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The subtle nuances of Obama's eulogy for Shimon Peres

With just a few months left in office, the U.S. president made sure to deliver a message to the Israeli people, and more pointed one to its leader.

Nearly every aspect of Friday’s state funeral for Shimon Peres, who died this week at the age of 93, had a subtext, or could be seen as a metaphor.

The passing of the last member of Israel’s founding generation (in Hebrew: Generation of the State / דור המדינה) felt as though someone ended a written sentence with a full stop marked in thick-tipped black marker. The End. The end of the aspirational ideals of the socialist generation; the end of the days of aspiring toward a democratic, fully representative state; the end of looking at history as progressive instead of stagnant.

It fell to Barack Obama to highlight all the symbols and ironies both in Peres’s life and in the way his funeral was conducted. The U.S. president tied together the threads of the historical events Peres witnessed and participated in over his long life, even as he (Obama) channeled an idealized version of that life to deliver a deeply nuanced lecture to Israelis. At the risk of coarsening his message with reductiveness, it could be parsed down to one sentence: What kind of state do you want to be?

Excerpts from President Obama’s eulogy (watch it here), with my interpretation of the subtext in italics:

Do you want to be the kind of state that is led by Benjamin Netanyahu, a man who just today humiliated President Abbas, the man who is ostensibly his partner for peace, by refusing to even acknowledge him in his own eulogy? Or do you want to be led by someone who is gracious and generous; someone who understands that basic courtesy requires him to express appreciation to Abbas for having come to pay his respects — even though it meant losing yet more respect from his own people, having to request permission from the Israeli army that controls his movements, and sitting through the funeral on Mt. Herzl, named for the founder of Zionism.

Between you and me, I know that Shimon Peres was not an observant Jew. But he did care deeply about the Jewish people (let’s leave aside for a moment that you might not have agreed with his goals or deeds) and, while he was indeed one of the original fathers of the settlement movement (of course I know that), in later life he came...

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The minister of culture who knows nothing about democracy

Long before she walked out on a performance honoring Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev was using hateful, divide-and-conquer rhetoric against the country’s minority groups. 

Miri Regev, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport, caused an uproar at last week’s Ophir Awards, the annual red carpet ceremony for the Israeli film industry. First she ostentatiously walked out of the auditorium to protest the performance of a cover version of Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish’s most famous poem, “Identity Card.” Then she returned, only to give a speech in which she claimed Darwish’s poem includes a line about eating the flesh of the Jewish nation. To top it off she accused the Israeli film industry of being an elitist institution that excluded Mizrahi actors.

In fact Darwish’s poem does not mention Jews; furthermore, Mizrahi actors are among the country’s most prominent and successful, both in Israel and internationally. One of those Mizrahi actors, Roi Assaf, tried to storm the stage in protest during Regev’s speech, while calling upon fellow audience members to leave in protest, shouting angrily, “Anyone who stays seated is a zero, a loser!” Regev, meanwhile, raised her voice to be heard above the booing from the audience to insist that she would not leave until she had finished her speech.

But her speech was remarkably discordant and false, even by Regev’s standards. This year’s Ophir winners are collectively a panoply of diversity and liberalism. They include Sand Storm, a drama about Bedouin women with a script that is entirely in Arabic and directed by a woman — Elite Zexer. It won for best film and will be Israel’s entry for best foreign film at the Oscars. Ruba Blal Asfour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, won best supporting actress for her role in Sand Storm. Tamer Nafar, the acclaimed Palestinian rap artist from the group DAM, won an award for the musical score of Udi Aloni’s Junction 48, about an aspiring rap musician (played by Nafar himself) in the drug-ridden inner city of Lod/Lydda. Morris Cohen, a Mizrahi Jew, won best actor for his role in Avinu (Our Father) as a nightclub bouncer who is seduced by the money of organized crime.

Regev walked out of a performance given jointly by Tamer Nafar and Yossi Tsabari, a Jewish Yemenite-Israeli who is a spoken word artist. In an angry post-ceremony press conference, she said her objection was to the anti-Jewish sentiments in Darwish’s poem, which she falsely claimed included a line about...

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The Gefilte Manifesto: Reimagining the Jewish cuisine of central Europe

A new cookbook re-imagines traditional Ashkenazi food, a cuisine that for years was rejected by the children and grandchildren of immigrants from central and eastern Europe. This book is a big step toward correcting that injustice.

Jeffrey Yoskowitz, who, together with Liz Alpern, co-authored a new cookbook called The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods, has been on a culinary journey over the past decade. His experience includes a stint in Israel, where he volunteered for a year on a kibbutz that specializes in pig farming. During that period he wrote a witty blog about the conceit of being a vehemently secular American Jewish pig farmer in the holy land who refuses to eat pork for reasons of cultural identity.

Years later, at a cafe in Brooklyn, I asked him why he eschewed pork, since he did not observe any other aspect of Jewish religious law. “Because,” he answered, “Eating pork is for me the red line. After that, I don’t know what defines the identity of a secular Jew.” Jeffrey being Jeffrey — that is to say, a smart and thoughtful listener — he was completely open to a vigorous debate on what defined a secular, or cultural Jew. He was willing to consider that maybe going to Chinatown for moo shoo pork on Christmas Eve was a sort of secular Jewish cultural ritual.

The Gefilte Manifesto is a glorious paean to the cuisine that is such a big part of central European Jewish heritage and identity. It is a re-imagining of traditional Ashkenazi Jewish food, one that is both deeply rooted in the old world and utterly contemporary. Nor is it sentimental. This is not The Fiddler on the Roof Cookbook.

Gently and with humor, Yoskowitz and Alpern present their case for a traditional cuisine that for years was rejected and denigrated, by the children and grandchildren of Jews who emigrated from central and eastern Europe, as unsophisticated, bland, too “brown,” too fatty and generally unhealthy. These characterizations beg the question, of course: how did generations of Ashkenazi Jews survive for centuries on tasteless, unhealthy food? And what in the world were our grandparents nostalgic for?

The answer, of course, is that something got lost in in translation during the process of uprooting themselves from the old country and resettling in the new. Jewish European cuisine got a very bad rap, and this cookbook is a big step toward correcting that injustice.

The Gefilte Manifesto includes several essays by Alpern and...

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[VIDEO] Not an occupation? Whatever it is, it's disgusting

Black-clad mounted Border Police galloping into and nearly trampling a crowd of unarmed civilians, old men and women lucky enough to meet the army’s criteria to pray in Jerusalem mutely line up to pass through what look like cattle lanes. Notes on one scene of ugliness and occupation.

Today, on the last Friday of Ramadan, thousands of Palestinians who live on the ‘wrong’ side of Israel’s West Bank barrier queued up at Qalandiya Checkpoint near Jerusalem, waiting for hours under the relentless Levantine sun, in temperatures that soared above 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Farenheit) for an opportunity to attend Friday noon prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Activestills, the cooperative of photojournalists that works in partnership with +972 and Local Call, its Hebrew sister publication, filmed the following video:

These are scenes that I have witnessed many times in real life. And I have seen more videos and still photos of similar scenes than I care to count. I’ve reached a point of avoiding these videos, but for some reason I clicked on this one. And all I could feel while watching it was disgust and despair. Because what’s going on here is disgusting. There’s no other word but disgust. Oh, and revulsion.

Black-clad mounted Border Police galloping into and nearly trampling a crowd of unarmed civilians carrying plastic bags and identity cards. They look like Middle Eastern Cossacks galloping past cowering Jews in an early twentieth century Russian shtetl, except they’re not carrying torches. Arabic-speaking security forces standing on a hill and barking orders through a loudspeaker as they toss stun grenades and shoot tear gas at people who shuffle like sheep past soldiers who insult them and assault them. Old men and women lucky enough to meet the army’s criteria to pray in Jerusalem mutely line up to pass through what look like cattle lanes at an abattoir — or worse.

Everything in this video is ugly and hopeless and disgusting, from the indifferent or angry soldiers to the hopeless shuffling civilians to the physical wasteland of watchtowers, concrete, garbage, filth and despair that is Qalandiya. It is this grinding despair and the indifference it engenders that makes me feel as though there’s almost no point in bringing the attention of readers to this video. There are hundreds like it, stretching back over years and years. Literally.

But the people who care...

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The 'most polite police officer in the world' — and what he stands for

A video showing an Israeli Border Police officer demonstrating admirable professionalism and politeness in his interaction with activists has gone viral in recent days. But behind this purportedly exemplary civility is a much grimmer reality.

The two-and-a-half minute clip shows a Border Police officer, who introduces himself as Alon Tiff, interrupting a verbal altercation between a security guard and a minivan full of Ta’ayush activists wielding video cameras at a checkpoint near Jerusalem that leads deeper into the West Bank. We don’t know where the activists are going, but it’s reasonable to assume they are on their way to participate in a grassroots political activity in some Palestinian village. Ta’ayush is active on behalf of Palestinian land and farming rights in the Hebron Hills, where they are frequently attacked by extremist settlers.

Tiff walks over to the passengers in the van, who are involved in an argument over whether or not they have the legal right to film at the checkpoint, with one of the security personnel ordering them to stop filming while the activists chorus that they have every right to film him, since he was a public servant carrying out his job in a public place. Angry at having his authority challenged, the young man asserts that he is no one’s servant. At which point Alon Tiff intervenes.

Tiff introduces himself with exaggerated politeness and gives the passengers his full name and ID number at their request, as he is required to do by law. He does not press the passengers when they assert their right to refuse to tell him where they are coming from. Then Tiff shows them what he says is a military order that gives him the authority to decide who goes through the checkpoint. He allows them to photograph the order. Then he informs the minivan passengers that he has decided to exercise his legal right, as described in the very loose wording on the order he reads aloud to them, and refuse to allow them through the checkpoint. He does not give any reason for his refusal; nor is he required to do so.

While the interaction is going on, one of the minivan passengers points to another private car that goes whizzing through the checkpoint, unimpeded, and sarcastically asks Tiff if “blondes” get to go through, since the driver of the private car happened to...

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'Partly free'? The real state of Israeli press freedom is much worse

Freedom House has downgraded its ranking of Israel’s media from ‘free’ to ‘partly free,’ citing closer ties to the government and a spike in paid media content. But it has one flagrant omission: Israel’s poor treatment of Palestinian journalists.

By Lisa Goldman

Freedom House, the U.S.-based watchdog NGO that reports on the state of civil liberties around the world, has downgraded its ranking of Israel’s media from “free” to “partly free” in its 2016 Freedom of the Press Report. The authors of the report cite the influence of the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom, which is owned and subsidized at a huge loss by American casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is an unabashed patron of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel Hayom pursues an editorial agenda that is overtly partisan toward Netanyahu, which is why it is often referred to as the “Bibiton,” a portmanteau of the Hebrew word for “newspaper” and the Israeli leader’s nickname, Bibi. The report also cites the “unchecked expansion” of paid media content, which is not always clearly identified. It notes that this paid content is sometimes funded by the government.

In 2014 Israel’s media was back up to “free” status, along with the perennial note that it has the freest media in the region, where not one country’s media is ranked “free.”

The free/partly free ranking is a matter of just a few points in their methodology, pointed out Freedom House’s Sarah Repucci, who heads up the publication of the annual Freedom of the Press Report. She added, “We use detailed methodology. Israel shifted only two points this year.”

There was some outrage in right-wing circles over the downgrade, with Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin quoting a couple of DC-based neo-cons to support her claim that the report was an example of anti-Israel bias.

Leaving aside the all-but inevitable expressions of outrage from the Israel advocacy crowd over any criticism of Israeli policy or society, a more detached observer might note that there is no mention in the Freedom House report of Palestinian journalists. On the one hand this makes sense, since Palestinian residents of the occupied territories are not citizens of Israel. But on the other hand, Palestinian journalists work in territory that is controlled by Israel. And they do not have any of the legal protections afforded to their Israeli colleagues working in the same territory.

In tangible terms, this means...

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The moral crisis exposed at AIPAC

What happened at AIPAC was shameful and frightening. Liberal Jews are horrified and the ones who are not seem pretty smug in their lack of self awareness. Welcome to the schism.

On Monday night 18,000 Israel supporters, mostly Jews, sat in a Washington D.C. stadium and applauded for Donald Trump, a man whose candidacy for president of the United States is supported by neo-Nazis.

Let’s leave aside Trump’s misogyny, his vulgarity, his racism against non whites and his encouragement of violence. Let us leave aside, for a moment, the point that he is unabashedly a spectacularly ignorant man who has the attention span of an adolescent with an  addiction to junk food and first-person shooter video games. Let’s just focus on one salient, astonishing and monumentally shameful fact: a stadium full of Jews sat, (and sometimes stood) and applauded for a man who does not deny that he sleeps with a book of Hitler’s speeches next to his bed, and who refuses to disavow his neo-Nazi supporters.

The organized, actively pro-Israel American Jewish community has been teetering on the edge of a full blown crisis for many years. You can’t vote Democrat, recycle your waste, buy your kids gender-neutral toys, advocate for immigration, and look the other way as the Israeli army kills over 500 children in Gaza — and not be at serious risk for a moral crisis. But, let’s say these Progressives Except for Palestine (PEPs) are just misguided. Because they don’t speak Hebrew and never lived in Israel and are badly informed. For the sake of argument, I will cut them that slack.

But not for those who sat and let Donald Trump speak.

The excuse of ignorance or having been misguided does not work for the educated American Jews who sat and applauded for Donald Trump at the AIPAC conference. And when you suspend not only your liberal social values but also your basic self respect (Jews who sat and listened to a man who won’t disavow his neo-Nazi supporters! Jews who gave a standing ovation to a man whose followers give Nazi salutes and tell opponents “go to fucking Auschwitz!”) — all in the name of nationalism and Zionism, you have at the very least a moral disgrace. But I think what we really have here is a crisis. The “leaders” of the Jewish community have lost their way...

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Classified: Politicizing the Nakba in Israel's state archives

Documents that have already been cited in history books are being re-classified in the State Archives.

Israeli state archive documents that were de-classified in the 1980s have been re-classified in recent years, according to a recently hired assistant professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Jewish Studies.

Shay Hazkani, who was Israel Channel 10’s military correspondent from 2004-8 and will soon complete his doctorate at New York University, discusses the background and politics of the state’s decision to re-classify various documents in an interview for the Ottoman History Podcast.

In the interview, which was recorded in July 2014 (I came across it recently by chance), Hazkani estimates that about one-third of documents that were de-classified in the 1980s have been re-classified starting from the late 1990s, when the archives were digitized.

 

These reclassified documents were used extensively by prominent “new historians” like Benny Morris (“Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem”), Avi Shlaim (“The Iron Wall”), Hillel Cohen (“Good Arabs” and “1929”) and Ilan Pappe (“Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”) and cited in their books.

But even though these books certainly exist in the public domain, and they do cite original documents in the Israeli state archives that note orders given to the nascent Israeli army to expel Palestinians during the 1948 war, the government of Israel continues to promote its official narrative — that the Palestinians left of their own accord. Hence the government and, more specifically, the security establishment attempts to control the discourse by re-classifying these documents.

The 25-minute interview is embedded below and well worth your time. Among other things, Hazkani explains that Israel adopted a law in 1955 that specified documents could be kept classified for a maximum of 50 years. But the Mossad, the army and the Shin Bet, which control very large archives, refused to comply with the law. Petitions to declassify specific documents have been brought before the higher courts, with some pending now.

Toward the end of the interview, Hazkani recounts a fascinating anecdote involving his own experience with re-classified documents, this time connected with an incident reported by Joe Sacco in his graphic novel “Footnotes in Gaza.” Sacco traveled to Gaza in 2002 and 2003 to research the book, which was published in 2009. The...

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Jewish pundits can't decide if they're happy about Bernie Sanders' win in NH

Can an American politician who was born to Jewish parents just be an American politician who happens to be Jewish? Is Israel becoming less important in American politics?

NEW YORK — Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, won the Democratic primary in the state of New Hampshire on Tuesday night. Sanders, who identifies as a social democrat, is Jewish.

But when he spoke about his background in his victory speech he mentioned only that he was the son of Polish immigrants who were poor and little-educated, making it sound as though they might have been eating kielbasa and pierogi for Sunday lunch instead of challah and tsimmes for Friday night dinner.

He highlighted his own success as an illustration of the national narrative that Sanders called “the promise of America” — the idea that one should be able to achieve one’s goals based on hard work and merit.

“My friends,” said Sanders,

I am the son of a Polish immigrant who came to this country speaking no English and having no money. My father worked every day of his life and he never made a whole lot.

My mom and dad and brother and I lived in a three and a half room rent controlled apartment in Brooklyn, New York. My mother, who died at a young age always dreamed of moving out of that apartment, getting a home of her own, but she never realized that dream. The truth is that neither one of my parents could ever have dreamed that I would be here tonight standing before you as a candidate for president of the United States.

This is the promise of America and this is the promise we must keep alive for future generations.

Several Jewish observers on social media were unhappy at Sanders’ failure to emphasize that his parents were Jews, and that he is now the first Jewish American to win a Democratic primary. (Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee in the 1964 election, had a Jewish father but was raised Episcopalian, although he acknowledged his Jewish heritage.)

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'Netanyahu at War': An engaging but deeply flawed documentary

Twenty three men and three women tell the captivating story of Netanyahu’s rise to power, and how he ended up on a collision course with the leader of the free world. Yes, 23 men and three women.

“Netanyahu at War,” a PBS Frontline documentary about Benjamin Netanyahu’s rise to power and the background to his now-infamous, ongoing feud with Barack Obama, opens with the controversy surrounding the Israeli prime minister’s address to Congress last March, which one of his former advisors frames as a Churchillian attempt to warn the world about the dangers of a nuclear deal with Iran. “Netanyahu,” says former advisor Eyal Arad, “has a messianic notion of himself as someone called to save the Jewish people.”

Over the next five minutes, we hear insights into the hostile Obama-Netanyahu relationship from no less than 10 name-brand experts (besides Eyal Arad): Ari Shavit, David Axelrod, Haaretz correspondent Chemi Shalev, Ronen Bergman, Sandy Berger, David Baker, Aaron David Miller, veteran Likud parliamentarian Tzachi Hanegbi, the New York Times‘ White House correspondent Peter Baker, and Dennis Ross. Axelrod describes Netanyahu’s meddling in U.S. foreign policy as “audacious” and “unprecedented.” Sandy Berger says it was a “direct attack” on Obama’s foreign policy legacy. Shalev observes that Netanyahu was “ready to undermine Israel’s relations with the U.S. in order to fight off the Iranian challenge.”

Having thus set the stage, over the next third of the documentary we learn about Netanyahu’s background. His illustrious combat career as an officer in the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit, and his involvement in the mission to release the hostages during the 1972 Sabena Airline hijacking. The years he spent in the United States, first in high school, and then as an Israeli diplomat when he built his strong relations with leaders in the Jewish community. Then on to his return to Israel in the late 1980s and his rise to leadership in the Likud party during the Oslo period, leading up to Rabin’s assassination in 1995.

Twenty three men

At this point we’re 45 minutes into this documentary and we finally hear from an actual female expert. Really. Dana Weiss, an Israeli TV news presenter, explains why Israelis were insulted that Obama didn’t “stop by for coffee” after he gave his 2009 Cairo speech. And then Diana Buttu, the prominent Canadian-Palestinian attorney who was a spokesperson for the PLO and a participant in negotiations with the...

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Overcoming Jewish America's Israel fantasy

The idea of Israel has long been an integral part of Jewish-American identity. But with a generational change among American Jews and increasingly stark political differences with Israel’s leadership, could this be the dawn of a new era? 

Last summer Michael Oren, who served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2009-13, blithely offended virtually the entire policy, journalism and government elite in New York City and Washington, D.C. with a series of accusations directed at President Obama and liberal Jewish Americans.

In a nutshell, Oren accused Obama of deliberately sabotaging relations with Israel in order to achieve the goals of ingratiating himself with the Arab Muslim world and negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran. He also suggested the president was soft on terror — because he had Muslim daddy issues (his father, who had not been present when he was growing up, was a Kenyan Muslim). Oren also characterized American Jews who criticized Israel as anti-Israel and/or insufficiently Jewish.

Oren offered up his frank opinions and amateur psychoanalysis in a controversial Wall Street Journal op-ed and in a Foreign Policy essay – both of which acted as pre-publication publicity for his memoir, “Ally.”

The response of the foreign policy people who figure so prominently in the discourse about Israel in the so-called Acela Corridor (the name of the rapid train that links New York and D.C.) was one of outrage and betrayal.  They had regarded Oren as an ally who shared their worldview. Instead he had ripped off his mask of moderation to reveal a strident nationalist who was carrying some heavy baggage packed with Hebrew warrior fantasies, a Holocaust obsession and a fortress mentality.

But while prominent members of the inner policy circle like Martin Indyk challenged Oren’s accounts of his dealings with the Obama White House in testy exchanges on CNN, almost no-one addressed the former ambassador’s curiously clichéd personal narrative, which is like a plot ripped straight from a Leon Uris novel. A nerdy, physically unprepossessing Jewish boy grows up in suburban America, relentlessly bullied at school by anti-Semites. As a teenager he becomes intensely aware of the Holocaust, vows to make sure it never happens again, becomes an ardent Zionist and works hard to save his money so he can immigrate — or make aliyah — to Israel, where he magically morphs into a handsome combat warrior who wades heroically into battle and...

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Israel's extremists aren't as fringe as you think

If a video of religious youth stabbing a photo of a murdered Palestinian infant isn’t enough to convince mainstream Israel that there is a problem, what will?

Celebrants at a Jerusalem wedding for a couple from Israel’s radical right were filmed dancing and singing as they brandished a photo of Ali Dawabsheh, the 18 month-old Palestinian baby who was killed in a July arson attack on his family home in the West Bank village of Duma.

In the video, which was recorded on a cell phone, a dancing wedding guest impales a photo of the baby on a knife. His face is covered. Other dancers wave army-issued combat weapons, while one youth hoists a bottle with a roll of paper stuffed in its neck to mimic a molotov cocktail, indicating the method by which the Dawabsheh home was set alight.

The Duma attack killed baby Ali at the scene, while his parents died of their wounds in the hospital a few weeks later. Only his four-year-old brother survived, albeit with severe burns. The story was widely covered by the Israeli media and was condemned by leaders on both sides of the political spectrum.

Hebrew graffiti on the walls of Duma dwellings indicated that the arson was a “price tag,” a term used by “hilltop youth” to describe their attacks on Palestinian villagers. Some of the notorious recent price tag incidents include an arson attack on a bilingual Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem and death threats graffitied on the homes of leftist intellectuals. There are dozens of amateur videos on YouTube that show these masked Hilltop Youth assaulting unarmed Palestinian villagers in the West Bank, burning their olive trees and destroying their property. Everyone knows who they are and what they do.

But while Kahanists are well known to security forces and the Shin Bet, months passed before any arrests were made. There are now several suspects in custody. According to a report published by the Jewish Daily Forward, a liberal Jewish newspaper in New York, relatives and attorneys of the detainees say they have been subjected to torture while under interrogation and that they are being held without charge under administrative detention.

The Forward reporter, Josh Nathan-Kazis, notes that the Shin Bet commonly uses torture and administrative detention on Palestinians, while it is very uncommon to hear of these interrogation methods used on...

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Redefining chutzpah: The monumentally inappropriate treatment of Ayman Odeh

The Jewish American establishment clearly cannot handle an Arab non-Zionist with the chutzpah to assert his right to be treated respectfully and equally in his own country.

Ayman Odeh’s decision to visit the United States and meet with Jewish community leaders cannot have been an easy one. The burden of scrutiny has been heavy indeed, from all sides. His own constituents, the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, were ambivalent at best about what many perceived as a mission that would either be co-opted to soften the perception of Israel’s policies toward its Arab citizens, or twisted to undermine both Odeh and the credibility of his party’s platform.

With Jewish community leaders so firmly supportive of the Netanyahu government, and the United States so committed to its unbreakable alliance with Israel that it had not undertaken a single step to end the occupation in over two decades, many worried that Odeh’s bridge building mission would be misinterpreted as asking for favors.

To a certain extent, these concerns were borne out by events on December 10, when Odeh backed out of a meeting with the Conference of Presidents, a major Jewish NGO umbrella group, because the chairman insisted on holding the meeting in the same office as the Jewish Agency. This is the same Jewish Agency that has been directly involved in hundreds of initiatives to establish new residential communities for Jewish Israelis on land that was expropriated from Palestinians.

Rather than show some sensitivity to Odeh’s point of view, the president of the Conference of Presidents, Malcolm Hoenlein, refused not only to hold the meeting in another room but also immediately released a statement in which he accused Odeh of canceling the meeting.

Later, Hoenlein told the Forward that he saw no reason to “succumb” to Odeh’s request that the meeting be moved to another room (even though it was Hoenlein who had asked for the meeting and Odeh was his guest). Hoenlein also told the Forward, “It’s outrageous that a member of Knesset would say that I can’t go into a place because it has Zionist associations.” Hoenlein added: “He doesn’t have a problem taking [his Knesset] paycheck.”

Hoenlein’s response is, to be kind, monumentally inappropriate. Not to mention: arrogant and entitled beyond belief. Hoenlein is a Jewish citizen of the United States who is the unelected head of an NGO that espouses political opinions far to the right...

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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