During my wife’s first pregnancy, we made the decision not to learn the sex of the child before birth. There were many reasons for this decision: the purity of discovery at the moment of delivery; an effort to prevent family and friends from inundating us with gender-defined baby gifts before the little one had even emerged; a Shalom-Auslander-like superstition that knowing would somehow invite a divinely-orchestrated disaster.
However, the truth is that one motivation outweighed all others, at least for me: a terrible fear that our child would be a boy.
It was a fear stemming from the fact that, as committed Jews, I knew we would circumcise him. And I also knew this: we desperately didn’t want to do so.
During the height of Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign, the Sheldon-Adelson-backed Republican candidate caused waves when he called the Palestinians an “invented people” and declared that the Palestinian Authority was only interested in Israel’s destruction.
Why did Gingrich express such extreme views late last year on a matter that, at the time, was not central to his campaign? Simple: those are not Gingrich’s views, but the views of Sheldon Adelson, who at the time was writing ten-million-dollar checks to prop up the Gingrich candidacy.
On Sunday, a New York Times editorial wondered aloud why Adelson is now pumping staggering sums of money into the campaign of his second choice, Mitt Romney.
The answer is, itself, staggering:
The first answer is clearly his disgust for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, supported by President Obama and most Israelis. He considers a Palestinian state “a steppingstone for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people,” and has called the Palestinian prime minister a terrorist. He is even further to the right than the main pro-Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which he broke with in 2007 when it supported economic aid to the Palestinians.
Mr. Romney is only slightly better, saying the Israelis want a two-state solution but the Palestinians do not, accusing them of wanting to eliminate Israel. The eight-figure checks are not paying for a more enlightened answer.
Daphni Leef — who last summer sparked the largest social protests in Israel’s history when she set up a tent along Rothschild Boulevard — attempted to reignite those historic protests on Friday by again setting up camp (along with hundreds of fellow protesters).
However, in stark contrast to the relatively accommodating stance police took toward the tent protests last summer, the authorities yesterday responded violently and with intentional symbolism as a mass of riot police beat and dragged Leef across the boulevard before arresting her. They also forcefully prevented demonstrators from occupying the site where Israel’s protests began in 2011.
Saturday evening, approximately 7,000 Israelis took to the streets to protest Leef’s brutal arrest and to begin anew last summer’s massive protests which, at their peak, drew nearly 500,000 Israelis into the streets.
Israeli activists block a street in Tel Aviv during a protest on June 23, 2012.
As one who occasionally publishes opinion pieces in The Jerusalem Post — countering the paper’s normative conservatism with a progressive perspective — I often come across pieces with which I either disagree politically or find distasteful.
However, I have never encountered a more morally offensive piece in Israel’s largest English-language paper than one posted today by a regular contributor entitled “Alice Walker’s Bigotry.”
Before exploring this unhinged piece, and the motivations behind its publication, a bit of context is in order.
Alice Walker, Pulitzer-Prize winner and literary hero, has in recent years been invested in Palestinian human rights, and is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement aimed at pressuring Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Recently, it was reported that Walker has refused translation rights of her book, The Color Purple, to the Israeli publisher Yediot Books. As Walker eloquently notes in a letter published by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, her decision not to publish in Israel can be placed within her own historical narrative (and the narrative of The Color Purple itself):
An Israeli Defense Forces soldier, currently serving time in a military prison for his refusal to serve in the IDF and participate in Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories, has begun a hunger strike in solidarity with scores of Palestinian administrative detainees.
Amira Hass at Haaretz writes:
Yaniv Mazor, a 31-year-old Jerusalem resident, was sentenced last week to 20 days in jail over his refusal to fill any position, be it combat or otherwise, in what he said was the occupying army. He was transferred to the IDF’s Tzrifin prison on Monday, launching his hunger strike the following day. In a phone conversation with his attorney Michael Sfard on Friday, Mazor said that he had “become appalled over the last few months by the hunger strike initiated by Palestinian administrative prisoners, but I couldn’t do much about it.”
“I decided to start a hunger strike in solidarity [with the Palestinians], and in order to raise awareness on the issue of administrative detention, and not to prompt my own release,” Mazor added.
This courageous and rare move from an Israeli solider comes on the heels of massive hunger strikes from Palestinian prisoners in recent months. The strikes have put pressure on Israel to improve conditions for Palestinian prisoners and end the country’s widespread use of administrative detentions.
An Israeli mob in Tel Aviv burns garbage and sings, "The people want the Africans to be burned."
Southern Tel Aviv is home to a number of blighted and struggling neighborhoods – areas where Israel’s income inequalities and economic disparities are acutely on display in the shadow of the city’s high rises. And it is here – in the neighborhood of Shapira – where large numbers of African refugees and asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea have sought shelter from forces much more dire than poverty.
On Wednesday evening, that shelter was shattered by a 1,000-strong protest which turned violent and, ultimately, into a race riot targeting those seeking relief from violence.
How did this happen?
Israel is mine. I own it – or rather, I hold an ownership stake in it.
No, I am not a citizen of the country – I’m an American Jew, born upon Georgia’s red clay, now living amidst lush, Pennsylvanian foothills. And no, I am not obligated to send my children to the IDF, nor do I pay taxes or vote in the country’s elections. I did not pitch my tent this past summer along Rothschild Boulevard, nor have I physically stood with Palestinian and Israeli protesters in Nabi Saleh on a Friday afternoon, inhaling tear gas and fleeing from cannon-propelled skunk water.
True, I lived in Israel for many years, though such prior residence has nothing to do with my ownership status. And true, I descended into the visceral depths of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when my wife was bombed at Hebrew University in 2002, though such suffering – and our State-supported care – doesn’t grant me any greater stake in the country or right to possess it.
I own Israel because the country insists upon such an arrangement, flailing as it struggles to be both Jewish and democratic. I’m a stakeholder because, as a legally-recognized member of the people of Israel (having in the past proven to the State that I have a Jewish mother and father), I’m granted the unequivocal right to return to my country at a moment’s notice. I am encouraged, even solicited, to return to my country at a moment’s notice.
Nobel-Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, a regular Op-Ed columnist and blogger for The New York Times, is one of America’s leading progressive voices on a host of political and fiscal issues. However, as a liberal American Jew, one subject Krugman intentionally refrains from treating is that of Israel, and not because he isn’t invested in the country’s success or highly critical of its current political directions.
No, Krugman typically refrains from critiquing Israel because – as he wrote yesterday in a rare moment on the subject – to do so “is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.”
And yet, Krugman was moved to do just that for a brief moment yesterday – offer up a few brutally honest words on Israel.
What was his motivation for doing so? Krugman felt compelled to come to the defense of Peter Beinart, whose book – The Crisis of Zionism - has elicited unhinged personal attacks masquerading as critical reviews from all quarters, including those published in the pages of the Times and The Washington Post.