Originally posted on February 9th, 2013 at an older version of this blog
Today, I saw something on Tumblr that really spiked my interest in a topic that I had not actually thought to ever discuss. However, as someone who wants to try to always do what’s right, it can’t mean just right to me, or even what is right to my part of the world. It’s about that notion of what’s right that so many scholars before me held up that I now take on as my own.
Being ‘right’ is made to be very subjective in today’s world. However, I believe ‘right’ is not subjective but objective; it is not something we each define on our own but is a notion, a higher notion, of respect for life and humanity that should come as natural to us as breathing but at times leaves our minds as quickly as breath leaves our lungs. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere*, after all, and we should all be astounded and offended by injustice, NOT complacent because of it’s prevalence. I hold true the fact that there are things ‘right’ for each of us as individuals. But I also challenge the idea that what we hold as unrighteousness in one domain should be considered okay in another.
We should not be hypocrites to ourselves.
In light of that idea I quote Judith Butler, speaking at Brooklyn college 2 days ago on the topic of the Israeli democracy.
“If Israel is to be considered a democracy, the non-Jewish population deserves equal rights under the law, as do the Mizrachim (Arab Jews) who represent over 30 percent of the population. Presently, there are at least twenty laws that privilege Jews over Arabs within the Israeli legal system. The 1950 Law of Return grants automatic citizenship rights to Jews from anywhere in the world upon request, while denying that same right to Palestinians who were forcibly dispossessed of their homes in 1948 or subsequently as the result of illegal settlements and redrawn borders. Human Rights Watch has compiled an extensive study of Israel’s policy of “separate, not equal” schools for Palestinian children. Moreover, as many as 100 Palestinian villages in Israel are still not recognized by the Israeli government, lacking basic services (water, electricity, sanitation, roads, etc.) from the government. Palestinians are barred from military service, and yet access to housing and education still largely depends on military status. Families are divided by the separation wall between the West Bank and Israel, with few forms of legal recourse to rights of visitation and reunification. The Knesset debates the “transfer” of the Palestinian population to the West Bank, and the new loyalty oath requires that anyone who wishes to become a citizen pledge allegiance to Israel as Jewish and democratic, thus eliding once again the non-Jewish population and binding the full population to a specific and controversial, if not contradictory, version of democracy.”
Butler, in addition to her rather impressive academic credentials, is a Jewish woman who has been criticized for supporting the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement.
She made the following response to her critics back in August:
“I am a scholar who gained an introduction to philosophy through Jewish thought, and I understand myself as defending and continuing a Jewish ethical tradition that includes figures such as Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt. I received a Jewish education in Cleveland, Ohio at The Temple under the tutelage of Rabbi Daniel Silver where I developed strong ethical views on the basis of Jewish philosophical thought. I learned, and came to accept, that we are called upon by others, and by ourselves, to respond to suffering and to call for its alleviation. But to do this, we have to hear the call, find the resources by which to respond, and sometimes suffer the consequences for speaking out as we do. I was taught at every step in my Jewish education that it is not acceptable to stay silent in the face of injustice. Such an injunction is a difficult one, since it does not tell us exactly when and how to speak, or how to speak in a way that does not produce a new injustice, or how to speak in a way that will be heard and registered in the right way. My actual position is not heard by these detractors, and … [i]t is untrue, absurd, and painful for anyone to argue that those who formulate a criticism of the State of Israel is anti-Semitic or, if Jewish, self-hating.”
Humanity, then, is not a subjective thought or a fleeting feeling. It is helping your fellow man and affording them those respects and rights you would expect no less of for yourself.