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Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category



Israel: Stop the Invasion of Gaza, Stop the Bombing of Gaza, Free the Palestinian Prisoners

Jul21

by: on July 21st, 2014 | 19 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons/blhphotography

According to Ha’aretz correspondent Amira Hass, the IDF has been conducting mass arrests in the West Bank, between ten and thirty every day. Twenty-four of the arrested are members of the Palestinian parliament from Hamas’ Change and Reform party. The number of those arrested since the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens already exceeds 1,000. The Palestinians are convinced that most of those detained have nothing to do with the kidnapping of the teens and that these are mainly political arrests for purposes of intimidation and revenge.

This senseless imprisonment is just the tip of the iceberg. Tens of thousands of young Palestinian men have experienced arrest, torture, loss of employment, and have been unable to protect their parents, partners, and friends from arbitrary and repressive treatment from the Israeli Defense Force Occupation forces. The surprising thing is that despite this inhumane and emasculating treatment, few Palestinians have engaged in acts of violence or desperation.

I’ve argued that acts of desperation can be self-destructive. Many Palestinians will suffer for the acts of the few Palestinian Hamas extremists. But since Hamas activists have come to believe that even if they do nothing they will still be targeted, some are saying that acting out violently against the Occupation is the only thing that can restore their dignity, since nothing will restore their land. I think that this mentality is a mistake for Gaza and the West Bank. Sometimes I think that Hamas doesn’t really even care for its own citizens in Gaza – they care more about showing that non-violence will never work to challenge Israel’s occupation, and they are willing to let the people of Gaza pay the price. Namely, the invasion of Gaza by the Israeli army with the inevitable consequence of many more deaths than the 220 Palestinians already killed in the past two weeks. And yet, it is hard to deny that the Israeli Occupation is so repressive and dishonoring of Palestinians that some young men have taken to violence, while others see those kinds of acts as the only things that can momentarily give relief from the emotional depression that years under Occupation generates. Yet the violence against Israeli civilian targets has pushed the politics of Israel even further to the Right.

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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 | 8 Comments »

(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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“What If They Gave a War and Nobody Came?”: The Israeli and Palestinian Conflict

Jul21

by: on July 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

I keep hearing in the press and in popular discourse about the “two sides” in the Middle East conflict, with the sides being the Palestinians and the Israelis. I understand that there are indeed a number of “sides,” but I believe that the Palestinian people and the Israeli people are generally on the same side.

I do not see the two opposing sides being the Palestinian people versus the Israeli people. Rather, the opposing sides represent many of the leaders verses the peace loving Israelis and Palestinians who truly want to live in harmony with one another.

Many of the Israeli leaders desire to maintain and expand current borders and territories and to impose harsh penalties (for example the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza) upon the Palestinian people, which has resulted in a great humanitarian crisis, while the Palestinian leaders, primarily members of Hamas, vow to destroy the Jews, fire rockets on Israeli civilians, and are committed to forcing all Jews into the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, those who want peace are being held hostage by their leaders.

I visited Jerusalem last year, and I talked with Israelis and Palestinians who truly desire peace, who truly desire an era in which they can live alongside one another in trust and in harmony, but they are feeling that the continuing politics of hate and fear, war, and division are preventing this peaceful coexistence.

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A Prayer for Peace

Jul21

by: on July 21st, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Avinu ve’ emoteynu sheh ba shamayim, tzur Yisra’el ve’ go’aloe

Our Father and Mother energies in the cosmos, the rock of Israel and our salvation,

Credit: Creative Commons

Bless all the peoples of the Middle East with peace, security, environment sanity, and a sense of being genuinely cared for by the world and by the God/dess of all flesh, however they conceive of this God or Goddess, whatever names or language they give to the ULTIMATE SOURCE OF LOVE AND MEANING IN THE UNIVERSE.

In this hour of war, violence, and pain, we reaffirm the humanity and decency of all the people on our planet, and our ability to see the humanity and God-presence in the Palestinian people, the Israeli people, and all people on the planet. We understand that each of the many sides of the conflicts tearing our world apart today have their own legitimacy, but we also know that violence cannot be the path to a peaceful and safe world. We may be outraged at the behavior of governments, political parties, or groups acting in hurtful ways, but we will not accept any attempt to generalize that righteous indignation into generalities about all people of a certain nation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other such grouping.

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Setting Aside Your Humanity To Cheer “Team Israel”

Jul21

by: on July 21st, 2014 | 5 Comments »

I am not especially bothered by right-wingers who defend Israel’s indefensible onslaught against Gaza. Right-wingers who supported the Vietnam war (if they were around then) or the Iraq war, the people who want to go to war with Russia now. I get that. Right-wingers (think John McCain) like war and view it as sport; their side is always right.

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Not in My Name, Netanyahu

Jul20

by: on July 20th, 2014 | 15 Comments »

As I write these words, my hands tremble from the unspeakable images and stories I’ve witnessed in Gaza. They tremble with worry that those young Israeli soldiers losing their lives, casualties in a war they did not create, will be among those families I know, and that their numbers will grow.

My hands also tremble because, during all this, Israel’s leader – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – has repeatedly claimed to represent me, and all Jews, as Israel continues its brutal assault on Gaza, an assault which, as history shows, will neither achieve its strategic goals nor reap anything but heartache.

No, he does not speak for me.

When Netanyahu said on CNN that Palestinians benefit from “telegenically dead” civilians killed by Israel, that images of carnage helped Hamas because journalists would then ask about Israel’s actions, he did not speak for me.

A doctor cries while standing among the bodies of dead children at Shifa Hospital's overflowing morgue. [Note: journalists have captured countless disturbing images today, though I've chosen not to show them here.


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Belonging, Purpose, Pleasure

Jul20

by: on July 20th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

I’ve been trying to find the right words.I think they might be “belonging,” purpose,” and “pleasure.”

Remember in the first Clinton campaign, when the candidate became famous for a sign that summed up the essence of his message: “It’s the economy, stupid”? I’ve been trying to find a few words that do that for the big message I feel impelled to put out into the world.

Here’s what I keep coming back to: It’s all about belonging. We want to be seen and known. We want to be acknowledged for our place in the community and our contributions to it. We want to feel connected and respected. We want to see ourselves in sites of public memory; to know our histories are not forgotten; to have a stake in our common future.

Credit: Creative Commons

This is a world of multiple participation, multiple belonging. None of us is encompassed by one type of belonging. For many people, the core of belonging is about a specific place on the land. If that doesn’t matter to you as intensely as it matters to my friends who grew up on ancestral lands in Indian Country or Appalachia, for instance, consider how much it matters to those you hear about in the heartbreaking news from Gaza.

Belonging is plain language for “cultural citizenship,” in which everyone feels at home and welcomed in his or her own community, in which the connection, acknowledgement, and respect I just enumerated are fulfilled.Our need for social healing can be seen in the vast numbers who have the legal status of citizens, yet lack full cultural citizenship because those with more social and economic power treat them as inferior (or at least dismissible), devaluing their contributions, reinforcing a state of otherness with material and spiritual consequences that are the opposite of belonging.


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Israel’s Ugly War Of Choice

Jul19

by: on July 19th, 2014 | 34 Comments »

Listening to Netanyahu’s defenders in the media (and that is pretty much all you get as objective reporters are yanked off the air), I’m struck by how Americans are indoctrinated into ignoring the most significant fact about Gaza.

It is under Israeli occupation (now called blockade) and has been since 1967.

That is the cause of the “war.” Yes, Israel has the “right” to defend itself but Palestinians have the “right” to resist occupation. Those conflicting rights are leading to perdition and, in my opinion, the loss of the Israel many of us have loved and identified with our entire lives.

Credit: Flickr Charity Organisation

The oft-proclaimed Gaza withdrawal was a fraud. Although Israel pulled the settlers out, it has maintained a blockade of Gaza ever since, blocking its air, sea, and land borders, locking its people in a giant prison.

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Speak Up

Jul18

by: Roni Krouzman on July 18th, 2014 | 24 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons/eddiedangerous

Speak up. You, of Jewish faith or heritage, however religious or however secular, now is the time to speak up.

Speak up because you cannot stand by and watch and do nothing while a military acting in the name of your people destroys the cities and homes and clinics and mosques of a people who have already suffered far too much.

Speak up because you can’t stomach seeing another sweet little girl lying in a hospital bed, bandaged because a missile bought with your tax dollars hit her home.

Speak up because you can’t sit idly by while images of grieving mothers cascade across your television screen, yet again tonight. Speak up because you don’t want to see yet another picture of a crowd of Palestinian civilians surrounding a home in ruins.

Even if you aren’t sure what the answer is, speak up. Even if you don’t know ‘enough’ about what’s happening, speak up. Even if you doubt it will make a difference, speak up.

Yes, you may piss your family off. Yes, some friends may condemn you. But many people will also honor your courage and your heart. And besides, we’re Jews, we know how to argue and it won’t kill us.

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Why Israel Is a Progressive Issue, Not a Fringe U.S. Foreign Policy Matter

Jul18

by: on July 18th, 2014 | 12 Comments »

As a Jew, I admit to being uniquely invested in what’s occurring in Israel and Gaza – an investment sometimes cited to paint political discourse on Israel as niche. However, as an American citizen and a self-avowed progressive, I not only reject such notions, but hold that Israel is a core progressive issue which demands our broad attention.

There are many arguments made amongst progressives which seek to deflect discourse on Israel, and which echo arguments made across the political spectrum. Two of these arguments I’d like to counter below in an effort to show why Israel indeed stands as a principle progressive issue.

1) Why Single Out Israel?

One of the most consistent arguments I encounter for why Israel need not be discussed prominently is one I would categorize as a red herring. Here is how the argument goes: yes, horrible things are happening to the Palestinians, but there’s a lot of bad in the world. Try focusing on Syria or Russia or Sudan for once.

This sort of logic simply doesn’t hold any weight. Would I be unjustified in writing about water shutoffs in Detroit (as I’ve done) when land grabs in Africa are intensifying water scarcity crises for local communities? Of course I would.

It is impossible for me, or anyone else, to tackle an issue of importance without being presented with a myriad of other issues worthy of focus. But that’s the nature of taking any moral stand or championing any cause: it is done knowing selectivity is inherent, natural and unavoidable.

Mehdi Hasan, political director for The Huffington Post (UK), put it most articulately when he wrote regarding his publication’s current focus on Israel, Palestine and the intense suffering in Gaza:

On what grounds did we “single out” apartheid South Africa in the 1980s for condemnation and boycott? Weren’t there other, more dictatorial regimes in Africa at the time, those run by black Africans such as Mengistu in Ethiopia or Mobutu in Zaire? Did we dare excuse the crimes of white Afrikaners on this basis?

Taking a moral stand inevitably requires us to be selective, specific and, yes, even inconsistent.


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