As the occupation enters into 50th year, the Two States One Homeland is a new intiative that might be of interest to some. An odd hybrid, it looks a lot a two-state bi-national solution to ending the 1967 occupation. Based on the principles of self-determination and mutual recognition, perhaps its most radical component part concerns the right to free domicile. Israelis can live in Palestine and Palestinians in Israel as mutually agreed. The website is here. The full text I’m pasting below:
We, a group of Israelis and Palestinians, propose here a new horizon for reconciliation between the two peoples, based on the establishment of two sovereign states in one, open, land. Eretz Israel / Palestine is a shared homeland for two peoples – the Jews and the Palestinians, and both peoples are attached to the land by profound historical, religious and cultural ties. All those who live in this shared homeland have equal rights to a life of liberty, equality and dignity, rights that must be guaranteed in any future settlement.
The Israeli Palestinian conflict is at a dead-end. Instead of moving towards an arrangement, the two nations return time after time to rounds of violence and bloodshed. We are certain that in order to bring about reconciliation and an end to the conflict, a new vision is necessary; a vision that must be based on equality in a shared land, and on mutual respect and recognition of the identity, spaces and political rights of both peoples.
Our vision is also based on the belief that Jews and Palestinians have in common aspects of culture and identity; a reconciliation between the two peoples will require openness and connection to the greater space.
On this basis we have arrived at a set of agreed principles, which can be summed up as “Together and Separate”, or “One land, two states”. They include:
Two states, one homeland
Palestine / Israel constitutes a historical and geographical unity from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, which should consist of two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine. In these states, the two nations will realize their right to self-determination, and the border between them will be based on the 4 June, 1967 lines and a total cessation of the occupation.
Democracy, human rights and the rule of law
The two states would be democratic; their regime would be founded on the principle of the rule of law, on the recognition of the universality of human rights as recognized in international law, on equality, and on the inviolability of life and liberty;
Immigration and naturalization
Both states will have the right to define their own laws of immigration and naturalization within its boundaries. The State of Palestine would be at liberty to naturalize Palestinian refugees as it sees fit, and the state of Israel will be at liberty to naturalize the Jews of the diaspora, as it sees fit.
The Open Land vision
a. The two state would be committed to a vision of one land, within which the citizens of both states have the right to travel and live in all parts of the land;
b. This right will be extended to all those who would become citizens of the two states: refugees in Palestine, and Jews in Israel;
c. The two states will work toward full realization of this vision in several stages, mutually, and each step will require the agreement of both states;
d. From this first stage, both states will recognize the right of their citizens to move, travel, visit, work and trade in all parts of the land;
e. At the same time, both states would agree on a proportional number of citizens of the other state who would live in their territory and would receive the status of permanent residents. This agreement would allow Israeli citizens, including those living today in area allocated to the Palestinian state, to receive a status of permanent residents in Palestine, provided they agree to live peacefully with their neighbors under Palestinian sovreignty. This agreement would allow Palestinians, including those who will be naturalized in Palestine, to have a status of permanent residents in Palestine, provided they agree to live peacefully with their neighbors under Israeli sovereignty.
f. The permanent residents who will live in the state which is not their state of citizenship, would be obliged to respect the law of that country, live in peace with their neighbours, and avoid actions that threaten the security of their state of residency or the safety of its citizens;
g. The Israeli permanent residents in Palestine will implement their right to vote for parliament in Israel and the Palestinian permanent residents in Israel will implement their right to vote for parliament in Palestine
a. Jerusalem will serve as capital city for both states; Palestinian residents will become Palestinian citizens and Israeli residents will become citizens of Israel.
b. Jerusalem would be one city, shared and open to the citizens of both states; a special municipal regime would be established to administer the city jointly and equally between the two peoples, together with representatives of the monotheistic religions and the international community;
c. The holy sites will be manage jointly by representatives of the different religions and the international community, while guaranteeing freedom of worship to members of all faiths.
a. Both states will commit to solving all conflicts between them in peaceful ways,and will act against any manifestation of violence and terror.
b. Each state would be sovereign with regard to public order in its territory and the personal security of its inhabitants. Armed militias and unauthorized organizations would be decommissioned;
c. The two states would establish de-militarized zones and a defence treaty against external threats. No foreign army will enter either state without joint permission;
d. A supreme joint security council will monitor and take decisions on security matters of common interest. The council would operate a joint force with the agreement of both states, to protect the external perimeter borders of the two states;
a. The two states will have the following joint institutions: Joint Court for Human Rights, which will be authorized to act as a supreme and judicial authority in the following cases:
– Appeasl of non-citizen residents against the country of residense claiming violations of their rights.
– Conflicts between the two states regarding the rights of their citizens residing in the other country or any other issue related to the one homeland vision.
b. Joint institutions to guarantee a minimal economic safety net for all residents of the land, Palestinians and Israelis;
c. A dedicated authority for the management and development of the economy of the land, including institutions for economic co-operation, co-ordination of custom duties, movement of workers and goods, labour migration, development of infrastructures,and local and international investment. The economic institutions would strive to bridge the inequalities among regions and ethnic groups;
d. Institutions for co-operation on matters relating to water, environment and minerals, based on a just sharing of resources and committed to the development of the land and its resources for the benefit of all its inhabitants;
e. Any other institutions which would be required for the carrying out of the “one land, two states” vision;
f. The two peoples would be equally represented in all joint institutions;
Palestinians with Israeli citizenship
The Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel would enjoy the rights of a national minority, civil equality, proper representation in government bodies, fair distribution of the state resources and proper representation in the joint Israeli-Palestinian institutions; To the extent that there exists a Jewish minority inside Palestine, it will enjoy identical rights.
A joint mechanism will be established to return lost property that was confiscated as a result of the conflict, or compensation in the event that reinstatement is not possible. The principle of return or compensation of property will be determined by agreement, with the aim of achieving the greatest possible justice for those harmed by the conflict. Past injustices will not be resolved by causing new injustices.
Israel and Palestine will call upon the countries of the Middle East to compensate Jews for their lost property and will allow anyone interested to return to their homes, in the event that it is possible.
Joint mechanism would be established to achieve reconciliation, including joint committees of reconciliation that would enable profound and comprehensive discussion of past injustices on both sides. The two states would formulation of joint programs to promote reconciliation at community level, in the education system and in cultural institutions.
The international dimension
a. For the purposes of realizing this reconciliation agreement, an international body will be established in accordance with the agreement of both sides. Among other parties, the body will represent the Arab League, the European Union and the United Nations, who will be involved in the implementation process of “Two states, one homeland,” and will provide diplomatic, legal and economic backing.
b.The vision “Two states, one homeland,” will become the basis for the integration of the two independent states into a framework of a peace agreement with the countries of the Middle East.
The “two states, one homeland” Initiative, was born from a series of meetings three years ago between Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport and Palestinian political activist Awni Almsni. Meron Rapoport, born in Tel Aviv, is a journalist and translator who worked for Yedioth Ahronoth, “Haaretz” and for the Israeli Educational Television and and still writes to various media outlets in Israel and abroad. Awni Almsni, born in Deheishe refugee camp in Bethlehem, is a political activist at the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, a graduate of Bethlehem University and a columnist in the Palestinian press.
To those meetings have joined several Israeli and Palestinians activists, among them the poet Elias Cohen from Kfar Etzion, Munir Alabosi from Tulkarem, Limor Yehuda from nataf, Mohamed El beyrouti from Bethlehem, Avi Daboosh from brorhail, Thabet Abu Rass from Kalansawa, Burhan al Saadi, from Tulkarem, Moriah Shlomot from Tel Aviv, Issa Abu Aaram from Ramallah, Prof. Oren Yiftachel From Be’er Sheva, Nidaa Khoury from Haifa and many others.
By numerous meetings between Israelis and Palestinians and within the groups themselves we have reached a document of principles agreed upon all parties. We see ourselves as one joint movement, divided into two separate movements. Jointly and separately.
Art from the 1920s for the space age. László Moholy-Nagy was a major presence at the Bauhaus. He designed for the future. For all the attention invested in new materials and technologies, the thin and intersecting straight lines and circles hover over terrestrial space. In the defiance of gravity, they don’t belong here; we don’t belong here. The color red constitutes the energy that powers the system. The yellow brings in a little warmth to an otherwise cold universe. After the death of God and the death of “man,” all that’s left is a universe of technological images. For all the actual human labor that goes into the business of art preservation, the systems on view are supposed to be autopoietic, i.e. jutting out from the terrestrial condition as autonomous, self-maintaining, and self-producing. They are intended as if to survive us. Now on view as part of Future Present, the big Moholy-Nagy exhibition at the NY Guggenheim is around for another couple of weeks.
She made it out of welded steel, canvas, black fabric, rawhide, copper, wire, and soot. In the permanent exhibition at MoMa, Untitled (1961) by Lee Bontecou is warlike and threatening. Philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto compared this and other such works by her to 17th-century scientist Robert Hooke’s Micrographia “at the intersection of magnified insects, battle masks, and armored chariots” (Wiki). Other associations I’ve seen online are with space travel, Sputnik, and black holes. My first thought was that it looked like a broken off part to an outdated but once super powerful engine of some flying machine; like a jet or spaceship. The black center is held strongly in place by the surrounding folds of the tough canvas and other fabrics.
It seems like there’s no way to shake off religion in popular American film, even at its most impious and irreligious. The narrative sense of a satisfactory end won’t allow for it. Sausage Party could have concluded this way or that –with what one could be sure would have been the grim, brutal work as the human gods return to Shopwell to clean up the total havoc wrought in the wake of the great food revolt or with the realized post-coital bliss of the poly-perverse food orgy. But that’s not what happens as, instead, the unio mysitico of Gnostic religion supersedes the cruel, anthropomorphic gods of conventional religion.
After coming to true knowledge about the bitter truth that this world is an unjust and unkind veil of suffering run by demonic demi-urges only thought to be divine, the denizens of Shopwell finally reject the pious delusions about the Great Beyond taught by “the great religions.” But the filmmakers push off the picture of existential bleakness or of simple fleshy happiness. The solution to the predicament raised by the film is a deus ex machina.
The last truth our heroes learn is that they are themselves not real, but are instead animated avatars of sophomoric human actors. Led by Firewater, a shamanic Native American mystic, they are brought to the portal of a technological apparatus designed by a wheel chair bound physicist, played as a used and chewed up piece of pink chewing gum which speaks through an artificial speech synthesizer. Casting off the nasty fate of this virtually mortal coil, our heroes will pass through, after all, into what turns out to be the bright and beneficent illumination of the true Great Beyond.
Perth Amboy touches upon seeing, material culture, and the supernatural. At things concrete or apparitional, everyone is looking at something –the friend of Barbie in a wheelchair, the Indian chief, the Chinese sage, the visitors, of whom one can see only their hands through a window at a local pilgrimage site in this installation by Rachel Harrison, recently on view at the MoMA. The difference between the natural and the supernatural depends upon a point of view.
As in a lot of art interpretation, particularly when it touches upon “the spiritual in art,” this work requires a lot of explanation and not a little reading. As described at the museum’s website, the exhibition is “[n]amed after a town in New Jersey where an apparition of the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared on the window of a two-story house, Rachel Harrison’s room-sized work Perth Amboy exemplifies a cross-disciplinary approach to making art. The work comprises 21 photographs, individual sculptural assemblages, and an open-ended labyrinth made from cardboard. It takes as its subject the basic acts of looking and seeing, which are central to any experience of visual art.
The trick is how to read the relationship between tacky figurines tucked inside the cardboard labyrinth and the photographs that surround the space, which are clearly meant to signal mystery. I can imagine two possible sequences. In one, you take in the spectral photographs as you first walk around the edge of the gallery space and then, and only then enter into the labyrinth. Or you walk through the labyrinth then skirt the supernatural edge of the space. But the sequence is not entirely discrete. While still inside, one catch a glimpse of the photographs over the edge of the cardboard edge of the labyrinth. Either way, this would be a theatrical piece of work which one can only view and grasp by moving into and through its space. There’s no other way to see (it).
Perhaps not unexpectedly, I did not catch much of this when I actually went through the exhibition. Only later, the digital photos help reconstruct for me my basic sense of the work in combination with this excellent essay, “Faith and Formalism: Rachel Harrison at MoMA” by Jessica Holmes. I’m recommending it for anyone interested in this particular piece or more generally in that phenomenon called religion/spirituality in contemporary art. My only quibble would be that none of this has anything to do whatsoever with what Holmes calls “the unequivocal.” I think that’s the very point made by the artist which Holmes, the critic, conveys otherwise so very well. You can read the whole thing here.
As per Holmes:
“‘People see what they want to see,’ Harrison has said of her own work, and here, it’s the act of looking itself that is being plumbed. In a neat metaphysical sleight of hand, Harrison sets up moments throughout the installation where the very action the viewer performs is also what she is challenged to consider. Upon carefully placed pedestals interspersed within the maze are coupled objects: in each case one half of the pair is distinctly figurative while the other represents a ‘work of art.’ On one pedestal, a ‘Becky, Friend of Barbie’ doll, sitting in a wheelchair and with a camera around her neck, gazes upon a chromogenic print tacked up on the wall before her. Elsewhere, situated on a mirrored base that reflects the lower half of a viewer’s body, a cheap figurine family of Dalmatian dogs stares up collectively at a common cardboard mailer, which has been bent so that it stands upright. A plaster bust of Marilyn Monroe — plunked into a Stor-All box and perched on a small, wheeled platform that has been shoved into a cardboard corner of the labyrinth — is unexpectedly moving. The objects themselves are garish and sometimes tawdry but in each instance Harrison investigates the visceral experience of looking at something, really stopping to consider it. This ‘something’ might be anything: a work of art, celebrity culture, the Divine. Suddenly the kitschy objects are suffused with a more profound resonance—like Marilyn, the classic icon of fashion and Hollywood who epitomizes what it is to be seen, slung low to the ground and sliding towards the informe on a warehouse dolly.
“And then there are the photographs. Taken from a vantage point somewhere across the street from the Collado family’s anointed window, most of the images capture believers who have come to witness the Blessed Virgin. Depending on the angle of light, their faces are not always visible through the glass; most often we see only hands pressed against the pane. The images evoke another biblical reference: the tale of Doubting Thomas. According to the story, after Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to all the disciples but Thomas. When the others informed him of Christ’s return, Thomas replied he couldn’t believe it until he saw for himself. It’s from this story that the common idiom ‘seeing is believing’ originally derives, and which proves especially prescient to Perth Amboy.
“Non-believers may scoff at Virgin Mary sightings in unusual places, and the gullibility of those who are certain of their truth. But Harrison’s unexpectedly beautiful photographs reveal the poignancy of religious pareidolia, and the believers who are heartened by the perceived emanation. Faith is an intense, sometimes overwhelming emotion, and the sense of sight is often its most powerful incubator, regardless of whether the idol is religious, political, celebrity, aesthetic, or something else entirely. With Perth Amboy Harrison interrogates the unequivocal, and in so doing challenges viewers to examine their own dogmatic beliefs whatever they might be. What aspects of our own convictions might only be mirages on a pane of glass?”
Is there such a thing as Jewish ethics? Does it even exist? What if anything do Jewish mysticism and Jewish ethics have to do with each other? Does the one complement or submerge the other? In search of answers to these and other questions, I turned to Joseph Dan’s Jewish Mysticism and Jewish Ethics, originally presented as the Stroum Lectures at the University of Washington in 1983. I’m reading the 1996 edition published in 1995 which includes ideas drawn from Foucault, a surprising theoretical turn indeed.
Most of all, I was most of curious to see if Dan’s little study would either confirm or disabuse the tongue-in-cheek questions I have been pursuing here at the blog about the existence of Jewish ethics. The book’s first chapter concerns the “enigma of Hebrew ethical literature” and concludes with Lurianic Kabbalah and the modern period. Surely this might be the place to learn a little something about the ethical tradition in Judaism, particularly in view of its suffusion by Kabbalah at some point in the late medieval-early modern period.
Alas, the venture stumbled into one incoherence after another, not the fault of the author, and not I hope of the reader, but because of the conceptual confusion of the subject matter –ethics and Jewish ethics. In relation to “modern Jewish ethics,” I quoted Aharon Lichtenstein’s remark that the very project is a conceptual minefield, and that the entire project hangs upon correct definition. Dan’s book confirms that remark.
Trouble is already afoot in the preface to the first edition where Dan concedes that there is “no inherent connection between mysticism and ethics; it can even be said that there is a barrier between them.” His explanation is that mysticism is an elite phenomenon, whereas ethics relates to the norms that concern an entire people (p.ix). In relation to the Bible, Dan further defines ethics in terms of practical and behavioral norms that are not strictly legal, ritualistic, or social. This includes “[a]dvice concerning the everyday way of life, instruction in abstaining from evil, and the pursuit of perfection in attitude and deed.” One thinks especially of the book of Proverbs, as well as the concrete and practical character that informs much ethical discourse in Talmudic and midrashic sources. It’s in the medieval period that we begin to see the why to the what of Jewish ethical norms in the form of “abstract guideline[s]” and on a “theological basis.” But the point here is that the medieval and early modern ethical literature is said to have very little in common with the biblical and rabbinic sources (pp.13-14).
The first takeaway would be to conclude that ethics is defined in terms of derekh eretz, the way of the world, a moral way of being in the world, particularly involving inter-human relations (one could add for good measure inter-species relations, the relations between a person and fellow-creatures, which is a nice translation of the Hebrew). By this definition, mystical ethics are not ethical at all. Rather than the relation between the human subject and fellow creatures, they concern the self (the nihilation of the subject) in relation to God.
One wonders then on what basis Dan sees in Lurianic Kabbalah “a complete fusion between Jewish mysticism and Jewish ethics” (p.107). Raised to a fever pitch in the Jewish mystical tradition, every human act is an absolute; like in chaos theory, the performance of a single and the slightest mitzvah, the commission of a single and the slightest sin has a vast theo-cosmic impact on the very fabric of the godhead (p.108-9). Entirely sublimated, one begins to suspect that this system is no longer derekh eretz, no longer worldly, no longer ethical, in the normal usage of the terms defined by Dan himself at the outset of his study.
There is an infelicitous tension at work in this rubric, Jewish mysticism and Jewish ethics. On the one hand, Dan insists that Jewish ethics reflects a continuous tradition. On the other hand, he notes that it entered Judaism via Greek and Arabic sources which were then translated into Hebrew (pp.17-19). This is to say that “ethics” was something quite new that went through a process of indigenization. This is supported by Dan’s own observation that medieval Jewish philosophers starting with Saadya Gaon and including Bachya ibn Pakuda and Maimonides wrote “as if” they were doing something new.
Dan wants to deny this claim, assuming the existence of a long tradition reflecting on the right way to live. But one suspects that the philosophers were on to something. In fact, what Saadya is described as doing is brand new, if in fact Dan is correct in his assertion that Saadya sought to organize all ethical questions around a single cardinal point reading human good, perfection, and happiness (pp.21, 21-31). (For a larger discussion of eudaemonia in Jewish philosophy, see Hava Tirosh-Samuelson’s Happiness in Premodern Judaism: Virtue, Knowledge, and Well-Being.) If that is all the case, then the ethical tradition is a uniquely medieval Jewish construction. At one point Dan himself will say that what we have is a “picture” of “direct continuation” (p.33). The idea of continuous ethical tradition in Judaism would be better understood as an image, a work of the imagination, than as something “real.”
The entire rubric of Jewish mysticism and Jewish ethics gets fuzzier still when Dan continues to write about Catalan Kabbalah. Ethics now falls completely out of the discussion in favor of a description of anti-Maimonidean, anti-Aristotelean, anti-philosophical polemics (pp.31-48). Ethical treatises are mentioned but not actually talked about, which should be strange in a book devoted to Jewish mystical ethics. The same is true of the material on Hasidei Ashkenaz up until p.62 where Dan finally defines pietistic ethics in terms of overcoming humanity/physicality in order to be spiritual. Earlier described in terms of a human derekh eretz, the subject now is no longer the social obligation between human beings and their fellow creatures, but the relationship between the human creature and its Maker. More radical still, humanity itself is described not simply as “overcome” but as “sacrificed” in the tradition of Ashkenazi pietism. This constitutes a paradox that might turn out actually to be a contradiction, if not a farce. The good is achieved only through the bad, i.e. through pain and suffering (p.70-1).
Not autonomous and beyond heteronomous, Jewish mystical ethics are theonomous. As if retracting the very core of his thesis, Dan is not even sure whether musar is even ethics. “The translation of sifrut musar into ethics created expectations that this literature is characterized by devotion to the principles and detailed instruction concerning the ethical behavior of the individual in a social, context…The problem, however, is that the Hebrew sifrut ha-musar does not conform to these outlines.” He goes on to say that the religious character of this tradition cannot be reconciled with ethics in the modern or even classical sense of the term. To be sure, one can follow Dan who calls this a “completely different concept of ethics.” But if this tradition is so completely different, then why even call it ethics in the first place (p.120, emphasis added)?!
After ethics as conventionally understood, what’s left is compared by Dan with what Foucault called “the care for the self.” As described by Dan, this care is not social, but rather a fusion of ethical and aesthetic self-perfection. By aesthetic, Dan means “the sense of self-satisfying individual cravings,” “the desire to look at one’s face in the mirror and be content with what one sees.” The “ethical and the aesthetical [sic] are fused together in such a desire” (p.116). With no independent ethical sphere in Judaism, all those social obligations are sublimated into the system of religious obligation in which they disappear (p.119-20). In this, union with God represents the highest good and ultimate freedom to the point that individual identity of the subject is lost in “folds of pure spirituality” (pp.126-7).
One could quibble this way and that. Does the expression “folds of pure spirituality” sound more like Foucault or like Deleuze? Or has Dan simply amalgamated the two. Either way, Jewish tradition begins to resemble something akin to post-structuralism. Against the grain of modern Jewish philosophy, which long ago traded in the language of “realization,” the subject, no longer autonomous, now de-realized, gets dissolved into a superintending fluxus that folds into itself. Or rather, something other than the human has been made “real.”
So what about Jewish ethics? We all know that mysticism ultimately overwhelmed philosophy in Jewish intellectual history. Dan’s book, devoted to “Jewish mysticism and Jewish ethics” effectively undermines (deconstructs) the author’s own confidence in the continuity of the Jewish ethical tradition. As Dan notes, derash (i.e. midrash, homiletics, theology) is “ten times” more prominent than musar in Judaism. The point is that the mystical way of world and self nihilation “marginalizes the social-ethical aspect, which is secondary in this Hebrew tradition” (pp.121, 131). This might be “good,” even excellent, but not “ethical.” As for “Jewish ethics” in relation to the mysticism that comes to dominate Judaism in the pre-modern period, it’s not at all clear that this thing even exists.