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The Qualified Quest for Justice

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 copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Just days ago, throughout the globe, people celebrated religious holidays.  Peace on Earth and good will to all men was the palpable feeling that filled the air.  Everywhere anyone turned expressions of fondness for our fellow beings could be heard.  People were filled with glee.  Then, suddenly, the sound that is the silent hum of joyous laughter was broken.  Everything changed.  Yet, indeed nothing did.  The cycle of violence that has perpetually existed on this planet began again.  The qualified quest for justice was once more the people's agenda.  In Israel and Gaza, bombs blasted.  Bullets whizzed by the heads of frantic, frightened people who sought shelter from another Mediterranean storm.  Some died.  Hamas was blamed for the initial attacks, this time.  As had occurred on other occasions, Israel, in the name of self-defense, fought back.  The roles might have been reversed and have been.

Each believes the other is at fault.  One force characterizes the antagonist as an occupier.  Late in 2008, the people who are said to have been the provocateurs are tagged as terrorists.  The monikers are interchangeable and have been for centuries.

This recent barrage of words and weapons was not the first on sacred terrain.  No one expects it will be the last.  Apparently, today, as has been true for eons, people have accepted peace as a temporal occurrence.  It is always followed by war.  

Pious people only pretend to honor the hallowed Commandment found in every faith, "Thou shalt not kill."  In truth, on some principle not evident in scriptures, the Bible, the Qur'an, or other religious teaching, humans conclude all men and Not created equal.

For the wise, the worthy, the wondrous creatures who believe all beings are created equally, and in G-d's image, the concept of fairness and empathy for all others are only ones of convenience.  These can be, and by all means should be, ignored, when a country, clan, chap, or cute daughter of Eve feels there is reason for self-defense.  When the quest for conquest is greater than the desire for tranquility, justice is found in a series of deadly explosions!

Rational persons become self-righteous when they feel attacked or wish to assault another.  Whatever excuses an ethical individual, or a respectable region, can find to intellectualize war will serve a being who wishes to be brutal.  One need only reflect upon the writings of a few to understand why warfare never ends.

In what would become a foundation for America, within the Declaration of Independence, the words of Thomas Jefferson appear, "All me are created equal."  This thought was meant to remind citizens of this country of a tenet adopted in ancient times, by not just one, but by many religions.  

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A Jewish theologian, Torah scholar, Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld reflects on a historical reality rarely honored by modern man.  "(A)ll men are created equal"(women too for that matter), and, as eloquently as Thomas Jefferson put it, this comes directly from our own Torah.  Maimonides (Mishne Torah, Hil' Teshuva 5:2) writes that unlike the belief of foolish Gentiles and unlearned Jews that each person is predestined to good or evil, it is within the ability of each person to determine his or her own fate."

Rabbi Rosenfeld then further elucidates each of us can be virtuous or iniquitous.  As individuals, apart from our intellectual measure, personal milieu, history, monetary means, or influence we have the capacity to choose what we wish to do and who we yearn to be.

The scholar and teacher of Torah, Dovid Rosenfeld shares the observations of another, devout academician, Dean of Aish HaTorah International, Rabbi Noach Weinberg (www.aish.com), "We are certainly not equal when it comes to talents, predilections, or natural abilities.  But in this one regard we areall equal: we all possess souls.  We have the potential to develop ourselves, whether in goodness or wickedness, and we possess the free will to determine which path we will follow.  Goodness and closeness to G-d are not reserved for the intellectual, the scholarly, or the well-pedigreed.  It is the inherent right of all mankind and the simple fact of our humanity."

While many amongst the Jewish faithful quote the wisdom of each of these devout devotees of the Almighty, the significance of the statements is void in action.  The same is true in Islamic tradition.  Several fervent followers find solace in the scriptures; indeed, "The Glorious Qur'an mentions, with commendation, Prophet Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as it does to Prophet Moses (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)," others who purport to believe in teachings of Islam, Hamas amid these, ignore the splendor found in the religious text. 

Islam aims at eliminating all aspects of racism and dislikes prejudiced-oriented party gatherings.  Islam, equally, disapproves all acts leading to disputes, fights, among individuals and peoples.  Islam requires its followers to believe in the Divine Messages and Scriptures of all previous nations [community] in order to eliminate any hatred or biased feelings.  Islam considers such an act as one of the essential tenants of faith.

While the most boisterous today, and for centuries, have beat the battle drums, murdered, caused mayhem, massacred, and engaged in the most dire deeds, all in the name of justice, a very few participate in another, more harmonic quest.  

These individuals believe in sacrosanct traditions too.  The truly peaceful propose actions must reflect religious and rational reason.  Those who work towards universal serenity walk with the Lord on holy days and during the most mundane of times.  Advocates of amicable exchanges and equality for all, aspire to a stable serenity, as is referenced in theological text.  

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"Pacifists,", do not adopt the vicious edicts of those who think war will bring about peace, albeit, the warriors admit, provisionally.  The tranquil people have faith that all men, women, and children can choose how they wish to respond to conflict.  People are free to engage in good or evil.

Those on a quest for nonviolent justice, one without qualifiers that restrict the significance of religious commandments, talk without the accompaniment of a big stick.  They walk with a sincere sense of awe for kindnesses.  They also type articles that advocate for empathy and avoid the argument of self-defense.

Thus, on November 10, 2000, Deborah Ducrocq, then Managing Editor of the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, a devout Jew in her own right, published an article, she received.  The missive penned by another Judaic faithful, Judith Stone, is titled, "The Quest for Justice." The tone and transcript were considered controversial by the clannish amongst the American Jews.  Indeed, after the missive appeared, the Ms Ducrocq was promptly dismissed by her ?superiors.

Yet, as much as the words offended the Jewish employers, for persons who struggle with a spiritual history, Jew, Gentile, and Islamist who yearn for authentic and lasting global harmony, the wisdom Judith Stone inscribed, and Deborah Ducrocq delivered, resonates.

While some might say this early essay is no longer politically pertinent, others trust, the sentiment expressed is as valid today as it was then, and will be tomorrow.   


"Quest for Justice" 
By Judith Stone

I am a Jew.  I was a participant in the Rally for the Right of Return to Palestine.  It was the right thing to do.  I've heard about the European holocaust against the Jews since I was a small child.  I've visited the memorials in Washington, DC and Jerusalem dedicated to Jewish lives lost and I've cried at the recognition to what level of atrocity mankind is capable of sinking.

Where are the Jews of conscience?  No righteous malice can be held against the survivors of Hitler's holocaust.  These fragments of humanity were in no position to make choices beyond that of personal survival.  We must not forget that being a survivor or a co-religionist of the victims of the European Holocaust does not grant dispensation from abiding by the rules of humanity.

"Never again" as a motto, rings hollow when it means "never again to us alone."  My generation was raised being led to believe that the biblical land was a vast desert inhabited by a handful of impoverished Palestinians living with their camels and eking out a living in the sand.  The arrival of the Jews was touted as a tremendous benefit to these desert dwellers.  Golda Mier even assured us that there "is no Palestinian problem."

We know now this picture wasn't as it was painted.  Palestine was a land filled with people who called it home.  There were thriving towns and villages, schools and hospitals.  There were Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  In fact, prior to the occupation, Jews represented a mere 7 percent of the population and owned 3 percent of the land.

Taking the blinders off for a moment, I see a second atrocity perpetuated by the very people who should be exquisitely sensitive to the suffering of others.  These people knew what it felt like to be ordered out of your home at gun point and forced to march into the night to unknown destinations or face execution on the spot.  The people who displaced the Palestinians knew first hand what it means to watch your home in flames, to surrender everything dear to your heart at a moment's notice.  Bulldozers leveled hundreds of villages, along with the remains of the village inhabitants, the old, and the young.  This was nothing new to the world.

Poland is a vast graveyard of the Jews of Europe.  Israel is the final resting place of the massacred Palestinian people.  A short distance from the memorial to the Jewish children lost to the holocaust in Europe there is a leveled parking lot.  Under this parking lot is what's left of a once flourishing village and the bodies of men, women, and children whose only crime was taking up needed space and not leaving graciously.  This particular burial marker reads: "Public Parking."

I've talked with Palestinians.  I have yet to meet a Palestinian who hasn't lost a member of their family to the Israeli Shoah, nor a Palestinian who cannot name a relative or friend languishing under inhumane conditions in an Israeli prison.  Time and time again, Israel is cited for human rights violations to no avail.  On a recent trip to Israel, I visited the refugee camps inhabited by a people who have waited 52 years in these 'temporary' camps to go home.  Every Palestinian grandparent can tell you the name of their village, their street, and where the olive trees were planted.

Their grandchildren may never have been home, but they can tell you where their great-grandfather lies buried and where the village well stood.  The press has fostered the portrait of the Palestinian terrorist.  But, the victims who rose up against human indignity in the Warsaw Ghetto are called heroes.  Those who lost their lives are called martyrs.  The Palestinian who tosses a rock in desperation is a terrorist.

Two years ago I drove through Palestine and watched intricate sprinkler systems watering lush green lawns of Zionist settlers in their new condominium complexes, surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire in the midst of a Palestinian community where there was not adequate water to drink and the surrounding fields were sandy and dry.  University professor Moshe Zimmerman reported in the Jerusalem Post (April 30, 1995), "The [Jewish] children of Hebron are just like Hitler's youth."

We Jews are suing for restitution, lost wages, compensation for homes, land, slave labor and back wages in Europe.  Am I a traitor of a Jew for supporting the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their birthplace and compensation for what was taken that cannot be returned?

The Jewish dead cannot be brought back to life and neither can the Palestinian massacred be resurrected.  David Ben Gurion said, "Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves... politically, we are the aggressors and they defend themselves...The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country..."

Palestine is a land that has been occupied and emptied of its people.  It's cultural and physical landmarks have been obliterated and replaced by tidy Hebrew signs.  The history of a people was the first thing eradicated by the occupiers.  The history of the indigenous people has been all but eradicated as though they never existed.  And all this has been hailed by the world as a miraculous act of G-d.  We must recognize that Israel's existence is not even a question of legality so much as it is an illegal fait accompli realized through the use of force while supported by the Western powers.  The UN missions directed at Israel in attempting to correct its violations of have thus far been futile.

In Hertzl's "The Jewish State," the father of Zionism said, "...We must investigate and take possession of the new Jewish country by means of every modern expedient."  I guess I agree with Ehud Barak (3 June 1998) when he said, "If I were a Palestinian, I'd also join a terror group."  I'd go a step further perhaps.  Rather than throwing little stones in desperation, I'd hurtle a boulder.

Hopefully, somewhere deep inside, every Jew of conscience knows that this was no war; that this was not G-d's restitution of the holy land to it's rightful owners.  We know that a human atrocity was and continues to be perpetuated against an innocent people who couldn't come up with the arms and money to defend themselves against the western powers bent upon their demise as a people.

We cannot continue to say, "But what were we to do?"  Zionism is not synonymous with Judaism.  I wholly support the rally of the right of return of the Palestinian people. 


Indeed, what is to be done amidst the bombs and bullets.  Those who have faith in talk, treatises that remain forever intact and tranquility can only bemoan the truth when they witness calm, compassionate, persons, who say they care for all mankind, become clannish when they chatter about political agendas in the Middle East.  

What can anyone do when people preach peace and practice violence in the name of the Lord, Allah, or the Almighty, or even atheist theories.   When the pious come to blows, fist to cuffs, as they fight for freedom and justice for all, or at least all who look or live as they do, what do the quieter "others" do?

The peace lover takes no comfort in the obvious; canons are practiced inconsistently.  Even the religious are ready to attack.  Excuses are made.  Each nation and its inhabitants offer validation for vicious, vindictive, imprudent assaults.  Nor does the antiwar wish to ask questions that are never truly answered.  Is it ethical, inevitable, eternal, and when, or how will it ever end.  Conscientious objector to combat acknowledge the mantra will likely be reactive.  Attack; inquire of ethics anon.

This is why peaceful persons might try not to actively engage in discussions of the affairs in the Mediterranean, ever.  They know.  While warriors wish to answer such inquiries with another, "What would you do if your home were blasted, would you retaliate?"  The peaceful can only ponder, what is this strange quest for justice?  Revenge?

"Don't take vengeance and don't bear a grudge against the members of your nation; love your neighbor as yourself". (Leviticus 19:18.) 
~ Torah

"Those who spend in ease as well as in adversity and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men." 
~ Qur'an

Religious References . . . 

 

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I am an Educator, a student of life; I am an Author. On each path I learn from you and with you. Indeed. we all teach and study. Together we advance awareness and acumen. We learn, grow, and glow greater. Please peruse my prose at BeThink.org and (more...)
 

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