Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dr. Ronsenfeld:

Dr. Rosenfeld:

We have several things in common: being Jews, graduating from undergraduate school in 1967, teaching English as well as Jewish Studies.  What we do not have in common is our responses to the open letter signed by Holocaust survivors and family members in response to the Israeli attack on Gaza.

I shall not stoop to the scurrilous level of your article by defaming your obvious ideological sources or by attacking your own character.  I don't know you, and I am very much against ad hominem attacks. What I will say, however, is that your attempt to besmirch the reputations of the signatories to the open letter is outrageous and abusive in the extreme.  I think you will find that this response of mine is echoed in hundreds more.

I do not know what you think gives you the right to question other people's connections to the near-destruction of the Jewish people ("our" people?  if we are still one people?), but in any case it is not only inflammatory but wrong-headed.  Clearly these people have experienced tragedy, personal and /or familial, and that confers upon them a kind of prophetic honor.  I support fully your right to question their political stance, but there is no need to impugn their personal identities.

Finally, I believe that you, and others who take your political position, will very soon discover that yours is a losing stance.  I refer not to the international situation but to that in the Jewish community in the USA.  Look around you.  I am sure you have observed the opening up of Jewish student groups ("Open Hillel") on many campuses, the rise of BDS everywhere, and the proliferation of progressive Jewish organizations from J-Street to JVP.  Jews are no longer cowed by the "argument" that "loyalty" to the Israeli government is central to Jewish identity.  Ben Gurion may have said that those who continue to live in the Diaspora (including you and me) "are considered to have no God," but no one believes that any more.  The "Diaspora" is, as Hannah Arendt argued it would become after the founding of a "Jewish State," a separate world from Israel.  And it will not be dictated to now any more than it was 100 years ago when Zionism was young.

Considering all this, your editorial sounds defensive, acerbic, bitter, and desperate.  It does not advance the cause of Jews in this country or anywhere.  I think it speaks rather sadly of the inaptly-named Forward that it has gone in this direction.

Yours truly,

Barry Fruchter
Assistant Professor
English, Jewish Studies, and Latin American Studies
Nassau Community College

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hundreds of Holocaust survivors and descendants (from Haaretz)

Hundreds of Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors have signed a letter, published as an advertisement in Saturday's New York Times, condemning "the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza" and calling for a complete boycott of Israel.
According to the letter, the condemnation was prompted by an advertisement written by Elie Wiesel and published in major news outlets worldwide, accusing Hamas of "child sacrifice" and comparing the group to the Nazis.
"Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Nazi genocide unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza

"As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

"We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.

"Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

"We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

To the Editor:

Last Sunday at a solidarity with Ferguson, Missouri rally in New Paltz some women from the Woodstock Jewish Congregation felt that speakers linking Israel's brutal treatment of Palestinians to the brutal treatment of Michael Brown was "muddying the water."

Oppression is oppression.  When governments participate in killing, repressing, and brutalizing innocents it is incumbent upon people of good conscience to speak out (as we all did in New Paltz on Sunday). It does not matter where the injustice occurs or who the victims are. It could be gays in Uganda, or women in Saudi Arabia, or children in Gaza, or young Black men in America.  We must be witnesses to the truth.

There is an old saying that "If enough people tell you that you stink,  you will eventually take a shower."  Perhaps,  the well meaning and good hearted women from Woodstock need to wash themselves in the unmuddied and crystal clear waters of the truth.

The truth is that nearly all human rights organizations,  the UN, and the community of nations have condemned Israel's brutal occupation, oppression, and military attacks on Palestinians.  Hopefully, when enough people hear the truth, Israel will stop the vicious and unrelenting collective punishment that has taken the lives of so many innocent Palestinian men, women, and children in Gaza and the West Bank.  As Martin Luther King Jr. stated, "Injustice anywhere is a threat the justice everywhere."

Eli Kassirer

Friday, August 22, 2014

National Students for Justice in Palestine in Solidarity with Ferguson

National Students for Justice in Palestine
August 18, 2014
For Immediate Release

As the steering committee of National Students for Justice in Palestine, we express our condolences and solidarity with those affected by the killing of Mike Brown, and condemn police violence throughout the United States. We are students of all backgrounds from every region of the nation, who are committed to combating all forms of supremacy, racism and discrimination in our solidarity work to support human rights, self-determination and liberation of Palestinian land and life.

No community should have to endure what the black community has endured in America, let alone still suffer at the hands of oppressive institutions that police blackness and impose guilt without reason. The lives of young black folks should not be dehumanized by those who are meant to serve our communities. The history of police and watch groups in the United States indicates that the protection of black lives has never been a serious concern. The legacies of this history have seen black people controlled, beaten, unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated, repressed while protesting and killed. Justice, transparency and accountability remain delayed.

Therefore, we wholeheartedly stand in solidarity with the black community. Militarized and violent police tactics in present-day America have laid too many young black souls to rest. Black people have suffered at the hands of white supremacist racist violence since before America’s founding. The legacy of institutional injustice has persisted for far too long, and is time for it to change.

We’ve been inspired by the activism that has taken place throughout the nation in response to Mike Brown’s death. At rallies and vigils, we’ve heard critical words that stressed the work we have cut out for us all. Through social media, we shared the injustice in Ferguson, and now, we follow the black community towards challenging militarized policing, improving police accountability, and eliminating anti-black racism.

We stand alongside the black community and pledge our ongoing efforts to end such injustices. It is our moral obligation to contribute all that we can to aid our black sisters and brothers in solidarity. Our struggles are connected, underscored by the unified police trainings between St. Louis County Police and the Israeli Defense Forces. This has eliminated any delineation between local and military tactics. Tear gas, MRAPs, rubber bullets and flashbang grenades do not belong in communities of color. Drones and “no fly-zones” should not exist in Ferguson nor over occupied Palestinian land. Police do not need assault rifles and military grade weapons to protect and serve US citizens. We will be safest when our communities are safe from violence and discrimination at the hands of the state.

We want to fight for a greater justice that empowers us all, and breaks down police militarism, Zionism, and white supremacist racism through mutual love and respect . Injustice against black people is not just a Black issue. Injustice against Palestinian people is not just a Palestinian issue. These are human issues that should concern us all. Only through perceiving the interconnectedness of our struggles, can we unite and empower ourselves and our vision for a better world that does not dehumanize Black people, Palestinians, or anyone.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Unconditional support for Israel must stop

Hudson Valley lawmakers should reconsider unconditional support for Israel. As Israel launches a ground invasion of Gaza and hope for a ceasefire grows dimmer, people of conscience around the world are opposing the war. Demonstrations calling for an end to the assault on Gaza, the occupation of Palestine and the targeting of civilians on both sides have drawn hundreds of thousands around the world, including a vigil of 35 people in Woodstock.
American lawmakers have ignored these demands, choosing to unconditionally back Israel. U.S. House of Representatives Resolution No. 657 and U.S. Senate Resolution No. 498 gave the green light to the bombing of Gaza by referring to it as an act of self-defense, despite a United Nations estimate that 77 percent of those killed in Gaza weren't militants but civilians. Hudson Valley Reps. Chris Gibson, a Republican, and Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat, co-sponsored the House resolution while Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, both D-N.Y., co-sponsored the Senate resolution. Both passed without objection.
There's no excuse for the deaths of three Israeli teenagers that sparked this crisis. Regrettably, Israel hasn't pursued justice but has enacted collective punishment on the Palestinian people.
As the death toll in Gaza grows, there are several ways the United States could put pressure on Israel to stop the bombing, such as cutting military aid, ending diplomatic immunity at the United Nations or levying sanctions.
It's time for our elected officials to get serious about working toward a just peace. The alternative is watching a massacre unfold in slow motion.
Schuyler Kempton