Monthly Archives: April 2013

We got some changes to the format that we’re working on here at HQ. Until those roll out, however, enjoy my top picks from last week:

  • It’s off our beat a bit, but this Al Jazeera op-ed that places the mass media’s discussions of Chechnya over the past week in the broader history of attempts to manage whiteness in the U.S. “The Wrong Kind of Caucasian” is definitely worth the read.
  • A Knesset member from Yesh Atid decided to visit a friend in Ramallah. She was shocked by what she saw and posted this long, if still somewhat racist, Facebook status explaining her shock at the ways Palestinians are treated. Honestly, it doesn’t even sound like she saw any of the more exceptional forms of violence that characterize daily life in the West Bank: she talks about the Qalandia checkpoint and the daily harassment of the Israeli army. Is it possible that the average Israeli is truly this ignorant of what its government does in the West Bank?
  • An op-ed from Haaretz argues that the most recent extension of Israel’s Citizenship Law makes Israel and apartheid state.

[W]e do not need to replicate exactly the characteristics of South African apartheid within discriminatory practices in civil rights in Israel in order to call Israel an apartheid state. The amendment to the Citizenship Law is exactly such a practice, and it is best that we not try to evade the truth: Its existence in our law books turns Israel into an apartheid state.

  • Noam Sheizaf also takes up the citizenship law, focusing on the importance of paying attention to the 1 in 4 Israeli citizens who are not Jewish:

Palestinian citizens have many rights in Israel – especially compared with Palestinians under occupation – but they are not equal citizens. Even if Israel is forced to end the occupation, only by removing all discriminatory elements from its legal system and adopting a “state of all its citizens” model can it move toward becoming a truly democratic state, rather than a democracy of racial profiling.

  • A group of senior European Union officials released a statement, saying that the Oslo process has nothing more to offer and that by pretending it does, “the Occupation is actually being entrenched by the present Western policy.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry disagrees, saying that the window for a two-state solution will close in 12-18 months. We’re not sure what he’s smoking, but we look forward to the United States endorsing a one-state democratic solution by October 2014. 
  • And finally, peaking of interesting U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State John Kerry said he could understand the anger of those who lost loved ones on the flotilla to Gaza, explicitly comparing what they had been through to the loss experienced by Americans who lost loved ones in the Boston bombings.

It’s been a while since I did a Torah Thursday. A big part of that is that lately the Wednesday Racism Roundup has had to document so damned much, that I have little blog-time left. But another part is that we are currently deep in the heart fo Leviticus, where the weekly readings mostly contain long lists of commandments without much exposition or story. And, since I’m not a rabbi I can say this: it’s boring!

This week we get another long and drawn listing of laws, this time relating mostly to the major holidays. Towards the end of the Torah portion, however, we get one of the more challenging stories from the Bible. In the midsts of a heated quarrel, a man pronounces God’s holy name while cursing.

As a frequent curser and person who gets frustrated fairly easily, I sympathize. The Israelites, however, do not. They place the man in prison and ask God what to do with him. In Leviticus 24:13-14, we get the answer:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and all who heard [his blasphemy] shall lean their hands on his head. And the entire community shall stone him.

God goes on to list off a series of punishable offenses, ending his judgement with the infamous “eye for an eye” rule.

To us moderns with our strong commitment to free speech, the sentence seems unfairly harsh. Yet what I find particularly interesting in this passage is not the judgement itself, but the way it is to be carried out.

If God directly commands the death of the blasphemer, then why must the entire community stone him? Surely if God wished, He could have struck down the blasphemer where he stood.

To me, passage cuts to the very heart fo the meaning of political community. If the blasphemer is to be put to death, it is not simply because of God’s will, but also because of the will of the political community. Here, we do not get the single zealot carrying out doctrinal law with the certainty and righteousness and certainty of God on their side (ahem, settler-colonists). Notably, had a single individual decided to mette out punishment on their own, they would have been in the wrong. For what is crucial here is not that the man be put to death, but that the community should act together to do so.

Here, it seems to me, those of us who are uncomfortable with the judgement have an obligation to convince our communities to act according to other standards.  After all, it is the community which determines that the man has blasphemed, the community which imprisons him, and the community which executes him.

Unfortunately, as we know all too well, we will not always win such debates. And when we do, we must recognize our collective responsibility for the group’s actions, even if we may disagree with them. It is somewhat difficult to believe that each and every man, woman, and child in the dessert threw a rock at the prisoner – we’re talking thousands of people! And, in fact, Rashi, the most well-known Jewish commentator on the Torah, maintains that only the direct witnesses actually carried out the physical actions of the execution. However, they do so in the name of the entire community.

It is very easy to try to purge our own guilt for actions that our polities take by noting that we, personally, disagree with those acts. It is very easy to say that I disagree with my government’s funding of the Israeli army and pretend that this puts me above the fray. And yet my tax dollars still go to fund those policies. More so, my government funds and defends those policies in my name and in the name of every other citizen. In these verses, we see that for God, there is quite literally no difference between a representative of the people carrying out the act and the people themselves. If the witnesses carry out the execution, the people themselves carry it out as well.

Recognizing our complicity in government policies that we disagree with should not be a recipe for endless self-inflicted guilt. Rather, it must be a call to action to change the communities in which we live. After all, their action is ours and ours is their’s.

A few days back, my high school alma mater sent out an email, bragging about it’s great educational accomplishments:

Our school promotes a love of Israel in my children – Results: 71% of SSLI parents strongly agreed, giving us the second highest score in the country, and a full 21% higher than our peer schools.

Assuming that “our peer institutions” refers to Jewish Day Schools in the United States (not sure if this would include Modern Orthodox Yeshivas, but I’d guess that it does), this means that fully 50% of young Jews who graduate these schools do not express a “love for Israel,” at least not in the eyes of the parents who sent them there. Thirteen years of an education whose ever-increasing focus is to instill a single political message in their students and, yet, only half express the desired emotional bond? Not too shabby.

Is it possible that young Jews are increasingly skeptical of this narrative, which conflicts with our social values and religious beliefs? Well, I don’t have access to the survey results, so I just don’t know.  But one can certainly hope! And some days, that is enough.

Hat tip to @Shawnabraham for calling my attention to this. 

Let’s face it. This was not the best week for race relations in the United States. In the aftermath of the Boston bombings, we saw wide-spread racism and Islamophobia: A Palestinian woman was assaulted in Boston, social media featured more racism than any of us should be comfortable with, and mainstream newspaper outlets like CNN, FoxNews, and the New York Post ran horrifyingly inaccurate stories about Muslims in America. And while the anti-racist reaction to such posts has been thankfully vocal, these sorts of stories reveal an inexcusable, worrisome, and widespread current of racism that the United States has yet to be purged. 

So why am I still talking about Israel? Well, for one, there is something exceptional and shocking about the racist flare-up in the United States. This is as it should be: we must continue to fight against racism whenever it pops up, but it seems to me like the overwhelming reaction against the racist uptick in the United States testifies to its shocking and exceptional character. It could and should have been louder: I would have like to see the President join in the condemnations, for example. And yet, it existed. By contrast, most of the stories I list each and every week in the roundup barely crack the headlines of Israeli news, so mundane have they become. And you do not see the sort of widespread backlash against them that my compatriots in the United States demonstrated this past week.

In the end, I do not think one could do a comparable Weekly Wednesday Roundup of American Racism. I don’t think you could find mayors of Cincinnati or Portland implying they employed illegal means to keep their city ethnically pure. I don’t think you could find consistent gangs attacking people with complete impunity. And I don’t think you could find people in power consistently arguing in favor of racism. This is not to excuse American racism. Only to say that the fight there, while important and ongoing, has achieved something significant which is lacking in Israel.

One particular reason for this – the reason that I want to highlight this week – is the way that racism is infused in the people, institutions, and practices of the Israeli state. We are not just talking about a few backwater uneducated racists here nor even a determined but small fascist movement of the sort that has emerged in Europe recently. Rather, the types of racism that I describe here week after week comes directly from a state which at best ignores such acts and at worst encourages and participates in the racism.

This state-based racism extends from the very top levels of government, where apartheid-esque laws were this week once again extended; to the well-documented role of the army in perpetuating racist policies in the West Bank and Gaza; to the state-rabbinate who make their feelings very clear on the matter this week; to the municipal government of major cities; and even to high schools who can’t stand the mention of Palestinians at assemblies. We even get one of the strangest stories of police racism I have ever heard. This week, I present 18 of the most shocking examples of racism in Israel from this past week’s news, starting with this rather large difference between the sort of racism that we saw in the U.S. and the sort we see consistently in Israel:

Except under circumstances specified in this section, no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.

“A Haaretz article, published this week, claims I am a racist, and the reader comments are well-filtered, to generate a presumed public opinion which chastises me.
And what’s all the fuss about? It’s about me declaring once more what is known to everyone: I as a mayor have acted decidedly and unequivocally, to preserve upper Nazareth as a Jewish city for ever and ever. For this they are calling me a racist, a fascist, a thug. [They] are planning a demonstration by a left wing group in front of my house [in order] to arrest me… “
  • Not content to let the North steal their racism-spotlight, Israel’s Attorney General has apparently unilaterally redrawn the border of the city of Jerusalem, in the process excluding thousands of Palestinian legal residents of Jerusalem who live beyond the Apartheid Wall, their eligibility for health insurance and other social benefits.
  • Israeli forces destroyed Palestinian houses in At-Tur, East Jerusalem, citing their lack of permits. Of course, it is the policy of the Jerusalem municipality not to grant such building permits to Palestinians, in an effort to maintain an official demographic target in the make-up of Israel’s capital city. Separately, the Israeli army destroyed three Palestinian houses near Hebron as well.
  • Summarizing the situation in Jerusalem, a new report by the International Crisis Group underscores the pressures faced by non-Jewish residents of the Holy City:

The report, entitled “The Withering of Arab Jerusalem,” describes a very bleak situation in East Jerusalem. “For many Arab East Jerusalemites, the battle for their city is all but lost,” reads the report’s opening paragraph. “Settlements have hemmed in their neighborhoods, which have become slums in the midst of an expanding Jewish presence; trade with the West Bank has been choked off by the Separation Barrier and checkpoints; organized political life has been virtually eradicated by the clampdown on Palestinian institutions; their social and economic deprivation is rendered the more obvious by proximity to better-off Jewish neighbors.”

  • In an Israeli Army endorsed book on the seemingly mundane topic of whether or not the presence of non-Jews should affect the placement of mezzuzot on army bases, the Israeli state tells its positions regarding equal rights of citizenship. As I have stated before, me and they read very different Torahs:

“The idea that views non-Jews as having equal rights in the state goes against the opinion of the Torah, and no representative of the state is authorized to act against the will of the Torah.

  • The former chief rabbi of the Israeli Army, Avichai Ronsky, quickly apologized for mezzuzah-gate. That is, he apologized for it becoming public, not for its ideas. However, he insisted that the original reporting on the story was a real hit job:

Ronsky added that “the intention of this newspaper [Haaretz] is to turn Israel into a state of all its citizens.” Haaretz aims “to prevent Israel from being a Jewish state,” according to Ronsky.

  • In a story that is equal parts bizarre and racist, an Arab volunteer police officer who is in the process of converting to Judaism went undercover to expose Palestinians illegally residing within the Green Line. In a story that sounds like it was ripped from the pages of Fanon’s Black Skins, White Masks, the profesional Border Police did not exactly appreciate the assist:

According to the volunteer, Nissim Elimelech looked at him and asked the Border Police commander: “Who called this Arab to come?” The commanders thought Nissim Elimelech might be referring to the illegal residents but Elimelech clarified: “I mean him – Yusuf Abu-Balal.” Balal has started the process of conversion to Judaism, during which he changed his name from Yusuf to Yosef.

The commanders explained that Balal was a veteran volunteer and part of the team. “Why do you call him Yosef; he’s an Arab and his name is Yusuf Abu-Balal,” Nissim Elimelech said to one of the commanders, according to Balal. Balal said Yosef Elimelech then said: “Maybe he changed his name or made it a Hebrew name and calls himself Yosef Balal, but that doesn’t change him.

  • Yesh Din has a new report out highlighting the ways selective application of the law by state officials allow Israeli outposts (settlement-colonies illegal not only under international law, but also  Israeli law) to thrive and to commit violence against Palestinians.
  • And finally, to close out our session on state-based racism, Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy called on classic anti-Semitic tropes this week when he referred to Haredim as “parasites.” Among their sins, according to Levy, is their lack of a desire to participate in the army.
  • During a commemoration for the Deir Yassin massacre, a group of Israeli Jews confronted the Jews and Palestinians conducting the commemoration, chanting “We will bring a Nakba, a Nakba, a Nakba, upon you!” For those who speak Hebrew, you can see parts of the incident at the 2:40 mark in Israel Social TV’s report:
  • David Sheen posts a video from last month’s right-wing Ramle conference, where Makor Rishon journalist  Yehuda Yifrach complains about how the Israeli judiciary doesn’t allow the government to be open about its racism. If you think I am exaggerating, at one point Yifrach actually says that if Israel presented its true intentions regarding the Family Reunification Law, the Israeli Supreme Court would reject the law as racist (see last week’s edition for more on the law). One might think that the problem here is the racism itself, perhaps even the way that the Israeli Supreme Court, according to Yifrach, wraps up the racist policies in the trappings of sanitized policy language, but no. Apparently the issue is that Israel cannot be openly racist.
  • Echoing Emitt Till, Jewish youths entered the village of Safed, torching cars and writing grafitti on a wall that read “don’t touch our girls.” Love, once again, is a great threat to the apartheid system.
  • Settler-colonists from Bat Ayin attacked and threw stones at a farmer near Hebron. Still waiting for the arguments about stone throwing being a terrorist activity to be applied to these cases.
  • Settler-colonists also entered into Ramallah to torch 10 cars.

Every week, this blog tries to chronicle the most egregious acts of racism committed by Israel. You can find a longer explanation of the purpose of this exercise here. As this list will, unfortunately  be far from exhaustive, feel free to add additional stories of relevance and importance in the comments below.

The Occasional Movie Monday presents critical analyses of recent films from Dr. L. PresumablyDrL is a New York-based educator who works to promote the critical use of documentary film in secondary classrooms. 

A decade ago, when I was teaching a class on Zionism and Israel at a Jewish high school in the United States, I showed my class a film (Jerusalem 1948: Yoom Ilak, Yoom Aleik) detailing the events of 1948 from the perspective of Palestinian Jerusalemites. My goal was not to promote that (or, for that matter, any other) perspective, but simply to expose these students – most of whom had never before heard the term Nakba – to the fact that there exists a counter-narrative to the one with which they were already quite familiar.

This, it turns out, is not so easily done.  At one point in the film, an elderly Palestinian woman, wearing a headscarf and missing several teeth, began to tell her story.  As she spoke, several students began to giggle. Others joined in, and the response grew into a chorus of derisive laughter loud enough that the woman’s testimony could scarcely be heard.  For many of my students, it seemed, it was simply impossible to see beyond the woman’s physical appearance and all the preconceptions it connoted.  She was, to them, the consummate “Other,” and they could neither see nor hear beyond her “otherness.”

I recalled this incident as I watched the remarkable Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras.  On the surface the film is the story of the story of the ongoing non-violent protests against Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bi’ilin. Much of the footage was shot by Emad Burnat, who unwittingly becomes “the Bi’ilin cameraman” and chronicles five years of protests against the route of the barrier as it encroaches on agricultural land surrounding the village in order to separate it from the ever-expanding settlement of Modi’in Illit. Burnat’s five cameras see the bulldozers uprooting olive trees, the soldiers wielding their guns, the checkpoints, the confrontations, the tear gas, the bullets, the injuries, the deaths.

But the power of the film lies in the fact that Emad’s cameras see much, much more.  In the end, it is not the political that makes the film so exceptional, but the personal. Emad’s cameras slash through the seemingly endless layers of impenetrable and hyperbolic rhetoric that have engulfed the Israeli-Palestinian divide from the beginning and capture, as few documents have, the essential humanity of those entrapped within it. Emad’s cameras see the playful eyes of his youngest son, Gibreel (upon whose birth Emad decided to acquire his first camera). They see Gibreel squinting through the soap in his eyes as he takes a shower, staring nervously in the mirror as he gets a haircut, kicking up his feet while lying in bed watching cartoons. They see Emad’s wife Soraya hanging the laundry out to dry. They see Emad’s friend Phil – “El-Phil,” the “elephant” – cavorting with acrobats to the delight of the village children. They see the whimsically painted face of his son Yasin, sheepishly smiling as he and his backpack lean against a wall in a school courtyard.

The interweaving of these scenes of daily life with the chronicle of the protests reportedly came under the guidance of the film’s Israeli co-director, Guy Davidi (at least if one is to believe what one reads on Wikipedia). Davidi surely knew that for the film to connect with western (and presumably Israeli) audiences, viewers needed to be taken beyond the protests themselves, where Palestinians who confront Israeli soldiers could – like the woman in the film I had shown my class – be all too easily dismissed.  By taking viewers inside Bi’ilin and documenting the life that brews beyond the glare of the protests, 5 Broken Cameras paints a portrait of lives and individuals that one simply does not have the option of dismissing.  That it somehow manages to do so in a way that is neither heavy-handed nor overly simplistic makes it all the more extraordinary a document.

Because the sad reality is that in the end Emad’s cameras are unable simply to tell a story of prosaic ordinariness. The occupation intrudes at every turn. The political and the personal cannot be separated, not in Bi’ilin. When Soraya hangs her laundry, we hear bullets in the background; she matter-of-factly instructs her husband: “Don’t let the kids out. The soldiers are in the village.” Gibreel and his brother sit inside a parked car and watch as their uncle is carried off to jail. They pass through a checkpoint guarded by armed soldiers.  When four-year-old Gibreel witnesses violent death, we see him ask the innocent questions only a child can ask, and his father’s grim recognition of the moment his son seems to have lost his childhood forever.

Any good work of art functions at multiple levels. 5 Broken Cameras is a document of the Bi’ilin protests, to be sure, but it is much more than that. It is also a lyrical meditation on cameras and film and how one sees the world through them. (“I feel like the camera protects me,” Emad says at one point, “but it’s an illusion.”)

But from my perspective in the United States, it is most compelling as a work that makes the invisible visible. Like thousands of other American tourists, I have passed along the Trans-Israel Highway as it passes along the massive concrete separation barrier at Qalqilya. But I had no means of seeing beyond the barrier, of getting even the smallest glimpse of daily life in Qalqilya or anywhere else on the West Bank. Fortunately, the distributors of 5 Broken Cameras have made access to it relatively easy (it is available for streaming on Netflix and available as an instant video on at modest cost). It has aired on Israeli television, and Davidi has spearheaded an educational campaign to bring the film into secondary classrooms within Israel.  A short video of this project underscores the promise of works such as 5 Broken Cameras to humanize what is all too often seen in broad and abstract political terms.

 (A longer version of this video can be found here.)

A decade ago, one of my students began an essay about the separation barrier with the following lines: “The most easily distinguishing feature identifying an Israeli or a Palestinian is not found in garb, or accent, or driving ability (universally horrible throughout) but rather in how they characterize the other side. Israelis and Palestinians often see the other as a homogeneous group with a collective will that is alien to their own. The word ‘they’ is used a lot. They harbor terrorists, they teach hatred, they are ruining our lives, they do not care about us.” The student went on to lament the inability of each side to listen to and respect each other’s narratives. I hope he and his classmates have seen 5 Broken Cameras and have in the decade since I knew them developed the ability to see and hear “them,” to recognize there really is no “them,” but a collection of individuals with names and stories that have every right to be heard.

As I mentioned this past Wednesday, a new poll (Heb) was recently published by the “blue and white future group.” If you have not already done so, I recommend reading Mairav Zonszein’s excellent writeup of the poll in English, focusing on the 36% of respondents who seem to outright favor an apartheid system. 

More interesting for me, though are the latter questions and party breakdown. One narrative that you often hear, especially in the United States, is that Israel’s unwillingness to seriously pursue peace is the result of the current government. If only the U.S. could get a Labour prime-minister rather than this Netanyahu fellow, then we’d have peace in no time, or so the narrative goes. This poll, however, ought to give us pause.

Now, whenever you review any poll, you have to apply all the standard caveats, and for this poll there are a great many. First, this is not a poll of Israeli citizens, but only of the  ~75% of Israeli citizens who are Jewish. The common exclusion of the roughly 1 in 4 Israelis who are not Jewish from most public opinion polling is one of the ways that Israeli racism is perpetuated. Rather than provide a simple ethnic breakdown, as in commonly done in public polling elsewhere, the blue and white poll and most other Israeli public opinion polls quite literally tells non-Jewish Israelis that their opinions do not matter to the nation.

The racism of this poll is further reflected in the questions asked, which seek to ascertain how Israel might be able to maintain its “Jewish and democratic” character. Anyone who thinks that it is not desirable or even possible to maintain both of those characteristics simultaneous has no way of registering their dissent on the poll.

That said, the poll does list “Annexing Yehuda and Shomron [the West Bank] and giving full rights of citizenship to Palestinians” as one of the possible vectors for accomplishing this task. Although the language used to describe this option is highly objectionable and patronizing, this is essentially describing a bi-national one-state solution. Zonszein takes this as a sign of hope that some small Leftist core still exists in Israel today:

It should also be noted that the seven percent of the polled Jewish Israelis said they support giving Palestinians full civil rights within a bi-national state – not so tiny considering how marginalized the left-wing one-state vision is in Israel.

The party breakdown, however, does not bare out such an analysis. Indeed, the more right-wing a person is, the more likely they are to support what is essentially a bi-national state. Whereas 12% of Naftali Bennet’s ultra-right religious-nationalist voters and 17% of the religious right Shas party voters support the annexation of the West Bank and the granting of full rights of citizenship to Palestinians, only 9% of left-wing Labour and Meretz voters and 0% of Tzippi Livnis’ Hatnuah (usually, if problematically described as center-left) support such a solution. 

Our ability to determine what the mainstream Israeli Left wants is somewhat limited by the poll’s unfortunate choices in question-wording. The poll lists only four options for maintaining Israel’s Jewish and democratic character: annexing the West Bank with full citizenship for Palestinians (bi-national state), annexing without full citizenship rights (formalized apartheid), maintaining the status quo (informal apartheid), or establishing a Palestinian state along the border of the separation barrier (fantasy).

As such, an Israeli Jew who supports other versions of the two-state solution – such as division along the Green Line, with or without Jerusalem, or the Lieberman plan of forcibly transferring Palestinian citizens of Israel to a future Palestinian state – has no real way of registering their desired outcome. That said, an earlier question in the poll did simply ask if one was in favor of the general principle of “two states for two people” and you see only a very slight drop-off from those who support the general principle to those who support the specific plan of using the current route of the Apartheid Wall as the border. So if there is a range of opinion being hidden by the limited options, it does not appear to be particularly dramatic. 

Further on in the poll, we get another question about a possible two-state solution, asking if Israel should unilaterally withdraw to the 1967 boders plus the annexation of the large settlement-blocs, including Jerusalem, Maale Adumim, and Gush Etzion. Once again this is a pretty bad question, as we have no way of distinguishing whether people might object to a unilateral withdrawal or to the proposed borders. That said, we once again find large majorities on the Left agreeing with this statement: 68% of Meretz voters and 59% of Hatnuah and Labour voters answer positively. As Mya Guarnieri has covered (part 1part 2), such annexation would make the existence of a Palestinian State all but acceptable, even if Israel could somehow force this raw deal.

So, contrary to the commonplace narrative of an enlightened Israeli Left, waiting in the wings to seize power and finish the Oslo accords, we find a vast majority of the Israeli Left clinging to racist positions. The Left appears to favor unilateral action, refusing the notion that Palestinians maybe ought to have a say in their own future. The unilateral action they favor entails not only the maintenance of the Apartheid Wall in its current form, but also its further expansion to encompass even larger swaths of the West Bank.

In other words, whereas the mainstream Israeli Right appears roughly even divided on whether to maintain an informal apartheid system or shift towards a formalize one, with a small minority favoring a bi-national single state, the Left seems united in its support for continuing an informal apartheid system by means of setting up Bantustans

The racism of the mainstream Israeli Left may not be quite as spectacular as that of the Right. You usually don’t get Leftists talking openly about how they are proud to be racist or how they wish to ethnically cleanse Israel. And yet, if the results of this poll are to be trusted, then there is little evidence that the Left’s priorities are any better than the those of the Right. In fact, they may be worse. 

Er…Sorry I’m a bit late on putting this one out. Things have been a bit crazy over at HQ. We got some good stuff coming at you this week, including our second Movie Monday, an analysis of that Blue and White Poll that I mentioned on Wednesday, and all the regular features. In the meantime, here are some of my top picks from last week, including the United Nations at its worst, an incredible new map, :

The Australian reports on a bizarre press conference that took place in Jerusalem about the findings of UNICEF’s report. The press conference was greeted enthusiastically by journalists but the manner in which it was conducted indicates a fix was on to stifle the truth of the report. Unfortunately, it appears at least some of those engaged in this subterfuge were members of UNICEF, including Anthony Lake, executive director of the agency, and UNICEF’s Jerusalem chief Jean Gough.

Maki [The Israeli Communist Party], however, was not alone. Ever since, most of the Zionist leftist movements have regarded Mizrahim as unnecessary surplus, lacking the sophistication or modernity to accept the Left’s lofty ideas.

  • Yitzhak Laor has an important op-ed in Haaretz, noting the ever-increasing levels of racism against Arabs in Israel today.

    This is the real content of the State of Israel: in all fields, including in academia, where the faculty  aren’t as callous as the community leaders of Upper Nazareth. But they also enjoy keeping the pie to themselves; the pleasures of silence suit them well in a liberal context. This is the “Jewish State,” and, consequently, Arab children receive less education and the mortality rate of their babies is higher. Therefore, their villages are continually becoming more crowded and the poverty in their community trebles.

  • The Israeli NGO Zochrot has released an incredible new map, for the first time recording all of the documented villages destroyed in the course of the Nakba. A high-quality version of the map together with a detailed explanation can be downloaded here. For more on the organization, The Economist has a great review of their recently published guidebook, Once Upon a Land.  Unfortunately, when activists from the organization attempted to hand out the map on the streets, this happened:


Creative Solutions All refugees in the world have the right to return to their homes. This is a granted right that all Palestinians have. It cannot be given or taken. However, Return does not necessarily mean turning back the clock to the eve of 1948. The vast majority of villages no longer exist; others have new towns built on the land while Jewish families occupy whatever houses remain in tact. In some instances the villages can be re-built, in others residents can join existing municipalities and in other cases people might choose to live in different cities than those they came from. The right to choose one’s place of residence is as important as the right to return home. Local mapping and planning done by organizations such as Badil and Zochrot can help further exploring and realizing return in creative ways.

  • Mondoweiss profiles South Tel Aviv’s “Red House,” a Palestinian mansion which is one of the last remnants of the four villages that once stood in the area. The home has recently been acquired by the municipality, which could mean its preservation as a historical site or its destruction as part of the ongoing Nakba. 
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