Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Love Israel? Criticize It


This is an important piece by Peter Beinart, Love Israel? Criticize It:

I was raised to love Israel, and I will teach my children to love it. But we don't get to choose what is true. And if you love Israel not only because it is a Jewish state but also because it is a liberal democratic Jewish state, a state that strives to embody the best in the Jewish ethical tradition, there is only one decent response to these truths: fury. If you're not angry, you're either not paying attention or you don't care.
I love Israel. I value its democracy. I value its steps ahead for LGBT rights. It is because I value it that I need to criticize it for its abuses. This is the spirit behind the report from the Middle East Study Committee and behind the overture from the Presbytery of San Francisco.
Recognizing that Israel’s laws, policies, and practices constitute apartheid against the Palestinian people, the Presbytery of San Francisco overtures the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to do the following:

1. Direct the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) to send this overture to the United Nations, encouraging them to find that the state of Israel is committing the crime of apartheid and to take the appropriate actions.

2. Direct the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) to communicate this information to the president and the Congress of the United States.

3. Urge its members, congregations, presbyteries, and national staff units, including the Office of Interfaith Relations, to study this matter and to seek appropriate ways to bring an end to Israeli apartheid.

4. Direct the General Assembly Mission Council to prepare study resources, and urge presbyteries to provide opportunities for study and discussion to further educate church members about the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Read Beinart's essay in the New York Review of Books, The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.

46 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. John, surely you know that any critique of Israel is anti-semitic.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this important article.

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  4. Thankfully, J Street and Jewish Voices for Peace are beginning to have a real impact within the American Jewish community. They make it harder for some to call Presbyterians and other advocates of Justice for the Palestians anti-semitic.

    love, john + www.abundancetrek.com + Breathe deeply. Breathe fully. Be still. Be silent. Be centered. Be grounded. Lighten up. Loosen up. Let go. Let God. Celebrate. Enjoy. Be glad all over!

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  5. Glad to see Mr. Beinart mention it. He's ever so slightly full of crap, but I understand it's tough for a Jew to tell the truth when it comes to Israel. If he would tell the whole truth that would be even more encouraging.
    Perhaps he does in his essay and I just haven't read it.

    "Jewish State" is a Theocracy. there is no such thing as a Democratic Theocracy. Democracy and Theocracy cannot co-exist as they are a contradiction in terms.

    Israel is a Parliamentary Protectorate. It's elections are fixed around the same cast of characters.
    When was the last time the average Israeli on the street was elected to PM there?
    It's always the same people over and over again.
    It's always someone from the IDF or the Mossad or a similar Terrorist Organization.

    There have been nine Israeli PMs...

    Ehud Olmert: Member of the Zionist militant organization Irgun. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irgun

    Ariel Sharon: "the Butcher of Beirut". Right Wing Likud Party.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Likud

    Ehud Barak: IDF, and responsible for the Holocaust in Gaza.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ehud_Barak

    Shimon Peres: Haganah.
    In spite of being the only human being ever to be Israeli PM, Peres was responsible for acquiring the advanced weaponry such as mirage aircraft that have been used on defenseless people in Lebanon and Palestine.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haganah

    Yitzhak Shamir: Betar/Irgun Zvai Leumi/Mossad.
    Shamir is basically a common criminal who was born Russian.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yitzhak_Shamir

    Once a "president" is "elected" in Israel, the PM is chosen from Knesset. Not elected.
    The PM is the powerful post and the "president" just an administrator.

    Israel is not "Liberal". There is no Left in that country. News media like Harretz and symbolic endeavors into free thinking are part of a conscious effort to create a false Left/Right paradigm. This is a deception and nothing more.
    If Israel was "Liberal", Palestine would be free and Jerusalem would be open for all to worship. It is not and never has been.
    That is to say, there are Liberal people in Israel, but there is no established front.

    Beinart is admirably blunt and 100% correct about apartheid. He is even more admirably open about the fact that the existence of Israel on Semitic soil is an occupation.

    Under the circumstances, I admire his stance as it is. I wish more American Jews had his courage.

    Thanx, John.

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  6. The thing is, I am actually pro-Israel. I would much rather live in Israel than Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries run by superstitious clerics and dictators. I am not particularly thrilled to have Israel/Palestine run by Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel has Western values that I like and that I think are an improvement over 14th century Islamic superstition. Some of these values include women's rights, gay rights, freedom of and freedom from religion, science, elections, etc.

    So it ticks me off that the state of Israel is acting so barbaric in regards to its neighbors. Eventually, we will all pay for its stupidity.

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  7. Sorry.

    Forgot to say that I listed only the living PM and formers...

    One of those days I guess. ;)

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  8. I agree for the most part, John. though my only attempt to visit Israel was denied because of a Saudi visa in my passport. Standard racism.

    Just remember that Israel is an illusion. Things happen there that don't make it to the public ear very easily.

    Always remember this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Corrie

    Then take into consideration what's written in the Talmud.
    Freedom in Israel is similar to freedom in Nazi Germany. You're free until they decide otherwise.
    Then they can murder your Goyim ass and get clean away with it.

    We are nothing more than animals to them.

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  9. Hey, what no one seems to be acknowledging here is that Jehovah GAVE Israel to the Jews a long time ago. Not only the land that constitutes the modern state of Isarael but a good bit more real estate to which they are divinely entitled. Justice won't be fully realized in the Middle East until ALL of that property is restored to them. I think we all have a moral obligation to see that the Hebrew gets all of what is DIVINE RIGHTLY theirs!

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  10. For a long time there was no way to form a government in Israel without having an Orthodox Jew on the Knesst.
    NOw they seem to get what they want through Netenyahu. One of the things that bother me is the idea of "illegal settlements. Aren't all the settlements illegal? And the one's building settlements now are dangerous. When the Israeli army comes to knock them down the settlers respond with guns.

    The other tragic thing is that most Israelis want to have two states if it will bring peace.

    Never the less I understand the fear in Israel. Would a Palestinian state in the West Bank be an area from which Israel can be attacked from Israel?

    I can support the barrial, but it should be on the green line

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  11. @ Steve Schuler + Did God give land to other ethnic groups? Or is it only the Jews and no other?

    Maybe your comment is tongue-in-cheek. I don't know you so I don't know.

    love, john + www.abundancetrek.com + "Why 99, you know we have to murder and kill and destroy in order to preserve everything that's good in the world." --Maxwell Smart to Agent 99

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  12. @ John + I don't see Israel or the West for that matter as positively as you do. Most of the horrible destruction of war and the injustices of the global economy are due to the policies and practices of The West. We simply have no right or no good reason to point fingers at The Turks or Arabs or many other non-Europeans.

    love, john + www.abundancetrek.com + "Why 99, you know we have to murder and kill and destroy in order to preserve everything that's good in the world." --Maxwell Smart to Agent 99

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  13. @Thanks John.

    Actually, I think we do need to point fingers. I certainly have pointed fingers at the west and American Empire and global corporations and its abuse of Earth and the war machine and so on. I have also pointed fingers at Israel and its war on Gaza, its settlement expansion, its wall, and its apartheid form of government. It is from the value system of the West, particularly, democracy and human rights that I make these critiques.

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  14. Yep

    Not much point in criticizing China, Pakistan or Sudan because with no democracy or free speech who would listen?

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  15. @Abundancetrek

    My Bad Amigo!

    Without knowing me it would be impossible to know the 'tone of my voice'. It didn't occur to me when I wrote it that it might be taken, well, like it reads. That is, seriously. Upon reading it again for the first time I can sure see where my intent was not obvious.

    The 'Divine Rights' of the Jews to that strip of land certainly complicate the whole matter in every way. As long as folks have tribal identities there's a gonna be trouble! If one's primary allegiance is to any group that does not encompass ALL of us, well, let history speak for itself...

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  16. I frankly don't understand why all thse midwestern PCUSA WASPS care about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

    The Israelis and Palestinians are grown ups, both of which with democratically elected governing authorities. Their constituents seem more than satisfied with their continued efforts to blow the crap out of each other.

    It's obvious neither side wants peace. They just want pieces.

    I understand, on a humanitarian level why people would be upset about this. But looking at, for example, the BFTS blogs where they're doing a mighty amount of kvetching for a bunch of goyim, I simply don't understand the rancor, the anger, the bizarre obsession.

    They're adults, let them work it out.

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  17. I wonder about that, sometimes, Alan.

    Take US slavery, for an example. The advent of machinery and other influences were making slavery less and less cost effective. Some estimates say that slavery would have ended on its own in 20-30 years without the need for the Civil War. We'll never know for certain, will we?

    If allowed to decline naturally, it might certainly have been less costly in terms of human and economic suffering.

    One can say the same thing about the Taliban. I advocated that the Afghan people should rid themselves of the Taliban, rather than having someone step in. Would the suffering and oppression in Afghanistan be any less or any worse if we had done that? Can't say.

    But it seems that to willfully NOT act, to shrug and say "they'll work it out if they want to" is heartless, particularly when we look at the balance of power in the Israel/Palestine conflict. There IS no balance of power. Israel has it all - with our blessing and our checkbook.

    I'm not saying you are wrong or right - there is no such simplicity in this world. But to shrug and walk away seems so much more inhumane. Like watching someone floundering in the sea and saying "they'll learn how to swim if they really want to live."

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  18. I agree, Snad, that the balance of power here is uneven. But this isn't slavery either.

    The Palestinians did elect Hamas, after all, right? They had other options if they'd actually wanted peace.

    Slaves in America never had the opportunity to vote.

    So I don't buy the comparison.

    I'm an evidence guy, a pragmatist. So what concrete things has US involvement accomplished? Well, US involvement has gotten US teenagers in Israel killed in random bombings, so there's that, I suppose. So let me alter my question, what *helpful* concrete things has US involvement accomplished? I admit I don't follow this issue closely because I don't really care. So maybe we've actually accomplished more than I think. But from the little I do absorb from NPR reports before I switch on my iPod, they're still attacking each other, Israel is still building settlements, they've both rejected any number of possible peace plans, they keep bombing each other.

    And what concrete things has all the PCUSA handwringing accomplished? On the one hand we have all these reports and overtures from one side of the church. On the other hand we have the screeching from the far right of the church, calling anyone who disagrees with them anti-semitic. (Because yeah, WASPs have always been such defenders of the Jews. Heh, right.) OK, fine. But what has either side actually accomplished? And what is the evidence for those accomplishments?

    Let's get more concrete. All the blog post handwriting recently on all sorts of PCUSA blogs. How many lives saved?

    So my position would be heartless if there were any evidence that any other position were any more useful than mine, and as far as I can tell, there is no evidence of that. That is, if anyone actually has the moral authority based on actual evidence of having decreased the suffering in this situation, to criticize my POV, then I'm all ears. But all I've seen so far is a bunch of liberal (or conservative) WASP guilt being directed at the "other side" as a projection of their complete impotence.

    So why should we find yet another thing in the PCUSA to argue about, when this particular issue, unlike many of the others, doesn't actually involve real and useful action?

    Or am I missing the point, and the point of the argument is just to have the opportunity to call each other anti-semites? It wouldn't be the first time that the PCUSA has found something to argue about just so we'd have something to argue about.

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  19. Or am I missing the point, and the point of the argument is just to have the opportunity to call each other anti-semites?

    You don't want to underestimate that kind of fun! : )

    I suppose there is value in making one's opinion known on various issues even if we don't think we might influence matters much.

    Your challenge regarding that is valid, is anything any individual (or church entity) can say or do helpful at all?

    I think it is a fine challenge. I will post again your words:

    That is, if anyone actually has the moral authority based on actual evidence of having decreased the suffering in this situation, to criticize my POV, then I'm all ears.

    Seriously. Good question for all of us.

    I worry about this situation in part because of its volatility. If there is such a thing as self-fulfilling prophecy of a nuclear armageddon, this would be a prime location for it.

    But the question is, what can (if anything) I do about it that doesn't simply result in name-calling?

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  20. "But the question is, what can (if anything) I do about it that doesn't simply result in name-calling?"

    Yup.

    Or result in just another report written by some other random PCUSA committee that gets read by 10 people (who were already dead-set against anything the report was going to say anyway) then placed in a drawer with the rest of the wasted paper. Seriously, the only good I can see coming out of this from the PCUSA is for the denomination to stop killing trees to make paper to write useless reports about things they have no intention of actually doing anything about.

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  21. Why would anyone in the Middle East care what a clearly diminishing American denomination has to say? Noone in THIS country cares what the Presbyterian Church has to say. It is kind of funny (and sad) to watch all the fireworks over a power that you do not have.

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  22. @Joe

    It appears that Americans care what the PCUSA says. Otherwise folks wouldn't spend so much time denouncing the PCUSA for declaring Israel and Apartheid state (rightly or wrongly).

    Israel is a U.S. issue. The U.S. sends a great deal of money and as we saw in the Gaza catastrophe, weapons, to the Israelis.

    The larger question might be why should the PCUSA say anything about anything if no one will listen to us about anything. That could be true or not.

    But if at least part of our role is to speak about issues then this is as important as any. I still ponder Alan's question of whether or not we have done anything to further peace. I would hope that we have, actually, even if it is nothing more than telling the stories of people in Israel/Palestine.

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  23. Being denounced isn't the same as being an influence, I don't think. As for furthering peace by pontification, I remember, at my college back in the 80's, a group of folks who stood outside the post office with signs about the U.S. getting out of El Salvador and Nicaragua and that sort of thing. I don't think that Casper Weinberger cared what their signs said.

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  24. Well, Joe, then I suppose we might as well just get stoned. Who gives a fuck, eh?

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  25. "The Palestinians did elect Hamas, after all, right? They had other options if they'd actually wanted peace."

    An interesting statement. What other options? The vote for Hamas was, in large part, a vote against the massive corruption of Fatah. Most of the money that was supposed to go to industry development in Palestine lined the pockets of Fatah leadership. The Widow Arafat moved to France where she had over $50,000,000.00. The current president didn't get rid of the corruption. And Fatah isn't all that interested in peace either. Well, maybe if you paid them enough.

    I will say this though: Since Hamas won the election fair and square why does the US oppose talking with them? I thought we wanted the Palestinians to have free and fair elections! Does this mean the US is against those elected taking power, at least when the elections don't go the way the US wants them to go? Oops, I forgot: Nicaragua, Vietnam, and yes, Florida in 2000! I guess it's part of the American tradition! Maybe if we want people to have real American elections we should teach other nations how to get the dead to vote and to, "vote early and vote often."

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  26. "An interesting statement. What other options? The vote for Hamas was, in large part, a vote against the massive corruption of Fatah."

    So they can't organize another option?

    Even in this country with its religious adherence to the two party system, people have been able to challenge it from time to time.

    Or to put it another way, are you saying that Hamas and Fatah were handed down by God and are inviolate? Or do the Palestinians have some responsibility to create a more reasonable political system if those two aren't working?

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  27. Yes, Alan. By all means, let them eat cake!

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  28. I'm not sure I understand that comment, Snad.

    If you're suggesting that I think it's just a simple matter of just renting a gym and organizing a new political party, I'm not at all suggesting it is easy. But I am suggesting that people are ultimately responsible for their reactions to situations, and again, I'm not sure why I should be more concerned with this situation than the Palestinians themselves seem to be, who keep electing the same violent and corrupt people.

    Or I suppose I could just go along with the soft bigotry of low expectations and assume they're incapable of forming a viable political alternative to the options Bob suggests are their only options because he can't think of any better ones.

    I wonder, do we actually believe that a small group of committed individuals can change the world because it is the only thing that ever has, or do we believe that the Palestinians are stuck in a situation not of their own making, without any responsibility to work their way out of it?

    So then, is my suggestion that a small but committed group of individuals on both sides can indeed change this situation just pie in the sky? All those liberals and progressives that have been spouting that idealistic crap are just liars? Expecting that small group to actually come from the people who are actually in the situation is just another way to say "Let them eat cake?"

    Wow. And I thought I was cynical! :)

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  29. BTW, feel free to substitute "Israelis" for "Palestinians" in that comment.

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  30. Here's the thing, Alan -

    I have an elected official here in NE Tennessee who hasn't done a thing to help anyone. I even voted for the guy. He's useless. I probably won't be able to do anything to get him out of office because of the deeply entrenched Republican ideology of the area. He's here as long as he wants to be.

    I could organize meetings, protests, gatherings, campaigns, etc., to get him out of office, but I would be struggling against the people who think he's doing just fine by doing nothing - if I could get them away from their all-important conversations about the series ending of Lost or the latest episode of Glee.

    Imagine how much harder it must be when you are scratching for food and work, and perhaps even scratching to still pull your dead out of the rubble from the Israeli war on your home. Or perhaps you are trying to keep your house standing against the tanks. Or are trying to throw rocks at the IFA while they shoot tear gas at you.

    No, I think the simplistic "if you want it bad enough you'll sit down and talk about it" line is the ultimate cynicism. The PS(USA) declaration may not be worth the paper it's printed on, but at least it has a little heart.

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  31. So people themselves have no power or agency to change anything, ever?

    Wow. Bummer.

    That sort of argues against spending time with these reports and arguments in the PCUSA, then eh?

    I guess you've brought me back to my first point: if, as you argue, the people right there on the ground are completely powerless do anything, then why are a bunch of comfy, well-fed WASPS living thousands of miles away writing reports hoping to fix the problem?

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  32. "I could organize meetings, protests, gatherings, campaigns, etc., to get him out of office,..."

    BTW, I actually believe you could do those things. But I wouldn't expect the voters in the next district over to do them for you, if I were you.

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  33. I have done those things, Alan. Enough of the snark.

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  34. "So people themselves have no power or agency to change anything, ever?

    Wow. Bummer. "

    So, you're saying they CAN'T do those things because of the PC(USA) declaration? That they can't have others make declarations on their behalf? Wow. That's a lot of power for a document that isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

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  35. Thirty-four comments later and I still affirm that the PCUSA presents reports, debates, and gets on the nasty with each other regarding the Israel/Palestine question at GA.

    Speaking for myself, I do think amidst all the heat that light yet is shed and I become more aware of what is happening even as I am frustrated, confused, and ambiguous about it all.

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  36. It is the ultimate form of paternalistic racism to think that others cannot get out of a mess without American help or that we are somehow responsible for the mess they are in....as if they don't have any say in the matter.

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  37. Unless of course we can help people get out of a mess and we do bear some responsibility for it.

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  38. U.S.A. gives 2.0 Billion dollars a year in military aid to Israel. Just doing what we can to help them work it out equitably?

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  39. "So, you're saying they CAN'T do those things because of the PC(USA) declaration? "

    No.

    We're getting far afield and misrepresenting what has actually been said, so to remind you of my point in my very first comment:

    "The Israelis and Palestinians are grown ups, both of which with democratically elected governing authorities. Their constituents seem more than satisfied with their continued efforts to blow the crap out of each other.

    It's obvious neither side wants peace. They just want pieces.

    I understand, on a humanitarian level why people would be upset about this. But looking at, for example, the BFTS blogs where they're doing a mighty amount of kvetching for a bunch of goyim, I simply don't understand the rancor, the anger, the bizarre obsession."

    and

    "Let's get more concrete. All the blog post handwriting recently on all sorts of PCUSA blogs. How many lives saved?"

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  40. Does this mean the US is against those elected taking power, at least when the elections don't go the way the US wants them to go? Oops, I forgot: Nicaragua, Vietnam, and yes, Florida in 2000!

    Not to mention Guatemala 1954, Chile 1973....the list goes on and on.

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  41. @Alan

    I kind of think of the Palestinians as the uber-underpowered 'gays' of the Middle East. Why anybody would want to protest the social inequity and humiliation they suffer at the hands of Israel I can not imagine. Know what I mean?

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  42. @Alan

    Perhaps if you were Palestinian if would be make more sense?

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  43. One of the problems of trying to form a new party in Palestine is that it is a good way to die. Fatah and Hamas don't play softball.

    Of course one can get dead real quick in Palestine for all kinds of reasons, some as simple as walking down the street at the wrong time and being shot by someone, including Israeli settlers.

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  44. "Perhaps if you were Palestinian if would be make more sense?"

    No, if I were Palestinian I'd be outraged that you tried to compare Palestinians to gays (LOL!) rather than being just amused that you think I'd buy a patently silly analogy just because it refers to gay people.

    When was the last time you saw LGBT people with mortars and rockets at a gay pride parade? Heh. The analogy is ridiculous on its face.

    In any event, I wasn't asking anything about the Palestinians, or the Israelis. I was asking about the PCUSA. You were answering a question I wasn't asking. No big deal.

    The answer to my question is, I think, "Because we like to fight about things."

    Bob: Indeed. Thank God the PCUSA is writing reports and making overtures so all that will end! /snark

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