15 December 2011

No More Silence

dan pagis, 1930-1986
This week I read a quote about the tragic shooting and killing of NYPD officer Peter Fogoski from someone who observed about his killer, Lamont Pride, "In a split second, he decided to pull the trigger."  The final death blow of ultimate responsibility, a moment some killers wish they could take back forever; and a moment for some killers in which they show no remorse; and always, for the victim, a moment of silence for the passing of an unarticulated and unjust verdict:  end-of-life.

Every death unique; each end the same.  And the immediate moment of its execution--planned or spontaneous--weighs heavily, paradoxically, in wordless suspension.

When Cain rises up to kill Abel, we don't know what Cain said before he took his brother's life.  Either Torah chooses not to preserve the statement or it has been lost to orality, to redaction and remembrance or lack thereof.  It's absence fills the grief filled moment of humankind's first murder:

ויאמר קין אל הבל אחיו...ויהיבהיותם בשדה ויקם קין אל הבל אחיו ויהרגהו And Cain said to his brother Abel...and when they were in the field, Cain set upon his brother Abel and killed him.

The Sages are left to fill this gap in the text with their interpretive musings, ultimately concluding that sexual rivalry, economics and religious difference are at the source of most human conflicts.  Sex, money and God.  The same crippling jealousies very time.

Cain's silence, the silence of the killer, draws the curtain down on this ancient story, couching humankind's first murder in the murky, territorial waters of an allusive motivation, leaving us, the reader, to attempt to penetrate the human psyche from its very beginnings, to open up the process of examining motivations for our most profound jealousies and hatreds, ultimately, one would hope, in an effort to contain them.

When Joseph enters the narrative, the favored son, the ostentatious dreamer, his brothers' articulate quite clearly why they hate him.  " 'Do you mean to reign over us?  Do you mean to rule us?'  And they hated him even more for his talk about his dreams."  And when it comes time to do away with him, while some articulate killing him, others intercede, moderate the response, channel their destruction, if you will, with Reuben distinguishing himself by arguing that they not commit murder but merely sell Joseph into slavery and rid themselves, temporarily, of his annoying ways.

Over the next several weeks, this drama will play itself and reach its famous climax of the brothers reunification and reconciliation for past hatreds, a rare moment of redemption in a land soaked with blood.

These stories come to mind especially this week, when it appears that there is in the Land of Israel an uncontrolled urge toward hatred that has lost its ability to contain itself.  From a tear-gas canister shot into the face of a Palestinian protester and taking his life, to a Settler attack on IDF soldiers followed by today's horrifying news that another mosque has been attacked, graffitied and burned, should have us deeply concerned about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ability to keep a lid on the boiling rages of a dangerous, rebellious, and treasonous segment of his population. 

I would expect the national leadership of American Jewry to get itself into a room and to formulate as clear an articulation as it possibly can to the Prime Minister of Israel and his government that the lack of the rule of law, the unabated violent religious fervor of certain segments of the Settler movement inebriated in its devotion to God and Land, and the outright refusal to arrest, jail, try and sentence those found to have carried out such egregious acts of hatred and war against Palestinians, Israelis on the political left, and the IDF--the backbone of the nation since its founding--will spell the catastrophic end for Israel.

The time for grandstanding is over.

I expect the national bodies of major American Jewish organizations to make their concern clearly heard and to demand immediate steps taken or risk losing permanently an already tenuous support that American Jews share with the Israeli government.

I stick my neck out every single day, defending Israel against its haters, detractors, and anti-Semites.  And I recognize, with great humility, the sacrifices made by Israelis every single moment of every single day, living in a hostile and unstable region.

But tear-gas canisters shot in the face of protesters; attacks on IDF posts; and the burning of houses of worship are categorically amoral and indefensible.  Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks a good English--he should fill the void of silence with words of condemnation and actions to make things better.

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