Bethlehem, the Wall and the Verboten Other

December 20, 2014

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The CBC ran a feel-good piece on Friday night, a warm and fuzzy Christmas story about 4 Jewish women coming to Bethlehem as part of a tour group.They of course had to get special permission because Israeli Jews can not enter Bethlehem versa without the strictest permissions.
This is the racist state’s long thought out policy to keep the two groups apart. They simply do not want israelis to see Palestinians as the Other. This way it is easier to stereotype and continue the policy of incremental genocide, pushing the Palestinians out “dunam by dunam, goat by goat.’” They go about their dehumanizing policies  slowly so as not to get their protector the USA too angry.

To anybody who has been to bethlehem the story was hilarious. The lovely Jewish women had a ball. They were received with typical Palestinian hospitality. They were invited into homes for dinner but oyvey, their husbands and family were going crazy with worry. They had bought the Kool aid that the Palestinians are savages who want to kill us etc.

One poor chump phoned his wife 3 times asking her if she was all right!
Now there are Jews in palestine 500,000 settlers in the West Bank who live there in violation of international law. They travel on “Jews only” roads and never have to meet the dreaded Palestinians. They surrounded by guard towers laughing at the USA as they establish “facts on the ground” so there can never be a contiguous palestinian state their blood brothers. The Separation Wall is well named. Keeping people apart is the evil, inhuman policy which guarantees Israelis will never have to meet “the Other.”
Needless to say the four women had a ball but their families are still encased in a bubble of fear

Pope Francis and ‘the signs of the times”

December 19, 2014

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Pope Francis urged the Catholic Church’s top theologians on December 13 to listen to what ordinary Catholics have to say and pay attention to the “signs of the times,” rather than just making pronouncements in an academic vacuum.

 

The pontiff told International Theological Commission that they must “humbly listen” to what God tells the church by understanding Scripture but also by taking into account how ordinary Catholics live out their faith.

 

“Together with all Christians, theologians must open their eyes and ears to the signs of the times,” Francis said. He should have been speaking to the worldwide College of bishops as well. The theologians are the least of his problems.

 

This must be shocking news to the JPll/Ratzinger bishops who acted as if the Holy Spirit was their private preserve.Most of these are still autistic when it comes to the signs of the times especially to the sign that that we are collectively destroying the earth.The biggest moral issue of our time of course is climate justice, a “sign of the time” which is so stark and self-evident that it is beyond discussion.Creation is being mangled in the name of profit and the instityutional church ciollectively is doing litthle about it.

 

But apparently it is to these men.The best example was Cardinal Dolan’s absence from the 400,000 person march on behalf of the climate in New York city.Like many of his bishop friends raised to the purple for their slavish obeisance to Rome and not to the “sensus fidelium”, Dolan was missing in action.

 

As are most of these bishops.It would be interesting given the severity and seriousness of the issue to see how many have any pastoral plans on the go.

 

Poor Francis, a general with few episcopal troops in his army.

Hanukkah abused by Netanyahu

December 18, 2014

Wednesday morning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proudly sent around joyous picture of how he views Hanukkah. it was the first day of the Festival of Lights.This holiday ranks quite low  in the Jewish canon and  as such was hijacked by Zionism. Originally a time of contemplation and gratitude, with ideologues like Netanyahu it now serves as a model of Jewish nationalism. with Likudniks  it salutes the tough Jew, the new Hebrew rather than the traditional Torah Jew who championed interiority,humility and compassion.In capitalist America it gives Jews a chance to compete with Christians in the consumer orgy of “the holiday season.

Here’s the bellicose PM with guard dogs and 2 members of the IDF looking like members of the NRA.

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Such is the season of peace in Israel.

After lighting the first Hanukkah candle Netanyahu then launched into an absurd paean of praise for the IDF,”the most moral army in the world’. That is Netanyahu’s world.This is an army which regularly dehumanizes  and humiiiates Palestinians.

These sad leaders are locked into an out of date bellicose, macho worldview inimical to peace and understanding.They will even stoop to co-opt the sacred symbols of Judaism.Wait till you see what they do with passover and the liberation of the oppressed.

Happy Hanukkah, Mr Prime Minister!

Another Religious Jew of Conscience

December 17, 2014

Judah Magnes was an American reform rabbi and founding president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But even more importantly, he preached the ideal of coexistence built on equality and self-determination for both Palestinians and Jews.His prophetic instinct that the failure to address “the Arab” question would undo the new state of Israel.this would prove to be the original sin of Zionism.

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Charley Manekin

 
So at the age of 54, Charley Manekin, a professor of philosophy and Orthodox Jewish studies in Baltimore and Israel started a blog, The Magnes Zionist, in which he began to publicize updated versions of Rabbi Magnes’ views and testimonies. As a Catholic well acquainted with Magnes prophetic work, I have been devouring the Magnes Zionist for years. He is simply a Jew of conscience who has seen first hand the parlous state of his beloved Israel and the damage Israel has done to Judaism itself.

 
In the last decade these marvelous Jews of conscience have found their voice.They are no longer afraid of the bullies at AIPAC; they have moved beyond the self-censorship and pressure from families whom have reflexively supported the Jewish state and everything done it in its name.This led Charley to Jewish Voice for Peace as he describes it, “the only Jewish organization I know that fully embodies those ideals today—justice, equality and freedom for both peoples.” And let’s face, it organizations are needed to speak collectively for justice in Israel/Palestine.

 
How did an Orthodox Jew and an American Israeli end up like this? the Magnes Zionist says,”The answer is simple. I was raised by my parents with solid humanist values. In fact, my family’s Judaism was inconceivable without those values. It never would have occurred to me that a commitment to justice could clash with a commitment to Jewish peoplehood.”

 

 

But then Charley Manekin aka the Magnes Zionist moved to Israel and saw that clash constantly “in the treatment of women in the religious court system, in the treatment of non-orthodox religious denominations, but above all, in the treatment of the Palestinian people, whether living under occupation, or as citizens excluded from Jewish nation state, or as refugees from their Palestinian homeland.”

 

Still, he wanted to believe that Israel had the inner strength to deal with its problems on its own, and so he supported liberal Zionist parties.

 

 

It took the breakdown of the Oslo accords, and the brutal suppression of the Second Intifada to convince me that what was needed was a genuine partnership between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, and a willingness to think outside the tribal box.

 

Israel/Palestine is now his home, but it is also the home of millions of others. The people who live there are not enemies but rather potential allies in dispelling the darkness of chauvinism, bigotry, and excessive tribalism.

 

So now Charlie asks Americans to support the Jewish Voice for Peace 1611 Telegraph Ave, Suite 1020 Oakland CA 94  612
510.465.1777

 

 

But I am a Canadian who wishes to keep my plummeting dollar in Canada so i am sending my Hanukkah/Christmas money to the very brave Canadian analogue to the JVP, our very own Independent Jewish Voices     http://ijvcanada.org

Independent Jewish Voices PO Box 26113 MPO
Winnipeg  MB
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In Nazareth the whole world was watching

December 16, 2014

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On July 17,1948 Ben Dunkelman a 35 year old Jew from Toronto was commanding the Israeli forces which the previous day had conquered the Galilean city of Nazareth. The World War ll vet, an expert on the use of mortars, brazenly refused the order from his superiors to expel the local population.

 
He later wrote that this was “one of the most sanctified shrines of the Christian world”(Jesus’ hometown)and was thus aware of the very bad optics and the “severe international repercussions” of such an action.”

 
Lest the halo shine too brightly on this fellow Canadian’s moral scruples, the Seventh Brigade according to historian Ilan Pappe was particularly known for their barbarous behaviour.

 
This was all part of Plan D, which had been agreed on in March.It simply meant “transfer” a nice euphemism for kicking out native Palestinians from the country they had been part of for eons. From the text of this plan—“In the event of resistance, the armed force must be wiped out and the population must be expelled outside the borders of the state”; and the razing of their villages: “Destruction of villages (setting fire to, blowing up, and planting mines in the debris), especially those population centers which are difficult to control.

 
Previously the locals in Nazareth had agreed to surrender on one condition—they would be left alone and allowed to stay.The next day he received a direct order from General Moshe Karmil his superior to depopulate the city. Dunkelman refused on the grounds that he had pledged to leave the population alone. Karmil immediately asked his boss, the Defense Minister and Prime Minister Ben Gurion .The latter allowed the locals to stay. His cynical remark says it all:”Here the world is watching us.”

 
The decision ultimately gave Ben Gurion ulcers.750,000 Palestinians were expelled and a few towns and small cities were allowed to stay.Nazareth was one.

 
When he toured the Galilee in 1953 he was outraged at the presence of so many Arabs ”It is not enough to expel the foreign invader (Palestinians!), we have to replace with Hebrew settlers.”

 

 

Today Nazareth is still the only Arab city, in the whole state. Since it is in Israel proper and not the Occupied Territories many Jews now live there in the more commodious Upper Nazareth—but that’s a story for another time.

 

 

Now more than ever,”the whole world is watchng”.

Israelis are fed up with Netanyahu

December 14, 2014

ISRAELIS ARE fed up with Binyamin Netanyahu. They are fed up with the government. They are fed up with all political parties. They are fed up with themselves. They are fed up.
So begins 91 year old Uri Avnery’s latest column.

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Credentials impeccable: fought in the 1948 war which established the state of Israel, then sat in the Knesset.
Now like many Jews of conscience he watches as Israel rapidly implodes. all under the catastrophic misleadership of the territoirial expansionist and Arab hater, Bibi Netanyahu.

Uri refreshes our memory:.
In 2000, In the evening after the election, when it was announced that Netanyahu had been defeated, there was an explosion of enthusiasm. Tens of thousands of delirious citizens streamed spontaneously to Tel Aviv’s central Rabin Square and cheered the savior, Ehud Barak, the leader of the Labor Party. He announced the Dawn of Another Day.
Safdly the jubilation was premature!
Unfortunately, Barak turned out to be a sociopath and an egomaniac, if not a megalomaniac. He missed the chance of peace at the Camp David conference and in the process almost completely destroyed the Israeli peace movement. The Right, this time under Ariel Sharon, came back. Then under Ehud Olmert. Then under Netanyahu again. And Again.
And now again?
God forbid!

What does the future hold—new elections, maybe another Netanyahu government which woulod omly lead Israel deeper into the abyss.Uri 3 weeks ago wrote:

The Netanyahu government is leading the country towards disaster. It is systematically destroying all chances for peace, enlarging settlements in the West Bank and especially East Jerusalem, stoking the fires of a religious war on the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, denouncing both Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas at the same time. All this after the superfluous Gaza War, which ended in a military draw and a human disaster that continues unabated to this day.

At the same time, the government is bombarding the Knesset with an endless stream of racist and anti-democratic bills, each worse than the last, culminating in the bill called “Israel: the Nation-State of the Jewish People”, which eliminates the term “Jewish and Democratic State” as well as the word “Equality”.

The worst of the above is the shockingmove toward citizenship is not based on basic democratic rights but the rights of an ethnocracy.Jews in, Arab citizens out. So much for the “only democracy in the Middle East” which utterly marginalizes 20% of the country’s citzizens.

Uri holds out hope–a coalition, a bloc of centrist and leftist parties
“The declared purpose should be to put an end to the catastrophic drift of the country towards the abyss and to oust not just Netanyahu, but the whole bunch of settlers, nationalist and racist demagogues, war-mongers and religious zealots. It should appeal to all sectors of Israeli society, women and men, Jews and Arabs, Orientals and Ashkenazis, secular and religious, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants. All those who fear for the future of Israel and are resolved to save it.”

 

Good luck,Uri, a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Where’s Woodrow Wilson now?

December 10, 2014

 

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In 1919 as the Ottoman Empire was dissolving and France and Britain were licking their imperialist chops over the Mandates they were about to govern,Woodrow Wilson the idealist president, the son of a Presbyterian minister created the Crane-King Commission to actually ask the Arabic peoples of the region what they thought. The president believed in the idea of self-determination.What did the natives think?

 

Two things, They were terrified of Zionism,the gradual takeover of Palestine and secondly, they all wanted the US to become their protector in that part of the world. Such was the reputation of Wilson’s America at that time. There was this Presbyterian sense of fairness and justice. Forget the fact that the Commission’s prophetic report was never acted on and train your eyes on the latest scandal of torture and lies which are degrading both the CIA and the clownish Bush who presided over the empire’s latest fall from grace.

 
This should not be news to the wide awake, those who read and pay attention.

 
By the time of the 30s the USA was well on its way to becoming an empire and when the supposedly idealist president FDR was asked about the US’s support of the dictadura(the harsh dictator) Somoza in Nicaragua, he replied,”He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” And so it has gone. There is no such thing as a benevolent empire.

 
So a year (1967) to the day that he was murdered Martin Luther King Jr. called out his own country “as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world”, People were shocked. King was dead on.The Vietnam war was in full flight, a catastrophe which saw a minimum of 1 million Vietnamese civilians killed…and this was followed by Chile ,El Salvador, Guatemala, Indonesia etc.
Nobody should be shocked at these revelations.
The United States along time ago ceased to be the”shining city on a hill” as Winthrtop called it in the 17th century.

Where’s Woodrow Wilson when you need him?

The Perils of Sportsworld

December 9, 2014

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“He is one of the most known athletes in the world and a lot of impact in any kind of sport that he did. Even playing hockey, everyone knows him. From being the type of person he was off the ice and on the ice. But you know he changed a lot while he was with us. He’s a tremendous guy.”

So said Toronto Maple Leaf goalie Jonathan Bernier about Nelson Mandela.
The latter the late anti-apartheid campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner was honoured before Friday’s Toronto Raptor’s game.Many pro athletes were invited to speak and poor Bernier was caught off guard and further embarrassed when his clueless remarks were posted ever so briefly on the Raptor’s website.
Bernier was needlessly humiliated ever so briefly by the doofus who put his comments on the Raptor website..
The goalie,whose first language is French was contrite.
“I’m embarrassed.  I didn’t mean to offend him, his legacy. I got flustered with the red carpet and I was nervous. I think everyone makes mistakes and that was me that night,”

Two things need to be said here.
Why was Mandela feted at a basketball game? This was totally ridiculous given that most of the athletes assembled did little or nothing to end apartheid when Mandela was alive.
This event promoted by the African born GM of the Raptors Masai Ujiri, who was born and raised in Nigeria— was ill conceived.A very nice man–like Bernier—his tribute was personal, too late and irrelevant, a feelgood project he might better have pursued on his own time.
Most pro athletes as writer Rosie Dimanno wrote in her column are so fixated on their brief careers that they traditionally have spent little time on any social cause. It is all about them and their careers. That is just the nature of the beast.I have always admired Canadian hockey players as fundamentally down to earth nice people. I have known many personally but this does not take away from the reality.

Given their humungous salaries, most never will develop a strong social conscience.Their life trajectory has been largely set in stone.few will break through the blandishments of Sportsworld. It is not easy to extricate oneself from the voracious jaws of capitalist excess. Most simply go along for their privileged ride.This is what Sportsworld is all about.It is a self-enclosed planet of distraction, a fun place to visit periodically but if you live there your moral integrity will be severely compromised.You can count on one hand the pro athletes who even in retirement became passionate about planetary issues or even serious citizenship.
Finally, Leaf management needs to protect their players from such gaffes in the future.

Netanyahu the Second Class Citizenship Man

December 5, 2014

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Facebook Postings: Second Class Citizenship

Palestinian legislators among others in the Israeli Parliament criticized a controversial new bill defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The proposed legislation, which was approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on November 30 is expected to get its first reading in the parliament, or Knesset, next week.
It is designed to demote Arabic – spoken by the fifth of the population who belong to the country’s Palestinian minority – from its current status as an official language, and makes “Jewish tradition” and “the prophets of Israel” a primary source of legal and judicial authority.
More specifically, it formally defines Israel as belonging to Jews around the world rather than to its citizens, which includes 1.5 million Palestinians.
Bull-headed Netayahu a lifelong expansionist Israeli, the true son of his father an idolator of the Likud guru Zeev Jabotinsky, wants all of the West Bank for Israel.
Israel,the only true democracy in the west—sounds very hollow today.
Look how far Israel has come from simply wanting a “homeland” to live side by side with the Palestinian people to, all right we were lying, we always wanted a state.and then the Declaration of Independence in 1948 (to appease a slumbering world) it in Paragraph 13 assured complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; based on the prophetsof Israel…

Based on the prophets…as Jackie Gleason used to say, “Dat’s rich!”
Adalah the Haifa based centre for Palestinian Rights  stated that there are more than 55 laws that confer superior status on Jewish citizens.
That is the meaning of an ethnocracy,not a democracy.

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Next Year in Warsaw, not Jerusalem

December 1, 2014

When I was an honorary Jew after my book Shabbes Goy:A Catholic Boyhood came out in 2002 I was often invited to synagogues to speak.I was always at home there because I never felt the urge to condescend to the audience.

 

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Sadly many Catholics treat Jews as “rarae aves”, rare birds entirely different deserving of a special status because of the Holocaust. Luckily because of a historical accident,that of growing up with many Jews I never felt the need to descend to such depths.This always made my encounters rich, honest and often funny.
My remarks usually dealt with the world of the 40s and 50s which I cohabited with Jewish people. at that time the injustice to Palestinians never arose as it was not germane to my memoir.

 
However in question periods the audience often asked me about contemporary events.remember this was right after 9/11.My stock answer was this—and remember I was speaking in a synagogue where I deeply respected Torah Judaism: You are no longer a powerless minority. Many of you have achieved success and respect here in Canada.You should never allow any group (e.g. Muslims) to be treated like you were in the bad,old days. This will require some sensitivity because of the Middle East but this is a Toarh command to look after the sojourners among you.

 
I was never afraid to gently needle them with lines like, “You know this is the promised land,not Israel.All of you have decided not to make aliyah to the “Jewish State.”

 
Basically they really were not Zionists.They were the true descendants of the Haskala, the Jewish enlightenment of the 19th century.You chose assimilation in Western secular culture—and it worked! You have achieved great success and added immeasurably to the Canadian culture while remaining Jewish.

 
Now,of course, I knew all about the “guilt merchants” of Israel who came regularly to North America and tried, often quite successfully, to shame Jews here into ponying up money for Israel.This was largely an ugly Likud dirty trick and it made many Jews reluctant Zionists, supporting everything Israel did. Now of course that consensus has been broken.Young people nourished on liberal, democratic values based on human rights, have fled the synagogue and for good reasons are quite critical of modern day Israel.
That brilliant Jewish American writer Philip Roth has made a career of ridiculing the bourgeois Judaism of North America. In his hilarious novel, Operation Shylock, (1988) Roth writes about Jews of the haskala who decided to remain here and not go to Israel. Try not to laugh when reading this:

 
What does owning Jerusalem, of all places, have to do with being Jews in 1988? Jerusalem is by now the worst thing that could possibly have happened to us. Last year in Jerusalem! Next year in Warsaw! Next year in Bucharest! Next year in Vilna and Cracow! Look, I know people call Diasporism a revolutionary idea, but it’s not a revolution that I’m proposing, it’s a retroversion, a turning back, the very thing Zionism itself once was. You go back to the crossing point and cross back the other way. Zionism went back too far, that’s what went wrong with Zionism. Zionism went back to the crossing point of the dispersion—Diasporism goes back to the crossing point of Zionism.”

 

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