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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).



U.S. to Israel: Stop Discriminating Against Palestinian-Americans

Apr22

by: on April 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Israel has been told by the United States that, unless it stops discriminating against Palestinian-Americans (and Americans of Middle-Eastern descent) trying to enter the country, Israel will continue to be denied entry into its visa waiver program.

Israel would like to gain entry into the program, which grants visitors to the United States from approved countries visas of up to 90 days. However, American officials remain concerned about the high percentage of Palestinian-Americans who are refused entry into Israel.

In March, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister told U.S. officials that Israel would stop discriminating against Palestinian-Americans if the U.S. granted Israel entry into its visa waiver program. However, its seems the State Department is not interested in promises alone, but rather wants to see a pattern of concrete actions.

Per Haaretz:

For years, discrimination against Palestinian-Americans entering Israel has been a main obstacle against Israel’s joining the program … The State Department has repeated this concern a number of times in recent years, including last month.

“The Department of Homeland Security and State remain concerned with the unequal treatment that Palestinian-Americans and other Americans of Middle Eastern origin experience at Israel’s border and checkpoints, and reciprocity is the most basic condition of the visa waiver program,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at a daily briefing in March.


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How the Progressive D.C. Community Helped Me Defeat the Right-Wing, ‘Pro-Israel’ Silencing Machine

Apr19

by: on April 19th, 2014 | 11 Comments »

On February 6, my inbox was inundated with messages from people I did not know. I’m so disgusted, they read; You’re going to hear from us again, they read; We’re going to fight this, they read.

As someone who has grown accustomed to sporadic bits of hate mail for my progressive views on Israel, I was prepared for the worst.

However, these emails, largely from residents of the D.C. metro area, were messages of support, messages of defiance. They were messages from those who had just learned that the D.C. Jewish Community Center, already under pressure from right-wing organizations and influences on a number of fronts, had quietly cancelled my high-profile book event, at which I was to speak about the themes of reconciliation and dialogue contained in my memior, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?

The story of how my event came to be cancelled is a story being played out repeatedly in America today, a story representing all that is wrong with American political discourse on Israel. It is also the story of how the D.C. community rallied to my side, rallied to create a new book event on April 30 at the MLK Jr. Memorial Library – not for me, but for the sake of dialogue, for the sake of combating efforts to tamp down discussion on issues we must confront in the Jewish community, issues we must confront as a nation.


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Obama to Israel: “If not now, when?”

Mar5

by: on March 5th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

In a far-reaching interview with Jeffrey Goldberg on Sunday, President Obama made clear, perhaps for the first time in his presidency, that his administration will primarily fault Israel if the current U.S.-brokered peace negotiations fail, as expected.

Listen to Obama speak about Israel’s approach to peace-making and the conflict – to words which are more direct and pointed than anything to come out of an American president’s mouth in some time:

I have not yet heard … a persuasive vision of how Israel survives as a democracy and a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors in the absence of a peace deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution. Nobody has presented me a credible scenario.

The only thing that I’ve heard is, “We’ll just keep on doing what we’re doing, and deal with problems as they arise. And we’ll build settlements where we can. And where there are problems in the West Bank, we will deal with them forcefully. We’ll cooperate or co-opt the Palestinian Authority.” And yet, at no point do you ever see an actual resolution to the problem.

It’s maintenance of a chronic situation. And my assessment, which is shared by a number of Israeli observers, I think, is there comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices. Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab-Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?


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The Jews Have Disappointed Michele Bachmann

Mar4

by: on March 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Michele Bachmann is disappointed in American Jews. Why? It seems we’ve collectively “sold out Israel” by voting for and supporting President Obama, whose policies will obviously “reduce Israel to rubble” (before her apocalyptic fantasies are realized).

There are few things which provoke me more than fundamentalist Christian concern trolls who tisk-tisk liberal Jews on politics because their theology needs my people to die, en masse, at the appointed historical time.

Few things, that is, than when such tisk-tisking is not only irrational and offensive, but idiotic as well. President Obama, much to my dismay, has continued America’s tradition of allowing Israel to expand illegal settlements in Palestinian lands while simultaneously being engaged in U.S.-brokered peace talks. In fact, Israeli settlement expansion has increased by a stunning 123 percent in 2013.


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With No Shame, U.S. Tells Russia Not to Invade Another Country on Fake Pre-Text (As it Did in Iraq)

Mar2

by: on March 2nd, 2014 | 5 Comments »

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who voted in 2002 for the U.S. to invade Iraq on specious WMD claims, and who reiterated in 2004 that he would do so again, even if he knew there were not weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, has really laid into Russia on the Obama administration’s behalf.

Just listen to this tongue lashing:

You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text.”

[...]

“It’s an incredible act of aggression. It is really a stunning, willful choice by President (Vladimir) Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia is in violation of its international obligations.”

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Why 83% of U.S. Jews Support Marriage Equality

Mar1

by: on March 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

A survey published this week by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) confirmed what several other polls have shown: that a majority of Americans – 53 percent – now support marriage equality.

However, perhaps the most interesting finding in PRRI’s survey was this: a staggering 83 percent of Jewish Americans support marriage equality, more than any other religious group in the United States. (White Roman Catholics are next in line, at 58-percent support, while all Protestant denominations are below 50 percent.)

Why do Jews overwhelmingly support marriage equality, particularly given that most negative views on homosexuality in our culture originate from the Hebrew bible? On the surface, one could point to Pew’s recent survey of Jewish life in America, which reveals that 62 percent of Jews feel that “being Jewish” is more about culture/ancestry than religion.

One could also point to American Jews’ historic liberal leanings, with 70 percent of Jews today identifying as Democrats (versus 22 percent who identify as Republicans).

However, the truth on this issue goes much deeper, and is far more interesting than these relational figures. It has to do with how Judaism has radically reinterpreted the biblical view of gay sex, which on the surface seems unequivocal and cringe-worthy. Allow me to briefly explain.


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Those Sounds You Hear? They Are the Death Pangs of the Religious Right

Feb25

by: on February 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

One might think, given the record number of anti-gay bills being proposed across the United States, that the religious right’s legislative influence – and cultural entrenchment – is growing. In fact, they are evidence that the exact opposite is the case.

What we are seeing right now are the last gasps of religious fundamentalism and its normative influence on the national stage. Just as an individual on his deathbed experiences a momentary flurry of energy and clarity before descending into his final end, we are witnessing the religious right’s final flailing on the national stage. To understand this, one doesn’t need to examine Pew studies on changing attitudes, nor the consolidation of religious fundamentalism into pockets of the Southeast and the West.

All one needs to do is look at legislation being offered right now, and the mainstream ridicule such legislation is garnering.

Take for example the extraordinary case of a bill purportedly being written by one of Washington’s most influential lobbyists, Jack Burkman, which would ban gay athletes from playing in the NFL.


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Winners of Prestigious Journalism Award Afraid to Travel to U.S. to Accept It

Feb17

by: on February 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald have both won the prestigious George Polk Award for their investigative work in revealing the NSA’s mass surveillance, both at home and abroad. However, both Poitras and Greenwald, U.S. citizens who respectively live in Germany and Brazil, are afraid to accept their awards in person, fearing prosecution from the U.S. government for exposing documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Let’s unpack this for a moment: two prominent American journalists, winners of one of the most prestigious journalism awards in the U.S., are hesitant to set foot upon U.S. soil for fear of being prosecuted. This fear is in line with Reporters Without Borders dropping the U.S. to 46th place in its World Press Freedom Index for 2014, behind Botswana and Romania, for its prosecution of investigative journalists and whistleblowers. This drop in America’s press freedom ranking isn’t arbitrary, nor an international dig. It’s due to the U.S., in 2013, being a prominent example of a country willing to erode its press freedoms for the sake of national security, surveillance and secrecy.


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U.S. Falls to 46th in World Press Freedom Due to War on Whistleblowers

Feb12

by: on February 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Reporters Without Borders, in its 2014 World Press Freedom Index, has dropped the United States below Romania, Papua New Guinea and Botswana due to the Obama administration’s targeting of both whistleblowers and those journalists who report on leaked information.

In noting a disturbing world trend of countries sacrificing press freedoms for surveillance and national security interests, Reporters Without Borders cited the U.S. as its prime example:

This has been the case in the United States (46th), which fell 13 places, one of the most significant declines, amid increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks. The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Chelsea Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest.

US journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of a CIA leak. It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a “shield law” to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources at the federal level. The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information. And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Statfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government.


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“When Palestinians used violence, a U.S. author’s wife paid the price. Now he’s championing Palestinians’ use of nonviolent opposition (boycotts). For this, his book events are being cancelled. In America.”

Feb8

by: on February 8th, 2014 | 16 Comments »

When Carole Zawatsky, CEO of the Washington, DC Jewish Community Center (DCJCC), informed me that my March book event had been cancelled due to my political views, I was stunned. However, when she explained that one view in particular precipitated her decision – my position that Palestinians’ use of nonviolent opposition (boycotts) is legitimate – I was no longer just stunned. I was deeply saddened.

After all, my book event at the DCJCC, part of its “Embracing Democracy” series, was to focus on the narrative of reconciliation embedded in my memoir, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? The entire narrative is a treatise on the power of nonviolence, a narrative Zawatsky found wildly compelling when she invited me to speak.

That is, until I embraced Palestinian nonviolence. Suddenly, my narrative was no longer so compelling, and I was no longer welcome to speak in the community, despite being a Jewish educator (I teach biblical and rabbinic texts to 4th-8th graders) and a progressive Zionist.

While saddened by the lost opportunity for dialogue in DC, what most upset me was how this cancellation fit into a larger crisis within the American political landscape and, more specifically, the American Jewish community, where honest discourse on Israel is being constricted by high-profile politicians and Jewish institutional leaders alike. I articulated as much in my response to the DCJCC, published in Israel’s Haaretz.

To my great surprise, that piece set of a firestorm within the DC Jewish and political communities. My inbox began filling with messages of support from people I did not know, and my voicemail from individuals and organizations who wanted to create an alternate book event in DC – an event which will likely become official next week.


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