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March 9, 2016 0

Examining Zionism: Yesterday and Today

Zion­ism is a move­ment and ide­ol­ogy which has reli­gious, cul­tural polit­i­cal and prac­ti­cal mean­ing.  The con­nec­tion to Zion – Jerusalem – and the com­mit­ment to a national Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic home­land in Israel, the birth­place of Judaism, has been a source of inspi­ra­tion, a call to action, and a safe har­bor for Jews flee­ing persecution. Herzl bridge

But while Zion­ism is a pos­i­tive in the Jew­ish his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive, the term and move­ment has been the object of increas­ing demo­niza­tion and dele­git­imiza­tion. From pas­sage of the  “Zion­ism is Racism” res­o­lu­tion in the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly in 1975 (repealed in 1991), to recent charges by New York col­lege stu­dents that a “Zion­ist Admin­is­tra­tion” was respon­si­ble for high tuition, to British stu­dents call­ing polit­i­cal oppo­nents “Zios,” Zion­ism is used by some as a polit­i­cally charged term with neg­a­tive connotations.

Enter Col­lid­ing Dreams, a com­pelling doc­u­men­tary by Joseph Dor­man and Oren Rudavsky that exam­ines the mean­ing of Zion­ism and the his­tory of the build­ing a mod­ern Jew­ish state. Some­where along the 150-year path from Zionism’s ori­gins with Moses Hess and Theodore Herzl, to the present Israeli gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu, remark­able things, both amaz­ing and regret­table, have occurred in Zionism’s name.  With the birth of the State of Israel, the con­tin­ued sur­vival of the Jew­ish peo­ple was insured. At the same time, Pales­tini­ans have been per­son­ally and nation­ally impacted by this Jew­ish nation­al­ist movement.

The chal­lenges, com­pet­ing nar­ra­tives, incon­sis­ten­cies and messi­ness of Zion­ism are fully on dis­play in this doc­u­men­tary, from the con­tro­ver­sies over Israeli set­tle­ments, to the treat­ment of Pales­tini­ans, to enhanced mil­i­tarism and fun­da­men­tal­ism. But also in full focus is the pride, promise and com­mit­ment of what Zion­ism has meant and con­tin­ues to mean for so many, Jews and non-Jews alike.

For those who con­sider them­selves Zion­ists, for those who know lit­tle or noth­ing about the move­ment and its his­tory, and even for those who con­sider them­selves opposed to Zion­ism, Col­lid­ing Dreams offers much-needed his­tor­i­cal con­text with diverse nar­ra­tives. The film takes a rea­soned and fresh look at the con­flict, and pro­vides a truth­ful tale of achieve­ment and woe. And while the film makes an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the nec­es­sary dia­logue, what’s left is the ques­tion of the next chap­ter for Zionism’s future.

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March 2, 2016 4

Iran Trains Young Children for Warfare Against US and Israel

As the media focuses on all that is allegedly “new “ in Iran, with new elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives and new busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties,  young chil­dren in the Islamic Repub­lic are being trained in decades-old Iran­ian pro­pa­ganda, vio­lence and hate, with the goal of “con­quer­ing Tel Aviv”.

Iranian children

As part of last month’s Fajr Decade cel­e­bra­tions (the anniver­sary of Islamic Rev­o­lu­tion), Iran­ian offi­cials in the city of Lamard orga­nized the “Sixth National Children’s Memo­r­ial”, an event which trains chil­dren for war­fare against the US and Israel. Accord­ing to reports, as many as 1,200 chil­dren par­tic­i­pated in the event, with some dressed in mil­i­tary apparel. The event included forms of tar­get prac­tice with weapons, run­ning through obsta­cle courses and learn­ing about “con­quer­ing of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem” as “holy val­ues.” One photo from the event shows a young boy hold­ing an Israeli flag which he is prepar­ing to set alight in a nearby bonfire.

Iran (which infa­mously sent in child sol­diers dur­ing the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s) is a sig­na­tory to an inter­na­tional pro­to­col of the Con­ven­tion of the Rights of Chil­dren which says:  “States Par­ties shall refrain from recruit­ing any per­son who has not attained the age of fif­teen years into their armed forces…” and “States Par­ties shall take all fea­si­ble mea­sures to ensure that per­sons who have not attained the age of fif­teen years do not take a direct part in hos­til­i­ties. “   While such train­ings may not con­sti­tute explicit recruit­ment or involve­ment in hos­til­i­ties, with ses­sions such as these, Iran’s power bro­kers are edu­cat­ing, moti­vat­ing and train­ing for hos­til­i­ties against Israel in the future.

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March 2, 2016 2

Recent Controversies in Egypt Illustrate Anti-Israel Sentiment Still Prevalent

Recent con­tro­ver­sies in Egypt illus­trate the preva­lence of anti-Israel sen­ti­ment in a coun­try which has had a peace agree­ment with Israel since 1979.

The lat­est inci­dent involved a din­ner invi­ta­tion by Egypt­ian Par­lia­men­tar­ian Taw­fiq Okasha to Israeli Ambas­sador Haim Koren. Okasha, a TV per­son­al­ity who has a his­tory of mak­ing anti-Semitic remarks on his show, was sub­se­quently ousted from Egypt’s Par­lia­ment after being accused of engag­ing in nor­mal­iza­tion efforts towards Israel. He was also phys­i­cally attacked byan­other Par­lia­men­tar­ian, Kamal Ahmad, who hurled his shoe at Okasha in protest.In a video, Ahmad explained that his action was intended not only toward Okasha, but also toward the Knes­set and the “Zion­ist Entity.” The Al-Yawm As-Sabi news site hosts a video game where play­ers can use a shoe to hit Okasha across the face. At the top of the screen appears the title “Con­grat­u­la­tions, Okasha”, and he is depicted with a black eye in the back­drop of the Israeli flag.

MP Tawfik Okasha (right) hosts Israeli ambassador Haim Koren.

MP Taw­fik Okasha (right) hosts Israeli ambas­sador Haim Koren.

Another exam­ple of anti-Israel sen­ti­ment in Egypt occurred ear­lier this month when the Cairo Inter­na­tional Book Fair fea­tured an Israeli book, Ara­bian Nights.Com, which was writ­ten by Israel Army Radio’s Arab affairs ana­lyst Jackie Hougie. Its inclu­sion resulted in Par­lia­men­tar­ian Muham­mad Al-Masud demand­ing that Egypt’s Cul­ture Min­is­ter launch an inves­ti­ga­tion into the deci­sion to sell the book at the fair.

And a few weeks prior to that, Egypt­ian author­i­ties ordered the can­cel­ing of a screen­ing of Israeli film The Band’s Visit. The film, from 2007, tells the story of an Egypt­ian band arriv­ing in Israel, and deals with the issue of coex­is­tence between Israelis and Egyp­tians. When the issue became pub­lic, Mohammed Munir, the Gov­er­nor of the Cairo Dis­trict, ordered that the screen­ing be can­celed, and announced an inves­ti­ga­tion to deter­mine which offi­cial had ini­tially approved the film screening.

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