Yesterday, the Open Hillel campaign, a student led initiative to change policies around permitted conversations on Israel on campus, presented their petition ( 801 signatures strong as of this writing) and letter to the Hillel International Board in Washington, D.C.
The grassroots initiative was started by members of the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA), a Hillel-affiliated group, when PJA was prevented from co-sponsoring an event with the Palestine Solidarity Committee in Hillel. Open Hillel urges Hillel International to revise, reconsider, and ultimately remove its Standards for Partnership, which read: “Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, has chapters and affiliates on university campuses across the US and abroad. Hillel International currently publishes “Guidelines for Campus Israel Activities” which declare, “Hillel will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice: Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; Delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel; Exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.”
The Open Hillel campaign asks that Hillel ”remove all political litmus tests for co-sponsorships, affiliated groups, and invited speakers.”
More from the letter (written and signed by Jewish student leaders from universities across the country):
“Pluralism should be extended to the subject of Israel, and no Jewish individual or group should be excluded from the community simply because of political views. The prohibition against anyone who “delegitimizes” or “applies a double standard” to Israel is used to silence students who are critical of Israeli policies or express views with which the Hillel leadership disagrees. These policies deny all students the opportunity to learn about a range of views and form well-supported and defensible opinions about Israel. We all lose out when important perspectives within our community are stifled.”
The campaign is currently awaiting a response from Hillel International and will continue to expand if Hillel International is resistant to the requests of the petition and letter,
It is no secret that Jews like a good debate. It’s a deeply ingrained part of our culture. I once heard Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz say that as much as the Talmud (a repository of disagreements and debates) is a product of Jewish culture, it has as much of an influence in shaping Jewish culture. We call an honest debate in Judaism a machloket l’shem shamayim, a disagreement for the sake of heaven. In other words, we don’t have to agree with someone’s opposing viewpoint, but we do have to respect the person.
Matt Abelson, a JTS rabbinical student, recently completed his year of study in Jerusalem. Perhaps one of the most challenging years in rabbinical school for a whole host of reasons, it is nearly impossible to return from the experience unchanged. Abelson wrote a post in which he slams the Encounter program for encouraging students to disengage from traditional Zionist ideology when it comes to their relationship with Israel. This is a “problem” that has been gaining increased attention in the last few years. It is a tense subject for many. As I have mentioned at other times on this blog, there were figures who sought to end my own career before it even began because, despite not even knowing me in real life, they decided I was anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic. I responded to Rabbi Daniel Gordis here when he brought up the issue last year.
I do not have a problem with the fact that Matt Abelson has a problem with Encounter. I do have a problem with how he misrepresents their program. I won’t go into those details here, because I already responded to his blog post there (I included my comment below the fold). I also have a problem with the notion of shirking the responsibility for responsible debate because an issue elicits strong emotion. However, I do want to pose the question, is it an acceptable response to “opt out” of a difficult discussion because it makes you uncomfortable? Go and check out his post and come back here to comment. More »
In addition to her own distinguished career, Achinoam Nini (aka Noa) has a history of working on behalf of peace and reconciliation. Notably, she has partnered with Israeli-Arab singer Mira Awad, a Christian and resident of Haifa, on a concert tour and as the country’s entrants 2009 entrants into the Eurovision contest. This creative collaboration brought them wide attention around the world, mostly of the positive sort.
On Yom Hazikaron, the acclaimed international Israeli musical artist performed for a gathering of Combatants for Peace, an organization of former fighters and their families on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This recent performance brought on attention of a much uglier, vile sort from extremist corners in Israeli and North American Jewish corners.
Calling her “Garbage” and “Rat” and far worse. They’ve taken to facebook calling for a boycott of Noa’s performances, and Noa has responded.
This s a guest post by independent filmmaker Eli Ungar-Sargon. His first feature-length film, Cut, is about circumcision and Jewish identity. He is currently in post-production on his second feature length film, A People Without a Land.
When Gilad Atzmon blew through Los Angeles to promote his latest book The Wandering Who?, I knew nothing about him. As I sat down to hear him speak I was handed a flyer by a nervous looking young woman. The flyer declared: “LEVANTINE CENTER HOSTS ANTI-SEMITE” and it furnished a series of Atzmon quotes to support its aspersion. The young woman and knit yarmulka-clad man who were handing these flyers out were politely asked to leave and they did so without protest. As I listened to Atzmon first speak and then perform a few musical numbers on his saxophone, it occurred to me that antisemite or not, I was genuinely interested in what this man had to say.
The Wandering Who? seeks to answer the seemingly simple question: “What do people mean when they call themselves Jews?” Near the beginning of the book, Atzmon makes a foundational tripartite distinction between three kinds of Jews. In the first category are people who follow the Jewish religion. The second contain those who were accidentally born to Jewish parents, but see themselves as human beings. And the third category is “Those who put their Jewish-ness over and above all of their other traits.”
The obvious problem with these categories is that real Jewish people seldom fall into only one of them. I know as many religious Jews who fall into categories 1 and 2 as I do secular Jews who fall into categories 2 and 3. Do their identities contain logical contradictions? Surely they do. But these contradictions do not emerge as a consequence of their Jewish-ness, rather they come from the nature of identity itself. To his credit, Atzmon points out that similar contradictions emerge within feminist and gay identity politics and it could be argued that his categorical distinctions are there for conceptual clarity. Nevertheless, Atzmon includes both ardent Zionists and self-identified Jewish Leftists in his third category, arguing that they belong to the same identity continuum:
“If we redefine Zionism as a modern form of Jewish activism that aims to halt assimilation, we can then reassess all Jewish tribal activity as an internal debate within a diverse Zionist political movement…The Israel lobby and the Alan Dershowitzes of the world are the voices of Zionism; the third-category socialists are there to stop proud, self-hating Jews from blowing the whistle.”
I wrote a piece for Peter Beinart’s new blog at The Daily Beast called Zion Square. This is the beginning:
I imbibed Zionism at a very early age. My parents had wanted to go on aliyah as soon as they got married (four years before I was born), but my grandmother’s sudden illness kept them in the United States. I often heard the story of my parents’ families sitting around the radio listening to the 1947 UN vote on partition, making a hash mark for every “yes” vote, the whole neighborhood (Crown Heights in Brooklyn) erupting in cheers when it was obvious that it had passed.
The rest is here. (Go there, read, come back, discuss.)
For the past three years, my wife/producer Pennie and I have been working on a film about the moral and practical failings of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We believe that not only is the one-state solution inevitable at this point, but that it has the potential to yield a much more just and moral resolution to the conflict than the two-state solution. Objections to our vision usually come in two flavors: The theoretical and the practical. On the theoretical side, people argue that the one-state solution would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. They argue that demographic realities make it inevitable that very shortly after the creation of a single state, Jews would find themselves in the minority. The phrases that often pop up alongside these observations are: “Israel has a right to exist” and “Jews have a right to self-determination.”On the practical side, people usually argue that there is too much hatred for these peoples to coexist peacefully in a single state. The corollary to this argument is that a single state would quickly devolve into civil war, as was seen in Lebanon, or in the best case scenario end up as a failed state like Belgium.
It is true that the one-state solution would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Indeed, when the Zionists came to Palestine they were a minority and the only way that they were able to achieve their coveted majority status was by ethnically cleansing the land of most of its inhabitants. But the new state could still be a homeland for the Jews. Ali Abunimah famously argued in his book “One Country” for the maintenance of the Law of Return, which grants Jews automatic citizenship, alongside the implementation of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. Whether or not this concept is actualized in the new state, any one-state solution would obviously have to guarantee the rights of its sizable Jewish minority. But the key here is that Jews would be equals, not privileged ethnocratic masters. Israel doesn’t have a “right to exist as a Jewish state.” States are political constructions and as such they don’t have rights. Individuals, however, do have rights and when a state infringes on those rights, its legitimacy is correctly brought into question. Moreover, even if we accept that Jews have the right to self-determination as a nation (a somewhat controversial claim), this right does not entitle them to deny the self-determination of another people group.
As in any ethnic conflict, an enormous amount of animosity has built up between the two sides and suspicions run deep. On the Palestinian side, 64 years of dispossession and oppression, along with two decades of insincere peace negotiations, have led to a total mistrust of Israeli intentions. On the Israeli side, a culture of Siege Mentality co-opts the history of Jewish suffering to perpetuate an unjust and immoral ethnocracy. But were we to look at Apartheid South Africa in the late 1980’s, we would also see deep mistrust and hatred between Blacks and Whites. Moreover, Germany in the 1940’s didn’t exactly look like a good place for Jews to live but today, it is one of the best countries in the world for Jews. Political realities change. And sometimes, when people of good will get together and work at it, political realities can change for the better.
We need to move away from the discourse of partition and ethno-nationalism and towards a discourse of integration and human rights. The two-state solution is immoral, because it denies millions of Palestinians their right of return and it legitimizes the second-class citizenship of Palestinian-Israelis. Now it is possible to conceive of a two-state solution that respects the right of return and transforms Israel from an ethnocracy into a full democracy, but such a solution is not on anyone’s agenda. Indeed, an examination of the motivations behind the two-state solution reveals why such a conception was never in the cards. On the Israeli side, the motivation for partition comes from the will to maintain a Jewish-majority state in as much of historic Palestine as possible. On the Palestinian side, partition was only accepted by those who live in the West Bank and Gaza under the boot of the IDF, because they were so desperate to end the Occupation. And in their desperation, the Palestinian leadership came close to negotiating away the right of return which is and always has been the central issue of concern for a majority of Palestinians.
The only way to really solve the conflict is to respect all of the human beings involved as equals. The one-state solution, therefore, is the most logical and practical way to achieve a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Much work still needs to be done on what the precise contours of the new state will look like. But in the meantime, we are trying to articulate and facilitate a paradigm shift that will help set the groundwork for a peaceful political transformation of Israel/Palestine.
Eli Ungar-Sargon is an independent filmmaker. He and his wife Pennie are currently raising funds to finish their second feature-length documentary “A People Without a Land”. All contributions are tax-deductible and entitle the contributor to awesome perks: www.indiegogo.com/withoutaland
Growing up in Israel, I joined a lot of organizations: Youth Against Racism, Hashomer Hatza’ir, Reut Sadaka, and maybe one or two groups even further to the left. I attended Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam and Meretz Youth weekend seminars, a kind of experience I’ve never seen in the US, not even when I was a college student. At these seminars, high school students would listen to Members of Knesset, well known professors and journalists, professional youth educators and others as they dissected Israel’s social issues.
During this entire formative period, regardless of where you stood in the left wing spectrum, certain things were true:
Our side was in favor of dialogue with the Palestinians, while right wing Israelis were racists who denied the Palestinians essential humanity, let along their human and national rights.
Our side addressed a combination of moral elements and enlightened self-interest. The occupation might be wrong, but it is also suicidal.
Our side drew inspiration from Western values that flowed from the enlightenment. Rationality, skepticism, a slight fear of the mob, an emphasis on individual identity over collective identity.
Our side was focused on liberating Israelis (Jews and Arabs alike) from the burden of having to represent anything else other than who we were. In other words, even the hard core Zionists were often in favor of ‘post Zionist’ measures like removing religion from identity cards, affirming the validity of the Palestinian narrative, and de-mythologizing the founding of Israel.
I was part of the lucky minority of Israel Jews that interacted with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians from the Occupied Territories on a regular basis. They represented a fairly diverse range of opinions and backgrounds, though less from among the poor and seriously religious, a bit more from the upper and middle classes, the Christians, and those from larger cities and villages. At a certain point, my identity as an Israeli changed into one that wholeheartedly embraced the reality of Israel: one fifth Palestinian, one fifth Russian, inclusive of countless racial, ethnic and religious minorities, with a tragic mix of conflicting impulses. Together, we were Israeli, and deserved to be truly equal for all our sakes. More »
Recently, Rabbi Daniel Gordis published an article making allegations of a seeming tidal wave of anti-Israel sentiment in rabbinical schools. This is my reaction.
Dear Rabbi Gordis,
Before I proceed, let me preface this letter with the following disclaimer: I write this with great honor and respect. While you and I have never met, we do hold mutual friends amongst whom I count some of my dearest rabbis and teachers and family members. The dedication you have given to the Jewish people holds special significance for me as you were the founding dean of the rabbinical school which will soon be ordaining me as a rabbi. Therefore I am indebted to your vision and determination. Your words have, at times, been a source of inspiration for me and whether I agree or disagree with any given viewpoint you share, I am always duly impressed by your command of the written English language. I do hope that our paths cross one day, as I would be honored to have the pleasure of meeting you in person. I also want to make clear that it has been at least two years since I have shared my own personal views on Israeli society, the conflict with Arab states and the Palestinians or any other similar matter in a public forum because of fear of being made into a pariah. I am making these statements here, publicly, because I feel it to be incredibly important. I write in my own name, and not in the name of the institution which will be ordaining me, nor in the name of the movement with which it affiliates. Again, I write only in my own name.
I read your recent article, Of Sermons and Strategies, with great interest, as it is a topic near to my heart–both as a rabbinical student and as a person who has been erroneously dubbed “anti-Israel.” I was even accused of being one of the students referenced in your article, which I assure you I am not. That is not to say I would be ashamed to be, I would not be ashamed, but the truth must be told that I am not responding to your letter as one of the selected few whom you wrote of. More »
Coming of age in Israel, I encountered quite a few reminders of how strange politics can be. In the mid-80s, I went with members of the scouts (Tzofim) to protest Meir Kahane outside a venue in Petah Tikva. An elderly man came to argue with us. He didn’t yell and wore a forgiving smile. And a kippa. He said that Arabs are dogs, they only look human. Looking back, I can finally appreciate how bizarre he was. Only… he was one of the more normal Kahane supporters. And he didn’t try and assault anyone (that I saw). Not like the other guys spitting and throwing punches at us.
A few short years later, Kahane came to my little hometown. I only found out because the bus passed the town square he was using. A couple hundred folks had gathered – more than I’d ever seen assembled (outside of the soccer games). I got off the bus, put away my schoolbag, put on my keffiyah, and marched over there to protest. By myself. While I didn’t have a sign, I did have bright yellow stickers reading ‘say no to racism’. I held one up and stood not four meters away from him.
Again, looking back, I have to say that was stupid. Even if thugs hadn’t followed me in a car and given me a stomping outside my apartment building in front of all the neighbors.
Later still, when I was a soldier, I was forced to attend a lecture by the commander of our corps. Which is to say, he was above the head of our training base and in charge of all sorts of things related to our specialty, though he would never again lead troops into battle. In this lecture, he gave a military-political survey of the situation with Lebanon and the Occupied Territories. When he opened up the Q and A, I said: “Officer sir, since the conflict with the Palestinian people can only have a political solution, not a military one, aren’t you deceiving us by talking about ‘winning’?”
Boy was he mad. I never got punished though. Just ostracized.
These incidents surely paint a picture of the young man as a foolish dissident. But grant me that I had heart – lots of heart. Whatever my politics, however wrong headed my political analysis or ideology, it was sincere and flowed from a sense that my reference group, my peers in Israeli society, included both Palestinian and Jewish comrades. Whenever some right winger or patriot made a bloviating reference to ‘we’ meaning Israeli Jews, I always thought to myself – yes, ‘you’, because my ‘we’ is made up of Arabs AND Jews. Of all Israelis, exactly in the way that in America, ‘we’ includes whites AND blacks.
How odd then, to find myself dismissed as a ‘Zionist’ here and there in the Palestinian solidarity movement. Not like so many people actually know me or anything. But… there was that JATO woman at the UFPJ gathering, the trainer at the Student PSC conference, the outright verbal assualts on the activist listserve, and a picture comes to mind.
The Palestinian solidarity movement, especially as it has coalesced around the strategy of BDS, has two faces. One face is warm, friendly and intelligent. It says that BDS is a tactic not a preferred political solution. It doesn’t require B, D and S, and it can be directed at the occupation or at Israel in general – no coercion. It makes Gush Shalom feel right at home.
The other face is quite clear that the one state solution is preferred and the two state solution is dead – and good riddance. Anyone in support of an Israeli identity is a Zionist. Anyone seeking compromise with Zionists is a Zionist. Anti- or non-Zionists who refrain from calling for an end to Israel are ‘soft-Zionists.’ Israelis are ‘butchers’ who commit ‘massacres’, their peace camp isn’t really for peace except for a handful, the Palestinian Authority is not only corrupt, it is ‘only corrupt’, lacking in any other attributes or identity. It’s everything awful about the 90s campus culture wars/identity politics madness, with the eager pleasure in despising whatever isn’t politically correct.
Everything I used to hate and fear about the Israeli right wing: the extremist language, the eagerness to demonize the other, the closing of ranks around a narrow set of ideas, the very harshness of the voice and tone. It’s the flattening of every nuance into a slogan or holy truth. It’s the utter impossibility of dialogue with people who feel differently.
I used to be part of that first group. Some days, I still am. But… I keep running into that second group and it turns my stomach. Sometimes it’s the same person displaying one face or the other, depending the audience. It’s as if all the experiences I have growing up in Israel and ‘putting myself out there’ as a refusenik, participant in militant demonstrations, getting arrested, working inside of majority Palestinian political organizations – count for nothing. Because I’m insisting on the slogans of my youth (Arab/Jewish unity, two states for two peoples, down with the occupation, negotiations yes/war no) somehow I’m excluded from the cool kids lunch table at the Palestinian solidarity middle school. Back in Israel, that’s who I sat with. Now they sneer at me.
But I can’t sit with the Zionist kids anymore! Not after all that stuff I said about not being a Zionist…. sniff.
I guess I’ll go sit by myself. And I am NOT a Zionist! I’m just another Israeli yored in New York waiting for the occupation to be over. So I can go home.
This guest post is by occasional Jewschool guest-poster Treyfe. Treyfe works with the pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group Jewish Voice for Peace. Given the controversial nature of BDS, now is a good time to quote the editorial policy, as displayed on the Masthead:
“The ideas, thoughts, and words published on Jewschool.com by Jewschool contributors and/or commenters are the opinions of those individuals only and do not represent the views or positions of Jewschool….”
My blogging career began at J Street a year and a half ago, so I am forever indebted to the organization, even if my first post criticized their dis-invitation of a trio of spoken word poets. This time around, there were no spoken word poets on the program. There were however, numerous Israeli activists whose work I draw inspiration from, and, most controversially Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson. She was present to tackle the hot-as-latke-oil topic of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. When J Street got predictable flak over this–to their credit–they did not un-invite. Their skins have presumably grown thicker after episodes like their own shul-banning and Hillel-banning. (Full disclosure: I do consultation work with Jewish Voice for Peace, edit their blog The Only Democracy?, and am a former board member.)
Below, video of JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson’s talk at J Street
J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami did present a justification: he was bringing Vilkomerson there in order to discredit the BDS movement! And indeed the panel was stacked, with Ameinu’s Kenneth Bob, a Berkeley student named Simone Zimmerman, and champion of global capitalism Bernard Avishai–all opposed to BDS. Hopefully, Ben-Ami did not actually believe that the best way to discredit someone was to stack the deck against them. In any case, it did not succeed. More »
Independent filmmaker Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon has released Generation Gap, an interesting short film about the impact of the Holocaust on three generations of his family, including his grandfather Wilhelm and father Julian. Watch the entire Generation Gap film below. Ungar-Sargon previously released the controversial feature-length documentary, Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision. His second feature-length documentary, A People Without a Land (more on it later), is post-production right now.
(The following is a condensed report of an Israeli and Palestinian delegation I was part of two weeks ago in Istanbul)
“The word ‘peace’ has become hollow.It has lost its meaning,” said one of the participants.“That may feel like the case,” said another, “but we cannot let the voice of despair and violence re-appropriate our language for the world we hope to build.”
This excerpt came from a recent gathering of Israelis and Palestinian peace builders meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.The gathering was billed as a “Consultation” of bi-communal field experts. Over the course of three days, twenty participants acted as a think-tank to envision the seemingly impossible – the reemergence of a cross-border peace movement in Israel / Palestine.
The host organization was a Massachusetts based NGO called the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding (KCP), which specialize in bi-communal trainings for grassroots peace-building practitioners all over the globe.Istanbul was chosen as a compromise for an off-site location close enough but far enough away from the conflict zone.Ten Israelis and ten Palestinians, from places that included Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jaffa, each with advanced level peace-building resumes, were invited.
The founder ofKaruna Center for Peacebuilding, Dr. Paula Green, organized this gathering with one goal in mind: to assess ‘what kind of bi-communal programming would be useful for this region.’In other words, what kinds of trainings or actions could bring Israelis and Palestinians together in joint cooperation under today’s reality? What could be helpful now, when the prospects for meaningful resolutions are not promising and the political will of the leaders are not inspiring.But this was not a gathering of politicians.The twenty men and women, ranging from their late twenties to their early sixties, were assembled in an effort to help make sure that grassroots collaboration projects between Israelis and Palestinians do not become extinct.
As irrelevant as co-existence work may often seem to a cynical person, this was a battle tested group of peace workers.More »
Avraham Burg, one-time Speaker of Knesset and renegade political royalty, has done what all successful (and/or out of power) politicians in Israel do: started his own party. He outlines a party platform for “Israel Equality” (Shivyon Yisrael) that is eyebrow-raising: a new joint Jewish-Arab party focused on social equality. In a stirring lambast against the aging and boring existing political leadership, he calls for “thorough shake-up”:
A party that will sail far beyond the paradigms of classic Zionism, which to this day ignores the place of Israel’s Arabs. A party that will demand full equality for all Israel’s citizens, the kind of equality we demand for the Jews in the Diaspora wherever they live.
…Those who vote for [Shivyon Yisrael] and its candidates will accept the definition of Israel as “a state whose regime is democratic and egalitarian, and which belongs to all its citizens and communities. The state in which the Jewish people have chosen to renew their sovereignty and where they realize their right to self-determination.”
Some people are really excited about this and I have no dearth of enthusiasm for Burg himself. He’s an accomplished politician raised in the core of Israeli politics who has the balls to say prophetic things that are deeply unpopular to say. (Such as: the Holocaust is over, get over it.) Having met and worked with him, he’s certainly charismatic, politically aggressive, and deeply cares for moving (or pushing) Israel into its next stage of existance.
However, I find myself none too skeptical. My skepticism is rooted in not just the usual frustration with micro-parties but knowledge that there already exists a Jewish-Arab political party focused on social justice: Hadash. More »
This is one of the most important points I will consistently make until the day I die: you should not support “Israel” in any generic way for the principle of the matter, but instead Israelis and a vision of Israel that matches your values. The establishment isn’t peddling a Jewish state of any values — just a hook on which to hang their paranoia of extinction. Take a look at this video and post by Moriel Rothman, student president of J Street U, taking Peter Beinart’s advice in finding Israelis that match his values:
If you had told me three years ago, when I first came to Israel, that I would be spending my Friday afternoons protesting in East Jerusalem, I never would have believed you. If you had told me that the behavior of this country and its residents was going to make it difficult for me to feel comfortable practicing Judaism, I would have believed you even less.
Since I started attending the weekly protests in Sheikh Jarrah, I’ve stopped going to shul on Friday night. In part, it’s logistics – I get home tired and sweaty at 6 or 6:30, and I want a break and a shower before dinner. Partially, though, it’s become uncomfortable for me. There’s something that Emily Schaeffer, an Israeli human rights lawyer who grew up in the Reform community outside of Boston, wrote once, which I increasingly feel in myself:
“Unless I’m with people who I am certain do not espouse Zionism or any form of oppression, I cannot comfortably honor the tradition, or even be sure I want to be part of it.”
Even in my struggle with Judaism itself, the past three years of studying gemara have oriented me toward the world through the lens of text and textual connections. So here’s the gezerah shavah I have to offer:
There is a liturgical similarity between Kabbalat Shabbat and the weekly protest. In L’cha Dodi, the line is “hitoreri, hitoreri, ki va orech kumi ori” – wake up, wake up, for your light has come, arise and shine. In the protest “liturgy,” one of the chants uses the same verb – “ezrachim lehitorer, hafascism kvar over” – residents, wake up, fascism has already passed (it works better in Hebrew).
I’ve been dwelling on those lines as representative of the tension that I’m feeling around typical religious practice (as opposed to, say, Heschel’s praying with his feet). More »
“We are extending our hand in peace,” said Ghawi. “We have lost hope that the Israeli establishment is able to make decisions, so we wish to talk directly to the Israeli public. Also, we are here to say that the prisoners are our sons and we favor their release. It is impossible to talk only about one side of the equation – the release of Shalit also means the release of Palestinian prisoners.”
Neither my wife nor I were able to make it to the rally last night. Before reading this story, it didn’t even occur to us to go. But we discussed standing in solidarity with Nasser – as Bassam Aramin, one of the founders of Combatants for Peace, said to me recently, “they’re all our children.”
I woke up this morning to discover that Nasser, his son, and one of the Jewish Israeli activists who was with him were stopped for questioning on their way to the protest last night. They were detained, searched, and humiliated by the police, for no reason other than being a Palestinian and a leftist walking together in Jerusalem.
“They told us it was their right to search, take our cell phones and interrogate us. I asked them ‘Why are you arresting me,’ and they replied ‘because we hate Arabs, but we hate people like you even more’.”
Yotam Wolf, the Israeli activist who was with Nasser last night, tells his version of the story here in Hebrew.
It seemed to me a profound act, for Nasser to stand in solidarity with the Shalit family – to say that their child, as well as the many Palestinian children currently (and in many cases illegally) held in prison, deserve to be able to go home to their parents. I thought back to the night of the flotilla, when two women who were sitting in the Shalit protest tent outside the prime minister’s house, came to shout at those of us protesting nearby – a protest organized, at least in part, by the Sheikh Jarrah activists. How wonderful would it have been to have been able to say to them that our Palestinian friends protested in favor of Shalit’s release as well – that we want freedom and security for everyone’s children.
But alas, the forces that be seem not to be interested in that kind of solidarity. Ynet reports that Nasser will try again to visit the protest tent in the coming days. I hope the next visit is less eventful.