Friday, March 15, 2013

Nabi Saleh - Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?

A good article from the New York Times about the struggle between Palestinians and settlers in Nabi Saleh, on the West Bank - Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?

Protesters fleeing from tear gas launched by the Israel Defense Forces. In the background, the Israeli settlement of Halamish. Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times

From most south-facing windows in Nabi Saleh, you can see the red roofs of Halamish, the Israeli settlement on the hilltop across the valley. It has been there since 1977, founded by members of the messianic nationalist group Gush Emunim, and growing steadily since on land that once belonged to residents of Nabi Saleh and another Palestinian village. Next to Halamish is an Israeli military base, and in the valley between Nabi Saleh and the settlement, across the highway and up a dirt path, a small freshwater spring, which Palestinians had long called Ein al-Kos, bubbles out of a low stone cliff. In the summer of 2008, although the land surrounding the spring has for generations belonged to the family of Bashir Tamimi, who is 57, the youth of Halamish began building the first of a series of low pools that collect its waters. Later they added a bench and an arbor for shade. (Years after, the settlers retroactively applied for a building permit, which Israeli authorities refused to issue, ruling that “the applicants did not prove their rights to the relevant land.” Recently, several of the structures have been removed.) When Palestinians came to tend to their crops in the fields beside it, the settlers, villagers said, threatened and threw stones at them.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

UPDATE AND CORRECTION: Pope Francis and the Argentinian dictatorship


The story recounted below in Hugh O'Shaughnessy's article names Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) as the one who hid political prisoners from a human rights commission when they came to investigate during the time of the Argentinian military junta. Actually, it was the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires at the time, Aramburu, who is accused of doing this. Bergoglio is accused of an entirely different act of complicity with the Argentinian junta - withdrawing his support from two Jesuit priests and allowing them to be arrested and tortured by the junta. See transcript of interview with Horacio Verbitsky on Democracy Now after the incorrect blog entry.

Three years ago, Hugh O'Shaughnessy wrote in the Guardian about the Sins of the Argentine Church during the period of military rule in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the people he discussed was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who has just been chosen as the pope to succeed Benedict. He cites Horacio Verbitsky, author of the book El Silencio, who wrote about Bergoglio's complicity with the junta in his book.
The extent of the church's complicity in the dark deeds was excellently set out by Horacio Verbitsky, one of Argentina's most notable journalists, in his book El Silencio (Silence). He recounts how the Argentine navy with the connivance of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now the Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, hid from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission the dictatorship's political prisoners. Bergoglio was hiding them in nothing less than his holiday home in an island called El Silencio in the River Plate. The most shaming thing for the church is that in such circumstances Bergoglio's name was allowed to go forward in the ballot to chose the successor of John Paul II. What scandal would not have ensued if the first pope ever to be elected from the continent of America had been revealed as an accessory to murder and false imprisonment.
I would like to know more about Bergoglio's actions during the junta - is Verbitsky the only person to accuse him of collusion with the regime? Has Verbitsky's account been confirmed by other authors? If his accusations are true, it is indeed very troubling that Bergoglio has just been chosen to be the next pope.

Interview on Democracy Now of Horacio Verbitsky, March 14, 2013:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: For more on the new pope, we turn now to one of Argentina’s leading investigative journalists, Horacio Verbitsky, who has written extensively about the career of Cardinal Bergoglio and his actions during the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. During that time, up to 30,000 people were kidnapped and killed. A 2005 lawsuit accused Jorge Bergoglio of being connected to the 1976 kidnappings of two Jesuit priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics. The lawsuit was filed after the publication of Verbitsky’s book, The Silence: From Paul VI to Bergoglio: The Secret Relations Between the Church and the ESMA. ESMA refers to the former navy school that was turned into a detention center where people were tortured by the military dictatorship. The new pope has denied the charges. He twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court to testify about the allegations. When he eventually did testify in 2010, human rights activists characterized his answers as evasive.
The arrest and torture of the two Jesuit priests.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk about that and some of the things that—because you’ve been a leading investigative reporter uncovering the relations between the church and the government in terms of the dirty wars? 
HORACIO VERBITSKY: Of course. He was accused by two Jesuit priests of having surrendered them to the military. They were a group of Jesuits that were under Bergoglio’s direction. He was the provincial superior of the order in Argentina, being very, very young. He was the younger provincial Jesuit in history; at 36 years, he was provincial. During a period of great political activity in the Jesuits’ company, he stimulated the social work of the Jesuits. But when the military coup overthrow the Isabel Perón government, he was in touch with the military that ousted this government and asked the Jesuits to stop their social work. And when they refused to do it, he stopped protecting them, and he let the military know that they were not more inside the protection of the Jesuits’ company, and they were kidnapped. And they accuse him for this deed. He denies this. He said to me that he tried to get them free, that he talked with the former dictator, Videla, and with former dictator Massera to have them freed. 
And during a long period, I heard two versions: the version of the two kidnapped priests that were released after six months of torture and captivity, and the version of Bergoglio. This was an issue divisive in the human rights movement to which I belong, because the president founding of CELS, Center for Legal and Social Studies, Emilio Mignone, said that Bergoglio was a accomplice of the military, and a lawyer of the CELS, Alicia Oliveira, that was a friend of Bergoglio, tell the other part of the story, that Bergoglio helped them. This was the two—the two versions. 
But during the research for one of my books, I found documents in the archive of the foreign relations minister in Argentina, which, from my understanding, gave an end to the debate and show the double standard that Bergoglio used. The first document is a note in which Bergoglio asked the ministry to—the renewal of the passport of one of these two Jesuits that, after his releasing, was living in Germany, asking that the passport was renewed without necessity of this priest coming back to Argentina. The second document is a note from the officer that received the petition recommending to his superior, the minister, the refusal of the renewal of the passport. And the third document is a note from the same officer telling that these priests have links with subversion—that was the name that the military gave to all the people involved in opposition to the government, political or armed opposition to the military—and that he was jailed in the mechanics school of the navy, and saying that this information was provided to the officer by Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, provincial superior of the Jesuit company. This means, to my understanding, a double standard. He asked the passport given to the priest in a formal note with his signature, but under the table he said the opposite and repeated the accusations that produced the kidnapping of these priests. 
AMY GOODMAN: And these priests—can you explain, Horacio, what happened to these two priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics? 
HORACIO VERBITSKY: Yes. Orlando, after his releasing, went to Rome. 
AMY GOODMAN: How were they found? 
AMY GOODMAN: How were they found? In what condition were they? What had happened to them? 
HORACIO VERBITSKY: Well, he was released—both of them were released, drugged, confused, transported by helicopter to—in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, were abandoned, asleep by drugs, in very bad condition. They were tortured. They were interrogated. One of the interrogators had externally knowings about theological questions, that induced one of them, Orlando Yorio, to think that their own provincial, Bergoglio, had been involved in this interrogatory. 
AMY GOODMAN: He said that—he said that Bergoglio himself had been part of the—his own interrogation, this Jesuit priest? 
HORACIO VERBITSKY: He told me that he had the impression their own provincial, Bergoglio, was present during the interrogatory, which one of the interrogators had externally knowledge of theological questions. And when released, he went to Rome. He lived seven years in Rome, then come back to Argentina. And when coming back to Argentina, he was incardinated in the Quilmes diocesis in Great Buenos Aires, where the bishop was one of the leaders of the progressive branch of the Argentine church opposite to that of Bergoglio. And Orlando Yorio denounced Bergoglio. I received his testimony when Bergoglio was elected to the archbishop of Buenos Aires. And Bergoglio—I interviewed Bergoglio also, and he denied the charges, and he told me that he had defended them. 
And Orlando Yorio got me in touch with Francisco Jalics, that was living in Germany. I talked with him, and he confirmed the story, but he didn’t want to be mentioned in my piece, because he told me that he preferred to not remember this sad part of his life and to pardon. And he was for oblivion and pardon. That he was, during a lot of years, very resented against Bergoglio, but that he had decided to forgot and forget. And when I released the book with the story, one Argentine journalist working for a national agency, [inaudible], who has been a disciple of Jalics, talked with him and asked him for the story. And Jalics told him that he would not affirm, not deny the story.
The second subject is who was responsible for hiding the political prisoners when the human rights commission came to Argentina. It was not Bergoglio, but the then Cardinal Archbishop Aramburu.
AMY GOODMAN: Ah, let me ask you a question. We thought we lost you for a minute. We’re talking to Horacio Verbitsky, a leading Argentine investigative journalist, well known for his human rights investigations. I wanted to ask you about this issue of hiding political prisoners when a human rights delegation came to Argentina. Can you tell us when this was, what are the allegations, and what was the role, if any, of Bergoglio, now Pope Francis? 
HORACIO VERBITSKY: No, in this episode, Bergoglio has no intervention. The intervention was from the cardinal that in that time was the chief of the church in Buenos Aires. That is the position that Bergoglio has in the present. But in that time, he was not archbishop of Buenos Aires. When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights came into Argentina to investigate allegations of human rights violations, the navy took 60 prisoners out of ESMA and got them to a village that was used by the Cardinal Aramburu to his weekends. And in this weekend property were also the celebration each year of the new seminarians that ended their studies. In this villa in the outskirts of Buenos Aires were the prisoners during the visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. And when the commission visited ESMA, they did not find the prisoners that were supposed to be there, because they were— 
AMY GOODMAN: ESMA being—ESMA being the naval barracks were so many thousands of Argentines were held. So where were they? 
HORACIO VERBITSKY: Yes, but Bergoglio has no intervention in this—in this fact. Indeed, he helped me to investigate a case. He gave me the precise information about in which tribunal was the document demonstrating that this villa was owned by the church. 
AMY GOODMAN: He said that they were hidden in a villa that was owned by the Catholic Church? 
HORACIO VERBITSKY: Yes. And the prisoners were held in a weekend house that was the weekend house of the cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires in that time. And Bergoglio gave me the precise information about the tribunal in which were the documents affirming this relationship between this property and the archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Young soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces

There's a really interesting article in the Guardian (of all papers!) about life as a young female soldier in the IDF: Young gun: life in the Israel Defense Forces. It's written by Shani Boianjiu, who is the author of the novel, The People of Forever are not Afraid. It's not a political article, but rather it's about her own personal experiences as a weaponry instructor in the IDF.

Marc Goldberg, who writes a blog for the Times of Israel, is chronicling his experiences training in the IDF on his own personal blog, Marc's Words. He's not as polished a writer as Boianjiu, but he's pretty good and is hoping to publish a book about his experiences.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Anti-Israel agitation at Harvard University

The anti-Israel campaign reached my alma mater some time ago, but this manifestation of it really angers me.

The ostensibly "pro-Palestinian" Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee has celebrated "Israel Apartheid Week" by putting mock eviction flyers (Mock Eviction Flyers Incite Debate) on the doors of some Harvard suites in order, supposedly, to make Harvard students feel like Palestinians who are being evicted from their homes in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Palestine Solidarity Committees like Harvard's are, in actuality, anti-Israel groups that want to see the destruction of the state of Israel in favor of a "one state solution" that will make Jews once again a minority in every country of the world.

For a good student response, see this article by Ariella Rotenberg and Ariel Rubin, "The Wrong Type of Engagement."
As two seniors writing theses on aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict, we have actively sought out views that oppose our own and continue to work in an effort to understand contradicting narratives. Through our research and combined eight months of living experience in Israel over the past year, we found barriers to peace attributable to both Israel and the Palestinians. We realize the importance of employing a framework that engages with multiple perspectives. There are limits to this framework, however, when words are based in hatred rather than facts. The Palestinian Solidarity Committee has reached this limit in its portrayals of the conflict as one-sided, revealing either a lack of understanding of history or rejection of an honest, albeit challenging, conversation about the complicated reality. 
The PSC’s use of the word “apartheid” is ahistorical, polarizing, and preventative of informed, fact-based dialogue. The implication of the comparison to “apartheid” is that the Israelis are racist totalitarians ruling over blameless Palestinians, with no consideration for the nuances and details of the conflict. Israel’s Declaration of Independence guarantees equal rights to all citizens irrespective of religion, race, or sex. It is a country where a Palestinian citizen of Israel serves as a Supreme Court Justice; where political discourse includes Arab elected officials who are hyper-critical of Israel; and where all citizens are guaranteed the same right to education. It is a country committed to peaceful coexistence, not a country with a systematic policy of racism. By using the misnomer of “apartheid,” the PSC explicitly demonizes Israel by squeezing the complicated Arab-Israeli conflict into the same racially driven mold that existed in South Africa. We take issue with certain Israeli policies and recognize that the state is not perfect, but we base our criticism in historically accurate facts. It takes only a very rudimentary understanding of the situation to appreciate the PSC’s gross misuse of the word “apartheid.” 
The PSC as an organization consistently projects a dishonest voice that distorts the reality of the conflict. Last November, the group staged a “die-in” to show solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza under what the PSC deemed a so-called “unprovoked assault” from Israel. It is one thing to show solidarity with the people of Gaza, but labeling the operation as “unprovoked” is a deliberate neglect for the more than 10,000 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel over the previous decade. The PSC bases its activism in the Veritas Handbook, a 347-page “guide to understanding the struggle for Palestinian human rights.” Crimson columnist Daniel Solomon described it last week as “glib dismissals of Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism...indulg[ing] in conspiracy theories, that Mossad agents, not government-sanctioned campaigns of violence and terror, were responsible for the exodus of Jews from Arab lands.” The PSC’s mission statement states that it “does not prescribe a solution to the struggle; rather...believe[s] in supporting and amplifying the voices of those working against injustice.” If an organization is devoted to a struggle, that struggle should at least aim for a peaceful resolution built on mutual respect and understanding. Instead, the PSC polarizes the campus discourse through misinformation and inflammatory tactics.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

"Hekhalot Literature in Context" to be published by Mohr Siebeck

The papers from the "Hekhalot Literature in Context" conference, which was held at Princeton a couple of years ago, are going to be published this spring by Mohr Siebeck. I have a paper in this volume, "Women and Gender in the Hekhalot Literature."

Hekhalot Literature in Context: Between Byzantium and Babylonia 
Edited by Ra'anan Boustan, Martha Himmelfarb and Peter Schäfer 
Over the past 30 years, scholars of early Jewish mysticism have, with increasing confidence, located the initial formation of Hekhalot literature in Byzantine Palestine and Sasanian or early Islamic Babylonia (ca. 500–900 C.E.), rather than at the time of the Mishnah, Tosefta, early Midrashim, or Palestinian Talmud (ca. 100–400 C.E.). This advance has primarily been achieved through major gains in our understanding of the dynamic and highly flexible processes of composition, redaction, and transmission that produced the Hekhalot texts as we know them today. These gains have been coupled with greater appreciation of the complex relationships between Hekhalot writings and the variegated Jewish literary culture of late antiquity, both within and beyond the boundaries of the rabbinic movement. Yet important questions remain regarding the specific cultural contexts and institutional settings out of which the various strands of Hekhalot literature emerged as well as the multiple trajectories of use and appropriation they subsequently travelled. In the present volume, an international team of experts explores—from a variety of disciplinary perspectives (e.g. linguistics, ritual and gender studies, intellectual history)—the literary formation, cultural meanings, religious functions, and textual transmission of Hekhalot literature.

Survey of contents:

Ra‘anan Boustan: Introduction 
I. The Formation of Hekhalot Literature: Linguistic, Literary, and Cultural Contexts 
Noam Mizrahi: The Language of Hekhalot Literature: Preliminary Observations. Peter Schäfer: Metatron in Babylonia. Michael D. Swartz: Hekhalot and Piyyut: From Byzantium to Babylonia and Back. Alexei Sivertsev: The Emperor’s Many Bodies: The Demise of Emperor Lupinus Revisited. Klaus Herrmann: Jewish Mysticism in Byzantium: The Transformation of Merkavah Mysticism in 3 Enoch. David M. Grossberg: Between 3 Enoch and Bavli Hagigah: Heresiology and Orthopraxy in the Ascent of Elisha ben Abuyah. Moulie Vidas: Hekhalot Literature, the Babylonian Academies and the tanna’im.
II. The Transmission and Reception of Hekhalot Literature: Toward the Middle Ages
Peter Schäfer: The Hekhalot Genizah. Gideon Bohak: Observations on the Transmission of Hekhalot Literature in the Cairo Genizah. Ophir Münz-Manor: A Prolegomenon to the Study of Hekhalot Traditions in European Piyyut.
III. Early Jewish Mysticism in Comparative Perspective: Themes and Patterns 
Reimund Leicht: Major Trends in Rabbinic Cosmology. Rebecca Lesses: Women and Gender in the Hekhalot Literature. Andrei A. Orlov: “What is Below?” Mysteries of Leviathan in the Early Jewish Accounts and Mishnah Hagigah 2:1. Michael Meerson: Rites of Passage in Magic and Mysticism. Annette Yoshiko Reed: Rethinking (Jewish) Christian Evidence for Jewish Mysticism.