Thoughtful modern day “Plagues” to contemplate this Passover – presented by JACPAC – but there is something missing
JACPAC (the Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs) a wonderful group of politically active women (and a few men) whose issues center around Israel, women’s rights and now, gun control, have come out with a list of ten modern day plagues to think about this Pesach [Their list follows at the bottom of this post – unfortunately, I couldn’t get the very cool green frog background to copy over]. Their hope is that:
As you gather with your families around the seder table and retell the story of Passover, remember that oppression, hunger, discrimination and violence still plague us all.
However, I thought that given their goal, they left out two of the most important things that we Jews should be thinking about. So, I wrote them the following:
To Marcia, Dana, Janna and JACPAC:
With respect, I believe that you have left out two extremely important plagues:
– The Occupation and the treatment of the Palestinians
– Failure to reach a two state solution
The occupation is one of the most important plagues because of the threat it presents to Israel remaining both a Jewish and Democratic state. It also tends to corrupt a society. I have witnessed this personally when visiting the West Bank and I assume that you have as well. The attitude towards the Palestinians is simply shameful. And it is clearly appears to be an overall policy of the government and military. If this were happening in the US, I am sure that JACPAC would be the first to speak out against it.
For myself, one of the most important aspects of the Seder is the fact that the Haggadah emphasizes the fact that “you” – the Seder participant him/herself – were a slave in the land of Egypt. I think that this is profound. The Haggadah is asking each of us to put ourselves in the shoes of someone that is enslaved and oppressed. It wants us to feel what it is like to be the one who is powerless – as we Jews have been for 2000 years until quite recently.
Now however, the miracle of the success of the State of Israel has put us in an unfamiliar position. The Jewish State (we shouldn’t need the Palestinians to have to bless this description) is now in control of the West Bank and controls access to Gaza. Whether you want to call it” occupation” or not (a la Sheldon Adelson), Israel is controlling the lives of 2.5 million people in the West Bank. How we as Jews handle this situation is a test of Jewish values. The lesson I take from the Haggadah is to remember what it is like to be powerless and oppressed – and if the tables are turned so that Jews are in power, to use that power wisely.
And, I believe that “Treatment of the Palestinians” should come ahead of “BDS” – because there is a connection. BDS scares many of us precisely because we have seen the effectiveness of this tactic before particularly with South Africa. As a matter of fact, many of us Jews were in the forefront of the BDS movement against South Africa. While some of those who promote BDS have the goal of destroying the state of Israel, there are many others who are simply protesting the very real abuses of power and justice that do occur.
The question I would like to contemplate for this Pesach is this: If we keep the land, but lose our ethics, where are we?
I think the Haggadah is telling us that that puts us back wandering in a moral desert.
So, yasher koach, on the list of plagues. It provides much for all of us to consider at the Seder table. I simply wish that you would challenge your membership even further. There are very real facts on the ground in Israel that are hard to look at. But, hiding our heads in the sand, doesn’t change the reality on the ground.
Best wishes to you and your families for a chag kasher v’sameach — a meaningful and sweet Pesach.
Right wing bloggers have been trying to create a story line that some large Democratic donors are not going to support President Obama because of his recent speeches about the Middle East. On her Commentary blog Contentions, Alana Goodman, said:
One of the most important Democratic donors in the past two decades, whose generous contributions helped pay for the DNC headquarters in Washington, D.C., has indicated that he will not contribute to President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, because of the administration’s stance on Israel.
“If solicited, I will absolutely write a check to the level allowed by law,” Saban said. “I don’t agree that he’s anti-Israel.”
Sargent characterized it like this:
Saban told me that he did not view Obama as anti-Israel and that he would donate the maximum to Obama’s campaign if asked. And while he said he had problems with the timing of Obama’s announcement, he stated that he has no problem with the substance of Obama’s position, and said conservatives had misrepresented it in order to drive away Obama’s Jewish support.
- Reports That Obama Had Alienated Jewish Donors With ‘Arab Spring’ Speech Seem To Have Been Exaggerated (huffingtonpost.com)
- Haim Saban can’t ‘break’ what he never forged (blogs.jta.org)
- The Pro-Israel Lobby Moves (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
Anyone interested in the Israeli-Palestinian issue who didn’t hear Peter Beinart speak at Northwestern on Tuesday really missed something. Although the headline above looks like everyday hyperbole, if those who were there would have to agree that he captivated the near capacity audience for ninety minutes.
Beinart’s NY Review of Books June, 2010 article The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment sent a shock wave through the American Jewish community. Why this article has become a phenomenon among those who follow Jewish issues is not patently obvious. The ideas in it are not earth shatteringly unique. There are no secret papers uncovered. Not even any shocking off-the-record quotations. Instead, the article is simply so well written, its arguments so well documented, its organization so logical and compact that it strikes the reader (particularly those involved with the major American Jewish organizations that Beinart writes about) full in the chest like a hammer (one might say, a Hebrew Hammer – but that’s another story). And it certainly helps that he brings tremendous credibility as someone who comes from the Center Right, and who practices Modern Orthodoxy.
These same characteristics came through in his speaking. Not only his prepared remarks, but his answers to ad hoc questions were so well structured and economical that the listener was just carried along. It was amazing to me that he could construct responses to questions that were not only logical and understandable, but were chock full of facts, figures and quotations. This is a very rare gift. I have heard him speak several times, and regardless of the content, I find that listening to him speak, how he structures his points and arguments, is analogous to listening to Itzhak Perlman play the violin. Peter Beinart is simply a virtuoso.
But beyond admiring his intellectual and rhetorical abilities, what he is trying to tell us, the American Jewish community, is so very important. His main thesis can be summed up by a quote from that article:
For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.
Those in the Major American Jewish Organizations are at their own peril if they reject his analysis of the schism between today’s Jewish American youth and Israel. Since his article was published in NY Review of Books he has quickly become one of the most incisive commentators on what may turn out to be the most significant crisis in American Jewish history: the disaffiliation, disconnection and delusion of a majority of today’s non-Orthodox American Jewish Youth with Israel, and beyond that to their very Jewishness. Beinart’s ability to boil down complex themes and/or questions into an organized holistic answer – on the fly – is truly a gift. He is knowledgable, thoughtful, logical, insightful, understandable and direct, and quietly passionate. If you were not there, I urge you to be there when he returns. You will not be disappointed.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up somewhere else” – The Great Yogi
In analyzing and developing policies, an obvious prerequisite is defining and understanding your desired outcome: The Endgame. One of the problems that often occurs when people are talking about Israel, Palestine and the rest of the Middle East, is that they talk past each other. They almost immediately get caught up arguing facts (or myths), history, speculation, generalization, demonization, almost any damn “-ation” you can name. But often they never bother to try to understand the framework of their arguments. What is the outcome that they are looking for? How can one determine if they are right or wrong unless they know what goal they are trying to achieve.
It seems that the endgame for Israel was defined at its very birth. It goes back to the original Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel which David Ben-Gurion read aloud in the sweltering heat of the former Dizengoff home, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on 5 Iyar 5708 (May 14, 1948). The very essence of what the country stands for is contained in the 13th paragraph:
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
I don’t think there can be a clearer, more succinct ideal that any of us who love the State of Israel could set for her. And it follows from that that this should be the standard which the people of Israel and their institutions (government, the military, economic, and religious) should be measuring themselves against. And fellow Jews everywhere should be supporting Israel in reaching for that ideal.
So, in summary, when analyzing policy decisions, using this definition, the endgame is the sustenance of Israel as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people.