Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sounds of a Jerusalem night plus moon photos

I've been reading the updates from my friends' Facebook pages - those who live in Ithaca - and apparently it's been cold and rainy nonstop. In Jerusalem, on the other hand, it's hot - 35 C this afternoon. I'm living in a small apartment - one room, to be exact, so when I'm home (and awake) I usually leave the door open to the garden. (Unless it's the middle of the day and hot outside). Right now I'm catching whatever breeze there is and listening to the night sounds of Jerusalem.

I hear the breeze rustling the leaves of the pomegranate tree in the garden or the fir tree or palm trees across the street; music in the distance from some outdoor event, which gets louder or softer depending on the wind; sirens in the distance, probably from an ambulance; a few minutes ago, the Muslim call to prayer, again borne by the wind; sounds from the neighbor's apartment; the general roar of the city, composed of cars and trucks driving as well as everything else; a few faint bird calls; a car horn also in the distance; a car driving down this narrow street. Earlier in the evening - a man standing out on the street talking on his cellphone; the kids next door yelling. Now a truck careering down the street with a load on its back.

Palm Tree

Yesterday or the day before I took some photos of the moon - and some of them came out quite well, much to my surprise.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

More Haredi protests over parking garage

The war over Shabbat in Jerusalem has been renewed again. Friday night and Shabbat there were huge demonstrations against the opening of a parking garage next to the Old City on Shabbat. According to the report from Channel 2, about 35,000 Haredim protested fairly peacefully Friday night on Bar Ilan Street. On Shabbat and Saturday night there were much more violent demonstrations, resulting in one man being seriously injured (from falling off a fence), four policemen being injured, and a six-year-old boy. About 40 Haredim were arrested by the police. During the day and evening of Saturday, "Hundreds of rioters hurled stones, cans, glass battles and fruit at police while chanting 'Shabbes.' Later in the evening, protestors burned garbage dumpsters in the city." On Saturday afternoon there was also a protest organized by Meretz (left-wing party) in support of opening the parking garage on Shabbat, which was held in Safra Square. The police prevented Haredim from getting to Safra Square and tangling with the secular protesters.

Jerusalem Post report: Thousands of haredim protest opening of J'lem parking lot.

Haaretz report: 28 arrested as Haredim riot over Shabbat opening of parking lot. Report as of Sunday morning: 57 arrested.

Ynet report: Jerusalem shaken by riots.

Another Ynet report from Sunday: Shas official to haredim: Protest, but don't riot.

Despite the various newspaper headlines, not all of Jerusalem is shaken by riots - where I live and where I was yesterday (Baka, Katamon, San Simon, Emek Refaim) was utterly peaceful. The riots are limited to specific Haredi areas of the city, centering on Meah Shearim. The Ynet report from Sunday makes it sound like there are leaders


Police subduing protesters:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reports on Jerusalem gay pride march

Both Haaretz and Ynet have posted stories about today's pride march. From Ynet - Thousands Take Part in Jerusalem Pride. From Haaretz - Thousands March in Peaceful Gay Pride March in Jerusalem.

A Reuters blog has another interesting perspective on the march. "Despite the cheerful singing and colourful banners, many participants who attend both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s gay pride parades, say the Israeli parade in Jerusalem, a holy city for the religious, is markedly different from a similar parade in the secular coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv, held a couple of weeks ago. One Israeli marcher said Jerusalem, as a much more politically divided city, has a very politicized pride parade: 'In Tel Aviv, the Gay Pride parade is more of a party. But in Jerusalem, it’s much more political, like a protest.' Several marchers echoed this sentiment. Na’ama, a member of Bat-Kol, an organization for Orthodox Jewish lesbians, agreed, adding: 'It’s not like a protest-it is a protest. I don’t want to take it for granted that I can walk here. But we also have to fight for other rights, like the right to marry. And we still have a struggle with the rest of the Orthodox community to get them to accept us.'”

Shlomit Or has also posted some photos from the march - Gay Pride Jerusalem.

Today's Gay Pride March in Jerusalem

I went to the gay pride march today in Jerusalem. It was quiet and peaceful. I saw one counter-demonstrator holding a sign - that was it. Otherwise, it was just a big group of people, many wearing or carrying rainbow flags, marching from Gan ha-Pa'amon to Gan ha-Atzma'ut. I saw signs and banners from the Meretz party and from Hadash (Israeli communist party), and some people carrying their own homemade signs. There was very little chanting, except from the two political groups. As before, the whole march was led off by people carrying a rainbow arch of balloons. (I didn't see them myself at the beginning, only at the rally afterwards at Gan ha-Atzma'ut). Oh, and there was a group of clowns too! Very silly.

I went with two friends who were also visiting from the U.S and who were thrilled to go to the march. As before, it was a very Yerushalmi experience - very sweet.

From Jerusalem Gay Pride 2009
Mishmar ha-Gvul (Border Police) guarding the march.

From Jerusalem Gay Pride 2009
"Our son is gay - and we are proud of him!"

From Jerusalem Gay Pride 2009
One of the clowns

From Jerusalem Gay Pride 2009

From Jerusalem Gay Pride 2009
Gay deely-bobbers

From Jerusalem Gay Pride 2009
Wearing flags

From Jerusalem Gay Pride 2009
flags put up by the Jerusalem municipality

From Jerusalem Gay Pride 2009
marchers from Hadash

From Jerusalem Gay Pride 2009
flag flying from balcony

From Jerusalem Gay Pride 2009
flags on Agron St.

From Jerusalem Gay Pride 2009
and finally, the balloon arch

From Jerusalem Gay Pride 2009
the Jewish gay pride flag

Gay Pride march today in Jerusalem

It appears that today's gay pride march in Jerusalem will be quiet - the Haredi rabbis have decided not to demonstrate against it: Jerusalem expects unprecedented calm at Pride Parade.

A report from last week's Ynet said:
Jerusalem's Pride Parade is scheduled to take place next week, but this year, three years after the international gay pride events that sparked the city, and after two years of more minor protests, the rabbis of the city's ultra-Orthodox community have decided not to demonstrate against the parade.

Throughout the previous protests against the event, there have always been voices from within the community arguing that the educational damage caused by the demonstrations outweighed their good, and the Badatz rabbis have finally given in to such arguments.
A couple of Kahanist extremists, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel, are unhappy that the haredi rabbis have decided not to oppose the march, and apparently are using the march as an excuse to make trouble in some of Israel's Arab towns.
Right-wing activists led by Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari (National Union) have decided to protest coming Thursday's Gay Pride Parade, scheduled to take place in Jerusalem, by staging a march of their own – in various Arab towns....

Ben Ari, along with extreme right-wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir have formulated an organized response to what they call the "profanity parade" and they intend to ask the police for a permit to stage a march on 15 Arab towns, starting one month after Thursday's parade.

Permits will be filed for marches in Tayibe, Sakhnin, Nazareth, Ar'ara and Baka al Garbia, to name a few. The activists are also planning to stage a picket line in front of the Open House and have hundreds of their supporters perform public information activities in city schools on the day of the parade.
It's hard to imagine that the police would want to give them permits to march in these Arab cities. I haven't heard whether they're demonstrating in front of the Open House today, because I've been sitting in my house all day. It's a really hot day outside and much cooler inside! I am planning to go to the march, however, and will post photos later today.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"I never thought I'd be rooting for Iran"

Finally, it appears that Haaretz has decided to give what's going on in Iran the coverage it deserves - right now all of the major stories on the online edition are about Iran, including an interesting commentary by Bradley Burston. He writes:
I never thought I'd be rooting for Iran

I am in awe of the courage of the people of Iran.

They are giving the world hope. They are teaching a shocking lesson about truth. They embody freedom. And, perhaps hardest to grasp, for those of us who live in the Middle East, they are putting their very lives on the line not for the sake of some ferociously sectarian End of Days, but for the most profoundly radical notion of all - a better life.

Every person who has taken to the streets to demand what their government promised them, free and fair elections, did so knowing that police or secret police could arrest them, act to cripple their careers, or outright gun them down.

When the national soccer team, the sporting love of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's life, took the field in Seoul, and when Iranian state television showed the team captain and most of the squad wearing wrist and arm bands in the green of the reformists, the players knew that there was much more at stake - at risk - for them personally, than whether they would defeat South Korea and advance to a place in the World Cup. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. Iran's fervent hopes of appearing in the quadrennial tournament were all but dashed. But the team had already clinched a victory of momentous proportion. They are quiet lions. They are, in every sense of the word, champions.

I never thought I'd be rooting for Iran. But I'm pulling for them now, hard as I can.

Don't get me wrong. I never swallowed the neo-con view of Tehran as the Great Satan. I didn't take Ahmadinejad's cataclysm threats at face value. I never even quite trusted the sincerity of his anti-Semitism. It seemed, in his hands, like just one more rabble-pandering tool in the kit.

This is, after all, the Middle East, where straight truth is routinely bent around corners to fit, mask, or skirt inconvenient realities.

Still, I have to get used to this. For years I watched the Islamic Republic in the stern public face that the ayatollahs themselves carefully nurtured. It was said that the founding Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni, never allowed himself to be photographed while smiling. More recently, vexed by the ease and the smugness of Ahmadinejad's Jew-hate, I came to view them as a brilliantly well-adapted enemy. While it seemed to me that the odds were against a down spiral and an Israeli-Iranian exchange of ballistic missiles, the word "erase," when used publicly against another country, becomes hard for the mind located in that country to, well, erase.

In trying to view the Israel-Iran stand-off with equanimity, an official policy of Holocaust denial was little help. Every time I opened the door of the bomb shelter in our basement, I could see Ahmadinejad's grin in the darkness.

Now, though, the people in Tehran's streets have made it possible to begin to see past Ahmadinejad. I have to get used to Iran not as a cartoon bully, but as my neighbor. Not because they will go nuclear - though nuclear they may well go. But because it is a nation of people, as we are, not pawns in an increasingly obsolete revolution.

It often seems that fundamentalism is the curse of the Middle East. In Israel, in Palestine, in Lebanon, in Iraq and Iran, it appears at first glance that it is fundamentalism that keeps peace at bay, that it has cursed Israel with settlements and faith-based racism, that it has cursed the Palestinians with anti-Jewish incitement and dated ideology which has kept statehood a practical impossibility, that it makes Hezbollah worship weaponry over all else, and has spurred brother Muslims, Shi'ites and Sunnis in Iraq, to suicide bomb each other's mosques, and each other.

But this view is too simple. It fails to take into account the fact that it is not religion per se, but its unholy marriage with politics, that yields the excesses that rob people of their freedom, dignity, and a future of peace. When fundamentalism becomes revolution, the truth that is in religion, becomes the first casualty.

And make no mistake. We are all revolutionaries here. And when everyone is a member of one revolution or another, the struggles are bound to collide. In Israel alone, the founding rival revolutions (socialist Zionism versus right-wing Revisionism) which have succumbed to age and irrelevance, have been replaced by the deadlock between the settler/no compromise revolution on the one hand, and the software/global-outlook two-state revolutionaries of the new center. The Palestinians have a similar dichotomy, with the aging onetime-Marxists of Fatah battling the middle-aging Armani Islamists of Hamas.

In the wider Middle Eastern theater, the fundamentalist revolution of neo-conservatism clashed with - and thus fueled - the various rival revolutions of Islamism.

The saving grace, for this reason, may be the circumstance that for all their talk of permanency and messianic solutions, revolutions, like the people who run them, age. At some point, when they no longer serve their stated goals, or their people, they begin to die.

Enter, at this point, the world revolutionary named Barack Obama. The revolution he has declared is one that has resonated here with telling effect. Perhaps because it explicitly values quality of life over confrontation, peoplehood over dogma.

When Obama ran a campaign on a platform of change, few expected that, after carrying 28 states and the District of Columbia, he would carry Lebanon as well. Iran may be next. Where do we fit in? Israel and Palestine may take time. They are tough territory for moderates. And revolutionaries do not relinquish their struggles easily. But if recent events are any measure, Obama is not just any moderate.

In the meanwhile, let us return the favor of the people of Iran, and offer our hopes.

It is time for us to wear the green.
A few years ago, when I began to read a few Iranian blogs (Kamangir, for example), I started to get the feeling of Iranians as real people, not just as stick figures in a morality play - the evil figures of the Iranian revolution who kept Americans hostage (remember the Nightline show - "America Held Hostage" - for 444 days before Reagan became president), or Iran as member of the "Axis of Evil." What has been happening since the election last week only confirms this realization. I am rooting for the people of Iran. I hope they win, although I fear that they won't. I hope this will not be like Tianenmen Square, but more like the slow breaking in of glasnost in the Soviet Union. This is why I'm so depressed when I read defeatist articles by people who, it seems to me, don't want the Iranians to succeed. (Like Meir Dagan). As Andrew Sullivan has been saying obsessively, this matters - a lot.

When I decided to come to Israel this summer, one of the things I worried about is whether a war could break out - with Hezbollah, with Iran. Would Israel decide to bomb the Iranian nuclear installations to forestall the creation of an Iranian bomb? Hezbollah losing the Lebanese elections lowered the threat of war on the northern front, it seems to me. And if these protests in Iran are not crushed by the power of the state, if there is a way for this new opening of the people actually to affect the actions of the Iranian state - then that lowers the threat of war between Israel and Iran, a war which would be disastrous for both nations.

I think we should primarily hope that the people of Iran win for their sake - for the sake of a better life and a better future for them. This isn't about us. But if they win, it may lead to a better future for all of us.

Is it really better for Israel if Ahmedinejad is elected?

Maybe it's that I have the perspective of an American, not an Israeli, but I am finding it very odd how little coverage there is of Iran in the Israeli press and radio. I've been listening to Reshet Bet (the news station of Israel Radio) and most of the news and discussion is about internal Israeli issues. I would expect this at normal times, but these are not normal times. Last night I watched the Channel 1 news, and the reporting on Iran was very superficial. Iran was not the first news item, which I expected it to be. And some of the analyses that I've read in the Israeli press strike me as truly misguided, for example the article by Amos Harel in Haaretz a couple of days ago:
And in this case, paradoxically, it seems that from Israel's point of view the victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is actually preferable. Not only because "better the devil you know," but because the victory of the pro-reform candidate will paste an attractive mask on the face of Iranian nuclear ambitions.

So it's better for Israel that Iran be led by a Holocaust-denying antisemite than by someone whom the majority of Iranians believe would improve their lives? At least Aluf Benn, in yesterday's Haaretz, had something more sensible to say:
The prize for this week's most stupid remark has to go to the officials, officers and experts who described Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the candidate Israel prefers to win the election in Iran, and were even happy he did. It is hard to think of a more blatant manifestation of the narrow horizons of Israeli strategic thinking.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jerusalem morning

I just woke up, and it's still dark outside, but I found it impossible to stay asleep because it's one of those gorgeous Jerusalem mornings - the air is cool and the foggy air is starting to clear up, and the birds are singing. The place where I'm staying has a lovely garden where I sat out last night with a friend talking while the cool breezes start to blow across the city.

5:01 am. Ah now, another morning sound - a bus going down Derekh Beit Lehem! The birds are really tuning up for their morning performance too. The house where I'm staying has a synagogue right next to it, so I would expect to hear people coming soon for shacharit.

5:11 am. I've just been reading the updates on the New York Times Lede blog about what's happening in Iran. It feels much closer here than it did in Ithaca (well, it is closer! but not just geographically). A reader of mine commented on my last post that the Israeli television news did cover Iran extensively last night - I was only listening to the radio so I didn't see it.

5:17 am. Even more and louder birds! Especially some loud crows. I love listening to the birds wake up, it's a pity that I don't usually like to wake up early enough to hear them.

5:22 am. I was just reading a posting by Jeffrey Goldberg about Iran that makes a lot of sense to me:

I understand his point [of Meir Dagan - see here], and yet am repulsed by it at the same time, perhaps because I care mainly about which Iranians have the bomb, rather than whether Iran has the bomb. Maybe this is naive -- and maybe I'm caught up, as a suspected neocon fellow traveler, in the excitement of watching Middle Easterners attempting to free themselves from such an obviously tyrannical regime -- but I have to think that the people flooding the streets in protest are not the sort of people who would want to see their country enter a nuclear confrontation with Israel. Not, God forbid, because they like Israel, but because they're rational enough, and interested enough in the betterment of their own lives, to demand a government that puts a limit on Iran's foreign adventures. I recognize that the people of Iran do not currently shape their country's nuclear policy -- and their country's policies to Israel and the West -- but one can hope for better days, when they do.

5:25 am. It's starting to get markedly lighter out, with a light blue sky coming into view. One of the books that I was reading on the planes over here was Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis II. I still haven't finished it. Her first book is a very interesting personal perspective on the Iranian Revolution; the second one recounts her experiences in Vienna when her parents sent her out of the country during the Iran-Iraq war. I'm now reading about her return to Iran after she finished her studies in Vienna and had some unhappy experiences there. I wonder what she's saying right now about the struggles in Iran.

I just discovered, with a little searching, that in 2005 she briefly had a blog on the New York Times website. She has something interesting to say about Israel and Iran, but it doesn't continue after 2005.

She and another filmmaker have presented a document to Green Party MPs in the European Parliament about the Iranian election:

Brussels, 16 June (AKI) - Two Iranian filmmakers on Tuesday presented a document to Green Party MPs in the European parliament claiming to show that defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi had received over 19 million votes in the weekend election.

Marjane Satrapi, Iranian author and director and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an Iranian filmmaker and Mousavi spokesman, presented a document that they claimed had come from the Iranian electoral commission.

The document said liberal cleric and former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi came second in the election with a total of 13.3 million votes, while president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came third with only 5.49 million votes.

However, there is no certainty about the legitimacy of the document.

"Ahmadinejad received only 12 percent of the vote, not 65 percent," said Marjane Satrapi, who was the director of Oscar-nominated film Persepolis.

Makhmalbaf, a representative for Mousavi abroad, called the declaration of Ahmadinejad's victory a "coup d'etat" and appealed to the international community not to recognise it.

He explained that Mousavi had called him from Tehran, asking him to inform the world of what is really going on in Iran.

"What happened is not an electoral fraud, but a coup d'etat," he said.

Makhmalbaf claimed that Mousavi was informed of Ahmadinejad's victory by the interior ministry and told to prepare a speech.

"Few minutes later, an army general entered his (Mousavi) office, and told him that they would not allow a green revolution (green is the colour used by Mousavi for his campaign)," he said.

"It did not take long, until the State TV declared Ahmadinejad winner with more than 65 percent".

"If anyone asked themselves whether the Iranian people are ready for democracy, the answer is yes, and we showed it by voting, but we were robbed of the vote. Now we need international support."

In Israel Now

I just arrived in Israel this afternoon after several long flights (Swiss Air is efficient but the seat was incredibly uncomfortable!). I'm settling back into the apartment I stayed in last summer, which is really nice. I have the feeling that I'm coming back to a place I know, rather than staying some place that I have to get to know. It's a cool evening in Jerusalem and it's nice to be here. I will probably be taking it pretty easy this week - seeing friends and getting adjusted to the time change.

One thing I noticed this evening listening to the news broadcast on Reshet Bet is how little notice was taken of the extraordinary events taking place in Iran right now. Mention of protests against Ahmedinejad's "re-election" was way down in the broadcast. I found this strange, considering how important Iran is to Israel and especially how it's developing its nuclear program. Well, maybe in the morning they'll have more reporting.

I'm going to bed soon - somehow getting almost no sleep for one night has a way of exhausting a person....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gay Pride in Jerusalem 2009

This year's gay pride march (June 25) will march in the opposite direction from the route of the last two years. It will start at Gan Ha-Pa'amon at 4:00 p.m., with the march itself beginning at 5:00 and proceeding to Gan Ha-Atzmaut for a rally at 6:00 p.m. In a way, I think the route change is a pity, since for the last two years it's meant that one can then easily walk further on to Emek Refaim to enjoy hanging out with friends after the rally. It should be fun, in any case, as long as there aren't Haredi riots against the march.

So that's what you meant, Rev. Wright!

Jeremiah Wright Walks Back "Them Jews" Remark: He Meant To Say "Zionists."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shooting at Holocaust Museum

Brian Beutler, on Talking Points Memo, asks whether the "Holocaust Museum Shooting Vindicates the DHS Report." This is the report that was issued in April warning about the rise of right-wing extremist groups. He writes,
Let's take stock of what's happened in the months since President Obama was elected just over six months ago, and in the weeks since the DHS story broke. In November, the New York Times reported that "gun owning" Americans - responding to rumors that the incoming administration would confiscate their weapons - had embarked on a shopping binge and were hoarding guns and ammunition. By the time Obama was inaugurated, the climate of fear on the far right had grown hotter. In February, MSN's moneyblog noted that the surge in sales had led, unsurprisingly, to a surge in gun stock prices.

Then on Sunday May 31 of this year, George Tiller - a Witchita doctor who provided late term abortions - was murdered while attending church services, allegedly by a right wing anti-abortion zealot named Scott Roeder.

And today, a white supremacist, Obama birth certificate conspiracy theorist - and World War II veteran -named James W. von Brunn entered the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with a shotgun and opened fire, killing one guard.

Of course, the plural of anecdote isn't data--but this is just the sort of violent extremism the DHS report warned about.

And these two murders are not the only ones motivated by violent right-wing extremism. David Neiwert and Sara Robinson of Orcinus have followed many stories very closely since before Obama's election about right-wing violence and attempted violence against African-Americans and other racial minorities, Jews, liberals (remember the shooting at a Unitarian-Universalist church last summer?), and police ("Two months ago, Richard Poplawski, a right-wing extremist, allegedly gunned down three police officers in Pittsburgh, in part because he feared the non-existent "Obama gun ban"). See Neiwert's post today on Crooks and Liars about the killing at the Holocaust Museum.

Jeffrey Goldberg has a whole series of posts from today about the shooting. (And for an extra-added dollop of anti-semitism, see the comment by Jeremiah Wright on whether he'll be speaking to President Obama anytime soon - "Them Jews aren't going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter, that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office." Or never, one hopes).

David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, comments today in the Washington Post:
This represents something else that is perhaps distinct to Jews in America compared to other groups. Other religious targets may be subject to vandalism or even discriminatory acts, but there are few other religious institutions that day in and day out must be concerned about acts of terrorism in the form of bombs, gun attacks, etc. On many levels Jews have been and remain the quintessential victims of religious intolerance and hatred in western civilization.

I say that knowing that today Muslim mosques have been targeted for vandalism. We just had a murder take place against a doctor in a church this past week and others are subject to acts of prejudice, but the notion of an entire community being concerned that their house of worship, their institutions might be targets of violent acts anywhere in the country still haunts American Jewry today with all of the successes that America's freedoms have brought to us.

He's correct. It's worthwhile to look at the FBI's hate crime report every year, as I have commented before. Jews are the most targeted of all religious groups in the United States - and Jews are about 2% of the U.S. population. (The group that is most targeted of all in the U.S. is African Americans). In 2007 (the most recent year for which there is a report), 69.2% of the victims of an anti-religious hate crime were Jews.
Of the 1,628 victims of an anti-religious hate crime:
  • 69.2 percent were victims of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias.
  • 8.7 percent were victims of an anti-Islamic bias.
  • 4.3 percent were victims of an anti-Catholic bias.
  • 4.1 percent were victims of an anti-Protestant bias.
  • 0.5 percent were victims of an anti-Atheist/Agnostic bias.
  • 9.1 percent were victims of a bias against other religions (anti-other religion).
  • 4.1 percent were victims of a bias against groups of individuals of varying religions (anti-multiple religions, group).

Monday, June 08, 2009

Jerusalem: Haredi riots prompt switch to metal trash cans

Something I have always wondered about is why the Jerusalem municipality keeps putting out new plastic garbage bins (after the old ones have been burned up by Haredi rioters), since the new ones can just as easily be torched the next time people decide it's cool to have a riot. It appears that they've now decided to replace them with metal trash cans.

An article from February 26, 2009 on Ynet, by Ronen Medzini reports on the change:
The Jerusalem Municipality has replaced dozens of plastic garbage bins with noncombustible metal ones, this after recurring ultra-Orthodox riots in protest of the annual Gay Pride Parade have cost the city more than a million shekels over the past five years.

During the past few weeks the new garbage bins have been dispersed throughout the haredi neighborhoods of Mea Shearim, Geula, Kerem Avraham and Shmule Hanavi, where extremist Jews have held violent demonstrations against the municipality and the local police's decisions, including the authorization of the gay parade.

An additional 200 metal bins are expected to be scattered throughout the city over the next few weeks.

City Council Member Sa'ar Netanel (Meretz) found that the riots of 2008, which erupted in protest of the arrest of three "modesty patrol" members, cost the city NIS 150,000 ($36,000).

According to Netanel, the June 2007 protests against the gay parade, during which some 300 trash cans were damaged, cost the city NIS 200,000 ($48,000), and the damages caused during haredi protesters in 2005 were estimated at NIS 100,000 ($24,000).


My friend Nicola Morris has just published a haibun at "Ink Sweat & Tears - the poetry and prose webzine."

And what is a haibun? "a prose narrative, sometimes very brief, sometimes long, followed by a haiku."

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Riots in Jerusalem

I'm going to Jerusalem in a week, and it appears that the summer rioting season has started early. Last night Haredim in Mea Shearim rioted against the "city's decision to open a municipality-owned lot on Shabbat."
The clashes, which began Saturday night, were held under the banner of 'The Battle for Jerusalem'. Thousands of ultra-Orthodox men tried to storm the lot in Safra Square, many of whom threw rocks, dirty diapers and other objects at security forces. Both Saturday and again on Sunday, demonstrators lit trash cans on fire and blocked roads....

Haredi organizers submitted and were granted a request to hold the protest, but promised to limit their activities to gathering and reading from the Torah.

Police fear that the weekend riot is only the tip of the iceberg. Haredi leaders have already issued a formal announcement that they would protest every Saturday until the lot was closed. "I think this was just the opening move," Zaka Chairman Moshe Meshi Zahav said Saturday. "It's very comfortable for the haredi community to paint Barkat as anti-religious; the time is ripe for that. The fact that the first day of the protest garnered thousands showed that it was a success.
Protestors set garbage bins on fire (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

And this is why the municipality decided to open the parking garage:
Over the last several years, all parking lots near the Old City were closed on Shabbat due to haredi pressure. But after a recent decision to bar vehicles from entering the Old City itself on Shabbat, a parking solution for the visitors became more pressing, since many drivers just parked their cars in no-parking zones around the Old City.
I hope that similar riots will not greet this year's Gay Pride March in Jerusalem, which is scheduled for June 25.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Adventures in Anti-Semitic Implicature — Crooked Timber

This is a very odd response to the study by Malhotra and Margalit about "Antisemitism and the economic crisis."

John Holbo writes:
Basically, a weirdly high number of responses to “How much to blame were the Jews for the financial crisis?” were in the ‘moderate’ to ‘a great deal’ range. 32% of Democrats and 18% of Republicans ‘blame the Jews’ at least moderately for the financial crisis. I realize there is such a thing as the crazification factor. But that’s still pretty high. (I’m guessing the Republican numbers are lower in part because high numbers of them don’t actually admit there’s a crisis. They might be more willing to blame the Jews if it were made clear that they weren’t thereby committed to conceding the existence of the thing the blame is for. But that’s just an unscientific guess.)

The weird thing, of course, is that people are willing to go with ‘the Jews’ as a cohesive, mass-noun sort of designation. In part, people must be responding the way they do on the basis of a vague awareness that there are lots of Jewish names in the stories about the financial crisis. Bernie Madoff, for example. That is, they are saying: among those responsible (if we assume those at the top of the financial world are responsible) there were a number of Jews.
Has Holbo never heard of anti-semitic conspiracy theories that Jews control the banking system? Has he never heard of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? He writes as if it is a new thing in human history that people refer to "the Jews." Unfortunately, this has been true since about the second or third century C.E., when Christian anti-Judaism really got into swing blaming "the Jews" for the death of Jesus. How could an educated person in our day and age not be aware of such conspiracy theories?

The original article appears at the Boston Review

Here's a couple of paragraphs on the statistics:
In order to assess explicit prejudice toward Jews, we directly asked respondents “How much to blame were the Jews for the financial crisis?” with responses falling under five categories: a great deal, a lot, a moderate amount, a little, not at all. Among non-Jewish respondents, a strikingly high 24.6 percent of Americans blamed “the Jews” a moderate amount or more, and 38.4 percent attributed at least some level of blame to the group.

Interestingly, Democrats were especially prone to blaming Jews: while 32 percent of Democrats accorded at least moderate blame, only 18.4 percent of Republicans did so (a statistically significant difference). This difference is somewhat surprising given the presumed higher degree of racial tolerance among liberals and the fact that Jews are a central part of the Democratic Party’s electoral coalition. Are Democrats simply more likely to “blame everything” thus casting doubt on whether the anti-Jewish attitudes are real? Not at all. We also asked how much “individuals who took out loans and mortgages they could not afford” were to blame on the same five-point scale. In this case, Democrats were less likely than Republicans to assign moderate or greater blame.

Educational attainment also correlates with variation in anti-Semitic attitudes. Whereas only 18.3 percent of respondents with at least a bachelor’s degree blamed the Jews a moderate amount or more, 27.3 percent of those lacking a 4-year degree did so. Again, we get a similar reversal when examining the blameworthiness of individuals who took out loans they could not afford.
I think that these results are entirely in concert with past experiences of rising anti-semitic attitudes during times of economic crisis. Anti-semitic beliefs are like a subclinical infection - when the immune system is robust, the person doesn't get sick, but when it weakens, the person begins to have symptoms. These are beliefs that are "out there" in the body politic that people can have recourse to explain why things are so bad for them. I would suspect that a fair number of those blaming "the Jews" at this time would normally not exhibit anti-semitic prejudices.

It's interesting to compare an ADL survey from 2005. From the press release announcing the study:
The 2005 Survey of American Attitudes Towards Jews in America, a national poll of 1,600 American adults conducted March 18 through March 25, found that 14 % of Americans - or nearly 35 million adults - hold views about Jews that are "unquestionably anti-Semitic," compared to 17% in 2002, Previous ADL surveys over the last decade had indicated that anti-Semitism was in decline. Seven years ago, in 1998, the number of Americans with hardcore anti-Semitic beliefs had dropped to 12% from 20 % in 1992.

"When it comes to Jews, old stereotypes die hard," said Mr. Foxman, "especially about loyalty, the death of Jesus, and power. For over 40 years one of the most stable and telling indicators of anti-Jewish prejudice in America has been the question of fundamental Jewish loyalty to the U.S. The survey found that 33% of Americans believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than America, no change from 2002. In 1998, it was 31%; in 1992; 35%.

Thirty percent (30%) of the American people believe Jews were responsible for the death of Christ, up from 25% in 2002.

Stereotypes about "Jewish power" in the U.S. have replaced many of the classical ethnic stereotypes previously attributed to Jewish Americans. The survey revealed that while the percentage of Americans who believe Jews have too much power has diminished, Americans who hold the most anti-Semitic views are preoccupied with the perceptions of Jewish power:

"Too much power in the US"

* General population - 15%, down from 20% in 2002
* Most anti-Semitic - 70 %

"Too much power in the Business world"

* General population - 19% down from 23% in 2002
* Most anti-Semitic - 80%

"Too much control of Wall Street"

* General population - 17% down from 20% in 2002
* Most anti-Semitic- 75%
The 2005 study gives some indications of why the response to the recent study results in a higher number of Democrats responding in an anti-semitic way. It has to do with the population composition of people who identify and vote as Democrats: the fact that there is a much higher percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics in the Democratic Party than the Republican. (Let me hasten to say that this does not mean that the Republican Party is generally speaking less racist than the Democrats - the opposite is true, in my opinion).
Regarding one of the most significant and fastest growing segments of the American population, Hispanics, there continues to be an extraordinary gap between those born in the United States and those born abroad, though somewhat less than in 2002. The survey revealed that 35 % of foreign-born Hispanics hold hardcore anti-Semitic beliefs, (down from 44%) while 19 % of Hispanics born in the U.S. fall into the same category (down from 20%). The anti-Semitic propensities of Hispanics were significantly above the national average -- 29% for Hispanics; 14% for all Americans....

The number of African-Americans with strong anti-Semitic beliefs continued to remain high and stable since 1992. The 2005 survey found that 36% of African-Americans hold strong anti-Semitic beliefs, four times more than the 9% for whites. In 1992 it was 37%; 1998 – 34%; 2002- 35%.
Education and age are also important factors:
Education and age also continued to play roles in determining anti-Semitism.

Less educated Americans continue to be more likely to hold anti-Semitic views:

• Education - The more educated a person is, the less likely he or she is to hold anti-Semitic views: 35% of high school graduates hold strong anti-Semitic views, compared to 13% of college graduate and 5% of those who hold post graduate degrees.

• Age – The older a person, the more likely he or she is to hold anti-Semitic views: 24% of adults over the age of 65 hold strong anti-Semitic views, compared to 12% of those 18-29 years old and 11% of those 30-39 years old.
In a post on Crooked Timber, Malhotra and Margalit go into more detail about their methodology and how they arrived at their figures.

It would be nice if people who pontificate about anti-semitism actually knew something about it....