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Archive for the ‘War & Peace’ Category



A Challenge to the Jewish Mainstream: Will You Stand Against Islamophobia?

Apr17

by: Alex Kane on April 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

What’s the ideology undergirding opposition to the construction of mosques in the United States? How are anti-Muslim groups funded? How have Jewish groups reacted when confronted with issues like the proposed construction of the Park51 Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York City?

bookElly Bulkin and Donna Nevel answer these questions and more in their new book Islamophobia and Israel, a sobering analysis of the Jewish establishment’s dalliance with anti-Muslim bigotry.

Based on a series of articles that I had the pleasure of editing before their initial publication on AlterNet, Bulkin and Nevel’s book takes a close look back at the summer of 2010, when the flames of anti-Muslim bigotry were fanned with vigor. It had been nine years after the September 11, 2001, attacks by a group of Islamic fundamentalists. But Islamophobia – collective animus targeting all Muslims – was still ingrained into swathes of the American body politic. And the Park51 Islamic center was exploited to bring that bigotry to the surface.

When anti-Muslim bloggers like Pamela Geller first started railing against Park51, the name of the planned mosque and community center a few blocks away from Ground Zero, not many people noticed. But in a matter of months, concern over what was dubbed the “Ground Zero mosque” migrated from the fever swamps of Islamophobic blogs to Fox News. Then the rest of the mainstream press started paying attention. Ugly protests broke out. Heated debate captured the airwaves. The majority of Americans said they opposed the mosque.

The Jewish community was split on the issue. But the voice that captured the most attention was the Anti-Defamation League, a thoroughly mainstream group that calls itself the “nation’s premier civil rights” group. On July 28, 2010, the group issued a statement calling for the planned mosque to be moved away from the World Trade Center site, a rationale that only makes sense if you blame all Muslims for 9/11. With that statement, the ADL joined the likes of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Marvin Hier, who said that Park51 was insensitively being built at the “wrong location.”

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America’s Fork in the Road: Endless War or Democratic Reform?

Apr16

by: on April 16th, 2014 | 9 Comments »

Today, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, issued the following statement about NATO’s military response to increased Russian government manuevering in eastern Ukraine:

Today, we agreed on a package of further military measures to reinforce our collective defence and demonstrate the strength of Allied solidarity.

We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water, and more readiness on the land (read boots on the ground).

For example, air policing aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region. Allied ships will deploy to the Baltic Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, as required. Military staff from Allied nations will deploy to enhance our preparedness, training and exercises. Our defence plans will be reviewed and reinforced.

We will start to implement these measures straight away. More will follow, if needed, in the weeks and months to come.

The NATO Secretary General’s announcement will be music to the ears of those who have been calling for more U.S. troop deployments to eastern Europe in response to Putin’s provocations. Last month in the National Interest magazine, for example, Dick Kirckus, a former “Chair of Warfighting Strategy at the U.S. Marine Corps University” wrote:

Today, the most vulnerable members of NATO in the East Baltic Sea region share a common border with Russia and desperately want American boots on the groundnot combat engineers constructing an antimissile system in Poland to evaporate Iranian rocketsto deter a reckless Russian military provocation. The prospect that U.S. troops will die should Russian troops cross their borders will give meaning to Washington’s pledge to honor Article Five guarantees. After all, the Americans have demonstrated on numerous occasions that if challenged, they will fight.

Got that? No mere missiles and rockets will suffice to deter Putin, only people willing to sacrifice their lives in European military chess matches will be enough to deter Putin’s westward aggression. The glaring flaw in Kirckus’ thesis is that Americans of our generation have by no means demonstrated a willingness to fight and die in pointless wars. On 9/11 our nation was attacked by a ruthless criminal gang, which for a period of time found sanctuary under the ragtag rule of the Taliban. Eventually, most Americans, as evidenced by their refusal to enlist in the military, came to see the demise of the Taliban’s governance and going after the terrorists as the appropriate response to those horrific attacks on our own country; to shed our own blood in pointless wars, most Americans have concluded, is wrong.

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Regular Citizens Should Decide Who Gets to Be a Military Officer, Not Professional Warmongers

Apr14

by: on April 14th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

The U.S. needs a defense apparatus, not a taxpayer-funded culture of death. Credit: Creative Commons

The New York Times has published a chilling article about the greatest anxiety for this year’s West Point graduates: the newly-commissioned officers won’t get to see any combat action, owing to the end of the Iraq war and the winding-down Afghanistan war. Times reporters Tom Shanker and Helene Cooper write:

For as much as military commanders will publicly say differently, men and women with combat experience are bound to be taken more seriously in today’s military than those without it, defense experts say.

The last time this happened was after a different war, Vietnam, and in an Army different from today’s volunteer and more career-oriented force. But even after Vietnam, the return to peace came with unexpected anxieties.

“As Vietnam was winding down, young officers were begging to go there so they could get the coveted combat infantry badge,” said Col. Robert Killebrew, a defense expert at the Center for a New American Security in Washington and a Vietnam veteran. “It’s not so much a thirst for glory as a professional impulse. When you’re a soldier, if the game is going to be played, you want to be there.”

That’s right, these young men actually want wars to continue – not to end wars which is what most people want – so they can get their ribbons, medals and badges of honor which will help them advance their military careers, which begs the question: Why the heck are we, the American people, continuing to enable these people who are quite obviously willing to embroil our country in wars for their own personal glory?

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In One Word: Poof!

Apr11

by: Uri Avnery on April 11th, 2014 | No Comments »

Poor John Kerry. This week he emitted a sound that was more expressive than pages of diplomatic babble.

In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee he explained how the actions of the Israeli government had torpedoed the “peace process”. They broke their obligation to release Palestinian prisoners, and at the same time announced the enlargement of more settlements in East Jerusalem. The peace efforts went “poof”.

“Poof” is the sound of air escaping a balloon. It is a good expression, because the “peace process” was from the very beginning nothing more than a balloon full of hot air. An exercise in make-believe.

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“In Every Generation…” How Mainstream Approaches to Passover Lock Shut the Jewish Imagination

Apr11

by: Robert Cohen on April 11th, 2014 | No Comments »

For our Passover meal this year (Monday 14 April) I have a fifth question and answer to add to the traditional quartet of the Ma Nishtanah.

Why is this night different from all other nights?

seder plate

A seder plate. Credit: Creative Commons/Gwen Harlow.

Because on this night we make a meal, literally and metaphorically, of our unique story. Via mouthfuls of bitter herbs, salt water, nuts and raisins mixed with wine, and unleavened bread, we promote the damaging mindset that tells us that we are the world’s eternal victims.

I expect an immediate challenge to my liturgical liberties.

“Enough already with your iconoclastic itch! How can you say such things? Surely, Passover is the quintessential expression of our physical and spiritual liberation. Hasn’t the escape of the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery become the biblical paradigm of freedom from oppression that has brought hope to countless peoples across the centuries?”

I know, I know. But my fifth question and answer is true none the less. This is the night when we are most at risk from locking shut the Jewish capacity for empathy and blinding ourselves to the suffering of others – most notably, the Palestinians.

There will be some around the Seder table who will resent me wanting to recount the woes of another people (“the Palestinians for heaven’s sake!”) rather than those of my own kith and kin.

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The Art of Revolution: The River and the Sea, A Documentary Play by Danny Bryck

Apr10

by: on April 10th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

When it comes to Israel/Palestine, Actor and Writer Danny Bryck isn’t the first to consider this question: “When everyone tells a different story, how do we tell the truth?” He may, however, be the first to work so hard to hear quite so many different stories that come from the thin strip of land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

In his documentary play The River and The Sea, which recently had a staged reading at The New Repertory Theatre in Boston as part of the “Next Voices” playwriting fellowship, Bryck uses transcriptions of interviews that he completed with individuals from all over Israel and the West Bank to create nearly sixty separate characters who represent everyone he met there, from a young soldier in Tel Aviv, to an Eritrean refugee, to a young mother in Gaza. Through these, and many more diverse characters, he gives voice to the vast cross-section of people who call Israel/Palestine home.

Photo Courtesy of New Repertory Theatre

Bryck initially went to Israel on a Birthright trip, but instead of returning home when the trip ended, he stayed on in the Middle East and set out on a three-month-long adventure with the goal of interviewing as many varied people as possible in order to begin the process of writing a play. He wanted to get a more nuanced and deeper version of the narratives in this part of the world, and so, through friends, friends of friends, various organizations, and even through talking to strangers, Bryck found himself having opportunities that no guided tour could or would ever provide.

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews Draw the Line

Apr4

by: Ronnie Barkan and Joshua Tartakovsky on April 4th, 2014 | 28 Comments »

A recent law obligating military service on religious Yeshiva students reveals the inherent flaw in Israel’s claim to be Jewish

An earlier version of this article has appeared on AlterNet

Prime Minister David Cameron got more than he expected at the Israeli Knesset in his last visit, receiving a cold shoulder from ultra-Orthodox and Palestinian legislators who share common interests, being the state’s most oppressed communities. Cameron’s visit to the Knesset took place on the same day that two controversial laws, the Conscription Law and the Governability Law, were finally approved following a prolonged legislative battle. As Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed the guest of honour the ultra-Orthodox parliamentariansleft the plenary session in protest while their colleagues, Palestinian Members of the Knesset, refused to attend the event altogether. This was the culmination point of several months of heated protest over the Conscription Law which brought to the surface contradictions between Zionism and Judaism.

Hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim) of all denominations took to the streets of Jerusalem to oppose the draft law several days before its legislation. In a mass prayer, the worshippers-protesters declared their faithfulness to Torah study rather than to the military. United under the banner declaring that “the State of Israel is fighting against the Kingdom of Heaven” they held signs stating that military draft is a spiritual suicide. The event was not merely an opposition to the law but nothing short of a battle cry against the very legitimacy of a state that encroaches upon their spiritual autonomy and poses a danger to their religious liberty.

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Another Way of Seeing The Ukraine

Mar26

by: on March 26th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

We all long for mutual recognition, to see one another with full presence as I and Thou. This longing is in the heart of every living being in Russia, in the Crimea, and in the Ukraine. But we are also conditioned within long histories of relationships suffused with fear of the other. And one form of these conditioned identities is identification with ethnicity, sometimes also expressed through identification with nation-states. In the introduction to my book Another Way of Seeing and in several essays in my earlier book The Bank Teller, I refer to these “national” identities as “imaginary” in the sense that people develop a hyper-identification with national identity in proportion to the absence of an ability to experience the there-ness of the person right next to them, in proportion to their fear of the actual other.

Police create a barricade against anti-governmental protesters in Kiev, Ukraine. Credit: Creative Commons/Sasha Maksymenko.

At the same time, these very ethnic and national identifications are carriers of what connection there is–the forms of sensual and connotative (through language) bonding that manifest the really existing forms of recognition and realization of our social being. Thus the rituals of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Russia are simultaneously bonding expressions of spiritual community, and also patriarchal, authoritarian manifestations of fear and alienation of each from the other.

It is this double-character of ethnic and national identifications that are being played out in a symbolically complex way in the Ukraine.

However, the particular manifestations of this complex intersubjective history in the present areas of Western Ukraine, Eastern Ukraine, the Crimea, and Russia–and the “cathexis” with the other and fear of the other that are being enacted by each person within each group and subgroup, are supposed to be “contained” by the act of democratic voting…that is, on specific formalized occasions (election days) a vote is cast that declares for the next period of time how the totality of these intersubjective flows in conflict are to be consensually and democratically held in place or balanced.

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An Alternative to the Neocon Response to Putin: Modernize and Democratize NATO, Send Love to Russian People

Mar26

by: on March 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Here’s my definition of a neoconservative: an impassioned intellectual who rightly recognizes that tyrannical regimes are actual biological entities – either in a state of growth or death – but who fails to grasp that dissolving tyranny cannot come by killing off the good cells of democracy, in particular the good cells that already exist in one’s own country. Truly, neoconservative ideology is a bit like chemotherapy: it aims to kill the cancer cells of tyranny as it simultaneously kills off the good cells of democracy and the democratic spirit.

2004 Image of Iraqi prisoner in U.S. Army-operated Abu Ghraib prison. Credit: Creative Commons.

According to the garden variety neocon, for example, we should be outraged that Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning) exposed just how tyrannical the United States military is, as opposed to welcoming and celebrating those whistleblowing actions so that We the People have some clue as to what men with guns, using our nation’s name, are doing to the innocent men, women and children in countries our government has invaded.

In other words, the evil Saddam Hussein is gone from the world stage Great. And so are thousands of innocent people, and so is America’ standing and influence on the world stage, owing to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Not great. In fact, awful.

That’s the upshot of neocon geopolitical chemotherapy. It stinks for democracy and human development, and it would behoove all Americans to avoid seeking geopolitical treatment from neocons for the disease of tyranny, wherever it manifests anywhere in the world, including, and most urgently, in the person of Vladmir Putin.

As concerns the high stakes Ukraine crisis, given the potential for misstep here or there on either side of the NATO-Russia divide – a misstep that could embroil the world in World War III in the blink of an eye – it might also behoove us to ask this question: Are all of us, as Americans by default, not a little bit neocon, or at least neocon-ish, or at minimum, neocon-esque?

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A Hundred Years Later

Mar21

by: Uri Avnery on March 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

There is an old Chinese curse that says: “May you live in historic times!” (If there isn’t, there should be.)This week was a historic time. The Crimea seceded from Ukraine. Russia annexed it. A dangerous situation. No one knows how it will develop.

After my last article about the Ukrainian crisis, I was flooded with passionate e-mail messages. Some were outraged by one or two sentences that could be construed as justifying Russian actions. How could I excuse the former KGB apparatchik, the new Hitler, the leader who was building a new Soviet empire by destroying and subjugating neighboring countries?

Others were outraged, with the same passion, by my supposed support for the fascist gangs which have come to power in Kiev, the anti-Semites in Nazi uniforms, and the American imperialists who use them for their own sinister purposes.

I am a bit bewildered by the strength of feeling on both sides. The Cold War, it seems, is not over. It just took a nap. Yesterday’s warriors are again rallying to their flags, ready to do battle.

Sorry, I can’t get passionate about this side or that. Both, it seems to me, have some justice on their side. Many of the battle cries are bogus.

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