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BBC Ignores French President’s Comparisons Between Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism – Algemeiner

Posted By on July 21, 2017

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French President Emmanuel Macron greets Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 16. Photo: Screenshot.

At the July 16thevent in Paris marking the 75thanniversary of the deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz, theFrench presidentmade a significant statement:

French president Emmanuel Macron on Sunday condemned anti-Zionism as a new form of anti-Semitism, in what observers said was an unprecedented statement from the leader of France in support of the Jewish state.

We will never surrender to the messages of hate;we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism, Macron said an event in Paris marking the mass deportation of French Jews during World War II. He was directly addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended the event. [emphasis added]

July 21, 2017 1:29 pm

Macrons statementis, of course, in step with theIHRA working definition of antisemitismthat was adopted in recent months by theBritish governmentandthe EU parliament;it is alsoaccord with theUS State departments definition. Macronswords were reported by numerous media outlets including theIndependent, theTimes, theWashington Postand theNew York Times.

However, theBBC News websites reporton the ceremony made no mention whatsoever of the French presidentsrecognitionof anti-Zionism as a manifestation of antisemitism.

Should we be surprised at the omission of that statement from the BBCs coverage of the event? Not really.

Last April,the BBC considered itself sufficiently qualified to produce a backgrounder titled Whats the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?.

As wasnoted here at the time, that article promotedthe Livingstone Formulation;failed to inform readers what anti-Zionism actually means; and focused on promoting the inaccurate and misleading notion that anti-Zionism is the same thing as criticizing the Israeli government. The BBCs piece alsoadvanced the Zionism is racism canard.

SubsequentBBCreportingagainamplifiedsimilar themes.

The BBCs funding public should therefore not be overly surprised that a statement from the French president that contrasts starkly with the BBCs repeated woolly misrepresentations of anti-Zionism and spotlights the corporationscalculated disregardfor accepted definitions of antisemitism was sidelined by BBC News.

See the article here:
BBC Ignores French President’s Comparisons Between Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism – Algemeiner

The Spirit of ’68 Lives On: Zionism as racism, and the network of lies – Mondoweiss

Posted By on July 21, 2017

This article is the second in a series by Dr. Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi on a federal complaint filed against her, the California State University Board of Trustees, and the San Francisco State University by the Lawfare Project, a self-described legal arm for the pro-Israel community whose executive director affirmed that its objective is to make the enemy pay.

The lawsuit disregards the findings of the University and independent investigator and falsely alleges that San Francisco State University is one of the most anti-Semitic campuses in the country. This series examines the actors and incidents behind the lawsuit.

Zionism as Racism, and the Network of Lies

The Israel lobby has a pattern of exploiting anti-Semitism to sneak in justifications for the unjustifiable Israeli settler-colonial project that has uprooted and displaced Palestinians.

The same logic applies to the totality and the different moving parts of a lawsuit filed against me and the San Francisco State University on June 19, 2017 by the Lawfare Project, a pro-Israel firm that is representing students and other plaintiffs who alleged wrongdoing on the part of the university in a series of events that span nearly three-decadesincidentally, well before I began teaching and the plaintiffs enrolled at SFSU.

The manufactured allegations against me (as well as those against Palestinian students and other student advocates for justice in Palestine who are described in the lawsuit) have already been proven to be just thatunfounded allegations.

While citing two recent incidents which I detail below, the lawsuit throws into the mix the usual misrepresentations, character assassination and outright lies in which Israel apologists have long engaged. The lawsuit relies on questionable and long-discredited sources, citing, for example, the ill-reputed Algemeiner fact-free claim, that-SFSU is one of the top 10 worst campuses in the U.S. for Jewish students.

Yet, the truth has never been a central concern to apologists for Israel who continue to manufacture outright lies and outrageous claims against me, Palestinian students and other advocates for justice in/for Palestine at SFSU campus or elsewhere. This is also not surprising since Israel lobby industry is in the business of covering up Israels colonialism, racism, and apartheid and thus take their lead from the Israeli government which is infamous for its hasbara propaganda as much as it is infamous for killing, detaining, displacing Palestinians and violating their rights.

Israels apologists are aligned with todays right-wing agenda. For example, the lawsuit regurgitates dated and disproved claims against the university made by David Horowitz, an extremist according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, who attacks Movement for Black Lives and the Sanctuary Movement with the same venom with which he attacks advocates for justice in Palestine.

The pro-Israel industry network also takes its cue from its U.S. role model par excellence exemplified by the person of the current occupant of the White House to whom facts are a minor inconvenience that can be countered in a 140 character bullying tweet. Various Zionist groups and individuals have expressed their admiration for Trump despite the influence of anti-Semitic and white supremacist individuals in his administration. This includes Dov Hikind the right-wing Brooklyn member of the NYS Assembly whose anti-Black racism was caught on video. Likewise, the Jewish Defense League (JDL) founded by Meir Kahane, which has been outlawed for its overt racism and violence celebrated the election of Trump and announced plans to publicly resurface. The JDL is accused of orchestrating the murder of Alex Odeh, Arab American activist and West Coast Representative of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) 30 years ago. Israel refuses to extradite the suspected killers of Alex Odeh who are hiding in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. By contrast, our community of justice includes individuals and organizations who have historically and continue to stand for justice in Palestine and everywhere from Jews of Color, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), to the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), to Holocaust survivors such as the late Hajo Meyer, Hedy Epstein, Israel Shahak and many others. There are literally hundreds of dear friends and colleagues who have invested in building the Palestine solidarity movement in general and committed pedagogy and scholarship, in particular in the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies department at SFSU that I head in particular. In a future piece I will expand on how each community has participated in AMED Studies and why such an investment in justice for all makes sense.

Not surprisingly then, most of the citations in the lawsuit are drawn from other discredited members of the same pro-Israel network. In a 2015 report, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) exposed the Lawfare Project and the small but well-connected pro-Israel industry network that is funded by right-wing multi millionaires such as the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, the Bradley Foundation and mega-donor of the Democrat party, Haim Saban. The network also includes the AMCHA Initiative whose discredited director claims African American Studies and Ethnic Studies programs in institutions of higher education help to pave the way for the dramatic increase in campus antisemitism, David Horowitz, Campus Watch, Stand With Us, the Zionist Organization of America, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Middle East Forum, the David Project, the Brandeis Center, Hillels on campuses, the Lawfare Project, and the Anti-Defamation Leagues (ADL). The manufactured allegations against me (as well as those against Palestinian students and other student advocates for justice in Palestine) have already been proven to be just thatunfounded allegations.

Students at UCLA commemorate Israels founding, May 2015. (Photo: Monica Almeida/The New York Times)

The Lawfare Project describes itself as the legal arm of the pro-Israel community. In its June 28th statement, California Scholars for Academic Freedom writes that:

Its director, Brooke Goldstein, has appeared several times on Fox News and other media and has made explicit Islamophobic statements, for example, discrediting the word Islamophobia as a made-up term propagated by the Muslim Brotherhood. She has dismissed concerns around the growing hate speech against Muslims as a dangerous phenomenon. She has denied the very existence of Palestinians, stating, Why are we using the word Palestinian? Theres no such thing as a Palestinian person. Furthering its agenda, the Lawfare Project has also attacked human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The first incident in the complaint focuses on the April 6, 2016, protest of the campus visit of the racist Likud mayor of occupied Jerusalem, Nir Barakat, by a coalition of students from Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian, Jewish and generally anti-war and justice-minded students led by members of the General Union of Palestine Students.

SFSUs response to the protest was to bring an investigator hired by President Wong last spring to look into the Barakat affair. The investigation found that the student protest was against Barakat and targeted Israeli policies but had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. While the investigator found that protesters did disrupt the speech, it also found that it was never clear that the protesting students had been asked to stop the disruption by anyone they knew to be a university official. Equally important the independent investigator also found that SFSU engaged in the selective application of student conduct guidelines by subjecting two Palestinian female students to a hearing for using a bullhorn while not applying the same policy regarding amplified sound to other cases. As SFSU VP for Student Affairs said, during her time at SFSU no student had ever been suspended or expelled for the use of amplified sound. The names, faces, Facebook pages and other information of the two young women along with 4 other student protesters and a former GUPS president at SFSU were placed on the Canary Mission Website and the Palestinian female students were subjected to threats of sexual violence/rape. They sought support from the university but to my knowledge, the only thing the university offered was an escort by the University Police Department that has -systematic harassed faculty and students of color. Saliem Shehadehs excellent thesis (forthcoming Duke University Press) documents this and more brilliantly.

The second incident the lawsuit cites to establish its false allegations zeroes in on the Know Your Rights Fair, that was held on February 28, 2017. Organized by a number of student groups, lecturers and programming staff, whose work calls attention to and struggles for justice for historically marginalized and underrepresented communities, especially communities that have been directly impacted by Trumps presidential campaign and subsequent victory, including Islamophobia, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism, anti-immigrant and undocumented students, and gender and sexual justice. The KYR Ffair was rightly supported by our local chapter of our union, the California Faculty Association, and other colleges and departments. Students took careful care to invite diverse speakers and community organizations whose work to address the urgent issues of the time, especially the Muslim ban, the attack on Sanctuary cities and physical self-defense for targeted Women and Trans persons on college campuses. The organizers of the KYR Fair sought to provide a much-needed service to the campus community on the rights students, faculty, and staff and the ways in which Trump policies might impact those rights. In essence, the student-staff-lecturer coalition stood in for and initiated the much-needed education which the university, as a public institution, should have provided. CSU did issue a statement upon Trumps election in November declaring its opposition to discrimination. That was a good step. Rhetoric, however, needs to be backed up by action. Here, it was SFSU students and faculty who began to organize the KYR Fair over their winter break while the university closed down for the holidays. Various community organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Planned Parenthood, La Raza Centro Legal, ACLU, and Asian Law Caucus were welcomed in the fair. JVPs table was intentionally tabling between GUPS and AMED Studies. As David Spero shows in his article, JVP set up a table, handed out literature and signed up 14 students who expressed interest in forming a local SFSU JVP chapter, including members of SF Hillel. The organizers did not invite Hillel to table at the already overbooked event. The KYR Fair did not exclude Jewish students or community members.

The lawsuit complains about Hillels inability to officially participate as a tabling organization in the KYR Fair. The essential question to me is: On what basis should Hillel have participated in such an activity?

The organizers, prompted by Palestinian students, invited Jewish speakers and organizations. Palestinian students were deliberate and intentional about including Jewish speakers and organizations to underscore the long-held Palestinian belief and practice that our struggle for our liberation has never been against Jews but against the Zionist settler-colonial project that has uprooted and displaced Palestinians from their land, turning them into homeless refugees overnight and that continues to try to erase their existence on their land to this very day. In this, Palestinian students were not following a simplistic formula of bringing US Jews and Indigenous Palestinians together in a photo opportunity to normalize a violent and genocidal colonialism or engage in some superficial kum bayah moment. Historically, it has been a Zionist practice to take photos of Palestinians and then recycle them as evidence that Palestinians, like other colonized and oppressed people, are basking in their colonialism and in fact are grateful to their oppressors for bringing them from the dark ages to the bright sunshine of modernity. This operates for both propaganda purposes as well as making colonists who are on the sidelines feel better about their belonging to groups that benefit from oppression.

Obviously, Palestinians are not the first nor will be the last colonized people who are exploited in this manner. Why does this happen though? Are we so nave to agree to further our own oppression? In my view, there are at least two reasons. First, unfortunately, it is drilled in our psyche to be hospitable and not to say no to polite requests. Not unlike other communities whose members have not been completely atomized into discrete individuals by capitalist relations, we tend to engage in apologizing to those who step on our feet in the New York Subway, push us on the sidewalks or cut us off as we drive. We stop, at least I do, to wonder why did we do this? I always blame it on my mother (RIP) who taught us to be polite. But it also does happen because of an innate special gene colonized communities possess but because the power relations between the colonizers and the colonized tilts in favor of the colonizers in Palestine, the U.S. and everywhere until things change radically and tip the balance. These relationships were challenged by the spirit of 68 that inspires us to resist such colonial relations. Then we begin to tell the stories of liberation and decolonization of the mind (on National Culture) and of the narrative itself. This happened recently during the inquisition of the Know Your Rights Fair: the University investigator would tell the students and faculty under interrogation what he thought he heard them say, or more accurately what his conditioning wanted him to hear them say. He would then proceed to view his interpretation of what he thought he heard as the truth irrespective of what those being interrogated said and despite the fact that they would, again and again, express their frustration and tell him that he did not hear what they said nor accurately interpreted what they meant but rather put his own spin on it. This would have been a comical theatrical performance if it were not for the dangerous outcome that such a setup produces. Here the interrogator comes to the interrogation room with a hegemonic definition of the situation, accepting and not having a reason to question the terms the accusers select for their accusations, when they deliberately use Israel, Jewish State, Jews, Jewishness, Zionism interchangeably. He does this not because he wants to be Islamophobic, anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian as he does not want to be seen nor does he see himself as anti-Black, anti-immigrant, anti-women or anti-queer. He is rather a product of the system who may have gone through one sensitivity workshop if any but may not have had more than a course or two that challenge colonial and racist logic, thus leaving him with no familiarityintimate or otherwisewith Arab and Muslim communities, except what he hears in the media. As he brings in his objective self to interrogate, question, form opinions and prepare his report, his preconceived hegemonic definition of the situation that has been supplied by the institutionally-supported accusers take hold. He retains the power over the whole process. if one of us escapes judgment we consider ourselves lucky because we already know that the system is lopsided and institutional power has no mercy when one is being attacked by those to whom the rules of transparency and accountability do not apply. As Gayatri Spivak asks in her oft-cited essay, Can the Subaltern Speak? In a context where power is heavily tilted in favor of the colonizers and when the media reproduces those hegemonic stories, it does not matter what the subaltern says or means. It only matters what members of the dominant group hear, interpret and reproduce because they will apply that interpretation to outcomes that affect and impact the lives of the dominated. This is exactly whats been going on with this frivolous lawsuit and the reporting by the dominant media and what has been historically happening to Indigenous communities, communities of color, third world communities, the poor and marginalized communities everywhere from 1492 to the present. Volumes have been written and more have been orally passed to younger generations and continue to be experienced every single day. This is why we insist on Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies as a justice-centered project of knowledge production. This is why we engage in the pedagogy of the oppressed and learn and teach how to ethically and responsibly listen and pay attention to the definition of the situation of the marginalized and then subject ourselves to the scrutiny of those from below even if they dont have the power to pursue us and hold us accountable. We simply cannot afford to have it any other way and at the same time expect to survive as communities, let alone thrive and transform our lives.

Flipping the framing of the lawsuit on its head, Why should Hillel be the embodiment of all things Jewish across time, place and contexts? The organizers refused to allow a member of a privileged white group whose members feel entitled to be represented everywhere and anywhere they deem the event to be of interest irrespective of the events goals. Because the organizers dared challenge the status quo, student and faculty organizers have been subjected to systematic interrogation, harassment and administrative retaliation by the university. In this both Hillel and the university frame the fact that Hillel did not have a table at the KYR Fair as anti-Semitic.

Acting as a privileged student group used to gettingtheir way, Hillel demanded and expected to be given whatever it asked for at the Fair, rejecting the Jewish authenticity of Jewish Voice for Peace not only because JVP advocates justice for Palestine but because Hillel believes that it can simply get away with threats and intimidation, irrespective of whether its demands are reasonable or it, fit into the Fair or not, last minute or not. Accepting Hillels definition of the situation that the Know Your Rights Fair was anti-Semitic merely because Hillel could not have a table is in itself an Islamophobic, anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian and racist act. Proceeding to treat the accused as guilty until proven innocent and allowing the propaganda mill to churn and smear the reputation of students who are at the start of their academic careers is a travesty of justice. Why didnt SFSU administrators reject these false allegations outright and instead -institute- an inquisition that screams of all sorts of violations of transparency and impartiality?

Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER-UW), at the University of Washington. (Photo: SUPER-UW/Facebook)

The first and easy answer is that folks almost intuitively respond to charges of anti-Semitism and they should, given the horrible tragedies that Jews, Roma, communists, homosexuals, and the disabled -experienced as a result -the Holocaust-. The question though is if in fact SFSU administrators and staff are horrified by hatred and racism, why does the Administration jump whenever Hillel or the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) (and now joined by Department of Jewish Studies) complain, but does not respond with the same alarm, swiftness or investigation to other racist incidents? Some SFSU administrators and Staff have responded to Hillels false claims regardless whether such complaints are based on reality or contrived to shield Israel under the guise that all Israeli things are Jewish thingsan equation that we and our allies and partners in the Jewish community reject.

In fact, our long and painful experiences of the systematic pattern of Islamophobia, anti-Arab discrimination, and hostility to Palestinians at SFSU show the exact oppositethat it is these same SFSU Administrators and Staff who have encouraged, emboldened and themselves have participated in systematic and persistent Islamophobia, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism. The same applies to incidents of anti-Blackness, white supremacy and anti-immigrant bigotry under the guise of protecting freedom of speech. It is alarming that CSU has put out a PowerpointPower Point Presentation that justifies and excuses the hatred and racism spewed by David Horowitz, Canary Mission and other racist groups as examples of protected speech.

Individuals and groups make choices regarding what to do in the face of oppression and the members of the U.S. Jewish communities are no exception. Hillel, JCRC (and Department of Jewish Studies) at SFSU and in SF Bay Area chose to cynically misuse anti-Semitism to advance white supremacy and maintain power relations as they see that increasing numbers of U.S. Jews are no longer siding with Israel and making their voices heard that Israel does not speak in their name. In this none of these actors are modeling the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the hundreds of young Israelis who say NO every single day to the butchering of Palestinians, nor of Michael Schwerner and Ruth First who were martyred in the U.S. civil rights movement and the South African anti-Apartheid struggle. Instead, I see Hillel, JCRC, and unfortunately the Department of Jewish Studies, as choosing to be seen as todays descendants of the former union head of the United Federation of Teachers, Al Shanker, by covering up Nir Barkats racist policies and by legitimizing a discredited Israeli government that has consistently denied Palestinian rights, instituted a blockade that aims at starving Gazans into submission (another colonial strategy) and waged three wars on the Strip since the AMED Studies program was founded. During the Oceanhill Brownsville struggle (the New York City teachers strike of 1968), Shanker printed anti-Semitic flyers and passed them around as if they were printed by the Black and Puerto Rican parents to discredit the legitimate struggle of parents and the teachers who were demanding community control over the school board and were-aligned with a diverse coalition including Jewish teachers who rejected Shanker and his racism.

Everyone has a choice. As Bishop Tutu said, if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

See the article here:
The Spirit of ’68 Lives On: Zionism as racism, and the network of lies – Mondoweiss

Chicago SlutWalk stands behind Dyke March, bans ‘Zionist displays’ from August protest – Washington Times

Posted By on July 21, 2017

Following the Chicago Dyke Marchs controversial decision to eject pro-Israel participants from last months rally, the SlutWalk march has announced it is also banning Zionist displays from appearing at its August protest.

SlutWalk, which describes itself as a an international movement that fights rape culture, victim blaming, and slut shaming, insisted its decision to ban pro-Israel displays during its Aug. 12 march at Lake Shore Park is a decision rooted in anti-Zionism, not anti-Semitism.

We still stand behind @DykeMarchChis decision to remove the Zionist contingent from their event, & we wont allow Zionist displays at ours, the Chicago SlutWalk Twitter account tweeted.

Asked if Jewish marchers will be protected during the demonstration, the account tweeted, all participants will be well protected, so ppl making Zionist or any other similarly nationalist, imperialist displays will be ejected.

The news comes several weeks after the Chicago Dyke March ejected three pro-LGBT, pro-Israel marchers who were reportedly waving flags with the Star of David superimposed over the LGBT rainbow. Despite facing backlash from several Jewish groups, the Dyke March defended its decision to eject the marchers, saying the marchers had repeatedly expressed support for Zionism and made people feel unsafe, Breitbart News reported.

SlutWalk defended the Dyke March in several tweets this week, explaining that its not the Star of David thats offensive, but that the marchers refused to back down from their pro-Israel beliefs.

[T]he people carrying the flags in question were altering chants to remove the word Palestine, the account tweeted. [A]fter Palestinian participants expressed discomfort the people were asked what was up, & it became clear they were zionists & there 2 troll.

The group in question was ejected by a coalition of Jewish & Palestinian anti-zionists BECAUSE THEY WERE ZIONISTS, it added.

Read the rest here:
Chicago SlutWalk stands behind Dyke March, bans ‘Zionist displays’ from August protest – Washington Times

Haymarket Books’ plan to buy Chicago mansion is latest battleground over Zionism/anti-Zionism – Mondoweiss

Posted By on July 21, 2017

Mansion at 800 West Buena Avenue that Haymarket Books seeks to buy for its headquarters. Photo by Liz Rose.

Once again, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism have been conflated, and this time its in the Windy City.

Haymarket Books, the left-leaning Chicago-based publishing company, is under contract to purchase property for its new offices in an old mansion in Chicagos Buena Park neighborhood on the north side, but it had to get a zoning variance to buy the building. The Center for Economic Research and Social Change (CERSC)Haymarkets parentwas listed as the applicant. CERSC is also the fiscal sponsor of Mondoweiss, which some residents argued is an anti-Semitic website. You can read about the controversy in here, and in the Chicago Reader, here. Writing about ourselves is tricky, because we are obviously biased, but the politics surrounding the variance are our issue, and for that reason I followed the deal closely and went to a couple of meetings in the neighborhood.

The controversy apparently ended yesterday in victory for Haymarket. A referendum of the buildings neighbors approved the purchase; and it is expected that officials will heed the local vote in further actions on the variance application.

The mansion is at 800 West Buena Avenue. Haymarket needs a special-use permit for the site to be able to host author readings and other events in the mansion. Anyone purchasing the building for any reason other than a single-family home would need this same permit. When the purchase became controversial five weeks ago, Alderman James Cappleman decided to give his decision on the permit to neighbors, and limited voting to the 500 or so people who live within 250 feet of the property.

Voting ended Tuesday, and yesterday the results were announced: 50 to 30 in favor of the special use permit (with another 220 people voting who were deemed to be outside the perimeter).

Tomorrow, July 21, Capplemans office said he will recommend approving the permit at a meeting of Chicagos Zoning Board of Appeals. (His full press release is below.)

The controversy began in earnest at a June 14 meeting in the Buena Park neighborhood to answer questions about Haymarkets plans as it applied for the special use permit needed to close on the property. At this meeting, some community members accused Mondoweiss of being an anti-Semitic website. Behzad Raghian, Haymarkets financial director, and Julie Fain, Haymarkets managing editor, responded.

According to the July 17 Chicago Reader report on the controversy, the issue pivots on the belief that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism:

The opposition, which Raghian estimates was less than half of the people present [at the June 14 meeting], was loud and vehement. Raghian and Julie Fain, Haymarkets managing editor, tried to answer questions and explain Mondoweisss position and that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism were not the same thing. Im Jewish and Im also anti-Zionist, Fain told one of the protesters. The protester responded, Theres a term for that: self-hating Jew.

It became clear at this meeting that the issue isnt only about zoning and special permits. Its about efforts to silence any type of criticism of Israel, or anti-Zionist thinking. But objecting to CERSCs ideas made this a free speech issue, of course, and CERSC evidently had a lot of support on these grounds.

Last week, on July 11, a second hearing was held to answer questions about the special permit. The opposition now claimed the issue was one of zoning concerns in the neighborhood, involving gentrification and corporations. Mondoweiss was mentioned only once at that meeting. Rather than focus on issues of free speech as opponents did at the earlier meeting, a few opponents asked specific questions about parking, numbers of people at evening events, and wondering what exactly neighbors would see happening in the building.

Fain replied that people would literally see readings, offices with computers, staff who are editing books.

One neighbor stood up and read a letter he had written. He said he has been in the generational neighborhood for 30 years. We want to preserve a residential neighborhood, he said. This is a big corporation. Publishing houses are not qualified to be residential.

A woman then told the crowd that the gentleman had recently put his house up for sale (!), essentially nullifying his argument against Haymarket moving in.

At the same time, a number of residents came out to back Haymarket. One supporter reminded everyone that Haymarket Books is not a large corporation, but a small, left-leaning, independent publisher. This isnt Random House, one person said.

Raghian also gave a sense of Haymarkets character. Were a publishing company, he said. We want to provide opportunities for our authors to discuss the ideas in their books. Raghian emphasized Haymarkets desire to work with the community. Wed love to meet with people who want to talk about what the impact would be, he said. The last thing we want to be is a bad neighbor.

A high school history teacher who lives in the neighborhood mentioned Haymarkets excellent reputation. This is the type of publishing company that I look for when Im looking for material for my students, he said. As a high school English teacher, I feel the same.

Behzad Raghian (second from left) and Julie Fain (center) at July 11 meeting. Man at left represented buildings seller, the Menomonee Club. Photo by Liz Rose.

The reception for Haymarket has been overwhelmingly positive; its commitment to working closely with the Buena Park community was obvious. The integrity and class the Haymarket folks have shown over the last few weeks has been impressive. Its a clear indication of how they run their press. Its outrageous that theyve had to defend themselves from a few zealous Israel-supporters who are stoking fear, and trying to limit ideas.

Im reminded that when I was a Zionist I didnt have to look far for news and books that would perpetuate my pro-Israel thinking. I claimed victim space, too, when my ideals were threatened and the criticism was beyond my understanding. All I knew was to defend, be a victim, and dig in my heels when I was scared. I didnt know, of course, that the pro-Israel community was churning away to make sure that idealistic young people like me would fall in love with Israel and defend it at all costs.

With the worldview I have now as someone who is very critical of Zionism, it seems impossible that I didnt know that at the time. And understanding now what individuals have to undergo to try to undo this mythos makes a publishing company like Haymarket all the more vital. And frankly, as a former Zionist turned anti-Zionist, the world could use more discussions about Zionism and anti-Zionism, not less.

Ali Abunimah, a Haymarket author, at meet-and-greet at the mansion Haymarket Books seeks to buy in Chicago. July 10. Photo by Liz Rose.

We picked this building because we fell in love with it, Raghian said. Thats it.

In large print on Capplemans website, in quotes, a message from the alderman says, Im proud to represent one of the most diverse and vibrant wards in the City of Chicago. Toward the end of the meeting, another neighbor said, If this purchase doesnt go through, its going to make the neighborhood look awful. It will not look like a place of cultural diversity.

Cappleman already shifted from support of the purchase to handing off his decision to the neighborhood because of the controversy. But his announcement yesterday affirmed the values so many in his community stood up for.

While many viewed the politics of this organization as controversial, their community meetings would meet the very same criteria that any Chicago public library uses for allowing such events. In addition, the value of diversity that so many residents desire is reinforced when differing political beliefs are tolerated and respected.

We look forward to the Zoning Board hearing tomorrow where Cappleman will make his recommendation to the board to move forward with the sale.

Alderman James Cappleman from his twitter feed.

Here is Alderman Capplemans full statement:


At the request of Buena Park Neighbors, Ald. Cappleman held a series of community meetings to discuss a special use zoning variance for the Center for Economic Research & Social Change(with Haymarket Books) which would allow a community center within the building located at 800 W. Buena). This location currently has a special use variance for a community center, but a new one is required for a new organization. The residents within 250 of this proposal voted 50 in favor and 30 not in favor for this special use variance, and the results of this vote were affirmed by an overwhelming support of residents outside the 250 range. Ald. Cappleman supports this decision because the concerns of the neighbors regarding parking and congestion issues were adequately addressed by having parking available at both Brennemann and Disney Schools and the limited number of evening events they normally host. This special use also helps to protect the historic nature of this home. While many viewed the politics of this organization as controversial, their community meetings would meet the very same criteria that any Chicago public library uses for allowing such events. In addition, the value of diversity that so many residents desire is reinforced when differing political beliefs are tolerated and respected. Ald. Cappleman will work with this organization and the local neighbors to create a Good Neighbor Agreement so that the organizations events do not put an undue hardship on the surrounding residents.

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Haymarket Books’ plan to buy Chicago mansion is latest battleground over Zionism/anti-Zionism – Mondoweiss

Schumer and Macron equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism so as … – Mondoweiss

Posted By on July 21, 2017

New York Senator Chuck Schumer. (Photo: Sarah E)

The big news now is the draconian anti-BDS legislation in US Congress, threatening to make support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions a federal crime,entailing a possible maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and20 years in prison, which Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim have brought to the forefront of attention yesterday in their articleat The Intercept.

But there are other machinations at work, beyond the legislative ones. These involve the grand ideological campaigns of demonization, meant to manufacturemoral consent to this onslaught which threatens to rip the American constitution and its 1st Amendment apart all in the name of Israeli exceptionalism.

Last Monday, Senate minority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is also a major supporter of theanti-BDS legislation,diverted from his Senate speech on health care, to address anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and BDS.

Schumer, whom the Forward regards as currently the highest ranking Jew in government, repeatedly plays on his own last name, which in Hebrew means guardian (more accurately phonetically spelled SHOMER), calling himself a guardian of Israel. As Rabbi Avi Weiss wrote in The Hill in 2015:

Over and over hed say he will always be a guardian of Israel.

Indeed,Schumer has called himself a Shomer Yisrael and said that God had given him this name.

Schumers focus on his name and its relevance to Israel refers indirectly to Psalms 121:4: Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

So what did this divine guardian of Israel actually say on the Senate floor?

Schumer presented a three-stage rhetorical rocket, ultimately aimed at stifling critique of Israel. It started out with a historical summation of anti-Semitism:

Anti-Semitism is a word that has been used throughout history when Jewish people are judged and measured by one standard and the rest by another. When everyone else was allowed to farm and Jews could not; when anyone else could live in Moscow and Jews could not; when others could become academics or tradesmen and Jews could not. The word to describe all of these acts is anti-Semitism.

Lets pause there. Anyone who is but slightly aware of the US double standard in favor of Israel, would already realize just how problematic his opening statement is. Measured on the face of it, one could immediately conclude that Schumer, an ardent proponent of Israeli protectionism, is either an anti-Semite himself, or that when the double standard goes in favor of Israel, it simply doesnt matter. Then, if we apply the word Palestinians instead of Jews, we actually get a frighteningly relevant (even if not totally precise) description of discriminationby Jews against non-Jews Palestinians for the most, in the name of the Jewish state.

So where is Schumer taking this? Indeed, to address anti-Zionism:

So it is with anti-Zionism; the idea that all other peoples can seek and defend their right to self-determination but Jews cannot; that other nations have a right to exist, but the Jewish state of Israel does not, he said.

Once again, put Palestinians instead of Jews, Palestine instead of Israel, and you have another frightening description.

But theres a whole lot of rhetorical mish-mash here. Yes, people have a right to self determination, but that does not equal statehood. So is Schumer talking about people, a nation or a state? Indeed, Schumer is throwing in all three. This is a problem not only because of the aforementioned self-determination issue. When Schumer says nations, we have to remember that Israel does not recognize an Israeli nationality. By Israeli internal and official definitions, there is no such thing as an Israeli nation. For Israel, there is a Jewish nation, and it is a Jewish State, but not an Israeli nation.

So how does Schumer get through this notion to make it applicable to Israel as a state? He says the Jewish State of Israel. Thus the guardian of Israel pays tribute to the Nation State of the Jewish People, a concept that Israel is currently arduously working to cement as one of its quasi-constitutional basic laws. The bill on this one is just another form of Apartheid with a veil, meant to cement Israels institutionally criminal policies, just as the basic law concerning Jerusalem cemented the unilateral and illegal annexation of East-Jerusalem. So Schumer uses the conflation of people, nation and state to arrive at the famous claim concerning denial of Israels right to exist.

The question is not about an absolute right to exist, because no such right exists. (As Ben White has noted.) The question is exist as what? Schumers conflation takes the Jewish self-determination, translating it to nation (which is a Zionist notion that many Jews vehemently contest see for example the late British minister Edwin Montagu). The extraterritorial nation is then compared to other nations (generally meaning states), and then we arrive at the Jewish State of Israel.

The upshot of all this is, that Israel should ostensibly have a right to exist as a Jewish State, come what may. Even if Israels policies are discriminatory, even if it enacts crimes against humanity (such as Apartheid) in the name of this right to exist any opposition to the basic construct or to the state policy is deemed discriminatory.

This leads to the ground zero, towards which Schumers rhetorical missile is aimed BDS:

The global BDS movement is a deeply biased campaign that I would say, in similar words to Mr. Macron, is a reinvented form of anti-Semitism because it seeks to impose boycotts on Israel and not on any other nation, Schumer said.

Its interesting to see what it is exactly that Schumer is referring to. He is referring to Frances Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, who said on Sunday, during a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, that

we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.

He did not say anything about BDS in this particular context, although he has earlier expressed his opposition to BDS as a form of anti-Semitism.

Schumer is not far off the mark with Macron, but he does exploit the statement somewhat disingenuously.Yet refined or not, its all fuel for Schumers rocket against BDS. This is the aim, this is the target, and we should not miss it in our awareness. All of this rhetoric conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism is ultimately construed in order to avert popular, peaceful and democratic grassroots protest against Israels discriminatory policies and multiple violations of international law.

Two days ago, Professor Katherine Franke of Columbia Law School, published an exquisite piece in the Boston Globe, titled Boycotts are an essential form of democratic protest dont ban them.Here she is referring specifically to a hearing set for this week by the Massachusetts legislature, on a bill that aims to punish supporters of political boycotts.

Whats really behind this measure is a desire to punish people or groups that have endorsed a boycott of Israel or of companies that profit from Israels denial of Palestinians human rights.

In her analysis, Franke provides a historical appraisal of US boycotts tracing back to 1760s (even pertaining to Massachusetts), noting how in more recent history, the Supreme Court found bans on political boycotts unconstitutional. In other words, Franke shows how the Massachusetts legislature is singling Israel out, in order to protect it from boycotts, and in so doing eroding its own constitutional tradition. By Schumers first mentioned statement, this could be said to be rather anti-Semitic

So Schumer takes his cue from Macron, who also conflated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Who did Macron take his cue from? It is hard to tell if it came directly from Israels anti-BDS task-force, the efforts of which were particularly upped last year, with officials regarding it as a kind of military operation, or whether he just came up with it from his own volition. But Macron doesnt really need to be threatened. France is after all a global leader and model in legislation against BDS, and Macron has made himself very clear on this, saying that

France has already condemned boycotting Israel, and I have no intention of changing this position.

There is perhaps a significance here in regard to the fact that both Macron and Schumer represent certain centrist-liberal politics, as opposed to right-wing. They are the centrists who are very important for Israel to have defend them and fight BDS, so that protectionism of Israel does not appear to be a mere pet project of far-right politicians and ideologues, as it has increasingly become. Because the fact that Israels far right government is aligning with far right and sometimes downright anti-Semitic forces is becoming somewhat of a challenge to its narrative that it is a kind of national shield against anti-Semitism.

When looking at huge Christian-Zionist organisations such as John Hagees Christian United for Israel (CUFI), we are talking about a firmly anti-Semitic ideology. As Ben Norton summed it up,

the reason CUFI so obsessively and blindly defends Israel is not because they care about Jews (who, in their mind, will face eternal damnation unless they renounce their religion and become Christians) but rather because they genuinely believe the world is on the verge of total annihilation and the Bible supposedly tells them they must do so.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has enthusiastically supported the group, and has spoken at several of their annual summits.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu arrived in Hungary to meet Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has recently praised the Nazi-collaborator Hungarian leader Miklos Horthy, and ran a massive campaign against Jewish Hungarian-born billionaire Georg Soros, with anti-Semitic undertones serving an anti-immigrant agenda. At first, Israels ambassador to Hungary, Yossi Amrani, condemned the billboard campaign, saying it invoked sad memories but also sows hatred and fear. But a day later, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem issued a clarification, reportedly at Netanyahus behest, which states that while Israel deplores anti-Semitism and supports Jewish communities in confronting this hatred, criticism of Soros was legitimate:

In no way was the statement meant to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israels democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself, the Foreign Ministry stated.

So yes, Soros is Jewish and theres that anti-Semitism thing, but more importantly, hes critical of Israel, and thus guilty of defaming it. Denying Israel the right to protect itself is a kind of military jargon version of challenging Israels right to exist. So thats the cardinal sin, really being critical of Israeli policy.

Butnow everything is alright again. Orban promised to take down the Soros campaign before Netanyahu arrived, and Netanyahu gave him the signal that in the end, whats important is that they were seeing eye to eye on Soros and his ilk, and thats a message about BDS too. Now Orban is also paying the necessary lip tax, saying that Hungary will, after all, protect Hungarys Jews. Orban also promises Zero tolerance towards Anti-Semitism. On a good day, that is.

As Chemi Shalev wrote in Haaretz, in Netanyahus World, George Soros Politics Justify Throwing Him to Hungarys anti-Semitic Dogs.

It seems that for Israel, its not really that important if the good-old-fashioned anti-Semitism exists. Its not about what people say about this or that Jew. If that Jew represents a view that is critical of Israeli policy, opposes it or God forbid even dares to question its Zionist essence, then thats the big anti-Semitism.

Those Jews are thus self-haters, because they challenge the Jewish State. And as David Ben-Gurion said in 1938,

If I knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, and only half by transferring them to the Land of Israel, I would choose the latter, for before us lies not only the numbers of these children but the historical reckoning of the people of Israel.

So if we could sacrifice half of the children of Germany for the Jewish state, whats the big deal with sacrificing a Soros here or some other self-hating Jew there? Whats the big deal if we rip up the 1st Amendment for the sake of Israel? Its all for the greater good. And theres always a Schumer there to keep watch and guard Israel. But will Schumer also guard his own countrys constitution? Or is that perhaps not part of the mission that was bestowed upon him by God the almighty?

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Schumer and Macron equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism so as … – Mondoweiss

After Dyke March Scandal, SlutWalk Chicago Bans ‘Zionist Displays … – Algemeiner

Posted By on July 21, 2017

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A Palestinian flag flies at Chicagos 2017 Dyke March, where Jewish participants were excluded. Photo: Screenshot.

After the scandalinvolving the ejection of Jewish women carrying Star of David pride flags at Chicagos Dyke March on June 28, asisterorganization in the city has announced that it will follow suit by banning Zionist displays from its upcoming protest against sexual violence and rape culture.

The ban was announced this week on social media by the organizers of SlutWalk Chicago part of an international protest movement that fights rape culture, victim blaming, and slut shaming. The Chicago event is set to take place on August 12.

We still stand behind Dyke March Chicagos decision to remove the Zionist contingent from their event, & we wont allow Zionist displays at ours, the organizers tweeted last Sunday beginning several days of exchanges with other users over the policy. These were distinguished by theorganizerscontinued insistence that anti-Zionism is a legitimate progressive belief, and that any linkage with antisemitism should be dismissed as a discrediting tactic.

July 21, 2017 1:33 pm

In one exchange defending the Dyke March decision to exclude the Jewish women, the SlutWalk organizers aggressively justified theaction, declaring: They were kicked out after a discussion where they made their Zionist beliefs known and refused to back down.

The Star of David flag was banned, they continued, because its connections to the oppression enacted by Israel is too strong for it to be neutral & IN CONTEXT it was used as a Zionist symbol.

Many of the exchanges underscored the degree to which Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) a Rockefeller Brothers Fund-backed organization that promotesthe BDS campaign against Israel among American Jews is involved in enforcing the exclusion of Zionist individuals and groups from the protest movement.

Both the Dyke March and SlutWalk Chicago have referred to their relationships with JVPin order to justify the exclusion policy, with the Dyke March praising one the organizations representatives in Chicago for assisting them in expelling the Jewish women. In another Twitter post, SlutWalk Chicagodescribed Jewish Voice for Peace as a Jewish initiative that attracts the support of other radical Chicago organizations.

Anew report on JVP issued on Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) observed that in recent months, the group has taken increasingly radical positions and has employed questionable tactics in pursuit of its mission to diminish support for Israel.

JVPs tactics, the ADL said, include harassment of pro-Israel LGBTQ activists as evidenced at the Chicago Dyke March and at the Celebrate Israel rally in New York on June 4.

It is perfectly legitimate to criticize Israeli policies, the ADL commented. But JVPs single-minded desire to paint Israel as a source of racism and violence has led it far beyond legitimate criticism of Israel.

JVP has also turned on American Jews who are not deemed supportive enough of JVPs agenda, the ADL warned.

Gretchen Rachel Hammond the Chicago journalist who broke the story of the exclusion of the Jewish women and was subsequently suspended from reporting duties by her employer, the Windy City Times, as revealed by The Algemeiner said on Thursday that the SlutWalk organizers announcement was further evidence of jumping on the anti-Zionist bandwagonamong rights advocates who were never involvedwith Middle Eastern conflicts in the past.

I covered the Dyke March and the SlutWalk for three years, Hammond said in an interview. They were characteristically Chicago marches, courageous and taking the issues on in a direct manner. Like rape, the treatment of transgender people by the police, womens imprisonment, the legalization of sex work that helps people survive. I never saw any anti-Zionism.

Hammond said she was concerned that by doing this again, they will exclude people who are allies.

We are fighting for these causes in a tough society, and if youre a transgender person, you need all the allies you can get, she asserted. If your allies are only those who are ideologically acceptable to you, then your message will be weakened.

Hammond also talked about the personal cost of resistinganti-Zionist orthodoxies in the current climate. In the wake of her report and subsequent suspension, she received several threatening messages. Hammond said shealso incurred the disapproval of colleagues when she argued fiercely that the Windy City Times should give equal space to post-march statements from the Dyke March Collective and pro-Israel LGBTQ group A Wider Bridge on this as well, she was overruled.

This was the first time in four years of journalism Id been attacked in such a coordinated way and I retreated into self-blameand self-doubt, she said.

I know that being attacked as a journalist is an occupational hazard, but its one thing if youre taking it from opponents, and quite something else when it comes from a community to whom you have dedicated your life, Hammondreflected.

Excerpt from:
After Dyke March Scandal, SlutWalk Chicago Bans ‘Zionist Displays … – Algemeiner

Hagaon HaRav David Yosef Calls To Prevent Removal Of Talmud Torah Sanhedrin – Yeshiva World News

Posted By on July 21, 2017

HaGaon HaRav David Yosef, a member of Shas Moetzas Gedolei Yisrael, called on Shas Jerusalem councilmen to oppose the planned eviction of the Sephardi Sanhedrin Talmid Torah to make more room for the Seminar HaYoshon as planned. While there is no alternate venue for the talmid torah, city officials plan to remove it to address serious overcrowding in the Beis Yaakov.

The rav explained this would never occur to a school in the Bnei Yosef Shas-affiliated education network, adding However, we must feel responsible for all Sephardim.

Rav Yosef, who is currently in New York, spoke to the necessary officials from there in the hope of Shas elected officials preventing this from occurring. He concluded this is yet another proof for the need for a strong Shas-affiliated network, as everyone realizes if the school was affiliated with Bnei Yosef, this would not be taking place.

(YWN Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

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Hagaon HaRav David Yosef Calls To Prevent Removal Of Talmud Torah Sanhedrin – Yeshiva World News

Take Whatever Opportunity You Can to Study Torah – Algemeiner

Posted By on July 21, 2017

A scene from Doing Jewish: A Story From Ghana. Photo: Screenshot.

Following the loss of itsAmerican colonies in 1783, Great Britain was forced to find alternative locations for its various colonial enterprisesone of which was the mass deportation of convicts to penal colonies in distant geographic locations. Historians estimate that approximately 50,000 convicts were dispatched to colonial America during the decades before American independence amounting to at least one quarter of all British immigrants to America during the 18th century.

Serendipitously, the loss of the American colonies coincided with the formal colonization by Great Britain of a large landmass in the Southern Hemisphere called Australia. The first shipment of British convicts arrived there in 1788, and by the time that the convicts had landed there 80years later, the total number of convicts who had been sent to Australia numbered an astounding 162,000 men and women.

The popular myth is that all real Australians are descended from these convicts. Although this notion is a misconception for reasons beyond the scope of this article, I have nonetheless always wondered why so few of these people went back home? Why would they have stayed in Australia, a vast prison country thousands of miles from home? Did they not have families to go back to?

July 21, 2017 1:29 pm

I decided to research the topic. The answer, I discovered, is rather more prosaic and straightforward than I had imagined. For most of these convicts, returning to England was not an optioneither because their freedom was limited to Australia, or because they were unable to afford the passage home. In any event, Australia offered them greater opportunity, particularly as their prospects back home as former convicts was quite limited. In short, staying in Australia was the better option, even if in a perfect world they really desired to get back home.

The reason I was drawn to this subject was a curious Talmudic source based on a verse in the Torah portion of Massei. The subject under discussion is someone convicted of the biblical version of manslaughter. This inadvertent murderer is compelled to live out his days in a city of refugeostensibly to escape the life-threatening intentions of vengeful family members of his victim.

This kind ofexile was not, strictly speaking, a life sentence. There was one event that enabled the convicted killer to go back homeif the presiding High Priest of Jerusalems Temple died (Num. 35:28): for he must remain in the city of his refuge until the death of the High Priest.

The Talmud (Mak. 2:6) records an extraordinary consequence of this exile law: the mothers of the priests provided food and clothes [to the residents of cities of refuge], so they would not pray for their sons to die.

The sages of the Gemara who expound on the Mishna were more concerned as to why the death of a High Priest would be the mandated trigger for the freedom of a convicted killer; they ignored the reference to attempts by his mother to mitigate the situation, leaving this for later commentators to reflect upon.

The question that particularly occupied me the one that led me to the Australian convicts phenomenon was this: did the High Priests mother really believe that someone whose freedom had been curtailed would be swayed by some home-baked pies and a scarf to drop their natural desire to be free and return home? I understand that desperate situations call for desperate measures, and of course a mother will try anything to protect her child but that is hardly a sound reason for her actions to be included in a Talmudic discussion about the law.

The enigmatic Hasidic leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1859), is purported to have once told his followers that when he prayed for them not to sin, it wasnt their sinning that concerned him. Rather, it was the fact that they had the time to sin. He prayed that their schedules should be so packed with Torah study and the performance of mitzvot, that there would simply be no time left for them to sin.

One of the ironies of the cities of refuge was that they were centers of Torah study. In addition to the fact that they were led by the Levite tribe, who were the Torah scholars of the nation, the Talmud saidthat each convict needed to bring his rabbi with himand, if necessary, his scholarly colleaguesso that his Torah study would not suffer as a result of his conviction and exile.

Whatever we are to make of this quite incredible requirement, it certainly reinforces the idea that Torah education can never be abandoned, or shunted aside even if someone is forced to live in a city of refuge. Rather than treat the forced relocation as a personal disaster, it must be viewed as an opportunity.

The mothers gifts of food and clothing may or may not have made a difference to the lifespan of her son, but its inclusion in the Talmud conveys the idea that prolonging a convicts time in the city of refuge was a positive thingan opportunity to spend more time in a positive Torah-infused environment. The message is subtle but simple: if an opportunity for Torah study opens up, however incongruous it may seem to be, dont waste it.

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Take Whatever Opportunity You Can to Study Torah – Algemeiner

Rabbi Zlotowitz of ArtScroll: Rebbe and Chaver to Thousands – Jewish Link of New Jersey

Posted By on July 21, 2017

Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, zl

As we are about to mark the Shloshim of Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz zl, the founder of ArtScroll, who was born in New York City in 1943 and passed away on June 24, 2017, at age 73, it is appropriate to consider how much ArtScroll has impacted our community and to note some of its history.

Imagine a member of the community who wakes up at 5 every morning to learn Daf Yomi from an ArtScroll Gemara. Its clear translations and layout, its detailed explanations on the page as well as in the footnotes, and its pictures and diagrams, help the modern learner envision the realia of the Talmudic world and enable him or her to enjoy the learning and feel a sense of accomplishment. The ArtScroll Gemara has increased Gemara study significantly by removing linguistic and cultural barriers. One can safely say (as the New York Times did in an obituary for R. Zlotowitz) that the Daf Yomi movement would have never reached its current proportions without the ArtScroll Gemara.

The idea for the ArtScroll Gemara was born in 1982 when Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky suggested it. In The Creation of the Schottenstein Edition of the Talmud Bavli, a booklet ArtScroll published in 2005, the editors reminisced, Smiling, the Rosh Yeshiva [Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky] asked when we would begin elucidating the Talmud. The first volume (Makkot) was published in 1990. It was wildly popular. Within nine months after the inaugural volume came out, they were already up to their third printing. The editors continued, After fifteen years, seventy-three volumes, 35,000 pages, infinite hours of arduous intellectual effort, and countless prayers that Hashem bless the effort with accuracy and success, the Schottenstein Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, 73 volumes, was completed in 2004.

Let us return to our hypothetical community member, who is ready to daven Shacharit after finishing the daf. He or she chooses the ArtScroll siddur, whose layout and font are pleasing to the eye and whose translations, comments and instructions help him or her better understand and properly recite the words that the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah wrote so many years ago. The ArtScroll siddur came out in 1984 and is now ubiquitous in Orthodox shuls.

ArtScroll did not just enhance the daily siddur. The company also published machzorim for all the holidays of the year, most importantly Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Furthermore, their editions of Kinot and Selichot have transformed the Tisha BAv and Yamim Noraim experience. What could have been a meaningless jumble of words was transformed into an inspirational and meaningful text. In addition, every Shabbat the Torah reading is enhanced by the ArtScroll Stone Chumash, which only came out in 1993, yet is now found in most shuls as the standard Chumash.

ArtScrolls meteoric rise in popularity began with the 1976 publication of its translation and commentary on Megillat Esther, written by Rabbi Zlotowitz himself. Rabbi Zlotowitz was a graphic artist, skilled printer and businessman, but together with that he was also clearly an incredible talmid chacham. Until 1976 he ran a small printing company that published brochures, ketubot, etc. Although the Megillat Esther publication was planned as a one-time memorial edition, it ended up selling about 45,000 copies, an amount that astonished ArtScroll at first, but then made them realize that they shouldnt have been surprised at all. People were thirsty to learn and understand Torah, but there was a language barrier. From then on, ArtScroll realized they had a mission.

In this spirit, ArtScroll has published not only a translation of the entire Babylonian Talmud, but is also currently working on completing the Jerusalem Talmud. They have published their wildly popular edition of Rashis commentary on the Torah, as well as the Rambans commentary, Midrash Rabbah and many other Torah commentaries. One of the unique aspects of ArtScrolls translation work is that they translate the primary text differently based on which commentary they are translating on the bottom of the page.

It is truly possible to become a learned Jew just from using the resources that ArtScroll provides. From yeshiva high school students working on their textual skills to newly learning baalei teshuva, many people can say that Rabbi Zlotowitz was and still is their rebbi and teacher. As one baal teshuva wrote in a letter to Hamodia on July 5, 2017, I think I can confidently speak for thousands of Jews who were not zocheh to a Torah chinuch but who now learn Gemara, Mishnayos, halachos, the parsha, etc. in saying that Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, zl, was our rebbi ArtScroll has been more successful than any kiruv organization in bringing me to authentic Judaism. ArtScrolls ouvre will continue to teach and serve as an important resource beyond the authors lifetimes.

ArtScroll does not just translate, annotate and elucidate existing texts. It also produces original works such as gedolim biographies and their Jewish History series. In these works as well as in their Torah commentaries, ArtScroll has a very clear goal: to enhance yirat Shamayim. In his obituary for Rabbi Zlotowitz, Rabbi Nosson Scherman, the general editor of ArtScroll, wrote about his business partner of 41 years, If a book contained even minimal content that could taint the readers fear of Hashem, he would reject it out of hand, even though he knew the book would be a great commercial success. (From an obituary published in the Flatbush Jewish Journal, June 29, 2017.)

Some people have attacked ArtScroll for having an agenda, and perhaps some of the editorial decisions ArtScroll has made can be legitimately criticized. However, as a community we should not lose sight of the unparalleled, incredibly positive and worthwhile contributions that ArtScroll and Rabbi Zlotowitz have made to our intellectual and spiritual lives. They have truly offered everyone a chance to fulfill the advice of Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Perachia, Knei lecha chaver, acquire for yourself a friend (Pirkei Avot 1:6). Rashi explains that it doesnt just mean another human being, but it can also be referring to a sefer with which one can spend productive time learning Torah. ArtScroll has given everyone a truly beautiful chaver with which to learn.

By Sara Schapiro

Bergenfields Sara Schapiro is a recent graduate of Maayanot Yeshiva High School for girls and an incoming freshman at Stern College for Women. She is a Jewish Link summer intern.

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Rabbi Zlotowitz of ArtScroll: Rebbe and Chaver to Thousands – Jewish Link of New Jersey

Turkish protesters throw rocks at Istanbul synagogue over Temple … – The Jerusalem Post mobile website

Posted By on July 21, 2017


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