“P” is for Palestine

The cover of “P is for Palestine,“ written by Golbarg Bashi and illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi. (image: Golbarg Bashi)

The American author wanted to write an ABC rhyme book with lots of references to the Holy Land and Palestinian culture. However, her book risks being overshadowed by a ruckus about an entry called “I is for Intifada.”

By Anat Rosenberg | Haaretz | Nov 20, 2017

“I wanted to write and publish a book that was greatly needed — a classic, playful and pedagogically sound ABC rhyme book with lots of references to the Holy Land (Christmas, Jesus Christ, Bethlehem, Nazareth), Palestinian food, dance, culture, and the geography, multiculturalism of the region.”
— Dr. Golbarg Bashi, professor of history at Pace University

Traditional children’s alphabet books have taught kids that “A is for Apple,” “B is for Boy,” and “C is for Cat.” But a new twist on the genre aims to teach kids the ABC’s of Palestinian culture.

The book, called “P is for Palestine,” was published last week and has quickly caused a stir among some Jewish parents in New York for teaching kids that “I is for Intifada.”

The author, Iranian-born Dr. Golbarg Bashi, promoted her book and a reading at a local bookstore in a post last week on a closed Facebook page for New York moms. Her post drew angry responses from women who called “P is for Palestine” anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda, a charge Bashi denies.

“The charge of anti-Semitism is a very severe one and it is not something I take lightly,” she told Haaretz. “This is a book written from a place of love not a place of hatred. It is a book celebrating Palestinians and empowering their children without an iota of animus towards any other people — Israelis included.”

Continue reading ““P” is for Palestine”

Israel denies entry to European officials for “support of boycott”

Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. (photo: Nir Keidar / Haaretz)

Seven members of a 20-member delegation of European Parliament members and mayors were barred entry by Israel, which alleged they had called for a boycott.

By Ilan Lior, Jonathan Lis and Josh Breiner | Haaretz | Nov 14, 2017

“[These are] senior politicians who consistently support the boycott against Israel and promote it. We will not permit entry to those who actively call to harm the State of Israel.”
— Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan

Israel announced on Monday it would deny entry to seven members of a delegation of European officials using the recently approved legislation that bars visits by anti-Israel boycott activists.

The 20-member delegation, which was set to arrive in Israel next week, was to include European Parliament members and French mayors. The Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority said seven of the 20 delegation members will be barred from entering Israel, adding it obtained information that they had called for a boycott of Israel.

Continue reading “Israel denies entry to European officials for “support of boycott””

God hears the cry of the oppressed: A theology of BDS

Demonstrators rally in New York City to protest anti-BDS legislation, Jun 9, 2016. (photo: Sipa USA via AP)

Remarks on BDS delivered during a session at the annual conference of the American Academy of Religion.

By Rabbi Brant Rosen | Shalov Rav | Nov 20, 2017

Ed note: On Nov 19, 2017, the American Academy of Religion cancelled a panel discussion on the ethical and theological motivations of BDS after several anti-BDS speakers withdrew from participation at the last moment. The Academy subsequently allowed several papers to be presented “informally,” but without discussion. One of those papers is presented here. Read details of the cancellation here →

Beyond the fears of BDS articulated by so many in the Jewish communal establishment, I think there’s an even deeper fear for many of us in the Jewish community: the prospect of facing the honest truth of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. . . .

[With BDS], however, a nonviolent call for popular resistance has been placed before us. Thus, for those of us that believe God hears the cry of the oppressed and demands that we do the same, the BDS call represents a direct challenge to our faith. Will we be like God, and hearken to their cries, or will we be like Pharaoh and ignore them?

In my remarks to you today, I’d like to address one of the questions originally presented to the panelists of our session: “What, from your perspective, stands out as a particularly important element of religious ethics and theology that motivates those inspired to take up the cause of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions?”

For me, this question is profoundly connected to one of the most important theological teachings of Jewish tradition: namely that God hears and hearkens to the cry of the oppressed. This teaching is needless to say, deeply imbedded in the Torah; in Genesis 18:20-21, God says to Abraham:

The outrage of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave! I will go down to see whether they have acted altogether according to the outcry that has reached Me. . . .” Later, at the outset of the Exodus story, God says to Moses, “Now the cry of the Israelites has reached Me; moreover I have seen how the Egyptians oppress them.” (Exodus 3:9)

It should be noted that Godly attributes in Jewish tradition are not mere academic concepts — they are nothing short of divine imperatives. God’s ways must be our ways as well.

Continue reading “God hears the cry of the oppressed: A theology of BDS”

Birthright is so scared of Arabs, it has banned them!

Birthright participants, Apr 5, 2015. (photo: Taglit)

Birthright Israel recently ordered participants to stop meeting with Israeli Palestinian citizens.

By Noam Shuster Eliassi | Haaretz | Nov 2, 2017

I was always concerned about the brainwashing that’s built in to [Birthright] trips.
But I also believe in young people’s hearts and minds; I believe that awareness and exposure can change mindsets. I insist on meeting Birthright groups, I insist on speaking to people who disagree with me.

Birthright is reportedly ordering their trip providers to stop meetings between their participants and Arab citizens of Israel. In their own words, “there is a need for further analysis of this module.”

I read these lines over and over again and could not trace my thoughts fast enough. My responses went from laughing out loud, to wanting to smash the nearest available wall, to being entirely unsurprised.

“Further analysis” on how and if to meet Arabs?

Maybe they mean to say Birthright participants should meet only the properly vetted and defanged “good pro-Israel Arabs,” because they’re scared delicate Birthrighters might be exposed to critical thought? After all, what a disaster it would be to raise a generation of Jews who dare to think critically about Israel. Continue reading “Birthright is so scared of Arabs, it has banned them!”

Why doesn’t Birthright believe in Israeli democracy?


Birthright Israel recently ordered participants to stop meeting with Israeli Palestinian citizens.

By Sam Sussman | The Forward | Nov 8, 2017

Birthright’s conviction that its participants should not encounter Palestinian citizens is a troubling sanitization — one that does justice neither to young Diaspora Jews nor to Israel itself. Rather than ask American Jews to face Israel in all its complexities and contradictions, Birthright has chosen to offer what one congressman once described to me as “Disneyland Israel” after a trip by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that met with no Palestinians.

So they will never know Wadeea.

This was the thought that came to me as I read the disappointing news that Birthright has chosen to end meetings with Arab citizens of Israel, who make up one-fifth of Israel’s population. Birthright’s official statement explained that “there is a need for further analysis” of such meetings before they can proceed.

Wadeea and I met in his hometown of Kafr Qasim, a city of Palestinian citizens of Israel, t2 miles east of Tel Aviv. Wadeea heard I was from New York, and he wanted to make sure I knew how much he hated the Knicks. I challenged him to a game of one-on-one. We found a court between Kafr Qasim and Rosh HaAyin and played well past dusk. The next time I was in Israel we smoked hookah, watched Barcelona beat Madrid and discovered that we both write fiction. Continue reading “Why doesn’t Birthright believe in Israeli democracy?”

The Museum of the Bible reflects the discouraging state of Christianity

A King James Bible from the year 1617. (photo: Scalzo / Epa-Efe / Rex / Shutterstock)

The museum provides a metaphor for the state of Christianity in the US today.

By Christine Emba | The Washington Post | No 17, 2017

The Museum of the Bible reflects the discouraging state of Christianity — especially evangelicalism — in the United States today. It is lavishly funded and larger than life to the point of performance, often literally. Yet the approach is strangely superficial given the wealth of complexity inherent to its subject. There are dozens of illuminated manuscripts, but it’s unclear whether they’ve been read.

Somewhere between the surround-screen animation of the New Testament and the backlit glass case containing Elvis Presley’s personal Bible, I began to feel a bit overwhelmed. It was bound to happen; the guide made it clear that the Museum of the Bible was meant to be a highly stimulating experience.

Educational too, of course. The new museum’s purpose, as stated in its promotional materials and in the carefully bland speeches of its largely evangelical Christian board, is to invite all people to “engage” (their preferred word) with the most popular book in the world. There was a lot to see: more than $500 million worth of artifacts, interactive exhibits and performance space in a 430,000-square-foot building three blocks from the Capitol. But actual grappling with the Bible and its implications was an afterthought.

Continue reading “The Museum of the Bible reflects the discouraging state of Christianity”

Planning the ethnic cleansing of Palestine

Then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan onboard a helicopter while touring army installations in the West Bank, Sep 1967. (photo: Ilan Bruner / GPO)

Newly declassified Israeli Security Cabinet documents show government ministers planning to force Palestinians from their land.

By Ofer Aderet | Haaretz | Nov 17, 2017

“We should deal with this issue quietly, calmly and covertly, and we should work on finding a way for [the Palestinians] to emigrate to other countries and not just over the Jordan [River]. Perhaps if we don’t give them enough water they won’t have a choice, because the orchards will yellow and wither. Perhaps we can expect another war and then this problem will be solved.”
— Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, 1967

“Empty” the Gaza Strip, “thin out” the Galilee, rewrite textbooks and censor political cartoons in Haaretz: These are among the proposals discussed by cabinet ministers after the Six-Day War that will be available to the public in a major release of declassified government documents by the Israel State Archives on Thursday.

The material being posted on the state archives’ website includes hundreds of pages of minutes from meetings of the security cabinet between August and December 1967. From reading them, it is clear that in the several months that followed the June 1967 war, members of the security cabinet were perplexed, confused and sometimes helpless in the face of the new challenges to the state.

Israel conquered East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula in under a week. It was not even remotely prepared for this scenario, and had to hit the ground running. Continue reading “Planning the ethnic cleansing of Palestine”

50 years of occupation, 50 years of labor struggle

A Palestinian worker on a construction site in the city of Bethlehem, in the southern occupied West Bank, Sep 27, 2017. (photo: Chloé Benoist / Equal Times)

The land isn’t the only thing that is occupied in Palestinian — so is the economy.

By Chloé Benoist | Equal Times | Nov 17, 2017

The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who found themselves under Israeli military control in 1967 quickly became a source of blue-collar labor for the Israeli economy, performing jobs that few Israelis were willing to do, for far less money and with far fewer legal protections.

Despite having spent 30 years of his life working as a carpenter in Israel, and the past 17 years as a farmer in the southern part of occupied West Bank, Mohammad Issa Salah, 70, still finds himself struggling to make ends meet.

“Here, the cost of living is like Europe, but the wages are like Africa,” the elderly Palestinian from the village of al-Khader tells Equal Times, in what little English he remembers from school.

The old man’s situation is hardly an exception. With a quarter of Palestinians living under the poverty line, and a similar unemployment rate, Palestinians have struggled for decades to make a living and assert their rights in the workplace.

Continue reading “50 years of occupation, 50 years of labor struggle”

NY Times equates Jewish Voice for Peace with neo-Nazis

Bret Stephens, op-ed columnist for the NY Times. (photo: Tamara Beckwith / New York Post)

The paper draws a moral equivalency between peaceful advocacy for human rights and violent hate speech.

By  Phil Weiss and Donald Johnson | Mondoweiss | Nov 16, 2017

You start out framing JVP as so bad that when you say white nationalists are bad, you say it by saying they are as bad as the JVP.  So JVP becomes the standard of badness against which to measure just how bad neo-Nazis are.

Here is a clever but repellent variation of hasbara, or propaganda for Israel: New York Times columnist Bret Stephens equates Jewish Voice for Peace with white nationalists, because JVP supports Palestinian rights. In “Steve Bannon Is Bad for the Jews,” Stephens sets out to condemn the Zionist Organization of America for welcoming Steve Bannon to its gala the other night. Why? Because Bannon is an anti-Semite, just like JVP.

Here’s Stephens’s logic:

[W]hen a far-left group such as Jewish Voice for Peace makes common cause with someone like Linda Sarsour — the Palestinian-American activist who advocates the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state and publicly praised a convicted terrorist — it disqualifies itself as an advocate of any Jewish interest save its own. To deny Israel’s right to exist, as U.N. Secretary General António Guterres noted in April, is “a form of modern anti-Semitism.”
It also means that when a right-wing Jewish group such as the ZOA chooses to overlook Bannon’s well-documented links to anti-Semitic white nationalists, it puts itself on a moral par with JVP.

Continue reading “NY Times equates Jewish Voice for Peace with neo-Nazis”

Ghost village in Jerusalem may soon vanish

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Yacoub Odeh, a 77-year-old Palestinian, who grew up in the ghost village of Lifta, before fleeing during the 1948 war and the creation of Israel. (photo: phys.org)

The 13th-Century-BCE village is on a list of tentative UNESCO World Heritage sites, but is slated for commercial development.

By Mike Smith | Phys.org | Nov 16, 2017

“It is frozen evidence of the issue of the destroyed villages. That’s why it annoys the Israeli land authority, because they don’t want it turned into a sort of non-official monument for the destroyed villages.”
— architect Shmuel Groag

Near the stone ruins of the home where he says he lived as a boy, Yacoub Odeh laments that his native village on Jerusalem’s hillside may soon be transformed forever.

“I want to come back to my home, to my house, to my village, to my land,” the 77-year-old said.

Lifta, an abandoned former Palestinian village in a bucolic spot at the entrance to Jerusalem, is at the centre of a preservation fight over an Israeli plan to build villas there.

It is a rare example of a village that still exists after its Palestinian inhabitants fled in the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel, though its history extends much farther back in time.

The village, in mainly Jewish West Jerusalem, is on a tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, and the World Monuments Fund organization has put it on its list of sites under threat. Continue reading “Ghost village in Jerusalem may soon vanish”