Gaza as Seen by a Progressive Zionist

Courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen drybonesblog.blogspot.com/

Courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen drybonesblog.blogspot.com/

— by Daylin Leach

As a progressive (or “liberal” as I grew up calling myself), I’ve been troubled by the divide I’ve seen in the progressive community over the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

While there are many good progressives on the national scene who, as I do, support Israel enthusiastically, I have also seen the unmistakable strain of anti-Israeli sentiment on the part of progressives I know, read, or interact with on social media. To me, much of what I’ve heard from these people with whom I normally share so much is both profoundly troubling, and antithetical to everything progressivism is supposed to be about.

First, when I say I am a progressive, let me tell you what I mean: the legislation in Pennsylvania legalizing same-sex marriage, raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour, mandating paid family leave, abolishing the death penalty, legalizing marijuana and taxing the use of plastic bags are not only bills I support, they are bills I’ve introduced. A number of commentators have nicknamed me “The Liberal Lion of Pennsylvania,” a moniker I proudly embraced during my recent Congressional campaign.

My views on foreign policy are similarly, if not quite as aggressively, progressive. I opposed the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Panama, and Grenada. However, I am not a pacifist; I supported going into Afghanistan to prevent those who attacked us on 9/11 from planning their next strike. Generally, I support more foreign aid to help alleviate poverty and a greater emphasis on human rights in our dealings with other nations.

Courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen drybonesblog.blogspot.com

To me, this general world view can lead to only one logical conclusion, which is the strong support of Israel in its current conflict with Hamas. There is one country in the Middle East which respects women’s rights, gay rights, the rights of political minorities, free speech and the right of dissent, and that is Israel. There is no other nation in the region which could, in any sense of the word, be considered progressive.

Hamas has a human rights record that can only be described as awful. Being gay is a crime punishable by death and women are subjected to strict dress codes, and are often the victims of “honor killings” while the Hamas government looks the other way. Religious minorities living in Gaza are subjected to almost daily governmental harassment, and one need only watch the news to see reports of extra-judicial killings of anyone even suspected of opposing Hamas’ war on Israel. There is no other context in which progressives would tolerate the sort of human rights violations against their own people that Hamas perpetuates every day.

It is certainly true that a large number of Gazans have lost their lives in the current conflict. And some of my progressive friends have correctly noted that many of them are innocent civilians and children.

But tragically, this is the case in all wars. We don’t fight wars against individuals; we fight against governmental regimes that control the weapons that threaten us. There were many innocent Japanese children during World War II. They were too young to know who Hideki Tojo was. But Tojo bombed Pearl Harbor. We had to fight back, sad in the knowledge that innocent people would die. Similarly, Israel has the right to defend itself when attacked, doing their best to minimize civilian casualties.

Many progressives, who share my strong preference for peace over war and rarely, if ever, find a legitimate reason for Israel (or the United States for that matter) to use force, somehow justify Hamas shooting rockets into Israel. The fact is that since Hamas assumed power, they have fired almost 15,000 rockets, killing dozens and injuring almost 2,000 Israelis. No other nation in the world would be expected to tolerate this.

Courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @ cartoonkronicles.com

Courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @ cartoonkronicles.com

Perhaps we could all have some faint hope that the recently announced open-ended cease-fire will result in some progress in addressing the concerns of all sides. I understand that progressives feel the Palestinian people have legitimate grievances, and it seems to me that the negotiating table is the place to address them. But there is no grievance that would justify Hamas’ deliberate targeting of civilians, which is a war crime. And there is no progressive principle which would require Israel to silently endure countless attacks on its people.

We all have political heroes. As a progressive, I find my inspiration in the words of Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. These great, progressive leaders all achieved far more for their people than the rocket-launchers and suicide-bombers of Hamas have for theirs. I would hope that in time, the progressive community can come closer to speaking with one voice in condemning the sort of terrorism and genocide that can be found in the Hamas charter. If we as progressives really care about the suffering of the Palestinian people and peace, we have no other choice.

The Wars and Non-Wars

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch.

Last year, Scott asked the poll question “how many wars is the US fighting?” Twice. I thought about this over the weekend when Melissa Harris-Perry spoke about avoiding titles like “the war on women” and “the war against the poor.” Her first point was very well taken: for anyone who has lived in an actual war zone, with bombs dropping and people dying, “war” means something very different then the rest of us saying “the war on drugs.”

Harris-Perry's second point was equally well taken: that when we say “war” we tend to miss the nuance of what is really going on. What the Republicans are attempting to wreak on women (and unions, and the poor, and voters, the list goes on…) is horrendous. We all know that. But it isn't war, undeclared or otherwise. Saying it is changes the stakes, and misses all the details.

I'm guilty of this, although I'm going to work towards stopping. Instead of saying “the GOP has declared war on me and all the other women”, I'm going to say something like: GOP talking heads just plain lie. And then give this example, where Alex Castellanos said: 

“Actually, because for example, men work an average of 44 hours a week, women work 41 hours a week,” he said. “Men go into professions like engineering, science and math that earn more. Women want more flexibility.”

Flexibility? Really? No, Alex, it's that we want the same dollar-per-dollar paycheck for hours worked. When Tom Corbett says to just close your eyes, I'm going to ask which orifice he wants that 10″ probe stuck into. And I don't care which one he picks. 

War? I'm saving that for the potential issues in Iran and North Korea, and all the countries bleeding in Africa, as well as Afghanistan and Syria and other places where the bleeding needs to stop. 

Think about it…and for someone who gets his terms correct, and does it with aplomb and humour, I leave you with this, in case you missed it…

 


What Does Normal Feel Like


Christopher Durang’s Why Torture is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them

New City Stage Company’s 2011-2012 season began on December 10th at the Adrienne Theatre Main Stage with a Philadelphia premiere of Christopher Durang’s satire Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them, directed by Michael K. Brophy.   The play is part of season called The Terror Within, a body of work that considers political and ethical questions posed a decade after 9/11.  What does it mean to live in a world of terrorists?  

More after the jump.

Why Torture is Wrong is a fast-paced comedy/tragedy about America’s ongoing “war on terror.”  A young woman, Felicity (played beautifully by Ginger Dayle, the founder and Producing Artistic Director of New City Stage) wakes up to a strange man, Zamir (perfectly cast Sam Henderson) – to discover that at a drunken evening at Hooters she married this would-be terrorist, or alcoholic or man on parole.  Seeking comfort at her parents New Jersey home, we encounter her crazy mother Luella (played magnificently by Marcia Saunders) and her alleged butterfly raising Republican, Jane Fonda hating Father, Leonard (played by Paul L. Nolan).   Durang doesn’t stop there but pushes us to a dark place where our fears of the sociopath next door make us squirm in our seats.  

The play deftly explores how political issues like terrorism and torture get played out in the private space of home.   At one point, Luella puts down her needlepoint and retreats to the kitchen to make French toast: You can postpone angry exchanges until your stomach is nice and full.   Leonard, who we learn is involved in a Shadow Government plot to overthrow terrorists – wants to rename French toast Freedom Toast.  Head to the Adrienne if only to meet the “porn again” Revered Mike in a superb performance by Russ Widdall and Hidegarde, aka Scooby Doo, played by Sonja Robson, and The Voice, played by Ed Swidey.  The acting and pacing of this production are spot-on.  The sets, designed by S. Corey Palmer also deserve mention, as they are understated and effective.  

Durang, who currently co-chairs with Marsha Norman, the Playwriting Program at the Juillard School, has a large body of work which have received Tony nominations and Obie awards, including A History of the American Film, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, and Durang/Durang.    

In an otherwise provocative two hours of theatre, the final scene seems to want to end on a lighter, sweeter, more hopeful note than the previous 90 minutes we’ve spent with these zany, lost, disturbed characters who “identify with bullies.”  In the final scene, Felicity returns to the scene of the crime at Hooters, in an effort to reverse time.  This is part of the play’s clever internal commentary about the theatre itself, linear time, and “unspeakable things that happen at night.”    Luella says: “I go to the theatre to learn what normal is.”   Durang’s play asks us to consider what is normal is a post 9/11 world.  

The play runs through January 8th.
Adrienne Theatre Main Stage
2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA

235 Years of Independence – An Occasion to Celebrate American Jewish Heroes

– by Ken Myers

How many Jewish heroes of the Revolutionary War (or earlier) can you identify? You probably know that Haym Salomon was a key figure in financing the Revolution. Did you know that Francis Salvador was the first Jew to die in the American Revolution, on August 1, 1776, following the signing of the Declaration of Independence? You might know that Philadelphian Rebecca Gratz founded the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society and other relief organizations. Did you know that her family was prominent among revolutionaries here?

It is well known that Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (1870-1938), was a member of the United States Supreme Court. His family already had a glorious record in America: David Nunez Cardozo (1752- ?) was a hero of the Revolution. He led the assault on British-held Savannah, Georgia, in which Count Pulaski was killed. Cardozo was taken prisoner by the British while defending Savannah, but was released at the end of the British stay in that area.

Forty-seven Jewish heroes of the Revolution and other major events in American history are listed and their achievements memorialized on the web site of the Florida Atlantic University Libraries, with credit to
Seymour Brody.

But his major opus is the book, Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America: 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, by Seymour Brody with illustrations by Art Seiden. Spend some time during the Independence Day weekend examining the lives of Jewish heroes during and since our War of Independence.