Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish holiday for the “New Year for Trees,” is typically celebrated as an appreciation of nature. Marc Ellis says Rabbi Brant Rosen has a unique take on the holiday and instead of praise it involves recognizing the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Category Archives: Exile and the Prophetic
Marc Ellis says that following the release of the Movement for Black Lives platform the Jewish establishments have taken out their chalkboard to lecture African Americans on their place in society and global discourse. The accusation, with a long tradition, is that African Americans should stick with Black issues – as defined by the Jewish establishment. Ellis doubts it will work this time. “The Movement for Black Lives has placed Jews on notice that we have arrived at the end of ethical Jewish history,” Ellis writes.
The Reform Movement’s response to AIPAC’s invitation of Donald Trump a few days ago is a bellwether of how the Jewish establishment views Trump’s candidacy and perhaps, as importantly, how it views itself.Instead of trumpeting its close relationship with AIPAC as an American and Jewish badge of honor, the Reform Movement should have engaged in a process of critical self-reflection. Instead of condemning Trump, it should have paused and drawn the parallels between Trump, the Jewish establishment and Israel’s rhetoric and policies toward Palestinians.
On Sunday, Pope Francis traveled across town to visit Rome’s synagogue that stands within the old Jewish ghetto, but he missed an opportunity to move the Jewish-Catholic friendship to a new level of honesty. As the Pope correctly apologized for the Church’s role in the ghettoization of Jews, he remained silent about the ongoing ghettoization of Palestinians in Israel-Palestine.
The Methodist decision to withdraw their investments from five major Israeli banks for their enablement – and profiteering – from the occupation of Palestinians is telling. Not only do they call out Israel for its transgressions, they add it to a list of “high-risk” areas that “demonstrate a prolonged and systematic pattern of human rights abuses.” It is the nations of the world they place Israel among that’s most explosive.
As Israel wins on the military and diplomatic battlefield, their propaganda battle is already lost.
On the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Isabel Kershner of the New York Times writes that Israelis on both sides of the political spectrum have reached a “pragmatic” consensus on the way forward. If alive today it’s likely Rabin would fit nicely into the “pragmatic” Israeli consensus as he did during his lifetime. Rabin’s pragmatism was the pragmatism of the powerful. The life of Yitzhak Rabin is part of the downward spiral where Jews come to accept the denigration and oppression of another people as “pragmatic.” For in the end, permanently ghettoizing the Palestinian people is the true legacy of Yitzhak Rabin.
Marc Ellis: “In the abyss of Jewish history, Jews must begin again – with Palestinians. This is a sharply-focused way of understanding what I realized many years ago: That the only way to be faithful as a Jew today is to embrace the Jewish covenant, a covenant that has fled from the precincts of Jewish power. That the Jewish covenant, and thus the Jewish prophetic, reside in the Palestinians ghettos Jews have created is difficult for most Jews to contemplate. Perhaps this is why Netanyahu’s “forever” sword signals a fight within and outside Jewish history until the end.”
As Netanyahu’s Holocaust revisionism continues to find its way around the world, Jewish memory is besmirched. That’s the consensus of the many Holocaust historians and political figures that continue to weigh in on Netanyahu’s misreading of Holocaust history. Buried in the outrage, though, is a deeper issue: Rather than the historical details of Holocaust history, how the Holocaust functions in relation to Palestine is the issue at hand. Netanyahu’s misreading of the Holocaust pales in significance to how the Holocaust is used to strengthen Israel at the cost of Palestinian life.
As the crisis in Israel-Palestine devolves, with some predicting a third intifada, the YWCA in Jerusalem issued an alert calling Israel’s entrenched military occupation “the Endless State of Emergency.”
Rabbi Brant Rosen just published his congregation’s confession that will be prayed on Yom Kippur. Those on the political right and even those progressive Jews who continue to sit on the fence with regard to Israel and Jewish life in America, should take notice. Rabbi Rosen’s confession is wide-ranging. His title, “A Confession of Communal Complicity,” says it all. Unlike most rabbis during the High Holidays, Rabbi Rosen isn’t hiding behind a liturgy developed when Jews had little power. Rabbi Rosen knows that the Jewish situation in the world has changed from powerlessness to power. He isn’t pulling any religious or political punches.
Marc Ellis writes about Reverend Naim Ateek’s strident and heartbreaking letter to the Episcopal Church expressing his disappointment that it failed to pass a resolution supporting divestment from the Israeli occupation.
Rabbi Brant Rosen’s new congregational venture Tzedek Chicago continues to make news. Writing in the Forward, Jonathan Paul Katz thinks that such a non-Zionist venture rooted in universal Jewish values might fill a gap in Jewish life. That said, the issue is much more profound than Katz is aware of.
Do Black lives matter in America? After the murders in Charleston, the historic debate about race in American history rages on a new level. Do Black lives matter to Jews? Another longstanding debate stretching from the Civil Rights era to the present. Yet of late a new and dangerous element is being reintroduced into the discussion by BlackLivesMatter and Jews of Conscience that threatens to resolve the issue in a definitive and negative way. The issue revolves around Jews and Palestinians: If Palestinian lives don’t matter to Jews, how can Black lives matter to Jews?
Marc Ellis first met Cornel West almost thirty years ago when he was invited to share the podium with him on the subject of Israel and the Palestinians. Since then West has become a leading African American public intellectual and has taken daring stands in support of Palestinians, including during Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer. Ellis reflects on West’s career and prophetic voice in light of Michael Eric Dyson’s New Republic article excoriating West. Ellis writes, “Though Dyson’s predicted fall of Cornel West is clearly exaggerated, his penchant for disciplining West’s prophetic voice should be taken seriously.”
In the closing hours of his political campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu announced his opposition to a Palestinian state and evoked Jewish fears of Palestinians outside and inside of the state of Israel. Netanyahu’s honesty caught the American Jewish leadership by surprise. It seems that Netanyahu compromised a special Jewish Occupation Code honed over many years. In essence, Netanyahu cast an unwelcome light on a thoroughly compromised American Jewish establishment that has enabled Israeli policies toward Palestinians for decades. Netanyahu stood up for injustice without apology. It’s time for Jewish leaders to tell us – without apology – where they stand.
Marc Ellis writes, “While heartfelt, the various “Je suis” campaigns are diversions that draw us deeper into the international security abyss.”
Ritualized solidarity remains the name of the game in Israel-Palestine, as the fate of Jerusalem hangs in the balance once again. So it was when church leaders in Jerusalem showed a sign of solidarity to Islam and the Muslim community by gathering at the Al Aqsa mosque for a photo-op last week. They also issued a statement on the need to respect the rights of Muslims to worship freely and show respect for holy places. But as the church leaders and their advisors know well the backdrop for their visit isn’t about freedom of religion or worship. The backdrop for increasing tensions at Al Aqsa is occupation and the dwindling place of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the land itself. It’s about an occupied and ghettoized Palestinian people with their backs to the Apartheid (political and religious) Wall.