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Archive for the ‘Healing Israel/Palestine’ Category



Then You Win: What Swarthmore Means For Open Hillel

Mar25

by: Evan Goldstein on March 25th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Jewish students holding signs protesting against Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Jewish Voice for Peace is one of the many voices being silenced by Hillel International's policy of dictating what is and is not acceptable dialogue within the Jewish community. Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Popular sayings are often more useful as pithy evasions of analysis than as actual descriptors, but in this case it seems Hillel International is determined to enact Gandhi’s dictum. Recall October 2014, when Eric Fingerhut dismissed the Open Hillel movement as a “small group of activists.” In December 2014, Fingerhut likened us to the Biblical rebel Korach (cf. Numbers 16), and suggested our cause would not endure.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you.

By March 2015, Hillel International apparently has no choice but to fight: Formerly known as Swarthmore Hillel, Swarthmore Kehilah was forced to drop the Hillel name, following legal threats from Hillel International. Swarthmore’s sin was to plan an event entitled, “Social Justice Then and Now: Lessons From the Civil Rights Movement,” which will feature three Jewish veterans of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Since these particular activists support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, their very presence threatens Hillel’s “name and reputation,” and therefore, apparently necessitates legal threats.

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The Militarists and Haters Win in Israeli Elections

Mar18

by: on March 18th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Winners: Netanyahu, AIPAC, U.S. Republican Party, Sheldon Adelson (American Jewish billionaire funder of the right), Hamas, Islamic State, the right-wing Mullahs in Iran.

Losers: Israeli, World Jewry, the Palestinian people, the forces for peace and non-violence everywhere, the Palestinian Authority, the people of Iran, the people of the U.S.

According to Israeli newspapers reporting on the outcome of the Israeli election on Tuesday, Likud increased its lead in the next Knesset of 120 members. It will now hold 30 Knesset seats, compared to the Zionist Union (former Labor Party) with 24 seats. As the front runner, Netanyahu will be asked to create the government coalition.

The Joint List of Palestinian Israelis, the third-largest party, gets fourteen seats, followed by Yesh Atid with eleven, Kulanu with ten, Habayit Hayehudi (ultra right) with eight, Shas with seven, United Torah Judaism with six, Yisrael Beiteinu (fascist right) with six, and Meretz (once the peace party) with four.

Though the Israeli president has said he will ask for a government of national unity, it will be unity around the policies which Netanyahu put out clearly in the last days of the election: No Palestinian state, no deal that would allow Iran to develop nuclear energy, no willingness to count Arab Israelis as “real Israelis” (Netanyahu went so far as to warn the Israeli public that they were in danger because Arab Israelis had formed a Joint List and might become a real force in the Knesset unless the Jewish Israelis rallied around Netanyahu’s Likud party).

How can the right wing grow to so much power in an Israel filled with mostly decent human beings, some of whom have even been influenced by Judaism’s teachings of love for neighbor and love for “the other,” though of course most Israelis are secular?

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Netanyahu Rejects Two-State Solution Amidst Plummeting Poll Numbers

Mar12

by: on March 12th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, released a statement this week via Likud, his political party, making official what has been implied many times over: that he rejects the idea of two, self-determining states as the path toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The statement made clear that Netanyahu now disavows a speech he delivered at Bar Ilan University in 2009 as “no longer relevant.” The speech’s topic? The path towards creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel. To hammer home Netanyahu’s rejection of Palestinian statehood, the statement threw in the following, just in case its intention wasn’t clear:

“Netanyahu’s entire political biography is a fight against the creation of a Palestinian state.”

Truer words have never been spoken.


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Benjamin Netanyahu’s Fantasy World

Mar3

by: on March 3rd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Netanyahu’s speech to Congress was brilliantly deceitful because it played to the fantasies that Israeli propaganda and right wing militarists in the United States have been popularizing for the past thirty years.

Netanyahu

"If you take out Saddam, Saddam's regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region," said Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in 2002, urging the US to invade Iraq. Credit: Creative Commons.

The biggest fantasy: that we can coerce others through power over them to do what we consider in the best interests of the U.S. or Israel. This is what I call “The Strategy of Domination.” A more effective path is “The Strategy of Generosity” – showing others that we care about them and recognize their needs as being equally legitimate as our own. This second approach is the view that made trade between tribes, and eventually between nations possible in the past, and it remains the view that makes it possible for most countries of the world to live in peace with their neighbors. They hate to do business with those who think that they can get their way through power trips, manipulation, and threats.

This struggle between two world views is the core of the debate today in the U.S., and the reason that the militarists have the upper hand is because the Obama administration, fearing that it might be ridiculed as believing in “kumbaya politics,” used its first six years to pursue policies that better fit the Strategy of Domination than the Strategy of Generosity. Predictably, now the administration finds itself without a popular base for turning toward a more rational path in regard to Iran, having to frame policies in terms toughness rather than in terms of their humanity and reflection of higher ethical values.

I know so many people who shake their heads in despair at the growth of the right-wing consciousness in the U.S. in every sphere except identity politics, but really what other discourse are they ever exposed to? Obama should embrace the Biblical call for “love the stranger/the other” and challenge Americans to take that call seriously. Instead, he tries to measure up against the criteria set by the militarists. Guess what? In that coercion-oriented arena, liberals and progressives will always fail because you have to be unscrupulous to win there.

Netanyahu is a master of manipulating the fantasies that the right-wing discourse advances. For example: the view of the world that sees “our side” (whether that ‘our’ be the U.S. or Israel) as always innocent and good, and “the other” as intrinsically evil.

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Reasons for Departure

Feb26

by: Ben Kline on February 26th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A screenshot from the movie Salt of the Sea.

About a year ago, I watched the 2008 Palestinian film Salt of this Sea, about a Palestinian-American woman named Soraya and her quest to reclaim her family’s home in Jaffa. The film has quite a few agonizing moments: in one scene, Soraya and her Ramallah-born boyfriend Emad are squatting in what remains of his ancestral village, well west of the Green Line. The illusion that they might build a new life atop these ruins is interrupted by a stern Israeli tour guide, who becomes much friendlier when a panicked Soraya lies and tells him she is Jewish.

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From Ferguson to Palestine: Dispatch from the Troublemaking Frontlines

Jan23

by: on January 23rd, 2015 | Comments Off

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you’ve been to any of the #blacklivesmatter protests, you may have seen the slogan “Justice from Ferguson to Palestine” on a protest sign. You may have wondered: Really? How are these struggles really connected? This December, I was in Palestine, and I found out first hand.

People at a conference raising their hands together

The audience at A Hole in a Brick Wall conference standing to show solidarity with #blacklivesmatter. Credit: Active Stills

I was asked to give a brief keynote about New York’s People’s Climate March at a conference on feminism and nonviolence in Jaffa, the port city that was once the thriving center of commerce in Palestine, now the neglected south end of Tel Aviv, Israel. Why fly halfway around the world to talk about the climate to people who live in a land riddled with its own share of environmental destruction? I guess, sometimes, you have to burn carbon to stop carbon. As I was preparing my talk, the #blacklivesmatter movement was erupting across America. I couldn’t ignore it. My task: illustrate the interconnectedness of climate justice, racial justice, and ending state violence? In, um, under 15 minutes.

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The Perils and Pitfalls of Singing for Gaza: A Review of 2 Unite All

Jan8

by: Robert Cohen on January 8th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

2 unite all gaza relief album

Credit: 2 Unite All

I was asked to write a review of the new benefit album for the people of Gaza. During the violence of last summer more than 2,000 Palestinian were killed, the vast majority civilians and the casualties included more than 500 children. Many more people were left permanently injured, physically, mentally or both, and thousands lost their homes.

I’d already downloaded all twenty-six tracks of 2 Unite All (126 minutes of music from more than thirty artists) before I realized that the task was impossible.

Writing about a project motivated by peace and love is a complete minefield. What’s the point of saying anything about the music when the real aim is not artistic but humanitarian. In such circumstances, is it ethical to be critical?

But then it occurred to me how much else there was to say about this particular endeavor, even before a single song is considered.

What should the relationship be between the artist and the recipient of the aid that they raise? Is it possible to separate out the humanitarian need from the causes that created it? Is it enough to just sing about peace and love?

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Two Dreams for 2015

Jan8

by: Sharon and Abbsi on January 8th, 2015 | Comments Off

Another Voice

As Israelis and Palestinians, it’s easy for us to become disillusioned and lose the vision for peace. This is especially true after this past year brought us a horrific war in Gaza, followed by a cycle of violence that some have termed a Third Intifada. Tensions have continued to simmer and it seems that even the optimists have lost the ability to hope or dream.

Because of this, we feel compelled to share two short dreams for 2015 and beyond — one written by an Israeli woman and the other a Palestinian. These are both a part of a blogging series by a group of Israeli and Palestinian women, featured on the blog Another Voice.

Sharon’s Dream:

My dream really goes well beyond 2015, but I hope it begins there and that 2015 can be the year that sets a new course for all of us and, especially, my son’s generation.

It seems but a distant dream, one that a few keep trying to grasp but is so elusive. The majority in our societies keeps pushing it further and further away from our children’s reach, carelessly ready to leave them bankrupt and with an even bleaker future than we have.

But I see this dream written on my son’s peaceful face as he sleeps or in the innocent joy of his smile and it gives me renewed hope that it is perhaps possible.  And then I can’t help but dream and think about how I want this place to be for him:

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The Choices of 1947 Return: A Review of Zionism and Its Discontents

Dec24

by: Abba A. Solomon on December 24th, 2014 | 20 Comments »

book coverZionism and Its Discontents: Radical Currents in Israel/Palestine
by Ran Greenstein
Pluto Press, 2014

Kol Yisrael areivim zeh ba-zeh. This assertion, that “All Jews are responsible for each other,” has the crux of the situation. How are Jews to work out their relationship and “responsibility” to the “national home of the Jewish people”? To act decently, we must face what happened, face what the “return to Zion” led to.

Zionism and Its Discontents by Ran Greenstein reviews opposition to the Jewish nationalist state project in Mandate Palestine and after the State of Israel was proclaimed, May 14, 1948. Israeli-born Greenstein’s focus on Israel/Palestine is enriched by his study of South Africa’s liberation from Apartheid ideology.

Reading of pre-State opposition — from Arabs, non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews, and Zionists who rejected the “Jewish state” goal — reminds us that the consequences of making a Zionist state, consequences of perpetual conflict and injustice, were foreseen.

As I found, while researching a book on the American Jewish establishment and Zionism, the records of Jewish organizations are full of predictions of disaster that would come from taking possession of Palestine as a matter of right, over the interests of residents of that land.

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Under Siege: From Leningrad to Gaza

Dec16

by: Ayah Bashir and Esther Rappaport on December 16th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Gaza war

Smoke rises after an Israel air strike in Gaza Strip on December 28, 2008. Credit: Creative Commons / Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

We met on social media during Israel’s assault on Gaza this summer. We were both grappling with the brutality of the siege, one of us amid the bombs on Gaza, the other child of a Leningrad siege survivor. Frustrated with the intolerable and continuing violence we decided to write together about siege and its lasting legacy.

What we found, was that a descendant of a city that the Nazis had tried to starve and a survivor of Israel’s endless siege on Gaza have a great deal to communicate to each other and to the world.

At the outset, we agreed this was not a “normalization” project; we believe in an end to the occupation, the right of Palestinian refugees to return, and equality for all. In seeking an end to siege and its legacies, we were both inspired by the haunting words of Mahmoud Darwish:

In the state of siege
Time becomes space transfixed in its eternity
In the state of siege,
Space becomes time that has missed its yesterday and its tomorrow

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