Paul Eisen

Paul Eisen

Monday, 14 January 2013

Putting their feet to the fire

I'd only just started posting reports from the JWPF vigils outside Beth Israel Temple in Ann Arbor and about Jewish political accountability when
learned that this lonely little protest is now not quite so lonely. Someone else is now doing the same and, blow me, if these two ragged little bands of Jews and their friends haven't had the bloody chutzpah to hold a summit meeting no less!




Here's a brief taster of what happened and you can read more in the Beth Israel report after this message.

Amtrak Hosts Synagogue Vigil Summit
In the early hours of December 3, a meeting of the leaders of the only two known synagogue protests in the world was held at the Amtrak terminal in Denver, Colorado. The California Zephyr stopped for fuel and supplies while plans to continue protests in Ann Arbor and Boulder on Saturday mornings were shared.




But before you read the report, don't you think it's time that this spread? Should you not perhaps also consider picketing your local synagogue?

Oh, but it seems so inappropriate, so unfair! One should never mix politics with religion (so we're told) and there does seem something a bit unseemly about picketing a house of worship.

But hang on a minute. Is it so unfair? Is it so inappropriate? Sure, no-one would want to interrupt the devout at prayer but does that not rather depend to what they are praying and what they're praying for?
 
But let's not rush in. It's a big step. For the moment, how about just a gentle inquiry into your local synagogue's involvement with Israel, Zionism and it's attitude to Israel's atrocities? Does your local synagogue display an Israeli flag? Does it include prayers for Israel in its liturgy? Does it organise and fund-raise for Israel? What about the sermons preached (do check those sermons preached while the various assaults on Gaza were in progress)
Oh, and by the way, I don't see anything wrong with Jews supporting Israel politically both outside and inside the synagogues - but if they do act politically, then they are liable to be accountable politically.



Anyway, after you've completed your investigations, and if you think there may be a case to answer, why not a polite letter?  Then...well, who knows?
 
 

Amtrak Hosts Synagogue Vigil Summit
In the early hours of December 3, a meeting of the leaders of the only two known synagogue protests in the world was held at the Amtrak terminal in Denver, Colorado. The California Zephyr stopped for fuel and supplies while plans to continue protests in Ann Arbor and Boulder on Saturday mornings were shared. Since that time, Michael Rabb, of the Colorado University Divestment organization (cu-divest) has coordinated another protest at the Bonai Shalom Congregation on December 15. He writes:


We did it again!

Four courageous partisans for Free Palestine stood vigil in front of Congregation Bonai Shalom this morning, the last day of Hanukka. We were “greeted” by way more thumbs up and horn-honks than by people giving us the finger.

Read more about their successful protest here.

Déjà vu All Over Again

Michael is faced with Jewish peace activists quite upset with his efforts to ask American Jews to stop supporting Israel. Michael’s critics employ the same types of false premises and specious arguments directed against Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends. We used to get “well reasoned” letters explaining how our message was sound, but the location left room for improvement. Here’s a comment from a concerned Jewish friend of Michael’s:


Wouldn’t it be far better to focus your attention, now, in areas where you can be effective?

In other words, “Go away.” We Jewish activists (JWPF recalls the DEW* signals from Phillis Engelbert and Laurie White of Ann Arbor’s then-largest bit now-defunct “peace” group) will tell you what is effective and what isn’t, and brother, standing in front of a synagogue with protest signs sure as heck isn’t.

Michael’s critic continues:


Furthermore, my suggestions were not to Pause, but rather to consider carefully where you apply your current strategy, and it comes from my own experience as a Jew undergone significant and life altering transformation.

We see that Michael, afflicted with goyische limited intelligence, needs supervision and parental care to see that his efforts deliver the most bang for the buck. And who better to perform this task than peace activist Jews whose only goal appears to be preventing Jews from being held in any way responsible for the travesty that is the Jewish state. By the way, did you catch the “creds” delivered by this concerned friend of Michael’s?

Fortunately, Michael is not swayed by such argumentation. Nor is he swayed by the old “progressive” plea. Again, from Michael’s critic:


I just called into question your selection a house of worship and of a very progressive Jewish congregation – that next week will begin a series of Jewish-Palestinian dialogues with congregants, and one whose Rabbi is very sympathetic to the cause of Palestinian justice – he just doesn’t want to meet with you (he heard you are argumentative and unresponsive).

According to this critic – and to many an Ann Arbor Jew who will not hold their own community accountable – if we just go away, they will be able to bring their message of peace and understanding to the Jewish community in the only way that community will understand. Only then will there be peace in Palestine.

Except … that prior to these “ineffective” synagogue vigils, when Jewish intellectuals ruled the debate, little or nothing positive for Palestinians had been achieved; in fact, the wanton aggression and disregard for human rights by the Jewish state has only increased. So when upstart groups like CU-Divest and JWPF challenge Jewish supremacism in Palestine and in our own local communities, these advance sayanim [Hebrew: assistant] rush to the defense of the guilty, and in so doing, throw Palestine once again under the wheels of the train.