Wednesday, June 13, 2007

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.”

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