Radicals, Rabbis and Peacemakers Conversations with Jewish Critics of Israel
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Edition: paperback, 252 pages
This is an important book. ... In these shameful days, when black turns white, when the most brutal leader Israeli militarism has produced is hailed as a man of peace and when standing for justice is silenced as anti-Semitism, this book is a breath of fresh air. The many voices in this book, each different, but all taking basic human values as their point of departure, reminds us that being a Jew today can mean adhering to higher principles than those dictated by the Israeli generals. --Tanya Reinhart, Professor Emeritus, Tel Aviv University, Author of Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948
Common Courage Press is pleased to announce the publication of RADICALS, RABBIS AND PEACEMAKERS: Conversations With Jewish Critics Of Israel edited with commentary by Dr Seth Farber, a psychologist and member of Jews Against the Occupation. The contributors are among the leading American Jewish critics of Zionism and of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians: Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Marc Ellis, Adam Shapiro, Phyllis Bennis, Rabbi Weiss and 6 others. They are a diverse group of 11 Jews--Orthodox Jews, atheists, cultural Jews, a Buberesque theologian, Gandhian activists--united only by their opposition to Zionism and their indignation at their fellow Jews (Israel and its American supporters) for the dispossession of the Palestinians that began in 1948 with the expulsion-the ethnic cleansing--of 3/4 of a million Palestinians from their homes and continues to this very day as Israel continues to build settlements in territory seized and occupied in 1967, and subjects Palestinians to an ongoing process of state-terrorism--random shooting of children, razing of innocent Palestinians' homes, military measures amounting to a deliberate "policy of starvation" (to quote a UN report).
Farber's perspective imparts coherence to this diversity of views and informs both his questions and his commentary: The supporters of Israel are "self-hating Jews," Farber reveals, turning the table on his critics with this phrase, idolaters who have sacrificed the prophetic Jewish passion for justice and substituted in its stead the worship of the powerful nation-state of Israel. Thus the Zionists, Farber warns, are jeopardizing Jews' relationship with God--the covenant itself. Farber quotes Marc Ellis who wrote in 1999: "[T]he covenant remains today in a struggle for life in the heart of every Jew, religious and non-religious alike. It is murdered or given life as the other, the Palestinian, is banished or embraced by the Jewish community."
I'm grateful to have lived long enough to cherish such, truth telling, unacceptable and yet crucial as it undoubtedly is, both. (I turn 84 this year). It has been a long uphill climb since '72, when I spoke for the Palestinians--and paid up. Admirable ecumenism! The denunciations could be heard on the moon; right, left, center, Jewish, Christian. I was compared to Rev. Charles Coughlin, a clerical Jew baiter of the '30's! Someone estimated that 100 articles appeared after my speech; 90% at the least, were hostile (One of the very few who stood with me was Sylvia Heschel, widow of Abraham of blessed memory, my friend and co-founder of Clergy and Laity Against the War in Vietnam). Since that time, I've been 'practicing diaspora' as a way of life.Permit me to thank you with all my heart for your book. It is a ray of piercing truth, amid the darkness that lays claim to our world, from Tel Aviv to Washington, For me, indebted as I am to the prophets from Isaiah to Jesus, you have illumined the human vocation (whether of unbeliever. Jewish. Muslim, Christian); to labor on behalf of justice and peace, to stand with the victimised; 'the widow and orphan and stranger at the gate', to oppose war and its vile tactics--occupation, bombing, sanctions, slaughter of innocents - war, the creator of widows and orphans, of generational hatreds, of a ruined creation - untended wounds on the planet and the body of the human family.The book is simply indispensable, given the welter of outright lies, slants, omissions that sum up our 'unmediating media' regarding the ongoing tragedy of the Palestinian people. To you and the noble minority who people this book, thanks are due from those who seek the truth, ever endangered and dishonored by the mandarins of untruth. --Daniel Berrigan, S.J.
Seth Farber has earned our deepest appreciation for his book, Jewish Critics of Israel, which presents his interviews of several of the most courageous Jewish American critics of Israel and political Zionism. While the leading Jewish organizations in the United States have increasingly operated as mere extensions of the Jewish state of Israel, offering uncritical support to Israeli violations of the human, civil and political rights of the Palestinians, it is important to note that a growing minority of American Jews have been actively engaged in opposing the illegal and inhumane Israeli Occupation of Palestine. Indeed, some of them view Jewish support for Israel as the worship of a new 'golden calf,' a betrayal of the deepest values of historical Judaism. Now thanks to Seth Farber, we can listen to some of the leading Jewish American critics of Israel as they make the moral, legal and political case against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and propose solutions that will allow the Jews and Palestinians to live in peace in two separate states or a single bi-national state. I can hope that his book will be read widely, and that it will persuade more Americans--Jews and non-Jews alike--to recognize the just demands of the Palestinians for an honorable existence in their own country. --M. Shahid Alam, Professor of Economics, Northeastern University, Boston, Author of Is There An Islamic Problem
These deftly probing interviews with committed U.S. Jewish Middle East peace activists and intellectuals offer unsparing analyses which carry the ongoing and recently intensified debate over Israel/Palestine to a new level, making this book required reading for anyone seriously interested in an enduring resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. --Terri Ginsberg, Ph.D., Jews Against the Occupation (JATO), co-editor of Perspectives on German Cinema
The principal theme of this book is that Judaism is a religion of universal values, which does not assume a nationality and unquestioned loyalty to a political sovereignty. Hence, peace in the Middle East requires the application of Judaism's commitment to truth and justice and the repudiation of Zionism's commitment to Palestinian dispossession, dispersion, and oppression under the present occupation. Farber has intensively interviewed Jewish individuals and remarkably all, including Farber, reject categorically the claim by Zionism and the state of Israel that all who profess Judaism as their faith belong automatically to a national entity called the "Jewish people," who, in turn, endorse all policies of the state of Israel. Forceful, insightful and brutally honest. --Naseer H. Aruri, Chancellor Professor (Emeritus) University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and author of Dishonest Broker: The US Roles in Israel and Palestine
All those who are perplexed by the continual "Middle-East Conflict" meandering through the minefields of big-power diplomacy will be grateful to this compilation of current Jewish dissidents. Not only are such views lacking from the popular media but the Jewish political culture itself has lacked the voices of prophetic dissent since the Nazi Judaeocide (the Cherbun / Holocaust). The Zionist parties of the time sought to preserve their members for the sake of their State to be and so sacrificed the Jewish Ashkenazi people themselves together with the majoritarian Jewish movement of the Bund in Poland. The Jewish Bundist leadership was likewise either eliminated or assimilated into the Communist Party and the Jewish Partisans absorbed into the Red Army leaving the Jewish People leaderless and so subject to the Zionist parties alone. This work serves to restore the political diversity that is natural and necessary to not only the Jewish People but to anyone who needs to understand the current impasse imposed by ideological concerns. --Abraham Weizfeld Ph.D., Jewish People's Liberation Organization
RADICALS, RABBIS AND PEACEMAKERS: Conversations With Jewish Critics of Israel is an important book. Its value is to be found in the many diverse opinions which are presented, many of which contradict one another. Few readers will agree with all, and many may agree with none, of the views expressed. The myth which is shattered by this book is that Jews, somehow, share the Zionist vision as a state which is the "homeland" of all Jews, who remain in "exile" outside of the borders. This has always been a minority view, both historically and among Jews at the present time. In our country the vast majority of Jews view themselves as American by nationality and Jews by religion. They reject the idea that the State of Israel is in any way the fulfillment of biblical prophecy or is the legitimate object of their own loyalty. While sympathetic to the many displaced people who have found a home in Israel, they lament the fact that for many in the organized Jewish community, Israel has replaced God as the proper object of worship. Seth Farber is to be congratulated for gathering together so many interesting men and women and for sharing their divergent views with us." --Allan C. Brownfeld, editor of Issues, the quarterly journal of the American Council for Judaism.
This book is must reading for Muslims who may still not realize that the conflict in the Middle East is not between Islam and Judaism or between Muslims and Jews, but between the Israeli state/political Zionists and the Palestinians and non-Jewish citizens of Israel. The editor and the contributors are a highly reputable and credible group of Jewish scholars and activists who actively endeavor, even struggle, from within the Jewish community to expose Zionism for what it is and rescue the Jews, the Palestinians and the world from its claws. --Dr Azzam Tamimi, Director, Institute of Islamic Political Thought, Co-editor with John Esposito of Islam and Secularism in the Middle East
About the Author Dr. Seth Farber became a political radical as a youngster--in 8th grade--motivated largely by his sympathy for the "underdog." In high school he became an activist in the war against Vietnam. Farber received his PhD in counseling psychology in 1985 from the California Institute of Integral Studies, and completed post-graduate training as a family therapist. His latest book on psychology is Lunching with Lunatics: Adventures of a Maverick Psychologist. He lives in New York.
From the Contributors toRadicals, Rabbis and Peacemakers
Noam Chomsky--The renowned professor tells why he considered the establishment of Israel a "serious mistake," why he was a cultural Zionist as a young man, why in the 1940s he favored a binational state with sovereignty shared by Jews and Palestinian Arabs and why he believes today that the "two state" solution is a necessary stage to a binational state and ultimately to the dissolution of the state altogether.
Steve Quester--Describes in harrowing detail his last summer living in the West Bank of Palestine--the daily humiliation of Palestinians at Israeli checkpoints, the racist hatred Israeli soldiers have for Arabs, the numerous times he witnessed soldiers shooting without aiming in the direction of Palestinian kids. Describes his evolution from a Zionist who spent several years of his youth in Israel to an activist in Jews Against the Occupation and an anti-Zionist.
Joel Kovel--The scholar and professor at Bard college tells why he thinks South Africa and Israel are fundamentally similar and why Zionism is fundamentally antithetical to the democratic ideal. Because "my own ancestors" created this racist state, he has a responsibility as a Jew to protest against Israel, and against US support for Israel.
Norton Mezvinsky--The esteemed professor has been a critic of Zionism for years. This extraordinary interview covers not only the history of Zionism but the history of Judaism since the Enlightenment. Reform Judaism has destroyed its own raison d'etre by supporting a Jewish state. Co-author of a book with Israel Shahak (a holocaust survivor) Mezvinsky is also a critic of Orthodox Judaism, and yet he reveals to Farber that he regularly attends an Orthodox shul in NYC-because he experiences at their service a profound sense of spirituality.
Ora Wise-The young activist ( 22) describes how it's hard to be an anti-Zionist activist when one's father is a Rabbi. Ironically she was always taught by her father to deplore the dispossession of the American Indians by European settlers in America with the support of federal government.
Norman Finkelstein-The controversial author of The Holocaust Industry deconstructs here the mythology of Zionism and demonstrates why Michael Lerner does not know what's he talking about--e.g. when he refuses to acknowledge that Palestinians were victims in 1947-8 of ethnic cleansing.
Adam Shapiro-Dubbed the Jewish Taliban by NY Post for his rescue work in Palestine, Shapiro is profoundly dedicated to non-violent activism. A Jew (although as an atheist he disclaims being a Jew) who helped form the International Solidarity Movement, Adam later married a Palestinian activist.
Daniel Boyarin, Professor of Talmudic Studies at UC-Berkeley, Boyarin critiques the sexual politics of Zionism and its repudiation of the gentle concept of masculinity prevalent in rabbinic culture.
Rabbi David Weiss-A member of Neturei Karta, the Rabbi explains why Zionism is a betrayal of the commandments of Judaism and a violation of the ideal that Jews will return to Jerusalem only when the Messiah returns-in peace, not by conquest.
Marc Ellis-The theologian writes: "I cannot embrace my own history or religion without embracing the Palestinian people. I cannot affirm the prophetic without practicing it in my own lifetime. The prophetic is not for the few or for someone else or for another time. It is the now deeply grasped, even in loss and at a cost."
Seth Farber closes with a history of the prophetic strain in Judaism and its revival in the Palestinian solidarity movement.