Israeli politics have moved into uncharted territory over the past several months, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found himself unable to form a coalition large enough to claim victory in last spring’s elections. However, even as the Israeli state enters into political turmoil at home, it is becoming increasingly immune to criticism from the international community abroad. In May, Germany’s government passed an anti-BDS resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, a nonviolent campaign to protest Israel’s military occupation of Palestine...
My own family history has no connection to the Holocaust. My family were Zionists who came to colonize Palestine in the 1920’s and so even though I knew about the Holocaust and I knew people who were survivors, I have no personal connection to it. I never thought I would write about events relating to the Holocaust either, but then something happened. Working on a book about the Haredi Jewish community, I was curious to see the places from which they came. I have been in touch and made friends with many people within the Ultra Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and London and many if not most are the children and grandchildren of survivors of the Holocaust.
A leaked internal memo reveals the Anti-Defamation League thought "anti-BDS" laws making it illegal to boycott Israel were "unconstitutional" and would be "harmful to the Jewish community" and give "the appearance that the Jewish community exercises undue influence in government," but they backed them anyways, according to a bombshell new report from the Jewish Daily Forward.
Haaretz reported Tuesday that the Birthright program has seen a sharp drop in participation rates this winter season, mainly among Jews from the U.S., the country that provides “by far” the largest number of participants. Birthright is a free 10-day trip offered to young Jews ages 18 to 26 (now raised to age 32). It has brought hundreds of thousands of Jewish youth from around the world to Israel with the goal of increasing their identification with the Jewish State. Haaretz says the plummeting numbers are “unprecedented,” and although the program has seen dips before, it has never experienced “a downturn of this magnitude,” unrelated to any “security situation.”
Like you, I care about “Jewish values” but I long ago gave up on the idea that Israel, and the Zionism that created and sustains the Jewish State, would protect those values. We should both be clear about what those Jewish values are. They’re to be found in the Hebrew bible and are the ideas that have stood the test of time and been passed on to the world through Christianity and Islam: The innate equality of all humanity; a bias towards the poor, the downtrodden and the marginalised; and a committment to speak out against the wrong-doing of authority. In your statement on Friday you list what happens when these values are lost: “violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power”. But to protect those Jewish values you have to push yourself beyond Zionism, especially of the liberal variety that sees today’s violence and inequality as merely a derailment from Zionism’s true course.
BOSTON, MA: This morning, on the fourth day of Passover, Boston Jewish Millennials locked themselves to the Israeli Consulate of New England and called for an end to Israeli violence against Palestinian protesters in Gaza, which resulted in the death of 17 protesters while injuring more than 1,000 others last week — the deadliest day in Israel/Palestine since the 2014 Gaza War, also known as Operation Protective Edge. “At the Passover Seder, my family and I talk about our community’s journey toward freedom as part of an ancient ritual done in Jewish households across the world. After over a decade of the Israeli blockade and three bombardments, that is exactly what Palestinians in Gaza want: freedom,” said Sarah O’Connor, who was one of eight IfNotNow members that chained themselves to the doors of the Israeli consulate.
The Hareidi communities around the world — including the one in Jerusalem, which has existed in the city’s neighborhood of Me’a Sha’arim for close to two hundred years — were opposed to the creation of a Jewish only state in historic Palestine, and today they stand in opposition to a new ruling forcing them to serve in the Israeli army. From the early years of the 20th century, the major Rabbis who represented these communities fought hard to demonstrate that Zionism does not represent Judaism and that establishing a Jewish state in Palestine would only bring violence and instability, and in fact, contravenes Jewish law. But their calls were not heeded and their warnings went largely disregarded the Zionist project went forward and the Jewish state was established. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the Hareidi community was faced with a reality in which, contrary to their wishes and beliefs, they became citizens of this new state. For them, serving in the Israeli army was tantamount to sacrilege. The Israeli army is a completely secular institution and, although there is a chief Rabbi and some Jewish laws are loosely observed, it is an environment which no Hareidi Jew could survive without giving up his religious identity and way of life. The one main issue that is raised more than any other is the prohibition on waging war.
By Nir Hasson for Haaretz - Earlier Saturday, a Palestinian was shot dead after wounding two civilians and a border policeman with a knife in Jerusalem's Old City. One of the organizers, Itamar Avneri, said the incident "was a painful reminder of the price of the occupation. We convey wishes of swift recovery to the wounded, and hope we don't see any more such incidents or fear on the city's streets. This has to end." The march began at Gan Hasus in the city's center and concluded in the Old City with a rally near Jaffa Gate. Knesset Member Zehava Galon, the chairwoman of the Meretz party, addressed the rally, saying: "We can't keep the conflict with the Palestinians on the back burner, when the flame is on top of a barrel bomb. The stabbing attack in the Old City exposes the illusion that it's possible to deprive an entire people of rights and sovereignty without the desperation turning into horrible hatred and violence."
By John Zangas and Mark Hand for DC Media Group - Hundreds of Jewish people marched Dec. 14 from Freedom Plaza to the new Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, where they protested a prominent Jewish organization’s decision to hold a Hanukkah party at the hotel owned by the president-elect. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations co-hosted the Hanukkah party with the embassy of Azerbaijan. “We’re not happy that the Conference of Presidents chose to cozy up to power and be complicit in Trump’s presidency by holding their Hanukkah party in Trump’s hotel,”...
By Mark Hand for DC Media Group - Protesters gathered at the Washington, DC, headquarters of Donald Trump’s transition team on Nov. 17 to denounce the hatred and anti-Semitism they believe the president-elect and his close adviser Steve Bannon stirred up during the Republican’s presidential campaign. The protesters, many affiliated with a group called IfNotNow, urged Trump to fire his soon-to-be top strategist Bannon, who also serves as executive chairman of the far right-wing news site Breitbart News.
By Wilson Dizard for Mondoweiss. Rabbi Brant Rosen takes on the T’ruah statement, which he says he finds, “much more disturbing than the one released by the Boston JCRC. While the latter group has always sought to counter the growth of the BLM movement, T’ruah purports to stand in solidarity with them.” Rosen continues, “T’ruah does not give the BLM ‘the benefit of the doubt’ when it issues an immediate counter-statement such as this; tantamount to a group in a position of power saying to an oppressed group, ‘we will stand in solidarity with you but only on our terms.'” One striking contrast between the words of JCRC and of the activists is that they recognize that some Jews in the United States are people of color too, while JCRC treats the two groups as separate. Jewish Voice for Peace, another activist organization that marched with Black Lives Matter in Philadelphia last week during the Democratic National Convention, said it both endorsed the platform “without reservation,” and was starting to work with Jews of Color in Solidarity with Palestine, another group. The JVP statement says, “These Jewish organizations are rejecting a thorough and inspiring transformational set of policy ideas developed by a broad coalition of Black leaders simply because these Black leaders have explicitly linked the experiences and struggles of Palestinians with their own.”
By ROAR Collective for ROAR Magazine - Seventy-five years ago today, workers in Amsterdam went on a two-day General Strike against the Nazi persecution of Jews. The months preceding the strike had been tense, with Dutch Nazi organizations harassing Jews in the Jewish neighborhood. In response Jews (and non-Jewish supporters) formed self-defense groups, resulting in a series of street battles, in which one Dutch Nazi died. The Germans then sealed off the Jewish neighborhood for non-Jews.
By Renee Ghert-Zand for Times of Israel. Time Out Tel Aviv responded to the Education Ministry’s barring from a reading list for high schoolers of a novel depicting an Israeli-Palestinian love story with a video showing Jews and Arabs locking lips. This new video is modeled on the “First Kiss” video released in March 2014, which went viral before people caught on that it was actually an advertisement for a fashion line starring models. The announcement of the book’s barring led to an exceptionally high demandat bookstores throughout the country, and to a subsequent concession by the ministry that the book can be taught in schools where teachers wish to do so. According to Time Out Tel Aviv, the pairs appearing in the video are either couples, friends or total strangers. In some cases the pairs are the same sex, and in others they are not. The magazine called the kissers “brave,” saying many of the people approached had refused to participate in the project given the charged climate and touchy subject. Each of the participants provided an explanation about why they decided to pucker up for the camera.