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Coronavirus: Here is what Israels schools could look like in Sept. 2020 – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 3, 2020

Despite the desire for a full return to routine in the fall, as schools closed this week and summer camps opened, the Education Ministry disseminated to administrators the first part of a coronavirus strategic plan for the upcoming school year.The analysis of the present-day reality requires us to prepare for a school year in the shadow of coronavirus, wrote former Education Ministry director-general Shmuel Abuhav, who prepared the report as he was preparing to step down from his role.The plan requires schools to prepare for three scenarios: a full closure closing all schools or a single school due to infection; an integrated model combining distance and frontal learning; and a coronavirus routine operating schools under the full list of Health Ministry directives.The system experienced all these scenarios in the past year, wrote Abuhav. Weve been down this path and now we have to learn, improve and plan based on that experience We are aware of the time constraints.The document calls on schools to plan to be flexible in 2020 and to understand that unlike in previous years, the guidelines will not be published in one document but could be rolled out over time through various platforms. As part of the flexible planning process for the next school year, the ministry is asking schools to 1) identify lessons learned from the first wave, 2) identify strengths and areas of improvement and 3) identify work mechanisms and processes that require designing or improvement.Map the gaps in student abilities, learning habits and knowledge levels to create a program that can function next year, the document instructs. Sharpen the schools compass, prioritizing the schools main objectives Prepare for various scenarios and create action plans for each of them.At the same time, it recommends evaluating the ability of the educational staff, including their proficiency in the use of digital tools for distance learning and their ability to handle the emotional challenges of teaching under the shadow of corona.The ministry has been preparing for a full set of online professional development tools, the report states.Finally, it calls on schools to come up with a school-parent communication plan. Even if distance learning is instituted, schools will be required to maintain a minimum amount of hours of learning per day and per week in all subjects. The ministry divided the curriculum into clusters by type of school secular, religious, Arab and Druze. Compulsory or core curriculum content makes up 70% of studies, with the other 30% for enrichment subjects. For example, secular elementary school students are required to learn between 29 and 32 hours per week depending on the grade. In first grade, 15 hours should be spent on language, heritage, society and spirit. Eight hours should be spent on culture and lifestyle and six on math and science. A similar breakdown exists for religious first graders, except in those schools, five hours is to be allotted to Jewish studies, reducing language, heritage, society and spirit studies to 12 hours and culture and lifestyle to six.During negotiations earlier this year between the Education Ministry and theTeachers' Association of Israel and Teachers Union, an agreement was made that an hour of distance learning would be paid equivalent to an hour of classroom learning. Finally, the ministry notes that maintaining the health and well-being of students in the education system is a key element of distance-learning, which must be especially emphasized during the period of coronavirus. Special emphasis should be placed on day-to-day conduct and school routines, the report concluded.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also made recommendations about how to design schools in the coming year. At a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset last month, he said that he would encourage schools to partition the desks with plexiglass dividers in the fall, based on a recommendation by the National Security Council.At the end of the 19-20 school year, a battle between over when the last day of school would be for students erupted between the ministry and the association and union. The ministry wanted teachers to work an extra nine days to help make up for the days missed when schools closed at the peak of the pandemic and to help keep the economy open after the lockdown. The teachers pushed back and ultimately won in court and school ended on time.The report is meant to help preempt these kinds of challenges, as well.On Thursday evening, the Education Ministry reported that there were 1,162 students and teachers infected with the coronavirus and 24,577 in isolation.

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Coronavirus: Here is what Israels schools could look like in Sept. 2020 - The Jerusalem Post

Surprise! Jordanian Ammunition Found Near the Western Wall – Israel Today

Posted By on July 3, 2020

An ammunition stash left behind by Jordanian soldiers during the 1967 Six-Day War was exposed during excavations underneath the lobby of the Western Wall Tunnels.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation and Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists were surprised to find 10 magazines for a Bern light machinegun full of bullets, two bayonets of a British Lee Enfield rifle, and other rifle parts.

The ammunition was hidden in the bottom of a British Mandate period water cistern.

Israeli police bomb-disposal experts came to the site to examine the findings.

The excavations in the area are being conducted to prepare for a new tour in addition to the existing Western Wall Tunnels tour.

Photo: IAA

Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon and Tehila Sadiel, directors of the excavation on behalf of the IAA, said that usually, in excavations, we find ancient findings from one or two thousand years ago, but this time, we got a glimpse of the events that occurred 53 years ago, frozen in time in this water cistern.

About a month ago, the archeologists published findings of an elaborate subterranean network hewn into bedrock from the Second Temple period that was uncovered at the foot of an impressive 1,400-year-old public structure.

The water cistern we excavated served the residential structures of the Moghrabi neighborhood that was built in the area of what is today the Western Wall Plaza.

The discovery of the ammunition stash for Bern light machine guns match two other guns that were found about a year and a half ago in a different water cistern in the Western Wall Plaza.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation stated Wednesday that along with other glorious discoveries of our nations past from the Second Temple period, we are also happy about discovering findings from the war of this past generation to return the Jewish nations heart and be able to cling to the stones of the Western Wall.

This discovery is a privilege for us to be able to acknowledge the miracles of the Creator of the Universe at this site, the organization said.

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Surprise! Jordanian Ammunition Found Near the Western Wall - Israel Today

Unorthodox Star Shira Haas on Portraying the Hasidic Community and That Emotional Head-Shaving Scene – Variety

Posted By on July 3, 2020

Shira Haas has catapulted herself into the zeitgeist with her moving performance as Esther Esty Shapiro on Netflixs Unorthodox.

The series sees Esty married off to a man whom she barely knows (played by Haas real-life friend Amit Rahav) and forced to shave her head as Satmar tradition dictates. Haas recalled shooting that emotional haircut scene on the very first day on set, describing it as one heck of a beginning during an interview for an upcoming episode of the Varietyand iHeart podcast The Big Ticket.

You see 20 seconds of this scene in the episode, but it took eight minutes nonstop, two cameras, one take, thats it, Haas told host Marc Malkin. I just had the rollercoaster of emotions and, of course, it was also real.

Variety caught up with Haas from her home in Tel Aviv to talk about her unconventional path into acting, how close she feels to her character of Esty, and the importance of the series covering the Hasidic community with authenticity.

When do you decide that you wanted to be an actor?

Pretty late. I was a very shy child, believe it or not. I was into writing, and I loved watching movies, and I love theater, but I never thought I would be in this professional life, being the center of attention. Going on stage seemed like an awful thing for me. But then, I went to a theater major in high school. I really loved it, but it was more of a hobby, not something like that.Then, a casting director approached me on Facebook, actually. Thats not a good message, maybe, but thats the truth. I Googled her, so its safe. She was casting a movie, and I didnt have agent, I didnt have anything, but she just told me that shed seen that I studied this major, and she thinks that I can work out. I went there, and it was my first movie, it was Princess.

When you auditioned, did you know it was for Unorthodox? Had you read Deborah Feldmans book?

I didnt know. They told me this is for a TV series called The Orchestra for a German network platform. I was like okay, cool. I read the scenes, and I thought its amazing. I went there and I did it, and I felt good, and I thought the dialogues were amazing, and I enjoyed playing it, and then a few days later, I got the phone call from my agent, and she was like, Okay, so they loved you. Theyre coming to Israel in a few days, and its for Netflix. Its called Unorthodox.'

What do you like about Esty as a character?

Every time someone asks me if Im similar to her, I always answer that I hope. I really think that even though she comes from difficult circumstancesshes very, very present. Shes really in the here and now, which we know about it, we talk about it, and we read books about it, and we go to psychologists and think, but shes without knowing it really aware of her feelings. She really knows what she feels. She really knows what she wants. She really knows when she doesnt want something, and thats also her curse in a wayI also love the fact that shes so complex, because even when I got one scene or two scenes in the beginning of the audition, I felt shes both very strong and tough, but also so vulnerable, and she also wants to fit in, but she doesnt want to be there. Shes very gentle.

How much responsibility did you feel in depicting this community?

A lot. It was a never-ending discussion in the production, in me, that I shared also with the creators and the director. You need to root for the lead character in a series, you need to understand her struggles, but at the same time, you need to understand, to see the whole picture, to have empathy to this place that shes coming from. Its more interesting as a story when something is not black and whiteAs a Jew, as an Israeli person, I felt responsibility to have something to say, because were doing art, and thats part of it, and its important not to be scaredYou need to have a moral sensitivity because its real peopleI think that there are beautiful sides to show, and that there is complexity, and that there are both sides of the coin.

Talk about your bedroom scenes with Amit, what was shooting those like?

Im an actress, Ive had intimacy scenes before. Its not the first one that I had, but every time, even if you know the person before, even if you dont know, its kind of like a stage that you need to go through to feel comfortable, to talk about things, or not to talk, but just to feel comfortable, to be you and to say stuff and to act without thinking too much. I think the fact that I knew Amit was really, really helpfulWe always laugh that we kind of had like our secret language. We talk Hebrew, no one understood, they know German and some Yiddish, but no one understands us. We always had this, we had our laughs together. But it was also very professional.

I know youve talked about it a lot, but I do have to ask you about the head shaving. Your face during that was so real. How much did you sit there and grieve while it was happening?

When I start a new production, Im very excited, and I want it to be good, and Im happy to do these things. I was ready for it. I knew about it a long time before, even in the audition process. At the same time, Ive always had the longest hair. I never cut my hair. I love my hair. It was scary. How does my head, shaved, look? Even before we started filming, I really felt nervous and scared alongside excited, just like Esty in a way. Then, when we arrive on action, I remember [director] Maria Schrader told me, I think it was few hours before, or a day before, she was like, I know that you love to be prepared for scenes, which I do, but she was like, dont be prepared for it too much, because theres no right and wrong in that scene. All of the emotions that will come are correct. Shes right. You see 20 seconds of this scene in the episode, but it took eight minutes nonstop, two cameras, one take, thats it. I just had the rollercoaster of emotions and, of course, it was also real.

Unorthodox is available on Netflix.

You can also listen to The Big Ticket at iHeartRadioor wherever youdownload you favorite podcasts.

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Unorthodox Star Shira Haas on Portraying the Hasidic Community and That Emotional Head-Shaving Scene - Variety

Court push to open Jewish sleepaway camps goes before judge on Tuesday – Times Herald-Record

Posted By on July 3, 2020

Chris McKenna|Times Herald-Record

Hasidic families whose children go to sleepaway camps in the Catskills are awaiting a federal court hearing on Tuesday in a case that will determine if those camps open this summer over the state's objections.

The Association of Jewish Camp Operators sued Gov. Andrew Cuomo this month after he barred overnight camps from opening because of continued concerns about spreading the coronavirus. The plaintiffs argue the decision violatedreligious rights and was inconsistent with the state letting other non-essential activities resume.

The upcoming hearing before Chief Judge Glenn Suddaby of the Northern District of New York concerns the camp operators' request for temporary orders allowing the camps to open while the case is pending. The camps represented by the association serve more than 40,000 children, according to its court papers.

The camps had hoped to open on Thursday of this week. While the court challenge remains pending, some operators are trying to circumvent the prohibition by obtaining permits to open as "temporary residences," the state's term for hotels, motels and cabin colonies.

The state Department of Health distributed a letter on Thursday that warned camp operators of an unusual caveat if they plan to declare themselves temporary residences:parents would have to stay overnight with their children at the camps.

The letter, reported by the Jewish newspaper Hamodia,also noted that those camps would have to forgo congregate meal service and adhere to other coronavirus-related restrictions. Violators could be fined up to $1,000 per violation per day.

Camp operators are pursuing other avenues to open their doors.

A Brooklyn-based branch of the Satmar Hasidic movementtweeted on Monday that Ulster County had granted permission for their camps in Ulster to function as day camps, and that children would be bused backed and forth to the Catskills each day. Summer day camps are allowed to open throughout New York, starting on Monday.

The same Satmar Twitter handle latercelebratedSuddaby's assignment as judge forthe camp case, calling him a "sympathetic judge" and saying the group's four camps would be ready to begin full operations within two days of a ruling allowing them to do so.

State officials determined that overnight camps posed more of a health risk than day camps. Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, said in a statement this month that the group settings and sleeping quarters at sleepaway camps made it too difficult to maintain social distancing and control the spread of the virus.

The state imposed numerous requirements and restrictions on any day camps that open, including a mandate that employees wear masks if they are withinsix feet of other workers or campers.

cmckenna@th-record.com

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Court push to open Jewish sleepaway camps goes before judge on Tuesday - Times Herald-Record

We Aren’t Who We Think We Are : Code Switch – NPR

Posted By on July 3, 2020

GENE DEMBY, HOST:

I'm Gene Demby.

SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, HOST:

I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji. And this is CODE SWITCH.

DEMBY: From NPR.

Shereen, all right, so I have a weird question for you.

MERAJI: Hit me.

DEMBY: Does your family have any stories that they tell themselves about themselves that are not exactly true?

MERAJI: I feel like every family has these types of stories. I can think of two off the top of my head. On my Puerto Rican side, my Titi Lucy (ph) is totally convinced - or was, rest in peace, Titi Lucy - was totally convinced that we are related to the actor Benicio Del Toro. This is probably something I could figure out, but I have not tried to do that. I don't think it's true. It could be true. And then on my dad's side, on my Iranian side, we're supposed to be direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.

DEMBY: Oh, wow.

MERAJI: I don't even know how you find out if that's true or not. It would be dope if it was true, but I don't think it's true.

DEMBY: Yeah. There's also - the story's too good. It's like too good to check, too good to check.

MERAJI: Yes. I don't even want to check. Yes, I am a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Well, the truth is just about every family has some sort of myth or story that they tell themselves about who they are.

DEMBY: And this week, if the past month of fireworks hasn't thrown y'all, keep your third eye open.

MERAJI: It has been three months in my neighborhood - three months.

DEMBY: Yeah. It's been a lot.

MERAJI: I am not exaggerating. I love fireworks, so I'm not hating it, but anyway.

DEMBY: It's the Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, which means a lot of people are telling stories and myths about what it means to be American.

MERAJI: And there are lots of reasons why people tell these stories. Sometimes it's because people genuinely don't know the truth, so they exaggerate or they make something up.

DEMBY: And sometimes it just, like, make your family seem like they were part of some important historical moment.

MERAJI: Sometimes it's to hide something that is way too painful to talk about.

DEMBY: Yeah. And that can be especially true for African American families. You know, the further we go back in time - and this is true of my family - the harder it is to find records for who our family was and where they were and what they were doing. And when we do find those records, it's often, like, not a very pretty story, which leaves even more reason...

MERAJI: Right.

DEMBY: ...For people to invent a family lore.

MERAJI: So today, we're bringing in our teammate Leah Donnella. She's an editor and producer for the show. She actually does, like, everything on the show. You will hear her name in the credits like 15 times. And she became obsessed with a story that her family had been telling for more than 60 years. But it's a story that sounded a little too perfect to be true. Hey, Leah.

LEAH DONNELLA, BYLINE: Hey, Shereen. Hey, Gene.

DEMBY: What's going on?

MERAJI: Leah, you've been researching this family story for months now. What's it about? Set the scene for us.

L DONNELLA: Yeah. So I've been thinking about this story for a little bit more than a year, but it actually starts with my dad, Michael. And he's been looking into this story for decades. And his interest started, in part, because of our last name, which is Donnella.

DEMBY: Wait. What? What about your last name?

MERAJI: Donnella.

L DONNELLA: It's very beautiful.

(LAUGHTER)

DEMBY: I'm not shading your name. Sorry.

MERAJI: It is beautiful.

DEMBY: It's beautiful.

L DONNELLA: Thank you. I do like it. And my dad had a little bit more trouble with it, though. He said that all throughout his life, people have been commenting on it. Apparently they got real tripped up when they meet a Black man whose last name ends in an A for some reason.

DEMBY: Yeah. I thought, like, it was Italian or something.

MERAJI: Yeah. If you're a Spanish speaker, you want to say Doneya (ph) when you see it, you know. But then it has two Ns. And so if you're a Spanish speaker, you're like, I don't know. Is that name - like, is that a Spanish last name? It is definitely a curious last name. And I was like, where is that from?

DEMBY: And because you're from Philly, I assumed that it was like Italian, Italian American.

MERAJI: Donnella.

L DONNELLA: We've heard so many theories about it growing up. But my dad kind of wanted to figure this out. So my dad and I are both people who, as you two might know, can't let anything go.

MERAJI: Well, we know that about you, Leah. You're our editor. But now we know where you get it from.

L DONNELLA: Yeah, so you can thank my dad for the thoughtful edits. But last July, the two of us decided to figure out the truth once and for all. And so that started with us going to New Orleans together.

MERAJI: Oh, yes, New Orleans. All right, Leah, take us there, the Big Easy, one of my favorite cities in the United States.

DEMBY: The Crescent City, yes, one of the dopest places in the U.S.

L DONNELLA: So I had never been there before, so my dad was acting as my tour guide. And he took me straight to Bourbon Street.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

L DONNELLA: It's early evening when we get there. The sun is just beginning to set, casting shadows over the crowds. But it's still about a hundred degrees outside. Tourists wielding iPhones push up next to performers with kettledrums. A pushcart is selling hotdogs for a dollar. My dad and I order plastic cups of beer to drink on the street because we can.

MICHAEL DONNELLA: Thank you.

L DONNELLA: Thank you.

Also, because my dad loves beer and I'm always trying to be just like him. Chaotic processions march past us. We try to guess what they are.

M DONNELLA: This might be a funeral. Or it might just be a party.

L DONNELLA: Funeral? Party? It's hard to tell the difference here. And anyway, people always talk about New Orleans being haunted, one of the most haunted cities in America, they say. Well, I sure hope so because in addition to drinking beer and finding pretty good restaurants, my dad and I are trying to dig up a ghost, the ghost of my great-grandfather, Harrison Donnella. We'll soon be walking down the street where he used to live, sifting through records of his life, searching through graveyards.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMS)

L DONNELLA: Part of the reason we're interested in Harrison is because the story we learned about him and his wife, Lottie, my great-grandmother, was such a perfect origin story, like a modern-day, post-bellum, interracial "Romeo And Juliet." OK, I'm going to tell it with a little help from my dad.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

L DONNELLA: My great-grandmother, Lottie Young, was a Black woman from Louisiana. And my great-grandfather, Harrison Donnella...

M DONNELLA: Had been born in Sicily and came to the United States as an immigrant.

L DONNELLA: Harrison was part of a huge wave of immigrants that came to Louisiana at the turn of the 20th century, traveling by boat from Palermo to the Crescent City.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

L DONNELLA: So Harrison and Lottie met in New Orleans at the beginning of the Jazz Age, maybe at a dance hall or strolling by the Mississippi, eating a beignet. And it wasn't long before they were truly, madly, deeply in love. But there was a problem because...

M DONNELLA: At the time, in New Orleans, it was illegal, as it was in many places, for a white person and a Black person to get married.

L DONNELLA: Louisiana was one of 30 states where interracial marriage was illegal in the 19-teens and '20s, which meant that as long as they stayed there, Lottie and Harrison couldn't be together - star-crossed lovers. Fate was keeping them apart. But they decided to defy fate.

M DONNELLA: So part of my theory was they came to Chicago to get married because they couldn't in New Orleans.

L DONNELLA: That's right. One night, as the story goes, they packed their bags and, at the stroke of midnight, they stole off to the Windy City in search of a better life. At least, that's how I imagined it. Anyway, in Chicago, Harrison and Lottie could finally be together. They got married in a Catholic church. Soon after, they had their first son, John Donnella, my great-uncle. After that, they had their second son, Joseph Donnella, my grandfather. And life was good, but it wasn't always easy.

M DONNELLA: I knew that they were poor. You know, both my father and my Uncle John, you know, greatly emphasize that they grew up in a very poor background.

L DONNELLA: John and Lottie both worked all the time. They lived in a small apartment on the South Side of Chicago full of books and records, lots of that New Orleans jazz. But here's where it gets a little weird. As the years went by, something kind of funny started happening. People started to think of Harrison, this immigrant from Italy, as Black.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

M DONNELLA: In Chicago - certainly, during the time I grew up in Chicago - even though it was technically lawful for a Black and white person to be married, it was still quite a segregated city racially, and quite socially uncommon and unaccepted, really.

L DONNELLA: My dad's theory was that in order for Harrison and Lottie to live together without causing a stir, it would be natural for people to assume that they were both the same race, which was, of course, going to be Black. Lottie was Black, and they lived in a Black neighborhood, sent their kids to Black schools, hung out with Black people with all different skin tones. And that assumption that Harrison was Black stayed with him the whole rest of his life. Harrison died in 1941 when he was 68 years old. And on his death certificate, no huge surprise, he's listed as colored. But his family, of course, didn't forget the real story of the young Italian man who fell in love in New Orleans, and they passed that down to my dad.

I think that story was especially meaningful for my parents because they were also an interracial couple trying to make it work in challenging social times. My dad, again, is Black, and my mom's people were immigrants from Eastern European Jewish stock. So I think this felt like a kind of nice prelude to their relationship. But, of course, there was something about this story that was not true.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

M DONNELLA: Some of the things that my father said about him turned out to be in conflict with the public records that I was able to ascertain.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

L DONNELLA: So fast-forward about 40 years. It's 1979. My dad is 25 years old, living in Atlanta, fresh out of law school, and he gets sent on that work trip to New Orleans. And while he's there, he decides to dig into this story a little. So he visits the public library to see if he can find out anything about his grandfather. He finds a bunch of documents, including a birth certificate for Harrison Donnella Jr. - an American birth certificate.

M DONNELLA: Basically, what I found out is that, you know, my father's family had been in this country for several generations. I would say at least four or five.

L DONNELLA: That's when my dad first realized that something was not checking out. Harrison Donnella Jr., my great-grandfather, was not an immigrant, not even the child of immigrants. My dad didn't even know if he was Italian at all. He was able to find the names of Harrison's parents - Harrison Donnella Sr., who grew up in New Orleans, and Anna Stewart (ph), who was from Texas. But earlier than that, it was still a mystery. My dad didn't know where these families came from, or even for sure what race they were. So I wondered if he knew what any of them looked like. My dad told me he's seen a picture of Harrison - just one. In it, he said, Harrison looked like he was in his 20s or 30s, kind of skinny.

M DONNELLA: And kind of pale.

L DONNELLA: It was a black-and-white picture, so the coloring was kind of ambiguous. My dad said Harrison seemed to have a full head of straight brown hair. He was wearing a suit.

M DONNELLA: But, I mean, I looked at the picture. And I think most people would look at it and say it's a white man, you know? But on the other hand, I have seen light-skinned Black people that you would also look at and assume they're white, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

L DONNELLA: And even though that Italian thing turned out to be pretty dubious, even though no one in my family really knew very much about Italy or had any customs whatsoever that were tied to Italy, I and all three of my siblings grew up believing that we were at least a little Italian. And it wasn't just my generation. My dad had believed this story, too. And my dad says my grandfather and great-uncle, Harrison's own kids, they seem to have believed it, too, that their dad was a white immigrant from Italy, although they're dead now, so it's hard to know for sure what they really believed. My dad said he didn't think my grandparents were intentionally making this story up.

M DONNELLA: But part of the reason why it could be compelling was I was talking about people - you know, they come from modest or poor means. Like, the family history can be the link to nobility.

L DONNELLA: According to my dad, in 1930s Chicago, Sicilians had a reputation as being scrappy, hardworking, kind of edgy and cool.

M DONNELLA: So that would provide you with a higher social status in racist Chicago or many racist parts of the United States than being Black.

L DONNELLA: My dad thought maybe Harrison was just light-skinned, pretending to be Italian to get ahead. I also talked to my brother, David, about this, and he had a different theory, a much less romantic one.

DAVID DONNELLA: You know, you hear a lot of Black people talking about having, like, Indian heritage, right? And sometimes - a lot of times, actually - right? - that's - that was used as an explanation for, you know, why is grandma so much lighter-skinned than everybody else?

L DONNELLA: David brought up that part of the reason Black people look all sorts of ways is, of course, because of the legacy of slavery. The vast majority of African Americans have some white ancestry, and part of the reason is that a lot of enslaved Black women were raped by white men. So if Harrison was very light-skinned...

D DONNELLA: It might've been something that he had taken advantage of, the last name Donnella, and said that he - you know, we are Italian, and used that as an excuse - or not excuse, but (laughter).

L DONNELLA: But a more wholesome story than the truth. And I was starting to get a feeling that the truth was going to be kind of hard to stomach.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

L DONNELLA: So I was determined to learn the truth. But after months of research, I'd run into more dead ends and false leads than I could count. My desk was a mess, covered with half-drawn family trees, wild theories scrawled on the back of old scripts, printouts of documents I found on Ancestry.com. There were days it probably looked like I was a TV detective, slightly crazed, trying to string together death certificates, census records, photographs of gravestones. But in those moments, I feel like I need to know.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

L DONNELLA: Was Harrison a light-skinned Black man passing as Italian? Was he a white man assumed to be Black? Was the confusion about his identity imposed from other people, or was there something about his past that he was trying to hide? The answers to those questions wound up stretching all the way back to the antebellum South and would completely blow up everything that I and my dad and my family believed about who we were.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

L DONNELLA: It is 7:47 p.m., and I am right now in Baton Rouge in my hotel room. I'm here to go to the Louisiana State Archives tomorrow. Back to Louisiana. I've spent the past few months digging up all the information I can find about my Donnella lineage, and I just have this bad feeling. I'm a little nervous for tomorrow because I don't know what I'll find, and I really don't want to be related to someone who owned slaves.

After talking to my family, I spent a long time thinking about what could be so bad that a family would want to hide it for generations. And one of the worst things I could imagine was having owned slaves. I didn't have any proof that that was the case, but I felt it in my gut. So the next morning, bright and early, I'm there at the archives, ready to go in and find some answers - well, if I can get in. My gear causes a bit of a stir.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: What is that?

L DONNELLA: A microphone.

Excerpt from:
We Aren't Who We Think We Are : Code Switch - NPR

In New York, Zionism and Liberalism Faced Offand Liberalism Won – The Nation

Posted By on July 2, 2020

Eliot Engel votes at a school near his home on June 23, 2020. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

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It is usually a mistake to try to draw historical lessons from events just days old. Its an even dicier proposition when it involves just the 50,000 voters who participated in last Tuesdays Democratic primary in New Yorks 16th district. But Ive been working for years on a book about the history of the Israel/Palestine debate in the United States and Im going to risk it, because I think American politicsspecifically American Jewish politicsis undergoing a significant shift with important implications.Ad Policy

Whether drawn to socialism, communism, anarchism, or plain old liberalism, American Jews have always tended toward the left side of the political spectrum. And for many decades, the founding and defense of the state of Israel proved largely consistent with the social and economic liberal ethos upon which the American Jewish community eventually settled. Sure, the story that American Jews told themselves about Israel was always a distorted one, and the Zionist ideology Israel eventually embraced was far more amenable to democracy and equality in theory than in practice. But wasnt that true of American liberalism as well? Yes, a significant percentage of the 750,000 or so Palestinians who were exiled in 1948 did not leave voluntarily and the ones who remained did not enjoy anything like the democratic rights or economic opportunities that Israeli Jews did, much less the idealistic promises of Israels Declaration of Independence. But there was so much else to celebrate about Israel. Despite being surrounded by nations that wished to destroy it, its pioneers were making the desert bloom, rejuvenating the Hebrew language, producing great literature, and, on the Kibbutzim, proving that socialism was not a pipe dream. In the wake of the Holocaust, it felt to many like a divinely inspired miracle.

In its policies on the world stage, Israel also offered a great deal for liberals to admire. Israel initially avoided taking sides in the Cold War, and, while the United States was stuck in the throes of its McCarthyite Red Scare, the country remained sufficiently democratic and committed to free speech as to allow Arab-supported Communists to be seated in its parliament. Former prime minister Golda Meir would recall that she was prouder of Israels International Cooperation Program and of the technical aid we gave to the people of Africa than I am of any other single project we have ever undertaken. (Tanzanias Julius Nyerere called her the mother of Africa.)

Matters grew far more complicated after the 1967 war and the resulting occupation. Many American Jews drew far closer to Israel than before as both the threat of its potential destruction and the exhilaration of its spectacular victory struck an emotional chord. This, however, had the effect over time of hollowing out their own experience of Judaism and replacing it with Zionism. In the early 1970s, a small group of liberal Jewish intellectuals, including a number of highly respected rabbis, began to raise difficult questions about Israels willingness to make peace with the Palestinians and formed an organization called Breira (Choice in Hebrew). But they found little resonance among most American Jews and were unceremoniously quashed by the mainstream Jewish organizations, who considered public criticism of Israel akin to treason. It was not until 1982when those admirable socialist pioneers had been replaced by the likes of Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon, and these far less romantic figures launched their invasion of Lebanon and cruel siege of Beirutthat uneasiness with actual, existing Israel reached a sufficiently critical mass that liberals could voice their discontent in public without fear of Spinoza-like excommunication.Related Article

Since then, as anyone who has paid even the slightest attention to the question is well aware, Israel has become a conservative cause. Capitalism and creeping theocracy replaced socialism. The occupation became further entrenched and increasingly brutal. In foreign policy, Israel supported apartheid in South Africa and dictatorships in Latin America. In the United States, it became the pet cause of the most regressive elements: first neocon warmongers, then evangelical anti-Semites, and finally the likes of Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Jared Kushner, and other avatars of American fascism.

Conservatives, neo- and otherwise, have insisted for over half a century that American Jews should abandon their liberalism and join up with the right wing, where support for Israel is not merely uncontroversial but obligatory. Instead, most liberals chose just to make an exception for Israel while sticking to the rest of their left-leaning agenda. Since his first election in 1988, Eliot Engel was an extreme example of this tendency. Over and over, when Israels lobbyists and their funders demanded 100 percent support for Israel regardless of how much it contradicted everything else about ones beliefs, these liberals caved. As The Nations Ken Klippenstein demonstrated, Engel never met an Israeli priority he couldnt wholeheartedly back. When it came to the Iran nuclear deal, he stood with Benjamin Netanyahu over Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Later, he stood with Trump and Kushner on moving the embassy to Jerusalem and continuing to support the Saudi murderers of Jamal Khashoggi. But being AIPACs patsy was not enough for Engel. He even embraced the racist right-wing leader of the Zionist Organization of Americaan organization that owes its existence to the far-right Trump and Netanyahu funder Sheldon Adelson and whose leader, Morton Klein, recently tweeted of Black Lives Matter, BLM is a Jew hating, White hating, Israel hating, conservative Black hating, violence promoting, dangerous Soros funded extremist group of haters.

As chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Engel was a macher in Washington but nowhere to be found at home. His power as a committee chair and decades of schmoozing his colleaguestogether with their own sense of self-preservation in opposing almost all primary challengersled to his endorsement in his primary by almost all national Democratic politicians, including many members of the Black caucus. But his absence from the district along with its changing demographics made him the perfect target for the progressive group Justice Democrats, who famously recruited Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Justice Democrats found a remarkable opponent to run against Engelan African American former middle school principal named Jamaal Bowman.Current Issue

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Endorsed by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Bowman made it a point of reaching out to Jews. Bowman explained that while he believed firmly in the right of Israelis to live in safety and peace, free from the fear of violence and terrorism from Hamas and other extremists, and support continued US aid to help Israel confront these security challenges, he also believed that Palestinians are entitled to the same human rights, safety from violence and self-determination in a state of their own.

He said he also strongly objects to Benjamin Netanyahus move toward annexation, increased settlement expansion, and racist rhetoric toward minorities. And as for the Boycott Divest Sanctions movement, Bowman opposes it, though not to the point of shutting down its supporters First Amendment rights.

Most political reporters treat what is commonly referred to as the Jewish vote as entirely dependent on how pro-Israelthat is, how hawkish/anti-Palestiniana candidate is. This has long been nonsense. The vast majority of Jewish voters no longer prioritize Israel over issues of economic and social justice. The fact that so many liberal politicians do is largelythough not exclusivelythe product of the corrupt nature of our political funding system and the ability of the AIPACs and the Adelsons to exploit its weaknesses.

The 16th District is just under 12 percent Jewish and nearly 60 percent Black and Latino. With Engel looking vulnerable, the Democratic Majority for Israel, a PAC led by consultant Mark Mellman, spent an estimated $2 million trying to prop up Engel and smear Bowman. Progressive Jewish organizations like If Not Now and The Jewish Votean offshoot of Jews for Racial and Economic Justicecampaigned and raised funds for Bowman alongside Justice Democrats. The progressive Jewish City Council member Brad Lander wrote in an op-ed for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, To my fellow liberal Jews: please dont take the bait. Bowman shares our commitment to a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that ensures the self-determination, safety and human rights of both peoples. MORE FROM Eric Alterman

When it was over, Bowman won in a landslide. Engel could not even, it appears, carry the Jews. We dont actually know how much of Bowmans more than 60 percent landslide was attributable to Jewish voters, but one clue comes from the polling station at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale: It went for Bowman 500, Engel 324.

Engel did not lose specifically because his district liked Bowmans position on Israel better than his, though many obviously did. He lost because, given all the crises facing his constituents, Israel had lost its centrality. Engel stayed in Washington during the pandemic to keep his eye on the committee, especially no doubt its reaction to Netanyahus recent push to annex parts of the West Bank, rather than returning home to tend to the needs of his constituents, reeling under the threat of the pandemic and inspired by the politics of racial reawakening. Zionism and liberalism faced off, and liberalism won.

The lesson here for Jews is that the days when AIPAC directives and Mellman-like scare tactics on behalf of Israel could trump commitments to liberal principles are coming to an end. Bowmans victory is one harbinger, and so was the strong support for Sanders and Warren, both of whom supportedwith Bowmanconditioning US aid to Israel, a position thats been anathema to the so-called pro-Israel community for nearly 60 years.

As Israel grows increasingly illiberalembracing not only annexation but also official racism, theocratic governance, and increasingly anti-democratic restrictions on the freedoms of its Arab minoritythe choice for American Jews will grow increasingly stark. Liberal Zionisma cause to which I have committed myself for my entire adult lifehas come to look like a contradiction. The Jews of Israel, alas, appear to have made their choice. Bowmans sweeping victory demonstrates that American Jews will now be making their own.

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In New York, Zionism and Liberalism Faced Offand Liberalism Won - The Nation

Black Lives Matter UK: ‘Politics is gagged of the right to critique Zionism’ – Jewish News

Posted By on July 2, 2020

Communal leaders have criticised the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK (BLMUK), after it claimed politics is gagged of the right to critique Zionism.

The Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl criticised the movement over a tweet on Sunday, saying it was beyond disappointing that asupposedly anti-racist organisation has leaned into the antisemitic trope that British politics is gagged in terms of debating Israel, a claim particularly preposterous because Israel is one of the most-discussed foreign policy issues in this country.

However, the failings of this particular group will not stop us standing alongside black people in their quest for justice, whether inside or outside our community.

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A source at the Board added: The far right and far left are desperate to divide black and Jewish communities. We are not falling for it.

The Jewish Leadership Council tweeted: We unequivocally support the fight against anti-black racism. That people suffer abuse & prejudice because of the colour of their skin is abhorrent & we are actively involved in this fight as a community. But please do not fight racism with racism we must be allies

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said BLM should embrace solidarity from Jews and should aspire to be a movement against racism that unifies people and achieves lasting change, not a movement that spreads hatred and achieves lasting division. You cannot fight prejudice with prejudice.

Taking to Twitter, BLMUK told its near 60,000 followers: As Israel moves forward with the annexation of the West Bank, and mainstream British politics is gagged of the right to critique Zionism, and Israels settler colonial pursuits, we loudly and clearly stand beside our Palestinian comrades. FREE PALESTINE.

The tweet has so far been retweeted more than 21,000 times.

Following criticism, the movement added a series of subsequent tweets, including one citing Jewish activists who reject thecynical and false accusations of antisemitism that dangerously conflate anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israels policies and system of occupation and apartheid.

Earlier this week, more than 1,000 European politicians signed a letter against annexation, started by senior Israeli figures. Signatories from the UK include included Lord Carlile, DameMargaret Hodge, former Tory leader, Lord Howard and Baroness Neville-Jones.

This follows a clash during a Board of Deputies meeting last Sunday over the BLM movement, afterGary Mond, deputy for JNF, urged the community not to support groups accused of using reactions to George Floyds death for twisted goals. He was criticised after saying that black lives matter, as well as Asian lives, African lives, Jewish lives and all lives.

Other deputies, warned the phrase all lives matter, a slogan commonly associated with critics of the Black Lives Matter movement, risks trivialising the experiences of people of colour.

The Black Lives Matter UK movement has been approached for comment.

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Black Lives Matter UK: 'Politics is gagged of the right to critique Zionism' - Jewish News

AJC’s David Harris complains that liberal Zionist groups tried to ‘bully’ and ‘intimidate’ him to take ‘macho’ stand against Israel – Mondoweiss

Posted By on July 2, 2020

We have been saying for days now that the annexation argument has transformed the Israel lobby. Liberal Zionist organizations such as J Street and Americans for Peace Now are emerging as the new leaders of the Israel lobby because they seized on an issue of great moment and took a firm stance and by lobbying the Democratic Congress and appealing to foreign leaders appear to have turned Israel back from its determination to annex portions of the West Bank.

While the leading rightwing organizations kept their mouths shut and wavered and have suffered a political collapse in the eyes of the pro-Israel community, for doing nothing as beloved Zion burned.

Today the leader of one of those rightwing groups the American Jewish Committee lashed out on a webinar against liberal Zionist organizations for trying to bully him and practice intellectual intimidation so that the AJC would take a more macho stand against Israel.

David Harris never mentioned his enemies by name, but it was clear he meant J Street and Americans for Peace Now, which rose to this occasion and repeatedly called on leading Jewish groups to oppose annexation.

Harris was obviously referring to incidents like this one: Last week the AJC came out with a mealymouthed statement against annexation but assured Israel that it would defend Israel no matter what it does. Hadar Susskind, the head of Americans for Peace Now, responded to the piece by writing, Delete your organization.

In his webinar today, David Harris repeatedly slammed the left for having the arrogant notion that we know better. Or to use that famous phrase, To save Israel from itself. Thats where the AJC parts company. No it doesnt mean we have to keep silent but we at AJC have to keep in mind the distribution of risk here. Israelis are at physical risk from attack; and American Jews who criticize it are not.

Harris then said he was against annexation, but nicely.

The very word annexation itself is a toxic word. Because annexation in our vocabulary is very negative. Annexation is a hostile word, which is why some Israelis who support this prefer to use the extension of Israeli sovereign law.

From AJCs perspective again were friends of Israel, we are independent in our thinking, we will offer our perspective but at the end of the day we recognize its not our decision to make. Its Israels decision to make. From our perspective at AJC, we see the costs of the annexation or extension of sovereignty we see the costs as being very high. We dont see the benefits. There may be local benefits, political benefits within the domestic Israeli space. We dont see the benefits. We see instead something that will be used as yet another excuse or pretext by the Palestinians to avoid the peace table

But Harris said, thats not good enough for some in the American Jewish community. Hes faced attempted intellectual intimidation for not going further.

From our perspective at AJC, we are opposed to what were hearing based on our cost benefit analysis. I want to be very clear. On the other hand, there is a separate discussion to be had, and one cannot simply be lumped into a different political category for saying what Im about to say, although in todays world that is exactly how some will try and play it. Because in todays world you have a kind of binary political equation on just about everything, including this Youre either with us or youre against it. The moment youre trying to introduce any other elements or nuance, then youre immediately in the opposite camp. Thats not AJC, and were not going to play into attempted intellectual intimidation. Were going to defend our space which is to say, No to unilateral steps on the West Bank as are being discussed, in our perspective. At the same time it is fair to ask How long will Israel have to wait for a credible serious partner to sit across the table and negotiate

Harris said Israels failure to gain peace was not just Benjamin Netanyahus issue. Governments of the left and center had also failed. The burden was on the Palestinians, to show up, seriously, credibly, perseverantly.

But he went on that these liberal Zionist groups are playing to their donors by taking a muscular and macho stance against Israel. And Harris implied that they dont love Israel enough.

Look there are times that we have disagreed with Israel. How could we not? What AJC has done and I think its well understood in Israel is when there is criticism we try to find the most constructive way to channel the criticism. That means were not playing to our bleachers. Were not going to a group of donors and saying, Look how muscular and macho we are in what we told the Israelis. Were not hoping that the New York Times or the Washington Post picks up on our opposition to this or that and turns it into a pullquote and a headline. Were operating from a principle that for us would be referred to as ahavat Yisrael, love of Israel.Its not an effort to score points, to get attention, its not an effort to get patted on the back by other groups in the United States that we hunger for their validation..

So the donors are to Harriss left! It seems very clear from these remarks that the center of gravity in the pro-Israel Jewish community has shifted from the AJC to J Street.

Harris attacked J Street and other leftwing ideological organizations and dogmatists though not by name for supporting the Iran deal in 2015 even when Israels leaders said it posed an existential threat to Israel.

Take the Iran issue. The Israeli leadership came together as one and said the Iran deal as proposed poses an existential threat to the state of Israel. To me this was a defining moment in terms of how to lead the American Jewish community The Israeli leadership across the board at the very top said we agree on this, we disagree on everything else.

The ideological organizations werent prepared to follow along. So the leftwing groups here even confronted with that fact took recourse in their support for in this case the Obama administration, the assurance of the Obama administration that the Israeli concerns were misplaced and miguided. Did those groups even read the deal? AJC was one of the organizations that came out very clearly, If its a matter of existential importance to the state of Israel we have an obligation to speak out Thats where I seriously parted company with the dogmatists and the ideologues who couldnt get out from under the uniform that they wear every day.

He said that the AJC got bullied for trying to introduce nuance into the annexation debate.

If were really entering into a binary world, with two opposing orthodoxies and no room for conversation in between. youre either with us or youre against us. For me intellectually thats a very frightening world.

The AJC has always tried to inject nuance into our conversation about the U.S.-Israel relationship . That comes from a love of Israel.

I saw for example last week When we tried to introduce some nuance into one of the topical issues of the day, the anti-nuance crowd jumped on us, tried to mischaracterize our position, tried to in a way bully us. They were not going to succeed. I come from a place of Jewish unity, not disunity

The Israel lobby is breaking up before our eyes into two branches, liberal Zionist and right Zionist. Each has a political party. For once leading Jewish orgs are speaking in two voices on Israel. This fracturing will foster the politicization of Israel for U.S. politicians.

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AJC's David Harris complains that liberal Zionist groups tried to 'bully' and 'intimidate' him to take 'macho' stand against Israel - Mondoweiss

The 100 Years War On Palestine, And Still Counting – The Citizen

Posted By on July 2, 2020

One of the most terrifying sounds on earth, Palestinian American historian Rashid Khalidi recalls, is the screeching roar of supersonic warplanes diving to attack.

He experienced that while rushing to retrieve his children from a kindergarten and a nursery school in Beirut during Israels 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which claimed the lives of more than 19,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, mostly civilians.

It is one of Khalidis many personal encounters with Israeli militarism told in The Hundred Years War on Palestine.

Unlike in his previous scholarly work, here Khalidi weaves his personal and family history into the period he covers. In a way it is lived history, a testament not only to what Palestinians experienced as a collective but also to what this meant in very immediate ways to the author himself.

Khalidi comes from a well-known Palestinian family that can be traced back for multiple generations, including a great-great-great grandfather who was a religious scholar, and two uncles who the British imprisoned during the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt.

Khalidi grew up in New York City where his father worked for the United Nations. After graduating from Yale University, he received his doctorate from the University of Oxford and went on to a distinguished teaching and research career, culminating with his present appointment as the Edward Said professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University.

Khalidis 2013 book Brokers of Deceit: How the US Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East documents the role that successive US governments have played in the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

It demonstrates persuasively how the US was never an honest broker in negotiations but a behind-the-scenes lawyer for Israel, bound in part by a pledge dating from the Gerald Ford administration to never float a peace proposal without first seeking approval from Israeli negotiators.

This theme of US complicity in Palestinian oppression carries over into The Hundred Years War and is deepened with an account of the US role in Lebanon when American officials promised to ensure the safety of Palestinian refugees following the departure of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Those same officials reneged on the pledge as Israel oversaw the Phalangist massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

Khalidi concludes that US administrations have colluded with Israel ever since the 1967 War, which Washington green-lighted. The US continues to provide both the military aid and the diplomatic cover essential to preserving Israel as an apartheid, settler-colonial state.

As Khalidi demonstrates, all of the six wars the Zionist movement and the State of Israel carried out against the Palestinian people were enabled by colonial or imperialist powers.

Khalidi brings new research to the subject with chapters devoted to each of the six wars. His personal stories such as his experiences living in Jerusalem during the first intifada and later serving as an adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team at the 1991 Madrid conference make an already tragic history even more poignant.

Ending US collusion with Israel is the chief focus of the concluding chapter. Khalidi sets the stage for a discussion of possible solutions by first probing the failures of the Palestinian leadership.

He faults that leadership for dismissing the importance of influencing American public opinion as a way to counter US government actions. He contends that the Palestinian civil society call to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel has done more to win over the American people than anything the Palestinian political leadership has done.

Khalidi proposes three counternarratives to undermine the dominant belief among most US citizens that Israel is a normal, democratic nation state, like any other that espouses Western values.

The first counternarrative is one that draws comparisons between Israel and other settler-colonial societies, including Australia, Canada, South Africa and, of course, the United States.

Parallels between the fate of Native Americans and the Palestnians indict both Israel and the US. Khalidi concludes, however, that many Americans still cherish their early history in which settlers are portrayed as hardy pioneers in conflict with savages.

The dominant narrative is being increasingly challenged but still holds sway, he maintains. The manifest destiny claim that the pioneers used to justify the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Native Americans dovetails with the Christian Zionist myth of Jews at last returning to their ancestral land, an uplifting scenario of post-Holocaust rescue that appeals to many Americans.

The second proposed counternarrative is to highlight the asymmetry of power between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. The problem with this is that Israel still enjoys being perceived as David to the Arab/Muslim Goliath and media tropes claim that Palestinians failed to take best offers at the negotiating table.

The third, and in Khalidis opinion, the most promising and important counternarrative, is to focus on equal rights and the lack thereof in apartheid Israel. Inequality was embedded in the 1947 United Nations partition plan which proposed a majority of the land of Palestine to the Jewish minority and is therefore at the root of the problem, he writes.

Focusing on inequality is crucial, Khalidi asserts, because it is in direct contradiction to the proclaimed egalitarian values of the Western democratic societies that Israel has relied on for support.

This inequality has become even more starkly apparent today and is the central moral question posed by Zionism.

Khalidi concludes: By embracing its illiberal and discriminatory essence, modern Zionism is increasingly in contradiction with the ideals, particularly that of equality, on which Western democracies are based.

It is instructive that at the age of 72, the prominent Palestinian American scholar sees the struggle against Zionist ideology as one of the keys to ending US collusion with Israel.

But it is difficult to see how this can be accomplished without a counternarrative that indicts the US for failing to come to terms with its own settler-colonial history, including its internal colonialism and its external imperialism, both of which persist to this day.

The Hundred Years War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017by Rashid Khalidi, Metropolitan Books (2020)

Rod Such is a former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and is active with the Occupation-Free Portland campaign. ELECTRONIC INTIFADA

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The 100 Years War On Palestine, And Still Counting - The Citizen

Antisemitism smears are being used to silence criticism of Israel. But supporters of Palestine wont shut up. – The Canary

Posted By on July 2, 2020

Content warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of violence that some readers may find disturbing.

Take a look at this image of 11-year-old Mahmoud Sawalhi, a Palestinian boy from Gaza. In 2018, an Israeli sniper shot him in the eye. The bullet went through his brain and shot through the top of his head. Yes, you read that correctly: the bullet went through his brain and shot through the top of his head. When his father rescued him off the ground, he said that part of Sawalhis brain was in his hands. Unbelievably, Sawalhi survived.

An Israeli sniper is trained to target victims with absolute precision. So its highly unlikely that Sawalhi was shot by mistake.

Sawalhi was transferred from Gaza to the West Bank for treatment. I met him laying in hospital, without his mother. The Israeli authorities had banned her from travelling with him. Imagine how terrified he must have been, laying in that room, surrounded by strangers.

My meeting with Sawalhi will be forever etched in my memory. But there are thousands of children like him, injured by Israeli forces. At least 25,503 Palestinian boys have been injured by Israel since 2008. And there are more than 1,000 children who didnt survive.

All the while, governments around the world look the other way. Or, even worse, like the UK, they are complicit in these murders.

If youre visiting Palestine, and you tell a Palestinian person that youre from the UK, theyll immediately respond with the words Balfour Declaration. Theyll remind you of Britains historical role in the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

But the UKs role isnt just historical. The UK government, and its mainstream media, continue to be among Israels strongest allies. The government attempts to shut down any criticism of Israel by loudly accusing human rights activists of antisemitism when they dare to criticise Israel or Zionism. At the same time, the UK continues to arm Israel to the teeth. After all, there are big profits to be made.

Keir Starmers sacking of Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey has caused controversy in the UK. Starmer told Long-Bailey to step down after she tweeted an interview with Maxine Peake in which Peake stated:

The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyds neckwas learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.

The interview, published in theIndependent, was later amended and now states:

UPDATE (25.06.20): A previous version of this article reported that a 2016 Amnesty International report had found that hundreds of US law enforcement officials had travelled to Israel for training. Our article also implied that this training could have included neck kneeling tactics. While it is true that US law enforcement officials have travelled to Israel for training, there has been no suggestion that this training involved the tactics referred to in the article. The article has been amended accordingly.

A spokesperson for Starmer called this an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. This is yet another misuse of the term antisemitism, labelling any critical mention of Israel as being antisemitic.

The Israeli police claimed that there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway. However, there is ample photo evidence showing Israeli forces using this exact technique on Palestinians:

And in 2019, Middle East Eye reported that the US police were being taught brutal Israeli military-style policing tactics.

Fady Khoury, an attorney at Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said:

There is plenty of documentation out there of violent arrests that involve kneeling on detainees heads and necks.

We have seen this not only in the occupied territories when soldiers perform arrests, but inside Israel by police officers as well.

But, in fact, the purge of Long-Bailey shouldnt come as a surprise. Starmer has been labelled a Zionist by The Times Of Israel. The Israeli newspaper quoted Starmer as saying:

I do support Zionism. I absolutely support the right of Israel to exist as a homeland. My only concern is that Zionism can mean slightly different things to different people, and to some extent it has been weaponised. I wouldnt read too much into that. I said it loud and clear and meant it that I support Zionism without qualification.

Starmer also came 14th in a poll made by Israeli PR experts Social Lite Creative of the Top 50 Zionist Influencers of 2020.

Moreover,The Canary has previously reported that Starmer accepted a 50,000 donation from a pro-Israel lobbyist during his leadership bid.

Of course its possible to be a supporter of Palestinian human rights and to also be antisemitic. But being critical of Israel is not, in itself, antisemitic. And arguments like this actually dilute the term and detract from the fact that real antisemitism exists in the UK.

In 2019, The Canarys Nancy Mendoza responded to the smear campaign against Corbyn and the Labour Party. Mendoza said:

Im getting sick of non-Jewish people hijacking and misrepresenting my experience for their own gain. These days, that seems to be mainly for political gain against Jeremy Corbyns Labour Party.

Just to be really clear: The row over antisemitism in the Labour Party is actually fuelling antisemitism, whilst simultaneously weakening the term as its applied to genuine antisemitism. And it seems it was never really meant to be of service to Jewish people, anyway, so nobody gives a damn what impact it has on us. That is a very frightening development, for me.

The Canary has also been accused of antisemitism, even though a number of its staff are Jewish. Canary writer and editor Emily Apple, who is Jewish, expressed her opinion:

Honestly, its getting boring having to say it, but being anti-Zionist is not being antisemitic. Questioning Israels aggressive policies, Palestinian deaths, and illegal land occupations does not make anyone antisemitic. Protesting Israeli interests and supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign does not make someone antisemitic. Being Jewish is not being Israeli, and we need to stop conflating the two.

And for me, this is where the real danger lies. Calling people antisemitic for questioning Israel creates the real problem of dismissing the rise of antisemitism; it replaces actually doing something to stop the real nastiness with a witch-hunt.

These constant accusations of antisemitism are an attempt to shut down all criticism of apartheid Israel. But no matter what you throw at us, supporters of Palestine wont shut up.

To those of you who are defending the Israeli government, youre on the wrong side of history. Future generations will look at you in horror, wondering how you could have defended such vicious apartheid. Its time to wake up.

Featured image via the International Solidarity Movement, with permission.

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Antisemitism smears are being used to silence criticism of Israel. But supporters of Palestine wont shut up. - The Canary


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