Friday, June 5, 2009

Blessed Are the Activists

Obama ended his Cairo speech with "Blessed Are the Peacemakers." How can you not say, "Amen" to that line, originally coined by a nice Jewish boy?

But I am writing this from Jerusalem, the city that knows no peace. And I wouldn't be making a bad bet if I said that there won't be peace for decades, if not centuries to come.

So who do we bless in the meantime?

How about the "Justicemakers"? The men and women on the West Bank (and in Gaza, when they can get in) who fight to protect the life, liberty, and property of those who have no protection -- the Palestinians.

A few days ago, I had coffee on Emek Refaim street with my former student Joseph Dana (the Ibn Ezra blogger) , his buddy Jesse Hochheiser (the Across the Borderline blogger), his friend, Mairav Zonszein, former head of the Union for Progressive Zionists (UPZ), and her mom.

The three young folks are activists in Ta'ayush. If you don't know about Ta'ayush, look at their website. Or get David Shulman's book Dark Hope, which I blogged about here.

Back to the activist bloggers.

Let me start with Joseph Dana, who studied Spinoza with me a few years ago (no comments about heretics, please.) His Ibn Ezra blog is terrific; he has been hanging out with Max Blumenthal recently, and last night went downtown with him to make for Phil Weiss a video featuring interviews with American Jewis-on-the-street. Watch it on his blog or here. (Not for children, but then again, nothing here is for children).

Feeling The Hate In Jerusalem -- The Censored Video from Max Blumenthal on Vimeo.

As for Across the Borderline, Jesse has a great piece about Ezra Nawi, the hero of all activists, a truly great individual.

Bookmark both those blogs. With folks like that, I am looking forward to retiring.

So, once again you have "elu va-elu" -- on the one hand, the young American Jews in the video who are drunk and stoned on their Jewish power, the bigots, the racists, the crazies, not to mention the violent settlers and the Judaeo-nazis, who hang around downtown Jerusalem, City of Peace; on the other hand you have the young American Jews (and others) who come here to protect the unprotected, whether in Bil'in, South of the Hebron Hills, Ni'ilin, or East Jerusalem.

It's a great project. Do you think I can get Tzedek Hillel to be involved with it?

Blessed be the activists. And as for the others, shuvu banim shovevim. Return you wayward children.


Avram said...

The video is disgraceful. Surely, everyone can have an opinion about Obama - be it positive or negative - but the vulgarity of their hatred and language is just beyond belief.

I am fairly certain I could video tape all my American friends (some pro, some anti Obama) and no one will talk like this ... I guess going to 'Downtown Jerusalem' and interviewing college aged, drunk fools will get you this - still inexcusable however.

Y. Ben-David said...

I note how you contrast the uncouth louts with the "good" Jews like yourself. What about the rest of us on "the Right" who don't talk like them, either? Or, as an experiment, go ask the "progressives" in the US (e.g. people like MJ Rosenberg) what they think about President Bush. Do you think they would sound any different?
Weiss and his cohorts who originally posted that piece want to show Israel as a racist, apartheid state and Israelis as hate-filled bigots. Sure there are some Israelis who are like that, just like all societies have those types. But go ask a bunch of Palestinians on the street what they think of Jews. What do you think you will hear? What about when, after the Sabarro suicide bombing in Jersualem which 15 people were killed including 2 parents and 3 of their young children , at the University in Shechem (Nablus) the HAMAS organized a party including a pizza parlor with ketchum squirted all over the place to represent blood and dismembered doll parts spread around representing body parts. Or how about all the televised celebrations in the Palestinian territories and around the Arab world after 9/11. Please don't give me this nonsense that "we Jews are supposed to be better than everyone else" or "you have to understand the frustration of the Arabs". Everyone must be held to the same standard and Weiss and his propagandists are not. You KNOW Jews and Israelis are not "hate-filled maniacs". I am disappointed you, too, are spreading this propaganda.

Jerry Haber said...

Y. Ben David,you disappoint me. Did you read my post?

I wrote in my post about "Phil Weiss's video featuring interviews with American Jews-on-the-street". Neither Phil nor I nor Max nor Joseph were making any broad claims about Israelis or Jews, etc. I guess you like to go with generalizations, but I don't.

I do make generalizations occasionally, especially on the blog. I personally think that Israel is a deeply racist society in a way that the US is not a deeply racist society. And there have been studies showing htat.

Let me explain to you precisely what I mean.

In America, "racism" is a cardinal sin, a vice. Nobody, Republican or Democrat, from Pat Buchanan to Noam Chomsky, wants to be known as a racist. That is for various reasons, including the experience of the Blacks, and the Holocaust, etc. In America, when a black was elected to president, even his political opponents were proud that America had done something like that.

Now, let's go to Israel. And you will see that here, racism is a cardinal the eyes of the left only. In fact, to be sensitive to racism is one of the markers of the left here. It may be that folks in America are just as bigoted as folks here. But here people are openly bigoted; they see no shame about it. People here are not educated against racism. And by the way, that bigotry extends to how secular people in Tel Aviv think of haredim and settlers.

Folks have written in response to that video "Big deal; here are just some drunken bigots. But you and I know that these guys aren't the dregs of American Jewish society. These are folks here on yeshiva or on Birthright. Jerusalem isn't Cancun. Most people I know when drunk don't start up with racist tirades and threats of murder.

Now that doesn't say anything about Israeli society. But it does say something about some of the kids who are coming here on programs. Would you like your kid to come to Israel and talk like those guys. Would you excuse it as a bunch of drunks?

For me, as an educator, the issue is not what folks in Jerusalem think or don't think about Obama. It's how we are raising our kids that when they come to Israel, they get drunk on power, not just on Heineken, on the power of being the boss in the Jewish state.

I don't know a lot of folks, even students, who would yell, "F-k Bush" in an interview on camera. But, hey, you are right, there are people who use that language a lot when not on camera. Am I naive to think that religious folks should educate their children to be decent human beings?

Jerry Haber said...


Thanks for the comment. The truth is that if you aren't viscerally shocked by the video -- even though some of the kids are drunk, away from home, etc., and certainly not representative of all kids coming here -- then that speaks volume about your sensitivity. What's the point of being frum if it results in this chillul ha-shem. Just dismissing the video is like saying, "Hey, there are lots of wife-beaters out there; why pick on the frum ones."

Avram said...

"I guess you like to go with generalizations, but I don't."

But your latest post is titled, "Why Frum Kids in Jerusalem ..." - and I promise you, I don't talk like that and I'm a 'frum kid' in Jerusalem.

"In America, "racism" is a cardinal sin"

Tell David Duke that ...

"But here people are openly bigoted"

I went to Uni in Northwest New York ... You think that video is bad - I saw racial beatings ("He's only an Asian") and stuff I thought only existed in 'documentaries' and my dad's stories of South Africa in the 70s.

"And by the way, that bigotry extends to how secular people in Tel Aviv think of haredim and settlers. "

I'm relieved you mentioned this. But it's not just 'haredim', but the 'religion' in general they slam.

"Most people I know when drunk don't start up with racist tirades and threats of murder."

As I said earlier, that's not the US college scene I saw - be it in New York or on Spring Break in the Caribbean.

"Am I naive to think that religious folks should educate their children to be decent human beings?"

I think we both agree society as a whole is in some sort of decay, not just 'Frum kids' (some in the video were not) or 'Americans' or whoever. I would hope every parent, irrespective of their religion, would want to teach their kids to be 'decent human beings'. I'm just not sure why so many, here and abroad, seem to be getting it so very wrong.