Sheikh Jarrah protest (Archives)
Photo: Guy Assayag

Misusing the Bible

Op-ed: Professor apologizes for anti-Bible comment, says Bible misused for political aims

A video clip published in recent days displays some words I uttered during a protest held in Sheikh Jarrah a few months ago; these words show contempt for the Bible. I will immediately say that I uttered words that should not have been said. I regret it and I wish I didn’t say it.


Yet I wish to clarify two things. First, the circumstances my statement was made under: I uttered the words a few minutes after my comrades at the protest and I were told we should go back to Auschwitz. These and other such words were hurled at the Sheikh Jarrah protestors time and again. These statements were not included in the video clip, apparently because they are of no news interest as they are regularly hurled not only at protestors but also at soldiers and police officers.


The second thing I wish to clarify is more important. My blunt statement about the Bible was uttered in direct response to the manipulative, cynical use of the Bible by a prominent settler at Sheikh Jarrah in order to justify the robbing of Palestinian homes. Indeed, my statement, made at a moment of anger, is not the only or common expression of desecrating the holy Jewish book.


The more prevalent expression is the daily utilization of the Bible for political sectarian aims, such as the justification for expelling people from their homes, justification of methodical discrimination against Arabs in respect to housing and employment, and usage of the Bible in order to justify a convenient housing solution in central Jerusalem at the expense of Palestinian families.


Promoting political agenda

It appears to me that declaring that the Bible orders Jews not to rent their homes to Arabs or to remove people from their home just because they are Arab gravely harms the Bible and what it symbolizes, to an extent that is no lesser than my own regrettable statement. After all, the Torah itself rules that both Jews and foreigners deserve to be treated according to the same law. The Torah also orders us to love the foreigners in our midst because we ourselves were foreigners in Egypt.


Many people believe that part of the reason for the secular public’s alienation from our religious roots has to do with the misuse of religious sources for the aims of religious legislation. This is a controversial issue in Israel yet this claim is not unreasonable and is often reflected in public discourse.


I have no doubt that using the Bible for political-sectarian needs and to promote a political agenda harms not only Israeli society, but also the Jewish people, while pushing the public that does not identify with this political agenda away from the constitutive text of Jewish nationality. Yet despite this, I shall end with the words I opened with – I regret using the hurtful expression.


Professor Alon Harel, Hebrew University Law Faculty



פרסום ראשון: 11.17.10, 11:03
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