If Ilhan Omar wants to help Palestinians, she should advocate for them

Rep. Ilhan Omar. (photo: Getty Images)
What does a Twitter exchange actually do for the Palestinians trapped under an oppressive occupation, or Israelis who bear the brunt of terror attacks?

By Zaid Jilani | Forward | Mar 28, 2019

AIPAC and right-wing pro-Israel activists would prefer to have a national conversation about whether what a Member of Congress said is anti-Semitic rather than Israeli policy towards Palestinian children. Omar has played into their hands by making statements that offer up that conversation rather than focusing on the plight of the Palestinians.

There is no doubt that Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is earning her plenty of attention. Her comments on Israel — such as claiming that U.S.-Israel policy is “all about the Benjamins” — have earned her support from some hard-left activists but also derision from many within her own party.

Witness how both the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer used their remarks at the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meeting to condemn her rhetoric on the Middle East conflict. Omar was also targeted by Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who quipped, “From this Benjamin: It’s not about the Benjamins.”

Omar’s response to the denunciations of her rhetoric at the AIPAC meeting was emblematic of her approach to politics so far: she responded in kind, throwing punches and drawing attention to herself rather than the underlying policy issue. “It’s been interesting to see such a powerful conference of people be so fearful of a freshman member of Congress so I hope that they figure out a way to not allow me to have a permanent residency in their heads,” she told reporters.

Continue reading “If Ilhan Omar wants to help Palestinians, she should advocate for them”

I’m part of the next generation of Jewish leaders, and for us, AIPAC has no cred

The author. (photo: Lara Haft)
To the rising Jewish leaders of the Trump era, supporting AIPAC is a stone’s throw away from touting the NRA.

By Lara Haft | Mondoweiss | Mar 27, 2019

Many future cantors, rabbis, and Jewish educators actively support Palestinian civil resistance, from planting olive trees in lands threatened by settlers to spending the night alongside Palestinian and Israeli activists to prevent the demolition of Khan al Ahmar. We’re part of a growing trend of faith leaders from around the world, led by Palestinian theologians like Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek and Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, who believe that tearing down walls and prisons — fighting for true equality between Palestinians and Israelis — is one of the ways we honor God’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

This week, lobbyists, politicians, academics, and all the glitterati of the Israel lobby are gathering for the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, DC. Under the Trump administration, AIPAC has maintained a strong relationship with Republican members of congress, far right-wing Israeli politicians, and Christian Zionist groups. But the organization is facing a serious challenge: It increasingly has no cred with young Jews.

As AIPAC continues to embrace far-right politicians and lobby for militarism against Palestinians, more and more Jewish people are turning instead to political movements based on equality, dignity, and justice. . . .

Continue reading “I’m part of the next generation of Jewish leaders, and for us, AIPAC has no cred”

Book Review of “Wounds into Wisdom: Healing Intergenerational Jewish Trauma”

Wounds into Wisdom: Healing Intergenerational Jewish Trauma
by Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, PhD
Monkfish Publishing Company, April 2019
A look into the consequences of extreme trauma and ways it is possible to become free of this trauma legacy.

By Martha Sonnenberg |  Tikkun  |  Mar 22, 2019

Trauma changes us in permanent ways. But we have a choice about the outcome of our story.
— Rabbi Tirzah Firestone

When I finished reading this illuminating new book, Wounds into Wisdom, by rabbi and psychotherapist Tirzah Firestone, I was struck by what incredibly complex and wondrous beings we humans are. Rabbi Firestone’s book is a beautiful tribute to that wonder and complexity, just as it is a comprehensive look at what is now known as traumatology — a field of social research that has evolved because of the ubiquity of trauma, tragedy, and catastrophe characterizing human experience over the past century. But Tirzah Firestone’s book is unique in the way she looks at the meaning of traumatic experience. Through the lens of her own compassion and empathy she sees real people, not as passive products of their traumatic circumstances, but as active agents of their own healing from trauma. This is not a mere self-help book, although it will be extremely helpful to those who have suffered traumatic events, but more importantly it leads all of us to consider the ways in which we and others are affected by trauma, and what this may mean for healing the world, for tikkun olam.

Firestone makes her case through the use of stories, interviews with people, and honest and open revelations of the trauma in her own family. Her mother was a Holocaust survivor, and her father became fanatically Orthodox after witnessing the horror of the concentration camps as an American soldier at the end of World War II. Her parent’s traumatic experience was transmitted to, and psychologically internalized by, their children. This legacy of trauma also led to the subsequent deaths of her two older siblings, Danny, from suicide, and Shulamith, author of the feminist book, The Dialectic of Sex (1970), from the ravages of mental illness. It was Shulamith’s death that brought to her younger sister, Tirzah, the “terrible gift” which became the impetus to further investigate the inner workings of the legacy of trauma in herself and others. This book is then both a labor of love as well as an intellectual tour de force.

Continue reading “Book Review of “Wounds into Wisdom: Healing Intergenerational Jewish Trauma””

Film: This is Home — A Refugee Story (Friday)

Please join our brothers and sisters at the Mideast Focus Ministry for their First Friday Film series.
Date: Friday, Apr 5, 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

This is Home is an intimate portrait of four Syrian refugee families arriving in America and struggling to find their footing. Displaced from their homes and separated from loved ones, they are given eight months of assistance from the International Rescue Committee to become self-sufficient. As they learn to adapt to challenges, including the newly imposed travel ban, their strength and resilience are tested. It is a universal story, highlighted by humor and heartbreak, about what it’s like to start over, no matter the obstacles.

After surviving the traumas of war, the families arrive in Baltimore, Maryland and are met with a new set of trials. They attend cultural orientation classes and job training sessions where they must “learn America” — everything from how to take public transportation to negotiating new gender roles — all in an ever-changing and increasingly hostile political environment. Their goals are completely relatable: find a job, pay the bills, and make a better life for the next generation. Continue reading “Film: This is Home — A Refugee Story (Friday)”

Netanyahu isn’t the problem — the Israeli people are

 (photo: Gali Tibbon / Reuters)
The apartheid did not start with him and will not end with his departure.

By Gideon Levy | Haaretz | Mar 13, 2019

Simply put, the people are the problem. . . . There are those who have hated Arabs long before Netanyahu. There are those who despise blacks, detest foreigners, exploit the weak and look down their noses at the whole world — and not because of Netanyahu. . . . There are those who think that after the Holocaust, they are permitted to do anything. There are those who believe that . . . international law doesn’t apply to [Israel], and that no one can tell it what to do.

It’s not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or at least not just him. One cannot blame one person, influential and powerful as he may be, for every evil, as his opponents and enemies do. The racism, extreme nationalism, divisiveness, incitement, hatred, anxiety and corruption is all because of Netanyahu, they say.

But it’s not so. His sins are innumerable and the damage he’s done immeasurable, and it would be great to have him out of our lives, but blaming everything on him is deceiving and a shirking of responsibility.

Continue reading “Netanyahu isn’t the problem — the Israeli people are”

Why black voices matter on Palestine

An Israeli flag is flanked by US flags as an attendee listens to US President Mike Pence speak at AIPAC in Washington, Mar 25, 2019. (photo: Reuters)
Prominent black voices expressing solidarity with Palestinians has riled the pro-Israeli lobby.

By Hatem Bazian | Middle East Eye | Mar 26, 2019

Solidarity demands that we no longer allow politicians or political parties to remain silent on the question of Palestine.
— Marc Lamont Hill, CNN commentator fired for comments supporting boycott of Israel

In 1979, Andrew Young, the first African American ever appointed as a US ambassador to the UN, was forced to resign because of pressure mounted by pro-Israel groups on then President Carter following Young’s meeting with a representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

The Andrew Young episode demonstrated the increasing power of America’s pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, and the centring of US-Israel relations at the expense of all other considerations including the career of an African American civil rights icon.

The recent entanglement of Ilhan Omar with AIPAC and pro-Israel organisations is not new, but the outcome points to a rapidly changing socio-political and socio-religious landscape. In 1979, Young did not advocate or speak of Palestinian rights; instead, a mere meeting with the PLO was the sufficient cause for losing his post as UN ambassador.

Indeed, AIPAC’s targeting of Omar and attempts to silence her voice on Palestine adds to a long list of African American leaders who faced a similar backlash from pro-Israel groups for daring to speak out for Palestinians’ human rights and who have expressed readiness to challenge the power of the Israel lobby.

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Omar hits back at Pelosi over BDS remarks

Rep. Ilhan Omar. (photo: AP)
Omar has faced a firestorm in recent weeks for making comments critical of Israel.

By Christina Marcos | The Hill | Mar 26, 2019

‘A condemnation for people that want to exercise their First Amendment rights is beneath any leader, and I hope that we find a better use of language when we are trying to speak as members of Congress that are sworn to protect the Constitution.’
— Rep Ilhan Omar

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Tuesday pushed back against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for denouncing the global boycott and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel during an appearance before the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.

During a speech before the conference Tuesday morning, Pelosi said, “We must also be vigilant against bigoted or dangerous ideologies masquerading as policy, and that includes BDS,” referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Omar, as well as fellow freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), both support the BDS movement, which seeks to pressure Israel over its policy toward Palestinians. The rookie lawmakers are the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress. . . .

Continue reading “Omar hits back at Pelosi over BDS remarks”

Right-wing donor Adam Milstein has spent millions of dollars to stifle the BDS movement and attack critics of Israeli policy

MARRIOTT MARQUIS TIMES SQUARE, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2016/05/22: Adam Milstein Chairman of Israeli-American Council attends Jerusalem Post COnference 2016 at Marriott Marquis Times Square. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Adam Milstein attends Jerusalem Post Conference on May 22, 2016, in New York.  (photo: Lev Radin / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)
Pro-Israel philanthropist using his millions to get ugly with BDS supporters.

By Alex Kane | The Intercept  |  Mar 25, 2019

We should teach them that anyone that attacks us, there is a price, there is accountability.

Adam Milstein, a real estate millionaire and prolific donor to right-wing, pro-Israel causes, had a busy few days on Twitter this month. In one tweet, he accused Rep. Ilhan Omar of being a “terrorist.” In another, he questioned Omar’s and Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s loyalty to the United States. He also accused Tlaib and Omar, the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress, of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood, indulging a tired trope popular among anti-Muslim bigots.

The backlash was swift, particularly in light of Milstein’s backing of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, whose annual conference kicked off on Sunday. In response to those Twitter posts, an AIPAC spokesperson told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Milstein “is not a representative of AIPAC and his views are not ours.” Meanwhile, Milstein pulled out of a panel he was scheduled to moderate at the conference, saying he did not want to be a distraction.

Milstein sits on AIPAC’s national council, and through his family foundation, has donated generously to the American Israel Education Foundation, AIPAC’s nonprofit arm. His support for AIPAC is just one part of his portfolio of pro-Israel philanthropy, which has in recent years bankrolled efforts to shut down American support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, or BDS.

Continue reading “Right-wing donor Adam Milstein has spent millions of dollars to stifle the BDS movement and attack critics of Israeli policy”

Netanyahu’s AIPAC speech is a knife in the heart of the US-Israel alliance

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference at the Washington Convention Center, Mar 6, 2018. (photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images / AFP)
Cheering the dishonest and partisan jabs of Netanyahu and the Republicans destroys the American political consensus that has preserved the Jewish state for 70 years.

By Dana Milbank | The Washington Post | Mar 26, 2019

On Monday, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) literally read from Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ on the House floor and borrowed Hitler’s ‘big lie’ allegation against Jews to use on Democrats. ‘Unconscionable,’ said the Anti-Defamation League. But Republicans, and Netanyahu, said nothing.

The gods were toying with Benjamin Netanyahu and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The Israeli prime minister canceled his Tuesday appearance at the pro-Israel lobbying group’s Washington conference because of violence in Israel, but he attempted a live video address.

“Mr. Prime Minister, can you hear us?”

“I can hear you. I always hear you,” Netanyahu replied.

Then, 11 seconds after the prime minister began, the satellite feed broke up and never completely recovered.

“I returned to deal with the [inaudible],” Netanyahu said.

But whoever or whatever disrupted the feed performed a mitzvah. . . .

Continue reading “Netanyahu’s AIPAC speech is a knife in the heart of the US-Israel alliance”

After Trump’s Golan Heights announcement, Israeli politicians now pushing for US recognition of the West Bank as “Israeli”

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham visit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Mar 11, 2019. (photo: Ronen Zvulun / AP)
In 2016, longtime Trump advisor and current US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, said Trump would recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the entire West Bank if Israel “deemed it necessary.”

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | Mar 25, 2019

‘After years of creeping Israeli de facto annexation of the large swathes of the West Bank through settlement expansion, the creation of closed military zones and other measures, Israel appears to be getting closer to enacting legislation that will formally annex parts of the West Bank.’
— Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

After US President Donald Trump announced that he planned to unilaterally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights — which is internationally recognized as Syrian territory — some powerful Israeli politicians are now petitioning Trump to also recognize Israeli sovereignty over Palestine’s occupied West Bank.

Though Trump casually announced that it was “time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty [sic] over the Golan Heights” last Thursday, he made the US’s recognition of Israel’s claim to the territory official on Monday, at a signing ceremony that was attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump’s willingness to use his executive power to grant Israeli land grabs “official recognition” — such as in Jerusalem and now the Golan — has emboldened far-right Israeli politicians who have long been eager to annex other territories.

Continue reading “After Trump’s Golan Heights announcement, Israeli politicians now pushing for US recognition of the West Bank as “Israeli””