Anti-Semitism versus legitimate criticism of the state of Israel

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, joined at right by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., listens to President Trump’s State of the Union speech at the Capitol in Washington Feb 5, 2019 (photo: AP / J. Scott Applewhite)

Calling for fair treatment of Palestinians does not constitute anti-Semitism.

By  Mae Elise Cannon | Religion News Service | Mar 7, 2019

While we seek and advocate for justice for Palestinians, we must also acknowledge the rootedness of anti-Semitism in Christian history, and its remnants in some of today’s Christian rhetoric.

The question of what constitutes legitimate critique of Israel as opposed to anti-Semitism is front and center in the conversation about Israel in the U.S. following the outcry regarding Rep. Ilhan Omar’s tweets about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the impending anti-Semitism resolution in the House.

In light of debates on Capitol Hill about what defines anti-Semitism and recent increased incidents of hatred toward Jews, it is particularly paramount to weed out and eradicate anti-Semitism, while also distinguishing it from legitimate criticism of Israel.

How does one criticize Israel’s policies without being anti-Semitic?

We need to listen to what the Jewish community says about anti-Semitism. While there are differences of opinion and multiple perspectives, particularly across conservative and liberal divides, commonalities also exist.

Continue reading “Anti-Semitism versus legitimate criticism of the state of Israel”

Event: Palestinian Rights Advocacy Day (Friday)

Please join our brothers and sisters at the Rachel Corrie Foundation for a day of advocacy for Palestinian Rights.
Date: Friday, Mar 15, 2019
Time: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Location: United Churches of Olympia Social Hall
110 11th Ave SE
Olympia, WA  98501
Information & Registration: Event information here →
Tickets: $10 suggested donation
Event Details

Our goals during this fun, action-packed day are:

  • to strengthen statewide organizing for advocacy on Palestine
  • to continue to inform and educate state legislators about issues related to Palestinian rights.
Schedule
  • Gathering and Socializing: 9:00–10:00 am
  • Welcome and Introductions 10:00–10:05 am
  • Presentations & Training: 10:05 am
  • Lunch with Legislative District Groups: 11:30 am
  • Walk and Transport to State Capitol: 12:15–12:30 pm
  • Group Photo in Front of Capitol: 12:30–12:45 pm
  • Visits and Deliveries of Materials to Legislative Offices 1:00–3:00 pm
  • Return to United Churches Location: 3:00–3:15 pm
  • Debriefs: 3:15–4:00 pm
  • Closing and Collecting Ideas, Contacts, Evaluations, and Plans for Follow-up and Ongoing Work: 4:00 pm
  • Homeward or on to dinner in Olympia! 4:30 pm

More information here →

In defense of Ilhan Omar — again

Rep. Ilhan Omar in Minneapolis, MN, Oct 26, 2018. (photo: Brian Snyder / Reuters)
Did the House pass such a full-throated Resolution about anti-Semitism after Charlottesville, or after the recent Pittsburgh synagogue massacre?

By Jeffrey Isaac | Public Seminar | Mar 5, 2019

I encourage everyone to watch the nine-minute video in its entirety. Far from a fire-breathing or hateful speech, Omar can be seen very carefully trying to parse her words in order to express her frustration, to defend herself, and to clarify her position on the rights of Palestinians.

Ilhan Omar is again at the center of controversy, this time for remarks she made last week at a panel discussion at Busboys and Poets, a Washington, DC, bookstore and restaurant. Omar’s “offending” comment was a reference to “the political influence in this country that says that it’s okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

She was immediately accused of feeding centuries-old anti-Semitic tropes about the nefarious influence of a Jewish cabal. A chorus of denunciations have ensued, a number of prominent House Democrats, most of them Jewish, have taken particular offense, and apparently the House Democratic leadership has decided to pass a four-page Resolution denouncing anti-Semitism and especially references to “dual loyalty,” implicitly rebuking Omar (the Washington Post headline declares that “Rep. Omar’s comments force Democrats to act on anti-Semitism measure.” Indeed, House leadership was forced to do nothing; they are choosing to do this).

Meanwhile, Republicans call for more drastic action against her, shedding crocodile tears about bigotry, seeking to inoculate their party by absurdly comparing Omar to the viciously racist Steve King, and gleefully sowing division among Democrats.

Continue reading “In defense of Ilhan Omar — again”

Growing criticism of Israeli policies

A student holds up their fist in support of a pro-BDS speaker during a University of Michigan Student Government meeting in Ann Arbor, MI, Nov 14, 2017. (photo: Hunter Dyke / The Ann Arbor News / AP)
On college campuses, in state legislatures and in many other venues nationwide, the polarized debate about Israel is a familiar conflict and likely to intensify.

By David Crary | Associated Press via The Seattle Times | Mar 9, 2019

‘These laws are meant to silence and repress. But they can’t change people’s hearts and minds.’
— Rabbi Alissa Wise, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace

For Congress, the allegations of anti-Semitism directed toward Rep. Ilhan Omar have no precedent. Yet on college campuses, in state legislatures and in many other venues nationwide, the polarized debate about Israel is a familiar conflict and likely to intensify in the months and years ahead.

Fueled by a wave of youthful activists, including many Jews aligning with Muslims, criticism of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians has grown in volume and scope, with persistent calls for boycotts and disinvestment. Pro-Israel organizations and politicians have countered with tough responses, and efforts to reconcile the differences have gained little traction.

Continue reading “Growing criticism of Israeli policies”

Did AIPAC funding influence Democrats’ responses to Ilhan Omar?

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The responses to Ilhan Omar about the influence of money from the pro-Israel lobby may back up her point. (photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Some accused the freshman congresswoman of antisemitism while others denounced “ugly attacks” on her.

By Tom Perkins | The Guardian | Mar 9, 2019

‘Money works both ways — donors give to those candidates they view as champions of their issues, but at the same time politicians know where their funding comes from and will likely take into account wishes of their donors when faced with a tough decision.’
— Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance expert at the Campaign Legal Center

When the Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar claimed pro-Israel lobby money influenced American politics, in the way other powerful lobbying groups do, she ignited allegations of antisemitism and sparked a furious debate in her own party. But a look at House Democrats and 2020 presidential candidates’ responses to the resulting row seems to validate her claim.

House Democratic leaders who drafted a resolution initially aimed at condemning Omar’s remarks received millions from the pro-Israel lobby throughout their congressional careers. Congressman Eliot Engel, who accused Omar of using “a vile antisemitic slur,” has taken about $1.07m throughout his career, or about $107,000 per election.

Meanwhile, some of her staunchest defenders took little or no money from the lobby. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib received no pro-Israel lobby donations during her 2018 campaign, and tweeted that she was “honored” to serve with Omar, who was enduring “ugly attacks.”

Continue reading “Did AIPAC funding influence Democrats’ responses to Ilhan Omar?”

Film: This is Home — A Refugee Story (Apr 5)

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 (Apr 5)”

Progressive Jews worry that criticism of Rep. Ilhan Omar will stifle debate about Israel

Many see value in the conversation Ilhan Omar spurs and defend her right to freely raise these questions without enduring attacks herself.

By Eugene Scott | The Washington Post | Mar 7, 2019

‘We are concerned that the timing of this resolution will be seen as singling out and focusing special condemnation on a Muslim woman of color — as if her views and insensitive comments pose a greater threat than the torrent of hatred that the white nationalist right continues to level against Jews, Muslims, people of color and other vulnerable minority groups in our country.
‘It is also our view that the far greater threat to the Jewish community — to its security and its values — comes from the surge of ethno-nationalism and racism that forces on the right, including President Trump, have unleashed here and across the globe.’
— J Street statement

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D.-Minn.) has drawn attention — and criticism — for her statements about Israel. Many people, including top lawmakers, have condemned Omar’s comments as anti-Semitic and called on her to apologize.

But she has also received messages of support from members of the Jewish community, who are critical of Israel’s policies and worry that the blowback against Omar will stifle debate.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, which advocates for Israel to pull out of the West Bank, wrote that critiques of Israel like Omar’s are essential:

“It has never been more important to be able to distinguish between the critique — even the harshest critique — of a state’s policies (Israel), and discrimination against a people (Jews),” she said. “Israel does not represent all Jews. Not all Jews support Israel. Speaking out for Palestinian human rights and their yearning for freedom is in no way related to anti-Semitism, though the Israeli government does its best to obscure that.”

Continue reading “Progressive Jews worry that criticism of Rep. Ilhan Omar will stifle debate about Israel”

Debunking the myth that anti-Zionism is antisemitic

Protesters in New York City call for a boycott of Israel in 2016. (photo: Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)
All over the world, it is an alarming time to be Jewish – but conflating anti-Zionism with Jew-hatred is a tragic mistake.

By Peter Beinart | The Guardian | Mar 7, 2019

I don’t consider Israel an apartheid state. But its ethnic nationalism excludes many of the people under its control.

It is a bewildering and alarming time to be a Jew, both because antisemitism is rising and because so many politicians are responding to it not by protecting Jews but by victimizing Palestinians.

On 16 February, members of France’s yellow vest protest movement hurled antisemitic insults at the distinguished French Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut. On 19 February, swastikas were found on 80 gravestones in Alsace. Two days later, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, after announcing that Europe was “facing a resurgence of antisemitism unseen since World War II”, unveiled new measures to fight it.

Among them was a new official definition of antisemitism. That definition, produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2016, includes among its “contemporary examples” of antisemitism “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination”. In other words, anti-Zionism is Jew hatred. In so doing, Macron joined Germany, Britain, the United States and roughly 30 other governments. And like them, he made a tragic mistake.

Continue reading “Debunking the myth that anti-Zionism is antisemitic”

Event: Palestinian Rights Advocacy Day (Mar 15)

Please join our brothers and sisters at the Rachel Corrie Foundation for a day of advocacy for Palestinian Rights.
Date: Friday, Mar 15, 2019
Time: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Location: United Churches of Olympia Social Hall
110 11th Ave SE
Olympia, WA  98501
Information & Registration: Event information here →
Tickets: $10 suggested donation
Event Details

Our goals during this fun, action-packed day are:

  • to strengthen statewide organizing for advocacy on Palestine
  • to continue to inform and educate state legislators about issues related to Palestinian rights.
Schedule
  • Gathering and Socializing: 9:00–10:00 am
  • Welcome and Introductions 10:00–10:05 am
  • Presentations & Training: 10:05 am
  • Lunch with Legislative District Groups: 11:30 am
  • Walk and Transport to State Capitol: 12:15–12:30 pm
  • Group Photo in Front of Capitol: 12:30–12:45 pm
  • Visits and Deliveries of Materials to Legislative Offices 1:00–3:00 pm
  • Return to United Churches Location: 3:00–3:15 pm
  • Debriefs: 3:15–4:00 pm
  • Closing and Collecting Ideas, Contacts, Evaluations, and Plans for Follow-up and Ongoing Work: 4:00 pm
  • Homeward or on to dinner in Olympia! 4:30 pm

More information here →

Attacks by Israeli settlers surge as West Bank tensions boil

Awad Naasam looks through the broken window of his tractor, which he said Jewish settlers tried to steal, in al-Mughayyir, West Bank. (photo: Kobi Wolf / The Washington Post)
A more sympathetic US policy toward settlements may have emboldened the extremist youths who carry out reprisal attacks.

By Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash | The Washington Post | Mar 6, 2019

‘Among that settler ideology, there are people that look and say there is no reason why anyone should stop us. . . . There is a right-wing government in Israel and a friend in the White House.’
— Lior Amihai, executive director of Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group

Palestinians in this town woke one morning last month to find their mosque vandalized, with a Star of David painted on the exterior alongside Hebrew graffiti accusing it of preaching “incitement.”

“We are at an alarming point,” said Barakat Mahmoud, the mosque’s imam. “We’ve never had direct confrontation with the settlers in this town.”

The incident was one in a recent spate of attacks blamed on Israeli settlers that officials on both sides of the conflict say are spiking. Israel’s security agency, Shin Bet, documented 295 of what it calls “Jewish terror” incidents last year, a 40 percent increase.

Although no Israeli government figures were available for January, the United Nations had recorded at least 30 incidents this year in which Israeli settlers were accused of causing casualties or damaging property, with a total of 14 Palestinians injured and one killed.

Continue reading “Attacks by Israeli settlers surge as West Bank tensions boil”