Magazine article Tikkun

Response to Michael Lerner

Magazine article Tikkun

Response to Michael Lerner

Article excerpt

I was asked to react to Michael Lerner's article on divestment, a topic which, indeed, is at the core of my current political reflection and action. This article, however, raises many topics beyond just divestment: the question of the Palestinian refugees and the right of return, the issue of historical responsibility, the "realistic" political solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and their "ideal" horizon, and more.

I would have loved to have a dialogue with Michael Lerner on all these topics, out of a double common goal: to promote an "as just as possible" solution to a hundred-yearold bloody conflict and to build the largest possible front, in Israel/Palestine as well as in other countries, to help achieve this goal. We may have other occasions to develop such an exchange. Right now, I would like to express a few thoughts concerning the issue of pressure on and proposed sanctions against Israel, which obviously is a broader issue than divestment only.

I speak from my position as an Israeli activist, involved not only in the movement against the Occupation in my country, but also in the framework of the global social justice movement, in which this issue has been and still is being debated.

Unlike Michael Lerner, my starting points are the concepts of Right and rights. I will claim that in our era, this starting point is not only right, but smart too.

As a people who, in modern history, have been the target of racist discrimination, persecution, and even genocide, Jews have long been at the forefront of the struggle for a world based on Right and the respect for human as well as collective rights. Is it a coincidence that René Cassin was, together with Eleanor Roosevelt, the architect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, until now the most progressive document adopted by the international community on that issue? I don't think so. It is not an accident either that this declaration, as well as the Geneva Conventions, were adopted just after World War II and the victory over Nazism. Behind these historical documents is a lesson the international community drew from the dark days of fascism: the duty of humankind (and its institutions) is to protect itself from tyranny, discrimination, and racism by creating rules and laws that lay out what is and is not tolerable, and by implementing these rules, by force if necessary.

Rights and the rule of law usually represent the interests of the weak against those of the strong, of the powerless against the powerful. The strong don't need laws to protect them; they have the power. In that sense the true alternative for humankind is the law of the jungle, which is the rule of might, or the rule of law based on rights.

Today, Israel is strong and believes it can ignore international law and disrespect the basic rights of the people under its domination. It is definitely not right. It is not smart either, because the day after tomorrow Israel could be the weaker power again. This is why I believe that those who defend a climate of impunity for Israel, rather than demanding that the Israeli state enforce international law and the UN resolutions are not serving the true interests of the Israeli people. To be a true friend sometimes means stopping someone from harming others, because it is not right and because it may, sooner or later, harm the one who is ignoring the law. I must add that I suspect some unconditional "friends of Israel," especially some Christian fundamentalists, of backing Israel in order to push it to its own destruction. On the other hand, many of those calling for international pressure on Israel to respect what is Right, do so out of a true friendship towards the Jews and a sense of responsibility towards the Israelis. …

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