Tag Archives: violence

A Nation of Laws is Tested

Themis

The situation in Israel seems to be deteriorating. Violence continues to escalate with the knife as a weapon of choice and fear is spreading as attacks come from seemingly out of nowhere. The natural and proper inclination is for law enforcement to become even more vigilant in order to prevent attacks and not only respond. But the police however must be judicious in how they protect the citizens of Israel.

Israel is a nation of laws. She prides herself on having a legal system similar to the American ideal founded on the principle of Equal Protection under the law. Now this system is being severely tested and Israel’s heart and soul are at risk. If Israel permits the profiling of people and the preemptive assault on individuals outside the prescribed due process of the legal system, then she loses and the terrorists win.   Israel cannot be democratic if she limits the application of law to select privileged classes, such as Jews, while others, such as Arabs, fall outside that sphere. A crack down on terrorism cannot come at the price of the foundational principles of Israel. A restoration of calm is necessary. The violence and barbaric nature of these attacks on civilians (police included) are certainly not random acts.  Israel must carefully consider how to properly respond.

Is this a mass response to “occupation” or are these individual actors perpetrating crimes as copycats? It certainly seems to not be the latter. Even if not expressly ordered by a central control, the attacks are coordinated. The first order is to restore calm. The second order is to cool the boiling over of the cauldron. Repression of an entire group, such as the Arabs of East Jerusalem, and sealing off of that portion of the city, will provide a temporary subduing of these attacks. A closer and deeper look at the grievances that encourage this violence as a legitimate response is required. Then deliberate steps must be taken to create a society that is fair and just.

I do not condone or legitimize the violence. Those that have perpetrated these attacks should be duly punished for breaking the laws of the State and of civilized society. Now it is up to the State and civilized society to solve the problems that have contributed to fomenting such deep discontent with a system of justice that speaks to everyone.

The Real Tragedy of Palmyra’s Destruction

PalmyraAll of us are sickened by the horrible barbaric acts of ISIS and rightly so. Their vision incorporates an intolerant hateful extreme interpretation of Islam, destroying and creating terror wherever they are, in the name of a new triumphant Caliphate.

We have watched helplessly while ISIS destroys Palmyra, an extraordinary archeological remnant. I find this somehow ironic; for Palmyra is nothing more than remnants. The remains of Palmyra are ruins precisely because of a history where the next invader destroyed what preceded. So ISIS continues to do what has done for millennia.

I certainly do not suggest that ISIS is either civilized or legitimate, anything but. However, human beings have a past where we often find a need to conquer and destroy rather than honor and build upon what came before. These ancient ruins are sites of destruction and murder from history. They are tied to cycles of building and prosperity punctuated by war, overthrow and occupation. Possibly there is more we can learn in this moment beyond how to preserve ancient monuments.

Perhaps if we are to truly honor Palmyra, saving the inhabitants of the land should be the priority. ISIS is partly a reaction to a failed nation-state, which we, the “civilized” West, had supported. The developed countries helped to create a festering problem by permitting strongmen to ruthlessly rule because it was in our political interests to do so, rather than create an organic sustainable government whose legitimacy is derived from the people governed. ISIS is attempting to fill a void created when the dictatorship is finally overthrown and there are no institutions or even a history of governance to take its place.

The “civilized” world must accept its responsibility in creating the situation that now exists and therefore engage in nation building to create a place where the native people can live in peace. In the interim, it is our responsibility to provide safe haven for the refugees and victims of war by providing shelter, food and clothing through temporary facilities as well as through immigration. Only when the civilized world does these things can we say we truly honor our past and that humanity is indeed progressing forward.

Another Shabbat tinged with Sadness

Memorial candle copyThe mass shootings and murders at Umpqua College in Roseburg, Oregon has made this yet another difficult and tragic week in the United States.

 Again, another individual wrecked havoc on a community slaughtering unsuspecting innocents and destroying the lives of the families left behind. This murderer did this with weaponry that was too easily accessible.

 We need to commit ourselves to keep guns out of the hands of people seeking to harm others as evidenced by a violent criminal history or by a struggle with mental illness. People who are inherently irresponsible cannot handle guns responsibly. It is reasonable to keep guns from them.

 We cannot accept that mass murder and domestic terror are acceptable costs of living in the United States. Yet every time we allow no constructive action to reign in gun violence in this country we become part of the problem. These deaths are no longer just the responsibility of individual actors, be they angry or crazy. The blood is now on our hands. The responsibility is ours. As President Obama said in the wake of yesterday’s tragedy, “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.” Indeed it is time to turn our revulsion into action. Write or Email your congressman as soon as you finish reading this and give the necessary support to overcome the politics of the gun lobby and demand an end to gun violence. Support responsible legislation that requires background checks of individuals for criminal and psychological issues; that requires documentation registration of all guns and all transfers of ownership, public and private; perform background checks on sale of ammunition; that requires training and licensing of gun owners.   This cycle of horror will cease only when we demand a change.

 Our condolences extend to the families that have been ripped apart by senseless violence. May we honor the memories of the slain through action to prevent this from happening again.

Shabbat Shalom.

Pushback on Israel’s obligation to Syrian Refugees

I have received pushback on my call for Israel to join the humanitarian efforts and take in refugees.  I share my response below, to a comment to a post from someone who does not believe as I do.  But let me state for the record that this person, with whom I disagree on this and many other subjects regarding Israel, is someone who I know loves Israel very deeply.  And it is her love for Israel that compels her to take her stand and be in dialogue with me.  I am honored that she thinks enough of me to want to engage in this conversation. Please look to the sidebar to see her comments.

Israel’s moral compass should continue to lead it to be a champion of human values and decency. It is compelled to act as a “light to the nations.” In other words, to be a Jewish homeland is to embrace Jewish Values.

I understand your fear for Israel’s safety. But Israel has the finest security and intelligence capabilities in the world, from the Mossad to the people at the airport. I am fully confident that the Israelis can vet refugees.

And another place where we agree, implementing is not easy. No one realistically would claim otherwise. But I find President Kennedy’s words stirring,
“We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard… because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” We do it because we are Jews and that is what Jews do to live the values we cherish.

May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life, L’Shana Tova Tikatevu

Shabbat Shalom

The Time for Common Heroism is upon Us.

Heroes, it is said, act without thinking of the fear before them. Fear can paralyze, placing us in what we classically describe as Mitzrayim, the narrow places. Although most of us are not heroes, most of us are people who respond with empathy and compassion to those in need.

 When we rise above our fears we can achieve great things. When we act out of fear, we are reflexive and often myopic and ultimately selfish in our self-protectiveness.

 The unfolding tragedies in the Middle East, the hopes of an Arab Spring becoming, to extend the metaphor, the harshest of Winters, have left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced. What was once considered home is now an impossible place of hopelessness and despair.

 As Americans, as Jews and as human beings we are compelled to answer the immediate desperate cry for help. World governments, first and foremost the United States, must tackle the underlying causes of this devastation work to resolve these problems. But you and I can make a difference to the people in immediate risk for their lives. We can support humanitarian efforts to provide sanctuary, medicine and food and further we can actively support efforts to resettle refugees.

 Refugees are carefully screened before granted permission to come to the United States. HIAS is in the forefront of coordinating with government agencies after these people are vetted. Our fear cannot let us turn a blind eye and keep us from engaging in the compassionate work our tradition commands.

 L’Shana Tova