This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Predictably, the New York Times missed the 5th question for Passover this morning when they focused their gaze on whether computer screens and other devices should be used to enhance the Passover experience for Jews. Left out completely is the obvious prior question: How can Jews celebrate Passover when we are oppressing another people?
Passover is a time when Palestinians suffer yet another level of oppression: closure, harassment, settlement construction and land confiscation. This is true annually and even more this year when Palestinians are being “punished” by Israel for refusing their own permanent ghettoization,thinly disguised as the American-led peace process.
No doubt Secretary of State, John Kerry, will be attending a Passover Seder somewhere in the Washington corridor. Or if he’s on one of his world peace tours, Passover goodies will be packed by his assistants. We wouldn’t want our top political officials to be eating leavened bread during Passover, would we?
Yes, it has come to this, worrying about the Passover table story without the question of justice. After all, the question of Palestine is divisive. We wouldn’t want to introduce division into our homes – or in the New York Times – as we celebrate “our” liberation.
The consensus seems to be that Passover apps have a place at the Passover table. Progress on all fronts! But few in the Jewish establishment are paying attention to the real attrition in Jewish observance and identification. In the long run no amount of decorative enhancements can mitigate the disjunction between demanding the end of Israel’s slavery and Israel’s enslavement of the Palestinian people.
Why not simply admit that the Passover experience for Jews has been distorted beyond recognition and leave it at that? Why not celebrate Israel’s conquering of Palestine explicitly? Our plaintive cry – “Next year in Jerusalem” – has already occurred. The results are devastating for Palestinians. In the long run, are they less disastrous for Jews?
Disaster comes in many forms. Permanently oppressing another people is a disaster celebrated as a victory. In the long run, even those who celebrate know the score.
Of course, there are Passover tables where this dual disaster will, more or less, be discussed and affirmed. To what end, though, and how long can Jewish dissent keep its Passover eye on the prize?
Apps or no apps, Passover has become an empty shell.
Passover revival around the corner? Not until the ethical center of the Jewish tradition is reclaimed. That reclamation is impossible without Palestinian freedom.