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

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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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