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‘Thou shalt not murder those who resist your oppression’:  #NoPassover reflections on a Jewish theology of liberation

Marc H. Ellis on

“Sometimes I am asked where would I begin if I were to write a Jewish Theology of Liberation today from scratch?” Marc Ellis writes. “A Jewish Theology of Liberation might begin with an addition to Emil Fackenheim’s 614th commandment or, more to the point, the positing of another commandment,” he answers, “after the Holocaust and after Israel – and what Israel has done and is doing to the Palestinian people. The 615th Commandment?  ‘Thou Shalt Not Murder Those Who Resist Your Oppression.'”

From God to art to politics, in Amman

Alice Rothchild on

A natural gas pipeline from the sea through Jordan is Israel’s latest effort to normalize relations with its Arab neighbors. But Palestinians resist. In Amman, Alice Rothchild visits an exhibit of remarkable friezes by Palestinian artist, Abdul Hay Mosallam. “They killed me and my killer denied me while turning cold in my grave,” are the words on the Gaza piece.

Why is this Seder different from all other Seders?

Ira Glunts on

A plan for an alternative Passover seder which is a reaction to the Israeli occupation and the Jewish religious rites deployed in its support: Ira Glunts’s Seder lo b’seder: the seder that skips the traditional seder, and supports BDS.

From early Zionism until today, Palestinian stonemasons built Israel

Nada Elia on
Palestinian laborers work at a quarry in the West Bank village of Taffouh near Hebron, 08 March 2017. (Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/APA Images)

Andrew Ross’ “Stone Men” is a sobering book in many ways. The subtitle tells the real story: just as Israel could not exist without the land of Palestine, so the country could not be built without the steady toil, skills, and dependability of Palestinian stonemasons.

What motivates criticism of Israel by diaspora Jews? An interview with Bonnie Honig

Bruce Robbins on
Bonnie Honig

What motivates the criticism of Israel by Jews in the diaspora? Bruce Robbins talks with Bonnie Honig, one of the most insightful and original political theorists of her generation, who argues by targeting the Jewish diaspora in order to manufacture uncritical solidarity, Israel created, paradoxically, a sense of obligation to criticize Israel.

British MPs won’t get to see ‘WitchHunt’ in the House of Commons – the very place it needs to be shown

Robert Cohen on

A new documentary called WitchHunt points out the narrow room for debate over alleged antisemitism in the British Labour Party. Anti-Zionist Jews are excluded as unrepresentative of British Jews. And why is it okay to talk about antisemitism and Zionism in Britain without asking a Palestinian what their direct experience of Zionism has looked and felt like?

The last eyewitnesses: a new film on the Nakba

Stephen Shenfield on

“Even a thousand films on the Nakba would not suffice,” says Ahlam Muhtaseb, co-director with Andy Trimlett of a new film, “1948: Creation & Catastrophe,” which is based in part on interviews with survivors, many of them of advanced years. The film has been subject to protests by Israel supporters, and a screening in West Hollywood was scratched under pressure in December, now rescheduled for March. Stephen Shenfield interviews the co-directors.

Shoshana takes Jaffa: a cold Brechtian rendition of a hot rococo adventure

Shoshana Austerlitz on

Shoshana, an American in Palestine visits Jaffa and finds that it’s different from the movies, “I don’t like Jaffa. In my all-consuming Palestine obsession, I find it frustratingly Israeli. I hear so much Arabic but see no Palestinian flags. It feels generalized and deracinated.”

Angela Davis and the Jewish Civil War

Marc H. Ellis on
Angela Y. Davis and Rasmeh Odeh in 2015. (Photo: Twitter/@incitenews)

Marc Ellis writes that the rescinding by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute of an award to Angela Davis raises issues about the Black-Jewish alliance and the ability of Jews to set parameters for African Americans to speak on Jewish questions, including Israel. There is a war over that question. The Jewish establishment sees Angela Davis as an enemy. Jews of Conscience see her as an ally.

Amos Oz and the end of liberal Zionism

Marc H. Ellis on

Marc Ellis on the passing of Amos Oz: “Like Wiesel, Amos Oz was a witness to the destruction and reemergence of Jewish life in the formative events of the Holocaust and the birth of the state of Israel. What they also experienced but couldn’t fathom was the formative event of Palestinian freedom as a demand on Jewish history. In missing the next question of Jewish life, while trying to deflect and demean those who did, Oz’s liberal Zionist witness became tarnished and, like Wiesel’s Holocaust consciousness, fated.”

Who is at home and who is in exile: a review of ‘Fractured Destinies’

Lesley Williams on

Which is more painful: to be forced to abandon your homeland, or to remain, watching strangers erase all traces of your culture and history? This dilemma forms the crux of Rabai al-Madhon’s Fractured Destinies, which Lesley Williams calls, “a lyrically rich portrait of contemporary Palestinian society”

Ben White’s hopeful vision may include some false positives

Joel Doerfler on

Ben White’s consistently engrossing new book, “Cracks in the Wall: Beyond Apartheid in Palestine/Israel,” argues that “The end of Israel as a bipartisan issue of concern in US politics, along with the wider left’s alienation from and the far right’s embrace of Israel” will undermine Israel’s ability to maintain the status quo. But is he right? Joel Doerfler wonders if Israel can get along without its traditional allies.

A moodily outdated Jewish-American activist goes on an informal Israeli paramilitary museum tour, by choice, and because it was a deal

Shoshana Austerlitz on

Shoshana Austerlitz goes on a tour of Tel Aviv’s paramilitary museums honoring Israel’s pre-state militias: “I want to get in there. I want to know what it’s all about. I’m not looking to be wowed by the official narrative but I wanna put myself in the middle of it, to  roll in it, to feel how my blood boils in response to it, to make myself a human test subject. Will the propaganda take?”

‘Realism’ Israeli-style: A kinder, gentler occupation

Joel Doerfler on

Micah Goodman’s book Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War has been celebrated for its “pragmatism” and “realism” and topped the Israeli nonfiction best seller list for weeks while being read by Benjamin Netanyahu and many top officials involved in administering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Joel Doerfler says, “the most striking thing about Goodman’s argument is the utterly conventional and largely unexamined set of historical and moral assumptions on which it is founded.”

If there’s mansplaining and whitesplaining, then why not Ziosplaining? – on Yossi Klein Halevi’s Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor

Ilene Cohen on

Ilene Cohen defines ‘Ziosplaining’ as “the efforts of Zionists of so-called moderate stripe, who are endlessly pained by reality, to explain to Palestinians (and the world) that they have no choice but to support the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” She says the latest effort in the genre is Yossi Klein Halevi’s Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor. “That neighbor, by the way, is the author’s imaginary neighbor—the only one possible for such an exercise, because few and far between would be the Palestinians who wouldn’t gag at this patronizing effort to have their situation ‘explained’ to them,” Cohen writes.

A boyhood shadowed by the impending fall of Palestine

Georgia Beeston on

A Palestinian Boyhood, the new autobiography by Palestinian writer Reja-e Busailah, relates a remarkable story about overcoming the challenges of growing up blind in Palestine in the years up to and including the 1948 Nakba, which uprooted his family. Georgia Beeston: “Simply written, the book takes the reader through the author’s daily life, underlining the everyday challenges of the visually impaired.””

The remarkable disappearing act of Israel’s car-bombing campaign in Lebanon or: What we (do not) talk about when we talk about ‘terrorism’

Rémi Brulin on
Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan in Lebanon in 1982. (Photo: David Rubinger/CORBIS)

Ronen Bergman’s book Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations tells that story of how from 1979 to 1983 very senior Israeli officials conducted a large-scale campaign of car-bombings that killed hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese, most of them civilians. While the book has received the highest praise from reviewers, this secret operation has not been mentioned once. Remi Brulin writes this is a perfect illustration of the political discourse on “terrorism”: “The secret car-bombing operation Israeli officials conducted in Lebanon in the early 1980s represents a remarkable historical example of such ‘silences,’ and of the ‘rules’ that underlie the discourse on ‘terrorism’ and ensure that certain things simply ‘cannot be said,’ certain facts simply aren’t ever mentioned.”