jew on this

critical, progressive ideas from pondering jews

Category: zionism/anti-zionism/post-zionism

the four…

by jewonthisguest

as said at a second night seder in melbourne by z.
hebrew via the interwebs.

בָּרוּךְ הַמָּקוֹם, בָּרוּךְ הוּא. בָּרוּךְ שֶׁנָּתַן תּוֹרָה לְעַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּרוּךְ הוּא. כְּנֶגֶד אַרְבָּעָה בָנִים דִּבְּרָה תּוֹרָה . אֶחָד חָכָם, וְאֶחָד רָשָׁע, וְאֶחָד תָּם, וְאֶחָד שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאוֹל

חָכָם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מַה הָעֵדוֹת וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֶתְכֶם? וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמָר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן

רָשָׁע מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת לָכֶם? לָכֶם – וְלֹא לוֹ. וּלְפִי שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶת עַצְמוֹ מִן הַכְּלָל כָּפַר בְּעִקָּר. וְאַף אַתָּה הַקְהֵה אֶת שִנָּיו וֶאֱמֹר לוֹ: בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יי לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם. לִי – וְלֹא לוֹ. אִילּוּ הָיָה שָׁם, לֹא הָיָה נִגְאָל

תָּם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מַה זֹּאת? וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו: בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיאָנוּ יי מִמִּצְרָיִם, מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים

וְשֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאוֹל – אַתְּ פְּתַח לוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר, בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יי לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם

Blessed is the blessing. Blessed that we can sit as friends, as family and as fucked-up individuals lashed together by empty ritual, tradition and blood and fill this with meaning. That we can build and destroy together.

The Torah speaks of Four Sons – not really, it doesn’t exist in that form – but the Rabbis, as men, thought that there were four sons worthy of inclusion and many invisible daughters who weren’t worth mentioning at all. They also didn’t mention animals, non-Jews and people who didn’t resemble themselves. Fuck that!

The Symbol of Wisdom – this symbol is the all-knowing, all powerful patriachal dictator that we internalise as we are socialised in our houses, our families and communities. he confuses the narrative with historical factoids and presents a slick retelling of the story as a totally reasonable history. and we internalise and adopt these stories as our own. to this, we must say, fuck us!

The Symbol of Wicked – this symbol is the land developer who talks about property prices and never about Indigenous people and their land, and the minor functionaries of capitalism who grease the wheels while complaining ironically about being functionaries of capitalism, and the csg volunteers who perpetuate and construct the siege mentality that zionism so loves in melbourne. to this, we must say, fuck us!

The Symbol of the Simple – this symbol is of the status quo, of those parts of us that think that rape culture isn’t a problem because it’s everywhere and that episode 9 of Girls was fine because it didn’t confront, call-out and reject the rape scene at the end between Adam and that random character. to this, we must say, fuck us!

The Symbol of the Blank – this symbol is of the uninformed, of those parts of us who think the Jewish News is a source of information, that Australian history begins in 1788, that Prisoner X and Zionism is totally fine, and that refugees who risk their lives on boats are queue jumping scum. to this, we must say, fuck us!

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the possibilities of ethical consumption

by tobybee

This is an area of activism that’s highly discussed and debated by those of us on the anti-capitalist left. When combined with the politics of the bds movement, it’s even more fraught.

I’ve engaged with BDS in bits and pieces. I understand it to be a useful tactic, called for by palestinians, and one which everyone seems to be still learning how to best deploy. I know for sure that I don’t know for sure how it can always be best used. But I also know that I want to keep learning, and trying it out, and that I’d rather try and fail than not use it at all. the elements of BDS seem to be a good way of demonstrating solidarity with palestinians, with respecting and supporting resistance.

As part of my work with AJDS I’ve been involved in establishing a new campaign in which we’re encouraging people to stop buying products from israeli settlements. We’re framing it as a “don’t buy from the settlements campaign”, as we recognise that the language of ‘boycott’ can sometimes be alienating and distracting: that people can get bogged down in refusing to ‘boycott’, rather than recognising that part of what is being asked for is that you don’t spend your money on those products. Simply, that you consume ethically and get educated about the effects of the settlements, and the occupation more broadly.

This is what we have to say:

At this time of Pesach—the festival of freedom—we remember that we were slaves in Egypt.

What does it mean to remember this?

It means that we remember what it means to be imprisoned, to not be able to determine our fate.

It means that we remember what it means to be an oppressed and dominated people.

It means that remember that as we were slaves in Egypt, so too others are enslaved and oppressed in many countries around the world, and that we must fight alongside them for their freedom.

We remember that escape was possible, that slavery came to an end.

On this Pesach we ask you to join a long history of Jews who have fought for freedom, for both Jews and for others. To stand alongside others, Jews and non-Jews, who have made ethical choices about how to live their lives in order to make themselves better people, and to make the world a better place.

And so in this tradition of Pesach, as well as in the relatively new tradition of making decisions about what products we purchase based on a set of ethics (as we have done in the past with Nescafe, Shell, and products which are harmful to the environment), this year we commit to not buying products that are produced in settlements the West Bank.

[…]

Because settlements are seen as an obstruction to peace, many Jews around the world have committed themselves to not buying from settlements. They, and we, take this nonviolent action in the hope that international Jewish pressure—both economic and political—will come to bear on the Israeli Government. With this pressure, the Government will realise that settlements are no longer viable, that the settlements are an embarrassment and the settlement project must be rethought.

Not buying products from settlements will not work on its own, but it is one small step that we can take. When we add in the possibility of sharing knowledge about what the settlements mean and what they do, together with the capability to have these difficult conversations about what kind of Israel we want to create, we can work alongside Palestinians, Israelis, and people throughout the diasporas to create an exciting, liberating future.

So head over to the facebook page and the website, where you can find some detailed explanations as to why the settlements are harmful, information about what products to avoid, and maps that lay out where everything is.

queering the doykeit

by tobybee

the internet has indeed (in my experience) been rad for building transnational communities of jewish diasporists. despite physical distance, we can connect over the lines, sharing ideas and building fledgling friendships. one such connection i’ve made has been to jenna brager, whose zine, doykeit, i discovered thanks to vlada. and so i’m loving the jewish ladies across the globe.

jenna’s just put out a new call out for submissions for a second edition of doykeit (doykeit, she writes in the first, “in a contemporary context implies a radical investment in the local communities that sustain us and an understanding that in a globalized society, solidarity politics must cross borders real and imagined), so, friends, get to it and submit something!:

Doykeit #2—“Diaspora”

The concept of ‘doykeit,’ Yiddish for ‘hereness,’ is taken from the pre-World War II Polish-Jewish group The Bund, which believed that Jews have both a right to live and a political commitment to work for change ‘here and now.’

Doykeit seeks to speak to the cross-sections of Jewish and queer/feminist identification and how these might inform an anti-Zionist or Palestinian solidarity politic.

For this issue of Doykeit, we ask for writing and art that considers one or more of the following topics: diaspora, home and “homeland,” galut, displacement, dispersal, remembrance, intergenerational relationships, borders, nationalism, and violence.

“The word ‘diaspora’ means dispersion. It originated in the Septuagint, one of the original Greek translations of the Bible: Deuteronomy 28:25: ‘thou shalt be a diaspora in all kingdoms of the earth.’…”

Some questions to consider:

–site(s) of diaspora and site(s) of “home”

–diaspora in a globalized society

–What does it mean to be a diaspora Jew (politically, spiritually etc.)?

–How is diaspora complicated/ take on different meaning in different Jewish communities (ethnic, geographic, denominational, etc.)?

–How do we build solidarity between/ within diasporic/ exilic communities?

Due May 1st

did you know…

by tobybee

… that Alec Baldwin has a radio show? I recently discovered it, and it’s rather delightful. And, did you know that originally it was planned that West Side Story would be a battle between Jewish and Irish gangs, but a decision was made to change it during the writing process? How rad would it have been if it there had been Jewish gangs in there! I learned that fun fact listening to Baldwin talk to two of Leonard Bernstein’s kids, Alex and Jamie Bernstein. I highly recommend taking a listen, and then going through the archives and listening to them all.

Also, having been called a race traitor in the last week, I offer this thought from Leonard Cohen:
not a jew

(via vladislava)

“we are the ones whose homes are being demolished”

by tobybee

coming up on February 3rd is the JNF’s Green Sunday. It’s the day when they do a call around, asking people to donate to the JNF. This year they’re focused on the region around Beer Sheva, a region which, when planted with trees (which are primarily pine trees, not a sustainable or suitable tree for that region), forces indigenous Bedouins off their lands. Indeed, the JNF has been forcing Bedouins and Palestinians off their lands and out of their homes across all parts of Palestine/Israel for as long as it has been in existence, in order to claim land for Jewish settlers. This is, as we well know, often done under the guise of environmentalism.

In an article in the Jewish News advertising Green Sunday, Michael Naphtali (the current national president of the JNF) says that the “JNF has tapped into what is important: Israel’s survival and Jewish continuity, and I think Green Sunday is a great event that combines both.” In doing so, he makes the situation quite clear: the JNF works with a particular idea of survival and continuity. This is an idea of these things wherein Israel is always and only Jewish: survival and continuity is directly linked to the erasure and dispossession of non-Jews.

Yet sadly, as Jews living in Melbourne we hear nothing of the true effects of the JNF. There is no discussion, only silence. Actually, not only silence, for we are encouraged (or indoctrinated) from a young age to believe that there is no flip side to this idea of “survival and continuity”: to actually believe that the JNF helps to make the desert bloom (as though this isn’t one of the great lies that colonial societies always tell themselves).

So we need to start talking. We need to make the facts clear, to get the stories known.

One of the villages that is directly affected by the JNF and their erasures and replantings is Al Araqib, located in the Negev. There is much information out there about their struggles – including that the village – which is unrecognised by the Israeli government – has, as of mid-December 2012, been demolished 45 times.

For an introduction I encourage you to watch this short doco. And then to read, and talk to your family and friends, and reconsider what the JNF is, and the role that it should play in your life.

comparisons

by tobybee

Why are historical comparisons, at times, useful? As a historian who writes comparative history, it’s a question I am forced to address in my work. I find—as do many other historians—that by placing two different scenarios, or events, or examples, alongside each other, something is illuminated in both. We have the potential to learn something new by considering matters in comparison.

This is a vital difference between comparison and competition. As I learnt when I studied Comparative Genocide Studies at high school, it is useful to think about different genocides in comparison because then we can grasp more fully the complexity of genocide, and the many different ways in which it can be practiced. It is never useful, however, to play competitive genocide studies: to allege that one genocide is worse than another—or that one event is not a genocide—because of the number of people who were murdered, or the ways in which they were murdered. Every murder, we learnt through CGS, is tragic; every genocide looks different, and yet remains tragic. Every genocide, at times, does not look like genocide and at other times appears to be genocide par excellence.

In the past couple of weeks we’ve seen an explosion of writing regarding a Michael Leunig cartoon that was printed in the Age and which received in response allegations of antisemitism from many in the Melbourne Jewish community. The cartoon repeats Pastor Niemoller’s famous statement:
“First they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”

but turns it instead into:

And a series of men have written their responses in various newspapers: Harold Zwier, Leunig himself, Dvir Abramovich, and finally today Nick Dyrenfurth. (aside pro-tip: if you want to access an article that’s behind a paywall, you just need to google the title of the article. The whole thing then turns up)

The argument, somewhere along the line, has turned into the utility of comparisons between Nazi Germany and Israel: such comparisons have been called intellectually lazy or offensive, amongst other things. But what is missing in such criticisms is, seemingly, an awareness of what constituted the Holocaust. The Holocaust, surely, is not just Auschwitz. It is not just industrial murder. It is also a denial of citizenship, the killing of random people on the street, the gathering of people into particular areas of town, the creation of refugees, the hate speech, the ignorance, the discriminatory legislation, the countless number of other small (and not so small) acts of brutality that together constitute what we now gather together under the name of the Holocaust. And this is, I would suggest, a problem for Holocaust historiography: what do we forget, what do we leave out, when we gather it all together under this one rubric? For if people suggest that the Holocaust stands always and only for the death camps, then whose experiences are they denying, whose stories are they silencing?

Leunig’s cartoon, it seems to me, is not about—or not just about—the Holocaust. It is a call to action, a reminder that the Holocaust is one moment when action was lacking. What are others? When do we silence ourselves because of disinterest, or fear of personal repercussions? How can we rethink our responsibilities to others?

For a comparison between the Holocaust and what Israel is doing to Palestinians is, yes, imperfect. As all comparisons are. But what it reminds us is that comparisons are useful. Is Israel undertaking industrial murder? No, not that I know of. Is Israel using the tools of modern industrial capitalism to persecute Palestinians? Absolutely: in the use of prisons, checkpoints, and drones. Is Israel stripping some Palestinians of their citizenship, making them stateless? Absolutely. That one’s a no-brainer. Are Palestinians forced to live in particular areas? Again, absolutely. Is genocide not happening because not all Palestinians are dead yet? Absolutely not. If one looks at the UN definition of genocide (and there are good reasons to turn to it, and good reasons not to, but regardless,) then we see that the measure of what constitutes genocide is not whether a group completely destroys another, but whether there is intent to destroy a particular form of group, in whole or in part, as such. There are numerous ways in which this can be carried out: cultural genocide is one, physical murder another. The physical destruction of the group need not happen for genocide to be occurring.

For after all, this is what has been missing in this discussion about the Leunig cartoon: an account of the various diverse experiences of Palestinians. Instead of taking the opportunity to look at the various different ways in which genocide can occur, taking a moment to consider genocides in historical perspective and in comparison with one another, to illuminate something about the nature of genocide and what people in the world will tolerate, support, or condemn, this ‘controversy’ has proved to have provided a way to make the discussion about Israelis, Zionism, and Jews, and their various neuroses.

By placing different historical moments in comparison—and I’m not even sure that this is what Leunig’s cartoon actually did, it seems to me to be more of a critique of a sense in the world that there are certain types of speech which are not socially permissible, and a critique of those of us who silence ourselves out of fear of the social repercussions—we have the capacity to learn something about each of them. We can be reminded of complexity and nuance, and remember that the Holocaust didn’t begin with Auschwitz.

(untitled three)

by tobybee

a wise friend once wrote (to paraphrase broadly) about how he is in a process of decolonising himself from zionism. since reading that i’ve found it a really useful frame through which to think about my own relationship to zionism. it’s clear that i was once a zionist and that i am no longer. but that means one thing at the level of politics, ethics and identity, and another at an affective level.

i am very comfortable saying that i think that zionism is bad for palestinians, bad for israelis, and bad for jews (amongst other groups of people). it is important to me that i identify as a non-zionist (or an anti-zionist, or a post-zionist, depending on my mood): all of them indicate a relationship to zionism. that is, i think it’s important that i maintain a political and jewish identity that includes and articulates a statement about zionism. partly, this is because israel claims to act in my name, and even though i might disavow that claim, the claim still exists. and while (obviously) silence is not consent, there is something morally ambiguous, i think, to let that state claim exist out there in the world and not actively refute it. so perhaps my continued public articulation of my relationship serves to buttress that claim in some way (that is, i would only need to refute something because there is a claim being made that i fear on some level has some legitimacy). but i feel it’s important, for me personally in any case, that i deny it.

partly, it’s because while i maintain an affirmative identity position – that of diasporist – through which to name an alternative vision, it’s also important for me to name that reactive, negative position. i am anti-nationalist in general, but there’s also something importantly specific about a jew being anti-zionist (which is also why it annoys me when non-jews say that they’re specifically anti-zionist: if you’re a non-jew and oppose jewish nationalism, but not other nationalisms, then you should probably check yourself for antisemitism).

and partly, because it is still something i’m working through, an identity that had a powerful presence in my life for most of my history.

i’m in sydney this weekend, and so i went to the gaza solidarity rally held there today. it was profoundly moving at times: to see so many people, to hear the names read out of those palestinians who were murdered, to hear descriptions of what was done, to listen to people from various other different groups – indigenous, jewish, christian, union – make claims for solidarity and connection.

and there was much chanting, of course. one of the key chants that came up, and comes up at so many of these rallies, is ‘from the river to the sea, palestine will be free’. every time i hear it i shudder. it’s the one i don’t, i can’t, join in on.

and i stood there today trying to think about why (as i do whenever that chant comes up). i don’t know that i have it figured out. i think it might be that it’s reminiscent to me of israeli claims for control, or for the existence of the state of israel from the river to the sea. and those claims are always already genocidal, i feel. when it’s turned around, there’s something that sticks in my back, that makes me worried that it doesn’t lose its genocidal impulse from a mere reversal. i think that’s the closest i’ve come to understanding why. but that feeling in my back remains, and i’m not sure that my analysis of what the chant contains is at all fair.

so i come back to this idea of decolonising my mind and my soul from zionism.

i recognise also that at an affective level, those tears that well up when i hear spoken plainly what israel does are mostly brought by a sadness and anger for palestinians, but (if i am honest) are tears also for my former self (i fear how i would have responded to these latest attacks had i witnessed them 10 years ago). at an affective and deeply embarrassing level, zionism’s hold still has some purchase.

and so the project of decolonising myself from zionism continues. it’s hard to undo most of a lifetime of feeling.

(untitled 2)

by tobybee

i often find that when things like this happen – when israel becomes more ridiculous, kills more people, becomes more upsetting – that i don’t write a post. i figure that the people who read this blog regularly are probably somewhat well informed, and don’t come here for the basic factual information, so they’ll/you’ll get the information elsewhere. i figure that there’s so much to say, that people are better off looking elsewhere. i figure i don’t know what to say, where to begin, where to end.

so i don’t know. as i start to write this, i don’t know where it will end. wait, this is too self-indulgent. it’s not about me.

i want to encourage you to read, and think, and read and think some more. it seems so clear – from spending so much time yesterday looking incessantly online – that what israel is doing to the palestinians living in gaza (as well as the increased surveillance and life interruption in jerusalem and the west bank) is not about increased safety or security or moving towards peace, but is instead about ensuring the very opposite.

Gershon Baskin, who negotiated the release of Gilad Shalit and who has worked to negotiate potential ceasefires, has written a piece explaining that Ahmed Jaabari, the commander of Ezedin al Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, the man whose assassination marked the beginning of this latest onslaught, was reading a ceasefire proposal the night before he was murdered. Baskin writes “The assassination of Jaabari was a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of a long term ceasefire. Netanyahu has acted with extreme irresponsibility. He has endangered the people of Israel and struck a real blow against the few important more pragmatic elements within Hamas. He has given another victory to those who seek our destruction, rather than strengthen those who are seeking to find a possibility to live side-by-side, not in peace, but in quiet.”
You should read his article.

You should read this post by Liam Getreu, and think carefully about the links that he points to.

You should follow Shahd Abusalama and Gaza Youth Break Out on twitter: they are amazing and inspiring and seem to be tweeting this war in real time, which is a shocking thing to witness.

You should watch Antony Lowenstein on abc news 24 from last night, where he gives a decent explanation of the context and critique of Israeli government/military pr.

You should read this writing by Michal Vasser, who lives in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, and who is being bombed from Gaza, and who says “don’t defend me like this”: “If you are interested in stopping the hostile actions from the other side – open your ears and start listening. If we are important to you – please stop defending us by means of missiles, “pinpoints” and “aeronautical components.” Instead of Operation Pillar of Defense embark on Operation Hope for the Future. This is more complicated, you need more patience and it is less popular – but it is the only way out.”

There’s so much more to read – these are just a few offerings.

You should understand the context – that Israel is headed towards an election that Netanyahu wants to win – and the larger context still – that Israel is an occupying power that is able to bomb Gazans from land, air and sea.

I grieve for all those who are being killed and injured – Palestinian and Israeli. Inevitably, most of those who do the dying are not those with the power to determine the situation in the present or future (although that’s perhaps a bit too simplistic, and responsibility for what a government and an army does must in some way rest with those citizens who do not challenge their government). Gazans are trapped (and Egypt must take responsibility for this too), and the Israelis who live close to the border are generally poor and black, hence left there as cannon fodder (as Joseph Dana pointed out on twitter, if the Israeli government wanted to save Israeli lives, they would evacuate everyone from the border areas. But they don’t).

I am angry and I am devastated. It seems clearer than ever that collectively, we need to find a way to challenge our fury and sadness into strategic political action. change needs to come. i am far from hopeful.

enough.

light

by tobybee

if you’re looking for somewhere to get some beautiful candles from for chanukah (or, indeed, any jewish ritual candles) you should very much think about ordering them from jonah at narrow bridge candles. we used them last year for occupy chanukah at occupy melbourne and they were absolutely beautiful.

what’s the idea behind them? jonah explains:

When my father died, I wanted to honor his memory and my grief through the traditional ritual of lighting a Shiva candle. The only Shiva candle available to me was made in Israel. In that moment, Israel’s monopoly on Judaica broke my heart, adding the tremendous weight of participation in Palestinian genocide to my already overwhelming loss.

I want to tell a story in which Jews are not bound to a nation built on oppression, or the building of a nation at all, but kindle our traditions of radicalism and justice wherever we are. Through Narrow Bridge Candles, I seek to create more space for ritual with integrity and liberatory potential.

For those of us acting in solidarity with Palestine, there is much work to be done. Palestinian Civil Society has put forth a clear and unified call for Boycotting, Divesting from, and Sanctioning Israel (BDS). Boycotting Israeli goods by itself will not be enough to decolonize Palestine. However, BDS can be, perhaps, a narrow bridge; a clear and sturdy path forward.

Narrow Bridge Candles currently offers Hanukah, Shabbat and Havdalah candles. Im still working on Yahrtzeit and Shiva candles. All candles are made from 100% beeswax from hives in Oakland and Berkeley from the Bee Healthy Honey Shop in Oakland. There is no added dye or fragrance.
All candles are hand dipped with love.
Profits of Narrow Bridge Candles go to support the Stop the JNF Campaign.

to get them by chanukah you need to order them by november 16th – which is super soon! so get on it!

“Jewish not through blood or ancestry but through similarity in mind, culture, common history and unity of fate”

by tobybee

i don’t know what exactly this is, but i love it. there’s a movement to build a ‘medinat weimar‘, or a jewish state in Thuringia, Germany, with the city of Weimar as its capital.

The Unternationale greet Medinat Weimar

Psoy Korolenko and Danik Redlick (AKA Daniel Kahn) of The Unternationale send their greeting to The Movement for a Jewish State in Thuringia, Germany.

Und ist die Zeit is an old Bund freedom song written by Avrom Reisen in Yiddish, Heinz Kahlau translated the song into German in the fifties for a GDR folk song book. Radical Yiddish-Punk-Cabaret musician Daniel Kahn recommended this song as the anthem for the movement.

(all via vladislava)