Culture of euphemism has corrupted Jewish America for decades
A report on the legal take-over of Palestinian villages by the military for the purpose of exercises follows Peter Beinart’s article. Notes and links at foot.
Israel democracy in action: this photo of a Palestinian man running the gauntlet of Israeli soldiers striking him with batons is just labelled picture 57930 in a set of photos first posted in 2010 by Never Cast Lead Again. The set includes posed photos – soldiers larking around – but this one seems authentic. Any further information would be welcome
Two Manhattan rabbis challenge AIPAC’s linguistic fraud and culture of euphemism.
By Peter Beinart, Haaretz
February 12, 2014
B’nai Jeshurun, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, is an unusual place. First, because it is a non-Orthodox synagogue overflowing with young Jews. Second, because its rabbis say publicly about Israel what many other American rabbis only whisper. And rabbis like that often risk losing their jobs.
The most recent threat began a couple of weeks ago, after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio privately told representatives from AIPAC, “when you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call.” In response, two of the rabbis at BJ (as it is known) signed a letter of protest, which declared, “AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us.” Now those rabbis are under attack from some of their own congregants, who have written a letter of their own.
(Full disclosure: I too signed the letter to de Blasio. I am friendly with the BJ rabbis, and with some of their congregational critics. I frequent BJ on Purim and Simchat Torah, though my children find the candy selection better elsewhere).
The letter chastising Rabbis Roly Matalon and Felicia Sol is illuminating. “AIPAC,” it declares, “works with Congress and leaders in the Executive branch to support the government of Israel” and “as believers in democracy and because the government of Israel is democratically elected by the citizens of Israel, we support its duly elected government.”
“As believers in democracy.” That phrase, it’s worth remembering, is not being employed to defend Israel’s policies inside the green line. The key dispute between AIPAC and the BJ rabbis is over whether American Jews should publicly challenge Israeli policy in the West Bank. The incensed congregants say no because “as believers in democracy,” they publicly support the right of Israel’s “democratically elected” government to pursue whatever policies in the West Bank it desires.
Soldiers democratically deal with a resident of Makhoul, the village in the Jordan valley that was demolished by bulldozers at dawn last September. Uncredited photo from Independent
Where is George Orwell when you need him? Democracy means government by the people. Every single person in the West Bank lives under the control of the government of Israel. Yes, in the non-contiguous archipelago of Palestinian cities and towns known as Areas A and B, Palestinians receive many of their services from the Palestinian Authority. But the PA is not a government; it is a government’s subcontractor. The Israeli army – and the army of no other government – can enter every square inch of the West Bank. The Israeli government controls the West Bank’s borders. It controls the airspace. It controls the currency. At times over the past decade, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have elected representatives to a parliament. In 2012, the Israeli army placed the speaker of that (now-defunct) parliament under arrest.
My point is not about whether Israel has valid reasons for controlling the West Bank. It is merely that Israeli does control the West Bank. And it can only do so because Palestinians, who comprise more than eighty percent of the West Bank’s residents, cannot vote for the government that controls their lives.
That’s why defending the legitimacy of Israeli policy in the West Bank by citing one’s belief in democracy is so Orwellian. Because Israeli policy in the West Bank is premised on the West Bank not being a democracy. Were the West Bank a democracy, it would cease being under Israeli control.
To use the language of democracy to defend Israeli policy in the West Bank is linguistic fraud. Such fraud is necessary because to honestly defend the denial of democratic rights, for 46 years, to millions of people because they happen to be Palestinians and not Jews, would require language too coarse for the Upper West Side. It’s an old story. “Things like the continuance of British rule in India,” Orwell wrote almost seventy years ago, “can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”
It is this culture of euphemism – a culture which has corrupted Jewish America for decades – that Rabbis Roly Matalon and Felicia Sol are refusing to oblige. That’s why their behavior is so threatening. In the American Jewish world today, honest speech would constitute a revolution. Were all the rabbis and Jewish professionals who privately agree with Matalon and Sol to say so publicly, the communal foundation upon which AIPAC rests would crumble.
“Language has been reduced to labels, talk has become double-talk. We are in the process of losing faith in the reality of words,” wrote Abraham Joshua Heschel, the rabbi in whose footsteps Matalon and Sol walk. “Renewal of prayer calls for a renewal of language, of cleansing the words, of revival of meanings.” Maybe that’s why so many young Jews come to B’nai Jeshurun. Because they realize that honest prayer, like honest politics, requires facing truths we hide even from ourselves.
By Celine Hagbard, IMEMC News
November 04, 2013
The Israeli Military’s Advocate General ruled Sunday that Palestinian villages can continue to be used for Israeli military trainings under the principle of “belligerent occupation”.
This is an Israeli military concept that allows its soldiers virtual impunity with regard to their behavior in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, under the pretext that the Israeli military is the sovereign authority over the entire territory. This edict contradicts international law and numerous United Nations resolutions that question the Israeli claim to sovereignty over all Palestinian land.
The Israeli military frequently invades Palestinian towns and villages, with soldiers running through streets and alleys with loaded automatic weapons, ransacking homes and terrorizing residents, for the purposes of ‘training’.
When a human rights organization filed a challenge to this practice earlier this year after several particularly egregious ‘training’ raids, the Israeli military said they would respond to the complaint. Today, several months later, the military ruled that the trainings are all in accordance with the dictates of martial law as it applies to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
According to the military Advocate General’s statement, there is “no legal obstacle to holding training in inhabited areas as part of maintaining security in the area. The orders issued for the drills that take place in populated urban areas include a statute requiring coordination with the ones doing the drill. It will also be made clear that as part of the training exercises, the soldiers must avoid putting the population at risk, damaging their property or causing unreasonable disturbance to their daily routine.”
However, the Palestinian residents subjected to these ‘training exercises’ and the human rights groups representing them have provided numerous examples of the soldiers tearing through homes and yards, breaking into houses, running up and down stairs and taking over rooftops of family homes as part of these exercises.
All of the villages where these trainings take place have experienced actual Israeli military invasions on a regular basis, and since the military makes no attempt to differentiate or announce that any particular invasion is a ‘training exercise’, the villagers are just as terrorized as they are during actual raids.
Notes and links
A very violent video of Israeli soldiers beating up two unarmed Palestinian men for four minutes for no apparent reason. No date. watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Qpg2CLT9Fno
IDF takes over Palestinian village for live-fire training exercises, Donna Baranski-Walker, Mondoweiss, June 29, 2012
from“The Principles of Newspeak
An appendix to “1984”
By George Orwell, 1948
The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc* — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.
*IngSoc was English Socialism; substitute whatever abbreviation best expressions the limited set of euphemisms and calumnies which constitute discourse about Israeli rule over Palestinians.
Alice Though the Looking Glass
When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”