Sunday, December 10, 2017

"We want 48" - Anti-Israel and anti-semitic demonstration in Times Square

Many of the protests around the world against Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli's capital and his decision that the U.S. Embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem have been marked by open antisemitism, including here in the United States.

rally in Times Square on Friday, December 8, loudly proclaimed that the goal was one state - Palestine, not two states beside each other, and demanded a third intifada and revolution. They want an end to Israel and its total replacement by Palestine.

These were some of the chants:
"We don't want no two-state, we want 48" (Israel was founded in 1948; the problem isn't just the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem).

"With spirit and blood we'll redeem Al Aqsa" (in Arabic)

"There is only one solution: Intifada Revolution."

"Khaybar Khaybar Ya Yahud Jaish Muhammad saya'ud" - "Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews: Muhammad's army will return." This refers to a battle in the early 600s, when a Jewish tribe in Khaybar, Arabia, was defeated by the troops of Muhammad.

"Intifada Intifada. Long live Intifada."
"From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free." 
"When people are occupied, resistance is justified." 
"Palestine is ours alone." 
The rally was organized by Palestinian American Community Center in New Jersey, New York City SJP, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, NY4Palestine, and Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, but the speakers also came from other organizations, including the International Action Center and the Palestinian Youth Movement in New York (the speaker from this organization referred to the "Zionist Entity" not to Israel).

If you watch the longer video, you'll see a Jewish man wearing a streimel - the token representative of Neturei Karta, I assume, who makes it possible for the demonstrators to claim that they are not antisemitic.

For a longer video of the rally:



Saturday, November 25, 2017

On not normalizing Nazis






Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review of "Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left"

Jeffrey Herf. Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Illustrations. 493 pp. $29.99 (paper), ISBN 978-1-107-46162-8; $99.99 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-107-08986-0.

Reviewed by Philipp Lenhard (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit瓣t M羹nchen, Historisches Seminar J羹dische Geschichte und Kultur)

Published on H-Judaic (November, 2017)
When the German terrorists Wilfried B繹se and Brigitte Kuhlmann hijacked Air France Flight 139 on June 27, 1976, and separated Jewish and Israeli from non-Jewish hostages, the Nazi past seemed to resurge in a new, left-radical disguise. Since 1969, German leftists had maintained close contacts with Palestinian terrorist groups, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Fatah, the two largest groups forming the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). As a result of this collaboration, a series of anti-Jewish attacks were carried out in West Germany throughout the 1970s in the name of a so-called resistance against US imperialism and Zionist racism. The hijacking of the Air France flight and the “selection” of the Jewish passengers represent the zenith of German left-wing anti-Zionism that declined in the 1980s and has been increasingly challenged by leftist supporters of Israel since the 1990s.[1] However, the fine line between criticism of Israeli politics, hatred against Israel, and antisemitism remains an urgent issue today.[2] 
Historical research takes on an important role in uncovering the history of anti-Zionism and antisemitism in their manifold forms. Scholars of Jewish history have long argued that both Jewish and non-Jewish anti-Zionism prior to the Holocaust cannot easily be equated with antisemitism because the rejection of Zionism often stemmed from a universalist critique of nationalism as it had evolved from the ideas of the European Enlightenment. [3] At the same time, late nineteenth-century antisemites already used anti-Zionist ideas to denounce Jews as being incapable of running a state.[4] After the extermination of European Jewry and the foundation of the state of Israel, anti-Zionism was directed not only against an ideology but also against the existing Jewish state of Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren. Thus, any attempt to critique Zionism before the mass murder has to at least face the accusation of historical blindness. Socialist and Communist movements and parties as well as the Communist regimes after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, including the German Democratic Republic (GDR), founded in 1949, only one year after the foundation of the Jewish state, had to face this conflicted heritage. In most cases, pre-Holocaust anti-Zionism was perpetuated or even radicalized under the influence of Joseph Stalin’s anti-cosmopolitan and anti-imperialist doctrines. 
Notes 
[1]. Despite its overall pro-Palestinian agenda, the Far Left party Die Linke emphasizes that “Israel’s existence and the history of its foundation are irrevocable consequences of the Shoah and the extermination of European Jewry, a historical consequence of a centuries-old antisemitism that predates Nazi Fascism and that encompasses more than the European-Christian history of persecution. This world-historical emancipation is worth our unrestricted solidarity, and this possibility will be defended in all future” (translation mine). Die Linke, https://www.die-linke.de/detail/eine-friedliche-zwei-staatenloesung-muss-ziel-bleiben/ (accessed October 12, 2017). Compared to other European leftist parties, this statement shows a profound transformation of the German left wing’s diction over the course of the last decades. 
[2]. In a recent book about Operation Entebbe (Legenden um Entebbe: Ein Akt der Luftpiraterie und seine Dimensionen in der politischen Diskussion [M羹nster: Unrast, 2016]), edited by the Far Left activist Markus Mohr, antisemitism from the left is systematically downplayed, which has aroused a heated debate in the left-wing weekly Jungle World. 
[3]. See for the transition L矇on Poliakov, Vom Antizionismus zum Antisemitismus (Freiburg im Breisgau: a Ira, 1992).
[4]. See, for example, Eugen D羹hring, Die Judenfrage als Racen-, Sitten- und Culturfrage (Karlsruhe, Leipzig: H. Reuther, 1881), 110n. 
For the rest of the review: Herf.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Academic boycotts and the Society of Biblical Literature

I just noticed that the SBL recently posted a statement opposing academic boycotts. It doesn't mention any particular boycott, but I suspect it has something to do with the BDS movement.
Statement on Academic Boycotts 

SBL’s mission statement enumerates the core values of the Society, including respect for diversity, openness to change, and critical inquiry that reflects SBL’s full international context. In order to fulfill this mission, SBL considers academic boycotts an obstacle to the free exchange of ideas, a bedrock principle for scholarly discourse. SBL’s statement on academic freedom elaborates the principles supporting critical inquiry and participation. Both the statement on academic freedom and this statement on academic boycotts are in accordance with the positions of AAUP.

Rather than engaging in academic boycotts, the Society provides opportunities for organizing academic sessions, including those that address controversial issues. Such sessions, as with all sessions and panels at SBL conferences, relate to the scholarly mission of the Society, are open to all of its members, and provide analysis of complex and sometimes competing points of view. The Society recognizes that members, individually and in groups, exercise their right to participate according to their conscience and interest. 
The Society furthermore provides procedures for making public statements that are directly related to its mission or to the professional interests of its members.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why I oppose the academic boycott of Israel; why the AAR should not support BDS

Because there are people starting to organize for support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement at the American Academy of Religion (whose annual meeting is happening right now in Boston, in conjunction with the Society of Biblical Literature; for some details, see this article in Haaretz: https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-1.823743), I thought it made sense to republish my letter against the academic boycott of Israel. I wrote it in 2014, when the American Studies Association voted to support the academic boycott, and a pro-boycott speaker, Professor Eric Cheyfitz came and spoke at Ithaca College in support of the boycott.
When I saw the poster (for Cheyfitz's talk at Ithaca College), I began to reflect how my academic work has been immensely enriched by my studies in Israel. When I was a graduate student at Harvard, I went to Israel for two years, 1987-89, to improve my Hebrew and take courses at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Studying there gave me the opportunity to learn from some of the most prominent scholars in several fields of Jewish Studies. I took a course on early Jewish mysticism with Professor Rachel Elior, and found my dissertation topic. I took many other courses in Jewish Studies that were not, at that time, offered at Harvard, including a course on the Zohar, another one on the range of interpretations of Genesis 38 (the story of Judah and Tamar) with Yair Zakovitch (Bible) and Avigdor Shinan (Midrash), a course on the Septuagint with Emanuel Tov (one of the world experts on the study of the Septuagint), a reading course with Michael Stone on 3 Baruch, a course on Midrash with Avigdor Shinan (a world expert on Midrash), a course in Biblical Aramaic, etc. I had originally intended to spend only a year in Israel but I was so interested that I decided to spend a second year at the Hebrew University. 
I returned to Israel for the 1992-93 academic year to do research for my dissertation. I consulted with Professor Elior frequently and audited another class of hers on the Hekhalot literature. If I had not been able to go to the Hebrew University and the National and University Library for research, I probably could not have finished my dissertation. The National Library houses the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, and it was there that I learned how to read medieval manuscripts from others in the community of scholars who also used the library.

I went to Israel again for the 1998-1999 academic year, benefiting from a Lady Davis Fellowship given to me by the Hebrew University. While there, I worked on research topics that arose out of my dissertation and explored new areas. I took a course at the university with Joseph Naveh on ancient Jewish amulets - we learned how to read, translate, and interpret them. I also participated in a year long seminar at the Hartman Institute on messianism and mysticism in Judaism. I gave a presentation there on Metatron as a messianic figure in 3 Enoch.

In the spring of 2012, when I was on sabbatical, I spent seven months in Jerusalem working on my second book, Angels' Tongues and Witches' Curses: Jewish Women and Ritual Power in Late Antiquity.

Since my first stay in Israel in 1987-89, I have visited almost every year to do research. Since the summer of 2006, I have gone every summer for up to two months. In terms of my research, Israel is really my academic home. I use the National Library and participate in the community of scholars and scholarship there. In the last couple of years I have met graduate students at the library who are working on their dissertations and I have been able to be helpful to a few of them in their research. Since I teach at a primarily undergraduate institution, I don't teach any graduate students, and I value the opportunity to be able to advise current students.

The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has issued guidelines for how people should boycott Israeli academia. They include "refrain[ing] from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions." Participation includes "Academic events (such as conferences, symposia, workshops, book and museum exhibits) convened or co-sponsored by Israeli institutions." The events include events held both in Israel and abroad that are sponsored by Israeli institutions. They are also opposed to study abroad programs in Israel, under the reasoning that "These programs are usually housed at Israeli universities and are part of the Israeli propaganda effort, designed to give international students a “positive experience” of Israel." In addition, official representatives of Israeli academia who give talks at international venues should be boycotted, as well as special honors given to these recipients. They also oppose any Palestinian/Arab-Israeli collaborative research projects or events. The boycott campaign opposes any events and projects that bring Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis together, "unless based on unambiguous recognition of Palestinian rights and framed within the explicit context of opposition to occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians." The boycott campaign also calls for not publishing or refereeing articles for academic journals based in Israeli universities.

While USACBI says that the boycott is aimed at Israeli academic institutions (on the pretext that they support the Israeli occupation), and not at individual Israeli scholars, it is difficult for me to see how this caveat really protects individuals. For example, my research at the Hebrew University in 1998-99 was financed by a Lady Davis grant. If I hadn't received the money, I wouldn't have been able to go for the year. In addition, Israeli scholars who go to international conferences are usually supported by travel grants from their institutions, as are academics in other countries. (It should be noted that the endorsement of the boycott by the American Studies Association states explicitly that "Routine university funding for individual collaborations or academic exchanges is permitted").

Every four years the World Congress of Jewish Studies is held at the Hebrew University. Scholars in Jewish Studies from Israel, Europe, the US, and other parts of the world give papers. Since USACBI maintains that events convened by Israeli institutions should be boycotted, this means that one of the primary conferences in the field of Jewish Studies would be able to function only for Israeli scholars. Again, boycotting this conference would have a direct effect upon individual scholars, both Israeli and from other countries. Despite the claim of the ASA that the boycott "does not seek to curtail dialogue between U.S. and Israeli scholars," it would actually have this effect, in that it would prohibit US scholars from going to conferences in Israel sponsored by any academic institution.

If scholarly organizations and academic institutions in the US decided to support the academic boycott, it would have a seriously deleterious effect upon the field of Jewish Studies, since it would prohibit American scholars from going to any conferences in Israel (which are usually sponsored by Israeli universities). Israeli scholars who headed institutes at Israeli universities would not be permitted to speak at American universities. I suspect that the boycott would also prohibit foreign scholars from receiving grants or fellowships at Israeli universities. Since the boycott campaign opposes study abroad in Israel, foreign students, on the undergraduate or graduate levels, would not be able to study at Israeli universities, or do dissertation or other research in Israel, and would therefore be cut off from the knowledge and connections they could gain from collaboration with Israeli scholars. When I went to the Hebrew University as a visiting graduate student in 1987-89, I enrolled in the university through the Rothberg International School. The academic boycott would have prevented that, directly impacting my academic career.

In addition, USACBI states,
While an individual’s academic freedom should be fully and consistently respected in this context, an individual academic, Israeli or not, cannot be exempt from being subject to boycotts that conscientious citizens around the world (beyond the scope of the PACBI boycott criteria) may call for in response to what is widely perceived as a particularly offensive act or statement by the academic in question (such as direct or indirect incitement to violence; justification — an indirect form of advocacy — of war crimes and other grave violations of international law; racial slurs; actual participation in human rights violations; etc.).
This means that USACBI (in agreement with PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) supports boycotting individuals who, in its judgement, engage in incitement to violence, justification of war crimes, etc. How does USACBI define war crimes? What if a scholar wrote an article supporting retaliatory Israeli strikes against Hamas or Islamic Jihad terrorists who had just fired missiles into Israel (while at the same time cautioning against any strikes that could harm civilians)? Would that count as a "justification of war crimes"? 
If I wrote an essay for this blog maintaining that the separation wall had stopped many suicide bombers from entering Israel from the West Bank, would that count as justifying a "grave violation of international law," given that the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion in 2004 stating that the wall is illegal under international law? This part of the call to boycott could justify the boycotting of scholars in political science, international affairs, Middle Eastern politics, history, and other fields who write articles and books that justify any actions that USACBI consider to be war crimes, incitement to violence, etc., therefore also directly impacting individual scholars, Israeli or not.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"Alt-right" woman unclear on the concept

Unclear on the concept. "Wife with a Purpose," a Mormon ex-feminist, now supporter of the alt-right, "Trad Life," white supremacy, and antisemitism.


Steve Bannon Is Bad for the Jews - Bret Stephens

Bret Stephens: Steve Bannon Is Bad for the Jews
The Zionist Organization of America feted Stephen K. Bannon at a gala dinner in New York on Sunday night. What a disgrace.

What a mistake, too.

It’s a disgrace because no organization that purports to represent the interests of the Jewish people should ever embrace anyone who embraces anti-Semites. Jews have enemies enough. To provide those enemies with moral cover for the sake of political convenience or ideology corroborates the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes and strengthens the hand of those who mean us harm.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Tariq Ramadan's violent attacks upon women

What is the relationship between open disrespect of women and rape? Let's examine the case of Tariq Ramadan.

In 2009, the American Academy of Religion invited Tariq Ramadan, a professor at Oxford, and the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, to give a plenary address at the Annual Meeting. He spoke at the meeting in November, which was held in Montreal (and Canada permitted him to enter). The AAR fought to bring Ramadan to the US, against the opposition of the US government. They sued, along with the ACLU and another organization. In 2010, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "issued orders that appear to end the exclusion from the United States."

A couple of years later (April 12, 2011), the Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy engaged in a debate on BBC Newsnight on the question of whether the burqa should be banned. Ramadan continually talked over Eltahawy to try to prevent her from speaking.


Ramadan: And we are alway trying to come with new rules and reducing the freedom of expressions of Muslims against the minarets, against the hijab, against the burka. We don't - what does it mean? Does it mean that the only right way of being a Muslim in Europe today, a good European Muslim is an invisible Muslim, who don't want to see them, don't want to see them in the street, don't.... 
Moderator, asking Eltahawy: Why are you shaking your head? 
Eltahawy: I'm shaking my head because I disagree with just about everything that Tariq just said. It's interesting that he used the word invisible, because that's what the niqab does. 
Ramadan, interrupting: That's because you are working with the neocons in the States. 
Eltahawy: I'm working with the who?! Can you prove that? This is libelous what you are saying. I am not working with the neocons! 
Ramadan, interrupting: We know who you are working with! 
Eltahawy: Did you hear what he just said? This exactly the problem that a Muslim and a feminist actually faces. 
Ramadan, interrupting: You are, you are! Of course, you are working in exactly the same direction. 
Eltahawy: You have to stop talking now, because it's my turn. (Ramadan, interrupting: Yes, a feminist). This is exactly what happens when a Muslim and a feminist speaks out - she is silenced. They are trying to silence me by saying that I'm a neocon. That is absolute nonsense! 
Ramadan, interrupting: I'm not trying to silence you. Don't play the victim, don't play the victim! 
Eltahway: This is what you're supporting. I'm not a victim, I'm no one's victim! You are supporting the very thing you claim to be attacking. You support the invisibility of women. The niqab renders women invisible. And let's be real here. Feminist organizations on the ground will tell you that women have no say in this. 
Ramadan, interrupting: I'm all for freedom. I'm supporting women wearing whatever they want. 
Eltahawy: Stop talking! I'm talking! (Ramadan guffaws). Women on the ground have no say in this, because when they start to talk, you silence them. People like you silence them. The Muslim right wing has been encroaching on women's rights gradually, and no one has said anything! 
Ramadan, interrupting: No, no, you don't want to hear them, you don't want to hear the women. 
Eltahawy: Other groups have said nothing. The left wing has been silenced while Muslim women have been disappeared, all for the sake of fighting Islamophobia. I fight Islamophobia. I was standing outside of that mosque in New York. I wrote opinion pieces against the minaret ban. 
Ramadan: Stop talking about yourself.... 
Eltahawy: You cannot sit there and try to libel me.
In the last few days a series of extremely nasty stories about Ramadan's sexual abuse of women has come out. A report in the New York Times states that a French activist and author, Henda Ayari, filed a police complaint accusing him of sexually assaulting her in 2012. A second woman (unnamed) has accused him of rape and assault in 2009. (The same year that he was honored by the AAR). The assault accusations have been highlighted by Mona Eltahawy on Twitter.
The second woman, whose name has not been published by the news media, gave an account of an extremely violent assault to two French newspapers, Le Monde and Le Parisien. 
A 45-year-old Muslim convert, she said she had also corresponded with Mr. Ramadan on Facebook and met him in his hotel on the sidelines of a conference to discuss religion. When she went to his room, she said, she was raped and beaten. 
She said she suffered months of threats afterward to keep her silent.
Another article, in the National (published in the United Arab Emirates), shows that French officials knew about Ramadan's violent attacks upon women, and did nothing.
A French official has admitted knowing Oxford professor Tariq Ramadan was “violent and aggressive” sexually, but denied hearing anything about rape. 
Bernard Godard, who was considered the “Monsieur Islam” of the French Ministry of the Interior between 1997 and 2014, was well acquainted with Mr Ramadan, a prominent Islamic scholar and grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. 
When asked whether he had any knowledge of the rape and sexual assault that Mr Ramadan is now being accused of, Mr Godard insisted he had “never heard of rapes” and that he was “stunned.”
"That he had many mistresses, that he consulted sites, that girls were brought to the hotel at the end of his lectures, that he invited them to undress, that some resisted and that he could become violent and aggressive, yes, but I have never heard of rapes, I am stunned," he told French magazine L’Obs.
In Tweets today, Eltahawy wrote:
"I have twice argued w/Tariq Ramadan on BBC TV.This is 1 of the times. Many of us have long known him 2b a misogynist." 
Leta Hong Fincher wrote in reply: "Jesus, Mona, I would have just been struck dumb in that situation. So chilling given what we now know about him. Bravo!" 
Eltahawy replied: "Thank you @LetaHong - it was astounding then in 2011 when it happened & astounding now. He is a misogynist shit."
So why hasn't Oxford already suspended Ramadan? Three professors at Dartmouth (in psychology and brain sciences) have been put on paid leave while there is a criminal investigation into allegations of "sexual misconduct." In Ramadan's case, criminal complaints of rape have been filed against him. Shouldn't he also be suspended while the accusations are investigated by the French legal system?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Education and the Pitfalls of Purity

Professors like me can’t stay silent about this extremist moment on campuses

An atrocious story from Reed College about the anti-intellectual and anti-free speech actions of supposedly progressive students. This article is an opinion piece by a Reed faculty member, Luc穩a Mart穩nez Valdivia, who describes herself as an "untenured, gay, mixed-race woman with PTSD" - the kind of professor that one would hope progressive students would support.
At Reed College in Oregon, where I work, a group of students began protesting the required first-year humanities course a year ago. Three times a week, students sat in the lecture space holding signs — many too obscene to be printed here — condemning the course and its faculty as white supremacists, as anti-black, as not open to dialogue and criticism, on the grounds that we continue to teach, among many other things, Aristotle and Plato.
In an article on Reed in Inside Higher Ed, she described herself as "female, mixed race, American and Peruvian, gay, atheist and relatively young. I study poetry that is basically the opposite of me: male, white, British, straight, God-fearing, 500 years old. And I love it."
Saying that Hum 110 “perfectly captures the importance of origins and instability to what we do as scholars and students, regardless of the disciplines we pursue,” Mart穩nez Valdivia asks students to “say yes to the text.” In other words, she says, one “should read things in good faith, understanding the distance, the strangeness from our own historical moment. If we get distracted by Plato’s misogyny or Lucretius’ imperfect mastery of physics, we miss the point, the bigger pictures of these works -- the way Plato structures his arguments, for example, or the fact that Lucretius was driven to theorize about the nature of the physical world when that just wasn’t something people did.” 
Mart穩nez Valdivia notes that the course is technically called Introduction to Humanities: Ancient Greece and the Mediterranean, not Western Humanities, “in part because much of it is drawn from geographic areas not traditionally considered Western areas,” such as Iraq, Iran and Egypt. She says she’d be hard-pressed to eve n define “Western” and that the concept is challenged through course. 
Everything that is now canonical was once innovative, she adds. “This doesn’t mean that we can’t acknowledge problems, weaknesses, inaccuracies, that we can’t question these works; rather, it means that we should do so productively, in good faith. Don’t write Plato off as a misogynist. Instead, try considering how it is that misogyny is a logical result, for him, of his reasoning.”
To go back to the protest: she wrote that the faculty and administration allowed the protest to continue all year, "In the interest of supporting dissent and the free exchange of ideas." The course is taught by a wide range of professors who teach about their areas of expertise. She taught the poetry of Sappho. But others found the circumstances far too intimidating: "Some colleagues, including people of color, immigrants and those without tenure, found it impossible to work under these conditions. The signs intimidated faculty into silence, just as intended, and these silenced professors’ lectures were quietly replaced by talks from people willing and able to carry on teaching in the face of these demonstrations."

During the first class of Fall 2017, the protesting students escalated. The first lecture was going to be a "panel introduction of the course." Before the professors even had a chance to introduce the course, "the protesters seized our microphones, stood in front of us and shut down the lecture."

She wrote: "The right to speak freely is not the same as the right to rob others of their voices."
No one should have to pass someone else’s ideological purity test to be allowed to speak. University life — along with civic life — dies without the free exchange of ideas.
Her teaching philosophy expresses what I also think of as the crucial strength of humanistic study:
I ask one thing of all my first-year students: that they say yes to the text. This doesn’t mean they have to agree with or endorse anything and everything they read. It means students should read in good faith and try to understand the texts’ distance, their strangeness, from our historical moment. Ultimately, this is a call for empathy, for stretching our imaginations to try to inhabit and understand positions that aren’t ours and the points of view of people who aren’t us.
The students who are protesting Hum 110 and trying to shut it down are doing the exact opposite: they are reading in bad faith, they refuse to try to understand the texts in their distance and strangeness, and instead try to force them into the straightjacket of the present. They show no empathy either for the texts or for people who disagree with them. They have chosen to limit their imaginations rather than widen them, all in the name of anti-racism.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Muhammad's journey to Jerusalem

Attributed to `Abd al-Razzaq by Jahangir, black and white sketch attributed to Bihzad by Dust Muhammad, probably by Qasim Ali (pupil of Bihzad), like most of the other 22 paintings in the 1494/5 Khamsa. In the collection of the British Museum. 
This image is of Muhammad being flown from Mecca on his wondrous steed Buraq to Jerusalem. He is still in the skies of Mecca, above the Ka'ba.
This next image is of the same stage in the mi'raj - Muhammad above the Ka'ba in Mecca.

The Mi'raj (Night Journey of the Prophet) with the Ka'ba in Mecca Below, Page from an unidentified Manuscript (image 2 of 3). Iran, Shiraz, circa 1600.

The Edwin Binney, 3rd, Collection of Turkish Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.85.237.44)

Plate showing the Night Journey (Mi'raj) of the Prophet Muhammad on the mythical steed Buraq with the archangel Gabriel and two Prophets, Noah and Idris, in the Second Heaven. 

One of 60 miniatures in Mir Haydar, Mira‘j-namehTimurid illuminated manuscript from Herat in Afghanistan showing other episodes in the Journey. 

The texts are in three languages: Turkish in Uigher script (main text), also Arabic titles and Persian and Arabic captions. Biblioth癡que Nationale de France

"The Mi'raj or The Night Flight of Muhammad on his Steed Buraq", Folio 3v from a Bustan of Sa`di. From Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

More from Charlottesville






Nazis in Charlottesville again tonight!

Breaking: Nazis Are Marching With Torches Again in Charlottesville Tonight

Richard Spencer and his band of Nazi idiots are marching again with torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, tonight.

They're chanting "You will not replace us" and "The South will rise again."

A link:

Marching to protest the racists, also in C'ville - Black Lives Matter chanting "All Black lives matter."
Video:

Harvest Moon over Empire State Building

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ken Livingstone and Ken Loach - antisemites

Just in case you thought that Ken Livingstone and Ken Loach were awesome socialist fighters for humanity, this is what they both said today:

Ken Livingstone:
Accusations of anti-Semitism came back to haunt the Labour Party after a fringe meeting appeared to compare the government in Israel to Nazi Germany.

Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, who is currently suspended for comments made about Adolf Hitler last year, says the issue is being "distorted." [This is what he said: "Hitler was "supporting Zionism before he went mad and killed six million Jews'"].

He told Julia Hartley-Brewer these people aren't inherently anti-semitic: "The simple fact is these issues are being raised by people like Wes Streeting and I think are completely distorting the scale of it.

"Some people have made offensive comments, it doesn’t mean they’re inherently anti-Semitic and hate Jews. They just go over the top when they criticise Israel.

"The people criticising Israeli government policy aren’t criticising people who are Jewish in Britain.

"They’re criticising a government like Jeremy Corbyn criticises Saudi Arabia for its abuse of many of its peoples."
So then what does make someone an antisemite? Death threats? Physical violence? Or could he justify those too?

And here's the interview with Ken Loach:
COBURN: There was a fringe meeting yesterday that we talked about at the beginning of the show where there was a discussion about the Holocaust, did it happen or didn’t it… would you say that was unacceptable?

LOACH: I think history is for us all to discuss, wouldn’t you?

COBURN: Say that again, sorry, I missed that.

LOACH: History is for all of us to discuss. All history is our common heritage to discuss and analyze. The founding of the state of Israel, for example, based on ethnic cleansing is there for us all to discuss. The role of Israel now is there for us to discuss. So don’t try to subvert that by false stories of anti-Semitism.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

When fascism comes to America, it comes flying the Nazi and Confederate flags

We were wrong to say that when fascism came to America, it would come wrapped in the American flag. The fascists in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past Friday night and Saturday, came carrying Nazi flags and Confederate flags, chanting antisemitic and racist slogans, including slogans taken from the German Nazi Party. President Trump tries to wrap himself in the American flag, but it keeps slipping, and we see the swastika and the stars and bars.

And about these men (they were mostly men), our president said:
"Not all of those people were neo-Nazis.... Not all of those people were white supremacists." 
"They didn't put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides." 
"You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly." 
"There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly, the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones."
In the torchlit procession on Friday night, bands of (mostly) men belonging to racist and antisemitic organizations chanted "Jews will not replace us," "Blood and soil," "White Lives Matter." They attacked the small group of student counter protestors standing at the statue of Thomas Jefferson - they were certainly not "protesting very quietly." And on Saturday afternoon, one of the neo-Nazis rammed his car into people protesting the Nazis and killed a woman, Heather Heyer. Nineteen other people were injured. Our president didn't say anything about her today, and when he mentioned her yesterday, he didn't give her name or saying anything about her.

The Nazis threatened the members of the local Reform synagogue, who were not given any protection by the police (see below for an account by the president of the synagogue).

Neo-Nazis and racists were euphoric with joy at what Trump said:
“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth,” David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, wrote in a Twitter post shortly after Mr. Trump spoke. 
Richard Spencer, a white nationalist leader who participated in the weekend’s demonstrations and vowed to flood Charlottesville with similar protests in the coming weeks, was equally encouraged. “Trump’s statement was fair and down to earth,” Mr. Spencer tweeted.....
The Reform synagogue in Charlottesville was repeatedly harassed on Saturday morning by bands of Neo-Nazis walking by. Alan Zimmerman, the president of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, wrote:
On Saturday morning, I stood outside our synagogue with the armed security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer during morning services. (Even the police department’s limited promise of an observer near our building was not kept — and note, we did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped). 
Forty congregants were inside. Here’s what I witnessed during that time. 
For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them, either. Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I’m paranoid. I don’t know. 
Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There's the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols. 
A guy in a white polo shirt walked by the synagogue a few times, arousing suspicion. Was he casing the building, or trying to build up courage to commit a crime? We didn’t know. Later, I noticed that the man accused in the automobile terror attack wore the same polo shirt as the man who kept walking by our synagogue; apparently it’s the uniform of a white supremacist group. Even now, that gives me a chill. 
When services ended, my heart broke as I advised congregants that it would be safer to leave the temple through the back entrance rather than through the front, and to please go in groups. 
This is 2017 in the United States of America. 
Later that day, I arrived on the scene shortly after the car plowed into peaceful protesters. It was a horrific and bloody scene. 
Soon, we learned that Nazi websites had posted a call to burn our synagogue. I sat with one of our rabbis and wondered whether we should go back to the temple to protect the building. What could I do if I were there? Fortunately, it was just talk – but we had already deemed such an attack within the realm of possibilities, taking the precautionary step of removing our Torahs, including a Holocaust scroll, from the premises. 
Again: This is in America in 2017. 
At the end of the day, we felt we had no choice but to cancel a Havdalah service at a congregant’s home. It had been announced on a public Facebook page, and we were fearful that Nazi elements might be aware of the event. Again, we sought police protection – not a battalion of police, just a single officer – but we were told simply to cancel the event. 
Local police faced an unprecedented problem that day, but make no mistake, Jews are a specific target of these groups, and despite nods of understanding from officials about our concerns – and despite the fact that the mayor himself is Jewish – we were left to our own devices. The fact that a calamity did not befall the Jewish community of Charlottesville on Saturday was not thanks to our politicians, our police, or even our own efforts, but to the grace of God.
Fortunately, there were other people who stood up for the Jewish community and against racism and antisemitism:
And yet, in the midst of all that, other moments stand out for me, as well. 
John Aguilar, a 30-year Navy veteran, took it upon himself to stand watch over the synagogue through services Friday evening and Saturday, along with our armed guard. He just felt he should. 
We experienced wonderful turnout for services both Friday night and Saturday morning to observe Shabbat, including several non-Jews who said they came to show solidarity (though a number of congregants, particularly elderly ones, told me they were afraid to come to synagogue). 
A frail, elderly woman approached me Saturday morning as I stood on the steps in front of our sanctuary, crying, to tell me that while she was Roman Catholic, she wanted to stay and watch over the synagogue with us. At one point, she asked, “Why do they hate you?” I had no answer to the question we’ve been asking ourselves for thousands of years. 
At least a dozen complete strangers stopped by as we stood in front the synagogue Saturday to ask if we wanted them to stand with us. 
And our wonderful rabbis stood on the front lines with other Charlottesville clergy, opposing hate.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Chicago Dyke March and Chicago SlutWalk are anti-Semitic

The Chicago Dyke March and Chicago SlutWalk aren’t anti-Zionist. They’re anti-Semitic, by Mark Joseph Stern (Slate).
Are you a Jew in Chicago who’d like to march for LGBTQ rights and gender equality? You’ll have to follow a few rules, helpfully laid out in recent weeks by the Chicago Dyke March and the Chicago SlutWalkFirst, you must not carry any “Zionist displays.” What are Zionist displays? That’s for others to decide. A Star of David might be OK. But if it’s on a rainbow flag, it probably isn’t because “its connections to the oppression enacted by Israel is too strong for it to be neutral.” 
Second, you must express solidarity with Palestine. Marching in a parade with a pro-Palestinian stance is not sufficient, nor is advocating for a Palestinian state. As an openly Jewish person, you’ll need to satisfy more heightened scrutiny; other marchers may repeatedly demand that you disavow Israel and swear allegiance to the Palestinian cause. You must comply with these demands or else you will be expelled.

Third, you must renounce any previous connections you have had with Israel. Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a group with ties to Israel? Repudiate and repent. Openly Jewish marchers are presumed to be in leaguewith the Israeli government unless they can prove otherwise.

One final note: If you are a journalist who covers the implementation of these rules, you deserve to lose your job.

Listed all at once, these guidelines may sound too blatantly anti-Semitic to be stated openly—yet they are, at present, the operating principles of two widely celebrated progressive movements in Chicago. Both the Dyke March and the SlutWalk allege that these rules are compelled by intersectionality, the theory that all forms of social oppression are linked. In reality, both groups are using intersectionality as a smokescreen for anti-Semitism, creating a litmus test that Jews must pass to be part of these movements. American progressives should reject this perversion of social justice. No coherent vision of equality can command the maltreatment of Jews.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mosaics in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem


Haaretz has an article today about the restoration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The church used to be covered inside by mosaics, some of which have survived to the present day, but have been obscured for many years by soot and dirt.
The Church of the Nativity was established in what is now the West Bank town of Bethlehem in the year 333 C.E. by Emperor Constantine, but that structure was destroyed in the Samaritan revolt in the 6th century and rebuilt in 560. From the period of the Crusades until 1492, the church underwent comprehensive renovation a number of times.

Since then, however, there have been only a few minor repairs. The Ottoman Turkish authorities constructed large support structures for the church after an earthquake threatened to bring down one of its exterior walls, and the British added wooden beams to support the walls. But in recent centuries, the church hasn’t undergone a thorough renovation.....
The cost of the renovations at the Church of the Nativity was about 18 million euros ($20.5 million), which was funded by the Palestinian Authority, the Vatican and other governments, along with a large number of contributors from the Palestinian business sector.

The renovations are being carried out by a family-owned Italian restoration firm called Piacenti with the assistance of Palestinian workers. Haaretz was given a tour of the site by the engineer in charge of the project, Ibrahim Abed Rabbo of Bethlehem; Marcello Piacenti, who heads the company that bears his name; and Franciscan Father David Grenier, the general secretary of the local Custody of the Holy Land, with oversight of holy places.

The greatest preservation challenge was restoring the huge mosaics that in the past covered the church’s walls. The restorers have estimated that only about 7 percent of the original mosaics remain – a million and a half tiles covering 125 square meters of space, compared to the more than 2,000 square meters in the past.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

New York Times interview with New Ithaca College President, Shirley Collado

New York Times publishes good article about our (Ithaca College) incoming president: At Ithaca College, a President Focused on Diversity.
Students at Ithaca College who sign up for intergroup dialogues in the coming semesters may have some interesting classmates: their professors. 
The discussion groups, where students, and now faculty and staff, come together to talk through challenging issues are among the many changes, big and small, that Shirley M. Collado, the incoming president of Ithaca College, has in mind as she sets out to usher in a new era at the institution. 
“Imagine an entire first-year class participating in an intergroup dialogue right as they come into town,” she said. “They’re living in the same residence hall, and they’re going to the first-year seminar, and they’re talking about religion and politics not just intellectually, but also in terms of their own lived experience, with people across roles.”
I like this idea. I teach a first year seminar, and last year, as a way for students to get to know each other better at the beginning of the semester, we did just this by exploring what "home" meant to all of the students. Home not just in the sense of the comfortable place they had all just come from to college, but also the conflicts between groups in their towns/cities and their high schools.
But as much as she leans on her studies to help her draft a new course for Ithaca College, the heart of Ms. Collado’s relationship with diversity lies in her life experience.
She is a first-generation college student, from Dominican parents, and grew up in a decidedly working-class home in Brooklyn. Her dad drove a yellow cab, her mom worked in a factory. College was never the assumed next step in life, like it is for so many who attend Ithaca College, but she was able to chart a path that began at Vanderbilt University as part of the inaugural class of the Posse Foundation. 
The pilot program grouped five students from mixed backgrounds in New York City together into a “posse,” offering them scholarships and introducing them even before their orientation, to help forge a sense of community from the start. Ms. Collado attributes a lot of her success to that experience, and she said it is a key element in how she personally looks at addressing diversity. 
Central to her diversity plan is just that: making diversity a core principle of how the college operates at every level, not just set apart into task forces and studies.
I also like this idea, and I'm very tired of task forces and studies on the topic. In two of my courses I have foregrounded "diversity" (I'm not so happy with the word - I'd rather say that I've foregrounded critical ways of thinking about race [as a constructed reality], religion, and political conflict].
A college cannot truly diversify until it has fully embraced all the aspects of diversity into its bloodstream, she said. Simply trying to recruit a diverse student body without centralizing the issue would just lead to the same diminishing returns many colleges have faced as they look for a more diverse student body. The faculty, staff and curriculum need to represent a diverse institution in order to bring about a truly diverse class. 
“You can’t change who’s coming in if you’re not willing to shift who you are,” Ms. Collado said.
I think she's right, and this was one of our problems - the college worked hard on diversifying the student body without thinking and doing very much about recruiting more diverse faculty and staff (although there were some initiatives in this direction).
She also sees a vast resource in partnerships with local community colleges to help usher in students with a wider array of life experiences. And right in downtown Ithaca is a branch of Tompkins Cortland Community College. “Community college students add a really interesting intergenerational component because they live different lives than the first-year students,” she said.
I've only had a few older students in my classes, and they have always added to the classroom experience. I hope that we will recruit more graduates of TC3 as well as other older students. I know that some college have special programs to bring in veterans - I think we should initiate a veterans' program at Ithaca College too. Perhaps it might also be a good idea to have IC becoming involved in the Posse program that our incoming president took part in. Another form of diversity that we have also really ignored is economic diversity - we need to recruit more working class and lower middle class students, and give them the opportunity to study at a great college. We shouldn't just be a college for 18-21 year olds from largely upper middle class families.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Jewish Voice for Peace Disrupt LGBT marchers in the New York Israel Parade

LGBT contingent at the New York Israel parade June 4

LGBT contingent at the New York Israel parade June 4

This year, Jewish Voice for Peace disrupted the Israel Parade in New York City. One of the groups they infiltrated and prevented from marching (temporarily) was Jewish Queer Youth - "a New York organization devoted to the health and well-being of at-risk LGBTQ Jewish youth. JQY runs a weekly Drop-in Center for LGBTQ teens from predominantly Orthodox and rejecting families. As our focus is the emotional and physical welfare of all LGBTQ young people in the Jewish community, we believe it is important that no one feels excluded from care because of their political, ideological, or denominational stance. Our membership reflects the full spectrum of Jewish feelings about Israel, and we support our youth on all sides of this important debate."

JVP disrupting the march.

JVP trying to block the LGBT banner.
This is a statement from JQY about the parade:
“Jewish Voice For Peace” infiltrators sabotage at-risk LGBTQ Jewish youth at the Celebrate Israel Parade 
What really happened this year in the LGBTQ Jewish marching group: 
This past Sunday, over 80 people courageously marched in the LGBTQ cluster of the New York Celebrate Israel Parade. JQY believes it is an incredible act of bravery for LGBTQ youth to proudly and openly march through an audience of over 40,000 predominantly religious Jews. Marchers included teens who were kicked out of their homes, schools, and synagogues just for being who they are. These are teens who often struggle with self-harm, suicidal ideation, and internalized shame. Yet almost miraculously, they muster up the courage to face the communities that rejected them. Their message to the Jewish community is very simple: "We all belong." As far as JQY is concerned, these youth are heroes.

However, in their moment of courage and pride, this most vulnerable cohort of the Celebrate Israel Parade was targeted for sabotage, bullying, and harassment by an organization called Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Seven JVP "disrupters" secretly infiltrated the LGBTQ marching cluster. They pretended to be part of our group, marching side by side with our teens. As our contingent approached 72nd Street, one of the JVP disrupters lunged toward our speaker system, pulling out as many wires as she could until our music went silent. At that moment, five other disrupters removed their shirts to reveal red shirts brandished with the words “DEADLY EXCHANGE” in black. In the absence of our music, they began yelling to cause a disturbance. They proceeded to block our marching banners with their own anti-Israel signs. The disrupters had formed a human chain, aimed at preventing our group from moving forward. Efforts to move forward were met with physical resistance, intimidation, and screaming. Finally, police and security swarmed into our group creating more disarray and fear. People were pushed, trampled, and shoved. Our marchers were terrified and shocked. In this confusion, some in our cluster thought it was a terror attempt and immediately fled the parade route. Ultimately, five JVP members were arrested. Despite this sabotage attempt, our group managed to turn the music back on and completed the march with our heads held high.
Such a brave group of people, JVP, picking on at-risk LGBT Jewish youth. The infiltrators wore t-shirts reading "Deadly Exchange" and held signs reading "Queer Jews for Palestine." How they thought that pushing and shoving fellow queer Jews would help the Palestinians is beyond me.

The Tablet article on the disruption reported on the words of Rebecca Vilkomerson:
Rebecca Vilkomerson, the Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said the LGBT marching contingent was “a carefully chosen target.” She explained that the protest was organized by “a group of queer Jews who feel strongly about gay rights not being used to pinkwash the occupation.” ....
“[The protest] was a hate crime,” said Mordechai Levovitz, the founding director of JQY. “The reason this happened is because we were lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgender and queer. They targeted us. They didn’t target another high school; they targeted us, the queer kids.” 
When asked whether or not it would have made a difference if the organization knew the number of minors that were in the group, and the extent of the vulnerability of the population, JVP’s Vilkomerson said, “No, we were just targeting the LGBT contingent [in general].”