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‘Violence of Jewish power’ in Jerusalem has ‘poisoned the Jewish community’ — ‘Forward’ reports

Israel/Palestine
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Today we have an excellent report from Allison Deger on the Jerusalem Day demonstration by rightwing Jewish zealots in the Old City. And look here: the Forward also has published an account documenting the racism at the rally that several folks have passed along to me. Author Leanne Gale is an American rabbi’s daughter and recent college graduate, interning for a year with Ir Amim in Jerusalem. Gale’s anguished report is a reminder of why the Jewish community must depend on young Jews for leadership; they lack the programming of older generations, and don’t attempt to apologize for atrocities. Excerpts

Growing up at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Long Island, I have fond memories of Jerusalem Day. We celebrated every year with school-wide assemblies and dances, singing “Sisu et Yerushalayim” (Rejoice in Jerusalem) and “Jerusalem of Gold” with pride. Even in high school, I never knew the political significance of the day or imagined that my joy might be at someone else’s expense. Today, I know better…

I made a conscious decision to attend the March of Flags this year. As an intern at Ir Amim, an Israeli organization committed to fostering a more equitable and sustainable Jerusalem, I helped coordinate a group of volunteers to document racist slogans, police responses to incitement, and restrictions on Palestinian mobility. While I thought I knew exactly what to expect, I find myself feeling numb as I write these words.

The sea of celebrants convened at the Damascus Gate, outside the Muslim Quarter, seemingly ready to fight…

The crowd continued down through the Muslim Quarter, shouting “Death to Arabs” as young Palestinian children stared out of second story windows….

But the March of Flags, if we pay any attention at all, reveals the violence of Jewish power in the holy city. This violence has simultaneously violated the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and poisoned the Jewish community from the inside out. And these days, even as the daughter of a rabbi, I question if I have the strength to stay in the game.

Leanne Gale, from her Facebook page

Leanne Gale, from her Facebook page

You can read more of Leanne Gale’s writing at her blog, Fugitive Moments of Compassion. Here for instance, is a report on a confrontation with a birthright group in Jerusalem. Excerpt:

Yesterday, I participated in a direct action against the Israeli occupation along with fellow members of All That’s Left.  The action was simple and powerful.  We brought giant American flags to the Shuk, Ben Yehuda Street, and Zion Square—places where American Jews tend to hang out on their trips to Israel.  In each location, we staked out a spot and performed a bit of street theater.  “We are here.  To Announce.  That from this day forward. This piece of land. Belongs. To Americans Only.”  As we forcibly occupied these spaces, appearing to be some really crazy right-wing Americans, curious Israelis and American tourists gathered to watch.  And then we handed out these fliers:

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…As we approached our first Birthright group, I’m not really quite sure what I expected.  I do know that I felt relatively calm.  These were American Jews, my people.  Nothing to be afraid of.  We set up our flags, stood on our chair, and chanted our takeover.  At first, the Birthright group was enthused and attentive.  But then they got our fliers.

“Go fuck yourself!” said the first brave young man.

As the group awkwardly looked to one another for guidance, their trip leader informed them that we were a group of “anti-Israel activists” and began leading them in an IDF song to drown us out.  That was all it took for the “fuck yous” to come out in a torrent.  Also: “go home,” “you’re a fucking embarrassment,” and “get the fuck out of here.” Some of the young women called out to the men in our group, “what you really need is a blow job!” As the Birthrighters began to leave, they walked past us one by one, ripped up the fliers, and threw them in our face.  It felt a bit like Mean Girls.  I also saw a few middle fingers…

These young American Jews, as individuals, had taken a trip to Israel to learn about the country.  And instead of asking questions, engaging, disagreeing, all they could do was dismiss us out of hand, and pretty grossly at that.  Despite our exceptionally near-sighted modern discourse on Israel, it is indisputable that the Jewish people have been a questioning people throughout history…

I like her takeaway. No excuses for racism:

I suppose we have gotten to a place where a white American Jewish woman from New York, who probably votes Democrat and considers herself to be a progressive, can throw back a flier in disgust at the mention of the word “Palestinian.”  It’s not racist right?  Just self-preservation.  You know, from a race made up entirely of terrorists.

This is also good, from February:

 “Are you planning on making Aliyah?”

“Not really…”

“Why not?”

“I would feel guilty using that privilege knowing that thousands of Palestinians living in Jerusalem can’t even obtain residency status, much less get citizenship.  Not to mention the Palestinian refugees who don’t even have the option of making Aliyah.”

Isn’t it amazing that when young American Jews learn about the right of return they don’t find it a nightmare aimed at pushing Jews into the sea, but regard it as a legal principle?

Oh and this is good, about reactionary orthodoxy in the Jewish community, including from the people who have nurtured Gale from birth:

There is an acute sense of psychological instability that comes with doing work that most of your friends, family, and community don’t really understand.  In fact, a huge proportion of my community doesn’t even believe that there is a real Israeli occupation, certainly not of East Jerusalem.  That means constant cognitive dissonance between what I see on a daily basis and what I hear from so many of the people who have surrounded & nurtured me from birth.  The gulf between the reality of suffering on the ground and the knowledge of much of the Jewish community is enormous and crushes me daily. (I think I’ll devote a post to this too.)

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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31 Responses

  1. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    May 30, 2014, 1:00 pm

    Some of the young women called out to the men in our group, “what you really need is a blow job!”
    No comment necessary.

  2. Ecru
    Ecru
    May 30, 2014, 1:14 pm

    Isn’t it amazing that when young American Jews learn about the right of return they don’t find it a nightmare aimed at pushing Jews into the sea, but regard it as a legal principle?

    Really? And your explanation for those repugnant Birth-Righters?

  3. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    May 30, 2014, 1:31 pm

    Leanne Gale “gets it” and is righteous. Reminds me a bit of the American civil rights movement and the fight for civil rights for Americans of African descent. A pity that her elders, who surely took pride in the Jewish contributions to that fight, forgot all decency in 1967 and have never got it back.

    Is life too short?

  4. Scott
    Scott
    May 30, 2014, 2:28 pm

    She’s wonderful, this Leanne Gale. Really heartening that there seems to be a steady and perhaps permanent stream of new, extremely smart and able joining the justice in Israel/Palestine cause. The action she describes with the flags is compelling.

  5. Palikari
    Palikari
    May 30, 2014, 5:29 pm

    There are lies on this article:

    “[…] thousands of Palestinians living in Jerusalem can’t even obtain residency status, much less get citizenship.”

    Actually ALL Arabs in East Jerusalem have a permanent resident status and can apply for Israeli citizenship. Most applications are approved.

    Check your sources!

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      May 30, 2014, 5:44 pm

      “ALL Arabs in East Jerusalem ”

      They prefer to be called “Palestinians.”

      But you knew that already.

    • just
      just
      May 30, 2014, 6:00 pm

      How about sharing your sources, ‘Palikari’?

      I mean since you allege “lies”, you should be able to back it up. In the meantime, here you go:

      “Published: 1 Jan 2011
      Updated: 18 Aug 2013

      Since 1967, more than 14,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem have had their status as permanent residents of Israel revoked by the state. The revocation is part of Israel’s overall policy in East Jerusalem, which is geared towards the political goal of maintaining a “demographic balance” in Jerusalem, i.e., of ensuring a 70% Jewish majority in the city. To that end, ongoing efforts are made to expand the Jewish population in the city and reduce its Palestinian population.

      Ever since Israel annexed East Jerusalem and its environs in 1967, it has applied a discriminatory and restrictive policy there. This includes an absence of proper planning for Palestinian neighborhoods, which was attended by prohibitions on construction; the refusal of applications for family unification with Palestinians from other parts of the West Bank; and the denial of many basic services to the community. Over the years, the resulting harsh reality caused tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to leave the city. Many of them relocated to nearby suburbs in the West Bank or to Jordan. Israel’s Ministry of the Interior did not warn that by leaving, these people were risking loss of their status as permanent residents of Israel. Many only learned after the fact that their right to return to their homes in East Jerusalem had been revoked.”

      http://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/revocation-residency-east-jerusalem-updated-18-aug-2013

      and

      “Legal Status of East Jerusalem and its Residents”

      http://www.btselem.org/jerusalem/legal_status

      A simple google search will yield many, many more validating Leanne Gale’s statement.

      Thanks anyway.

      • Walid
        Walid
        May 30, 2014, 10:18 pm

        Just, there’s a reason why Israel is taking extreme measures to reduce the number of Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem. Historically, the Jewish population has always been about 70% of the total but Israel in its lust for land, somewhat shot itself in the foot when it annexed so much land around Jerusalem after 1967 that increased the city’s population by 200% and upset the Jewish-Arab split because the annexation involved adding 28 Arab villages to Jerusalem. This brought in more land but it also brought in more Palestinian Arabs. The Jewish quarter’s area before 67 was of about 16 square miles and the Palestinian Arab sector of only about 2.5 square miles.

        Israel after 67 annexed about 25 square miles of Arab villages, which shot up the Arab portion of the expanded city. Today’s Arab population of about 300,000 is an increase of 327% since 1967 due mostly to the 28 villages that were absorbed, as you noted. During the same period, the Jewish population increased by 157% but this too was due mostly to Israel having planted new settlers in the increased geographical area of the city. Israel got itself stuck having to play games with residency permits or papers of Palestinian Arabs such as you described to fix the imbalance. Now with the ongoing culling of the Palestinians and the never ending settlements expansions, the split is around 65-35 in favour of Jews.

        This annexation gaffe resembles one by France around 1926 or so when wanting to reinforce the Christian population (with which it had a security treaty since 1701) in a Lebanon about to become independent in a sea of Muslim states, tripled the country’s area (at the expense of Syria) by adding to it more villages and more people, but not realizing that those they had brought in were mostly Muslim, that actually diluted the Christian numbers. Even so, the new Lebanon at its independence was still around 55% Christian.

        BTW, some of the Jerusalem numbers are also found in your B’tselem link.

      • ziusudra
        ziusudra
        May 31, 2014, 7:08 am

        Greetings Walid & talknic,
        Article: ‘There is no such country’
        Yes, The Canaanite Semites settled Canaan in the Fashion of Sumerian civilization long before the 12 Tribe Semites broke away from the Peleset
        Semites of which today’s Palestinians & Aramaeans were & are.
        Shucran, Mash’Salaam
        ziusudra
        Talknic, Netanjahu is trying to Change the demography to gain 9/10ths of
        de law of Possession.

    • Eva Smagacz
      Eva Smagacz
      May 30, 2014, 6:06 pm

      Palikari, for Jerusalem residents, applying for citizenship of Israel, would be complicit in breaking international law, colluding in illegal Israeli Occupation of Holly City, and collaborating with apartheid. You don’t ask for much, do you?

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        May 30, 2014, 8:22 pm

        Although it will be tricky, at some point the West Bank Palestinians will/should ask for citizenship in Israel. It is “kosher” for the Jerusalem Palestinians to refuse Israeli citizenship while that citizenship is not offered to their fellow West Bank Palestinian (countrymen). But at some point annexation will be the logical step to a one state solution and the request for citizenship in Israel will be the logical step.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        May 30, 2014, 9:53 pm

        That is, indeed, they way they should go. Israeli citizenship will not, by itself, give the Palestinians equal rights or be just resolution of all the issues, but it will be a big step on the way.

    • talknic
      talknic
      May 30, 2014, 6:15 pm

      @ Palikari “Actually ALL Arabs in East Jerusalem have a permanent resident status and can apply for Israeli citizenship. Most applications are approved.

      Check your sources!”

      Give some sources pal!

      • ziusudra
        ziusudra
        May 31, 2014, 7:15 am

        Greetings talknic,
        Article: ‘There is no such land’
        Possession 9/10ths of de law.
        That’s why Netanjahu is trying to change the demography
        of AlCuds & the WB to gain such Possession so he
        can claim such a maxim.
        ziusudra

  6. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    May 30, 2014, 6:08 pm

    When I lived in Jerusalem I went on a Friday morning Ir Amim bus tour of the separation wall. Besides the visuals that are part of my memory, I was impressed by the young Israeli woman who struggled with English, but certainly excelled compared to my Hebrew. (I remember she used the word “doubled” when she meant “multiplied”.)

    Walking among the JDL types is never pleasant business and apparently Yom Yerushalayim, the police and/or the army/government has allowed JDL types to set the atmosphere in Jerusalem on that day.

    I lived in Queens New York, home of Rabbi Kahane at the time of the birth of the JDL. (Kahane hails from Brooklyn, but was a rabbi in Queens at the time of the teacher’s strike of 1968, a seminal moment in Black Jewish tensions in America, that gave birth to the JDL.) The idea of a Jewish defense organization is sensible, although the practicality of any such group would end up looking at best like Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels and citizen groups trying to fill in the job of overtaxed police forces is not the stuff of good government but more like the wrong answer to a real problem. People from the progressive side of the Jewish street rarely worried about the poor/elderly that they left behind in the poorer changing neighborhoods of NYC and other urban centers of the 60’s, and of course there was a need and that need was filled by Kahane, who was an interesting, but troubled man who eventually moved to Israel and became the nightmare that is well known. But a little history never hurt, huh?

    • ziusudra
      ziusudra
      May 31, 2014, 5:55 am

      Greetings Jonah fredman,
      Born on Park Ave in Williamsburg in 41; later in Ozone Park, attended Richmond high. Visited often with my Italo/Greco relatives in Flatbush in de 50s, remember Euro Jews all over as working, sensible immigrants with Menschkeit. I remember one hungarian Immigrant who owned a candy store in Flatbush, who was so excited for me; a Catholic becoming so prosperous in his eyes, at 16, because i entered his store to buy cigars for my uncle, in a new jacket. As a European, he didn’t realized that i was still at School and the cloths on my body were bought for by my parents. I found him extremely Menchlich, i ne’er forgot him.
      I’m sure there are many, many more like him around today.
      ziusudra

  7. Pamela Olson
    Pamela Olson
    May 30, 2014, 7:01 pm

    Lots of respect for young people standing up for the rights of all humans. Especially when they come from cultures that have tragically come to demonize universalist principles.

    “There is an acute sense of psychological instability that comes with doing work that most of your friends, family, and community don’t really understand. In fact, a huge proportion of my community doesn’t even believe that there is a real Israeli occupation, certainly not of East Jerusalem. That means constant cognitive dissonance between what I see on a daily basis and what I hear from so many of the people who have surrounded & nurtured me from birth. The gulf between the reality of suffering on the ground and the knowledge of much of the Jewish community is enormous and crushes me daily.”

    Breaks my heart. I got just a taste of this when I came back from Palestine the first time. I watched friends, who were otherwise kind and thoughtful, suddenly turned into snarling racists when I brought up the “P-word.” It was a terrible, disillusioning, disconnecting feeling, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

    But the only thing worse is selling yourself out and remaining silent when you know the truth.

    Hugs and solidarity.

    • Pamela Olson
      Pamela Olson
      May 30, 2014, 7:05 pm

      By the way, even my poor sister got caught up in it, even though she’s never been to Palestine. She went to a Passover Seder in LA with a college friend and her family while I was living in Ramallah. It was going smoothly until she mentioned she had a sister living in Palestine who’d had a few harrowing run-ins with Israeli soldiers. After she stopped talking, the silence was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Then she was curtly informed that:

      (a) There’s no such thing as Palestine or Palestinians;

      (b) Palestine is very dangerous and her sister is very likely to get shot by Palestinians;

      (c) There’s no way Israeli soldiers ever pointed any guns at her sister, or anyone else for that matter; and

      (d) Her sister deserved to have Israelis guns pointed at her because “if she’s with Palestinians, then she’s a threat.”

      Ouch. It was her first encounter with that kind of ugly clamp-minded Pavlovian bigotry coming from otherwise kind, sane, and educated people she’d never had any problem with before. All I could say was, “Welcome to my world.”

      When my sister mentioned the Wall to them, they snapped, “The Wall is only 10%.” Which I guess means they believe the Wall only steals 10% of the land in the West Bank.

      The figure is actually much higher, and the land they’re stealing destroys Palestinian society out of all proportion to the percentage itself, but that’s hardly the point. “Only” stealing 10% of the small remaining land of an already brutalized and disinherited nation by force is A-OK?

      They were wearing their “I LOVE ISRAEL. I WANT PEACE. I AM A ZIONIST.” T-shirts, which were also popular on the Stanford campus at the time. I had to wonder what kind of peace they meant.

      • just
        just
        May 30, 2014, 7:19 pm

        Pamela– thanks for sharing all of this pain, and for all that you do.

        “But the only thing worse is selling yourself out and remaining silent when you know the truth.”

        This is fundamental and so very correct.

        And thank you, Phil, for bringing this wonderful woman, Leanne Gale, to all of us.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        May 30, 2014, 8:13 pm

        Pamela- I don’t know how much land the path of the separation wall “annexes” but I think it’s much less than 10%. I think there might be a figure of something close to 10% to measure how much of the separation barrier is wall and how much is fence.

        There are those who are in favor of Israel making some basic changes in the West Bank (and regarding the JNF for example, but not nearly enough change to satisfy most people here commenting) and there are those who are in a status quo mode and the people that your sister came up against were status quo people. I think that the limits placed on debate or dialogue are placed by status quo people and that same attitude was in evidence at the seder. There are also people who simplify the conflict: There will never be peace. Whose side are you on? Their side or our side? And simplifying makes life simple.

      • Pamela Olson
        Pamela Olson
        May 30, 2014, 9:50 pm

        The Wall itself annexes approximately 10% on the western side (at least 8% in any case), and the Jordan Valley is de facto annexed to Israel (Palestinians have largely been driven out and the remaining Palestinians are constantly harassed), which is another 25% of the West Bank, and Area C in total is around 60% (where Palestinians have virtually no rights and are constantly harassed and driven out), and the Wall also steals water and, by the way, THE CAPITAL of Palestine.

        But if you wanna split hairs, go ahead.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        May 31, 2014, 12:30 am

        Pamela Olson- I thought you were trying to understand what the people were saying to your sister. But you were trying to make a point irrelevant to what those people were saying.

  8. RoHa
    RoHa
    May 31, 2014, 12:09 am

    Do flags count as graven images?

  9. Walid
    Walid
    June 1, 2014, 9:19 am

    More fun and games from peace-loving Israel today, from al-Akhbar/Reuters:

    Israel denies Gaza unity government ministers entrance to West Bank

    Published Sunday, June 1, 2014
    Updated at 1:55 pm: Israel has denied three future Palestinian Authority ministers from the Gaza Strip entry to the West Bank ahead of the unveiling of a new unity government, public radio said on Sunday.

    The head of Israel’s military administration in the Palestinian territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai, had informed the Palestinians that the three would not be permitted to cross from Gaza to the West Bank, the radio said.

    Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that the line-up of a unity government would be announced Monday, following a delay over who would head the foreign ministry.

    He also said Israel had informed the Palestinians that it would “boycott the government.”

    “Israel wants to punish us because we have agreed with Hamas on this government,” he said.

    Full story:
    http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/israel-denies-entrance-west-bank-gaza-unity-government-ministers

    • just
      just
      June 1, 2014, 9:31 am

      Just goes to show that he never wanted anything approaching ‘peace’. It also shows that he believes in boycotts & sanctions– goodness knows, he’s sanctioned the Palestinians forever.

      Who is doing the ‘incitement’?????

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