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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.

Jerome Slater

Jerome Slater is a professor (emeritus) of political science and now a University Research Scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has taught and written about U.S. foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for nearly 50 years, both for professional journals (such as International Security, Security Studies, and Political Science Quarterly) and for many general periodicals. He writes foreign policy columns for the Sunday Viewpoints section of the Buffalo News. And his website it www.jeromeslater.com.

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62 Responses

  1. J. Otto Pohl on December 11, 2011, 12:23 pm

    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 other German expelled from East Central Europe did. Having failed to expel all Palestinians from all of Palestine and having failed to coerce them to renounce their right of return it was inevitable that Israel develop along South African lines. Establishing a Jewish state in Uganda or elsewhere would have just created a different set of oppressed natives. Although I suspect a Jewish apartheid state in Africa would have been far less popular in the US than the one in Palestine.

  2. MHughes976 on December 11, 2011, 1:05 pm

    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 can you expect, over time, than a gradual strengthening of the influence of religion – or at least of a culture with significant religious aspects? All the more so if both sides appeal (or even if one side appeals) to ‘their’ religion to explain why they should be there.
    To be a bone of contention the religion doesn’t even have to be believed, only to be an important part of the discussion. Once it has reached that point the people on one side will increasingly try to boost ‘their’ religious story at the expense of the other – in this case the boost comes on both sides from highly contentious interpretations of archaeology and from furious denunciations of the moral impact of each others’ traditions.
    This point was reached long ago in the history of Zionism – before the allegedly atheist Ben Gurion led bible study groups in his PM’s residence, before the reference to ‘the Book of Books’ in Israel’s founding documents, before the rejection of ‘anywhere but Palestine’ by the Zionist Congress of 1905, maybe with the increasing interest of British Jews in ‘Daniel Deronda’, maybe well before that.
    The Other Israel is an impossible imaginary thing which Professor Slater uses to justify his tenacious adhesion to Zionism. I wish he’d let go.

    • Hostage on December 13, 2011, 2:48 pm

      What would the Other Israel have been like? Above all, less oppressively religious – I suppose.

      It would have played out the same. The ancient Jews were the Beverly Hillbillies of Palestine. They populated the hill country in Judea and Samaria. The Egyptians, Philistines, and Phoenicians were the historical majority in the coastal strip. Herzl wanted to use the land in East Africa as a base to build a global empire and to eventually conqueror Palestine too. The haredim and national religious Zionists wouldn’t have settled for Africa or Tel Aviv. They would have taken over the movement and colonized the ancient homeland in the interior, just like they’ve co-opted or subverted the government of the State of Israel and used the so-called occupation as an excuse to Judaize Arab areas and fulfill their colonial ambitions.

      • MHughes976 on December 13, 2011, 3:41 pm

        The Hillbillies became dominant because they had the best poets, able to draw together the cultural strands of the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian worlds and to write unforgettably. But there are still some cantos unwritten.

  3. on December 11, 2011, 1:25 pm

    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?

    • Charon on December 12, 2011, 2:46 pm

      I wish it would mean the world would be doing everything in their power to stop it. They’re so glued to their TVs and reality shows and sporting events, when not working, commuting, eating, or sleeping, they have no time to think for themselves. It’s like this materialistic world is hell and the masses came to love hell and not only allow the elite to walk all over them, but they support the elite’s agenda and criticize the rational alternatives.

      It means this will end badly. For the world. Russia and China should condone any Western attack on Iran with a threat on Israel and Western sights. They’ve eluded to this but haven’t come out and said it. If they say it and people believe it, there will be more of a balance of power.

      • Mooser on December 13, 2011, 4:38 pm

        “Russia and China should condone any Western attack on Iran”

        Charon, did you mistype “condone” for “condemn”? I believe “condemn” is the word you wanted.

  4. Shmuel on December 11, 2011, 1:31 pm

    Can we start again?

    Who would give us another chance?

    • john h on December 11, 2011, 3:09 pm

      No one in their right mind, Shmuel, because The Other Israel is an impossible imaginary thing.

      Just as impossible and imaginary as an Other Nazi Germany, an Other communist Soviet Union, an Other apartheid South Africa. These and Zionism are all in the same boat.

      To use a phrase, “it is the nature of the beast”. It begs a well-known rhetorical question, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” (Jeremiah 13:23)

      It is not a matter of religion or the lack of it, and how these were and are used as justification. These are the symptoms, not the malady. It is not even a matter of the failed ideology of each that is the immediate reason the uselessness of another chance is a no-brainer.

      The malady is what is in each one of us. Again from Jeremiah,

      The heart is more deceitful than all else, a twisted thing, and is desperately sick; who can understand it and know what is really in there? (17:9)

      Starting again as Zionism is not an option. Starting again as Jews in Palestine is. Jews and Arabs once lived together in relative harmony, before there was Zionism.

      It is not an impossible dream. It is already happening in the work and example of Elias Chacour and others.

      http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Brothers-Elias-Chacour/dp/0800793218
      http://mondoweiss.net/2011/12/the-earlier-me.html#comment-398224
      http://mondoweiss.net/2011/12/this-is-how-they-drove-us-out-tiberiass-exiles-recall-the-nakba.html/comment-page-1#comment-397584

    • Mooser on December 11, 2011, 3:13 pm

      “Can we start again?”

      Of course we can, Jerry. Why, I’m sure if we clean up the mess we’ve already made, show that we are capable of an accounting, and of taking responsibility for what we have done, and of relinquishing or ill-gotten gains, and trying to make restitution for what we have taken, I see no reason why the world would object to a Jewish State (for those who wanted to go there) at a place mutually agreed on, not taken by force and manipulation.
      Is that what you had in mind, Prof.?

      • jnslater on December 11, 2011, 10:26 pm

        Yes

      • American on December 12, 2011, 3:05 am

        Jerome,

        You must understand by now what Zionism really is.
        You can’t be your age and have some intelligence without at least suspecting that Israel and Zionism isn’t about ‘safety for Jews”.
        What fool would ever think, I don’t care how many nukes Israel has, that a tiny state on a tiny strip of land is capable of protecting Jews? Not to mention the hate and resentment Israel creates in the world by it’s actions.
        If the world really decided to hate Jews, Israel and all the Jews there could be destroyed in a day…less than a day.

        You want the Jews to be free of anti semitism or you want Israel to survive? Is it safety from anti semitism you want or is it Israel ego, the false pride of re establishing the ‘ancient” Jewish kingdom for the ‘ancient chosen people’, of being in power instead of powerless, and all the myths and hubris that go along with the delusion that is falsely billed as some kind of self determination?

        Let me tell you something that ought to be crystal clear by now also.
        Zionism is a cult that can’t handle power. It’s based on anti -others and exceptionalism and superiority and immunity from man’s laws. Anywhere you transfer those beliefs they will still fail.

        You claimed on here before that you supported Israel “because of anti semitism.” If you want to end anti semitism, which doesn’t even really exist to the degree you claim, then do this………Consider yourselves just like everyone else. Give up the victim role. No eternal privileges for past victimhood. Consider yourselves “part” of the German holocaust not ‘The’ Holocaust. Because you weren’t the only victims.
        Settle for being Equal… not Special or Entitled.

        The day the Jews see themselves as just like anyone else, as like any other numerous people of the world who suffered, were discriminated against as everyone has been at some time in history and moved on. Then people will see you as just like anyone else, as like them……and your anti semite fears will disappear.

        Zionism as it exist today and it’s leaders don’t want that to ever happen.
        So chose…Equal to others or Special above others.

      • Charon on December 12, 2011, 2:54 pm

        Israel/Palestine is so small that it would not survive a nuclear attack. It wouldn’t be able to prevent one either. Several nuclear-nations are within firing distance. None who are hostile, but a couple are critical of Israel and not exactly allies. To deter this threat, Israel has ‘Samson Option’ policy which is not exactly a mutually assured destruction policy. If Israel proper is gone, they have a bunch of subs always on the move in secret locations ready to allegedly strike and all major city centers around Europe. Some say even as far as NYC. There is enough military presence in the ME to prevent some, but not all. And in the aftermath, who would the world blame? I’m not sure how they conned so many Jews into believing that a teeny tiny piece of land surrounded by hostile neighbors could ever protect them over immigration and assimilation.

      • Mooser on December 13, 2011, 1:30 pm

        “Yes”

        Horseshit! It’s like that photograph that doesn’t do you justice; it’s mercy you want, not justice.
        And your alacrity in answering yes just shows how little you even consider what it would indeed take to accomplish it. That “yes” is a mockery, and a testimony to how powerless you consider the Palestinians.
        Unless, of course, your University Medical center has discovered a procedure which reverses needless deaths.

    • RoHa on December 12, 2011, 2:02 am

      Witty calls Zionism a liberation for the Jews. Having seen how it has turned out, I have to say that it would have been better for everyone, including the Jews, if they had remained in chains.

      • Richard Witty on December 12, 2011, 4:02 pm

        “it would have been better for everyone, including the Jews, if they had remained in chains.”

        A fascist invocation. Why does a statement “better that they had remained in chains” get the light of day on this site?

      • Woody Tanaka on December 12, 2011, 6:35 pm

        “A fascist invocation. Why does a statement ‘better that they had remained in chains’ get the light of day on this site?”

        People say much worse on this site every day about the Palestinians and their fight for freedom from the oppression of the Jews occupying Palestine and not a peep from you…

      • RoHa on December 12, 2011, 7:51 pm

        “Why does a statement “better that they had remained in chains” get the light of day on this site?”

        You can’t really read, can you? Try it this way.

        1. Zionism is “liberation for Jews”. (R. Witty)
        2. Zionism is a disaster for the world and for Jews. (Common knowledge.)
        3. Therefore, “liberation for Jews” is a disaster for the world and for Jews. (1+2)
        4. It is better for everyone, including the Jews, not to have disasters for the worlds and for Jews. (Basic moral principle)
        5. Therefore, it is better for everyone, including the Jews, not to have “liberation for the Jews”. (3+4)

        Put an ice-pack on your head, and go through it slowly. Maybe you could get child to help you.

      • eee on December 13, 2011, 12:16 am

        “2. Zionism is a disaster for the world and for Jews. (Common knowledge.)”

        A clearly false statement. A majority of Jews believe Zionism is great for the Jews.

      • Chaos4700 on December 13, 2011, 12:44 am

        Will they still believe that when Israel falls and its leaders go down in history on the same pages as Hitler and Stalin?

      • Mooser on December 13, 2011, 1:32 pm

        “A clearly false statement. A majority of Jews believe Zionism is great for the Jews.”

        Seems to me they vote the other way with their feet, their assets and their lives, if given the chance.

      • eee on December 13, 2011, 2:48 pm

        “Seems to me they vote the other way with their feet, their assets and their lives, if given the chance.”

        What are you talking about? The Jewish population in Israel is growing all the time and at a much faster rate than the Jewish population in the diaspora that may be even going down. Yes, some people leave. So? It happens in every country. Israel is a great place to live.

      • straightline on December 13, 2011, 3:08 pm

        So let’s extrapolate – all of the world’s Jews in a racist Israel – is that what you really want? Do you realize the consequences?

      • eee on December 13, 2011, 3:57 pm

        I want every Jew to live where he is comfortable. It is just a matter of demographic trends that most Jews in the future will live in Israel. There are no bad consequences to that.

      • Mooser on December 13, 2011, 4:23 pm

        “The Jewish population in Israel is growing all the time and at a much faster rate than the Jewish population in the diaspora that may be even going down”

        Oh, you’re so right! I bet the next time the ultra-religious, or the settlers, or whoever it was, attacks the IDF, they will have the numbers to win the encounter. Oh, I have no doubt the population of Israel is growing. I just wonder if there will be enough eee’s and dimadoks to support them.

      • Mooser on December 13, 2011, 4:42 pm

        “It is just a matter of demographic trends that most Jews in the future will live in Israel.”

        And you will be supporting all those settlers, ultra-religious, ultra-Orthodox, and haredim, while you live under their laws. You’ll need a body condom, they spit on atheists.

      • droog on December 13, 2011, 6:12 pm

        eee,
        if a “majority of jews” equals ” common knowledge”,
        either approx. 6,986,000,000 of us are not “common” enough to count atall, or a “majority of jews”‘ are not as smart as the white South Africans,
        who gave it up when it became obviously unsustainable,
        post cold-war.

        I could list the examples of “great for ——” periods in human history, but it would be a long long essay, and I doubt you would see beyond the little Jewish bit of the ‘who paid’ half of the picture.

      • RoHa on December 13, 2011, 6:55 pm

        But Jews are just a minority of the people in the world.

  5. ehrens on December 11, 2011, 1:35 pm

    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.

  6. Cliff on December 11, 2011, 2:09 pm

    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?

    If this is the definition of a liberal Zionist, then I am a liberal Zionist too.

    I support the notion of a ‘need’ for a ‘Jewish’ (whatever they would call it) State or whatever the self-identification would be so long as it didn’t come at the price of the Palestinian people’s lives, human rights, humanity in general.

    • W.Jones on December 11, 2011, 9:06 pm

      Do Native Americans and African Americans have a need and right to have their own state? They sure have been persecuted alot- a big percent of Native Americans were wiped out, and African Americans lived through centuries of brutal slavery.

      I think they have a right to be full citizens of a state that values them, but I am not sure that they have a “right” to have one state dedicated solely to them to the exclusion of other ethnic or religious groups. Still, I admit that this kind of answer could be the best solution in some cases, like giving Indians autonomy on reservations, or dividing a country like India and Pakistan or Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

  7. W.Jones on December 11, 2011, 2:24 pm

    I think that the Light unto the Nations refers to the Messiah.

    42:6 (JPS) says: “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and have taken hold of thy hand, and kept thee, and set thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations”.

    That is, here Isaiah refers to the person as “thee” (singular), and distinguishes the person from Israel, “the people” who receive the covenant.

    And then again, Isaiah 49 (JPS) says:
    (5 And now saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, and that Israel be gathered unto Him–for I am honourable in the eyes of the Lord, and my God is become my strength–

    6 Yea, He saith: ‘It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the offspring of Israel; I will also give thee for a light of the nations, that My salvation may be unto the end of the earth.’)

    So Isaiah 49 distinguishes the subject who is the “light of the nations” from Israel by saying the person brings Jacob to God.

    Isaiah 60 prophesies alot about Jerusalem’s light, but doesn’t use the term “light unto the nations”.

    Yet it appears the view that the State of Israel is to be the “light unto the nations” figures strongly in State ideology. Wikipedia’s entry on “Light unto the Nations” says:

    ((The selection of the Menorah as the Emblem of Israel was derived from the image of the state of Israel as a “Light Unto the Nations”:
    “ And there stood up a father and had suggest: “The Menorah shall be the Emblem of Israel”, and why a Menorah?, “Since Israel was designated to serve as the “Light Unto the Nations”, a light unto the whole world, and the Glow-light that was lighted in the First and Second Temple spread the light to the entire world. And even nowdays, the days of the Third Temple – the Menorah will return to light [our] People and the world”
    —”The Menorah, the Emblem of Israel”, Dr. & R. Shmuel Zanvil Kahana))

    Now the good side of this is that if the Israeli State tries to be a light unto the nations, then it means it will try to do good, as Ben Gurion said: “it [the virtue] is both a privilege and an obligation to be a “Light Unto the Nations”

    The downside is that a central part of State Ideology contains an overly state-nationalist claim that an earthly government plays an overly-leading prophetic role. As Netanyahu says:

    (( There is no demographic or practical existence for the Jewish people without a Jewish state. This doesn’t mean that the Jewish state does not face tremendous challenges, but our existence, our future, is here. The greatest change that came with the establishment of the Jewish state was that Jews became more than just a collection of individuals, communities and fragments of communities. They became a sovereign collective in their own territory. Our ability as a collective to determine our own destiny is what grants us the tools to shape our future – no longer as a ruled people, defeated and persecuted, but as a proud people with a magnificent country and one which always aspires to serve as “Light Unto the Nations”.)

    While I agree with the part sympathizing with the Jewish people, particularly regarding their difficult past, I think that in terms of interpreting prophecy, this sentiment exagerates the earthly government’s role in religion.

    What do you think?

    • john h on December 12, 2011, 1:43 am

      I think that the Light unto the Nations refers to the Messiah. What do you think?

      I think you are right, but that both Judaism and Zionism think you are wrong.

      I think the Jewish understanding has always been that the “servant” is not the Messiah but Jews that collectively are Israel. Hence the people of Israel are the light to the nations.

      The Christian understanding is that Jesus is the fulfilment of such scriptures.

      When he was circumcised, Simeon said he was “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel”. Jesus himself said “I am the light of the world”.

      • Shmuel on December 12, 2011, 3:26 am

        The verses in Isaiah would appear to refer to the people, although traditional Jewish exegesis has identified “your light” with the Torah. Mediaeval and modern commentators have associated these prophecies both with the End of Days (as described in Isaiah 2) and with the Jewish dispersal among the nations of the world. The latter idea was developed especially by Hermann Cohen, and formed the basis of his vision of Jewish universalism and complete rejection of Zionism.

      • W.Jones on December 12, 2011, 11:59 am

        Shmuel and John

        Thanks for writing back. Please allow me to say more why I think the person who is the light unto the nations in Isaiah 42 is more likely the Messiah than the people Israel.

        1. Maimonides wrote that 42:4 referred to the Messiah, and thought this meant that the Messiah would be crushed, but thought that unlike Jesus it would be only after he made the earth righteous. Contrary to Maimonides’ view, it doesn’t say that the Servant (“He”) would make the earth right, only that right would be “set in the earth”, which reminds me of an ensign. You could set a plant in the earth for example without it yet fully blossoming.
        (“42:4 He shall not fail nor be crushed, till he have set the right in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his teaching.”)

        2. 42:6 calls the light unto the nation “thee”, which is singular like a person. So the simplest reasoning is that the “light unto the nations” is a single person, although I admit the “Servant” could also be a collective entity referred to poetically as one person.

        3. 42:6 distinguishes “the people” Israel from the person who is the light when it says “thee” shall be “a covenant of the people.” It would make less sense to propose that the people Israel would be a covenant of itself, just as in the next phrase it wouldn’t make sense to propose that the gentiles are a light unto themselves.
        (42:6 I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and have taken hold of thy hand, and kept thee, and set thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations;)

        4. Now could the Servant (“thee”) in Isaiah 42 be the prophet Isaiah? I am not sure- it seems like too grand a statement that the prophet Isaiah was himself a covenant to the people. And plus Isaiah recognizes his own sinfulness “the Lord? He against whom we have sinned (42:24), although I suppose he could be cleansed and then have God’s spirit like the Servant of Isaiah 42, except that would be anti-chrnological, as the chapter describes the spirit on the Servant first, and then at the end describes the people’s sinfulness. In any case, if the Servant (‘thee’) is Isaiah, then it isn’t the people Israel collectively.

        5. It appears the audience (plural “you”) God is speaking to is presented as different from the Servant (third person “him” and singular “thee”)

        42:1 Behold My servant… I have put My spirit upon him [description of the Servant follows]

        42:5 Thus saith God the Lord…
        42:6 I the Lord have… set thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations [address to “thee” the Servant follows]

        42:9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.
        42:10 Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth; ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein, the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.

        P.S. If as you say, the “light” here is the Torah, then there is another issue- the Torah refers to the first five books of the Bible, and Jesus of Nazareth played a pivotal role in bringing this “light” to the nations, as 42:1 says (“he shall make the right to go forth to the nations.”)

      • MHughes976 on December 12, 2011, 6:15 pm

        Both the Oxford Bible Comm and the Eerdman’s Comm seem to me to repay study here. The beautiful Servant imagery applies both to individuals and to groups or nations – see the opening Eerdman’s comment on ch.41 – and through this imagery of shifting focus many theological points are made. The identification of the Servant with the Messiah goes back to the Aramaic Targum of Isaiah which would have been the version used by quite a few people in Jesus’ time. There also seems to be reflection on the careers of the (really or supposedly) righteous kings Hezekiah and Cyrus (Jewish and Iranian) who brought peace and unity, the first to the Israelites, the other to the wider ME (E Comm on 52:13 and 53:5 and 10). To my mind the prophet does not point to the angry nationalism of the Zionists.

      • Mooser on December 13, 2011, 1:35 pm

        “When he was circumcised, Simeon said he was “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel”.”

        I’m sure he said a lot of things, in between screams of pain. I certainly don’t want to hear what he said when he discovered how well his modified equipment worked, strings of expletives and self-recrimination is always unpleasant to listen to.

  8. Mooser on December 11, 2011, 2:31 pm

    “Can we start again?”

    He lisped shyly, while digging his big toe into the sand and looking ever-so-cute.

    Sure, Jerry, we can start again, when you can give us any indication of why it would turn out any different, and why Israel should get amnesty for all previous crimes?

    In the past decade, approximately 25 Israeli have been killed and between 7 and 8 thousand Palestinians, the kind of ratio that even the Nazis didn’t achieve when murdering hostages in Yugoslavia.

  9. joemowrey on December 11, 2011, 2:40 pm

    “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?”

    Start another racist state, expecting different results? We all know Einstein’s definition of insanity. Any course of events which leaves a Zionist state in place is nothing more than a time bomb. Racism is not the basis for a functional society. It’s time to abandon the notion that there can be such a thing as a “liberal Zionist.” Liberalism and racism are mutually exclusive.

    • W.Jones on December 11, 2011, 11:29 pm

      Chomsky is an anarchist Zionist who was on a kibbutz.

      I am not sure how strongly the effects of this come out. He of course is very sympathetic with the Palestinians. But in his view BDS is a mistake because Israel is merely a client state of the US, and you should first boycott the US, he says, or else you are a hypocrite.

      Assuming that it was true that Israel was only a client state, I still disagree- it seems that if a harsh client state of the US like Colombia or Pinochet’s Chile was occupying and preventing much of a native people from returning to their land, then it could still be a good strategy to boycott them like South Africa.

      Now some people may say that BDS isn’t the best tactic, it’s best to try to verbally persuade Israelis to integrate and respect people’s rights, rather than pressuring them with BDS. But in any case, I disagree with Chomsky’s thinking on the BDS question. It seems likely that the main factor is this otherwise outstanding and dedicated anarchist’s Zionist background, which I don’t think is extremely bad, but obviously at least somewhat inconsistent and mistakenly leads him to label BDS people as hypocrites for failing to boycott America.

  10. Mooser on December 11, 2011, 2:43 pm

    Typical of Slater. His main characteristic seems to be an overweening egotism. See, now that Prof. (mark that!) Slater is willing to admit some flaws in the Zionist state, well that makes it all better. And Israel can start all over.

    “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”

    Maybe to you Jerry, but I think the rest of us have a pretty good idea to what extent the occupation runs the country and is Israel’s main project, and where they see their future.

    I just can’t get over the extent to which “liberal Zionists” think that admitting a few faults, without taking any responsibility, entitles Israel to a do-over. Is there any more blatant display that they are convinced the crimes of Zionism against the inhabitants are no more than petty misdemeanors.
    Next he’ll tell us that Zionism will be nicer to the inhabitants, if only they would have been nicer to Zionism.

    You know what? Slater is Witty if he had the ability to write a coherent sentence.

    • jnslater on December 13, 2011, 5:46 pm

      “Mooser”–What an appropriate pseudonym for such a buffoon! Or, how about “Mooseshit?” Still better, “Mouser”–as in squeak, squeak, little Mouser. Better scurry back into your hole.

      What I don’t get is why this site puts up with his pollution of civilized discourse. What can Phil Weiss possibly have in mind? How can he not realize the damage this sort of stuff does to reputation and credibility of Mondoweiss?

      • MHughes976 on December 13, 2011, 6:14 pm

        A mouser, I think, is a cat good at catching mice. Mooser is a bit like that.
        (I enjoyed the flight of fancy about Simeon).

  11. WeAreAllMadeOfStars on December 11, 2011, 3:47 pm

    Why start again something that should not even have happened in the first place ?!?

  12. RoHa on December 11, 2011, 8:16 pm

    I read Hostage’s erudite and impressive defences of Jewish intellectual tradition.

    And then I read this.

    “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.”

    And my sympathies are with Hostage. He has a Sisyphean task.

    • Mooser on December 13, 2011, 2:07 pm

      “which might lead to improper ejaculation.”

      Really? They are afraid of “improper ejaculation”? Then why on earth do they circumcise?

      You are right about that Sisyphean task, RoHa.

    • Hostage on December 15, 2011, 1:57 am

      I read Hostage’s erudite and impressive defences of Jewish intellectual tradition. . . . And my sympathies are with Hostage. He has a Sisyphean task.

      Not really. I’ve pointed out that we are stuck with these people, whether we like it or not, and that they make the tautological rules about who is, or isn’t a bad Jew. You once noted that I wasn’t much of a pitchman for their traditions and I replied that I wouldn’t have been a very good salesman for the tradition of Torquemada’s Seville or Calvin’s Geneva either. http://mondoweiss.net/2011/10/leading-progressive-magazine-gives-palestinian-solidarity-the-swastika-stamp.html#comment-383170

      I wouldn’t consider the thinking of the majority to be an accurate barometer of any groups intellectual tradition. In any event, I don’t read the teachings of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, or Archimedes to gain religious insights. The same thing applies to some of the popular superstitions passed along in the writings of St. Augustine. He taught that “incubi” sexually assaulted women. St. Thomas Aquinas endorsed those ideas too. They were repeated in the Malleus Maleficarum, and in the ensuing witch trials, hundreds of people were put to death for suspicions that they were having intercourse with demons. Both Augustine and Aquinas nonetheless made other, more worthwhile, contributions to western religious philosophy.

      A few months ago I was ridiculed when I pointed out the irony of Macy Grey performing in a state where many refuse to listen to a woman singing. I pointed out that there was a sex-segregated bus route to a nearby community full of people who want to oppress the hell out of everyone and take us all back to the 15th century. I also mentioned longer sabbath-day ambulance routes that detour around blocked roads in ulra-orthodox neighborhoods, and gender-based restrictions on the right to worship at the Western Wall. So I haven’t been concealing these social abberations:-)
      *http://mondoweiss.net/2011/01/israelis-target-macy-gray-with-racist-diatribes-after-she-agrees-to-play-tel-aviv-and-who-are-the-%e2%80%9cassholes%e2%80%9d.html/comment-page-1#comment-270700
      *http://mondoweiss.net/2011/01/israelis-target-macy-gray-with-racist-diatribes-after-she-agrees-to-play-tel-aviv-and-who-are-the-%e2%80%9cassholes%e2%80%9d.html/comment-page-1#comment-270956

      • RoHa on December 15, 2011, 8:00 pm

        “So I haven’t been concealing these social abberations:-)”

        I certainly didn’t intend to suggest that!

        “I’ve pointed out that we are stuck with these people, whether we like it or not,”

        At the risk of sounding like Tonto, who are “we” and why are “we” stuck with them?

        (“Both Augustine and Aquinas nonetheless made other, more worthwhile, contributions to western religious philosophy.”

        I take a dim view of both ot them. Augustine had interesting ideas about time. Aside from that he was a muddle-headed misery guts. Aquinas helped to popularise Ibn Rushd’s restoration of Aristotle. For the rest, he was just a fat git.)

      • Hostage on December 15, 2011, 10:51 pm

        At the risk of sounding like Tonto, who are “we” and why are “we” stuck with them?

        “We” are all of the rest of us. Folks exactly like Baruch Goldstein are firmly entrenched in places like Jerusalem, New York City, Melbourne, and etc. The ones that Prof. Slater is talking about are educating the next generation in Israel. Their superstitions will logically be a negative factor that weighs heavily against a peaceful settlement of the I-P conflict.

        While the ancient Greeks made Socrates drink a cup of hemlock for corrupting the youth, the Israeli authorities plan to segregate the country by building Orthodox-only ghettos in Galilee and elsewhere in order to keep them from taking over “secular neighborhoods”. http://mondoweiss.net/2011/11/segregated-country-israel-plans-orthodox-jewish-only-cities-in-palestinian-area.html

  13. MRW on December 11, 2011, 11:56 pm

    What about the Jewish Oblast in Eastern Russia? It’s Jewish and autonomous. And established.

    Or is the phrase “prime real estate” the one phrase left out of these musings?

    • piotr on December 12, 2011, 12:48 am

      Oblast is a large administrative unit that merits a Governor. I think that Birobidjan is a capital of Autonomous Okrug.

      I was familiar with a Jewish woman who grew up in Khabarovsk, a nearby big city. Russians would not refer to this area as “Eastern Russia” or “Siberia” but “Far East”. Both Birobidjan and Khabarovsk are on Chinese border, hence (a) close to vast Chinese market, while also to numerous resources of Far East like metals, hydrocarbons, timber, game etc. Climate is temperate compared with most of Far East, with pleasant summers and quite bearable winters (local winter fashion calls for boots insulated with one inch thick felt and with deer hide, which works very nicely when it is -40 outside). Water is quite plentiful, but I did not read about any disastrous floods.

      • J. Otto Pohl on December 12, 2011, 12:56 pm

        No, Birobidzhan is both the official name of the capital and the unofficial name of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Up until 1937 the Soviet Far East including Birobidzhan had a substantial Korean and somewhat smaller Chinese population. Stalin deported the Koreans to administrative exile in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. His regime expelled most of the Chinese into China. But, a disproportionate number from both groups were also arrested and then short or sent to labor camps.

  14. Dan Crowther on December 12, 2011, 9:22 am

    There are probably some Germans out there asking the same thing about their “national socialist” state……. What you need a special state for ‘Rome?

    • Charon on December 12, 2011, 3:33 pm

      Never really understood this whole statehood thing. Never occurred to me until knee-deep in I/P that there are still empires and non-imperial states. Russia, China, the USA, British Empire, Turkey, Iran, etc. They are all modern empires. Norway is technically a state. Sápmi is a recognized area with the state with it’s own national flavor (and assimilation). Not that the Sápmi weren’t oppressed in the past (and they still are) but that’s unfortunately expected. This is a sort of bi-national ideology which will eventually be seen in Israel. Except the Palestinians, being the majority, will run the show. I don’t understand this Zionist obsession with “state” like for example the Ultra Orthodox want to declare independence in “Samaria” as their own “state.” Well I understand it kinda… it’s a diverse cultural landscape with nobody agreeing on leadership. The settlers can defy Israeli leaders and do whatever they please.

      Rome still kinda exists. NATO and the EU. And the House of Hanover monarchies anchored the British and now American empires. It’s capital is Wall Street and Caesar is Goldman Sachs.

  15. Richard Witty on December 12, 2011, 4:04 pm

    I am CURRENTLY a liberal Zionist.

    I too believe that Israel must reform.

    What specific reforms do you propose? (Your response to Mooser’s vague platitudes were unsatisfying.)

    (Every time you’ve sticked your neck out on specifics, you’ve been attacked. The only safe ones here are the ones that don’t risk anything specific, remain only critical or personally condemnatory.)

    How do you think that that would most likely brought about?

    Jerry?

    • Chaos4700 on December 13, 2011, 12:46 am

      Currently? Ha.

      You will ALWAYS be a Zionist. You are a zealot.

      You’ve shown time and time again that your liberal values will be discarded, like used underwear, whenever they get in the way of Zionism.

      You’re like Mitt Romney, if Mitt Romney had exactly one thing that he never moved back and forth on in the prevailing wind.

    • Mooser on December 13, 2011, 1:43 pm

      Witty, you don’t know what the word “platitutdes” means, do you? Once again, your fingers can’t keep up with your brain’s mendacity.

    • Mooser on December 13, 2011, 1:58 pm

      “What specific reforms do you propose?”

      Look, I don’t think much of Slater, but what on earth makes you think he is stupid enough to do that? Any reform he proposed (to who, by the way? And with what pressure to comply?) would expose instantly that if Israel was “reformed” it wouldn’t be Israel any more.

      Pretty obvious that Slater thinks his “Yes” is supposed to be met by tearful adulation, “Oy, Slater’s so liberal! He admits Israel isn’t perfect. Isn’t he wonderful”

      And that he doesn’t know how much of an affront that “Can we start over” is to those dispossessed and murdered by Israel astounds me. Not to mention an affront to reality and time, which, last I heard, doesn’t allow ‘gimmes’ or ‘do-overs’.
      Either that or Mr. Perfesser has kept himself gleefully ignorant of what the real state of Zionism, internal and external is.

    • Mooser on December 13, 2011, 4:27 pm

      Notice that neither Witty or Slater can say the one thing that makes the complicated “reform” process simple: that Israel should be a state for all of its citizens, with legally garaunteed equal rights for all with in its borders. Oh crap, there’s the “borders” part…

    • Mooser on December 13, 2011, 4:49 pm

      Witty says: “(Your response to Mooser’s vague platitudes were unsatisfying.)”

      Well, here they are:
      “Of course we can, Jerry. Why, I’m sure if we clean up the mess we’ve already made, show that we are capable of an accounting, and of taking responsibility for what we have done, and of relinquishing or ill-gotten gains, and trying to make restitution for what we have taken, I see no reason why the world would object to a Jewish State (for those who wanted to go there) at a place mutually agreed on, not taken by force and manipulation. Is that what you had in mind, Prof.?

      And Prof. Slater answered: “Yes”

      What’s “vague” about that? As far as “platitudes” go, we won’t quibble. You don’t know what the word means. Whether they were “platitudes” or not, they seemed specific enough for Prof. Slater to understand and answer “Yes”

    • Mooser on December 13, 2011, 4:53 pm

      “Every time you’ve sticked your neck out on specifics….”

      You aren’t content to murder the language, you want to violate the dead body, too

  16. Mooser on December 13, 2011, 2:14 pm

    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”

    From the bio below: “He has taught and written about U.S. foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for nearly 50 years, both for professional journals (such as International Security, Security Studies, and Political Science Quarterly) and for many general periodicals…”

    No wonder he didn’t have time to read Haaretz until a few weeks ago. He’s a busy guy.

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