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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 From pas­sage of the  “Zion­ism is Racism” res­o­lu­tion in the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly in 1975 (repealed in 1991), to recent charges by New York col­lege stu­dents that a “Zion­ist Admin­is­tra­tion” was respon­si­ble for high tuition, to British stu­dents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 8, 2016 7

Think Twice Before Jumping on the BDS Bandwagon

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

Israeli_Apartheid_Week-Northwestern University

Polit­i­cal move­ments often depend on spo­ken or unspo­ken hatreds to per­pet­u­ate themselves.

Often, how­ever, they can use ambi­gu­ity to mask these motives and appeal to a broader audience.

How­ever, some­times, when haters show their true col­ors, onlook­ers and fel­low trav­el­ers can see through ambi­gu­i­ties to the unsa­vory aims of the causes which they’ve lent their support.

The Boy­cott, Divest­ment, Sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment against the State of Israel is undoubt­edly spread­ing on U.S. cam­puses, in main­stream Protes­tant cir­cles and in uni­ver­si­ties and unions in Europe. One ele­ment explain­ing the growth of BDS is frus­tra­tion with the stale­mate that has taken hold between Israelis and Palestinians.

It is under­stand­able that in the face of diplo­matic dead­lock, move­ments that promise easy solu­tions and sim­plis­tic nar­ra­tives gain steam. Indeed, the belief that Israel, as the occu­pier and stronger party, needs to act, com­bined with the appeal of an osten­si­bly non-violent move­ment like BDS – one that worked so well to bring an end to the apartheid regime in South Africa – makes for a com­pelling case for action.

Yet, any seri­ous observer would admit that the apartheid anal­ogy is flawed to its core.  The con­flict between Israel and the Pales­tini­ans is not an issue purely demar­cated along racial lines.  It is a national con­flict between two peo­ples, a con­flict for which each side bears responsibilities.

The real­ity is com­pli­cated by the fact that Israel has on sev­eral occa­sions pre­sented the Pales­tini­ans oppor­tu­ni­ties to end the occu­pa­tion and build an inde­pen­dent Pales­tin­ian state. One can argue with the terms pro­posed by both sides, but the stark truth of sev­eral rounds of failed nego­ti­a­tions reveals mutual cul­pa­bil­ity in the cur­rent sta­tus quo.  And the ongo­ing incite­ment of the Pales­tin­ian lead­er­ship con­tributes as much if not more to the dimin­ish­ing pub­lic will and widen­ing diplo­matic impasse as the actions of the Israeli government.

So, the keys to the two-state solu­tion are kept by both Israel and the Palestinians.

But many who are swept up in its cur­rents do not look closely at the desired end-state of the BDS move­ment. Many envi­sion a sce­nario in which Israel, com­pelled by pres­sure, would be more forth­com­ing to the Pales­tini­ans and ide­ally a two-state solu­tion could result. One might not agree with this logic, but we should note that, at least among many young Jews, it is ani­mated by a desire for jus­tice. I believe it has impelled groups such as J Street and a num­ber of other emerg­ing grass­roots ini­tia­tives in the Jew­ish com­mu­nity. Even if we dis­agree, even we should acknowl­edge the earnest­ness of their motives.

uc davis protesters

Indeed, the BDS move­ment has been able to cap­i­tal­ize on attract­ing to its ranks many who legit­i­mately seek a last­ing peace between the Israel and the Pales­tini­ans. But it’s cru­cial to note – this end state is not what BDS seeks.

Noth­ing illus­trates this bet­ter than the stance of the orig­i­na­tor and main intel­lec­tual dri­ver of the BDS move­ment, Omar Bargh­outi, and his reac­tion to the views expressed by two pro­fes­sors in sup­port of boycott.

These pro­fes­sors, Steven Lev­it­sky and Glen Weyl pub­lished an arti­cle in the Wash­ing­ton Post endors­ing boy­cott as a way to pres­sure Israel in its poli­cies toward the Pales­tini­ans. Self-described “life-long Zion­ists” seek­ing a two-state out­come, their endorse­ment of the boy­cott rep­re­sents well a vari­a­tion of the “pres­sure school” which seeks through pres­sure to change Israel’s behav­ior and approach to negotiations.

Regard­less of the valid­ity of their ideas—and I have deep doubts over the abil­ity to achieve their desired out­come through one-sided penal­ties against Israel—what is telling is Barghouti’s response.

In his arti­cle, “You can’t save Israel from itself by appro­pri­at­ing BDS,” Bargh­outi slams the pro­fes­sors. He calls out this “Zion­ist” endorse­ment of BDS an appro­pri­a­tion, since it is cal­cu­lated, in the final analy­sis, at achiev­ing a res­o­lu­tion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Yet, BDS ortho­doxy, Bargh­outi openly acknowl­edges, does not seek this goal. Bargh­outi argues that it is not the occu­pa­tion that is the chal­lenge but Israel’s very exis­tence as a Jew­ish State.

Bargh­outi is trans­par­ent in his views and in his aims, and this should be instruc­tive to any poten­tial sup­porter of BDS. He speaks of Israel as “crim­i­nally built.” He refers to Israel itself – not the ter­ri­to­ries occu­pied in 1967 after the Six Day War – as an “apartheid” and “colonial-settler” regime.

And he spells out in no uncer­tain terms that his ide­ol­ogy – the ide­ol­ogy of BDS – is opposed to the for­mula achieved at Oslo and long since adopted by the inter­na­tional community—the res­o­lu­tion of the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict by the cre­ation of a Pales­tin­ian state to live side-by-side with Israel. Bargh­outi, tellingly, writes:

“End­ing the 1967 occu­pa­tion, even if it included East Jerusalem, at best addresses most of the rights of only 38% of the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple – those liv­ing in the OPT (occu­pied Pales­tin­ian Ter­ri­tory).  What of the UN-stipulated rights of the remain­ing 62% of the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple (12% are cit­i­zens of cur­rent Israel and 50% are in exile who are enti­tled to their right of return) and what of the right of return of more than 40% of the Pales­tini­ans in the West Bank and Gaza who were eth­ni­cally cleansed dur­ing the Nakba and denied their right to go home?”

It is fair to expect Israel to live up to a pol­icy that can accom­mo­date the even­tual emer­gence of a Pales­tin­ian state—and to expect equally that the Pales­tini­ans will act in accor­dance with a two-state vision.

But Bargh­outi spells out here that what he imag­ines as ‘jus­tice’ is not merely the achieve­ment of self-determination for the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple through the cre­ation of an inde­pen­dent state. No, he longs for the right of any Pales­tin­ian liv­ing under the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity to “return” to areas that now com­prise Israel.

In other words, BDS seeks to erad­i­cate the Jew­ish state by bring­ing about an end to the self-determination for the Jew­ish peo­ple through the return of all five mil­lion Pales­tin­ian refugees.

University_of_Michigan-BDS Protest

Of course, the refugee issue has since their incep­tion been a core com­po­nent of bilat­eral nego­ti­a­tions between Israelis and Pales­tini­ans. And, any con­ceiv­able agree­ment between the par­ties requires that the plight of Pales­tini­ans refugees and their descen­dants must be addressed. Numer­ous inter­na­tional efforts have acknowl­edged that their needs will be pre­dom­i­nantly accom­mo­dated within a future state of Palestine.

Among those who sup­port BDS, there are undoubt­edly some who seek Israel’s demise. But for the mul­ti­tude of those who jump on the BDS band­wagon because they see it as a non-violent way to fast-track an end to the occu­pa­tion, they need to know they are being taken for a very dan­ger­ous ride. They sup­port the pol­i­tics of Israel’s destruc­tion, a move­ment of anti-normalization which Israel which is anath­ema to nego­ti­a­tion, com­pro­mise, and con­flict resolution.

That’s some­thing that the vast major­ity of BDS sup­port­ers would reject if only they clearly under­stood it.

So, even as we rec­og­nize the mis­guided aims of BDS and step up our efforts to defeat its ide­ol­ogy, it is a deeper under­stand­ing – not sim­plis­tic slo­gans – that are needed to nav­i­gate the aspects of this com­plex challenge.

That is why ADL has joined with the Reut Insti­tute in a new effort aimed at exam­in­ing the entire array of fac­tors dri­ving the growth of BDS cam­paigns, an ini­tia­tive that will help parse those who are gen­uinely com­mit­ted to peace – even if their views are dif­fer­ent from our own as to how to get there – from those who mean to inflict grave harm.

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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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