Mondoweiss Online Newsletter


Welcome Annie Robbins as Writer at Large

Dec 05, 2011

Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz

Annie Robbins

There have been lots of good changes around here in the last couple weeks, and here is another: Annie Robbins, who has long worked with us in a behind the scenes way as annie, has agreed to take on a more public role, as Writer at Large for Mondoweiss.

Annie needs little introduction. Regular readers know how much her sincerity, her passion, and her productivity have helped to build this site. Still a few words.

Annie grew up in northern California. She has had chapters as an entrepreneur, a builder, and a potter. Her son hooked her up on a computer only 10 years ago, and before long she was drawn to social media, and not long after that to engagement in Middle East issues. People in the Bay Area know her as an activist, we know her for her energy, her nose for news and her eloquent voice.

Annie has been quietly working to make this site stronger for nearly two years out of the spotlight. We are delighted that she is taking a more public role.

The tax-deductible Occupation

Dec 05, 2011

Paul Mutter

avigdor lieberman
Avigdor Lieberman

There are good NGOs and bad NGOs in Tel Aviv’s eyes. The new Likud-Yisrael Beitenu NGO funding legislation is aimed at the bad ones. Bad ones criticize the Occupation. Good ones help it along.

This bill will limit and tax foreign governments’ funding for Israeli NGOs, yet it is not a sweeping measure that will affect Israeli nonprofits’ funding from other sources (or from the Israeli government itself). It is targeted at left-wing organizations, particularly those that provided information for the Goldstone Commission – its supporters openly admit this. Israeli officials also do not want to create a wide-ranging law that could impact right-wing charitable organizations. Tel Aviv increasingly depends on these groups, and their U.S. donors, to help subsidize and, most importantly, legitimize the Occupation.

The primary players on the ground in the West Bank are those operating on foot and from their cars hurling rocks, tear gas, bullets and threats at one another every day. So U.S. money that subsidizes the settlements – including new immigrants – is a little less money that Tel Aviv has to expend (and it expends a lot). Although this money does not come from U.S. politicians, it does come from their constituents – many of whom are not shy about making their largess (and peace process preferences) known. These ties also aid pro-settlement Israeli politicians when they are stumping across America to drum up support for Tel Aviv’s decisions.

Americans for Peace Now argues, “private American money plays a relatively small role in the patterns of settlement construction; the real question is political.” This is absolutely true. But the mere fact that “private American money” is there is significant because it shows Tel Aviv and Jerusalem planners that they can count on the U.S. failing to do much about their construction projects due to domestic debate.

Settlements and pro-settlement charities rake in large sums from foreign donors though, especially in the U.S. According to the New York Times, “at least 40 American groups” have given “$200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade.” The Guardian reports that the California-based Moskowitz Foundation has provided funding to the East Jerusalem-focused Ir David and Ateret Cohanim. Ir David (“City of David”) is ostensibly an archaeological organization, but told the Guardian  “the goal of our organisation is to increase the presence of Jews in the neighbourhood as much as possible.” Ateret Cohanim has similar goals. Both groups have raised millions of dollars in the U.S. on their own through “Friends of Ir David Foundation” and “American Friends of Ateret Cohanim.” Critics of the Moskowitz Foundation claim it has disbursed over US$150 million to the settlements, particularly in East Jerusalem, since the 1980s.

Other pro-settlement organizations with U.S. ties include:

1. Hebron Fund: Registered in New York. It has given around US$1.5 million annually since 2004 to promote “social and educational well-being” in Hebron settlements. Its executive director, told donors at a 2009 gala: “There are real facts on the ground that are created by people helping the Hebron Fund and coming to our dinners.”

2. Central Fund of Israel: Registered in New York. It raised approximately US$12 million in 2007 alone. Mondoweiss has reported how some of this money funds settler militias through the groups Amitz and Magen Yehuda. The Central Fund for Israel has been criticized for this aid, as well as its association with an extremist Yitzhar yeshiva tied to the far-right group Women in Green.

3. Shuva Israel: Registered in Texas. It supports Jewish settlement in “the Hills of Samaria,” aka the part of the West Bank encompassed by the Shomron Regional Council. Yitzhar, Rechalim, Nofei Nechemia and Revava are among the settlements it has provided welfare services for. Its website also notes  “Christian support has provided the assistance that has enabled Shuva Israel to provide for the daily needs of some 2,600 new immigrants to the Biblical Hills of Samaria.”

4. Christian Friends of Israeli Communities: Registered in Colorado, but also has offices in Israel and the EU. Founded in 1995 in protest against the Oslo Accords (which it claims run counter to “God’s plan for the Jewish nation”),  has provided financial assistance to Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The group has recieved money from Pastor John Hagee’s operations (see 7.)

5. One Israel Fund: Registered in New York. It provides “essential security, emergency medical, social service and other forms of humanitarian aid to the over 320,000 men, women and children.” It is thought to raise and distribute around US$1 million annually to send over to settlements. Its website allows donors to gift money to other pro-settlement organizations, including the far-right group Im Tirutz.

6. SOS Israel: Reportedly receives an unspecified amount of funding from a U.S. group calledMachanaim, also registered in New York. SOS Israel gained notoriety (and was investigated by the Israeli government) for offering cash rewards to soldiers who disobey settlement eviction orders. SOS Israel is opposed to “giving up any part of Eretz Yisroel.”

7. John Hagee Ministries (& Christians United for Israel): Registered in Texas. Evangelical Pastor John Hagee has been praised by both U.S. and Israeli officials for his unstinting support of Israel. The Christian Evangelical news network GOD TV reports that Hagee has raisedUS$58 million for charities in Israel. Im Tirtzu, the Gush Etzion Regional Council and the settlement of Ariel have all reportedly received funding from his network, among other venues. Hagee’s operations are perhaps the most high-profile ones on this shortlist, partly because as an Evangelical leader he possess political clout that has brought presidential hopefuls to break bread with him.

Legislation that would restrict private foreign donations would certainly gladden critics of the New Israel Fund (NIF), which has given money to Adalah and Physicians for Human Rights, and the Ford Foundation, which has given money to B’Tselem and Palestine Monitor. Both are well-financed, U.S.-based foundations – and both have been accused of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism by Israeli critics. But broad legislation that would apply to private overseas donations would significantly impact pro-Israel organizations such as World Zionist Organization, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, PEF Israel Endowment Funds (one of the largest U.S. philanthropic organizations that disburses grants to Israeli nonprofits, including some in the Occupied Territories), the Jewish National Fund (which also runs projects in the Occupied Territories) and perhaps even the American Israel Education Foundation that sends U.S. Congressional delegations to Israel.

Such legislation would almost certainly not survive a “freedom of speech” lawsuit brought before either country’s judiciary (that is, unless some judicial bills go the Israeli right’s way). Different methods would be required to limit the activities of the NIF and company. One such avenue of attack would be to classify these groups as material supporters of a foreign terrorist organization, a designation that some Members of Congress are trying to have applied to the Center for Constitutional Rights and Free Gaza Movement. The success of the NGO funding bill in Israel may embolden critics of privately-funded leftist organizations in both countries. After all, one of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s closest Likud colleagues said that Senator Joe McCarthy was proven “right” in his defense of the NGO funding bill.

The Zionist narrative has significantly changed since the 1970s, and money is flowing to the facts on the grounds that resulted from these changes. It is not just a coincidence that the socially conservative religious revivals seen in Judaism and Christianity (and Islam) have all taken place from the 1970s on. Religion and politics mix a lot easier now. That narrative umbrella serves them well, since it brings together disparate groups in Israel, as well as the U.S., that reject compromise with the Palestinians. As the Economist notes, even though the Israeli right is far from united on everything, their bloc now makes up a “fast-growing” Knesset constituency and ~40% of the IDF officer corps. And no Democrat can, after the manufactured crisis in Obama-Israel relations, hope to pull a George W. Bush and withhold U.S. loan guarantees over the matter (I wonder, though, whose fault this might be in 2012).

Some may simply accept this as the price of supporting Israel: witness how the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has embraced the ultraconservative Michele Bachmann and John Hagee because of their unwavering support for Israel. Bachmann even told ZOA she would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital if elected.

ed koch
Ed Koch

I’ll let Ed Koch have the last word on this uncivil union:

Hagee’s followers have supported the State of Israel in many tangible ways. Evangelicals continue to visit Israel as tourists even during the most dangerous times, which is more than can be said for some Diaspora Jews.

It has become fashionable among liberals, including Jews, to ridicule and denounce Hagee and other fundamentalists. I do not. I appreciate their support of the State of Israel and thank them for their enormous contributions to the Jewish state.

This is not to say that I agree with Rev. Hagee’s view of Hitler or his other views. For example, I strongly disagree with Rev. Hagee’s statement that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for homosexual sin in New Orleans. I also deplore his reference to the Roman Catholic Church as “the great whore,” for which he has since apologized.

In this dangerous world, Christians and Jews must come together to fight our common enemies. I’ve been working for years to strengthen the Christian-Jewish alliance, and I intend to continue to do so.

Jewish establishment gives White House cover to criticize Israel–just not on Palestine

Dec 05, 2011

Alex Kane

Mild criticisms of Israeli policy towards Palestinians, like the comments made by Howard Gutman (above), have provoked the ire of the Israel lobby (Photo: U.S. Embassy in Belgium)

The most salient lesson from the ruckus Jeffrey Goldberg and other Jewish groups created over the ridiculous ads about American Jewry and Israelis was voiced on Twitter by Max Blumenthal:

American Jews are shocked by ads urging Israelis to return to Israel but don’t seem to care that expelled Palestinians can’t return at all.

The mainstream of American Jewry turned in anger on the Netanyahu government, but it wasn’t on the central moral issue they should be directing their anger at: the systematic denial of Palestinian human rights.

No surprise, unfortunately. And it happened again over the weekend when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced concern over the sorry state of Israeli democracy, but made no mention of the anti-democratic nature of Israeli rule over Palestinians. The reason why Clinton could voice that concern–and why U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro criticized a bill that would place restrictions on NGOs–was because they had the political cover to do so from Ruth Marcus, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. There hasn’t been much noise from those quarters about Clinton’s criticisms of Israeli democracy.

But now turn to the comments made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and U.S. ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman. They were mildly critical of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians–stress on the word mild–but now the Israel lobby is on the attack. The Anti-Defamation League has put out a statement saying they are “deeply troubled” by Panetta’s comments. And the neoconservatives smell blood on Gutman, and are pushing for his firing.

So the message to Israel from the Jewish American establishment remains: we will shield you from consequences for your settlements, occupation and denial of human rights. Look at our criticisms of the Obama administration. Just don’t let “brand Israel” tank by bringing your repressive laws over the Green Line.

Beinart says Israel must give citizenship to Palestinians under occupation

Dec 05, 2011

Philip Weiss

A month ago, Peter Beinart, author of the landmark piece on the Failure of the American Jewish Establishment, spoke to that establishment, the Jewish Federations General Assembly in Denver, about Israel’s p.r. crisis with young American Jews. The video of the panel, above, was lately posted.

The highlight is Beinart saying that there is only one state right now between the river and the sea, and Palestinians must have the right to vote in that state or Israel will be impossible to defend.

His comments begin at about 9:40. There’s a “crisis” in American Jewry. “There is not enough space created” in the American Jewish community for those like himself who say that “for me being pro Israel” means a belief in the Israeli declaration of independence which guaranteed “complete equality of social and political rights.”

And that forces me into profound conflict with an occupation that has lasted for 2/3 of Israel’s existence and desecrates those ideals by not giving citizenship to Palestinians in the West Bank. …

Then Wayne Firestone, president of Hillel, says that we just need to invite Israelis to speak to the American Jewish community. Beinart bridles.

I guess the question that comes to my mind… is how you are defining Israeli… The Palestinians of the West Bank have been under Israeli sovereignty since 1967. So to my mind that makes them, whether we like it or not, till we have a Palestinian state, Israelis. There is only one state that has sovereignty and dominion over their lives.. They’re not Israeli citizens, but Israel is the state that controls much of their lives.

Moderator Ami Eden of Jewish Telegraphic Agency asks how Israel can counter “delegitimization.” Beinart says– this is at about 22:

Believe me I want to defeat Israel’s delegitimization as much as anyone in this room. I want Israel to remain a Jewish state for my children and grandchildren… At the core of Israel’s legitimacy is the fact that it was founded as a democratic and Jewish state….and  delegitimization of Israel will rise in  direct proportion to the degree that people believe that Israel is no longer living up to its own founding principles. If Israel can become again a country that offers citizenship to everyone in its borders, irrespective of race, religion, sex annd ethnicity, it will not need PR firms. Because although there will still be hard core anti-Semites and lunatics out there, pro Israel people will be able to go into any room and debate anyone and win. Because democracy is the language of our time, the lingua franca of our time… even in the Arab world. [If the occupation is permanent] and Israel becomes in some fundamental way not  a democratic state, you can get 100 PR firms and you will gradually lose that debate and more and more empower those people who believe that the creation of a Jewish state was a mistake to begin with.

Then later, at about 3o, Beinart makes clear that he is talking about Palestinians in the occupied territories. Though he doesn’t seem to mean Gaza.

When I say Israel, I mean all the territory under Israeli domain. Some parts of which I wish were not under Israeli sovereignty. That is Israel. The people there might not be Israeli citizens, but that’s Israel. We have to take ownership of the fact that until a Palestinian state is created, that’s Israel…

This is pretty close to an endorsement of one democratic state from the river to the sea. Maybe he’s saving that for the publication of his book? Not that when Beinart speaks up for Judah Magnes, Henrietta Szold, Hannah Arendt and Ahad Ha’am, he invokes a tradition of cultural Zionism.

To what do we owe this breakthrough? The royal road of all consciousness-wakening on this issue: It is clear that Beinart has met Palestinians. Apparently through the group Encounter. He says that they are “at root” no different from us. Bravo. He says that American Jews have to talk to Palestinians who have suffered under Israel, including the 20 percent of Israel’s population which is not Zionist because it is not Jewish.

He also throws in all the non- and anti-Zionist Jews; the Jewish community has to start talking to them.

I wonder when Beinart will stop moving on this? He is an orthodox Jew who throws around words like machmir, for kosher stringency. He believes in the need for a Jewish state. He supported the Iraq war, honorably apologized for doing so, and has regularly spoken at AIPAC. And of course he gets a platform at the New York Review of Books, which has done nothing to extend Tony Judt’s brave assertion of eight years ago: one democratic state.

The long session at which Beinart spoke is chiefly remarkable for the disruption that has begun inside the Israel lobby’s ranks. American Jews know that what they are doing is unsupportable– in fact a woman from Encounter says that she meets more and more young Jews who resent the “snowjob” they’ve gotten from the Jewish community on Israel.

Two other incidents. A young Israeli woman named Donna with voice breaking says that she was lied to by the Jewish community about Israel. At the end of the video, the Shalom TV correspondent interviews her about what she means. She cites one of these lies: “How did Israel come to be in the first place. I think a lot of the narrative is distorted.. How did the Palestinians leave palestine. Did they leave by choice or get kicked out?” And then she says she has learned:
“Most of them were forced out.” But the Jewish community told her, “Either they left or they weren’t there in the first place.” To which she responds: “That was a very hurtful point for me… Yes they were there and yes they were forced out.”

The Shalom TV guy interviewing her then argues with her! It’s cruel. That’s at minute 54 or so.

Also, John Ruskay, a warhorse Israel lobbyist, admits at 39 or so that the orthodoxy that Jewish leaders demanded of the community for 60 years is outdated. “For a whole lot of reasons, for the last twenty years, the visuals have been a whole lot more problematic.”

The Israel lobby is splintering. Some of its advocates have met Palestinians! Thanks to Krauss for the tip.

Read the Ambassador’s speech on settlements fostering anti-Semitism that has neocons calling for his scalp

Dec 05, 2011

Philip Weiss

Responding to a firestorm of neoconservative criticism, Howard Gutman, US Ambassador to Belgium, has now offered a sort-of apology:

Brussels, Belgium – Statement from U.S. Ambassador Howard Gutman: “I strongly condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms. I deeply regret if my comments were taken the wrong way. My own personal history and that of my family is testimony to the salience of this issue and my continued commitment to combating anti-Semitism.”

Ambassador Howard Gutman
Ambassador Howard Gutman

How bad was his speech, made the other day to the European Jewish Union? Read a transcript provided here by the European Jewish Press. Thanks to Paul Woodward.

“I am delighted and honored to get a chance both to meet all of you and to share some thoughts on the issue of anti-Semitism today in Europe.

First, a couple of apologies. When I was asked to speak, I did not realize that I would be slated to do an “Opening” or “Welcome.” And the topic today is too important to dally too long with welcomes.

So welcome. If you are new to Belgium, the frites, chocolate, beer and mussels are terrific and have only the oval waffles called Liege waffles, put no toppings on them, and get them straight from the waffle iron.

OK. So much for welcomes.

The second apology is an apology in advance for my not saying what you would expect me to say. You see, the temptation always exists at conferences discussing perceived biases, prejudices, discrimination and even hatred, to cite a couple of anecdotal instances of violence or hatred, sound an alarm, rally a response, take the applause and sit down.

But to me, the issues are too complex and too much in flux to simply take the easy path. This topic is too important and the time of each of you is too valuable to simply use this meeting as a group opportunity to decry hatred. Of course, we and all well-meaning among the brotherhood of man must decry hatred. But that is just the starting point, notthe end of the discussion.

So I likely will not just say fully what you expected and or maybe hoped to hear. I respect all of you too much to do that.

But let’s start with some context. Who am I and from what background do I approach these issues?

My story is not that atypical for the United States – it is in fact right at the core of the American dream. My father, Gitman Mogilnicki, grew up in a Polish town of Biala Rawska. As the Germans began to pressure the Poles, he left the town to try to join the Resistance. Having been rejected by the Resistance for looking too Jewish and having been gone but a week, he returned to find that the Jewish section of the town no longer existed. He spent the war with a few other escapees in the woods, never being caught, sleeping in dug out graves to avoid the bullets when the Germans fired along the ground, and stealing food in the middle of the night by risking missions to town.

He often wondered whether any from the town of Biala Rawska had been taken to camps rather than just having been slaughtered on the spot. But having spent the years after the war searching in vain for even one survivor, he finally concluded that, had the town been taken to camps rather than being killed then and there, surely one person would have survived. There was simply no one left.

Having searched in vain for both survivors and employment in Warsaw and Berlin until 1950, he decided to come to the United States and start again. But the United States had quotas limiting the number of immigrants from Poland. So my father arranged illegally to purchase a false passport in which he transposed his first and last names, and Gitman Mogilnicki of Biala Rawska Poland became Mosher Gutman first of Danzig and then Max Gutman of the Bronx, New York, and the garment district in the lower East Side of Manhattan.

Carrying forward with the next-generation-make-good story, I attended public schools. My father died when I was 16, never having discussed the war with me and never having told me even his real name. Upon his death, I went to work after school cleaning tables in a restaurant and through the student loan program, I attended Columbia University and then Harvard Law School. Having finished among the top of my class, I then clerked on our highest court, the United States Supreme Court, an honor given to the top roughly 40 law school graduates a year, I spent two years as a Special Assistant to the Director of the FBI for counterintelligence and counter-terrorism, and 27 years as a lawyer at a leading law firm and as an advisor to government officials and Democratic political candidates for office. I was on the Board of the Washington Hebrew Home for seniors and a member of two different shuls in Washington DC — a reform shul and an Orthodox shul.

During the Presidential campaign of Barack Obama, I participated in a lot of activities including policy, speechwork, press, fundraising and more. One of my efforts was working with the Jewish vote. Though there was much support in the Jewish community during the campaign, I combated significant suspicion and concern among the Jewish community as to whether a black man named Barack Hussein Obama could really be a good friend for Israel and the Jewish community.

And since I have come to Belgium, I have made my story well known and it has been well received by all. I have engaged at great lengths with the Jewish communities, giving speeches in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia and even before the World Jewish Congress on Barack Obama’s relationship with the Jewish community and the Middle East. The speech, which argues that by becoming credible in the Arab world, President Obama has become Israel’s best and most valuable friend, is on our website and is available to any who are interested. And I appear regularly at Jewish community events such as memorials, tributes and celebrations.

I have engaged at great length as well with Muslim communities. I have done significant outreach with the largely Moroccan and Turkish communities throughout Belgium — in Molenbeeck, in Anderlecht, in Hasselt and many other areas. Today alone, I met with leaders of a Flemish nationalist party to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian problem and the effect on the U.S. position with regard to UNESCO and other U.N. organizations, and with the largest mosque in Belgium to talk about the same topic and East-West relations. I host at my Residence an annual Iftar, last September sharing dinner in my ballroom with 180 leaders of the Muslim communities. I have available in fact copies of a column that was written two years ago by the former Mayor of Jeddah,Saudi Arabia, who was then the Saudi Ambassador to Belgium, talking about the advances of the Obama administration in East-West relationships following his participation at one of our Iftars.

And I follow closely and think often about issues of anti-Semitism in Europe. In the past few months, Jacques Brotchi, a Federal Senator and leading neurosurgeon, quit his affiliation with a Brussels university over issues of anti-Semitism and we are in the process of following up on those developments. We have been following up since last week when a Jewish female student was beaten up at a Belgian school by other students spewing racial epithets.

To some extent, I have unique exposure to these issues. And such exposure has left me convinced how complicated and changing this issue is. Generalizations about anti-Semitism in Europe are dangerous indeed – always at risk of oversimplifying and of lumping together diverse phenomena.

So let’s start the analysis with the clearest and easiest departure point. There is and has long been some amount of anti-Semitism, of hatred and violence against Jews, from a small sector of the population who hate others who may be different or perceived to be different, largely for the sake of hating. Those anti-Semites are people who hate not only Jews, but Muslims, gays, gypsies, and likely any who can be described as minorities or different. That hatred is of course pernicious and it must be combated. We can never take our eye off it or just dismiss it as fringe elements or the work of crazy people, because we have seen in the past how it can foment and grow. And it is that hatred that lawyers like you can work vigilantly to expose, combat and punish, maybe in conjunction with existing human rights groups.

I have not personally seen much of that hatred in Europe, though it rears its ugly head from time to time. I do not have any basis to think it is growing in any sense. But of course, we can never take our eye off of it, and you particularly as lawyers can help with that process.

So in some sense, that is the easy part of the analysis.

Let’s turn to the harder and more complex part.

What I do see as growing, as gaining much more attention in the newspapers and among politicians and communities, is a different phenomena. It is the phenomena that led Jacques Brotchi to quit his position on the university committee a couple of months ago and that led to the massive attention last week when the Jewish female student was beaten up. It is the problem within Europe of tension, hatred and sometimes even violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews. It is a tension and perhaps hatred largely born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem.

It too is a serious problem. It too must be discussed and solutions explored. No Jewish student – and no Muslim student or student of any heritage or religion – should ever feel intimidated on a University campus for their heritage or religion leading to academic leaders quitting in protest. No high school or grammar school Jewish student – and no Muslim high school or grammar school student or student of any heritage or religion – should be beaten up over their heritage or religion.

But this second problem is in my opinion different in many respects than the classic bigotry – hatred against those who are different and against minorities generally — the type of anti-Semitism that I discussed above. It is more complex and requiring much more thought and analysis. This second form of what is labeled “growing anti-Semitism” produces strange phenomena and results.

Thus for example, I have been received well by Belgians everywhere in this country. I always get polite applause and sometimes more.

But the longest and loudest ovation I have ever received in Belgium came from the high school with one of the largest percentages of students of Arab heritage. It was in Molenbeek. It consisted of an audience dominated by girls with head scarves and boys named Mohammed, standing and cheering boisterously for a Jewish American, who belongs to two schuls and whose father was a Holocaust survivor. Let me just share a minute or two with you of a video clip from that visit.

These kids were not anti-Semitic as I have ever thought of the term. And I get a similar reaction as I engage with imans, at Iftars, and with Muslims communities throughout Belgium.

And yet, I know and I hear at the same time that the cheering occurs for this Jew, that within that same school and audience at Molenbeek, among those at the same Iftars, and throughout the Muslim communities that I visit, and indeed throughout Europe, there is significant anger and resentment and, yes, perhaps sometimes hatred and indeed sometimes and all too growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews generally as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East.

This is a complex problem indeed. It requires its own analysis and solutions. And the analysis I submit is not served simply by lumping the problem with past instances of anti-Jewish beliefs and actions or those that exist today among minority haters under a uniform banner of “anti-Semitism.”

It is I believe this area where community leaders – Jewish, Muslim, and third parties—where diplomats and religious leaders, where lawyers and professionals from both communities, where mothers and fathers, where university leaders and school administrators, can make the most difference by working to limit converting political and military tension in the Middle East into social problems in Europe. But it is the area too – both fortunately and unfortunately — where the largest part of the solution remains in the hands of government leaders in Israel and the Palestinian territories and Arab countries in the Middle East. It is the area where every new settlement announced in Israel, every rocket shot over a border or suicide bomber on a bus, and every retaliatory military strike exacerbates the problem and provides a setback here in Europe for those fighting hatred and bigotry here in Europe.

I said that it is both fortunate and unfortunate that the largest part of the solution for this second type of problem – too often lumped under a general banner of anti-Semitism – is in the hands of Israel, the Palestinians and Arab neighbors in the Middle East. It is fortunate because it means that, unlike traditional hatred of minorities, a path towards improving and resolving it does at least exist. It is crucial for the Middle East – but it is crucial for the Jewish and Arab communities in Europe and for countries around the globe – that Mid-East peace negotiations continue, that settlements abate, and that progress towards a lasting peace be made and then such a peace reached in the Middle East. Were a lasting peace in the Middle East to be reached, were joint and cooperative Israeli-Arab attentions turned to focus instead on such serious, common threats such as Iran, this second type of ethnic tension and bigotry here in Europe – which is clearly growing today – would clearly abate. I can envision the day when it disappears. Peace in the Middle East would indeed equate with a huge reduction of this form of labeled “anti-Semitism” here in Europe.

It is at the same time somewhat unfortunate that most of the cause and thus most of the solution for tension and hatred in Europe, for growing problems at Belgian universities, for epithets in the streets, rest with governments and people a continent away. For, in some respect, citizens, parents, religious and community leaders here in Europe can simply try to promote understanding and patience, while ensuring law enforcement serves its mission, without being able fully to address the most root causes and most efficient cures.

It is a challenge for us all. I hope it is one you will address in this conference.

Thanks so much and all the best.”

Update: This post has offered two dates for the Gutman speech. 2009 and 2011. It now appears that this is the 2011 speech. My regrets for the error.

Free Razan Ghazzawi: Syrian blogger, feminist, and activist

Dec 05, 2011

Scott Long

Razan Ghazzawi
Razan Ghazzawi


(Link to statement in Arabic)

Authorities in Syria arrested Syrian blogger, feminist, and activist for free expression Razan Ghazzawi on December 4, 2011. She was at the Jordanian border, traveling to attend a conference on media freedom in the Arab world. She was representing the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), where she works as a coordinator.

Razan, a poet and critic as well as an activist, studied English literature at Damascus University and comparative literature at Balamand University in Lebanon. Since 2009, she has blogged on human rights, international solidarity, and Syrian politics at She is one of very few bloggers in Syria who writes under her own name; and she has consistently spoken out for women, for ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities, and for all victims of discrimination or abuse.

For many of us in Egypt, in the region, and around the world, Razan is a mentor, an ally, and a personal friend. Her principled commitment to human rights has been an example to us. Her courage and her willingness to face danger head-on have been an inspiration.

In one of her last blog posts before she was arrested, Razan wrote: “I do not believe in a ‘national consciousness,’ I don’t believe in nationality …Once we drop hyphenations, we become as one.” In that spirit, we say: Razan’s struggle is our struggle. The Syrian people’s battle for freedom is our battle. Now we ask you for your solidarity and support.

What can you do?

1) Contact Syrian diplomatic representatives in your countries immediately. In faxes or phone calls, urge:

  • that Razan Ghazzawi be released unconditionally;

  • that she be protected from torture or ill-treatment while she remains in detention;

  • that all political prisoners in Syria be released;

  • that Syria end arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment of detainees, and violence against protesters and opposition members.

A list of addresses and phone numbers for Syrian embassies and consulates can be foundhere, or here.

2) Organize peaceful vigils or demonstrations at Syrian embassies or consulates calling for the release of Razan Ghazzawi and all political prisoners in Syria.

Additional resources:

Facebook page “Free Razan Ghazzawi” (Arabic): link to
Twitter: freerazan#

This statement is signed by:

  • Ahmad Ragheb – Human rights activist-Executive director (Hisham Mubarak Law Center)

  • Dalia Abd El Hameed – Human rights activist – Gender officer (Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights)

  • Mona Seif – Human rights activist (No to Military Trials)

  • Mozn Hassan – Feminist, human rights activist- Executive director (Nazra for Feminist Studies)

  • Scott Long – Human rights activist (Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School)

  • Tarek Moustafa – Feminist, human rights activist (Nazra for Feminist Studies)

  • Yara Sallam – Feminist, human rights activist (Nazra for Feminist Studies)

About that blue box

Dec 05, 2011

Liz Shulman

Classic blue box for JNF
Classic blue box for JNF

Last week we ran a piece by Liz Shulman describing her progress on the Israel/Palestine issue after a Zionist youth that included collecting money for the Jewish National Fund to expropriate Palestinian land. She follows up.

Last night I went on ebay to see if I could buy a Jewish National Fund box and there were only three for sale.  One was from 1947 (and therefore said Palestine on it) and was $250!  I bought one for $65.

Not sure what I’ll do with it, but it’ll be next to my certificate of planting a tree in 1976.  If I still smoked I’d use it as an ash tray. 

Bill Kristol says jump, Romney and Gingrich say How high?

Dec 05, 2011

Philip Weiss

Howard Gutman

I thought it was a grandiose joke when Bill Kristol said on Saturday that the ambassador to Belgium must be recalled because he dared suggest that Israeli intransigence was fueling Muslim anti-Semitism. Well who’s laughing now? The two Republican frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, have now called for the firing of Howard Gutman.

What do they want that Bill Kristol commands? The support of the Israel lobby– the backing of a large segment of the establishment.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned Gutman. Also the Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. That group has hosted Islamophobes Pam Geller and Robert Spencer, and they get quoted in the Post!

Here, by the way, from the Washington Post, is a precise report of Gutman’s comments. Notice that he finds moral parity between settlement building and suicide bombers….

According to his prepared remarks, Gutman, who is Jewish, described two forms of anti-Semitism — one that he described as “classic bigotry” against Jews and a second type of “growing anti-Semitism” that is the result of the inability to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Throughout the Muslim communities that I visit, and indeed throughout Europe, there is significant anger and resentment and, yes, perhaps sometimes hatred and indeed sometimes an all-too-growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews generally as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East,” Gutman said, according to his prepared remarks.

He added, “It is the area where every new settlement announced in Israel, every rocket shot over a border or suicide bomber on a bus, and every retaliatory military strike exacerbates the problem and provides a setback here in Europe for those fighting hatred and bigotry here in Europe.”

P.S. I don’t think he’s going to lose his job. But I’m not the smart money, am I?

Will Palestinian woman’s humiliation by border guard warrant condemnation by NYT or Tablet?

Dec 05, 2011

Annie Robbins

Amira Hass

How many of us, when we learned about Lynsey Addario’s humiliation–which was rightly condemned by the New York Times, Time magazine, and Tablet– thought of Palestinian women and wondered how many countless others had been similarly violated? Excuse the repetition, but it’s worth quoting Dahlia ScheindlinThe fact is this happens all the time… with no editor to write the IDF and stand up for them.

Well, less than a week later, another, more chilling report has surfaced. Amira Hass reports on a Palestinian-Israeli citizen, a mother and housekeeper crossing thru the West Bank checkpoint of Sha’ar Eliyahu on November 6 with her four daughters, returning home after visiting her husband and the children’s father in the West Bank. In detail the article chronicles this unidentified woman’s hideous journey culminating in her contacting the Israeli women’s organization Machsom Watch whose intern contacted a journalist. But no one was interested–before the Addario case.

“Look, it’s the metal in the bra,” she explained to the examiner, but still the security guard demanded that she remove it. “Is there a problem? Tell me,” she said in her fluent Hebrew. But the examiner replied, “I’m not allowed to talk” – and demanded that she remove her underpants and head covering as well. And then?

“Then the examiner did what you do in a gynecological examination,” said Nabila, choked up. “In the hospital they ask for permission. I felt like an animal.”

Nabila was shocked at the undressing and at what followed. On the way out, and afterward for an hour and a half, she couldn’t stop crying.

On November 12 Hedva of Machsom Watch wrote to the ground crossing authority, a unit in the Defense Ministry. The reply to her on November 21 stated in no uncertain terms that “the passenger was not stripped naked at any stage of the examination. Nor was there any vaginal examination.”

The fear of that kind of invasion, just the thought of it is mindnumbing. Will the case be picked up by the western press?

Funny and not-funny responses to misguided Israeli ad campaign

Dec 05, 2011

Philip Weiss

More on the disgusting Israeli ad campaign telling Israelis to come home. The above spoof is from Ilene Cohen (via Jeffrey Goldberg). And this is from Roger Cohen:

My third reaction is that it’s all very well for the Jewish Federations of North America to find the ads insulting, but I’d be pleased if they could reserve a little of their outrage for times when Israeli insensitivity or arrogance takes more violent form — as is frequently the case with Palestinians in the West Bank.

Jonathan Freedland, a Guardian columnist, visited Hebron recently and published a piece called “This Is Israel? Not the One I Love” in London’s Jewish Chronicle. He wrote of Hebron:

“A map shows purple roads where no Palestinian cars are permitted, yellow roads where no Palestinian shops are allowed to open and red roads where no Palestinians are even allowed to walk.”

He added, “I watched an old man, a bag of cement on his shoulder, ascend a steep bypass staircase because his feet were forbidden from going any farther along the road. Those unlucky enough to live on a red road have had their front doors sealed: They have to leave their own houses by a back door and climb out via a ladder. All this has made life so impossible that an estimated 42 percent of the families who once lived in this central part of town have now moved out.”

Israelis walk on streets full of vile anti-Arab graffiti and shuttered Arab stores daubed with Stars of David. “To see that cherished symbol used to spit in the eye of a population hounded out of their homes is chilling,” Freedland writes.

This is happening behind the wall-barrier-fence. It is the result of an untenable status quo involving the corrosive dominion of one people over another.

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