Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Dialogue - A Liberal Rabbi Meets Jihad

Peacepalestine is pleased to present an actual dialogue between Rabbi Moisha’le Tikunovitz, a Reform Rabbi (as well as a humanist) and Jihad Axman, an ordinary human being (who also happens to be an ex Jew). Drawing by Ben Heine.

Rabbi Moisha’le Tikunovitz: Dear Jihad, I wonder if you could help me understand your distinction between a State and a land. Where does the land of Palestine lie and where are its borders and who decided that? God? A spiritual force in the universe?

Jihad Axman: Dear Rabbi, land is obviously an area of ground with reference to its nature, a land is a geographical matter. A State, on the other hand, is a human construction. It is set by people.

Rabbi Moisha’le: Ok then, but how does a land become a land? Is Iraq a land or a State?

Jihad: Iraq was a national State, it was set down originally by the late Anglo-French imperial forces.

Rabbi Moisha’le: OK, if Iraq is not a land, what are the relationships between a State and a land?

Jihad: A State is set over a land or lands. The decisions are left obviously down to hegemony. As far as Iraq is concerned, once upon a time it was the Anglo-French imperials and others. After that it was Saddam who had some expansionist aspirations. Nowadays it is Blair and Bush and soon it will be the Shiites or Sunnis. Or rather Iran and Al Qaeda...

Rabbi Moisha’le: Let’s slow down. You seem to be quite mystic and I would like to learn more about your mystical beliefs about how lands become lands. Was Palestine Palestine before Greeks and Romans conquered it?

Jihad: Rabbi Moisha’le, you may have to open the Bible from time to time. Once you do just that you may be able to remind yourself that the 'Plishtim' (Philistine) were living in the land even before the Israelite tribes made their way back from their long Egyptian Exile. Now may I suggest that that Rabbi listen to the similarities between the following sounds, Plishtim, Philistine, filistine, Palestine... is it a coincidence?

Rabbi Moisha’le: I can see your point yet, was it already the land of Palestine then? And with the same borders?

Jihad: It was indeed a land with very similar natural borders (the sea in the west, a river in the east, mountains in the north, desert in the south and olive trees in the middle). Obviously, it lacked the newly emerging 'defence wall' your brothers and my ex’s are erecting these days.

Rabbi Moisha’le: What does a piece of geography have to do to become a land?

Jihad: An organic piece of geography constitutes a land, it doesn't have to do thing and the land does not do a thing. It is the people who are devoted and love their soil, they are the ones who are doing for their land. This is, for instance, the difference between the Palestinians, the people who dwell in Palestine and looked after it and the Israeli colonialists who came and destroyed the land, it is ecology as well as its indigenous population that make a place a land.

Rabbi Moisha’le: Did Judea ever exist as a land? Or ancient Israel?

Jihad: It depends on whether you refer to the Judea tribe or the land? Judea is indeed a small piece of land. Many years ago it was occupied by a tribe that carried the same name.

Rabbi Moisha’le: Was there ever a land that wasn’t first conquered by outsiders who appropriated it from the animals and called it “a land?”

Jihad: Being a Rabbi and a Judicially orientated being, you may fail to realise that people come and go but land stays forever.

To dwell is to make love to your land. This indeed where Zionism was aiming, towards the transformation of the Diaspora Jew into a civilized authentic organic being who lives on his land, loves it and cultivates it. Clearly, this wasn't achieved.

If to follow early Marx, it may have something to do with the modern Jewish spirit that is orientated around mobility, capital and urban life.

Rabbi Moisha’le: Let’s go back a bit. Excuse me for being an ignorant, but you have obviously missed the point of my question, earlier on. What makes a land Iraq and not Iran, where does the boundary of a land derive from?

Jihad: Sykes Picot 1916.

Rabbi Moisha’le: You call a land Palestine, but why is it that and not the land of The Arab Nation, or the land of the Chinese nation?

Jihad: Again you confuse the notion of land and nation. Land is a pre-historical notion. It predates man. Nation is a late 19th century concept.

Rabbi Moisha’le: Why should Palestine stop where it does at the borders of Jordan or Iraq, why should it not include Iraq and Iran and maybe even China?

Jihad: Within the emerging power of Islam, Muslims may unite into one big nation, yet Palestine will still remain the land of Palestine.

Rabbi Moisha’le: When you grapple with where borders end, you will see that there is no such thing as the land of Palestine, but only the land of the entire earth, one whole global entity, in which any claim to be the land of some particular people is the product of conquest and human arrogance.

Jihad: Not at all, as you should know, regarding the tie between the Palestinians and their land, Palestine has nothing to do with “conquest and human arrogance”. It is the ultimate example of an organic bond between man and his land. Indeed it is the Palestinians who are subject to a Zionist crime of conquest and arrogance. This is exactly the evil I insist upon confronting.

Rabbi Moisha’le: Isn’t it clear to you that Palestine or China or America or anything else are part of the entirety of Gaia, and that therefore your distinction between State and land fails.

Jihad: If this is indeed the case then please enlighten me and tell me why the Jewish nationalist aim was directed towards Palestinian rather than Beijing, Brooklyn or the entirety of Gaia? To your comment, Palestine or China or America are indeed part of the entirety of Gaia, yet they are not the Gaia. The Gaia is the whole and the lands are the parts. The whole and the part are categorically different. Ask yourself why we have two distinctive words for earth and land, or in Hebrew Cheval Eretz and Olam. Earth is obviously the planet that accommodates all the different lands, continents, oceans, seas, lakes and rivers. Our planet is divided into many lands in many shapes. On our planet there are many people who are attached to their lands and love their soil. There is at the same time one people who call themselves a nation just because they have an aspiration for a piece of land that actually belongs to its indigenous people, in the case we are discussing, the Palestinians. You Rabbi, support the robbery of those indigenous people. This is OK, you are not the only one, yet, you fail to produce a moral argument that allows it.

Rabbi Moisha’le: My argument is simple; any given land has no ontological status but is merely a reflection of human social relations, and that goes for Palestine as much as for Israel or China or France or Russia or Vietnam.

Jihad: Ontology is irrelevant to this discussion, try to find another word. Etymology would probably fit better. Indeed the land of Palestine is the land of the biblical Plishtim (Philistine). Yet, who are the Palestinians? Good question, probably Hebraic people who failed to flee two millennia ago. You see Rabbi, land stays, people come and go.

Rabbi Moisha’le: I do support the Palestinian people and want them to be free of Israeli occupation.

Jihad: Indeed, a very liberal man you are. You indeed want the Palestinians to be free in their homeland. I am truly impressed.

Rabbi Moisha’le: But I do not believe that any people has an intrinsic right to any “land” because every such “land” is just a product of previous acts of violence and not anything more than that.

Jihad: I do not know much about what you are now calling “intrinsic right to lands”, and when it comes to Palestine this is not the issue. If anything, it is the Zionist call that you support by insisting on a Jewish State right there which makes a claim for intrinsic rights to the “promised land”. If this is not the case, how would you explain the robbery of Palestine?

Rabbi Moisha’le: People conquer a particular place, and then call it their land.

Jihad: This is indeed the case of Israel.

Rabbi Moisha’le: But then others come and conquer that and call it their land. And if they succeed in conquering their nearby neighbor, then that too becomes part of “their land” and that is how it has been historically.

Jihad: It is really cheering that you are now grounding your Zionist aspirations on historical arguments rather than on ethical ones. Being a Jewish “spiritual leader”, it is no surprise that you prefer the discourse of historical materialism rather than the ethical one.

Rabbi Moisha’le: Jihad, let’s face it, the notion of indigenous is a romantic fantasy.

Jihad: To start with, it is not a fantasy, because some people do feel an intrinsic belonging to a piece of land and this determines their reality of life. Yet, it is not surprising that a Rabbi is foreign to such feelings. As you may know, the early Zionists were aiming at repairing this exact lack within the Diaspora Jewish Psyche. They grasped that Jews are attached to capital rather than to soil. I suggest that you read Borochov and other early Zio-socialists who were very concerned with the lack of authenticity you yourself perform. It seems as if they were writing just about you. Now the issue of Romanticism is nothing but a continuation of the same topic. Only people who feel attachment to soil can be romantic. This is why early Romanticism was born in Germany rather than in Zion or any other Jewish Shtetl.

Rabbi Moisha’le: But your conception of a people that has a right to land is actually reactionary in the context of the 21st century in which people must evolve away from all such claims and recognize that they have no “rights” to the land but only obligations to the whole human race and to the whole planet earth to do their best to protect both and repair it from the damage done by people starting not 50 or 200 years ago, but throughout the period of human civilization for the past ten thousand years at least.

Jihad: Dear Moshik. Rather often I hear political Jews using the word “reactionary”. Somehow it always sounds pathetic. Yet, to hear it from a Rabbi who supports and performs an ancient barbarian blood ritual such as circumcision (brit mila) makes it sound really funny.

However, am I allowed to guess that by saying: "people must evolve away from all such claims and recognize that they have no “rights” to the land but only obligations to the whole human race" you actually dismiss the Zionist adventure, leave behind the immoral two state solution and join us in the call for a “One State Solution”, based on full equality?

If this is indeed the case. all that is left for me to do is to say, Salam Alekum a Rabbi Tikunovitz. If this indeed the case, Rabbi Moisha’le you are indeed Bar Tikun (repairable).



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