No to Anti-Semitism, No to Islamophobia

“ATTENTION: PLEASE refrain from using anti-semitic language when expressing support for Palestine and Palestinians. It is ABSOLUTELY unacceptable and I will call you out on it. The Palestinian cause invites ALL who stand for justice and equality and all who want to be on the right side of history including American Jews. They have been some of our closest and most loyal allies and the last thing we need is to alienate people by using the same tactics and hateful rhetoric that is used against us. Let’s learn from history. Stay focused, stay principled – your cause is pure, your cause is just. No need to contaminate it with misguided hate.”

Photo of Linda Sarsour on the Brooklyn Bridge

Linda Sarsour
Director, Arab American Association of New York

Jewish Burqa-Wearers

The Daily Telegraph tells us about a small, woman-led trend amongst certain ultra-orthodox Jewish communities: burqas.

Some Israeli Jewish women have decided to wear burqas as a way to fulfill their commitment to modest dress. And the men do not like it. As a matter of fact,

At the insistence of the husbands of some burka-wearing women, a leading rabbinical authority is to issue an edict declaring burka wearing a sexual fetish that is as promiscuous as wearing too little.

A small group of ultra-orthodox Jews in the town of Beit Shemesh chose to don the burka, usually associated with women in repressive Islamist regimes, three years ago in a bid to protect their modesty.

Yes, that’s right. Shlomo Pappenheim, one of the edict-writers, believes that the burqa is promiscuous. What the hell?

Also, what’s with the term “repressive Islamist regimes”? WTF is that supposed to mean? Hasn’t the latest burqa kerfuffle centered on France? Arg.

I hope that news of this incident will awaken people to the nuances of burqa-wearing, because I cannot bear one more ignorant comment from a white person about how “Islam oppresses women”. Attempts to control what women wear are oppressive and ridiculous no matter whether people are trying to force them to wear more or less. Full stop.

Forcing a woman not to wear a burqa is just as bad as forcing her to wear a burqa.

The Exciting Times V.4

Just another anti-gay hate crime.

From the Queens Chronicle:

[Jack Price] went to a 24-hour deli on College Point Boulevard and 18th Avenue around 3 a.m. to buy cigarettes. He told police two Hispanic men made reference to his homosexuality, calling him “faggot” and other names.
Police said Daniel Aleman, 26, and an accomplice, Daniel Rodriguez, both of College Point, beat Price after he left the store. Price was able to crawl home 10 blocks away and call police.
…[T]he NYPD says he suffered collapsed lungs, all his ribs broken and he underwent surgery on his spleen and had a metal plate placed in his jaw.

Fun drinking game: take a shot of something fruity every time this article uses the phrase “openly gay”.

A beauty pageant that requires plastic surgery.

From Deutsche Welle:

[G]oing under the knife was a requirement for the 50 contestants of Miss Plastic Hungary 2009.
…The competition was the first beauty show requiring substantial plastic surgery in order to qualify.
…The cosmetic surgeons of the top three contestants also received prizes for their work.

“I think this competition was long overdue,” photographer and jury member Marton Sizpal told the Associated Press.

“It is time for Hungarian women to care more about their appearance,” he said.

In-f’in-credible. I really don’t know how to respond to news like this. Your response?

Republicans defend Sen. Jim DeMint by saying he’s like Jews who “take care of the pennies.”

From Gawker:

Bamberg County GOP Chairman Edwin Merwin and Orangeburg County GOP Chairman James Ulmer wrote the Orangeburg Times and Democrat to defend DeMint in a newspaper editorial Sunday that said he was not funneling enough funds to local projects.

“There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves. By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation’s pennies and trying to preserve our country’s wealth and our economy.”

Wow, Jim, you’ve got some great friends. And the votes of antisemites everywhere. Well, at least the ones in South Carolina. Edwin Merwin, huh? For a guy with “win” twice in his name, he’s awful full of fail.

Roger EbertRoger Ebert is so goddamn awesome.

I am naive enough to think that universal care is obviously good.

…The fallacy of the free enterprise argument is that it assumes corporations are motivated to bring about the public good. Corporations are motivated to maximize profits for shareholders.

I highly recommend you read the whole post. Via Kate Harding.

A Queer Response to the Tel-Aviv Homophobic Murders

Almost exactly a month ago I wrote about a man who busted into a queer youth support group in Tel-Aviv and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing two and injuring fifteen.

Queers Without Borders has posted an amazing response.

Israel is marketed as a gay-friendly tourist destination and a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. In fact, LGBTQ people of all ethnicities and religions face discrimination and violence in Israel, just as we do in all other parts of the world…

Contrary to the mediated attempt to describe Israel as a force of liberation and progress, we see objecting to apartheid Israel as an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, including LGBTQ Palestinians. LGBTQ Palestinians are not going to be “saved” by a so-called gay-friendly Zionist state. Organized LGBTQ Palestinians reject the myth of Israel as an “oasis of tolerance.”

This is what solidarity looks like.

Some commentors at the Queers Without Borders post make the ridiculous assertion that Jewish queers are lucky to live where they do and not in an Arab state, because of the natural homophobia of Arabs. This shows a brazen level of misinformation, as Arab countries were known for their greater tolerance of homosexuality before colonialism.

Gay rights activists like Mounir, meanwhile, express surprise that homosexuality has become such a taboo in the Arab world, given a long history of relative tolerance.

“Homosexuality was never a big issue in Arab culture. We have lots of famous poets and singers who were gay,” he said. “Abu Nawas openly wrote about love between men, and Tuwais, one of the most famous singers in Arab history, wasn’t just gay, but almost a woman”.

From Irin.

When You Fight For God, Human Law No Longer Applies

The New York Times reports that the Israeli army is experiencing a clash between two groups within its ranks: the secularists and the religious nationalists.

It is all coming out in the aftermath of the Gaza invasion and the revelation of severe abuses against the Palestinians. Religious material was distributed to soldiers that framed the invasion as a religious war. The material claimed that Jews have a God-given right to the Palestinians’ land. The army’s chief rabbi himself, Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki, is an Israeli settler in the occupied West Bank. He handed out a booklet to soldiers containing “a rabbinical edict against showing the enemy mercy.”

In response:

Avshalom Vilan, then a leftist member of Parliament, accused the rabbi of having “turned the Israeli military’s activity from fighting out of necessity into a holy war.”

…[Rontzki] has written, for example, that what others call “humanistic values” are simply subjective feelings that should be subordinate to following the law of the Torah.

Israeli philosopher Moshe Halbertal says, “The right tends to make an equation between authenticity and brutality, as if the idea of humanism were a Western and alien implant to Judaism. They seem not to know that nationalism and fascism are also Western ideas and that hypernationalism is not Jewish at all.”

1 Shot 2 KillsThis is all thrown into even creepier relief by the revelation of certain army members’ predilection for violent and offensive T-shirt imagery.

The T-shirt on the left depicts a pregnant Palestinian woman wearing Islamic clothing, in the cross hairs of a gun. Underneath it says “1 Shot 2 Kills.”

Some other T-shirt designs of recent Israeli army popularity include:
A Palestinian child in the cross hairs, with the slogan: “The smaller they are, the harder it is”

A dead Palestinian baby with the slogan: “Better use Durex”

A soldier standing next to a bruised woman with the words: “Bet you got raped!”

“Let every Arab mother know that her son’s fate is in my hands!”

A ruined mosque and the slogan: “We came, we saw, we destroyed!”

And more.

This past January, the “Night Predators” demolitions platoon from Golani’s Battalion 13 ordered a T-shirt showing a Golani devil detonating a charge that destroys a mosque. An inscription above it says, “Only God forgives.”

…No one had a problem with the fact that a mosque gets blown up in the picture?

[One of the soldiers in the platoon said] “I don’t see what you’re getting at. I don’t like the way you’re going with this. Don’t take this somewhere you’re not supposed to, as though we hate Arabs.”

Huh. I don’t like the way this is going. Sounds like any other country that believes it has a religious mandate to do violence to others. Sounds like where Bush was trying to take the American military. Sounds like the religious right who framed the Iraq war as a “clash of civilizations,” a religious war of Christians vs. Muslims. Not all Americans are Christian. Some Americans are Muslim. Not all Israelis are Jews. Some Israelis are Arab (Jewish and not), some are Muslim.

I wish this holy war frame wasn’t so attractive for certain groups of people who already seem to lack signs of the kind of good judgment one hopes is inherent in war decision-making.

Pope Allows Anti-Semitism a Bigger Place in Catholicism

Benedict XVI

Fo’ real, Benedict? I mean, really?

Pope Benedict XVI has been pursuing a splinter group of ultra-conservative Catholics called the Society of Saint Pius X, to bring them back into the fold. He has made several concessions to them, some of which are quite insensitive to Judaism.

He has allowed the Latin Mass back, which on Good Friday includes a prayer for the conversion of Jews. Pretty obnoxious.

But more gravely, he has de-excommunicated (“rehabilitated” in Catholic parlance) a Holocaust-semi-denier, Bishop Richard Williamson.

From the New York Times:

[T]he British-born Richard Williamson has made a number of statements denying the full extent of the Nazi Holocaust of European Jews, as accepted by mainstream historians.

In comments to Swedish television broadcast Wednesday, he said “I believe there were no gas chambers” and only up to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, instead of 6 million.

…”I believe that the historical evidence is hugely against 6 million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.”

Oh, so it was an accident then? COME ON. What’s the purpose of denying part or all of the Holocaust, if not to paint Jews as liars who don’t “deserve” sympathy for what happened to their community.

Benedict really f’ed this one. And his spokesmen didn’t have anything helpful to say. Their statements amounted to “We just don’t really care how this effects our relationship with Jews.”

The Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France (Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions), American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consulation, Anti-Defamation League, and American Jewish Council have all voiced their concern.

This is the same Pope that pissed off Muslims worldwide by quoting an Islamophobic ancient text, saying:

“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Makes me long for the good old days of Pope John Paul, I tell you.

UPDATE: “Bishop” Williamson: The Sound of Music Is too Pro-Liberty and too Anti-Nazi

h/t Chris

Jewish Voices on Behalf of Gaza

The world’s Jewish community contains as many different perspectives on the current war in Gaza as there are Jews. I want to reinforce on my site that there are a number of Jewish groups out there who are condemning Israel’s disproportionate use of force against Hamas in Gaza, and the subsequent deaths of dozens of civilians and incredible loss of infrastructure and property. I have seen plenty of coverage of the current conflict that paints all Palestinians as “guilty” (of terrorism, I guess) simply for being Palestinian and existing in Gaza. Heck, my own government has been saying things like that, and standing back to let Israel wreak havoc and carnage in Gaza to collectively “punish” the Gazan Palestinians… for what? Being (mostly) Muslim, being Arab, resisting occupation, electing Hamas.

If we humiliate Hamas/Gazans/Palestinians thoroughly through extreme destruction and loss of life, will radicals who call for the end of Israel suddenly lose their potency, their appeal to the masses? I say “we” because the US is wrapped up in this conflict through and through, as is mentioned in my previous post, “Disproportionate Use of Force”. Are we not simply on the same course we’ve always been on since the founding of modern Israel?

So, to lift some of the gloom, here is a list of exciting Jewish and Israeli groups who have put out statements or information about the Gaza war that acknowledge Palestinian humanity without caveat. Check out the sites! This list was compiled with a lot of help from Modern Mitzvot, a blog where “progressive Jews discuss antisemitism, feminism, racism, social justice, and Palestinian rights.”

B’Tselem

Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement

No Time to Celebrate: Jews Remember the Nakba

Jews for Justice for Palestine

Jewish Voice for Peace

J Street

Americans for Peace Now

A very similar post is up at Alas. Please comment! No antisemitism or Islamophobia please.

Jews for Racial & Economic Justice

I have just been clued-in to an amazing non-profit organization: Jews for Racial & Economic Justice. I had the pleasure of volunteering for their Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk-Taker Awards recently, and I was impressed by the organization, it’s members, and it’s work.

Their mission statement:

To pursue racial and economic justice in New York City by advancing systemic changes that result in concrete improvements in peoples daily lives. We engage individual Jews, key Jewish institutions, and key Jewish community leaders in the fight for racial and economic justice in partnership with people of color, low-income and immigrant communities.

Worth checking out. Learn more at their website, www.jfrej.org.