My friend, Stefan Merken, has just published Peace, Justice and Jews: Reclaiming Our Tradition, a book that argues that peace is one the “purest and highest” values in our tradition. If there are any skeptics reading this they will say–been there, done that. How many similar books have already been published on precisely the same subject before? While this is true, I believe that this book comes at a most opportune time. In the period since 9/11, the world has become obsessed with terror as THE only important issue facing us. In this country, all that has been important to our government has been security. Everything else has fallen by the wayside. The neocons, prominent among them many Jews, have ruled the roost for the past six years.
But now that the Bush Administration and its agenda have become discredited by the overreaching and failure of their own policies the pendulum is shifting backward. It is time that we reexamine the relevance of the Jewish prophetic tradition to issues of war and peace, environmentalism, and economic justice. In an age when war and hatred are everywhere, it would profit us to study the words of the contributors to this volume who have embraced a peaceful way to resolve such conflicts.
If there was nothing else worthwhile in this volume, this comment by the editors about my favorite historic Zionist figure would make the entire venture worth it:
Our chapter on…Israel calls to mind a major–if sadly, largely forgotten–figure of the Jewish past: Ahad Ha’am…whose prescient essay This is Not the Way warned that a future Jewish nation would not succeed if it emulated colonialistic thinking. “The main point, upon which everything depends, is not how much we do but how we do it,” he wrote in The Truth from Palestine after he arrived home in Odessa from palestine in 1891. He also cautioned the Jewish settlers in Palestine to consider the rights of the Arabs living there. “We think…that the Arabs are all savages who live like animals and do not understand what is happening…This is, however, a great error.
A strong dose of Ahad Ha’am is a powerful antidote to the most virulent nationalist views expressed by many on the Israeli right and their Diaspora supporters.
Murray Polner, former editor of the late, lamented Present Tense Magazine, was this book’s co-editor.
The Golem says
We are commanded in the strongest terms to pursue bothe peace and justice. “Bakesh shalom v’rodfei hu” and “Tsedek tsedek tirdof.” My problem comes when these two goals seem in conflict. “No justice no peace” was the slogan of the disturbances here in Los Angeles while the city burned in 1991. Either of these two high goals can be used to smother the just claims of the other, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a perfect example.
Where does one find the wisdom to find the “root from above” to unite both claims?
The Arabs opposed all large-scale Jewish immigration to Eretz Israel. This started with the Arab violence of 1920, 1921, 1929. The Arabs opposed the partition plans and used force to try to prevent implementing them (the Arab uprising of 1936-1939 against large Jewish aliyah escaping Nazi Germany and the Peel Partition Plan of 1937) and the attack on Israel after the November 1947 UN Partition resolution. So, if “peace” is the ultimate goal, then does that mean the Jews had to capitulate to Arab violence and not create a state? Is that what Ahad Ha’am had in mind? How could a Jewish state been set up if there hadn’t been counterforce from the Jews?
Richard Silverstein says
The Israeli rightist narrative is an interesting one. It posits unremitting Arab enmity and absolute Jewish blamelessness. Jews are eternal victims, Arabs eternally hostile. This narrative omits the fact that Jews had opportunities & made choices that closed off possibiities for peaceful solutions just as the Arabs did. THere is no such thing as blamessness in this conflict. Only the extreme partisans on either side see their own particular one as blameless.
I am certainly not saying that passivity is the path Jews should’ve chosen. Defense was certainly necessary. But Israel’s military response to the Arabs was not always defensive & these are the elements of Zionist history to which I object.
Karole du Pont says
The constitutional narrative fitting the Jewish historical world experience could not be told neither at the time of Herzl or at the time of the creation of the State of Israel. In Canada, the Acadians have been deported by the British but they did not represent a nation with an Acadian ruler and its own set of laws. This represents one type of land reclamation and rights. Moroever, in Canada, we have more than 800 land claims standing by Native tribes. THis is made possible by the fact that Britain in Canada favoured an organic constitutional archetype… thus we say The First Nations of Canada.
As much as the Ulama spiritual leaders will say that Islamic Law did not develop in one day as much the Arabic countries that refused the existence of Israel did not have the constitutional knowledge to understand the British constitutional engineering resulting from their global experience in their colonies. I mean where do you see a constitutional status of FIrst Nation in Europe? First Nations do not face prescriptions in land claims…
Being a Quebecer and a Canadian where our culture is high on the welfare state but also very strict on application of our criminal laws including Laws on heinous speeches and incitement to crime… I cannot be pleased by none of the narratives that could be described on an Israeli blog as rightist or leftist especially from Oslo Era on for our legal culture is very clear on terrorism as a mean of constitutional negociation and we accept neither state terrorism or terrorism a la Arafat and others. Actually, the Middle East has been left too long to circle without full world constitutional envision.