Friday, June 29, 2007

The "Self-Hatred" "Self-Hating Jew" Labels

The Self-Hatred "Self-Hating Jew" Labels

What Does Judaism Have to Say About This?

This is a message I sent in a recent e-mail discussion about divestment in companies that help support the occupation. One writer, in referring to another writer, had used the phrase “self-hatred”.

It is similar, I think, to another one – “self-hating Jew” - frequently attributed usually to those who criticize the actions of the government of Israel.

Any analysis I undertake of the government of Israel’s actions begins with the question “What Does Judaism Have to Say about This?”

There is certainly much history to draw on to support that writer’s argument that Jews have been oppressed and killed simply for being Jewish and for being committed to Judaism.

Faced with that, where should we turn to guide us on what we should do and how we should act?

One approach is to say that “they” are all against us, “they” can not be trusted, and “they” want to kill us. The only criteria for anything we do is “Is it in the immediate best interests of Jewish people”? Therefore, if we disagree with “them” we can not hope for “them” to be reasonable, so we need to resort to force.

Certainly, one can find some support for this approach in Jewish writings such as the Book of Joshua. It was Joshua’s responsibility to establish the people in the land, divide it up among them, and destroy or drive out the natives of Canaan so that they would not pollute Israel with idolatry and evil ways. And Joshua did that well in Jericho. The city was completely destroyed, and every man, woman, and child in it was killed except Rahab and her family because she had hid the two spies sent by Joshua. After this Joshua burned the remains of the city.

I have a different perspective – one that believes that the core value of Judaism is stated in Deuteronomy 16:20

“Justice, Justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

With that in mind how should I, as a person who has a strong commitment to Judaism, react when I review what the government of Israel has done or been responsible for over the last 40 years in the West Bank and Gaza: i.e.,

1. Demolished homes and businesses not for security purposes but for building without a permit because the government of Israel does not issue any permits for Palestinians to build:

And I read

Exodus 22:20-21 And a stranger shalt thou not wrong, neither shalt thou oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.

2. Permitted the establishment of over 120 illegal settlements, built hundreds of checkpoints, road closures and road blockades, the effect of which has been to humiliate Palestinians and restrict their movement in such a way as to deny them access to employment, medical services, schools and colleges, and their agricultural lands;

And I read

The definition of Judaism “What is hateful unto you, do not do unto your neighbor”, Hillel

3. Held Palestinians in administrative detention for long periods of time without bringing charges; engaged in torture; carried out assassinations of “suspected” militants; failed to restrain settler attacks on Palestinians;

And I read

Isaiah 1:17,27 “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.”

4. Illegally took private land that belonged to Palestinians to build settlements; is building a wall that cuts off Palestinian access to their land and takes land far inside the green line; enforces lockdowns and lengthy curfews;

And I read

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me, and if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” Hillel

5. Ignored soaring unemployment, malnutrition and terrible poverty of millions of Palestinians, and

And I read

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.”

6. Destroyed olive trees, a primary source of income for many Palestinian families.

Deuteronomy 20:19 “When you besiege a city … you shall not destroy its (fruit) trees … You eat of them, do not cut them down; for man’s life depends on the trees of the field.

And then I read the footnote of Deuteronomy 16:20 in the Hertz Second Edition 1980 of The Pentateuch and Haftorahs

“(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.”

My conclusion based on my reading of these Jewish writings, is that the actions of the government of Israel in the occupied territories over the last 40 years violate the core values of Judaism.

But the government of Israel is not solely to blame. As I understand it, all the descendants of those who were in the desert have a responsibility to understand and live lives guided by these core values.

So we are all responsible for the treatment of the Palestinians.

What if we, as followers of Judaism, don’t speak out and bring pressure on the government of Israel to seek justice, to relieve the oppressed, to judge the fatherless and plead for the widow?

Here’s someone who thinks that the consequences could be quite severe.

“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

And another voice from again Exodus 22:20-21 but adding to it the verses that follow - 22:22-23

Exodus 22:20-23 And a stranger shalt thou not wrong, neither shalt thou oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If those afflict them in any wise – for if they cry at all unto Me, I will surely hear their cry –My wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless

Aren’t we obligated to work toward ending the occupation?

And if we do, isn’t it inconsistent and inappropriate to label those critics of the government of Israel who are committed to Judaism and who apply the teachings of Judaism to the actions of that government “self-hating Jews?”

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Viking/Judeo-Christian Conflict - Part 4

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

MarbleSwamp June28, 2107

Background (continued)

Judeo-Christians in Exile

As the Vikings took over first Vinland and eventually the West Shore and Naha, at least two thousand Judeo-Christians (JC) fled the area. As we all know, in 2045, during the administration of Tiffany Bush, the first woman president of the United States and granddaughter of former President George W. Bush, all laws permitting immigration were repealed. This appeared to be the only way to stop the illegal flow of Texans from crossing the border into Oklahoma (Texas, of course, having been taken back by Mexico in the bloody war of 2040.)

Because of this, there were no longer any green cards and sadly, many of these JC’s and their descendants were living in detention centers/refugee camps in squalor – substandard shacks with no running water and no sewers – such as the one on the former Lodge estate in Pride’s Crossing in Beverly in Massachusetts in the United States. Frequently, there were acts of violence against the northern border of Vinland or within Beverly usually attributed to the Cabots (who got their name from the street where they would hold clandestine planning meetings.) In one particularly tragic incident in 2082 VDF (Vinland Defense Forces) soldiers stood by while the Beverly police viciously attacked men, women and children in the Lodge Refugee Camp and arrested suspected Cabots.

The United States had, by 2030, become a minor state primarily because of the end of the use of oil as a source of energy and the world-wide adoption by countries of local business initiatives and microloans thereby reducing the need for and leading to the dissolution of all multi-national for-profit corporations. That year the United States was removed from the Security Council coincident with the move of the United Nations headquarters to Tirana, Albania. No longer was the US able to exercise the vetos it had effectively used to block world-wide peacemaking.

The stories of these refuges are so heartbreaking: the elderly, white-haired grandfather sitting in the Lodge Refugee Camp, rocking back and forth silently in his chair with the faded Harvard Veritas insignia, the remote control garage opener hanging from the chain around his neck; the eight year old returning from the corrugated metal roof-schoolhouse reading to his little sister from his textbooks, “Why we Hate Odin” and “I Dream of Someday Visiting Central Square in Lynn Again”; and the 40 year old mother eking out a few euros a month (because of the economic downturn, the US had joined the European Union) transcribing letters from refugees’s relatives in Florida into Yiddish, the recently adopted JC language.

Another such camp was located in the former Wonderland Dog Track in Revere in Massachusetts in the United States. Interesting enough, for some reason, perhaps having to do with the stories only passed on through oral history of the connection of some residents of the city with an organization that had something to do with criminal activity of the type that was the subject of an old television show called the Sopranos, there were no reports of refugee violence by those living in this camp. There were rumors, however, that a “pacification” project in the camp included reports of bodies found in trunks of aerosolarcars parked in the nearby MBTA station.

In 2090, there had been violence between the Marbles and the Swampies for control over the Naha Strip. When the Marbles seemed to have prevailed, 20 Naha JC Swampie supporters raced across the causeway and tried to cross into Vinland through the Lynn border. VDF soldiers stopped them at the checkpoint. There they stayed in a no-person’s land without food, water and toilet facilities until pressure from the International Blue Crescent (which had assumed most of the functions of the largely ineffective Red Cross) resulted in humanitarian aid for them and their eventual transfer to safety in what is referred to as “Socialist Heaven” - Cuba.

Others had gone to countries in the forefront of the movement for world peace with justice during the mid-21st century such as Palesrael, now the strongest democracy and commercial center in the middle east next to IranIraq. The formation of these two countries was the result of ten years of intense negotiations and financial support led by the leaders of the democratic governments of Rwanda and China and the United Nations.

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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Israel Just says NO to a Just Peace - Part 2

Today is Day 14,318 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and more than 40 years since the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

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

Israel Just Says NO to a Just Peace


What a way to start another day!!

The supreme court has been taken over by five judges who surprisingly enough did not graduate from Regent Law School. Remember them? They are the ones who, against the opinion of constitutional scholars, took the case which resulted in George Bush becoming President of the United States in 2000. How did that work out? Yesterday they stopped a young person who put up a banner that (oh my God) might have been interpreted as supporting the use of drugs but they (oh my God) agreed that drug companies should be permitted to pour millions of dollars into the election for president. While we are on that subject (oh my God) on the positive side they did stop an atheist challenge to the government giving money to God-fearing charities.

The vice-president says that he is independent of the executive branch and the legislature. As has been suggested, that makes him an independent multi-national entity or country. Who knew? Probably anyone who has read the three part series in the Washington Post about Dick Cheney or anyone who has not been under a rock since 1969.

Here in Boston, an 8 year old was accidentally shot to death with a handgun by his 7 year old cousin. Wouldn’t you think that someone would suggest that there be some kind of a ban on the possession of handguns? Oh, what was I thinking? If guns were banned only outlaws would have guns!!??

In Iraq, five sheiks and a political official supporting the arming of Sunni Arab tribes to fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq were among 12 people killed yesterday in a massive bomb blast at a heavily guarded Baghdad hotel. Why is Al Qaeda in Iraq? Oh yeh, because the United States invaded the country, has been responsible for the deaths of over 3,500 US soldiers, has either killed or been responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqis, has been responsible for the civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites and created the conditions suitable for the growth of Al Qaeda.

And now in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza where brutality, injustice and stupidity (or insanity) is mistaken for acceptable political behavior, the government of Israel (“GOI”) continues to take steps to insure that one by one every country in the world will consider Israel as the greatest threat to peace next to the United States.

In the next edition of the Webster’s International Dictionary, a picture of Ehud Olmert will be placed next to the definition of both hypocritical (possessing beliefs one does not have) and disingenuous (not straightforward or candid, crafty)

Is there anyone, anyone, out there who now honestly believes that the GOI will participate in an effort to bring about a just peace for the Palestinians in the West Bank or in Gaza?

Todays article in the Boston Globe describes the participation by Mr Olmert in the discussion with three other leaders in Sharm el-Sheik, Jordan's King Abdullah II, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Abbas. This is another in a series of pretend moves by the GOI to give the slightest appearance that it is, what is the phrase that is used in American Jewish Committee million dollar marketing campaigns, “constantly striving for peace”.

At the conference Mr. Olmert reportedly said that he would release 250 Fatah prisoners from Israeli jails “who do not have blood on their hands” in an effort to strengthen Abbas’s position in the Palestinian territories.

Don’t you wonder why they are in jail in the first place? Was it: for writing articles opposing the occupation; for complaining about the wait in line at a checkpoint; or for jaywalking during a helicopter attack in Gaza?

Don’t you wonder how many Fatah prisoners are in Israeli jails “without blood on their hands”?

Don’t you wonder how many Hamas prisoners are in Israeli jails “without blood on their hands”?

Don’t you wonder how many of these prisoners are being held in jails under administrative detention and have never been charged with a crime and have never had a day in court and how many have been sentenced after having been tried in a court of law?

And if you believe, as I do, that the release of that number of prisoners (probably held with as much evidence as the United States has for holding detainees in Guantanamo) is likely to do nothing except increase the anger and frustration of the Palestinians who know that so many of their family members remain in the custody of the GOI with no justification, then you know that the GOI is aware that it is giving very little and that this move will not strengthen Abbas. This is an example of hypocrisy: the GOI vows to support Abbas and then acts in a way to undermine him.

“Olmert also pledged to make it easier for Palestinians to travel in the West Bank and to renew trade ties between Israel and the Palestinians. Palestinians have called on Israel to remove some of the 500 checkpoints that strangle commerce and restrict movement for 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank. But Israeli military officials have advised the government against such a move, citing fears of new suicide attacks.”

Another disingenuous pledge, a transparent and false manipulative use of “security” blamed on the military. There are only a few checkpoints between the West Bank and Israel. The other 400 or so are within the West Bank and are there either to protect the Jewish Israeli squatters (which makes it clear that the government of Israel has no intention of dismantling the squatterments) or to harass the Palestinians (so that family by family they will leave “judea and samaria”). I have not read (although there might be such cases) of a suicide bomber attempting to cross a road closure or checkpoint to get to a squatterment in the West Bank.

“But they parted ways on the topic of how best to bolster Abbas and create a new Israeli-Palestinina peace process. Olmert voiced strong support for the Palestinian president. Unlike Hamas leaders, Abbas has renounced violence, recognizes Israel, and is committed to a two-state peace agreement. Olmert rebuffed Egyptian, Jordanian, and Palestinian demands for an immediate resumption of peace talks and a timeline for a final deal to create a Palestinian state. Abdullah told the gathering that unless Israel makes such broad gestures, hope will fade for moderate Palestinians and the forces of militancy will grow stronger.”

“Israeli officials said that such developments were impossible as long as the split between the Abbas-backed government in the West Bank and the Hamas-led government in Gaza was not resolved.”


I wish I had the ability to marshall the facts and the laws in order to express in a forceful and persuasive way how disingenuous this statement is. Let me try my best:

Now who is it that recently was not a partner for peace? Oh, yeh, Fatah and Abbas, the representative of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

And who is it that the GOI is providing strong support for and vows to support? Oh yeh, Fatah and Abbas.

But who is it that arose out of the failure of the GOI to work for a just peace? Hamas.

And who was it that was democratically elected to lead the Palestinians? Hamas.

And who is the United States and the GOI providing financial support for in a desperate last ditch attempt to prevent Hamas from eventually gaining control over the West Bank? Fatah and Abbas.

And what is likely to happen in the West Bank if the GOI fails to enter into serious peace with justice negotiations? A civil war between Hamas and Fatah with many deaths and injuries to militants and innocent Palestinian men, women and children.

The GOI knows that Fatah is weak and that Hamas is growing stronger and gaining more and more support every day among Palestinians. The comment of the "Israeli officials", if it is true that they made it, that the resolution of the split between Fatah and Hamas is a precondition to peace talks, is the equivalent of the clock striking thirteen. No longer can anyone take seriously the OGI excuses; i.e., the Palestinians must stop their violence, there is no partner for peace, there can never be a Palestinian right of return.

I know I have not been able to do it well. There is such arrogance in the GOI when they make such an absurd excuse for not wanting to work for peace. To its credit, however, it has learned over the years that it CAN fully exhibit hypocrisy and there is no huge negative response or even analysis on the part of the media.

As an example, the headline of the Boston Globe article was:

“Israeli and Arab leaders vow to back Abbas”

He or she shares some of the blame for the ongoing bias of the media against Judeo-Christian and Islamic core values. What was the reason he or she did not add this fact based subtitle:

“But the Israeli Leader Does Not Agree to Take Any Genuine Action to Accomplish This”

The GOI will, until forced by the United States (only possible after the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney or the election of 2008, whichever comes first) or the United Nations, continue to avoid all attempts to enter into genuice peace talks and to make statements so disingenuous as to cause disgust not only to those who hold dear the core values of Judaism but anyone who believes in international law and justice.

The reality is that the GOI has no intention of ending the hundreds of road closures, road blockades and checkpoints that prohibit movement by the Palestinians, no intention of dismantling the illegal and immoral squatterments, no intention of moving its borders back to the 1967 green line and, in fact, no intention of ever allowing the creation of an independent, viable, contiguous state for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Can’t anyone bring the pressure needed to get the GOI to 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.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Viking/Judeo-Christian Conflict - Part 3

Today is Day 50842 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and over 140 years since the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

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

MarbleSwamp June 25, 2107

Background (Continued)


Prior to the establishment of the state of Vinland, residents of what is now MarbleSwamp and the Naha Strip had owned businesses or been employed in technology, financial services and a wide variety of other industries. Others worked in the non-profit world such as healthcare and education. The location of their work ranged from the former Marblehead to Worcester and from Lowell to Boston.

The institution of the road closures and the checkpoints over the last 40 years has had a devastating effect on the employment situation in MarbleSwamp and Naha. Those needing to travel into Vinland were usually required to wait up to 2 hours each way to get through the checkpoint and since the majority no longer had a car or truck, they had to wait longer at the border crossing for the irregularly running Vinland buses.

The situation would often become unbearable each time there was a violent incident within Vinland and the government of Vinland imposed a 24 hour curfew within the territories On one occasion in 2102 for more than three months nobody was allowed to leave their home except for a few brief hours every 10 days to stock up on food. During that time, shops, factories, offices, everything was shut.

Eventually, many simply gave up trying to get to their workplace. At the present time, the unemployment rate in MarbleSwamp is approaching 30% while in the Naha Strip where there are few commercial establishments, it is closer to 50%.

With few employment opportunities, many of the JC residents of the occupied territory planted apple trees. Soon the export of apples and apple sauce was the primary source of JC income. Unfortunately, the fanatic Vikings who lived near the former Temple Israel continually harassed the JC farmers and their families by cutting down apple trees and screaming at them when they went to harvest the apples that the land had been promised to them by Odin and that the JC should leave. Most of the time the VDF did not intervene and stop the violence of the Vikings even after numerous complaints by the JC. In addition, the blockade of the ocean and the complicated paperwork needed to get through the checkpoints limited the ability of the apple farmers to export their product. The road closures within MarbleSwamp even made it difficult for the JC farmers of other products to bring them to the weekly market that was now in its 110th season.


Before 2067, students who graduated from the high schools in the occupied territories went to colleges around the country from Boston College to UCLA and from the University of Michigan to Tulane. Since the beginning of the occupation, multiple restrictions on travel have limited the number of JC students who can enroll in colleges in the United States. Many JC have been able to attend East jeruSalem State College and North Shore Community College in Lynn since JC residents can walk to these campuses.

In 2080, however, after ten years of difficult negotiations between the Swampies and the Marbles, often with bitter recriminations about who was to blame for the financial disaster caused by the building of two separate high schools in the area over 100 years ago, the MarbleSwamp Charter College was founded. On a number of occasions, because of an act of violence, curfews have prohibited JC from getting to class inside or outside of MarbleSwamp and sometimes from taking an examination. Because of that and the usual checkpoint delays, the dropout rate is high and the graduation rate is lower than that of black athletes at the University of Texas – El Paso.

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.

Bedouin & Brous & Bustan - Part 6

Today is Day 14,317 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.

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

While I prefer not to simply insert articles and messages of others as posts, I thought you might want to read this one from Devorah Brous about the most recent move by the government of Israel to dismantle the "homes" of Bedouins in an "unrecognized" village and to forcibly move them to a urban setting to make room for a community of Jewish Israelis. Again recall that these Bedouins are Israeli citizens and that the towns which have been set aside for the Bedouin have little land for agricultural use and are among the poorest in Israel. Unfortunately, because of the terrible oppression by the government of Israel of Palestinians in the occupied territory, very little attention has been paid in the media to the plight of the Bedouin people.


Making the Desert Bloom:
Destroying Atir Village in Yatir ForestIsrael's Negev Development

Plans continue apace. Another Bedouin town was completely destroyed today. The Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages will be building a Refugee Camp in the center of Jerusalem for the Bedouin families that have been uprooted from their lands and forced out of their homes as part of the government's relocation project. Your help in spreading the news updates to your communities and publishing information widely -- is critical. North American Jews should not be funding this process and in the name of pioneering settlement of the Negev. Please use your influence to speak truth to power.

BUSTAN will host a Negev Unplugged Tour to Atir/Yatir on July 12th. Sign up today:

ILA destroys Bedouin homes to make way for Jewish town
By Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondent

The Israel Land Administration (ILA), with the assistance of an unusually large police force and IDF soldiers, demolished dozens of tin shack homes Monday in unrecognized Bedouin villages Um Al-Hiran and A-Tir in the northern Negev.The ILA is destroying the village and evacuating the inhabitants so that a Jewish Community named "Hiran" can be established in the area.

Fourteen shacks, which housed some 100 people, have been destroyed by bulldozers so far. Bedouin women tried to get their children out of the house but police wanted to speed up the process so they grabbed the play pens with the children inside and did not let the mothers come near."Tonight we will sleep on the ground", Fajua Ab Abu Al-Cian said.

Young men, roughly 18-years of age, wearing orange shirts are taking part in the evacuation, removed the Bedouin's property from their homes and put it in piles on the ground outside. Haaretz has discovered that these teenagers are outsourced workers who are employed by a contractor hired by the ILA. According to the evacuators, they are being paid in cash without any labor rights.

According to Adallah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the residents of the village have been living there for 51 years. They were transferred to the site in 1956 while under martial law. The land they originally owned was transferred to Kibbutz Shoval, while the Bedouin were leased 3000 dunam of land for agriculture and grazing.

In August 2001 the ILA submitted a report on the establishment of new communities, which included Hiran. The Bedouin residents living in the area appeared under the title of "special problems" that may affect the establishment of the community.The government approved the establishment of Hiran in 2002, and in 2004 the state submitted a court order claiming that residents of Al Hiran should be evacuated as they are using state lands without permission.

***Please sign up now for the Yatir/Atir Negev Unplugged Tour to Atir/Yatir. We will study the Politics of Planting, Israel's Negev Development Plans, and the use of forested land for rooting Jewish settlers and uprooting Bedouin. We will meet with Raid Abulgiyan (a BUSTAN Green Guide and village leader), settlers, and decision

***Devorah BrousFounder, Director BUSTAN P.O. Box 6955Jerusalem, Israel 91060 0523 711 800 (analysis) (local updates) (green technology applications)

***The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable. -Arundhati Roy

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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.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Viking/Judeo-Christian Conflict - Part 2

Today is Day 50841 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 140th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

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

MarbleSwamp June 24, 2107

The Viking/Judeo-Christian Conflict - Part 2

Background (continued)

Not only were the main streets of MarbleSwamp closed to JC’s, there were numerous checkpoints at most of the access roads into Vinland from MarbleSwamp including Lynn Shore Drive, Burpee Road and Legg’s Hill Road . (Naha was easier to control since the only land access to Vinland was over a narrow causeway.) JC’s were often forced to wait hours in their vehicles or standing in a long line if they were crossing the border on foot.

In addition to the checkpoints on the border, other barriers were placed by the Vinland Defense Forces (“VDF”) to protect the settlers from attacks by the JC including one built of tree limbs and rocks halfway down Nason Road near the former Temple Israel.

Vinland required two years of military service in the Vinland Defense Forces (“VDF”) for all its citizens after they graduated high school. The checkpoints and control over movement by JC’s in the occupied territories was to a great extent left to the nearly absolute discretion of 19 year old recent high school graduates serving in the VDF.

Over 120 years ago, the Mary Alley Hospital in the former Marblehead closed, thus ending the 360 year tradition of the birth of native “headers”. Since the rejection of the petition for the grant of air rights over one bed in the maternity ward of Salem Hospital from Salem to the town of Marblehead, with the exception of a few home deliveries, women had to give birth outside the town. When the occupation began in 2067, access to the hospitals in Salem and Boston for giving birth became very risky. On a number of occasions, delays at checkpoints had caused the deaths of mothers and their babies. In early 2080, a small maternity with one physician from the Doctors Without Borders had been opened at the previously abandoned medical offices at the site of the Mary Alley Hospital although complicated and at-risk pregnancies still required transfers into Vinland or the United States.

The situation was the same, of course, for the entire range of physical injuries, illnesses and diseases with many lives being endangered because of the difficulty getting through the checkpoints and the road closures.

For nearly 350 years many residents of the area had made their living off the ocean. Fishing as an industry had declined but the source of income for a number of locals was as lobstermen and fishermen. There had, however, been a number of attacks over the years by JC’s who had entered Vinland by boat. The government of Vinland in 2080 ordered a blockade of the coast off of Naha and MarbleSwamp and even recently had shot at and sunk the dory of two JC’s attempting to fish off Children’s Island.

One of the most difficult issues faced by the JC’s involved both the construction of new housing and the renovation of existing homes. While there was a permit office set up by the government of Vinland for the JC in MarbleSwamp and Naha, no permits had ever been issued in the last 40 years. Due to severe winters and the occasional hurricane, the toll on the JC had been heavy. Unrepaired roofs had caused serious deterioration and damage to homes. Some JC’s, including a few on some less visible streets off Beacon Street, had undertaken, without a permit, the construction of rooms attached to the rear of their homes. A Vinland settler informed the VDF and within 24 hours, a Caterpillar Bulldozer destroyed both the addition and the house, fatally injuring a 87 year old family member who had been left alone while the others were at work.

At the same time permits were routinely approved for construction and extension of homes for Viking settlers so that now there are 1000 living in MarbleSwamp. JC during that 40 year period decreased from 36,000 to 30,000 reflecting both the higher birth rate of JC’s over Vikings but the steady flow of emigration of JC’s from the occupied territories.

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.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Viking/Judeo-Christian Conflict - Part 1

Today is Day 50,839 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and more than 140 years since the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

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

MarbleSwamp - June 22, 2107



Summer returns but still no peace here in the West Shore and the Naha Strip. How did we get to this point? Could it have been prevented?

As you know, in 2047, based on the continued violence and discrimination against the Vikings in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe primarily because of their adherence to Norse mythology and opposition to Judeo-Christian traditions and their view of Vinland as their ancestral home, the United Nations voted to accept a new country called Vinland into that body.

Vinland originally included much of the land in what used to be southern Essex County in Massachusetts in the United States. In 2067 after twenty years of violence between the Vikings and the Judeo-Christians (“JC”), Vinland’s borders included all of the former Lynn, Peabody, Danvers and Beverly.

There continued to be dispute over Salem, revered both by the Vikings for its pagan history and the statute of Elizabeth Montgomery and by the JC for CafĂ© Kushco. For 40 years the former Salem has been a divided city – Salem is the Viking western part and East jeruSalem is JC.

In 2047 and 2067, many JC fled to East jeruSalem which has since been annexed into Vinland. Others became refugees in the former Marblehead, Swampscott, and Nahant where no Vikings lived and which, although occupied by Viking forces, has never been annexed into Vinland. One area is referred to both as MarbleSwamp and, because of its proximity to the ocean, the “West Shore.” The other, once called Nahant is now referred to as “Naha” and, due to its narrow length, the “Naha Strip”.

The United Nations has passed numerous resolutions demanding that Vinland end its occupation of the West Shore and Naha and agree to the establishment of an independent country to be called Christianjudia.

In 2068, a small group of fanatic Viking fundamentalists, who had emigrated to Vinland from Nanortalik, their village in Greenland, and were led by Olaf Ericsson, announced that they were going into MarbleSwamp for one day for a festival in honor of Odin. They refused to return to Vinland, took over the former Temple Israel and established the first Viking settlement in the West Shore. The lawyer for the prime minister of Vinland advised that such a settlement was in violation of the Geneva Convention. His advice was ignored because of the groundswell of public support for Ericsson who proclaimed that the temple was the site of Valhalla, Odin’s hall and that the entire West Shore was, indeed, Asgard, one of the nine existing worlds of Norse mythology.

Since that day, there has been continued violence and battles between the nearly 400 JC and the 25 Viking settlers in the area. The settlers, who believe that Odin has promised them all of Asgard, attack JC's and destroy JC property. The Viking Army soldiers have been criticized for failing not only to arrest the settlers but even to restrain them. Moreover, in order to insure the safely primarily of the Viking settlers, the government of Vinland has taken over the entire intersection of Puritan Road, Humphrey Street and Atlantic Avenue as well as 30 JC house lots adjacent to the Valhalla settlement. In addition, the roads leading to the Valhalla settlement from Lynn, and Salem – including Humphrey Street, Puritan Road, and Salem Street - have been set aside exclusively for Vikings and the JC are prohibited from traveling on these roads.

Over the years, more and more Vikings have moved into the West Shore and established settlements on Ida Road in Clifton, on Devereux Terrace, next to Fort Sewell, adjacent to the Tedesco County Club, near Crocker Park, next to the Eastern Yacht Club, on Puritan Road, on Salem Street, near Jackson Park, on Burrill Street and in Vinnin Square.

Vinland continues to receive large amounts of aid from the government of the United States while the leaders of the West Shore and the Naha Strip receive very little. In order to protect itself from the threat of attack from those in the West Shore or the Naha Strip or from JC supporters in Lynnfield, Saugus, Wenham and Gloucester, Vinland has established a highly trained, technologically advanced, mechanized army, navy and air force (including modern tanks and attack helicopters) with massive superiority over the rocket launchers and rocks of the JC. At times there have been uprisings and acts of violence by the JC which have been met with swift and brutal retaliation by the government of Vinland.

The JC’s goals are to end the occupation, dismantle the Viking settlements and establish an independent country in the former Swampscott, Marblehead and Nahant but their efforts have been hindered by the growth of two factions – the first are the Marbles whose basic philosophy seems to have been taken from certain Judeo-Christian teachings including the Torah as well as documents from the country it used to be part of - the United States. In the infrequent interviews that usually appear only on the Paganista TV station, they will be heard to say phrases such as “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Most of the violence and attacks on Vinlanders are blamed on the Marbles.

The other JC faction is the Swampies. For many years the leader of the JC government of West Shore and Naha was also its revered Swampie football coach. There was little progress towards peace and independence under the Swampies since most of the foreign aid received during that time was diverted to support its football team which always won the annual football game against the Marbles held on the Judeo-Christian celebration called GivingThanks. For a number of years, the Swampies would accept an invitation to play for the regional championship against the traditional powerhouse team from Boxford, but with the inability of the bus to use Humphrey Street and Atlantic Avenue, the team could not leave the West Shore.

In order to further combat violence by JC, the government of Vinland has begun building a twenty foot wall between the West Shore and Vinland. JC protesters say that the wall is crossing over the original 2067 border to include a Viking settlement on Salem Street near Tedesco Country Club. The club was taken over in 2085 by the Vikings claiming it was needed for security purposes but within two years it was converted to a center for the exclusive use of Viking women for handball and shooting.

For over forty years the government of Vinland has claimed that it wants peace and that it supports the establishment of an independent, continuous independent country of Christianjudia. Every decade or so, the government of Vinland agrees to sit with JC representatives but when there is an act of violence, it accuses the leaders of JC of not doing enough to stop the violence, announces that the government of Vinland does not have a “partner for peace” and terminates the peace conference.

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.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Effect of Standing With Israel on the Falling of Judaism - Part 5

Today is Day 14,311 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.

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

Thoughts from reading the June 15 edition of the local Jewish Journal.


One Page 1 headline story is titled “Schulman Named CHA Head of School” The article notes that in 1999 there were 270 students and next year the enrollment will stand at 160. While increased cost is cited as a barrier, educators around the country say that another reason is that “there is less of a commitment from parents to giving their children a Jewish education”. The new head of the school notes “there are fewer Jewish children in pre-school. We don’t know whether there are fewer Jewish kids living here. I’m not sure there is the same level of commitment to Jewishness. Look at how hard it is to get a minyan. Maybe Jews are putting their energies in different directions.”


As you recall a lead story on the front page of the June 1 edition was titled “As Solel Fades, Fed Moves On” about how Solel was stalled, possibly for good. On.Page 12 is a letter to the editor “A loss of Confidence in Federation” The writer suggests that the federation is fiscally and administratively uninformed. He goes on to criticize the federation for allocating $100,000 to a consultant “when, through the media at varying levels, it is made known that revenue is off from prior years…. When decreases in philanthropy of the magnitude Federation asserted its revenues are off by, one looks to scale back on expenses.” He suggests that the board, officers and executive director should resign. The irony, of course, is that the purpose of the project was to follow up on an initial study that found that the local Jewish community: lacks knowledge about Judaism; lacks a communal Jewish identity; lacks a communal Jewish purpose; is uninspired by local synagogues, rabbis and Jewish educational programs; and has weak professional and volunteer leadership.

By the way, I read the summary of the report of the consultant and among its many recommendations were projects that would have brought to the community more of an orientation towards social justice and tzedakah.

Maybe not coincidentally, another Page 1 headline is titled “Search is on for Fed Interim Head” Here is the first paragraph of this story. “The Jewish Federation of the North Shore has confirmed that it has formed a search committee to find an interim executive director: however it is not saying that the current executive has been terminated.”

This federation recognized the serious problems that have existed within the Jewish community for decades, subsidized a study which came up with a road map to remedy many of them and then rejected the study’s recommendations.


On Page 4 is a story entitled “New JCC Chief Ready to Take on Challenges” The story begins “Fundraising, making up for a reduced subsidy from the Jewish Federation and competing with the new Marblehead-Swampscott YMCA are major issues that the new president of the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore will face…. The new president of the board said ‘There are many challenges with an agency of this size - stabilize the finances, help get it to run in the face of the competition, maintain the mission, which is to offer Jewish programming and Jewish education.’ He intends to add new programs. Of the 2100 units of membership, 1000 have memberships for only specific months of the year. He also plans to ‘attempt to ascertain what the Center does well and what we don’t do so well, and find out what the community and our members want,’ in order to improve it. And added ‘It’s about being organized and thinking strategically.’” Recently, the size of the board and the executive committee have been reduced “which made conducting strategic discussions easier” and the JCC reached out to synagogues “to develop more positive relations”.


On Page 5 is a story entitled “New Crop of Teens Off to Israel” The teens, their parents and siblings read prayers about the 2000-year-old dream of Israel, recited Psalm 26 about the “blessed Negev.. and the awesomeness of Hebrew” and sang inspirational songs along with …… The Y2I sendoff ended with Hatikvah, The Hope, Israel’s National Anthem.” The cost for the 112 teenagers is almost fully subsidized by local federations and one individual.

The Y2I (Youth to Israel) program has been a constant major presence in my community. While I don’t have the figures, over the last 25 years, perhaps more than two thousand local high school juniors, including our son, have taken advantage of this offer to visit Israel during the summer.

What I do recall, however, was someone at a federation board meeting about ten years ago raising a point from a study he had read that found that there was no more likelihood that someone who goes on such a trip will consider to consider himself or herself Jewish than those who had not gone on such a trip.

At another board meeting the topic was financial subsidies for the Y2I program. While a local philanthropist was willing to subsidize half the cost, the parents were being asked to provide the rest. There was intense criticism of many of the parents who were unwilling to do so focusing primarily on their miserly non-charitable nature. There seemed to be little willingness on the part of the board to entertain the notion that the lack of financial support from the parents indicated their lack of interest in having their children go to Israel. Eventually, supporters of the program were able to find sufficient funding to subsidize most of the entire cost.

What does the participant in the Y2I program learn about the core values of Judaism? Will there be a signs at the sendoff saying “Justice, justice, shall you pursue” and “You shall not wrong the stranger for you were a stranger in Egypt”?I doubt (but am not sure) that before they leave, they will sit around and discuss the article I linked to in my most recent post in the Boston Sunday Globe about the about the Hassouneh family of Gaza entitled “Lost Hopes in Gaza – A Family’s Dreams Collapse amid the Fighting.. I doubt that there will be conversations while they are on the trip with Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. I doubt that they will ask Devorah Brous to take them on a tour of the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev.

I have often said that one step in the attempt to ensure the continuity of Judaism is for the community to invite Jewish Israeli teens to visit here and learn about tzedakah, civil rights and human rights projects in this country.

For one person’s perspective on such a trip, read Brad Brooks-Rubin’s article

Before I get carried away, however, we may have to wait a while before the local Jewish institutions sponsor an open public discussion about how we as American Jews should apply the core values of Judaism to the conflict involving the United States, Palestinians, Hamas, Fatah, Israelis, Orthodox Jews, Reform Jews, Iraqis, Sunnis, Shiites, Taliban, and Al Qaeda.


Interest in the local Jewish day school is one the wane, contributions to the Jewish federation are down, the local JCC is working hard to attract more members, two local temples formerly the largest conservative temples in the area have been forced to merge in order to survive while 112 local teenagers are off to spend the summer in Israel.

The new president of the JCC plans to find out what its members want. That is so reasonable. Find out what your members want. Design programs to meet that need. Watch the contributions come in. Isn’t that what Solel was supposed to do for the federation? Now What? How does it hope to encourage more participation? Could the stalling, perhaps for good, of Solel which had as its goal “enriching the community”, mean that the federation is planning to simply observe the further decline and impoverishment of the community?

Sad, isn’t it?

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.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Gaza - What We Sow So Shall We Reap- also Results of Recent Polls

Today is Day 14,296 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.

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

I want to write about what is happening in Gaza. The problem is that every day I read such thoughtful analyses that I believe I have nothing to add.

But at least I can encourage you to read the front page article in today’s Boston Globe – a two year chronicle about the Hassouneh family of Gaza entitled “Lost Hopes in Gaza – A Family’s Dreams Collapse amid the Fighting.”
Maybe I should have titled this post
“Did Jewish People in Boston Read This Article? What did They Think?
If you read it, it is nearly impossible to continue to avert your eyes to the Palestinians and to simply stereotype them all as terrorists. They seem so similar to all of us – they want to earn a decent living and provide materially and otherwise for their children. What a heartbreaking story of life in one of the most dense, most impoverished places in the world!!

Here is an example from Uri Avnery on the fighting in Gaza and the takeover by Hamas:“If the leaders in Washington and Jerusalem had indeed been interested in peace, they would have hastened to sign a peace agreement with Abbas, who had declared that he was ready to accept the same far-reaching compromise as Arafat. The Americans and the Israelis heaped on him all conceivable praise and rebuffed him on every concrete issue.They did not allow Abbas even the slightest and most miserable achievement. Ariel Sharon plucked his feathers and then sneered at him as "a featherless chicken". After the Palestinian public had patiently waited in vain for Bush to move, it voted for Hamas, in the desperate hope of achieving by violence what Abbas has been unable to achieve by diplomacy. The Israeli leaders, both military and political, were overjoyed. They were interested in undermining Abbas, because he enjoyed Bush's confidence and because his stated position made it harder to justify their refusal to enter substantive negotiations. They did everything to demolish Fatah. To ensure this, they arrested Marwan Barghouti, the only person capable of keeping Fatah together. The victory of Hamas suited their aims completely. With Hamas one does not have to talk, to offer withdrawal from the occupied territories and the dismantling of settlements. Hamas is that contemporary monster, a "terrorist" organization, and with terrorists there is nothing to discuss. Our government has worked for years to destroy Fatah, in order to avoid the need to negotiate an agreement that would inevitably lead to the withdrawal from the occupied territories and the settlements there. Now, when it seems that this aim has been achieved, they have no idea what to do about the Hamas victory. They comfort themselves with the thought that it cannot happen in the West Bank. There, Fatah reigns. There Hamas has no foothold. There our army has already arrested most of Hamas' political leaders. There Abbas is still in power. Thus speak the generals, with the generals' logic. But in the West Bank, too, Hamas did win a majority in the last elections. There, too, it is only a matter of time before the population loses its patience. They see the expansion of the settlements, the Wall, the incursions of our army, the targeted assassinations, the nightly arrests. They will explode. Successive Israeli governments have destroyed Fatah systematically, cut off the feet of Abbas and prepared the way for Hamas. They can't pretend to be surprised.”

As I have said in other posts, the problem is that the government of Israel does not want a peace that is just. The government of Israel's definition of peace is docile Palestinians willing to accept a nonviable state not a just peace which would require the dismantling of the settlements, returning to the 1967 borders and ending the occupation.

It appears that we can not at this moment look to the people of Israel to push its government towards a just peace. Here is one of many articles about a recent Israeli poll
“Israelis pessimistic on peace: poll Most Israelis are pessimistic on chances of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians, expect another regional war within three years and don't trust their government on defence, a poll said Friday. The annual survey, published in the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot, showed that the residents of the Jewish state are the most pessimistic that they have been in several years. Asked whether it was possible to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, 69 percent said no -- compared with the 54 percent the survey said who held such a view in 2003. Some 58 percent oppose the "land for peace" formula, compared with 44 percent in 2004, it said. More than two-thirds also oppose evacuating Jewish settlements in the framework of unilateral withdrawals, as was the case in Gaza in late 2005, when Israel withdrew troops and settlers after a 38-year occupation. Seventy-two percent oppose such moves, compared with 50 percent who held such a view in 2004. The vast majority of Israelis also do not believe that the Palestinians want peace, the poll showed. Forty-two percent said the real aspirations of the Palestinians are eliminating Israel and getting rid of most of the Jews and 29 percent named the Palestinians' main goal as the destruction of the Jewish state. Twenty-one percent said the Palestinians want to get hold of all the territories occupied by Israel during the 1967 war and seven percent said they want to get some of those territories. Seventy-six percent expect another war within the next three years and 66 percent said that the Israeli government is incapable of making the right decisions in matters of defence. The poll was conducted by the Institute for National Security Studies, which questioned 709 people. It has a 3.7-percent margin of error.

Here are the results of two polls taken by Zogby International in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now and the Arab-American Institute, one of Jewish Americans and one of Arab Americans which show that both groups share the same fears and same desires.
“Asked how closely they follow the situation in the Middle East, 54.8 percent of Jewish-Americans said very closely, compared with 55.2 percent of Arab-Americans. And while 73.5 percent of Jewish-Americans said they were pessimistic about the situation in the area, 63.4 percent of Arab-Americans were just as pessimistic over political developments in the area. But if as might be expected, an overwhelming majority of Jewish-Americans -- 94.3 percent -- believe Israel has the right to exist within secure borders, surprisingly, 70.6 percent of Arab-Americans feel the same. Only a small number -- 3.8 percent of Arab-Americans -- strongly disagree. However, when the question is reversed and Jewish-Americans are asked if they support a Palestinian state, close to 90 percent of American Jews agreed -- whether strongly are somewhat -- that Palestinians have a right to a secure and independent state of their own; 96 percent of Arab-Americans polled support the idea. And 86.6 percent of Jewish-Americans and 80.9 percent of Arab-Americans feel that achieving peace among Palestinians and Israelis is of vital importance to U.S. national security. Yet when asked if they believe that Arab-Americans believe Israelis have the right to live in peace, only 14 percent of Jewish-Americans said they did. Close to 70 percent of Jewish-Americans and close to 80 percent of Arab-Americans agree that the two communities must work together if peace is ever to be achieved. Asked if Israel should freeze settlement construction because it undermines the prospects for achieving peace, 62.5 percent of Jewish-Americans agreed to a settlement freeze; 76.3 percent of Arab-Americans strongly oppose the building of settlements. As for the Arab Peace Initiative -- formally known as the Saudi Peace Initiative -- it gets the backing of 70.2 percent of the Jewish-American community (31.2 percent who strongly support it and 39 percent who somewhat support it). Among the Arab-American community the Arab initiative gets 81.5 percent support (56.6 percent strongly support and 24.9 somewhat support it). And finally, nearly half of the 501 Jewish-Americans polled May 22-23 -- 46.5 percent -- see Saudi Arabia's intervention in an effort to mediate between warring Palestinian factions positively, while 61.5 percent of the same number of Arab-Americans polled May 22-26 feel the same. The poll has a 4.5 percentage point margin of error.

Brad Brooks-Rubin expresses in such a heartfelt way what we need to do, but he is far from optimistic.
“So here we are again. Another moment when these failures, these missed opportunities seem so acute. When violence and chaos are replacing order and hope. When the leaders we have to look to are Hanniyeh, Meshal, Abbas, Olmert, Barak (I can’t even bear to write about his “victory”), Netanyahu, Bush, Rice, nearly all of the US Congress, et al, it’s hard to look outside and expect much, so it seems natural to look inside, to look to other individuals. Still the height of selfishness, I guess, but I’m not sure what selflessness can look like in this case. Again, the reason I am no leader. Yes, we need to write and call our representatives to appeal to them to do something. We need to support the few NGOs and agencies left that are supporting the people. We need to keep working for an end to the Occupation, regardless of what the other side may look like. But all I can do right now, right here, is express this feeling, this gut-wrenching emptiness and helplessness and sadness and shamefulness. We have all, an entire world, failed this situation, failed the people here. Let us never forget that. Let us redouble ourselves, then, to work, once the opportunity re-emerges, to undo those failures, however long it takes”

He uses the word "rhetoric" because of this quote from the Prime Minister Ohmert of Israel “A government that is not a Hamas government is a partner [for peace]…We have a new opportunity in the last few days that we haven’t had in a long time.” He then goes on to say “Really? Is he kidding? After all, there has only been a 'Hamas government' in Palestine for less than 15 months. Yet somehow, now that we’re basically going back to something on the order of what existed before the 2006 elections –- or possibly much worse — there is a partner? And didn’t we hear from Olmert and Sharon and the U.S. constantly that the various Fatah-led governments, whether led by Arafat, Ahmed Qureia, or Mahmoud Abbas (pre-2006), were never a real 'partner for peace'?”

Aren’t these poll results remarkable – 70.2 percent of the Jewish-American community support the Saudi Peace Initiative which calls for Israel to end the occupation and move back to the 1967 borders while 58 of Israeli Jews oppose the "land for peace" formula and more than two-thirds also oppose evacuating Jewish settlements in the framework of unilateral withdrawals What a disconnect there is between the opinions of American Jews and Israeli Jews. I ended my last post by saying that we need to speak out – first, to American Jews who are sympathetic, then to American Jews who are not, then to all Americans and finally to our elected officials.

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.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Effect of Standing With Israel on the Falling of Judaism - Part 4

The Effect of Standing With Israel on the Falling of Judaism
© 2007 Ronald W. Fox

Isaiah 1:17,27 “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.”


The writer of this message I read recently on first quotes from this story "Rabbi Ellen Dreyfus, was installed as vice president of the Central conference of American Rabbis, the national organization of Reform rabbis,.....“How are we going to reach out as a movement to young people who have no interest in movements? That’s another challenge.”One answer, she says, may lie in the chavurah (informal fellowship group) movement her eldest son, among many others, identifies with. His cohorts are less interested in institutional synagogues as they are in studying, celebrating, creating community. we don’t want to lose the best and the brightest because we have become irrelevant,” she says.

And then the writer of the post adds “Rabbi Dreyfus’s message is one that I (and other Reform movement expats) have been waiting for years to hear from the official institutions of the Reform movement: a recognition that we have created meaningful Jewish lives outside the Reform institutions without abandoning our progressive Jewish values (i.e. the reason we’re not there isn’t because we’re not interested in Judaism), and an acknowledgement that we are missed and that our absence highlights an area where the movement falls short. Acknowledging the problem is the first step towards solving it, so the message we’re hearing from the new leadership portends good things for the future."

This writer represents those alienated from Jewish institutions (but not Judaism) who may not be critical of the government of Israel policies but are interested in traditional progressive (poverty, civil rights, human rights, education, inner city crime, environmental) issues generally ignored by local institutions. He stands on the outside hoping that the Reform movement will reach out and welcome him back


Jonathan Tasini ran against Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic Party nomination for US Senator from New York. Here are excerpts from an article he wrote on the supportive positions on the government of Israel taken by most politicians in the US and the need for those concerned about social justice and Judaism to speak out and to criticize.

By Jonathan Tasini / July 27, 2006 /
"When I announced that I was entering the race for the US Senate, I began with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.' .. I have the freedom to speak my mind and I will not be silent. The truth is that while people view talking about Israel-Palestine as the 'third rail' of politics in New York, the more I think about it, the more I realize that there are a growing number of people in the Jewish community who are willing to speak up, out of love for Israel, about the dreadful occupation and the never-ending violence that is spinning out of control, in large part because the United States-and politicians like Hillary Clinton-continue to blindly pursue a one-sided policy in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a policy that is causing more death and sorrow for civilians on all sides of the conflict.

"My father was born in then-Palestine. He fought in the Haganah (the Israeli underground) in the war of independence; my father's cousin, whose name I carry as a middle name, was killed in that war. I lived in Israel for seven years, during which I went through the 1973 war: a cousin of mine was killed in that war, leaving a young widow and two children, and his brother was wounded. My step-grandfather, an old man who was no threat to anyone, was killed by a Palestinian who took an axe to his head while he was sitting quietly on a park bench. Half my family still lives in Israel. I have seen enough bloodshed, tears, and parents burying their children to last many lifetimes. For that reason, I believe passionately in a two-state solution, which includes a strong, independent, economically viable Palestinian state existing alongside a strong, independent, economically vibrant Israel.

"Israel has committed acts that violate international standards and the Geneva conventions. In Israel, my statement that the military has committed acts that violate the Geneva convention and international standards and has also engaged in torture (or, as it is called, 'moderate pressure') would be a subject of debate but hardly considered novel or particularly radical. Here is what B'Tselem says about the current escalation: “Over the past week, Israel has killed hundreds of Lebanese civilians in its attacks against targets in Lebanon. There is a concern that at least some of them were disproportionate attacks, which constitute war crimes.”

"The problem is not the debate in Israel. The problem is the debate-or lack thereof-in the United States. We should not allow the power brokers in Washington, DC to silence the voices of people who love Israel but are willing to stand up and be critical of its policies. At a time when the violence against people on both sides of the border has killed hundreds of innocent people (mostly Lebanese), Hillary Clinton has fanned the flames of the conflict by recognizing and condemning the violence only against Israelis and effectively encouraging military action. I, too, have stated clearly, from the outset, that Hezbollah's actions violate international law. But, to ignore Israel's actions is abhorrent, weak, and cowardly. A friend of Israel …. would understand that employing collective punishment against people in Lebanon only embitters a population, possibly for generations, and that even a short-term military victory will be empty if it leaves behind a shattered country. A friend of Israel … would never have stood before the 'security wall' in the West Bank, … and praised it-even though it has been found to be illegal under international law and by the Israeli Supreme Court (which said that, if a wall needed to be built, it should not stray outside the 'green line' into the occupied territories). .A friend of Israel …. would deplore the collective punishment employed by the Israeli army in Gaza. As Rabbi Michael Lerner has suggested, …. “In the height of the oppressive summer heat, Israel bombed the electricity grid, effectively cutting off Gaza's water and the electricity needed to keep refrigeration working, thereby guaranteeing a dramatic decrease in food for the area's already destitute, million-plus population. This act was yet another violation of international law that include[d] the arrests of thousands by Israelis and the shooting of Qassams at population centers by Hamas.”

I would end with this thought: As a Jew, I have always been proud of the Jewish concept of 'Tikkun Olam' or 'repairing the world.' I like to think that that is what brought so many Jews into the civil rights and labor movements in the 1960s and 1970s, and into the current anti-war movement-and, personally, guided me into the world of social justice work. I feel great sorrow that Israel is an occupier of another people and I believe that Israel can never be whole and can never be at peace until that occupation is ended in a just way. And I also believe that the concept of Tikkun Olam means that we must never be silent."


The real danger in promoting and supporting the actions of the present government of Israeli is that many of its actions are illegal according to international law and immoral according to the teachings of Judaism, they oppress Palestinians, they could destroy the moral soul of Israel, they could lead to the destruction of the State of Israel, they could cause more and more Jewish people to disengage from Judaism, and, finally, they could lead to the disintegration of Judaism.

Judaism is worth continuing but it is in danger of disappearing if we continue to pursue the mission and the current approach of the local federation and other traditional Jewish institutions.


As Alice Rothchild says in Broken Promises, Broken Dreams “I treasure my legacy of endless questioning, soul-searching, and respect for human rights and dignity combined with a responsibility for healing the world."

To counter the likely disintegration of the Jewish community in the United States we need to speak out and criticize the government of Israel and demand that they end the occupation and dismantle the settlements. Not only is that the just part to peace, it is also consistent with the core values of Judaism. Should the Jewish community adopt that perspective, young and not-so-young people might begin to see Judaism as a religion that pursues justice and consider that a reason to remain Jewish.

In Healing Israel/Palestine, Rabbi Michael Lerner describes what a Judaism that contrasts sharply with Settler Judaism “We support those who favor a genuinely Jewish society built on principles of love, justice, peace and caring for others, including non-Jewish others.”

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

The Effect of Standing With Israel on the Falling of Judaism - Part 3

The Effect of Standing With Israel on the Falling of Judaism
© 2007 Ronald W. Fox

Isaiah 1:17,27 “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.”


Also, as the temples failed to respond to personal issues of their members in so many of these areas and continued to focus primarily on Israel, the critical decrease in membership became obvious. Income needed to thrive was not there. The temples’ perceived lack of purpose, one that seemed to be limited to the performance of customs and rituals, provided little incentive for new residents to join. Fortunately for the temples, many Jewish parents still felt an obligation to have their children Bar and Bat/Mitzvahed – this often because the parents were not being aware that since a male IS bar mitzvahed simply by turning 13 and a female by turning 12, there is no required rites and you could do what we did in our Havurah – create a service in a back yard with no Torah and no rabbi. So temples were able to insure some semblance of survival by requiring membership in order to use the temple facilities. But this was not sufficient. Merger discussions began and in 2006, two of the formerly large Conservative congregations locally were forced to merge in order to survive

There is a pervasive belief in my area that the Jewish community is united as it Stands for Israel. It is true that when there is an event – the painting of a Nazi symbol on a house or a rocket attack on Sderot - peer pressure results in a large gathering. The reality is that there is very few in the community who are passionately committed to Israel and very few who know what is happening in Israel and the occupied territories – the feelings range from being ashamed of what the government of Israel is doing to indifference.

Young (and not so young) Jews for 60 years have been asking the community “Why should I be Jewish?” The lessons that the Jewish community was being taught over the last few decades was that the purpose and highest value of Judaism was survival – survival of “me”, survival of the temples, survival of Israel.

That is not a strong enough reason to stay attached to a religion and men, women and children voted with their feet. They simply began to stay away from the institutions in droves. Who has left the religion? Thousands of young people who were active in civil rights, environment, family, education and other causes who had no reason to believe that Judaism was relevant.

So now the Jewish community “suddenly” realizes that there is a crisis – actually a wholly predictable decline in those who profess to be Jewish. For fifty years the Jewish community has promoted a Judaism based on survival and self-interest rather than focusing on the message of universality of Judaism that holds itself out as a beacon unto the nations – a religion that has survived and calls out “Justice, justice, shall you pursue” – a religion that promise to repair the world. We have not tried to fill in the blank in the end of the question Leonard Fine demands be answered “It is important that the Jews survive – and, by extension, that I persist as a Jew – in order to _________ .”


And what has been the response of Jewish institutions. At one annual meeting a few years ago, the substance of the message was that we should forget about the many Jews who are no longer active in our institutions. They have left us. They should be considered lost and we should concentrate on those who have been loyal. By that he meant those who have “proudly” proclaimed “We Stand with the Temple” We Stand with the Jewish Federation” “We Stand with Israel”.


There have been recent activities that on first blush appeared to hold promise. In 1995 the local federation sponsored a Futuring program which asked the members of the Jewish community to gather to discuss issues of concern and attempt to come up with solutions. Unfortunately, the project was doomed form the beginning; first, because the facilitator was limited both in his understanding of the range and breadth of Jewish concerns such as the depth of the isolation and alienation of so many participants from the Jewish community. In addition, the federation leadership said before the process began that there was no intention of implementing the recommendations into the allocations of the organization. What that meant was that whatever the desires of the community, there would not be funding provided to implement recommendations. The year long process was simply a public relations, marketing effort.


What is also quite significant is that the process by which the Mission of the local Jewish federation was arrived at was flawed. I was asked in early 1997 by a member of the staff of the federation to work with others to draft a mission statement to present as an alternative to the expectedly narrowly defined “Pledge” which was going to be presented by the Continuity Committee which was a vehicle of the largest contributor to the local federation. I worked with a local rabbi and we presented this draft Mission statement:

“We should teach adults and children what it means to be and "do" Jewish. We should also encourage religious and other text study and provide models for constructive interaction based on Jewish ideals and values. Moral teaching based on Torah is indispensable as a basis for addressing social problems and enabling ourselves and others to become increasingly self-sufficient, contributing members of society. Our goal is to encourage Jews to reestablish their priorities away from parochial, materialistic, self-interested concerns towards a willingness to strengthen their inner spiritual lives while repairing a world (Tikkun Olam) beset with problems. We need to reach out to all Jews, both those who are currently engaged in some form of personal or institutional Jewish endeavors, and those who are at best marginally involved. Only if we work together towards this end with the cultural, organizational and fiscal means at our disposal can we rekindle a sense of significant Jewish living and genuine community.”

At the next federation board meeting in June, the reaction to the Continuity Committee’s “Pledge” was criticism along with some concern that this was not what a mission statement should look like. The above Mission statement we presented was met with much interest. A motion was made to table the adoption of a mission so that the Rabbi and I could meet with the Continuity Committee and draft a mutually agreed upon mission statement. Immediately after the meeting I suggested to a federation staff person some dates in July that the Rabbi and I would be available.

We were never contacted and about March of the next year I read that the Federation had adopted as its Mission the Pledge – the narrow view of the Continuity Committee – “Our Primary Mission is to provide our children, grandchildren and young adults with positive Jewish experiences, programs and services so they will be and remain committed Jews. We seek to foster the development of knowledgeable, passionate, proud, committed Jews. We strive to counter the effects of indifference, intermarriage and assimilation.”

So continuity will be assured if we send our children to Jewish schools and camps and send them to Israel. Simply learn the customs and rituals and what is happening in Israel and our children will remain Jewish.

Learning and performing rituals and customs is a hollow action. The rituals and customs are only relevant if they symbolize all that is meaningful about Judaism. Eating gefilte fish is not enough if we don’t know that Judaism will always fight oppression and discrimination. Spending eight hours in temple on Yom Kippur is meaningless if we don’t recognize the lessons that Judaism teaches us about the treatment of the poor, the sick and the homeless, including strangers and Palestinians

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

And this federation believes that continuity will be assured if we counter intermarriage. Yes our young people may be intermarrying at a rapid rate but intermarriage is not the problem. It is a symptom of the same issue "Why Be Jewish"

"How can we ensure the continuity of the Jewish people if our own grandchildren are being raised by non-Jews? ...It's not a crisis of intermarriage, it's a crisis of meaning. The population survey showed that only about half of Jews felt that being Jewish was very important in their lives" says Schrage (Barry Schrage, President of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies). "Rescuing Jews became the be-all and end-all of Jewish identity for a vast majority of the Jewish world," says Schrage. When children asked "Why be Jewish" the answer was circular, if not xenophobic: "To rescue Jews and fight anti-Semitism." But that answer no longer satisfies, nor should it, says Shrage - not with a 3500 year old tradition from which to draw meaning and purpose.

Having our children spend time in Israel may not help them learn the values of Judaism. In my opinion, the strength and teachings of Judaism about social justice would best be taught if we bring young Israelis here to visit the Jewish communities in this country.

The Mission of the local federation, by stressing the same tired methods exacerbates and hastens the decrease of those affiliated with Jewish institutions and even Judaism.


Fast forward to 2006. The government of Israeli unleashes a brutal attack on Lebanon and destroys the power plant in Gaza which supplies all the electricity to 1.2 million Palestinians and the local community participates in a number of “We Stand with Israel” events.

At the same time, a local Jewish Federation committee entitled Solel, issued a statement in which it said that the local Jewish community:
lacks knowledge about Judaism;
lacks a communal Jewish identity;
lacks a communal Jewish purpose;
is uninspired by local synagogues, rabbis and Jewish educational programs; and
has weak professional and volunteer leadership.

It was then given $100,000 to fund a one year study at the end of which time, it issued a report in July, 2006, which identified six priority areas, among them revitalizing synagogue life, promoting lifelong Jewish education, and increasing participation in the concerns of Israel and world Jewry. The report recommended greater organization of the synagogue community by establishing a synagogue council and strengthening the North Shore Rabbinic Association. It called for creating a North Shore collaborative on Jewish education and for taking advantage of Boston’s educational resources. And it recommended establishing committees on social action and Israel relations to counter what the report calls the “insular” nature of the North Shore community.

It is now almost a year since the report was issued and the most recent issue of our local Jewish Journal says “Project Solel is stalled possibly for good”.Sadly, it appears that Solel will enter the roster of failed attempts to revive Judaism in my community. What is not likely to be known is why. When asked for comments on this, the project chair declined comment and the chair of the implementation did not return a telephone call. In a most extraordinary telephone exchange, the consultant who was paid $100,000 to be the point person on the project when asked what happened said “ ‘it is beyond reprehensible’ that the journal would ask him the question. Calling the reporter unethical, he added, ‘I have absolutely no comment in any form! That’s my only comment! Are we clear on that?’ ”

As they say, that went well. What was he thinking? It appears that he was applying the power of pressure and intimidation used against those trying to express criticism of the actions of the government of Israel to the reporter’s “beyond reprehensible” attempt to pursue the time honored Jewish tradition of open inquiry and open discussion in order to inform and educate (and perhaps lead to a solution to a communal problem.)

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

The Effect of Standing With Israel on the Falling of Judaism - Part 2

The Effect of Standing With Israel on the Falling of Judaism
© 2007 Ronald W. Fox

Isaiah 1:17,27 “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.”


So what does it mean to be uncritically “Standing with Israel?” Beginning in 1967 at the end of the Six Day War, Israel began its soon-to-be 40 year old occupation of the Wet Bank and Gaza. Shortly thereafter, the government of Israel began to support the transfer of its Jewish Israeli residents to settlements primarily in the West Bank. Both the occupation itself and the settlements have been universally recognized as contrary to international law and as immoral.

Those who have read about the occupation are aware that for 40 years Palestinians have been oppressed and humiliated, they have been attacked and killed by settlers and the IDF, their homes have been demolished, their olive trees have been destroyed, they have been confined to their houses by curfews, restricted in travel by checkpoints and road blocks, confined to the occupied territories by closures, had their lands taken from them for settlements and other uses, been denied permits to build homes and had massive disruptions to their lives because of the construction of The Wall.

Deuteronomy XVI, 18:20 – “Justice, Justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” And the footnote in the 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.”


Since the occupation began in 1967 and especially after 1980 there has been a dramatic intensity in the rise of what I refer to as Jewish tribalism, a very narrow self-centered intolerant view of the world. We are the chosen people. We are better. They are after us. We can only rely on ourselves. We can’t trust the “goyim”. They gave us reasons to fear. They did not lift us up with hope.

In his book Healing Israel/Palestine, Rabbi Michael Lerner defines this perspective as “Settler Judaism” which “sees the world as always against the Jews, always ready to hurt us – and hence rejects universal ethical standards and equates “good” with “what’s good for the Jews”. Similarly, settler Judaism assumes that Jewish interests can be achieved through the use of power and coercion, the obliteration of those with whom we disagree, and believes that Jews have some special right to the Land of Israel that allows them to be insensitive to others who live there.”

The Jewish community over the last 60 years to some extent has been promoting settler Judaism. Trying to encourage others to support the narrow provincialism of nationalism is not going to be effective. If you remove the higher standards of Judaism from the equation, what you are left with has little appeal. To me it is the equivalent of trying to get US citizens of Italian descent passionate about serious problems taking place in Italy.

More importantly, for the many Jewish parents who raised their children to care about others and to “do the right thing”, the actions of the government of Israel have to be offensive to these children and not consistent with their views of Judaism.


During the 80’s, especially during the war in Lebanon, voices began to be raised against the policies of the Israeli government. In 1982 some of us organized a debate entitled “Israel in Lebanon – Invasion or Self-Defense”. The program ended as the Israeli consul in Boston spit in the face of one of the speakers critical of the government of Israel and half of the audience of 200 walked out with some screaming “anti-semites”.. As one person commented about the program, “As a Jew I have always been proud of our people’s wonderful, if painful and passionate history of openness to inquiry, discussion, exploration and debate.… I wonder, sometimes, if the North Shore was served an overly generous share of intolerant, parochial minds. It seems that when some of us are served an unfamiliar or threatening concept, we revile not only the idea but also the source.” The response in my community, rather than an open inquiry into how a peaceful solution might be achieved, was to attempt to suppress any dissent. Truth, social justice and morality took second place to the perceived need to show one face to the non-Jewish world.

In 1990 after an incident in which at a program in a temple a person questioning an action of the government of Israel was verbally attacked, a few of us formed a study group, a safe haven to have open and tolerant discussions of the conflict in the Israel and the occupied territories. In 2007 that group continues to meet.

The Jewish community still does not hold open discussions about this terrible ongoing Jewish issue.

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