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).



Imagine being told you’re “too poor” to deserve help

Jan31

by: on January 31st, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Thanks to the tag-team efforts of the GOP and the Supreme Court, millions of Americans are learning that they are technically “too poor” for Obamacare. And the personal tragedies resulting from this fact are too painful to bear as destitute, sick and dying citizens are being turned away with these words, “We can’t help you.”

How is this possible, considering that one of the principle goals of the Affordable Care Act was to provide health care to those unable to afford it? The two-pronged answer is as simple as it is maddening:

1) The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states could opt out of expanding Medicaid coverage “to anyone making less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,300 a year for a single person.”

2) 24 states with Republican governors have chosen to opt out, including Florida.


Read more...

Top Jewish Leader: Many Progressives No Longer Welcome in the Jewish Communal Tent

Jan29

by: on January 29th, 2014 | 10 Comments »

The story of me being barred from speaking about my book at a university student center (UCSB Hillel) gained national attention this week. And with this exposure came American Jewish leaders who exposed their desire for Hillel International, and Jewish organizations at large, to bar progressives such as myself from being allowed to stand within the communal tent.

Such expressions served to further concretize the existence of a true crisis facing the American Jewish community: a crisis over Jewish institutions deciding who should, and should not, be considered legitimate members of the community on the basis of their political views.

The most prominent among them was William Daroff, Senior Vice President for Public Policy & Director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America, who wrote in support of UCSB Hillel banning me:

“I just do not support giving communal hecsher to those who are outside the bounds of legitimate discourse … Your [political views] place you outside our communal tent.”

Now, one might think, based upon this, that I’m a horrendous individual with wildly offensive views to be cast outside a vast, nondenominational tent. So, who am I? Brace yourself: I’m a Jewish educator who teaches biblical and rabbinic texts at a North American day school. I’m an author whose memoir focuses on my reconciliation with a Palestinian family. And I’m a progressive Zionist who would like to see Israel thrive as a Jewish, democratic state resulting from a finalized two-state agreement.

Clearly, I’m a vile anti-Semite who should be banned from ever speaking within an Jewish building (save the classroom where I teach daily, I suppose).


Read more...

Scarlett Johansson vs. Oxfam

Jan25

by: on January 25th, 2014 | 49 Comments »

A high-profile controversy bubbled over this week into the mainstream over actress Scarlett Johansson’s endorsement of the carbonate-it-yourself company, SodaStream. While the controversy itself is rather narrow, its meaning and implications are far-reaching, as I’ll explain in a moment. But first, allow me to explain the controversy …

Johansson has become the celebrity face of SodaStream, an Israeli company which has its factory in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. This week, SodaStream made a promotional push in advance of her upcoming Super Bowl ad for the company, which considers Johansson a “brand ambassador,” going so far as to describe the relationship between the two as a “love story” between a socially conscious company and a passionate consumer.

The only problem is that, aside from being SodaStream’s “brand ambassador,” she is also an “Oxfam Ambassador” for the global charity organization, Oxfam International. This week, Palestinians and international boycott advocates challenged either Johansson to leave SodaStream, or Oxfam to end its relationship with Johansson, given the conflict due to Oxfam’s political position on Israeli settlements.


Read more...

AIPAC Is Self-Destructing

Jan24

by: on January 24th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

While the fate of the Senate’s Iran sanctions bill remains uncertain, one thing appears clear: AIPAC is alienating allies on Capitol Hill with its intense and self-destructive lobbying efforts.

That alienation has reached peak volume as a result of AIPAC’s bitter, partisan attack against DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, one of the lobbying outfit’s most reliable allies in the House.

Why is she being attacked? Wasserman Schultz has yet to make a public pronouncement as to which way she leans with regard to the sanctions bill. And behind the scenes, it has been reported that she’s trying to dissuade Democrats from supporting the bill, which, given her appointment by President Obama to head the DNC, seems more than expected.

But it’s not so much that Wasserman Schultz has become an AIPAC target. It’s how ugly and partisan AIPAC’s attack against her has become for an organization which takes great pains to appear non-partisan. So what did AIPAC do? It sent out an action letter to her constituents in Florida which used, in its attack, a denigrating and speculative article by the right-wing Washington Free Beacon.

Even though AIPAC declined to comment for a Foreign Policy story on the matter, current and former AIPAC operatives and activists – alarmed by what’s transpiring – are speaking out:

In the 40 years I’ve been involved with AIPAC, this is the first time I’ve seen such a blatant departure from bipartisanship,” said Doug Bloomfield, AIPAC’s former chief lobbyist.

[...]

Michael Adler, an AIPAC activist and prominent Democratic donor, said targeting Wasserman Schultz for not supporting new sanctions legislation is misguided given her value to the pro-Israel community. “The bill is only a litmus test for the unsophisticated in the pro-Israel community,” he said. “People can disagree on tactics, but Debbie is in a unique position as DNC chair and has the pro-Israel agenda deeply-rooted in her.”


Read more...

A Nation Awakening: Boycott Against Israel Is the Top Story in … Israel

Jan20

by: on January 20th, 2014 | 23 Comments »

Something remarkable has happened in the last 24 hours in Israel, with two of the country’s most popular media outlets, one television and one newspaper, making the growing effectiveness of boycotts against Israel as their top stories.

Perhaps more remarkable? Neither outlet sought to demonize those leading the European and Palestinian boycott efforts as anti-Semitic, as so often happens in America. Instead, the focus was on these boycotts’ growing impact on Israeli businesses and their root causes: Israel’s settlement enterprise and continued conflict with the Palestinians.

It all started on Saturday night with an in-depth, primetime expose by what is easily Israel’s most watched news program: Channel 2′s “Weekend” (סוף השבוע). This is how Larry Derfner at +972 Magazine described the moment:

On Saturday night the boycott of Israel gained an impressive new level of mainstream recognition in this country. Channel 2 News, easily the most watched, most influential news show here, ran a heavily-promoted, 16-minute piece on the boycott in its 8 p.m. prime-time program. The piece was remarkable not only for its length and prominence, but even more so because it did not demonize the boycott movement, it didn’t blame the boycott on anti-Semitism or Israel-bashing. Instead, top-drawer reporter Dana Weiss treated the boycott as an established, rapidly growing presence that sprang up because of Israel’s settlement policy and whose only remedy is that policy’s reversal.


Read more...

American Dream Deferred: Wealth of Richest 400 Equals that of Nation’s 44 Million African Americans

Jan19

by: on January 19th, 2014 | Comments Off

We honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. not just for his heroic championing of social justice, but economic justice as well. Indeed, income inequality was always a central focus for Dr. King, who in 1951 told Correta Scott that “a society based on making all the money you can and ignoring people’s needs, is wrong.”

Which is why, in 1967, Dr. King launched the Poor People’s Campaign, which championed economic justice for black Americans and poor minorities (including whites) alike, aiming to give them the collective power to “assert and win their right to a decent life.”

As Bob Lord notes in his op-ed, “Dr. King’s Nightmare,” Dr. King’s activism was always squarely focused on economic justice. His historic March on Washington was for “jobs and justice,” and at the time of Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, he was advocating on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis. In fact, some of his last words were to those sanitation workers on the need to fight, in the face of intense opposition, for their economic justice:

“We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through.”


Read more...

When Jon Stewart and Diane Feinstein Both Blast the Israel Lobby, You Know the Game Is Changing

Jan16

by: on January 16th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

This week, something unprecedented has occurred: politicians, mainstream media outlets, and political satirists have uniquely joined forces to identify AIPAC – and the ‘pro-Israel’ lobby – as the political force threatening the Obama administration’s historic, diplomatic breakthrough with Iran.

Jon Stewart did so. The New York Times, in an extremely rare moment of candor, did so. Even Diane Feinstein, in a double-take-worthy address on the Senate floor, did so.

How has this happened? How has such seeming synchronicity occurred when just last week, mentioning AIPAC as an influential lobby would likely earn one shouts of anti-Semitism?

What’s happened is that the Israel lobby, and AIPAC specifically, has wildly overplayed its hand in a country where Americans back President Obama’s diplomatic efforts with Iran by a 2-1 margin.

So much so that, for the first time I can remember, the Israel lobby is being being publicly singled out by both staunch allies and critics for trying to push the United States toward a war Israel’s leaders want, but a war Americans don’t.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Jon Stewart highlighted AIPAC’s influence over those senators who are supporting a sanctions bill which could railroad the White House’s agreement with Iran. However, when Jon Stewart mockingly yells, “The Senators from the Great State of Israel are against [Obama's diplomacy]” while an AIPAC logo appears in the background, it’s more that noteworthy.

It’s evidence of a potential sea change.


Read more...

I’m Now Another Jew Who Has Been Barred from Speaking in a Jewish Building (in America)

Jan11

by: on January 11th, 2014 | 53 Comments »

Last week, I wrote about how, due to my writing on the issue of boycotts and Israel, I was asked by a prominent Jewish organization (Hillel) to publish a favorable political statement before being allowed into its building to speak about my book, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?

Despite my discomfort with such a problematic request, I published it. For I thought, If there are places where talking about reconciliation and understanding might be meaningful and important, this is one of them.

The statement I made affirmed my desire, as a progressive Zionist, for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while acknowledging the legitimacy of economic sanctions against Israel as a nonviolent form of opposition. I made this statement, even though its focus has little to do with the focus of my book.

Despite this, and our prior agreement regarding the statement, I’ve come to learn that I have been barred from speaking. And so, this is now my story – a story tragically being replicated far too often today in America as Jewish institutions decide not just what may, and may not, be discussed with regard to Israel, but who may discuss such issues as well.


Read more...

On Being at the Center of a Controversy within the U.S. Jewish Community

Jan5

by: on January 5th, 2014 | 54 Comments »

Recently, due to my writing on the issue of boycotts and Israel, I was asked by a prominent Jewish organization to make a public, political statement before being allowed into its building to speak about my book, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?

This request, as well as its troubling implications, are part of a sudden controversy which has arisen in the American Jewish community over what can, and cannot, be discussed regarding Israel.

My Story

I recently had the honor of being invited by the Israel Committee of Santa Barbara to be a keynote speaker at its annual, signature event this spring. The event is physically housed by Santa Barbara Hillel, which describes itself as a home for Jews open to all political and religious stripes, stating, “We are as diverse as the human race.”

At first, it was going to be my temporary home – a place in which I was to tell the narrative of my reconciliation with a Palestinian family. However, when a member of the Hillel staff found a political post of mine in which I attempted to argue that boycotts and sanctions against Israel are legitimate forms of nonviolent protest – and which understandably was misunderstood as my joining the BDS movement – I was no longer welcome.

Which is when the request, or pre-condition, came from Santa Barbara Hillel after it viewed my post as a violation of Hillel’s guidelines:

Make a political statement clarifying your position on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel, and you may enter our building. Otherwise, you are not allowed within our walls.


Read more...

Exclusive Report: Obama Will Take on the NSA’s Surveillance State in 2014

Dec31

by: on December 31st, 2013 | 4 Comments »

The Daily Beast‘s Daniel Klaidman is reporting this morning that President Obama, currently on his Hawaiian vacation, is preparing to rein in the NSA’s bulk metadata collection in the coming year.

Klaidman’s report chronicles how Obama is currently studying an independent review panel’s 300-page report on how to reform the government’s surveillance programs while on vacation. And as Klaidman shows, this holiday reading is being done with an eye toward making serious reforms upon his return to Washington.

Klaidman’s piece is full of compelling nuggets, including a glimpse into how the scope and nature of the government’s surveillance activities have begun to tug at Obama’s conscience – a man who railed against Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program in 2008. It Also reveals Obama’s behind-the-scenes frustration with NSA officials, including NSA Director Keith Alexander.

However, the most compelling part of Klaidman’s piece is his report on how, days ago, Obama approached his meeting with the independent review panel which is suggesting countless reforms be made to the U.S. intelligence apparatus.


Read more...