Thursday, September 05, 2019

Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column

Ten Minutes of anti-Israel Propaganda

An Austrian postcard from 1919, showing the stab-in-the-back narrative (Wikimedia)

I thought I was beyond being surprised by what comes out of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the American Reform Movement. But last week I received a blog titled “We Must Not Willfully Hide from a Truth” by Rabbi Stanley M. Davids, on a URJ mailing list called “Ten Minutes of Torah.”

I found it interesting as an illustration of the URJ’s anti-Israel direction, as well as an example of the cloudy thinking that characterizes today’s progressive Left.

Commenting on an essay in a forthcoming book (to be published by the Reform Movement’s CCAR Press), an essay which apparently calls for the replacement of the Jewish state by a binational one, Rabbi Davids wrote this:

The Torah is rich with warnings about how a bystander is not exempt from certain levels of responsibility. If you see a neighbor’s animal that is lost, you must not turn away. If you see a neighbor in distress, you must not turn away. If you witness a crime, you must testify.

And I would add: If you know a truth, you must not conceal it. If you hear a truth or if you see a truth, you must not hide from it. …

When we seek to meet an “Other,” we can only honestly meet that Other with a full awareness of what truths that Other holds dear. If we close ourselves off to such truths, even if those truths terrify or anger or confound us, then our meeting can never be successful. …

[the authors of the essay] Mezuman and Azzam-Jalajel assert that there is a valid Palestinian national narrative that Israelis must understand and recognize. Even if a separate Palestinian State comes into existence alongside Israel, the Palestinian residents of Israel must be treated as equal citizens with formal recognition of their own unique attachment to the Land. If Jews have a Right of Return, why shouldn’t we then contemplate a Palestinian Right of Return? Why shouldn’t our shared goal be a Jewish, Palestinian, and democratic State? …

Naqba is a truth from which many Israeli Jews and many Americans Jews willfully hide. That truth, a Palestinian truth to be sure, but accepted by some Jewish Zionists as well, doesn’t have to become our truth. But if we ever want to build an infrastructure of peace and understanding, we must recognize the power of that truth within the Palestinian community - and we cannot willfully hide from it.

I wrote to Rabbi Davids and asked him if he, personally and as a representative of his movement, would “contemplate a Palestinian Right of Return” or consider a “Jewish, Palestinian, and democratic State.” No, he answered, he would not. But,

What I was hoping that I could communicate is the need for both sides to hear and understand each other's narratives.  Understanding why someone or some group feels the way that it does is a key to meaningful communication - but is not at all the same as accepting the Other's narrative as true or even equally true or as compelling as our own narrative. [email response]

Rabbi Davids is not playing fair. On the one hand, he refers to the Palestinian narrative as a “truth” several times. Not just as a story – and as a matter of fact, a made-up story that serves the Arab political goal of extirpating the Jewish presence from the Land of Israel – but as a “truth.” And clearly “a truth” implies an epistemological status greater than a story.

The postmodernist believes that there is no such thing as absolute truth, and that every group has its own narrative that grows out of its own cultural experience. The narrative is true for its owners, but perhaps not for others. There is no external, objective standard. Is this what he thinks?

I hope not, for this way lies madness. If there is no such thing as objective truth, then there’s no use in reasoning, no such thing as justice, no sense in studying history, and no trustworthy knowledge.

But in his clarification, he tells us that is not what he means. He says that all he meant was that Israelis must fully comprehend the story that Palestinians believe so deeply, in order to communicate with them. Rabbi Davids is correct that if you don’t understand someone’s position, you can’t negotiate or even communicate with them. But he goes farther. He suggests that we are “hiding” from the “truth” of naqba, and that until we fully grok it, we will never get past our conflict.

He’s wrong. We do understand the Palestinian narrative. Nobody is hiding from the truth, if the truth is simply that the Palestinians have a narrative they believe in deeply, a narrative of their victimization and their desire for revenge.

What we disagree about is what counts as “understanding.” I suspect that both Davids and the Palestinians will agree that we have not fully comprehended the naqba until we admit that everything bad that happened to the Palestinian Arabs was our fault, and that we are prepared to make amends – which would at minimum mean sharing our state with them, enacting a right of return for Arabs with refugee status, and so on, precisely as Mezuman and Azzam-Jalajel suggest. In short, commit national suicide.

Indeed, as Rabbi Davids probably knows, if our actions in 1948 were unjust, as the Palestinian narrative tells us, then we are required to do tshuva (repentance), in part by returning anything that we took unjustly.

I would argue that despite the harsh actions that were made necessary by the war, the flight of several hundred thousand Arabs in 1948 was primarily a consequence of decisions made by Palestinian leaders and elites, as well as the leaders of the Arab states. We don’t have anything to do tshuva for.

This business of narratives didn’t start with the Palestinians. Politicians and others have always understood the power of the narrative. It’s only recently that people have started saying that all narratives are inherently “truths” in some sense, as long as a large number of people believe in them.

For example, many Germans believed that their loss in WWI was not due to running out of supplies and men, the entry of the US into the war, bad strategic decisions, and so on, but rather that their successful army had been “stabbed in the back,” mostly by the Jews. This narrative, which may have originated with a comment by German Chief of Staff von Ludendorff in 1919, became quite popular, and was later picked up by the Nazis.

Would Rabbi Davids believe that this narrative too, contained a “truth” from which we must not “hide?” I don’t think so.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

EoZTV Podcast

Podcast URL

Subscribe in podnovaSubscribe with FeedlyAdd to netvibes
addtomyyahoo4Subscribe with SubToMe

Support EoZ by shopping!

search eoz



follow me

Follow by Email


Share on Whatsapp


For $18 donation

Sample Text

EoZ's Most Popular Posts in recent years


Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


Donate to fight for Israel!

Monthly subscription:
Payment options

One time donation:

subscribe via email

Follow EoZ on Twitter!

Interesting Blogs


Abbas liar Academic fraud administrivia al-Qaeda algeria Alice Walker American Jews AmericanZionism Amnesty analysis anti-semitism anti-Zionism antisemitism apartheid Arab antisemitism arab refugees Arafat archaeology Ari Fuld art ASHREI B'tselem bahrain Balfour bbc BDS BDSFail Bedouin Beitunia beoz Bernie Sanders Birthright book review Brant Rosen breaking the silence Campus antisemitism Cardozo cartoon of the day Chakindas Chanukah Christians circumcision Clark Kent coexistence Community Standards conspiracy theories Cyprus Daled Amos Daphne Anson David Applebaum Davis report DCI-P Divest This double standards Egypt Elder gets results ElderToons Electronic Intifada Embassy EoZ Trump symposium eoz-symposium EoZNews eoztv Erekat Erekat lung transplant EU Euro-Mid Observer European antisemitism Facebook Facebook jail Fake Civilians 2014 Fake Civilians 2019 Farrakhan Fatah featured Features fisking flotilla Forest Rain Forward free gaza freedom of press palestinian style future martyr Gary Spedding gaza Gaza Platform George Galloway George Soros German Jewry gideon levy gilad shalit gisha Goldstone Report Good news Grapel Guardian guest post gunness Haaretz Hadassah hamas Hamas war crimes Hananya Naftali hasbara Hasby 2014 Hasby 2016 Hasby 2018 hate speech Hebron helen thomas hezbollah history Hizballah Holocaust Holocaust denial honor killing HRW Human Rights Humanitarian crisis humor huor Hypocrisy ICRC IDF IfNotNow Ilan Pappe Ilhan Omar impossible peace incitement indigenous Indonesia international law interview intransigence iran Iraq Islamic Judeophobia Islamism Israel Loves America Israeli culture Israeli high-tech J Street jabalya James Zogby jeremy bowen Jerusalem jewish fiction Jewish Voice for Peace jihad jimmy carter John Kerry jokes jonathan cook Jordan Joseph Massad Juan Cole Judaism Judea-Samaria Judean Rose Kairos Karl Vick Keith Ellison ken roth khalid amayreh Khaybar Know How to Answer Lebanon leftists Linda Sarsour Linkdump lumish mahmoud zahar Mairav Zonszein Malaysia max blumenthal Mazen Adi McGraw-Hill media bias Methodist Michael Ross Miftah Missionaries moderate Islam Mohammed Assaf Mondoweiss moonbats Morocco Mudar Zahran music Muslim Brotherhood Naftali Bennett Nakba Nan Greer Nation of Islam Natural gas Nazi Netanyahu News nftp NGO NIF Noah Phillips norpac NYT Occupation offbeat Omar Barghouti Only in Israel Opinion oxfam PA corruption PalArab lies Palestine Papers pallywood pchr PCUSA Peace Now Peter Beinart Petra MB poetry Poland poll Poster Preoccupied Prisoners propaganda Proud to be Zionist Puar Purim purimshpiel Putin Qaradawi Qassam calendar Quora Rafah Ray Hanania real liberals reference Reuters Richard Falk Richard Silverstein Right of return Rivkah Lambert Adler Robert Werdine rogel alpher roger cohen roger waters Rutgers Saeb Erekat Sarah Schulman Saudi Arabia saudi vice self-death self-death palestinians settlements sex crimes SFSU shechita sheikh tamimi Shelly Yachimovich Shujaiyeh Simchat Torah Simona Sharoni SodaStream South Africa Speech stamps Superman Syria Tarabin Temple Mount Terrorism This is Zionism Thomas Friedman TOI Tomer Ilan Trump Tunisia Turkey UCI UK UN UNDP unesco unhrc UNICEF United Arab Emirates Unity unrwa UNRWA hate unrwa reports UNRWA-USA unwra Varda Vic Rosenthal Washington wikileaks work accident X-washing Y. Ben-David Yemen YMikarov zahran Ziesel zionist attack zoo Zionophobia Ziophobia Zvi

Blog Archive