‘Jews who sell to Arabs are enemies’

by mgopin on September 13, 2009 · 11 comments

‘Jews who sell to Arabs are enemies’
By Matthew Wagner

A meeting of The New Sanhedrin

A meeting of The New Sanhedrin

A Jew who sells land to an Arab in Israel should not be allowed to lead prayers in synagogue, should not be given the right to make a blessing during the Torah reading, should not be counted among the quorum needed for public prayers and is considered an abettor to the enemies of Israel, according to a halachic decision issued on Monday night by a group of rabbis calling themselves “The New Sanhedrin.”

What astonishes are the last lines of this piece:

Eliyahu said that in his own city of Safed, a Jew who sold to an Arab was boycotted by the community. “He owned a grocery store and people boycotted it.”

Halacha forbids the sale of land in Israel owned by Jews to non-Jews. However, there is nothing in Jewish law that prevents someone who does so from participating in prayers.

Read the rest of this Jerusalem Post article here.

This group of Jews represent the extreme right of Israeli religious politics, not because they are ultra-Orthodox but because of their racism against non-Jews and Arabs especially.  In fact there are a significant number of ultra-Orthodox Jews who wear the black clothing who are non-Zionist, anti-Zionist, or just intuitively non-violent with great discomfort at what has been done by the Israeli army over the years. They do not serve in the IDF. As a group they do vote right wing for other reasons, mostly to elicit benefits for their own community.

The group representing this new Sanhedrin appear in every way to be modern and highly educated, but their agenda is a Jewish state emptied of Arabs, and they utilize Torah or Jewish law to accomplish this.

The amazing thing is that the Jerusalem Post writer of the story assumed the truth of the centrally assumed position of ancient Jewish Law, namely that it is forbidden to sell land to all non-Jews in the ancient Holy Land, the Land of Israel.

It raises a crucial issue and tragedy of Israel, Zionism, in its bizarre interaction with traditional Judaism. In every militant movement in the world, from movements in Arab Islam to American  Southern Christianity, ancient religion is used highly selectively, carving out what encourages self-worship, hatred and violence, and silencing what encourages passivity, tolerance, acceptance, self-criticism and self-examination. Effectively a different religion is created. The same has happened to Judaism.

In the nineteenth century of even Orthodox Judaism in America and Western Europe, and the Judaism of much of the Muslim world, it would have been inconceivable to confuse the ancient law on this matter. Judaism has many harsh, I believe intolerant laws, when it comes to ‘idolaters’, ‘worshipers of stars and constellations’. They assume a definition of an idolater, however, who has no monotheistic faith and no  moral standards, and no code of conduct with regard to justice, theft and murder.

I would not today subscribe to those laws even if I were to encounter such ‘idolatrous’ people, because these harsh laws contradict other, far more constructive Jewish laws and traditions regarding love, respect, compassion, and patience, that work far better when you engage people who have no moral standards regarding theft and murder. But, in fact, I have never encountered Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, who as a group religion would fit this definition of war criminals with no faith in God.

I have encountered many war criminals, also monotheists, who come close to this Jewish legal definition of ‘idolater’ because their so-called monotheism includes brutality to most of humanity, which the rabbis in the Talmud consider evidence of being, let us say, not monotheists at all. Their actions betray disbelief in the divine nature of every human being. For many of the rabbis, actions speak louder than words, than professions and hypocritical witnesses. And if you act like you do not believe that God exists in every human being because you are torturing them, humiliating them, or killing them indiscriminately, or because they show up as a dot on your military screen, then this is evidence of a lack of faith in God’s presence in everyone.

But let us return to the Jerusalem Post article and this lovely ‘High Court’ of Zionist Judaism. They make an assumption, that I hear everywhere in the Orthodox world, that all the prejudicial laws against ‘idolaters’, ‘akum‘, refer to all non-Jews collectively. Of course, this is racism masking as religion, and, as I said, this is typical of militant religion today the world over. It is also a pretext to avoid every single positive ethical law of Judaism, it is an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for brutality, theft, and murder, because if ‘they’, the enemy, are all just ‘idolaters’ you can do whatever the hell you want to them, as long as you can get away with it and no one will find out or blame Judaism–which would be a hillul hashem, a desecration of God’s name!

This whole line of thinking and behavior that has crept into Jewish life in the last 60 years is due mostly to a complete failure to reconcile with the residents of Palestine and Israel. The amusing thing is that once you get to know the world really well it is  this that is the true hilul hashem, desecration of the name of the God of Israel. But you can’t know that if all your friends are Jewish, if you don’t have at least as many Arab and Palestinian conversations as you have had Jewish conversations.

I spent my first twenty years of  life in deep conversations with Jews, Israelis, probing, listening, empathizing with all my heart and soul, crying for every single Jewish suffering in history. I spent the next twenty years in deep conversations with Arabs, with Palestinians, with Muslims, probing, listening, listening. And I realize now that the reason that this is a tormented life is that I am trying to convey a twenty year conversation to most of my Jewish friends and family who have had almost no contact. But there is no science, there is no enlightenment, there is no empathy, there is no discernment, when there is no listening, and I cannot convey twenty years of listening, really not to either side, neither to the Arab side when I enter into the Saudi Embassy, nor when I enter the Zionist Jewish synagogue.

I admire the incredible resilience of the deaf, their schools today, their determination to succeed, because they know they are deaf and know they must rise to the challenge. But most people don’t know that they are deaf. That it takes years of hard work to overcome the disability.

Listening deeply to those who do not listen to each other is one side of a many-sided prism of human torment.

But the good news for the world, for Jews, for Israel, is that this is a passing phase that will disappear in the wind, just as other mutant forms of spirituality die of their own hypocrisy. Children and grand-children find it hard to sustain hypocrisy, and as painful as it is now, the majority of people in the ‘Holy Basin’, are going to eventually find a common spiritual and secular strategy of coexistence, just as surely as they did in the pre-modern period. Despite the lies of the propagandists, the fact is that there were so many examples of Jewish/Muslim/Christian intimate relations and coexistence in the Middle East that they are too great to number–for those of us who have been listening. I feel privileged to be among the very few rabbis, imams, and spiritual leaders, as well as incredibly amazing spiritual youth, hippies with an open heart, all who have met and listened and know this to be true from their own family histories.

The truth will eventually emerge. This will re-emerge again in a safe and secure Israel/Palestine that will either be one state or two, but will be a place of equality and safety for Jews and Palestinians. Jews of the Diaspora will have their safe haven to run to, but they will no longer run there to land on top of other human beings. They will eventually see that as self-defeating and dangerous, just as surely as we have seen in Washington how dangerous it is for one metro train to land on top of another, creating only a sea of the blood of the innocent. Someday the hard work of listening is going to create a new reality.

© Marc Gopin

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