In the coming two months we welcome submissions (to me at RabbiLerner.firstname.lastname@example.org) about what and who spiritual progressives should be backing in the coming elections. Tikkun & NSP are precluded from taking stands, but not from allowing readers to take stands. Most of your submissions on this will be put up on our websites–tikkun.org or spiritualprogressives.org. Of course what we seek are reasoned arguments, not diatribes, and arguments that show why you think the spiritual progressives’ worldview could best be served by a given candidate or party. But you don’t have to think “inside the box.” For example, there are some spiritual progressives who argue that the country would have been better off with McCain in 2008, because: McCain would have been under immense pressure from a Democratic Congress to do what a Democratic Congress did not do because Obama was one of their own: a. to end the war in Iraq more quickly than Obama did b. to resist funding any escalation of the war in Afghanistan c. to close Guantanamo and end all forms of torture (a position he actually shared with liberals) d. to oppose way more vigorously the Supreme Court’s overturning his own piece of legislation (McCain-Feingold) that set limits on money in politics . In addition, there would have been no Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party in the spirit of the worst racism and intellectual vacuity we have yet seen in politics. I am not endorsing any of these arguments, but using them to show that when you think about the coming election and write about it in Tikkun, you do not have to be “realistic” in your thinking, just rational.
Below I’m sharing an article sent to us by Uri Avnery on Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand. Like every such article, we do not claim this to be an official Tikkun perspective, but rather an interesting take, in this case from the leader of the most intellectually coherent Israeli peace movement–Gush Shalom.
P.S. If you have any Jewish friends, ask them if they have any Jewish friends in the Bay Area, and if so, would they please tell their friends about Beyt Tikkun Synagogue Without Walls and our High Holy Day services dedicated this year to social justice issues–and led not only by me, but by Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman, two of the most famous and outstanding Jewish thinkers about spirituality and social justice. Plus Rae Abileah, a young woman who has been one of the national leaders of Code Pink who stood up to challenge Benjamin Netanyahu when he spoke at the U.S. Congress (she was pounced on and dragged out by right-wing Jews surrounding her). The details of our service and how to register for them is at http://www.beyttikkun.org/article.php/HHDMain
In this chilling article from Haaretz, Nir Hasson details a brutal attack by a gang of Jewish Israeli youth on three young Palestinians right near the center of Zion Square in Jerusalem. Several suspects have been arrested but the underlying racism in Israeli society that made this possible has not yet been addressed.
As Hasson reports one eyewitness’s account on Facebook,
“It’s late at night, and I can’t sleep. My eyes are full of tears for a good few hours now and my stomach is turning inside out with the question of the loss of humanity, the image of God in mankind, a loss that I am not willing to accept.”
Please take the time to read this article and weigh in on this hugely important topic.
Uri Avnery, veteran Israeli peace activist and chair of Gush Shalom, combines personal recollections with political analysis to give us some idea of what might happen in Syria in the coming years. We in the Network of Spiritual Progressives pray for peace and liberation for the Syrian people, an end to all the violence and the oppression of the monstrous actions of those sending an army against their own civilian poulation (which would require not just the overthrow of Assad but also of the military/judicial/economic/political elites that shape the current regime), internal reconciliation between the many different communities of Syria, and reconciliation with Israel. Here in the article, published originally on Outlook India – excerpt below – Avnery shows us how complicated that may be and how very different it might look from our expectations.
The unity of Egypt, like that of Tunisia and even Libya, after the overthrow of the dictators, is evidence of the national consciousness of these peoples. This is not a given in Syria.
If the Monster of Damascus is finally removed, will Syria survive?
All over the West, and in Israel, pundits gleefully foretell that the country will break into pieces, more or less on the lines of the French colonial precedent.
For the rest of the article, click here.
Stephen Zunes is a Contributing Editor to Tikkun Magazine and professor of political science at the University of San Francisco. His article, “Divesting from All Occupations” comes very, very close to articulating the position on BDS (Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions) held by Tikkun Magazine. We differ only in the following respects:
1. We do not agree that the criterion of what counts as an “Occupation” should be determined in the legalistic way that Zunes derives from international law. The Occupation of Tibet by China and of Chechnya by Russia should count, and there may be other such (India in Kashmir, perhaps?). Ethical considerations should be considered valid in determining what is and is not an “Occupation” when considering BDS.
2. We believe that BDS is also appropriate against any country engaged in prolonged warfare (and hence occupation) in some other country’s territory (the U.S. in Iraq till this year, and in Afghanistan continuing; Sudan in Darfur? Syria in Lebanon for many years, Israel in Lebanon for many years) unless it can make a credible case that failing such an occupation their own country would face occupation by the other.
3. In the case of Israel (or any other country ruled by a group that has a long history of being victims of persecution previous to having a state under its control), I have argued in my book that BDS has the potential negative consequence of increasing the paranoia of that previously persecuted group, which in turn might lead to more oppressive behavior rather than a lifting of the oppressive behavior, and that therefore it is a dangerous (though appropriately non-violent) strategy that should be used very sparingly if at all, and then only in a very targeted way (so, in Israel, I argued in my bookEmbracing Israel Palestine,activists should clearly not targetallIsraeli institutions, but only those specifically involved in enforcing the occupation, and products produced by Israelis living in the West Bank, and firms such as Caterpillar that build equipment that is used to enforce the Occupation and/or the displacement of Palestinians from their homes).
Few Americans understand that “the Occupation” by Israel of the Palestinian people translates into regular violent assaults by Jewish settlers on Palestinian civilians. This story from Ha’aretz by widely respected journalist Amira Hass gives us part of the picture.
Amira Hass, “Lambs to the Settlers’ slaughter, screaming and unheard,” Haaretz, August 5, 2012
There were more than 50 reports of Israelis assaulting Palestinians in the West Bank last month. In the start of a regular series, Haaretz details one particularly violent attack.
As you may know, Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives (www.spiritualprogressives.org) bought a full page ad in the New York Times signed by 3,000 Americans urging both Israel and the U.S. to use the deterrence strategy we used against Stalin’s nuclear-armed Russia during the Cold War to head off nuclear war, namely to assure Iran that if it ever uses its nuclear capacity it would face massive nuclear retaliation. Let Iran have its nukes, just as Israel has its nukes, and India, Pakistan, North Korea, and China have theirs–and lets instead adopt a strategy of generosity (including a Global Marshall Plan –www.tikkun.org/GMP) to end the hostilities, something that might actually be possible were Israel to end the Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza and in a spirit of open-hearted generosity acknowledge its partial (not total) responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem and follow the detailed path put forward in my new book Embacing Israel/Palestine (North Atlantic Books, 2012), and were the U.S. to acknowledge its mistake in supporting the Shah of Iran’s dictatorship and repressive regime toward Muslims. The current leadership in Iran is awful and we hope it is overthrown by its own people, but they are not self-destructive: they want an Islamic society and understand that it would be bombed into smithereens should it ever start a nuclear war. So Israel and the U.S. should take a peace-and-generosity oriented strategy which will undermine the Iranian regime’s hold on its own people, whereas a military assault will force all Iranians to back its repressive government in the name of national pride and solidarity.
Many liberals are describing the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold “Obamacare” as a resounding victory for the president and likely to contribute to his chances for re-election. I don’t see it that way.
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act rally outside the Supreme Court following the ruling to uphold "Obamacare" on June 28, 2012. Credit: Mackie Lopez/SEIU.
Though I am happy about this development and feel we should celebrate these small steps in the right direction, I see this victory as severely limited by a deep flaw within the health reform plan: it requires people to buy health insurance but has no effective way to keep the insurance companies from endless increases in what they charge the public (and then blaming those charges on the fact that they have to cover people who are sick).
For those of you who have not heard the details yet, the Supreme Court ruled today that most of the “Obamacare” plan was constitutional in a 5-4 vote. The majority opinion – penned by ultra-conservative Chief Justice John Roberts – presents a rationale for why the “individual mandate” (the part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires everyone to buy health care and imposes a penalty payment on those who do not, so that they too can contribute to the well-being of everyone who does need health care) is consistent with Roberts’s interpretation of the Constitution. The court also ruled that some states can opt out of parts of the plan.
I’m glad that parts of the plan that were pressingly needed – including its elimination of the right of insurance companies to deny coverage on the basis that the applicant has a “pre-existing condition” and its part allowing coverage in a family plan of children up to the age of twenty-six – have been validated, though they are unlikely to be implemented before 2014. But a truly resounding health care victory would be one that ensures health care for all, without handing more power to private insurance companies.
Both Passover and Easter have a message of liberation and hope for the downtrodden of the earth. Yet too often we fail to see the continuities between the original liberatory messages of these holidays and the contemporary need for liberation and resurrection of the dead parts of our consciousness.
Tikkun has always sought to offer resources for breathing liberatory politics and spiritual aliveness back into the celebration of holidays, from Passover, to Christmas, to the Fourth of July. In our Spring 2012 issue we published our first attempt to craft a Seder addressing the needs of the 99 percent, without excluding those members of the 1 percent who have a generous and open heart and wish to identify with the movements to heal and transform our world toward greater generosity, democracy, equality, and caring for everyone and for the earth. We are not materialist determinists and recognize that one’s income need not necessarily determine one’s ethical commitments!
We are inviting you, our readers, to use some of our ideas in your Easter or Passover celebration, in whatever way feels authentic to you. We’re also hoping that those of you who are neither Christian nor Jewish may use the inspiration you get from reading these ideas as a jumping-off point for creating your own rituals or liturgies to highlight the oppression we are facing in the contemporary world in a way that fits with your own spiritual or religious practice.
Click here for our ideas on how to “Occupy Passover Seders and Easter Gatherings.” This is not meant as a replacement for the traditional Passover Haggadah, but rather as a supplement to it.
"Cruxifixion" by Theophanes the Cretan. Credit: Creative Commons.
It is our view that almost every surviving religious or spiritual tradition has a great deal to teach us all, and some things that we may not accept. Good Friday and Easter have meant a great deal of different things to different people. For centuries this was an occasion on which Christians would gather to attack Jews for allegedly killing the Son of God. Yet today, a new group of Christians is bringing out core wisdom that is based on an ethos of love and caring for every human being. One of those is Rev. Stephen Phelps, a Network of Spiritual Progressives member and gifted teacher who is currently the pastor at the Riverside Church in New York. He has given us permission to share with you a teaching he delivered last year on Good Friday. Best wishes for a spiritually deep Good Friday and Easter to all our Christian readers!
The Sent-Down Man
A Good Friday sermon by Rev. Stephen H. Phelps on Luke 14: 7-11
“For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done toyou … If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
Will Christianity pass away? Will some other religion or philosophy take its place? You hear such questions from time to time. The so-called “new atheists” like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins aim to inspire readers with the hope that all religions might soon join the dinosaurs in extinction. At the other extreme, television preachers still fill your ears with their bombast, sure that the glory of their “true church” will never pass from the earth. I don’t know about that. A scripture says that “nothing will be impossible with God.” On the question whether God will keep God’s savings in the church forever, we might better err on the side of caution.
On March 7, when we published our New York Times ad against a U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran, we suggested that one step to implement a “strategy of generosity” as an alternative to the current “strategy of domination” would be for Israel to offer Palestinians a reasonable deal (as defined in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine), which would include helping Palestinians create an economically and politically viable state. One commentator, the hawkish foreign policy writer for The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, said that our raising the issue of Israel/Palestine was “stupid” because to him it was obvious that there was no possible connection.
But our point is that demonizing of Israel, made easy by its occupation of the West Bank and aggressive militarism, makes it possible for the tyrants in Iran and their allies in Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas to deflect attention from the evils of their own regimes by pointing to the hurtful things being done by Israel. An attack on Iran, we believe, will be used to undermine the “green revolution” that has been partially suppressed by the fundamentalists in Iran already, but which would be forced to join under the leadership of the mullahs to “defend the nation” against these attacks from Israel or the U.S.
Conversely, if Israel were to settle with the Palestinians in an obviously generous, open-hearted, and repentant way, and the U.S. were to launch a Global Marshall Plan, the Iranian dictatorship, the Syrian dictators, Hezbollah, and Hamas would have a very difficult time maintaining the loyalty of their own people. It is not because we support these regimes that we oppose a military response, but because we know that the best and probably only way that a “regime change” can take place is if the people of those countries rebel from inside.