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The Gaza-debate

Jewish identity doesn´t mean unconditional support for Israeli

Politics


Olle Katz 2014-08-18


The inconceivable scenes that have taken place in Gaza while ultra-orthodox settlers (the Haredi) are dancing to the roaring bombs have released antisemitic attacks

against Jews all around Europe. The war in Gaza poses many questions for us who

want to see beyond headlines and clichés. For those of us who live with a Jewish

identity these issues are also personal, writes Olle Katz (spokesman for JIPF - 

Jews for peace between Israel and Palestine )

 

What we carelessly call Jewish identity is founded, as I see it, on some basic

fundamentals. One is of course the Torah, that is the five books of Moses (the

Pentateuch) with its rules for how you should live your life. Even more vital is probably

theTalmud, the extensive writings which were completed prior to the 6th century.

The lasting value of theTalmud is that it gives you several parallel interpretations of

the Torah. There isn´t one way to understand the Scriptures, there are several. The

debate, the dialogue is more important than finding an absolute truth. You don´t need

to be wrong because I am right! In modern times you can call it Hegelian dialectics,

an inquisitive way of thinking that is the opposite of fundamentalism.

 

Intellectual openness

This intellectual openness was there, built in into the studies of the Torah and the

Talmud and probably of advantage to many Jews when it came to Art and Science.

Respect for diversity also applies to the complexity of human beings: We are complex

beings where evil and good are mixed and opinions seldom are rectilinear.

Thousands of years of persecutions, pogromes and the Nazis work on the final

Holocaust gave the Jews the hallmark of victims. Prayers and learning didn´t help

against our tormentors, so superior in number and arms. But the knowledge that our

studies has given us is still there as long as there are any survivors.

With the foundation of the state of Israel a new identity was born. Many are those who

can witness about the pride of the existence of a Jewish state, the feeling of finally

being able to straighten your back. There was a small territory where Jews would not

be persecuted. That Palestine was inhabited by people other than Jews escaped most

of them in the aftermath of the Holocaust and in the lingering colonialism. To feel joy

and solidarity with the Jewish state became, along with the memory of the Holocaust,

perhaps the most important part of a Jewish identity. The attacks from surrounding

states confirmed their roles as victims, the victories confirmed the new pride.

Israel also stood out for many as a role model in terms of democracy, social justice

and equality between men and women - not least in comparison with the majority of

the countries in the Middle East.

Israeli politics has turned further and further to the right. Ultra-orthodox fanatics (who

don´t need to work, not to do military service - they are not even Zionists) have got

great influence. In Jerusalem there are bus services, where women are obliged to sit

on the back seats. The West Bank is perforated with Jewish towns, so called

settlements, where land has been looted from the Palestine inhabitants. People who

work for peace are threatened and harassed. Non-Jewish citizens are living under

increasingly difficult conditions.

 

Fundamentalism is gaining ground

John Kerry and Desmond Tutu have used the word apartheid. Fundamentalism is

gaining ground and the dehumanization of the other is accelerating on both sides.

Arab children ignore the Holocaust, Israeli children are not taught the history of the

Palestinians.

The basic biblical texts are interpreted for the state by the Supreme Rabbinate. The

space for balanced dialogues seems to shrink. The victim status is made into an

argument for the right to oppress the weaker Non-Jewish groups and for violence

against innocent inhabitants in Gaza and on the West Bank.

The current government seems to live in symbiosis with Hamas, another elected

representative government. Hamas is a fundamentalist, misogynist and violence

glorifying regime, that has to take its share of the blame for the fact that peace seems

more and more remote.

To tie your identity to a particular country and its politics is not a good idea. You can

love a country, but its politics is quite something else. In particular when religion is

taken in as a political argument. Israel has, as the stronger part, a responsibility for

creating peace. But without a desire for peace from the government of Israel, the Jews

in Israel will never be able to live in security. We can feel pride as Jews to have Israel

as our second homeland only when they show that.

In Israel , unlike in most of the surrounding Arab states, there is a living active, public

discussion that gives a glimmer of hope. The peace line is represented by leading

former politicians such as the Knesset former Spokesman Avraham Burg and by world

famous writers as Amos Oz. Unfortunately, at the moment, it seems that most Israeli

friends have forgotten the wisdom that the study of the Talmud gives.

 

Plea for peace

Fundamentalism and discrimination is not a breeding ground for a democratic society.

Respect for the equal value of all human beings and the realization that there are

different ways to interpret the context is the basis upon which a just and secure

peace must be founded.

Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora have different opinions, even about the politics of

Israel. The Jewish identity I and others feel must be decoupled from

unconditional support to a government that abuses its power in the name of religion

and of the Jewish people . A Jewish identity is doing best if separated from an

unconditional support for Israel.

 

Olle Katz

Spokesman for *JIPF (Jews for peace between Israel and Palestine), active in the Jewish Congregation of Gothenburg (The Article was originally published in the Swedish newspaper Göteborgs-Posten 10 August .  The translation was made by Lena Alexandersson, member of the Swedish Freinet Movement )


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debattera mera

Fann 6 artiklar.

Rubrik   Författare   Publicerad

Jewish identity doesn´t mean unconditional support for IsraeliPolitics   Katz   2014-08-18
Ungdomar i Läroböcker   Nilsson   2009-08-12
Dags för en ungdomsvänlig gymnasieskola   Nilsson   2009-01-26
Har Freinetgymnasiet en strategi för skoltrötta och omotiverade elever?     2005-09-11
Nyttan av teori     2005-04-12
Mönstret känns igen   Almlöf   2002-11-05

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