Meet Israel’s Bernie Sanders: MK Ilan Gilon [ssba]

Meet Israel’s Bernie Sanders: MK Ilan Gilon

The original article was written by Nir Yahav and published in Walla Magazine on December 22, 2016. We thank Dana Mills for translating and Peter Eisenstadt for editing.

In early December, to the surprise of Israel’s right-wing government, the Knesset passed MK Ilan Gilon’s bill on a preliminary reading making disability benefits at least equal to the minimum wage. In effect the bill would more than double the monthly allowance paid to the disabled to equal the minimum wage. Currently disability benefit is 2,341 shekels ($616), while the minimum wage is 5,000 shekels ($1,315).

Gilon, who has been trying to further this bill for years, was so moved he could not stop his tears. ” I cry easily” he admits smiling. “All week long I am tough and on Wednesdays when all proposed my bills fall through in the Knesset, I cry. Even now just speaking about it, I feel weepy. This is the fifth time I propose this bill. That morning I was about to remove it as I knew it would fail again, but at the last minute I decided to go through with it.  I got to the podium and said: “look, for years I’ve been explaining to you about this bill. Now explain to me why you oppose it after speaking so beautifully for disabled people yesterday on Disability Day. I managed to convince five coalition MKs to leave the hall and not vote.” And the bill passed preliminary vote 42 to 39, despite the treasury’s firm opposition to the proposal, due to its cost.

“Look at the enormous tax breaks the government gave Israel Chemicals Ltd.” Today, Israel’s four largest exporters pay only 4% tax, compared with 12.4% a decade ago. “I am fed up with this ‘social’ etiquette. I can’t stand it. The only kind of justice I believe in is distributive justice.”

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Raising disability benefits and making it equal to minimum wage will cost 1.4% of the state’s budget. Mr. Finance Minister, don’t a million and a half Israelis worth 1.5 percent of the budget? Raising the benefits to a minimum. Ilan Gilon

 

But this was only the preliminary reading. Your Disability Allowance Increase bill must pass three more Knesset votes and it can still be toppled.

True, but to me all the channels of hope have been opened. I don’t think time can be brought back. I want to cooperate with the government and allow Netanyahu to take this bill. I am willing to compromise. The state has the money, it will cost only 6-7 billion shekels [$1.8 billion] over two years. I want to build a model in which people get their benefits according to their status and pay taxes according to their income, including their benefits. That is the fairest policy. My model builds a security net against anxiety. I plan to expand the political basis of this matter and create a situation in which the government can’t ignore it. They understand they can’t reverse matters. I now have a significant moral achievement, and if the bill passes it will be the groundwork to change legislation, meaning that the state takes back it responsibility for its citizens. This is my goal: giving the responsibility back to the state. Because abandoning citizens is worse than paternalism.

“I think the richer should be taxed more heavily, because I think society’s biggest problem greed. Had I written the Ten Commandments “thou shall not covet” would come before “thou shall not steal.”  People who steal baby food from a grocery store are not the problem. The problem is the filthy rich. Look at Israel Chemicals Ltd’s tax breaks, look at the tax breaks tycoons are getting. An ideal society for me is a society in which people know to ask themselves once a day what they give to the country and twice a day what they get from the country. This will be a society which is not terrified about tomorrow. But our government uses scare tactics to rule. It’s weaponizing our wonderful multiculturalism to create alienation and separation.”

The making of Ilan Gilon

MK Ilan Gilon was born in the town of Galatz in Romanian Moldova. When he was seven months old he was struck by Polio. He was paralyzed and suffered a severe lung edema. The doctors didn’t expect him to live. Miraculously he came through and only his right leg remained paralyzed. He says his luck as a child  was his size. “I had a limp, but I was a very large kid and scared the entire neighborhood,” he remembers. “That is why I survived the kids’ mean behavior. Whichever way you look at me, I’ll always be a Special Needs child, a son of a mother who packs oranges for a living and an electrician father. I am hardcore working class, that is my caste, this is the reality I lived: the scruffy Ashdod hood among Romanian, Moroccan and Iraqi immigrants. That is why I identify first with the disabled and oppressed and I will never disengage my view point.

Weren’t you mocked as a disabled child?

I never considered myself disabled. One day one of the kids in class said to me:’ you know, when I look at you, I don’t think about your leg at all.’ It changed my life. When I was in the sixth-grade I told my mum that I couldn’t walk 40 Kilometers with the other kids at the youth movement. She looked at me and said: “just like there are people who walk 80 kilometers on two feet, you can walk 40 kilometers with one.” There, in my childhood, I gained compassion towards disabled people. To this day, I answer anyone who calls me and return calls to whoever needs me. I feel the public sponsors me and and I need to solve the people’s problems, or at least try. This reflects my memories of vulnerability. I wish people would be “weak enough to feel and strong enough to change reality.”

Gilon immigrated to Israel when he was 9 years old. Until the fourth grade he attended a special needs class and sat near the teacher. He says, he was a very mediocre student and “couldn’t sit still.” One day the teacher asked the class how much is seven times eight. “I knew the answer because in Romania they teach how to multiply in the first grade. The teacher was astounded and transferred me to a regular class. I served on school committees and was elected chair of the school’s Students’ Union”.

Gilon’s mother, Rachel, influenced him more than anyone else. Speaking about her, Gilon’s tone softens and his eyes moisten: “she was the type of woman who threw herself into everything. She didn’t make any concessions for me. When I was a child I had many surgeries, because of my paralysis. I remember once afrer a surgery  my mother, who was a small, slender woman, carried me, a huge child in her arms. That is what she was like.

My mother always said I shouldn’t go to demonstrations so that I wouldn’t be on television. I told her, “mum, I am going to demonstrations because I want to be seen on TV”. The paralyzing fear of state authorities which they had brought with them from Romania stayed with my parents. My father, who was a simple man but the kindest in the world, was fearful of my political affiliation. He didn’t understand why I couldn’t join a mainstream party like LIkud or the Labor Party.”

Party Politics

Meretz used to be a large party. Where did it fail?

“I am not the only component of the party. I am trying to do what I think is right. My entire world view is based on one verse of Psalms: ” Turn from evil and do good: seek peace and pursue it.”

I don’t always succeed, but I try. The prophets Jeremiah,  Isaiah and Amos are my kind of prophets. They speak of the three divisions: the distribution of national wealth, the distribution of the land and the distinction between church and state. Sometimes I think there are people on the Left who love humanity more than they love human beings. We must establish relationships formed on emotional connection. At the end of the day decision making is emotional.”

Why is Meretz failing to connect to voters?

“I don’t know. If I knew I would solve the problem. I can’t explain it in words. We just don’t have it. We need to make people feel that we are there for them, that we care. Unfortunately it’s not happening. […] I am not sure I would do a better job than Zehava Galon [Meretz chair]. But I am quite certain that if the ideas are good, the problem must be the people.”

What do you think about the idea of uniting the Labor party with Meretz?

“You’d be surprised, but I’d go much further than that. The current situation, and I’m not exaggerating, it’s like an eclipse, we need to form a very wide coalition to save the country. Everyone from Yesh Atid to the Joint List should join in order to get rid of the “BibiBennet” phenomenon [Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennet of the Jewish Home]. Even some coalition forces could join as well as the ultra-orthodox parties. I went so far as pursue this it, though so far the plan fell through because of peoples’ egos.”

“I’m fed up the current rules of the political game. Nowadays, every loser who enters politics hangs up curtains in his Mazda [official government car] and roams around as if there is a broomstick up his arse. Their ego is huge, they are greedy and politics amplifies those bad qualities. Sometimes this brings out anger and frustration in me, I could hit them even. If I didn’t calm myself down by making jam, I’d have to be under psychiatric care day and night.”

The Conflict

Maybe the Left’s problem is that your two-state solution needs revisions? Maybe you should consider one-state solution?

“Do you think a one state solution is plausible before the Palestinian national liberation happens? I don’t think so. I think it’s a necessary stage just like the founding of Israel was necessary. National liberation is a basic condition.”

Will there be a stage in which you will realize the two-state solution is unattainable?

“I admit that the implementation of that idea is becoming harder, but it’s still possible. Israel has a partner. Look at the disengagement from Gaza. Why couldn’t we identify a partner, reach an agreement, and sell the [settlements] houses, maybe for half the price, instead of demolishing them? What interest brought us to disengage without an agreement?”

Do you think an agreement would have prevented the missiles from Gaza?

“I don’t know, but that’s how you build trust. Mahmoud Abbas was a partner all along and he is still a partner.”

A political Animal

Gilon was first elected to Knesset in 1999. In the following election in 2003 he was seventh on the Meretz list, but the party won only six seats.  Gilon found himself unemployed and opened a restaurant in his home city of Ashdod.  Three and a half years later he sold it (“I was enslaved to the restaurant). Simultaneously he presented both on the radio and TV. There he met Uri Urbach [an Israeli Religious Zionist writer, journalist and politician who served as Jewish Home MK and Minister of Pensioner Affairs. Urbach died in 2015].

“He was my soul mate” Gilon says. “As a member of the rightwing Jewish Home party, his politics was utterly different from mine. And yet he was 100% similar to me in the way we viewed people. We understood each other. We both cried for the same reasons. He was an exemplary man and I miss him”. After six years out of the Knesset Gilon was re-elected to Knesset in 2009, 2013, and 2015.

Gilon deeply appreciates President Reuven Rivlin. “Voting for president Rivlin was the best vote I cast in my political life. He is just the right man for the job. Once someone came to me and said ‘do you know he supports a greater Israel?’ I said, ‘at least he has opinions’. Rivlin hasn’t disappointed me once. After he was thrown out of chairing the Knesset, he sat on the back benches and never missed a day of dull work. When he was elected he movingly said “long live the state of Israel.” I was moved with him. Rivlin, like me, cries easily. I love him very much.”

Are you frustrated that you can’t influence from within the government?

“Of course, it’s terribly frustrating. It’s very difficult to always be on the defensive and never pass bills.”

Which minister would you have liked to be if you were part of the government?

“I haven’t thought about it. Everyone says I would have been Welfare Minister, but I think I’d like to be Transportation Minister. The only thing I’m certain of is that I wouldn’t go to do something I have no idea about. I am a very task orientated person and deep inside I feel like a pizza delivery boy who needs to get the pizza to its destination, regardless of what I do.”

Despite the various roles Gilon held in the Knesset, and the socially orientated bills he promoted and advanced, he misses working for the Ashdod municipality most. In 1993, he ran for the Ashdod city council and became vice Mayor. He served for six years and furthered important projects in the city.

“This was my most fruitful time politically, ever. I could visually see the impact of my work. There are many education and cultural institutions in Ashdod that I know exist because of me. In 2008 I wanted to run for Mayor, but I had no chance. The city is 22 percent ultraorthodox, a third post-soviet immigrants who vote for Avigdor Liberman, so it would have been impossible for me to win. But if I thought I could become mayor, I would leave the Knesset right now. Ashdod is my soul. I see the views of my childhood as I get older. Is there anything more wonderful than that?

Do you meet settlers?

“I meet everyone. I don’t boycott anyone. I don’t have an argument with the settlers, I have an argument with the government’s policy. I am a person who finds it hard to move, so I totally understands that people don’t want to leave their homes.”

Do you mean the Amona settlers? [Amona is an illegal outpost built on private Palestinian land, which Israel’s high court ordered to demolish]

“Yes, Amona too. I don’t have a quarrel with them. If it were up to me, during the disengagement from Gaza, I would have lifted the residents of Gush Katif while they were asleep to their new homes without shaking their lives. They should have been treated like people. The government sent them to Gaza and it was responsible. Everyone has potential to be my allies. As far as I am concerned the ultraorthodox and the Arabs have the most potential because they are victims of dark deals done on their back.”

“My generation is a crappy generation. We disappointed both our parents and our children. We didn’t build our parents’ dreams and we allowed them to fall without a safety net. And we didn’t prepare the state for our children. When I meet young people I don’t tell them to make do with scarcity. I tell them to make do with what they need to be happy. We live in a greedy world in which few eat a lot and many eat little. It’s a world with many Trumps and few Leonard Cohen and it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Will there be change after this difficult time?

“I hope so. I can feel the alternative forces coming. I visit many pre-military academies and communes and meet young people in their 20s who dream of finding a spiritual-ideological catharsis, not only on the West Bank or in Goa [India, the escape for many young Israelis]. They want to build a society based on life and not on eternal war.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu makes them vote for him. How does he do it?

“Fear. Petrifying fear.”

Only through scare tactics?

“His success is a combination of his scare tactics and the left’s inability to respond properly.”

Could this change if there was a appropriate leftist leader?

“Possibly, But I don’t think this is a job for one person. It’s the work of many.”

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHUWhat do you think about the recent Netanyahu artistic installations?

“I don’t understand much about art. But I really liked the gold plated statue of Netanyahu in Rabin Square. It is important to have one in Rabin Square. North of Korea has such  sculptures. I’m sure Erdogan has one in Turkey. So why not here?”

Do you see an erosion in freedom of speech in Israel?

I don’t know, but I’m sure that we haven’t had threats like “if you don’t do x, I won’t fund you.” Is this Soviet Russia? It’s easy for me to say this without appearing condescending because I am just a punk from Ashdod. “I am not a condescending man who has seen all the Chekhov plays and knows literature inside out. I understand that Miri Regev [Culture Minister] has political needs. I understand it works for her and for the media. But I don’t think she understands where she’s leading. This is the fourth Knesset I serve in and it has never been this humiliating. There is an overflow of people who are simultaneously mean, stupid and hard working. This is a lethal combination. When stupidity is combined with viciousness, it’s dangerous.

The original article was written by Nir Yahav and published in Walla Magazine on December 22, 2016.

Translations: Dana Mills

Editing: Peter Eisenstadt

No, Palestinians don’t need to empathize with the Zionist narrative [ssba]

No, Palestinians don’t need to empathize with the Zionist narrative

In the Israeli-Palestinian domain, the current demand for empathy above all else is obscuring what should be a more urgent discourse — that of rights.

By Peter Eisenstadt and Mira Sucharov

Originally published in +972 on August 8, 2016

If American Jewish historians Hasia Diner and Marjorie Feld’s Haaretz article last week disavowing Zionism was intended to provoke, it has succeeded. Diner called her earlier Zionism a “naïve delusion,” while Feld wrote of her painful rejection of Zionist “propaganda.” In response, Jonathan Sarna, another American Jewish historian, accused the authors of exchanging one “naïve delusion” for another. Rabbi and talmudist Ysoscher Katz called the authors “weak-kneed.” Los Angeles-based Rabbi David Wolpe dared the authors to experience the chilly reception his congregants would likely accord them. Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted that the piece prompted him to consider stopping reading Haaretz altogether.

While we do not share their emotional detachment from Israel, we think that Diner and Feld’s anguished essay is important in urging us to consider how fealty to Zionism may hinder creative thinking about Israel’s future. If one ideal of Zionism was to create a Jewish state, another was to “normalize” the condition of the Jewish people. Zionism has succeeded in the first task, and not the second. Israelis are challenged both by the ongoing state of enmity from many corners as well as by having become almost permanent occupiers of another people. Neither of these conditions approach normalcy.

Still, there was one particularly thoughtful and nuanced response to Diner and Feld. Writing in Haaretz, Noah Efron faults the authors for a lack of empathy towards Israel. For Efron, empathy matters because a “solution will arrive when both sides realize that the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the other side, like their own, have value, beauty and legitimacy.”

For scholars, empathy is an important tool; it’s the stock-in-trade of our own disciplines — history and politics. But just as we recognize empathy as a professional and public good, in the Israeli-Palestinian domain we fear that the current demand for empathy above all else is obscuring what should be a more urgent discourse — that of rights.

Over four million Palestinians under Israeli rule are denied citizenship, with order maintained through the brutal military occupation in the West Bank, and an inhumane blockade (run in tandem with Egypt and abetted by Hamas’s intransigence) around Gaza. An additional million-and-a-half Palestinian citizens of Israel suffer from the democratic deficits inherent in Israel’s ethnic democracy. And millions of additional Palestinians, living abroad, await word on whether there will be return or even compensation for the Nakba. While engaging in dialogue on competing historical narratives may be intellectually and emotionally enriching, today there is something much more basic at stake: international law and human rights.

The end of Jim Crow in the American South was brought about not by whites and blacks coming to acknowledge the “hopes, dreams and aspirations” of the other, but by unremitting pressure on white supremacy. Whether whites and blacks understand each other better now than half a century ago is doubtful, and the change wrought by the civil rights movement hardly ended all of America’s racial problems. Still, there has been progress. If, over the next half century, Israelis and Palestinians find a way to co-exist, it will probably resemble the progress in American race relations: slow and halting, but undergirded by certain fundamental political and legal changes basic to democracy.

So where does this leave Zionism? Even in its most progressive and empathic form, Zionism has meant a commitment to an increasingly elusive “two-state solution,” the kind that is supposed to take into account the needs and identities of both sides. But as the occupation nears the half century mark, we are increasingly concerned that the progressive Zionist commitment to the two-state solution as being the “only” one — due to a perceived need to protect Israel’s Jewish identity — is, if inadvertently, helping to shore up an unjust status quo.

In a future peaceful scenario, it is unlikely that Palestinians will be able to call up much empathy for Zionist ideals. It is, however, nearly certain that Israelis will have to recognize that the Palestinians deserve the same basic rights that they themselves enjoy.

If Diner and Feld’s essay has struck a nerve, it is probably because it articulated sentiments that many who call themselves progressive Zionists have to some extent shared, but were reluctant to articulate. Both the anger and the sympathy it has generated indicates the importance of probing Zionism’s current relevance. That Zionism helped to create the current impasse with the Palestinians is undeniable. Whether it can be of any assistance in resolving it is far less clear.

Peter Eisenstadt is an independent historian living in Clemson, South Carolina. He has written extensively on New York City and New York State, and African American and Jewish history. 

Mira Sucharov is an associate professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa, specializing in Israeli-Palestinian relations. She writes regularly for Haaretz, The Jewish Daily Forwardand the Canadian Jewish News.

 

The Train Left the Station—by Jonathan Adereth [ssba]

The Train Left the Station—by Jonathan Adereth

On the eve of Israel’s last election, we strongly believed that in order to ensure the future of the state as Jewish and democratic we must change the regime.

We had known that a new coalition with Netanyahu at the helm would not be able to achieve a separation from the Palestinians and a two-states agreement.

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TO SEE THE OTHER –BY COMBATANTS FOR PEACE [ssba]

MakePeaceThe Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony, which has been held on the eve of Memorial Day for the last eleven consecutive years, comes to remind us that war is not an act of fate but one of human choice.

This ceremony is the largest annual event held by the Combatants for Peace movement. On this particularly difficult day we call upon both sides to acknowledge the pain and the aspirations of those living on the other side of the fence and for each of us to strive to prevent the next war. Perhaps during next year’s Memorial Day, additional losses will not have to reckoned with. At the ceremony, Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families speak about their personal pain.

The ceremony was held, during the few first times in the Tmuna Theater. It was initiated by Buma Inbar whose son Yotam fell in Lebanon in 1995. Since the initial event in 2006, the number of participants has increased every year. Last year about 2,500 people attended the event which was held at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds. Over the years the ceremony has been attended by intellectuals and artists including Yoni Rechter, Prof. Yehuda (Judd) Ne’eman, recipient of the Israel Prize, Alon Oleartchik, Achinoam Nini, Noam Rotem, Mira Awad, Prof. Eva Illouz and others.

Year after year the event attracts increasing media attention in spite of the fact that we have had to deal with protests and attempts by right-wing politicians to disrupt the occasion.

This Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony demonstrates the reality of empathy and mutual respect among peoples.

The ceremony demonstrates, however briefly, the possibility of peace, not based on disregard for or indifference to the pain, but rather with a direct reference to the loss and bereavement on both sides.

As we do every year, on the evening Memorial Day, Combatants for Peace Movement in coalition with Parents Circle – Families Forum, will conduct the 11th Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony. The event will be held on May 10th 2016 at Shlomo Group Arena, Tel Aviv (Drive In Arena, near the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.) at 9:00pm.

On this evening we all gather – Israelis and Palestinians – to remember the victims of violence on both sides, and to remind everyone that war is not an act of fate. The recent period in our region is a period of violence, tension and suffering for both people, and many additional families have already been added to the cycle of bereavement and pain.

Despite the statements that “forever we will live by the sword” and the growing gap between our leaders, we believe that this period too is not an act of fate, but of an ongoing vicious cycle of violence for which human beings alone are responsible and are the victims of. We will gather together on the evening of Memorial Day, not stand apart, because we know it is in our power as human beings to end this terrible cycle and avoid future victims.

“From the place where we are right, flowers will never grow in the spring”
Yehuda Amichai

 

The Spectrum: There is no one Judaism, no one Zionism—by Adam E. Chanes [ssba]

The Spectrum: There is no one Judaism, no one Zionism—by Adam E. Chanes

Unshackle NU and Northwestern Divest inappropriately provided wholesale definitions of Jewish and Zionist identities in their letter to North by Northwestern last quarter. By asserting that Judaism is “a religious identity” and that Zionism is merely a “political identity,” the two campaigns inexcusably lay a claim on the identities of others. They cannot accept that Judaism is not always “religious.” They do not appreciate that a Zionist identity is, for many like myself, an entirely religious experience deeply rooted in Torah thought and practice, a way I serve God. And they don’t allow a Zionist like me to fight Israeli racism and express solidarity against institutional anti-blackness.

When the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE, my Israelite ancestors, who suddenly faced an exiled, landless existence, began a two-millenia enterprise of self-examination, resulting in definitive heterogeneity. We continue to define Judaism in deliberately disparate ways.

Likewise, the dominant Zionist ideologies were always political — Labor, Revisionist, and others. Other important manifestations, however, by no means necessitated the creation of a political state. Are these voices to be automatically excluded because Zionism is a dirty word that represents only oppression — not a false representation — but nothing else?

The letter points selectively towards Jewish Voice for Peace and Neturei Karta as Jewish groups that oppose conflating Zionism and Judaism. Unshackle NU and NU Divest insinuate that these groups and “countless others” have exclusive license to define Judaism and Zionism for the rest of the Jewish people. The deep Jewish tradition of “mahloket,” creative disagreement in Torah study, insists that no one Jewish group can legitimately define either “identity” for everyone else. The two campaigns denounce the State of Israel’s engagement in that very act of “defining for everyone else.” But they themselves do just that by designating only two Jewish organizations to learn from.

My beliefs also defy categorical statements about either identity. My experience of Judaism is Torah-infused, “religious,” but certainly not just that: I’ve been attending secular Yiddish theater since early childhood and have participated in Jewish sports leagues. Many secular American Jews, and “hiloni” (secular) Israelis too, take umbrage at those calling their Jewish identities “religious,” yet they feel very Jewish. It is no coincidence that the debate over how and whether to define the state’s “Jewish character” is the reason Israel has no constitution.

The Zionism I identify with most is a religious identity.

My religious practice, minute-to-minute, is predicated on an active orientation toward a land of eternal sanctity, “Eretz Yisrael.” My religiosity is Zionist. Every time I finish eating grain-based foods — a simple Clif Bar — I say an ancient liturgical passage that thanks God for agricultural sustenance and the precious land of our ancestors. This blessing, which was not written by Theodor Herzl or Ariel Sharon, continues by asking God for mercy upon the land and the ancient Temple, and that God should bring Jews up to the land — but not without compassion.

The intersection between food, geography and sanctity shows that the Jewish yearning for an ancestral homeland — Zionism — is a part of every bite, embedded in the ritual minutiae. And it’s not just a yearning. To serve God fully, there are agricultural commandments I feel obligated to fulfill — they require living in Israel.

The ancient Hebrew texts, particularly blessings of justice and ingathering exiles, require me to direct as much intention to ending anti-Black oppression and the Israeli military occupation as to a return to the land of Israel. When saying “May our eyes behold Your (God’s) return to Zion in mercy” in all three daily prayer services, another Jewish obligation, my intention is a thirst for the land, but one that must reflect God’s merciful side. I pray to realize the “natural morality” Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook — the spiritual father of Religious Zionism — dwelled upon.

My teacher, the late Rabbi Menachem Froman, was a controversial and seemingly contradictory peace activist (he was a settler leader who opposed military occupation). He denounced the common, perverse Religious Zionist approach to the land of Israel, a racist approach that turns deep desire into ideology that conquers rather than integrates. The land does not belong to us, Froman said — we belong to the land, and the land belongs to God. Of course, it would be unjust to claim the nonexistence of legal land-ownership or to wield divine “ownership” as an excuse to settle anywhere, as Religious Zionist settlers have done. Such claims ignore decades of illegal Israeli theft of Palestinian land and acts of ethnic cleansing in 1948.

Rabbi Froman teaches that to live in God’s land, Jews must act with utmost sensitivity and love toward the Other, the human being, the infinite “image of God” in our midst, for they too — Palestinian tears, family, culture, humanity — belong to God’s land. We cannot reverse history. But secular and religious Jews and Zionists must look at history and recognize that there was a Palestinian Nakba, a catastrophic reality that did not end in 1948 and that the Jewish “aliyah” (ascent) to Palestine should not have happened at the cost of displacing 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes.

One of God’s many names in Judaism is “Shalom,” which means “peace.” To put an end to the desecration of God’s name, Israelis and Palestinians must learn to love one another today. But that can only happen in parallel with Jewish Israeli efforts — yes, even religiously-inspired efforts — to end the racism, the suffering, the occupation, the erasure of land and history.

From within Jewish secularism and religiosity can come Zionism, and from within Zionism a love of peace and a hatred of oppression can exist. Just as Judaism constantly develops, Zionism can and must take a courageous step outside of its own blemished history.
_____
Adam Chanes is a Northwestern University freshman.

This essay was first published on The Spectrum, a weekly forum in our Opinion section for marginalized voices to share their perspectives. To submit a piece for The Spectrum or discuss story ideas, please email spectrum@dailynorthwestern.com.

 

Ireland and the Jewish Question [ssba]

Ireland and the Jewish Question

 

Happy Easter Monday! Today, Easter Monday is exactly 100 years since the Easter Monday rebellion in Dublin in 1916,  when a small group of Irish nationalists took over the General Post Office building  and several other sites in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish republic.  The rebellion only lasted six days before it was brutally suppressed by the British, with heavy loss of life.  But the rebellion was the spark of a bloody war that after much bloodshed, in 1922, led to Irish independence.

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You Can’t Defeat Death, but you Can Defeat Demagogues: Thoughts About Donald Trump [ssba]

You Can’t Defeat Death, but you Can Defeat Demagogues: Thoughts About Donald Trump

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross is best known for her five stages of grief on dealing with a fatal illness. The first reaction, the first stage of grief, is denial. You can’t believe this is happening.  It is only temporary.  It is not as bad as it seems.   Then comes anger. It is not going away. It is getting stronger; you are getting weaker. It’s spreading.  The next stage is bargaining.  There is a way to stop this. It can be controlled. It’s just a matter of finding the right way to interact with it, to limit its ambitions.   And then there is despair. It’s not going to work. You’re going to lose, and you’re going to lose everything.  Finally, there is acceptance.   As long as it’s going to happen, you might as well get behind it, if you can, if it lets you.  You know it’s going to feel much better than the alternative, which is trying to struggle against it,  and be painfully destroyed.  Or admit defeat, and remove yourself, as far away as possible, to a place of safety.

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Review of ‘1929: Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict’ [ssba]

Review of ‘1929: Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict’

“1929: Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict” by Hillel Cohen (translated by Haim Watzman); Brandeis University Press, Waltham, Mass., 2015, 288 pp.    

On September 2, 1929, several weeks after the deadly riots in Palestine, the newspaper Ha’aretz called for the British to impose collective punishment on the town of Deir Yassin, as the British had imposed on several other Arab towns in preceding weeks. I had not realized that many who participated in the Irgun raid on Deir Yassin in 1948 saw it as payback for what had occurred some twenty years earlier.

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If I am Not for Myself, etc. (Thoughts on AHA Vote) [ssba]

If I am Not for Myself, etc.  (Thoughts on AHA Vote)

Over the weekend, I attended the American Historical Association (AHA) annual convention in Atlanta.  Historians, as a rule, are not a particularly raucous bunch, and the 3,500 or so historians generally went about their business quietly, delivering papers, buying books, trying to cadge free food at various receptions, and the like. But there was one exciting moment.

At the business meeting, there was a vote on a resolution introduced by an organization called Historians Against the War (HAW) condemning Israeli interference with higher education and academic freedom on the West Bank and Gaza, and calling on the AHA to “monitor” Israel’s behavior.  This resolution was tailored to garner as much support as possible, and unlike earlier resolutions introduced by HAW, it did not explicitly call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  Still, it was an attempt to get the AHA on record against Israel’s educational policies, and perhaps use it as a toehold from which to launch stronger BDS resolutions. Read More »

‘Ichabod’ Schumer [ssba]

‘Ichabod’ Schumer

For the last week or so, since New York Senator Chuck Schumer decided to abandon his party, his president, his principles (or at least what should have been his principles) and announced his decision to vote against the Iran agreement, I have been thinking about the poem “Ichabod” (1850) by the 19th century American poet, John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). Nowadays Whittier is clinging to a tenuous place in the literary canon by his fingernails, but at his best he was quite a memorable poet, and one of his best poems is “Ichabod.”

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