Thursday, July 10, 2014

Israeli Society and the Occupation

If you read my posts, or my Facebook feed, it's pretty clear that I am biased when it comes to Israel. I have a pretty clear point of view. I firmly believe that Israel is strongly in the right when it comes to the ongoing conflict with the Palestinian Authority. I firmly believe that the Palestinian people's refusal to accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state is the fundamental reason for the conflict, and that things that Israel has done, such as building and expanding settlements in the Occupied Territories, may exacerbate the situation, but can't realistically be blamed for the existence of the conflict. I still fundamentally believe all of that. But, like I keep saying, I'm trying to keep an open mind, and open eyes, and read pieces and opinions from those who see things differently.

Today, Sarah Posner has a piece up called "The Ghosts and Illusions of the Occupation." I usually disagree with what she writes about Israel--she often seems to blame Israel where I think that Israel is the one being treated unfairly (e.g. she probably thinks that the Occupation is one of the primary reasons for the ongoing conflict). But, this is a piece, along with a few others I've seen in a similar vein, which has important things to say about Israel. Because, even if I'm right, and there's nothing that Israel can do to end this conflict--that no concession or compromise will ever make the current Palestinian leadership serious about a peaceful 2-state solution--that doesn't mean that Israeli society doesn't have some real soul-searching to do:
Sharon Abraham-Weiss, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel wrote this week, “It is clear that the current tension does not exist in a vacuum. Alongside the complex security situation, Israeli society has undergone a significant shift in recent years where it has become increasingly radical, nationalistic and antagonistic to ‘the other.’”
(Still, though, hope: Elisheva Goldberg reported hundreds of Israeli Jews paying their respects to the mourners for Mohammed Abu Khdeir.)
“The current bleak situation is strengthened,” writes Brooklyn College historian Louis Fishman, “by the fact that there is a total lack of will by the Israeli state to promote co-existence and to educate the Jewish population about the national minority within them, that they too have a legitimate right to the Land. In fact, while the current government plans at allocating money to strengthen Israeli ties with the Jewish diaspora, there are none for creating a safe haven for its non-Jewish citizens.”

Let me beat this dead horse--I firmly believe that if every single Israeli were to simultaneously and sincerely declare their love for Palestinians, it would not end the conflict. I am not blaming Israel for what is happening*. But, that doesn't mean that Israel doesn't have a growing problem with how it views and treats Palestinians, both inside and outside the country. And that doesn't mean that that view doesn't have real consequences.

* And, as an aside, even if you do blame Israel, if you think that makes constant rocket attacks, fired from civilian centers, aimed at civilian centers, a reasonable or "understandable" thing to do, then I think you're pretty far gone, morally speaking.

First of all, there's the issue of how these Palestinians are treated, right now. Especially those who are Israeli citizens deserve, without question, equal treatment. If Arab neighborhoods get worse schooling, worse utility service, worse police protection (and, I'm not sure that they do, but I hear it enough that I tend to believe it), then that's a problem. I don't accept that kind of treatment for minority and/or poor neighborhoods in America, and I don't know why it would be ok in Israel, either.

And, then there's the matter of the future. Even if, like me, you don't think that the conflict is resolvable right now, that doesn't mean that it will never be. Forever is a long time, and I have hope that, even if peace isn't achievable now, even if it's not achievable in my lifetime, that doesn't mean that it's never achievable. Jews and Muslims are similar in that we've both seen that history is long, and what is impossible today seems like it was inevitable, down the road. Our stories attest to the possibility of the impossible. But, if we demonize the Palestinians in the minds of Jews, and if we embitter the lives of Palestinians, giving them reason to demonize us, then we make that future much less attainable.

I always take these reports about Israel's malfeasance with a grain of salt, because they are often later shown to be exaggerated, or unfair, or outright lies. But, sometimes they're true. And while I still maintain that Israel didn't cause this war, it's still in Israel's interest, to say nothing of it being moral, to do whatever it can to help bring it to an end, and to help prevent the next one. You can plant the seeds of peace, even while waging war. It's not easy. But, we are a people who believes in the possibility of the impossible.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Immigration, and the kindness of Glenn Beck

In a moment designed to confuse liberals like myself, Glenn Beck has decided to show real compassion to suffering children who are here in America illegally.
“We’re going to fill some tractor-trailers with food, with water,” Beck said. “The churches have asked us if we could bring teddy bears and soccer balls, so we’ve loaded up a whole tractor-trailer of nothing but teddy bears and soccer balls. And then I’m going to go serve breakfast and lunch, and I’m going to help unload these trucks, hot meals for 3,000. That’s what we’re doing.”
I'm making light of how liberals like me would usually respond to Beck vs. how most of us will likely view this moment, but it's important to say--kudos to Beck for this kindhearted, generous-of-spirit act. And, for being willing to stand up against those on the right, with whom he is normally aligned, to do this.

But, it's those angry responders on the right that I want to think about for a moment. I've been getting more informed in recent months about the illegal immigrant issue, although I'm still far from an expert. I understand that this is another truly complicated issue. Through a combination of a ridiculous immigration policy and awful enforcement of the laws on our books, we have helped to create a situation where there are millions of people in this country illegally, some of them for years or even decades. Simply declaring amnesty for all of them, even along with a major revision of our laws and enforcement, seems like a refusal to respect the law. I get why people don't like that option. But, at the same time, what can we actually do? Deport millions of people? Look the other way and allow them to continue to exist in a dangerous, often inhumane shadow society? Those aren't real options (or, at least, not options I can imagine us taking seriously). Like I said, this one really is complicated.

But, parts of it don't have to be. Say what you will about adults who decide to come over to America without legal authorization to do so. But, the children they bring with them? They're just children. They're kids, and they're afraid, and they're hungry. Helping them--making them feel just a little bit better--is so clearly a decent, kind, human thing to do that it's hard to imagine anyone could object.

But, of course, there are people who do object.
Everybody is telling me I’m seeing subscriptions down; I’m seeing Mercury One donations down. I’m getting violent emails from people who say, you know, I’ve ‘betrayed the Republic.’ Whatever.
There are people who are so anti-immigration, and so anti-immigrant, that even this simple act of basic humanity is too much for them. Some of them are even leveling death-threats at Beck. Death threats. For bringing food and toys to children.

I don't care if their parents are fascist radical-Islam supporting terrorist rapists who use child-slave-labor. That's the parents. These are kids. If you can't feel sympathy for kids who are suffering, if you hate people who do feel sympathy for kids who are suffering, then something is very, very broken inside of you. This isn't complicated.

I'll end with a quote from Beck:
“When America stops being good, we are no longer able to be great.”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Israel and Fairness

An old friend of mine complained about my blog post from yesterday. She called it over-simplified and one-sided. She says that rather than pointing fingers, we have to look at what we can do to make the situation better and help to bring an end to this madness. I'm honestly, sincerely, trying to see her point--she is a very smart woman, and she has chosen to live in Israel, so she knows what's going on from a much closer vantage point than I do. And so, I don't take her opinion lightly, and I don't want to dismiss it.

But, at the same time, I have a very hard time seeing it. I have never, ever been an "Israel is always right" person. I know that Israelis have often done terrible, awful things. And--this is very different, and much more relevant--the Israeli government has sometimes done them, as well*. And, some of those actions have surely made peace more difficult to achieve--the expansion of settlements is the obvious example. Some of that expansion can be easily justified (much of it is really just the expansion of already existing neighborhoods into the edge of the territories), but some is pretty clearly an attempt to grab more land and, possibly/probably intentionally, make it harder to ever create a reasonable, secure Palestinian state. So, no, Israel is not blameless.

* I say it's more relevant because I don't think we should judge a society by the actions of its worst members; we should judge it by the reaction of the larger society to those awful actions. 

When a group of Israelis capture and (almost certainly) burn alive an innocent Palestinian teen--that is among the worst, most evil actions I can possibly imagine. I don't have the words to adequately describe my disgust and horror at this, and I'm sick to think that these murderers, in any way, are connected to me or my religion. But, the swift, clear condemnation and pursuit of justice from Israel and the vast majority of the Jewish world says a lot about who we really are. It's a sign, I fervently hope and believe, that we are better than scum who claim to represent us through violence.

But, I don't want to come off as too even-handed here, because I truly believe that being overly even-handed in this situation would be unfair and fundamentally untrue. Yes, Israel has done some bad things, and yes, Israel has done some things to make the situation worse. But they simply can't compare to what the PLO, Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian leadership has done.

I was thinking about my friend's comments a lot last night and this morning, and I was really trying to sit with them, and not dismiss them. And then I came across yet another article which pointed out yet another (not new) inequity. The wider world is so ready to, subtly and not so subtly, blame Israel for so much, but turns a blind-eye what it happening to Israel:
Since the beginning of this year, Gaza terrorists have fired more than 450 rockets on Israel, with about half of them coming since mid-June, when two Hamas terrorists kidnapped and brutally murdered three Israeli teenagers.
Why is it that a majority of the international community only notices when Israel undertakes its sovereign right, and obligation, to defend its citizens? Can you imagine if even one rocket was fired on London, Washington, Paris or Moscow? This is simply intolerable and no country can, or should, tolerate such attacks on its people.
Where is the outrage from the United Nations, which does not hesitate for a moment to call a "special emergency session" on the "Question of Palestine" or pass the umpteenth resolution blindly condemning Israel? But 24 hours after the rocket attacks on Israel started, I am still waiting for even one syllable of condemnation from the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly or the Human Rights Council.
I admit, it's a bit of a non-sequiter. Talking about how to apportion blame for the underlying conflict is not the same as talking about who is engaging in the conflict in a more legal, moral way. Logically, theoretically speaking, it's entirely possible to say that two groups are equally responsible for a conflict, but only one is fighting fairly. But, I can't help feel that there's a connection here. Israel has been imperfect but, overall, unbelievably right in how it's handled this decades-old conflict.

It offered to exchange the newly occupied territories, just days after they were captured, in exchange for peace. They were unequivocally rebuffed. Several times since, the same fundamental offer was made--Israel would return the territories (often with some alteration and compensation), asking only to be allowed to exist, safely, as a Jewish state. It's always been rejected.

My understanding is that has always been the basic calculus of the situation. Israel would gladly live side by side with a Palestinian State. The Palestinian leadership has never been willing to reciprocate. Is that overly-simplistic? Probably. There's always a lot of nuance and caveats in the real world. But, it might still represent a reasonable summation of the basis for this conflict.

My friend compare the situation to marriage counseling--progress will only be made when each side stops blaming the other, and instead commits to making the changes they need to make. But, is that always the case? To expand the metaphor, if one partner really doesn't have any interest in being faithful, or if one partner is physically abusive, even if the other has done some wrong, can we really say that they are equally responsible for the trouble in the marriage, or that there is anything that the abused partner can, or should, do to make things better?

I know that I'm one-sided on this. And, like I said yesterday, I hate that. I'm deeply committed to seeing both sides of arguments, in almost all situations. And, in my heart, I really am still a liberal peacenik. I want to be able to believe in the prospect of peace, and that if we just find a way to talk and negotiate, we can get there.

But, when Hamas (a partner in the current Palestinian leadership) calls murderous kidnappers "heroes," and sends hundreds of rockets into Israel, deliberately aiming to kill and injure as many civilians as possible, I have a hard time believing that.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Heart Lies In The East

For some reason, I've had a hard time staying on the blogging wagon. I can't find/make the time to blog much, of late. I was all set to do so--I had some time today, and some good articles about which to comment. And, I'll get to them, soon, because I really do like the give-and-take that I sometimes get from a good blog post.

But, today, they all seem kind of pointless. Because, today, I keep reading about Israel.

Like all of you, I read about the three Israeli teens, killed just because they were Jewish. I read about the Palestinian teen who was killed because Israeli Jews were angry at all Arabs and forgot what it means to be a Jew. I read about a Palestinian teen from Tampa who was assaulted by Israeli security forces, perhaps after he assaulted or threatened them. I read about the rockets flying into Israeli population centers, the protection offered by Iron Dome, and about the Israeli response to these murderous attacks.

There is so much to say, and others are saying most of it so well. But, when I read the terribly unfair, biased, double-standard reporting out there, one basic fact keeps coming back to me.

This war is not Israel's fault.

Israel wants peace. Not every Israeli, of course. But, overwhelmingly. Polls show that, overwhelmingly, the people would choose to live in peace, side-by-side with a Palestinian State. A politician who managed to pull off an honest-to-God land-for-peace deal? She or he would get a street in every city named after them.

But, the leaders of the Palestinian people, and a distressingly large chunk of their population just don't feel that way. Too many of them still only want the peace that comes from seeing all Jews leave the land. The peace that comes from destroying us. A leader who brought that same deal to the Palestinian people would have to fear for his life.

I hate writing this. I hate the fact that what I have to say about Israel comes across as so one-sided. I hate writing in a way which can be perceived as hateful. So, please believe me when I tell you that I am among those who long for a day when the Palestinian people have a vibrant, safe land of their own. They deserve it, and Israel needs it to be so.

But, what I hate even more is that, all of these years later, Golda Meir is still right. There will be no peace until the Palestinians love their children more than they hate us. I pray that day is soon.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Thought About Gun Control

Another mass shooting, this time out in California. 6 Dead.

Yesterday, two groups get into a fight on Clearwater beach, not far from me, and 2 people got shot in 3 separate shooting incidents.

3 dead in a shooting in Lakeland, a bit east of here.

This morning, I've seen a few posts from the father of one of the CA victims, and the man has an intense, burning anger mixed in with his grief. He's furious that, after all of the previous shootings, nothing has been done--really, basically nothing at all--to try to address the scourge of gun violence in this country. He's convinced that his son is dead because our politicians, either in bed with or afraid of the NRA, did nothing.

Look, speaking from a far calmer, less grief-striken place, I know that the world isn't that simple. There wasn't any law that could have been passed post-Sandy Hook which would have guaranteed that this man's son would now be alive. We can't draw a straight line like that.

But, for God's sake, we haven't even been able to close the gun-show loophole, and institute universal background checks. So many dead children (I can't bring myself to look up the exact number) in Newtown, and not one piece of legislation passed which even attempts to stem the tide (although, there have been plenty of laws passed which expand or protect gun-rights). Which even attempt to make a difference in the right direction. A gun dealer--a gun dealer--received death threats because he had the audacity to try to sell smart-guns. Guns which might--might--reduce gun violence without taking away anyone's right to own a gun.

I really do understand that there aren't simple solutions. Banning "Assault Rifles" is often more of a P.R. stunt than an actual safety measure, because it's so hard to define what, precisely, an Assault Rifle is. Opinions are divided as to whether magazine capacity limits would have any meaningful effect. Background checks can be circumvented in any number of ways. I get it. I really do get it--every proposed law has a problem, a weakness. Many of them have consequences and side-effects that, depending on your point of view, may not be worth the (potentially dubious) benefits of the measure.

But, I'm so tired of hearing that we can't do anything. That anything that we try to do, from outlawing the most dangerous guns, to making guns safer, to trying to keep them out of the wrong people's hands, is always the first step towards a full revocation of our rights and an inevitable slide towards a Nazi/fascist regime which is just dying to take away our guns. That guns are always the solution, and anyone who suggests otherwise is just a Commie Bastard who should stop trying to ruin America.

I hate fanatics of all stripes, and that included gun fanatics. I'm more than willing to defend the 2nd amendment, and your right to own guns. But, those who are firmly in the pro-gun camp have an equal responsibility to engage in sane, adult conversation about how to make our society safer. About how to reduce gun deaths. About how to make our world safer.

About how to keep one more parent from burying a child who didn't have to die.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Rational Mysticism

This is on the "topics I really want to start blogging about, but can't seem to find the time to do it well" list. But, I came across another oldish article I wanted to blog about, so it's giving me an excuse to at least dip my toe into this. I really hope I can get more out there, soon. But, let's begin...

To most people, mysticism is, almost literally, the opposite of rationality. I'm pretty sure that it was my teacher Dr. Larry Hoffman who said that most people's working definition of mysticism is, "weird religious things that other people do, but I don't." "Mysticism" conjures up images of people in flowing robes, burning incense and claiming to have access to alternative dimensions. Lots of swaying and fingerbells, mixed in with a healthy dose of pseudo-metaphysical talk. Not exactly my cup of tea, to put it mildly.

But, what if that's not what mysticism really is. Or, at least not what it has to be? What if there is a mysticism which is, in fact, quite doggedly rational? What would that look like?

Many of you reading this know that I have an intellectual crush on Rabbi Art Green and, especially, his book Radical Judaism. Well, in that book, and in that recent article I came across, Green tries to explicate a new vision for Judaism, one which is based on a modern, fully rational mysticism. Here's how he explains it in radical Judaism:
"The sacred" refers to an inward, mysterious sense of awesome presence, a reality deeper than the kind we ordinarily experience. Life bears within it the possibility of inner transcendence; the moments when we glimpse it are so rare and powerful that they call upon us to transform the rest of our lives in their wake.… When that mask of ordinariness falls away, our consciousness is left with a moment of nakedness, a confrontation with a reality that we do not know how to put into language. (Radical Judaism, page 4)
There's nothing esoteric about this. He's describing an awareness and an experience which most of us have had, to 1 degree or another, or the very least can understand. He isn't making any claims about the underlying nature of the universe, or of the independent reality of supernal realms. He simply talking about the natural, human ability to sense something transcendent in the world around us. That sense that we get, often when standing at the sea or the edge of the Grand Canyon, that there's more to the world than we can really take in or comprehend.

Or, as he says a bit later in his book (page 18), he simply believes that the whole world "is mysteriously and infinitely greater than the sum of its parts" and that "this [reality] is accessible to human experience." Put even more simply, the world is radically more Awesome and, if you're willing to use the language, Holy, than we tend to see on a daily basis, but there are ways that we can attune ourselves to see that Awesomeness and Holiness more regularly. In the article I keep referring to, he offers a pretty great summary of a Judaism based on this neo-mystical vision:
A Judaism that will speak to the emerging twenty-first century generations is only beginning to emerge. In contrast to Kaplan’s era, its point of departure will be the Jewish mystical rather than the rationalist tradition. A radical spiritualization of Judaism’s truth, begun within Hasidism some two hundred years ago, needs to be updated and universalized to appeal to today’s Jewish seeker. It offers the possibility of a religious language that will address contemporary concerns while calling for a deep faith-based attachment to the essential forms and tropes of Jewish piety. Mystical religion by its very nature shifts the focus of attention away from the positive/historical and inward toward the devotional/experiential. The question is not: “Do you believe that God created the world, and when?” but rather “Do you encounter a divine presence in the natural world around you?” and “What does that encounter call upon you to do?” We are not concerned with “Did Israel hear God’s word at Sinai, and how much of the Torah was given there?” but rather “Can you feel yourself standing before the mountain as you hear the words of Torah?” The “events” of Israel’s sacred narrative are read here as myth rather than history, but their voice is made more powerful rather than less as they call forth deep personal engagement and commitment. The God of this religion is not the commanding Other who rules over history, but rather the still, small voice from within that calls upon us to open our hearts and turn our lives toward goodness, even in the face of terrible human evil and the inexplicable reality of nature’s indifference to our individual human plight. This sort of new mystical or Neo-Hasidic piety turns toward the natural world as a source of inspiration, seeing existence itself as an object of wonder and devotion. It finds the miraculous in daily life and tends to focus its religious energy on the building and celebration of human community.
What if there is a way to be fully rational, to not have to abdicate one iota of our intellectual capacity, but still find Awesome transcendence in the world? What if it's possible to have the faith of the mystic while maintaining the mind of a scientist? What if I could actually say in polite company that I'm a mystic, without having to feel like I need to apologize for that? 10 years ago, I would have laughed at the idea. Maybe even a lot more recently than that. But, not now. Now, it's seeming more and more clear that it's the truth.

Yeah.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Israel, Apartheid and Antisemitism

A few weeks ago, I posted an article on Facebook about how Roger Waters, musician and former member of Pink Floyd, had once again been accusing Israel of being an Apartheid regime and so forth. I can't find the exact posting (why, oh why, do you make finding these things so hard, Facebook?), But if you search for it, it won't be hard to find something of the sort. Waters is a long time opponent/attacker of Israel, and he's lobbed around the Apartheid slander before. The article and my comments about it referred to Waters as an anti-semite. One of my most thoughtful friends wrote me privately, asking about that.

He had done some searching of his own to find out what Waters really believed and stood for. And he found that Waters claims that he isn't the least bit anti-Semitic, but that he vigorously opposes Israel's various racist policies. Isn't it possible, Waters claims and my friend asks, to be a critic of Israel, even a harsh critic, while not being anti-Semitic? It's a reasonable question, and I responded to him briefly in private messages, but promised a bit fuller of a response. Well, better late than never…

It's important to start with some understanding of the overall situation, because that frames the larger discussion. Although Israel, like probably every single country in the world, most certainly including the United States, has issues with discrimination, calling it an Apartheid state is simply ridiculous. Michael Oren, Israel's former ambassador to the United States, wrote a fantastic op-ed about this recently. He reminds us that Apartheid was a systematic legal framework intended at keeping a white minority in a place of political, social and economic dominance over the black majority. It was a pervasive system of segregation.

Compare that to the State of Israel. Arab/Muslim citizens of Israel have full rights. They can vote and form their own parties (and they often do). I believe it is still the case that there has never been a Knesset (Israeli Parliament) without representatives from those parties. There have been (and, I'm pretty sure, currently are) Arab judges on the Israeli Supreme Court. And, of course, Arab citizens are allowed to petition the court in the same way that any citizen would be, and they use that right to great effect (which is a very good thing, by the way). The Israeli Basic Laws (their rough equivalent of a Constitution) guarantee religious freedom and that freedom has been well protected (if not perfectly so) by the Israeli government. Here's one example: when Jordan controlled the Old City of Jerusalem, Jews were forbidden from entering it. But, when the Israelis recaptured it in '67, one of the first acts of the government was to declare that the Muslim holy sites, including and especially those on top of the Temple Mount, would remain accessible to Muslims. When, in the late 80s and early 90s, there started to be large amounts of conflict on the Temple Mount between Muslims and Jews, the Israeli government took the extraordinary step of banning Jews from going up there, and so preserved the ability of the Muslims to pray peacefully on the Mount.

I could go on, but I think the point is fairly clear. Calling Israel an Apartheid regime is nothing less than ludicrous. Of course there are counterexamples — of course there have been instances were Israel has acted in ways which do not reflect equality and religious freedom. Many times, Muslims have used the Supreme Court to find redress against such policies, and they've often been successful. I'm not claiming that Israel is a perfect icon of openness and acceptance; I am claiming that Israel is a vibrant democracy in which its Arab and Muslim citizens quite literally have more rights and freedoms than they would have in possibly any single other country in the Middle East.

I'll also admit that the situation gets muddier in the Occupied Territories, which have been so occupied since that '67 war. Reasonable people can debate whether Israel has acted largely fairly in those territories, or in which instances it has or hasn't done so. But, I maintain that Israel finds itself in a completely untenable situation — it occupied territory as the result of a war which it didn't start. And, although it's settlement policy admittedly hasn't made the situation better, there has never been a clear path for Israel to get out of those territories — there's never been an honest partner for peace, or a safe, sane way for Israel to withdraw. Israel hasn't been a perfectly moral occupier, but I'm fairly sure that such a thing isn't even possible. Israel has been far, far more moral than most countries would have been in this situation. Criticisms of Israel and its policies are legitimate, but labeling them as Apartheid is not — it's an attempt to delegitimize and demonize the country by analogizing it to one of the worst, most immoral regimes in our lifetimes.

And that brings us to the question of anti-Semitism. As I've said, of course it's possible to criticize Israel and/or its policies without being anti-Semitic. I've certainly been critical of some of those policies, as has just about every Zionist I know (when and how we are willing to air those opinions is another matter). But, when I say that we have to think about the larger context, what I mean is that we have to be aware that Waters' comment was not an isolated one. Israel is, seemingly on a daily basis, accused of Apartheid. Accused of genocide. Accused of human rights abuses. And so on. Israel, far and away the most moral, rights-based country in the Middle East, is portrayed in the public sphere as the pariah of that region. The United Nations General Assembly has made a hobby of condemning Israel at an extraordinary rate — at some point in its history, Israel has been the target of more official condemnations than the rest of the world, combined. Either Israel is actually worse than China, North Korea, Sudan, and all the rest of the vicious, human rights abusers in the world, combined, or Israel is being treated unfairly.

And so, if it's obvious that Israel is being treated unfairly, then we have to ask why it is being treated that way, and why so consistently? Why are press reports so often slanted against Israel (I can't tell you the number of times I've seen a headline such as, "Israel attacks refugee camp," only to have to read to paragraph 13 in the article to learn that the attack was in response to multiple rockets being launched from the camp)? I'm really not the type of person who finds anti-Semitism in every dark corner and under every rock, but I'm pretty sure that anti-Semitism has something to do with the ongoing horrifically unfair treatment of Israel in the wider world.

It's always tricky to jump from the big picture to a specific instance. Like I said, I firmly believe, and can easily defend the view that anti-Semitism plays into Israel's unfair treatment, writ large. And, it seems clear to me that Roger Waters' comments about Israel fit into that larger pattern. But, I do have to admit that I have absolutely no way to know whether Roger Waters is truly anti-Semitic, in his heart. Is it possible that he has simply been misinformed about many of the actual facts of the situation? Is it possible that he does know the facts, but has a radically different interpretation of them than I do, for reasons which have nothing to do with his overall view of Jews? Of course, it's possible. It would be ludicrous of me to claim otherwise. I've never met the man, and most assuredly never will. I do not know him at all. So, on one level, it's fair to criticize me for calling him anti-Semitic; how can I possibly know such a thing?

But, fair or not, I'll maintain my strong suspicion. When someone repeatedly uses the same arguments in language that the more obvious anti-Semites use, it certainly makes me suspicious. When someone attacks Israel in ways which are so clearly disproportionate to any misdeeds it may have done, using heinous language (such as calling them Nazis), it makes me suspicious. When someone continues to single out Israel over other countries which deserve the criticism so, so much more, it makes me suspicious.

No, I don't really know whether Roger Waters is anti-Semitic. But, I know that his views are. I know that his words are. And, that's probably the more important thing to know.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.