Time to break the silence on Palestine

Relatives of a Palestinian nurse, Razan al-Najjar, 21, mourning in June after she was shot dead in Gaza by Israeli soldiers. (photo: Hosam Salem / The New York Times)
Martin Luther King Jr. courageously spoke out about the Vietnam War — we must do the same when it comes to this grave injustice of our time.

By Michelle Alexander | The New York Times | Jan 19, 2019

I want to say, as clearly as I know how, that the humanity and the dignity of any person or people cannot in any way diminish the humanity and dignity of another person or another people. To hold fast to the image of God in every person is to insist that the Palestinian child is as precious as the Jewish child.
— Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped up to the lectern at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. The United States had been in active combat in Vietnam for two years and tens of thousands of people had been killed, including some 10,000 American troops. The political establishment — from left to right — backed the war, and more than 400,000 American service members were in Vietnam, their lives on the line.

Many of King’s strongest allies urged him to remain silent about the war or at least to soft-pedal any criticism. They knew that if he told the whole truth about the unjust and disastrous war he would be falsely labeled a Communist, suffer retaliation and severe backlash, alienate supporters and threaten the fragile progress of the civil rights movement.

King rejected all the well-meaning advice and said, “I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice.” Quoting a statement by the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, he said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal” and added, “that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.”

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Amos Oz warned of “eternal annexation” after the Six-Day War

Amos Oz reading from one of his books in 2011. (photo: Tomer Neuberg / Flash90)
Having recently returned from the battlefield, the writer penned a bitter denunciation of Moshe Dayan’s settlement policies: “The shorter the occupation, the better for us.”

By Mitch Ginsberg | The Times of Israel | Dec 31, 2018

I don’t know how Moshe Dayan’s voice did not tremble while employing that phrase — [‘lebensraum,’ used by the Nazis to justify their expansionist policies] — with all the harrowing memories it raises. ‘Living space’ means one thing: disenfranchising the foreigner, the inferior ‘savage’ and making place for the superior and the civilized — the powerful.
— Amos Oz, Aug 22, 1967

The shelf life of a newspaper article is often brief. But when Amos Oz, who died Friday at age 79 and was laid to rest Monday at the cemetery in his one-time home in Kibbutz Hulda, sat down in August 1967 to write an essay, he produced, just two months after the close of the Six Day War, a lasting document, a piece of writing that has endured as well as many of his works of fiction.

One can agree or disagree with his position on territorial expansion, while still marveling at the timing and the manner in which he marshaled his arguments.

The piece was published on August 22, 1967, in Davar — “the newspaper of the workers of the Land of Israel.” The font was tiny, resembling, in shape and size, a cramped rabbinic commentary. Found on a stained reel of microfilm in the National Library . . . the article is entitled “The Defense Minister / and Lebensraum” (merhav mihya in Hebrew; living space in English).

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Birthright will fail if it doesn’t evolve with young Jews


(photo: Gili Getz / Forward)
Instead of seeing Israel as a Jewish Disneyland, young American Jews should see it as a country — like their own — that is both precious and in urgent need of moral repair.

By Peter Beinart | Forward | Jan 3, 2019

[Going to Israel] can be life-transforming. It offers young American Jews a glimpse of the beauty and grandeur of Jewish tradition. It helps them appreciate what they have inherited as they begin thinking about what they want to hand down. Ideally, Birthright would thrive. But it can’t thrive if it makes moral blindness the price of Jewish connection.

On New Year’s Day, a young woman rushed the stage at the “MegaEvent” held in Jerusalem for participants in Birthright, the program that takes young American and other Diaspora Jews to Israel on a free ten-day trip.

She unfurled a banner that declared “Birthright Sponsored by Adelson, Trump, Netanyahu” and directed viewers to CostofBirthright.Com, a website sponsored by the anti-occupation Jewish group, If Not Now. Then she was hustled off stage.

It’s the new normal. Since June, 22 Diaspora Jews have either walked off Birthright trips in protest against their tour guide’s refusal to take them to meet Palestinians or been kicked off for raising uncomfortable questions about Israeli policy. And If Not Now activists and members of Na’amod, a similar group in Britain, have distributed anti-occupation literature to people about to embark on Birthright trips at airports.

All this is both necessary and tragic.

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The battle to stop family separation

Family members welcoming home a six-year-old who had been separated from his mother for nearly three months after they were detained by Border Patrol in the US, Aug 8, 2018. (photo: John Moore / Getty Images)
The administration is looking to create more family detention centers, which can already hold as many as 3,500 people, so that it can detain asylum-seeking families indefinitely.

By Lee Gelernt | The New York Review of Books | Dec 19, 2018

If there are bright spots, one is that the courts have continued to play their historic role of checking the government, sticking up for the powerless and vulnerable. The other is that the American people played an equally vital checking role, making clear during the family separation crisis that there are limits to the cruelty they will allow to be done in their name.

In March 2017, John Kelly, then Secretary of Homeland Security, said in an interview with CNN that the Trump administration was considering a national policy to separate parents from their children to deter immigrants from crossing the border into the United States. The proposal triggered a backlash because it was so unpalatable, and the administration didn’t move forward with it. But six months later, in December 2017, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported that the administration was again considering the idea. At the same time, advocates who provide services to children in government custody told ACLU lawyers they were seeing children much younger than the teenagers they usually saw entering their facilities. As the stories began to multiply, the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project quickly realized that the administration wasn’t considering the separation of children from their parents — it was already doing it.

For at least six months before then Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy of prosecuting every adult who crossed into the United States without permission, which would result in more than 2,000 children being taken from their parents, the Department of Homeland Security had quietly began taking hundreds of children away from their parents to deter would-be asylum seekers from coming to the United States.

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Water crisis may make Gaza Strip uninhabitable by 2020

Israelis, too, could face consequences from contaminated water.

By Fred de Sam Lazaro | PBS News Hour | Jan 1, 2019

In the Gaza Strip, 97 percent of freshwater is unsuitable for human consumption, and raw sewage pours into the Mediterranean Sea. Facilities for desalinating and treating water function on only a limited basis, as Israel controls the flow of fuel and supplies into the region.

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Gaza suffering a “superbug” epidemic

A hospital in Gaza, where the health system has been worn down by years of blockade. (photo: Mohammed Saber / EPA)
Doctors say antibiotics shortages stop them following protocols to fight drug-resistant bacteria, which are likely to spread to Israel and the West Bank.

By Madlen Davies and Emma Graham-Harrison | The Guardian | Dec 31, 2018

‘This is a global health security issue because multi-drug-resistant organisms don’t know any boundaries. That’s why the global community, even if it’s not interested in the politics of Gaza, should be interested in this.’
— Dina Nasser, lead infection control nurse at Augusta Victoria hospital in East Jerusalem

Doctors in Gaza and the West Bank have said they are battling an epidemic of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a growing problem in the world’s conflict zones, which could also spill over the Palestinian borders.

The rise and spread of such virulent infections adds to the devastation of war, increasing medical costs, blocking hospital beds because patients need care for longer, and often leaving people whose injuries might once have been healed with life-changing disabilities.

Gaza is a particularly fertile breeding ground for superbugs because its health system has been worn down by years of blockade, and antibiotics are in short supply, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found.

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Israel’s conscription law assaults its own Ultra-Orthodox community

Ultra-Orthodox Jews take part in a protest against Israeli army conscription in Jerusalem, Mar 28, 2017. (photo: Oded Balilty / AP)
The Haredi community’s stance against military conscription is anchored in faith and principle that no power has been able to defeat.

By Miko Peled | Mint Press News | Dec 28, 2018

As much as the Zionist state and its various agencies want to believe that Israel is the state of the Jewish people, there is one Jewish community that will never accept this — it is the one community that is the most devout, the Haredi community.

“Nazis, Nazis,” that’s what I thought I heard. I was driving down the main road near Jerusalem’s Ultra-orthodox Me’a Sha’arim neighborhood where hundreds of young Haredi Jews were blocking the road. Dumpsters were burning and the traffic came to a halt. I jumped out of the car and ran to see what was happening. I asked a young Yeshiva student what was going on and if they were really shouting “Nazis.” He confirmed to me that they were calling the Israeli riot police Nazis and that this protest was because the police had just arrested several Haredi girls for refusal to serve in the Israeli army.

Nazis? I asked him, really? He then went on to describe the abuse and violence with which the police treat the young men and women in this community, particularly since Israel’s draft law had changed, making them all potential deserters.

It may be impossible to imagine a deeper divide than the one separating the two sides of this issue. Like a tiger that was allowed to remain in quiet slumber for some sixty-five years and has been abruptly awakened, Israel now has another angry, uncompromising community on its hands. And for no other reason than opportunistic politicians who saw in this divide a way to make a name for themselves.

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We should thank Netanyahu for destroying the two-state solution

Netanyahu was the one-state visionary. The struggle for its character lies with those who will follow him.

By Gideon Levy | Haaretz | Dec 26, 2018

In retrospect, we should be grateful to Netanyahu for taking this solution off the agenda, because it was a mirage. The events of 1948, the refugees, the return and equality would not have been resolved by the two-state solution; it would have been an interim arrangement. Netanyahu posed the truth; now the only question is what type of regime will prevail in the one state that has been here for decades and will probably be here between the river and the sea forever.

Benjamin Netanyahu must be excoriated. One can understand those who are dying for him to just go away. It’s clear his time is almost up. But one cannot say he hasn’t done anything.

In his dozen years as prime minister he has changed the face of Israel in ways that he considers wildly successful. Some of the changes he’s made could be rolled back if only some worthy liberal leader was given the chance — a hope that for now seems far-fetched.

But there is one big, fateful change, the fruit of Netanyahu’s calculated policy, that is irreversible. Against the stance of the entire world, the United States, the Palestinian Authority and even against the declared position of most Israelis, Israel’s ninth prime minister has managed to remove the possibility of a viable Palestinian state from the agenda. He has irrevocably destroyed the two-state solution. Whether reelected or not, Netanyahu will be remembered as a revolutionary statesman; the man who shaped the country in his image. . . .

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Remember Christ was a Palestinian refugee

A view shows the dome of the Assyrian church facing a mosque minaret in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Dec 24, 2018. (photo: Mustafa Ganeyeh / Reuters)
Remember Christ was a Palestinian refugee — a Jewish Palestinian refugee — who is the founding figure of Christianity, and a beloved prophet for Muslims. The rest is commentary.

By Hamid Dabashi | Al Jazeera | Dec 25, 2018

And when the angels said, ‘O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary — distinguished in this world and the hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah].’ (The Quran 3:45)

There is something beautifully sacred about the moment in the Quran when the angels inform Mary she is about to give birth to Jesus. Angels bring her the good news. They tell her of how “He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous.”

The sublime innocence of Mary at hearing this news can hardly be better captured in any scripture: “She said, ‘My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?’ [The angel] said, ‘Such is Allah; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is.’” (The Quran 3:47).

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When a medic was killed in Gaza, was it an accident?

A portrait of Ms. Najjar in her family’s home. (photo: Hosam Salem / The New York Times)
The bullet that killed her was fired by an Israeli sniper into a crowd that included white-coated medics in plain view. Neither the medics nor anyone around them posed any apparent threat of violence to Israeli personnel.

By David Halbfinger | The New York Times | Dec 30, 2018

Though Israel later admitted her killing was unintentional, the shooting appears to have been reckless at best, and possibly a war crime, for which no one has yet been punished.

A young medic in a head scarf runs into danger, her only protection a white lab coat. Through a haze of tear gas and black smoke, she tries to reach a man sprawled on the ground along the Gaza border. Israeli soldiers, their weapons leveled, watch warily from the other side.

Minutes later, a rifle shot rips through the din, and the Israeli-Palestinian drama has its newest tragic figure.

For a few days in June, the world took notice of the death of 20-year-old Rouzan al-Najjar, killed while treating the wounded at protests against Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Even as she was buried, she became a symbol of the conflict, with both sides staking out competing and mutually exclusive narratives.

To the Palestinians, she was an innocent martyr killed in cold blood, an example of Israel’s disregard for Palestinian life. To the Israelis, she was part of a violent protest aimed at destroying their country, to which lethal force is a legitimate response as a last resort.


[If the link above does not display a video in your browser, you can view it directly here →. The NY Times created a detailed reconstruction of the events leading up to Rouzan al-Najjar’s killing. — Eds.]

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