Tikkun Daily button
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).



Historic Moment Signals a Revolution Brewing in the American Jewish Community

Oct16

by: on October 16th, 2014 | 16 Comments »

On Saturday night, I looked out upon a standing-room-only audience, people fidgeting and giddy, barely able to conceal the significance of what was about to occur. I was onstage at Harvard University electric and buzzing, flanked by three distinguished professors – Judith Butler, Steven Cohen and Shaul Magid – the four of us representing various streams of Zionist, post-Zionist, and anti-Zionist thought.

At first, I was awed by the company I had been asked to join, thinking, What on earth am I doing here? That thought was quickly replaced by another as the room erupted with boisterous cheers when a student organizer stepped to the microphone; this is a historic moment, a thought I Tweeted when the feeling came over me, and five days removed I still deeply believe.

So what occurred that was so historic? On Saturday night, a grassroots-led and student-driven movement called Open Hillel launched a three-day conference, determined to create what Jewish institutions have largely refused to permit: dynamic spaces where both Zionists and anti-Zionists can come together and discuss Israel as equals, and with equally valuable perspectives as respected members of the American Jewish community.

Read more...

White American Men and the Liberalwashing of Islamophobic Racism

Oct5

by: on October 5th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Bill Maher

Credit: Creative Commons/Steve Anderson

On Friday evening, Bill Maher and Sam Harris did what white men in America have been doing for the last twenty-five years: they shielded their racism and anti-Muslim bigotry under the umbrella of liberal values.

Maher demonstrated this in full view when, after ticking off all of the liberal values he holds dear, from marriage equality to equality for minorities, he cast the world’s Muslims as violent and repressive people. What’s more, he did so explicitly under the guise of standing up for liberal values, calling upon his audience to do the same.

He may be the latest incarnation of the white, American ‘liberal’ man to promote his racism under the banner of liberalism, but he’s obviously not the first. Maher has had some good mentors to choose from over the years, none ‘better’ than Alan Dershowitz.

Read more...

Netanyahu tells Obama to “study the facts” before critiquing Israel’s Settlements

Oct2

by: on October 2nd, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Obama Netanyahu

President Obama sits with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Oval Office. Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told President Obama during a face-to-face meeting on Wednesday that he needed to “study the facts” the next time he, or his administration, planned on critiquing Israel’s settlement expansions. Netanyahu then, with incredible chutzpah, tried to imply that anti-Semitism was behind such critiques by Obama.

Netanyahu’s thorny words came after Washington blasted a new settlement expansion plan, characterized by the White House as poisonous, which was announced by Israel just before Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama. This plan calls for 2,160 new housing units to be built in the neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, an area which stands beyond the Green Line and is integral to those who want to make dividing Jerusalem impossible in any future two-state resolution. The White House also criticized the occupation of twenty-five Palestinian apartments in East Jerusalem purchased by settlers, who — backed by riot police — expelled families in the middle of the night with little warning.

In response to these critiques, Netanyahu told Obama that he and his administration needed to “study the facts and details before making statements” about Israel’s new construction plan, claiming among other things that it was not new, that the timing of its announcement was innocent, and that the construction would be for both Israeli Jews and Palestinians. However, it appears that Obama and the White House indeed did their due diligence, for Netanyahu’s claims have been shown to be false, and the Obama administration’s critiques on point.

Perhaps worse than calling Obama ignorant, however, was his forced attempt to depict his criticism as having anti-Semitic echoes. Here is what Netanyahu said after his meeting with Obama:

I have no intention of telling Jews they can’t buy apartments in East Jerusalem. This is private property and an individual right. There cannot be discrimination — not against Jews and not against Arabs.


Read more...

Netanyahu Endangers Jews Everywhere with Anti-Semitic Trope

Sep26

by: on September 26th, 2014 | 14 Comments »

Netanyahu

Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Targeting and blaming Jews living in the United States or Europe for the actions of Israel is blatant anti-Semitism. For as a political state, albeit a ‘Jewish’ one, Israel clearly does not represent all Jews, nor does it embody Judaism.

However, many anti-Semites choose to conflate the two — Israel and global Jewry — so that they can use Israel’s actions as an occasion to target, sometimes violently, Jews around the world. This conflation is not just faulty, given the diversity of Jewish opinions on Israel, but dangerous as well.

One would expect both Jewish and Israeli leaders to refrain from championing such conflations, given their roots in anti-Semitic discourse. However, Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has done just that in a message directed to me, my family and world Jewry this Rosh Hashanah: he has conflated Jews and Israel in exactly the same way anti-Semites often do.

Now, Netanyahu’s intention is to promote Jewish unity and diaspora support for Israel. Unfortunately, what he has done is endanger Jews around the world by treading on familiar anti-Semitic ground to accomplish this. Here is how Netanyahu begins his holiday message:

Dear friends, as Jews celebrate the New Year around the world, we should take pride in all that unites us. The Jewish people indeed always unite when faced with great challenges, and the past year was no exception.

These past few months, three of our teenagers were kidnapped and brutally murdered, thousands of rockets fired at our country and too many of our bravest young men and their families made the most painful of sacrifices in Operation Protective Edge.


Read more...

My Response to President Obama’s Rosh Hashanah Greeting

Sep24

by: on September 24th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

President Obama

Credit: Creative Commons/Nick Knupffer

The White House has released President Obama’s greeting to American Jews on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year set to begin tonight at sundown. This greeting — extended to me, my family and the American Jewish community — comes at a time in which many Jews are collectively and individually reflecting upon those people we’ve wronged in the past year, and those apologies we need to extend.

This is one of the central tasks of Rosh Hashanah: to perform something called teshuvah (תשובה), which on an interpersonal level is the act of apologizing to those we have individually and communally wronged in the past year.

Obama’s greeting is appreciated as a nice gesture, as are his general wishes for reflection, which are wholly appropriate for the holiday. The problem is this: if there is one people President Obama, together with the larger American Jewish community, need to collectively extend an apology toward this holiday season, it is Palestinians. Unfortunately, Obama’s remarks, rather than offer such an expression, are actually an extension of our continued wronging of Palestinians, a wronging for which our government should apologize.

Allow me to explain. But first, Obama’s remarks:

Hello. As Jews across America, Israel, and the world gather together for the High Holidays, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to you and your families for a sweet and happy new year.

My good friend Elie Wiesel once said that God gave human beings a secret, and that secret was not how to begin but how to begin again. These days of awe are a chance to celebrate that gift, to give thanks for the secret, the miracle of renewal.

In synagogues and homes over the coming days, Jews will reflect on a year that carried its shares of challenges. We’ve been reminded many times that our world still needs repair. So here at home we continue the hard work of rebuilding our economy and restoring our American dream of opportunity for all. Around the world, we continue to stand for the dignity of every human being, and against the scourge of anti-Semitism, and we reaffirm the friendships and bonds that keep us strong, including our unshakeable alliance with the State of Israel.

So let’s approach this new year with new confidence and new hope. Let’s recommit ourselves to living out the values we share as individuals and as a country. Above all, let’s embrace this God-given miracle of renewal, this extraordinary opportunity to begin again in pursuit of justice, prosperity, and peace. From my family to yours, shanah tovah.


Read more...

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

Sep16

by: on September 16th, 2014 | 3 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.


Read more...

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.


Read more...

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.”


Read more...

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.


Read more...

“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.


Read more...