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Wednesday, 30 July 2014 10:06

"What Is Hateful to You, Do Not Do to Your Fellow: This Is the Whole Torah"

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A sign on the path as you leave the beaches of the Dead Sea in Eik Bokek, Israel. (Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/emeryjl/509700872" target="_blank"> James Emery / Flickr</a>)A sign on the path as you leave the beaches of the Dead Sea in Eik Bokek, Israel. (Photo: James Emery / Flickr)AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

"What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn" - Rabbi Hillel

As Jews go, I'm a poor one. I like Wagner and bacon, and have been known to seethe a kid in its mother's milk. I have enough tattoos to be banned from burial in any Jewish cemetery, and I gave up on God halfway through my first reading of the Old Testament - in that one passage where he acts like a genocidal psychopath.

I'm a bad Jew.

But, since my mother was Jewish, I am still, technically, Jewish. Which means that, should I so desire, I can move to Israel and, in time, become a citizen. As for the Palestinian guy in Gaza whose family has been living there for 20-odd generations? He lives in an open air prison and if he wants to spend some time in the land of his ancestors, he will be going through multiple armed check points, if he is lucky.

Or, these days, he's not visiting at all, what with the bombings and ground invasion and all. As I write, the Palestinian death toll stands at over 1200, while the Israeli death toll amounts to three civilian casualties and an IDF toll that may have surpassed 50 by now, but would have not occurred if the invasion had not been launched. A UN school has been hit for the second time, with an Israel mortar as the confirmed source, and at least 16 Gazans who sought refuge there are dead.

And the killed are rising at about 100 a day, not to mention those grievously wounded.

The Hamas leadership does in its charter call for the destruction of Israel. This is to be admitted, However, I keep coming back to the rhetoric from the Israeli side. Words like "self defense" and "restraint" are thrown about in seeming ignorance of the fact that these terms have actual meanings. I can't seem to erase the image of the inhabitants of Sderot, sitting in lawn chairs and comfortable couches, eating popcorn and cheering the bombardment of Gaza. I see Netanyahu accusing the Palestinians of presenting "telegenic corpses." The deputy speaker of Knesset Moshe Feiglin's modest proposal for Gaza involves expelling all the inhabitants and killing everyone who remains; previously he called for cutting all power to Gaza's hospitals – and as of yesterday the IDF bombed and put out of commission the primary electrical generator for all of Gaza.

While the initial spark for the latest iteration of the Israel-Palestine disaster was the kidnapping, and subsequent murder, of three young Israeli Yeshiva students on the occupied West Bank, I submit that was nothing more than a convenient excuse to disrupt the Palestinian unity government. The Israeli government was – it has been now revealed - aware that the three students had been murdered shortly after their kidnapping, yet chose to keep that fact secret from the general public. Rallies were held for the safe return of the students; Palestinians were arrested; and homes were demolished. After 18 days, when the bodies of the students were found, both sides were whipped into a frenzy of hate, and rockets from Gaza began to fall within Israel. Netanyahu now had the necessary cover to attack Gaza.

As I said, I'm a bad Jew, and not really wired for the religious side of Judaism. But I've always admired the words of Rabbi Hillel. When asked to summarize the entirety of the Torah, while standing on one foot, he replied "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn" The actions and statements of Netanyahu's government seem to be about as far from the words of Rabbi Hillel as can be imagined.

That isn't surprising. The rhetoric of self-defense and the prevention of Jewish victimhood is being deployed as a cynical cover for harsh Israeli treatment of Palestinians and the killing of civilians. While I can't see into Netanyahu's head, the idea that he gives a damn about the words of Rabbi Hillel is laughable. Here's the problem: each time the horror of the Holocaust is deployed as a cover to a merciless military action that kills indiscriminately; each time Israel goes into Gaza to "mow the lawn;" the discourse lurches further to the right. And now we have a member of the Knesset calling for the deaths of Palestinian mothers. We have Israeli teenagers happily tweeting "Death to all Arabs" from behind duck-faced profile pictures. We have a Palestinian teenager burned alive. Each rightward lurch in the Israeli discourse serves to normalize more and more extreme behavior.

Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing majority in the cabinet have been conducting an ongoing covert war of assassination of top Hamas leaders for years. From time to time a justification is found to pulverize lives, schools, and vital services in Gaza not so much to punish Hamas, but in reality to ensure that the lingering hatred that has reached a feverish pitch over such an unspeakable number of deaths in the blockaded enclave will ensure that there will never be a two-state solution.

This is Netanyahu's goal along with the other radical ministers in his cabinet who see Palestinians as an inferior people who need to be permanently colonized.

And every lurch to the right drags the region closer to disaster. Netanyahu's blind pursuit of political power, to the disservice of the Palestinian (and Israeli) people recalls the idol worship of another figure out the past: Ahab. And his relentless obsession with the political destruction of any Palestinian government recalls a newer version of Ahab, from a better written book: "... to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee."

Netanyahu is tying himself and Israel to Palestine even as he seeks to destroy it and banish it to the abyss. He will destroy them both. Enough. I am a Jew. Were I to become a citizen of Israel, this would be done in my name, and it would be claimed that this would be for my benefit. And that is a monstrous thought to me.