Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Berlin’s Most Unsettling Memorial (New York Review of Books, 2013)

This article was published in the New York Review of Books, June 13, 2013

Jews Aren’t Allowed to Use Phones’: Berlin’s Most Unsettling Memorial

Ian Johnson

Ian Johnson
Artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock with a map of their "Places of Remembrance" project, Schöneberg, Berlin, 2013
Twenty years ago this month, Berlin-based artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock inaugurated their hugely controversial “Places of Remembrance” memorial for a former Jewish district of West Berlin known as the Bavarian Quarter. At the time, Germany had just been reunified, and it was one of the first major efforts to give permanent recognition to the ways the Holocaust reached into daily life in the German capital. The 1991 competition called for a central memorial on the square, but Stih and Schnock instead proposed attaching eighty signs hung on lamp posts throughout the Bavarian Quarter, each one spelling out one of the hundreds of Nazi laws and rules that gradually dehumanized Berlin’s Jewish population.

Today, Germany is filled with memorials and institutions dealing with aspects of the Holocaust, including Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum and Berlin’s central Holocaust memorial. But Stih and Schnock’s in-your-face signs about Nazi policies, integrated into the present-day life of a residential Berlin neighborhood, remain one of the most visceral and unsettling. I recently walked through the Bavarian Quarter—which is part of Berlin’s Schöneberg district—with the artists to discuss their work and its legacy.

"Jews are banned from choral societies"

Monday, September 29, 2014

Here, There is No Why

Roger Cohen: For ISIS, Slaughter Is an End in Itself

In a famous passage from “Survival in Auschwitz,” Primo Levi relates an incident upon arrival in the Nazi death camp that captures the intersection of the human with the inhuman. He and other Italian prisoners have been held in a shed as they await their fate. Levi looks around in search of some means to quench his thirst: 
“I eyed a fine icicle outside the window, within hand’s reach. I opened the window and broke off the icicle but at once a large, heavy guard prowling outside brutally snatched it away from me. ‘Warum?’ I asked him in my poor German. ‘Hier ist kein warum,’ (there is no why here), he replied, pushing me inside with a shove.” 
There is no why here. The phrase has been reverberating in me since I watched a henchman of the organization that calls itself Islamic State behead two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and a British aid worker, David Haines. The men had been broken by their imprisonment. They had been hollowed out, a terrible thing to behold. How many times they must have asked themselves the why of their captivity, humiliation and torture right up to the moment when a small knife was applied, with a sawing motion, to their throats. Each of the three men died alone, unlike the Yazidis murdered in droves, the Shiite soldiers massacred, the women and children slaughtered during the advance of black-clad ISIS forces across northern Iraq. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, has created a cult of violence that makes the elimination of all nonbelievers the cornerstone of a movement whose avowed objective is a restored Islamic caliphate but whose raison d’être is the slaughter itself.
Read the whole thing, but don't bother with the comments.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Germany's Jewish Problem

Angela Merkel, image from the FP article
If you wish to be disquieted, Foreign Policy has published an article about antisemitism in contemporary Germany - Germany's Jewish Problem: "Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Germany. But is Angela Merkel doing anything about it?"

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sitting in my apartment in Jerusalem on the Saturday night after Rosh Hashanah, and beautiful scents of flowering trees are wafting in through the open windows.

Chas Newkey-Burden on the “they-of-all-people” argument

I just saw a reblog on Tumblr of a great quote by Chas Newkey-Burden on the learning, or not learning, of the "lessons" of the Holocaust, and thought it should be reposted here:
"Let us strip the 'they-of-all-people' argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn; that it is you, not us, who need to clean up your act. It is an argument of atrocious, spiteful insanity. Do not accept it; turn it back on those who offer it. For it is us, not you, who should know better."  
— Chas Newkey-Burden, Oy Va Goy

American Anthropological Association to consider the academic boycott of Israel

The AAA will be debating BDS at its yearly meeting in December. Haaretz has published a depressing article about the increasing scope of the BDS movement, including details about the AAA meeting, which will have several panels with only pro-BDS speakers, including Omar Barghouti, who is a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and Rebecca Vilkomerson, who is executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, which is a vigorous supporter of BDS. JVP played an important role in persuading the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from three companies that sell construction equipment to Israel. JVP also supports the academic boycott. Only one panel will have anti-boycott speakers.
Harvey Goldberg chairs the Israeli Anthropological Association. “Almost all Israeli anthropologists are employed in institutions that are funded by the state,” he wrote in a letter to the AAA. “A boycott would stigmatize and cause concrete harm to these individuals, whatever their political opinions. 
“Israeli anthropologists – like others around the world – are not accountable for their governments’ decisions. The academic boycott movement claims that Israeli academics ‘are furnishing the ideological justification and technical means for the occupation to continue.’ 
“That is,” Goldberg added, “a serious misreading” which “reveals a true disconnect from knowledge of the situation on the ground.”
Eric Alterman, one of the founders of the AAC (Academic Advisory Council) of the Third Narrative, said:
“BDS has taken over the left and is taking over the universities,” Alterman says. “I would support a nonacademic boycott dedicated to getting Israel out of the territories. But this BDS is pining for the destruction of Israel.”
And while BDS advocates say they are anti-Zionist and disavow anti-Semitism, those who have opposed their efforts say that, in practice, there is no such distinction.
“It’s reawakened liberals like myself to the enduring reality of anti-Semitism. There is anti-Semitism in BDS – quite a lot of it of a nasty variety,” notes Alterman. “I am shocked by its vituperative character and the movement’s unwillingness to even admit it.” 
He has never been so personally attacked as he has been for writing about BDS, he adds, and it saps his energy for the fight. “I am writing less about BDS and Israel in The Nation, because I just don’t need the tsuris. My students come up to me and say ‘I hear you’re a racist white supremacist.’ I’ve been in fights my whole life and have never experienced the level of personal abuse that I have from the BDS crowd.”
In my personal experience arguing with anti-Israel and pro-boycott individuals, I have been accused of supporting genocide (a friend, now a former friend, who accused me of this on Facebook and Twitter). In another exchange with antisemitic overtones, I was charged with suppressing the voice of Palestinians and doing my best to emphasize their powerlessness. Because of my anti-boycott position and my work to bring a anti-boycott speaker, another person accused me of being afraid of having the local community listen to pro-BDS arguments.

And on Twitter, I've received insults from both the far left pro-BDS types who accuse me of hating Palestinians and supporting genocide, and from extreme right-wing Zionists who accuse me of being a hater of Israel. A number of years ago my name was added to a list of supposed haters of Israel by an organization called Masada 2000 (the website doesn't appear to exist any longer, but it's available on the internet archive - http://archive.today/f64hb).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

At the Gershom Scholem Library in Jerusalem

This is part of a diagram of the sefirot (the divine powers) in a Kabbalistic manuscript from the 19th century. It's right outside the Gershom Scholem Library at the National Library in Jerusalem. Diagrams like this are referred to as "ilanot" - "trees."

"We are Here to oppose evil, hatred, and violence"

As I wrote earlier this summer, Jerusalem was consumed by hatred from all sides - first because of the kidnapping and murder of three young Jewish students by Hamas terrorists, and then because of the brutal murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir by three Israeli Jews. The war between Israel and Hamas that then broke out further poisoned the atmosphere. When I left Jerusalem on July 17, 2014, it was a relief to leave a city that felt like it was possessed by an evil miasma.

When I returned to Jerusalem last Wednesday, September 17, the atmosphere (at least in West Jerusalem) felt much lighter. The war is over, there are no air raid sirens, no one is running to a shelter or to the stairwell to shelter from missiles, and now people in the western part of the city are busy getting ready for Rosh Hashanah. Earlier today I went with a friend to the Mahaneh Yehudah market and bought fruits and vegetables for the holiday - along with hordes of other people.

I also noticed new big posters plastered everywhere, with the headline "We are Here." It turns out this is a new art campaign by the Jerusalem Season of Culture, in response to the violence and hatred of the summer.

This is the text accompanying the images:
We, the sons and daughters of this land, are opening our doors, walking out into the streets and taking up positions in town plazas to declare: We are here. 
We are here to oppose evil, hatred and violence. We are here to turn the light on. 
We are here to turn walls into bridges. To replace destruction with creativity. To repair what is broken. We are here, armed with a love of humanity and tolerance to fight for the home we love so much. 
We are here because we believe in the good that is in God, in humanity and in the earth. 
We are here because the message will emanate from us to the surrounding hills, throughout this land, and far beyond. 
We are here because we have been silent for too long, and will now shout out the voice of hope.  
We are here.
This of course does not mean that the occupation has ended, or that Arab Jerusalemites do not continue to suffer from discriminatory policies of all kinds, or that all violence has ended in Jerusalem - for one thing, violent protests have continued in east Jerusalem, followed by many arrests.

But it is a step towards sanity.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"The New Assault on Israeli Academia (and us)," by Cary Nelson

This is the full statement written by Cary Nelson on behalf of the Academic Advisory Council of the Third Narrative

The New Assault on Israeli Academia (and us)

--on behalf of the Academic Advisory Council of the Third Narrative

Cary Nelson, former president of the American Association of University Professors and co-editor of The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel, argues that the recently updated guidelines issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) are an alarming ‘assault on academic freedom’. They represent an effort to deprive universities, their faculties and students of ‘freedom of choice, agency, and association’, in an effort to promote hostility and the delegitimization of Israel and Israeli academic institutions, as opposed to peace.
While an individual’s academic freedom should be fully and consistently respected in the context of academic boycotts, an individual academic, Israeli or otherwise, cannot be exempt from being subject to “common sense” boycotts
PACBI Guidelines for the International Boycott of Israel (Revised July 2014).
As the fall semester begins, we are sure to see a renewal of anti-Israel activism on many college campuses, especially behind the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The collapse of the Kerry peace initiative and the summer war in Gaza have raised the temperature in an already fiery debate. The group leading these efforts, the  Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) this summer issued updated guidelines (http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1108). The new guidelines are alarming. The old rules were already the source of the most far reaching, comprehensive, and invasive academic boycott recommendations; the new ones extend themselves into virtually every element of higher education worldwide. They represent not only a relentless assault on academic freedom but also an effort to deprive universities, their faculties, and their students of much of the freedom of choice, agency, and association that have defined higher education’s principles and ideals for a century.

BDS has, appropriately, come under fire for many reasons, among them that it amounts to a blacklist of Israeli scholars. Examples of this blacklisting are already legion, beginning with early boycott efforts in Britain, in which an Oxford professor refused an Israeli student permission to work in his lab because the student had served in the IDF and Israeli scholars were thrown off the editorial boards of journals.

To evade this criticism, PACBI has offered pious reassurances that the guidelines preserve and honor academic freedom, but it prescribes one specific practice after another practice which leaves academic freedom in tatters. The guidelines forbid institutions from building joint programs and working with one another in multiple ways, and they detail elaborate protocols for blacklisting individual faculty members, staff, and students in countries throughout the world. These are police state style regulations, aimed at ending higher education as we know it.

Here are ten highlights from the July 2014 guidelines, along with reasons to reject them:

1. Any effort to focus attention on Israel’s scientific and cultural achievements is castigated as a “rebranding” project, an effort to “whitewash” the country’s suppression of Palestinian rights. Individuals and institutions guilty of “rebranding”—an activity demonstrable by referencing or promoting a science, social science, or humanities project without also condemning Israeli policy in other areas—therefore deserve to be boycotted and blacklisted. Boycotting the activities of so-called complicit individuals means blacklisting them. This will have particularly serious consequences for students and junior faculty.

2. Like universities in all other countries, Israeli universities are involved in government-sponsored research and receive government funds to support students. Despite this funding, we do not expect these universities to speak for their governments; students and faculty are free to criticize any particular government policies. Were this not the case, it would undermine faculty and student academic freedom to speak free of institutional political coercion. But BDS regards institutional “silence” about government policy to constitute complicity and is therefore a justification for boycotts. It is particularly troubling that PACBI treats Israeli universities as guilty “unless proven otherwise.” In what other context do we treat people or institutions that way?

3. PACBI would have us boycott not only Israeli-organized conferences and exhibitions but also any such event merely co-sponsored by a “complicit” Israeli university or any public or private organization anywhere in the world that endorses Israeli society or interests. This far-reaching organizational and institutional boycott would have a chilling effect on academic freedom everywhere. Also boycottable are “all projects and activities funded, partially or fully, by Israel or any of its lobby groups.”

4. PACBI demands that “projects with all Israeli academic institutions should come to an end.” This demand eviscerates the essential freedom which faculty and students have long had to make their own decisions about what collaborative projects to undertake. It also does direct harm to those Palestinians engaged in collaborative projects with Israeli faculty and institutions.

5. PACBI now condemns “events, projects, or publications that are designed to bring together Palestinians/Arabs and Israelis so they can present their respective views, or to work toward reconciliation” if they “are based on the false premise of symmetry/parity between the oppressors and the oppressed.” But such efforts typically seek balanced Palestinian and Israeli participation and often build on mutual sympathy and shared human interests. Imposing a confrontational agenda on them undercuts some of the most promising efforts at mutual respect and dialogue in the Middle East. PACBI insists that such projects be based on “‘co-resistance’ rather than co-existence.” The idea is not simply to resist Israeli policies but rather to oppose the existence of the Jewish state.

6. PACBI urges that all faculty and students refrain from publishing in journals based at Israeli universities or published in collaboration with Israeli universities. PACBI also insists we refuse to reprint articles first published in such places, thus initiating an extraordinary blacklisting of publications and their authors. This is a fundamental assault on academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas that is its core principle.

7. PACBI insists that people refuse to serve as “external reviewers for dissertations, writing recommendations or other forms of refereeing such as advising on hiring, promotion, tenure, and grant-making decisions at Israeli universities” unless the university declines to use their names in any way. The prohibition of these standard academic functions not only contravenes academic freedom, it also directly harms both Israeli and Palestinian faculty who would benefit from referee support. This principle could also lead to the backlisting of faculty referees.

8. PACBI argues that an  “international faculty should not accept to write recommendations for students hoping to pursue studies in Israel,” once again abrogating standard faculty rights and directly harming the students involved. Student programs housed at Israeli universities are characterized as “schemes” meriting boycott and efforts to close them down. Jewish students of course are the primary target of efforts to close down study abroad programs in Israel. They are also key recipients of what would now be targeted scholarships or fellowships from pro-Israel organizations.

9. PACBI guidelines prohibit visits to Israeli universities if they include any links with the institution visited. Violators once again could be subjected to blacklisting and boycotting. In a blatantly discriminatory gesture, the guidelines advise that “If conducting research at Israeli facilities such as archives does not entail official affiliation with those facilities (e.g. in the form of a visiting position), then the activity is not subject to boycott.”

10. PACBI contends its guidelines establish a “picket line” prohibiting all the activities it lists, including visits to Palestinian universities by faculty who have earlier visited Israeli universities and therefore “contribute to the false perception of symmetry.” Once again the academic freedom of individuals is curtailed, potentially leading to the blacklisting of violators, and undermining the potential for interchanges promoting peaceful resolution of the conflict.

PACBI and its BDS allies have long argued that academic boycotts are directed at institutions, not individuals. The expanded July 2014 guidelines demolish that fiction. Israeli faculty, they generously advise, should not be automatically boycotted; they should simply be treated like all other potential “offenders.” Meanwhile, the PACBI endorsement of “common sense boycotts” strengthens what is already guaranteed by what is a complex and contradictory document: that academic boycotts will be inconsistently implemented and that inventive and often malicious individual boycott initiatives will multiply. Whatever their attitudes toward Israeli state policies may be, all members of the academy should condemn these guidelines and resist their adoption and implementation by every nonviolent means possible.

The BDS agenda promotes hostility, not peace. It aims to limit contact with both Israeli and Palestinian faculty and students and eliminates many traditional applications of academic freedom for faculty and students worldwide. As the year progresses, concerned faculty and students need to counter the PACBI/BDS campaign with a thorough analysis of its aims. They also need to embody reasoned argument and debate. That is the best way to respond to a movement that often works through intimidation and hyperbole.

Note: PACBI published two versions of its guidelines this year—the full version I discuss and a condensed version designed, presumably, for recruitment and wide distribution. People will likely consult the longer version for detailed guidance.

This statement was published today in the peer reviewed online British journal FATHOM. It is issued in North America on behalf on ACC, the Academic Advisory Council of the Third Narrative, a faculty group supporting a two-state solution and seeking justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Cary Nelson is a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, co-chair of the Third Narrative’s Academic Advisory Council, and the co-editor of The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel, scheduled for distribution by Wayne State University Press in October. He was president of the American Association of University Professors from 2006-2012.

Academic freedom threatened by new boycott guidelines from BDS movement

PACBI (the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel) issued new guidelines this summer for those who want to boycott Israel. Cary Nelson, former president of the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) has written a sharp critique of the new guidelines in which he demonstrates how they further restrict the academic freedom of faculty who have anything to do with Israel. His statement is available at The New Assault on Israeli Academia (and Us), published on the website of The Third Narrative.

This is what the Third Narrative is:
Anyone interested in the Middle East these days will be subjected to a relentless barrage of accusations against Israel on the Web, on campus and in other settings. Some of these attacks come from the far left, from activists trying to appeal to Jews and non-Jews who are committed to human rights and social justice. 
Often, these critics are not just attacking specific, objectionable Israeli policies and behavior. They treat Israel as the epitome of evil. They portray the entire Zionist enterprise, from the 19th century to the present, as nothing more than a racist, colonialist and immoral land theft. Many are active in the movement of Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, calling Israel an Apartheid state. 
At Ameinu, a North American Jewish organization that supports progressive causes in Israel, the U.S. and Canada, we have often criticized Israeli policies and behavior, including settlement expansion, racism against Arabs and crony capitalism. But we believe too many of Israel’s left-wing critics cross the line that separates legitimate, productive criticism from polemical, inaccurate and unfair attacks. 
At the same time, too many voices of those who reflexively support –or passively accept—the Israeli occupation and the morally indefensible status quo in the Palestinian territories are going unanswered. 
The Third Narrative initiative is our response to this situation. We hope to engage people on the left who suspect that it is wrong to lay all blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict at the feet of Israeli Jews…but aren’t sure how to respond to Israel’s most vitriolic critics. Some of what these critics say is true, some of their accusations are justified. Some of what Israel’s traditional defenders say is also accurate. When it comes to this conflict, the truth is rarely black or white; it resides in a gray area where advocates on either side typically don’t like to venture. That is where we try to go with The Third Narrative. 
We feel a deep connection to the Jewish state and the Jewish people. We are also committed to social justice and human rights for everyone. Some say those commitments are contradictory, that particularist attachments to a state or a people can’t be reconciled with universal values. Our response is that belonging to a people, a community larger than ourselves, is a basic human need –indeed, it is our right. And balancing our communal attachments with a commitment to humanity as a whole is our responsibility. 
In fact, our ties to Israel might make us even more disturbed by its current direction than those that have no ties to it. But we are alarmed by the increasingly widespread rhetoric that refuses to recognize any justification whatsoever for Israeli positions or the Jewish state. And we think the American left –Jewish and non-Jewish—could use a third narrative, one that neither reflexively attacks nor reflexively justifies Israeli policies and actions.
I joined its academy advisory council earlier this year. This is the introduction to its statement of principles:
We are progressive scholars and academics who reject the notion that one has to be either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. We believe that empathy for the suffering and aspirations of both peoples, and respect for their national narratives, is essential if there is to be a peaceful solution. Scholars and academics should play a positive role in asking difficult questions, and promoting critical thinking, about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. To achieve this goal we insist on the importance of academic freedom and open intellectual exchange, and so reject calls for academic boycotts and blacklists, as well as efforts to punish academics for their political speech, including even those who support the academic boycotts that we oppose.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Back in Jerusalem! Gay Pride and Selichot

I'm now back in Jerusalem. I've come for three weeks, to spend Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur here. After that, I'm going to Germany because I have received a fellowship to do research at the Ruhr-Universität in Bochum, in northwestern Germany. I will be at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg, "Dynamics in the History of Religions between Asia and Europe" until mid-August 2015. My research project is "Angels’ Tongues and Witches’ Curses: Jewish Women and Ritual Power in Late Antiquity."

I spent the last two months in the US getting ready - cleaning up and renting my house, moving my office, tying up the loose ends at work - and now the year is finally starting. While I'm in Jerusalem I'll be going to the National Library and working on a book review for the upcoming SBL annual meeting in San Diego. (I'm participating in a book review session on Jim Davila's translation of much of the Hekhalot literature - Hekhalot Literature in Translation).

On Thursday night, I went to the Jerusalem gay pride march. It was originally scheduled for earlier in the year, in August, but because of the war, it was postponed until September. I was very glad to get to go - for several years it's been held in August, when I'm usually back in Ithaca after my summer stint in Jerusalem. About 2,000 people came - fewer than in years past, but still a nice lively crowd.

Part of the giant flag held by Meretz Jerusalem supporters

Pepe Alalu, leader of the Meretz-Labor party in the Jerusalem city council, being interviewed by Walla.
The sign reads: "Orthodox women, straight women, and supporters!" The small signs read: "Religious women supporters"

Students from the youth movement of the Conservative movement in support of LGBT rights
The band playing before the march started.

On the way - walking up King George Street
Turning down Agron St. to Independence Park
People in Independence Park
Tonight I went to selichot (a special service of penitential prayers held on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah). It was held at the Tahana Rishonah (the entirely renovated Jerusalem train station on Derekh Hevron). This is not the usual place for the selichot service, which is usually held in the synagogue, but the Tahana hosts many alternative prayer services, usually on Friday afternoons before Shabbat begins. This time, the Zion congregation organized the service, and it was wonderful. To see some photos, go to Facebook. In the summer, a friend in Jerusalem brought me to this congregation for Friday night services, and it's the only place I went then. I'll also be going there for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. It was organized only about a year ago, and is very musically oriented, in both the Ashkenazi and Mizrachi traditions. It's a Masorti congregation that is open to everyone and calls itself an "Eretz-Israel congregation." "Eretz Israel" literally means "land of Israel," and what they mean is that Jews of all kinds are welcome, and that it is a melding of all of the traditions of Jews living in Israel. The rabbi is Tamar Elad Appelbaum, who is a wonderful spiritual leader.

Monday, September 08, 2014

What do the UN observers in Jerusalem observe?

Aryeh Eldad on the UN observers who still stand helplessly on the Golan Heights and those who squat at Government House (Armon ha-Natziv) in Jerusalem.

They have cost billions, and nobody reads their reports. That money could have been used to resettle Palestinian refugees or to feed the starving in Africa. And they sit in Jerusalem like a bone in the throat, like the remnant of a foreign commissioner in Jerusalem, like the vestige of the demand to internationalize Jerusalem. The time has come to end this farce.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Islamist Antisemitic demonstration in the Hague on July 4, 2014

Below, a Youtube video of an Islamist rally at the Hague (on July 4) in which the participants chanted "Khaybar, Khaybar Ya Yahud, jaish Muhammad sayaud" -  "Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, Mohammed’s army will return.” This refers to a battle in the oasis of Khaybar, in Arabia, between Jews and the followers of Muhammad in 629 C.E., which the Jews lost to the Muslims. They were forced to pay tribute in order to remain in the oasis, but were expelled from it several years later (see the Wikipedia article - Battle of Khaybar).

The demonstrators also chant "Allahu Akbar," "Down, down USA," "Down, down Israel," and "there is no god but God."

Notice also the black and white flags - they all have the shehadah (the Muslim declaration of faith) written on them. I also saw the same flags (only with a white background) at the Zurich anti-Israel rally I attended.

The Magnes Zionist: On Demonizing the Enemy (in his case, the Shas party)

In a post on the Magnes Zionist blog, Charles Manekin (who goes by the nom de plume Jeremiah [Jerry) Haber], asks the reader to stop demonizing Hamas. I'm not going to engage with his main argument, which I disagree with, and which I'm sure others will seek to demolish. My problem is with a statement he made about the Israeli political party Shas. He writes:
I shudder to think how the Jewish Home party, or better, the Shas party, would fight a war were they to be in control of the Israeli government, and Israel was under Palestinian occupation for generations, and a decade long-siege. Needless to say I detest Hamas’s anti-Semitism, just like I detest the anti-Palestinianism and anti-Arabism of the Jewish fundamentalist right.
Haber seems to be equating the Jewish Home party and Shas with Hamas. If Jews in Palestine were under occupation and siege, then these two parties would act like Hamas and launch rockets against civilian targets, blow up buses, and send suicide bombers to blow up pizza parlors.

I have read this equation before, as applied to Shas - that it's just like Hamas, only without suicide bombers. I think this is a gross slander on the Shas party, its leaders, and the people who vote for it. Historically, the Shas party, like the other ultra-Orthodox parties, has not been the leader of the aggressive Israeli right-wing. Currently it's not even in the government, while Jewish Home, led by Naftali Bennett, is in the government. Therefore Shas has nothing to do with the actions of the current government in Gaza. (The other Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties are also not in the government, nor are the Arab parties).

Ari Shavit, in his book, My Promised Land (chapter 11) recounts the story of Aryeh Deri, the once and current leader of the Shas party. The chapter tells his story from his roots in Morocco, the family's aliyah to Israel, their suffering as new immigrants, Aryeh's mother's sending him to an ultra-Orthodox boarding school, his attendance at the Hebron Yeshiva, his involvement in the founding of the Shas party, his rise to power as leader of the party, and his downfall on corruption charges. Much of the chapter is in Deri's own words. From reading this chapter, it's clear that Shas was founded by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, with the support of Rav Shach (at that time the leader of the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox world), in order to give strength - spiritual and material - to the Sephardi-Mizrachi community in Israel which had lost its way with the immigration to Israel.  The slogan of the Shas party is מחזירים עטרה ליושנה - "returning the crown to its glory," meaning returning the spiritual strength to Mizrachi Jews. Aryeh Deri himself was in his earlier days more dovish as regards questions of war and peace - I'm not sure what his own position is now.

The Shas platform can be found on the party's website. The two central goals of the party are "to return the crown to its glory" and "advancement of social justice" (קידום הצדק החברתי). Shas is now a Zionist party and belongs to the World Zionist Organization, and has over the years become a supporter of the settlements in the West Bank - part of the party platform is "to build a Jewish home in a large and strong Jewish state in all areas of the land of Israel." The platform also includes an insistence that Jerusalem will never be the subject of negotiations. In the Israeli political scene, Shas is definitely on the right wing, as concerning issues of war and peace with the Palestinians.

While Shas can now be defined as Zionist, it does not support the conscription of yeshiva students into the Israeli army, and this is the main reason it does not belong to the current government coalition. This is in contrast to the Jewish Home party, which was one of the important supporters of a law to begin conscripting yeshiva students. The Jewish Home party is an updated version of the National Religious Party, and it is much more aggressive in its Jewish nationalism than Shas is. We don't have to imagine how it would behave in the current war with Hamas in Gaza - the leader of the party, Naftali Bennett, has made it clear that he and his party are to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. He opposed the current ceasefire, which went into effect at midnight Israel time today.

One important thing that leading rabbis in the party have recently done is to harshly denounce the killing of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, which was one of the catalysts for the current war. Rav Shalom Cohen, the spiritual leader of Shas, has ruled that the murderers of Abu Khdeir are in the category of "din rodef." From Ynet:
The harshest condemnation came from Rabbi Shalom Cohen, the new spiritual leader of the Sephardic Shas moment. Ynet has learned that Cohen told his associates on this way to a rally in memory of the three Israeli teens murdered by Palestinian terrorists that "those whose hands are stained with clean blood are subject to 'din rodef,' and their punishment from God cannot be described." 
The rabbi was referring to the traditional Jewish "law of the pursuer," under which a person who is "pursuing" another to murder him or her must be killed by any bystander after being warned to stop and refusing. 
"My heart bleeds at the evil rumor that a Jewish hands killed the soul of an Arab youth for no fault of his own," Rabbi Cohen told his associates. "One's ears will tingle upon hearing about the horrifying act which infuriates the nations and may lead to horrible bloodshed."
As I wrote in an earlier blogpost, one reason for the harsh denunciation of the murderers of Abu Khdeir is that they come from prominent rabbinic families in the Shas movement. Of the three accused killers, only one has been named (because he is the only adult among the three). His name is Yosef Chaim Ben-David, and his father is Rabbi Saadya Ben-David, the leader of a kollel (a yeshiva for married men) and a community in Har Nof, and also a noted educator. Yosef Chaim was the manager of an optical store in the Geula neighborhood in Jerusalem.

As I wrote previously,
The father of three of the suspects, who are brothers, is known as a educator in the Haredi Sephardic community. From the article, “In Shas they explain the severe response of the spiritual leader of the movement, Rav Shalom Cohen – who ruled that the murderers are subject to ‘din rodef’ – with horror that comes from his (the educator’s) renown among the community from which the suspects in the murder come, because this is flesh from the flesh of the movement, and also from its Torah elite. The chief rabbi of Israel, Yitzhak Yosef, also harshly denounced the murder, and even requested to visit the mourning tent of the family of Abu Khdeir (the visit did not occur because of instructions from the Shin Bet).”
When I wrote those words, the court had not yet permitted the publication of the names of the accused, but now we know that the educator in this paragraph is Rav Saadya Ben-David, and that the main suspect is his son Yosef Chaim. I don't know if the other two sons of Rav Ben-David are still suspects, since the other suspects are minors and their names have not been revealed by the court.

What is clear is that the leaders of Shas were horrified by the thought that a son of one of the esteemed rabbis of the movement was a suspect in an especially brutal murder. As Rabbi Cohen said, this horrifying act "may lead to horrible bloodshed" (as it has).

Are these the words of men who would send their followers out as suicide bombers to murder innocent men, women, and children? Would they countenance their followers blowing up buses full of innocent passengers? Clearly not.

The Shas party is not one that I agree with - it is socially very conservative (Rabbi Cohen has also denounced gay people and ruled that women in Shas should not go on to advanced education - in direct contradiction of the rulings of the late leader of Shas, Rav Ovadia Yosef), and I do not agree with their position on settlements and their belief that the entire land of Israel should be under Israeli rule. But the party is led by people who know murder when they see it, even when it is committed by a member of their community, and who denounce it harshly, even when the victim is a Palestinian teenager. Hamas, on the contrary, has sent out suicide bombers, has launched missiles heedlessly at civilian targets, and has never apologized for killing innocent people, much less issued denunciations of murder done by its operatives.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Pro- and Anti-ISIS demonstrations in Chicago today

I was just talking to some friends at dinner, and I predicted that sometime soon our local "peace" movement in Ithaca would hold a rally against the "US war against Iraq" to protest the humanitarian aid the US is now giving to the Yezidis and the military aid we're giving to the Kurds to prevent ISIS from conquering Irbil. I haven't yet heard of anything here, but I just saw a notice of just such an idiotic rally in Chicago, from an article on an Anglican website decrying the persecution of Christians in Iraq by ISIS.

Newland F. Smith comments:

I wonder if there was also a rally earlier in the week on behalf of the Christians and Yezidis who are being persecuted by ISIS? According to the website of the 8th Day Center (a Catholic center), they sponsor a peace vigil every Tuesday morning. I didn't find any mention of a vigil specifically on behalf of the religious minorities of Iraq. 

The Anti-War Committee - Chicago has protested against Boeing many times. Recently, they demonstrated against Boeing sponsoring the Air and Water Show in Chicago because of Israel's use of F-15s and 16s, and Apache helicopters (made by Boeing), which they claim makes Boeing complicit in the Israeli "genocide" in Gaza. They also participated in the big pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel demonstration in Chicago on July 9, which I wrote about earlier.

In May, they protested against the Ukrainian government, under the slogans, "No New Cold War with Russia, No U.S. Support for Fascist Atrocities in Ukraine." They appear to have entirely bought into the Russian government's propaganda that the Ukrainian government is run by fascists and that the Russian-supported separatists in eastern Ukraine are entirely benign. 

In March they held a panel on BDS and an international women's day dinner honoring Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, a Palestinian woman who entered the United States under false pretenses after spending ten years in an Israeli prison (1969-1979) after being convicted of terrorist activity. She was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Palestinian terrorist group, and according to Haaretz, "was convicted of an attack that killed two people at a Jerusalem market in 1969." She was sentenced to life in prison in 1970, but was released ten years later in a prisoner exchange with the PFLP (for more details, see a second Haaretz article). She was arrested in October, 2013, on immigration fraud, for failing to mention her conviction on her immigration application. (Incidentally, Students for Justice in Palestine at Cornell condemned her arrest and called for her immediate release). 

The niece of one of the men who was killed in the attack has written an affecting article on the effect of Odeh's act on her grandmother, and asks when those who support her will stop defending her. 
On Friday, Feb. 21, 1969, my dad's brother, Edward Joffe, and his best friend, Leon Kanner, went to the supermarket Supersol at the intersection of Agron and Hamelech George in Jerusalem to make some purchases for a botany department excursion. 
As they approached the meat counter, an explosive device, a biscuit can filled with five kilograms of dynamite, which had been placed there by Rasmieh Yousef Odeh and Ayesha Oudeh, was suddenly detonated, and Eddie and Leon were both instantly killed. 
And so again I ask the supporters of Rasmieh Yousef Odeh: At what point will you stop defending her?
So, honoring a convicted terrorist murderer! Way to Go, Anti-War Committee - Chicago! This dinner was sponsored by a series of other groups, including the American Friends Service Committee. I had thought the Quakers didn't believe in taking up arms, but I guess they make an exception in Odeh's case.

Reading further on the blog for the Anti-War Committee, I found several posts on why the US should not intervene in Syria in order to protect Syrians from the chemical warfare attacks of the Syrian government.

So I guess we cannot expect the so-called "Anti-War Committee - Chicago" and its fellow-travelers (this term was chosen with care) to call for or participate in a demonstration protesting ISIS and its persecution of Christians, Yezidis, Shi'ites, and Sunnis who oppose their theocratic rule. Instead, what we get is a demonstration in Chicago sponsored by a supposed anti-war group and a Catholic center that is actually opposing any effective action to stop ISIS. Objectively, therefore the Anti-War Committee and the 8th Day Center are on the side of ISIS in its persecution of Christians, Yezidis, and others. I am sure they would deny this charge wholeheartedly, but that is what their actions amount to.

The story doesn't end here, however. Before the pathetic pro-war demonstration by the "Anti-War Committee" today, there was another demonstration in Chicago, this one sponsored by the Assyrian American National Federation (Assyrians are Christians), advocating American intervention in Iraq against ISIS. The demonstration had been planned for some time and coincided with the first American airstrikes today against ISIS.
Thousands of Chicago-area Assyrians gathered in the downtown square to demand more military aid and call for U.S. leadership in the international community’s creation of a safe haven in the Nineveh plains for thousands of displaced Christians and minorities. 
“We don’t just want airstrikes. We need a plan for the future,” Margaret Khamoo, president of the Chicago Chapter of the Assyrian Aid Society of America, yelled into a megaphone.

The demonstrators marched around Daley Plaza first in silence and then while chanting, holding wooden crosses, Assyrian and American flags and signs that condemned ISIS along with Western nations. 
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our Western friends,” read one sign. 
“I really feel the suffering,” said Lena Ishkhan, 52, a participant who lives in Glenview but whose parents are from Iraq. “It really reached us to the core. It’s too much. Enough is enough.”

Friday, August 08, 2014

Why you should not repost articles from "The Mind Unleashed."

I've noticed a lot of people on Facebook posting articles or images from a website/FB page called The Mind Unleashed. You should be wary of this site. One story they posted is called Understanding the Illusion of Money and the Economic System Construct, and it's about the "satanic" Rothschild family. It's pure antisemitism. The author cites David Icke, who believes that hidden reptilian creatures control the world.

It's also full of pseudoscience. An article claims that "Billions of souls have inhabited Earth, but there have only been about 500 original human templates to choose from throughout human history."

The site publishes many articles arguing that fluoride is an evil substance that should not be added to our drinking water. One example: The Spice That Prevents Fluoride From Destroying Your Brain.

A naturopathic doctor presents a diatribe against vaccines.

Another absurd story claims that "Current media events hint at a fake alien invasion."

The site also hosts many conspiracy theory stories, including those by 9/11 Truthers and paranoid antisemites who are convinced that "Zionists" control the entire publishing industry.

A 9/11 Truther story is called Psychologists explain 9/11 denial despite hard scientific evidence.

An article on 7 Ways Our Children are Brainwashed claims that "The textbooks our children read are printed by companies who, ultimately, are Zionist owned. What are the chances that a Zionist view would differ from the view of a Palestinian or someone who opposes Zionism?" All the textbook companies are owned by Zionists? The term "Zionism" here is a code word for "Jews."

The article called What if Everything You Were Taught is a Lie, asserts that "If you trace the company’s who print our children’s textbooks, you’ll find a Zionist agenda behind them all. For example, George W. Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, was arrested for funding both sides of World War II, yet we never learned this in school. Why? Because had we learned this, NEITHER Bush would have been elected president for having a traitor in their lineage." Now why on earth would it be a "Zionist" agenda to whitewash Prescott Bush, if he helped fund the Nazis (by the way, I have no idea if this is true or not - and I certainly wouldn't depend on this article to tell me!).

Another article, on How to Deprogram Yourself, makes the same claim about "Zionist" control of the media: "Along with religion, this is one of the biggest mind control venues out there. How many times have you ever felt good after watching the news? If you trace who owns the mainstream media in the United States (TV, newspapers, radio stations, magazines, etc…) you’ll find that there are only 6 people at the top of the chain and all have Zionist ties, so what are the chances that your news is 'fair and unbiased?'" Gregg Prescott, who is the author of this article, has published many similar ones on how the "Zionists" control the world.

Why would you want to post something from a site that promulgates conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and antisemitism? Do not use this site - its stories are completely unreliable.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Iraqi Yazidis flee from ISIS: "Our entire religion is being wiped off the face of the earth."

When I arrived in Israel on June 10th what most concerned me was what ISIS was doing in Iraq - the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Da'ash). They had just taken Mosul and seemed like they would soon attack Baghdad. They haven't done that yet, but they have been consolidating their hold on Iraq, including conquering the town of Sinjar, near Iraqi Kurdistan, a couple of days ago. 200,000 people fled, especially Yazidis. Many of them are now stranded on a mountaintop, surrounded by ISIS fighters and are beginning to die of thirst.
BAGHDAD — Stranded on a barren mountaintop, thousands of minority Iraqis are faced with a bleak choice: descend and risk slaughter at the hands of the encircled Sunni extremists or sit tight and risk dying of thirst. 
Humanitarian agencies said Tuesday that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians remain trapped on Mount Sinjar since being driven out of surrounding villages and the town of Sinjar two days earlier. But the mountain that had looked like a refuge is becoming a graveyard for their children. 
Unable to dig deep into the rocky mountainside, displaced families said they have buried young and elderly victims of the harsh conditions in shallow graves, their bodies covered with stones. Iraqi government planes attempted to airdrop bottled water to the mountain on Monday night but reached few of those marooned. 
“There are children dying on the mountain, on the roads,” said Marzio Babille, the Iraq representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “There is no water, there is no vegetation, they are completely cut off and surrounded by Islamic State. It’s a disaster, a total disaster.” 
Most of those who fled Sinjar are from the minority Yazidi sect, which melds parts of ancient Zoroastrianism with Christianity and Islam. They are considered by the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State to be devil worshippers and apostates.
An Al-Jazeera article reports:

Yazidi sources told Al Jazeera that Islamic State fighters have asked the remaining Yazidis under their control to convert to Islam or face death. Islamic State-affiliated social media accounts, meanwhile, have posted images of summary executions of individuals in Sinjar and surrounding areas. 
Multiple Yazidi sources told Al Jazeera that Islamic State fighters have taken dozens of women hostage and moved them to the nearby town of Talafar, which has been under the group's control since June. These claims could not be independently verified as journalists cannot enter Islamic State-controlled areas.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs , between 35,000-50,000 Yazidi civilians are stuck atop the Sinjar Mountains, surrounded by Islamic State fighters on all sides. People are rapidly running out of food and water supplies, and the UN Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, warned that " a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar ".

Members of the group trapped in the mountains told Al Jazeera that as many as 30 people have starved to death so far, the majority of whom are children, while some Yazidi men - armed with light weapons - are protecting the routes that Islamic State fighters could use to get to the civilians. These reports could not be independently verified by Al Jazeera.

"We cannot get out of here; we cannot move. It's all [Islamic State] fighters around us. If we move down they will kill us," Qassim Barakat, who is stuck in the mountain with 15 members of his extended family, told Al Jazeera by phone. "We want the world to help us. We want the United Nations to help us."

"We are here without any shelter. Everyone, children and women, are laying down under the sun," said Shakir Hassan, who said he escaped to the mountain from the nearby Gir Aziz district with hundreds of other families. "We call on any power who can to come save us."

Many of the families who fled to the mountain were either those who did not have a car to drive to the safer areas in Peshmergas' hands or mistakenly thought that ISIS would not be able to stay in Sinjar very long.

On Tuesday, Yazidi sources told Al Jazeera that helicopters - thought to belong to the Iraqi military - had dropped food and water to those caught in the Sinjar Mountain. But some of the supplies were rendered useless as they flew at a high altitude to avoid being shot down by Islamic State fighters.

The roads from Shekhan to Zumar, another area that Islamic State fighters captured on Saturday, are full of displaced families camping on both sides of the road without any protective shelter. Others are now living in two camps for internally-displaced persons in Sharia and Khanik....

"Around 85 percent of the Yazidis live in Sinjar," said Mamo Selim al-Bagsri, head of the municipality in Skhean. He warned that large-scale killing of Yazdis would have an irreversible impact on the community's future. "The only one who is not against Yazidis is God."
The Times of India also reports:

DOHUK, Iraq: Iraqi helicopters dropped supplies on Tuesday to thousands of people hiding from jihadists in desolate mountains, many of them from the Yazidi minority which officials warned risked being massacred or starved into extinction.  
A Yazidi lawmaker broke down in tears during a parliament session as she urged the government and the international community to save her community from Islamic State militants who overran the Sinjar region.  
"Over the past 48 hours, 30,000 families have been besieged in the Sinjar mountains, with no water and no food," said Vian Dakhil. "Seventy children have already died of thirst and 30 elderly people have also died," she said.  
Dakhil said 500 Yazidi men were killed by IS militants since they took over the town of Sinjar and surrounding villages on Sunday. Their women were enslaved as "war booty", she said. "We are being slaughtered, our entire religion is being wiped off the face of the earth. I am begging you, in the name of humanity."  
The United Nations' Children Fund, earlier on Tuesday, said that at least 40 children had died as a result of the IS onslaught on Sinjar, which was previously under the control of Kurdish peshmerga troops.  
The town, near the Syrian border, is a hub for Yazidis, a very closed community that follows an ancient faith rooted in Zoroastrianism and referred to by jihadists as "devil worshippers".  
Sinjar was also a temporary home for thousands of displaced people from other minorities, such as Shiite Turkmen who had fled the nearby city of Tal Afar when IS launched its offensive on June 9.  
The attack on Sinjar sent thousands of people running from their homes in panic, some of them scurrying into the mountains with no supplies. "Families who fled the area are in immediate need of urgent assistance, including up to 25,000 children who are now stranded in mountains surrounding Sinjar and are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including drinking water and sanitation services," Unicef said.  
While the world has been concerned with Gaza and Ukraine, ISIS continues to consolidate its hold on Iraq and Syria, killing thousands of people in the process and threatening hundreds of thousands more. The question is not why people are paying attention to Gaza - it is why the vicious terrorist acts of ISIS are being ignored by the world. Are the Christians, Yezidis, and other religious minority groups in Iraq of less importance than the Palestinians of Gaza? Why are there not mass demonstrations in the streets of Europe and America demanding that our governments do something to help defeat ISIS and protect its victims? After all, the US and UK are responsible for destabilizing Iraq - doesn't that require us to take responsibility for helping the people of Iraq endangered by ISIS?

Friday, August 01, 2014

The 5 Towns Jewish Times has taken down the pro-genocide article

Editor’s Note | The 5 Towns Jewish Times

Another advocate for crimes against humanity in the Times of Israel

Another blogger at the Times of Israel also advocates crimes against humanity to wipe out the current Amalek, Hamas! His name is Irwin Blank. See http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/1-samuel-1518/. He sees the current conflict in the light of God's command to Saul to wipe out all of the Amalekites (1 Samuel chapter 15).

He writes:
G-d might be meant to illustrate that voice of the people-the vox populi. In this case, G-d had demanded that Saul (or the “prime minister”) enter into battle with the Amalekites (Hamas and its savage partners) and destroy them utterly even if that means to the last child, cow and goat. As cruel as this appears, it is a lesson that teaches a nation in terrible danger that it has a legitimate obligation to put a definite end to a substantial threat. The end of such a conflict must make it impossible for that enemy to rebuild and continue to vex one’s nation forever.
Time and again, throughout Jewish history, we have been told that Amalek will arise in every generation to try to destroy this people. Saul refuses to kill Agag, the king of the Amalekites. In his disobedience, his  defying of  G-d, is equivalent  to our present leadership attempting  to fight Hamas while refusing to employ the means  to destroy it entirely.  By  discovering and exploding  all the tunnels, or seizing all their arms,  is inadequate to assure the utter destruction that is necessary  in this war against the Amalekites of today. There must be no quarter given, no “humanitarian ” ceasefires, but a resolute combat without the words and demands of a hateful, hypocritical cabal barking like angry dogs, at our heels. Because, just as the Amalekites fell upon the rear of the Israelites as they passed through their lands on the way to Canaan, the terrorists will violate every ceasefire, every truce and every politically machined halt to the fighting to retreat and bind their wounds waiting for the next opportunity to attack us....
Again, 58 years later, and several bloody campaigns, thousands of rockets launched into Israel, tunnels dug to enable our enemies to kidnap and murder our people, and the myriad attempts of Hamas and its thugs to bring more and greater weapons of death to their arsenals in order  to bleed the people of Israel, we find ourselves in battle with 21st century Amalekites because we have failed to listen to the L-rd, we have failed to kill their king, we have failed to, as Samuel lectured Saul, to “utterly destroy” the foe as the L-rd demanded. As the citizens of the State of Israel demand of their “king.” 
Does this mean we, on purpose, kill the innocent? No, that is merely an allegory of Biblical times, an example of the cruelty of ancient warfare. But it does mean that we leave nothing that might sustain a weakened and beaten foe. To destroy Hamas utterly, we cannot stop this war until they unconditionally surrender, even if it means making the war more horrific for the people of Gaza, who are the victims of their own leadership.  Just as the Amalekites were the victims of their own king, whom Saul left alive and why today, we fight the modern day Amalekites in every generation. 
It’s time to take heed of the words of the L-rd, it is time to do what the people of Israel demand, it is time to kill Agag.
What a disgusting rationale for committing crimes against humanity.

Genocide is NEVER permissible: A response to Yochanan Gordon

Yochanan Gordon, a blogger for the Times of Israel, published a disgusting blogpost earlier today, entitled, "When Genocide is Permissible." The article has been taken down by the editors of the Times of Israel, but Gordon also posted it to his Facebook page and to the website of the Five Towns Jewish Times, and as of now, it's still up on both sites. Update: it's now been taken down by both sites.

It's also been republished in various other venues, and I have screenshots of it. In the article, Gordon argues that "We are at war with an enemy whose charter calls for the annihilation of our people. Nothing, then, can be considered disproportionate when we are fighting for our very right to live." He thinks that the US and the UN have tied Israel's hands in properly prosecuting the war. He then writes:
Hamas has stated forthrightly that it idealizes death as much as Israel celebrates life. What other way then is there to deal with an enemy of this nature other than obliterate them completely? News anchors such as those from CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera have not missed an opportunity to point out the majority of innocent civilians who have lost their lives as a result of this war.
But anyone who lives with rocket launchers installed or terror tunnels burrowed in or around the vicinity of their home cannot be considered an innocent civilian. If you’ll counter, that Hamas has been seen abusing civilians who have attempted to leave their homes in response to Israeli warnings to leave – well then, your beginning to come to terms with the nature of this enemy which should automatically cause the rules of standard warfare to be suspended.
This part of the argument is the first step to crimes against humanity. Of course the civilians living around the rocket launchers or tunnels are innocent, unless they themselves launch the rockets or build and maintain the tunnels. The women, children, and men not of fighting age in Gaza by definition are not responsible for the rocket launchers or tunnels, as it is adult men who do these things. And by no means all adult men - no one is claiming that all the adult men of Gaza are part of the Hamas fighting force. Anyone who is a civilian is not guilty and should not be intentionally attacked. This is a basic foundation of the contemporary laws of how war should be conducted. It doesn't matter that Hamas won an election - that doesn't make the innocent civilians of Gaza any less innocent.

This is the same principle that declares that it is a war crime for Hamas to fire missiles at Israeli kibbutzim, moshavim, towns, and cities - indiscriminate fire aimed at civilians is a war crime, as the UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay just said a day or two ago. Israeli civilians voted in the current government - but that does not mean that they should be treated as combatants whom it is legitimate to attack.
Everyone agrees that Israel has the right to defend itself as well as the right to exercise that right.

Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has declared it, Obama and Kerry have clearly stated that no one could be expected to sit idle as thousands of rockets rain down on the heads of its citizens, placing them in clear and present danger. It seems then that the only point of contention is regarding the measure of punishment meted out in this situation.

I will conclude with a question for all the humanitarians out there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated at the outset of this incursion that his objective is to restore a sustainable quiet for the citizens of Israel. We have already established that it is the responsibility of every government to ensure the safety and security of its people.
While it is correct that it is a government responsibility to ensure the safety of the people living under its rule, not all means are permissible. Massacring civilians is not permissible. Murdering soldiers who have already surrendered themselves is not permissible. Again, this is not just my opinion - it is part of the laws of war.
If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?
Of course not. Genocide is never permissible. Since the end of the Second World War the international community has agreed that genocide is the ultimate crime.

We - the Jews - experienced genocide in our own flesh. How can a fellow Jew advocate the genocide of the people of Gaza, knowing what we suffered at the hands of the Nazis?

Did Yochanan Gordon learn nothing through his study of Torah? His Facebook page says that he studied at Mesivta Chaim Shlomo. Did he learn nothing there about the mitzvah: "You shall not murder"?

He is one of the sales managers at the Five Towns Jewish Times, in addition to writing opinion pieces for them. His father founded the newspaper, as he writes in his bio for the Times of Israel. Will the newspaper allow his column to remain on their website?

In memoriam: the terrorist bombing at Hebrew University twelve years ago today

A photograph of Benjamin Blutstein, studying in the library at Pardes in Jerusalem.
Today is the 12th anniversary of the terrorist bombing at the Hebrew University's Frank Sinatra Cafeteria, on Mt. Scopus. I knew one of the victims, Benjamin Blutstein, who was the son of friends in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The bombing happened at the height of the Second Intifada. The murderers were part of a Hamas cell in East Jerusalem. According to an article published on August 1, 2002:
Hamas, which has carried out the largest number of Palestinian bombings, claimed responsibility for the bombing during a rally in Gaza City that drew some 10,000 supporters into the streets following evening prayers in the mosques.

"This operation today is a part of a series of operations we will launch from everywhere in Palestine," said a masked Hamas militant, dressed in a green military uniform.

At the request of the masked Hamas speaker, the entire crowd knelt to pray that future Hamas attacks "would succeed against the enemy of God."
Another article reported:
In claiming responsibility for the bombing, the Islamic militant group Hamas said it was revenge for the Israeli air raid last week in Gaza that killed the organization's military chief, Salah Shehadeh, and 14 civilians, including nine children.
Hamas celebrated after the attack:
"If they are going to attack our children, then they will have to expect to drink from the same poison," Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday in Gaza City, where hundreds of Hamas supporters poured into the streets late in the day to celebrate the university bombing and vow more attacks. 
Ben's parents, Dr. Richard Blutstein and Dr. Katherine Baker, are among the plaintiffs in a suit against the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, "whom, the families say, financed and orchestrated the Hamas terrorist attack at Hebrew University." The suit was filed in 2004 and will be heard later this year.

Names of the victims (copied from the memorial page at the Hebrew University website).

Marla Bennett, 24, from San Diego, CA, was an M.A. student in Jewish Education at the Rothberg International School's Division of Graduate Studies, and was jointly enrolled in the Pardes Educators Program at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies. She received a B.A. in political science from the University of Berkeley at California in 2000. In 1998 she spent her junior year attending the Rothberg International School's One Year Program.

Benjamin Blutstein, 25, from Harrisburg, PA, was an M.A. student in Jewish Education at the Rothberg International School's Division of Graduate Studies, and was jointly enrolled in the Pardes Educators Program at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies. He earned a B.A. in religion and Judaic studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, in 2000. He was the president of Hillel at Dickinson College in 1998-1999. During the past year, Blutstein spent evenings playing in clubs as a disk jockey under the alias "Benny the B."

Dina Carter, 38, was employed at the Jewish National and University Library (JNUL) on the Edmond J. Safra Campus at Givat Ram as a librarian and archivist in the manuscripts department and archives. Born in North Carolina, she earned a BA from Duke University and an MSW degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dina immigrated to Israel in 1990.

Janis Ruth Coulter, 37, a native of Boston, MA, graduated in history and Judaic studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1991. In 1996, she converted to Judaism. As a master's candidate in Judaic studies at the University of Denver, she was a visiting graduate student at the Hebrew University in 1996-1997, during which time she also worked at the University's School of Education. In 1999 she moved to New York and began working for the Rothberg International School's Office of Academic Affairs. As assistant director, she was responsible for all Rothberg International School graduate programs and scholarships, liaising with American institutions of education and actively recruiting students. As a student, she received numerous scholarships, including a travel grant from the Dorot Foundation. She had arrived in Israel the day before the attack, after escorting a group of U.S. students to Jerusalem to begin their studies at the Hebrew University.

David Gritz, 24, from Paris, France, who had dual U.S.-French citizenship, was about to begin the Summer Ulpan at the Rothberg International School. He received his B.A. in philosophy from the University of Paris IV in July 2000 and had just completed his first year of studies for his master's degree in philosophy, at the University of Paris X, where he had received recognition as an outstanding student. He spent summers at his parent's house in Peru, MA, in the Berkshires.

David (Diego) Ladowski, 29, was born in Argentina and immigrated to Israel in 1992. He studied in the Prepartory Program-Mechina at the Rothberg School and completed his undergraduate studies in communications at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1996. He served as an academic officer in the Israel Defense Forces. Following his discharge from the army in 1999, he held administrative positions at the Hebrew University and the Ministry of Communications. Ladowski joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2001 and was shortly due to assume his first diplomatic assignment at the Embassy of Israel in Lima, Peru.

Levina Shapira was the head of the student services department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Born in Jerusalem in 1949, she was a long-time employee of the university. After completing her army service she studied sociology and political science at the Hebrew University, earning her BA in 1972. She began working for the university as a student and became a member of staff after graduation. Her appointments included academic secretary at the Faculty of Science and associate dean of the Faculty of Humanities. During her tenure as head of the student services department, Levina introduced and upgraded a wide range of on-line and computerized services, the most advanced in Israel today, for students. Recently, she was involved in planning the new student information center at the Mount Scopus campus.

Dafna Spruch was born in Tel Aviv and, following her military service, enrolled at the Hebrew University where she completed a BA in psychology and sociology. After her studies, she worked as a systems analyst at the Ministry of Education's data processing unit and, then, as a senior analyst at the National Library. Some two years later she consented to a request from the Student Administration to join its staff, and remained there for most of her professional life. It is from there that she set out 26 years later for a lunch from which she was never to return. Dafna soon became the backbone of the department, acting as both deputy director and the historical memory of an indispensable rationale; yet she always shunned pivotal positions and refused all offers to head the system.

Her exceptional performance over the years not only singled her out but also earned her the commendation of superiors and colleagues alike. Praise ranged from the professional to the personal: "excellent worker," "talented and highly competent," "outstanding," "excellent and very intelligent" and - "a good friend." Colleagues say that there was always room in her heart; she always had a shoulder to offer, time to listen and offer sound advice.

Dafna reached high - new and innovative ideas, whether her own or others', always fell on receptive ears. At the same time, her feet were firmly planted on the ground, her common sense able to anchor the imaginative and translate it into practice. She could separate the wheat from the chaff and understood the intricacies involved in the Administration's large systems, finding simple solutions to make them work. Among other things, she and her staff initiated the full computerization of a variety of forms, including student schedules, grades and courses, as well as follow-up on teaching loads, and the implementation of ideas adopted by the system as a whole.

Dafna was a warm, loving and devoted wife and mother, who always put her family first.

Revital Barashi was the youngest of thirteen children in a Jerusalem family. She lived downtown, and about six months ago celebrated her 30th birthday. For the past seven years she worked with and trained young staff at the Hebrew University's Law Faculty.

Her conscientiousness and the responsibility she showed in the performance of her duties won her the university's Outstanding Employee award in 2000.

According to the commendation cited at the awards ceremony: "Revital excels in all she does. She may always have her hands full but she is nevertheless attentive to and patient with all who turn to her, her natural courtesy unimpaired by her diligence. She is intelligent and will try to execute every task as quickly as possible, drawing on all the help she is able to muster."

Colleagues describe her as "pretty, talented, warm and always ready to help. Revital did her work efficiently and meticulously and, at all times, with a smile."

May their memory be blessed