Sleepwalking Through Affirmation Culture

For years now, we’ve heard a hue and cry over “woke cancel culture.” There are, no doubt, many subtleties, twists, and turns involved in this controversy, all worth discussing. But it’s clarifying to ask whether there are sufficient conditions for cancellation. Should nothing ever be canceled? Or are there some things, sometimes, somewhere, under some circumstances however carefully defined and delimited, that should be canceled? We have, I think, now reached the reductio ad absurdum of the “never cancel” position in the debate over Bezalel Smotrich’s forthcoming trip to the United States. Continue reading

Flying the Friendly Skies with Josh

Am currently sitting behind Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Newark. So tempted to strike up a conversation from the seat behind him about his blind support for Israel, and his similar blindness to the injustice of the Israeli occupation. What do you think about recent events in Jenin and Nablus, Congressman? Or shall I go first?

But I don’t want to be “that guy.” I also don’t feel like getting arrested today.

I note in passing that Rep. Gottheimer was late to the flight, but was permitted to cut the line and board before everyone else. Not sure why politicians deserve this special treatment, but ours is not to wonder why. Ours is to take our seats and sigh.

Anyway, back to reading Gerald Gaus’s Tyranny of the Ideal. Not much of a tyranny as tyrannies go, but easier to engage with right now than Josh Gottheimer.

Zionism and Double Standards

Some interesting double-standards exposed, from a piece by Mitchell Plitnick at Mondoweiss, “International leaders push social media companies to ban anti-Zionist speech”:

The international effort to criminalize criticism of Israel is hitting new strides. Bringing the weight of numerous Western governments, the so-called Interparliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism has renewed efforts to label criticism of Israel as antisemitism and to thereby enable online censorship of any such criticism. 

On Monday, the co-chairs of the Task Force—Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) of the United States,  Canadian Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather, and former Israeli Knesset Member Michal Cotler-Wunsh sent letters to the heads of Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram), Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok calling on them to redouble efforts to combat online antisemitism. …

In the letter, the parliamentarians urged the companies to include “Zionism as a protected characteristic/identity” and “commit to a specific, consistent policy for removing content and users who deny the Holocaust or call for violence against Jews, Israelis, or Zionists.”

This short passage highlights three double standards involved in American discussions of Zionism. Continue reading

Jenin: Collating the Wages of Death

The steady habit of correcting and completing his own opinion by collating it with those of others, so far from causing doubt and hesitation in carrying it into practice, is the only stable foundation for a just reliance on it: for being cognisant of all that can, at least obviously, be said against him, and having taken up his position against all gainsayers…he has a right to think his judgment better than that of any person, or any multitude, who have not gone through a similar process.

–J.S. Mill, On Liberty

In my last two posts, I’ve been discussing the rising tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Events are taking place too quickly for me literally to blog them as they happen, so if you’re after a real-time chronicle, or event-by-event commentary, you’ll be disappointed. That’s not something you’ll find here, at least in my posts. Continue reading

Jenin Under Attack

I’ve been receiving videos from Palestinian friends, of Israeli military actions taking place, not just in Jenin, but across the length and breadth of the West Bank. I so far have seen no indication from the mainstream American press that Israeli military occupations have extended beyond Jenin. But while nine Palestinians were killed in Jenin, one was killed in Ar-Ram (so Israeli military actions are obviously not confined to Jenin). Since then, there have been two widely-reported Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets as well, one in the settlement of Neve Yaakov, the other in a location that The New York Times vaguely describes as being “near a settlement in East Jerusalem.” Continue reading

“A” Is for Occupation

In a post I wrote back in 2020 explaining the A-B-C system that structures the Israeli occupation of Palestine, I described Area A, the area supposedly under Palestinian control, as follows: 

Area A covers Palestinian urban centers, supposedly under full Palestinian control, both “civil” and “security” related…Area A is under “full” Palestinian control–except when Israeli military forces enter such an Area, as they often do, in which case “full” control becomes non-control for the duration.

Current events in Jenin illustrate this. Jenin is squarely in Area A. Area A is under full Palestinian control. But at the moment, Jenin is precisely not under Palestinian control. Apparently, some control is fuller than others.  Continue reading

Two Jews, Two Views

Am I really Jewish? Or just Jew-ish? I guess you’d have to ask your rabbi. Or mine.

This is from LinkedIn, in case you’re wondering. I agree, it’s probably not career-enhancing.

As for musical performances “amazing to watch and hear,” call me when the Emiratis sing “Kol Nidre.”

“The Settlers”: Voices from the Holy Land Film Salon

I’m pleased to announce that this Sunday, Nov. 13th at 3 pm ET, Voices from the Holy Land, in conjunction with Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago and Tzedek-Chicago, will be hosting a salon-style discussion of the documentary film “The Settlers.” It’s a public event, but requires free registration. The idea is to watch the film on one’s own time prior to the event, and then attend the discussion, featuring two veteran commentators, filmmaker Shimon Dotan and Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, with moderator Lara Friedman. Here’s a link to the meeting registration, as well as to the film.

THE SETTLERS is the first comprehensive look at Israel’s continued construction of settlements in the West Bank, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Radicals, idealists, messianic fanatics, true believers and political opportunists, living on the fault lines of an age-old conflict, come face-to-face with history. Today, the settlers threaten to destroy what little peace remains in the Middle East.

Continue reading

It’s Already Happened There

A Facebook post (copy/pasted with permission) by Jeff Halper, Co-founder and Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, on the results of the recent Israeli election:

The most surprising thing about the Israeli elections is the surprise and “disappointment” expressed by liberal Zionists, in Israel and abroad. “How could this happen?” Shock at “the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.” As if anything has really changed except that Israelis no longer feel the need to dress up their settler regime in liberal, “democratic” terms. The fact that people are surprised means either that they have never grasped the meaning of Zionism – a case of mass self-delusion – or that they are embarrassed by the public exposure of their violent Judaization of Palestine.

In fact, the outcome of the elections was a natural consequence of the Zionist enterprise – indeed, the very culmination to which Israelis have aspired since 1948 (and well before). From its very beginning some 130 years ago, Zionism has been up-front over its intent to Judaize Palestine. To displace the indigenous population and replace it with Jews. To turn an Arab country into a Jewish one. To transform Palestine into Israel.

Casting Zionism as a settler colonial enterprise is not merely an academic exercise; it explains the necessary and ongoing the violence of conquest, displacement, land grabbing and ultimate repression, if not elimination, of another people whose very presence poses a challenge to exclusivist Jewish national claims to Palestine. Ben Gvir, odious as he may be, is simply the true face of Zionism that has been well hidden behind the suited and “moderate” politicians: Gans, whose election video a couple years ago featured him boasting of having killed 4000 “terrorists” in Gaza; Kohavi, the IDF Chief of Staff who just launched a billion dollar plan to boost the “lethality” of the IDF; Bennett, whose government oversaw an unprecedented peak of house demolitions; Labor and Meretz, the (Zionist) “Left” parties that never mention the occupation; and of course Netanyahu and all the others.

As long as people continue to view Israel as a normal country that just happens to be beset by a “terrorism” problem, they will continue to be surprised by election results and the heights of violence against Palestinians that Israel is capable of. Ben Gurion, Settler-in-Chief, would have been pleased by those results, but not surprised. Zionism’s supporters, American and European leaders at the head, might be less pleased because the unleashing of Netanyahu, Ben Gvir and Smotritch will expose their complicity in permitting Israel to carry out its settler agenda with impunity. They must reject the accusation of apartheid presented in painful detail by Amnesty, HRW, B’tselem and the UN.

Apartheid is today a fact. Zionism’s decades-old campaign of replacing Palestine by Israel has, in Israeli eyes, been accomplished. Israel is now in the process of mopping up. Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Bennett publicly support the annexation of the West Bank (not Gaza, God forbid). Only two things remain: breaking once and for all Palestinian resistance, a task Gans and Kohavi have readily accepted, the IDF and the settlers given a free hand; and the normalization of Israel’s apartheid regime over all of historic Palestine with the help of the international community, including the corrupt and repressive Arab regimes who rely on Israeli surveillance and technologies of repression to stay in power.

So let’s stop pretending that we didn’t know. Ben Gvir, Smotriych and their cronies are not an anomaly. The upcoming Netanyahu/Ben Gvir government is the “most right-wing” one only in its rhetoric, not in its policies. They are merely the product of Zionism’s 130 years of colonization. Only by formulating a program of decolonization, of thoroughly dismantling the structures of Israeli control and establishing a state of all its citizens (refugees included) can the Zionist project be defeated. The required intellectual honesty and political courage on the part of liberal Jews and “Left” Israelis is, however, totally lacking. It is incumbent upon Palestinians, supported by anti-Zionist Israelis, to mobilize the international grassroots towards the end of decolonizing Israel and liberating Palestine through an inclusive, shared civil democracy.

For a more decorous mainstream take, there’s always Thomas Friedman at The New York Times. But Friedman’s reaction is in a sense what Halper is referring to. Incidentally, note Friedman’s sly, subtle suggestion that Israeli settler violence is a problematic vigilante reaction to Palestinian violence.

Smotrich is known for, among other things, suggesting that Israeli Jewish mothers should be separated from Arab mothers in the maternity wards of Israeli hospitals. He has long advocated outright Israeli annexation of the West Bank and argued that there is “no such thing as Jewish terrorism” when it comes to settlers retaliating on their own against Palestinian violence.

Where and when was it established that the Palestinians were or are the initiators of violence? It doesn’t need to be established. That it doesn’t is the axiom that facilitates the Zionist enterprise in the first place.

“Pedagogy Under Occupation” Revisited

I’m mentioning this mostly pro forma, given the cost of registration, but I thought I’d announce that I’ll be giving a paper at the forthcoming conference of the Peace and Justice Studies Association. The paper is called “Between Indoctrination and False Neutrality: Pedagogy Under Occupation,” and is a re-conceived 18-minute version of this post from way back in 2015. The conference takes place October 13-16 at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, but for financial-logistical reasons, I’ve had to drop my plans to attend the on-ground conference, and opted to do one of the Zoom sessions instead. My presentation will be in the Sunday, 11 am session (Panel 8A). (Conference schedule in the first link above.) Continue reading