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Thursday, July 08, 2004

Tikkunistas:
"COMPASSION AND OPEN-HEARTEDNESS" IN ACTION


"Kerry Panders for the pro-Ariel Sharon Vote"
SO SAYS TIKKUN.ORG - in this mailing

"Come tell the Delegates at the Democratic National Convention to Urge Kerry to Support the Israel Peace Movement, not its Hawks!"

Well, shifting his positions to meet the exigencies of the moment may be the good news about Kerry. When he addressed Arab Americans during the presidential primaries, he expressed his strong reservations about Ariel Sharon's Occupation Wall which may incorporate some 400,000 more Palestinians into Israel and take a huge chunk of the West Bank. Now, wanting the votes of the pro-Ariel Sharon crowd, he has issued a set of position papers that seeks to put him to the right of Bush and show that it is he, not Bush, who will be the most reliable ally for Ariel Sharon.

The good news part of it (rather small, we must admit) is that he may switch again once elected--if we can build a significant enough American movement that pushes him to do what is both right and what is really in Israel's interest, namely those policies that push Israel to stop the Wall, end the Occupation and to do so in a spirit of generosity and open-heartedness.

The media, meanwhlle, plays into all this, by describing his positions as seeking to appeal to the "pro- Israel" position. In so doing, they contribute to the either/or thinking of the Sharon crowd--the notion that the only way to be pro-Israel is to be pro-Sharon's policies. Of course, this then means that all the rest of us, including (according to a poll released by Peace Now a few months ago) a majority of American Jews, are NOT pro-Israel, and that is ludicrous. But to understand why Kerry thinks he needs to switch from what he said in the primaries to what he is saying for the general election, focus on the way that the media has construed this issue.

We will be attempting to challenge this perception at our event at the Democratic National Convention. First, there will be a series of events sponsored by Tikkun during the weekend of July 23-25 at the Boston Social Forum (Rabbi Lerner will be speaking several times, and actually even leading a Shabbat service on Friday night, July 23rd, if you want to get spiritually high for the weekend). Then, on Monday, July 26th, the Tikkun Community will be having an event to which we are inviting the delegates to the DNC--and at which Rabbi Lerner, Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Thomas Moore and others will speak. That is at 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hotel Marlowe (Serrano Ballroom) in Cambridge, a few miles from the convention site.

You could help us do this education in 2 ways: 1. You could call any delegates to the DNC from your state and urge them to go to the Tikkun event Monday afternoon (it will be before the convention starts that evening). We will have more detailed information about the events of that weekend and our event at our website by July 12th, so you could start calling then (and we may even be able to put the list of delegates on line--but if not, you can call Liz at Tikkun, 510-644-1200 and tell her your state and shel'll be able to give you the names of delegates from your area if you are prepared to call them or write to them). 2. you could send this email to everyone on your email lists with a personal note from you asking them to please JOIN our interfaith Tikkun Community--because the first question that the media and the Kerry team will ask us is, "how many people do you represent?" and that question determines how seriously any politician takes your position, so please, please, please get your friends to join (which they can do on-line at www.tikkun.org or by calling Stephanie at 510 644-1200).

If you read the statements below, you see Kerry at his worst. That does not mean that we are advocating that you not vote for him. We don't ever advocate for how anyone should vote, because we are prohibited from so doing. But we can certainly predict that to the extent that Kerry takes stands like these, there will be more people inside our constituency who move toward a Green or Nader option. Yet our prediction is that a majority of Tikkunistas will not abandon Kerry on this issue or on his support for INCREASING the troop level in Iraq. They will point to the fact that Kerry will not be bringing in with him the ideologues of the neo-con Right, so he may be more flexible on foreign policy once elected. And they will point to the fact that Kerry is likely to be such a dramatic improvement on issues of environment, civil rights, poverty, human rights, abortion, gay rights, and many others that his seeming lack of decency when it comes to the Middle East and Iraq will have to be lamented but will not be critical in determining how they vote. Yet this Tikkun majority will still be doing what they can to change Kerry's position, both at the convention itself, and, hoping as they do that he will be elected, in the months immediately after the election and in the early months of his presidency. In fact, they argue, the very fact that we can imagine organizing to change his policies is a huge advance over Bush, whose policies are more likely shaped by the Christian Zionists than by listening to reasonable arguments about what really IS in Israel's interests (which we know to be--a new spirit of generosity, kindness, open-heartedness, repentance, and then ending the Occupation and working out a deal based largely on the Geneva Accord, with modifications).

Kerry Tells the Right Wing of the Jewish World What They Want to Hear: John Kerry position paper outlines support for Israel

By Nathan Guttman, Haaretz Correspondent

WASHINGTON - In a position paper outlining his stance on Israel, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry promises not to negotiate with Yasser Arafat and expresses support for Israel's right to defend itself by attacking terrorist organizations.

The paper, entitled "John Kerry: Strengthening Israel's Security and Bolstering the US-Israel Special Relationship," was sent in mid-June to a group of people in the Jewish community as part of the Kerry campaign's attempt to maintain contact with Jewish supporters in the United States and to clarify his positions on Israel.

Kerry, who previously spoke against the separation fence at a gathering of the Arab-American Institute, is now seeking to correct that impression: "The security fence is a legitimate act of self-defense erected in response to the wave of terror attacks against Israeli citizens."

[Editor's Note: Security will never come through building a Wall, but as Kerry knows, the issue for most Israeli peace supporters is NOT Wall or no Wall, but rather, where the Wall will be built. If Israelis feel more secure by placing a wall on the pre-67 borders of Israel, the so- called Green Line, fine. The objection is that Israel is building that Wall in the midst of the West Bank, incorporating into Israel large sections of the West Bank]

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The presumptive Democratic nominee also declares his opposition to transferring debate on the fence to international forums. [Editor's note: Here, Kerry's position is a terrible precedent that in effect says that international forums should not review the activities of countries that are alleged to be violating International Law. Why not? This is precisely the kind of international forums that we needed to keep us out of the War in Iraq in the first place.]

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The paper shows consistent support for Israel on all the issues at hand: Kerry backs Israel's disengagement plan and also the two central points in President Bush's letter to Prime Minister Sharon - the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian state, not within Israel, and recognition of Jewish population concentrations in the West Bank when establishing the permanent borders. "In light of demographic realities, a number of settlement blocs will likely become a part of Israel," Kerry wrote his supporters. [Editor's Note: Yes, that is also the plan of the Geneva Accord. But it matters if that is a result of a genuine negotiation between Israel and Palestine, or rather, as Bush has done with Sharon, by being imposed on the Palestinian people who get nothing in return for ceding this land, as opposed to the Geneva Accord where an equal amount of land from Israel is given to the Palestinian state the Geneva Accord helps create.]

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He further declared support for Israel's actions against Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror organizations and recalled that he was a signatory to the motion of support for Israel passed by the Senate during Operation Defensive Shield. [These acts of summary executions of people suspected of being terrorists is in violation of every principle of human rights, international law, and Torah law.]

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On the issue of Palestinian leadership, Kerry declared that "Yasser Arafat is a failed leader and unfit partner for peace" and called for "his total isolation." He thereby aligned himself with Bush administration policy, and in contrast to former president Bill Clinton, who recently stated that despite his disappointment with Arafat, negotiations should be conducted with him. [Clinton is right. We hope that the Palestinians will soon replace Arafat--he is, in our opinion, an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinian people. But we have to negotiate with whoever they pick--we dont' get to pick the people who represent either side:Sharon is also an unmitigated disaster for the Israeli people.]

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Kerry lists additional issues on which he supports Israel: the battle against cutting foreign aid to Israel; calling upon the United Nations to evince a more balanced approach to the conflict; support for moving the American embassy to Jerusalem; international action against regimes that support terror; and maintaining Israel's military supremacy.

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Seeking to set himself apart from Bush on several issues, Kerry blasts Saudi Arabia and promises to act against anti-Semitic statements by senior Saudi government officials. "As president, he will never permit these kinds of attacks to go unanswered," the paper promises. [Good. We hope that he will also not let anti- Muslim and anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian statements to go unanswered. Racism in all its forms is deplorable, against Jews, and against anyone else as well! We at Tikkun recognize that the well being of each of us depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet--we are all in this together, and ought to start talking and acting that way, which is one of many reasons we are upset at Kerry's one-sidedness and obvious pandering for votes.]

Kerry takes a particularly tough stance on Iran, declaring that "a nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable." [So does that mean Iran becomes the next target for military intervnetion in a Kerry administration?]

Sources in the Kerry campaign said that the position paper and other letters sent in recent weeks to supporters in the Jewish community are intended "to educate and inform on his views, so there will be no doubt about his support for the state of Israel." [This is baloney. If he really cared about the Jewish people or the well-being of the State of Israel he'd have the courage to challenge the current right-wing policies, challenge the Occupation itself, and join with those American Jews and non-Jews in The Tikkun Community, Americans for Peace Now, Jewish Voices for Peace, Brit Tzedeck, etc. who point out that the Occupation and the current policies of the Israeli government are a disaster for Israel and for the Jewish people.

This political pandering to the Right won't win him their votes--most of them will vote Republican anyway, and it only demonstrates the level of his cowardice and his lack of principle or lack of understanding. All the more reason why those who will be voting for him should do all they can to reach him with a message challenging his stand agaisnt the best interests of Israel and the Jewish people, not to mention against the best interests of the United States and the peoples of the world, all of whom would benefit from an Israel bent on peace and reconcilaition rather than on a "fortress Israel" prepared to stand alone and insensitively deny the Palestinian people the same rights that we Jews rightly insist upon for ourselves. Many Tikkunistas may vote for Kerry--but they don't have to passively accept these distortions, either from the media or from the Kerry camaign. Support for Kerry should not lead to giving him a blank check to go as far to the Right as he thinks opportune .]

The Tikkun Community

We understand the solid reasons behind the support that many feel for Kerry and the deep desire to replace Bush. We are not intending to challenge those feelings, but only to insist that however you decide to vote, you can still insist that your candidate change his position on issues that are important to you. Right now, Kerry is out seeking public support--he needs to hear from you if you challenge his policies on Iraq or on Israel/Palestine. It may be much harder to get him to listen to you once he has won the election. But in the next few months, he needs to hear from Jews, Christians, Muslims, etc. who disagree with his position in support of the Israeli right- wing.

Please send this to everyone you know and ask them to let the Kerry campaign know what they think. And please ask them to help empower a different voice--by actually going to the website www.tikkun.org and JOINING our interfaith organization, The TIKKUN COMMUNITY (which they can also do by calling 510 644 1200 during work hours Pacific Daylite time). It's not enough to agree with us, we need to have your financial support and be able to say that you've joined and are thereby indicating that you are with this kiind of critique that we articulate.

One last point about Kerry and his campaign. There are millions of people responding to Kerry because of their goodness and decency in recognizing that war and domination of the other is not the right way to go. When they see Kerry making statements of the sort that we are critiquing, they say to themselves, "Give this guy a break--he has to do everything possible to win, and THEN he will be able to say things that you might want to hear." That's a very reasonable point.

However, please read pages 33-48 of the July/August issue where we present the argument that running the way Kerry seems to be doing may well be counter-productive to his winning. There are many, many Americans who don't bother to vote because they have given up on the cynicism that they feel coming from both major political parties, and they are cynical as well about the possiblity of a third party making any difference. Those people may be indispensible for Kerry to win if he were to mobilize even a fraction of them. The path that Kerry is choosing at the moment does the opposite--it confirms cynicism and leads to passivity. So the arguments being made here are not anti-Kerry. They are just as valuable for those who are convinced that Kerry should win. And we want to approach the Kerry camp with compassion, open-heartedness, and a recognition of the goodness that has led to that campaign--and then from both practical political concerns as well insist that the best policy is the most principled policy, and that the path to a world of peace and justice is a path of peace and justice.

Warm regards and blessings for a world of peace, kindness, ecological sanity, justice, and generosity of spirit!

Rabbi Michael Lerner
Tikkun

email: magazine@tikkun.org
phone: 510-644-1200
web: http://www.tikkun.org