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What would Israelis do if Palestinians disappeared overnight?

In Ibtisam Azem’s ‘The Book of Disappearance,’ Israelis wake up one day to a country without any Palestinians. Azem speaks to +972 about how, with this sudden vanishing of ‘the enemy,’ she confronts some of the darkest chapters of Israel’s history.

What would Israelis do if every Palestinian between the river and the sea disappeared at once?

That is the premise of a newly-translated novel, “The Book of Disappearance,” by Palestinian writer Ibtisam Azem (translated by Iraqi novelist and translator, Sinan Antoon, and published by Syracuse University Press). Originally released in Arabic in 2014, Azem’s story is primarily narrated by two individuals: Alaa, a young Palestinian who is grieving the recent death of his grandmother and haunted by the memories of the Nakba and its aftermath she shared with him; and his friend Ariel, an Israeli journalist who struggles to reconcile his belief that the occupation is wrong with his unexamined conviction that the circumstances surrounding the founding of the state were just.

Azem’s novel is a work of magical realism: she uses the impossible scenario of millions of Palestinians vanishing in the blink of an eye in order to pull at the loose threads of Zionist mythology about Israel’s establishment. Accordingly, several eerie scenes in the novel have a ring of familiarity to them for anyone who has read about the Nakba: homes with plates of food uneaten on the table; televisions still switched on; house keys still hanging by the front door — empty rooms that are innately disturbing for how undisturbed they looked, as if the residents had been suddenly spirited away in silence.

Such silence also abounded around the “disappearance” of nearly a million Palestinians in 1948, and Azem acknowledges that this colonial form of magical thinking — used to explain away the emptying from a land of its native people — partly informed her book. Yet her story is about more than that, too.

“The main idea was to show what is really happening [in Palestine],” she tells +972. “I also wanted to think about what would happen if Israel — or any nation — suddenly doesn’t have an enemy anymore.”

That sudden lack of an enemy provokes a diverse set of reactions among the Israelis left behind in the novel. Initially, there is confusion and anger at the inconvenience — commuters are left stranded when their buses don’t arrive; newspapers go undelivered and garbage uncollected; teachers and doctors and...

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'White nationalism is killing us': Jews protest Trump, Fox ahead of Pittsburgh anniversary

In the week leading up to the first anniversary of the white nationalist terror attack that killed 11 worshipers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, progressive Jewish groups take to the streets to send an unequivocal message to Donald Trump and Fox News.

On the eve of the first anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, progressive Jews and their allies took to the streets in memory of the 11 killed, and to protest the white nationalism that led to their murder.

Early Friday morning, several groups including Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), IfNotNow, and Bend the Arc: Jewish Action marched to Fox News’ headquarters in Manhattan. Creating a makeshift memorial site out of candles and rocks on the plaza outside the building, demonstrators held up banners reading “We Remember” in English and Hebrew, and “Fox News: White Nationalism is Killing Us!”

By focusing on Fox News, which frequently acts as a de facto state television network, the protesters sought to spell out the connection between the racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric of Donald Trump and large swathes of the Republican Party, and the acts of white terrorism that have struck at Jewish, Black, Muslim, Latinx and immigrant communities over the past few years.

“We gathered outside Fox News because of the free rein they give to bigotry on their network,” Audrey Sasson, JFREJ’s executive director, told +972. During the course of the protest, demonstrators read out statements from Fox hosts Rush Limbaugh and Tucker Carlson in the weeks leading up to the shooting, which sought to blame “globalists” and “liberal elites” for migration to the U.S. — dog whistle terms for Jews. Such language is evidence of “the same anti-immigrant ideology that incited the Pittsburgh shooter’s violence,” Sasson continued.

“We know who to hold responsible for the Pittsburgh shooting, the El Paso shooting, for the separation of families and caging of children: it’s Trump, the GOP, and the Fox News pundits who are fanning the flames of all that hatred.”

This central message of the protest is backed up by the stats: a report released earlier this week by Political Research Associates and Bend the Arc notes that in the two months leading up to the Pittsburgh massacre, Fox News and five other major conservative news websites sought to connect George Soros and “globalists” to liberal causes in at least 345 articles.

In a nod to history,...

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Otzma Yehudit is out. Does that mean Israelis reject Kahanism?

While the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party failed to pass the electoral threshold, the latest national elections in Israel saw the normalization of Kahane’s particular brand of overt racism.

Twenty-one years ago, Rabbi Meir Kahane stared into the camera during an election ad for his Kach party and told viewers, “[the Arabs of Israel] want to kill us, they want to wipe us out, and it is up to each and every Jew to rise up and say, ‘never again.’”

Last Wednesday, six days out from the most recent Israeli elections, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Facebook chatbot sent users a message warning them of the dangers of a “left-wing, secular, weak government that relies on Arabs who want to annihilate us all — women, children, and men.” That is why, the message said, voters needed to guarantee his place at the head of a right-wing, Jewish, “strong” government.

Although Netanyahu claimed that the message was created due to a staff error, it in fact made explicit the subtext to his central campaign tactic for these elections: incessant demonization of Palestinians, in the belief that stoking fear and hatred was the most likely route to victory.

Accordingly, over the past few weeks, the prime minister has assailed Palestinian citizens of Israel from every conceivable direction. He announced that Arabs were trying to “steal” the election; repeatedly issued ominous statements about a looming “left-Arab government;” and on Election Day itself, resuscitated his tactic of telling his supporters that the Arab turnout was at unprecedented levels.

This web of anti-Arab lies, incitement and paranoia wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Kach campaign flyer. Indeed, taken together, this messaging is simply a more elaborate version of another statement Kahane made in his 1988 election broadcast, while standing in Jerusalem’s Old City and lamenting that the city had become unlivable for Jews: “Look around: Arabs, Arabs, and more Arabs. What’s it going to be like in 10 years?”

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Netanyahu is not, of course, a true Kahanist. For one thing, he has no interest in a Jewish theocracy, as much as he’s willing to advocate for those who do if it’ll keep him in power. Nor does he talk of “transferring” Palestinians out of the West Bank, although his embrace of annexation is a slippery...

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Voting Netanyahu out is not going to 'save' Israel-Palestine

Israeli citizens are about to vote in national elections for the second time in six months. But has anything changed since April? Why is no one talking about the occupation? And are we really about to see the end of the Netanyahu era? +972 writers talk about why these elections matter.

Israeli voters will head to the polls for the second time in six months on Tuesday. It has been a short but brutish campaign, in which the racism, rabble-rousing, and mudslinging that have come to dominate Israeli election cycles seem more extreme than ever.

Benjamin Netanyahu, embattled and paranoid, has issued fraudulent warnings about Palestinians “stealing” the upcoming elections, and claimed last week that Arabs want to “annihilate us all” (his office insists this message was released due to a staffing error) — all part of efforts to suppress the Palestinian vote. Otzma Yehudit, the Kahanist party that is running independently after making it into the Knesset in April as part of the United Right list, has had a last-minute bump in support that threatens to carry them over the electoral threshold.

Right-wing activists, among them Likud supporters, have physically assaulted center-left and left-wing activists at campaign rallies. The Blue and White party has become even more indistinguishable from the Likud than it was last time round. And, as has happened in the last few election cycles, the specter of formal West Bank annexation has crept closer than ever, driven — as has become his habit — by a calculating prime minister intent on not being outflanked from the right.

I spoke to several +972 writers in order to get their thoughts on what is, and isn’t, at stake in the upcoming election. All agreed that one of the biggest questions of the second election round of 2019 is whether anything has materially changed since April, or whether it’s just more of the same — albeit worse.

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Samah Salaime is unequivocal that the hard-fought reunion of the Joint List has changed the electoral landscape: “Arab voters are on the map again,” she says. Relatedly, Joint List leader Ayman Odeh’s endorsement by Palestinian voters is also significant, she adds: he has set clear conditions for joining the government, including...

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Behind Netanyahu's scorched earth campaign against Israel's media

Just one week out from the second national elections in six months, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s relationship with the Israeli media seems to be at an all-time low. But are his ferocious attacks on the press all they seem?

In the final stretches of Israel’s second election campaign in six months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tried-and-tested tactic of attacking the media has once again been dominating the headlines.

The prime minister has long had an adversarial relationship with the national press, but he appears to have stepped up the vitriol in recent weeks. At the end of August, in a Facebook live video, he accused the Keshet Media Group of committing “a terror attack against democracy” for probing his corruption scandals through Channel 12 news. This came a day after he called for a boycott of the same company over its joint production of HBO’s “Our Boys,” which he blasted as “anti-Semitic,” also on Facebook. The reporter at the heart of Netanyahu’s accusations, Guy Peleg, has since been assigned a bodyguard.

Netanyahu again attacked Channel 12 earlier last week, labeling it a “leftist propaganda channel” in a Telegram message to his supporters, in which he also took a swipe at the much-revered Jewish National Fund for buying advertising space in the outlet. At the same time, the prime minister has been sowing false stories about the supposedly impending theft of the upcoming election through Palestinian voter fraud.

Fresh revelations have recently emerged about the extent of Netanyahu’s efforts to mold the Israeli media landscape in his image, following the leak of a conversation between himself and his successor as communications minister, Ayoub Kara. To cap it all, Netanyahu’s various trials on corruption charges — including two involving his attempts to manipulate media coverage of himself and his family — are edging ever-closer.

But is Netanyahu’s scorched earth campaign really all that it seems? Does the media play a role in fanning the flames? And is the trend of global authoritarianism having an impact on the media landscape in Israel-Palestine? In order to dig into these questions and more, +972 Magazine spoke with Shuki Tausig, editor of the Israeli media watchdog The Seventh Eye.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

In this final stretch of the current election campaign, Netanyahu’s attacks on the media seem to have moved up a gear. What’s caused these...

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Israel's fascist sideshow takes center stage

For the first time in over 30 years, a proper Kahanist party could be entering the Knesset. But is the rise of a party that advocates for Jewish supremacy, theocracy, and ‘total war’ as unprecedented as the outcry has suggested?

The last week has been an eventful one in the annals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dalliances with the racist ultra-right. Fresh from upsetting his authoritarian, antisemitic allies in Europe by failing to adequately maintain his recent efforts at Holocaust revisionism, Netanyahu has now paved the way for homegrown Israeli fascists to take their place — once again — in the Knesset.

The prime minister’s overtures to the Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party are not, in the context of his political character, surprising. His readiness to rely on white supremacists and ultranationalists abroad to prop him up provides ample evidence of the types of characters he’ll make common cause with. It has also long been clear that there are very few depths Netanyahu will not plumb when his perch at the top of Israeli politics is under threat.

And that threat does, with the national elections in April looming, feel real. Faced with some of his current coalition partners failing to pass the electoral threshold, Netanyahu successfully lobbied the Jewish Home party to team up with Jewish Power, which brings the real prospect of an explicitly Kahanist party entering the Knesset for the first time in over 30 years.

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Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the Jewish Defense League and for whom the Kahanists are named, was a fascist. He wanted to remake Israeli society by expelling Palestinians and making Jewish law the law of the land. He believed in Jewish supremacy, was fixated on ethnic purity, and declared antisemitism in the diaspora necessary in order to prevent assimilation. Violence and militarism were, for Kahane, instruments through which to ensure national rebirth.

The JDL manifestos Kahane wrote in the 1960s and ‘70s in New York contained seeds of this fascist ideology. The policy platform his party, Kach, ran on in the 1984 Israeli elections, and which got him elected, was explicitly fascist. It’s important to state this unequivocally. Referring to ‘Kahanism’ without naming its ideological pedigree makes it impossible to have an honest discussion about this latest evolution in Israeli politics.

From fringe to mainstream

Kahane undoubtedly...

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Why the Jerusalem embassy opening was a fitting way to mark the Nakba

Both the U.S. and Israeli governments are run by racist demagogues who simultaneously deny an occupation exists while doing all they can to perpetuate it. 

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat believes that East Jerusalem Palestinians are “satisfied” with the move of the U.S. Embassy to their city. Speaking to Israeli news website Ynet on Sunday, as the Israeli side of Jerusalem was preparing for a mass celebration in honor of the transfer, Barkat suggested that deep down, Palestinians understood that having the embassy on their doorstep would improve their quality of life.

Barkat’s reasoning is, on the one hand, simply a variation on the racist idea that colonialism betters the lives of the natives. It’s also in keeping with his previous reflections on demographic tensions in Jerusalem: he’s both declined to attend the city’s annual Pride parade out of deference to his ultra-Orthodox constituents (a year after a haredi man murdered a parade attendee and wounded five others), and announced that collective punishment of Palestinians is the key to coexistence.

Yet claiming that Palestinians might welcome the embassy transfer, which effectively marks the U.S.’s rubber-stamping of Israel’s half-century occupation in East Jerusalem, is also a consummate example of hasbara logic. Nearly three-quarters of Palestinian Jerusalemites — who make up nearly 40 percent of the city’s population — live below the poverty line, compared to just under 30 percent of Jewish Jerusalemites. Israeli authorities demolished over 170 Palestinian homes and other structures in the city last year. In 2013, the last year such data was published, the Jerusalem municipality allotted only 10 percent of its budget to Palestinian neighborhoods. Forty percent of Palestinian households in East Jerusalem are not properly connected to the water grid.

This state of affairs is in large part due to the Israeli government’s chronic underinvestment in the Palestinian parts of the city (or, rather, underinvestment in infrastructure that would benefit Palestinians: earlier this month, for example, the state approved NIS 47 million over two years for archaeological excavations in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan — projects being run by a private, right-wing settler organization).

Nonetheless, Barkat is prepared to announce that he has looked into the hearts of Palestinians, and seen that they are pleased with a move that gives legitimacy to the discrimination they encounter on their own land, that will erase them further from the face of their own city, and that will bring even...

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Why has Israel banned Jewish leftists but not members of Nazi-linked groups?

Israel has banned leaders and key activists from Jewish Voice for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, among other groups that support BDS, from entering the country. So why doesn’t it extend the same restrictions to members of Nazi-affiliated groups?

Israel’s latest step in its self-described “offensive” against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is to include Jewish Voice for Peace, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and the American Friends Service Committee on a list of organizations whose leading members are banned from entering the country. Although the law barring boycott advocates was passed in March last year, the blacklisted organizations only came to light on Saturday. But while Jews who support the boycott movement are now barred from visiting the country, members of Nazi-allied organizations and anti-Semitic political parties continue to be allowed into Israel — including at the invitation of government officials.

The Israeli government apparently considers the banning of BDS activists acceptable behavior for a democracy, a view facilitated by its having very diligently cultivated and promoted the lie that BDS is an anti-Semitic movement aimed at destroying Israel. This lie has been remarkably successful, despite the clear statement on the official website of the BDS movement that its goal is to secure the same human and civil rights for Palestinians as everyone else living in Israeli-controlled territory. But if granting equal rights to everyone who lives in the territory controlled by Israel will cause the state to implode, then surely those who oppose BDS on those grounds are ignoring a fundamental problem — that a state which cannot survive if all its residents have equal rights is by definition not a democracy.

It’s also worth looking at which political opinions the government does not deem grounds for banning individuals from the country. In September last year, for example, Sebastian Gorka — who belongs to a Hungarian Nazi-allied group, and sports a medal declaring his affiliation — was a keynote speaker at an anti-terrorism conference in the Israeli coastal city of Herzliya.

Heinz-Christian Strache, the head of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria and the country’s vice chancellor, has been hosted by members of the ruling Likud party several times in recent years, despite the party’s Nazi roots and Strache’s own dabbling in anti-Semitic imagery. While Israel’s Foreign Ministry in December took the step of temporarily restricting contacts with FPA government ministers following the Austrian elections,...

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Activists bring London commuters face-to-face with Ahed Tamimi

Just over a week after the arrest of Ahed Tamimi, posters appear at bus stops around London in solidarity with the teenager and all Palestinian prisoners.

Commuters across London came face-to-face with the occupation on Thursday, after local activist groups put up posters at bus stops around the city calling for the release of Ahed Tamimi. The project — conceived and executed by London Palestine Action and Protest Stencil — hit London’s streets nine days after Israeli soldiers took Ahed, 16, from her Nabi Saleh home in the middle of the night, and is the latest in a series of global protests against the arrest.

“Following Ahed’s arrest, we wanted to publicly show solidarity again — with Ahed, with the Tamimi family, with Nabi Saleh,” Leila White of London Palestine Action told +972 Magazine. “Many of those involved in London Palestine Action have been to Nabi Saleh, and have joined protests there, have marched behind Ahed and her family.”

Ahed was arrested on December 19th, a few days after video footage of her and other family members pushing and slapping soldiers outside their home in Nabi Saleh went viral. The day after Ahed’s arrest her mother, Nariman, was arrested after she went to the police station to try and accompany her daughter during her interrogation. Both women have yet to be charged with a crime, but have had their detention repeatedly extended, meaning they will spend New Year’s Even in jail.

Ahed’s cousin, Nur Tamimi, 21, was arrested early in the morning of December 20th. A court called for her release on bail on Thursday, although the release will be delayed by 48 hours. Another cousin, Manal Tamimi, was arrested outside Ofer prison on Thursday while protesting the detention of her relatives.

The Israeli media, as well as most Israeli politicians, have framed the incident in Nabi Saleh as an unprovoked attack on IDF soldiers. Local coverage of the events almost unanimously failed to mention that a few days prior to the filmed clash, Israeli soldiers shot Ahed’s cousin Mohammed Tamimi, 15, in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet. He remained in an induced coma for over a week, after the bullet lodged in his skull. Moreover, the village has, over the years, paid a heavy price for its protests against the occupation and against the expropriation of its natural water source by settlers from nearby Halamish.

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Linda Sarsour: 'We must all commit to dismantling anti-Semitism'

A storm of protest failed to overshadow a diverse, progressive panel on anti-Semitism held in New York, featuring Linda Sarsour and Jewish Voice for Peace head Rebecca Vilkomerson.

In the end, the controversy, threats, protests and endless scandalized op-eds were unable to derail a diverse, progressive panel on anti-Semitism that took place in New York on Tuesday evening. The event, held in front of 500 people at the New School (with a further 1,200 watching via a livestream) was moderated by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, and featured Linda Sarsour, Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson, Leo Ferguson and Lina Morales.

The panel, a collaboration between Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Haymarket Books and Jacobin Magazine, drew out the complexities of acknowledging and challenging the genuine threat of anti-Semitism from diverse sources, while simultaneously rejecting its exploitation for political gain. In a wide-ranging discussion, the panelists addressed, among many other issues, the intersection of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and how anti-Semitism does and doesn’t differ from other forms of racism.

The ferocious opposition the event provoked was primarily due to the presence of Sarsour, who is unceasingly smeared as a Jew-hater, despite consistently speaking out against anti-Semitism, and being a long-time partner of Jewish social justice organizations in New York. Among those decrying her inclusion was Zionist Organization of America head Mort Klein, whose “J’accuse…!” on Breitbart, of all places, belied the fact that he had personally invited Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka to the ZOA’s annual pageant in New York earlier this month.

JVP Deputy Director Rabbi Alissa Wise, introducing the event, warned of potential interruptions, and she proved correct. But ultimately, a feeble protest outside the auditorium and a couple of minor audience disruptions at the end of the evening failed to reflect the storm of outrage that had threatened to overshadow the proceedings.

Instead, what took place was a nuanced, complex, challenging debate, among a panel whose racial, gender and religious diversity added considerable depth to the discussion. It was exactly the kind of conversation our communities on the Left need to be having, and seem to be increasingly willing to have in public: the event followed the publication earlier this month of JFREJ’s excellent primer “Understanding Antisemitism,” as well as...

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How to deal with modern anti-Semitism? The Jewish Left is leading the way

For too long, the Right has claimed a monopoly on fighting antisemitism, especially when it relates to Israel.

It’s been a fraught year for the American Jewish Left. Anti-Semitism continues to be stoked by the president and his inner and outer circles; the institutional Jewish community is openly courting anti-Semites; and verbal and legislative assaults from the Israeli and American right on ‘traitorous’ Jewish anti-occupation and BDS advocates continue to rack up. Meanwhile, Congress recently hosted a debate about anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses, largely geared toward making criticism of Israel a part of Title VI’s definition of anti-Semitism.

Moreover, a number of incidents at left-wing demonstrations over the summer led to ugly fallouts in which accusations of anti-Semitism on the part of protest organizers provoked hysteria on the Right and divisive recriminations on the Left.

In short, it’s been even more difficult than usual to effectively and insightfully address the issue of anti-Semitism from the perspective of the Jewish Left—even as the need for such a discussion has become increasingly urgent. The degree of misinformation, slander and abuse swirling around—whether from the Jewish Right, the Israeli government, or emboldened neo-Nazis—makes it challenging (and intimidating) to stage a reasoned public conversation.

The unrelenting nature of our present moment adds to these barriers, and the white supremacist rallies that took place in Charlottesville this summer typified that tension: on the one hand, they involved displays of violent and virulent anti-Semitism; on the other, they were about much more than that.

So how do we begin to draw out the complexities of anti-Semitism and understand both its specificities and its intersection with other prejudices—particularly anti-Black racism and Islamophobia? And, moreover, how do we do that from within the Jewish Left, when we often seem to be assailed on multiple fronts under the misguided and dangerous notion that our Jewishness and our politics are incompatible?

Thankfully, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) has just put out a new resource that speaks to exactly these questions. In addition to serving as a much-needed refresher for those of us who have been grappling with these issues for some time, it’s also an excellent primer for anyone on the Left who’s just starting to navigate these waters.

Understanding Antisemitism: An Offering to Our Movement grew out of a conversation between iconic writer and activist Aurora Levins Morales and then-JFREJ...

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Challenging racial supremacy — from Charlottesville to Tel Aviv

As long as our recognition of racial supremacy begins and ends with enraged men beating up people of color, leftists, and anyone else they see as a target, we will never approach the reckoning needed to effect meaningful change — neither in Charlottesville nor in Tel Aviv.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA — Three years ago, on a broiling July night, a group of friends and I were sitting outside a cafe in an upscale Tel Aviv neighborhood, trying to ignore the “death to Arabs” chants coming from the square opposite us. It was the middle of the Gaza war, and we had just come from an anti-war protest at a nearby plaza. We’d left quickly as it was winding down; groups of young men had started filtering in, scanning the depleting crowds, their necks taut. It was one of numerous protests at which members of Israel’s far right had assaulted leftists during that never-ending, bloody summer.

The hundred or so far-right counter-demonstrators who had amassed in the square opposite the cafe soon began marching through the city, singing and waving Israeli flags. Quiet returned, and the square again assumed the outward appearance of normality. It’s an ordinary space: benches, a children’s swing set, trees, manicured hedges. Boutique coffee shops line its perimeter. It perfectly encapsulates the Tel Aviv “bubble”—that criticism leveled at a city whose residents are perceived, rightly or wrongly, to have little understanding of the violence that stalks much of Israel-Palestine, or if they do, to at least have the luxury of being largely removed from it.

And yet that square, at least in my mind, would never look quite the same. I used to pass by it on a weekly basis, right up until I left Israel-Palestine in late 2016. And though it was only ever populated by young families and solitary readers, that group of braying young men—jumping up and down, screaming racist epithets—was always there. Winter and summer, rain and shine, night and day, they lurked: an atmospheric disturbance, like looking at the horizon through heat haze. I would walk through the square or sit in it in silence, and hear “death to Arabs” every time.

After I left the country those memories retreated, although they didn’t disappear. They were, or so I had thought, tightly attached to that physical space. But here in Charlottesville, where I moved just a few months ago, those apparitions have...

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Jewish activists arrested for protesting New York pro-Israel parade

New York’s annual, lavishly-funded Celebrate Israel parade was interrupted by scores of American Jewish activists, several of whom were arrested in the process.

Seven Jewish protesters were arrested in New York on Sunday afternoon as over 100 activists disrupted the annual Celebrate Israel parade. The event, which sees thousands of participants march down Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue accompanied by elected officials such as Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, has received nearly $800,000 in funding from the Israeli government over the last seven years.

The counter-demonstrations were held by Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, who blocked the progress of the parade, unfurled banners in the middle of Fifth Avenue and staged sit-ins. Six of the seven JVP members who were arrested were released later on Sunday, and the last person is expected to be released on Monday.

The purpose of the counter-demonstration was to draw attention to Israel’s 50-year-old occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, the organization said in a statement. The protest, held under the slogan of “Celebrate Ending Israeli Apartheid,” was also intended to highlight exchange programs between the New York Police Department and Israeli security forces, which JVP calls “an exchange of worst practices that harm communities of color and Palestinians.”

Protesters reported being cursed at, threatened and manhandled by participants in the Celebrate Israel parade, as well as by private security, as they made their way past police barricades to disrupt the march. The activists stalled the progress of the mayor for several minutes, while the LGBTQ bloc in the parade was interrupted by a group of queer Jews, who held up signs saying, “No pride in apartheid” and “Queer Jews for a free Palestine.” Five of the LGBTQ Jewish protesters were among those arrested.

IfNotNow, who unraveled a banner saying “No celebration with occupation” in the middle of the parade, also staged other protests across the country to mark the occupation turning 50 this week.

IfNotNow demonstrators in Washington, D.C., protested outside a gala hosted by Friends of the IDF, which raises millions of dollars a year to for Israeli soldiers during and after their service. Activists read the mourners’ kaddish in memory of those killed as a result of the occupation, and held signs reading “Occupation is not my Judaism” while calling on gala attendees to work against the occupation and be honest with...

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