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Mystical Politics

Jewish mysticism, contemporary politics, and personal musings

Updated: 2018-02-02T19:43:06.681-05:00


COLD WAR II - everything old is new again!


Everything old is new again - but not any of the good old things. Just this week our president revived the old racist idea that only white immigrants should be allowed in this country, instead of people from "shitholes" like countries in Africa. Today we were reminded of the bad old days of the Cold War, which the same president is doing his best to revive.

I suppose that everyone has heard about this by now - at 8:00 am Hawaii time today, people in Hawaii were sent the following message:
It wasn't a drill - it was a mistake, but for over a half an hour people in Hawaii thought that they were about to be hit by a nuclear missile.

Thirty-eight minutes later, an official message was sent cancelling the first. 

Before then Rep. Tulsi Gabbard had sent out a message (about twenty minutes after the first emergency message) saying this was a false alarm.

How can this be happening??? I lived through the Cold War. I didn't know about most (or maybe all) of the false alarms that went off from 1956 (when I was born), to the fall of the Soviet Union. I don't even remember the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, although I do remember nuclear war alerts where we had to go sit in the hallway. We had a fallout shelter in the basement of our school.  I remember the nuclear tensions of the 1980s, and the unconscious fear I had that the world would blow up. (I didn't even know that I had that constant fear until the fall of the Soviet Union when I felt like I could finally relax).

Update on Eliade and fascism


I've just posted an update to an old post on Mircea Eliade and fascism, with links to three interesting articles or books that deal with the question of Eliade's connection to Rumanian fascism.

Support progressive young Jews on campus!


Creating a Home for Next Gen Liberal Jews Through The Third NarrativeJoshua SchwartzNorthwestern University, class of 2015Dear Rebecca,As I know you’re interested in the work of The Third Narrative (TTN), I’d like to share my personal TTN story and the impact I know it can have on young progressive American students across the country.Like many others in my generation, I experienced the 2014 Gaza war between Israel and Hamas as a traumatic watershed moment. Studying at Northwestern University, I remember my mother crying over the phone when we heard that Hamas had kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teens – Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. I was further shocked when I learned that Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager, had been burned alive by Israeli settlers. During those terrible days, each side unleashed sadness, pain and rage on the other. I asked myself, “Where do I fit into all of this? What should my generation do? What is our role?”I was a college student who passionately loved Israel, and considered peace with the Palestinians to be the only way to justly resolve the conflict and ensure Israeli security. I knew I needed to find a political home that would enable me to live out my values, but I didn’t yet know that it would be Ameinu and its initiative The Third Narrative. But before discovering Ameinu, I would face a major challenge on campus.Students at Northwestern assembled a coalition – NUDivest – demanding that the university divest from companies profiting from the occupation of the Palestinian Territories. While clearly these companies helped sustain Israel’s military control, I rejected NUDivest and its support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS, like the Israeli right and settler movement, refuses to distinguish between Israel and the Occupied Territories and sees the conflict as a simplistic choice between good and evil. On campus, I advocated that pro-Israel and pro-Palestine activism are not mutually exclusive, and that the only way to fight BDS is to also fight the occupation and support justice for Palestinians. While I sought nuance and compassion, both sides rejected this approach. The Jewish coalition refused to include opposition to occupation in its written communications, and NUDivest pushed its resolution through the student government, giving BDS a victory. When I graduated a few months later, I didn’t know where to turn.It was then that I discovered Ameinu and The Third Narrative -- a home where I could strengthen the American Jewish community by ensuring peace, justice and the two-state solution remained a part of its advocacy agenda. At Ameinu and TTN, I was given a chance to organize a national network of academics focusing on Israel, Palestine and academic freedom; develop a curriculum for student-led learning on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and progressive Zionism; and engage students and Hillel professionals on numerous campuses to include the nuance that was missing from the BDS debate at Northwestern. Through my experiences with Ameinu, I was inspired to go to Israel to study Arabic and spend a year working to promote shared society for Jews and Palestinians in Jerusalem. "Right, Left, and Center Seek a Political Agreement" - Women Wage Peace Upon my return to the United States, Ameinu continued to nurture my progressive Zionist leadership, inviting me to join the Board of Directors. I am honored and excited to give back. While many young liberal American Jews reject all Jewish communal organizations as contrary to their progressive values, I believe we must find a place to re-engage with the institutions that provided our foundational connection to Judaism and Israel. For me, Ameinu is that place.Through Ameinu, I am now working to activate my generation. I’m writing today to ask you to support Ameinu and help us launch The Third Narrative on Campus. This initiative will organize peer education programs on progressive Zionism, bring Israeli social justice and peace ad[...]

Jerusalem and environs in photos in the late 19th and early 20th centuries


Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif in 1877Temple Mount - Muslims leaving for Nebi Musa festival, 1910Damascus Gate in 1870Outside Damascus Gate, 1860German Colony (in Jerusalem), 1900. Germany Colony in Jerusalem, 1900Hezekiah's Pool in Jerusalem, 1862.Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, 1898Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, 1898Valley of Jehoshaphat with Absalom's Tomb (just to the east of the walled Old City), 1877Main road from Shechem (Nablus) to Jerusalem, 1913Rachel's Tomb, 1900 Source of the photographs: First Photos of Eretz Yisrael.[...]

Growing Antisemitism in Sweden


Anti-Semitism in Sweden now mostly comes from Muslim extremists and the left-wing, not from right-wing extremists.STOCKHOLM — This past Saturday, a Hanukkah party at a synagogue in Goteborg, Sweden, was abruptly interrupted by Molotov cocktails. They were hurled by a gang of men in masks at the Jews, mostly teenagers, who had gathered to celebrate the holiday. Two days later, two fire bombs were discovered outside the Jewish burial chapel in the southern Swedish city of Malmo. Who knows what tomorrow may bring? For Sweden’s 18,000 Jews, sadly, none of this comes as a surprise. They are by now used to anti-Semitic threats and attacks — especially during periods of unrest in the Middle East, which provide cover to those whose actual goal has little to do with Israel and much to do with harming Jews. Both of these recent attacks followed days of incitement against Jews. Last Friday, 200 people protested in Malmo against President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The protesters called for an intifada and promised “we will shoot the Jews.” A day later, during a demonstration in Stockholm, a speaker called Jews “apes and pigs.” There were promises of martyrdom. Malmo’s sole Hasidic rabbi has reported being the victim of more than 100 incidents of hostility ranging from hate speech to physical assault. In response to such attacks, the Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a travel warning in 2010 advising “extreme caution when visiting southern Sweden” because of officials’ failure to act against the “serial harassment” of Jews in Malmo. Today, entering a synagogue anywhere in Sweden usually requires going through security checks, including airport-like questioning. At times of high alert, police officers with machine guns guard Jewish schools. Children at the Jewish kindergarten in Malmo play behind bulletproof glass. Not even funerals are safe from harassment. Jewish schoolteachers have reported hiding their identity. A teacher who wouldn’t even share the city where she teaches for fear of her safety told a Swedish news outlet: “I hear students shouting in the hallway about killing Jews.” Henryk Grynfeld, a teacher at a high school in a mostly immigrant neighborhood in Malmo, was told by a student: “We’re going to kill all Jews.” He said other students yell “yahoud,” the Arabic word for Jew, at him..... Historically, anti-Semitism in Sweden could mainly be attributed to right-wing extremists. While this problem persists, a study from 2013 showed that 51 percent of anti-Semitic incidents in Sweden were attributed to Muslim extremists. Only 5 percent were carried out by right-wing extremists; 25 percent were perpetrated by left-wing extremists. Swedish politicians have no problem condemning anti-Semitism carried out by right-wingers. When neo-Nazis planned a march that would go past the Goteborg synagogue on Yom Kippur this September, for example, it stirred up outrage across the political spectrum. A court ruled that the demonstrators had to change their route. There is, however, tremendous hesitation to speak out against hate crimes committed by members of another minority group in a country that prides itself on welcoming minorities and immigrants. In 2015, Sweden was second only to Germany in the number of Syrian refugees it welcomed. Yet the three men arrested in the Molotov cocktail attack were newly arrived immigrants, two Syrians and a Palestinian. The fear of being accused of intolerance has paralyzed Sweden’s leaders from properly addressing deep-seated intolerance. Some of the country’s leaders have even used Israel as a convenient boogeyman to explain violence. After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, explained radicalism among European Muslims with reference to Israel: “Here, once again, we are brought b[...]

Why I signed the Jewish Studies scholars statement on Jerusalem


I signed this statement criticizing Trump's decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move the American embassy to Jerusalem. I signed not because I think that Jerusalem isn't the capital of Israel (the Knesset, the Supreme Court, and most government ministries are there - it's obviously the capital of Israel, no matter what other nations say), but because Trump's announcement does not acknowledge that Palestinians also have a legitimate claim to Jerusalem. I believe that Jerusalem should be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinians state. 

Jerusalem is one of the central issues to be decided in any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and predetermining its status forecloses upon the possibility that the city could be a capital of both states.

We write as Jewish Studies scholars to express our dismay at the Trump administration's decision to reverse decades of bipartisan U.S. policy by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and authorizing the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv, outside of a negotiated political framework that ends the legal state of occupation and ensures respect for the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to Jerusalem. 
Jerusalem is of immense religious and thus emotional significance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. It is the focus of national aspirations for both Israelis and Palestinians. We hope one day to see a world in which all inhabitants of the land enjoy equal access to the city’s cultural and material resources. Today, unfortunately, that is not the case. 
As the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem* has documented, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem endure systematic inequalities, including an inequitable distribution of the city's budget and municipal services, routine denial of building permits that are granted to Jewish residents, home demolitions, and legal confiscation of property for Jewish settlement. In addition, Palestinians in the West Bank, unlike Jewish Israelis resident in that territory, require a special permit to visit Jerusalem’s holy sites.

In this context, a declaration from the United States government that appears to endorse sole Jewish proprietorship over Jerusalem adds insult to ongoing injury and is practically guaranteed to fan the flames of violence. We therefore call on the U.S. government to take immediate steps to deescalate the tensions resulting from the President’s declaration and to clarify Palestinians’ legitimate stake in the future of Jerusalem.

Harvest Moon over Empire State Building


At a campaign rally for Ray Moore tonight in Midland City, AL, Kayla Moore spoke about accusations of antisemitism against her husband.

Ken Livingstone and Ken Loach - antisemites


Just in case you thought that Ken Livingstone and Ken Loach were awesome socialist fighters for humanity, this is what they both said today:

Ken Livingstone:
Accusations of anti-Semitism came back to haunt the Labour Party after a fringe meeting appeared to compare the government in Israel to Nazi Germany.

Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, who is currently suspended for comments made about Adolf Hitler last year, says the issue is being "distorted." [This is what he said: "Hitler was "supporting Zionism before he went mad and killed six million Jews'"].

He told Julia Hartley-Brewer these people aren't inherently anti-semitic: "The simple fact is these issues are being raised by people like Wes Streeting and I think are completely distorting the scale of it.

"Some people have made offensive comments, it doesn’t mean they’re inherently anti-Semitic and hate Jews. They just go over the top when they criticise Israel.

"The people criticising Israeli government policy aren’t criticising people who are Jewish in Britain.

"They’re criticising a government like Jeremy Corbyn criticises Saudi Arabia for its abuse of many of its peoples."
So then what does make someone an antisemite? Death threats? Physical violence? Or could he justify those too?

And here's the interview with Ken Loach:
COBURN: There was a fringe meeting yesterday that we talked about at the beginning of the show where there was a discussion about the Holocaust, did it happen or didn’t it… would you say that was unacceptable?

LOACH: I think history is for us all to discuss, wouldn’t you?

COBURN: Say that again, sorry, I missed that.

LOACH: History is for all of us to discuss. All history is our common heritage to discuss and analyze. The founding of the state of Israel, for example, based on ethnic cleansing is there for us all to discuss. The role of Israel now is there for us to discuss. So don’t try to subvert that by false stories of anti-Semitism.

When fascism comes to America, it comes flying the Nazi and Confederate flags


We were wrong to say that when fascism came to America, it would come wrapped in the American flag. The fascists in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past Friday night and Saturday, came carrying Nazi flags and Confederate flags, chanting antisemitic and racist slogans, including slogans taken from the German Nazi Party. President Trump tries to wrap himself in the American flag, but it keeps slipping, and we see the swastika and the stars and bars.And about these men (they were mostly men), our president said:"Not all of those people were neo-Nazis.... Not all of those people were white supremacists." "They didn't put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides." "You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly." "There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly, the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones."In the torchlit procession on Friday night, bands of (mostly) men belonging to racist and antisemitic organizations chanted "Jews will not replace us," "Blood and soil," "White Lives Matter." They attacked the small group of student counter protestors standing at the statue of Thomas Jefferson - they were certainly not "protesting very quietly." And on Saturday afternoon, one of the neo-Nazis rammed his car into people protesting the Nazis and killed a woman, Heather Heyer. Nineteen other people were injured. Our president didn't say anything about her today, and when he mentioned her yesterday, he didn't give her name or saying anything about her.The Nazis threatened the members of the local Reform synagogue, who were not given any protection by the police (see below for an account by the president of the synagogue).Neo-Nazis and racists were euphoric with joy at what Trump said:“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth,” David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, wrote in a Twitter post shortly after Mr. Trump spoke. Richard Spencer, a white nationalist leader who participated in the weekend’s demonstrations and vowed to flood Charlottesville with similar protests in the coming weeks, was equally encouraged. “Trump’s statement was fair and down to earth,” Mr. Spencer tweeted.....The Reform synagogue in Charlottesville was repeatedly harassed on Saturday morning by bands of Neo-Nazis walking by. Alan Zimmerman, the president of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, wrote:On Saturday morning, I stood outside our synagogue with the armed security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer during morning services. (Even the police department’s limited promise of an observer near our building was not kept — and note, we did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped). Forty congregants were inside. Here’s what I witnessed during that time. For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them, either. Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I’m paranoid. I don’t know. Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There's the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols. A guy in a white polo shirt walked by the synagogue a few times, arousing suspicion. Was he casing t[...]

Chicago Dyke March and Chicago SlutWalk are anti-Semitic


The Chicago Dyke March and Chicago SlutWalk aren’t anti-Zionist. They’re anti-Semitic, by Mark Joseph Stern (Slate).
Are you a Jew in Chicago who’d like to march for LGBTQ rights and gender equality? You’ll have to follow a few rules, helpfully laid out in recent weeks by the Chicago Dyke March and the Chicago SlutWalkFirst, you must not carry any “Zionist displays.” What are Zionist displays? That’s for others to decide. A Star of David might be OK. But if it’s on a rainbow flag, it probably isn’t because “its connections to the oppression enacted by Israel is too strong for it to be neutral.” 
Second, you must express solidarity with Palestine. Marching in a parade with a pro-Palestinian stance is not sufficient, nor is advocating for a Palestinian state. As an openly Jewish person, you’ll need to satisfy more heightened scrutiny; other marchers may repeatedly demand that you disavow Israel and swear allegiance to the Palestinian cause. You must comply with these demands or else you will be expelled.

Third, you must renounce any previous connections you have had with Israel. Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a group with ties to Israel? Repudiate and repent. Openly Jewish marchers are presumed to be in leaguewith the Israeli government unless they can prove otherwise.

One final note: If you are a journalist who covers the implementation of these rules, you deserve to lose your job.

Listed all at once, these guidelines may sound too blatantly anti-Semitic to be stated openly—yet they are, at present, the operating principles of two widely celebrated progressive movements in Chicago. Both the Dyke March and the SlutWalk allege that these rules are compelled by intersectionality, the theory that all forms of social oppression are linked. In reality, both groups are using intersectionality as a smokescreen for anti-Semitism, creating a litmus test that Jews must pass to be part of these movements. American progressives should reject this perversion of social justice. No coherent vision of equality can command the maltreatment of Jews.

Mosaics in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem


Haaretz has an article today about the restoration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The church used to be covered inside by mosaics, some of which have survived to the present day, but have been obscured for many years by soot and dirt.
The Church of the Nativity was established in what is now the West Bank town of Bethlehem in the year 333 C.E. by Emperor Constantine, but that structure was destroyed in the Samaritan revolt in the 6th century and rebuilt in 560. From the period of the Crusades until 1492, the church underwent comprehensive renovation a number of times.

Since then, however, there have been only a few minor repairs. The Ottoman Turkish authorities constructed large support structures for the church after an earthquake threatened to bring down one of its exterior walls, and the British added wooden beams to support the walls. But in recent centuries, the church hasn’t undergone a thorough renovation.....
The cost of the renovations at the Church of the Nativity was about 18 million euros ($20.5 million), which was funded by the Palestinian Authority, the Vatican and other governments, along with a large number of contributors from the Palestinian business sector.

The renovations are being carried out by a family-owned Italian restoration firm called Piacenti with the assistance of Palestinian workers. Haaretz was given a tour of the site by the engineer in charge of the project, Ibrahim Abed Rabbo of Bethlehem; Marcello Piacenti, who heads the company that bears his name; and Franciscan Father David Grenier, the general secretary of the local Custody of the Holy Land, with oversight of holy places.

The greatest preservation challenge was restoring the huge mosaics that in the past covered the church’s walls. The restorers have estimated that only about 7 percent of the original mosaics remain – a million and a half tiles covering 125 square meters of space, compared to the more than 2,000 square meters in the past.

New York Times interview with New Ithaca College President, Shirley Collado


New York Times publishes good article about our (Ithaca College) incoming president: At Ithaca College, a President Focused on Diversity.Students at Ithaca College who sign up for intergroup dialogues in the coming semesters may have some interesting classmates: their professors. The discussion groups, where students, and now faculty and staff, come together to talk through challenging issues are among the many changes, big and small, that Shirley M. Collado, the incoming president of Ithaca College, has in mind as she sets out to usher in a new era at the institution. “Imagine an entire first-year class participating in an intergroup dialogue right as they come into town,” she said. “They’re living in the same residence hall, and they’re going to the first-year seminar, and they’re talking about religion and politics not just intellectually, but also in terms of their own lived experience, with people across roles.”I like this idea. I teach a first year seminar, and last year, as a way for students to get to know each other better at the beginning of the semester, we did just this by exploring what "home" meant to all of the students. Home not just in the sense of the comfortable place they had all just come from to college, but also the conflicts between groups in their towns/cities and their high schools.But as much as she leans on her studies to help her draft a new course for Ithaca College, the heart of Ms. Collado’s relationship with diversity lies in her life experience.She is a first-generation college student, from Dominican parents, and grew up in a decidedly working-class home in Brooklyn. Her dad drove a yellow cab, her mom worked in a factory. College was never the assumed next step in life, like it is for so many who attend Ithaca College, but she was able to chart a path that began at Vanderbilt University as part of the inaugural class of the Posse Foundation. The pilot program grouped five students from mixed backgrounds in New York City together into a “posse,” offering them scholarships and introducing them even before their orientation, to help forge a sense of community from the start. Ms. Collado attributes a lot of her success to that experience, and she said it is a key element in how she personally looks at addressing diversity. Central to her diversity plan is just that: making diversity a core principle of how the college operates at every level, not just set apart into task forces and studies.I also like this idea, and I'm very tired of task forces and studies on the topic. In two of my courses I have foregrounded "diversity" (I'm not so happy with the word - I'd rather say that I've foregrounded critical ways of thinking about race [as a constructed reality], religion, and political conflict].A college cannot truly diversify until it has fully embraced all the aspects of diversity into its bloodstream, she said. Simply trying to recruit a diverse student body without centralizing the issue would just lead to the same diminishing returns many colleges have faced as they look for a more diverse student body. The faculty, staff and curriculum need to represent a diverse institution in order to bring about a truly diverse class. “You can’t change who’s coming in if you’re not willing to shift who you are,” Ms. Collado said.I think she's right, and this was one of our problems - the college worked hard on diversifying the student body without thinking and doing very much about recruiting more diverse faculty and staff (although there were some initiatives in this direction).She also sees a vast resource in partnerships with local community colleges to help usher in students with a wider array of life experiences. And right in downtown Ithaca [...]