Earlier this month, New York Times columnist Michelle Alexander ignited a controversy by stating her support for Palestinian rights. In her piece, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine,” Alexander used the act of confronting her own silence on this issue to encourage others to break theirs. She made the case that “criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government is not, in itself, anti-Semitic,” while also affirming that
Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose 57 percent in 2017, and many of us are still mourning what is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jewish people in American history… We must be mindful in this climate that, while criticism of Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic, it can slide there.
That statement was not nearly enough for the “pro-Israel” community in the United States. The Israeli-American former ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, called Alexander’s column a “strategic threat.” The American Jewish Committee had the audacity to accuse Alexander—a prominent African-American civil rights lawyer and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness—of “appropriating” Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. Numerous other voices, conservative and liberal, defended Israel from Alexander’s “attacks.”
Alexander became the latest in a growing list—including Angela Davis, Rashida Tlaib, Marc Lamont Hill, Ilhan Omar, and Linda Sarsour—targeted by Israel advocates in the United States. All of them are people of color, and all have faced new or renewed attacks over their defense of Palestinian rights since the since the horrific shooting incident at a Pittsburgh synagogue carried out by a white, anti-immigrant fanatic in late October. Read more at LobeLog
The owner of Brooklyn Commons, Melissa Ennen, has finally responded to the controversy around the appearance of 9/11 Truther and anti-Semite Christopher Bollyn. Unfortunately, her response is to defend his appearance at her venue. Here is her statement, in full: Continue reading
Brooklyn Commons is continuing to resist calls from a very wide swath of the New York City progressive community to cancel the talk to be held at their site this week by the notorious anti-Semite and right-wing conspiracy theorist, Christopher Bollyn. Continue reading
Yair Lapid, Israel’s former Finance Minister, told a hawkish “pro-Israel” gathering in New York that the leaders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement (BDS) are anti-Semites and their followers are “bleeding heart, so-called intellectuals.” Lapid went on to say that European citizens and American students “…are cheering for the people and values that brought 9/11 to this country. You are supporting people that kill gays and suppress women.”
Lapid is far from alone in elevating the movement to a threat on par with Israeli descriptions of Iran. Whether it was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placing a high-ranking Likud Member of the Knesset in charge of battling BDS or grandstanding on the issue by prominent members of Congress, the “threat” of BDS has never seemed greater. Read more at the FMEP blog
Like many Jews of my generation and subsequent ones, I read Elie Wiesel’s book “Night” when I was very young. I was moved,
Elie Wiesel doesn’t want to hear about human rights when it comes to Israel
frightened and terribly saddened by the horrors Wiesel and millions of others suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
But Wiesel has failed to learn the lessons of his own experience. Rather than universalizing the call to end the oppression of people regardless of the race, religion or beliefs of either the oppressed or the oppressor, Wiesel has made a special exception for Israel.
For decades, Wiesel was notably silent when it came to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. But in recent years, he has broken that silence not to defend millions of people suffering under occupation but to be an apologist and even defender of some of Israel’s worst excesses. That state of affairs reached something of a zenith recently when Wiesel, along with the crazed fanatical “rabbi” Smuley Boteach, placed ads defending Israel’s murderous onslaught on Gaza. The terminology they used would have made Goebbels proud.
In short, Elie Wiesel has become a monster, in a very real sense.
I’m gratified to say that not every Holocaust survivor has dealt with their trauma by cowering in tribalism and spewing the kind of venom Wiesel does. Some of them have organized an open letter condemning Wiesel, Israel’s assault on Gaza and the international community for supporting it. Continue reading
The photo you see to the left was found by Jewish Voice for Peace on the Facebook page (since removed) of a group that named itself
“Hating Arabs Isn’t revenge–it’s values.” Hashtag reads Israel Demands Revenge!”
“Am Yisrael Doreshet Nekama,” in English, “The People of Israel Demand Revenge.” The hashtag on the sign is similar, though with an important difference–the word “Am” is removed and it is “Israel Demands Revenge.”
The photo has since gone viral, though not as its creators may have hoped. It has become a Twitter and Facebook symbol for Israeli racism. For me, personally, it is important that the hashtag removes the word “Am” because “Am Yisrael” commonly means the Jewish People, while “Israel” alone more commonly refers to the country.
But what’s really important that people understand in the image is the driving force behind Israeli policy. Yes, these girls or young women may not yet even be old enough to vote or to serve in the IDF. But it doesn’t take a very hard look to understand that they are not fanatical settlers. These are not orthodox young women, and just judging by their appearance and dress (which, it should be noted, is not conclusive), they are probably quite secular, mainstream Israelis, very much of the Tel Aviv culture. Continue reading
There are very legitimate arguments about different kinds of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanction (BDS). Indeed, I have made many
Would you want to be investing in this?
of them myself. This is why I do not consider myself personally connected to the so-called “BDS Movement.” But since the late 1990s I have been advocating for public, economic pressures on Israel to change its policies, because without such pressure it has no reason to do so. Like any other country, Israel makes difficult policy shifts only when the cost of the current policy clearly and unarguably outweighs the risk of change.
For these reasons, among others, I have been a strong advocate, for most of this century, for what become known as “selective divestment,” although it can encompass other actions as well. Targeted actions, rather than sweeping calls to boycott anything and everything Israeli are, in my view, both more effective and more just. I had once hoped that this strategy would take broader hold, because I feared that otherwise, the entire notion of economic action would come to be identified with one segment of the pro-Palestinian/anti-occupation crowd—the more radical and anti-Zionist strain. While BDS is employed and supported by many anti-occupation activists, including not a few who consider themselves liberal or left-wing Zionists, my fear of how BDS would be identified has indeed come to pass. That sad event can be laid at the feet both of over-zealous BDS activists and at some ostensibly anti-occupation people and groups who really should know better. Continue reading