Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Moshe Levinger the father of the settlements

May 23, 2015

Levinger

On May 16, rabbi Moshe Levinger died in Jerusalem and was buried per Jewish custom the following day—in Hebron.

It would take a book to evaluate Levinger’s impact on israeli society.

His name is probably meaningless here but in Israel, Levinger had a dramatic effect on Israel’s politics.
Since I believe in the idea of De mortuis nisii bonum,(about the dead speak nothing but good) i will attempt to be to be as kind as possible to the rabbi.

This may end up like the famous story of Georgie Jessel, the toastmaster of Jewish Hollywood who was roped into doing a eulogy to a man everybody knew was a bastard. Jessel simply pointed to the coffin and said,”His brother was worse.”

Nisi bonum”. Since the reb had 10 kids he probably was a good father.And he was loved by the settlers in the illegally occupied West Bank.

Levinger in 1968 camped out in Hebron during Passover. He refused to leave after the holiday and so began the rise of Gush Emunim, the radical settler movement which continues to destroy Israel and which now with about 600,000 illegals camped out all over Palestinian territory, making a 2 state solution impossible.

Levinger was a product of Kookism, the radical movement of religious Zionism based on the writings of Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak Kook (d.1935) and his prolific charismatic son Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook(d 1982),the head of the infamous Merkaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Levinger was a human dynamo putting flesh on the Kook’s ultrantionalist religious Zionist which swept Israel after the Six Day War(1967) which was seen as a miracle, a transcendent sign that redemption was near and the messiah would follow. Secularists like the then PM Yitzhak Rabin never had a chance against the “god sanctioned” movement. The messianic true believers  were out to liberate the land of the patriarchs and Hebron was its heart. it was part of Judea and Samaria. That Arabs had lived on the land for 1300 years meant nothing to these inspired radicals.

For the Gush, the land had become a holy vessel and the settlement was a divine command.For them it was the apotheosis of Zionism, a movement which had scorned  rabbinic Judaism.For Levinger anybody (read peaceniks like Rabin) willing to swap land for peace was a rodef, a man who would endanger Jewish lives as in the Oslo accords etc.Levinger was the embodiment of Kookism, a fiery angel of theocratic messianism. Get in his way and you will get burned—or murdered as Rabin ultimately was.

Gush Emunim has shot its bolt but its tragic success which brought national secular politicians to their knees lives on. Government after government capitulated to this movement of which Levinger was its hero.

Levinger was like a sheriff in a lawless region. He was arrested several times ,had frequent confrontations with Israeli security forces and killed a Palestinian for which was convicted of negligent homicide and imprisoned for three months. In 1985 he went on a three-month armed vigilante patrol of a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem. The United Nations documented Levinger, “provoked the inhabitants of the camp by firing at them and invading their homes,” and, “reportedly ran along the camp alleys, together with a guard, and both men fired into the air in an indiscriminate manner.” That same year Levinger broke into a Palestinian house in Hebron and assaulted a six-year old. Like many of his arrests that decade, he was given a suspended sentence.n 1986 he was fined 300 shekels for assaulting a soldier at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

For years he terrified the Palestinian majority (160,000 to 800 Jews), much to the fury of the defense Minister Shimon Peres. The man was fearless. He despised the government and urged soldiers to disobey its orders.His model of divine disruption became the template  for other settlements. The government blinked. If it hadn’t there might have been civil war.They had radically miscalculated. Their cowardly inability  to shut him down in 1968 came back to haunt them. In the end Israel paid a huge price for their failure to uphold israeli and international law. Judaism paid a massive price for allowing this man to function as a religious leader. His Judaism functioned as a sad justification for an ethnocratic state and a tribal god.

Levinger was a hero to the the religious ultranationalists. His influence was on Israeli society was catastrophic, on peace in the Middle East equally as devastating.His power in Israel was shown at his death when the president of Israel Reuvin Rivlin stood over his coffin as he was laid to rest.

Rivlinmages

Kill ’em all

May 19, 2015

OZ

The great Israeli novelist Amos Oz is a very funny man.A Zionist of old who was disgusted by the religious ultranationalists who bent every government to their will in Israel. In the mid 70s he was shocked by the arrogance and stupidity of the biblical literalists of the Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) who started the illegal settlements in the West Bank. This was part of an interview he gave in England in 2011.

A friend of mine, the Israeli novelist Sami Mikhael, told me an episode. He was driven once for a lecture in Ben-Gurion University in Bel Shiva, in my university, he was driven from Haifa, which is a long drive, three hours, by a very militant, right-wing, fanatical taxi driver. And during the drive the chauffeur says to Sami, ‘You know, I believe we have to kill all the Arabs.’ As simple as that.
Sami is a sophisticated man. Instead of saying, ‘Shame on you,’ or instead of just wrapping himself in silence, he turned to the chauffeur and said, ‘Yes, you think so? And who exactly do you think should kill all the Arabs?’ ‘We should kill them. All of us have to kill them.’ ‘No, be more specific, please. Should the police kill them, should the army kill them, should the doctors kill them? Who should kill all the Arabs?’ Quiet. The chauffeur is thinking. Then the chauffeur is saying, ‘I think everyone of us has to kill a few.’Sami doesn’t lose his temper. He never loses his temper. He says to the chauffeur, ‘Okay, suppose you are allocated one block of flats, one block of apartments in Haifa, your home town, and you are to kill all the Arabs in the block.

And you’ll knock on every door or ring every doorbell: excuse me, Sir, excuse me, Madam, are you an Arab? And if the answer is yes, you shoot them and kill them. And you finish the block and you turn to walk home, and then you hear a baby crying from upstairs. Would you go back upstairs and kill the baby? Yes or not?’ Silence. The chauffeur is thinking. Then the chauffeur turns to Sami saying, ‘Sir, you are a very cruel man.’ [Laughter]

Breaking the silence—only in the Letters’ page

May 12, 2015

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Time to break silence on Gaza assault
so writes Dr.Miriam Garfinkle in Sunday’s Star. Both the Star and the Globe did not mention the story of the Israeli Defense Force’s carte blanche to basically shoot anything that moves and they did.The rules of engagement seemed to be non-existent—500 children massacred to begin with. New York times which follows Netanyahu’s every move—zoltz, nada, nothing. A journalistic disgrace. Only the Guardian and The Washington Post and of course Israel’s Haaretz gave it a big play. Letters to the editor often the place where the prophetic rears its timely head. Read on

Published on Sun May 10 2015
The Israeli group Breaking the Silence has just come out with shocking testimonies from Israeli soldiers who served during the assault on Gaza last summer. During 50 days of the assault last summer, more than 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza were killed, the majority of whom were civilians, including more than 500 children.

There was unprecedented destruction of infrastructure leaving well over 100,000 people homeless. More than 10,000 were wounded, including thousands of children many of whom are permanently disabled.

Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military who have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of those who have served in the Occupied Territories.
The testimonies obtained from soldiers serving during the assault on Gaza in 2014, reveal the army’s extreme and indiscriminate use of artillery on civilians and wanton destruction.

Previous reports from such groups as Physicians for Human Rights Israel have indicated clearly that civilians were indiscriminately targeted, including in hospitals and ambulances. Testimonies from soldiers given to Breaking the Silence give further evidence to the extreme criminal actions of the Israeli army last summer.
The silence in North America media on this report is deafening. Even Israeli media has reported it. The suppression of the truth does not serve us well. Breaking the Silence has courageously understood this.
It’s time for the North American media to break its silence.
Dr. Miriam Garfinkle, Toronto

“Kill anything”: a new soldiers’ report from Breaking the Silence

May 7, 2015

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The shocking behaviour of the Israeli Defense Force(IDF) in last summer’s slaughter in Gaza is getting fairly wide coverage in the United States (“Kill everything”) —except of course for the New York Times, the “paper of record”. Israel’s media is much more forthcoming here

First some background.

The Hebrew words *tohar ha-neshek *—“the purity of arms” is a concept known to every israeli and believed less and less. Coined by the brilliant Zionist ideologue Bert Katznelson in 1939, it was an attempt to distinguish the Palmach and the Haganah from the terrorist groups Irgun and Lehi who loved to toss bombs indiscriminately in market places. The idea is a good one, an attempt at morality in war. And to be honest it owed its life to the more idealistic strains of Zionism.

In 1992 the Israeli defense force wrote it in its official Ethical Code:

The IDF serviceman’s purity of arms calls for self-control in the use of armed force. He will use his arms only for the purpose of achieving his mission, without inflicting unnecessary injury to human life or limb, or dignity or property, of both soldiers and civilians, with special consideration for the defenseless, whether in wartime, during routine security operations, or in times of peace.”

This is widely believed by diaspora Jewry as it desperately wants to believe in Israel’s morality.

Now Israel’s soldiers are kids, no better or worse than 18-22 years olds anywhere in the world. So we need not demonize them. The fact is they are placed in absolutely horrible circumstances as an army of occupation.Plus they have to navigate the extraordinary propaganda of Israel’s school system in the way it deals with the Palestinians and Israel’s history. Add to this the deep strain of racism in Israel today (read Yoram Binur’s My Enemy, My Self).

It was inevitable that a group of soldiers would begin to say “enough”. This group is called Breaking the Silence, combat soldiers whose unpleasant duty was to work in Hebron, the second largest Palestinian city in the West Bank.You have to visit Hebron to taste real ugliness…170,000 Palestinians and 800 rabid members of Gush Enumim, religious fundamentalists.The role of the IDF is to protect the soldiers and show the natives who is boss. Any human with a scintilla of compassion and integrity would be disgusted with such a brutal job. Among the many decent israelis are a group of soldiers who could not stomach humiliating the native Palestinians. In 2004 in Tel Aviv they mounted an exhibition of testimonies and photographs taken by themselves. The results were not pretty. It was basically washing dirty linen in public, linen well known by the Palestinian populace.

Now, you court danger when you tamper with the myth or the hasbara (propaganda) of Israel that its soldiers are near angels. Give Breaking the Silence full credit.They shocked many citizens and then produced a booklet of their eye-witness testimonies.The only reason I have this book is that I hid it in the middle of my suitcase when exiting the country. Others were not so lucky in the “only democracy in the Middle East”. Border guards were snatching these books from all the pilgrims and tossed them in a huge barrel. Now the book is on Amazon. Censorship hardly ever works.

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And now, after the 4th dirty assault on Gaza, especially the last one in the summer of 2014 the truth is out. Many soldiers can no longer lie about their brutal modus operandi. There is no more covering up the fact.The purity of arms is an obscene lie.

Here is a summary of the coverage

On May 6 a new report based on testimonies of Israeli soldiers concludes the massive civilian death toll from last summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza resulted from a policy of indiscriminate fire. The Israeli veterans group Breaking the Silence released testimonies of more than 60 Israeli officers and soldiers which it says illustrate a “broad ethical failure” that “comes from the top of the chain of command.”

As Britain’s Guardian stated:
Despite the insistence of Israeli leaders that it took all necessary precautions to protect civilians, the interviews provide a very different picture. They suggest that an overarching priority was the minimisation of Israeli military casualties even at the risk of Palestinian civilians being harmed.

More tomorrow.

Another artist boycotts Israel

May 6, 2015

Ms.-Lauryn

Lauryn Hill —apparently one of the best known hip-hop artists in the world — announced that she has added her name to the growing cultural boycott of Israel.cancelled her May concert. Sadly, another artist Alicia Keyes recently snubbed the boycott

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was successful in its attempt to educate performing artists about the apartheid nature of Israel.More than 11,000 people asked Hill to cancel via petition; activists made creative songs and videos; and organizers collected and shared a series of letters from fans encouraging Hill to boycott.

Major media outlets have documented how Israel has prioritized art and culture as a means of branding to whitewash its human rights violations, “so an artist cancellation like this is a big step in the way of responding,” said Andrew Kadi, co-chair of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Since 2005, over 150 Palestinian solidarity groups in Europe and the United States  have supported  a campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel over its rank discrimination  and abuses of Palestinian human rights.

Roger Waters the former Pink Floyd front man, indefatigable in pursuit of justice in Palestine wrote Hill and contextualized modern Israel:

Performing in Israel today is the equivalent of performing in Sun City South Africa during the apartheid era. (Frank Sinatra, Elton John and Freddy Mercury, Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt.) Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and former South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils have repeatedly declared that Israel has created a form of racial apartheid that is far worse than anything that existed in South Africa. As a woman of colour and conscientious artist we urge you not to lend your name to cover up Israel’s crimes.

Miles away from where you are set to perform, over 4.5 million native Palestinians are imprisoned within a system of Bantustans and spatial enclosures between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the largest open air prison in the world.
In a recent May 3 Haaretz column columnist Gideon Levy cheered Water’s indefatigable efforts in this regard.

In a country without a single courageous Waters, I write to him in his own words. Wish you were here.

It is getting harder and harder for cultural artists to play Israel. Greenwashing is no longer working.

Jimmy Carter 90 snubbed in Israel

May 4, 2015

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Jimmy Carter is now 90, probably the greatest ex-President in US history. While hacks like the Bushes sit on boards and accumulate even more money, the prophetic Baptist continues to hold up the mirror to apartheid Israel. at the end of April he visited Gaza.

First, talking about hacks, Carter was refused a meeting with israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu and president Reuven Rivlin. This in itself is extraordinary given the Israelis receiving 233 billion over 6 decades from its American sponsor.This is an amazing snub one which I do not think Carter really cares about. The reason given by the Foreign Ministry recommended that Rivlin and Netanyahu not meet with Carter was his “anti-Israeli stance” over the last few years, particularly during the summer war in Gaza.

You remember the so-called “war” last summer when the country with the 6th largest army, Apache helicopters, sophisticated missiles and nuclear weapons pummeled a defenseless citizenry and murdered over 500 children.

As British PM Cameron and others have said, Israel was just trying to defend itself from those “enhanced fireworks” as Norman Finkelstein called the Hamas rockets.This is not to justify the terror this caused in Israel.Innocents can never be targeted. But 534 to 6 is not a war.

Jimmy Carter is not anti-Israel. As a Christian he’s simply  anti injustice. The ex-President however was allowed to visit Gaza. During the war, Carter voiced harsh criticism on Israel and called to remove Hamas from the American State Department’s list of terror organizations.
The Israelis knew that their refusal would not fly on the international scene. You and I and most people of course can not enter Gaza. 60 Minutes on Sunday had to fly a drone over it just to see the staggering destruction

“What we have seen and heard only strengthens our determination to work for peace,” he said. “The situation in Gaza is intolerable. Eight months after a devastating war, not one destroyed house has been rebuilt and people cannot live with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

In January, 16 Catholic bishops visited Gaza with much of the same analysis.

Gaza is a man-made disaster, a shocking scandal, an injustice that cries out to the human community for a resolution. We call upon political leaders to improve the humanitarian situation of the people in Gaza, assuring access to the basic necessities for a dignified human life, the possibilities for economic development and freedom of movement.

For most people however Gaza is out of sight and out of mind.

Not for the 90 year old ex-President.

Humiliated at Ben Gurion airport

April 30, 2015

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Mondoweiss http://mondoweiss.net continues in the best Jewish prophetic tradition to tell the truth about what passes for democracy in Israel. The creation (2007) of Jewish American journalist Phil Weiss,it largely deals with US foreign policy in the Middle East and breaks stories which timorous newspapers refuse to run.

Read this account of two idealistic young French citizens whose major crime was creating a music school in Jericho.They decided to come back and visit friends. The shocking treatment they received is fairly typical of anyone who dares to mention a Palestinian centre(in this case Ramallah) in the West Bank.

Now ask yourself what if a federal employee in Canada or the USA treated visitors like Philomene and Bastien were treated. It staggers the imagination.

And israel wonders why young American Jews are abandioning Zionism in droves.

Follow the comments after the article.

Amigo for example  states:

Welcome to Israel. Are you Jewish–if not get lost.
” He asks why he is so nervous, why he is trembling; doesn’t that prove he’s lying?”customs officer.
Has he not heard. Israel has a somewhat bad reputation.
What a country.And we have folks who post here who are proud of this so called light unto the nations.
Go figure.

Here is the sad story Mondoweiss ran about Philomene and Bastien.

We are two students, both studying musicology at the Université Paris 8 and in the CRR 93 at Aubervilliers and the CRD at Gennevilliers [translator’s note : all located in the suburbs north of Paris]. After taking our baccalauréat exams at the end of high school, we left in September 2013 to spend a year living in Palestine. We gave and attended music classes (violin and flute) at the Edward Said National Conservatory in Ramallah and helped to create a music school in Jericho. This year we had decided to go back during our recent Easter break to see our friends again and to return to the places where we had spent time the previous year.

On Sunday April 19, we arrived at 2:30 AM at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. At the customs desk we stated the purpose of our visit ; but when the officer heard the word « Ramallah » we were sent straight to a small room where other people were waiting for us. We were immediately asked to write our telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.

After an hour’s wait, a security officer came to pick up Philomène, telling her to take her luggage. In this first interrogation, the security officer asked her the reason for her visit, whether or not she had previously been to Israel, and why. After a few minutes, he began to get angry and called her a « liar » because it seemed to him impossible that a 20-year old would come to Palestine for a year for the sole purpose of playing and studying music. He asked her whether or not she had a Palestinian cell phone. She said no because she was afraid of placing her contacts in a bad position. The man stood up and pounded the desk with his fists, saying « You’re a liar, I don’t believe you ! » He then brought Philomène back to the waiting room and asked Bastien to follow him. The same script ; he warned him that his friend is a liar and that he had better not tell any lies. Bastien told him the truth but the officer didn’t believe him, and a dialogue of the deaf ensued. Then he ordered him to bring our Palestinian SIM cards and our camera. Having made Bastien translate all the messages on the cell phone and watch him look at our Paris photos to be sure we weren’t activists, he told him to return to the waiting room.

Two hours later, and after having seen many people leave with a visa, the same officer called to Philomène to follow him. He asked the same questions but this time, he says he is convinced that she has taken part in demonstrations. She insists she hasn’t. He continued until she broke down and started crying. Then it was Bastien’s turn, he was also accused of taking part in demonstrations, and advised to stop lying. He went to his Facebook account and asked whether or not he know a « Marie Ballanger. » Bastien said no, then the officer got angry and said that she was one of his Facebook friends and that she had been refused entry last December Bastien understood then that he had meant « Bérengère, » a friend who had indeed been refused entry recently. At that point he said that he did know her and was immediately insulted because he hadn’t reacted right away. He was then sent back into the waiting room.

By then it was 8 AM, there are only five of us in the small room. We are trembling, we want to throw up, we can’t eat the dry sandwich Israeli security had brought us. Next to us a Russian woman passed out ; a security officer stuffed a suitcase under her feet and waited for her to come to, alone; 15 minutes later, a man came to take care of her. We also saw someone from Chad who, after having handed over all the money he was carrying, was handcuffed and sent away somewhere. A fifty-year-old man, exhausted, was crying in a corner. The wait was growing unbearable, inhuman, we need to walk to feel better. Outside the room we see young people of our age who are also dealing with security, laughing, calling out, using the phone, talking about shopping… completely oblivious.
The officer finally came back to talk to Bastien. He refuses to believe him when he denies having taken part in demonstrations; he asks why he is so nervous, why he is trembling; doesn’t that prove he’s lying? He pretends not to understand that we have already spent 5 1/2 hours there after a day-long plane trip, and at a certain point a normal person can’t take any more. The officer insists that Bastien, being pro-Palestinian, can’t have spent a year in Palestine without having gone to Bil’in, a village known for its resistance. Having never demonstrated, Bastien continued to insist that he hadn’t been there. When Philomène’s turn came, he asked her exactly the same questions. She gave the same answers.

We returned to the waiting room, not knowing what to think; would we get a visa after all ? Would we be denied entry? We fought off sleep and numbness. At 9 AM an Israeli immigration officer came to look for us. He explained that we are too dangerous for their « democracy » and that, although we are students and musicians, they don’t believe us and they are going to bring us to a detention center while we waited for the return flight at 4 PM. From that moment on we are treated like terrorists. We even need to be accompanied to the bathroom. They bring us to the immigration office to take our fingerprints and a photo in order to « telephone our relatives, » according to them. Philomène offers to play the violin because they don’t believe us. The officer answers coldly that he doesn’t like music.

Next they bring us to the search room, where for the space of an hour we are treated as objects. All our bags are opened, all our clothing and other items are checked, then we are strip searched in a dressing room. Total humiliation. They disassemble Bastien’s suitcase and keep it and put all his things in a box. We now have fluorescent stickers on all our bags.

Another wait. We ask when we can use the telephone, we are told « in a few minutes, » which is what we have been hearing all night. Finally at 10:30 AM, we leave the terminal in an armored car that drives us, with the Russian woman, to the detention center.

At the center, our jailers put our things in a room and tell us to take our money and our cigarettes if we want to smoke. Our cell phones are forbidden, but we can finally contact our relatives, eight hours after our arrival. We go out to breathe some fresh air, always accompanied, in a closed courtyard. Then they bring us to a cell, in which we will stay until our flight. Here we are locked up, with no notion of time in a dirty place, covered with fleas and less afraid than feeling a sense of absurdity that makes us laugh slightly. Three and a half hours later we leave.

At 3 PM we finally leave the prison and return to the armored car that drives us directly to the runway where our plane is waiting for us. Another inconvenience : we learn that our flight is to Brussels; if we want to go to Paris, we have to wait another eight hours at the airport. We board the plane; our jailers give our passports to the flight attendants who help us in, looking sorry.

Five hours later (and 17 hours after our landing) our passports are returned to us when we arrive in Brussels, where the Belgian border police is waiting for us. They bring us to an office to check whether we are dangerous for their country. We are not. We decide not to fly back to Paris; we prefer to return to France on our own the following day.

Every year, at Ben Gurion airport, numerous visitors from a variety of origins are treated similarly. Their most elementary human rights are flouted: violation of intimacy, psychological torture, dehumanization, racism, theft, trauma. Few of them present a real danger to Israel. In this way, Israel interferes with the smooth development of a great number of humanitarian, cultural, and other projects. At present, nothing is done about this. What happens at that border is unknown to all. Our states have the power to stop these abuses. We have the obligation to inform as many people as possible so that one day, human rights will be respected at that border. We hope that this testimony can serve to help change this unfortunate reality.

Philomène Constant et Bastien Anthoine, Angers, France, le 22 avril 2015
This account appeared today on the site of AURDIP, Association des Universitaires pour Respect du Droit International en Palestine. It was translated from the French by Michael Harris.

Crashing the Israel love in

April 25, 2015

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The battle for justice in Israel/Palestine according to the brave israeli journalist Gideon Levy will take place in the diaspora. He writes as many do in Israel, that the country is in a trance, hopelessly divided, unsure of itself and in the grip of weak leaders like Netanyahu. The simple truth is that history has caught up with the sin of Zionism, now seen as as a retrograde colonial settler movement which displaced an indigenous people.

The diaspora is frayed. many Jews, particularly the young, raised in historical tradition of human rights simply cannot abide what Israel is doing and has been doing to the Palestinians for decades. The great historian Ilan Pappé who basically was chased out of Israel has termed this “incremental genocide.’ Many North American Jews of course have no understanding of this, never unlike Gideon Levy, having visited the West Bank or Gaza. The latter you can’t get into anyway. Israel will not let you see the horrific devastation it has visited upon this population. In essence, most people, Jews or non-Jews do not know what they are talking about, never having seen up close the humiliating oppression which Palestinians live under.

So now what we have which is unique is young Jews breaking with their tribal elders for the simple reason that Israel can no longer in an internet age hide their truly barbaric behaviour. Enough internationals and church groups have been and come back to North America stunned at what they have encountered, a reality hidden from Jewish visitors who never ever go to the West Bank. Easily manipulated they are.
This brings us to a Yom Ha Atzmaut celebration interrupted in Baltimore. This is the celebration of Israel’s Independence (May 15,1948).the day is always celebrated on the 5th of Iyar on the Hebrew calendar.

You got to love these “Jews of conscience” like those in the American Jewish Voice for Peace (VP) who had the cojones to interrupt the Yom Ha’Atzmaut party held at a downtown bar. They simply denounced it as a celebration of ethnic cleansing.They then distributed educational flyers about the Nakba, the “catastrophe” which Israel refuses to acknowledge, the dispossession of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948.

The members of Baltimore JVP object to aspects of these agendas, especially to what they call the “celebration of Israeli nationalism at the expense of Palestinian human rights,” according to a letter the group sent to the organizers.The letter, signed by over 30 local Jews, stressed both the “displacement and continuing abuse of Palestinians,” as well as the way these kind of events “misrepresent and alienate us [as Jews.]”

When members of JVP were denied a meeting with the organizers they decided to “crash the party,” which they consider a celebration of “the atrocities done in the name of Judaism,” according to Sam DiDonato, a JVP member who signed the letter and participated in the interruption. At 9:10  in a carefully planned chorus, the group clinked a glass to call attention to their message and surprised the crowd by chanting “stop celebrating ethnic cleansing!” numerous times as they confuted the space with hundreds of flyers.

The good news is that these Jews of conscience are growing and refusing to be cowed by their elders and in particular their rabbis who are complicit by their silence.

Israel is a state! Independent Jewish Voices

April 23, 2015

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Sid Sniad sends this from B.C.

In recent years, Israel and its allies have become increasingly concerned about the growing international movement to expose and sanction Israel’s behaviour. Their chosen response appears to be one designed to intimidate and suppress this opposition through the threat or actual use of legal punishments. Nowhere has Israel’s call for help in this outrageous endeavor been more enthusiastically embraced than in the right-wing Canadian government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which is widely considered Benjamin Netanyahu’s strongest ally.

In the face of growing intimidation from the Harper government, Independent Jewish Voices – Canada (IJV) decided to write a statement that identifies the tangible threat to criminalize criticism of the state of Israel in Canada. We reached out to civil society organizations across the country, with the goal of finding broad public support in defense of our civil liberties, which are already under attack through the terrifying Bill C-51.

Here is the full text of the statement, entitled “Oppose the Canadian government’s threat to criminalize criticism of Israel”:

In 2009, the Canadian government gave major support to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA), a group of parliamentarians who accused those challenging Israel’s unjust treatment of Palestinians of being anti-Semitic. The goal of the CPCCA was to create a climate in which criticism of Israel could be criminalized in Canada. Fortunately, that initiative was unsuccessful, thanks to widespread opposition from members of the Canadian public.

In what appears to be another attempt to suppress criticism of Israel, the Canadian government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Israel which makes the claim that “the selective targeting of Israel is the new face of anti-Semitism” and declares that Canada will oppose those who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Shortly after the MOU was signed, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney announced to the UN General Assembly that the Canadian government would exercise “zero tolerance” toward “all forms of discrimination including rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”

All this follows on the fact that in October 2014 the Canadian government passed changes to the criminal code in Bill C-13 which expanded the definition of identifiable groups to be protected against public incitement to hatred to include “nations”. This change to Canadian law parallels the situation in France, where alterations to the French penal code have led to the conviction of twenty French citizens who support the BDS movement, on charges of inciting racial hatred.

It is not yet clear how the Canadian government intends to implement a policy of “zero tolerance” to those who exercise their freedom of speech by advocating and participating in boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns to pressure Israel to respect the rights of Palestinians. What is clear, however, is that the Canadian government is determined to target people who expose and oppose Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians. Such efforts by the government can only put a chill on Canadian democracy and may lead to the criminalization of such dissent down the road.

We are unequivocal in our condemnation of all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. It must be stressed that it is not anti-Semitic to criticize the state of Israel. Those who equate such criticism with a hatred of Jewish people are simply attempting to silence Israel’s critics.

In the face of these actions on the part of the Canadian government, we must defend the right of people in a democracy to criticize any government’s behaviour and to participate in boycotts designed to alter that behaviour if they choose to do so.

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We, the undersigned organizations, oppose attempts by the Canadian government to criminalize criticism of or opposition to the actions of any country.

The positive response to this IJV initiative has been inspiring. At last count, 81 organizations from across English-speaking Canada and Québec – including major trade unions, labour councils, civil liberties, anti-war, faith-based, student and other groups — have endorsed the statement.

The Harper government has yet to take punitive actions in pursuit of these outrageous assaults on our freedom of expression. But progressive forces in Canada clearly stand ready to mount a vigorous response if and when they do.

Zionism is the problem

April 18, 2015

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Judaism is Torah, ethics, an exaltation of the spirit. If Judaism is truly Torah, then it cannot be reduced to the confines of any particular territory, for as scripture said of Torah, it’s measure is greater than the Earth.

Rabbi Aaron Samuel Tamarat 1929

At one time the Jewish community had fierce proponents of justice in their pulpits. Then a strange thing happened.The date usually given is June 1967, the 6 Day War when Israel easily defeated the Egyptian army. Of course the Israeli government as it usually did  and continues to do  prepped the people and the docile public that this would be a fight to the finish, little Israel (always David, not Goliath) was fighting for its survival.It was never the case and was best explained by Mordecai Benton a Knessert member on April 14,1971 “The entire story of the extermination was invented in every detail and exaggerated a posterior to justify the annexation of new Arab territory.”
General Matti Peled who was the chief of Logistical Command during the war agreed: the thesis according to which Israel was fighting for her survival was nothing but a bluff which was born and bred after the war…. Israel was never in real danger and there was no evidence that Egypt had any intention of attacking Israel”

Well Jewish pride exploded all over the world.The bigger story however was the steady erosion of Judaism in favour of rabid Zionist national values.This was also the beginning of the so-called religious Zionism, a movement which arrived just in time as political Zionism was beginning to lose its lustre and its moral steam—because the world began to finally understand that the dark underbelly was the oppression of another people,the Palestinians whose lands were stolen and were living in misery in refugee camps.

Then voila—the miracle, a gift from heaven, a divine intervention! Against all odds the little David had defeated Goliath the mighty Arab forces. having taken most of the Palestinian home in 1948, Israel began the move to colonize the West Bank, steal the rest of the land, albeit slowly, dunam by dunam, mule by mule as the saying went. An incremental genocide was on its way Now the Zionist dream seemingly was under a religious canopy. The messianic redemption was on its way and it would be the indigenous people who would pay.

All this was blessed by the influential rabbis in particular the Kooks pere et fils. Avraham Yitzhak Kook (d 1935) saw secular zionism as paving the way for redemption.his son Zvi Yehuda Kook fleshed out his father’s unique religio-political Zionism which birthed the Gush Emunim, the infamous settlers who tell the world that God gave us this land.For the next thirty years it would be these fanatics which would control both Labour and Likud and help drag Israel into a pariah status and worse, co-opt Torah Judaism.It must be God’s will. the redemption of the land is finally begun. blessing oppression, depopulation and ignoring the united Nations,religious zionism began to cut the heart of Judaism.

it was a great Toronto rabbi Reuben Slonim who saw the terrible effect that the so-called miracle was having on Jewish ethics. For him he rise of the “tough Jew” had severely compromised Jewish ethics. By opting for power too many Jews were unable to see that the price paid—the displacement, then the cruel oppression and ghettoization of the Palestinian people–had wreaked havoc with the deepest values of Torah. The universal lessons of the Holocaust had not been internalized to include the suffering of others. “The Six Day War plunged Toronto’s Jews into an orgy of chauvinism from which they never recovered.”

Reuben Slonim paid a ferocious price for his principled defense of Judaism’s universal values. he lost his pulpit and became a pariah in the community.Before him Toronto had strong justice rabbis Maurice Eisendrath at Holy Blossom temple (1929 -1943) was thoroughly engaged in the issues of the time as was his successor Avraham Feinberg(1943-1961).The former took the Torah into the streets and marched with Dr.King) and the latter was a leader in anti-racism, nuclear disarmament and actually met with Ho Chi Minh, so disgusted was he as a rabbi emeritus in 1966 that he led marches up Yonge  Street against the war.

But now? Silence from the synagogue even after the last butchery in Gaza when over 500 children were murdered with seldom as peep. The war in Lebanon (2006) and the other Gaza turkey shoots against a defenseless people. More silence. And signs in front of shuls: time to stand up for Israel but none reading stand up for Torah.

Allan Brownfield writing in the American Council for Judaism”, Spring 1997 summed up this sad development in these words
The corruption of Judaism, as a religion of universal values, through its politicization by Zionism and by the replacement of dedication to Israel for dedication to God and the moral law, is what has alienated so many young Americans who, searching for spiritual meaning in life, have found little in the organized Jewish community.”
Having witnessed the war on Lebanon (2006) and three punishing assaults on the civilians of Gaza Brownfeld wrote in 2014,”What we are witnessing today, synagogues flying Israeli flags, programs urging American Jews to immigrate to Israel, their real homeland, is a form of idolatry, making the sovereign state of Israel the object of worship, rather than God.
These are challenging times for the synagogue when so many liberal rabbis consider themselves muzzled by congregants more Zionist than Jewish. However, the very same dynamic exists in Catholic churches today. Colonized by decades of turbocapitalism, silenced by consumer comforts and led by an episcopate more in love with charity than justice we too fit the description of Irish priest Diarmuid Omurchu:
We have come a long way from the fiery prophetic figure
Jesus of Nazareth who shocked and disturbed the conventions of his day in the name of justice and liberation. Our respectability has taken a terrible toll on the authentic calling of Christian life.

We have lost sight of the deeper vision and lost heart
for the passion and enthusiasm of God’s New Reign.
The following of Jesus is not a respectable religion.

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