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.
The Holy Land 5 were railroaded. Whatever they did or didn’t do in relation to charities and Hamas, it couldn’t have been anything that wasn’t done – and is still done – by Jewish – and non-Jewish – supporters of Israel.
The robo-calls of the Presidential campaign, which I receive by the dozens each day now, can’t change that fact. Neither Presidential campaign has touched any of the issues posed by the Holy Land Five.
In the national imagination the Holy Land 5 don’t count for much. Yet the Orwellian prison doors they live behind are important to consider. They represent the underside of an American society that honors Jews and to which we pledge our allegiance.
If as a society we decide not to allow funding of entities overseas, I’m willing to hear the arguments, if it’s done across the board. If as a society we return to the isolationist part of American history that abhors foreign entanglements, I’m willing to hear the arguments, if it’s done across the board. But if Jews can enable the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the settling of their land, then Palestinians and others can enable their own struggle against it. It’s an obvious principle of fairness.
So investigate the Holy Land 5(s) of the world and call me to testify. See what everyone is up to. I’ll say yes to that request as I did with the Holy Land Five.
In the meantime it’s better to accept the fact that if you are for justice – and will testify publicly to that effect – you’re going to be a pariah.
Pariahs are outsiders, even if they’re supposed to be insiders. In fact, the most interesting pariahs are insiders who have turned outside – for the sake of justice.
You can’t be prophetic without being a pariah. Being a pariah and being prophetic are one in the same.
You can also become a pariah by practicing injustice. Being a pariah and practicing injustice are one in the same.
Pariahdom is like a coin with two sides. When you flip the coin you don’t which side will turn up.
Pariah status is in the eyes of the beholder. As victims of anti-Semitism, Jews were once pariahs. As enablers of Israel’s abuse of power, Jews are now pariahs.
Being a pariah has risks. It also has advantages.
Being a pariah on the outside of power demands a peculiar discipline. Marginalized pariahs develop a devastating insight into the powerful. They perfect critical survival skills. One of the skills is critical thought.
Being a pariah on the inside of power demands a peculiar discipline. Empowered pariahs practice injustice as a way of life. One of the skills is censoring critical thought.
Developing critical thought, Jewish pariahs thought their own thoughts. Jewish pariahs thought for others – for the benefit of non-Jews, too.
Practicing injustice, Jewish pariahs have ceased to think for themselves. We think for others – for our own benefit.
Being a pariah isn’t a romantic idle. There are consequences no matter which side of the pariah coin you’re on.
Jews shouldn’t court pariahdom for the sake of being outsiders. However, it’s fascinating to see how often Jews have been so defined. It comes back to the essential instability of Jewish life. The two sided pariah coin is the only coin Jews have. Sometimes Jews haven’t had a choice in the matter. Today, the choice is ours.
When forced pariahs and conscious pariahs come together, they become allies against the powerful who practice injustice. On the Jewish side, the powerful define the storm as anti-Semitism. Yet the real storm facing Jewish conscience is institutionalized injustice. At one time institutionalized injustice was aimed against Jews. Now it is perpetrated by Jews in the Israeli occupation and settlements of Palestinian territory.
The Holy Land 5 were railroaded. They are the victims of institutionalized injustice, too. It’s all tied together.
Is there any option but to testify?