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Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category



Why anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism – but criticising Israel isn’t

May12

by: Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah on May 12th, 2016 | 26 Comments »

The Labour Party has become embroiled in a row about anti-Semitism. Why the row? After all, the Labour Party is committed to challenging racism and anti-Semitism – which is a particular form of racism. It’s a row because the anti-Semitism in question concerns anti-Zionism – and not everybody in the Labour Party agrees that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. At the heart of the current row, a tweet re-tweeted by Labour MP Naz Shah, which suggested that Israel be relocated to the United States. For those who shared the tweet, it seemed fair comment, given the support of the United States for Israel – and the fact that the second largest Jewish population in the world resides in the United States. Of the 14.2 million Jews living in the world today, six million live in Israel and over five million live in the US.

The tweet was anti-Semitic for at least two reasons. Within living memory, the Jewish communities of Europe were made Judenfrei, ‘Jew-free’, or Judenrein, ‘clean of Jews’, as the Jews who lived in them were systematically deported to ghettos, concentration camps and death camps in Eastern Europe. The ghettos themselves, where hundreds of thousands were penned into walled areas of cities, were simply holding places, from which the Jews were sent on to the death camps. After the defeat of Hitler, those who survived became displaced persons, the majority of whom were collected into camps – most notably on Cyprus – with nowhere to go. To suggest that Israel, which became the principal place of refuge for the Jews who survived the Sho’ah, should be relocated elsewhere suggests either an inane forgetfulness or a shocking indifference to the annihilation of six million Jews – at the time, one third of the world Jewish population – which took place in the space of just six years from the onset of the violent persecution of the Jews of Europe on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938.

The tweet was also anti-Semitic in the context of the way in which, again and again, regardless of the oppression of peoples across the world by numberless nations, Israel is singled out for special condemnation because of its on-going oppression of the Palestinians. Where is the protest against the murder of the Tamils by the Sri Lankan regime? Where is the protest against China’s occupation of Tibet? Why is it that these nations and others like them have not been subject to boycott and disinvestment campaigns? Of course, the anti-Palestinian policies of the Israeli government must be challenged, and support must be given to the Palestinian people, in their struggle for self-determination, and the establishment of an independent state of Palestine. Equally, the regimes of China and Sri Lanka should also be challenged, and the Tibetans and Tamils should be supported in their struggles for self-determination.

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Dear Speaker Ryan

May11

by: on May 11th, 2016 | No Comments »

May 12, 2016

Dear Speaker Ryan,

On Thursday, May 12, you are scheduled to meet with Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States. According to reports in the media, the purpose of the meeting is for the two of you to get better acquainted so that you will feel comfortable enough with Mr. Trump that you will endorse his candidacy, unify the Republican Party, and win the presidency as well as down ballot races.

I am writing to encourage you to withhold your endorsement. Please do not put party unity and the will-to-win the next election ahead of the good of the nation.

You have put the party and the next election before the good of the people in the past. When you participated in the 2009 inauguration night conspiracy where you agreed with several GOP leaders in Congress that you would not work with President Obama on ANYTHING, you elevated the politics of obstruction to new heights. Your plan partially worked, and the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives in 2010 and the GOP took control of the senate in 2014. You failed, however, to make President Obama a one-term president.

Despite your efforts, the first two years of the Obama administration were two of the most productive since Franklin Roosevelt. Economic recovery, bank reform, the auto bail-out, and health-care reform passed without your help. Let us give your predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, her due. She was a historic speaker in more than one way. She was both the first woman speaker and one of the most effective.

You apologized for your remarks about poor people during the 2012 presidential campaign. I have been waiting for you to apologize for your participation in the conspiracy. Alas, I continue to live in hope.

Again, I encourage you to withhold your endorsement of Donald Trump. He has run a ridiculous, ignorant, sophomoric, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, crass, no class, vulgar, fact-free campaign. You have had to speak against Trump’s policies on banning Muslims from entering the country and his maybe so, maybe not disavowal of racist support. To endorse him is to endorse his campaign, his style, and his positions.

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Professor Johanna Fernández talks with Tikkun about Mumia, Bernie Sanders, Love, and the Power of Radical Empathy

May11

by: Grace Mungovan on May 11th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

"Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal" by Mumia Abu-Jamal, edited by Johanna Fernandez (City Lights Publishers, 2015).

In honor of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s recent birthday, we here at Tikkun Daily thought we would mark the day by publishing an interview with Johanna Fernández, a professor of History at Baruch College (CUNY) who edited Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal that was published last year.

We caught up with Fernández in February after she, activist Angela Davis, and KPFA host Walter Turner held a public discussion about the book in Oakland. The talk was anchored by discussions of Abu-Jamal and his writing but also expanded on the themes of mass incarceration, systemic racism, class warfare, and the promise of modern social uprisings, through the lens of what they referred to as black radicalism and the black prophetic tradition.

Fernández and Davis describe Abu-Jamal’s work in Writing on the Wall as being measured and reasonable as well as honest, strong, and transparent. They read passages from the book that shared the voice of someone calling upon readers to engage with American history as a history of brutality – an America Abu-Jamal sees as accurately reflected by practices like the torture at Abu Ghraib.

“When will these dismal days of our mind-rending pain, our oppression, our accustomed place on the bottom rung of the human family, end? When will our tomorrows brighten? It will come from ourselves, not from this system. Our tomorrows will become brighter when we scrub the graffiti of lies from our minds, when we open our eyes to the truths that this very system is built not on ‘freedom, justice and brotherhood’ but on slavery, oppression and genocide,” Davis read from the book.

Davis, Fernández, and Abu-Jamal each assert that until the public grapples with this history, the history of oppression and violence that they see as at the core of all systems of power, there will be no meaningful change, and the dignity of all human beings will not be reflected by the governing powers.

Despite Abu-Jamal’s assertion that the only way to live in a just society is through “scrubbing the lies” of a dishonest history from the collective mind and grappling honestly with the violence and conquest at the heart of Western history, Davis and Fernández were clear that this was a man rooted in a deep and abiding sense of love, hope, and what Fernández dubbed “radical empathy.”

This “radical empathy” is Abu-Jamal’s community based counter to what he sees as neoliberal individualism. It is a call for radical global community that acknowledges the intersectionality of oppressions and the common struggle against elites.

Here is our interview with Professor Fernández:

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Building a Progressive Spiritual Movement

May10

by: Cat J. Zavis on May 10th, 2016 | No Comments »

This piece was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Kosmos magazine. It may be found on the Kosmos website here.

 

Let’s Unite Our Efforts and Build a Truly Progressive Spiritual Movement

Thousands of activist groups work to save the environment, address the needs of the homeless and hungry, ensure we have a safe and adequate supply of food and water, and fight racism and economic injustice. Many are making valiant efforts. Yet we continue to see the devastation and destruction of our environment, an increasing divide between the haves and the have-nots, and deepening racial tensions.

I want to explore with you what is missing from the approach of all these wonderful social change efforts and how they can collaborate more cohesively to build a comprehensive movement for social change that could achieve long-term systemic change. But before I jump into this, I need to set forth the problem as I see it.


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Two Events One Hope

May7

by: on May 7th, 2016 | 5 Comments »

Two political events happened this week that made deep connections in my mind, even though they happened continents apart. It’s funny how sometimes the most disparate things make us think philosophical thoughts that interconnect in the most important ways.

Event # 1: Donald Trump gets handed the Republican nominee on a silver platter. I know… who in the world expected this? I have a feeling that even Mr. Trump himself didn’t really think this would happen. Much has been written about the dangerous rhetoric spewed by him and his supporters, and who among us hasn’t wondered what type of people are actually voting for this person? But this current development raises serious questions about a potential change in the Republican party and the future of our country. A man who wins elections based on his promise to deport millions, bar millions more from entering the nation, and punishing innocent people abroad says something not just about himself but about some part of our national psyche. Event #1 has me worried about myself and my children in a very elementary way.


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Trump: The 2016 Election and the Rise of American Fascism

May5

by: Frederic C. Tubach on May 5th, 2016 | 6 Comments »

Editor’s Note: Tikkun does not and cannot endorse or oppose candidates or political parties. We are actively seeking articles in support of any candidate for the US presidency and from any political party.

“Willst Du nicht mein Bruder sein, so schlag’ ich Dir den Schädel ein (If you don’t want to be my brother, I’ll smash your skull in)”

This Brownshirt slogan reflected the mindset of fanatic Nazi supporters, the street thugs who played an important role in helping Hitler destroy democracy in Germany and replace it with absolute power over a disoriented population. This extraordinary transformation took place within a four-month period between November 1932 and March 5,1933, the date of he last free election in Germany. Anyone who has studied this fateful moment in German history cannot fail to notice the similarities with what is currently happening in the United States.

Presidental candidate Donald Trump. Source: Flickr (Gage Skidmore).

In November 1932 the Nazis did well in the elections, but the traditional democratic parties on the right and left believed Hitler’s effectiveness would be short. After all, they reckoned, people would soon unmask the slogans for what they were – empty phrase-mongering. However, and tragically, the insecurity of the populace increased dramatically after the parliament building was burned down on February 28, 1933. A week later the March 5th election swept the Nazis into power thus ending democracy in Germany. The Germans clamored for a strong man with simple ideas who would empower them and free them from the victimhood that would be forced upon them by Soviet communism from the outside and from ineffective party babble on the inside.

American fascism is on the rise under the Trump banner. At first glance this claim may seem exaggerated, because there are no visible swastikas and no head-bashing armed storm troopers, and Trump uses none of Hitler’s hyperventilating antics. But what Trump and Hitler have in common is their approach to politics, which is/was radically new and geared to contemporary problems and uncertainties. The newness in both cases gave these two fascist movements added power at the onset.

The similarity between the two movements is striking when it comes to dealing with those who do not agree with them: dissenters are not just wrong, they are unpatriotic. This kind of fascist patriotism is most effective when expressed through collective action. Three examples will illustrate what I mean.

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Passover, Parenting and Pardons

May2

by: Kathryn Frey-Balter on May 2nd, 2016 | 1 Comment »

This year, I have exhausted Passover’s eight days writing love letters to President Obama.  My letters all close with the same refrain:  “Let my clients GO!”   Is it a prophecy that Passover’s final day – April 30 – coincides with our clemency deadline?

In 2014 the Justice Department announced an Obama initiative to invite inmates with no significant criminal history, a record of good prison conduct, no history of violence before or during the term of incarceration, who have served over ten years on a federal sentence for a non-violent offense to apply for clemency.

Obama’s clemency project seeks to right the wrong.  Some days it feels more like he’s hiding than seeking.

The more the clemency love is withheld, the more singularly determined we become to part the Red Sea of the Pardon Committee.  It started innocently enough – laws in the 1990s aimed at ending the war on drugs.   The inevitable result however, was the mass incarceration of a generation of young people, mostly of color, and not too many degrees of separation from Egypt’s enslaved Jews.  True, Israelites hadn’t profited from kilo quantities of cocaine, but they also hadn’t been born into slavery: the slavery of being in utero addicted to crack, the slavery of poverty, the slavery of, well, a history of slavery and oppression. 

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Let Them Talk: The Piano Prince

May2

by: on May 2nd, 2016 | No Comments »

If I asked you to name a prodigiously talented, extravagantly flamboyant, African American, sexually fluid musician with a body like an exclamation point and a taste for the rococo whose premature death left the world a little grayer, of course you’d say “Prince,”and you’d be right. Or half-right.

Every since Prince’s April 21st death was reported – ever since a tidal wave of mourning began to gather force, leaving testimonies and tributes and tall tales in its wake – I’ve been thinking surfing the Zeitgeist, thinking about James Booker.

If you don’t know Booker’s music or his story, start with the 2013 film Bayou Maharajah (it streams from all the usual sources), which traces the pianist-singer’s life from its 1939 start, his coming up in the home of Baptist-minister parents in Bay St. Louis, Louisiana, to its sad, sorry end in an emergency room waiting-area in New Orleans’ Charity Hospital, where he was born. His story is full of twisted luck and uncanny moments: the film’s sequence where a dozen friends relate contradictory stories of how Booker lost his eye. The sequence where Harry Connick, Jr., demonstrates Booker’s baroquely syncopated piano technique, which Connick as a child studied firsthand (Connick, Sr. was a New Orleans District Attorney who traded Booker a get-out-of-jail-free card for his son’s piano lessons). The sequence where a young guitarist struggling to keep up with Booker onstage describes how the musician maintained his almost unfollowable pace – more notes than any ten fingers could possible play – all the while trying on a succession of glitter-studded eyepatches, hoping to find the one that most appeal to a man in the audience he hoped to attract.

After his 1954 debut as “Little Booker,” he played with just about everybody from Fats Domino to Freddy King, Aretha Franklin, even Ringo Starr and the Doobie Brothers before issuing an amazing string of live and studio albums, many solo. Booker taught Dr. John to play the organ. He studied classical piano as a child. He played a version of “The Minute Waltz” (dubbing it “The Black Minute Waltz”), a ton of standards (I love his “Angel Eyes,” for instance) adaptations of pop songs (Doc Pomus’ “Lonely Avenue”), classic blues like “St. James Infirmary,” and original songs like the mysteriously allusive “Papa Was a Rascal,” opened and closed by these lines:

There was a sweet white woman down in Savanna GA
She made love to my daddy in front of the KKK.

You know we all got to watch out for the CIA.

Booker’s addiction to opiates started in childhood, in the aftermath of a terrible and traumatic auto accident. In 1970, he spent time in Angola for drug possession. The rest of his life he rode a surreal roller-coaster: successful gigs in the U.S. and Europe; throwing it away by ditching recording sessions to get high as soon as he got paid; worshipped by astounded fellow musicians; treated like dirt by every racist, homophobic institution that crossed his path. Knowing how good he was made it all worse. By Booker’s last years, he was seeing the CIA around every corner, tapping into not only his deeds but his thoughts. You can call it paranoia, and it would be hard to argue with that, except to say that the thicket of everyday hostility a black, gay, one-eyed, drug-addicted musician would be expected to hack his way through in mid-twentieth century America could make it very hard to see the world as a welcoming place.

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Dissent and Dissension: Approaching Ultra-Orthodoxy

Apr29

by: Roslyn Bernstein on April 29th, 2016 | No Comments »

Sandra Kahn Wasserman
Jewish Studies Center, Baruch College
Spring 2016 Conference

 

Off the Derech

The program called for an all-day conference, culminating with a keynote address by author Nathan Englander, but my calendar said that I could just squeeze in a noon panel on “The Body and Selfhood: Gender, Identity and Ultra-Orthodoxy.” The panel was moderated by Lani Santo, the Executive Director of Footsteps, the only organization in North America that assists people who wish to leave the ultra-Orthodox community. The panel especially interested me because I had wrestled with that subject for more than two decades and had not come up with any conclusive answers.

My own daughter, now a mother with a with a family of seven, had become Haredi when she was barely twenty, settling in a Haredi community some twenty minutes south of Jerusalem. I had spent years pondering how she got there, moving from her former life as an artsy, Stuyvesant High School young woman who wore two different color socks to a woman who covered her hair with a tichel and wore skirts that scraped the floor.

I sat in the audience awaiting enlightenment. Maybe I could learn something from folks who had moved in the opposite direction.

Ayala Fader, a professor of cultural and linguistic anthropology at Fordham University and the author of Mitzvah Girls, spoke about her new research on Off the Derech (OTD) girls who have lost their faith. Social media, Fader admitted, was playing a significant new challenge in this crisis of emunah (faith). Fader acknowledged that men who have doubts have an easier time than women. Why? Because they have greater mobility and they are better connected. They drive cars and they have smart phones. They go to shul. Women, who lead double lives and are consumed with doubt, have a much harder time. Many fear losing their children.

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Threats to Mother Earth and How to Confront Them

Apr28

by: Leonardo Boff on April 28th, 2016 | No Comments »

There are four threats that our Common Home faces, and which demand from us our special attention.

The first is how in modern times the Earth is viewed as an object of ruthless exploitation, seeking only the greatest profits, without regard to life or purpose. This vision, that has brought undeniable benefits, has also created a dis-equilibrium in all the ecosystems, which has caused the present generalized ecological crisis. With that vision entire nations were destroyed, as in Latin America, where the Atlantic jungles, and, in part, the Amazon rain forests, have been devastated.

In January 2015, 18 scientists published in the well known magazine Science, a study on   “The planetary limits: a guide for a human development on a planet in mutation”. They enumerated 9 fundamental aspects for the continuity of life. Among them were climate equilibrium, maintenance of bio-diversity, preservation of the ozone layer, and control of acidity of the oceans. All of these aspects are in a state of decline. But two, that they call the “fundamental limits”, are the most degraded: through climate change and the extinction of species. The breakdown of these two fundamental frontiers can cause the collapse of our civilization.

In this context, to care for the Earth means that to the conquest paradigm, that devastates nature, we must oppose the paradigm of caring, that protects nature. The paradigm of caring cures old wounds and prevents future wounds. Caring leads us to live in harmony with all the other beings and to respect the rhythms of nature. We must produce what we need to live, but carefully, within the tolerable limits of each region and the riches of each ecosystem. 

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