Tonight is the start of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day).
Yesterday, in honour of this day, we listened to a humdinger of a sermon by Rabbi YY Rubinstein, one of the most sought-after rabbis in the world:
After giving his opinion on the recent decision taken at Manchester University to boycott Israeli academics (yet again),
Rabbi YY related his experience at a recent meeting of university chaplains from all over the country, including some imams. This meeting took place at Church House in Manchester. The subject was how to deal with anti-semitism on campus, although it was billed somewhat differently. The meeting had been arranged jointly by the Council of Christians and Jews and the Christian-Muslim Forum.
According to Rabbi YY, people were awfully nice and friendly and he wondered whether to change the address he had already prepared. But he decided against this option, and spoke to his fellow Christian and Muslim chaplains as follows:
'...The New Anti Semitism is in reality the old anti Semitism. When I walk in the street or Campus and someone shouts "Jew" or "Palestine" at me, they have not asked me whether or not I am an Israeli or a Zionist, I am in fact neither, they simply see a Jew and one Jew is guilty of the crimes or perceived crimes of all the Jews… In medieval Europe I killed Jesus. In the New Anti Semitism I am guilty of every alleged crime of Israel, although I have never oppressed a Palestinian or a Muslim in my life… and that is Anti Semitism.
But let me here be frank. Since the founding of the State in 1948 it has created untold suffering. It has been responsible for a massive transfer of population and a huge refugee problem. It was carved out of an existing State and was set up specifically to be the home of one religious group. It is Nuclear armed and has been the cause of several wars with its neighbours, any one of which could have escalated and dragged the world into a third world war. It’s politicians and government are generally believed to be corrupt… But personally I wish Pakistan and it’s people well.'
After the general intake of breath at this .... (call it what you will), Rabbi YY went on to say:
Now if you thought I was taking about Israel, that s because you suffer from Anti Semitism. To single out one person for criticism and disapproval while ignoring the exact same faults in others in bigotry and prejudice. Against Jews it has historically been called Anti Semitism and that is exactly what it is today.
Rabbi YY went on to talk about George Orwell's remarkable 1945 essay: Anti-Semitism in Britain:
"George Orwell in an essay on Anti Semitism wrote the following…
'I defy any modern intellectual to look closely and honestly into his own mind without coming upon nationalistic loyalties and hatreds of one kind or another. It is the fact that he can feel the emotional tug of such things, and yet see them dispassionately for what they are, that gives him his status as an intellectual. It will be seen, therefore, that the starting point for any investigation of anti-Semitism should not be "Why does this obviously irrational belief appeal to other people?" but "Why does anti-Semitism appeal TO ME? What is there about it that I feel to be true?" If one asks this question one at least discovers one's own rationationalisations, and it may be possible to find out what lies beneath them. Anti-Semitism should be investigated ... and I will not say by anti-Semites, but at any rate by people who know that they are not immune to that kind of emotion."'
Meanwhile this was my own contribution to how well Jews, Christians and Muslims (not to mention Bahais and Druze) get on in Haifa, Israel. It is published in the Council of Christians and Jews' journal 'Common Ground', which I'm delighted to see is now available on line. Just scroll down to the article entitled Melting Pot:
Haifa University was the focus of the earlier attempt by the universities' union to boycott Israel.
Let's look at the whole thing from a different perspective. Much has been made of the Dalai Lama's recent visit to Britain. Wherever he went, his presence aroused admiration both for him as a person and for the message he encapsulates. The Times described this as follows:
all things result from a web of conditions rather than from the design of an omniscient creator god, willing the world to be as it is. Such teaching enables people to see that they are free to create more loving conditions.
I would not agree with the entirety of the above quote. It is possible for there to be a creator God and also a 'web of condition';. This parallel phenomenon is best encapsulated in the story of Pharoah - the one who wouldn't let the Jewish people go, as described in the Book of Exodus. Eventually, Pharoah's heart hardened so much that he was unable to release himself from the negative web of his own creation. And yet, the passage also states that 'God hardened Pharoah's heart':
Life does not need to be 'either-or'. It can also be 'both-and'. By singling out the Jewish people for violent attack, whether verbal, physical or both, whether on campus in Manchester, or on campus in Haifa, or at the UN, or in the streets of leafy Hendon, the antagonists are putting themselves in the position of Pharoah. A 'both-and' stance would make them feel happier and therefore place them in a better position to help all those who are currently suffering in the Middle East, as well as world-wide.
Quite a few MPs who congratulated Israel on its 60th during a recent debate in Parliament, would seem to go along with this view as well: