Monday, September 17, 2007

Return, O Israel! (But Don't Forget to Watch Your Backs)

Honestly, I had about ten other, more compelling things to write about today instead of the latest lies from the enemies of Israel. There were lofty yamim noraim (Days of Awe) musings, for instance, and thoughts about repentance, renunciation and what this period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is all about.

Instead of writing about yet another group hiding their hatred of Jews behind the noble principles of peace and within the socially-acceptable framework of political discourse, I would have preferred to devote my post to something diverting such as that wonderful/horrible experience shared by observant Jews, known informally as the triple whammy.

And since you asked, a triple whammy occurs when Shabbat precedes or follows a two-day festival. It is a three-day tower of time wherein you eschew travel, communication, commerce, work and other trappings of the real world.

While it's great to have all this downtime to chill with the family and friends and read the New York Times in hard copy and catch up on your New Yorkers and even finish a novel or two and take long walks and have lots of festive meals with the aforementioned family and friends, there is also a weird time-out-of-time aspect to these three days, a forced separation from the world of commerce and communication that we depend on, the growing, panicky awareness that stuff is piling up while you close the door to this world....and that when the door is opened, you will be buried beneath the avalanche.

(Not to mention the fear that clients or co-workers or bosses might perceive of your observance as a religious form of slacking off.)

So, before I saw the press release about a particular forthcoming conference in Boston dedicated to "exploring" the ways in which Israel was just like South Africa (hint: apartheid!) and featuring South Africa's own Desmond Tutu plus the usual assemblage of anti-Zionists, some of them psychotic Jews, I aspired to write about embarking upon the arduous task of introspection that the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur demands.

Like the conference planners of this group called Sabeel, I wanted to explore the process of taking a candid look at myself in order to identify what I need to change in order to become a better person. This inward gaze is the first step of teshuva, returning to the path of righteousness.
If Sabeel was a person, I might recommend the following steps along the path to personal teshuva: stop scapegoating Israel, start caring about the Palestinians instead of using them as pawns, drop your mission to slander the Jewish State out of existence and try dedicating yourselves to the stated goal on all of your press material -- peace.
In fact for all the people currently affiliated with Sabeel, I heartily recommend an ecumenical exercise since they do indeed have the word "ecumenical" in their title, as in Ecumenical Liberation Theological Center (pssshhh!). The exercise is easy and doesn't even involve loss of work time because Yom Kippur falls on a Saturday this year.
It begins like this: go to shul. Find a local synagogue. Stand among the Jews you regularly slander, reading through the pages of personal confessions in the Yom Kippur liturgy. Search your soul and ponder the depths of your stated beliefs. Ask yourself if the things you say, write and promote about Jews and Israel are true. Seek the truth on your personal motivations for the work that you do or the cause you support. Ask yourself if it is really God's work or a perversion of religious principles.
Spend a long time thinking about the real way to bring peace to the Middle East. And then, just before the Gates of Heaven close at the end of the ne'ela service, with the blowing of the shofar, repent. Let the clarion call of the ancient ram's horn compel you to turn back from your sinful ways.

Not to imply that introspection cannot take place at other times of the year. I've noted in the past that for people who are plagued by the constant need to self-examine and self-flagellate (f'rinstance, me), Yom Kippur can often feel just a tad redundant. Yet even if it doesn't, one might ponder whether it is really effective to examine one's soul whilst battling low-blood sugar and the bad breath of people who are fasting within an enclosed area.

Going to shul on Yom Kippur is the ultimate paradox. On the day we are called upon to do the most personal act of worship -- confession of our sins coupled with the resolve to repent -- we leave our private abodes and come together in our places of prayer.

Engaged in our private tete-a-tete with the Almighty, we nevertheless remain opaque to the Jew in the pew beside us.

Yet we come together because there is power to being in proximity to all of this God-wrestling. And for those who are having trouble getting started, a perusal of the plaster or wooden reproduction of the Ten Commandments -- usually hanging helpfully over the bima -- can produce the desired effect.
Our frenemies at Sabeel might do well to ponder the commandment -- Do Not Bear False Witness. And if that fails, there is always the unambiguous Do Not Kill.

As for the rest of humanity, four out of five rabbis surveyed recommended directing one's attention towards the inescapable tablets as a way of jumpstarting the act of introspection: Taking the Lord's name in vain? Guilty as charged. Stealing? Check. Remembering the Sabbath Day and keeping it holy? Hey...that trip to Woodbury Commons was an emergency! Honoring thy father and thy mother? Yikes...I never did return mom's call from, like, five months ago. Adultery?....uhh...

While teshuva can happen anytime, Yom Kippur helps us by making it a must-do item one day of the year. And, as a special, limited-time bonus, the Gates of Heaven are open for the entire 25 hour period.

Which leads me to contemplate those folks who are headed straight in the other direction...not that Jews really believe in hell, y'all.

I am referring, of course, to Sabeel and Co., the loose confederation of anti-Zionists, Israel-bashers, Israel-dissenters, Israel-deniers, Israel-slanderers, scapegoaters of Jews, phony-baloney crunchy granola peaceniks, promoters of lies about Jewish control, whisperers about Jewish cabals, printers of canards, pseudo-political theorists, revisionists, rewriters of fake narratives, Israel-hating academics, intellectual terrorists, lying racists and various and sundry others whom I shall simply refer to as Anti-Semitic Scum, or ASSes.

The problem with ASSes is that they are numerous and widespread and gaining popularity and not raising the alarm level high enough within the majority of the organized Jewish community.

The danger posed by ASSes is that they are devious and dishonest and there is an alarming public appetite for the terrible things they say about Israel and the Jewish People...witness the sales figures for Walt and Mearsheimer's new book, The Protocols of the Elders of the Israel Lobby.... I mean The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.

The ASSes are enraged by the notion of Jewish power and self-determination. The only good Jew for them is a Shoah-victim Jew, although increasingly, some of the ASS literature is pointing towards the Holocaust as being God's will. In the case of Sabeel, there is a bizarre casting of the Palestinians in the role of Jesus, suffering at the hands of guessed it...Jews.

Quite stunningly, the masterminds at Sabeel, committed to peace, blah, blah, blah, don't find it problematic to revive the ole notion of deicide.

And though it is preposterous to allege that Israel is South Africa, ASSes like Sabeel cannot stop gnawing at this bogus bone, insisting on trumping up charges of Israel abuse against the Palestinians, never letting the facts get in the way. At the same time, they accept terrorism against Israelis as an acceptable act of resistance by an oppressed and desperate people.

ASSes have a relative sense of morality. Killing people is bad, of course, except if they are Jewish. Then, they probably deserve it because they are occupiers and oppressors. Even when they are four years old and eating pizza in Tel Aviv.

And ASSes always have compassion for Palestinian refugees but are strangely deaf to the news that there are over a million Jewish refugees of Arab lands, driven out by a concerted campaign of racism within countries where Jews have few, if any, rights to this day.

The ASS cause is aided and given some kind of inoculation against the charge of being anti-Semitic owing to the Jews they attract to their camp, pathological yiddin like Noam Chomsky or Norman Finkelstein or most disappointingly, Tony Judt, who cannot stand the sight of their own Jewish faces.

Almost hilariously, ASSes focus their ire on Israel while ignoring places like the Sudan, like North Korea, like Arab countries where girls are killed by their fathers and brothers, often on imaginary suspicions of minor sexual offenses. Their so-called critique of Israel is actually a demonization, with no admission of wrongdoing on the part of Palestinians or their leaders.

And most unforgivably, ASSes often posit themselves as promoters of peace.

They couldn't care less about peace or even the Palestinians.

The name of their game is pulling the plug on Israel.

And now Sabeel has roped Desmond Tutu into their ranks so I guess that the good Archbishop is an ASS as well. Even former US president Jimmy Carter shied away from making in the Israel-South Africa direct analogy despite the unfortunate presence of the word "apartheid" in the title of his recent and deluded book. He is therefore only a half-ASS.

"Yeah," confirmed Hillel Stavis from the David Project during our phone conversation this morning. "Sabeel will be the most overtly anti-Semitic conference in the Northeast."

Just to share the bulls$%&, here is a portion of Sabeel's release for the October rally in Boston:

"Participants will discuss the moral issues of confronting and dismantling apartheid-like policies Israel administers in the occupied Palestinian lands and the emerging role of social movements and the U.S. government in addressing injustice. The conference will culminate in a peace rally in Copley Square organized by the Boston chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace. Sabeel is a Palestinian Christian international grassroots peace movement based in Jerusalem which promotes nonviolence, human rights, international law, democratic principles, and Gospel teachings on justice and peace-building."

Blah, blah, blah.

So...where does this leave me -- and the world at large -- three days after a triple whammy and with another three days to go until Yom Kippur?

I admit that it is hard to look inward when you feel like you need to watch your back. The problem with anti-Semitism (in our country! in our time!) is that it is time-consuming to monitor. Being an anti-Anti-Semite necessitates research and networking and conversations and mobilization and action.

It cannot be left unaddressed because stuff like this doesn't just go away.

While I turn to the liturgy of Yom Kippur as I seek to repair my relationship with God, myself and my fellow humans, I also invoke the words from the Passover Hagaddah (liberally translated), which were composed for times just like these:

O God, pour out your wrath against the Anti-Semitic Scum who seek to harm us....for we have seen their brand of hatred before and it has devoured the Children of Jacob and laid waste their dwelling places throughout the Diaspora, wherever Jews have fled to escape persecution.

Pour out your indignation upon them and let your wrathful anger take hold of them and their lies. Destroy them in anger from under your heavens.

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