Necessary Transformations: Ending the claim to exclusivity

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“We are serious about transforming the Jewish community,” wrote Rabbi Alisa Shira Wise, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, as she posted on Facebook that JVP would be streaming online sermons from progressive rabbis for Yom Kippur 5777, so that Jews who wish to listen to liturgy on that holy day would hear sermons that resonate with their political as well as spiritual beliefs.

I found Wise’s post, as well as the article she had linked to, intriguing on a number of levels.  I say that as an outsider to the Jewish community (a monolith I would not use myself), but an insider to some of the communities JVP organizes in support of, namely Palestinian, Arab, racialized, and immigrant. And I write this OpEd reluctantly, wishing I did not have to, and hoping it catalyzes further conversation about the calls for accountability and “transformation” made by our progressive Jewish allies in the name of “Jewish values.” As such, I hope it is read with the intent I held as I wrote it, not as a call-out, but as a concerned assessment of some of the claims made by these allies.

First, I could not help but be taken aback by Wise’s (and I assume the JVP leadership’s) assertion of the areas where “the Jewish community” needed transformation.  As I read the article, it became clear to me that “the Jewish community,” (which I take to be the American Jewish community), apparently needs transformation around issues such as racial privilege, and views on immigration. This acknowledgement of a need for transformation around these issues was an eye-opener, considering that I had repeatedly heard that “the Jewish community” is extremely open-minded, and has contributed significantly, even disproportionately, to various civil rights struggles. I could not help but wonder what to make of the opening statements I had become accustomed to, during political discussions, namely: “As a Jew, raised with Jewish values…” What were those Jewish values, if one must now “transform the community,” so that it addresses issues such as racism, racial privilege, and immigrant rights?  Again, as a respectful outsider, I had not questioned that assertion of “Jewish values,” even though I have often expressed my aggravation with liberal Zionists, the exemplars of “PEP syndrome,” namely “Progressive Except for Palestine.”  At the same time, I felt some relief that I can now finally speak of my discomfort whenever I heard that opener, that qualifier, which negated that basic decency is something every good person has, and was in no way exclusive to Jews.  But now, a Jewish group was telling us “the Jewish community” did not share those basic values?  It would seem then, that, over the past few decades, that community had become overly-complacent, accepting of wrongs done in its name, to the point of drifting far away from a defining commitment to civil and human rights for all.

Only a day later, in a separate OpEd articulating his personal thoughts on Yom Kippur, Jewish liberation theologian Marc Ellis writes:  “The confession we Jews should have made, the confession we Jews have to make, won’t be made today.” That confession, Ellis explains, is about the “culpability of Jews” as ethnic cleansers, and their “precipitous descent” from their ethical heritage.    Further, he adds: “Where others once looked to us for prophetic light, they now turn away. When they look our way a second time, hoping against hope that their first impression was wrong, it gets worse.”  And again I could not help but wonder, what is specifically, exclusively Jewish about being ethical?  After all, Christianity and Islam, to speak of the other two religions I am sufficiently familiar with, also call for good works, charity, self-reflection.  The entire month of Ramadan is an exercise in disciplined empathy and self-restraint, “Muslim values” which are not tossed away during the rest of the year. Forgiveness, renunciation of violence, and unconditional love are “Christian values” any and all moral individuals hold.  As an atheist myself, I aspire to all of the above, without seeking belief in any deity.

Additionally, I was taken aback by the fact that JVP will be streaming online sermons that are critical of “the occupation.”  Such sermons are rare, at best, in synagogues across the country, and rather than pushing for this topic to be addressed within the synagogues, JVP was streaming critical sermons into isolated bedrooms. Only days earlier, on Rosh Hashanah, JVP had also arranged for online streaming of sermons by JVP-associated rabbis that criticized “Israel’s military occupation of Palestine,” which JVP claims is done “in the name of all Jews.”

But any mention of “Israel’s military occupation of Palestine,” is generally understood as reference to the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, rather than the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their historic homeland.  Did JVP mean historic Palestine, but could not quite state that?  What about the much-needed transformation, then?

Ellis, on the other hand, acknowledges that the Israeli occupation of Palestine began in 1948, and was completed, not started, in 1967, when he writes: “So we begin yet another New Year, this being the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the Palestinian territories that weren’t occupied in 1948, with no sign, no sign at all, that Jews in any great number in Israel or America are ready to step back and assess the fundamental questions facing us a people.”

It is sad indeed that one still needs to explain that Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people did not begin in 1967, and that the transformation that is needed, and beyond overdue, is a denunciation of Zionism, which is the ideology and project that set into place the violation of the Palestinian people’s human rights, and the institutionalized privileging of members of a (perceived) ethno-religious community.  Yet Ellis himself, even as he acknowledges that the occupation began in 1948, does not denounce Zionism, does not speak out against the state-sanctioned official institutionalizing of Jewish supremacy (which he calls “Jewish particularity”), as he writes elsewhere of his support for two states in historic Palestine: “I still believe that two states, two real states, with the entirety of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza belonging to an empowered Palestinian state, is the best way to envision a future where revolutionary forgiveness and justice can take hold. Israel has foreclosed this possibility. Nonetheless, as you can see in my writing, I am critical of some one-state advocates who have little interest or room for Jewish particularity.”

I am not equating the views of JVP and Ellis on what it will take to reach a solution.  I am grateful both for the activism of JVP, and for Ellis’ prodding of his religious community to acknowledge Israel’s violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people beginning in 1948.  Yes, there is an urgent need for accountability and transformation.  But maintaining claims to exclusivity is a hindrance, not a contribution to a solution that hinges on co-resistance to racism. As Israel openly embraces Jewish supremacy and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, a hushed denunciation of “the occupation” falls short of the necessary “transformation,” and cannot be considered progressive.  And as we seek to co-exist, after successfully co-resisting apartheid and genocide, we cannot attribute a deeply-engrained commitment to justice to one community over another.

About Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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48 Responses

  1. matt
    October 15, 2016, 1:26 pm

    The author asks, “what is specifically, exclusively Jewish about being ethical?” — but I am not clear on where JVP or Ellis make any such claim. The claim “my Jewish ethics motivate my position on Palestine” does not entail the claim “only Jews have ethics.” Obviously, when certain Muslims respond to violence committed by other Muslims by saying “Islam is peace,” or “my values as a Muslim motivate me to condemn this violence,” they should not be interpreted as saying “Islam is uniquely peaceful” or “Muslim values are exclusively non-violent.” It should be needless to say that neither “Jewish values” nor “Muslim values” nor “Christian values” actually exist in the unitary way implied by these phrases. The range of “values” (or interpretations of what certain values mean in practice) within the sets of people identifying as Jewish, Christian, or Muslim is vast, encompassing practically every possible ethical disposition and its opposite simultaneously. The purpose of public declarations like “As a Jew raised with Jewish values…” or “My Muslim values…” is purely political: to displace the representational claims of co-religionists whose value-interpretations diverge from those of the speaker, and conversely to assert the legitimacy of the speaker’s own value-set as representative of the religious tradition.

    One, therefore, should not take the public assertions of religious practitioners about the nature of their religious “communities” (or even claims that such “communities” exist) as factual claims to be assessed in light of empirical evidence, but as rhetorical and political claims in an intra-religious struggle over representation and the political effects of representation.

    • MHughes976
      October 15, 2016, 5:34 pm

      I agree. Ellis says that the Jewish religion has an ethical tradition which is being travestied with the effect that outsiders are turning away. This implies that non-Jews are ethical beings, not that there is something specifically Jewish about being ethical.

    • Mooser
      October 16, 2016, 12:47 pm

      ” claims to be assessed in light of empirical evidence, but as rhetorical and political claims in an intra-religious struggle over representation and the political effects of representation.”

      Sure, ‘Matt’ Let’s do that! So, do you think that 2 billion Muslims can win out over 180 million Jews?

      Oh wait, did you mean “intra” or “inter”?

  2. Kay24
    October 16, 2016, 8:48 am

    I don’t know much about the Jewish faith, but I am sure no religion would condone the behavior of any people that occupies, steals lands, kills innocent civilians, lies to justify those killings, and are accused of human rights violations. If there is any religion out there that will support such “sins” I would like to know. There are certain elements in EVERY religion that hijacks that religion for their own devious purposes, and keeps using it to achieve their wicked objectives, and here is a good example of one. It seems tolerance, freedom, and compassion, have been rejected in many religions by these evil ones. In the name of religion people are suffering and being killed.

    It is great to see people speaking out against their own, when they know their religion is being misrepresented.

    • biggerjake
      October 16, 2016, 11:53 am

      As Miko Peled has said many times: There is nothing Jewish about what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians.

      I don’t know what it means to be Jewish, although I joined and contribute to JVP….and I’m happy to be associated with them.

      Judging by the things said and done by JVP: those are good people. I don’t need religious teachings or a priest or rabbi to tell me that ethnic cleansing, land theft and oppression of the Palestinians is evil and must be stopped, and I don’t think they do either. Any religion that claims an exclusivity on morality has taken hubris to a stunning level.

      And I don’t need a religion to tell me that the way the NYT and the rest of the MSM refuse to portray the reality of the persecution of the Palestinian people is also evil. It is so ubiquitous…so uniform…so complete that it must be happening as the result of a concerted effort. The people that carry out that effort to manipulate the minds of the blissfully uninformed are criminals, accessories to murder, and that includes all of the organizations that work to perpetuate the lies like the ADL, CAMERA, AIPAC, STANDWITHUS, etc.

      • Kay24
        October 16, 2016, 12:17 pm

        It is ironic that here in the US you can insult the President, leaders, and even condemn the Muslims, but no one (esp. in the media) dares to either criticize Israel, it’s terrible policies, or bring attention to the ongoing human rights violations. The hate machine that accuses you of being ant-semitic makes sure of that. There have been some brave souls who dared to speak out but they have been harshly dealt with in the media by agents who pretend they want to safeguard the best interests of the US, while working to protect and support an alien nation.

    • [email protected]
      October 18, 2016, 12:42 pm

      “No religion would condone behavior of any people that occupies, steals lands, kills innocent civilians, lies to justify those killings, and are accused of human rights violations. If there is any religion out there that will support such “sins” I would like to know.” Well hello, we are all living in the USA or possibly Canada. Manifest Destiny which how America was WON from the natives, and I do use that term pejoratively, is steeped in Christianity. Our whole election at the moment is also immersed in racism, with the vast majority of evangelicals voting to justify if not glorify past present and future human rights violations. So Israel is not so special. The only real difference is that the progressive community is still enamored with Jewish privilege and supremacism and so is the conservative. One has to be an outlier to advocate on Palestinian human rights.
      Lastly, the Jewish ethical tradition is a misnomer. For thousands of years, Jews had no self determination or independent power. Israel is new in this sense. An ethical tradition without power is easy. Once you have power or the power over others, then your real tradition shows through. Again, not unique to Israel. What makes Israel so special is that it’s use of power, for better or usually worse, is protected by the World’s only superpower. It’s about power and not ethics. It is wise not to confuse the two.

      • Jeff in Brooklyn
        October 21, 2016, 1:58 pm

        Maybe try looking up the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa’s position on apartheid prior to the 1990’s.
        (Hint: they supported it)
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/despatches/africa/33032.stm

        Maybe consider the Christian ‘missionary’ work of ‘enlightening’ millions of natives across Latin America by the sword. Want to tally the body count?

      • echinococcus
        October 21, 2016, 5:26 pm

        Mr Jeff whatabouting now, full steam ahead? What else should we expect from Zios? Can’t bear to look at your own beam?

      • Mooser
        October 21, 2016, 9:45 pm

        “Maybe try looking up the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa’s position on apartheid prior to the 1990’s.
        (Hint: they supported it)
        link to news.bbc.co.uk

        Maybe consider the Christian ‘missionary’ work of ‘enlightening’ millions of natives across Latin America by the sword. Want to tally the body count?”

        Jeez, after that, how could anybody object to anything Zionism does? Heck, I think we are entitled to more.

      • RoHa
        October 21, 2016, 11:35 pm

        ” Well hello, we are all living in the USA or possibly Canada. ”

        What do you mean, “we”, Yank?

  3. Ossinev
    October 16, 2016, 12:55 pm

    Meanwhile in the UK the tedious never ending boring predictable conflation ( criticism of Zionism/JSIL = anti – Semitism) games orchestrated by Zionist lobbies in the UK at the bequest of the Yahoo & Co continues with the latest and perhaps the most laughable parliamentary report on alleged ( I repeat alleged ) Anti – Semitism ( viz a comment on social media , in a debate ,in a TV interview etc such as eg Israel is in breach of the Geneva Conventions in its occupation of the West Bank = blatant anti – Semitism ).
    http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/1.747684

    According to another Haaretz article;
    “A special committee’s report, which states that Jews should be allowed to flag what constitutes anti-Jewish speech in their eyes, is a landmark document”
    http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/.premium-1.747716

    If this is true and I doubt it then it really is a game changer and I would expect a queue of other cults in the UK asking for permission to “flag what constitutes” in their eyes anti Catholic,Anti Muslim,Anti Baptist,Anti-Seventh Day Adventist. anti Paganism speech etc etc.

    Totally hilarious and a sign of how desperate Zios,Zionists,JSILis,Israel Firsters are becoming in their “fight ” against the growing ostracisation of their nasty,ugly little cult colony.

    So there you are then they can count at least five epithets which any of the non British Firsters Zionist lobbies (make that six) can “flag as constituting” Anti – Semitism to add to their imaginary anti Semitic statistics.

    Feel free.

  4. German Lefty
    October 17, 2016, 2:17 pm

    To the person who holds the sign “Stealing land is not a Jewish value”:
    Well, Israel proves you wrong. It’s ridiculous to claim that stealing land is not a Jewish value, because evidently it is. You are not the Jewish pope who gets to dictate what Jewish values are. Jewish values are determined by the Jewish majority. And as long as the majority of Jews support Zionism, stealing land remains a Jewish value – whether we like it or not. So, a factually correct sign would be: “Stealing land needs to stop being a Jewish value.” or “I don’t want stealing land to be a Jewish value.”

    • Annie Robbins
      October 17, 2016, 3:31 pm

      an argument could be made they don’t steal the land because they’re jewish, they steal it because they are colonizers. of course if you brainwash someone to believe because they are jewish they therefore are justified in thieving the land because god gave it to them (therefore it’s not theft) they could believe it was a jewish value.

      Jewish values are determined by the Jewish majority.

      really? i’m not sure values are determined by ethnic majority.

      • German Lefty
        October 17, 2016, 3:49 pm

        @ Annie:
        I did NOT claim that Zionists steal land because they are Jewish or that there is something particularly Jewish about stealing land. I merely stated that land theft is a Jewish value because/as long as it is supported by the majority of Jews. Groups are usually judged by what the majority of the people in that group think or do. Of course, I think that people should be judged as individuals and not as a group. However, it’s Jews themselves who constantly use terms like “Jewish values” and “Jewish community” as if they were a homogeneous group. Therefore, one can only get the impression that they want to be seen as one group and not as individuals.

      • Annie Robbins
        October 17, 2016, 5:01 pm

        Therefore, one can only get the impression that they want to be seen as one group and not as individuals.

        only? rests assured, that’s can’t be true because i don’t get the impression all jews “want to be seen as one group and not as individuals”. it’s one thing having a wacko theory gl, it’s quite another thing to claim everyone can “only” agree with you.

      • German Lefty
        October 17, 2016, 4:26 pm

        Annie, why are my comments only visible when I am logged in and not when I am logged out? Is this what MW is doing now to comments that don’t pass moderation? If yes, why didn’t my comments pass moderation? I want an explanation.

      • Annie Robbins
        October 17, 2016, 5:09 pm

        i could be wrong, but i think for people who are not logged in, it takes about an hour longer to see changes(updates) to any page. so check back in an hour and see if what you’re not seeing now shows up.

        re any other questions about changes in moderation, i’d suggest checking out the “site status” tab at the top of every page and querying adam in the comment section http://mondoweiss.net/site-status/

      • German Lefty
        October 17, 2016, 5:32 pm

        Annie, if Jews don’t want to regarded as a homogeneous group, then why on earth do they constantly use terms like “Jewish values”, “Jewish community”, or “we Jews”? As Nada already pointed out, she keeps hearing Jews talk about “the Jewish community” while she, as a non-Jew, would never use this monolith. I feel the same way.

      • Annie Robbins
        October 17, 2016, 6:35 pm

        why on earth do they constantly use terms like “Jewish values”, “Jewish community”, or “we Jews”?

        this may be a challenging concept for you german lefty, but i think it would be helpful if you could attempt to expand your imagination wrt who “jews” are. not all jews discuss or reference “Jewish values”, “Jewish community”, or “we Jews”. and even if and when some do, they might mean completely different things to different people. like i said — a challenging concept.

        you linked earlier to that UK report. well, as a matter of fact i was reading about the group this morning “the Community Security Trust” — CST (who was instrumental behind that report) and they are real sticklers about claiming to speak for the jewish community (pushy too from what i can surmise). i read this one article. i suggest you read it. http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/columnists/48036/our-unrepresentative-security

        I want to ask some rather different questions.

        What right does a completely private body that happens to call itself the CST have to involve itself in the safety and well-being of British Jews?

        What right does it have to represent itself as being a representative body? On its website, the CST boasts that it “represents the Jewish community on a wide range of Police, governmental and policy-making bodies dealing with security and antisemitism.”

        What right does it have to make such a claim? The website further explains that “the Police and government praise CST as a model of how a minority community should protect itself.”

        That may be so but I want to ask whether we – you and I – should not have a quiet word in the ear of government and point out that the CST represents no one but itself and is mandated to espouse the views of none other than its own trustees.

        so then after he writes the article all these people write him who agree with him and he writes another article about CST called “Continually Spreading Trust”: http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/columnists/50033/continually-spreading-trust

        Take, for example, the Manchester-based rabbi who contacted me to say how deeply he resented the intrusion of the CST into the affairs of his community – he meant the CST’s insistence that he consult them when planning any communal event.

        Take the south-of-England rabbi who phoned me to complain of the telling-off he had received from the CST because, without their consent, he and his lay leadership had agreed to permit a local non-Jewish group to meet on synagogue premises.

        Or take the Charedi community activist who asked to meet me (which he did) in order to unburden himself of the deep cynicism with which he regarded the CST.

        It had, in his view, got too big for its boots while basking in the privilege and protection it received from the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police.

        Then there is Nochum Perlberger, the head of the Stamford Hill Shomrim – who provide civilian security patrols and whose efforts to counter crime and anti-social behaviour have had exceptional results. Mr Perlberger confessed to me that one of the conditions of their recognition by the police in Stoke Newington was that they liaise with the CST.

        And last, but by no means least, take the Jewish Police Association…..

        anyway, i bring this to your attention because i thought it might be helpful for you in understanding that just because you perceive something — like “they” (jews) “constantly use terms like “Jewish values”, “Jewish community”, or “we Jews”? “ .. doesn’t mean there are not lots of jews who do not constantly say stuff like that. and there’s no uniformity among jews as to what it means anyway, that’s for sure.

        try putting on your thinking cap and figure out what reason a group like CST, run my a small tight controlling semi- anonymous little group, would portend to speak for “british jews”. unless of course you believe they do. but a slight suspension of those beliefs might lead you down a different path —

        good luck on the cat herding btw.

      • echinococcus
        October 17, 2016, 5:53 pm

        really? i’m not sure values are determined by ethnic majority.

        If you look back at all times anyone has attributed any opinions to a group, it was based on their impression or pretend-impression of the majority of said group. Ditto for election, referendum, etc.: the papers come out with titles like “Ruritania has spoken!”

        Even the opposing arguments are all based on either the absence of a verifiable count of the majority position or an objection to the voting setup. The majority rule is never challenged.

        Even when the most minoritarian dictators and kings set the values of the group, they always invoke the majority. Have you ever heard any of them saying something like ^the majority of the XYZ people are opposed to the real values of the XYZ people^?

        So why should not the “ethnic majority” be the genuine expression of what you suppose to be the so-called ethny?

      • Annie Robbins
        October 17, 2016, 6:57 pm

        Even when the most minoritarian dictators and kings set the values of the group, they always invoke the majority.

        iow, when a dictator wins by 99% of the vote it means that determines the values of the majority.

        brilliant counter argument echi.

      • echinococcus
        October 17, 2016, 7:02 pm

        51% is enough for that, Annie.

      • Annie Robbins
        October 17, 2016, 7:55 pm

        51%? reminds me of george bush’s “mandate” — but it sure didn’t reflect my values.

      • YoniFalic
        October 18, 2016, 1:38 am

        The German Nazis were strongly convinced that they expressed German ethics and values. Claudia Koonz discusses this point of view in detail in The Nazi Conscience. She uses the phrase ethnic fundamentalism to describe the Nazi mentality. In Israel I was certainly raised to think in this way. I was able to map everything in Koonz’s book to my Israeli upbringing and experience.

        Eran Kaplan uses the term ethnic monism instead of ethnic fundamentalism in his book The Jewish Radical Right: Revisionist. Zionism and It’s Ideological Legacy. As an historian of modern Jews, I don’t doubt that Ahad HaAm, Martin Buber, Ben-Gurion, Weizman, Arlosoroff, Berl Katznelson, etc. (so-called “left” or moderate Zionists) were ethnic fundamentalists like the German Nazis. Ethnic monism, which describes the mentality of the Netanyahus perfectly is at least an order of magnitude more extreme.

      • echinococcus
        October 18, 2016, 5:55 am

        Annie,

        Thanks for making my point much better than I have, thanks to the Shrub example.
        He got <50%, at any rate less than his opponent.

        What the Americans' wish (and values etc) as a group is, in the eyes of any observer, depends on the end result: Shrub's the guy who won the US election and it's his unopposed warmaking and crimes against humanity that showed our values, as the group called Americans.

        Same applies to any summary conclusion re any human groups. Same applies to "Jews"; if we want to define it as the sum total of people who recognize themselves under that handle, the percentage of them who approve or support or tolerate Zionism vs, those who do not determine the "group's values", even if it means nothing at the individual level.

      • Annie Robbins
        October 18, 2016, 9:39 am

        Thanks for making my point much better than I have, thanks to the Shrub example.

        what? how did i make your point? i recall the bush “mandate” was resoundingly rejected and mocked by all but his supporters. http://fair.org/take-action/media-advisories/when-is-a-mandate-not-a-mandate/

        He got <50%, at any rate less than his opponent.

        if you chose to ascribe values to a group based on some “<50%" theory that's your prerogative, but you've convinced me of nothing.

        and don't go moving the goalposts, this is not about what's perceived "in the eyes of any observer", you can only speak for yourself here.

      • Keith
        October 18, 2016, 11:09 am

        YONI FALIC- “Ethnic monism, which describes the mentality of the Netanyahus perfectly is at least an order of magnitude more extreme.”

        Would you say the same about American Jewish Zionists? In my view, The ideology and aspirations of Israeli Zionists and American Jewish Zionists are intertwined. Israeli Jews need their American Jewish benefactors to achieve their objectives. Likewise, American Jewish Zionists feel they need a militant Israel as the centerpiece of their Zionist ideology and the internal solidarity (kinship) which has been so beneficial to their power seeking. Can we really evaluate one in isolation from the other?

      • echinococcus
        October 18, 2016, 11:45 am

        what? how did i make your point? i recall the bush “mandate” was resoundingly rejected and mocked by all but his supporters

        mocked, schmoked, whatever the elected, i.e. the official representative of the supposed majority of the group “American people” pushed through, that is what was realized in its name, no matter if there was opposition or not. My point is that, at the end of the day, what is described from the outside as “American action/values/attitude/etc.” was whatever was expressed to the outside as a result of this.
        Not what Annie or a solitary worm like me does says or feels. It’s a statistical thang.

        if you chose to ascribe values to a group based on some “<50%" theory that's your prerogative, but you've convinced me of nothing.

        It is a “generally >50%” phenomenon; your example reminded us that even a minority can sometimes, by enforcing or directing the action of the group, define what is seen as the group opinion/attitude/values/etc.

        And who’s trying to convince you? It’s so goddam obvious that it’s the majority that (in fact or perception) defines the group’s values that convincing would sound like arguing that the earth is not flat.

        and don’t go moving the goalposts, this is not about what’s perceived “in the eyes of any observer”, you can only speak for yourself here.

        Sophistry unnecessary here (doesn’t become you, anyway.) You are saying that I am the odd one out if I define “X group values” as those expressed by the majority/effective action of group X, while the rule, according to what you appear to say, would be to consider that the minority (in this particular case very small, to the point of exclusion) opinion is representative of the group.

        In this case, say, the values expressed by Barbara Lee and the almost non-existent peace camp would be seen as “the” American values by, say, the invaded Iraqis, and “Jewish values” would be, for example, the admirable ones of Neturei Karta in the mind of the Palestinians.

        [Just ignore that Zionist entity flag hanging all over the goddam temples.]

      • Annie Robbins
        October 18, 2016, 8:43 pm

        at the end of the day, what is described from the outside as “American action/values/attitude/etc.” was whatever was expressed to the outside as a result of this. Not what Annie or a solitary worm like me does says or feels….It is a “generally >50%” phenomenon; your example reminded us that even a minority can sometimes, by enforcing or directing the action of the group, define what is seen as the group opinion/attitude/values/etc.

        i think we’re coming at this from completely different angles. when i think of a persons values, i think of not what their value is to me, but the value they personally hold of themselves. when i speak of my own values, it isn’t about “what is described from the outside” or how others see me.

        so while “even a minority can sometimes, by enforcing or directing the action of the group, define what is seen as the group opinion/attitude/values/etc, a minority cannot so easily enforce or direct the actions of the entire groups opinions/attitudes/values/etc.

        do you see the difference? if 51% of a group feels a certain way it doesn’t determine the values of the whole group. that is what i stated earlier, i’m not sure values are determined by ethnic majority.

        not being a jew i don’t really weigh in on jewish values. i lean towards Nada Elia’s statement re that basic decency is something every good person has, and was in no way exclusive to Jews. i think with any group you’re gonna have crappy people and wonderful people. there’s probably lots of values i share with lots of people a jewish person might think of as a jewish value — whereas i think of it as a value i learned from my family.

        speaking for the masses is a way of controlling the masses and controlling how the masses think of themselves and how outsiders think of them too. but it’s not the way i think about most groupings of people unless perhaps they are all aligned politically. like i do think you could isolate groupings of jewish people and think they have shared values, but certainly not all of them. that’s just crazy. they are as diverse as avidor lieberman and amy goodman. so if you think they have shared values i don’t know what else to say other than i think you’re nuts.

      • Mooser
        October 18, 2016, 12:56 pm

        ” if Jews don’t want to regarded as a homogeneous group, then why on earth do they constantly use terms like “Jewish values”, “Jewish community”, or “we Jews”?”

        “German Lefty”, I complain constantly (by both e-mail and registered letter!) to the Chief Rabbinate in Charge of World Jewish Speech, but they won’t do a thing about it!

        And really, if Jews are homogeonous, we wouldn’t have Jewish mothers, which I for one, could not have done without.

      • MHughes976
        October 18, 2016, 5:29 pm

        With any descriptive term, like Jewish or British or for that matter round or square or unicorn, there is a difference between the list of things to which the term applies, the extension, and the idea of what it is to be that kind of thing, the intension.
        Observing several things that are round does not reveal to you that a circle is the set of all points in a plane that are equidistant from a given point, which needs thought. Using thought to create the idea of a unicorn = white horned horse with magical properties does not reveal any things to which the term should apply, which would require observation, which won’t occur because there are no unicorns.
        So it does make sense to say that ‘what it is to be Jewish’ does not include being Zionist or that being Zionist is not being Jewish authentically – and to say this even though the vast majority of people to whom the word applies are, very sad but very true, Zionists in fact.
        Several prophets, Hosea a case in point, denounce the Israelites for deserting en masse their true God = the values that are part of what it is to be an Israelite. Shakespeare’s ‘Naught shall make us rue if England to herself do rest but true’ is a rousing call to unity but still envisages the possibility of en masse self-betraying Anglos, relatives of self-hating Jews, I suppose.
        Ponderous post of the month?

      • MHughes976
        October 18, 2016, 5:36 pm

        I think GL has a point about rhetoric – by no means only Jewish rhetoric – which stresses the shared, rather than the justified, nature of certain values. It does tend to reduce individuality to membership of the hive.

      • echinococcus
        October 19, 2016, 1:07 am

        All that is absolutely right, Annie. No objection. But not really relevant: it’s not about persons but very large groups of millions of people: “the Americans”. “The Jews”.
        Of course there is nothing that can be called “American values”/ “Jewish values”! Except for some gifted demagogues, and for the tribal stupid. What a load of BS.

        But for the stupid or the malignant who gargarize with that king of nonsense “national soul” type nonsense, the only basis is ostensibly statistical. They cannot ever pretend that XYZ is a “Xyzian value” if they admit it is held by a minority among the Xyzians.

        If I can (and I can!) prove that a majority of us Americans supported aggression, or that the overwhelming majority of people calling themselves “Jewish” support Zionism, my answer to any peddler of “national character” nonsense is that war of aggression is an American value, and that Zionist racism is a Jewish value; the statistical basis for such “national character” is uncontested in their own majoritarian currency.

        The only decent answer is that there is and can be no “values” for large groupings of people with nothing but the nonsense of “identity” in common.

        Again, kudos to Hughes. It is a hive term.

      • German Lefty
        October 19, 2016, 5:40 am

        Annie: “not all jews discuss or reference Jewish values, Jewish community, or we Jews. “

        Yes, I know that not ALL Jews do this. So, what’s your point? Nowhere in my comments did I claim that ALL Jews do this. Apparently, you don’t understand the difference between “Jews” and “the Jews”.
        “Jews” = many/most Jews
        “the Jews” = all Jews

        echinococcus: “My point is that, at the end of the day, what is described from the outside as “American action/values/attitude/etc.” was whatever was expressed to the outside as a result of this.”

        Exactly. When we apply this logic to Jews, this means: As long as the majority of Jews support Zionism, as long as all major Jewish organisations in Western countries are Zionist organisations, as long as the vast majority of synagogues and Jewish schools in Western countries are full of Zionist flags and Zionist propaganda… land theft is a Jewish value.
        Jews who support Zionism are not just isolated incidents. It’s a mass phenomenon. Holding a sign that says “Stealing land is not a Jewish value” is pure denial of reality.

      • YoniFalic
        October 19, 2016, 6:58 am

        @Keith — All politics is local. Whether the Zionist leaders are in USA or in Israel, they are making money off Zionism just as Herzl did. Into whose pockets do you think the billions that the USA gives to Israel goes? I have seen estimates that over half the Israeli GDP is a gift from the USA and Germany. Ordinary Zios benefit too. I had a pretty good life in Israel until I murdered unarmed Pali men, women, and children during Operation Cast Lead. Most don’t suffer from that sort of thing. Memory fades for most people but not for me. In the US the sort of mobilization used for Zionism by ordinary Zios can be reused in other areas of politics, business, and academics. It provides an advantage over non-Zios.

      • echinococcus
        October 19, 2016, 12:18 pm

        German Leftie,

        As long as the majority of Jews support Zionism… land theft is a Jewish value.

        That’s it. In fact, any tribals who even think there are any specifically “Jewish values”, as if their precious mythical chromosomes had cornered the market of plain human decency, deserve to be thrown in the face what their majority does. Such people include the tribals who pretend to support Palestinian resistance with the primary objective of defending the good name of the tribe by hunting “antisemitism”, not otherwise defined.

      • Mooser
        October 19, 2016, 1:05 pm

        “Apparently, you don’t understand the difference between “Jews” and “the Jews”.
        “Jews” = many/most Jews
        “the Jews” = all Jews”

        “German Lefty” if anybody says you aren’t philo-semantic, they will have to fight me!!

      • Annie Robbins
        October 19, 2016, 1:56 pm

        “Apparently, you don’t understand the difference between “Jews” and “the Jews”

        so here’s what i find confusing german lefty. although you say “I think that people should be judged as individuals and not as a group”, you offer this caveat — “one can only get the impression that they want to be seen as one group and not as individuals”.

        so who is “they”? “Jews” = many/most Jews or “the Jews” = all Jews”?

        do you mean you think people should be judged individually but “the Jews” = all Jews” want to be seen as one group and not as individuals” and therefore you (or we or “one” [your terminology] meaning everyone i presume) can “only” regard “the Jews” = all Jews” as a group? or “Jews” = many/most Jews as a group.

        and do you mean you think people should be judged individually but because “Jews” = many/most Jews (vs “the Jews” = all Jews”) want to be seen as one group and not as individuals you therefore do not think “they” should be judged individually?

        or maybe you just think jews who want to be judged as a group should be judged as a group and ones who want to be regarded individually should be?

        sorry, my head is spinning. i think i’ll just back out of this conversation.

      • German Lefty
        October 19, 2016, 5:46 pm

        Annie: although you say “I think that people should be judged as individuals and not as a group”, you offer this caveat — “one can only get the impression that they want to be seen as one group and not as individuals”. so who is “they”?

        Okay, I try to clarify. By “they” I mean those Jews that Nada writes about in her article, i.e. the many ones who talk about “THE Jewish community” and about “Jewish values” as if Jews were a homogeneous group with a common value system. Zionist Jews do this, e.g. by claiming that Israel is the state of THE Jewish people and by equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. But also surprisingly many anti-Zionist Jews do this, e.g. by claiming that Israel violates “Jewish values” and by referring to “THE Jewish community”. As I said, I think that people should be regarded as individuals. That’s why I object to the fact that so very many Jews talk about Jews as if they were a homogeneous group. It’s wrong when Zionist Jews do it, but it’s also wrong when anti-Zionist Jews do it. Anti-Zionist Jews should NOT get away with such behaviour just because they are anti-Zionists. As I want to judge people as individuals, I don’t think that “Jewish values” exist. However, IF they existed, then land theft would definitely be one of them. Therefore, anti-Zionist Jews should think twice before invoking “Jewish values” to counter Zionism. Nada pointed out this contradiction in her article by writing: “As a Jew, raised with Jewish values…” What were those Jewish values, if one must now “transform the community”? If Jewish values were actually as great as anti-Zionist Jews claim, then why do they believe that the Jewish community needs to change? A community that already has great values is not in need for change. Right?

        Annie: and do you mean you think people should be judged individually but… or maybe you just think jews who want to be judged…

        No wonder that your head is spinning… with all these strange things that you read into my comments.

  5. German Lefty
    October 17, 2016, 2:40 pm

    I very much dislike this constant appeal to Jewish values, because whether Zionism violates Jewish values or not is totally beside the point. Zionism must be rejected because it violates international law and human rights, not because it supposedly violates some vague idea of Jewish values. The world does NOT revolve around Jewish values. Jewish values – whatever they may be – are NOT the universal stardard that everything and everyone has to conform to. International law and human rights are the universal standard that everything and everyone has to conform to.

    • MHughes976
      October 17, 2016, 5:17 pm

      It’s possible to concede – sadly – that Zionism is supported, often very strongly, by a majority of those who consider themselves Jewish while not conceding that Zionism, however popular for the time being, is, as an expression of Jewish culture and tradition as it has existed over the centuries, authentic. I think that that is quite a common view on Mondoweiss, though its most eloquent exponent, seafoid, has regrettably left us for some time.
      ”There’s nothing authentically Jewish about stealing land’ isn’t a very forceful slogan.

      • YoniFalic
        October 18, 2016, 2:05 am

        CUNY Professor Talal Asad provides a useful framework to discuss the relationship of Zionism and Judaism in Thinking about Religion, Belief and Politics.

        Talal Asad is the son of Muhammad Asad, who created a translation/interpretation of the Quran (The Message of the Qur’an), which is a favorite of American Muslims.

        Muhammad Asad was born Jewish and named Leopold Weiss. He was interested in Zionism but realized it was evil when he visited a relative in Jerusalem. This relative was also a relative of my father, and the two of them (my father and Leopold Weiss) argued about Zionism before Weiss left to travel in the ME. Eventually Weiss converted to Islam and took the name Muhammad Asad.

      • YoniFalic
        October 18, 2016, 9:31 am

        BTW, I wrote father where I meant grandfather.

    • Mooser
      October 19, 2016, 1:06 pm

      “I very much dislike this constant appeal to Jewish values”

      But I thought, just a few comments ago, you were telling us all about “Jewish values”!,

      • German Lefty
        October 19, 2016, 5:51 pm

        But I thought, just a few comments ago, you were telling us all about “Jewish values”!

        No, Mooser. I was merely RESPONDING to the person in the photo and the likes who keep invoking “Jewish values”.

  6. Kathleen
    October 22, 2016, 11:51 am

    On the exclusivity issue…Americans are not that different than Israeli’s. How often do you hear Americans think, feel or write about the fundamentally racist invasions, military interventions in Libya, Syria and the deadly consequences discussed on our MSM. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been killed, injured, millions turned into refugees in large part due to the Bush/Cheney, Wolfowitz, Obama/Clinton. Anne Marie Slaughter foreign policy turned into military actions, proxy wars, Muslim lives seem not to matter to most Americans…dispensable . Shameful

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