Saturday, March 27

Pesach - Festival of Freedom with a Touch of Hypocrisy

Pesach (Passover) is the Festival of Freedom commemorating the Israelites escape from their Egyptian taskmasters to freedom from slavery. This has been observed for thousands of years by Jewish People all over the world.

The question I always ask every year is not "why is this night (Pesach) different from all other nights?" but rather "why is it the same as all other nights?" It is the same as all other nights as nothing has changed. The freedom of another people who have similar aspirations as Israelis concerning personal freedom and the desire for an independent state has been denied to them.

On the one hand, PM Netanyahu pays lip service to a two-state solution to please the world while on the other hand there is no freezing of settlements and it is business as usual. East Jerusalem which is disputed territory is only recognized by Israel as part of its territory. In practice this means building more homes for Jews and further demolitions of Palestinian homes as well as further expulsions.

While the observant and the less observant will be sitting and reading the Haggadah at the Pesach Seder (meal) celebrating the freedom from slavery, no thought will be given to those close to slavery in Israel.

The Palestinians are denied their own state partly because of the folly of their own leadership. The Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank also lacks the vision of pragmatism to help their people to achieve an independent state. Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank believes in rebuilding infrastructures to prepare for a Palestinian state, but he lacks the power base to achieve it. This problem is also compounded by Hamas-ruled Gaza where the situation towards recognizing Israel's right to exist is not part of Hamas ideology or desire. The hateful Hamas rhetoric towards Israel continues as well as the threats and the sporadic firing of Qassam rockets into Israel.

Israel cannot be absolved from its responsibility towards the achievement of a two state solution. The right wing coalition is doing all in its power to maintain the occupation by building new settlements in the occupied territories ensuring that the two states for two peoples will never be achieved. It is obvious that by continuous building in occupied Palestinian proves this. There is no pragmatism on either the Palestinian or Israeli side for a two state solution. The result will be further tension, frustration, violence and hate between the two sides who share a common destiny in the Middle East.

Amos Oz, the famous Israeli writer said in an interview a few years ago, that "both sides are right" in this tragic conflict. This is what makes it so complicated. However, Israel’s desire to colonize the Palestinians by encouraging Jewish settlement in the territories occupied in the 1967 June War proves that Israel has no desire to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines. This means that the Palestinians will remain under Israeli domination as second class citizens in an apartheid-style bilateral state. Surely we have a touch of hypocrisy here! If we celebrate Pesach as a festival of freedom, in the same mode we should respect the freedom of others. Even if all the faults of the Palestinian leadership would disappear, Israel does not intend to end the occupation because of the building of new settlements on occupied lands as well as the expansion of existing settlements under the guise of "natural growth".

Another problem is the status of the foreign worker. Caregivers from the Philippines, contracted Thai workers in agriculture and the building trade are also part of a revolving door policy of the Ministry of the Interior led by God's messenger Eli Yishai of the Shas Party. He has made racist remarks against these foreign workers (probably he had a vision from God to justify his racist attitude toward them).

Many of these workers, especially those who tend to our elderly have a miserable deal and are open to exploitation by their employers. The stranger (ger) amongst us is not treated fairly as he should. This goes against the Torah, but who cares? Deny him/her his freedom, exploit him/her in the hope he goes back from where he comes and does not contaminate the Jewish People. Eli Yishai, the Interior Minister from the racist religious ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, is a xenophobe no less than his compatriots are.

Pesach has become a meaningless exercise whose message is what is Kosher for Pesach and what is not according to the rules of many rabbis whose love of humanity beyond the Jewish pale is questionable. The competition between the state rabbinate and the ultra-Orthodox (Badatz) is despicable and tragic if not ridiculous. The freedom of choice for secular Jews who do not believe in observing Pesach is somewhat limited.

It is a sad day for us all when Judaism becomes the monopoly of right wing rabbis who are part of the establishment that believes in maintaining the occupation and opposes any movement towards a rapprochement with our Palestinian neighbours. If these rabbis are the watch dogs of Jewish observance in Israel I am proud to be an atheist,


Anonymous said...

Shimon my dear friend, I am afraid I find your thoughts in this posting a little too simple and all over the place. You confuse so many subjects and issues and melf them together. Nice of you to give a little blame to the Palestinians and their accursed leadership. We could include almost the whole of the Arabs in that statemnt too. I won't answer every point you try to make, but bring some balance and fairnes to your own people into your comments and make them for yourself rather than what you perceive to be your reading public.
Chag Pesach Sameach.

Anonymous said...

Very well said.. Thank God someone from Israel also sees the truth..