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Total number of comments: 7570 (since 2009-08-04 05:43:29)


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  • The burning of a Palestinian child: not an exception, but a result of Zionism
    • Thank you Shahd.

      It is another link in the Zionist settler-colonial mentality which always sees Palestinians as an existential threat, dehumanises us and constantly views us as inferior and marginal.

      It may seem almost trivial to some, but there is a direct connection between disregard for Palestinian property and disregard for Palestinian lives. If Palestinian land can be stolen with impunity, Palestinians cease to be legal subjects, and their very lives become forfeit. When much of the Israeli government (including the minister of "justice"!) denies Palestinian rights to property (even by Israel's own, corrupt and immoral laws) in the vicinity of the settlement of Beit El -- tragically, it comes as no surprise when Palestinians are denied even the right to life.

  • Did the BBC cover up the anti-Semitism of Gaza's children?
    • "Israelis" is a very reasonable translation of "Yahood" in this context. It's what Palestinians call their oppressors. Arguably, to translate "the Jews", in English, would have been misleading. The decision can certainly be questioned or debated, but to ascribe some sort of ulterior motives to it is really over the top.

      I've been in situations, as an Israeli Jew in a group of Israeli Jews, where Palestinians (especially children) have described some form of violence against them (usually by the army or settlers) as having been perpetrated by "al-yahood". They certainly didn't mean me or the sympathetic groups that had come to help them replant or rebuild.

  • The extremism of the center in Israel
    • President Rivlin is a “mensch”.

      No, he's a hypocrite. He (rightly) condemns blatant terrorist attacks against Jews and Palestinians, but not the day-to-day terrorism to which Palestinians are subjected by the occupation and its settlements (which he has supported throughout his political career). He then plays innocent:

      “We must ask: what public atmosphere is this that allows extremism and extremists? […] Why is it that weeds threaten the safety of the entire flower bed?”

      Does he really have no idea? Could it possibly have to do (among other things) with the fact that the President of Israel sought fit to praise a state-supported Jewish terrorist like Moshe Levinger - "spiritual" father of the murderers of Ali Dawabsha?

    • Yonah,

      The ones I mentioned attacked civilians. It is indicative of the education that you and I were given that you weren't aware of that. The groups and cells heroically referred to (and honoured) in Israel as the "undergrounds", were responsible for numerous attacks on innocent Arab civilians. David Raziel (Etzel/Irgun), for example, was a particularly nasty piece of work (with a good deal of "blood on his hands", as the Israeli expression goes). All of that got him a Moshav (Ramat Raziel -- currently a place of pilgrimage for Israeli gourmands) and many streets named after him, and even a postage stamp issued in his honour.

    • “What distinguishes us from our neighbors is that we denounce and condemn murderers in our midst and pursue them until the end, while they name public squares after child murderers,” Netanyahu said at the weekly meeting in Jerusalem.”

      Ah, the old "we don't name streets and squares after terrorists and murders" lie. David Raziel, Meir Feinstein, Olei Hagardom, Lehi -- just to name a few undisputed terrorists and terrorist gangs, without even getting into questions of "narrative".

      we denounce and condemn murderers in our midst and pursue them until the end

      Although we usually give them presidential pardons -- assuming they ever get appropriate sentences in the first place (see the "Jewish Underground") -- and treat them (inevitably unrepentant) as legitimate participants in public life -- as civil servants, journalists, editors, authors, politicians, lobbyists and negotiators.

  • Leading American writer Abulhawa is denied entry to Palestine
    • Are you sure that the flaws in that argument are obvious to Zionists?

      On some level, I believe that all Zionists get that 'we stepped out for some smokes a couple of thousand years ago, but now we're back' is not a valid argument. That is why they try to shore it up with eschatological prayers, feelings, fantasies and something they call "continuous presence" -- as if the presence of a few hundred or thousand Jews in Palestine, over the millennia, somehow "kept our place" (as if it were like being in line at the post office or something) for all that time. None of these arguments, in and of itself, is considered sufficient, and they don't do much better together -- even if you really really want to believe them. People can convince themselves of just about anything, but that doesn't mean they don't harbour doubts.

      Palestinians, on the other, don't have such problems. They don't need to prove anything -- to themselves or to anyone else. Their connection to the land is self-evident. Again, even if you go the Joan Peters 'they're all recent immigrants' route (another excuse to cover up what is, in effect, a winning argument, no matter how ardent a Zionist you are), the Palestinians are to be envied at least that.

    • You wish you had the same roots as I do

      Imagine I tell a German citizen of Turkish origin: “You wish you had the same roots as I do. I’m a daughter of this land and you should leave.”


      You are confusing ordinary immigration with myth-based settler-colonialism. A German of Turkish heritage is simply a German (whether German-born or naturalised) -- no better or worse than Germans of other backgrounds.

      Zionism, since its inception, has argued that Jewish immigration to Palestine is a form of "return", "reclaiming" a historical legacy. The flaws in that argument are obvious, even to those who believe it. In that sense, there has always been an element of envy of the land's indigenous inhabitants. Susan Abulhawa's shouted "dig" was thus a truth, and a painful one, at that (as I assume she intended it).

      I would add that Jewish-Israeli hysteria over any form of Palestinian return (even for a brief visit; even for the purposes of family reunification) is influenced by this inferiority complex. The context of a settler-colonialist lording it over a Palestinian seeking entry into Palestine was really begging for this kind of response.

  • You be the judge
    • and socks with sandals?

      Part of the Kookian/National-Haredi uniform -- along with the oversized crocheted kippa, long sidelocks, check shirt, visible fringes and long pants.

      The sandals (of a type known as "biblical sandals") represent "Zionist cool" (albeit quite a few decades out of sync) -- with socks for the sake of "modesty". I hate to admit it, but I went through a similar phase.

  • It's time for American Jews to recognize they have been duped
    • The individual isn’t really important. They are only important in so much as they are a part of the collective and help the collective survive. And if the individual questions, they are there to be shown the error of their ways so that they can be brought back to the collective to continue to play their part.

      But when you look in the mirror (like in an amusement park funhouse), all you see western individualism! When we studied fascism at my Israeli high school (a brief digression in what was essentially a Holocaust unit of study), and teacher spoke about an ideology that values the state over the individual, it never even occurred to any of us to say 'you mean like Israel?'

    • Once again, you leave me at a loss for words, dear bintbiba. To borrow some of yours, "gentle thoughts in your direction".

    • Hi Danaa. Good to read you again.

      they believed almost anything, if an israeli told the tale

      Ah, the old Israeli mystique. If we play our cards right, sometimes it even gets us a hearing for anti-Zionism and BDS :-)

    • Well, is it not true that Jews throughout their exile time, everywhere in the world, prayed day in and day out (3 times a day) – it`s right in the pray book – for their eventual return to their ancient homeland, re-establishing national sovereignty there?

      Eschatological prayers do not a 19th-century Central/East-European nationalist movement make. although such anachronistic thinking is part and parcel of Zionist ideology/propaganda.

      The time from 70 to 1897 (year of Herzl's First Zionist Congress) is the period in which most of Jewish history, development and creativity took place, not some dead, thumb-twiddling time between Elazar ben Yair and "Yair" Stern. Don Isaac Abravanel lived at the end of one of the most remarkable periods in Jewish history (half a millennium of explosive creativity that revolutionised Judaism). To suggest (more or less) that he was actually born in the year 460 BZE (Before the Zionist Era) is a very silly joke.

    • after all you bear a last name that means something to this people and its pre-Zionist torturous history

      One of the most notable features of Don Isaac's biblical commentary is the list of questions at the beginning of every passage. He is thus the "asker of questions" -- a role that Avigail has certainly embraced.

      Interestingly, Amos Oz, in his novel Judas, chose to name the character opposed to partition and the creation of a separate Jewish state, Shealtiel Abarbanel (to use the spelling adopted by Avigail's family). Further reinforcing the questioning associated with Don Isaac by giving his character the first name Shealtiel (containing the root ShʾAL, "to question").

      By the way, characterising all of Jewish history (or at least some 4.5 centuries of it) as "pre-Zionist" is really quite something. The expression putting the cart before the horse doesn't even begin to describe it.

    • I would add that “the Israeli army should strive for ‘a balance between morality and the fact that it is facing ruthless enemies who wish to destroy it” implies a complete disconnect between the two sides of the scale, and is, therefore, weighted to one side from the outset. The "fact that it is facing ruthless enemies who wish to destroy it" is a given, unrelated to the "morality" of Israel's behaviour. "Morality" is thus secondary to the only relevant "fact" -- senseless violence by Israel's "ruthless enemies" -- in short, do the best you can to behave "morally"', despite the "fact" that your enemies are "ruthless" (hence immoral). In this, the statement also implies an inherent moral superiority, weighting the scales even further.

      Apologies to those who are allergic to quoting Scripture, but I can't help this one: "Honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin you shall have. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:36).

    • Thanks, Avigail.

      As long as the issues continue to be framed in terms like “the Israeli army should strive for ‘a balance between morality and the fact that it is facing ruthless enemies who wish to destroy it", reports of "change" will be greatly exaggerated.

      This framing is also central to the campaign against BDS. If there are no fundamental issues, but merely a question of getting Israel to 'behave a little better' or find a better "balance", BDS can only be interpreted as a "singling out" or an "attempt to destroy".

      Furthermore, the attitude that there are no real grounds for BDS against Israel is, in and of itself, so deeply offensive to Palestinian victims that it makes support for BDS all the more important -- if only as an expression of solidarity with those who are not even allowed the minimal comfort of recognition of their suffering and of the wrongs done to them.

  • Susiya gets backup from 'NYT', EU, and State Dep't -- will Israel dare to demolish the village?
    • Also missing is the context of occupation and dispossession that is crushing Susiya and other villages.

      Thanks, Henry. With all of the talk of politics and PR and even racism and human rights, we often lose sight of the actual human experience of repeated dispossession. How can a human being ever recover from trauma if the trauma is relived every few years? The occupation doesn't merely bulldoze homes; it bulldozes souls.

  • There are 326,000 children near Tel Aviv who won't be hearing Caetano Veloso
    • By pointing out two jazz musicians performing here – I’m making the refugees a laughing matter? A bit of a stretch…

      Maybe so, but forgive me if I heard a 'nah nah nah, your struggle's not working' in your pointing out.

    • Jon,

      To recap, you are not against boycotting per se, and you are not against boycotting Israel, but you disagree with some of the goals of BDS. Fair enough. So why the mocking? Are the refugees a laughing matter (regardless of how you would like to see their plight resolved)? People demanding full and equal rights in their own country? Ending decades of oppression and dispossession in the OT (you even agree with that one)? What of all of these real and serious problems is worth sticking your tongue out at?

    • The motives of BDS? What are they, exactly? Because I think that for a lot of people, the motive is to destroy Israel and encourage the Jews there to leave.

      Smear tactics aside, can you really not think of any valid reason why anyone, even a Palestinian, might want to boycott Israel?

    • Whenever some performer caves to the preasure and cancels, there’s a lot of celebrating and “triumphalism” on this blog. So I thought it appropriate to point out some of those who don’t.

      OK, 'they started it', but you still haven't answered my question. Do you consider the motives of BDS trivial?

      Your framing is also indicative of contempt. There is "pressure", those who "cave" and "those who don't" -- a kind of game detached from occupation, death, destruction, discrimination and homelessness.

    • For jazz fans :

      Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin will be performing here this week.


      I get that you oppose the cultural boycott, but do you find the reasons behind it so trivial that it deserves mocking triumphalism?

  • Israel detains and deports American Jews because they are Black
    • To put it another way, if someone failed the "pencil test" in Apartheid South Africa, was the problem with not recognising that person as white, or with the very concept of white privilege?

    • Idit Malka sought to become an Israeli citizen under the Law of Return. In other words, she sought recognition as a member of the charter religion/ethnicity in a racist state. There is no excuse for the way she and her son were treated, but the problem lies with the system itself, not with who that system recognises as a member of the privileged group.

      On a related note, Israeli state recognition of Reform or Conservative Jews as Jews (whether on a purely rhetorical level or for the purposes of affording them full access to privileged status in the Zionist state) is not a civil rights issue. Eliminating the relevance of such state recognition is.

  • Lies, smear, and two-steps -- Why did organizers really cancel the Feis?
    • No thank yous are necessary, dear bintbiba, although I am extremely honoured by yours (and to be honest, a little embarrassed).

    • Scary huh? Are they threatening?

      They used the words "free" and "Palestine" in the same sentence. Some people find that very scary. Just like some other people used to find "one man one vote" threatening.

      We've heard a lot about the "demonization" of Israel, but that is a pretty accurate description of what has been and continues to be done to Palestinians and anyone who supports their struggle. When Palestinians are all "terrorists"; Palestine solidarity activists all "anti-Semites"; defence of Palestinian human rights an attempt to "destroy" Israel; a non-violent protest boat against a criminal siege a "terrorist flotilla collaborating with Hamas"; and BDS all of the above -- how could attempts to cancel a dance festival be anything but "violent", "scary" and "threatening"?

      Remember the claims that Jewish students feel threatened by protests against Israel. I'm sure many do -- if only because they have been taught that criticism of Israel is a form of anti-Semitism, and Palestinians and their supporters are inherently violent.

  • Michael Oren misrepresents 1971 synagogue bombing that changed his life
    • I'm willing to cut Oren some slack here. Meir Kahane in 1971 was controversial in Jewish communities for his methods, not the issues he focused on: primarily responding to violence against Jews (especially in changing inner-city neighbourhoods, following Jewish flight to the suburbs) and Soviet Jewry. At least in terms of his public persona, he was not the rabid racist of later years. His appearance at a synagogue would thus not have had all the "baggage" -- and hence, significance in terms of the attack -- that we imagine, in retrospect. It's certainly a relevant detail, but I can understand that aspect of the incident not leaving an impression on young Michael.

      I wonder what former ambassador and recently-elected MK Michael Oren has to say about attacks on churches and mosques in Israel.

  • Theodor Herzl wasn't Jewish, according to Israeli minister
    • Perhaps the practice among the peninsula Jewish tribes was still stoning. Maybe it’s misunderstanding of this which led to the nasty habit of stoning for adultery in Islam?

      Or perhaps Islamic tradition (assuming the story is part of Islamic tradition) included the story for other reasons. I was just pointing out that (except in a few very specific cases, where the primary crime is not adultery) the Rabbinic punishment for adultery is strangulation, not stoning, and that Rabbinic law forbids capital punishment in the absence of a Great Sanhedrin seated in its Temple chambers (a condition that, according to tradition, has not been met since 30 CE). (See Maimonides, Hilkhot sanhedrin, ch. 14.)

      Is it possible that a Jewish tribe in the Arabian peninsula practised a form of non-Rabbinic, biblical law (although the Bible does not actually stipulate stoning for adultery) in the sixth century? Sure. It's also possible that said Jewish tribe (assuming it possessed the independent authority to inflict capital punishment) merely inflicted the punishments common among other tribes in that area at that time. Or maybe, the author/s of the story mistakenly ascribed the practice to Jewish law out of ignorance or misinterpretation -- or intentionally did so for some other didactic purpose that may or may not have been related specifically to Judaism.

    • Stoning for adultery is not in the Quaran. It’s in the Talmud.

      I don't know whether it's in the Qur'an, but the punishment of death by stoning (albeit not for "ordinary" adultery) is actually in the Bible (e.g. Deuteronomy 22:23-24).

    • The story behind stoning adulterers is interesting. What I was told was that, in Medina, The Prophet was asked to judge a case of Jewish adulterers. At that stage he had received no revelations about adultery, so he judged according to Jewish Law, and they were stoned.

      That is interesting, because according to Jewish law they would not have been executed at all in Mohammed's time, and even when the death penalty for adultery was still practised in Judaism, the process was rather complicated and such executions were (according to the Talmud) extremely rare. To top it all off, the standard penalty on the books for adultery was death by strangulation, not stoning (see Maimonides, Hilkhot issurei bi'ah, ch. 4).

    • the two successful means of continuity are Zionism and Halacha

      Güdemann himself, dismayed as he was by Herzl's tree, related to the subject of Zionism vs. assimilation (in Nationaljudenthum), arguing that: 1) "Assimilation", in the sense of profound engagement with non-Jewish cultures, is necessary both for the evolution of Judaism itself -- citing the examples of Philo, Maimonides and Moses Mendelssohn -- and for Judaism's ability to spread its own messages. The analogy he offers is that the fear of drowning should not stop one from swimming; and 2) Zionism is the ultimate form of assimilation (in the sense of "drowning"), in that it exchanges evolving, ethical, universal Judaism for common nationalism and chauvinism -- which he considered not merely something other than Judaism, but it's actual antithesis.

      The argument of "continuity" (or against assimilation) was one of early Zionism's main themes (especially when addressing traditional, East European Jews -- the movement's primary target audience). It was an argument that was sharply rejected, of course, both by Ultra-Orthodox and by Reform, but also by Orthodox rabbis such as Güdemann, Tamares and Hermann Adler, who basically said, if Jewish nationalism is the alternative, we'd rather take our chances with assimilation.

  • California students resist authorities’ attempt to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism
    • "We must first liberate ourselves from the censorship that weighs on the mouths of your critics, by your wonderful ploy … calling yourselves 'Zionists'.... Thus, anyone who dares to criticise your movement in the slightest is immediately branded a Hater of Zion [=anti-Semite] – vilified and forever disgraced. Who, then, will risk confronting you?"

      --Aharon Shmuel Tamares, Yahadut ve-herut [Judaism and Freedom], Odessa, 1905

  • I believe I can make a difference in my lifetime
    • A state that identifies as Jewish is naturally going to offer some perks to Jews, even if it offers full civil rights to non-Jews. But it’s a necessary historical imperative, and the Arabs are not prisoners in Israel. There’s a door.

      Standard exercise:

      'A state that identifies as Christian is naturally going to offer some perks to Christians, even if it offers full civil rights to non-Christians. But it’s a necessary historical imperative, and the Jews are not prisoners in Christiania. There’s a door.'

    • When it was religion, we killed Christ.

      Accurate representation of an assertion concerning all Jews, inherently.

      When it was science, we were racially inferior.

      Accurate representation of an assertion concerning all Jews, inherently.

      When it was nationalism, we were impossible to assimilate.

      Accurate representation of an assertion concerning all Jews, inherently.

      Now that it’s human rights and equality, the Jews are running the most racist state in the world.

      Inaccurate representation ("the Jews" and "most racist") of assertions made against some Jews -- which may or may not be true, but do not logically fit in the same category as the other assertions you cite.

      It fits the pattern so snugly. I’m surprised you aren’t persuaded, to be honest.

      It doesn't (as explained); you're not (because the premise of your argument is anti-Jewish prejudice); and, based on the previous two, I'm not so sure about your honesty.

  • Michael Oren cannot hide his disrespect for Jewish Americans
    • You're a better man than cousin Josh is, Gunga Din!

    • “He paused to take a bite of his bacon”

      There's some sort of chemical reaction that takes place only if you've got a "compounded identity" and have "preferred comfort to sovereignty". The "uncompounded" can eat as much bacon as they like, and it doesn't seem to affect them.

    • It’s interesting he would even ask his son the question

      Although I've heard similar (hypocritical) sentiments from Jewish-Israeli soldiers, I'm guessing he didn't. It's a little too rhetorical, and it has already been established that Oren's accounts of his conversations in this book are somewhat less than truthful.

      In recounting this "conversation", Oren pushes a few too many hasbara buttons (negation of the diaspora [a few sub-buttons there as well], the glories of IDF service, equality and even brotherhood between the un-compounded and non-Jewish citizens of Israel -- if they would only be loyal and do their duty, etc.).

    • “Who do you feel you have more in common with, your Bedouin sergeant Mahmud, or your cousin Josh in Long Island?” Noam answers: “‘Are you serious?’ he shrugged. ‘Mahmud slept in the dirt with me. Mahmud fought for this country.'”

      Yet Josh is supposed to be 100% devoted not only to his cousin Noam and his uncle Michael, but to Benjamin Netanyahu! And if he fails, he's just another "classical anti-Semite" or screwed up self-hater/self-promoter.

      “Many Israelis — the world’s only Jews without a compound identity"

      So how do you describe the difference between Noam and Mahmud (which is the whole point of the previous anecdote)? Noam is just an Israeli and Mahmud is what? Michael just calls him a "Bedouin". But Mahmud slept in the dirt with Noam and fought for Noam's unhyphenated identity!

  • Oren's demands make Israel's liberal apologists squirm
    • Where once it was forbidden for American Jews to criticize Israel, now, apparently, it is forbidden for an Israeli to criticize American Jewry.

      Klein Halevy's funny. The very thing "an Israeli" is criticising American Jews for is criticising Israel (or, said Israeli's particular vision of Israel). So who exactly is "forbidden" from criticising whom? It's all so complicated.

      I say ‘if you have a hundred dollars, do you give it to Birthright, or do you give it to building a school in Guatemala?’

      A tough decision indeed -- sending a bunch of mostly-privileged young adults on a self-indulgent holiday or helping poor kids get a basic education? It's all so complicated.

      And I propose ways in which you can reconcile it. My wife is on the board of IsraAid, a wonderful organization, you probably know it – they were the first on the ground in Haiti, they’re all over the world giving disaster aid.

      Again, a tough one -- sending money where it might actually do some good, simply because you care, or trying to squeeze some PR mileage for Israel out of your 100 bucks along the way? It's all so ...

  • Oren's memoir reveals Israel's elite is hyper-sensitive to U.S. criticism
    • Yonah,

      Good points -- especially about modernity and common as opposed to rabbinical sentiment -- but Sabbateanism was still a "classical" messianic movement in ways that Zionism never was. I do not deny the physicality, but the physicality as an end in itself. As I wrote in my reply to echinococcus, the belief in messianic redemption was certainly real and literal, but as a means to another end. The masses didn't have to share the rarefied Maimonidean view of unification with the Divine Intellect to believe that the Holy Land is a place of spiritual fulfilment and devotion -- even if their fantasies of that wondrous place (and time) also included feeling safe and having enough to eat.

      Only dedicated individuals were taking the cause of the ancient prayers and turning them into practice.

      This is more or less what Jon was claiming, and it strikes me as a distortion of the motives of early Zionists and a retroactive attempt to give Zionism respectable venerability it simply doesn't have. What was being put into practice were modern ideas of nation, territory, labour, virility, etc. The prayers were, at best, forced justification for the claim that Jews were really a "normal", "territorial" nation; at worst, simply the "flavour" of Jewish nationalism, to distinguish it from its German, Austrian, Czech or Hungarian counterparts.

    • I’ll take your word as to the entirely symbolic meaning of these “return” stories. One may, however, need more serious proof than personal interpretation to let religion off the hook as one major mephitic influence that contributed to the onset of Zionism, possibly as a secondary factor next to German romantic nationalism.


      I wouldn't say "entirely symbolic". For many, belief in redemption was quite real and literal -- although supernatural and post-historical. And the place of the physical land in the context of personal devotion and spirituality is undeniable. Equally undeniable, however, is the theocentricity of the relationship to the Land -- as a means to approach the divine (too terrifying for some) and a function of eschatological belief (which also included universal justice and universal belief in "pure monotheism").

      I'm not trying to let religion off the hook, although it was definitely a secondary factor to romantic nationalism and involved the creation of a new, national theology, fundamentally different from the ancient prayers that Zionists (most of whom do not even bother with the new national theology) try to recruit in support of their claim that Jews "always had a [direct, national] connection to the Land".

    • Jon,

      The connections to Eretz Yisrael were always there -- and were always theocentric, in the 2 ways I have outlined. The modern political movement arose when similar modern political ideologies and movements arose. Obviously, every national movement draws upon and exploits its own cultural resources, but the national tie to the land was thoroughly modern and fundamentally different from the traditional ties to the land.

      When Jews said "next year in Jerusalem", the intention was to divine redemption, not political independence. When the verse from Psalms 137, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem ..." was recited at weddings, it was in the context of remembering the destruction of the Temple (symbolised by the breaking of the glass) and longing for divine redemption. Even Judah Halevi (whose attitude to the Land of Israel was somewhat of an exception) experienced it entirely in religious terms and in the context of hastening redemption (see the end of Kuzari).

      The Zionists didn't come to some random territory (although for some Jewish nationalists, including Herzl, any territory would have done). They were alien invaders, because that is how they approached the land -- disregarding the will of its inhabitants and intending to establish a new polity. Even the greatest religious opponents of Zionism (i.e. virtually all religious authorities prior to the Holocaust) -- with the possible exception of Rabbi Hayim Elazar of Munkacz (who discouraged immigration to the Holy Land altogether, for mystical reasons) -- did not oppose settling in the Holy Land (although many did specifically oppose non-observant settlement as a defilement of the Land). What they opposed was the replacement of traditional religious belief in redemption with modern political nationalism.

      The connections to Eretz Yisrael were always there -- but not in the way you suggest.

    • You may recall that the Amidah also includes a prayer for “ingathering of the exiles”

      Yes, a request to God to "Sound the great Shofar ... and assemble us from the four corners of the earth" -- in the context of "Reign alone over us, Lord" (11th blessing), "Return in mercy to Your city Jerusalem and dwell in it" (14th blessing), "We hope for Your deliverance" (15th blessing), "Restore the worship to Your most holy sanctuary" and "May our eyes behold Your return in mercy to Zion" (17th blessing) (not to mention "Blessed are You Lord who resurrects the dead" -- 2nd blessing).

      What is more, in the holiday version of the prayer for the ingathering of the exiles, the purpose is explicitly stated: "Gather our dispersed from the far ends of the earth. Bring us ... to Jerusalem, Your sanctuary.... There we will prepare in Your honour our obligatory offerings, the regular daily offerings and the additional offerings".

      To take the "ingathering of the exiles" out of the general context of the prayers as an indication of a yearning to return to Zion, within historical times, detached from final redemption and the ultimate purpose of devotion to God and restoration of the sacrificial cult, is to completely distort the traditional prayers.

    • The mourning on the 9th of Av is for something physical, not mere redemption, but something physical was busted and is being mourned on the 9th of Av.

      But the focus is primarily on the Temple and the "busted" relationship to the divine -- as a consequence of sin. The antidote is thus repentance, divine forgiveness and redemption. The book of Lamentations, the central liturgical text of the 9th of Av, thus concludes:

      17. For this our heart is faint, for these things our eyes are dim;
      18. For the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the jackals walk upon it.
      19. You, O Lord, are enthroned for ever, Your throne is from generation to generation.
      20. Why do You forget us forever, and forsake us for so long?
      21. Return us to You, O Lord, and we shall return; renew our days as of old.
      22. For You have utterly rejected us, and are extremely angry with us!
      Return us to You, O Lord, and we shall return; renew our days as of old.

      "Return us to You." The theocentricity of the relationship to the city/land is patent.

    • But to negate that relationship and play it as if it was totally other worldly is definitely false and should not be abetted by you.


      I think there are two basic facets to traditional Jewish attitudes to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, with varying degrees of other-worldliness: one, redemption -- the extra-historical Kingdom of Heaven; and the other an immediate (although generally distant), idealised place of immense spiritual power and proximity to the divine -- eliciting feelings of longing (not entirely separate from the longing for redemption), love, awe and religious devotion. The physical land was certainly present, but only in relation to the divine or, at the very least, as a place of wonders. The Talmudic assertion that the Rabbis would "kiss the stones of Acre", as they entered the Holy Land, is emblematic of the connection between the this- and the other-worldy in attitudes to the land.

      Not to draw an absolute parallel between Christianity and Judaism in this context, but I was in a bookshop yesterday, and came across a book called "Visiting the Jerusalems of Italy" -- about the various recreations of Jerusalem's Christian holy sites throughout the Italian peninsula (built in periods when the Holy Land was inacccessible). The blurb begins: "Jerusalem is everywhere ...". I couldn't help thinking of all of the Jewish "Jerusalems" or "little Jerusalems" throughout the world (including Italy), as well as our "small Temples" (every synagogue) or Hasidic conceptions of the place where the Tzaddik resides as "Jerusalem".

    • Why not consider the possibility that the Jews praying for a return to Zion for thousands of years – actually meant what they were saying?

      But what were they actually saying? That they wanted God to restore His presence to Zion, the Temple to be rebuilt, universal justice and recognition of divine unity, resurrection of the dead -- an End of Days, something extra-historical. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall prayers for a nation-state "like all other nations", to be created by diplomacy and force.

    • Oren also seems to mention his experience in Israel’s army, seemingly more often than his story might require. Is this kind of military pride also characteristic of people who move to Israel, (as opposed to, say, ordinary Israelis who are born and raised there)?

      That is my experience. You've got your gung-ho native-borns (often called "mur'alim" -- literally "poisoned" -- even by their comrades), but immigrants, for whom weapons and a militarised society (not exactly West Orange, NJ) are a real novelty, often seem to get a really big thrill out of it.

      It's also a way of demonstrating belonging -- despite their accents and foreign mentalities. I get the feeling that's really important for super-American Oren. In the context of this book, Oren probably has some trouble convincing US Jews (and non-Jews, and maybe himself*) that he's really an Israeli (as opposed to one of them), and IDF service is something he can latch onto that makes him a little different.

      *He who lives by pop-psych shall perish by pop-psych,

    • Hi James.

      Oren, who migrated to Israel in his late 20s, can barely hide his disrespect for Jews who stayed in America. In your experience, is his attitude common among people like him?

      Yes. For many immigrants (especially those from countries like the US, who don't "need" to immigrate to Israel), it's very much about being better, prouder, more dedicated Jews. The disdain for those who haven't followed the the same path is inbuilt. Apart from calling immigration to Israel "aliyah" ("ascent" -- a co-opted religious concept), Zionist youth movements (Oren was a member of one), generally refer to immigration to Israel as "hagshamah" -- realisation/fulfilment. How much respect can you have for those who have not realised the sublime ideal that you have? Poor sods. The least they can do is bow and scrape a little when you walk by. And if they fail to, it must be because they have internalised the anti-Semitic contempt that surrounds them in their petty unfulfilled lives as "court Jews" who wouldn't know national pride if it hit them in the face, or say assaulted them in a best-seller.

    • Oren went into action immediately, going straight to Jeffrey Fager, the chairman of CBS News. ... he [Netanyahu] instructed me to phone congressional leaders and remind them.... Oren is ordered to start calling U.S. Congressmen immediately to block the move. ...

      What I see is an unbelievable amount privilege and access wasted on petulant idiocy and temper tantrums.

      Great analysis, James. I haven't read the book, but I know some of its main characters.

  • Flotilla members still imprisoned as video emerges of violent Israeli attack during capture
  • My journey from Zionism to Palestine solidarity
    • The evidence that Zionism and Zionists are opposed to UNICEF comes from Adam Horowitz and commenter “Shmuel”.

      Adam Horowitz and commenter "Shmuel" told stories from their childhoods (his from Philadelphia, mine from Montreal). "Evidence" of nothing more than a negative attitude to UNICEF among some Zionists in at least two places in North America (about 35 years ago, in my case). The generalisation "that Zionism and Zionists are opposed ..." is yours.

    • each year at Halloween the teachers at my elementary school handed out boxes for kids to collect pennies for UNICEF as they went trick-or-treating, but I was not allowed to because my father said the money would support Palestinians.

      My upbringing was Orthodox and we didn't celebrate Halloween, but we sometimes gave (kosher) candy to the kids who came to the door. We did not put money in the UNICEF boxes, however, because (so we were told) "UNICEF teaches Arab kids to hate Jews".

      Looking back I find that shocking, but at the time it felt like common sense in the community I grew up in.

      Even at the time, it seemed kind of odd to me that 1) the United Nations Children's Fund (the UN! kids!) would actually be teaching anti-Semitism; and 2) everyone in the whole world (even the parents of the Jewish kids doing the collecting in our neighbourhood) except us seemed to be OK with that. Was that really how the world worked? It did not feel at all like common sense in the community or family I grew up in, but if people I respected said it was so, it must have been so.

  • Oren's criticism of US Jews earns his book five thumbs down: 'slinky,' 'self-aggrandizing,' 'twists reality'
    • Acceptable reasons for disagreeing with Michael Oren:
      1. You don't understand.
      2. You are prejudiced.
      3. You are nuts.

      Breakfast at the Orens' must be a joy.

  • 'A traumatized society is dangerous'
  • 'Jewish cow' is udderly superior to all other cows in the world, Netanyahu says
    • ‘Jewish cow’ is udderly superior to all other cows in the world, Netanyahu says

      Which just goes to show (as every Yiddishe cow knows) that alts iz nisht buter vos komt arois fun der ku.

    • Well, why, everyone knows the best, happiest and most productive cowes belong to the Massaai tribe.

      Netanyahu never said "Jewish" cows were happy.

    • Since when is making a cow give inordinate amounts of milk a good thing? Kolkhoz meets market economy meets chauvinism meets dairy hasbara (whitewashing?).

  • Israeli President Reuven Rivlin calls for removal of Israeli flag
    • Phil and Adam don’t seem to have a problem with the Christian symbol on many European flags, or with Muslim symbols on the flags of Arab and Muslim countries.

      I thought I had covered that. The problem is not the religious symbol per se, but what it stands for. In Israel (at least in the eyes of its Palestinian citizens), it stands for exclusion, discrimination and violence. Saudi Arabia too.

      I understand the desire to consider Palestinian sensitivities, but I think that the answer is not in lowering the Magen David, but in ensuring that the Palestinian flag can be raised alongside it.

      A Palestinian state will not, in and of itself, resolve the problem of exclusion, discrimination and violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel, although it may address some elements of it.

      the lesson of those days should be that both peoples should be able to fly their flags and make use of the symbols that are dear to so many.

      I don't think Phil and Adam were talking about banning the Israeli flag, but about a voluntary gesture to address what the flag means to the quarter of the country's population for whom it is not "dear" at all but, on the contrary, is a constant reminder of injustice and suffering.

      But let’s not pretend that it’s just the matter of the flag. If there’s a Jewish state, there are going to be Jewish symbols: the magen david flag, the menorah emblem, the ” “Hatikva “anthem . It’s not the symbol, it’s the concept of a Jewish state that bugs Phil and Adam.

      Who ever said it was about the flag itself? I may be going out on a limb here, but I don't think Phil or Adam have a problem with superimposed, blue triangles. Of course the problem is the fact that Israel has a charter ethnicity/religion. Of course it's the ethnocratic Jewish state that bugs Phil and Adam (and me). Were that the case in Sweden or Switzerland, their flags (as symbols, not yellow or red intersecting lines), would be worthy of similar thought experiments.

    • Jon,

      I think the idea was a symbolic gesture that a symbolic leader might make -- where the symbol itself is one of exclusion, discrimination and worse. In Finland or the UK, the crosses on the flag simply don't have that symbolic value. One could arguably say the same for Turkey or Malaysia. As for countries like Saudi Arabia, they make no claim to democracy or equality. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you would consider Saudi Arabia "good company" for Israel.

    • Rivlin is exactly the right man to choose, because he’s made a few such symbolic gestures in the last year to address inequality

      Like eulogising the racist murderer Moshe Levinger? Or insulting the intelligence of Palestinian Israelis while "apologising" to them ("I hereby swear, in my name and that of all our descendants, we will never act against the principle of equal rights, and we will never try and force someone from our land") and insinuating that they were all terrorists or terrorist sympathisers? Chauvinism with a smile.

    • Interesting choice of Rivlin rather than Netanyahu for this thought experiment. Rivlin is much more unpredictable and capable of occasionally saying something in this spirit, though this gesture would be far too “outrageous.”

      Actually, I think Rivlin was a poor choice -- precisely because of his false liberal image. The experiment gives credence to his "Betar-majesty" Herrenvolk sham. Better Netanyahu.

  • Oren pushed Random House to hurry his book so American Jews will 'intercede' to stop Iran deal and save millions of Jews
    • I think it’s very important to understand his sheer animosity towards Obama, for I view Oren as a bellweather. Why does he and the lobby distrust Obama so much? I don’t think they are mad or irrational, I think they are rational, highly rational in fact.

      Oren reflects the fact that on the Israeli right (current Jewish-Israeli mainstream) Obama is an enemy (this is probably part of what he thinks many American Jews -- particularly those who are "not Orthodox" and serve in the administration -- don't get). Judy Shalom-Nir-Mozes' tweet reflects the same mood -- albeit somewhat less "diplomatically".
      link to

      Mr. "White", clueless (if not downright anti-Semitic) foreign correspondent is also an enemy.
      link to

      Europeans and left-wing Israeli Jews are also enemies:
      link to
      link to

      I guess you could say that the Jewish-Israeli mainstream (some of the links above refer to more extreme individuals/groups,, but the views they express in terms of "who is an enemy" are certainly widespread) is both rational and irrational. Paranoia is at fever-pitch (the closest I can remember is the period leading up to Rabin's assassination) and there are no half-measures: either you are 100% behind Netanyahu (or to his right), or you are an enemy -- to be fought, undermined and made a fool of (at least half of what Netanyahu's last performance before Congress was about). There's definitely method in the madness.

  • 'Obama coffee' is black and weak -- racist tweet from wife of Israel's vice premier
    • My dear "Mooser". Even Moses got his "Who the hell are you?" from Korah and his gang, teaching us that if they can't make the earth swallow you when you challenge them (and even then -- see Deuteronomy 13:1-6), they should be considered "officially" self-appointed.

    • In fact, when I’m eating charoset I even forget to wonder if the mythical subjugation we were redeemed from is simply an excuse for the subjugation to Jewish leaders.

      Yes, charoset has that effect. Tamares had it covered though (in a sermon cleverly delivered a week before Passover, when charoset levels in the blood are at their lowest). Using his personal/professional idiom, he says that's precisely why the Exodus preceded the Sinaitic Revelation, to teach us that freedom comes before Torah and don''t let any self-appointed "religious" leaders tell you otherwise, ostensibly in the name of the Law itself.

    • Do we really need a rule or piece of ancient text to remind us ‘not to oppress a stranger’? or even a familiar? How very very sad.

      Just before Passover this year (a calendar prompt to thought -- also unnecessary for pure thought, but mighty helpful), I was reading a sermon on freedom by an early-20th-century anti-Zionist rabbi by the name of Ahron Shmuel Tamares. In his introduction to his published sermons, Tamares begs indulgence of those who would prefer pure reasoning without recourse to ancient stories and texts, but asserts both that it is his personal/professional mode of expression and that, in his experience, it can be very helpful in illustrating and driving home lofty (sometimes too-lofty) ideas and ideals.

      The sermon in question deals with the ultimate evil of human subjugation, justified and rationalised by "pure reason"--making it all the more insidious.

      If it were that simple (obvious without myths and stories and texts and sancta), it wouldn't still need saying that empathy with the Other is a good thing.

    • I agree that there is no evidence outside the Bible for Hebrew slavery in Egypt but there is an ethical principle ‘not to oppress a stranger’ in Exodus, explained by empathy with strangers in Egypt.

      It is more than that. It is part of a founding myth of liberation/redemption (or revolution, if you prefer). The concept of freedom is meaningless without the concept of subjugation. As such the Egyptian slavery-liberation story is a paradigm for all redemption (say the Rabbis, correctly). The historical kernel of the myth (to the extent that there is any) is very much beside the point.

  • Does Israel have a toxic personality? Ask Michael Oren
    • Shmuel- Let me answer you in my own way.

      I'll follow your lead. This isn't really all that much about specific questions anyway.

      You're a little older than I am, but other than that, our backgrounds are remarkably similar.

      If I were to think in terms of enemies and friends, on the whole, I would have to consider Barghouti a friend and you an enemy -- but that is not how I want to view the world. There is a kind of cold, "logical" rigidity to your emotional defence that even my supposedly "Vulcan/Litvishe" brain can't accept. It is the ultimate mind game, because you never have to leave your own brain (or heart, if you prefer -- but that's also the traditional seat of the intellect) in order to confront the real world. The real world is not made up of colour-coded friends and foes or perfect causes. "Righteousness" (ultimately the righteousness of one guy with a sign) is your bag, not mine.

    • I am agnostic vis a vis BDS. There is little question in my mind that when someone like Zeev Sternhell says that Israel will only change through outside pressure that I tend to agree with him. But when I hear Omar Barghouti speak I feel in my bones that he is my enemy and when I hear Peter Beinart speak I feel in my bones that I am on his side.

      Stream of consciousness: What sort of pressure would you be OK with? Wouldn't you be an "enemy", if you were in Barghouti's shoes? But, as "enemies" go.... But Beinart isn't really proposing pressure -- so how do you reconcile Beinart with Sternhell? And what about someone like Charles Manekin? Do you feel like you are on his side?

      at some point in time dialogue will be necessary between those on the ground in Israel-Palestine and there will be a need for people like me who can talk to the side of the Zionists

      Who's to say you won't be agnostic then as well? There is no absolute moral/emotional clarity here and never will be, just moral/emotional arithmetic. At some point you need to add the numbers up. And if not now when?

  • Israeli leader turns on US Jewish journalists Friedman, Wieseltier, Remnick and Silvers for disloyalty and anti-semitism!
    • Bintbiba,

      I speak from a position of privilege. I have never lost my home, been a refugee or suffered the consequences of war. It is Palestinian voices like yours that are a beacon of humanity.

    • Beinart will not renounce Zionism, because Beinart is not a self-hating bigot who would deny to his own people what everyone else enjoys

      First of all, thanks for the compliment, hophmi.

      Zionism is just nationalism. Not everyone is a nationalist, and not everyone who is not a nationalist is a self-hating, bigot, traitor, pinko, public enemy, "knife in the nation's back", etc.

      Beinart has come to the conclusion that his people's nationalism has some very big ethical (and practical) problems. For the moment, he thinks a reasonable compromise between these conflicting values can be achieved. He can go 3 basic ways from here:
      1) Continue to believe he (and his people) can hold on to both.
      2) Decide that the two cannot be reconciled and, with or without a heavy heart, renounce nationalism.
      3) Decide that the two cannot be reconciled and, with or without a heavy heart, decide to renounce (at least where Israel is concerned) values such as equality and democracy.

      I've been there and chosen my path. Beinart will choose his. I've seen all three. It's hard to predict. Even you may become an anti-Zionist some day. As the Rabbis said: "Don't be sure of yourself until your dying day and don't judge your fellow until you are in his place."

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