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  • 'NYT' editors twist themselves into knots not to say the word 'Jewish'
    • And also blunt and racist in a way that’s just different from America… It’s blunter there, but it is also more rooted in experience. It’s not based on some stereotype. It’s based on, “Every Israeli I know has acted in this way.” Or, “My cousin was killed by a suicide bomber.” It’s not based on kind of an idea, it’s based on experience.

      Classic apology for racism.

      I was also intrigued by Rudoren's "huge amount of Palestinian-American money" (somehow comparable to "[Jewish-]American money" in Israel, as "such an important part of life there"), with an assist from Bennet. Fake balance is par for the course, but this is a real whopper.

  • Israeli rabbi who advocated rape of 'comely gentile women' during war becomes chief army rabbi
    • Thanks, Michael. I'm far from sanguine. As I intimated, I was on the verge of Haredi society for quite some time, and have more Haredi relatives (Hasidic, Mitnagdic and Sephardic) than I can count on the fingers of both hands. Haredi society is rife with problems -- including a shocking level of racism and, increasingly, nationalism. At this point in time, however, I find the National-Religious ideology far more dangerous, for the reasons I touched on and others that are, indeed, beyond the "brief" of this site.

      No, I hadn't heard of your book. Thanks for the email. I'll drop you a line.

    • Michael,

      I think the ultra-nationalist (or neo-fascist or whatever you want to call it) turn taken by Religious Zionism (and it's offspring "Hardal") is particularly grave, because it is precisely the stream of Judaism that had begun to work through things like misogyny in Jewish tradition (and to some extent still does). Ultra-Orthodoxy has its inbuilt mechanisms to prevent some of the worst things from reaching halakhic practice, despite (or because of) its ostensible literalism and extreme conservatism. Paradoxically, "Modern Orthodoxy" that did not forbid "anything new", as per the famous dictum of Moses Schreiber (Hatam Sofer) , has been far more susceptible to romantic national-idolatry (although it is making inroads into Haredi society as well, for various reasons I won't get into here).

      I attended National-Religious yeshivot (in Israel) and personally had Haredi "leanings", but managed to study things like the chapter of the "comely woman", balancing belief in the divine origin of the Torah with modern abhorrence for such a practice. Our teachers (Haredi and otherwise) gave us the tools to do so, with such mechanisms as "the Torah spoke in human language", as explained, for example, by Maimonides. The possibility existed and exists within the tradition, to study and understand both the acceptable and the unacceptable without losing one's moral compass. I would even say that doing so has advantages over simply dismissing, rejecting, or sweeping under the rug. Part of the secret actually lies in the multiplicity of opinion and interpretation.

      I believe the real slippery slope lies in the fetishisation (sorry, Yonah) of Land and People, which has created a new "morality". Have a look at the quotes from Karim in the original article in Haaretz that broke this story -- at how many times he mentions "the Nation" and "the People" and "the Collective". Or at the shocking "morality" found in the chapter on "ethics" in Min Hahar's classic Dinei tzava u-milhamah ([Religious] laws of army and war). I can't believe I ever bought and studied that book, let alone had any respect for its author. It is no coincidence that Karim headed the pre-military academy at Shlomo Aviner's odious "Ateret Kohanim", in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem (or that he was a combat officer). Nor it is it a coincidence that he was appointed chief military rabbi, at a time when the role of the military rabbinate is being redefined.

    • Thanks, Jonathan, for the article and the clarifications.

      I disagree with Lesher about what "the real point" is, although he's absolutely right about the "methodological dishonesty" of certain orthodox rabbis in such cases (Ovadiah Yosef and his spokesmen made it an art form).

      The "real point", in my opinion, is that Religious Zionism has taken topics that were, for millennia, the object of purely theoretical study,* and decided to apply them to contemporary political and military life, in a modern nation state.

      Is Karim's statement about "comely women" (eventually withdrawn/explained/contradicted and unlikely to have any significant impact in and of itself) really worse than his statements about killing "injured terrorists" (whom he calls "animals") or, on a somewhat more theoretical level but not without practical consequences, his constant, almost mystical glorification of "the people" and "the nation", above the needs and rights of individuals?

      *A classic method of dealing with some of the worst parts of Scripture and other sacred texts, without denying that they are the word of God, is to treat them as no longer applicable. The wisdom of this approach seems to have been lost on much of Religious Zionism.

    • Haaretz has some more gems from Qarim: "Terrorists should not be treated like human beings, because they are 'animals'"; "Injured suicide terrorists should be killed"; "The duty to take revenge against the enemy rests exclusively with the IDF, the Israel Police and Border Police, the Shin Bet and the Mossad ... and indeed they do their best, although they are sometimes prevented by the government from acting with full force"; "It is not racism to encourage, promote and advertise 'Jewish labour'"; "[Not allowing women to testify in religious courts] is discrimination in their favour, since they are unable to withstand cross examination in the courtroom, due to their emotional nature"; "Our attitude to the [homosexual] individual is as to one who is ill or handicapped ... to support him and help him out of his situation, with great sensitivity and patience"; "Relationships of the kind you have mentioned [i.e. homosexual relationships] are the opposite of nature and the destruction of nature. Homosexuals and lesbians remain such ... only if they choose to do so, but man has the freedom of choice to live according to nature." (Hebrew)

  • BDS is a war Israel can't win
    • there is a thin line between virulent anti-zionism and anti-judaism

      Is there a fine line between using the adjective "virulent" to describe anti-Zionism and advocating/condoning racism against Palestinians?

  • Life as Israel's hostage (or when will Palestinian dispossession be reckoned in the Diaspora?)
    • Among the mayors listed for Italy is Verona Mayor Flavio Tosi -- one of the most openly racist and homophobic politicians in the country; a man who has actually been convicted of hate crime.

      Might say something about what this ad is worth.

  • Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi: A study in contrasts
    • Levi identified as Piedmontese (btw, the Luzzatis originate in northern Italy, with possible German roots, not in Rome). In the first chapter of The Periodic Table ("Argon"), Levi explores his family's origins, postulating a distant connection to Spain, via Provence. And indeed, Piedmontese Jewry traces its roots back to the Jewish communities of Provence, which did have strong ties to Spain (particularly Aragon) but had developed an independent Provençal identity, often at odds with that of their Spanish coreligionists.

      Piedmontese Jews do not identify as Sefardim, but as Italians and Piedmontese. There is far more to Jewish identity and culture than the "Ashkenazi-Sephardi split".

  • Brooklyn Muslims mark July 4th protesting attack on teens leaving Ramadan prayers
    • Sorry Brooklyn, but I've heard the same kind of generalisations about nearly every immigrant group I've ever come across -- and many non-immigrant groups . I've never lived in Brooklyn (although some of my nearest and dearest have), but have lived in three different countries -- in two of them as an immigrant myself (albeit a "cleverly" disguised and privileged one). Words like "invasion" and "occupation" tend to come up a lot.

    • Funny you should mention Rivash and expanding consciousness. He was, apparently, a rather passionate pipe-smoker, and legend has it that the bowl did not always contain tobacco.

    • that is 1921 BC? ... alcohol is excellent for expanding the Pranja

      I'm not sure, but if you hop by Ocean Parkway, I'm sure you'll find some Halabim who would be more than happy to discuss it over a bottle of arak.

    • Syrian/Lebanese/Israeli Jewish influx/occupation


      Do you consider all immigrants "occupiers", or only these particular groups? Btw, I believe the Syrian Jewish presence in Brooklyn is a lot older than you suggest (e.g. the Magen David Synagogue on 67th Street was built in 1921).

  • Israeli officers permitted to open fire on boys with slingshots
  • Elie Wiesel is Dead
    • Yonah,

      There have been a couple of articles in Haaretz on the Yiddish (published in Argentina, in the '50s) and Hebrew (never published) versions of "Night", citing differences between his testimony to fellow Jews and his testimony to the world (first published in French, and subsequently translated into many languages, including Hebrew). His "realism", as you put it, may have been appropriate for Yiddish and Hebrew-speaking audiences, but without "idealism", the universal message that became his life's work and earned him a Nobel prize would have had little if any value. In fact, the negative impact that he had (as described by Marc Ellis) was due to a sort of inverse or misguided "idealism" of "we owe it to the Jews", rather than we owe it to all of humanity, that has been at the heart of so much pain and injustice in Israel/Palestine.

  • Israeli defense minister Lieberman calls Palestinian lawmaker a 'terrorist'
    • It is a bit ironical to call Haneen Zoabi a ‘lawmaker’ as I am sure she was never able to make any laws.

      I count 3, including two for the dissolution of the Knesset (the last Knesset and the one before that). The third concerns raising the legal age for marriage (together with Orit Zoaretz, Jamal Zahalka, Dov Khenin, Yariv Levin, Nitzan Horovitz and Einat Wilf). In other words, point taken.

  • Media accusations of blood libels -- against Abbas and Sanders -- amplify a Jewish tribal fantasy
  • Israel should be deeply disturbed by the Brexit vote
    • Meanwhile, I think you cives Romani have just elected a mayor from what some say is the UKIP of Italy?

      Hi MHughes,

      Responding a little late, and this is really way off topic for this site, but if you're interested in parallels with Italy, and the recent municipal elections (Rome, Turin, etc.) in particular, feel free to write to me privately. Let me just say that the 5 Star Movement is hardly "the UKIP of Italy", despite some disturbing elements, including its relationship with Farage/UKIP and a number of other unsavoury "Eurosceptics" in Strasbourg.

    • the relentless flood of Eastern Europeans coming into the UK and the impact on under resourced health services,social services,schools and housing and thinking someone has got to pull the plug on this

      Actually, the "flood" is not relentless but seems to have slowed and stabilised (see Guardian article I linked to above), and immigrants do pay taxes (according to the aforementioned article, more than they receive in benefits and services) and generate wealth with their labour. So if British governments decide not to invest in schools, public housing, social services or the NHS, that's hardly the fault of immigrants. If the British want more of these services, they should elect governments that will prioritise them over say military spending and bank bailouts.

      Of course BHL is still an ass.

    • Bumblebye,

      Certainly a problem for some, but far from the whole picture -- without even mentioning all the jobs moved overseas (hint: not by immigrants), but "immigrants steal our jobs" seems to have a lot more zing to it than globalisation and greedy capitalists steal our jobs.

      See, e.g.

      So, many are, I'm sure, actually convinced that immigration has increased British unemployment, based on the argument's merits (although they might want to re-check their facts); some readily embrace the idea, because it confirms and reinforces their suspicion and dislike of foreigners; while others have simply fallen prey to the propaganda of actual racists and unscrupulous populists.

      It would be silly to claim that all who voted "leave" are racists, but it would be equally silly to claim that nativism and racism have played no part in the "leave" campaign, or that the "leave" victory has not strengthened racist forces and lent legitimacy to nativist and racist sentiment -- whether that is what a majority of "leave" voters had in mind or not (likely not).

    • The questions of ‘taking control of one’s country’ and of immigration are closely linked.

      Or, to paraphrase the other blondish mophead, "Make Britain great again."

  • Brexit vote leaves progressives suspended between nativists and neoliberals
    • So that’s the basis on which we campaigned for exit of the U.K. from the EU. It was on the basis of an internationalist, anti-racist and progressive vote against neoliberalism.

      And who will provide this internationalism, anti-racism, progressivism and anti-neoliberalism? Johnson and Gove? Or will this vote miraculously strengthen Jeremy Corbyn and sweep labour at its (socialist) best into power?

      People are angry and fed up and rightly so, but how exactly is a Brexit going to stick it to the capitalists and the bosses? Tories will still be Tories and Blairites will still be Blairites and Ukip will still be Ukip whether the British flag flies at Brussels and Strasbourg or not. The EU is hugely problematic (far more so for countries like the one I live in [one of the "I"s in "PIGIS"] than for the UK), but in this case it has merely been used as a scapegoat for the policies of homegrown "capitalists and bosses" -- who will continue as before, without risking a hair on their chinny-chin-chins -- and not an actual vote for jobs and workers' rights and healthcare and education.

      So no, the vote was not "between nativists and neoliberals", but between bolstering nativism and economic "conservatism" (cf. "Thatcher milk-snatcher") and muddling on as before. And yes, it will make things more difficult for the rest of us poor slobs on the "continent" (as opposed to the Brussels crowd), but "Britain first", right?

  • Israel's 'mistaken identity' embarrassments
  • Marching in the spirit of Nakba
    • I see your point, ABC (and share your peeve).

    • ABC,

      I once had an argument with a particularly arrogant Israel-apologist (he made a big deal out of the fact that he was a "professor"), and I finally got him to admit that his facts were wrong. He didn't miss a beat, and justified the misinformation he had been spreading with the arguments that: 1) it could have been true, because "our enemies are like that"; and 2) the other side lies all the time, so we have no choice but to do the same. Needless to say, these arguments were no more valid than the original ones I had disproved.

    • I have no bones to pick with Dan Cohen or David Sheen. I too am appalled by the casual and not-so-casual racism in Israeli society in general, and at events such as the “Jerusalem Day Flag March” in particular. I also deplore the tone of Avi Mayer's TOI article.

      Mayer is right, however, about the three subtitling errors he cites ("any autonomy or rights" for "any autonomy"; "hasbarah" for "hasbarat panim" [kindness, openness, pleasantness]; and "Nakba", for "???"). The most serious error, is of course, the last one, addressed in the above clarification.

      I listened to and watched the section in question numerous times. The sound quality is not great, but the visual of the chant leader helps a little. What I hear (and see) is "baraba or beraba", which means nothing. A final "k" is definitely possible, and the meaning and context would certainly fit with the slang (especially military slang) usage of "berabak", that is "with unbridled enthusiasm / with all one's might" (believed by some to be an acronym, meaning "banging one's head against the wall"). This is not the same usage as the "come on, man" (as in "bihyat rabak" or simply "bihyat") noted in the above article. It also fits with the popular religious enthusiasm that's all the rage in Israel these days ("God, we love you"), also reflected in popular music, and the ubiquitousness of (army) slang among younger Israelis.

      By no stretch of the imagination could I hear the word "Nakba", even setting aside all other considerations.

      Whether or not it somehow reflects the spirit of the march, it is an explosive phrase, which the authors were clearly aware of, giving it the prominence they did. Could they not have had their panel of experts listen to it before publication, just to make absolutely sure, go with "[unclear]" for the sake of credibility, and find another title? That it was in the spirit of the march or could have been said is not good enough. I say this not to discredit the authors, but because I have every interest in Cohen and Sheen's credibility and in that of MW.

  • The naked racism of 'Save Jewish Jerusalem'
    • can someone tell me what the hebrew says under the star of david graphic (w/the lion of judah inside) at the end of the video beginning at 2:26?

      "The Movement to Save Jewish Jerusalem"

  • 'Boycott' Israel over J'lem prayer rules, but 'work' against occupation -- Forward's double standard
    • EI said they had a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack a few weeks ago. Now masses of comments missing here.

      The first "targeted civil eliminations" (in the words of Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz)?

    • Thanks for the thought, Mooser, but I'm afraid your credit doesn't stretch that far any more. You're almost as comment poor as the rest of us:

      Commenter Profile
      Search Mooser's comments
      Total number of comments: 14796 (since 2009-08-14 22:39:41)

    • I don't remember exactly, but it should be more like 10,000.

    • Well, at least “Shmuel’s” archive is all there, anyway.

      Nope. Many thousands of comments missing.

    • Yonah,

      Only the second sentence reflects my own views on the subject. In the first sentence I merely meant to point out the vast discrepancy between present-day Reform Jews and the founders of their movement, as reflected in attitudes toward the Kotel (including re-embracing "the priestly blessing", in egalitarian garb). I don't agree with the extreme de-nationalisation of Judaism that was an essential part of "Classical Reform" (although I don't believe that even its proponents were as extreme as some of their declarations would seem to imply).

      My own aversion to the Kotel (for both ethical and religious reasons) does not affect my ability to understand how it could be meaningful to some people -- in both good and bad ways. My main objection to the "Women of the Wall" issue pertains to the hypocrisy of claiming one's own rights, in the name of equality, while denying rights to others. This is apparent in the case of the Kotel, as it is in the case of demands for Israeli state recognition of the non-Orthodox movements, which merely seek to benefit from a discriminatory (and corrupt) system rather than striving for true equality.

      So, chocolate or not, the ice cream is treif, but I know some Jews will eat it anyway -- and I get why (after all, I used to eat it myself).

      I've written about the Kotel before at MW, but it seems most of my archive has disappeared.

    • How ironic that the spiritual heirs of Kaufmann Kohler and Emil Hirsch (founders of the Reform movement in the United States), who viewed the destruction of the Temple, virtual abolition of the priestly caste and Jewish dispersal as necessary stages in the evolution of the Jewish people and the Jewish concept of messianism toward universal justice and love of all mankind, have joined the Orthodox in sanctifying the site on which the ancient Temples stood. What is more, they do so in a context of political strife, violence, nationalism, occupation, repression and discrimination -- not to mention the war crimes involved in creating the very site at which they wish to pray. And this is supposed to be a blow for "equality"?

  • 'Conquerors of Jerusalem’: March celebrates Israeli occupation with messianic fervor
    • Talkback,

      I doubt that Sheen and Cohen "fabricated" the incorrect translations in their video. More likely they were sloppy or overconfident of their own level of Hebrew comprehension. Definitely not good for them or for Mondoweiss, but not quite as bad as outright fabrication. Either way, Mondoweiss should double-check their material in the future.

  • Dennis Ross tells American Jews, 'We need to be advocates for Israel' -- and not for Palestinians
    • MRW,

      With all due respect to Col. Lang, he would do well to leave "the Arab mind" talk to the likes of Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer.

    • Read this Colonel Lang anecdote about Dennis Ross: And the scales fell from his eyes …

      "Arab psychology"?

  • Michael Lerner brings down the house at Muhammad Ali funeral by standing up for Palestinians and against Netanyahu
    • Gut yontef, Yonah. I think you're being a little cynical about Lerner's intentions ("playing to the crowd"), but yes, HC has a lot of support in the black community, so it comes as no surprise that such a statement would have garnered applause. You're also right (and cynical) about the difficulty that many activists (of all stripes) have in recognising and accepting differences and making alliances rather than demanding/expecting ideological purity and agreement on everything.

  • To the Holocaust survivor I interviewed, in regards to Palestine
    • Thanks, George. Before the days of slickly-marketed, spineless sabras (brand name: "Lady Sabra"), Palestinian villagers would sell the fruit -- peeled on the spot with deft movements of calloused hands -- on Israeli street-corners. Hiking around the country as a kid, I had just assumed they grew wild, until I was told that their presence was a pretty good indication of pre-'48 Palestinian habitation. That realisation had a profound effect on my conscience and political consciousness.

    • Meron Benvenisti, Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land since 1948 (Berkeley, 2000), pp. 204-217:

      About 200 souls, among them the families of several of the village notables, returned to their homes immediately following the conquest and were counted as local residents in the first Israeli census, conducted in November 1948. Safuriyya's population doubled in the course of 1949, as former inhabitants who had been living in nearby villages returned home. The Israeli authorities worried that this "infiltration" would result in all the houses in the village being occupied once again, making it impossible to house Jewish immigrants there or to confiscate the land. The authorities thus decided to evict all the remaining residents of the village, and, on 7 January 1949 everyone in Safuriyya was loaded onto trucks and expelled to surrounding villages, literally bordering their own fields. In November 1951 the High Court of Justice rejected the villagers' petition to return home—having accepted the Defense Ministry's position that Safuriyya was located in "a closed military area." At the time a moshav already existed there (established in 1949), populated by eighty-five immigrant families, who had come from Rumania and Bulgaria.

      The Zippori immigrant moshav was built right beside the houses of the destroyed village, "and stones from the demolished houses are piled in heaps. Walls are on the verge of collapse and the dust of generations and pulverized manure rises in the air. Among the ruins of the abandoned houses, small, shapeless cinder-block structures were put up, as usual with no conveniences [bathrooms]." Later a large forest was planted on the remains of the Arab houses, to adorn the tourist site of ancient Sepphoris, with its magnificent mosaic floors.

      The dense pomegranate orchards that had been the pride of Arab Safuriyya were an annoyance. "Pomegranates from the ancient trees are not fit for marketing," writes Shmuel Dayan, one of the founders of the Moshav Nahalal, a leader of the Moshav Movement, and father of Moshe Dayan. "We shall have to lay out tens of thousands of pounds [old Israeli currency] to uproot them. The residents expect the trees to be uprooted, and will afterwards use the land for growing cattle fodder." To Dayan, the only tried-and-true method of agriculture was that of the classic moshav, and the glorious pomegranate trees interfered with the production of fodder. Before long it became clear that agricultural planning based entirely on dairy cattle and chickens was wasteful. Large surpluses of produce (eggs, milk and dairy products, certain fruits and vegetables) occurred; the agricultural settlements needed to be heavily subsidized, and when subsidies were cut, the immigrant moshavim were thrown into a state of crisis. But the olive and pomegranate trees of the "primitive" Arab village were no more.

      The push to eradicate the Arab landscape, houses and orchards and all, led to the demolition of most abandoned villages, "which weren't suitable for a Jewish settlement." Hence the vision of Levi Eshkol, that hour of grace at twilight in the abandoned village of Bariyya, was not realized. Settlement of immigrants in the houses of the Arab villages was but a passing episode—a kind of bad dream—and the settlers neglected and wrecked them like some "unloved hand-me-down garment." The ancient orchards were uprooted to make room for chicken runs and fields of cattle fodder—but primarily to create "clean land." In this context, Shmuel Dayan tells a story with an allegorical flavor:

      One summer day at dusk, a man and his wife sat on the tiny porch of an ancient stone house in Zippori . . . surrounded by dense thickets of sabra bushes. . . . "It was hard," said the man. "Every day when I opened my eyes I encountered that detestable sabra. I kept on digging it up, because I couldn't stand to look at it. And even at night in my bed, when I closed my eyes I saw the sabra falling under my saw and hoe. Every bit of additional land it was cleared from made me feel better—until I saw before my eyes in my dream 'clean land' and I fell into a deep sleep."
      The "detested" Arab sabra gave way to the Jewish "garden, orchard, and greenery"; "houses arranged according to plan. . . . The old ruins of Zippori stand to one side, as a reminder of bygone days."

  • Irish and Dutch governments join Sweden in speaking out for right to call for BDS
    • The Israeli state comptroller was just saying that anti-BDS hasbara is underfunded, and here comes the Italian government to the rescue -- with my tax euros. How comforting, especially at a time of drastic, across-the-board cuts to universities and research in Italy (departments closed, scientists laid off, young researchers forced to emigrate, lab materials rationed or simply unavailable, etc.).

      If the minister and rectors are truly concerned with "free and open ... dialogue and exchange", they would do well to concern themselves with the pitiful state of research in Italy, rather than spending public funds to support Israeli efforts to suppress freedom of speech and political action in Italy and around the world.

  • Giving up on political propaganda, Israeli consulate turns to Ted-style inspirational conference
    • “Highlighting dismal propaganda performance during 2014 war, comptroller cites lack of overall strategy, absent funding, divisions between ministries, failure to coordinate with IDF”

      In other words, it approves of the government's overall approach, but has some bones to pick over its implementation. That is to say that BDS appeared out of nowhere, for no real reason (except anti-Semitism and "incitement", of course), and must therefore be countered exclusively with propaganda. Instead of saying that expenditure on PR will have only a limited effect until the government decides to actually deal with the root causes of the growing popularity of BDS (such as the siege on Gaza, repeated bombings and incursions, settlement policy, repression and collective punishment), the report recommends simply cranking up the "hasbara", by streamlining it and throwing more money at it.

      Definitely a report worthy of this cowardly comptroller (Yosef Shapira). Netanyahu chose well.

    • Also, what’s with this desire/tendency to infantilize the “Other”?

      Using kids makes the fuzziness go further. Can you imagine him saying, "And I saw a group of young men in their twenties or thirties, sipping coffee and laughing, and I thought to myself, hey they're just like me, what's this bad ol' fence here for anyway?"

      Presumably, such young men would be on the other side of the fence in Bar's "utopian" vision, over there with "all the other guys".

  • 'My country right or wrong' -- indoctrination in defense of Israel
    • When I lived in Israel and was active in the Zionist left and, eventually, in the non-Zionist left, I always felt uncomfortable with the argument that what we were doing was no less or even more "patriotic" than the views and actions of the right. Establishing some sort of loyalty, nationalism or love of country as the acceptable parameters of discourse inevitably put our basic positions of universal rights and justice at a disadvantage, and was often used to exclude us from the conversation altogether.

      When I moved to Europe, I discovered a similar dynamic at play, in general society (where being a "friend of Israel" seemed to be a sine qua non for any form of public and even not-so-public life), but especially within the local Jewish community, where critical voices were silenced by setting the boundaries of legitimacy at "we all love Israel".

      Must we be stuck in a perpetual Scholem-Arendt Ahabath Israel (love of the Jewish people) loop? When such a framework for discourse is established, love of higher ideals, such as justice and equality, gets sidelined or discounted altogether. Let's not play that game. Justice is justice for all, not the zero sum game of who we love best.

  • Front-page play for Israel battle shows that Israel has lost the Democratic Party base
    • Because Israel has not annexed the territory and certainly not annexed it with the approval of the protected peoples, and because Israel has never offered citizenship to those protected peoples, I think occupied, as in reference to resolution 242: territories to be withdrawn from in the context of negotiations and mutual recognitions, I think that occupied is an accurate term and needs no quotation marks.

      That seems to be the position taken by the Israeli supreme court in the Alfei Menashe case:

  • 'Why should we give Israeli investigators a gun to shoot the victims again?': B'Tselem ends cooperation with Israeli military citing total lack of accountability
  • 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?

  • Video: Gaza family mourns children who burned to death
    • gaza is no matter where your sympathies lie it is advisable to stick to the facts

      Fact (one of so many): A Gazan academic I know has received a scholarship to participate in a programme at a European university. She has credentials, a passport, a visa, the means to travel, no particular reason why she should be detained, yet she cannot get out of Gaza. Her request has not even been denied; it has simply been ignored, and she is likely to miss the cutoff date. Why? Because she is not free, because she is being held prisoner. She does not live in a cell, and does not get her meals shoved through bars on a metal tray, but she is in prison—possibly for life, with no “time off for good behaviour”, because her own actions have nothing to do with her incarceration. They did not get her thrown in, and they will not get her out.

  • Thank you, Chief Rabbi. Now I know: Judaism is to blame for the Nakba
    • The primary problem with zionism is not its distortion of torah or god, but simply its harsh treatment of the Palestinians.

      Absolutely, but the two are inexorably linked. Ever since Herzl, rebuffed by Western Jews, looked eastward to traditional, Eastern European Jews, ever since Palestine won out over East Africa, Zionism has been anchored to Torah and God -- by believers and non-believers alike.

      BDS is all about the "harsh" treatment of Palestinians, yet it is met with the argument that Zionism=Judaism and to oppose one is to oppose the other. Rabbi Mirvis makes precisely this argument, employing religious language of prayer and belief. Judaism thus becomes a shield for oppression; a distortion of the concept of anti-Semitism a weapon.

      It is not enough to say that Jews will not be free until Palestinians are free (a nice sentiment, but convincing only to those who already believe it and consider it a viable option), when Palestinian freedom cannot even be openly discussed because it is a perceived as an attack on Judaism and Jews and therefore forbidden (a courtesy obviously not extended to the Palestinians). Rabbi Mirvis' "leaps", religious and historical, are not marginal, but lie at the core of what enables and perpetuates oppression. Secondary to Palestinian suffering of course, is the tragedy that these are our leaders and this is what they have done with our heritage. Furthermore, for those who fear real anti-Semitism, this is the road to self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • Personally I am to the left of the fifty or so relatives and friends I know in israel and reading the polls on certain issues I belong to the 18% who wish to prosecute azaria and the 5% who opposed the gaza war of 2014.

      Yet you sound like Naftali Bennett, who said “No one can preach morality to this [the Jewish/Israeli] people” (or Korah, if you prefer, who said “For all the community, they are all holy, and in their midst is the Lord” [Num 16:3]).

      But communicating with zionists is not your thang, azoy.

      On the contrary, but there is no point in communicating if you have nothing to say.

      Mirvis will not wake up tomorrow with Norman finkelstein’s soul replacing his own. To pick on him for fetishizing the Jewish people and land is to use language that might promote the bds agenda, but IMHO is borrowed from books of leftists skeptics and haters of the Jewish tribal tendency.

      So you be the communicator this time. Help me out. How do I express my anguish and urgency (without borrowing from forbidden books) at an ideology that is destroying lives every moment of every day and is being presented as the essence of Judaism, “given to Moses at Sinai” – in order to shield it from the sharp criticism it rightfully deserves? How can I discuss the profound moral failing of Jewish leaders on the most important Jewish issue of the day? Can I use theological language to talk to a rabbi? Can I talk about “avoydo zoro beshituf” (idolatry combined with God-worship)? “Bal toysif” (“you shall not add [to the Torah]”)? How about the more generic, but no-less crucial “Scholars, be careful with your words!”? Can I use the language of history to talk to those who constantly speak in its name? Should I be quoting more Israeli generals? Please help, instead of hiding behind your pintele yid.

    • 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)
    • As we Jews say in our language, “al ta’am ve al re’ah ein al ma le’hitvake’ah

      Good thing Shlonsky decided to translate that expression for us (from Russian? Latin?). See A. Even-Shoshan, Ha-milon he-hadash; and Y. Kna'ani, Milon hidushei Shlonsky.

      As some of us say in one of our languages, אין חדש תחת השמש (there is nothing new under the sun). I wonder whether the author of Kohelet made that up all by himself, or just did a Shlonsky and translated it from Egyptian or Akkadian.

    • Looks like somebody put their foot in it.

  • 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":

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

    • 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).

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