Did you observe Passover? The Huffington Post (April 9) headlined a piece by Rabbi Michael Lerner, “Pharaohs Can’t Celebrate Passover.” If you supported Israel’s Gaza war, the pharaoh is you. According to several recent political cartoons, if you support Israel, Hitler is you, too.
Rabbi Lerner, leader of the Jewish Renewal movement and editor of Tikkun, writes, Passover has “become a problem for many Jews. … Millions of Jews have been watching Israel’s role in Gaza and the West Bank with particular horror this year.” The “wildly disproportionate response of the Israeli army… has shocked and dismayed many Jews whose identification with their Jewishness came primarily through their commitment to its ethical teachings.”
He adds, the newly elected Israeli leaders, “whose campaign was filled with
racist attacks on Arab citizens … have pushed many American Jews to question how they can celebrate Passover with a full heart this year. As several congregants put it to me, ‘We Jews have become Pharaoh to the Palestinian people — so we would be hypocrites to sit around our Passover table celebrating our own freedom, rejoicing at the way the Egyptians were stricken with plagues and their first born killed, while ignoring what Israel is doing today in the name of the Jewish people.’”
In The Washington Post (March 26), columnist David Ignatius took aim at those so-called pharaohs. He points out that the U.S. has a policy against funding the settlements, “yet private organizations in the United States continue to raise tax-exempt contributions for the very activities that the government opposes.”
Critics — and he mentions Rabbi Lerner’s ally, Peace Now — are questioning, “why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns. A search of IRS records identified 28 U.S. charitable groups that made a total of $33.4 million in tax-exempt contributions to settlements and related organizations between 2004 and 2007.”
One wonders if Ignatius, so “troubled” by those tax deductions, was equally troubled by with President Obama’s intention to give $600 million of our tax dollars to West Bank Palestinians, and $300 million to Gaza.
In March, Palestinian TV on the West Bank celebrated the anniversary of a 1978 terrorist attack in which an Israeli bus was hijacked, leaving 38 dead Jews, including 13 children.
In April, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW.org.il) posted a video of a Hamas TV pre-seder blood libel. The “skit” depicted Jews in black hats, shuckling in prayer, gesturing in a Jewish parody, discussing Muslim blood.
Father: “Shimon, look, my son… You have to hate the Muslims…. You have to drink the Muslims’ blood… Where are you going, my son?”
Son: “To wash [before prayer with water]….”
Father: “Muslims do this, not us! … We have to wash our hands with the blood of Muslims.”
Meanwhile, with President Obama making overtures to the Islamic world, The Christian Science Monitor (Mar. 28) suggests “ten terms not to use with Muslims.”
At a time when “racist” and “apartheid” are commonly used to refer to Zionists, columnist Chris Seiple, president of a group promoting religious freedom, writes, “I want to share the advice given to me from dear Muslim friends… regarding words and concepts that are not useful in building relationships with them…. We need to be very careful about how we use them, and in what context.”
The problematic words? “Clash of Civilizations… Secular… Assimilation… Reformation…. Jihadi…. Moderate…. Interfaith… Freedom… Religious Freedom… Tolerance.”
Moderate? “This ubiquitous term is meant politically but can be received theologically. If someone called me a ‘moderate Christian,’ I would be deeply offended.”
Interfaith? “This term conjures up images of watered-down, lowest common denominator statements that avoid the tough issues and are consequently irrelevant.”
Freedom? “Freedom can imply an unbound licentiousness.”
Tolerance? “Tolerance is not enough.”
At least seven of those concepts are cherished by Jews, but what do I know? I’m so out of step, at my seder the Jews are the good guys. I’m still on the last page of the Haggadah, where the innocent kid, Shlomo Nativ, 13, was slaughtered with an axe by Islamic Jihad in Gush Etzion, April 2.
As Rabbi Lerner says, Passover was a problem for some Jews this year. The Nativs got up from shiva for the seder. Shlomo took care of his family’s goats. One kid. One kid.