The core right-wing parties in Netanyahu’s coalition have waged a long, public and legislative campaign against groups whose original and primary aim is to inform Israelis about what their government is doing in the occupied territories. . . . The goal is to protect policies and politicians by limiting or distorting what voters know.
For 10 years or so, I regularly gave lectures to Israeli army units on the need for a free press in a democracy. It was my army reserve duty, in the army’s Education Corps. The qualifications for such duty, as a graduate school professor said when he told me to apply, were “higher education and a low medical profile.”
So I spoke before officers and mechanics, tank crews and pilots, and often to infantrymen serving in the West Bank. As soldiers they feel uncomfortable with journalists watching them, I explained, but as citizens they needed the media to shine light on the government’s actions — including its military operations. A subtext was that it was a dumb idea to stick your hand over a photographer’s lens. I don’t know if my civics lessons had any effect, but I was impressed that the army wanted them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, on the other hand, thinks it’s a great idea to put the heavy hand of the law over every lens pointed at Israeli soldiers. On Sunday, a committee of cabinet ministers (half from Netanyahu’s Likud party) voted to support a bill that would outlaw photographing confrontations between soldiers and Palestinians.
“There is no plan. Kushner and Greenblatt are trying to dictate the solution by making Jerusalem the capital of Israel, legitimizing the settlements and changing the conflict from a political one to a humanitarian one.”
— chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat
The Trump administration is close to releasing a long-awaited Middle East peace proposal that officials said would present US goals for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, despite the Palestinian position that President Trump cannot be an honest broker.
The proposal is likely to be released within weeks, with the aim of beginning negotiations between the parties, perhaps as early as this summer, diplomats and other officials said. It has been delayed by a months-long Palestinian boycott in protest of Trump’s policy that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may reject the framework out of hand. . . .
The American Jewish community must confront the myths we’ve manufactured and institutionalized in day school classrooms, youth group trips, and summer camp celebrations of “Israel Day.” That most Jewish students can trace Israel’s borders but do not know what the Nakba or Green Line are is the sign of a serious failure. Tomorrow’s American Jewish leader deserve a better, more nuanced education.
US anti-occupation movement IfNotNow released its “Liberation Syllabus” last week. Crowd-sourced from teachers, students, journalists, and rabbis, the syllabus offers a collection of resources — from picture books to nonfiction, cookbooks to podcasts — that Jewish institutions can integrate into their curricula to offer more balanced and just lessons about the occupation.
The syllabus is part of IfNotNow’s “You Never Told Me” campaign, in which alumni of Jewish summer camps, day schools, and youth groups are calling on their institutions to change their Israel education to include honest understandings of the occupation and Palestinian narratives. Some of the resources in IfNotNow’s syllabus, for example, include Rashid Khalidi’s Palestinian Identity and Edward Said’s The Question of Palestine.
To deliberately subvert divinely inspired ideas to absolve the inhumanity of imprisoning children, or to glean political advantage to enact even more draconian measures against the most vulnerable, crosses some kind of unseen line . . . .
Many have marveled at the citing of sacred texts to support even the most heinous of thoughts and acts. Others still have struggled to understand the mind and heart that could do such damage to holy writ. And people of faith take unique exception to the mangling of words that bind them to God.
And so, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions doubled down on rooting an immigration policy of family separation in the holy justification of biblical texts, faith communities across the ideological spectrum united in opposition to a perversion that defied even our most jaded expectations for this administration’s chutzpah.
The outrage goes beyond the gall of employing a text as cover for a policy that embodies the very inverse of its meaning, or omitting the myriad expressions of compassion and welcome that represent the fullness of the Bible.
As people of faith, we stand in solidarity with all the migrants and asylum-seekers who come to our borders, fleeing violence or simply seeking a better life for their families. We protest the inhumane separation of children from their parents. We urge our government to allow victims of domestic violence and gang violence to seek asylum in this country. This will be an opportunity to gather together for prayer, and to bring our prayerful witness to the streets of our city.
“The UN human rights council has played an important role in such countries as North Korea, Syria, Myanmar and South Sudan, but all Trump seems to care about is defending Israel.”
— Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch
The US is withdrawing from the United Nations human rights council, the Trump administration announced on Tuesday, calling it a “cesspool of political bias” that targets Israel in particular while ignoring atrocities in other countries.
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said she had traveled to the council’s headquarters in Geneva a year ago to call for reforms, to no avail.
“Regrettably it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” Haley told reporters at the state department. “Human rights abusers continue to serve on, and be elected to, the council.”
A Palestinian brought before such a military court, for example in the notorious Ofer Prison north of Jerusalem, has no hope of achieving even the slightest semblance of justice. Conviction rates of Palestinians in these courts are higher than 99 percent. Proceedings take place in Hebrew, which Palestinian defendants often don’t understand, and security specialists routinely give secret testimony to which defendants and their counsel have no access.
In the somewhat exotic Jewish home in Iowa where I grew up, it was axiomatic that there was an intimate link between Judaism and universal human rights. Like nearly all Eastern European Jewish families in America, my parents and grandparents were Roosevelt Democrats, to the point of fanaticism.
They thought that the Jews had invented the very idea, and also the practice, of social justice; that having started our history as slaves in Egypt, we were always on the side of the underdog and the oppressed; that the core of Judaism as a religious culture was precisely this commitment to human rights, and that all the rest — the 613 commandments, the rituals, the theological assertions — was no more than a superstructure built upon a strong ethical foundation.
For me, this comfortable illusion was shattered only when I moved to Israel at the age of eighteen. . . .
In response to the violence in Gaza, the Gulf states issued ritual denunciations and support for the Palestinians, but Israeli officials regarded the language as unmistakably bland, similar to their reactions to the Jerusalem decision. That their emphasis had shifted away from the Palestinians and to the specter of a confrontation with Iran was obvious.
On the afternoon of December 14, 2016, Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, rode from his Embassy to the White House to attend a Hanukkah party. The Obama Administration was in its final days, and among the guests were some of the President’s most ardent Jewish supporters, who were there to bid him farewell. But Dermer, like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, did not share their sense of loss. For the Israeli leadership, the Trump Presidency could not come soon enough.
Netanyahu believed that Barack Obama had “no special feeling” for the Jewish state, as one of his aides once put it, and he resented Obama’s argument that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians was a violation of basic human rights and an obstacle to security, not least for Israel itself. He also believed that Obama’s attempt to foster a kind of balance of power between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East was naïve, and that it underestimated the depth of Iran’s malign intentions throughout the region.
Is it necessarily anti-Semitic to harshly criticize the Jewish state or to do so without, in the same breath, criticizing Saudi repression?
Freedom of speech on college campuses is under enough pressure without the federal government adding to the problem by threatening to withdraw funding to punish people for expressing their political opinions. That would be a real possibility if Congress enacted and President Trump signed a bill called the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018.
The legislation, which has recently been reintroduced in both chambers, purports to target harassment of Jewish students on college campuses, which has occurred in California and elsewhere.
But this proposal would blur the distinction between unacceptable, intimidating expressions of intolerance directed against Jews with criticism of the state of Israel. The latter, even when expressed in intemperate terms, is protected by the 1st Amendment. . . .
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