Leaders of the MidEast - Boys with Toys?


By Rabbi Aaron Gol...
December 12, 2012
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In the Canaanite countryside somewhere between Hebron and Shechem, traditionally associated with Nablus and now identified as Tel Balatah in the northern West Bank, Joseph asked an ish, a stranger: “Et achi anokhi m’vakaysh – I am looking for my brothers…(Gen 37:16)”

Where Human Rights are concerned, the security of one person’s rights should not affect another’s. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10th December 1948 laid out a format for individuals to live in harmony with one another and within their nation states. Whilst some anthropologists consider it against human nature to curb their desires to dominate the other, others point to the gradual civilising of population groups over time. Will there be a time that we might term a messianic age when all humanity can live in harmony with one another, one not seeking domination over another, in the process subjugating another’s human rights?

As Jews, our attention is unfortunately once more trapped by news from Israel and Palestine. The Palestinian Authority applied for and gained UN recognition as a non-member state. As Ali Younes, an analyst based in Washington D.C. wrote in Al Arabiya: “For President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, this vote was not necessarily part of a national strategy to achieve real statehood for the Palestinians - in the absence of any peace process with Israel - rather a last-minute attempt to boost his increasingly diminished relevancy and to cover for the Palestinian leadership historic failures.”

In retaliation, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced plans to build settlements in the E1 area of the West Bank. Building on this land - north-east of Jerusalem and west of the major settlement bloc of Ma’aleh Adumim - was first mentioned by Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 to halt the ‘Arabisation of Jerusalem.’ “The affect would be to connect Jerusalem to a city that is one of the larger Israeli settlements – whilst splitting the Ramallah region off from Bethlehem, effectively cutting the West Bank in two and making a contiguous Palestinian state virtually impossible (from Joint URJ-CCAR Statement).” Whilst there is a possibility that the Israeli Government sincerely intends to build on E1, the ambiguity of statements suggest that they are aimed more at the Israeli electorate to boost the chances of a right-wing bloc being elected, in other words a cynical election ploy.

It seems that the leaders of the region are more content to treat their nations and their people like toys – boys with toys. Neither move does anything to bring cheer to the hearts of citizens. Very few Palestinians turned out to celebrate UN recognition and in Israel I have seen no appetite for good cheer approaching Chanukah. The stalemate is maintained along with the abuse of human rights of Palestinians and Israelis, at the very least the right to live without fear.

The stalemate is the leadership’s lack of courage to approach what each knows is the solution and each knows will result in painful concessions for each side (e.g. http://forward.com/articles/167286/bnai-jeshurun-should-rethink-rash-sta...). The risk is that they will be so unpopular and so painful that the leadership are swept aside, democratically or otherwise. Yet the long-term benefit to human rights that would be gained is worth short-term unpopularity.

“Et achi anokhi m’vakaysh – I am looking for my brothers…” The stranger the ish of whom Joseph makes this enquiry reminds us of the ish who his father struggles with before his reconciliation with Esau. This ish might similarly be interpreted literally as a human being, as a divine being or allegorically as Joseph’s own conscience. Following these experiences, Jacob and Joseph put themselves at risk to seek out their brothers, seek the humanity in the other. One succeeds immediately and the latter only after painful experiences. But each goes forward to seek.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Tel Aviv this evening to participate in the yearly parade commemorating Human Rights Day. Waving signs and shouting slogans pertaining to issues such as treatment of migrants, the occupation, and the cost of living. The President of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel particularly spoke about the abuse of women’s rights in Israel yet he could have focussed on any number of issues. Whatever the outcome of the Israeli elections or power struggles amongst the Palestinian people, there are still a so many people who seek and deserve their human rights and might see past deep and long-held possessional desires to make painful concessions to that end. May our words and actions always harness them with encouragement and strength so that one day from amongst them, leaders will arise whose wish for peace, for the protection of human rights and good overrides personal ambition.

“Et achi anokhi m’vakaysh – I am looking for my brothers…”

You can also read this at http://www.npls.org.uk/Sermons/New/Vayeishev-5773.html

COMMENTS

Real Real Zionist

Wed, 12/12/2012 - 11:54

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Talk of human rights is part of the problem. Unfortunately when we talk glibly of rights we ARE on a collision course. " Rights " DO conflict. I am not sure if the idea of rights makes too much sense outside of a closed system,for example a well delineated system of law. So that UK law accords me the right to graze my cattle on common land.

Perhaps it might help if we spoke of human benefit, always recognising that man does not live by bread alone.

The most pernicious of all alleged " rights " is the right to self determination. Nothing and no one self determines. Were it so I would be a multi billionaire.I aren't because other stuff in the cosmos gets in the way.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSrusP5SZI4&feature=related


happygoldfish

Wed, 12/12/2012 - 12:00

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Rabbi Aaron Goldstein: “The affect would be to connect Jerusalem to a city that is one of the larger Israeli settlements – whilst splitting the Ramallah region off from Bethlehem, effectively cutting the West Bank in two and making a contiguous Palestinian state virtually impossible (from Joint URJ-CCAR Statement).”

this joint statement of the union for reform judaism and the central conference of american rabbis (with the support of the association of reform zionists of america, and of canada) continues

… we recognize that this week's action - beginning the permitting process for new settlement - is only the first step in a long, and by no means inevitable, process

THEREFORE [we] resolve to:
1. Condemn the Palestinian Authority for the unilateral decision to seek upgraded status at the United Nation as counterproductive to the cause of peace , and express our deep concern to those countries that supported the upgraded status, and to those who abstained;
2. Commend the U.S. and Canada for their forceful and consistent efforts to prevent consideration of, and for their votes against, the General Assembly's decision to upgrade the formal status of the Palestinians, an action that is counterproductive to peace and undercuts negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians;
3. Call on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table immediately without preconditions, as Israel has committed to doing;
4. Urge the U.S. and Canada to act assertively in facilitating a return to negotiations and to take other steps that would strengthen the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution;
5. Support appropriate measures if the Palestinians use their new status at the U.N. to initiate formal action against Israel via the ICC or other agency;
6. Oppose actions taken after the U.N. vote that would undercut the prospects for renewing the peace process leading to a two-state solution, including:

  • a. Funding cuts in U.S. or Canadian support to the United Nations;
  • b. Funding cuts to the Palestinian Authority, which are likely to weaken the prospects for a two-state solution, endanger the viability of the Palestinian Authority, and empower Hamas and its like-minded allies; and
  • c. Any reduction in the currently recognized Palestinian diplomatic presence; and
  • 7. Oppose increased settlement-building activity by Israel, especially in the critical "E1" area.


    happygoldfish

    Wed, 12/12/2012 - 12:24

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    Rabbi Aaron Goldstein: http://forward.com/articles/167286/bnai-jeshurun-should-rethink-rash-sta...

    that 5/12/2012 article by alan dershowitz includes the following interesting point …

    Do the rabbis understand that according to the General Assembly vote, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, where Jews lived for more than 2,000 years until they were ousted by Jordan in 1948, is illegally occupied Palestinian territory, and that Israel’s decision to rebuild the synagogues destroyed by the Jordanians can now be deemed a war crime?
    Do these rabbis intend to stay away from the Jewish Quarter when they next visit Israel and advise their congregants to do the same?

    rrz, do you think that the israeli government's transfer of population into the jewish quarter of jerusalem in 1967 was contrary to article 49 of the fourth geneva convention, and a war crime?

    do you think there's any difference between the jews living there, and the jews living in jewish-owned properties in hebron?


    Real Real Zionist

    Wed, 12/12/2012 - 13:41

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    I can't see what difference it makes in a legal sense whether the areas settled are Jewish, Muslim, Mongolian or Martian.That was my point about Hebron. Anyway I am not going to play any part in turning Rabbi Goldsteins blogs, which are always interesting, into a bickering ground.

    There is a place for that and you know where it is.


    StevenKalka

    Wed, 12/12/2012 - 14:51

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    On a lighter note from the Jon Stewart Show,

    'A Jewish Homeland in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada?'

    http://www.aish.com/j/mm/West_Bank_Story.html?s=mpw


    Real Real Zionist

    Wed, 12/12/2012 - 16:36

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    Actually on the Palestinian side there is / was an
    unselfinterested leader.Fayad.I have met him and there is no doubting his sincerity. Even among the Palestinians who hate the PA as much, if not more than, the Israelis, Fayad is excepted. Not surprisingly he was marginalised and worse.It wasn't just because he refused to play Michael Collins to Abbas's De Valera,

    On the Israeli side.....well the old guard, Begin, Shamir etc, whatever their faults, and there was plenty, they were unselfinterested men who were committed to " the dream " and not to themselves.In the circumstances of today and not those of their time, they would behave much differently.

    What is available to the Israelis in terms of leadership today is pretty dire.


    Real Real Zionist

    Thu, 12/13/2012 - 11:26

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    ".....there are still a so many people who seek and deserve their human rights and might see past deep and long-held possessional desires...."

    These possessional desires are a very big part of the problem.It does seem to be an enduring trait of people that they are not able to enjoy something without possessing it.

    Did someone mention Jerusalem ?


    zaheerayin

    Fri, 12/14/2012 - 13:06

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    Millis is right.


    happygoldfish

    Fri, 12/14/2012 - 17:56

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    happygoldfish: rrz, do you think that the israeli government's transfer of population into the jewish quarter of jerusalem in 1967 was contrary to article 49 of the fourth geneva convention, and a war crime?

    Real Real Zionist: I can't see what difference it makes in a legal sense whether the areas settled are Jewish, Muslim, Mongolian or Martian.

    so, rrz, you do think that the israeli government's transfer of population into the jewish quarter of jerusalem in 1967 was contrary to article 49 of the fourth geneva convention, and illegal under international law?

    StevenKalka

    Fri, 12/14/2012 - 18:04

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    "These possessional desires are a very big part of the problem.It does seem to be an enduring trait of people that they are not able to enjoy something without possessing it."

    If that's a fault, why does this particular conflict draw so much disproportionate attention when far worse bloody conflicts are overlooked?


    Real Real Zionist

    Fri, 12/14/2012 - 18:25

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    -2 points

    "......why does this particular conflict draw so much disproportionate attention when far worse bloody conflicts are overlooked?"

    Steven that is a very big question, but a very good one. It troubled me for some time. I think I have figured it to my own satisfaction. Too big an answer for a blog post but I am going to write on it. If you give me an email address internally I will send you it when it is ready. A few pressing issues between now and then. O:))


    Real Real Zionist

    Tue, 12/18/2012 - 14:36

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    -2 points

    wow that hurt


    happygoldfish

    Thu, 12/20/2012 - 16:37

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    Real Real Zionist: "......why does this particular conflict draw so much disproportionate attention when far worse bloody conflicts are overlooked?"
    Steven that is a very big question, but a very good one. It troubled me for some time. I think I have figured it to my own satisfaction. Too big an answer for a blog post …

    yes, racism is difficult to explain in just a few paragraphs

    (and it's probably best if the racists circulate it privately amongst themselves )

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