This man says there’s a crisis between Israel and Jews — but he’s causing it

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks to members of the media at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem on Nov 19. (photo: Amir Cohen / Reuters)
Naftali Bennett isn’t the man to explain the crisis in Israel-diaspora relations, or to solve it. He’s the walking, loudly talking embodiment of why it’s happening.

By Gershom Gorenberg | The Washington Post | Dec 13, 2018

Older American Jews, especially from establishment Jewish organizations, have quarreled for years with the Israeli government over religious pluralism. What upsets younger Jews is Israel’s political direction. It’s the occupation, and how the occupation has changed Israel.

Naftali Bennett wears several hats in Israeli politics. He’s the head of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party. He’s the education minister. He also holds the obscure post of minister of diaspora affairs, which means he’s in charge of fostering ties between Israel and Jews around the world. At this week’s cabinet meeting, he decided to remind everyone of that role, with some pithy comments.

“Israel-Diaspora relations are in an unprecedented crisis,” Bennett said. He dismissed the idea that the disconnect is due to “the Palestinian issue” or because of a conflict over the rights of non-Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Rather, he said, it’s because “there’s a dire assimilation crisis and growing apathy among Jews in the Diaspora toward their Judaism and toward Israel. That’s the whole story.” In those few sentences, the man managed to show how thoroughly disconnected he is from the people with whom he’s supposed to work.

Continue reading “This man says there’s a crisis between Israel and Jews — but he’s causing it”

Zionism, Pan-Africanism, and White Nationalism

Tel Aviv, Nov 29, 1947. (photo: AFP / Getty Images)
What we learn about Israel’s ethnocentrism by looking at groups inspired by Zionism.

By Shaul Magrid | Tablet | Dec 12, 2018

Politically, and legally, the Nation-State Law assures Jewish dominance and preference in a way that makes perennial inequality unavoidable. In a recent New Yorker essay, ‘Netanyahu’s Inflammatory New Bill,’ Bernard Avishai put the choice bluntly, asking if Israel will be ‘a Hebrew Republic or a little Jewish Pakistan’? Decades before, Martin Buber similarly wondered whether Israel would become a center for humanity or ‘a Jewish Albania.’

The law called “Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” also known as the Israeli Nation-State Law, which was passed by the Knesset last July and defines Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” has raised serious concerns among political scientists, legal experts, and liberal Zionists, even as it has been celebrated by many of those on the Israeli right. Is this law the fulfillment of Zionism, or its demise? The term “Zionism” itself, and thus the question, is fraught, since Zionism is an ideology that has been at war with itself since its inception.

Which Zionism are we speaking about? Taken at face value, the law seems unproblematic, as that was what many different kinds of Zionism held from the start. But when that idea is made part of the Basic Law of the country, problems arise: 25 percent of Israeli citizens are not Jews and thus find themselves outside the raison d’être of a legally defined ethnocentric state, or what Israeli scholar Oren Yiftachel calls an “ethnocracy.”

Why is this a problem? For example, while we can say colloquially that America is a “Christian country” (over 90 percent of American citizens are at least ancestrally Christian), Congress does not codify that idea into law. And I would assume American Jews would feel somewhat uncomfortable with such legislation. The de facto notion of Israel as a state of the Jews is not the same thing as altering Israel’s Basic Law to say as much.

Two questions one could ask are: (1) What does this new law do to the present reality of statist Zionism (not all Zionism was statist, but arguably today all Zionism is statist) — that is, what kind of state now exists in light of it? And (2) Is legally binding ethnocentrism the natural fulfillment of an earlier form of Zionism that has now dominated the discourse? Or, is this an aberration of statist Zionism?

Continue reading “Zionism, Pan-Africanism, and White Nationalism”

Senators trying to slip through Israel anti-boycott law during lame duck session

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) speaks with reporters in Washington, DC, on Nov 27, 2018. (photo: Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call via AP)
The law would criminalize boycotting Israel.

By Ryan Grim & Alex Emmons | The Intercept | Dec 4, 2018

We understand the Senate is considering attaching a revised version of S. 720 to the end-of-the-year omnibus spending bill, and we urge you to oppose its inclusion.
— American Civil Liberties Union in a Dec 3 letter to congress

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin is making a behind-the-scenes push to slip an anti-boycott law into a last-minute spending bill being finalized during the lame-duck session, according to four sources familiar with the negotiations.

The measure, known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, was shelved earlier amid concerns about the infringement of free speech, after civil liberties groups argued that the original version would have allowed criminal penalties for Americans who participate in a political boycott of Israel. Some of the more aggressive elements of the provision have been removed under pressure, but the American Civil Liberties Union, which spearheaded the initial opposition to the bill, is still strongly opposed. . . .

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British Quakers divest from occupation, and are accused of “obsessive” tunnel vision for “the only Jewish state”

 

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. (photo: Marie van der Zyl)
The Quakers in Britain have taken time in reaching this decision advocating a different approach is needed to shift the dial.

By Robert Cohen | Mondoweiss | Nov 26, 2018

With the occupation now in its 51st year, and with no end in near sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.

Last week Quakers in Britain became the first Christian denomination in the UK to adopt a responsible investment policy towards the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian land. It was the first denomination but I doubt it will be the last.

Within hours of the announcement, the Board of Deputies, the body which asserts its right to represent Jewish interests in Britain, had issued a statement of rebuke from its President, Marie van der Zyl, titled “Board of Deputies condemns Quakers’ Israel divestment policy.” In a few short paragraphs, van de Zyl gathered together all of the usual anti-BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) talking points and fired them in one almighty blast at the Quakers.

The Board’s statement is worth examining in detail since it reveals so much about the Jewish establishment’s mission to set the parameters of acceptable debate on Israel to the detriment of interfaith relations.
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Freshman congresswoman bucks AIPAC’s Israel junket

Representative-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) pauses to speak to media on Capitol Hill, Nov 15, 2018. (photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP)
Rashida Tlaib rejects Israel lobby’s influence over the incoming congressional delegation.

By Alex Kane &Lee Fang | The Intercept | Dec 3, 2018

Tlaib is clear about one thing: She wants her delegation to humanize Palestinians, provide an alternative perspective to the one AIPAC pushes, and highlight the inherent inequality of Israel’s system of military occupation in Palestinian territories.

Rashida Tlaib, a Democratic representative-elect from Michigan, belongs to a cohort of incoming members of Congress who’ve vowed to upend the status quo — even on third-rail issues in Washington like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To that end, Tlaib is planning to lead a congressional delegation to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, she told The Intercept. Her planned trip is a swift rebuke of a decades-old tradition for newly elected members: a junket to Israel sponsored by the education arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby group.

The AIPAC trips are among the lesser-known traditions for freshman members of Congress. They’re typically scheduled during the first August recess in every legislative session and feature a weeklong tour of Israel and meetings with leading Israeli figures in business, government, and the military. Both critics and proponents of the AIPAC freshmen trip say the endeavor is incredibly influential, providing House members with a distinctly pro-Israel viewpoint on complex controversies in the region. In recent years, the Democratic tour has been led by incoming Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Incoming Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., traditionally leads the Republican trip.

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Israel says Trump’s Middle East peace plan to be rolled out in early 2019

 

President Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sep 18, 2017. (photo: AP)
Israel’s ambassador to the UN predicts the Trump administration will present its peace plan in early 2019.

Pamela Falk | CBS News | Nov 28, 2018

President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, have been drafting the Trump administration’s long-awaited plan for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and they have touted its preparation several times since the White House’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Dec 6 and the opening of the new US embassy there in May.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations said Tuesday that the White House intends to move forward with its much-anticipated Middle East peace plan early next year, before expected Israeli elections.

“We don’t know the details of the plan but we know that it’s completed,” Ambassador Danny Danon told a small group of reporters Tuesday in his office near UN Headquarters. He said the Trump administration has told the Israeli government that it is prepared to roll out the plan in early 2019.

President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, have been drafting the Trump administration’s long-awaited plan for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and they have touted its preparation several times since the White House’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Dec 6 and the opening of the new US embassy there in May. Continue reading “Israel says Trump’s Middle East peace plan to be rolled out in early 2019”