“Trayvon Martin could have been me.” – President Barack Obama

This was an extraordinary moment in American history. Just extraordinary. Thank you Mr. President. Thank you.


The full, 18 minute video can be seen here, and the transcript is below. He talked about the need for us to remember historical context, he talked about institutionalized racism, he said it was unlikely that a white Trayvon would have met the same fate, and he actually said the words “If Trayvon Martin had been of age and armed, could he have stood his ground?” I’m overwhelmed by this.

Possibly the most telling moment in the above clip, however, can be found at the 1:19 mark, where the President of the United States slipped into present tense and, discussing people locking their car doors at the site of a black man, said: “That happens to me.” Remarkable.

The whole transcript is after the jump (source):


Obama and Netanyahu as Bobbleheads.

Curious about President Obama’s trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority? Behold! The Israeli Embassy in Washington is here to help!

The Embassy produced a short video in advance of the trip, which, in the spirit of our times, is meant to both inform and amuse. You’ll find it below, but just in case you’re stuck in a super boring meeting, one of those meetings at which reading the Internet is possible but watching videos would be déclassé, let me describe it for you!

Air Force One takes off—and all of North Africa and the Middle East begins to quake! All except for the Gaza Strip, which has literally disappeared from the map (maybe it fell off when the quaking began?). As the plane comes in for a landing, it sounds very much as if it might crash, which serves as an unfortunately apt metaphor for my own fears surrounding the trip, but I’m sure that was unintentional.

We zoom over an Israel that includes all of the West Bank (though there is a very neatly drawn white line around it) and the Golan Heights (no line). Thereupon follows animation of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama mouthing lines from old speeches and looking unnervingly like two moderately creepy Bobbleheads. Smiles! Handshake!

And then we move into what is presumably Netanyahu’s office—they’re reading newspapers! As world leaders do when they get together! And to the strains of (hand to God I am not making this up) the Golden Girls theme song, Bibi and Barack drop the newspapers, smile, make a move as if they’re about to make out—and shake hands again! Fade out, as the words “The United States & Israel Ultimate Allies” come up on the screen.

Not just allies, not even “major strategic partners” as some (*cough* AIPAC *cough*) would have Congress rebrand the relationship—no, no! We Are The Ultimate Allies!

…aaaand scene. You’re welcome.

Through Jennifer Rubin’s looking glass.

jennifer rubinJennifer Rubin, like many on her side of the political map, seems to have not yet gotten the memo that building and maintaining alternate realities, while a pleasant enough hobby, is not necessarily useful in the non-entertainment professions. I say this because in Rubin World, the President of the United States is apparently going to Israel to make up for a single paragraph in a speech he delivered four years ago, in which he (ill-advisedly, I agree) made it sound as if Israel was established because of the Holocaust.

Never mind that the paragraph in question echoed exactly and precisely the rhetoric of both official Israel and the American Jewish establishment. In Rubin World, the Cairo event was “the speech that set off four years of ill feelings and mistrust.” It’s remarkable that Obama could do all that hard work all by himself.

The fact that the Israeli government has consistently greeted the arrival of American officials with renewed settlement expansion, for instance, has nothing to do with it. Neither does the fact that even during the supposed ten-month construction freeze,Israel didn’t actually stop the construction. This is because in Rubin World, the settlement project is not (as it is in Reality) an abrogation of international law and previous Israeli commitments to the United States (among other parties)—it is, merely, “building.” Rubin also writes that settlements have “never an impediment to peace talks under prior administrations,” rather creating the impression that the peace talks in question are to be held with the U.S., and not, in fact, the people on whose land Israel has been building all these years.

Rubin further tweaks Obama for “belittling” Netanyahu and his government (by which I can only imagine she means “disagreeing with”), but doesn’t seem concerned about Netanyahu’s open support for Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential campaign. Attempting to interfere in American elections might not rise to the level of “belittling,” but surely it might have added to the tension?

And then there’s Jerusalem.

Jennifer Rubin writes, with what I can only assume is a straight face, that Obama has put himself

in constant conflict with a country which can never agree not to allow Jews to live anywhere in its historic capital. (The notion that East Jerusalem should remain Judenfrei is an all-to-familiar assumption on the anti-Israel left…).

Whew. Let’s start with the fact that literally one paragraph after complaining about Obama’s mis-characterization of the Holocaust, Rubin leans on Holocaust imagery to paint the President as—what? An ersatz Nazi?

Then let’s examine her use of the word “historical”—to which history is Rubin referring? If she means the Jewish people’s historical holy city—roughly equivalent to the walled portion of Jerusalem known as the Old City—then she’s not talking about the current Municipality of Jerusalem.

Even if she’s talking about the city as it existed when Israel conquered the Palestinian neighborhoods and surrounding villages in 1967, she’s still not talking about the city as currently constituted. Indeed, at no time in history has Jerusalem looked like it does now: it’s three times bigger than the “reunited” city was in 1967, and a hundred times larger than it was a century ago. The area that we all rather inaccurately call “East Jerusalem” is not historically Jewish—most of it isn’t even historically Jerusalem.

And finally, “the anti-Israel left.” All I can really say to that is that Rubin needs to get out more.

I spent this past weekend at the J Street U Student Summit, where hundreds of highly motivated Lovers of Zion (a number of them wearing kippot) were discussing how best to save the Jewish State from its own worst impulses. In their advocacy, these American college students echo the work being done in Israel by Jews born and raised in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, Jews ranging from noted peacenik Amos Oz to noted former head of the Shin Bet Ami Ayalon. Is Rubin honestly suggesting that when all of these people say that Israel will have to share Jerusalem to save itself, they are “anti-Israel?”

I suppose she is, in fact, honestly suggesting that. I do not for one minute doubt Jennifer Rubin’s sincerity.

Her grasp on reality, on the other hand, is a different matter. I take heart, though, from how desperately wrong Rubin was on the Chuck Hagel nomination—again and again, and again, and again. To judge from that example, Obama and Netanyahu will be using the Presidential visit to announce a two-state agreement with a shared Jerusalem as its centerpiece.

As we say in our prayers: Ken yehi ratzon—may it be God’s will.

Crossposted from The Daily Beast/Open Zion.

Obama’s Israel trip on HuffPost Live.

I was on HuffPost Live this morning, talking about President Obama’s visit to Israel — he arrives tomorrow at noon, if memory serves. We discussed what we expect to see during the trip, what we’d like to see, and if there’s even any real point to the trip or, in fact, trying to do anything about Israel/Palestine peace at all.

So! If you’d like to see that discussion, click here. This time, I start right at the very beginning, and though it looks like I’m wearing a fetching cherry-red lipstick, my lips are, in fact, adorned with nothing but Carmex. Lighting!

Please ignore Kristol’s desire to bomb Iran.

I know that not a lot of people, in Washington or out, are thinking about this stuff this week, but former Sen. Chuck Hagel continues to be dogged by a ludicrous smear campaign. Given the Administration’s near-silence on the matter, I continue to be worried that President Obama is going to let the campaign work—simultaneously allowing the world at large to continue to conclude that, really, Israel’s right-wing supporters set U.S. foreign policy (a conclusion that also, frankly, worries me).

Exhibit #1,247 (give or take): this ad, produced by (pay close attention) the Emergency Committee for Israel.

And there it is, straight-up-no-chaser: You don’t support the Emergency Committee for Israel’s desire for an attack on Iran? You are not fit to be Secretary of Defense in the United States government.

It is not good for Israel or the Jewish people to perpetuate the notion that U.S. policy is set in Jerusalem. Neither is it good for America or American security interests to leta small, unrepresentative group of power-hungry political machers set the tone for Presidential decision-making.

Former C.I.A. official Paul Pillar wrote last week in The National Interest, “Intimidation feeds on itself, with successful intimidation encouraging more of the same and failures discouraging further attempts.” This president has an ambitious agenda for his second term, one which I desperately hope includes working toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. Allowing himself to be browbeaten by the likes of Bill Kristol will not further that agenda.

As I’ve said before, I like Hagel. He has an instinct toward diplomacy and a willingness to say what he believes is really best for his country. I’ve liked him on Israel for a long time, and I also like his respect for one Israeli in particular, Yitzhak Rabin, as expressed to the Israel Policy Forum in 2008:

I don’t know of a better role model or an individual to point to than Yitzhak Rabin. What Yitzhak Rabin did, what he represented, what he still represents is hope, that in his memory, in his honor, but for his courage and boldness, we can come back with a Rabin too. It takes leaders on the other side. Sadat, Begin. It will take a unique set of leaders to do this. It’s possible. Leaders change the world.

I like Hagel. And I really do not like what is being done to his good name by the likes of the ECI. I hope the President doesn’t like it either.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

On public insults and the nature of activism.

It’s ok to yell at Kahn, though.

It’s been a somewhat rocky couple of weeks here at In My Head HQ.

As a direct result of my Israel/Palestine activism and open enthusiasm for the current President of the United States, I have recently been called (in no particular order) a defender of anti-Semitism, a supporter of neo-Nazis, someone who spreads hatred of Israel, the anti-Christ, willing to murder in order to have an easy life, dumb, #biggestliberalasshole2012, a liar, willing to shrug away evil, and disgustingly indifferent to women of color (these are all direct quotes).

It has also been darkly suggested, by someone with 50,000 Twitter followers, that s/he “knows a lot more about you, and what you support, and what you are, than you realize,” and by someone else, with far fewer Twitter followers, that I am sexually aroused by drone strikes in which people are killed (my previous arguments against drone strikes notwithstanding). Oh, and something or other about me being too cowardly to argue with someone who was hectoring me.

And (I have very good reason to suspect) a great deal else that I know little about, because I block/spam/ignore people when they behave in such a fashion and thus don’t see subsequent insults, and I certainly don’t bother to go looking to see what folks might be saying about me or my work in the internet’s more extreme corners.

I tell you all this not to gain sympathy (well, ok. You can give me a little sympathy) but to make a larger point, one that starts with the fact that what I’ve experienced is as nothing compared to the flood of bad behavior endured by writers and activists with a higher public profile and/or full-time employ. Nothing.

Of course, there’s a point at which this is simple trolling: People with a nominal worldview who are mainly in it for the abuse. Whether it’s me liking Barack Obama, women who call out sexism, men who like Star Wars the wrong way, or teenagers who don’t know how to use internet slang, the fight’s the thing, the act of screaming insults the actual point.

And of course, there’s a point of simple incandescent anger, tinged with fear (you know: I’m a danger to Israel and Jews everywhere, etc and so on).

But there’s another point — a very important point — at which this sort of thing is about a difference in tactics and values (and not just the “don’t call people the anti-Christ before you’ve even met” one).

Because there are two different kinds of social activists in the world: There are those who think that change only ever happens incrementally, that we can only organize people where they are and not where we want them to be, that revolution (as an Egyptian revolutionary recently noted) is a process, not an event. And there are those for whom all evil must be relentlessly labelled as such and any change that isn’t instant is not fast enough.

And both kinds of people are right.

We will never change the world by refusing to talk about what’s wrong with it, and any change that isn’t instant is — really and truly — not fast enough. Lives are ruined or lost as we struggle forward, and the human race needs angry prophets who remind us of that.

Yet, for all that that is so, the fact remains that revolution is a process, not an event. That we can only organize people where they are, not where we want them to be. And change only ever happens incrementally. It’s genuinely unfortunate, but it’s also, simply, true.

I try to listen to angry prophets. I try to give them their due, and I try to incorporate at least some of their righteous fury (because, aside from anything else, while “reasonable” might be my brand, I’m always angry, Captain). I know that we move things forward by steadily making the list of that-which-is-infuriating broader and longer: Once it was slavery, then it was poll taxes, now it’s effigies of the President hung on front lawns.

But I cannot hear anyone while I’m cleaning “anti-Christ” and “murder” from my ears, and I can only imagine that the people who have a higher public profile and/or full-time employ have it even harder, because they hear so much more of it.

People stop listening when you treat them with derision — it’s really that simple. No change is fast enough, but if you want any change, you’re going to need people who are willing to listen to you.

Unfortunate, but true.

Jews – are they going to vote for Romney, or what?

I did a thing! On HuffPost Live!

Yesterday I was part of a panel of American Jews (including the moderator, Mike Sacks, a former Supreme Court correspondent for The Huffington Post, now a host with HuffPost Live) talking about the American Jews and the upcoming elections, specifically: “Jews – are they going to vote for Romney, or what?”

Writer MJ Rosenberg and I came down on the “or what” side, while Michael Goldstein (the Michael Goldstein, from the ad!) and David Milstein, a college senior and president of the Young Jewish Conservatives at his school, were on the “for Romney” side.

Unfortunately, I cannae embed it. Curse you, free WordPress platform!

So please, if you would like to see me discuss this these issues with these gentlemen, click here! I think you’ll find three things to be true:

  1. I managed to not yell, which is a good thing.
  2. Every single time I said David’s name, I sounded like I was his mom (…), which was less good — sorry, David!
  3. I look rather like Lokai, resident of the planet Cheron, from the original Star Trek. By which I mean: Half my face is in shadow. WHERE  ARE MY LIGHTING TECHS?

Click here to watch, won’t you?


I’m a wee bit weepy, I’m very excited, I’m not really surprised, and I’m covered in goosebumps.

I’ve long suspected that the President was taking a Lincolnian tack on the issue of gay marriage, keeping his support in his back pocket, so to speak, until such time as he saw that the rest of the country wouldn’t be completely thrown for a loop by it, and then: Boom. And I believe that’s what he did — and I don’t really believe that Joe Biden’s “gaffe” was a “gaffe.” Biden meant it, and if the President hadn’t wanted to reply, he wouldn’t have.

After all, this is the administration that repealed DADT, de-fanged DOMA, has hired/appointed (if memory serves) more than 200 out gays and lesbians (not to mention the first out trans-gendered person in history), so on and so forth. This is completely of a piece with what’s been going on under Obama’s watch since day one (and indeed, since that first time he said he backed gay marriage, back in 1996).

So I’m not surprised. But I am absolutely thrilled.

On the ground, of course, it means nothing. North Carolina still has a vile new amendment to its Constitution, and gay men and women can’t run out and get hitched on the President’s say-so.

But when the President says a thing, it is huge. This, my friends, is a big fucking deal.

And a very, very proud day for America.

image source

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

A lot of bad news out there…

SO, I turn, as I so often do these days, to the one steady supply of good news: America’s LGBTQ community.


President Barack Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 during a ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., Dec. 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Barack Obama has put his signature to certification of the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which means that the ban on openly gay and lesbian members of the U.S. military officially ends in 60 days, or on Sept. 20.

“Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality,” the president said today after signing the repeal certification, adding that he had indeed “certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met.”

The president continued, “As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness. … Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.”

Obama also praised “our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war.”

That will make for a lovely birthday present, thank you very much US Congress and President Obama! When I wake up on my birthday on September 21, America will be one nice, big step closer to perfecting our union.

And thank you, LGBTQ community, for continuing to fight for that greater perfection. Your straight brothers and sisters owe you a debt of gratitude — and not just because you’re the only folks who deliver good news anymore.

Debunking a very little bit of Netanyahu’s speech before Congress.

Right then. Given my conquest of all the foreign airwaves — the BBC on Friday, Russia Today this morning — on matters Israel/Palestine, Obama and Netanyahu, I have been feeling a certain moral obligation to blog about Bibi’s speech before Congress today.

But I have finally just read it (he was delivering the speech as I was finishing my little bout of punditry this morning. Coincidence? Probably) and oh my good Lord — I was exhausted beforehand, and now I’m exhausted and my head hurts. The arrogance, the hubris, the lies, the sheer, balls-to-the-wall chutzpa — and the US Congress applauded, and applauded, and applauded again. I’m glad I didn’t actually hear that part. It was dispiriting enough to read it. Especially the parts where the word “applause” was proceeded by “cheers.” Cheap political points, y’all, just hanging there, ripe and for the taking — and take them, the United States Congress did.

I just don’t have it in me to write about Bibi’s speech now. Bibi’s speech knocked the will to write about Bibi’s speech right out of me.

I did make several points about it on Twitter as I was reading, however, and so I’ve decided to meet myself half-way: I’ll present below the entire transcript, with added notations. Beneath the transcript, you’ll find fleshed out versions of those tweets — I’ll flesh them out in such a way that you can read them without having to dive into the transcript, if you don’t feel like it (it was a very long speech, though, so keep scrolling to get to my notes!).

Tally ho! Speech and comments about same, after the jump.


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