Thursday, April 24, 2008

Talmudic Logic

In "An open letter to Nadine Gordimer from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine", the writer's begin:

Dear Nadine Gordimer,

Many of us who paid attention to, and valued, your writing during the dark days of apartheid are dismayed to see that you are participating in the International Writers' Festival in Israel in May.

It can only send a dispiriting message to the Palestinians that a writer of your moral standing and international renown is prepared to appear in a city at least half of which [emphasis added] is under illegal military occupation...

The writers go on to make case for a boycott of this particular event (and perhaps a general cultural boycott of Israel.) The signatories are all Jewish, and I have heard them accused before of a lack of Ahavat Yisrael - Love of Israel.

But a careful look at the language of the lines above reveals how steeped the actually are in Jewish tradition. Any Jewish child who has been taught Talmud has encountered the opening passage of Bava Metzia- Shnaim ochazim b'talit:

Two men are holding on to a prayer shawl. ... This one says "It's all mine," and that one says, "It's all mine."

Let this one swear, "I am entitled to at least half of it," and let that one swear, "I am entitled to at least half of it." And then let them divide it equally.

Could one even imply from this that the writers are in favour of a two state solution?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Israel's Newest Defender

Who ever thought Al Qaida would be defending Israel !

Headline on today's BBC web site

Al-Qaeda accuses Iran of 9/11 lie

Al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri says Iran is spreading lies that Israel, not his group, carried out the 9/11 attacks.
Mind-boggling !!

Justice Precedes Peace

On three things the world stands: on truth, on justice, and on peace.

So says Pirkei Avot.

But justice precedes peace - both chronologically as well as in importance. Without at least a modicum of justice, peace is simply not possible. And it is universally recognized that injustice is grounds for resistance, and sufficient injustice grounds for violent resistance.

In two very insightful postings, my favourite blogger - The Magnes Zionist - make this point vis a vis the Israel/Palestine conflict, and criticizes the Israeli left for focusing almost exclusively on peace, to the detriment of justice.

I am not really doing justice (pun fully intended) to his arguments. Read them for yourself:

Observing Passover When Still Enslaved -- A Response to Rabbi Arnold J. Wolf's
"Liberation and Obligation"


The Dove of Peace? Or Rather the Hammer of Justice and the Bell of Freedom? On
the Thirtieth Anniversary of Peace Now

Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy Passover

Check it out !

Silly, but cute.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jews in Space; or spaced out Jews

Judaism is much more than Zionism, (and its best parts are antithetical to the State of Israel as it is.) but both the main stream Diaspora Jewish community and the Israeli and Zionist leadership have done their best to blur this distinction. Later we decry it when anti-Zionists slip into Antisemitism, or when Jew's in the Diaspora are targeted by groups angry at Israel.

As an example of how far Israel has replaced Judaism in the minds of many Jews read this. The context is an interview with an American Jewish astronaut currently on board the International Space Station.

Shortly before Garrett Reisman launched aboard the shuttle Endeavour March 11 from the John F. Kennedy Space Center, he was asked about spending Passover in space.

"I haven’t really thought that much about that,” he said.

Reisman did spend time planning how to honor Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who died in the 2003 shuttle Columbia disaster. When he was tapped for a space mission of his own, Reisman asked [dead Israeli astronaut Ilan] Ramon’s widow, Rona, if there was anything she would like him to take into space.

“Ilan flew a copy of the Israeli Declaration of Independence," Reisman told JTA in a preflight interview. "It was a scroll and he kind of played with it in orbit, and they have video of that. She gave me another copy so I can kind of have the same experience with it up in orbit, and then I intend to return it to her when I get back.”

Reisman also is flying a flag with the symbol of the State of Israel signed by President Shimon Peres, as well as a necklace blessed by a Buddhist priest and a set of rosary beads.“

I pretty much have all my major religions covered,” he joked.

So there you have it. The symbol of Chistianity - rosary beads; the symbol of Buddism - a necklaced blessed by a priest; and the symbol of Judaism - an Israeli flag blessed by the President of the State, and the Israeli declaration of independence. Matzah and maror, a Haggadah, maybe some Charoset? Fogeddabouddit !

All is not lost though:
Reisman’s replacement, Jewish astronaut Gregory Chamitoff, is bringing two mezuzot.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Passover 2002

This poem is powerful.

I gave me the creeps.

I can't decide if I like it or hate it.

First is the Hebrew, then the English translation.


Instead of scalding
your pots and plates,
take steel wool
to your hearts:
You read the Haggadah
like swine, which
if put before a table
would forage about in the bowl
for parsley and dumplings.

Passover, however,
is stronger than you are.
Go outside and see:
the slaves are rising up,
a brave soul
is burying its oppressor
beneath the sand.

Here is your cruel,
stupid Pharaoh,
dispatching his troops
with their chariots of war,
and here is the sea of Freedom,
which swallows them.

by: Aharon Shabtai

© 1990, Aharon Shabtai

© Translation: 2003, Peter Cole

Passover 2002, of course, is when a terrorist bombed the Pasover Seder at the Park Hotel in Netanyah. Over 50 celebrants where killed.

U.S. Jewish Doves Form Lobby

Read all about it: "New Jewish-American lobby wants to be alternative to AIPAC "!

Will they succeed? Only time will tell.

But more interesting to me is how entirely "mainstream" their goals seem to me. Why is this lobby needed? Why is it considered radically dovish? Must show how far to the left I have drifted, or how far to the right the U.S. (and Canadian) Jewish establishment have gone.

To me the positions of this new lobby group seem on the timid side of common sence.

In favor of a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Iran; against
Israeli settlements in the territories; Jerusalem as Israel's recognized
capital after a solution has been reached between the parties; two states,
Israel and Palestine, living in peace and security.

Of course I wish them well. May they indeed succeed in becoming the voice of the Jewish "silent majority". Trouble is, by the time they succeed in influencing U.S and Israeli policy, it may be too little to late.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Does Israel Want Peace or Land ?

Well, April fools is over, (and Adar will be gone soon too) so now back to sad reality.

Does Israel want peace or land? The answer is that it wants both. But if push comes to shove, it prefers more land. How do I know? 'Cause Israel just keeps building and building in the occupied territories, continues to establish "fact on the ground", and continues to think it can wear down the Palestinians and impose its position unilaterally. The fact that virtually guarantees a future of never-ending-violence, some times low level - as now - and sometimes intense, seems to be beside the point as far as the Israeli government is concerned.

The latest proof of this sad reality: "Israel plans 1,400 new homes on contested land" - from today's Globe and Mail. Story highlights include this gem:

"Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to keep building in east Jerusalem and theWest Bank, dismissing Palestinian claims that construction on contested land is the greatest obstacle to peace."

Who is he deluding? The answer, of course is the Israeli public, who continue to think thay can have it both ways. Keep the land and also have peace. Then they see the Palestinians as being unreasonable for refusing to acquiesce - often violently so. But who is being unreasonable? Is it reasonable that one side gets 90%? The West Bank and Gaza are barely viable as is. Could Palestinians reasonable survive when Israel nibbles away at that small land base, taking the best land, and effectively slicing the area into disjoint cantons?

What is the latest plan? 600 "Jewish homes" in Psigat Zeev and 800 in Beitar Illit. This is in addition to 600 announced in November for Har Homa.

Israelis are making their choices day by day. I fear they (and the Palestinians too) will live with the consequences.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Falafel Will Save the World!

I am actually not a big fan of biological fuels - bio-diesel and ethanol - as environmental panaceas. After all they do spew carbon into the atmosphere, just like oil, and to the extent they are based on crops grown just for this purpose, they can actually cost more - in terms of atmospheric carbon - to produce than the oil they are intended to replace.

But, when they are recycled waste products, who can argue?

And who but the Israelis, would think of using used falafel oil as an energy source? Maybe this will insulate Israel from the coming peak oil crisis, and save the planet from climate change all at the same time!

For details see this story in Haaretz.