Sunday, August 29, 2010

True Repentance

Elul is the months for repentance.

Therefore it is particularity ironic that this story appeared last week in the Jerusalem Post.
A singer who performed in front of a “mixed audience” of men and women was lashed 39 times to make him “repent,” after a ruling by a self-described rabbinic court on Wednesday. ...

Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak,..has made it his recent mission to fight against musical performances for both men and women. ...

In a video clip of the court posted on the Shofar Web site, Ben Zion said that those who make others sin (mahtiei rabim), such as artists who make men and women attend performances or dance together, have no place in the world to come.

He displayed a leather strip he said was made by his father from ass and bull skin, with which Yechiel was to have been whipped.
The video of the "det bin" (rabbinic court) proceedings can be seen at . If you understand Hebrew (or maybe even if not) it is worth while watching to see what a farce the rabbinic courts have become in Israel. The actual lashing (at about minute 18) is shown only "through a glass darkly" and appears to be almost gentle - more humiliation than pain. But the point is the absolute medieval nature of the "court" proceedings, and the magical thinking that imbues it.

As to why the defendant - the wayward wedding singer - would subject himself to this court (it doesn't - thank God - have the power to enforce its orders other than by suasion of those who accept its authority) I have two theories.

1. The singer is truly penitent, and as the rabbi explains, it is better to undergo 39 court ordered lashes and receive rabbinic absolution, than to lose ones place in the world to come.

2. All religious Jews have been ordered by this rabbi to no longer hire the sinning singer to appear at their simchas. Having now accepted the rabbinic court's authority and undertaken its punishment, the God fearing people of the rabbis flock can now again hire him to again. And the guy has to make a living!

Either way its about the power of the rabbis to interpret God's word as they see fit. And in some quarters of the Jewish world that is still a great power indeed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Conflating The State of Israel With Judaism Is Our Cardinal Sin: Its Bad For The State And Its Bad For The Jews

Thought for Elul: conflating the State of Israel with Judaism has been our cardinal sin; its bad for the state, its bad for the Jewish people, its bad for the Jewish religion, and it certainly has been bad for the Palestineans too.

I have been thinking about this lately, as I have been reading Zionism And The Roads Not Taken: Rawidowicz, Kaplan, Kohn by Noam Painko. (There will be more on that in a future posting, I am sure.)

Then I came across this article in Haaretz, which makes the point that the identification of the Jewish religion with the State of Israel makes it impossible for non Jews to be fully citizens of the State. That instead of giving Jews a secular identity they could be comfortable with, Israel has re-enforced a religious definition (and a narrow Orthodox defintion at that) of Judaism, and thus made it harder for Jews and non-Jews (as well as religious and non religious Jews) to get along in Israel.

... from its inception, Zionism intended to turn the Jewish people from a religious community into a modern nation, but ... the project of secularizing the Jewish people has failed. Israel has no legal definition for Judaism other than the religious definition, it does not recognize an Israeli national identity defined on the basis of citizenship, and it does not recognize a Hebrew nationality that is culturally defined.

The comparison to other countries where religion and nationality are linked is irrelevant, because those countries have a secular definition of the state and citizenship. You can be a Polish Jew or an Egyptian Jew, but you can't be a Jewish Muslim or a Jewish Christian. ... In other words, instead of bringing about the secularization of Judaism, Zionism turned religion into the central element of the definition of national identity, and turned the State of Israel into a tool of the religious redemption project ...

Defining the State of Israel solely as democratic and revoking the special privileges of Jews does not contradict Zionism, and certainly not Judaism. The connection to Judaism will remain in the calendar and the Hebrew language, in the name of the state and in the Jewish majority (if we manage to free ourselves from our rule over the Palestinians in the territories.) ...

Democracy ... requires the separation of religion and state, something that will be good for both. Because in the current situation, not only does religion corrupt the state, but the state corrupts religion and pushes it toward nationalistic extremism.

... In my view, that is the meaning of the continued impossible defense of a Jewish and democratic state. ...

Something to think about over the High Holidays.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We May Never Know The Truth For Sure,
But Everyone Will Ask, "What Is Israel Hiding?"

As I suspected it might, Israel is refusing to allow the U.N. committee investigating the flotilla massacre - and on which Israel itself has a representative - to question Israeli soldiers involved in the affair, (see details here.) So much for winning hearts and minds, or appearing to be a good world citizen.

The only way to form an intelligent and truly informed opinion about whether or not Israel used excessive force and about who was responsible for the 9 deaths, is to question the people involved and examine physical evidence. By refusing access to its soldiers and to all the physical evidence it seized - both to the U.N. committee and to it own internal civilian investigative panel (the Turkel committee) Israel is only strengthening the claims of those who say Israel trying to hide something and therefore must be guilty.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

American Elites Have Lost Their Way

America's elites have lost their way. And that is bad news for all of us.

America's elites have always been selfish and self serving, but once upon a time most of them also understood that their wealth and privilege was also dependent on improving the standard of living, the level of education, the personal and collective security of the masses of the American people. Of course, there were exceptions - the Mafia and Southern slave owners, for instance - who never had any concern at all for the masses among whom they lived and upon whom they depended for wealth creation and comforts. But the majority, understood that their own wealth and privilege depended on a modicum of welfare for the masses. John Carnegie's libraries are a classic example of this self interested noblesse oblige.

But today, the majority of America's rich an powerful are turned 100% inward. Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are the exceptions. Most of Americas rich care only for themselves and their circle of friends. Witness the extreme opposition whipped up against health care, or raising taxes on the richest 1% of American in order to fight the deficit. Along with that, and perhaps explaining it to some degree, most or these elites, fully trained by now by the quarterly bonus system of corporate America, are concerned with only with the short term. And the politicians that controlled by these selfish short sited elites are no better.

Occasionally, someone at the edge of this elite circle, someone not yet completely bought and sold, will let it all slip out. Three such cases caught my eye.

First peek behind the curtain is the video clip above. It shows Congressman Anthony Weiner railing about Congress's failure to pass health care benefits for first responders whose health problems stem from 9/11. The ostensible reason for the refusal to help "America's Heroes" is that it would increase the defect unless taxes were raised - and we can't raise taxes (heaven forbid!)

Second, is a piece by economist Paul Krugman in The New York Times. In it he decries the lack of will of Congress and the elites it serves to do anything about America's near record levels of unemployment. Not only are they refusing to extend stimulus measures, that are also refusing to extend underemployment benefits. They are creating millions of new long term unemployed and likely unemployable citizens. And no one seems to care.
... unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. That’s bad. But what’s worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn’t care — that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal.

... those in power, rather than taking responsibility for job creation, will soon declare that high unemployment is “structural,” a permanent part of the economic landscape ...

Not long ago, anyone predicting that one in six American workers would soon be unemployed or underemployed, and that the average unemployed worker would have been jobless for 35 weeks, would have been dismissed as outlandishly pessimistic — in part because if anything like that happened, policy makers would surely be pulling out all the stops on behalf of job creation.

But now it has happened, and what do we see?

First, we see Congress sitting on its hands, with Republicans and conservative Democrats refusing to spend anything to create jobs, and unwilling even to mitigate the suffering of the jobless.

We’re told that we can’t afford to help the unemployed ... fighting deficits, they insist, must take priority over everything else — everything else, that is, except tax cuts for the rich, which must be extended, no matter how much red ink they create.


What lies down this path? ... Two years from now unemployment will still be extremely high, quite possibly higher than it is now. But instead of taking responsibility for fixing the situation, politicians and Fed officials alike will declare that high unemployment is structural, beyond their control. And as I said, over time these excuses may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the long-term unemployed lose their skills and their connections with the work force, and become unemployable. ...
American elites once wanted to make Latin America more like the U.S. Now they want to make the U.S. more like Latin America.

The third peek behind the curtain, was this piece by Thomas Freidman, also in The Times. In it he bemoans America's inability to take any action at all on climate change. "How short sited can we be?" he asks.
... The best thing about improvements in health care is that all the climate-change deniers are now going to live long enough to see how wrong they were. Alas, so are the rest of us. ...

Conspiracy theorists claim to believe that global warming is a carefully constructed hoax driven by scientists desperate for ... what? Being needled by nonscientific newspaper reports, by blogs and by right-wing politicians and think tanks? I have a much simpler but plausible ‘conspiracy theory’: the fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: “Have they no grandchildren?”
All this is not just bad news for America. Sadly America, for better or for worse, is a model for much of the rest of the world.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Power That Dare Not Speak Its Name

I was going to write about this, but my old friend J.J. Goldberg beat me to it. And he said it all much better than I could have.

The gist of it is that, this past week, Oliver Stone was pilloried, and then forced to apologize - multiple times - for saying that:

(a) Hitler was not created holus bolus ex nihilo, but had powerful backers who were willing to overlook his antisemitism, because they found him useful in combating communism and socialism, and in advancing their economic interests,

(b) That Jews in America have worked hard to give the memory of the Holocaust a high public profile,

(c) That Jews in America are very influential in general,

(d) That the Israel Lobby is very effective, and

(e) That the Israel Lobby has fucked up American policy in the Middle East.

All of these statements, except the last one, are undeniably true and completely obvious to any honest person who is paying attention. The last one is a matter of opinion. I for one think that America is perfectly capable of fucking up its own policy without any Jewish help, but that the Israel lobby has helped by cheering it on.

But the irony of the situation is that Stone's main sin, in the eyes of his many Jewish critics, was in naming Jewish influence. And they used that very influence to force him to apologize, and are now threatening him with further sanction.

Truly - The Power That Dare Not Speak Its Name.

But J.J. said all this better than I. You can read his article here.

By the way, Stone's comments about Hitler and the Israel Lobby, were almost a complete aside at the end of an interview that focused on many other topics. This makes the resulting Jewish hysteria even harder to justify. Here is the text of that interview, which originally appeared in the London Times.

* * *

Oliver Stone’s face is 2 in from mine, voice low, husky and burning hot, telling me about the time he killed a man, “in Vietnam, near the beach, a messed- up, very confusing situation”, he says, chain glinting, tache bristling, “hard to get orders, and then a little fellow pops up out of a spider hole, right in the middle, like, ‘Hi’.

“He could open fire, and then I’d open fire and we’d hit each other. You have a choice. I took a shot, threw a grenade right in the hole. BANG!” He died? “Yeah, he died.” He gives that rakish, gap-toothed grin. “I’ve got a good lob.”

The director of Platoon, Wall Street, JFK and Natural Born Killers, Stone starts to continue, “I was wounded twice, hit in the neck and the legs and the ass . . .” but we are suddenly interrupted by the tour guide, Rosie, a slightly fried, museum-and-scones type in Laura Ashley hues who has been hired by Stone to take him, his Korean wife Jung and daughter Tara “to do Lulworth, Stonehenge and Bath all in one afternoon”, she gasps, but it’s 2pm and we haven’t moved from outside his hotel yet. So if Stone wants “LUNCH”, as he says he does, he needs to get shifting.
“Let’s move this army forward,” hollers Stone, 63, so off we trot, me, Tara and Jung, with Stone leading the way, somewhere between Jack Sparrow and Hunter S Thompson, weaving and gabbing on the phone, surreptitiously checking out skirt.

So much so that I can’t help but ask him about an incident last week in which he told a journalist at a press conference to promote his new documentary, South of the Border, that he liked her red bra. “Oh yeah, that got around,” says the notorious philanderer (Stone has been married three times but famously regards the state of matrimony as a “cultural defect”), “but she was wearing a see-through blouse, very visible, like a Lady Gaga gag. So I said, ‘Are you a protester?’, and she said, ‘Yes’. Actually, a very intelligent woman.”

We sweep into a noodle bar. “You have a quiet table?” he asks, as a boy in the corner mouths, “Oh my God, is that Oliver Stone?”

“Yeah, yeah,” mutters Stone, “probably wondering what I’m doing in a f****** joint like this,” and he sits down, urgently distributes menus, saying “Okay, dim sum, honey, dim sum, don’t ask, just order . . .” So his wife orders almost everything on the menu, whereupon Stone looks taken aback and says, “She eats like a HORSE!” He pauses. Pffs. “Thank GOD she doesn’t look like one.”

He has decided to “get out of London” and recover after an intense week promoting his new documentary about Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, but obviously he is still full of it, chatting away about the storm it’s caused in the United States, anti-American “propaganda, blah blah blah”.

“The critics will always pick things apart,” he says of a particularly scathing review that pointed out a few inaccuracies. Even though he pretends to be used to these “ugly mentions”, in fact he is highly emotional about his films: when his 14-year-old daughter says her friends back in Los Angeles aren’t quite aware of his work, preferring instead to watch things such as High School Musical, or “BULLSHIT”, as Stone calls it, he shouts, “I don’t care! They’re a bunch of ignorant people!”

In fact, he is still smarting from the reception his 2004 film Alexander received, an experience he now calls “heartbreaking”. But he is excited because he now — finally — has a better cut, an even longer one, at “3 hours 45”, he enthuses. “With an intermission.” Gawd.

Stone’s output has always been prolific. On top of his films, he has done a number of documentaries and was recently granted access to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He describes America’s attitude to Iran as “horrible”. “Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy” — his incongruously dark eyebrows shoot up — “but we don’t know the full story!”

He has also done films on Palestine and Fidel Castro, who put Chavez onto him, in fact, “because he liked Comandante. I made two documentaries with Castro ... actually three — I have a third one coming out. So Castro had been pleased and Chavez had seen them and liked them; also loved Platoon, likes action movies. By his own admission he’s a Charles Bronson fan”, he grins.

Stone immediately identified with the socialist Venezuelan president: “a brave, blunt, earthy” man and a former soldier, too. When he met him in the jungle in Colombia at the start of 2008, around the time of negotiations with Farc (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) over the release of a French woman and other hostages, Stone was preoccupied with other projects, including W, an examination of George W Bush, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the follow-up to his 1987 masterpiece, as well as “my biggest project, a 10-hour documentary about the secret history of America”, he says, so he couldn’t slot Chavez in.

Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy — his incongruously dark eyebrows shoot up — but we don’t know the full story! But spurred on by all the “negative news reports coming out of North America”, he returned to Venezuela in 2009 and followed Chavez on a road trip, visiting a clutch of other Latin American leaders, “seven presidents in six countries, on-the-fly work, really a conversation . . .”

Anyway, he smooshed it all together in a matter of months, and here it is, a “political road trip”. Others have called it a “vanity project” and “fawning”. Is it at all balanced, I ask. Chavez doesn’t have a terrific record on human rights.

“The internet’s fully free there,” he says. “You can say what the hell you like. Compare it with all the other countries: Mexico, Guatemala, above all Colombia, which is a joke. ”

He admits, “There is a section of the Chavista party that is over the top; they’re the worst. But they have problems from the old governance, inherited shit . . .” He shrugs. “There’s a lot of broken plates.”

He has always been suspicious of “the elite in the West” and delights in any chinks in its armour. Last week, for example, he was thrilled that “the Clegg guy” spoke up about Iraq. “They should make him f****** prime minister,” he says.

Let’s not forget that he was originally one of the elite himself, the son of a philandering New York stockbroker, the model for Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko (and the man who bought Stone his first prostitute at 16). His mother is French.

“That’s true,” he says. “I was in Bush’s class at Yale; although I never crossed his path, I think I know the mentality of him.”

Stone dropped out because “I just knew I didn’t belong there”. Instead he went to Vietnam, flying out on his 21st birthday. He joined the infantry “on purpose at the lowest level, to be like everyone else”.

Vietnam was “horrible, ugly” — a traumatic episode that later bore cinematic fruit: Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Heaven & Earth. He won Oscars for Platoon and Born. He had already won one for his Midnight Express screenplay.

Other personal experiences went into other films. Scarface, Brian De Palma’s epic about Cuban drug-dealing in Miami, was written by Stone, whose love of drugs is well documented — he was last arrested for possession of an illegal substance in 2005, and back in the early 1980s he had an enormous cocaine habit.

“Ah, that was a dangerous drug,” he says now. “I did go ... off shore there. Those were the days I got coked-up to do the research. To talk to these people, you have to be on it, know their world.” So he’d gone down to Bimini in the Bahamas and checked into a hotel. Late one night he was “researching” with three “mid-management heavies”, he says, “and, uh, I said something that made them think I was an undercover, so they froze. They went into the bathroom for three or four minutes; I thought I was a dead man, because these guys KILL undercovers. Actually, they don’t kill! You know what they do? They cut their throats out. They used to do the Colombian necktie, hearda that? Cut your throat, take your tongue and pull it through the neck!”

Was he concerned? “Yeah, I was concerned! My wife was there.”

In the event he escaped unscathed, but “I didn’t sleep very well. I was scared. The chainsaw scene came out of that”, he says, referring to Scarface’s iconic scene when a man is hacked to pieces in a shower with a chainsaw.

I find it interesting that Stone can at once take the moral high ground and glamorise controversial issues such as drugs, killing and money, the subject of Wall Street. “Yeah, money is glamorous,” he says, “but I’m not making a judgment. I’m living inside the character. Some people said I made Bush sympathetic. No, I was empathetic. I got in his shoes. I do it from inside.”

He constantly researches, thinks, reads: at one point he even asks me if I can do him a favour and help with the “Israelis and the bomb”, after a recent conversation he had with Ken Livingstone in which the former London mayor suggested that the British knew that Israel had the bomb “as early as the 1950s”. “Could you go into the archive at The Sunday Times and see if you can find anything about the British being involved with a shipment of heavy water . . .” he says, dropping his voice. Sure, I say.

His next task, the leviathan Secret History of America, tackles received versions of events in the last century, an extension, perhaps, of what he did in 1991’s JFK, when he suggested that the president’s assassination was in fact a high-level conspiracy. The 10-part documentary will address Stalin and Hitler “in context”, he says. “Hitler was a Frankenstein but there was also a Dr Frankenstein. German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support.”
He also seeks to put his atrocities in proportion: “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30m.”

Why such a focus on the Holocaust then? “The Jewish domination of the media,” he says. “There’s a major lobby in the United States. They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years.”

I notice that Tara is listening intently. Does she always agree with her father? She has managed to say, “Yes, I do,” before her father shouts, “You shouldn’t! You should look at the other side!”
“I know,” she sighs. “But I’ve been, like, sooo brainwashed.”

Come Ye To The Water

This past week the internet was full of people commenting in the above video which shows a West Bank Palestinian father being arrested while his young son cries. Most commentators are moved by the crying boy's tears and his hysterical cries, and by the seeming callousness of the Israeli soldiers doing the arrest.

But that is not the issue. After all, a murdered young son might cry in the same way.

The real injustice here is that the father was arrested for stealing water! And the reason he was moved to steal the water is the un-equal water distribution policy that that the Israeli government has instituted on the West Bank. And that it was the hottest day of the summer, in what has been an unusually hot and dry year in Israel/Palestine.

As Noam Sheizaf writes in his blog Promised Land:
Israel has constructed water pipes in the area, but they only serve the army and the settlers. The Palestinians are forced to drive to the closest town, and buy their water in tanks over there. They end up paying 10 times the price I pay in Tel Aviv. And the farmers in South mount Hebron are the poorest of the Palestinian population. They live in tents, some even in caves. They used to have water holes in which they stored rain waters, but access to their fields and to many of the holes in them is denied by the army and the settlers.

With no other option, some farmers were forced to use unauthorized connections to the Israeli water system, running just a few meters from their tents. The Israeli media is calling this “stealing water”.

I though of this as I sat in synagogue today listening to the Haftatah, and Isaiah's word's
"Ho, every one who thirsts, come ye to the water."
How far we have strayed from the prophet's vision of Jerusalem Rebuilt.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Good, The Bad and the Uncertain

The good news: Israel has decided to cooperate with a UN Committee charged with looking into the flotilla affair. Maybe the Netanayahu government learned from the Goldstone Committee that a report will be made in any case, it will receive wide coverage and credibility in any case, and it is better to cooperate and try to influence the report's findings than to stand haughtily to the side. Or maybe they decided it is too costly to burn all of Israel’s with Turkey - still a moderating voice in the Muslim world, and still the only country in the regions that Israel has normal relations with (or at least did until the it killed 9 Turkish citizen's in on the Mavi Marmara.)

The bad news: Netnayahu's decision is being furiously attacked by Israel's "moderate" opposition. Kadima head Tizpi Livni is quoted as saying: "The IDF has a chief of staff, not a secretary general. I am opposed to a UN inquiry that will involve the IDF, its soldiers and its commanders." She might have a point when she also accuses the government of giving in too late to the idea of a U.N. committee and doing so only after its own emasculated Turkel Committee had failed to convince the world that it would actually get to the truth. But to demand that, as a matter of principle, Israel not cooperate with the UN, is wrong headed. Israel needs to re-join the family of nations, not further isolate itself in a hole largely of its own making.

The uncertainty: Will Livni's prediction hold true? Will the U.N. committee really be able to question Israeli soldiers who participated in the raid, and will it be allowed to examine evidence held by Israel? If not this committee will also be viewed as a joke and only result in more scorn being heaped on Israel for a cover-up. On the otherhand if Israel fully cooperates, it may buy itself some good will, even if it is at the expense of admitting some fault. Ironically, if the UN committee is allowed to question witnesses and examine evidence, it will have been given more powers and more access than the government’s own Turkel Committee. So before we get to excited about all this one way or the other, we will have to see just what level of access the UN committee is given.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Worse Than I Imagined

It turns out to be even worse than I imagine. And I am a pessimist (at least in the short run.)

Call it the Wild West, the Ol' South, or Apartheid - the anti Arab racism in Israel goes from bad to worse. On July 27, the Bedouin village of Al Arakib was destroyed by Israeli police and military. Its 300 residents are now homeless. This village, just a bit north of Be'er Sheva is within the 1949 boundaries of "Israel proper." It predates 1948. Its residents are Israeli citizens - though clearly 2nd or 3rd class citizens. The village was destroyed to make way for a JNF forest, and the expansion of the Jewish suburb of Givot Bar.

The destruction and ethnic cleansing were horrific. You can read a dispassionate report about it at CNN or a fuller and more emotional report at The Promised Land. These reports would have been bad enough. Shades of the European settlers treatment of the American Indians - only125 years later.

But now a report, on Max Blumenthal's blog, confirms and elaborates on hints in the other stories, that civilians cheered as the Israeli forces destroyed the Arab's homes and drove them off their land. Turns out it is not only true. It's worse than I imagined.

The cheering Israeli civilians, are in fact Jewish teenage
volunteers in the police auxiliary. Pre-military summer camp, if you will. And they not only cheered, they where active participants in the ethnic cleansing of Al Arakib. And, teens being teens, they added insult to injury. According to Blumenthal's informants, they "smashed windows and mirrors in [Bedouin] homes and defaced family photographs with crude drawings. Then they lounged around on the furniture of al-Arakib residents in plain site of the owners (see picture at the right.) Finally, ... the youthful volunteers celebrated while bulldozers destroyed the homes."

This goes beyond both the American and South African racism. Shades of patriotic/nationalistic/racist youth movements of central Europe in the 1930's.

Blumenthal ends his piece with these words:
The spectacle of Israeli youth helping destroy al-Arakib helps explain why 56% of Jewish Israeli high school students do not believe Arabs should be allowed to serve in the Knesset – why the next generation wants apartheid. Indeed, the widespread indoctrination of Israeli youth by the military apparatus is a central factor in Israel’s authoritarian trend. It would be difficult for any adolescent boy to escape from an experience like al-Arakib, where adults in heroic warrior garb encourage him to participate in and gloat over acts of massive destruction, with even a trace of democratic values.

As for the present condition of Israeli democracy, it is essential to consider the way in which the state pits its own citizens against one another, enlisting the Jewish majority as conquerers while targeting the Arab others as ... “obstacles that have to be cleared on a difficult path.”

Historically, only failing states have encouraged such corrosive dynamics to take hold. That is why the scenes from al-Arakib, from the demolished homes to the uprooted gardens to the grinning teens who joined the mayhem, can be viewed as much more than the destruction of a village. They are snapshots of the phenomenon that is laying Israeli society as a whole to waste.
Below is a video taken at Al Arakib. In it, one of the evicted Bedouin men can be heard shouting, "We have soldiers who have served with you!" It didn't help.

Is this the kind of Jewish State Herzl imagined? Is this the revival of Jewish culture that Ahad Ha'am and Bialik dreamed of? How long will it take to recover from the hatred being instilled by acts like these?

If you are appalled as I am you might want to sign this petition.

Most Influential Jewish Women of the Past 500 Years

The Canadian Jewish News is asking readers to nominate four "of your personal picks of Jewish women who made a mark on our people's historical narrative." They are asking that the women be picked from the following categories: Arts, Politics, Community Activism, and Academia. The time period is limited (sic!) to the last 500 years. (I guess to eliminate Biblical or Talmudic characters.) They will be publishing their own list of 16, in their Rosh Hashana Issue.

It got me thinking, and here is my list.

Academia: Hanna Arendt. She made the Holocaust fathomable as a historical event: an outgrowth of Totalitarianism, the victory of ideology over humanity. This, and her idea of The Banality of Evil, have given universal meaning to the slogan "Never Again."

Community Activism: Gloria Steinem. She, more than anyone else, symbolized and promoted modern Western Feminism, which has changed forever the lives of women - Jews and non Jews alike - as well as men who live among them.

Arts: Barbara Streisand. She made it respectable to be a publicly Jewish star, and her status broke the stereotype that said successful women had to have cute little noses.

Politics: Golda Meir. The most famous female Jewish politician ever, and possibly the worst Prime Minister Israel ever had. Under her watch, Israel ignored various Arab peace overtures, began the settlements in the occupied territories, and grew fat and arrogant, so much so that Israel almost lost the Yom Kippur War. By the end, she had been so ineffective that she effectively drove the last nail into the Labour Party's hegemony over Israeli politics. Her negative influence is still with us and will likely be so for many many years to come.

Not surprisingly all are 20th century figures. Women simply didn't have an opportunity to be influential on a large scale before then.

I wonder of any of my first three picks will make it onto the CJN's list. Somehow I doubt it. I imagine their idea of "leaving a mark" is more parochial than mine. But maybe I will be surprised. I won't be surprised if Golda makes it - but I would be surprised if their evaluation of her matches mine.

If you want to enter your own nominees you can do so at the CJN blog.