Mourning for a Judaism Being Murdered by Israel

My article in Salon.com this Monday is being featured on Salon’s home page right now. Below is a fuller and updated version .

 

My heart is broken as I witness the suffering of the Palestinian people and the seeming indifference of Israelis. Tonight (August 4) and tomorrow (August 5), which mark

Israeli behavior toward Palestinians is destroying Judaism and creating a new kind of hatred of Jews by people who never before had any issue with Jews. Credit: Creative Commons/Jordi Bernabeu Farrús

Tisha B’av, the Jewish commemoration of disasters that happened to us through Jewish history, I’m going to be fasting and mourning also for a Judaism being murdered by Israel. No matter who gets blamed for the breakdowns in the cease-fire or for “starting” this latest iteration of a struggle that is at least 140 years old, one of the primary victims of the war between Israel and Hamas is the compassionate and love-oriented Judaism that has held together for several thousand years. Even as Israel withdraws its troops from Gaza, leaving behind immense devastation, over 1,800 dead Gazans, and over four thousand wounded, without adequate medical supplies because of Israel’s continuing blockade, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu refuses to negotiate a cease-fire. He is fearful that he would be seen as “weak” if Israel gave way to Gazans’ demand for an end to the blockade and the freedom of thousands of Palestinian prisoners kidnapped and held in Israeli jails in violation of their human rights.

Let me explain why Israeli behavior toward Palestinians—not just during this latest assault but also throughout the past decades during which Israel militarily enforced its Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of food and building materials to Gaza—and the cheerleading for such behavior by Jews around the world is destroying Judaism and creating a new kind of hatred of Jews by people who never before had any issue with Jews (not to mention strengthening the hands of the already existing anti-Semites whose hatred of Jews would continue no matter what Israel or Jews do or do not do).

All my life I’ve been a champion of Israel, proud of its many accomplishments in science and technology that have benefitted the world, insistent on the continuing need for the Jewish people to have a state that offers protections from anti-Semitism that has reared its head continuously throughout Christian and Islamic societies, and enjoying the pleasures of long swaths of time in which I could study in Jerusalem and celebrate Shabbat in a city that weekly closed down the hustle and bustle of the capitalist marketplace for a full twenty-five hours. And although as editor of Tikkun I printed articles challenging the official story of how Israel came to be, showing its role in forcibly ejecting tens of thousands of Palestinians in 1948, and allowing Jewish terrorist groups under the leadership of (future Israeli prime ministers) Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir to create justified fears that led hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians to flee for their lives. I’ve also been a severe critic of those who have used criticisms of Israel as a cover for the anti-Semitism inherent in holding Jews to a higher standard than they held their own or other countries. I always told myself that the dominant humanity of the Jewish people and the compassionate strain within Torah would reassert itself once Israel felt secure.

That belief that Israeli goodness would ultimately prevail began to wane in the past eight years when Israel ignored the Saudi Arabian-led peace initiative, refused to stop its expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and imposed an economically crushing blockade on Gaza. Israel did all this in spite of the fact that the Palestinian Authority was promoting nonviolence, actively cooperating with Israeli security forces to prevent any attacks on Israel, and seeking reconciliation and peace.

The Saudi Arabian led peace initiative, which Israel never even responded to, would have granted Israel the recognition it has long sought, ended the hostilities, and given Israel a recognized place in the Middle East (though it had some imperfections, it was a generous first step toward a realistic peace accord with all the Arab states of the region). Even Hamas, whose hateful charter called for Israel’s destruction, had decided to accept the reality of Israel’s existence, and while unable to embrace its “right” to exist, nevertheless agreed to reconcile with the Palestinian Authority and in that context live within the terms that the Palestinian Authority would negotiate with Israel. Most Israelis ignored all this and were content to ignore the Palestinian suffering under occupation or the Gazans slowly being reduced to penury from Israel’s blockade. Without violence Israelis turned their attention to becoming the Silicon Valley of the Middle East and electing a right-wing government that could charm Israel’s American based cheerleaders among Christian Zionists, the American Jewish community, and a super-compliant and fawning U.S. Congress with each major political party competing with the other on which could be seen as most hawkish.

Far from embracing the new possibility for peace that the reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas provided—after all, for years the Israeli government had downplayed the importance of negotiating with the Palestinian Authority precisely because a peace agreement with them would still have left Hamas to carry out its war plans—the Israeli government used that as its reason to completely break off the peace negotiations, and then, in an unbelievably cynical move, let the brutal and disgusting murder of three Israeli teens (by a rogue element in Hamas that itself was trying to undermine the reconciliation-with-Israel factions of Hamas by creating new fears in Israel) become the pretext for a wild assault on West Bank civilians, arresting hundreds of Hamas sympathizers, and escalating drone attacks on Hamas operatives inside Gaza. When Hamas responded by starting to send its missiles (which were rendered ineffective and hence mostly though not entirely symbolic by Israel’s Iron Shield) toward civilian targets in Israel, the Netanyahu government used that as its excuse to launch a brutal assault on Gaza.

But it is the brutality of that assault which finally has broken me into tears and heartbreak. While claiming that it is only interested in uprooting tunnels that could be used to attack Israel, the Israeli Defense Forces have engaged in the same criminal behavior that the world condemns in other struggles around the world:  massive killings of civilians (the same crime that Hamas has been engaged in over the years in its bombing of Sdeyrot and its current targeting of Israeli population centers, thankfully unsuccessfully, which correctly has earned it the label as a terrorist organization).

Using the excuse that Hamas is using civilians as “human shields” and placing its war material in civilian apartments—a claim that a UN human rights investigatory commission found groundless when Israel used it the last time it invaded Gaza in 2008-2009 and engaged in similar levels of killing civilians—Israel has managed to kill over 2,000 Palestinians and wound over 8,000 thousand more.

The stories that have emerged from eye-witness accounts of hundreds of children being killed by Israel’s indiscriminate destructiveness, the shelling of United Nations schools and public hospitals, and finally the destruction of Gaza’s water and electricity thus guaranteeing deaths from typhoid and other diseases as well as widespread hunger among the million and a half Gazans (most of whom have had nothing to do with Hamas), highlights to the world an Israel that is rivaling some of the most oppressive and brutal regimes in the contemporary world. Israel does not intentionally target civilians, but it has full reason to know that its targets will inevitably kill huge numbers of civilians. We who rejected the excuse that Viet Cong were hiding in Vietnamese villages as the rationale for U.S. forces to wipe out hundreds of such villages and ultimately cause millions of Vietnamese deaths in the Vietnam war will not accept a similar rationale for what is a de facto Israeli war on Palestinian civilians. Fine, destroy tunnels potentially used to infiltrate Israel; but it is a crime against humanity to destroy housing compounds, schools, and hospitals.

In my book Embracing Israel/Palestine (www.tikkun.org/eip) I argue that both Israelis and Palestinians are victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. I have a great deal of compassion for both peoples. Members of the Jewish people have been the victims of 1,600 years of oppression in European countries and hundreds of years of apartheid-like conditions in Muslim countries. We have faced a world that mostly refused to help us or open its doors to us as refugees when we were the victims of genocide. The traumas of that past still shape the consciousness of many Jews today. Jews deserve compassion and need healing. Similarly, the Palestinian people’s expulsion from their homes in the process of the founding of the State of Israel, remembered as Al Nakba (the great catastrophe), continues to shape the consciousness of many Palestinians sixty-six years later. But those traumas don’t exonerate Israel’s behavior or that of Hamas, though they are relevant for those of us seeking a path to social healing and transformation.

Yet that healing is impossible until those who are victims of PTSD are willing to work on overcoming it. I have great compassion for the fears that Israelis have about Palestinians wiping them out, fears that have over the years been intensified by the Hamas charter calling for the wiping out of Israel and by various Palestinian acts  of terror against civilians. Unable to see that the Occupation itself is an oppressive reality, that the arrest of thousands of Palestinians and then keeping them for months in “administrative detention” is perceived by Palestinians as ongoing “kidnapping” that has become a fact of life under occupation, unable to see that Israel’s restrictions on foods and medicines to Gaza through a blockade for the past eight years has caused many deaths of civilians as another regular fact of life, and hence unable to see the various violent acts of resistance by Palestinians as morally equivalent to the way the Irgun and Etzel engaged in terror against the British and against Palestinians in the lead up to creating Israel, most Israeli feel victimized and fearful. And who wouldn’t, living for the past month in a situation in which the sirens sound many times a day and people are encouraged to “take cover” in shelters (though thankfully the Hamas bombs don’t get through the Iron Dome shield that the U.S. keeps reinforcing). All this is to say that one cannot approach these issues without insisting, as I did in a full way in my 2012 book Embracing Israel/Palestine (available on Kindle from Amazon.com or in paper at www.tikkun.org/eip)l  that we have two traumatized peoples here, and that the suffering and fears of each must be acknowledged and given empathy if we are ever to transcend the current circumstances. To the extent that other parts of this essay seem to reflect special emphasis on Israel’s sins, it is partly because Israel is the militarily stronger party and hence has the greater responsibility to show compassion, partly because of the way Israel is destroying the reputation of the Jewish people in ways that will come to haunt us and our children and grandchildren for generations to come)
And this is precisely where the American Jewish community and Jews around the world have taken a turn that is disastrous—turning the Israeli nation state into “the Jewish state” and making Israel into an idol to be worshipped rather than a political entity like any other political entity, with strengths and deep flaws, a political entity which should be held to account for its systematic violations of human rights.

Sadly, too many Jews relate to Israel not as a state but as some holy reality. Despairing of spiritual salvation after God failed to show up and save us from the Holocaust, increasing numbers of Jews have abandoned the religion of compassion and identification with the most oppressed that was championed by our Biblical prophets. Instead, they’ve come to worship power and to rejoice in Israel’s ability to become the most militarily powerful state in the Middle East. If a Jew today goes into any synagogue in the United States or around the world and says, “I don’t believe in God or Torah and I don’t follow the commandments,” most will still welcome her in and urge her to become involved. But if the same person says, “I don’t support the State of Israel,” she is likely to be labeled a “self-hating Jew” or and anti-Semite to be scorned and dismissed. As Aaron said of the golden calf in the desert, “These are your Gods, O Israel.” The idolatrous view that God is working through the Israel Defense Forces has led some Jews to believe that this powerful army is “the most moral army on earth,” and no amount of senseless killing of civilians breaks through this religious worship.

The worship of the state makes it necessary for Jews to turn Judaism into an auxiliary of ultra-nationalist blindness. Every act of the State of Israel against the Palestinian people is seen as sanctioned by God. Each Sabbath Jews in synagogues around the world are offered prayers for the well-being of the State of Israel but not for our Arab cousins. The very suggestion that we should be praying as well for the Palestinian people’s welfare is seen as heresy and proof of being “self-hating Jews.”

The worship of power is precisely what Judaism came into being to challenge. We were the slaves, the powerless, and though the Torah talks of God using a strong arm to redeem the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, it simultaneously insists, over and over again, that when Jews go into their promised land in Canaan (now Palestine) they must “love the stranger/the other,” have only one law for the stranger and for the native born, and warns “do not oppress the stranger/the other.” Remember, Torah reminds us, “that you were strangers/the other in the land of Egypt” and “you know the heart of the stranger.” Later sources in Judaism even insist that a person without compassion who claims to be Jewish cannot be considered Jewish. A spirit of generosity is so integral to Torah consciousness that when Jews are told to let the land lie fallow once every seven years (the societal-wide Sabbatical Year), they must allow that which grows spontaneously from past plantings to be shared with the other/the stranger.

The Jews are not unique in this. The basic reality is that most of humanity has always heard a voice inside themselves telling them that the best path to security and safety is to love others and show generosity, and a counter voice that tells us that the only path to security is domination and control over others. This struggle between the voice of fear and the voice of love, the voice of domination/power-over and the voice of compassion, and empathy and generosity, have played out throughout history and shape contemporary political debates around the world.

Almost every single one of us hears both voices. We are often torn between them, oscillating in our communal policies and our personal behavior between these two worldviews and ways of engaging others.

As the competitive and me-first ethos of the capitalist marketplace has grown increasingly powerful and reflected in the culture and worldviews of the contemporary era, more and more people bring the worldview of fear, domination, and manipulation of others into personal lives, teaching people the rationality of the marketplace with its injunction to see other human beings primarily in terms of how they can serve their own needs, rather than as deserving care and respect just for who they are. This ethos has weakened friendships and created the instability in family life that the Right has so effectively manipulated (a theme I develop most fully in my 2006 national best-seller The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right based on a study I conducted during my years as a psychotherapist and principal investigator of an National Institute of Mental Health study of stress and the psychodynamics of daily life in Western societies). Every religious and secular worldview, including Marxism, feminism, liberalism, psychoanalysis, and the various ideologies that predominate in universities hiding under the guise of a pseudo-scientism, has had partisans of both worldviews contending with each other—because every religion and secular worldview reflects this conflict within the psyche of the human beings who have articulated them.

No wonder that Jews and Judaism have had these conflicting streams within our religion as well. Those compilers of the Torah who heard God’s voice commanding the Israelites to wipe out the inhabitants of the promised land in order to start afresh were explained away some 2,000 years ago by subsequent interpreters who emphasized that those peoples referenced in Torah no longer existed, so the command to love the “other” was the only relevant guide for our lives as Jews. Yet subsequent generations facing the frequent assaults on Jews by majority populations in the Diaspora found it hard to keep the command to “love the stranger/other.” Even as those others were killing, raping, and robbing them, some sought to reinterpret the word “stranger/other” (the Hebrew word ger) in a more tame way—saying it only meant “convert to Judaism” (an interpretation that flew in the face of the Torah statement “remember you were the ger in the land of Egypt).

In the two thousand years of relative powerlessness when Jews were the oppressed minorities of the western and Islamic societies, the validation of images of a powerful God who could fight for the oppressed Jews was a powerful psychological boon to offset the potential internalizing of the demonization that we faced from the majority cultures. And the practice of demeaning the “other” while embracing a notion of Jews as “chosen by God,” rather than responding with love to our oppressors, was arguably a brilliant psychological strategy for refusing to internalize the demeaning rhetoric of our oppressors and fall victim to self-hatred.

But in this moment, when Jews enjoy military power in Israel, as well as economic and political power in the United States and to some extent in many other Western societies, one would have expected that the theme of love and generosity, always a major voice even in a Jewish people that were being brutalized, would now emerge as the dominant theme of the Judaism of the twenty-first century. Trusting not in love and kindness and the possibility of transforming (tikkun-ing) our world, but instead believing that we must always be on the defensive and rely not in trusting our fellow human being but relying on power and military might—this is the tragic victory of Hitler over the consciousness of the Jewish people who are increasingly unwilling to continue to embrace the worldview of hope and possibility that Judaism originally emerged to affirm and popularize.

No wonder, then, that I’m heartbroken to see the Judaism of love and compassion being dismissed as “unrealistic” by so many of my fellow Jews and rabbis. Wasn’t the central message of Torah that the world was ruled by a force that made possible the transformation from “that which is” to “that which can and should be”? And wasn’t our task to teach the world that nothing is fixed, that even the mountains can skip like young rams and the seas can flee before the triumph of God’s justice in the world?

Instead of preaching this hopeful message, too many rabbis and rabbinical institutions are preaching a Judaism that places more hope in the might of the Israeli army than in the capacity of human beings (including Palestinians) to transform their perception of “the other” and overcome their fears. Even in the darkest days of our oppression, most Jewish thinkers believed that all human beings were created in the image of God and hence were capable of transformation to once again become embodiments of love and generosity. As the prayer for Yom Kippur says, “Till the day of their death, YOU (God) wait for them, that perhaps they might return, and YOU will immediately receive them.”

In contrast, today’s rabbis are more like the set of past-era Protestant theologians who used to emphasize human sinfulness as almost impossible to overcome and hence rejected any hope of social transformation. They scoff at the possibility which we at Tikkun magazine and our Network of Spiritual Progressives have been preaching (not only for the Middle East, but for the United States as well) that if we act from a loving and generous place, seeking to overcome behaviors that were previously perceived as disrespectful and humiliating, that the icebergs of anger and hate (some of which our behavior helped to create) can melt away and people’s hearts can once again turn toward love and justice for all. Our call for the United States to develop a Global Marshall Plan and a strategy of generosity toward the developing world (see www.tikkun.org/gmp) and for Israel to develop a Marshall Plan to rebuild Gaza and the West Bank so that it can easily accommodate the millions of Palestinians still stuck in refugee camps around the Arab world get ignored because in both the United States and Israel the belief in “homeland security through domination” leads people to dismiss the religious call (in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, as well in some secular humanist communities) for security through generosity and open-hearted reconciliation. I’ve applied these principles to develop a detailed plan for what a peaceful resolution of the conflict would look like in Embracing Israel/Palestine.

In an America which at this very moment has its president calling to send tens of thousands of child refugees back to the situations they risked their lives to escape, in an America which refused to provide Medicare for all, and in an America which serves the interests of its richest 1 percent while largely ignoring the needs of its large working middle class, these ideas may sound naively utopian. But for Judaism, belief in God was precisely a belief that love and justice could and should prevail, and that our task is to embody that message in our communities and promote that message to the world.

It is this love, compassion, justice, and peace-oriented Judaism that the State of Israel is murdering. The worshippers of Israel have fallen into a deep cynicism about the possibility of the world that the prophets called for in which nation shall not lift up the sword against each other and they will no longer learn war, and everyone will live in peace. True, that world is not already here, but the Jewish people’s task was to teach people that this world could be brought into being, and that each step we take is either a step toward that world or a step away from it. The Israel worshippers are running away from this world of love, making it far less possible. And yet they call their behavior “Judaism” and Israel “the Jewish state.” If Judaism’s call for a world based on social justice, peace, and love for “the other” is dismissed as impossible under current conditions, the least we could ask of Israel is that it describe itself as “a State with many Jews” rather than as “a Jewish state” since the latter implies some connection to Judaism and its prophetic tradition.

No wonder, then, that I mourn for the Judaism of love, kindness, peace, and generosity that Israel worshippers dismiss as utopian fantasy. To my fellow Jews, I issue the following invitation: use Tisha B’av (the traditional fast-day mourning the destruction of Jewish life in the past, and starting Monday night August 4 till dark on August 5) to mourn for the Judaism of love and generosity that is being murdered by Israel and its worshippers around the world, the same kind of idol-worshippers who, pretending to be Jewish but actually assimilated into the world of power, helped destroy our previous two Jewish commonwealths and our Temples of the past.

I urge Jews who agree with the perspective in this article to go to High Holiday services this year and publicly insist that the synagogue services include repentance for the sins of the Jewish people in giving blind support to immoral policies of the State of Israel. Don’t sit quietly while the rabbis or others give talks implying that Israel is wholly righteous and that the Palestinians are the equivalent of Hitler or some “evil other.” Pass out to people the High Holiday “For Our Sins” workbook that Tikkun has developed and that will be on our website in early September. Write to your synagogue beforehand to ask them to include that list of sins among those that are traditionally read on Yom Kippur. That reading will be certain to generate a new aliveness in your synagogue and make Yom Kippur more spiritually real and deep than passively sitting through a service that is ignoring some of the central issues for which we should be atoning. Whether or not you go to synagogue on the High Holidays, please donate to Tikkun to keep our voice alive (the organized Jewish community and many Jews who are liberal on every other issue still refuse to support or read Tikkun precisely because we touch this issue—just ask the social justice-oriented Jewish groups you know about why they are not speaking up about Israel and you’ll see why it is so important to support Tikkun). And please: join our interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives and help us create local chapters to get out the message that the Judaism being preached in many synagogues is antithetical to the highest values of our people and our Jewish tradition (even while acknowledging that there have always been within that tradition contradictory and pro-domination voices as well).

Please don’t be silent when rabbis refuse to acknowledge their idol-worship and their blind support for Israeli policies. Insist that they take into account when judging Palestinians the psychologically and ethically destructive impact of living under Occupation. Ask them to choose between demanding that Israel immediately help the Palestinian people to create their independent state without an occupying Israeli army or demanding that Israel give all the Palestinians the same rights that Americans fought for in our own revolution and that we demanded for Africans in South Africa and African Americans in the South—one person, one vote (in the Israeli Knesset elections).

We may have to renew our Judaism by creating a liberatory, emancipatory, and transformative love-oriented Judaism outside the synagogues and traditional institutions, because inside the existing Jewish community the best we can do is repeat what the Jewish exiles in Babylonia said in Psalm 137, “How can we sing the songs of the Transformative Power YHVH in a strange land?” And let us this year turn Yom Kippur into a time of repentance for the sins of our people who have given Israel a blank check and full permission to be brutal in the name of Judaism and the Jewish people (even as we celebrate those Jews with the courage to publicly critique Israel in a loving but stern way). Doing so does not mean obscuring the immorality of Hamas’ behavior. But the High Holidays is meant to be a time to focus on what our sins are, not the sins of others. Isn’t it time that we stopped hiding behind the distortions in others to avoid our own distortions?

For our non-Jewish allies, the following plea: do not let the organized Jewish community intimidate you with charges that any criticism of Israel’s brutality toward the Palestinian people proves that you are anti-Semites. Stop allowing your very justified guilt at the history of oppression your ancestors enacted on Jews to be the reason you fail to speak out vigorously against the current immoral policies of the State Israel. The way to become real friends of the Jewish people is to side with those Jews who are trying to get Israel back on track toward its highest values, knowing full well that there is no future for a Jewish state surrounded by a billion Muslims except through friendship and cooperation.

The temporary alliance of brutal dictatorships in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and various Arab emirates that give Israel support against Hamas will ultimately collapse, but the memory of humiliation at the hands of the State of Israel will not, and Israel’s current policies will endanger Jews both in the Middle East and around the world for many decades after the people of Israel have regained their senses. Real friends don’t let their friends pursue a self-destructive path, so it’s time for you too to speak up and to support those of us in the Jewish world who are champions of peace and justice, and who will not be silent in the face of the destruction of Judaism. One concrete step: join the Network of Spiritual Progressives and help us get the messages I’m articulating here into the public arena in the U.S. With 57 percent of the American public polling support for Israel’s assault on Gaza, the most important task we have is to shift mass consciousness toward a more nuanced position that is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine.

And, on the other hand, to our non-Jewish friends, please don’t be angry at all Jews for the distorted behavior of a state that calls itself “the Jewish State” and that acts in an arrogant, provocative, and disrespectful way, making itself the neighborhood bully of the Middle East. That state did not consult most Jews about its policies. And please recognize that the anti-Semitic outbreaks that we’ve seen recently in France, Belgium, and other European countries are no different than other kinds of racism: blaming all people of a particular group for evil behavior of some.

And that gets to my last point. Younger Jews, like many of their non-Jewish peers, are becoming increasingly alienated from Israel and from the Judaism that too many Jews claim to be the foundation of this supposedly Jewish state. They see Israel as what Judaism is in practice, not knowing how very opposite its policies are to the traditional worldviews most Jews have embraced through the years. It is these coming generations of young people—whose parents claim to be Jewish but celebrate the power of the current State of Israel and never bother to critique it when it is acting immorally (as it is today in Gaza)—who will leave Judaism in droves, making it all the more the province of the Israel-worshippers with their persistent denial of the God of love and justice and their embrace of a God of vengeance and hate. I won’t blame them for that choice, but I wish they knew that there is a different strand of Judaism that has been the major strand for much of Jewish history, and that it needs their active engagement in order to reestablish it as the twenty-first-century continuation of the Jewish tradition. That I have to go to non-Jewish sources to seek to have this message circulated is a further testimony to how much there is to mourn over the dying body of the Judaism of love, pleading for Jews who privately feel the way I do to come out of their closets and help us rebuild the Jewish world in which tikkun (healing and transformation) becomes the first agenda item.

Above all else, I grieve for all the unnecessary suffering on this planet, including the Israeli victims of terrorism, the Palestinian victims of Israeli terror and repression, the victims of America’s misguided wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the victims of America’s apparently endless war on terrorism, the victims of so many other struggles around the world, and the less visible but real victims of a global capitalist order in which, according to the UN, between 8,000 and 10,000 children under the age of five die every day from malnutrition or diseases related to malnutrition. And yet I affirm that there is still the possibility of a different kind of world, if only enough of us would believe in it and then work together to create it.

_______________________________________

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun, chair of the interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without-Walls in San Francisco and Berkeley, California. He is the author of eleven books, including two national bestsellers—The Left Hand of God and Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation. His most recent book, Embracing Israel/Palestine, is available on Kindle from Amazon.com and in hard copy from tikkun.org/eip. He welcomes your responses and invites you to join with him by joining the Network of Spiritual Progressives (membership comes with a subscription to Tikkun magazine). You can contact him at rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com.

 
tags: Analysis of Israel/Palestine, Spiritual Progressive Analysis   
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64 Responses to Mourning for a Judaism Being Murdered by Israel

  1. Gerry Miller August 4, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Israelis are no longer Jews.

    They have morphed into a different race. Two reasons.

    One. Jews do not climb hills to watch missiles come down to kill children. Jews don’t kill children. If you do, or if you watch callously with cheers and hurrahs, you can’t be Jewish. It’s a rule. We don’t want you.

    Two. Jews have always been smart. They’ve had to be. Smart and ethical rootedness was all they had. Israelis have muscle. Now they are more arrogant than smart. They rely on muscle more than brain. They do not think about where their long term security lies. They appear not to think long term at all.

    If the Ben Gurions and Meir’s were around today, what would they say? They’d say: “GOYISHE KOP!”

    If Israeli’s got smart they’d bomb Gaza with hospitals, schools, roads jobs. And change their focus from Hamas to the broad population which sees no alternative but to support Hamas. Take the heel of their boots of the necks. Give those people a better choice, something to prefer to strategic terror. Israel’s only answer seems to be a more frightening terror. Israel needs more friends, enemies it has plenty.

    You want friends, make them.

    • Motti August 5, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      They tried that… after 1967 Israel built hospitals, universities and better quality of life in the West Bank and Gaza. It is worse now – under Palestinian rule – than it ever was under Israel.

    • Liberty Goodwin August 6, 2014 at 6:15 am

      Good comment – I myself had been thinking about how differently things could be if Israel were to come in with food, assistance in building (or re-building) Palestinian homes, etc. – Being friends instead of enemies.
      Creating allies instead of victims and more to hate them.

      • Susanna August 13, 2014 at 6:53 pm

        So true. The cycle of violence in Northern Ireland lasted 400 years. The same will be true between Israel and Palestine if this violence continues. Violence and repression breeds violence and hatred. Only when we learn to love our neighbour and even our enemies, can this cycle be broken.

        • Dan August 16, 2014 at 7:22 am

          Yeah, like this planet has another 400 years. Maybe 40.

    • Barbie Gorelick Callanan August 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      I couldn’t agree more with everything you propose! This war has been a shondah!

    • TheRealThunderChild August 6, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Except Gurion laid the foundation for all this whn he stated he desired for Isreal to be a Jewish homeland, a Jewish state, and for the Arab to leave.
      I have always had a deep love for Jews, for their compassion in the face of such persecution. They are the mothers and fathers of my faith, and it breaks my heart to see some of them use the very antisemitism they used to fear, as something they almost perversely welcome, giving as it does, an excuse for the worst face of Zionism .
      This cannot end well, and I pray the state of Isreal realises this before disaster happens.

    • Yochannan August 11, 2014 at 7:17 pm

      Exactly wrong, Jews in the State called Israel were never Israelites, that is, they were never “True Biblical Israelites.” Jews in that State are just Jews, adherents to a religion called Jewism (Judaism) as Christians are adherents to Christianity and as Muslims are adherents to Islam. Most Jews believe in the Talmud and the Kabala as the basis for their authority rather than the clear mandates of the Hebrew Bible, and YHWH’s word. The Talmud and kabala is where they get their convoluted self-centered mindset. Most all Jews fall in this mindset category – the Zionist, the orthodox, and the secular Jew are all non-races amalgamated religious groups. The Karaite Jews is also a non-race group but they are the only Jews who base themselves in Torah, and keep the 10 Commandments (True Israel’s Covenant). The Karaite Jew is actually an Israelite and not really a Jew, because they reject the so-called “traditions” of the Jews that were condemned by the prophet Yahshua (Jesus) of the First Century.

      Modern Jewism as a religion began about 1,000 C.E., and is traced to Rabbenu Gershon of Mainz, Germany, who is considered the ‘Father’ of the Ashkenazi Jews. This may also be where the name “Rabbi” comes from. Ashkenazi called Jews constitutes a large percent of all the worlds fourteen million (more or less) Jews. Modern Judaism is not the Scriptural worship system of the Hebrew Yahudi (of the tribe of Yahudah) which was originally Yahwism, the same as that of Yahshua (the New Testament Jesus). I suppose one could say that modern Judaism has similarities to the traditions of the Pharisaic point of view of the First century, and is therefore basically Pharisee-ism.

      Since true Israelites do not really exist in the State called Israel, (except for maybe a few Karaites) and since Jewism is not at all the religion of the ancient Biblical Israelites it would be impossible for Judaism to be murdered by the non-existent Israelites masquerading as Biblical Israelites in a State that is simply called Israel.

      Jewism was not murdered by Israel, it is already dying, but actually became clearly manifested by the State pretending to be Israel. This State called Israel has shown to the world as to what it, Judaism and a Jew truly is by what it does to, and how it treats others, i.e. the Palestinians.

      The Judaism we see today is a religion formed by the traditions of wicked men that for over 1,000 years have rejected the righteous principles outlined in the Hebrew Scriptures for the writings and the opinions of the Talmud and the Kabala. This is what the world has been shown and is as can be expected. This State is domed to fail…..unless it and it’s people can repent to the Palestinian people and seek their forgiveness, and that of YHWH, return their land, help rebuild it and begin keeping the 10 Comamndments. Israelites can only exist in the future with a land grant for its existance from the Palestinian People. Only then will YHWH heal that land.

      A true Biblical Covenant Israelite is one that keeps the Covenant of Deut. 5: 2-22. Nothing else is necessary since the Covenant contains everything YHWH wants from His true Contracted people (see vs. 22). All those that take all take hold of it, to keep it, both those that are blood related to the ancients, or those that were “strangers” ) non-blood related to the ancients are the “True” Israelites if they Keep the Covenant. Isaiah 56.

      See the new Mandate map for peace here: http://expresmailer.org

      Yochannan

      • JWM October 27, 2014 at 7:45 am

        The correct link at the bottom of the Yochannan comment is ” expressmailer.org “

  2. Imran Anwar August 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    God bless you for speaking out as a God fearing and religious Jew and decent human being.

    Imran Anwar

  3. Matthew Cloner August 4, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Dear Rabbi Lerner,

    I completely understand your point of view in your article. It also pains me to see what is happening in Gaza. But I don’t blame Israel for this. I point the finger directly at Hamas, who has done everything within their power to provoke Israel into taking military action against Gaza.

    Israel exists in a very tough part of the world. It’s very important to understand that the Arab mindset is very different from that of the American or even the European one. If Israel were to practice the values of Judaism to terrorist organizations like Hamas (love, empathy, compassion, peace, reconciliation, etc) then Israel would disappear in a matter of months. You have to keep in mind that Hamas has embraced an extremist form of Islam that seeks to destroy any non-Muslim nation in it midst. And that is why it will never tolerate a Jewish nation in the Middle East.

    Living in Israel is very different from living in the US. Israel has a right to defend itself from rockets and missiles being fired at it from Gaza or anywhere else in the Middle East. That is the reality that the Israelis live with, day after day.

    Sincerely,

    Matthew Cloner
    Seattle, WA.

    • Dr. Mary McKenna August 4, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      Dear Matthew Cloner. I am of the West. Born bred educated here. I have lived in many countries and in a Palestinusn refugee csmo over a period of 40 years. The one thing that I learned is that we are not very different from one another. Fear of difference is a very powerful but negative and destructive force which is exploited by power hungry unscrupulous leaders. Most if nit all of your letter is factually incorrect. Lose your fear of the other. Put out your hand in friendship. Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes now and again. How would you deal with dispossession. Homelessless. Humiliation. Occupation. Be the most humane you can be. Be honest. Be happy.

      • Liberty Goodwin August 6, 2014 at 6:18 am

        Thank you and bless you, Mary!

    • Robert Cable August 4, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      Rabbi Lerner wrote this article precisely for propaganda-saturated people like you. For additional antidote (evidently needed) read Chris Hedges’ Aug. 3 article, “Why Israel Lies.” Of course, you can continue to live in the Land of De Nile. Faith in “My country (or ANY country), right or wrong!” is idolatry.

    • Frederic August 5, 2014 at 4:05 am

      Many commentators keep mentioning that Hamas is a product of Israel. So who is to blame for creating something that got out of their control?

    • David Walters August 5, 2014 at 9:17 am

      Had the Jews not stolen the land of Palestine they’d not live under such threats.

      LF

      • Seth August 5, 2014 at 11:58 am

        While I agree with 98% of what Rabbi Lerner said in this article, I have to make an observation or two to the contrary.

        I am really tired listening to people compare the holocaust to the displacement of the Palestinians. Did the Palestinians get the short end of the stick? Absolutely. But let’s put it into historical perspective.

        The Arab leaders sided with Nazi Germany during WWII. I don’t particularly blame them for this, they weren’t Nazis. They hated the British as the British were the colonial power there at the time, and the Germans offered to give them independence if Germany won the war should they help in said effort. Fine. OK. BUT–

        Germany lost the war. Morality not withstanding, all through the entire history of the human race, when a minor power allies with a major power during a war, and their side loses, they have to surrender money or land or both.

        And yet nowhere in the discussion of how “wronged” the Palestinians were, does anyone discuss the utterly germane subject of WWII, as if WWII didn’t even happen, and the Arabs weren’t aligned with the losing side of a war.

        Has there ever been a people more “wronged” than the indigenous American tribes of North America? I don’t think so. But what would people’s reaction be if the repeatedly resorted to violence to get their land back. Still. Now. Explosives strapped to their bodies?

        Had this been anywhere else in the world, it would just be assumed that people would move on. Or should Germany and France go back to war with each other to settle the question of Alsace-Lorraine?

        No. Get over it and move on. Only because of the disease of religion does this craziness continue. God said it’s ours! No! God said it’s ours! Ours! Ours! No! Not yours! Ours!

        More to the point of Rabbi Lerner’s article, albeit from my own, far more cynical perspective, I think the Palestinian position, politically is reprehensible and irresponsible for the reasons I stated above — but equally, or close thereto and gaining fast, Israel over the last generation has disgusted be more and more with each new smug contravention of international law.

        For the LOVE of God, I wish they would all just shut up. You can read any book you want, religious, spiritual, holy, or otherwise — but if you aren’t of the conviction to live and let live, you are nothing.

        Growing up, born in the seventies, I have always been immersed int he history of the holocaust, omnipresent as it was in the minds of the adults around me.

        Such that the very notion of a fascist Jew would have seemed fantastical had it been even possible to imagine.

        Now, rightly, for it should never have seemed so ludicrous, we are confronted with just that, and I am not so surprised.

        Unless you are of the mind that Jews are the chosen people, literally, then it should not be any surprise whatsoever that Jews are capable of being just as base and low and cruel as anyone else.

        From my distant perch, it looks to me like about 50-50 in Israeli society.

        My criticisms of one side don’t excuse or justify the cruelties of the other.

        However, I will say that those who accede to Israel the right to destroy the tunnels, but not the right to hit civilian areas, are really being naive and cynical and hypocritical.

        There is no doubt that Hamas is using civilian shields. That fact doesn’t justify any and all actions the Israelis might choose to take, but it is what it is.

        That said, the Palestinians ought to have their own state, the blockade on humanitarian supplies ought to be lifted, and the world ought to consider sanctions against Israel should they continue with settlement expansion in the West Bank.

        • Liberty Goodwin August 6, 2014 at 6:28 am

          An interesting and thoughtful reply.

    • Anne LaRocque August 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      Israel may have the right to defend itself but it is like Hamas brought a knife to a gun fight. It is a war crime to deliberately bomb schools and hospitals. The killing of innocents is extremely abhorrent and the blockade of Gaza is akin to putting all the Palestinians in prison.Israel has become the what they supposedly hate,Nazis!

      • Jonathan August 7, 2014 at 1:16 pm

        Not when those schools house missiles and gunmen. Then they are targets. So says international law.

    • Stephan Cotton August 6, 2014 at 5:45 am

      This misses two points.

      First, while Hamas is clearly a terrorist organization that will never stop hating Israel the Palestinian people are not, at least until bombing them into oblivion turns more of them into Hamas supporters. A Marshal Plan for Gaza that gives people a decent livelihood is the only way to kill Hamas – by choking off its recruitment.

      Secondly, Hamas’ terrorism is just plain no excuse for Israeli terrorism in response. Jews don’t do that, decent human beings don’t do that.

      Rabbi Lerner is right: in many ways, Israel has become the enemy of Judaism.

    • Liberty Goodwin August 6, 2014 at 6:17 am

      Murdering civilians – especially children – is not “defense”. And it does not protect Israelis. For every “Hamas terrorist” killed, this strategy can create as many as a hundred more, outraged by the innocent that are caught in the fire.

  4. Marjory Harper August 4, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    thank you for writing this

  5. Beverly Bailey August 4, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this beautiful article. It has been forwarded to our 600 email members – Middle East Peace Now- here in Minneapolis MN. Finally more people are speaking the truth to power – but power doesn’t always (or ever) listen. Many blessings on your future work.

  6. David Friedman August 4, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    In this piece, as in all of his writings, Rabbi Lerner expresses the best side of the Jewish and human tradition. I have known him for some fifty years, and consider him a friend.

    Reading this statement, I have only a couple of points of disagreement. They might be considered quibbles, except for some of the implications.

    First, I do not consider what is happening now as a “war between Israel and Hamas.” Prior to the current invasion of Gaza, the relationship might have been termed a Cold War. The Gaza tunnels hardly constitute “war” or a justification of war, any more than the tunnels that bring illegal
    immigrants and drugs into the U.S. from Mexico. All or most rocket attacks had ceased and Israel’s sophisticated defense shield made them little more than a nuisance. This invasion is not a war, but a war crime, and the primary target is not Hamas but the people and infrastructure of Gaza. One would have to consider the IDF grossly incompetent to believe that the kind of human and material damage that they are inflicting is collateral or accidental. There is nothing even remotely “symmetrical” about this struggle, just as there is nothing remotely symmetical about the
    Israeli occupation and blockade of the people of Gaza. Lerner knows this, of course, and that is the source of his anguish.

    The closest parallel I can think of, from another time and place, is in our own country when settlers, with the support of the U.S. military, took over the lands of native Americans, herded them into impoverished reservations and eventually destroyed them as a people, except for the cultural heritage that remains. The difference, of course, is that the Palestinians are a modern people in a region where Israel is the isolated nation, except for its powerful U.S. patron-state.

    I also disagree with the idea that Netanyahu is operating out of fear as a politician: “fearful that he would be seen as ‘weak’ if Israel gave way to Gazans’ demand[s]….” This is similar to the misguided idea that our own President operates out of fear, that the thousand-and-one disappointments and betrayals of his followers would be different if only Obama could grow a backbone. Obama’s stance toward the Israel government and its actions are based on the
    role of Israel as a kind of independent military outpost of the U.S. in the Middle East, whose loyalty is guaranteed by their financial dependence and need for a powerful patron. There is, of course, the powerful pressure of the Israeli lobby in the U.S., but that would have much less force if it did not line up with America’s imperial interests in the Middle East and the profiteering motives of the U.S. defense industry. Netanyahu’s stance toward the Palestinians and Gaza is based on the goal of Greater Israel, the continuing land-grab, with the only possible end-game being some form of expulsion of large numbers of Palestinians, whether through terror, destitution, sequestration or endless attrition. It is a mistake to attribute this to political timidity on the part of Netanyahu. There have been much less arrogant heads of state in Israel over the decades who pursued the same overriding policy toward the Palestinians, though perhaps with less stupid brutality.

  7. naomi paz greenberg August 4, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Sometimes I allow myself to despair for Judaism as well.

    But the fact is most members of any faith tradition do not adhere to its requirements.

    The Spanish Inquisition was carried out in a very unchristian manner by, well, Christians.

    The truly faithful in every religious tradition have the responsibility to call the rest of us to account when we depart so far from our teachings that we become the opposite of what we profess.

    That obligation has never been an easy one so I thank Rabbi Lerner, Tikkun, Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, T’ruah, and the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical board for taking on that obligation.

    • Liberty Goodwin August 6, 2014 at 6:30 am

      Very good point!

  8. David Gordon August 4, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    I very much appreciate Rabbi Lerner’s concerns about Israel-worship in the American Jewish community. However, I’m not so eager to have the Jewish community repent or atone for this worship as I am to have it permit diverse perspectives on Israel to exist and gain expression. Perhaps if the community adopted a tone of greater respect for differing opinions, some of the compulsive power-worship that Rabbi Lerner rightly criticizes would decline of its own accord. It’s worth a try!
    In any case, this is a very thought-provoking essay. Thanks for writing it.

  9. Jehan Saleh August 4, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Rabbi,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. All religions teach love peace and light.

    Judaism is no longer a part of the fabric in Israel. People no longer live a loving life in the name of peace love and Gods light. I would never associate Gods word with those Israeli people who incite such hate and killing.

    They victimization of all innocent people bothe Israeli and Palestinian. The thought that an Israeli life is better then another life is in itself anti-Judaic.

    In fact, how can there be peace when you have Israeli and Palestinian? Whenver there are two groups there is fight. We must learn that we are One Rabbi.

  10. Jehan Saleh August 4, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Additionally,

    US Media outlets are horribly biased. The governments and conglomerates are controlling us.

    “Those who think they are most free….are the most enslaved”

  11. Connie Hammond August 4, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    I am a Christian and I found this s very thought-provoking essay with wisom for everyone. As I was reading, I noted there were many sections where you could substitute Christianity for Judaism and U.S. for Israel and the critique would make perfect sense. Many of us have forsaken way of love, compassion and justice and the preferential option for the poor for the idolatry of militarism, power and wealth.

    • Liberty Goodwin August 6, 2014 at 6:30 am

      Yes!

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  13. Raphael Freeman August 4, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    i am a little confused by this article. You say that Israel has been blocking food and building materials to Gaza. Where did you get this information from? I wish to God that we had been blocking building materials to Gaza, then perhaps we would have not had to go into Gaza to destroy the terror tunnels that were built at a cost of $3m a tunnel in order to murder Jews.

    Today is Tisha B’Av. Do not forsake Jerusalem.

  14. Amiel Shulsinger August 4, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    Grieve for the victims of America and capitalism? Grieve for the disease, not the symptoms. Grieve for a human nature that led to over 100 million people killed in the twentieth century. Grieve for a human nature that continues the slaughters into the twenty-first century.

  15. Leonard Levine August 4, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Unfortunately, Rabbi Lerner fails to understand, or chooses not to understand, that throughout history, when countries,o heads of state,, or organizations, vow not to rest until all of Israel and its citizens are wiped from the face of the earth, they mean it: from Hitler to Ahmadinejad to Hamas, they mean it. When Palestinians could have had all the West Bank in 1948, they chose instead to attack; Until 1967 when they already had the entire West Bank, they chose instead to threaten what was Israel then with annihilation; when in 2000 President Clinton offered them 97% of the West Bank and Gaza, they chose to start the infitada. When will Rabbi Lerner and those who agree with him understand, they want us dead. The answer is never.

    • Doran Zeigler August 6, 2014 at 6:32 am

      The point you bring up, which many others have, that many wish the Israelis dead or wiped off the face of the earth is a red herring. It is constantly used as a non-starter in negotiations. Wanting someone wiped off the face of the earth and doing it aren’t even in the same universe. It is highly doubtful to me and the rest of the world that the Palestinians could come close to accomplishing this impossible feat.

      But, continuously bringing up this reason serves its purpose of keeping blood boiling amongst Zionists and Zionist cheerleaders. It also give the impression that Israel is blameless in their subjugation of the Palestinians.

      The world see what is really going on no matter the paltry and ineffective reasons given by Israel. The only believers in the big lie are U.S. elected officials who are recipients of AIPAC money and AIPAC’s propaganda if they fail to toe the line, and die-hard Zionists.

      The world has come to expect the lop-sided imbalance that exists within Israel, and as it goes on, more and more people who believe Zionism is Judaism will grow to hate all Jews. Rabbi Lerner is correct in his assessment, but his words will fall on the deaf ears of all rabid Zionists and the periodic slaughter will continue.

  16. Yeshayahu Hollander August 5, 2014 at 5:40 am

    The author of this article ignores so many obvious facts, that I did not want to respond. But some of the comments show respect to reality, so I decided, for their benefit, to bring the following points:
    1. Much of what is written here is pure speculation. Who knows the motives of Netanyahu? Netanyahu has information which we don’t, so we don’t really know the alternatives open to him, so how can we seriously speculate about his motives?
    2. Much of the “information” which we receive is actually untrue. For instance, Btselem accepts every accusation against Jews without bother to investigate. They are paid to do publish the supposedly criminal acts of Jews, not to investigate them. Arabs know of this and make false accusations. After investigation, it was discovered that a Mosque which was said to have been torched by the “price-tag” idiots, was actually torched by Muslims. Not only Btselem – but even the administration of the Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria [most of the Arabs live under the administration of the Palestine Authority] relates to accusations of Jews by Arabs as correct, and puts the onus of proof on the accused!! A Jew in Judea and Samaria is guilty as accused unless he can prove his innocence!!
    A few factual links:
    With respect to expectations of veracity from Arab sources, see, for instance – The El dura hoax: http://aldurah.com/ and-or this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CUgzeG5DEg

    Claims against non-combatant casualties are refuted by this: http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/07/27/latest-al-jazeera-data-shows-gaza-casualties-still-mostly-combat-aged-males/
    THE SOURCE IS ARAB: AL JAZEERA. Of course, since this analysis was published, one cannot trust any further statistics.

    It is strange that some people see Israel as to blame for Arab casualties; especially strange to hear Americans repeat such claims.
    Here is the opinion of an Arab – not living in Israel, a Saudi Arab:
    http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/07/28/saudi-official-hamas-responsible-for-deaths-in-gaza/
    or perhaps – an internationally respected Canadian jurist:
    http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/07/28/opinion-the-need-for-moral-clarity-on-the-israel-hamas-war/
    Of course, you may say that Irwin Cotler is Jewish, so you can’t believe him or trust his judgement. Those who would say so, are of course racists.
    Perhaps Israel could do more – perhaps. If Israel wants many more of the Israeli soldiers to be killed. Is Israel in the moral high grounds, or is Israel immoral? See
    http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4570/gaza-civilian-casualties BY RICHARD KEMP

    Perhaps it would benefit some people to listen to Arabs – and to take them at their word. Listen to what they teach their children – for instance at http://palwatch.org/site/modules/videos/pal/videos.aspx
    It is our experience, that when people threaten Jews – they mean it!!

  17. David Walters August 5, 2014 at 9:14 am

    The author invalidates his own incredibly long screed about recently coming to abhor Israeli persecution of the Palestinians with the phrase “All my life I’ve been a champion of Israel.”

    Come on! The persecution of the Palestinians didn’t start just yesterday, you know. Some of the greatest abuses and crimes were committed in the first few years immediately before and after the “Jewish State” (racist state) was established. How then did you champion Israel then and not now.

    I certainly don’t accept your early use of the near historical universality of state abuses of “the other” to justify your defense of Israeli abuses. A logical man would consider both crimes and both equally abhorrent and would seek justice for both.

    But, despite being a man of faith, you could not find that logic in yourself in the past. So, why would we believe you now.

    LF

  18. Bijan Soleymani August 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Dear Rabbi Lerner,

    I take issue with your statement that “one of the primary victims of the war between Israel and Hamas is the compassionate and love-oriented Judaism that has held together for several thousand years”.

    This is a disgusting statement. First the primary victim of this “war” is not Judaism, but the over 1000 Palestinian civilians, and also the 2 Israeli civilians that have been killed.

    To see one of the primary victims as Judaism is to not care about real people in the real world, and care primarily about Jews and Judaism, when it is exactly in the name of Jews and Judaism that these crimes are being committed.

    Second I don’t think Judaism has been a religion of love and compassion for non-Jews. Not saying it should necessarily be that way (why care for people who have been intolerant and have persecuted you for so long), but to say it has been is to paper over anti-Gentile sentiment that has been there for over a thousand years.

    I have an expanded article about this at: http://www.crasseux.com/blog/?p=280

    Best wishes,
    Bijan

    • E Kramer August 29, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Bijan,

      Israel says it is acting on behalf of Jews and Judaism, but is not, and in fact no person or country is authorized to do so. I think that’s one of the underlying points of the article. In claiming that its crimes against humanity are necessary for the survival of the Jewish people, Israel is acting directly AGAINST the best interests of the Jewish people. Some of whom (including myself) believe that Palestinians have as much right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness as we do. I suspect that for some Zionists, anti-Semitism aimed at the Diaspora just proves that Israel is the only safe place for Jews.

  19. Louise Raphael August 5, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, Rabbi Lerner, for writing this!!!!

  20. Rehmat August 5, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    On August 5, 2014, one of British government’s senior cabinet minister, Baroness Sayeeda Hussain Warsi resigned from David Cameron’s government over its pro-Israel policy during the recent 29-day Israel’s genocidal war on 1.8 million Palestinians trapped inside Gaza Strip.

    With deep regret I have this morning written to the prime minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support government policy on Gaza, she tweeted.

    British finance minister George Osborne (married to a Zionist Jew) condemned Warsi’s “disappointing and frankly unnecessary” decision to resign over situation in Gaza.

    British prime minister David Cameron in a statement said that he was sad over Baroness Warsi’s decision to quit for believing that London is not an honest broker when it comes to Israel-Palestinian conflict. Cameron asserted that his government believes in a negotiated “two-state solution” to the Jewish occupation of Palestine. However, as a committed Zionist, Cameron repeated Israeli myth of Israel has the right to defend itself. Read more here.

    “Of course, we believe that Israel has the right to defend itself. But we have consistently made clear our grave concerns about the heavy toll of civilian casualties and have called on Israel to exercise restrain, an to find ways to bring this fighting to an end,” Cameron said in a statement.

    Ironically, the Zionist Jew opposition leader Ed Miliband, on Sunday blasted David Cameron for failing to condemn Israeli killing of a large numbers of civilians and children in Gaza.

    On August 5, Jewish The Economist claimed that Lady Warsi’s decision could not be based on Israeli actions in Gaza, because in 2006, she supported Israel against Lebanese Hizbullah.

    Last week, Peter Luff and Nicholas Soamese, country’s former defense ministers, also criticized David Cameron for not applying pressure on Netanyahu to stop the bloodshed in Gaza.

    Douglas Murray, who called a pro-Palestinian rally in London last month, “anti-Semitic”, in an article at Jewish The Spectator (August 5) called Baroness Warsi “over-promoted, incapable and incompetent“.

    Baroness Warsi (born 1971) is daughter of a Muslim Pakistani immigrant. She was the first female Muslim to become a cabinet minister in 2004. In 2007 she was given life peerage to represent the ruling Conservative party in the House of Lords. She recently held senior cabinet post of Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Warsi is married to Iftakhar Azam. Both has five children. Both Warsi and Azam are non-practicing Muslims.

    I salute Baroness Warsi’s courage to quit a well-paid ministerial job to join the two millions of her fellow British Muslims in condemning Cameron government’s pro-Israel policy. However, no British Muslim is expecting a similar show of courage on part of Sajid Javid, UK’s pro-Israel Secretary for Culture, media and sports.

    After quitting Cameron’s government, Baroness gave an exclusive interview to Mehdi Hasan, during which she accused Cameron’s coalition government in failing to act as an honest broker in the Middle East and called for an immediate arms embargo against the Zionist entity.

    “Our position not to recognize Palestinian statehood at the UN in November 2012 placed us on the wrong side of history and something I deeply regret not speaking against at the time,” she said.

    “Israel as an occupying power has the responsibility of course to protect Israelis but it also has the responsibility to protect Palestinians,” Warsi told Mehdi Hasan. She also called Hamas, a “terrorist organization”, which should fire rockets at Israeli civilians. I wonder she read some objective source to find out that Hamas killed only three Israeli “civilians” during the entire 29-day war, while Israelis killed more than 1,700 Gaza civilians including over 200 children.

    With such “moderate” point of views, I hate to call her an “anti-Semite” or a “pro-Hamas Islamist”.

    http://rehmat1.com/2014/08/06/baroness-warsi-resigns-over-londons-pro-israel-policy/

    • Dan Kaufman August 6, 2014 at 12:03 am

      The part of the above that bothers me most is everyone points out the ratio of Palestinian and Israeli dead and/or wounded.If Israel didn’t have the “Iron Dome” defense there would be a lot higher casualties-. So it has less caualties because of a better defense not because theren’t a lot of rockets being sent from Gaza!

  21. Gretchen Hackett August 5, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    I agree with David Freeman. Neither Netanyahu nor Obama is intimidated or overwhelmed by any pro-war political faction. Both are backed by war-profiteering, imperial interests, because both are committed to a war-based economy with a fractured, fearful and disorganized populace. Both support making war the new normal. Any apparent disagreement between the two men is window dressing.

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  23. Dan Kaufman August 5, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    While I agree what is happening to the people of Gaza is terrible the real blame lies with the leadership of Hamas and most of the world for tolerating it. Rabbi Lerner talks about how the last war there was no proof of “human shields” but there is overwhelming evidence this time.
    Furthermore how about this for a compromise? Israel allows the entire West Bank- minus Jerusalem- to be a free independent country of Palestine with only 1 condition- that the Jewish settlers be allowed to stay and have the same religious and political freedoms that the 20% of non Jewish citizens of pre 1967 border Israel have. This is a pipedream but to me the only fair thing- Why should the world expect Israel to treat is citizens better than any other country- There are many Arabs in the Israeli Knessett.
    As to Gaza- several years ago when Israel forced all of the Jews living in Gaza to leave what was the first thing that happened- Hamas blew up all the greenhouses that were built with Jewish money and said “woe with me we are all starving. This is the like the man that kills his parents and asks for mercy from the Judge because he is an orphan. Israel has had a blockade of building materials for years and look what Hamas does with all the concrete they smuggle in- They make tunnels for invasion. If they really cared for their people they could have built a pardise instead with it.
    When the UN stops treating Israel (and Jews in general) as poor step children- then there will be peace. Land for peace has not worked- furthermore I dare Rabbi Lerner to live as a Jew in Gaza, most of the West Bank or most Arab countries. He wouldn’t last a week!

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  25. Pingback: Thoughts about Israel: Good, Bad and Ugly | Geek Til You Drop

  26. Marvin Schwartz August 6, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Dan Kaufman is right. for too many years Rabbi Lerner and his guilty Tikkun ha-Olam crowd have been hectoring Israel to be some kind of a liberal martyr state. And stop with the peace-seeking PA already. Abbas is a Holocaust pervert(Jews allied with Nazis to kill Jews and there create Israel) and while Israeli school teach peace and tolerance the PA continues to teach Jew-hatred and lionize murderers of Jews. Where is your sechel?

  27. Pingback: Mourning for a Judaism Being Murdered by Israel | Tikkun Magazine « The Progressive Mind

  28. Irshad Mahmood August 6, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    AsSalaam O Alaikum (Peace be always with you. AMEEN.)

    Glad to see true peaceful and Deep thinker Jews started speaking out. War is not an option, love is, so drop love not bomb then whole world will love you. Below is one of my article on this issue:

    In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
    No More Holocausts, No More Genocide, Nether in Slow Motion & Nor in Fast Motion
    By Irshad Mahmood – Director, Siraat-al-Mustaqeem Dawah Centre

    Global Agenda on Holocausts and Genocide:

    Let us join together and stand firmly on No More Holocausts & No More Genocide, Nether in Fast Motion like Jews had faced during Second World War in the past & Nor in Slow Motion like Palestinians are facing now, regardless of any discrimination of Religion, Race, Color, Gender, Language, Nationality, etc.

    Islaam never permits to hurt or hate anyone regardless of any discrimination.

    No Muslim is Muslim if he/she hurts Innocent Civilians, Hospitals, Worshiping Places and Institutions etc. regardless of any discrimination. Islaam never permits to capture others land or wiping out others either in Slow Motion in steps like Palestinians are being wiped out or at once in Fast Motion like Holocaust or Genocides of Jews at one time during second world war, NO fighting for land.

    Forgiving is the key to start with, BUT it must be true forgiving, not like forgiving now then wiping out next and then again forgiving and wiping out again. In this case it will be hidden secret agenda.

    In current situation, independent & unbiased true human loving UN forces must help to ease the tensions around, otherwise there is no use of UN and it must be dissolved then.

    We cannot accept any more Massacre/Genocide/Holocaust etc., of 99% of Innocent Human Suffering because of 1% Terrorists around the Globe. We condemn all kinds of individual & State Terrorism.

    We have seen when people of Papua New Guinea raised voices, within few years UN went there and made an independent state for them from Indonesia, while there are many Muslims around the world are badly suffering for several decades, in which Palestine are the worst and no such help to bring peace in the region and still they don’t have internationally recognized independent state.

    Save Global People regardless of any discrimination of Religion, Race, Color, Gender, Language, Nationality, etc. It will sure help Saving Businesses with 100% Guaranteed.

    Let us join together to build Whole New World with True of Love and Mercy for all Humanity without of any discrimination of Religion, Race, Color, Gender, Language, Nationality, etc. No Close Door Meetings and No Hidden Secret Agenda.

    Repeatedly Relying on the Same Corrupt or Incompetent Person will NOT Change the Fortune of a Nation. Do not even think to re-appoint those who were failed to protect the corruptions in the land.

    Read Al-Quraan, the Miracle of Miracles and free from contradictions and errors
    http://global-right-path.webs.com http://global-right-path.blogspot.com http://global-right-path.net16.net
    Email to global-right-path+subscribe@googlegroups.com to subscribe

  29. Pingback: Obligations to Palestinians: Part III – The Outraged Prophet « Howard Adelman

  30. Pingback: Hatred in the Nuclear Era | GeorgiaWorld

  31. Sue Boyde August 8, 2014 at 2:27 am

    I have read Rabbi Lerner’s piece and the comments on it with interest. I only have one comment of my own which relates to something David Friedman said: “The Gaza tunnels hardly constitute “war” or a justification of war, any more than the tunnels that bring illegal
    immigrants and drugs into the U.S. from Mexico.” The tunnels that were the reason for the ground war are not smuggling tunnels. They are 32 tunnels running from Gaza into Israel, to the vicinity of settlements. The IDF encountered several parties of Hamas members coming through these tunnels into Israel, with weapons, tranquilisers, handcuffs etc. The tunnels were intended for attacks on Israeli civilians.

  32. Loving Jew August 8, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Oy vey Oy vey

    I’m confused, shocked, and very saddened to read your horrific and inaccurate article. Is that how you’re fixing the world? Is that Tikkun Olam? By promoting anger and hate amongst us? By calling names to the majority of the people of Israel that support the government? By isolating Israel? ״Israelis are no longer Jews”. Huh? Really? Did you lost your mind? That hurts a lot! I don’t understand how a person like you that is claiming to be a humanist (?) is making these stereotypical generalizations about Israel that are just false. Your article does not demonstrate “compassionate and love-oriented Judaism” on the contrary! And, just as a simple way of respect to others, is there a little chance that you’re wrong? What happened to ואהבת לרעך כמוך?

    To remind you, the second temple was destroyed due to self hatred שנאת חינם and internal fighting, not an external enemy. And when I read your words, I feel that I’m being hated by my own brother and I’m sad and horrified. This is not תיקון עולם, it is הרס עולם. How about a little of אהבת חינם to your own kind?

    Isaiah 49:17 Your destroyers and devastators. Will depart from you.

    Big Oy Vey!

  33. Pingback: Hatred in the Nuclear Era | Bill Totten's Weblog

  34. Pingback: Secular Israel vs Biblical Israel: Are they the Same? | End Times Prophecy Report

  35. Anonymous August 11, 2014 at 5:18 am

    After sleeping on it, I ask that you not publish my name since I don’t represent the
    religious group that I am a part of. Readers can misinterpret Rabbi Lerner’s article to be referring only to the Jewish people. I interpret his article as challenging all of us.

  36. Pingback: Hatred In The Nuclear Era - The Raven Foundation

  37. Loving Jew August 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    AMEN michael kolker

  38. JWalters August 13, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Thank you Rabbi Lerner for your focus on universal love over tribal instincts. To get free from the supremacist instinct, in themselves or others, some readers may find the following link a help. It adds historical facts to the childhood stories, helping refocus. The murder of which you speak is not new.
    http://warprofiteerstory.blogspot.com

  39. Linda Seltzer October 7, 2014 at 8:20 am

    The claim that American Jews worship or idealize Israel is false and a straw man argument. American Jews are educated and reject binary, simplistic thinking. We are completely capable of understanding the multiple political factions within Israel and the multiple Arab and Palestinian governments and factions. We are capable of determining how each side has contributed to the build-up of tensions and wars.

    We supported the policies of Presidents Clinton and Obama toward the two-state solution. We are completely aware that Israel accepted Clinton’s plan and that it was Arafat who rejected it. If Arafat had accepted Bill Clinton’s peace plan, next year Palestine would be celebrating its 15th anniversary as a country. We are completely aware that at this time both Abbas and Netanyahu are making unreasonable demands that are blocking the peace process.

    What we oppose is one-sided, binary thinking criticizing Israel but never acknowledging the role of the other side in continuing the hostilities. What we oppose is the tendency of some American non-Jews on the left to fixate on opposition to Israel and never consider any other foreign policy issues.

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