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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Doing wrong by doing good: A message for Tikkunistas

 When Tikkun Olam backfires

By Charles Jacobs - Thursday November 22 2007

Tikkun Olam – healing the world – is a wonderful Jewish social action concept that should help all victim of injustice. But it doesn't. As it currently functions, Tikkun Olam does incalculable damage to certain oppressed people by systematically ignoring them.

There is a confused version of Tikkun Olam that promotes the notion that Jews have to act in a way that always shows how selfless we are. I call these folks "tikkunistas." The hidden, unstated principle of tikkunistas is that Jewish responsibility toward others is to be undertaken only when it is utterly selfless, yielding no practical value to Jews. If doing good for others results in some benefit for the Jewish community, then such acts are felt by tikkunistas to be impure.
If every group of abused people whose condition, if exposed and fought, might provide some practical gain to the Jews is to be ignored, then the hidden tikkunista selection principle harms an awful lot of folks.
Take for example the Baha'i. The Baha'i faith, founded in Persia in the 19th century, is utterly peaceful. It stresses the unity of God and of mankind, and the unity of all religions. The goal of Baha'i is for you to know God in a world of universal peace. If you've not met a Baha'i, you've missed a wonderful, warm, peaceful, experience.

But the 300,000 Baha'i in Iran are demonized and persecuted as Muslim heretics. Not too long ago, the "moderate" regime of Ayatollah Rafsanjani forbade any self-identifying Baha'i from attending universities or holding high-profile jobs, forcing them to deny their faith if they wished to receive an education. Today's "extremist" regime of Ayatollah Khameni – and Ahmadinejad – has moved to crush the Baha'i once and for all. Baha'i are being expelled from universities and from many occupations: publishing, car rentals, tourism, even jewelry manufacture. And because they are "unclean" to Muslims, Baha'i are forbidden to work in restaurants or food services.

Arrests of Baha'i are surging; people are having to hand over deeds to their property to meet high bail demands. Some accused of proselytizing are lashed and jailed. Baha'i are unsafe even in death: government bulldozers are destroying Baha'i cemeteries.

Who campaigns hard and seriously for the Baha'i? Not the tikkunistas. Iran today is Israel's sworn enemy and so exposing Islamist oppression of the Baha'i would be politically beneficial to Jews. That would ruin the effort to exhibit Jewish innocence, selflessness and purity, which is the core of the tikkunista impulse. And so the Baha'i are ignored. Indeed, large populations in the olam (world) are not to be healed. Who is abandoned? Every group oppressed by enemies of the Jews. Ask the apostates, women, gays, Christians and other non-Muslims, or Muslim reformers if, under Islamic regimes, they witnessed a campaign from this quarter.
Is it truly selfless to abandon victims of oppression who happen also to be enemies of your enemies? Or is it the ultimate selfishness – this drive to proclaim one's innocence. If you rush to defend Kosovars and whales, but ignore the jihad-genocide of South Sudan's Christians, maybe it's not about justice. Maybe it's all about you.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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