Sunday, May 15, 2022

Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral - "A Funeral Brutalized"

A Funeral Brutalized, by Oren Ziv, in 972.mag

I’ve documented my fair share of political funerals, but never have I witnessed what occurred as Shireen Abu Akleh’s body was laid to rest on Friday in Jerusalem. Despite the visible grief of Abu Akleh’s colleagues, who worked with her in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, and the other Palestinians in attendance who had regularly tuned in to her reporting over the years, the Israeli police’s behavior during the funeral procession was brutal, even by their very low standards.

Despite the documentation, which clearly shows the police attacking the pallbearers and mourners, the Israeli media, as well as a number of prominent international media outlets, continue to refer to what took place as “clashes.” Perhaps, then, it would be useful to set the record straight....

By now, the images of what happened next have spread far and wide, shocking the world. As the coffin was removed from the morgue, hundreds began marching toward the exit gate of the hospital, where dozens of riot police officers armed with batons were waiting for them. The police began brutally beating the mourners as they carried the coffin, almost causing it to fall. Contrary to police claims, no stones had been thrown. Only after the officers tried to disperse the crowd with batons and stun grenades were several objects, mostly bottles, thrown at them.

The attacks continued. Soldiers fired sponge-tipped bullets and threw stun grenades until, 15 minutes later, the body was whisked away in a vehicle. Even after that, the police did not allow Abu Akleh’s colleagues — who were not only there to report, but also to mourn — to leave the hospital yard, beating them once again with batons. As the vehicle made its way from the hospital yard, a police officer was seen removing the Palestinian flags that were draped on it. Only an hour later was everyone allowed to leave.

Read the rest of the article: A Funeral Brutalized, by Oren Ziv, in 972.mag

Friday, May 13, 2022

The funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh - comments by Daniel Seidemann

 Daniel Seidemann, on Twitter (

1/ The dissonance among the press reports relating to the events surrounding today's funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh is stunning. The Arab language and international press, showing the footage express shock at the aggression of the Police.


The Arab/int'l press place the violence on same occupation-continuum that led to the killing of Abu Akleh.

A small number of independent Israeli journalists concur & report accordingly.

A larger number of mainstream Israeli journalists are reporting it as a hasbara disaster.

3/ However, TV/Radio news report the funeral and the funeral procession as a large Israeli/Police success. "Minor incidents, it could have been much worse". Chapeau. By sinking deeper into occupation-denial, we are untethering from the rest of the world and how we're perceived.

4/ (
As usual, the superb reportage of @SuleimanMas1 who reports for Israeli State News, the heart of MLM, is a rare exception. There are a number of others.
1/4 לא מצליח להבין את התנהלות משטרת ירושלים באירוע הזה. בהודעה רשמית של המשטרה נכתב שמשתתפי הלוויה זרקו אבנים וחפצים לעבר השוטרים בתחילת מסע הלוויה, ולכן השוטרים ״נאלצו להדוף אותם״. חזרתי לשידור החי מתחילת הלוויה ואני מצרף אותו כאן. רואים בבירור שהמשתתפים בלוויה מנסים לצאת מבית>>
1/4 fails to understand the conduct of the Jerusalem police in this incident. An official police statement said that the participants in the funeral had thrown stones and objects at the police at the beginning of the funeral procession, so the police "had to fend them off." I went back to the live broadcast from the beginning of the funeral and I attach it here. It is clear that the participants in the funeral are trying to leave the hospital > >
2/4 החולים כשהם נושאים את הארון של שירין אבו עאקלה. השוטרים נראים כשהם חוסמים את הלוויה, מכים את המשתתפים באלות, ואז רואים את זריקת הבקבוקים והחפצים. זה מתווסף להגעת השוטרים לבית משפחת אבו עאקלה ביום שהיא נהרגה והבקשה שלהם לפזר את ההמולה בתוך הבית ולהוריד את דגלי פלסטין>>

2/4 carrying the coffin of Sheerin Abu Akala. The cops are seen blocking the funeral, beating the participants with batons, and then one sees the bottles and belongings being thrown. This is in addition to the arrival of the police at the home of the Abu Akala family on the day she was killed and their request to disperse the commotion inside the house and lower the Palestinian flags > >
3/4 ״בשל פגיעה בסדר הציבורי״. בהודעה נכתב גם שנשמעו קריאות הסתה. הקריאות שאני שומע בוידאו הן: ״ברוח בדם נפדה את שירין. ברוח בדם נפדה את השהיד. אללה אכבר. תגבירו את קריאותכם, מי שקורא לא מת״. בשורה התחתונה, למשטרת ירושלים יש זכויות רבות בתקופה האחרונה: השקט בשער שכם ברמדאן, >>

3/4 "Due to violation of public order". The announcement also said that cries of incitement were heard. The cries I hear in the video are: 'With blood and spirit we will redeem Sheerin. With blood and spirit we will redeem the martyr. Allahu Akbar. Increase your cries, whoever cries out is not dead. ' Bottom line, the Jerusalem police have had many rights [I'm not sure this is the right translation] in recent times: the silence at the Nablus Gate during Ramadan, > >
4/4 הטיפול בהפרות הסדר במסגד אל אקצא, שבר האור שעברה בשקט יחסי. האירוע הזה מתנהל רע מתחילתו ועד סופו, וחבל.
Translated from Hebrew by
4/4 The treatment of riots at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which breaking the light relatively quietly. This incident is going badly from start to finish, which is a shame.
One of the leitmotifs in the reporting is whether the Police was aggressive enough, or too tolerant, in their reaction to the flying of Palestinian flags during the procession. I heard no one state the simple truth: flying the Palestinian flag is legal under Israeli Law

Sunday, April 17, 2022

African American Jewish food traditions on Passover

Yesterday, NPR aired a lovely interview with Michael Twitty and Rabbi Sandra Lawson on African American Jewish food traditions on Passover: How Black American Jews Incorporate their food traditions into their Passover seders.

Michael Twitty

Rabbi Sandra Lawson

Tonight, across the world, Jewish families and friends will gather for the second night of Passover. Many will hold a Seder, a ritual meal where the story of the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from bondage in Egypt is retold. For Jews around the world, it's a time to honor their faith and make the celebration their own by bringing their own cultural and food traditions to the table. And that's also true of African American Jews, for whom the Passover story resonates on multiple levels.

To hear more about this, we called Michael Twitty. He is a James Beard Award-winning author and food historian. And Rabbi Sandra Lawson, director of Racial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Reconstructing Judaism. Michael Twitty and Rabbi Lawson, welcome. And thank you so much for joining us.

The forsythia in my garden (Pesach 5782)


Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The Middle East Studies Association Chooses BDS over Academic Freedom

The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) recently endorsed the BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement against Israel, reversing its 2005 resolution opposing academic boycotts. The following statement was published today by the Alliance for Academic Freedom, and is cross posted from The Third Narrative. I'm on the Executive Committee of the AAF.

By Alliance for Academic Freedom


The Alliance for Academic Freedom (AAF) condemns the March 24, 2022 vote by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) to join the campaign of Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) targeting the state of Israel. Academic freedom cannot exist where entire peoples or nations are effectively excommunicated from the global community of scholars and barred from the inherently collaborative work of research and teaching. By calling for an academic as well as cultural and economic boycotts of Israel, BDS restricts legitimate intellectual exchange with Israeli scholars, students, and institutions, and violates the most basic tenets of academic freedom; now, by endorsing BDS, MESA has embraced this violation. In doing so, it tramples on the rights of those who study or teach about the Middle East and North Africa, of all Israeli scholars and students, and of scholars around the world who collaborate with Israelis.

As we stated in our December 2021 statement on MESA, the organization itself had previously in 2005, through its own Committee on Academic Freedom, pointed to “the principles of academic freedom and the free exchange of information and ideas” as grounds for condemning academic boycotts such as BDS. At the time, MESA’s committee said, “We especially oppose penalizing entire segments of an academic community for any reason whatsoever.” That 2005 position was correct, we noted, because “free exchanges between faculty members and students worldwide are essential to the unfettered advancement of knowledge and to the viability of higher education.” International research collaborations, international conferences, study-abroad programs, and peer review of publications and appointments are just a few among the many activities that inevitably entail international cooperation among individuals and institutions. To ostracize an entire nation, its people, and its educational institutions because of political disagreements is to discriminate on the basis of nationality, which in this case also has the effect of discriminating on the basis of ethnicity and religion.

MESA’s abandonment of a principled position in favor of a politicized approach does not bode well for the organization, which in recent years has lost both institutional members and credibility in the eyes of many scholars. A professional society must be a home for scholars of all political persuasions.

As an organization, the AAF supports the national aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike. The full realization of those aspirations will come only with increased communication, interaction, and scholarly collaboration—not from the restriction of opportunities for such exchange.

On Behalf of the AAF Executive Committee: Susana Cavallo, David Greenberg, Rebecca Lesses, Jeffry Mallow, Sharon Musher, Cary Nelson (Chair), Kenneth Stern

Thursday, March 10, 2022

How do you know when a war begins? Syria and Ukraine.

WHAT does it feel like when a war begins? When does life as you know it implode? How do you know when it is time to pack up your home and your family and leave your country? Or if you decide not to, why? 
-- Janine di Giovanni, 2012

I've been spending a lot of time reading about the war in Ukraine, which is beginning to resemble the Syrian war in many sad and destructive ways. The Russians bombed the child and maternity hospital in Mariupol yesterday, as they also destroyed so many hospitals in Syria. I was just looked back at my many blog entries, searching for an article I read then about the shock of war beginning.

In 2012, I was in Israel on sabbatical from January to the beginning of August. Bashar al-Assad was already slaughtering his own people. Janine di Giovanni's article, "Life During Wartime," made chills go down my spine. I was safe in Jerusalem, but Syria was so close.

di Giovanni writes about the moment when the war finally arrived in Damascus, 17 months after it had begun in Deraa, with the arrests of children who had painted anti-regime messages on a school.
WHAT does it feel like when a war begins? When does life as you know it implode? How do you know when it is time to pack up your home and your family and leave your country? Or if you decide not to, why?
For ordinary people, war starts with a jolt: one day you are busy with dentist appointments or arranging ballet lessons for your daughter, and then the curtain drops. One moment the daily routine grinds on; A.T.M.’s work and cellphones function. Then, suddenly, everything stops.
Barricades go up. Soldiers are recruited and neighbors work to form their own defense. Ministers are assassinated and the country falls into chaos. Fathers disappear. The banks close and money and culture and life as people knew it vanishes. In Damascus, this moment has come.

War starts very suddenly:

I know about the velocity of war. In all of the wars I have covered — including in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Chechnya, Kosovo — the moments in which everything changes from normal to extremely abnormal share a similar quality. One evening in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in 2002, for example, I went to bed after dinner at a lavish French restaurant. When I woke up, there was no telephone service and no radio broadcast in the capital; “rebels” occupied the television station and flares shot through the sky. In my garden I could smell both the scent of mango trees and the smell of burning homes. My neighborhood was on fire. The 24-hour gap between peace and wartime gave me enough time to gather my passport, computer and favorite photos and flee to a hotel in the center of the city. I never returned to my beloved house with the mango trees.

The malign Russian role in the Syrian war had already begun - not with Russian soldier and aircraft, but with the UN:

As Russia continues to veto Security Council efforts to sanction and reproach President Bashar al-Assad, friends in Syria e-mail and tweet about assassinations, brutal killings, doctors torturing victims.

Russia now also stymies any Security Council actions with its vetoes. 

We have been here before in Europe.

Thirteen years ago [now 23 years ago], [UN Secretary General] Mr. Annan issued a report to the General Assembly on the failure of the international community to prevent the massacre of Bosnians at Srebrenica. He called it “a horror without parallel in the history of Europe since the Second World War.” 

We now have another unparalleled horror in European history. I've been struck by how many commentators write about the Russian war on Ukraine as if it's the only violent European episode since 1945. In the meantime, Russia has waged war in many other countries (just as the US has), and is now using the same tactics in Ukraine as it did in Syria and Chechnya.

Last weekend, there were two rallies in Ithaca in support of Ukraine. One, at noon on Sunday, March 6, was organized by Codepink in coalition with other dubious organizations, like Stop the War UK and the No to NATO Network. I don't know what the signs were in Ithaca, but looking at photos of other rallies sponsored by this coalition, it's clear that they blamed NATO just as much as Russia for the war. The slogan on one Codepink poster: "Stop the war in Ukraine, No to NATO expansion." Another sign - "NATO is the problem."

The second rally, at 2:00 pm, was organized by Ukrainians in Ithaca. I went to the second one, since I actually wanted to support Ukraine.

Monday, December 20, 2021


From the Alliance for Academic Freedom (AAF), which is part of the Third Narrative, a project of Ameinu (left-wing Zionist organization that supports a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and works for social justice in the United States and Israel). I'm on the executive committee of the AAF, and this is a joint statement between the AAF and some members of the Middle East Studies Association, opposing an upcoming BDS resolution now being submitted for a vote by all members of MESA. I urge any of my readers who are members of MESA to vote no on the resolution.

We write as members of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) alongside the Alliance for Academic Freedom (AAF), a group of more than 200 liberal and progressive scholars committed to upholding academic freedom and free speech in campus debates surrounding Israel and Palestine, supportive of both peoples’ national aspirations, and opposed to Israeli occupation of the West Bank. We deplore the vote by the 2021 annual MESA meeting that calls on its members to endorse a comprehensive academic boycott of Israeli universities. The resolution has been submitted to all MESA members for a vote. MESA represents faculty who teach and conduct research on the Middle East and North Africa.

With this action, MESA decisively overturns the very guiding principle of academic freedom it previous sought to uphold. In 2005 it made that commitment explicit in much the same political context. That year MESA’s Committee on Academic Freedom condemned the British Association of University Teachers (AUT) call for its members to “refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation or joint projects” with Haifa University or Bar Ilan University in Israel. It did so, it said, because of its “deep commitment” to “the principles of academic freedom and the free exchange of information and ideas,” principles no less vital today than they were in 2005. That was the year as well that the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) drafted its formal policy opposing all academic boycotts.

There has long been agreement by most academics, including many who criticize Israeli government policy, and even some who sees themselves as anti-Zionists, that boycotts of universities anywhere imperil the core principle of academic freedom, which mandates that free exchanges between faculty members and students worldwide are essential to the unfettered advancement of knowledge and to the viability of higher education. Ideas do not respect international borders; their merit is not determined by national identity.

MESA repeats the false claim by the BDS movement that it is possible to boycott academic institutions without also boycotting the students, staff, and faculty who constitute those institutions. Yet international research collaborations, international conferences, study abroad programs, and peer review of publications and appointments are just a few among the many activities that inevitably entail international cooperation among individuals and institutions. Some faculty refuse to write letters of recommendation for students wishing to study in Israel. The idea that people can be cleanly separated from their colleges and universities and harm restricted to the institutions alone is a damaging and deceptive fiction. All the activities listed here, moreover, are themselves protected by academic freedom. Either that principle stands and is universally honored or it ceases to be the governing principle of higher education worldwide. We must continue to condemn failures to uphold that most basic value. And thus we condemn the MESA resolution that abridges it. In 2005 MESA regarded the AUT boycott as an effort at once “to boycott these universities and blacklist their faculty.”

The current resolution asserts that Israeli universities are “imbricated” in the country’s military policies and practices and considers that justification for boycotting them. But academic freedom gives both individual faculty members and groups of faculty the right to engage in military research or research with military applications if they choose to do so. People in military service in many countries take college courses during and after their military service That is true for both Israel and the United States.

In 2005 MESA said “we especially oppose penalizing entire segments of an academic community for any reason whatsoever. We find thoroughly objectionable the call of the AUT to refrain from any and all scholarly interaction with the entire professional staff of two universities because of the policies of the state in which they are situated.” MESA has thus already provided excellent arguments in opposition to its present proposal. Moreover, at that time MESA was honest about the impact of academic boycotts. That honesty is now in danger as well.

Signed by the Executive Committee of the AAF alongside a group of MESA members: Susana Cavallo (AAF), Donna Robinson Divine (MESA), Robert Freedman (MESA), David Greenberg (AAF), Bat-Zion Klorman-Eraqi (MESA), Rebecca Lesses (AAF), Jeffry Mallow (AAF), Sharon Musher (AAF), Cary Nelson (AAF, chair), Itamar Radai (MESA), Arieh Saposnik (MESA), Kenneth Stern (AAF)

About the Alliance for Academic Freedom (AAF)
The AAF, part of The Third Narrative initiative, consists of liberal and progressive scholars dedicated to combating academic boycotts and blacklists, defending freedom of expression and promoting empathy in the debate over Israelis and Palestinians. For the AAF’s statement of principles, click here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Arrest of student at Texas State University accused of arson at Austin, TX, synagogue

 Texas State student faces federal charges after allegedly setting fire to Austin synagogue

A Texas State student was federally charged with arson after allegedly setting an intentional fire at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Austin, according to U.S. District Court records.

Austin Fire Department Arson investigators deemed the fire was intentionally set around 9 p.m. on Oct. 31. Franklin Barrett Sechriest, the 18-year-old charged with the crime, is a criminal justice freshman at Texas State.

The FBI was authorized to search and seizure Sechriest's San Marcos residence and vehicle on Nov. 10. The report states investigators found a credit card with the same account number as a card used at a sporting goods store in Buda, Texas to purchase a five-gallon VP Racing Fuel utility jug. 

After searching the vehicle, investigators say they recovered three glass bottles, three bottles of lighter fluid, a lighter and an orange stormproof match case with matches. Investigators also found three anti-Semitic stickers in the vehicle.

Sechriest's journal was also found with a statement “I set a synagogue on fire” under an entry dated Oct. 31, 2021.

Investigators identified burn patterns consistent with the use of a liquid accelerant. Surveillance footage overlooking the synagogue's administration office reveals Sechriest wearing a face covering and carrying a container similar to a five-gallon VP Racing Fuel utility jug and a roll of toilet paper, according to court records.

That same Halloween weekend, residents throughout Hays County reported receiving anti-Semitic letters in plastic bags with pebbles. Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra issued a series of tweets condemning the letters and said the behavior was not acceptable.

In a statement to The University Star, Texas State said it will continue to assist the FBI and Austin Fire Department in the ongoing investigation involving Sechriest. 

"Our university decries this hateful act of bigotry and violence and all the anti-Semitic events perpetrated recently in Austin, San Antonio, and San Marcos. The Texas State University community stands in solidarity with our Jewish students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members who have been impacted," Texas State said in its statement.

Investigators say the fire caused $25,000 worth of damages to the synagogue. The fire destroyed the synagogue's historic doors and caused damage to the building's exterior along with its stained-glass windows. No one was injured from the fire. 

In a public statement, Congregation Beth Israel Senior Rabbi Steve Folberg said the synagogue is grateful to the Austin Fire Department, Austin Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for investigating the incident. 

“It gives us some sense of relief to learn of this arrest, but we are staying vigilant. Across Central Texas and beyond, we are seeing a spike in attacks against Jews," Folberg said. "We denounce all acts of bigotry and violence, especially those motivated by blind hatred of any of the proud and distinctive communities that enrich our civic life. We will remain strong and vigilant in the ongoing work of justice, safety and peace for ourselves and all our neighbors." 

The Congregation Beth Israel is accepting donations to assist with the damages. For more information visit its website

I wonder if this student also sent the antisemitic letters to Jews in the area. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Jewish residents in Austin, TX sent antisemitic letters blaming them for Covid

A new example of antisemitism connected to Covid, in Austin, Texas:

Jewish residents in an Austin neighborhood were sent antisemitic letters blaming them for Covid

A string of antisemitic attacks has taken place over the last few days across Texas and in Austin. In the latest incident, several people in an Austin neighborhood received hateful letters at their homes. The letters received by Jewish residents in Hays County were sealed in a plastic bag filled with small rocks, Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said Sunday, according to the Austin American-Statesman.  

The letters blamed Jewish community members for the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Every single aspect of the COVID agenda is Jewish,” the letters read. They also named Jewish scientists and pointed fingers at leaders at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that are Jewish.

“Negative actions motivated in bias is an attack against an entire community and not just an attack on a single person,” Becerra wrote on Twitter. “This behavior is not acceptable.”

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Chabad of San Marcos, the only Jewish center in the county, offered guidance and support to members who were targeted.  


After receiving multiple calls from people who were upset regarding the incident, Rabbi Ari Weingarten said he is working with community leaders to “heal spirits” and remind them that “unity is key.” Since the eight nights of  Hanukkah begin Nov. 28, community menorah lighting events have been scheduled. “The message of Hanukkah is that light is stronger than dark and good prevails,” Weingarten said.

While the Hays County Sheriff’s Office said the letter distribution does not qualify as a criminal offense, it said it is aware propaganda is being anonymously distributed. The FBI, however, noted that is is prepared to investigate should the need arise.

“We are aware of the incidents and are in regular contact with local authorities,” the FBI said in a statement regarding the letters, according to the Hays Free Press. “If in the course of the local investigation, information comes to light of a federal violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate. “

According to the Anti-Defamation League in Austin, 17 antisemitic incidents have been reported in the past 10 days in Texas. This includes an incident in which Austin’s Congregation Beth Israel synagogue was set on fire Sunday night, While the damage was contained to the exterior of the building, fire officials said they are looking for a man seen carrying a five-gallon container then fleeing the scene in a car after starting the fire.

Additionally, in October about a dozen people displayed an antisemitic banner from the heavily trafficked North MoPac Boulevard overpass, and displayed similar posters in the East Sixth Street entertainment area, the Houston Chronicle reported. In the same week, an Austin school building was also vandalized with swastikas, homophobic slogans, and racist slurs.

Community leaders and others condemned the actions, including the Austin City Council and mayor.

“When we see acts of hate, they're jarring. They're hurtful, and they are scary. But they are not surprising," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “Because there are people who do hateful and horrible, wrongful things."

 “The danger is that hate spreads,” he cautioned.   

See also: Residents in Hays County were sent antisemitic letters 

See also:

H/T: Eric Ward on Twitter: 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Wildfire's orange sun during a late afternoon thunderstorm in Ithaca

This morning, when I got up and looked out my window to the east, I saw an orange sun against clouds and haze. The smoke from wildfires in Canada and further west has reached New York, and filled our atmosphere with fine particles that can damage the lungs. I was reminded of last September, when I was visiting Massachusetts, and the same orange sun greeted us in the morning and set in the evening. The photos here are taken in the late afternoon, during a thunderstorm.
As I discovered last year my phone's camera "corrected" the image and eliminated the orange sun itself, just leaving orange light around it. This first photo shows the sun peaking through the leaves (while it was raining hard at the same time!). You can't see the sun itself, but the orange light around it. I took this photo outside, standing on the stairs going into the side porch.

This photo was taken from the kitchen window, and you can see the orange penumbra around the sun.



This is a closeup of some pottery on the windowsill above the sink. The little cup on the left was made by a potter I know here - showing a little robin. The bowl in the middle is mine, and shows a strange red bird. My carving skills aren't as good as my fellow potter's.