Not in God’s Name?

I will go to Shabbat this evening, sharing with my Jewish husband and many other good and faithful people in saying prayers and singing beautiful, haunting songs of God’s power, goodness, and mercy. We will say to each other, “Shabbat Shalom,” sabbath peace.

Mishkan TorahI have come to cherish this time, to be accepted as a member of the temple, even as I continue my worship and identity as a follower of Jesus. Both Congregation Or Ami, the Reform congregation in Richmond, and Congregation Mishkan Torah, the Conservative/Reconstructionist temple in Greenbelt, recognize our family (Or Ami did so before we were legally married, and I think it would have been the same at Mishkan Torah).

I learn much about faith and living from the wise and deeply spiritual rabbis who lead these two congregations and from other leaders and members, too. Judaism is a beautiful faith and these are beautiful people. I am blessed. I grow in spiritual depth by being fed at temple, and participating in the life of the congregation.

boycott_divestment_sanctions_560I also am troubled. During recent High Holy Days services, speakers told us about the importance of buying Israel Bonds. They also spoke of how wrong any efforts, such BDS (Boycott Divestment, Sanctions), to change Israeli policy through pressure from the world, were wrong, even evil. We were told that BDS seeks to destroy Israel. I have read and heard people say that Jews who support these efforts are self-hating Jews. Even the idea of selective boycotts–not buying products from selected companies who are part of maintaining control of Palestinians–are judged as anti-semitic. The implication is, for me, that I and other non-Jews who may support at least some of these efforts are anti-Semitic.

Int._Day_Against_Fascism_and_Antisemitism
en.wikipedia.org

Of course, it is hard to escape anti-Semitic attitudes–like white racism, homophobia, sexism, they are part of the air we breathe (even after the Holocaust and a desire for “never again”). But I have worked hard to overcome it, and am committed to opposing it every way I can.

Free Palestine and anti-semitism
http://www.thoughtsplural.com/ (of course, Jews are not the only Semitic people)

But that does not mean I accept everything done by the State of Israel as good, any more than I accept everything done by the United States of America as good. And it surely does not mean that I want to do to others what has been done to Jews.

Now comes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who claims it was a Muslim leader, Jerusalem’s then-grand mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who gave Hitler the idea, or if not the idea then the push, to burn all Jews. Historians universally scoff at the claim, as do many Israeli leaders, including some in the Netanyahu cabinet.

ibtimes.co.uk
Benjamin Netanyahu ibtimes.co.uk

The Prime Minister, admittedly never a favorite of mine going back to when he was the Israeli Ambassador to the UN in the 1980s, seems to be seeking to deflect any criticism of Israeli actions towards the Palestinians by suggesting that the current wave of violence, and by extension all the Palestinian anger and violence in prior years, is due to only one cause: an ancient animus of Muslims and Palestinians toward Jews.

It is true that the Grand Mufti was an odious anti-Semite. And it is true that many other Arab leaders, and people, have been so, and continue to be so. It is disappointing, to say the least, that the current President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has not condemned the violence and sought to stem it.

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas news.bbc.co.uk

At the same time, there seems to be ample evidence that Abbas and the authority are not inciting it either. Frankly, Abbas is a pretty weak figure, and that is in part due to how ineffective he and his government are seen by the people in changing the living conditions of Palestinians.

What Mr. Netanyahu may want to consider is the contribution his government, and prior Israeli administrations, make to this perception among Palestinians. Perhaps if they could find ways to lessen the Israeli control of Palestinian lives, to allow more movement not less, to stop what would be considered racial profiling in this country, to provide access to more water, to stop bulldozing Palestinian homes (those of the families of bombers as well as just ordinary people), or join the President of Israel in acknowledging some of the wrongs done to Palestinians over the decades–any one or more of these things or others–then perhaps there would be ways to stop or even slow the escalating cycle of violence.

As it is now, the cycle is picking up speed and intensity. Tighten the screws, and Palestinians will react more angrily. Tighten again in response, and more anger, more bombs, more cars used to run over people, etc. Tighten more, more reaction, etc. I for one cannot see that Israel is being made more safe by all this.

My friends who stand with Israel–with only muted criticism, if any–will say Israel can’t afford to be weak, that the Palestinians cannot be trusted not to take advantage of any kindness for their own gain. They have evidence to support the claim.

I acknowledge the risk.

But I also know this. People revolt against what they perceive to be unreasonable authority, people fight back against oppression. And they will not stop until it is over.

The forced marchof Cherokee westward voice.nationalgeographic.com
The forced marchof Cherokee westward voice.nationalgeographic.com

This is part of our national history here, too, as our nation overrode the anger of Native Americans to losing their land–by wiping most of them out, and put the rest on reservations. I do not want that for Palestinians.

And I take them at their word that the leaders of Israel do not either. But frankly the Prime Minister’s comments feel all too much like a set up for justifying actions I, and most others, would find odious. I do not say he wants that, but it is a slippery slope he is on. It is too easy to move from mass condemnation of a people to deciding they should be removed or massacred or otherwise overrun. Jews surely know this. The rest of us should know it, to our shame.

And here’s something to ponder: is the history of Islam one long effort to kill Jews? No. When Christians were on vengeful Crusades, it was often Islamic people, among others, who protected Jews.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks www.cbcew.org.uk
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
http://www.cbcew.org.uk

It is too easy to get inside your own “in group,” into dualisms, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says, and decide that the other group is entirely to blame for whatever ails you (Rabbi Sacks writes of this in an excellent book, “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence”). We have to break that cycle in many places in the world, most certainly in Israel/Palestine.

Somehow, some way, these warring peoples have got to find ways to live together. Shalom. 

Or they shall die together, not in the dignity of old age but in every growing hostility and conflagration.

God weeps at the prospect.

Time for More Grown Ups

The debate about the Iran deal reveals a fundamental divide in our politics.

Here is how I frame the two points of view–and you will have no doubt of where I stand.

gunslingerAre we forever consigned to be macho tough guys, enforcing what we think is right no matter what anyone else thinks?

Or can we take a chance on working with others–in this case Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany–to do something that just might avoid war as well as avoid further nuclear proliferation?

The former is the Netanyahu way, and I must say often the John McCain way, and certainly the way of the current crop of Republican presidential contenders.

President Obama took office, and has held office, during a time of international shifting currents. We are no longer the sole super power, even though we have more military prowess than anyone else. Even so, he has wisely tried to minimize our military George W. Bushengagement around the world, while being unafraid to use our force when it could do something significant. I actually think President George Bush was moving in this direction as well, after the disaster of Iraq and even Afghanistan.

So far as I can tell, not a single Congressional Republican is supporting the Iran treaty deal. Two Senators, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine, were considered undecided. Senator Flake gave in to pressure and announced his No vote. That still leaves Senator Collins. She gets in trouble fairly often for voting her own way, but she may be the only one.

Senator Susan Collins
Senator Susan Collins

There are not many Democrats opposing it, but there are some, including Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the presumed next Majority Leader after the next election. He is a big deal in his caucus, and no one is calling him names, at least in public. But I think it safe to say that any Republican in Congress supporting the treaty will get called a lot of ugly names.

This is distressing. It really has become a partisan struggle.

Actually, I think it has become, once again for some, about President Obama. Too many just can’t stand the idea that he might do some really good, and big, things. They are automatic votes against anything significant that he proposes. That is not, of course, true for all of them, or even for most. But they do comprise a significant body of Republican legislators.

However, that is small potatoes. The bigger issue is how the United States chooses to live with others in the world.

Donald Trump wants to make America great again. He defines that as being Number One–having more marbles than anyone else, having the toughest military, and basically standing astride the world.

His fellow contenders basically agree, except for Senator Paul of Kentucky. But even he is soft-peddling his aversion to intervention in the world.

William McKinleyThis harking back to Reagan, or Eisenhower, or McKinley (and Theodore Roosevelt) to be honest, no longer works. The world is very different. China’s economy can unsettle all the rest of us. Asia as a whole is the new world (again, I suppose we should say). Britain and France need us, but not like they used to, and Germany has shown she will go it alone if necessary.

We cannot bully our way around the globe. We must learn to play well with others.

Ultimately, that will be the way to stop ISIL and the religio/politico fanatics in Teheran and actually save their hated neighbors in Tel Aviv (who too often act like fanatics themselves). As long as we keep insisting on bombing and sending in troops as the way to No Bullying symbolsolve everything, falsely self-identified Islamic extremists will continue to win the recruiting campaign, and the violence will continue recycling.

Grown ups are needed. I thank God every day that we have one in the White House (albeit he can be petulant and distant at times). It seems Merkel of Germany is one, too, and perhaps Hollande of France.

I pray for more, right here in the United States, as well as around the globe.