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UNRWA: A critical but impossible mission

Alice Rothchild on

More than 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan are served by UNRWA and Alice Rothchild visits the Nuzha camp in Amman where refugees get vital services from family planning to mental health counseling. The school is tidy and sparkling with an atmosphere of infectious enthusiasm. One girl asks: “Is America beautiful?”

Gunfight at the O.K. Kibbutz: Israel in the American reflection

Bruce Robbins on
Paul Newman in Otto Preminger's 1960 film "Exodus"

Bruce Robbins reviews Amy Kaplan’s book Our American Israel: “Kaplan argues that Israel made it possible for Americans to believe things they wanted to believe about themselves but were afraid they couldn’t, like the righteousness of their own use of military violence.”

Actor Faisal Abu Alhayjaa appears in NY this Sunday

Philip Weiss on

The Palestinian actor Faisal Abu Alhayjaa is known to the New York theater audience for his charismatic performance as a wounded resistance fighter in Bethlehem in “The Siege”, a production from the Jenin Freedom Theatre. He will be speaking about “laughter and liberation” at the People’s Forum in NY on Sunday.

‘Refugees are a tool of war’ — the view from the Syrian border

Alice Rothchild on

Rev. Nour Sahawneh aids thousands of refugees at his church in Mafraq, Jordan, near sprawling city-like camps. “Their lives are a disaster,” he tells Alice Rothchild. “They are a tool of war. They became a subject in a war, not a people to help… War is business.”

A note on Martin Buber’s failure and our own

Marc H. Ellis on
Martin Buber

Marc Ellis reviews Paul Mendes-Flohr’s new biography, Martin Buber: A life of Faith and Dissent: “My biggest complaint, a serious one, is that Buber’s understanding of the prophetic is mentioned but is hardly given the due needed. Buber’s analysis of the prophetic and its consistent failure, exemplified in his life both in Germany, Palestine and Israel, will, in my view, be, perhaps already is, Buber’s greatest contribution to the Jewish present and future.”

For Iraqi refugees in Amman, kindness, support and an application to Australia

Alice Rothchild on

Iraqis throughout the Middle East remain unregistered, uncounted, unassisted and unprotected. But Alice Rothchild visits the Collateral Repair Project in Amman, begun in 2006, which serves 10,000 families a year and teaches everything from Capoeira, to music, to English, to mind-body medicine.

My Skype lecture in Gaza is postponed due to bombing

Marc H. Ellis on

Marc Ellis was to lecture students in Gaza by Skype but Israeli bombing caused a postponement– a first for the veteran scholar, who writes, “You are witnessing the end of ethical Jewish history.”

At the seder, I felt I didn’t know who I was

Jonathan Ofir on

Jonathan Ofir continues his journey in Israel-Palestine during a family visit over the Passover. The last set of journal entries concerns Druze and the Passover Seder

In Israel, I’m washed in the brainwash

Jonathan Ofir on

Jonathan Ofir continues his journey in Israel-Palestine. He visits the western wall in Jerusalem and reflects on the erasure of the Magharibah quarter, sees a sign commemorating the theft of Yemenite babies, and reflects on the utter invisibility of the Palestinian presence in Israeli life.

‘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”