Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Post #78 - Mutually Assured Survival

"I'm a Jew, but I'm an American Jew, a reform Jew. I practice my religion the way I want to, but for that reason, some Jews would question my authenticity...And when it comes to the politics of the Holy Land, I don't feel like I'm on the Israeli side of the fence but I'm also not on the Palestinian side. I don't want to be on either side...Sometimes I'm so confused"
"You don't have to be on either side of the fence," [her friend said] "Once you see things from both sides, you're on the side of compassion. And humanity."
"Okay," I thought. "I'm a Jew on the side of humanity. And I believe that makes me an authentic Jew."
(Priscilla Warner, in The Faith Club)

The question is: Is there another way? Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, a venerable Orthodox hierarch, writes about the ages-old struggle of human beings with the concept of enmity: "...to accept those who love us...is difficult enough, but to accept the existence of an adversary, of one who denies and rejects us, of him who would fain blot us out of existence, is a very costly act of justice. Yet it must be performed and this can be done only by charity...charity akin to cherishing, not to grudging almsgiving – which finds ultimate expression...in the Cross of Christ."

Bloom related the story of a woman held in a prison in his native Russia following the October Revolution, who conquers her own fear and anger by managing to smile at her interrogator, thereby taking godly control of her circumstances, and through her recognition of his individual existence as a fellow human being, serving the God within both of them. Israelis and Palestinians, Americans and Iranians will one day need to acknowledge the existence – and the humanity – of the other. A March 2006 poll showed that “under conditions of peace and given an independent Palestinian State, 66% of the Palestinians and 68% of the Israelis support a mutual recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and Palestine as the state of the Palestinian people.” As recently as December 0f 2006, 58% of Israelis and 81% of Palestinians polled favored a comprehensive settlement like that envisioned in the Geneva Initiative (a plan also endorsed by leaders including Colin Powell, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa; but condemned by Ariel Sharon) [source: Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, Hebrew University].

In the United States, a group called Jewish Analysts Investigating Peace and Conflict (JAIPAC) emphasizes a doctrine of “mutually assured survival,” -- what they call “the new pro-Israel” position -- to supplant that of “mutually assured destruction,” or MAD, which has been used to describe the delicate balancing act of threat and deterrence which has kept nuclear disaster just a heartbeat away for so many decades. This group emphasizes the role that fear too often plays in decision-making and the mechanisms that come into play when violence spirals upward. Another group is Jewish Voice for Peace, based in Oakland, CA and four other U.S. cities. The group describes itself as being “inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights,” and a group which supports “the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination.”

Of even greater potential importance, two of the most important non-Christian American faith groups, the Union for Reform Judaism (representing nearly one thousand congregations) and the Islamic Society of North America, announced late in 2007 that they would enter into a partnership of dialogue to help understand one another's values and views. The effort will result in the joint production of a curriculum for education of adults in both communities. A dozen pairs of mosques and synagogues have already been established as a pilot program for the project. One of the organizers was quoted as saying, "When we are killing each other in the name of God, sensible religious people have an obligation to do something about it."

While impressive in scale, this sort of effort is not new. Over 18 years ago, Len and Libby Traubman of San Mateo, CA, began a dialogue group in their living room; they have since had 183 meetings and their effort has has grown to scores of such groups across North America and elsewhere, scores of presentations, workshops and public demonstrations, fund-raising in support of the poor in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, summer camps for Israeli and Palestinian youth, and a Palestinian-Jewish cookbook. It still goes by the name Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group

Tikkun's Rabbi Michael Lerner
Tikkun Community (and the associated Network of Spiritual Progressives) based in Berkeley, California, calls itself “an international community of people of many faiths calling for social justice and political freedom” that seeks to “influence public discourse in order to inspire compassion, generosity, non-violence and recognition of the spiritual dimensions of life.” Tikkun members say (in these excerpts from their website):

"We are guided in our work by our belief in the principle of solidarity. For us, this principle has spiritual roots in the Jewish commandment to remember that we were all slaves in Egypt...we are all harmed by oppression directed at any group or individual…
"We hope to have the courage-- in the tradition of the Jewish prophets and interpreters of Torah, in the spirit of Jesus and the early Christian communities of resistance to Rome, in the spirit of Muhammed, in the spirit of the activists of the labor & civil rights and feminist and gay rights movements-- to speak truth to power.
"…We are committed to full and complete reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinian people within the context of social justice for the Palestinians and security for Israel. We call upon Israel to end the Occupation, to return settlers to the pre-1967 borders of Israel...and to take major (though not total) responsibility for Palestinian refugees...We call for an end to the teachings in Jewish and Israeli schools and media which demean or demonize the Palestinian people; instead we seek to replace those with teachings that emphasize the humanity and goodness of the Palestinian people, Arabs and Muslims. Although we affirm Israel as a Jewish state side by side with Palestine, we believe that all non-Jews in Israel...should have full civil rights in Israel and equal economic entitlements to any Israeli who has served in the army.
"We call upon the Palestinian people to acknowledge the right of Jews to maintain their own homeland...with Jewish control over the Jewish section of Jerusalem... and the Western Wall, and unimpeded access to the cemetery on the Mount of Olives. We call upon the Palestinian people to stop acts of terror against Israel... We call upon Palestinians to end all teachings in their schools and media which demean or demonize the Jewish people or Israel and to replace those with teachings that emphasize the humanity and goodness of the Jewish people.
"...Just as Israelis must demonstrate that they see Palestinians as created in the image of God and deserving of full respect, so the Palestinians must demonstrate that they see Israelis as created in the image of God and are deserving of full respect.
"Both sides need to recognize a need for repentance for past deeds that were hurtful and oppressive. Jews must understand why Palestinians...today feel that "the right to return" to their homes is no different from the right of return that was at the basis of Zionism.
Similarly, Palestinians need to acknowledge their own role in helping create the conflict by their armed resistance to Jewish immigration to Palestine in the years when Jews were being annihilated or when Jews were crawling out of the death camps and crematoria of Europe.
"We call upon the United States and other world powers to intervene with all their influence and economic power both to stop the cycle of violence and to achieve... an end to the Occupation, and an end to acts of terror...

J Street leader, Jeremy Ben Ami
Another American-based group, more in the political arena, J-Street has established itself under the banner of "Pro-Israel + Pro-Peace."  It claims to represent  "more than 177,000 online supporters, 5,000 students and 650 National Rabbinic Cabinet Leaders."  Leaders describe its mission this way:

"The organization gives political voice to mainstream American Jews and other supporters of Israel who, informed by their Jewish values, believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel’s survival as the national home of the Jewish people and as a vibrant democracy. J Street’s mission is two-fold: first, to advocate for urgent American diplomatic leadership to achieve a two-state solution and a broader regional, comprehensive peace and, second, to ensure a broad debate on Israel and the Middle East in national politics and the American Jewish community.
"J Street represents Americans, primarily but not exclusively Jewish, who support Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, as well as the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own – two states living side-by-side in peace and security. We believe ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the best interests of Israel, the United States, the Palestinians, and the region as a whole."


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