My Israel Right or Wrong

I had a curious, and thankfully brief, discussion with Mom on Sunday morning prior to Mass. Mom – a member of the UMC – has issued an ultimatum. If the Methodist Conference this summer decides to sell off its stock in Caterpillar trucks, she’s going to leave the Methodist Church forever.


Well, evidently the impetus behind the divestment is that Caterpillar sells (gives?) bulldozers to Israel in order for them to destroy Palestinian houses and build settlements. If the UMC divests it will be anti-Israel and, well, we have to support Israel always!

(Mind you, Mom’s not your standard Evangelical American Supporter of Israel, she’s rather liberal/left in just about all other aspects of her politics and religion.)

I took the tack that Israel must be held accountable for the demands of Justice in the Bible. Mom broke off the conversation almost instantly. I nearly never have these conversations with my parents. Yet it is something I feel passionately about – as a Christian or as a Jewish Wannabe: If Israel is to be a 100% secular state in the modern world, then political opponents or supporters need to debate the steps of Israel. If Israel is to be a Jewish (religious) state then I think the biblical demands of Justice are in force and Israel should be held accountable for them. It is possible to disagree with Iraeli political actions and still be a devout follower of Israel’s God and a devoted lover of the Jewish people.

Of course, I say that as an Outsider. And I’m open to other views and corrections. BUT as of just now: were I to convert, I fear I might end up on the official right-wing Zionist S.H.I.T. List

It was the strangest conversation – I’m not even sure how it came up. But it called to mind several stories that have been circulating, recently.

Mixed Multitudes presents a discussion of Israel in Modern Jewish Identity. I sound like the younger folks.

For all that Republicans like to talk about about “our only democratic friend” in the middle east – making comparisons between Modern Goodguy Israel and the Evil, Horrid, Backwards Muslims – the news that Israeli women are dressing like ultra-pious Muslims is distressing both from a political view as well as from the distortion of Judaism implied. (Mindful that, by some readings, the Muslim tradition they are aping is a distortion of Islam.)

And here’s another, parallel, post on women and Judaism

Huw Richardson wroted this on January 29th, 2008

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Category: Judaism, politics

6 Responses to “My Israel Right or Wrong”

Fr. Ernesto
January 29th, 2008 at 10:07 am

Although, I would say that the situation is a mite more complicated than you make it. Should Israel be held to standards of justice that are not applied to Muslims? They, too, claim a religious state. (In which Christians are left out, if you read Hezbollah politics.)

And, if you hold both to standards of justice, do you cut support off from both? And, if you do, do you stand idly by if Israel is about to be wiped off the face of the map? Or, do you stand idly by while the Gaza strip is starved to death?

It is always tempting to do the Anabaptist thing, which is to withdraw into holy isolation and be unbearably self-righteous about how one does not contribute to the war machine or to evil or to bad politics, etc. It is much more difficult to live in a world unbearable tainted with evil and hammer out a policy that keeps one involved. It is much more difficult to accept that disengagement can, itself, be a cause of even worse evil than engagement.

Both Israel and the Palestinians do evil things. I would still argue that Hezbollah (openly Muslim and proud of it) does significantly more evil things than Israel. Unfortunately, in the Middle East (or Darfur, or Kenya, or Yugoslavia, or . . .) one must often choose the lesser of two evils, as best one can discern.

I can’t blame your mother for her stance. I can understand if it were weapons that were being sold. But the UMC is now getting into the “this could be (and has been) used for evil, therefore the company is evil” line of thinking. I hope that they soon divest themselves of all stock in Ginsu knives and in baseball bat companies since they, too, can be used as weapons. This is Anabaptist style of thinking, with which I disagree.

Does this mean that I support all that Israel does? No! I do support some measures that would try to rein in some of their worst practices. But, Israel would have to become significantly worse, or the Muslim groups (yes, Muslim, they do claim that identity, after all!) get significantly better before I would stand by and say that I would allow Israel to be wiped out.

January 29th, 2008 at 10:15 am

I didn’t say nothing (up or down) about the Palestinian side: but I’m all for holding them to justice as well.

I’ve not looked into the UMC thing – only noting Mom’s version of it. But it was Mom who made it Black or White: that we have to support Israel no matter what she does. This is, generally, the right-wing Dispensationalist Christian version of things. Which, given Mom’s other PsOV, rather surprised me.

I don’t think I made it out to be black or white – simply noting that Jews and others have a right to talk about Israel’s policies and to support them or not, be Israel considered as a religious or secular state.

January 29th, 2008 at 11:14 am

I hope you aren’t implying that I was comparing “modern goodguy Israel” to “Evil, Horrid, Backwards Muslims” with my burqa article on Jewlicious — that phrase wouldn’t even come off of my keyboard — that is all you and I hope you didn’t misconstrue my article to that point.

My point was that this is not Judaism, and should not be advocated by any Jewish community and is not sanctioned by any authority.

You can call whatever you want “Evil, Horrid” and “Backwards”.

January 29th, 2008 at 11:18 am

Y-Love: no! forgive any implication that it was you: I was construing the right wing American political view – that we need to like Israel as opposed to Muslims. Thus the paragraph started with a reference to Republicans making that comparison.

If it still seems unclear, let me know and I’ll do a rewrite.

Pisco Sours
January 30th, 2008 at 4:37 pm

From the Jewish-women-in-burqas article: “I don’t want men seeing my ID picture, so I just show them my children to prove I’m not an Arab.” Ummmm… yeah. Movin’ on.

Tangentially related, I thought you’d appreciate this speech by the winner of the 2007 Hannah Arendt Award. Lots of food for thought there.