On November 17, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) called the U.S. House of Representatives’ November 14 vote for the Keystone XL pipeline an “act of war,” and vowed to block the project from crossing its lands.
“The House has now signed our death warrants and the death warrants of our children and grandchildren. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will not allow this pipeline through our lands,” said Rosebud Sioux President Cyril Scott. “Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people.”
On November 18, the US Senate refused to pass a bill that would have compelled construction of the KXL Pipeline.
On November 19, the American Jewish Committee urged the Obama Administration to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. The AJC said that the pipeline is “critically important for U.S. energy security… “
What is this “energy security”? For at least a decade, it has been the reason the AJC gave for supporting extreme extraction of fossil fuels: coal from smashing West Virginia mountains, oil from piercing the heart of the Gulf waters, unnatural gas from fracking Pennsylvania shale, Tar Sands from Canada – the dirtiest highest-carbon version of fossil fuel.
The AJC has cared nothing for the “security” of the Sioux nation through which the KXL Pipeline is intended to go. Nor for the “security” of Black neighborhoods clouded by a coal-dust epidemic of asthma. Nor for the “security” of oil-drillers aboard deep-ocean-penetrating oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, nor for the “security” of its fisher-folk and the abundance of the Gulf.
What “energy security” means to the AJC is that the US should use any energy at all from anywhere in North America – so as to avoid using oil from any Arab state or Iran. And all this is intended to protect Israel from the possibility that US policy in the Middle East might be affected by a US desire to please Saudi Arabia or any other oil-rich Arab or Muslim country.
But the AJC policy does not just ignore the security interests of the Sioux Nation, Black neighborhoods, and Gulf fisher-folk. Its policy attacks the future of our planet, because it supports the emission of more and more Carbon Dioxide into our global atmosphere. It puts a chokehold on Mother Earth – out of an addiction to Domination Disease, the same disease that put a chokehold on Eric Garner, killed him, and then concluded that this killing had no criminal implications.
That means the AJC urgency to burn Tar Sands worsens the death threat to those who will be as vulnerable in the future as those who in our recent past have been suffering from the unprecedented droughts in California, Australia, and Russia. It worsens the death threats to those who will be as vulnerable in the future as those who in our recent past have died from Superstorms in the Philippines, New Orleans, the New Jersey shore.
And – irony of ironies – the AJC’s support for burning fossil fuels threatens the future of the State of Israel. Already, Israeli scientists have warned that the worsening of CO2 global-scorching effects will in the next 50 years enormously expand the Israeli Negev desert, and that the predictable ocean rises will put parts of Tel Aviv under water.
That is an existential threat to the State of Israel.
So the AJC’s policy actually is a Declaration of War not only against large areas of the USA and many other regions, but against the Israel that the AJC policy was invented to protect.
Let’s be clear about one thing. I was taught by my own teacher of US history — Howard K. Beale at the University of Wisconsin, a fine historian as well as a fine teacher –never to claim to be “neutral” when we wrote history. Each of us, he taught, comes with a bias. The only honest way to deal with it is to reveal it.
So let’s indeed be clear – The Shalom Center’s understanding of Torah and of the consensus of the world’s scientists has for more than a decade guided us into strong urgency for shifting our economy, our society, our culture out of the Carbon-Burning Era of human and planetary history. Away from obeisance to the Pharaohs and false gods of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Unnatural Gas. Toward, instead, a society and culture rooted in knowing when Enough really is Enough, one rooted in renewable and sustainable and communally controllable sources of energy. We have skin – and breath and bone – in this “game.”
Indeed, the deepest teachings of Torah arise from the wisdom of an indigenous people — shepherds and farmers who felt, saw, touched God through their relationship with grass and trees and sheep and soil and sun. We should be allies with the indigenous Sioux Nation — not enemies.
And since our beginning, The Shalom Center has cared about encouraging a State of Israel that takes seriously the Prophetic Jewish values of peace, justice, and respect for the land itself — the values on which the State was explicitly proclaimed.
So for the sake of Torah, for the sake of all the human and more-than-human life forms of the Earth, for the sake of the very Name of the Holy One Who is YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Breath of Life, and for the sake of the future of the Jewish people and the State of Israel — we urge the American Jewish Committee to change direction. To decide that moving swiftly toward the Era of Renewable Energy will best serve its own desire to support Israel.
And in urging this, we at The Shalom Center are not alone. As is true of many policies of some of the “major” American Jewish organizations, this AJC policy is not supported by the majority of American Jews.
What is supported? Here is a statement recently set forth by thirteen American Jewish organizations. Many, but not all, are small and young: they represent the future, not the past, of American Jewish life. Their statement was occasioned by the AJC’s renewed call for building the Tar Sands Pipeline, but in this statement is a vision of the necessary future – not a critique of AJC. Here is their vision:
Thirteen Jewish organizations, under the umbrella of the Green Hevra, have issued the following joint statement publicly calling on the U.S. government to reject the Keystone XL pipeline:
It has become abundantly clear that we are consuming far too many fossil fuels. In this Sabbatical/Shmita year, when the Torah calls for deeper gentleness toward the Earth, we are especially conscious of the dangers to the Earth from the drilling, transporting and burning of tar-sands oil. The resources that would be devoted to the Keystone XL pipeline should be devoted instead to initiatives in clean energy, a fast-growing field in which we hope the United States will take a leading position.
Climate change, worsened by burning more and more oil that the Keystone XL pipeline would permit, poses a grave threat to the security of the United States, Israel and the world.
Jewish tradition is not monolithic, and the issues around the pipeline are complex. But the Jewish community has consistently sought to take a stand in favor of creating a better world for all. It is hard for us to believe that building the Keystone XL pipeline could possibly do so.
This is not the first time that Jewish organizations have taken a stand against Keystone XL http://www.jta.org/2013/03/28/news-opinion/opinion/op-ed-jews-should-work-to-reduce-fossil-fuels-not-ally-with-gas-and-oil-companies> and we call upon fellow Jewish leaders to join us in encouraging President Obama and Congress to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.
Signed by the following members of the Green Hevra:
Aytzim: Ecological Judaism
Eden Village Camp
Habonim Dror North America
Jewish Climate Action Network
Jewish Farm School
Jews Against Hydrofracking
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
The Shalom Center
Shoresh Jewish Environmental Programs
You will notice The Shalom Center is among the signers. We agree with the statement, and also believe that an important part of our own task in the “cultural ecology” of a transformative spiritual movement is pointing out when a path risks danger and destruction, as well as heartening all who walk a path that chooses life and Breath.
Blessings of truth, justice, life, and shalom –