Thursday, April 24, 2008

Talmudic Logic

In "An open letter to Nadine Gordimer from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine", the writer's begin:

Dear Nadine Gordimer,

Many of us who paid attention to, and valued, your writing during the dark days of apartheid are dismayed to see that you are participating in the International Writers' Festival in Israel in May.

It can only send a dispiriting message to the Palestinians that a writer of your moral standing and international renown is prepared to appear in a city at least half of which [emphasis added] is under illegal military occupation...

The writers go on to make case for a boycott of this particular event (and perhaps a general cultural boycott of Israel.) The signatories are all Jewish, and I have heard them accused before of a lack of Ahavat Yisrael - Love of Israel.

But a careful look at the language of the lines above reveals how steeped the actually are in Jewish tradition. Any Jewish child who has been taught Talmud has encountered the opening passage of Bava Metzia- Shnaim ochazim b'talit:

Two men are holding on to a prayer shawl. ... This one says "It's all mine," and that one says, "It's all mine."

Let this one swear, "I am entitled to at least half of it," and let that one swear, "I am entitled to at least half of it." And then let them divide it equally.

Could one even imply from this that the writers are in favour of a two state solution?


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