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Indignity, grief and mourning on the Gaza border

A woman from Gaza is told during a visit to Israel that she must terminate her advanced pregnancy. The Israeli army and courts effectively refuse to allow her to mourn with her husband by her side.

By Nomi Heger

Over the last two weeks, while everyone in Israel was talking about the segregation between Palestinian and Jewish women in post-natal care, we here at Gisha (an organization that promotes the freedom of movement of Gaza residents) provided legal assistance to one pregnant woman, who just happens to be Palestinian and could not care less who was lying next to her, where that woman was from or what sort of partying her hospital room mates would be doing. These privileges were the last thing on her mind. She wanted one thing and one thing only – which to us seems self-evident – she wanted to hold her spouse’s hand while the doctors induced her fetus’ demise.

The woman in question entered Israel from Gaza, with a permit, to visit family. She was in week 28 of her pregnancy. Because health care services in Israel are more advanced than in Gaza, she went to get a second opinion about her pregnancy while in the country – something any of us wold do when it comes to a major medical decision. The doctors recommended an abortion immediately due to fetal defects. An abortion this far into the pregnancy is, in fact, a birth, performed as a C-section, at the end of which the fetus is injected with a substance that stops its heart.

Due to the urgency, we contacted the Israeli military unit in charge of issuing permits to exit Gaza, the DCO, on that same day, a Wednesday, asking them to let the woman’s spouse enter Israel immediately, to be by her side during these difficult moments. We knew he was under some vague security exclusion, barring him from entering Israel but the details were never explained and he never had a chance to counter whatever it was. We thought that the situation was humanitarian enough that he would be allowed to enter.

We were wrong. The army had lots of time to consider the request, but they were in no hurry to answer, so on Sunday, we filed an urgent petition to the Beer Sheva District Court, which hears cases of Gaza residents wishing to enter Israel. We discovered, to our...

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The diaspora is an integral part of Hebrew literature

There is a ceaseless movement of Israeli culture — and the diaspora experience is just waking up and testing its global limits.

By Mati Shemoelof

BERLIN — There is no such thing as “Hebrew literature written outside Israel” because the definition of “outside Israel” cannot address art in general or literature in particular.

Literature is created in a space that is not a state or a country. The categorization of literature that is written outside or inside a country is problematic.

As such, we should understand that Hebrew literature from the get-go belongs to every country in which there are writers writing in Hebrew, or Israelis whose experience with the Hebrew language has shaped their memory, or citizens of the world who consume Israeli literature in one way or another.

So forgive me, but I will instead use the term “diasporic literature” — that which is written at times from a place of exile; sometimes from a small space that exists between our Jewish life and our life within the local culture written in the various different languages.

Diasporic literature detaches the Hebrew language, Judaism and Israeli identity from national boundaries, sharpens the weight of exposure to new cultures and transforms it from a majority language to a minority language.

Sapir Prize Winner Reuven Namdar, who writes in Hebrew in New York; or the Israeli author Ayelet Tsabari, who writes in Canadian English about her experience growing up in Petah Tikva, and whose first book made it to the New York Times Editor’s Choice list; or Hanno Haustein from Germany, who edits “Aviv,” a Hebrew-German journal; Yousef Sweid, who writes a column in Hebrew in the Berlin magazine Spitz; and of course Sayed Kashua, the Palestinian Israeli who writes in Hebrew from the U.S.

They are all part of this diasporic culture. You don’t have to be Jewish, Hebrew, or Israeli to be part of this diasporic culture. It is one’s consciousness, not one’s origin, that decides.

Diasporic literature certainly has its own language because it is created within a set of values and terms that is entirely distinct from Israeli culture, yet remains associated with it and with the local culture. For example, the third part of my first book of short stories, “Remnants of the Cursed Book,” published by Zmora Bitan, is certainly connected to Berlin culture and constitutes an integral...

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Israel's covert war against Palestinian media

Palestinian journalists are increasingly threatened, arrested and interrogated just for doing their jobs. And for the most part, Israeli journalists remain silent. 

By Noam Rotem

On a Tuesday night in the beginning of April, Israeli armed forces raided a house in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem. They woke up sleeping family and gave al-Hayat journalist Diala Jwehan a summons to appear for interrogation. Jwehan has been covering the uprising of recent months, primarily in East Jerusalem, and is one in a long list of Palestinian journalists who have been called in for questioning because of their media work – what the Palestinian Journalists Association calls an “Israeli offensive on Palestinian media.”

Free press? Depends where

Israelis love to boast the free press index published by Freedom House organization, which ranks Israel in a relatively good spot with a grade of 70 – although it is the lowest among the category of free countries, but still high. A small detail mentioned in the report, in fine print, is that the index does not include the situation in the West Bank or Gaza. There, the grade given for the same index is only 16 – one of the lowest in the world, and a clear indication of the total lack of free press.

According to a report recently published by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, in 2015 there were 407 attacks by Israeli forces against journalists, some of which were physical assaults (42 percent) and the rest range from preventing access to some places and prevention of coverage, arrests, damaging equipment, using journalists as human shields, and more. These are not sporadic, but part of the daily reality for Palestinian journalists.

Ahmad al-Bitawi, a Palestinian journalist, was convicted in an Israeli military court of incitement that was, allegedly part of his journalistic work. Other journalists, among them Mahmoud al-Qawasme and Mohhamad Qaddumi, are both imprisoned in Israeli jails awaiting trial for the same charge. These tactics are only used against Palestinians journalists, never against Jewish journalists, some of whom publish similar incendiary materials, like for example Amnon Lord, who published a front-page article for the Jewish religious newspaper Makor Rishon a few weeks ago that included the statement, “killing a terrorist without grounds of immediate self defense is a natural situation during war.”

During the month of February, a long list of Palestinian journalists from both Jerusalem...

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Hebron shooter indicts all of Israel

No need for a trial. Sergeant Elor Azaria is already innocent in the eyes of the Israeli public

By David Sarna Galdi

The trial of Sergeant Elor Azaria, a soldier indicted for the killing of an incapacitated Palestinian knife-attack suspect in Hebron last month will mostly likely begin soon, but it isn’t really necessary. If public opinion and legal precedent tell us anything, his fate has already been sealed and his future looks very bright indeed.

The soldier’s guilt was plainly evident from day one, shown in the video of the incident released by B’Tselem, which as Gideon Levy wrote, “incriminates as much as a thousand witnesses.” But somehow, within hours of the video’s release, the Israeli soldier seen executing a helpless, already “neutralized” Palestinian who posed no immediate danger, was being embraced as a national hero.

A poll published by Channel 2 News on the weekend after the shooting showed that 57 percent of the Israeli public disagreed with the army’s arrest and investigation into Sgt. Azaria, and 42 percent of those surveyed found his behavior “acceptable” and “responsible.” Within days, tens of thousands of Israelis signed an online petition calling for the soldier to be given a merit citation. Over 1,000 people rallied outside the military court. In a cabinet meeting Education Minister Naftali Bennett expressed what can only be interpreted as blanket tolerance for soldiers’ crimes (at least against Palestinians). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outrageously breached the border between politics, judicial process and good taste by phoning the father of the murder suspect, in the middle of the investigation, to convey his empathy.

This week Azaria’s parents organized a rally calling for his release in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. In attendance were several thousand people, a portion of whom waved banners featuring racist slogans and shouted offensive chants like, “Death to the Arabs” and “Hopefully all your villages will burn.”

It’s not hard to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Instead of being banished from the camp of public opinion, the soldier continues to be depicted as a victim and martyr, the Joseph Trumpeldor of the Snapchat generation.

One need only look at the lack of judicial follow-through in similar recent incidents to realize just how unprecedented it is that Sgt. Azaria’s case even made it as far as an indictment. Last September, soldiers in Hebron shot and killed a...

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Why Netanyahu is doubling down on the Golan Heights

In less than a week, the Israeli prime minister admitted to military action in Syria and declared to the world that Israel will never relinquish the Golan Heights, which it unilaterally annexed 35 years ago.

By Shemuel Meir

What led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to wake up one fine day and declare, during a highly publicized but insignificant reserve duty exercise in the Golan Heights (and without the army Chief of Staff present, as is customary) that “we struck Syria dozens of times”? Was it a slip of the tongue stemming from the overconfidence that has become so typical lately? A desire to earn political points with other politicians who aren’t threatening his position of power? An effort to distract from other issues? Could it be that the prime minister wanted to send a deterrent message at a time when no special military developments have occurred in the area? All this happened at a time when Israel managed to maintain freedom of action in Syria thanks to its declarative ambiguity, clandestine military coordination with other powers and the setting of red lines with Iran, which haven’t caused any undesired complications.

Despite the military terminology and context of Netanyahu’s performance in the Golan, the answer to this riddle can be found on the diplomatic front. The discussion’s point of departure is a panic that has gripped Netanyahu following recent under-the-radar developments in the Syrian crisis that disrupted his previous plans. Something that caused him to hastily send President Reuven Rivlin to Moscow (while violating diplomatic protocol with our ally Australia) and arranging an urgent meeting for himself with Russian President Putin the night of the Passover seder. Something that led Netanyahu to tell U.S. Secretary of State Kerry over the phone a few days ago, “it won’t happen.”

So what went wrong? It appears Netanyahu was trying to take advantage of the civil war and disintegration of Syria in order to gain international recognition for redefining Israel’s borders. In March, just like the tragedy of Julius Caesar, things in Syria started getting complicated, albeit under the surface on the diplomatic front– but for Netanyahu, it demanded urgent action. That’s how we got to the riddle at the beginning of the article. Netanyahu kept a low profile and didn’t rail against the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (December 2015) endorsing a road map for a peace...

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A new era of anti-occupation Judaism

American Jews have long overwhelmingly supported an end to the occupation, but increasingly, we are building an organized critical mass who are also willing to push our institutions and politicians in the same direction. IfNotNow takes its Passover message of liberation to Hillel and AIPAC.

By Leanne Gale

We gathered early in the morning, before the work day began. By the time I arrived at our meeting place, there were leaders milling about in neon vests to assist with logistics. There were megaphones. There were posters. I remarked to a friend, “This feels like trip day at my Jewish summer camp, but a bit edgier.”

We had come together as IfNotNow, a movement working to end American Jewish communal support for the Israeli occupation. Our action was the first in a week-long series of actions under the banner of Dayenu! No Liberation with Occupation. Because this Passover, when Jews gather around the country to reflect on the meaning of liberation in our tradition, we are not prepared to allow the American Jewish community to ignore our oppression of the Palestinian people. Not with the occupation about to turn 50.

The plan was to march to Hillel International — a Jewish institution complicit in perpetuating the occupation and stifling student dissent — and set up a seder table in front of its doors. We would then observe a Passover Liberation Seder affirming the liberation of the Jewish and Palestinian people. With the doors blocked, Hillel International would not be able to continue business as usual until we had completed our ritual. Just as the occupation disrupts the daily lives of Palestinians, so too would we disrupt the daily activities of Hillel International.

We did. And my God, was that seder beautiful.

As a Jewish anti-occupation activist, it can be easy to feel alone in this political climate. Last week, my friend and visionary anti-occupation activist Simone Zimmerman was suspended from her position as Jewish Outreach Coordinator at the Bernie Sanders campaign following intense pressure from right-wing Jewish establishment leaders. And just yesterday, hundreds of Jewish Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv to rally behind an Israeli soldier who shot and killed an already subdued Palestinian attacker in Hebron. Reportedly, many wore “Kahane Lives” paraphernalia and chanted “death to Arabs.” One sign read, “Kill Them All.”

But today I did not feel alone. I stood in the crowd with fellow Solomon...

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COMIC: The Haggadah's evolution from generation to generation

Haggadot have historically evolved to reflect the needs and aspirations of their respective communities. Eli Valley envisions an American Jewish Haggadah for presidential primary season.

Eli Valley Passover 2016

Eli Valley is a writer and artist whose work has appeared in The New Republic, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Gawker and elsewhere. A collection of his comics will be released later this year by OR Books. His website is and he tweets @elivalley.

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Did the Israeli government just admit to 'pinkwashing?'

LGBTQ organizations in Israel are threatening to cancel Tel Aviv’s yearly Pride Parade unless the government allocates more money to their groups and causes at home — and not just use the parade to promote Israel as a bastion of progressive liberalism overseas. The government’s response? Pull the international promotional budget.

By Yael Marom

The LGTBQ community in Israel is threatening to hold a huge demonstration instead of the internationally lauded annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade this year. The bold threat is the result of an announcement that the Tourism Ministry was budgeting NIS 11 million ($2.9 million) to promote the event overseas – 10 times the combined yearly budget of all LGTBQ organizations in Israel.

The Israel National LGBT Task Force instead called on the government to allocate a sum equal to the NIS 11 million gay tourism spending — including money earmarked to paint a plane in rainbow colors to fly in LGBTQ tourists — to LGBTQ organizations in Israel. But instead of answering the community’s demands, the Tourism Ministry suspended the NIS 11 million campaign to promote the Tel Aviv Pride Parade overseas, according to Ynet.

I can’t help but welcome the Tourism Ministry’s decision to pull the funding. It is about time that the state stop using us as a public relations tool to cover up what is really happening here: racism, hate crimes, violence, occupation, segregation and separation, intolerable economic gaps, the discrimination and marginalization of various groups in our society. It’s time the state stops using us as a liberal, pink cloak to sell Israel to the world as something diametrically different than what it is. As much as we might want to think we’re on our way there, we are not a tolerant, open or liberal society.

The announcement by the Tourism Ministry, which is headed by a close Netanyahu ally, is an unequivocal admission by the Israeli government that it is not interested in what the country can do for the LGBTQ community, but what the community can do for the country.

Israel figured this game out a long time ago. The LGBTQ community’s struggle for equal rights is one of the most high-visibility social and civil rights struggles in the world these days. What was once taboo has now become a card Israel can play against the West. Instead of talking about the occupation, let’s talk about Dana International....

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Why Morocco can be a model for Jewish-Arab partnership

Throughout much of my life, I have been engaged in attempts to improve Jewish-Arab relations in Israel. But a recent trip to Morocco, where Jews and Muslims lived in harmony for centuries, filled me with hope for my country. Life after the conflict: Act One. 

By Ron Gerlitz

Yes we can. We can imagine good relations between Jews and Arabs here, in the State of Israel, and generally in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is the main insight with which I returned from a very meaningful trip together with members of the Shaharit “120″ program, a multicultural group working towards a new social partnership in Israel.

We, a group of 20 men and women from diverse backgrounds, traveled to Morocco during a difficult period. These days, more than ever, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at center stage. Violence in Gaza, despite the many casualties of the last war in 2014, is waiting to resume; a third intifada started in Jerusalem and the West Bank; more and more people fall victim to physical and verbal violence.

One hundred and thirty years after the Zionist immigration to the Land of Israel, 67 years since the founding of the state, almost 50 years since the start of the occupation, 20 years since the serious last attempt to solve the conflict – we see nothing but shooting, blood, victims, and, worst of all, despair. Many on both sides of the divide who see no way out. Conflict seems like the default reality for Jews and Arabs.

For many years I have been working on the seam line between Jews and Arabs and between Israelis and Palestinians. But last month, in Morocco, I witnessed, for the first time, the relationship between the country’s Jews and the Arab majority. Having seen it with my own eyes outside the Israeli-Palestinian context, I am more convinced than ever that a different reality for Jews and Arabs here in Israel is possible. Only there was I really able to imagine how Jews and Arabs could create a different reality here.

The Jews’ departure as a national tragedy

On Shabbat morning we walked, four Jewish Israelis, to morning prayers at the El Azama Synagogue in Marrakesh, in the heart of the mellah, the former Jewish quarter that is now a Muslim neighborhood. This synagogue was founded...

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Poetic injustice: Palestinian poet arrested over Facebook post

Poet and activist Dareen Tatour has been charged with incitement to violence based on a poem she posted on Facebook. Its translation by a policeman whose sole competence as a translator is his ‘love for the Arabic language,’ was enough to convince the court to extend her remand and keep her under house arrest.

By Yoav Haifawi

At 3 a.m., just before dawn on October 10, 2015, patrol cars from the Nazareth Police, escorted by a unit of Israel’s Border Police, surrounded a quiet house in the nearby village of Al-Reineh. They broke in and woke up the terrified inhabitants, searching for Dareen Tatour, 33, a Palestinian poet, photographer and activist. They didn’t have a search or an arrest warrant, but the dumbfounded Tatour was detained and forcibly removed anyway.

October 2015 ushered a wave of popular struggle among the Palestinians. It was centered in Jerusalem (Al-Quds) as a response to provocations at Al-Aqsa, and later spread throughout Gaza, the West Bank and within the Green Line. Clashes between demonstrators and Israeli troops were a daily occurrence.

But Tatour didn’t expect to be arrested. This time, she didn’t take part in the demonstrations, although in the past, being a photographer, she was often targeted by police. In 2008, she was wounded when police and others attacked the March of Return in Saffuriya, in the north of Israel. But all that was ancient history. What happened now?

Apparently the immediate reason for Tatour’s detention was a status that she published on Facebook. On October 9, a Palestinian woman from Nazareth, Israa Abed, a mother of three and a post-graduate genetic engineering student, was shot by Israel soldiers in Afula’s central bus station on her way home from university. The footage of her cold-blooded shooting by several Israeli soldiers went viral, and the Arab community responded with shock. Tatour, according to the Israeli police, posted Abed’s picture and wrote: “I will be the next martyr.”

For the Israeli regime, media and public every Palestinian shot by the security forces is immediately defined as “Mekhabel” (literally translated as saboteur) – a special term invented in Hebrew to de-humanize Arab resistance fighters, meaning that they’re not even regular “terrorists”. While every single Arab that looked at the film saw clearly that Abed wasn’t attacking anyone, and concluded that any Arab now can be shot at random, the Israeli media hysterically interpreted the...

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Why Palestinians mark Prisoners' Day

More than 7,000 Palestinians, including hundreds of minors, are currently in Israeli prisons. Honoring prisoners and ‘freedom fighters’ isn’t just a Palestinian tradition, however. Israelis do it, too.

By Noam Rotem

Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza marked “Prisoners Day” Sunday, commemorating and highlighting the plight of thousands of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons, and the hundreds of thousands of former prisoners.

For many Israelis Palestinian prisoners are “terrorists,” whose imprisonment is the natural order of things. But for Palestinians they are freedom fighters who sacrificed their liberty for the good of the Palestinian struggle for liberation from Israeli military occupation.

According to data provided by Israel’s Prison Service (IPS) at the end of February, the number of Palestinians classified as “security prisoners” stood at 6,204, with another 617 Palestinians imprisoned for traveling into Israel without a military issued permit. Add to that dozens or hundreds of Palestinians being detained in military facilities prior to being transferred to IPS custody, and the total number of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel rises to over 7,000.

Since the year 2000 over 90,000 Israeli arrests of Palestinians — including 11,000 minors and 1,300 women — were been recorded by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, a prisoner support NGO. The Israeli army, which under the law of occupation is the sovereign in the West Bank, has not hesitated to arrest the elderly and children, laborers and businessmen, students and teachers, journalists, government officials, and even elected parliamentarians, 65 of whom Israel has arrested since the year 2000 — six of them remain in Israeli prisons.

Read also: Marwan Barghouti is planning a comeback — from behind bars

Palestinians also commemorate the hundreds of compatriots Israel is holding in administrative detention without charge or trial, and the thousands of administrative detainees who have been released. They highlight the plight of dozens of sick prisoners. They highlight the plight of dozens of prisoners the IPS holds in complete isolation from other human beings. They remember the thousands of prisoners who were exposed to violence during their arrests and imprisonment. They remember the hundreds of Palestinian minors currently in Israeli prisons, including dozens under 16 and those who haven’t been allowed to see their families for various reasons.

Since last October, when the current wave of violence began, Israel has arrested over 4,800 Palestinians, including 1,300 minors. That means that almost every night,...

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Marwan Barghouti is planning a comeback — from behind bars

He may be serving five consecutive life sentences in an Israeli prison but Marwan Barghouti is the only leader who has a chance to succeed Mahmoud Abbas and unite the Palestinian people. This is how he plans on doing it.

By Menachem Klein

Until recently Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was considered only a lame duck. Long ago he had promised not to run for president in the next elections. Not a single politician threatened him, he did not appoint a vice president, and elections never took place. But over the past two weeks Abbas has gone from lame duck to politically handicapped.

At end of last month Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti announced that he would vie to succeed Abbas. This was not a declaration of purpose for the unforeseen future. Barghouti also published a strategic document that publicly challenges Abbas, here and now. Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences in Israeli prison after being convicted of direct involvement in four terror attacks during the Second Intifada, which killed four people.

Negotiations with Israel and political initiatives at the UN and the International Criminal Court — the flagship of Abbas’ tenure — have failed completely, Barghouti writes in his manifesto. “This is a pathetic policy disconnected from the reality on the ground,” nothing more than self-delusion. Few Palestinians, if any, disagree. According to polls by Dr. Khalil Shikaki, probably the most prominent Palestinian pollster, two-thirds of the public demand Abbas step down. However, until now, no one has proposed an alternative the way Barghouti has. The crown jewel of the declaration is the call for a widespread, popular intifada. Abbas has rejected proposals for a non-violent intifada several times in the past. Now it is being presented in new garb.

The Individuals Intifada, Barghouti believes, lacks a goal and a framework. It must subside, along with the political and organizational vacuum created by Abbas. In order to build the next intifada on strong foundations, Barghouti suggests changing the Palestinian discourse from one of agreements to one of liberation, while changing the manner in which the Palestinian Authority functions. The PA must put an end to security coordination with Israel, and instead of acting as the middleman between the occupier and the Palestinians, it must assist the Palestinians in confronting Israel. Barghouti evades describing just how to change the PA when it is so dependent on the occupation....

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Fight anti-Palestinianism as we would anti-Semitism

While anti-Semitism is considered a serious moral failing in Western society today, anti-Palestinianism is not even recognized as a phenomenon worthy of being studied. 

By Jeremiah Haber

By “anti-Palestinianism” I understand prejudice against Palestinian Arabs based on perceived negative qualities of Palestinian cultural or natural identity. Views such as “Palestinian Arab culture is a culture of death and martyrdom,” “Palestinian Arabs hate Jews because of incitement,” “Palestinian labor is inferior” are examples of this prejudice. Attempts to justify these prejudices are inevitably based on selective data, generalization, and bias.

By “anti-Semitism,” I understand prejudice against Jews based on perceived negative qualities of Jewish cultural, natural, or religious identity. Opinions such as, “Jews love only money,” “there is a worldwide Jewish conspiracy against gentiles,” “Jews are loud, noisy, and uncouth,” etc. are examples of this prejudice. Attempts to justify these prejudices are also inevitably based on selective data, generalization, and bias.

What I would like to discuss here is how the current vogue of identifying anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is anti-Palestinianist, i.e., the product of bigotry towards Palestinians. I won’t bother to “disprove” the identification itself, any more than I would bother to “disprove” anti-Semitic claims. I applaud those who have the stomach for such things. I do not.

“Anti-Palestinianism” and “anti-Semitism” should be examined in light of the broader phenomenon of group prejudice. Regrettably, they often are not. Anti-Semitism is considered a serious moral failing in Western society today, whereas anti-Palestinianism is not even recognized as a phenomenon to be studied. The reason for this has a lot to do with the prominence accorded to anti-Semitism in Western consciousness for well-known historical reasons. The founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, saw a nation-state of the Jews to be the solution to anti-Semitism. The Holocaust reinforced that view for many.

The so-called “New Anti-Semitism” was born of the increasing identification, shared by some Zionists and anti-Semites, of Israelism and Judaism. Although Zionism as a movement of national revival had many different aspects (some Zionists actively opposed the creation of a Jewish ethnic-exclusivist state), the particular form that Zionism took in the newly created laws and institutions of the state of Israel became identified with Zionism tout court. For Zionists like David Ben-Gurion, to be a complete Jew was to be a Zionist, and to be a complete Zionist was to be a citizen of the State of Israel, where “statism” (mamlakhtiyyut) was a supreme...

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