Monday, May 14, 2007

Pursuing Injustice - Restricting Movement - Part 6

Today is Day 14,275 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Pursuing Injustice - Restricting Movement Part 6
Causing Poverty and Unemployment and Ruining the Poor

Exodus Rabbah, Mishpatim 31:14 “If all afflictions in the world were assembled on one side of the scale and poverty on the other, poverty would outweigh them all.”

(Any reference to “Footnotes” is to The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, Hertz Edition, 1980)


So where were we at the end of the last post?

Oh, yes.

The 2003 World Bank Report and the 2005 ILO Report found the following:
Per capita food consumption had declined by 30 percent in the past two years and the incidence of severe malnutrition reported in Gaza by Johns Hopkins University was equivalent to levels found in some of the poorer sub-Saharan countries. Theree were 1,600,000 Palestinians, four out of ten, living in poverty on less that US$2.10 a day. In open unemployment plus the large number of workers discouraged from seeking work was estimated to be forty per cent (40%) of the Palestinian labor force. “One in three young persons aged 15-24 years and over half of those aged 25-29 years are in forced idleness, testifying to the exceptional circumstances prevailing in the occupied territories. Idleness among young people faced with military occupation makes a fertile breeding ground for extremism and violence.”


What does Judaism have to say are the negative effects of poverty?

“Where there is no sustenance, there is no learning” Ethics of the Fathers 3:21
“The world is darkened for him who has to look to others for sustenance” Talmud Tractate Betza 32a
“The sufferings of poverty cause a person to disregard his own sense of right”. Talmud Tractate Eruvim 41

There is no learning, the world becomes dark and a person loses his sense of right and wrong. I recall in the 70’s when the violence in the inner cities of the US would be laid at the feet of the residents. The reaction to that were writings such as “Blaming the Victim”. We began to believe here that a cause of violence was poverty and societal neglect of the basic human needs of those living among us.


Poverty is the result of not having income. Not having income is the result of not having a job and not having a revenue producing business.

Why is there poverty and unemployment?

A major reason for Palestinians not having jobs and not having a revenue producing business is because the GOI has established closures – checkpoints and road obstacles – which are barriers to mobility for persons, goods and services within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Gaza and between the occupied territories and Israel and the rest of the world.

The squatterments are the reason for the closures.

In 2005, there were 248,000 settlers (squatters) squatters living in approximately 120 squatterments. Remember that in 1980 AFTER opinions rendered within the GOI, by the UN and by President Carter stated that the transfer of Jewish Israelis into the West Bank was illegal, there were 53 squatterments with 12,500 squatters. To repeat, in 2005, there were 248,000 squatters in 120 settlements. Each increase in every year since 1968 in Jewish Israeli squatters resulted in the GOI taking more land and water for them, expanding the road network for them and restricted movement more for the Palestinians. Estimates are that at present Palestinians have no access to 42% of the West Bank, the area that is supposed to become their state.

These closures constitute discrimination and a violation of the basic human rights of Palestinians in the economic, social and labor spheres.


“And if thy brother be waxen poor, and his means fall with thee: then thou shalt uphold him: as a stranger and a settler shall he live with thee. Take thou no interest of him or increase but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with there. Leviticus 25:35 Footnote “uphold him” - Do not suffer him to come down into the depths of misery, for then it is difficult to raise him: but come to his support at the time when his means begin to fall (Rashi) “The stranger and alien settler are explicitly included in the term ‘thy brother’”

If there be among you a needy man, one of thy brethren, within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord they God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart nor shut thy hand from thy needy brother but thou shalt surely open thy hand unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need in that which he wanteth. Deuteronomy 15:7-8

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and destitute.Psalms82:3-4”

“Whoso mocketh the poor blasphemeth his maker.” Proverbs 17:5”

For nearly 40 years through the GOI occupation, along with its ongoing support for the illegal settlements, the GOI has not only ignored its needy brother but has decade after decade taken action to worsen the situation for the Palestinians. The GOI has indeed suffered the stranger “to come down into the depths of misery” We know that a brother includes an alien and a stranger.

Any argument by the GOI that the “gates of the land” means Israel itself would be disingenuous when every action of the GOI is based either on the assumption that it is in the process of taking and controlling all of the West Bank or the belief that the West Bank was given by God to the Jewish Israelis.


I am not one for whom the stuff about God holds much weight. I highly value the text when it commands us to pursue justice and try to end poverty but my eyes glaze over when the connection for taking such action is made to God.

But God is a powerful force in Judaism, especially for the JISH (Jewish Israeli Squatters in Hebron), those fundamentalists who believe that the words of the Torah come directly from the mouth of God.

Do they ever for just a moment stop to consider whether their acts of violence are justified? Do they ever pause during Yom Kippur when they read Acharey Mos and the words of Ezekiel 22: 3-8

“O city that sheddest blood in the midst of thee, that thy time may come and that makest idols unto thyself to defile thee. …therefore have I made thee a reproach unto the nations, and a mocking to all the countries. Those that are near and those that are far from thee, shall mock thee, thou defiled of name and full of tumult. Behold the princes of Israel, every one according to his might, have been in thee to shed blood. In thee have they made light of father and mother; in the midst of thee have they dealt by oppression with the stranger; in thee have they wronged the fatherless and the widow. Thou hast despised My holy things and hast profaned My sabbaths…. In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken interest and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by oppression, and hast forgotten Me, saith the Lord God. Behold, therefore, I have smitten My hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee. And I will scatter thee among the nations, and disperse thee through the countries; and I will consume thy filthiness out of three. And thou shalt be profaned in thyself in the sight of the nations and thou shalt know that I am the Lord.”

Would they be terrified when they read the actual words of Deuteronomy 16:20: Justice, Justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Do they fear that God will shortly evict them from this land for their failure to pursue justice?

Probably not since these people are living symbols of those who have "hardened the heart".

But then again, what about the GOI? What about Jewish people living in Israel who elected the GOI? I assume the conditions of poverty and unemployment are known to most Jewish Israelis. I assume that they know the hardships imposed by the closures. I assume that they know that the settlements are illegal, immoral and an abomination.

Do they read the Torah? Once every year Isaiah 32:17 is read “the work of justice is peace; and the effect thereof quietness and confidence forever”. Do they care about justice? When the GOI proclaims, as it has for years, and as the we are striving for peace, how can they not conclude that the kind of peace that their GOI wants is one with just quiet but certainly not with justice?

Would they be concerned when they read the footnote to Deuteronomy 16:20 Justice Justice, Shalt thou follow that “Justice asserts the claim of the poor upon the rich” and "The oppressor, the man who tramples on others, and especially on those like the orphan and the stranger who are too weak to defend themselves, is throughout Scripture held forth as the enemy of God and man.”

Would they be concerned for the future of the state of Israel when they read further in this Footnote, “The pure administration of justice is thus one of the conditions of Israel’s existence as a nation. Our teachers, from the first of them to the last, brand the perversion of the course of justice as the most alarming sign of national decay."


What is all this stuff in the Torah and the Haftorahs for? Quaint words to be read quickly throughout the week and memorized by 13 year olds to proudly regurgitate at a Bar/t Mitzvah? Should we take them seriously?

I know that Israel is a Jewish state because there are Jewish people who are in charge of everything and there are many aspects of life in Israel that are strictly controlled by rules and regulations that are written in the Torah. But is that the same as Judaism?

In looking at the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, I continue to read about what I consider to be the core values of Judaism. In my opinion, the actions of the GOI (and perhaps the citizens of Israel to the extent that they get the kind of government they elect and deserve) grossly violate these fundamental principles and teachings.


“In brief, where there is no justice, no proper and practical appreciation of the human rights of every human being as sons of the one and only God of righteousness – there we have a negation of religion.” Footnote Deuteronomy 16:20

For forty years, the GOI, elected primarily by Jewish Israelis, have oppressed the Palestinians. They have built illegal and immoral settlements and restricted Palestinian movement which has increased their suffering, their poverty and their unemployment. The GOI have continued to ignore the Palestinian poverty. The GOI has not tried to bring about peace that is the result of pursuing justice.

But that is just my opinion.

My question is “Where is the Judaic court? Where are the judges of Judaism to whom I can submit for its consideration the question “Has the Jewish state of Israel, by its actions and treatment of the Palestinians, negated Judaism”?


Where is the Judaic court? Where are the judges of Judaism to whom I can present the facts of the treatment of the Palestinians by the GOI and obtain an order that the squatterments be dismantled and the occupation ended?


npro said...

This posting is a bit long - but probably would have been shorter if you had more time? I love the Jewish principles that you quote. Keep up the good work.

Stef said...

From Steffi: The Biblical and other Jewish sources that you quote are right on the mark. I think it's important for us to relate our political critiques of Israel to our Jewish heritage, whether it's in religious terms or more secular teachings, and you've done so with clarity and eloquence. Keep up the good work!

scott said...

It is heartwarming to find that 'way back in those early days, Jews had thought through existential problems of keeping the peace and the responsibilities of nationhood,especially in regard to the less fortunate. Certainly European Jews --both in situ and after immigration to America--were always in the lead in social welfare and justice, and a large majority of their descendents still vote against the party of privilege and exclusiveness. Up until recently, the Supreme Court of Israel came close to acting like a Judaic Court
in terms of its political and social decisions, but seems to have
followed the lead of the US court, and turned to the right and away from the Biblical justice that you have cited.Theoretically, the Diaspora, together with the brethren in Israel, constitute a Judaic Court, but as such they seem to ignore the imperatives of the passages you cite, which would be precedents in common law, I suppose, and statutes in Roman Law. I prefer to keep law and religion separate, but I acknowledge with great respect the early writings which probably reflect centuries of earlier tribal "golden" rules of behavior.