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September 7, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 07, 2012 PAGE 5A . .By Dasee Berkowitz NEW YORK (JTA) Chil- dren beginning to acquire language face some amusing obstacles. Confusing basic words is one of them. My son, for example, loved to stretch out his arms and tell me about something that was the biggest or the best "... in the whole wide world." My heart smiled every time. There was something tell- ing in his mistake. Jewish tradition is no stranger to the !ink between words and the world. Words have great power. We recite each morning in the liturgy, "Blessed is the One who spoke and the world came into being" or "Baruch she'amar v'haya ha~olam.'' Words are more than signs. They have the ability to cre- ate. They are intrinsically holy. As S. Ansky relates in "The Dybbuk." "'every word that a man speaks with By Anat Hoffman JERUSALEM (JTA) Knes- set Speaker ~euven Rivlin apologized to Jamal Julany, one of the victims of a racist attack in Zion Square. during his visit to the 17-year-old. "We are sorry," said Rivlin. a Likud Party leader. He went on to say, "It is hard to see you hospitalized because of an inconceivable act" and "What happened is the responsibility of every leader and member of Knesset." The Jewish month of Elul calls us to evaluate our actions and mend ourways to avoid the same mistakes next year. An honest evaluation will reveal that this unprovoked attack on three Arab youths by dozens of Israeli teenagers is part of a phenomenon much broader than the character of these sincerity is the Name of the Lord." For children, words de- scribe what is concrete around them ("book,' .... banana," "car") and communicate their most basic needs ("water," ~'pee"). As adults, our relationship withwords grows much more complex. We use words to build relationships CI love you") and to break them down ("You're fired"). We use them to direct people, manage situations, reflect and pray. We also use words to chart our future behavior. We make promises and vows (in Hebrew called "neder'). Rabbi Jonathan Sacks com- ments on the meaning of a neder by saying, "When we bind ourselves by words, we are using language not to describe but to create to create an orderly future out of the chaos of human instincts and desires." No one knows this more youths. It is the result of the chronology of prolonged Israeli government tolerance toward Jewish religious extremism and its manifestations, and of the government's tacit ac- ceptance of racist incitement toward Israel's f, rab minority by certain members of Knes- set and a number of extreme Orthodox rabbis. Every religion has its ex- tremists; Judaism ~s no dif- ferent. Notably in this raging culture war. the chief rabbi of Safed. Shmuel Eliyahu, has repeatedly called Israel's 1.2 million Arab citizens "the en- emy" and urged Jews notto rent or sell apartments to Arabs. He also claims that all Arabs have a violent nature. In his manifesto published in March 2008. he wrote. "The time has come to tell the truth. Provid- ing a livelihood for our enemies , thansomeonewho istryingto stop some addictive behavior and makes a vow ("I will eat less sugar, I will stop smok- ing"), or who wants to create reliablework habits CIwill get that report to you on time") or build a relationship with oth- ers CI will marry you"). Our promises to ourselves and t0 others guide our behavior and can shape our future. Sacks continues, "What is unique to humans is that we use language to bind our own future behavior so that we can form with other human beings bonds of mutuality and trust." The care with which we choose our words is at the core of building relationships, family lives, commt~nities and a just society. When we speak, ourwords can be relied upon. When we promise to do something, others know we will follo~v through. But even with our best intentions, we fall short in many ways. leads to grave consequences." Shmuel Eliyahu is notalone. There are approximately 50 state-employed Israeli rabbis who. like Eliyahu, engage openly in racist rhetoric toward non-Jews with impunity. While Israeli law clearly states that racist incitement is a criminal offense, there have been no disciplinary measures or a serious police investigation. When leading public figures dehumanize others, the de- scent from hateful speech to violent acts is often swift and severe. These rabbis did not physically attack the three Arab teens still recovering in the hospital, but their words and teachingswere amajor catalyst and a spiritual motivation for their impressionable young fol- lowers to take the next step and actually commit a violent act. There is a direct connection Yom Kippur is our time to reflect on the year that has passed and all the ways we wished we could fulfill the promises and nedarim we made. One of the central aspects of the Yom Kippur liturgy is the confessional prayer, or vidui. In a chant audible only to ourselves, we beat our chest and recite a litany~of missteps that begin. "We sinned before you ..." Hardly an exhaustive list, it represents the whole alphabet of sins (it starts with aleph and ends with tav). It is striking how many times that sins related to speech appear. "We have sinned against you through idle chatter/ the way we talk/foul speech/ foolish talk/gossip/speaking ill of others/everyday conv er- sation"--and the list goes on. The sheer number of sins on the list calling us to consider our speech confronts us to recognize that our talk is cheap. Far from holiness, we between the immunity given to rabbis and the ease with which a group of teenagers beat up a 17-year-old Arab boy to "teach him alesson" about eyeing Jew- ish girls in Zion Square. If the government of Israel is truly appalled by the attack in Zion Square, here is a suggestion: As the state has the power to fire civil servants who are rac- ists, why not use this power immediately? The Israel Religious Action Center is monitoring racist statements by rabbis and pursuing legal and public ac- tion against them. Our recent report, "Love the Stranger as Yourself? Racism in the Name of Halacha," details this dis- turbing trend. Racist incitement recently has taken on a new focus: Jew- ish women and their purity. In Zion Square, flyers are being use our words to fill t he silence at best and malign people at worst. Once sensitized to our overall use of speech, we can go a step deeper and con- sider another transgression mentioned in the confes- sional prayer: "We have sinned against you through empty promise~"(Shvuot Shav). Time and again we have said thatwe will do something and don't follow through. Slowly, these empty promises erode trust that binds people and communities together. I have a personal practice every High Holidays season. Instead of sinking into the feeling of "where to begin" with the" project of self-im- provement presented by the High Holidays, I start small by picking one characterflaw and focusing on correcting it. One year it was my struggle with being late, so being on time was my focus. Another year I felt like my friendships were fading into the background distributed in Arabic that read "Our girls are dear to us, just like you don't want a Jew to date your sister, we also are not willing to accept an Arab dating one of our women. Just like you would do anything to stop a Jew from dating your sister, so would w~ Last week, an Arab who thought he could come here and find a Jewish girlfriend was hurt, we don't want you to get hurt, respect the honor of our girls because they are dear to us!" Misogyny and racism meet again, this time disguised as Judaism. The Israeli Move- ment for Progressive Judaism is working to answer the questions that these recent events pose: What is our Jewish obligation to the non-Jewish minority in Israel? How do we respond to the objectification of women in service of racism? of my recent marriage, so I focused on investing more energy into friendships. Last year, aware that there were many things I did not complete, my vow was to "keep my word." It was an amazing experience~ Ilearne'd to mea- sure my words. I wasn't the first to volunteer for projects that I knew I couldn't com- plete. And the ones to which I did commit, I was devoted to the end. By becoming more conscious about keeping my word, I worked to make my world a little bit more reliable. I certainly have more work to do in this area. Maybe my son, in his in- nocent confusion, was onto something when he mistook "word" for "world ." By keeping our word, we keep our world " together. This Yom Kippur, let us be more conscious of our words, their intrinsic holiness and their powerful potential to create a better world. Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora must offer answers to these burning questions. Jews everywhere have the responsibility to respond to racist statements by Jewish extremists. It is our duty as Jews to remind others and ourselves that the Torah com- mands us to love the stranger 36 times more than any other commandment. Jamal Julany remembers nothing of the attack. He is struggling in his hospital bed to gain back the use of his limbs, his eyes and his ears. We must remind ourselves, and the State of Israel, of every blow he received and demand that the state stop turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to racism in its own ranks. Anat Hoffman is executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center. By Robert Wistrich JERUSALEM (JTA)--After the 1967 Six-Day War, much of the radical left in the West predicated its militant anti-Zionism on the illusory notion that the Palestinians represented a revolutionary and "progressive" vanguard that could one day mobilize the Arab masses in the cause of social revolution. But in 2011. when revo- lution really spread to the Middle East. Palestine was scarcely on the agenda. Not only that. but the Palestin- ian national movement, far from representing social revolution, has been increas- ingly dominated by religious fundamentalist terrorism. whose values are completely antithetical in all respects to those of Western liberalism'. Yet, the Palestinian"myth" of liberation still lives on as if nothing has changed. Significantly, Israeli so- ciety continues to move forward as an increasingly successful, economically liberalized and modern "start-up" nation. Yet, its very tangible achievements are simply shrugged off by those left-liberals who either ignore the moral and politi- cal bankruptcy of Palestinian nationalism or blame its abject failure on Israel and the United States. In my recent book "From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, The Jews and Israel," I addressed thfs Manichean stance at some length, exam- ining the refusal of the left to engage in any substantive critique of radical Islam even as it indulges in the most hy- perbolic cliches about Israel. Moreover. whenever the subject of contemporary anti-Semitism also is thrown into this boiling pot. an in- fantile counter-accusation is usually evoked that one is cynically "stifling criti- cism" of Israel or dishonestly playing the "Zionist card." In other words, any critic who detects even a hint of anti-Jewish bias in the ven- omous demonization of Israel as "Nazi." "fascist" or a "racist apartheid state" par excellence is assumed to be protesting in bad faith or acting as a venal apologist for Israel. If anything can stifle genuine debate, it is surely such unjust accusations. They invariably shut down any serious discussion of the very real anti-Semitic* legacies, the stigmatizing vocabulary and paranoid conspiracy theories so widely prevalent today among many Islamists, Marxists and sup- posedly "liberal" adversaries of modern Zionism. There is something pro- foundly dishonest about reducing anti-Semitism to adiscourseabout immuniz- ing" Israel from legitimate criticism. Among other things, it assumes that Jews actually have the power to silence critics of Israel. Yet, it should be obvious that such "criticism," far from being silenced, is in fact rampant m the Western media. The appalling fact is that obvious fa] sehoods such as branding Israel as an "apartheid state" or trying to demonize it through the "Nazi" analogy have become rather fashion- able in much contemporary Western discourse. EquallK, when self-pro- claimed "progressives" work overtime to turn Israel into a pariah state or to dismantle it. they are hardly being "pro- gressive," let alone original. Worse still, they.echo in a sometimes ominous manner the brutal language of the Nazi campaign in the 1930s to make Europe judenrein (Jew-free). As for the Islamists (whether in Iran or those currently riding high in the Arab world), they have never disguised their relentless pursuit of the "elimination- ist" option--to "cleanse" the Middle East definitively of the "Jewish cancer"- which is exactly how Israel is currently described by the ayatollahs in Tehran. Yet, incredibly, there are leftists--including so-called Jewish "progressives"--who either remain silent about the enormity of this geno- cidal language or malevo- lently suggest that Israel is deliberately exaggerating the Iranian threat to justify future aggressions of its own. As I showed in my recent book, the prevailing defama- tion of Zionism has its roots in the campaign of the .Soviet Union and its Third World allies that cynically manipulated "anti-racist" catchwords to stigmatize and morally discredit Zionism in the international arena. It was the totalitarian Soviet propaganda apparatus that first invented the myth of an essential ideological unity between Zionism and racism--a canard eagerly embraced in the 1970s by Yasser Ararat, many Arab states, nonaligned Third World countries, black radi- cals and much of the Western New Left. Already at that time, Zionist Jews came to be seen by communists, leftists and Islamists as embodying an immensely powerful, intangible, occult form of global power threatening to dominate the whole world, experiencedaspectacular re- This pseudo-Marxist and vival on the anti-Zionist left. anti-American variation on Such mythologizing of the"ProtocotsoftheEldersof Jewish power lies at the Zion"producedaparticularly heart of the so-called "new vicious mutation of fascist anti-Semitism," which is conspiracy theories, which during the past decade have Moral on page 26A