Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What happens if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President?

I'm starting to wonder how the anti-Trump Republicans will react if Trump becomes the Republican nominee for President. The National Review devoted an entire issue to denouncing him, and now Max Boot, in Commentary Magazine, writes that Donald Trump Has No Regard for the Truth.
Donald Trump, the undoubted Republican front-runner after winning the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, is — there is no way to sugarcoat this — a liar, an ignoramus, and a moral abomination. I have never previously described any presidential candidates in such harsh terms — not even close — but there is no other way to accurately describe him. There simply isn’t. This past week, the week culminating in his big South Carolina win, provided yet more evidence, as if any were needed, of the validity of all these words to describe him.
Boot continues:
Trump’s ignorance was revealed yet again this past week with his bizarre praise of General John J. Pershing whose supposed example he cited as a model in the war on terror. Here is what Trump said
“General Pershing was a rough guy, He caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage…and he took the 50 terrorists and he took 50 men and dipped 50 bullets in pig’s blood. You heard about that? He took 50 bullets and dipped them in pig’s blood [which is considered haram]. And he has his men load up their rifles and he lined up the 50 people and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said, you go back to your people and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem. We’ve got to start getting tough and we’ve got to start being vigilant and we’ve got to start using our heads or we’re not gonna have a country, folks.”
There’s only one problem with Trump’s inspirational tale: There is no evidence it ever happened. Snopes.com describes this as a common urban legend. It is actually far removed from the way that Captain Pershing dealt with the Moros, the Muslims in the Philippines, in the early years of the 20th century. As I wrote in my book The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, “Captain Pershing preferred to win over the Moros with outstretched hand rather than mailed fist. So successful was his campaign that he was made a datto, or chieftain.” 
In other words, Pershing’s approach was the very opposite of what Trump claimed. Although Pershing was not afraid to use force if necessary, he understood that the Moros could not simply be terrorized into acquiescence to American rule and that excessive brutality could backfire. 
It is offensive that Trump is praising Pershing for war crimes he didn’t commit and simply gobsmacking that Trump thinks that Pershing could have ended the Moro insurrection for 25 years simply by executing 49 prisoners. In fact, while Pershing did help to quell the Moro uprising using a balanced counterinsurgency approach, it never truly ended; the Muslim insurrection in the Philippines continues to this day, a fact of which Trump is undoubtedly unaware.
What will Boot do if Trump is nominated? Will he hold his nose and vote for him simply because he's a Republican? Will he vote for the Democrat as the lesser of two evils? (Seems more likely if Hillary is the nominee). Or will he simply abstain from voting for president?

Rev. Graylan Hagler to speak on "From Baltimore to Palestine" in Ithaca on March 2

The Rev. Graylan Hagler will be speaking on March 2 in Ithaca on the topic of "From Baltimore to Palestine" at GIAC. His visit is sponsored by the Jewish Voice for Peace chapter in Ithaca. I had never heard of him before I saw the announcement earlier today of his visit. 

In June, 2015, he spoke at a conference in Washington, DC, organized by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization head by Rev. Naim Ateek. Some excerpts from his talk:
The conference’s second keynote speaker was Rev. Graylan S. Hagler, a senior pastor of a local congregation who had previously opened his pulpit to Gilad Atzmon. A self-professed “proud self-hating Jew,” Atzmon is the author of The Wandering Who, which provides ostensible insights into Jewish “goy-hating and racist ideologies” and calls on Jews to “integrate into humanity.”
A self-declared advocate of non-violence, Rev. Hagler nonetheless argued that “violent reaction has its merits” and “progressives or liberals” should not “tell people what tools they should use in order to gain their own freedom.” Instead, they should stay silent, lest they end up “sounding like the United States or sounding like Israel, talking about what tactics are therefore justifiable while…basically carrying out a whole genocide of a population.” Without a hint of irony, he then warned, “We need to be careful about who we are and what we talk about and how we talk about it.”
Channeling Ateek’s liberation theology in order to distance the modern Jews of Israel from their ancient Middle Eastern forefathers, Hagler spoke of an “interrupted” continuity of Jewish descent—despite multiple genetic studies to the contrary—and painted a picture of a nation “largely from Europe and from Rockville [Md.] and from Illinois.” Unsurprisingly, with the conference tailored to engage African-American congregations and occurring in such close proximity to the protests in Baltimore, Hagler depicted the American struggle against racial discrimination as directly analogous to the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel’s ethnic relations. Hagler railed against Israel’s treatment of Ethiopian Jews and African migrants, and asserted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March speech to Congress constituted a racially-driven “slap in the face” to President Obama. Netanyahu, he said, was “disrespecting a black face in the White House.” Occasionally, Hagler’s preaching featured outright perversions of Judaism that harkened back to Ateek’s teachings. “I got a problem when anybody is a chosen person,” he said, “because if somebody else is chosen, that means that I’m not, and I know that I’m a child of God.”

President Obama, race, and the Supreme Court

Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo: "Many observers view the Supreme Court emerging drama in the Senate as the pinnacle of the drawn out, deep-seated and racially tinged effort to block America’s first black president from leaving a lasting legacy on the country that elected him twice."

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A critique of Jasbir Puar's "Homonationalism"

I just found an interesting blog post (Jasbir Puar’s Homonationalism Talk: A Real Disappointment) that critiqued a talk by Puar from 2008, which brings up some of the same points as I did in my last post. The author is at McGill University (or was in 2008) and heard her speak about her book Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times.

The author of the post, whose name was not given, began by criticizing the obscurity of Puar's language.
Well, why not [begin] with language. It feels like fishing in a barrel to complain about the words with which most post-structuralist/postmodernist theories are crafted, but i think it’s important to note. Telling, in more ways than one. What to say about a talk which is only comprehensible to people who have read Deleuze and Guattari, who know when you say “biopolitics” that you must mean it in the Foucoultian sense, and who can dangle more lines of flight from their affect than an ontology has epistemes???
I heartily agree. I've seen a transcript of Puar's talk at Vassar, and parts of it were incomprehensible to me because I didn't know the theoretical language she used. The term "prehensive" seems to be important in her argument, for example, and I could not figure out what it meant. She didn't define it, and even the Oxford English Dictionary couldn't help me.

The author of the post then went on to explain Puar's argument and critique it. Some excerpts:
Puar’s first point was that to criticize or work against homophobia or transphobia (and likely sexism, racism, and all kinds of other things too) within cultures, peoples, or countries which are victimized by imperialism, is to be complicit with imperialist oppression.
This explains the notion of "homonationalism" - if gay/lesbian people in the US or Europe criticize or work against homophobia in countries like Iran, it means that we're participating in "imperialist oppression" of these countries. She doesn't have a concept of solidarity across borders for gay people. I don't see why someone couldn't work to improve safety for gay men in Iraq, for example, in an expressly anti-imperialist way. Or, to work with queer people in Palestine without working with the Israeli government in any way (I imagine that in practice she would be in favor of this - but maybe not?)
This is a crude position, one which has been hinted at in other arguments people have made over the past years regarding Hezbollah, Hamas, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Ahmadinejad’s Iran. (The only specific example given by Puar were  a series of protests held in 2006 to mark the first anniversary of the execution of two queer teenagers in Iran, a case i have already mentioned, and reposted criticisms of, on this blog.)
I've encountered this attitude myself. A few years ago, at the end of the semester in my modern Jewish history class, we were talking about antisemitism in contemporary Iran. This was when Ahmedinejad was president, and the first so-called "Holocaust Cartoons" contest was being held - and it produced cartoons that were obviously antisemitic. This particular class session was a follow-up to an earlier class that had talked about antisemitic ideology in the 19th and 20th centuries. One student, on the very last day, came up to me because she objected to my criticizing the Iranian regime in any way - even if the regime was pushing Holocaust denial. She of course did not agree with Holocaust denial (a good thing, since we had just covered the Holocaust a couple of weeks before this), but didn't think it was appropriate to criticize Ahmedinejad for propagating it. I was astonished, and furious, but I had sufficient presence of mind to ask her if she believed this for "anti-imperialist" reasons. She said yes. I went home and fumed to my friends. Fortunately, the semester was at an end, and I wouldn't have to put up with her in class after this unpleasant conversation.
In fact, without drawing any distinctions, acknowledging any other forms of solidarity activism, or providing any other examples to back up her charge, Puar accused the “Islamophobic Gay Left” of being complicit with imperialism, point finale. Rather than explain this in terms of political dynamics or material forces in the real world, without looking at the history/herstory that got us to this point, Puar stated that this imperialist bent was “constitutive” of queer identity as it has been constructed. (That she has also stated that “the rise of queer” is contingent, or dependent, on the rise of racism should be noted. Whether this is a contradiction in her thought, or a paradox she needs to explore, i do not know.)
What do you suppose this mythical "Islamophobic gay left" even is? Who belongs to it? I've never heard of it.

And it's outrageous to say that queer identity is "constituted" by Islamophobia. Queer identity doesn't have anything to do with Islamophobia. One important feature of queer identity for some people is the rejection of traditional religious homophobia - I've heard this expressed many times by people raised as Christians or Jews who are grateful to escape from the stiflingly homophobic communities they grew up in. What does that have to do with hostility to Muslims or Islam?
While there were a lot of esoteric catchphrases summing up the whys and hows of this, there was nothing – nada, zilch – in the way of actual historical or political explanations. It seems this judgment on a terrain of struggle was the product of a lot of mental energy and pure logic, no actual practical experience necessary. That would just get in the way. 
This is also a feature of her recent lecture at Vassar College. She did not provide any evidence for her accusations against Israel.

If you're interested in a more lengthy critique of the talk this author heard, click on the link above. While the post is not about Puar's recent Vassar talk, it does help one to understand the political world that Puar comes from and explains some of the difficult theoretical language.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Jasbir Puar at Vassar and a new justification for homophobia

Jasbir Puar, an Associate Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, recently gave a speech at Vassar College called "Inhumanist Biopolitics: How Palestine Matters." She was invited by the American Studies Program and her talk was cosponsored by Africana Studies, English, International Studies, Jewish Studies, Political Science, Religion, and Women’s Studies. William Jacobson, a Cornell professor of law, who also publishes the blog Legal Insurrection, recently posted a long article about Puar's talk - Vassar faculty sponsored anti-Israel event erupts in controversy. He quoted extensively from a transcript of the talk, prepared from a recording made by a member of an alumni/parent group called Fairness to Israel. (There was a request made not to record the speech, but FTI did so anyway). (All quotes here from Jacobson's article).
Before I give my brief remarks, I would like to request that you silence your devices you brought with you so as not to disrupt the conversation with Professor Puar is conducting with us today. I would also like to request on her behalf and on behalf of the rest of the assembly that you refrain from recording this evening’s proceedings, in the spirit of congeniality and mutual respect, though it is not against the law, to record someone vocation professional labor without informing them, it is quite unseemly and violates the modest contract of trust essential to the exchange of ideas.
William Jacobson has eviscerated the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish features of Puar's talk, but here I discuss the introduction that the Vassar faculty member gave to her talk.
Professor Puar is a Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University who has established herself as one of the preeminent scholars of Queer Theory.

Having produced work on par with Judith Butler, Robyn Wiegman, Jack Halberstam, and Sara Ahmed. Her widely acclaimed book Terrorist Assemblages published in 2007 explores the ascendant phenomenon of homonationalism, arguing that the new sexual inclusiveness of Western nations is not so much a sign of social progressivism but rather a tactic to shore up and re-invigorate existing hierarchies of race, gender and sexuality toward the end of furthering military initiatives like the U.S. war on terror. This evening, Professor Puar returns to a site of inquiry that to her offers a particular example of how states re-engineer sexual cultures for the purposes of making war: the State of Israel.
I've written about this new concept "homonationalism," before on this blog, and about my objections to it. I view this notion as homophobia in another form, this time justified not by traditional religious teachings or contemporary anti-gay political movements, but by people who consider themselves to be radical leftists. Puar's argument, as summarized in this paragraph, sees the limited positive effects of the feminist movement and the movements for LGBT rights not as social progress but as a means to support US militarism. It's a kind of conspiracy-theory argument - the fact that the US Supreme Court struck down anti-same-sex marriage laws, and other countries around the world have legalized same-sex marriage is taken not as a laudable sign of progress towards making the lives of LGBT people better, but as a covert project to support military initiatives. I do not see how improving the lives of women and LBGT can be viewed in any way as supporting militarism (in any country). In what sane evaluation of the activities and successes of the LGBT rights movement can the legalization of same-sex marriage be regarded as "re-invigorating existing hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality"? Doesn't the ability of a same-sex couple now to get married in the US actually diminish the previously-existing hierarchy which valued male-female relationships entirely above same-sex ones?

Of course, legalizing same-sex marriages is not the only goal of the LGBT rights movement - one of the really big unfinished tasks is the passage of a federal law making illegal anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation. A same sex couple can get married in every state in the US, but in many states it is still entirely legal to fire someone for being gay or lesbian or transgender, or to prevent someone from renting an apartment or buying a house or any number of other ordinary human activities.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Vassar College Students for Justice in Palestine lauds Leila Khaled, terrorist hijacker

As before, in the spring of 2014, Vassar SJP just doesn't know when to stop. This t-shirt, with the image of Leila Khaled and the caption "resistance is not terrorism," is going to be sold at their events. by an organization called Existence is Resistance.

Leila Khaled was involved in the hijacking of two airplanes in 1969 and 1970. She is a member of the PFLP - Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The Wikipedia article on her gives information about both of the hijackings:
On August 29, 1969, Khaled was part of a team that hijacked TWA Flight 840 on its way from Rome to Athens, diverting the Boeing 707 to Damascus. She claims she ordered the pilot to fly over Haifa, so she could see her birthplace, which she could not visit.[10] No one was injured, but the aircraft was blown up after hostages had disembarked.

On September 6, 1970, Khaled and Patrick Argüello, a Nicaraguan-American, attempted the hijack of El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York City as part of the Dawson's Field hijackings, a series of almost simultaneous hijackings carried out by the PFLP. The attack was foiled, when Israeli skymarshals killed Argüello before eventually overpowering Khaled. Although she was carrying two hand grenades at the time, Khaled said she had received very strict instructions not to threaten passengers on the civilian flight.[10] (Argüello shot a member of the flight crew.)[13] 
The pilot diverted the aircraft to Heathrow airport in London, where Khaled was delivered to Ealing police station. On October 1, the British government released her in exchange for hostages taken in a further hijacking.[14]"
A fine hero for SJP at Vassar to have - an airplane hijacker who managed to avoid jail. Apparently the people in the two planes that she hijacked - TWA 840 and El Al 219 - don't matter to them. The terrorist, not the victims, is the one they laud. They don't appear to be able to imagine themselves as the terrified passengers, wondering what was going to happen to them when armed attackers take over their planes. No, what they like is "sweet fucking antiZionist gear."

Update - see also http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/26228/

More on this at http://commonsensewonder.blogspot.com/2016/02/anti-semitism-on-college-campus-here-at.html (also quoting my blog).

Thursday, February 11, 2016

BDS at Vassar - again

BDS has shown up again at Vassar, with a vengeance. The most recent edition of the Vassar student newspaper has published two good articles about BDS and antisemitism. The first one is from the J Street U chapter - it is a vigorous argument against BDS and for both Israeli and Palestinian rights.

The first couple of paragraphs:
J Street U Vassar would like to formally an­nounce their opposition to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) resolution pending at Vassar and reiterate its opposition to the wid­er BDS movement. We want to highlight that J Street U Vassar’s primary purpose isn’t to fight BDS, but to play a role in the larger fight to end the occupation of the West Bank and develop a two-state solution. Fighting BDS does neither of these things, but as the sole pro-Israel orga­nization on campus, we intend to be an active participant in the dialogue surrounding the res­olution. At the same time, this won’t be our sole focus for the semester, and we will continue to engage in projects to meet our goals as a pro-Is­rael, pro-Palestine, pro-two states organization. 
We believe that BDS is pat-on-the-back activ­ism. It does more to make individuals feel better about themselves than it does to tangibly support the rights of the Palestinian people. By not specif­ically targeting the movements and parties that directly perpetuate the occupation, BDS is pas­sive and doesn’t take courageous action on behalf of Palestinians. BDS is also dismissive of Israelis who are pro-Palestine, anti-racism and pro-human rights. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely complex and the reductive nature of BDS doesn’t account for this complexity. Therefore it isn’t an appropriate or effective strategy to end the occu­pation and the oppression of Palestinian people. Additionally, BDS is not the end-all solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is certainly not the only way to stand in solidarity with Palestinians.
The second article is by a student named Jesse Horowitz - Antisemitism present in antizionist rhetoric.
Last Friday, Feb. 5, an email was sent out to the student body regarding antisemitic comments posted on Yik Yak. Most notably, one user commented “f*ck Jews” on a post defend­ing Israel, which prompted swift condemnation from the Administration as well as student groups such as the Vassar Jewish Union (VJU) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). 
But that wasn’t all. Later on in the same con­versation, that individual clarified that they didn’t mean f*ck all Jews, just the ones who support Is­rael, and fully embraced that this somehow made their comment acceptable. 
That same day, another commenter on Yik Yak used similar antisemitic language, engaging in statements such as “your just a retard and so are Zionists” and “Zionism is a plague of mankind. These Jews stand around throwing this is antise­mitic and that’s antisemitic” and “I’ve never met a Jew who didn’t think Israel is their home land. Jews through terrorism have kept Palestinians locked like animals in their home.” 
That same commenter insinuated that the Jews, and me personally for being a Jew, should evaluate what we “do wrong in Palestine and oth­er places.” I have photographic evidence of this entire conversation. 
It is impossible to discuss these statements while ignoring the growing anti-Zionist senti­ment on campus. But how linked are these sen­timents and what responsibility should pro-Pal­estinian organizations take incidents such as this?....

So, let’s accept, for the time being, that anti-Zi­onism is not inherently antisemitic. After all, it goes without saying that Israel’s human rights record has not been perfect, and it’s unaccept­able to completely dismiss all opposition to it as racist. However, just because criticizing Israel is not inherently antisemitic does not mean that the rhetoric of organizations such as Students for Jus­tice in Palestine (SJP), or even, for that matter, a Jewish Voice for Peace, cannot contribute to an­tisemitic viewpoints....

The activities and language of pro-Palestinian groups on campus goes above and beyond cri­tiquing Israel into demonizing opposition. For example, take SJP’s condemnation of the antisemitic statements made on Yik Yak. In it, they denied that Judaism is inextricably linked with Zionism. This is telling. While there are certainly Jews on campus who do not identify as Zionists, SJP seems to believe that they can make unfairly broad statements condemning Zionism, even liberal Zionism, as inherently racist, while ignoring that, for most people, Zionism and Juda­ism are linked. When organizations such as SJP make broad statements condemning all Zionists as racists, not only are they attempting to mar­ginalize and demonize their opposition, but they are sending a message to the community that it is okay to think less of a Jew who defends Israel’s right to exist. 
Furthermore, I take issue with SJP’s endorse­ment of bullying, vaguely antisemitic ideas such as pinkwashing. Pinkwashing Israel, a global LGBT, anti-Israel organization, defines pinkwashing as “the disingenuous invocation of LGBT rights by Israel and its supporters to divert attention away from its atrocities against the Palestinians.” 
The idea that Jewish, Israeli or LGBT rights or­ganizations are scheming to exploit LGBT rights for the purpose of distracting the public from hu­man rights violations in Palestine is reminiscent of the old and tired antisemitic beliefs of a “world­wide Jewish Zionist conspiracy.” Even if that is not pro-Palestinian activists mean to suggest, it should be obvious why such an idea could lead to an antisemitic incident. It begs the question: when an organization takes what has traditional­ly been said to marginalize Jews and replaces the word “Jew” with “Zionist” or even “Jewish Zion­ist,” does that make said statement any less prob­lematic. My answer, and I suspect the answer of most individuals, would be of course not. 
But even this I can tolerate to an extent, as long as there is a healthy opposition to these ideas. Unfortunately, pro-Palestinian student groups on campus have gone out of their way to obstruct the activities of dissenters. 
Perhaps the best example of this comes from the end of last semester, when SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace both tried to prevent J Street from attending a conference in New York be­cause some of the speakers at the event identified as liberal Zionists. While the VSA unanimously agreed to let J Street attend the conference, this incident highlights a frustration that many indi­viduals have with dialogue regarding Israel on this campus. The most baffling part of all of this is that J Street is not even a radical Zionist organi­zation. They’re a moderate group that urges for a two-state solution and whose foremost concern is peace in the region....
So what’s the takeaway? Firstly, I urge Vas­sar’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine to formally acknowledge that their language has been has been irresponsible and apologize to the Jewish community. Secondly, I ask them to take a stand in favor of free speech at Vassar and to op­pose the censorship and unfair treatment of any student organization, even those that disagree with them on a particular issue. 
Finally, I ask the student body to engage in re­spectful dialogue that does not dismiss anyone’s opinion as either inherently antisemitic or racist. We must realize that saying “f*ck Jews” is wrong the same way saying “f*ck Palestinians” would be wrong. If the state of discourse on Israel is allowed to continue, Vassar will be doomed to become an extremely hostile environment where those of certain beliefs are privileged over others. It is on the basis of a free state that we can fight for our beliefs while respecting the dignity of our opponents.
SJP masquerades as a democratic organization that is in favor of free speech, but as is obvious from Horowitz's article, SJP (and JVP) are only interested in stifling the voices of those who do not agree with them. Why on earth would they try to prevent the J Street U chapter from going to their own conference in New York? What even gives them the right to do that?
It's pretty obvious that SJP and JVP have created a poisonous atmosphere at Vassar that allows outright antisemitism to flourish. I think it would be very unpleasant to teach there - especially since the head of the Jewish Studies program is also extremely anti-Zionist and in favor of BDS.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Israeli government approves new egalitarian prayer area at Kotel

My friend Batya Kallus was instrumental in the negotiations between Women of the Wall and the government. Hear her on the NPR program this morning, "New Western Wall Rules Break Down Barriers for Jewish Women."

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Amiram Ben Uliel Reconstructs the Crime against the Dawabshe family

Ynet has just published an article about Amiram Ben Uliel, the man indicted for the murders of the Dewabshe family in Duma. Here is the article:

Amiram Ben Uliel
Amiram Ben Uliel
December 20, 2015, was a cold night in the village of Duma. The sky was clear of clouds, but the cold, around 5 degrees Celsius, was bone-chilling. Around 2am, the quiet night was interrupted by the roar of engines - a convoy of Shin Bet, police and IDF vehicles was making its way into the village, and the dogs awoke and started barking. The residents woke up in a fright and peeked outside to see who was raiding Duma in the dead of night.
One of the residents pulled out his cellphone and filmed Amiram Ben-Uliel leaving one of those vehicles. The young man was taking in the cold night air. Twenty days have passed since he was arrested, and he spent most of his time in stifling interrogation rooms, under constant pressure in an effort to make him talk, and get a confession out of him of the heinous murder of the Dawabsheh family.

Ben-Uliel managed to go 17 days without saying a word, until he was branded a "ticking bomb" by the Shin Bet interrogators, who received special permission from attorney-general Yehuda Weinsten to use "special interrogation methods" on him, the formal codename for torture.

After three days of intensive interrogation, during which he claims to have suffered serious violence at the hands of the Shin Bet interrogators, Ben-Uliel has confessed to throwing a Molotov cocktail into the home of the Dawabsheh family on the night of July 31, 2015, which caused the death of baby Ali and his parents, Saad and Reham, and wounded his brother, four-year-old Ahmad.

This confession, which he later recanted, led him and the interrogators to Duma that night, to recount the murder outside the burned-down Dawabsheh residence.

The reconstruction of the murder began in the car. The three interrogators and Ben-Uliel were looking around, trying to see if the area was safe for them to go outside. Ben-Uliel was hesitant. Several minutes earlier, when one of the interrogators was repeating the details out loud as part of the reconstruction, he gave short answers.

The charred remains of the Dawabsheh family home (Photo: Mohammed Shinawi)
The charred remains of the Dawabsheh family home (Photo:Mohammed Shinawi)
The interrogator wanted to hear from Ben-Uliel about the reconstruction, but he stuck to his evasive answers.

Interrogator: "Where are we going, Amiram?"

Ben-Uliel: "Ah... I don't know. Where are we going? I don't have a clue where we're going."

Interrogator: "What we talked about, Amiram. Nothing has changed."

Ben-Uliel: "I don't know... in Duma."

Interrogator: "To the village of Duma?"


Interrogator: "What are you going to show us in the village of Duma?"

Ben-Uliel: "Ah... houses."

Interrogator: "Houses?"

Ben-Uliel: "Yes."

Interrogator: "And what happened to these houses?"

Ben-Uliel: "They were set on fire."

The interrogator was content with these answers, explained the conditions of the reconstruction to Ben-Uliel and asked him to sign a declaration that said he was doing the reconstruction of his own free will. "Don't make me," Ben-Uliel urged him.

As they sat in the car, the interrogator says into the recorder: "The time is ten minutes to two, we entered the village." He then asks Ben-Uliel, "Look, tell me where you start identifying the area, okay?" The defendant's answers cannot be heard, and after a short silence he asks his interrogators, "Can we walk?" His interrogators ask him whether he can better identify the place on foot, and he responds "Uh... maybe. It'd be easier than seeing from inside the car."

The interrogators are conflicted. There's a large military force securing the area, but most of the conversation with Ben-Uliel is done inside the car, in order to not draw attention. They end up deciding to go outside anyway.

The confession Ben-Uliel gave and the reconstruction at the scene of the murder eventually led to the indictment against him in early January. He was charged with the murder of three members of the Dawabsheh family and the attempted murder of Ahmad Dawabsheh, charges that he now denies.
The evidence against him includes thousands of documents and protocols of interrogations conducted at the police's Nationalistically-Motivated Crime Unit at the Judea and Samaria District, as well as memos on Shin Bet interrogations.

He was interrogated around the clock - day and night. The interrogators worked in shifts, came and went, and he alone remained in the room, at times handcuffed to his chair, exhausted from the series of questions and the intensive efforts to make him talk. There were days he slept for only an hour or two, and days in which he was allowed to sleep for four hours.

Only a fraction of investigative materials

The lawyers representing Ben-Uliel and the other defendants have received 4,500 documents from the investigation so far.

Along with the documents, they received some 100 discs with security camera photos from the night of the arson. The large investigation team covered a massive area, from the Hizma checkpoint in northeastern Jerusalem to the Gitit Checkpoint in the Jordan Valley, and through the Tapuach Junction in the Samaria region of the West Bank. They went through every camera - IDF cameras, settlements' cameras, cameras of Palestinian villages, and private security cameras of homes in Duma.

The lawyers in the case, including Itamar Ben-Gvir, claim that the material they received so far was only a small portion of the evidence they still need to receive. They say they received no documentation yet about the days of the interrogation in which Ben-Uliel claimed to have been tortured, torture they say led to his confession.

Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir at court (Photo: EPA)
Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir at court (Photo: EPA)
If such documentation exists, it's doubtful they'll receive it. So the story of the murder suspect's investigation remains incomplete.

"An initial inspection of the investigation's material reveals a grave picture of an aggressive interrogation," claimed Attorney Adi Keidar, who represents some of the defendants. "We believe the full picture will be revealed later on."

Ben-Gvir also denied that Ben-Uliel was guilty. "Those who read the protocols will discover that he (Ben-Uliel) is doing this reconstruction not out of his free will, and doesn't know the area."

The reconstruction that was obtained by Yedioth Ahronoth is only partial. It's missing the part in which Ben-Uliel is filmed and documented recounting the crime and providing, according to investigators, hidden details about the scene of the crime and the arson itself that only the person who committed the crime could know - among them the shards of glass from the green bottle used as a Motolov cocktail, or the fact he tripped while fleeing the village - which was spotted by one of the neighbors.

The rebellious hilltop youth Ben-Uliel may have started the reconstruction with hesitation, but continued it with his head held high. He did not seem afraid at the Palestinian village. Moments before leading the investigators into the yard of the Dawabsheh home, one of the interrogators told him to put on a hat, and tuck in his unruly peyot. Curious residents are already looking through the windows and the interrogators are concerned the sight of the settler recounting the murder can spark a riot.

"I don't want you to stand out here," the interrogator tells Ben-Uliel.

"I want to stand out," he responds decisively.

"You want to stand out? In what way?" the interrogator asks.

"Just kidding, I don't know..." Ben-Uliel responds, amused. "What, am I ashamed of something?"

Come to Jesus II

Why Bernie Sanders Needs a Come-to-Jesus Moment

This is the advice that J. J. Goldberg of the Forward is giving to Bernie Sanders:
This is the right time for a big-picture speech that goes beyond billionaire-bashing and presents his vision — sort of an “I have a dream” speech. He might do it twice: once in a church in South Carolina, and again in a union hall in Ohio or Michigan. He could acknowledge that the upheavals of the past half-century have left a lot of wounds that haven’t yet healed, that America still has a lot of work to do. But right now the house is burning, and if working Americans don’t come together despite the hurts and suspicions, all the progress that’s been made since Martin Luther King Jr. spoke could well be lost.

He needs to say that working people aren’t each other’s enemies. That Jesus’s greatest lesson was forgiveness, and Sanders’s own tradition reserves its holiest day for repenting and turning a fresh page. That his campaign is about bringing people together around the big things they share to give America a fresh start. He doesn’t have much time.
Is this a Jewish "come to Jesus" moment?

Monday, February 01, 2016

Assaf Golan - Expel the Satmar Rebbe

Michael Pitkowsky, someone whom I read on Twitter, who runs the blog Menachem Mendel, posted a link on Twitter to this intriguing story published on the website of Maariv (in Hebrew), which I've just translated. It's about the visit of the Satmar Rebbe to Israel today. He is a fierce anti-Zionist, leader of the anti-Zionist Satmar Hasidim, and Assaf Golan argues that he should be deported from Israel as soon as he arrives.

Assaf Golan
January 31, 2016

Expel the Satmar Rebbe

Tomorrow one of Israel’s biggest enemies will land – leader of a Jewish community who sees in Israel the work of the Devil. It would be appropriate for this man not to visit a place that he hates so much.

The Satmar Rebbe, Rav Zalman Lev Teitelbaum, arrives tomorrow in Israel for a quick visit to his Hasidim. From his point of view, the central reason for his arrival is his nephew’s wedding. On the face of it this is another visit by a Jewish personality from the world, not someone who it’s necessary to deal with outside of the Haredi media.

But this is a real error. This Haredi leader controls one of the bodies most opposed to Israel in the United States. As part of his visit he will contribute much money to anti-Zionist groups who will fight against the conscription of Haredim to the army. Hasidim who are close to the Satmar sect ([Satmar] Hasidism has supposedly denounced them, but it is responsible for their worldview) have visited Iran not a few times and participated in demonstrations of antisemitic groups in the US against Israel.

In other words, the Rebbe is a Jewish leader who is outside of the Israeli consensus. He sees the state as a work of Satan and sees all of us as apostates who have been damned to Gehinnom, who do not deserve to live. Even worse than this, Satmar Hasidism views the Israeli fate altogether as punishment for the revolt that Zionism carried out against the nations of the world – including all the terrorist attacks and wars with Arab nations and terrorist organizations. Some of them even argue that the Holocaust occurred because of Zionism and the will of the Jewish people to seek for itself a place under the sun.

These facts, which have been forgotten by most of the public in the state of Israel, are backed up by public rituals of the burning of Israeli flags, performed in great crowds by split-offs from this type of Hasidism. Aside from this, these Hasidism perform many similar ceremonies that it is difficult to write about.

The extreme anti-Israeliness of a figure who is so important in the Jewish public in the United States is not something that the state of Israel can pass over as business as usual. It cannot be – from the point of view of world publicity – that one of the biggest enemies of Israel will arrive at Ben-Gurion airport, the entrance gate to the state of Israel. It cannot be that the authorities in Israel will permit him to continue on his visit without any investigation, without arrest, and without expelling him from Israel after a pronouncement that he is persona non grata.

The state of Israel was not prepared to admit Professor Noam Chomsky, a Jew who is one of the greatest critics of Israel and who also supports our enemies. Chomsky is a private individual, who does not lead a huge Hasidic community or bring large sums of money.

It is indeed true that Jews are compassionate ones, children of compassionate ones. It is clear that if Satmar Hasidim were to encounter trouble, the state of Israel would rush to its help. But there is a difference between helping a brother in trouble and making it possible for someone to enter who leads a continuous campaign against Israel. The Rebbe paid 100,000 shekels to every yeshiva whose students did not vote in elections; he prevented the Jewish community in Yemen from emigrating to Israel and he preferred that they should remain there, in danger, or go to the United States. 110 members of the Yemenite Jewish community were persuaded and moved to the US instead of Israel.

In the light of all this, it is very appropriate to expel this man to the United States. It is also appropriate that for everyone to whom the history and the future of the Jewish people is important, whether on the right or the left, should go out against the visit and demonstrate against this big enemy of the state of Israel, who comes to Israel and uses his Hasidim who live here against us.