New Jewish group for peace in South Africa

by Dorothy Zellner

tutu hitlerI just got back from an astounding trip to South Africa where, among other things, I was privileged to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  I also spent quite a bit of time with members of the nascent group South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace in Cape Town and Johannesburg–really fabulous people. Lately, for instance, they read out the names of children killed in Gaza at an action at Constitution Hill, an iconic historical site that symbolizes the destruction of apartheid and the rule of law.

And readers of this site may remember this post on an article in the South African Jewish Report on September 10 by one Leon Reich (who is also head of something called Likud South Africa) that trashed the beloved Tutu, comparing him to Hitler in a vicious photo-cartoon and saying that the two men were similar in their desire “to kill Jews,” all because of Tutu’s criticisms of Israel.  The cartoon and article were pulled within hours from the SAJR website but they sent ripples of dismay throughout the world, especially in the South African Jewish community.

Members of Jewish Voices for a Just Peace seized on the case and are pressing for action against Reich.

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The Bennis Plan: Here is a real strategy for dealing with ISIS

Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow and the Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. She is the author of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer, Before and After: US Foreign Policy and the September 11 Crisis , Ending the US War in Afghanistan: A Primer and Understanding the US-Iran Crisis: A Primer.

In this The Real News interview, Phyllis Bennis says military strategies against ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) have failed; only a political and diplomatic solution will work.

Original source: The Real News

To crush ISIS, make a deal with Assad

By Ahmad Samih Khalidi, academic visitor at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and a former Palestinian peace negotiator. 

master495LONDON — Last week, President Obama virtually declared war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But it is hard to reconcile the seemingly urgent need to confront the threat posed by this organization with the chosen means of doing so.

By opting to support the “moderate” Syrian opposition and running the risk of an open confrontation with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the West appears to be primarily appeasing Arab Persian Gulf allies that have turned the overthrow of Mr. Assad into a policy fetish that runs against any rational calculation of how to defeat Islamist terrorism.

The persistent belief in Western policy circles that there is a “moderate opposition” in Syria — reiterated at the close of a NATO summit meeting in Wales on Sept. 5 — warrants serious scrutiny. Continue reading

The rise of ‘If Not Now’ and the collapse of the pro-Israel consensus

By Alex Kane, freelance journalist, writing in Mondoweiss.

SONY DSCWhen Israeli bombs blanketed Gaza in July, the liberal Zionist lobby J Street largely fell in line with the Jewish establishment.  “Our public record throughout the current military confrontation in Gaza has been unambiguous: we support Israel’s right to defend its citizens,” J Street said in a statement.

At the same time that J Street was proving its pro-Israel credentials, former and current members of the organization, most of them affiliated with its campus arm, were throwing themselves into a starkly different kind of activism–one that forthrightly criticized the attack on Gaza and the Jewish establishment that supported the military action. The group they formed, If Not Now, has taken aim at mainstream Jewish leaders, demanding that they take a public stance against the occupation of Palestinian lands. Organizers say they are trying to fill a void in the Jewish community by taking on the official spokespeople of American Judaism that march in lockstep with Israeli actions.

If Not Now quickly became more than just another organization. Much like Occupy Wall Street, If Not Now’s grassroots, social media-savvy messaging has led others around the nation to take up its banner.

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My plea to the people of Israel: Liberate yourselves by liberating Palestine. Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Published in Haaretz.

A child next to a picture of Nelson Mandela at a pro-Palestinian rally in Cape Town. August 9, 2014

The past weeks have witnessed unprecedented action by members of civil society across the world against the injustice of Israel’s disproportionately brutal response to the firing of missiles from Palestine.

If you add together all the people who gathered over the past weekend to demand justice in Israel and Palestine – in Cape Town, Washington, D.C., New York, New Delhi, London, Dublin and Sydney, and all the other cities – this was arguably the largest active outcry by citizens around a single cause ever in the history of the world.

A quarter of a century ago, I participated in some well-attended demonstrations against apartheid. I never imagined we’d see demonstrations of that size again, but last Saturday’s turnout in Cape Town was as big if not bigger. Participants included young and old, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, blacks, whites, reds and greens … as one would expect from a vibrant, tolerant, multicultural nation. Continue reading

From Albert Einstein to Noam Chomsky: famous Jews who have opposed Israel

By David Wilson, Stop the War Coalition UK

On 9 August 2014, 150 000 protesters marched in London in solidarity with the people of Gaza who were suffering a barbaric assault by Israel which had killed over 2000 people, most of them civilians, and over 400 of them children.

Numerous Jewish groups joined the march. They marched as Jews to show their opposition to the state of Israel, which for 66 years has endlessly stolen Palestinian land and imposed the most brutal occupation and siege on Palestinians. Jewish marchers saying “not in my name” included, the Jewish Bloc, The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Jews Against the war on Gaza.

These Jewish marchers were part of a long and honourable tradition. Many prominent Jewish figures over the past century — from Albert Einstein to holocaust survivor Primo Levi — have opposed the idea of an ethnically exclusive Israeli state.

Here are some things they said…  Continue reading

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