Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 250 (since 2010-06-07 02:03:23)

Betsy

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  • Rabbi Brant Rosen steps down from Jewish Reconstructionist Synagogue saying his activism on Israel/Palestine has been 'lightning rod for division'
    • @Mooser -- may it be so. And, I hope that he sets in place *democratic* structures for self-governance... with transparency & accountability...

  • Being Palestinian got me barred from visiting Palestine
    • Amanda -- thank you for writing this. It is a devastating picture of the violence that US tax dollars fund. As Just says "Every American should read this". Thank you for your strength in enduring this outrageous injustice, and your strength to tell the story. May your voice be heard across this country. May we finally wake up.

  • Yale Protestant chaplain says Americans must curb Israel so as to curb anti-Semitism
    • haha, Mooser! anyway, we seem to be dying out, so soon will be primarily of historical interest....:)

    • @American -- to be clear. I wasn't referring to official statements from a church. The public statements by the church *are* based on big principles regarding sin, humankind, and universal rights, etc. However, my point was that in fact there are multiple webs of connection between Americans & the Middle East. It is this webbiness & complexity that is suppressed by the mainstream framework. But, it is real & it does deepen & sharpen thinking. For instance, Gradye Parsons statement for the PC(USA) against bombing Syria, directly mentions the conversations with Syrian churches that shaped the PC(USA) stand. I agree that the official frameworks should be based on broad, universal values, but it is also important to nurture real-life webs of dialogue, exchange and solidarity among people on the ground. For instance, the peace movements in the 1980s were shaped by all the webs of connection that Catholic religious had in Central & South America. These kinds of particularistic webs can synergize with the broad universal moral principles, to help ground them & make them more empathic to lived complexities, rather than being only abstract.

    • @ Henry Norr -- a lot of mainline Christian denominations have multiple connections to the Middle East, through international work & partnerships going back in some cases two centuries. E.g., Presbyterian networks with schools & colleges in Egypt, Lebanon etc. have been conduits for communication that shape the thinking & knowledge base. I have argued for a while that these long historic connections are under-recognized. And the Israeli Lobby in US has systematically tried to undercut these other webs of international connection, by implying that international linkages between Israel & self-professed groups claiming to represent "the organized Jewish community" -- should take precedence in US debates.

      While the average "mainstream American Christian" might not have these connections, they are, I believe, significant & underappreciated channels for diffusion of ideas.

      Also, re/ Shipman, he says that his dad worked for the World Health Organization & that was why he lived in Middle East. link to theday.com Unless you have some other info, I don't know if one should leap to calling this part of "the old tradition of elite Protestant Arabism"

  • 'Lesson: The Jews will defend themselves even if it means killing children'
    • Go Mooser!!

    • @OlegR-- that's pretty hilarious comment, considering that I was born in a country experiencing mass slaughter based on religious / ethnic identities. Since then, my real life experience is that that kind of slaughter is *prevented* by the kinds of values that Lozowick is trashing.

    • what an amoral barbarian! Yet another example of the collapse of universal humanitarian values. And the rise of vicious particularistic identities which imagine our common world to be merely a war of all against all, with no goals higher than mere survival.

      To me, his way of thinking is so basically flawed that I don't even know where to start to critique it. It reminds me of my latest run in with a crazed libertarian. Where do you even start?

  • 'I mourn my Jewish community, which seeks to justify these inexcusable acts'
  • Witnessing Gaza
    • @Marc -- this is the human condition. One of the oldest ethical insight is recognizing that humans commit evil, when they are bound together by myths of us/them. So, to accept that Israel is behaving like this, is to accept that such myths of exceptionalism & communalism lead to herd like behavior. I don't understand the angst about losing Jewish ethical traditions -- which have rich resources for combatting such myths (and therefore seem like prophetic traditions to cling to & laud & reclaim!). What is being lost is a naïve & exceptionalist belief that Jewish people aren't like other humans & aren't prone to such collective evil. It should be liberating to be free of this naïve belief! Welcome to the human condition! This belief of ethical exceptionalism was itself an ethical problem -- akin to the dangerous "innocence" that James Baldwin wrote about so eloquently in discussing a certain White consciousness.

      I sometimes get tired of this lament about having to change Jewish identity. It verges on whining about not being pure, not accepting membership in ordinary humanity. Isn't it more important to put ones shoulder to the wheel & build alternative forms of resistance & transformation? I mean, doh, States commit evil when based on ethnic / racial particularities -- this is old news & combatting it is a broad common struggle, for which we have all sorts of good ideas & skills & ethical traditions. This is not new ethical ground (as, say, combatting global climate change is). Isn't it time to get on with it, and not waste time on mere identity politics & personal anxieties about personal identity?

      Now if you were going to argue that there is something *inherent* to Jewish ethical traditions that has caused this current evil, than that would be an interesting argument. For instance, do the scriptural stories (of Christian & Jewish traditions) contain inherent imperial tendencies, e.g., Joshua invading & slaying? That is something to grapple with & change.

  • Blaming the Victims: A night with AIPAC in St. Louis and protesters in Ferguson
    • this article by Rania Khalek, at Electronic Intifada, shows direct linkages between Israeli military & security apparatus & individuals & programs that shaped the Ferguson response:

      link to electronicintifada.net

      e.g., here's a key point in the article

      At least two of the four law enforcement agencies that were deployed in Ferguson up until Thursday evening — the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Police Department — received training from Israeli security forces in recent years.

      but she also shows other direct linkages

  • The selected writings of Samantha Power
  • 'J Street has to change or die': Divestment battle exposes tactical rift among liberal Zionists
    • @Speedy -- could you elaborate on what you mean with "bring it on"? do you see this as some kind of cowboy Western?

      The PC(USA) has been approaching this as the opposite of cowboy duels -- our goal has been to work towards & in, interfaith solidarity & dialogue about profound moral challenges (for our nation & the world) -- that are preventing equality under the law for all humans, and encouraging lawlessness & military spending & nationalist jingoism. Core to our faith is the imperative to be peacemakers. So a 'bring it on' mindset is part of what we're obligated to critique.

      Or am I misunderstanding what you mean? are you making a threat?

  • 'I was a Zionist till I was 64. I want to hit myself'
  • Jeffrey Goldberg leads the charge on latest BDS smear: Presbyterian Church divestment is anti-Semitic because David Duke supports it
    • @traintosiberia -- the new govt of India is led by the BJP which is notably Israel friendly. I expect a strong turn towards Asia by Israel as the West gets more critical of Israel. Prime Minister Modi is probably going to take a hyper-nationalist approach (which some in India consider proto-fascist) w/ ethnic / religious supremacist tendencies -- in the service of fierce industrial development that could involve deepening crack-down on environmental justice movements. Many fear for minorities within India -- especially tribal communities in resource rich regions targeted by the race-with-China developmentalism. There's a possibility of a new bloc between India & Israel -- that should be watched closely, given the challenges of climate change, coming resource wars, energy politics (the material forces behind much of what's happening in Middle East, that gets reported as 'cultural' or 'tribal'.

    • whoa. I didn't know that @lysias

    • If people like Jeffrey Goldberg keep doing this kind of smearing, they are going to discredit themselves in the eyes of ordinary Americans. Hysteria gets old (unless one shares it) -- and I just can't picture mainstream America going hysterical over the Presbyterian Church.

  • 'Forward' editor says Presbyterian vote was anti-Semitic
    • @yonah -- what you're saying re/ not 'flattening others' experience into simplified labels is so incredibly important, especially now in our crazed postmodern media sensationalized culture. I hope you won't mind if I speak personally that for me this is very spiritual. We need some kind of *form* (like symbols, rituals, ideas) just as an artist needs material materials from which to create. But, we have to hold them very lightly & be willing to let them go at a moment's notice. That's the only way I can read the biblical scriptures -- as a *channel* for a spiritual encounter, but *not* as a map of what's true. There's so much in it that's clearly archaic & false & intolerant I'm now using a great version of the New Testament by Marcus Borg, EVOLUTION OF THE WORD, in which he puts the books into the order in which they were written & contextualizes them in their times - one theme is that at certain stages there were tensions between Jewish identity & emerging Christian identity -- which hard baked negative comments re/ Jewish practices & identity (a process that was both *within* Jewish communities & between different cultural groups -- it's confusing for me as I don't really know the historical contexts). What I take from this is that Christians have to be ever vigilant against the imagery / ideas left from this origin.

      But, at the same time, I've just over the past several years, decided that this is a 2 way street. I used to be, I think, philo-Semitic (or whatever Phil calls it) -- because of the extraordinary people & thinkers from Jewish backgrounds I knew or knew about. It's only recently that I've to really listen to some of the more intolerant (or self-enclosed & Other-stereotyping) parts of Jewish American life. I've started to periodically visit Temple with a friend. I learned that many people seem to have almost no understanding of the variety & reformations & historical changes within Christianity -- it seemed that a lot of what is taught is (for such a well-educated community) an incredibly thin & stereotyped view of Christianity. But, then I thought how much do I actually know about Judaism? I'm dismayed to realize that we as Americans can live so close together & know so little of each other!!

      but, I do want to ask my Temple going friend if there's discussion re/ how Judaism's origin story relates to the people conquered in early Jewish scriptures. Is there equivalent work re/ the 'supercession' of the peoples of Canaan by ancient Hebrews (and it's lingering effects now) -- with the efforts, say in PC(USA) to stamp out all bad traces of 'supercessionism' (sp?) in our theology?

    • @Shmuel
      :) the balancing of particular & universal in Reformed & always Reforming traditions depends on, springs out of, our legacy from ancient Jewish prophets...So, this good interdependence of faith traditions *is* something from the past to hold on to, celebrate & try to carry forward in a reformed American civic culture -- that moves (somehow) beyond the current crazinesses...

    • @Yonah -- thanks for wondering re/ being offensive. I'd say we tend to use "Presby" as a short hand, or PCUSA. I really appreciate your empathic attunement to how we might react to the labels put on us.

      It's been an extremely painful period for many of us. I've been reading the Jewish Forward and other periodicals that claim to represent Jewish American communities. I'm hurt and shocked by what I'm reading about Presbyterians! To me, much of it is both grossly distorting of who we are and our history. And, much appears to be simply ignorant. It's not just the many highly emotional comparisons of us to Nazis in the comment section. It's also that frankly I feel like our church & others like it have been at the forefront of building a tolerance in US for religious diversity. The principle of separation of church & State is basic to us -- and we have *fought* for inclusion of minorities (including Jewish Americans), *fought* against the idea of Christian ethnonationalism. So, I'm wondering what 'history' of Christians you are referring to? The Presbyterian church is part of a Reformed & always Reforming tradition, which is explicitly standing up *against* imperialism, religious / ethnic / racial intolerance & supremacy. If we are explicitly standing & working against anti-Semitism and other forms of racism -- how are we part of that past 'history'? I just don't get it. If you're arguing that our theological beliefs are based on anti-Semitism, I would counter that our theologians have been actively trying to undo any such imagery or ideas.

      anyway, thanks again, for your empathy concern re/ labels for Presbys!! It lifted my spirit in this dark & worrisome time for my faith community.

    • Eisner's piece is inaccurate on its key substantive points: (see FAQ link to pcusa.org)
      1) Israel is not being 'singled out'. The PC(USA) has practiced divestment before (e.g., South Africa under apartheid)
      2) it has also used various financial mechanisms to express moral concern on all sorts of issues, not just Israel / Palestine link to pcusa.org, such as boycotts of liquor establishments (1910s), child labor (1930s), businesses discriminating 'against Negroes' (1950s) to name a few
      3) the church has made repeated pronouncements about injustice in many parts of the world -- here's just last week's list link to officeofpublicwitness.blogspot.com (Cuba, drones, Haiti, persecution of Christians in Egypt & elsewhere, Congo, Western Sahara, sexual violence in the military) but if you look back over the last several years link to officeofpublicwitness.blogspot.com, you will see it's a very long & diverse list of issues engaged (with Israel being a small part -- and I can find no one else attacking the church for these critiques, in the way that Jewish Forward & others are on this issue. )
      4) the charge that PC(USA) does not care about "Christians" in the Middle East is bizarre and ignorant. First, we are not just focusing on our faith community -- the PC(USA) divestment from American companies was out of a concern for universal human rights, not "Christians". Second, we are very concerned about sister churches in the Middle East (along with every other human there). But, the situation in Syria is far more complicated than she's suggesting -- as is our relationship to it. In 2013, our leader, Gradye Parsons sent this letter to Pres Obama, re-stating & elaborating on the resolution on Syria from the 2012 General Assembly link to pcusa.org And, in Sept 2013, Parsons made another urgent call, which emphasized the views of the Christian churches in Syria link to pcusa.org
      5) the Presbyterian Church has taken a very strong stand against anti-Semitism, as it has repeatedly stated. I know of no concrete examples of anti-Semitic behavior towards Jewish persons (unless you go back centuries) or Jewish organizations, by the church or church representatives. We are only criticizing a nation-state that is occupying territory & violating human rights in that territory (as established by international law) -- and the American companies that are complicit in those illegal actions. A key part of our theology is that there is a big difference between a State, a faith community, and an ethnic community. The Hebrew prophets have been key to our theological understanding. To criticize a govt or a State, is a duty. And, to not put our church money into a corporation that violates our moral principles is a very well established church practice. We have all sorts of filters on investment portfolio (and many of us want even more, like against fossil fuels). It is our money & we should be able to choose to invest it where we like.

      Finally, I am not impressed by Jane Eisner's work as a piece of journalism (yet, her bio suggests that she has expertise) -- it shows no research into facts, and she does not address the substantive issues (are there human rights violations? what's happening to Palestinians?). *She's* the one making this a question of Jewish identity, that was never the intention of the Presbyterian church to focus this on Jewish people or issues -- in fact, the church has elaborately tried to prevent any such interpretation, based on mere ethnic or religious identity. These moral questions about human rights are far more important than that & should be engaged on their own, substantively -- she avoids engagement with the key issues at stake here.

      For the PC(USA) it's not about Jewish identity -- it's about universal human rights. She ignores the situation of Palestinians totally (is that moral blindness to people who are not of her faith / ethnic identity? is it only people of what she considers to be 'her community' who matter? if yes, what is the name for that?)

    • @ritzl -- good one!

  • Victory's unintended consequences
    • @richb: excellent description. The sense of shock, and sense that there's been bad faith & shunning behavior -- are important *emotional* realities that commissioners will be processing as they return home & try to explain the issues & the feelings to local churches & presbyteries all across the country...

  • 'Washington Post' suggests Presbyterians voted against Jews and peace
    • @Citizen: probably true stats (I didn't check them), but just wanted to make sure you were aware that that website is the organ for conservative The Layman (which has been trying to weaken the 'social justice' Presbys for decades). Sorry to go into the sorry weeds of Presby fissures (known among us as the "split Ps").

      The Layman broke away from PC(USA) in 1965, lead by "corporate leaders" -- here's their self-description-- saying they left because of:

      a new social agenda, encapsulated in the new phraseology, “The Scriptures are nevertheless the words of men ….”

      That phrase drew the battle line for the Presbyterian elders who first met in the office of George Champion, then president of Chase Manhattan Bank. They were shocked that the Bible was being reduced to everyday literature. At a time when “God-is-dead” theology was campus and seminary chic, the elders feared that the new confession would have a debilitating effect on the Presbyterian Church.

      The first Lay Committee members were lay leaders of the church, people of means and action. Besides being leaders in their churches, they were leaders in corporate America. They believed that decency and fair play would help their cause. Thus, they respectfully requested that the denomination’s leadership publicize their concern about the new confession. Their request was denied. They offered to buy space in denominational publications to publish their response. The denomination would not sell them space. Then they dug deep into their pockets and sponsored full-page advertisements in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications.

      they have continued to dig deep into their deep pockets to fund campaigns against feminist theology, gay rights, and most of the major PC(USA) work to date...with a particular gift for well-funded legal wrangles over church property. More choice quotes available at link to layman.org

    • Hi Mooser!

    • @ohiojoes: that's pretty fascinating theory in your local church!

      I'm only going by my impressions, so I could be way off...a lot of this is probably 'local'. What you're describing re/ 'leadership' just doesn't fit what I'm seeing (in a Southern & deep red state). The people who go to GA, are selected by Presbyteries -- and in my experience tend to be a "local leadership" or "regional leadership" -- e.g., they're congregational members who are leaders enough in their church & at the Presbytery level to get selected. These are not clearly a 'left' of the church. Some of them come from local elites (e.g., in my area, people who are connected to coal industry) and often are very socially cautious. They are more informed & better read than average (that's built into the PCUSA preparations). And, many of them are more activist (but that can go both ways, the conservatives sometimes mobilize to 'stack' GA debates). But, they're *very* different from the national staff & the mission co-workers, who do very much tend to be much more 'left' -- but don't 'lead' decisions at GA, tho' they might have influence (but a lot of the national staff are scared by cut-backs & are being cautious about not angering the base).

      In my own church, I'm feeling a noticeable shift on this issue -- it's a well-educated, but not a 'left' church. People who haven't been paying attention are starting to pay attention & don't think the Palestinians are being treated fairly. It would be interesting to do a poll on rank & file Presbys. I doubt it would come out at the national average -- because theologically, there's just not that attachment to 'land-fundamentalism' in a Zionist way, that you find among Christian fundamentalists. The Reformed tradition I think emphasizes the way God can take away 'land promises' if there's injustice -- so at best, it seems like there's a 'soft Zionism' -- which really doesn't go very deep.

      I really think that a more significant factor in local churches & presbyteries, has to do with numbers of Temples nearby & the kind of relationship with them. My parents' church is very 'left' in a big East Coast city, but includes *more* divisions on this issue, because the folks strongly against divestment, are deeply connected socially with Zionist Jewish networks -- and are facing off fiercely within the church against very strong 'progressives' on the issue. It's a very different dynamic than in my 'red state' & Southern & more conservative church -- where folks are mostly baffled & only now waking up to it. They won't like being called haters by guests on CNN, NBC, or by Netanayahu, I can tell you that...

      But, these are just my impressions, following this as very much a rank & filer myself.

    • As a Presbyterian, I have to say that this bullying reaction is not going to go over well among the rank & file. We greatly value civility, facts, reasoning together, empathy & clear organizational boundaries & transparency. This reaction feels like a mob reaction -- from people who should have more access to facts, habits of empathy, & diverse opinions. My church has handled this with deliberation & repeated statements of our commitment to continue working in inter-faith alliances with empathic awareness of the emotionality of this issue for many Jewish Americans. If PC(USA) continues to be slandered in this way, it's going to backfire in very mainstream communities across the US.

      Being lectured in this way by a foreign govt, for stands taken by US citizens vis a vis our money, and US companies -- is not a persuasive approach. The PC(USA) has deep connections with Middle Eastern churches going back almost two centuries. Key PC(USA) leaders have wide & deep experience within the region & don't need travel advice from Mr. Netanayahu.

      We are not impressed by the moral or intellectual caliber of this response.

  • In 'turning-point' vote, Presbyterians divest from occupation-linked corporations
    • the General Assembly is the ultimate authority in the church, so it's binding, and my understanding is that the folks who handle the funds are prepared to divest immediately. Sometimes, there's an uprising in the membership that topples GA votes in future years -- but it's very unlikely that any uprising will now be able to convince the church to actively *choose* to positively invest in the 3 companies -- you'd have to argue that you think it's a *positive* moral move to support Caterpillar, etc.-- ain't gonna happen...

    • @ ritzl -- good memory! no, I didn't make it as a commissioner. What I learned is that my Presbytery basically had picked its delegates 2 years ago, so last fall was too late to start my angling! We do move slow :( So, I'm politicking for 2016 :)

    • @LeaNder -- yes, the vote is a window into the heart, soul & mind of ordinary Americans from very diverse regions of the country. The rules are based on The Book of Order link to pcusa.org which keeps getting revised but has really old roots into the self-governance traditions in Scotland & then the unruly self-governance of pre-Revolutionary US.

      The Commissioners go through fairly elaborate, pre-GA training: link to oga.pcusa.org

      There are non-voting Advisory Delegates also, who can have a big impact on outcomes (and often have special expertise or commitments).

      The non-voting blocs also mostly are to hang with their voting Presbyteries. Here's what the official description:

      Young Adult Advisory Delegates (YAADs) and Theological Student Advisory Delegates (TSADSs) are seated with the commissioners from their presbytery in the plenary hall. Missionary Advisory Delegates (MADs) and Ecumenical Advisory Delegates (EADs) have assigned seating in the commissioner/advisory delegate area.

      Many of these youth are doing volunteer work for the church. The MADs are paid church workers -- many of whom are serving all over the world as "mission co-workers". These people tend to be fantastically knowledgeable, having spent many years living in communities, speaking the languages, often in extremely difficult circumstances. They also are very well educated, as they periodically have really terrific sabbaticals/educational programs that are run by the best scholarship PC(USA) can muster (which historically has been top-flight). These are the people who are largely paid for by the church investment & pension funds that Marc Ellis keeps railing against (despite their very modest life-styles doing hard work in often low-tech & difficult settings). I always watch their 'votes' (which aren't included in official tally), because they are by far the most knowledgeable, the most connected with community-based networks (internationally & US). Their votes are usually prescient, showing where the church is headed.

      The sad thing is that these people & the national staff used to have much more influence than they do now. They & the national staff have drastically lost funding, because of a false 'democratization' that turns work over to local congregations (who are increasingly local focused & uninterested in national / global issues)-- yet these blocs are the best informed & the most attuned to real politics & policy making (e.g., their work against TPP & other bad global trade deals has been fantastic, but increasingly done on a shoe string). So, if PC(USA) followed Marc Ellis' advice & got rid of the church money, the part of the PC(USA) that is by far the most progressive, might largely disappear.

    • Commissioners are ordinary lay people from all around the country who are democratically nominated to attend the General Assembly, where the church votes on key policies. Individual churches are run democratically by Ruling Elders (lay members from the congregation). Churches within a region form a Presbytery. The Presbytery nominates the commissioners for GA (with input from member churches). Presbyteries also can submit "overtures" for the GA (e.g., put forward topics for voting). The GA appoints various committees & study groups to do in-depth study of difficult issues -- which is why GA votes can take so much time. E.g., difficult questions are put off into committees to clarify the issues. For instance, this year, there were a lot of overtures pushing for total divestment from fossil fuels. But, that has been sent to committee. It doesn't mean it's being sidelined -- it's just how things are structured in order to make sure debate is informed & inclusive.

    • thanks for thoughtful comments...I can see what you all are saying re/ the fearfulness. Presbyterians culturally, I think, tend to be very cautious people, who don't like to stand out & really really really don't like conflict. That trait bothers me too.

      And, you're absolutely right that there's suddenly been an internal marginalization of IPMN & BDS -- that is a huge problem that we need to work on within the church, going forward. My hope is in the blazing clarity of the youth vote -- and the fact that new policies within the church are giving youth leaders preference, so, hopefully, there will be a kind of internal reformation.

      That said, there is also real anger & hurt. Lot's of people are just shocked by how the mainline Jewish groups have behaved over the past decade-- but haven't figured out how to articulate our moral critique. (As I said, we're a slow moving body. I'm not applauding that. It's just who we are because of our history). We'd gotten used to irrational, hypocritical attacks from Christian fundamentalists, but somehow can't wrap our minds around what seems like a kind of fundamentalism from mainline Jewish groups (who had always been allies in our big fights). Part of what makes it so bizarre, is that I think many of us are realizing that there's a lack of organizational & financial transparency in overlapping groups that call themselves 'the organized Jewish community' -- but which don't transparently show the clear lines of decision-making, financial disclosure & organizational structure that we value so much.

      I wrote a letter of protest to a regional Jewish organization last year (about something that seemed Islamophobic) and got back a statement the "The organized Jewish community" didn't support [whatever it was]. And, I thought to myself: "what does that mean?" "Did all Jews vote on that?" "how can you say you represent and organized community?" It just seemed like a totally weird statement to me (as if Presbyterians claimed to speak for all Christians!). I wish more Jews of Conscience were directly tackling these problems of lack of *organizational* transparency...I see threads on Mondoweiss against such claims 'to speak for all Jews', but wish there were most sunshine shown on the organizations themselves...

      on a positive note, in my very cautious & Southern congregation, I've just talked the adult Sunday school into doing the "Zionism Unsettled" study guide next fall and I'm trying to figure out how we can get some dialogue with local Temple .

    • I think you're misinterpreting the emotions here. It's not as much about 'fear' as you're saying. Why & what should we Presbyterians fear? I think it's more accurate to attribute the slow & painful debate to these factors combined: a) ignorance: the PC(USA) is democratic, so the church leadership at GA are made up of ordinary American citizens & in many ways reflect the lack of information of ordinary Americans. Rather than blame the church for this, people should be trying to improve general awareness. Frankly, I think the church has been doing a far better job of outreach & education of ordinary Americans than any other institution I know b) awareness among the church leadership: the historic connections between the churches of Middle East & PC(USA) and the high-information awareness by the subcommittees & workers of the church means that a minority of extremely well informed people have been pulling this process along, but they have tried to do this by educating the wide lay membership of the church. That might seem like a slow process to outsiders, but I think that bottom-up consciousness raising could end up being the better strategy and c) there are in fact close personal relationship between Jewish & Presby faith communities in local & regional networks. Rather than us being fearful of Jewish 'organized' community -- there's a lot of anguish about the vicious & (to us) irrational & unfair accusations that have been personally hurled at us, by long time friends & allies (in multiple social justice that are grounded in our everyday communities. What some in this thread see as 'fearful' comments -- are actually how many Presbyterians show anger. Because we run through very slow democratic processes, we've developed a culture of slow deliberation & trying to avoid conflict. I think that what many people are trying to do is to signal that we've made every effort at peaceable & rational discussion with our neighboring Jewish faith communities -- and *still* there has been a lack of reciprocity & empathic communication in many ways. To state again & again that this is not an anti-Jewish or anti-Judaism vote, is a Presbyterian way of throwing down a gauntlet -- trying to frame the rules-of-the-game back home in home communities -- so that, if others don't reciprocate & walk away from inter-faith, then the fault is clearly on them. What seems fearful, is actually I think a form of shaming those who smear us. Trying to set a different moral framework, so that people have to focus on the question of injustice towards Palestinians, rather than get diverted into questions re/ PC(USA) & organized Jewish community (which should be secondary to the question as to whether what's happening in Occupied Territories is right).

    • @Slappy -- are you pulling a Colbert? Is this a self-satirization? As a Ruling Elder of my PC(USA) congregation, I found myself laughing at this twisted history of my community -- twisted by repeating Right Wing talking points & a cold-hearted lack of empathy for other faith communities' histories. In fact, the more PC(USA) stands up on these basic moral issues, the more young people return. A point that I hope my neighborhood & greying Temple notes.

      It's been fascinating to many Presbys over the past year to watch the focus on *demography* in the coverage of our community in mainstream Jewish presses. Almost every article re/ PC(USA) that I've read, has started with this actuarial frame -- population growth / decline & age. With a notable lack of transparency or equivalency. While PC(USA) has conducted it's business in public -- there's been a notable lack of equivalency. @Slappy -- in the name of 'balance' shouldn't you be asking equivalent questions of other communities? And are these really the frameworks (of sheer power or demographics) you should be applying to basic moral questions by a faith community?

  • Using Schwerner and Goodman and the Nazis to deny the Jewish moment (privilege)
    • Sloppy attributions of 'Nazism' seem to me to be problematic. It's complicit with a kind of blanket ethnicizing & stereotyping. Not all German words are part of Nazism -- a point that Victor Klemperer made repeatedly when he distinguishes between negative critique of Nazi cultural constructions & positive discussion of German culture. In fact, Klemperer's book embodies the point I was trying to make. The key argument in his book is that Nazism systematically constructed a new Weltanshauung through specific distortions of language over time. He specifically used the idea of 'world-view' (with all it's rich philosophic connotations in Continental & linguistic philosophy) as a useful analytic concept with which to dissect these distortions. Far from *equating* the use of Weltanshauung with Nazi culture, he *used* the idea as a tool to dissect Nazi distortions of German public culture. That was my point exactly. It's a critical analytic tool, which allows one to step back from Nazi propaganda in order to analyze its symbolic underpinnings & linguistic manipulations; but Nazi propaganda is the opposite -- it tries to collapse ones perspective, so that one cannot see the inner workings of cultural construction -- true believers do not question the inner workings of their ideologies. Nazi propaganda, liked Oz behind the curtain, does not want those inner workings exposed. For me, Weltanshauung has been a Toto of an idea, not fake Nazi wizard of an idea. I am an anthropologist whose first year of graduate training was filled with such German phrases (and French, etc) because they led us to the literatures that produced these useful tools. To say that we shouldn't use words from another language just seems to me to be a kind of American anti-intellectualism & ethnocentrism. Why shouldn't we mix up our languages...

      I worry that sloppy broad accusations of Nazi complicity are continuous with bad ethnic stereotyping, that makes it hard for people to think concretely about particular realities, in order to make ethical judgments in the real world. To make all things German bad & Nazi, or all German words bad & Nazi -- is to construct some pure Other -- which I think Zionism has done. Ethnicizing things & then creating moral polarities is a dangerous route. I'm not saying that everyone is doing that in this thread -- but I still haven't heard anything concrete that shows me that there's anything that links 'world-view' (in whatever language) with Nazism.

      @ Lysias -- word counts of Hitler's writing mean nothing. If he uses 'land' or 'blood' a lot, it doesn't mean to me that I should stop using those words -- it's *how* he uses them, and the context of meaning & line of argument that are important.

    • why is "Weltanschauung" irredeemably associated with Nazism? I've only heard it used in Continental philosophy & in the social sciences -- where it's a basic concept. It is widely used in these fields & in association with thinkers who have nothing to do with Nazism. It just means "world view". It is often used as a critical tool to analyze ideologies like fascism. Why specifically is it associated with Nazism?

  • Now that Israel has killed the two-state solution, will liberal Zionists support equality or ethnocracy?
    • what is a "nation"? what is a "people"? both of these are fuzzy 19th c. notions of identity that are logically flawed because you can't draw clear boundaries around either. If it's based on 'culture' (as the French tried to do in their imperialism) people from other 'nations/peoples' can attend the Sorbonne & suddenly the French have to deal w/ really well educated Others who are claiming rights within the French state. If it's based on 'religion' then Others can convert. And, these ideas of a 'people' that = a 'nation' ultimately tend to root themselves either in symbols of 'blood' (which eventually leads to deepening racism as political boundaries are confused or challenged or hard to maintain) or 'land' (which can justify any sort of land grab, without recourse to universalist principles of international law). But, beyond this, ultimately leads to magical thinking which needs to keep equating a "people" = a "nation" = a "state".

      this is an inherently violent equation -- leading to an inability to define the borders of the state in a rational manner consistent with international law, so the borders must be maintained with increasingly brittle, violent & magical cultural notions of emotionally charged 'identity', enforced with terror.

      it is also fundamentally opposed to American history & political philosophy that undergirds our State -- our State is based on a 'civic republican' ideal which understands citizenship as the fundamental quality that hooks people into the State (not their culture, not their religion, not their ethnicity or race). Granted we constantly fall short of that ideal. But, the US will be in very bad trouble if we honor NormanF's invocation of 19th notions of ethnonationalistic bases for the STate. We have enough troubles in the 21st c, without going back to such stale & diversionary ideologies to shore up our beleaguered State. Zionism as described by NormanF is fundamentally opposed to American values, but also distracts us from rebuilding our civic Republic based on free citizens claiming rights under natural & international law.

      Who woulda thunk that we'd have to be arguing about such questions in the 21st c??? Yet another reason that I/P & Zionism has become a huge & unnecessary burden!

  • Kerry says that Israel could wind up being 'an apartheid state'
    • AIPAC's fb page has this exciting announcement tho' -- under a theme of "I heart Israel" (even tho' it's mum on Kerry)

      Israel’s Latest Invention: The Heart-Shaped Cucumber!

      link to nocamels.com...

      Nothing says "I love you" more than a salad. No. Not really. But a new Israeli crop, the heart-shaped cucumber, is a good start. Grown in the Israeli desert using Spanish methods, the uniquely-shaped vegetable will soon be available in supermarkets throughout the country.

      Hmm, is such fluff a symptom of psychological denial? This fb page has a strange fixation on technological 'breakthroughs'...

  • Fear of Arab-Americans in the public square
    • good post -- except that there's a great danger in US of 'ethnicizing' inequality. America has a real problem facing it's own inequality -- and a chronic tendency to hide the realities of inequality by pretending that it's a racial or ethnic problem. The best analysis of this is the amazing book by Barbara & Karen Fields Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life
      link to versobooks.com

      The underlying problem right now is the profound deepening of inequality. If we see this primarily as an 'ethnic' pattern, we won't be able to have a conversation about the causes & solutions to this inequality. The book by the Fields sisters is one of the most important books of the last several decades...I can't recommend it highly enough.

  • 'A Painful Price': The escalating war on Palestine solidarity at U of Michigan and beyond
    • @JeffB

      Jews are proud of “zionist”

      do you really mean to say this? "All Jews" are proud of this word? I'm curious as to how you got the right & the ability to speak for all Jews? You say that "Zionist" comes *after* the time of fear. Does that mean that Jews do not need to fear now? Hmm. I wonder why that is? Could it perhaps come from the democratic principle that citizenship is based on universal human rights, not ethnic identity in the US. If we are past the time of fear & in a time of pride in the US for people of Jewish background, doesn't that lessen your argument that Jewish students at U of Mich face an intimidating environment.

      Finally, why on earth do you single out Arab & Black youth, with your image of people googling specifically to find nasty words to call Jewish people? Your very language betrays a kind of racism I believe. Even as it shows that anti-Jewish language has largely disappeared from our common oral culture as Americans.

  • Iymen Chehade fights Chicago school's cancellation of his class
    • @JeffB: I am utterly fascinated that you follow this sentence:

      Teaching the societal norms doesn’t generally demand balance.

      with a sentence arguing that one should teach general relativity, rather than a scientifically unsupported theory. My fascination comes from the fact that there is no logical connection between the two sentences. The first sentence suggests that universities should promulgate social norms -- when, in fact, universities are founded on the principle that they should promote critical inquiry, which interrogates merely customary norms, while stewarding & transmitting the best in cultural legacies. The second sentence deals with the progress of science, which is based also on critical inquiry -- so that theories are taught when they are supported by a mass of good data & thoroughly critiqued experimentation. These scientific choices are the *opposite* of following "social norms".

      Finally, you often in your comments conflate the narrowest of legal arguments with broad ethical or cultural statements. It is certainly true that some academic administrators violate faculty freedoms of thought & expression (especially of contingent faculty) -- because those administrators believe that they can get away with it, because of their legal staff. But, that does not mean that the wider scholarly communities agree with those administrators. if medical experts follow the Hippocratic Oath, they are transmitting key societal values, that have upheld the social contract between healers & society for millennia. If academic institutions start thinking in the narrow terms you are advocating, rather than living up to the scholarly & ethical standards of professional communities -- it will be the death knell, not only of the academy, but also of our great traditions of critical inquiry.

    • @JeffB: adjunct faculty are entitled to academic freedom. They are teaching courses & are therefore not 'staff' in the sense that a parking attendant is 'staff'. See #9 of the American Association of University Professors standards:

      9. Academic Freedom and Protection against Discrimination

      a. All members of the faculty, whether tenured or not, are entitled to academic freedom as set forth in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, formulated by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the American Association of University Professors. link to aaup.org

      Non tenure-track faculty are now 70% of the teaching staff in US academe link to aaup.org

      Non tenure track faculty have fewer *institutional* safeguards, but their professional rights as scholars are well established by AAUP & other entities that set professional standards. It is perfectly acceptable to call him a small-p professor. That is normal reference to his category of work, not to his institutional title.

      And, faculty serve as advisors for all sorts of student groups link to colum.edu, without that meaning that they are biased or somehow less 'academic'. If a student group has been approved by the college, they need a faculty member to advise the student leadership. To advise young people is not to endorse or promote everything that the young people do or say.

  • A War on Campus: 'Democracy Now' covers the Northeastern SJP suspension (Updated)
    • @JeffB -- here's the stated mission under the webpage of the "Members of the Corporation"

      Our Mission

      To educate students for a life of fulfillment and accomplishment.

      To create and translate knowledge to meet global and societal needs.

      narrow questions of law, might be decided on narrow grounds, but the whole structure of the law stands on broad societal understandings of public interest & justice. If we divorce "law" in its most legalistic sense from broader questions about our social contract, the very foundations of the law will be undermined...that's my point.

    • @JeffB -- universities are inherently public entities, in that they are stewards of knowledge, committed to serve the public interest and to intergenerational responsibility. If universities were to start to base their values in mere ideas of private property -- they are no longer universities. That would be suicidal for universities to go down this path -- they would lose every vestige of moral, intellectual, and civic stature within our commonwealth. Plus, there are standards of responsibility which are hard-baked into the culture and protocols of professionalism and the educational mission -- that would be deeply unsettled were a university just to operate like the mere title holder to a piece of property.

      Is this an example of the kind of mean-spirited turn away from universal & humanitarian values of public life, that seems to increasingly characterize a very defensive attack on what used to be taken-for-granted principles of free speech and civic deliberation about public questions in the public interest?

  • On John Judis's 'Genesis,' and its critics
    • But the Palestinians are not the Cherokee Indians: they have not disappeared, and they are hardly few in number

      This is a very problematic statement about Native Americans in US. The Cherokee have not disappeared. And, this line of argument implies a generalized dismissal the role & importance of Native Americans in US life -- that is also very problematic. There are well over 300,000 people in the official roles of the Cherokee nation, and many more hundreds of thousands who identify culturally or religiously. The official census roles show just under 3 million Native Americans in US -- and again, there are many more Americans beyond that who value their Native roots. Native American culture is very much alive. In several states (like Arizona, the Dakotas, Oklahoma, New Mexico) Native Americans make up sizeable minorities (from about 5-10%) which are visible and valued parts of the civic fabric of those states. While Native Americans have suffered much, they have not 'disappeared'. One of the things I hate about Zionism, is that it creates a discursive field that pulls one towards demographic comparison -- as if mere numbers are what matter. The number of Native Americans in US is not very different from number of Jewish Americans -- but mere numbers shouldn't be emphasized like this. This sort of demographization of our thinking about who 'matters' and who has 'disappeared', simply does not reflect the best of who we are as Americans.

      There is a persistent tendency on Mondoweiss to make analogies to indigenous experience (recurrent use of language re/ the 'tribal', problematic analogies to violence against indigenous peoples), while showing little concern for the living realities (or sensibilities) of indigenous communities.

  • Pelosi calls Israel's creation 'the most spectacular political achievement of the 20th century'
    • our national political 'leaders' have gone totally bonkers. Are they in a bubble floating so far from ordinary citizens that they don't understand how this sounds to us? (but good catch, Phil)

  • Shaking up Zionism: A review of 'Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide'
    • any suggestions re/ how to do this are appreciated. I'm thinking about organizing an interfaith, city-wide study group around this Study Guide, and am trying to figure out what best approach to get everyone to the table...

      I brought it up in church on Sunday & someone said we *also* need to have parallel discussion re/ anti-Semitism, so that critique of Zionism, doesn't propel a new anti-Semitism. So, any suggestions re/ short succinct readings on anti-Semitism appreciated --

  • Zionism Unsettled: Presbyterian network pushes a new dialogue on Zionism
    • @W.Jones -- it's amazing how hard it can be to navigate Presby websites (considering how much we strive to be 'orderly')! But, if you scroll almost to the end of the /study-resources/publications page of the Israel Palestine Mission Network page link to israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org

      you will find the GA approved version of "Tearing Down the Walls". However, before the GA there were numerous versions that circulated. I thought the earliest were the best, but they kept getting watered down, as it got fiercely condemned by pro-Israel groups (almost all non-Presbyterian, but getting very involved in internal church deliberations in remarkable ways). I don't know how to get the earlier versions. It was a huge fight going over many months.

      This looks like an interesting workshop on the theology of land -- btw link to israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org

      thanks for the ideas re/ names to use...:)

    • @richb -- whoa!! how cool!

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