To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Annotated Quote Of The Day: An Israeli Rabbi On The Primacy Of Jewish Life Over Non-Jews, Scriptural Justifications for Vengeance And 'The Odium Of The Other'

From Ynet News an English language Israeli news site associated with Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s most-read newspaper, in response to the immolation murder of Palestinian Muhammed Abu Khdeir by Jewish extremists in revenge for the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teens in June. 

Rabbis say that Judaism can be used to justify revenge attacks like this one.

“Judaism, like other religious traditions, has very different stories about how we treat those who aren’t part of the Jewish people,” Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute, told The Media Line.

“I have a whole slew of sources that shape my Judaism starting with the sanctity of all life being created in the image of God. The problem is that there’s chapter and verse in which Jewish life is primary, in which aggression toward others is allowed, vengeance is celebrated and revenge is celebrated.”

I think it's fair to say that this skewed moral logic, and its purported scriptural underpinnings, are at play both in the massive numbers of casualties that Israel has inflicted on the civilian population of Gaza and in the disturbing moral indifference to those casualties, among Israeli officials, among much of the Israeli population and within much of the American pro-Israel community. 

The Times only scratched the surface of this in Steven Erlanger's July 10th report, "Killing of Palestinian Youth Puts An Israeli Focus On Extremism," which examined the phenomenon of Jewish extremism the "moral blindness" of many Israelis to it, as Haaretz columnist Anshel Pfeffer put it. 

A much deeper, albeit very disturbing analysis can be found in Leon Wieseltier's November, 1985 essay, "The Demons of the Jews," which was linked to quite deliberately in a recent TNR story from  Jerusalem which told of "a frightening resignation in the face of racism." Wieseltier's 1985 piece is a fascinating piece of scholarly journalism, a fusion of  historical analysis and cultural commentary that pulls very few punches and showcases  Wieseltier's prodigious talents before he became a knee-jerk defender of Israel and a self-proclaimed "cop" keeping the American debate on Israel debate safe from those who might challenge its ethnocentrism and orthodoxy---as well as the moral preening and chauvinism inherent in the idealization of Israel as "The Light Onto The Nations."  As Wieseltier wrote, in reference to Meir Kahane and Kahanism,   

"Kahanism is Judaism," he (Kahane) humbly says. And in a sense, it is true. There is no such thing as a tolerant religion, and Judaism is no exception. It is indeed not democratic. Its texts are riddled with exclamations of exclusiveness, and with the odium of the other; there is much in the canon for Kahane to use. 

Wieseltier said that even in acknowledging this, it was essential to acknowledge as well that "For every rabbinic insistence upon Jewish superiority there is a rabbinic insistence upon Jewish justice." The problem here is that in the years since Wieseltier wrote the essay and now, the chauvinism and intolerance he discussed has deepend, and the Jewish religious fundamentalism in the politically important settlement movement and the rabbinical councils that play a very big role in that movement, is ascendant.  

More on this truly fascinating dynamic TK>>>>>

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