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?”

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