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critical, progressive ideas from pondering jews

Tag: anti-zionism

the politics and poetics of (young, proud) diaspora

by tobybee

at the Jewish Federations of North America Jewish General Assembly that is happening currently in New Orleans, there has been a bit of a disruption cause by some rad young Jews.

check them out in action during Netanyahu’s speech:

Watching this, for me, is simultaneously fucking inspiring and amazingly depressing: they get shouted down so quickly, and Netanyahu is so ridiculously smug. But of course he is – he knows that he is so completely in control, and that these amazing people might yell and hold banners, but he can just call them dupes and the masses will cheer. urgh.

but if you just want the inspiring, and the hilarious, check out their spoof Birthright trip, and the fantastically worded, and completely spot-on retraction (“Moreover, presenting a multiplicity of narratives would undermine not only the idealized image of Israel that Birthright presents, but also the sense of emergency that gives such power to the Birthright experience. We know that trauma is a potent educational tool, and the Birthright program—ten days of intense activity with an armed escort, Holocaust references, intimate encounters with IDF soldiers and second-hand stories about ‘violent’ Arabs—has been carefully devised to infuse youth with the conviction that Jews everywhere are on the brink of annihilation, and that the only way to survive is to support Israel without question.”).

and the newly-formed group that all this action came out of: ‘Young, Jewish and Proud’, which is part of Jewish Voice for Peace. Reading their opening statement, for me, was spine-tingling. Here’s an excerpt (but you should definitely read the whole thing):

I. we exist.
We exist. We are everywhere. We speak and love and dream in every language. We pray three times a day or only during the high holidays or when we feel like we really need to or not at all. We are punks and students and parents and janitors and Rabbis and freedom fighters. We are your children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren. We embrace diaspora, even when it causes us a great deal of pain. We are the rubble of tangled fear, the deliverance of values. We are human. We are born perfect. We assimilate, or we do not. We are not apathetic. We know and name persecution when we see it. Occupation has constricted our throats and fattened our tongues. We are feeding each other new words. We have family, we build family, we are family. We re-negotiate. We atone. We re-draw the map every single day. We travel between worlds. This is not our birthright, it is our necessity.

[…]

IV. we commit.
We commit ourselves to peace. We will stand up with honest bodies, to offer honest bread. We will stand up with our words, our pens, our songs, our paintbrushes, our open hands. We commit to re-envisioning “homeland,” to make room for justice. We will stand in the way of colonization and displacement. We will take this to the courts and to the streets. We will learn. We will teach this in the schools and in our homes. We will stand with you, if you choose to stand with our allies. We will grieve the lies we’ve swallowed. We commit to equality, solidarity, and integrity. We will soothe the deepest tangles of our roots and stretch our strong arms to the sky. We demand daylight for our stories, for all stories. We seek breathing room and dignity for all people. We are committed to the struggle. We are the struggle. We will become mentors, elders, and radical listeners for the next generation. It is our sacred obligation. We will not stop. We exist. We are young Jews, and we get to decide what that means.

so ridiculously great, for the poetry of their writing, for the energy, for the way they take the idea of delegitimisation and throw it on its head.

**update 11/11: to read the rad perspectives of some of the people involved in the protest, check out two pieces on Mondoweiss: this piece by Matthew Taylor, and this piece by Rae Abileah

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peter beinart + the failure of the US jewish establishment

by anzya

I was recently pointed in the way of Peter Beinart’s article, published last month in the NY Review of Books – “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment”. If you haven’t read it, do now, as there are some pretty sharp analyses in there about the way Jews in America perceive, criticise and/or defend Israel and its politics. And though it focussed on American Jewish Zionist orgs, so much of what he writes applies to the attitudes of Australian Jews towards Israel and Zionism. I particularly liked his argument about the generational differences between American Jews in how they view Israel, which I’ll quote here:

These American Zionists are largely the product of a particular era. Many were shaped by the terrifying days leading up to the Six-Day War, when it appeared that Israel might be overrun, and by the bitter aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, when much of the world seemed to turn against the Jewish state. In that crucible, Israel became their Jewish identity, often in conjunction with the Holocaust, which the 1967 and 1973 wars helped make central to American Jewish life. These Jews embraced Zionism before the settler movement became a major force in Israeli politics, before the 1982 Lebanon war, before the first intifada. They fell in love with an Israel that was more secular, less divided, and less shaped by the culture, politics, and theology of occupation. And by downplaying the significance of Avigdor Lieberman, the settlers, and Shas, American Jewish groups allow these older Zionists to continue to identify with that more internally cohesive, more innocent Israel of their youth, an Israel that now only exists in their memories.

But these secular Zionists aren’t reproducing themselves. Their children have no memory of Arab armies massed on Israel’s border and of Israel surviving in part thanks to urgent military assistance from the United States. Instead, they have grown up viewing Israel as a regional hegemon and an occupying power. As a result, they are more conscious than their parents of the degree to which Israeli behavior violates liberal ideals, and less willing to grant Israel an exemption because its survival seems in peril. Because they have inherited their parents’ liberalism, they cannot embrace their uncritical Zionism.

I realise I am reading this about a month late(!). Much has been written on Beinart’s piece already in other blogs including jew school, mondoweiss, Tablet mag and AJDS. Since then, however, there has also been a more recent rebuttal from Abraham Foxman from the ADL published in the NY Review blog, (in which he gives some pretty annoying and predictable arguments in defense of Netanyahu et al), and a response from Beinart who, rather unusually and admiringly politely, writes:

The ADL was founded “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” What I have always admired about that statement is its suggestion that to truly defend Jewish dignity, one must also defend the dignity of other vulnerable groups. At home, the ADL still honors that mission, working valiantly, for instance, against racial profiling in Arizona. But how can an organization that is so vigilant in opposing bigotry in the US be so complacent about a government shaped by men like Lieberman, Effi Eitam, and Ovadia Yosef? How can it not take its rightful place in the struggle on behalf of Palestinians evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah?

I think would be interesting to follow this post up at some stage and to see how Australian Zionist orgs repsond/ed to this article and debate, and the similarities and comparisons between the Jewish establishment in US and in Australia that can be drawn. So stay tuned. And do put your two cents in the comments section below 🙂