Palestine. They will do everything possible to prevent that from happening. So that leaves essentially a mess for Israel to deal with. Netanyahu is not much of a leader, but I doubt that anyone or any Israeli party could deal with the current state of things. 

So what are the options? What should Israel do in light of all this? I have no idea. Neither does anyone else as far as I can make out. The best I can think of is play a waiting game and hope that the West Bank cleans up its act and that the Arab world develops some kind of democratic institutions (Tunisia??).

As far as handling Hamas, I don’t know what Israel should do. I’m not an Israeli, and I don’t live there. But I know I wouldn’t put up with rockets firing on my land and tunnels with terrorists pouring out. Perhaps there’s a better way to deal with Hamas, but I don’t know what it is, and I haven’t heard anything plausible. Demilitarizing Gaza would make sense, but that seems impossible, given Hamas and given the sentiments of Gazans. 

If you have something practical to suggest, I really would listen–really. But most of what I’ve heard out there is, quite frankly, naive, totally impractical, or simply wrong. I’m waiting–but sometimes, you just have to tread water for a while. 

Friedman can talk and talk, but his ideas are not really pragmatic or feasible; they just sound nice and thoughtful. He’s not really suggesting anything workable, just a lot of hopeful words.

In the meantime, I have to deal with the antisemitism that’s out there and that’s integrally related to the media’s depiction of Israel. France is a mess, and the attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions is reminiscent of Nazi-era events. And this is happening across Europe. The situation is ugly and screwed-up, and the media is making it worse by not explaining what’s going on.

It does bother me that Israel gets singled out for its deplorable conduct, while the other nations you mention get a pass. The BDS movement focuses on Israel, but shows no interest in advocating divestment in other countries with far worse human rights violations (in the Middle East, that would include Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, among others). This too is ugly and antisemitic, and the media does not address it at all. When you’re dealing with the detritus of the Holocaust that still remains with us and the burgeoning global antisemitism, this is very disturbing indeed.

 

Part 4: ON ISRAEL LEAVING THE WEST BANK AND THE CREATION OF A PALESTINIAN STATE THERE

The problem is: if Israelis pull out and declare a Palestinian state (so called Plan B, which many Israelis are discussing, by the way, including Netanyahu), then you are left with a disfunctional Palestinian government/society and major security issues right on Israel’s border. The West Bank Palestinian economy is not good, and no amount of help from Israel can fix a broken system. Israel has limited resources with its own enormous economic issues: a large population of young who do not have much upward mobility (just as is the case globally), an excessively high cost of living, a minority of ultra-orthodox who profit from the current welfare system without putting much back into it, an electoral system that promotes fragmentation (giving excess weight to small parties), and a military budget that will not diminish just because Israel leaves the West Bank.

Therefore, if Israel leaves the West Bank on its own or with an agreement, it will be faced with a restive, frustrated Palestinian population in the West Bank, a corrupt government that is anti-democratic and probably unable to improve the economy much at all, and the potential for a neighbor that will continue its war and terrorism against Israel as a way of casting blame away from itself. And you cannot forget that the Fatah government would have limited ability to govern, given that Hamas has considerable influence in the West Bank and that there are numerous other splinter groups in the West Bank committed to the destruction of Israel. There is no guarantee that Hamas, a fanatic group committed to the destruction of Israel and Jews worldwide, would not take over there. As we learned in Iraq, a democracy/free society does not emerge just because you wish it to be so. A lot has to be in place before that can happen. If it doesn’t, Israel will be in an even more precarious position.

Further, Arab/Muslim governments for the most part do not want an independent, free, democratic Palestinian state for a simple reason: they would be forced to face their own populations and explain themselves. Their opposition would create further difficulties for both Israel and Palestine and make the situation potentially even more volatile..

I do not support the continued building of new settlement outposts, and I’m not going to defend that. I think it’s wrong. But I don’t know what the way out is. There are many critics of Israel (including Israelis), but I have not heard much about how to solve this pragmatically other than hopeful words and pleasant thoughts. If anyone out there has read something or heard something that is practical and specific, I would be thrilled to read or hear it.

As to the media, I stand by what I’ve said. Israel/Gaza/West Bank is a tiny strip of land with a miniscule population. Even when there’s no major conflict, the media focus is enormous and disproportionate. That’s because it sells globally: in the U.S., in Europe, and in the Muslim world. It’s because it’s the land of the Bible. And it’s because Jews are involved.

PART 5: RESPONSE TO A COLLEAGUE ARGUING THAT THE CONCEPT OF THE “CHOSEN PEOPLE” AND OF “DIFFERENCE ARE WHAT DRIVE SOME OF THE ANIMOSITY TOWARD ISRAELIS AND JEWS

On the whole “chosen people” business, I rarely hear Jews, including most Israelis, talk about this. Most of the Israeli settlers are looking for suburban plots near Jerusalem and have no interest in theology. There are extreme settlers who talk about the Chosen People (Hebron, for example–and quite a number of them are American immigrants), but they are a small minority, and most Israelis (even religious ones) strongly dislike them.

It’s mostly Christians who talk about Jews as the Chosen People. I’ve led a lot of Jewish study groups, and that topic hardly ever comes us, except in response to Christians. Conservative/Evangelical Christians love the whole “Chosen People” trope and run with it non-stop. They have their own agenda, with end-time theology and mass conversion. Mainline and liberal Christians hate the whole idea of it and complain incessantly about Jewish superiority and tribalism.

Jewish sources talk about the Chosen People, but mostly not with pride. In Jewish tradition, God asked every other people to be the chosen ones, and they all refused. The Jews were the last, and they finally agreed to it–with a lot of complaints that have continued through the centuries. The concept of being “chosen” is not necessarily positive at all, but a burden that Jews are stuck with, forcing them to live difficult lives without much reward.

Even so, most Jews today don’t talk about it much, because it’s not an important part of daily life, of identity, or of practice. It’s mainly Christians (and now Muslims) who obsess over it.

Now, on the concept of “difference,” that’s a different matter. Lots of individuals and groups think of themselves as different. And, in fact, they are.

Teilhard de Chardin (who was a Catholic evolutionary biologist and theologian) had a concept known as the Omega Point, which he believed was the ultimate level of collective consciousness that human beings could attain in the distant future. He thought that collective consciousness depended not on homogeneity, but on hyper-individuality–each person’s authentic uniqueness.

We’re all different, and, yes, we’re all similar too, but Jews focus more on the “difference” part. They’re not the only group to do that. I don’t think that everyone should have to be the same. There should be a place (I hope) on the planet and in the human species for individuals and groups who focus more on difference.

 

ON THE DIFFICULTIES OF A TWO-STATE SOLUTION

The problem is: if Israelis pull out and declare a Palestinian state (so called Plan B, which many Israelis are discussing, by the way, including Netanyahu), then you are left with a disfunctional Palestinian government/society and major security issues right on Israel’s border. The West Bank Palestinian economy is not good, and no amount of help from Israel can fix a broken system. Israel has limited resources with its own enormous economic issues: a large population of young who do not have much upward mobility (just as is the case globally), an excessively high cost of living, a minority of ultra-orthodox who profit from the current welfare system without putting much back into it, an electoral system that promotes fragmentation (giving excess weight to small parties), and a military budget that will not diminish just because Israel leaves the West Bank.

Therefore, if Israel leaves the West Bank on its own or with an agreement, it will be faced with a restive, frustrated Palestinian population in the West Bank, a corrupt government that is anti-democratic and probably unable to improve the economy much at all, and the potential for a neighbor that will continue its war and terrorism against Israel as a way of casting blame away from itself. And you cannot forget that the Fatah government would have limited ability to govern, given that Hamas has considerable influence in the West Bank and that there are numerous other splinter groups in the West Bank committed to the destruction of Israel. There is no guarantee that Hamas, a fanatic group committed to the destruction of Israel and Jews worldwide, would not take over there. As we learned in Iraq, a democracy/free society does not emerge just because you wish it to be so. A lot has to be in place before that can happen. If it doesn’t, Israel will be in an even more precarious position.

Further, Arab/Muslim governments for the most part do not want an independent, free, democratic Palestinian state for a simple reason: they would be forced to face their own populations and explain themselves. Their opposition would create further difficulties for both Israel and Palestine and make the situation potentially even more volatile..

I do not support the continued building of new settlement outposts, and I’m not going to defend that. I think it’s wrong. But I don’t know what the way out is. There are many critics of Israel (including Israelis), but I have not heard much about how to solve this pragmatically other than hopeful words and pleasant thoughts. If anyone out there has read something or heard something that is practical and specific, I would be thrilled to read or hear it.

As to the media, I stand by what I’ve said. Israel/Gaza/West Bank is a tiny strip of land with a miniscule population. Even when there’s no major conflict, the media focus is enormous and disproportionate. That’s because it sells globally: in the U.S., in Europe, and in the Muslim world. It’s because it’s the land of the Bible. And it’s because Jews are involved.

 

ON PROSPECTS FOR A TWO-STATE SOLUTION

Actually, believe it or not, I think there will be peace some day. So I’m not pessimistic in the long term. I may be wrong, but, in my view, the Arab/Muslim world will have to move toward a more democratic system of governance before a two-state solution works. That’s going to take time. In spite of its shortcomings, the “Arab Spring” (which is not Spring in some places I realize) was a positive step. Tunisia will be interesting to watch.

Dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians will also help over time. This will not transform the region over night, but it is slowly affecting the situation and will continue to do so..

As for your idea, Ehud Barak offered something similar in 1999. Arafat and the PLO rejected it. It may not have been the right time, and Barak was a terrible negotiator.

Israel did not “seize” Gaza and the West Bank. Israel entered them in 1967 after facing a massive Arab attack. When the Arab world decides to accept a Jewish state in the Middle East (which governments are beginning to), then it will be easier to deal with the logistics of this problem.

On the Arab right of return, this is obviously a thorny issue and will involve compensation. The Palestinians are the only group in the world given “refugee” status after multiple generations of absence from a territory. When the Arab countries expelled Jews after 1948, Israel accepted them as full citizens of the state of Israel. On the other hand, Arab governments forced Palestinians to live in refugee camps and did not integrate them into Arab societies.

Israel will have to deal with this issue financially, but it’s not as one-sided as your words imply. There are two stories here, each having legitimacy: two peoples with two painful histories and competing narratives and claims to the land.

As for Hamas, I’m glad you’re confident in Gaza tossing them out under the right conditions. I’m not. And I don’t think Israelis can assume anything. All I have to do is look at other parts of the Middle East to draw another conclusion.

Nevertheless, at some point, the day will come when a two-state solution can be put into action. I just don’t think that day has arrived yet. Let’s hope it comes soon.

RESPONSE TO A COLLEAGUE WHO ARGUES THAT ISRAEL IS NOT A DEMOCRACY, COMPARING IT TO ALABAMA 100 YEARS AGO

KantGazaExchange1

On the Barak proposal and the Camp David Summit, most observers (including many Palestinians ones) lay the blame on Arafat–that he never offered a concrete counter-proposal and could not give up on the right of return. In the end, Arafat could not accept a Jewish state on land that he still considered as belonging to the Palestinians. In other words, he was not ready to make a deal–Barak was (even with his weaknesses as a negotiator).

As for democracy, Israel is not a perfect society, and there’s racism and prejudice there, along with at times poor treatment of its Arab population. And, yes, it is a Jewish state, with Jewish governing principles and a Jewish majority.

That said, Arab citizens in Israel have more freedom and rights than they do in almost any Arab/ Muslim society that I can think of. The rights of Arab Israeli women are far higher than in any Arab society. Arab Israelis also have a considerable higher standard of living than in the surrounding societies and can actually be openly gay without being murdered.

In 2011, the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion commissioned a poll of Arab residents of Jerusalem. A plurality indicated that, if given the choice, they would choose to live under Israel rather than the PLO and that they thought their neighbors would prefer Israeli citizenship to Palestinian citizenship. Most Israeli Arabs vehemently oppose an Israel-Palestine settlement, because they do not wish to live under the PLO. Senior PLO and Hamas leaders (including three sisters of Ishmail Haniyeh, the top leader of Hamas) have sought Israeli ID cards so that they can live in Israel if they choose. Many of them have done so, including Haniyeh’s sisters. (Haniyeh’s sisters currently live as Israeli citizens in the Bedouin town of Tel as-Sabi near Beesheva on the edge of the Negev in Southern Israel; several of their children have served in the Israeli Defense Force/IDF!). I don’t know what the polls are saying now and who is living where and who holds which ID cards, but not all Palestinians and Israeli Arabs view Israel as a authoritarian state (as you suggest). Further, their view of the Israeli government versus the PLO and Hamas is filled with complexity, nuance, and contradictions.

If we consider Germany a democracy or Italy or France or Japan or South Korea (countries that presume ethnic/linguistic/cultural majorities), then Israel is no less a democracy than any of those. Israel believes it has a right to preserve its Jewish character, that Jews need to have a place where they can live without fear of persecution, discrimination, and murder. I don’t think that’s unreasonable or contrary to democratic principles. Perhaps others have a new definition of democracy with which I am unfamiliar.

Would you really compare Israel to Alabama a 100 years ago– lynchings; micegenation laws; separate water fountains, bathrooms, park benches; not to mention effective voting prohibition? Are you sure that you thought this analogy through? I don’t think there are many objective observers who would consider your comparison legitimate or reasonable. You might want to try a new tack.

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Laurence Kant
Share

Review of Robert Nicholson, “Evangelicals and Israel”

The author is intelligent, knowledgeable, and thoughtful–but also generally wrong: http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2013/10/evangelicals-and-israel/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share-via-email

I won’t go into great detail, but here are just a few points:

1) Eschatology is a BIG deal for evangelicals. In my many years of encounters, conversations, bull-sessions, and scholarly exchange with evangelical Christians, I cannot remember many times of serious interchange when the subject of eschatology did not come up. Nicholson is right that evangelicals do not agree on the details, but wrong when he downplays the importance of eschatology. In fact, I would go so far as to say that evangelicals are obsessed with both end times (all it takes is a cursory google search to see this), and that’s why evangelicals don’t always agree. In any case, in almost every scenario, Jews do not fare well. The “voluntary” conversion that Nicholson identifies is also generally accompanied (no matter which scenario) by the mass death and slaughter of the vast majority of the Jewish population. In fact, those Christian end time images of genocide (which one also finds in some Catholic depictions) have inspired antisemites for centuries, including the Nazis.

While eschatology may say nothing about the actual future, it does say something about the ways in which some Christians view Jews–and it’s not good. It says that Jews are not worthy of life in the same way that believing Christians are worthy of life. It implies, in essence, that Jews are somewhat less than human. To be fair, the view of Jews as sub-human (which the Nazis glorified) also applies to members of other faiths and to agnostics and atheists,* but Christians have had a special relationship to, and history with, Jews. For that reason, the symbolism and language of eschatological discourse and the implied status of Jews as sub-human means that Christian-Jewish relations are fraught with particular dangers and risks.

The relentless drive to convert Jews to Christianity, which characterizes most evangelicals, also presumes that Jewish practice and belief without Jesus Christ are insufficient for full human status.

2) Christian evangelical anti-Zionism is not simply a left-wing phenomenon. The author does not discuss the conservative Christians who hold disturbing views on Jews and Judaism and oppose the state of Israel. This is nothing new and has existed for a long time.

3) Since the topic of Christian Zionism, particularly CUFI (Christians United for Israel and John Hagee), has come up in many Jewish communities, I have warned that the worm will turn. There may be a substantial number of Christian Zionists today, but many of their ancestral co-religionists persecuted Jews and opposed the state of Israel. A movement which owes much of its theology to Martin Luther and other antisemites cannot just shed its inheritance in a decade or two without a serious discussion and eventual confession. And I have not seen that take place–not even remotely. Until I do and until enough time passes afterwards, I do not think that Jews should place much faith in alliances with Christian Zionists.

What’s more likely to happen is that Christian Zionists will eventually perceive Jews as intransigent and difficult because Jews are not willing to convert. Then, when their frustration reaches a tipping point, these same Christian Zionists will turn on Jews. That’s what I think is happening now. It’s not a question of “liberal” (whatever that means) evangelicals, but rather the inevitable reemergence of hatred and prejudice that has always sat lurking just beneath the surface.

This does not mean that I am opposed to conversations (which I still relish) or even to occasional alliances on very specific issues of mutual interest. I remain deeply committed to Jewish-Christian dialog, especially to the interfaith study of biblical texts, the history of Jewish-Christian relations, and theological reflection. However,it does mean that we Jews need to be clear-headed and honest about our interlocutors. The naivete, or perhaps willful ignorance, of many in the Jewish community (especially the organized Jewish community) is an even greater danger than the antisemitism of many Christians. If we Jews were more self-aware and sober in our understanding of the evangelical point of view, I would feel a lot more comfortable about Jewish-Christian relations on Israel.

And, by the way, I would have much to say that is critical of the mainline Christian community as well (especially their siding with Palestinians and their reflexive criticism of all Israeli policy), but they do not currently seem to present the same set of problems for leaders in the organized Jewish community that Christian evangelicals do. In addition, we Jews will have to confront our own prejudices and assumptions about all Christians, including evangelicals.

This article by Robert Nicholson has the potential to further cloud the minds of many in the Jewish community and lead them astray in a time of anxiety. In my view, especially when it comes to Israel, we Jews are on our own, and the sooner we realize it, the better off we’ll be. Hope, if I dare pronounce that word, comes from a survival instinct that has guided our community for over three thousand years and from the realization that resilience is part of our spiritual makeup.

Share

How We Should Respond to a Pro-Nazi Teaching Assignment

This teaching assignment that compelled students to take a pro-Nazi position against Jews was obviously a bad mistake, but it is one in which we all of us (especially those in the Jewish community) need to demonstrate compassion and forgiveness to the teacher. Justification of hatred is not something that is legitimate in a class teaching students how to think, especially in a classroom of teenagers. Yes, we can justify any horrible action or idea through reasoned argument, but humanism and our ethical principles have to intervene at some point. At the same time, the teacher was probably not intending to promote antisemitism and hatred, but rather the opposite. Further, all the time we permit actors in theater and film to portray Nazis (think Ralph Finnes as Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List or Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler in Downfall [Der Untergang]), and we want them to do so in a convincing fashion. In fact, we applaud them for it and give them awards. This is not an easy topic, and it’s one where all of us can go astray. Let this event not be an opportunity for recrimination and shouting, but a teaching moment.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/13/nyregion/albany-teacher-gives-pro-nazi-writing-assignment.html?_r=0

Share

Courage to Resist

This is the story of those who plotted to assassinate Hitler. But it’s also the story of anyone who resists authority and conventional wisdom, of anyone who is a boat rocker. When you challenge what’s wrong, always be prepared to stand alone. In an ultimate sense you are not alone, but in the normal world you are. It’s a great lesson, though a very hard one:

http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/the_courage_to_resist_20130224/

 

This is a wonderful article by Chris Hedges, but I would also like to see attention drawn to Henning von Tresckow, who was the prime mover of the plot to assassinate Hitler (Operation Valkyrie) and a staunch opponent of antisemitism: http://mysticscholar.org/last-words-of-a-hero-general-hermann-henning-von-tresckow/

Share

Neo-Nazi Shot by Son

Share

The Moral Ambiguity of Spanish Jewish Heritage

Is the Spanish government’s  emphasis on Jewish tourism a legitimate enterprise? http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/04/04/3086707/spain-building-monuments-to-its-jewish-past-critics-question-motives

Share

The Fall of Glenn Beck: Wacko Conspiracies and Antisemitism

This describes the demise of one of the more bizarre figures in American culture: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2011/04/06/AFNEgnqC_story.html

Share

The Auschwitz Album

These images are particularly powerful because they show the victims at Auschwitz as real human beings rather than near-corpses (“muselmann”) or piles of actual corpses.

The Only Surviving Album of Auschwitz: http://www1.yadvashem.org/exhibitions/album_Auschwitz/mutimedia/index.HTML

 

Share

The Rise of Far-Right Terrorism

Many are focused on terrorism from the Middle East, but there is also a large trend in the US toward far-right terrorism, especially associated with the Sovereign Citizens movement:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/mar/24/far-right-terrorism

For further discussion of these movements, see the following:
http://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/hate-and-extremism/law-enforcement (with lots of links) and
http://www.adl.org/learn/ext_us/scm.asp?xpicked=4

Share

John Galliano and Antisemitism


Chief designer for Christian Dior, John Galliano, is fired for antisemitic remarks:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/fashion/02dior.html?_r=2&hp=&pagewanted=all

Share

Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are close, as this article indicates.  And now Hamas has invited one of the charismatic leaders of the Brotherhood to Gaza, Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  Egyptian Qaradawi has frequently called for jihad against Israel and Jews, the destruction of Israel, and has said that he himself looks forward to coming to Israel to personally shoot Jews.

http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e137.htm

For more on Qaradawi and his hatred of Jews, see the following:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/02/sheikh-qaradawi-seeks-total-war/71626/

http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=35&x_article=2000 (this discusses not only Qaradawi’s anti-semitism, his love for Hitler and his hopes for another even more successful Jewish holocaust, but also his support for female genital mutilation and wife beating, suicide killers, the fatwa ordering the murder of Salman Rushdie, the execution of apostates, and laws treating religious minorities differently.  The author emphasizes the whitewashing of Muslim Brotherhood hatred and violence in the New York Times.

Share

Tunisia: Islamists Demonstrate Against Jews

This is the other side of Middle Eastern protests and freedom movements:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQHdxYDTH_Y
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4030359,00.html

Share

British Trade Union Movement, Israel, and Boycotts

The British Trade Union Movement has been co-opted by anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian activists, committed to ending the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.

http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DRIT=3&DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=624&PID=0&IID=6082&TTL=The_British_Trade_Union_Movement,_Israel,_and_Boycotts

Share

Israel Transit Ads War on US Buses


This reflects increasing polarization in our country and more aggressive anti-Israel campaigning.

http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/02/08/2742900/battle-over-mideast-transit-ads-heating-up-across-the-country

Share

Benny Morris on Crossing Mandelbaum’s Gate


This provides an excellent review of history over the past century and provides an analysis of anti-Israel revisionist history.

http://www.tnr.com/print/book/review/kai-bird-mandelbaums-gate

Share

“Palestine, an Obsession of Radical West, Not Arabs”

This essay is impressive.  Brendan O’Neil absolutely nails it.  This is all about victims and who is the biggest victim.

Back when Israelis looked like victims in the fifties and sixties, the same lefties loved Israelis and Jews (by the way, I’m no conservative either).  Israelis and Jews were good victims then too.  Until Israel won wars in 1967 and 1973, the Israelis and Jews (because of the Holocaust experience) were the favored victims.  Many Jews were glad to have their support, but now I realize what that support actually meant.  Jews are fine for these protesters as long as they remain victims:  holocaust survivors, victims of anti-semitism, and poor Israelis facing massive odds against far more populous Arabs.  However, God forbid that they should defend themselves and emerge victorious.  Like the Palestinians, Jews were a tribe that middle-class empathizers could “coo” over.  We’re still a tribe.  Only we’ve made the mistake of forming a prosperous, democratic county and protecting ourselves.

There’s no question that Israel has done things that are problematic, especially the settlement policy.  Israelis have also fallen into the trap of responding to every Palestinian provocation with force.  There’s racism against Arabs that is prevalent in Israel.

Still this is a democratic society (the only full-fledged democracy in the Middle East) that is under siege from surrounding countries who want to annihilate it and to remove all Jews from the Middle East.  Israel’s own Arab citizens have more economic opportunity, mobility, and freedom than the vast majority of other Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East. It is a diverse society that has women serving in the military, gay pride parades, as well as Arab and Ethiopian Jews.

In the end, whether you are Israeli/Jewish or Palestinian, most in the West look at you as a symbol, a trope.  Not many really give a hoot about you, except in so far as you conform to some preconceptions that elicit feelings of tenderness or revulsion.  It’s not just liberals, but conservatives, as well, especially some fundamentalist Christians.  The latter see Palestinians as Muslim allies of the Anti-Christ ready to destroy Christianity, while Jews are ancient witnesses to Christ whose presence in the “Holy Land” will help usher in the Second Coming.  Of course, in this scenario, the returned Christ will pretty much kill all of us, Muslim and Jew alike, unless we convert.

It would be nice if people could look at us, both Jews and our Palestinian cousins, as fellow human beings.  Perhaps that’s too much to ask.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/palestine-an-obsession-of-radical-west-not-arabs/comments-e6frg6zo-1226006572220

Share

Glenn Beck and Antisemitism

Many have spoken on the rise of antisemitism on the left in recent years, but antisemitism is alive and well on the right as well, even among those who ostensibly support Israel.

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20110131/OPINION04/301310047/1002/rss07/Dana-Milbank-Glenn-Beck-s-brutal-hateful-routine

This is article is now archived. See instead the op-ed by Dana Milbank for the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2011/04/06/AFNEgnqC_story.html

Share

Nick Popaditch, Violent Rhetoric, and Antisemitism

Antisemitism is on the rise.  That’s not a surprise in hard times, but it gets a little disturbing when an election night loser (Republican Nick Popaditch, known as Gunny Pop on Facebook) takes a mob of his supporters and corners the winner (Democrat Bob Filner) at his victory celebration on November 2 (2010).  Using physical intimidation and lots of nasty language, including shouting “Jew” at Filner and his wife, the bullies get their chance to intimidate someone who is “liberal” (whatever that means) and Jewish.  Wonder if that bears any resemblance to the . . . 1930’s.

In any case, this is just one of many examples of violent rhetoric run amok.  We all need to take a hard line against over-the-top language and posturing, whether on the left or the right.  People have a right to speak wherever and however they want, but we have a right to ask them to stop when they step over the line, not to listen to them when they continue, and to prevent physical intimidation.  Otherwise, we enter a gateway into tyranny and authoritarianism.

http://lastblogonearth.com/2010/11/03/nick-popaditchs-last-stand/ (particularly the second video at the bottom of the page)

http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/4690

http://gawker.com/5733427/angry-man-screaming-jew-at-congressman-is-not-a-great-face-for-tea-party?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+gawker/full+(Gawker)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOeRGjkC42g&feature=player_embedded

Share

Antisemitism on Rise in West

See Laurence H. Kant, “Anti-Semitism on Rise in West,” op-ed, Lexington Herald Leader, January 8, 2007:  Antisemitism1

Share

Neturei Karta

This is from an email I wrote to a friend about some photos depicting clearly ultra-orthodox Jews happily meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, the President of Iran.

—————————————————————

Photos like these are actually pretty well known. Most ultra-Orthodox or Haredi (whether Hasidic, followers of the Lithuanian Yeshivah tradition, or Sephardic) have always opposed Zionism and the secular Jewish state, but they do not support harm coming to Jews.  Many of these have by now compromised (such as Agudat Israel and Shas and Hasidic groups such as Lubavitch), working with the Israeli state even though they oppose it in principle.  Among the Haredi, however, there is a particularly fanatic, right-wing group who goes beyond their opposition to the state of Israel by advocating for Israel’s destruction and who support violence against Israelis and against Jews who actively support the state of Israel.  They actually virulently oppose other Haredi who work with the Israeli state, back Ahmadenijad, give credence to Ahmadenijad’s holocaust denial (in part because they believe that many of the Jews murdered in the holocaust were not “real” Jews), and embrace Ahmadenijad’s threats of violence against Israel.  The group is called Neturei Karta (“Guardians of the City”), whose members live in various places around the world, most notably in  Meah Shearim in Jerusalem. Ahmadenijad has been photographed with them before.  See the following links:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/15/nyregion/15rabbi.html?fta=y
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neturei_Karta

Neturei Karta is radically isolated and cultish, the most extreme of the extreme.  In short, they’re crazy.

P.S. There is an Israeli film called “Kadosh,” which gives a glimpse at the lives of ultra-Orthodox groups like Neturei Karta in Meah Shearim.

Share

Oskar Schindler Museum

http://jta.org/news/article/2010/06/09/2739531/exhibit-at-schindler-factory-site-recalls-nazi-era-krakow
Krakow (Poland) opens Oskar Schindler Museum at site of his factory.

Share

Martin Heidegger and the Jewish Question

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/books/review/Kirsch-t.html

Two very different approaches to Heidegger’s association with the Nazis. Heidegger is one of the most well-known philosophers of the the 20th century (very influential on post-modern thought) and a leading existentialist thinker

Share

Horned Moses

The reason Moses has horns here and in other art works is because Exodus 34:29-35 describes Moses’ face as “qaran,” which is normally translated as “radiant” or “shining.” The Septuagint (Greek Bible) translates it this way. But Hebrew “qaran” also looks and sounds like “qeren,” which means “horn.” The Latin Vulgate version (4th cent. CE) of the Bible translates the description of Moses’ face as “horned” (cornuta). Because of the influence of the Latin Vulgate in European Christianity, the “horned” Moses became the predominant image of Moses in Europe.

I don’t believe that there was anything originally antisemitic in this interpretation, because there are scholars (including Jewish ones) who recognize the possibility of “QRN” as having something to do with “horns.” I’m not even sure that “horned” is a complete mistranslation. Later the reference to horns became part of a stereotypical antisemitic myth, when the horned Moses morphed into the horned Jew. There may still be some in rural areas in the US who believe that Jews have horns. I once jokingly told someone that the reason Jews don’t show their horns is because they’re retractable. We press a button to make them come out.

Share

Noam Chomsky and Israel

I wrote the following to a friend when he sent me an article by Noam Chomsky from Salon: http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/feature/2010/04/27/chomsky_middle_east/index.html?source=newsletter

———————————————————-

Chomsky claims he is a Zionist, but does not really support the idea of a Jewish state or of a two-solution (even though he implies that he does here and elsewhere–he’s not serious and calls it temporary).  He does not take seriously into account Arab anti-semitism and Arab views of Jews over the decades or, even more important, the Arab commitment to annihilating Israel.  He neglects to mention that Israel came to occupy the West Bank in 1967, because every surrounding country was on the verge of a massive attack against Israel motivated by the desire to drive “Israel into the sea.”  What was Israel supposed to do?  Allow themselves to be slaughtered to feed the egos of those who do not believe that Jews have a right to defend themselves?  The goal of annihilating Israel and Jews still remains for many, obviously for Hamas, but even in the PLO and in many Arab societies, as well as the Iranian government.

How do you have a peace agreement when the majority of the peoples around you wish to destroy your country and slaughter or deport your citizens?  How do you have a peace agreement with a government which does not demonstrate a commitment to a democratic, non-corrupt, free society?  How do you have a peace agreement with a government that does not demonstrate even the most rudimentary capacity to run an orderly society?

Chomsky also claims in many of his interviews and writing that antisemitism no longer exists in any meaningful form.  That’s nice for him.  I don’t know what reality he lives in, but it’s not one I’m familiar with.  Perhaps he should take a look at what it’s like to be Jewish in France or Britain or Venezuela.  Or he might take a look at FBI religious hate crime stats in the US, which show that in 2007 69.2% of religious hate crimes are against Jews while 8.7% are of an anti-Islamic bias (http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2007/victims.htm).  Chomsky is a well-to-do, successful, academic in a highly privileged institution who has no clue what it’s currently like to be Jewish in other settings, including the Middle East.

The real reason that Chomsky opposes Israel is that he is at heart an anarchist and does not really believe that states should exist in the first place–certainly not a Jewish state.  That’s nice for those who live in La La land.  I am certainly no backer of nation states and believe that they are on their way out as governing entities.  But I’m not so silly as to believe that we don’t need government and authority of some kind.

It’s sad that Salon would feature someone like Chomsky who is not taken seriously in the Jewish community, even on the left.  There are many others who could critique Israeli policies and offer a progressive vision of the Middle East.  Featuring Chomsky, an anarchist, does not encourage discussion or debate.  It shuts it down.

—————————

By the way, I’m not joking when I call Chomsky an anarchist.   He really is a self-proclaimed anarchist.  He has written extensively on the topic, including a book.  My best guess (and it’s only a guess) is that a lot of his strong opposition to Israel stems from his own Jewish identity and his anarchism.  As a Jew, he is especially opposed to Zionism and Jewish statehood, because the very concept of statehood is anathema to him.

But, in the real world today, with the way people live and act, the possibility of anarchism is a fantasy.  It bears a lot of resemblance to radical libertarianism, which comes from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum.

Share

Two Very Different Views of Iran and the Middle East

Here are two very different views of Iran and the Middle East:

1)  The first is from a conservative blog and discusses a book written by an Iranian, Reza Khalili, a CIA spy who was a member of the Revolutionary Guard of Iran.  He is convinced that either the US (the preferred option) or Israel must attack Iran and that the Iranian people are hoping for such an attack.  It is important to note that he does NOT advocate an invasion, but rather an attack on the Revolutionary Guard.  He also points out that most Iranians essentially love the US and are not unfriendly to Israel.  He opposes an invasion, because NOBODY wants their nation invaded.  He is of the opinion that Iranians cannot stand the current government, but they have no power to overthrow it.

http://www.michaeltotten.com/

2) The second is by a left-wing Israeli journalist, Uri Avneri.  He is of the view that there is very little the US or Israel will or can do about Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.  Israel’s and Jews’ connection to Iran goes back several thousand years, and the positive relationship cannot be preempted by the group of crazies that now run the country.  The effect of an attack by Israel would shut down the world economy, and the US will never allow Israel to do that.  And, given Iraq and Afghanistan and the US’s own economic woes, the US is in no position to attack either.  Obama is pushing Israel on East Jerusalem, because he wants Israel to make a choice between its building policy in the Jerusalem environs and a strong sanctions policy against Iran led by the US.  If Israel pursues its current settlement policy, then the US will not pursue the sanctions.  This is the choice that the US is presenting Israel.

http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1270319001/

At for the Khalili interview, I am not sure that an attack on Iran, which would include both the nuclear sites and the revolutionary guards without an invasion, would lead to the overthrow of the current government.  There’s a lot of wishful thinking there, and I don’t necessarily buy that.   It’s possible, but, even if the current government falls, the new government will very likely pursue nuclear weapons, although it will take them longer if the nuclear sites are destroyed.  Khalili is no doubt correct about an invasion and the long-term negative impact of such an approach.   Yet even a targeted attack on the Republican Guard and the nuclear sites could produce a understandably self-protective reaction on the part of a broad cross-section of the Iranian people.  You might hate your oppressive government, but you don’t want foreigners to do your own work for you.  That just makes people angry.  I do believe that Khalili is correct about the religious views of the Iranian leaders–that they believe that the use of nuclear weapons will initiate the public return of the twelfth mahdi and a worldwide victory for Islam.  Many in the West find this hard to imagine, but all we have to do is listen to late night radio and hear what many in the conservative Christian community believe.  It’s pretty much the same thing, with victory coming to Christ and Christians instead of the Mahdi and Muslims.  We should take very seriously the religious views of Iranian leaders, because they actually believe what they say.

The second piece is correct in its analysis of the US view of the Jerusalem situation.  I believe that the Obama administration and many US foreign policy analysts (including those from a variety of prior administrations) believe that progress on the Israel-Palestinian conflict will give the US more leverage in dealing with Iran.  Whether this is actually true or not is another matter (whatever the merits or flaws in the Obama admin’s position on settlements).  Arab governments are terrified of Iran regardless of Israel, and progress on Israel-Palestine will likely not change the behavior of the Iranian government and of those who fear it.  The Middle East is much more complex than Israel-Palestine, and the US should not be fixated on that as some kind of cure-all.  It might buy some time, but that will end quickly.   We are dealing with governments in the Middle East that, except for Israel, are, for the most part, corrupt dictatorships (often despised by their own people, as in Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia), and that makes the situation volatile no matter what happens with the Palestinians (For Arab countries, see most recently the democracy report card of the Arab Reform Initiative:   http://arab-reform.net/IMG/pdf/annual_rep_010_english.pdf , where Palestine, by the way, scores rather low).

This is a very difficult environment.  I have no idea what the solution is.  My own sense is that Israel will attack if it appears that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons, even if the US opposes such a move.  This could have profound consequences for the US-Israel relationship and, of course, for Israel.   That is why Israel has spent a lot of time cultivating its relationship with both India and China, both economically and militarily.  In the end, this is an existential question for Israelis.  Given the holocaust and the near decimation of world Jewry, Israel is acutely aware of what the consequences of Iranian nuclear weapons would be.  Israelis will take enormous risks to prevent that from happening.  The best possibility right now might be the continuation of covert operations to slow down Iranian progress on the nuclear front, but that can only work for so long.  The effectiveness of sanctions is doubtful.

In reality, no one has a clear answer.  The best approach is for those of us are observers to try to understand the complexity of the dynamics at play and the different points of view of the people and nations involved.  At the same time, any kind of open dialogue is preferable.  This is a time when the lines of communication need to be open and when people of different backgrounds need to be talking with one another, even if there is very little apparent progress and even if they are not talking about the Middle East.  Sometimes just talking about gardening or sports builds the foundation for real understanding.  And I know that this may sound pollyannish, but we need prayer and meditation to surround this region with imagery of peace and light.

Share

Jewish Contract with God

From an e-mail I received

—————————————–

To: The Lord G-d Almighty a.k.a. Ha’shem, Shadai, Elohim, etc.

From: The Jews: a.k.a. The Chosen People

Subject: Termination of Contract/Special Status (Chosen People)

As you are aware, the contract made between You and Abraham is up for
renewal, and this memorandum is to advise You that after, yea, those many
millennia of consideration, we, the Jews (The Chosen People) have decided
that we really do not wish to renew.

We should point out immediately that there is nothing in writing, and, contrary to popular beliefs, we (The Jews) have not really benefited too much from this arrangement. If You go back to the early years of our  arrangement, it definitely started off on the wrong footing. Not only was  Israel and Judea invaded almost every year, but we also went to enormous expense to erect not one but two Temples, and they
were both destroyed. All we have left is a pile of old stones called the Western Wall (of course You know all this, but we feel it’s a good thing to account for all the reasons we wish to terminate the contract).

After the Hittites, Assyrians, Goliaths, etc, not only were we beaten up almost daily, but then we were sold off as slaves to Egypt, of all countries, and really lost a few hundred years of development. Now, we realize that You went to a great deal of trouble to send Moses to lead us out of Egypt, and those poor Egyptian buggers were smitten (smote?)with all those plagues. But, reflecting on those years, we are  at a loss to understand why it took almost forty years to make a trip that El Al now does in 75 minutes.

Also, while not appearing to be  ungrateful, for years a lot of people have asked why Moses led us left  instead of right at Sinai? If we had gone right, we would have had the oil!

OK, so the oil was not part of the deal, but then the Romans came and we really were up to our necks in dreck. While it’s true that the Romans did give us water fit to drink, aqueducts, and baths, it was very disconcerting to walk down one of the vias, look up, and see oneof your friends or family nailed to a three-by-four looking for all the world like a sign post. Even one of our princes, Judah Ben Hur got caught up with Roman stuff and drove like a crazy man around the Coliseum. It’s a funny thing but many people swore that Ben Hur had an uncanny resemblance to Moses…go figure.

Then, of all things, one of our rabbis (teachers) declared himself “Son of You” (there was nothing said about this with Abe) and before we knew what was what, a whole new religion sprang up. To add insult to injury,
we were dispersed all over the world two or three times while this new religion really caught on! We were truly sorry to hear that the Romans executed him like so many others, but, …alas, (and this will make you
laugh,) once again WE were blamed.

Now here’s something we really don’t understand. That our rabbi really came into his own. Millions of people revered and worshipped his name and scriptures. ….. and still killed us by the millions. They claimed we drank the blood of new born infants, and controlled the world banks (Oy! if only that were so.) We could have bought them all off, and operated the world’s media and so on and so on. Are we beginning to make our point here?

OK so let’s fast-forward a few hundred years to the Crusades. Hoo boy! Again we were caught in the middle! They, the lords and knights, came from all over Europe to smack the Arabs and open up the holy places, but before we knew what hit us, they were killing us right, left, and center along with everyone else. Every time a king or a pope was down in the opinion polls, they called a crusade or holy war, and went on a killing rampage in our land.

Today it’s called Jihad. OK, so You tested us a little there, but then some bright cleric in Spain came up with the Inquisition. We all thought it was a new game show, but once again we and, we must admit, quite a few others were used as firewood for a whole new street lighting arrangement in major Spanish cities.

All right, so that ended after about a hundred years or so… in the scheme of things not a long time. But every time we settled down in one country or another, they kicked us out! So we wandered around a few hundred years or so, but it never changed. Finally we settled in a few countries but they insisted we all live in ghettoes…no Westchesters or Moscow for us. There we are in the ghettoes, when what do you know? The Russians come up with the Pogroms. We all thought they made a spelling mistake and misspelled programs, but we were dead wrong (no pun intended). Apparently, when there was nothing else for them to do, killing
the Jews (a.k.a. The Chosen People, are You getting our drift?) was the in thing.

Now comes some really tough noogies. We were doing quite well, thank You, in a small European country called Germany, when some house painter wrote a book, said a few things that caught on and became
their leader….whoo boy what a bad day that was for us…You know…Your Chosen People. We don’t really know where You were in the earth years 1940 to 1945. We know everyone needs a break now and then…..even Lord G-d Almighty needs some time off. But really…when we needed You most, You were never around. You are probably aware of this, but if You have forgotten, over six million of Your Chosen People, along with quite a few unchosen others, were murdered. They even made lampshades out of our skins. Look, we don’t want to dwell on the past, but it gets worse!

Here we are, it’s 1948, and millions of us are displaced yet again, when You really pull a fast one. We finally get our own land back! Yes!!! After all these years, You arrange for us to go back… then all the
Arab countries immediately declare war on us. We have to tell You that sometimes Your sense of humor really eludes us. Ok, so we win all the wars, but it’s now 2006 and nothing’s changed. We keep getting blown up, hijacked, and kidnapped. We have no peace whatsoever.

Enough is enough. So, we hope that You understand that nothing’s forever (except You of course) and we respectfully would like to pull out of our verbal agreement vis-a -vis being Your chosen people. Look, sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t.  Let’s be friends over the next few eons and see what happens. How about this? We’re sure You recall that Abraham had a whole other family from Ishmael (the ones who got the oil). How about making them Your chosen people for a few thousand years?

Respectfully,

The Commitee To Be UN-Chosen

Share

Should Reference to “Antisemitism” Stop Discussions on the Middle East?

This is a substantial excerpt from an email of mine to a friend who was disturbed when I called much of the anti-Israel discourse antisemitic:

———————————————————————

I don’t think that a description of anti-Semitism or racism should stop a discussion.  In fact, that’s when the discussion should really begin.  If we don’t acknowledge the racism that is endemic in our society, how can we have a meaningful discussion among African-Americans and whites?  If whites admitted their own prejudices and the discriminatory features of much of our culture, then we could all really get down to business.  Focusing on peripheral issues and proxy arguments, rather than the substantive matters (the hard stuff),  allows tension to fester and exacerbates the problem.  I’ve seen this in dialogue groups since I’ve been working in this profession:  they’re often feel-good sessions rather than meaningful exchanges.  We never really seem to get around to what matters because we’re so busy avoiding painful words, topics, and emotions.  I hope that we have reached a level of maturity where can be forthright and straightforward with one another without degenerating into name-calling and shouting.

As to anti-Semitism itself, we do need to call something for what it is.  In this case, the arguments detailed in the denominational resolutions simply make no logical sense and are purely emotional appeals to sympathy for a favorite victim.  Upon analysis, and with the added benefit of evidence and accurate information, the arguments of resolution supporters do not cohere or withstand minimal scrutiny.  I tried to explain this fact in my letter.  From this I can only reasonably infer that anti-Semitism is a major factor.  How else does one explain the silence of church leaders regarding the atrocities committed by totalitarian governments in the Arab and Muslim world of the Middle East?  How else can one explain resolutions that advocate divestment from Israel, but let all repressive regimes of the Arab Middle East completely off the hook?  How else can one explain the sympathy for suicide bombers, and the concomitant lack of concern for Israeli victims of terrorism?  In what other way can we interpret resolutions that focus on the ugliness of the security barrier (an aesthetic issue), when human lives (including spouses, parents, and grandparents) are at stake, than to infer that Jews do not have the right to defend themselves?   How is it that very few in the church leadership acknowledge that Israel acquired Gaza and the West Bank because Arabs tried to conquer Israel, destroy the country, and kill as many Jews as possible (“drive them into the sea,” as Gamal Abdul-Nasser and Yasser Arafat so succinctly put it)? How can it be that no resolution demands that the PLO (not to mention Hamas) remove references in its official charter that condemn Zionism and call for the annihilation of the state of Israel and the removal of any Jews who settled in Israel in the nineteenth century and afterwards?   How is it that, given the complicity of many European Christians in the holocaust, their churches have not given more attention to the precipitous rise of vandalism and violence against Jews in North America, and especially in Europe?

Lives are at stake, and most church leaders do not seem to notice (or care) that many of these lives are Jewish.  Now I hear some say that the war in Iraq is a pro-Israel, Jewish war.  This is ugly and dangerous stuff and has serious consequences for real living people.

Hatred of Jews is especially deep in the Arab and Muslim world.  If you want to know how large numbers of Arabs view Jews, take a look at these attachments, especially the video clips from an Egyptian state television soap opera (2002) that depict the Protocols of Zion (the notorious, forged anti-Semitic document) and even the more ancient blood libels against Jews–these clips are among the most chilling and disgusting I’ve ever seen.  And this is not fringe, but mainstream Arab and Muslim opinion in the Middle East.  If you don’t have the stomach for it, I understand, but this is the ugly truth [See my post from August 9, 2005, for some of these documents: http://mysticscholar.org/2005/08/09/antisemitism-in-the-middle-east/]

There are many congregants at the local level who don’t agree with their leaders . . .  I’m sure that this is true of churches and seminaries in other communities.  This is the level at which we must now work, because only with personal contacts can people recognize the humanity of those who are different.  Jewish-Christian dialogue at the upper level of organizations has run its course.  We now must find a meeting point at a more personal level like ours.

Let’s keep this discussion going.  This is very important.

Share

1948 in Modern Imagination: Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism

I wrote the following email in response to a friend who sent me an article (by Alain Epp Weaver) arguing that much of Christian critique of Israel is not antisemitic: http://divinity.uchicago.edu/martycenter/publications/sightings/archive_2005/0818.shtml

——————————————————-

This is interesting.  The events of 1948, however, are far more complex than the author indicates.  Arab nations not only rejected Israel’s statehood, but also rejected the U.N. partition plan that would have offered Palestinian Arabs almost half of what is now Israel.  Arabs preferred to destroy Israel and kill all Jews, even though Jews had lived in then Palestine for two millennia.  In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were many areas with Jewish majorities. In 1948, Arab nations encouraged Arabs in Palestine to leave their homes so that they could create a crisis that would lead to the destruction of Israel.  The Israeli military was implicated in some expulsions, but Arabs nations took an even greater interest in seeing the Arab residents of Palestine expelled.  In general, Arabs simply did not like Jews and wanted them out.  The Mufti of Jerusalem had even sided with Hitler and the Nazis.  If the Germans had ever taken charge of the Middle East, you can imagine what Arabs would have done to resident Jews.  The bottom line:  in 1948 Israeli Jews wanted to make accommodation with their Arab neighbors, but the Arabs despised Jews and (later in the words of  Gamal Abdul-Nasser and Yasser Arafat) preferred to drive them into the sea.

If you want to know how large numbers of Arabs view Jews, take a look at these attachments, especially the video clips from an Egyptian state television soap opera (2002) that depict the Protocols of Zion (the notorious, forged anti-Semitic document) and even the more ancient blood libels against Jews–these clips are among the most chilling and disgusting I’ve ever seen.  And this is not fringe, but mainstream Arab and Muslim opinion in the Middle East.  See my August 9 post in this blog on these documents: http://mysticscholar.org/2005/08/09/antisemitism-in-the-middle-east/

Share

Antisemitism and Anti-Israel Mainline Christian Resolutions

I wrote the email below in response to a Jewish leader.

—————————————————-

I certainly do not have all the answers to this.  But I still believe that we cannot underestimate historical prejudices against Jews, both inside and outside of Christianity.  Anti-Semitism may not be the best term, but it’s the only one we have that has any real meaning to people (anti-Judaism is a soft term that renders hate academic and gets people off the hook).  Anti-Semitism is embedded in Christian consciousness and does not disappear just because we all get together in dialogue groups and feel good about our broad-mindedness.  Nor do scholarly discussions of the Jewishness of early Christianity substantially change the way large numbers of ordinary people still think and live.  And the problem exists just as much among evangelicals and fundamentalists.  Their agenda happens for a moment to align with the mainstream Jewish agenda.  That can change in the blink of an eye, however.  Considering the Jewishness of Jesus (and even Paul), this fact still amazes me, but it is what it is.

William Nicholls has written an excellent book on this subject (with a discussion of left-wing anti-Semitism as well) and offers some possible intellectual solutions:  Christian Antisemitism:  A History of Hate (Northvale, NJ:  Jason Aronson, 1995).  I highly recommend it to you (especially chapters 10-13).  In the meantime, we have to develop relationships with Christians (especially key leaders) in mainline denominations that are based on human connections and intimate friendships where we interact with one another in day-to-day life (not just in professional meetings or dialogue groups).  This is the key.  I believe that a divestment resolution was not proposed at the General Assembly in part because of the relationships I have with certain Disciples, my willingness to take time out to work with them behind the scenes, and their consequent willingness to put themselves on the line by standing up against some of their friends (as well as long-term allies) and opposing the resolution against the barrier.  This required tremendous courage on their part that none of us should underestimate.  We need to acknowledge them and thank them (and others like them) profusely.  Each one of them is a mensch.  The supporters of the resolution knew they had a fight on their hands and made a tactical decision to postpone divestment until another day.  They also were surprised by the number of people voting against the resolution (about one-third).  Bonds among people often transcend prejudices and ideologies by establishing a mutual basis for trust.  There were other factors at the Disciples’ General Assembly, but this one was fundamental.

If Jewish leaders can establish closer ties to certain Christians, this will have a profound effect.  Such a process may involve going to a church service as a Jew or discussing a Christian topic or going to hear lectures on Christian theology.  These are necessary steps to effect mutual respect and healing.  When I teach or write on a Christian topic, the response is always more positive than I anticipate, and it changes the way Christians view my presentations and publications on Jewish subjects (including political ones).  At the same time, one always maintains one’s Jewish identity and does not back down when presented with anti-Semitic attitudes and beliefs.  Developing personal relationships allows for honest and frank conversation and exchange in a way that professional posturing does not.  The practical effect is the development of trust that can trump ideology. This may be difficult and uncomfortable, but it can work.  What we’re doing now does not. Admittedly, in Nazi-occupied Europe and (more recently) in the former Yugoslavia, friends and neighbors turned on one another in vicious ways.  So there are certainly no guarantees.  In that type of situation, the persecuted can only flee, resist, or hope to rely on the truly righteous (i.e. Righteous Gentiles).  I do not think that we now face such a predicament.  In the present circumstances, personal connections still offer us the best opportunities and the most hope.

Of course, we have to continue outlining the arguments (which I very much enjoy doing), but people tend to listen more attentively and openly when there is fundamental trust.  Obviously, the more of us engaged in building such relationships, the more effective we will be.  That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.

Share

Prejudice Against Israel and Jews in the Media (BBC)

BBC video on on liberal anti-Israel prejudice:

Chapter 1:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbznv15JQ5M; Chapter 2:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd30pyNZMMc; Chapter 3:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZGv0I4FSLg;  Chapter 4:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K10x-2TeiFk

By way of clarification, there is just as much prejudice on the right.  It just comes out in a different form, which sometimes looks like support for Israel, but in fact usually undermines Israel’s future and stability.

Share

Antisemitism in the Middle East

Here are some links to documents that deal with Arab/Palestinian/Iranian antisemitism:

1) An overall summary: http://www.memri.org/report/en/print2680.htm

2) Mickey Mouse and the Blood Libel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDpZFmC54mg&playnext=1&list=PL25B74E23BA87C6D1&index=24

3) Knight Without a Horse:  Some Plot Summaries: KnightWithoutAHorse

4) Hamas Summer Camp:  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/07/31/HAMAS.TMP

5) Protocols of Zion among Palestinians: http://www.palwatch.org/STORAGE/OpEd/Protocols_of_the_Elders.pdf

Links

KnightWithoutAHorse
Title: KnightWithoutAHorse (344 clicks)
Caption:
Filename: knightwithoutahorse.pdf
Size: 34 KB

Share

Musings on Jews and Christians: Israel

This is a substantial excerpt from a letter I wrote in 2005 regarding an anti-Israel resolution:

———————————————————-

Now that the Disciples’ General Assembly has finished its work (passing a resolution that denounces the Israeli defense barrier), we need to think long-term about how to respond to the current crisis in the mainline Protestant denominations.  As someone who is Jewish and works as a faculty member at a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) seminary (Lexington Theological Seminary), I would be glad to contribute to this discussion in any feasible way.  At present, we are in a troubling period (and for Jews an anxious one).  Though we can be glad that no one slipped in a divestment resolution at the General Assembly, I assume that this is coming down the pike.

Jewish-Christian dialogue has achieved some significant goals, but it has obviously not succeeded in getting enough Christians to understand and acknowledge the full extent of persistent anti-Semitism.  This problem of prejudice against Jews has several different elements in the context of Israel.

First, the right of Israelis and Jews to defend themselves evidently exists only when they are perceived as victims.  Once Jews are perceived as self-sufficient and secure, Jews are no longer seen as having the right to engage in the same security measures that other nations use to protect themselves.  For Jews this is painful, because it seems that the only palatable Jews in some Christian eyes are casualties (as in the holocaust) or submissive and self-loathing dependents.  What does it mean to have a right to exist, if you cannot defend yourself?

Second, Israel and Jews are held to different standards than are other countries and peoples.  Of all the nations and groups engaged in gross violation of human rights in the Middle East, mainline Protestant denominations have seen fit to condemn only Israel:  not Saudi Arabia nor Iran nor Syria, which have all engaged in various kinds of ghastly violence and oppression, including the killing of ethnic and religious minorities, mass murder, and imprisonment and execution of dissidents–not to mention promotion of anti-Semitic literature and videos.  Nor do some mainline Christians consider suicide bombings and other terrorist acts of Palestinians and others to be worthy of the kind of serious critique that they apply to Israeli actions.  Mainline denominations do not make proposals to divest from Palestinian businesses on account of their acts of terror.  In fact, divestment, and now educational boycotts (as now proposed by British higher educators), recall the Nazi boycotts of Jewish businesses during the 1930’s.  Apparently, in liberal Christian eyes, Israel’s human rights violations are viewed as the worst in the Middle East.  Israel has received virtually all the blame and responsibility, while Muslim nations and peoples barely register any notice for their human rights abuses.  As has happened throughout history, some Christians have developed a new twist on an old procedure to scapegoat Jews instead of recognizing the complexity and multi-faceted dimensions of a difficult problem.

Third, some Christians seem to believe that they understand anti-Semitism and can determine whether or not they are anti-Semitic.  After centuries of prejudice and persecution of Jews by Christians culminating in the holocaust, one might think that such persons would at least have the humility to keep silent on such matters.  It is true that not every criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, but one-sided resolutions that do not acknowledge the pain of Israelis, that were composed without the consultation of mainstream Jewish leaders in the U.S. or Israel (but with the extensive consultation of Palestinians), and that treat the conflict in terms of simplistic cliches can only lead to the conclusion that the writers and supporters of such resolutions simply do not care much for Jews.

For those like me, deeply involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue, this is all rather depressing.  I have devoted my entire professional life as a scholar and teacher to studying and teaching both Judaism and Christianity.  I studied New Testament and early Judaism at Harvard and Yale and have had the privilege to teach New Testament, Hebrew Bible, comparative religion, and Jewish studies (as well as many other subjects in religion) in several different contexts.  Now I teach at a Christian seminary and have always been committed to working in this kind of interfaith and intercultural context.  From time to time, I wonder what I’m doing when I see the same problems come up again and again and again.  But sometimes you have to follow Sisyphus–just keep trying to roll that rock up the hill.

I still strongly believe in dialogue.  Otherwise, the extremists win and the vast mainstream of peace-loving human beings lose.  In addition, many members of mainline denominations do not share the political beliefs of their leaders and representatives.  Somehow, we have to reach these people and empower them.  Anti-Israel resolutions are essentially done-deals before the national meetings take place and reflect the interests of certain elites.  Jews and Israeli victims of terrorism have certainly not been part of the process.  We need to move proactively at the beginning, not at the end, of the development of these resolutions, if we want to have a significant effect.  At the same time, dialogue has to begin from a different place.  No more can we simply sit and be nice to one another and muse about our commonalities.  We have to find a way to talk about painful topics that engender strong emotions and recognize and celebrate our different approaches to life and spirituality.  Honesty has to enter into the discussion.  Self-criticism on all sides is vital.  I certainly am ready to criticize Israel where appropriate (e.g. on settlement policy), yet am still strongly Zionist.

But, in the end, enough Christians have to decide that Jews are as fully human and as fully accepted by God as are Christians.   The view that they are not is something that ideologues on the Christian left and right seem to share.  Some liberal Christians engage in dehumanization by treating Israel unjustly and expecting Jews to sit quietly and meekly while under attack, by talking primarily to far-left, anti-Zionist Jews outside of the Jewish mainstream, and by viewing Zionism as contemptible.  Some conservative Christians engage in dehumanization by promoting the idea that Jews (and other non-Christians) will not be saved, by attempting to convert Jews to Christianity, and by advocating a conflagration in the Middle East that will culminate in the second coming of Jesus and the triumph of Christianity.

Share

All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove

Social Widgets powered by AB-WebLog.com.

Follow

Follow this blog

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

Email address