Sarah Silverman’s sister joins Schlep Labs endorsement: Israelis on Obama

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“One State, Two States” by Benny Morris

Israeli historian Benny Morris is on the promo circuit with an extended interview in Haaretz for a re-release of his 2009 book, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict. Coincidentally I read the book this month and, while I appreciate its history of Zionist thought, I found its treatment of Palestinians thought lacking.

Morris compiles a capable summary of the evolution of competing one-state, bi-national, and two-state visions within the Zionist movement from the turn of the century through today. But his attempt to do so for the Palestinians is short, shallow and ultimately unpersuasive.

The detail that Benny Morris describes in early Zionist deliberations over ethnic cleansing and bi-national alternatives is missing from his treatment of Arab/Palestinian nationalism. On the Zionist side, he cites declassified meetings of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Congress alongside diaries of David Ben Gurion, Judah Magnes and others. On one hand, he cites, founding Zionist leaders desired a Jewish state encompassing nearly all of Israel’s present neighbors, beyond even Transjordan. On the other hand, these founders were ever-conscious of the democratic limitations of this vision. Between the Holocaust and Arab rejection, the Zionist establishment took what it could get, far short of Transjordan. First the Peel Commission, then the UN Partition Plan, then returning the Sinai, and finally the two-state consensus today. Again and again, Morris says, the Jews exhibited pragmatic compromise.  More »

Stav Shaffir is the first social protest leader to enter Knesset races

In an email sent this morning to friends and campaign supporters, Stav Shaffir, one of the two highest profile young leaders of Israel’s social protests last summer, entered politics.

This is my first letter to you since embarking on a new path – as a candidate for the Labour Party’s list for the Knesset. This was not an easy decision to make. More than a year has passed since the social protest began, I continue to believe in our civic power, in our ability to affect the system through public pressure, education, and media. Today, everyone knows that we have already conquered the streets. But the most important decisions are made in the very place that my generation has deserted. I will not accept this fact any longer. The responsibility we took upon ourselves last summer must grow beyond the streets.

I am entering politics. I carry with me on this new path the stories, hopes and wishes of countless people I have met during this past year. My mission is to be a voice for those stories in the halls of the Knesset. This coming election is critical, It will determine where our country is headed – whether to the same policy that does not protect the public’s interests – or to politics that put the citizens’ social welfare and economic dignity as its top priority. More »

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Mishegas: Rene Cassin Fellowship, Shoah tattoos, NWU Chabad embroglio and more

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Urgent action: Israel to jail 15,000 Sudanese refugees on Oct 15

Update 10/13: A judge has ordered a temporary injunction prohibiting the round up, following a petition by six Israeli human rights NGOs.

Eli Yishai, Israel’s Interior Minister, said about the 60,000 Africans seeking asylum in Israel that  ”Until I have the option of expelling them, I will imprison them and make their lives miserable.”

Expulsion isn’t a viable option for the international condemnation that would erupt if Israel sent thousands of people back to war-torn regions. Instead and to appease racist incitement, Netanyahu’s government passed a law that allows for illegal entrants into the country to be jailed for three years without a trial. And on October 15, MK Yishai intends to start first with 15,000 asylum seekers from Sudan.

This from the North American coalition of individuals fighting this inhumane procedure, Right Now: Jewish Americans Advocating for African Asylum Seekers in Israel:

Please join our October 15th campaign by making a call, sending an email, or sending a fax to the following departments of the Israeli government every day until October 15th. The Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, plans on rounding up and detaining 15,000 Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel if they do not “voluntarily” leave by then.  More »

Mishegaas: Bibi dances Gangnam Style, Adelson wants a pancake, and more

Dubi Kaufman via 972 Mag

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Some other red lines

The West Bank flouts any democratic principles you could imagine for a population 88% Palestinian Arab and 12% Israeli Jew. Hey, Netanyahu, how about them red lines? (By Peace Now.)

And the New Israel Fund too, if only this were true:  More »

African asylum seekers stranded at Israel’s border

Israel deported 18 of 21 African asylum seekers at its border with Egypt. According to activists reported later in the media, they were denied food and water and prohibited from entering. When a pregnant woman miscarried, international outcry prompted Israel to allow her and two others into the country.

Learn more and take action with Right Now: Jewish Americans Advocating for African Asylum Seekers in Israel.

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Danny Ayalon’s cynical abuse of Mizrahi refugees

Today, the Israeli Foreign Ministry launched a social media campaign “I am a Refugee” to deflect criticism from Israel’s appalling treatment of African asylum seekers. In the 1948 founding of the State of Israel, while Jewish extremists were shooing Palestinians from their villages, many Arab countries ejected their Jewish populations and seized their properties. Conveniently this is two-for-one issue for the nationalist camp, shifting blame over the lack of Israeli-Palestinian peace progress back on Arab countries.

I would think that Jews of Arab origin would be outraged that their dispossession is again raised only as a talking point against Palestinian refugees. As a decidedly secondary and repressed narrative in Israeli society, the true-to-life injustice suffered by Jews from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and other places is shunted aside because of the uncomfortable consequences such an equivalence would have on the Palestinian refugee issue. Meaning, if Mizrachim are granted repatriation or compensation back in the Arab world, then such would grant Palestinians the same in Israel.

So by raising this issue in such a way, Danny Ayalon and the Israeli government seem to implicitly say that invoking justice for Mizrachim is just a political game. There won’t be any justice — but they’re happy to abuse that memory for political gain. More cynical injustice to heap upon an already unfair situation. I can only hope that Danny Ayalon cooked this up himself without involving the helpless foreign service professionals who painfully chafe at this government’s incessant foreign affairs stupidity.

To help African asylum seekers being unrightfully and inhumanely arrested and deported, get involved in RIGHT NOW: Jewish Americans Advocating for African Asylum Seekers in Israel.

Filed under Israel, Mizrahi


Tel Aviv is shitty

I guess I’m a Yerushalmi at heart, even though I’ve moved to the heart of Tel Aviv. (Reflections forthcoming on my departure from New York after seven years’ work in the Jewish emergent sector.) But I’m living here for a year to develop something of a relationship to this humid, austerely designed, secular city that so clearly pretends it’s European. And for sure it has charm. And if I’m ever feeling shitty about the atmosphere here, I can always visit these incredible pay-per-use restrooms a few blocks from my apartment:

Filed under Israel, Tel Aviv


The Levy “there is no occupation” report

Caption: Former Israeli justice Edmund Levy: “If it beats like an occupation, if it oppresses like an occupation, if it kills like an occupation, it’s a…” Bibi: “A duck!” (Meme submission by John Brown)

This week, the Netanyahu government set the stage for a clash with its closest allies, the international community and its own Supreme Court by commissioning a kangaroo court to rule on the authorization of settlements in the Palestinian territories. Filled with political appointees and headed by pro-settlement former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, the surprising (or unsurprising?) recommendation of the “Levy report” (Hebrew) is that there is, in fact, no occupation. More »

African asylum seekers and the American Jewish community

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 spark statements 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.

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Asylum seekers in Israel’s “production line” of rejection

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 »

AJWS and Avodah disband Pursue, grow into new advocacy frontiers

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 »

Nominate someone for the Community Organizing Residency

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 »

Forgetting everything: Anti-African incitement and riots in Tel Aviv

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 »

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Happy Al-Quds Day from Im Tirtzu

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.

“Love, Hate & the Jewish State” comes to the Bay Area!

Thursday, May 17 at 7-10 PM
Hub San Francisco in the SF Chronicle Building, 925 Mission St.
Cost $5

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.

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