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Archive for the ‘Healing Israel/Palestine’ Category



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.

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Conversations About Resistance

Jan27

by: Maurice Cotter on January 27th, 2016 | Comments Off

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? 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Checkpoint Is No Place for a Mezuzah

Dec11

by: Tali Ruskin on December 11th, 2015 | 9 Comments »

A few weeks ago, I was traveling with a group of 35 American tourists, a Palestinian bus driver, and a Palestinian tour guide from Jenin (a Palestinian city in the West Bank) to Nazareth (a Palestinian city inside the Green Line). When we came to the Jalameh checkpoint, the soldiers pulled us over to an area for additional screening, where we joined tens of Palestinians, most of whom were Israeli citizens on their way home from shopping, visiting relatives, or working.

Checkpoint

What followed for the next fifteen minutes was a routine exercise in ethnic profiling, in which 20-year-old Jewish Israeli soldiers, armed with heavy artillery, are empowered to make decisions about who is or is not fit to pass. After taking the two Palestinians off the bus for interrogation, several more soldiers came onto the bus to check our passports. One soldier stood at the back of the bus, pointing his gun down toward one of the few people of color in our group, staring at him in creepy silence (not unlike the 44 seconds of silence that Netanyahu performed for the UN). When they finally asked him for his passport and saw that is was not American, they did not simply glance at it and return it to him, as they had done with the rest of the group. “Why?”, they asked him. Why was he traveling with a group of Americans, where had he been, what had he been doing, who had he stayed with, did he have family in Jenin. Eventually, they returned his passport to him, and told us to take all of our stuff and get off the bus to go through the metal detector.

Checkpoint GatesAs I approached the trailer that contained the metal detector and soldiers checking IDs, I saw a mezuzah posted on the entrance. My heart sank. At once, I felt shame, sadness, rage, and disgust. I explained to my fellow delegates that the mezuzah is a Jewish ritual object that contains a scroll on which the following words from the Torah are written:

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the doorposts of thy house, and upon thy gates.” – Deuteronomy 6: 4-9

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The Middle East: Toward I – Thou

Dec1

by: Jim Donnellan on December 1st, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Not Long ago, Martin Buber urged us to move beyond the human tendency to see others as objects.

In a just published book, Padraig O’Malley probes beneath the surface of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. His book, “The Two-State Delusion ” provides insights into the human reality driving this conflict. It is a welcome addition to the many books on the subject because the road to peace has produced 60+ years of frustration. None of these well-intentioned efforts have achieved their objective.

So one has to ask why. Padraig details critical data points which provide significant insight into the answer to that question. At the ground level — the level of human reality — there are huge problems to be overcome before an overarching solution can be achieved. Given the states of mind of the various parties involved, a much different approach than the ones used to date is required.

Let me briefly illustrate:


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Obama and Netanyahu: A bad deal for peace, for Israel, for Palestine and for the U.S.

Nov10

by: on November 10th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

OBAMA NETANYAHU

Editor’s Note: Though I published this in the Huffington Post before the meeting, the outcome was exactly as predicted. Netanyahu affirmed his “commitment” to a two state solution, which he has said for years as he continues to expand Israeli settlement in Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and continues with a cabinet filled with overt racists against Palestinians and other refugees. Obama promised him huge new military hardware, as predicted. Netanyahu is paid off for being obnoxious toward the President and arrogant toward the Palestinian people (the latter being the ultimate losers in all this). Of course, I have compassion for Obama, see him as a decent human being, just as I have compassion for the Jewish people still so dominated by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and seeing the Palestinians through the framework of our past suffering. But unless the rest of us can find a way to heal our Jewish people, the suffering of the Palestinians will continue, as will the growing anger at Jews who are increasingly perceived (unfairly) as having given the Israelis a blank check to do whatever they want to the Palestinian people. My solution can be found in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine www.tikkun.org/eip .

When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama meet in the White House today, their goal will be to make amends in light of Netanyahu’s unprecedented attempts to manipulate the U.S. Congress and the American public into opposition to the Iran Nuclear deal negotiated by six countries including the U.S.

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“Broken Window Policies” are Discriminatory and Should be Opposed in U.S., Israel

Oct24

by: M. Dove Kent, Donna Nevel, Rebecca Vilkomerson on October 24th, 2015 | 8 Comments »

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

 
We understand that, during your recent trip to Israel, you offered the New York Police Department’s “broken windows” approach to policing as a model for world leaders on how to stay alert to anti-Semitism. This advice took place against a backdrop of new legislation approved by the Israeli government enabling police to conduct “stop and frisk” searches without requiring proof of reasonable suspicion — a law that is being selectively enforced against Palestinians. We are deeply disturbed by this recent development, particularly since, as Mayor of New York City, you agreed to court-ordered reforms of the NYPD’s discriminatory “stop and frisk” practices.

“Broken windows” policing is no model for increased safety for Jews or any other community. In New York City, this discriminatory strategy aggressively targets low-income people of color, violates the fundamental rights of New Yorkers, leads to physical and sexual assault, and creates an atmosphere of intimidation, confrontation, and fear, rather than trust. The low-level arrests yielded from this aggressive policing trigger severe consequences for New Yorkers, including job loss, eviction, and even deportation of permanent residents who are not citizens. “Broken windows” policing is fundamentally built on a culture of fear; it must end in New York City and must not be exported elsewhere. It does not, and cannot, aid in the safety in any community, or in the struggle against racism and anti-Semitism.


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Meaning Well in a Tough Situation

Oct21

by: Jeff Green on October 21st, 2015 | Comments Off

Editor’s Note: Directly below is a prayer from Cat Zavis regarding the recent outbreak of violence in Israel and Palestine. The piece by Jeff Green follows immediately after.

As we watch in horror as violence in Israel and Palestine escalates and there continues to be needless and senseless killings, we offer a prayer of love, compassion and strength.

May Israelis and Palestinians find the love that resides deep in their hearts and pulses through all of us, the love that cries to us from the loving energy of the universe to love the “Other,” the “Stranger.” This is a love that can be hard to access and find and yet it is a never-ending, all pervasive love that encourages and calls us to stand-up for the well-being of each other, for the security of all, for justice for all, for peace. May the Israelis and Palestinians use this well-spring of love to overcome their fears and stand for a new future.

May the Israelis and Palestinians find the compassion that lives in each person but that is often suppressed in times of fear and anger and learn to ask the questions that so many seem afraid to ask. What would cause a young man or woman to kill a stranger? What fear, what sorrow, what pain lurks in the dark crevasses of their hearts? How can we begin to heal the pain, the sorrow, the loss? Where can we start?

May the Israelis and Palestinians access the strength that permeates the roots of Mother Earth and embolden them to demand a different future. To cross divides and build bridges that flow with human beings coming together opening their hearts to each other with generosity and love and work together towards peace and reconciliation.

We bow our heads in sorrow, in grief, in angst and even in rage that innocent lives are being lost on all sides and pray for a healing and reconciliation.


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