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Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category



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 | 1 Comment »

Israel has appropriated nearly 1,000 acres of private, Palestinian land for settlement construction near Bethlehem, its largest West Bank land grab in 30 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 45 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:

“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 | 2 Comments »

On Thursday, PA State Senator Daylin Leach, who represents Pennsylvania’s 17th District, penned an op-edin Daily Kosin 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 & 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, namely 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.

nytimes1

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Pope Francis’ Lesson: The Abrahamic religions need a spiritual summit meeting, not dialogue-by-press-statements

Aug28

by: on August 28th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Pope Francis

Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Pope Francis appeared to step into the quagmire in Iraq last week when he reportedly “endorsed the use of force” against ISIS. He was speaking a week after Obama authorized U.S attacks on ISIS military positions to stave off the threatened destruction of refugees in the Kurdish mountains. So was the “Pontiff of Peace” sprinkling holy water on airstrikes, perhaps even embarking on “the last crusade”?

No, in fact, the pope was doing nothing of the sort. His message was garbled through glib and superficial reporting, as Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig has shown in an excellent analysis in The Daily Beast of what the pope said and didn’t say.

However the pope’s statement – and subsequent misinterpretations – clearly show how urgently the leaders of the three Abrahamic religions need to start talking face to face rather than through press statements. The crisis in the Middle East goes far beyond the military and political conflict, horrific as it is. At a deeper level, the spiritual identity of all three religions is under assault from the militarization of language and glorification of conflict.

To respond to these spiritual temptations of power and dominance, there’s an urgent need for these religious leaders to declare a “spiritual emergency” and meet in a “spiritual summit” to speak clearly to their faithful, from their respective traditions and scriptures, in defense of their shared values and vision of faith as applied to the current circumstances.


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Call to Creative Action

Aug28

by: on August 28th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

The work of artists and creative activists can help to create a cultural democracy that prizes diversity, practices equity, and brings a deep respect for human rights to every aspect of civil society. Therefore, the people-powered U.S. Department of Arts and Culture calls on all artists and creative activists to join in the movement to demilitarize the police and bring justice to victims of publicly funded racism.

- USDAC Call: Creativity for Equity and Justice

USDAC call to action

Credit: USDAC

For the past two years, I’ve been working with other volunteers to build and launch the USDAC, “the nation’s newest people-powered department, founded on the truth that art and culture are our most powerful and under-tapped resources for social change. Radically inclusive, useful and sustainable, and vibrantly playful, the USDAC aims to spark a grassroots, creative change movement, engaging millions in performing and creating a world rooted in empathy, equity, and social imagination.” We need volunteers, so please help if you can!

This week, appalled by the deluge of racism and violence flooding the news, we issued the USDAC Call: Creativity for Equity and Justice. Recognizing that racism, the denial of human rights, and official violence are all cultural issues, an amazing group of artists and activists (just click the link to see names like Judy Baca, Lucy Lippard, Gloria Steinem, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Peter Coyote, Brett Cook, Lily Yeh, and dozens of others) called on all of us to

Join together in affirming to all public officials and policymakers that a culture of punishment cannot stand. We join together in applying our gifts to the public gatherings, organizing campaigns, and policy proposals that will support positive change. We stand together with generations of creative activists in communities across the nation who have been envisioning and working toward a world of equity and safety for all.


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Not Another Conversation on Race

Aug26

by: on August 26th, 2014 | No Comments »

Michael Brown, the African-American young man killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, has been laid to rest. His homegoing celebration was at once a period to his earthly life and the blank space before the next chapter of activism that his family and a variety of communities promise to write.

After peaceful protests, marching in the street, chants of “hands up, don’t shoot” and “no justice no peace”, after fires, looting, a militarized police force aiming weapons of war on its own citizenry, smoke, tear gas, and national and international news coverage, the question now is: what is next? Some commentators have suggested that President Obama come to Ferguson and give another speech on race. Others have suggested that we as a nation engage in another conversation on race, this time with different contours.

I say, what this country does not need is yet another presidential speech on race. Is there anything new to say? And I am too tired of the conversation on race. I have been having this conversation my entire life, and I am weary of it. I remember watching Martin Luther King, Jr. give his “I Have a Dream” speech at the first March on Washington. I was a little girl watching with my parents. Twenty years later, I was in Washington DC for the anniversary march. In the 1990s, I taught race and racism at Temple University. In the first decade of the 21st century I taught courses on the civil rights movement and on “The Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Since the election of President Obama, I have written about race within the context of birther madness, and after the George Zimmerman verdict, I wrote about the myth of the super-physical black man that explains why so many people see the African-American male body as at once less than human and more than human that requires extraordinary force to subdue.

I have made my contribution to that conversation, and I am done with it.

Let us talk instead about cop psychology. What kind of psychological screening must one pass before we hand him or her a badge and a gun and give them the power to administer lethal force in the name of the state? What is the level of education required of police officers? How are they trained? Does this training include diversity and racial sensitivity training? Do they learn to subdue a suspect without illegal choke holds or gun fire? What goes through the mind of an officer when he is beating an unarmed woman by the side of the road, or when he is choking an unarmed man to death while the man says over and over and over again that he cannot breathe? What goes through the minds of the other officers on the scene who are pressing the man’s head into the pavement as if the man were not human? What is an officer thinking when he shoots six shots into an unarmed young black man and kills him? What police procedures allow for a body to lie in the streets for hours?

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Grieving and Mourning Israel/Palestine & Communicating Across Differences

Aug26

by: on August 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Israel-Palestine Are you upset about what is happening in Israel/Palestine?

Are you tired of the vitriolic discourse with friends, family members, or on social media?

Do you want to learn skills to communicate compassionately and effectively across differences? Want a safe place to grieve and mourn?

… If so, this workshop is for you.

Come meet others who care deeply about ending the suffering in the Middle East, and learn how to effectively communicate with others with whom you might not agree!

The Network of Spiritual Progressives and Tikkun are offering a four-hour workshop where you willlearn techniques to deal with your distress, rage, and upset about the situation in Israel and Palestine and also have opportunities to learn and practice skills for hearing those who don’t agree with you and expressing yourself more effectively. You will leave feeling empowered to engage in healthy discourse, even with those with whom you disagree.


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What Ella Baker Taught Us About Ferguson And Gaza

Aug26

by: Dorothy M. Zellner on August 26th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Ella Baker

"In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become a part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed."-- Ella Baker Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

In late June I traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, for the fiftieth anniversary of the 1964 Freedom Summer, where some 1,000 of us met after decades and celebrated the heroism of young volunteers and local African Americans who struggled and died for the right to vote. We talked about the way forward to eradicate still-existing racism in the country and we called the names of all our dead, a list of men, women and children whom the nation has never mourned.

As a recruiter for Freedom Summer and staff member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) fifty years ago, I had the honor of being approached by several volunteers whom I had helped select and who told me that going to Mississippi that faraway summer had forever changed their lives.

What propelled me into the civil rights movement in the first place as a young woman was the exhortation I had received from my secular Jewish progressive parents: that it is unethical to stand idly by while people are oppressed and suffering. What SNCC taught me was that I needed to act in my own community. It took me some time to put all of this together but finally, eleven years ago, I went to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza for the first time. Based on what I saw with my own eyes and the anguish I felt in my own heart I became a Jewish activist against Israeli governmental policies of injustice and inequality.


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Constructing God in the Public Sphere

Aug25

by: Ebele Mogo on August 25th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

god religion

The potent possibility of discerning the divine is actually not a closed process but an ongoing negotiation that changes over time Credit: Creative Commons/Aaron Escobar

I once made up a game: what if you could only use a word once in your lifetime and afterward you had to find new ways of expressing the same thought? The first time I could ask you to “come.” The next time I might have to say, “Advance.” “Draw near.” “Move forward.” “Progress in my direction.” The responsibility to find other exacting terms was exciting as it opened up possibilities in the use of language and challenged the brain.

Now imagine applying the rules of that game to the use of the word “God.” Finding other ways to express this word would probably extract what people really mean by it from the shadows. Some may say none, one, or multiple of the following: Judge. Energy. Father. Mother. Creator. Nothingness. Fighter. Defender. Being. Universe. Mystery. Love. The man upstairs. I do not know.

In the case of “God,” the glaring truth is that, within the same word and even within the same religious worldview, there are multiple understandings of what necessarily is an abstract noun, and thus beyond the complete grasp of language.


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Ferguson, Missouri and Beyond Heroes, Holidays, Food, and Festivals

Aug25

by: on August 25th, 2014 | No Comments »

[African Americans are] born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world – a world which yields [them] no true self-consciousness, but only lets [them] see [themselves] through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.

- W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

veil

The veil hanging over African Americans, though, operates like a one-way mirror. They can easily see outward onto white America, and in this way, they develop a a "double consciousness." Credit: Creative Commons/Barbara Eckstein

For DuBois, this “veil” concept can be taken three ways. First, it suggests the literal darker skin of black people, a physical delineation of separation from whiteness.Secondly, the veil suggests white people’s deficiency or inability in seeing African Americans as “true” Americans. And lastly, the veil refers to black peoples’ difficulty under a racist system to see themselves apart from how white people in the United States define and characterize them.

The veil hanging over African Americans, though, operates like a one-way mirror. They can easily see outward onto white America, and in this way, they develop a “double consciousness.” Though not in the truest sense of “bicultural,” African Americans do acquire a realization of “otherness.” For emotional and often physical survival, they must learn how to operate in two societies, one black and one white. White people have no such veil wrapped around them, and the mirror makes it difficult for them to perceive the realities of African Americans.


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