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)

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