You Can’t Save Democracy in a Jewish State

Protesters in Tel Aviv hold placards that say “Israeli students fighting for democracy” and “Without democracy there is no academy.” (Credit…Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

By Peter Beinart | The New York Times |  Feb 19, 2023

The principle that Mr. Netanyahu’s liberal Zionist critics say he threatens — a Jewish and democratic state — is in reality a contradiction.

The warnings come every day: Israeli democracy is in danger.

Since Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government announced plans to undermine the independence of Israel’s Supreme Court, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have demonstrated in the streets. All of Israel’s living former attorneys general, in a joint statement, have warned that Mr. Netanyahu’s proposal imperils efforts to “preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” Liberal American Jewish leaders are cheering on the protests. Earlier this month, Alan Solow, the former head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he and other American Jewish notables “share the concerns of tens of thousands of Israelis determined to protect their democracy.” In a public declaration, Mr. Solow and 168 other influential American Jews warned that “the new government’s direction mirrors anti-democratic trends that we see arising elsewhere.”

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The drones never sleep

Palestinian protesters run from tear gas canisters fired by an Israeli quadcopter drone. (credit: Ashraf Amra / APA images)
Israeli drones have proven their lethality, with over 2,000 Palestinians killed by drone strikes in the past 12 years.

By Ola Mousa  | The Electric Intifada | Feb 7, 2023

“Drones take videos, track and assassinate; they also direct bomber aircrafts”
— Yousef al-Sharqawi, a retired Palestinian Authority major-general

Atallah al-Attar, 35, gets anxious in the evenings.

He lives on his family’s farm in the town of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, close to the boundary with Israel.

Evenings are when Israeli drones most often fly overhead.

On this particular January afternoon, he softly explained why he has an acute fear of drones.

“The incident is very painful,” he said.

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The Trap of Palestinian Participation


An open letter considers the impossible choice facing Palestinians: Participate as a token in conversations premised on their oppression, or be branded rejectionists.

By Tareq Baconi | Jewish Currents | Feb 10, 2023

To be clear, I am not rejecting discussion in itself; rather, I am rejecting the terms of debate

Dear Ambassador David M. Satterfield,

I’ve been reflecting on your recent invitation to participate in the “Israel at 75” conference and accompanying “celebratory dinner” to be held at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in April, which I declined last month. I must confess that I was initially perplexed by the offer. I would have assumed that my public statements and writings on the State of Israel would have precluded me from consideration for an event of this kind. Then I thought that my position might be precisely the reason I was invited—that the offer constituted a genuine effort to engage with my analyses. But once I examined the invitation and proposed agenda more closely, I knew I had to reject it. The same reasons that informed my decision also compelled me to compose this open letter: to voice my concerns publicly and explain not only why I declined, but how this entire performance of perfunctory offers and obligatory refusals serves to further undermine Palestinian voices.

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The US’s empty commitment to a two-state solution

A man walks along a road by Israel’s separation barrier between the occupied West Bank village of Nazlat Issa and the Arab-Israeli town of Baqa al-Gharbiya in northern Israel on February 1, 2020. (credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)
An outdated policy stands in the way of efforts to defuse violence in Israel and Palestine.

By Jonathan Guyer | VOX | Feb 6, 2023

The US policy does not take into account how entrenched the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has become.

It’s a particularly dangerous moment for Israel and Palestine.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the Middle East last week on a previously scheduled trip after 48 hours of violence: a terrorist attack in East Jerusalem killed seven Israelis and an Israeli raid on the refugee camp of Jenin killed nine Palestinians, culminating a month in which Palestinians experienced the highest level of killings at the hands of Israeli forces and Israeli settlers in more than a decade. The situation called for US leadership.

Blinken was there to “urge de-escalation,” as the Biden administration described it, at a time when an extreme far-right Israeli government pushes for incendiary changes to the judiciary that contradict Israel’s stated democratic tenets, reorders the way the occupation of Palestinian territory is administered, and pursues a variety of policies that likely violate international law.

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The US is right to show concern for the situation in Palestine-Israel but who’s listening?

Screen Shot 2023-02-09 at 10.40.21 AM
Palestinian stone throwers clash with Israeli border police in A-Ram town, north of Jerusalem, on January 27, as Palestinians all over the West Bank protested to condemn the killing of nine Palestinians in Jenin refugee camp during an Israeli raid on January 26. (Credit: EPA-EFE/ATEF SAFADI)
Many Jewish and other Americans are increasingly unable to ignore the reality of growing schisms

By Hussein Ibish | The National  |  Feb 1, 2023

The deepest tragedy is that the Israeli extreme right seems to be counting on Palestinian rage and desperation to provide them with the opportunity to go as far as they can in their twin goals of annexation and expulsion.

In the occupied Palestinian territories – especially East Jerusalem and the West Bank – 2023 is shaping up to be a volatile year. As a consequence, the normally sacrosanct US-Israeli relationship is headed into unusually choppy waters. The current flare-up of deadly violence will be hard to contain and the real question is, how bad will things get?

Last year was the most violent one in the West Bank since 2005, when the UN began keeping records of Palestinians killed there by Israeli occupation forces. Among the victims was the noted American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who had been infuriating Israeli authorities for decades with her coverage of the occupation.

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How a giant of responsible investing agreed to an Israel exception

The Morningstar website (credit: Louisa Svensson / Alamy Stock Photo)
After a multi-year campaign by Jewish groups, Morningstar—a major firm known for socially responsible investing—is softening its approach to Israeli human rights abuses.

By Mari Cohen | Jewish Currents | Jan 25, 2023

…human rights advocates warn that the policy changes are a blow to efforts to seek corporate accountability.

ON OCTOBER 31ST, the major investment research firm Morningstar, Inc. announced significant changes to the information-gathering practices of its subsidiary Sustainalytics, which gives companies social and environmental responsibility ratings. To arrive at these ratings, Sustainalytics takes account of businesses’ human rights records; accordingly, the firm has historically penalized companies that facilitate Israeli settlement construction or military aggression in the occupied Palestinian territories. Now, however, Sustainalytics was adjusting its approach to Israel/Palestine. It would cease to apply the term “occupied territories” to the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, and would stop using data from prominent sources like the United Nations Human Rights Council. Morningstar promised to provide “documented guidance” to its employees stating that a company’s operations in occupied Palestinian territory should not automatically raise red flags—despite the international legal consensus, reflected in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, that companies working in conflict areas like the territories merit additional scrutiny.

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“An Intolerable Situation”: Rashid Khalidi & Orly Noy on Israeli Colonialism & Escalating Violence

By Democracy Now | Jan 30, 2023

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken is in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories amid an alarming rise in violence, with Israel killing at least 35 Palestinians since the beginning of January. The deadliest incident occurred on Thursday, when Israeli forces raided the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, killing 10 people, including two children — the deadliest Israeli raid in the West Bank in two decades. A day later, a Palestinian gunman shot dead seven people in occupied East Jerusalem, targeting worshipers observing the Sabbath. Israelis living in illegal settlements in the West Bank responded by carrying out scores of attacks on Palestinians as the far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, vowed to make it easier for Israelis to get guns. We speak with Israeli activist and journalist Orly Noy, in Jerusalem, and Palestinian American scholar Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University.

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Biden administration refuses to say Palestinians are ‘occupied’

In a shocking exchange at the State Department, the spokesman for Biden’s foreign policy team refused to describe Palestinians the West Bank as living under military occupation by Israel.

By Philip Weiss | Mondoweiss | Jan 27, 2023

So Secretary of State Antony Blinken is about to fly out to meet with Israeli leaders, and the Biden administration appears to be adopting Trump’s reflexively pro-Israel policies in yet another area.

Yesterday in a shocking exchange at the State Department, the spokesman for Biden’s foreign policy team refused to describe Palestinians in Jenin and other areas of the West Bank as living under military occupation by Israel.

In the wake of an Israeli military raid that killed ten Palestinians in Jenin, Vedant Patel of the State Department was repeatedly asked if they were occupied, and evaded the question:

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King County should not adopt antisemitism definition used to censor speech

Photo: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Live News

By Liora R. Halperin |  The Seattle Times | Jan 23, 2023

King County’s adoption of this working definition would embolden those who continue to use its reasoning to target and intimidate those concerned about Palestinian rights.

This week, the Metropolitan King County Council is considering a proclamation adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. This definition has already been included in a proclamation by the Bellevue City Council and some states and municipalities elsewhere in the country.

I wholeheartedly support efforts to understand and combat antisemitism, which has grown sharply amid a resurgence of xenophobia and white nationalism in our country. But I believe that adopting the IHRA definition is the wrong way to assure Jewish communities that our elected officials have our backs.

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Alice Rothchild presents ‘Finding Melody Sullivan’


Please join physician, author, and filmmaker Alice Rothchild to Seward Park Third Place Books.  She will be discussing her newest young adult novel Finding Melody Sullivan, about a 16-year-old who must face her internal demons and the external realities of war and occupation after the death of her mother.
Date: Thursday, February 16, 2023
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Third Place Books Seward Park, 504 Wilson Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118
Information: Event information here →
Tickets: Free, but registration required in advance
Event Details

16-year-old Melody Sullivan is falling apart after the death of her mother. She pours her cynicism and grief into poetry and an intense relationship with her powerhouse best friend, Yasmina Khdour. When Melody’s father drags her to an overseas archeology conference in Jerusalem, she is left to wander alone.

Hanging out on a Tel Aviv beach, smoking dope with her Israeli cousins and their army buddies, sounds like fun. While stoned, she is sexually assaulted by a friend of her cousin. She cannot share this devastating truth with her emotionally distant dad and impulsively flees to Hebron where Yasmina is visiting her family. As a Palestinian, Yasmina is unable to enter Jerusalem. Melody’s only other source of solace is Aaron Shapiro, a shy, religious boy back home with an awkward crush on her, but Aaron’s anxious texts make it clear he believes she’s wandering into enemy territory.

This is a story about trauma and taking emotional risks, about facing internal demons and the external realities of war and occupation, about finding oneself in the most unexpected places.

More information here →