The Palestinian Museum to open on 15 May 2016 (& Muslim elected president of J Street U)

August 20, 2015


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1. “The Palestinian Museum” to open on 15 May 2016
2. Half of Jerusalem Arabs would prefer to live in Israel than an independent Palestine
3. Muslim student elected as president of left-wing “pro-Israel” group J Street U
4. British non-Jew bullied into closing Facebook account for praising her trip to Israel
5. Jewish singer reinvited after Spanish government steps in
6. Bernie and Donald and Mike
7. “That Anti-Israel reggae beat” (Wall Street Journal editorial, Aug. 19, 2015)
8. “Where does Bernie Sanders, the Jewish candidate for president, stand on Israel?” (By Ron Kampeas, JTA, Aug. 17, 2015)

[Notes below by Tom Gross]


I have referred to this internationally funded project before, but an announcement of an opening date was made yesterday.

It remains to be seen how historically truthful the text accompanying exhibits in this museum will be.

The opening date is only one day after the date of Israel declared independence from Britain on May 14, 1948.

The Palestinian leadership has long been accused of inventing most or much of its history. Up until the 1940s, when people around the world (including in the Arab world) referred to “Palestinian” they often primarily meant Jews.

A Palestinian identity only began to be forged in a serious way in the 1960s, and even today many of the Arab population of the West Bank still refer to themselves as, for example, “Yemenis” since their parents and grandparents were migrants who moved from Yemen and elsewhere in the Arab world to British mandate Palestine as it began to be industrially developed by Zionists in the first half of the twentieth century. The advent of large-scale farming and the building of an industrial infrastructure in the first half of the twentieth century provided opportunities for work and a higher standard of living for Arab migrant labor.

Having said that, over the last half-century Yasser Arafat and the PLO have been successful in creating a Palestinian identity beyond the kind of adherence to clan that is so widespread in the West Bank and elsewhere in the Arab world. Today there is clearly a Palestinian national identity and as someone who is in favor of self-determination for all peoples, I have long supported the right of Palestinians to have an independent state -- so long as that state won’t be used as a launch pad to wage war or commit genocide on its neighbors.



A new poll by leading Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki’s research institute reveals that 52% of Jerusalem Palestinians would rather be citizens of Israel than of Palestine after an independent Palestinian state is formed.

Past polls have indicated that those Palestinians who would rather be Israeli cite a higher standard of living and more personal freedoms as two main reasons for their choice.

The figure for those wanting Israeli citizenship among east Jerusalem Arabs is far higher than those living in Gaza and the West Bank.



Amna Farooqi, a senior at the University of Maryland, is believed to be the first Muslim to be elected president of an American self-proclaimed “pro-Israel” organization.

Farooqi, whose parents are from Pakistan, has been chosen to lead the national student board of the left-wing group J Street, which claims to have 4,000 active participants on 75 college campuses in the United States.

The Israeli paper Haaretz reports that Farooqi grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in a “fairly religious Muslim home” and had “a lot of Jewish friends.”

The paper says she spent a semester at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in order to “meet people on the ground and understand the Israeli narrative from their perspective, and to put faces to things and see some of these issues up close.”

She said she “fell in love with Zionism, because Zionism became about taking ownership over the story of one’s people. If Zionism is about owning your future, how can I not respect that?”

At the same time she says she is sympathetic to the Palestinians. This summer she lived in Jerusalem again as a J Street U intern, co-leading day trips, including visits to Hebron, for American university students.

She says her Pakistani family has been “confused but supportive” about her Israel activism.

Many people in Israel, including the mainstream Israeli left, criticize J-Street for consistently adopting “extreme pro-Palestinian positions”. J-Street has campaigned not only against the Likud-led Israeli government but against the policies put forward by Israeli leftist politicians such as Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog and former peace negotiator Tzipi Livni.

(Tom Gross adds: Two friends of mine are among those Pakistanis studying at Tel Aviv University.)



British tourist Emma Carter (above right, with an Israeli friend) says she suffered such severe bullying from friends on Facebook after posting about how much she enjoyed her holiday in Israel, that she has been forced to close down her account, reports Yediot Ahronot.

Carter, 34, from London said she had a wonderful time during her first visit to Israel, and encouraged her British friends to visit too.

“Everything I saw was completely different from the way Israel is portrayed in the media,” she wrote. “Tel Aviv is a vibrant and liberal city, people here are kind, and the welcome I have received here was more incredible than any other place I have ever visited in the world. Strangers invited me to visit their homes. Israelis are warm and inviting, not aggressive or bad as described in the news.”

In another Facebook post she wrote: “Israel is considered to be a state at war, and yet I feel calmer here than in London. Why? Because life’s values are appreciated here. And there are also ice cream shops open 24 hours a day.”

Carter ended another Facebook post: “I’ve just finished spending an amazing day in a country the BBC describes as barbaric... I recommend you place a question mark next to any piece of news, especially when you are watching a news network financed by the government.”

Carter says she then received a wave of abuse on Facebook, including from childhood friends who reported her for “hate” to the Facebook monitors, claiming she was supporting apartheid. Carter says she then received a series of messages from Facebook telling she had been reported for making posts “described as offensive”.

“I felt like I was under attack, and all because of an apolitical post in which I wanted to praise the warm welcome and hospitality of Israelis. I just wanted people to understand that Israel is a safe country and that they should visit places and get to know people instead of relying on the media,” she told Yediot Ahronot.

Following the messages she received from Facebook, Carter decided to close her account. “What kind of a social network site is it if it does not allow one to carry on a debate or express an opinion?”

“I didn’t attack anyone. Instead of using Facebook, I’ll tell all my friends in London personally my impressions of Israel. I’m in love with Israelis and with that beautiful country. I met another British tourist during my visit, and she agreed with me completely, that Israel is an amazing country that suffers from a negative image. You have a public relations problem, as the media depicts your country as evil and shady. This is because due to laziness, the lack of will to do true journalistic work but also due to financial interests. What is certain is that I will be returning to visit.”



This is a follow-up to an item in Tuesday morning’s dispatch: Dilemma for Israel boycotters as scientists make HIV breakthrough (& The Palestinian case against BDS).

There was a wave of criticism later on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning about the decision by the publically-funded Spanish festival to prevent Hasidic Jewish reggae musician Matthew Paul Miller, better known by his Hebrew name Matisyahu, from playing, on the grounds that he wouldn’t publically support pro-Palestinian positions.

Reuters carried the story on Tuesday evening for example, after the Spanish government became involved.

And one of Spain’s leading papers El Pais carried an editorial criticizing the decision to exclude the American Jew. On Tuesday evening the Wall Street Journal also posted an editorial online (attached below). Yesterday the organizers relented and reinivited him – prompting one well known journalist (a subscriber to this list who is a friend of mine) to write on his private Facebook account: “Spanish racists reinvite Jew”.



I recently mentioned the views on Israel of Donald Trump, who is currently ahead in the polls for the Republican nomination to be next U.S. president. Below is an article on the views about Israel by Bernie Sanders, who is currently ahead in some polls to be the Democratic nominee. (Neither candidate is likely to win, but their views may still impact the presidential race.)

Meanwhile, another U.S. Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, who is currently on a visit to Israel, said yesterday that Israel has more of a connection to Shiloh called than America has to Manhattan.

Huckabee said “Jews have a 3,500-year historic tie to Shiloh, which is a much stronger link there than Americans have to Manhattan, a connection dating back only four centuries.”

Shiloh is a Jewish community in the West Bank, an area generally known as Judea until, for political reasons, people started calling it the West Bank half a century ago.

-- Tom Gross



That Anti-Israel Reggae Beat
Remember the reggae star Matisyahu the next time anti-Israel proponents insist their aim is to promote Palestinian rights, not anti-Jewish bigotry.

Wall Street Journal editorial
August 19, 2015

Rototom Sunsplash is an annual arts-and-music festival going on this week near Valencia, Spain. Showcasing “the cream of reggae’s crop,” Rototom Sunplash according to its organizers also aims to promote a culture of “peace, equality, human rights and social justice.” Unless you’re Jewish, that is.

This year Rototom Sunsplash disinvited Matthew Miller, a Jewish-American reggae star who performs under the name Matisyahu, because he wouldn’t publicly endorse a Palestinian state. The organizers said they cancelled Mr. Miller’s appearance after having “repeatedly sought dialogue in the face of the artist’s unavailability to give a clear statement against war and on the right of the Palestinian people to their own state.”

Mr. Miller was the only participant asked to engage in such political “dialogue.” Micah Shemaiah, Andrae Jay Sutherland and other Jamaican artists weren’t asked to disavow antigay violence in their country. Sudanese journalist and festival presenter Sami al-Hajj, a former Guantanamo detainee, wasn’t required to publicly denounce the Khartoum regime’s human-rights abuses.

“It was appalling and offensive,” Mr. Miller wrote of the incident, “that as the one publicly Jewish-American artist scheduled for the festival they were trying to coerce me into political statements.” Even the virulently anti-Israel Spanish press has denounced the move.

Many European cultural and intellectual elites still don’t see the connection between singling out the world’s sole Jewish state for opprobrium and the explosion of anti-Semitic sentiment on the Continent. Remember the Matisyahu affair the next time proponents of the anti-Israel boycott, divest and sanction movement insist their aim is to promote Palestinian rights, not anti-Jewish bigotry.



Where does Bernie Sanders, the Jewish candidate for president, stand on Israel?
By Ron Kampeas
Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
August 17, 2015

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Bernie Sanders’ best friend is a Zionist who teaches Jewish philosophy, he had a formative experience on a kibbutz and “Saturday Night Live” dubbed him the “old Jew.”

Still, Sanders can’t get away from the inevitable “But where is he on Israel?” question, especially now that the Democratic presidential contender, an Independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, has pulled ahead of Hillary Rodham Clinton in New Hampshire, the first primary state.

“Do you view yourself as a Zionist?” the left-leaning online magazine Vox asked Sanders in a July 28 interview.

It’s a funny question for Sanders, who if there were an “out and proud” metric for Jews in politics would score high.

Sanders, 73, is best friends with Richard Sugarman, a professor of Jewish philosophy at the University of Vermont who champions Zionism to his left-leaning students. His other best friend – and former chief of staff – is Huck Gutman, a University of Vermont professor of literature who is a passionate aficionado of the poetry of Yehuda Amichai.

When the comedian Sarah Silverman introduced Sanders at an Aug. 10 rally in Los Angeles, she shunted aside for a moment her caustic Jewish shtick.

“His moral compass and sense of values inspires me,” she said. “He always seems to be on the right side of history.”

Silverman ticked off a list of Sanders’ qualifications that align him with positions that polls show American Jews overwhelmingly favor: for same-sex marriage, for civil rights, against the Iraq war. She might have added favoring universally available health care.

“He is a man of the people,” Silverman said. “He has to be; his name is Bernie.”

Fresh out of the University of Chicago and already deeply involved in left-wing activism, Sanders spent several months in the mid-1960s on a kibbutz. The Brooklyn-born and accented Sanders has been shaped by the murder of his father’s extended family in the Holocaust.

“As everyone in this room knows, I am a Jew, an old Jew,” actor Fred Armisen said while playing Sanders in a 2013 “Saturday Night Live” sketch.

Sanders’ well-known pique surfaced in June when Diane Rehm, the NPR talk show host, declaratively told him he had dual U.S.-Israel citizenship, citing an anti-Semitic meme circulating on the Internet.

“Well, no, I do not have dual citizenship with Israel,” Sanders said. “I’m an American. I don’t know where that question came from. I am an American citizen, and I have visited Israel on a couple of occasions. No, I’m an American citizen, period.”

So where does Bernie Sanders stand on Israel? Here’s a review.

He backs Israel, but he believes in spending less on defense assistance to Israel and more on economic assistance in the Middle East.

Is Sanders a Zionist? Here’s what he told Vox’s Ezra Klein:

“A Zionist? What does that mean? Want to define what the word is? Do I think Israel has the right to exist? Yeah, I do. Do I believe that the United States should be playing an even-handed role in terms of its dealings with the Palestinian community in Israel? Absolutely I do.

“Again, I think that you have volatile regions in the world, the Middle East is one of them, and the United States has got to work with other countries around the world to fight for Israel’s security and existence at the same time as we fight for a Palestinian state where the people in that country can enjoy a decent standard of living, which is certainly not the case right now. My long-term hope is that instead of pouring so much military aid into Israel, into Egypt, we can provide more economic aid to help improve the standard of living of the people in that area.”

He will defend Israel to a hostile crowd, but will also fault Israel – and will shout down hecklers.

At a town hall in Cabot, Vermont, during last summer’s Gaza war, a constituent commended Sanders for not signing onto a Senate resolution that solely blamed Hamas for the conflict, but wondered if he would “go further.”

“Has Israel overreacted? Have they bombed U.N. facilities? The answer is yes, and that is terribly, terribly wrong,” Sanders said.

“On the other hand – and there is another hand – you have a situation where Hamas is sending missiles into Israel – a fact – and you know where some of those missiles are coming from. They’re coming from populated areas; that’s a fact. Hamas is using money that came into Gaza for construction purposes – and God knows they need roads and all the things that they need – and used some of that money to build these very sophisticated tunnels into Israel for military purposes.”

Hecklers interrupted, some shouting epithets.

“Excuse me, shut up, you don’t have the microphone,” Sanders said. “You asked the question, I’m answering it. This is called democracy. I am answering a question and I do not want to be disturbed.”

His critical but supportive posture on Israel has been consistent and has included using assistance as leverage.

As mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1988, Sanders was asked if he backed then-candidate for president Jesse Jackson’s support for the Palestinians during the first intifada. Sanders excoriated what he depicted as Israeli brutality as well as Arab extremism.

“What is going on in the Middle East right now is obviously a tragedy, there’s no question about it. The sight of Israeli soldiers breaking the arms and legs of Arabs is reprehensible. The idea of Israel closing down towns and sealing them off is unacceptable,” he said at a news conference, according to video unearthed by Alternet writer Zaid Jilani. “You have had a crisis there for 30 years, you have had people at war for 30 years, you have a situation with some Arab countries where there are still some Arab leadership calling for the destruction of the State of Israel and the murder of Israeli citizens.”

Sanders said the United States should exercise the prerogative it has as an economic power.

“We are pouring billions of dollars in arms into Arab countries. We have the clout to demand they and Israel, who we’re also heavily financing, to begin to sit down and work out a sensible solution to the problem which would guarantee the existence of the State of Israel and which would also protect Palestinian rights,” he said.

He doesn’t think the Iran nuclear deal is perfect, but he backs it.

“It’s so easy to be critical of an agreement which is not perfect,” he told CBS News on Aug. 7. “But the United States has to negotiate with, you know, other countries. We have to negotiate with Iran. And the alternative of not reaching an agreement, you know what it is? It’s war. Do we really want another war, a war with Iran? An asymmetrical warfare that will take place all over this world, threatening American troops? So I think we go as far as we possibly can in trying to give peace a chance, if you like. Trying to see if this agreement will work. And I will support it.”

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.