Tradescantia Zebrina .:. The Wandering Jew

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tales and opinions of the wandering Jew

Israel bound

I want to write a post about how I’m going to Israel tomorrow, for work. But each time I’ve tried to start this post, the verb I’ve used hasn’t set the right tone. So I will not strive for poetics. Instead, I’ll say that I’m going, and will be back in New York on January 19th. See you on the other side.

Filed under: israel, judaism, palestine, politics, random, travels, war, work, wtf?

Israel, Palestine, and… Montreal?!

Cross-posted to Jewschool.

One of the many frustrations I have when it comes to Israel is the whole settlement situation. It is illegal to start a new settlement in Israel. Every week, new settlements are started, and the government allows the majority to remain. It’s illegal, but the government doesn’t stop it. Huh. Israeli law, international law, the Geneva Convention, and Oslo are often sited in support of stopping, and removing, the settlements. But, still, Israel does not move on it. In fact, we often hear that the Israeli government is building houses in the territories, er East Jerusalem. (Because if you call it Jerusalem, the media’s less likely to call out the illegality of it.)

But what happens when the legalities play out elsewhere? Like in the Superior Court in Montreal?

[T]he gist of the case is the assertion that Israel is violating the 4th Geneva Convention, which prohibits a state from transferring its population into territories it occupies. Canada has incorporated that provision into its domestic law and it applies to Green Park and Green Mount. … [T]he lands in question are under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Bil’in and are part of Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

And what’s the case against Green Park and Green Mount?

Green Park International and Green Mount International, acting as agents of the government of Israel, are violating a host of international laws that govern conflicts, as well as Quebec’s Charter of Rights.

Also being sued is Annette Laroche, sole director and officer of the two corporations. Two million dollars in punitive damages are sought, as well as an order to cease construction.

The court documents allege the defendants, “on their own behalf and as de facto agents of the State of Israel, are… aiding, abetting and assisting and conspiring with the State of Israel in carrying out an illegal purpose.” [Full article.]

This case will be complicated, certainly. Israel has thus far refused to try cases on the grounds of jurisdiction, but will Quebec? As Green Park and Green Mount are both Quebec-based companies, they have to abide by Quebecois, Canadian, and international law; it seems clear that they’re not.

I’d like to see this case go through the system. If the plaintiffs win, it would set precedent for other Palestinian towns to file similar legal cases. And could possibly also deter international (ie, not Israeli) companies from supporting (building or funding) the illegal settlements. I mean, could you imagine how great it would be if Palestinians actually had a legal way to sue American Jews who buy homes in the territories (er, “Jerusalem”) sight unseen (such as the new Nof Zion community)? Will Quebec be an open enough venue for a case like this, with such strong opinions on both/all sides, especially in light of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission‘s findings?

* * *

In other, only vaguely related news, a bank in Canada is being sued by Canadians who live in Israel. They claim this bank, Lebanese Canadian Bank (somehow related to Royal Bank of Canada, which isn’t being sued), knowingly dealt with Hezbollah. And Hezbollah’s to blame for the Lebanese war in 2006, during which the plaintiffs’ homes were damaged/destroyed. I’m not sure how this will play out. [Full article.]

(Is there something in the water, Montreal?)

Yes, those are muppets (Judge Gavel Doozer from “Fraggle Rock;” muggaphone player and Judge Marvin Suggs from “The Muppet Show”). Why not?)

Filed under: canada, israel, palestine, politics, war

Really Bad Idea

A follow up to Oh, dear G-d no:

“Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable,” said [Iranian-born Israeli Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz,] the former army chief who has also been defence minister.

Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, has defied Western pressure to abandon its uranium enrichment projects. The leadership in Tehran has also threatened to retaliate against Israel – believed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal – and U.S. targets in the Gulf for any attack on Iranian turf.

Mr. Mofaz also said in the interview that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, “would disappear before Israel does.” [read more]

I maintain that this is a Bad Idea™. And will lead to a war between Israel and much of the Middle East, with other countries getting involved to support either side and… world war 3 has been born.

(And let’s not forget that the soon-to-be-former Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, said “that as president she would be willing to use nuclear weapons against Iran if it were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel.” Thank goodness she won’t be president!)

Filed under: america, israel, war, wtf?

Oh, dear G-d no.

Ehud Olmert will urge President Bush to prepare an attack on Iran, an Israeli newspaper reported.

How is an “attack” at all the proper response to “stop your nuclear program”? Let’s see… they’ll bomb Iran and then Iran will learn its lesson and not retaliate, and definitely not use those nuclear weapons? Right. This is a great idea.

Filed under: america, israel, war, wtf?

Building Israel

According to the JTA, “Israel announced plans to build hundreds of new homes in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.”

According to the NYTimes, “Israel announced plans on Sunday to build hundreds of new homes in an area of the occupied West Bank the Israeli government considers part of Jerusalem, despite U.S. and Palestinian calls to halt settlement expansion.”

According to the BBC, “The Israeli government has announced plans to build nearly 900 new housing units in a part of East Jerusalem that is considered occupied territory.”

I look at the story, knowing where Pisgat Zeev and Har Homa are, and question the Israeli government’s slant that these housing projects are meant to “bolster” Jerusalem. Bolster is only the right word to use here, if they mean “build up Jewish settlements in Palestinian land so that if/when a two state solution is realised, all of this area will be considered Jewish and/or “greater Jerusalem” and will stay with Israel, not Palestine.”

Time and again, Israel has agreed to cease new settlements, stop building up existing ones. And yet they continue to do it anyway.

And people wonder why land ownership issues are so convoluted?

Filed under: israel, palestine, politics, wtf?

BC travels

IMG_R3246I spent four lovely nights in Victoria, visiting my home, my friends, remnants of my plants. It was great to relax, fully embrace my dorkiness, play a lot of Scrabble, and fall back into a comfortable rhythm with my friends.

On the way back to Vancouver, I had to transfer buses as the Ladner Exchange. There, a woman and her college-aged daughter started pointing at me, then pointing at a fellow standing a few paces from me. I stealthily paused my iPod so I could casually listen in on what they were saying about us. The mother was saying something about my “beanie” and the “head dress” of the other fellow. (Based on what I saw, I assumed him to be Sikh, so that was in fact a turban.) I wasn’t the only one listening in; the other guy had been listening and caught my eyes when this was said of us. He stepped towards the mother and daughter to clarify things with them. But he didn’t know the words “kippah” or “yarmulke,” so in trying to explain that he wasn’t wearing a head dress, and I wasn’t wearing a beanie, the mother and daughter concluded that we were both of the same religion and were wearing variations on the same religious head wear.

At this point he looked to me, so I stepped over and tried to clarify. At some point the daughter had a “light bulb” moment and said something like, “Oh, like what the Pope wears?!” Um, yes. Kind of. Many religions have customs of head coverings and… I lost them. He looked at me and shrugged. The daughter started talking to her mom about an Easter “South Park” episode which claimed the Pope’s hat was pointy because the Pope had rabbit ears to hide. And I put my earphones back in and turned on my iPod.

It’s good to be back on the west coast…

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As a side note, I’d recommend reading two recent posts on Jewschool: The H in Apartheid, a thoughtful piece on Hebron, and No One Is Jewish, about Jews who have had their conversion revoked.

Filed under: friends, israel, judaism, photos, random, religion, travels

Machon Schechter slams its students

Two brief, incomplete, articles were published last week by the Jerusalem Post and the JTA, talking about a, uh, problem at Schecter concerning gay rabbinical students. Jewschool has an exclusive report from sources close to the story, which I recommend reading.

Some stories have been floating around the media with varying levels of accuracy, but Jewschool has obtained the full (or fuller) story from reliable sources. The real story here isn’t about gay and lesbian rabbis in the Conservative movement (that was last year’s story); it’s about the lengths to which people and institutions will go out of fear, demonizing their own students and losing all perspective.

The story begins a year ago this week, when the Jewish Theological Seminary announced that it would begin admitting openly gay and lesbian students to its rabbinical and cantorial schools. (The American Jewish University, formerly the University of Judaism, is now also admitting gay and lesbian students.) One year later, to mark the anniversary, JTS held a program on Wednesday called Hazak Hazak V’nithazek: Celebrating Strength Through Inclusion, a full day of study, conversation, and celebration.

Several JTS students studying this year at Machon Schechter (the Conservative rabbinical school in Jerusalem where American Conservative rabbinical students are required to spend a year) wanted to participate in the celebration going on in New York in some way, and since they couldn’t attend physically, they organized a small parallel event in Israel. According to email invitations sent to the Conservative Yeshiva and other rabbinical students in Jerusalem, the students invited Yonatan Gher, former Director of Communications for the Masorti (Israeli Conservative) movement, incoming director of the Jerusalem Open House, and a member of Masorti congregations his whole life (and recently profiled in the New York Times because he and his partner are having a child via a surrogate mother in India), to speak over lunch about his personal experiences as a member of a GLBT family in the Masorti movement.

The email announcing the event makes clear what this event was not: It was not intended as a proposal for an official Schechter event. It was not a discussion of Schechter’s admissions policy. (Schechter does not admit gay and lesbian students.) It was not a protest or demonstration to advocate for change in Schechter policy. It was not a halakhic debate, nor was it an exposition of a particular halakhic position. It was not an event manufactured for the media. It was not a “ceremony,” as the media has incorrectly reported it. It was simply a lunch-and-learn with an opportunity for students to listen to Mr. Gher’s personal story and to participate remotely in JTS’s anniversary event. The email says that outright.

Read more…

Filed under: homophobia, israel, judaism, queers, wtf?

Canada and Israel, x2

The government of Israel is partnering with Jewish community organizations in Toronto to improve Israel’s image and to get Canadians thinking of the country outside “the narrow prism of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Ido Aharoni, founder of the ministry’s Brand Israel concept said the ministry has conducted market research over the past few years that showed “Israel is viewed solely through the narrow prism of the Arab-Israeli conflict… Israel’s personality is 90 per cent dominated by conflict-related images and some religious connotations,” he said. “Those of us who know the brand intimately are disturbed by the divergence of brand and the perception.”

Federation spokesperson Howard English said his organization and other federated communities across the country are committed to supporting the branding initiative and mobilizing the Jewish community behind the effort. [source]

From my temporary station in the US, I heard the same spin coming from an AIPAC sponsored-speaker this weekend. Yes, there’s war, the speaker acknowledged, but why aren’t we praising Israel’s contribution to technology, alternative power sources, and films? (“Such a small fraction of a percentage of the world speaks our language, but yet our films win awards at all of the film festivals! Everyone should be seeing our films!”) Why is this the wrong approach? Why does this idea of rebranding, marketing Israel as “more than violence!” irk me? Because Israel’s military policies and human rights abuses should not be ignored just because some Israelis are also really good at developing computer chips. If anything, as the Jewish nation, Israel should be held to higher standards than secular nations, or nations of other religions.

And what about the other issue: not all Jews share the same views (ideologically, politically, religiously) of Israel. And yet Federations are supposed to (at least in theory), represent and support all Jews. If Canada’s Federations follow suit, as English suggests, won’t we just continue to further alienate those among us who already feel out of place in our communities? Any time a national organisation, or network of organisations, makes a statement saying “All of Us will do X, Y, and Z,” it makes me nervous – and makes me realise just how far removed those organisations are from the communities and people they’re supposed to be serving.


First Canada signs with the US, now with Israel? What the heck is going on, Harper?! And what could these “common threats” be?

In a statement released by Canada’s Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Day said the declaration would help both countries address “common threats” to national security.

“Today’s declaration demonstrates the longstanding co-operation between Canada and Israel on public safety issues, and we welcome this increased co-operation in order to improve our countries’ capacity to protect our citizens,” Day said.

Among the items listed in the declaration, the two governments stated their intent to co-operate in the areas of border management and security; correctional services and prisons; illegal immigration; money laundering; organized crime; terrorist financing and trafficking in persons.

The document also outlines both countries’ desire to set up “clear lines of communication and points of contact” between them; to “identify and share public safety concerns on the basis of threats, risk assessments, priorities, vulnerabilities, and consequences” and to “facilitate technical exchange co-operation, including education, training, and exercises,” among other objectives. [source]

Oh, I get it now… Canada and Israel have a common border and need to be worried about illegal immigrants crossing it. No, wait, that can’t be it… Day, under Harper, is upping his Evangelical rhetoric and wants to ensure that the Jews who run the banks don’t take over the Canadian Mint? Hrm, probably not… I know, Day’s afraid (again) that UNICEF money will go to impoverished Palestinian children again, making Canadian trick-or-treaters “terrorist funders”? No? Well, I’m outta ideas then.

Tune in next week, when Canada signs a “you scratch our backs, we’ll scratch yours” with China.

Filed under: canada, israel, politics

Photo time!

A whole whack of photos from my last few days in Jerusalem. There’s some street art; happy people, music, poetry, and dancing at Def Adar Jam; and a boogie.

Filed under: friends, graffiti, israel, music, parties, photos, travels

Blame the Gays!

Gotta love it.

I was going to post about the earthquakin’ queers, but Rooftopper Rav beat me to it. What I would like to point out, however, is the juxtaposition of two articles currently on the Haaretz home page:

(Would it be wrong to call Haaretz a fence-sitter when it comes to LGBT issues?)

cross-posted to Jewschool.

Filed under: homophobia, israel, judaism, politics, queers

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