A Jewish Voice for Peace, 6/3/2003
I am forwarding you (below) a program of "A Jewish Voice for Peace" in San Francisco. Their program draws — I think quite creatively — on the festival of Shavuot and the Revelation of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai as a way of expressing Jewishly their principled opposition to the present Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
One of my concerns all along in opposing the right-wing urge to dominate Palestinians has been to challenge the right-wing theft of Torah to support oppression — which could poison the bloodstream of Torah for many generations. So I am happy to see the JVP program, though I have some reservations about some aspects of it.
I have marked IN CAPS some thoughts of my own on their midrashic interpretations applying the Commandments to the present conflict.
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The Direct Action Committee of A Jewish Voice for Peace has been working on a demonstration for Shavuot. What I have included below are
1) the basic 10 Commandments,
2) extended interpretations of them to apply more broadly for people in general, not just Jews, and
3) ways that the oppression of Palestinians, and the occupation in particular, violate these laws.
Also, there is the announcement advertising the event.
Except for the announcement, the text hasn't been sent out to lists for wider reflection. I wanted to start with some teachers whose activist spirits I am at least slightly familiar with. We will distribute it more widely also, and if you feel moved to do so, you have our permission.
The response to our calling for this action has been encouraging, even enthusiastic. It is important to point out that the story (and our demonstration) doesn't end with Moses angry and smashing the tablets. He passes through that, with God's help, and realize that our sins say more about us and our humanity than about the teachings.
Hence, the tablets are remade, and the call is for rededication to compassion and reaffirmation of life. We are called to love more and not give up on each other, just as God hasn't given up on us or the rest of humanity. In that spirit, we offer the following application of the Ten Commandments in light of the current state of affair in Israel/Palestine and here in the United States.
For a more peaceful and just world,
For the Direct Action Committee,
Jewish Voice for Peace
The First Commandment
"I am the Lord [I WOULD SUGGEST INSTEAD "YHWH, THE BREATH OF LIFE" — I THINK THAT IS "BETTER" THEOLOGY & ALSO MORE ON-POINT HERE THAN "LORD"] your God [I WOULD ADD, AS THE TEXT SAYS, "WHO BROUGHT YOU OUT OF SLAVERY."]
(Let God Stand for Freedom and Justice for All)
Violations of the First Commandment:
Denying freedom to the Palestinians. Dealing unjustly
with the Palestinian people by creating an apartheid
system considered by many to be worse than existed in
South Africa. [THAT SENTENCE IS INFINITELY ARGUABLE. I'D DROP IT.] Unjustly imprisoning Israeli
conscientious objectors who refuse to kill or oppre
The Second Commandment
"You shall have no other gods before me."
(Don't Pray to Objects [I'D ADD: "AND DON'T BOW DOWN TO KINGS OR IDEOLOGIES")
Violations of the Second Commandment:
Praying to the false idols of money, image, and power.
Relying on U. S. military aid and overwhelming
firepower, rather than the forces of righteousness and
compassion. Building the new "security" wall to
separate peoples as a substitute for building a real
sense of hope and security. Praying that isolation
will bring peace. [I'D ADD: BLINDLY BELIEVING THE PROMISES OF PRIME MINISTERS, EVEN WHEN REALITY REFUTES THEM; TURNING NATIONALISM FROM A CREATIVE EXPRESSION OF IDENTITY INTO A RIGID IDEOLOGY THAT OPPRESSES OTHERS]
[I'D ALSOADD: FOR SOME PALESTINIANS, TURNING NATIONALISM FROM A CREATIVE EXPRESSION OF IDENTITY INTO A RIGID IDEOLOGY THAT KILLS AND ENDANGERS OTHERS]
The Third Commandment
"Don't take the name of the Lord in vain."
(Don't Make False Oaths or Use God's Name to Gain
Power Over Others)
Violations of the Third Commandment:
Negotiating with the Palestinians for peace in bad
faith by continuing to build illegal Israeli
settlements. Carrying out collective punishment and
other violations of international laws and
resolutions. Acting as if being a "chosen people"
makes us better than other people, or that oppression
we have suffered is worse than other people'
oppression. [I'D ADD: TURNING TORAH INTO AN INSTRUMENT OF OPPRESSION]
The Fourth Commandment
"Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy."
Violations of the Fourth Commandment:
Not resting, and continuing to control others' lives.
Not pausing to reflect on where the paths that are
being followed lead to.
The Fifth Commandment
"Respect your parents."
Violations of the Fifth Commandment:
Humiliating Palestinian parents and grandparents at
checkpoints guarded by scared 18 and 19 year-old
soldiers. Demolishing families' homes.
The Sixth Commandment
Violations of the Sixth Commandment:
Assassinations by F-16s, attack helicopters, guided
missiles, and snipers. Attacks on unarmed civilian
and international observers. Creating an oppressive
situation that encourages desperate people to lash out
with suicide bombings, which are also murder.
[I'D ADD: VIOLATIONS BY SOME PALESTINIANS: MURDERING ISRAELI CIVILIANS, AND CREATING RAGE AND FEAR THAT ENCOURAGES DESPERATE PEOPLE TO LASH OUT WITH VIOLENCE AGAINST PALESTINIANS, WHICH IS ALSO MURDER.]
The Seventh Commandment
"Don't commit adultery."
(Respect the family and honor social commitments)
Violations of the Seventh Commandment:
Destroying Palestinian civil records. Shutting or
The Eighth Commandment
Violations of the Eighth Commandment:
Taking Palestinian water and water rights.
Appropriating Palestinian lands for settlements and
bypass roads that are exclusively open to Israelis.
The Ninth Commandment
"Don't lie about your neighbors."
Violations of the Ninth Commandment:
Denying that the Palestinians exist as a people or
have any claim to the land. Laying unfair [I'D ADD: "TOTAL." IN MY VIEW, THEY SHARE SOME RESPONSIBILITY] blame on the
Palestinians for the lack of progress towards peace.
The Tenth Commandment
"Don't covet your neighbor's property."
(Don't long for things that you can't get in a moral
or legal way.)
Violations of the Tenth Commandment:
Appropriating Palestinian homes and not dealing justly
with the claims of people who lost homes and were made
refugees. Not allowing Palestinians to harvest their
olive trees and other crops.
Jews Say the Israeli Oppression of Palestinian Violates the 10 Commandments.
Join A Jewish Voice for Peace at an action protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
MONTGOMERY AND MARKET STREETS
Observe Shavuot, a holiday marking the time Jew received the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, and commemorate the 36th anniversary of The Six Day War, when the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Golan, and East Jerusalem began.
Jews call for an end to the Israeli oppression of Palestinians and a return to the original values of the 10 Commandments.
See Moses lament Israel's violations of the 10 Commandments and its mistreatment of the Palestinians. Hear Moses list the sins of the occupation. Feel Moses' pain at what is being done in the name of his people. Watch Moses act out his rage at the transgressions. Witness Moses asking forgiveness for the Jews.
Join us as we rededicate ourselves to live with love and compassion rather than hate and intolerance.
Program includes participatory theater, music, and speakers.
Action sponsored by A Jewish Voice for Peace
For more information, contact A Jewish Voice for Peace at firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-465-1777.