We need a better definition of anti-Semitism

People visit the Yad Vashem museum on Jan. 27, 2019, in Jerusalem. (photo: Ilia Yefimovich / Getty Images)
A popular working definition adopted by the U.S. government is overly broad and politicized.

By Joshua Shanes and Dov Waxman | Slate | Mar 26, 2021

Scholars, students, activists, and even artists have been branded anti-Semites (even when they are Jewish) for opposing Zionism, advocating for a Palestinian right of return, or promoting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

During a period when far-right, white nationalist, and anti-Semitic extremists have been parading and brawling on the streets of American cities, storming and looting the U.S. Capitol, and even murdering Jews in their places of worship, debating the definition of anti-Semitism might seem to be a trivial and pedantic academic exercise. Yet it has become a hotly contested, politically controversial issue, not only in the United States, but also in other Western democracies, including Germany and the United Kingdom.

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Challenging Israel’s exceptionalism in American politics

An Israeli soldier keeps guard near a Palestinian woman standing by a Star of David graffiti sprayed by Israeli settlers near an army checkpoint in the centre of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on May 18, 2009 AFP
Hebron has a notoriously heavy military presence to guard the Israeli settler population, which is set to increase (photo: AFP)
A new book explores why many on the left in the US exempt Palestinians from their value set.

By Khaled Elgindy | Responsible Statecraft | Mar 22, 2021

…not only are self-styled progressives silent on Palestinian rights, but many also actively support policies that perpetuate Palestinian suffering and dehumanization.

While support for Israel across the political spectrum remains strong in Washington, the traditional bipartisan consensus in favor of unconditional support for Israel has begun to fray in recent years. More than a half century of Israeli occupation, the rightward drift in Israeli politics, and shifts in the American political landscape, have led growing numbers of Americans, particularly left-leaning Democrats, to become more vocal in their support for Palestinian rights and in their opposition to unconditional support for Israel. This trend has been anything but uniform, however, as the bulk of American liberal and progressive politicians continue to adhere to the traditional pro-Israel orthodoxy.

It is this group that is the focus of the new book, “Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics,” by Marc Lamont Hill and Mitchell Plitnick. “Except for Palestine” is a timely and compelling treatise on the moral failings of U.S. policy and American politics in relation to Israel/Palestine.

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Israel’s election ended in another mess. Could an Arab party break the deadlock?

Mansour Abbas, in a mosque last month in the village of Daburiyya, Israel, could play the role of kingmaker in Israel’s election. (photo: Dan Balilty for The New York Times)
In the fourth attempt, neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his opponents have a clear path to power. An Islamist party has emerged as a possible kingmaker.

By Patrick Kingsley and Adam Rasgon | The New York Times |  Mar 24, 2020

An independent Arab party has never been part of an Israeli government before, although some Arab lawmakers supported Yitzhak Rabin’s government from the outside in the 1990s.

JERUSALEM — After a fourth Israeli election in two years appears to have ended in another stalemate, leaving many Israelis feeling trapped in an endless loop, there was at least one surprising result on Wednesday: An Arab political party has emerged as a potential kingmaker.

Even more surprising, the party was Raam, an Islamist group with roots in the same religious movement as Hamas, the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip. For years, Raam was rarely interested in working with the Israeli leadership and, like most Arab parties, was ostracized by its Jewish counterparts.

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Palestinian advocacy is not ‘terrorism’

Activists with Samidoun Deutschland protest in Germany on March 18, 2021. (photo: Samidoun/Twitter) 
This statement was issued on March 22, 2021 by the Canada Palestine Association and BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish.  It highlights the efforts to silence Palestinian advocacy groups.

By BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish | Mondoweiss | Mar 23, 2021

There are no concrete charges against Samidoun, simply that it helps Palestinian prisoners and is involved in “anti-Israel propaganda efforts.”

On February 28, 2021, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz declared that he was adding the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network to Israel’s “terror list.” The designation was based on accusations that are both spurious and false. There has been a recent upsurge in the campaign by the Israeli government to thwart effective Palestinian civil society groups that refuse to be silenced or sanitized.

There are no concrete charges against Samidoun, simply that it helps Palestinian prisoners and is involved in “anti-Israel propaganda efforts.” Samidoun operates as a public and transparent prisoner advocacy group; it is independent and has no organizational connection or affiliation with any Palestinian party.

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The Tormented Dance of the Colonizer:

Mark Braverman on Peter Beinart, Liberal Zionism and the Battle for Palestine.

By Mark Braverman | Tikkun  | Mar 18 2021

 The “separate regimes delusion” has been a key element of the almost five-decades long “peace process” to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

In January, 2021, Jerusalem-based journalist and analyst Nathan Thrall called out the Zionist left for promoting the fiction that as long as Israel refrains from annexing occupied Palestinian land, it does not cross the line into apartheid (“The Separate Regimes Delusion: Nathan Thrall on Israel’s Apartheid,” London Review of Books January 21, 2021). “The premise that Israel is a democracy,” he wrote, “rests on the belief that one can separate the pre-1967 state from the rest of the territory under its control.” The “separate regimes delusion” has been a key element of the almost five-decades long “peace process” to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. As Israel has continued to take land and impose a system of control and fragmentation that has made the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state impossible, liberal Zionists have clung desperately to the fiction of the “two-state solution” as all that stands in the way of the now undeniable reality that Israel and its occupied territories comprise a single apartheid state. Accordingly, a storm of protest erupted in response to the Knesset’s green lighting of the annexation of an additional 30% of the West Bank in early summer 2020. It was in the midst of this controversy that Peter Beinart’s “Yavne: A Jewish Case for Equality in Israel-Palestine” appeared in the July 7, 2020 edition of Jewish Currents. Cutting the Gordian knot of a Jewish and democratic Israel, Beinart endorsed the idea of a single state for Jews and Palestinians.

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A Day in the Life of Abed Salama

Abed Salama, West Bank, March 2021 
One man’s quest to find his son lays bare the reality of Palestinian life under Israeli rule. This piece in NY Review of Books describes the experience of one Palestinian father after a deadly road crash in the West Bank in 2012, in which a school bus carrying Salama’s son collided with a large truck on its way to an Israeli-owned quarry.  This piece explores the long history of how the West Bank came to be first occupied and then widely settled by Israel, creating the conditions that led to this particular human tragedy.  This article is free to view through April 4.

By Nathan Thrall | New York Review of Books | Mar 19, 2021

On the day before the accident, Milad Salama could hardly contain his excitement for the kindergarten class trip. “Baba,” he said, addressing his father, Abed, “I want to buy food for the picnic tomorrow.” Abed took his five-and-a-half-year-old son to a nearby convenience store, buying him a bottle of the Israeli orange drink Tapuzina, a tube of Pringles, and a chocolate Kinder Egg, his favorite dessert.

Early the next morning, Milad’s mother, Haifa, helped her fair-skinned, sandy-haired boy into his school uniform: gray pants, a white-collared shirt, and a gray sweater bearing the emblem of his private elementary school, Nour al-Houda, or “light of guidance.” Milad’s nine-year-old brother, Adam, old enough to walk to school on his own, had already left. Milad hurried to finish his breakfast, gathered his lunch and picnic treats, and rushed out to board the school bus. Abed was still in bed.

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How Microsoft is invested in Israeli settler-colonialism

PM Netanyahu with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (photo: GPO / Amos Ben Gershom)
Microsoft provides a bold and sometimes overlooked example of how corporations benefit from, and contribute to, Israeli militarism and violence

By Yarden Katz | Mondoweiss | Mar 15, 2021

Microsoft provides a bold and sometimes overlooked example of corporations feeding on Israel’s violence.

PM Netanyahu with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (photo: GPO / Amos Ben Gershom)

When millions took to the streets last year to protest for Black lives, corporations saw trouble. The abolitionist call within the uprising – defund the police and invest in a better world – challenges state violence and its profiteers. So, companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, which enable state surveillance and violence, boosted their public relations. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, for example, declared “solidarity” with Black Lives Matter, and the company donated $250,000 to social justice groups (including the Minnesota Bail Fund).

Thanks to such image-building campaigns, Microsoft doesn’t get scrutinized as much as its peers. The company sponsors think tanks that bolster its progressive credentials and mask the industry’s violent and imperialist agenda. Microsoft also benefits from the aura of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation. The New York Times still turns to Gates for advice on how to fix the world’s problems, and runs chummy interviews with Microsoft President Brad Smith to get his insights on the problem of “money in politics.”

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Farah Nabulsi: Her past in The Present and the future

Screen Shot 2021-03-17 at 2.14.41 PM
Since turning to film in 2015, Nabulsi has created an advocacy platform and produced four short films, each with a different human rights focus on Palestine. (photo:  Abdel Hadi Ramahi / Reuters)
British-Palestinian director Farah Nabulsi’s short film, set in occupied West Bank, has been shortlisted for the Oscars.

By William Parry | Al-Jazeera | Mar 9, 2021

“As children, we would go to Palestine, and I think that laid certain seeds – politically, no – but it laid certain attachments, certain connections to the people, the land, to friends we made, to our ancestral home, quite literally.”
— Farah Nabulsi, film director

A short film set in occupied Palestine – Farah Nabulsi’s The Present­ ­- has been shortlisted for the Oscars. Given the increased political isolation and setbacks Palestinians have faced throughout the Trump years in the Middle East and in the West, the international kudos and exposure The Present has enjoyed to date must be an upbeat and unexpected change for many.

It is a simple, relatable story of a labourer named Yusuf (played by Saleh Bakri), who sets out one day with his young daughter, Yasmine (played by Mariam Kanj), to get an anniversary gift for his wife.

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‘LGBTQ rights have become a litmus test in Palestinian society’

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Suleiman campaigns in Tel Aviv ahead of the Israeli elections, February 24, 2021. (photo: Oren Ziv)
The growing visibility of queer Palestinians poses a challenge to Arab political parties that are exploiting homophobia ahead of the Israeli election.

By Edo Konrad | +972 Magazine | Mar 17, 2021

“LGBTQ rights have become a kind of litmus test in Palestinian society,”
Fady Khoury, a queer Palestinian human rights attorney and a doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School.

The Palestinian LGBTQ community isn’t used to being at the heart of their society’s most heated political debates. Yet in the months leading up to Israel’s fourth election in two years, queer Palestinians are now being pushed to center stage.

In an interview earlier this month that went viral on Arabic and Hebrew social media, Ahmad Tibi, one of the most prominent Palestinian members of Knesset, stated that he was against the promotion of what he called “the LGBTQ phenomenon.” His party Ta’al, he said, rejects any legislation that promotes LGBTQ rights, opposes pride marches, and believes LGBTQ individuals should not be allowed into classrooms to meet with schoolchildren as part of the curriculum.

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The enduring power of Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie was killed 18 yrs ago while participating in nonviolent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition. This October 2020 post is a reminder of the impact of a short life devoted to justice.

By Philip Weiss | Mondoweiss | Oct 20, 2020

‘[Rachel Corrie’s] passion for social activism, and willingness to put her own life on the line for it, is what is inspiring to me…’
— Director Christine Bokhour

Two Saturdays ago, a theater company near me presented a reading of the play, “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” with four young women speaking Rachel’s words on a simple stage 50 feet from commuter rails.

About 60 people were in the audience, and there was none of the political drama that accompanied the play’s New York premiere in 2006. Israel’s friends did not succeed in shutting down a progressive theater company‘s production of the show… When the show did get staged, no one handed out flyers outside the theater with pictures of Israeli girls killed in suicide bombings.

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