The “state of American Reform Judaism” – bad or good – doesn’t justify Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism, colonialism or (war) criminality.
Hi eljay, WJ,
In the words of Ahad Ha'am (borrowing from the talmudic sage Ula), written in 1913:
I cannot abide the idea that our brothers are morally capable of treating the members of another people in this fashion, and I cannot help but think, if this is the way things are now, how will we treat others should we ever attain sovereign power in the Land of Israel? Indeed, if this is the ‘Messiah,’ let him come, but let me not see him.
Thanks, Michael. I'm far from sanguine. As I intimated, I was on the verge of Haredi society for quite some time, and have more Haredi relatives (Hasidic, Mitnagdic and Sephardic) than I can count on the fingers of both hands. Haredi society is rife with problems -- including a shocking level of racism and, increasingly, nationalism. At this point in time, however, I find the National-Religious ideology far more dangerous, for the reasons I touched on and others that are, indeed, beyond the "brief" of this site.
No, I hadn't heard of your book. Thanks for the email. I'll drop you a line.
I think the ultra-nationalist (or neo-fascist or whatever you want to call it) turn taken by Religious Zionism (and it's offspring "Hardal") is particularly grave, because it is precisely the stream of Judaism that had begun to work through things like misogyny in Jewish tradition (and to some extent still does). Ultra-Orthodoxy has its inbuilt mechanisms to prevent some of the worst things from reaching halakhic practice, despite (or because of) its ostensible literalism and extreme conservatism. Paradoxically, "Modern Orthodoxy" that did not forbid "anything new", as per the famous dictum of Moses Schreiber (Hatam Sofer) , has been far more susceptible to romantic national-idolatry (although it is making inroads into Haredi society as well, for various reasons I won't get into here).
I attended National-Religious yeshivot (in Israel) and personally had Haredi "leanings", but managed to study things like the chapter of the "comely woman", balancing belief in the divine origin of the Torah with modern abhorrence for such a practice. Our teachers (Haredi and otherwise) gave us the tools to do so, with such mechanisms as "the Torah spoke in human language", as explained, for example, by Maimonides. The possibility existed and exists within the tradition, to study and understand both the acceptable and the unacceptable without losing one's moral compass. I would even say that doing so has advantages over simply dismissing, rejecting, or sweeping under the rug. Part of the secret actually lies in the multiplicity of opinion and interpretation.
I believe the real slippery slope lies in the fetishisation (sorry, Yonah) of Land and People, which has created a new "morality". Have a look at the quotes from Karim in the original article in Haaretz that broke this story -- at how many times he mentions "the Nation" and "the People" and "the Collective". Or at the shocking "morality" found in the chapter on "ethics" in Min Hahar's classic Dinei tzava u-milhamah ([Religious] laws of army and war). I can't believe I ever bought and studied that book, let alone had any respect for its author. It is no coincidence that Karim headed the pre-military academy at Shlomo Aviner's odious "Ateret Kohanim", in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem (or that he was a combat officer). Nor it is it a coincidence that he was appointed chief military rabbi, at a time when the role of the military rabbinate is being redefined.
Thanks, Jonathan, for the article and the clarifications.
I disagree with Lesher about what "the real point" is, although he's absolutely right about the "methodological dishonesty" of certain orthodox rabbis in such cases (Ovadiah Yosef and his spokesmen made it an art form).
The "real point", in my opinion, is that Religious Zionism has taken topics that were, for millennia, the object of purely theoretical study,* and decided to apply them to contemporary political and military life, in a modern nation state.
Is Karim's statement about "comely women" (eventually withdrawn/explained/contradicted and unlikely to have any significant impact in and of itself) really worse than his statements about killing "injured terrorists" (whom he calls "animals") or, on a somewhat more theoretical level but not without practical consequences, his constant, almost mystical glorification of "the people" and "the nation", above the needs and rights of individuals?
*A classic method of dealing with some of the worst parts of Scripture and other sacred texts, without denying that they are the word of God, is to treat them as no longer applicable. The wisdom of this approach seems to have been lost on much of Religious Zionism.