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Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category

Bal Taschit: What’s Wrong With the Jewish Law Against Destruction and Waste — and How to Fix It


by: David Seidenberg on September 8th, 2016 | 5 Comments »

[Managing Editor's note: The spirit of David Seidenberg's insightful Torah commentary (below) is directly related to The Environmental & Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a call by The Network of Spiritual Progressives for a radical change in policy about how corporations interact with the environment. Join us at www.spiritualprogressives.org.]

Commentary on this week’s Torah portion – Shoftim

In Deuteronomy, we encounter one of the deepest principles in Jewish law: “When you lead a siege against a city many days … you may not destroy any tree of hers, to hew an ax against it, for from it you will eat, and you may not cut it off! Is the tree of the field a person, to come before you in the siege? Only a tree that you know is not a tree for food, that one you may destroy and cut off, and build siegeworks …” (20:19-20)

For the rabbis and later codes, the rule not to destroy fruit trees in war became an overarching principle, “do not destroy,” bal tashchit. If even in a time of war one could not destroy fruit trees, all the more should one not destroy or waste anything under normal circumstances.

Mainstream Jewish environmentalism in the early days began and ended as a paean to bal tashchit, the prohibition against destroying anything. How far have we come in Jewish environmentalism and ecotheology in the past forty-plus years? How we interpret the prohibition of bal tashchit is a good litmus test. Here’s why:


When Iraq Expelled Its Jews to Israel – The Inside Story


by: Edwin Black on September 7th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

After Hitler’s defeat in May 1945, many Nazis melted away from the Reich, smuggled out by such organizations as the infamous Odessa group and the lesser-known Catholic lay network Intermarium, as well as the CIA and KGB. They ensured the continuation of the Nazi legacy in the postwar Arab world.

Egypt was a prime destination for German Nazi relocation in the Arab world. Dr. Aribert Heim was notoriously known as “Dr. Death” for his grotesque pseudo-medical experiments on Jewish prisoners in the Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, and Mauthausen concentration camps. He was fond of surgical procedures including organ removals without anesthesia, injecting gasoline into prisoners to observe the manner of death, and decapitating Jews with healthy teeth so he could cook the skulls clean to make desk decorations. Dr. Heim converted to Islam and became “Uncle Tarek” Hussein Farid in Cairo, Egypt, where he lived a happy life as a medical doctor for the Egyptian police.

Two of Goebbels’s Nazi propagandists, Alfred Zingler and Dr. Johann von Leers, became Mahmoud Saleh and Omar Amin respectively, working in the Egyptian Information Department. In 1955, Zingler and von Leers helped establish the virulently anti-Semitic Institute for the Study of Zionism in Cairo. Hans Appler, another Goebbels propagandist, became Saleh Shafar who, in 1955, became an expert for an Egyptian unit specializing in anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist hate propaganda. Erich Altern, a Gestapo agent, Himmler coordinator in Poland, and expert in Jewish affairs became Ali Bella, working as a military instructor in training camps for Palestinian terrorists. A German newspaper estimated there were fully 2,000 Nazis working openly and under state protection in Egypt.


Tikkun’s Interview with Dr. Jill Stein


by: Rabbi Michael Lerner and Ari Bloomekatz on September 7th, 2016 | 5 Comments »

Conducted by Tikkun Editor Rabbi Michael Lerner and Tikkun Managing Editor Ari Bloomekatz in August, 2016.



I’m feeling so much appreciation for your work here as I look over some of your website and some of the really important things you’ve been talking about forever.



Thank you, Jill. As you know, Tikkun is a 501-c-3 nonprofit, and contributions to make Tikkun able to continue to function are tax-deductible. So we are not allowed by IRS rules to endorse a candidate or be identified with a candidate or, a political party. So we will continue to seek to interview other major candidates and have requested interviews with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Could you help our readers differentiate what you stand for from what Bernie Sanders stands for? And if there isn’t a difference, why don’t you run in the Democratic Party where your voice might have much greater impact because of their access to the media?


5 Things the Sanders Revolution is Not


by: Anthony D'Agostino on September 6th, 2016 | No Comments »

The next President of the United States will not be a self-described democratic socialist at the head of a political revolution.  Bernie Sanders and his supporters will close ranks and work for a Clinton victory, at any rate, an estimated 80% of them who will follow his lead.  This does not in any way reduce the significance of the Sanders vote in the 2016 Democratic primaries.  It represents something close to half of the Democratic vote and something like ¾ of the Democratic voters under 30 years of age.  Over a million of Sanders supporters cheered him on in rallies in nearly every state.  When this is taken together with the evidence of similar expressions throughout Western Europe and other parts of the world, it becomes clear that the dialogue on the left and center left in American politics has been fundamentally changed, perhaps permanently.  We now have a social democratic movement capable of quickly becoming a majority and leading a government.  It will seem to be submerged for a time; it will only express itself in a small grouping of personalities in Congress; it may only cause a ripple or two in the Congressional election of 2018; it may only indirectly affect the actions of the next administration.  Yet candidates will know from now on that they can appeal to a set of ideas similar to the ones that were aired in the primaries this year and that there will be a constituency ready to listen to them.  The emergence of social democracy is now a fact of life.


What would an Economy for the Common Good look like?


by: Christian Felber and Gus Hagelberg on September 4th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

The Economy for the Common Good (ECG) is an international movement which started in October 2010 on the initiative of a dozen companies in Austria. Presently over 2000 companies support the ECG and over 100 local chapters are working with businesses, governments and civil society. It is a holistic, alternative economic model which envisions a free market economy, in which the common good is the ultimate goal of economic activity.


An Exchange Between Wendy Somerson and Yotam Marom on Anti-Semitism in the Left and the Jewish Left


by: Wendy Elisheva Somerson and Yotam Marom on September 2nd, 2016 | 7 Comments »

[Editor's note: The article below by Wendy Elisheva Somerson was written in response to an article Tikkun published on our website a week ago written by Yotam Marom titled Toward the Next Jewish Rebellion: Facing Anti-Semitism and Assimilation in the Movement. We published that long article because it is relevant (though not written as a direct response to) a vigorous debate now taking place in progressive Jewish circles about how to think about an alliance with The Movement for Black Lives in light of its recent platform that included as one of its elements the claim that Israel is engaging in "genocide" against the Palestinian people, but also because it addresses the larger question of how to deal with anti-Semitism in the Left and in the consciousness of some leftist Jews who may have unconsciously internalized the anti-Semitism in the movement in order to protect their status as "loyal allies" to the Left as a whole, and in this case, to the section of the struggle against racism that has the label "Black Lives Matters" (though that is only a small section of the larger anti-racist movements in the US.). To understand Somerson more fully, it makes sense to first read Yotam Marom's original piece, which you'll find athttp://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/toward-the-next-jewish-rebellion-facing-anti-semitism-and-assimilation-in-the-movement. After reading that piece and then Somerson's response, please also read the response from Marom included below! It's an important discussion, and as Somerson points out, one done for "the sake of heaven."]

Arguing for the Sake of Heaven: Toward an Accountable Jewish Liberation

by Wendy Elisheva Somerson

We should always be wary about people who claim to summarize “the Jewish people” whether they are anti-Semitic or trying to elevate Jews in certain ways. Let’s assume we are a complex people,and that makes us very much like other people. – Judith Butler

I was excited to dig into Yotam Marom’s lengthy piece, “Toward the Next Jewish Rebellion: Facing Anti-Semitism and Assimilation in the Movement” after so many of my Lefty Jewish friends posted it on social media. As a fellow Jewish activist, I also long for Jewish culture to be visible in our social justice movements. But when I actually read his piece, I was disappointed because Marom conflates Jews with the State of Israel at a time when we should be doing everything we can to separate the two.


Good News for the Monkey in the Middle


by: Michael Zimmerman on September 2nd, 2016 | No Comments »

On a summer night in 2001, I stopped along Hebron Street to take in the view. To the east was the densely populated hillside of Silwan, where Jewish settlers were pressuring Palestinian residents to vacate, as part of an ongoing campaign of harassment. To my west rose another cluster of hillside residences in West Jerusalem, where Holocaust survivors built a new life in a Jewish homeland, protected from the terrors they had escaped in Europe.

To the east, a people trying to carve a life for themselves amidst the ongoing persecution and injustice of the Occupation. To the west, a people trying to carve a life for themselves after surviving the Third Reich now live in fear of the next suicide bomb.

Between them, I stood alone on Hebron Street: a visitor, an outsider, a monkey in the middle.

As the decades of Occupation dragged along, bringing misery to Palestinians and terror to Israelis, I was home on the other side of the globe, powerless to change the status quo and shouted down by both sides. I was the monkey in the middle. There are two narratives of suffering at the hands of the other. Neither contains the whole truth, but each holds countless stories of murdered loved ones, being the target of violent hatred, misunderstood and abandoned by the rest of the world. Both carry a long list of injustices by the other, thwarted attempts to seek peace, and irrefutable justifications for retribution or self-defense.


LA Jews for Peace Endorses the Platform of The Movement for Black Lives and Demands Gov. Brown Veto AB-2844


by: Dick Platkin and Jeff Warner on September 2nd, 2016 | 1 Comment »

[Managing Editor's note: In two separate statements issued in the last month, the group LA Jews for Peace endorsed the platform of the Movement for Black Lives and demanded California Gov. Jerry Brown veto AB-2844. Like almost everything we post on Tikkun Daily, these statements do not necessarily reflect Tikkun's official stances. For those positions, please refer to the editorials in the print magazine.]


LA Jews for Peace Endorses the

Platform of The Movement for Black Lives

LA Jews for Peace endorses “A Vision for Black Lives, Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom, and Justice,” the platform of The Movement for Black Lives. The Platform is a strong and comprehensive statement for social, racial, political, and economic justice. We would very much like to live in the society it describes. We also note that some Jewish groups have criticized the Platform as anti-Israel. Their critique centers on three issues:

  • The Platform endorses Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The Jewish American establishment objects to the platform because they assert BDS’s goal is to destroy Israel. We disagree. Thousands of Jewish and other Americans support BDS as non-violent economic pressure on Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. They are not out to destroy Israel, and their BDS activities would stop when Israel ends its occupation and allows Palestinians to regain their political, human, and economic rights. This is why LA Jews for Peace urges the U.S. government to place comprehensive sanctions on Israel until it makes peace with Palestine, similar to the sanctions it placed on South Africa to end apartheid.
  • The Platform characterizes Israel as an apartheid state.This is obviously true. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Jews and Palestinians live totally apart and are subject to separate laws – Jews under Israeli civic law and Palestinians under military law. Jewish communities receive massive state infrastructure support while Palestinian community state support is extremely limited. Within Israel there are over 50 discriminatory laws that restrict Palestinian, but not Jewish, life. This is the definition of apartheid, an Afrikaans word meaning separation.
  • The Platform states that “genocide [is] taking place against the Palestinian people.”That is a false assertion. Israel is not committing mass extermination; rather it extrajudicially executes Palestinians; uses disproportionate force to attack Palestinian homes, civil, commercial, and municipal buildings like schools and hospitals; and expropriates private land and resources. There are more Palestinians alive today, and they comprise nearly half of the population under direct and indirect Israeli control, but their living standards and prospects have been destroyed.


Make War on War


by: Maurice Sher on September 2nd, 2016 | No Comments »

Our father, Maurice Sher, wrote only one opinion column during his lifetime (1917-2004). It was originally published in 2001 on the Common Dreams website and is reprinted below. We think his analysis was prescient and is even more relevant today. The upcoming election offers opportunities to lessen the number and power of ‘hawks’, who keep supporting military actions having little chance of producing the lasting peace our father advocated. Our votes and our voices can, and should, be used to counter the increasing willingness to express and act out of fear and hatred of the ‘other’. There is merit in the alternative envisioned by this ‘ordinary’ WWII soldier. He experienced the hell of war and returned home damaged, but always hoping the world’s people would see and treat one another more justly and compassionately.

- Chuck and Jonathan Sher

As a World War II veteran who served in the South Pacific, I know the horror of war first-hand. Our great victory in that “good” war should not be twisted into the inspiration for massive military action now. President Bush, Congress and world leaders must root out terrorists everywhere, but not wipe out ordinary people anywhere.While I am outraged by the terrorist attacks, I ask the US government not to compound the tragedy. As a proud US citizen and as a US Army war veteran, I must speak up and tell our nation’s leaders: “Don’t perpetuate the cycle of violence.” Bringing terrorists to justice must not become to excuse to wage a wholesale war against Islamic nations and Muslim people around the world (including here at home) — the vast majority of whom are as innocent as everyone murdered at the World Trade Center. As a Jew, I am all too familiar with the world’s willingness to demonize and try to destroy whole groups of people on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity or nationality. There already has been a grotesque slaughter of the innocents around the world and across the centuries. It is time for it to stop.

That’s where America’s role and response become most important. September 11th marks the end of one era in American history. As the world’s only superpower, the ball is largely in our court. Will we respond to the causes of terrorism, as well as to its awful effects? How can President Bush even hope to win a war against an elusive enemy that, like a cancer, has spread its tentacles everywhere around the world and across America? Where will Congress send our soldiers, our battleships and our war planes — in other words, where can we unleash our unquestioned military might without doing far more harm than good? How should America deal with these dilemmas?


On Community and Conscience: Jewish Allyship and the Movement for Black Lives


by: Lena Shapiro on September 1st, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Managing Editor’s note: As we have noted many times, the articles posted on Tikkun Daily do not necessarily reflect the official positions or attitudes of Tikkun. You can read our official positions in the editorials of the print versionof Tikkun magazine (available by subscription atwww.tikkun.org/subscribe). We also encourage readers to visit the special section of www.tikkun.org called “Political Vision & Spiritual Wisdom” where Rabbi Michael Lerner includes many ofhis editorials, short articles, op-eds to which he wants to call readers’ attention (even if he disagrees with them), and action alerts.

Many people have approached me recently to ask how I feel about the use of the word “genocide” in reference to Israel in The Movement for Black Lives’ official platform, which feels weird, because I don’t think the platform is about me. I have genuinely appreciated the interesting, varied, and important conversations I have had about the platform, and its investment-divestment section in particular, but I know I am not the only one who feels frustrated watching the controversy over the word genocide become the dominant story about a transformative political document that lays out a policy approach for a vision of justice and equality.

A sentence from the "Invest/Divest" section of "A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice."

In response to the platform, some Jewish organizations have decided to distance themselves and withhold support from The Movement for Black Lives. This is not the first time that the Jewish community has conditioned its support for certain social justice causes on the exclusion of Palestinian rights. In a recentopinion piece, Northwestern University student Lauren Sonnenberg wrote that campus activism that links struggles for justice, security, and self-determination in America to similar struggles in Palestine does not make room for students like her. I have heard related sentiments from Jewish students on my own campus: that they are unwilling to participate in activism that recognizes the injustice of Israeli occupation, because they view it as an attack on their Jewish identity. It is not. The idea that social justice movements that support Palestinian human rights and dignity run contrary to Jewish values and interests is not just false: it is dangerous. Our participation in struggles for justice and security for all people cannot be suspended because it is part of our own community that is perpetrating and sustaining injustice.