by: Alex Kane on April 17th, 2014 | No 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?
Elly 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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
In one of his “Early Addresses” titled “Judaism and Mankind,” Martin Buber said:
Every man whose soul attains unity, who decides, within his own self, for the pure and against the impure, for the free and against the unfree, for the creative and against the uncreative, every man who drives the moneylenders out of his temple, participates in the great process of Judaism.
Though I’m Catholic, these words resonate with me and, like much of Martin Buber’s accessible discourse, serves as a reminder of the sheer idiocy of any form of supersessionism: the belief that Christian faith yields a holier heart and mind than what is contained in Judaism. Indeed, Martin Buber delivered those words over a hundred years ago, between 1909 and 1911; just this week, a glaring headline in the National Catholic Reporter read “Vatican office calls religious sisters, priests to live poorly, reject capitalism.”
Perhaps many of the holy rollers of my church, the Roman Catholic Church – the very ones whose high on the hog living is now the subject of Pope Francis’s reforms – would have done well to read some Martin Buber before making bank off the name of a poor first-century Jew who was killed at 33-years-old by Pontius Pilate. But isn’t a slow learning curve better than none at all?
by: Keren Manor & Shiraz Grinbaum on March 13th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
A Project by Keren Manor & Shiraz Girnbaum at Activestills.org (Crossposted from +972 Magazine)
In honor of International Women’s Day, Activestills paid tribute to more than a quarter century of anti-occupation activism by the ‘Women in Black’ group in Israel. Every Friday since 1988, the women have stood in themain squares of cities or at highway junctions with signs calling to end the Israeli occupation. Often spat at,cursed or violently harassed by passersby, they have become, for us, a symbol of persistence.
by: Donna Nevel on March 7th, 2014 | 40 Comments »
Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace
Many American Jewish organizations claim to be staunch supporters of civil and human rights as well as academic freedom. But when it comes to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, they make an exception. In their relentless opposition to BDS, they leave even core principles behind.
The Palestinian-led call for BDS, which began in 2005 in response to ongoing Israeli government violations of basic principles of international law and human rights of the Palestinian people, is a call of conscience. It has strengthened markedly over the last few years among artists, students, unions, church groups, dockworkers, and others. Media coverage of endorsers of the boycott has gone mainstream and viral. Recent examples include Stephen Hawking’s refusal to go to Jerusalem for the Presidential Conference, the successful campaign surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s support for Soda Stream and its settlement operation, and the American Studies Association (ASA) resolution that endorsed boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
Alongside BDS’s increasing strength have come increasingly virulent attacks on, and campaigns against it. These attacks tend to employ similar language and tactics – as if the groups are all cribbing from the same talking points – including tarring BDS supporters as “anti-Semitic” and “delegitimizers.”
by: Rebecca Vilkomerson on February 28th, 2014 | 14 Comments »
The inherent contradictions between American liberalism and support for Israeli policies are on a sudden, public, collision course. Until very recently, it was easy to identify as someone who cares for human rights and equality, while in practice avoiding forms of activism that impose any consequences for its actions on Israel. Those days may be drawing to a close.
Omar Barghouti’s recent op-ed in the Sunday New York Times, the ultimate prize in opinion piece placement, made a cogent, thorough, and, most importantly, principled argument for BDS based on the values of equality and fighting against oppression. Also taking a clear stance against anti-Semitism, his piece was a clarion call for support to the prototypical liberal readers of the New York Times. And, in fact the letters to the editor printed in response to his piece were overwhelmingly positive.
During the same period, two BDS-related campaigns were making headlines around the world. When Scarlett Johansson became the spokesperson for SodaStream, a company with its main factory in an Israeli settlement, the worldwide pressure resulted in her being forced to choose between being a spokesperson for Oxfam, a human rights organization, and her SodaStream gig. It seems that no one, not even A-list celebrities, can be considered humanitarians or human rights advocates any longer if they have anything at all to do with the settlements, which, of course, are illegal under international law.
This will be a short one as I only choose to make one point. I make it as someone who absolutely supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) as applied to the West Bank. Even if I deeply desired a seltzer machine, I would not buy the one manufactured in occupied territory.
However, I do not support boycotting Israel itself because, although I have no problem at all about applying collective economic punishment on settlers and the loathsome settlement enterprise, I do not feel that way about Israelis in general. I am not anti-Zionist. I am, for lack of a better term, a liberal Zionist. I want the Jewish state to survive and prosper which is impossible so long as it maintains its colonial and oppressive regime in the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza.
But all that is beside the one point I need to make today.
by: Mary Grey on February 14th, 2014 | 4 Comments »
Like readers of Tikkun I am passionate about peace in Israel-Palestine as well as in the wider Middle East. Being a theologian/writer with a background in Jewish-Christian dialogue, I have mainly sought to speak to peaceseeking Christians—and others—who are willing to look beyond the polarity of being either pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli towards envisioning a solution for both communities and building on the prophetic traditions of each other.
I believe—like Gandhi—that you have to look truth in the face, and take the courage to tell it.