This week’s

September 24, 2017
Sarah Benton

Rosh Hashanah occurred, Wednesday to Friday this week, 18th to 24th September 2017 prompting some interesting articles. Veteran journalist Akiva Eldar, ex-Haaretz now Al Monitor, notes a significant change amongst Israeli Jews, if not more widely. It was common, he says to make and send greetings cards including the wish for peace. That wish has largely disappeared, at least among Israeli Jews. Anticipating Yom Kippur he lists the five gravest political sins for which all should repent:
The sins Israelis should repent

Avraham Burg recalls that Rosh Hashanah is a day for celebrating the connection between Jews and others. But in isolationist Israel that facet has disappeared. It is only celebrated in the diaspora to which he looks, like George Soros, for an open society and a new year celebration which Jews will invite others to join. “I won’t celebrate this holiday with Netanyahu, with his traumas and Israeli paranoias that he invents or so skilfully represents. I’ll be with Soros, the Jews of the world and their struggle for open societies”:
Out of the ghetto to join the world

Does Daniel Susskind, Balliol College Oxford, celebrate Rosh Hashanah? He doesn’t say in his article on his atheism for the Jewish Chronicle. His point is “our histories and memories, songs and stories, ways of thinking and living” which the Nazis tried to extirpate are the very things which give him his Jewish identity:
A secular Jew – an exact identity

Israel’s newly powerful Rabbis would certainly not recognise him as a Jew. They have given themselves the authority to decide who is Jewish enough to be called Jewish:
The resistible rise to power of Israel’s Rabbis

Jewish identity comes up in Robert Cohen’s column on the Jewish students flocking to universities for the first time. He thinks many will have been protected from the view that loyalty to Israel is not a necessary part of Jewish identity. They will find out, he hopes, and will recognise more profound ideological attachments:
If being Jewish means catastrophe to the other

We have pieces from/about two intellectual heavy-weights this week. Former social work professor Meir Loewenberg at Bar-Ilan university, now a professor emeritus researching the history of the Temple Mount/Haram Al Sharif complex, concludes that the idea of the Western Wall being of special religious significance is not just a myth; it is also a fallacy because there is no evidence at all to back up this claim:
There is no Western Wall tradition

Also iconoclastic is a new book, The Only Language They Understand, by reputed intellectual Nathan Thrall. He refutes the proposition that Palestinians can only advance their cause by abstaining from violence; instead he shows that only violence has ever moved an Israeli government to make concessions:
Violence works

And contrary to all his speeches PM Netanyahu is a firm believer that Israel’s survival depends on unremitting violence towards Palestinians. James Zogby, Arab affairs expert (yea), says it was long believed that Netanyahu had no core beliefs. However, looking at a document prepared for him by neo-cons advocated a Clean Break with efforts at negotiation and the pursuit of ensuring Israel’s dominance of people and region. This plan is at the heart of Likud-Republican closeness – and has been disastrous:
The unsustainable mess made by Bibi & chums

The point of the BDS campaign is that it is resolutely non-violent. A new target is the century-old Giro d’Italia. The organising group has been persuaded to start the bicycle race in Jerusalem next year. Excited enthusiasm from Israeli ministers. Angry protests elsewhere:
Paying for a pedal-wash

Does Hamas have a strategy for change or merely tactics for keeping itself in power? Its ability to achieve that depended on various factors including money from Qatar (gone) and political support from Egypt (gone). In this weakened state it has agreed to participate in a general election and hold unity talks with Fatah. This has been said before, but perhaps the current weakness of Hamas will make it happen:
Hamas agrees to hold elections and talks

Its image is so fundamentally infused with violence that most Israelis cannot detect any changes or don’t want to. Ronit Marzan is the rare journalist who took seriously a press briefing with Hamas head Yahya Sinwar and decodes it for those who want to know:
Why are those lying bastards lying to you?

And sticking with liars, in a long interview by a French journalist, Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur for the oPt, reflects on the persecution he experienced after he’s retired – many calumnies, talks he was booked to give blocked….But looks back on his six years and takes pride in his office’s documentation of human rights abuses and that he shifted the labelling of the Israeli regime over Palestinians:
From Occupation to Apartheid in 6 years

As in apartheid, the force separating rulers and ruled is sex. Nothing is more abhorred or socially punished than sexual relations between two supposedly distinct parties. In another insightful piece Adam Shatz looks at the mores of white supremacist groups whose men are fixated on “white women in the civil rights struggle: ‘nigger lovers’, they call them.” This is the meme of all racist societies including Israel. The hovering question is whether Israelis identify with white supremacists or with their victims:
Trump rides on unspoken Republican racism

The ill-informed views of far-right and very racist politician Bezalel Smotrich would be beyond the pale in most countries. Hashiloach, a once respectable conservative magazine in the US, has published a long essay by Smotrich which lays out the measures to be used to either rid Israel of all Palestinians, or reduce them to an apolitical bunch of non-citizens. Forward’s JJ Goldberg asks if such racism is now acceptably mainstream:
New life for plan to rid Israel of all Arabs

In Britain, the disputed definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, so eagerly grabbed by Mrs. May (it’s not the definition, it’s the defining examples which are unacceptable) is still being toted round the Labour Party. This has drawn attention to what the definition actually says which is educational:
Dispute over antisemitism goes mainstream

A mainstream venue for such a debate is the Labour party conference starting today. The new group, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) and Shami Chakrabarti propose amendments to the resolution from the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).

© Copyright JFJFP 2017