We Are Not Amalekites Support for SPME Both Principled and Personal

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Some time back, I gave a talk entitled,”Be Like Amalek.” Its essential message was that while we must remain vigilant in our defense of Israel and the Jewish people, we must not be seduced by antisemitic messages couched in pious-sounding phrases, we also must maintain our own humanity. That means not abandoning those principles of right and justice that make Israel the only democracy in the Middle East, and upon which Jews have based participation in various civil rights efforts for centuries. It means doing what is right, regardless of reactions.

Recently, an attorney friend of mine found himself at the Israeli Supreme Court as Yitzchak Pass was brought in shackles to testify against the terrorist who murdered his infant child. Pass was in chains because he reacted to the terror by plotting terrorist revenge against Arabs. No matter how much Israeli authorities might have understood his anger, principles of justice and law had to prevail. And Israel took such action despite the deafening silence of the international media and diplomatic -doing what is right is based on a commitment to justice, not on the reactions of some one in France, Egypt, or elsewhere.

In an address he would have delivered in Israel before being arrested for the attempt, Bangladeshi journalist, Salah Uddin Shaib Choudhury, noted: “In Israel, you have any number of viewpoints being aired in any number of forums. You have Likud; you have Labor. You have Shas; you have Shinnui. You have Peace Now; you have the Temple Mount Faithful. You have The Jerusalem Post; you have Ha-aretz! Advocates of large-scale concessions to the Arabs and even the”right of return” exist in the Knesset alongside others who advocate a Greater Israel and population transfer. Outside of Israel, despite the allegations of conspiracy aficionados, there is no singular “Jewish Lobby” or “Israel’s Amen Corner,” where people tow the party line or face sanctions. Quite the contrary, there are anti-Israel Jews from Noam Chomsky to Adam Shapiro, who sat with Yassir Arafat in his Mukata, while surrounded by IDF forces.

The Book of Exodus distinguishes Israelites from other peoples because they made it to Sinai. The Egyptians, Amalekites, and others who attacked the former slaves did not receive God’s revelation, which according to historian Thomas Cahill, was “the wildest, most exhausting, most terrifying epiphany. Cahill also writes that perhaps history’s greatest and most novel innovation followed from that; viz., tying moral behavior to religion and to God. Thus, do the Israelites and their descendants carry that heavy burden throughout history; thus, with that burden do we become a chosen people. And thus can we not abandon principle even while defending our very existence -quite a formidable balancing act.

How much more difficult is such a delicate blending of strength and understanding for a college student, especially one surrounded by a weltanschauung of unending anti-Israel invective; invective that paints one’s heritage, one’s family perhaps, all that one imbibed as a child, with the brush of “oppressor”? With a daughter entering college in the fall, my concern has become personal. Unlike some parents, my fear is not that she will don the kefiyah and justify her own people’s vilification. Her identity is strong. She has been to Israel, including the territories, and can speak with first-hand knowledge. But I wonder how she will view that identify and belief system when those around her attack it with the same justice imagery in which she believes with equal passion. How will she maintain her own sense of equilibrium? How will that affect her relationships and college experience?

With chapters on over a dozen campuses and members affiliated with well over 200 institutions, SPME has become a primary entity to help students with that set of issues. It provides an ideological support system “an alternate weltanschauung “and facts to counter pleasant-sounding falsehoods. Individual students and faculty have solicited and received our help. Anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli propaganda masquerading as academic truth have been reported to us, and we have taken action.

SPME founder, Dr. Ed Beck, has been invited to participate in international forums and seminars on these matters. Beyond that, most of us find among the various web sites and egroups that stand with us in Israel’s support, those whose message is divisive. So passionate are their authors in our defense, that the level of discourse at times falls to the regions where we find those arrayed against us.

SPME, on the other hand, has conducted its activities in a spirit of inclusiveness. Its adherence to principle and the quality of its advocacy makes SPME an effective aid to students confronted with these dilemmas by showing the consonance “if not moral imperative” between a passionate defense of Israel and a commitment to the principles of human rights.

[1] The Israelites were the only people to receive a collective revelation from God. There were individual revelations with transforming qualities, such as Balaam received (Num. 22-24). So, the Torah instructs us not to consider all others bereft of moral fiber, -something to bear in mind within this context.

[2] Thomas Cahill, The Gifts of the Jews. (Anchor Books: New York, 1998), page 133

We Are Not Amalekites Support for SPME Both Principled and Personal

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Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.

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