Sunday, April 21, 2019

"He should resign and be tried for his crimes" - our traitor President

From Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo:
The simple takeaway from the Mueller Report is the President betrayed his country and spent two years lying and breaking the law to try to hide that fact. He should resign and be tried for his crimes.

Monday, April 15, 2019

"Our hearts are with the ... legends of Notre Dame, real and fictional"

Photo is from the AP (Thibault Camus), April 15, 2019

Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel, on Twitter: 
@notredameparis is one of the most beautiful symbols of #Paris and of #France, and also one of its most important cultural symbols. In January, I looked over the skyline of the city and the spires of the cathedral made it even more beautiful.  Our hearts are with the people of #France and the legends of @notredameparis, real and fictional, and we pray it will stand in eternity.
4 hours ago

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Beresheet - Israeli spacecraft, crashes on the Moon

Beresheet got very close to the moon, but didn't succeed with a controlled landing. These are a couple of photos from it - the first one is a "selfie" with the moon in the background, the second is another photo of the moon from the spacecraft.



The last photo Beresheet took before it crashed.
It was 22 km above the surface of the Moon.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Changes at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

From the Times of Israel:

Report: Temple Mount section sealed since 2003 reopened to Palestinians


MK Ahmad Tibi visits compound, calls for full Muslim control at Al-Aqsa and the barring of ‘settlers and Jewish politicians from the right’

By TOI STAFF and AP 23 February 2019, 5:06 pm



Palestinian worshipers gather before Friday noon prayers at the premises of the Golden Gate in al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, on February 22, 2019 (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

A section of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount that has been closed by Israeli court order for over 15 years was reopened to Palestinian worshipers Saturday, Army Radio reported.

It was not immediately clear who had ordered the reopening of the Gate of Mercy, or Golden Gate, or what was the cause for the reversal in policy.

MK Ahmad Tibi of the joint Hadash-Ta’al party visited the compound by the Al-Aqsa Mosque and said its opening was “an important and significant step.”

He added that Muslims and the Waqf, custodians of the holy site, “should be given full control of the mosque, without the entry of settlers and Jewish politicians from the right,” according to Army Radio.

On Friday thousands of Palestinian protesters chanting “Allahu Akbar” streamed into the sealed-off area of Al-Aqsa during prayers. Israeli police said the crowds dispersed peacefully afterward.

The Gate of Mercy was sealed by Israeli authorities in 2003 because the group managing the area had ties to Hamas, and it has been kept closed to stop illegal construction work there by the Waqf. Israeli officials believe the work has led to the destruction of antiquities from periods of Jewish presence in the area.

Tensions have escalated at the contested compound. Similar protests turned into scuffles with police earlier this week. Anticipating unrest, police arrested 60 Palestinians Thursday overnight suspected of “causing disturbances.”

Police accused the Waqf of trying to “change the status quo” at the sensitive site by convening in the closed area last week.

The Temple Mount, the location of the biblical Jewish Temples, and now of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock shrine, has in recent years become an epicenter of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinian fears about purported Israeli plans to change the 52-year arrangement on the Temple Mount — where the Waqf maintains administrative control and the Israel Police security control — have become a daily staple in Palestinian political rhetoric and media reports in recent years. Multiple car-rammings, stabbings and shootings have been attributed by Palestinian attackers to the alleged efforts by Israel to alter the status quo at the site, according to which Jews may visit but not pray there.

The Israeli government has insisted it does not intend to change the status quo.

New push for divestment from Cornell's pro-BDS groups

Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine are starting a new campaign to get Cornell to divest from Israel companies that they consider "war-profiteering." Five years ago they tried to get the Student Assembly to approve their divestment vote, with complete lack of success. [Their account is that a "sickeningly racist campus climate revealed itself" when the Assembly voted to table the resolution, but the account by Legal Insurrection that shows there's no basis for their claim that racism led to the rejection of BDS]. Now they're trying again, in an announcement replete with florid denunciations. I particularly like the rhetorical flourish that Cornell is guilty of being built on "stolen Cayuga land," as if that has anything to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So in 2019, BDS measures will unravel differently. at this Ivory Tower on stolen Cayuga land. BDS will be put “back on the table” in the form of a Student Assembly resolution authored by SJP and backed by 20+ organizations. We will publicly name endowment investments in war-profiteering Israeli entities, demand immediate action to secure their severance, and hold university leadership responsible for complicity in crimes of apartheid.

Check out the letter delivered to President Martha Pollack Monday morning. We are thankful for the Palestine support and solidarity present on Cornell's campus.
They haven't yet named the "war-profiteering Israeli entities" that they demand the administration take out of the Cornell endowment.

Legal Insurrection, a conservative blog run by Cornell law professor William Jacobson, has more details and will I'm sure follow this story closely. I tend not to agree with him on other political issues, but I think he's usually on the mark when it comes to the BDS movement.

Netanyahu welcomes Kahanists into Israeli mainstream politics

Israel goes to elections on April 9 for a new Knesset (parliament).

Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel (leader of the Likud Party), who has a possible indictment for corruption hanging over his head, has just organized a merger between the Bayit Yehudi party ("Jewish Home" party, including its faction "National Union," led by Bezalel Smotrich) and the Otzma Yehudit party ("Jewish Power" party). The name of the new party is "Ihud Mifleget ha-Yamin" - Union of Right-Wing Parties. As Gershom Gorenberg writes in the Washington Post, "Netanyahu’s Faustian pact with the racist right is about saving his own skin."

Otzma Yehudit has no members in the current Knesset (Israeli Parliament), while Bayit Yehudi is one of Netanyahu's coalition partners. Bayit Yehudi lost two of its leaders, Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett, when they left to form their own party - "New Right" - with the goal of uniting religious and secular right-wing nationalists.

What is the platform of the New Right party?

From the Israel Policy Forum:
West Bank Area C annexation, which would necessitate the formalization of an apartheid regime, is a central plank for the party. Other Hayamin Hehadash candidates include Shuli Mualem, an MK with theocratic leanings, and Caroline Glick, who supports annexing the West Bank in its entirety with a political litmus test for Palestinian residents. Thus, the strongest distinction between Hayamin Hehadash members from their peers in the smaller rightist lists is that Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked are telegenic and make a point of presenting a cleaner, camera-friendly image.
Bezalel Smotrich

According to the Israel Policy Forum, "The rump party left in their wake contained its most extreme subgroup, Tkuma, headed up by Bezalel Smotrich. Then the list risked splitting again, with Rabbi Rafi Peretz handed the reins to Bayit Yehudi (a job Smotrich wanted) and forced to renegotiate the umbrella Bayit Yehudi relationship with Tkuma."

IPF says of Smotrich:

There should be no mistaking just how extreme Tkuma is. Faction leader Bezalel Smotrich espouses openly racist and homophobic views without any of the usual sugarcoating. Tkuma supports Israeli annexation of the entire West Bank, going even further than Bennett and Shaked, whose aim to absorb Area C (60 percent of the land) is itself absurd. Meanwhile, Smotrich co-founded the NGO Regavim, which advocates against Bedouin building within Israel and petitions for the destruction of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories. The group already receives funding from local governments in the West Bank settlements.
What is the Otzma Yehudit party? IPF writes that Otzma Yehudit is the party of Baruch Marzel, who "got his start in the now-illegal Kach party of fundamentalist Rabbi Meir Kahane." In the 2015 election, the Israeli Supreme Court blocked him from running for Knesset. "Smotrich is pushing the idea of a merger between Tkuma, Bayit Yehudi, Otzma Yehudit, and Yachad (former Shas leader Eli Yishai’s party)."

More on the leaders of Otzma Yehudit:

Otzma is led by students of Rabbi Meir Kahane, including former MK Michael Ben-Ari, Hebron activist Baruch Marzel, Benzi Gopstein, who leads an organization opposing Jewish-Muslim marriages, and far-right activist attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir. Kahane was elected to the Knesset in the 1980s and subsequently banned on grounds of racist incitement; Marzel was his parliamentary aide.
What are the policies supported by Otzma Yehudit:
Established in 2012 as Otzma Leyisrael by Ben Ari and Ayreh Eldad, many of the views espoused by the party are akin to those backed by some of the Knesset’s most hardline MKs — annexation of the entire West Bank and unrestricted settlement construction; opposition to a Palestinian state and punitive military operations in response to terror attacks; further emphasis on Israel’s Jewish character in the education, social, and judicial systems. 
However, the ultra-nationalist party adds to those positions a host of more overtly racist ones. It supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel, and expelling Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who refuse to declare loyalty and accept sub-equal status in an expanded Jewish state whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank — the biblical Judea and Samaria. It also calls for a termination of the fragile status quo on the Temple Mount. 
On February 20, Bayit Yehudi and National Union (headed by Smotrich) agreed to run as a united faction, with Otzma Yehudit agreeing to run together with them but to retain its independence. 

Netanyahu's inducements for the union of the parties

This is how Netanyahu worked to unite the two factions:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday reached a preliminary election deal with two fringe religious-nationalist parties in a bid to unify his voting bloc ahead of April elections. 
Netanyahu’s Likud party announced it would reserve the 28th spot on its Knesset list for the Bayit HaYehudi party and grant it two Cabinet ministries in a future government if it merges with the extreme right-wing Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party led by Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari.

The agreement also includes the National Union, bringing the Bayit Yehudi’s partner from the previous elections back into the fold for the upcoming ones. The three parties will now run a joint list for the upcoming elections.
Otzma Yehudit will receive the fifth and eighth seats in the united list. Netanyahu also offered the Education and Housing portfolio to the united list. 

American Jewish groups denounce the merger of Otzma Yehudit with Bayit Yehudi, with some mentioning Netanyahu's role, and others eliding it

Several American Jewish groups have denounced the merger of Bayit Yehudi with Otzma Yehudit because of the possibility that several Kahanists may enter the next Knesset if the party manages to pass the 3.5% electoral percentage: the Anti-Defamation League, the New Israel Fund, the Union of Reform Judaism, Truah (organization of liberal/left-wing rabbis in the US), and the Democratic Majority for Israel (a" new lobbying group associated with the Democratic Party which describes itself as pro-Israel and in favor of progressive values").

I haven't seen any statement from the Conservative Movement (United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism or the Rabbinical Assembly), which disappoints me. I hope they also join in with these denunciations. I belong to a Conservative synagogue.

The American Jewish Committee also denounced the merger, without mentioning Netanyahu's role in bringing the parties together:
American Jewish Committee (AJC) does not normally comment on political parties and candidates during an election. But with the announcement that Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”), a new political party formed by longtime followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, is now seeking election to the Knesset, we feel compelled to speak out. 
The views of Otzma Yehudit are reprehensible. They do not reflect the core values that are the very foundation of the State of Israel. The party might conceivably gain enough votes to enter the next Knesset, and potentially even become part of the governing coalition. 
Historically, the views of extremist parties, reflecting the extreme left or the extreme right, have been firmly rejected by mainstream parties, even if the electoral process of Israel’s robust democracy has enabled their presence, however small, in the Knesset. 
Ultimately, it is up to Israel’s Central Elections Commission to determine, as it has done in the past, whether Otzma Yehudit can be listed on the ballot on Election Day. 
Looking ahead to April 9, AJC reaffirms our commitment to Israel’s democratic and Jewish character, which we hope will be the ultimate winners in every election cycle.
Today AIPAC also denounced Otzma Yehudit in a tweet: "We agree with AJC. AIPAC has a longstanding policy not to meet with members of this racist and reprehensible party." 

The left-wing American Zionist group Ameinu issued a statement "slamming inclusion of Kahanists in Israeli Political Merger."
Ameinu views with grave concern the recently announced merger arranged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu between two extremist right wing parties, HaBayit HaYehudi and Otzmah Yehudit. As part of the agreement, the Prime Minister promised that this new block will receive the housing and education ministries should Netanyahu be asked to form the next Israeli government, following elections on April 9. “It is unfathomable that disciples of Meir Kahane, an unrepentant racist whose party, Kach, was barred from running in Israel’s elections in 1988, should be legitimized and encouraged to serve in any government of Israel. Shame on Prime Minister Netanyahu,” said Ameinu President Kenneth Bob.
Ameinu is outraged by this development; it is a stain on Israel’s democracy and an affront to Zionism. There are certain ideas, policies and groups that are beyond the pale; Otzma Yehudit, a far-right, ultra-nationalist, racist party, has no place in the Knesset, much less in a potential government coalition. The mainstreaming of hate groups like Otzma Yehudit can only harm Israel’s standing in the international community and further damage the already delicate relations between Israeli and American Jews.
Eight American leftist Jewish groups also issued a statement titled "Kahanists Have No Place In The Knesset"  (New Israel Fund, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Partners for Progressive Israel, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, National Council of Jewish Women, Reconstructing Judaism, and Ameinu)
This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, keen to shore up his electoral position, orchestrated the unification of the extreme right-wing party Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”) with the National Union so that it could enter the Knesset in a consolidated right-wing bloc. This is dangerous and deeply concerning. Otzma Yehudit is the latest iteration of a political party based on teachings of racist demagogue Meir Kahane.

For decades, the consensus in Israel was that these racist extremist organizations should have no place in the Knesset. We are outraged that right-wing political parties and their leadership have reversed course and opened the door for Kahanists to enter into the Israeli political mainstream. 
Our organizations do not advocate for or against any candidate or party in any election. We stand together for the principles enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Kahanism, empowered in government, represents a clear and present danger to those values. 
Kahane’s party, Kach, was banned from the Knesset in 1988, was outlawed as a terrorist organization in Israel in 1994, and 
still appears on the US State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
Modern-day Kahanists are working to divide Israeli society by stoking racial fears. They seek to strip all non-Jewish Israelis of basic rights; many encourage violence toward Arabs and LGBTQ Israelis. These Jewish supremacist organizations often use incitement to violence to promote their racist agenda. That’s why the US State Department, the EU and the Canadian government all list Kahanist organizations as terrorist groups. 
Today’s Kahanists have been convicted numerous times for support for terror organizations and incitement to racism. Michael Ben-Ari, a leader of Otzma Yehudit and candidate for Knesset, was denied a visa to enter the US due to the State Department’s “prerogative to ban terrorists from entering the country.” 
As Americans, we have seen the devastating effects of elected officials embracing white nationalist groups. In America, deadly right-wing extremism poses a clear and present danger to our democratic society. In Israel, it is Kahanists — and the political mainstream that embraces them — that pose the most direct threat to Israel’s democratic fiber. 
We call on our colleagues in the American Jewish community and Jewish organizations to stand for democracy and equality and join us in affirming that Kahanists have no place in the Knesset.
x

Monday, February 18, 2019

More Google Earth images of the Saudi Arabian desert

Thabhloten is apparently a military airport, but I find the stony hills near it quite amazing.


An area of dunes, I think. 


Desert in Saudi Arabia.

Google Earth - scenes from the Saudia Arabian desert. Little compounds with trees (I think), a couple of tiny towns, and dunes in a nature reserve.  I love Google Earth.






Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Poem for Holocaust Remembrance Day - "Dead Men Don't Praise God," by Jacob Glatstein


Dead Men Don’t Praise God (1946).

Jacob Glatstein

We received the Torah on Sinai
and in Majdanek we gave it back.
Dead men don’t praise God,
and the Torah was given to the living
And just as we all stood together
at the giving of the Torah,
so did we all die together at Majdanek.

I’ll translate the tousled head, the pure eyes,
the tremulous mouth of a Jewish child
into this frightful fairy tale.
I’ll fill the sky with stars
and I’ll tell him:
our people is a fiery sun
from beginning to beginning to beginning.
Learn this, my little one,
from beginning to beginning to beginning.
Our whole imagined people
stood at Mount Sinai
and received the Torah.
The dead, the living, the unborn,
every soul among us answered:
we will obey and hear
You, the saddest boy of all generations,
you also stood on Mount Sinai.
Your nostrils caught the raisin-almond fragrance of each
word of the Torah.
It was Shavuoth, the green holiday.
You sang with them like a songbird:
I will hear and obey, obey and hear
from beginning to beginning to beginning.

Little one, your life is carved
in the constellations of our sky,
you were never absent,
you could never be missing.
When we were, you were.
And when we vanished,
you vanished with us.

And just as we all stood together
at the giving of the Torah,
so did we all die together at Majdanek.
From all sides the souls came flocking.
The souls of those who had lived out their lives, of those
who had died young,
of those who were tortured, tested in every fire,
of those who were not yet born,
and of all the dead Jews from great grandfather Abraham down
they all came to Majdanek for the great slaughter.
All those who stood at Mount Sinai
and received the Torah
took these holy deaths upon themselves.
“We want to perish with our whole people,
we want to be dead again,”
the ancient souls cried out.
Mama Sarah, Mother Rachel,
Miriam and Deborah the prophetess
went down singing prayers and songs,
and even Moses, who so much did not want to die
when his time came,
now died again.
And his brother, Aaron,
and King David,
and the Rambam, the Vilna Gaon,
and Mahram and Marshal.
And with every holy soul
that perished in torture
hundreds of souls
of Jews long dead, died with them.

And you, beloved boy, you too were there.
You carved against the constellated sky,
you were there, and you died there.
Sweet as a dove you stretched out your neck
and sang together with the fathers and mothers.
From beginning to beginning to beginning.

Shut your eyes, Jewish child,
and remember how the Baal Shem rocked you in his arms
when your whole imagined people
vanished in the gas chambers of Majdanek.

And above the gas chambers
and the holy dead souls,
a forsaken abandoned Mount Sinai veiled itself in smoke.
Little boy with the tousled head, pure eyes, tremulous mouth,
that was you, then—the quiet, tiny, forlorn
given-back Torah.
You stood on top of Mount Sinai and cried,
You cried your cry to a dead world.
From beginning to beginning to beginning.

And this was your cry:
we received the Torah on Sinai
and in Majdanek, we gave it back.
Dead men don’t praise God.
The Torah was given to the living.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Do Jews uphold white supremacy or are we targeted by it?

In today's New York Times article on antisemitism in the Women's March, Tamika Mallory is quoted as saying: 
“Since that conversation, we’ve all learned a lot about how while white Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy, ALL Jews are targeted by it,” Ms. Mallory said in a statement to The New York Times.
["That conversation" took place during the first meeting of the Women's March organizers, when Mallory and Perez confronted Vanessa Wruble about her Jewish identity and said that Jews have to confront "their role" in racism].

Mallory here is trying (as many others have) to squeeze the situation of Jews in the United States into the historical black/white binary that has existed since the beginning of British colonization in the area that became the United States. 

After the Civil War, and through the early early 20th century this meant that Jews were defined by some white Christians as being of African descent and thus deserved the same miserable treatment that other African people received in this country. 

Jews also tried to figure out what their racial status was - were Jews Caucasians? Or did Jews belong to their own race? Perhaps one that was part of the Caucasian race? (I'm using the term Caucasian because it was then the regnant term). As Jews began to be negatively racialized by non-Jews (sometimes associating Jews with Africans, or seeing Jews as enemies of the Aryan race), some Jews wanted to abandon the idea that they were a separate race and insisted upon being regarded solely as a religion. 

By the end of the Second World War, when Jews, like Italians or eastern Europeans, were being accepted as belonging to the American white population, the notion that Jews were a separate race was losing its attraction (especially since Nazis had condemned Jews to genocide because of their supposed race). (This paragraph and the preceding two are largely based on The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity, published in 2006 by Eric Goldstein).

The widespread success that Jews have had in American society since WWII means that we are now generally considered to be white (see, for example, the success that Jews have had in being elected to the House and Senate, the acceptance of Jews into all areas of American industry, sometimes at the very top, the high median income of Jews, etc.).

But along with the acceptance of Jews into American society, there has been persistent antisemitism, some of it still motivated by religious motives (for example, the accusation that "the Jews" killed Jesus), some of it based in racial antisemitism (like that of the Nazis, and disseminated by David Duke and other antisemites of the radical right), some of it appearing on the left as antisemitism thinly veiled as anti-Zionism. The antisemitism that is part of white nationalism has been very much energized since 2015, first by Trump's presidential campaign and now by his presidency. 

Eric Ward argues in Skin in the Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism that "American White nationalism, which emerged in the wake of the 1960s civil rights struggle and descends from White supremacism, is a revolutionary social movement committed to building a Whites-only nation, and antisemitism forms its theoretical core." For a graphic example of the close connection between racism and antisemitism in the white nationalist right, see the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, VA, on August 12-13 - at the the torch-lit procession on the campus of the University of Virginia, supposedly held to protect a statue of Robert E. Lee, the marchers chanted "Jews will not replace us."

Ward also writes, "Within social and economic justice movements committed to equality, we have not yet collectively come to terms with the centrality of antisemitism to White nationalist ideology, and until we do we will fail to understand this virulent form of racism rapidly growing in the U.S. today." 

The leaders of the Women's March have failed in just this way, not understanding the centrality of antisemitism to white nationalism. In their case, it means that they believe(d) that antisemitism really isn't that big a danger in the US, considering how economically successful Jews are (as a group - by no means are all individual Jews well-off). 

Do Mallory (and the other Women's March leaders?) now truly acknowledge that "all Jews" are targeted by white supremacy? Does they accept a definition of white supremacy that includes Jews as its victims, instead of believing that white supremacy only targeted Black people and/or other people of color?

If so, there's a logical fallacy in Mallory's statement - if all Jews, including white Jews, are targeted by white supremacy, then how can Jews be said to "uphold" it? Light-skinned Jews can and do benefit from white privilege - but certainly not from the ideology and murderous practice of white nationalism. 

The New York Times writes that, "Now Women’s March activists are grappling with how they treat Jews — and whether they should be counted as privileged white Americans or 'marginalized' minorities, especially in the aftermath of the October mass shooting in Pittsburgh, when 11 people were gunned down at their synagogue."

If this is an accurate statement of the corner the Women's March leaders have put themselves into, it shows that their thinking is both incredibly rigid (and lacking in the intersectionality that they boast of), and still very ignorant of the history of the discrimination against and persecution of Jews in the US and other countries. Jews can both be privileged (in the economic sense) and marginalized (as the targets of murderous antisemites). Antisemitic victimization and violent attacks upon relatively economically privileged Jews (in addition to those on poor Jews) have been a feature of European societies since the 11th century. 

Intersectionality theory should be able to grapple with this paradox, since it insists that oppression is not binary. If a poor white person can simultaneously benefit from being white and be oppressed as a poor person, then why couldn't white Jews simultaneously benefit from white privilege yet also be marginalized as Jews? And in this case, have their white privilege wiped away by antisemites who don't even consider Jews to be white and believe that all Jews should be killed?

The whole thing leaves me with a very bad taste in my mouth.

New York Times article on antisemitism in the Women's March

The New York Times finally published an article about the accusations of antisemitism of several of the leaders of the Women's March - Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, and Carmen Perez. Much of the information in the article was already published by Tablet on December 10, 2018, but there is some original reporting. 

At the first meeting of the organizers,Vanessa Wruble (who is Jewish, and was one of the early leaders, later pushed out) says that this happened:
Vanessa Wruble, a Brooklyn-based activist, said she told the group that her Jewish heritage inspired her to try to help repair the world. But she said the conversation took a turn when Tamika Mallory, a black gun control activist, and Carmen Perez, a Latina criminal justice reform activist, replied that Jews needed to confront their own role in racism.
Perez and Mallory:
Ms. Mallory and Ms. Perez say they categorically condemn anti-Semitism, and that when they asked Ms. Wruble to leave the group, it had nothing to do with her being Jewish. But they acknowledged that the role of Jewish women was discussed in that first meeting.
“Since that conversation, we’ve all learned a lot about how while white Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy, ALL Jews are targeted by it,” Ms. Mallory said in a statement to The New York Times.
The Times:
The allegations of anti-Semitism are particularly painful because Women’s March organizers made a commitment from the beginning to work across racial and religious lines, and to be led by what they considered the most “marginalized” women. 
Now Women’s March activists are grappling with how they treat Jews — and whether they should be counted as privileged white Americans or “marginalized” minorities, especially in the aftermath of the October mass shooting in Pittsburgh, when 11 people were gunned down at their synagogue.
Wruble:
Ms. Wruble, a central organizer of the march, says she agrees that white women, including Jews, should grapple with their racial privilege. She put out a call for women of color to join the planning team and was connected with Ms. Mallory and Ms. Perez. At that first meeting, Ms. Wruble said, they seemed to want to educate her about a dark side of Jewish history, and told her that Jewish people played a large role in the slave trade and the prison industry. 
“I was taken aback,” said Ms. Wruble in her first extensive interview about her experience organizing the Women’s March. “I thought, ‘Maybe there are things I don’t know about my own people.’” 
She said she went home that night and searched Google to read about the Jewish role in the slave trade. Up popped a review of “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and the Jews,” a 1991 book by Mr. Farrakhan, which asserts that Jews were especially culpable. Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard professor, has called the book the “bible of the new anti-Semitism.” 
Ms. Wruble said she did not dwell on the issue because she wanted to work together on the march, which was only two months away. Ms. Mallory and Ms. Perez brought a friend on board, Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist. The three women — and another woman named Bob Bland, a white fashion designer who created one of the first Facebook pages about the march — became the event’s official leaders. They were widely featured in the press as the public face of the movement. 
Behind the scenes, Ms. Wruble said she felt cast aside. 
She said she was told by one of the march leaders that “we really couldn’t center Jewish women in this or we might turn off groups like Black Lives Matter.” While Black Lives Matter is a diffuse movement, some activists have issued statements expressing solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli occupation. 
At one point, Ms. Wruble said she asked about security for the march and was told by the leaders that the Nation of Islam would be providing it
“I said, ‘You are going to open up the march to intense criticism,’” Ms. Wruble said, warning that it would be a red flag for Jews. She said they dismissed her concerns in a heated email exchange and accused her of unfairly maligning the Nation of Islam.
The "Unity Principles"
As the march grew closer, Ms. Perez gathered a diverse group of activists who created a set of “unity principles” that would tie all marchers together and highlight those viewed as the most vulnerable at the time. 
“We must create a society in which all women — including Black women, Indigenous women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian, queer and trans women — are free,” it read.
Of course (my comment) - Jewish women were not mentioned.

On NOI being used for security:
Ms. Mallory said the Nation of Islam was not hired for security. An internal document obtained by The Times said that the Women’s March group does not ask the religious affiliation of contractors, but said that because private security firms employ a large number of Nation of Islam members, “it is likely” that some members of the sect have provided security for Women’s March events.
After the march, antisemitic remarks by Mallory and Perez:
At a meeting days after the march, an argument broke out between Ms. Wruble and the other leaders.
Ms. Mallory and Ms. Perez began berating Ms. Wruble, according to Evvie Harmon, a white woman who helped organize the march, and who attended the meeting at Ms. Mallory’s apartment complex.

“They were talking about, ‘You people this,’ and ‘You people that’ and the kicker was, ‘You people hold all the wealth.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God, they are talking about her being Jewish,’” said Ms. Harmon, whose account was first published by Tablet. “The greatest regret of my life was not standing up and saying ‘This is wrong.’”
How Wruble was kicked out:
Ms. Mallory denied that she disparaged Ms. Wruble’s Jewish heritage in that meeting, but acknowledged telling white women there that she did not trust them.

“They are not trustworthy,” she said, adding that Ms. Wruble gossiped behind the backs of the other march leaders instead of confronting them when she had an issue. “Every single one of us has heard things that offended us. We still do the work.”

Shortly after that meeting, Ms. Mallory, Ms. Perez and Ms. Sarsour decided they did not want to work with Ms. Wruble anymore.

On her way out, Ms. Wruble texted a senior adviser to the organization with a warning: “The one thing I would suggest you discuss with them is the anti-Semitic piece of this,” she wrote. “Their rhetoric around this stuff will hurt the movement.”

Friday, December 21, 2018

Alice Walker's antisemitic post on the Talmud: A Commentary

Alice Walker's antisemitism has come to wider public notice because of the New York Times' interview with her, which revealed that one of the books on her nightstand is “And the Truth Shall Set You Free,” by David Icke, the blatant British antisemite who believes that the world is being ruled by reptilian alien invaders (really!). 

Her antisemitism is fed by other sources as well, including classic slurs about the Talmud. She published a "poem" on her blog in 2017 titled It Is Our (Frightful) Duty To Study The Talmud

It is frighteningly malevolent in its hatred for Jews and Judaism. This part of the writing is specifically about the Talmud:
For the study of Israel, of Gaza, of Palestine,
Of the bombed out cities of the Middle East,
Of the creeping Palestination
Of our police, streets, and prisons
In America,
Of war in general,
It is our duty, I believe, to study The Talmud.
It is within this book that,
I believe, we will find answers
To some of the questions
That most perplex us.
Now, why would studying the Talmud help with understanding present-day Gaza, Palestine, and Israel, police violence in America, and war in general? The Talmud is a work from late antiquity from a completely different political context than the one we live in now.
Where to start?

You will find some information,
Slanted, unfortunately,
By Googling. For a more in depth study
I recommend starting with YouTube. Simply follow the trail of “The
Talmud” as its poison belatedly winds its way
Into our collective consciousness. 
Apparently it didn't occur to her to pick up one of several books that offer good introductions to the Talmud, but instead to apply to Google University. Google was too biased for her, apparently because the first articles are from reputable academic or media sources. I just googled the word "Talmud," and the first hits are: a definition of the word, the Wikipedia article on the Talmud, a My Jewish Learning article on the Talmud, several more introduction articles of the same type, and then a series of news articles about the Talmud, including one from the BBC, Why has the Talmud become so popular? (from 2013) and an article from the New Yorker on why the Talmud has become a best-seller in South Korea (from 2015). None of them are from antisemitic sources - except for Alice Walker's antisemitic poem, which is the 31st hit on the first page of Google results.

The second page of results starts with a short Youtube video by Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein about the Talmud. It includes a few more antisemitic sites, including another link to Walker's "poem," the Come and Hear website, run by an antisemite, which has published all of the Soncino translation of the Talmud into English, and The Talmud Unmasked: THE SECRET RABBINICAL TEACHINGS CONCERNING CHRISTIANS, first published in St. Petersburg in 1892, and in English translation in 1939 (Google for the link).

From John-Paul Pagano, more on the anti-Talmud literature:
Its modern source is the Talmud anti-Semitism of the 17th Century Christian Hebraist, Johann Eisenmenger. An Orientalist, Eisenmenger purported to expose the misanthropic teachings of the Talmud by cherry-picking scraps and publishing them as Entdecktes Judenthum, or Judaism Unmasked. These excerpts, shorn of context and cranked through a grinder of jaundiced interpretation, struck Gentiles as scary. Next was August Rohling, a German theologian and professional anti-Semite who rehashed Eisenmenger's work in Der Talmudjude, or The Talmud Jew, and retailed himself as an expert witness. In an adumbration of the Holocaust-denier David Irving's disgrace by the scholar Deborah Lipstadt, Rohling was eventually embarrassed on the stand, himself exposed as a fraud who -- unlike his muse, Eisenmenger -- was almost entirely ignorant of Judaism.
The situation is much worse on Youtube. The first two hits are "Religious Jews are asked about the Talmud," by Corey Gil-Shuster, and the second one is "What is the difference between Torah and Talmud," by Jihadi Jew. Both are fine. The third hit is "Ugly Truths about the Talmud," then an audiobook of the Rodkinson translation of the Talmud, and then some more antisemitic videos: "Marching to Zion. Talmud Exposed! Any One Race as 'God's Chosen People' Exposed," "The Talmud Unmasked" (audio version of the book mentioned above," "The Israel you don't know: The Talmud and the Jew," by "Rise Up Goyim," "Talmud teaches an EVIL jewish tradition," by "External Evil," and "Talmud Judaism is Satanism - Alex Jones," in which he says that the Talmud is basically Satanic. He also raves about Hillary Clinton being responsible for female genital mutilation.

Youtube is a cesspool of antisemitism, apparently untouched by any efforts to change the algorithm so that antisemitic videos don't appear as the first search items. (And it's owned by Google, so Walker's comments about Google really make no sense at all).
Some of what you find will sound
Too crazy to be true. Unfortunately those bits are likely
To be true. Some of the more evasive studies
Will exhibit unbelievable attempts
At sugar coating extremely disagreeable pills.
But hang in there, checking
And double checking, listening to everybody,
Even the teachers with the twisted pasts
That scare you the most,
And the taped rants of outraged citizens that sound
Like madcap characters on Car Talk
Except they are not laughing
But are righteously outraged.

Study hard, with an open
If deeply offended mind,
Until you can sift the false
From the true.
On Youtube, it's obviously possible to find any form of antisemitic fantasy one seeks, and Walker found the videos that matched her prejudices.
Is Jesus boiling eternally in hot excrement,
For his “crime” of throwing the bankers
Out of the Temple? For loving, standing with,
And defending
The poor? Was his mother, Mary,
A whore?
Are Goyim (us) meant to be slaves of Jews, and not only
That, but to enjoy it?
Are three year old (and a day) girls eligible for marriage and intercourse?
Are young boys fair game for rape?
Must even the best of the Goyim (us, again) be killed?
Pause a moment and think what this could mean
Or already has meant
In our own lifetime.
This part of the "poem" focuses on anti-Christian passages in the Talmud, presenting them as the main part of the teachings of the Talmud (which they are not). The passages include the unpleasant fate of Jesus in the afterlife, the bad reputation of Mary as the supposed mistress of a Roman soldier (also appearing in the Toldot Yeshu literature), and supposed passages that non-Jews are fated to be slaves of Jews or that the best of the Gentiles should be killed (I haven't seen these passages and don't know if they actually appear in the Talmud). Walker also misquotes the New Testament - Jesus didn't throw the "bankers" out of the Temple, but the money changers, who were there to change the money that pilgrims intended to offer to the Temple to the sacred Temple currency. She's obviously conflating the centuries-long stereotype of Jews as evil bankers with the New Testament account.

This next section gets into more conspiratorial thinking.
You may find that as the cattle
We have begun to feel we are
We have an ancient history of oppression
Of which most of us have not been even vaguely
Aware. You will find that we, Goyim, sub-humans, animals
-The Palestinians of Gaza
The most obvious representatives of us
At the present time – are a cruel example of what may be done
With impunity, and without conscience,
By a Chosen people,
To the vast majority of the people
On the planet
Who were not Chosen.
Not chosen to receive the same dubious
“Blessing” of
Supremacy over the Earth,
Humans, and Beasts of this realm. As is
Stated plainly in the first chapter
Of the Bible we all read.
The Unchosen who, until now,
Were too scared of being
Called names
To demand to know why.
According to Walker, non-Jews in general "have an ancient history of oppression" as victims of the "chosen people" (clearly using this term in an antisemitic way). When she says that Jewish oppression of the Gentiles goes back thousands of years Walker hearkens back to the Christian trope that ancient Jews persecuted Christians (see the Gospel of John and later Christian literature), but she is also probably retrojecting modern "theories" that Jews control the world (as found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf) into the first century CE.
It is a “Blessing” Jesus did not want.
One that, risking crucifixion, he refused.
One reason he is loved
By those who recognize a good
And righteous person
When they encounter one.
Seen in this light he wasn’t even
A spiritual progressive, but a committed
Revolutionary: a Che Guevara
Of the ancient past.
In this paragraph, Walker tries to dissociate Jesus from Judaism - the Jews supposedly believe that God has given them dominion over the whole earth (this is a misreading of Genesis 1, which gives all of humanity dominion over the earth). Jesus died because he didn't accept the Jewish plot to control the world. This is a strikingly Nazi way of understanding the crucifixion, even though walker doesn't use Nazi racial terminology or concepts. I don't know if this was something that Hitler said, but it certainly fits into the Nazi claim that Jesus was an Aryan, not a Jew.
A past as scary, if not scarier, than
Our own time: A past that,
Unfortunately, is not even past (quoting
Faulkner).

We discover this
To our enlightened grief
As we study
The Talmud,
Our own ignorance,
And the devastating impact of both
On our abandoned world.
Everything is blamed on the Talmud - all of the evils of our contemporary world. I have read a lot of antisemitic literature, including Mein Kampf, and this composition by Walker matches the worst of earlier classical antisemitic texts.