As to be expected, Netanyahu is from the very beginning throwing non-starters at the so-called peace talks with the Palestinians. He demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel not only as a Jewish state, but also as a state of the Jewish nation (“Sadly, I have not heard the Palestinians talk of two states for two nations. They speak of two states – but not two nations” http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/netanyahu-new-settlement-freeze-unlikely-but-compromise-possible-1.313359 ).Well, demanding recognition of Israel as the Jewish state is bad enough. Imagine the US declaring itself the state of the Christian people, or England the state of the Protestant people, or Germany the state of the Calvinists, and so on and so forth. Moreover, where does a Jewish state leave Palestinian Muslims and Christians who are citizens of Israel?
Nevertheless, as distasteful as is the idea of a Jewish state, a state at least is a political entity—something with borders. But Bibi wants more. In his hands the Jewish people have emerged a “nation.” This is of course pure nonsense. If a ‘nation’ is a “tightly-knit group of people which share a common culture,” (http://geography.about.com/cs/politicalgeog/a/statenation.htm ) then Judaism is not a “nation.” Judaism can be described as a religion, even though it encompasses varying forms of that religion, some unacceptable to other members. I am a Jew but I share very little in common with the Bibi Netanyahu’s of this world. Moreover, my Jewishness is my personal business. I don’t want to be classified as a Jew. That is much too restrictive. I am of the human race, and although born a Jew do not practice any religious rites. Moreover, not only are there different forms of Judaism (e.g., orthodox, ultra-orthodox, reform, conservative are among the more common), but any of these has, additionally. customs acquired in countries of origin.
Sephardic and Ashkenazi customs can differ widely. And to add to the mixture, many Jews are secular and would prefer living in a state with a clear division between religion and state. Imagine declaring Israel a state for (or of) the Jewish nation–what chaos this would cause! Orthodox against Reform, each arguing that they are the true nation, Sphardic against Ashkenazi for the same reason. Bibi, better leave well enough alone.
In any event, Israel’s leaders (Bibi included) want Israel to be seen as a Western state. It isn’t. It’s smack in the Middle East. But to even consider Israel as having some things in common with Western countries today means having a diversity of religions, races, ethnicities within a country’s borders.
Truth is, as I’m sure you realize, Bibi is not looking for peace but for obstacles to put in its way. Besides, without justice for Palestinians there will be no peace. And of justice we have heard nary a word from Mr. Netanyahu.
All the above has nothing in common with any of the articles below. Am just spouting off steam at your expense.
As for today’s items, there are 7 plus (at the end) 2 videos, each about 10 minutes. Both are on Gaza, but are from different angles, and are both worth watching and distributing widely.
Item one is about the ongoing Rachel Corrie trial. Rachel, a 24 year old student and activist with ISM was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafa when trying to stop it from demolishing a home. The army has done its best to make Rachel the perpetrator rather than the victim. Now, finally, contradictions are emerging from the army’s testimony.
Item 2, “Stranded at Erez” reports the lives of men whom Israel has sent packing to Gaza, and refuses to let them return to their families in Israel or in the West Bank. Ah yes. Wouldn’t you like to be picked up by immigration police some middle of the night and deported? Especially on a holiday? Nice country is Israel.
Item 3, Muslims celebrate, is a brief depiction of celebrations of the Eid al-Fitr (3 days) in various parts of the world.
Item 4 is about present-day Israeli education. It includes questions on which to test your knowledge about the current situation, which is not good from any standpoint. Israel spends huge sums on expansion and on military functions, but has no money for education, social welfare, or health.
Item 5 “Ariel and us,” is about actors refusal to perform over the Green line (the 1949 Armistice line), which for all practical purposes no longer exists—not on maps, not in textbooks, not, therefore, in the minds of young Israelis, and probably not in the minds of many older ones too. In “Ariel and us,” guest columnist David Rosenberg argues “as long as the settlers insist – and the rest of the country passively agrees – that they are an integral part of the country, we have a problem on our hands.
The settlements and everything they represent – the refusal to make peace (or at least to offer anything to the Palestinians that would lead to an agreement), the routine skirting of the law and the double standards it requires to build and expand them – taints all of Israel. They are a function of deliberate policy to take land at the expense of a Palestinian population with no intention of giving it back. Israel can’t defend its acts as the exigencies of war or the unconscionable act of an undisciplined soldier. The consequences of settlement building are an inseparable part of what they are.”
Item 6, In “Islamophobia, sexism, and American demagoguery in the 21st century” Betsy Taylor complains that “Mainstream media are flooding us with sensationalized images of Americans who fear and hate Islam. Ugly as these images are, there is a deeper brutality. The worst ugliness is in what they are not showing. There are dangerous blind spots in the media coverage of American Islam. For instance, there has been a brute blindness to women and to women’s concerns in news coverage of the proposed Islamic Center in New York City.” Taylor focuses on Daisy Kahn, whom she says the American media categorizes as “the Imam’s wife,” thus neglecting her skills and her own life’s work.
Item 7 is one of Robert Fisk’s best. He is always worth reading. “Nine years, two wars, hundreds of thousands dead – and nothing learnt
Did 9/11 make us all mad? Our memorial to the innocents who died nine years ago has been a holocaust of fire and blood . . .” is one of his strongest.
I know there is a lot of reading here. I know because I read all of this (and more). May the day come when I can just say, “have a nice day.”
By KARL VICK / HAIFA Karl Vick / Haifa – Thu Sep 9, 7:25 pm ET
The day after the American activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by the armored Israeli bulldozer she was trying to stop from destroying a Palestinian home, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised U.S. President George W. Bush “a thorough, credible and transparent investigation.” It was the least that could be expected after the death of a U.S. citizen at the hands of its closest ally.
Seven years, two Prime Ministers and one President later, Corrie’s parents sat in the front row of Haifa District Court on Sunday, a white-haired couple struggling to get to the bottom of their daughter’s death. Corrie v. the State of Israel, a civil suit, is also putting a withering spotlight on Israel’s conduct since March 16, 2003. (See pictures of heartbreak in the Middle East.)
“She was hurt by a grenade; this is the information that was given to us,” said Oded (his last name was withheld for security reasons), one of the three military police investigators who conducted the official inquiry into the death – an effort the testimony painted as slipshod at best. “I don’t remember who said it.”
“How many grenades were there?” asked Hussein Abu Hussein, an attorney for the Corrie family.
Oded: “I don’t remember.”
Hussein: “You didn’t record it?”
Oded: “I don’t know.”
Hussein: “Who threw the grenade?”
Oded: “I believe hostile forces, but I don’t know.”
As the attorney bore down, Oded shot a look at the table where two lawyers for the state of Israel sat. The look said, Can you believe this? But with a wave of his hand, the judge spared the witness from digging through the case file for answers. “No,” said Judge Oded Gershon from the bench, “we know that it is untrue that a grenade was thrown.”
What, then, do we know is true? Neither thorough nor credible, and every bit as transparent as a sandstorm, Israel’s investigation of Corrie’s death sheds little light on what happened – the grenade story apparently came out of thin air – but is providing a great deal of fodder for her family’s case against the state. Heard intermittently in the manner of Israel’s court system, the case may not conclude until November. But it has already validated anew Richard Nixon’s timeless observation that it is the cover-up that does you in.
“What, did you kill him?” a soldier asked after Corrie disappeared beneath the blade of a D9R Caterpillar, wreathed in armor for use by the Israel Defense Forces. “May God have mercy on him,” came the reply. The striking exchange, between Israeli soldiers speaking in Arabic, was not included in the report’s transcript of radio transmissions, the former investigator acknowledged on the stand. He said he didn’t think it was important. (See pictures of life under Hamas in Gaza.)
Oded testified that the interview of the bulldozer driver was halted on the order of a senior commander. He also testified that investigators waited a week to retrieve from another unit the only known videotape of the incident; failed to interview non-military eyewitnesses; ignored the ambulance workers, doctors and other Palestinians who treated her; and did not even visit the scene of her death. That was a neighborhood in the Gaza Strip where a handful of foreign-born protesters with the International Solidarity Movement tried to do what Palestinians could not do themselves if they expected to survive: turn themselves into human shields between Israeli bulldozers and the Palestinian homes the bulldozers were trying to tear down on the grounds that they provided cover for gunmen and tunnels.
The army maintains that Corrie’s death was an accident: because of the armored plating around the cab, the driver, who is scheduled to testify next month, could not see her, even in a fluorescent orange vest. But on Monday the expert witness whose study of sightlines backed up that claim confirmed on the stand that he in fact set out to support the army’s narrative.
Afterward, Craig Corrie despaired at how easily the contradictions were coming.
“It was really depressing, because my impression was the people were making statements that indicated they never expected to be questioned,” Rachel’s father told TIME. “The lies were like the lies of a 7-year-old.” (See pictures of Israel.)
Composed and genial, the Corries cut an impressive figure in the sun-drenched Haifa courthouse. After quitting his job as an insurance actuary, Craig and his wife Cindy made full-time work of ascertaining the truth about their daughter’s death. That meant immersing themselves, as she had done, in the situation of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Although the imminent invasion of Iraq had kept her story, and the plight of the Gazans, largely out of the headlines at the time, the recent Israeli raid that killed nine Turkish activists aboard a boat intent on breaking Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled coastal strip has put it back in the spotlight. Weeks later another boat filled with Irish activists approached; its name: the MV Rachel Corrie
“Like a lot of Americans, we were really removed from what was going on there,” said Cindy of life before her daughter’s death. The education that had begun with Rachel’s e-mails deepened profoundly when they met residents of Gaza in person, making new friends and worrying for their lives, too, during Israel’s massive military offensive against Gaza in January 2009 in response to Hamas rocket fire.
“We’d call a Palestinian friend to see how he was doing,” Craig said. “And he’d say, ‘Listen to this,’ and hold the phone out. It was just what Rachel used to do: ‘Listen to this.’ And you’d hear the explosions.”
Thirteen Palestinians, who once had Israeli identity cards allowing them to live with their spouses, celebrated Eid alone, in Gaza City on Friday.
The men, who lived in what is now the Israeli city of Beersheba (formerly Beir Seba) were detained and deported because of small mistakes or oversights in their registration processes with Israeli ministries. Under the passing of Military Order 1650, Israel’s military expanded the definition of an “infiltrator” to include any individual living in areas controlled by the country without express permission.
The vague details of the order, and the discriminatory registration and residency system in Israel, lead to the deportation of the 13 men, thrown into Gaza, where most had not lived in decades.
There were tens of others, beginning with Ahmad Au’da Abu Shalluf, who was deported at the end of April, the first under the new orders.
“I feel lonely,” Muhammad Al-Atawneh, another man deported to Gaza under 1650, told Ma’an, “and sad, away from my wife and children,” who all continue to live in Beersheba.
“This year I can hardly bare Eid Al-Fitr, I feel low, low, and can only think of my days in Beersheba. Now I’m far away from my family, and I can only hope that next year I will be beside then,” he said.
“I feel doubly lonely here,” Al-Atawneh said of Gaza, where residents move in tight family circles, depending on relatives for support and security as Gaza remains closed and conditions poor. “There is no one to share these bad feeling with.”
Shortly after the order came into effect, the South African government said the law was “reminiscent of past laws under apartheid South Africa,” and called the situation “unacceptable.”
Mahrous Al-Dirawi also lived in Beersheba, and was one of the first to be deported to Gaza, even before the military order took effect. “I have no answer when my children ask me when I am coming home,” he told Ma’an.
Without an Israeli residency permit, Al-Dirawi was living in Israel with a work permit, and had been doing so for years. In 2007 his work permit expired and was not renewed, he continued living in Beersheba with his family, hoping to process residency papers.
Shortly before the Israeli war on Gaza in winter 2008, he was picked up and deported.
Even a residency permit did not offer Muhammad Al-Sane security for his life in Beersheba; he was deported shortly after the Israeli military passed order 1650. His wife and five children remain in the city, once a Bedouin hub in the Negev, but lawyers tell Al-Sane that little hope remains for his return. He remains in Gaza.
All three men said they wished only to return to their family and friends in Beersheba, to make Eid visits to relatives and give sweets to children. As the siege on Gaza remains in place, however, the tens of thousands of residents who once worked in Israel remain unemployed in a stiffed economy, and the pours border was replaced by a closed crossing and a 300 meter militarized buffer zone.
Three-day festival kicks off to celebrate end of Ramadan, despite controversy over planned Koran burning in Florida, fears of violence.
CAIRO — Muslims worldwide thronged mosques, cafes and parks over the weekend, in a solemn and joyful end to the fasting month of Ramadan.
Authorities increased security in some countries due to fears that violence could intrude on celebrations, but for most Muslims it was a day of peace, family — and most important food.
Algerian men put to justice for breaking Ramadan fast
Friends and relatives feasted on spicy lamb, kebabs and saffron rice, while smokers happily puffed on cigarettes in broad daylight as the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival got under way Friday across the Muslim world.
During Ramadan, the faithful are supposed to abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex in a dawn-to-dusk period meant to test the faith and discipline of Muslims.
“It’s nice to be eating, drinking and smoking during the daytime,” said Jordanian banker Mutaz Kurdi, 37, as he walked his two children in an Amman park. “Fasting was difficult this year because of the summer heat.”
The mood was glum in Pakistan as millions of flood victims did their best to celebrate in donated tents and makeshift shelters on Saturday as the country’s leaders — criticized for an inadequate response to the disaster
pledged more aid.
Charities sent bags of gifts such as shiny plastic wrist bangles and candies to children displaced by the floods, which have affected some 18 million people. The water has receded in many places, but remains head-high in others.
Business was brisk for ice cream vendors in Baghdad, where children decked out in holiday finery rode Ferris wheels at amusement parks and raced horse-drawn carts on traffic-free streets. Some boys battled each other with plastic guns, ignoring a ban on toy weapons imposed so children would not be mistaken for militants.
Still, soldiers guarded playgrounds and public parks, and additional military and police checkpoints were erected across the Iraqi capital — a reminder the country still faces near-daily bombings and shootings despite a dramatic drop in attacks.
In Yemen, authorities warned people to pray inside mosques and deployed heavy security after posters signed by al-Qaida threatened attacks. No outdoor prayers were held in two southern provinces after officials urged people to avoid large gatherings.
War-weary Afghans marked the holiday with prayers for peace in mosques as well as family gatherings in homes. President Hamid Karzai urged the Taliban to lay down their arms and join peace talks — a theme often repeated in presidential speeches but so far unheeded by significant numbers of Taliban.
The normally festive atmosphere for Eid in Afghanistan was tempered not only by the war but by bitterness over a threat by a small Florida church to burn copies of the Islamic holy book Koran on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Protests, which have left at least 11 people injured, continued for a second day. Pastor Terry Jones has said the church will not go through with the plan, but Muslim anger over the issue remained high.
The controversy also dominated Eid sermons in the Palestinian territories. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told tens of thousands of Muslim faithful at a stadium in the Gaza Strip that they had “to respond to this criminal, this liar, this crazy priest who reflects a crazy Western attitude toward Islam and the Muslim nation.”
The issue was also on the minds of Muslims in the United States, many of whom urged tolerance.
At a mosque in Anaheim, California, Imam Mohammed Ibn Faqih reminded worshippers that the holiness of the Koran could not be sullied by burning it.
“Burning the Koran by itself, you are burning papers. You are not burning the words of Allah. It is in our hearts,” said worshipper Susan Nachawati, an American born in Syria.
Despite the controversy, most Muslims worldwide held to traditions of celebration and family.
Thousands of children, most dressed in new holiday clothing, thronged the streets of Gaza City, which were decorated with banners wishing a “Happy Eid.” Hamas activists distributed candy and toys to children who lost parents during Israel’s bruising war in Gaza nearly two years ago and in other conflicts.
In the West Bank, men with children in tow paid respects to female relatives — mothers, sisters and aunts — bearing gifts of sweets as well as cash. The women greeted their visitors with offerings of baklava and other pastries.
In Egypt, hundreds of thousands flocked to the Giza Zoo while others rode traditional sailboats known as feluccas on the Nile River. Millions prayed at some 3,000 outdoor sites as clerics gave sermons about the need to end disputes among family members and the virtue of forgiveness.
Keep dreaming: Requiring school uniforms may indeed foster a sense of equality. Providing our kids with equal opportunity, however, demands a great deal more than that.
We’re probably the only nation whose new year coincides with the opening of its school year, fitting testimony to our reputation as the People of the Book. What goes on inside our classrooms, however, would suggest that we are anything but. An alarming range of statistics regarding our academic standing should leave us feeling anxious and apprehensive about the future of this country.
Don’t take my word for it; take this exam instead.
1. RELATIVE TO their counterparts in other countries, how do Israeli pupils perform in math and science?
A. Extremely well. How else to explain our incomparable achievements in the hitech industry?
B. Terribly. Of 57 countries participating in the Program for International Student Assessment, Israel placed 39th and 40th in math and science.
C. Statistics are meaningless. During the last decade, Israel produced more Nobel laureates in the sciences per capita than any other country, and last month, the Nobel equivalent in mathematics, the Fields Medal, was awarded to a Hebrew University professor.
D. Not a fair question. Our averages are lowered by the haredim, who don’t even study these subjects.
Answer: B. Prof. Dan Ben-David of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, interviewed by this paper several months ago, reported on a sophisticated study in which our own researchers further analyzed this data and found that in math and the sciences “the average level in Israel was consistently lower than every one of the 25 countries they compared it with.”
And it is a fair question. Ben-David revealed that “None of the results include haredim,” and added that “We exclude more kids out of these samples than any other country.”
2. TO WHAT extent is the problem with education attributable to the amount of money we invest in it?
A. It wouldn’t matter how much we spend; we’re doing the wrong things with the funds at our disposal.
B. One thing has nothing to do with the other. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development determined that Israel was spending a higher percentage of its GDP on education than all but one of 33 other countries included in its study.
C. Sure we don’t spend enough on education, but that’s only because we have to spend so much on defense and security.
Answer: A and B. Many share Ben- David’s assessment that not enough instructional hours are dedicated to core disciplines. The problem is particularly pronounced in the haredi schools where such subject matter is devalued altogether. Legislation introduced this year that would mandate a core curriculum for all children has yet to be passed.
It needs to be for the sake of the country’s future. In any case, spending more money without redirecting it will not improve pupil performance.
3. IF MORE funds were available, on what should they be spent?
A. Reducing class size
B. Increasing teachers’ salaries
C. Increasing classroom hours
D. Revising the curriculum
4. BEFORE RESPONDING to question 3, indicate whether the following statements are true or false:
A. The average class size is roughly the same as that in EU countries.
B. Starting salaries of primary school teachers are higher than the OECD average.
C. Typical 15 year olds spend fewer hours in the classroom than their peers elsewhere.
D. Secondary schools tend to offer less elective courses than in Europe.
Answer: All of the above statements are false.
A. Our classrooms are notoriously overcrowded.
On average, they accommodate 33 pupils, compared to 22 in the EU. Of 25 countries surveyed, only four have schools more crowded than ours.
B. Teachers are embarrassingly underpaid, making less than half the average of their colleagues in OECD countries.
C. What will surely come as a surprise to any parent is that our children actually spend more time in the classroom than their OECD counterparts, logging 1,089 hours each year compared to an international average of 971.
D. Also counter to conventional wisdom, teenagers here often have more course options than their contemporaries abroad, with high schools offering more electives to draw pupils. Those same pupils, however, are spending less time honing basic skills.
NOW GO back and answer question 3.
Confused? For good reason.
Researchers are divided in their opinions regarding the correlation between learning and a wide array of variables – including many we haven’t even touched on: teacher training, cultural milieu, gender issues, socioeconomic factors, role of the principal and even the definition of education itself. But in Israel, they are in agreement that the present situation is intolerable, and – if current trends go unchecked – their prognosis for the future is even worse.
Not only are our absolute scores lower than those of our neighbors in the OECD, which we joined amidst such fanfare a few months back, but even our brightest don’t match up to theirs. At least as worrisome, is that the gap between our strongest pupils and our weakest is among the highest in the Western world. According to Ben-David, “There are smaller gaps between Beverly Hills and Harlem pupils in the United States than there are between our best and worst achievers here in Israel.”
The Education Ministry is aware of this. The most publicized reform in the education system this year was the reintroduction of school uniforms, a policy presumably instituted by Minister Gideon Sa’ar for all the right reasons: to foster a sense of equality among pupils regardless of socioeconomic background, to alleviate social pressure, to shift the focus from appearance to achievement.
Interestingly, it also an initiative that marks a return to fundamental Zionist values, making it an appropriate gift to Theodor Herzl on the occasion of his 150th birthday. In the utopian society he describes in Altneuland, “All the pupils must wear the same kind of simple clothing…
We think it unethical to single out children according to their parents’ wealth or social rank. That would be bad for all of them. The children from well-todo families would become lazy and arrogant, the others embittered.”
But equality in dress in and of itself is not going to bring about equality in opportunity. That is only going to be achieved if we are able to provide all of our children with the knowledge and skills they need to make their way in an increasingly globalized economy.
In Herzl’s idyllic dream, “We neither reward nor punish our children for their fathers’ business transactions.
Each generation is given a new start.”
We must do the same in our own harsh reality.
Whether the current peace talks will resolve the conflict with our neighbors remains to be seen. Ultimately, however, our future is as dependent on what happens in the corridors of our schools as in the corridors of power. In this country, we are all experts on issues of security and delight in pontificating on how best to secure it – though our words are unlikely to make much of a difference – if for no other reason than that there is another side here on whom we have little influence. Our schools are another matter altogether. We can involve ourselves in our children’s education.
We can insist that the social agenda not be ignored even as the political agenda is being pursued.
In this season of heshbon nefesh (accounting for the soul), we must account as well for how we teach heshbon (mathematics). If we are unable to influence what is happening within the gates of our schoolyards, how realistic is it to imagine that we might have any impact at all on what happens within the gates of heaven? The writer has a doctorate in Jewish education from Hebrew University and serves as vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization.
Boycotting is a perfectly reasonable tactic. The question is whether either Israel or Ariel is a fair target.
There’s more than a little irony that the actors, playwrights and directors declared a boycott of the new cultural center in Ariel four days before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu flew to Washington to participate in a festive kickoff to peace talks. Limor Livnat, making a rare public appearance as culture minister, bemoaned the boycott for tearing apart the nation just as her boss was on his way to do exactly that by entering into talks whose goal is to create a Palestinian state where Ariel happens to be.
True, there are better than even prospects that this round of negotiations will go no further than the previous ones. And, if they do lead to an agreement, Ariel stands a reasonably good chance of being absorbed into Israel as part of a land swap. The town isn’t even particularly objectionable as settlements go: It isn’t an unauthorized settlement and its residents don’t spend their off hours pulling up Palestinian olive trees. If Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas can work out their differences, maybe one day Mayor Ron Nahman will host Salam Fayyad for a joint performance of Israeli and Palestinian choirs in the Ariel auditorium.
The settlers are Israeli citizens, and the government has done everything it can to make it seem as if the settlements are no different than Holon or Kiryat Ono. Indeed, settlers are not just equal citizens, they are more equal. If they choose, Ariel’s residents can pass quickly through the checkpoints and enjoy an evening at Habimah or Cameri in Tel Aviv, just like the rest of us. But how many towns of fewer than 20,000 people inside the Green Line can have the evening out in a NIS 40 million arts center? CONTRARY TO the assertions by Livnat and Netanyahu, Ariel and the rest of the West Bank settlements are not a part of Israel. After 43 years, there is still a Green Line. And, if that isn’t clear enough a signal, the history of the last two decades is a history of gradual separation.
It began with the Oslo process, when Israel acknowledged Palestinian rights to the West Bank and Gaza. It gained momentum with the withdrawal from Gaza, with Netanyahu’s backing for a two-state solution and with the freeze on construction in the settlements.
The unusual aspect of the artists’ boycott is that the initiative came from the bottom up rather than the top down. It wasn’t the prime minister, the cabinet or some international agreement that was treating settlers as people living outside the borders. It was private citizens protesting. But the settlers should have recognized a long time ago that while official Israel was cutting them adrift, so was the Israeli street.
When the mass demonstrations against Oslo took place 17 years ago, it was settlers alone who rallied. Even then, it was evident that ordinary Israelis – the ones who hadn’t been tempted by cheap housing and other subsidies and an easy commute to Tel Aviv that places like Ariel offered – had no love for the settler enterprise. If they didn’t actively boycott the settlements, they were quite prepared to sacrifice them if the Palestinians would only sign on to an agreement. The Palestinians didn’t, of course, but neither did the disappointment create any new affection for Beit El or Kiryat Arba.
It’s in our deepest interest that the separation from the settlements continue in anticipation of the inevitable divorce ahead.
Netanyahu is correct when he warns that we face a growing campaign worldwide aimed at challenging Israel’s fundamental right to exist as a Jewish state. He is equally correct that that the weapons of boycotts, sanctions and divestment being wielded by the boycott movement are no different than those taken up by Israeli artists last month. But the issue isn’t whether the world has any right to boycott Israel or those opposed to settlements have any right to boycott Ariel’s cultural center. Boycotting is a perfectly reasonable tactic. The question is whether either Israel or Ariel is a fair target.
When our enemies portray us as an outlaw state deserving international approbation, they point to the killing in Cast Lead or at the Free Gaza flotilla. But whatever you think of Israel’s behavior, Cast Lead and the flotilla raid aren’t Israel. It doesn’t have a shoot-to-kill policy against people trying to breach the siege of Gaza. Nor does it set out to massacre civilians, even if a lot of them were killed in Cast Lead. The flotilla is a situation that got out of hand; the civilian deaths in Cast Lead were the inevitable fallout of fighting a modern war.
However, as long as the settlers insist – and the rest of the country passively agrees – that they are an integral part of the country, we have a problem on our hands. The settlements and everything they represent – the refusal to make peace (or at least to offer anything to the Palestinians that would lead to an agreement), the routine skirting of the law and the double standards it requires to build and expand them – taints all of Israel. They are a function of deliberate policy to take land at the expense of a Palestinian population with no intention of giving it back. Israel can’t defend its acts as the exigencies of war or the unconscionable act of an undisciplined soldier. The consequences of settlement building are an inseparable part of what they are.
The government erected the settlements and has no practical choice but to support them for now. But for the ordinary Israelis who oppose them, like the actors and other artists did last week, it’s high time to draw the line.
Mainstream media are flooding us with sensationalized images of Americans who fear and hate Islam. Ugly as these images are, there is a deeper brutality. The worst ugliness is in what they are not showing. There are dangerous blind spots in the media coverage of American Islam. For instance, there has been a brute blindness to women and to women’s concerns in news coverage of the proposed Islamic Center in New York City.
At the center of the media firestorm is an interesting woman, Daisy Khan, co-visionary of the proposed center. But, her vision and life work have been nearly invisible in recent media accounts. She has been categorized almost exclusively as “the Imam’s wife” and quoted because he’s out of the country. But, if one pushes aside the media’s smothering memes, one can easily find out more about Daisy Khan beyond her role as wife. Why has the mainstream media ignored so much about her life and achievements? It turns out she’s an interesting American woman struggling to build new institutions for women to reclaim voice and power.
Daisy Khan’s work is important – for America, for Islam, for Muslim women and for the women’s movement within the US and internationally. In an interfaith conversation at the Garrison Institute in 2009, Khan described her path to activism – especially to improve the condition of Muslim women. Khan said, “So, in 2006, I left my regular cushy job and dedicated myself to really looking at our community and seeing what needs to be done.” She convened a gathering of almost 200 Muslim women from 27 countries, out of which emerged the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE)– an organization which describes itself as a “grassroots social justice movement led by Muslim women” with the mission to build “a cohesive, global movement of Muslim women that will reclaim women’s rights in Islam, enabling them to make dignified choices and fully participate in creating just and flourishing societies”.
In four years WISE has tackled an impressive range of issues affecting Muslim women internationally – including domestic and sexual violence, education, women’s rights in marriage / divorce / inheritance. Their current focus is a campaign against extremist violence in Islam. In a striking innovation they are developing the first ever training program for women to become a Muslim jurist (or mufiyyah) – qualified to interpret Muslim law and pronounce decisions (or fatwas). This program values modern scholarship (e.g., modern human rights law, theories of globalization), ecumenical exchange with Jewish / Christian and other traditions (it is hosted at the protestant Union Theological Seminary), and, is deeply rooted in the long and diverse traditions of Islamic scholarship and spirituality. As Daisy Khan said, “If you look at the landscape of the Muslim world there are more than 500 million Muslim women around the world and there was not a single institution that spoke for us. So, if we are not at the table, who is going to speak for us?”
Now this, I say, is truly newsworthy! What’s with U.S. media? Why don’t they ask Khan about what she’s doing, rather than parroting rightwing talking points? It’s important geopolitically that American Muslim women are innovating institutions like WISE. American stereotypes tend to see Muslim societies as unremittingly sexist. However, scholarship shows that historic patterns are complex and variegated. Women’s inequality has marked some Muslim-majority communities, but not others.
Women tend to get oppressed under political economies dependent on herding, or agriculture with high inequality in landownership, or, marked by warfare (especially when combined with inequality, corruption and unequal patronage in access to natural resources) – whatever the religious culture. However, theologians such as Abdul Rauf affirm strongly that sexism is not inherent to Islam – and that vibrant themes of peace, equality and justice are central to Islamic practices and teachings. One would think that America would support such important strands within the lavishly diverse fabric of Islam. This kind of work could provide new fulcrums in dangerously balanced geopolitical forces.
It is striking, however, that almost nothing been said about the feminist challenge of Daisy Khan’s work and its importance. The Association for Women’s Rights in Development does have a brief, factual report. But I find little from other women’s organizations or feminist pundits to support Daisy Khan these days. This is strange because gender is everywhere in this drama–in the intricate mix of racism and sexism in Far Right attacks, and, in the centrality of feminism to Khan and her husband’s work. But, informing us about Kahn’s work just doesn’t fit the national script.
There appear to be weird currents in the American collective unconscious that need to hold onto images of the subhuman, violent Muslim male – as the Great Enemy, the Total Other. Has our media landscape been highjacked by some strange collective psychodrama?
If Aristotle were around now, he’d be worried. He has some great writing about how a democracy mutates into tyranny. Lose your middle class (and we’re sure headed that way) and you have no buffer in democracy between arrogant elites and resentful masses. Then, the time ripens for demagogues brandishing empty symbols of democracy to whip the masses into a frenzied panic toward –well, whatever direction best serves hidden (or not so hidden) elite interests.
Hatred of Islam is the new engine of 21st century American demagoguery. And, new mutations of sexism are essential to it. There are two main mechanisms to collective hatred. First, you need symbolic devices to project negative qualities onto a scapegoat – who is then destroyed. Second, you need some magical image of social order that you wrap yourself in – to protect yourself from the contagion of social disorder that scapegoats carry.
Women and women’s bodies often provide key symbols for both dramas. Take the horrific violence between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs when India and Pakistan were separating in 1947-48. Anthropologist Veena Das has powerfully documented how the two new nations purified self-images and scapegoated their Other – by means of sexualized imagery of this as a battle over women’s bodies. What’s weird about America these days, however, is the extent to which the Far Right is changing the sexual and racial imagery in the symbols of national self-purification and other-scapegoating. There has been a feminization of war partly because the lack of jobs has pushed so many women into the military. But, also, folks like Sarah Palin are creating new imagery of Warrior Mom– a beast both man-eating and maternal.
Her speech at the Glenn Beck rally on August 29, reminded me of the mother in ancient Sparta who gave her son a shield as he left for war, saying come back victorious, or come back on this, dead. That rally also downplayed old-style American racial scapegoating. No matter how white the crowd, the symbolism was all epluribusy—a multicultural medley of token racial others. This multicultural, post-sexist veneer can put a symbolic veil over growing elite dominance and inequality in this country – reminding us of Bertram Gross’ fears of “friendly fascism”.
Islam is our current national scapegoat – so if we can understand the internal symbolic mechanisms of Islamaphobia, we can learn how to take it apart. One key linchpin is the American view of Muslim women. The feared “Islamist” scapegoat is stereotyped as male – it oscillates between the young male terrorist threatening mad violence, and, the old male patriarch Imam who imposes vile Islamic law. Increasingly, the feared contagion of runamuck Social Disorder is carried in terrifying images of Sharia –which, incredibly, many on the right believe threatens to take over America. Sharia in this mindset, is often symbolized as a patriarchal Imam’s who veils and controls women. The American stereotypic view of Islam needs, therefore, to keep Muslim women invisible. Note that the media talks the most about Muslim women right before a rush to war.
It seems Muslim women appear when American men need to have someone to rescue, but quickly disappear behind a media veil after the fighting starts. Is this why we’ve seen only one side of Daisy Khan? Perhaps, the sight of strong, unveiled, free, eloquent Muslim women is like kyrptonite to Islamophobia. Would Islamophobic psychodramas just not work if they included mutually respectful, reasoning and gentle couples like Khan and her husband?
For me, Daisy Khan and Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) are crucial parts of American repudiation of extremism as we turn away from the bread and circus of sensationalized scapegoats – to rebuild our nation in the wake of war, financial meltdown, globalization, and de-industrialization. Daisy Khan is an American hero, facing down vicious death threats, to reclaim the American democratic promise – and to build an American Islam that can be a beacon to the world of tolerance, love, women’s rights, and freedom of faith and assembly. Much is at stake in the current controversy over the proposed Islamic Center in Manhattan. It is important for progressive and feminist media to widen the debate beyond the mainstream media’s far too narrow frames.
Betsy Taylor is a cultural anthropologist, and co-author of Recovering the Commons: Democracy, Place and Global Justice. She can be reached at [email protected]
7. The Independent Saturday, September 11, 2010
Nine years, two wars, hundreds of thousands dead – and nothing learnt
Did 9/11 make us all mad? Our memorial to the innocents who died nine years ago has been a holocaust of fire and blood . . .
Did 9/11 make us all go mad? How fitting, in a weird, crazed way, that the apotheosis of that firestorm nine years ago should turn out to be a crackpot preacher threatening another firestorm with a Nazi-style book burning of the Koran. Or a would-be mosque two blocks from “ground zero” – as if 9/11 was an onslaught on Jesus-worshipping Christians, rather than on the atheist West.
But why should we be surprised? Just look at all the other crackpots spawned in the aftermath of those international crimes against humanity: the half-crazed Ahmadinejad, the smarmy post-nuclear Gaddafi, Blair with his crazed right eye and George W Bush with his black prisons and torture and lunatic “war on terror”. And that wretched man who lived – or lives still – in an Afghan cave and the hundreds of al-Qa’idas whom he created, and the one-eyed mullah – not to mention all the lunatic cops and intelligence agencies and CIA thugs who failed us all – utterly – on 9/11 because they were too idle or too stupid to identify 19 men who were going to attack the United States. And remember one thing: even if the Rev Terry Jones sticks with his decision to back down, another of our cranks will be ready to take his place.
Indeed, on this grim ninth anniversary – and heaven spare us next year from the 10th – 9/11 appears to have produced not peace or justice or democracy or human rights, but monsters. They have prowled Iraq – both the Western and the local variety – and slaughtered 100,000 souls, or 500,000, or a million; and who cares? They have killed tens of thousands in Afghanistan; and who cares?
And as the sickness has spread across the Middle East and then the globe, they – the air force pilots and the insurgents, the Marines and the suicide bombers, the al-Qa’idas of the Maghreb and of the Khalij and of the Caliphate of Iraq and the special forces and the close air support boys and the throat-cutters – have torn the heads off women and children and the old and the sick and the young and healthy, from the Indus to the Mediterranean, from Bali to the London Tube; quite a memorial to the 2,966 innocents who were killed nine years ago. All in their name, it seems, has been our holocaust of fire and blood, enshrined now in the crazed pastor of Gainesville.
This is the loss, of course. But who’s made the profit? Well, the arms dealers, naturally, and Boeing and Lockheed Martin and all the missile lads and the drone manufacturers and F-16 spare parts outfits and the ruthless mercenaries who stalk the Muslim lands on our behalf now that we have created 100,000 more enemies for each of the 19 murderers of 9/11. Torturers have had a good time, honing their sadism in America’s black prisons – it was appropriate that the US torture centre in Poland should be revealed on this ninth anniversary – as have the men (and women, I fear) who perfect the shackles and water-drowning techniques with which we now fight our wars. And – let us not forget – every religious raver in the world, be they of the Bin Laden variety, the bearded groupies in the Taliban, the suicide executioners, the hook-in the arm preachers, or our very own pastor of Gainesville.
And God? Where does he fit in? An archive of quotations suggests that just about every monster created in or after 9/11 is a follower of this quixotic redeemer. Bin Laden prays to God – “to turn America into a shadow of itself”, as he told me in 1997 – and Bush prayed to God and Blair prayed – and prays – to God, and all the Muslim killers and an awful lot of Western soldiers and Dr (honorary) Pastor Terry Jones and his 30 (or it may be 50, since all statistics are hard to come by in the “war on terror”) pray to God. And poor old God, of course, has had to listen to these prayers as he always sits through them during our mad wars. Recall the words attributed to him by a poet of another generation: “God this, God that, and God the other thing. ‘Good God,’ said God, ‘I’ve got my work cut out’.” And that was just the First World War…
Just five years ago – on the fourth anniversary of the twin towers/Pentagon/Pennsylvania attacks – a schoolgirl asked me at a lecture in a Belfast church whether the Middle East would benefit from more religion. No – less religion! – I howled back. God is good for contemplation, not for war. But – and here we are driven on to the reefs and hidden rocks which our leaders wish us to ignore, forget and cast aside – this whole bloody mess involves the Middle East; it is about a Muslim people who have kept their faith while those Westerners who dominate them – militarily, economically, culturally, socially – have lost theirs. How can this be, Muslims ask? Indeed, it is a superb irony that the Rev Jones is a believer while the rest of us – by and large – are not. Hence our books and our documentaries never refer to Muslims vs Christians, but Muslims versus “The West”.
And of course, the one taboo subject of which we must not speak – Israel’s relationship with America, and America’s unconditional support for Israel’s theft of land from Muslim Arabs – also lies at the heart of this terrible crisis in our lives. In yesterday’s edition of The Independent, there was a photograph of Afghan demonstrators chanting “death to America”. But in the background, these same demonstrators were carrying a black banner with a message in Dari written upon it in white paint. What it actually said was: “The bloodsucking Zionist government regime and the Western leaders who are indifferent [to suffering] and have no conscience are again celebrating the new year by spilling the red blood of the Palestinians.”
The message is as extreme as it is vicious – but it proves, yet again, that the war in which we are engaged is also about Israel and “Palestine”. We may prefer to ignore this in “the West” – where Muslims supposedly “hate us for what we are” or “hate our democracy” (see: Bush, Blair and a host of other mendacious politicians) – but this great conflict lies at the heart of the “war on terror”. That is why the equally vicious Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the atrocities of 9/11 by claiming that the event would be good for Israel. Israel would now be able to claim that it, too, was fighting the “war on terror”, that Arafat – this was the now-comatose Ariel Sharon’s claim – is “our Bin Laden”. And thus Israelis had the gall to claim that Sderot, under its cascade of tin-pot missiles from Hamas, was “our ground zero”.
It was not. Israel’s battle with the Palestinians is a ghastly caricature of our “war on terror”, in which we are supposed to support the last colonial project on earth – and accept its thousands of victims – because the twin towers and the Pentagon and United Flight 93 were attacked by 19 Arab murderers nine years ago. There is a supreme irony in the fact that one direct result of 9/11 has been the stream of Western policemen and spooks who have travelled to Israel to improve their “anti-terrorist expertise” with the help of Israeli officers who may – according to the United Nations – be war criminals. It was no surprise to find that the heroes who gunned down poor old Jean Charles de Menezes on the London Tube in 2005 had been receiving “anti-terrorist” advice from the Israelis.
And yes, I know the arguments. We cannot compare the actions of evil terrorists with the courage of our young men and women, defending our lives – and sacrificing theirs – on the front lines of the ‘war on terror”. There can be no “equivalence”. “They” kill innocents because “they” are evil. “We” kill innocents by mistake. But we know we are going to kill innocents – we willingly accept that we are going to kill innocents, that our actions are going to create mass graves of families, of the poor and the weak and the dispossessed.
This is why we created the obscene definition of “collateral damage”. For if “collateral” means that these victims are innocent, then “collateral” also means that we are innocent of killing them. It was not our wish to kill them – even if we knew it was inevitable that we would. “Collateral” is our exoneration. This one word is the difference between “them” and “us”, between our God-given right to kill and Bin Laden’s God-given right to murder. The victims, hidden away as “collateral” corpses, don’t count any more because they were slaughtered by us. Maybe it wasn’t so painful. Maybe death by drone is a more gentle departure from this earth, evisceration by an AGM-114C Boeing-Lockheed air-to-ground missile less painful, than death by shards from a roadside bomb or a cruel suicider with an explosive belt.
That’s why we know how many died on 9/11 – 2,966, although the figure may be higher – and why we don’t “do body counts” on those whom we kill. Because they – “our” victims – must have no identities, no innocence, no personality, no cause or belief or feelings; and because we have killed far, far more human beings than Bin Laden and the Taliban and al-Qa’ida.
Anniversaries are newspaper and television events. And they can have an eerie habit of coalescing together to create an unhappy memorial framework. Thus do we commemorate the Battle of Britain – a chivalric episode in our history – and the Blitz, a progenitor of mass murder, to be sure, but a symbol of innocent courage – as we remember the start of a war that has torn our morality apart, turned our politicians into war criminals, our soldiers into killers and our ruthless enemies into heroes of the anti-Western cause. And while on this gloomy anniversary the Rev Jones wanted to burn a book called the Koran, Tony Blair tried to sell a book called A Journey. Jones said the Koran was “evil”; Britons have asked whether the Blair book should be classified as “crime”. Certainly, 9/11 has moved into fantasy when the Rev Jones can command the attention of the Obamas and the Clintons and the Holy Father and the even more Holy United Nations. Whom the gods would destroy..
11 Sep 2001
The World Trade Centre and the Pentagon are hit by aeroplanes hijacked by al-Qa’ida terrorists. George Bush says that America will stand with “all those who want peace and security in the world”.
7 Oct 2001
The US and Britain launch air strikes against Afghanistan.
13 Nov 2001
The Northern Alliance liberates Kabul from the rule of the Taliban.
11 Jan 2002
The first prisoners arrive at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
9 Jan 2003
Top UN weapons inspector Hans Blix tells reporters that “we have now been in [Iraq] for some two months and? we haven’t found any smoking guns”.
15 Feb 2003
Protests are held across the world against impending war in Iraq.
20 Mar 2003
US-led coalition launches invasion of Iraq.
9 Oct 2003
Toppling of statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad is taken as symbol of coalition triumph.
11 Mar 2004
A series of bombs explode within minutes of each other on four commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding a further 1,841.
29 Apr 2004
Photographs emerge showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib, inflaming anti-US feeling.
2 Oct 2004
Video footage appears of British hostage Kenneth Bigley being beheaded by Iraqi militants.
2 Nov 2004
Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh is murdered after making a film about violence against women in Islamic societies.
7 Jul 2005
Four suicide bombers kill 52 passengers and injure almost 800 others in a series of attacks on London’s transport network.
30 Sep 2005
A series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohamed are published in a Danish newspaper. The pictures are reprinted elsewhere amid widespread outrage and violent protests in the Muslim world.
30 Dec 2009
Saddam Hussein is hanged in northern Baghdad for crimes against humanity.
21 Sep 2009
A leaked report by Gen Stanley McChrystal, commander of US forces, suggests that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan could be lost within a year unless there are significant increases in troops.
29 Nov 2009
A ban on building minarets is voted in by the Swiss public, reflecting a hostile attitude to the country’s rising Muslim minority.
21 Jan 2010
43 per cent of Americans say they feel some negative prejudice towards Muslims, according to a poll by Gallup.
1 Sep 2010
At the end of a month in which 295 civilians were killed by violence, Barack Obama declares that the US combat mission in Iraq is at an end.
Journalist Lauren Booth was on the first Free Gaza voyage and stayed to work in Gaza after the boats left. Her heartfelt letter to the people of Israel should be read and seen by everyone who hopes for peace in the Middle East. This stunning video tribute to her words was designed and produced by the Free Gaza movement.