Came to synagogue late as the bar-mitzvah was winding down his chanting of the haftorah, which this week was taken from Ezekiel chapter 37. Translated into English, these were the lines that I immediately heard walking into the sanctuary. “Thus said Lord God, I am going to take the children of Israel from among the nations they have gone to and gather them from every quarter, and bring them to their own land…I will make a covenant of peace with them” (Ezek. 37:21, 26).
I don’t think it is so easy to separate Judaism and Zionism, but my interest in the verses has nothing to do with political theology, not directly. More prophecy than a call to political image, the verses are more haunting and beautiful when sung in a large resonant place before an assembled crowd, dreamy perhaps. On the page, they read a little but more dull and didactic.
For some reason the modern JPS translation translates “brit shalom” as a “covenant of friendship,” whereas “covenant of peace” makes for a more exacting translation and for a more challenging association. Brit Shalom was the name of a political organization in British Mandate Palestine based on the principle of Arab-Jewish cooperation and bi-nationalism. More prophetic than political, its most famous members were Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem.
For some reason this image appeared online at Al Jazeera’s article about the ASA. The photograph sits oddly with this bit cited in the article about the proposed academic boycott of Israel from an American Studies Association news release: “This complicity has been extensively documented, and manifests through direct research and production of military technologies — as with the Israeli Institute of Technology (Technion)’s partnerships with Israeli weapons manufacturers … and Tel Aviv University’s development of weapons systems used by the occupation army in committing grave violations of human rights.” The off-juxtaposition of the image and the content tells a lot about the story, about the mangling up of ethics, politics, and scholarship. That it appears in Al-Jazeera makes it even more remarkable. The article does a nice job telling the story, reporting as well the response by a director at the American Jewish Committee, who is actually given the last word.
Here’s a link to the open letter by the Association of American University Professors in opposition to the proposed motion at the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities: http://www.aaup.org/file/OpenLettertoASA.pdf
The proposed motion to boycott Israel and Israeli universities by the American Studies Association (ASA) is being based as a decision in part as solidarity with calls from Palestinian civil society. Which means that the ASA and its membership is planning to commit itself to one side of a complex internecine brawl with no clear exit strategy. Under what conditions would such a boycott be called off? With the establishment of a 2 state solution, or the creation of a 1 state solution that turns Israel into Palestine? Why the ASA wants to commit itself to Palestinian civil society remains unclear, but surely there should be ways to do this that do not shut down open lines of communication between parties while maintaining the free and critical exchange of ideas basic to civil and civic society. I don’t see how boycotting Israeli universities contributes to those goals.
The Haaretz tribute is well intentioned and well pointed, but not quite. At issue is not what Netanyahu needs to learn from Mandela. It’s what he needs to learn from De Klerk. I think it’s for the Palestinian Authority to learn the Mandela lessons.