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Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category



Liberals Are the Future of America

Apr18

by: James A. Haught on April 18th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

In the chaotic presidential campaign, the remarkable popularity of Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders spotlights a large, not-always-recognized vein of liberal political sympathy in America.

Suddenly, the L-word is popular again — not an embarrassment to be avoided. That’s great, I think, because progressives have been the driving force behind most social improvements in western civilization.

Look at the historical record:  In the three centuries since The Enlightenment, democracy, human rights, personal liberties and family wellbeing have blossomed.  Life gradually became more decent and humane.  Virtually all the advances were won by reform-minded liberals who defeated conservatives defending former hierarchies, privileges and inequalities. 

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Passover and Earth Day: 10 Plagues of Fossil Fuels

Apr18

by: Dan Brook on April 18th, 2016 | No Comments »

(Source: Eric Kounce)

Creation is being replaced with destruction. As Jews, we are tasked with remembering, conserving, pursuing peace and justice. On this first night of Passover 5776, which is also Earth Day 47, we recount 10 of the plagues of fossil fuels, which are negatively affecting all countries and most species.

1. oil drilling and coal mining
2. fracking
3. gas guzzling
4. subsidizing fossil fuels and oil corporations
5. overuse of plastics
6. wasting energy
7. using a finite resource as if it’s infinite
8. not putting a price on carbon
9. not boldly transitioning to safe, clean, renewable energies
10. condemning our children and their children and future generations to a world of climate chaos

We can no longer be fossil fools for cheap energy with high eco-costs to satisfy greed and the idolatry of profit. We should no longer be enslaved by the pharaohs of environmental destruction and their doomsday cult.

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Tikkun’s Passover Liberation Seder Haggadah Supplement

Apr15

by: on April 15th, 2016 | No Comments »

"The Seder Table" by Lynne Feldman (lynnefeldman.com)

We are proud to present to you Tikkun magazine’s Passover Liberation Seder Haggadah Supplement, which you will find at the top of our home page tikkun.org or by going to tikkun.org/nextgen/passover2016.

Feel free to download and print it out and/or to use any part of it in your Passover Seder or any other liberation-oriented celebration. It’s not just for Jews, as you’ll see if you read through it. Share it with your friends, place it on your website and send it out on Facebook or other social media!! You don’t have to believe in God or be Jewish to get a lot out of just reading this supplement to the traditional Passover Haggadah. And let me know after you’ve used it what parts worked for you or your family or your friends and what parts didn’t so we can modify it for future use.

And have a joyous holiday celebration! Many blessings to our many friends and readers!
–Rabbi Michael Lerner (RabbiLerner.Tikkun@gmail.com)

An Open Letter to Carlos Santana: Don’t Play in Israel in July

Apr14

by: on April 14th, 2016 | 33 Comments »

Dear Carlos,

We have met several times before, in a very different era, when Nelson Mandela was still in prison, and then again when Apartheid had just ended and the world seemed so full of hope, including in Israel and the Occupied Territories. The first time we met was at a mid-1980s concert of yours at The Pier in New York City, when you let my friend and I climb on stage and hang a huge banner we’d made calling for freedom for Nelson Mandela. Later, when we met at Woodstock ’94 and had lunch together before your show (I was there helping direct the house band of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe), we talked about how beautiful it was that banner was no longer needed, and hoped that the world would keep moving towards the peace, love and humanity your music has always represented.

When I helped arrange and perform on Ozomatli’s 2005 Grammy-winning album Street Signs, bringing together Moroccan Gnawa legend Hassan Hakmoun and French Jewish Gypsy band Les yeux noirs with Ozo, it was your amazing collaborations with other artists that inspired me. Perhaps most important, my lifelong commitment to human rights, from setting up a college chapter of Amnesty International to working with the global anti-music censorship organization Freemuse, emerged out of your honesty and spirit of love and commitment to social justice and human rights globally.

It’s no understatement to say that I cannot imagine my life as a musician, professor, human rights activist or father without you and your inspiration. And so, with the profoundest possible respect and belief in the rights of all peoples to have their full measure of justice, peace, self-determination and freedom, I am begging you: Please don’t perform in Israel this July.

I write these words with a very heavy heart. I’ve lived, studied and worked in Israel most of my adult life. The first language I ever dreamed in besides English was Hebrew. The greatest music I’ve ever played has come from there, and I enjoy nothing more than working with the many Israeli artists I’ve come to know and respect. However, none of this holds a candle to the suffering of the Palestinian people, which I have seen up close time and time again for the last 25 years. Carlos, you don’t have to believe me, talk with Archbishop Tutu, who I’m sure you know and can easily reach. As he wrote in 2010: “I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.” The next year Bishop Tutu came out in support for BDS, as I urge you to do now.

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Freedom University: Students & Allies Fight for Access & Education in Georgia’s Public Colleges

Apr12

by: Sagiv Galai on April 12th, 2016 | No Comments »

“Undocumented—Unafraid! Undocumented—Unafraid!”

After a 14-hour classroom sit-in, Freedom University students and allies refuse to leave Georgia State University during the #Greensboro Now action. Eight students were arrested on charges of criminal trespassing. February 2, 2016. Photo: Laura Emiko Soltis.

Such is the slogan that has been galvanized by this nation’s immigrant youth movement. It has been heard in the hallways of Congress, it has been invoked in Miami, throughout California, and for years it has been chanted in the streets of Atlanta.

In order to fight what activists refer to as The Ban: a policy of modern segregation that prohibits access for undocumented students in public universities, undocumented students have been oscillating between the streets and the classrooms, issuing their demands in both forums. The Ban, encapsulated in policies 4.1.6 and 4.3.4 enacted by the Georgia Board of Regents in 2011, stipulates that individuals who are not “lawfully present” in Georgia cannot qualify for in-state tuition in Georgia’s university system, nor can they qualify for admittance in Georgia’s top-five public universities.

The discriminatory impact of the Board’s policies also entailed an unintended consequence. Almost immediately after it was instituted, a hub of resistance and education emerged—Freedom University Georgia.

In this underground and un-accredited institution, the premise of education is its direct relationship to the students’ political environment. Beyond workshops in essay composition, tutoring, photography, graphic design, a critical history of the United States (as inspired by the late-Professor Zinn), or their A Cappella ensemble, the students of Freedom U. focus on crafting resistance strategies to The Ban and on expanding their network of artists, lawyers, veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, former and current politicians, professors, student-allies, and local activists.

During the last five years, as the student activists disseminated their message throughout their community and the nation, a coalition of Freedom U. chapters has emerged in different colleges around Georgia, California and the North East. The network depends on connections that are made between institutions and students, as the Atlanta immigrant youth movement’s focus is access to education and the abolition of admissions policies that discriminate based on the applicant’s immigration status.

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Israeli Religious Freedom and the Need for American Voices

Apr12

by: Jeremy Sher on April 12th, 2016 | 5 Comments »

One point of agreement between American liberal Jews and their Israeli Reform and Conservative counterparts is the need for equal rights for Orthodox, secular, and liberal Jews in Israel.  We agree, as Union for Reform Judaism head Rick Jacobs put it in a speech after the Israeli government agreed to construct a space for egalitarian prayer at the Kotel (Western Wall), on “being for an israel that is inclusive, that is pluralistic,” and the Kotel is a powerful symbol of that.

The Kotel (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Askii)

The Kotel agreement “would not have happened had it not been for strong, growing pressure from American Jewry,” says Rabbi Uri Regev, president of the Israeli religious-equality organization Hiddush, in The New York Times.  But the Kotel is not our Israeli liberal friends’ top priority.  As symbolically important as the Kotel may be to American Jews, Israelis suffer tangibly in their daily lives from government policies that unjustly favor Orthodoxy.

Until I spent a year in Tel Aviv as part of my rabbinic training, I had no idea how hard it is to be a Reform Jew in Israel.  During my year in Israel, I learned how our people can’t get to our synagogues because (unlike Orthodox Jews) we only have one or two synagogues in any city, and the buses don’t run on Shabbat.  (Which, by the way, is not for any shortage of secular Jewish or Arab drivers who could use a job.)  Each week I baked a cake or two for my Reform synagogue in my toaster-oven, so that people would stay to socialize after services, and I spent the whole year hiding my cakes from the kashrut enforcers, who would be sure to find something wrong with the kitchen of the hotel we met in if a Reform congregation stepped out of line.  I learned how Israeli Jews can’t get married in Israel without the permission of the ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate — heterosexual and same-sex couples alike.  I learned that there is a whole industry of “wedding tours” whereby Israeli couples escape ultra-Orthodox control by flying to Cyprus for a day.  (Trivia question I’ll answer in the comments: why do you think the homepage of weddingtours.co.il is in Russian?)  In a Jewish democracy, citizens shouldn’t have to fly elsewhere to get married.

Whether it be the rush of pro-Israel rhetoric touting Israel as a principled democracy, or whether it be the language barrier causing different conversations to happen in Hebrew than in English, we Americans too often miss our Israeli compatriots’ suffering.  This isn’t about right and left; it’s about right and wrong.  Israel was founded as a haven for all Jews.  To the extent we are Zionist, American Reform and Conservative Jews can ill afford to let Israel become a haven for Orthodoxy only.

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Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

Apr11

by: on April 11th, 2016 | 10 Comments »

If you grew up in the inner city in the 1970s and 1980s and were a hippie, black or latino–never mind a hippie who spent most of his time with blacks and latinos–chances are you had occasion to call a police officer a “pig.” Real pigs are actually kind of nice, as Charlotte’s Web, the movieBabeand the fact that people keep them as pets attests.

But at least in places like Paterson, NJ, Harlem or the Lower East Side, cops seemed to behave with regularity the way people generally imagine pigs to be: dirty–as in corrupt, gluttonous–as in often overweight and also corrupt, sniffing into people’s business, and often running amok in the communities they were supposed to “protect and serve.”

Sadly, the rise of Black Lives Matter and the ongoing police brutality and corruption it’s brought to light reminds us that things haven’t changed too much. Is calling a cop a pig today a sign of bigotry or prejudice? Or can the insult, however crude, reflect a reality that needs to be highlighted?

I raise these questions because at its last meeting the Regents of the University of California approved a new Principles of Intolerance which, despite the ongoing epidemic of sexual assaults on UC campuses, decreasing of our pensions, weakening of health care benefits, lowering of educational quality and rise in tuition, focuses on the alleged plight of one of the least vulnerable groups at UC by most measures (including UC’s own “Campus Climate” report) – Jewish students.

As word leaked of the language being considered for the final version of the Principles, which would have explicitly equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism an international uproar ensued that condemned the equation as historically ill-informed and empirically wrong much if not most of the time (to cite the most obvious problem, Jews themselves have been and continue to be anti-Zionist).

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What Will We Do if Trump Is the Next President?

Apr8

by: on April 8th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Dorothy Thompson in 1920

In late 1931, Dorothy Thompson, then one of the US’s most respected foreign correspondents, interviewed Adolf Hitler. She spoke of “the startling insignificance of this man.” Although she could foresee the possibility that he would create a coalition government with centrist politicians, she nonetheless said: “it is highly improbable that in this case he will succeed in putting through any of his more radical plans.” Within a year of the article’s publication, he began doing exactly that. In 1934, after writing many articles against Hitler and exposing the reign of terror he instituted, she was the first foreign correspondent to be expelled from Nazi Germany.[Source]

In 1922, when Italy’s king reluctantly invited Mussolini to form a government after the liberal prime minister resigned, he didn’t imagine that Mussolini would dismantle democratic institutions and establish a dictatorship that would last about twelve years. He and his advisors apparently were hoping that Mussolini’s popularity within the military might support them in their attempt to “restore law and order in the country, but failed to foresee the danger of a totalitarian evolution.”[Source]

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The Case of Soldier A

Apr8

by: Uri Avnery on April 8th, 2016 | 5 Comments »

IT SEEMS that everything possible has already been said, written, proclaimed, asserted and denied about the incident that is rocking Israel.

Everything except the main point.

THE INCIDENT revolves around “the Soldier of Hebron”. Military censorship does not allow him to be called by his name. He may be called “Soldier A”.

It happened in the Tel Rumaida neighborhood of the occupied South West Bank town of Hebron, where a group of super-extreme right-wing settlers live in the midst of some 160,000 Palestinians and are heavily protected by the Israeli army. Violent incidents abound.

On the day in question, two local Palestinians attacked some soldiers with knives. Both were shot on the spot. One of them was killed, the other was severely wounded and was lying on the ground.

The place was full of people. Medics were tending to the wounded soldier (but not the Palestinian), several officers and soldiers were standing around, together with some of the settlers.

After six minutes Soldier A appeared on the scene. He looked around for 4 minutes, then approached the wounded assailant and coolly shot him dead with a bullet to the head from close up. The autopsy showed that this was indeed the shot that killed the Palestinian.

As a finale, the camera clip shows Soldier A shaking hands with one of the settlers, the infamous Baruch Marzel, a leader of the outlawed party of the late Meir Kahane, who was designated by the Supreme Court as a fascist.  

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Agenda 21 for Culture

Apr8

by: on April 8th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Ed Carroll, a friend in Europe, sent me a query:”How come there was not one mayor in the USA that was prompted to submit an application to the Agenda 21 for culture? … The absence on the Map is quite extraordinary.”

My reply? “What a good question!”

“The map” is a graphic on the international award page for cities and regional and local governments that have adopted cultural policies “linking the values of culture (heritage, diversity, creativity and transmission of knowledge) with democratic governance, citizen participation and sustainable development.”

This time around, 83 cities and local governments submitted proposals.As you will see when you click on the map, not a single one came from the United States.

You could say this is unsurprising, since no U.S.-based local government association takes part in the sponsoring organization, the committee on culture of the world association of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), “the global platform of cities, organizations and networks to learn, to cooperate and to launch policies and programmes on the role of culture in sustainable development.” Its mission is “to promote culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development through the international dissemination and the local implementation of Agenda 21 for culture.”

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