Published on page 59 of the Fall 2011 issue of Leviathan.
Archive for the ‘Fall 2011 Issue’ Category
By Prescott Watson
I am a junior studying Economics and Latin American Latino Studies. I traveled to Israel and the Palestinian Territories this September, during a tumultuous time in the peace process; it was my first time there. Leaving Ramallah on the last day of my trip, I had the following reflections.
September 30th, 2011:
In the coming weeks the United States and Israel will face an immense international quandary as they try to block a bid in the United Nations to grant the Palestinians special statehood status. I traveled to Ramallah, the de facto capital of a future state, just two days before the Palestinian National Authority submitted its bid at the UN in New York City. I spent several hours in the city’s multi-day political rally for the unilateral declaration of statehood.
While I sat on a curb to rest, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab fed me pistachios and water. Her daughter, dressed like she could be from Orange County, translated our conversation. They wanted to know about plastic water bottle recycling in California. Later, a poet pushed his name and phone number onto me, asking me to show his work to my editors. Everywhere I squirmed through the crowd, adults mistook me for Chinese and flashed the peace sign, while children greeted me with “ni hao.” Between speeches at the central stage, live music played and people danced in the square shouting “freedom!”
Three flags were ubiquitous: the red, green, white and black Palestinian flag, another version surrounded by a checkered pattern, as well as a yellow flag with the emblem of Fatah, the ruling party in the West Bank. Children flanked the sides of streets, handing out water bottles and the yellow flag of Fatah. We couldn’t understand each other, but swarms of them wanted their photo taken with their flags.
I was surprised by the narrative the rally-goers told me. They supported the bid for statehood at the United Nations because they equated negotiations with defeat. Much as the extreme political right in Israel will only accept a one-state solution, the majority of people with whom I spoke said that the final solution would be one without a neighboring Jewish state. Several were the grandchildren of Palestinian refugees who continue to live in the Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah. “We have patience and the Jews will leave. Then we will return,” said a man who spoke with me on break from work. A schoolgirl translated our conversation. “Israel has too many problems itself and can’t continue to exist,” he said. Their words represent a popular vision among Palestinians: a deterministic view of history in which a solution to the conflict awaits those who can ride it out. They see history heading towards a destination and they are simply waiting for it to arrive.
But the work the Palestinians have ahead of them is daunting; underneath the fervor over their independence lie the ruins of a Palestinian state. Because the government has failed to negotiate a peace and independence with its neighbor, its bid at the United Nations leaves vital national issues unanswered. The government is terribly corrupt and often isn’t trusted by its people. It is severed into two parts, with the more extreme faction, Hamas, often disregarding the other’s demands. The deterministic view of the peace process that I saw in Ramallah is blind to these realities. Both the Palestinians and Israelis must make concerted efforts to create two viable states living side by side. The Palestinians lack adequate governance to maintain important infrastructure, including water management, electricity, education, police and defense, leaving people in jeopardy. And by unilaterally declaring independence, they risk nullifying all the progress made in back-door negotiations on everything from agricultural cooperation to hospital coordination.
Many of the young university students in the crowd weren’t fooled by the nationalist rhetoric at the rally. Khaled, a student from nearby Birzeit University, was disillusioned with progress towards a viable state. “I don’t know what’s next. Nothing will actually change.” We were standing just outside the crowd with a group of younger girls. Khaled is twenty years old, wore a polo and slacks and was badly deprived of sleep. He studies accounting and worries about job opportunities when he graduates in three years; but today he was at the rally to enjoy the dancing and music.
Among the thousands of celebrators, nearly all the rally-goers spewing vitriol were foreigners. Occasionally a boisterous, overjoyed Brazilian man would come by and shout “Free Palestine and fuck the Jews, fuck the Jews!” He forced the yellow flag of Fatah into my hands and held a lanky British man in tow.
Khaled laughed at the Brazilian, saying “and this is why there is no peace.” When the hooligans came back and continued to harass us, I prompted them with the scenario Khaled referenced. “If it passes and nothing changes,” the Briton says, puffing himself up, “if nothing changes we’ll fight Israel again.” The two disappeared through the crowd. I turned to Khaled, who looked at me and shrugged.
Published on page 54 of the Fall 2011 issue of Leviathan.
By Robin Liepman
I’m not going to be able to pull this off (attempts to pull off face…)
It’s unstable, strange, and I can’t seem to find the purpose.
But I’m stuck with it. It wraps around me constantly,
producing unsettling and alarming noises from the wacky bagpipe dangling from a one-way window
peering into the void until realizing that voidness is your own emptiness
and the swirling blizzard of the cosmos resides within
consistently blotting its escape to rein with the grand outer stars of space,
…I’m not going to be able to pull this off…
Because when we squeeze together as close as humanly possible, there is still an impasse, and as our eyes infinitely reflect each other’s shimmer back and forth, we try as hard as possible to merge our souls,
like two eggs waiting to be cracked and mixed together for cake batter,
but the dance towards union is only possible with this rubbery costume to navigate, move and jive in,
So… I don’t think I’m going to be able to pull this off…
For there are billions of amorphous colonies of bundles of trillions of cells, bouncing around and off of each other,
spinning tops on the table of the universe, spun near the edge, threatening to fall off the tippy top,
and that oceanic motion swirling and crashing and flowing back in
pushes and pulls at my every ligament,
stretching my stomach to the Earth, my heart to the Ocean, my legs to Asia and my head to the Middle East
So… I’m all discombobulated and definitely incapable of pulling this off…
Well, without this fleshy gangly jumble of gooey chords and bulbous processing systems,
I wouldn’t be able to try, for there would be nothing to pull off.
There would be no dancing, no struggle, no questioning, no words,
though I wouldn’t suffer, I also wouldn’t experience the feeling of being overcome with joy, eyes watering from complete awe and bliss with the one song universe,
being one individual while being one with the cosmos
consecutively united and autonomous, my ideal community.
So… maybe I don’t want to pull this off.
[[Written at a meeting this morning]]
Waking Up to Life
A dewey dawn day, rising chest stretched up to sunny sky,
portruding into the infinite, bursting beyond bright breaches,
casting cool shallow shadows upon the crevices of the
I caress the crevices of the cosmos,
circumnavigate the collision between you and I,
because when our stars burst together,
“there is no telling where you end and I begin.”
swirling and swooping,
hopping and hooting.
You bring me the joy of one thousand oranges,
bouncing upon beautiful bundles of blueberries.
My connections are strings, so I sew nets with my movements,
gracefully weaving webs and humming birdsongs
while roaring like lions and howling as a wolf.
I am constantly waking up more and more to life.
Thank you brain, eyes, heart, spirit, soul, and the whole.
We are whole, you are the One. Don’t you forget, but it’s fun to pretend.
[[Written on a very delightful morning]]
Published on page 50 of the Fall 2011 issue of Leviathan.
By Zora Raskin
Zora Raskin a junior majoring in Community Studies and Feminist Studies. She is currently on her field study in New Orleans, working with a prison industrial complex abolition organization called Critical Resistance. The following words are excerpts from her blog, militanthope.tumblr.com.
I started Good Intentions Co. as a lifeline to the outside world as I threw myself head first into the sea of the non-profit sector. This country is littered with good intentions that in reality cause more harm than good. I intend to avoid this fate. Originally ripped from the title of a Joanna Newsom song, Good Intentions Co. is an attempt to point out the problematic professionalization and cooptation of activism in the world right now. Good Intentions Co. references the heartbreak, nuance and struggle of being an organizer today.
On Being a Women in the Occupy Movement
Being a female-identified intellectual means gearing up for combat on the daily. The Occupy Movement is not an exception to this. Bell Hooks, Staceyann Chin, Assata Shakur and Angela Davis; I remember these warriors and elders and try to let them inform and inspire me.
I have currently been throwing myself heart-first into Occupy New Orleans. After a particularly jarring General Assembly in which female voices were continually silenced, including my own, I called a comrade from Critical Resistance who gave me an incredible piece of wisdom:
Me: I don’t think I can keep organizing in this space.
Comrade: Tomorrow morning, are you going to wake up and still
Comrade: Well then, what are you going to do about it?
The moment you think you don’t have any power is the moment you give power away. So here I will use my voice to channel my power. I feel that women’s voices and folks of color are being silenced in this occupation and in this movement.
Let me be clear: silencing is more than speaking over someone. Silencing is not being open to the concept of discussing white male privilege. Silencing is scoffing and rolling one’s eyes when someone is speaking. Silencing is questioning whether certain view points and emotions are rational or legitimate. Silencing is asserting one’s power, intentionally or unintentionally, causing someone else to not be heard. It is not a surprise that this is happening in this occupation because this is the legacy that has been passed down to us, a legacy that we must each take full responsibility for if we hope to change. We all have the power to resist and change these cycles of oppression and it starts with the interpersonal. It starts with your mother, your friends, your lovers, your comrades and spreads. Listen to the women around you. Do not ask anyone to quantify or qualify their experience, but instead understand the invisibility of privilege and how those who are oppressed must be respected as the foremost experts.
On similar note, I am wary of the very masculine definition of radicalism that I have seen continually crop up in my organizing history. A definition where you must earn your stripes in the street and to be arrested means glory. Are we really asking a single mother who works two jobs to pick up her children and then put on a mask to face down riot police? For those without documentation to risk deportation in order to participate in live-streamed General Assemblies and highly policed direct actions? For this movement to become a revolution we must find ways for every person to resist, we must understand the privileges that allow us to be in these spaces and participate in direct action. So often “the most radical” folks are defined as those who will leave anything behind, stop at nothing to win. But so often those left behind are women, children and those who need liberation the most.
This political moment will shape our conversations and politics for years to come. To see thousands of people willing to be brutalized by the cops and forsake their warm beds to speak dissent to authority is a beautiful thing. But we must never forget where we come from and our untold histories of oppression that play out in our daily lives. The 1% is a symptom of the structures that affect everything from how much your bank loan is, to how we speak and listen to each other in General Assemblies. The moment you stop questioning how you have internalized these power structures is the moment you lose.
An Open Letter to All Cat Callers
I recently had a conversation with a young male activist about cat calling and verbal harassment. He seemed to think that deep down women enjoyed this sort of attention…
Dear Cat Callers,
The idea that yelling at a women from across the street about “how fine she looks” is a compliment was a concept definitely created by a man. There is a myth that women need constant affirmation on their appearance and that all comments are good comments. Every sitcom, at one point or another, likes to play with the “feminist who is actually only concerned with male perceptions of herself” bit. Hilarious, undermining female empowerment just cracks me up. But I digress.
For all those cat callers out there, I am going to paint you a picture. It is a Wednesday. I wake up early to find that I am out of coffee. Disgruntled and stressed, I throw on some clothes and prepare to take my five minute walk to the closet cafe. Glancing in the mirror I resist the urge to wonder “what does this outfit says about me” and whether or not it is accentuating the parts of my body that pop culture has deemed as “problem areas.” “Capitalist, patriarchal bullshit,” I think to myself. Halfway down the block I am passed by a truck captained by a young male who feels the need to slow down and comment on “how good I look in that dress” and how “fine” my ass is.
Now here is me, trying to leave behind society’s expectations of me as a women and as a sex object and merely exist between the hours of 8 and 9am. However, simply leaving my house makes some men feel they have the right to instantly put me back in my place as first and foremost a body. Before anything else, women in the United States are evaluated by their physical appearance. Because I left my house, others think they have the right to sexualize me. These comments, however subtle, do not serve as compliments. They are tools to put me in my place. They serve the purpose of reminding me how far we still have to go.
So what do I do with the man in the truck? I would love to stand in the street and loudly list how, in every way, he is a complete and utter misogynist pig. But do I? No. I notice that he has a couple friends with him, that I am alone on this street and that there are a few blocks between me and my destination. No, I keep my head down and keep moving.
These comments do not only serve to humiliate and disrespect me, they also make the male a threat. If you feel you have the right to comment in such a way about my body, what else do you feel you have the “right” to do with my body? This is not simply an oppressor vs. victim situation. These instances serve to perpetuate the power inequalities between men and women, which are harmful to men as well as women. I am forced to leave the house with a shield up judging all those who approach me. Men suddenly become guilty until proven innocent. Is this something you would wish on your daughter? Your mother? Your sister? How do these power dynamics affect those relationships? Just because you are the oppressor does not mean you are immune from the harm you are creating.
So no. It is not a compliment. On the inside I don’t “sort of like the attention.” It is a harmful, disrespectful, and intolerable practice that has been completely normalized within our society. While some may read this and still think this is just a small issue on the laundry list of worldly woes, I must stress how this “small” issue is the canary in the mine for a society that enacts violence towards women daily. Feminism comes last, the idea of gender oppression is barely understood even in supposedly radical circles. Just so we are all clear, this shit was not resolved back in 1969.
So this is a letter to all those men who think they have a right to comment, from a women who just wants to leave her house and feel safe in a world that I occupy with just as much space and purpose and value as you do.
Published on page 27 of the Fall 2011 issue of Leviathan.
By Antaeus Edelsohn
Here at UC Santa Cruz, set in the heart of a redwood forest, the air tinged with the faint aroma of marijuana and a general ‘laissez faire’ attitude, it is hard to imagine anti-Semitism being a current and present threat. That is the dirty little secret though; that is the overshadowed truth. From swastikas scrawled on university buildings to the Star of David joined with images of 9/11, the seeds of hatred and Judeophobia are clear to see.
At the end of the 2010-2011 academic year, members of the UCSC Student Union Assembly (SUA) denounced the formation of the Jewish Studies major and condemned the administration for allowing the major to commence, while the UC system is dropping Community and American Studies due to lack of state funding. This situation caused some SUA members and numerous other students to speak out against what they perceive as a ‘Jewish agenda pushed by Jewish administrators.’ What these detractors fail to realize is that while the state funding to the UC System was just slashed by $500 million in response to the economic recession, the new Jewish Studies major is privately funded by independent donors. And this information isn’t private or hidden, but rather quite accessible on the department website to anybody interested. It seems though some people would rather blame the Jews than find out the facts. Either that, or they don’t care.
For everyone who has heard of UC Santa Cruz and its liberal and progressive views, it should come as no surprise that the university espouses the ideas of social justice, global consciousness and other civic-minded perspectives in the core courses offered to freshmen. With so much dedication to such moral values, it is hard to believe that the university, as well as individual colleges, so generously support programs events and speakers who delegitimize Israel, one of the world’s foremost democratic, free and liberal countries.
Various UCSC colleges and departments have funded and supported speakers like Noam Chomsky, Abdul Malik Ali, Jody McIntyre and Norman Finkelstein, all of whom have publicly supported terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and the militant wings of the PLO. Seeing this, one cannot help but wonder at what sinister game is really going on. These colleges and departments include but are not limited to: Cowell College, Colleges 9 and 10, the Humanities department, the Politics department, the Sociology department and the Feminist Studies department. When these colleges and departments sponsor and encourage students to attend events which blame Israel for the conflict in the Middle East, while denying or avoiding both Arab and Palestinian culpability, it is impossible to deny the biased bent. Such events include, but are not limited to: the screening of Occupation 101, the academic conferences ‘Alternative Histories Within and Beyond Zionism,’ and ‘Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza’.
Similarly, even when the administration pretends to show its bipartisanism on the issue by supporting events which attempt to rephrase the conflict, like the recent screening of Between T wo Worlds, they are in actuality belittling legitimate complaints which the Jewish community files and the oppressive situation which many students are forced to endure. Not to mention the deeper and more disturbing messages in the film, which imply that an adherence to many traditional Jewish values is antiquated and of little or no use to modern Jews. Such an obvious slap in the face of the Jewish community is hard to ignore.
This is not to say that there can be no criticism of Israel, Israeli policy or the like. That type of discussion has the potential to be constructive, educational, would certainly have a place on our campus and would not be considered anti-Semitic. The problem is when the criticism is focused on bashing Israel’s existence or its Jewish heritage and culture. Even the Unites States Commission on Civil Rights has publicly stated that vitriolic attacks of Israel that go beyond the boundaries of pragmatic criticism are anti-Semitic hate speech. To deny and attack that aspect of Israel goes well beyond the borders of what is accepted criticism and becomes merely an assault of Jews and the idea of Jewish self-determination, thus falling directly under the realm of anti-Semitism.
We also see professors and lecturers who seem unable to contain themselves from jumping on the Israel or surreptitious Jew-bashing band-wagon. In private discussions with various students (their names are omitted with respect to their privacy), I have found some professors who have strayed from their assigned subjects and class topics to denigrate Israel. When attempting to confront these teachers on their digressions, the students were ostracized or subject to slurs. Similarly, the students who disagreed with the erroneous and often fictitious claims faced verbal abuse. I have personally faced similar situations, from both professors and students. One particular incident that stands out was when the Committee for Justice in Palestine (CJP) held a rally for the destruction of Israel. Held in the Quarry Plaza, students and community members held signs and chanted slogans that called for the destruction of Israel and the elimination of the ‘Zionist entity.’ There were also students carrying balloons that had swastikas drawn on them and remarks comparing Gaza to Auschwitz. That day, the Quarry was steeped in one-sided hate. Despite this clear breech of campus regulation and protocol, the university issued no reprimand, formal or casual.
For the sake of clarity, it should be stated that I am not against free speech or the blind stifling of ideas. We live in a free country in which individuals have the freedom, within reason, to exercise their first amendment rights to the limit. Sometimes anti-Semitic comments and anti-Israel comments unfortunately fall under protected speech. What I would like to point out is that the University of California has rules, regulations and obligations which are more restrictive than what the first amendment allows. Thus, when the university or its representatives, departments and/or professors, make such biased and hurtful anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements (implicitly or explicitly), not only are they soiling the idea that a university should be a place of rational learning, but they are letting down all the students they are supposed to be protecting. Simply put, the support of such events as those listed above would be akin to the university sponsoring a lecture by a leader of the Ku Klux Klan or some other White Supremacist group.
By now some are probably thinking, “Okay, so Israel is being de-legitimized, but that doesn’t mean anti-Semitism per-se.” That is wrong. I, as well as the other students mentioned, am Jewish. Each of us has been singled out because of our Jewishness, and by extension, our relationship with the State of Israel. We are singled out and called names like “baby killer,” “racist,” “Nazi” and more. We are the receivers of malicious questions intended only to wound rather than inform. We are often held accountable for the breakdowns in the peace process. Just last week, an economics professor asked me, “How can one justify supporting Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, when his right wing politics are clearly a roadblock to peace with the moderate Mahmoud Abbas?” Without going into a long discussion about how Abbas is anything but moderate, this kind of question would never be asked of a pro-Palestinian student. Not to mention, it is simply unconscionable to think that even the most well-intentioned of professors would ask an Afghani student (I am friends with a few on this campus) about President Hamid Karzai’s recent statement announcing support for Pakistan over the United States. Yet it is somehow okay to ask these kinds of unfair questions of the Jewish students. When we look at this selective targeting, it becomes clear that Jews and Zionists are the only ones under the microscope. So where does this rate on the anti-Semitic scale? I am willing to accept the idea that not all anti- Zionists are anti-Semitic, but thus far, I have yet to meet one.
The list of incidents mentioned above, as well as many other unlisted incidents, does not start or stop here. These are merely the latest in what seems like a progressive campaign to subtly and imperceptibly teach anti-Semitism to each new crop of UC Santa Cruz students. This article is not the first to pick up the foul scent of racism and double standards: recently, a lecturer and long-time staff member of UCSC filed a detailed complaint with the federal government regarding the university and the administration’s lack of action and/or protect students. While the complaint predominantly deals with the university administration’s role in the rise and acceptance of anti-Semitism on the campus, a position which can be debated, one cannot deny the disturbing trend of anti-Semitic actions in the inter-student and student-staff incidents it recounts.
All of this paints a clear and simple picture: anti-Semitism is undeniably a clear and present threat, just as real today as it was over sixty years ago. In an article recently released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)*, the recorded number of anti-Semitic incidents rose in 2010 over the tallies for 2009, with the largest increase geographically occurring in California. We can also see spikes in anti-Semitic cartoons whenever Israel features more prominently in the news. Though the mechanism of expression has evolved and the methods of dissemination are less didactic than those of the past, the sentiments are the same; the same isolation of Jewish identity and the same ostracism to which Jews have been subject in the past. There are some who would argue that the anti-Semitism of the past is just that, past. However, the experiences and events related above tell a different tale. While anti-Semitism has certainly changed from the type practiced by the Nazi regime, growing stealthier and more oblique, it is most certainly an issue here at UCSC, the untouched skeleton in the UC closet.
*You can find the ADL article here: http://www.adl.org/PresRele/ ASUS_12/6128_12.html
Published on page 44 of the Fall 2011 issue of Leviathan.
An Open Letter to Israel Law Center: Why we should worry about the hotline to monitor anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity on college campusesIn Essays, Fall 2011 Issue, Israel, Judaism and Society on November 23, 2011 at 10:59 am
By Savyonne Steindler
Dear Israel Law Center,
While aimlessly perusing the Jerusalem Post, I came across an article that directly relates to Jewish American university students like me: “Israel Law Center hotline to monitor campus anti-Semitism,” by Joanna Paraszczuk.1 In this article, your director of American affairs, Kenneth A. Leitner, says that you are concerned about us. You are afraid we are “victimized by extremist groups promoting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate.” It is really great that you want campuses like my own to be “safe and secure for Jewish students, without distraction, intolerance, antagonism and most importantly, violence.” However, I am a little concerned about your methods. You created a hotline for Jewish students to call to report “anti-Semitism and anti-Israel acts” and are planning to use this information to take “legal action.” You are even going to begin issuing “report cards” for different universities, grading them based on “their commitment to providing Jewish students with a safe and welcoming learning environment.” I am all for feeling safe. I believe it is incredibly important that students feel secure at their universities! How else can we feel free to express our newly developing ideas about the world and our own places within it? Unfortunately, I do not think your hotline is going to make my campus any safer. By grouping criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, implying that those who speak out against Israel are terrorists and attempting to prevent Jewish youth from being exposed to alternative opinions about Israel, you perpetuate the ideas that create a polarized discussion about Israel on campuses like UC Santa Cruz.
Anti-Israel and/or Anti-Semitic?
Several elements of your plan make me uncomfortable. Although the intended purpose of your hotline is to “monitor campus anti- Semitism,” Leitner states that the hotline is to be used for students to report “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate.” You take for granted that criticism of Israel falls into the category of anti-Semitism, which is far from hegemonic truth. In my mind, anti-Semitism is hate or discrimination that is directed towards Jews because of their Jewishness. There are many arguments that liberal Zionists and anti-Zionists make against Israel that do not obviously fall into this definition. Israel is a nation-state and like any other nation-state, we should be able to question its policies and even its existence. Arguments to the contrary are reminiscent of early Bush-era patriotism which informed the belief that Americans who opposed the Iraq war were anti-American. When you deny people the right to voice “anti-Israel” opinions by labeling them as anti-Semitic, you elevate Israel to a transcendent position beyond reproach or analysis. Like any other nation-state, Israel is run by people with political goals, subjective ideologies, and fallibility. Pointing out its shortcomings does not have to be anti-Semitic, but in fact can be politically responsible. I resent that you intend to use the concept of anti-Semitism as a basis for taking legal action against political dissenters.
That being said, the boundary between anti-Semitism and aggression towards Israel is often hard to discern because hostility towards Israel and Zionism may sometimes be motivated by or lead to anti-Semitism. The fact that breaches of humanitarianism in Israel are given far more attention than those in countries like China, Sudan, and Zimbabwe is curious. And although the problems critics find in Zionism are also present in almost any other nationalism, this fact is rarely acknowledged. Anti-Semitism may be informing the belief in the particularity of the Israeli government and Zionism’s evils. I can also accept that sometimes resentment towards Israel can turn into bitterness towards Jews. Comments on youtube videos or news articles that deal with Israel quickly turn anti-Semitic, just as strong Zionist beliefs seem to transform into Islamophobia in many Jews, including some of my relatives. There can be a link between critique of Israel and anti-Semitism, but I believe that link is something slippery and speculative. It is hard to prove that an activist who chooses to focus on helping people living in the West Bank is motivated by underlying anti-Semitic sentiments. Unless an individual crosses the boundary of disparaging the Israeli government or populace to speaking out against the entire Jewish people, I believe it will be hard for you to convincingly argue that a person who is “anti-Israel” merits the label anti-Semite and a law suit.
Another problem with equating criticism of Israel with anti- Semitism is the fact that since the inception of modern Zionism, anti-Zionism has been in part a Jewish phenomenon. In the same year that Theodore Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress to discuss a nationalist and territorialist solution to the problem of the persecution of the Jews, Jewish socialists formed the Bund, offering the very different solution of socialist revolution and cultural autonomy, and the historian Simon Dubnow, who proposed that there are multiple, migrating centers of Jewish life, was alive and well. Zionism was and still is one of many approaches Jews take towards understanding their Jewishness. You do not seem to recognize that some of the loudest voices criticizing Israel are Jewish. I have heard my friends and family refer to these anti-Zionist Jews as “self-hating Jews,” implying that Zionist inclinations are fundamental to Jewishness. Perhaps you, Israel Law Center, also deny these critics’ Jewishness so that you can easily dismiss their arguments. However, nationalism is a new phenomenon, and there were Jews before it came into being. It can even be argued that since modern Zionism developed out of a desire for the Jews to have a nation-state as all other nations do, it is not fundamentally Jewish at all. In your effort to protect Jewish students by shielding them from “anti-Israel” groups and behavior, you decline to acknowledge that Zionism has always been up for debate in Jewish communities. The kind of speech and acts you wish to eliminate do not only come from “student organizations that may have ties to terrorist organizations,” but from some of the very Jewish students you aim to protect.
Wait…You’re Supposed to be Fighting Terrorism?
According to your website, you are “an Israeli based civil right [sic] organization and world leader in combating the terrorist organizations and the regimes that support them through lawsuits litigated in courtrooms around the world.2” That is all well and good, but how did your fight against terrorism bring you to the decision to begin monitoring college campuses for anti-Semitism? You give an answer to this question, but I do not find it very satisfying. According to Leitner, you speculate that there is a “connection between anti-Israel activists, organizations and activities in the US and Middle Eastern terrorism.” Even if this conjecture is justified, tackling student organizations that benefit from or sponsor terrorist groups is an entirely different project from stopping campus anti-Semitism. Hotline complaints from Jewish students will not provide you with the kind of evidence that you need (like records of financial and material exchanges) to substantiate your belief in a connection between terrorist and anti-Israel clubs on campuses. In creating this hotline you are either deviating from your explicit purpose of “bankrupting terrorism” or, without proof, are considering any persons espousing anti-Israel beliefs to be terrorists. Obviously, conflating those who criticize Israel with terrorists is problematic because by doing so, you undermine the validity of these critics’ arguments before even hearing them. In rhetorically turning these people into terrorists, you foreclose any potential for conversation and understanding while simultaneously justifying your efforts to silence opposing views.
Are Anti-Israel Ideas Really that Dangerous?
If, in fact, we consider that everyone who criticizes Israel may not be a terrorist or linked to terrorism, we may find that your proposal
to take legal action against anti-Israel organizations or the universities that support them is unreasonable and even repressive. You want to make Jewish students feel safe, but perhaps exposure to people who criticize Israel is not such a terrible thing. Although I am not a Zionist, because I think nationalism is dangerous, I admit that I have felt uncomfortable around people who are hostile to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. I have even experienced fear as I realized that the Zionists and Israelis these critics were disparaging were my loving and well-intentioned siblings and cousins. This dissonance between how some critics of Israel portray the people supporting the Israeli state and how I feel about particular Zionists brought me to question my beliefs about Zionism and Israel. My discomfort motivated me to think about my own visions for Israel’s future in ways I never had before. I had to form a working knowledge about nation-states, cultural citizenship, and the problems of a religious democracy just to feel at peace with myself. Confronting opinions that differ radically from our own is important. These encounters lead us through the often painful process of rethinking our assumptions. We can learn to reconcile seemingly conflicting truths, pick apart axioms we never thought to examine, or continue to stand by familiar beliefs with a renewed confidence in their veracity. If you, Israel Law Center, are successful in silencing the organizations that criticize Israeli policy and question Israel’s claim to statehood you will be denying yourself a generation of American Jews that cling to their beliefs out of conviction instead of by default.
Why should Jewish students like me, who do not feel victimized by anti-Israel activity on their campuses, even care that you are setting up a hotline that will have little or no impact on their daily lives? Ironically, in trying to fix what you perceive to be dangerous criticism of Israel, along with the very important problem of campus anti-Semitism, you perpetuate the beliefs that inform an incredibly polarized debate about Israel. As I have argued above, you view Zionism as integral to Jewishness and associate “anti-Israel” politics with anti- Semitism, danger, and terrorism. In turning your anti-Israel opposition into anti-Semites and terrorists, you make compromise or a moderate stance impossible. Your hotline is grounded in the same conceptions of Jewishness and Zionism that I have witnessed in my family members and at UCSC. My father, an active participant in the fight to silence anti-Zionist groups, has told me many times that he hopes I will return to “our side,” as if my criticism of some Israeli legislation and strategies has turned me into the enemy. Like you, he also believes that a person is either entirely for Israel or is the force out to destroy it. Similarly, at UCSC there seem to be three positions on Israel: fervent Zionists for whom criticism of Israel equates to anti-Semitism, activists whose aim is the dissolution of the Israeli state and the exile of the occupiers and the apathetic who are disillusioned and put off by the former groups and feel there is no alternative but detached disinterest. For students like me who fall in the third category, there seems to be no middle ground. When we say how we feel about Israel, we are spurned from both directions, so we just try not to think about it at all. Israel Law Center, your hotline is part of a bigger problem. If you are really concerned about making Jewish university students feel secure, perhaps it is time to start a new project: fighting the polarization of the discussion about Israel by creating understanding and respect between people of different beliefs.
Published on page 38 of the Fall 2011 issue of Leviathan.
By Shani Chabansky
It’s easy to tell when you’re about to really click with someone; they say just what you’re thinking, they wear what you might wear yourself, everything seems to shout “new friend!” Such was my experience with Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow, the two filmmakers responsible for the hot, new documentary everyone in the Jewish community is talking about: Between Two Worlds. As Kaufman brewed a pot of peppermint tea, I felt as though we had already shared several groundbreaking conversations, the kinds that feel as if you have collectively shifted multiple paradigms. And as we exchanged an obligatory formal handshake, one glance into Snitow’s brow-line glasses was all I needed to feel right at home in the office.
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By Karin Gold
On the night of October 17th 2011, I sat down at my computer and tried to find whatever news I could find on the release of Gilad Shalit. While attempting to find a news website that could verify the rumors of Shalit’s return home, I called my mother to see if she had heard any- thing from family and friends. You know how they say that everyone is connected through six degrees of separation? Well, in Israel it is four or less. My mom’s friend’s daughter grew up with Gilad’s sister. These few degrees of separation make it very hard to hear about something as monumental as this and not care or be involved. As an Israeli living in the US, it was difficult to explain this piece of history to people here. I would say something along the lines of, “Gilad Shalit is coming home! A soldier that was captured over five years ago is finally coming home! In exchange for 1,027 prisoners, we are getting him back alive!” The most common response to this was, “1,027? Is that even worth it? What’s so special about him anyway?” Hopefully, in reading this, you will under- stand why this is an important piece of history, and why he is special. Not just to me, but to all of Israel.
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By Aaron Giannini
Dear Abbyraham is a column in which anyone can write questions or voice their opinions pertaining to Judaism and Jewish issues. Well, not anyone. Not illiterates. Although, they could get someone to write for them. But I digress.
Feel free to submit your questions or comments to email@example.com.
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And all at once it came to me and I wrote and hunched ‘til four-thirty
But that vestal light, it burns out with the night
In spite of all the time that we spend on it, on one bedraggled ghost of a sonnet
While outside the wild boars root, without bending a bough underfoot
Oh, it breaks my heart, I don’t know how they do it
So don’t ask me!
–Joanna Newsom, “Inflammatory Writ”
Writing is the art of telling a story. A good story has a moral and the best stories make it difficult to sleep at night. A storyteller must challenge her readers and the best storytellers have a strong voice. You can find stories everywhere, in school, in newspapers and in governments. Right now you’re holding several stories in your hands.
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