My work on the latest violence in Israel/Palestine.

In reverse-chronological order (not including the work I’ve done as a contract writer, because that’s not officially “mine”):

  1. Israel, Palestine, Gaza War – how to help.” – I put together a list of ideas (contact information, links, etc) for helping the people of Gaza, and supporting Israelis and Palestinians who are striving toward genuine peace. (Click here, or just go to the home page – as of Thurs 7/31/14, it’s on the top).
  2. “9 Years Later, Here We Go Again in Gaza” – Israel withdrew (“disengaged”) from Gaza in August 2005 – I argue that its behavior since (and during) the entire disengagement process has been an effort to make a two-state peace impossible, and is in no small part responsible for what we’re seeing on the ground now. There’s a short summary of that behavior, much of which the world appears to have forgotten. (The Forward; 7/30/14)
  3. “Gaza is Trigger for American Jews’ Tension and Dissonance on Israel” – “Anecdotally, in whispers and off-the-record comments, in sudden Facebook defriendings or empty chairs at services, Israel’s most recent wave of hostilities appears to be leading to increasing alienation for a number of American Jews, despite the call for solidarity.” (Haaretz; 7/29/14)
  4. “ADL Needs To Drop Thane Rosenbaum Right Now” – A response to the recommendations of a leading American-Jewish figure that Israel essentially embrace genocide in Gaza. “On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization… And you have wittingly made yourself targets.” (The Forward; 7/23/14)
  5. “Israel has only two choices: Eliminate the Palestinians or make peace” – In response to another fan of generalized annihilation, this one a member of Israel’s parliament, who suggested “All the military and infrastructural targets will be attacked with no consideration for ‘human shields’… Total siege on Gaza.” To which (among other things), I wrote: “In the effort to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these are the only choices Israel has ever really had: Annihilation or peace. All conflict management has ever done is draw out the pain. (The Week, 7/21/14)
  6. “May Gaza Victims’ Memories Be a Blessing” – “We read names. We say names out loud, and hold their souls on our breath. We record names with ink and carve them into stone…. When lives are lost, those left behind do what they can to ensure that the names – at least the names – are not forgotten…. Someone in Israel has taken it upon themselves to perform this sacred duty for people very recently dead, not in stone or ink, but spray paint; the letters are Hebrew, but the names are not.” (The Forward, 7/16/14)
  7. “Where’s Jewish Fury Over Tariq Abu Khdeir Beating?” – “I have no idea what Tariq Khdeir was doing on the day he was savagely beaten…. I saw a boy much like my own, battered like a side of beef. Though the video is silent, still I can hear Tariq’s cries of pain, and imagine the panic coursing through him, just before he blacked out from pain. Shame on those who refuse to see and hear. Shame on them.” (The Forward, 7/11/14)
  8. “Gaza vs. Israel: The never-ending rematch” – On the many, many wars that Israel has fought in Gaza — four in the last eight years. “If we’re trying to uncover a chain of discrete events leading to the seemingly permanent state of war between Israel and Gaza, the waters are muddy.” (Haaretz, 7/10/14)
  9. “Israel’s addiction to military force, its only response in times of crisis” – On Israel’s life-long tendency to use a military sledgehammer in response to every genuine problem — no matter the proven inefficacy of the sledgehammer in times past. (Haaretz, 6/26/14)
  10. Would Israelis Be Kidnapped If Not For Settlements?” – I forgot to post this one on the blog, so I’ll post the top here (The Forward, 6/19/14):

    On Monday the New York Times reported that the recent abduction of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank has raised a “hushed debate [within Israeli society] over the conduct of Jewish settlers.”

    While I think it’s fair to point out that Israel’s reactions to the kidnappings have been marked more by anger and prayer than debate (however hushed), the simple fact that any questions whatsoever have been posed in conversation with an American reporter is significant and reflects a broader shift in attitudes toward the settlement project.

    Earlier this month, Justice Minister (and one-time right-wing stalwart) Tzipi Livni was quite blunt: “It’s time to say things exactly as they are: The settlement enterprise is a security, economic and moral burden that is aimed at preventing us from ever coming to [a peace agreement].” Moreover, a recent study found that a growing majority of Israelis no longer support that enterprise.

    It’s important to note, however, that if the citizenry shares Livni’s general sense of disapproval, they do not appear to share her reasoning: 71% of those surveyed say settler violence against Israel’s military keeps them from “identifying with” their settler brethren; 59% say the settlements are bad for Israel’s relationship with the U.S…. In fact, while 52% support a full or partial withdrawal from occupied territory in the framework of an accord with the Palestinian Authority, 31% support full or partial annexation — where the difference lies between partial withdrawal and partial annexation is unclear.

    All of which is to say: …the average Israeli still doesn’t appear to understand that every problem raised by the settlements is a necessary outcome of their very existence. Click through to The Forward for the rest.

Where’s Jewish Fury Over Tariq Abu Khdeir Beating?

I have no idea what Tariq Khdeir was doing on the day he was savagely beaten.

I have no idea if — like the American high school student in my own home – Tariq woke up late and lazy, because that’s what vacation’s like. Maybe he slipped on headphones as he reached for his cell, checking his texts or the World Cup stats. Maybe he jumped straight out of bed. Maybe he lay quietly under the covers, trying desperately not to remember his cousin Muhammad’s voice, not to envision his grisly murder, not to hear the sobbing of his family.

Maybe Tariq Khdeir woke up filled with sorrow and helplessness. Maybe he woke up filled with rage. All those years in American schools, walking American streets, hearing about what life was like for his cousins in East Jerusalem, and then there he was, right in the house, with wailing family and shattered hearts. Maybe Tariq wanted to at least see Palestinians fighting back in his cousin’s name, just to see the rocks thrown, just to see the anger and maybe some fear on the other side.

Maybe Tariq Khdeir wrapped his head in a red-and-white checked keffiyeh because he’d been warned not to go out, and he didn’t want to get busted. Maybe he wrapped his head because he didn’t want to be recognized by police. Maybe he got out there and, like many angry young men before him, felt the power of rage surging through the streets and his own veins and picked up a rock. Maybe Tariq Khdeir threw some rocks — he says he didn’t, but for the sake of argument, let’s imagine he did. Grief and fury can muddle the minds of even straight-A students.

I don’t know what Tariq Khdeir did that day, or how he felt, or what he was thinking, but here’s what I do know: He went out to the streets. He was at a protest that had shaded into riot, and his head was wrapped in a keffiyeh. And two Israeli police officers, broad of chest and fully armed, grabbed him – a slight 15-year-old boy — and dragged him to where they believed they would not be seen, and they beat the ever-loving daylights out of him. They held him down. They kicked him. They hit him. They took turns. They broke his nose. They blackened and bloodied his eyes. They held him down and beat him.

Tariq didn’t have a weapon in his hand or on his person. He’d been separated from whoever he’d been with. Whatever he may or may not have done in the moments before the now infamous video of fists and feet raining down on his body, Tariq Khdeir was not any threat, of any kind, to those who pushed him to the ground and raised their boots.

To read the rest, please click through to The Forward.

Auschwitz Selfies? No Big Deal, IMHO

Teenagers, selfies, and the Holocaust — you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone over the age of 30 who doesn’t have some thoughts on all three. Last week, though, the world was granted the chance to think about all three at the same time.

It was reported in various places that some Jewish teenagers, while in the course of visiting Nazi death camps, have taken the opportunity to take some selfies.

How many teenagers? Some. What kind of selfies? Varied. What does it mean? No one really knows.

Yet “some, varied, and no one really knows” were good enough reasons for many a furrowed brow and a clucked tongue, because if there is anything we do know as a society, it’s that the Holocaust is serious business, selfies are a sign of dangerous self-involvement, and teenagers will be the end of us all. Not necessarily in that order.

My fellow old Jews will have to forgive me, however, if I refuse to hop on the worry wagon.

To read the rest, please click through to The Forward.

I’m No One’s ‘Heretic’

Last Wednesday we learned that, while speaking at a fundraising gala for the ultra-Orthodox Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, head of that organization, slandered virtually every Jew on the planet, down to and including a bunch of plain-old-Orthodox folks. We were told that attendees of the event were “stunned.”

“The Torah must be guarded from the secular forces that seek to corrupt its values and the lives of [Jews], from intruders who sometimes in the name of Judaism completely subvert and destroy the eternal values of our people,” Perlow said. And also: “[The Reform and Conservative Movements] have disintegrated themselves, become oblivious, fallen into an abyss of intermarriage and assimilation. They have no future, they almost have no present.” And furthermore, the Open Orthodoxy movement is “steeped in apikorsos [heresy].”

It was quite the little speech. But stunned? Really? Attendees were stunned? Do they not get out much?

Perlow heads an organization that is, by definition, extremist. They believe themselves to be upholding the strictest, and thus most correct, interpretation of God’s own Divine law; they believe that the existence of the Jewish people, the coming of Messiah, and quite possibly the world itself depends on the painstaking observance of that interpretation — which is not, in their understanding, an interpretation at all, but simply Jewish law, halakhah.

Of course he thinks you’re a bad Jew — no, I’m sorry, not a “bad Jew.” He thinks that you’re a literal danger to Judaism itself. You have come — yes, you! — to “subvert and destroy the eternal values” of the Jewish people. You! (Unless you happen to be Haredi, and Perlow’s kind of Haredi at that, in which case, welcome to Forward Thinking, we try to be a very welcoming blog).

To finish reading this, please go to The Forward.

A response to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Call for Reparations” from within Judaism.

In the Hebrew tradition prophets cry out in the wilderness in part because their audience tends to be uninterested in the message. If the people were ready, after all, they wouldn’t need a prophet. “The prophet faces a coalition of callousness and established authority, and undertakes to stop a mighty stream with mere words,” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote. “The purpose of prophecy is to conquer callousness, to change the inner man as well as to revolutionize history.”

Last week, The Atlantic correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates published “The Case for Reparations,” a remarkable piece that in many ways calls to mind Rabbi Heschel’s portrayal of prophetic literature: Facing a coalition of callousness and established authority, Coates offers “mere words,” with the intent of revolutionizing history. How might an American Jew respond?

To keep reading, please go to The Forward.

5 Dudes Who Claim To Be America’s Rabbi.

Judaism — it’s a big religion; America — it’s an even bigger place.

But one man — one brave, self-sacrificing man — has taken upon himself the weight and burden of serving both constituencies, of being just the Jew that this country needs, of being: America’s Rabbi.

I’m sorry, did I say “one man”? I meant “five men.”

There are five American men (and yes of course they’re men) currently laying claim to the title of “America’s Rabbi.” Five, can you believe it? Why, that’s as many books as we have in the Torah! We’re going to have to add a chapter to our Holy Scriptures, or at the very least create a field guide, to sort them all out.

So allow me to present to you:

A Field Guide to “Rabbis, America’s”

1. Shmuley Boteach.

As news outlets reminded us earlier this week, America’s Rabbi is Rabbi Shmuley, he of the piercing blue eyes and bendy social values — hip enough to talk about sex, but not so hip as to think he shouldn’t tell women what we really want. Hip enough to want to play within America’s political arena, but not so hip as to think maybe he shouldn’t hitch his wagon to someone as manifestly crooked as Chris Christie. Hip enough to think he’s the Jew America needs (and if you doubt his bona fides, check out his About Shmuley page. You can even see his beeper!) but not so hip as to worry about the fact that an Orthodox rabbi doesn’t actually represent America’s actual Jews especially well. Now, Shumley Boteach sure is a whiz at public relations (he wants to “help educate and evolve with the masses,” as long as he gets the credit), but even though the front page of his website declares his singular status, Boteach is not, in fact, America’s only America’s Rabbi.

2. Also America’s Rabbi? Daniel Lapin.

According to his website, Lapin (“known world-wide as America’s Rabbi”) has an uncanny ability “to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner” and in so doing, bring “countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths.” Need to “reprogram the software of your soul”? Seeking a “system of regular spiritual injections?” Lapin’s got books! But note particularly the rabbi’s contributions to America’s search for a padded bank account. One video answers the perennial question “How can America’s Rabbi help me create wealth when I work full time?” At Lapin’s other website, called I’m-not-kidding-this-is-really-the-name Ancient Hebrew Wisdom, one finds the answer to this head-scratcher: “Why Would This 8th Generation Rabbi Defy Convention, Revealing Ancient Jewish Money Principles?”

To learn more about the men who would be America’s Rabbi, click here!

 

 

Holocaust Day, my children, & my mind’s eye.

Auschwitz_TrainOccasionally, on Holocaust Day or some other, random day, I will look at my children, and see them on a train.

See them starved. See their clothes in shreds. See them with blank eyes and sores on their faces, their hair matted, all joy, all light, gone.

My mind doesn’t allow me to go far down these paths (a fact for which I am eternally grateful), but it peeks down the path, toward the incomprehensible at the other end, and then I recoil in pain and tears.

If for no other reason that I know that I am not, really, seeing anything.

My mind providing me, unbidden, with an image it imagines to be something like Jewish children at the time of the Holocaust is simply me overlaying a hundred thousand photographs on top of my beautiful children’s faces. It’s nothing like actually seeing it. It’s not being a mother, probably even hungrier than the child, for having eschewed as much food as she could for as long as she could, in favor of her babies, her clothes also rags, an understanding (that the child can’t match) of the enormity of the darkness that surrounds them, has invaded their homes and their families and their very skin, looking at her 11 year old boy and seven year old daughter and knowing — knowing — that they will die.

Knowing that they will die horrific, meaningless deaths, deaths that she cannot in any way stop. The moment of wondering: Would it be better to find some way to kill them myself, to save them what awaits?

But who knew what awaited? And yet surely, many mothers and fathers found themselves hoping to find the inner strength to kill their own children, before the evil could overcome them.

I chose this faith, I chose this people. If I had been in Europe during those nightmare years, I may have been given a choice to walk away.

But my husband — whose four grandparents saw the writing on the wall in 1933 and left Germany to its devils, thus allowing the best man I’ve ever known to come into my life one night in December 1991, as we danced to loud music and laughed with friends, a week after I’d become a Jew — my husband would not have been given that choice.

My children would not have been given that choice.

I want to believe that I would not have left them, for any reason, but I know that the particular barbarism of the Nazis created circumstances in which people did things that were unimaginable, unspeakable, things for which they could never forgive themselves. I cling to the idea that I would have managed, at least, to stand with my chosen people, with my babies, and die with them.

Last night, we lit a yahrzeit candle together and made kaddish.

Today it burns on my stove, surrounded by pots and pans, in a kitchen with a freezer too full with shopping, at one end of a house that has never been cold. I scrub at the little bit of dried egg stuck on my burner, wash the dishes as a surprise for my husband, and when my son calls to say that he’s forgotten his folder, I get in the car and bring it to school, a note tucked inside to tell him I love him.

Because I can do these things, I do them, with gratitude and with a sort of stunned awe that I get to do them at all.

If my babies had been there, they would have died.

Yes, honey. I’ll bring you your folder.

*

Reupped from Holocaust Day 2011.

Israel presents: How to politicize the Holocaust.

The following ran on Haaretz.com today:

You would think that if anyone on earth didn’t need help understanding the Holocaust, it would be Israel’s leaders.

You would think that between Holocaust Memorial Day, the public school programs, the documentaries, the books, Yad Vashem – not to mention the actual survivors, living their lives in simple defiance of the Final Solution – Israel would be the one place where you could rest assured that the enormity of the crime and the obligation to honor the dead are clear.

You would think that the country’s leaders could be trusted to have a grasp on the monstrousness of it all. Mechanized torture and execution; the enslavement and rape of old and young; babies slaughtered upon birth; men, women and children worked to death, starved to death, gassed to death, shot naked and left to rot in shallow graves. Nearly a thousand concentration camps; 30,000 slave labor camps; 500 brothels in which the Nazi regime profited from the sale of its victims’ flesh.

You would think. And yet again and again, Israel’s politicians remind us that no, in fact, the country’s leaders don’t have a clear grasp on that enormity, nor on the imperative to recognize and respect the inferno of anguish in which the 6 million were consumed.

For surely, if Israel’s leaders understood, the prime minister would never liken a blusterous political movement to the Nazi ravages of the past; surely a member of the coalition wouldn’t equate a speech criticizing the occupation – delivered before the Jewish State’s own parliament, no less – with “incitement to annihilation”; surely the deputy foreign minister wouldn’t call the Jewish State’s internationally recognized boundaries – defended, as they are, by the Israel Defense Forces – “Auschwitz borders.

To read the rest of this post, please go to HaAretz.com: “Israel presents: How to politicize the Holocaust”

I wrote a bunch of stuff this week.

I wrote a bunch of stuff this week. And some in the weeks prior! And I haven’t been updating this blog with any of that writing. Because, you know: Reasons.

Some of these reasons fall under the general heading of “I’m kind of lazy,” and others fall under the narrower heading of “a lot of Non-Writing Life Stuff has been going on” and… you know. Like that! But I’m here with some quick links, because I did kind of promise I would do this sort of thing. Sorry I’ve been rather inconsistent!

In backwards chronological order:

  1. It’s the Occupation, Stupid (The American Prospect, 3/25/14). “From the way my community (on either side of the ocean) yells about BDS, you’d think that BDS is the problem. You’d think that for the last 47 years, the BDS movement had been investing Israel’s resources—financial, military, and human—in morally disastrous policies that serve to dispossess the Palestinian people and undermine Israel’s own democracy…. The bald inequity of the occupation, whereby (aside from any other concern) millions of people’s lives are controlled by a foreign government over which they have no legal influence, is so enormous, so insurmountable, so entirely disproportionate to any other concern that BDS might raise—how can we possibly talk about anything else? And yet talk we do.”
  2. Netanyahu’s Fake Jerusalem Stalls Peace (The Forward, 3/24/14). “Har Homa – an illegal settlement built on Palestinian land in order to massively expand an historically-false version of Israel’s ‘eternal and undivided capital’ – has framed Netanyahu’s political career. The language employed by the Israeli government concerning Har Homa and the entire settlement project has served to obfuscate, disrupt, and steadily shift the terms of engagement, so that what was once non-existent is now treated as inescapable. Not to mention that no matter how the Palestinians have acknowledged and/or recognized Israel, it’s clearly never been good enough for Bibi.
  3. Peace and Palestinians behind Israel’s prison bars (Haaretz, 3/23/12). “Everything’s a crisis. Everything’s a battle royale. Everything’s a big, boiling pottage of names, numbers, and facts that only a few remember (like that 2005 transport deal). Lines are drawn (red, or in the sand), insults are flung, tripwires lie all around. And every single last one of these brouhahas, individually and collectively, serves as a terrible, horrible metaphor for the entire conflict – and the fact that after all that effort, we are still mired in conflict.”
  4. Book review: ‘The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words 1000 BC – 1492 AD,’ by Simon Schama (Dallas Morning News, 3/23/14). “Here is the heartbreak, here is the horror, but here also are families moving up the social ladder, men choosing brides, women doing business, whole communities shaping and reshaping their relationship with their faith, even as they interact with, influence and are influenced by other communities among whom they live…. In conveying all this, Schama’s writing is at turns wry, sly and lavish, tumbling over itself much in the way that he describes the tens of thousands of documents and fragments of documents found in the Cairo Geniza, and yet often turning agonizingly spare in the face of the terrors that came — and they did come, over and over again.”
  5. Will the Crisis in Ukraine Damage Negotiations with Iran? (Ploughshares Blog, 3/19/14). “Much as it may be tempting to believe otherwise, Russia is a rational actor. Whatever its designs on Ukraine, Moscow also has very real interests involving Iran that President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to want to compromise.”
  6. If a Palestinian Did This, He’d Be Dead (The Forward, 3/14/14). “If you’re online and follow news out of Israel, you’ve probably already seen or at least heard of that wild-and-crazy video of a Hebron settler try to steal a Palestinian flag off a Palestinian roof. The guy gets caught on some barbed wire and then — even as his compatriots shout abuse (‘you son of a whore!’) at Shadi Sidr, the man who lives in the house, and even as Sidr tries to help free the settler from his predicament (while also attempting to reassure onlookers: ‘It’s okay, don’t worry!’) — the settler explains, with almost otherworldly calm, that in fact ‘This roof, this is my roof. This is all mine. The whole country is mine. The whole state is mine.’ Soon after, soldiers show up and threaten not the settler but the homeowner with arrest, demanding that he take down his flag. Crazy, right? Wild!”
  7. (follow-up to the aboveTrading a Palestinian Flag for a Kid’s Freedom? (The Forward, 3/18/14). “Rather than, say, arrest the settler for trespassing, though, soldiers responded to this absurd series of events by attempting to browbeat Shadi Sidr, the Palestinian in question, into handing over his flag. At various points, various soldiers insisted that flying the Palestinian flag was forbidden and that Sidr would be taken into custody if he didn’t take his down, but when he refused, at least one of them had the good sense to understand that continuing the farce in front of cameras was not a good idea. Later it transpired that the Israeli military in fact has no anti-flag regulation.
    And that, you would think, was that. Or, at any rate, you might think that was that if you had no experience with Israel and the occupation. Because of course that was not that. That was not even remotely that.”
  8. Iran Negotiations and the Broader Nuclear Agenda (Ploughshares Blog, 3/10/14). “The number of nuclear weapons in the world tops 17,000, yet none of them belong to Iran. While negotiators work for a verifiable deal that would prevent Iran from ever obtaining nuclear arms – it’s important to remember that the current negotiations also have the potential to strengthen international security, and move us forward on a path to a nuclear weapons-free tomorrow.”

Playing catch-up: Me in The Forward.

Last week I also started writing for The Forward, which is a very nice thing! I’ll be cutting-and-pasting the top and then linking to the rest, but unlike Haaretz, there’s no registration/paywall so if you really want to read to the end, it’ll be a little easier. I’m a bit behind though, so following you’ll find TWO tops, and TWO links. (Because I’m behind, but ultimately thorough).

Are Gas Chambers Making a Comeback in U.S.?

Lying at the heart of every political position I hold is an undying faith in human fallibility. Not only might we get things wrong, we will get things wrong – just as we got things wrong last week and last year and last war, forever and ever, back and back, all the way into our misty past.

Fortunately, history is chock-a-block with examples that prove my faith to be unassailable. In fact, it’s hard to know which example would be most illustrative here. Knowing the world is flat? Check. How about knowing we’d be greeted as liberators? Check and check. Or no, I have one: Gas chambers.

Gas chambers. Just saying the words fills the mind with horror and images unbidden – though I’ll bet they don’t involve Wyoming.

to read the rest, please click here.

What Yair Netanyahu’s Norwegian Dating Game Tells Us

It’s easy for liberal Jews to write off the hullabaloo regarding the dating habits of one of Israel’s better known sons as just that: Hullabaloo. Sound and fury signifying nothing, or maybe signifying a prurient interest in famous lives, or possibly signifying a helplessly stultified and hidebound worldview that has nothing to do with us. Or, you know, politics.

But the Sturm und Drang in certain Jewish circles about Yair Netanyahu’s (maybe?) girlfriend is bigger than that – as evidenced by the speed with which his father the Prime Minister has turned around to deny the romance. It goes to the heart of the Jewish experience and the soul of our people. Who are we, how do we define ourselves? Whether or not we realize it, that’s what we’re talking about, and ultimately, these questions go to the heart and soul of how the Jewish faith is conducted everywhere, not least in the Jewish State.

to read the rest, please click here.

 

 

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