“Teaching Jewish heritage isn’t only about building identity; at the risk of sounding racist, its about ensuring the survival of the tribe.” Raanan Gissin (Ariel Sharon’s top adviser and spokesman)
Israel and Palestine:
Reality Stood On its Head
Mark Braverman: The Jewish Conscience
The history of conflict and bloodshed between the State of Israel, its Arab neighbors, and the indigenous inhabitants of historic Palestine is the unavoidable and predictable result of the colonialist nature of the Zionist enterprise. …
What is uncanny and tragic is that in the current discourse, the roles of the combatants are turned upside down: The Jews are portrayed as the victims, and the Palestinians as the aggressors.
In truth, it is the Palestinians who are the victims: dispossessed, powerless, and pained. In every way, the Jews are victorious and all-powerful. …
It is our responsibility as Jews to examine our relationship to Israel, rather than to passively accept the story fed to us by the Jewish establishment: the synagogues, Jewish Federations, lobbying organizations and the rest of the apparatus devoted to maintaining the mighty stream of financial and policy support for Israel from the US government and from private sources.
We must examine our convictions and feelings about the meaning of the State to us personally, especially in relation to anti-Semitism. …
As Diaspora Jews we need to question where we get our information about the history of the State of Israel and about the current political situation. What news services do we rely on, what websites do we visit? What do we know about the discussion going on inside Israel today, exemplified by the active dialogue to be found in the pages of Haaretz, the organizations voicing opposition to Israeli government policy, and the accelerated pace of revisionist Zionist history being produced by Jewish Israeli historians?
We must become willing to overcome our profound denial about the current reality and the injustices wrought by Zionism. Walter Brueggemann, the Protestant theologian, in his work on the prophetic imagination, writes about the prophetic call to grieve and to mourn, that only in this way can we hope to move on to a new and better reality.
We must break through the denial about what we have done. The power structure, of course, is committed to the very opposite. …
It is a fundamental failure to accept the consequences of Jewish actions… It will not make Israel a just society with respect to its Palestinian citizens. It will not erase what was done to the Palestinians who were driven out of their cities, towns and villages in 1948. It does not place the issue of justice as primary. … It blocks the discussion. It closes our hearts.
Christians, Jews, Anti-Semitism, and Tribalism
The issue of anti-Semitism is complex and deeply embedded in two thousand years of Western history. Among liberal Christian theologians and religious leaders, Supercessionism – the concept that Christianity, embodied in the Gospels, came to replace Judaism as God’s plan for humankind – has become the Great Evil.
Supercessionism is the teaching that New Covenant established by Jesus replaces the Old Testament Mosaic covenant. The word is derived from “supercede”. So, basically it asserts that the Christian church has replaced Israel. It is also sometimes called Replacement Theology.
The argument is that this idea, developed in the first centuries after Christ and central to Christian belief and doctrine, laid the groundwork for anti-Semitism.
But in their zeal to correct the injustices of the past Christian leaders and thinkers are in danger of losing sight of an important aspect of early Christian thought.
Pre-Constantinian Christianity, in its reframing of the relationship of God to humanity, produced a revolution — in effect, it moved the concept of “Israel” from the tribal to the communal.
In the Christian reframing, God’s commitment to humanity [..] was transformed into God’s love for humankind and the invitation to all to become part of a universal spiritual community.
“It moved the concept of “Israel” from the tribal to the communal.”
This was a great contribution, a great step forward, and it has special relevance today, as all religions struggle to move from “Constantinian,” power-based religions to communities based on a commitment to diversity, human rights and Justice.
The choice between religion based on and consorting with political power and oppression, and religion grounded in a concept of community is one that must be faced by all the faiths.
To our Christian sisters and brothers I say – do not, out of a sense of guilt for anti-Semitism, give the Jewish people a free pass. Do not confuse anti-Semitism with critique of Israel, and in so doing fail to hold Jews accountable for their thoughts and actions…
Mark Braverman is a member of the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace and Jewish Voice for Peace. He serves on the Board of ICAHD-USA.