the torah on gaza ...

i often hope that jewish tradition will provide us with useful means with which to understand and interpret our world. today, into my inbox, came this week's d'var tzedek from ajws:
Over the course of the book of Genesis, we witness Jacob’s two different responses to the unjust massacre committed by Simon and Levi against the people of Shechem. After their sister Dinah is raped by the prince of Shechem, the brothers murder and pillage the entire town. While the rape of Dinah is indeed horrific, it does not justify the act of collective punishment her brothers pursue.

When Jacob learns of Simon and Levi’s action, he bemoans:

    You have brought trouble on me, making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perrizites; my men are few in number, so that if they unite against me and attack me, I and my house will be destroyed. [Genesis 34:30]
In Parshat Vayechi, Jacob, on his deathbed, gathers his sons around him to hear his last words. When he reflects again on Simon and Levi, he admonishes them:

    Simon and Levi, the brothers---
    weapons of outrage their trade. […]
    For in their fury they slaughtered men,
    At their pleasure they tore down ramparts.
    Cursed be their fury so fierce,
    And their wrath so remorseless! […]
    [Genesis 49:5-7]
Jacob’s initial response to this injustice is personal. His concern with the deeds of Simon and Levi is that there will be repercussions for him and his community. Only later does he express anger that they have acted wrongly by killing innocent people.

Just as Jacob’s two responses to the same issue are motivated by very different concerns, our activism on social justice issues can also be motivated by different factors. We can take action on these issues because we are personally affected, or we can act because we feel morally compelled.
how should we choose how we should act? when should we act, and when should we refrain from action?

the d'var goes on to wrestle with collective action in community organizing contexts, and regarding darfur.

i'm, of course, thinking of israel and gaza.

the situation here is undeniably complex. no one should have to live under the threat of attack. everyone should be able to go to sleep at night safe and secure in their homes.

i question whether it's appropriate to compare relative amounts of suffering - e.g., is my suffering worse than yours?

i'm also not sure about separating innocent victims from the global-political realities at play.

when is there a difference between a civilian and a soldier? what about between a policeman and a terrorist?

should i be watching al jazeera to see the bodies that aren't being shown on cnn? why is it ok for me to go about my daily business, when others can not? am i a hypocrite for taking advantage of a wall that i feel is unjust? what's my role supposed to be here anyhow?

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