I’m sitting beside a breathing river, listening to my children conjure rapids with their feet, imitating those forming downstream. A waterfall behind us is telling secrets. The sky is reflective, a deep azure telling the world it wants to hold nothing. At least, not today. I nod my head in agreement. Neither do I, I think. That’s why I’m here.
I’ve come to these familiar mountains in Western Pennsylvania for a brief escape from the thunderclaps of war reverberating from Israel and Gaza, and from the tension I feel for speaking out, for critiquing that war. I’m lucky in that I can remove myself from the computer’s glare, the cell phone constantly ringing, and my urban neighborhood. But I also realize this: there’s no real escape. Not for me, anyway.
A blue heron flaps overhead, and I recognize loneliness settling in, the type of existential loneliness about which Louis C.K. loves to joke. Because the only way to survive is to laugh about it.
Or to ignore it.
Israel Defense Forces near the Gaza Border in July Credit: Creative Commons-Flickr Israel Defense Forces
Much has been written about the silencing of anti-war dissent in Israel by a populace almost universally supportive of military action in Gaza. Such support – inspired by feelings of vulnerability amidst rocket fire and informed by the country’s rightward shift – has made speaking out against the violence not just uncomfortable, but dangerous. Not a single anti-war demonstration in the past month has concluded without participants being attacked and beaten by nationalistic counter-protesters.
And yet, while the silencing of anti-war dissent has been a troubling manifestation of Israelis’ support for war, even more troubling has been the societal numbness; the societal disregard for Palestinian suffering which has been manifested in unsettling, and sometimes shocking, ways.
It’s not bombastic to say that empathy is dead in Israel right now from a societal standpoint, a metaphorical casualty of the current violence. Evidence of this isn’t just being seen in statistical polls, but in a seemingly endless stream of incidents. Consider the following three, representative of a real phenomenon few in Israel deny:
- Israeli soldiers prank called a Gaza hotel, joking about it being bombed.
- A moment of silence in Jerusalem’s artsy theater for those killed in Gaza is met with shouts of “Shame!” and “You’re raping the audience!“
These scenes are just three representing countless such episodes happening online and in everyday life. Of course, they’re not scenes taking place within a vacuum. A conflict is ongoing. Israelis have had to run to bomb shelters with each rocket attack. People are being traumatized by the constant threat of war.
by: Shmuel Chesed on August 7th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
Images like this have sometimes made the author think, "You are complicit in the death of the innocent!
“You are complicit in the death of the innocent!”
The images call out to me in a personal way. The image of a young dead child being carried by a man near destroyed buildings. Demonstrators in Spain hold up the palms of their hands that they painted red. The images are directed against the silent – against me – screaming that “the blood of innocent is on your hands!”
But, but, but… I can neither dismiss nor accept, with confidence or certainty, the arguments and justifications of Israel’s killing or fighting and the way it is done. A little voice in my head is asking whether these justifications are in fact valid… In fact when I think of most of my Jewish friends or the people I see at shul, I would be reluctant to voice my deep reservations about the justifications. On the other hand, I feel guilty even repeating them privately to myself. It feels like an act of treachery against my Arab friends. “You are defending the indefensible,” one of them said to me some years ago when I publicly repeated some of those arguments at a session with university students.
I am hurting. I feel depressed and heavy. I feel tired and unmotivated.
Accusation. Justification. Refutation. Accusation. Justification. Refutation. Counter-argument. An exhausting dance inside my head.
by: Tikkun Magazine on August 7th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
Rabbi Michael Lerner appeared on CNN this morning (Thursday, August 7) for a short interview. To hear his insights on the recent Israel/Gaza war, watch the full interview below:
Afterwards, Lerner bemoaned the shortness of the interview, which didn’t give him time to dispute the lies and distortions of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu or to critique the ethical obliviousness of Hamas.
by: Kirk Schneider on August 6th, 2014 | 5 Comments »
(Cross-posted from Alternet by Kirk Schneider)
From the crises in the Middle East to mass shootings in U.S. schools to the reckless striving for wealth and world domination, there is one overarching theme that almost never gets media coverage—the sense of insignificance that drives destructive acts. As a depth psychologist with many years of experience, I can say emphatically that the sense of being crushed, humiliated and existentially unimportant are the main factors behind so much that we call psychopathology.
Why would it not follow that the same factors are at play in social and cultural upheavals? The emerging science of “terror management theory” shows convincingly that when people feel unimportant they equate those feelings with dying—and they will do everything they can, including becoming extreme and destructive themselves to avoid that feeling.
The sense of insignificance and death anxiety have been shown to play a key role in everything from terrorism to mass shootings to extremist religious and political ideologies to obsessions with materialism and wealth. Just about all that is violent and corrupt in our world seems connected to it.
Credit: Creative Commons
The last item Congress voted on before going on vacation for five weeks was a $225 million appropriation to “replenish” Israel’s Iron Dome system.
That makes sense. The system is protecting Israelis from rocket assault, Of course we want to replenish Israel’s arsenal?
The answer is simple. No replenishment was necessary now. Nor will the vote speed up the resupply which was in the pipeline anyway.
by: Tikkun on August 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
Credit: Creative Commons
On August 4th, we held a conference call for NSP members and Tikkun subscribers with Sami Awad, a Palestinian nonviolent peace activist in Bethlehem, Palestine. Mr. Awad has been working to counter Hamas’s hate talk among his fellow Palestinians. Sami Awad talked about the importance of being visionary – putting forth a vision of the world you want and not something more “realistic.”
He talked about the importance of having prophetic voices in each of the different communities – Jewish, Muslim, Christian-to counter the impression that each community has that there are very few people in the other communities that care about a solution to the Israel/Palestine struggle based on justice, security, and peace.
According to Sami Awad, the assault on Gazans in the past month has caused many people in both Israel and Palestine to doubt the efficacy of many of their own efforts to build local face-to-face peace making between Israelis and Palestinians. Awad thinks one reason for this heightened despair by people who have spent months or even years in building dialogue and trained people in peace-making is that the efforts were grounded in the wrong motives, often out of fear of the other (unless we can tame them, they will hurt us) rather than a genuine deep commitment and care to the well-being of all.
Rabbi Michael Lerner’s article in Salon.com this Monday is being featured on Salon’s home page right now. Below is a fuller and updated version (the Salon article was written on Friday).
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
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 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).
by: Leila Dregger on August 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Bombs turn play areas, refugee camps, entire streets into ruins. In these ruins, children bleed to death. Ten thousand people looking for shelter, but hospitals are overcrowded and exhausted doctors. Operations are carried out under mobile phone flashlights because, after the destruction of the only power station in Gaza, there is no electricity. On the other side, an entire people re-experience an age-old fear of attacks and extermination every day, after the discovery of tunnel systems. Eighty-five percent of the Israeli population is, according to the polls, pro-war. Dehumanization, demonization, and hatred exist on both sides. Meanwhile, there is a completely marginalized peace movement – powerless, abused, and threatened. Economies such as the USA or Germany, that have raised their arms exports up to a quarter in the last year, have failed to provide adequate aid, while an airplane with medicine for Gaza was denied landing permission in Egypt.
The only response for an open heart in hearing this news is to act.
Credit: Vision Camp Facebook
Amidst this seemingly hopeless situation Sabine Lichtenfels, co-founder of a peace research center called Tamera in Portugal, initiated what she calls a “vision camp” in the West Bank. It had mainly one goal: to create and maintain humaneness, trust, and equal exchange between Israel and Palestine. Even the international flight cancellations to Tel Aviv could not stop her; Sabine did not give up until she and her team had managed to get the last seats in a fully booked Israeli airplane. Finally, fifty peace workers from Palestine, Israel, and other countries met from July 24 to 29 in a completely open area, near Bethlehem.
Writing in Ha’aretz today,
Gideon Levy predicts that ultimately the Netanyahu government will pay a heavy price for the atrocities being inflicted on the people of Gaza. He writes:
I’m no fan of Hamas, quite the contrary. But Israel’s attempt to put all the blame on Hamas is outrageous. The international community will soon judge this war’s atrocities. Hamas may be reprimanded, deservedly, but Israel will be condemned and ostracized far more. And then Israelis will say, ‘It’s Hamas’ fault. And the world will laugh.
I don’t agree. I don’t see that happening for one obvious reason: the power of the Israel lobby.
Think about it. When it comes to Israel, the United States is the ball game. It provides Israel with the money, the weapons, and the United Nations’ vetoes that enable both the occupation and its multiple wars (like this one) to preserve it. And that shows no sign of changing.
Watch the television coverage. For three weeks the killing of children and other innocents in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli military has dominated the news. We see the bombs dropping. We see the destroyed schools, hospitals and mosques. We see the parents wailing over the deaths of their children and children wailing at the deaths of their parents and siblings.
But it makes no difference to the United States government which can stop the slaughter with a few words. (Five of those words are “your $3.5 billion aid package.)