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One day in the State of the Jewish People, a ‘light unto the Nations’

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What can be said any longer about Israel’s occupation and repression of the Palestinians? What may still be less known is the extent to which the poison of the occupation has inevitably and inexorably spread into Israel itself, into its political system and throughout its society and its institutions. Read Haaretz for a couple of weeks, and you will learn about the rapid growth of domestic Israeli authoritarianism, violence, racism, religious fanaticism, various forms of corruption and criminality, attacks on dissent, civil liberties and the judicial system, the accelerating decline in liberal and scientific education–and more.

For example, here are the headlines, summaries, and a few quotations from news stories and commentaries in just one day’s edition of Haaretz (November 30, 2011): “IDF freezes implementation of report calling for gender equality” “Publicly, the IDF announced support for recommendations drafted by special military committee, but in practice it has done very little to implement them….[because of] the religious establishment’s opposition.” 

Sefi Rachlevsky: “It’s not for nothing that several leading rabbis prefer a firing squad than hearing women sing. From Jewish law they draw the assertion that the most severe of all transgressions is the useless spilling of seed. This is compared to murdering one’s children…The demons responsible for tragedies are born from Jewish seed that was wasted. This is the reason for the hiding and silencing of women, so as not to excite the men, which might lead to improper ejaculation.”

“Those who believe this are not a fringe group. Nearly 53 percent of first-graders classified as Jews now study in religious and ultra-Orthodox schools, and the prevailing theology in most of them teach these things as fact.”

“NGOs say Police Ignoring Sinai Human Smugglers’ Accomplices in Israel.” “Organizations say smugglers have contacts in Israel demanding ransom payments by relatives and friends in Israel to free fellow migrants from Sinai detention camps. Hundreds of would be migrants seeking to make their way to Israel are being held by smugglers in Sinai. Some have been the targets of extreme violence….In a report on the problem issued earlier this year based on the testimony of migrants who had made it to Israel last year: According to some of the testimonies, several victims were either murdered by the traffickers or were starved to death. 18 men were forced into slave labor…. The victims report not just physical abuse, but also psychological torture and humiliation. … Seven of the victims reported that the traffickers threatened to sell their organs for transplant. The police have not responded to Haaretz’s request for a response.”

“Ground Breaking survey shows 1 in 5 Israelis don’t have enough to eat.” Income of 19-20 percent of the families places them under the poverty line.

“Report Offers Chilling View of Israel’s Working Poor.” “More than half of the poor families in Israel have jobs, and that number has increased in recent years…[but] poverty among working families has deepened. Couples with more than two children will also be unable to escape poverty, even if both parents work – one full time and the other part-time – and receive minimum wage.” [According to one worker about to lose his home]: “It’s something that’s happening all over Israel, not just here. It feels like the state is giving up on people. They gave up on me.” “‘Talkback law’ passes first reading in Knesset.” Under the bill, Internet service providers could be forced to reveal the identity of the author of the offending content.

Zvi Bar-el: “Israel’s take on Arab Spring may undo peace with Egypt.” “The way of life in the Arab countries does not interest Israel. Peace, in its Israeli version, is made with leaders, preferably autocratic ones, and not with peoples. The leaders, so it is believed, will force the people to love Israel [despite] Israel’s policy in Jerusalem and the territories. If Israel wishes to ‘warm up” the peace, [demonstrators said], it will have to pay the price in Palestinian coin. This was not an “Islamist” demand….those who made this demand were completely secular. As usual, Israel is beginning to get ready the no-Egyptian-partner. He will be an Islamist, radical and anti-Semitic, who does not understand the doctrine of winking that Mubarak employed. Because of this no-partner, peace will collapse. After all, everyone understands what an Islamist threat is.” 

“How Israel stigmatizes and mistreats AIDS sufferers.” “While AIDS sufferers in the West are treated with miracle drugs and can live normal lives, in Israel, those with the disease are stigmatized and given medicines that don’t work. While until three years ago it was possible to say that Israel stood at the forefront of science and treatment, I am sorry to say today that this is no longer true. And since AIDS patients in Israel are anonymous, they will not go out into the streets and won’t erect protest tents. It is our obligation as human beings, as a country, to change this policy. As Nelson Mandela said, our approach to AIDS reflects who we are as people.” (Dr. Itzhak Levi, Chairman of the Israeli Association for AIDS Medicine and director of the AIDS and sexually transmitted disease clinic at the Sheba Medical Center.) 

One day’s stories. I must admit I have been a “liberal Zionist,” a supporter of the right and possible need for the Jewish people to have their own state. Just not this one. Can we start again?

Editor’s note. This piece appeared on Jerry Slater’s site several days ago.

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I suspect the attempt to create a Jewish State anywhere would have had similar results. The Zionists had one shot to completely ethnically cleanse the native Palestinians and hope that they would give up their right of return and integrate into the neighboring Arab states the way the Sudeten and… Read more »

What would the Other Israel have been like? Above all, less oppressively religious – I suppose. Yet if you set down one group of people in the midst of another in ways that arouse serious antagonism and if one of the distinctions between the two groups relates to religion what… Read more »

what does it mean for the rest of the world and into the future that this state exists and has nuclear weapons and wildly disproportionate financial and political ability to destabilize any nation — ie. Iran — that resists its predatory impulses?

Can we start again?

Who would give us another chance?

Jews may yet be able to be a light unto the nations if they will speak out against immorality and murder louder than anyone.

But as for the state of Israel, “blight” might be the best word.