Forward Thinking

Why I Love Disagreements at Open Hillel

By Becca Rosenthal

Participants in the Open Hillel Conference at Harvard University / Gili Getz

For my entire life, I have been deeply connected to the institutional American Jewish community. From day school to summer camp, youth group to a gap year in Israel, the Jewish community has been my home. As a result, I have a strong connection to Israel.

Since coming to college, I have made it my goal to understand as many narratives as possible around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I spent my entire junior year abroad: a semester in Amman, a semester in Haifa, and this past summer teaching English at two different Arab schools in the north of Israel.

When I returned to the United States, I had a lot of conflicting feelings and information to process. I went to the synagogue in which I had been actively involved since birth, hoping to discuss the conflict in Gaza with my home community. Yet, I was disappointed to encounter a one-sided echo chamber that had little interest in hearing other opinions.

I quickly realized I needed a different Jewish community, one where I didn’t feel a need to justify my complex, conflicting and ever-changing views. A Jewish community that understood the importance of intellectually rigorous debate and that would explore the most difficult and even taboo Israel issues with me.

So I joined the Open Hillel campaign, a movement of students and young alumni, working to promote inclusivity, diversity and open conversations in Jewish spaces on college campuses. To be honest, it’s one of the most splintered Jewish groups I’ve ever worked with. We are left-wingers, centrists and right-wingers, united around one principle: the Jewish tent must be “open.” That’s where our consensus ends — there is no agreement on exactly what that term means.

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Why We Lost to BDS and 3 Ways To Win Next Time

By Matty Lichtenstein

Getty Images

On December 10, UAW 2865, the union representing 13,000 University of California graduate student workers, announced that a resolution to align with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel had passed a membership vote. This is the first American union to join the BDS movement, and the outcome is deeply upsetting to many Jews, Israelis, and non-partisan opponents of one-sided boycott and divestment tactics.

For some, it might be tempting to argue that UC students, especially the Berkeley and UCLA students that made up the majority of the vote, are instinctively anti-Israel and that this fight was hopeless. I would advise against that defensive line of reasoning, convenient as it may be. I believe that there are three primary — and remediable — reasons we lost.

First, this was hardly a fair vote. The same union leadership first staked out its clearly partisan position in a one sided pro-BDS statement and then oversaw the voting process to support it. Nearly all materials sent out to membership strongly advocated a yes vote, and little space was given to the opposition. If you were not already a member, to vote, you had to join a union that had already made clear its vision of Israel as a “settler-colonialist” state. BDS supporters were also able to use an already mobilized base of union members and leaders to swing the vote their way. BDS opponents were fighting an uphill battle to both mobilize a new base and to convince ambivalent or uninformed union members.

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My Iconic Mideast Photo Is Not a Fake

By Ricki Rosen

Thinkstock

As the photographer of the photo discussed in a December 12 article, “Iconic Mideast Photo Is a Fake — and a Heartbreaking One at That,” I am angered by the charge that the photo is “faked.” The article reveals a lack of understanding of the difference between a faked photo, which misrepresents reality, and a photo illustration, which uses models and props to convey a concept.

My photo is not fake, because it doesn’t pretend to document an actual time, place or personality. Rather it is a symbolic illustration of peace and coexistence, which is why it has been reproduced countless times — not just in the Middle East context, but also by Buddhists and pop musicians. It was the magazine photo editor’s choice, not mine, to create this cover illustration of generic rather than specific peace partners. It is no different from the symbolic photos illustrating all kinds of issues, which are published regularly in the media.

An example of a truly fake photo is the infamous image of the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad, supposedly a spontaneous protest by Iraqis but in fact stage-managed by American troops.

I am especially offended by the way the Forward has cast aspersions on my credibility as a photojournalist. At the time I shot this photo, I had been working for years as a contract photographer for Time magazine. The vast majority of my work over 30 years is documentary, not illustrative, and it has been published in Time, The New York Times Magazine and every other major international publication.

The most outrageous error is the insinuation that I had racist intentions in “faking” this photo. The article suggests that there is a racist aspect in dressing Zemer, the boy wearing the kefiyeh, in an outfit Palestinians might consider “degrading — akin to blackface.” The reference is totally irrelevant to this image in which the boys were photographed anonymously from the back and not engaged in any activity degrading to either Palestinians or Jews.

The fakery here seems to be the Forward’s, by inventing a supposedly racist background for a simple photo illustration.

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4 Stories from Zochrot Truth Commission On 1948

By Naomi Zeveloff

Palestinians mark the anniversary of the 1948 Nakba or ‘Day of Catastrophe’ / Getty Images

Is Israeli society ready to reckon with 1948? On Wednesday, Zochrot, an Israeli organization devoted to raising awareness about the Nakba — when 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled by Jewish forces during Israel’s founding war — held its first public “truth commission” featuring the testimonies of Israeli soldiers and Palestinian Bedouins who lived through the events of 1948 and beyond.

The commission, held in a hotel in Beersheba, focused on the Negev from 1948 to 1960. Zochrot was specifically looking at the David Ben Gurion-ordered conquest of the area to oust Egyptian forces in 1948 and the subsequent Israeli army deportation of Negev Bedouin through the 1950s. While Zochrot has taken hours of testimony on the topic in the past, yesterday’s event was the first of its kind open to the public, and a rare opportunity to hear from what the organization described as “witnesses.”

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Is It Kosher To Fake a Photo for Peace?

By Kitra Cahana

Photographer Kitra Cahana on the hills overlooking Ramallah / Ed Ou

Editor’s Note: The Forward’s story “Iconic Mideast Photo Is a Fake — and Heartbreaking One at That” generated a lot of debate about the ethics of staging photographs. For added insight, we put a few questions to Kitra Cahana, a documentary photojournalist whose work appears frequently in National Geographic, The New York Times and other publications.

Tell us about your own experience as a photographer in the Israeli-Palestinian context.

For the past two years I’ve been working on a project about Palestinians married or in relationships with Israelis. Along with my colleague, Ed Ou, I’ve traveled across the West Bank and Israel, finding subjects who manage their relationships despite many hurdles on both sides. To prepare for this story we spent a month researching until we found subjects who were willing to let us photograph. It took time and journalistic prowess to find these genuine relationships. We could easily have hired two actors and told them to pretend to be in love, crossing back and forth between Israel and the West Bank illegally, but our audience would have learned nothing from those images. Once we had access, we spent weeks and even months with our subjects waiting for moments, natural moments, that would reveal deeper truths about the larger reality that our subjects and ultimately all Israelis and Palestinians are living in.

Have you ever been dismayed by people misappropriating your images online?

It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I don’t know a photographer who isn’t holding her breath, fearful of that day. The internet age has intensified those fears so much more — it heightens all of the potential dramas that can unfold. It makes me more cautious in my practice and in the images that I put into the world and online. There are images that I’ve taken that I don’t want published. Years ago I went to the Congo to do a story about rape as a weapon of war, but upon leaving, didn’t feel that as a journalist I understood enough about the context of the images when I took them. I have no intention of publishing those images.

So, is it unethical to stage photographs?

Each publication has its own line of ethics to follow, but by and large the industry standard in photojournalism is to document reality as you find it. There’s no doubt that our presence as journalists has an impact on the way subjects behave in front of the pen, recorder or camera, but our role is to minimize that impact. Reality, unposed, is beautiful — so rich, so full of nuance and psychological complexities, that to try to stage it ruins all the mystery of capturing something truthful.

With regards to the photograph in question, if, as the Forward reported, Ricki Rosen gave her archive to Corbis and the image was catalogued as “news” without an accompanying caption clearly indicating that it was a photo illustration, then that is an egregious error. It’s the caption that dictates how we’re supposed to read the photograph.

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The Iconic Mideast Photo That Isn't Fake

By Naomi Zeveloff

Debbi Cooper’s 1988 photo of an Israeli and a Palestinian actually features an Israeli and a Palestinian.

When I interviewed Ricki Rosen about her iconic — and completely staged — 1993 photo depicting a Palestinian boy and an Israeli boy, she reminded me of a similar picture taken by another Jerusalem photojournalist.

Debbi Cooper’s 1988 black and white picture is also of an Israeli and a Palestinian, but hers is real. In it, two young boys, one in a yarmulke and the other with a keffiyeh wrapped around his neck, smile shyly for the camera. Like Rosen’s photo, the picture has taken on a life of its own, and has been reproduced countless times, both with and without Cooper’s knowledge and permission. Today, the picture is an emotional topic for the 60-year-old photojournalist, who teared up when talking about it. “It makes me sad,” she said. “I just wish it could have brought peace.”

“We are in such dark times,” she added. “People come to me and tell me it gives them hope. But what do you do with hope?”

According to Cooper, the photograph was originally commissioned by the New Israel Fund for a full-page New York Times advertisement as the First Intifada was gaining steam. It was meant to illustrate the possibility of Jewish and Palestinian coexistence in wartime and was labeled with the caption “What’s Right With This Picture?”

Cooper had previously photographed dialogue groups in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, so it wasn’t a stretch for her to find two families who would be willing to appear in the photograph. She contacted Diane Greenberg, a longtime friend in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood who, with her husband, was active in the peace movement. Greenberg, an immigrant to Israel from Wales, arranged a meeting with a Palestinian family that they knew in Jerusalem’s Beit Safafa neighborhood. Cooper said that she spent about an hour with the families before she photographed their two sons, who had met for the first time that day.

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Why I'm (Reluctantly) Voting Against BDS at Berkeley

By Raphael Magarik

Pro-Palestinian demonstrator argues with pro-Israeli demonstrator at UC Berkeley / Getty Images

On Thursday, my union as a graduate student at Berkeley, UAW 2865, is going to vote on a BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) resolution against Israel. I’m going to vote “no,” although I oppose the occupation and support selective, non-BDS branded boycotts targeting the occupation.

I vote this way ambivalently. The Israeli occupation is more than 45 years long and involves deep injustice, and it ought to be resisted. One may not oppose BDS without offering an alternative vision for ending the occupation — my vision involves selective boycotts, investment in progressive elements in Israeli society and politics, political lobbying in DC. But I cannot sign onto the BDS proposal, and I hope that other union members will also vote “no.”

Here’s why I don’t think BDS is a good path. First, I worry the boycott will be counterproductive. An academic boycott, in particular, is likely to hit hardest precisely the sector of Jewish Israeli society from which the most trenchant criticism of the occupation comes — and I find it hard to believe an effective institutional boycott will not have reverberations for individual academics, especially given the examples of cultural boycotts of Israel we’ve seen so far. Especially in the sciences, individual careers, collaborations and institutions are deeply entangled — but even in the humanities, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) boycott guidelines hit study abroad relationships, joint conference funding and so-called “normalization projects” (i.e., dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians that does not presuppose conformity to the BDS position).

On a larger level, perceived world hostility to Israel drives the Israeli right; when National Home right-wing politician Naftali Bennett posts a video of him hectoring foreign journalists, it plays very well. BDS may well create the hard-right, recalcitrant Israel it imagines already exists. And knowing that people like Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman are reaching out to partners like Putin and to the Hindu nationalist government in India, we in the United States and Europe need to think strategically about how to pressure the Israeli government without pushing it into worse configurations.

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AP vs. Matti Friedman — Fight Gets Ugly

By Raffi Wineburg

Journalists and Palestinian protesters take cover from Israeli fire at a demonstration / Getty Images

(JTA) — Whatever the circumstances surrounding Matti Friedman’s departure from The Associated Press in 2011, it’s safe to say he’s not returning anytime soon.

The former reporter and editor with the international wire service’s Jerusalem bureau made waves in August with a remarkably popular Tablet essay in which he argued that the Western media had a “hostile obsession with Jews.” In a second essay, published Sunday in The Atlantic, Friedman insisted that Western journalists depict the Jews of Israel “more than any other people on earth as examples of moral failure,” and accused AP staffers of a number of questionable journalistic practices.

While the first essay prompted a slew of raves and rebuttals, including a response from former AP Jerusalem Bureau Chief Steve Gutkin, the second was apparently too much for the media giant. The AP shot back at its former employee Monday with an online statement one day after his piece went live on The Atlantic’s website.

“Over the past three months, in one media forum after another, Matti Friedman … has eagerly offered himself as an authority on international coverage of Israel and the Palestinian territories, repeatedly referencing the AP. His arguments have been filled with distortions, half-truths and inaccuracies, both about the recent Gaza war and more distant events,” the statement began.

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If America Had Laws Like Israel

By Avital Burg

Thinkstock

A new proposed bill, supported by senators on both sides of the aisle, will finally define and determine the United States of America as the land of the Protestant People, the largest religious constituency in the U.S. and the group out of which America’s founding fathers and ruling leadership emerged.

The new law aims to anchor Protestant values in the laws of the land, inspired by the spirit of the American Constitution. Furthermore, the bill proceeds to state that the U.S. will continue to uphold a fundamentally democratic character. According to the new law, the United States will be fully committed to the foundations of Freedom, Justice, and Peace, in light of our Lord Jesus Christ.

At the same time, the bill suggests, the right to implement a national self-definition will be exclusively reserved for the Protestant People. According to the new bill, Protestant values will serve as inspiration to lawmakers and judges at the different levels of the United States’ legislative and judicial branches. In cases where a court of justice encounters difficulties in ruling over issues that have no readily available answers in the Law, in the Christian Canon, or in logical reasoning, it will then rule according to the principles of freedom, justice, integrity and peace stemming from the Protestant heritage.

In addition, the national emblems of the United States, such as its flag and national anthem, will be drawn directly from the tradition of the Protestant Church, and the official calendar of the U.S. will follow the Protestant liturgical year. Finally, the United States will further act to preserve and entrench the Protestant historical and cultural tradition and to cultivate it in the U.S. and abroad.

Any reader who has gotten this far would probably note that such a law could not be passed or even seriously proposed by the United States legislature. In Israel, however, it could become a fundamental law, on a level equivalent to a constitutional amendment in the United States.

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The Conflict, the Coverage — and the Tribalism

By Mira Sucharov

Getty Images

One of the most dynamic aspects of modern print journalism is the presence of a “public editor,” a designated staff member who engages with readers around issues of the newspaper’s integrity. In her latest revealing column, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan responds to readers’ critiques of the recent reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And in so doing, she reminds us of the perils to democracy of bringing ethnic partisanship to bear when engaging in media critique.

Sullivan rightly points to the tendency by each “side” to want to see its own interests promoted via the media. Referring to the complaint the Times often receives that a given news article lacks “context,” there is a revealing line by Sullivan. Paraphrasing a senior news editor, Sullivan writes: “The Times does not hear this complaint…from readers who are merely trying to understand the situation.”

When I hear this incisive observation, I’m reminded of groups like Honest Reporting, whose website tagline squarely reveals that it is less devoted to making sure the media is “honest” overall than it is about “defending Israel from media bias.”(Ditto for the Palestinian side, whose advocacy arms — such as The Electronic Intifada — are at least more straightforward about their mission.)

The question which flows from this is what determines which Jews and which Palestinians (and their respective Diasporas) become “partisans,” as Sullivan puts it, and which members of these respective communities seek to position themselves above the fray, and in pursuit of objective analysis (however elusive) and perhaps of overall justice?

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The Terror Rocking Jerusalem Is Not About God

By Lara Friedman

Israeli emergency services cleans the sidewalk at the scene of the Jerusalem attack / Getty Images

Four ultra-Orthodox Jews at prayer and one Druze policeman, murdered by two Palestinian young men armed with knives, axes and a gun. The heart grieves for the families of the victims and the suffering of the injured.

This past week’s slaughter was the latest development in an escalation of violence in Jerusalem that dates back to the summer, with the kidnapping and murder of three Israel youth in the West Bank, followed by the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teen in East Jerusalem. Most of the world ignored the fires burning in East Jerusalem until the flames spread across the Green Line. Two terrorist attacks on the city’s light rail, one attempted assassination of a right-wing activist, several attacks outside Jerusalem, and a horrific synagogue massacre later, the world has woken up to what is turning into a conflagration that threatens to engulf the entire city and beyond.

Following July’s gruesome murder of a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem, Israel caught the Israeli culprits and launched legal action against them. This is rule of law. Following this week’s attack, Israel quickly began meting out collective punishment against the families and communities of the Palestinian culprits, including demolishing homes, threatening action against family members, and blocking off neighborhoods. This is not rule of law; this is occupation law, imposed by means that are patently immoral and illegal under international law and under U.S. law (and that should be illegal under Israeli law), and that have proven ineffective and even counter-productive in fighting terrorism.

Some are suggesting that since this week’s heinous attack targeted a synagogue, the crisis in Jerusalem is now transmuting into a religious war. That framing is simplistic. Palestinians in East Jerusalem, unlike their West Bank and Gaza brethren, have always had means and opportunity to attack Israelis; they have done so rarely, and to the extent that such attacks have been rationalized, it has not been in religious terms. Notably, this most recent attack was committed by Palestinians who appear to be associated, at least loosely, not with Hamas but with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an avowedly secular terrorist organization.

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VIDEO: What's More Offensive — ISIS Or Israel?

By Sigal Samuel

What do American students hate more: ISIS or Israel?

Media personality Ami Horowitz took to the University of California, Berkeley campus to find out — by way of a strange experiment.

Hint: It involves flags.


The students’ vitriolic reaction to the Israeli flag, as compared to the ISIS flag, is striking. A few caveats, though:

First, it seems likely that many of the students just don’t know an ISIS flag when they see one — it’s much newer and much less recognizable than the Israeli flag.

Second, the video is clearly edited — probably selectively.

Third, some students may have avoided confronting Horowitz when he was waving the ISIS flag simply because he seems totally loony — they think ISIS is beyond the pale of what any reasonable person might support, so it’s just not worth engaging. The fact that they don’t stop to argue or yell expletives at him doesn’t mean they view ISIS more kindly.

All that said, this video is still pretty eye-popping.

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Having ‘The Talk’ With My Jerusalem Kids

By Dasee Berkowitz

A six-year-old Israeli boy kisses his mother on his first day of school / Getty Images

My daughter’s pre-K is right opposite Jabel Mukaber, where the terrorists who attacked a Jerusalem synagogue yesterday lived. The children were in class watching a video when I picked up my little girl. The pre-K teacher, so poised and in control most days, was visibly shaken. “Don’t take the road by the traffic circle, take the other one, be careful of stone throwers.” I always take the road she is referring to. It’s the quickest way to get from my son’s school to my daughter’s.

“Please roll down the windows, Imma,” my children always ask from the backseat. I always do, and did yesterday, with reluctance. Routine is the only thing that saves us, Israelis often say. Routine, mixed with a bit of denial and a strong dose of naivete is what keeps a lot of us going at a time like this. My son is six and asked what the noise was outside my daughter’s pre-K. Firecrackers or gunshots, I wasn’t sure. Lots of chanting. And when I hurried them off the swings and slides to get into the car, a safe space where I could be in control, we saw tear gas sprayed up into the hills. While my daughter was complaining that we had to leave the park sooner than she wanted, my son persisted: “Imma, what is going on?”

Is this the moment when I have to have The Talk? It’s the Middle Eastern version of “where do babies come from?” that most parents put off, dodge or ignore. In these parts, the question is “where does this fighting come from?” I want my son to feel safe and secure, but I also want him to be informed.

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A Song for the Victims

By Yael Even Or

Within hours of today’s terrorist attack on the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, Israeli singer Amir Benayoun had already written, produced and released a new song about the killing of four Jewish worshipers by Palestinians.

The popular musician, who sings in Hebrew and Arabic, has a history of responding to political events. In 2010, Benayoun released a song called “I’m Your Brother,” in which he accused human rights activists in Israel of being the enemy for criticizing the Israeli state and its army. In 2013, he initiated a first-of-its-kind concert at the Cave of the Patriarch in Hebron. And in February of this year, he wrote a song attacking Obama’s policies on Jerusalem titled “Jerusalem of Hussein,” a play on the famous song “Jerusalem of Gold.”

Today’s new song is titled “Jewish Blood.” You don’t have to speak Hebrew to understand the gist of it — the mournful melody says it all — but you can read the lyrics in English below:

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Was Synagogue Terrorist Attack Revenge for Abu Khdeir Killing?

By Sigal Samuel and Yael Even Or

Getty Images

In the wake of the terrorist attack that claimed four lives in Jerusalem’s formerly peaceful Har Nof neighborhood, some are speculating that the bloodbath may have been meant as revenge for the murder of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Jewish extremists in July.

The father of Yosef Haim Ben-David, the main suspect in the Abu Khdeir murder, prays in the same complex of synagogues where today’s attack happened, Maariv reports (Hebrew). The report suggests that the killers may have been aiming for Ben-David’s father, or the closest they could get to the inner circle of the Jewish extremist.

The location of the Ben-David home seems to have been well known. Footage of the area was broadcast on Channel 10’s “Hamakor,” in the context of a program focusing on the Abu Khdeir murder, just last week. On social media, some are now pointing fingers at that program’s Raviv Drucker, blaming him for divulging the location and leading the killers to Har Nof.

Drucker has responded, saying that the synagogue where the attack took place was hundreds of meters away. He also wrote a blog post last week about his decision to run the story about the murder at such a tense time, despite receiving many requests not to broadcast it.

The Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue is just 200 yards from the Ben-David home, according to the Telegraph.

Following the Abu Khdeir murder, the Haredi website Kikar Hashabbat also ran a profile on Ben-David, mentioning that his father serves as the head of the Kollel in Har Nof, as well as a rabbi in the Katamonim neighborhood.

The theory that today’s attack was meant as revenge for the Abu Khdeir murder is still just speculation. But, if true, it might go some ways toward explaining why the killers chose to perpetrate this attack specifically in a synagogue, and in this normally-calm neighborhood in particular.

Shortly after putting forward this theory, Maariv redacted its article, removing any mention of the Channel 10 broadcast and other details, and citing a gag order.

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Israel’s Next Threat — A ‘Car Intifada’?

By Yael Even-Or

A #Drive4alAqsa meme, part of the “car intifada” campaign / Twitter

The past few weeks have seen widespread incitement to violence among both Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. There have been stabbings, harassments, shootings, stone-throwings, hit-and-runs. And now, there’s the “car intifada.”

This campaign, which is drawing significant media attention, calls on Palestinians to run over Israelis with their cars. As the latest hit-and-run attacks by Palestinians make the rounds on social media, the buzz surrounding this phenomenon is adding a new aspect to the perennial speculation about the next wave of violence to hit the region: Will the third intifada be motorized?

In three incidents over the past few weeks, Palestinians rammed their cars into pedestrians. Four of them were killed and over 20 were injured. On Monday, in two separate incidents, Palestinians stabbed four Jewish Israelis. Two of them were killed.

Facebook pages and tweets popped up, using the term “car intifada” and the Arabic verb “daes,” which means to run over. Hashtags, cartoons and memes were created, some of them anti-Semitic in nature. Many directly and indirectly call on Palestinians to use their cars as weapons.

A music video by two Palestinian residents of Ramallah, called “Run Over, Run Over (the Settlers),” has also been making the rounds on social media. It urges Palestinians to run over settlers and soldiers.

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Young Israelis Say No to Separate Buses

By Sigal Samuel

An Israeli soldier walks past a bus on which suspected Jewish vandals painted graffiti reading ‘Gentiles in the land are enemies’ / Getty Images

Young Israelis don’t want separate bus lines for Palestinians — and they’re asking American Jews to ensure segregation never becomes a reality.

That’s the nutshelled version of a letter sent today by Young Israeli Labor, the official youth branch of the Labor Party, to the leaders of major American Jewish organizations including Abe Foxman (Anti-Defamation League), Malcolm Hoenlein (Conference of Presidents), Jeremy Ben-Ami (J Street), Eric Fingerhut (Hillel International) and Rabbi Rick Jacobs (Union for Reform Judaism).

The striking thing about this is not just the willingness of Israeli youth to speak out against segregated buses, but the fact that they’re turning to American Jewish leaders to appeal, on their behalf, to Israeli leaders — specifically, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon. The subtext seems to be that they don’t feel they can make themselves heard (or heard successfully) in their own country without a powerful intermediary. We can chalk this up partly to their perception that “Ya’alon is caving in to a well-organized campaign of the extreme right, who hold powerful positions inside the Likud party.” Here’s the rest of their letter:

This unfortunate decision is a disastrous one in any respect. Apart from being a severely miserable decision in every moral aspect, it also adds a very powerful weapon to the arsenal of those seeking to undermine Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Side by side with you, we, the Young Israeli Labor, the official young branch of the Labor Party, lead an uncompromising struggle on Israel’s international standing. Exactly because of our love for Israel, we must at present do whatever it takes to stop this poor decision from realization.

I call upon you to turn to Israel’s Prime Minister, MK Netanyahu, and demand that he interferes in this matter and prevents Defense Minister Ya’alon from surrendering to the extremist right-wing in Israel, which is jeopardizing our continuing existence as a Jewish and democratic state.

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Separate Buses? That's How Occupation Rolls.

By Mira Sucharov

Getty Images

As of next month, Israel will operate separate buses for Palestinian residents of the West Bank returning from jobs as day laborers in Israel, thanks to political pressure from West Bank settlers who donʼt want to ride on the same buses as “Arabs.” The question is: Should we care?

Settler leaders claim that the move was due to aggressive and uncouth behavior by Palestinian passengers, coupled with an overall concern for Jewish passengersʼ security. According to a report in Haaretz, one settler told a meeting of a Subcommittee on Judea and Samaria, convened by MK Motti Yogev of the Jewish Home party, about having been sexually assaulted by a Palestinian rider. Another complained that his pregnant wife was not given a seat by Arab passengers. Others were worried that Palestinians on buses could lead to hijackings, or worse. But IDF officials insisted they did not see the Palestinian presence on board these buses as a security threat.

In a democracy, of course, an official report of sexual assault should result in an investigation and possibly individual charges being laid. An informal report — as this one was — might lead a municipality to intensify its safety and surveillance measures. But to collectively deny an entire ethnic group the right to travel on some buses would be collective punishment, rightly considered prejudicial.

Israelʼs rule in the West Bank, however, is far from democratic. Palestinian residents of the West Bank arenʼt Israeli citizens, which means that the normal democratic channels arenʼt open to them from the get-go.

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PHOTOS: How To Turn a Gaza War Into Art

By Naomi Zeveloff

Hossam al-Dabbus makes art out of remnants from the Gaza war / Getty Images

As donors pledge billions to rebuild Gaza in the wake of Hamas’s war with Israel, one Gazan is engaged in another type of construction: turning remnants of the war into works of art.

Hossam al-Dabbus, a 33-year-old who works in Gaza’s honey industry, has collected shells, rockets and missiles from the war that killed around 2,2000 Gazans and more than 70 Israelis — and turned these objects into flower vases.

Dabbus, who lives in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, first found his materials by combing through the Gaza wreckage. As orders poured in for his art, he asked Hamas police for more defunct projectiles from the war.

“When my children grow up I’ll be able to show them these and tell them — here are remains of the 2014 war that left over 2,000 people dead, and this is how I transformed an instrument of death into a vessel of life, making these bombs into flower vases,” Dabbus told Agence France-Presse.

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Open Up Hillel to All

By Evan Goldstein

Judith Butler speaks at the inaugural Open Hillel conference in Boston/Photo by Gili Getz/Open Hillel

(JTA) — Four rabbis are engaged in an animated debate about Jewish law. Three of them agree, but the dissenter is adamant that he’s got it right. He cries out: “A sign, God, I beg You, a sign!”

It begins to rain, but the three in the majority are not swayed. “Another sign, please God!”

The rain picks up and lightning strikes near the rabbis, but still the three refuse to budge. After another plea from the one rabbi, a voice thunders from Heaven: “Heeeee’s Riiiiight!” The three rabbis look at each other, not sure how to react. Finally, one responds: “Well, all right. So it’s three against two.”

This lighthearted parable — an adapted version of the Talmud’s “Oven of Akhnai” story — highlights one of the foundational truths of Judaism: We do not always agree on our foundational truths.

Our disagreements are not a hindrance to communal existence but rather the source of an intellectual diversity. No matter the subject, it is precisely in and through these disagreements that Judaism finds its richest expression.

Open Hillel — a student-led campaign to change a Hillel International rule that, among other things, precludes it from partnering with groups that seek to change Israeli policies through nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) efforts — is hosting our first conference this week at Harvard. We are gathering because we believe that the principle of intellectual diversity ought to apply to our politics as well as our theology.

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