Friday, October 22, 2010

Reclaiming Zionism

"Fighting Racism, Return to Zionism

"Fighting Racism, Return to Zionism

Last night, on the eve of the 15th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s murder, more than 1000 people gathered at Kikar Zion, in the heart of Jerusalem. The rally wasn’t a Rabin memorial but its date is significant and even metaphorical. While Rabin’s legacy looms larger than any of his actions- the moral from it is also clear: democracy and the quest for peace. It is over these principles that the rally was convened. Called, ”נאבקים בגזענות חוזרים לציונות”- Fighting the Racism and Returning to Zionism, the rally was sparked by the controversial loyalty oath, yet this wasn’t the main topic, rather the question was: how did we get here? What has our Zionism become?

Yes, the loyalty oath is serious, (as serious as Gideon Levy’s suggestion that we will become The Jewish Republic of Israel… I don’t know about that) but serious enough because it reflects the path we are taking and what our Jewish state represents. There was a time where many believed that Zionism was beautiful; Jews were returning to their ancient homeland to create a democratic state. Today all I hear is that Zionism=racism. To me, Zionism is just as beautiful as it was when Herzl first came out with “The Jewish State”- the problem is rather that my conception of Zionism is being hijacked. The Zionism presented to me today is reflected by ofracist policy and politicians, the neglection of peace, and lack of equality for all its citizens despite race or religion.

My Zionism wasn’t born out of exclusiveness, but in defense of being excluded. It was created in order to provide the threatened Jews of Europe opportunity to reach their potential, away from antisemitism in an effort to create a beacon of modern civilization in the Jewish ancient homeland. In many ways we have lived up to this, and become this beacon. We have provided to the world medical, scientific, agricultural and technological breakthroughs. rally We have a an amazing and unique culture. And we are the only democracy in the Middle East; and while we have our mistakes, we are still learning and growing.

While it is true that our country was born in a moment of war and therefore survival meant defense, we have never stopped letting ourselves be the victim and on the defense. (Not just militarily) We are the oppressors in occupied land, we claim we want to provide for peace, yet we keep onto this land for 43 years. We claim to be a democracy but we continue to worry about the rights of our majority, and neglect the rights of our minorities- these very same minorities that we have a duty to protect. (Rule of majority means defense of minority). After years of foreign rules, the persecuted Jewish nation is given their own land… and wouldn’t you think that the moment they received a non-Jewish minority, they would say to the world, “this is how you treat your minority”… yet we fail to live up to this. (The treat your neighbor the way you’d like to be treated principle) Instead we have chosen to alienate them, instead of bringing them closer.

So what is my Zionism? My Zionism is a Jewish state in the land of Israel. My Zionism is justice for Palestinians and Jews. My Zionism is democracy, equality and freedom within the state. My Zionism is peace. But most of all, my Zionism is the belief that we can make all this reality. When 1000 people gathered last night they weren’t just complaining about Lieberman’s bill, they were asserting the need to reclaim our Zionism. We need to step forward and preserve it… not by defending it, but by showing what it can be through our actions.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dangerous Areas

View from Hebrew University of East Jerusalem and the West Bank (including the wall)

View from Hebrew University of East Jerusalem and the West Bank (including the wall)

When I first moved to Israel I lived in the student dorms in Mount Scopus, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. For those unfamiliar with the area, the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew U is located in north-east Jerusalem. Therefore there are many Arab neighborhoods around the University.

The location never much mattered. However, soon many people began to think otherwise. The news was first announced to the overseas Undergraduates on a trip up north. They were told minimal news; only that 2 boys had been beaten up by Arabs near campus right near campus and student dorms. Rumors spread quickly. The next day there was a security meeting: I was sent e-mails about the emergency meeting and my roommate was even sent a text from the administration. Everyone was concerned.

So what happened? Two boys were walking to a nearby synogogue on Friday night. They looked Jewish- wore kippas. They were walking through the parking lot of a gas station when a group of young Arabs approached them. They were far outnumbered. In English they warned the boys that they could not pass, this wasn’t their place, and then they jumped on them, while they were talking. They hit one of the Jewish kids on the back of the head, and the other boy ran in the opposite direction. A large number of the Arab boys followed him, and the rest went after the other. The Jewish boy pulled out a pocket knife and the Arab boys ran away, he continued to run until he got to the security at the front of the student dorms. The other boy ran into the road, in front of a car and plead for help. They helped him, and the remaining boys ran off. However damage had been done, the one hit on the head was injured and spent some days in the hospital. All this happened only a few minute walk away from the front gates of the student dorms.

It was no wonder an emergency security meeting was adjourned. The University warned all the students (students from oversees who are Jewish, and non-Jewish) to be aware and careful walking through Arab neighborhoods- they were dangerous- as was obviously shown.

Sheikh Jarrah, an Arab (dangerous?) neighborhood near Hebrew University

Sheikh Jarrah, an Arab (dangerous?) neighborhood near Hebrew University

But what does it mean to say that this or that any area is dangerous? Are we saying that Arab areas are inherently dangerous because they are Arabs? Why is there no mention of Jewish areas? After the meeting they issued a warning to not walk through east Jerusalem- especially during Ramadan, when religious fervor is high.

Speaking with my fellow students from the Univesrity, I asked them how they felt: did they perceive Arab areas as dangerous? Did they feel the same about Jewish areas- like Haradi neighborhoods such as Mea Shearim? There was a clear consensus: as long as they followed the Jewish rules; dressing modestly or keeping the laws of Shabbat on Shabbat, they felt safe walking through Jewish areas. However, the same line of thought did not follow from Arab neighborhoods. My friend said she walked through East Jerusalem to get to the old city, and although dressed modestly, she still felt uncomfortable: receiving cat-calls and looks the entire walk.

So what am I supposed to take from all of this? Jews are good. Arabs are bad. Have we all become racists? We can all so easily brand areas? Or is there truth here? Talking about the situations to one of the boys who fell victim to the Arab boys, I asked him if he felt like a racist after the situation. He said he didn’t hate Arabs, although he hated those that beat him up. He, like everyone else I spoke to, agreed that Arab neighborhoods were dangerous, and he had no problem admitting it, despite my question of racism… he after all had found out the hard way of what it means for an area to be dangerous.

This kind of branding is common all over the world. Like Harlem in New York, or Jane in Finch in Toronto. Yet we don’t attribute fault to the residents, but the conditions of the residents: because they are poor, or immigrants with low education. But the tone in Israel is different. The areas are dangerous because they are Arabs, not because the Arab neighborhoods are poorer than the Jewish ones, or that they are treated differently in a Jewish state.

Just last week, me and my Israeli cousin were driving home from a hiking trip up north. On the drive home a car irrationally and incredibly fast tried to pass by a car lineup and cut through traffic. My cousin said that he must be an Arab. I asked why, and he said because the car was shitty and he was driving too fast and dangerously: only an Arab would do that. I asked him if he thought this characterization was a little racist. He responded no, and that after all he was only telling the truth.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Debate on the Jewish State

There has been a lot of ruckus lately in the Israeli media about the idea of Jewish state. Well, not the idea of a Jewish state per se, but the debate over whether the PLO, specifically Abas, must recognize that in a two state solution, one state is comprised of a Jewish nation. Netanyahu said that in order for peace to be achieved, the Palestinian nation must recognize Israel as a Jewish state made of a Jewish nation. But… why is this pretext so incredibly important to Bibi, and is it so important?

I have been reading Netanyahu’s book “a Durable Peace”- revised and re-edited in 2000 (originally written in 1993 and called “A place among the nations”) and written for an English and American audience. In the book, Netanyahu firmly defends his conception of Zionism and the importance of a Jewish state for a Jewish nation. He writes about ancient Jewish attachment to the land of Israel, which prevailed through years and years of exile. The perpetual Jewish longing for Zion, is one of the basis for the justification that the Jewish nation lacks its state but meets the criteria for a nation that needs a state. Therefore, he explains the world leaders understood this idea when they met in Versailles to cut up the world into nation-states. The Jewish people were a nation, like any other nation, but lacked their own state. This was acknowledged in the writing of the Balfour declaration, which promised the Jewish people, who at this time, drunk with Zionist ideology were sewing the land of Palestine: their ancient land. Coupled with later history: the Holocaust and the exile of thousands of Arab Jews from Arab lands, the Jewish state become an even more important idea to Netanyahu. Therefore to see Israel in any other way (other than a Jewish state) would oppose its very legitimacy, according to Bibi.

In fact for so long Bibi even denied the legitimacy of the nation of Palestine. He claimed that any nationalism felt by Palestinians did not deserve a state- because that state was clearly already created- and called Jordan. If Jordan was carved out of the original Palestine by Britain (the same Palestine that was promised to the Jews in the Balfour declaration) than the area of the land, now Jordan (East of the Jordan river) should have the same significance to all Arabs as the land which is not the State of Israel (West of the Jordan river)
However, Netanyahu neglects to write about the effect of history on a people. Perhaps the peoples who lived in “greater Palestine” (Transjordan and Israel) 200 years ago felt nationalism towards all of this land (if even there was such a thing as nationalism in Arab lands 200 years ago…) but those Arabs who grew up under the creation of the Jewish state, and then occupation by the Jewish state- would feel different than those Arabs growing up in Jordan, and absorbed into their society. In short- Israel helped create their identity- and national longing for self-determination. (Whether that is expressed in radical, violent measures or moderate peaceful measures)

But what of it all in terms of a Jewish nation? To Netanyahu, being a nation legitimizes why Jews need/have a state. A nation has again and again been persecuted and lived under foreign rule is justified a state- and this sentiment has been recognized twice over by the world- once at Versailles (and Balfour declaration) and the second through the UN Vote in November 1947, partitioning the land, and granting the Jews a state, alone justifies Israel.

Abbas is obviously and justifiable so, hesitant to throw around this definition, “Jewish state” because, it denies national rights to the Arab population within Israel. It also denies them the feeling of complete statehood- as if this state can never be completely theirs. But in terms of negotiations, for Abbas to recognize the Jewish state, rejects the Palestinian concept of right of return to Israel- any number of return. It assumes that this right is illegitimate, because they are not Jews partaking in a Jewish state, despite any claim they might believe they have to the land.

But is it really important for us? If there is peace and if the land is split it signifies that both sides want to create peace with one another. It means that in some way that Abbas recognizes that we are some kind of people: shouldn’t this be enough? Are we so unsure of our own identity that we have to have our neighbors confirm it as well? We can’t just be happy as Israel, but must also be validated as Jewish Israel? How integral is this concept?

I’m beginning to see this idea as integral to Israel and its future survival. I know that I have and always will believe in Israel as a Jewish state for the Jewish nation, this to me is obvious. Yet if we don’t have the confirmation from outside, it delegitimizes the policies that Israel will enact in the future. Israel can never be as democratic as it wants to be as a Jewish state; in less it becomes a nation of all its peoples there will always be problems with its religious minorities. But those policies that it does enact to preserve and encourage its Jewish character will seem as racist and exclusive without understanding the beginnings and motivations of Zionism and the Jewish state. Israel can’t act alone in the world as if it is isolated within a bubble- it needs to act as though it is in a theater of other nations. It shouldn’t have to ask permission for every policy it enacts from the rest of the world, but something as significant as its definition as a state is something that the rest of the world- especially its partner in peace- needs to understand. However, at the same time, peace is something that is so important for the preservation of the Jewish state, that perhaps the recognition of the Jewish nation as a pretext to peace negotiations is not necessarily important. If peace is achieved, than this idea can eventually be pursued.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reflections on the eve of renewed peace talks...

Jewish familyI woke up this morning to the news that four people had been gunned down and found dead in their car.

The details explain that this was a terrorist attack, carried out by Hamas, against four Jewish settlers in the West Bank. After years of relative calm, this disguising murder was perpetrated.

As Israelis across the country weep for the lives of four people, Hamas supporters in Gaza and the West Bank celebrate over the deaths. There are pictures of children in Gaza, waving green Islamic flags – they believe that Hamas is successfully fighting for their “freedom” against the evil occupiers. Those evil occupiers: all Israelis, not simply the settlers.

This attack comes at a critical time: the day before direct peace talks in Washington, between Abbas and Netanyahu.


It is no coincidence. Its consequences are reverberating all over this country, and beyond. The settlers came out with a statement today claiming that this murder justifies them to break the settlement freeze- of which they plan to do at 6:00pm today. The Palestinian Authority is trying to make good to America, and in one of their biggest group arrests, has arrested over 300 Hamas supporters. People are claiming that Hamas is trying to spoil the peace talks- in an attempt to scare Netanyahu away. However, Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad both condemned the attack and vowed to prevent any further terrorist attacks.
peacetalksYet, no matter the reaction, the murder has created a dark cloud over the entire peace talks. Israelis are reminded, yet again, of their security issues, and the horrible means of which Hamas will take to pursue their goals. And as settlers rear to continue building in the West Bank, Palestinians are reminded, yet again, of on what land will their state be created.
George Mitchell has said that the attack only shows how critical peace is and that Obama is putting the peace talks at top priority. He hopes that within the year there will be an agreement. Shimon Peres has made a statement saying that we should put our faith in the peace process- don’t let terrorism win. Obama has said that only peace in the region can bring about a different path.

But… is anyone convinced? Today’s attack only proves how difficult the situation really is.

In Annapolis, in 2007, Ehud Olmert, Mahmoud Abbas and George Bush convened, and together they spoke and decided that in one year there will be peace, following the two state solution. There was even a countdown in Tel Aviv. renewed buildingBut 3 years later, are we any better off? What hope have we to put in these peace agreements? What’s better now? A right government coalition, instead of Olmert’s center left? Already it doesn’t look like Bibi has any intention of renewing the settlement freeze , and if he doesn’t Abbas has threatened to pull out of talks immediately. But does that even matter when settlers are going to build either way, and terrorists are going to kill either way?

I’ve always tried to be hopeful when it comes to this peace process. I was brimming with excitement when the leaders met in Annapolis. But it failed… it fell in line with all the other attempts at peace. Are we doomed to live in this status quo forever?

I’ve always believed that terrorism has been a symptom rather than a disease. We have to treat the real problem- the occupation. If a real two state solution was created, self-determination and self rule would help to empower Palestinians to believe in Fatah rather than Hamas. To believe in peace rather than violence. To pursue education and careers instead of martyrdom. Younger generations are growing up learning violent radicalism because they have no hope. After all- what has Fatah offered to them?

Israelis are growing embittered and fed up with the situation- there is no trust. There is a growing right winged Zionist nationalist movement in support of settlers and the status quo. The thought is that despite a peace- there will still be terrorism, because Palestinians are growing up radical- it’s not simply a land issue it’s religious one.

I know that I still believe in the ideas of peace, but how much can I believe in its reality? The issues are so sticky and run so deep that every possible solution has a counter argument. I can remember myself in November 2007, I was incredibly hopeful, but then incredibly let down. So what can I think now, on the eve of renewed peace talks? I can only pray to be surprised, I can only pray that this time it does work, and I can only pray that there will be peace.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Becoming Israeli

As my El Al plane touched the ground in Israel and the usual clapping commenced, I realized… I have no ticket home, I’m not here as a tourist, I’m not part of any program or group, I am just here- here to live… forever (so to speak). And then I thought… so that’s it… I finally did it: I made aliyah. There was no more struggling with the prospect of it, what would it mean? What would I do? How could I leave my friends and family? It was a done deal, I was an Israel. I am about to walk off this plane, and receive my Teudat Olah (Immigration card) I remember shaking a bit. I was all alone but I wished I could dance in the aisles of the plane singing old Israeli songs and Jewish songs. I wanted everyone on the plane to look at me and say MAZAL TOV! I wanted to walk off the plane and see people waving welcome signs, and Israeli flags, and handshake Shimon Peres. But alas, none of this happened. As the plane came to a stop, I collected by things from the overhead, like everyone else. I got in line to exit the plane, like everyone else, and upon my debarkation for the plane, only one man with a small sign with my name was there to greet me. No one knew I was making Aliyah, so instead I was alone. The experience was almost anti-climatic. As me and the representative from AACI walked towards the immigration office in the airport, I saw my cousin- she had come to the gate (she works for the airport) and ran up to hug me and wish me Mazal Tov. You’re here! You made it it! ! I You’re Israeli now! And it was if all my loneliness and fears quickly dissipated. I’m here! I made it! I’m Israeli! My arrival isn’t anti-climatic, rather my arrival is simply my beginning.

3 weeks later, and things are only getting better. Yes, while it is true that I’ve also been struggling through the Israeli beaurocracy, I’m still so incredibly thankful that I’m here, and sure I made the right decision. I think that the decision to become Israel, rather than be born Israeli is something very special. I know I’ll never feel authentic, like a sabra of the land, but I’ve created the room and the opportunity to grow a connection to the land in a way a native born does not. I chose Israel, it did not choose me. My process of becoming Israeli is something I’m incredibly excited for. The prospect of talking about politics and religion in a setting where I know have an actual stake in, is so meaningful to me. I no longer have to hear and simply discuss what is happening in Israel, this is now my land too, in a more tangible way that it was before. Especially because last year I lived in Israel, but I felt as though something was missing. So even though the actual getting off the plane didn’t seem like the most excited event in the world, my move here and my days that have passed, have proved that from my beginning, things will only go up!

Friday, August 20, 2010

IDF- The best (and most moral?) time of your life

girlwithpalestinianRecently, Eden Abergil, an Israeli and former IDF soldier (discharged last year) posted some “controversial” photos of herself and Palestinians on her facebook page. In an album labeled, “IDF- the most beautiful time of my life,” Abergil, in IDF uniform, is posing with Palestinian prisoners while they are blindfolded and handcuffed. The comment under the picture, posted by a friend, reads, “That looks really sexy for you”, while Abergil jokes back that she should find the prisoner on Facebook and tag him. (This is one of the topics in Tuesday’s Reading List)

I am questioning whether these photos are controversial because Abergil herself denies that there’s any controversy in them. In an interview with Army Radio last Thursday, Abergil claims she still doesn’t understand what’s wrong with the pictures because they were taken in good will–only to depict her military experience.

The first time I saw the photos, I was flabbergasted and shocked. It’s disguising the way that these Palestinians, prisoners or not, are being used as mere objects. A soldier’s duty in taking prisoners should be one of the more difficult tasks of being in the army. Having to handcuff and blindfold another human being shouldn’t be categorized as the “best time of your life.” And so it shocks and abhors me even more that Abergil never saw anything wrong with these photos, posted them on facebook and joked about them. This kind of attitude, point of view and behavior have obviously become normalized within Israel. I have been told that the IDF is the most moral army in the world; yet, I can’t cover up this action as something that fits my idea of morality.Edenwithpalestinanss

To Israeli teens, the army is their life come age 18. While American teenagers pack off for college for the “time of their life,” Israelis are handed guns and uniforms for “the time of their life.” There are great things that the army does for Israelis: it adds years of maturity, exposes them to experiences and understanding of the other, offers them camaraderie and friendship unlike anything outside the army, and it allows them to do service for their country– todefend, stand up for and love Israel. But at the same time, it’s still the army. At the end of the day the fact that Israel still needs a standing army isn’t a good thing. I pray that by the time I have children, there won’t be compulsory service: peace is the song of all our hearts. Yes, there are advantages to needing an army, but we all know that war is bad, and soldiers are used for war. But when did this kind of conduct become normalized in Israeli society? Today it was Abergil that posted the pictures, but her friends commented jokingly and I’m sure she is not the only person doing such things. Her denial of guilt that her actions are justified rather than seeing them as “base and crude”, as an IDF spokesman was quoted saying, really do reveal a societal normalization, which frankly scares me.

Before she posted the picture, did she ask herself who this man was who was handcuffed beside her? We know he was a Gazan attempting to escape into Israel. We don’t know who he is- sure, he could be a bloodthirsty terrorist, but he could also be a man attempting to escape the bad conditions of life in Gaza in search of something (or someone, a family member) in Israel. In the picture he’s a prisoner; an object, not a man. His humiliation in the photograph of a girl depicting the “best time of her life” is rude, stupid and immoral. Not the reflection of the most “moral army in the world;” yet this only reveals how much of those morals filter down to the 18, 19 and 20 year olds who are actually in the army- and what has become normalized in their lives.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Political Parade

I last blogged about the controversy surrounding Pride Toronto’s decision to ban the group “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” from marching in this year’s pride parade. Since then, the controversy has done anything but slow down. After the decision, QuAIA accused the city of censoring their freedom of speech and organized resistance in an attempt to overthrow the decision. Their efforts prompted widespread condemnation from within the LGBT community. (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community) On June 23rd, under pressure from the LGBT community, Pride Toronto decided to remove the ban against QuAIA. The group celebrated success for overthrowing the ban on their free speech, and promised to be the “loudest and largest part of Pride this year”.

In my last blog I confided in my joy that QuAIA was banned from the parade. I believed that QuAIA was spreading hate and ignorance towards Israel and I worried about the bystanders who would be unfairly swayed. My statements were criticized: my fear, that allowed me to support censorship, was accused of being unfounded because the media and public are not as “susceptible and defenseless” as I believed they were. Instead I should trust that the media and my fellow citizens have the ability to think critically. Sure enough, my worries were unfounded. What followed from QuAIA’s ban, and then removal of that ban was an attack from the media against QuAIA, rather than support towards them. Mainstream media (Toronto’s most popular newspapers, The Toronto Star and the National Post) did not sympathize with QuAIA, but attempted to expose their hypocrisy. Journalists questioned the morality of QuAIA singling out Israel in their campaign for human rights. They pointed out the horrible conditions homosexuals have in all the middle eastern countries surrounding Israel, and also the supposed apartheid in Lebanon. The conclusion became that because QuAIA singles out Israel, “an oasis for homosexuality”, they clearly have some anti-Jewish state issues, rather than regular, healthy criticism of Israel’s government and politics. It is this perceived negative attitude that had everyone worried. Justine Apple who is the executive director of Kulanu Toronto, a Jewish LGBT social and educational group, said that QuAIA’s participation in the parade will create a “toxic and fearful environment”.

Within the Jewish community, the attitude towards QuAIA is negative: many are up in arms and on the defensive. Their strategy has been to flatter Israel by promoting it’s democracy and support for homosexuality. QuAIA is portrayed as an antisemitic group out to unfairly demonize Israel.

With this thick air of controversy surrounding the parade, I decided to go and check it out for myself. Notwithstanding QuAIA, I was very excited for the parade, this is after all a celebration of Toronto’s LGBT community! When I arrived at the parade, I wanted to talk to members of both QuAIA and Kulanu. Upon finding Kulanu, I was immediately taken aback.

Their group looked more like a rally in support of Israel than a Jewish LGBT group. Speaking with Len Rudner of Kulanu, he expressed to me that despite what it looked like, Kulanu was marching in support and in celebration of Toronto’s Jewish LGBT community. When questioned about the staggering amount of Israel flags and signs promoting Israel’s support for it’s LGBT community, he said that the group is also speaking up for Israel’s LGBT community. They are walking with a positive voice of inclusiveness. However, I think that Kulanu’s mission was hijacked by Jews acting in defense of Israel reacting to QuAIA’s participation in the parade. The presence of the controversial group, Jewish Defense League, who marched with the group, gave me this hunch.

Elle Flanders of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, points to this action by Kulanu (allowing the JDL to march with them) as an action of divisiveness. She claims that Kulanu is not provoking conversation but rather, defending Israel at all costs. She believes they are simply calling wolf on antisemitism, instead of creating debate and conversation on the issues. To Flanders, it is so important for QuAIA to march in the parade because to her, to be queer is to be a human rights activist. She argues that the struggle against oppression is a political struggle that the Pride Parade has been dealing with ever since it began, 30 years ago. Just because the LGBT community in Toronto has been afforded rights, doesn’t mean they are going to stop fighting for basic human rights for people, everywhere in the world, wherever that may be. Yael, a Jewish Israeli now living in Toronto, who marched with QuAIA, insists that there is no democracy in occupation and therefore no democracy for the Palestinians. This issue is therefore correlated to gay issues because as the LGBT community had to fight for their democratic rights in the past, now privileged with these rights, they must fight for those without them. Just as the Jews fought in the civil rights movements in America, one formerly oppressed group has a sort of obligation to fight for all those oppressed.

Is QuAIA a hate group? Are they discriminatory, as they have been again and again accused? Flanders argues vehemently against this statement. QuAIA are standing in solidarity with Palestinians, fighting for their rights as humans. She claims the group does not hate Jews (many members are Jews and Israelis). Yet, for me there is still something incredibly uncomfortable in their name; when I asked Flanders why the negative name, she responded that sometimes you can’t just be in solidarity with something, you have to take a stand, make a statement, stir controversy. Sex sells- right?!

However, to me the name doesn’t stand for a criticism of Israel’s government and politics, it criticizes Israel right down to it’s core- right to it’s legitimacy. An Apartheid state suggests illegitimacy and therefore to be anti-Israeli apartheid suggests an attack against the state itself; not Israeli policies. While I’m the first to say that criticism against Israel’s government is not only warranted but essential for it’s own survival and upkeep of it’s democratic values, I think that QuAIA takes it one step too far by fumbling over the line of criticism into the realm of state permissibility. An apartheid state needs to be dismantled but Israel needs to end it’s occupation of the West Bank.

As the march began, the crowd was impressed by QuAIA, with it’s cute and catchy slogans like, “hey hey! ho ho! Israeli apartheid’s got to go!” and how it walked beside the reactionary group “free speech”. (Free speech was a group created in May as a reaction against Pride’s original ban against QuAIA: the group does not necessarily politically agree or disagree with QuAIA but supports their right to free speech) While Kulanu got the occasional cheer, the Israeli music that was played did not connect to most of the non-Jewish, non-Israeli crowd. Their group looked more like a poster for Israel than an expression of pride for Toronto’s Jewish LGBT community.

At the end of the day, the controversy that had been following the parade for months now did not signify the end of the world. The crowd did not turn into bloodthirsty antisemitic Israel hating people poisoned with QuAIA rhetoric. So by the time both groups had proudly marched by me, I just began to feel fed up. QuAIA does have some legitimate points, but they take it too far for me… yet at the same time so did Kulanu. The issue may have been pushed to the front pages of Toronto’s newspapers, but all that was said was a bunch of nothing. No intellectual conversation was forged, no debates began and no understandings were made, and the issue of the parade, gay pride.. was pushed to the side.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Booting out Queers against Israeli Apartheid

On July 4th Toronto will hold it’s 30th annual Pride Parade. Approximately 500,000- 1 million people attend the event to celebrate the many gay and lesbian groups that march through the streets of Toronto in honor of the proud gay community in Toronto. However, this year is not without it’s controversy; one that is forcing the entire city into discussion. The other day Pride Toronto declared that the group “Queers against Israeli Apartheid” cannot march in the parade under this name, although the members themselves are welcome to the event. The decision was made because the Gay Pride committee was pressured by the City of Toronto, who have threatened to cut their funding if QuAIA participate in the festivities. The City believes that the term ‘Israeli apartheid’ amounts to both hate and discrimination against Toronto’s Jews and Israelis. Without this essential funding provided by the city, Gay Pride will not have enough money to run the parade, therefore explaining their decision to exclude the group.

What do I have to say about this?? THANK YOU GAY PRIDE! (and the city of Toronto) Why though? Isn’t my siding with Gay Pride only supporting the censorship of free speech and ideas?? Is it best to allow such a group, despite disagreeing with their ideas, only to defend our core values of democracy? I have struggled with this question, however after doing research on the group and spending hours angrily sifting through QuAIA’s website and thinking about the point of the parade, I think that this decision is correct.

It is becoming well known that Israel Apartheid Weeks in Universitys across North America are becoming increasingly popular, and are becoming more of a venue for blatant antisemitism and hatred towards Israel, rather than fair and constructive criticism against state policies and actions. Jews have become more threatened, and feel as though they are outsiders within their own campuses. While Israel Apartheid Week is secluded to University campus, and therefore University students, what makes this incident in Toronto so interesting is that even though QuAIA may appear to concern only a limited number of people, they are staging their politics (rather than their personal sexual orientations) in front of Toronto and Canada’s media, splashing themselves in news stories and newspaper articles. They are gathering protesters, gay and straight, who believe in their cause, rather than the gay issues. While they attempt to explain that only with equal rights for Palestinians within the occupied territories (not sure how they believe this should come about) can gay rights be fought for. However, their ties are sloppy and unconvincing. Their website looks more like an advertisement against Israel than it does for advocacy for advancing gay pride or rights. They provide a completely one-sided approach on the conflict in the middle east, with large holes in their “history” section. Forgetting my own knowledge of history and reading their website alone, I too would be outraged at the atrocities Israel has supposedly committed. Their website features a video, Who We Are?, that splashes probably as many Jews as they could find in order to legitimize themselves as a cause against Israel, not Jews. Yet the video also provides no intellectual and reasonable explanation on supposed “apartheid in Israel”. One Jew proclaims that Israel must be an apartheid because she never heard the word Palestinian or occupation in her “Zionist education system”. Others just claim that their visits to the West Bank were similar to South Africa.

I think that University students, above all else, know the atmosphere that these types of groups are attempting to create. QuAIA its trying to inject themselves into the gay pride parade as a large venue to spew their anti-Israel ignorance. If the pride parade wants to be inclusive, it should attempt to include these gay and lesbian members, but not as part of a propagandist group that makes many more people feel attacked and excluded.

If one were to agree that gay rights for Palestinians is of utmost importance for the gay community here in North America, than in my opinion there are many more obstacles than “Israeli apartheid”. Considering that both Fatah and Hamas are Muslim movements, I’m guessing that neither of their platforms would be too friendly towards homosexuals, probably close to how Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia treat homosexuals… not with much acceptance. Is this not a fight worth fighting? Further, why is it that in order to fight for Palestinian gay rights QuAIA decides to politically attack Israel (through it’s bias and uninformed doctrines) through it’s labeling it an apartheid. The word screams with a certain heaviness that motivates the uninformed bystander to side against Israel. (THE POINT) Wouldn’t it be more constructive to name the group, “Queers for Palestinian gay rights”? I suppose I just don’t understand that if one opposes the status-qua of Israel today, as many Zionist do, would we not ask how can we go about to improve the situation? Should we not be searching for a solution to this conflict, whether that means supporting the 2 state or 1 state solutions, or engineering a creative new answer. However, QuAIA are satisfied enough with spreading lies and hatred against Israel rather than seeking or supporting a solution. And I thought we Canadians were supposed to be the polite ones?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The beautiful Golan Heights

This week my group took a little trip up to the Golan Heights. We spent one night in a hotel and two days hiking and sight seeing around the area. On the first day, we went to Mt. Bental, an old inactive volcano that houses an old army barrack turned tourist attraction. The mountain is renowned for its amazing view that seemingly stretches out forever featuring both Syria and the rest of the Golan. As I stood high above gazing into the magnificent sight of the mountains, watching their enormous bodies stare back at me, I could not help but feel awed by the scene. It’s easy to forget that I’m looking into two countries that hate each other. Only the beautiful stands out and only the peaceful overcomes you. Ironic, considering that just to my left is the old IDF bunker and that many tour guides, including mine, share a little lecture about the 1967 war. They tell the story of how Syrian tanks lined the border coming into Israel but in the end little ol’ Israel defended their territory and gained the Golan Heights. All the Israelis wanted was to work their little piece of land and put bread on their tables, while the Syrians were foaming at the mouth with war thoughts. The tour guide reminds us that the situation is the same today, as Syrian leaders are throwing threats of war at Israel (despite the fact that the border has been relativelyquiet for years now and Israel is throwing threats of war right back at Syria). Inevitably, even at the most beautiful viewpoint, politics seep in.

Our tour guide also reminds us that 78% of Israelis do not approve of giving up land for peace with the Syrians. They understand that this swap would be the loss of the Golan Heights, the incredible place in which I was standing. This is the loss of a gorgeous area that is great for vacationing in return for a peace that is not assured. Israelis have Gaza as a model to provide them with skepticism on the “success” of giving up land for apparent peace. I suppose this cynicism is warranted. Perhaps it is because Gaza is so fresh in their minds that land for peace isn’t memorable. But we also have to remember that Israel has swapped land for peace with both Egypt and Jordan, and both of these peace agreements are lasting.

The benefits of peace with Syria are numerous. In fact, these benefits have been the focus in the news lately as the situation with Iran heats up. Peace with Syria is not just peace with Syria but can also be seen within a larger context. It holds the potential to shift power in the Middle East. Iran is perceived as one of Israel’s largest threats because of it’s nuclear ambitions and incredibly hostile attitude towards Israel. Syria is one of its great allies. Forging peace with Syria would help isolate Iran therefore decreasing its threat against Israel. Furthermore peace with the Palestinians has currently hit a brick wall; Bibi and Abbas have yet to return to the bargaining table and even Obama has lost hope. By focusing on Syria and making peace with them, it might help motivate and encourage the entire peace movement, restoring faith in peace negotiations.

Syria has said it is willing to go back to the negotiating table. This is not a guarantee for peace, only an attempt at it. However, this feat has fewer challenges than those with the Palestinians. Yet, if there is one thing that is a guarantee, it is that for peace to come, the Golan will have to go. Goodbye to wineries, ski resorts, brewers, vacationing, gorgeous views, and the overall pride in gaining the Golan during the ‘67 war. While this may seem impossible for many to give up, I think it’s worth a try if the ultimate goal is peace. The situation is not guaranteed, the path is not easy, and the consequences are hazy, but for peace and prospects of stability, are we not willing to jump mountains??

Mt. Bental

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

For Jerusalem

Elie Wiesel is considered one of today’s biggest spokesperson on the lessons on the Holocaust. He teaches generations of people about the danger of discrimination against any kind of group. His inspiring story and brave soul has been a source of inspiration for people all over world. I heard Wiesel speak a few years back at the UN rally on September 22, 2008 protesting against Ahmadinejad’s speech at the UN. Wiesel’s speech was inspiring, as he spoke about the world’s responsibility to speak up against a man who incites hatred against the Jewish state and who suppresses the freedoms of his own people in Iran. This is why Elie Wiesel’s recent full page ad in the Washington Post really surprised me.

Perhaps I’m feeling a touch of disappointment in what I accepted as something more from a wonderful man. The last thing I would want to do is de-valuate his work, however I am inclined to think critically on his latest statements, of which I disagree. I find myself in agreement with the “leftists” that spoke against Wiesel on his recent ad. What ad am I talking about? In his ad, “For Jerusalem”, Wiesel argues on the sensitivity of Jerusalem, and says that, “Jerusalem must remain the spiritual capital of the world’s Jews, and should serve as a symbol of faith and hope – not as a symbol of sorrow and bitterness”. He argues that no one should pressure Israel on the debate of Jerusalem, and that discussions on it, should be postponed. WAIT- who is this talking Elie Wiesel or Netanyahu?

Wiesel bases his argument on the importance, sanctity and holiness of Jerusalem to the Jewish people. He writes, “It (Jerusalem) is mentioned more than 600 times in Scripture – and not a single time in the Quran… Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming.” Well if we are going to dictate our political discussions of land on Jewish history and importance, can’t we argue that Jews are more entitled to the West Bank than they are to say.. Tel Aviv? Hebron after all is the second holiest place in Judaism- if anything then can’t Tel Aviv, with no Jewish historical significance, be considered territorialsm?

Therefore, we must factor in the realities of today in order to access the current situation. Wiesel knows better than anyone that we can never predict what lies in the future, and therefore that our responsibilities lie in the today. If, as he always mentions, we strive for world peace and justice, than how can we ignore the justice for Palestinians? As Gideon Levy writes in a recent article in Haaretz about what Wiesel misses when speaking about Jerusalem, “Not about the need for an end to the occupation, not about the opportunity to establish a just peace (and a just Israel ), not about the outrageous injustice to the Palestinians. Only perpetuating the occupation.” How can we therefore continue to postpone the hottest topic in the debate for peace in the Middle East? Can we forget about the borders of a future state? Further, can we sincerely declare that every street in East Jerusalem, which is mainly inhabited by Palestinians, is the same Jerusalem our ancestors prayed to for years back? Or is it not true that through our modern years, we have extended the borders of what we call Jerusalem, and therefore what we call holy. As we extend the border of holy, we extend the borders of what we can’t touch and what we can’t give up. However, the idea of “Jerusalem” 200 years ago, was only the old city.

Wiesel ends his ad with the beautiful quote, “Jerusalem is the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul”. I couldn’t agree more with this quote- however not in the context it is being used. A divided Jerusalem isn’t a divided heart, or a divided soul, but rather a purer one and a more just one. An occupation simply stains the soul, stains the heart and threatens peace.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A cause for celebration

I’ve been given a unique experience in Israel: to partake in a conference, organized through the Jewish Agency for Israel, that is training Shlichim to go to American camps. Shlichim are Israelis ages 18-40 (most are in their early 20’s but there is a speckle of older Israelis) who are being trained to understand American camp culture, and how to educate and integrate themselves, while learning how to educate Americans on their own culture and customs. The conference consists of approximately 30 American camp Directors and 300 Israelis.

One aspect of the seminar is enrichment activities, lectures concerning Israel in order to deepen camp directors’ understanding of the land they are in and the Israelis they are hiring. Yesterday one of these lectures was led by a most enlightening man, Zohar Raviv, who spoke about the gap in Jewish identification between the Israeli and American communities. Summer camps receiving Shlichim have the amazing experience of bridging the gap between both areas, yet in order to link the breach it’s necessary to understand the differences that have developed between the two cultures. He sketched the main differences as something like a doughnut: Israelis are generally very nationalist and their Jewish identity is tied to the physical land of Israel itself rather than to the religion. North Americans, on the other hand, must seek out Judaism in order to be Jewish, and therefore for them Jewish identity is more about ritual and tradition.

Zohar told us about a great idea to connect the two communities. While many mitzvot pertain to us as Jews, some are also pertinent to the land of Israel itself. The biblical command to circumcise baby boys after eight days, for example, is also commanded regarding trees. People rest on Shabbat–the seventh day, and the land of Israel must also rest every seventh year. Finally, the act of social justice, or Tsaddaka, also applies to the land: the farmer is forbidden to plough a section of his field and must leave it for the poor.

There is a direct correlation between the land of Israel and the tradition. Just as mitzvot connect, so too must the Jews of Israel and North America. In Poland we see both Israelis and North Americans standing at the gates of Auschwitz declaring the same thing: Never again. But in the absence of a threat, what are we? Absorbed in the act of protecting, we sometimes forget what it is we are protecting. Only with understanding both Israeli and North American points of identity can we begin to see something worth guarding.

The act of coming together allows us to fill out our doughnut and become buns. Bringing Israelis and North Americans together in these summer camps allows for dialogue about information and transformation. Martin Buber once said that the moment we have pluralism, we have the potential to celebrate. Zohar argued that pluralism isn’t only the duty to embracing everyone, but also a moment of opportunity. It reminds us that each and every Jew is different. I sometimes feel as though I am a “north American” shlicha. While this experience has been a tremendous learning opportunity and has led me to confirm my resolve to make Aliyah, I believe I have taught Israelis too. This teaching has gone beyond reviewing their English homework and teaching them modern English slang (no one says “groovy” anymore); it has everything to do with teaching them our culture, our religion and our traditions. This a vision of a future to celebrate.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Us and them

There has been much tension lately between the United States and Israel. While the tensions between both new governments, the right leaning Bibi wing and the left seeming Obama government, seems to center around the peace process and controversial building in Israel. However, I’ve found there to be a certain attitude present in Israel. The atmosphere has been very anti-Obama. Throughout the years the United States has continually been a big player in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations however this time around there is a growing hostility towards this interference. While many US presidents have looked the other way while Israel has been building in the settlements, I think that the clash between a government in Israel supporting more settlements, and a government that understands their threat to peace, is creating tension. Yet, here in Israel there is a growing atmosphere of “finger-pointing” at Obama. It’s his fault that tensions are high and he is forcing Israel to make concessions it shouldn’t have to make. I’ve read articles accusing him of purposely creating stress in order to force a kadima government, to strengthen his ties with Arab countries, or simply because he’s an antisemite. It seems as though Israel is innocent of guilt, and the problem lies solely with the U.S and Obama administration. The “other” is the problem, not “us”.

Where is this atmosphere coming from?? I think it has something to do with what I’ve been feeling lately- this “syndrome” I’ve received since living in Israel- the feeling as if there are only two types of people in this world: Jews and everyone else. The Jewish bubble creates the illusion of dominance and even isolation. It affords us the thought that our decisions affect only us, and therefore are only ours to make. If we want to keep building in Jerusalem and in the West Bank… well, why can’t we? Why should the U.S dictate our destiny, after all Israel is a democratic and free country like anywhere else and therefore our problems are our problems and no one else’s.

It’s incredibly easy to get sucked into this viewpoint and to see the United States or wherever else, sticking their hands in our cookie jar, in our dirty laundry. While on the surface this idea is empowering it misses and even undermines the entire concept of peace. In order to reach for peace, we much dance with the “other” and welcome them in, in an effort to understand them fully and completely. Especially in a place like the Middle East, where all actions and political decisions reverberate throughout the entire area and to the entire world.

While of course we can’t also undermine our own democratic political system, we must also understand that the world is not split into “us”es and “them”s. Our peace is Palestinian peace and in the end a step closer to world peace. We can’t see the United States, or Palestinians as enemies, or even allies. At the end of the day, Jew or not, we are all still people and the villain isn’t disclosed from this equation. There are no Dr.Evils in this world because we are all so much deeper than these stereotypes. Human nature is capable of much more complexities than we analyze from the surface.

Perhaps I am naive in my love of peace. Perhaps I am silly for placing peace as my ultimate good. However, if this is so, I’d rather be naive than fail to see the real multiplicity of the world. When we see the situation in black and white, Jews and others or Israelis and Palestinians, we lose touch with what actually is real and drive ourselves into deep potholes. To simply scratch the surface and allow stereotypes to dictate us is safer than full understanding, but makes peace look impossible. Someone once told me that when they see places like Ramla or areas in Jerusalem where coexcitance is present, they feel as though they have stepped into a possible future. It’s only when we put ourselves in boxes and bubbles that peace seems so unobtainable.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Judging Judaism from the Outside

Although the main chunk of my volunteering in Israel revolves around tutoring English in Israeli schools, another opportunity is to work at the local soup kitchen in Nes Ziona. Many people really enjoy it because it is different from the schedule of the schools. The lady who runs the kitchen is full of spirit and kindness, and it’s also nice to chat and get to know the locals that filter in for lunch. Additionally, the soup kitchen in Nes Ziona is run by Chabad. While we don’t work closely with the Chabad, and the kitchen is only funded by them, they often filter in, chatting with the locals or grabbing lunch at the kitchen. Yesterday, one of my close friends confided in me about something that she had been holding in for awhile, something that had happened in the soup kitchen that had aggravated her. My friend regularly volunteers there every single Sunday with another friend of ours, who happens to be male. She confided in me that she becomes incredibly frustrated when the Rabbis or the Chabad men walk in and go straight up to our male friend, introduce themselves, shake his hand, and then proceed to walk away. My friend is constantly in shock. She tells me, “I don’t want to hate religious people, but where are their morals? How can they make me feel like nothing, like I’m invisible, only because I’m a woman.” She then told me another story she’s been holding in. She was biking away from the soup kitchen when she fell off her bike. She hit the ground hard, screaming. She turned around to see if anyone was there, and as she looked around she saw a few Chabad men, praying. They saw her fall, yet they ignored her. There she was, on the ground, almost in tears and not one single person asked if she was okay. Can they not take a quick break to ask a fellow human being how they are after they tumble right on the ground? Not even a simple, “b’seder?”

I know she was partly expressing herself because she had pent up her anger, and partly because she felt that because I was religious I could either defend Judaism, or go down burning with them. Yet, there is no possible way I can defend the actions of these people. I may be religious, but I am not religion itself. I choose to follow the laws of Judaism because I find them beautiful, and because welcoming religion into my life has enhanced it, infusing it with more meaning and understanding of my world. While I can attempt to defend the religious, telling her that while she may have fallen, this fall wasn’t life threatening, and there is a law that when praying the Amida, we can not be distracted by anything. I can tell her that many religious males feel uncomfortable in front of women, because they are choosing to guard their touch, for that special moment with their wives. But I cannot tell my friend it’s okay that she feels invisible and unimportant. These are her feelings, and I cannot deny them. Yet, it pains me to hear her judge Judaism in and of itself based on the actions of others.

It’s easy to judge Judaism from the outside, and even I fall victim to this judgment. I can’t say I support the many religious children who throw stones at people wearing shorts or pants walking through Mea Shearim, I can’t ignore the comments that some religious men choose to yell at “immodestly” dressed women. I cannot and I will not defend these actions. I too get angry at these people and I don’t see these particular actions as representative of the Judaism I practice. In Israel especially, it’s easy to see judgments flying around because of the large numbers of both Haredi and secular Jews. However, I refuse to judge Judaism by the ways in which others practice it. I would like to think that our religion is something more than seeing how others do it, it is a feeling and a spirituality that can only be felt through both knowledge and practice. As a result of Judaism’s many Halakic laws, it is inevitable that much of Judaism becomes mechanical and seemingly meaningless. It’s easy to get lost in the rules of Judaism: dressing a certain way, not turning a light on on Shabbat, or only eating Kosher. These are the easy parts of Judaism, the no brainers. The difficult parts are believing- the faith- and the commitment and the responsibility to better ourselves. Everyday is another day that we get the opportunity to make ourselves a better person. To right the wrongs we’ve made, to find inner peace, and to make others in and around our lives feel better. A truly holy person finds peace within themselves but also passes this on to other people. To me, this means rising above judgment of the other- both those that are secular and religious, and focus on our own happiness and our own deeds. We should therefore judge Judaism not on how others are doing it, but how it makes us feel, what it teaches us, and what it has the potential to do. Therefore, while I can’t defend the actions of another that makes my friend feel invisible and unimportant, I can encourage her to not see religious people as religion, and to explore Judaism in order to inspire her own life- not the lives of others.

Monday, January 25, 2010

International Holocaust Day- January 27

Tomorow, January 27th, 2010 marks the 65th year since the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet forces. Each year, leaders from around the world make their way to Germany in order to commemorate this day. People use this time to think back at the horrors of the Holocaust, and to look forward- with eyes of prevention to prevent further genocides and state sponsored discrimination.

However, tomorrow, when people around the world look back at the worlds biggest and most systematic genocide in known history they might not know that antisemitism in 2009 was at it's highest since the Holocaust. I think that people today have succeeded in separating the Jews of today, from the Jews of the Holocaust. I believe much of this antisemitism has arisen because of popular disagreement with Israeli policy. However, instead of gearing their disagreements towards the Israeli government alone, their frustration has spilled over to the Jewish people. It is as though Jews and Israeli policy, have morphed into one. Therefore, despite one's personal connection to their Judaism or to Israel, Jews are being targeted, only because they are Jews. After the controversial operation in the Gaza strip (Operation Cast lead) -which was just as controversial and disagreed upon within the Jewish community as it was in the world- antisemitic acts around the world equaled the TOTAL number of acts that were recorded in 2008. Now we also have to remember that these are the statistics that are collected, out of those which are reported, therefore we can probably assume that the number of acts actually committed was also much higher. Apparently, the world is justified to stop and criticize their ancestors for the terrible antisemitism Jews faced in the 30's and 40's but are mum on today's situation. Lets remember yesterday's antisemitism, but forget today's. How is it possible that a world leader is even able to stand up in front of the UN and accuse Israel of deceitfully controlling the world's economy and political situation?? Does this banter not sound identical to Germany's propaganda? Ahmadinejad said at the UN meeting:

"The dignity, integrity and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a minuscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the US in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner." For the full speech, click here.

While many UN representatives got up and left his speech (also note, many didn't even show up in the first place), let us not forget that he still had a hefty audience. And even if there had been no one there to listen to him, his speech was still recorded, and published worldwide, his words did not fall upon deaf-ears. After the speech, Elie Wiesel, acclaimed academic, Holocaust survivor and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize was accosted for being a "zio-nazi" at a UN EVENT- simply because he supports the Jewish state. (To see the video click, here) Ahmadinejad's threats against the Jewish people- his foresighted premonitions, that he is going to "wipe Israel off the map" also eerily remind me of Hitler's speech to the Reichstag on January 30, 1939. (NB: that this is BEFORE the final solution- annihilation of the Jews of Europe, was decided)

"In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet, and have usually been ridiculed for it. During the time of my struggle for power it was in the first instance only the Jewish race that received my prophecies with laughter when I said that I would one day take over the leadership of the State, and with it that of the whole nation, and that I would then among other things settle the Jewish problem. Their laughter was uproarious, but I think that for some time now they have been laughing on the other side of their face. Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"

So while world leaders look back at the Holocaust, do they neglect to look at the years that led up to the extermination camps? Is the Holocaust only valuable for the clear genocidal part?- the gas chambers, the mass shootings, and the slave labor?? Or should it also include the elements that led to these horrible atrocities: world leaders denouncing Jews by inciting hatred and prejudice based on lies for propagandist reasons and a spike in antisemitic acts and general attitude towards Jews. Without these elements, the efforts of the practical genocide would have failed. These integral stepping stones led the path to the death of 6 million Jews. If this is so, then how can the world turn their back on today, which is mirroring this time period as well. Where is the world's outcry? Weak sanctions that cripple a country, rather than it's leaders? None other than a country which is trying to fight for what's left of it's democratic character, but it being beaten down by these same leaders. Now, I don't think that a second Holocaust against the Jews is creeping around the corner, what I'm trying to argue is the hypocrisy of the situation. Of leaders all over the world commemorating one group of Jews, without any plan to stand up to situations that are popping up in their very countries today. Has their been such a time that "Never Again" seems so much like a lie- an easy placebo to soothe the conscience of the world.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Legitimacy for discriminatory security

On Christmas day, a man by the name of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, attempted to detonate plastic explosives he smuggled onto his flight headed towards Detroit from Amsterdam. Although, the heroic acts of the passengers prevented the terrorist attack, the situation immediately brought us back to the days of 9/11; specifically, questions about airport security and terrorism. This flight was lucky, but the next flight could have disastrous consequences if the passengers hadn't been both brave and lucky to have caught the situation. Which brings us to the aftermath of the situation: new airport security. The United States has announced that people from the following countries; Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen — will face special scrutiny and extra security checks at the airport when flying to the US, or through a US airline. Following this announcement, the world has cried out against these new measures: where is the fairness?, the democracy? and human rights? The other day, the New York Times reported one man's sad story, of how he lived his entire life in Britain, but because of his original nationality, Nigerian, he was (in his opinion) unfairly searched at the airport. His search reflects the discrimination he was subjected to, only because of his of national origin. Airport security tell people that the public will be served and treated in a fair, lawful, and nondiscriminatory manner, without regard to … national origin. So bascially, you’re not going to be subject to discriminatory screening based on national origin, unless you happen to be from one of 14 specific countries and then you will. Glad that they’ve cleared up that confusion. So in return to this discriminatory policy, the world objects ;how far is the US willing to go in order to "secure" their population? Discrimination and unlawfulness??

So now, I ask, what is the familiar story line I'm reading?????oh yeah.... Israel. Examples are constantly popping into my mind, on how the media blasts Israel for how far it's willing to go in order to secure it's population. Just last week, the Supreme Court of Israel announced that it will begin allowing Palestinians to drive on route 433 again. WAIT- yes, this is true, there are roads that Palestinians are not allowed to drive on, and of course this is one prime examples for Israel's enemies to cry out: apartheid! But... really... if we truly logically think of these actions, and not in a a way that looks to explicitly discriminate Israel but to look at the situation with fresh eyes, we begin to actually see, that perhaps: yes this is an "apartheid-like" action. I really hate to use this word, I prefer to use discriminatory, but I can understand where the term is from. Although the reason that Palestinians are not allowed to drive on this road, is explained through legitimate security concerns, the situation begs, is there really any legitimate security concerns that allow for a people to be discriminated against? This terribly delicate balance is difficult to deal with. The examples are rich in Israel: the security wall: which inconveniences the lives of many Arabs, in the name of Jewish security, roadblocks in the territories (the classic example of a pregnant women crossing the border- do you check her- she might have a bomb in her belly- or do you let her go and risk her being a suicide bomber.) We come to immediate conclusions that discrimination is in fact needed in order to save lives. If we value life so much, than discrimination is a necessary evil or order to save lives.

I think that this is a a situation that makes most people uncomfortable. There are no rights or wrongs, because it seems that no matter which side you take you feel wrong. You either devalue life, or you discriminate. Therefore, I respect the media's scrutiny of such situations because without it we would become complacent, and begin to believe that "inconveniencing lives" is not important at all- that it may not even picture into the discussion. However, I believe that the situation is much deeper than this. Those who shrug off these types of concerns as a mere annoyance, because of the noble minded goal of saving lives, also devalue our respect for the basic pillars of humanity. I'd like to argue that without the feeling of awkwardness we lose faith in the unity of human kind- what kind of life do we want to live, as what kind of people? I once ran into an incredibly heated debate with a Jewish girl, who just couldn't wrap her mind around the idea of the Israeli security fence- (of course she called it the apartheid wall) While I tried to statistically show her the fact that suicide bombings and attacks on citizens have dramatically decreased- thus saving lives- she wouldn't even hear it. Key to her was the fact that there is a wall that segregates one people from another: one people is so important as to completely inconvenience the lives of another. (economic suffering, loss of land, restricted water access and most importantly reduced freedoms) Now trust me- I feel for the Palestinians whose lives have been turned upside down by the construction of the wall. I am also very sensitive to the wall because of it's political implications: it could mean the possible annexation of land on the Israeli side, without Palestinian input or negotiation. However- I also understand the impact it has made in saving lives- and because of this- and only this, I support it.. grudgingly.