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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).



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.

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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 | 23 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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90-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor, Hedy Epstein, Arrested in Ferguson Protest

Aug18

by: on August 18th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor and long-time human rights activist, was arrested today in front of Governor Jay Nixon’s downtown office along with eight others.

Epstein, charged with failure to disperse, was protesting Nixon’s actions in Ferguson, and said after her detainment, “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90. We need to stand up today so that people won’t have to do this when they’re 90.”

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Hedy Epstein, arrested before Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's office.


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Palestinians Expressing Empathy for & Solidarity with Protesters in Ferguson

Aug18

by: on August 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

The scenes in Ferguson, with unarmed protesters being confronted by militarized police forces, is one Palestinians intimately recognize. Indeed, they even recognize the American-made brand of tear gas being used in Missouri. It’s the same issue Israeli soldiers fire regularly upon unarmed demonstrators in the West Bank, made by CTS in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.

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On the left, an unarmed protester in Ferguson throws a tear gas canister back to St. Louis police.

 

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On the right, an unarmed protester in the West Bank town of Hebron throws a tear gas canister back to soldiers. Photo via Activestills.

 


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10,000 in Tel Aviv Protest Israel’s Occupation of Palestinians and Gaza War

Aug16

by: on August 16th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

In the largest protest of its kind in years, 10,000-15,000 Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv to call for a just peace with Palestinians and to protest Israel’s occupation and Gaza military operations.

The gathering is particularly significant given that, in previous anti-war rallies since the beginning of hostilities in Gaza, right-wing nationalists have attacked and sometimes beaten progressive protesters, leaving anti-war activists in Israel feeling increasingly threatened.

Tonight’s rally, sponsored by a number of left-wing groups in Israel, including the political party Meretz, overwhelmed those extremists who showed up with the volume of participants.

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Thousands of anti-war activists gather in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.

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Unspeakable Scenes and Testimony Emerge from Gaza During a Moment of Calm

Aug11

by: on August 11th, 2014 | 11 Comments »

Field researchers for B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, recently photographed scenes of destruction in Gaza and conducted interviews with Palestinians during a moment of calm.

The images reveal the magnitude of destruction in Beit Hanoun, one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Gaza, where residential sections have been reduced to rubble. The accompanying testimony, which I’ve interspersed below, reveal intimately the human toll represented by B’Tselem’s photography.

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Escaping the Thunderclaps of War in a Breathing River

Aug9

by: on August 9th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

image I’m sitting beside a breathing river, listening to my children conjure rapids with their feet, imitating those forming downstream. A waterfall behind us is telling secrets. The sky is reflective, a deep azure telling the world it wants to hold nothing. At least, not today. I nod my head in agreement. Neither do I, I think. That’s why I’m here.

I’ve come to these familiar mountains in Western Pennsylvania for a brief escape from the thunderclaps of war reverberating from Israel and Gaza, and from the tension I feel for speaking out, for critiquing that war. I’m lucky in that I can remove myself from the computer’s glare, the cell phone constantly ringing, and my urban neighborhood. But I also realize this: there’s no real escape. Not for me, anyway.

A blue heron flaps overhead, and I recognize loneliness settling in, the type of existential loneliness about which Louis C.K. loves to joke. Because the only way to survive is to laugh about it.

Or to ignore it.


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