A Voice for Gaza, From East Jerusalem

As wounded Gazans flock to hospitals, women take on the bulk of their care


Rula Salameh lives in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem and works for Just Vision, an NGO committed to finding and disseminating non-violent ways of ending the Israeli-Palesinian conflict in both communities. She is also a television presenter for Ma’an News Agency, a Palestinian television channel, and is active in a number of women’s groups in East Jerusalem.

“What happened in Gaza recently really effected most Palestinian lives in Israel and the West Bank,” Salameh told me on the phone last week. “I felt that we had to do something to support people in Gaza, to tell them we are thinking of them and supporting them and we can’t live a normal life while Gaza is under Israeli attack.” (more…)

Are We Still Afraid of ‘Jaws’?

Spielberg’s classic emptied beaches in 1975, but does it still scare?

Scene from Steven Spielberg's Jaws. (© 1975 - Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.)

Released on June 20, 1975, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is commonly seen as the original summer blockbuster. It’s also considered one of Hollywood’s first “high concept” films. You can describe it in just three words: Shark menaces town.  

Despite this surface simplicity, or perhaps because of it, Jaws has given rise to countless—sometimes conflicting—interpretations. The shark has been seen as a stand-in for everything from Watergate to infidelity to immigration. While some have argued that the predator represents the evils of communism, Fidel Castro called the movie a Marxist masterpiece, in which the shark represents the capitalism that brutalizes ordinary Americans. Next year, when the movie turns 40, there’ll no doubt be commentators who will see it as a predictor of global warming—or of 9/11.  (more…)

Israel Confirms Hamas Funded Kidnapping

Accomplice in abduction and murder of three teens says order came from Gaza

Israeli security forces speak on the phone as they stand guard on June 30, 2014 in the village of Halhul, near the West Bank town of Hebron, where the bodies of the three missing Israeli teenagers were found. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel has confirmed that the funding for the June kidnapping and murder of Israeli teenagers Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah—which set off a chain of events that led to the current war in Gaza—was provided by Hamas.

Hassam Qawasameh, a Palestinian man arrested on July 11 in connection with the abduction, admitted that the orders and financing of the kidnapping came from Gaza. Paul Hirschson, deputy spokesperson for international media at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tweeted the news this afternoon after an Israeli gag order was lifted. (more…)

Video Shows Hamas Firing Rocket From Residential Area

Indian news site posted the footage after its reporters were safely out of Gaza

(Screengrab from NDTV video showing a Hamas rocket being assembled and later fired in a residential area of Gaza.)

Indian news site NDTV has published a video of their news team in Gaza filming the assembly of a Hamas rocket next to their hotel, in a heavily populated residential zone. The video also captures the rocket being fired the following morning, just before the latest ceasefire began.

The video, which NDTV explains they waited to post online until the team was out of Gaza, offers some of the first public footage corroborating Israel’s argument that Hamas launches rockets from civilian areas, knowingly endangering the lives of Palestinians in retaliatory Israeli air strikes. (more…)

Ceasefire Holding Between Israel and Hamas

All Israeli military personnel have withdrawn from the Gaza Strip

Israeli soldiers walk near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave on August 5, 2014, after Israel announced that all of its troops had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. (DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images)

A 72-hour ceasefire went into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, the 29th day of Operation Protective Edge, bringing a tentative end for now to the fighting that has killed 67 Israelis, including three civilians, and more than 1,800 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials.

On Monday night, Egypt announced that Hamas had agreed to the ceasefire with no preconditions, three weeks after Israel agreed to a previous Egyptian ceasefire. (more…)

Honor, Shame, and the ‘Emotional Nakba’

Paul Scham responds to a recent article by Richard Landes in Tablet


Last month, we published an article by Richard Landes in which the historian and author argued that together with the nakba, or catastrophe, that befell Palestinians in 1948 was an additional, perhaps more acute, psychological blow: an emotional nakba that cut to the core of millennia of a Muslim honor-shame discourse.

Paul Scham, professor of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the University of Maryland, where he is executive director of its Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies, submitted a response, which we’ve published a condensed version of below. (more…)

Did the U.N. Call on Israel to Share Iron Dome With Hamas?

No, what it actually said was even more outrageous

A missile is launched by an 'Iron Dome' battery, a missile defence system designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on July 18, 2014. (DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, a custom-tailored-for-Facebook story started making the rounds, claiming that Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was blasting Israel for refusing to share the Iron Dome missile defense system with Hamas. It was just the kind of hilariously delicious absurdity that could be expected of the same organization that will soon welcome Chad—where slavery is still a rollicking tradition—into its Security Council, but the ever zealous guardians of Israel’s minor infractions and little else soon declared that Pillay was being slandered: she never called on Israel to share its defensive bounties, but rather criticized the United States for helping to fund the advanced system and noted that “no such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling.”

Which, in a way, is an even more deplorable statement to make. (more…)

A Voice For Gaza, From the West Bank

Non-violence advocate faces resistance from Palestinians and fire from IDF


Issa Amro is the director of Youth Against Settlements, a non-partisan NGO based in the West Bank city of Hebron that seeks to end the Israeli occupation through non-violence. The organization’s activities include presentations, screenings, and tours intended for Israelis, Palestinians, and the international community. They also take advantage of social media and YouTube to disseminate information about what’s happening in Hebron, and how to use non-violent means to oppose it.

On Friday, Amro organized a non-violent protest in support of Gaza, which 30,000 people attended, many of them women, children, and the elderly. (more…)

Mourning in the Language of Tisha B’Av

A makeshift ritual to grieve for Sudanese and Eritrean refugees in Israel

African asylum seekers, who entered Israel illegally in the past years, hold a prayer after they spent the night in an outdoor camp near Nitzana border crossing with Egypt in the Negev Desert on June 28, 2014. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

I’m trying to sing Lamentations in Ladino, a sad book of the Bible in a dying language I don’t know. I couldn’t care less about the destruction of the Temple—what synagogues all over the world are commemorating today, Tisha B’Av, with the chanting of Lamentations in Hebrew. I mourn those who die at borders, trying to get out of Egypt, and those who make it: strangers detained in the desert, captives waiting to be deported. I lament the exploitation of workers Israel calls infiltrators, who labor like slaves in four-star resorts.

I’ve been to the remnant of the temple in Jerusalem. I had gone to Israel to follow the stories of Sudanese and Eritrean refugees who’d crossed the Sinai. Peter, who thought along the way, the Holy Spirit is going to Jerusalem. Daniel, who asked when he got there, where is the Holy City? Gabriel, who told me his father was killed in South Sudan; his mother drowned herself in the Nile. He asked me to meet him at the Wailing Wall. (more…)

Cavs Coach David Blatt: Gaza Operation Justified

New NBA hire spent the last four years coaching Maccabi Tel Aviv

Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt announces that he is leaving for the NBA during a press conference on June 12, 2014. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

David Blatt, the newly-appointed Cleveland Cavaliers coach who hit the NBA jackpot last month when LeBron James subsequently announced his return to the team, expressed his support for the Israel military operation in Gaza in a recent interview with Israeli newspaper Globes. The Boston native spent the past four seasons coaching Maccabi Tel Aviv, leading the team to their unexpected Euroleague victory in May, ending a long string of international coaching gigs and heading to the NBA.

Asked how he felt not being in Israel during Operation Protective Edge, the month-long conflict in which 64 IDF soldiers and more than 1,800 Palestinians have been killed, he said, “That’s exactly what’s making me uncomfortable. I’ve always been in Israel at the hardest times. Since Operation Protective Edge began, I feel being in Israel is the most natural thing for me to do. My work is here, though, and I have to get ready for the coming season. It’s not easy for me when I’m constantly thinking about what’s happening in Israel.” (more…)

Two Suspected Terror Attacks Rock Jerusalem

Driver slams excavator into bus, killing one; IDF soldier shot at close range

Israeli policemen moves the body of a Palestinian man who was shot by Israeli police officers after he rammed an excavator into a bus on August 04, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

A Palestinian man from East Jerusalem driving an excavator killed a pedestrian and hit a bus on Monday, in what is believed to be the first terror attack in Israel since Operation Protective Edge began 28 days ago.

The driver, identified as Muhammed Naif el-Ja’abis from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, was shot dead at the scene by police and a prisons service officer who happened to be nearby when the incident occurred.

Ja’bbis reportedly slammed the excavator into the bus, flipping it over onto the sidewalk and injuring the bus driver and four passengers. (more…)

Birthrighters Banned From IDF Soldiers’ Funerals

Program CEO fears American visitors just won’t get it

An honor guard caries the coffin of Israeli Lt. Hadar Goldin during his funeral on August 3, 2014 in Kfar-saba, Israel. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

It’s summer, which means that Israel is hosting scores of young American Jews touring the country as part of the Taglit Birthright program. But this is no ordinary time for a visit, and Birthright participants have requested to alter their itineraries and allow them to attend the funerals of IDF soldiers killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. This is a particularly poignant request given the fact that one of these soldiers, Max Steinberg, is a Birthright alum. The organization, however, remains unmoved, refusing to allow its members to witness the fallen soldiers’ last rites.

“This is a new subject, and so we had no prior policy,” said Taglit Birthright’s CEO, Gidi Mark. “We’re inclined to prohibit [participation in soldiers’ funerals], because attending requires understanding the context of what’s going on here, and this is their first visit so they lack this understanding.” (more…)

The Perfect Tisha B’Av Playlist

There’s only one song on it


Tisha B’Av, the day we mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and commemorate those epic tragedies with a reading of Lamentations, is arguably the most somber day in the Jewish calendar. You are supposed to fast and to avoid anything that gives you pleasure.

Not everyone, though, is machmeer, or strict, in their observance. For those who allow themselves music, then, here’s a playlist. It consists of a single mournful song, poetry courtesy of the Book of Psalms. (more…)

My Very Own Tisha B’Av

How the saddest day of the Jewish calendar helped make me a happier Jew

Glass bridge above the Hall of Witness at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum(USHMM)

The idea that Tisha B’Av, the day that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in ancient Jerusalem, could serve as my own personal means of identity integration came to me in what I consider to be one of the most sacred spaces in Washington, D.C.: the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where, for the past decade, I have made an annual Tisha B’Av pilgrimage.
Visiting a Holocaust memorial on a Tisha B’Av afternoon is not all that unusual for religiously observant Jews, and neither is what I did the night before: sitting on the floor of my synagogue and listening to various men read from the Book of Lamentations. Perched cross-legged against a wall, the summers I spent at Habonim, a Labor Zionist youth camp, couldn’t have been further from my mind. (more…)

New Report Shows Britain Not Immune to Anti-Semitism

Faring better than Europe, but with clouds on the horizon

Gravestones lay desecrated in Eastham Jewish cemetery, June 16, 2005, in London, England. (Getty Images)

In the first six months of 2014, there was a 36 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the United Kingdom, a new report released by Britain’s Community Security Trust (CST) revealed Thursday.

Between January and June of this year, 304 incidents of anti-Semitism were noted by the CST, as compared to 223 in the same period in 2013, 312 in 2012, and 294 in 2011. While there are positive trends beneath the headline figure–violent anti-Semitic incidents have fallen for the past two years and are at their lowest level since 2001–other types of incidents have risen in number, leading to an increase in the overall figure. Damage to Jewish property went up 35 percent–one widely-reported example of anti-Semitism was the desecration of gravestones at Blackley Jewish Cemetery in Manchester, some broken in two, some daubed with Nazi and anti-Jewish graffiti, which took place at the end of June. (more…)

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