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,'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.