Thursday, October 08, 2009

Is This A Jew Thing?

I spotted this post:

Posted on Oct 7th by William in Faith & practice

Godalming Quakers are far from happy to see their local “ethical” Waitrose selling produce from illegally occupied West Bank settlements. I know this seems a small thing, but everything starts somewhere. The settlements are illegal, immoral, and a blockage to the Middle East peace process that Israel/Palestine desperately needs. So let’s do what we can.

• Israeli settlements in the West Bank on Palestinian Land
are illegal by international law.
• The import of goods from these settlements is against
the letter and spirit of UK/EU – Israel trade agreements.
• Godalming Waitrose is selling fresh herbs marked
‘West Bank’. The label is unclear and customers buying
such goods will unwittingly support the occupier at the
expense of the occupied.
• Waitrose states that its food is ‘ethically produced’ –
the sale of ‘West Bank’ herbs from Israeli settlements
is the opposite of ethical.

Please support the upholding of human rights law and ask
Waitrose management to stop trading with illegal settlements.
Find out more at:

Refusing to buy “West Bank” goods is not the same as refusing to buy goods from Israel, which has a perfect right to exist under international law, and should moreover to be able to exist without fear.

I left this comment there:

If the products were labeled as produced in "Judea" and "Samaria" - see Acts 8:1 - would that be okay? Or if the produce of Arabs is marked as "West Bank", would that be also boycotted? Or is this only a Jew thing?

And I'll expand a bit.

There is nothing not ethical in Jews living in their homeland. There is something quite unethical in Arabs trying to prevent, ever since 1920, through violence, terror and war, the establishment of a reconstituted Jewish National Home as guaranteed in international law. As religious persons, Quakers and those who affiliate with them should know that they are identifying with the wrong side, no matter how sympathetic the Arabs portray themselves.

Oh, and if you're wondering, that isn't Godamning Quakers but really Goldaming. It's a town in the UK:Godalming, Surrey GU7 1HR.


William said...

Greetings from Godalming, Surrey and thanks for your comment. I'd like to make my position clearer.

This is not about taking sides. Violence has no role to play in a just resolution. None of us should be blind to the violence Israel has suffered, nor should any of us be blind to the violence it metes out.

We dont always like every law but it seems better to live in a society which is law-abiding than one ruled by dogma.

You can say there's "nothing not ethical" about a people living in a place with which they have a deep spiritual and historic association. But this begs questions: by whose authority is it "theirs", and if they weren't living there before by what means do they reacquire it?

The first answer can only be international law. And the second can only be by legal and non-violent means.

We have to live in hope that all the people of the Middle East find a peaceful and lawful way to live together. In the meantime do not accuse me of taking sides, and do not imply that this decision not to spend money on produce from illegally and often violently occupied settlements is rooted in racial or religious prejudice, cos it ain't.

YMedad said...

You write: "by whose authority is it "theirs", and if they weren't living there before by what means do they reacquire it? The first answer can only be international law."

That's the point. By international law, the Middle East was liberated from Ottoman rule after WW I. Several Arab states were to arise and did. One Jewish state was to be reconstituted in the land area of today's Israel, territories and Jordan but in 1923, TransJordan was separated but still yet another partition was made. The Arabs never accepted any of this and launched from 1920, terror attacks against Jewish civilians.

So, according to your own logic and assertion, Jews like me belong in Judea and Samaria even if the area didn't come into our psossession again in 1967 as a result of a defensive war.

William said...

A wise Jew (whose name is much taken in vain) suggested millenia ago we should love our neighbours as ourselves. I think it's a fair test to ask of a religious practice that its followers should meet that basic standard, and it's disturbing that two of the world's oldest and most respected religions are falling so spectularly short in Israel/Palestine in that respect (just as a third - Christianity - has fallen short for decades in Northern Ireland near where I live).

In my tradition we are advised to ask ourselves: "Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs?" In declining to buy produce from illegally occupied West Bank settlements, and in pointing this out to others, we're trying to be faithful to that.

YMedad said...

That wise Jew would be...Hillel based on the Bible: "The concept of the Golden Rule originates most famously in the Biblical verse, "Love thy neighbor as yourself" (Hebrew: "ואהבת לרעיך כמוך") in Leviticus 19:18. The Sage Hillel formulated the Silver rule in order to illustrate the underlying principles of Jewish moral law: “ That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”
— Talmud, Shabbat 31a.

Okay, now that we have that correct, let me be clear: Arabs can live in the Land of Israel and within the modern political framwework know as the State of Israel. In my belief system, based on history, legality, diplomacy and theology, Arabs have all rights, civil anhd otherwise, in that entity but no rights to it. That's what the civilized world recognized when in all the decisions regarding the reconstitution of the Jewish National Home, a phrase you cannot bring yourself to deal with it would seem, the 'other side' to Jews was always the 'non-Jew', not Arab, not Muslim, not Christian but all of them together. Moroever, the Jews/Zionists agreed in 1923 to compromise of territory across the Jordan, in 1937 agreed again to a partiton west of the Jordan, in 1947 again agreed to a partition - in all cases the Arab side refused, waged terror, pressured UK so that hundreds of thousadns of Jews if not millions could not get out of Europe before and during WW II (see Wasserstein, bernard, Britain and the Jews of Europe 1939-1945", 1979). So please, go easy on the morality, the religion, et al. with me.

Try this from today's Haaretz: 'Settlements are comparable to blowing up buses in Tel Aviv' Fatah official Dahlan.

Ridiculous, no?

Anonymous said...


William seems to be ignoring the historical reality. It would be good to keep reiterating the reality of the two (1920 - 1937/1947) partition attempts. If there was a mistake made, it was the agreement to the second partition, which the Arabs are now using to hammer home the so-called "illegality" of the "occupation".
That being said, however, international precedence (i.e. WWI and WWII), should show them that when you fight an offensive war and lose (Germany), you do not necessarily get to keep all the land you claim as "yours". Germany is certainly not the size today that it was prior to WWII. Neither is Japan for that matter, having ceded some Pacific islands to the U.S. A hard stance is now needed, and as a follower of Yeshua, I pray that Prime Minister Netanyahu does the smart thing and permanently annexes Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and the Temple Mount. This would change the discussion considerably, as it would permanently fix the borders of Yeretz Israel, thus focusing the discussion as you said on the political rights of the Arab residents in Israel.



YMedad said...

Thanks Michael.

The historical record is quite uncomfortable for the new generation of ethical moralists who simply cannot grasp that in the political sense we did all we could to compromise and reach a fairly equitable resolution way before the state of Israel was founded. But for a religious person to seem to doubt that we Jews have at least no less a right to be in our homeland and, I'll be clear on my position, much more of a right for the Arabs were the conquerors and occupiers of this land in the 7th century, is unfathomable. To adopt the position that he has done, William is simply taking advantage of a thinly-veiled approach that somehow we Jews don't deserve what every other people have: political independence and sovereignty. I cannot accept that, the League of Nations didn't accept that and the British government didn't either in 1917.

There's a wry humor that says: for centuries the Europeans told us Jews to go back to Palestine and when we finally did, they claim we're doing something wrong.

YMedad said...

And now we have this ethical behavior, here:

Earlier this week I removed Tesco dates, in packets labeled “Origin: West Bank,” from the shelves of Tesco’s Swansea Marina store. Since last January, I have confiscated a number of similar packets and written to Tesco CEO Terry Leahy explaining why...

A more public ‘citizen’s seizure’ was then organized at the same Tesco store...Where a process is inadmissible, not to mention cruel, so is its product – whether settlement dates, blood diamonds, evidence obtained by torture, or lampshades made of human skin. Where government lawmakers and enforcers fail to uphold our commitments in international law, citizens have a right and duty to step in.

Import and sale of settlement produce amounts to handling stolen goods, it undermines international law and helps prolong a conflict for which Britain bears heavy responsibility.

...I have posted a single date – stolen fruit from stolen land – with a letter of explanation to each of the following: Attorney General Baroness Scotland, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC, Supreme Court Chief Executive Jenny Rose, Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, and South Wales Chief Constable Barbara Wilding.

Copies of the explanatory letter have been sent to Tesco CEO Terry Leahy, Swansea MP Alan Williams, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK, the Palestine Monitor group in Ramallah, and the Jewish Anti-war Network in Israel.

I first became aware of events in Palestine when I was working on an earthquake relief team in Lebanon in 1956 and a Palestinian friend gave me a book called Palestine is Our Business...More recently I have served as an observer/accompanier on the West Bank for British Quakers (although I’m not one).

...Should a teacher really be allowed to carry on teaching if he’s stealing West Bank produce from Tesco?

Notice that Quaker link?

William said...

The history is indeed uncomfortable, like so much of history and the UK bears a peculiarly heavy responsibility.

Nor am I comfortable playing the role of "the other" here on a blog where I dont know anyone. If you'd rather be left to agree among yourselves I'll desist with some relief.

But none of the history or comments I see here or anywhere justifies the daily humilations endured by Palestinian west bank farmers, or the illegal occupation of settlements. That's why I won't buy the "West Bank" produce.

It's a wonderful starting point to say "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." It's a fine and universal principle, which should also apply to all, including the farmers of the West Bank. Take away the historic self-justification and do you see how far from that fine principle today's border guards and settlers have lapsed? What happened? Is betraying that principle good for Jews, for Israel, for anyone?

YMedad said...

Yes, there are instances of criminal behavior or plain harrassment which I find intolerable, and I have served in the territories in my resrve duty so I know it can be different. Nevrtheless, to blithely ignore the reason those checkpoints are up, and to ignore the horrific terror campaign which has been a staple of the Arabs before and after the state was created, before 1967 and after, before Oslo 1993 and after, is to be morally deficient as regards the political reality of the conflict. As if one fine morning Israel went for a stroll to the hills of Judea and Samaria, not to mention Sinai (returned 1005), Gaza (returned 100%) and the Golan (annexed). Funny how we have a much better peacefull situation with Syria whose territory we hold on to rather than Gaza?

"Self-justification"? Much better thabn self-creation of a people that never existed and into the 1920s and afterwards insisted they were Southern Syrians.

William said...

Pretty impressed by the quality of this dialogue:

You have some excellent media in Israel! I shall leave you in peace now, and post one more set of reflections on my own blog.