Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Chanukah Blessing

And now, something lovely and uplifting.

Last year, and for too many years before that, we were lighting Chanukah candles in his name, praying that somehow he might come home alive.

This year he can light for himself.

Welcome home, Gilad.

Equivalence, and Lack Thereof

So, Israel has objected to Mahmoud Abbas meeting with Amna Muna. This woman was released this week, as part of the exchange of prisoners for Gilad Shalit. She had been serving a life sentence for luring a sixteen-year-old boy named Ofir Rahum to meet her in Jerusalem, with a fake Internet identity and promises of romance. She took him to Ramallah, where he was murdered by her co-conspirators.

And now she's out, to be greeted by a warm reception from Abbas. Israelis are, understandably, a little agitated at yet another reminder that people who've committed horrific crimes against civilians are, in fact, considered heroes and freedom fighters by Palestinian leaders.

Palestinian leaders, meanwhile, feel that it's entirely unreasonable for Israelis to be upset about a little business of a continential breakfast or two between a president and a terrorist. Jibril Rajub, who the AP describes as a 'Palestinian official', but the liberal-left Ha'aretz more bluntly describes as a 'Fatah strongman', was quite iffy about the whole thing. "If she doesn't deserve to live, why did you let her go?" he demanded. "We can't he talk to her?" he went on, addressing Israel Radio. "There are Israeli parliamentarians and army generals who are worse than her."

That's the sort of insane, unaccountable logic that anti-Israel nuts on the Internet tend to favor. Warfare, terrorism, diplomacy...it's all the same thing, more or less, right? There are members of the Knesset who are just as bad as this woman who lured a sixteen-year-old civilian to his death in cold blood, and we know this because...well, because Mr. Rajub says so, and he ought to know.

A Facebook friend provided a 'what-if' that I think casts some light on this whole situation: what if Netanyahu had sat down with some of the recent 'price tag' vandals, for coffee and a photo op? Bear in mind that as little as I approve of these people, they have done nothing that even begins to approach what Ms. Muna was convicted of. What if his excuse was the same as Abbas', that he should 'be with his people', wherever they were? What would the people say who are going to look at this and shrug, because it's not important, and there are people worse than Amna Muna? I think we all know.

(Ha'aretz also notes that Muna was supposed to go to Gaza after her release, but refused, because she's a secular Muslim. There's a sort of sad fitness to learning that even terrorists don't want to set foot in what Fortress Hamas has become. Amna Muna may be evil, but she's apparently not stupid.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reclaiming the Zionist Label

I think that this is very well written. I'm especially pleased that Bernstein covers the history of how 'Zionism' was used historically by the Soviets, and connects that with the history of the U.N. on the movement.

A few weeks ago, countering the anti-AIPAC protest, I listened with interest as they conducted an open 'people's microphone', a tactic borrowed from Occupy, where listeners repeat the speaker's words in unison, so that those farther away can hear. Originally adopted to substitute for a microphone, where none were available, it can also, of course, simply be a way of being annoying...sigh. What I realized that evening is that it can also serve as something of a gage of the crowd. One man was being faithfully repeated after as he declared that people don't like 'the occupation'. Not all Jews support 'the occupation'. Every phrase was repeated back. And then he said "Not even all Zionists support the occupation", and something odd happened. The microphone failed, as people couldn't bring themselves to repeat those words.

I don't know exactly what he meant by those words, but I do know why they faltered at that point--because "Zionist" has been effectively branded in the minds of anti-Israel activists to mean someone set in complete opposition to anything human, positive or progressive.

To lose pride in what Zionism is, and what it means, is to lose a great deal. In the coming year, I'd like to give some thought as to how to educate about the word and identity, and take it back from those who hate.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Who Is the 99%? And Who Decides That?

On Monday night, standing outside Oakland's Grand Marriott Hotel, holding a flag and a sign that said "The 99% Support Democracy, The 99% Support Israel", I had some time to consider the usefulness (or lack therof) of this whole 99% and 1% business, as it applied to the business at hand.

The organizers of the event, Students for Justice in Palestine, Code Pink, Jewish Voice for Peace, and company, were running with the idea that AIPAC is the 1%--the quintessential 1%--and called their event 'Occupy AIPAC, Not Palestine'. (The complex means by which 'occupy' is now being used by these people both as a positive and negative term--and the total lack of actual 'occupation' in any of these contexts--is a story for another time.)

AIPAC is not the 1%. AIPAC's membership is made up overwhelmingly of economically average Americans. AIPAC is a lobbying group, and entirely uninvolved with the banking industry, or the current economic morass in which the United States finds itself.

One of our members was told directly, twice, on Monday night, that she 'was the 1%'. This was patently not true; she is, in fact, a kindergarten teacher at a public school, which is not traditionally a profession of the rich and influential. But in the minds of the anti-AIPAC protesters, she had given up her place in the economic rank-and-file of the country by daring to cross them over Israel.

Meanwhile, San Francisco Voice for Israel held signs proudly proclaiming ourselves lovers of Israel who are the 99%, and claimed the support of the 99% for democracy, and for peace in the Middle East. The mere idea that we would do this seemed to confuse some who were unable to grasp the idea that they did not own the Occupy movement. Allison Deger at Mondoweiss was baffled:  "(In an odd occurrence, while members of the Occupy Oakland movement were present at the Stop AIPAC demonstration, members of the pro-AIPCA demonstration carried sign identifying as the "99%")." Note: There were members of the Occupy Oakland movement present on both sides. That this is unthinkable to people who like to imagine that all left-wing activists agree with them does not make it any the less true.

But to get back to this 1% business--to call someone "the 1%" is essentially to say that they are rich and powerful, which is a fairly loaded thing to falsely throw at Jews. After the demo, several people commented that they had perceived the emphasis on AIPAC as 'the 1%' as containing rather obvious layers of racist nuance. "Essentially they mean Jews are the 1% who run the world," a friend commented.

This shouldn't surprise anyone, but it should be of some concern to those anti-AIPAC protesters marching blithely around with signs declaring that AIPAC violates their Jewish values. These people should understand that they are being offered a bargain that's all too familiar to Jewish activists: they are permitted to consider themselves part of the struggle, as long as they ask for nothing for themselves, and never critique the ways in which anti-Semitism is used in that struggle.

It's a bad bargain. Regardless of feelings about AIPAC, no Jew should accept it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Look Who Thinks They Started A Revolution

If there is one thing that anti-Israel groups with an agenda really can't stand, it's the sight of people organizing and protesting without them, and even worse, pursuing an agenda other than the one the anti-Israel groups would really like to see, ie, trashing Israel.

So, to some extent, the Occupy movement has to be a bit of nightmare for the likes of International ANSWER. The sight of large, quasi-organized groups of left-leaning Americans blaming the problems of the world on economic inequality, rather than the State of Israel is infuriating.

There are a couple of ways to handle this. One is to attempt to persuade the Occupy Movement that protesting the existence of Israel is, in fact, something that should be a priority. Hence, the (tabled) attempt to convince the General Assembly of Occupy Oakland to protest at last night's AIPAC conference. Despite plaintive claims about AIPAC, Occupy declined to follow Code Pink and Students for Justice in Palestine out to the Hilton, and their rally drew fewer than fifty people. They did their best to link their hate to the memes of the Occupy Movement, carrying signs insisting that "AIPAC is the 1%", and falsely accusing AIPAC of forcing the US into Iraq, but it seems that the actual Occupiers weren't interested, staying away in droves.

The other way, of course, is to simply claim credit, as in this charming e-mail that landed in my box:


This year marks the tenth anniversary of the ANSWER Coalition. Founded just three days after the September 11, 2001 attacks, ANSWER has been the central organizer of many major demonstrations against war, racism and repression in cities from coast to coast over the past ten years. Today, ANSWER is an integral part of the Occupy movement that has swept the country and around the world, providing vital logistical as well as political support to this electrifying new expression of popular opposition to injustice, war and inequality.  

INTEGRAL! Do you hear me, we're INTEGRAL!!

The year 2011 has seen an amazing resurgence of grassroots resistance here and around the world. In January and February we saw the popular uprisings that brought down the U.S.-backed regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.


I almost get the sense that ANSWER also wants credit for bringing down the governments of Tunisia and Egypt.


ANSWER has played a key role in linking the anti-war struggle to the Occupy movement, Richard Becker continues. He doesn't exactly go on to prove this, however, he just states:

While most U.S. troops will finally be leaving Iraq after devastating that country, thousands of “contractors” (really military in different uniforms) will remain. U.S. officials have made it clear they will continue to surround Iraq with U.S. bases that blanket the region. Following the bombing war against Libya, the Pentagon continues attacks on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries with impunity, threatens Iran, funds Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and has just sent an initial contingent of troops into central Africa. The real military budget this year will be well over one trillion dollars, more than $3 billion every day!


What to do about all of this? Send money, of course. International ANSWER may not be able to get Occupy out to protest AIPAC, but they still hope for a pity check or two.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Adding Up The Death Toll



Over at Popular Resistance, Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh of Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities is supporting Mahmoud Abbas as he speaks in front of the UN to ask for a Palestinian state to be recognized. The professor is not as pleased with Netanyahu's speech, commenting that he was "just amazed at how many lies can be packed in one speech".

He then posts an extensive chart, meant to show the imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians. I don't plan to cover all of this, or go into it too extensively (for example, under the precise term "Nature" we get Colonizer/Occuper vs. Occupied People, a lie too big to be unpacked in a blog post. This section, however, caught my eye:

All values show for Israel first, then the Palestinians
Casualties (63 years), 6000 killed/75,000 killed, 20,000 injured/300,000 injured
Abducted/jailed30/400,000
Homes demolished 0/50,000
Refugees created 0/>6 million people


And it occurs to me, looking at this, that it represents a number of the things that are wrong and false with the way that the conflict is discussed by those who hate Israel. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a professor at Birzeit University, but I was a history major, and I like to think, something of a critical thinker, and my alarm bells are going off as I look at this.

I think I'm going to need to break this down into three separate posts, so let's start today with the casualties. This chart does not indicate a divide between military, civilian, and paramilitary, but the Israeli numbers are rather interesting. Clearly that 6,000 cannot include military deaths, in which case we run well over that before getting to 1973, so presumably this covers civilian deaths. Assuming that this is an honest chart, we are then to presume that the appalling 75,000 figure applies to Palestinian civilians? It seems we have to presume that.

I spent a while trying to make this work. Now, admittedly, I did not use any sophisticated source material, this is all from popular sites on the Internet. However, I believe that the only way to make the numbers add up is to sit down and enter in all Palestinian loss of life in any conflict, since 1948, using both combatant and non-combatant deaths, and using the top numbers in any given conflict where it is disputed. So, for example, Black September is included in the count, and the number used must be the high one of 20,000, not the low count of 3,400.

Now, is this fair reckoning? By my estimation, there are two problems with it, one being that Israeli military deaths are being excluded, and Palestinian combatant deaths counted in, also that the Palestinian count include people killed by non-Israelis who were not acting for Israel in any way. Conceivably, those who died in Black September could be considered victims of the overall conflict, but that line of reasoning is going to get us into trouble down the road, when we start looking at that refugee claim more closely.

But by any reckoning, leaving Palestinian combatants in and Israeli combatants (and diplomatic personnel, and various others) out, which is the only way I can make sense of these numbers, is deeply dishonest, and serves an obvious agenda.

Next time: 0 Homes Destroyed? Or, "But What About Kfar Etzion?"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Examining One's Own Bigotry

A friend posts to her Facebook account: I've often wondered why people are so much more concerned w/ the Palestinian/Israeli conflict than this. After all Turkey doesn't exactly have a stellar history when it comes to how it treats others. Think: Armenians.

I added: There's a degree of--emotional involvement and assumption of malicious intent, I guess--that seems to go along with how people see Palestinian/Israeli tension. It does not get applied situations involving the Kurds and Turkey, or India and Pakistan in Kashmir. I have some theories about why, but none of them are especially nice.

And another poster adds: Two wrongs make a right? Sorry, but the "he did it, too" never worked when I was five and it doesn't work now.

This is, of course, meant to shut off any complaints about Israel being unfairly treated. "If you did something wrong, you're gonna get criticized," the line runs, "and don't try to get out of it by complaining about context."

Of course, as a teacher, I've given the 'we're not talking about him, we're talking about you' speech many times. But as a teacher, I have also been asked, throughout my career, to keep a close and watchful eye on whether I critize or punish behavior in a discriminatory manner. Do boys and girls alike get in trouble for the same behavior? Are African-American students, African-American boys in particular, often punished or removed from the classroom for behavior that would not get children of another race into trouble? We're asked to keep an eye on this, and be mindful about it, because research does in fact indicate that this happens in classrooms, that some children, usually on a gender or racial basis, are penalized for things that draw no criticism in a different child.

So, if a child says, "He did it too," you may tell him "We're not talking about him, we're talking about you."

But if your school counselor says, "Why is every child you send out of your room an African-American boy? You sent Bobby to me for chewing gum, but when Susie was chewing gum, you just made her spit it out," it's time to listen, because otherwise you are asserting that your right to be unconsciously racist is more important than your student's right to justice.

So, if your answer to "Why is Israel being criticized for X when Turkey has done worse?" is "Because we're talking about what Israel did," that may be reasonable.

But when the question is "Why doesn't Turkey ever seem to end up in the Indymedia equivalent of the principal's office? Why isn't Turkey the object of BDS campaigns? Why aren't ladies with signs standing every week all over Berkeley talking about Turkey? Why isn't the Turkish flag being burned at demonstrations?" and the answer is "Because we're talking about what Israel did"...you just might be a bigot fighting not to give up your privilege.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Arab and Islamic, By Law and Definition

Egypt has put up its Constitutional Declaration in English, and I am examining it. Articles 1 and 2 are as follows:

Article 1:
The Arab Republic of Egypt is a state with a democratic system, based on citizenship, and the Egyptian people are a part of the Arab nation working toward achieving its comprehensive unity.

Article 2:
Islam is the religion of the state, and the Arabic language is its official language. The principles of Islamic law are the chief source of legislation.


I am not going to speak for or against this formulation, it's about what you would expect. I am, however, seeing floating before my eyes any number of anti-Zionist types who have told me, with tears in their eyes, how backward, primitive, inherently racist, and inimical to peace it is for Israel to want to be identified as a Jewish state.

And I wonder what they will have to say about this precise double-whammy of self-identification by ethnicity and religion.

No, actually, I don't wonder. They'll scoot right along to show me the later articles promising freedom of religion, and not see their hypocrisy at all.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This is getting to be a thing, with the Russians

Per CAMERA's Snapshot blog, there is some question about whether this is still up. I now find it 'edited'.

Adam Holland located it.

The Rev. Vicki Gray writes, for the Episcopal News Service:

“Almost amusingly, Rabbi Daniel Sperber of Tel Aviv's Bar-Ilan University reportedly told the conference not to worry … "the churches are full" thanks to Filipino guest workers and 50,000 Christians who have immigrated from the former Soviet Union. These latter "Christians," he failed to note, are for the most part Soviet "Jews" who have made aliyah to Israel and brought with them racist, fascist attitudes that have given rise to neo-Soviet policies that would discriminate against Palestinians and Filipinos alike and, in the process, threaten Israeli democracy.”


The date is late July of this year.

This casual bigotry against Russian Israelis is fascinating, isn't it? I'd ask what this stemmed from, but it's pretty clear what this stems from.

Disgusting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Harriet Sherwood and the Russians

Remember Harriet Sherwood? The one with the felafel issues? She's back, and over at CIF, they're commenting on a piece she wrote for the Guardian about how the Russians are ruining Israel.

CIF points out, correctly, that Sherwood and her readers would probably be infuriated (and rightly so, in my eyes) at a journalist who broadly slurred a group of immigrants to Britain as damaging the country. Indeed, I've spent some time online myself, since the London riots, dealing with people who blame the whole thing on the West Indians, or the Muslims, or...well, mostly one of those two.

Yet, Harriet Sherwood – the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, who, no doubt, fancies herself a multiculturalist who is free of such narrow-minded anti-immigrant bias – saw fit in her most recent post, “Israel’s former Soviet immigrants transform adopted country“, Aug. 17, to blame Israeli immigrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU) for moving the country in a dangerous direction.

Sherwood’s piece blames “The million-plus citizens of the former Soviet Union who immigrated to Israel in the past 20 years” for causing a housing crisis, being resistant to integrating into Israeli society, and bringing with them Russian political values inconsistent with democracy, tolerance and compromise.

Now, just imagine if something similar was written about the injurious effects of immigration to the UK on traditional British culture, and substitute the word “Muslims” for “Russians” to get a sense of the supreme moral hypocrisy at play here.

Luckily, we get a rejoinder, from Anastasia Couzminski, one of those unintegrated Russians, who has this to say:

Hello CiF watch,

As a regular reader of your blog and one of those annoying Russians that “integrated little” in Israel, I couldn’t let this article pass. This is personal.

I am beyond furious at [Harriet Sherwood's] article!

[What she says about Russians] couldn’t be any farther from the truth.

As an immigrant who’s been living here most of my life, I consider myself to be 110% ISRAELI and not Russian or Kazakh (I was born in the republic of Kazakhstan).

My mother is Jewish but I have many friends whose mother are in fact non-Jewish but are similarly supremely dedicated to this country.

It is absolute rubbish that immigrants integrated little and live mostly in “Russian enclaves”.

Many such “unintegrated Russians” are married to “Sabras” (Israelis who were born in Israel), give their kids Israeli names and many even refuse to speak Russian anymore.

This LIE [regarding the] lack of integration is evident everywhere.

I, as with most of the “unintegrated Russians”, have served in the army and, in fact, many of these “unintegrated Russian” young men go to become fighters and officers in the army and fight and DIE side by side with Israel-born soldiers!

We study all together in schools and universities and despite there being “Russian” hang-out places, it is SIMPLY NOT TRUE that [non-Russian] Israelis are NOT wanted there. The FIB that Russians created a housing problem is [also simply not true]. Russians did not come to parasite on this country. They finished “Ulpan” (Hebrew classes for immigrants) and right away began searching for jobs. They can now be found in every single workplace including hospitals, courts, and the media (NOT ONLY Russian media).

The fact that Harriet Sherwood makes a point of singling out Russians is a total double standard. And the following quote by the Russian-hating Israeli journalist, whom [Sherwood] must have had to dig out from some very dark place, which claims “…alienation between Russian immigrants and native-born Israelis [exist because] there is not much social interaction” is also simply not true.

Most of my friends are Israelis, many of my friends are married to Israelis, we party, travel and do everything together! And the older generation is the same.

In short, [Sherwood] evidently didn’t have anything to report about and found, in the much maligned Russian community, a convenient target and scapegoat.

Sincerely,

Anastasia


Watching anti-Israel writers deal with the phenomenon of immigration to Israel from the FSU has been rather interesting. They see them as a single group, of course, and the information that not all of the Russians are Ashkenazi, or from Russia, often appears to baffle them. (Jews from Kazhakstan? Huh?) Mostly, though, they appreciate the Russians, even as they bash them, because the Russian olim reinforce what the anti-Israel crowd wants to see, in their own minds, that is. They see the Russians as 'white', and 'intolerant' because of their Soviet background. (Odd, from people who insisted, while it was still standing, that the USSR was a bastion of tolerance.) This saves them, once again, from having to examine the multicultural nature of Israeli society, or from examining other groups in the country too closely. The Mizrahim and Sephardim from Arab countries are a particular problem for the anti-Israel pundit, one they generally solve by publicly 'supporting' them as victims of Israeli racism, but not actually caring to know anything about their history, their existence as Israelis, or their political opinions.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Right To Make And Eat Felafel

Over at Anne's Opinions, she's tearing up Guardian Israel correspondent Harriet Sherwood. Most of the piece is about coverage of the new anti-BDS legislation, but she added something else that caught my Jewish foodie eye. Anne writes:

In a similar, and totally related, development, Harriet Sherwood reports on McDonald’s withdrawing its McFalafel from Israeli restaurants due to its unpopularity.

So far so tasty.

Then she scrambles her omelette by adding in this nasty little aside right at the end:

"Falafel is thought to have originated in Egypt, although Israel now claims it as a national dish."

Oh! Those thieving Israelis! Not only content to steal other people’s land, now they go and steal other people’s foods! They can claim it as their national dish but we liberal-minded people know better.

Once again Sherwood betrays her bias by inserting an unrelated dig at Israel.

May she stew in her own falafel oil.


This sort of tripe is not uncommon with anti-Zionist types. Assuming as they do that Israelis plopped into the Middle East like Martians from outer space, they are constantly on the lookout for examples of appropriated Middle Eastern foods and such, in order to better define Israelis as fundamentally inauthentic and nonindigenous. I thought I should add a note at Anne's blog, reproduced below:

Lemme ‘splain, Harriet. In 1948, Egypt had 75,000 Jews. Currently, it has less than a hundred. Most of those people headed to Israel, after state persecution and confiscation of their property. In 1956, the Minister of Religious affairs announced that ‘all Jews are Zionists and enemies of the state’, and promised to expel them. Almost no one managed to stay after the 1967 war.

In Israel, these fine people continued to make felafel, and along with other Jews from the region popularized it with the multicultural population of the new nation.

Now, of course, not only is their right of return to Egypt not a potent talking point with left-wing pundits, but even their right to make and eat felafel is apparently up for grabs.

Eejit.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Alice Walker, Blogging About Her Latest Star Turn

A portion of Alice Walker's latest arrogant and ahistorical screed, blogged from Greece: Emphasis is mine.

I have never believed in the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks. Whenever I saw the men gathering to talk about peace I was reminded of what the Indians said to the white colonizers of America who came to talk peace with them: ” Where are your women?”

This would make slightly more sense if the Palestinians, whom Alice clearly casts in the role of the Indians, had a tradition of including women in political negotiations. As it is, we have here two traditionally patriarchal groups, and while including the ladies might be an excellent idea, one feels that here the example is used simply to get those Indians in there somehow.

An occasional woman has appeared to take part in the talks, but overwhelmingly the process has been male driven. I like to think if women, in equal numbers to men, had been at the table things might not have turned out so badly. But perhaps, recalling the disrespectful young Israeli women at the check-points, this is naive. 

Israeli women aren't the right kind of women, anyway.

In any case, it is when one sees the Israeli settlements, after hearing about them for decades, that the final “Aha” moment arrives. They are colossal, and, like the wall, they are everywhere. It is obvious, looking at them, gigantic, solid, white and towering, that they have been constructed to completely devour the rest of Palestine, and that the peace talks have been a ruse to continue their growth so that Jewish Israelis can claim the land by possession alone. Possession is nine-tenths of the law is one of the dictums I learned from my Jewish lawyer former husband. This belief might even be enshrined in the Torah. In any case it is a very old idea, and Israelis have made good use of it.


So, we a. don't need to worry about the peace talks, because the Israelis don't want peace anyway, and b. her Jewish lawyer former husband, apparently the origin of her nasty streak of anti-Semitism, pops up again. Brief note: "Possession is nine-tenths of the law" is not 'enshrined in the Torah", as Alice could very easily have found out by Googling it, or asking someone with even a slight knowledge of the text. The ugliness of that slap is matched only by the ignorance.


Dispossessed of land and houses, poverty stricken, refugees in their own country since the catastrophe of 1948, when Zionist terrorists drove them from their villages, towns and cities, Palestinian laborers have been forced to build these settlements for the Israeli settlers and, having built them, are rarely permitted inside them, except to service them. This is similar to our own history, in America: the genocide and enslavement of Native people, and the forced black and Indian labor that built so much of America, including The White House. Sometimes one wonders if this greed that devours the very substance of other human beings is part of human DNA. I don’t think it is; and, in any case, I hope not!


And, as usual, one doesn't even know where to begin with this tumble of lies, half-truths, and determined editing of history. Really, it's a mistake to even start trying to undo Alice's tangle of deceit. Elsewhere in the piece, she's still going on about "Jewish-only roads".

Bleah. This nonsense could scramble your brains.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Our Queer Family In Palestine

No, this is not a follow-up to 'Our Mutual Friend', written by some edgy experimental heir to Charles Dickens. It's a phrase taken from a flyer distributed by Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (yes, that's really their name), at a demonstration in front of the Castro Theater on Friday.

Why was QUIT protesting at the Castro Theater? I'll let them try to explain that themselves:


 In case you cannot read it, the cute little pink umbrella says "Israeli pinkwashing does not make me wet!". 'Pinkwashing', a term shamelessly stolen from breast cancer activists, is the new hip term in the BDS movement, for 'mentioning that Israel has a sterling human rights record on LGBT issues'. This is so true that they can't stand it, and must create little derogatory terms suggesting that allowing same-sex partners adoption rights, sending transgendered Israelis to represent the country at major music festivals, and acknowledging same-sex marriage from out of the country are all things Israelis have done simply to change the subject, and try to cover up their unspeakable evil.

Hey, we're not here to ruin anyone's good time, the flyer continues. We just want the same freedom to go out and have fun for all queers. But our queer family in Palestine doesn't have it. Many of them live under military occupation, and all of them live under a rigid system of discrimination and segregation very similar to apartheid South Africa.

This is the passage that makes me consider this otherwise fairly innocuous flyer perhaps the most chutzpahdik piece of writing that I've ever seen in a world full of terrible lies about Israel. Even coming from QUIT, this is a remarkable piece of chicanery. The deception comes in two layers. First is the expected one, which involves  throwing out words like 'military occupation', 'segregation' and 'apartheid', mischaracterizing and spinning the situation of Palestinians living under their own governments in disputed territories.

Second, however, is an almost breathtaking lie of omission. Apparently, you see, the reason our 'queer family in Palestine' is not getting to go out and have a fun day at the Palestinian Gay and Lesbian Film Festival*, is because of the Israelis.

Not because sex between men is a criminal act in Gaza. Not because there is no legislation either by the PA or Hamas to protect gay and lesbian Palestinians. Not because government-sanctioned and enacted violence against LGBT Palestinians is common in both the West Bank and Gaza. Not because gay Palestinians are routinely accused of being collaborators with Israel, a charge that carries the death penalty. Not because gay Palestinians have been pressured into becoming suicide bombers to expiate their shame. Not because in order to live as an out gay man and survive, many young men have made their way illegally into Israel, the luckier ones finding support and shelter within the gay community there.

No, it's not because of this nightmare of socially sanctioned hate and violence against queers of all stripes that 'our queer family in Palestine' isn't having a lovely time marching in the Ramallah Pride Parade*. It's because of Israel.

QUIT's website and print propaganda contains no mention whatsoever of any sort of oppression of LGBT Palestinians by anyone except the ever-convenient Israelis.

They clearly believe that mention the LGBT Palestinians dead at the hand of the PA police, murdered by their own families, or living on the street in Tel Aviv, trying to stay alive and find a place to belong, would be too morally complex and inconvenient to their narrative.

They are betraying those they pretend to claim as family.

*The Palestinian Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the Ramallah Pride Parade do not exist, except in the blogger's overactive imagination. May they someday exist, in a region filled with peace.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

This Sums It Up

Over at Divest This, some crystal clear words on why the anti-Israel BDS movement differs from other economic sanctions. It's right-on. These words in particular, addressing economic sanctions against Iran sum up what's wrong with the BDS movement:

My friend goes on to add that, unlike the BDS campaign targeting Israel, “the movement to boycott Iran, to divest from Iran and to sanction Iran does not contain within it the demand that the country itself be dismantled. It does not insist that the Persian people have no right to their own state. It does not want to force Iran to merge with another country in which Persians would be a minority. It does even not deny the right of the Persian people to call their state an Islamic republic. It certainly does not claim that the existence of an independent nation of Iran is, under any circumstances, illegitimate.”

The South African Mail and Guardian Suspends Intern for Online Anti-Semitism

The thing that most intrigues, or maybe turns my stomach, about this, is that it is an example of the way the anti-Israel narrative has been permitted to usurp and override the histories and issues of, well, everyone else.

During the First Durban Conference, that UN gathering on racism that turned into a single-minded attack on one country, and one country alone, I recall seeing a picture of two ladies from Brazil, in indigenous Brazilian dress, holding signs denouncing Israel. Indigenous people in Brazil have a lot of problems. I dare say that Israel is not responsible for any of them. But what were these women doing, in front of the cameras of the world, in their beautiful woven dresses? Denouncing Israel, to advance another people's agenda at the cost of their own.

At the same conference, a man who was there to discuss the often dreadful discrimination against, and difficult situation of, the 'scheduled castes' of India, once known as 'untouchables', complained that the Palestinians and their supporters took over everything. His group would hold a demonstration, and the next thing they knew they would be surrounded by Palestinian flags. The struggle of a wretchedly oppressed social group shoved aside--to make room for the neverending, ever-expanding, Palestinian narrative.

And now we have a young South African man who may not be old enough to remember the days of apartheid himself, but his parents and grandparents certainly do. And his first response when asked about it is to effectively deny his own experience, his own people's fight for freedom, and to accede--even actively promote--the ahistorical, dishonest appropriation of the word 'apartheid', and what it meant in South Africa--and to give away his birthright of liberation to the anti-Israel movements.

Ngoako Matsha may be posting anti-Semitic drivel on Facebook, but I'm not angry with him. I feel bad for the kid. He's been brainwashed into giving away what's rightfully his--and he's not even getting a nice bowl of lentil soup out of it.

The Mail & Guardian has suspended an intern, Ngoako Matsha, for an anti-Semitic comment posted on social media platform Facebook. Matsha has been a trainee at the M&G since February 2011, but was commenting in his personal capacity.

In response to a posting by Facebook member Benji Shulman, requesting that users suggest a "basic decent history of apartheid", Matsha posted "Petty apartheid is building tall walls to separate Israel from Palestines." Shulman responded, posting, inter alia, "Thanks for that peace of pseudo-politics but I need something that will stand up to logical argument." Matsha made the following statement in response: "You racists! No wonder Hitler killed all the Jews, because you’re all a bunch of racists."

At 10.23am on June 15, as he was arriving at eTV for an interview with Jeremy Maggs, M&G editor-in-Chief Nic Dawes was informed of the comment by Twitter user @SteveMagid. He immediately spoke with Matsha’s supervisor, who spoke to Matsha and confirmed the authenticity of the comments. By 1.15pm, Dawes had returned to the M&G offices, spoken to Matsha and informed him of his suspension, and that he would be subject to a disciplinary hearing.

In an email sent to staff at 14.12pm, Dawes wrote that "The remarks made on Facebook discussion are fundamentally at odds with the most fundamental values of the Mail & Guardian, the Constitution, and basic human decency. Justifying the Holocaust in this fashion is hate speech and is completely unacceptable in any forum."

The M&G editorial code of ethics clearly stipulates that hate speech is unacceptable. Said Dawes, "I was deeply disappointed and angry when I learned of these remarks via Twitter, and when their authenticity was confirmed by Matsha. Obviously it was appalling to see the Mail & Guardian associated in any way with the hatefulness of anti-Semitism, but more importantly these comments were an awful violation of our most deeply held beliefs, and would have required serious action even if they had never been made public."

The M&G has just completed a series of editorial workshops, at which the outline for a social media policy was discussed, and where it was made clear that the basic foundation would be that an employee would say nothing on social media platforms that he or she would not be willing to see published. Clearly, Matsha's anti-Semitic comment would not be acceptable to the M&G in any forum whatsoever.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Denial of History Continues

Over at Palestinian Media Watch, Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook have a page up about a recent claim on TV by a Palestinian 'researcher and specialist on Jerusalem', that the Crusaders wrote the Psalms. They write:

As part of the continuing Palestinian denial of Jewish history in Jerusalem, a Palestinian researcher and specialist on Jerusalem has claimed that the well-known verse of the Hebrew psalm, "If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill," is not a Jewish source at all. He said that the words were uttered by a Christian Crusader, and have only recently been "borrowed" by Jews and "falsified in the name of Zionism."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Israel in the Gardens

Courtesy of the Younger of Zion. Be sure to watch or forward to the very end--that's when the littlest 100% Palestinian bear got picked up and carried off to bed.

Israel in the Gardens 2011--Release Your Inner Camel


The inflatable camel was with Hillel, and I took a picture of it because it said 'Release your inner camel' on the side of it, and I had never considered having an 'inner camel' before. Also, the camel is a Bactrian. Middle Eastern camels are dromedaries. I discussed this with the Hillel guy, who explained that this was the only inflatable camel on the market. We agreed that it was a Bactrian that had made aliyah.

Welcome to Israel in the Gardens, 2011, a cultural fair featuring Israeli rock, face painting, kids making spice blends, folks selling earrings, and approximately a bazillion people in line for The Flying Felafel. Targeted for hate and protest by Bay Area Women In Black and their peace-loving friends. Let the good times roll!


We, the Mighty Morphin' Zionist Defenders were ready to go. We had t-shirts. We had flags. We had Caterpillar hats. We had khaffiyot yisraelit. We were ready to go. All we lacked was a dance partner.


Here is a lady being wanded, prior to entering the event. I've been to a lot of cultural fairs in my day. Let's just say that at the Scottish Games in Santa Rosa they don't wand you and search your bag when you come in. Same way they don't have security guards outside First Methodist on Christmas Day, but they do for Rosh Hashanah services. But I am grateful for our excellent security teams, because while needing them sucks, needing and not having would suck much more.

Anyway, our dance partners began to arrive...


 BAWIB is always punctual, dreary, and carrying signs that are correctly spelled, although not always fact-checked.


They had great shopping malls in the Warsaw Ghetto, I remember reading about that. Or perhaps what we have here is sheer denial of reality, combined with the pathetic belief that invoking the Holocaust will make the actual situation on the ground irrelevant.

Meanwhile, things were going nicely on the other side of the barricades:

Happy Zionists with a banner

 

Our waltz with BAWIB was coming to a close. As I've mentioned, BAWIB is quite punctual. If they say noon to one, they show up at noon and leave on the stroke of one. We were not going to be left without dance partners, however. The replacement shift was already getting ready across the plaza, and they were working on...something.

What it was wasn't entirely clear. At this stage it consisted mostly of red and black balloons. They began to add green ones, but were having trouble controlling them. An occasional balloon drifted up to the sky.

As BAWIB marched off into the distance, the first members of the replacement shift arrived. Younger. More excitable. Bearing flags and signs printed by International A.N.S.W.E.R.
Perhaps it's just as well they had the signs printed by A.N.S.W.E.R., since it turns out that they can't spell very well. One would almost think these people were members of the Tea Party.


I couldn't get a clear shot of this man's sign, but it reads "Israel: 63 Yrs. of Ethnic Cleansing & APATHEID". The all-caps was important, but apparently the evil West Bank settlers stole the R.

"Paletinian Ethnic Cleansing". What, is spellcheck a Zionist conspiracy? Don't they PROOFREAD these things? (BAWIB may be hateful, but their signs are always spelled correctly.)

Sadly, the third example of spelling issues that I wanted to post did not come out legibly in the photos. The young man below and one of his friends were both wearing jackets with photographs printed on the back, and a heading accusing "Isreal" of horrible crimes.


By this time there were quite a lot of people in their little area in the street, yelling and screaming. What were they yelling a screaming? I'm glad you asked. They were yelling and screaming "Intifada, intifada, we support the intifada." They were shouting "Falastin Arabiye!" (Palestine is Arab). They were shrieking "From the river to the sea! From the river to the sea!" And they were screeching "Ba ruh, ba dam, nafdeek ya Falastin." (With spirit and blood we will cleans you, Palestine.) And the old crowd favorite "Khaybar, khaybar ya yahud, jaysh Muhammad saya'ud." (Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Mohammed will return.) You know. Peaceful slogans like that.

And then the piece de resistance showed up. You will recall the mysterious balloon item mentioned earlier? Well, this is what it looked like fully assembled.


In case you can't tell, I am pretty sure it was supposed to be a Palestinian flag. It didn't turn out perfectly, but heck, who am I to judge? My side didn't have any balloons at all. We were struck into silence by the sheer threatening force of all those balloons. For a couple of seconds. Then the Israeli guys behind me started screaming, "Balloons! Balloons! Ooooh, can I have a balloon? I want a balloon!"

More yelling. Several people gave us the finger. And then, as the SFPD became politely insistent, the group took their balloons and their signs and their whistle and bullhorns and moved across the street, ultimately leaving behind two young men who wanted to act out. They acted out. They chanted. One of them pulled up his sleeves to show us that he had the words "100% Palestinian" tattooed on his forearms.

It was as this point that the most wonderful thing I had seen all day, inflatable camels included, happened. A young woman detatched from the crew across the street, came back, and grabbed one of the young men (the one shown above), and pushed him in the right direction. The other guy wasn't moving, so she wrapped her ams under his, and hoisted him off his feet.

The cheering from our side (also the hooting) was deafening, and for a moment I thought the young woman was going to put him down and come back to the barricades to yell at us, but she gritted her teeth and carted him off, over the center divider, and across the street.


My inner camel felt good about the whole thing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ah, They're Just Afraid of Getting Their Behinds Kicked, As In 1967


At YNet: Israelis Banned From Turkish Race

Now, this is not QUITE as drastic as it sounds. My first guess was that if you were an Israeli citizen they were officially banning you from being a Turk. Not quite. It's a bicycle race.

A group of Israeli cyclists was banned last weekend from the 2011 Cycling Tour of Isparta in Turkey, after the Syrian and Iraqi teams threatened to withdraw from the competition.

The Turkish cycling association is organizing this year a series of international tours to promote its cyclists in Europe and win a ticket to the Olympic Games.

Israel participated in the first tour, the Cycling Tour of Turkey, but the Syrian team avoided facing the Israelis and the Iraqi team withdrew after the first stage, after learning of the Israeli participation.


Some people might have said that if Syria and Iraq wanted to take their bikes and go home, it would have been reasonable to let them, rather than ban the team that wanted to compete, and were willing to ride with people of all nations. But that would just be silly.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Guest Posting At AnarchoZionist

Hey, check it out! Over at Anarchzionist's place, the Balabusta in Blue Jeans rants about circumcision bans and cartooning bigots.

Trouble at Rafah



When I first heard that Egypt was 'opening' the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, I assumed that would last a few weeks, then there would be trouble, and the gates would be quietly closed again.

Today, Gazans stormed the gate, as Egyptian troops and Hamas fighters struggled to keep control. A couple of notes on CNN's take on this:

First, CNN writes: The Rafah Crossing had been subject to frequent closures by Egypt after the Islamic militant group Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

The closure of the border had been part of an embargo policy by Egypt and Israel aimed at cutting off Hamas, but the embargo created an economic hardship on the Palestinian territory by limiting shipments of goods in and out of the country.


I'll have to check on this, because I may simply be fooling myself, but I have an idea that this sort of language 'closures by Egypt', 'an embargo policy by Egypt and Israel' were not commonly used until after the fall of the Mubarak regime, when the excuse that somehow Egypt was just doing this on Israel's behalf could no longer be used. I may malign the press. I'll try to check into this.

Secondly, CNN states that (i)t is the first kink in cross-border travel after Egypt reopened the crossing with Gaza last week, a symbolic move that signaled the Cairo government's greater support of Palestinian aspirations.

However, even before this, border control was going to remain tight:

The rulings indicate that women, children and men under 18 and over 40 years of age are permitted free passage from Gaza to Egypt; men under 40 will be required to apply for a visa which must be granted by the authorities for entry. A great majority of Gaza's population is under 40. According to a Palestinian official, a total of 23 people were turned away due to Egyptian security concerns. It was expected that by day's end, 1000 Gazans will have left to cross into Egypt.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The "New Egypt" Looks Just Like The Old Egypt


After years of hostility, it looks as though the new Egyptian government may finally simply not allow Jewish worshippers into Egypt for a hilula at the grave of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira.


"After the January 25 revolution, which toppled over the Hosni Mubarak regime, the Jews will not be allowed to enter Demito any more and endanger the public morals and hurt the feelings of its 5,000 residents," Moustafa Rasslan, a lawyer, said.

He called on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has been ruling the country since February 11, to enforce a 2001 court ruling that compelled the Culture Ministry, responsible for the site where the annual gathering takes place in late December and early January, to cancel the Abu Hasira celebrations all together.

"If the SCAF does not enforce the ruling, Damito residents will not allow the Jews come to their village to attend the week-long Abu Hasira Mulid (festival), where they used to behave in a way that contradicts Islamic traditions and public morals under the very nose of security officials of the ousted regime," he said.


Yeah, those guys up there look like a pretty raunchy bunch. Terrifying, really.

A few days after Mubarak went down, a young man yelled at me (as a representative Zionist) on the Berkeley campus that now that Egyptians were free, they were 'free to hate you'. He was, of course, quite correct. Foolish of me, I suppose, to hope that for once a people might gain freedom without attacking the Jews first thing.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Speak Out For Israel To The Frameline San Francisco LGBT Film Festival


The BDS drums are beating again, this time demanding that the San Francisco LGBT Film Festival refuse the Israeli consulate's sponsorship and funding. Why? Because despite the fact that Israel is the only nation in the Middle East in which it's legal to be gay, these folks have decided that's not nearly as important as their campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel.

They refer to any reference to Israel's excellent record in regard to gay and lesbian rights as 'pinkwashing'. Don't confuse them with facts! Don't think for a moment that the safety, dignity and lives of gay Middle Easterners matter even for a moment when the really important thing is destroying Israel!

This is a perfectly vile attitude, one that not only embraces an unjustifiable venom toward Israel, but privileges that hate above any love for the actual wellbeing of LGBT people. These people suck. So let's let the Film Festival know they're going to lose our presence at the Festival if they stigmatize the representatives of the Israeli government in our community.

Mr. Bluejeans Sr. offered his own proposal for a good resolution to this little brouhaha, which was to request that the representatives of the PLO at the UN in New York put up an equal amount of money for the Film Festival, and get co-billing with the Israeli consulate on the programs. Failing this, call, e-mail, and fax Frameline;

You can e-mail kcprice@frameline.org and jennifer@frameline.org
The Frameline phone number is: 415-703-8650 .
The FAX number is: 415-861-1404.

Speak out!!

Some Information on LGBT Rights in Israel

-Gays have full rights to serve in the military
-Sodomy laws were struck down in 1988
-Full civil rights for LGBT people established in 1992
-There are partner benefits for all governmental employees, including the national airline, El Al
-Partner adoption rights.
-In 2007 the State agreed to recognize same gender marriages performed abroad, similar to its recognition of other civil marriages from other countries

LGBT Pride in Israel

--Pride parades take place annually in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Eilat and Haifa. Attempts by Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious groups to stop the parades, mostly in Jerusalem have consistently been blocked by the Israeli Supreme Court.
-The first transgender person to win the Eurovision contest was Israeli Dana International in 1998 with her song, "Diva". Eurovision is watched by hundreds of millions of people through Europe, Asia and Africa.
-Openly gay singer Ivri Lidder is amongst Israel's most popular entertainers
-Openly gay movie producer Eytan Fox has become one of Israel's most important film exporters to the world, with his movies "Yossi and Jagger", Walk on Water" and "The Bubble".
-Openly gay politicians have served in the Israeli Knneset and on the city councils of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Barack Obama's Milkshake


From Phyllis Chesler at the generally alarming FrontPageMag, a question: Who Can Beat Obama?

As 2012 approaches fast, this is becoming a subject of immense interest, both to Republicans, and to people who've convinced themselves on no evidence that Barack Obama is a pro-terrorist, anti-Zionist type. It is an good question. I suspect the answer is 'no one', and that the President will smoothly take a second term, however a strong Republican candidate who can make a convincing showing on the economy might have a shot. However, Chesler has a different tack in mind. She writes:

President Obama’s election is due, in part, to the desire among many American liberals and leftists to be seen as “atoning” for the sin of racism and the crimes of slavery. The fact that Obama is bi-racial—his mother was white—matters little since he looks like an African-American. Indeed, the President’s own writing focuses on his African, Muslim roots, especially because his Kenyan father abandoned both him and his mother.

This is, patently, bullshit. American liberals and leftists were going to vote for the Democrat, especially in the absence of a viable Green candidate to distract the leftists, regardless of what color he might be. Was there some excitement about the idea of a black president? Sure. As there should have been. But to suggest that the 'in part' is significant is dishonest and silly, especially when you immediately jump to the damfool, 'He's not black, he's BIRACIAL' meme. Plus, of course,we gotta mention those Muslim roots.

This is off to a great start.

Chesler then goes on to announce that since Obama got his job through white liberal guilt, the only person who could defeat him would be--you see--a black woman, as "Only such a candidate could symbolically address the sin and crime of sexism as well as that of racism." Chesler then goes on to describe it as 'ironic' that a black woman first ran for president in 1972 (Shirley Chisholm) and then in 2004 (Carol Mosely Braun) and that neither received the nomination. I have to say that this is not 'ironic' any more than rain on Alanis Morrissette's wedding day, it might, instead, be a suggestion that being an African-American woman does not make you the shoo-in to take away the sins of the American electorate that Chesler appears to imagine. I mean, maybe you could argue that things have changed since 1972, but have the liberals and the leftists really gotten that much guiltier in the last seven years?

Leaving that aside, let's examine for a moment the reasons Chesler wants someone to beat Obama. She believes that he hates Israel. She believes that he does not acknowledge the elaborate pathology she attributes to Islam and Muslim cultures. She believes he is out to get the Jews. I think she's entirely mistaken on all of these points--but let's get back to her search for a candidate who will agree with all her foreign policy points, and yet be black and female enough to beat Obama (because God knows, being black and female has historically gotten you whatEVER you want in this country...uh...sure has...oh hell. I give up. Obama Derangement Syndrome has apparently caused Phyllis Chesler to have some sort of selective amnesia about American history.)

First, she looks to Congress.

Currently there are 31 African American men and 13 African-American women in Congress; there are no African-Americans in the Senate. In the past there have been only six such senators in American history. Currently, there are 18 women in the Senate. In all of American history a total of 39 women of all races, including the current 18, have served as Senators.

See, this, this is sort of interesting, because apparently we liberals and leftists don't vote exclusively enough for black candidates out of guilt to, say, get black Americans proportionate representation in the House of Representative, let alone the Senate. Chesler also leaves a key part of this out--of those African Americans currently serving in Congress, two of them are Republicans, and both of those Republicans are male. The rest are all Democrats. It seems unlikely that one of the black Congresswomen is going to suddenly start running for the Democratic nomination on a MORE-pro-Israel ticket against an incumbent POTUS from their own party. Call me crazy.

Phyllis Chesler knows this as well as I do, of course, because having put out a few stats on blacks in Congress, she switches tacks to this:

Given how many Americans confuse voting for the Presidency with voting for an American Idol; given how good so many Americans feel that we have “overcome” and have elected an African-American as our President; given how deep, high, and wide emotions are running in terms of racism (which trumps sexism as an issue even among establishment feminists), clearly, obviously, the next election is ripe for an African-American woman candidate. Obviously, she can be as inexperienced as President Obama was as long as she is charismatic, charming, eloquent, glamorous, and well connected to Hollywood, the media, and the academy. .

Maybe Oprah should run.

She will never run against her “guy.” Not a chance in Hell. (And I would never vote for her). But she represents the zeitgeist, what’s popular in America right now. And Obama has all the African-American hip-hop and rap artists and Hollywood stars sewn up tight. We can’t turn to them. Obama’s their “guy” too.


Oh, Lord.

Is it me, or is ODS making some people a little crazy, and making them say things that THEY THEMSELVES would easily be able to define as borderline racist under normal circumstances, those circumstances being that Barack Obama had not driven them stark raving looney-tunes?

I admired Phyllis Chesler for a long time. I read some of her work on feminism in college. I read "The New-Antisemitism" with great interest. I understand how difficult it must have been to take a strong pro-Israel stand after a lifetime in left-wing feminist academic circles.

But she's starting to sound like a nut.

Two final notes:

1. I notice that nowhere in this discussion is there direct mention of the one black woman I think might actually stand a chance as a Republican candidate for POTUS, former US SecState Condoleezza Rice. There are several reasons I can imagine for this, one of which being that Condi has made it perfectly clear for some time that she will never run. However, one has to point out that, given that Chesler's dearest wish is for a president who will meet her rather improbable foreign policy demands, we should point out that Condi, acting for the Bush administration, repeatedly criticized 'settlement expansion'. The fantasy that Obama's administration reflects any kind of a break with extant U.S. foreign policy is just that. And the idea that there is a black female politician out there who would adhere to the Chesler Plan for U.S. involvement in the Middle East, PLUS get all the liberals to vote for her out of guilt seems--fantastical.

2. Speaking of 'hop-hop and rap stars', I would totally vote for Kelis for POTUS.

My milkshake brings all the voters to the box,
And they're like,
It's better than Barack's,
Damn right, it's better than Barack's,
I could teach him, but I'd rather be elected President of the United States of America instead.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Letter To Jewish California


Read this, and respond:

Dear Jewish Community of California,

Bigotry against Jewish students has occurred on University of California campuses over many years and on many campuses. Jewish students have been subjected to: swastikas; acts of physical aggression; speakers, films and exhibits that use anti-Semitic imagery and discourse; speakers that praise and encourage support for terrorist organizations; the organized disruption of events sponsored by Jewish student groups; and most recently the promotion of student senate resolutions for divestment from Israel that seek to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish State.

Last May, more than 700 Jewish UC students signed a petition expressing outrage at anti-Jewish rhetoric and imagery on their campuses. They asserted that these incidents are as offensive and hurtful to Jewish students as a "Compton cookout" or a noose are to African American students. In addition, dozens of Jewish students from three different UC campuses, who responded to an on-line questionnaire, described feeling harassed and intimidated by the promotion of hatred against the Jewish State and of Jews. Almost all of the students felt that the administrators on their campuses did not treat Jewish concerns as sensitively as they did the concerns of other minorities such as African Americans and Latinos.

In June 2010, leaders of 12 Jewish organizations, including the Orthodox Union and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, wrote to UC President Mark Yudof, expressing their concerns about the hostile environment faced by Jewish students on UC campuses, and calling on him to address this serious problem immediately. President Yudof responded by asking Jewish leaders to have patience and faith in the newly-established Advisory Councils on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion. Over the last year, however, these Advisory Councils have failed to address, or even acknowledge, the problem of anti-Semitism on UC campuses. In fact, the aims and actions of the Advisory Councils since their inception, as revealed by documents released under a Freedom of Information request, show that Jewish students are not a focus at all.

In an effort to convey to President Yudof the deep concern that members of the California Jewish community feel for the well-being of Jewish students, and their distress that the harassment and intimidation of Jewish students have not been addressed by UC administrators in a substantive way, we have created the AMCHA Initiative. AMCHA is the Hebrew word meaning "Your People" and also connotes "grassroots," "the masses," and "ordinary people." It is our goal to bring together Jewish people from all over California so that they might speak in one voice, united in their concern for the safety of Jewish students on UC campuses.

Jewish students, like all students, should be guaranteed a campus environment that is safe and conducive to learning.

Please help protect Jewish students at the University of California by signing the Petition to UC President Mark Yudof protesting the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students on several UC campuses:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LettertoUCPresidentYudof

In order to reach as many Jewish Californians as possible, please circulate this letter widely.

For more information, contact Tammi Rossman-Benjamin: tbenjami@ucsc.edu.

Sincerely,

Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Israeli Books Banned In Scotland


Dort wo man B├╝cher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.
--Heinrich Heine

You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.
--Ray Bradbury

Via Virtual Jerusalem: A Scottish municipality has banned from its libraries books by Israeli authors and that were printed or published in Israel.

The West Dunbartonshire Council, consisting of towns and villages west of Glasgow, ordered new books by Israeli authors to be banned from the council's libraries, according to reports.

The ban reportedly was ordered after last year's raid by Israeli commandoes on a ship attempting to break Israel's blockade on Gaza that led to the death of nine Turkish nationals. The ban followed a decision made 2 1/2 years ago following the Gaza war to boycott goods produced in Israel. According to that law, the council and all its public bodies are forbidden to sell goods that originated from Israel.

Read the rest.

Amos Oz, David Grossman, S.Y. Agnon, Batya Gur, Dorit Rabinyan, Sami Michael, Naomi Ragen, Yehuda Amichai, Tom Segev, Orly Castel-Bloom, Dan Pagis, Yoram Kaniuk, Emil Habibi, Michal Govrin...a language, a nation, an entire literature rejected. I'm sure these censors feel themselves quite smugly in the right. I can't begin to express my fury.

We are only just beginning to sound the vile depths to which the delegitimization campaign against Israel is sinking. This sounds fine, now. Books may only be bought from countries with a right to exist...which would be all of them, except for Israel.

I'm making no excuses for the West Dunbartonshire Council. I don't care if they're vicious or well-meaning, ignorant or knowledgeable, they have set out to be part of the mechanism of destroying a nation.

Hat tip to Vicious Babushka, both for being one of the first people to bring this story to my attention, and for the Bradbury quote, which I would have never remembered.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Persian Pastries Are Much Cooler Than Hate and Vandalism


A friend e-mailed to let me know that Zand's on Solano Avenue had a BDS sign, saying "End Apartheid, Boycott Israeli Goods" in the window, and my first reaction was "Aw, heck, say it ain't so!"

Luckily, it wasn't so.

Zand's is on Solano Avenue in Albany. They sell delicious Persian baked goods, and for a little store, a stunning variety of Middle Eastern food products, including many Israeli goods. I cherish them as a local source of red lentils for soup, and also for introducing me to the amazing Mashti Malone ice cream. So when I heard that they were apparently signing on to the vicious, bigoted and irrational boycott of Israeli goods, I was rather alarmed. This might mean I never had any Mashti Malone ice cream again.

However, a quick investigation revealed that the sign was not inside the window, but a sticker OUTSIDE the window, where it had been slapped on over the remains of the last several stickers that had been removed by the proprietor. The owners, Persian Muslims, plan to continue to stock great Middle Eastern food from everywhere in the region, despite petty vandalism and petty hate.

Now, this is the best-tasting mitzvah you will ever do--if you're anywhere nearby, go to Zand's, tell them how much you appreciate their stocking Israeli goods, and buy some pistachio baklava and a pint of Mashti Malone's rosewater sorbet. There. Didn't that feel good?

Young People Marching For Freedom

Young Jews protesting the Palestine White Paper, 1939

Is it just me, or does the woman standing in the center look a little like Rosa Parks? I guess round glasses and a fire for freedom will give you that look.

What I'm For Too

Gil Troy writes:

I am for a Big Tent Zionism, which mourns together on Yom HaZikaron, celebrates on Yom Ha’atzmaut, then dukes it out over strategies, tactics, borders, and dreams on other days. I am for a Rainbow Zionism which identifies “red lines” we don’t cross in criticizing Israel, such as delegitimizing comparisons to South African Apartheid and Nazism, while affirming “blue and white lines,” our common beliefs (delineated at www.restoringsanity.info). I am for an Aspirational Zionism which embraces our Altneuland – Old-New land – to fulfill personal and collective dreams. I am for a Smart Zionism which targets its many enemies but avoids words like “traitor” when criticizing friends, and dodges distracting, self-destructive brouhahas like the recent opposition to granting the playwright Tony Kushner an honorary degree, which was bound to be caricatured as a McCarthyite attempt to squelch free speech. And I am for a Proud Zionism, which refuses to let our enemies define us, our divisions distract us, or our fears paralyze us, but reminds us how lucky we are to undertake this wonderfully challenging project of building a modern, safe, democratic Jewish state in our traditional homeland.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sabim/Grandfathers

Three Jewish men in Jerusalem. 1895. 

 I wonder if they're learning together, or holding the books for the camera so that it may be seen they are men who own books. 

The Children of War--Two Pictures

If you spend enough time reading and writing and speaking about Israel and her neighbors, shocking pictures of children become old hat. Children in mock suicide belts, children dressed in miniature martyr garb, children gaily playing with cartoon characters that praise terrorists--these are shockingly common. So are the wrenching pictures of dead children, wielded by both sides of the situation, the children killed in air strikes on Gaza, the children, like the Fogel family's, murdered in the night by teenage terrorists making their bones.

But this photograph still stood out to me.


This was taken by Reuters. Their caption reads: Palestinian boys dressed in uniforms of Palestinian security forces and holding plastic toy guns take part during a rally marking "Nakba" in the West Bank city of Nablus May 15, 2011. Palestinians on Sunday mark the "Nakba", or catastrophe, to commemorate the expulsion or fleeing of some 700, 000 Palestinians from their homes in the war that led to the founding of Israel in 1948.

Well-fed, chubby-cheeked little boys, wearing matching little costumes and holding toy guns, march in the streets of Nablus, ready to grow up and become real soldiers in a war their leaders fully expect to end only with the complete destruction of Israel. What catches my eye here is how abnormally normal they look to my American eye...fidgety, sleepy, playful. Photos of these children will go into albums at home, and be looked back at fondly, like the pictures of me in my Brownie uniform that probably still lurk in one of my mother's photo boxes.

It makes me think of pictures of little boys in scout uniforms, because it is, except for the big toys guns, so like them, and it makes me think of other pictures of young boys with guns--because it is so unlike them.

  

These boys are child soldiers in the hideously misnamed Democratic Republic of Congo. They're not well-fed, their uniforms were not ordered up for them by the neighborhood parade committee, and the guns they fire are real. Look at their watchful, controlled faces. Look at the thousand-yard stare on a child who should be worrying about his math homework in a sane world. These photographs will not be going into a photo album in a neatly swept apartment with food in the refrigerator and a television and computer in the living room. There is no home. There is no family.

If you run around accusing Israel of creating a humanitarian crisis 'beyond imagining', look at these photographs, and be ashamed. The Palestinians and their leadership have options beyond conflict, and have consistently rejected them. They have sent their children in harms' way, and justified the murder of Israeli children. Those little boys in Nablus could have a future of peace. Those little boys in the Congo could tell you that a chance like that is treasure you don't throw away.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Israeli Interfaith Delegation Asks for Protection of Jewish Holy Sites

By Jonah Mandell, in the JPost.

An Israeli delegation of religious leaders is going to present Syrian opposition members on Thursday with a list of sites in Syria holy to Judaism, to be safeguarded if Bashar Assad’s regime collapses.

While the erstwhile Turkish vision of brokering talks between Jerusalem and Damascus seems as distant as ever, an Israeli deputy minister and member of the Chief Rabbinical Council will be part of the Israeli interfaith delegation to Istanbul, which, besides meeting with a prominent local Muslim preacher, will also be holding talks on Thursday with the members of the Syrian opposition.

Ovadia Yosef tells people to stop smoking

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, president of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, has not been my favorite person over the years. I am told on reliable authority that he is a reliable authority--that is, that he is indeed a very great Torah scholar. However, he's also the rabbi most likely to show up in the news saying something deeply alarming about Ashekenazim, sheitels, Arabs, Gentiles, Hurricane Katrina, the Holocaust...it's a long list. Odds are about seventy-five percent that if the president of the Shas Council of Torah Sages is in the news, then I will disagree with what he says. Vehemently.

You can see my Rav Ovadia problem in a variety of ways. You could say, for example, that I am a secular woman who fails to understand the social context and deep Torah learning of a 90-year-old scholar born in Iraq, raised in British Palestine, and formerly serving as chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, who is one of the lights of the generation. Or, you could say that Rav Ovadia is a reactionary elderly man, representing a particularly hardcore philosophy within Judaism, who likes to say inflammatory things to journalists.

Either way, I am pleased to announce that we have found another point of commonality. Rav Ovadia wants everyone to stop smoking.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, president of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, has warned his followers of the dangers of smoking, and stressed the importance and plausibility of quitting if one is already addicted.

“Doctors are against smoking; they say it causes lung cancer. Whoever can refrain from it, all the better; he should take every effort to keep away from it,” the senior Sephardi adjudicator said in his Saturday night televised sermon, which dealt with the laws of Jewish holidays.

“A person who is used to smoking – it’s hard to quit, but [he] should distance himself from it a step at a time,” he continued.

“My father-in-law, Rabbi Avraham of blessed memory, used to smoke two packs a day.

I told him our holy books say it is a danger. He said, ‘What can I do? I’m used to smoking.’ I told him to
gradually cut down in the cigarettes. When he reached 10, he said, ‘I can’t go down any more,’” he said.

“I told him to cut each cigarette to two, [so that] he ended up with 20. After that, he got down to five, and again said, ‘I can’t go down any more. I told him to cut the cigarettes to two. Until he totally quit.”

“Little by little, I will drive them out before you,” Yosef said, comparing the Canaanites to cigarettes in a reference from the Book of Exodus.


“Praise the lord, we do not smoke,” Yosef said of himself.

While Yosef has in the past spoken out about taking up smoking, health experts say this is the first time he actually went as far as telling people to quit.

Yosef also suggested a less harmful substitute for social instances where cigarettes are smoked.

“There are those in yeshivas who distribute cigarettes among friends when someone gets engaged,” he said.

“Better to hand out candies than cigarettes. You start by smoking one cigarette, and then it becomes a habit, and then an addiction, and that is very bad,” the senior adjudicator warned.