When Israel becomes a religion

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We do ourselves irreparable harm when we make Israel our surrogate synagogue.
Alexander Schindler , former leader of American Reform Jewry

The task of the historian is to allow the voices of the suffering to be heard, particularly by their children, who while venerating their oppressed ancestors, tend to ignore their cries by persecuting others…empowerment is possible but those who are empowered must bear in mind that solidarity with those suffering in the present is the only link with suffering in the past.
Marc Ellis, Jewish theologian

The Presbyterian Church in the USA at its general assembly in Detroit voted to divest from three companies doing business in the illegal occupied territories.

Before the vote the Nobelist South African prophet Desmond Tutu sent an open letter to the assembly

The sustainability of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people has always been dependent on its ability to deliver justice to the Palestinians. I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed.

The Moderator of the Church Heath Rada stated that the vote that “in no way is this a reflection of our lack of love for our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

Predictably American Jewish organizations went ballistic as they did four years earlier when their full court press scared the church into pulling the BDS motion. Four years later however as one of the commissioners said, “we know more of what is really going on in the west Bank.”

One understands that all churches tread very softly when Israel is concerned so they worked hard on the issue and narrowly passed the motion.

And again the message from the Anti Defamation League: “This is a painful message to American Jews.”

No doubt but it would be a painful message I would have to to deliver to my alcoholic brother (if I had one). ”Look, bro, this has to stop. Your behaviour is destructive.” Is this love or hate?
Yet the canards keep coming. According to New York-based American Jewish Committee the measure was “driven by hatred of Israel.”

This has been a longtime, tired tactic. Label any critic of Israel an antisemite. The purpose of course is to silence principled criticism. The shocker was that 1,700 putative leaders of Reform Judaism signed an open letter which opposed the resolution. This is the sad state that Reform Judaism has come to—apologizing and justifying the expansionist and colonialist policies of Israel, its patent injustice over decades to another people on the land which wad stolen from them. Dispossession and humiliation, the daily portion for Palestinians. These rabbis all know the admonition from Torah “Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof—Justice, Justice you shall pursue. Deut 16:20.

Are they that deaf and blind? Are they actually justifying the flaunting of international law and the ethnocentric oppression of one people over another. Has Jewish nationalism trumped the universal cry for justice?

For decades Zionists have been exploiting Christian guilt over Jewish persecution over the centuries. Less and less is this effective. The issue simply is the massive abuse of human rights
Are these religious leaders actually conflating Zionism with Judaism? Zionism was a colonialist ideology. Judaism is a great world religion with high ethical ideals, a rich history of justice rapidly being suborned by blind adherence to the terrible policies of a secular state.

The problem of course is not simply that of Judaism. The neoconservative movement of the last 40 years has had a deleterious effect on Catholicism and Christianity. In due time i will deal with this but our focus here is shock at the loss of prophecy in the Jewish community.

In 1982, the New Jewish Agenda (NJA) was a counterpoint to religious neoconservatism among jews.

The NJA stated at that time” Our history and tradition inspire us. Jewish teachings can address the social, economic and political issues of our time. Many of us find our inspiration in our people’s historical resistance to oppression and from the Jewish presence at the forefront of movements for social change. Many of us base our convictions on the religious concept of tikkun olam(the just ordering of human society and the world) and the prophetic tradition of social justice….Survival is only a precondition of Jewish life, not its purpose .Our agenda must be determined by our ethics not our enemies.

Oz ve Shalom was founded in 1975 was formed to counteract the blasphemous misinterpretation of religious texts by the settlers.It was a valiant attempt to bring Jewish citizens back from ethnocentricity and chauvinism. In 1982 Oz ve Shalom in an editorial summed up the choice for Jews in Israel

A Jewish state governed by Biblical values or a garrison state characterized by chauvinism, institutionalized injustice and xenophobia.
A democratic society flourishing within small borders in which Arab minority enjoys full human dignity and civil rights
versus

All of Eretz Israel at the price of repressing the political freedom over 1 million Palestinian Arabs.
And here we are today in a state of lamentable incomprehension as 1,700 rabbis seemingly are turning their backs on their prophetic tradition.

The oldest sin in scripture is idolatry and as I have stated before idolatry is not exclusive to vast segments of the Jewish community here and In israel where the state seemingly has massive support for this sickening massacre. Capitalism, security and uber patriotism can become idols anywhere .The only response to this that of Jesus and the prophets—atheism to these false gods

 

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Often we know that the prophetic is carried outside organized religion. In the case of the Presbyterian assembly what tipped the scales was the presence of mainly young secular Jews who bore shirts with the slogan ‘Another Jew Supporting Divestment.’ Many of them were with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

Religious or not they have internalized the fact that Palestinian people have been deeply wronged in the creation of Israel and are suffering terribly under an unjust occupation.

4 Comments »

  1. 3
    mushafta Says:

    It was most heart warming today to meet a professor of political science and philosophy/Religious studies speak of Ted as a highly respected RC prophetic voice. I had no doubt whatsoever, but it is reassuring to know there are many others who think the same way. It was also refreshing to hear a highly respected theologian and history prof echo the exact sentiments of Israel as Ted.

    Let us hope the truce will be lasting and let us implore both sides to work together for an enduring peace .

  2. 4

    Which is why you didn’t name the professor. Best to be safe, eh?


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