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Reposted from David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) by David Harris Gershon
Originally published in Tikkun Daily

A major in Israel's infantry, who fought in the Northern Gaza Strip during Israel's assault in the summer of 2014, talks of devastation. He talks of endless barrages, buildings collapsing, city streets being razed by bulldozers, entire neighborhoods erased.

Then he says, You want to hear a joke? You're reading his words in a report, so you have no choice but to nod as he explains, This is a joke that was popular in the army during the war:

Why do Palestinians only sing the chorus? Because they have no verses left.
The punchline only makes sense if you know that in Hebrew, the word for houses (בתים) is the same word for verses.

The solider tells you this anonymously because he must. You don't know his name—only that he is "01"—nor do you know the names of the over 100 Israeli soldiers who recently gave testimony to Breaking the Silence, an organization which normally works with soldiers who wish to reveal the ugly truths of Israel's occupation.

Now, in a report released this month entitled, "This is How We Fought in Gaza," Israeli soldiers, their identities hidden, have given the world a window into what life fighting in Gaza often looked like.

The overriding theme is destruction. Pure, unrelenting destruction motivated by fear, by the justifiable desire to minimize military casualties at almost any cost.

No House Was to Be Left Standing

The U.N. has estimated that 89,000 homes were damaged during the summer of 2014, many of them severely, and that 7,000 were completely demolished, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. (Today, nine months later, not a single demolished house has been rebuilt.)

When you read the Breaking the Silence testimonies, it becomes clear how such devastation occurred. It wasn't just buildings collapsing under the weight of laser-guided missiles. It was unrelenting razing on the ground.

Soldier after soldier described the same operational process: after an area was taken by the IDF and 'sterilized'—a process which often involved encouraging civilians to flee with leaflets coupled with heavy, targeted air strikes—individual houses were sequentially shelled by tanks, cleared by soldiers firing everywhere inside, and finally demolished by Caterpillar D9 bulldozers.

This last part, the intentional razing of family homes on the ground, is what shocked me the most, the extent of which I had never fully comprehended.

Witness the three testimonies below, which are representative of dozens captured by Breaking the Silence:

bts12 - text has more on beauty of D9 destroying houses
A D9 razes a lone Palestinian home in Gaza.
While some of this destruction was motivated by soldiers searching for tunnels or a desire to minimize the risks of urban warfare by, well, removing the urban environment, tactical goals didn't always precipitate such razing by the D9s. Indeed, houses and farms were sometimes destroyed simply because they could be. Because they were there. Because they were Palestinian.

Nobody Is a Civilian

Aside from the destruction, another major theme which emerged from this report is the looseness of the IDF's rules of engagement in Gaza. Many soldiers testified that they were told to shoot anything which moved, with no consideration given to whether civilians might be present, which some felt was a clear violation of the military's rules of ethics.

Now, it should be stated that the IDF made real efforts, from 'roof knocking' to dropping leaflets, to clear areas of civilians before invading. This process of 'sterilizing' an area had an operational effect: nobody who remained in a 'sterilized' area was considered by commanding officers as civilians. Indeed, soldiers repeatedly remarked that how to deal with civilians was never mentioned, for the overriding assumption was that anyone left behind, anyone who chose to stay behind, was a combatant.

This shoot first, ask questions later engagement strategy was to protect Israeli soldiers in urban environments. However, the practical and tragic problem, of course, was that many civilians had nowhere to flee, were unable to evacuate, or simply chose to stay in their homes rather than expose themselves to an open, uncertain march.

A few soldiers recalled encountering families while clearing a house 'wet' (with live fire), and many more remarked on how they would often shoot anything which moved in houses, regardless of being able to identify who, or what, they were shooting.

The following excerpts (from soldiers 02, 03, 08, and 22) reveal this clearly:

The above words, along with the words of every soldier contained in this report, have been maligned by those who fear what they have to say. Their anonymous characters have been slandered to discredit them. Breaking the Silence has been attacked for not producing a real work of journalism.

However, this report is not an act of journalism. It is a moment of activism by (mostly) Israeli Jews who want their country to be better, who demand that Israelis face the unjust in order to create a just society.

That propagandists are attacking these soldiers' words is not surprising. After all, their job is to protect the state and its leaders by shielding it from critique. However, when the state in question is a Jewish one, such propaganda-led shielding often turns into a dishonest game of spot-the-anti-Semite.

You critique Israel's conduct in Gaza? You're critiquing the Jewish people.

However, I reject this conflation of Israel and all Jews—itself an anti-Semitic trope. And as a Jew who desires a better, just Israel free of occupation and oppression, I reject the notion that my concern for Palestinians in Gaza is anti-Semitic.

On the contrary. It makes me Jewish.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Continue Reading
Reposted from David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) by David Harris Gershon

I have critiqued TIME Magazine's cover choices and journalism in the past, principally because it remains the most-circulated news weekly in the United States, and as such influences societal discourse (often negatively).

It is for this reason I view this week's TIME cover and cover story to be both significant and worth commending after the murder of Walter Scott by police officer Michael Slager in North Charleston.

Here is the cover:

After the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and the countless other black Americans who have been killed by police, those who have wanted to deny the victims' their innocence have been able to do so behind a shield of police accounts.

This time, with video of the brutal murder and the planting of evidence on Scott's body captured by a brave witness, the discussion will be different. Yes, racists will try to lean on their familiar tropes, but they will do so in the face of undeniable evidence of what one black American tragically faced in Charleston. An echo of what so many invisibly face.

This time, the discussion will be different, as David Von Drehle's story in TIME indicates. A discussion not about whether racism coupled with police brutality exist, but a discussion about how solutions. Here is Von Drehle's final paragraph:

The shocking nature of the South Carolina shooting, so vividly captured on the video, ought to put police departments on the same side with the protesters who are demanding change. Everyone would benefit from less suspicion and fear. Everyone shares an interest in better training and technology to reduce the number of times the gun comes out of the holster. Everyone would be happier in a climate of trust among police and the public. No matter who you are, if you’ve seen Walter Scott gunned down, you now know what the problem looks like. Senseless and tragic, it is nonetheless a step toward solutions.
Now, whether such a discussion will lead to anything but the continued oppression of black American by law enforcement remains to be seen. But at least an often lagging, influential publication like TIME is putting the discussion front and center.

What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Reposted from David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) by David Harris Gershon

Last week during budget deliberations, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) entered into the Congressional Record some frightening and seditious advice for Israel.

The occasion for such advice? McCain is apoplectic over the Obama administration's response to Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, officially rejecting the two-state solution championed by the United States and his racist incitement of Arab voters on election day.

Indeed, Obama has hinted that the U.S. may abandon Israel at the U.N., his Chief of Staff recently stated that Israel's 50-year occupation must end, and administration officials rejected Netanyahu's backtracking on his election-day comments.

Before offering Netanyahu and Israel advice on how to deal with Obama, he embraced Netanyahu's dishonesty by pardoning his racism and rejection of U.S. policy as normative electioneering:

There has been a lot of pressure on Israel as a result of the only free and fair election that you will see take place in that entire part of the world. There has been a harsh criticism of the things Prime Minister Netanyahu said during that campaign.

I point out to my colleagues sometimes things are said in campaigns that maybe we say in the heat of the campaign and maybe it is OK if we apologize.

Then, McCain offered advice to Israel by having an op-ed by Bret Stephens, entitled "The Orwellian Obama Presidency," read into the record, making clear while doing so that Stephens's seditious and offensive remarks represent his own views:
Today, one of the most astute observers, in my view, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, had some advice for the Israelis. From his article in this morning's Wall Street Journal entitled "The Orwellian Obama Presidency'':
Here is my advice to the Israeli government, along with every other country being treated disdainfully by this crass administration: Repay contempt with contempt. Mr. Obama plays to classic bully type. He is abusive and surly only toward those he feels are either too weak, or too polite, to hit back. The Saudis figured that out in 2013, after Mr. Obama failed to honor his promises on Syria; they turned down a seat on the security council, spoke openly about acquiring nuclear weapons from Pakistan, and tanked the price of oil, mainly as a weapon against Iran. Now Mr. Obama is nothing if not solicitous of the Saudi Highnesses.

The Israelis will need to chart their own path of resistance. On the Iranian nuclear deal, they may have to go rogue. Let's hope their warnings have not been mere bluffs. Israel survived its first 19 years without meaningful U.S. patronage. For now, all it has to do is get through the next 22, admittedly long, months.

The suggestion that Netanyahu should not worry about U.S. support is about the worst advice anyone who cares about Israel could give. Indeed, only someone interested in using Israel as a political football, as do McCain and Stephens, would suggest Israel pull a Sarah Palin and "go rogue."

I have long held that only outside pressure will prompt Israel to disengage from a military occupation which threatens its very survival. Which is why, as an American Jew invested in Israel's success and Palestinian self-determination, I fully support the Obama administration using any peaceful policy initiative necessary to force Israel to end its decades-old occupation, remove its settlements and seek a real, viable peace.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Reposted from David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) by David Harris Gershon
Originally published in Tikkun Daily

Speaking at the J Street conference in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough amplified President Obama's policy rift with Israel's Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

Responding to Netanyahu's pre-election rejection of Palestinian statehood and subsequent attempts to walk back said rejection, McDonough had this to say:

“We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made,” McDonough told the J Street conference in Washington, whose left-leaning audience received his remarks enthusiastically.

“Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely,” he said. “An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end.”

The comments, notable among other things for the Obama administration's explicit use of "occupation," come on the heels of reports that the White House may abandon Israel at the U.N. as a way to save the two-state ideal.

Indeed, President Obama hinted that administration officials are considering such an option in an interview with The Huffington Post on Friday, which clearly informed McDonough's comments today in Washington:  

President Barack Obama is operating under the assumption that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not support the creation of a Palestinian state, despite the Israeli leader's post-election efforts to recast himself as amenable to a two-state solution.

"We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn't happen during his prime ministership, and so that's why we've got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don't see a chaotic situation in the region."

Washington's support for Israel's foreign policy is clearly eroding in the wake of Netanyahu's election victory. How far the Obama administration will go toward pressuring Israel to change course remains to be seen.

As an American Jew, I fully support the Obama administration using any peaceful policy initiative necessary to force Israel to end its decades-old occupation, remove its settlements and seek a real, viable peace.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Reposted from David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) by David Harris Gershon
Originally published in Tikkun Daily

Israel's Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has obliterated what it means to be 'pro-Israel,' setting Israel on a course towards national suicide which many mainstream American Jewish organizations seem intent on enabling.

However, I and many others refuse to stand idly by as Israel self-destructs, understanding that to truly be 'pro-Israel' now means to be 'pro-pressure' – to champion nonviolent measures capable of forcing Israel to change from without, including those initiated by the Obama administration.

The phrase 'pro-Israel' over the years has come to signify supporting Israel as a Jewish, democratic state. In other words, it has been synonymous with support for the two-state resolution for Israel/Palestine and opposition to a single-state outcome. It has been synonymous with championing self-determination for both Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

However, in a 24-hour period leading up to and during Israel's latest elections, Netanyahu concretized with his words what his actions already established: an Israel committed to perpetual occupation and discrimination. An Israel committed to a right-wing version of single statehood. An Israel committed to national destruction.

He did so by formally rejecting Palestinian statehood, embracing perpetual occupation and settlement expansion, and employing racists rants about Palestinian citizens "coming out in droves to the polls." By doing so, he was rewarded with a striking victory and mandate which will likely lead to the most right-wing Israeli government in its history. It's an outcome many in Israel's own security establishment feared as more dangerous than any enemy, an outcome some think will inevitably lead to full, national apartheid.

Many Americans and diaspora Jews are, for the first time, realizing this, thanks to Netanyahu's racist rhetoric and rejection of two states. Which is why 'pro-Israel' can no longer mean supporting Israel's government. Indeed, for many it now means strongly opposing it, with being 'pro-Israel' meaning to be 'pro-pressure,' to back measures which will force Israel to change from without before it destroys itself from within.

As an American Jew invested in Israel and Palestine's future, I now formally consider myself to be a 'pro-pressure' Jew. Allow me to explain:

As one invested in both a viable Israel and a viable Palestine, I have long understood that Israel is incapable of extricating itself from those policies destroying it, those policies which simultaneously have oppressed Palestinians and denied them basic rights for decades. My critiques of Israel have always stemmed from an effort to shift public opinion in the U.S. such that politicians might do what they know must be done: pressure Israel to disengage from its asymmetrical military occupation, remove settlements and truly establish a viable peace.

Now, with Netanyahu declaring his opposition to two states and Israel's voters embracing such opposition electorally, we have finally arrived at a point in which such pressure may be brought to bear upon Israel by the only entity truly capable of influencing its policy: the United States government. Indeed, the White House has indicated that it may now abandon Israel at the U.N., and that its support for Israel's position has been "eroded" by what has transpired recently. Why now, when Israel's actions have consistently worked to erode the possibility of two states? The answer reveals why words matter in politics, for Israel's policies have finally been articulated to be in opposition to official U.S. policy. Israel has elected a man who said, in no uncertain terms, that official U.S. policy and the desires of mainstream American Jewish organizations is in opposition to his plans for Israel: a single state with perpetual occupation.

As an American Jew, I fully support the Obama administration using any peaceful policy means necessary to force Israel to change the inevitable, self-destructive course it has chosen. And I support any nonviolent mode of pressure which might save the two-state ideal – an ideal which I believe to currently be dead, and which can only be revived by the cessation of Israel's occupation and removal of settlements, making way for states to be formed on 1967 borders.

Peter Beinart in Haaretz articulated his call for the "pressure process" to replace the now-impossible peace process:

Our principle should be this: Support any pressure that is nonviolent and consistent with Israel’s right to exist. That means backing Palestinian bids at the United Nations. It means labeling and boycotting settlement goods. It means joining and amplifying nonviolent Palestinian protest in the West Bank. It means denying visas to, and freezing the assets of, Naftali Bennett and other pro-settler leaders. It means pushing the Obama administration to present out its own peace plan, and to punish — yes, punish — the Israeli government for rejecting it. It means making sure that every time Benjamin Netanyahu and the members of his cabinet walk into a Jewish event outside Israel, they see Diaspora Jews protesting outside. It means loving Israel more than ever, and opposing its government more than ever. It means accepting that, for now at least, the peace process is over and the pressure process must begin.
Generating such pressure has always been an uphill battle, with major American Jewish organizations and lobbyist groups, such as AIPAC, shielding Israel from consequences related to its policies. Such organizations, which officially support two states, have been able to do so by pointing to the Palestinians and saying, There is no partner for peace and prattling on about shared values.

However, these organizations can no longer do so as American Jews seethe at Netanyahu's undemocratic, racist rants about Palestinians going to the polls and his rejection of two states. Indeed, such organizations were met with incredulity and anger after congratulating Netanyahu on his "vibrant" victory and diluting his election proclamations as mere campaign rhetoric.

In a significant moment revealing the fracturing already taking place within the American Jewish community, the Conservative Movement's Rabbinical Assembly broke Jewish organizations' silence on Netanyahu by forcefully rejecting his racism and calling upon Jews to take action:

Against this backdrop of the otherwise complacent Jewish community stood the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, which is hardly known as a liberal marker of the Jewish community. In a harshly worded statement, the group’s president Rabbi William Gershon and its executive vice president Rabbi Julie Schonfeld issued a call to the Jewish community to take action:

“We must condemn the Prime Minister’s statement, singling out Arab citizens for exercising their legitimate right to vote,” they wrote. “It is incumbent upon Jews around the world to denounce the Prime Minister’s divisive and undemocratic statement and we do so here.”

Schonfeld told the Forward she was “extremely concerned” by the lack of rage within the Jewish community. “Each one of us rushes to the ramparts with any suggestion that we would be singled out as Jews,” she said, stressing that Netanyahu’s comment singled out Israeli Arabs.

This is the new 'pro-Israel,' to take action in the face of Israel's march toward national suicide, to speak up against the occupation, to support pressuring Israel to disengage from Netanyahu's single-state march toward inequality, discrimination and perpetual oppression.

This is what it means to be 'pro-pressure.'


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Continue Reading
Reposted from David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) by David Harris Gershon

Today, Israel's Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and his Likud party texted frantic messages to Israelis, warning them that Arab citizens were "coming out in droves to the polls." This unprecedented incitement and racism, which would be the equivalent of the GOP texting to constituents that the blacks are voting, seemed to be the result of panic in Netanyahu's camp.

Below is the text of one such message sent out to Israelis this afternoon:

"Voter turnout in the Arab sector is three times higher! The threat is real: Abu Mazen's calls and American money are getting the Arab vote out. Go and vote!"
Not only were the messages false – voting in the Arab sector was normative – they employed shocking racism and preyed upon ugly fears to drive voters to the poll. This after Netanyahu's remarks making clear that he would never allow for a Palestinian state to form if he were to be re-elected.

The result of such incitement? Netanyahu and Likud turned what exit polls predicted to be a virtual tie with the center-left 'Zionist Camp' into a decisive victory. Below are the results with over 90 percent of the vote in, and Likud showing 30 Knesset seats to Zionist Camp's 24.

Netanyahu will almost certainly be Israel's next Prime Minister. Indeed, this is something Netanyahu himself was quite certain of earlier this evening, as the below Tweet attests:
Today has shown that racist incitement against Arab citizens and pledges to deny Palestinians statehood yields election results. And if indeed Netanyahu ends up winning this election forming a government on the back of such elements, a question must be asked:
How will the United States, and President Obama, deal with an Israel being led by someone who has finally admitted to standing firmly against the two-state solution, a U.S. foreign policy cornerstone?
The answer may determine the fate of Israel and Palestine, not to mention U.S.-Israel relations moving forward.

What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Reposted from David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) by David Harris Gershon

On the eve of Israel's election, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has shocked everyone by scoring the most coveted American endorsement. Yes, I'm talking about Hollywood's faded action star, Chuck Norris, who has finally revealed that he is backing Netanyahu.

Upon garnering this endorsement, Netanyahu immediately Tweeted out the news, along with an impassioned video message from Norris himself. Below, you can see the video along with my transcription:

I'm Chuck Norris, and I would like to say hello to all my friends in Israel. I watched Prime Mininster Netan-yahoo's speech before Congress, and saw a man who loves his country with all his heart and soul. I also saw a strong leader, which is absolutely crucial for the safety of the Israeli people.

I have done three movies in Israel, Delta Force being my favorite, and I formed many friendships while there. You have an incredible country, and we want to keep it that way. That's why it's so important to keep a leader who has the courage and vision to stand up against the evil forces that are threatening not only Israel, but the United States. So I ask you to vote for Prime Minister Netan-yahoo on election day.

Thank you for listening to me.

This passionate endorsement, with Norris carefully making sure Israel's electorate knows he's reading a script written by a Likud intern, could end up being the game-changer Netanyahu has been so desperately seeking with his party increasingly trailing every election poll.

All of Netanyahu's past stunts, from his speech before Congress to his declaration that he will never allow a Palestinian state, have failed to garner him the support he needs. Indeed, they have done the opposite, inspiring 50,000 into the streets to call for his ouster and prompting Israel's security establishment to label him as dangerous.

Yes, past efforts to sway voters have failed. But this is Chuck Norris. He of Delta Force. An American actor who, for some reason, has endorsed a foreign leader.

Strange? Not at all. It's the game-changer Netanyahu has been seeking, and one that may deliver him a victory in tomorrow's elections.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Reposted from David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) by David Harris Gershon
Originally published at Tikkun Daily

Israel's Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, released a statement this week via Likud, his political party, making official what has been implied many times over: that he rejects the idea of two, self-determining states as the path toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The statement made clear that Netanyahu now disavows a speech he delivered at Bar Ilan University in 2009 as "no longer relevant." The speech's topic? The path towards creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel. To hammer home Netanyahu's rejection of Palestinian statehood, the statement threw in the following, just in case its intention wasn't clear:

"Netanyahu's entire political biography is a fight against the creation of a Palestinian state."
Truer words have never been spoken.

Netanyahu's camp and Likud quickly backtracked on the statement before circling back to confirm its original intention, making official what Netanyahu has implied many times: that he intends for the occupation to continue forever. Indeed, this summer during Israel's Gaza assault, Netanyahu stated that Israel would never relinquish control of the West Bank and allow for a Palestinian state. And just this month, Netanyahu described himself as the greatest champion of Israel's settlement enterprise in Israel's history.

While Netanyahu's words and actions have revealed a continuous rejection of Palestinian sovereignty (as well as U.S. policy), this statement makes it official as a matter of policy. Why was it made now? This week, reports surfaced in Israel that Netanyahu once negotiated with Palestinians based on 1967 borders. This report, coupled with internal poll numbers indicating Netanyahu's support collapsing, prompted Netanyahu's camp to woo right-wing voters by accurately and officially portraying him as a champion of the occupation and a foe of the two-state solution.

Today, public polls in Israel just days before March 17 elections are reflecting what Netanyahu's own internals indicate: that Israel's Prime Minister is losing ground to, and in danger of being defeated by, a center-left coalition.

Netanyahu hoped to bolster his election chances by leaning heavily on his hawkish foreign policy credentials. His speech before Congress, organized behind President Obama's back, intended to do this. His rejection of the two-state solution intended to do this. His waving the settlements banner intended to do this.

However, it seems the only thing Netanyahu's right-wing, anti-peace moves have done is to highlight how damaging he is to Israel. Indeed, Israel's security establishment has declared him a danger to the State, with Israel's former Mossad Chief, Meir Dagan, going so far as to call him more dangerous than any of Israel's enemies by leading Israel toward full apartheid. And he did so before 50,000 Israelis calling for Netanyahu's ouster.

While few Israelis believe that the current election will impact the peace process, polls indicate that they are certain of one thing: Netanyahu will only bring continued conflict.

Before his speech to Congress, Netanyahu arrogantly and dangerously declared that he represented "the entire Jewish people."

Hopefully, after March 17, such solipsistic conflations between Israel and all Jews will no longer be coming from the Prime Minister's office.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Reposted from David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) by David Harris Gershon
Originally published in Tikkun Daily

Days after Israel's Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, claimed to be speaking for "the entire Jewish people" in his speech before Congress, tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets, rejecting such a ridiculous notion by calling for his ouster.

The explicitly anti-Netanyahu rally, which organizers say drew 80,000 people, comes just 10 days before Israel's elections, with most polls showing Netanyahu's Likud vulnerable to being defeated by a center-left coalition.

At the rally, former Mossad Chief, Meir Dagan, blasted Netanyahu as more dangerous than any perceived enemy and the greatest obstacle to peace:

“Israel is a country surrounded by enemies, but the enemies are not scaring us. I am afraid of our leadership."


“Benjamin Netanyahu has served as prime minister for six years straight, six years in which he has not led a single genuine process of change to the face of the region or the creation of a better future. On his watch, Israel conducted the longest [military] campaign since the War of Independence.” a

Dagan's voice is representative of those in Israel's security establishment who both rejected Netanyahu's speech before Congress and his attempts to derail President Obama's Iran diplomacy. Indeed, Netanyahu organized the speech behind the back of his own National Security Advisor, knowing it would be rejected as dangerous and damaging to U.S.-Israel relations.

This week, Netanyahu defended himself from attacks on the right by claiming to be the greatest supporter of Israel's settlement enterprise in Israel's history, the only claim he's made recently which rings true. In response to this and Israel's continued occupation, multiple speakers at the Tel Aviv rally charged Netanyahu with pushing Israel toward full apartheid, including Dagan.

It remains difficult to determine whether Netanyahu's foreign policy push and speech before Congress, one of the most elaborate election stunts in recent history, will end up helping or hurting his election chances.

However, one thing remains clear: not only does Netanyahu not represent "the entire Jewish people," he doesn't represent the majority of Israeli Jews, thousands of whom made that clear on the streets of Tel Aviv.  


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Reposted from David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) by David Harris Gershon
Originally published in Tikkun Daily

On Tuesday, Israel's Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, used the U.S. Congress to stage a most elaborate campaign commercial in the run-up to Israel's elections in two weeks. He did so at the behest of GOP leaders, and damaged every conceivable metric he claims to be invested in save one: his own suddenly-rising poll numbers back home.

With his speech, Netanyahu damaged U.S.-Israel relations by turning Israel into a political football. He caused the collapse of Democratic support for the Iran bill in Congress he claimed to support. And he was abandoned as 'dangerous' by his own security establishment.

Additionally, by claiming to represent "the entire Jewish people" before Congress, Netanyahu fed into a dangerous anti-Semitic trope, conflating Israel and all Jews. It's a conflation many American Jews rejected, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, who had this to say:

“He doesn’t speak for me on this. I think it’s a rather arrogant statement. I think the Jewish community is like any other community. There are different points of view. I think that arrogance does not befit Israel, candidly.”
Jon Stewart added his voice to the growing number of American Jews upset by Netanyahu's proclamation by mocking the Prime Minister's conflation:
Netanyahu's solipsism as a politician is understandable, no matter how undignified. After all, his primary goal is to retain power, no different than most politicians. However, when such solipsism causes him to confuse his political appointment with some form of ethnic divinity, it's not just offensive, but dangerous.

As an American Jew, I stand not with Netanyahu, but with Stewart, Feinstein, and countless others who have stood up to say, "No, Netanyahu, you do not speak for me."


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Reposted from David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) by David Harris Gershon

In January, black leaders from Ferguson, Missouri and Dream Defenders traveled to Israel and Palestine. The reason? To connect with Palestinians living under occupation, understanding the parallels between their experiences with soldiers and the experiences of black Americans with militarized law enforcement.

These black leaders are not the only ones who have noticed the parallels between the way in which Palestinians are treated in the West Bank and African-Americans are treated on American streets. Indeed, Chris Hayes of MSNBC has noted that Ferguson, upon witnessing the police response to nonviolent protests there, seemed more like a town occupied by a military force than anything else. And for good reason. The violent suppression of protests, the excessive use of force on unarmed citizens, racist policing practices, and the profiled targeting of minors are among the many shared experiences of Palestinians and black citizens living in places like Ferguson.

Now, with the Justice Department's release of its Ferguson report, one of the more shocking violations of U.S. citizens' constitutional and human rights has come to the surface: the exclusive use of police dogs to attack African-Americans, not to counter any physical threats, "but to punish them" for being black:

These practices, which few believe are restricted to just Ferguson, are coincidentally being revealed to the American public at a time in which Israelis are confronting the exact same thing: the use of attack dogs on unarmed Palestinians. A leaked video shot by Israeli soldiers has surfaced showing a dog being released upon a Palestinian teenager as soldiers say, "Who's the coward now?" while encouraging the dog to bite. Video of the incident, released by the Israeli human rights group Btzelem, is below. (Trigger warning: upsetting content.)
Israeli authorities are investigating the incident as isolated, despite the fact that Btselem has been calling upon the IDF to cease this practice for years.

It's likely not a coincidence that law enforcement in both Ferguson and the West Bank have been using such practices. There is close coordination and training between U.S. law enforcement and Israeli security forces through such programs as Urban Shield. Indeed, at least two of the agencies deployed in Ferguson to suppress protests there received training from security forces in Israel.

Now that the wider public have been made aware of the use of attack dogs on unarmed minorities, in both the U.S. and Israel, a striking truth we've known for too long is being bolstered by graphic images of people being attacked by dogs: that neither society will be just until the racism embedded in U.S. police forces and the occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank end.

This is one reason why black leaders from Ferguson, who know all too well the brutal tactics used by their police force, traveled to Israel and the West Bank. To proclaim that Palestinian lives matter. That black lives matter. That Jewish lives matter.

That all lives matter.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Reposted from David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) by David Harris Gershon

The New York City Department of Education today announced the addition of two Muslim festivals, Eid al-Adha & al-Fitr, to NYC schools' holiday schedule. The move, trumpeted as "a change that respects the diversity of our city," is a symbolically beautiful and practically meaningful change for the roughly 800,000 Muslims living in New York City who make up 10 percent of the student population.

Here is how Chancellor Carmen Farina described the change:

Unfortunately, not all New Yorkers (and Americans at large) were as enthusiastic about embracing such diversity. Below is a sampling of the top-rated comments on the Department of Public Education's Facebook announcement:





Such bigoted responses, not unexpected, are symptomatic of the Islamophobia which runs deep in the veins of our nation, often injected by the hateful rhetoric of conservative pundits and politicians.

To combat this, as well as to serve the interests of a large and important constituency, Mayor Bill de Blasio campaigned on the promise of adding Muslim holidays to the NYC Public School calendar. However, when no changes were made in 20014, Muslims united to push for de Blasio to fulfill his promise, hoping such a move might hasten the acceptance of Muslim students who often feel ostracized.

As The New York Times reported in April of 2014 after a public forum pushing for the Muslim holidays to be added:

Organizers stress that granting the Muslim holidays equal status with Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur and Christian holidays like Christmas would send a powerful message to Muslim children — who often seek to blend in more than stand out — that they can be proud of their own culture.

Debbie Almontaser, who was forced out of her job as principal of the city’s first Arabic language school, in Brooklyn, in 2007 after The New York Post inaccurately portrayed her as sympathizing with Muslim extremists, now works at the Benjamin Banneker Academy, another public high school in Brooklyn. She sees many of her Muslim students grappling with how to express their identity.

“There is so much negativity out there, and including the Muslim holidays is simply a stamp of saying, We accept and embrace you, and this is your city as it is my city,” she said.

That negativity is being seen clearly in the response to today's announcement, further proof of just how meaningful, and important, it will be for Muslim-American children in New York City and beyond.

What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

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