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The Heart of the Problem With Israel: The Mass Expulsion of the Palestinian People

Jul21

by: Donna Nevel on July 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

(Originally published on Alternet)

As Israeli government violence against the Palestinians in Gaza intensifies (the latest news being an aggressive ground invasion), I saw a discussion on-line about whether Israel has become more brutal or the brutality has simply become more visible to the public.

A man looks at Jaramana Refugee Camp for Palestinians in Damascus, Syria in 1948.

The Jaramana Refugee Camp for Palestinians in Damascus, Syria in 1948. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

I remembered listening to Benjamin Netanyahu when he was at MIT in the 1970s. He called himself Bibi Nitai and said he was in self-exile until the Labor Party, which he despised, was out of power. He spoke contemptuously about Arabs, and predicted he would be the leader of Israel someday and would protect the Jewish state in the way it deserved. The immediate response many of us had was: “Heaven help us all if he ever gets into power in Israel.”

I also remember the many Israeli leaders I met in the 1970′s from Labor and Mapam and from smaller parties on the “Zionist left” who seemed kind and caring and markedly different from Benjamin Netanyahu – and in many ways they were, not just in their political rhetoric (they all said they were socialists) but as human beings, or so it seemed. But when I finally dug a little deeper and read my history, I learned how they, too, were participants – in fact, often leaders – in the plan to drive the Palestinians out of their homes and off their land. Nothing very kind or caring about that, to say the least.

The bottom line: Israel was created based on the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their land and from their homes (what Palestinians call the Nakba, the catastrophe). This is the heart of the problem.

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Silence = Violence = Death: A Call for LGBT Curricular Infusion

Jul20

by: Warren Blumenfeld on July 20th, 2014 | No Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

Multicultural education is a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice, equality, equity, and human dignity as acknowledged in various documents, such as the U.S. Declaration of Independence, constitutions of South Africa and the United States, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations. It affirms our need to prepare students for their responsibilities in an interdependent world. It recognizes the role schools can play in developing the attitudes and values necessary for a democratic society. It values cultural differences and affirms the pluralism that students, their communities, and teachers reflect.It challenges all forms of discrimination in schools and society through the promotion of democratic principles of social justice….

National Association for Multicultural Education, emphasis added

A few years ago, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Alliance at a private Boston-area university asked me to give a presentation on LGBT history at one of its weekly meetings. During my introductory remarks, in passing, I used the term “Stonewall,” when a young man raised his hand and asked me, “What is a ‘Stonewall?’”

I explained that the Stonewall Inn is a small bar located on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village in New York City where, in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, during a routine police raid, patrons fought back. This event, I continued, is generally credited with igniting the modern movement for LGBT liberation and equality.

The young man thanked me and stated that he is a first-year college student, and although he is gay, he had never heard about Stonewall or anything else associated with LGBT history while in high school. As he said this, I thought to myself that though we have made progress over the years, conditions remain very difficult for LGBT and questioning youth today, because school is still not a very “queer” place to be.

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Memoriam for Zalman, Mourning for Israel

Jul16

by: Lynn Feinerman on July 16th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

July 3rd, 2014, Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi left his body, dying after a long, deep, and rich life. I consider Reb Zalman a teacher of mine…a master able to impart knowledge of an authentic Jewish tradition and practice.

Reb Zalman escaped the Holocaust in Nazi Europe and joined the Chabad Lubavitch movement in the United States. The Lubavitcher Rebbe chose Zalman to become a shliach, a messenger and “pied piper” to the great number of unaffiliated young American Jews in my generation.

He was the perfect messenger, an open hearted, open minded man who dropped acid with Timothy Leary, prayed with all others who prayed, and eventually was recognized by the Muslim community as a Sheikh, in addition to being world renowned as a Jew. His sweet, laughing, knowing soul shares a light-filled gaze with the Dalai Lama, in one of my favorite photographs of him.

My sense of Zalman was that he didn’t hate – ever. He’d been there and seen the Holocaust, lost most of his own loved ones. He even requested to be buried with ashes from Auschwitz – the notorious Nazi concentration camp and crematorium – because most of his family never got a proper burial. But he never expressed hatred or desire for revenge. In fact, this great soul had fled the flames and strengthened in reverence for life, love, and forgiveness. May the memory of his blessing take us all there as well.

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Tony Kushner’s Play: “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures ”

Jul16

by: Frank Rubenfeld on July 16th, 2014 | No Comments »

Credit: kevinberne.com

Today I saw a matinee of Tony Kushner’s “An Intelligent Homosexuals’ Guide…” with a full house attending at the Berkeley Rep. The play first opened in Minneapolis in 2007, and then played briefly in NYC at the Public Theater but did not have its West Coast opening until now.

Most of the more than three hours of the play takes place in a marvelous two-layered set, showing the ground floor and upstairs bed room of the patriarch, seventy-two year old Lou Liberatore, a card carrying member of the Communist Party USA and retired union organizer once active in the Longshoreman’s Union. He has two sons and a daughter, (one son and the daughter are gay), who are presently spending time with him since he’s informed them that he plans to commit suicide soon and wants to settle accounts with them. A year prior, he had made an unsuccessful attempt by slitting his wrists in a bathtub (Roman style). This engendered much upset and anger among his children. The plot line that carries the play forward is whether or not he will follow through on his plan despite the anguished, fervent entreaties of his kids not do so.


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Rescuing the Hebrew Covenant

Jul15

by: Robert Cohen on July 15th, 2014 | 9 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

For the last three years I’ve been writing monthly posts about Israel-Palestine from a UK Jewish perspective. At times like this, with the news from Gaza dominating world headlines, I feel an even greater responsibility to champion a Judaism that stands for more than a narrow nationalist ideology.

It took me about 25 years from the point of first engaging seriously with the subject as student in the 1980s to feeling confident enough to start saying anything in a public sphere. Like many other Jews, for years I felt increasingly uncomfortable with what was going on in Israel in the unchallengeable name of defense and security. I was the classic liberal Zionist, brought up on a diet of Jewish ethics and Western democratic values. It was an upbringing that left me in an ever increasing state of ‘angst’ over the actions of the Jewish State, a country that claimed to act in my name and in my interests. But whatever I was feeling, I avoided family discussions let alone public debate.

It was operation Cast Lead and the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008/9 that began my journey from an Israeli supporting peacenik to a marginalized Diaspora Jew, questioning the entire Zionist project. After watching children dying from Israeli missiles and bombs, my silent Jewish angst felt like so much useless self-indulgence. It was a feeling I wanted to avoid next time things kicked off in Gaza. And I suspected there would be a next time.

A visit in 2011 to Israel (my third) and to the West Bank (my first) finally completed the emotional and intellectual journey. Talking to Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line taught me that something had gone very wrong with the Jewish dream of self-determination. Whatever the questions raised by two thousand years of ‘exile’, this could not be the answer. A Sparta state, increasingly racist in its culture of Jewish ethnic privilege, had not resolved any of the issues Herzl and the early Zionists had set out to address. Instead it had created a truck-load of new problems and left another people homeless and oppressed.

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Go to Hell! God’s Gracious Word to American Christians

Jul15

by: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on July 15th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

For every season, there is a message. “Do not be afraid.” “Let my people go.” “Take up your cross.” “I have a dream.”

In America today, I’ve come to believe, God’s Word for us is, “Go to hell.”

Unbeknownst to most Americans, our justice system changed radically in the late 20th century. Like most countries in the modern West, roughly one in a thousand Americans were in prison in the early 70s. Today, we incarcerate 1 in 107 Americans. Over 7 million adults are currently in jails, in prison, or on probation. More than 65 million US citizens now have a criminal record, while another 11 million undocumented people live outside the the law, subject to seizure and deportation.

Legal scholar William Stuntz has described the past 40 years as the “collapse of America’s criminal justice system.” Noting the ways “law and order” has landed more black men in prison today than were in slavery in 1850, Michelle Alexander calls it the “new Jim Crow.” Or, as Piper Kerman puts it, “orange is the new black.”

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A Variety of Memories of Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi (z’l)

Jul12

by: Tikkun Community on July 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

We invited people in the Tikkun community to share some memories of their personal connections to Zalman. We cannot publish them all—so many hundreds of people pouring out their wonderful experiences and wishing to honor this great Tzaddik!  So we’ve selected a representative sample.

I have so many memories myself I didn’t mention in the earlier piece I sent out. One that comes to mind as I read the Israeli press describing mobs of Israelis roaming the streets of Israeli towns and beating up Israeli Palestinians that they come upon, while the Israeli army blows up homes of “suspected terrorists” though they have no plausible connection with the horrible murder committed against 3 Israeli youth last week, and reading about the Palestinian youth murdered by Israeli settlers (according to the latest information from the Israeli investigators of that crime).

Zalman and I spent many months in Jerusalem some twenty years ago, and we were talking about the distorting influence on young Israelis of having to serve in the IDF for 3 years before they could go on to college or university. The activities of enforcing the Occupation, often brutal, always discriminatory and implicit racist, generate in these young people the need to justify to themselves the activities they’ve been assigned to do, and this in turn leads many of them to accept either racist or at least fearful stories of who the Palestinian people really are, ideas which then they bring back with them into their lives as citizens after their army service is finished (well, not really finished, because most have to serve a month each year in the reserves, mee’lu’eem, till they are forty).

So Zalman proposed that we try to create a mikvah ceremony for young people finishing their active duty at which we would both immerse them in the healing waters of mikvah and simultaneously urge them to leave behind the ethos of domination (what I subsequently began to describe as “the Right hand of God) and instead embrace the loving values of Torah, including the notion that vengeance is forbidden and that Jews are commanded to Love the Other (which in the case of Israel today means Love Palestinians—rather than oppress them and treat them in ways THEY experience as oppressive). We proposed this to the Rabin government as something that we’d need government cooperation to do, but Rabin had not yet made his turn toward recognizing the humanity of the Palestinians though he was formally trying to make peace with them, so our proposal was never accepted. Here, as in so many areas, Zalman’s creative genius to make use of Judaism’s treasure-trove of spiritual wisdom, was not fully appreciated.

May his memory be always a blessing!

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Only by Ending the Occupation and Embracing Equality Can This Terrible Bloodshed End

Jul11

by: Rebecca Vilkomerson on July 11th, 2014 | 9 Comments »

The last several days have been devastating. The weeks leading up to it have been horrifying. Since the beginning of the Israel’s Operation Protective Edge on July 8, 2014 upwards of eighty Palestinians have been killed and approximately 500 wounded by Israeli missiles and two Israelis have been wounded from rockets fired from Gaza. We have watched with sadness and anger as the deaths of children have mounted, racist mobs have rampaged, the fears of people throughout both Israel and Palestine have reached unbearable levels, and the collective punishment of the Palestinian people has intensified.

Jewish Voice for Peace Protesters

Credit: Creative Commons.

In just the last few days, scores of Palestinians – with no place to hide – have been killed, while the entire population of Gaza experiences the terror of widespread bombing. Israelis have had to endure the fear of never knowing when or where the next rocket will fall.

What is worse, reports from Israel and the Jewish Daily Forward (http://forward.com/articles/201764/how-politics-and-lies-triggered-an-unintended-war) in the United States are now confirming that this entire escalation was artificially created by Israeli political leaders and built on a foundation of lies.

None of this should be happening. As we mourn all who have died, we also reaffirm that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality.

To end violence – and truly mourn its victims – we must acknowledge, and challenge the root causes beneath it. The Occupation, with U.S. military and financial support, is the root cause. The daily structural violence of the occupation systematically denies the very humanity of Arabs, while valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others. Our unshakeable belief in justice – as Jews and as human beings – compels us to acknowledge that the root of this violence lies in the Israeli government’s commitment to occupation over the well-being of Palestinians or Israelis. Where our leaders have so thoroughly refused that truth, it is our responsibility to hold it up.

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Haughty Eyes in Murrieta

Jul9

by: Alan Bean on July 9th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

(Cross-posted from Friends of Justice)

Proverbs 6:16-19 (NRSV)

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that hurry to run to evil,
19 a lying witness who testifies falsely,
and one who sows discord in a family.

Everybody can define “hottie” these days; but the old-school word “haughty” doesn’t come up much in casual conversation.  If you’re not familiar with the term, the Merriam-Webster dictionary provides a simple definition:

Having or showing the insulting attitude of people who think that they are better, smarter, or more important than other people.

If you would like to see haughty eyes, look no further than the faces of the men and women protesting the arrival of migrants from Central America.  The woman who screamed, “we don’t want you; nobody wants you!” may have believed she was speaking for the entire nation.

She wasn’t.

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Religion: The Gatekeeper and Denier of Human Rights?

Jul9

by: Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on July 9th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

The past few weeks have left me nonplussed regarding basic human rights and those decrying “infringement of their religious liberties.” It is difficult for me not to see organized religion as the common denominator of discord in the form of misogyny, homophobia, racism, and even further marginalizing those living in poverty.

Currently, President Obama is working on an executive order with the goal to be diverse and inclusive: federal contractors must not discriminate against LGBTQ people. Am I the only one who feels that this seems like basic common sense and good leadership? I thought our world leaders were charged with the task of expanding human rights and advocating for targeted populations. Sadly, “religious leaders” such as Rick Warren and Catholic Charities insist that this effort of equity infringes on their religious liberties. Need we remind Catholics of what religious infringement might look like, a la The Crusades and The Inquisition? You remember The Inquisition – those madcap Catholics just providing “tough love for heretics,” Jews, Muslims, and anyone not willing to convert to Catholicism.

In the wake of the foul Supreme Court decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which seemed like a decision made on behalf of the Catholic Pope, I am in a state of worry about how thoroughly religion dictates human rights and which religion(s) shares disproportionate power.

My understanding is that the executive order (which is not in a final draft) will not force heterosexuals to have sex with or marry people of the same sex. It will instead allow LGBTQ people a source of income – to be granted employment. Denying people employment and a way to sustain themselves and their families seems to run contrary to how I understand the purpose of religion. It leaves me asking: “who does your God hate.” Is God about hate? If we continue to travel down a road of “religious infringement” based on people who are different, how does this help to create a peaceful community of people? How does this help humans share a planet and create space for differences?

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