Ask and ye shall open thread.

You know what to do, you crazy, beautiful Horde.

Standard FYI clause: My rule of thumb is that I wait for 2 hours after Ta-Nehisi would usually open a thread (roughly noon, EST), and if none is forthcoming, I put one up here.


My Daily Beast column: “Tel Aviv is Not Vilna.”

It’s that time again: I have a column up at Open Zion on The Daily Beast! This week I rage at the Israeli government for its abuse of Holocaust imagery for geopolitical ends. Good times!

Following is the top of the piece – to read the rest, please click here, and, you know: Please do click! If you don’t help me get page views, the terrorists win! Or something.

On the Eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel’s Prime Minister chose – as so many have done before him – to compare a current geopolitical circumstance to the dark days of Nazi Germany.

“People who make light of the Iranian threat have learned nothing from the Holocaust,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said, adding that during a recent trip around the country, “for a moment I replaced Tel Aviv with Vilna, Haifa with Białystock, Degania, Nahalal, Be’er Sheva with Plonsk, Riga, and Odessa.”

There’s nothing new here, of course. Nasser, Arafat, Ahmadinejad – they’re all Hitler. Palestinian nationalism is Nazism. The 1967 borders are Auschwitz Borders. On and on Israel’s leaders go, misusing and abusing the memories of the six million, even as they claim to be fighting in their memory.

The words “false equivalency” come up a lot in discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but arguably the worst case of it is perpetrated by successive Israeli governments when they compare the Jews in the Jewish State to the Jews in mid-century Europe.

Can there be any equivalency more false than that drawn between a starved, terrorized population without access to hope or help – and the Middle East’s most successful country, its borders guarded by the Middle East’s most powerful army, its people fed, clothed and housed in the Middle East’s most successful economy? In what way, exactly, is a nation bristling with armaments like people gunned down by the Einsatzgruppen? How, precisely, are Israel’s internationally recognized borders even remotely like the gates reading “Arbeit Macht Frei”?

These are ahistorical and frankly grotesque comparisons. The damage they cause cuts deep, and in many directions.

To read the rest (ahem), please click here.

The War on Women and Fridays with Billy.

We’re back! After two weeks of no Billy Bragg for holiday-related reasons, the internet can now heave a sigh of relief. Fridays have regained their Billy-ibrium!

This week’s selection, “Trust,” is a short story, really, told by a woman. One of the things I’ve always loved most about Mr. Bragg is his ability to channel the voice of someone entirely unlike himself — a gay veteran of the Second World War, a Japanese-American victim of internment, or, in this case, a woman who’s been very badly done by the man in her life.

He wrote this song at the height of the AIDS crisis, and the lyrics leave us entirely uncertain: Is she pregnant? Infected? Or just afraid? There’s no way to know, but that fear, that uncertainty — that abandonment — is a thing with which many, many women are all too familiar, and which far too few men have made an effort to understand.

Least of all the men making decisions about our bodies.

There’s been a lot of angry back and forth lately about the phrase “war on women,” and on the recent day that 150 Afghan girls were poisoned for the crime of going to school, I wavered a bit, myself — and then I remembered the state-sanctioned rape that is forced transvaginal ultrasounds, such as take place in Texas every day. People are literally attacking our bodies in an effort to create a legislative reality that inimical to our most basic interests — I think “war on women” is pretty reasonable.

The first line of defense in any battle has got to be information, and in that spirit, I want to encourage you to check out and bookmark the frankly mind-boggling Team Uterati Wiki on which Angry Black Lady and the Team Uterati team are doing yoeman’s labor. It’s a one-stop-shop for information on the people, the places, and the roughly 1,100 anti-choice bills currently pending across the country.

You heard me: One thousand and one hundred.

Women are human beings. We have a fundamental, human right to bodily autonomy, one that powerful people (some of whom are women) are attempting to strip from us, for their own purposes. The only way to win this war is to fight back. Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge, inundate them with our demands, and vote the bastards out come November. And then let’s keep fighting.


He’s already been inside me
And he really didn’t say
And I really didn’t ask him
I just hoped and prayed

He’s already been inside me
And I really don’t feel well
I keep looking in the mirror
But it’s hard to tell

Will he stay by me and take my hand
And hold me till I sleep
Or will he crumble and fall to the floor
And weep
Oh feeble man, Oh evil man

He’s already been inside me
Would he have told me if he cared?
I know I ought to find out
But I’m much too scared

He’s already been inside me
And I know it can’t be good
Nothing feels
The way it should

Will he hold me in his arms again
And wipe away my tears
Or has he already taken
My best years
Oh evil man, Oh feeble man

What is Fridays with Billy?

UPDATE: It’s been suggested to me that this song is “being sung by one man about another man, not by a woman at all.” I can see that, and remember it crossing my mind back in the day, so I mention it here — I can only hope Mr. Bragg himself weighs in someday…! (Knowing his work, it’s entirely possible that he left the song just that vague on purpose).

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


I first ran this piece last year, but I have a hard time revisiting these ideas, though they are often in my heart, so I decided to re-up the post. Last night, just after we lit our candle, my now-8 year old daughter proceeded to stomp around the house, being a dragon. It’s a good thing to be a little Jewish girl being a dragon on Holocaust Day.

Your semi-daily open thread – now open.

Knock yourselves out, good people! (Though not literally. That would just be sad).

Standard FYI clause: My rule of thumb is that I wait for 2 hours after Ta-Nehisi would usually open a thread (roughly noon, EST), and if none is forthcoming, I put one up here.

Ted Nugent under the Secret Service’s eye – UPDATED w/ Romney response.

Note update, below.

Once upon a time, I lived in a foreign land, and in that foreign land, in the midst of a season of threats and dehumanizing rhetoric, that country’s head of state was assassinated.

Anyone who lived in Israel in 1995 knows all too painfully the power of words. Indeed, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin assassination is probably a big piece of why I work so hard to maintain a civil level of discourse on issues ranging from Israel/Palestine to anti-women legislation in the US. After all, Americans know the power of words, too: Just look at the Gabby Giffords shooting. (Or, you know: Kennedy).

And so I am very glad indeed to learn that Ted Nugent’s comment to the NRA that “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will be either be dead or in jail by this time next year” has been flagged by the Secret Service.

I’m on record as being constantly afraid for Barack Obama’s life, but I’ll be honest: I don’t really think that Ted Nugent’s about to take up arms against the President of these United States. He has a big mouth, and his life is now largely dedicated to trolling the America left. Whatevs, dude.

But the thing is, Ted Nugent is not the only American nutjob with a gun. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but as a nation, we are fairly bristling with guns, not to mention those who like to use them.

My concern is not that Nugent will storm the ramparts, but that someone listening to him with think that he offers a spiffing solution to the nation’s problems, and oh hey! I have a big gun right here!

There are surely those who agree, and will continue to agree, that political violence is a good idea, especially when they hear the thundering silence from the right that refuses to condemn such rhetoric. But if the Secret Service makes its presence felt? It’ll slow a few hands.

Look, I don’t think we’ll ever rid the world of the violent, the crazy, or the hateful. But we can, at the very, least make it abundantly clear that we as a nation do not sanction and will not support crazy, hateful violence. I don’t know why Mitt Romney has remained silent, but I’m damn glad that the Secret Service hasn’t.

UPDATE: Romney’s campaign (note: Not Romney) made this statement:

Divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from. Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be civil.


Really? That’s it?

The man is talking — loudly, and frequently — about wanting to kill the President? And that’s all you got? “Let’s be civil,” via the tried and true  false equivalency of “both sides of the aisle”?

Dear Mitt Romney: You’re even more craven, and useless, than I thought.

h/t AshCan, in comments.

Thread? Open.

Have at it!

Standard FYI clause: My rule of thumb is that I wait for 2 hours after Ta-Nehisi would usually open a thread (roughly noon, EST), and if none is forthcoming, I put one up here.

Dear Jake Gyllenhaal – Pleasepleaseplease come to my Fantasy Seder!


Remember when I said that Jake Gyllenhaal is invited to my Fantasy Seder?

Now he’s not only invited, but I think I’m in love.


I’m sure the husband will understand.

And Jake will not find this creepy in the least.

Israeli PM Netanyahu: “Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers.”

As was reported yesterday, an Israeli officer is to be investigated for taking his M-16 to the face of an international protester in the middle of a nonviolent demonstration on the West Bank.

In the meantime, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that “Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel.”

Which is lovely of him, of course — except that as an Israeli, I can assure you that not only does “such behavior” have a place in both the IDF and in Israel, that place is time-honored. The difference is that this time, the dude who got smacked was blonde. If you’re Palestinian, no one notices.

According to Amnesty International’s 2011 annual report:

Consistent allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including of children, were frequently reported. Among the most commonly cited methods were beatings, threats to the detainee or their family, sleep deprivation, and being subjected to painful stress positions for long periods.

According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem:

Over the years, B’Tselem and other human rights organizations have documented hundreds of cases in which soldiers and police have slapped and kicked Palestinians, insulted and humiliated them, and delayed them at checkpoints for no reason. On occasion, more serious violence has also been exposed.

These include the story of a shepherd beaten and humiliated for no apparent reason:

On Friday, 4 March 2011, [Nayef] ‘Abayat was grazing his family’s flock…. Around mid-day he gathered his sheep and was walking along the road leading to his house…. As he was walking, three military jeeps pulled up and three soldiers got out and came over to him.

According to ‘Abayat, one of the soldiers asked him what he was doing there and kicked him before he could answer. The blow knocked Abayat to the ground, injuring his elbow, which began to bleed. The other soldiers searched him, cuffed his hands, and blindfolded him. Then they threw him onto the floor of the jeep, which then drove off. They drove for about two hours, during which the soldiers insulted and swore at him. The jeep came to the Etzion army base, where the soldiers left him waiting in the yard for a few hours, still blindfolded and cuffed. The soldiers next to him continued to swear at him and insult him, and one of the soldiers pushed a tomato into his mouth.

‘Abayat was 24 when this incident took place — but as was reported in The Independent last August, the Israeli military doesn’t limit its abuse to adults:

[C]hildren [accused of throwing stones] as young as 12 are hauled from their beds at night, handcuffed and blindfolded, deprived of sleep and food, subjected to lengthy interrogations, then forced to sign a confession in Hebrew, a language few of them read.

Quoting figures provided by Defence for Children International Palestine, the story reports that 87% of Palestinian minors arrested by Israeli forces are subjected to physical violence.

Perhaps the Prime Minister hasn’t read these reports.

Perhaps he hasn’t seen this video footage, of an Israeli soldier cocking a loaded rifle and pointing it directly at the face of a Palestinian man, from a distance of some three inches. Or this footage, in which an Israeli soldier is seen assaulting a Palestinian (who happens to be a B’Tselem activist) on his own land. Or this footage, of the Israeli police yanking a man wearing a Palestinian headscarf out of a group of protesters, and beating the crap out of him in the middle of a parade (the victim happens to be an American Jew).

It’s possible the Prime Minister hasn’t stumbled across any of that, or across this footage either, wherein two Border Patrolmen boast of their power over the Palestinians who pass through the checkpoint they man:

We handle people who want to make trouble for the country. Whoever comes close, wants to make trouble, we break them. What do I mean ‘break them’? We let them suffer, in the sun, in the rain, so that they learn not to mess with the Border Police.

and another says what he really thinks of the people who can’t get anywhere on the West Bank without first going through him:

Animals. Animals. Like the Discovery Channel…. There are monkeys, dogs, gorillas. The problem is that the animals are locked [up], they can’t come out. We’re humans. They’re animals. They aren’t humans. We are.

It’s possible the Prime Minister is so criminally ignorant of the doings of Israel’s own military that he’s unaware of all this. Anything’s possible.

But the Palestinians who live with it day in and day out are not so ignorant.

As an Israeli, I suggest you listen to them.

An open thread for the teeming Commies & their Horde.

The wind is so crazy here in the Greater Chicagoland Metropolitan Area that it feels a bit like we’re on the wind-swept steppes — you know, with the Khan. Who has apparently abandoned us for some other battalion, or something.

Anyhoo! Open thread!

Standard FYI clause: My rule of thumb is that I wait for 2 hours after Ta-Nehisi would usually open a thread (roughly noon, EST), and if none is forthcoming, I put one up here.