Toward Shabbat solidarity with Gaza

Tzedakah saves from death. (Proverbs 10:2)
Let’s make justice for Gaza part of our weekly regimen as we prepare for Shabbat.

By Rabbi Brant Rosen | Shalom Rav | Feb 19, 2019

For its part, the Jewish communal establishment greets these crimes with silence at best and justification at worst — as if it is perfectly justifiable to regularly shoot down unarmed protesters with live gunfire.

For religious Jews, Friday is typically devoted to spiritual and practical preparation for the Sabbath. Those who are traditionally observant will spend the morning and afternoon doing their shopping, housecleaning and cooking for Shabbat before sundown. Before Shabbat worship, there is a preliminary service known as Kabbalat Shabbat: a series of Psalms and prayers of welcome that serve as a spiritual precursor to the onset of the Jewish Sabbath. As any Shabbat observant Jew will attest, the sense of spiritual preparation and anticipation that takes place on Friday is deeply imbedded in the sacred rhythm of the Jewish week.

Speaking personally, this sacred rhythm has been disrupted — perhaps even profaned — for me for almost a year now. That is because every Friday afternoon, my news feed is regularly filled with reports of Palestinian civilians killed and maimed by the Israeli military during the protests taking place during the Great March of Return.

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University of California must allow faculty to boycott Israel in academia

(Image: Chi Park)
“Academic freedom” is being twisted for inappropriate purposes.

By Michael Burawoy, Paul Fine, and others | The Daily Californian | Feb 19, 2019

We know a number of faculty members who support this very letter but feared to put their name to it. What does that say about the already existing chilled climate for speech that the chancellors’ letter has exacerbated?

On Dec 13, the ten UC chancellors took the unusual step of signing a collective statement that opposed the “academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions and/or individual scholars” as being a “direct and serious” threat to academic freedom. When some faculty members expressed concerns that such a high-level collective statement would have a chilling effect on campus speech and discourage faculty members from taking public positions on an issue that is well within the purview of their academic freedom, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ responded by defending her own academic freedom to speak out on important issues. We would not want to deny her that right, but we do have some unanswered questions about the collective statement:

How does Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS — the movement to boycott, divest and sanction the Israeli state for its occupation of Palestine — pose a “direct and serious threat to academic freedom”? Like the South African anti-apartheid boycott and divestment movement of the 1980s, BDS targets state-funded Israeli institutions and Israeli commercial activities. It does not try to prevent anyone from saying anything or attempt to sanction or thwart individuals for their political positions.

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After Israeli anchor calls out brutality of ‘occupation,’ political leaders land hard on her

Journalist Oshrat Kotler (photo: Channel 13)
An Israel TV anchor used the word occupation and death threats ensued.

By Jonathan Ofir | Mondoweiss | Feb 19, 2019

They send children to the army, to the territories, and get them back human animals. That’s the result of the occupation.
— Oshrat Kotler

This is a big story in Israel. On Saturday, Channel 13 anchorwoman Oshrat Kotler commented on a case of sadistic Israeli soldier beatings of a Palestinian father and son in occupied territory, saying:

They send children to the army, to the territories, and get them back human animals. That’s the result of the occupation.

The response was immediate. Thousands of expressions of rage streamed in from audiences, and many leaders on the right were condemnatory. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted:

Proud of IDF soldiers and love them very much. Oshrat Kotler’s words should be roundly condemned.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett Bennett wrote:

Oshrat, you’re confused. IDF soldiers give their lives so you can sleep peacefully. Human animals are the terrorists who murder children in their beds, a young girl on a walk or a whole family driving on the road. IDF soldiers are our strength. Our children. Apologize.

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Israel evicts Palestinians from Jerusalem home

Israeli security forces evict the Abu Assab family from their home in Old City quarter of occupied East Jerusalem [Anadolu Agency]
Israeli security forces evict the Abu Assab family from their home in Old City quarter of occupied East Jerusalem (photo: Anadolu Agency)
Israeli authorities served the Abu Assab family eviction notice ordering them to vacate property by end of February.

By Aljazeera News | Feb 17, 2019

We live there, it’s my house, it’s my whole life. They took everything.
— Rania Abu Assab

Israeli police on Sunday evicted a Palestinian family from their home in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City after the Israeli supreme court ruled Jewish settlers were the rightful owners.

An AFP photographer said residents of the neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem scuffled with police, who stood guard as about a dozen Israeli settlers took possession of the large building.

Rania Abu Assab, who lived in the house with her husband, their children and his aunt, stood weeping outside as the settlers raised the Israeli flag on the roof.

“We live there, it’s my house, it’s my whole life,” she said. “They took everything.”

She said the family was compelled to leave behind all their furniture and belongings. Her husband Hatem and son Mehdi were arrested by Israeli forces after they were physically assaulted, witnesses said.

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This is how AIPAC really works

US Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) join hands as they take the stage to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, on Mar 1, 2015. (photo: Jonathan Ernst / Reuterss)
An AIPAC and Capitol Hill veteran explains the lobby’s tactics of reward and retribution.

By M. J. Rosenberg | The Nation | Feb 14, 2019

AIPAC denies fundraising precisely the way Captain Renault in the film Casablanca declared he was ‘shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on’ in his establishment. As he is saying it, one of the club’s crooks hands him a wad of cash, saying, ‘Your winnings, sir.’

One thing that should be said about Representative Ilhan Omar’s tweet about the power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (more commonly known as AIPAC, or the “Israel lobby”) is that the hysterical reaction to it proved her main point: The power of AIPAC over members of Congress is literally awesome, although not in a good way. Has anyone ever seen so many members of Congress, of both parties, running to the microphones and sending out press releases to denounce one first-termer for criticizing the power of . . . a lobby?

Somehow, I don’t think the reaction would have been the same if she had tweeted that Congress still supports the ethanol subsidy because the American Farm Bureau and other components of the corn/ethanol lobby spend millions to keep this agribusiness bonanza going (which they do). Or that if she had opposed the ethanol subsidy, she would have been accused of hating farmers.

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Ilhan Omar is right about the influence of the Israel lobby

Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar. (photo: Shawn Thew / EPA)
Following the Ilhan Omar controversy, it’s incredibly important to be able to decipher between real antisemitism and basic political facts.

By Alex Kotch | The Guardian | Feb 13, 2019

Labeling anyone who speaks of Jews and money in the same sentence an antisemite weakens our fight against the real antisemitic, neo-Nazi, and other white nationalist forces that have seen a resurgence in recent years. It also stifles legitimate discussions about the enormous power of special interests, something that threatens our democratic political system.

It’s important to remember how the controversy around Ilhan Omar, who Trump said should resign over tweets critical of a pro-Israel lobbying group, began. The first two Muslim congresswomen in the history of the United States — Ilhan Omar, a freshman representative from Minnesota and Somali refugee, and her fellow freshman representative Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian American — have bravely criticized the Israeli government for its grotesque treatment of the Palestinian people.

Acknowledging this apartheid system is a dangerous thing for American elected officials to do. Just in 2016, when presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dared to say that “We are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity” it became a major media event.

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Film: Sky and Ground (Mar 1)

Please join our brothers and sisters at the Mideast Focus Ministry for their First Friday Film series.
Date: Friday, Mar 1, 2019
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Location: St. Mark’s Cathedral
Bloedel Hall
1245 10th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98102
Information: Event information here →
Tickets: Free Admission
Event Details

A compelling, ground-level immersion into the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time, Sky & Ground accompanies the Nabi clan, a large, extended Syrian-Kurdish family, as they painstakingly make their way from their home in Aleppo, bombed out by the war, to the Idomeni refugee camp on the border of Greece and Macedonia. Their goal is Berlin, where they will reunite with family members and seek asylum but first they must make the arduous and dangerous journey through Serbia, Hungary and Austria.

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For Palestinians, Israeli High Court is a legal fig leaf for home demolitions

A Palestinian holds a child as he watches Israeli hydraulic shovels demolishing a Palestinian building, north of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on 14 February 2018 (AFP)
A Palestinian holds a child as he watches Israeli hydraulic shovels demolishing a Palestinian building, north of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on 14 February 2018.  (Photo: Hazem Bader / AFP / Getty Images)
A new B’Tselem report highlights how the High Court, often seen as the last judicial recourse against demolitions, ends up being complicit in perpetuating such policies

By Tessa Fox| Middle East Eye| Feb 6, 2019

“It’s not an honest game,” Abu Imad told Middle East Eye.

Lying back on a mattress on the ground, Abu Imad soaks up the midday sun.

As he smokes a cigarette in front of the welcome tent of his village, Abu Nuwar, he can see the rocky hills roll down and then up again to the Israeli settlement of Kedar.

In spite of his demeanour, it is hard to imagine how the head of Abu Nuwar could be relaxed while the village is under constant threat of demolition by Israeli authorities.

Since 2005, the village has filled over 250 petitions to the Israeli High Court against planned home demolitions and confiscation of property and land to make way for illegal settlements.

While it is the highest Israeli legal institution that could rule on the fate of the village, Abu Imad believes the court is part and parcel of the Israeli occupation.

“It’s not an honest game,” Abu Imad told Middle East Eye.

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What you should know about AFSC’s support for the BDS movement

Under the occupation, Palestinians are denied their human and civil rights. Their freedom of movement is severely limited by permanent checkpoints, roadblocks, gates, closed roads, barriers, and the separation wall.  (photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze / AFSC)
Quakers pioneered boycotts in the 1800’s and see support for BDS as part of their ongoing work for justice.

American Friends Service Committee  | AFSC Newsletter | Jan 7, 2019

We believe that all people, including Palestinians, have a right to live in safety and peace and have their human rights respected.

Throughout our history, AFSC has stayed true to our belief that there is “that of God” in every human being. Because of that, we have stood with communities facing oppression and violence around the world, opposing such evils as segregation, collective punishment and incarceration, colonization, economic exploitation, and genocide.

We now continue our legacy of speaking truth to power in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory, and around the world. We see our economic activism as a nonviolent witness against injustice.

That’s why AFSC supports the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. Here’s what you to know:

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Palestinian cookbooks’ challenge: Shedding light on a cuisine without a country

Quick Pickled Avocado. (photos: Tom McCorkle / food styling: Lisa Cherkasky / The Washington Post)
Talking about Middle Eastern food is like talking about ‘European food. It doesn’t do justice to the differences between the cooking and traditions.

By Jane Black | The Washington Post | Feb 4, 2019

‘[Food] is a way to share our narrative with the world. It helps people to get to know Palestinians as humans, as mothers, as cooks. Not just as people in a war. When you know someone, you’re less likely to be afraid of them.’
— Reem Kassis, author of The Palestinian Table

It was a food-world fairy tale come true. In 2013, Yasmin Khan decided to write a cookbook. She was 32 and burned out from her work as a London-based human-rights campaigner focused on the Middle East. She made a pitch on Kickstarter, promising a Persian travelogue and recipe book that would explore her heritage — Khan is half Iranian — and highlight “a side of Iran that never makes the headlines.”

Unknown and untested, Khan nevertheless quickly raised the money she sought, and then some. Three years later, she published “The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen,” which won rave reviews and plaudits from such boldface culinary names as Nigella Lawson.

No wonder, then, that Khan decided to follow her winning formula for her second book, out this week. In “Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen” (W.W. Norton & Co.), she visits, cooks and eats with Palestinian Arabs to open a window to another place in the Middle East that is widely misunderstood.

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