Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Rav Meidan and John Locke

In Rav Meidan's impassioned interview with Haaretz he had a remark which caused me to pause.
[H]ere there is a specific matter of many people, perhaps a quarter of the army, who are being asked to do something contrary to their belief. I do not think it is right to break their belief.
I have been (and still am) a bit confused regarding how the evacuation from Gaza (or "uprooting,"as R. Meidan calls it) is qualitatively different from Kelo. Eminent domain, kick people out of their homes, give them money, end of story. If you had to build a huge highway through Gaza, you would not see thousands of people complaining and burning tires in bright orange that they are losing their houses of n generations.

The issue here is Religious Zionism (RZ), as R. Meidan points out. RZ has created a myth for itself over the course of the last century--that Israel is the first step in redemption. And as crazy as many believe Chabad is for their eschetological rhetoric, RZ's do the exact same thing. Now that they are being forced to pull back they are undergoing a religious conundrum; their whole theology is being challenged. But who is to blame?

As John Locke points out so eloquently in his Letter on Toleration:
But, after all, the principal consideration, and which absolutely determines this controversy, is this: Although the magistrate's opinion in religion be sound, and the way that he appoints be truly Evangelical, yet, if I be not thoroughly persuaded thereof in my own mind, there will be no safety for me in following it. No way whatsoever that I shall walk in against the dictates of my conscience will ever bring me to the mansions of the blessed... Faith only and inward sincerity are the things that procure acceptance with God. The most likely and most approved remedy can have no effect upon the patient, if his stomach reject it as soon as taken; and you will in vain cram a medicine down a sick man's throat, which his particular constitution will be sure to turn into poison... How great soever, in fine, may be the pretence of good-will and charity, and concern for the salvation of men's souls, men cannot be forced to be saved whether they will or no. And therefore, when all is done, they must be left to their own consciences*.
In a similar vain, R. Meidan invokes this sacred notion of conscience to exonerate those soldiers who request not to be assigned to certain duties--because it is just against their conscience.

Violence, as R. Meidan articulates, is out of the question, but isn't it wrong to compell a man to do something which he fundimentally rejects (like a conscience objector)? Those RZ in Gaza are not to blame for refusing to move, nor is the government wrong to expel them. It is qualitatively different than Kelo because it is a matter of conscience. That being said, I am delighted that a wrecking-ball is being taken to that messianic-conquest element to RZ. You are not what you own, and the sanctity of the Jewish people is not no way relative to the size of their country. Happy Birthday Oren.

*This passage from Locke, as I understand it, stands as the foundation for the concept of toleration. While it is obvious from the passage that it refers directly to the state's ability to coerce a faith upon their subjects, it has subsequently been expanded to encompass tolerance as a whole. Spinoza spends much time on this idea in chpt 15 & 16 in his TPT too. Spinoza is really, really smart (much smarter than Locke). Also I just really like this quote from Locke.


Sam said...

Zev, great post. I have a few random thoughts, nothing organized: I think that drafts are wrong unless in a time of dire emergency, and would certainly not want to be compelled to join the US army. Especially if I were to be sent to Baghdad! Fortunately (?) I have a serious medical problem which makes this more or less a thought experiment. What makes Israel different? That they might not have an army were it not compulsory? (This is perhaps their dire emergency.)

I think the occupation is rotten. It is a infuriating to hear people protest about the uprooting of a handful of Jews from settlements that should never have been built. Nearly a million Palestinians were made stateless in 1948! They hardly figure in Rav Meidan's interview.

Sadly the withdrawal from Gaza is likely to be disastrous for all.

(By the way, isn't today Oren's actual birthday? At least in my time zone? Also, buy the new Hella double album.)

miriam said...

zev and sam, i agree with you mostly but i have some objections/points to bring up:

zev -
"I am delighted that a wrecking-ball is being taken to that messianic-conquest element to RZ."

please. that's extremely un-nice, to the point of almost warranting somme more serious adjectives. remember what beruria said - not yitamu chot'im but yitamu chata'im (sins, not sinners, whould be obliterated). this may be one solution to a problem, but it's hard to argue that it's ideal, to the point of allowing "delight."

sam -
"It is a infuriating to hear people protest about the uprooting of a handful of Jews from settlements... Nearly a million Palestinians were made stateless in 1948"
being stateless and being homeless are not the same thing. some # of hundreds of thousands of palestinians (i'm not an expert on all that) were also made homeless ini 1948, which is perhaps the analogous situation, but being abstractly made "stateless" is not. this is partly me being pedantic and technical, aprtly me reacting to a common confusion in all this discourse that seeks to equate certain concrete situations of oppression with other more theoretical and more arguable ones.

Zev said...

Miriam, cut me some slack.

Sam, while some large number of Pals were left without a government to represent them in 1948, the number was not as high as 1 million. As far as I recall from Morris, the number was more akin to 600,000 (significant #?). But I think that you will readily admit, wartime population migration is sort of inevitable. The real issue lies with how the resulting scenario was (mis)handled. I think I agree with Morris on this one (re his two or three year old interview with Haaretz). Even then, Morris makes clear that the Israelis tried in good faith to give back Gaza in '67-'69. After consistent refusal, the RZ movement got the next pick in the draft.

However, I think the point of this interview is that the issue of displaced persons due to disengagement is distinct from the plight of the Palestinians. Yes, they suffered. But insofar as disengagement effects the RZ myth, it is very traumatic for the people it is affecting. Qualitatively different from the national myth of the Pals, which was created ex post facto. That is to say that I do not believe the Palestinian issue is directly relevant to this particular article.

If this seems off, it is because I wrote it at 3a.

Sam said...

Miriam, thanks. Zev, there is some disagreement about the numbers. I don't have access to a library right now, but the Israelis say there were about 500,000 refugees, but the UN estimates are closer to 700,000 (and Palestinian sources are higher than that, but Morris quotes the UN numbers).

I will readily admit that "wartime population migration is sort of inevitable," but does that exculpate the Israelis from a deliberate policy of transfer? As for Morris's interview, he more or less told Ari Shavit that the Israelis perpetrated ethnic cleansing, but "circumstances in history" justify it.

My point was that the absence of the Palestinians in this (recent) interview was a surprise. I guess I shouldn't have brought up the refugee crisis. The point is that the Israelis have perpetrated a massive injustice against the other occupants of the land, to which the evacuation of the Gaza settlements pales in comparison.

Usually I am reluctant to make these sorts of judgments on historical events—I think it is ghoulish to try to decide which crimes against humanity are worse than others. But in this case the Gaza settlements are part of the injustice! While it may be tragic for the occupants of the settlements to have to leave, they were living on stolen land.

I'm not sure I understand what you're saying when you compare national myths. Shabbat shalom.