I’ll never understand why Israeli leaders — who annually welcome some 150,000+ migrant workers into the country from Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe — are continually trying to deport, imprison and make life difficult for a African refugees from genocide.
These Africans are not recognized yet as refugees before any authority, who are seeking that recognition as they flee horrible war in Sudan and nearby countries. They have often been trafficked into Israel, tortured and raped, and owe thousands of dollars to criminal ransomers in the Sinai Peninsula. Instead of granting them the quarter that Jews wanted and did not find in Europe or America in the 1940s, they are refused any status or work permissions, and treated as criminals.
Recently, Israel’s supreme court ruled unconstitutional a law allowing their mass arrest and incarceration. Now, the Knesset is going to pass another law that tries to flout the ruling. Instead of mass arrests and imprisonment without trial with a jail sentence of 3 years, now it will just be 1 year. The prison in the Negev will further cost the Israeli public 440 million shekels and necessary firing 560 public sector jobs.
The alternative is easy — grant them work visas just as Filipinos and Ukrainians are, grant them the same Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process as in other western countries, and work with the international community to repatriate those that Israel cannot handle itself. But until Israel offers a RSD process, no country will allow Israel to flout the international refugee system that the Jewish state itself fought to create in the 1950s.
It’s an ongoing shonde against the Netanyahu government that we would treat survivors of genocide so heartlessly. Action alert [by Right Now: Advocates for Asylum Seekers in Israel] beneath the fold. More »
They say mockery is highest form of flattery, right? A web commentator (who prefers to remain anonymous) forwarded around this graffitied explanation of The Israel Project’s latest infographic. This is the same pro-settler advocacy group that brought you faked hundreds signatures on their last Iran petition and teaches their advocates to accuse Obama of “ethnically cleansing” Jews from Israel while arguing that settlements were necessary for Israeli security. After the Pew study on American Jews’ views of settlements (news flash: we’re not fans), you have to wonder whether this group is still within the mainstream.
But the Israel Project nevertheless wants you to help them undermine President Obama’s current success with Iranian negotiations. You know, only the first President in, oh, 40 years to reopen diplomatic relations with that country, halt several Israeli strikes that would have cost Israeli and American lives, and put a permanent, peaceful solution within reach. So yeah, infographic notwithstanding, I think I’ll support Secretary of State Kerry’s amazing accomplishments in the region.
This just in, just in time for this year’s Project Hayei Sarah:
Members of All That’s Left, a collective of activists committed to ending the occupation, marked the eve of ‘Shabbat Chayei Sarah’ by staging a protest against segregation in the city of Hebron. During Shabbat Chayei Sarah, thousands of Jews gather in Hebron to celebrate the reading of the biblical passage in which Abraham purchases the Cave of the Patriarchs, a site located in the center of modern-day Hebron.
The activists intended to erect a tent on the city’s segregated Shuhada Street, adorned with signs reading, “Segregation is not my Judaism,” and to hold an alternative study session examining the Chayei Sarah text. The tent was to resemble Abraham’s Tent, which according to traditional Jewish exegesis was open on all four sides so that any passing stranger would know s/he was welcome.
Police prevented them from erecting the tent and confiscated their signs but allowed them to continue a discussion of the parsha for an hour and a half. The activists were then arrested. +972 Mag reported that Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On intervened for their release later that night with all charges dropped.
All That’s Left member Talia Krevsky said, “Our signs are a direct response to counter some of the appalling graffiti we have seen in and around Hebron, with images of Jewish stars alongside racist statements such as ‘Death to Arabs.’ That is not our Judaism.”
- Tel Aviv will build its first holocaust memorial to gay victims in Gan Meir next to Tel Aviv Municipality’s LGBTQ Center. Other cities with one already: Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Sydney and San Francisco.
- Philip Roth, Nathan Englander and Michael Chabon are among the American Jewish writers who’ve signed a petition opposing the Israeli plan to forcibly relocate Bedouin from their homes in the West Bank. Other signers include Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney (z”l), J.M. Coetzee, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Orhan Pamuk.
- A pro-Palestinian group in Vermont is campaigning for local creamery Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream to stop selling their social good conscious products in the settlements. Interesting that the call isn’t to boycott Israel, just the settlements. Are the BDSers learning a tactical lesson?
- An Israeli court ruled that calling right-wing Israeli group Im Tirtzu “fascists” is a fair description after all and threw out a libel suit against a Facebook group labeling them as such. It’s amazing anyone in Israel dreamed (ha) of outlawing that over-used word.
- Educators should browse through the new multimedia center from JustVision, featuring the best tools, clips and guides from a decade of Israel-Palestine film making. A must-see.
- Achvat Amim (“solidarity of nations”) is a new 5-month volunteer experience in Jerusalem that directly engages with the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by placing participants in Israeli human rights organizations, sponsored by MASA. (MASA? Whoa.) Coming in January 2013!
- Encounter’s new Davar Acher Leadership Program expands to more people their dialogue training and customized Encounter day trips to Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Limited number of paid fellowships available, deadline October 8.
- Haven’t been to dialogue with Palestinians on Encounter yet? Here are your chances: Oct 24-25, Nov 14-15 (to Areas B & C), Dec 5-6, and Dec 26-27.
This via our friends at HEEB, just in time for Rosh Hashanah, an exchange on the nature of forgiveness, leadership, judgement and God between an angry Jewish voter and New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner.
What can we pray about Syria? As the United States looks to enter the fray of a Syrian civil war, concerned American Jews and Israelis are penning responses in prayer. Shared here are two recent liturgical creations, by very different authors: The first is by Rabbi Barenblat, a Renewal rabbi at of Congregation Beth Israel in Massachusetts and the author of The Velveteen Rabbi. The second is by Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a leading figure in the religious Zionist movement and head of the Petach Tikvah hesder yeshiva.
Both rabbis ask for both sides to display compassion, mercy, humanity and brotherhood to forestall further loss of innocent life and unnecessary revenge upon the other. That said, the Cherlow prayer leaves me a mite uncomfortable by invoking Number 35:33, that killers be killed. Nevertheless, his draft is reportedly being read by the Bnei Akiva youth movement across the religious-national world. Movement secretary-general Danny Hirshberg said on settler media, “The Israeli public needs to look beyond the screen of hate and enmity to see the pain of those civilians being hurt by the Syrian tyrant.”
Read both below the fold… More »
While I deeply love learning Hebrew, ulpan often hurts my heart. I can’t help but bristle at prejudicial Israeli attitudes that go against the anti-oppression work that bring many of us there. Be they prejudices against Arabs, Jewish religion, President Obama or anything else, most of ulpan classmates take on those prejudices without question. Sadly, even enthusiastically.
Truthfully, the successful Hebrew ulpan model began under the need to assimilate huge numbers of immigrants and forge collective identity. Its very purpose was to be doctrinaire. But today, it’s apparent that parts of this model are inappropriate for the needs of some. American Jewry especially has the highest failed emigration rate, due in part to the values and worldview gap between how Israelis and Americans see society. Better dialogue between Israelis and American Jewry is crucial these days, so why would we want to enter a learning environment aimed at assimilation and affinity-building instead of engagement and equal exchange?
That is why this past year a group of American and Canadian learners banded together in Tel Aviv to launch This is Not an Ulpan, the first explicitly lefty Hebrew learning community. More »
Thirty young MASA participants and other young Diaspora Jews stood up at their program’s end-year bash to interrupt the address of Minister of Knesset Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party. The participants chanted “Diaspora Jews say ‘end the occupation,’ Diaspora Jews say ‘no to annexation.’” After being removed from the event, they distributed flyers and answered questions by other participants.
This was the first protest by a new activist group dubbing themselves “All That’s Left” comprised of North American young Jews united against the occupation. According to All That’s Left member Joshua Leifer, “The dialogue following the action led to frank and open discussions that aren’t being held enough in Diaspora Jewish communities.”
From a statement, the group wanted to draw attention to Bennett’s central leadership in the settlement movement, opposition to a Palestinian state, proposal to annex 60% of the West Bank, and racist statements against Arabs. “MASA’s choice to invite Naftali Bennett as a keynote speaker to the event does not reflect my Zionism and reasons for coming to Israel,” remarked demonstrator Isabel Frey. “It was necessary to make clear that there also are young Zionists that do not support the occupation, Bennett and his position.” More »
At the Forward, Repair the World and the Jewish Agency present their new study of service learning opportunities for young North American Jews. They argue that addressing societal needs in Israel — a context of service to others in a Jewish place with other Jews — is “unparalleled” in successfully attracting young people to visit Israel for longer than ten days, feel Jewish, and get involved back at home in North America.
But after eight years working at the intersection of the Jewish social justice sector and pro-Israel organizations, allow me to issue the Jewish community a warning: Social justice trips to Israel will widen the generation gap. So please, continue straight away. More »
Updated: New ministerial positions were appointed since time of publishing, including two more women.
There are 53 new faces in the 19th Knesset — 16 of them women. With the 11 women who retained their seats, this is one of the highest women’s representation in Israel’s parliament at 27 MKs. But it’s not just because four more women got elected than last time. Former lawmaker Naomi Chazan was wont to lament last Knesset that barely a tenth of MKs were female and even fewer were feminist. Not the case any longer. Just a week ago, all but one banded together in a new women’s lobby.
The inaugural speeches of Ruth Calderon and Merav Michaelli went viral in Israel. Other new faces include the first female Ethiopian MK, a leader of the 2011 social protests, the former CEO of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, a city council woman from Tel Aviv, the former mayor of Herzliya, professors, print journalists and famous TV hosts.
But the road to a more feminist-friendly legislation isn’t assured as only four will hold ministries and key leaders sit in the opposition. To boot, Netanyahu didn’t attend their inaugural event.
Which is the most feminist party?
MKs will have time to prove their feminist credentials, but as far as numbers go, seven parties have female representatives. Yesh Atid has both the highest number and the second-greatest proportion with 8 all-new women among 19 total party seats.
But we can’t rely on just quantity over quality: could Likud Beiteinu’s 7 reelected women MKs possibly be more pro-women than the life-long women’s activists on Labor’s 4 MKs? Don’t be ridiculous, Labor includes both party chairwoman Shelly Yachamovich, feminist crusader Merav Michaelli,
pluralism pioneer Dr. Ruth Calderon, and the leader of the 2011 social protests Stav Shaffir. Together, they’ve already submitted 18 women’s interest bills for discussion.
Meanwhile, half of unabashedly lefty Meretz’s six seats are held by women and Zahava Gal-On is reigning party chairwoman. And what about the HaTnua party, widely regarded as a one-woman party of former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni with five (male) coat tail riders?And last but not least, we shouldn’t forget the Arab public’s loudest voice, Balad party firebrand Hanin Zoabi.
Who are the most powerful women?
Power can be in the eyes of the beholder, but here’s where matters are least ideal. The new cabinet was reduced to 20 ministers and 8 deputy ministers — only 4 are women when there should proportionally be at least 6-7. The four ministers are Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni (HaTnua), Minister of Health Yael German (Yesh Atid), Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beiteinu), and Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat (Likud).
[Update: Final results since yesterday show that two more women received secondary ministries -- Fania Kirshenbaum and Tzipi Hotovely, both of Likud, who will be Deputy Ministers of Interior and Transportation, respectively. That certainly gives Likud Beiteinu's slate of four women them most formal power, even if only the Ministry of the Interior is a key agency.]
This is disappointing given Israel’s below-average track record in women governmental leaders. As Ynet detailed, the country’s Equal Employment Opportunities Commission called on International Women’s Day for the government to appoint more women. Women have never chaired any of the most important committees like defense or economics, usually comprise barely 7% – 16% of committee members, and only one woman has ever been Speaker of Knesset.
And we’re left wondering how effective the most familiar of our heroines will be from the opposition, where both Labor chairwoman Shelley Yachamovich and Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On sit. Hopefully, the new women’s caucus will allow them to work collaboratively beyond their outsider positions.
This weekend, a poster appeared all over ultra-orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem against Women of the Wall‘s fight for gender equality at holy sites in Israel. The poster calls for ultra-Orthodox opposition to rally at the Western Wall tomorrow Monday, March 11 at 7 am.
And in Jerusalem and cities across America, Jews are rallying to support WoW:
Monday, March 11
- Washington DC Friends of Women of the Wall’s solidarity service and program will be across from the Embassy of Israel on Monday, March 11. Sponsors include Am Kolel, Ameinu, New Israel Fund, Eizor Moshava-Habonim Dror, Temple Shalom Chevy Chase, Temple Micah, and Washington Friends of Women of the Wall.
- Seal Beach, California: Rabbi Galit Levy-Slater is holding a congregational solidarity event.
Tuesday, March 12
- Join Women of the Wall at the Kotel in Jerusalem: A mini-bus (one way) leaves from Gan Hapaamon at 6:30 AM. (RSVP required at email@example.com.)
- New York’s Wake up for Religious Tolerance! solidarity minyan at 9 am on the north side of Union Square Park. Sponsors include Mechon Hadar, Romemu, Kolot Chayeinu, New Israel Fund, Bnai Jeshurun, Lillith Magazine, Town & Village Synagogue, Ansche Chesed, Society for the Advancement of Judaism, East End Temple, Jewish Theological Seminary, the National Council of Jewish Women, and many more. (See flyer here.)
Sunday, March 19
- San Francisco Friends of WOW will meet for a sing-in outside of their Israeli consulate at 11 am. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the young activists in Israel with Amnesty International, an urgent appeal to Diaspora Jews who remember the times when we were refugees:
STOP THE DEPORTATION OF 25 ERITREAN ASLYUM SEEKERS FROM ISRAEL TO ERITREA OR UGANDA
“Your Only Way Out of the Israeli Prison is to Uganda or Eritrea” — Immigration Authorities to Eritrean Asylum Seekers detained in Saharonim Prison
25 Eritrean asylum seekers are in imminent danger of being deported back to Eritrea from Saharonim detention center in Israel. Israeli authorities in the facility told the asylum seekers that the only way they would ever get of the Israeli prison would be to go to Eritrea or Uganda. These individuals are currently being held under the Anti-Infiltration Law which mandates their automatic detention for a minimum of three years without trial.
Being released as an asylum seeker or refugee is impossible as prisoners lack access to the forms the Ministry of Interior requires to begin the RSD process. Therefore, after months of detention, many individuals have signed forms saying they want to go to Uganda and a very few have signed saying they want to go to Eritrea.
News reaching human rights groups over the last few days make it seem that even individuals who had signed to go to Uganda are now in the process of being deported to Eritrea. We are unsure exactly when/if the deportations will take place, but we do fear that it could happen over the next week. More »
This morning in Jerusalem, the Women of the Wall brought heavy Israeli symbolism along with 150 participants to their monthly peaceful protest — three of the IDF veterans who captured the wall in the 1967 war. All went uninterrupted for the first time in 22 months until they departed through security, where nine women were separated and detained. Those included Anat Hoffman, Rabbi Susan Silverman (sister of comedian Sarah Silverman), and Rabbi Silverman’s daughter Hallel, and eight-month pregnant rabbinical student Lior Nevo.
Quoted in the Jerusalem Post, Ilon Bar-Tov, a paratrooper who fought in the Old City battles, “It’s unacceptable that the police are stopping women from wearing tallitot, it’s like Iran. I can’t believe they are stopping people from praying one way or another.”
Although the term “liberating” the Western Wall is hard to borrow, the symbolism is obviously aimed at Israeli mainstream ears. The iconic faces of these paratroopers grace every postcard stand and Jerusalem Day poster since the event itself. Their names are nearly household. Petitions submitted to the Supreme Court are challenging the all-haredi representation on the board of the plaza’s governing body, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. All denominations and the secular public should be able to participate in the decisions affecting the plaza, they argue.
And it’s working to force the Israeli government to pay attention. In late December, Prime Minister Netanyahu for the first time acknowledged the unsustainable status quo at the plaza. The American Reform and Conservative movements, along other diaspora women’s groups, have stood solidly behind Women of the Wall. The most previous arrests of Anat Hoffman pushed even the Jewish Agency board to demand a change. The Prime Minister asked Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky to “look into the matter” and report back after the elections. Hearing that, ultra-orthodox extremist groups deplored the presence of “Zionist occupation” and “whores” at the Wall.
Do the government utterances of “unsustainable status quo” and “look into the matter” strike you as similar to another conflict in the region?
Do you have a social justice cause you are passionate about and want to pursue with the NHC Summer Institute community? Apply for the Hollander Social Justice Fellowship! You will receive a scholarship for Institute tuition, room, and board, and up to $100 for materials or preparation, in exchange for planning social justice oriented programming for the NHC Summer Institute community.
We expect that the strongest applications will come from people with at least three to five years of professional or volunteer experience in their area. Preference will be given to people involved in an ongoing social justice campaign (or launching a campaign) who wish to bring it to the NHC Summer Institute community. Submit an application by January 21, 2013 to email@example.com.
According to Israel’s Channel 2 TV news, this is the breakdown of the next Knesset:
- Likud Beiteinu: 31 (-11)
- Yesh Atid: 19 (+11)
- Labor: 17 (+9)
- The Jewish Home: 12 (+7)
- Shas: 12 (+2)
- HaTnua: 7 (+7)
- Meretz: 7 (+4)
- United Torah Judaism: 6 (+1)
- Hadash: 4
- Ra’am-Ta’al: 3 (-1)
- Balad: 2 (-1)
The right-wing stands at 61 seats, the left at 59 (previously 55:65). Gone are Kadima (-21), Independence (-5), Strong Israel (-2) and Am Shalem (-1). The right:
- Likud Beiteinu : 31
- The Jewish Home: 12
- Shas: 12
- United Torah Judaism: 6
The “center” and left-wing:
- Yesh Atid: 19
- HaTnua: 7
- Labor: 17
- Meretz: 7
- Arab parties (Hadash, Ra’am-Ta’al, Balad): 9
That means Binyamin Netanyahu will likely get to make the coalition as everyone expected in the lead up. Here are the questions that commentators are now asking:
- With such a narrow lead — one seat — which center party will Netanyahu include to lend greater stability?
- Since Yesh Atid is the likeliest contender with a sizable 19 seats, does that mean Netanyahu will leave out one of the more right-wing parties?
- Would Netanyahu leave out one of the ultra-orthodox parties Shas or UTJ? That might be necessary since Yesh Atid campaigned centrally on putting the yeshivabuchers to work.
- Is it really all but certain that Netanyahu will forgo including more centrist parties like Tzipi Livni’s HaTnua or even Labor?
Despite the fact that Netanyahu will be given the keys to the car again and there will be no (or precious few) progressives in Israel’s government this time either, there are a few silver linings. Larry Derfner at 972 Mag
says no matter how you slice it, Netanyahu has lost control of a now more extreme right-wing. His days are numbered, but those coming to take his place are even worse. Brent Sasley at Open Zion is more optimistic
that a centrist coalition is indeed possible, citing leadership differences between Netanyahu and head of the Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett.
And in the most interesting analysis of the results, Assaf Oron points out at The Only Democracy
that in the last elections there were three Likud parties — Likud itself, Kadima as centrist-Likud, and Yisrael Beiteinu as Russian-Likud — with a total of 70 seats between them, while also taking a few seats from the left. Now, Likud-Beiteinu is down to 31 total. “The Right has passed its undeserved zenith,” he writes. Meanwhile, the lefties elected are actually progressives, including a strengthened Meretz and Labor.
More to come.
Have you entered Jewschool and Mah Rabu’s elections predictions pool? Monday, January 21st at midnight EST is your last chance to enter!
I’m finding two big differences between American and Israeli electoral advertisements. First, ads here in Israel are more entertaining, mostly because they’re way more offensive. It’s even worse than the coded racism of past years’ Republican commercials — there seems no need for anything covert here. This month, the Sephardi ultra-orthodox party called Russians goyyim while an extreme right party charged Palestinian citizens with disloyalty, just to mention a couple that raised eyebrows.
The second big difference is the blessedly short campaign period here, no more than 101 days and only during the final weeks of which TV ads may run. The short campaign season is thanks to strict Israeli elections regulations: The maximum campaign gift is $480 per household annually (believe it!); only parties can receive donations for the general election; individuals may only raise money for their primary campaigns. (And only a handful of parties even conduct primaries. Avigdor Lieberman, for example, picks Yisrael Beiteinu’s entire slate.) Most notably to me, advertisements on radio, TV and print are paid for publicly based on a party’s existing seats in Knesset. Yes, that means that Kadima, sitting at nearly a quarter of the outgoing Knesset, received the most advertising airtime even though it will barely win one seat.
This is not to say that Israeli elections are free from undue influence. Kibbutzim and the largest union, the Histadrut, are exempted from some restrictions on financing elections. (Guess who they usually support.) Meanwhile, institutions like the state-run religious military academies illegally mobilize for religious parties. And the right-wing parties’ primaries awash with many times the amount of American Jewish money than the left. Worse, Yisrael Hayom is owned by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and is Netanyahu’s personal trumpeter. The latter is apparently perfectly legal.
Minus the state-run yeshivas, America stands to benefit by adopting the same restrictions on campaign funding, campaign length, and public financing. Below you’ll find TV spots from most of the major parties this election, even the ones which put American race-baiting in Little League. (Thanks to my fellow Dorot Fellow Daniel Haboucha for allowing me to share the links he collected.) More »