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Jewish World Review Sept. 13, 2001 /24 Elul 5761

Sam Schulman

Sam Schulman
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"Politics of meaning" guru does it again --- and in Public! --
So much has changed since September 11. But one thing will remain the same.

Rabbi Michael Lerner can be relied on to justify and explain terrorism. And to tell us, the victims, that the death and destruction we have suffered is our fault.

In a sickening little homily posted on the New Age website, which is linked to by the egregious AOL, Rabbi Lerner nastily poses an ugly little question, "What is it in the way that we are living, organizing our societies, and treating each other that makes violence seem plausible to so many people?"

It's the question that so many anti-Semites ask themselves about Jewry. If so many people hate them -- what's actually wrong with the Jews? Because hatred -- if it's really spectacular enough --- must in some way be justified.

No surprise --- Rabbi Lerner finds it easy to answer his own question.

First, he tells us that we are responsible for the "fact" that one third of the world's billions are "actually starving." This, of course, is neither a fact, nor is the existence of hunger our responsibility. In fact, we - our farmers and scientists -- are responsible for the true fact that fewer people are hungry than ever before, and that food is cheaper and more abundant than ever. (Of course Rabbi Lerner undoubtedly supports crippling the promise of even greater abundance, because it would involve "modified" foods, --- but that's another matter.)

Then he tells us that our "hoarding" of the world's resources justifies the hatred of others. Again, wrong in fact and reason. We use exactly the same proportion of the world's resources represented by our economy. And our use of these resources distributes our wealth around the world - most notably to the very Arab countries who Rabbi Lerner feels are justified in hating us.

Then he blames our "frantic attempts to accelerate globalization, with its attendant inequalities of wealth." Again, he is wrong in fact, reasoning, and in humanity. globalization is being accelerated by the demands of those less-developed countries. And globalization, when attained, accelerate the creation of wealth among the poor --- creating undreamt of equality of wealth.

Then he says that the suffering of refugees and the oppressed rebounds in hatred against us. Is he saying that Israel and the West created refugees? The rabbi knows the opposite is true - that the Arab world, having turned residents of Palestine into refugees, has refused to let them assimilate anywhere else. And he also knows that the West is where people are not oppressed --- it is precisely the countries where terrorism is fostered that practice a kind of oppression horrifying in its scale and brutality.

Having made it clear that we in the West must be guilty of creating the rage of the Arab and Islamic terrorists, and choosing hobbyhorses of his own choosing, he then assures us that in his opinion terrorism is never justified. But it certainly sends a signal that something is terribly wrong about those who suffer from its effects.

If you don't follow Rabbi Lerner's reasoning, look into your heart. He actually says that America should turn "to a period of repentance and atonement." He feels that if we victims would only atone for our sins of prosperity and freedom, freely shared with the world -- if we would but repent for our freedom -- then, perhaps, the men of violence might stay their hand. Or at least exert it on their own women and children, and leave ours alone.

In the Rabbi's clear vision of things, violence -- however unjustified -- is always a sign that those who suffer by it have deserved it. He has not extended this notion to the death camps of Stalin's USSR and Hitler's Germany -- that they were filled by those guilty of having provoked the Nazis and Communists who were forced into "de-sanctifying" their victims -- but I can't see why he hasn't.

He's spreading himself too thin, poor fellow.

Sam Schulman Archives

JWR contributor Sam Schulman is a New York writer whose work appears in New York Press, the Spectator (London), and elsewhere, and was formerly publisher of Wigwag and a professor of English at Boston University.You may contact him by clicking here.


© 2000 by Sam Schulman