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WATCH: Police assault wounded Palestinian patient, staff at J'lem hospital

Newly-released video shows Israeli security forces storming an East Jerusalem hospital in late July, as they tried to prevent doctors from bringing a wounded Palestinian into surgery.

A Palestinian man died on a gurney in a Jerusalem hospital last month, as Israeli police in full riot gear tried to prevent medical staff from wheeling him into the operating room for surgery. B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights NGO, released footage of the incident that was recorded by the hospital’s security cameras.

The video shows armed Israeli police wearing helmets and military-style riot gear bursting into the emergency room at al Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem on July 21, shoving aside medical staff in order to grab the stretcher, even as the wounded man with an IV attached to his arm was lying on it, visibly bleeding and unconscious.

Muhammad Abu Ghanam, 20, from Jerusalem’s Abu Tur neighborhood, was taken by hospital in East Jerusalem on the afternoon of July 21. Abu Ghannam had joined a group of young Palestinian men as they demonstrated after noon prayers that day, in protest of the Israeli government having upset the status quo at al-Aqsa by erecting metal detectors at the entrance to the compound. Some of the young men threw stones in the direction of police.

According to several eyewitnesses, Abu Ghanam was about to toss a lit flare in the direction of security forces who were shooting tear gas canisters and foam-tipped bullets at the demonstrators. The eyewitnesses said the police were not standing close enough to be hint. Nonetheless, one of them shot Abu Ghanam in the chest with a live bullet. It entered his spinal cord.

Again according to eyewitnesses who spoke to B’Tselem researchers, police left Abu Ghanam bleeding on the pavement for five to 10 minutes. They refused to offer him first aid and then tried to prevent an ambulance from reaching him. Once medics finally succeeded in picking up Abu Ghanam, the police reportedly threw a stun grenade at the ambulance.

Al Makassed Hospital is in East Jerusalem. It serves Palestinian patients and is not under the auspices of the Israeli national health care system. Hadassah Hospital, one of the crown jewels of the Israeli national healthcare system (which also serves Palestinian patients), is just a few minutes’ drive away. But the idea of Israeli riot police rampaging through a Jewish Israeli...

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Israeli sniper shoots dead unarmed Palestinian at West Bank demo

Israeli security forces have shot and killed 21 Palestinians with live ammunition so far in 2017; Saba Abu Ubeid, 23, is the latest victim.

An Israeli army sniper shot and killed an unarmed Palestinian man on Friday afternoon during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. Saba Abu Ubeid, 23, was hit in his upper body and evacuated to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead by attending physicians. The cause of death was internal bleeding, according to a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health.

The demonstration was organized to express support for the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike, now in its third week.

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed that security forces had opened live fire in Nabi Saleh “in response to an immediate threat” posed by “dozens” of stone-throwing protestors.

But according to several eyewitnesses, including Israeli photojournalist Miki Kratsman, Israeli security forces in the village wore protective riot gear and were shielded by a concrete wall. The protestors were standing at least 50 meters away.

“There were very few stone throwers,” Sarit Michaeli, the international advocacy officer for Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem, told +972 Magazine. Michaeli, who was present at the demonstration, added that “Most of the youths were standing very far away from the soldiers,” and said it was the soldiers who approached the demonstrators, thereby escalating the confrontation, and not the other way around.

B’Tselem has been tracking the army’s use of live ammunition on unarmed Palestinian protestors for over seven years, with several reports on various incidents posted to its website. The bullets commonly used in these situations are .22 caliber, colloquially known as “two-twos.” They are less deadly than the higher caliber 5.6 bullets, said Michaeli, but they do penetrate human flesh and are considered lethal weapons.

The sniper’s ostensible goal is to aim at the legs and knees of the demonstrators, in order to incapacitate them. The bullets can break a knee or a femur, but are lethal when they hit the upper body. The two-two that killed Saba Abu Abeid hit him in the torso, making him the 21st Palestinian to be killed by live ammunition shot by Israeli security forces since the beginning of 2017.

Michaeli explained that snipers aim and shoot “in a very organized manner,” with the shooter taking a position on a rooftop while a colleague sits next to him to give...

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Israel expels Dutch journalist after he tweets +972 articles

The Israeli government office responsible for accrediting journalists takes issue with a foreign correspondent sharing +972 Magazine articles on social media, publishing critical stories, refuses to renew his visa.

Israel’s Government Press Office has refused to renew the media accreditation for Derk Walters, a Dutch journalist who has been reporting from Israel-Palestine since 2014. Walters is the correspondent for NRC Handelsblad, a leading Dutch newspaper. Without accreditation he cannot renew his work visa, which means he must leave the country by July. The GPO has been critical of Walters’ reporting, but not because it was inaccurate; instead, they seemed disturbed by the incidents he chose to report and how he framed his reporting.

In one example, Walters described the situation in Hebron as one where 600 Israeli settlers keep 175,000 Palestinians hostage. Ron Paz, the head of the GPO’s communications program wrote in an email to Walters that this characterization was anti-Semitic. Paz contacted Walters on several other occasions, each time to criticize the tone rather than the accuracy of his reporting, or to berate him for tweeting links to articles the GPO did not like. It is worth pointing out that Israeli media outlets have published reports that are far more critical of the situation in Hebron, than the one by Walters that attracted Paz’s attention.

As reported by both Haaretz and NRC, the GPO accidentally attached a revealing internal email in its correspondence with Walters. In it, Paz writes to GPO director Nitzan Chen that he will make Walters “sweat” by threatening him with repercussions for having moved from Tel Aviv, which he specified as his residence on his visa application, to East Jerusalem — which is probably the most popular choice of residence for foreign correspondents covering Israel-Palestine, because of its convenient location between the West Bank and Israel.

This is certainly not the first time the GPO has targeted or bullied a reporter. The question is: why Walters? He is not unusually critical of Israel in his reporting, and he has not been accused of breaking laws or reporting inaccurately. The answer seems to lie in his tweets. He retweeted a link to an article that was published in +972 Magazine, which refers to BDS and which uses the term “Palestinian citizens of Israel” rather than “Israeli Arabs.” Walters did not append any commentary to the retweet.

As per Haaretz, Paz contacted Walters about the tweet:

Paz also wrote...

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Netanyahu looks like a bully, but he doesn't care

Any blowback Netanyahu receives after snubbing the German foreign minister will be short-lived: his base is behind him, he has the patronage of the U.S., and the status quo will remain exactly as it is.

This week Netanyahu gave the world another lesson in how authoritarianism disguised as democracy works. Upon learning that the visiting German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, refused to accede to his demand that he cancel his meetings with two NGOs that document human rights violations in territories controlled by Israel, the Israeli prime minister went ahead and canceled their own scheduled meeting as a punitive measure. Haaretz, Israel’s lone liberal newspaper, rightly disapproves. But the rest of the Israeli media is pretty much on board with Netanyahu.

The two NGOs are Breaking the Silence, which is composed of veteran Israeli combat soldiers who document abuses carried out by the army; and B’Tselem, which documents and raises awareness of human rights violations, while lobbying the Israeli government to implement international law in the territories.

Netanyahu and his ministers have for years targeted these organizations, portraying them as traitors and describing them to their base as effete Ashkenazi elitists who would rather curry favor with their European (read: anti-Israel) sponsors than be patriotic Israeli citizens.

The prime minister and Naftali Bennett, chairman of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home Party and the current minister of education, have particularly focused on Breaking the Silence, repeating the claim that it slanders Israeli soldiers by labeling them war criminals. In a country with near-universal conscription for men aged 18-21, and a hard-wired national narrative rife with hero warriors, there is a well-primed and receptive audience for that message. The Israeli media repeats it frequently, along with the claim that most of the testimonies Breaking the Silence collects and curates are anonymous. This is not true, but these days hardly anyone bothers to carry out basic fact checks.

Sigmar Gabriel’s visit to Israel was scheduled so that he could participate in the ceremonies to mark Holocaust Memorial week. When Netanyahu said on Monday that he would not meet him if he also met with the NGOs, the German diplomat responded mildly that that would be “regrettable.”

Reuters reports that Gabriel expanded on German television, saying, “Imagine if the Israeli Prime Minister … came to Germany and wanted to meet people critical of the government and we said that...

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Will the NYT start noting the violent pasts of Israeli contributors, too?

There was much uproar from the Israeli government and its supporters following the publication of a Marwan Barghouti op-ed in the New York Times. But where was the outcry when the paper published op-eds by Israelis with violent pasts?

On Sunday the New York Times published an op-ed by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader who has been in an Israeli jail since 2002. In his article, Barghouti explains that over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to launch a hunger strike to protest the Israeli authorities’ policies of mass arrest and systematic mistreatment.

The newspaper’s public editor, Liz Spayd, published a response on Tuesday titled “An Op-Ed Author Omits His Crimes, and the Times Does Too.” Addressing a wave of angry statements, Spayd writes that the newspaper should have spelled out the crimes for which Barghouti was convicted.

In response to her query, the New York Times‘ Opinion editor Jim Dao wrote her that while “the piece does say the author received multiple life sentences,” it does not “state the crimes for which he was convicted.” Dao then appended the following note to Barghouti’s op-ed:

Marwan Barghouti declined to offer a defense in an Israeli courtroom because he was not a citizen of Israel, but rather a stateless resident of the Palestinian territories, which are under Israel’s military occupation. As such, he argued that the court had no legal jurisdiction over his case. And so he was convicted based solely on the prosecution’s evidence, although international experts expressed concern it was “flimsy” and obtained using “questionable methods.” Nonetheless, the judge sentenced Barghouti to five consecutive life sentences plus forty years.

Barghouti’s case was somewhat unusual, in that he was tried in a civilian court; the vast majority of Palestinians from the occupied territories are tried in military courts, where the conviction rate is 99.74 percent. In other words, to say that a Palestinian is guilty of the crimes with which he was charged because he was convicted in an Israeli military court is the same as saying that a Soviet citizen sentenced to the gulag during the Stalinist era must be guilty because he confessed during interrogation. This is one of the reasons for the prisoners’ hunger strike Barghouti describes in his op-ed for the Times.

Obviously, the Israeli government and its supporters have a political interest in denying Barghouti credibility to write for the New York Times, as evinced by some of the responses to the op-ed: Prime Minister...

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Richard Gere on segregation in Hebron: It's exactly like the Old South

‘It’s exactly what the Old South was in America. Blacks knew where they could go: they could drink from that fountain, they couldn’t go over there, they couldn’t eat in that place,’ the American actor tells an Israeli TV station during a tour of the segregated West Bank city.

Richard Gere visited the West Bank city of Hebron this week, guided by the Israeli anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence.

Gere was in Israel to promote his new film “Norman,” and was accompanied to Hebron by director Joseph Cedar, an Israeli, along with a crew from Channel 2 News.

In the report, broadcast during the prime time evening news hour Wednesday, Gere responds to what he sees in blunt terms. He compares occupied Hebron to the Jim Crow era in the southern United States.

Looking around, Gere says to his guides, and to the television camera, “It’s exactly what the Old South was in America. Blacks knew where they could go: they could drink from that fountain, they couldn’t go over there, they couldn’t eat in that place. It was well understood — you didn’t cross over if you didn’t want to get your head beat in, or you get lynched.”

Having internalized the understanding that he is standing in the middle of a deserted street in what was once a busy commercial area, Gere sees Jewish settlers moving about freely where Palestinians are forbidden to walk and says: “This is the thing that’s flipping me out right now…This is really bizarre, this is genuinely strange … who owns the city, and their feeling of ‘I’m protected, I can do whatever I want.’”

[Watch the full video here]

This particular part of Hebron is home to about 500 radical Jewish settlers, notorious for their extreme racism. The city is home to over 160,000 Palestinians. Shuhada Street, which used to be the main commercial avenue of the area, bustled with human traffic 20 years ago — as one of the guides for Breaking the Silence describes to Gere. Today it is eerily empty, except for a heavy Israeli military presence.

Palestinians are forbidden to walk on Shuhada Street. Their shop doors have been welded shut. The army has bricked up and sealed the fronts of Palestinian houses that face the streets through which settlers pass on their way to synagogue.

Some of the most notorious amateur video...

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Supporting BDS is enough to get detained by the cops in Israel these days

Instead of simply announcing that it opposes BDS, which would be a perfectly legitimate stance, the Israeli government is criminalizing the movement and its advocates. The results won’t be pretty.

On March 8 police near Jerusalem picked up an Israeli citizen who was just standing on the street. He was not doing anything illegal. Someone who lived in the neighborhood reported him on suspicion of carrying material related to BDS; and while it is not illegal for Israelis to carry material about BDS in territory under Israel’s control, the police answered the call.

Jeff Halper, the director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) was speaking to a tour group in Maaleh Adumim, a large Jewish settlement in the West Bank. The police detained him in a place that was one of his regular stops with tour groups, he explained.

“I wasn’t talking about BDS or holding a sign that day,” he wrote in an email exchange with +972 Magazine, “but I sometimes do and so do our other guides. So someone called the police. They should have said to the caller: ‘Thanks for letting us know, but this is a democracy and people can talk on the street (even about BDS).’ But they didn’t of course, and detained me for ‘incitement.'”

BDS is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Its advocates pursue a variety of non-violent tactics aimed at pressuring Israel to apply international law to the Palestinian residents living under its sovereignty.

Last week the Knesset approved a law barring entry to foreigners who support BDS. An earlier anti-BDS law, commonly called the Boycott Law, was passed in 2011. The 2011 law gives Israelis the right to bring civil suit against BDS advocates in cases where they can prove their livelihood has been undermined as a result. Both laws have been widely criticized for violating basic principles of freedom of speech. Both apply to boycotts not only of Israel, but also of its settlements in the West Bank.

Yet it is still not against the law for Israeli citizens to support or even call on others to support BDS. They just have to bear in mind that they might be sued in civil court for their advocacy.

+972 Special Coverage: The Boycott Movement

The police did not arrest Jeff Halper on Monday, but the fact that they detained and questioned him speaks to...

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Israel to strip Jerusalem residency status from family of truck attacker

The decision to strip the al-Qunbar family of their right to live in their native city is not only collective punishment, but also raises questions about the Israeli government’s policy towards Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.

The family of the Jerusalem man who rammed his truck into a crowd of people on a popular promenade on Monday will be stripped of their residency rights in East Jerusalem, says Interior Minster Aryeh Deri. The driver, Fadi al-Qunbar, plowed his truck into a group of soldiers standing on the East Jerusalem promenade, killing four of them before he was shot dead.

According to reports in Israeli and Palestinian media outlets, if Deri goes ahead with his decision, 13 members of the al-Qunbar family will lose their right to live in the city of their birth. The family, which lives in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, has denied any knowledge of al-Qunbar having planned an attack.

Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are always vulnerable to having their residency revoked if they stay abroad for long periods; this is a common experience for individuals who go overseas to study for postgraduate degrees, for example. But revoking an entire family’s right to live in their home because one of its members committed a crime is unprecedented. It is, obviously, collective punishment. It also begs the question, once again, of what Israel’s policy is toward Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents.

If the policy is that the city is to remain undivided and exclusively under Israeli control, without even a pretense of future status negotiations, then this means Israel has de facto announced its intention to permanently withhold basic rights like due process from half the city’s native-born residents.

The implications of this decision are not on the agenda of the Israeli Jewish mainstream discourse. East Jerusalem is a sprawling chunk of territory that most Jewish Israelis are afraid to drive through (except the settlers who work to evict Palestinians and take over their houses). But when the name of the place is evoked they immediately talk about access to the holy sites — specifically, the Western Wall of the ancient temple, which is located within the tiny (1km square) walled Old City.

There are about 380,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, or close to 40 percent of the population. But they have no political representation and are granted only 10 percent of the city’s budget...

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Kerry implicitly acknowledges two states is all but a fantasy now

The Secretary of State asked if they really wanted to live with the moral consequences of a one-state reality. He doesn’t understand this isn’t an issue that preoccupies the average Jewish citizen of Israel.

Over the past three decades Israel has seen seven prime ministers (and several more elections), political assassinations, two intifadas, a peace accord, four wars and the withdrawal of the Jewish settlers from Gaza. But amidst all this upheaval, one essential fact has remained a constant: Israel has maintained complete control over the lives of the Palestinians who live in Gaza and the West Bank.

On Wednesday, an exhausted-looking John Kerry gave what will probably be his final foreign policy speech. It was perhaps fitting that he focused on one of the Obama administration’s greatest diplomatic failures — the Israel-Palestine issue.

In his speech, Kerry asked Israelis if they understood the implications of continuing their military occupation of the Palestinians indefinitely. Over the course of more than an hour, he tried appealing to Israelis’ values: were they willing to reconcile themselves to living in a de facto apartheid state? This is a question that Israelis have heard so many times, that it has lost its meaning.

When it comes to the Palestinians, the national discourse is so hardwired that even Israeli Jews who identify as liberals consider bedrock principles like humanity, rights and ethics to be lofty luxuries. When liberal and right-wing Israelis debate whether or not the occupation should end, they don’t argue over how the occupation affects Palestinians. They talk about whether the occupation is good or bad for the Jews. Only a tiny minority of Israeli Jews are detached from the nationalist narrative and focused on the human rights of Palestinians, rather than the national well-being of the Jews.

As several analysts have pointed out*, Kerry did not say anything new in his speech. He reiterated the U.S. government’s opposition to the settlements, which are illegal according to international law. This has been the policy of every U.S. administration, without exception, for nearly 50 years. Nor has the Obama administration deviated from the practice of previous administrations in allowing the settlements to multiply and expand while offering toothless criticism or issuing shocked-and-appalled statements.

Kerry also stuck to the tradition of U.S. officials in emphasizing his love of Israel, by offering anecdotes to illustrate his knowledge of the place and his identification with the people. Imagine a U.S. official giving a speech in which he talks about his...

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The 'NYT' finally realizes: Netanyahu doesn't care what Obama thinks

For years, liberal American publications have been generally sympathetic to Israel, even when they are criticizing its governments’ policies. Now, in light of an unprecedented New York Times editorial, that attitude might be about to change.

The New York Times editorial board has realized, about a decade too late, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not care what the Obama administration — or any U.S. administration, for that matter — thinks about his policies regarding the Palestinians.

According to the editorial published Friday, October 7, headlined At the Boiling Point With Israel, the catalyst for this realization was Netanyahu’s decision to approve the building of a new settlement deep in the West Bank, only three weeks after the U.S. finalized a package of military aid for Israel to the tune of an unprecedented $38 billion, spread over 10 years. Israel receives more military aid than any other country, by far: Egypt, which receives $1.31 billion per year, is the second-largest recipient of direct military aid from the United States.

As noted in the editorial, the new settlement will be geographically located so that it is added to a string of existing Israeli housing projects that collectively nearly bifurcate the West Bank.

In response to Israel’s announcement the State Department and the White House released angry statements that referenced broken promises and castigated Israel for not behaving as friends should behave toward one another.

After 50 years of unfettered settlement growth and expansion — which was neither halted nor slowed even during the so-called Oslo Spring — the United States expressed unfiltered anger about Israel’s settlement project, even though it has been the policy of every U.S. administration, without exception, to oppose settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. The principle of a two-state solution is predicated on an Israeli military and civilian withdrawal from most of the West Bank. But Israel has never had to suffer any consequences for flouting international law or ignoring U.S. policy. And that is not going to change.

What has changed, very late in the game, is the attitude of the New York Times. Like most U.S. publications, it has for decades pulled its punches when it comes to Israel’s policy and actions. Not this time. “Mr. Netanyahu,” the editorial’s author notes bluntly, “Obviously doesn’t care what Washington thinks, so it will be up to Mr. Obama to preserve that option [the two-state solution] before he leaves office.”

In other words, the Times is suggesting that Obama instruct his...

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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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