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Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi Lerner is head editor of Tikkun Magazine.

Can Syria Remain Unified If/When Assad Falls?


by: on August 10th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

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.


Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions: Opposing Occupations Everywhere (NOT just Israel)


by: on August 7th, 2012 | Comments Off

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).


Underreported Violence Continues in the West Bank


by: on August 7th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

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.

Israelis Call for Caution as War Drums Rev Up


by: on August 7th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

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.


Why the Affordable Care Act Will Not Remedy the U.S. Health Crisis


by: on June 28th, 2012 | 5 Comments »

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.


Occupy Passover Seders and Easter Gatherings


by: on April 6th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

Seder Plate

Credit: iStockPhoto/RonAndJoe.

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.

Reflections on Good Friday


by: on April 6th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

"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.


My Response to News That Iran Advised Assad to “Blame Israel”


by: on March 14th, 2012 | 16 Comments »

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.


The Devastating Impact of Israeli Insensitivity


by: on March 7th, 2012 | 11 Comments »

David Grossman is one of the greatest Israeli novelists and his sensitivity to the nuances of daily life in Israel is exquisite. For those who don’t understand how far Israeli racism toward Arabs has led that country away from traditional values, just read his latest article (translated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service) and contrast it with the Torah perspective articlated in Deuteronomy Chapter 21 sentences 1-9:

Omar Abu Jariban, a resident of the Gaza Strip, staying illegally in Israel, stole a car and was seriously injured while driving it. He was released from the Sheba Medical Centre while his treatment was still ongoing and handed over to the custody of the Rehovot Police station. The police were unable to identify him. He himself was bewildered and confused. The Rehovot Police officers decided to get rid of him. According to Chaim Levinson’s account, they loaded him onto a police van at night accompanied by three policemen. He was still attached to a catheter, was wearing an adult nappy and a hospital gown. Two days later he was found dead by the roadside.


We Did It! Check Out Our NY Times Ad Against War with Iran


by: on March 7th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

Today, our ad saying “No” to a first strike (preemptive attack) by either Israel or the U.S. on Iran appeared in the New York Times (in the National Edition it is on page A19).

The media has distorted what has been going on between Obama and Netanyahu, representing it as Obama standing up to Netanyahu and being a hero for peace. But actually what happened is that Obama legitimated a first strike and preemptive attack on Iran, arguing with Netanyahu about the timing of such an attack, seeking to allow coercive economic sanctions to work first, but stating explicitly that Israel should not be constrained in any way to follow what it decides to be in its best national interest in regard to a strike on Iran. That’s why AIPAC gave him a standing ovation when Obama addressed them a few days ago.