In the West Bank, a rabbi fights to defend Palestinian land (2024)

Table of Contents
Transcript Related

In the West Bank, the Palestinian struggle to defend land from the clutches of settlers is a daily battle. Rabbi Arik Ascherman is one of the few Israeli Jews who has dedicated his life to assisting Palestinians in defending their land. Aschermanreturns toThe Marc Steiner Showto discuss the work of his organization, Torat Tzedek, and the increasing political isolation of Israeli Jews who oppose the occupation.

Rabbi Arik Aschermanis a Reform rabbi and executive director of the Israeli human rights organizationTorat Tzedek-Torah of Justice. He is a recipient of the Gandhi Peace Prize and the Rabbi David J. Forman Memorial Committee’s Human Rights Award.

Studio Production: Cameron Granadino
Post-Production: Alina Nehlich

Transcript

The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Marc Steiner:

Welcome to the Marc Steiner Show here on The Real News. I’m Marc Steiner. It’s great to have you all with us again. My guest today is Rabbi Arik Erman. We first met 22 years ago when he was the leader and founder of Rabbis for Human Rights. He has literally put his life and body on the line defending Palestinian lives. He stood between bulldozers, soldiers, and settlers, bent on forcing Palestinians off their land and stopped them from arresting and putting Palestinians in prison for living their lives in Israel. He’s been a leader opposing the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and in the struggle against racist policies that make Jews from African and Arab countries second class citizens. He stood with the Bedouins who resist being forced from their land. And when I say he put his life on the line, he’s been stabbed, beaten, and arrested for working to fight for the freedom and justice for Palestinians.

Nothing deters or stops him. He was here in the United States to raise money for their movements and to meet with members of our Congress to stop the war on Gaza and to fight to change our country’s policies, source Israel and Palestine. Rabbi Ara Harshman is executive director of Torah, EK Torah for Justice President and senior Rabbi for Rabbis for Human Rights. His perspective, as you will hear, represents those Israelis who want peace and who fight against the racism and colonialism that oppresses Palestinians. His perspective is religious, it’s rabbinic in the same way as leaders of our civil rights movement. We’re steeped in the Bible. He’s deeply respected in the Palestinian world. Yes, he is a Zionist, but a Zionist that came from the left, that came from the tradition of those fleeing death at the hands of Antisemites. And he’s the deeply religious man who wants to see a binational state with Palestinians, a state for all the people. He stopped by the studio while he was in Baltimore so we could tape a conversation together. And let me right now thank Rhonda Stein for helping produce and make this conversation possible. So Arik, it’s good to see you again.

Arik Ascherman:

I’m happy to be here with you. So

Marc Steiner:

Let’s just start. You’re here back in the States, and so in the midst of this mad crisis going on Israel Palestine, what brings you here?

Arik Ascherman:

Well, some family matters, and to talk to people here in the government and to talk to some of our supporters, to update people what’s happening. Although with the intensity what’s happening right now and the commitments that we have to protect people, it’s entirely possible that I’ll just have to cut short this trip at any point to go back because my word is my word, that there are people that are depending on us, and I think I put together a team together to handle it. But even just on my way here in dealing with a settler attack, 25 to 30 settlers apparently attacking a family and their home and their flock from a new outpost. And that’s just daily reality.

Marc Steiner:

Where was that? Somewhere in the West Bank? Yes. So when you say your group and we talk about who that is.

Arik Ascherman:

So my organization, after working for 21 years for rabbis between W Rights, I left them in 2016, founded Torah sek, the Tour of Justice in 2017. And we are a small group, but with circles of fellow human rights defenders and allies trying to keep our finger in the dyke.

Marc Steiner:

And I take it that the organization is probably mostly Jews, Israeli Jews, right? Yeah. So describe what it must be like for what it is like for an Israeli to take the positions you’re taking, doing the work of defending Palestinian villages, fighting for human rights in a country that has shifted so far. Right over the years. I mean, when I was a kid, I was and I was one tied to labor party. The next one tied to the Marxist Zionist. But things have, I mean, the shift is immense, right? Talk about the shift and how you survive in that shift.

Arik Ascherman:

Well, it’s interesting, and I’ve been doing this for 29 years now. I think the first time we spoke was close to 29 years ago. It was a

Marc Steiner:

Long

Arik Ascherman:

Time ago, and my beard used to be red. And most of those years I never felt marginalized. I never felt that we were just totally on the fringes. I’ve been frustrated with the number of Israelis who support what we believe in, but they’re talking the talk without walking the walk. But I do feel marginalized, infringed at this point, as I said to you a minute ago after the barbaric Hamas attack on October 7th. And as someone who has fought the evils of the occupation for most of my career, nothing justifies what was done on October 7th or the rockets before or after on Israeli civilians. But what is happened in the West Bank is that the pain and anger of Israelis has been cynically exploited by the settlers to carry out plans to dispossess and expel Palestinians that have nothing to do with the war, nothing to do with October 7th plans that were made way before.

It was already on February of 2021, for example, that Z heifer, one of the main veteran settler ideologues and strategists, and a convicted terrorist actually said in Aman, which is one of the organizations, he has a settler organization. We set up the 30 shepherding outposts because they’re their most effective way of taking over and holding on the Palestinian land. What does that mean, a shepherding outpost? What does that mean? It means you get a couple sheep and a couple settlers and a couple tents or whatever, but those sheep have to range far and wide. And especially if they’re being backed by Israeli security forces that pushes out Palestinian shepherds from their traditional grazing lands, it means that they have to buy more, feed more fodder and become often no longer economically viable to survive as a shepherd. But that’s what’s happening and that’s why the situation of Palestinians in the West Bank today, the best analogy I have is to Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor.

Remember when Japanese Americans were put in camps, almost nobody was willing to come to their aid with the fury that Americans felt after Pearl Harbor. It was only 1988, more than 40 years later that the US government apologized, began to compensate Japanese Americans and said that what we did was out of a combination of Rachel prejudice, war time, wartime hysteria, and a failure political leadership with all the differences and the analogies only can go so far. That’s so apt, and that is our reality, and that’s why I feel there’s been a little bit of recovery since October November. Some people are coming back to their senses a little bit more of a sense that there are people to talk to, a little bit more traction in the Israeli high court and what have you. As we’re working right now to return communities, remember that since this war began, 18, shepherding communities have fled or been forced out of their homes at gunpoint Palestinian communities, right?

Palestinian communities by settlers, often backed by soldiers or settlers, soldiers. Because what has also happened is that the security details for settlements have been drafted into reserve duty, giving uniforms and guns and cat guarding the milk. Often when after settlers come, these settlers soldiers come in and bust into homes in the middle of the night and terrorize people or prevent farmers from getting to their lands. Red Cross had told me that only 30% of Palestinian olives were harvested this year. S often say to me, that guy in the uniform there, that soldier, we know him, he’s from the next door, outpost or settlements, all that is simply the reality that we’re dealing with. And it means that, but 18 communities have fled or been expelled at gunpoint. Where did they go? There were another three before the war because again, it was a trend that was already starting before the war, but just went on steroids once the war started, basically, where did they go? First of all, it also destroys communities because often they don’t end up in the same place. People that were together for decades or who knows how long simply are dispersed and what have you. Again, we are grateful to some of the efforts that the US administration has been making now to put pressure on Israel to curb settler violence.

Much more needs to be done where settler violence has certainly not stopped as just what I’ve been doing with the last couple hours, but even if we were to stop the settler violence tomorrow, if we don’t get these people home, it’s not only a human tragedy, it’s also just a redrawing of the map.

Marc Steiner:

Lemme take a step backwards just a minute to two different places. One’s about you, which I want to come to, and the other is how we got here. Lemme explain what I mean. So I’ve read a lot of what you’ve written over the years and stay on top of what’s happening to you, your jailings beatings, settlers coming after you. I like him when sometimes what’s happening in Palestine to my experience in the Civil Rights Movement. Civil rights movement is a very young man, and what happened to Mississippi and Alabama, even the eastern shore of Maryland here, and the violence was just untenable. It was a very frightening, scary situation. You never know if you’re actually going to live till the next day and what’s happening now on Israel Palestine feels the same, but I think that I’d like you to be able to describe just for a minute what it’s like for you as a Jew, as an Israeli, to live there at this moment, given what you face in this massive right wing kind of power inside of Israel and what that most means like for Palestinians, which to me would be like what it meant, what it was like to live in Mississippi in the time of chain gangs and sharecropping.

You know what I’m saying? So talk a bit

Arik Ascherman:

About that. Well, I can tell you that also for many, many years people have laughed at me as being one of the last optimist, standing and as a person of faith, I’m still an optimist in the long run, but one of the things that’s changed is I’m much less optimistic in the short run, I’ll tell you a story. We just this past week celebrated our Jewish holiday of Shiva. Comes 50 days after Passover Seder, explain what that is to the people. And so of course Passover is we recall our liberation from Egypt, and among other things we say it’s about the wheat harvest, but it’s also about the anniversary of wind of the revelation on Mount Sinai. And we count the days from one or the other because we weren’t liberated just for the sake of being free. But to get to Sinai and accept the Yoko Torah, really one of the traditions on Vu is to stay up all night studying texts, Jewish texts.

And it was a year ago on the ish at the end of May that year that the first of these 21 communities was finishing packing up. We were guarding them so that they could dismantle their homes and move elsewhere and what have you safely. You were going to the Palestinian homes. Palestinian homes is the shepherding community, and I didn’t know whether I would be there for that evening of the holiday or back home when they finished. I wanted to teach also rabbis like to teach, of course, of course. But it’s also a great pleasure just to spend all night learning from others. And what I taught was there’s a strange story. One of the main many strange stories in the Bible in the Torah is that if you find someone murdered and you don’t know who did it, you measure which, and you figure out which is the closest community, and the elders of that community had to come and you had to break the neck of a calf and you washed your hands.

That’s where we get this whole idea of washing your hands of responsibility, I guess, and through the calf into a dry ravine. And then you declared our hands not shed this blood and we didn’t see it. And our sages asked 2000 years ago, could you really, to anybody, could anyone actually think that our respected elders would’ve murdered somebody? They said, if that person came through our community and nobody gave them food, nobody offered to guide them through maybe some of the dangerous areas that they might have to traverse to go on their way. It’s as if we had shed that blood.

And it is so easy for us to blame the awful government, and we do have the most extreme government we’ve ever had in our history what we’re talking about. We blame the settlers, but we have to look at ourselves, the people that inspire these people to do these acts, the people who say that they’re with us, but they sit in their coffee houses and say, isn’t it terrible? And I could say, Hey, I’ve been doing this for 29 years and I’ve been risking my life and I’ve been beat up. And we’ve had some accomplishments both for Israeli Jews living in poverty and for Palestinians and everything else. Hey, I’m okay, but close only counts and horseshoes and hand grenades. All right? And if these people left and I didn’t stop it, then I’m responsible too. That’s what I had to process. And then a few months later, another one of the communities that fled was cca. A new outpost was set up on their access road One night in July, one morning in July six 30 in the morning when the near my house closest the house to the settlement outpost goes up in flames and they asked us to be there for two days and we were then. But we later on in the summer, we created a whole group of human rights offenders to be 24 7 protective presence in communities, but we didn’t have it at the time. And I gave in myself to saying, we can’t do it.

And I spoke to them. I said, you asked for two days. We were here now, we’ll be in touch. We’ll come when we need to, but is it okay if we’re not here all the time? And they said, okay, but it wasn’t okay. They started packing the next day and I was there. Then a few months later, actually there was an article in New York Times with Patrick Kinsley England, and we were talking to bu and I said, I asked if we had stayed, might you have stayed? And he said, yes. I said Yes. And that’s why in those communities on the month before Rosh Hashanah where we say Pedent prayers early in the morning, I said my prayers in those places. And this year I was thrown back in the mails room when the eve of this year Yusef and said, I’m out of here. I’m out of here tomorrow. I can’t deal with the violence, the intimidation, the settler flock, coming right up to my window day twice a day, the settler security guard saying, this is my field, it’s not yours anymore. And thank God actually with the help of some helpful army officers, we convinced them to give us some time. We got some help actually from the Army, believe it or not, and they’re still in their homes right now.

But I felt on the eve of receiving the Torah that if this can happen and we don’t have an answer, it’s our responsible that Torah is there dead on the ground, or as we’re told in the story of one of the DIC sages who was killed by the Romans, by being wrapped in a Torah scroll and we’re told that the letters from the burning scroll flew off into the air. That’s what’s happening. And as I told Yusef, of course, for first and foremost concerned about you, but the stain on us and on me if we don’t stop this is simply, simply indelible.

Marc Steiner:

What I thought about as you’re telling this story is that something I’ve been wrestling with, which is that people have different cultures and societies or Jews of dwelt. People have been trying to wipe this out from millennia inquisitions for grus. I mean, just trying to wipe us off the face of the Earth are

Arik Ascherman:

Good candidates for being one of the most oppressed people in human history. Absolutely.

Marc Steiner:

Two things. A, could this be the first time in history that we’re causing our own destruction as a people, given what Israel is doing in the holy land and what Israel is doing, the Palestinians. And the other one thing I wrestle with is that how and oppressed people Jews could then become the oppressor.

Arik Ascherman:

Well, first of all, and I think we’ve spoken about this before, there was a mid 19th century, rabbi Hirsch wrote an extensive commentary on the Torah among other things, and writing about one of the 36 times that we’re taught about how to treat the non-Jew living among us. He says, the abomination of Egypt is simply this. They believe that mite makes right and therefore they had the right because of the absolute power of us to do with us what they wanted. And he says, the Torrah is warning us someday. We’re going to have a state he’s writing several decades before Herzl. And when we do, the Torrah is saying, warning us not to treat others as Egyptians treated us. But the psychologists tell us that children who have been beaten are more likely to beat their own children. You repeat all these learned behaviors, and as we just said, we’re one of the most oppressed people in human history. And so it’s actually, maybe it’s almost the human thing to do is to take out another what was done to you. But the Torah is saying that we have to be different. And you made a very interesting point in terms of whether there’s a difference now because what we’re doing to others

When our temples were destroyed 2000 years ago, the two temples we said most people, if you were defeated by somebody else in battle, you said, they’re God stronger than our God. We said, no, our God did this to us because of our sins. That was our theological response. Other people did what they did to us because of what we did to each other. And Raji, one of our great Torah competitors says that Amalek came and attacked us because of the reason why Amalek in the Torrah is next to the provision against acting in discriminatory waste. Because when you act in a discriminatory way, that invites the attack of an attacker like Amalek, not too many people were able to use that same theological solution in the Holocaust. People like Rabbi Abraham, Joshua Heschel tried to look just talked about the failure of humanity. But it is, as you said, just at another level. And we’ve been attacked by Hamas, people who will want to seek to destroy us, even if we were sign a perfect history tomorrow there, they would still want to destroy us. But of course, we’re taught also the sword comes into the world because of justice delayed and justice denied the improper teaching of Torah. What drives the masses into the hands of these chama ideologues who always want to destroy us is our oppression of Palestinians.

It’s a very dangerous line that you don’t want to cross to just justify the unjustifiable. But explanations are important so that in our prayers, one of our prayers is we say this three times a day or more. We ask that we should witness God returning to Zion in AKA in mercy. And we pray so much about God’s ed, loving kindness in God’s akame, God’s mercy and God’s return is seen almost as synonymous with our return. And to tell you the truth, in my prayers today, I say to God, you gave us free will. You expected you wanted us to solve things on our own to make a better world, Tik Ola on our own, and we’ve failed miserably. And as important as it is to you that we should achieve this, looking at all the suffering around us and the fact that yes, we are being attacked right now, but we have also become attackers. And that even if the arguments, which I don’t accept, but I understand that people make them, that given the attack on us, we have no other way of defending ourselves given the fact that kamas is embedding itself in a civilian population. We have to attack there even it means civilian deaths and everything else which I don’t accept, and Israeli human rights organizations universally call for, IM cease fire and immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages.

Why God have you put us in this situation where this is what we have to do to defend ourselves. And it’s when you, where is that akame? We need you not just to return to Zion in mercy, we need you to inspire us all humanity to start to act with akame toward each other or impose it upon us enough with free will. You have to impose it upon us or I can’t tell God you have to do anything, but I beg you, I prayed you to do this because it is simply to me, unbearable both the way we are suffering and the way that we’re causing others to suffer.

Marc Steiner:

I’m not sure where we go from here. So I went aside and come right to this question. Is it in 1967? The war happened in 67. I was visiting in Washington, dc, Washington, free press, liberation, new service. I was doing stuff, and I remember we settled a stoop out of Washington free press cheering every time the Israelis pushed ahead, and I actually went down to the Israeli embassy to try to volunteer to go fight. As so I was fighting against the war in Vietnam. And then in 68 I began to meet Israelis on the left and I began to meet Palestinians and something really shifted in my consciousness. And so I became for a long time an anti-Zionist, and I shifted again bunch of years back just being a non Zionist because the complexities of what created Zionism in the first place, and if you’re going to organize and try to bring Jews over to say what we’re doing is wrong in Israel Palestine, you got to start from a different place to organize. So here we find themselves in a situation now, well over a million and a half Israelis, at least maybe closer to at this point, no longer live in Israel. I live in Western Europe, Germany, France live here.

And I’m in touch with a lot friends of mine, and most of them are Israelis who wanted peace between Israels and Palestinians, wanted to either build a binational state or one state trying to work together to build something different. And they’re gone.

And so now we’re faced with a really super nationalist right wing government in Israel. And the occupation of the West Bank, which is getting worse every day, was so focused on war on Gaza. We don’t realize how even more difficult it is for Palestinians to try to live and survive on the West Bank and the tens of thousands of people killed in Gaza. And in itself that also kind of unleashes antisemitism that’s always lurking just below the surface. And I’m not sure where we go from here. I’m not sure what the path is to bring about a place where people dwell together between the roofer and the sea together and how we even get there. Plus I think this is a very dangerous situation. I think it’s also a situation that is volatile for the entire planet. Something huge can erupt over this beyond Israel and Palestine. So I think we’re in a very dangerous place.

Arik Ascherman:

Well, when I said that my beard used to be red and now it’s a little bit different,

One would hope that with all these years of experience and even some successes, that there would be some wisdom that I could answer that question. And after all these years, I still admit that I just have a sheet in all directions because I don’t really know what’s going to be the solution in any specific situation. If there’s anything that gives me some hope, even though I said I’m not the optimist that I have been most of my life, first of all, it’s that I know so many good and decent Israelis and Palestinians who simply want for themselves and for their children what most human beings would want. And ultimately I think we’ll need, and we’ll be hopefully able to understand that the path we’ve chosen is not bringing anything good for any of us.

The second thing is, back when I was in rabbinical school, one of my teachers, rabbi Larry Hoffman, would talked to us about the Soso anthropologist, Victor Turner and liminal moments, and Victor Turner talked about liminal moments being fraught with huge danger and also huge potential. And we’re in a mega liminal moment in Israel today, maybe in Palestine as well, because if up until now the quintessential example of a crisis faith in Israel was this Yom Kippur war, we beat that 73, right in 1973. This is beat that in spades. I mean it, Israelis across the political spectrum have basically lost faith in everything that they used to believe in their leaders in the army and this and whatever. The common wisdom is that on the one hand, Israelis want to throw all the bums out, get rid of all the current military and political leadership, but that they may elect back in may be even more hard line because they have no fewer and fewer Israelis right now have any faith that there’s any possibility of anyone to talk to on the other side of making peace with Palestinians.

They just fewer and fewer Israelis believe that after October 7th, and yet when you have everything being called into question, if we would figure out, and that’s a huge if how to play our cards right, it might be possible to help more and more of our fellow Israelis understand that even if you’re not a great believer in universal human rights and whatever, although over the years, many pinballs show that people didn’t have animosity necessarily the Palestinians, they just wanted to survive that for the things that you want, that we want the way we’ve tried to achieve it for the last 150 years or whatever has failed. And it’s time to try something else. That’s not an impossible outcome of all of this. It’s not where things seem to be heading right now, but it’s still not an impossible outcome. And so to get out of this, it’s going to take a combination of international pressure and work that we have to do internally with our fellows, Israelis being there because if we’re not there to physically on the ground protect Palestinians, there won’t be anything to talk about later on. And it’s one of the few things, and as we’ve talked about in the past, the Palestinian parents that say, my child wants to be a terrorist when he grows up because of all he is seen. And when you don’t want him to be a terrorist, we want him to meet a different kind of Israeli. Those are all parts of the puzzle. And yet I have to admit, certainly in the short run, I can’t give you a clear answer to what the way out is

Marc Steiner:

Coming to the end of our conversation here for today. Anyway, a couple of things. One is, would you describe for me, for people listening to us today, what it’s like a for you to exist in Israel as someone who opposes the occupation, opposes the oppression of Palestinians, been arrested, been beaten stands between Israeli settlers and Palestinian farmers, what it’s like to survive in that? Just to give a sense of what lived to me it would be like, I remember in Mississippi and Eastern shore, the civil rights movement, white people who came over, they literally had to hide out among us because they would be killed by their fellow southerners for even saying, oh yeah, we’re wrong. Black people need their freedom, which is what you’re doing Israel in Palestine saying what we’re doing is wrong. We can’t keep killing stealing Palestinians for the land and jailing the people and killing. So I mean, describe

Arik Ascherman:

A bit about what that is

Marc Steiner:

For you and people around you to live and survive in that world.

Arik Ascherman:

Well, that’s a good question. On the one hand, there’s the famous saying by one of the Hasidic Rees, rabbi Nachman, all the world is like a narrow bridge. And the important thing is not to be afraid. And I would revert revise that a little bit and say, not to be too afraid. I think fear is healthy, and anyone who isn’t somewhat afraid doing what we do is just being stupid. And I know that. And that fear gives you a little bit more alert as long as it doesn’t paralyze you. But as I often say, after all the philosophical musings, we’ve got work to do. And at a certain point you put that aside, you realize you’re taking risk and you realize that you’ve got a job to do as where’s also taught in pure kja, an out is when nobody else is acting with basic human decency. You got to be the person who tries to do it.

I don’t know whether it’s just stupidity or faith or whatever. I mean, I know that I’ve been attacked with a knife. I know the intense hate and loathing that so many people in the settlement feel towards me personally. I have been say, if I actually accomplished 5% of what they think I’ve done, I’d be very happy. But I haven’t. I wish I could give myself if I let it get to my head what they’re saying about me. But it’s just not true. And yes, it just takes one hateful Palestinian or one hateful settler or one errant ricochet bullet or whatever, textual bullet. And it would be simply a lie to say that that’s not all possible. And yet we have a concept in also in the Jewish tradition called beta. It means security. It can be military security, but it also is a sense of personal faith that we do what we are supposed to be doing. God will decide what is supposed to happen to us. And we just have to keep the faith, keep our eyes on the prize, and remember that there’s a reason why we’re here on this earth and this is what it is. So

Marc Steiner:

Conclude on this political question. You’re here in America here back in the United States. Yeah. You’re meeting with political leaders, will you on Capital Hill today?

Arik Ascherman:

Tomorrow.

Marc Steiner:

Tomorrow on Capitol Hill. So we can’t talk about what happens because you dunno what’s going to happen tomorrow,

Arik Ascherman:

State Department and later on in Capitol Hill actually. But yeah, I be talking

Marc Steiner:

About what do you expect out of this visit? What are you trying to do on Capitol Hill? What are you trying to get done and what do you expect?

Arik Ascherman:

Well, I think if I were to analyze what’s happening, I think the common wisdom in the Biden administration early on in this war was if we back down from a support of Israel, and at a certain level, I’m grateful for that support. Israel was brutally attacked and we needed support. But any backing down on that, and because that sort has to be balanced by the demand that civilians are not harmed, that we aren’t creating stage four and stage five hunger and allowing settlers to redraw the map in the West Bank and everything else. But the common wisdom was that it would hurt Biden in the elections. Since then, it’s of course turned out that perhaps he’s between a rock and a hard place because there are also significant parts of his base who are saying, we’re not going to vote for you if you can just with this allowing Israel to run rampant and what have you.

And perhaps as a result of that, the United States administration has taken some significant and important acts to try to pressure Israel to allow more food in the Gaza and the curb settler violence in the West Bank. The fact is it’s unprecedented that both some individual settlers, some of whom I unfortunately know very well and settlements have had sanctions imposed. And when we look at the realities on the ground, violence has not yet been curved. So I’m going to talk about the fact that there must be further pressure put on Israel to curb settler violence, that we have to look at the money when the US gives Israel. You mean I’m talking about the money that is going through 5 0 1 c threes to settlers in terms of Israel money that is being Israel. There’s also the issue of the Lihi law, and I don’t want Israel singled out for coddled or punished in ways that other countries aren’t. But we do have the lihi lahan here that is supposed to say that US military hardware cannot be used for human rights violations that should be applied, of course.

And I’m also going to show people the maps, the areas, the look at the trajectory of the areas under settler control, that from the time when the government was established to October 7th, from October 7th till now with the increased new outpost, the expulsion, the fleeing of shepherding communities, the areas that are in the gun sites. And last time I was here, I talked about the south urban hills and the area between the alone road and the Jordan Valley, but now going eastward from the Lone Road down to Jordan Valley. And now what we’ve been seeing over the last couple of months is now filling the dots west of the lone road and just what that all means. And then there’s another message which I gave for the first time maybe a year ago.

We in the human rights community don’t have a position on a one versus a two versus a 10 state solution. But what I have to say at this point is not because I’m against it, but you should realize that the two state solution is all but dead just because the infrastructure and the facts on the ground, there may be still variations on the theme possible. If there was a real will, there might be a way. But if you and the US administration and success of US administrations say that in one way or another, that is the goal, don’t delude yourself that is slipping between your fingers. That’s almost an impossibility at this point.

Marc Steiner:

So we need to conclude, but this is so much to say to what you just said. It seems that there’s no other solution. And what I’m about to say would be a very difficult place to get to. I have a poster, and the poster is something I got in 1968, and the poster is a picture of all of the holy land, all of it, west Bank, Israel, Gaza, everything. On one side is the Palestinian flag, the other side is an Israeli flag. And across it has written one state, two people, three faiths. It’s been a mantra of mine since 68, pretty much without something like that, there’s no solution. There’s no way for things to continue as they are. We can’t keep stealing Palestinian land, putting people in jail, oppressing Palestinians, chasing out the Israelis who want different work. They don’t want to live there anymore. I mean, we’ve gotten to a critical place where the Jewish community itself is deeply divided. I mean, I talk to young Jews all the time and they want nothing to do with Israel. They’re done. So I dunno what the question is. I have no idea what the answer is. I’m not even sure what the question is.

Arik Ascherman:

Well, that’s back to the fact when your question, which I couldn’t give an answer to, is what the way out is. Because if in fact, and again, I repeat as a human rights defender, I don’t support or oppose any one solution. But if I look at the reality on the ground, on the one hand, a two state solution, at least a classic two state solution of 67 borders and limiting settlements is increasingly impossible. A one state solution is an anathema to most Israelis and to many Palestinians. I mean the Palestinians are divided about that. So then what do you do?

And I don’t know, sometimes I think what we need is an orian treaty. You happen to be a Trekkie. I don’t know. But something just imposed. That’s why I said I pray to God that it’s time God’s got to intervene and impose something on us. But as we’ve spoken about before, a week before Sadat came to Jerusalem, Israeli opinion polls were dead set against what everybody was in favor of a week later. So with all our doubts, we just have to keep on trying and trying to find that place where people hit rock bottom as we say in 12 step and say, now we’ve got to try something else.

Marc Steiner:

Maybe the only place that can do it is here. You know what caught or anybody attempted, not saying that it worked, but we’re facing a situation I think, which we are close to the abyss when it comes to is Israel Palestine at this moment. And it could mean the annihilation of what’s left to the Jewish people in Israel. It could be many different things. It could be a war that we can’t control that spreads. I think we’re in a very, very dangerous situation.

Arik Ascherman:

I’m less afraid of the physical annihilation of the Jewish people. That’s also possible, much more afraid of the spiritual annihilation. In 19 88, 1 of Israel’s Israel’s pantheon of authors, Sakha wrote an essay. And basically what he said is, of course we have to ensure our survival. But even if it’s more difficult, even if we are making that task, we are restraining ourselves. I mean, there has to be red lines, there are things, and he was a bit maybe ecentric you could say. I saying there are things that even if the rest of the world does, and it’s true, what would the United States do if it was attacked the way it was on October 7th? We were on October 7th. Look what happened on nine 11 or many other countries in the world. There is some hypocrisy in looking at Israel and when Israel at a certain level has done what many countries around the world would do if they could. But what he said was, if we say it’s okay, because that’s the way of the world, that’s what people do.

And we have no choice. When Hamas is embedding itself in a civilian population and everything, we have no choice. But it was only 1980. It wasn’t talking about that, but no choice. But the blow up babies, he says something is just being, we are wiping out the ground from beneath our feet. We’re wiping out the ground beneath our feet as Jews. And so that is our challenge. Somehow we have to find a way to remain true. That was the core of our faith and our mission from the beginning of the Jewish people, even if it means trying to survive against some people with two hands hide behind our backs, but also remembering that this sword comes in the world because of justice delayed and justice denied and the improper teaching of Torah.

Marc Steiner:

And I think as we conclude here, one of the things that I think about a lot when it comes to this is that what we are doing now to the Palestinians is no different than the Klan of my Southerners did to black folks in the South. It’s no different than what the Nazis did to us antisemites have done to us over the millennia. And that the kibbutzing that were attacked, it’s where my family lives. It came from Latin America. They were on the left. They were trying to build a different world with Palestinians. One of my closest friends, his nephew was shot another killed by settlers in this recent violence in the West Bank. And they look at the Israeli government and there’s a really right wing philes kind of government with the worst of our religion inside of that as well, the Ben Veers and the smart riches. So it is, I think as Jews, it’s just time to stand up and say, no, it’s not acceptable. We can’t support the state of Israeli the way it is now. We can’t support that government. We can’t allow this to happen. We can’t allow Palestinians to be slaughtered and all of Gaza to be just destroyed.

Arik Ascherman:

Well, I think there is a difference in that While there are Israelis and from before the state and after and during our entire history who from the get-go, their goal was to displace and dispossess Palestinians. I still do believe that many Israelis, even the majority of Israelis would not be acting as they are now if it wasn’t also what was done to us also by Palestinians. But again, after 57 years of occupation after also the expulsions already from 48, but we have to have the ability to say that two wrongs don’t make a right. That what has been done to us a does not justify what we’ve done are doing, be there’s a connection to what we’ve done and the vicious circle. And if we really, really want to get to the peace and security that we deserve, there’s another image in the Talmud of someone that tries to go into the mikvah, the ritual bath, to purify themselves because they become ritually unpure because they’re holding a dead lizard. But they go into the mikvah and they’re still holding the lizard. We’re still holding the lizard. We are still occupying, we are still oppressing. And as long as we do that, we are not going to have the things that we deserve.

Marc Steiner:

And what you just said, and we really got to conclude in this last comment from you, is that if there had not been a knock ban 48, if there had not been a post 67 war and an occupation and the jailing of Palestinians and taking their land and settlements all across the West Bank and Gaza that were pushed out when the treaty was done, if those things hadn’t happened, if we hadn’t become the oppressor of Palestinians, there’d be no Hamas,

Arik Ascherman:

Right? Absolutely. You’re right, correct. And of course, Israel helped create Hamas to be a counter to the PLO and this kind of stuff. It’s absolutely true. And at the end of the day, it matters a lot. But it doesn’t matter who started it and who fault and who’s this I do not want as the Jewish people that we are oppressors and therefore, as Samar said, ensure our survival. Yes, but not as oppressors

Marc Steiner:

Harshman. It’s been long time as I’ve seen you. It’s good to have you back in Baltimore for a minute, and I appreciate you taking time out of the busy schedule to come through the studios and join us today, and we’ll stay in touch and when you get back, we’ll continue to have these conversations. So thank you very much for your work and thanks for being here today.

Arik Ascherman:

Thank you

Marc Steiner:

Once again. I want to thank Rabbi Eric Harshman for joining us today in the studio. The Struggle for the Liberation of Palestine. Israel is a complex one. Without Israelis and Jews like a oshman, the struggle cannot be won. It’s much like white people who stood up to segregation were critical to ending segregation. Now, the Jews and Israelis who fight against occupation Palestinian rights are critical to ending that oppression. Once again, thank you to Rabbi Arik Oshman for joining us today. And thanks to Cameron Grino for running this program and editing our program and the tireless killer of Ara for making it all work the scenes. And for everyone here at The Real News for making this show possible, please let me know what you thought about, what you heard today, what you’d like us to cover. Just write to me at ss@therealnews.com and I’ll write to you right back. Once again, thank you to our kaman for joining us. So for the crew here today, the Real News, I’m Marc Steiner. Stay involved. Keep listening, and take care.

Related

In the West Bank, a rabbi fights to defend Palestinian land (1)

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

In the West Bank, a rabbi fights to defend Palestinian land (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jonah Leffler

Last Updated:

Views: 5875

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jonah Leffler

Birthday: 1997-10-27

Address: 8987 Kieth Ports, Luettgenland, CT 54657-9808

Phone: +2611128251586

Job: Mining Supervisor

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Electronics, Amateur radio, Skiing, Cycling, Jogging, Taxidermy

Introduction: My name is Jonah Leffler, I am a determined, faithful, outstanding, inexpensive, cheerful, determined, smiling person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.