Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Explain Moderate Arabs to me

If extremists and terrorists like Hamas et al stopped fighting a few excellent things (from the point of view of the moderate Arabs) would happen:

(1) Far fewer civilians would die;
(2) It would become much easier for moderate Arabs to make their moral arguments and to articulate their grievances
(3) It would become much easier for moderate Arabs to shine a light on the flaws of the occupation
(4) It would create room for an Arab Ghandi or an Arab MLK to emerge

Meanwhile, if the Jews stopped fighting nothing excellent would happen, as all the Jews would be murdered, and Hamas et al would impose a theocracy with rules that would make it far more difficult for moderate Arabs to enjoy the sort of lives they are currently enjoying.

So moderate Arabs, how can you support the extremists? If you Moderate Arabs want the occupation to end, why are you supporting attacks on civilians by Hamas? That won't end the occupation. Their attacks will only cause Israel to clamp down harder. If you want the occupation to end why aren't you denouncing Hamas's genocidal threats? That kind of rehtoric end the occupation either. It will only make Israel trust the Arabs less.

All Hamas is doing is causing more of your people to die, and giving your worst extremists undeserved power and undeserved influence. They and their missiles are doing nothing to end the occupation.

If you want to end the occupation you should be developing your own Gandhi or your own Martin Luther King, as civil disobedience is what's been shown to work, while killing civilians and spouting on about genocide doesn't.

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In defense of the IDF

From time to time I feel the need to pull back the curtain and reveal to my well-mannered detractors that I am really not a Pro-Hamas, terrorist sympathizing, useful idiot, Muslim running dog. This is one of those times.

I am a member of a top secret, Facebook invisible group where pre-vetted people get to have civil, but no-holds, barred arguments about Israel. The group is full of nice people who disagree fundamentally about Israel, but in good faith mostly, and usually for non-insane reasons

Today, one of the members posted a bit of a rambling diatribe about the civilian death rate in Gaza. This was definitely not the sort of good-faith, non-insane thing you usually see posted there, and the poster went a little overboard in the choice of adjectives she used to describe the IDF.

Here's my [excerpted] response:

You know what's sick [NAME]? Here. I'm going to tell you. Hamas purposefully stores weapons and soldiers in schools and mosques. Do you know why? Because Hamas depends on on the "evil sadistic IDF killing machine" to avoid those targets. Hamas knows that Israel wishes to minimize the civilian death toll. . This is why Hamas chooses to put weapons in schools and mosques. Its a specific, strategic, cynical choice that is based fully on Hamas's recognition of the fact that the IDF generally tries to avoid such targets (when they aren't being used to house missiles.)

Now, let's flip this around. Suppose Israel played the same trick. Suppose Israel used women and children to protect IDF soldiers and weapons. Do you think for a second that would deter Hamas? Of course it wouldn't. Hamas's stated aim is to kill as many as women and children as possible. If Israel used women and children as shields Hamas would not be deterred. Hamas would say "Thank you for making things easier for me."

This is not an unimportant difference.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I am sorry to announce that I have taken the highly unusual step...

Sam Harris Shows How Hasbarah Should be Done

Here's a wonderful example of how to promote Israel in a way that is honest, sensible, non racist, non jingoistic and non obnoxious. Hasbarah bloggers should take note.

Why I don't criticize Israel, by Sam Harris >

Read the essay before the discussion below please.

Epic thread

I promise not to make a regular practice of this, but occasionally a conversation thread on Facebook rises to the level of a masterpiece and must be preserved for the ages. This one starts simply enough, asking Muslims to describe how their home country's treat Jews, but over several hundred comments it crosses into Hajj practices, kotel customs and more, while always remaining perfectly civil and constructive.

I wanted to embed it here, but can't because it was originally posted in a moderated group. You can see it via this link, I think

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Crucifying Haman

I was recently astounded to learn that the idea that Haman was crucified appears in our tradition, notably in the Slichot said on the Fast of Esther and in Josephus. This is pretty cool, I think, because its a clear example of Judaism retrofitting a trope from a later strata of history back on to an older story.

Its not cool, however, because Christians (surprise) used this to justify moments of persecutions and hatred, claiming that the so-called fact that Haman was crucified "proves" that the Jews wanted Jesus crucified, too

IN THE PICTURE: Michealangelo's "Punishment of Haman" showing a crucifiction

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Red Jews

You probably know the Jews are allegedly big-nosed, but did you know that according to official anti-Semitic lore Jews also have red hair? Italian and Spanish art depict Jews as red-haired, and both Shakespeare and Dickens gave red hair to their Jewish characters. In medieval paintings, Judas Iscariot, the first evil Jew, often has crimson hair and beard.

All of which makes me a little annoyed that a great show like South Park opted to give Kyle Broflovski a red Jewfro. I don't take it personally. I just think its a little cheap and a little easy. (I'll also note that Family Guy, a far inferior show, also gave its local Jew red hair.)

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Slate's stupid Taglit Article

Posting this simply to protest that profoundly stupid Slate article that said Taglit/Birthright was to blame for the death of an idf soldier. 
The story below appeared on Gawker and it  is so pro-Israel, and so unabashedly propagandist I think I am now entitled to say that Israel is not the very  most perfect place on earth at least one more time without getting yelled at by the unforgiving, uber-patriotic hordes. 

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Another series of senseless deaths leaves me shaken up

These men were real people, who existed in the world, and mattered to their friends and families in ways that were vibrant, significant and genuine. They are being mourned with real tears. Just saying.

Acheinu kol beit yisrael,
han'nutunim b'tzara uvashivyah,
haomdim bein bayam uvein bayabasha.

Hamakom Y'racheim Aleihem
v'yotziem mitzra lirvacha
um'afaila l'orah umishiabud lig'ulah,
hashta ba'agala uvizman kariv.

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Obama does everything right, gets no love from Pruz

Here's Pruz killing the president both coming and going:

"By the way, is anything more repugnant that Obama’s repeated assertion that “Israel has the right of self-defense,” as if that is not obvious, as if it is a major concession on his part designed to win him plaudits from liberal Jews, and…as if he has to keep saying it in order to talk himself into it?"

Did you catch that? He find it REPUGNANT that the president is repeatedly saying the exact words everyone wants him to say. He'd rather Obama did not say this because it's "obvious" and would prefer Obama didn't "talk himself into it"

Of course, the real truth is Pruz hates the president for wholly irrational reasons and would still hate the president even if he moved to Israel and became a Rabbi. When you hate that much, facts cease to matter.

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A short post to debunk the latest RW false claim

Because some of you are sure that this is a big biased anti Israel move orchestrated by Obama to squeeze the Jewish state, let me assure you that the FAA is also banning flights to Ukraine

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Silencing Tactics

A silencing tactic is an attempt to shut down a critic without addressing the actual argument the critic is using. In other words, its a fancy way of saying SHUT UP

For those of you who wish to have actual conversations, here's a brief primer on some of the silencing techniques people will use to attempt to end those conversations:

(1) Suggesting you're being frivolous
RW example: Why are you talking about dead Palestinian civilians when there are so many more dead Syrian civilians
LW Example: (help?)
From FB:  Suggesting Palestinians are at all responsible for the occupation is blaming the victim

(2) Questioning your motives:
RW Example: You just hate Israel
LW Example: You just hate Arabs

(3) "Othering" You
RW Example: You 're a self hater. You're pro Hamas
LW example: What can you expect from a conservative lunatic?

(4) Assuming you just don't understand, or you would agree with them.

(5) Privileging their position/appealing to authority.
RW Example: I live in Israel! I served in the IDF I know what I'm talking about
LW Example: (help?)

(6) Telling you that the upset you're causing is more important than the problem you're pointing out.
RW Example: Stop being divisive during a war!
LW Example: (Help?)
From FB: Your blaming of the victim is offensive.

(7) Gaslighting
RW Example: You're being too sensitive
LW Example: You've been brainwashed by religion

PS: FAR TOO OFTEN angry right wingers attempt to shut down all conversation and silence anyone they perceive as an opponent by screaming about equivalency. This is what they sound like:

A: 2 and 15 are both integers.
B: How dare you equate 2 and 15, they're clearly not equal! 2 is even and 15 is odd. Moreover, 2 is prime and 15 is not. Also, 15 is much greater than 2!
A: I didn't say 2 = 15, I just said that they both belong to the set of integers.


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Let's talk about Israel

Brilliant idea, poor execution, but makes a point I think far too many right wingers are still fundamentally unable to grasp.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Why Jews and Arabs don't trust each other

I'm in a list making mood.... Here are a few. Please feel free to add and subtract. 


- Years of missile attacks on civilians
- Years of suicide attacks on civilians
- Years of terrorist incursions and terrorist attacks on civilians
- Years of genocidal rhetoric and incitement
- Popular support for Hamas, including the Gaza election and the unitygovernment
- The sight of Arabs celebrating moments of Jewish misfortune
- The documented examples of Palestinians staging deaths for the media
- Yasser Arafat


- The "Arab mentality" (as if they all shared a brain)
- The fear that the very real examples of genocidal rhetoric and the very real examples of Arabs celebrating moments of Jewish misfortune mean that this is how all Arabs think and feel.
- The idea that all Palestinian civilian deaths are staged.



- Saabra and Shatila
- Netanyahu's bragging about how he personally torpedoed Oslo, his general recalcitrance and foot dragging, and the fact that he nonetheless enjoys widespread electoral support
- The history of the occupation which includes: Collective punishment, raids, detentions, attacks on civilians, separate judicial systems, inequitable distributions of resources, and land grabs
- Rhetoric from Israelis that has included calls for genocide, calls for expulsion, calls for perpetual occupation, and so on
- The deaths of civilians during bombing raids, incursions into villages and so on
- The attempt by some Israelis to deligitimize Palestenian suffering
- The attempt by some Israelis to suggest that none of the dead civilians were really civilians or that all of the deaths were staged.


- The fear that Israeli rhetoric about genocide, expulsion, and perpetual occupation reflects widespread popular Israeli options.
- The fear that Israel will never permit a Palestinian state even if the Palestinians were to surrender unconditionally
- The observation that Israel continues to expand beyond the 48 lines which wrongly suggests to some Arabs that the Jews would rather acquire land than pursue peace.
- The fear that Israel actually wants to kill civilians.
- Exaggerated accounts of IDF mistreatment of civilians (as opposed to the real, more limited examples of the same which I have listed as a legitimate reason)

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What are you doing for the war?

What are you doing for the war?

This isn't a question about the personal extras like davening or learning or charity that you may have taken on but about your communities, and what they have officially orgamized. And it isn't a question couched in rebuke or criticism but a real attempt to understand, document and collect the various activities diaspora communities have undertaken to help the war effort. I'll even go first.

In my community, the rabbis have used the war to encourage us to learn more and to pray with extra fervor. They have also used the war to encourage our women to wear longer skirts and sleeves. We've been promised that this will "help". Additionally, there have been collections for that fund that plans to give every soldier a pair of tzitizis.

We have not been saying tehillin. We have not been asked to do anything special to help civilians or to demonstrate support. Many of us have not canceled or changed plans to vacation in Israel this summer.

In the next post, I'll perhaps attempt to work out "what this means" or "what this says about us" but for now I just want to compare and contrast and document the various types of diaspora community responses. So please jump in and ask your friends: what are you doing for the war?

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Kerry's failed peace process

The current TNR has a phenomenal account of how and why John Kerry's peace process failed. Its a great read, rather long, full of detail, and impeccably sourced. Memorable quote: 
After the meeting, the Palestinian negotiator saw Susan Rice—Abbas’s favorite member of the Obama administration—in the hall. “Susan,” he said, “I see we’ve yet to succeed in making it clear to you that we Palestinians aren’t stupid.” Rice couldn’t believe it. “You Palestinians,” she told him, “can never see the f** big picture.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

To my RW friends

What follows is addressed to my friends on the right who are reasonable, intelligent and capable of disagreeing with someone in good faith. If this does not describe you please skip the post.

Dear Friends, and I do consider you my friends:

Here's what may be the best way to describe our disagreement:

I agree with you that there are red lines, and I agree that when those red lines are crossed a nation must respond with deadly force, even if innocent civilians will, predictably, be killed. Such red lines definitely exist. War is sometimes necessary and civilians will die during a war. That's inevitable

I believe we simply disagree about what those red lines are.

I think that fair, and good and reasonable people can legitimately disagree about something like that and I think such disagreements are healthy as they cause us to re-evaluate positions, consider other perspectives and to make sure that we have really got it right.

I believe that things get ugly when people who are not fair, or good or reasonable accuse one side of being bloodthirsty or war mongering while other people accuse the second side of being self-haters or appeasers or enemy-lovers.

At this moment, I do not want to argue about what those red lines are or should be. As I  said on Facebook, I am observing a temporary moratorium on arguing about Israel. At this moment, my thoughts are with the troops and I am praying for a successful mission, carried out with no errors and as few casualties as possible.

Thank you

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