Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Feel Good Story of the Day

JTA has an article about a team of 24 Israelis and Palestinians competing in an international competition of Australian-rules football.
Team member Sulaiman Khatib, was just 14 when he and a friend stabbed some Israeli soldiers. Khatib was arrested and sent to prison for 10 years. He spent most of his time behind bars learning Hebrew and English, reading about Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi and studying the histories of other conflicts, leading him to conclude:

“I believe there is no military solution to the conflict. I believe nonviolence is the best way for our struggle, for our freedom and for peace on both sides.”

He is the co-founder and director of the Al-Quds Association for Democracy and Dialogue.
I mention this because this is the exactly the type of peacebuilding activities that will lead to both sides coming to a just and fair solution that will respect the aspirations of both peoples. It is the type of activity that is rejected by the BDS leadership, as I wrote about here.

In addition, I mention it because our food coop brings together people from all backgrounds. The food coop, too, is a peacebuilder. This function is exactly what folks trying to bring the BDS referendum to the coop threaten to disrupt.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Will Be on the Radio

Tonight, Tuesday, August 30, 2011, I will be on the radio with Rabbi Yaakov Spivak at 7PM EDT (GMT-4:00).  I will be talking about our anti-BDS efforts at the Park Slope Food Coop.

In the NYC metropolitan area you can listen on 620AM WSNR and on the internet at

And Now For Something Completely Different....

From the fine folks at

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Who Is BDS and What Is its Goal? Part I

I have a submission in Aug. 25 Linewaiters' Gazette describing the BDS Movement and showing that it is not pro-peace and its goal is the elimination of the world's only Jewish State.  I also pointed out that the BDS position and rhetoric qualifies as anti-Semitic according to the definition used by the US State Department.  Gazette member submission's are limited to 750 words.  I promised to write a more complete and annotated article to be posted here.

I have broken the article into 2 parts, because of its length.  Part II is here.

Who is the BDS Movement and what is its goal?  We need to know if we in the coop are to vote on holding a referendum to join BDS.

BDS stands for Boycott, Divest, Sanction.  The target is Israel.  BDS equates Israel with the former apartheid regime of South Africa."  It claims Israel is obligated under international law to 1) End the occupation of Arab lands 2) Provide equal rights for Arab Citizens of Israel 3) Allow the return of Arabs who left Palestine during the 1948 war, and their descendants to settle in Israel.1.  The goal, according to BDS leader Omar Barghouti, is "a more just, moral and therefore enduring alternative for peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Mandate Palestine: the one-state solution."

The BDS claims seem reasonable, only if you know nothing about the Middle East or World History.

If Barghouti were a true advocate of a "peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs," he would encourage peacebuilding activities and dialogues intended to normalize relationships between Arabs and Jews.
In peacebuilding, efforts are made to open channels of communication, get people involved in joint projects, work with the media and the educational system to try to break down stereotypes, and reduce prejudice and discrimination. The goal of all of these efforts is reconciliation – getting the people to accept each other as part of their own group or be reconciled to mutual co-existence and tolerance.3.

But Barghouti's organization, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) opposes these activities.   It published a pamphlet to discourage Palestinian youth from participating in peacebuilding efforts, "Why Must We Must Boycott Peacemakers?".4.  The pamphlet brands as "traitors" anyone who participates in these activities.

Barghouti ignores a century of Arab instigated anti-Jewish violence. He ignores the 2nd class status of Jews as dhimmi under the Ottomans, and the periodic outbreaks of violence against them that pre-date the Eretz Yisrael Movements. He ignores the incitement of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, from 1923 and onwards. Barghouti sees no fault on the part of the Arabs; they are only the victims of Zionist agression, and he accuses the Jews of the most heinous crimes.

One has to wonder, given the hatred for Jews that Barghouti constantly foments, how does he expect that Jews and Arabs could live together peacefully.

Incidentally, Omar Barghouti does not believe the academic boycott applies to himself personally.  Barghouti is Ph.D. candidate at Tel Aviv University.


1. Paraphrased from Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS:
2. Omar Barghouti,
3. Conflict Research Consortium,
4. MidEastWeb for Coexistence,

Who Is BDS and What Is its Goal? Part II

"BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state," 5. so says BDS supporter Ahmed Moor.   This is a continuation of the Arab rejection of Jewish equality and Jewish self-determination. 

The world is filled with ethnic nation-states.   There are states for Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs, Croatians, Lithuanians, Armenian, Greeks, etc.   In each of those states, a particular national group is the majority.  The group's culture forms the essence of the states identity and enjoys a privileged status.  At the same time, the state is obliged to protect the human and civil rights of all its citizens, including the minorities.  For the most part, natioin-states have had positive influences upon humanity.  The world acknowledges the right of peoples to preserve and develop their unique cultures.

Jews share a unique history, culture, language and religion.   They have a history of sovereignty in a particular land, Israel.  Jews have maintained a continuous attachment and presence in the Land of Israel, even under the most difficult circumstances.  By every definition they are a nation, and historically have been treated that way.  If there is a right of all peoples to self-determination, then Jews, too, are entitled to that right.

The Arabs have 21 states for developing a unique and vibrant cultural life.  Islam enjoys an official state status in 17 of those Arab states, where  Muslims enjoy exclusive access to state jobs, state subsidies and state support.  BDS applies a different standard to Israel; only Jews are denied the right of self-determination.

Jews acquired land though purchases from Arab landowners at inflated prices up until the 1948 War.  In 1947, in an attempt to end the ethnic violence in Mandatory Palestine, the UN General Assembly recommended partition of the land into 2 states - one for Jews, one for Arabs.  The Jews accepted the plan.  The Arabs rejected the plan because it included recognition of a Jewish State.  5 Arab League nations declared war on Israel, vowing to exterminate the Jews.  Their combined intention was expressed publicly by Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League: "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades."

War is a terrible thing.  About 25 million German, Russians, Poles, Ukrainians and others were uprooted in the aftermath of World War II.  Some 2 million Jewish survivors in Europe had nowhere to go home.  The Partition of India caused the displacement of 14 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Around 700,000 Arabs fled to the neighboring invading Arab countries, during the 1948 War.   Subsequently, at least 700,000 Jews were forced out of Arab countries, the majority finding refuge in the newborn Jewish State.

In this context, the Palestinian exodus, while tragic, is not extraordinary.  Yet, while all other refugees were absorbed by their host countries, only the Arab Palestinians remained stateless.  Their Arab host countries refused to absorb them and grant them the full rights of citizenship.  There is no movement demanding the right of return for anyone displaced during this period in history but the Palestinians.  
Ahmed Moor writes, "The right of return [BDS's third demand] is an inviolable and sacrosanct principle which necessarily spells out the end of the Jewish state."6.

Following Israel's War of Independence, around 160,000 Arabs remained inside the 1949 Armistice Lines. They and their descendants have full citizenship and full civil rights in Israel.  Arabs in Israel vote, attend university, work in all professions, serve in the Parliament, and serve as judges.  To compare their situation to "apartheid" is a bald-faced lie and disrespectful to those who truly suffered in South Africa.  It is an attempt to demonize Israel.

Since 1967, the Arabs have rejected numerous offers by Israel to end the occupation – the result of a defensive war - in return for an end to the conflict and coexistence with a secure Jewish state.  Again, Moor:  "Ending the occupation doesn't mean anything if it doesn't mean upending the Jewish state itself."7.

BDS seeks to depict the Israel as uniquely evil.  It ignores Arab incitement and violence.  It is BDS's position that Israel has no right to exist.

When does criticism of Israel cross the line and become anti-Semitism?  According to the Hannah Rosenthal of the US State Department: "when Israel is demonized, when Israel is held to different standards than the rest of the countries, and when Israel is delegitimized.  These cases are not disagreements with a policy of Israel, this is anti-Semitism."8.   BDS does all three.

Entertaining any connection to BDS means treating it as having a legitimate side of a public debate, an unacceptable position  for the Park Slope Food Coop.

Part I is here.


5. Ahmed Moor,
6. Ahmed Moor,
7. Ahmed Moor,
8. Hannah Rosenthal, "Resurgent Anti-Semitism: Global Perspectives";

Monday, August 22, 2011

So Much Misinformation

A Park Slope blogger wrote a post about the Coop and BDS, this past May, just when we were starting out.  There was one comment that I always wanted to answer.  Here is a guy, who writes like he thinks he knows what he is talking about, but is wrong on every single point.

Why is there so much misinformaton?
As for Israel, regardless of their role as our strongest ally in the middle east, the country does not belong there. 
What are his reasons?
1. What other religion has a country created for it? How would the world react if we carved out a new country for all Muslims or all Christians, etc)
Actually, the "world" reacts just fine.  The Partition of India created Muslim Pakistan.  Lebanon was carved out of the Ottoman Empire to create a Christian enclave, not to mention all the other Arab countries created that are officially Islamic.  Recently Roman Catholic East Timor declared independence from Muslim Indonesia.  South Sudan became independent from Sudan.

It is not religion, but ethnicity, that is the basis for the creation of nation-states.   Jews are a people.  The world acknowledges the right of peoples to protect and develop their unique cultures.  So there are states for Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs, Croatians, Lithuanians, Armenian, Greeks, etc.  And a state for Jews.

We are fine with ethnic nation states.  What we don't like are states that abuse the human and civil rights of their citizens.

2. It was created out of guilt over the Holocaust. (please do not misunderstand my point. i am not agreeing with, justifying or diminishing the Holocaust in ANY WAY. simple stating a fact. the country was carved out by the allies as a safe haven for Jews after the war.)
Actually,  Jews settled in the Land of Israel over 3000 years ago, and established a sovereign nation there.  The nation was defeated by the Romans nearly 2000 years ago.  The area was subsequently ruled as a province of numerous foreign empires.

Jews have lived in the Land of Israel continuously, their population and condition dependent upon the tolerance of the local ruler.  By the second half of the 19th Century, conditions allowed for an increase in Jewish immigration into the Land of Israel.  (The total population estimate at the time was 300,000)

International support for the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people began long before World War II.  In July 1922, the League of Nations granted Great Britain the Mandate for Palestine/The Land of Israel to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national homeland in the land of Israel.

In 1947, the UN General Assembly recommended partition into 2 states - 1 Jewish and 1 Arab - as a means of stopping the violence of Arabs against Jews.   By the time of partition, Israel already was a functioning country with a language, culture, agriculture, universities, newspapers and military forces which proved capable of defending against the invading armies of several Arab nations. 
3. When it was carved out, it was created without a single thought to the ethnic groups of people ALREADY LIVING IN THE AREA. I almost always tend to side with Israel against the Palestinians in modern arguments but in this point they are correct. The creation of Israel is a kin to the American government creating states by carving up already existing Native American borders.
Actually, there was quite a lot of thought.  The UN General Assembly partition ceded areas with majority Jewish population for the Jewish State.  There was one exception.  100,000 Jews lived in and around Jerusalem.  They were a majority of the population in Jerusalem and they were 1/6 of the Jewish population of Mandatory Palestine.  This area was designated to be an international zone.  However, the UN and the British provided no protection nor security for this area. 

4. I often hear the argument, "There is no such country as Palestine." Well there was no such country as Israel until we all agreed there would be. Seems to me what is good for one is good for another.
You hear there is no such nation as Palestine.  The Palestinian Arabs are ethnically the same as the Arabs of Syria and Jordan.  Although they have a unique recent history, it is a result of politics, not as a result of an organic cultural development.  They have suffered far more abuse at the hands of their Arab "champions" than as a result of the creation of the State of Israel.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Self-deleting Jews

A very nice article about us appeared today in Tablet Magazine.

The article focused on coop members who also happen to be Orthodox Jews.  When I spoke to the reporter I emphasized that More Hummus, Please is a broad-based group of all types of Jews and non-Jews. We are simply a fair-minded group of coop members.

The article sparked an interesting collection of comments.   My favorite is from Neal Ross Attinson, who calls his very clever blog "The Metaphorager". He writes:

Self-Deleting” Jews, not “self-hating Jews.”

I really love this neologism. First is the rhyme with "self-defeating." Then there is the idea of deletion. Deletion from the community. Deletion from history. It is sad.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Management is With Us

In today's New York Post, Rich Calder gives us the skinny on the BDS effort at the Park Slope Food Coop.  So here is something new, in print:
But even the notion of a referendum drew ire.

Ann Herpel, a general coordinator at the co-op, told The Post that she and the management team opposes the boycott plan and hopes it never reaches a referendum.

"We feel [a boycott] would be divisive," she said. "We want to be good stewards and make all people feel welcome."
If that weren't enough, I told the New York Observer, "they [the pro-BDS group] don’t seem to have a terribly sophisticated understanding of the situation."  Mr. Calder's report seems to confirm my evaluation:

The Post contacted the leaders of the anti-Israel co-op members for comment but only got questions, not answers.

A person identified as "Hima" said in an e-mail that before commenting, the group wants to know the reporter’s story "angle" and sought copies of his recent published articles "to give us a sense of" writing style.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"You Don't Know What Apartheid Is"

Sometimes, in the course of politics, we lose site of the real people who have suffered, whose lives have been irrevocably affected by violence.  Whether it is South Africans, Israelis or Palestinians, their experiences should never be exaggerated, exploited nor trivialized.  It is this type of dehumanization that stands in the way of creating the contacts between people that can bring about true peace.

At the New York Observer article  about the BDS initiative at the Park Slope Food Coop, the first comment is from one of the pro-BDS organizers at the Coop.  He uses the word "apartheid" four times in his response.  This prompted a reply from a Black South African, identifying himself as Baruti, "you don't know what Apartheid is."  I have written previously about the fallacy of the apartheid analogy, here, here and here.  But everything I have written pales compared to Baruti's words.

I am ashamed to admit at first I took delight in Baruti's strong rebuke.  I realized I was being insensitive to his suffering.  It is precisely these testimonies that give us perspective.

Mr. Baruti, I wish for you joy and success that will outweigh your tribulations one thousand fold, that you should go from strength to strength.  Thank you for speaking out.

With deep respect for Baruti, and to honor the memory of his fallen friends, I reprint his response in its entirety.
I'm from South Africa.  An African South African, not a colonialist.  (Americans just call me black.)  I experienced Apartheid.  Separateness.  It was ugly.  Many of my friends died.

I've been to Israel.  The West Bank.  Gaza.  Inside of Israel.  Lived there for a year touring for a book I want to write.

Mr. Mazza, you don't know what Apartheid is.  For all of Israel's faults, you dishonor yourself and my fallen mates by using the word.  The UN does not use the phrase "Israeli Apartheid" and you repeating it over and over again does not give it authority.  There is really no comparison between Israel and South Africa.    We appreciate your help over there in the US for "saving" us back in the eighties, but we here in S.A. did the dirty work.  We suffered.  We went to jail.  We died.  You stayed safe, signed a few pieces of paper, spoke at a meeting or two maybe.  You follow the same route for your work on human rights in the Middle East.

Tutu is beloved here, but he is not our polestar.  He is as political as anyone and we all know it.  SA is still quite corrupt and dangerous and he is beholden to make statements reflecting those interests.  Sadly,
because atrocities were committed by both sides in our war for freedom, corruption and crime are what we have reaped, and freedom is still very hard to find today in SA.   You are, I'm sorry to say, very uninformed about what causes you take up.

Show him some love and click the "like" button on his comment.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Civic Society

Our fellow coop members promoting BDS tell us not fear conflict and division in the coop.  Divest This!, who has been following BDS 3 years, points out

the vehicle through which BDS tries to operate is civic society. Why go through such trouble to get this school or that church to sign onto the boycott or divestment program, if not to try to speak in the name of every member of that organization? For only by making such claims can BDS campaigners give the impression that their desire to see Israel punished through economic sanction comes from a large and respected institution (rather than a small, unrepresentative minority).

The “By-Any-Means-Necessary” tactics used to recruit these organizations into the BDS fold demonstrates how little interest boycotters have in these civic institutions, beyond their usefulness.

Take the seemingly trivial example of food co-ops, many of which operate under relatively loose rules and by-laws. To most of us, such loose governance makes sense in the context of a community of trust (the definition of a civic institution). For in such a trust community, it is assumed that individuals will take the needs of the larger organization and its members into account before acting (and thus air-tight rules and regulations are not required for normal, ongoing activity). But for BDSers, such loose rules do not represent the trusting nature of our civic life, but rather weaknesses to exploit for their own narrow ends.

But at the end of the day, this civic life is what holds our society together, providing endless building blocks which add onto each other one food co-op, one 4H club, one small church, one tiny town, one school, one city, one institution at a time. And when you tear at the fabric that holds such institutions together in order to achieve your own selfish ends, the damage caused has repercussions
The emphasis is mine.  Our BDS group admits this is divisive, yet they pursue it.  The Park Slope Food Coop needs to protect itself.