I can only imagine the pitch meeting: “What if the Swedish Chef was a Zionist?” “But the Swedish Chef is kind of a psycho, totally unaware of the havoc he’s wreaking on everyone around him while he’s trying to make his meal.” “Exactly! It’s perfect!”
I’ll admit, after watching the first one I stumbled across (“Jew Bread“), I turned to my office-mate and asked if she tell whether this was anti-Semitic or Zionist. After watching a few more, I think the answer is clearly “both.”
It’s like a train wreck… Each clip I watch repulses me in new and different ways, but I can’t look away…
So the the question is… who’s funding/making/distributing these?
JTA reports that thousands of Hareidim went out to protest today, claiming that racism is – apparently- ordained by God, that -as usual- those nasty Supreme Court people are godless atheists in their insistence that they integrate a school, and that a vote for integration is a vote for “flotilla terrorists.”
Just another day in the life:
You have to give it to them, they certainly stand for Torah and are willing to fight for what they believe in, even if it has nothing to do with anything actually in Torah whatsoever, or if in fact, it opposes Torah altogether. No, no, what they say is Torah, it is Torah.
Why are they protesting? Well, hard to say since the Ashkenazi mothers fail to show for jail term, although 35 Ashkenazi fathers show up for their two week sentence. But as we know, they have the god-given, nay, God-demanded right to segregate their daughters from those nasty Sephardi girls, after all, as one mother pointed out, “The court and media don’t understand that this is another world,” a mother who is keeping her daughter out of school said. “The Hasidic program was created because of a different religious outlook. Only pure children attend it,” and we mustn’t forget that, “No court ruling or Education Ministry decision can bring the two groups together,” an Immanuel resident said Wednesday, “It’s like putting Americans and Africans together. They can’t study together with such huge mental differences,” he said.
Everyone and your fossilizing bubbe could tell you that Drake, the raucously popular pop-rapper, is “half-Jewish.” Born to a African-American father and Jewish mother in 1986, Drake grew up in a wealthy Jewish neighborhood in Toronto, attended a Jewish Day School and celebrated his Bar Mitzve. Now he’s at the pinnacle of hip-hop stardom, and his lyrical glosses on Jewishness are blaring. Take for example:
By the way I’m Jewish and turnin 22
Gets depressing wen u see yo favorite rappers goin thru it
Tryna re-invent themselves showin no improvement
Gettin crushed by this lite skin youngen on sum new shit
40 just record it and we’ll drop this here
I mean, he did grow up in the predominantly wealthy Jewish Forest Hill neighborhood in Toronto, and now he is umbilically linked with Lil-Wayne, who is currently serving a sentence at Rikers Island for weapons possession. That would confuse me dearly, too.
…And so you might expect a load of hip-hop wise-men analyzing Drake’s pilgrimage from a privileged, multi-racial Jewish child in Canada to a hip-hop entertainer reaping the fruits of America’s urban, black pop-star landscape.
But, surprisingly, Drake himself seems to be the only one not tip-toeing around the issue. In an interview with Heeb, Drake reflects on growing up in the Canadian Jewish mix:
I went to a Jewish school, where nobody understood what it was like to be black and Jewish,” he says. “When kids are young it’s hard for them to understand the make-up of religion and race.” He recalls being called a schvartze, repeatedly. “But the same kids that made fun of me are super proud [of me] now. And they act as if nothing happened.” He wears a diamond-studded Chai (prominently displayed on his Vibe cover) and plans, at some point after the release and promotion of his debut, to travel to Israel. He says his mother has expressed hope he’ll marry “a nice Jewish girl.” As far as public acceptance goes today, by all accounts, religion has been a complete non-issue.
Yet, Thomas Chatterton Williams at The Root dismisses the whole issue:
In a recent profile in Heeb magazine — Drake is Jewish on his mother’s side — Drake himself identifies astutely, if unwittingly, one of the main weaknesses of the album: ” ‘The internet has f**ked the game up so bad, that if I don’t [sell a lot of records], I’m curious to sit back and watch whoever does … I honestly can say, the steps we’ve taken, the way that how passionate we are about this … ‘ He trails off..
So I’ll make a claim The Root dismisses: Drake’s Jewishness is central to understanding his rise, his fame, his appeal and his success. Is he the Moses Mendelssohn of Hip-Hop? Is he translating contemporary Jewishness into a marketable hip-hop vernacular and suggesting a conversation about race and Jewish culture? Or does he just want to celebrate human brotherhood? Will his children convert to Christianity?
The recently posted NYTimes Article about East Haven, CT Police smacks some childhood memories back into my head.
I grew up in Connecticut, in a part of Connecticut that was heavily working class with some ironic mixture of aristocracy and decaying housing projects. It was also not a particularly Jewish place, but being in the tri-state area, it possessed a medium sized Jewish community. I was raised in a town with a small Jewish population, and went to shul in the larger, exceptionally poor city to the immediate southeast. When I read this article about allegations against the East Haven Police Department, I remember and identify with the diseased kind of racist-garbage corruption among the police and town government, which stands accused of police bias, brutality and violence against its burgeoning Hispanic population. As I think more and more, I see my own upbringing in this news and remember odd moments in which racial prejudice, growing ethnic diversity, and the heavy presence of white ethnics, like the Irish, Italians and Greeks, always smashed into my Jewishness. I always felt that my Jewish self, how I understood its history and all that shiz, was really fired in a kiln of bigotry and national resentment. Mix recent, Latino immigration with the generations of working-class blacks and white ethnics that had been working CT land for generations, and you get people sweating. How did the Jews fit into the history of this working-class New England town? Did Jewish tradition, or even ritual life, have express anything about the the material conditions of my upbringing? I just think today of all the Jewish kids who are experiencing something like East Haven up close, and to hear their voices. We are still dwelling most deeply in Bovel.
To read about recent accusations of Police Bias in East Haven, CT, read the NYTimes article here.
Shalom from Israel! I’m spending the week in Haifa through the generosity of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, working on a pilot project for the Jewish Identity and Education subcommittee of the Boston-Haifa Steering Committee (aka שותפות חיפה-בוסטון). Although I’ve been here since Tuesday working with a team from my school and a team from our sister school, tonight was the official kick-off to the Steering Committee meeting.
As far as kick-offs to Federation sponsored meetings go, it was pretty kick-ass. First off, one of two leadership awards was presented to Dr. Eshetu Kebede, the Haifa-side co-chair of Shiluvim (“Integration”), a program to empower and integrate Ethiopian residents of Haifa into mainstream Israeli society. Dr. Kebede took the opportunity to highlight the educational work Shiluvim has done, busing Ethiopian children into schools across the city, noting how far we’ve come in the areas of student commitment and parental support. But then he acknowledged how far we still have to travel in the third pillar of student success — relationship with teachers. And he specifically called out the racism still rampant in some Israeli classrooms, where some teachers tell their Ethiopian students they aren’t Jews, aren’t Israelis, and aren’t worthy or capable of an education.
You can imagine the shitstorm unleashed behind the scenes as the professionals involved with the project leap into damage-control mode. Sitting at a table full of Israeli educators, I could feel the tension in the room, and yet despite the discomfort, it was clear that many recognized the truth in his words. I know that there are many excellent teachers in the Haifa schools who work hard as partners in their Ethiopian students’ (and all students’) success — some of them were at my table. But that doesn’t discount the work left to be done. I hope Dr. Kebede’s call to arms will be taken seriously, galvanizing the community to continue the important work this program has begun.
After some more speeches (and another leadership award presented to Bostonian Debbie Kurinsky), the evening took a decidedly less serious turn with the introduction of Kolot Min HaShamayim (“Voices from Heaven”), an Orthodox Boys’ Choir, to be the evening’s entertainment.
Maybe it’s jet lag, maybe I needed something to relieve the tension left from Dr. Kebede’s speech, or maybe my inner USY dork simply came alive, but I was totally sold on them. Their style is best described as “Glee set in a yeshiva.” Their repertoire ranged from traditional and liturgical settings to a Caribbean take on Adon Olam and a mash-up of Kabbalat Shabbat and O Sole Mio. I didn’t have my Flip camera handy, but thankfully my Blackberry takes video. It’s not the best footage I’ve ever recorded, but I do hope you enjoy it. (And somebody, please get these guys a record deal!)
Haaretz correspondent Akiva Eldar calls out American Jewish foundations which support terrorists who call for the killing of Palestinian babies.
How can President Barack Obama object to furthering education in a settlement like Yitzhar, located in the heart of the West Bank? After all, his own tax revenues contribute to the flourishing of the Od Yosef Chai Shechem yeshiva, the settlement’s crowning glory.
This is the same yeshiva whose rabbi said it is permissible to kill gentile babies because of “the future danger that will arise if they are allowed to grow into evil people like their parents.” In his latest book, the head of the yeshiva, Yitzhak Shapira, who bears the honorable title of rabbi, even permits killing anyone “who, through his remarks and so forth, weakens our kingdom” (Obama, beware!).
On November 17, this column reported that the Education Ministry’s division for Torah institutions transferred more than NIS 1 million to this yeshiva in 2006 and 2007. The Welfare Ministry made do with a mere NIS 150,000.
A report on donations submitted by the yeshiva to the registrar of nonprofit organizations revealed that the American public also participates in financing the message coming out of Yitzhar. It states that in 2007 and 2008, the yeshiva received NIS 102,547 from an American foundation known as the Central Fund of Israel.
Its about frickin’ time somebody did something. Oh I know—I’m sure NGO Monitor is on it.
Full story here.
(h/t to Shaul)
When I heard the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts was hosting an event featuring Rabbi Capers Funnye, I wondered how they would frame the program. Would the Council see this as an opportunity to foster discussion, encourage member synagogues to engage with diversity in the Jewish community? I hoped that the event would be a starting point, a chance to reflect on how we can better include Jews of all colours in our community, then start discussing what actions to take. At worst, I feared this evening would be purely congratulatory, a pat on the back that, just by inviting Rabbi Funnye to talk, our synagogues are obviously inclusive and welcoming!
Luckily, the introductory remarks by members of the Synagogue Council executive set the right tone: Representing 120 synagogues across Massachusetts, the Council encourages learning and dialogue, embraces diversity, and promotes pluralism. Officially, their website notes that they “nurture a respect for diversity within our Jewish community.”
And then we launched into the main event. Rabbi Funnye was there to talk about his journey to, with, Judaism. In telling it, he suggested that his story could actually be that of many African-American Jewish converts. And that story started with a cruise. A “free cruise,” organized by a “travel agent,” with too many people in too small a space (and the food wasn’t good either). At the conclusion of the trip, they were given new names, and introduced to a new G-d who, coincidentally, looked a lot like their new captors. Within the span of three minutes, Funnye wove his personal journey in with over 100 years of African-American history. Ending in the 1960’s, Funnye talked about how reading up on civil rights led to re-reading the bible with an understanding that these stories weren’t just happening to an abstract people, but was the history of a people with whom he felt a connection, an understanding.
Throughout, his talk was punctuated with humour. At first, these jokes were met with silence. Slowly, the audience started chuckling quietly. It was as if the audience, mostly white folks in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, were afraid to laugh. But Funnye was funny. And, slowly, the audience realised that they could relax and enjoy his message while also learning from it.
Funnye had the great ability to weave a story that included not only a version of his own personal journey, but also that of Jews in Africa today. Through his work with Be’chol Lashon, he’s travelled to many countries in Africa to work with the local Jewish populations. Explaining the differences between American and African Jews, he told a story of a woman who was her village’s mohel (the person who performs the bris milah – circumcision). This particular Nigerian community was described as being somewhere within the realm of Orthodoxy by American standards, and yet a woman was the mohel. When Funnye asked her about that, she explained that as a woman she couldn’t read the Torah, she couldn’t sit with the men in synagogue, she was not required to perform as many commandments as the men, but it said in the Torah that she was to circumcise the men. Her proof? Tziporah, Moses’ wife, a Cushite woman, was in charge of circumcising their youngest son.
So what was the point of these stories? Throughout the talk, Funnye repeated his message of the need for inclusion, acceptance, and a better understanding of how a diverse Jewish population can learn from each other. He gave examples of how African-American Jews can help build bridges between synagogues and churches and mosques. He spoke to the importance of welcoming all Jewish souls and hearts to Judaism, and the reasons why we need to have more welcoming, while still halakhic, conversion processes. And he spoke to the Jewish establishment needing to see and serve the full range of colours that Jews come in. (As an example of the shortcomings of Jewish institutions, Funnye talked about his small rabbinical school in Queens, NY that serves the African-American Jewish community. It was started when an African-American Jew, who had two degrees from Yeshiva University, was denied entry to their rabbinical school because of his skin colour).
I have no doubt that the audience was moved by his talk. I just hope that conversations continue, individual members of the Jewish community, congregations, and the Council alike all put plans in place for ensuring that our community is actually as welcoming as the audience was last night.
I should apologize for the crap quality of the video. Arriving 15 minutes early, I found a seat at the back and on the far left side of the sanctuary. And using this Flip camcorder for the first time, I didn’t know how poor the sound quality would be. (Crank up your volume.) That said, what a fun gadget! Once I rig up a tripod for it, it’ll be much more useful.
This is the fourth post in a series on Social Justice Showtunes. The series starts here with a post about the 1937 Broadway musical Pins and Needles and continues here with a post about the 1932 song “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” and here with a post about South Pacific’s “Carefully Taught.”
Many of the best musicals had their origins in earlier theatrical works, from Oklahoma! (based on Lynn Riggs’ Green Grow the Lilacs) to The Fantasticks (based on Edmund Rostand’s Les Romantiques) to West Side Story (based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet). Today’s entry comes from the musical version of Clifford Odets’ 1937 play Golden Boy. The original told the story of an Italian-American kid in the Depression who dreams of a career as a concert violinist, seeing a career in boxing as his only way out of the lower class.
For the musical version, Odets was recruited to adapt his own play on the strength of the new lead – multimedia sensation Sammy Davis, Jr. In the musical update, the hero’s struggle was given an added dimension in the form of an interracial love affair — still illegal in many states, and mirroring Davis’s own real-life marriage to May Britt. Odets was at a low point in his career, suffering from the blacklist and nearly broke, so despite his ambivalence towards musical theater, he was happy to be working and thrilled to have Sammy Davis, Jr. signed on.
The show was fully integrated, and it featured a kiss between the lovers, which caused quite a stir during the show’s tryouts. Davis and the rest of the company reported receiving death threats for the involvement in the show, but it was ultimately successful.
This song comes about halfway through the second act, when (SPOILER ALERT!) the lovers have broken up. Soon after the show’s opening, Martin Luther King, Jr. attended the show and admired its message, citing this song as his favorite.
In his recent autobiography, Put on a Happy Face, Strouse recalled the difficulties involved in putting on this production and working with a star of Davis’s caliber. For instance, Davis’s contract gave him approval over every single song in the score, quite an unusual agreement for a Broadway production. Since Davis was performing a blockbuster club act in Vegas at the time, this meant lots of flying back and forth between New York and Vegas for the songwriters who had to audition new songs for the star at three in the morning following his “midnight matinees.”
Sammy’s only previous Broadway outing had been Mr. Wonderful, which was essentially Sammy’s club act placed within the slightest of stories. So being part of a collaborative process for the good of the dramatic work as a whole must have been new to him. Strouse wrote:
Lee and I didn’t write the pop-style, Sammy Cahn-Jimmy Van Heusen songs that Sammy could metamorphose into jazz-sounding phrases, and Sammy wouldn’t/couldn’t/didn’t want to sing our versions of “black.”
Strouse explains at great length in his book that much of the tension between himself and Davis really revolved around Davis’ desire to swing the score in opposition to the composer’s desire to hear the score sung as written. Because jazz singing was still so closely associated with being black, Strouse fretted that his musical proclivities were being misinterpreted. He wrote:
Lee and I had wanted to write a musical true to the pain, hopes, and culture of African Americans. So, naturally, everyone involved in the writing was white and Jewish–except for Sammy, who was only Jewish… Race relations played out behind the scenes as well as on the stage. For example, if I was drinking a Coke, Sammy liked to take a sip from the same glass. He confided in me that it was really a test to see whether I liked black people. He never told me whether I passed.
Strouse and Davis eventually bonded when they traveled to Selma together for the famous march. But knowing now the way that Strouse perceived what was going on behind the scenes, it’s hard to imagine the moment when he and Lee Adams first presented this song to Davis, asking him to sing lines like “I ain’t your slave no more.”
If you’re interested in learning about a Jewish organization working on fostering a Jewish community that brings together all Jews, whether they look like Charles Strouse or Sammy Davis, Jr., check out Be’chol Lashon. As they put it in their vision statement,
Imagine a new global Judaism that transcends differences in geography, ethnicity, class, race, ritual practice, and beliefs. Discussions about “who-is-a-real-Jew” will be replaced with celebration of the rich, multi-dimensional character of the Jewish people.
This is the third post in a series on Social Justice Showtunes. The series starts here with a post about the 1937 Broadway musical Pins and Needles and continues here with a post about the 1932 song “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”
Today’s entry to the series is probably the most well-known of the songs we’ll be examining. “Carefully Taught” was introduced in 1949, when South Pacific premiered on Broadway. Based on James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tales of the South Pacific, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s show addressed racial intolerance head-on, which went on to win its own Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950.
Buy the CD!
(Performed by William Tabbert, from the Original Cast Recording.)
As a stand-alone number, the song is a strong message against racism in general, and against unquestioningly accepting the values of one’s parents more specifically. Although there wasn’t a great deal of public backlash against the song, Michener recalled that the authors had faced some pressure to drop this song from the show, but, in Michener’s words, “This number represented why they had wanted to do the play and even if it meant failure of the production it was going to stay in… Courage and determination such as this counts for something in art.”
The show holds a special place in the history of the American musical, and a special fascination for fans of the form. The show represented a big step forward in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s creation of the musical-drama (as opposed to musical comedy), and Josh Logan’s direction was produced one of the first stage plays to adopt cinematic scene transitions. The show has been filmed twice (once for cinemas, once for television), and an all-star concert was also captured for PBS. The show has become a permanent feature of the high school and community theater circuits, and in the 1999-2000 season (the 50th anniversary of the show’s premiere), I must have seen a half-dozen productions around Los Angeles.
Today, South Pacific is once again running on Broadway, in a smash-hit revival at Lincoln Center. This summer, I saw the show live again for the first time in about ten years. In context, the song is sung by a young lieutenant who has fallen in love with a native Polynesian girl. He’s singing to a older French planter whose love affair with a young nurse has fallen apart over the nurse’s disgust at discovering her planter has previously been married to a Polynesian woman.
I attended the show with a dear friend of mine, who happens to be Jewish and biracial, and her parents. Her parents were swept away by the show, but my friend was left with a bad taste in her mouth. You see, for all Lt. Cable’s protestations of his love for Liat, the Polynesian girl, all we’ve seen of their relationship has been strictly physical. They don’t even speak a common language. My friend, unable (or unwilling) to be swept up in the romantic idea of the white air force office rescuing the native girl from her arranged marriage to a wealthy, elderly planter, could only see a naive young girl being rescued from one kind of concubinage only to enter a different kind of love-slavery. (It doesn’t help that both relationships — the one with Cable and the one with the planter — are orchestrated by Liat’s wily mother, Bloody Mary.)
Honestly, I was sort of split on the issue – I hadn’t considered it in that light before. I was also very sleepy the night we saw the show, so I jumped at the chance to catch a matinée later in the summer, this time with my parents and brother. Again, I found the show to be a little long for my taste — director Bartlet Sher has restored a song cut from the original production and added some extra lines here and there (in part to emphasize the young nurse heroine’s racist upbringing), and if you ask me, a two-and-a-half hour show doesn’t need any lengthening. But aside from the length, I couldn’t get my friend’s criticism out of my head, and this time I could only see the relationship between Cable and Liat as exploitative (albeit exploitative in both directions).
And yet, it’s hard to deny the impact the story had on its original audiences, and that it still has on audiences today. The song itself still resonates, and artists continue to record it sixty years after its debut. One of my colleagues in the world of Jewish education keeps the lyrics framed on his office wall alongside quotes from great rabbis as a reminder of the full range of our responsibilities as educators.
As we enter the new year together, I hope we can all think about the ways we teach the next generation and renew our commitment to creating a future free from hate and fear.
If you’re interested in learning about a Jewish organization working on creating a Jewish community free from hate and fear, check out The Jewish Multiracial Network. To quote from their mission statement:
The mission of the Jewish Multiracial Network is to build a community of Jews of color and multiracial Jewish families for mutual support, learning, and empowerment. Through education and advocacy, we seek to enrich Jewish communal life by incorporating our diverse racial and ethnic heritages.
They’re doing important work. Check out their website for information on upcoming events and the resources they have to offer, and consider how you may help make your own Jewish community more inclusive of all Jews.
Obama promotes ethnic cleansing.
Settlements no impediment to peace.
Stunned to learn this new information? Well, don’t worry, rush right over the the Israel Project (supported by the usual suspects: ADL and AIPAC, who respectively announced in an ad that “The problem isn’t settlements, it’s Arab rejection,” and wrote a letter praising Netanyahu for taking “concrete measures” to advance peace), which as reported in the Guardian:
says that those who back the removal of the settlements should be told they are supporting ethnic cleansing and antisemitism. The guide offers what it describes as “the best settlement argument”.
“The idea that anywhere that you have Palestinians there can’t be Jews, that some areas have to be Jew-free, is a racist idea. We don’t say that we have to cleanse out Arabs from Israel. They are citizens of Israel. They enjoy equal rights. We cannot see why it is that peace requires that any Palestinian area would require a kind of ethnic cleansing to remove all Jews,” the guide says.
I completely agree, but am rather surprised that an organization such as this would consider taking down the separation wall and integrating Palestinians into the beautiful Jewish settlement communities that have things like running water, electricity, sewage treatment, swimming pools, gardens and the like. Still, never let it be said that I opposed a good idea no matter where it came from. I fully support them in their quest for integration. Let the integration begin. More »
On one side, there’s Facebook’s stance that unless groups directly advocate violence, asking Facebook to take down groups/individuals for Holocaust denial is a misunderstanding of its role. Their employees came out greatly on their company’s side, including Jewish ones. For example, employee Dave Willner very rightly explains that their company should not have “an official version of the world” against which to test hate statements. You can rightfully argue differently, although I agree such policing is the wrong road to go down.
On the other side is the nauseating activism of the JIDF and chief activist David Appletree, whose views are not separable from each other and were most easily summarized in an interview here. Regarding Obama: “We hope to continue to highlight the issues surrounding his terrorist connections…” On Islam: “99.9% of Muslims hate us…” On the conflict: “Palestinians should be transferred out of Israeli territories…”
Appletree’s ostensible goals for JIDF may be laudable (ending anti-Semitism online) but it’s used as a platform from which to spread reciprocal defamation. Islamophobes and Arab haters made poor representatives of the Jewish people for starters. But it’s particularly painful when it’s someone who’s advocating Arab transfer, selectively upholding self-determination, and makes insulting generalized claims about any people. My personal communiques with Appletree, presumably the admin behind JIDF’s Twitter profile, repeat those views.
Then there’s his misleading campaigns to Facebook advertisers that they’re “supporting” Holocaust denial. The JIDF web site manipulates the facts into an action alert targeted at 50 advertisers demanding they halt their Facebook ads. Several companies have since pulled their ads. The kind of defamtion we should be fighting becomes a tool in a campaign for retribution. More intelligent might be asking those companies to donate some proceeds to anti-prejudice groups who fight not just anti-Jewish hate but all kinds of hate.
Reinforcing anti-Arab stereotypes is also hatred. Spreading belief in a “global jihad” is the same as spreading belief in the Elders of Zion. Ignorance about Islam, Muslims and Arabs are unfortunately hatreds widely accepted as fact, especially in the Jewish community. Opinions such as “Arabs should be kicked out of Israel” and “Arabs already have 22 countries” are hatred. Those broadcasting such views should be denounced and then ignored.
Even if I could stomach the cause the JIDF is championing (in principle) or the methods it is choosing (not at all), then I still would never do so alongside Jewish haters like this. Personally, I’m against Jew haters as much as I am Jewish haters. Anyone interested in the Facebook-Holocaust denial debate best find a more credible organizer.
What to make of the news that a neo-Nazi gunman killed a security guard at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington DC? Rabbi Marvin Hier says it shows “that the cancer of hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism is alive and well in America.” According to President Obama, it means “we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms.”
I don’t know, I’m not sure that we really needed this particularly horrid act to remind us that hatred and prejudice exist in our country. But it does seem to offer an important sign that for all of our angst about international terrorism, we’d do well to recognize that it’s alive and well in our own backyard.
And it seems to be working. The New York Times reported today that the late Dr. George Tiller’s Witchita abortion clinic has now closed permanently…
Then a band launched into a rousing rendition of Am Yisrael Chai…A group of young men in their 20′s with kippot and tziztzit were right in front of me dancing in a frenzy. But they alternated the verse that meant “the people of Israel lives” with “all the Arabs must die.” It rhymed with the Hebrew. Given the way all joined in, it was clear that this was not the first time it was sung.
I leaned over to a young man who was next to me, also wearing a kippah and tzitzit. I nodded at the dancers and asked: “Does this song bother you?” He looked at me with a suspicious look and replied: “This is Zionism.”
Rabbi Sid’s well-chosen final word on the matter: “Islam is not the only religion that is in danger of being hijacked.”
In an expansion of the racist rhetoric and legislation put out by Avidgor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, it has been announced that in the coming week the party plans to present legislation to the Knesset to ban the marking of al Nakba, or “the Catastrophe”, the term designated by the Arab community in Israel and Palestine for the destruction and expulsion experienced leading up to and during the war in 1948 when Israel declared its independence. It is no coincidence that this announcement comes today, May 15, the Gregorian date of Israel’s independence which is annually commemorated by Arab communities and those in solidarity with them.
According to the Reuters report anyone caught participating in the commemoration of al Nakba will be arrested and sentenced to a three-year jail term.
During the campaign in February Lieberman made himself internationally known by demanding that any citizen of Israel who votes in future elections must submit to a “loyalty pledge,” which the 20% Arab minority claimed was leveled specifically at them to deny their right to vote. In addition, considering the Netanyahu administration has been cold, if not outright hostile, towards the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories, this type of legislation does not bode well for encouraging peaceful coexistence.
What Lieberman is attempting to do here is to not only undermine peoples’ right to freedom of expression, but even their basic human right to freedom of thought. Freedoms such as these are at the core of democratic society. To infringe on the ability to freely express one’s opinion is, itself, undermining democratic institutions. Between the demand for loyalty pledges and the banning the ability of a minority population to remember their experience and their history, Lieberman is aiding the further erosion of any moral upper-hand the Jewish state may have at one time held. Legislation such as this further entrenches the cultural mindset of occupation, and brings that worldview from the territories deeper into Israel proper.
Amidst illegal housing evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement expansion in the occupied territories inside and outside of settlement blocs, a government coalition that denies the right to a Palestinian state while demanding the recognition of a Jewish one, and now parliamentary legislation dictating how people remember their personal narrative, the future for Israeli democracy looks bleak.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said just after Ahmadinejad finished speaking and the delegates returned to the room, “I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite. This is the opposite of what this conference seeks to achieve. We must all turn away from such a message in both form and substance.”