Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Out of the Ashes – The search for Jewish identity in the Twenty-First century

Isn’t that a problematic notion in terms of Israel/Palestine? What form of resistance is acceptable, and do we, as the non-oppressed, have a right to dictate what forms of resistance are acceptable/unacceptable?

Of course every oppression should be resisted but there are always contexts for resistance. It is obvious that the oppressor cannot dictate how the oppressed can or cannot resist. This has to be decided by the oppressed. This is not to say that the oppressed always make the right decision or that they, as a community, make the decision at all. Usually a minority resists and the results of that resistance are enjoyed or suffered by the larger community. Outsiders should be wary of making judgements, especially when they are culpable in the very same oppression that is being resisted.

Your book centres on the re-assertion of the prophetic tradition in the face of State brutality on the part of Israel against the Palestinians. What do you mean by the ‘prophetic tradition’? Is it something inherently Judaic? Is it open to the secular world? How does it manifest itself?

Yes there is something inherently Judaic in the prophetic, as it was the ancient Israelites that gave the prophetic to the world. Judaism included the prophetic in our canon; it became available to Christianity and Islam through us. Some non-Jews forget this tremendous contribution of the Jewish people – I believe the greatest gift in world history. At the same time, most Jews try to forget that the prophetic was developed in opposition to the misuse of Jewish power and applies today to the misuse of Israeli power. When the prophets are read in our synagogues it is thought that they are always about someone else. That is another aspect of Constantinian Judaism.

Can you define what it is you mean by the ‘Prophetic’?

This is a long and complicated story, one which I am writing a book on at the present. Suffice it to say that there are various ways of looking at the prophetic, beginning with the prophets in the Bible. Yet consigning the prophetic voice to scripture is sealing the voice of the prophets, a job that religion often does very well. We need to constantly pay attention to the prophetic voice in our time – the voice of justice and compassion, peace and forgiveness. The prophetic voice is very much alive today, especially among Jews of Conscience.

Is there a danger of misappropriation of the ‘Prophetic’ tradition, so that it becomes the voice in the wilderness against the oppressor, an image readily hijacked by, for an extreme example, Bin Laden or other Islamic ‘Fundamentalists’, or on the other hand by settlers opposed to any concessions in terms of Eretz Israel?

Like anything deep and abiding, the good can be misused for evil. The good is always and everywhere misappropriated. It is a constant struggle to reclaim the prophetic. We must often have to reclaim it from ‘religion’.

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