Exile and the Prophetic: Few are guilty – all are responsible

on 11 Comments

This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Israeli warnings over the phone and by air: ‘Stay inside. We have business to attend to. Don’t worry it will benefit you, too.’

You don’t need a Blackboard to draw a straight line to the truth.

This is what Jewish ethics has become.

As for the various ‘Not in My Name’ groups, it is in our name. In relation to Jewish Voice for Peace, war and more war is Israel’s future.

Memo to B’Tselem: Gaza is yet one more opportunity to document the end of Jewish history as we have known and inherited it.

Memo to Richard Goldstone: You first investigated Operation Cast Lead so forthrightly and then, under pressure, made a U-turn. Now you have a second chance. Your legacy for honesty can be redeemed.

How many more Goldstone Reports are there to be before we decide there is another way?

Yes, I know – not all Jews are involved on the side of injustice. I’m more or less Orthodox on this point, though. We’re one people.

I join with the great spiritual teacher, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: ‘Few are guilty, but all are responsible.’

I await statements condemning Israel’s bombing of Gaza from the Society of Jewish Ethics and other Jewish Studies bodies in the coming days.

Should I hold my breath?

This Gaza moment gives every Jew another opportunity to speak the truth.

Will those who turn toward justice and compassion make a difference in Gaza? In the immediate sense, no, they will not.

Will speaking the truth make a difference in Gaza in the long run? I don’t know.

Will speaking the truth make a difference in Jewish life in the long run? I don’t know.

Is Jewish life over as we have known it? Yes. It has been over for a long, long time.

Do many Jews refuse to accept that finality? Yes. I understand that refusal. What other options are there?

After World War II, Hannah Arendt wrote that the whole of Western civilization, with all its beliefs, structures, understandings and perspectives, had come toppling down over our heads. What we needed urgently was the creation of a new foundation. Time was short.

We still haven’t done what she knew was necessary for the survival of humanity.

In Israel’s bombing of Gaza, we see it all still toppling. ‘Civilized’ – Israel – is once again prepared to bomb the ‘barbarians’ – the Palestinians – into oblivion.

Jewish and modern, provincial and cosmopolitan, Israel invokes Jewish ethics in robocalls as fighter jets scramble Gaza’s infrastructure.

It’s all right there in Gaza. It’s happening (again).

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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11 Responses

  1. anonymouscomments
    November 19, 2012, 7:26 pm

    “Yes, I know – not all Jews are involved on the side of injustice. I’m more or less Orthodox on this point, though. We’re one people.”

    sounds like a zionist anti-zionist if there ever was one.

    mission control to all jews…. your being jewish (99% of the time) is simply due to the random fact that you were born to people who identified as jews. “jewish” is neither an ethnicity (given the great diversity, and periods of conversion, and mixing), nor even clearly a religion (so many jews are not religious).

    HUMANITY is ONE PEOPLE, and also infinitely diverse. the “jews” are not one people, they are a very complex identity, also infinitely diverse, forged over time, and i personally consider those presiding over the corralling of people into this category as often quite abusive and exploitative… same goes with most religions and similar types of “identities”, and those who insist these identities are “primary” in some way.

    can we all just dispense with these strong identities, and act as humans only?

    can judaism become a religion, like so many others?

    should jews who are not religious simply note their often very mixed heritage, and leave it at that? i’m scottish irish polish jewish. i am an american. firstly and mainly i am a human. everything else is secondary, a distant second. i am not responsible for the actions of some “jewish” “one people” collective.

    maybe assimilation is the only answer. let judasim be a faith, of many. screw the rest of it all….

    so many obsess over their jewish history. their jewishness. it’s a crock of shit, and these things have been used as a bludgeon by jewish elites and spiritual leaders, and also non-jews. how about we realize “our” history should be that of humanity. i have no ownership in jewish history, and that history should not confer odd rights upon me.

  2. Betsy
    November 19, 2012, 8:56 pm

    This is it. Americans must rise up to make our govt stop aid to Israel. We must say “Not with my tax dollars!” “Not in my name!” We must not stop until we have stopped our funds & armaments going to unspeakable war crimes. No more.

    • Mooser
      November 20, 2012, 1:02 pm

      “This is it. Americans must rise up to make our govt stop aid to Israel.”

      I tend to suspect that Israel, being very, very devoted to certain projects and concepts, probably has stockpiled everything they need to get the job done. If American aid stopped, they have more then they need to get the essential jobs done.
      You can guess for yourself what Israel considers it’s No.1 job, and we see now the honors accruing (in Israel, where it matters and they vote) to those who do the job right.
      Not that American aid shouldn’t stop, cause it damn well should, but the Israelis know what’s important, and just like you or I would, they make sure they have the tools to get the important jobs done.

  3. seafoid
    November 20, 2012, 1:09 am

    Israeli text messages and warnings from the air and Regev advising civilians to stay away from ‘Khamas’ . And Sharon junior says ‘they voted khamas- they chose this’ . Where do the rabbis go from here? US backup is the last thing Israel needs right now. The society is slowly rotting underneath the shield.

  4. seafoid
    November 20, 2012, 4:26 am

    Killing Hope: Why Israel Targets Sports in Gaza
    by Dave Zirin


  5. pabelmont
    November 20, 2012, 8:20 am

    Israelis chose this government, they deserve — what? Anyway * * * and Whatever * * *.

    We are all responsible and only some of us are guilty. What is our responsibility to learn, to know?

    When Goldstone wrote about guilt, he was attacked by know-nothings who either lied about what they knew or refused to know the truth that Goldstone so carefully knew.

    Can there any longer be any excuse for anyone (any educated person, say) not knowing the basic facts about Israel’s history (say from 1945) and current history (permanent aggressive warfare, quite safe to Israel, quite deadly to neighbors)?

    Can there be any excuse for anyone’s knowing and not saying? Not “speaking truth to power”?

    Consider global warming (a far, far worse threat to all humankind than our — by comparison — trivial concern for a few million Jews (or Palestinians). Everyone now-a-days knows, but few do anything about it. And few are willing to say, forthrightly, “I prefer to continue my comfortable energy-consuming lifestyle even though I understand that the cost is a huge disruption of all life on earth, even the end of the human race.”

    Back to I/P. The USA continues to kowtow to AIPAC because it cannot shake off our system of governance under the dominance and near-dictatorship of BIG-MONEY (including but by far not limited to AIPAC et al.). And BIG-COAL & BIG-OIL & BIG-GAS want to continue the fossil-fuel fandango which is destroying us all.

    I/P is small potatoes by comparison, but the mechanisms that cause these disasters are the same.

    We are all responsible. Does “guilt” really matter so much?

    • pabelmont
      November 20, 2012, 8:40 am
    • Mooser
      November 20, 2012, 12:56 pm

      We are all responsible. Does “guilt” really matter so much?

      Sure as hell does to me. War crimes are serious, and those people will be dangerous if they are allowed to go unpunished. I’ll make them a deal. I’ll take my responibility, any amount they wish to pin on me, if they acknowledge and accept the punishment for their guilt. Everybody wins!

  6. seafoid
    November 20, 2012, 8:56 am

    UTNE reader ran an interesting piece recently about a poor american (“welfare mom”) Jewish woman and her relationship to the religion . She had these words of advice for her children :

    You are Jewish. It is your heritage. Question it. Struggle with it.


  7. Mooser
    November 20, 2012, 12:53 pm

    “Few are guilty, but all are responsible”

    What a cruddy person I am. I probably wrote some sarcastic not-on-point comments to Mr. Ellis’ posts. (I always do), and now the man comes up with the most brilliant, succinct, seven-word description of the present Jewish situation I’ve ever seen. I’m ‘umbled.
    But wait, didn’t we have another article by a guy who knew what to do about this guilty-responsibility bind? I’ve forgotten his name, but the photo of him emerging, dripping and radiant from the font in his Speedo was stunning.

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