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Archive for the ‘Healing Israel/Palestine’ Category



Speak Up

Jul18

by: Roni Krouzman on July 18th, 2014 | 24 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons/eddiedangerous

Speak up. You, of Jewish faith or heritage, however religious or however secular, now is the time to speak up.

Speak up because you cannot stand by and watch and do nothing while a military acting in the name of your people destroys the cities and homes and clinics and mosques of a people who have already suffered far too much.

Speak up because you can’t stomach seeing another sweet little girl lying in a hospital bed, bandaged because a missile bought with your tax dollars hit her home.

Speak up because you can’t sit idly by while images of grieving mothers cascade across your television screen, yet again tonight. Speak up because you don’t want to see yet another picture of a crowd of Palestinian civilians surrounding a home in ruins.

Even if you aren’t sure what the answer is, speak up. Even if you don’t know ‘enough’ about what’s happening, speak up. Even if you doubt it will make a difference, speak up.

Yes, you may piss your family off. Yes, some friends may condemn you. But many people will also honor your courage and your heart. And besides, we’re Jews, we know how to argue and it won’t kill us.

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Why Israel Is a Progressive Issue, Not a Fringe U.S. Foreign Policy Matter

Jul18

by: on July 18th, 2014 | 12 Comments »

As a Jew, I admit to being uniquely invested in what’s occurring in Israel and Gaza – an investment sometimes cited to paint political discourse on Israel as niche. However, as an American citizen and a self-avowed progressive, I not only reject such notions, but hold that Israel is a core progressive issue which demands our broad attention.

There are many arguments made amongst progressives which seek to deflect discourse on Israel, and which echo arguments made across the political spectrum. Two of these arguments I’d like to counter below in an effort to show why Israel indeed stands as a principle progressive issue.

1) Why Single Out Israel?

One of the most consistent arguments I encounter for why Israel need not be discussed prominently is one I would categorize as a red herring. Here is how the argument goes: yes, horrible things are happening to the Palestinians, but there’s a lot of bad in the world. Try focusing on Syria or Russia or Sudan for once.

This sort of logic simply doesn’t hold any weight. Would I be unjustified in writing about water shutoffs in Detroit (as I’ve done) when land grabs in Africa are intensifying water scarcity crises for local communities? Of course I would.

It is impossible for me, or anyone else, to tackle an issue of importance without being presented with a myriad of other issues worthy of focus. But that’s the nature of taking any moral stand or championing any cause: it is done knowing selectivity is inherent, natural and unavoidable.

Mehdi Hasan, political director for The Huffington Post (UK), put it most articulately when he wrote regarding his publication’s current focus on Israel, Palestine and the intense suffering in Gaza:

On what grounds did we “single out” apartheid South Africa in the 1980s for condemnation and boycott? Weren’t there other, more dictatorial regimes in Africa at the time, those run by black Africans such as Mengistu in Ethiopia or Mobutu in Zaire? Did we dare excuse the crimes of white Afrikaners on this basis?

Taking a moral stand inevitably requires us to be selective, specific and, yes, even inconsistent.


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Hamas Must Stop Attempting to Bomb Israel

Jul16

by: on July 16th, 2014 | No Comments »

Hamas is “objectively even if not subjectively” the best friend of the Israeli settlers, right-wing Israeli extremists, and the Netanyahu government. Hamas leaders know very well that their bombs are not getting through Israel’s missile shield. There is no possible military advantage to continuing these futile attempts to rectify the imbalance in casualties between the 200 Palestinians already killed by Israeli attacks and the one Israeli killed by Hamas shells. But the extremists in Hamas, like the rogue band of criminals who murdered three Israeli youth, have succeeded in their goal: to create fear among Israelis that leads them to rally to those racists who wish to punish the entire Palestinian people for the actions of a few.  Such reactionaries wish to thereby “prove” to the Palestinian people that there is no possibility of peace with Israel and to discredit the strategy of the Palestinian Authority that has renounced violence for the past 8 years.

Still, the Palestinian Authority achieves little in the way of independence and dignity for all its efforts at negotiations with Netanyahu. Hamas’ actions, particularly its bombings of Israeli civilian targets, are as unethical and outrageous as the human rights violations carried out by Israel in its bombings of Gaza that have caused widespread death and injuries, even while Israel’s seven-year blockade of Gaza leaves the Gazans, most of whom have never endorsed Hamas’ policies, without the medical supplies necessary to heal the wounded.

The message to Hamas from Spiritual Progressives is this: Stop the attempts to bomb Israel.  These acts are immoral, ineffective, and counter-productive toward the only legitimate goal: peace and openhearted reconciliation among the people of the region.

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Memoriam for Zalman, Mourning for Israel

Jul16

by: Lynn Feinerman on July 16th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

July 3rd, 2014, Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi left his body, dying after a long, deep, and rich life. I consider Reb Zalman a teacher of mine…a master able to impart knowledge of an authentic Jewish tradition and practice.

Reb Zalman escaped the Holocaust in Nazi Europe and joined the Chabad Lubavitch movement in the United States. The Lubavitcher Rebbe chose Zalman to become a shliach, a messenger and “pied piper” to the great number of unaffiliated young American Jews in my generation.

He was the perfect messenger, an open hearted, open minded man who dropped acid with Timothy Leary, prayed with all others who prayed, and eventually was recognized by the Muslim community as a Sheikh, in addition to being world renowned as a Jew. His sweet, laughing, knowing soul shares a light-filled gaze with the Dalai Lama, in one of my favorite photographs of him.

My sense of Zalman was that he didn’t hate – ever. He’d been there and seen the Holocaust, lost most of his own loved ones. He even requested to be buried with ashes from Auschwitz – the notorious Nazi concentration camp and crematorium – because most of his family never got a proper burial. But he never expressed hatred or desire for revenge. In fact, this great soul had fled the flames and strengthened in reverence for life, love, and forgiveness. May the memory of his blessing take us all there as well.

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Gaza Burns To Please The Donors

Jul16

by: on July 16th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

It occurs to me that the continuing Gaza war can be viewed (in addition to viewing it as part of Israel’s continuing battle to maintain the occupation) as a testament to the failure of American democracy. Hear me out.

Everyone knows that the only way to permanently end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is by Israel getting out of the territories occupied after the ’67 war in exchange for ironclad security arrangements guaranteed by the United States.

The territories Israel would evacuate would become an independent Palestinian state.

So why does the conflict continue? No, not because the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel. They have, repeatedly.

It continues because the one nation in the world which can mediate such a deal, the United States, will not do so because it fears retribution from big donors mobilized by the lobby. That is why the Kerry mission failed. It is why every peace initiative going back to Oslo has failed. Every U.S. position has to be cleared by the donors. (I was working at AIPAC in 1982 when President Reagan himself telephoned its executive director to clear a proposal the United States was planning to issue.)

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Rescuing the Hebrew Covenant

Jul15

by: Robert Cohen on July 15th, 2014 | 10 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

For the last three years I’ve been writing monthly posts about Israel-Palestine from a UK Jewish perspective. At times like this, with the news from Gaza dominating world headlines, I feel an even greater responsibility to champion a Judaism that stands for more than a narrow nationalist ideology.

It took me about 25 years from the point of first engaging seriously with the subject as student in the 1980s to feeling confident enough to start saying anything in a public sphere. Like many other Jews, for years I felt increasingly uncomfortable with what was going on in Israel in the unchallengeable name of defense and security. I was the classic liberal Zionist, brought up on a diet of Jewish ethics and Western democratic values. It was an upbringing that left me in an ever increasing state of ‘angst’ over the actions of the Jewish State, a country that claimed to act in my name and in my interests. But whatever I was feeling, I avoided family discussions let alone public debate.

It was operation Cast Lead and the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008/9 that began my journey from an Israeli supporting peacenik to a marginalized Diaspora Jew, questioning the entire Zionist project. After watching children dying from Israeli missiles and bombs, my silent Jewish angst felt like so much useless self-indulgence. It was a feeling I wanted to avoid next time things kicked off in Gaza. And I suspected there would be a next time.

A visit in 2011 to Israel (my third) and to the West Bank (my first) finally completed the emotional and intellectual journey. Talking to Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line taught me that something had gone very wrong with the Jewish dream of self-determination. Whatever the questions raised by two thousand years of ‘exile’, this could not be the answer. A Sparta state, increasingly racist in its culture of Jewish ethnic privilege, had not resolved any of the issues Herzl and the early Zionists had set out to address. Instead it had created a truck-load of new problems and left another people homeless and oppressed.

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Fasting for Peace

Jul15

by: on July 15th, 2014 | 9 Comments »

If you live in a major U.S. city chances are that you’ve heard of Ramadan, the sacred Islamic month in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Ramadan used to be a strange and unknown religious celebration in the United States a few decades ago. Now, thanks to the negative and positive publicity American Muslims have received in recent years, everybody knows when and why we are fasting. Everyone from the White House to the local church and synagogue is holding interfaith iftar events (breaking of the fast) for their Muslim friends and neighbors. I should be proud and happy that my esoteric religious ritual is no longer looked upon as an undue hardship forced upon me by my religion. That finally the American public is ready and willing to accept me, with my five daily prayers and my fasting and my hijab, as one of them. I should be attending those interfaith iftar events with happiness and fervor. But I’m not.


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Compassion and Empathy: the Path to a Peaceful and Just Middle East

Jul14

by: on July 14th, 2014 | 29 Comments »

I have been struggling with how to respond to the current crisis in Gaza (and frankly, the craziness of so many things in the world right now – including the horrific reality that Obama is closing our doors to refugee children sending them back to their countries to face horrors unimaginable).

My heart is broken. At Shabbat services Friday night, as we sang a prayer for healing, my thoughts turned to all the victims in Gaza – images of their maimed and murdered bodies (that I had unfortunately seen on the internet) flashed before my eyes, resulting in tears running down my cheeks and sobs of sorrow and grief), just as I mourned the death of the three Israeli teenagers. I sometimes feel a sense of hopelessness at the current situation and know many people don’t have any idea what to do to stop this madness, nonetheless I am now working to expand our Network of Spiritual Progressives to help spread a different worldview and to bring a voice of compassion and empathy to the situation.

Israel, with its overwhelming power, has a moral responsibility to stop bombing Gaza. Israel is killing innocent civilians under the guise of wiping out Hamas when in fact, this sort of attack will only strengthen militant forces and voices in Palestine who will use the attacks to further their position that Israel (and “Jews”) are murderers and only care about controlling all of Israel and Palestine. In addition, this behavior by Netanyahu only perpetuates anti-Semitism and puts Jews at greater risk around the world. When the actions of the State of Israel are equated with the actions of Jews, Jews ultimately suffer.In fact, just today I read about pro-Hamas protesters in Paris trapping hundreds of Jews in a synagogue, chanting “Death to Jews” while throwing rocks and bricks at the synagogue. The police dispersed the crowd. The members left the synagogue – two were lightly injured. Anti-Semitism, like any form of racism, is always illegitimate. But when so many institutions of the organized Jewish communities around the world line up in solidarity with whatever military or political action the State of Israel takes, I can easily see how easy it is for some to equate the activities of the State of Israel with the entire Jewish people (unfair though that is).


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My Head Is Spinning as Gaza Burns: The Most Timely Book Review I’ve Ever Written

Jul12

by: on July 12th, 2014 | 26 Comments »

I was sitting in Philadelphia’s airport recently, awaiting a flight back home, the book I had been reading turned face down in my lap. Intentionally. I didn’t want anyone to see the cover. Didn’t want anyone to associate its cover with my views – these people I didn’t know, people I would never know.

I had just opened to the book’s second chapter – “Does Israel Have a Right to Exist as a Jewish State?” – and had closed it quickly. Shocked by the question. Shocked by my imagined (and false) notions of what a chapter with such a title might contain, by the prospect of a stranger seeing me reading it.

So I shut the book – Ali Abunimah’s The Battle for Justice in Palestine, which argues that only a bi-national state can justly end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and quickly hid it from those milling about.

It was an absurd scene, particularly considering this: I was returning from my book event at one of Philadelphia’s largest synagogues, an event local, right-wing Jews had tried to cancel due to my progressive views on Israel. During the event, a hulking, armed guard watched the crowd as I spoke about the humanity of both Israelis and Palestinians. A staff member sheepishly told me just before things commenced, “We’ve never hired police for a book event before; please forgive us.”

The security was present because a handful of community members had, with unusual vehemence, demanded the synagogue not allow me into the building. Why? Because I believe that Palestinians’ nonviolent opposition to Israel, including the use of boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS), is wholly legitimate. These people wanted me out of the building despite the fact that, as a progressive Zionist, I disagree with the BDS movement’s ideal of a single, bi-national state as a viable solution to the conflict, instead holding onto the dwindling hope of two states for two peoples.

However, the recent, unspeakable events of the past two weeks have begun to make me question whether a two-state solution is even remotely possible anymore, particularly as Israeli officials begin embracing various one-state solutions.

Such internal questioning reached a climax on Friday, when Netanyahu explicitly stated that he wanted Israel to control the West Bank indefinitely, marking his first-ever public rejection of the two-state solution and Palestinian statehood.

My jaw dropped.


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Only by Ending the Occupation and Embracing Equality Can This Terrible Bloodshed End

Jul11

by: Rebecca Vilkomerson on July 11th, 2014 | 9 Comments »

The last several days have been devastating. The weeks leading up to it have been horrifying. Since the beginning of the Israel’s Operation Protective Edge on July 8, 2014 upwards of eighty Palestinians have been killed and approximately 500 wounded by Israeli missiles and two Israelis have been wounded from rockets fired from Gaza. We have watched with sadness and anger as the deaths of children have mounted, racist mobs have rampaged, the fears of people throughout both Israel and Palestine have reached unbearable levels, and the collective punishment of the Palestinian people has intensified.

Jewish Voice for Peace Protesters

Credit: Creative Commons.

In just the last few days, scores of Palestinians – with no place to hide – have been killed, while the entire population of Gaza experiences the terror of widespread bombing. Israelis have had to endure the fear of never knowing when or where the next rocket will fall.

What is worse, reports from Israel and the Jewish Daily Forward (http://forward.com/articles/201764/how-politics-and-lies-triggered-an-unintended-war) in the United States are now confirming that this entire escalation was artificially created by Israeli political leaders and built on a foundation of lies.

None of this should be happening. As we mourn all who have died, we also reaffirm that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality.

To end violence – and truly mourn its victims – we must acknowledge, and challenge the root causes beneath it. The Occupation, with U.S. military and financial support, is the root cause. The daily structural violence of the occupation systematically denies the very humanity of Arabs, while valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others. Our unshakeable belief in justice – as Jews and as human beings – compels us to acknowledge that the root of this violence lies in the Israeli government’s commitment to occupation over the well-being of Palestinians or Israelis. Where our leaders have so thoroughly refused that truth, it is our responsibility to hold it up.

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