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Archive for the ‘Healing Israel/Palestine’ Category



A Visit to a Settlement: A Catalyst for Righteous Anger

Nov17

by: Paul Von Blum on November 17th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

I have opposed the Israeli occupation and its settlements in the West Bank for as long as I can remember. I have been public about these views in my teaching, my public presentations, and in some of my writings. But until last July, I had never actually visited an Israeli settlement and seen how it works and how some of the people live. The experience has not changed my mind; indeed, it has actually reinforced my view that these settlements remain a colossal impediment to peace in the region and are an egregious violation of international law.

How it happened: I was part of a group organized by Academic Exchange for almost two weeks in early to mid July, 2018. Consisting of approximately 30 academics and a few other legal and diplomatic professionals, the group toured Israel and listened to experts from several fields with multiple perspectives. We mostly heard from Israeli authorities and spent the majority of time in Israeli settings but we also listened to several thoughtful Palestinian figures when we visited Ramallah. To its credit, Academic Exchange provided a multiple perspectives and experiences without any attempt to indoctrinate any particular viewpoint. It offered an outstanding opportunity to gain first-hand experience in Israel and Palestine, including a moving tour of Yad Vashem, and to meet and talk with many people living in this troubled and complex region of the world.

One of the early Academic Exchange visits was to the settlement of Eli in the occupied West Bank. Our bus from Tel Aviv had no trouble entering the area and going through the Israeli checkpoint; that, of course, would not be the case for Palestinians. Shortly before we arrived, an energetic, American-born, middle-aged woman joined us. She became our guide for the next several hours. Well educated, articulate, and extremely engaging, she accompanied us to her home in the settlement.


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The Power of Privacy: A Review of The Oslo Diaries

Aug6

by: on August 6th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

The signing of the Oslo Accords was, to many, a sign that Israeli-Palestinian relations would improve. Photo by Ohayon Avi

After seeing The Oslo Diaries at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, I felt inspired to start keeping a diary of my own. The Sundance-selected documentary, directed by Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan, tells the tense and moving story of the secret 1992 peace talks and their tragic failure, using interviews, reenactments, and primary sources to give us a holistic perspective on the historical moment. I recommend you see it too.

 

The film is named quite literally, as much of the film’s dialogue is taken directly from the diaries of the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators of the Oslo Accords. And while their journal entries aren’t in literal conversation, they do provide the inner dialogue of some of the story’s most important characters — and frequently overlap in their subject matter, like two sides of the same coin. Without a doubt, the film holds great emotional power, and even, at one point, brought me to tears. Despite the diaries’ centrality to that power, however, the filmmakers fail to realize their practical and symbolic significance. Ultimately, the film paints a beautiful picture, but misses an opportunity to create something more meaningful, condemning itself to the same fate as the Oslo Accords.


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In Asserting Itself a “Jewish State” Israel Moves Further Away from Being One

Jul31

by: Alex Gertner on July 31st, 2018 | 4 Comments »

This past Saturday I attended services at a large Reform congregation. As the Rabbi led us in a discussion of Israel’s controversial new nation-state bill, I remained silent. Issues of Israeli politics are for residents of Israel to decide, I usually tell myself. That’s been a convenient way of avoiding controversy. This time controversy seems unavoidable, however. Since the bill seemed to me to presume to represent the best interests of all Jews, we must talk about it.

Room in the Knesset, many desks with people sitting and walking around

The interior of the Knesset where, early on July 19, the "Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People" was passed. Image courtesy of Itzik Edri.

The bill’s defenders in synagogue argued that many of its clauses, such as the fact that Israel is the home of the Jewish people, are already widely accepted by most Jews. Critics of the bill pointed out that other clauses, such as establishing Jewish settlement as a national value, are the source of deep disagreement. The bill’s critics also questioned the purpose of codifying values held by Jews if not as a basis for the exclusion of minority groups. The bill’s defenders in turn argued that the bill was passed by a democratically-elected body representing all of Israel.

As the discussion unfolded, I turned the pages of the synagogue’s prayer book to the beginning of morning services, to the list of Obligations Without Measure. “These are the obligations without measure, whose reward too, is without measure,” I read in the prayer book. Alongside widely extolled obligations in Judaism such as honoring parents and hastening to study is another obligation: to welcome the stranger. As I contemplated this obligation, the nation-state bill seemed a document in conflict with itself. As it affirms the Jewish identify of Israel, it subverts the obligation to be welcoming towards non-Jewish peoples.

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The Siamese Twins

Jun15

by: Uri Avnery on June 15th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Image of President Gerald R. Ford and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin meeting in the Oval Office

President Gerald R. Ford and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin meeting in the Oval Office. Image courtesy of Crethi Plethi.

After commenting on most of the episodes on the first Israeli Prime Ministers in Raviv Drucker’s TV series “The Captains”, I must come back to the one whose episode I have not yet covered: Yitzhak Rabin.

Let me state right from the beginning: I liked the man.

He was a man after my own heart: honest, logical, straightforward, to the point.

No nonsense, no small talk. You entered his room, he poured you a straight whisky (seemed to me he detested water), got you seated, and asked a question that compelled you to come straight to the point.

How refreshing, compared to other politicians. But Rabin was no real politician. He was a military man through and through. He was also the man who could have changed the history of Israel.

That is why he was murdered.

The salient fact of his life was that, at the age of 70, he completely changed his basic outlook.

He was not born a man of peace. Far from it.

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A Note from a Canadian Muslim

Jun5

by: Dr. Junaid Jahangir on June 5th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

The Israeli sniper fatally shooting a 21-year-old nurse Razan Al Najjar in the chest and the earlier shooting of a soft-spoken Dr. Tarik Loubani has disturbed me greatly. Dr. Loubani reminds me of another soft-spoken Dr. Abu Al Aysh, who was yelled at in a press conference just when the IDF killed three of his daughters through a missile strike. I also note the incarceration of Ahed Tamimi, a teenager who was sentenced by a military court. I recall the burning of a young Abu Khdeir and the murder of three Israeli boys — Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha’ar and Naftali Fraenkel.

The people I look up to Rev. Dr. Nancy Steeves, Dr. Dawn Waring, Dr. Sherry Ann Chapman, Rev. Betty Marlin, Rev. Audrey Brooks and Rob Wells are all extremely concerned about occupation, apartheid, and ongoing persecution of the Palestinian people. Four of them have been to the Holy Land to stand as witness to the suffering of the Palestinian people that includes Muslims and Christians. On the other hand, I have warm relations with the Jewish community. Conservative Judaism has inspired me, as the writings of the late Rabbi Harold Schulweis (alav ha shalom) have touched me greatly. I have also followed the Responza of Conservative Judaism on same-sex marriage and have borrowed from it in my writings.

I am neither a Christian nor a Jew. For that matter, I am neither a traditional Muslim. After all, I have a drastically different understanding of homosexuality, blasphemy, dying with dignity, all of which would put me at odds with many Muslims who like to pass themselves as carrying “majoritarian” viewpoints. This also includes many LGBTQ Muslims, who just tweak one element in religion to fit themselves but buy neo-traditional values on all other issues. I could be considered a heretic, but it is such heresy that allows me to push the frontiers of thought.

When I write, I like to get my pieces vetted before sending them out in the media. As such, when I compose articles I want them air tight and unassailable. On LGBTQ issues, I have created a formidable discourse with Dr. Hussein Abdullatif, who is Palestinian, along with our brilliant editor Dr. Samar Habib. However, I find myself unable to create a similar discourse on Israel and Palestine. For every argument, there is a counter-argument. The narratives of the two people are utterly different and dialogue does not bridge them. That is why writing on Israel and Palestine has been very difficult for me. I have noted that in the interfaith group I tried to set in Edmonton. The Jewish Rabbi and the Egyptian lady were just at loggerheads.

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Mourner’s Kaddish for Gaza Palestinians

May18

by: Andy Ratto on May 18th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

On Friday, March 31st, tens of thousands of Palestinians, living as effective prisoners in the Gaza strip, launched mass protests against Israeli policies. On that first day of protests for the Great March of Return, at least 18 Palestinians were killed, and hundreds more were shot by Israeli snipers. In the week following this violence, I thought often about the Palestinians who were killed. I also thought about how I, as a Jew, could honor their deaths, and their struggle for independence and self-determination, and how the American Jewish community should respond.

My initial mourning was private and personal, as I thought about the Palestinians who I knew in the West Bank, and what their life is like under Israeli occupation. I have shared meals and slept in the home of Palestinians in the West Bank. Every time violence breaks out between Israelis and Palestinians, I worry about their safety.

But private and personal mourning wasn’t enough, and leaving it at that would betray my Jewish values. In Judaism, mourning is often communal. In the days after the death of a close relative, observant Jews sit shiva in their homes, as friends and neighbors come to pay their respects. In the period after a loss, many Jews recite the Mourner’s Kaddish, often in the presence of at least ten Jews, a religious quorum or “minyan”. This honors the dead by making clear that their loss is felt by the community as a whole, that any loss of life requires healing and reflection by the living.

One week after those 18 Palestinians were killed, I attended services to share the names of Palestinians killed in Gaza during the Mourner’s Kaddish, in order to mourn them according to Jewish values and tradition.

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URJ’s Statement on Gaza and IfNotNow’s Response

May16

by: Tikkun on May 16th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

We thought our readers might be interested in the Union of Reform Judaism’s statement on Gaza and the response from people aligned with the young people’s activist group “If Not Now.”

Here is the statement by URJ: https://urj.org/blog/2018/04/09/urj-president-rabbi-rick-jacobs-escalation-gazan-border-tragic-and-dangerous.

Here is the response from If Not Now: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdm8oQS73YGw8bY7nSdy0smL4-4qjlIyOoD-vJ7SL06N_gDsg/viewform.

Israel@70: Fixing the way we pray for the State

Apr17

by: Rabbi David Seidenberg on April 17th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

The traditional prayer for the State of Israel, more literally titled “A Prayer for the Peace of the State,” tefilah lish’lom hamedinah, was written in 1948 by the chief rabbis of what had up until then been Palestine, in a time of war. The state was under direct attack by the Arab armies, and there was little distinction between peace, survival, and victory.

As we approach Israel’s 70th birthday, it is time to make such distinctions. Israel and the Jewish people live in a much more complex reality, a democratic reality. A reality where the strongest military cannot create peace on its own.

This reality is one where the triumph of one party or policy can undermine the flow of justice and reverse the outlook for peace. It is a reality where praying for Israel must include not only praying for the well-being of the Jewish people, but also praying for the well-being of the region, and the well-being of the Palestinian people, many of whom are Israeli citizens, most of whom are in some way under Israel’s control. And it is a reality where praying for the well-being of mutual enemies must include praying that people on all sides be protected from their own hatred, not just from attack.

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Sign statement supporting B’tselem’s call to Israelis soldiers to refuse orders to shoot into crowds of unarmed civilians

Apr9

by: on April 9th, 2018 | Comments Off

B’tselem, the Israeli Human Rights Organization, has called for Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to shoot into a crowd of unarmed civilians. The Israeli government justifies its killing of demonstrators last Friday and its intent to do so again this Friday by claiming that there are violence seekers among the crowd, and that some threw molotov cocktails toward the separation wall. Yet this is no excuse to kill innocent civilians. Intentionally shooting and killing nonviolent protestors is inhumane and inexcusable. We face this problem in U.S. peace and justice demonstrations when a few people smash windows or throw rocks at police. It is often very difficult to restrain them, and some have been identified as undercover police agents trying to discredit our otherwise non-violent movement.

In Gaza, the dictatorial government of Hamas does not want peace with Israel, but only an obliteration of the Israeli state, and defacto aids the right-wing in Israel who say that any two state solution would only be a front for further armed struggle against Israel. Hamas rightly suspects that a 2 state solution that showed real caring for the Palestinian people would lead most Palestinians to elect leaders who accepted a peace with justice for both sides, and that would leave Hamas leaders with a much decreased popular base, whereas their credibility increases every time Israel violates basic human rights of the Palestinian people.

After 51 years of Occupation, Israel’s policies have not brought Israel security but only ongoing struggle and increasing anger at Jews around the world whose best-known public organizations and institutions mostly rally around whatever Israel comes up with to enforce its Occupation. Most polls indicate that most Palestinians would settle for a Palestinian state in the West Bank that was economically and politically viable (the terms that would provide peace, security and justice to both sides are well known–you can read them in Rabbi Lerner’s book Embracing Israel/Palestine which can be ordered at www.tikkun.org/eip). Hamas has stated over and over again that it will settle for nothing less than a Palestinian state that includes all the territory of the current State of Israel. So we are not surprised that there were some people in that demonstration with violent intent to serve the tacit alliance between the extreme Right in Israel and the “destroy Israel” goal of some Palestinian extremists. But of course, violent intent is not the same as targeting and shooting Israelis, which did not happen. It was Israelis who were shooting indiscriminately into a demonstration of people seeking to challenge Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.

Please read part of B’Tselem’s call here, then below it you will find the statement we are asking you to sign to support their campaign (click here to sign).

 

B’Tselem’s Call

B’Tselem launched a media campaign in Israel entitled “Sorry, Sir,  I can’t shoot”. The campaign includes newspaper advertisements clarifying to soldiers that they must refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators. The organization is taking this unusual step following last Friday’s events, when soldiers used live fire against unarmed demonstrators. Of at least 17 Palestinians killed that day, 12 were killed at the protests. Hundreds more were injured by live gunfire.

The military is preparing for the demonstrations, but instead of attempting to reduce the number of those killed or injured, official sources have announced in advance that soldiers will use live fire against demonstrators even if they are hundreds of meters from the fence. B’Tselem warned of the expected outcome of this policy and now, ahead of the expected demonstrations this Friday, it is again clarifying that shooting unarmed demonstrators is illegal and that orders to shoot in this manner are manifestly illegal.

Contrary to the impression given by senior military officers and government ministers, the military is not permitted to act as it sees fit, nor can Israel determine on its own what is permissible and what is not when dealing with demonstrators. Like all other countries, Israel’s actions are subject to the provisions of international law and the restrictions they impose on the use of weapons, and specifically the use of live fire. The provisions limit its use to instances involving tangible and immediate mortal danger, and only in the absence of any other alternative. Israel cannot simply decide that it is not bound by these rules. . .

The responsibility for issuing these unlawful orders and for their lethal consequences rests with the policy makers and – above all – with Israel’s prime minister, defense minister, and the chief of staff. They are also the ones who bear the obligation to change these regulations immediately, before this Friday’s planned protests, in order to forestall any further casualties. That said, it is also a criminal offense to obey patently illegal orders. Therefore, as long as soldiers in the field continue to receive orders to use live fire against unarmed civilians, they are duty-bound to refuse to comply.

 

Our Statement

We join with B’tselem the Israeli Human Rights Organization in calling on Israelis to follow both international law, human rights, and Torah principles, and to know that those principles require individual members of any military, police or other state unit to refuse orders to shoot into crowds of unarmed civilians. We call upon our elected officials, our religious organizations, and our cultural and political leaders, as well as the public institutions in the Jewish world that have often given blind support to Israeli policies toward Palestinians, to challenge Israel’s defense of such orders and demand that Israel give explicit instructions to its armed forces, border guards, and police to not shoot unarmed civilians and to hold those guilty of doing so or ordering such to be prosecuted. And we urge all countries of the world to give this same instruction to all of their border guards, police, national guard, and armies when dealing with public demonstrations regardless of the content of the demonstrators demands, rhetoric, or intentions. 

Please click here to sign our statement in support of B’Tselem.

Finding My Place as an Anti-Occupation Reform Jew

Dec19

by: Netanya Perluss on December 19th, 2017 | 10 Comments »

This past week at the URJ Biennial, I was blessed to celebrate social justice and my Jewish values, traditions, and songs with 6,000 Jews from across the world. As President Trump unilaterally announced the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem, I was so glad to be with the two Jewish movements closest to my heart: the Reform Movement and IfNotNow.

I grew up in the Reform Movement. I was deeply involved in at my temple, found my home away from home spending summers at URJ Camp Newman, and formed deep and lasting friendships in NFTY. I spent a semester in Israel on NFTY EIE, and found my voice as a songleader at URJ Kutz Camp.

Through all these experiences, from all these communities, I learned to laugh, love, sing, and learn.  But most importantly, I was taught that Tikkun Olam, or fixing the world, was a responsibility of the Jewish people. My Jewish life encouraged me to call out injustices and work to make our world a better place. Through liturgy, songs, programs at camps, youth group events, and sermons at temple, I was called into action, often with a line from the history of our people:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?

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