Monday, May 5, 2008

Rabbi Michael Lerner: For Those Who Wish To See Judaism Survive The Twenty-First Century...

Bob Parry's Consortium News dot com features a new essay by Rabbi Michael Lerner which should be read in full; extended excerpts follow:
When I was a child, Zionism was the national liberation struggle of the Jewish people.

Unfortunately and tragically, we landed on the backs of Palestinians who were already there, and we hurt many of them in our landing.

So scarred were we by our own pain – having just witnessed the death of one out of every three Jews alive on the planet – that we were unable to notice or take seriously the pain that we were causing to the Palestinian people in the process.

The list of atrocities is long on both sides, and only those who wish to "win" for their side continue to insist that it was they who were innocent and the others were "evil" in intent as well as in action.

When I look back and watch the irrational and self-defeating behavior of both sides, and when I interview people on both sides of this struggle, one concept shouts out to me: PTSD-Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The trauma on both sides has led people to be unable to think rationally about what is in their own best interests.

For the Palestinians that trauma led them to reject the proposal of a two-state solution that was offered them in 1947, and for them to encourage the surrounding Arab states to reject every offer made by Israel in subsequent decades even after those states were decisively defeated in the 1967 War.

In later decades, starting in the 1980s, it was the Jews who rejected reasonable offers for peace, and instead imagined that their military might would allow them to crush the Palestinian national movement. Illusion after illusion after illusion.

The organized Jewish community in the United States, prodded on by the Israel Lobby [...] has been one of the major impediments to [...] any peace process that cares equally for both sides.

Barack Obama felt that pressure intensely enough to insert in his now-famous speech on race in Philadelphia a line about the real problem in the Middle East stemming not even in part from the clashes and tensions between Israel and its neighbors and the frustrations of hundreds of millions of Muslims watching as their Muslim brothers and sisters are subjected to systematic violations of their human rights, but only from Islamic fundamentalism.

Not to be outdone, Hillary Clinton warned that were it to attack Israel she as president would "obliterate" Iran.

These are only the latest examples of the incredible power of the Israel Lobby to make clear that loyalty to Israel's policies is necessary for any American politician to avoid political suicide in the U.S. – one can question U.S. policy (e.g. in regard to the current war we are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and possibly in Iran), but we dare not question Israeli policy!

Those of us who wish to see Palestinians freed from subjugation, and Israel living in peace with its neighbors, have to begin to apply the wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi to the situation in the Middle East.

Efforts to create dialogue, to learn how to express oneself in ways that are supportive and not hostile, to learn how to respond to violence with non-violence, must be coupled with a principled embrace of non-violence and teaching non-violence in our public schools, churches, synagogues, mosques, and religious schools.

[T]he kind of Zionism that has emerged in Israel is fundamentally incompatible with the highest values of the Jewish tradition, and must be rejected even as we develop a compassionate attitude toward the Jewish people of Israel.

For those who wish to see Judaism survive the twenty-first century, a major first step is to separate the religion from its current identity with the policies of a national state that has lots of Jews living in it and that has succeeded in getting many Jews around the world identifying it as "The Jewish State."

I personally feel tremendous pride in many aspects of what the Jews in Israel have accomplished on the fronts of culture, science, and technology, even as I feel tremendous shame at what they have failed to accomplish in human relations, ethics, and environmental sensitivity.

But I carefully separate my sense of family – which for me is tied quite strongly to the State of Israel – from my understanding of what is required of us to serve God and to preserve Judaism in the contemporary period.

For that latter goal, we must be willing to apply the prophetic tradition and ask Israelis Isaiah's powerful question: "Who asked you to trample in My Courtyard" and to defile the holiness of God's Torah?

Judaism teaches us to "love the stranger," (the Other). There is no more frequently quoted injunction in Torah than variations on the following theme: "When you come into your land, do not oppress the stranger: remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

A Jewish state that has been unwilling or unable to live by that command has no religious foundation and can generate no lasting support from those committed to God and Torah.

Such a state, failing that central commandment, is unlikely to provide safety and security for the Jewish people in any long-term way in the twenty-first century.
Read more from Rabbi Michael Lerner at Consortium News dot com.