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In Defence of Dissidence
Conscious Jews look at Israel policies toward Palestine
By Bruce Katz


As a faith, Judaism underscores the sanctity of the relationship of Man to God. As such, Judaism is the religious expression of the integrity of the individual, his or her binding and unique relation to God with all of the individual moral responsibility inherent in that relation. Accordingly, Judaism has always been the expression of the transcendent as opposed to the material, the holiness and sublimeness of the individual's relation to God over and above the relation of the individual to the State. This predominance of faith over the concept of the State has cost innumerable Jews dearly over the centuries, more particularly in the Occident, as that refusal to sacrifice the transcendence of faith to the dictates of the monarch or the State has been tested over and over again. Not surprisingly, this resistance to the kings of the earth has bred many original Jewish thinkers, a number of whom have expressed dissident views of the powers-that-be, not as an exercise in anarchy, but out of a sense of duty to a higher moral principle.

The present situation in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, which has seen the systematic abuse of the rights of its Palestinian inhabitants by the Israeli government, is also the test of those individuals who make up world Jewry - the test of whether or not Jews as individuals will stand upon the rock of those higher Judaic principles of justice and basic morality to denounce what is immoral and unjust, though this mean a severe critique of the policies of the State of Israel; for the concept of the State is not a faith, and the State of Israel is not itself Judaism, though there be many in the Jewish community who expressly blur the distinction. By blurring the distinction they have facilitated the absorption of Judaism into the State, and this we hold to be both a transgression of faith and a blow to the idea of the liberal democratic state. If the individual Jew's obligation is first to God and to the observance of a higher moral principle, then it follows that it is the moral obligation of all Jews to stand against all forms of injustice. If that means that he or she must stand against the State itself when the latter transgresses basic morality, then that is in keeping with the principle of faith in God.

Briefly stated, Judaism is a faith; it is not the expression of ethnicity nor is it nor should it be bound to the State. This is what we, Jews who are dissident in respect to the policies of the State of Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinian people, proclaim by the very act of that dissidence. We reject wholly the attempt by individuals within the Jewish community to intimidate other Jews by descending an iron curtain of tribal collectiveness over the entire community, the weight of which is meant to crush those points of view which dissent from their own. No religious or tribal elite has any right to impose a blind conformity upon the other members who remain first and foremost individuals though they share certain articles of faith and culture. The observance of ritual is not in itself the expression of morality. One can be observant of ritual strictly as the attempt to "keep up appearances" while actually believing in nothing. The test of faith and moral integrity is met when one is able to stand even against one's own tribe in the defence of justice. We hereby express our dissidence with the present policies of the government of Israel, and in so doing we declare our own freedom as Jews and individual human beings.


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Op-ed Submission of Robert Silverman and Bruce Katz submitted to the Montreal Gazette and rejected.


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