If one needs further proof about the “Beinartization” of the global Jewish community, then African asylum seekers are the issue to watch. The right-ward drift of the Jewish citizenry of Israel, which is deeply unsympathetic to 61,000 non-Jewish asylum seekers in their country, is presently in sharp relief to American Jewry’s sensibilities on the issue.
That said, it took the anti-refugee riots in Tel Aviv to sparkstatements by the major establishment mouthpieces, like the ADL, JCPA, Jewish federations. That progressive voices were the first out of the gate shouldn’t surprise us, like the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center, Americans for Peace Now and New Israel Fund.
But the issue seems to have an enduring hold on the passions of some North Americans — notably young Jewish activists and culture creators. Some new faces, some familiar. At the time of my initial inquiries, each were unaware of the work each other was doing. But common between them is an entrepreneurial spirit, a depth of first-hand social awareness of Israeli shortcomings, and a frustration against what each of them see as Israeli politicians’ desecration of Jewish values.
Click through to meet Dan Sieradski, Maya Paley and Miriam Libicki.
I have a high emotional tolerance for disturbing stories of Israel’s shortcomings. But few topics so abjectly horrified me as this detailed report about Israel’s treatment of African asylum seekers. Racism against non-Jews in Israel has long angered me and politicians’ stoking it into recent violence did shock me. But this report broke my battle-hardened heart open again. Since the Tel Aviv riots, conservative hasbaraists and politicians have tried to portray Israel as a country willing to accept a reasonable number of refugees but drowning in illegal entrants. The truth is painfully to the contrary.
Israeli NGO Hotline for Migrant Workers produced this analysis earlier this year of the Interior Ministry’s department for refugee protection. The report, Until Our Hearts Are Completely Hardened, details in clinical dispassion how the Interior Ministry has corrupted a process intended to protect refugees’ lives and runs it like an interrogation. It created a system that bulk rejects even the most dire cases — all but eight of 4,178 asylum applicants since it began operating the past two years.
In the report’s own words, Israel’s process is “worrying,” “patently unreasonable,” and a “manufacturing of contradictions.” It’s staff are engaged in “unprofessional and problematic work,” “absurd,” a “failure in deduction powers,” and “inappropriate.” It creates a situation that is “bleak,” “biased,” and “unfair and degrading.” The report concludes:
When comparing this data with data in other countries, we cannot but reach the conclusion that something has gone terribly wrong with the Israeli asylum system, and that it is not qualified to identify those people who face the threat of persecution in their countries of origin…Without these [recommended changes], Israel’s asylum system will continue to send people back to their death.
What emerges is a picture of a purposefully biased, cruel, and farcical system that rejects asylum seekers at a rate higher than 99.9% — the worst in the Western world. More »
The Jewish social justice sector continues to expand and grow. Let that not be mistaken in today’s news that Pursue: Action for a Just World, a flagship initiative of our community, is disbanding in late 2012. And both organizations’ new initiatives reflect an exciting new stage of maturity for this movement, for the better.
When first constituted in 2006 as the partnership young adults program of American Jewish World Service and Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps, Pursue was an initiative neither organization could support alone. Each possessed budding communities of alumni from year-long and alternative break service learning, but little more. It hired capable, inspired staff and produced innovative programs that integrated the Jewish community into the wider social justice movement and vice versa. More »
From our friends at Bend the Arc, the organization(s) formerly known as Jewish Funds for Justice-Progressive Jewish Alliance-Shefa Fund, the Community Organizing Residency is accepting applications — and nominations. The application deadline for COR has been extended to June 15th and we have created an online form for you to nominate applicants. You can nominate them here.
Where else can you find a Muslim organizer trained by a Jewish organization to work with a coalition comprised mostly of Christian churches? Nowhere but Bend the Arc’s Community Organizing Residency, as covered recently in the NY Times. More »
Yesterday Tel Aviv rioters, incited by leading MKs in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition, attacked Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers and refugees from famine and genocide. The violence followed a rally of 1,000 Tel Aviv residents chanting hate slogans and calling for detention and deportation. Seventeen rioters were arrested after attacking with clubs and pepper spray women holding babies, businesses that service Africans, and even cars with African drivers. A journalist was spirited away under police protection after residents chased him down. How quickly Israeli Jews forgot. More »
On Jerusalem Day in the holy city of three faiths, the right-wing grassroots group called Im Tirtzu did their best to incite Israeli public against Peace Now. They hung a “Happy Al-Quds Day” banner in Jerusalem featuring Palestinian flags and Peace Now logos. Im Tirtzu’s logo was nowhere to be found and only took responsibility after a telephone confrontation by Peace Now. The video below features the recorded phone call with Im Tirtzu’s spokesperson.
Thursday, May 17 at 7-10 PM
Hub San Francisco in the SF Chronicle Building, 925 Mission St.
RSVP at nif.org/lovehate
Share your story. Leave the boxing gloves at home.
“Love, Hate, and the Jewish State” is a civil dialogue for Jews in our 20s and 30s to share our personal experiences about Israel and social justice. We are creating a space where authentic discourse and diverse opinions are welcome – about love and hate, and everything in between. You get to own and author the content of the discussion. We will just provide exercises to help you talk, listen, ask questions, and create meaningful interactions around Israel and social justice.
Brought to you by New Israel Fund’s New Generations. Co-sponsored by A Wider Bridge, Berkeley Hillel, Congregation Beth Israel Judea, Congregation Beth Sholom, Bureau of Jewish Education, CalGrads, East Bay Moishe House, Hazon, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewlicious, J Street and J Street U, Keshet, Pursue, Rabbis For Human Rights-North America, San Francisco Hillel, San Francisco Moishe House, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, The Kitchen, Urban Adamah, USF program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice, World Zionist Organization, and Zeek.
My new go-to primer on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Side by Side: Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine, published by the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East (PRIME), a team of 24 joint researchers and educators in the region. And though it’s intended more for educators than for armchair historians, it’s supremely innovative and recommended for us all.
This book’s simple yet ingenious innovation is a layout common to every English-Hebrew siddur: the right facing page is the Israeli narrative and the left facing page is the Palestinian side, each describing the same events. As Sari Nusseibeh’s back cover blurb says, it’s a “pioneering effort not only in the context of Israeli-Palestinian politics, but in the writing of history.”
I don’t recommend trying to read both narratives at once, since parallel chapters are real, full histories with footnotes, photos and stories. Trying to do so will give you a headache. But for the first time, opening a chapter to, say, the Balfour Declaration immediately makes both sides’ claims and reactions easy to find. No skipping around, flipping to the next chapter, or trying to keep it all in your head. More »
Rabbis for Human Rights continues their efforts to persuade Efi Stenzler, JNF’s World Chairman, and Russell Robinson, CEO of JNF-USA, to stop planting on legally disputed land in Al-Arakib. Click here to send these two officials an email, see further details below the fold. More »
I have to admit musician Gotye’s hit “Somebody That I Used to Know” has been stuck in my head for a week. And it’s inspired a host of covers and parodies. Below is a tongue in cheek cover of a cover in Hebrew. In it, Roi Lavi and the Good Guys reproduce a six-on-one-guitar cover of the song by Walk Off the Earth. Original videos below the fold.
Attend the NHC Summer Institute as an Everett Fellow! Application Deadline – May 2nd
Imagine late-night singing and philosophical discussions under the stars; engrossing Jewish learning; opportunities to participate in a variety of services, arts experiences, Shabbat celebrations, and outdoor activities; meeting a group of dynamic, thoughtful, energetic Jewish young adults as well as community members of all ages at a weeklong institute. Sounds fantastic, right?
The NHC (National Havurah Committee) Summer Institute is now accepting applications for its Everett Fellows Program! Fellows participate in the full Summer Institute programming and in four workshops designed specifically for them. As a Fellow, you receive a scholarship for tuition, room, and board, and are expected to pay only for registration and dues ($120) for the full week (August 6-12).
To apply for an Everett Fellowship, you must be 22 through 32 years of age, interested in exploring Havurah Judaism, and willing to participate fully in the Summer Institute. Preference is given to first time Institute attendees. The application can be found here. — it’s just four questions. Please see our website for more information or call the NHC office at 215-248-1335. The application deadline is May 2.
This year, Project Hayei Sarah is using the holiday of Passover as an opportunity to support Palestinian friends in Hebron whose ability to take care of their families is severely harmed by the occupation. Project Chayei Sarah is a group of rabbinical students, rabbis, Jewish educators and lay-leaders who have spent time in Hebron and are grappling with the difficult realities we encountered there. Those, like myself, who have been to Hebron use the annual reading of Parshat Hayei Sarah, the Torah reading in which Abraham buys part of what is considered to be modern-day Hebron, as an opportunity educate our communities about the situation there.
In the H2 section of Hebron, the economy of the Palestinian community has been nearly destroyed due to the presence of Jewish settlers. At seder tables all over Jerusalem, friends of Project Hayei Sarah used matzah covers hand made especially for them by Women in Hebron. Purchased as an act of solidarity and of hidur mitzvah — beautification/elevation of a commandment — the matzah covers remind us of the liberation we need to continue working towards in Hebron.
“While everyone is busy debating about to boycott or not to boycott, we wanted to raise a new question: how might we, as Jews, support Palestinian economies?” relayed project coordinator Alana Alpert.
Fellow activist Moriel Rothman added, “On passover, we recall that we were once slaves in the Land of Egypt. It does not befit a community of ex-slaves to oppress others as Israel is doing in the city of Hebron. Selling the Matzah Covers on Ben Yehuda was an attempt both to support the Women of Hebron, and to encourage Israelis and visitors to Israel to learn about the situation in Hebron, as we reflect collectively on the meaning of freedom.”
Last night, the members of the Park Slope Feed Coop voted 1,005 against and 653 in favor of a [referendum on] boycott of five Israeli products, soundly voting the measure down. Both sides claim victory, of course. The pro-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) side claims increased awareness for Israel’s occupation; the anti-BDS activists claim a 2:1 ratio of defeat for veiled calls against Israel’s existence. Both, of course, are right. But now they must both do what neither side — pro-Israel nor pro-Palestinian — typically does: deescalate the charged polarization they worked so hard to create. More »
Starting at 6:30 pm, you can watch the livestream of J Street’s final session featuring one of the weirdest line ups I’ve seen: former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman, and Yiddish actor Theodor Bikel. Also, check out the many sessions already posted online (with more to come).
Some perspective: In 2006, the Second Intifada was barely tapering off. Peace fatigue was high – disbelief was even higher. Yet a plucky little organization composed of grassroots Jewish activists in dozens of cities across America was hard at work. No, this wasn’t J Street. J Street would be founded a few years later by Washington veterans seeking to compliment this grassroots network. This was Brit Tzedek v’Shalom.
I was the New York City co-chair for Brit Tzedek and a board member in charge of online outreach. We had a budget of less than a half a million dollars. Our single paid organizer managed a membership of 36,000 across America and some two dozen sizable chapters. In NYC, my small activist team worked alone and overwhelmed in American’s biggest Jewish community to be a pro-Israel, pro-peace voice. A national tour took Combatants for Peace, featuring former IDF soldiers and former Palestinian militants, to packed synagogues and JCCs across the country at a time actively hostile to peace. We held five annual conferences in Washington, DC. We were incredibly proud to have a whopping 300 attendees. Knesset leaders from Meretz and Labor sometimes came. Often our legislative meetings with Representatives and Senators were held in hallways and Congressional cafeterias. More »
Over at Commentary Magazine, Jewschool has been impugned in the silliest of conspiracy theories. (Sorry, and you thought this post would be newsworthy!) Apparently, we’ve colluded with the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby J Street to “insulate” Occupy Wall Street from spurious accusations of rampant antisemitism. Both of those bodies — J Street and OWS — of course represent the vilest of trends in American life to Commentary.
Commentator Omri Ceren spins this giddy tale: J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami worked through Jewschool “boss” Daniel Sieradski to sic on OWS’s critics figures like former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer and former Vermont Governor Madeline Kunin. All to protect OWS from the vile Jew-hating going on under its auspices. The evidence: the phrase “Occupy Wall Street” occurs 700+ times in our archives, we’re co-sponsoring the J Street conference, and the Sieradski-operated Occupy Judaism site suspiciously vanished last night!
If Ceren had any journalistic chops, this entertaining proposal would have unraveled before embarrassing himself and his sponsor. As Sieradski rebutted last night, a simple tweet or email would have revealed:
Just for your information: I resigned from Jewschool in 2007 when I went to work at JTA News as part of a noncompete agreement and have had no relationship to the site in the successive five years. Also, Occupy Judaism has never worked with J Street in any capacity and the letter, to my understanding, originated with Mark Green and Elliot Spitzer, not J Street. Furthermore, I did not take the Occupy Judaism site down – I was experiencing an issue with my DNS server which I was unaware of until I saw Omri’s tweets accusing me of colluding with J Street to hide said letter.
As of yesterday morning, Ceren acknowledged his lack of professionalism when he changed a few lines in his article, but posted neither correction notice nor apology.
As for Jewschool’s involvement in both the Occupy movement and J Street, we’re quite comfortable with our association to both. For the third time, we’re co-sponsoring J Street’s conference and a half-dozen of our writers will be there. A number of our contributors were (and remain) active members of Occupy Wall Street and leaders in Occupy Judaism. Now, we’re not prone to statements of what Jewschool as a whole believes — our editorial board and contributors, all volunteers, run the full spectrum of progressive views. But I think it’s quite safe to say that we enjoy being portrayed by Commentary’s comical conspiracy as a hub of activism on progressive movements within America and American Jewry today.
And, look, Jewschool is no stranger to amateur blogging — we’re all volunteers here, writing about Jews and progressive issues because of our passion for both. If Ceren made a few mistakes, we’ll forgive him that. Here, we don’t have paid staff or editors to fact check everything. We’re not lush with Commentary’s generous editorial budget. But we expect every writer to blog from personal experience (not Googling), to fact check, and when proven wrong to own their mistakes like big kids. But our masthead is clearly posted, our Twitter and email accounts are active, and yet never once have we or Sieradski been contacted. It’s clear from Commentary’s recent history that their mistakes are ideologically motivated. And the editorial staff seem to hardly care, for this continues to be a problem. As of today neither Ceren nor Tobin gave Jewschool, Sieradski, or Occupy Wall Street any courtesy of an apology or noted correction.
Commentary Magazine: all the news that’s fit to Google with half the accuracy.