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).



Netanyahu tells Arab-Israelis protesting police brutality to leave Israel

Nov10

by: on November 10th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Imagine for a moment that President Obama, during the height of Occupy Wall Street protests, suggested that activists move to Canada. Better yet, imagine that he invited Ferguson protesters demonstrating against police brutality to leave the United States.

Such irresponsible, anti-democratic incitement from our nation’s leader would have had only one result: an intensification of unrest across the country.

This is precisely what has just occurred in Israel during a time of incredible volatility, unrest and violence. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has “invited” Palestinian citizens of Israel engaged in ongoing protests to move to the West Bank or Gaza during a meeting of Likud leaders.

“To all those who demonstrate against Israel and in favor of a Palestinian state, I say something simple: I invite you to move there; we won’t give you any problem.”

To give a sense of how irresponsible and wanton Netanyahu’s words are, consider this: for the past three days, Arab-Israelis across northern Israel have been protesting the police killing of a 22-year-old Palestinian citizen, a killing which was caught on video and shows officers shooting the man in the back while fleeing.

kfar

Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets on Sunday and clashed with police after video surfaced of the killing of a 22-year-old Arab-Israeli citizen in Kfar Kanna.


Read more...

Ferguson Just Happened Again

Nov8

by: on November 8th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

The fatal police shooting of a 22-year-old minority last night, this time caught on video, has once again brought angry community members into the streets to protest in dramatic fashion. This time, however, it’s not the streets of St. Louis which are burning, but those in the Arab village of Kfar Kanna near Nazareth in Israel, where Jesus turned water into wine in the Gospels. Today the streets are running red with blood and rage.

On Friday night, Israeli police entered the village to arrest someone involved in a family dispute. After the arrest, an angry family member, Khayr al-Din al-Hamdan, emerged from a house and began hitting a police van with a small metal object, which residents claim was a bar and police claim was a knife. Soon after, al-Hamdan was dead, shot several times in the back by police.

Law enforcement claimed afterward that their lives were in danger, and that they fired warning shots before shooting the Arab youth. However, CCTV video footage shows none of these claims to be true. Instead, officers broke protocol by by emerging from the van, their lives not in danger, and immediately shooting al-Hamdan, who was backing away and fleeing when he was shot in the back several times. Officers then drug al-Hamdan’s body to the police van rather than calling for medical personnel to treat the victim at the scene.

Read more...

This Absurd & Offensive Story Represents How U.S. Jewish Institutions Often Misrepresent U.S. Jews

Nov7

by: on November 7th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

This is a strange and deeply revealing story.

It is the story of how a major American (and global) Jewish organization attacked Teresa Heinz Kerry and the Heinz Foundation as an expression of “pro-Israel” support. It is the story of how food wrappers used by a tiny restaurant in Pittsburgh, Conflict Kitchen, became the launching pad for this attack. And it is the story of simultaneous silence and complicity when a top Israeli politician effectively embraced Apartheid in The New York Times.

The Story of Conflict Kitchen

To begin, we must tell the story of Conflict Kitchen. Established in 2010 by Carnegie Mellon University art professor Jon Rubin and Pittsburgh artist Dawn Weleski, the take-out restaurant was begun as an experimental, cultural project. Its vision: introduce local citizens to the foods of those peoples with whom the United States is in conflict. Here is how the restaurant articulates this vision:

Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, publications, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus region. The restaurant rotates identities every few months in relation to current geopolitical events.

It’s a beautiful, noble project – the type of initiative which should be replicated across the United States. So what’s the problem, or faux problem? Conflict Kitchen’s newest iteration is Palestinian cuisine, which Pittsburgh Jewish organizations immediately assailed as anti-Israel and illegitimate. The argument being that “Palestine” is not technically in “conflict” with the United States, despite the fact that many Palestinians feel otherwise, since America is Israel’s principal military backer – the same military which supports Israel’s decades-old occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank and repeatedly attacks Gaza.

The “controversy” which resulted after Conflict Kitchen was labeled as anti-Israel has created two outcomes. First, Conflict Kitchen’s newest iteration, Palestinian cuisine, has become its most popular, and has garnered the tiny pop-up restaurant national attention (not to mention hundreds of new customers who never would have known about the restaurant’s existence). Second, this national attention Conflict Kitchen garnered placed it in the crosshairs of a major Jewish institution intent on cutting off its funding.

Read more...

Major American Jewish Institutions Endorsing Single-State Solution for Israel/Palestine

Oct26

by: on October 26th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

one state solution

Credit: Creative Commons/ Salaam Shalom

For the last two decades, the largest and most influential Jewish institutions in the United States have publicly supported the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, otherwise known as the two-state solution. From communal entities, such as the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), to political lobbying organizations, such as AIPAC, support for the two-state solution has been a consistent, publicly-articulated dogma.

This support has also been in line with both U.S. foreign policy directives and the majority opinion of those American Jews (seven in ten) who are either emotionally or politically invested in Israel.

However, over the last several months, major U.S. Jewish institutions have, one-by-one, revealed their effective endorsement of a one-state solution, moving away from U.S. interests as well as those of their constituents. This began subtly over the summer, when in June Israel chose its latest President, Reuven Rivlin, a right-wing, one-state proponent whose ideas on bi-nationalism and democracy are complicated. Oddly, not a single major Jewish institution in favor of two states expressed concern over or spoke out against the decision.

Now, perhaps Jewish leaders didn’t find the presidency to be important enough to merit comment, being a symbolic position. Or perhaps they foresaw that Rivlin would unexpectedly become a leading voice in Israel slamming widespread racism against Arabs, calling its society “sick” and in need of treatment. Interestingly, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, published an open letter to Rivlin expressing concern upon his election. However, it wasn’t concern for Rivlin’s one-state vision which was the topic, but rather Rivlin’s disdain for progressive streams of Judaism.

Whatever the reason, Jewish institutions’ silence over Rivlin could have naively been viewed as an anomaly. However, soon after Rivlin’s appointment, Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, explicitly rejected the two-state solution on July 11, saying that Israel could never relinquish sovereignty over the West Bank. Once again, not one major Jewish organization supporting two states said a word, much less condemned Netanyahu’s position. Perhaps this silence, as with Rivlin, could also have been excused, as Israel was in the midst of its “war” with Gaza, and Jewish leaders had circled the wagons in support.


Read more...

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...