Israel and Yom Kippur: Time for a Day of National Atonement?

Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—is considered the most important holiday in the Jewish faith. Falling in the month of Tishrei, it marks the culmination of the 10 Days of Awe, a period of introspection and repentance that follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. According to tradition, it is on Yom Kippur that God decides each person’s fate, so Jews are encouraged to make amends and ask forgiveness for sins committed during the past year. The holiday is observed with a 25-hour fast and a special religious service. Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are known as Judaism’s ‘High Holy Days.’

Dear Israelis and their ardent supporters around the world,

September 15 & 16 are the holiest days of your faith tradition. This is a period of fasting, self-introspection, repentance, and a time for an earnest plea to Yahweh to “ask forgiveness for sins committed during the past year.”

Silence, Dear Cousins, is complicity.

My earnest plea is for you to ask forgiveness for the collective and individual crimes perpetrated on the people of Palestine over the past 73 years. And if this is too much to ask, then I implore you to ask for forgiveness for crimes committed only in the last year.

Your Holy texts inform us that throughout your ancient history prophets would rise up to admonish your ancient kings and their subjects and reprimand them to turn away from their disobedience and their turning to false gods and idols. These same texts are full of jeremiads, perhaps some of the most poignant and poetic passages in the Holy texts. And frequently these same prophets were persecuted, cursed, and banished for telling their people the truth.

Today you call these critics anti-Semitic, Self-Hating Jews.

Unfortunately, instead of prophets, during the past 100 years you’ve not had any brave clairvoyants to admonish you about the myriad errors of your ways.

I take solace in knowing that many Israelis and other members of the Jewish faith around the world have, as one CounterPunch contributor put it in a personal email to me, “I jumped off the Zionist train.”

Instead, you’ve had a militaristic mindset intent on wolfing Palestine and her children  –  whole. And every single one of your prime ministers, now going on 73 years, has committed crimes against humanity. To wit your current Prime Minister who’s bragged, Gestapo-style,  “I have killed lots of Arabs in my life. There’s no problem with that.”  And not a single censure from the so-called civilized, free world. Instead, he is dined and wined in “My name is Joe Biden and I am a Zionist’s” White House. And for a parting gift he is sent home with billions of dollars to replenish Israel’s killing machine.

And just as the Germans and others have apologized and paid reparations for their dastardly and heinous crimes, my hope is that today you atone for only a handful of crimes committed against a helpless population caught in the vise of your Taliban-like religious fervor, violent anger, and hatred. I am fully aware that the term reparations is not in your lexicon.

So, on this 2021 celebration of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), I am pleading with you to atone and ask Elohim for forgiveness for only a handful of egregious sins that are in direct contradiction to your faith tradition.

For an additional plea for atonement, please read Philip Weiss’ comments under the title “A Time for Atoning,” published on September 12, 2021 in the online Mondoweiss publication. You might also want to read Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun Magazine. And please do not call them self-hating Jews.

Criminal Assaults on Children:  On September 13, 2021 “Israeli occupation forces attacked Palestinian primary school students with teargas canisters in Tubas, in the occupied West Bank.”  Further, “the Red Cross said that over 30 Palestinian students in an elementary school in the Tayasir village suffocated as Israeli forces fired teargas canisters – fired towards them during a raid of the village.” And Local sources said that “Israeli forces fired teargas canisters directly and heavily towards the students, resulting in dozens of suffocation cases. Video footage [accessed on “Palestine]  shows the young students crying and screaming as the teargas fired towards them caused burning and pain in their eyes, throat, lungs and skin.”

Two weeks ago a kindergarten structure was malevolently bulldozed down in its entirety, and the week before, Israeli soldiers went into the offices of a child advocacy building, destroyed its furnishings and confiscated computers and files. Schools and universities are routinely attacked, and children’s playgrounds are repeatedly destroyed. Farm equipment and solar panels are confiscated in the name of security. Methinks I’ve seen such images in Hollywood renditions of Nazi crimes against Jews and others.

Why pick on the most vulnerable and helpless members of Palestinian society, a nation bound with the shackles of tyranny? Why gun down, in cold blood, a cornered autistic thirty-five year old man child? And why, only two weeks ago, abuse and arrest a Down Syndrome teenager, shackling him and marching him off to the police station? Isn’t this what the Nazis did to those facing a multitude of mental and physical challenges?

Have the victims of the Holocaust not learned from the pain and suffering inflicted on them by a Fascist European monster?

Stealing Water: The Israeli government has institutionalized the theft of water from Palestinian aquifers. It then turns around and sells the water to Palestinians at exorbitant prices – often limiting the amount of water to Palestinian villages and homes. While Palestinians have to live with a paucity of water, colonial settlers enjoy abundant water to fill their swimming pools and maintain manicured, lush green lawns and green spaces.

Medical Genocide: Even though Israel has been hailed and held up (by Fauci and others) as a leader in its COVID vaccination efforts, the Israeli government is denying West Bank and Gaza Palestinians access to these life-saving meds. Ironic, isn’t it, that Joe Biden is urging Americans to get vaccinated, yet not a word about this medical genocide perpetrated on 5.5 million civilians prisoners in their ancestral land. Dr. Fauci, methinks you took your hypocritical, instead of your Hippocratic oath.

Ecocide:  Chemical waste, sewer and effluent drainage from Israeli settlements is channeled into Palestinian village water supplies and farmland, and olive trees are stolen or destroyed while soldiers of The Most Moral Army in the World protect, abet, and are part of these thefts and the raping of the natural world. At harvest time, Palestinian farmers are kept away from their lands, thus allowing the zealot settler thugs to steal olives and fruits; all of this happens under the watchful eyes and protection of heavily armed IDF personnel.

Spy and Military Technologies: The sale of sophisticated Pegasus spy and surveillance technologies (apple users beware), crowd control, and drone weaponry,  with Palestinians as guinea pigs on whom everything Israel sells abroad is tested, are sold as proven weapons to  the thugs, theocrats, and dictators of the world, and especially the oil-rich thugs of the Near East. So much for helping spread democratic  principles around the world.

Torture & Prisons: Israel repeatedly abuses and tortures Palestinian prisoners; pregnant women are incarcerated merely for writing and posting protest poetry (on Facebook) to protest the brutal occupation, and over 200 children face inhumane prison conditions in a perpetual revolving door of release and capture policy. Female prisoners are abused and denied sanitary tampons for days at a time, and especially when they have to appear in Israeli courts.

Penned by Zena Al Tahhan, Al Jazeera’s 9/15/2021 report on “Israeli Intelligence Torturing Palestinian Prisoners” is a must read. Ironic, is it not, that while the Taliban are excoriated for their brutality and abuse of women and children, Israel’s encyclopedia of abuses are glossed over.

I implore you to release Palestinians, and especially Gaza’s population, from their prisons.

Killing for Sport: For sport and target practice, Israeli sharp shooters, positioned behind sand berms on Gaza’s border, have killed and maimed thousands of Palestinians exercising their right to demonstrate – on their side of the border. See Ramzy Barood’s commentary on this macabre killing field.

Bodies Held for Bartering: The Israeli government’s policy of refusing to hand over the bodies of Palestinians murdered by their full-of hate ISIS-like Israeli soldiers to their families is but one of the crimes against humanity in force – for decades. These bodies are held as ransom in a blackmail scheme intended to extort concessions from a victimized nation.

The UN has abdicated its responsibility to investigate the harvesting of organs from murdered Palestinians, as alleged a few years back.

Destroying Homes & Lives: And finally, with giant D-9 bulldozers, tanks, and scores of heavily armed soldiers on hand, the demolition and theft of Palestinian homes and entire villages goes unabated. These victims are given one hour to vacate their homes. And, in a most demented, if not sardonically sadistic practice, these victims are assessed exorbitant shekels for having their homes destroyed. The victims are given the choice – either we will destroy your home and charge you a hefty demolition fee, or, you can destroy your own home and the destruction fee will be reduced.

The agony of shelling out shekels to one’s brutal occupier is perhaps the ultimate in Israel’s Nazi-like, merciless, and ruthlessly callous behavior.

“Beseder [Hebrew for fine, alright], says the Fascist Israeli judge, we will give you a great discount if you destroy your own house, while we watch you do it, maybe at a 50% reduction.”

These Machiavellian heinous policies have to be some of history’s most macabre examples of pure evil, a twisted and demented evil disguised as a generous 50% discount on the crime of destruction.

This sheer evil, Dear Cousins, like no other banal evil of its kind, is the Mark of Cain that you will carry to your graves.

Comedian and actress Iliza Shlesinger states the following:  “I think part of being Jewish is that innate desire to question things. Rabbis sit around all day and question the Torah. Giving yourself the room to question things, in a religion, just breeds thinking.”

Cousins, in this 5782 celebration of Yom Kippur, Go Ye and question your government’s policies of hate and apartheid.

And remember, questioning breeds clear thinking.

Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor Emeritus of English and Art. He is a writer, photographer, sculptor, an avid gardener, and a peace activist.