US Politics Philip Weiss on August 31, 2014
Steve Koppman is a playwright and the author of a book on Jewish Folklore. At Huffington Post he has published an anti-Zionist piece that says Jews should be supporting the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement because it epitomizes the best of Jewish values in opposition to the militant Jewish state that oppresses Palestinians. A wonderful piece. My headline’s provocative, but Koppman said that part too.
He points out the ways that Jewish nationalism has entered his religious space and corrupted it:
For five years in our synagogue like many others, a special prayer was made for Gil’ad Shalit — an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas — every Shabbes. But never in my experience was there mention of the five to ten thousand Arabs held over that period in Israeli prisons, sometimes indefinitely, without trial or charge. What happens, I wondered, when our kids learn “the rest of the story”? What are we telling them? Only Jewish lives matter?
One of the Jewish Torah ‘s three commands to “love” is to love “the Other.”
A Judaism that treasures Jewish lives and devalues Arab lives is no longer Judaism.
He knows about the Jewish movement against such racism. He says that rightwing Zionists are a minority who have hijacked the community:
The U.S. Jewish community has largely had its political identity hijacked by an influential minority, including many community leaders and rabbis, who see its essential role as advocating for Israel no matter what it does, bolstering U.S. government support and billions annually in U.S. aid….
This support is largely free of moral content. It’s what sociologists have called “amoral familism.” Israel’s actions are not subject to moral examination but presumed to define morality. Past crimes against us are forever used subliminally to justify new crimes by us. Israel’s insistence on”security” and more land trumps Arab people’s demand for basic rights and self-determination as it has for decades. The “organized community” and American aid help maintain Israeli intransigence against what’s seen as an uncaring and always at least potentially anti-Semitic world.
But blockade and occupation are recognized acts of war most of us would support resistance to anywhere else in the world. The West Bank has been occupied for almost 50 years, its residents subject to arbitrary arrest, control over movement, land seizure and home destruction. Nearly two million Gazans have been blockaded for more than seven years — malnourished, economy strangled, health ruined — in collective punishment.
Election of a Palestinian government was sabotaged by Israel’s refusal to deal with it and mass arrest of the winners. Israel likes to call itself the Middle East’s “only democracy” while effectively ruling nearly five million — and growing — unrepresented Palestinians.
It is unclear what choice Palestinians have beyond active resistance and meekly accepting permanent subjugation in their own land. The recent “Kerry Round” of failed peace talks made this newly clear.
Sadat went to Jerusalem. The Arab League accepted Israel. Remember the Oslo accords? But for Israel, it’s always as if it’s 1967. If not 1944.
But what about the children we actually blow apart in 2014? An Israeli child was killed last week. What if it were 500 Jewish children? American children?
He’s worried about the Jewish brand:
Israel and its American supporters have long reversed the worldwide moral posture of the Jewish people, a disaster for American Judaism as we try to pass on an ethos radically compromised by the need to continually rationalize permanent oppression of another people by our own.
The synagogue is continually debased by regular prayers for the welfare and triumph of the occupying army, whose central mission has become subjugating Palestinians in perpetuity — policies few if any Jews would countenance practiced by any other state against any other people.
The founding event of the Jewish people was the greatest slave revolt in history. As a young Jew growing up in New York long ago, I knew every fight for freedom was mine. Jews supported human equality, the rights of all, with a reliability and enthusiasm that inspired people of other groups. What we looked down on most in our sub-culture was looking down on people.
Young Jews grow up today in a radically different world in which they are encouraged by the organized community to rationalize permanent suppression (and when they resist — “self-defense” killing) of Palestinian Arabs.
Here’s the intermarriage bit:
The “organized community” believes the explosion of intermarriage among non-Orthodox U.S. Jews from about 15 percent in 1967 — when Israel became a confirmed occupier — to over 70 percent today< is pure coincidence. But anyone who’s thought about it, or known young American Jews, knows better. We are living through an effort to re-define Judaism into, “The belief system that supports the Israeli state,” that dishonors the Jewish message of freedom, hope and resistance to tyranny that echoes through history. Here’s the BDS part: Confronting today’s Israel and demanding it change is not a rejection of Judaism but the most profound manifestation of it. Jews should not be fighting the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) movement that struggles to hold Israel accountable. We should be leading it. It is our people that’s disgraced by Israel’s policies and the heartless, mindless cheerleading of AIPAC and its supporters. This is a logical and morally clear argument shared by a great number of young Jews who are saying No to the demand that they support massacres. You can differ about the intermarriage claim, but there’s obviously something to it. Neoconservatism alienated me from Jewish life till like Arielle Klagsbrun I could find a tabernacle of Jews that denounced neoconservatism. I wanted to have my anti-Zionism inside Jewish life. But the thing I find most dispiriting about this is that Koppman isn’t in the New York Times. I’ve seen the Sunday Times spread out on the kitchen counter for the last two weeks and a bigger collection of lifestyle news and mouthwatering real estate and web-meme trivia-spotting and US Open overkill you will not find in all the slopbuckets of the internet. And this is printed on deathless newsprint, to divert the elite, and it’s a wasteland for ideas. Koppman is writing about riveting matters that affect the greatest source of instability in the world, and meantime Emily Bazelon, an ardent Zionist who says American Jews must support Zionism, is given the New York Times Magazine to write a piece about endangered abortion rights. That’s the state of establishment Jewish culture: support liberal landmarks of freedom for Americans while destroying the wall between church and state in the Middle East, and plunging the entire region into a cauldron of religious conflict. Andrew Sullivan long ago wondered where are the anti-Zionist writers in the mainstream press. They’re still marginalized. An important synthetic argument like Koppman’s is on Huffpo, and the Times has blinders on. Oh and yesterday Jodi Rudoren was once again echoing the fears of Israeli Jews, about securing their country’s future as a “Jewish democracy.” Is such a magic trick possible if you are not coming out of the heart of the American Jewish community, as Rudoren is? Would Rudoren support such a project in the U.S. where she lives? Of course not. Do the vast numbers of Palestinians living under Israeli governance find that project obnoxious? But of course. Where is Koppman? - See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/08/judaisms-support-zionism.html#sthash.Lc69buAZ.dpuf