As a Jew, This Makes Me Angry

An edited version of this article originally appeared at LobeLog.

A protester from Code Pink outside the National Leadership Assembly for Israel.

A protester from Code Pink outside the National Leadership Assembly for Israel.

On Monday, I attended the National Leadership Assembly for Israel. The gathering was more than a little disquieting.

The names in attendance were big ones. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, House Speaker John Boehner, Former Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, current Chairman Ed Royce, Senator Ben Cardin, Ambassador Dennis Stephens of Canada, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer as well as leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (COPJ), AIPAC, the Jewish Council on Public Affairs and others all spoke. One of the most troubling aspects of it was that they mostly all had the same thing to say.

Some speakers went farther than others. Paul De Vries, the evangelical preacher and president of the New York Divinity School, called Hamas “evil” and said that ISIS was Hamas’ “twin.” While most statements were not that stark, every speaker placed full blame for all the casualties in Gaza on Hamas. Israel was defended completely uncritically, with not a hint from anyone that maybe, just maybe, the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian children might mean that Israel is not quite taking enough care to avoid harming civilians. Continue reading

Tears for My Judaism

Today, another piece on Gaza. This one, though, is more emotional and personal. I see too much of my own background, too much of

Israeli soldiers lounge outside the museum of the Zionist militant group, the Irgun Zvai Leumi.

Israeli soldiers lounge outside the museum of the Zionist militant group, the Irgun Zvai Leumi.

how I was raised to understand Judaism in Israel’s actions. I stress, this is far from any kind of “real” Judaism. It is one of a great many kinds of Judaism, many understandings of what being Jewish means. the one I was raised with was, well, simply not a very nice version. And on some level, no matter how much I may embrace other Judaisms, this version will always be the most visceral for me. And, luck me Israel reflects it back at me on a regular basis. I explore in Souciant today.

Making Our Passover Traditions Real

During a Passover Seder, we Jews tip our cups of wine and let drops spill. This symbolizes, and more importantly acknowledges and mourns, the suffering of the Egyptians under the yoke of the ten plagues God inflicted on them.

I always found this remarkably touching and meaningful. The ancient Egyptians were said to have enslaved the Hebrews, whose liberation we are celebrating. While the

We spill drops of wine to empathize with others' suffering. How about empathizing with the Palestinians?

Torah isn’t specific about the social dynamics in the era of Ramses II, one gets a very strong impression that the Pharaoh was not the only enslaver, but that much of Egyptian society held us in bondage. Nonetheless, we express sorrow for their suffering.

Sadly, as with so many religious traditions, this ritual has now lost its meaning for too many of us. For some it is mere rote, a ritual performed because it is part of the Seder, but stripped of its meaning.

Look, for instance at the contemptible words of Noah Pollak, the Executive Director of the ultra-right wing, fanatically anti-peace organization, the Emergency Committee for Israel. He could not contain his glee at the murder of Italian International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist Vittorio Arrigoni. Among other comments, he sneers “My condolences to the anti-Israel crazies mourning their ISM friend. We who do not work with terrorists will never understand your pain.”

This is not about the ISM, whose politics I also disagree with (though far less so than I do with Pollak’s hate). This is about simple human decency. A man was murdered – in fact murdered, at least based on the information we have now, by terrorists not like Hamas, but much more like al-Qaeda (those differences are very important) – and that is a tragedy. Most people would agree with that, most Jews would agree, even those who might vehemently object to Arrigoni’s politics. Pollak is virtually dancing in the streets.

Pollak is neither typical of Israelis nor Jews, but the lack of empathy is not confined to radical anti-peace extremists like him.

We might think about the Israeli attitude toward the Gaza Strip. Let’s forget for a moment about international law, the Goldstone Report and all of that. Let’s dispense with dueling narratives and just look at it from an Israeli viewpoint. Continue reading