Monday, July 07, 2014

One more Jewish Voice for Peace

Update 7/7: Haaretz, voice of what's left of the Israeli left, published an astonishing indictment of Israeli society and culture in a staff editorial today:

No less responsible for the murder are those who did not halt, with an iron hand, violence by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian civilians, and who failed to investigate complaints “due to lack of public interest.” The term “Jewish extremists” actually seems more appropriate for the small Jewish minority that is still horrified by these acts of violence and murder. But they too recognize, unfortunately, that they belong to a vengeful, vindictive Jewish tribe whose license to perpetrate horrors is based on the horrors that were done to it.

Prosecuting the murderers is no longer sufficient. There must be a cultural revolution in Israel. Its political leaders and military officers must recognize this injustice and right it. They must begin raising the next generation, at least, on humanist values, and foster a tolerant public discourse. Without these, the Jewish tribe will not be worthy of its own state.
That makes me feel moderate in my little manifesto, originally posted on July 4, below.
A personal note here that I have joined Jewish Voice for Peace, which "seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East."  JVP campaigns to induce organizations and investors to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

As a Jew, I feel a vital chord is struck by the JVP assertion that "we are among the many American Jews who say to the U.S. and Israeli governments: 'Not in our names!'" Not in my name the land theft, the caging of people in cantons via roads to which they're barred access, the legal codification of second class citizenship, the rampant housing discrimination, the mass arrests and consequence-free killings, the disproportionate assaults and bombardments, and the enablement of all of the above by obscene amounts of military aid showered on a first-world country by a U.S. Congress and executive branch forever in the pocket of a toxic combination of Jewish and Evangelical Christian lobbies.

I note that JVP is noncommittal as to the form of a just resolution of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and that's as it should be. If conditions change to a degree almost unimaginable at the moment, and an Oslo-type two-state solution becomes acceptable to both sides, who would gainsay it?  I have come to believe, though, that a just state in which citizenship is defined by religion and ethnicity is impossible. Ultimately, by course of nonviolent evolution -- perhaps in a hundred years -- I would hope that a single democratic state with no special status accorded to any religion or ethnicity might emerge in present day Israel-Palestine.

As a secular Jew, I don't really believe that any religion affords any particularly superior moral insight, though I can see that faith does power and inspire individuals to remarkable commitments and accomplishments. Jews do, however, have a proud ancient moral tradition, and I do believe that their intense commitment to the rule of moral/religious law through the Talmudic tradition contributed to the evolution of the rule of law and concepts of human rights generally. Also, the experience of centuries of oppression created a more recent tradition of commitment to civil rights and human rights.

I think that over time, emotional identification with Israel and reflexive support of Israel has perverted this tradition -- and Israel has bred its own toxic breed of theocrats who impose their obsessive-compulsive disorders and arbitrary rules on Israeli Jews as well as finding Biblical sanction for the oppression and in some cases the murder of Palestinians.  That's why JVP's "not in our name" is so important -- personally important to me, and, I think, a lever in helping to separate growing numbers of Jews from the unconditional support in which the most powerful American Jewish organizations have swaddled Israel.

My understanding of Israeli conduct in the West Bank and toward its Palestinian citizens is based in large part on B'Tselem reports such as this one, documenting the layers of legal sophistry Israel deployed in appropriating West Bank land; Gershom Gorenberg's The Accidental Empire, which recounts the stages by which Israeli governments let religious chauvinists, imperialists and fascists create facts on the ground and dictate policy; and Max Blumenthal's Goliath, which documents the worst excesses of a fascism which, while it may not dominate current Israeli society, is mainstreamed in the current power structure.* It is enough. You don't have to be an expert to see the big picture here, notwithstanding the moral bullying and large megaphones possessed by Israel's apologists in this country.
 *To those who say that Blumenthal, paints a distorted picture: that's true, but it's also true that the various thugs, theocrats, chauvinists and fascists he cites did say and do the things he relates, and many of them are in powerful and influential positions. Blumenthal didn't put the words in their mouth or the clubs in their hands.

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