Rabbi Michael Lerner on Muhammad Ali, Israel, Palestine and Tikkun (Part One)
By Max Eternity
“The way to get security is for the United States to become known as the most generous and caring country in the world, not the most powerful”
Rabbi Michael Lerner, speaking at Muhammad Ali’s memorial service
“We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children,” said President Jimmy Carter in 2002 while in Norway accepting his Nobel Peace Prize. Yet within the last year, Facebook has adopted a heavy-handed censorship program at the request of the Israeli government, bolstering Israel’s “horrendous” ongoing apartheid campaign against the Palestinian people.
Facebook’s new alliance with Israel has already generated some staggering consequence, with it being reported by Electronic Intifada on September 23rd that Facebook has disabled the editorial accounts of two of the most popular Palestinian [online] publications. Facebook’s seeming capitulation to Israel may in-large-part have to do with the fact that In July, the “Mossad-linked lawfare group Shurat HaDin filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Facebook” claiming the company serves as a platform for what Israel calls “terrorist groups.”
Editors at two of the most widely read Palestinian online publications have had their Facebook accounts disabled.
Administrators for the Facebook pages of Quds, which has more than five million “likes,” and Shehab News Agency, which has more than six million, found they could not access their accounts on Friday.
Both believe that the suspensions are directly related to an agreement between Facebook and the Israeli government to collaborate in monitoring what Israel claims is “incitement” by Palestinians.
The joint Facebook-Israel censorship efforts, needless to say, will be directed at Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians who oppose Israeli occupation…Israel has begun actively surveilling Palestinians for the content of their Facebook posts and even arresting some for clear political speech.
All of this underscores the severe dangers of having our public discourse overtaken, regulated, and controlled by a tiny number of unaccountable tech giants. I suppose some people are comforted by the idea that benevolent Facebook executives like Mark Zuckerberg are going to protect us all from “hate speech” and “incitement,” but — like “terrorism” — neither of those terms have any fixed meanings, are entirely malleable, and are highly subject to manipulation for propagandistic ends. Do you trust Facebook — or the Israeli government — to assess when a Palestinian’s post against Israeli occupation and aggression passes over into censorship-worthy “hate speech” or “incitement”?
While the focus here is on Palestinians’ “incitement,” it’s actually very common for Israelis to use Facebook to urge violence against Palestinians, including settlers urging “vengeance” when there is an attack on an Israeli.
Too this, right now all over The City of San Francisco public transportation buses (SFMTA & MUNI) are driving around displaying provocative advertising featuring images of very young [presumably?] Palestinian children armed-to-the-hilt with lethal weapons. The advertisements are approximately six feet long and in big, bold, red letters they read: The Palestinian Authority Teaches Children To Hate… End All U.S. Aid to the P.A. And as if those statements aren’t jarring enough, in between the words are 3 large images of children, all of whom appear 8 years old or younger, posing with knives, bombs and machine guns.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) financed the ads, and the organization’s executive director is Pamela Geller. Among other things, on her website Geller lays out a scathing “18 Point Platform for Defending Freedom,” which includes at least 3 alarming points:
- AFDI calls for profiling of Muslims at airports and in hiring in professions in which national security and public safety could be compromised.
- AFDI calls for immediate investigation into foreign mosque funding in the West and for new legislation making foreign funding of mosques in non-Muslim nations illegal.
- AFDI calls for an immediate halt of immigration by Muslims into nations that do not currently have a Muslim majority population.
Having been interviewed by FOX News this summer, at which time she claimed 80% of mosques are “teaching, preaching and inciting Jihad”, Geller is no stranger to the press. And however coincidental, the timing of the AFDI advertisements happen in concert with the University of California @ Berkeley’s (UC Berkeley) abrupt cancellation of a class on Palestinian studies, called Ethnic Studies 198: Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis. Though as a result of student protests, a week later, on September 20th, it was announced by UC Berkeley that the class would restart.
Notwithstanding, and taken as a whole, these collective scenarios raise many questions with far-reaching implications.
Addressing Israeli oppression of Palestinians and other related topics, I reached out to Rabbi Michael Lerner— a renowned author, activist and humanitarian based in Berkeley, California. Rabbi Lerner is a rabbi at Beyt Tikkun, and he’s the editor of Tikkun Magazine.
In league with Vaclav Havel and Noam Chomsky, Rabbi Lerner was chosen in 1998 by Utne Reader as one of the world’s “100 top visionaries”. And among other things, in 2005 Lerner received the Gandhi, King, Ikeda Community Builders Prize from Morehouse College, the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr..
Known as a long-time ally of the African-American community, Rabbi Lerner co-authored a book with Dr. Cornel West, entitled Jews and Blacks: Let the Healing Begin. And when human rights titan and celebrated boxer Muhammad Ali passed away earlier this year, Rabbi Lerner was invited to speak at his memorial.
In the video below, Rabbi Lerner uses part of his ”A Call for Love in the Face of Hatred” speech at the memorial service to affirm the need for a global Marshall Plan:
What now follows is multi-media narrative that includes additional video clips, as well as several audio segments from the 40-minute conversation I had with Rabbi Lerner on September 21st. The talk begins with Rabbi Lerner speaking to legacy of government violence against African-Americans, including the recent death-by-police killings of Terence Crutcher in Oklahoma and Keith Lamont Scott in North Carolina.
Speaking to this, Rabbi Lerner says “racism is so pervasive and so deep in the consciousness of our society, and in the economic structures of this society.” Adding that having an African-American president for the last 8 years has done very little to change racial dynamics in the United States, because President Obama has shown little interest in facing the problems at hand. Rabbi Lerner also shares his thoughts about Black Lives Matter. And along with his criticisms about race, Rabbi Lerner offers some solutions in the following audio clip:
This concludes Part One of “Rabbi Michael Lerner on Muhammad Ali, Israel, Palestine and Tikkun.”