From Tikkun Magazine: Healing Israel/Palestine, Rabbi Michael Lerner writes A Jewish Renewal Understanding of the State of Israel:
Perhaps the greatest victim of all these distortions has been Judaism itself. Judaism has always had within it two competing strands, one that affirmed the possibility of healing the world and transcending its violence and cruelty, the other that saw “the Other” (be that the original inhabitants of the land, who were to be subject to genocidal extermination, or later Greeks, Romans, Christians, or now Arab) as inherently evil, beyond redemption, and hence deserving of cruelty and violence. The latter strand, which I call “settler Judaism” because it reflects the ideology of settling the land that reaches its fulfillment as much in the Book of Joshua (and in some quotes in Torah) as in the reckless acts of Ariel Sharon and the current manifestations of the National Religious Party in Israel, was actually a very necessary part of keeping psychologically healthy in the long period of Jewish history when we were the oppressed and we were being psychologically brutalized by imperial occupiers or by our most immoral “hosts” in European societies. But today, when Jews are the rulers over an occupied people, or living in Western societies and sharing the upper crust of income and political power with our non-Jewish neighbors, the supremacist ideas of Settler Judaism create a religious ideology that can only appeal to those stuck in the sense that we are eternally vulnerable. For a new generation of Jews, bred in circumstances of power and success, a Judaism based on fear and demeaning of others, a Judaism used as a justification for every nuance of Israeli power and occupation, becomes a Judaism that has very little spiritual appeal. Ironically, the need to be a handmaiden to Israel distorts Judaism and causes a “crisis of continuity” as younger Jews seek spiritual insight outside their inherited tradition.
Yet Judaism has another strand, what I and others call “Renewal Judaism,” which started with the Prophets and has reasserted itself in every major age of Jewish life, insisting that the God of Torah is really the Force of Healing and Transformation, and that our task is not to sanctify existing power relations but to challenge them in the name of a vision of a world of peace and justice. Perhaps the greatest danger that Israel poses to the Jewish people is the extent to which it has helped Jews become cynical about their central task: to proclaim to the world the possibility of possibility, to affirm the God of the universe as the Force that makes possible the breaking of the tendency of people to do to others the violence and cruelty that was done to them, the Force that makes possible the transcendence of “reality” as it is so that a new world can be shaped. If Israel is ever to be healed, it will only be when it is able to reject this slavish subordination to political realism and once again embrace the transformative spiritual message of renewal.
Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God: Taking Our Country Back from the Religious Right is editor of Tikkun Magazine, chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, and author of the forthcoming book Embacing Israel/Palestine, which will be out in December.