Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Pride a rarity in Israel

October 16, 2017


I the LORD have called unto you in righteousness, and have taken hold of your hand, and submitted you as the people’s covenant, as a light unto the nations” Isaiah 42:6.



Chemi Shalev writes in Haaretz


There are many Israelis who deserve my pride and admiration, never mind the melody of HaTikvah which still manages to extract a tear, even though its lyrics have turned debatable over the years. The problem is that the moments of pride are increasingly few and far between.


A disgruntled prime minister who excels at spreading poison, along with corrupt government, embarrassing parliamentarians, shallow discourse, overbearing religion, growing nationalism, flourishing racism, diminishing tolerance, a democracy fighting for its life and the collective denial of 50 years of occupation and disenfranchisement of Palestinians – all of these have made pride a rarity and shame seem completely routine.


Many Israelis and perhaps even most Israelis would angrily reject this depiction, but for me and many Israelis of my generation, that’s the greatest shame of all. Nostalgia for the Israel that once existed has become toxic, often described as nothing more than condescending snobbism, but I would still venture that at least the dreams were rosier then. But even after one abandons the naive vision of an exemplary Jewish state that is a light unto the nations, the fact that Israel is resolutely dismantling the foundations of the proud and decent liberal democracy that it once strived to be is crushing. The reasonable assumption is that even a legion of Wonder Women can’t save us from ourselves any more, but at least on the eve of Rosh Hashanah we can pray that over the next year, pride will beat out shame. Chemi Shalev


Penguins—Victims of SportsWorld

October 11, 2017


Look at them, all those white boys meeting with Donald Trump unwilling and probably unable to understand how pathetic their actions are.
Sidney Crosby, by all reports a very decent human being, comes up with the lame,”it’s not political”excuse. It is very political. It was political when fans boycotted South African rugby tours, when Mohammed Ali refused induction into a war described by comedian Dick Gregory as “white people sending black people to kill yellow people.”




Rabbi Heschel reminded us “By whatever we do, by every act we carry out, we either advance or obstruct the drama of redemption.” There is one world and sport is not divorced from that world. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby blinded by their celebrity status, by their cocoon-like existence “obstructed the drama of redemption.” They failed the test of solidarity.


Crosby like so many cultural icons and media celebrity is sadly encased in that parallel universe called SportsWorld. In that rarified bubble, whether they like it or not, celebs  are “godded up” by fans who place them on this pedestal where nothing of societal commitment  is ever demanded of them. They are not bad people but they are indolent and intellectually slovenly because they can be when all their physical needs are looked after.


“Living easy is dangerous,” Nietzsche reminded us and these millionaire hockey players and billionaire NFL owners are unable to break out of their pampered world. Where have you ever seen any Canadian hockey star break through the confining walls of SportsWorld and become an advocate of social justice? The examples are few and far between. Even in retirement these hockey ikons accept their elevated cultural status. In effect they never grow up.


Probably the most succinct statement I have read on the victims of SportsWorld was that of Raptor’s guard Kyle Lowry: “I am a citizen before I am a basketball player.”
It is sad to see all these largely Canadian white faces used as stooges by a White house which has become the enemy of the common good, the poor and the environment.
It is depressing to see these white robots mired in f their white privilege unable to show some solidarity with the largely Afro-American football players daring to challenge a racist America.


The perils of SportsWorld.

Evil in Vegas: the craven politicians

October 4, 2017

Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut who once represented the district containing Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were killed in a 2012 school shooting. had some blunt and prophetic words after the latest and greatest mass murder in US history.


Words which will probably go unheeded as so many of these politicians are bought and paid for by 2 lobbies: guns and Israel. Talk about Love and Marriage.Guns and Israel always go together. Israel is one of the biggest gun runners in the world.its latest shameless sale was to Myanmar. Nuff said and scusi while I digress.


All over the major networks you hear the word “evil” attributed justly to the sick shooter, a sad undeveloped human being who caused such community havoc and so much pain to innocent people.


You want to talk evil? Focus on the craven politicians who yearly fail the test of integrity and decency. This is institutional evil, corruption on a grand scale which easily surpasses the sin of the deranged murderer.


Murphy reminds the world:

“Nowhere but America do horrific large-scale mass shootings happen with this degree of regularity. Last night’s massacre may go down as the deadliest in our nation’s history, but already this year there have been more mass shootings than days in the year.”

“This must stop, It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic. There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference. It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.”

And it’s time for all Americans to cease saying that America is the greatest country in the world. America leads the world in but 3 categories:

1.Number of incarcerated citizens per capita,
2 .Number of adults who believe angels are real, and
3 ,Defense spending.

Finally as we all know, the United States has more guns and gun deaths than any other developed country in the world.


Time to get off its ass.






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Don Trump, War Wimp

October 1, 2017

The magisterial series Ken Burn’s and Lynn Novick’s Vietnam brought back memories of a great groundbreaking story first read decades ago by Jack Newfield in the Village Voice. It was about the “War Wimps”, the bloviators who cheered on war but like Dick Cheney and his 6 deferments “had better things to do” or Bush Jr. who famously disappeared only later to show up a US cruiser telling all that the war in Iraq was over. Rush Limbaugh, the biggest mouth of all was the worst. No maybe it was Sylvester Stallone who hid out in Switzerland then went on to make his Rambo movies.Real tough guy.


Let us not forget Newt Gingrich, a tough-guy congressman from Georgia. Why did he opt for college during Vietnam? He says: “What difference would I have made? There was a bigger battle in Congress than Vietnam.“Sure, Newt.

Add big mouth Bill O’Reilly and Mitt Romney who biked through France as a Mormon missionary. There were tons more…like Reagan speechwriter George Will.


Michael Moore outed a whole bunch in one of his early films. Only 1 congressman had a son in Iraq, but they sure like sending other people’s kids to war. And let us not forget Nixon and Johnson—they only had daughters. War wimps. And then there’s the biggest mouth of them all Donald Trump.



Ian Crouch wrote about him in the New Yorker:

Trump’s life story is that of a man in constant flight from the cowardice he perceives in himself and others. You can see it in his odd musing, at a rally, that “I love war, in a certain way,” despite his Vietnam deferments; his obsession on the campaign trail with denigrating other people’s “stamina” and “energy”; and his blustery threat to “totally destroy” North Korea, as if he would be doing so with his own mighty fists. Or consider a story he told Howard Stern, in 2008, which was recently unearthed, of seeing an old man fall off a stage at a charity event for the Marines. The man hit his head, and blood was pouring out on a marble floor in front of Trump. “I couldn’t, you know, he was right in front of me and I turned away,” Trump said. “I didn’t want to touch him.” A group of Marines stepped in to help.

SportsWorld interrupted

September 29, 2017



On September 19 a USA federal investigation uncovered scandal that apparel companies are funneling money to top high school recruits to attend certain colleges, and that coaches at those colleges are bribed to ensure that players go on to sign with specific agents and apparel companies upon reaching the NBA.

Without going into any particulars the scandal took down a well known coach Rick Pitino of Louisville. A longtime Canadian observer of the the corrupt nexus of US college sport and money, Robert Anderson wrote:

US College sports is just a mess with the hypocrisy that collegiate games still honour the “student-athlete” tradition.  Total and increasingly nasty joke!  Big money is all over the field, the court, the jerseys of the players and the alumni and fans in their duds.  Most of the athletes are used and abused with scholarships withdrawn in the flick of an eye.  And now financial corruption and sexual scandals are coming out of the shadows.

I have never followed US College sports and never understood why otherwise rational people invested so much time and energy here. Old style Catholics wallow in nostalgia seem to actually care about ow Notre Dame did on the gridiron.To me it was all rancid sentimentality.

About 40 years ago I came to the conclusion that what New York sportswriter Bob Lipsyte called SportsWorld was deleterious to my mental and spiritual health. This was a parallel universe to the global village i lived in, too often a vale of tears for much of humanity. But, hey, I’m all right Jack!


This massive distraction served to deflect our attention from the real world. The great social critic Lewis Mumford correctly stated in 1934 that “sport is one of the least effective reactions against the machine.” The machine being the way global economics served to disenfranchise and pauperize fellow humans. The United States of Amnesia was the closest machine to us, a turbocapitalist country run like an empire which for decades destroyed popular movements in Latin America so that locals could continue to get oil, fruit etc cheap on the backs of 3rd world labour. Most Americans had no idea of their country’s cruel and illegal state interventions in Chile, Iran, Central America etc. They had no idea why the US hated Cuba with a passion and why Fidel was a hero to ”los pobres de la tierra” to quote Jose Marti’s poem, Guantanamara


The docile citizenry lulled to sleep by the siren calls of pop culture, sport and celebrity were daily infantilized. Television became the perfect narcotic to turn our attention from the truly important. things that matter. We were in T.S. Eliot’s phrase, “distracted from distraction by distacation.” It was to be sure a very friendly fascism. For many it became too difficult to resist.


This game was really old. The Roman satirist Juvenal who lived around 100 CE coined the expression duas tantum res anxius optat panem et circenses. My translation would go something like this–only a couple of things get people’s attention, bread and circuses. Give the “ugly horde” (profanus vulgus) their daily annona—free food and the circus of the Roman amphitheater and this will keep them happy. A pretty good insight. What about those Blue Jays and Go Leafs Go. People Magazine full of celebrity chit chat was a perfect vehicle for such folderol.

Think of the pseudo-religion in America, the place where people “commune”, no longer the church—but the football stadium, both college and pro. This is the holy arena where life and death themes abound.. Millions spend big bucks on sweaters, caps to support their team. The stars are worshipped. The fans (short for fanatics) are supposed to really care who wins in this Sunday liturgy—Saturday for ole Miss or Bama and Friday night when Texas towns shut down to watch high school heroes of the gridiron


In Quebec when the English controlled the province before the French woke up and became maitres chez nous. It was hockey where the Quebecois invested much of their energy. Sport had become  a central part of identity, a meaningful area of psychical enlargement. The habs simply made them feel good.

Rejean Tremblay a perceptive Quebec sportswriter once pointed to 14,000 fans in the Forum and said, “Look at these people, they used to be Roman Catholics!

And now in good old USA, a bunch of black athletes dare to interrupt our Sunday ritual, our holy communion. this is blasphemous.

Those sons of bitches. They’re fired. Get em off the field says the Prez.

SportsWorld interrupted!



SportsWorld pt 2

September 27, 2017

I taught 2 well known sports writers and told each of them that they needed to read Robert Lipsyte and Dave Zirin, two brave journalist who refused to “god up” athletes (a phrase of iconic sportswriter Stanley Woodward) or make a religion out of sport. I could have added Lester Rodney, the white sports writer of the Communist paper the Daily Worker who was fearless in writing about the convergence of sport and injustice. Rodney was particularly incensed about the colour bar in baseball which Jackie Robinson broke.

These three are shining examples of penetrating scribes who refused to become idolators of those athletes who inhabited SportsWorld.



Now the feces has hit the fan in the USA over those who kneel and those who don’t, athletes who latterly joined the very brave Colin Kaepernick who could no longer stomach the ongoing murders of black people in the USA.


Interesting concept “kneeling”, once only used in liturgical settings. Today these settings are pro sports, the new temples of worship, athletes the new high priests and those who challenge this illness—i guess they are atheists.
It has cost Kaepernick his livelihood as a football player just as it cost the brave John Carlos and Tommy Smith who raised their fists in defiance at the 1968 Olympics; just as it cost Mohammed Ali 5 of his best years for his refusal to fight in Vietnam.

Take note they were all black.

70% of the NFL players are black, the same ones Trump called “sons of bitches.”


Who would have guessed that sport might be the venue for serious reflection on the state of democracy?

SportsWorld pt.1

September 26, 2017

In the biggest display of athletic defiance in years, football teams across the nation protested President Donald Trump after he attacked the NFL, NBA and some of their most popular athletes for daring to draw attention to racism and police violence.


This is a wonderful lead in to the prevailing world of SportsWorld

This is the rarified planet where sport is totally separated from the context of world events.This concept was unpacked for me 40 years ago by a brilliant New York writer Robert Lipsyte. His successor today is Dave Zirin. Both refused to give pro sport and the dreamworld of US college sports an intellectual pass.

Both writers demanded that sport be seen within the country’s context.

Why do ordinary people too often with mundane workaday jobs invest so much energy in games? Why do these fanatics know so much about the players and coaches, the strategies and misplays of the games they obsess over? Why do they know so little about the world they live in, the manipulation proceeding daily in their own stunted lives? This has always fascinated me.

Lipsyte wrote:

Even for ball games, these values with their implicit definitions of manhood, courage and success are not necessarily in the individual’s best interests. But for daily life they tend to create a dangerous web of ethics and attitudes, an amorphous infrastructure that acts to contain our energies, divert our passions and socialize us for work or war or depression. I call this infrastructure ‘SportsWorld.’



The NFl is 70% black.Many players, led by the renegade Colin Kaepernick chose to become critical citizens rather than meat on the hoof, modern gladiators with no opinions. That day is over/in a country which has never come to terms with the Civil War and its racist aftermath, many athletes say enough is enough. We will no longer stay silent and dance to your tune as entertainers but not as citizens.

Trump has called these largely black protesters, “sons of bitches.” He speaks these hateful words in all places Alabama where the ghosts of Selma, lynching, church bombings,Montgomery Bus boycott are still alive. In front to of an almost all white crowd he spews out his nonsense.

People are beginning to connect the dots. The players are finally leaving SportsWorld.

As Raptor guard Kyle Lowry said, “I’m a citizen before I am a basketball player.”

Israel, safe for Jews? Not.

August 25, 2017

In mid-July tensions flared over acess to the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mount are located. The site is maintained by the Waqf the Muslim religious trust.

On July 21 a 19 year old West Bank resident Omar el-Abed, snuck into the nearby Halamish settler home of the Salomon family and butchered Yosef, age 70, daughter, Chaya,46 and son Elad,36, as they were celebrating a new addition to the family.

This stomach-turning criminal lone wolf attack by the 19 year old Palestinian was just the latest in the seemingly endless conflict. The despairing youth wrote on his Facebook page “I have not yet reached the age of 20, I hael-Abed wrote on Facebook (in Arabic): “I I’m going to die for Al-Aqsa’ I have not yet reached the age of 20, I have many dreams, but there is no life after what is seen in Al-Aqsa.”

And so the bodies keep piling up, many more Palestinians than israeli, yet each an icon of the divine.


Israel– safe have for Jews? Hardly.Israelis are leaving in droves.The statistics tell the tale.


True Torah lays it out:

The following statistics lean towards more conservative numbers. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all causalities and those wounded.
Between 1920 and 1948
- 685 Jewish residents of Mandatory Palestine were killed
Between 1948 and 1997
- 20,093 Israeli soldiers were killed in combat
- 75,000 Israelis were wounded
- nearly 100,000 Israelis were considered disabled army veterans
Between 2000 and 2005
- 1,194 Israelis were killed
- 7,520 Israelis were wounded
Ignoring all other prices that the Zionist project has demanded payment on and focusing purely on the cost of life it has exacted, we’re left with a question. Is it worth it?


North American Jews say: are you kidding?



Fear in the rabbinate

July 7, 2017



Most rabbis who see the reality of occupation are unwilling to have their names or photos published. Their congregations back home, they explain, might not understand their decision to participate in a tour that offers a different narrative about the conflict – one that puts a human face on the other side and doesn’t paint Israel in the usual rosy colors.

“Most of these people have never had an opportunity to see what the Palestinians experience,” says Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the executive director of T’ruah, “Their synagogue boards are attached to AIPAC.
“We are losing the next generation,” one rabbi lamented; but the rabbis avoid talking about Israel lest they divide the congregation.

The elders have romaticized israel; the youth see what’s happening.

Oy vei, what a conundrum.

Thom Yorke, Radiohead, get a conscience

June 30, 2017



Dear Thom Yorke,

We are Israeli musicians writing you about your scheduled performance in Israel this July 19. It is our understanding that the public appeal urging you to respect the Palestinian picket line and cancel this concert was published only after a private appeal went unanswered. Likewise, we will only publish a public letter if we are unable to engage with you in private.

We would like to respond directly to a comment you made in Rolling Stone. Referring to Roger Waters, Desmond Tutu and the many other artists and public figures who’ve urged you to respect the call for cultural boycott, you said that you “just can’t understand why going to play a rock show or going to lecture at a university [is a problem to them].”

We have great respect for Roger Waters and Desmond Tutu, but their problems are not the point, as they would surely be the first to concede. Waters, Tutu and the others have reached out to you in response to a request for solidarity from Palestinians. The call for cultural boycott to end grave Israeli violations of human rights has overwhelming support among Palestinians. To them, it is clear that to entertain their oppressors at this point in time shows indifference to their suffering and helps perpetuate it.


Every international artist who plays in Israel serves as a propaganda tool for the Israeli government. International performances in Israel serve the government’s agenda of whitewashing its war crimes against Palestinians by creating a “business as usual” atmosphere wherein the status-quo, a reality of colonization and military occupation for Palestinians, becomes normalized. Maintaining this atmosphere relies heavily on creating a facade of Israel as a hip, advanced, progressive state with a vibrant and diverse cultural scene.

In 2005 the Israeli foreign ministry decided to invest in a public relations strategy to “re-brand Israel,” diverting attention away from Israeli crimes by highlighting Israeli cultural and scientific achievements. Needless to say, the government which just celebrated 50 years of brutal military rule over the occupied Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip should not be assisted, even unintentionally. The government which legislated to suppress even the commemoration of the displacement of the majority indigenous Palestinian population in 1948 should not be given the chance to claim that artists and musicians are endorsing its policies.

This effect of a performance in Israel can not be undone even with the best intentions. Any statement that you might wish to make on stage would be overshadowed by the fact that you would be crossing an international picket line established by the vast majority of civil society organizations in Palestine. On the other hand, if you decided not to play, it would send a strong message to the Israeli government that their racist policies and grave violations of Palestinian human rights will not be normalized. It would also send a message to the people of Palestine that you’re with them in their struggle in a very real way.

Israel is increasingly notorious for being a place that forward-thinking artists who care about equality and freedom want little to do with. We are confident that this reality will contribute to moving the Israeli government to change its unjust policies, and help convince companies to divest from Israel, just as they did in apartheid South Africa. Canceling your show will disrupt the “business as usual” facade that international performances in Israel perpetuate.

Please reconsider violating the Palestinian call for boycott. We remain at the ready to talk to you about any questions or concerns that you may have, and continue to welcome a conversation with you.


Ohal Grietzer

Michal Sapir (Afor Gashum)

Alma Ben Yossef (Lil’ Oof)

Aviad Albert (finkelbert)

Yoav Barak

Ben Ronen

Yonatan Eldan (You’re Next Records)

Yonatan Shapira