On Wednesday ,March 25, Marc Ellis, former professor of Jewish studies, history, and director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Baylor University, presented his talk, titled “Jewish Prophetic Voices on Israel and Palestine.” Ellis is an American author and theologian, and currently serves as a visiting professor for various international universities. Ellis addressed the complex issues surrounding the conflict in Israel and Palestine, taking a stance on the side of Jewish “prophetic voices,” that criticize the actions against Palestinians by the hands of Jews in Israel and around the world.
Ellis commented on what he saw as the ethical downfall of the Jewish faith and culture amidst the conflict in the Middle East.
“There is no issue, none, not even close, that parallels the importance of the Palestinian people to Jewish history. We as Jews have entered the abyss of ethical life, and I have tried, unsuccessfully, what many other Jews of conscious, to reverse this movement into the abyss,” Ellis said.
Ellis went on to speak on the notion of Jewish history and the idea of liberating of the self and the Jewish identity.
“They’re saying we cannot be liberated as we oppress another people. We thought we were liberated from our oppression because we became empowered,” Ellis said. “I believe that Jews need some power, but we have been using that against other people. That has not led to our liberation, it has led to our captivity.”
Ellis commented on the atrocities committed in the conflict, and how, as he sees it, the end of Jewish ethics is coming to an end.
“You are witnessing the end of Jewish ethical history, as we have known and inherited. That’s what you’re witnessing in Gaza,” Ellis said.
Ellis also went on to provide various maps of the area, criticizing the Israeli government for their proposed “two-state solution(s)” and the changing relationship between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the unlikely future of a true state of Palestine.
“We all know where Netanyahu got in trouble, a very interesting place. Denying forever a two -state solution. And warning Israeli voters that Arabs were coming to the polls in droves. But Netanyahu is the tip of the iceberg,” Ellis said. “Every prime minister in the history of israel has agreed that there will never be two real states. There will never be a real state of Palestine.”
At a news conference Tuesday, March 24, Obama noted the “dim” future of peace in the Middle East, although refused to comment on the American response to new and ongoing Palestinian efforts for United Nations recognition and aid.
“What we can’t do is pretend that there’s the possibility of something that’s not there, and we can’t continue to premise our public diplomacy based on something everyone knows is not going to happen,” Obama said.
While the issue in the Middle East reflects an area of complex cultural and historical facets, Ellis offered one of many solutions, although he noted the inconceivability of a single state for both Jews and Palestinians. Ellis noted, using Jewish history and culture, including, but not limited to, the Holocaust, to address the injustices he sees in the conflict.
“We are now in the club of ethnic cleansers, Jews. And until we name that we aren’t going anywhere,” Ellis said. “The Jewish prophetic voice says, “˜Name it, now.'”