Jerusalem soccer club exemplifies Lieberman’s rightwing nationalism — and should be barred from international play [Mondoweiss]

Masked man of La Familia

Hardcore Beitar Jerusalem fans known as La Familia have become infamous with their chants of ‘death to Arabs’. [Photograph: Bernat Armangue/AP]

A club with supporters who openly avow racial purity and organize violent ultra-nationalist marches is third in the Israeli Premier League, behind only Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Maccabi Tel Aviv, and a hair’s breadth away from playing in the UEFA Europa League tournament. It is unconscionable that Beitar Jerusalem even reached this position; the amount of information that should guarantee their disqualification from every major domestic and international competition is staggering.

Beitar’s owner Eli Tabib announced his intention to quit after the club’s game in July 2015 against Charleroi in Belgium, citing the fans’ vandalism and violence in the form of flares fired onto the field mid-match and objects hurled injuring the opposing goalkeeper.

The Jerusalem Post reported two months ago “a large contingent from the La Familia group of hardcore Beitar Jerusalem fans helped rally supporters to the demonstration [to free the Kfir Brigade soldier, Elor Azarya], and were filmed chanting “Kahane lives!”. The soldier on trial was the one captured in Hebron, on film released by B’Tselem, murdering a previously shot, incapacitated attacker lying on his back. These extrajudicial executions are supposed to violate the injunctions issued by the Lieutenant-General and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, stipulating military personnel “are obligated to fire when threats to life exist, but that when the threat is gone, there cannot be any reason to continue firing”.

Nevertheless, the former foreign minister and new defense minister Avigdor Lieberman declared, despite the law, on the steps of Kiryat Malachi’s military court, that he had come “to support the soldier and to counter-balance the gross meddling of the prime minister and defence minister [at the time Moshe Ya’alon].” If upholding the law is meddling, how does Lieberman define the company he is keeping in the form of far-right sympathisers of Kach, the fascist movement proscribed by the Knesset for Jewish terrorism and responsible for a man’s slaughter of 29 and wounding of 125 others praying at the Ibrahimi Mosque. On the other hand, this is the man who tried to make the installation of an unprecedented, ethnically selective death penalty a condition of his recruitment by Netanyahu’s struggling coalition.

When asked about his support for Beitar, Lieberman described the club with pride as the embodiment of Israeli nationalism and its right-wing. He’s one of the fans, this key minister, and as scary as it is, embodies what he’s referring to as much as the racists beside him.

Standing up for killers, rather than their victims, is a habit of Israel’s hard-right. In March we also saw the attack on the home of a key witness in the Ali Saad Dawabsheh case (where an eighteen-month-old toddler died in an arson attack by settlers), apparently small beer for religious extremists comfortable being filmed celebrating the burning of a baby, which they were according to Channel 10 footage of a wedding in Jerusalem last year.

In 2012 Beitar Jerusalem’s hyper-aggressive football fans stormed into the Malha shopping mall, looking for its Arab cleaners and other non-Jewish staff to harm. Despite CCTV footage, no one was arrested. Witnesses weren’t sufficient either; several shopkeepers in the mall stated that the football hooligans asked them for knives and other weapons. The Malha is a few hundred metres from Beitar Jerusalem’s home, the Teddy Stadium, right next to the Green Line that separates East and West Jerusalem, as if theinflaming of ethnic tensions described wasn’t sensitive and dangerous enough.

The impunity of Beitar Jerusalem’s violent racists continued in 2013 when the club’s president, Arkady Gaydamak, was bullied into retracting his signing of two non-Jewish players: the Chechen Muslims Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev. What happened next to only the fourth and fifth non-Israelis ever hired by Beitar Jerusalem was a cascade of harassment rooted in ethnic and religious hatred. Members of La Familia told the Independent’s reporter at their March 3 game that year with Maccabi Netanya that “it’s not racism, they [the Muslims] just shouldn’t be here” and another stated “the club’s existence is under threat”. The signing of the Chechens was so unacceptable to some fans that they decided (in a deed of cosmic irony unbeknownst to Zionism’s self-defeating settler advocates as they keep nurturing the egalitarian one-state solution’s inevitability) to set their club’s office on fire. One of Beitar Jerusalem’s staff lamented “all our history is gone” as he sifted through the charred remains.

The response from Beitar management wasn’t adequate. When Gaydamak tried to condemn unequivocally the supremacist philosophy that motivated the crime, by spelling out that “as far as I’m concerned, there is no difference between a Jewish player and a Muslim player”, he was contradicted promptly by team coach Eli Cohen who justified the hate surrounding him as disdain for Arab rather than European Muslims. At the culmination of his investigation in to Beitar, a case of racial hated that had picked up national and international coverage, Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein meted out a measly fine of 50,000 shekels (or £8595) as punishment and ordered the eastern stands of Teddy Stadium be kept clear for just 5 games. 

To put the bigotry into context, remember that Israeli-Arabs, most of whom are Muslim, comprise 20% of the nation. Not to mention that Arab football players, or predominantly Arab teams, have been a part of Israeli life since its founding, and teams such as Hapoel Tybee, Achei Nazareth, and Bnei Sachnin regularly participate in the country’s premier league.

Stephanie Westbrook /

In 2012, the Mossawa Centre and the Coalition Against Racism (CAR) tried to remind FIFA, UEFA, and their subsidiary the Israeli Football Association (IFA), of their commitment to fight discrimination, with a letter requesting that each of these authorities investigate and clamp down on the racism in Israeli sport which, as the complaint clearly showed, is rampant compared to much of the European community the IFA claims to be a part of.

The Mossawa Centre cited the 2011 Bnei Sachnin game, Mohammed Ghadir’s potential signing, the 2012 Malha incident, Beitar’s winning of the Israeli Cup, the recurrent incitement of Beitar Jerusalem player Ben Shushan, Limor Livnat’s committee, and the conduct of the IFA itself.

After losing to Bnei Sachnin, Beitar fans assaulted the opposing players and threw stones through car windows, and when Beitar won the Israeli Cup their player Amit Ben Shushan shouted along with fans “I hate all the Arabs!”… the same fans used later to reject Maccabi Haifa striker Mohammed Ghadir’s expression of interest in joining the club on the ludicrous grounds that it might offend them.

Ben Shushan publicly threatened the life of individuals on the basis of race, but was only ordered by the IFA to give a few lectures on tolerance to youth groups. A pattern emerges of the IFA and other supposedly ethical, supervising organizations letting lethal extremists off the hook if they have the right ethnic profile or political leaning. When the Israeli Minister of Culture and Sports, Limor Livnat, actually convened a committee on racism in Israeli football, it didn’t include a single person of Arab descent.

How did we get to the place where the mere suspicion that Mario Balotelli broke down in tears because of abuse suffered at the hands of racist Neapolitans can spark debate in Italian and foreign sports coverage, but Israeli law enforcement officers stand by as one of their national team’s core supporters shouts “Kahane lives!” and “Mohammed is dead!” in Sacher Park? These same ‘protesters’ later asked passersby the time while listening out for Arabic or an Arab accent so they could violently assault them; assaults promised earlier on La Familia’s facebook page when they declared their intention to “march to the Wailing Wall, trampling anyone who tries to stop us or hurt us”.

Prominent Israeli public figures have shown up at more than one rally attended by the likes of La Familia and Lehava. Why wouldn’t they when Beitar Jerusalem can count among its enthusiastic backers Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Avigdor Lieberman? Such associations don’t seem to bother the PM, despite his promises to crack down on Jewish as well as Arab terrorism, and organized ultra-nationalist movements, after the revelations confirming the ties of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s suspected immolators to La Familia (the men “admitted they poured petrol on him and burned him alive”, according to Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld). Finally last week, Yosef Chaim Ben-David was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 20 years, but this glimmer of hope doesn’t undermine the overwhelming truth that the Israeli Football Association stands by as fascistic violence continues all around it. The IFA must be aware that this behaviour would not be tolerated by the ruling body of virtually any other football league, or even under their own regulations were there the willpower to enforce them rather than the relentless prioritization of surface-level damage control and public relations.

Some measure of justice may have been found for Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s family, but until FIFA and all the relevant football bodies do their part, they will be complicit in the two-tier citizenship that has been institutionalised in Israel; and those Arab-Israelis who merely seek the same opportunity as their peers to play the sport they love, in dignity and without fear, will continue to go unrepresented.

– See more at:


Sufism, Israelites, and an anthology of Yahia Lababidi [Times of Israel]

Sufi mysticism painting

Abstract depiction of a Mevlevi dervish performing Sama (“listening”), labelled one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity by the United Nations

Abstract depiction of a Mevlevi dervish performing Sama (“listening”), labelled one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity by the United Nations

On August 18th, towards the end of the last brutal assault on Gaza, Cairene Sufi poet Yahia Lababidi published the poem “An Open Letter to Israel” on Electronic Intifada. Lababidi began his letter with the poignant Nietzschean call for all those fighting monsters to not become monsters. With his message, much as the preluding quote’s source intended, Lababidi meant to implore the Israelis to recognise the humanity in their enemies; to recognise the humanity of extremists within Hamas’, however suppressed it may be, to recognise the humanity in the Palestinian people they persecute and whose desperate circumstances generate desperate reactions.

The letter’s gentle request befit the review of Idries Shah’s magnum opus The Sufis – a text 50 years old as of Autumn 2014 – by UK Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, once listed as the fourth greatest British writer post-1945, who declared Sufis “must be the biggest society of reasonable men on Earth”.

To reiterate Lababidi’s message in the words of hugely popular American educator, historian, and author of New York Times number 1 bestseller The Fault in Our Stars (2012), John Green, who jumped not-so-tentatively (considering the mainstream stance of US legislators) in to the Israel-Palestine issue by stating: “Both parties claim to be responding to the provocations of the other, but much of the conflict reflects a consistent failure on all sides to understand the legitimacy of the other’s narrative. To Palestine, the Palestinian people have been denied a state not just since the formation of Israel, but also for decades before that. Now they live under what amounts to a military occupation. […] To Israel, the Jewish people clearly need a homeland, which the United Nations established.”

Lababidi, attendee at international poetry festivals throughout the USA, Europe, and Near East, and writer of The Artist as Mystic (2012) and Fever Dreams (2011), is merely the latest Sufi poet and intellectual to participate in an ancient dialogue between the people of Israel and the woollen-clothed.

A good place to start one’s wanderings in to the Sufi-Jewish interaction and exchange is the eponymous Maimunist thought of Avraham Maimuni, otherwise known as Abraham Maimonides (d. 1237). Abraham was the son of Moses Maimonides, widely considered to be by far the most influential Jewish philosopher and theologian of the two millennia that’s passed since the fall of the Second Temple in 70 CE (and generally among the greatest religious philosophers in history).

Abraham Maimonides was the appointed Nagid (“leader”) of the Jewish population in 12th century Egypt at 19 years old, succeeding Moses Maimonides after his death due to his son’s recognition as the greatest scholar in the community secind to only himself. Historian Shelomo Dov Goitein believes Moses Maimonides’ selection for the post was a result of the skills displayed during negotiations for the release of Jewish prisoners taken by the Crusader king Amalric in his attack on the Egyptian town of Bilbays. Famously, Abraham’s father’s position as Nagid was just one of the many manifestations of his political ascendancy (for instance he served as the court physician of Salahuddin Ayubi, founder of the Ayyubid dynasty).

The most known work of Abraham Maimonides is Milhamoth ha-Shem (“The Book of the Wars for God”), which is an expansion of his father’s Moreh Nevukhim (“The Guide for the Perplexed”) and a reply to its critics (he was spurred on, after an initial hesitancy, when he heard of burnings of his father’s books in Montpellier). Though, somewhat astonishingly if his initial reticence was sincere, Abraham’s principal treatise was three times the length of Moreh Nevukhim. Abraham advocated what would later be described as Maimunism, a fusion of Sufi and Jewish thought which he considered a purer expression of truly monotheistic devotion, or the central concept in Islamic philosophy Tawhid (“the oneness”).

Abraham believed that the development of a Sufistic Judaism was a precursor to the arrival of the messiah and his ideas would later prove seminal in the history of Jewish spirituality/mysticism, ideas which included innovative practices like Jews praying in rows, and the frequent mixing of the Jewish and Islamic mystic terminologies. Abraham also publicly stated his belief in the virtues that paved the Sufi path, as he saw it, such as sincerity, mercy, generosity, gentleness, humility, faith, and contentedness.

Today, the status of Sufis, and of Jews more likely to be inspired by Islamic mysticism (Sephardim, et al), or that of both of these in Israel specifically, is perhaps not as hopeful as Abraham Maimonides envisioned.

The second-class citizenship of non-Ashkenazi Jews in Israel is well documented, even if it is deteriorating along with its more overarching cousin white supremacy, and is being addressed by the generation of intellectuals embodied by the New Mizrahim.

The renowned Qadiri Sheikh Ghassan Menasra of Nazareth, the Arab capital of Israel, told Haaretz of a Sufi Muslim population squeezed on two fronts: on the one hand, shameful levels of neglect by successive Israeli governments of its non-Jewish majority areas, and on the other, increasing (at the very least in part, as Menasra points out, due to their massive foreign funding there and around the world from individuals such as those in the verifiably extreme, hard-right, and offensively wealthy element of the Saudi aristocracy and Arabian Peninsula’s wider elite) pressure from often viciously anti-Jewish ultra-conservative Salafi and Wahhabi elements who have on occasion beaten more liberal or progressive Muslim contemporaries within an inch of their lives simply for having differing views on things as simple as the permissibility of instruments in chant or ḏikr (“remembrance”).

Sheikh Menasra also said that among the beaten were himself, and two of his five children. One of Menasra’s sons was beaten by a group of men while he sheltered his younger brother from the melee, and on a separate occasion gas was thrown in to the Sheikh’s home.

Expressions of solidarity and deeper communication between the Jewish and Islamic mystics have arguably attained an unprecedented importance; Jews and Muslims each live in a time when the religious right in their respective faiths are striving for undisputed dominance of the narrative/political agenda, and, if the tragedy wasn’t compounded enough, often to pit one against the other.

“To shield yourself against the evils of this world, keep your lips wet with the taste of revelation. A free person has no enemies.” – Yahia Lababidi

55 Years in Tibet [Times of Israel]

Tibetan Jampa Yeshi self-immolation

Reuters photo of 27-year-old Tibetan exile, Jampa Yeshi, setting himself alight near New Delhi protestors

After a half-century of occupation, self-immolations, the exile of an ancient spiritual community and its leader from their ancestral land, the cold-blooded assassination of pilgrims and monastics by Chinese soldiers, a million-strong genocide, and rampant political corruption, the Dalai Lama told AFP this week that he is in informal talks with the PRC that would allow him to return to Tibet.

This follows conciliatory gestures on both sides, Gyatso described President Xi Jinping as “more open-minded” than his predecessors, a statement that might have been inspired by the latter’s open congratulation of Buddhism’s prominent and positive role in Chinese society.

Our “leaders'” quietening silence however, as the PRC’s wealth grows, will be a source of eternal shame as pundits laud what they see as the success of one of the planet’s greatest human rights violators. The Chinese “communists” execute more people than the rest of the world’s governments combined, fill colossal prisons with men and women of conscience whose nobility won’t stop their organs being harvested by the state, the litany of crimes is almost as great as that of the imperial powers who enabled/enable them. But, if anybody can express solidarity with the political dissidents in China, as Gyatso has with the Uighur activists whose plight received none of the attention now showered on Hong Kong’s democrats, it is the Tibetans.

When people say “what about Tibetan feudalism”, as if a society that falls short enough of perfection deserves a brutal and prolonged military subjugation, should take a long hard look in the mirror. What about Palestine, you think Palestinian society was perfect before Zionist extremists arrived? You think the peoples of Africa had achieved utopia before Europeans raped their nations? Arbitrary solidarity is an ultimate betrayal of the international working class to which true leftists are always loyal, as it demonstrates an acquiescence to the anti-humanistic, imperialistic geopolitical agendas of their greatest enemies. Those without such an acquiescence, and who possess a sincere concern for the plight of Tibetan serfs under feudal theocracy, would never advocate its replacement with centralism or autocracy. As is perhaps always the case, the Tibetans stand a better chance of forging their own path to freedom than having it forced upon them, if that were even possible.

May the 14th Dalai Lama’s pilgrimage end happier than that of the forgotten dead in the Himalayan snows. In Rasley’s words… chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.

“Wherever I live, I shall feel homesick for Tibet. I often think I can still hear the cries of wild geese and cranes and the beating of their wings as they fly over Lhasa in the clear, cold moonlight. My heartfelt wish is that my story may create some understanding for a people whose will to live in peace and freedom has won so little sympathy from an indifferent world.” – Heinrich Harrer


Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, and the chasm between

Mirvis at anti-semitism rally

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis speaking against anti-semitism at the Royal Courts of Justice last weekend

Criticisms of Israel or Zionists, like any arguments, must be fair, proportionate, and unprejudiced.

And, though I hope this is already clear to everyone who can read this, there needs to be absolutely zero tolerance for anti-semitism in whatever holds itself to the standard of legitimate debate.

I want to go a step further than the Owen Jones article a few weeks ago. Not only should we expect those on the left, if their opposition to bigotry is sincere, to accept the widespread and growing presence of anti-semitism: they should also be expected to acknowledge the genuine problem of anti-semites who piggyback the Palestine solidarity movement. I might even contend we don’t do enough to call them out. Simply saying “we reject anti-semitism” isn’t adequate, those who conflate Judaism or all Jews/Israelis with Zionism need to be repeatedly exposed and delegitimised (as do their arguments).

If Gideon Levy is spat at on the street, and then stabbed in the back by the same group he’s hiding in his apartment for, what on Earth’s the point? Stabbed in the back may sound extreme, but I’m really not kidding. Plenty of folks still see Hamas as a solely liberatory organisation whose central concern is for the struggle (rather than as religiously authoritarian theocrats and theonomists) after one of its primary spokespeople, Osama Hamdan, refused to apologise for the statement “we all remember how Jews used to slaughter Christians in order to mix their blood in holy matzoh”. I remember eating matzoh with my family while growing up, and I can assure everybody there were no gentile fluids in them. I would laugh if blood libel wasn’t so serious.

Those who pretend plutocracy is constituted singly – even primarily – by Jews, or forget that Jewish nationalism is only as bad as many other forms of religious nationalism/theocracy (when was Dominionism, which undoubtedly played a massive part in the US militarism in West Asia post-911, last condemned as strongly and widely by the left as Zionism) that have plagued humanity, can’t be trusted to manage an issue as emotive, historically-rooted, complex, or nuanced as the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Not all Jews are Zionists, not all Zionists are Jews, and neither are all Israelis Jews or Zionists. The propagation of this mantra is looking increasingly necessary.

With the above in mind I wouldn’t trust Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis either. A man who writes in a Telegraph opinion piece that Israel’s population would be slaughtered (or allowed to be), were they to lay down their arms, can’t be taken seriously… to take him seriously would give cover to a talking point that has typically been used to obfuscate practical discussion of the occupation. This would be sufficiently awful, but Chief Rabbi Mirvis continues on to say he honestly believes the current Israeli government’s goal is to minimise Palestinian and Israeli civilian casualties. Neither of these claims are substantiated by the evidence, but then that’s never stopped the pro-war or pro-Zionist lobbies in the past.

“While criticism of Israel is legitimate and justifiable, it cannot be an excuse – in any way, shape or form – for anti-semitism.” – Tariq Ramadan

Palestine’s problems go well beyond its borders

My friend Jack reminds us why Zionists, either historically or today, were never the only thorn in the side of self-determination for indigenous Palestinians. West Asia’s Arab states also have a lot to answer for.

Mendel Politics

After nearly 100 years of conflict for Palestine, it’s time to realise that this desperate situation is the result of regional interests of many parties, and not merely the consequence of Israel’s existence.

Palestine’s lack of existence as a state, is the result of many factors, but perhaps most importantly, a lack of support from supposed neighbouring allies.

This situation is capitalised on by Israel, who are willing to do their neighbour’s ‘dirty’ work of removing the Palestinian’s last vestige of National struggle. Conveniently, Israel are willing to take the blame for it too; provided they are not seriously challenged in terms of their existence politically or militarily.

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Why is it like it is?

In the aftermath of World War One, Britain and France shaped the region. They wanted to ensure access to major trading routes via the Suez. So, with the prospect of decolonisation of the Ottoman empire, the inheritors split up the region and ensued a policy of disunity…

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Israel, Palestine, Israel-Palestine, West Bank, Gaza, Zionism, Anti-Zionism, Nationalism, Humanism, Religion

I refuse to occupy. I refuse to be occupied.

Just over a month has passed since my last piece, and no small reason for this has been the trouble I’ve had putting pen to paper. The issue of Israel and Palestine, Jews and Zionists, has been a focus of my life … much as it is for the world now and long before I was born. My aunt used the right of return and after making Aliyah from the Netherlands lived in Israel for many years, before being labelled a “goyim” (derogatory word for a non-Jew, or a Jew who’s ignorant of the Jewish religion) and insufficiently Jewish when she asked for permanent citizenship. Indignant, she invoked the memory of my family who, nearly extinguished during the Holocaust, wouldn’t stand for Israeli questioning of her identity, my identity, as a Jew. Which brings me to why my hands are typing these words, I want to tell the story of Jewish identity, Jewish liberation, and the narrative that combines these things. And, most of all, why the Jewish narrative can’t be Zionism’s.

As with all stories it’s best to start at the beginning. With technological advancements, and an ever more interconnected world, perhaps increases in Jewish migration to the Levant were inevitable. Though Jewish migration to Palestine, in the late 19th/early 20th century particularly, was of course also largely spurred on by spikes in Europe-wide persecution (waves in an always present anti-semitic sentiment are littered throughout history, the 17th century Polish king Khmelnytsky murdered a third of the Jews under his rule) and the newly formed Zionist ideology (generally considered to have been founded in the 1890s by Herzi’s Der Judenstaat).

It’s important to remember that living in the “Land of Israel” has always been encouraged as many of the Torah’s mitzvot (“religious commandments”, such as tilling the soil near Jerusalem at certain times) cannot be fulfilled unless one is in the Holy Land, in fact the Midrash halakhah’s sifre says the commandment to live in Israel is more important than the other 612 combined.

But, and oh so crucially, migration to Israel and habitation is not the same as the establishment of a nation-state. Especially not a state predicated on a religious nationalism, one that creates an underclass through the elevation of the Jewish ethno-religious group above others. The idea that Jews, because of their tribe and their religion, should have rights superior to their counterparts – naturally, enforced by government – is anathema to everything I know and feel about the faith they claim to hold so dear.

To talk of superior rights isn’t the worst of it, not every Zionist refuses to question non-Jews’ right to exist in their presence (or right to exist at all), as Jewish-only roads and 150 Jewish-only settlements demonstrate. To take an even more extreme case, the Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, Dov Lior, described the mass-murderer and member of the Jewish supremacist group “Kach” (denounced by even right-wing Israeli members of the Knesset as an extremist organisation and eventually banned in 1994), Baruch Goldstein, as “holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust”. Words that should, might I add, make any with a true understanding of the lessons of the Axis’ horrors sick, words that amount to the desecration of my butchered family’s graves. Dov Lior has also asked that the Bedouin be given incentives to leave Israel so they can “return to their native land”, claimed “a thousand non-Jews aren’t worth a Jew’s fingernail”, said he’d flatten Beirut if it meant he could save one Israeli soldier’s life, kill non-Jewish babies in time of war, and has described Obama as “the kushi (a Hebrew word comparable, according to some, to nigger) of the west” and Arabs as “evil camel riders”.

On the 30th September, a mere month having passed since the end of Protective Edge, Dov Lior insisted that the Israeli government “must strive to clean the entire country [of Palestinians]” and “there will never be peace” because “there is no one to make peace with”. If that wasn’t enough, he came out with the claims “this is their [Palestinians’] character, they are for war” and Arabs “know how to lead a democratic government just like I know how to deal with camels”. The man’s fixation on camels, topsy-turvily, might outstrip the apparently excessive one exhibited by those he mocks.

The earliest Jewish olim (“migrants”), it’s been argued by a massive margin, came with an unshakeable belief in the socialist, secular, and humanist ideals. One of the founders of the kibbutz movement, Joseph Baratz, famously declared: “We were happy enough working on the land, but we knew more and more certainly that the ways of the old settlements were not for us. This was not the way we hoped to settle the country – this old way with Jews on top and Arabs working for them; anyway, we thought that there shouldn’t be employers and employed at all. There must be a better way.”

There is a better way. And we can find it by living up to Hitler’s description of us and gypsies as “enemies of the race-based state”. Of the Holocaust’s 11 million victims, 6 million were Jews worked to death as slaves or murdered in what we described as the Shoah (Hebrew for “whole-burning”), and 2 million were gypsies killed in what the Romani called the Porajmos (“the devouring”). Swept up in the Nazis’ cult of death were socialists, Slavs, non-heterosexuals, and countless others. And it is important to remember the systematic slaughter of state-sponsored genocide was no more tragic than that by the Reich’s armies as they marched across Europe, Asia, and Africa killing tens of millions of innocents.

Enemies of the race-based state Jews are, and the blood-soaked walls of race are built higher than maybe any one of us could climb. But whether these walls are of the mind, or the very real apartheid that carves the Palestinian land in to fragile pieces, we should pull them apart brick by brick until the barriers of hate are but a distant nightmare.

The word for messiah comes from the Hebrew “mashiah”, and the Jews believe he will arrive to free all of humanity from the shackles of ignorance, war, and slavery. It is the Torah’s commandment for Jews to live in peace with whatever city gives them shelter, and the belief in liberation deeply instilled by the stories of Moses and the Exodus, that reminds us our love of peace must come before everything else. The scholars and teachers warned that for the Jews’ fear of oppression to truly end, we must end oppression itself. If we allow injustice, oppressor and oppressed, to exist anywhere, we abdicate our place as children of God.

And as the children of God, those who believe in the essence of Abraham’s and his spiritual descendants’ teachings, will know – this life is a test. A test to see whether we can leave those who believe in peace to live in peace, as there can be no greater gauge of our worthiness to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than our striving to create it on Earth. Whether it be to a member of Hamas who sees an Israeli civilian’s life as anything less than precious, or to a brute in Likud who sees the corpse of a Palestinian child as mere “collateral”, we should say, to take a line from the Jewish and Muslim holy texts, “to save one life is to save humankind”.

Never again. And never forget. Under the roar of war and Israeli guns is drowned not only the dreams of the Palestinian people, but the culture, history, and soul of the Jewish people as well. When we realise this, when every pilgrim can pray in silence, maybe the Holy Land will be worthy of its sacred title. As the saying goes, until all are free, we are each in chains.

This is why I support the Gazan struggle not in spite of my Jewishness, but because of it.


Shalom aleichem. As-salamu alaykum. Peace be with you.



Comment: Meditations on Meditation [TDC]


When considering why you should meditate (other than the plethora of health benefits that warrant an article of their own) perhaps it is wisest, first, to remind yourself of the Buddha’s (Enlightened/Awakened One’s) words after being asked what he gained from meditation.

Nothing! However, let me tell you what I have lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, and fear of old age or death.

What brought Siddhartha Gotama, fundamentally, to Enlightenment and “Buddhahood”, was a purification of the mind. Buddha realised that our thoughts determine who we are, or in his words, “what we think, we become”.

Our thoughts may be physical and determined by the physical world around us, but ultimately, by definition, the only events we control are the ones that result from our own actions. And, again by definition, what motivates actions carried out by us is our own desires.

Thoughts can become bad thoughts, which become bad desires, which become bad actions, which result in bad consequences. If one could understand how through dependant origination (the fact that all things, our own suffering and evils included, have causes) our own bad thoughts were created, we could develop a mind so strong and resilient that we would never again be the source of our own pain.

Buddha diagnosed three unhealthy mental attitudes that provided the fertile soil, or stormy sea, for samsara (the cycle of suffering): ignorance, attachment, and hate. Ignorance is in a sense an intellectual ill, attachment an emotional one, and hate a moral one, though, after deep analysis, it becomes clear just how intertwined each of these three vices are.

The futility and anti-realism of negative mentalities is expressed by the Buddhist idea that, if a problem can be fixed, it is futile to be down about it as it will only cloud your judgement when your main goal is always to overcome (not complain about) evil. If a problem is actually illusory or impossible to solve, then no amount of negativity will ever change that, so devote instead all of your energies to alleviating/preventing any psychological anguish.

Meditation, similar to some of the ‘deep prayer’ techniques we see Christian monastics use, is about ending our ills at the source. End your ignorance by contemplating the true nature of the world and goodness … the ephemeral nature of reality, how suffering is created, what makes Enlightenment a worthy goal. The importance of wisdom in the Indic philosophical tradition cannot be overstated.

End your attachment by grasping perhaps the central truth of Buddhism: all things change. The ultimate nature of existence, a constant state of flux, can provide us the motivation to stop obsessing over the temporal. Nurture a state of mind that allows you to find the silver lining in all things, and recognise that your happiness is no more important than everybody else’s. We are all as fragile, and as desperate for fulfilment, as each other.

End your hate by eliminating prejudices, consider in your mind all the people you feel are “other”, and then remember every one of us is in fact equal and born with fundamental human dignity/rights (or the “Buddha-seed”, sentient beings’ potential to be moral agents and be the objects of moral action through their ability to experience happiness).

What it all comes down to is that meditation is our way of gently moulding ourselves, altering our own natures organically by focusing on the best of what is already within us. We all acknowledge the power and value of love, so we should also all accept the need to nourish positive mind-sets throughout our lives.

An old Cherokee legend makes the case for Buddhist practice more eloquently than most ever could.

One evening an old Cherokee was telling his grandson about life’s central challenges. He said, “My son, a battle is going on inside of me. It is a terrible fight between two wolves.

 One is evil – it is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

 The other is good – it is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

 The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

They who cannot conquer themselves conquer nothing, this is the central lesson of meditation.