Shlomo Sand, again kicking up controversy, says no. He sees nothing identifiably Jewish in such icons of Jewish culture as Einstein, Marx and Freud – and nor can the governors of Israel define what being a ‘Jewish state’ means outside religious terms. Except that it means not being an Arab And does Jewish (i.e. Slavic Yiddish) humour raise a laugh among Iraqi Jews? All the customs which may connect Jews are based on Judaic, religious practices, the only distinct definition of Jewishness which he thinks is legitimate.
This a belated posting on the Jewish Quarterly-WIngate prize, awarded last February. It is in part a continuation of ideas abut the question of Jewish identity amongst diaspora Jews, in part a response to Shlomo Sand, above, who queries whether such an identity can exist outside religious belief (Sand defines himself as Israeli, not Jewish). The articles here, from Jewish Quarterly, the New Statesman and the Independent can be read as either proving Sand right, or proving that a distinctive Jewish culture exists wherever there are large communities of Jews.
If Jews are defined as a separate ‘race’ there is little to choose between antisemitists and zionists in their desire to get Jews out of Europe, argues Joseph Massad in a patchy survey of beliefs about race and Jews. (He ignores the distinctive zionist fanaticism for state-building). He mourns the defeat of the Jewish ‘Haskalah’ (enlightenment’) which sought to integrate Jews in European modernity and, in the cold war, as ‘white’ people – news to the Rosenbergs’ family. Mira Sucharov takes issue with the omission of Liberal Zionism which defines the Daily Beast for which she writes.
The Board of Deputies, the pro-Israel body favoured by all UK governments as representing Britain’s Jews, is reported to be in a state of chaos, on the edge of self-destruction. We have yet to hear from the members, but unreported in these stories is the loss of its primary leadership role to the JLC which is apparently favoured by the UK government for its more unconditional pro-Israeli line.
Amira Hass, described in one of these TV interviews as “one of the greatest truth-seekers of them all” defends in the interviews her view that Palestinians have a right to throw stones to resist the occupation. “The main thing” she says “is to concentrate on the violence of the ruler”. Introduction and links to these interviews, plus an article from the settlers’ paper Israel Haayom about the Yesha Council’s (settlers) decision to sue Ha’aretz and Amira Hass.
Last February Khaled Meshaal, political leader of Hamas left Syria to live – via his first, brief, visit to Gaza – in Doha. There, in the Qatari capital, he is interviewed by Foreign Policy magazine. He gives brief explanations on why Hamas left Syria, and his opposition to making any concessions until Israel shows itself ready to end the occupation. It is less revealing than other interviews he has given but is, perhaps, a message to an American audience that he is a human being who believes in democracy and human rights – but is unflinching about the priority of ending the occupation.
Since 1967, the approach to Israel/Palestine taken by the USA and EU has rested on the notion that Israeli governments would be happy to negotiate a stable peace agreement but Arab and Palestinian leaders will not. Evidence that this belief is a fallacy has existed since the release of ‘The Palestine Papers’ by Al Jazeera in 2011 and, says Jonathan Cook, by Wikileaks’ disclosure last month of US diplomatic cables, which speak of Israeli self-destruction. At every stage, leaders of Arab states and the West Bank have been flexible and leaders of Israel (and Hamas), wholly obdurate.
Here is a question begged by conflicting research on genetics– why do so many Jews seem so interested in ‘Jewish DNA’? For some, it ‘proves’ a right to claim Israel as a homeland/state/coloniser. For some it ‘proves’ intellectual superiority. For some it proves Belonging which religious belief no longer provides. Although DNA can show that some Jews have a Middle Eastern origin it hardly explains a predilection for science any more than it explains the preponderance of financiers and property managers who head Britain’s Zionist Federation and Jewish Leadership Council. Apart from some fine distinctions of interest to medics and genetic scientists, the surest thing we know is that we all came out of Africa.
It may seem ridiculous to be discussing whether, ideally, Israelis and Palestinians should live together in one state or two. It’s pie in the sky while the occupation intensifies. But the idea of what could succeed colonialist Israel is vital in providing something to work for, and work on, to overcome the inertia, go beyond mere resistance , however vital that is. Which means the debate on one secular democratic state, a binational or a federal state or two states has to continue. Here Uri Avnery returns to his argument for two states. Like his critics, he says it depends on what models you generalise from.
Israelis have been excavating the West Bank fortress of Herodium since 1972. Now curators and archaeologists have decided to remove 30 tons of finds from the site for display at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. How do these ‘civilised’ people differ from the settlers who also take what they want from the West Bank asks Yonatan Mizrachi?
In a shop shop shop culture what’s more obvious? If your charity has a declining income, look to shoppers to boost it with a magic app. Whether spending millions to persuade British Jewish children they really belong to another country is a good cause is a matter for the Charity Commissioners.
Because it is what shields us from the Palestinian narrative, from knowing that we handed the bill for the Nazi genocide to the Palestinians. Robert Cohen, in this week before the Nakba anniversary, asks us to take Obama at his word and step into the other’s shoes. Which means to begin with dispensing with Obama’s parroting of the zionist line about countless generations yearning to ‘return’ to the State of Israel (created 1948).
Palestinian villagers in the South Hebron hills have long been defending their land and water from settlers, their agents – like Regavim, and the IDF. Supporting the Palestinians are two Israeli-Palestinian groups, Ta’ayush and the Villages Group. One of their members, David Shulman, recounts how the soldiers have now given up niceties like the law and courtesy and rely on brute force to get their, and the settlers’, way.
This is a harsh judgment on the Palestinian leadership, while acknowledging the power of the occupation. Roger Cohen describes the PA’s paralysis and Fatah as ‘a revolutionary party that has exhausted itself; ossified and murky’ with an appetite only for ‘sweet deals’; Salam Fayyad, whom Cohen is interviewing, describes Fatah’s leaders as casual, lacking seriousness or strategy, hostage to their own rhetoric. That rhetoric is all that engages the Palestinian people.
The least informed people in the West about the IAF’s massive airstrikes on Syria appear to be the Israeli public who have had to rely on agency and foreign reports to know what is going on. Nonetheless a well-informed report from Amos Harel, who reports that the government says only 2 people were killed. JPost reports 42 killed. Ynet reports the statement of an Iranian general that the target was not Iranian weapons which they had not provided and the Syrian government does not need.
What exactly the British government assumed, wanted and expected when its foreign secretary, Lord Balfour, wrote the letter now known as the Balfour Declaration is mired in competing myths of the UK’s relationship to Jews, Arabs and Palestine. James Renton, an expert on the history of those relations, here argues that Lloyd George’s government was under the antisemitic delusion that all Jews were influential and would swing support for the UK in the war. They set up a ‘Jewish Section’ in the Foreign Office to further this narrow and short-term aim.
The Church of Scotland played a leading role in designating Palestine as the Biblical land of Israel to which Jews must return for prophecies to be realised. It was one of its ministers who made the claim that Palestine was ‘a land without people for a people without land’ . Over 180 years after that kickstart to Christian Zionism, the Church of Scotland publishes a report – The Inheritance of Abraham? – throwing out the literal reading of ‘the land of Israel’ and putting forward its view of how Christians should regard the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli state. UPDATE: Rebuke from Scottish Council of Jewish Communities.
One of Israel’s best-paid celebs, TV host Avri Gilad, returns from a tour of the Negev organised by the aggressively Zionist Regavim, declaring that “There’s no more Negev. The Bedouin have taken it over completely. By force…” By buying into Regavim – which uses the law and propaganda to maximise Israeli land and minimise non-Jewish inhabitants – he could have uttered his judgment without leaving home. Particularly given Gilad’s view that “Islam today is the most terrible disease raging around the world”. His views cause no uproar in Israel.
Once a nomadic people herding animals and transporting goods throughout the Middle East and the Negev, the Bedouin tribes have been forcibly moved by successive governments to urban shanty-towns. The Jahalin were shifted to the E1 area of Khan al-Ahmar on the edge of East Jerusalem in 1967. The Israeli Ministry of Defence now plans to move them again into blocks of 800 units near Jericho, to allow settlement expansion and the break up tribal self-government.
The military occupation of Palestinian land creates a mass of data. Vizualising Palestine has sorted it into three clear infographics. They tell us that while Palestinians want water and investment, military aid is poured into Israel for the purpose of sustaining the occupation and ensuring Israel is the preeminent power in the Middle East.