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Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi Michael Lerner




After Paris: Say No to the Militarists and Fear-Mongers, Yes to a Strategy of Generosity

Nov15

by: on November 15th, 2015 | 10 Comments »

For many years, we at Tikkun and the NSP–Network of Spiritual Progressives have warned that the domination and power-over strategies to achieve “homeland security” have been tried for over 7,000 years and all they have produced is more wars and violence, interspersed with short periods of peace that have, with the help of media and professional apologists for the existing inequalities, managed to hide from public view the degree of covert structural violence that every system of inequality and domination has required.

We have called for a new approach to “homeland security” – the Strategy of Generosity, as manifested in part in our proposed Global Marshall Plan (please download the full version and read it carefully at www.tikkun.org/gmp). It calls for the US to take the leadership with other advanced industrial societies to dedicate 1-2% of their Gross Domestic Product each year for the next twenty years to once and for all eliminate (not just ameliorate) domestic and global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate health care. But it is not only about giving this “objective caring” in the form of economic benefits but also about delivering subjective caring–so that people feel that this is not a bribe but an expression of a new consciousness emerging into the world. Until the powerful countries of the world are seen as mainly driven by a desire to care for the well-being of everyone else on the planet and the wellbeing of the planet itself, and to do so not only out of self-interest but also out of a new consciousness in which we all come to truly understand our mutual interdependence and oneness, what we saw in Paris this past week is destined to be an increasing reality in the coming decades.

The more fear of “the Other,” the more resentment and anger those others will have toward us, and the cycle of violence will become more a part of daily life not only where it already is (mostly in the countries of the Global South and East), but also in the advanced industrial countries. As fear grows, fascistic and racist right-wing forces will grow more popularity, their anti-immigrant policies will be portrayed as “common sense,” their empowering of domestic intelligence forces to invade our private lives will receive greater support, because people will never have heard an alternative path to security as supposedly liberal leaders seek to show that they too can be “tough.” Yet for those of us in the spiritual or religious world, the Torah command to “love the stranger” still resonates, and we could build a very different popular understanding if secular progressives and religious progressives were to unite behind the strategy of generosity rather than simply focusing on resisting the policies of the right.

People need to hear an alternative worldview about what brings on the violence and hurtfulness they see around them in this world. It is only when the people who want a world based on love and justice are willing to explicitly use those words, to explicitly and not just implicitly talk about a strategy of generosity as the alternative to the strategy of domination and fear, that others will feel safe to reconnect to that part of them that actually wants such a world but was afraid to look foolish in a society whose discourse is dominated by the need to show how tough you are to be taken seriously. Healing of our world requires psycho-spiritual sophistication to combat media cynicism and miltarist fear-mongering.

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Obama and Netanyahu: A bad deal for peace, for Israel, for Palestine and for the U.S.

Nov10

by: on November 10th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

OBAMA NETANYAHU

Editor’s Note: Though I published this in the Huffington Post before the meeting, the outcome was exactly as predicted. Netanyahu affirmed his “commitment” to a two state solution, which he has said for years as he continues to expand Israeli settlement in Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and continues with a cabinet filled with overt racists against Palestinians and other refugees. Obama promised him huge new military hardware, as predicted. Netanyahu is paid off for being obnoxious toward the President and arrogant toward the Palestinian people (the latter being the ultimate losers in all this). Of course, I have compassion for Obama, see him as a decent human being, just as I have compassion for the Jewish people still so dominated by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and seeing the Palestinians through the framework of our past suffering. But unless the rest of us can find a way to heal our Jewish people, the suffering of the Palestinians will continue, as will the growing anger at Jews who are increasingly perceived (unfairly) as having given the Israelis a blank check to do whatever they want to the Palestinian people. My solution can be found in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine www.tikkun.org/eip .

When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama meet in the White House today, their goal will be to make amends in light of Netanyahu’s unprecedented attempts to manipulate the U.S. Congress and the American public into opposition to the Iran Nuclear deal negotiated by six countries including the U.S.

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TPP finally revealed–a disaster. Take action against it.

Nov6

by: on November 6th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

We at Tikkun’s Network of Spiritual Progressives are part of the Citizens Trade Campaign coalition of forces that have challenged the Clinton Administration and now the Obama Administration in their proclivity to  create trade policies that are destructive to the environment and to the well being of working people here and around the world. The latest such is the Trans-Pacific Partnership which, while having some positive aspects, would restrict countries from passing important environmental and health care related legislation that might interfere with corporate profits. This latest effort to give multinational corporations powers that supersede the powers of national governments is one more reason we need the ESRA–Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ESRA would, among many other important measures,  overturn any such international agreement that has been approved by the U.S. government or will be approved in the future–please help us get it endorsed after you read it at www.tikkun.org/esra. 

Rabbi Michael Lerner issued the following response about the newly released full version of the TPP:

The TPP agreement violates a basic command of the Bible: that human beings must protect and act as stewards for the earth. Instead, it provides a path for corporations to overturn the most moderate environmental restraints on corporate avarice, much less the far more stringent actions that environmentalists tell us are needed to even begin to reverse climate change and preserve the earth for future generations. This is selfishness and materialism taken to a new height, and every religious communityu should stand up against it.

–Rabbi Michael Lerner  Editor, Tikkun Magazine (winner of the mainstream media Religion Newswriters Association “Best Magazine of the Year” Award in 2014 and again in 2015)

 

Here’s the message we received from the Citizens Trade Campaign which is coordinating this effort:

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Stop the Killing in Israel and Palestine: A Prayer, Analysis & Strategy

Oct16

by: on October 16th, 2015 | 8 Comments »

A prayer and an analysis from Tikkun/NSP (please post this on your social media and your web page, tweet about it, and circulate it widely–you have our permission)

THE PRAYER:
As we watch in horror as violence in Israel and Palestine escalates and there continues to be needless and senseless killings, we offer a prayer of love, compassion and strength.

May Israelis and Palestinians find the love that resides deep in their hearts and pulses through all of us, the love that cries to us from the loving energy of the universe to love the “Other,” the “Stranger.” This is a love that can be hard to access and find and yet it is a never-ending, all pervasive love that encourages and calls us to stand-up for the well-being of each other, for the security of all, for justice for all, for peace. May the Israelis and Palestinians use this well-spring of love to overcome their fears and stand for a new future.

May the Israelis and Palestinians find the compassion that lives in each person but that is often suppressed in times of fear and anger and learn to ask the questions that so many seem afraid to ask. What would cause a young man or woman to kill a stranger? What fear, what sorrow, what pain lurks in the dark crevasses of their hearts? How can we begin to heal the pain, the sorrow, the loss? Where can we start?

May the Israelis and Palestinians access the strength that permeates the roots of Mother Earth and embolden them to demand a different future. To cross divides and build bridges that flow with human beings coming together opening their hearts to each other with generosity and love and work together towards peace and reconciliation.

We bow our heads in sorrow, in grief, in angst and even in rage that innocent lives are being lost on all sides and pray for a healing and reconciliation.

This prayer was written by Cat Zavis, the Executive Director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives

THE ANALYSIS:
So where did all this violence in Israel and Palestine come from? Where shall we start? If you want the big historical picture from 1880 to the present moment, you’ll get two very different narratives depending on who is telling it. In my book Embracing Israel/PalestineI try to tell the story in a way that is sympathetic to each side, and critical of each side. The truth is that each side has at times been cruel and unreasonable toward the other.

But if you focus on the past few decades, the reality is that both people are currently suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder–the Jewish people from the trauma of living as a homeless people for some 1700 years, many in a Christian Europe that blamed us for killing their messiah/god or in Muslim countries in apartheid-like powerlessness, eventually culminating in the murder of one out of every three Jews alive at the time from 1939-1945; and the Palestinian people from the Naqba or disaster of having 800,000 driven from their land in 1948 during Israel’s war for independence and then those who remained being conquered in 1967 and living under Occupation or blockade ever since for the past 48 years. While the Israeli army has been occupying the West Bank, what in 1948 was originally in 1948 800,000 Palestinian refugees living in exile have grown to 4 million, many of them living in some of the worst conditions anywhere on the planet, often treated horribly by the Arab countries where they live in refugee camps. Meanwhile, Israel has provided economic and political incentives to Jewish Israelis to move to the West Bank, build settlements there that, under the protection of the Israeli army, have seized Arab lands and expanded and appropriated the water resources while Arab Palestinians have had desperate water shortages. Many of them go not because they want to oppress Palestinians but because they can live in comfortable villas on the hills overlooking Palestinian villages in comfort they could not possibly afford elsewhere in Israel. But once there, most refuse to listen to the stories of Palestinian suffering, and their role in sustaining that, instead, like most Israelis, stuck in the stories of past Jewish suffering, and seeing themselves as victims rather than as perpetrators. PTSD clouds the vision of even the most decent among them.


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Mazal Tov on Overcoming the Fearful & the War Mongers on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Sep17

by: on September 17th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Thank you so very much for your help in making it possible for the the major powers of the world, the U.N. and most of the people of the world to confirm the deal with Iran which will prevent them from developing nuclear weapons for the next ten to fifteen years.

Your support for the Tikkun position, (a position we articulated in full page ads we bought in the NY Times, the Hill magazine read by most Congressional people and staffers), plus your willingness to share your reasons for supporting the nuclear deal, eventually became part of a powerful surge of voices that created the context critical to the ability of Democratic Senators to feel that they could reject the pressure from the right-wing of the Jewish world, represented by AIPAC, The Conference of Presidents of Major (sic) Jewish Organizations, the American Jewish Congress, and many local Jewish Federations and synagogues and instead embrace a deal which, while flawed in some ways, was far better than any achievable alternative. (See, sometimes us little guys can make a difference if we pool our energies and resources.)

 

It was sad for us to see the Reform movement in Judaism unable to take a stand on this issue–the movement that had once proudly proclaimed itself a voice for tikkun olam, but we can have compassion for the leadership that feared it might lose some of its support in being in favor of a deal that raised fears among many Jews who had been influenced by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s manipulation of PTSD flashbacks from the Holocaust. Yet this is the same reason why so many Jewish leaders and rabbis fail to take courageous stands countering Israel’s horrendous treatment of the Palestinian people, behavior in sharp violation of the Torah’s commands “Do Not Oppress the Stranger/the Other.” The excuse of fear of breaking your organization apart or losing some of their supporters starts to wear thin, don’t you think, as we approach the 50th year of Occupation (in 2017)? It would be great if American Jews could push for an end to the Occupation (not just for less abuses inside the Occupation) with a focus on demanding that it be ended by 2017. And, as in the campaign for the nuclear treaty, such a campaign would necessarily require powerful involvement of non-Jews and the next President of the U.S. so check to see if your candidate, whoever that might be, would join such a campaign (the terms of a peace treaty to end the Occupation are spelled out in detail in my book Embracing israel/Palestine which you can get on Kindle from Amazon.com or in print from www.tikkun.org/eip).

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The Best Way to Deal with ISIS

Sep17

by: on September 17th, 2015 | 14 Comments »

Editor’s note:  The two perspectives articulated by Uri Avnery and Rabbi Arthur Waskow below deserve to be well known and discussed. We at Tikkun have a slightly different approach: we believe that the hate-filled and barbarous approach of ISIS will continue to manifest in a world that is fundamentally unjust, creates huge amounts of suffering in daily life for at least 2 of the 7 billion people on the planet, and privileges military power over kindness in its expenditures of money and in the organization of nation states. We have long argued that what we need is to convince the Western powers to privilege generosity over domination, and to launch as a first step in this process a Global Marshall Plan to once and for all eliminate global poverty, hunger, homelessness, inadequate education and health care, repair the global environment, resettle refugees, and eliminate the unjust global trade arrangements (read our proposed version at www.tikkun.org/gmp).  Yet Uri Avnery and Arthur Waskow, both strong allies of Tikkun, have proposals which differ from our approach and from each other, though because they fit into the “realistic” dialogue of power politics both might be achieved sooner than our plan, though Arthur’s seems much closer to us precisely because it does not envision the direct use of force but only the power of the US to implement it.  In my view, it is more likely to get the US population behind a fundamental change in worldview called for by the Strategy of Generosity than to get a piecemeal acceptance of Iran as an ally in the Middle East reconciled to Israel, unless we were simultaneously challenging the notion that their security depends on power over enemies (the Strategy of Domination). But these are the kinds of debates that ought to be taking place in national elections in 2016, so you decide if any of the candidates are even approaching this level of discourse on foreign policy—and if not, what you could do to get them to address this kind of discussion. Rabbi Waskow and Uri Avnery present important ideas for your consideration.  –Rabbi Michael Lerner   rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com

 

Uri Avnery

September 12, 2015

 

                                                The Real Menace

 

I AM AFRAID.

I am not ashamed to admit it. I am afraid.

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All Should Be Repenting for the Suffering of the Refugees

Sep9

by: on September 9th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

This article appeared on the Huffington Post home page column this morning (Sept 9th), view the original here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-michael-lerner/we-all-should-be-repentin_b_8109612.html

As we watch millions of refugees struggling to survive, hundreds of thousands of them seeking refuge in a Europe which has by and large shut its doors to them, it is all too easy for those in the U.S. to piously implore the Europeans to do more. Or for the U.S. government to take in a few thousand of them.

Most Americans seem completely blind to the way that we have played a major role in creating the problem, and have a major responsibility to fix it. Instead, many Americans are rallying behind Donald Trump and other Republican politicians who are competing with each other on who can be more ruthless toward our own domestic refugees who came to the U.S. without official government sanction.

Few Americans realize that there was no major refugee problem until the 1990s. Here’s what happened since then to change the world:

1. The U.S. got involved in Middle East wars, eventually overthrowing Saddam Hussein and throwing out of government and the Iraqi army leadership everyone associated with Saddam’s Sunni Muslim allies. Those thus disempowered began a war with the U.S. occupying forces which the U.S. pursued with torture at Guantanamo and at many torture locations around the world and in Iraq. Millions of Iraqis fled their homes. Eventually Americans’ patience with that ongoing war led to the decision to leave the area.

Not surprisingly, many of those who had felt resentful at the U.S.–and resentful at the Shiite government that the US empowered and left behind in Iraq, and which continued to oppress Sunni Muslims–created the preconditions for popular acceptance of ISIS with its ruthless treatment of Iraqis and Syrians whom they deemed as enemies, making it unsafe for vast swaths of the Iraqi and Syrian populations.

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A Letter of Apology

Aug13

by: on August 13th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Dear Friends of Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives,

I apologize for the drawing that accompanies my editorial “War With Iran: The Disastrous Aim of Israel and the Republicans” in which I critique Netanyahu and his allies in Israel and in the American Jewish community, who are opposing the nuclear deal with Iran. The drawing depicts U.S. and Iranian diplomats negotiating at a table. Under the platform on which the negotiators sit, a figure representing Congress is sawing away and will likely soon succeed in defeating the attempt to find a peaceful way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. All fine and appropriate. But then in the hands of that figure representing Congress is a sack of money with a Jewish star on it. I can’t remember seeing that when I was shown a much smaller version of this drawing and approved it, but when I saw it next to my editorial I was shocked and deeply upset.

The implication of that drawing is that somehow it is Jewish money that is bribing the Congress to oppose the deal: a little figure on the side looking like a duck says, “The best Congress that money can buy,” which in the context of the money bag with a Jewish star seems to indicate that Jewish money is behind the whole problem. To me, this is reviving an ancient and distorted anti-Semitic trope that I detest: that Jews have all the money and that they use it for nefarious purposes.

In this very same issue ofTikkun, placed in one of the most highly visible places (inside the front cover), I wrote a statement saying, “Anti-Semitism is Always Wrong.” There, I explain why criticism of Israeli policies and policies of right-wing American Jews is appropriate, but it is inappropriate to blame the entire Jewish people for these ethical errors, and doing so is racist and unacceptable. So imagine my dismay when I saw this drawing – for me it evokes Nazi propaganda against Jews.


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Jews Respond with Anger and Despair at Israeli Murders of Palestinian and Gay Victims

Aug7

by: on August 7th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Editor’s Note:

Flickr: zeevveez

Faced with the horrendous crimes of an ultra-orthodox Jew stabbing participants in a gay pride demonstration in Israel, and the firebombing of Palestinian homes and resulting burning to death of an 18 month old Palestinian baby while others in the family are in critical condition and may not survive, many Israelis and American Jews denounced these horrendous acts. Netanyahu and his government ordered a few Israeli settlers arrested in “administrative detention,” the polite word to describe the practice which till now has been used against thousands of Palestinian civilians–arrest without formal charges, often held in detention for months or more without trial, and in the case of Palestinians often tortured. The Israeli settlers arrested did not face what most Palestinians “suspected” of terrorist acts usually suffer: the homes of the family of the suspect are immediately blown up by the occupying Israeli Army in the West Bank. That no such punishment was immediately meted out to the Israeli settler suspects was not surprising, but just another manifestation of the racist treatment Palestinians in the Occupied territory face (though of course we don’t support this tactic against settlers or Palestinians). As many Israeli human rights and peace advocates point out, the firebombing of Palestinian homes is just one of many variants of violence visited upon Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, the goal being to make life so difficult that Palestinians will eventually be “ethnically cleansed” and Israel can make the West Bank a fully Jewish-majority part of Israel. I should hasten to add that most West Bank settlers do not participate in acts of violence, though they overwhelmingly vote for extremist right-wing political parties whose policies are racist and whose goals are not fundamentally dissimilar to those of their violent West Bank settler neighbors.

For us at Tikkun, all this has left us stunned, saddened, repenting for these horrific crimes on the part of our people, and all the more determined to insist on the need to end the Occupation and create an economically and politically viable Palestinian state, while purging our own peple of the hatred and racism that too many Israelis and their American Jewish allies have been willing to ignore, apologize for, or deny. On the other hand, the attack on homosexuals, equally outrageous and horrendous, does not flow from the policies of the State of Israel, which have been friendly to gays and lesbians in the past decade, but rather from the homophobic perspective of the ultra-orthodox community. Until those attitudes are purged from the orthodox world, gays and lesbians will face oppressive treatment in those communities. As I argued in my book Jewish Renewal, the anti-gay texts in the Torah can be reinterpreted in the same spirit that led the rabbis to redefine all the commands for animal sacrifices to be understood as really commands to pray (avodah zeh hu teffillah). Where there is a communal will there is a Hallakhic way, so just as Jewish religious law has evolved on many other issues, so it can follow the rulings of Conservative Movement in Judaism and make changes in their understanding of Torah on this issue–if the will to stamp out homophobia prevails, as it should.

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Readers Respond to Our Conference Call with Obama

Aug6

by: on August 6th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

On July 30th, the Tikkun and Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) community, along with a variety of other groups, was invited to a conference call with President Obama. During the call he spoke about the nuclear agreement reached with Iran and urged us to become active in supporting that deal in light of the ferocious opposition of the Republicans, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and many national American Jewish organizations. President Obama referenced the failure of peace-oriented people to stop the disastrous war in Iraq and urged us to become visibly engaged in supporting this agreement, which he said would prevent the only other possible alternative for those who want a denuclearized Iran, namely a war with Iran.

Of course, I had hoped that there would be a chance to engage directly with Obama, but he simply continued to do what he has done ever since we helped to elect him, namely talk tous but not with us. Still, many members of our Tikkun and NSP community tuned in for the talk and then sent their responses to me. Below is a representative sample of what I received in the ensuing hours.

- Rabbi Michael Lerner

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