Is Egypt Palestine?
It is a tired (and discredited) claim that Jordan is Palestine. But now there is a new one: that Egypt is.
I inadvertently pushed a button I didn’t mean to push earlier this week in a conversation in Gaza City with a group of Islamists, mostly Hamas officials and their supporters. I asked if their frustration with the peace process and unification talks would lead them to look toward Egypt instead of the West Bank, from which it is so isolated. They said such idea was treason.
My question did not come out of the blue. I had come to Gaza as a journalist — on my third trip — at the invitation of a Hamas official, but with no restrictions on my movement or who I could talk to, and had spoken the previous day to a few young enterprising Gazans for whom the West Bank is terra incognito. One, a 25-year old blogger, Jehan Al Farr, had never been to the West Bank until a few weeks before when she went to the American Consulate in East Jerusalem for a visa. She went by official bus and was not allowed off the bus except to go into the consulate and then quickly re-board the bus back to Gaza. She and her friends worry about this. (Israeli amuta Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement—www.gisha.org—reports on the impediments to travel between Gaza and the West Bank.) In a recent “tweet-up,” Jihan and her friends hotly discussed “Rafah” (shorthand for looking towards Egypt for solutions) versus “Erez,” looking towards the West Bank. Many of her friends, she said, call themselves Gazans and not Palestinians, and that too is a subject for debate. (This sweet-faced young woman told me that the party that most closely reflects her political views is Islamic Jihad.)
When Neshama Carlebach recently recorded for us a slightly different, more inclusive version of Hatikvah (one first suggested by our language columnist, Philologos), the reaction from some was predictably pretty negative. As one commenter succinctly put it, “Israel is not a binational state. It is the national homeland of the Jewish people. I’d rather Israel be a Jewish state than a democratic one, if a choice must be made. Leave Hatikvah alone. Leave the Israeli flag alone.”
We never intended the recording to be an endorsement of a change in the national anthem. It was meant as a challenge of sorts, an intellectual exercise that might provide an entry point for a conversation about how representative the Hatikvah actually is or should be. Setting this alteration of the anthem to music seemed fitting also because, as a song, Hatikvah has been fairly mutable, with lyrics shifting and changing at various points in history (and I’ll offer a few examples after the jump).
Carlebach herself found herself attacked for having made the recording and she has now issued a statement explaining her decision to participate in this exercise:
President Obama raised a reported $12 million for his reelection campaign at a Hollywood fundraiser at George Clooney’s home co-hosted by top Obama donor Jeffrey Katzenbeg.
The May 10 fundraiser came days after Obama announced his personal support of legal recognition for gay marriage.
Though the president stopped well short of calling for federal legislation, the shift on gay marriage was seen by some observers as helpful in his campaign’s broad effort to reassure Hollywood Democrats, who have given less than expected so far in 2012.
Those efforts seem to have paid off. The $12 million raised at the $40,000 per plate dinner is reportedly the largest sum ever gathered at fundraiser for a presidential election.
President Obama’s announcement on same-sex marriage is good for the Jews. Why? Here are three reasons.
First is the “who.” Obama’s support of same-sex marriage signals that he’s not going to let a noisy religious minority dictate public policy. This is important for all religious minorities, including the Jewish one, because that same group of angry fundamentalists wants to Christianize America, support the radical settler-fringe in Israel against Israel’s own best interests (as reflected by the mainstream of Israeli public opinion), and erode the separation of church and state.
Read the Forward’s news story about Jewish groups supporting Obama’s statement on gay marriage.
There are those in the Orthodox Jewish community who have made deals with this same fundamentalist devil on issues concerning women, contraception, LGBT people, Israel, “intelligent design,” and the funding of religious schools and institutions. Often, they agree with the fundamentalists substantively (as on same-sex marriage), and other times it’s just a marriage of convenience. But in both cases, such alliances are deeply short-sighted. If American Jews care about maintaining our religious freedom, we must not allow sectarian religious values to dictate public policy. Period.
Second is the “what.” Obama’s statement brings him in line not just with 55% of the American public, as revealed in a recent Gallup poll, but with the overwhelming majority of non-fundamentalist religious people as well.
Supporters of jailed kosher meat CEO Sholom Rubashkin received a boost this week in the form of a blog post by a senior editor for the online magazine Slate.
The post, by Slate’s Emily Bazelon, provides rare secular media backing for Rubashkin, who enjoys overwhelming sympathy among Orthodox Jews.
A former top executive of the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking concern, Rubashkin was convicted of scores of counts of financial fraud in 2009 and is currently serving a 27-year jail sentence. The charges came in the wake of a massive immigration raid on the Agriprocessors facility.
The Forward was the first newspaper to report on employee and animal welfare problems at Agriprocessor’s Postville, Iowa plant.
In her Slate post, Bazelon pointed to two longstanding concerns about Rubashkin’s conviction and sentencing. Bazelon noted that his 27-year sentence is relatively long for a bank fraud conviction. She also cited concerns that the judge who heard the case, Linda Reade, was prejudiced by her involvement in planning the raid on the Agriprocessors plant.
Bazelon wrote that a number of attorneys — including Bazelon’s own sister — have filed amicus curiae briefs asking the Supreme Court to review a request for a retrial.
The Likud-Kadima agreement to form a unity government and cancel the early election makes all the sense in the world for Kadima. It’s arguably the smartest move by any Israeli peace advocate in a long time.
Newly minted Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, who ousted Tzipi Livni in a primary upset just two weeks ago, inherited a party with 28 seats Knesset seats. It’s the largest bloc in the current house - one seat more than the Likud in the 120-seat legislature. But Kadima was headed for a crash in the coming snap elections. Polls showed Mofaz winning just 11 seats in September, the same as center-liberal newcomer Yair Lapid. Labor Party leader Sheli Yacimovich was polling at 18 seats (up from the 13 Labor won in the last election, which dropped to 8 after Ehud Barak’s defection). Thus the total center-left bloc was headed for 40 seats. Netanyahu was polling at a commanding 30 seats, and with Avigdor Lieberman pulling 15, plus assorted religious and far-right factions, Bibi was headed for a second term that would take him through 2016 essentially unchallenged.
By joining a unity coalition, Mofaz gives himself another year to build up a following and establish himself as an alternative to Bibi. From his perspective, his two rivals for leadership of the center-left, Yacimovich and Lapid, are not serious candidates. Both are former television journalists with little to no leadership experience and only the fuzziest familiarity with foreign and security policy. Mofaz is a former army chief of staff and former defense minister, active in civilian politics since 2003, highly regarded as a team leader, manager and policy wonk on domestic and security affairs. There have been talks in recent days about bringing the three together to form a joint list to oppose Bibi, but no agreement as to who would lead.
What specifically does tonight’s deal gain for Mofaz and Kadima?
The Second Aliyah, though necessitated by the resumption of hostilities by the Slavic populace against Russian Jewry, was carried on a wave of ideological fervor. In addition to establishing Tel Aviv and aiding the revival of the Hebrew language, those imbibed with the new European collectivist ideologies sought to establish a more equitable form of living in the Yishuv.
This was to be accomplished via the foundation of a series of communal farming villages, the kibbutzim, where labor and its fruits were apportioned evenhandedly. It is on one of these settlements — Ein Ha’Shofet, in the north of Israel, about 18 miles southeast of Haifa on the Plain of Manasseh — that I now find myself. (I was reminded of this nugget of history, incidentally, because of my current reading material: Leon Uris’ Exodus. After all, what better to read on a kibbutz than the quintessential American Zionist novel?)
When I enlisted in Tel Aviv, the administrator in the volunteers’ office in offering me my current residence said, “This is a serious kibbutz — you seem like a serious person.” (For the record, I rejected offers to work in a meat packing factory in Beersheba, and a couple of kibbutzim bordering the Gaza Strip, for reasons that I’m sure are apparent). It was mentioned that there was a possibility of working outside as part of the gardening team, and I accepted, thinking foolishly in retrospect that like the Jews of the Second Aliyah, I could be transformed and made better through toil in the fields, turning these soft writers’ hands into those of an honest laborer.
It was day three when I realized that this metamorphosis was destined to fail. The first couple of days were exhausting, but in a way that left me fulfilled. On those occasions, the climate had been temperate, but the air that Wednesday was thick and heavy, and the atmosphere humid and muggy. The mercury climbed north of 90, as we cleared the grassland of brush and other waste, in preparation of that evening’s memorial for Yom Ha’Shoah. It was not necessarily the mindless repetitive nature of the task at hand — hoisting unwanted nature into a ‘piler’ and flinging it onto a flatbed truck — since when your normal occupation consists of putting one’s mind to use, jobs without thought can relax. Rather, I was flustered and worn down by the physical strain of the activity, in combination with the energy sapping heat.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to call early elections in September followed a “discreet” meeting with leaders of AIPAC, who told him that polls show President Obama heading for reelection in November—so writes Maariv chief diplomatic correspondent Ben Caspit, as reported by Noam Sheizaf on the left-wing, English-language Israeli site 972mag.com blog.
Here’s Caspit, as translated by Sheizaf:
Netanyahu’s surprising announcement on the early primaries in the Likud, which fell on his party’s senior member like thunder on a cloudless day, came three days after a discrete meeting he held with the chiefs of AIPAC, that estimated, based on polls, that Barack Obama would also be the next president.
Bibi knew he can’t campaign when Obama is in his second term. This [would be] a dangerous gamble. Sheizaf goes on to note that the September 4 Knesset elections will come during the Democratic National Convention, which means that “Instead of the U.S. president possibly playing a role—deliberately or not – in the Israeli elections, Netanyahu will get a chance to play a part in the American one.” No, Noam, it’s not a coincidence.
Speaking of Israeli elections, two new political parties are forming on the right:
Being managing editor is a singular job in journalism, requiring the organizational skills of an MBA, the fortitude of a prize fighter and the patience of a pastor. For three and a half years, Lil Swanson has occupied that position at the Forward, and now, sadly, she is saying farewell.
Her appointment in the fall of 2008 was something of a leap of faith for all concerned, since she is not Jewish and had never worked in New York. But she was exactly the right kind of person to help me guide The Forward.
She had been a managing editor elsewhere, oversaw huge departments when we worked together at The Philadelphia Inquirer, ran a national training program for newspaper editors, and cut her journalistic teeth at the Associated Press. Yeah, she could handle a brilliant, slightly manic bunch of New York Jews.
Not only did she help steer the ship magnificently, she left her imprint everywhere. A managing editor’s work is invaluable to the staff and largely unnoticed by the public, but occasionally the reader was treated to the full power of Lil’s journalism. She created and edited a series of award-winning special sections: celebrating the 150th birthday of our founder, Ab Cahan; commemorating the 100th anniversary of the the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; and then, just recently, our terrific section on the Titanic. All along, she protected our journalism with fierce devotion.
And she kept the old-fashioned treasure chest in her office constantly filled with irresistible candy.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is not the first public servant to run into trouble trying to end an occupation and remove Jews from their homes. Way back in 1962, Officers Gunther Toody and Francis Muldoon faced just that problem in their efforts to remove sweet old Mrs. Bronson (played brilliantly by the great Yiddish stage diva Molly Picon) from her apartment in one of the best loved subplots of the classic situation comedy “Car 54, Where Are You?”
The saga of Mrs. Bronson ran over four episodes from October 1961 to August 1962. In the first episode, titled “I Won’t Go,” Mrs. Bronson refuses to move out of her apartment in a tenement slated for demolition to make way for urban renewal. In the final episode, titled “Occupancy” (eerily foreshadowing today’s news) she has stealthily moved into the shell of her new high-rise apartment while the building is still under construction. In art as in life, the settler ends up running rings around the authorities and getting what she wants.
There’s some debate whether the Mrs. Bronson story is based on the construction of the Cross-Bronx Expressway, which caused furious debates during the 1950s and ended up destroying whole neighborhoods (many say it destroyed the Bronx) and dislocated some 60,000 people, perhaps half of them Jews (oddly enough, about equal to the number of Jews who would be forced to move from the West Bank in the event of a final-status peace agreement) — or, alternatively, whether it’s based on the building of Coop City. Given the timing and emotions, I lean toward the former interpretation.
Here’s the final episode, “Occupancy.” It runs through four separate clips, total 22 minutes. You owe it to yourself to watch. Besides being a laugh riot and a zany fun-house mirror on today’s news, it’s a wonderful bit of American Jewish culture. Watch for the scene where she has half the hierarchy of New York City sitting around her kitchen table eating honey cake and singing “Afn Pripetshek.”
Occupancy, Part 1:
Continue to Parts 2, 3 and 4:
A new Israeli social media meme caught my eye yesterday. Although it was in Hebrew, I felt as though I had seen a version of it in English at some point. It reminded me of the “Unimpressed Native American” meme. You, too, may have come across this meme in your Facebook feed recently. It’s the close up black and white photo of an elderly Native American man in traditional dress. Superimposed on it are cynical and ironic messages like, “The banks take away your home and land from you? That must be tough.”
Instead of a Native American, the Israeli meme has an elderly keffiyeh-wearing Palestinian man staring at the camera saying the same kind of things, only in the Israeli context. It became apparent once I did some digging, that the similarities are not coincidental. “It was the result of an idea by Eli Levin to create an Israeli version for the ‘Unimpressed Native American’ meme,” Shahar Even-Dar Mandel wrote me in an email from Tel Aviv. “After some brainstorming in a ‘secret’ Facebook group, named Oumipo, that included other Israeli meme creators Amir and Shlomit Mahlab Schiby, Itamar Sha’altiel, Ido Kenan and Avgad Yavor, as well as Eli and myself, the concept and the particular photo to be used were chosen,” the 40-year-old physicist explained.
The “Cynical Palestinian” says things like:
It’s much harder to be mean to someone to their face. The tone of the Beinart book reviews have been strangely personal. I don’t know if it’s something about Beinart himself that is inspiring this kind of out-of-proportion animus, but it has many otherwise levelheaded analysts turning to a kind of sniping that distracts from the content of the book. That was not the case last night. Gordis, who wrote one of the harshest takedowns, going so far as to wonder why Beinart “hates” Israel so, was respectful and gracious, saying that that though the book made him “sad” that he absolutely thought Beinart had a right to say what he was saying. Beinart was friendly as well, at one point offering Gordis the compliment that — with the exception of his positions on the conflict — he’s the kind of man Beinart would want to have as a rabbi.
I found all this very hopeful.
Not that much divides them. It become quickly clear that there is a very thin line dividing Beinart and Gordis. They are both in agreement about how corrosive the settlement enterprise is and the need to halt any expansion. They both worry about threats to Israel’s democratic nature. And they both believe, as Beinart put it, that the Jewish state “should not be a secular democracy like the United States. Israel is a mix of the tribal and the universal.” What separates them is the question of who should bear the onus of making the first move toward upending the current dismal status quo. Beinart thinks pressure should be applied on Israel to end, at the very least, the settlement project, if not the military presence in the West Bank. Gordis thinks this is not the right place for pressure. It should be applied instead to the Palestinians who, he insists, have not shown their willingness to accept a Jewish state. Until they do, said Gordis, Israel shouldn’t touch the existing settlements because it might appear like a concession.
This seems like more of a tactical difference. Not a small one, but still a tactical difference.
What separates them ultimately is a question of appearances. Gordis doesn’t think America Jews should give the impression that they or anyone else is “turning the screws” on Israel, as he put it, because it would provide aid and comfort to the Palestinians, prolonging their refusal to accept peace. Beinart thinks that making it clear to Israel in the most dramatic way possible (i.e. a mostly symbolic boycott) that it is losing its soul is the only way to stop a slide toward an apartheid state.
Remember this guy? The one who stood in front of Occupy Wall Street protests with the sign “Google: Zionists Control Wall St.”?
Well, he’s back, and he may have moved on from anti-Semitic canards to pop culture. Now he wants us to Google: “Lady Gaga Demonic.”
You read that right. Your guess is as good as mine.
The placard-bearer, who identified himself as Dave Smith in an October interview with Salon, was no joke last fall. His “Zionists Control Wall St.” sign was a key exhibit in the argument that the Occupy movement was rife with anti-Semitism. He was featured in at least half of the clips of purported anti-Semites at Occupy Wall Street in a video produced by the Emergency Committee for Israel that slammed key Democrats for professing their support for Occupy activists. Pictures of him turned up everywhere, and his sign was the subject of news coverage.
Occupy activists took to standing next to Smith with signs disavowing his message, and on at least one occasion in September actually chased him out of their protest.
On the fringes of the Occupy movement’s May 1 rally in Manhattan’s Union Square, a group of older Jewish activists gathered under the yellow banner of a leftist Jewish summer camp and prepared to march.
“We have to be here,” said Judee Rosenbaum, longtime staffer of the unremittingly progressive Camp Kinderland. “It’s what we do. It’s what we are for. It’s what we support.”
Rosenbaum, whose days as a Kinderland camper are 64 years behind her, was one of a handful of Kinderlanders who had come out for what activists hope will be the reawakening of the anti-corporate Occupy movement, which has been largely dormant since protesters camping in a park in downtown Manhattan were evicted in November.
Occupy activists had called for a “general strike” on May 1, culminating in the afternoon rally at Union Square and a subsequent march to Wall Street. Thousands turned out to the rally and march, though claims made in the days before the event that the protests would effectively shut down the city proved to be vastly overblown.
Founded in 1923 by Jewish Communists, Kinderland is perhaps unique in the degree to which it has maintained its activist traditions. Its theme this summer? “Occupy.”
Asked why she had come to the protest, current Kinderland camper Bonnie, 11, answered: “My mom.” Bonnie’s mother, Catherine Fitz, explained: “I think this is an important moment…I don’t think I would forgive myself if I let my kid miss it.”
American Jewish not-for-profits raised $40 million for Israeli settlements in 2007, about the same amount they raised for progressive groups in Israel, a new Brandeis University study shows.
The study, released April 27, is the first comprehensive study of the rapidly growing field of Israel-focused “American Friends” organizations, U.S.-based not-for-profits that send funds to Israeli charities. Researchers surveyed over 700 U.S. organizations sending money to Israel, and zeroed in on the years before the economic meltdown of 2008.
The report found that American Jewish groups raised $2 billion for Israel in 2007, more than doubling the $770 million raised in 1994.
The researchers broke up the Americans organization by category and ranked the categories by the amount raised. Zionist groups like the Birthright Israel Foundation and the Jewish National Fund were the best-funded, receiving nearly $500 million in 2007.
Other top categories raised funds for social welfare and secular education.
Progressive groups and settlement-oriented groups were at the bottom of the ranking, raising similar amounts in 2007: $46 million and $40 million, respectively.
It’s not every day that the president chooses a new campaign slogan…and it happens to be the name of your news organization. But that is indeed what happened today, as the video below will attest.
We are tickled, of course, by the choice. As are, apparently, the folks in Twitter-land. There are those who think he is borrowing the slogan from MSNBC, and even a few, like Bill Kristol, who think it’s to Mao that the president is turning. We have no special insight on this. It’s just amusing to see our name writ so large.
On Twitter, though, some thought the choice was no coincidence:
Ben Smith tweeted: Turns out MSNBC stole its slogan from various tech companies, a venerable Jewish newspaper, and Mao
Traditional American went for the conspiratorial: Obama’s been losing the #Jewish vote; now his new slogan is #Forward? As in the Jewish Liberal magazine? http://forward.com/ #tcot #teaparty
And then there was Daniel Gross: Not sure about the Obama campaign’s new “Forward” slogan. He’s already got the yiddish-speaking left-wing Jewish vote wrapped up
And my personal favorite, from Ron Kampeas, of our friendly competitors over at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: @MittRomney counters @BarackObama’s #Forward with new slogan, #Telegraphic
Democrats in Wisconsin are preparing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the June 5 special election to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker, the Washington Post reports.
Four Democrats are running in a May 8 primary to choose Walker’s opponent. Most of the state party leadership is backing Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker by 6 points in 2010. Unions and progressives are backing Kathleen Falk, a former county executive. Her backers claim Barrett is too close to Walker on labor and collective bargaining rights. Barrett leads in the polls by double digits. But Falk is leading in fundraising, the Post reports—and “Wisconsin For Falk, a union-backed political action committee, has already spent $4 million to boost their candidate — money that could have been used against Walker.”
The Post’s article is pretty heavily pro-Barrett. For a sympathetic take on Falk, try this piece from the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to CNN:
Sanctions “better work soon” — so far they “haven’t rolled back the Iranian program — or even stopped it — by one iota.”
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to Haaretz:
The sanctions are beginning to bear fruit …
How do you know what they’re doing [building a bomb]? Netanyahu: Oh, we know.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to Haaretz:
I don’t think Ayatollah Khamenei will take the next step and decide build a bomb … “I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes can usually count on the firm support of the ultra-Orthodox umbrella group Agudath Israel of America.
While Hynes has been lambasted over the years by child abuse survivors and their advocates for his handling of sex abuse cases, Agudath has generally backed what it sees as his sensitive handling of abuse cases in the community.
Not this week.
The Forward asked Agudath what it made of the D.A.’s blanket refusal to name 85 Orthodox Jews charged with sex crimes.
The D.A.’s office denied the Forward’s Freedom of Information Law request by claiming that all Orthodox Jewish sex abuse suspects should have their identities protected because of the community’s “tight-knit and insular” nature.
Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agudath’s executive vice president and a legal expert, defended the D.A.’s right to evaluate whether to release the names of offenders on a case-by-case basis, according to Agudath spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran.
Such an evaluation could take into account whether naming the suspect might allow the victim to be identified. But a blanket policy of withholding names of perpetrators should not be “across the board” in any community, he said.
On a day like today, an Israeli in the Diaspora needs his fix of grief and bereavement.
Today is Israel’s memorial day, a unique and emotional time for all Israelis, as they remember and honor those who fought to protect the Jewish nation, and prepare for the upcoming Independence Day celebrations.
Remembering has a very special place in the DNA of a modern Israeli. But as much as we as a nation tend to commemorate and grieve our fallen boys and girls, we also have a tendency to wander the world seeking new thrills and better livelihoods. This contradiction of patriotism and physical disconnection manifests itself in what is commonly known in a Hebrew as the “Israeli Diaspora Syndrome.”
This syndrome is what brings me, like many others, to try and fill my grief threshold with “memorial day songs,” Facebook posts and live streaming of ceremonies from Mount Herzl and Rabin Square. Sending texts and emails to local Israeli friends to find out if they know of any memorial ceremonies with Israeli songs “just like at home.” After that I re-listen to songs on YouTube that haven’t been visited by anyone since last year.
The sad thing is that it’s not just me who is crazy, we all do this. We do this in search of that picture or story of a fallen solider that will get us “there.” We try hard to think sad thoughts so we can shed a tear, and feel the sadness. Because only by doing so are we able to get our yearly fix.