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Archive for the ‘War & Peace’ Category



How to Start That Difficult Conversation

Nov18

by: Robert Cohen on November 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Difficult conversation on Israel/Palestine between Jews and Christians

Credit: Creative Commons/ Kathleen Tyler Conklin

I want to talk about difficult conversations. Conversations that could put decades of valuable Christian/Jewish interfaith dialogue in jeopardy. It’s risky I know, but I think the stakes have become too high to shy away from it any longer.

Jewish communities receive lessons in Israel advocacy from our leadership, who seem to think the solution to Israel’s growing isolation can be resolved with nothing more than better presentation skills. Meanwhile, Christian communities are morally paralyzed by fear of causing offense to a people they spent so many centuries persecuting.

But it’s time to stop the Jewish moral denial and the Christian moral paralysis. With so much ethical common ground, why not both stand on it for a change and see what happens?

And who knows, through challenging the current no-go-area consensus on Israel, it could take us all to somewhere more dynamic, truthful and powerful in interfaith relations.

But with all that Israel advocacy training taking place in our synagogues, I feel like my Christian friends need some insider guidance on how to get this conversation going.

So what follows is the Micah’s Paradigm Shift Online Guide to Starting that Difficult Conversation on Israel with your Jewish neighbors, friends, colleagues, and local communities.

Feel free to adapt the following to your local circumstances and understanding.

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Of Martyrs and Murderers

Nov14

by: on November 14th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Students at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minnesota, reenact the slaughter.

Who is a martyr? The question comes to mind twenty-five years after what has become known as “the Jesuit massacre” in El Salvador.

On November 16, 1989, an elite battalion of the Salvadoran military forced its way into the Jesuit residence at the University of Central America, or UCA, in San Salvador. Most of the soldiers had received counter-insurgency training in Georgia, at the U.S. Army School of the Americas. They proceeded to murder six Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter.

Unlike the martyrs of ancient Christianity, these men were not killed simply because they professed the faith. They were targeted specifically for speaking out on behalf of the impoverished and against persecutions carried out by the U.S.-backed military. Still, in the view of many, they died for the faith no less than the martyrs of old.

This happens to be subject to dispute in some quarters. The argument has surfaced mostly in connection with the sainthood cause of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was gunned down by a paramilitary death squad while saying mass in the chapel of a cancer hospital in San Salvador in 1980.

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How Israel Can Regain its Lost Moral Capital: A Modest Educational Proposal

Nov13

by: Walter Feinberg on November 13th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

The Moral Deficit

The Israeli government is squandering much of the moral capital the country had at its founding. At the time of its founding most Western European countries and the United States agreed that a state where Jews could be reasonably safe, could defend themselves from aggression and could sustain their traditions as a single people was justified, especially in light of the Holocaust. At that time too there was also a legitimizing myth that Palestine was “a land without a people, just waiting for settlement by a people without a land,” a nice but false slogan serving to motivate the settlement of a harsh environment in a foreign land. This narrative was, of course, convincing for many Jews and for many others in the West. It was not convincing, obviously, to the vast majority of Arabs.

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A Reflection on Veterans Day

Nov11

by: on November 11th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

veterans day

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno accompanies former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg and other city officials during the Veterans Day Parade in New York City on Nov. 11, 2011. Credit: Creative Commons/ The U.S. Army

On Veterans Day, we pause in remembrance of those who have proudly served our country in the U.S. military. Originally known as “Armistice Day,” November 11 was chosen to annually memorialize the cessation of hostilities between the Allied powers and Germany ending World War I, which was then regarded as “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first commemoration of what would become an official national holiday with the words:

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

Individuals and groups who stand up and put their lives on the line to defend the country from very real threats to our national security, as do those in our nation’s military, are true patriots. But true patriots are also those who speak out, stand up, and challenge our governmental leaders, those who put their lives on the line by actively advocating for justice, freedom, and liberty through peaceful means.

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Empathy in the Holy Land

Nov5

by: Neil Arya on November 5th, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons/Makaristos

I am writing after seeing a series of letters from fellow practicing physicians justifying acts of brutality during the most recent conflict in Gaza. What concerns me more than any particular political position is finding empathy in such short supply among those within the healing professions.

To begin with the numbers of killed and injured on each side are not as Stalin would have put it mere statistics. They DO matter, first and foremost because they represent real people, each of whom has grieving and aggrieved brothers, sisters, mothers, and children, but also because proportionality is an element of international law. According to various sources, during Operation Protective Edge Israel lost sixty-six soldiers and six civilians including one child while just over 2,100 Palestinians died in Gaza with over 75 percent as non combatants, six times as many were injured, 17,000 had housing damaged, and more than a quarter were displaced. The economic cost with damage to civilian infrastructure is estimated at 6 billion dollars, and even with the influx of international aid, it would take decades to repair. This tally appears remarkable when one of the most sophisticated (and reputed “moral”) army in the world faced off against reputedly callous, terrorist groups. Neither side appeared to hesitate prior to launching rockets or indiscriminate attacks in areas with no places for children to hide — in schools, daycares, playgrounds or beaches — spawning nightmares and lifelong fears.

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Conference Call with Michael Nagler on ISIS: Is Non-Violence a Plausible Political Principle in an Age of Fundamentalist Terrorism?

Oct28

by: Tikkun on October 28th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

We invite you to join Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives on a conference call with Michael Nagler regarding ISIS and whether non-violence is still a plausible political principle in an age of fundamentalist terrorism. You can call in Wednesday, October 29th at 12:30 p.m. PDT or 3:30 p.m. EDT

Many peace-oriented activists have had moments in the past few months in which we wished we could stop the genocidal behavior of ISIS and the kidnapping and raping of young women by Boko Haram–by any means necessary. It becomes harder to resist war policies of the Obama Administration when we know of these crimes being committed by fundamentalist terrorist groups. In such a world, has non-violence lost its relevance?

We’ve asked Michael Nagler to address this question, in dialogue with Tikkun editor Rabbi Michael Lerner, in a conference call for subscribers to Tikkun and currently paid-up members of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Michael Nagler is the director of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, founder of Peace Studies at U.C. Berkeley, and author of The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, our Families, and Our World. He was the co-chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Association (2009-2011). There will be an opportunity for listeners to submit questions and comments too.

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Major American Jewish Institutions Endorsing Single-State Solution for Israel/Palestine

Oct26

by: on October 26th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

one state solution

Credit: Creative Commons/ Salaam Shalom

For the last two decades, the largest and most influential Jewish institutions in the United States have publicly supported the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, otherwise known as the two-state solution. From communal entities, such as the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), to political lobbying organizations, such as AIPAC, support for the two-state solution has been a consistent, publicly-articulated dogma.

This support has also been in line with both U.S. foreign policy directives and the majority opinion of those American Jews (seven in ten) who are either emotionally or politically invested in Israel.

However, over the last several months, major U.S. Jewish institutions have, one-by-one, revealed their effective endorsement of a one-state solution, moving away from U.S. interests as well as those of their constituents. This began subtly over the summer, when in June Israel chose its latest President, Reuven Rivlin, a right-wing, one-state proponent whose ideas on bi-nationalism and democracy are complicated. Oddly, not a single major Jewish institution in favor of two states expressed concern over or spoke out against the decision.

Now, perhaps Jewish leaders didn’t find the presidency to be important enough to merit comment, being a symbolic position. Or perhaps they foresaw that Rivlin would unexpectedly become a leading voice in Israel slamming widespread racism against Arabs, calling its society “sick” and in need of treatment. Interestingly, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, published an open letter to Rivlin expressing concern upon his election. However, it wasn’t concern for Rivlin’s one-state vision which was the topic, but rather Rivlin’s disdain for progressive streams of Judaism.

Whatever the reason, Jewish institutions’ silence over Rivlin could have naively been viewed as an anomaly. However, soon after Rivlin’s appointment, Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, explicitly rejected the two-state solution on July 11, saying that Israel could never relinquish sovereignty over the West Bank. Once again, not one major Jewish organization supporting two states said a word, much less condemned Netanyahu’s position. Perhaps this silence, as with Rivlin, could also have been excused, as Israel was in the midst of its “war” with Gaza, and Jewish leaders had circled the wagons in support.


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It’s Israel’s Behavior That Produces the “New Anti-Semitism”

Oct9

by: on October 9th, 2014 | 38 Comments »

netanyahu wolf blitzer

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sits down for an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Credit: Creative Commons/IsraelinUSA

It has now become a full fledged campaign: stifling criticism of Israel by warning of a new wave of anti-Semitism that is seizing the planet. The latest entry comes from French philosopher, and life-long Israel defender, Bernard-Henry Levy in (naturally) the New Republic who screams that anti-semitism in 2014 is a “ticking time bomb” that, if not countered, will inevitably lead to Binyamin Netanyahu’s vision: the return of 1942.

Like all opinion pieces of this genre, Levy’s case is built on the idea that there is no causal relation between Israel’s actions and the outbursts against Jews that he describes.

In its essence, the argument goes like this: Anti-Semitism is not caused by anything. It is innate, a poison that lives in the hearts and minds of evil people, needing only a pretext for it to explode. Israel’s actions can’t cause anti-Semitism. They can only be a pretext for it.

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Endless War, Not Just War: The Problem with U.S. Strikes on ISIL

Oct7

by: Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite on October 7th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

Obama ISIL speech

President Obama addresses the nation on his ISIL strategy. Credit: Creative Commons/CreoFire

This time it will be different. That’s what President Obama said as he assured the American people that an American effort to “degrade and destroy” ISIL, the vicious terrorist group, “will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

No, Mr. President, it won’t. Not in any meaningful sense. This is just more war, and it is certainly not a Just War according to many of the tradition’s principles.

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No One Wanted it to End: Cornel West at Santa Clara University

Oct6

by: on October 6th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Cornel West

Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Public rhetoric is thousands of years old, yet even in an era of high-res video and magnificent audio, to hear a great talk in person is special. That was absolutely the case on Friday night, October 3rd, at Santa Clara University when Dr. Cornel West, public intellectual and democratic leader, spoke extemporaneously and movingly for an hour and forty minutes and received two standing ovations.

Why was it so inspiring? West was not a pulpit speaker in the style of the Reverends Martin Luther King Jr. or Jesse Jackson, but was warm, charming, and often funny. He opened his speech with a point about rhetoric: paideia, frank speech, the kind that got Socrates killed. I was reminded again that truth heals. We need desperately to talk about the emperor’s new clothes or the elephant in the room, especially when the talk is critical, but not hateful, love but “tough love,” as West said with a smile.

There, in that packed room of mostly privileged, mostly white people, who, before the talk began, had been speaking about their horses and far-flung vacations, West made a connection. That was very important too.

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