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Mar 9·edited Mar 9Liked by Rabbi Eli L. Garfinkel

I'm not fully sure whether you're asking the important questions. I mean, those Israeli right-wingers just need to compare Palestinian Arabs to Amalek -- I'm sure they'll find a way to argue for that -- and, whoops, they can feel absolutely justified in what they do. They simply won't need to care about your argumentation any more.

That is why I am pretty doubtful about whether it is of any use at all to argue with the Bible in a case such as Huwara. One believer will take these verses of the Torah literally and those metaphorically, and another vice versa. One believer will call the assumption X to be "common sense", i.e. self-evident, and another the opposite of X.

How can we get at what is right and wrong with such a method?

The philosophy of law that is behind the idea of a modern, secular state to me seems to have better answers, because it is based on a simple recognition: Humankind is prone to doing evil. So it asks the question: How can we build a just society despite this awkward predisposition of ours?

Jews are human beings; so they are as prone to doing evil as anybody else. Those "vigilantes" are a good example for that. Jews certainly ought to do what is right; but actually, everyone should. And nobody, Jew or non-Jew, always does.

That is why I would prefer to ask: Cannot Zionism focus upon building a secular (!) state in Israel? A state where all its inhabitants (Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, atheists etc.) enjoy the same dignity, i.e. the maximum of freedom that is compatible with equal freedom of everybody else; and where persecuted Jews from all over the world can find refuge in case of need?

The idea of a secular state explicitly does NOT preclude you from doing MORE than it demands or from drawing some inspiration from the Bible. Somewhere in your book e.g. you raise the problem of Netanyahu's policy of supporting all-day Torah study in Orthodox yeshivot. Great idea.

But to make it compatible with human dignity, one needs to design it in a way that EVERYONE can profit. I.e., there must be Reform and Conservative yeshivot that (and whose students) receive the same kind of funding. Minorities of other religions must have the same option within their respective traditions. And atheists must be able to study philosophy or humanism within the same framework.

Expensive business? So be it.

You may ALWAYS do more. But you've got to respect human dignity.

(1) One problem with vigilantism is the term itself. Isn't it something good to be vigilant? The German term for it is "Selbstjustiz", i.e. self-justice: taking justice in one's own hands.

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