Monday, January 26, 2009


A strange time this last week. In a dharma talk from Thich Nhat Hahn, he says if you can't smile this is like a television that only gets one channel. So to get married during a time when there is so much wrong in the world is like an exercise in changing the channel. We included Jewish elements into our primarily Buddhist ceremony. There are many interpretations to breaking the glass: one is to recall the sorrow of the world even in a moment of joy. Buddhist elements included chanting to Kwan Um Bosal, the Bodhisattva of infinite compassion, which could be as much about Gaza as about the wedding. But overall, it was a wonderful time. Also from the talk linked above, "A person doesn't have to do a lot in order to save the world. A person has to be a person and then that is the basis of peace." So for a day I was a person.

During that time, ceasefires were declared in Gaza. I'm still catching up on news, but this is obviously wonderful news. But it is also strange. I hope Israel accomplished many goals. It would be worse to think the war was for nothing, but still it would have been better had it not happened.

Several right-wing blogs have noted that the Dalai Lama has said that terrorism is difficult to deal with through non-violence. I'm afraid many people are exaggerating this. It is true, but I'm confident it is only a small part of what the Dalai Lama would say about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. However, we do have to note that radical non-violence does not mean hating those on either side who use violence, but embracing them. Radical non-violence is a far more violent than pacifism.

Which brings me to this article (to me via Nextbook and their daily email). Somewhere in there is the argument that Israel is a denial of the moral superiority of Jews. This, of course, misses the point of Israel's existence. That it should be a nation among other nations. That Jews should be a people like other people. Self-determination is a procedural right. It is not negated by making the wrong choices. It is as true of Zionism as Communism, or really any ideology or -ism, that proponents can become blind.
Judt never articulates a philosophical basis for his interest in Israel, but there is a logical affinity between Communism and Zionism, as he sees them both. American Zionists (of which I count myself one) are running the very real danger of becoming the new Communists—passionately committed, endlessly energetic, and thoroughly, incontrovertibly wrong.
But in this world there are people who are allowed to be wrong and people who are not. And so (also via Nextbook), I have far more sympathy for Elizabeth Wurtzel when she writes:
And while I'd like to artificially separate anti-Zionism from antisemitism, like most American Jews, I'm not willing to make that false distinction: when there is more than one Jewish state, the world's hatred of Israel might become no different from its exasperation with any other country, but since Israel is the only homeland, and really it is nothing more than six million Jews living together in an area the size of New Jersey, I can't pretend that the problem with Israel is that it's a poorly located country that happens to be at odds with its neighbours and only coincidentally happens to be Jewish. The trouble with Israel is the trouble with Jews.
Like Judt, she is right on points and wrong on points. I might agree more on specific points with Judt (though I often disagree with anti-Zionists on a great deal of specific points, and I don't know the extent that I'd disagree with Wurtzel), but on the whole, I'm confident it is anti-Zionists who are passionately committed, endlessly energetic, and thoroughly, incontrovertibly wrong. If Tony Judt's attacks on Israel were intended to make a better Zionism, rather than to repudiate Zionism, it would make a difference.

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