Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Annual "Comfort-Ye-My-People" Post

All right, it is time for the annual Shabbat Nahamu post -- the comforting thoughts for the Jewish people, and, in particular, those in Israel.

Last year I wrote:

Has Israel been built with the blood, sweat, and property of millions of innocent Palestinians? Yes it has. And it must make amends and offer restitution. But it has also been built with the blood, sweat, and energies of millions of Jews, inside and outside. And while there are many deep and structural problems with the state that was founded in 1948, there are many worse post-World Was II states than Israel, many more states that perpetuated the same crimes and worse than Israel, and yet are in much worse shape today.

Yes, things are the absolute pits here. But we can be thankful of the little things.

For example, I still love Jerusalem -- whatever is left of it after its overbuilding and its ghetto-like, apartheid wall.

I love the quiet neighborhoods [unfortunately not so quiet in Summer 2008 -- JH], the bustling areas, the amount and quality of kosher food I can eat...

Where but in Jerusalem can you go to a kosher restaurant that doesn't look irredeemably Jewish? Where the diners don't all look like they followed you out of the early minyan (prayer service) at shul?

What other Jewish community in the world gives your daughters at least two shuls in which women read from the Torah AND there is a mehitzah (partition)?

What other Jewish community in the world has Jews and Arabs working together to protest injustice and humanity?

What other Jewish community in the world has a DVD rental store like the Third Ear, where you can get alternative indie movies that show you the true face of the Occupation, as well as the complete sets of Simpsons and Seinfeld?

All this is in Israel, and in Jerusalem, the Holy City.

We Jewish people are in a spiritual malaise. Traumatized by the holocaust, supportive of a state that is still, after sixty years, foundationally racist, and yet has achieved so much....if I didn't believe in the indestructability of the Jewish people -- that the seed of Abraham will never wither away -- I would despair.

But we will prevail. With the help of people of good faith everywhere, and, desperately, with the assistance of our Palestinian brothers and sisters, we shall overcome the malaise. Justice will be served. We will learn from them and from our mistakes. It will take decades, but it will come. I am 54 years old. I compare my generation with that of the younger generation -- things are changing.

So what do I have to add this year?

Not a whole lot. The good things haven't changed; the bad things have gotten worse. But I will add one thing from the vantage point of Shabbat Nahamu 2008/5768

Time has run out on the two-state solution. It isn't going to happen. I know that the leftwing and rightwing opponents of the two-state solution have been saying this for a long time. But now the moderates are. Sari Nusseibah, the Palestinian who is the most acceptable to Israelis, and who teamed with Ami Ayyalon, threw in the towel yesterday. Read the interview here. Since the West Bank is de facto annexed to Israel, and since Gaza will always be under siege, it will shortly be time for annexation de jure with citizenship for the Palestinians. That will be the battle cry of the younger generation.

It will be a hard sell for both Palestinians and Israelis, who don't want to power-share. But Israel is intractably opposed to a Palestinian state, and has been so from day 1 of its existence. Most people who say that they favor a Palestinian state don't really mean it. And even if they do mean it, the settlers aren't going to let them do i.t So something will have to be done with millions of Palestinans who have been under Israeli control for the last 40 years without citizenship. Step One is for the PA to disband itself (a step favored by Nusseibah); step Two is for Israel to take responsibility for them again. And step three will be to agitate for annexation and citizenship for the West Bank Palestinians.

I don't say that I favor this solution. Like Nusseibeh, I like the idea of two, three, or a whole bunch of states in a federation or confederation. But it ain't going to happen. So we have to start thinking of alternatives.

What makes me optimistic is that I believe this can be done without destroying what I like about Israel now (see above). Oh, sure, there will be a regime change and changes in the fundamental character of Israel from an ethnocracy with racist laws under the veneer of a liberal democracy (a bit like Russia, which is not surprising, since Russians founded the State of Israel) into a binational, or bicultural, or just bi-state. But if naturalization is done correctly, through a process of education, and a gradual conferral of benefits for potential citizens, then there can be an Israelification of the new civilians that will include a familiarization with Jewish culture -- as well as a familiarization of Palestinian culture for the Jewish citizens.

Nothing of what I like about Israel need change in such a state -- unless the merge is bungled so that the fundamentalists (Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, they are all the same in this regard) take power. Then it will be a one-way ticket back to the US for me. The last thing I want to do is live in modern state governed by Shari'a or Torah (the medieval Hebrew translation of shari'a)


Anonymous said...

I thought the literal translation of Shari'a (the way or path) was Halakha.
The Shari'a's development resembles the Gaonic to Shulkhan Arukh development of Halakha , both taking place at about the same time and under the same civil culture.
I think the independent fatwa system of today in Islam resembles our system of contemporary rabbinic decisions and their scope.


Avi said...

As an Orthodox Jew, I cannot understand how you call the State of Israel racist. A Jewish State is no more racist than a French state or a Chinese State. As an Orthodox Jew, you know that Judaism is not based on race and if any Arab underwent a halakhic conversion, they would be just as Jewish as you and I.

I feel that you are serving as a usefull idiot for the Islamofascists, those who wish to wipe out the Jewish people. By couching this in terms of "opposition to colonialism", "racism", "land-grab", you are acting to weaken the Jewish people. The only way that the modern Zionist experiment will come to an end will not be peacefully, but with a slaughter. Israel is surrounded by people who wish to destroy it and who would gladly send us all to the gas chambers. I am afraid that you are unwittingly (I'll give you the benefit of the doubt) acting as a kapo. Remember the penalty of a moser.

Are you aware of the position a non-Jew is supposed to occupy in a Jewish state? None of the poskim mention a liberal Westernized democracy as the Torah's ideal state. While I would be opposed to a state based on religious coercion, you must know that a Jew and a non-Jew cannot be equal in a Jewish state. Read the Rambam's works. A non-Jew must accept the 7 Noahide commandments and Jewish sovereignty to live in Israel. He can never be appointed over a Jew, as a king, minister, judge, police or in any capacity. He can have no political rights. Is it fair? No. Is it Western democracy? No. Is it Torah? You bet your ass.

Jerry Haber said...

bar kochba; i meant "religio-racist." Usually, I am more careful.

Israel is the only state in the world where religious conversion gives you the right to be a citizen. If you want to become naturalized in France or China, you don't have to drop your trousers and dunk in a mikveh. True, there are countries that favor people of certain religions. But converting to Islam doesn't give you an automatic right to be considered a Saudi or Algerian citizen.

Now, to correct you. You seem to think that you have to be halakhically Jewish to be a citizen of Israel. Do you know that a pork-eating atheist who was born of two Christian parents has automatic rights to become a citizen of Israel if one of his grandparents was Jewish? That's racist my friend, because that is how the Nazis determined who was a Jew. See under "Nuremberg laws."

Unless you are a Jew, or convert to being a Jew (or marry one), it is virtually impossible to become a citizen of Israel. Now, many other countries favor certain ethnic groups in citizenship. But no other country, to my knowledge, restricts citizenship virtually to its own ethnic group.

Worse than that -- the Palestinians in Israel are a native minority, buddy -- and no other country discriminates as much in immigration against their native minorities.

But, hey, why are *you*, of all people, bringing me the cases of France and China? I thought you don't care what the goyische states do? Aren't they all against us? You want to learn from them?

Or maybe you feel that you do have to provide arguments for your position?

As for all the nasty things you say about me, blah, blah, blah, I can simply reply that religious zionism is kefirah and minus, that, as you know, the gedolei ha-dor have always opposed it, that the Rambam doesn't say anything about a Jewish state like Israel, and that the Rambam's state doesn't exist.I have no desire to live in a pseudo-Maimonidean state run by 21st century fascists who wrap themselves up in part of the Rambam's tallis. The Rambam wrote in the 12th century and was influenced in his political philosophy by the Muslims he lived with (and whose families he spent most of his day curing). Read Israel Prize winner Yaakov Blidstein's work on the Rambam's political philosophy. The Rambam's view on the rights of non-Jews in a Jewish state is a direct parallel to the non-Muslims in the Muslim state in which he lived. He also has a Jewish version of Jihad, only that where the Muslims say, "Be Muslim or die," he said, "Be a Ben Noah or die," for which the European rabbis criticized him. There is a lot more Muslim influence in his halakha (the permissibility of like beating your wife le-shem hinukh). Read what Prof. Gidon Lebson has to write about it.

The truth is that guys like you shouldn't be allowed to read the Rambam because you read it backwards. Start with Sefer Mada, especially Yesode ha-Torah and Deos, and then read what Rambam's Jewish state is supposed to bring about -- world peace which allows each of us to study Hashem, which can only be done after studying secular philosophy and science. (Remember --according to Rambam, Talmud includes that stuff.)

But if you want to hold by the Rambam (and Rav Kook) on "Som tasim," that's fine with me, because then your women can't vote and your guys will be blown away in the next election.

I am sure you have an answer to that one. Et laasot le-Erez Yisrael, hafer et toratkha.


Anonymous said...

Out of curiousity, as a "lover" of Jerusalem, do you also advocate as your friend Mr. Silverstein does the return to the 1967 borders (including the Kotel)? He is under the belief that unlike pre 1967 all will hold hands, sing Kumbaya and allow religious freedom for all parties. Are you of a like mind?

Jerry Haber said...


The literal translation of Shari'a is what you wrote -- the way or the path. It also means torah. So why then did the medievals Jew translate it as "torah" and not as "halakha"?

I think the reason is because halakha, strictly speaking, is really narrower than sharia.

Halakha in its normal sense doesn't include Torah mitzvot. It refers to law that is rabbinic in origin. But the term shari'a, in its senses, does refer to the Divine law.

Now, it is true that both halakha and shari'a are used in the broad sense of religious law, and in that sense they are comparable. But to call halakha "divine law" is against its rabbinic usage.

Jerry Haber said...

Hmm...where did Richard say that...about the Kumbaya bit? He doesn't strike me as a Kumbaya kind of person.

For the record I never liked the song "Kumbaya". I certainly don't like holding hands with strangers.

But you asked about Jerusalem....well, by the principle of fairness, a two-state solution would involve a fair division of sovereignty: that could either be joint soveignty, or divide up the city, but fairly.

That would not mean giving Palestinians sovereignty over half the hole of the bagel -- center city -- and then ringing the city with Jewish settlements. It would mean, minimally, going back to the 67 border. Now, there can be some agreed-upon swaps, I suppose, though the PA usually agrees to too much since the Palestinians are the weaker party. So the swaps would have to be fair and not shoved down their throats.

Wait, you asked about the holy places. Well, if I had my druthers, the sovereignty would be either joint or better, neither Palestinian nor Israel, but international. The holy places would be administered by Jews and Muslims and Christians, when relevant. Actually, it would be pretty cool if the Jewish Administration included non-Israeli Jews, and the Muslim Administration included non-Palestinian Muslims.

But I have no problem with the Old City be under Palestinian sovereignty. None of the Palestinian negotiators ever claimed that Jews couldn't live in the Old City. If Palestinians can live in Baka, why can't Jews live in the Jewish Quarter (though not, necessarily, today's Jewish quarter, which was part of the post-67 landgrab.)

I also would insist on an open city. No walls except the one that Suleiman put there in the sixteenth century. That I would keep.

Look, this may not practical -- the Jerusalem syndrome makes politicians who come here crazy --but it's fair. There are Jews who will balk at Har-Habayit, and there are Muslims who will balk at the Kotel. That is why moderate folks, religious and secular, have to be in charge.

If religious extremists take over, there are ways of getting them out.

As the good book says: shoot first, kumbaya later.

Anonymous said...

"As an Orthodox Jew, I cannot understand how you call the State of Israel racist. A Jewish State is no more racist than a French state or a Chinese State." Are there states of France or China that have a provision saying that the nature of the state as French or Chinese cannot be put to vote? Are there laws in Israel that provide anyone arrested to equal protection of the law? Are there public trials of all those imprisoned by Israel? Not that I've heard of. Instead I hear that Israeli policies regarding treatment of those arrested varies based on allegiance or subservience to Zion. Racism is the witholding of rights from others. Anonymous also known as Margaret

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thank you, Jerry. -Anony. also known as Margaret