Never again? Elderly Palestinian women called ‘whores’ on Yad Vashem tour, while racism explodes across Israel

Dec 30, 2010

Max Blumenthal


The only image of a Palestinian inside Yad Vashem depicts the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem sig heiling Nazi troops. (Photo: Max Blumenthal)

This week, a group of elderly Palestinian women were escorted to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance musuem to learn about the Jewish genocide in Europe. At the entrance of the museum, they were surrounded by a group of Jewish Israeli youth who recognized them as Arabs. “Sharmouta!” the young Israelisshouted at them again and again, using the Arabic slang term for whores, or sluts.

The Palestinians had been invited to attend a tour arranged by the Israeli Bereaved Families Forum, an organization founded by an Israeli whose son was killed in combat by Palestinians. They were joined by a group of Jewish Israeli women who, like them, had lost family members to violence related to the conflict. Presumably, both parties went on the tour in good faith, hoping to gain insight into the suffering of women on the other side of the conflict.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian members (who unlike the Israelis live under occupation and almost certainly had to obtain special permits just to go to Yad Vashem) learned an unusual lesson of the Holocaust: A society that places the Holocaust at the center of its historical narrative — that stops traffic for two minutes each year on the national holiday known as Yom Ha’Shoah — could also raise up a generation of little fascists goose-stepping into the future full of irrational hatred.

“In Palestinian culture, older women are most honored and they could not believe their ears,” said Sami Abu Awwad, a Palestinian coordinator of the tour. “We never talk like this to older women. The Palestinians, who were all grandmothers, were very shocked and offended.”

The report on this outburst of Jewish Israeli racism comes from the Israeli news website Walla! For some reason, I could not find reporting on it anywhere in English.

Perhaps the story was lost in the flood of reports about the anti-Arab racism that poured through the streets of Israel this week. Besides the publication of a series of rabbinical letters forbidding renting to Arabs and condemning relationships between Jews and Arabs, a school principal in Jaffaprohibited Palestinian-Israeli students from speaking Arabic to one another. In Bat Yam, a mostly Russian suburb just south of Jaffa, Jewish residents demonstrated against the presence their Arab neighbors. “Any Jewish woman who goes with an Arab should be killed; any Jew who sells his home to an Arab should be killed,” one protester reportedly shouted. And in Tel Aviv, locals rallied for the expulsion of foreign workers.

The Jerusalem Post reported:

On Saturday, three teenage girls born to African migrant parents were attacked and severely beaten by a mob of teenagers while walking to their homes in the Hatikva neighborhood.

That same night, someone tried to torch an apartment in Ashdod housing seven Sudanese citizens. The assailants set a blazing tire outside the front door of the apartment, and five of the seven residents were lightly hurt by smoke inhalation before they managed to break the burglar bars and flee through a window.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, a gang of Jewish youths was arrested after staging several random attacks on young Palestinian men with weapons including tear gas, which would be hard to acquire from anywhere except the army. Ynet reported:

The gang of teens was allegedly headed by a 14-year-old boy, and used a girl their age to seduce Arab youths.

The girl would then lead the young men to a meeting point in the city’s Independence Park, where they were allegedly brutally attacked by the teens with stones, glass bottles and tear gas. Police suspect the girl took part in three of the assaults.


Daniel Bar-Tal, a renowned Israeli political psychologist who has conducted some of the most comprehensive surveys of Israeli attitudes since Operation Cast Lead, found that the racist, authoritarian trends that are increasingly pronounced in Israeli society are products of a “psycho-social infrastructure” dedicated to promoting “a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering.”


This infrastructure is comprised of institutions like the Zionist education system, the Israeli Defense Forces, and even Yad Vashem, which explicitly links the Palestinian national struggle to Nazism.


Indeed, the only image of a Palestinian in all of Yad Vashem (at least that I am aware of) is of the Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, who was forced by the British to flee to Germany, where he became a (not very successful) Nazi collaborator. In recent years, the Mufti has become a key fixture of Israeli propaganda efforts against the Palestinians. As such, a photo is featured prominently on a wall in Yad Vashem depicting him sig heiling a group of Nazi troops. However, there is no mention anywhere in Yad Vashem of the 9000 Palestinian Arabs the British recruited to fight the Nazis, or of the 233,000 North African volunteers who fought and died while battling the Nazis in the French Liberation Army (and whose heroic efforts were dramatized in the excellent film, “Days of Glory”).


According to Peter Novick, the author of “The Holocaust in American Life,” though the Mufti played no significant part in the Holocaust, he plays a “starring role” in Yad Vashem’s Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. “The article on the Mufti is more than twice as long as the articles on Goebbels and Goring, longer than the articles on Himmler and Heydrich combined, longer than the article on Eichmann — of all the biographical articles, it is exceeded in length, but only slightly, by the entry for Hitler.” [Novick, p. 158]


Not only has Yad Vashem attempted through propagandistic means to link the Palestinian struggle to Nazism, it has promoted an exclusivist view of the Holocaust. In April 2009, Yad Vashem fired a docent, Itamar Shapira, because he had discussed the massacre of Palestinians in Deir Yassin with a group of students from the settlement of Efrat. “All I was trying to say is that there were people who lived here before the Holocaust survivors arrived, that they suffered a terrible trauma too, and that we shouldn’t hide the facts,” Shapira told me a month after his firing. “Yad Vashem carefully selected what facts it wanted to present, but deliberately avoided things like Deir Yassin, even though its ruins were just a thousand meters from the museum.”


Iris Rosenberg, a Yad Vashem administrator who was involved in Shapira’s firing, said of the verbal assault against Palestinian women at the museum this week: “Despite the regrettable incident at the entrance to the museum, the team’s visit to the Holocaust History Museum was conducted in a dignified manner which was significant and important.”


Tamara Rabinovitch, the Israeli leader of the Bereaved Families tour, told Walla! that her Palestinian counterparts “were very excited by the visit. Some of them approached me and told me they heard details of the Holocaust but did not know how painful it was. In two weeks we plan to visit an abandoned Arab village so that the Palestinian narrative is represented.”


This post originally appeared on Max Blumenthal’s website here.


Hatem, 17, was shot in the head while purchasing strawberries to sell at market in the Gaza Strip, about 800 metres from the border fence with Israel.

Dec 30, 2010



And other news from Today in Palestine:

Settlers/ Land, Property, Resource Theft & Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing
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Industrial Buildings Razed North of Jerusalem
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Settlers Attack Reuters Journalist’s Car South of Hebron
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Witnesses: Settlers torch tent in Hebron village
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`Am al-Ara`is and Bi`r al-`Id
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Activism/Solidarity/Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions

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BDS 2010: More Powerful Than The Sword
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Dutch Government Cuts Funding for Cordaid, NGO Involved in Palestine 
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Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (16 – 22 December. 2010)–22-december-2010&catid=84:weekly-2009&Itemid=183
Humanitarian Issues/Human Rights

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Voices from the Occupation
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The Gaza prison
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Two Years After Gaza War, Gaza Remains Sealed-Off, Suffering Continues

Video: I Shall Not Hate
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish tells the story of the death of his daughters during the Israeli attack on Gaza Uruknet Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish is a Palestinian medical doctor who was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee Camp. Dr. Izzeldin has written a book called “I Shall Not Hate” published in April 2010 about his three daughters who were killed during the Gaza tragedy of January 2009.
Gaza farmers pack strawberries and hope for export
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Racism & Discrimination

Rabbi’s wife: Arabs are the enemy
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Israeli MK proposes killing Bedouin smugglers
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Jenin resident detained at Allenby Bridge
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PA Repression

Hamas: PA detains 7 supporters
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Detained journalist questions right to freedom of speech for Palestinians
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Hamas Repression

FIDA denounces raid on Gaza offices
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Political Developments

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Michael Sfard on the Gaza war and Jewish morality
It has been a year, just one year since, but we can already safely say it was not just another Operation Rainbow, Summer Rains, or Autumn Clouds, as IDF operations in Gaza were named in recent years.  Perhaps the officer in charge of naming the operations was replaced by another, or perhaps the IDF ran out of pastoral names.  In any event, our most recent brutal attack against Gaza was given a violent sounding name: Cast Lead.  Looking back, Operation Cast Lead was a turning point in the way Israeli society expresses its values.  There, in besieged Gaza Strip, we exposed ourselves to a crystal-clear, shameless, and unmasked truth that we had thus far avoided by using repression and self-deceit methods that became more complex and clever with every war and operation we waged.  Like that macho man who grew tired of pretending he was politically correct and angrily yelled at his wife to go back to the kitchen, we came out of the closet.  We are who we are and we are proud of it!
Gaza Two Years Later: War is never over, Sarah Ali
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Gaza Two Years Later: The world has come to recognize our plight, Mohammed Said AlNadi
It is odd that tragedies make obscure things more noticeable. For so many years, the tiny coastal belt, the Gaza Strip, being a needle-eye spot on the world’s map, was not present in the mind of the people across the world. They had no idea about what or where Gaza was, either because they were ignorant of it or they took the “hostile-entity” image for granted. But after Israel’s pogrom in winter 2008-2009, in which more than 1400 innocent people were massacred in Gaza, needless to talk about the extremely unrestrained indulgence in destroying businesses, civilian-owned houses, schools and mosques– Gaza has gotten into the very conscience of the world. 
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This week is the start of the 22-day-long second anniversary of Operation Cast Lead– a.k.a. # 11 in the long, sad caravan of wars of forced regime change that Israel has launched against its neighbors since 1948. I used to describe Cast Lead as #5 in Israel’s wars of forced regime change… Then I realized I should also count a bunch of Israel’s earlier wars, nearly all of which had amongst their key geostrategic goals a forced change in the political regime of one or more neighboring countries.
Is Israel a democracy? Five actions in 2010 that fueled the debate
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On Palestine, the US is a rogue state, John Whitbeck
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A (missed) opportunity for dialogue, Shiri Raphaely
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Lanny Davis dismisses U.N. report on Ivory Coast because– U.N. blasted Israel,  Philip Weiss
Lanny Davis is a symbol for me of everything that’s wrong with the new establishment. A, It’s just as bad as the old establishment, in that it supports rightwing dictators in out of the way places, for cash; B, It’s a new establishment in that it’s permeated by the Israel lobby. Justin Elliott at Salonreports on CNN grilling Lanny Davis about his work for the Ivory Coast strongman Gbagbo. 
Why doesn’t CNN hold Fran Townsend to the Octavia Nasr standard?, Philip Weiss
John Edelstein writes:  Last Wednesday, a group of prominent Bush-era Republicans, including former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former White House adviser Frances Townsend and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, flew to Paris (per TPM) to speak in support of MEK, a Marxist Iranian exile group there — one that’s been designated an official terrorist organization by the U.S. (Frankly I’m more surprised they’re supporting Marxists.)
Am I allowed to be a Palestinian Jew?, Audrey Farber
“Our grandparents are from Poland and the Ukraine. They were communists, and they immigrated here from Europe. But our parents raised us as Palestinian – yeah, we’re Ashkenazi but we’re Palestinian. We went to Arab schools, we speak Arabic. Our friends are Arab.” Dumbfounded, I begged them to continue. I suppose it could have been the wine, but these Palestinian Jews veritably blew my mind.
Hard times for Palestine
As 2010 comes to an end, Palestinians are facing the most difficult of times. They are locked into a process of “peace negotiations” with Israel that seem likely to lead nowhere, and achieve nothing., This is thanks largely to the White House, which is not only unable to halt illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, but also impotent when it comes to demanding that Israeli Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu respect a temporary freeze on settlement construction. 

FM Summons British Ambassador over British FM Statements
29/12/2010 Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali Shami revealed on Wednesday that he had recently summoned British Ambassador to Lebanon Frances Mary Guy over recent statements by his British counterpart William Hague on the possibility of the eruption of violence in Lebanon.  Shami told NBN that he had asked Guy for an explanation of the statements as the Lebanese were concerned that they were based on secret intelligence.  Guy responded that Hague’s statements were not based on such intelligence nor do they represent the UK’s position, but they were only based on “personal analyses.”  Hague had recently told Britain’s Sky News television that he was worried about the situation in Lebanon and that he feared violence may break out in January.
Kissinger: on having the Syrian regime “clean up” the Lebanese Left in 1976
“Kissinger: We first thought it would be good to have the Syrians clean up on the left;” 
New York Times on Al-Akhbar, As’ad Abukhalil
So Robert Worth has an article about Al-Akhbar in the New York Times.  What do I think? Well, for one, it must be difficult to write an article about a paper that you can’t read.  How does one judge a paper that one can’t read even if you talk to many people?  I think that the article contains seeds of truth about the atmosphere of the paper.  As seasoned Lebanese mainstream journalist, Rafiq Khuri, told me over the summer: it is a reporters’ newspaper.  He commented on the lack of a big shot publisher.  The largest owner of the paper, Hasan Khalil, really does not interfere in the paper whatsoever (I once witnessed how editor-in-chief, Khalid Saghiyyah nixed an idea by Khalil and in strong language.)  When Khalil first called me (before we met in Beirut) to discuss the paper and my articles, he asked me if he could offer comments to me about my articles.  I said: you can as a reader, but I won’t accept them from you as the publisher.  The notion that Khalid and Omar “are Western-friendly” is outright silly: as if some diabolical conspiracy drive the paper–a paper that advertises (prominently) for Whiskey brands.  Of course, its Saudi and Hariri enemies have nothing to attack except to refer to the paper as “pro-Hizbullah” or as the mouthpiece of Hizbullah.  To them, I offer them a challenge.  They are indeed mouthpieces of House of Saud princes and Hariri family members: can they dare to ever mildly–to use the word of Worth–criticize any aspect of Hariri or Saudi policies, I would then accept their labels.  As Worth pointed out, the paper regularly carries criticisms of Hizbullah.  Worth did not mention that Ibrahim Al-Amin (who is friends with Hizbullah leaders) wrote one of the most strident attack on Hizbullah in the wake of the Salah `Izz Id-Din scandal referring to corruption with the party.  So has Khalid Saghiyyah.  I wrote a 2400 words article on how Hizbullah is a sectarian party.   But the publicity for Al-Akhbar is not bad these days: not that it needs it.  But Worth needed to place the success of the paper in the context of the bankruptcy of Arab media in general. [end]

Wednesday: 7 Iraqis Killed, 8 Wounded
At least seven Iraqis were killed and eight more were wounded in light violence. In the worst attack, a noted police commander was killed during a suicide bombing in Mosul. Meanwhile, the murder trial for a British contractor accused of murdering two colleagues opened in Baghdad. 
Triple suicide bombing hits Mosul
Attack targets police chief involved in anti-al Qaeda operations in Iraq, kills four.
Police chief killed in north Iraq
Suicide bombers attack a police battalion in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing the commander, officials say. 
Iraq war deaths ‘drop in 2010’
Group monitoring civilian deaths says total is less than 2009 but warns of lingering, low-level conflict in years ahead.
Murder trial for British contractor opens in Iraq (AP)
AP – The trial of a British security contractor charged with killing two of his colleagues last year opened Wednesday in Baghdad with testimony from a guard who said the contractor shot him.* 
Iraq seeks to increase trade exchange with Egypt to $5 billion annually
An adviser in the Iraqi government for economic affairs, said on Tuesday, that Iraq is seeking to increase its trade exchange with Egypt to $ 5 billion annually.   Salam al-Quraishi, told that the Egyptian investment companies will play a serious role in implementing investment, construction projects, housing complexes, building malls, and schools.
Prison legacy haunts Iraq neighborhood
BAGHDAD — The name has been changed, along with the management. But the specter of Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison continues to haunt local residents, many of who still call it the “House of Satan.”  Abu Ghraib, now called Baghdad Central Prison, became infamous in 2004 when pictures and reports emerged of horrific abuse carried out there by U.S. military police and other American agencies charged with running the facility.  Evidence of physical, psychological and sexual abuses led to the prosecution of 11 American troops. To many around the world, the shocking images that emerged came to symbolize the worst of America’s occupation of Iraq.  To those who live near the facility — most of them Sunni Arabs — the prison is to blame for a wide variety of social, economic and emotional problems that have beset the district in recent years.  The more superstitious residents talk about the area being haunted by those who suffered while behind bars. 
US, Israel and Gulf dictatorships declare this the biggest security threat in the Middle East: Iranian ice-cream in Iraq
“In the heart of Baghdad’s Green Zone, just yards from the mighty fortress of the biggest U.S. embassy in the world, a small but symbolic challenge to America’s rapidly waning influence in Iraq is taking shape in the form of an Iranian ice cream parlor.”
U.S. and other world news

Manufacturing Consent For Attack On Iran
Israeli Deputy PM: West has three years to stop Iran nuclear program: Moshe Ya’alon says Iran remains the govern.
Britain forms plan for Gulf evacuation in event of war with Iran
The British armed forces are drawing up contingency plans to evacuate hundreds of thousands of British residents and tourists from Dubai and other Gulf cities in the event of war with Iran.
US withdraws Venezuela envoy’s visa
Decision to revoke visa for Venezuela’s ambassador to Washington follows rejection of US choice for Caracas.
Espionage Act ‘threatens every left wing activist,’ son of executed US communists declares
As US officials investigated whether they can charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the 1917 US Espionage Act, a voice of remarkable experience with the controversial law spoke out in defense of the secrets proprietor, suggesting his indictment under the act would yet again transform “dissent into treason.” 
Judith Miller Lands At Newsmax
Judith Miller, the now infamous former New York Times reporter whose hilariously wrong pieces on Iraq’s WMD program were cited by Bush administration officials as a factor in their decision to invade Iraq (by design, considering international grifter-clown Ahmed Chalabi was telling Miller exactly what the Bush White House wanted her to hear: as Jack Shafer puts it, “Bush’s guy was the Times’s guy“), is causing a stir on the Tweetdecks of American journalists today because she has published her first reported piece in print for the right-leaning Newsmax (where she has already served as an online contributor).
Many Arab officials have close CIA links
“These officials are spies for the US in their countries,” Assange told Al Jazeera Arabic channel in an interview yesterday.
Capital’s war against WikiLeaks
When your Swiss banker throws you overboard, you know you’ve made some very powerful enemies.
Affidavit Details FBI “Operation Payback” Probe
The FBI has raided a Texas business and seized a computer server that investigators believe was used to launch a massive electronic attack on PayPal, The Smoking Gun has learned.
Terrorist watch list: One tip now enough to put name in database, officials say
Senior counterterrorism officials say they have altered their criteria so that a single-source tip, as long as it is deemed credible, can lead to a name being placed on the watch list.
Tunisia struggles to end protests
Demonstrations over unemployment and poor living conditions continue despite president’s warnings of reprisals.
Ancient church unearthed in Syria
DAMASCUS, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) — Syrian archeologists have discovered church remains dating back to the 5th century B.C., in Daraa province, south of the capital Damascus, Syrian official SANA news agency reported Wednesday.  The archeologists found foundations of a church’s wall near the southern side of a Roman Temple site in Daraa province, the report said.

SJP statement on FBI intimidation: ‘We live in an age in which silence is not only criminal but suicidal – we shall, therefore, make as much noise as we can’

Dec 30, 2010

Students for Justice in Palestine


National Solidarity Statement on Impact of Grand Jury Subpoenas on Students’ First Amendment Rights

December 29, 2010

“For if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”

– James Baldwin, in an open letter to Angela Davis, November 19, 1970

As students at over fifty American universities, we unequivocally condemn the abuse of grand jury subpoenas to chill the exercise of First Amendment rights by university students and anti-war activists speaking and organizing against Israel’s continued oppression of the Palestinian people. Since September 24, 2010, the F.B.I. has served at least 24 grand jury subpoenas on students and activists in a secret investigation that many have called a witch-hunt. We call upon Attorney General Eric Holder and United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to respect the civil rights and free speech of all those who support the Palestinian struggle for freedom by immediately withdrawing grand jury subpoenas which threaten the First Amendment rights of students and activists around the country.

The government’s assault on organizations and individuals who support the Palestinian struggle for freedom has become increasingly authoritarian. The abuse of laws criminalizing “material support for terrorism” is unprecedented and, had they been implemented at the time of South African apartheid, would have effectively criminalized broad American support for the anti-apartheid movement. At the apparent behest of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the government today has cast a net so wide that it has entangled journalists, college students, and peace activists. We know that a campaign so indiscriminate will seriously impinge on the First Amendment and other civil rights of people living in the United States. This will, in particular, affect active and outspoken students on university campuses, especially those of Palestinian descent.

It is not only our right but also our moral duty to speak and act against American foreign policy and its destructive impact on innocent people around the world. Today, America unfortunately stands behind Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people with money, weaponry, and diplomatic support. We seek to reverse this situation so that American foreign policy stands on the side of people who work towards justice. We reject the government’s efforts to isolate the Palestinian people by severing them from their non-violent supporters abroad. Therefore we stand in solidarity with the victims of our government’s campaign both in America and around the globe.

If Attorney Fitzgerald’s campaign marks the morning of a new day, then we are certain of what awaits us in the night. Like Baldwin before us, we live in an age in which silence is not only criminal but suicidal – we shall, therefore, make as much noise as we can.



American University, Students for Justice in Palestine

Arizona State University, Students for Justice in Palestine

Bard College, International Solidarity Movement

Benedictine University, Students for Justice in Palestine

Boston University, Students for Justice in Palestine

Brandeis University, Brandeis SJP

Brooklyn College CUNY, The Palestinian Club

Columbia University, Students for Justice in Palestine

Cornell University, United for Peace and Justice in Palestine

DePaul University, Students for Justice in Palestine

Eastern Washington University, SLAC

Florida International University, Students for Justice in Palestine

George Mason University, Students for Justice in Palestine

George Washington University, Students for Justice in Palestine

Georgetown University, Students for Justice in Palestine

Hampshire College, Students for Justice in Palestine

Harvard Law School, Middle East Law Students Association

Harvard University, Alliance for Justice in the Middle East

Harvard University, Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee

Harvard University, Harvard Law School Justice for Palestine

Hunter College, Students for Justice in Palestine

Loyola University, Middle Eastern Student Association

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Palestine@MIT

New York University, Students for Justice in Palestine

Northeastern Illinois University, Students for Justice in Palestine

Northwestern University, Students for Justice in Palestine

Ohio State University, Committee for Justice in Palestine

Pennsylvania State University, Students for Justice in Palestine

Rutgers University – New Brunswick, BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice

Saint Xavier University, Students for Justice in Palestine

San Diego State University, Students for Justice in Palestine

San Jose State University, Students for Justice in Palestine

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Students for Justice in Palestine

Temple University, Temple Students for Justice in Palestine

Tufts University, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of Arizona, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of California, Berkeley, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of California, Berkeley Law, Law Students for Justice in Palestine

University of California, Davis, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of California, Irvine, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of California, Los Angeles, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of California, Riverside, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of California, San Diego, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of Chicago, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of Florida, Students for Justice In Palestine

University of Illinois at Chicago, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of Michigan, Students Allied for Freedom & Equality

University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Palestine Solidarity Committee

University of New Mexico, Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East

University of Pittsburgh, Pitt Students for Justice in Palestine

University of South Florida, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of Southern California, Students for Justice in Palestine

University of Texas at Austin, Palestine Solidarity Committee

University of Washington, Students for Justice in Palestine

Vermont Law School, Law Students for Justice in Palestine

Wellesley College, Justice for Palestine

Yale University, Yale Students for Justice and Peace in Palestine

Why doesn’t CNN hold Fran Townsend to the Octavia Nasr standard?

Dec 29, 2010

Philip Weiss


John Edelstein writes:

Last Wednesday, a group of prominent Bush-era Republicans, including former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former White House adviser Frances Townsend and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, flew to Paris (per TPM) to speak in support of MEK, a Marxist Iranian exile group there — one that’s been designated an official terrorist organization by the U.S. (Frankly I’m more surprised they’re supporting Marxists.)

Fran Townsend is CNN’s resident terrorism expert.

Now, recall how Octavia Nasr was fired for an impolitic tweet eulogizing Hezbollah’s Fadlallah. Double standards at CNN? Yet Townsend is often billed as a neutral National Security expert and her ties to Bush are rarely shown on the screen when she’s asked for her expertise. But she’s part of this group literally providing material support to Iranian Marxists that the US government has labeled as an official terrorist organization.

Here is the US Government’s legal definition of “material support” for a terrorist group:

(b) Definitions.— As used in this section—

(1) the term “material support or resources” means any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel …

(3) the term “expert advice or assistance” means advice or assistance derived from scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge.

Gaza was #11 in the long sad caravan of Israel’s wars of regime change

Dec 29, 2010

Helena Cobban


This is a crosspost from Helena Cobban‘s Just World News:

This week is the start of the 22-day-long second anniversary of Operation Cast Lead– a.k.a. # 11 in the long, sad caravan of wars of forced regime change that Israel has launched against its neighbors since 1948. I used to describe Cast Lead as #5 in Israel’s wars of forced regime change… Then I realized I should also count a bunch of Israel’s earlier wars, nearly all of which had amongst their key geostrategic goals a forced change in the political regime of one or more neighboring countries.

So here’s my list:

#1: Israel’s instigation and participation in the Tripartite (Israeli-British-French) assault against Egypt and Gaza in 1956, which had the goal of overthrowing Nasser. It failed in that goal.

#2: The “Six-Day” war of 1967, which had the goals of seizing the West Bank from Jordan and hopefully also overthrowing the regimes in either Egypt or Syria. The first goal was achieved, the other two not.

#3: Israel’s involvement in backing Jordan’s King Hussein in his anti-PLO assault of September 1970, which brought into place a very different kind of regime in Jordan– though still one headed, as before, by Hussein.

#4: The military aid Israel gave to the campaign that the Lebanese Falangists and their Chamounist allies mounted against the PLO in Lebanon in 1976. This one was, essentially a standoff.

#5: The direct Israeli military assault against Lebanon in 1978. This one aimed at putting pressure on the Lebanese to expel the PLO. It failed at that– but Israel did establish the Insecurity Zone deep inside south Lebanon in which it was to remain for a further 22 years.

#6: The even bigger Israeli military assault against Lebanon in 1982. This one aimed both at direct elimination of the PLO’s self-defense capabilities in Lebanon and at pressuring the Lebanese to expel what remained of the PLO. It also aimed at installing a dependent, pro-Israeli government in Beirut. It achieved the first two of those goals but its attainment of the third of them was much more fragile and short-lived– lasting only until Pres. Amin Gemayyel made his peace with Syria in February 1984. Meanwhile, of course, Israel’s occupation presence in a huge chunk of south Lebanon fomented the birth of Hizbullah….

#7: The large Israeli assault against Lebanon in 1993– this time, with the aim of pressuring the Lebanese to repudiate Hizbullah. Didn’t work.

#8: The large Israeli assault against Lebanon in 1996– once again, with the aim of pressuring the Lebanese to repudiate Hizbullah. Didn’t work.

#9: The large Israeli assault against all PA institutions in the West Bank and Gaza in 2002. This one aimed at directly destroying the PA’s ability to deliver any services to Palestinians and resulted in the dismantlement of just about all the infrastrcture the PA had built up since Oslo. It left a state of anarchy and hopelessness from which Hamas was to emerge much stronger than before…

#10: The truly massive Israeli assault against Lebanon in 2006– once again, with the aim of pressuring the Lebanese to repudiate Hizbullah. Didn’t work.

#11: The truly massive Israeli assault against Gaza in late 2008– with the aim of pressuring the Palestinians to repudiate/overthrow Hamas. Didn’t work. 

‘The Palestine Cables’: Other countries want to ’smoke out’ Israel on NPT and Mossad use of passports

Dec 29, 2010

Alex Kane


Whether it’s the Mossad’s use of foreign passports or the refusal to open up about its nuclear weapons program, Israel is developing a reputation as a rogue state.  Some of the nearly 2,000 secret State Department cables so far released by WikiLeaks and its media partners reveal that governments around the world are getting impatient with these practices. 

Israel joins India, Pakistan and North Korea as the only states to possess nuclear weapons without being a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty(NPT), the key pillar in the international effort to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. 

Some governments want to put an end to Israel’s official policy of “ambiguity” over its nuclear weapons program:

In February 2010, an Egyptian military official “called on the United States to not ignore the Israeli nuclear program. He stated that Israel’s nuclear program only gave Iran justification for creating its own nuclear weapons. If Iran obtained nuclear weapons, it would only embolden Iran to use Hezbollah and Hamas with impunity.”  Juan Cole comments that this cable is proof that “Israel’s nuclear stockpile inspires neighbors with fear and trepidation, and impels them to try to get a nuclear bomb themselves.”

–An American Assistant Secretary of State, Rose Gottemoeller, held meetings with a number of foreign diplomats about the NPT in May 2009.  Canadian ambassador Marius Grinius, whose country is one of Israel’s staunchest allies, told Gottemoeller that “it was time for the [Conference on Disarmament) to ‘smoke out’ Pakistan, Iran and Israel on their positions [regarding the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty].”

–An April 2009 cable meant to prepare Dennis Ross for a visit to Egypt states that the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs “believes that a harder U.S. line in UN fora on Israel’s nuclear program would strengthen the U.S. position on demanding Iran cease working to develop nuclear weapons.”

A February 2010 cable describes efforts by the French and U.S. governments to entice Egypt to get on board with efforts to stop nuclear weapons spreading around the Middle East.  One way to do that, the French government suggested, was to push “Israel to accept CTBT [Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty].”

Ire has also been directed at Israel because of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, using foreign passports:

–After two Israeli citizens were sentenced to jail in New Zealand on charges of attempting to obtain a false passport, a U.S. diplomatic cable reportedin July 2004 that, “Prime Minister Helen Clark suspended high-level contact with Israel and announced a range of diplomatic sanctions, including placing Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) officials under ‘strict constraints’ in their contact with Israelis.”

State Department cables are also beginning to trickle out about the Mossad’s involvement in the January assassination of Hamas member Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, again with the misuse of passports being an issue. 

But it is the U.S. that is shielding Israel from accountability on both NPT and passport abuse.  

Despite calling for a world free of nuclear weapons, in August 2010 the Obama administration said that “Israel has [the] right to nuclear capability for deterrence purposes.”  A December 2009 cable reports that a U.S. diplomat strategized with the Israeli government on a “potential strategy in addressing Egyptian insistence on pushing for the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East, as a way to divert attention from Iran to Israel.”

The U.S. also “declined a request from the United Arab Emirates to assist an investigation into the assassination of a top Hamas commander,”according to a February 2010 cable.

For more WikiLeaks news and analysis relating to Israel/Palestine, see:

–Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam:  Wikileaks: State Department Lied, Denying Dubai Asked for Assistance in Tracking Mossad Assassins

–Asa Winstanley, New Left Project:  Wikileaks: Insights on Palestine from the Cables

–Reuters:  UAE considered keeping Mabhouh hit under wraps, WikiLeaks cables reveal

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and blogger based in New York City. You can read all of ‘The Palestine Cables’ reports here and he blogs on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia in the United States at  Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Lanny Davis drops Ivory Coast account

Dec 29, 2010

Philip Weiss


Ben Smith reports at Politico… He has Lanny Davis’s letter of resignation. This is almost as good as the Marc Rich scandal… He blames the Africans for not picking up the phone. I thought it was spelled Abidjan?

Unfortunately, as you know, the decision was made in Abijan not to allow President Obama’s call to be put through to Mr Gbagbo, despite my repeated objections to that decision. Nor have I been able to reach Mr. Gbagbo directly myself to offer him this advice, despite repeated requests, as recently as the last twenty-four hours. Therefore, without going into further details regarding disagreements between me and representatives of the government, of which you are aware, I have reached the conclusion that I have not been allowed to effectuate the mission that I was expressly asked to do by your government, despite all my best efforts to do so.

Am I allowed to be a Palestinian Jew?

Dec 29, 2010

Audrey Farber


Two brothers are on the couch next to me, speaking rapid Arabic and sipping their beers. Though they look white, they have no discernible accent and to my ear, their Arabic is flawless. I assume they’re Arab, even though there’s something not-quite-Arab about them. But this is a party, so we switch to English and the important things in life: wine, beer, and mopeds.

An hour later I’m talking to them again, and a revelation shocks me. “They’re Jewish! Did you know that?” I’m stunned – not because I don’t know Jews who can speak Arabic, because I do – but because they pulled it off so effortlessly. They gave no impression of putting on airs, pretending to be someone they’re not. They were completely at ease with the other mostly-Arab partiers, joking around with their friends with native fluency. But they’re Jewish, and we’re in Israel, so they must be Israeli, so….what?

“You’re Jewish?” “Yeah, we’re Palestinian and we’re Jewish.” More stunned-ness. My initial reaction was that they’re Palestinian Jews from before the founding of the state – there were, of course, Jews who lived in the Middle East before Israel existed. For the most part these Mizrahi (Arab, lit. Eastern) Jews have integrated into Israeli society, though there is discrimination facing this community as well and for the most part they would never identify as Palestinian. But racial profiler that I am, I knew these were not Mizrahi Jews. They looked too much like me, like my Ashkenazi Jewish and white Christian friends.

“Our grandparents are from Poland and the Ukraine. They were communists, and they immigrated here from Europe. But our parents raised us as Palestinian – yeah, we’re Ashkenazi but we’re Palestinian. We went to Arab schools, we speak Arabic. Our friends are Arab.” Dumbfounded, I begged them to continue. I suppose it could have been the wine, but these Palestinian Jews veritably blew my mind.

I pushed some more. “But how are you Palestinian?” They responded with a simple question. “You’re American, right?”

I began to realize I was still stuck in my jahiliyya (ignorant, in Arabic) framework in which Palestinian necessitated the co-descriptor Arab. I am, after all, a product of the worldview, framework, and conventional discourse surrounding us which tells us that this identity is impossible. As much as I normally resent and resist this imposed discourse, in my subconscious the Palestinian and the Jew are still enemies. We are told that Jewish and Palestinian are two irreconcilable identities, and we internalize this. Further, the conflation of the identities “Israeli” and “Jewish” is constantly forced on us and it is always juxtaposed with Arab and Palestinian. Indeed, this case of mistaken identity is so pervasive and so global that everyone accepts the definition of Palestinian as Arab and Israeli as Jewish and as against everything Palestinian and Arab.

A few years ago, I read a children’s book to my Hebrew School students about a Jewish boy and a Palestinian boy who play together during childhood. As they grow up they become enemy soldiers at war with each other because that is supposedly the inevitable – if sad – truth of this land. This is what we are taught and this is what we are still teaching our children.

Trapped by the predominant narrative of Jew versus Palestinian, even those of us “in the know” have trouble removing ourselves from this mentality. But who says they can’t be friends? Is there a dividing line between these identities? We are so accustomed to these ideas being mutually exclusive – but I bet if you asked, anyone who gave it a moment of thought will say a Jew can also be Arab. So why cannot a Jew be Palestinian, or a Palestinian a Jew?

Who drew these lines, and why do we abide by them? The Palestinian-Jew dichotomy is not only imposed, brainwashed into us, but it is completely fabricated. To be Jewish is to be a part of a religion, heritage, culture, and tradition. It is not a nationality. I repeat, and Netanyahu, take note: JEWISH IS NOT A NATIONALITY. On the other hand, to be Palestinian means to be a part of the community whose members can trace their lineage back to this land, the families who have historically owned homes and property in this corner of the world. For many, it is living here that makes them Palestinian. It is a national identity, a shared history, and a shared place. Palestinians are a diverse group: Muslims, Christians, atheists, Bedouin, Druze, Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Americans, Communists, Marxists, capitalists, anarchists… even Jews.

The dichotomy, if one exists at all, is not Palestinian-Jewish. A reasonable dichotomy is those who were already here versus those who came later, those who consider themselves native; much like I consider myself native to the US because I was born and raised there, in that culture. (Apparently there is a huge amount of post-colonial literature on this topic, in which the über-colonialist adopts the indigenous national identity in at attempt to sort of anti-assimilate, or claim the land as his own through identifying foremost with the native. I would say this is what happened in the US, and these brothers are the first of that phenomenon here.) In the same way that I am not Native American but am still American, they are Palestinian. I consider myself to come from there, it’s my culture, and my home. They were born and raised here, immersed in Palestinian Arab culture, and it’s their home. On Palestine, in Israel; they are Israeli citizens who, like the many of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, identify with the Palestinian national identity, rejecting the concept of an inherently racist, ethnocratic, xenophobic, verging on theocratic state.

Their Palestinian Jewish identity and the complicated questions it was raising was beginning to draw me in, not only because of the phenomenality of their identity, but because I could see a lot of myself in them – the über-colonialist, the Jew with conflicting identities, someone who is always told they can’t be who they believe they are. I was drawn to their story because it so mirrors my own.

They’ve been outsiders their whole lives. Theirs is the only white Jewish family in a neighborhood of Arab Muslims, Central Asian Jews, and Ethiopian Jews. They were the only non-Arabs in their classes throughout their entire schooling in Arab Christian schools. The older one keeps his identity a secret from his group of Jewish Israeli friends. They know he is leftist, speaks Arabic, and didn’t serve in the IDF, but they don’t know “the truth.” Unlike most Jewish Israeli citizens, they did not serve in the Army despite (somewhat) mandatory conscription. The way they see it, as Palestinians, it’s not their army. “They didn’t want me anyway,” said one. “I had to make them reject me,” said the other. (He told of a lawyer friend of their parents, who informed them of a little-known law which states that anyone – even an Israeli Jew – who identifies with Arab culture more strongly than Israeli Jewish culture are exempt, like most non-Jewish Arabs, from Army service.) But their complex identity is not always understood by other Palestinians. “Some guy told me I can’t be Palestinian because I’m not Arab – but that’s wrong. Palestinian is national, not ethnic.” Theirs has always been a life in direct opposition to a system which tells them what they can and can’t be and believe, and of them rejecting this and creating their own, unique identities.

I am Jewish. My father is Jewish. My mother was raised Presbyterian and never converted. Before my sister and I were born, my parents had a discussion about religion; my dad has never cared strongly for organized religion so was ambivalent about the whole thing, but my mom thought it was important that we be brought up with something. My dad countered with the stipulation that if there must be a religion in the house, it should be Judaism. So my sister and I went to Jewish preschools, went to Hebrew School, celebrated our B’nai Mitzvot, observed the holidays, and even kept Kosher for a few years. (We live in Maine, so finally had to acquiesce to the demands of eating fresh shellfish.) Both of us even underwent an Orthodox conversion. Despite this, my whole life people have been telling me that – regardless of my belief or my practice or my traditions – because my mother is not Jewish, I am not Jewish.

Being Jewish is an important part of my identity, and it will not be denied or defined by someone else’s limited perspective. In the same way, the Palestinian Jewish identity of these brothers flies smack in the face of our standard perceptions of identity in Israel/Palestine. These identities are a product of the discourse created by Israel’s power struggle which necessitates the synonymity of Palestinian and Arab, to the exclusion of every and all things Jewish. This binary distinction is sprouted from untruths and manipulation, created so Israel has free reign to act according to its belief that it has exclusive rights to speak for all of us (even when it doesn’t want us), a right upon which it depends for its political survival. In return we – Jews – must defend its principles and actions no matter what, comprising our values and personal identities in the cross-fire. Israel has co-opted my ancestral identity and turned it into racist nationalism by adopting it as an indispensable part of its rhetoric. Israel sullies the Jewish religious identity and simultaneously destroys the Palestinian national identity: in no other scenario are we told in such absolute terms how we can and cannot identify.

Mainstream definitions of our identities, and in particular those such as Arab, Jewish, and Palestinian, are formed and informed by dominant memes, formulations, and perceptions that we may not entirely understand or even realize exist. The antitheses used in popular discourse – Arab versus Jew, Palestinian versus Jew, Israeli versus Arab, and the amalgamation of Jew as Israeli and vice versa – have created boundaries, limiting what we can say and do and think and even who we are allowed to think we are. This identity crisis will continue until Jews and Israel are no longer used interchangeably and until we are allowed to define our own identities. Identity is complicated and nuanced and we take what we want from our various sides, but amalgamations should be permissive, not prohibitive. I can be American and Jewish, and they can be Palestinian and Jewish, because nationality and religion are not mutually exclusive. In this world of a separate church and state, these should be complementary characteristics.

We can so easily get fenced in by what someone else defines for us and not dare to expand our own definitions and boundaries. To be fully free to express our own complete identities, especially here where politics and media try so hard to control them, rejecting “Jewish” as a necessary and exclusive characteristic of the Israeli identity and rejecting Arab as a necessary and exclusive characteristic of Palestinian identity will lead the way to being able to identify as a Palestinian Jew.

If being Palestinian and Jewish is contradictory, it means neither Palestinians nor Jews are willing to coexist because they are inherently incompatible identities. The ability to combine these identities in one person is a prerequisite for equality in Israel. To achieve this, Judaism must be relegated to a religious, cultural, or ethnic – and not a national – identity. And the Palestinian identity must be secular, national, tied to a place and a geo-political history and all that that entails. In these terms, with these identities, there is no reason that a Jew cannot be Palestinian, or that a Palestinian cannot be a Jew.

“We are the future” one boy says jokingly. “It’s not a joke,” says his brother. The only liveable future is one in which the us vs. them mentality dissolves into the shameful recesses of history. They believe that soon – maybe in thirty years – Israel as we know it will be gone, and they’ll be prepared. They will already be rid of the mentality in which everyone is everyone else’s enemy. By internalizing both sides of a divisive dichotomy, they are the future. I, too, am a part of this future; we are dismantling divisive rhetoric, imposed and perpetuated by the mainstream media and created by Israel’s political needs, by taking these words, redefining them, and crafting our own identities to reflect who want to be, not who someone else told us we were.

Cast truth

Dec 29, 2010

Philip Weiss


The human rights attorney Michael Sfard on Cast Lead, at Coteret (original in Hebrew at Ynet):

Operation Cast Lead was our second war of independence. In the first, we freed ourselves of 2,000 years of living under and being oppressed by foreign regimes. In the second, we broke the shackles of Jewish morality and heritage that were shoved down our throats for years. We liberated ourselves of the ancient Jewish ban against killing the innocent with the evil, from the self-evident lessons and inevitable insights we should have reached of the our collective experience as a downtrodden nation that was denied its own civil rights, that was silenced, knocked down, downgraded, and treated as subhuman. Yes, we violated some of those rules in the past, but we did not even reveal that to ourselves.

Only Jews get to say it

Dec 29, 2010

Philip Weiss


People are talking about Jeffrey Goldberg’s very late epiphany that Israel is not much of a democracy for Palestinians and this clashes with American values. He cited both discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel and in the occupation:

[T]here’s very little Israel’s right-wing government has done in the past year or so to suggest that it is willing to wean itself from its addiction to West Bank settlements, and the expansion of settlements bodes ill for the creation of a Palestinian state — andthe absence of Palestinian statehood means that Israel will one day soon confront this crucial question concerning its democratic nature: Will it grant West Bank Arabs the right to vote, or will it deny them the vote? 

But Walt and Mearsheimer said much of this a long time ago. They were on to Israel’s intransigent refusal to end the occupation in 2006, and saw the clash with American values:

Some aspects of Israeli democracy are at odds with core American values. Unlike the US, where people are supposed to enjoy equal rights irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity, Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship. Given this, it is not surprising that its 1.3 million Arabs are treated as second-class citizens, or that a recent Israeli government commission found that Israel behaves in a ‘neglectful and discriminatory’ manner towards them. Its democratic status is also undermined by its refusal to grant the Palestinians a viable state of their own or full political rights.

At that time (and even after W&M retracted/regretted the word “blood”) Goldberg said they were anti-Semitic, and so did a lot of other Israel lobbyists, in the New York Times, Yivo Institute, the Washington Post, etc. In fact, there’s a basic prejudice at work here. It’s OK if Jews say it, but not gentiles. That prejudice is based on the belief that Jews are outsiders, a minority, and are vulnerable. Not long after he was scolding Hannah Arendt for having insufficient love for the Jewish people, the great Jewish scholar Gershom Scholem said that only Jews could write Jewish history: “…Jewish historians… learned to insist, and rightly so, that Jewish history is a process that can only be understood when viewed from within…” Goldberg has the same view.

At this point in Jewish history, and American history, and American history, this attitude is an exclusive vanity. Jewish history is very important, and understanding American history means understanding Israeli and Jewish history, too.

The gateway for an understanding here is Michael Walzer’s brave statement at the Center for Jewish History a couple years ago about a new era of Jewish responsibility:

“We sustained a national existence for 2000 years without territory, sovereignty, and without coercive power… That is an extraordinary political achievement… one that has not been studied enough, or appreciated enough…. It may be that the talents honed by exile don’t fit the circumstances of statehood… We governed only ourselves, as best we could… Sometimes [we were] semi-autonomous… responsible only for ourselves. In the state of Israel, we have accepted responsibility for other people. That is something we have never had in all the years of exile, and we have not done terribly well.” 

With power comes accountability. Not just to ourselves.

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