Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Reason to Apply the Teachings of Judaism to the GOI's Actions

Today is Day 14,276 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.

“Learn to do well: Seek justice, Relieve the oppressed, Judge the fatherless, Plead for the widow .. Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and they that return of her with righteousness.” Isaiah 1:17

Within the borders of Hebron, one of the biggest Arab cities in the West Bank, are 120,000 Palestinians. In the old city of Hebron, there are 650 Jewish Israeli squatters and 30,000 Palestinians while around Kiryat Arba the squatterment founded by Rabbi Levinger near Hebron, there are an additional 9,200 squatters.

Thank you, Steffi, for taking the time to read the article in my last post and for sending me your words of support and encouragement. I will continue to connect my criticism of the actions of the government of Israel to the writings and teachings of Judaism. There are many reasons why I believe such an approach is appropriate. For the moment I will just refer to one of them.

Often when a Jewish person criticizes the government of Israel, there is frequently a response from someone like the person who wrote to you yesterday, who, rather than trying to counter the basis for the criticism, resorts to simply leveling a personal attack on the critic by accusing him or her of “anti-Zionism” or of being “self-hating”.

For example, for many years testimony has been accumulated about the actions of the followers of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, the Jewish Israeli settlers in Hebron and how they have: assaulted and killed Palestinians, spit at and attacked aid workers, illegally taken houses, destroyed olive trees and stolen property. There is also much evidence of the failure of the Israel military forces and Civil Administration officers to bring criminal charges against these Jewish Israeli settlers.

While most of us would agree that what the Jewish Israeli settlers are doing violates human rights, civil rights and international law, neither this nor pointing out Yossi Beilin’s labeling of them as “deluded” and “crazies” is likely to be an effective response to those hurling these insults.

My approach is to refer to the Torah and other Judaic teachings such as:

“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.” Ezekiel 22:12-13

“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 22:20-21

“ ‘ Love your neighbor as yourself. Leviticus 19:18’ This is the major principle of the Torah.” Rabbi Akiva

Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God”

The only conclusion I can come to is that the Jewish Israeli settlers of Hebron are oppressors and they and the government of Israel, by supporting them, have betrayed these core values of Judaism as set forth in the prophetic traditions.

Every person has the right to support the government of Israel no matter how immoral its actions are. I would just suggest that they pause and give it some thought before defining the government of Israel as Judaism.

I am further confused by those who say that criticism of the government of Israel is “anti-Zionism”. First of all, I do not have a comprehensive definition of Zionism so I am not clear on the extent to which the actions of the government of Israel are consistent with Zionism. Second, calling a conclusion that the government of Israel has acted improperly anti-Zionism is about as appropriate as defining my opposition to the US invasion of Iraq as anti-US or anti-Democracy. If there is a need for labels why not refer to the acts of the government of Israel in this case as anti-Judaism and the criticism as pro-Judaism?

My love of and obligation to Judaism commands me, as a member of the Jewish community, not to condone the immorality of others even if it be the act of the government of Israel. “Self-hate”, in fact, would describe how I would feel if I kept silent about the oppression of others. Judaism demands that I pursue justice.

Deuteronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

1 comment:

Jim Michie said...

Thank you, Ron, for this testament to the crying need for Zionist Israel to restore the practice and holding to the righteous morals and values of Judaism. As a journalist who covered much of the Civil Rights Movement in racist Louisiana and Mississippi in the 1960s for NBC News and the NBC affiliate in New Orleans, I came to know the meaning of Judaism. I saw Jews, young and old--Rabbis included--in the vanguard of that movement, joining African Americans in picketing segregated facilities, sitting at whites-only lunch counters, and boarding those segregated Greyhound and Trailways buses as "freedom riders", and some of those courageous practitioners of Judaism even gave their lives in the non-violent quest to gain freedom, justice and equality for people of color. Hence my extreme puzzlement over the absence of Judaism in Zionist Israel.
Jim Michie, member of JVP, Bethesda, MD