Pressure from city’s ultra-orthodox Jews has already led to some bus lines confining women to the rear of vehicles
Jerusalem rail firm planning to segregate carriages along gender lines
Pressure from city’s ultra-orthodox Jews has already led to some bus lines confining women to the rear of vehicles
The company building a light railway across Jerusalem is considering segregating some carriages along gender lines to serve the city’s ultra-orthodox Jewish population.
The railway, which is due to be operational next spring, could have separate compartments for men and women, Yair Naveh, the chief executive of CityPass, said today.
“The train was built to serve everyone,” he said. “It is not a problem to declare every third or fourth car a mehadrin [kosher] car.”
The suggestion was swiftly condemned by Jerusalem city councillor Rachel Azariya, who said: “Naveh was appointed to run a project – that doesn’t mean that he can tell people where to sit and where not to sit, nor does it mean that he knows anything about values and democracy.”
Under pressure from the influential and growing ultra-orthodox community, some bus lines in Jerusalem have introduced segregation, with women confined to the rear of the vehicle.
The segregation proposal is the second point of tension between the CityPass consortium and the council within a week. The company earlier distributed a consumer survey asking Jerusalem residents if they were “bothered” that the light railway is to include stops in Arab neighbourhoods en route to connecting to Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.
Another question asked: “All passengers, Jews and Arabs, can enter the train freely, without undergoing a security check. Does this bother you?”
Ofra Ben-Artzi, a sister-in-law of Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, was among those surveyed. “I told the pollster, ‘Imagine this kind of question being asked in London or New York.’ It testifies to the level of racism we’ve reached,” she told the Israeli daily Haaretz. The city council later wrote to CityPass accusing it of racism and “arousing strife and contention in the city”.
Jerusalem’s light railway has been mired in endless delays since work began eight years ago. Construction work has caused major disruption to traffic flow in the city centre, and CityPass has been accused of poor management of the project.
Islamophobia in New York, Redux: We Should Have Seen the Ground Zero Furor Coming
When the Islamophobic furor against the proposed Muslim community center two-and-a-half blocks away from Ground Zero began to peak in mid-late July, some people wondered why it was occurring now, nine years after the 9/11 attacks. As the New York Times recently noted, an article published in the paper “last December about the project drew little negative comment.” Daisy Khan, the wife of the imam who is spearheading the Cordoba House, told the Times that the possibility of their project being controversial “never occurred” to them.
But there is no reason to be surprised at the anger over the community center. While others have pointed to the economy, or to the recent surge in thwarted homegrown “terror” plots, to explain the anger over the community center, one can read what’s being played out as simply a continuation–albeit a much more intense strain–of the virulent anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment that began after the September 11 attacks. Specifically, the concocted controversy over the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) in 2007 should have set off alarm bells about the power of Islamophobic activists whose aim is to shut Muslims and Arabs out of American public life. The Brooklyn academy, the nation’s first dual-language Arabic public school, barely survived an onslaught of racist right-wing attacks against the school. Unfortunately, the founding principal, Debbie Almontaser, was not spared, and fell victim to an orchestrated smear campaign not unlike the one now targeting Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.
There are many parallels between the controversies around the Cordoba House and KGIA: both of the project’s leaders–Rauf and Almontaser–are well-known and respected interfaith leaders in New York City; both campaigns were begun by right-wing, Islamophobic blogs and leaders and were only later picked up by mainstream media; and both campaigns smeared Islam and demonstrated a profound ignorance about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Imam Rauf is currently being tarred as a “radical Muslim” who supports al-Qaeda and wants to build the Muslim community center to celebrate “Islamic triumphalism.” Almontaser, too, was painted as a Muslim radical and a “9/11 denier” whose school would secretly indoctrinate students to hate America and Israel and support sharia law. The hysteria about Rauf and Almontaser misses basic, sobering facts about the two leaders: both of them have demonstrated a profound commitment to interfaith understanding between Muslims and other groups in the U.S. after 9/11 and have sought to fight anti-Arab and anti-Muslim stereotypes. Rauf is a Sufi Muslim leader in New York who, as Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek put it, “speaks of the need for Muslims to live peacefully with all other religions…emphasizes the commonalities among all faiths…advocates equal rights for women, and argues against laws that in any way punish non-Muslims…His vision of Islam is bin Laden’s nightmare.” Almontaser was described as “the city’s most visible Arab-American woman” in an excellent profile of her written by the New York Times’ Andrea Elliott:
After 9/11, Education Department officials had enlisted Ms. Almontaser to hold workshops on cultural sensitivity for schoolchildren. She spread the message that Islam was a peaceful religion. She told of how her own son had served as a National Guardsman in the clearing effort at ground zero. She was soon attending interfaith seminars, befriending rabbis and priests. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg honored her publicly.
But none of these facts seem to matter to the bigots who are trying to take down Rauf and the proposed community center, or who successfully forced Almontaser to resign as head of KGIA.
The current drive against the Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan was started by, as Salon‘s Justin Elliott has shown, “third-tier right-wing blogs, including Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs site,” and quickly moved to the New York Post, as well as other mainstream media outlets. Republican politicians have now taken up the cause, and it’s impossible to turn on cable news and not see a racist rant directed against Muslims in the U.S. The anti-Cordoba House movement has now reached a fever pitch, but it has not yet invented the “smoking gun” that would mean the downfall of the initiative, as they did in the case of Almontaser.
There was a similar trajectory in the case of Almontaser and KGIA. As soon as plans for the school were announced in February 2007, Pamela Geller and friends begun a campaign to shut what they called a “madrassa in New York’s public school system” down. Daniel Pipes, a neoconservative author who has made a career out of stoking fears of Muslims and Arabs in the Western world, and the so-called “Stop the Madrassa” coalition, were instrumental in the targeting of KGIA. Soon after the school was announced, assisted by columns by Pipes that mis-characterized and lied about the school, the story migrated to the New York Sun and eventually the New York Post. Almontaser’s downfall came after the Post labeled her the “‘intifada’” principal, as I reported for the Indypendent in September 2008:
The intense media focus on KGIA peaked when the New York Post picked up the story. The DOE pressured Almontaser to agree to an interview with the Post. In an Aug. 6, 2007, article, the Post declared that Almontaser “defended” the use of the word “intifada” on a t-shirt made by Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media (AWAAM), a group whose only connection to Almontaser was that she was on the board of a Yemeni-American organization that at times shared office space with AWAAM.
On Aug. 9, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, following what Almontaser says was a directive from Mayor Bloomberg, forced Almontaser to resign as KGIA principal, saying that either she or the academy had to go.
“That was the most horrendous and devastating 24 hours of my life,” Almontaser says. “To experience working with people who admired me and respected me and who believed in me, and then just to see a complete shift, basically saying that ‘you’re the problem’ … was absolutely devastating.”
The quote used by the Post to claim that Almontaser “defended” the use of the word “intifada” on a shirt was found later to have been “inaccurately reported by The Post and then misconstrued by the press,” according to a federal appeals court. In March 2010 of this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that New York City’s Department of Education “succumbed to the very bias that the creation of the school was intended to dispel, and asmall segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on the DOE as an employer.”
The conflating of Islam with terrorism and a demonstrated ignorance about the religion is another common feature of the furor over KGIA and the Cordoba House. The opposition to the Islamic community center can only be justified by asserting collective Muslim guilt for the attacks of September 11, despite the fact that many Muslims died during the attack and the fact that al-Qaeda has killed more Muslims that any other religious group in the world. Furthermore–and this is not to say that other sects of Islam aren’t also peaceful– Sufi Islam, which Imam Rauf is an adherent to, “couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists. [Rauf’s] videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God (or “zikr”) and reconciliation,” as William Dalrymple writes today in the Times.
In the case of KGIA, Pipes claimed that “Arabic instruction is heavy with Islamist and Arabist overtones and demands.” According to Pipes, any teaching of Arabic is bound to promote Islamism–which, in Pipes’ world, is all one and the same, an ideology that promotes terrorism and al-Qaeda.
Lastly, let’s turn to the Israel-Palestine angle. Imam Rauf has been pilloried for not condemning the Palestinian Hamas movement as a “terrorist organization,” as they are labeled by the U.S. State Department. Rauf said, “Look, I’m not a politician. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question.” And he’s exactly right. The State Dept. list of “terrorist groups” is a highly politicized grouping. “Terrorism,” in mainstream parlance, has no real meaning besides armed struggle against the West and Israel. If you support the U.S. or Israel, you’re not a terrorist.
To simply call Hamas a “terrorist” group is a disservice to understanding what Hamas, an Islamist movement, is. Hamas has committed terrorist acts; but by the same token, so has the U.S. and Israel, but on a far larger scale. Hamas is resisting a brutal occupation, whereas Israel is focused on continuing their colonization of Palestinian lands.
Almontaser attempted to explain the origin of the word “intifada,” which appeared on t-shirts made by Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media. The Post, in the article that led to Almontaser’s forced resignation, spun her explanation as “downplaying” the significance of the t-shirts and the word intifada. The Post reported that the “inflammatory tees boldly declare ‘Intifada NYC’ – apparently a call for a Gaza-style uprising in the Big Apple.” Further down in the story, they quote Pamela Hall, who fought against KGIA, as saying, “Intifada is a war. Isn’t that what Arafat had?” Intifada, as Almontaser tried to explain in that Post article, “basically means ‘shaking off.’ That is the root word if you look it up in Arabic.” The first Palestinian intifada was largely nonviolent. And the second intifada, as Neve Gordon pointed out in his book Israel’s Occupation, began as a nonviolent popular uprising, but only turned violent after Israel brutally suppressed the uprising, firing 1.3 million bullets into the West Bank and Gaza Strip after Israeli security forces were directed to “fan the flames”, as Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar reported in 2004.
These misunderstandings and distortions about the situation in occupied Palestine have added fuel to the Islamophobic fire.
The lesson of the KGIA controversy should have been that Islamophobes hold a disturbing amount of power in the United States and that anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment needs to be combated. So it’s no surprise that Islamophobia continues to be a potent political weapon. Perhaps we should take this opportunity to double-down on our efforts to combat Islamophobia, so when the next furor over Islam in the U.S. comes–and it will–education and activism can successfully tamp down these dangerous games being played. If we didn’t learn that lesson after KGIA, we better learn it now.
An epitome of the Israeli Jewish society
BY Khalid Amayreh
An Israeli female soldier, named Eden Abergil, has recently posted photos on Facebook of herself in uniform smiling beside bound and blindfolded Palestinian detainees.
In a certain sense, the Eden’s collections of photos represented a poor mimicry of the pornographic scenes revealed at the Abu Ghreib detention facility in Iraq a few years ago.
The untold message Abegril apparently wanted to communicate sounded like this: “These are my sexual objects, I deal with them as I deem fit. I am the master; their lives are in my hands. They are my playboys.”
When Abegril was criticized for “besmirching the IDF image, she went wild:
“I can’t allow Arab lovers to ruin the perfect life I lead,” wrote. “I am not sorry and I don’t regret it.”
She added “I am in favor of a Jewish-Zionist State. I defend what has been rightfully mine for ages. I would even slaughter, not only abuse, the Arabs.”
Well, I don’t know if the Gestapo behaved similarly with Jewish detainees in the course of the Second World War. What is sufficiently clear to me though is that this woman’s sick behavior, especially her invocation of Zionism as a justification for her brutal sadism, is by no means an isolated case in a society suffering from a deep collective psychosis.
This is why it is safe to assume that this type of behavior represents the modus operandi in the Israeli occupation army as well as throughout the Israeli Jewish society as a whole.
It is a society that has come to view the Palestinians as “objects for abuse” rather than “human beings.” This is what makes Israeli soldiers so callously and so nonchalantly and haphazardly murder innocent Palestinians in the streets, in schools, and playgrounds in Gaza.
This is what makes a prominent Israeli army general boast that he doesn’t feel the slightest feeling of guilt whenever he murders Palestinian kids.
In the final analysis, Israeli killers in Khaki don’t think in their heart of hearts that they are really killing real human beings, but rather infra-humans who are closer to being animals than to being humans. This is how these murderers and child killers are taught amd indoctrinated in their schools, colleges, synagogues and Talmudic colleges, that non-Jews are not real human beings, and that their lives have no sanctity what so ever. Well, try to come to the West Bank and have a conversation with these so-called rabbis about the status of non-Jews according to Halacha. Or Read the King’s Torah!! You will hear wonders.
This is certainly how this so called “soldier” was taught as a child, as a student and later as an adult.
Like all abusers of “goyem, ” Abergil has not been arrested or even detained for questioning by the army. Far from that, she might eventually be granted a citation for good behavior. E.g. For being a good Zionist.
Have we forgotten that Israeli army soldier, codenamed Captain R. who in 2004 murdered in cold blood a Palestinian school girl in Rafah, Iman al Hams, and then shot the 12-year-old dying child 20 more bullets to make sure that she was dead, how he received more than $50,000 as a compensation for having his reputation compromised as a result of international criticism?
Needless to say, the fact that Palestinian rights and dignity are trampled upon by the Israeli state is taken for granted by that evil entity, which mendaciously claims to represent the traditions of the ancient Israelite Prophets, when in fact what it represents has more in common with the ideas of Adolph Hitler than with the teachings of Moses the son of Amram.
Alas, the Palestinians don’t have a powerful state that would press or pressure Israel to uphold their human and legal rights, or at least stop killing them. This is why the Palestinians look very much like Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. They can be killed and abused haphazardly by the Nazis of our time, without any real consequences.
Yes, when cases are publicized by international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, or even Btselem, the Israeli human rights group, the Israeli “justice system” moves swiftly to limit the damage by carrying a usually laconic and belated investigation. Some soldiers are arrested and sentenced to symbolic jail sentences. The soldiers are usually rebuked for doing the dirty act before “hostile cameras.” Interestingly, this problem, filming the dirty deed, has been resolved by having the soldiers’ and settlers’ faces masked. This is how the perpetrators get away with impunity.
The sexual abuse of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers, including female soldiers, is actually widespread.
A few years ago, a group of soldiers took a young Palestinian worker from the village of Khorsa near Hebron to a small bush near Jerusalem. There one female soldier ordered the worker to touch her private parts, telling him that she would kill him if he didn’t heed the orders. The 19-year-old boy refused, risking the soldier’s wrath. Disappointed by the boy’s dignified behavior, the female soldier called in several male soldiers, telling them that the young boy was trying to rape her. Predictably, the soldiers ganged up on the innocent boy until he nearly reached the point of death.
When the soldiers stopped beating and torturing the boy, they warned him that they would kill him next time if he dared tell the police about what happened.
The Israeli occupation army, which is proudly called the Israeli Defense Forces, is indeed the people’s army. Well, it is also a sick and psychotic people’s army, an army without morality, without honor, and without basic human decency.
It is an Gestapo-like army that is inculcated with the spirit of racism, depravity and criminality. Yes, for most Israelis, the Israeli army may be a sacred cow. However, when examined against true moral standards, it is any army of thugs, child-killers and common criminals. It is the kind of army where despicable psychopaths like Abegril fit perfectly.
Im Tirzu’s success shows that after a generation of accepting the Left’s domination of the public discourse the public has had enough.
Over the past few years it has managed to amass a modest budget funded by Jewish and non-Jewish Zionists here and in the US.
One of Im Tirtzu’s central goals is to engender an atmosphere of academic freedom and intellectual pluralism on university campuses. Over the past generation or so, those campuses, and particularly the humanities and social sciences faculties, have become hotbeds of anti- Zionist activism and intellectual terror. Stories of professorial intimidation of and discrimination against Zionist students are widespread, as are instances of outright indoctrination in the classrooms.
As Ma’ariv’s Ben Dror Yemini reported this week, at Hebrew University’s law school, Prof. Yehuda Shenhav teaches a class called “Bureaucracy, Governance and Human Rights.” In the course of their studies, the students are expected to participate in the work of anti-Zionist organizations including Machsom Watch and Yesh Din. At the end of the year, the participants – who will be paid NIS 1,450 for their activism – are expected to write an article describing their experiences which will be turned into a booklet edited by Shenhav and anti-Zionist activists Michael Sfard and Yael Barda and published by their anti-Zionist NGOs.
The situation at Ben-Gurion University’s Politics and Government Department is particularly distressing. It is headed by Dr. Neve Gordon, an anti-Zionist activist who has written that Israel is a “proto-fascist state,” has castigated it as an “apartheid state” and has signed petitions calling for international academic, scientific, economic and cultural boycotts of the country.
Im Tirtzu loses funding over boycott threat to Ben-Gurion University
U.S. based pro-Israel organization Christians United for Israel: We do not support any calls for divestment from Israel in any way.
Photo by AFP
I don’t know why I am at all surprised that the American Right – including the Republican Party – has decided that scapegoating Muslims is the ticket to success. After all, it’s nothing new.
I remember right after 9/11 when the columnist Charles Krauthammer, now one of the most vocal anti-Muslim demagogues, almost literally flipped out in my Chevy Chase, Maryland synagogue when the rabbi said something about the importance of not associating the terrorist attacks with Muslims in general.
It was on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, but that did not stop Krauthammer from bellowing out his disagreement with the rabbi. Krauthammer’s point: Israel and America are at war with Muslims and that war must be won.
It was shocking, not only because Krauthammer’s outburst was so utterly out of place but also because the man was actually chastising the rabbi for not spouting hate against all Muslims – on the Day of Atonement.
The following year, the visiting rabbi from Israel gave a sermon about the intifada that was then raging in Israel and the West Bank.
A sermon with a twist
The sermon was a nutty affair that tearfully made the transition from intifada to Holocaust and back again.
I remember thinking, “this guy is actually blaming the Palestinians for the suffering of his parents during the Holocaust.” I thought I had missed something because it was so ridiculous.
Then came the sermon’s ending which was unforgettable. The rabbi concluded with the words from Ecclesiastes.
“To everything there is a season. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap … A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”
He then looked up and said: “Now is the time to hate.”
At first, I thought I had not heard him correctly. He could not be calling on the congregation to hate. There were dozens of children in the room. It wasn’t possible.
But it was. To their credit, many of the congregants I spoke with as we left the sanctuary were appalled. Even the right-wingers were uncomfortable with endorsing hate as a virtue.
Yet, the rabbi was unrepentant. I emailed him to complain and he told me that he said what he believed. Nice.
One could ask what the Middle East has to do with the vicious outbreak of Islamophobia (actually Islamo-hatred) that has seemingly seized segments of this country.
US Islamophobia’s origins
The answer is everything. Although the hate is directed at Arab-Americans (which makes it worse) it is justified by invoking 9/11, an attack by Muslims from the Middle East.
This hate is buttressed by the hatred of Muslims and Arabs that has been routinely uttered (or shouted from the rooftops) in the name of defending Israel for decades
Just watch what goes on in congress, where liberals from New York, Florida, California and elsewhere never miss an opportunityto explain that no matter what Israel does, it is right, and no matter what Muslims do, they are wrong.
Can anyone possibly argue that such insidious rhetoric has no impact on public opinion?
At the very least, it gives anti-Arab and/or anti-Muslim bias a legitimacy that other forms of hate no longer have. Bigots who hate African-Americans or Jews, for instance, feel that they must claim that they don’t. That is not the case with Muslims who can be despised with impunity.
And here the liberals are worse than the conservatives because liberals exempt Muslims and Arabs (and now Turks) from the humanitarian instincts that inform their views of all other groups.
Conservatives combine their Arab-bashing with a general xenophobia, as is evidenced by their views on immigration.
Liberals, on the other hand, single out Muslims for contempt.
They do it actively – i.e., by defending every single Israeli action against Arabs with vehement enthusiasm. And they do it passively, by refusing to evince an iota of sympathy for Muslims who suffer and die at the hands of Israelis – like the 432 Palestinian children killed in the 2008 Gaza war.
Liberals join conservatives in rushing to the floor of the House of Representatives and Senate to defend the Israelis against any accusation (remember how they robotically attacked the Goldstone report on Israel’s war crimes in Gaza, not caring at about the horrors Goldstone described).
And then they read their AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee lobby)talking points, enumerating all the terrible things Arabs have done while Israel has, Gandhi-like, consistently offered the hand of friendship. It would be laughable if the effect of all this was not so ugly.
Why wouldn’t all this hatred affect the perception of Arab-Americans too? Hate invariably overflows its containers, just like hatred of Israel sometimes crosses over into pure old-fashioned anti-Semitism.
Bottom line: it’s a witches’ brew that is being stirred up, and it is one that will no doubt produce violence. But the witches are not all on the right. Just as many liberals are stirring the pot to please some of their donors.
I’m not saying you should not blame Fox News’ Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh for all this hate. But don’t forget to blame your favorite liberal and progressive politicians. With a few (very few) exceptions, they are just as bad.
* MJ Rosenberg is a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.
Also see THIS article from AlJazeera
Don’t panic, it’s only Islamic
Be sure not to miss THIS post
Pro-Israel extremists have campaigned against an Islamic cultural center before
by Jeff Klein
Haven’t we seen this movie before? Yes, in Boston, and with nearly the same cast of characters. The fight against the Roxbury Mosque and Cultural Center planned by the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) was framed as a battle against “Muslim extremists” and “terror supporters.” In reality (as court documents showed) the campaign was organized by activists with the far-right pro-Israel David Project and CAMERA, spearheaded by founder Charles Jacobs, who now heads a front group with the Orwellian name “Americans for Peace and Tolerance.” Later, the story was picked up and promoted by the Murdoch-owned Boston Herald and the local Fox TV affiliate. When the ISB eventually sued its attackers for defamation, the defendants were represented by an attorney who was also a leader of New England AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee).
Likewise, the New York Islamic Community Center project in lower Manhattan was uncontroversial until it began to be labeled falsely as “the Ground Zero Mosque” and was vilified by right-wing bloggers with a pro-Israel agenda. Although the media has reported on the way the Right has used anti-Muslim bigotry to stir up racist outrage against the Islamic Center, there has been little notice of the Israel connection. Jihad Watch founder Robert Spencer and Atlas Shrugged blogger Pamela Geller, who led the charge, are active in the same circles as the pro-Israel extremists in Boston. Geller is a regular commentator on the far-right Israeli radio network Arutz Sheva. Together they created a front-group to promote the anti-Muslim crusade called Stop Islamization of America. The campaign of slander against the “Ground Zero Mosque” was first mainstreamed in the Murdoch-owned New York Post and has been trumpeted relentlessly by Fox News, as well as by Neocon operatives like Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney.
Why? Because promoting a “culture-clash” between the “West” and Islam is seen as a way to bolster support for Israel and to sustain a permanent US “War on Terror.”
As early as September 12, 2001 the New York Times reported:
Israeli leaders, who have chafed at occasional American criticism of their measures against Palestinians, said the day’s attacks would awaken the United States to the threat of global terrorism.
Asked tonight what the attack meant for relations between the United States and Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister, replied, ”It’s very good.” Then he edited himself: ”Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” He predicted that the attack would ”strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror.”
In an appearance late tonight, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon repeatedly placed Israel on the same ground as the United States, calling the assault an attack on ”our common values” and declaring, ”I believe together we can defeat these forces of evil.”
When the Roxbury Mosque was under attack in Boston my organization, Dorchester People for Peace, and other progressives took a stand in its defense. DPP sponsored a well-attended public forum on the topic in 2006. Since then, we have worked closely with our local Muslim friends – many of whom are US-born African-Americans with deep ties to our community. Although the current furor is over a proposed Mosque in New York, the issues are much the same. Islamophobia continues to be a racist tool of the war-promoting Right and the most extremist sectors of the Israel Lobby. Anti-war and anti-racist organizations cannot remain indifferent.
Jeff Klein is retired president of a local union at the Mass Water Resources Authority, where he worked for many years as a machinist in the Deer Island facility. He is active these days with Dorchester People for Peace, a local anti-war organization.
Shut down the universities
Israeli society is on the verge of being consumed by a menacing wave of McCarthyism stoked by nationalist movements and publicity-hungry legislators.
More than 20 years have passed since I served as president of Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, but I still take an interest in what’s happening there. So a recent headline in this newspaper caught my eye: “Im Tirtzu threatens Ben-Gurion University with donor boycott” (August 17 ). I asked myself how I would have reacted if I had faced such a predicament as the school’s president. Afterward I heard my colleague, BGU President Rivka Carmi, condemn the threat in a radio interview, but in the next breath she played down the significance of Im Tirtzu’s demand to fire left-leaning professors. Carmi holds the view that the university should ignore the organization and its letter.
I pondered her statements and came to a completely different conclusion: The threat posed by Im Tirtzu does not stand in a vacuum. Israeli society is on the verge of being consumed by a menacing wave of McCarthyism stoked by nationalist movements and publicity-hungry legislators. If we ignore this wave and it’s not stopped immediately, it will endanger – perhaps even destroy – Israeli democracy.
According to Wikipedia, McCarthyism is the “political action of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence.” Unfortunately, this is what has been taking place here recently.
It is particularly sad that the authorities have kept quiet on the matter. No one is condemning this phenomenon, nor will anyone act to thwart it. We have not heard any remarks on this issue from the president, prime minister, Knesset speaker, chairman of the Knesset Education Committee or Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, chairman of the Council for Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee.
I must acknowledge that I have my own criticisms of many of the people who have been “denounced and besmirched.” I utterly reject their statements and positions. Nonetheless, I absolutely oppose any attempt to silence them. What is being tested now is not their positions but the shutting of mouths.
Apart from the New Israel Fund, most of the pressure is being put on the universities – certain departments and lecturers who are being pilloried for the sin of showing a lack of loyalty to the state, Zionism and the people.
If I were the university’s president today, I would demand that we immediately hold a conference that would include the heads of all the major academic institutions and the Council for Higher Education to discuss the situation. My proposal would be the most serious threat possible to shake up the system. I would demand that the government and Knesset act immediately to stop this dangerous snowball from gaining momentum. Failure to do so would result in the closure of all institutions of higher education, and the new academic year would not open.
Im Tirtzu handed down an ultimatum to the university: Fire leftist professors or we’ll dissuade donors from giving money. The donors, who include some of the university’s good friends, will have to understand what the universities are fighting for and why they are shutting down. The danger of McCarthyism speaks to them even more than to the Israeli public. They will be the first to support the struggle for democracy; they will be the first to threaten to turn off the spigot of donations to Israel, and not just to the universities.
If we don’t act immediately, and with all the tools the law provides, we will find McCarthyism inside our homes.
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.
Supporters and opponents of a proposed Muslim cultural center and mosque near the World Trade Center site stage competing rallies in downtown Manhattan.
When You Say No (or: Poisonous Mushrooms)
By Uri Avneri
|BEFORE THE victory of Feminism, there was a popular Israeli song in which the boy asks the girl: “When you say No, what do you mean?”
This question has already been answered. Now I am more and more tempted to ask: “When you say Zionism, what do you mean?”
That is also my answer when asked whether I am a Zionist.
When you say Zionist, what do you mean?
LATELY, ASSOCIATIONS for the defense of Zionism have been springing up like mushrooms after rain. Poisonous mushrooms.
All kinds of American Jewish multi-millionaires – many of them Casino kings, brothel moguls, money launderers and tax evaders – are financing “patriotic” Israeli groups in Israel, to fight the holy war for “Zionism”.
The assault takes place along all the fronts. Jewish organizations aim at cleansing the universities of post-Zionists. They threaten to induce other donors to withhold their donations, they terrorize presidents and rectors and frighten professors and students.
Americans may be reminded of the sinister era of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who blighted the life of thousands of intellectuals and artists, pushing many of them into exile or suicide. Europeans might be reminded of the days when “Aryan” professors informed on their treasonous colleagues, and students in brown shirts threw their Jewish colleagues out of the windows.
This is only one sector of the broad offensive. One group has proudly announced that it is teaching hundreds of professional Zionists how to cleanse Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia, of post-Zionist items and plant Zionist ones in their stead.
THE TERM “post-Zionism” is starring in the propaganda of all the dozens – and perhaps hundreds – of the associations financed by the Las Vegas multi-millionaires and their likes in the United States in order to restore the Zionist glory of old.
Why this term, of all others? They mean the leftists, but those who attack the “leftists” are liable to be called “rightists”. However, the members of the extreme right want to be seen as belonging to the patriotic center. Nor is it nice or enlightened to speak out against “liberal” or “progressive” professors. “Post-Zionists” is the Israeli equivalent of the “Reds” of Senator McCarthy or the “Jews” of his predecessors in Germany.
BUT WHAT is “post-Zionism”? Why not simply “anti-Zionism”?
As far as I know, I was the first to use this term. That was in 1976. I was testifying in a libel case that my friends and I had lodged against a publication that had accused the “Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace”, that we had just founded, of being “anti-Zionist”. In trying to explain my view to the judge, I said that Zionism was a historic movement, with both light and shadow, which had fulfilled its role with the establishment of the State of Israel. From then on, Israeli patriotism has taken its place. “Post-Zionism” means that with the founding of the state, a new historic era began. A “post-Zionist” can admire the achievements of Zionism or criticize them. He is not by definition an anti-Zionist.
The judge accepted my arguments and found in our favor. She awarded us handsome compensation. Now I am the only living Israeli who has a judicial confirmation that he is not an anti-Zionist – much as only a person released from a psychiatric hospital has an official confirmation that he is sane.
Since then, the term “post-Zionist” has acquired wide currency in academic circles. It has also acquired many shades of meaning, according to the people who use it.
But in the mouths of our new mini-McCarthys, it has become a simple denunciation. A post-Zionist is a traitor, an Arab-lover, a lackey of the enemy, an agent of the sinister world-wide conspiracy to destroy the Jewish State.
SHLOMO AVINERI, a respected professor of philosophy, recently published an article in which he fervently argued that Israel is a Jewish state and must remain so. The article has already stirred up a vivid debate.
I have received some protests from people who mistakenly thought that it was I who wrote the piece. That happens from time to time. Years ago the respected British weekly, The Economist, printed my name instead of his, and next week published “an apology to both”.
But the difference is considerable. Avineri is an eminent professor, a student of Hegel, an expert on Zionist history, a former Director General of the Israeli Foreign Office, and a devout Zionist. I, as is well-known, am not a professor, I never even finished elementary school, I never was a government spokesman and my attitude towards Zionism is very complex.
In his article, Avineri argued passionately that Israel is a Jewish state “as Poland is a Polish state and Greece is a Greek state”. He was responding to a Palestinian citizen of Israel, Salman Masalha, who had asserted that there cannot be a “Jewish state”, much as – he says – there cannot be a “Muslim state” or a “Catholic state”.
How can one compare, Avineri cried out. After all, the Jews are a people! Israel belongs to the Jewish people, whose religion is Judaism.
Logical, isn’t it?
BY NO means. The analogy does not fit.
If Poland belongs to the Poles and Greece to the Greeks, Israel belongs to the Israelis. But the Israeli government does not recognize the existence of an Israeli nation. (The courts have not yet decided upon the petition by some of us to be recognized as belonging to the Israeli nation.)
If Avineri had demanded the recognition that Israel belongs to the Israelis as Poland belongs to the Poles, I would have applauded. But he argues that Israel belongs to the Jews. This immediately raises some basic questions.
For example: Which Jews? Those who are Israeli citizens? Clearly, this is not what he means. He means the “Jewish people” dispersed all over the world, a people whose members belong to the American, French, Argentine nations – and, yes, also to the Polish and Greek nations.
How does a person become an American? By acquiring American citizenship. How does a person become French? By becoming a citizen of the French republic. How does a person become a Jew?
Ah, there’s the rub. According to the law of the State of Israel, a Jew is somebody whose mother is Jewish, or who has converted to the Jewish religion and not adopted any other religion. Ergo: the definition is purely religious, like that of a Muslim or a Catholic. Not at all like that of a Pole or a Greek. (In Jewish religion, it’s only the mother, not the father, who counts in this respect. Perhaps because one cannot be quite sure who the father is.)
There are in Israel hundreds of thousands of people who have immigrated from the former Soviet Union with their Jewish relatives, but are not Jewish according to the religious definition. They consider themselves Israelis in every respect, speak Hebrew, pay taxes, serve in the army. But they are not recognized as belonging to the Jewish people, to which, according to Avineri, the state belongs. Like the million and a half Israeli citizens who are Palestinian Arabs. The state does not belong to them, even though they enjoy – at least formally – full civil rights.
Simply put: the state belongs, according to Avineri, to millions of people who do not live here and who belong to other nations, but does not belong to millions of people who live here and vote for the Knesset.
WHO HAS decided that this is a Jewish state? Avineri and many others assert that the character of the state was decided upon by the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations of November 29th, 1947, which partitioned the country between a “Jewish state” and an “Arab state”.
The UN did not decide upon a state which belongs to all the Jews in the world, any more than upon a state that belongs to all the Arabs in the world. The UN commission which investigated the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs in the country then called Palestine decided (very sensibly) that the only possible solution was to allot to each of the two national communities a state of its own. Nothing more.
In short: the words “Jewish” and “Arab” in the UN resolution have nothing to do with the character of the two states, but only define the two communities in the country that were to establish their states. They have no other meaning.
BUT A professor who comes to this conclusion would be hounded as a “post-Zionist” who must be expelled from his university. According to our little McCarthys, even the debate is absolutely verboten. Verboten to think. Verboten to write. Strictly verboten to speak. In every university there would be Zionist overseers to receive reports about the lectures of professors, check their publications, report what they hear from students who inform on other students, and safeguard ideological purity. Much like the “politruks” – political commissars – in the Soviet Union. Much like the cadres of the “cultural revolution” in China, when thousands of professors and other intellectuals were sent to labor camps or remote villages.
But the results of their labors may be very different from what they expect. Instead of making the term “post-Zionism” a synonym for treason, they may make the term “Zionism” a synonym for fascism, gladdening the hearts of all those around the world who preach a boycott of the “Jewish state”. When the Israeli universities are cleansed of non-conformist thinkers, it will indeed be easy to boycott them.
When you say Zionism, do you mean the humanist vision of Theodor Herzl or Avigdor Lieberman’s Jewish fascism?
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.
Cartoon by Matt Wuerker
The crowded streets around the World Trade Center site feel deeply ordinary: Commuters pour in and out of the subway stations; shoppers pour in and out of Century 21, the popular discount department store; tourists pour in and out of the Millennium Hilton. The Pit, glimpsed through gates and holes in the fence, looks like a construction site because it is a construction site.
Which is odd because, as President Obama said when he voiced support for the right of a controversial Islamic cultural center to be built nearby, “Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.”
From Gettysburg to Ground Zero, ‘Sacred Space’ Debated
A Centuries-Long Search To Define Hallowed Ground
By Josh Nathan-Kazis
On a recent afternoon, a group of puzzled Italian tourists gathered beneath a scaffold at the corner of Greenwich and Liberty streets as a light rain fell over Lower Manhattan.
“We want to find a way just to see Ground Zero and we only have this site, and we were wondering, is there another place with a better point of view to see?” asked Stefania Lamendola, the group’s ad hoc spokeswoman. The tourists were looking at the sprawling Pit through a closed gate, but they couldn’t see much. In fact, Lamendola’s vantage point was one of the best. The trouble is, there’s not much to see.
The crowded streets around the World Trade Center site feel deeply ordinary: Commuters pour in and out of the subway stations; shoppers pour in and out of Century 21, the popular discount department store; tourists pour in and out of the Millennium Hilton. The Pit, glimpsed through gates and holes in the fence, looks like a construction site because it is a construction site.
Which is odd because, as President Obama said when he voiced support for the right of a controversial Islamic cultural center to be built nearby, “Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.”
In the face of the banality of the everyday commerce and work that surround and fill the Pit, what can such a statement mean? One might think that with all the other examples of hallowed ground carved onto American soil during the past two centuries — the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg; the Texas School Book Depository, from which President Kennedy was assassinated; the former site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, target of the Oklahoma City bombing — the nation would have by now made up its mind as to how to observe the sanctity of such a place. But conversations with academics show that the debate is hardly settled.
Blog posts published in recent days by Talking Points Memo and other websites offered an object lesson in the particular difficulty of drawing sacred boundaries in Lower Manhattan. The posts detail the sacrilege that can be found within two blocks of the Pit: a strip club called New York Dolls; an off-track betting parlor; a couple of fast-food joints, and at least one Irish pub — all as close to Ground Zero as the proposed site of the future Islamic cultural center.
But while these challenges may be particularly acute in New York, they are by no means unique. If Gettysburg, the site of the decisive Union victory and Abraham Lincoln’s famous address, is the pre-eminent example of America’s hallowed ground, it is also an example of the way notions of how best to respect a site’s sacredness can radically change. The first tourists to visit the battlefield observed it from a distance, climbing towers to take in panoramic views of the wooded hills. To actually approach the site would have been inappropriate, said John H. Summers, a visiting scholar at Boston College’s Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life. “Sniffing around and petting the trees where people died seemed tasteless,” Summers said. Meanwhile, homes and businesses were built nearby.
Over the years, the boundaries shifted. Today, tourists walk freely throughout the site. Meanwhile, the National Park Service, which oversees the battlefield, has undertaken a process of reverting it to its 1863 state, removing trees, developed areas and a 300-foot observation tower built in the 1970s.
Gettysburg and Ground Zero are the sites of very different tragedies, but both are complicated by the fact that some victims’ bodies have never been recovered. The rains that followed the Civil War battle ensured that some of the dead would never be found, just as many families of September 11 victims never received the remains of their loved ones. Those sites, then, are both seen by some as burial grounds, adding a further level of complication.
The sanctification of the site of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by domestic terrorists was, by contrast, relatively straightforward. Just five years after the attack, President Clinton presided over the opening of a memorial site near the former footprint of the building. “People talked about that area as sacred ground, but there were no human remains left,” said Edward T. Linenthal, professor of history and religious studies at Indiana University, and author of the 2003 book “The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory.” “It could become memorial ground fairly quickly. It was never seen as a place that people could not walk.”
The process of sanctification, however, usually takes more time. The Texas School Book Depository, where the shot that killed Kennedy was fired, was nearly torn down. “There was a sense that this was a shameful, shocking thing to happen in Dallas,” Foote said. “There was an effort to try and get rid of the book depository, to not mark the events very much in Dallas. And yet now, through time, people see that as a very important site that’s been saved from deconstruction and turned into, I think, quite a powerful reflection on the assassination and its consequences.”
For Foote, America’s hallowed grounds fall into three general categories: those made sacred through the death of a martyr, like the sites of the assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.; those made sacred through ethical heroic moments, like Gettysburg, and those made sacred through community disasters, like the site of the Johnstown Flood.
Ground Zero appears to be somewhere in between. “I think people would like to cast it as a heroic moment,” Foote said. But ethical heroes need to have died for a reason, and the reason behind the deaths of the victims of September 11 remains unclear. “That sense of defining the ethical or heroic reason why those deaths occurred is still all in limbo, and it’s even more so now because of the wars, which are just continuing,” Foote said. “What seemed at one point to be a heroic cause has turned into this absolute mire.”
With the meaning of the attacks still up for debate, the project of maintaining the sanctity of Ground Zero seems fraught. The new World Trade Center will eventually include five office buildings — including one tower, which will be the tallest building in the United States — and a variety of retail spaces. Will Ground Zero remain hallowed when the new tenants move in? Will the arbiters of sacredness have a say in what sort of businesses and government agencies rent space there, and what sort of work they do?
Perhaps it’s the challenge of control that fuels the instinct to sanctify. Linenthal says that he thinks of sacred sites as being surrounded by “commemorative membranes” inside of which “only a certain kind of speech and reverential action is possible.” At Ground Zero, Linenthal said, an attempt to sanctify the place is an attempt to mark it as separate in the face of the tumult of the city. “People want to build [a commemorative membrane] because it’s in the center of the busiest place in New York,” he said. “Because it’s there, you have to be extra sensitive to a kind of purity of place.”
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.
Emily Henochowicz: artist turned pro-Palestinian activist
Jewish-American Emily Henochowicz recalls how she lost an eye at a protest in Israel after the storming of the Gaza aid flotilla
As a student artist, Emily Henochowicz has always been fascinated by the way the brain processes visual signals to form images of the physical world around us. That has been a theme of her work at the prestigious New York art college, Cooper Union, which she joined three years ago.
In her first term she made a costume out of papier-mache for the inaugural freshman’s parade that neatly expressed that fascination. It was meant to be a monster cyclops, but the way it came out it resembled a giant eyeball with her arms and legs sticking out of it.
For more than a year she has used a photograph of that eyeball as the icon of her art blog, thirsty pixels. It is all too ironic, she laughs now. The irony is that in May Henochowicz became – in her own words – a cyclops. She lost her left eye as she was demonstrating against Israeli government policy in the Palestinian occupied territories.
With her loss, she became yet another casualty of the ongoing Israeli occupation. But what makes Henochowicz’s story singular was that her experiences were filtered through the lens, the eye, of an artist.
It was art that took her to the Middle East in the first place. She signed up to an animation course in Jerusalem that suited her passion for drawing.
Her choice of Jerusalem had little to do with the fact that she was the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, or that her father was born in Israel and that she herself was Jewish and an Israeli citizen. It had even less to do with any political beliefs she might have on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, though she had been disturbed by Israel’s conduct in the Gaza war of 2008-9.
It was all about art. But a month after she arrived in Jerusalem, an Israeli friend and peace activist took her into Palestinian East Jerusalem. That day changed everything.
“It was a little bit shocking,” she says, recalling the event in a Manhattan cafe. “Suddenly a huge group of Hassidim came down the street. These little Palestinian kids – just five or six years old – linked arms and were standing in the middle of the street. The Hassidim were on the other side, singing prayers at them. It was such a powerful image for me: that line of children, so strong and defiant, this huge group of adults in front of them.”
The next day Henochowicz captured the moment in a dramatic painting that shows the children in front of a swirl of black-clad Jewish men. And then she acted on impulse – something that as an artist she says she is wont to do. She went to Ramallah on the West Bank and joined the protest campaign the International Solidarity Movement.
Over the next few weeks Henochowicz threw herself into the fray, protesting outside Israeli settlements in the West Bank and along the separation wall. She was aware of the dangers, not least because it was with the ISM that fellow-American Rachel Corrie had been demonstrating in 2003 when she was crushed to death by a bulldozer.
“I had a fear the whole time I was going to get hit with tear gas,” Henochowicz says. “I knew the way that it was used. Forget UN regulations, this is Israel, the rules don’t apply here – tear gas is fired directly into crowds.”
At first she kept what she was doing from her parents, certain that they would disapprove. But eventually she told them.
“They were incredibly upset, particularly my dad. He had been to Yeshiva, Jewish school, and speaks Hebrew.’ How could you do this to me?’ he said, but I wasn’t doing it to him.”
Paradoxically, shortly before the incident in which she lost her eye, Henochowicz decided, partly out of concern for her parents, that she would avoid demonstrations and dedicate herself instead to teaching art to Palestinian children. But on the morning of 31 May she awoke to the news that a Turkish flotilla attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza had been raided and nine activists killed.
Mayhem and confusion ensued. She was swept along by the reaction, and found herself at a protest rally at the Qaladiya checkpoint, facing Israeli soldiers. “I was scared in a way I’d never been before.”
It was so quick, maybe just a minute from the first stones being thrown to the tear gas canister striking her in the face.
“I remember a weird crunch feeling and thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve been hit!’ Then there was the thought: ‘Hey guys, my brain’s ok! My brain’s ok!”
“And then I remember falling back and being held, and cameras rushing to me and clicking away and me thinking ‘Oh, I’ve become one of those images’.”
She was treated in a hospital in Ramallah and Jerusalem before returning to Maryland in the US. She has had multiple operations for a fractured skull as well as losing the eye.
The Israeli government has refused to pay thousands of dollars in medical costs, on the grounds that Henochowicz chose to put herself at risk and that she was hit by mistake by a ricochet.
“That’s preposterous,” she says. “A ricochet? From what wall? Where? How? This was no ricochet.”
Henochowicz is now preparing for term to start at Cooper Union. She wears a pair of glasses, the left lens of which she has painted with swirls to obscure the empty socket behind it.
She says she has adapted with amazing speed to the loss. “I go through a lot of my days not even thinking that I’m seeing only through one eye. I’m so fine in other ways, I’m perfectly healthy.”
She stresses how unfair she thinks it is that she gets so much attention, while Palestinians who are injured with depressing frequency go without notice. “I’m white, I’m Jewish, I’m an Israeli citizen and American. When I’m hit by tear gas there are articles, the Israeli government gets involved. When Palestinians are hit, who gives a shit?”
She doesn’t know what the longer-term impact will be on her art. She remembers telling the doctor who informed her she had lost an eye: “But I’m an artist, that’s not supposed to happen!”
“I’ve been sad because this is a moment in my life I can never escape, and that’s what gets me more than the loss of my eye,” she says. “Twenty years from now I will still carry this moment, and I desperately don’t want it to be the end of my story.”
Jane Leaf of Tennessee irked by movement’s threat to drive away philanthropists if Beersheba university fails to appoint right-wing staff members. ‘Such an attack reflects ignorance,’ she tells Ynet, adding it will only make her increase donations
WASHINGTON – One of Ben-Gurion University’s most important donors says the Im Tirtzu movement, which threatened to drive away philanthropists if the university failed to appoint right-wing staff members, is a “hooligan” organization and that its effort to drive away donors is “foolish and won’t succeed.”
In an interview to Ynet, Jane Leaf of Tennessee says that “such an attack only urges me to increase by donation.” According to Leaf, who donates both to Ben-Gurion University and to the New Israel Fund, the American donors are committed to academic freedom.
“I know other donors and I don’t think that such an attack on academic freedom, or the political opinion of one staff members of another, has any significance. On the contrary, it only influences donors to stand by the university.”
Leaf, who is considered an important Ben-Gurion University donor since 1978, was agitated by Im Tirtzu’s threat last week. She says proudly that “Ben-Gurion University is popular and has issued more publications than any other university in Israel. Insulting the university with such an attack reflects Im Tirtzu’s ignorance.”
In its letter to University President Prof. Rebecca Carmi, Im Tirtzu threatened to ask donors to deposit their funds to a trust fund managed by a lawyer should the university fail to meet their demands within 30 days, and replace some of the staff and change the study program.
According to the movement’s activists, President Carmi “allowed the academic dictatorship to gain control of academic freedom and considerably limit intellectual pluralism.”
‘Donors don’t care about internal politics’
The Tennessee donor explains that “Jews worldwide won’t remain silent in the face of hooliganism. Jews will support brilliant universities like Ben-Gurion, which provide important services to Israelis and conduct studies for the entire world about desertification, children, equal rights for students, religious pluralism and social justice.”
Alongside her surprise by the attempt to harm the university, she directs her criticism at the right-wing organization. “We, the American donors, are subject to American laws, and my question is whether such a non-profit organization in Israel is committed to transparency?
“What are Israel’s standards? Can such an organization intimidate and attack another organization? Where is their respect for people’s opinions? What is Im Tirtzu’s financial source? Is this money clean or dirty? I don’t think the Beersheba university’s donors care about internal political problems when it comes to the academia.”
Revenge Of The Nerds: Partying With The Boys Of Im Tirtzu
This piece was co-authored by Max Blumenthal
Fresh off a campaign of nationwide intimidation against the New Israel Fund, countless damaging personal attacks against leftists and professors condemned as insufficiently Zionist, and anendorsement from Israeli Education Minister Gideon Saar, the self-proclaimed “moderate” student group Im Tirtzu gathered for a night of celebration. The venue was “Theodore,” a swanky bar in the wealthy Tel Aviv suburb of Herzilya named for the man who Im Tirtzu claims as the inspiration for its “Second Zionist Revolution:” Theodore Herzl. The evening’s agenda: to fire up the troops for the upcoming boycott targeting Ben Gurion University’s supposedly anti-Zionist faculty.
At the door of the bar stood a glowering young man munching on a slice of pizza. He was Erez Tadmor, Im Tirtzu’s director of media relations. Tadmor approached us and asked who we were. We described ourselves as clueless Jewish American tourists who were simply curious about his student group. “We just heard there was some kind of party here,” we said in English.
Without bothering to introduce himself, Tadmor discussed his man-size persecution complex. “At Hebrew University I did so much damage to the professors I can’t even walk around freely on campus anymore,” he remarked. “Most of the academics here are anti-Israel and anti-Zionist. They have the audacity to say that Israel is an apartheid state, that we’re colonizers, that we kill kids. And so we are simply trying to defend our Zionist values against what they’re doing.”
Despite the subversive culture on campus, Tadmor was confident he would crush the evil-doers: “The elites are on the losing side. They only represent like 3 percent of the population who are radical leftist. But we have 70 to 80 percent of the people on our side.”
Who is Tadmor? The scion of the only secular family in the fanatical Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, Tadmor now lives in the settlement of Efrat with his wife and two children. He made his name directing the student cell that fought the evacuation of the settlement Gush Katif, then turned his attention to assailing cultural critics of Israeli maximalism. “The [Oscar-nominated Israeli film] Waltz With Bashir is a vehicle to destroy Zionism,” Tadmor once declared. “The director should have made a film about Herzl in the place of this.”
In an interview with Maariv, a leading Israeli newspaper, Tadmor admitted to stealing small-scale explosives and ammunition magazines from the army during his service. Despite insisting that he needed the weapons for “personal security,” Tadmor was stripped of his rank and slapped with a 45-day prison sentence for “breaking the trust” of the army.
During Operation Cast Lead, Tadmor orchestrated a series of violent confrontations between Im Tirtzu activists and Palestinian Israeli students at Hebrew University. An Im Tirtzu banner warned the Arab students, “We will burn your villages and see you during our reserve duty.” Tadmor was implicated for physically attacking female students who called him a “Nazi.” The riots sparked by Tadmor and Im Tirtzu were only quelled when university administrators demanded the deployment of Border Police and special Yassam forces on campus.
After chatting with Tadmor, two Im Tirtzu activists approached us to discuss campus politics in the United States. One of them, a chubby, slouching young man with a crew cut, asked, “Have you ever read ‘The Professors’ by David Horowitz? Horowitz was a former leftist so he knows the truth about the left in your country.” With his failed “Academic Bill of Rights” campaign, which would have allowed conservative students to sue their professors, and his annual “Islamofascism Awareness Week,” the ex-Stalinist Horowitz seemed like a natural role model for Im Tirtzu’s McCarthyite missions.
The other activist, Tamir Kafri, a bespectacled and chipper student with a long ponytail and newly budding facial hair, mentioned another American inspiration: “You should read the book, ‘Liberal Fascism,’” Tamir said, referring to neocon writer Jonah Goldberg’s screed linking American liberalism to Hitlerian fascists. “I’m not saying all liberals are fascists, but on campus here in Israel, the liberal professors really are.”
Tamir led us inside and perched beside us at the bar. As dozens of his comrades filed in, Tamir ordered a pony size Goldstar and opened up about the struggle he was waging as coordinator of Im Tirtzu at Ben Gurion University.
Tamir dismissed the hundreds of thousands of donations pumped into Im Tirtzu’s coffers each year by theapocalyptic Christian Zionist preacher Pastor John Hagee, who has said the anti-Christ would be “half-Jewish, as Hitler was.” “Who cares about who takes the money?” Tamir said. “People should focus on the donors and not on us. Like this neo-Nazi American pastor [John Hagee]. He’s the idiot! He’s giving all his money to a bunch of ZIonist Jews in Israel!”
As the beer flowed, Tamir entertained us with his opinions on everything from Zionism to domestic violence.
Tamir on campus politics: “[The Israeli communist party] Hadash is a bunch of pro-Palestinian radicals. But we’ve worked with Meretz. We even have some members of Meretz in our movement. They are the sensible left. They’re Zionists, not radicals.”
On the left: “Radical leftists are like gunpowder. By itself it’s harmless but next to a gun it becomes violently dangerous.”
On the Palestinians: “Actually there is no such thing as a Palestinian. Really. You know, the idea of the Palestinians was invented in the 1970’s?”
On the Eden Abergil photos: “The pictures were just funny. Face it.”
On Zionism: “Zionism is about securing a Jewish state where human rights are unconditional for everyone, including Arabs, but civil rights are conditional, based on someone’s loyalty to the recognition of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist state… I even know a couple Muslim Zionists. Like my friend from the army, he was Druze and he went to jail because he beat his cousin so badly.” Why did he beat his cousin? “Because he said he shouldn’t be fighting for Israel.”
On feminism: “I’m a true feminist. If a woman hits me I’ll hit her back just as hard. That’s feminism!”
While Tamir continued riffing, we looked around and noticed an almost total absence of women in the bar. Indeed, the bartender seemed to be the only member of the female gender interacting with the dozens of Im Tirtzu activists hunched over the bar. “Were any women invited your party?” we asked our new friend. “Because this is starting to look like the mother of all sausage-fests.”
Tamir looked around nervously, then exclaimed, “People show up late in Israel because we have no last call.”
20 minutes later, a woman appeared. But she was just the wife of Tamir’s pal, a short, bookish-looking character, who greeted him with a hearty bear hug. “This guy acted with me in the Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Tamir said about his friend, referring to the 70’s era British drag-show that has become popular across Israel.
“I actually had to borrow a corset from my wife for the show!” the friend told us with a giggle.
Besides working as a genetic engineer at the Weissman Institute, Tamir’s friend was a front-line soldier in the Im Tirtzu struggle. He said he became enraged when he saw an art exhibition in the city of Holon that depicted Israeli army helicopters bombing civilians and humiliating Palestinians at checkpoints. He immediately called Im Tirtzu founder Ronen Shoval to complain. The next day, he was a full-fledged activist.
“If the army did this sort of thing, it would be okay, because the art would have been factual,” the friend remarked. “But the army doesn’t do that! I was in the infantry so I know.”
Despite his indignation, the friend was intent on talking about the Rocky Horror Picture Show production he and Tamir starred in. “You know what the play really was?” he said to Tamir. “It was a hook-up scene for geeks!” They burst into mischievous laughter, as though they were watching scrambled porn while their mother did laundry in the basement.
Tamir related one of his favorite Rocky Horror-related conquests. “There was a radical leftist girl who acted with us in the play,” he recalled.
“She was so radical she thought Noam Chomsky was a fascist!” the friend interjected.
“Yeah, so anyway, I fucked her one night,” Tamir boasted. “And while I was fucking her, I said, ‘Oh you’re soagainst Israel, and the occupation is so evil. Okay!’ Then, as soon as I came, I pulled out and said, ‘Sorry, no orgasm for you!”
At this moment, as we glanced around the room full of twenty-something guys huddled around on couches, fiddling with their cellphones and exchanging jocular back-slaps, we gained a new understanding of Im Tirtzu’s essential function. The movement was not only a street-level proxy for rightist forces in the government. It also served as a social sanctuary for aimless young men unable to locate productive outlets for their pent-up post-army aggressions. Long sessions of Playstation and back issues of Maxim were simply not enough for the rejects of Israel’s warrior class. They needed a glorious battle — even if the targets were defenseless and marginalized. And so they have identified enemies in every faculty lounge and editorial page, hoping to quell their sense of isolation by defining themselves as heroic Zionists waging jihad against the “elitist” fringe. Their sensitivity to “anti-Zionist bias” is in fact a projection of their own psychological insecurity.
Im Tirtzu has been portrayed by critics as a fearsome gang of dangerous thugs, but in the more casual setting of the Theodore bar, we saw the movement for what it really was: a well-financed dork squad.
After Ronen Shoval gave a speech announcing the coming onslaught against Ben Gurion University — “My grandmother was so proud to see us on the front page of Ha’aretz!” he announced — we noticed two young women downing shots of liquor across the bar. We went over to meet them.
“Are you guys with Im Tirtzu?” we asked.
“You mean the disgusting fascists?” one of them snapped.
“We hate them!” the other one said.
After a long interview process that included the examination of our ID cards, they established that we were not members of the “fascist” crowd. Only then did they invite us to drink with them.
The women eventually apologized for vetting us, explaining that an Im Tirtzu member seated beside them at the bar had attempted to chat them up earlier in the evening.
One of the women grabbed the Im Tirtzu activist’s arm and shouted at him, “Are you ready to stop being a narrow-minded racist? Then you can talk to us.”
being expelled from the city of Haifa on May 12, 1948. (AFP picture archive)
NAZARETH // Government officials warned Israeli teachers last week not to cooperate with a civic group that seeks to educate Israelis about how the Palestinians view the loss of their homeland and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
Israel’s education ministry issued the advisory after Zochrot – a Jewish group that seeks to raise awareness among Israeli Jews of the events of 1948, referred to as the “nakba” by Palestinians – organised a workshop for primary school teachers.
The ministry said the course had not been approved and told teachers not to participate in Zochrot-sponsored activities during the coming school year.
In a letter to the education ministry protesting against Zochrot’s activities, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, an advocacy group for Jewish settlers, had called the group’s educational materials “part of a criminal vision to wipe Israel off the face of the earth”.
It was unclear whether participants in the workshop for primary school teachers would be punished, but a teacher identified as a trainer for the seminar might be investigated by the education ministry, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The warning is the latest move by the education ministry, headed by Gideon Saar, a member of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, to use school curricula to advance a more strident Zionist agenda.
In March, for instance, the ministry banned Israeli schools from distributing a booklet for children about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Critics had objected to parts of the declaration that refer to freedom of religion and protection of asylum-seekers.
The ministry’s latest move involves the controversies that still swirl over the events that led to the creation of the Jewish state in 1948 – what Israelis describe as their “War of Independence” and what Palestinians call the nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe”.
Eitan Bronstein, Zochrot’s director, said the ministry was trying to “frighten off” teachers from learning about a period in Israel’s history that until now, he said, had been presented in schools only from a “triumphalist perspective”.
The group, which was founded eight years ago and whose Hebrew name means “remembering”, has provoked controversy by organising visits to some of the hundreds of Palestinian villages destroyed by the Israeli army during and after the 1948 war.
Zochrot members place signposts at the former villages using their original Arabic names, and bring Palestinian refugees back on visits, upsetting Jewish residents who live in communities built on those lands.
In recent months, Zochrot has concentrated on developing a programme on the nakba for schools, allowing teachers to address the subject from a Palestinian perspective for the first time.
Mr Bronstein said more than 300 high school teachers had asked for Zochrot’s information kits over the past year, and a few primary school teachers had started to show an interest too. That has provoked a backlash from education officials and right-wing groups.
“A small but growing number of teachers are curious about the nakba and want to find out more,” he said. “The problem is that the education authorities see this development as threatening and are prepared to intimidate teachers to stop them from getting involved.”
Last week’s workshop was the first Zochrot had arranged for primary school teachers.
Hebrew textbooks focus chiefly on the success of Israel’s troops during the 1948 war. The books say that the 750,000 refugees either left voluntarily or were ordered to leave by Arab armies. Most historians now say that Israeli troops either physically expelled the Palestinians or frightened them so much that they fled.
In 2006 an Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, published a popular book in English – but little read inside Israel – that went farther, arguing that Israel had implemented a military plan to “ethnically cleanse” Palestinians even before Israel’s founders declared statehood.
A year later Yuli Tamir, the dovish education minister, provoked public outrage by approving for the first time the use of the word “nakba” in an Arabic textbook for the quarter of the school population who belong to the country’s Palestinian minority.
The book was banned last summer by Mr Saar, Ms Tamir’s successor.
Mr Saar has also backed legislation to punish groups and individuals who commemorate the nakba. The bill, which enjoys wide support, is working its way through the parliament.
Zochrot’s kit includes teaching units on life among Palestinians before and after the 1948 war, personal stories from refugees, a tour of a destroyed village, and a discussion of the refugees’ right of return.
Amaya Galili, Zochrot’s educational coordinator, said that although the group offered complete lesson plans, most teachers incorporated only elements of the programme so that officials would not notice they were using Zochrot’s material.
A history teacher in Jerusalem, who did not want to be identified, said she was one of half a dozen in the city who had participated in Zochrot’s courses.
She said, however, that her new-found understanding of the nakba had had almost no impact on either the curriculum or the pupils at the school.
“There are many other ways for the school to make sure that an atmosphere of fear prevails towards Palestinians. It’s easy to insert a nationalistic and religious agenda into the classroom – and, after all, I am just one teacher.”
The changes at the education ministry have become increasingly apparent since Mr Saar’s appointment nearly 18 months ago.
Earlier this year, the ministry demanded that its logo be removed from a joint Hebrew and Arabic website called Common Ground, which aims to promote greater understanding between the country’s Jewish and Palestinian citizens. Officials had objected to Zochrot’s posting of a story written by a Palestinian girl about the nakba.
Ms Galili said the ministry’s response to Zochrot’s work contrasted strongly with its encouragement of private initiatives by right-wing groups.
One, called Gush Katif week, brings former Jewish settlers from Gaza into 400 schools to celebrate life before Israeli troops and Jewish settlers withdrew from the Strip in 2005. Another, Mibereshit, run by a far-right rabbi and financed by evangelical Christians in the US, offers pupils tours of the country, including the settlements, in a bid to “strengthen Zionist education”.
“Many of these programmes sound superficially reasonable. They’re presented as ‘instilling positive values’ or ‘learning to love the land’. But, in fact, they are cover for dubious initiatives by religious and settler groups”, Ms Galili said.
Over the past year, Mr Saar has emphasised courses on Zionism, Jewish heritage and Judaism. He also has increased pupils’ visits to Jerusalem’s Palestinian districts and introduced a programme to bring soldiers into the classroom to help enlist pupils into the military.
Viva, Viva Negotiations!
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
Returning from the Friday demonstration in Al-Walaja in unbearable heat
we note that the talks about the talks about the peace talks are to resume in Washington September 2nd. The Obama administration decided not to spend any political capital challenging the Israeli lobby. In fact the US politicians want to blunt Republican criticism ahead of midterm elections by chalking out a diplomatic “success” in form if not in substance. Direct talks will lead to more erosion of Palestinian rights especially when conducted in Israeli-occupied Washington between Abbas whose mandate as president of the Palestinian bantustan in the West Bank expired last January and Mr. Netanyahu, a known terrorist and war criminal leading the most extreme right-wing government in the history of the apartheid state of Israel. I believe most Palestinians (Abbas included) are neither optimistic nor pleased about this development. But few of us believe it was necessary for Abbas to yield yet again. Most (including large segments of Fatah) believe it is a huge mistake that just set back the real cause for peace. I challenge those who think otherwise to public debates on the issues.
An executive committee of the PLO representing various factions (who get paid through the same system) stamped its approval by a majority to the decision to go back to direct negotiations (and thus yield to the US pressure). I would be curious to read any deliberations and hear from any dissenting voices who voted no (and not just say no to their cadre members). The fig leaf that is used to save face for the officials going to fruitless negotiations is this statement from the Quartet:
“The Quartet reaffirms its full commitment to its previous statements, including in Trieste on 26 June 2009, in New York on 24 September 2009, and its statement in Moscow on 19 March 2010 which provides that direct, bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues should “lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.”
Israel already rejected the notion of ending the occupation but are thrilled with the notion of direct negotiations without interference or “preconditions” between the occupier and the occupied. After all, it takes two to agree and Israel holds all the power and all the cards and it can dictate what it wants in “direct, bilateral negotiations”. The simple question is how TO GET A MODICUM OF Palestinian rights since the quartet even backed down on the simple demand of “suspending settlement activities” while negotiations go on (itself a retreat from the road map which requires dismantling all that was built illegally since 2002)? If you can’t get the rapist to even suspend the rape for a time, why would your demand only direct negotiations with his rape victim in a closed room? If we accept the notion that Netanyahu is restricted by his political coalition from even this small gesture of a suspension of illegal colonial activities (see Geneva conventions), then why would we expect that he will be able to offer anything bigger (like dismantling settlements or sharing Jerusalem, or allowing refugees to reclaim their land)? If we believe the US and its quartet are now more serious, then how come nothing was achieved from the indirect negotiations under their tutelage?
The Zionist movement stole 78% of Palestine and does not believe there is an occupation of the remaining 22%. They already annexed 10% of the West Bank and also annexed the Golan heights. They already put 500,000 colonial settlers in the best and richest lands in the West Bank. They already steal 80% of the water from the West Bank. They make billions off of the occupation and billions more from direct US aid tax-deductible donations from Zionists around the world. What is the incentive to Israel to bilaterally negotiate an “end to the occupation that began in 1967” let alone deal with the more relevant and more significant issue of the ethnic cleansing committed in 1948 and still continuing in places like the Galilee and the Negev?
Initially we heard that Abbas will never go to the negotiations unless Israel stops building in its colonial settlements in the 22% of Palestine that some are still dreaming will become a “state”. In an interview with CNN after the US announcement of resumption of negotiations with no preconditions, Saeb Erekat said that he “hoped” that with the direct negotiations beginning, that Netanyahu will extend the “moratorium on building” in the settlements in the West Bank (supposedly set to expire in September). Today there are nearly 500,000 colonial settlers living in the West Bank and there was no moratorium worth the hasbara/propaganda created about it. So I would like to ask why is he now begging for renewal of a “moratorium” that was no moratorium? This is the same Erekat who told us repeatedly that the partial moratorium is a ruse. Colonial settlement construction continued and still moves with speed as we speak. I would love the opportunity to take Mr. Erekat or anyone who has eyes to see around Palestinian villages and show them what is actually happening on the ground. In my area in Har Gilo and Har Homa, colonial settlement building activity did not even take a breather. Actually, there was an acceleration last month in buildings in Har Gilo (on top of Beit Jala) and in building the wall that will make Al-Walaja a concentration camp pending finally ethnically cleansing what remains of this village population.
Yes, I know all the arguments for going back to negotiations. They go along these lines: we tried different forms of resistance, the balance of power is tipped completely to the Israeli side which is supported by the US (thanks to the Israel lobby), the European governments are not showing backbone, blah blah blah. One high ranking Fatah official said we have nothing left but negotiations. I am sorry, but if the leaders in Vietnam or Algeria or South Africa made similar defeatist statements, these countries would never have achieved their freedoms. If our leaders have lost faith in their cause, they should step aside and let those who have a positive message lead. If we are going to achieve an emasculated statelet by endless negotiations with such leaders reaping the rotten fruits falling down from the tree after 130 years of struggle, then we do not want such statelet.
Leaders should first of all accept responsibility for their mistakes and level with their own people. The biggest mistake in the past 20 years has been this road of Oslo which ended the search for justice and reclamation of Palestinian rights to replace it with a road of “security for Israel” (the occupying power), positions and autonomy and an endless negotiations and “process”. The process could/would somehow(if all Israeli conditions are met) lead to state that will be less than the state of Zululand.
I could be too harsh in my statements. But should we not expect expert opinion on issues that are existential? Should we not at least expect consistency on the part of our supposed leaders who are really not experts in any area of international law or diplomacy? For example, they told us repeatedly that the reason for asking for settlement freeze is because as we negotiate, Israel has made a Palestinian state impossible with continued eating away what is left of Palestine. Now Palestinians have access to 8.3% of the land of Historic Palestine and this is shrinking (the Bantustans in the Galilee, Negev, Gaza and WB). Since Israel continued to build everywhere even after they announced a “partial settlement building moratorium”, why do you agree to go back to negotiations? If Netanyahu and all his ministers say there is never going to be a compromise on Jerusalem (illegally annexed by Israel according to International law), how will you force his government to change its mind? And how will you deal with the fact that Israeli politicians of all stripes say Palestinian refugees can’t return to their homes and lands and must instead be settled elsewhere (including the already over-crowded West Bank and Gaza of which half the population is refugees and displaced persons)? Is compromise now defined as you can bring any issues to the table of bilateral negotiations to which the occupiers already said they will just say no?
Our “leaders” knows that not only they had to cave in to go back to the negotiations but that further concessions are required to continue to fund their Bantustan economy (and VIP status) from Western donors and Arab countries beholden to the West. So why do they try to give out the notion that bilateral negotiations can succeed under such circumstances? If you can be threatened with a cut-off of aid to go back to fruitless negotiations, why do we believe that you can resist pressure to cut off aid unless you give up on Jerusalem or the refugees? Palestinian negotiators already are not allowed to raise the issue of treatment of Palestinians inside the state of Israel where Israel is demolishing whole villages. So many further concessions are needed to maintain the privileges of running the autonomy areas with money from the West and compliant Arab states? I believe at this stage, three more concessions were needed: a) to return to endless direct and public negotiations that prop-up the Israeli government (and could break the increasing isolation of this pariah state) , b) to retract the very mild measure of boycotting settlement products and refrain from supporting International investigations into Israeli war crimes or legal proceedings to hold it accountable, and c) to continue to suppress local resistance in all its forms.
Some might dispute this and claim that the PA supports popular resistance (and suppresses armed resistance). But unfortunately the facts of the last year tell a different story. Could they please come to places like Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and Jayyus and explain to the people what had happened to end the popular resistance in those and dozens of other places? Could they explain why popular resistance in many places that used to be costly to the occupation is now ritualized media stunts. Could they meet with people who engage in real popular resistance regularly and are volunteers and not paid employees of the PA and ask them what are the challenges they face? The answers would be scandalous.
I am making three challenges here to all those who will be negotiating with Israeli politicians. 1) I challenge you to come and tie yourself to an Israeli bulldozer (or sit in front of one) in an act of civil disobedience, and 2) I challenge you to convene panels of independent experts (not those profiting) in every major Palestinian population center to discuss the direction of Oslo accords and what has transpired in the last 20 years, and 3) based on 1 and 2, speak truth to the people. Much more sacrifices will be needed and are coming from our people with or without honest leadership. Would it not be more dignified and more likely to give us freedom if we have to do without the foreign aid for one or two years?
And sorry, past good deeds 20 years ago do not give ANYONE the right to give up on Palestinian rights. In international law, even duly elected leaders of occupied people cannot give away their people’s rights. Our lives are nothing compared to 5,000 years of our people’s history in this land. And even the struggle against Zionism has already lasted 130 year including life times of many who “negotiated”. Who now remembers Hassan Dajani who tried to accommodate with the British occupation because of a balance of power. History will not be kind to those who give-up on their own people. We the common people, must take matters into our own hands. ولا يغير الله ما بقوم حتى يغيروا ما بأنفسهم
Confucius added “To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.”
Other relevant articles on this subject
While President Barack Obama pressures Palestinians to re-engage in direct peace talks, and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu loftily counsels President Mahmoud Abbas not to miss the opportunity, recent demolitions within the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel continue unabated and unaddressed. According to OCHA, July and August have marked the highest number of demolitions this year. As of the end of July, OCHA reports Israeli forces have destroyed over 230 structures effectively displacing and/or affecting over 1,100 Palestinians, including 400 children since the beginning of 2010.
Analysis by Israeli Paper Haaretz: Netanyahu has won, for now
Economic emptiness in Palestine and Israel By Sam Bahour
RAMADAN KAREEM FROM THE NETANYAHU AND OBAMA ADMINISTRATIONS by Jeff Halper
Palestine: Occupied, Divided, Isolated, Oppressed and Unaided by Stephen Lendman
And as always, come visit us in occupied Palestine…
We simply believe that the views should be balanced. It’s all a question of measure. Just like there can’t be 100 percent males in the workplace. It can’t be that only one side is heard in the classroom.
We are willing to acknowledge that anti-Zionist sentiments are present in the university, but refuse to accept that it should be forced down the students’ throats.”
Right-wing group Im Tirzu threatens BGU donations
Ben-Gurion University: Efforts by Im Tirtzu “reek of McCarthyism.”
The publication sparked a storm of public and media responses surrounding the issue of academic freedom and financial boycotts of universities.
“We will request that all the donors submit their contributions to a trust fund managed by a lawyer, to be released to the university after it is factually proved that the bias that exists in the department, as expressed in the faculty make-up and the syllabus content, is remedied,” added the letter.
“Six out of the 11 faculty members have signed a petition calling on soldiers to refuse to serve in the West Bank. Two research fellows are known to have anti- Zionist beliefs. Eight out of 19 external lecturers express radical leftist positions and our research shows that there is a sharp slant in the program’s syllabus, which is characterized by its anti-nationalist and anti-Zionist content,” he continued.
“Heading the department is Dr. Neve Gordon, who has repeatedly called for an international academic, cultural and economic boycott of Israel.
Netanyahu and Obama Administrations
Yesterday, the day before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began, at 2:30 in the morning, workers sent by the Israeli authorities, protected by dozens of police, destroyed the tombstones in the last portion of the Mamilla cemetery, an historic Muslim burial ground with graves going back to the 7th Century, hitherto left untouched. The government of Israel has always been fully cognizant of the sanctity and historic significance of the site. Already in 1948, when control of the cemetery reverted to Israel, the Israeli Religious Affairs Ministry recognized Mamilla “to be one of the most prominent Muslim cemeteries, where seventy thousand Muslim warriors of [Saladin’s] armies are interred along with many Muslim scholars. Israel will always know to protect and respect this site.” For all that, and despite (proper) Israeli outrage when Jewish cemeteries are desecrated anywhere in the world, the dismantlement of the Mamilla cemetery has been systematic. In the 1960s “Independence Park” was built over a portion of it; subsequently an urban road was built through it, major electrical cables were laid over graves and a parking lot constructed over yet another piece. Now some 1,500 Muslim graves have been cleared in several nighttime operations to make way for…..a $100 million Museum of Tolerance and Human Dignity, a project of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. (Ironically, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Wiesenthal Center’s Director, appeared on Fox News to express his opposition to the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan, because the site of the 9/11 attack “is a cemetery.”)
The month-long period between Netanyahu’s July 6th visit to Washington and the start of Ramadan has provided Israel with a window to “clear the table” after a frustrating hiatus on home demolitions imposed by the “old,” mildly critical Obama Administration – although there is no guarantee that Israel will not demolish during Ramadan, especially if it wants to exploit the period until the November elections, knowing that until then Obama will not overtly oppose anything it does in the Occupied Territories. In fact, the process of demolishing Palestinian homes never ceased. On June 6th, for example, a year after the demolition of more than 65 structures and the forced displacement of more than 120 people, including 66 children, nine families of Khirbet Ar Ras Ahmar in the Jordan Valley, totaling 70 people, received a new round of “evacuation orders.” A week later the Israeli High Court ordered the Civil Administration to “step up enforcement against illegal Palestinian structures” in Area C, the 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli control.
And so, on July 13th, upon Netanyahu’s return (Palestinian homes are not demolished without an OK from the Prime Minister’s Office), three homes were demolished in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, followed by three more homes in Beit Hanina. The Jerusalem Municipality also announced the planned demolition of 19 more homes in Issawiya this month. In the West Bank, the Israeli “Civil” Administration demolished 55 structures belonging to 22 Palestinian families in the Hmayer area of Al Farisiye in the northern Jordan Valley, including 22 residential tents and 30 other structures used to shelter animals and store agricultural equipment. According to the UN’s Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): “This week [July 14-20, the week of Netanyahu’s return from Washington] there was a significant increase in the number of demolitions in Area C, with at least 86 structures demolished in the Jordan Valley and the southern West Bank, including Bethlehem and Hebron districts. In 2010, at least 230 Palestinian structures have been demolished in Area C, forcibly displacing 1100 people, including 400 children. Approximately 600 others have been otherwise affected.” Two-thirds of the demolitions for 2010 have occurred since Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama. More than 3,000 demolition orders are outstanding in the West Bank, and up to 15,000 in Palestinian East Jerusalem.
The demolition of homes is, of course, only a small, if painful, part of the destruction Israel wreaks daily on the Palestinian population. Over the past few weeks a violent campaign has been waged against Palestinian farmers in one of the most fertile agricultural areas of the West Bank, the Baka Valley, steadily being encroached upon by large suburbs of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, in Hebron. Israel already takes 85% of the West Bank’s water for its own use, either for settlements (settlers use five times more water per capita as do Palestinians, and Ma’aleh Adumim is currently building a water park in addition to its four municipal swimming pools and the huge fountains constantly flowing in the city center) or to be pumped into Israel proper – all in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an Occupying Power from using the resources of an occupied territory.
Accusing the farmers of “stealing water” – their own water – the Israel water company Mekorot, supported by the Civil Administration and the IDF, has in recent weeks destroyed dozens of wells, some of them ancient, and reservoirs used to collect rain water, which is also “illegal.” Hundreds of hectares of agricultural land have dried up as irrigation pipes have been pulled out and confiscated by the Civil Administration. Fields of tomatoes, beans, eggplants and cucumbers are dying just before they can be harvested, and the grape industry in this rich valley is threatened with destruction. “I’m watching my life dry up before my eyes,” says Ata Jaber, a Palestinian farmer who has had his home demolished twice, most of whose land lies buried under the Givat Harsina neighborhood of Kiryat Arba and whose plastic drip irrigation pipes are destroyed annually by the Civil Administration just before he can harvest. “I had hoped to sell my crop for at least $2000 before Ramadan, but all is gone.”
Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).
Trying to protect your home results in the following…
Also see THIS post by Khalid Amayreh
Mosque and myth
The prevailing disputation over the right of Muslim Americans to build a community centre and mosque a short distance from the site of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks has garnered plenty of headlines in the past few days. The controversy calls for an honest reappraisal of the precise position of Muslim Americans in the United States. The altercation has polarised US public opinion and raised tension in the Arab and Muslim world.
“It saddens me to think that people don’t understand what building this mosque on hallowed ground really represents,” pontificated Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska, infamous running mate of 2008 Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain, and an iconic figure of the war-mongering neoconservatives and discredited Republican far-right.
Another icon of the bellicose right, Newt Gingrich, was quoted in Fox News as lambasting the construction of an Islamic centre “right at the edge of a place where, let’s be clear, thousands of Americans were killed in an attack by radical Islamists.”
The irony, wrote Anthony DiMaggio, author of Permanent War and who taught Middle East politics at Illinois State University, is that the brouhaha is “a manufactured controversy”. DiMaggio dismissed the fracas a “racist uproar” and denounced the right-wing radio and television campaign in America for framing Islam as “radical, fundamentalist and a threat to national security”.
Worse, US President Barack Obama was denigrated as a “closet Muslim terrorist” for publicly lending support to the construction of the Islamic centre so close as it is to Ground Zero in New York. “Obama is a non-citizen,” his detractors contended. This latter accusation strikes at the very heart of the concept of citizenship rights and national identity.
The complexities of belonging cannot be relegated to the realm of academic treatises. The vast majority of Muslim Americans are law- abiding citizens intent on exercising their right to freely exercise the tenants of their own religion. This particular right lies at the heart of the perceiving identity — including religious identity — as a political problem in a nation that prides itself in the secular dispensation of its constitution and raison d’être.
Moreover, this particular fundamental right is in accordance with the First Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights that has constituted the foundation of American freedom for over 200 years. Be that as it may, religion from the inception of the US has been a major marker of identity.
Gender and race have traditionally been the key prerequisites of identity politics in the US. Since 9/11 religion has become the primary focus of political identity in the US. Shifting criterion for eligibility to a notion of “American belonging” is underway.
An African-American candidate has, theoretically at least, as much a chance of winning a presidential election as an Irish American. The possibility of a Muslim American winning a landslide victory in any presidential election in the near future is slim, to say the least.
The pertinent question is why? According to Moataz Abdel-Fattah, associate professor of Middle East Studies at Central Michigan University, Obama’s comments must be viewed in context of the forthcoming congressional elections. The growing schism between conservatives and liberals in the US undermines the political stability of the country, the world’s superpower. “The impediments to the rights of Muslims in the US tend to be cultural rather than political or legal. The curtailment of the freedoms of Muslims is two-fold. First, the theological bias of the Judeo-Christian tradition prevalent in the US perpetuates the myth that Islam is an exotic religion, alien to the American people and culture and there is a widespread belief that Mohamed is not a prophet,” Abdel-Fattah told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“Moreover, Muslims tend to adopt more conservative lifestyles and rarely intermingle with non-Muslims. This insular aspect of Muslim culture in predominantly non-Muslim America, coupled with taboos on preaching Islam has traditionally worked to isolate Muslims in America and perpetrate stereotypes about Islam.”
Abdel-Fattah, however, noted that one positive side effect of 9/11 was the increased curiosity of ordinary Americans about Islam. “I personally meet hundreds of people who ask me about Islam as a religion and there has been an increase in the number of Muslim faculty members at Michigan University. Indeed, Muslim Studies departments in institutions of higher learning have replaced the Black Studies departments as the new novelty in American academia.”
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the American Muslim community was in disarray. Their reticence was only part of the problem. Into the breach stepped President Obama, the first African-American to hold America’s top job. He was also the first US president whose father was a Muslim and whose sister is a practising Muslim. His middle name is Hussein.
It is not unusual for Americans to speak frankly about their presidents’ foibles. Obama isn’t quite the secular saint of legend. Nor is he a liberal per se. Obama’s defence of building a Muslim community centre in lower Manhattan was applauded as a “brave step”.
It is astonishing to recall how little was known publicly about Islam as a world religion, or about America’s Muslims before 9/11.
Far from undermining the myth of Muslim Americans as fifth columnists, Muslims in America were dismissed as self-serving, conniving and exploitative.
This year, Eid Al-Fitr coincides with the ninth anniversary of 9/11. This brings the story up to date through the post-Bush years when the Obama administration set the tone of the new face of America. An African-American president of partially Muslim familial background led America from the front and championed the rights of the underdog, or so he was celebrated. “We understand that he wants to change the agenda. We also understand the constraints, tremendous pressures and limitations he must labour under,” noted Abdel-Fattah. “Obama’s message that America is not at war with Islam was well-received.”