Archive for the ‘Jewish Community’ Category


Fear truly is the mind-killer. It has a way, when intentionally stoked and directed at some enemy, of killing a lot of people as well. In Israel, the

Jewish graffiti on a Palestinian home

Jewish graffiti on a Palestinian home

bombardment and invasion of Gaza over the summer demonstrates what can happen when a populace is fed a consistent diet of fear, no matter how safe the society is and how meager the threat to them is. A similar dynamic could be taking hold in the United States, as the specter of the Islamic State becoming strong enough to threaten the US is being pushed harder and harder all the time, despitehow unrealistic it is.

One of the more powerful lies that feeds public panic about IS is that the global Muslim community is silent about them, whether out of fear, or sympathy. With a billion Muslims worldwide, this combines with widespread Islamophobia to raise the specter of a fierce and huge Muslim army to install a global caliphate, complete with beheadings of enemies and infidels, and the subjugation of all to a reactionary form of Islam. Of course, it’s a phony image, and few subscribe to such an extreme illusion, for now. But the accusation of silence from the Muslim world about IS sticks, despite a tidal wave of Muslim condemnation of the group, and that feeds an ominous fire. Read more at Souciant.

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The Forward asked me to write a piece for them along the lines of the piece on Pam Geller and BDS which appeared in Souciant today. The two articles have both similarities and differences, so you should check out both. Can’t say I’m keen on the title, but it does reflect what I wrote.

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Free speech is now a key battleground in the Israel-Palestine conflict. And, as with virtually all battlegrounds in this conflict, the debate is completely divorced from reason. The comparison of pro-BDS speakers to a hatemongering racist like Pamela Geller is absurd and offensive, and what one thinks of BDS as a tactic and a movement has no bearing on that obvious truth. I explore this at Souciant this week.

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“How can the Jews, of all people do this?”

The West Bank Separation wall, covered with graffiti

The West Bank Separation wall, covered with graffiti

I hear this too often when discussing the dispossession and occupation of the Palestinian people. It’s a tiresome line. Sure, I understand that on the surface this seems a reasonable question. But one doesn’t have to look very far to see that it isn’t.

Oppression and suffering don’t necessarily lead to a greater sensitivity to these things. We see this on a personal level, as well as on a larger scale. The victim of child abuse may well grow up to become an abuser. The victim of sexual abuse may also react to such an experience by repeating it on someone else. Many such people do not repeat the cycle, but many do.

Similarly, some large groups of people face discrimination and then bring it to others. Puritans faced discrimination in Europe, came to “the New World” and visited worse upon the native population, on slaves, and as time went on, on various other ethnic groups. Power changed hands at different times in Eastern Europe, and discrimination against one group or another continued to flourish. Shi’a have faced great discrimination in the Muslim world, and this has not brought about an egalitarian government in Iran. Hutus were once the majority treated like a minority in Rwanda. The Nazis rose to prominence on the strength of wounded German pride after years of economic deprivation in the wake of the First World War. The examples are legion. (more…)

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Rabbi Brant Rosen leads a congregation in Evanston, Illinois and is co-chair of the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace. He is the author of the new book, Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi’s Path to Palestinian Solidarity and blogs at Shalom Rav. He stresses that the views, both in his book and in this interview, are his own and do not represent his congregation. We spoke on Monday December 4 in Washington, DC where he was promoting his book. An abridged version of this interview was published by Inter Press Service. 

 

How has your personal view of Israel changed in the past four years?

rabbi-brant-rosen-600x438

Rabbi Brant Rosen, Co-Chair of the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace

I think I’ve shifted from a liberal Zionist approach—viewing the conflict as two peoples who have two legitimate claims to the land and the only way out of the morass is two states for two people. I believed in the importance of a Jewish state and identified with Israel as a Jew; that was my narrative growing up. I have deep familial relationships in Israel, visited there many times, considered moving there…it was a gradual thing, but the breaking point was Operation Cast Lead in 2008 (Cast Lead was the code name given to Israel’s 2008-09 assault on Gaza). I came to realize this was not a conflict between two equal parties but an essential injustice that began with the birth of the state of Israel and continued since that time. It is a case of one very powerful party bending the other to its will.

Once I spoke out about Israel’s outrages in Cast Lead, the dominoes really started to fall for me. At first I didn’t know where that brought me, and wasn’t sure where I stood. As a congregational rabbi I was in a difficult place and people looked to me for guidance. About a year after that, I really reassessed my relationship as a Jew to Israel, to the entire issue, not just Gaza, about Zionism in general. In the blog pieces I wrote for the book I wrote very extensively about my thoughts and my activity during this time. Brian Walt and I started Jewish Fast for Gaza, and we found a number of rabbis who stood with us to launch the initiative to end the blockade of the Strip and search for a just peace. I become more involved in Palestine Solidarity work, reaching out to Palestinians, some of whom were friends and others who were activists in this area, moving beyond my fear of them as “other.” So many of them reached out to me when I spoke out on Gaza, and I wanted to learn from them what their experience of this issue was. (more…)

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American Jews are shifting. Still liberal to left-wing on the whole, the anomaly that has been Jewish political attitudes toward the Israeli occupation has long stood out. For a long time, Jewish Americans have had a wide spectrum of views on the occupation, but politically, only one view, reflective of the center-right to right-wing side of the Israeli spectrum, has had real impact on US policy.

More and more, Jews are moving away from that stance and more of all ages are realizing that, whatever their views on Zionism and Israel, the occupation is a practically and morally intolerable phenomenon. Someday, and not too far in the future, the young Jews in this video and many others like them will be at least part of the face of American Jewish leadership. For the first time, young American Jews are organizing and standing up as Jews and within the Jewish community to oppose the occupation. Too often, the response of young Jews has been silence or alienation from the community. That, too, is changing.

Check out this video, from Young, Jewish, and Proud, the young adult wing of Jewish Voice for Peace.

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In his 1988 book, Israel’s Fateful Hour, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Yehoshafat Harkabi, regarded up until the day of his death in 1994 as perhaps Israel’s premier expert on the Arab world and Islam, wrote the following:

“Given that Israel’s predicament also affects Jews in the Diaspora, they too should take an active part in the debate. Israelis must allow them to do so and listen to what

The Late General Yehoshafat Harkabi

they have to say…they must not be banished from the discussion, and to this end they must do their homework. They must also dare to speak their minds candidly, without being afraid to disagree with Israel. The reticence of the American Jewish leadership is not to their credit. Instead of publicly expressing their concern, they act as apologists for policies and conduct of which many of them privately disapprove, abdicating their responsibilities as leaders in America and as influential advisers in Israel.”

Harkabi is surely spinning in his grave today.

In two separate but parallel incidents, the assault on dissent from Israeli policies, and especially on Jewish dissent, continued and grew in intensity. The first, an all too typical example of the craven way in which the American Jewish community narrowly confines debate for its own people, was at Brandeis University, where the local Hillel chapter refused to admit the campus chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.

The second was more stunning, and more of a departure from business as usual. This was the announcement that the leading crusaders against democracy in the Knesset – Othniel Schneller (Kadima) and Danny Danon (Likud) – are taking aim outside of Israel’s borders and targeting J Street.

On the Brandeis matter, I will be brief and refer you to the excellent reporting of the matter done by Jeremiah Haber at The Magnes Zionist. Jerry’s excellent take on the matter can be found here, his report on Brandeis’ J Street U chapter criticizing JVP’s exclusion despite the political differences between the groups is here, and Jerry’s spotlight on the Brandeis JVP chapter can be found here. Also, check out Meretz USA’s statement at their blog.  (more…)

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