Liberal Zionism after Gaza

By Jonathan Freedland, Executive Editor for Opinion at The Guardian, where he also writes a weekly column.


Destroyed houses in the Shejaia neighborhood of Gaza City

Never do liberal Zionists feel more torn than when Israel is at war. Days after I’d filed my essay for The New York Review on Ari Shavit and his fellow liberal Zionists, the perennial tension between Israel and the Palestinians had flared into violent confrontation and, eventually, a war in Gaza—the third such military clash in five years. For liberal Zionists these are times when the dual nature of their position is tested, some would say to destruction. What the Israel Defense Forces called Operation Protective Edge—a large-scale mobilization that by the time a twelve-hour “humanitarian truce” was agreed on July 26 had reached its nineteenth day—was no different.

Even during the grim chain of events that led to this episode, liberal Zionists found themselves facing both ways, switching direction day-by-day, even hour-by-hour.

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John Kerry: “Israel risks becoming an apartheid state”

001-20131025-palestine-0024The howls of outrage from the pro-Israel lobby are probably the best indicator that John Kerry and his chief Middle East mediator, Martin Indyk, had it right. Organizations claiming to speak for America’s Jews – mostly too far to the right to be representative of most of them – reeled in horror after Kerry dared to say it two weeks ago: if Israel doesn’t reach a deal on an independent Palestine it risks becoming an “apartheid state”.

The second blow came a week later, when Indyk said that Binyamin Netanyahu’s government had “sabotaged” the latest negotiations with another surge in Jewish settlement construction in the occupied territories and large-scale expropriation of land that does not belong to Israel.

Israel called the envoy a hypocrite and blamed him for the failure of the latest talks. The secretary of state apologized for using the A-word, saying it was “best left out of the debate” in the US – even if it is used in Israel itself, including by two former prime ministers to sound similar warnings to Kerry’s.

But is “apartheid” really a word best left forgotten?

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Don’t destroy our dream-castle Israel!

(Why the Jewish establishment shut out J Street)

By James North and Phil Weiss on May 1, 2014

The American Jewish establishment voted by a wide margin yesterday to refuse membership to the J Street, a lobby group that has often but mildly criticized Israeli policy.

J Street at first expressed keen disappointment over the vote by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. But today it sent out a rallying cry/fundraising appeal, thanking the Conference for the rejection because it demonstrates the fact that they’re despotic gatekeepers who don’t represent the Jewish community.

Join us in thanking the Conference of Presidents for clarifying exactly why J Street exists and what’s so wrong with how the organized Jewish community conducts the conversation on Israel…. Yesterday’s vote only motivates us to redouble our efforts…

J Street is right that the rejection is a naked display of the brittle orthodoxy of the Israel lobby. There’s no conceivable strategic reason the Conference would kick J Street out: J Street would help them lobby Democrats for Israel, J Street would help their image.

So why did they do it?  Continue reading

Amnesty International report / “Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank”

Bilal Tamimi being attacked by an Israeli soldier at a protest in Nabi Saleh in May 2013. © Tamimi Press

Bilal Tamimi being attacked by an Israeli soldier at a protest in Nabi Saleh in May 2013.
© Tamimi Press

Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity, said Amnesty International in a report published today, 27 February 2014.

The report, Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank, describes mounting bloodshed and human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) as a result of the Israeli forces’ use of unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force against Palestinians since January 2011.

AI findings at a glance:

  • Amnesty International documented the killing of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank in 2013. At least four were children.
  • According to the UN, more West Bank Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in 2013 than in 2011 and 2012 combined.
  • In the last three years at least 261 Palestinians, including 67 children, have been seriously injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in the West Bank.
  • More than 8,000 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 1,500 children, have been wounded with rubber-coated metal bullets and the reckless use of tear gas since January 2011. Continue reading

Amnesty International to US, EU: Suspend all arms transfers to Israel

By Tovah Lazaroff, The Jerusalem Post

IDF soldiers arrest Palestinian suspect in West Bank.  Photo: Reuters

IDF soldiers arrest Palestinian suspect in West Bank.
Photo: Reuters

Amnesty International called on the international community to suspend transferring arms to Israel to protest IDF treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank.

“Suspend transfers to Israel of munitions, weapons, and related equipment including crowd control weapons and devices, training and techniques,” Amnesty said in a 74-page report titled “Trigger- Happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank” that it issued on Thursday.

Arms transfers by the United States, the European Union and other countries should only be resumed once Israel can ensure that they will not be used to violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law, Amnesty said.

“Without pressure from the international community, the situation is unlikely to change any time soon,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. Continue reading

A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish observance, but at odds with Israel

By Mark Oppenheimer, The New York Times

There is no question that Charles H. Manekin is a rarity. Not because he is an Orthodox Jew who keeps the Sabbath, refraining from driving, turning on lights, even riding in elevators on Saturdays. Rather, this philosophy professor at the University of Maryland is rare because he believes that his Orthodox faith calls him to take stands against Israel.

Professor Manekin, 61, became Orthodox in college and became an Israeli citizen in the 1980s. Yet in an interview this week, he denounced Israel’s “excessive reliance” on military force, its treatment of Arab citizens and its occupation of the West Bank. Although not a member of the American Studies Association, he was pleased when the group voted in December not to collaborate with Israeli academic institutions — the “academic boycott.” He is “sympathetic” to B.D.S., as the global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel is known.

“As a religious Jew,” he said, “I am especially disturbed by the daily injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians.”

From left, Daniel Boyarin of Berkeley, Corey Robin of Brooklyn College, Rabbi Alissa Wise and Charles H. Manekin of the University of Maryland, all observant Jews who have found that their views on Israel differ from those of family members and friends. Continue reading

Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or racism? Anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim racisms and the question of Palestine/Israel

By Nira Yuval-Davis the Director of the Research Centre on Migration, Refugees and Belonging (CMRB) at the University of East London.

On December 17, a small conference dedicated to the above question gathered at London School of Economics. It brought together people with related interests and expertise to try and understand in what ways anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim racisms are related and in what ways the Palestine/Israel question affects and is affected by them. The conference, was organized by the University of East London’s Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging, the Runnymede Trust, the LSE Centre for the Study of Human Rights and the Open University Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change. The conference programme and the recording of the conference will be available on the website of CMRB from mid January 2014.

The first panel in the conference examined the issue historically (focusing on Europe, the Global South, Palestine and the Middle East). The second examined the issues from philosophical, legal, race relations and sociological perspectives and the third focused on specific contemporary political issues such as ‘New Antisemitism’, the ‘New Right’, Salafism and ‘the Global war on Terrorism’ Inevitably, part of the discussion focused on definitions. The notions of ‘Anti-Jewish’ and ‘Anti-Muslim’ racisms was deliberately chosen over those of ‘Antisemitism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ in an attempt to emphasise that the focus of the day was on racism against people rather than an uncritical acceptance of any political, religious or cultural ideologies and practices that certain people and groupings happen to believe in. For example, whether critique of some aspects of Jewish  or Islamic ideologies and practices amounts or not to racism against Jews or Muslims and to what extent critique of the state of Israel or the Palestinian leadership can be reduced to issues of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim racisms. Continue reading

Interview with Steven Salaita on American Studies Association boycott vote

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Talk about this boycott resolution, how big of a victory is it for the boycott, divestment and sanctions, BDS, movement, and why.

Steven Salaita: I think it’s quite important, on many levels. But mainly because the victory for the ASA resolution was very much in the public eye. And a lot of people were looking towards that association and its process to gauge what the mood around boycott and BDS, more generally, is.

I think a lot of folks on the Zionist left and right are displeased with how the result came out, because it speaks in some way to the type of momentum that the boycott is receiving as a form of nonviolent resistance, a form of nonviolent resistance that is also very difficult for them to contest with the usual remonstrations that they have.

So it was important politically, but I think also important symbolically as well. Continue reading

Why I support the academic boycott of Israel

By Eric Cheyfitz, Professor, Cornell University

On Sunday, the American Studies Association, of which I am a member, voted to support the academic boycott of Israel called for by Palestinian civil society. Included in their announcement of the vote are the statements of 13 scholars in support of the vote, among which I am included. Here is my statement:

I am a Jew with a daughter and three grandchildren who are citizens of Israel. I am a scholar of American Indian and Indigenous studies, who has in published word and action opposed settler colonialism wherever it exists, including of course the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. It is worth noting in this respect that just as the myth of American exceptionalism seeks to erase the genocide and ongoing settler colonialism of Indigenous peoples here in the United States, so the myth of Israeli exceptionalism seeks to erase Israeli colonialism in Palestine and claim original rights to Palestinian lands. It is from these personal and professional positions that I applaud the decision of the NC to support the Academic boycott of Israel, which I support, and urge ASA members to affirm that support with their votes.

I offer the personal information in this statement so that people will know that I have an immediate interest in a just outcome for the Palestinian people, which would also be a just outcome for the state of Israel. Simply put, I want my grandchildren to grow up in a democracy, not in a state that proclaims itself a democracy while denying human rights to a population under its control — a population that has the right to a sovereign state of its own on territory currently under the colonial domination of Israel. Continue reading

Changing my mind about the boycott

by Joan W. Scott, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, USA

In 2006, I was one of the organizers of an aborted AAUP conference on academic boycotts. The point was to open a conversation about the utility—past and present—of such political actions, to understand what was actually involved in the choice of that strategy, to conduct a conversation in a setting above the fray (in this instance at the Rockefeller Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy), and to learn what we could from the various points of view we hoped to represent at the conference. Idealistically, we imagined the conference to be an exercise in academic freedom, the fulfillment of the best of AAUP principles. In fact, our experience was anything but the fulfillment of AAUP ideals.

Read full article Scott Changing my mind.