The Moral Confusion of Repenting for Jewish Power

Oct. 14 2016

“A favored pastime of Jewish intellectuals this time of year,” writes David Schraub, “is to point out various sins of the Jewish community as a whole—Israel is a frequent target, though not the only one—and urge repentance.” With this in mind, Schraub comments on a recently formed “non-Zionist” (in fact, anti-Zionist) synagogue in Chicago, whose official ideology of “Diasporism” is based on a belief that Jewish political power is sinful in and of itself:

The ideal Jewish role, according to Diasporism, is a critical one—we imagine ourselves as the conscience, the gadfly, the light unto [the host] nation. Sometimes, of course, Diasporism keeps us busy simply [trying to survive]. By definition we are not the dominant group. . . . We certainly are not the oppressor group. . . .

Power gives one the opportunity to do things: terrible things and great things alike. . . . Jews in the Diaspora did not need to worry about “occupying” anyone; we had no nation that could do the occupying. We would never be responsible for promulgating unjust laws; the laws were not ours to promulgate. We had no risk of significantly hurting others; the hand on the sovereign sword was not ours. Even our uprisings and resistances were blessed in their hopelessness. In Max Weber’s terms, we could live a pure ethics of conviction, with zero concern for the ethics of responsibility. There is no true responsibility in Diaspora, nothing really falls on our shoulders.

Diasporism is, at root, the Jewish fear of Jewish power. It knows that powerful Jews have the potential to be bad Jews—in fact, it sees powerful Jews acting as bad Jews—and its solution, its t’shuvah, is to give up the trappings of power and return to the disempowered Diaspora state. But as Maimonides observes, this is not repentance. The man who cuts off his tongue so that he cannot slander his neighbor has not repented; he has made true repentance impossible. Complete repentance must coexist with the opportunity, the strength, the power to commit the sin once again and the free choice not to. To “repent” for the sins derived from Jewish power by abolishing that power is no repentance at all—it is a tacit belief that Jewish power will always, unavoidably, inherently be sinful power.

Read more at Debate Link

More about: American Judaism, Anti-Zionism, Diaspora, Israel & Zionism

Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia