Friday, April 18, 2014

Christian Group Gasses Jesus in Attempt to Convert Jews

Just in time for Passover, "Jews" for Jesus, a Christian group that seeks to convert Jews to Christianity, released a video portraying Jesus as a victim of the Shoah.

The two-minute video is a straight rip-off of Spielbergian Schindler's List visual effects: a black-and-white video showing Jews in 1943 Poland being taken off trains at Auschwitz and divided by ferocious Nazis into two groups: workers, and gas-chamber fodder. Jesus alone appears in color, like the little girl symbolizing innocence in Schindler, helping some of the Jews as they stumble their way to fate.

As the Son of God approaches the Nazis' processing desk, a cross hoisted over his shoulder, the SS troops render their verdict—the gas chamber—then sneer that he's nur ein Jude: Just another Jew.

This release comes not only during a Jewish holiday, but also immediately before Easter, when Passion Plays have historically been used to evoke strong emotions and then those emotions have been funneled into anti-Semitic acts. Add on the fact that it evokes one of the most traumatic times in Jewish history to attempt and convert Jews to Christianity. Then again, the religious right has proven time and again it has no problems in using the Holocaust to attempt and score cheap points.

If that was not enough, "Jews" for Jesus managed to get even more offensive, as The Forward's Jay Michaelson points out:

A “making-of” video available on thatjewdiedforyou.com elaborates: “The Holocaust, perhaps more than any other event or topic, has kept Jewish people from being open to considering Jesus as the Jewish messiah.” If only we didn’t blame Christians for the genocide of our people, the reasoning goes, we’d be more open to converting to Christianity.

Michaelson touches on the fact that while we do not blame Christians, as a whole, for the Holocaust, we do remember that Christian nations have persecuted us. Many of us are here today because our ancestors fled the pogroms of Czarist Russia, a Christian nation. We remember that it was Germany, a Christian nation, that perpetrated the Shoah. We remember that it was Spain that launched the Inquisition and kicked us out, just one of many nations to do so.

No, Christians are not at fault, but as Michaelson points out we have a very different worldview, one that comes from our millennia of persecution and we do not appreciate our history being invoked to try and convert us and to try and have a Christian group portray themselves as victims.

"Jews" for Jesus has a right to proselytize. They have a right to claim that they are Jewish. The First Amendment protects those rights and as abhorrent as I find their claims and actions I will defend their right to do those things. However, I have the same right to speak out and I choose to exercise that right.

Their actions are absolutely abhorrent. They invoke the greatest tragedy in the history of our people since the beginning of the Diaspora. They seek to make themselves the victims in their attempt to convert us. They lie about what they are. They may claim that they are Jewish, but there is a term for any "Jew" or person of any other faith or ethnic group that believes in Jesus; that term is "Christian."

I am a Jew. I was born a Jew. I live my life as a Jew. I will die as a Jew and be buried as a Jew. Those gentiles that seek to invoke the history, both good and bad, of my people for their own ends can go self-fornicate with a metallic implement covered with oxidized iron.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Three Dead in Pre-Passover Shooting at Jewish Community Center

Three people are reported dead after a shooting at a Jewish Community Center and the Village Shalom retirement village in Overland Park, Kansas. It is reported that police took a man into custody who was screaming "Heil Hitler" at reporters. The Forward reports that the gunman "reportedly shouted Nazi slogans."

This shooting occurred a day before Passover begins tomorrow night at sundown. If the reports from The Forward are correct, then this represents an anti-Semitic murder as preparations for that upcoming holiday are well underway.

Here in New York, we are used to police coming to our synagogues on the eves of holidays, and during the holidays themselves, to check up and make sure that everything is okay. Such is the risk of anti-Semitic incidents occurring even here in the United States. Even though such risks have declined significantly the past several years, there were still 751 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States according to an audit performed by the Anti-Defamation League. Most ominous is this fact:

While the total number of anti-Semitic incidents declined overall, one dark spot in the numbers was a significant increase in violent anti-Semitic assaults. The Audit recorded a total of 31 anti-Semitic assaults on Jewish individuals or those perceived as Jewish in 2013, up from 17 in 2012.

Of the overall results, ADL national director Abraham Foxman said:

“In the last decade we have witnessed a significant and encouraging decline in the number and intensity of anti-Semitic acts in America,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “The falling number of incidents targeting Jews is another indication of just how far we have come in finding full acceptance in society, and it is a reflection of how much progress our country has made in shunning bigotry and hatred.”

That said, there is a significant way to go, both in terms of anti-Semitism and bigotry in general. Today's shooting is a reminder of that. There are three families that will be burying their loved ones tomorrow before they sit down for their Passover seder. There will be three empty chairs. Twelve cups of wine that will not be drunk. Three haggadot that will remain unopened.

I don't think there's anything else I can say. :-(

Friday, March 28, 2014

I've Changed My Mind: Palestinians Are NOT A People

In the past, I have stated on public fora that no matter how despicable the ideologically-driven attempts to deny Jewish peoplehood are, it in no way impinges on the claim that Palestinian Arabs are themselves a people.  I accepted the claim that Palestinians are a people based on my understanding at that time of their shared history and culture.

As I have read more about the formative period of Palestinian nationalism, I have now, somewhat reluctantly, changed my mind.  I now conclude that as uncomfortable as it might make some, and as "politically incorrect" as it may appear, Palestinian Arabs simply cannot, in an honest analysis, be considered a distinct people or nation.  I  believe that Palestinian nationhood arose too recently, and for too ideological a reason, to have the terms "people" and "nation" properly apply to them.  

I am a scientist, and I believe in finding the correct answers, regardless of how those answers make one feel.  For example, if DNA evidence had shown that Jews were descended primarily from Khazars, I would have accepted that, and adjusted my world view as necessary.  (As it happens, DNA evidence shows that Jews all over the world share distinct Y-chromosomes and Mitochondrial DNA indicating common ancestors who lived in Israel 2000 years ago.)  So when it comes to Palestinian peoplehood, I will let the historical facts as I understand them guide my judgement.

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One work that has had a major effect on my perception of Palestinian peoplehood is Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson, which I read recently.  Anderson delves into the history of the Middle East during World War I as it was transitioning from Ottoman to British and then Arab control, by following the lives of a number of British, Turkish, Arab, Jewish, American, and German figures, including the infamous T.E. Lawrence.

It is important to note that Anderson's work is, on the whole, anti-Zionist.  He ultimately endorses T.E. Lawrence's position that a Jewish state would sew chaos in the Middle East for ever, and is very critical of the Balfour declaration and the Sykes-Picot agreement.

However, in spite of being largely anti-Zionist, the book contains important insight into the Arab world in the early 20th century.  One thing that is quite clear, although it is not Anderson's intent to highlight it, is that there is absolutely no sense of "Palestinian" identity in this era.  Simply none.  Zero.

The Arabs of the region of the Ottoman empire that is now Israel and the so-called Palestinian territories had no national identity whatsoever.  A man from Beersheva, a man from Jaffa, and a man from Jerusalem did not consider themselves similar in any way, unless they were of the same tribe or had some other familial tie.  Christians of the region did not consider themselves to be Arabs at all, much less part of any more localized nation, and were completely marginalized.  Even the Muslims of the area did not have much of a sense of Arab identity, having been Ottoman Turkish subjects for 400 years.  In fact, the Muslim Arabs of this region and elsewhere were split in their loyalty - some supported the Ottoman Empire, others supported the Arab revolt coming North from the Arabian Peninsula, and others didn't take a side, and which side they came down on was due to tribal or financial ties.

Once the British took over from the Ottomans and formed the Mandate of Palestine, to the extent that any Arab identity was beginning to take hold among the Muslims, they considered themselves to be "Syrians" or "South Syrians" and pushed to become part of the Syrian state that was being formed under King Faisal.  Certainly if Palestinians are an ancient people as claimed by so many of their advocates, they would have had some sense of peoplehood or nationhood in 1925.

In every corner of the world, peoples who had for centuries been under the control of others were boldly declaring their national and cultural revivals in the early 20th century.  If Palestinians were a people with a sense of shared identity, then 1925 would have been the prime time for their sense of nationhood to emerge or reemerge.  But there was simply none.

Moving forward past the era covered by Anderson, there is simply no evidence of any "Palestinian" national identity until the 1950s at the earliest.  Then beginning around that time, as far as Arabs were concerned, "Palestine" referred to Israel!  There was no sense of Arabs in the West Bank of Jordan being "Palestinians". In fact, the founding charter of the PLO, which was formed at that time not for obtaining a state but for the sole purpose of defeating Israel, says

This Organization (the PLO) does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in the Gaza Strip or the Himmah area.”
To the PLO even, at that time, "Palestine" is simply Israel, and there are no Palestinian people, just a land of Palestine, aka pre-1967 Israel, which needed to be "liberated".

It was only after 1967, when Jordan was removed from the West Bank and it and Gaza came under Israeli control, that a sense of a "Palestinian" people, encompassing those in the West Bank, Gaza, and the Arabs of Israel begin to emerge.  That is less than 50 years ago.

Until as late as the 1970s, many Palestinian Arabs themselves did not buy into the fiction of nationhood, as they were still primarily loyal to the familial and religious ties of their parents and grandparents as discussed above.  In 1977, PLO Executive Committee member Zahir Mushein had this to say in an interview with a Dutch newspaper:

"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism. For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan."
Which just about sums it up.  For Palestinian Arabs themselves, the notion of their peoplehood is of very recent vintage and simply reactive to the presence of Israel.  For other Arabs, the notion of Palestinian peoplehood is ideological for the purpose of making it seem as if Israel's struggle is with an equally small people, rather than with the entire Arab world.

I must conclude that the notion of Palestinian peoplehood or nationhood has only been around since 1967, which is less than 50 years.  It is also a notion that is entirely driven by a reactive ideology, that against Israel and Zionism.  

I believe that, if we are to be honest, a notion of peoplehood that is of that recent vintage and that driven by ideology rather than genuine shared ties is simply not real.  

We can view the very recent and very ideological claim of Palestinian peoplehood in the context of other recent and entirely ideological claims of peoplehood, or lack thereof, by late 20th century regimes.  These include:


  • The Soviet claim, invented around 1950, that Moldovans were a distinct people from Romanians, in spite of them speaking the same language and having the same history, the only difference being who fell on which side of a line at the end of World War 2.
  • The Turkish claim, since around 1960, that a people exists called "Mountain Turks."  In fact there is no such thing - the people that the Turkish government claims are Mountain Turks are actually Kurds, a people whose history goes back centuries.  The Turkish government banned the Kurdish language and created the idea of Mountain Turks out of thin air.
  • The claim by Lybian and Algerian regimes, starting in the 1970s, that Berbers don't actually exist and that they are Arabs, in spite of thousands of years of Berber history, and a distinct Berber language.
And there are more.  Some of these unfounded ideological claims seek to create a distinct people where none was before, and others seek to erase a distinction between peoples, but what they all have in common is that they are late 20th century ideological inventions with no basis in history.  

In an honest analysis, claims to Palestinian peoplehood need to be measured up against the actual history of the region and the ideological nature of the claims, and need to be seen in the context of these similar and obviously fraudulent ideologically based claims.  I believe that in such an honest analysis, Palestinian Arabs cannot be taken to be a distinct people or nation.  

Palestinian Arabs are historically, culturally, linguistically, and ethnically part of the larger Levantine Arab peoples.  They did not have a sense of being a distinct people or nation until 1967, and then only because of primarily reactive factors.  
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So where do we go from here?  As stated, I believe that the honest analysis shows "Palestinians" to be not a distinct people or nation, but rather an entirely ideological and recent fiction.   

The people who many refer to as "Palestinians" should be more appropriately called "Palestinian Arabs."  They are Arab people whose only shared identity is an ideological opposition to Zionism.  They are not ethnically, culturally, or religiously distinct from surrounding Arab populations, and had no sense of shared national identity until 50 years ago.  

However, many of them do happen to be Arabs that live in the West Bank and Gaza, and as such, they should have self-determination in some form.  They should not, ultimately, be under Israeli control indefinitely, both for their sake and the sake of Israel.  

I have come to believe that getting past the ideological fiction of a Palestinian peoplehood is actually an important step in ultimately ending the Israeli-Arab conflict, if such an end is to ever happen.  For one thing, Arab citizens of Israel need to see themselves as just that - Israeli Arabs, not as part of some larger, fictitious, ideological entity.  For another, the "Palestinian" Arabs living in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon need to be recognized as fellow Arabs, rather than maintaining the false hope of eventually settling in Israel.

In the end, one might say that it doesn't matter whether these claims to peopehood are accurate or not, rather the conflict must be settled, and that is a viewpoint that I can respect.  However, if we would like our history to be accurate, we must look for the correct answer regardless of the consequences.  It is ironic that Palestinian Arabs and their supposed supporters often lead the charge in denying Jewish peoplehood and nationhood, and yet they are the ones whose claims to people- and nationhood don't stand up to scrutiny. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

PM NETANYAHU IS RIGHT - AN OPEN LETTER TO AMOS SCHOCKEN

It really is simple. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is absolutely right in his insistence that Israel be recognized as  the National Homeland and State of the Jewish People.

Now I certainly cannot lecture you and any other Israeli on your feelings in this matter. I am not Israeli. I lived in Israel for a time when I was younger, but I didn’t stay and make Aliyah. I never served in Tzahal. I never really sacrificed for Israel. I give money to the Magen David, and I have spent over the last 38 years or so thousands of hours as part of the Zionist Movement. But, I do consider myself a strong supporter of the Zionist dream, and I would ask that you and others that share your opinion please consider my words here. 

I think you are mistaken in your piece in Haaretz when you argue here against Ari Shavit’s (and by extension the Prime Ministers position) piece in the same newspaper.

In that piece you rightly recognize that those of us who support the fact that Israel needs to be recognized as the National Homeland and State of the Jewish people cite this as the core the principle of Zionism itself.  After all what is Zionism in it’s most essential form if not the philosophical underpinning that the Nation of Israel indeed be the National Homeland of the Jewish People.  Isn’t that the root definition of the term “Zionism”?

It is after this that your argument goes awry.  You state:
“Contrary to what Shavit says, having the State of Israel alongside a Palestinian state, with the two living in peace with one another, is the aspiration of many good people. They will be satisfied if peace will be merely with the Palestinian state, and not with the nation-state of the Palestinian people.

In order to create an artificial balance and justify his position, Shavit invents a Palestinian nationality. If there is a Palestinian nationality (if there is such a thing as a nationality altogether), then in Jordan there are apparently two nationalities – the Palestinian one and the Bedouin one.”
First of all… While that may be the aspiration of many good people in the Peace Camp, and I know that there are many good people in the Peace Camp, that is not the aspiration of the majority of the Palestinian people. Nothing happens in a vacuum and the Israeli Palestinian conflict is certainly no exception to that rule. Whether or not you (or the interestingly enough the Hard Right that denies that there even is a “Palestinian People”) recognize Palestinian nationalism, it exists and the Palestinians recognize it. So de facto (if not de juer) does the U.N. who has recognized a Palestinian State from 1948 and forward.

And so yes in Jordan, there are two nationalities and they have been at odds whether we like to recognize that or not. Of course why else did Jordan declare that people in the West Bank were not citizens of Jordan? The ruling Hashemites recognize a difference and so do those in the opposition to that regime. Are you really arguing that the Palestinians in Jordan do not recognize themselves as Palestinian?

But being Palestinian doesn’t mean that one cannot be Jordanian as well. If a person feels that their nationality is Palestinian but wants to live or supports the political system in Jordan then I see no reason that someone cannot be Palestinian-Jordanian. Just as people can be part of the “Jewish Nation” (meaning being bound to the ethnic traditions and culture of the Jewish people) and live in America, or Europe, or any other part of the diaspora. Certainly I can still be a committed Zionist and not live in Israel (though some may certainly disagree).

Ok, anti-nationalist feelings aside. You then go on to say:
“When Israel recognized the fact that there are Palestinians deserving of self-determination, the Palestinians recognized Israel – that same Israel that was founded on the constitutive principles of Zionism. What’s missing is an agreement on substance – borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem.”
No… the Palestinians DID NOT recognize “that same Israel”. They recognized that there would be a State called Israel and that was it. Why do I say that? Because had they recognized an Israel founded on the constitutive principles of Zionism they would have renounced the so-called “Palestinian Right of Return”. Borders, security and the status of a City (even as important as Jerusalem) are all up for discussion, even if they are breaking points in themselves. The refugee situation and insistence on “Right of Return” (not to confused with the Hoq’ HaShvut) goes right to the heart of the situation.
The Palestinian polity has never given up on that and still doesn’t to this day. 

The insistence on that “Right” has publicly been stated by P.A. President Abbas and is certainly supported Palestinian Public Opinion (which also by the way rejects a Democratic Palestine where Jews and Arabs enjoy equal rights). Of course everyone understands that this would cause a demographic shift in Israel which would cause Israel to cease to exist in the terms that the nation was founded upon.

What is proof of this? Well, look at the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) Movement. It proposes a boycott of only Jewish businesses in Israel. Of course it doesn’t say that (because credit to them, they are media savvy enough to understand just how destructive that would be) but ask any member of said movement if they also advocate boycotts of Palestinian/Arab Israeli businesses, sports teams, cultural groups or academics. Every time I have run into BDS people, I ask that question and every time the answer is the same “No”. Of course they couch their terminology in just saying it’s about Israel but if you don’t boycott the Arabs in Israel exactly who is left to boycott? Either the Jews or the small percentage of immigrant non-Jews.

You then go on to say:
“…Will he (Shavit) accept a Palestinian recognition of a Jewish nation-state that is built on the ruins of 400 Palestinian villages and hundreds of thousands of refugees, who have since become millions, and where 20 percent of the citizenry are Palestinians, who are just as nationalist as he is?

Those who present themselves as supporters of the two-state solution, but who insist on demanding recognition of a nation-state, are acting to perpetuate the occupation and settlement.”
I cannot speak for Ari Shavit but I think I can safe safely say that (at least according to the polls) most Israelis WOULD accept a Palestinian recognition of a Jewish State that is “built on the ruins” of villages and creation of war-time refugees. I live in the U.S. and I accept that my nation was built in part by war, and conquest. It happens, in the world. It has happened since the dawn of time and it will continue to happen into the future. No matter how much we wish it would not, it is simply unrealistic to think it will not. Oh and by the way, you can bet that the Palestinians would ALSO accept a nation built on the smoking ruin of Israel and the creation of millions of Jewish refugees.

Supporting a “Two State Solution” and recognition that the only real way to a lasting peace (something that I very much do support) is in understanding BOTH peoples legitimate aspirations for self governance. To recognize this fact does nothing to delegitimize the history of Palestinians who lived in the Mandate.

“…..because it is actually impossible to demand from the Palestinians that they change their spots and convert their identity, it is required to demand they recognize this: that the Jewish people is a people of this land, and it did not arrive here from Mars (my emphasis). It is necessary to demand of them to admit that the Jewish people has a history of its own and a tragedy of its own and its own justification. The Palestinians must concede that the Jews are not colonialists but legal neighbors. There will not be peace if the children growing up in the Deheisheh refugee camp will not know that the country across the border is a legitimate Jewish state of a true Jewish people, whom they are decreed to live with. It is those who give up on the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state who are actually giving up on peace.”
This is important and I think this is where you and others in the Peace Camp go awry. I do not doubt the intentions of many there. I am not a raging Right Winger, in fact I come from a Center-Left perspective. I follow Israeli politics closely and where I there, I would probably vote for either Avodah or HaTnuah. I understand that people want peace and want to find a way to find a “just peace” for this conflict. So I am not demeaning anyone on the Left.

That said, I have to say that the PM’s argument in this case is correct. His demand cuts to the heart of the matter and it is one that needs to be addressed whether one likes it or not. Shavit is correct in identifying that this conflict does not take place in a vacuum and that the Palestinians and their supporters do need to take responsibility for their part / actions in this conflict. That is not some racist or harsh demand. It is a demand that necessitates a real peace treaty.

Of course, there is a certain amount of hopelessness to resolving this conflict peacefully and who really wants let their optimism for a resolution drain down a “sinkhole of despair”? I don’t think anyone outside of extremists in either camp wants that. But we also cannot be blind to what is happening beyond the Green Line in the fractured Palestinian Polity or to their supporters throughout the world. Just wishing for an end to Nationalism, or supporting solutions like a proposed creation of the United States of Isratine (or other ridiculous names), might be fine in a fictional 24th Century Earth (Star-Trek reference here), but this is not that place and not that time. AND given the history of the Jewish people is that really something that we can “bank on” right now.

So Mr. Schocken (and those who agree with him), unless you are willing to simply come out and declare the Zionist dream D.O.A. or renounce that, then you should very much re-consider your arguments here. Zionism defined is the National movement of the Jewish People. Israel was created by Zionism and it is something that must be recognized or there cannot be lasting peace.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Goodbye J Street



Dear J Street , 

It’s time I said “Goodbye”.  

Why? Because I am not sure that you represent my values anymore. 

Over the years, I have been to various events, went to see such speakers as Jeremy Ben-Ami, and Bradley Burston (both very good discussions), blogged my support at Daily Kos and at my own website The Progressive Zionist, and supported J Street with donations. I no longer feel that I can do that and furthermore don’t really understand how anyone who would consider themselves both “Pro-Israel”, and  ”Pro-Peace” could stay in the organization given what is about to happen.
  
While I agree with most of J-Street’s policy statements (support for reasonable Two State solution, Anti-BDS, Pro-Civil Rights) regarding Israel, giving activists who support BDS, and spread messages of hatred toward Israel an active platform is a step too far. When did this happen? Well here it is

J Street is hosting a discussion with author David Harris Gershon regarding a book that he wrote wherein he talks about his path to dealing with having his wife being harmed in a Terror attack and how he has tried to reconcile that to his life. Harris-Gershon took the unique step of actually meeting with the family of the terrorist in order to understand just what made that person plant a bomb in a school cafeteria and then to forge some kind of closure to the incident. 

All that would be fine and good except for the fact that Harris-Gershon trades heavily in anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic memes.  Now these are pretty serious allegations and I don’t make these lightly nor do I make them without proof.  But here are some of the quotes from a man that J Street says:

“J Street DC Metro, the DC Public Library and Americans for Peace Now are proud to sponsor Harris-Gershon's discussion, which will be followed by a Q&A and book signing. “

“Proud” to sponsor a discussion from a person who regularly uses his twitter account to “re-tweet” messages from Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada, Stephan Walt and Max Blumenthal amongst others? I mean nothing says that someone “loves” Israel like “re-tweeting” known anti-Semites and anti-Zionists. Right? 

Or how about this gem that Harris-Gershon “tweeted”:

If you think the world should boycott Russia over occupation, but Palestinians should not via-a-vis Israel, you have some explaining to do.

Now this is a particularly interesting tweet because Harris Gershon has been turned away from speaking in a few Jewish organizations because of his support for the anti-Semitic BDS Movement something that Mr. Harris-Gershon denies that he supports. Interestingly enough this denial came when he began his book / speaking tours to Jewish organizations. But that said, aside from his constant support for those who do favor BDS here are David’s exact words with regards to BDS:


“And I think about Israel's inability to stop the occupation on its own, about how the only way to stop it may be for outside pressures (emphasis mine) to bear down upon the country I love.
Sanctions. Boycotts. Divestments. (BDS)….
…. And so we come to the confession, to the coming out: as an American Jew invested deeply in Israel's success and survival -- which in turn drives my investment in stopping one of the greatest moral challenges of my generation: the occupation -- I have no choice but to formally endorse and embrace BDS…. (emphasis mine)
…. However, I know this for a fact: those who claim in Israel that there is no occupation have only one goal in mind: a single-state solution, a Jewishly-controlled Israel stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
And it's an unworkable, unsustainable goal that will be realized -- one state -- unless outside forces are brought to bear.”

Now… if this is not bad enough.. Harris-Gershon also engages in rhetoric that is reminiscent of the horrible Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Here is his commentary in an article at Daily Kos February 4th, 2013 where Harris Gershon unleashes the old anti-Semitic canard of dual loyalty with these two comments: 

“The reason for this disproportionate, obsessive focus on Israel with no regard for U.S. troops in Afghanistan? Simple: AIPAC and the "pro-Israel" lobby's ill-founded concern about the Hagel nomination coupled by the lobby's disproportionate influence on our representatives to echo that concern.”(emphasis mine)

And

“But when the hawkish, "pro-Israel" lobby in America can influence our representatives to sound as if they – well – are representing Israel's citizens more than our own? (emphasis mine)
          We have a problem. A problem that must be discussed openly and honestly.”

Straight out conspiracy theory saying that America’s representatives are controlled by “Zionist Interests”… Where have we heard charges like that before and from whom?

SO… with that, I say “goodbye”, “so long”, “Shalom”, to J Street. Why would I support an organization that gives a platform (and is proud of that) to a person who espouses both anti-Zionism and in my opinion borderline anti-Semitic memes? Just as I would not belong to an organization that gave a platform to Gilad_Atzmon nor can I see my money or support going to an organization that would support and be “proud of” and having David Harris Gershon.

I cannot in good conscience support J Street IF this is the type of programming or this is the kind of speaker that they will sponsor. I wish things were different because I do support J Street’s general principles. However, when you give a platform to people like Harris Gershon. What are you really supporting?

Shalom,

A former friend.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Republican Casts Sole Anti-Israel Vote

It has been a subject of vicious debate whether anti-Zionism in America can be seen as a liberal phenomenon - one that in the US is aligned with elements of the Democratic party - or whether it is solely on the extremes.


Today the House of Representatives voted on the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, a bill that declares Israel to be a “major strategic partner” of the United States, enables further US-Israel economic, scientific, and cultural exhange, and contains some perks for Israeli citizens regarding travel to the US.  The bill is sufficiently substantive that it has the antisemites anti-Zionists at Mondoweiss freaking out.  What can todays roll call vote tell us about where anti-Zionism lies?

The bill passed the House 410-1 (yes, you read that right) with 19 abstentions.  The 19 abstentions seem to be a random mix of Republicans and Democrats who were simply out of town.  

So, you may ask, which of the far-left whacked-out Democrats was the one "no" vote?  Was it Barbara Lee of Oakland / Berkeley, who has flirted with Trutherism?  Was it Keith Ellison, the only Muslim on Congress, who has in the past said some stupid things regarding Gaza?  Was it Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, who defeated a Jewish opponent in a primary and who we were told was a secret anti-Zionist.  
Actually, Lee, Elliison, and Pascrell all voted yes.

It turns out the sole "no" vote came from a Republican - Thomas Massie of Kentucky.

"But I thought that anti-Zionism had infected the Democratic party, while the Republican party is full of people who understand the moral and historical case for Israel."

Well, if you thought that, on this one you thought wrong.  Massie is a Rand Paul devotee from the "libertarian" wing of the Republican party.  ("libertarian" is in quotes because I'm sure, like all Republican-aligned "libertarians" he doesn't support true personal liberty like drug legalization or abortion rights).  Massie even goes so far as to supposedly live "off the grid" in a log cabin, which is hilarious considering his district consists of the Northern Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati, truly one of the most anonymously suburban wastelands in the world.  The closest his constituents ever get to being "off the grid" is when the credit card reader breaks at Applebees and they have to go to TGI Fridays instead.

But I digress.  The point here is that a Republican, and a conservative one at that, was the sole no vote on this important piece of pro-Israel legislation, because he is from the emerging Paulite wing of the Republican party that basically lives by the motto "F the world, including Israel".  Does this represent an emerging trend in the Republican party?  Does it mean that "Republicans have let antisemitic anti-Zionism in to their tent"?  We shall see...










Saturday, March 1, 2014

Why Facebook Is Bad For People

Yep, I'm going to be that guy.  I'm going to complain about how Facebook is ruining society.

However, this isn't going to be the standard rant about it being a waste of time.  Don't get me wrong, it IS a waste of time - but most humans will always waste time with pointless diversions and Facebook is just the latest.  Before people pissed away hours updating their Facebook status and flipping through 500 selfies, they spent hours watching reality TV shows following knuckleheads around a pawn shop or doing some other absolutely mundane activity, and before that they wasted hours with pointless sitcoms, and before that... well I guess before that there was painting stick figure animals on the walls of the cave.  The point is that Facebook didn't create the pointless time suck, so I'm not going to charge it with that.

The problem with Facebook is much deeper and much worse than merely allowing people to waste time instead of climbing mountains or learning how to play the lute.

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To start with, let's note that the internet is rightly criticized for herding people into political echo chambers.  Instead of the old days of newspapers and network news, where flipping on Dan Rather or picking up the local paper meant confronting a more or less objective external reality, nowadays people can read hundreds of blogs, listen to countless podcasts, and read thousands of comments without ever encountering a different opinion or a challenging fact.  In today's internet, people almost never encounter a challenge to their political opinions, they only receive more and more validation.

What does this have to do with Facebook?

Well, just like much of the rest of the internet gives people a political echo chamber, Facebook gives people a personal life echo chamber.


Anything anyone ever posts to Facebook is noting but unanimously "liked".  There is no "dislike" button.  There is not even an "I don't care" button. There are only positive comments, and positive feedback.

If someone doesn't think something that has been posted is actually that great, they just ignore it and move on.  In the exceedingly rare event of a negative comment, it can just be deleted and the offending party unfriended, leaving 500 more friends to unanimously "like" or silently ignore everything else.

So no matter what someone posts to Facebook - perhaps the 5000th selfie of the day, perhaps the 200th picture of their kid, perhaps a status update about brushing their teeth, whatever it is - is never reacted to in a negative way.  Everything that everyone does is great.  Just great.  All the time great.

Facebook is erasing the social distinction between mundane activities and actual achievements.  It is giving people a greatly inflated sense of their self-worth.  You went to a bar and took a selfie with your friends?  Like!  You played softball today?  Like!  You microwaved a hot pocket and it is oh so gooey?  Like!  Your dental checkup went well?  Like!  You won a Nobel Prize?  Like!  You completed Army Ranger training?  Like!

The profound and the mundane all blend into an undifferentiated haze of constant assured positive reinforcement.

I am convinced that, as a consequence, people are becoming less and less interesting.  Less intellectual, less athletic, less achieving, less caring, less healthy, and less of pretty much anything positive.  Granted, these are all trends that predate Facebook, but Facebook is greatly accelerating them.

When someone can post that they are brushing their teeth or just successfully defrosted a hot pocket and receive numerous likes and affirming comments from friends and family, it gives them a greatly inflated sense of self-worth that was simply not available in the pre-Facebook days.  In those olden days seven years ago, someone in the course of brushing their teeth would not receive positive reinforcement and might just have to give a moment's thought to what they could do that day to better themselves - perhaps hit the gym, or read a book, or call their grandmother.

Life used to have some negative reinforcement, and while it could certainly be abusive, it also crucially anchored peoples' personal lives in some external reality.  On Facebook there is no critical external reality - just a personal life echo chamber.  There is no dislike button, no ignore button, and no "boring!" button.


Today someone can post a selife or ten to Facebook and nobody is going to register dislike.  There will be no authentic human reactions to it.  Nobody is going to tell the poster with their words or their body language that they are losing the tight gym body they had a while back.  Nobody is going to tell them with their words or body language that the significant other smirking in the background of the photo is a total douchebag.  They will not have the experience of being ignored and learning that what they are doing is uninteresting, since ignoring people doesn't register on Facebook.  It will only be like like like like like.

Today someone can post a status update that they have dropped out of engineering and switched their major to queer basket weaving theory, and nobody will communicate with words or body language that they think it was a bad idea.  Someone can post a naked picture of their three year old for all their friends and all of posterity to see and nobody will communicate with words or body language that it might be a bad idea.  Someone can spin their version of a personal conflict and nobody will communicate with words or body language that they might just be wrong.

Facebook enables constant positive social reinforcement leading to erasure of the distinction between the mundane and sublime.  It may just be the worst thing to happen to culture in the 21st century.