Breaking through the Empire’s glass ceiling

Israel/Palestine
on 12 Comments

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

On a lecture tour in Atlanta– yesterday I spoke at a clergy breakfast at Columbia Theological Seminary, then at Kennesaw University.  Today I speak at a daylong conference on how to break the interfaith ecumenical deal and move toward a prophetic solidarity among the various religions of the world.  Can those of faith – with secular folks as well – embrace the prophetic call during the High Holy days?  Or will we continue to mouth empty pieties while the Middle East burns?

On these tours I meet fabulous people and have long and deep discussions about justice in the world.  Amid the drumbeats of war, there isn’t much we can do except prepare a future beyond what we are living through.  Whether we will make it to the other side is uncertain.

Where these discussions lead is anyone’s guess but it sure beats John Kerry and Company pounding the drumbeat of war.  Kerry’s fulminating before Congress was a lowlight, claiming the moral obscenity high ground in a way that only empire pyrotechnics allow.  Obviously, Syria is in for a further drubbing – make no mistake about that – but in the process the WMD’s debate haunts the proceedings every UN inspector step along the way.

American credibility is at all-time low.  It doesn’t seem it can get much lower.  In the coming days it will.  Why not simply say it’s time for the US to weigh in on Syria more forcefully than we have already, that we have the means and the ways of war and that we will strike Syria because we can?  This would be better than spouting the fanciful nonsense about chemical weapons, as if every advanced nation doesn’t use chemicals in their warfare arsenal, the US and Israel in the lead.

Dated news?  It seems that every day the continuing Fukushima nuclear debacle and the Egyptian martial law catastrophe warrant our attention – attention diverted by the Syrian redlines that Obama drew – and now says the world did – even though the world is heading for the hills and with every day that passes the coalition of the willing is less and less willing.  In the end, Obama will order strikes on Syria simply because he drew those redlines and because he and his Presidency would be humiliated if he didn’t.

Samantha Power at the UN isn’t thinking through the consequences of striking Syria either.  Shall we grant her a military medal in advance for condemning others to death in the days ahead?

Power’s self-righteousness is amazing but such posturing is now to be taken for granted among our public officials.  What puffed up figures she and the others have become.  Power is the enabler of enablers, part of the rogues gallery of warmongers that has become the US landscape. Power is no better than the men at whose pleasure she serves.

If Obama portends the end of conventional politics, does a female warmonger like Power force us to rethink the feminist trajectory that seemed so promising when it burst onto the world scene decades ago?  Are she and Susan Rice – not to leave out Hillary Clinton – the epitome of making it with the guys, breaking through the empire glass ceiling so that women, too, can become murderers?

Though Israel/Palestine has taken a backseat to Syria, the question I’m asked most frequently in Atlanta is whether the oppression of the Palestinians will go on forever.  Forever is a long, long time.  Nonetheless, my response about the possible imminent collapse of Israeli oppression isn’t hopeful.   The Syrian catastrophe plays right into the hands of Israel, that is if something doesn’t go awry and the Middle East explodes in an unpredictable way.

In that explosion, anything is possible, the fog of war and all that.  But despite the threats from Iran and Hezbollah, it’s likely to be more suffering raining down on the Syrian people.  As if it could get worse.  It will.

That’s what has been said for years about Israel/Palestine – that it can’t get worse for Palestinians.  Then it does.

Which begs the question:  Has anyone heard dissenting words from our Jewish leaders on the topic of justice, war and murder during the High Holy days?

The silence is telling.  It is also a judgment.  It is part and parcel of the end of Jewish history as we have known and inherited it.

Did the end come when we, too, broke through that empire glass ceiling and joined the nations?  For Jews, becoming executioners was a sign of strength, the thrill of thrills, strutting on the world stage after being on the bottom for so long.   Now it has become a habit, an addiction, one we can break only through introspection and sacrifice.

The primal prophetic demands Jews think again about our destiny and our contribution to the world.  We can only accomplish this with others who are likewise thinking through their destiny and their contribution to the world.

Breaking through the glass ceiling – it forces all of us into a downward spiral that is difficult, if not impossible, to escape.    It may be our collective destiny to continue downward until there’s nowhere left to fall.   Or can we come together, break the fall and begin to rise again?

 

 

 

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of Future of the Prophetic: Israel's Ancient Wisdom Re-Presented.

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12 Responses

  1. Justpassingby
    September 7, 2013, 4:28 pm

    “Which begs the question: Has anyone heard dissenting words from our Jewish leaders on the topic of justice, war and murder during the High Holy days?”

    Nope, even the pope came out against the war for christians, but no jewish leaders have taken a stance against war, quite the contrary.

  2. Bumblebye
    September 7, 2013, 4:39 pm

    I just read this with Nigel Kennedy and Moustafa Saad (age 15) playing live at Hyde Park in the background. Wow. You all must listen to the podcast when it’s available. (bbcR2) Utterly, incredibly beautiful. Last Night of the Proms.

    As long as zionism and Israel have such a hold over US foreign policy, there can be no forward movement to justice and peace. Until there is a significant peace camp, or justice movement within Israel itself, that won’t see any reflection in Israeli body politic. Impasse.

    • just
      September 7, 2013, 5:49 pm

      NPR here is broadcasting that tonite @ 2000. I’m looking so much forward to it, Bumblebye. Your comment is true wrt us and Israel.

      And here is the action of a Human and a leader :

      “Pope Francis is leading a mass prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square Saturday night, building on his calls to avoid violence in the escalating conflict over Syria. Tens of thousands of people have come to the Vatican on what the pontiff has declared a day of fasting and prayer in the name of peace.

      Speaking to the crowd Saturday, Francis said that when people withdraw into selfishness, the world fills with violence, division, disagreement, and war, according to updates from the Catholic News Service . The agency estimates that when the pope’s address began, more than 70,000 people were in St. Peter’s Square.

      From Rome, NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports for our Newscast unit:

      “Last Sunday, Pope Francis spoke out in anguish for the victims of a chemical weapons attack in Syria. But he strongly opposes a western military intervention saying, war begets war, violence begets violence.

      “In a letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin and the leaders of the G20 countries, the pope asked them to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution and to speedily enact initiatives promoting peace through negotiations.

      “In addition to tonight’s four–hour-long vigil, Francis has urged Christians, believers of other faiths as well as all people of goodwill to join him in fasting for peace in Syria.”

      The vigil comes as the United States and its allies debate how to rebuke Syria for what they say is a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people on Aug. 21.”

      link to npr.org

  3. just
    September 7, 2013, 4:41 pm

    Why is being hawkish and hypocritical a requisite for representing us at the UN? It’s macabre that these women aspire to it, imho.

    Jeane Kirkpatrick, Madeleine Albright, Susan Rice, and now Samantha Power. Ugh.

    Thanks Mark.

  4. W.Jones
    September 7, 2013, 4:57 pm

    despite the threats from Iran and Hezbollah, it’s likely to be more suffering raining down on the Syrian people. As if it could get worse. It will.

    That’s what has been said for years about Israel/Palestine – that it can’t get worse for Palestinians. Then it does.

    Good point.

    Has anyone heard dissenting words from our Jewish leaders on the topic of justice, war and murder during the High Holy days? The silence is telling. It is also a judgment. It is part and parcel of the end of Jewish history as we have known and inherited it.

    Interesting question. If the leadership fell silent on human rights abuses in their era, would that be a complete turnaround? In ancient times you had prophets who were very critical, calling out the people for general wickedness and idolatry, although I am not sure that one of their complaints was the conquest of the local pagans and general hawkishness, which seems to be the thrust of your criticism. Granted, in the Second Temple era the prophets did not fight, as I understand it. And this may have passed over into the ultra-Orthodox aversion to army service, as well as Christian clergy and monks avoiding army service too.

    But besides the massacres of Moses’ time, we didn’t have the same imprisonment and expulsion of the native population like we do today, right? So there can be a role for the prophetic, as you call it.

    Regards.

    • MHughes976
      September 8, 2013, 5:54 pm

      The Second Temple period was the time when many Jewish intellectuals identified with Sparta (I Macc.12).

  5. DICKERSON3870
    September 7, 2013, 5:53 pm

    RE: “American credibility is at all-time low… Why not simply say it’s time for the US to weigh in on Syria more forcefully than we have already… This would be better than spouting the fanciful nonsense about chemical weapons, as if every advanced nation doesn’t use chemicals in their warfare arsenal, the US and Israel in the lead.”

    ONE REASON AMERICAN CREDIBILITY IS SO LOW IS THAT NOTHING WAS EVER DONE ABOUT THIS: “Israel May Have Violated Arms Pact, U.S. Says”, By David S. Cloud and Greg Myre, New York Times, 1/28/13

    [EXCERPT] WASHINGTON, Jan 27 — The Bush administration will inform Congress on Monday that Israel may have violated agreements with the United States when it fired American-supplied cluster munitions into southern Lebanon during its fight with Hezbollah last summer, the State Department said Saturday.
    The finding, though preliminary, has prompted a contentious debate within the administration over whether the United States should penalize Israel for its use of cluster munitions against towns and villages where Hezbollah had placed its rocket launchers.
    Cluster munitions are anti-personnel weapons that scatter tiny but deadly bomblets over a wide area. The grenadelike munitions, tens of thousands of which have been found in southern Lebanon, have caused 30 deaths and 180 injuries among civilians since the end of the war, according to the United Nations Mine Action Service.
    Midlevel officials at the Pentagon and the State Department have argued that Israel violated American prohibitions on using cluster munitions against populated areas, according to officials who described the deliberations. But other officials in both departments contend that Israel’s use of the weapons was for self-defense
    and aimed at stopping the Hezbollah attacks that claimed the lives of about 40 Israeli soldiers and civilians and at worst was only a technical violation.
    Any sanctions against Israel would be an extraordinary move by the Bush administration, a strong backer of Israel, and several officials said they expected little further action, if any, on the matter. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to nytimes.com

    • DICKERSON3870
      September 7, 2013, 5:55 pm

      P.S. ALSO SEE: “Cluster Munitions at a Glance”, armscontrol.org, November 2012

      [EXCERPT] . . . Although cluster munitions first saw use in World War II and more than 50 countries have since acquired stockpiles of such arms, efforts to regulate or ban the use of cluster munitions gained greater attention and momentum after the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, a Shiite organization that the United States identifies as a terrorist group. Israel’s extensive cluster munitions use in the last 72 hours of that conflict resulted in an estimated one million unexploded bomblets scattered across southern Lebanon, arousing some strong condemnation. Jan Egeland, then-UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, blasted Israel’s use of cluster munitions as “shocking and completely immoral.” . . .

      SOURCE – link to armscontrol.org

      P.P.S. ALSO SEE: “18-year-old Lebanese killed by Israeli cluster bomb”, By Mohammed Zaatari, The Daily Star, 8/10/13

      SIDON, Lebanon: An 18-year-old was killed Saturday when an Israeli cluster bomb exploded in Hasbaya, south Lebanon.
      Hisham Abdel-Al, a young shepherd, was working on a farm in the Hallat village when he stepped on a cluster bomb, dying instantly.
      Israel dropped some 4 million cluster bombs in Lebanon during the July-August 2006 war, most during the last 48 hours of the conflict, according to the United Nations. Hundreds have been wounded in cluster-bomb related incidents since 2000 and 2006.
      The Army’s Lebanon Mine Action Center along with the U.N. and other international organizations have been working since 2006 to remove the deadly ordinance from the south.

      SOURCE – link to dailystar.com.lb

  6. Keith
    September 7, 2013, 6:24 pm

    MARC ELLIS- “For Jews, becoming executioners was a sign of strength, the thrill of thrills, strutting on the world stage after being on the bottom for so long.”

    Your continued reference to historical Jewish powerlessness and victimhood is an ahistorical rendition of Jewish mythology. Perhaps you need to read “Jewish History, Jewish Religion” by Israel Shahak. During the period of Classical Judaism, there were no Jewish peasants and the Jews were relatively well- off compared the majority of Gentiles. Whatever Jewish suffering occurred, it was not relatively worse than what groups of non-Jews endured during this period. Most of your comments regarding the Jewish prophetic seem to pertain more to the period of the enlightenment when the Gentile Kings broke the power of the Rabbis to coerce a closed society. Seriously, you seem trapped within a particular version of modern Jewish mythology.

    As to the rest of your post, you are spot on, as you frequently are when discussing current political economy and imperial geostrategy. Samantha Power is a professional warmonger married to an empire Jew, both seeking advancement within the framework of a warfare state and brutal empire. Of necessity, they, along with all of the imperial power structure, are skilled and shameless liars.

    • Stephen Shenfield
      September 8, 2013, 2:10 pm

      We need to be more specific. Which part of the world are we talking about? Which historical period? Rabbinical Judaism is a religion of the medieval era. In much of Europe, especially Poland and Spain, the Jews were a social caste bound in service to the kings and lords with the special task of controlling the lower orders and extracting surplus from them (the Jews despoiled the peasants so that the lords could despoil the Jews and when necessary use them as a lightning-rod for popular discontent). So you had “the king’s Jews,” “the lord’s Jews,” etc. Perhaps a group in this position are the most likely to be envious of power and crave the opportunity to wield power for their own benefit rather than as mere agents, precisely because they are so close to power without actually possessing it.

      • Keith
        September 9, 2013, 6:45 pm

        STEPHEN SHENFIELD- “We need to be more specific. Which part of the world are we talking about? Which historical period?”

        Who, me or Marc Ellis? My comment was addressed to his statement “…strutting on the world stage after being on the bottom for so long,” which was a shopworn repetition of the myth of 2000 years of Jewish victimhood. And yes, it would be nice if folks like Ellis would differentiate between the various cultures and how Jews were treated in relation to Gentiles, etc.

        “In much of Europe, especially Poland and Spain, the Jews were a social caste bound in service to the kings and lords with the special task of controlling the lower orders and extracting surplus from them….”

        This is not my understanding of the Polish Arenda system where Jews made bids to the Polish magnate for the right to manage an estate and collect taxes from the serfs. The magnate got a fixed amount, the Jews kept the surplus. Sounds like power and privilege to me! Yet, you make it sound like running an estate, controlling the trades, and collecting taxes was a form of servitude, the Jews victims. That is like saying that the 1% forces the 9% to screw the 90%, therefore, we should feel sorry for the 9%. That is not an honest way of looking at things, yet, that is an integral part of Jewish eternal victimhood mythology. Is it too much to ask for a little more historical honesty and reflection? Or am I an anti-Semite for even bringing the topic up?

  7. pabelmont
    September 8, 2013, 8:24 am

    MARC ELLIS — thanks for your announcement that (as I extrapolate) nothing lies above ANY glass ceiling but POWER and power is evil, corruption. Now a person named Power holds power as a servant of Obama who is himself a servant of AIPAC et al. and all, all, are corrupt.

    It was a valuable lesson, that, about glass ceilings.

    I hope you have better luck (than USA has with Obama, Power, Rice, Clintons) with breaking the hold of the old-current (Christian-Jewish-dialog) ecumenical structures in favor of a new-future truth-justice-peace ecumenical regime.

    What’s needed is not for a few to pass through and beyond a glass ceiling into power and corruption but, rather, for ethical people to shatter both the glass ceiling and the power and the corruption.

    “Truth, Justice, and Peace, and in that order.”

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