A Christmas Message in Dark Times

24 Dec

 

 

Here in the United States, I react against the avoidance of the word ‘Christmas’ during this holiday season. I would undoubtedly feel differently if I were living in Turkey or India. The legions of ‘the politically correct’ determined to avoid offending those, especially Jews, who are not Christians, will carefully express their good wishes with such phrases as ‘happy holidays!’ This is okay except it obliterates the vibrant symbolism of Christmas as a seminal occasion that has over the centuries transcended for most of us its specific religious roots and meanings. It has an ecumenical resonance that calls for bright lights, ornamented trees, celebration, and wishes for peace on earth and good will toward all, bringing together those of diverse faith or no faith at all. When I was growing up in New York City Christmas was ‘Christmas’ regardless of whether one was Christian or not, and implied no religious dedication whatsoever.

 

As time has passed, ethnic and religious sensitivities have grown as identities have become more tribal. I do partly associate this trend in my experience with the greater ethnic assertiveness of Jews over the years, especially in response to the ascent of Israel and the rise of Zionist loyalties. America’s ‘special relationship’ with Israel represents a governmental recognition that Israel can do no wrong in the eyes of Washington. This is another unfortunate manifestation of excessive deference, in this instance what might be called ‘geopolitical correctness,’ and has had many detrimental effects on American foreign policy in the region. Another kind of harm is associated with the inhibiting State Department formal adoption of a definition of anti-Semitism that conflates strong criticism of Israel with hatred of Jews.

 

Yet to decry such forms of political correctness as a posture is not to condone insensitivity to those among us who have suffered or are suffering from deep historical abuses. I do believe we need to do all we can avoid hurtful language and subtle slights when dealing with the situation of African Americans or Muslims. Donald Trump disgraces America because he embraces the kind of militant Islamophobia that is not only incendiary in the American political climate, but unwittingly is a tacit reinforcement of jihadist extremism. There is a vast difference between opportunistic deference to the ‘politically correct’ and moral sensitivity to those who have been or are being victimized in American society. Of course, Trump has achieved such prominence by his zealous willingness to be politically incorrect in all sorts of vulgar and hurtful ways, which sadly uncovers an angry and afraid constituency among the American citizenry, with its appetite for simplistic answers that shift the blame to the hateful other.

 

Do not such reflections also suggest the propriety of sensitivity to the long Jewish experience of persecution, climaxing with the Holocaust? To some extent, moral sensitivity is historical and geographical. It points to a difference in tone and content in Germany as compared to here in America. More concretely, it seems natural to exercise greater care in Germany not to offend, and not even to seem callous toward Jewish identity given the proximity of the Holocaust. I would affirm this kind of moral prudence and forebearance, but even this type of restraint can be carried too far. Germans and the German government obsessively avoid any semblance of criticism of Israel because of an apparent worry that such views would be treated as evidence that anti-Semitism continues to flourish in Germany. In this regard memories of the Holocaust are no longer a good reason, if it was ever the case, for suspending criticism of Zionism as a political project or Israel as a normal state as accountable to upholding international law, UN authority, and principles of morality as any other state.  

 

It is entirely inappropriate for anyone to ignore the brutal dispossession of the Palestinian people, the prolonged denial of the Palestinian right of self-determination, and the horrific daily ordeal of living, as millions of Palestinians do, under occupation, in refugee camps, and in involuntary exile decade after decade. Bad memories of victimization are never a sufficient reason to overlook crimes being committed in the present.

 

As a Jew in America I feel the tensions of conflicting identities. I believe, above all, that while exhibiting empathy to all those have been victimized by tribally imposed norms, we need to rise above such provincialism (whether ethnic or nationalistic) and interrogate our own tribal and ‘patriotic’ roots. In this time of deep ecological alienation, when the very fate of the species has become precarious, we need to think, act, and feel as humans and more than this, as empathetic humans responsible for the failed stewardship of the planet. It is here that God or ‘the force’ can provide a revolutionary comfort zone in which we reach out beyond ourselves to touch all that is ‘other,’ whether such otherness is religious, ethnic, or gendered, and learning from Buddhism, reach out beyond the human to exhibit protective compassion toward non-human animate dimensions of our wider experience and reality. It is this kind of radical reworking of identity and worldview that captures what ‘the Christmas spirit’ means to me beyond the enjoyment of holiday cheer.

 

From this vantage point, the birth of Jesus can be narrated with this universalizing voice. The star of Bethlehem as an ultimate source of guidance and the three wise kings, the Maji, who traveled far to pay homage to this sacred child can in our time bestow the wisdom of pilgrimage, renewal, and transformation that will alone enable the human future to grasp the radical wisdom of St. Augustine’s transformative: “Love one another and do what thou wilt.” Put presciently in a poem by W.H. Auden, “We must love one another or die.”

 

I suppose I am making a plea, or is it a dreamy affirmation? A utopian wish, to be sure, but nothing less has relevance in these dark times.

54 Responses to “A Christmas Message in Dark Times”

  1. Corinne Whitaker December 24, 2015 at 8:53 am #

    Richard,

    I think that these words might speak to you:

    http://www.giraffe.com/gr_mightytortoise.html

    Corinne

    • Richard Falk December 24, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

      Corinne:

      Wonderfully congenial, expressed poetically and artistically with a total embrace of what I tried to say
      in the only medium available to me: unangelic prose. Wishing you seasonal joys, and ecumenical blessings.
      I so admire your perseverance in what you believe and do, surely the authentic way and spirit of the giraffe..

      warm wishes,

      Richard

  2. Harvey Epstein December 24, 2015 at 9:47 am #

    As usual, you are continuing to press forward with your “anti-anything to do with the Jews anywhere in the world” messages. Never, ever a compliment regarding your own supposed faith. This time you use the Christmas holiday as your touchstone. Have you consulted with a broad spectrum of the Muslim or any other population to get their reaction regarding holiday greetings? I have often wondered how well a Merry Christmas greeting would come across in Saudi Arabia – perhaps the response might be: Off with his head (this in a country with about 2 million Christian workers but not one church in which they could celebrate anything).

    You and I are close in age. Perhaps you did not live through a public education system where every Christian holiday was celebrated in your school and you were forced to participate. Perhaps you were not beaten because you were one of the very few acknowledged Jews in your school. Perhaps your family did not loose a business as soon as the city in which you lived found out you were Jewish. Perhaps your family was not forced to give up its car because as soon as the local police saw it, it got a ticket. Etc. ad nauseum. Perhaps you lived in a gilded cage while growing up. Or perhaps you just forgot that a neutral holiday greeting is another manifestation of a separation of church and state.

    For me, I have no trouble with “Merry Christmas”. I even miss the sounds of church bells – I loved the music (often playing melodies written by Jews). The trees and lights are wonderful – I still like to see them. I agree that saying “Merry Christmas” should not be eliminated from seasonal speech but I recognize that effort for what it is: a reversal of repression against non-Christians ( like me and possibly even you ) perhaps taken a step too far. I vote to undue that singular item. You, on the other hand see that “step too far” as part of some evil world wide Jewish plot against the rest of the world, especially against
    the Palestinian. Really?

    Your one sided views are not academically sound. This is very poor scholarship on your part. Your research is too myopic.

    My Christmas wish for you is that Santa places under your tree the gift of seeing things from more than just one side. Talmudic, don’t you think?

    Merry Christmas to you and yours – if the spirit of Jesus does exit, then let it teach you not to bring so much hateful language into this season which preaches peace.

    • Richard Falk December 24, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

      Thanks for your message, but I have tried to express the opposite of what you accuse. I do make an
      effort to understand Israeli ‘fears’ but there are limits that have long since been exceeded. As for
      your experience of anti-Semitism, it is true that I didn’t experience anything so persistent or violent
      while growing up, but does that vindicate the reproduction of evil. In my many years of publishing I have
      been frequently criticized for the substance of my views but never before alleged to lack an ‘academic’
      sensibility. I return your Christmas greetings, but ask you to read my text once more with a less hostile
      eye. Thanks and best for 2016.

      • Harvey Epstein December 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

        I suggest that you take a closer look at the second paragraph of your article. Again, you seem not to recognize where your language takes us.

        As to the lack of “academic sensibility”, your prior admission of sometimes being “demagogic ” and “sometimes lacking good judgement (your words and not mine)” speaks volumes. Perhaps that response to a post of mine (a little over a year ago, as I recall – when I was using an ” Internet name” ) seems to have been forgotten by you.

        If you truly were impartial and not an advocate for one side only, you should have raised the “tribalism” point with the Muslim side, the extreme right side (both religiously and politically, both in the US and Europe), etc. as well.

        Your persistent “Isreal is always wrong” theme taints everything you report or opine on regarding that country and spills over upon all of world Jewry (even including you). I pointed this out to you when responding to an earlier article by you wherein you tried to differentiate between criticism of the country of Israel with anti- Semitism. The way you and many others present this subject, the result, for most people, is identical. This can only be corrected by you by balancing your academic sensibility.

        I do have a ” hostile eye” with what you say. Your approach results in my having to face the outcome of my above paragraph. You aid and abet those who create problems faced by Jewish students on various campuses; you help make life uncomfortable for Jews in many European countries; etc. Your pontificating regarding the issue of Isreals “fears…long having been exceeded” demonstrates your singular lack of understanding – this especially demonstrated by your complete one sidedness. You fail to articulate any “responsibility” resting on the shoulders of others.

        I have earlier asked you if you have ever read the Quo’ran or the comments made by the PA in Arabic. You have never responded. I speculate that you are a ” universal humanist”, and that may be OK in an academic world. It is very unrealistic in the actual world in which most Jews live.

        I agree that evil brings evil ( but not every time; sometimes it brings justified self defense – which, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder). My differences with you are based on your one sidedness. By name you castigate only one side. Your “academic sensibility” is not in balance. Israel is not always wrong; sometimes she is right and this you never see ( notwithstanding your above assertion – for if you did see it, you certainly should have commented upon it).

        Thanks for your Christmas good wishes. Let us hope that 2016 brings us all a more peaceful world.

  3. rick sterling December 24, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    Thanks for these important and timely words. The recognition and prioritization of our common humanity is urgent. It seems to threaten some people and is a challenge to notions of ‘exceptional’ status be it USA or Israel. Hence the need for more not less discussion. Your comments and insights are excellent starting point.

    • Harvey Epstein December 24, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

      Rick, If you are speaking to me, I am not threaten in my belief that both the USA and Israel are exceptional because each country is based upon a theme of equality ( yes even Israel ). Neither is perfect in this regard, but both espouse it.

      I truly believe in a common humanity. Religiously, there are others who believe that Jews are pigs and dogs; they teach that everyone not of their faith must burn in everlasting fire; they have no concept of the Judeo/Christian golden rule; only their way is the right way; never compromise but win at all costs; convert the world even if it be through war; etc.

      The problem, as I see it, is to convince the “others” (and they include more than Muslims) that they are not superior; they are just like the rest of us. Then and only then can we resolve our ” human” problems, as equals among equals. If you can figure out a realistic way of doing this, you get my vote if you run for the Presidency. Until then, any discussion is just going to be one sided; but if that is all we can get, talking is still OK; but a love fest is a waste of time.

      Merry Christmas, even if you happen to be just another Yidlach like me.

  4. Laurie Knightly December 24, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    At age six, I confronted my father with the news that Santa was a fake. That beard was just a mess of cotton, I revealed in disgust. Dad feigned surprise and suggested that we investigate the matter. We determined that the chimney was too narrow for the guy’s girth and he was never seen with soot on his clothes. I added that even if he brought all the children one piece of candy, it would not fit in the sleigh – so what about bicycles etc? The evidence was indisputable. Flying reindeer? Most unlikely.
    My father informed me, however, that our discovery was not the real problem. Santa was/is dishonest. He claims to be a judge of good/bad without a fair hearing – and he does not keep his unrealistic promises but leaves one with the idea that you are bad if you are unfulfilled. Also, dad noticed that the richer the kid, the more stuff he/she receives from Santa. The ritual is tough on the poor; their children witness the disparity and humiliation of some handouts from charity. Too bad Jesus doesn’t return during these days of shopping/feasting frenzy in his honor. Ditto for St. Nicholas. Wonder what he’d think….

    Regarding love, one can practice justice without it. The word ‘love’ is a preference for one thing over another. The ambiguous term can run the gamut from food to people. As to agape, if you love everyone, what is your love to me? If love is amoral, then what is its value? You don’t have to love people to treat them decently.

    Some of our readers have failed to understand that the essays here exceed the level of my critical observations/guidance in first grade. We know the history of Palestine. We know who displaced whom and how it was done. We’ve heard the venom heaped on those who call this heinous injustice what it is. We are familiar with hasbara/trolls etc……

    Thanks for the gifts, Richard; Jesus would approve. And so would a just society.

    • Fred Skolnik December 24, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

      But you don’t know the history of Palestine, Laurie. If you did you would start off with a description of how it was conquered by the Arabs in a rampage of rape, massacre and forced conversion. You would also quote what Azzam Pasha, the jovial and moderate Arab League Secretary-General, had to say in September 1947, before there was a single refugee:

      “The Arab world is not in a compromising mood. It’s likely, Mr. Horowitz, that your plan is rational and logical, but the fate of nations is not decided by rational logic. Nations never concede; they fight. You won’t get anything by peaceful means or compromise. You can, perhaps, get something, but only by the force of your arms. We shall try to defeat you. I am not sure we’ll succeed, but we’ll try. We were able to drive out the Crusaders, but on the other hand we lost Spain and Persia. It may be that we shall lose Palestine. But it’s too late to talk of peaceful solutions.”

      You see, Laurie, for the Arabs the Land of Israel was just another Spain. Win some, lose some.

      You would then describe the Arab attack in 1948 with the declared aim of destroying the State of Israel and when you got around to the Arab refugees, you would also mention the equal number of Jews displaced from Arab countries in the war period, and so on and so forth. You don’t really know the history of Palestine, Laurie, but what is worse, you don’t want to
      .
      As for “venom heaped on,” anyone who writes, as you did, among other things, that “the ingathering of Jews is vital to each of the Jewish and Christian plans for the destruction of others and religious/ethnic triumph of themselves,” is placing himself in a very special and familiar category of haters.

      And try not to use terms like “troll” and “hasbara.” It exposes you as an empty shell scurrying to a second line of defense in the face of what is unanswerable. That’s where you’ll find Mr. Schulman.

      Prof. Falk: It shouldn’t take hours to “respond convincingly” to Mr. Remer’s simple statement of facts, unless you find it necessary to get around them with some more tortured rhetoric and jargonized doubletalk.

      • Gene Schulman December 25, 2015 at 1:13 am #

        Count on Fred Skolnik to come up with the non sequitur of the year. There was absolutely nothing in Laurie’s essay that had anything to do with Arabs, Palestinians or Jews, etc. But he must give us his version of the history of the Middle East, as though Laurie or anyone else here were contesting it (here). He proves himself the perfect troll, hiding out until until he can pop up again to join Mr Remer’s own false histories, and gratuitous insults to Richard Falk.

  5. perkustooth December 24, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

    Your analyses and perspectives are very welcome. Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas season and a peaceful New Year.

    Sincerely, Allan J. Cronin

    >

  6. Beau Oolayforos December 25, 2015 at 10:48 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,
    I still feel like being politically correct, or resolutely neutral, so may I wish you Happy Holidays, and many more to come? An ancient Norseman might smile at all the new-fangled mythologies swirling around a simple solstice. But my special wishes must be for the refugees, most lately the Central Americans menaced with deportation by the brave heroes of DHS (is this their less-than-pathetic idea of a ‘spring offensive?’); even as Donald Hair-Hat & his rabble cheer from the sidelines.

  7. wingsprd December 25, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

    Thank you Laurie for your words of insight and compassion. Stay the course and support Richard, whose analyses are always intelligent, moderate and truthful, a breath of fresh air in this morass of ill-informed bias.

  8. Walker Percy December 26, 2015 at 7:50 am #

    Dear Richard,
    What if the world is a movie being projected from the eyes of Jews, a mutual dream a few of us are having, in which everyone else is a prop, intended to move the story along, but imaginary, and so, inconsequential? The latest episode has our heros teetering on the brink of a new catastrophe, as they find themselves again living amongst their mortal enemies, in an inextricable feud that can only be resolved through some ghastly near-extinction level event, with just a little flame preserved, to carry the genetic code of supermen, who hold the fate of this dreamworld in their hands.

    Maybe Israel is just the latest side-effect of the driving narrative of civilization, the cycle of struggle, near-death and resurrection of one small group, who have been socially and genetically conditioned to conquer and perish, in an endless cycle. Could it be that early childhood indoctrination into a belief system that has survived thousands of years because it works, is behind everything that we now think of as “history”, but is actually a perverse artifact of this group’s system for child rearing? Consider the story of Passover, with the four sons, one of whom is wise, and one wicked. Does the repetition of this story, in combination with tasty treats and wine (even for the six-year-olds!), somehow encode Jewish children to separate into groups according to this ratio? Can we blame settlements, Bernie Madoff, and Bolshevism on the 25% of us for whom the good-jew imprint failed to take? Is this nightmare caused by little Fred Skolniks, after having found the afikomen every time, deciding to toe the line because they liked getting a dollar?

    Richard, we are the prophets who have to convince the rabble to stop worshipping the golden calf and come to their senses. It is no fun to see that which everyone else has decided to blissfully ignore, but once seen can’t be un-seen. Harvey the money-changer can’t open his eyes because his mind has been locked into the rictus of clan loyalty. But the rest of the world waking up.

    Best wishes to you in 2016!
    Walker Percy

    • Harvey Epstein December 26, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

      Oh my gosh! I have found 2 prophets! Are they both really named Elijah or am I to be blessed by being allowed to just address them simply as Walker and Professor or Richard? You and the Professor speak for Hashem? Really? Must I grovel at your collective feet? I am rabble ( along with all those, such as Fred and anyone else who happens to have the temerity to even question your (collective) Devine word)? I am among the money- changers? Now that is really funny considering that I spent my entire adult life litigating against folks like that.

      Neither I, nor as I note Fred, has ever said Israel is alway right. I point that out every time (almost) when I post. With this being said, ie. that Israel is not always right, and you seeming to say it is always wrong, which of us is it who has his head ” always in that nether location”?

      The religiously indoctrinated hold that only they are absolutely right, every time. Walker, I guess that you are far more religious and much closer to Hashem than am I. As one of the new prophets I guess it must have been you who found the afikomen every time. I found it only on rare occasion.

      Let me provide you with a bit of background: even the head of the UN commission on antisemitism has very recently stated that some of the criticism leveled against Israel and Zionism is nothing more than disguised antisemitism. Now this is the vaunted UN! In the past I have disputed with the Professor that criticism of Israel can be separated from antisemitism every time. He apparently feels that it can but “that ain’t necessarily so”. The head of this UN commission seems to agree with me ( at last LOL!!!! ).

      Whenever I read what the Professor says, I ask myself the question “What will the reaction be of the anti-Semite as to what this professed Jew says Every Time?”. He never says anything favorable about Israel. He takes a ( semi) prophetic role on all things Israeli. I don’t ask that he be pro Israel ; I only ask that he balance by acknowledging that there is another side which has manypoints to make ( though he may not agree with any of them). To merely state that he has taken them into consideration (and not elucidating on those points) is to be less than a balanced scholar; it is to be judgemental – and even good judges will render explainitory decisions so that we “rabble” can fathom how the decision got there.

      Now understand that I personally believe that the Professor truly believes that he is doing the right thing. But there are wrong ways of trying to do “the right thing” and I happen to believe that, far too often, his path is the wrong way: he never criticizes the “other side” for anything. On more than one occasion I have asked him to direct me to a source where he has done that. No response from him.

      I wonder if Professor Falk agrees with you that he is a prophet. If he does not, then perhaps your unquestioned worship of his every word should be reviewed. Perhaps you should ask him.

      Walker, I have another life and do not spend a part of each day looking at this site, nor do I bother reviewing the word of every responder. Should you decide to drop a word of response in the dust at your feet, where evidently my head must rest, please be sure to reply directly to me. Otherwise I will probably not see it, being otherwise blinded by heavenly light surrounding your illustrious presence.

      • Walker Percy December 27, 2015 at 6:08 am #

        Dear Harvey, not to be hurtful, but you should take a writing class to help you construct your arguments with greater clarity and concision. If your only criticism of Falk’s thesis is that he never says anything nice about Israel, then your position appears weak. Try pointing to specific shortcomings or contradictions in what Falk has written, rather than slurring him as “anti-semitic”, a term that has lost its potency through overuse. Also, avoid easily refuted lies, because your reader will brand you as a prevaricator, not to be trusted. Finally, don’t telegraph to the reader your real intentions, which is to be an unethical PR agent for Israel. When you write, “What will the reaction be of the anti-Semite as to what this professed Jew says Every Time?”, you are letting us know your real purpose: to prevent us from making true statements that you feel are prejudicial to your cause, and to protect your investment in what has been exposed as a criminal enterprise run by vicious nudniks like Bennett and Ya’alon. Your actions are a blemish on the reputation of Jewish people around the world who want peace and prosperity and an end to this conflict, people who have dedicated their significant energies to improving the whole world, not protecting a failed experiment carried out by a tiny group at everyone else’s expense.
        Walker

      • Fred Skolnik December 27, 2015 at 8:32 am #

        Dear Walker, not to be hurtful but I don’t know where the clarity and concision of your arguments have gotten you outside of other people’s blogs, which strikes me as little pathetic for the smug and pretentious little fellow that you are. As I remember it, you told us very early on that you had some problem with your mother at the Passover seder when you were a child and that was what made you realize what a rotten people the Jews are. If that isn’t pathology, I don’t know what is.

        As for Israel’s case and Prof. Falk’s misrepresentations and distortions, these have been elucidated dozens of times and I have as yet seen anyone respond in any informed way, let alone refute the simple statements of fact made by Israel’s defenders. Calling Jews or Israelis names are not arguments, nor are making unsubstantiated assertions.

      • Walker Percy December 27, 2015 at 9:22 am #

        Fred,
        I am touched that you remember the story of my childhood trauma. I was the archetypal Hebrew school wicked son, the kid who was always chosen to portray Haman in the Purim play. My current antipathy to Judaism was probably forged in those countless hours standing in the hallway outside the classroom in the basement of the shul, as my mother’s friends walked by and pronounced mini-herems with their eyes for my latest Dr Strangelove-imitating stunt. I’m sure, Fred, that you had a character like me in your class, right? And I bet you played Mordechai, am I right? But we were both just little kids being coerced, acting out narratives refined over many years to inculcate ethnic hatred and suspicion of the other. It’s time to face the music, Fred: jews have always been responsible for their own predicaments vis a vis their neighbors. That is indubitably the case in Israel, whether it was the same in nazi times or the inquisition is a matter for historians (but we know now how history has been manipulated after the fact). There is no such thing as anti semitism. As my mother would say “it’s something you are doing”.
        Walker

      • Fred Skolnik December 27, 2015 at 9:30 am #

        I honestly wish I could help you, Walker, but I am not a psychiatrist.

    • Harvey Epstein December 27, 2015 at 10:13 am #

      Hi Walker, I just saw your reply to my later posting, but there was no reply icon to respond to it. Hope you get this one.

      You are correct regarding my abuse of the English language. You are not correct regarding my thought processes and beliefs. You accuse me of being unethical. Perhaps you might wish to point out where that is the case. If you disagree with me, that is OK, but to call me unethical? I doubt that you really understand that word. Your use of language is illustrative of that of which I complain: conclusive, judgmental and sometimes abusive statements which ignore contrary facts. By way of example: in many of my prior postings I do point out to the Professor, item by item and fact by fact where things are not quite what he professes them to be. My objections are his failure to acknowledge the existence of such facts. He may disagree with them, but to ignore them entirely undercuts his positions. You seem not to be privy to my prior arguments ( nor similar arguments made by others). I choose not to be redundant or expositive on every occasion. And you have probably heard it all before, just like I have heard all of your arguments before. I think that the differences between us is that I often listen and you mostly don’t. But then that is undoubtedly because you are a prophet and I am just rabble.

      I understand the diaspora mentality (theology) you follow and agree with part of it. For you to say that you represent the majority of Jewry flies in the face of your admission that you are among the 25% of those upon whom the term ” good Jew” was not embossed. If by being a “good Jew” you mean (among other things) that one must ignore the time honored prayer “Next Year In Jerusalem”, then I understand you. So don’t visit. But do not ignore our history or the religious drive of those who wish us all dead, no matter where we live. Whether you like it or not, Israel exists. When it does wrong, all Jews are harmed. When it does ” right” , at least recognize that. It appears that you can’t or won’t do the latter. Thus my complaint about the lack of “balance”: it harms us all, every time. Failure to accommodate that real world reaction is to live in a fools world. The head of the UN commission understands this, or so it would appear.

      As to the rest of your aspersions directed towards me and the remainder of your ” trash talk” let me just say this: you used, as an illustration, a portion of the Passover service, so I will, too. You appear to be the child who did not understand (I just avoided the impulse to call you the wicked child -and trust me when I tell you that was hard to do).

      NOTE to Professor Falk: your notification of new comments icon seems not to be working on my system. Is it a glitch in your software?

      • Richard Falk December 27, 2015 at 10:27 am #

        Fred Skolnik: I am not very sophisticated about the digital dimensions of this website, but I think that is a problem
        at your end if others are not experiencing a similar problem.

        These identity issues of who speaks in an authentic voice as a Jew is bound to be inconclusive, and good faith is only
        revealed by an inclusive awareness that we all speak through the filter of our own experience and knowledge, and might
        be quite wrong in our perceptions, but need at the very least to be inclusive enough to embrace the suffering of ‘the other.’
        You and your allies accuse me of never expressing Israel’s side of contested issues, but for all of this posturing, I have
        encountered the slightest evidence of genuine empathy for the suffering that Palestinians have endured over decades. Living
        in refugee camps, in captivity in Gaza, under occupation, as a discriminated minority are extremes of victimization, both in
        intensity and duration.

      • Fred Skolnik December 27, 2015 at 10:48 am #

        Prof. Falk

        I don’t really understand what technical problem you are referring to.

        I think I have considerably more experience living with and among Arabs than you do, have worked and played with them, eaten at their table, and have considerable empathy for them as real human beings as opposed to abstractions with which to whip the State of Israel. Israel’s war is against terrorist organizations and other parties in the Arab/Muslim world who are dedicated to its destruction. In this war, Palestinian Arabs have certainly been victimized but those primarily responsible for their victimization are their leaders, who locked them into refugee camps, used their villages as staging areas for terrorist acts, and turned their neighborhoods into war zones during rocket attacks on Israel. The only way they are going to get a state is by dismantling the terrorist organizations. I have said it before and I will say it again: Israel is never going to allow Hamas to set up its rocket launchers 15 feet from Jewish Jerusalem.

      • Harvey Epstein December 27, 2015 at 11:37 pm #

        Prof. Falk, the computer issue came from me and not from Fred.

        As to the statement regarding empathy for the Palestinian plight, let me say that I have expressed my views with almost every post made by me. Perhaps my use of the term ” Israel is not always right” is a bit obtuse. As a human being, of course my heart goes out to them. The question is: who bears the lions share of the fault for their plight? One of my acquaintances answered that question for me at dinner just a few hours ago: the major fault is with the extremists in his religion. He is a Moroccan Muslim.

        My acquaintance and I agreed that political correctness has gone a bit too far: “Merry Christmas” should not go out of common speech; “Happy Holidays” is really a weaklings way of expressing a greeting in this season.

        I sense that you feel that Fred and I are extremists and believe that Israel need meet no standards of decency. As for me, that is not the case ( and I speculate from what Fred says that he will concur). My issue, again restated, is that you seem not to be able to face the fact that more than just one side should be heard on this issue. Your response to Fred ( probably intended for me), states that we need “to be inclusive enough to embrace the suffering of ‘the other'”. Do you ever consider that ‘the other’ could be Israel? Or Jews in general? I have not gotten that feeling from you. In this regard you seem to be as myopic as Walker. I use the word ‘myopic’ not to demean you, but to indicate that perhaps your scope of vision should encompass more than slogans or preconceived positions. Please review your second paragraph : does it not apply to you, as well? Can you, in all honesty, state that you have met your own standard?

        I now have a few more of the posts from Walker. My heart goes out to him as well, for his childhood seems to have been far worse than mine.

      • Richard Falk December 28, 2015 at 10:17 am #

        Harvey: I am grateful for this tone of greater civility and empathy. As for my own views, they
        are premised on the structural reality that Israel has been in command of the situation for decades
        without seeking a genuine compromise, exemplified by continuous settlement expansion and related
        policies relating to Palestinian residency rights, and that Palestine, despite many tactical mistakes
        and even crimes, has been in the position of acutely vulnerable victim society. I do accept the existential
        reality well depicted in Avi Shavit’s OUR PROMISED LAND that Israelis act out of a genuine sense of fear,
        although this is further intensified by manipulation (e.g. exaggerating Iranian threat).

      • Harvey Epstein December 28, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

        Prof Falk, thank you for your most recent post. I appreciate the fact that you recognize that the Israeli sense of fear is genuine. You deflect to Iran and its threats. The folks currently killing Jews in Israel are not Iranians. They are those who live either within the State of Israel or right next door in Gaza or the West Bank. Right now, Iran barks, but it is the Palestinians who are bitting.

        Do I really have to go through the history of this conflict, or do you not recognize that Israel has made peace offers to the PA, offers that even Prince Bandar said should have been taken ( he advised Arafat, at that time, to take the offer on the table). I am not aware of any offer which was ever seriously considered by the PA.

        Arafat spoke of ” peace ” when addressing the west and ” Hudna” when speaking in Arabic to his own people. When he was confronted on his disingenuousness, his response was “If I make peace I will soon be sipping tea with Sadat” , or very similar words. President Clinton called Arafat a liar, etc. regarding his desire for peace. Arafats wife said he planned the intifada before he went to that peace conference and never intended to make peace. Abbas insists on everything being conceded in his favor before any conference takes place. Israel has, from time to time, stopped settlements at the demand of the PA but with no follow through by the PA. Israel walked away from Gaza and got rockets and wars in return.

        Thank you for recognizing that crimes have in fact been committed by the PA and Hamas. This is the first time in your blog ( of which I am aware) that you have acknowledged that fact. If you can direct me to any other similar posting, I would appreciate that.

        Has Israel or any of its citizens committed crimes against Palestinians? Of course; and some of them are pretty serious. But generally, the vast majority of Jews don’t dance in the streets when such crimes are committed; they recoil in horror. Palestinians often dance, give out candies and pensions to those who commit such crimes.

        Yes, Israel is far stronger than the PA, but this fact does not excuse the PA for its actions, many of which are just plain stupid. The PA plays the victim card every time: its acts are ‘justified resistance’ so the killing of innocents is OK (?).

        Israel is held up to standards no other country is required to meet. The UN will soon judge the Israeli Army by a civilian standard that a mixed military commission says no country could ever meet – that commission says that as to any military standard, Israel far exceeded it. I recognize that Israel may be behind this commission, but having served in the US Army, I can tell you that the standard by which Israel will be judged by the UN will result in the neutering of any army which is forced to comply. Certainly the PA, etc. will never be so judged.

        Israel wants and needs peace. The entire ME does, too. Bibi sometimes sends mixed signals, but the last one is: OK to a two state solution. If Bennett gets in, there will probably not be one. Is this good for the Palestinians or Israel ? I don’t think so. The latest polls indicate that the PA has lost the support of its majority and that majority now wants confrontation with Israel.

        Looking at both sides over the past few decades, it seems to me that by following the “negotiations of the bazaar” , the PA has greatly overplayed its hand and the customer ( Israel ) is walking out
        the door. And it is not as if the PA has not been warned. Both sides have.

        My view ( filter – your word) is: Generally, it appears to me that between the two the PA has acted far less rationally, especially in light of the actual strength of Israel. Even if the reverse were true: In a confrontation Israel can reasonably be expected to survive; not so with the PA.

        This does not mean that the PA needs to submit to all of the demands of Israel. The UN will not tolerate that. It does mean that the PA needs to get to the negotiating table before it implodes (but it might already be too late for it in light of the support it has lost among its own people). Does this view promote ‘justice’? This is such a complex situation that ‘justice’ is a relative thing. Sometimes you need to ignore the concept of ‘justice’ and do that which is ‘practical’. As an old lawyer, I have said that many times to a client and heard it from far too many judges to ignore. As the old saying goes: “A bad settlement that you can live with is better than a good trial you can easily loose”. Of course one can always opt for a pyrrhic approach; but that is a fools choice in light of what is at risk.

        Both sides have something to say. I am glade to see that you recognize this. We need to hear you say this more often.

        Have a Happy New Year.

    • Laurie Knightly December 27, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

      Walker: Concerning the four sons described in the Torah: one wise, one wicked, one simple, one who doesn’t know how to ask, the ratio gets a bit challenging. I do favor Confucius in this regard who taught that one learns best by example and we definitely need more honorable role models.

      Feb 1, 2002: In Israel over 100 reserve combat officers denounced the army for immoral behavior toward Palestinian civilians and placed ads in newspapers including Haaretz. “We will no longer fight beyond the Green Line with the aim of dominating, expelling, starving, and humiliating an entire people.”

      These sons changed their ways……….

      • Walker Percy December 29, 2015 at 8:01 am #

        Laurie, my point about ratios is that jewish kids at seders and in hebrew school are divided up into two groups: about 75% obedient, who go along with the program, and 25% who refuse to learn the songs or the hebrew words, and so interfere with the imprinting process. The naughty 25% includes Ezra, Jesus, Spinoza, Gideon Levy, me, etc. As any self-help book will advise, one should look inside for root causes instead of seeking external forces when the same thing keeps happening to you. This holds true in social groupings too, especially ones that have existed for a long time, where enough cycles have occurred for legible patterns to emerge.
        Walker

      • Fred Skolnik December 29, 2015 at 8:19 am #

        Dear Walker

        The idea that you personally are more moral, just, decent, human than 75% of the Jews in America is preposterous and is the kind of remark that can only be made by someone completely detached from reality.

      • Laurie Knightly December 30, 2015 at 10:37 am #

        Walker: I found the four sons inculcation process interesting and reflected a bit on the asking of questions. A few ‘questions’ posed on this blog are not questions at all but statements designed to bully and ridicule. – back to adolescence. If one has a point/difference etc to make, do so – and with reasoned study and credibility.

        The Hasbara states: “Central to point scoring is the ability to disguise point scoring by giving the impression of genuine debate. Audience members can be alienated by undisguised attacks, so all point scoring needs to be disguised.”

        My grandmother would have stated that a blind man could have felt these thinly disguised ?? with a stick. They better study the manual again………

      • Richard Falk December 30, 2015 at 11:05 am #

        Laurie: so well and succinctly put! wishing you a satisfying year in 2016, and the world a bit more
        peace, justice, and love. Richard

  9. Fred Skolnik December 26, 2015 at 9:33 am #

    Dear Prof. Falk

    Please read the above (Walker Percy’s comments) a little more carefully than you usually read the comments made about Jews on your website. His previous comments have been quoted back to you more than once. Do you really believe that such slanderous filth, in the language of the Third Reich, has a place on your website?

    • Richard Falk December 26, 2015 at 11:01 am #

      Fred Skolnik:

      From experience, I know that you are unrelenting as an apologist for all that Israel does, has done, and will do. I would
      remind you that many more consider your comments inappropriate for this website than those of Walker Percy or Laurie Knightly.
      The purity you seek is undiluted hasbara which is in no way illuminating, disseminating misinformation to hide the crimes of
      an oppressor state.

      • Fred Skolnik December 26, 2015 at 11:44 am #

        We are not talking about Israel here but about Jews as such, I would expect an appropriate response from you when the subject of a comment is Jewish genes, greed, and responsibility for Bolshevism and Bernie Madoff,

        As for the rest, it is meaningless to talk about misinformation without specifying what it is. I am certainly not an apologist for Israel but I am a relentless critic of its slanderers, which is what you have proven yourself to be. Israel is facing barbaric terrorist organizations whose aim is to murder Israeli civilians and is responding as any other country would under similar circumstances. No country on earth would allow such organizations to fire thousands of rockets at its civilian population or blow up innocent women and children in buses and restaurants.

  10. Laurie Knightly December 26, 2015 at 10:30 am #

    It would seem that Remer and Skolnick might do better to check their ‘facts’ with another source rather than one they hold in contempt and derision. Also, the converse seems to prevail. Their motives are glaringly obvious and are part of the Hasbara strategy. Gene and I did not devise the Handbook and training sessions albeit we agree on its devious design. The strategy belongs to the opposition and has achieved recognized prominence/application there. The 7 points could be submitted to Snopes.com, TruthOrFiction, FactCheck, etc. [other respected impartial suggestions?]

    A problem, however, would still be present relevance. I might submit a question of fact regarding the Viking conquest of Scotland, [my parents origin] in the 8th Century. One should check the history before and after and consider the historical time I’ve chosen and my motives for doing so. Whose land am I now entitled to confiscate? Unless of noble origin, Scots, like most of the world were serfs, indentured servants or part of feudalism.
    My grandfather served in the British Army during the British occupation period in Palestine before the beginning of the mandate – 1917 to 1920 or thereabouts. He left England in utter disgust and shame regarding European deceit and colonialism. He died before I was born.

    On that note, the divinely sanctioned slaughter/enslavement of the Canaanites is the popularly disseminated/revered basis for both original and current Jewish domination of Palestine. So we should begin the story there where it began. A fact check would most likely concur with difficulty separating fact from myth. Religious conversion by force? Twas the norm and still prevails. A child is currently born and pledged into a religious doctrine and rejection has its consequences – from ostracism, slander, libel, disdain, to much worse around the globe. Because Unitarians do not accept the divinity of Christ, and many deny a god as well, my family members for generations felt the sting. This group is still denied membership in the National Council of Churches. My current kinfolk overwhelmingly converted for social, political, economic, marital, threat of divine punishment, geographic et al reasons. I am still a ‘once in a while’ attendee but rejected the consolidation with the Universalists in 1961. The latter U believes that all people go to heaven at death and that worth and dignity are inherent. Should there be a heaven, I would hope that the manner in which a life is lived would determine eligibility. Also, that worth and dignity are earned/deserved and not inherent.

    Wishing you a thoughtful Christmas and the insistence of rational discourse in 2016. We must remember that Jesus only survived three years as a defiant Jewish ethicist and besides not espousing divine status, was willing to pay the price. . I’ll celebrate that………

    • Fred Skolnik December 26, 2015 at 10:51 am #

      You get a little incoherent when you’re overwound, Laurie, but the truth is that there was no divinely sanctioned slaughter or enslavement of Canaanites any more than there was a parting of the Red Sea. as far as I know. I doubt if it would occur to you to make your typically malicious assertions about the Greeks and the Italians on the basis of the Iliad and the Aeneid. You are a bit of a fake.

      The Jewish claim to the Land of Israel has absolutely nothing to do with biblical injunctions. It is a claim to the ancient homeland of the Jewish people where its culture, language, political identity and national consciousness was forged. I have already pointed out what Palestine represented for the Arab armies that invaded the State of Israel.

      • Gene Schulman December 26, 2015 at 11:17 am #

        Oh, dear, dear Fred. Talk about overwrought! Uri Avneri comes up just at the right time (yes, at Counterpunch) with a few answers for you: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/25/imagined-nations/print/

      • Fred Skolnik December 26, 2015 at 11:46 am #

        Dear, dear? Uri Avneri? You really are an empty shell.

  11. Gene Schulman December 26, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    Yeah, I kinda thought Avneri and Anderson would be beyond your capacity to understand, but thought others might appreciate the gesture. And what happens? More ad hominem insults. Really, Richard, I thought you had done away with this kind of stuff.

    And, welcome back to Percy.

    • Fred Skolnik December 26, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

      But, Gene, the problem is that you are unequipped to verify or evaluate anything Uri Avneri says about Israel, n’est-ce pas? Think about it. Totally unequipped.

    • Richard Falk December 26, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

      Gene: with apologies..the Christmas spirit must have gotten the better of me!! The role of gatekeeper has never come naturally to me..Richard

  12. Fred Skolnik December 26, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    No, Prof. Falk, I’m not going to hound you, but I’m not going to let you forget who and what Walker Percy is, nor let you run away from it so easily:

    “We are not talking about Israel here but about Jews as such, I would expect an appropriate response from you when the subject of a comment is Jewish genes, greed, and responsibility for Bolshevism and Bernie Madoff,… Do you really believe that such slanderous filth, in the language of the Third Reich, has a place on your website?”

    • Harvey Epstein December 26, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

      Seasons greetings Fred. Please note my very recent response to Walker. Née Oldguyfromcolorado

      • Fred Skolnik December 27, 2015 at 2:12 am #

        Noted, and seasons greetings to you, oldguy. The pathology of Israel hatred is fairly transparent. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where these prople are coming from with their monumental resentments.

  13. rehmat1 December 27, 2015 at 8:18 am #

    Christmas is a big event and national holidays in world’s two largest Muslim-majority states; Indonesia and Pakistan. December 25th, happens to be the birthday’ of Pakistan’s founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Both nations have Christians as cabinet minister, MPs, military Generals, academic, and are decorated with churches all over the places. The Christians, mainly, are Catholics and Protestants.

    http://rehmat1.com/2015/12/26/pakistan-celebrates-jesus-and-quaid-birthdays/

  14. Laurie Knightly December 27, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    There is some validity to the criticism concerning lack of positive comment regarding Israel.

    Most recently, Dec 20, was the notice in Times of Israel of a 3000 rally in Tel Aviv against right-wing incitement. Organizers gave the protest the title: “Standing together against a government that incites instead of offering solutions against the far-right’s attempts to silence and intimidate, from inside the government and from outside.” Participants marched from Likud headquarters to assassinated prime minister Rabin memorial, charging that government ministers are culpable in recent fiery rhetoric against the left.

    Gene referenced Uri Avnery, but we could use more comment concerning B”Tselem and their work concerning human rights violations. Uri has faced more than vitriolic criticism but survived a brutal physical attack for his views – yet he perseveres. Gideon Levy was nearly lynched after publishing comments such as, “the worst, the cruelest, the most despicable deeds in Gaza.” Haaretz is another laudable voice for justice.

    There’s the amazing Breaking the Silence Group and Israeli’s Against House Demolitions. Jeff Halper has been my house guest a few times and risks life and limb for justice – this concept being our theme here. And Israel Shahak on Jewish History – a must for a better understanding.

    In 2002, I participated in a Tel Aviv rally that was reported to have 10,000 participants marching against Israeli military aggression. Yes, there are positive comments………

    • Fred Skolnik December 27, 2015 at 11:27 am #

      Firing 4,500 rockets from Gaza at Israel’s civilian population is worse than military aggression. Blowing up women and children in buses and restaurants is worse than military aggression. If you didn’t open your mouth then, you are a hypocrite and a fraud.

      • Laurie Knightly December 27, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

        Hasbara instruction manual: [verbatim]

        Humanize rockets. Paint a vivid picture of what life is like in Israeli communities that are vulnerable to attack. Yes, cite the number of rocket attacks that have occurred but immediately follow that up with what it is like to make the nightly trek to the bomb shelter.

        engage emotions, downplay rationality

        Don’t pretend that Israel is without fault. It will only make people question the veracity of everything you say.

        Creating negative connotations by name calling is done to try to get the audience to reject a person or an idea on the basis of negative associations, without allowing a rational examination of that person or idea.

        The manual is 116 pages, 9 weeks training and Israel Project helps with $2,500. There are fellowships available.

      • Fred Skolnik December 27, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

        What on earth does a public relations manual put together by an American marketing expert have to do with the facts of the Arab-Israel conflict? It does not make Arab terror less brutal and it does not make your Jew-baiting remarks less despicable.

  15. Ceylan December 27, 2015 at 7:36 pm #

    Dear Richard,

    I hope you have had a lovely “Holiday Season” celebrating & enjoying “Christmas”, with dear ones.

    I can’t help but wonder if some of the followers of this blog have nothing better to do in life than attack you with a speech of animosity. . .

    I hope they’ll move their shadows elsewhere in 2016 and leave those of us who enjoy your essays in PEACE &
    with love,

    • Richard Falk December 28, 2015 at 10:11 am #

      Thanks, dearest Ceylan. Your support means so much to me!! Hoping that you will receive many
      blessings throughout the whole of 2016! love, Richard

  16. Rabbi Ira Youdovin December 28, 2015 at 11:51 am #

    I love Christmas. I remember as a child visiting Christian friends to wish them Merry Christmas. They would often reciprocate with candy canes or home baked goodies. As a teenager, I worked in my Dad’s store in New York’s Harlem assembling bicycles that residents of nearby housing projects would pick-up late on Christmas Eve, after their children had gone to bed, so as to have them waiting under the tree as a wonderful surprise on Christmas morning. I still remember the look of joy on their faces, and the mutual warmth we felt exchanging good wishes. Later, when I served as executive vice president of Chicago Board of Rabbis, I made Yuletide visits to Cardinal Eugene George at his residence, where we exchanged books each of us thought the other would enjoy. Even now, as a retired rabbi living in Southern California, I celebrate the Yuletide during my morning drive along the Pacific Coast to my synagogue’s early worship services listening to Musica Sacra’s recording of Handel’s “Messiah”. The emerging light over the ocean, together with the sounds of glorious music, makes for a unique spiritual experience.

    I love Christmas not only for its bright lights, beautiful sounds and delicious tastes, but even more so for its theological core which holds that God loves humankind so much that He was willing to sacrifice His only begotten son to suffer and die for its salvation—a concept that I, as a Jew, do not accept but nevertheless respect for its awesome power.

    And then I look at this blog exchange, which is entitled “A Christmas Message in Dark Times” and ask what does this litany of invective and personal insults have to do with a joyous holiday that aspires toward peace on earth and good will for all humankind?

    Regrettably, Prof. Falk set the toxic tone in his initial post. After first extolling Christmas as an occasion for fostering togetherness among diverse and disparate communities, he proceeds to trash one of them: the Jews. He alleges that the “greater ethnic assertiveness of Jews, especially in response to the ascent of Israel and the rise of Zionist loyalties” is driving the word “Christmas” from the American lexicon because “legions of ‘the politically correct’ determined to avoid offending those, especially Jews, who are not Christians, will carefully express their good wishes with such phrases as ‘happy holidays!”

    Yes, there is some impetus for replacing “Merry Christmas” with the more encompassing and ecumenical phrases such as “Happy Holidays”, but only when addressing religiously diverse audiences. This development is generally welcomed, even by serious Christians, as a positive step toward an enhanced self-perception of America not as a Christian country but as a pluralistic society, which it is. This mini-movement embraces not only Jews, but Muslims, Hindus and dozens of other faith groups, as well as untold thousands of unchurched Americans.

    Indeed, the issue has special relevance at this time. Whereas the notion of a Christian America is distorted by some who advocate barring Muslim refugees, a pluralistic America extends its welcoming arms to those seeking safe haven: ”Your tired, your poor your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, words written by the Jewish poet Emma Lazarus that are enshrined on the Statue of Liberty. Prof. Falk’s assessment of those who hold this expansive vision of America is that they are motivated by a desire for political correctness. Is this cynicism at all consistent with the generous spirit of Christmas?

    This issue affects not only Jews, but Muslims, Hindus and dozens of other faith groups, as well as untold thousands of unchurched Americans. And whereas the notion of a Christian America is sometimes distorted to support demands for barring Muslim refugees, a pluralistic America extends its welcoming arms to those seeking a haven.

    Besides, anyone who has watched American television, listened to American radio, read American newspapers and magazines or traversed American streets during the past few months will attest that Christmas is very much alive and well in the United States.

    In other words, blaming the Jews—not Israel or Israelis but American Jews—is a trumped-up charge (pardon the unintentional pun!) intended to cast us in an unfavorable light.

    Not surprisingly, Prof. Falk then turns his sights on Israel. He writes that those newly assertive Zionist Jews who threaten the place of Christmas in American life have also bullied Washington into establishing a “‘special relationship’ with Israel [that] represents a governmental recognition that Israel can do no wrong in the eyes of Washington. This is another unfortunate manifestation of excessive deference, in this instance what might be called ‘geopolitical correctness,’ and has had many detrimental effects on American foreign policy in the region.”

    I don’t want to get involved in debating Israel-Palestine on this blog. Prof. Falk is right when he says that our views are too far apart for constructive discussion. And, frankly, I’m in no mood to be subjected to vitriolic put-downs from Gene Schulman and his friends. But I will note that in the wake of the controversy over America’s central role in enacting a nuclear agreement with Iran over Israel’s strenuous objections, it’s more than a little far fetched to say that Israel can do no wrong in the eyes of Washington. Unless, of course, one has a narrative to spin!

    May 2016 be the year in which Palestinians and Israelis begin to transcend their issues and proceed in the direction of a peace both desperately need. And may it be a better year for all men, women and children everywhere.

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin

    • Fred Skolnik December 29, 2015 at 2:38 am #

      Seasons greetings to you, Ira. Hope all is well.

      Note too the use of the word “tribal” in the second paragraph and elsewhere. The tactic of the haters has always been to take commonly understood terms of opprobrium, like apartheid or tribalism, and distort, pervert, or redefine their meanings so that they can be extended to Israel or Jews and thereby diminish them. It is very difficult for Prof. Falk and others like him to acknowledge that the Jews are a people or nation, despite their unfortunate historical circumstances, just as the French and Turks are a people or nation, and that is how Jews have defined themselves from biblical times on, as “am yisrael.” But instead of praising the admirable familial feeling among Jews, created by their common history, Prof. Falk denigrates it, and this does not surprise me. He has explicitly stated that what is most intimate in human relations – family feeling – is somehow less praiseworthy than what is most abstract in human relations, namely, love of humanity, and this says a great deal about him. The fact that Jews are capable of extending the circle of intimate feeling to include all Jews, and have fought on behalf of humanity as well to a far greater extent than other people, as “liberals” if we must use such a word, while maintaining this Jewish bond, reveals something very positive about their character, in my view.

    • Harvey Epstein December 29, 2015 at 9:37 am #

      Hello Rebbe.

      Don’t feel that all is lost with Prof. Falk. As far as my limited contact with him through this blog is concerned, we now have discovered that he is man enough to admit his own human failings of: sometimes being demogogic and sometimes lacking in good judgment. That is very humanizing for me (one who is also far less than perfect, I must admit) to hear. And my greatest surprise is that after a few years of occasionally visiting this site, he has finally admitted that the Palestinian is also ‘guilty of crimes’. This is the first time of which I am aware that he has done so. There is still hope for redressing what I perceive is a lack of balance on this site and that fruitful discussions can eventually evolve.

      As to ‘Merry Christmas’ being replaced by ‘Happy Holidays’, let me say that my Christian acquaintances are not really happy with that. I tend to doubt that the folks who prefer ‘Happy Kwanzaa’ would be thrilled, either. By the way, Happy Kwanzaa.

      My eldest son holds a Chanukkah party every year. His home is always filled with Christians. This last time they outnumbered we Jews by at least 5 to 1. This year, he hosted 85 friends and family ( not very many Jews where we live). All I heard was “Happy Chanukah”. That made me feel accepted. The greeting of ‘Happy Holidays’ connotes a lack of recognition of our differences in our pluralistic society. We are not all the same, we just need to treat each other with the same respect as we expect from them. ‘Happy Holidays’ does not give me any recognition. It is a generic “one size fits all” comment. When someone says to me ‘Merry Christmas’, I usually respond by saying ‘Merry Christmas’ or, more often than not, ‘Have a great holiday’. Let those who wish to be specific, be specific and let those who choose to be generic, be generic. Our country is great not because we melt to the point of all being the same. It is great because we melt to the point where we can all live together in our
      pluralism.

      But enough of this pontificating – if I don’t stop now I might soon label myself a prophet (Hashem forbid).

  17. Gene Schulman December 29, 2015 at 2:36 am #

    How nice it is to hear from Rabbi Youdovin again. Just the other day, as this blog post was gathering steam with entries from Fred, Walker, et al., I mentioned to Laurie in a private email, that it was like old times; all we needed was the rabbi to pop up again and join in the fun (?). And wouldn’t you know it, here he is.

    What I like about the rabbi is his penchant for long winded essays, well written, but so off course. He constantly picks on Prof. Falk as though he was the devil himself. I was enjoying his rant on Christmas, (how ecumenical he is) until, suddenly, my own name is gratuitously slipped in, with my “friends”, as being vitriolic. I had planned to not contribute anymore to this post because I realized that it is the same old troll-infested hasbara being spewed, and both Walker Percy and Laurie Knightly were doing such a fine job of refuting it. But I can’t allow the rabbi’s ad hominem to pass unnoticed.

    Rabbi, I hope you enjoyed your well-lighted Christmas which has been co-opted by American Jews to make it a non-religious holiday, but rather one for consumers of all faiths. I can’t say I’ve found much of Jesus’ teachings in it. Isn’t Chanukah enough for the Jews? Do they have to own everything? As for those of Islamic faith, I can only feel sorry for those who think that Emma Lazarus’ words have any meaning for them. Those who do make it to America’s shores will find out soon enough that they’ve put their heads into the crocodile’s mouth. Thanks to those wonderful states-people who are vying for public office – supported, of course, by their Israel lobby hosts.

    As for Christmas, Bah, Humbug! I shall continue to greet others with a “Happy Holidays”, which includes, to all, a

    Happy New Year!

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