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Archive for the ‘War & Peace’ Category



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

Jul12

by: on July 12th, 2014 | 24 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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Tragedy in Gaza: Reckoning with Root Causes

Jul10

by: on July 10th, 2014 | 44 Comments »

It’s happening again.

As of this writing, Israel has dropped 800 tons of explosives on Gaza, a strip of land roughly the size of Detroit. The official death toll currently stands at 81, the majority of whom are civilians and half of whom are women and children.

Yes, it’s happening again, and like the similar military onslaughts in 2008/9 and 2012, we’re hearing the same tired talking points from Israeli politicians, the US State Department spokespeople and the American Jewish communal establishment – all variations on the theme of “Well, they started it.” And like before, the suggestion that we examine the larger context of this carnage is tragically lost amidst the noise of the literal and figurative bomb-throwing.

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Mercy over Vengeance: Israeli Jews and Palestinians

Jul8

by: on July 8th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

“I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. Mr. McKinney, I am going to grant you life, as hard as it is for me to do so, because of Matthew.”

Credit: Creative Commons

Thus, Dennis Shepard, speaking for himself and his wife Judy during a gut-wrenching and terribly emotional court-room speech to one of his son Matthew’s convicted murders, Aaron McKinney, 22, spared both McKinney and his accomplice, Russell Henderson, 21, of the death penalty. As he spoke, his voice often breaking as he wiped tears streaming down his cheeks, the sound of weeping throughout the courtroom, including both men and women in the jury box, Dennis Shepard called his 21-year old son his hero, and talked of Matthew’s special gift for reaching out and helping others.

McKinney and Henderson beat, tortured, and left Matthew for dead tied to a wooden fence near Laramie, Wyoming on the chilly night of October 6, 1998. Surrounded by his loving family and friends, Matthew died six days later in hospital succumbing to severe head and brain injuries.

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Final report from Jerusalem

Jul8

by: Cherie Brown on July 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Dear all,

Credit: Creative Commons

It is Tuesday morning in Jerusalem and I fly home to DC early tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. It is hard to believe a month has passed.  I am sad to be leaving Israel, to be leaving all the people here I love, the views of the Old City from our apartment window, the sights and smells of the Shuk (the Marketplace), and all the beauty and the complexity of this wonderful, ancient place. At the same time, I am very much looking forward to coming home.

This last week has once again been a week of amazing contrasts. This past Tuesday night, we were on Jaffa road (where our apartment is).  We were just walking to dinner, when we got caught in an ugly, racist mob scene with hundreds of young, mostly Orthodox Jewish men, throwing rocks, pulling Arabs out of stores, shouting,  ”We want revenge” and “Kill Arabs,”  and waving banners proclaiming,  ”We are all Kahane”.  I have never been more pained– or more terrified.  What has happened to our people?

The horrible events of the past week, the discovery of the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers and the horrific revenge killing of the Palestinian teenager only added to the information I had been receiving all month from the tours to Hebron, the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills, and the Negev.  All together, each event and each tour has given me a stark, realistic picture, not only of the horrors of life for Palestinians under the Occupation, but also, the depth of collusion, rigidities, and racism of the settler movement, the Israeli army, and the Israeli government — and it’s leadership.  The events of this past week only confirmed what I was already learning and witnessing on the ground all month.  

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Israeli Vengeance Runs Wild—Violating Torah Law and International Law

Jul7

by: on July 7th, 2014 | 11 Comments »

“Thou Shall NOT Take Vengeance” is a key law of Torah, but it is being ignored in Israel today both by the government and by significant parts of the people of the State of Israel (read Chemi Shalev’s article and Gideon Levi’s article).

We at Tikkun condemned the kidnapping of three Israeli teens several weeks ago, and we rejected the suggestion by some on the Left and some in the Palestinian world that this act had to be contextualized to the Occupation. Instead we insisted that acts of kidnapping and then subsequently of murder are ethically wrong and should not be minimized or morally excused on the grounds that just before those kidnappings Israeli occupying forces had killed several Palestinians in nearby Hebron.

Now we watch in horror as Israelis march through the streets of Jerusalem and many other cities calling for vengeance, as some Israelis kidnap and murder a Palestinian teen in East Jerusalem, as the Israeli Army blows up dozens of homes of “suspected terrorists” without the slightest attempt to give them an opportunity to defend themselves against this charge, and as the IDF bombs Gaza though there is no evidence that the Israeli teens were killed by order of anyone in Hamas.

A right wing protest after the funerals of the three kidnapped Jewish teens. Lerner writes,"Now we watch in horror as Israelis march through the streets of Jerusalem and many other cities calling for vengeance." Credit: Tali Mayer/ActiveStills

This, of course, is not fundamentally different from what the United States did after 9/11, or what China did after the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square or what many other countries do. But it is particularly vexing to ethically conscious Jews for the following reason: Israel claims to be “the Jewish state,” and yet its Occupation policies and the violence that flows from those policies have a devastating impact on the ethical claims of the Jewish people, defame God’s name, and leave a historical memory that for thousands of years will plague our people in the eyes of others and in the relationship that ethical Jews will have to our traditions.

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Stars and Stripes as Symbols of Pride and Weapons of Hate

Jul7

by: on July 7th, 2014 | No Comments »

The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They’re flying ‘em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won’t have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be “deportees.”

Woody Guthrie, Deportees

Credit: Creative Commons

I am struck this week by the juxtaposition of images: one where soccer (football) fans exaltedly and with a sense of pride lifted and feverishly waved the Stars and Strips to cheer on their team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup playoffs in Brazil, the other where U.S. citizens wrathfully and with a sense of scorn lifted and viciously waved those same Stars and Strips to protest and banish Homeland Security bureau buses carrying migrant children and families in Murrietta, California from entering a Border Patrol processing center in their community. Eventually, protesters forced the three busses to turn around and drive back to the Border Patrol facility in San Diego.

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As a Jew living in America, the past week has changed me forever

Jul5

by: on July 5th, 2014 | 53 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

Growing up outside of Atlanta, I learned to crawl with Bob Dylan’s “Only A Pawn In Their Game” as my soundtrack, anti-war posters hanging on the walls, beckoning me and my raw knees forward. I was weaned with the voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. reverberating down the narrow halls of my parents’ apartment, formed my first words as though delivering a soliloquy on equality.

In first grade, I asked the teacher if the ‘Indians’ still celebrated Thanksgiving. When she asked why I wanted to know, I responded, “Because the people they ate with took their land,” something I’d learned from an honest mother. During a Little League game, my father intervened when coaches tried to initiate a prayer circle, wanting us to give thanks in Jesus’ name. He fiercely believed in the separation of church and, well, everything.

As an American Jew, I was mostly instilled with progressive values as a child. Rather, I was instilled with progressive, American values – particularly those which aligned with liberal, Jewish ones. A love of social justice, human rights, equality. A disdain for racism, fundamentalism, colonialism. Sure, I attended Hebrew school, but my scripture was more the Bill of Rights than the Torah, and my anthems came from hip-hop and rock, not the Book of Psalms (תהילים).

Despite this, my early love for progressivism was accompanied by a love for the State of Israel. As a short, Jewish kid who wanted to be an NBA star, I was naturally inclined to root for the underdog. And at synagogue, we were taught that Jews were the ultimate underdogs, miraculously surviving the Holocaust and a history of oppression to create a contemporary “light unto the nations” which fought with dogged determination against evil and had a cool flag. And I was taught that I was vulnerable, that there were people who wanted me dead, and that Israel was a safe haven, a beacon, a garden to which I could always escape.

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A New Litmus Test on Israel

Jul4

by: Ron Skolnik on July 4th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Just as a litmus test determines where a chemical is on the spectrum from acidic to alkaline, many American Jews seek to label perspectives on a scale from ‘pro’ to ‘anti’ Israel. Jewish reactions to the divestment resolution passed at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) show that it’s time for the Jewish community to recalibrate its litmus test on Israel.

The 2014 Presbyterian General Assembly (US)

Credit: Creative Commons.

The feature resolution at the General Assembly, approved after hours of consideration by a narrow 50.6% majority, was number 04-04, “On Supporting Middle East Peacemaking”. The resolution’s key operative paragraph called for the PCUSA’s divestment from three corporations – Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola – on the grounds that they provide products and services that reinforce Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories beyond the 1967 Green Line.

As expected, the resolution’s passage was met by angry reaction from many in the American Jewish mainstream, who claim that the decision had now aligned the Church with the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a loose network of groups around the world that, by and large, can arguably be labeled ‘anti-Israel’: Global BDS groups, as a rule, assign blame exclusively to Israel, imply that Israel was ‘born in sin’, and remain suspiciously reticent to specify if the end-goal they seek allows for Israel’s continued existence.

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Feeling Our Pain Is the Way to Peace

Jul2

by: Nitsan Joy Gordon on July 2nd, 2014 | 3 Comments »

On Monday night we found out that the search ended, the three young men who were kidnapped eighteen days ago have been discovered dead, buried in some wadi near Hebron. Apparently they were killed almost immediately after being kidnapped. The smell of revenge is in the air…

In the news some politicians are arguing that the best response is to build more settlements in order to show the Hamas that we are creating the possibility of life where lives were destroyed. Others are talking about increasing public transportation to the settlements so that young people do not have to hitchhike. The Israeli military is destroying homes without any consideration for the law and imprisoning relatives of the murderers, and hundreds of others. Netanyahu is saying, “Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay.” And Hamas is saying: “All Hell will break loose if you attack.” Planes are flying over us, Gaza is being bombed, and there is a sense that war is just around the corner….

I want to scream ENOUGH to acting out our pain. Can we just take some time to feel it?

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