COOPER, Howard. Rabbi & psychotherapist on Jews & Zionism: "You shouldn't oppress now, in the present, anybody, because you carry this historical memory of what it's like to be oppressed"

Howard Cooper is a rabbi and a psychotherapist, a Rabbinic graduate of the Leo Baeck College in London, and a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice. His essay, “Living in Error”, appeared in a recent book, “A Time to Speak Out: Independent Jewish Voices on Israel, Zionism and Jewish Identity” (see: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/encounter/voices-of-dissent/3135248  and http://howardcoopersblog.blogspot.com/ ).

 

Rabbi Howard Cooper on “the State of Israel’s policies” that are in conflict with “trying to create, in the nitty gritty of everyday life, fairness, justice, and a society which is rooted in a particular kind of morality” (2009) : “I'm pro-Israel, and pro-Palestine. And that means that I want there to be, - I fervently wish that there could be - a way for Israel to help the Palestinian people have their own autonomy, identity and state, and that seems to me to be the historic issue which Israel has been grappling with and continues to grapple with, and needs to grapple with, in order for there to be peace… One of the central texts which comes thirty-six times in the Bible, is that you should not ill-treat or oppress a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt and there the memory, the collective mythic memory of the people - Egypt, oppression, slavery - is linked to morality. You shouldn't oppress now, in the present, anybody, because you carry this historical memory of what it's like to be oppressed. And that linking of memory with morality is absolutely central to the Judaic vision… [Deuteronomy, Chapter 16, Verse 20, as a biblical source for understanding the Judaic tradition of justice] The first half of the verse runs, 'Justice, justice, you shall pursue'. Well that seems like a kind of a generic and open statement. But the end of the verse goes on, 'that you may live', so that's a kind of existential, human consequence of pursuing justice, that it actually enlivens you and makes you thrive, you in a kind of individual and collective sense, so in that sense it's a universalistic statement. And then the verse goes on, 'that you may live and you may inherit the land which the eternal, your God, is giving you'. So inheritance of the land is linked to pursuit of justice…  If you're going to offer, as I sometimes do, a critique of the State of Israel's policies in relation to a variety of things, which might be how it treats its own citizens, as well as how it treats Palestinians. If you're going to offer a critique from a religious perspective, then the prophets are the people who can root your critique not just in liberal humanism, but in a different mode of thinking about these questions. And as a Rabbi I try to bring to my thinking about contemporary issues this ancient vision, and the prophets are central to that. This isn't just an idiosyncratic thing. I mean, anyone who reads the prophetic texts, can see that they have a huge emphasis on trying to create, in the nitty gritty of everyday life, fairness, justice, and a society which is rooted in a particular kind of morality.”  [1].

 

[1]. Howard Cooper interviewed by Gary Bryson in “Voices of Dissent” , ABC Radio National, “Encounter”, 22 March 2009: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/encounter/voices-of-dissent/3135248
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