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David Harris-Gershon
David Harris-Gershon
David Harris-Gershon's work has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and elsewhere, and his memoir, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, is forthcoming from Oneworld Publications (September, 2013).



Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman Among 300 Hollywood Stars Likely Duped into Supporting Right-Wing Group

Sep16

by: on September 16th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

nytad On Sunday, The New York Times featured a full page advertisement on page A7 sponsored by the group Creative Community for Peace (CCFP). The advertisement, which at first glance appears to be a benign call for peace in Israel and a denouncement of terror, was signed by the likes of Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, Aaron Sorkin, and hundreds of other entertainment stars.

A closer look at the ad reveals its less-than-benign intentions, and a closer look at the group behind the ad, CCFP, reveals that it is actually a front organization for the extremist pro-settler, pro-occupation organization StandWithUs, which is dedicated to laundering Israel’s image and shielding it from critique while demonizing Palestinians.

(For the purposes of transparency, StandWithUs tried to have one of my book appearances cancelled this year.)

Those who signed the letter, to be examined shortly, were almost certainly unaware of CCFP’s affiliation with a pro-occupation organization, particularly since it’s careful to hide that affiliation. Indeed, CCFP has attempted to claim that it is a wholly independent group, though the Forward found the opposite to be the case:

Formed in 2011, CCFP partnered with StandWithUs, a group widely perceived as being on the far right of the pro-Israel spectrum, which accepts tax deductible donations on CCFP’s behalf. CCFP’s founding member, David Renzer, has stated that his group has “always operated independently” of StandWithUs. But the Forward found that, like its partner group, CCFP rejects the U.S. position that settlements are an obstacle to peace and disputes the use of the term “occupation” to describe Israel’s military rule over the West Bank’s more than 2.5 million Palestinians.


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She shouldn’t have been so flirtatious. He shouldn’t have worn a hoodie. They shouldn’t have voted for Hamas …

Sep9

by: on September 9th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

Victim-blaming is as American as apple pie. One need look no further than William Ryan’s seminal book from 1971, Blaming the Victim, to understand just how deeply rooted this phenomenon has been in American society, and just how central victim-blaming is to maintaining power dynamics in this country.

Unfortunately, we’ve been reminded of this fact repeatedly over the past month via high-profile cases and global crises. Or rather, we’ve been reminded by the way in which a mostly white, mostly patriarchal middle class has responded to such events. Women have been blamed for being victims of domestic abuse and assault, black men have been blamed for being victims of police brutality and murder, and innocent Palestinian children have been blamed for being killed my missiles.

Contrary to those who dismiss victim-blaming as a liberal misinterpretation of the good old American boostrap-pulling ethic, this phenomenon has been in existence in this country for as long as there have been those in power seeking to maintain that status, buttressed by racist and sexist ideals.


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Sudden Calls for ‘Civility’ Threaten Academic Freedom After Palestinian-American Professor Fired

Sep7

by: on September 7th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

The University of Illinois administration is imploding under the weight of a swiftly growing academic boycott and a rash of no-confidence votes by numerous university departments. All of this has come in response to the firing of Professor Steven Salaita by Chancellor Phyllis Wise in August for his social-media critiques of Israel. The story of that firing is a sordid and rapidly deteriorating one on the verge of concluding. It has also become the story of how university administrations across America, unsettled by the Salaita case, are responding with calls for ‘civility,’ a preemptive strike threatening the principle of academic freedom.

To explain, it’s first necessary to briefly tell Salaita’s story as it currently stands, which indeed is a strange one. A former English professor at Virginia Tech, Salaita was hired away by Wise to a tenured professorship at Illinois, where he was to teach Native American Studies beginning this fall. However, Salaita was suddenly fired before he even stepped into a classroom just before the academic year began because of his severe critiques of Israel on Twitter.

For nearly three weeks, as outrage grew and academic boycotts by professors around the country spread, Wise and the administration remained silent. Then, finally, Wise released a statement explaining the Salaita firing in which she wrote:

“I firmly believe that a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois is a tremendous honor and a unique privilege. Tenure also brings with it a heavy responsibility to continue the traditions of scholarship and civility upon which our university is built.”


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Outrageous: NY Democrats Convene Press Conference to Bash Zephyr Teachout on Israel

Sep4

by: on September 4th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

In a hastily-convened press conference which “had the trappings of a campaign event” for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a host of Democratic officials ripped into Cuomo’s primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, for her views on Israel.

Councilman Mark Weprin, who is on the City Council’s Jewish caucus, called Teachout’s views “outrageous” and “offensive,” while Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an Orthodox Jew, called her views, and those of running mate Tim Wu, to be wholly “unacceptable,” adding,

“Their failure to stand strong with Israel speaks volumes about their true feelings when it comes to protecting and defending the Jewish state … We as New Yorkers cannot accept this. We as New Yorkers have a strong and profound connection to Israel.”

Given the bombastic response, one might suspect that Teachout said something considered controversial on the American political stage, such as acknowledging Palestinians’ equal right to self-determination and defense.

So, what did Teachout actually say which caused Cuomo’s political allies, including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, to convene a staged press conference and yell into a microphone? This is what she said at a Tuesday appearance, per The New York Observer:

“New York has a very special relationship with Israel,” Ms. Teachout said. “Israel was born here, at the United Nations.”

Ms. Teachout said she would safeguard that bond if she triumphed over Gov. Andrew Cuomo in next week’s Democratic primary.

“We have an ongoing especially strong social and economic relationship with Israel that it would be my job as governor to maintain,” said Ms. Teachout.

The long-shot contender added, however, that she did not view setting policy in the Middle East as the job of the governor, and promised to support the policies of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry if victorious.

“I’m not running for president. I’m not going to second guess the president and the secretary of state,” Ms. Teachout said.


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“Delete I said that,” the Israeli pilot asked

Sep1

by: on September 1st, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Nahum Barnea, perhaps the greatest political writer in Israel today, is composing a five-part series looking back at Israel’s recent Gaza operation. His first installment, “Bitter Tears of Victory,” is remarkable.

While the entire piece is worth reading, one moment of dialogue stands out as a stark representation of the tensions and oppositional forces at play within Israel today. This dialogue is between Barnea and an Israeli pilot (represented as A.), a reservist, who flew many sorties over Gaza during the fifty-day operation.

After discussing Israel’s attempts to minimize civilian casualties, and the pilot’s anger at those who claim Israeli pilots disregarded civilian lives, the following moment takes place. The dialogue below occurs just after the pilot expresses that he is at peace with the efforts he saw military personnel take to limit civilian casualties:

Nonetheless, I say, many children and women were killed.

“When you chop wood, chips fly,” A. says.

“Do you know who said that before you?” I ask.

“No,” he says.

“Stalin.”

He is shocked. “Delete that, delete that I said that,” the pilot asks.

I didn’t delete it. These pilots are wonderful people, but there is a limit to what I can do for the sake of their image.


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Israel Moves Closer to Forming a Single State, Grabs Largest West Bank Plot in 30 Years for Settlement Construction

Aug31

by: on August 31st, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Israel has appropriated nearly 1,000 acres of private, Palestinian land for settlement construction near Bethlehem —its largest West Bank land grab in thirty years — an unprecedented move which right-wing, single-state advocates in Israel have been advancing.

The appropriation’s original motivation, set in motion in June, was revenge for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens. Now, the land has been designated for a major settlement of up to 1,000 housing units, a move Palestinian officials and peace groups fear could ignite tensions still bubbling beneath the surface after the conflict in Gaza.

Palestinian owners of the land, which includes olive groves used by local farmers, have been given forty-five days to appeal. However, history shows that such appeals rarely have any efficacy, and that the move will likely be carried out unless there is political intervention within Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government.

Peace Now, a staunch critic of Israel’s settlement policy, expressed alarm by the move, and noted its implications for the two-state solution in the following released statements.

“As far as we know, this declaration is unprecedented in its scope since the 1980s and can dramatically change the reality in the Gush Etzion and the Bethlehem areas.”

“Peace Now views this declaration as proof that Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu does not aspire for a new ‘Diplomatic Horizon,’ but rather he continues to put obstacles to the two-state vision and promote a one-state solution.”

“By declaring another 4,000 dunams as state land, the Israeli government stabs (Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas) and the moderate Palestinian forces in the back, proving again that violence delivers Israeli concessions while non-violence results in settlement expansion.”


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My Response to PA State Senator Daylin Leach, the ‘Progressive’, Promoting Israel’s Gaza War as Noble

Aug30

by: on August 30th, 2014 | 9 Comments »

On Thursday, Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach, who represents Pennsylvania’s 17th District, penned an op-ed in Daily Kos in which he argued that it is a progressive imperative to support Israel’s assault of Gaza.

It was a mostly forgettable post filled with factual inaccuracies, problematic justifications for killing civilians, and dehumanizing stereotypes of Palestinians that received almost no attention both here and in progressive media in general. However, what makes the post significant is that it was written not just by an elected official, but a Democrat writing under the banners of both progressive politics and liberal Zionism.

For this reason, I’ve chosen to briefly disassemble it below as both a progressive and a two-state Jew.

Let’s begin, shall we? In the first two paragraphs, Leach establishes his progressive credentials, and notes he’s referred to as “The Liberal Lion of Pennsylvania” for his stances on the issues.

Then, after noting his preference to focus on human rights in the foreign policy arena and his general opposition to American wars (except for Afghanistan), he writes the following regarding his ‘progressive’ worldview:

To me, this general world view can lead to only one logical conclusion, which is the strong support of Israel in its current conflict with Hamas. There is one country in the Middle East which respects women’s rights, gay rights, the rights of political minorities, free speech and the right of dissent, and that is Israel. There is no other nation in the region which could, in any sense of the word, be considered progressive.


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Comparing How The New York Times Described Mike Brown and Ted Bundy

Aug29

by: on August 29th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

On the eve of Michael Brown’s funeral, a New York Times profile of the slain youth called him “no angel” and characterized Brown as troubled, citing his experimentation with rap as evidence. Vociferous criticism quickly followed, with the Times‘ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, finally admitting that the language used to describe Brown was regrettable.

Much of the criticism focused on how race played an implicit role in the vilification of Brown – how his blackness provoked descriptions white victims of violent crime rarely see – as is often the case in American media.

In a stunning display, Sean McElwee took that critique one step further by contrasting Brown’s description not with those of other white victims of crime, but with a white perpetrator of violent crime – mass murderer Ted Bundy.

Below is a paragraph from the Timesprofile of Brown published on August 24, 2014. It is preceded by evidence that the teenager who was gunned down by police, unarmed, was grappling with and deepening his spiritual beliefs.

nytimes1

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Forty Holocaust Survivors Condemn Gaza Assault and Call for Boycott of Israel in NYT Letter

Aug23

by: on August 23rd, 2014 | 22 Comments »

letter In a letter published today in The New York Times as an advertisement, 40 survivors of Nazi genocide and hundreds of their children are publicly deploring “the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza,” Israel’s ongoing occupation, and the troubling rise of systemic racism.

The letter, a response to an advertisement posted recently by Eli Wiesel, in which Palestinians were portrayed as championing “child sacrifice,” is the first of its kind to be signed by so many Holocaust survivors, who are making waves by calling for a full boycott of Israel – roundly viewed as anathema by Jewish institutions in both the United States and Europe. Below is the full text of their letter:

As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.


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Israelis Living in America Who Oppose Gaza Violence Ask U.S. Jews to Reconsider ‘Pro-Israel’

Aug21

by: on August 21st, 2014 | 6 Comments »

A group of Israelis currently living in the United States, who oppose Israel’s military operations in Gaza and the blockade of Gaza, have recently formed a group called Israelis For a Sustainable Future. This group, with 128 members and growing daily, has written a searing letter to the American Jewish community.

The letter implores Jews in America to reexamine their uncritical support for Israel’s actions and to speak out against the occupation those actions serve. In short, it asks the Jewish community to step away from a binary, zero-sum perspective doing so much damage to both Israelis and Palestinians. At one point, they write, “We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. We argue that these terms might be one and the same.”

Beautiful and honest, the letter in its entirety appears below.

An open letter to American Jews

We are a group of Israelis currently living in the US. We are reaching out to you because we oppose the actions of the Israeli government in operation “Protective Edge.”

This does not mean we don’t recognize the threat presented by Hamas to the Israeli people. We oppose firing of weapons into civilian population and the sacrifice of civilians by the regimes of both Hamas and the Israeli government. Calling to stop the bombing of Gaza does not mean we don’t realize the impossible conditions imposed on the residents of southern Israel. Nor does it mean we don’t demand security for them. But we also recognize that their plight is consistently ignored by the Israeli government until it becomes convenient for exploitation. We have seen three major military operations in less than six years. They repeat themselves because they don’t work. Yes, Hamas reserves are temporary depleted and the group is temporarily hindered. But this is not a moral price worth paying. Even if it were, killing thousands of civilians and displacing of hundreds of thousands doesn’t weaken Hamas in the long run. This bloodshed only feeds the one resource it can’t go without: hate. Only meaningful peace talks and an end to the ongoing occupation in the West Bank and in Gaza (a blockade is still occupation) will prevent both the next round of rockets into Israel and the next round of indiscriminate killings in Gaza.

We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. We argue that these terms might be one and the same. We believe that supporting equal rights for both peoples is the only way to build a better Israel and a better Palestine and we want the American Jewish community to stand behind that message.


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