Tikkun Daily button

Archive for the ‘War & Peace’ Category



BDS and NWSA: A Re-Awakening for Jewish Feminists

Feb4

by: Sharon Leder on February 4th, 2016 | No Comments »

Many of us who are Jewish feminists returned from the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Milwaukee (November 2015) with inboxes full of email from colleagues who were stunned by the association’s passage of a BDS resolution boycotting Israel. The NWSA-BDS resolution is an endorsement of “the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of economic, military and cultural entities and projects sponsored by the state of Israel,” that is a general BDS of all Israeli institutions, including “Israeli institutions of higher learning” that “have not challenged, but instead legitimized, Israel’s oppressive policies and violations” (www.nwsa.org/content.asp?contentid=105). The resolution was circulated at the 2015 conference along with a list of Frequently Asked Questions. The answers to questions about boycotting Israeli institutions of higher learning gave conditions for permissible and non-permissible communications between Israeli and U.S. academics that were contradictory and did not identify the “complicit” institutions of higher learning.

For many, this resolution stung as hugely insensitive to the diversity of opinion within the Jewish membership of NWSA. In a pro BDS plenary at the 2015 NWSA Conference on violence against Native women, Latino women, and Palestinian women, for example, not a word was uttered about the genocidal violence committed against Jewish women, men and children in the 20th century, let alone previous centuries. It felt like a throwback to the 1980s, when Women’s Studies was a fledgling interdisciplinary field that that was blind to Jewish women and anti-Semitism. Introductory Women’s Studies courses covered the discriminatory experiences of women of color, lesbians, working and middle-class Western women, and later women, gender and sexuality from a global perspective, but omitted Jewish women and anti-Semitism from the canon. The persistent absence of anti-Semitism and diverse Jewish women’s realities from the Women’s Studies canon has allowed a one-sided platform to dominate NWSA dialogue about BDS and about conflicts in Israel.

When Jewish feminists attempted in the 1980s to include anti-Semitism in NWSA’s mission as an intersectional oppression, the statement wouldn’t pass unless Arabs and Jews were both included as victims of anti-Semitism. While this may be understandable on some levels, it becomes much less so when it is followed years later by an anti-Israel BDS resolution and plenary sessions that neglect to differentiate between a right wing government in Israel that has re-defined Zionism on its own religious, militaristic terms and the many Israelis on the left, Zionists for a democratic Israel, who are desperately calling out for coalitions with American Jews to end the Occupation, as demonstrated by the recent Ha’aretz Conference held in New York City (December 2015). In 2014, the NWSA plenary session in Puerto Rico, out of which support for BDS began, was devoted to settler colonialism. But the plenary completely excluded the varied positions within the Jewish left on the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, inviting only Jewish speakers whose positions reflected one left group, Jewish Voice for Peace. This group is committed to social and economic justice for Palestinians but, like BDS, has not clearly articulated whether “peace” means returning to the borders of 1948 or those of 1967. Following the plenary, the NWSA leadership called for a “straw vote” asking those in the audience of approximately 2,500 who supported BDS to stand up. An ad hoc group was then formed, Feminists for Justice in/for Palestine, the group that then proposed the NWSA-BDS resolution in 2015. The Jewish Caucus in the NWSA, which reflects a diversity of Jewish left perspectives on both settler colonialism and BDS, was not once consulted at any point in this conversation. No one represents the NWSA Jewish Caucus in this ad hoc group. This omission of the NWSA’s own caucus bespeaks a fear of Jewish opinion. While the Caucus has been struggling to survive within NWSA since the 1980s, many members recently resigned due to NWSA’s pro-BDS stance, causing further erosion.

Read more...

Time to Talk: Israeli and American Progressives Need to Communicate

Feb1

by: Jeremy Sher on February 1st, 2016 | 3 Comments »

In the cold light of January, Israeli and American progressives have awoken to a harsh new reality, in which right-wing interests have gained power and are preparing for permanent war. How did we get here? Like a couple who have been stressed by circumstances and who suddenly realize the sheets are cold, Israeli and American Jewish progressives linger awake in bed, talking past each other. But at least we’ve finally started talking.

Israeli pundit Chemi Shalev of Haaretz first broke the silence. Feeling cornered by the right and unsupported by the left, Shalev articulates “the cries of anguish emanating from Israel’s peace camp.” He takes his frustration out on American progressive Jews themselves: “By staying silent, by refraining from the kind of forceful, game-changing protest that the current situation warrants, American Jews are not only abandoning like-minded Israelis, they are betraying Israel itself.”

And just like that, we’re finally talking. But to show how little communication we American and Israeli progressives have ever had in our cold romance, Shalev seems totally unfamiliar with the barriers American Jews have faced for decades. Shalev’s words suggest that he thinks American Jews have been “staying silent,” not protesting the ascendancy of the right. To be sure, this accusation is quite false. As an activist with nearly 20 years’ experience in American Jewish progressive advocacy on Israel, starting here at Tikkun when I co-founded a Politics of Meaning chapter in Boston, I think most of my grassroots colleagues would agree that we’ve been tiring ourselves out to make modest tactical gains every so often, like the Iran deal. American Jewish progressives have stared down opprobrium and ostracism in our own communities, unsure exactly how to help but unwilling to let the right wing get away with its claim to represent us. Our efforts have not yet succeeded in turning the tide, so Shalev’s frustration is understandable, but his accusation is misinformed.

Read more...

Conversations About Resistance

Jan27

by: Maurice Cotter on January 27th, 2016 | No Comments »

At first, the scene appears tense. Twenty-one Israeli soldiers in full combat gear are arrayed in a neat line across the main road of the small village of Al Ma’sara, just south of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Several of the soldiers wear partial balaclavas which obscure their features, leaving their faces visible only from the eyes up. They stand expectantly, some with their hands resting casually on the butts of their rifles.

Credit: Maurice Cotter, EAPPI

Confronting them are twenty Palestinians, eight of them children. The protesters carry flags and placards. They march forward until they’re face to face with their occupiers. The leader of the protest is Hassan, a veteran of the local non-violent resistance movement. Hassan and his family have paid a high personal cost for his activism: he has been imprisoned on numerous occasions and his family home has been the subject of repeated night raids. His enthusiasm remains undimmed. Right now, he’s delivering an impassioned monologue to the soldiers, who maintain a stony silence throughout.

“I see your weakness in the mask on your face!” he declares. His voice ascends in pitch as well as volume as he speaks, producing an unusual, almost ululating effect. “Force masks weakness! Physical power means weakness! I may be physically occupied but you”, he says, jabbing his index finger at the nearest soldier, “are mentally weak.”

I’m here in my capacity as a human rights monitor with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). EAPPI offers “protective accompaniment” at non-violent demonstrations, working off the principle that the presence of international observers can defuse or de-escalate situations which could potentially lead to violence or other human rights violations. I approach the demonstration, my first, with some trepidation.

The reality is more prosaic than my expectations. Hassan’s interventions are the most remarkable feature of the protest, which is otherwise uneventful and soon peters out. It is, it transpires, a weekly event. The soldiers are present to marshal the protesters and the protesters demonstrate against the soldiers’ presence. No-one mentions the circular logic. I wonder why the soldiers don’t simply refrain from turning up one day given that the protest depends entirely on their presence for its political efficacy, but conclude that this would represent an unacceptable victory for the demonstrators.

As we drive away, I can’t help but feel that the whole scenario resembles a piece of absurdist theatre. The military spectacle appears wildly disproportionate in the face of a crowd filled with child protesters and there’s undoubtedly a performative element to Hassan’s exhortations (delivered in English, at least partially for the benefit of international onlookers). The soldiers even allow road traffic to pass through their line, blocking only the protesters from passing. There is little of the sense of charged possibility that I – perhaps naively – associated with popular resistance.

I monitor a number of other demonstrations during my time in Bethlehem. Not all are like Al Ma’sara; at one protest in particular, between the villages of Al Jaba and Surif, I’m struck by the resolve and the sheer anger of the demonstrators in the face of the casual use by Israeli soldiers of sound grenades and tear gas. By and large, though, there are relatively few protests and those I witness are low-key events. As time passes I’m increasingly occupied with an overriding question: why is non-violent resistance here so seemingly desiccated? 

Read more...

Please Take Action to Save the Bedouins

Jan26

by: Rabbi Arik Ascherman on January 26th, 2016 | 4 Comments »

Editor’s Note: Rabbi Arik Ascherman is one of our great contemporary heroes. His work to save the Israeli Bedouins from being obliterated by the Israeli government deserves your full support. Please read his call to you below! Standing up for the humanity of everyone on the planet is part of the goal of Tikkun magazine and our interfaith and secular humanist welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives.
- Rabbi Michael Lerner

***

As you read this, JNF bulldozers are preparing the first stage of building the Jewish community of “Hiran” on the rubble of the Israeli Negev Bedouin community of “Umm Al-Hiran.” The government plans to expand the Yatir forest to overrun Atir. A week ago, the Israeli High Court removed the last legal hurdle preventing the immediate expulsion of over 1,000 men, women and children from their homes. The mayor of the artificial Bedouin township of Hura, where the Israeli government wishes to move them, says he has that Hura’s inadequate zoning plan leaves no place to put them.

You can act, and also read more background regarding Umm Al-Hiran and Atir, at www.dontdemolish.com. Here is some more general background about the Negev Bedouin.

While the world focuses on the Occupied Territories, the plight of Israel’s Bedouin citizens goes unnoticed, or is deemed an “internal matter.” For people of conscience, there can be no “internal matter,” and these approximately 250,000 Israeli citizens are also created in God’s Image.

Until 1948 the Negev served as home to 65,000-100,000 Bedouin who inhabited, worked and claimed ownership to somewhere between 2 and 3 million dunams of land (four dunam to an acre), as documented by the pre-State Zionist movement in 1920 In almost every case, the proofs of ownership cited were traditional Bedouin documents based on their internal system of land ownership. Although the Ottomans, British, pre-State Zionist movement and the early State recognized these claims, today the State does not. Israeli courts do not accept Bedouin documents as proof of ownership. Whether one chooses to view this dispute as a boldfaced attempt to take over Bedouin lands, and/or as cultural imperialism unwilling to recognize the land ownership system of a traditional culture, the end result has been massive dispossession.

When I am in the Negev, I often reflect upon the Biblical story of Abraham and his nephew Lot recounted in Genesis 13: 5-12. A conflict arises between Abraham’s shepherds and Lot’s shepherds because they were living together and there wasn’t enough pasture. Abraham is the senior, and can clearly lay down the law. He doesn’t. Rather, he bends over backwards to avoid conflict within the family. “Let there be no strife between you and me, between my shepherds and ours, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let us separate if you go north, I will go south, and if you go south, I will go north.” We, the descendents of Abraham struggle mightily to claim the land he bequeathed us. Were we to exert a fraction of the efforts we invest in fighting over that physical inheritance in living up to the moral example Abraham bequeathed us, Israel/Palestine would look much different than it does today.

Read more...

A challenge to JNF on Tu B’shvat Planting Trees in Israel

Jan25

by: Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb on January 25th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

JNF trees in the Negev Desert. Man-made dunes (here a liman) help keep in rainwater, creating an oasis. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) is offering a special deal for Tu B’Shevat on its website:  “Help celebrate TuBishvat by planting a tree in Israel…and you will be automatically entered to win a trip! Prizes include roundtrip airfare and two nights at the Carlton Hotel Tel Aviv for two.”

Meanwhile, since 1967, over 800,000 Palestinian olive trees have been destroyed by the state of Israel. In addition, tens of thousands of fruit trees, fields, wells and gardens have also been destroyed to make room for Jewish settlement. Having just received this year’s report from Palestinian farmer Daoud Nasser who’s family  suffered the Israeli Defense Force’s destruction of 1500 fruit bearing trees last year, I feel deeply disconnected to JNF’s rendering of its mission and its version of history.

The narrative on the JNF website resembles the United States’ narrative related to the historic site known as Colonial Williamsburg: an example of national distortions and lies that hide brutal histories.  Williamsburg was literally segregated throughout much of its history.  And, neither the genocidal histories of the massacre of Indigenous peoples, nor enslavement of Africans or their contributions to Colonial societies were anywhere evident.  Just as African American and Indigenous presence and contributions are erased in white America’s Disneyland like portrayals of the past at so-called historic sites, so, too are Palestinians completely erased from Israel’s historic narrative, as are Bedouins, and Mizrachi and African Jews.

The terrible dislocations, massacres and massive destruction of Palestinian and pre-1948 material culture and land has been swallowed up and regurgitated in ways that completely distort what actually happened, and is still happening. Jews on free trips to Israel, whether with birthright, or rabbinic school, or the JNF, will feel good about planting the obligatory tree, while pretending that Israel was a barren land before Jews got there and made the desert bloom.

They will be given to recite the biblical verse, “It is against Jewish halachic law to uproot fruit bearing trees”, give feel good talks about green Judaism, while completely ignoring a reality that contradicts these claims:  the ongoing destruction of Palestinian land, trees, fields, houses, wells, vineyards, and cultural institutions accompanied by Israeli killing fields in Gaza, the West Bank and other areas of Israel.  That is the reality which the JNF wants to bury in the ground.

Read more...

Failed States and States of Failure: “We Destroyed the Cities to Save Them” and Other Future Headlines

Jan25

by: Tom Engelhardt on January 25th, 2016 | No Comments »

One of the charms of the future is its powerful element of unpredictability, its ability to ambush us in lovely ways or bite us unexpectedly in the ass. Most of the futures I imagined as a boy have, for instance, come up deeply short, or else I would now be flying my individual jet pack through the spired cityscape of New York and vacationing on the moon. And who, honestly, could have imagined the Internet, no less social media and cyberspace (unless, of course, you had read William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer 30 years ago)? Who could have dreamed that a single country’s intelligence outfits would be able to listen in onor otherwise intercept and review not just the conversations and messages of its own citizens — imagine the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century — but those of just about anyone on the planet, from peasants in the backlands of Pakistan to at least 35 leaders of major and minor countries around the world?  This is, of course, our dystopian present, based on technological breakthroughs that even sci-fi writers somehow didn’t imagine.
And who thought that the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street were coming down the pike or, for that matter, a terror caliphate in the heart of the former Middle East or a Donald Trump presidential run that would go from success to success amid free media coverage the likes of which we’ve seldom seen? (Small career tip: don’t become a seer. It’s hell on Earth.)

All of this might be considered the bad but also the good news about the future.  On an increasingly grim globe that seems to have failure stamped all over it, the surprises embedded in the years to come, the unexpected course changes, inventions, rebellions, and interventions offer, at least until they arrive, grounds for hope.  On the other hand, in that same grim world, there’s an aspect of the future that couldn’t be more depressing: the repetitiveness of so much that you might think no one would want to repeat.  I’m talking about the range of tomorrow’s headlines that could be written today and stand a painfully reasonable chance of coming true.

I’m sure you could produce your own version of such future headlines in a variety of areas, but here are mine when it comes to Washington’s remarkably unwinnable wars, interventions, and conflicts in the Greater Middle East and increasingly Africa.

Read more...

Notes from Kabul

Jan10

by: Carolyn Coe on January 10th, 2016 | No Comments »

They have descended from homes built on the mountainside. Women sit together in the cemetery not to mourn but to wait for the duvet distribution to begin. When I approach them, each woman extends a hand in greeting. Some have the needed small stamped pieces of paper to receive two duvets but most don’t. One of the women tells me about the pain in her chest, her legs. She talks about the war. I listen to all the manifestations of her suffering. I understand only a handful of words but as she clasps my hand, I know she wants my help in receiving a pair of duvets, too. I tell her I don’t make any decisions here. It is the elder representative of the neighborhood who determines who receives the quilted bed covers. Standing with the women, I say I’m sorry I’m sorry. All other words fail me.

Someone calls me over to the truck as the distribution will soon begin. In the Afghan gesture of greeting and leave-taking, I place my right hand over my heart and say goodbye.

A balloon seller approaches. A boy wheels a cart of apples nearby. Where a crowd gathers, there’s a potential sale, but no one buys. So the sellers observe the scene as I do. Colorful duvets, like clouds enveloping the bearers, seem to float by. I take a photo of a pair of girls. They become my shadow, following me and requesting more pictures.

The truck piled high with duvets is in a narrow gated car park. Perhaps two times as many people arrive as have the needed pieces of paper. The crowd presses towards the open gate, hoping. I observe one of the volunteers at work. Abdulhai has just finished 12th grade and is one of the founding members of the Afghan Peace Volunteers with a gift for crowd control. Instead of pushing the crowd back with outward facing palms, he smiles and snaps his fingers so the children laugh. He speaks kindly and softly. Both children and adults stop trying to edge forward, at least while he’s there. Their shoulders visibly relax. Some return smiles.

It isn’t that they want to be there, Abdulhai says a couple nights later about those who show up without a ticket. The people are desperate. Understanding without judgment seems the key to Abdulhai’s gentle effectiveness.


Read more...

Flowers from Guantanamo

Dec21

by: Kathy Kelly on December 21st, 2015 | No Comments »

Here in Kabul, young friends with the Afghan Peace Volunteers look forward  to learning more about “The Tea Project” in late December, when Aaron Hughes arrives, an artist, a U.S. military veteran, and a core member of Iraq Veterans Against War. He’ll carry with him 20 plaster replicas of a standard-issue, factory-made Styrofoam cup. They’re part of a set numbering 779 replica cups, each cup dedicated to prisoners detained in Guantanamo. In the entire collection, 220 of the cups bear names of Afghan citizens imprisoned in Guantanamo.

In Guantanamo, with each evening meal, Guantanamo prisoners are served tea in styrofoam cups. Many prisoners etch floral designs into their cups, which become a nightly artistic outlet for men with few other freedoms allowed them. Aaron had heard a former Guantanamo guard describe how deeply he grew to deeply love the cups that had become works of art.

The cups would then be collected, each night, and turned over to military intelligence which most likely just dumped them. Aaron’s cups are more durable. A Guantanamo prisoner’s name is written on the base of every cup, and each carries a unique design. Following the practice of the prisoners, Aaron focused on etching floral patterns into the cups he created, displaying flowers that are native to each prisoner’s homeland. 220 of the cups he has sculpted bear the names of prisoners from Afghanistan.

Life stories represented by each cup are reaching a wide variety of individuals and groups during Aaron’s travels on behalf of the project. He invites people to sit with him, sip tea from the cups, and talk about their stories related to war, destruction, peace, love, creativity …the conversations range freely, but the cups bring a certain focus, remembering the prisoners in Guantanamo.

Photo Credit: Kathy Kelly

I wish that Aaron could somehow sit across from Tariq Ba Odah and serve him tea. Now 36 years old, Tariq Ba Odah, a Yemeni citizen, arrived in Guantanamo in 2002, when he was only 23. Detained without charge in Guantanamo since 2002, Tariq has maintained a hunger strike since 2007. He now weighs 74 pounds. His lawyers say that he visibly suffers from severe effects of malnutrition and is at serious risk of permanent physical and neurological impairment and death. Tariq Ba Odah endures horrible force feeding rather than cooperate with the system that has separated him and the other prisoners from loved ones, subjecting them to torture and dehumanizing conditions.


Read more...

Peace for the World, Healing for the Climate

Dec16

by: on December 16th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Red Line Action at Beale

Yesterday I was arrested at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville, California, along with seven others. We were charged with trespassing. This video of me speaking was filmed after we crossed the line onto the base. In it I begin to explain the connections between US military policy and climate change. The letter that we attempted to deliver to the base commander gives a more detailed explanation of our concerns and our reasons for demonstrating.

Read more...

The Two Saints

Dec11

by: Stewart Brinton on December 11th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

My podiatrist is an observant Jew, an Ashkenazi by heritage. Every so often I make an appointment to have a callus trimmed on my little toe. I am fond of Jewish culture and humor and I look forward to our visits. He tells me Jewish jokes and I ask him the meaning of Yiddish words.

In the summer of 2014, Israel invaded Gaza. It was called euphemistically Operation Protective Edge. It should have been called Operation Sadistic Righteousness. The wanton carnage and destruction upset me deeply. I had to book an appointment with my podiatrist and wondered how I would broach the subject of the invasion. I decided to tell him a story:

Many years ago there was a Jewish film festival and I attended one of the sessions. Before the showing of a documentary on Israel, the director, a young Jew from Toronto, gave a prologue and told the audience his intent was to give a humanistic approach. He interviewed everyone in the film with an open-ended attitude. No politics or polemics were allowed in the editing, just people’s stories revealed. When he finished the film, he was shocked; he couldn’t show it anywhere. Not even in his synagogue. Through great effort, he eventually got it shown once on late night cable in Australia.

Read more...