Understanding the Fundamental Roots of Conflict and Suffering

Mondoweiss has just published an interview with me titled “Understanding the fundamental roots of conflict and suffering.” Although the ideas presented in the interview apply to all of humanity, the interview primarily focuses its attention on, and inquires into, the deepest roots of the Israel-Palestine problem, which are not political, religious, cultural, territorial or humanitarian in nature.

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PERPETUATING DISTRUST AND CONFLICT: ISRAEL’S USE OF CHARACTER ASSASSINATION

The government of Israel has always taken pains to disparage Arabs and attribute to them the genocidal designs of the Nazis, history’s most infamous mad men. This character assassination has kept world Jewry fearful of another holocaust and acquiescent when it comes to Israeli actions executed in the name of security, no matter how inhumane these actions are, and no matter how ultimately self-destructive and insecure they make Jews.

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THE ROOT CAUSE OF DELUSION, PREJUDICE, SUFFERING AND CONFLICT

The root cause of delusion, prejudice, suffering and conflict is the attachment to a presumed, mortal and limited identity and to the beliefs and images that emanate from and reinforce this presumption. For example, growing up Jewish, I possessed a Jewish lens, conditioned over thousands of years of history, that colored the way I viewed and interpreted the world. This lens led me to assume that a significant part of the world’s population held anti-Semitic views. With such a dominating internal logic, I was bound to interpret the ideas and behavior of the other as predisposed to incite or ignore the suffering of my people. The primary consequence of this error in perception is a world of suffering for self and other.

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REPORT FROM MY FRIEND RANA IN GAZA

In November 2012, I was part of an Inter-Faith Peace Builder delegation to the Gaza Strip. While there, I was able to arrange for my friend, Rana Alshami, to join us for a full day of activities, including visits to a refugee camp, a cement factory and meetings with a variety of organizations attempting to carve out a reasonable degree of normal human existence in the face of water, food, sanitation and other unconscionable deprivations imposed by Israel.

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KNESSET MEMBER’S SOLUTION FOR GAZA

I want to thank my identical twin brother for posting Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Moshe Feiglin’s plan for solving the Gaza problem on his Face Book page, along with the comment, “very interesting and promising article.” I also want to thank Moshe Feiglin himself for so clearly enunciating the true goal of the state of Israel, whether that goal is inspired by Zionist ideology or by the Torah.

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NORMAN FINKELSTEIN AND BDS

Norman Finkelstein has recently been subjected to strong if not vicious criticism for his views on the BDS movement by the very people who once appreciated his scholarship and his willingness to take on Israel’s propagandists. By uttering a single sentence in an interview with Frank Barat, “The BDS movement is a cult,” many of Finkelstein’s admirers turned on him, shunned him and have treated his name in much the same way the aforementioned propagandists treat them. Their reaction to Finkelstein’s criticism of BDS is virtually identical to the reaction the propagandists have to criticism of Israel. Both are afraid of what they might discover if they look at evidence that led their detractors to formulate their views. And both resort to slander and name-calling while remaining immersed in denial. I find these reactions rather cultic, and considering all that Finkelstein has sacrificed over the decades to enhance public awareness of the truth of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people, I also find the reaction of these BDS supporters stunning in its lack of compassion and humanity.

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FIGHTING SLANDER AND OPPRESSION

AIPAC and other pro-Occupation organizations have mounted a campaign to discredit the American Studies Association (ASA) for its resolution in support of the academic boycott of Israel. I recently wrote a very short response to this hysterical campaign. Here it is:

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Israel Opened the Gates to Two Dams. Now Gaza is Sinking

In November 2012, I was a member of an InterFaith Peace Builders delegation to the Gaza Strip, where I witnessed the hardships, including food deprivation, Gazans live with. Most are a direct consequence of Israel’s long-term blockade that limits supplies of building material, fuel and food and enervates agricultural and fishing yields.

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THE GAZA STRIP IS DYING

Today at 1:30 PM MST
An hour or so ago, I was online chatting with Rana Alshami, my friend and a 21 year old college student from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. It is Zero degrees right now with a new storm forecast for later in the week. Many of Rana’s neighbors are in the hospital. The streets are filled with sewage. Israel let loose a couple of dams, the sole purpose apparently to make life harder than it already is for the people of the besieged Gaza Strip. Electricity is available only a few hours per day. People are freezing to death and starving.
      This is not warehoused slaughter like Nazi Germany, just the opportunistic use of bad weather to wear Palestinians down and to let them know that their destiny is being manipulated by and is subject to the whims of a cruel and sadistic oppressor with no regard for their well being..
     Please contact your congresspeople and state department officials and let them know that decent people do not support the Israeli government’s assault on the indigenous people of the land it claims exclusively for itself, nor do decent people pander to phony claims of security by a nation whose behavior in the name of security and in the name of the Jewish people incites anti-Semitism, making Jews around the world less secure.

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THE ROOT CAUSE OF CONFLICT

Growing up in the United States in the 1950s and 60s, regularly attending synagogue and spending summers at the Jewish Community Center, I never questioned the stories I was taught about the establishment of the Jewish State. In Sunday school I studied the Exodus and learned about my people’s endless struggle to survive against the hatred of our enemies, each of whom seemed committed to our destruction. After thousands of years, this hatred reached its climax in the Holocaust. Yet, out of the ashes of suffering and sustained by the courageous work of remarkable men like David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann, on May 14, 1948 a miracle appeared: Israel was born. But the struggle was not over, for our enemies were unyielding in their refusal to accept a people finally returning to their God-given home and wanting only to live in peace.

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The Hypocrisy of Criticizing One Country for Crimes Against Humanity but Defending Another Country for Its Crimes Against Humanity

Two years ago Susan Modaress of Press TV interviewed me about my transformation from reflexive loyalty to the State of Israel to advocacy for human rights and equality for all people. We discussed the documented history of Israel-Palestine as well as my insights into how so many people support injustice in the name of justice – See interview here. This morning I received an email from a Jewish man who said:

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REMEMBERING HELEN THOMAS

I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) on my car radio, driving to the east coast from Colorado, when I heard the news that my friend, pioneering journalist Helen Thomas, had died. Over the past three plus years I’d been privileged to have dinner with her a few times and honored that she had attended talks I gave in Washington D.C., even introducing me to the audience at one of them.

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IMPORTANT INTERVIEW- THE UNCONSCIOUS AND TRUE ROOTS OF CONFLICT

Please take a look at my interview with Father Yago Abeledo of the Center for Justice and Peace Building. The interview is the first that explains the roots of the Israel-Palestine problem. If there is any article or interview that has the potential to reach the as yet unreachable this is it. Others have written about their change of heart in their understanding of the history, about how they came to see that Israel was not the innocent victim of an irrational Arab world. That is highly commendable but all of those writings are still stuck in the same old paradigm, what I refer to as the Illusion of Identity. Peace is not possible until that illusion is shattered. If you like the interview please share it. I have posted the entire interview just below or you can go to the Breathing Forgiveness website to read it there.

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Accusations of Jewish Self-Hatred and Anti-Semitism are a Strategy to Hide from One’s Self-Reflection

Anyone who follows the debate over Israel-Palestine knows how automatic and routine it is for one side to label those who disagree with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people as self-hating Jews, Israel haters or anti-Semites. Hoping to calm the hysteria and add much-needed clarity to the issue, and unwilling to be silenced by these accusations, I’ve decided to share a brief adaptation from the “The Self-Hating Jew” chapter of my book, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict. As an American Jew with Ultra-Orthodox relatives living in Israel, a former member of AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) and a reflexive defender of Israel for more than fifty years I believe I am as qualified as anyone to share my insights.

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RICH FORER TO SPEAK ON MAY 16 AT ILIFF SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY, DENVER, COLORADO – PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL ROOTS OF CONFLICT

The talk at Iliff School of Theology will be held in the Bartlett Room at 2201 S. University Blvd .- from 11 AM to 12:45. The talk itself will be around 45 to 50 minutes followed by Q&A.  Parking is available in the first lot, which is located on E. Iliff Ave. right off of University. Please let your friends in the Denver area know about this event.

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The Dehumanizing Nature of Accusations of Anti-Semitism

Perhaps the most dominating and confusing accusation emanating from one side of the Israel-Palestine debate is that virtually anyone who criticizes Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people hates Israel and is, ipso facto, an anti-Semite or self-hating Jew. What is it about criticism of Israel that provokes such an extreme reaction? After all, anyone with the decency to find out what sparks the criticism would learn that the vast majority of critics, including prominent Israelis and other members of the Jewish community, are motivated not by hatred but by justice; and that their intention is not to harm the state of Israel but to prevent the state of Israel from harming Palestinians.

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South Carolina Resolution Affirming that Israel’s Biblical Claims Trump Human Rights

In keeping with the great American tradition of bigotry and hatred, South Carolina’s legislature unanimously passed a resolution in support of Israel. Based on the resolution, anyone who supports human rights in the Middle East hates both Israel and the U.S.. The resolution does contradict itself (sort of) when it says that God commanded that “governance must be in one law for all without drawing distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, as contained in Leviticus 24:22.” Of course many orthodox Jews interpret Judaism and Jewish law as asserting that non-Jews must be subservient to and under the authority of Jews. The resolution is a disgrace to the meaning of democracy and human rights and to anyone who recognizes that the greatest teaching is found in one’s heart. Any teaching that separates one from his/her heart and prevents one from thinking for one’s self is a false teaching. To read the resolution click here

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Plea to Ultra-Orthodox Relatives to See Arabs as Human Beings

The following letter is a response to a video that my ultra-orthodox relatives were sharing among themselves, their relatives and friends. I found the video quite disturbing although I was already intimately familiar with the views of that side of my family. In writing the letter I hoped that I might reach a few of my many nieces or nephews and encourage them to look more carefully at their opinions and beliefs. I was completely unsuccessful. They all rejected the suggestion that they conduct sincere research to find out if their beliefs were based in reality or fantasy. And their bottom line, predictably, was that the Torah clearly states that God gave the land to the Jewish people. The six minute video can be found at http://beta1.shofar-tv.com/player.php?id=628

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Rutgers University Must Put a Stop to Discrimination

Below is a letter I wrote to Rutgers University President Richard L. McCormick. I did so because the Zionist Organization of America has accused Rutgers of violating federal regulations by allowing a campus environment that is “increasingly hostile, anti-Semitic, and even includes violent threats against a Jewish student.” ZOA alleges that activities organized by BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice have “demonized Jews in Israel” and have attempted “to delegitimize the Jewish state.” Although I deplore discrimination in any form I am familiar with the tactics of groups like ZOA. Their common practice is to call anyone who supports human rights in the Middle East or calls for an end to an illegal occupation an anti-Semite. This is hysterical and self-destructive thinking and must be countered.

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