Sunday, February 26, 2017

In the Name of Religion

I am not Jewish and therefore should be cautious in passing judgement on what is “good” Judaism and what is phony. However, one need not belong to a religion as deeply profound and tested as Judaism in order to recognize its many virtues and values. It is on this basis alone that I, even as an outsider, can emphatically declare that Benjamin Netanyahu is NOT Jewish and what he seeks to create in Israel is a racist state, not a Jewish one.

To make my case, I refer to Rabbi Donniel Hartman, leader of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem who does speak with authority when lifting up the values and virtues of Judaism:

Speaking of the modern state of Israel, he writes:

I am trying to save my own religion from itself…  For much of our history, (Jews) were a powerless people and on the side of the downtrodden. Now, however, we find ourselves in a dramatically different reality… We not only have the ability to protect ourselves but also the power to harm others.

As such, he continues:

As the short history of Israel has revealed, it is all too often the same people who speak in the name of religion, who come down on the side of discrimination toward the non-Jewish national minorities in Israel… and who campaign most vociferously against pursuing peace with our Palestinian neighbors. (p.16)[1]

As I read Rabbi Hartman, I weep with him in the pain he feels for the distortion of his Jewish faith in the face of modern Israel. He writes:

One of Judaism’s central obligations is to “not remain indifferent” (Deuteronomy 22:3), to see the needs of others and to implicate oneself as a part of the solution. (p.20)… Moses “chose to see the injustice around him and rejected the safer path of indifference, and stood with those being wronged. (p.22)... We are all our neighbor’s keepers. (p.31) …He quotes Maimonides, “Whoever is in a position to prevent wrongdoing and does not do so, is responsible for the iniquity of all the wrongdoing he might have prevented. (p.32)

Hartman summarized Isaiah’s message:

Your prayer and fasting are worthless to me as long as there are hungry, poor, homeless, and naked people suffering just outside the walls of your religious sanctuary. Get out of the synagogue and create a society of justice. (p. 57)

Now, what does all this have to do with Benjamin Netanyahu who doesn’t even claim to be a religious Jew?  It makes the point that his understanding of Judaism is race, not religion. He would like for all, especially those of us living in the United States, to think of him as “Jewish” and have a warm feeling toward him. But, let us be clear, Netanyahu is not Jewish. He is a racist hiding behind the smoke screen of Judaism.

Thomas Are
February 26, 2017

[1] These quotes are from Rabbi Donniel Hartman’s powerful little book, Putting God Second, How to save Religion from Itself, (Beacon Press, Boston, 2016)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Settlements Are the Issue

Netanyahu says, “We want peace with the Palestinians but they teach their children to hate us and to try to destroy the state of Israel.”  When someone asked about the settlements, he answered that the settlements were not an issue. It’s just that they teach their children to hate.

Netanyahu and Trump gushed all over each other bragging about how Israel and the US value life and live by the same moral standards.

Yet, any eye witness who visits Palestine will tell you that settlements are the issue.

Come into my neighborhood, knock down my house, build hundreds of Jewish only apartments on my land, surround it with Jewish only roads, keep me boxed into a small bantustan and it would be an issue with me.

I wish just one of the reporters in the Netanyahu/Trump news conference would have brought up the fact that Israel destroys Palestinian homes by the hundreds, steals 80 percent of Palestinian water, has built a separation wall, snaking down through the West Bank separating doctors from their hospitals, farmers from their fields and children from their schools. I wish someone would have had the integrity to ask about the number and treatment of Palestinians, including children,  in Israeli prisons, Someone could have asked about the skunk juice sprayed on Palestinian homes, the uprooting of Palestinian olive trees and the hundreds of check points.

I wish someone would have asked about Israel’s bombardment with planes and tanks and missiles from ships on the unarmed people of Gaza whom Israel keeps locked up like animals in an open air prison. Someone should have asked how Israel feels about the number of children who were left homeless and with no way to fight off the freezing cold of winter. And why does Israel deliberately limit the number of calories allowed for each person.

Netanyahu doesn’t care and Trump doesn’t have a clue. Mix apathy with stupidity and the outlook will be grim, every time.

When those two talk about shared values, they are not talking about my values or the values of any faithful Jew I know.

Thomas Are
February 16, 2017

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Football Deplomacy

I am not usually into football. I keep thinking that half of the people on the globe are hungry, millions are oppressed and abused, and we are flirting with a climate change catastrophe, so, what difference does it make which way a ball bounces. Yet, I find myself interested in Sunday’s Super Bowl because it includes the New England Patriots. It’s not just that the Patriots have such a close tie with Donald Trump, but because Robert Kraft has such a close tie to Israel.

About 20 months ago, I wrote:

If you are concerned about peace in the middle east and seek security for Israel when the entire neighborhood is in turmoil, if you want to avoid a needless war with Iran, (a war  which we will not win), and if you are looking for someone with great negotiating skills and experience in understanding the needs and point of view of the other, someone with knowledge of the region and its history, someone known for diplomacy, then, where do you turn? 

Of course, you call on professional football players.  Who better to understand what it is  like to be ordinary people trying to survive in an oppressive situation than those who grew up and continue to live in what the news media calls a “culture of entitlement?” 

Robert Kraft, ultra Zionist, and owner of the New England Patriots led a delegation of 20 National Football League players to Israel where they met with Benjamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister wanted an opportunity to explain to them why America’s effort to avoid a war with Iran is a dumb move.  It’s not that Netanyahu himself seeks a war with Iran where Israel would have to pay the price in lives and money, he is clear in proclaiming that he wants the United States to go to war with Iran. So, he chose the bright minds of the NFL to make his case. He put it in terms that even they could understand. Call it football diplomacy.

Iran is one yard away from the goal line. If they get nukes, the preeminent terrorist regime of our day will be armed with nuclear weapons.  Our effort today is to make sure that we block them and push them back. That’s the ultimate contest and the ultimate challenge, and I hope it was advanced somewhat by this visit.[1]

“I lead my life according to the four F’s – at least phonetically,” Kraft is often reported as having said; “family, faith, football and philanthropy.  This trip has connected all those dots for me.” 

I want to ask, which of these “dots” includes the right of Jews to steal land from the Palestinians, kidnap and imprison their children, take their water, blow up their homes and lock them up behind cement barrows and barbed wire fences? Which of his four f’s justifies the past and on-going war crimes committed by Israel every day?  Mr. Kraft needs another “F” word to connect his dots. It’s the word fairness. When I read that wealthy professional football players are recruited to influence US policy in the Middle East, the best “F” word to describe me is flabbergasted with an equal measure of fear.

Football is entertainment, but when it gets involved in foreign affairs, which causes so much pain to so many people, it is no longer amusing.  Mr. Kraft should stick to something he knows something about for when he gets into defending Israel, he has fumbled and somebody needs to blow the whistle on him.

William Slone Coffin said it well. “If what you think is right causes some one else to suffer, there is something wrong with what you think is right.”

Thomas Are
February 4, 2017

[1] Philip Weiss, Patriots’ Owner Brings 20 NFL veterans to Netanyahu who calls them to block Obama’s Iran Deal. Mondoweiss, June 22, 2015