Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 7756 (since 2009-08-04 05:43:29)


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  • French premier says 'loathing of Jews' is behind BDS
    • Valls: "Behind this boycott we well know what there is: not only an opposition, but also a loathing of the State of Israel, the loathing of a Jewish home, and therefore of Jews as a whole."

      Behind this boycott we well know what there is: not only an opposition, but also the uncivilised and un-French principles of liberté, égalité and fraternité. When one supports these principles, one of course attacks France and attacks civilisation.

      So now that we well know what is behind BDS, what is behind Valls' false accusations and undemocratic stance?

  • Thank you, Chief Rabbi. Now I know: Judaism is to blame for the Nakba
    • Yonah,
      There are two themes that appear over and over again in your comments: compassion for Jews, and Jewish continuity. In relating to the current state of Judaism as some sort of natural, historical phenomenon (like the last one that almost tore us apart), you seem to show utter disregard for both – in addition to a complete lack of compassion for the non-Jewish victims of the actions of Jews. You are not “on the other side of the divide than Rabbi Mirvis”; you are on the very same side, enabling terrible crimes against Palestinians, as well as the distortion and possibly ultimate destruction of Judaism. Your ability to “put yourself in the shoes of” inevitably seems to result in indulgence of destructive and self-destructive behaviour. Of course I understand why some Jews would act as they have, but that does not make it any more acceptable or any less urgent to change. You and I are poshute yiden, but it is the job of leaders such as Rabbi Mirvis to put a stop to this tragedy, not sanctify it like a new moon (kazeh re'eh ve-kadesh), throwing the full weight of his moral, spiritual and political authority behind it. That is his failure and the failure of virtually all Jewish leaders of our generation.

    • Rabbis appear to believe that there is only one God for all people, Jews and others, but only the Jews have a special relationship, perhaps the relationship of “ownership”.

      A theological (and eschatological and mystical) conundrum. To limit God to the "God of the Jews" is to deny God's unity and majesty. How can one truly accept the "yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven" (the essence of the recitation of the "Shema"), while diminishing it and rejecting its unity, which must necessarily be universal? To try and force redemption while denying the divine image of some of God's children is to deny the essence of redemption, which cannot but be universal, and to confuse the means (a people, a land) with the end. (See e.g. the writings of Elia Benamozegh or Hermann Cohen.)

      A reminder from the prophet Amos (9:7) wouldn't hurt either: "Are you not as the children of the Ethiopians to Me, O children of Israel? says the Lord. Have I not brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor, and Aram from Kir?"

    • It is more than just a matter of who does the redeeming. It is about the focus of that redemption, the attachment to the Land, the role or "mission" of the people and, ultimately, the focus of Judaism itself.

      The photo above actually expresses this very eloquently. Rabbi Mirvis is standing in front of the holy ark (in which the Torah scrolls are kept), with the Ten Commandments (or "Utterances") represented on its doors. Only the first two commandments, the opening, commandments (which, according to one tradition, were the only two actually spoken by God) that establish the foundation of all the others, are visible: "I am the Lord your God"; and "You shall have no other gods".

      In traditional, Rabbinic Judaism, God is the focus and purpose of everything: Jewish peoplehood, the Land of Israel, redemption, etc.

      Modernity shifted this focus for many Jews -- to ethics, equality, culture, language, nationalism and even blood and soil nationalism. These are all developments with roots both within and without Judaism -- as has always been the case, for there are no "pure" cultures. Some have brought out the universal best in Judaism, while others have brought out the worst.

      The vision that Rabbi Mirvis offers, in which Zionism is a "noble and integral part of Judaism" and an "axiom of Jewish belief", is a far cry both from traditional monotheism and from modern ethical monotheism. That he has so thoroughly embraced Zionism, which is (or at the very least has been) fundamentally unethical, and has fetishised (in an idolatrous sense) both the people and the land -- to the point of effectively saying 'it has always been so' -- is sadly emblematic of the current state of Judaism.

    • Judaism, the religious institution, hasn’t got the frigging power to raise a peep over it and say “We don’t need this shit, cut it out?” That’s not greatness in religion to me, but let it pass.

      Well said, Mooser.

    • “…a noble and integral part of Judaism”.

      “…one of the axioms of Jewish belief”.

      “…one can no more separate it from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain.”

      Funny how that escaped so many Jews and Jewish leaders -- including Rabbi Mirvis' own predecessor Hermann Adler (chief rabbi of the British Empire, 1891-1911) -- when the idea of modern political Zionism was first proposed and promoted by a certain Hungarian journalist. One would have thought that Hermann Adler, Moritz Guedemann (chief rabbi of Vienna), leaders of Hasidic and Misnadgic Judaism in Eastern Europe, and virtually all of the rabbis of Germany (both Orthodox and Reform) would at least have been aware of such an "integral part of Judaism" and "axiom of Jewish belief".

  • Aymen Odeh and the Joint List stand to gain if Herzog joins Netanyahu government
    • Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beiteinu (which may also enter the coalition) are unlikely to recognise Odeh's authority as leader of the opposition, and the PM and Knesset speaker will undoubtedly do their best to empty the role of all content -- beyond certain procedural privileges explicitly stipulated by law (but which can also be neutralised in various ways).

      Odeh's "divisions" will thus amount to his own party and, to one extent or another, the tiny Meretz faction. In other words, no real change.

  • Why Miko Peled's story resonates for Palestinians
    • Thank you, Dr. Kanaaneh. As astute as always. I was wondering whether there might not be a common factor ("emotional resilience" or other) in any process of significant change in life, including ideology, religion, lifestyle, etc. Obviously, any number of processes may occur simultaneously and probably influence/inform one another.

  • Sabeel BDS conference pits local church against Jewish community leaders
    • Rabbi Litvak’s piece ... made the charge that Sabeel “employs disturbing theological rhetoric that misrepresents and denigrates Judaism"

      Perhaps. I am far more disturbed by the theological rhetoric used to facilitate and defend oppression.

  • Don't say the Z-word
    • Lansman's tactical argument is not without merit, but the very fact that so many -- Jews and non-Jews -- conflate Zionism and Judaism is what fuels their refusal to see reality for what it is and/or their reluctance to do anything about it (or even to allow others to do something about it).

  • Reebok backtracks on Israel Independence Day-inspired sneaker (Updated)
  • Meet the private contractors manning Israel's checkpoints
    • Pabelmont,

      The neoliberal fetish for outsourcing is definitely a part of it, but there's more to "outsourcing violations" (as Neve Gordon calls it) than economics: less accountability/transparency, deniability, etc. In the case of the checkpoints Israel wants nothing more than to downplay the military occupation of the WB, trying to pass off the checkpoints as "border crossings" just like between any two countries, with "terminals" and civilian guards.

      See Neve Gordon, "Outsourcing Violations: The Israeli Case": link to

      And for those who read Hebrew, Eilat Maoz, "הפרטת המחסומים והכיבוש המאוחר":
      link to

    • The checkpoints are holy temples, where the god of occupation meets the god of outsourcing. Who profits (prophets?) indeed.

  • Elor Azarya, King of Israel
    • I suggest you read something about the followers of Rabbi Yehudah he-Hasid, who migrated to Eretz Yisroel in the 18th century.

      Sorry, I didn't realise you were posthumously and anachronistically Zionising religious pilgrims. In that case, your generalisation "The peaceful Jewish migrants were treated like shit" is even more of an exaggeration, although some undoubtedly suffered (certainly by their own account).

    • The peaceful Jewish migrants were treated like shit by the native non-Jews, once the Jews had arrived to their ancestral homeland.

      A telling internal contradiction. "Peaceful ... migrants" don't act like the country they've migrated to is their "ancestral homeland", and if they do, it should come as no surprise that the native population doesn't exactly welcome them with open arms.

      As for the "shit", judging e.g. by Ahad Ha'am's descriptions from the 1880s, it was at the very least, mutual (with the added arrogance of the migrants acting like they owned the place).

  • Advice to British leftwingers on kicking racism out of their anti-Israel rhetoric
    • As Tom Segev points out in One Palestine Complete, some of the British support for Zionism, leading up to the Balfour Declaration, was motivated by anti-Semitism.

    • But Ken, that didn’t make Hitler a Zionist.

      Livingstone did make a mess of things, but "Hitler supported Zionism" is not the same as "Hitler was a Zionist" (an interpretation of Livingstone's words I've seen twice already in Haaretz). The former is perfectly consistent with "For Hitler, the Jews were sub-human carriers of disease and corruption" (as Cohen puts it); the latter is not.

      Years ago, I heard an interview with the Grand Wizard (or Dragon, or whatever the hell they call themselves) of the KKK, and he came across as an ardent supporter of Zionism -- because "This is a white, Christian country, with no place for Jews." That did not make him a Zionist, just a racist thug who liked the idea of ridding the US of all its Jews.

  • It is time to stop celebrating Jewish dissent in the Palestine solidarity movement
    • people have danced themselves in to exhaustion, they are trembling leaning on the pillars ... we weren’t ready for stuff at this level of intensity

      Probably out looking for sparks of holiness. Sounds like they found them too.

      we assumed they must be Rabbis at least

      At least.

  • Norman Finkelstein on Sanders, the first intifada, BDS, and ten years of unemployment
    • Hi LeaNder,

      Good to see you again. I hope all is well.

      Funny you should mention yeshivah. That's exactly what I've been thinking about Finkelstein. He reminds me of a few of my old yeshivah mates (OK, including me), who were extremely textual and painfully consistent. I think he makes far too much of the BDS document, and far too little of the actual movement, what it has accomplished and where it is going. To cite another, sort of reverse analogy, a nephew of mine is a Lubavitcher rabbi, and he belongs to the group that believes the old Rebbe is still alive (long story, near split within the movement). He explained that he doesn't actually believe the Rebbe is alive, but the group that does is the most dynamic, vital and effective within the movement, so that's where he wants to be.

      I am not a 1-stater (or a 2-stater for that matter). I think the minimum requirements for a reasonable settlement can be achieved through either modality, once Israel decides to take the Palestinians seriously.

    • At present, no. For the future, yes. Finkelstein argues that Israel can be pressured into accepting a settlement based on the international consensus. I think that’s a realistic goal. Nothing guaranteed, of course. But realistic enough.

      At present, for the future, obviously. I know what Finkelstein argues, and I disagree. I think it is not a realistic goal, and if it is not, there is no reason to adhere to a consensus that is, in itself unjust (as you have mentioned) and insufficient. Realistic enough is an assessment, not gospel.

      Ending the occupation– requires a political agreement. RoR and /or compensation– requires a political agreement. Full equality for all Israeli citizens– requires political changes within Israel. So, outside of BDS’s three stated goals, all of which require political solutions, what goals are you suggesting?

      I am suggesting treating the goals as just goals that are at present and for the foreseeable future, unrealistic; something to strive for, principles for a political solution and for any interim shift in that direction. I am not the one claiming pragmatic end-goals, Finkelstein is.

      What significant improvements in Palestinian life can be made without, at a minimum, ending the occupation? Do you mean BDS /the Palestinian solidarity movement should aim for something less? Aim for a “kindler, gentler occupation” not an end to it?

      BDS should strive to achieve its goals, including of course ending the occupation. The pressure it brings to bear on Israel, the tactical focus on the occupation (on which there is also an international consensus), the focus on the rights that are violated by the occupation, lack of equality, the siege, etc., may (remember, no guarantees) push Israel to take different decisions in the present, regarding settlement construction, treatment of minors, freedom of movement, house demolitions, the siege on Gaza, and so forth. If there is a perceived price, things like the siege and demolitions will be the first to go, as they are primarily a matter of satisfying Jewish-Israeli public opinion anyway. In any event, this is what a shift toward willingness to accept “the minimum requirements for dignity, humanity and self-determination” (as suggested e.g. by Magnes Zionist) for the Palestinians will look like. Small steps toward recognising their humanity and treating them as equal negotiating partners, not Palestinians choosing which unrealistic political solution Abbas or his successor will discuss at non-existent talks with Israeli leaders with no will or reason to reach a solution of any kind.

      You can dismiss it as a “kinder, gentler occupation”, but the alternative, speaking realistically, is not an independent Palestinian state with rights and protection for all. The alternative is nothing.

    • Finkelstein is open about that, and he claims a two state solution is the only realistic one

      And that is precisely where I disagree. I don't think Finkelstein's strategy is any more realistic than BDS'.

      -- End goals will require a political solution.
      -- Political solutions are, at present, not realistic.
      -- End goals are not realistic.

      -- Let's shift focus and try to accomplish other, more realistic things and, hopefully lay the groundwork for a viable solution in the future (which could, indeed, take many different forms).

      There my be a tactical element to the "agnosticism" but, for the most part, it's simply not a relevant question at this point in time. Finkelstein thinks he has a realistic plan, but what if it's no more realistic than any other political solution (i.e. wholly unrealistic)?

    • Good for Shmuel that he considers a political solution a pragmatic goal.

      Except that I don't (nor do I consider ending the occupation a pragmatic goal). It is worth striving for, but it is no more pragmatic than BDS. Finkelstein's entire argument is based on the fact that he's a hard-nosed realist and everyone else is chasing dreams and thereby prolonging Palestinian suffering. I disagree. He's no less of a dreamer if he thinks that a political solution of any kind is somehow reasonable or practical.

    • “Ending the occupation” requires a political solution.

      No doubt. Good for Finkelstein that he considers ending the occupation a pragmatic goal.

    • If you say so. They seem perfectly clear to me. Absolutely clear: no effective right of return, (perhaps a symbolic number) +compensation. Absolutely clear: large settlement blocs annexed to Israel. Absolutely clear: East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine. We are talking about a framework for a settlement, not a final text of a settlement.

      What is a symbolic number? Is there a consensus on compensation? Mutually-agreed just means the sides will work it out, not that anyone actually has a position. Is there a consensus on what constitutes a settlement bloc? How many are there? What is East Jerusalem and how will it be the capital of Palestine if the Jewish neighbourhoods in and around East Jerusalem are to be annexed to Israel? Is there a consensus on the holy places? Even a framework needs to have some clarity - especially if one is arguing that it is supported be a broad consensus and is therefore a practical basis for a solution. A consensus that cannot get beyond or cannot be counted on to get beyond this very rough outline is hardly a consensus at all, in pragmatic terms.

    • The only problem with that idea is that stateless persons’ effective rights will be severely llimited as long as they remain stateless, and ending statelessness requires a political solution.

      Agreed, but that doesn't mean that they cannot be improved significantly until such time as a political solution becomes feasible, or that their rights even after statehood will not be severely limited. To borrow Finkelstein's argument, focusing on a political solution of any kind is, at present, not practical. Focusing on specific violations of human rights and international law (collective punishment, settlement construction, administrative detention, abuse of minors, etc.), on the other hand, on the basis of broader issues such as occupation, equality and the rights of refugees (the principles of BDS), may stand a chance of being at least partially successful (if only because it is not an all-or-nothing proposition).

      I would also disagree with the notion that the international consensus is vague. What’s vague about it? Two states; pre-1967 borders; mutually agreed land swaps; West/East Jerusalem the capitals; limited implementation of right of return w/ compensation etc.

      The last three articles are indeed vague, and the second and third (and to some extent the fourth) make the first vague as well. There is no consensus on the details of such a plan (everything and nothing) or what it means in political terms to support those basic guidelines (well maybe there is a sort of consensus on that: it means virtually nothing).

    • I really don't see Finkelstein's pragmatism -- apart from declaring he's got it and those he disagrees with don't.

      A 2ss is pragmatic? Why? Because an agreement seemed close at some point (except for some minor details like refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, etc.)? That agreement never actually materialised, and the combination of factors (e.g. coordinated violence, economic opportunity, strong leadership) that brought even that about are highly unlikely to recur.

      That something vaguely resembling that vague idea has become "international consensus" (primarily because it means everything and nothing at the same time) is hardly a solid basis for a political plan. So, in the end, it's just another flavour of pie-in-the-sky.

      Of course the BDS end-game is unrealistic, but BDS has at least 2 things going for it that I fail to see in Finkelstein's pragmatism: 1) Rights-based means not waiting for a political solution to make things better: 2) It is a concrete plan to bring some kind of pressure to bear on Israel and, as every pragmatist knows, no pressure no change.

  • Sanders 'put everything on the line' for Palestine because BDS movement has changed US conversation -- Peled
    • Give her your fucking guns Shmuel. You expect ... you are not just coward but a racist one to boot ... you scared of the settlers, have you no self respect.

      Shmuel? Would that be some sort of generic Shmuel?

  • 'NYT' manages to make childhood detention story work for Israel
  • Another interview on Israeli TV
    • Hi Stephen,

      Yes, I am a Jewish Israeli, and although I no longer live in Israel, my family is still there, I visit often and follow the country very closely.

      What exactly is it that they cannot comprehend and why? Might it perhaps have something to do with their division of the world into friends and foes?

      I think it is a combination of a "for us or agin' us" attitude and a deep-seated (inculcated) belief that on the whole, despite our small or big faults, we are right and well-intentioned and they (Palestinians, Arabs, etc.) are simply wrong -- wrong in their narrative, wrong in their attitudes toward us, wrong in their suspicions and wrong in their methods. I think this also contributes to the "generous offers" approach to peacemaking (i.e. they don't really deserve it, but we will give them more than they deserve, for the sake of peace, because that's just who we are),

      We are eminently good and even lovable, and it pisses us off no end when we are painted in any way that conflicts too strongly with our own self-perception (speaking of being human). Hence the necessary preambles to any "acceptable" criticism of Israel: "I love Israel, but ..."; "I say this as a friend of Israel ..."; or the red line of "denying Israel's right to exist" (which may be rather pathos-laden, but boils down to accepting our narrative over theirs -- because it is the right thing to do). Anything else means that you do not recognise "the justness of our cause" and you are ill-intentioned. I won't go into the Holocaust or anti-Semitism (in classical Zionist thought or in the later doctrine of "the new anti-Semitism" ), but these are, of course, part and parcel of the above arguments.

      Also: what forms of effective action to change the situation for the better, apart from talk, would they not consider to be offensive and “violent”?

      BDS is hostile, both in deed (seeking to inflict economic and other damage) and in intent (seeking to "wipe Israel off the map", as it were), and is therefore perceived as violent. I don't believe there are any forms of effective action that would not be perceived as offensive and violent (including talk), because any opposition to the Israeli narrative is seen as posing an "existential threat". To quote a relative who once asked me to tone down my public opposition to Israeli policies, "for us, it is a matter of life and death"; and another relative (about BDS): "These people hate us and want to destroy us."

      And what do the inverted commas mean?

      Perhaps misused. I just find it hard to characterise BDS as violent.

    • For Jewish Israelis, BDS crosses a red line. It is not only considered highly offensive (and yes, "violent"); it is beyond comprehension. It separates friend (even highly critical friend) from foe.

      Channel 10 is therefore to be commended for a pretty fair piece that could, at the very least, have been edited or editorialised to twist the words and characters of those interviewed, but it wasn't.

  • Anti-BDS legislation faces crucial hearing tomorrow in California Judiciary Committee
    • Curiousity question. The song refers to the scent of pine trees. It is my understanding that the pine tree was not native to Israel. Is this the case or not?

      Although the word used for pine in the song (oren, pl. oranim) does not mean pine in Biblical Hebrew, a number of varieties of pine are native to Palestine. The best known is probably the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) -- known in Israeli Hebrew as Oren yerushalayim (Jerusalem pine).

  • 'Anti-Zionism = anti-semitism' is a formal logical fallacy
    • I would not called them “tainted” at all. That seems to be the mantra of the zionists who want to stifle criticism bringing world focus to their endless crimes.

      No, the IHR actually is a racist organisation, and citing what they say about themselves doesn't change that.

  • Note to Progressive Jews: The right of return is not the 'i'm-doing-you-a-favor' of return
    • “The mixture of halachic (Jewish legal) and government immigration policy concerns is not healthy. The Exceptions Committee must transfer its authority to the Interior Ministry,"

      Welcome to the confessional state of Israel. It's not a matter of jurisdiction, but of the criteria established in the Law of Return and the very concept of a "Jewish" state. That is precisely the elephant in the room that Elharar and her party (Yesh Atid) refuse to acknowledge when they pretend to be liberal on matters of religion and state. If Palestinians are now (uniquely and sweepingly) denied the possibility of naturalisation and even residency based on the Law of Return (as relatives of Jews) or the principle of family unity, leaving only the (theoretical) route of conversion, it is in any case the Rabbinate that is given the power by the state to ultimately decide matters of citizenship.

    • Sibiriak,

      You're making a lot of assumptions, based on a rather terse statement, about residency about policy toward other non-Jewish non-citizens (e.g. the whole "Russian" issue, where the Rabbinate has in fact been extremely rigid, concerns non-Jewish citizens ["relatives of Jews"]) -- and about "traditional religious considerations". Rabbi Peretz' statement is neither Written nor Oral Torah, to have "crowns tied to every letter". The religious legal principle of sincerity/ulterior motives is there and, to me, seems pretty obvious, but feel free to presume racism and non-conformity to tradition if you like.

    • Sibiriak,

      We could examine Rabbi Peretz' statement from every angle and try to infer whether he meant residents or non-residents, what is the policy toward non-Palestinian, non-citizen residents, and what about E. Jerusalem Palestinians (who have other paths to Israeli citizenship), but based on the information at hand, and my own rabbinical training, it is my opinion that such a policy is consistent with Jewish religious law and tradition -- without having recourse to racist motives (although those may certainly exist as well). See Occam.

      As for policies regarding a group rather than individuals, if all members of the group (Palestinian non-citizens of Israel), without exception, stand to gain significantly by conversion, individual investigation is, from a legal perspective, pointless. In matters of conversion, tradition demands stringency. There is no recognised "right" to convert. If a convert is suspect, they are turned away. The Chief Rabbinate has, in recent years, been the target of considerable criticism for the general stringency it exercises with regard to conversion, and yes, factors such as entitlement to citizenship according to the Law of Return are a prime consideration when judging possible ulterior motives of potential converts (all converts).

      I am not defending the practice, but I see no reason (without further information) to ascribe it to racism or assert that it is inconsistent with "traditional religious considerations".

    • The article states (quoting Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz): "The threshold requirements” to be considered by the special cases panel, he said, “are that applicants be sincere and that they are not foreign workers; infiltrators; Palestinian or illegally in the country.”

      The sincerity of those who stand to gain significantly from conversion -- such as foreign workers, infiltrators [i.e. asylum-seekers], Palestinians or those illegally in the country -- is doubted a priori. Yonah is right that the context clearly implies that "Palestinian" is a reference to residents of the PA, rather than an ethnic designation. Beyond the context, Israeli officials rarely refer to Palestinian citizens of Israel as Palestinians. They are simply "Arabs". Although Palestinian citizens of Israel would certainly stand to gain by conversion to Judaism, I doubt the benefits (again, in the eyes of Israeli officialdom) would be considered an ulterior motive, a priori, without further investigation.

      The paragraph I cited from the Shulhan Arukh (Joseph Caro's authoritative code of Jewish law) begins as follows:

      כשיבא הגר להתגייר בודקים אחריו, שמא בגלל ממון שיטול, או בשביל שררה שיזכה לה, או מפני הפחד בא ליכנס לדת.

      When a [potential] convert comes to convert, he is investigated to see whether he seeks to join the [Jewish] religion for the sake of money he will receive, or for a position of authority he will be given, or out of fear. ... If no reason is found, then they are informed of the burden of the Torah and the difficulty in its observance....

      In the case of a Palestinian, asylum seeker, etc., the benefits are manifest, and would require no investigation.

    • It’s remarkable but unsurprising that in the practice of Zionism, undisguised racism decisively trumps even traditional religious considerations.

      Actually, it would be completely in keeping with traditional religious considerations regarding conversion for ulterior motives (see Shulhan Arukh 268,12).

  • Advice to North Carolina
    • I'm sure his home state (New Jersy?) will soon pass appropriate legislation, making it illegal for him not to play Greensboro -- say something prohibiting "engaging in actions that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations with the State of North Carolina or companies based in the State of North Carolina or in territories controlled by the State of North Carolina."

      Other states will surely follow suit, and Le Boss had better watch his step on any future French tours. They really hate boycotts there, and Caroline de Nord is always in their hearts.

  • Israeli journalist Derfner succinctly analyzes the anti-Semitism vs. anti-Zionism debate
    • I don’t think its the far-right with which most Zionists associate anti-Semitism these days, its the far-left.

      How could it be otherwise, when the very definition of anti-Semitism has been changed to suit a Zionist/pro-Israel agenda? The only criterion that really seems to matter is support for Israel. This has not escaped those on the far-right seeking "respectability". All they need to do is visit Israel and make a few pro-Israel statements and they get the coveted Jewish stamp of approval (see e.g. Gianfranco Fini, the BNP, Heinz-Christian Strache [work in progress], not to mention some of the most unsavoury characters on the Christian right in the US). For some reason, the idea of Jewish approval (as undeserved as it may be) opening the doors to political power doesn't seem to dispel their anti-Semitic prejudices.

      When BDS is the bogeyman and Islamophobia is the ticket to acceptance, the far-right will always get a pass to hate Jews, and the far-left (even when staunchly anti-racist) will be put in the stocks.

  • Zionism is not really secular
    • You actually break this argument by asserting that the Bible, however true, very much does not imply Z. That’s a really important point!

      Which is very much where Rabbinic Judaism comes in -- all the more reason to pretend that nothing of importance happened between the fall of Beitar and the founding of Hovevei Zion (with the exception of a few posthumous conversions to "proto-Zionism": Judah ha-Levi, Judah he-Hasid, the Perushim, etc. ). Better the prophetic visions of physical national redemption than the chimerical eschatology (and supranational ethos) of the Rabbis.

    • Ben-Gurion had a Bible fetish – not as a religious book, but as national epos and the founding work of Jewish national culture. He had little use for the Talmud and Rabbinic Judaism, created after the loss of Jewish independence and largely in the diaspora. Assuming the Peel story is correct (it feels rather apocryphal), he would have meant that the Bible expressed the ancient Jewish tie to the Land, and its central place in the creation and identity of the Jewish nation – not that he believed that the Jews' right to the land was actually God-given (except as a metaphor and perhaps to impress Christians).

      This is accurately reflected in the opening sentence of Israel's “Scroll of Independence”:

      ERETZ-ISRAEL [(Hebrew) - the Land of Israel, Palestine] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

      Gods need not apply.

  • Attachment to Israel is 'central part of Jewish identity,' Forward editor says
    • And the nationalism of Adam Sandler? Or those for whom nationalism is "the only way they feel Jewish"? What continuity and distinctiveness do they offer? They are also assimilationists -- both individually and nationally. If we are going to compare, let us compare like to like.

      I also think you are too quick to dismiss collective assimilation (disappearance is perhaps a better word). Hermann Cohen, for example, was all in favour of "distinctiveness" (see his chapter on "the Law"), but only as a means to an (ethical) end, never as an end in itself. I think his approach is consistent with what the Rabbis have to say about idolatry and the concept of "holiness" (qedushah).

      What good is the shell, if the essence is gutted? I don't mean ritual conservatism, which may easily end up (and in the case of religious Zionism today often does) the province of "evildoers within the letter of the Law" (nevalim birshut ha-torah), although ritual traditions certainly have their place (again, see Cohen).

      As many of the early Jewish anti-Zionist thinkers asserted, trying to replace Judaism as a whole with "Jewish nationalism" is far worse than simply abandoning Judaism. It is the ultimate apostasy; it is "repudiation of the essence" (kefirah ba'iqqar) and "chopping down the saplings" (qitzutz ba-neti'ot).

    • I put a greater burdens of proof on antizionists. If Adam Sandler is a superficial jew but also a (superficial) Zionist , this is acceptable to me. If Phil Weiss is a superficial jew and a fervent antizionist I question his superficial Jewishness. I recognize this discrepancy.

      I'm glad you don't go in for the “typical anti-Zionist Jews are ...” approach, and glad that you recognise the “two measures” (eifah ve-eifah) you apply, but why is nationalism any less suspect as a nail on which to hang one's Judaism than universalism. Because the object of that nationalism happens to be a “Jewish” state? The ideology itself is at least as “foreign” (or as “native”) as universalism. So why is the onus on the anti-Zionists?

    • Assuming Eisner is right about “most American Jews” and the jump from “some attachment” to “a central part of Jewish identity” (I'll take her word for it; she's the editor of the Forward), it stands to reason that “any Jew, particularly a susceptible college student, would be offended by an attack on Zionism that felt like an attack on his or her Jewish identity”. It is all about subjective feelings (that Israel is a central part of their identity, and that an attack “feels” like an attack on that identity). It says nothing about the actual “attack”, but only the way in which it is perceived.

      Eisner then goes on to talk about the “attacks” themselves, cautiously saying they “can smack of anti-Semitism” (still in the realm of the subjective), but slides into the two classic arguments of the “new anti-Semitism”: “singling Israel out” and “challenging Israel's existence” – neither of which makes sense, unless one insists that Israel should be treated differently from every other human rights issue under the sun, i.e. that Israel should be “singled out”. Human rights campaigns cannot simply be dismissed because they appear to be more prominent or successful than others (the charge becomes even more ridiculous, of course, when levelled at the victims themselves). As for the argument about “challenging Israel's existence” rather than trying to “reform Israeli behavior”, the behaviour in question happens to include the “existence” of a discriminatory system, based on ethnicity, kinship and religion. If Ms. Eisner did not “single Israel out”, I doubt that she would find such a system even remotely acceptable, or any challenge to it remotely objectionable.

      Eisner is very cautious. Every statement is ambiguous (including the suggestion that “singling Israel out” “can smack of anti-Semitism” if it “challenge[s] Israel's existence altogether”), but her message, as summed up by Phil Weiss (“Eisner says that BDS … is pretty much anti-semitic too”) is clear.

      Or when Jewish organizations are stigmatized unless they disavow their ties to Israel.

      Eisner is right that there is a potential problem here (although the example she cites is no less problematic in itself), but it is inbuilt, by Eisner's own characterisation. If “attachment [to Israel] has become a central part of Jewish identity” and is “the only way [some Jews] feel Jewish”, then those who reject and object to that political ideology (first and foremost its victims) cannot but oppose organisations (whether Jewish or not) that support it. Eisner seems to see that anomaly as a kind of shield, rather than a serious problem with contemporary American Jewish identity (again, assuming her analysis of that identity is correct). I would hope the editor of the Forward would at least be able to see how alarming that is for the future of Judaism.

      On the subject of “attachment to Israel”, I don't believe it naturally translates into support for Israel. Jewish supporters of Palestinian rights are also “attached to Israel”, whether they merely wish to “reform Israeli behavior”, or oppose its discriminatory state ideology. That is also a part of our Jewish identity.

  • Palestinian reflections on Israel's hysterical attack on BDS
  • Pulitzer winners Junot Díaz, Richard Ford, Alice Walker join over 100 writers in calling for PEN American Center to reject Israeli sponsorship
    • Of course not partnering is not the same as boycotting. I find it hard to believe that PEN would not reject offers of sponsorship from the embassy of Russia or China (to cite 2 countries that feature heavily in PEN campaigns). The pat explanation offered by PEN to its members that it is against subscribing to "cultural boycotts of any kind" is thus rather insulting. PETA events are not sponsored by National Beef, and Greenpeace campaigns aren't "brought to you by Shell".

      Does anyone know if PEN has ever supported cultural boycotts in the past -- e.g. of Apartheid South Africa?

      I was also wondering exactly how the logic of the PEN explanation works. I understand how barring participants from Israel would constitute cultural boycott, but what's "cultural" about taking money from an embassy?

  • Shocker: 'NYT' forum on anti-Zionism tilts toward equating Zionism with racism
    • Sand doesn't say there were no pilgrimages before, but that Jewish interest in pilgrimages to the Holy Land was certainly spurred and heightened by Christian and Muslim attitudes (as others have asserted, particularly by the Crusades, Saladin's conquests, and the Muslim practice of ziyāra). This is historical fact, confirmed by historians even Hophmi wouldn't call "polemicists", such as Joshua Prawer, Elchanan Reiner and I. J. Yuval.

      Jews never lived in a self-referential vacuum, and (as Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin has written) there is no such thing as "pure" culture.

  • Sanders is in Jewish tradition that rejected exceptionalist nationalism of Zionism
    • Hophmi,

      The vast majority of Jews are not religiously observant. This is as true of anti-Zionist Jews as of non- pro- and I-don't-give-a-damn-about-Zionism Jews.

      The "Finkler" stereotype of anti-Zionist Jews is nothing more than an attempt to impugn Jewish criticism of Zionism as stemming from estrangement, lack of concern or worse (with the "worse" definitely implied).

    • This is a balancing act that asks too much of most of us.

      Zionists included. Which is why the above stereotype of the "typical anti-Zionist Jew" is so ridiculous and mean-spirited. As another Shmuel once put it (Kiddushin 70b): "One tends to find his own flaw in others".

    • that’s the typical anti-Zionist Jew; a leftist who cares little for the religion at all and perhaps, would rather see it disappear into history.

      The same could easily be said (assuming one goes in for such silly generalisations) of "the typical Zionist Jew". How many Jews of any stripe actually care for "the religion"? In the case of Zionism, there has always been an element of supplanting religion with nationalism (or in the case of the religious-Zionist minority of replacing one religion with another, or hybridising "the religion" out of existence).

  • Refugee in Gaza thought life was terrific until Facebook incited him
    • Well done, Eamon and Samih.

      I have a question for Samih, though. Where's the Islamic element in your radicalisation? Is it really all about fish and fences and bombs and stuff? Are you sure someone in a hennaed beard didn't tell you al-Aqsa was in danger or something? I hear that's the real reason Palestinians have been getting all incited lately. Thanks in advance.

  • A 'longtime activist for social justice,' Booker worries his anti-BDS stance will 'rankle' and 'upset' people
    • Yes, BDS activists are definitely a nasty bunch, and they’ll harass those who don’t agree with their perspective by smearing them as racist

      Isn't that exactly what Booker does when he associates BDS with "the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe" and calls it an "anti-Jewish movement"?

  • Top Israeli officials who issued directive to execute Palestinians hang Hebron killer out to dry
  • Finding 1 'Arab' in Israeli basketball, NY Times espouses Zionist racial theory
    • Jon,

      Myth and fairy tale
      What I called a “myth and a fairy tale” is the idea that 2,000 years of history mean nothing, that Jews can somehow pick up where they left off, around 70 CE, and the actual inhabitants of Palestine (including the Jews of the Old Yishuv) had better like it or lump it. It's romantic – epic even – but it does not confer legal or a moral rights. Christian Zionists (who may actually have come up with the idea in the first place) don't know the difference either, and mainstream Western society in general has also been caught up in this idea that fires the imagination but is, on closer scrutiny (which few bother to do), profoundly wrong.

      Inavders, pilgrims, idealists and refugees
      What you've done next is to distort history on a number of levels. You conjure up an extreme image of invasion, and arbitrarily decide that anything that does not look exactly like the Rape of Nanking doesn't count. You anachronistically “Zionise” the followers of Yehudah he-Hasid, ignore the colonial aspect of the Second Aliyah, and de-contextualise the post-Churban, Yemenite and Ethiopian “aliyot” – creating an image of innocence that is somehow meant to colour the whole of the Zionist project. It is a very partial image that teaches very little about the whole. It is another kind of myth-making.

      Rights and equality
      On the subject of equal rights, you'll get no argument from me, although judging by your previous comments at MW, your understanding of the concept of equality is very different from mine. To my mind, equality precludes the existence of an ethnocratic state; in fact precludes discrimination of any kind, whether in terms of civil rights, the rights of refugees or the right to security.

      I don't expect Israelis to put on “Ashamed to be a colonialist” t-shirts, but there's a whole range of possibilities between that and “Jews are not illegal invaders in their historic homeland”. I would expect a self-declared leftist and peace-activist to be closer to the former than the latter – which remains the ideological basis for the denial of Palestinian legitimacy and entitlement to equality, on the ground and at the negotiating table.

      Land Day is not a past injustice but current reality, perhaps nowhere more (within Israel) than in the Negev. Can Jews be expropriators and oppressors and ethnic cleansers in their “historic homeland”?

    • A viable settlement–not a solution–to the Israeli/Palestine conflict must be forced on an unreconstructed Zionist Israeli majority.

      And the chances of that happening would be?

      It's a trajectory, and even a settlement (brought about by any means) seems highly unlikely. It also seems highly unlikely that anything at all will change without an ideological shift within a minority, even a small minority of Israeli Jews -- those like jon, whose self-image is grounded in democratic and even humanistic ideals. That image (somehow extended to Israel as a whole) is a crucial part of the reason why a forced settlement is so improbable. So there's a cycle that needs to be broken, without any illusions about "reconstructing" an Israeli majority.

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