Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sarah Tuttle-Singer and the "Palestinian Narrative"

Michael Lumish

{Also published at the Elder of Ziyon and Jews Down Under.}

I find the Jewish Indigeneity Question fascinating.

I recently published an article thanking native American thinker and activist, Ryan Bellerose for advancing the importance of Israel to the Jewish people from an indigenous rights perspective.

Sarah Tuttle-Singer is the New Media editor for the Times of Israel (TOI) and is no fan of Bellerose and Bellerose is no fan of Tuttle-Singer.

That much is certain.

{When these two cross paths they circle one another like a cat facing a pit bull.}

I happen to be - for the moment at least - friendly with both.

Tuttle-Singer recently made Aliyah from Los Angeles and is now raising two children in the Old City. She has taken some pretty terrific photographs from around Jerusalem and seems to have thrown herself into the wilds of Israel with great joyousness.

{Although on certain days, like today - as news of the murder of Adiel Kolman spreads - with considerable sorrow, as well.}

She is also the author of the recently published book, Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered: A Year Spent Living in the Christian, Muslim, Armenian, and Jewish Quarters of Old Jerusalem.

This last Sunday, March 11, Tuttle-Singer, in a Facebook post, linked to her recent piece entitled, On Passover, I’ll pour out wine for Mahmoud, too

It is an interesting  piece.

She describes a dinner that she enjoyed with Muslim friends in the Arab Quarter of the Old City and notes:
Leila doesn’t speak any Hebrew, but Fadi can but he won’t.

“My Hebrew is actually good,” he told me that night we met. “But it’s the principle of the thing.”
The principle of the thing.

What troubles me is that this does not trouble Tuttle-Singer.

She writes:
“I won’t shake your hand,” he tells me when Fadi introduces us. “It isn’t because you’re a Jew or an Israeli, so don’t be offended. I won’t shake your hand because you are a woman – because I am a Muslim man, and we do not shake hands with women that are not our closest relatives or our wives. You know this custom, no? You have it in your own religion.”

We do. And over the years of living here in Israel, I’ve learned when it’s ok to shake hands and when it isn’t.
As a New Yorker and a Californian, I am happy to say that I have never learned any such thing.

As a liberal, I do not condescend to such prejudices.

This insult came from the owner of the restaurant, presumably knowing that he was speaking with a Jewish media person, who also told her with great earnestness:
We are not killers, we are not thieves. We don’t want to hurt you. But we do have a story and that story is our truth, and that story and that truth is we were here first, and you took our land and you kicked us out of our houses and we are yearning to return. (My emphasis.)
In the Facebook thread beneath her link to that post I wrote:
Well, thankfully, history as a field of knowledge does not deal in personal truths. There is no "our truth" or "it is true for me."
Sarah responded with an elegant, "Really?"

Yes, my friend, really.

A Historiographical Snippet

History as a field of knowledge resides at the crux of the Humanities and the Social Sciences and is, thus by necessity, interpretive.

This is why there is always a significant element of subjectivity within even the most scrupulously professional historical narratives. Nonetheless, for a narrative to be a historical narrative it must be grounded in something that closely resembles the truth of the past.

We do not simply get to make up our own "narratives" as the Palestinian-Arab leadership has done, and then insist that ahistorical nonsense be taken seriously.

No field of knowledge works in such a manner because the lights would not go on and the aeroplanes would never fly.

For example, I cannot claim that Richard Nixon was the President of the United States during World War II and then demand that people respect my narrative.

It is for this very same reason that Mahmoud Abbas should not stand up before the UN Security Council, and be taken seriously, as he did on February 20, 2018, and claim that Palestinian-Arabs “are the descendants of the Canaanites that lived in Palestine 5,000 years ago.”

People can say whatever they want, but we are under no obligation to take poisonous nonsense seriously and we shouldn't.

The Discussion

In response, Tuttle-Singer claimed, "narrative can determine whether there is peace or whether there isn't."

I get her point, I suppose, but I must wonder what kind of stable and lasting peace can the Jewish people hope for if that peace is grounded in falsehoods that erase Jewish history?

Furthermore, the notion that the Jewish people stole the land from the "indigenous" Arab population is so obviously false as to hardly need refutation.

Part of what made this online exchange interesting, however, was that a gentleman with significant historical credentials took the lead on Tuttle-Singer's side of the discussion.

He reminded me that the winners write the history books - which, by the way, is no longer the case in the West - and that all history is told from personal perspectives and ideological perspectives and that "Jewish history is a perfect example for a mix of historical fact - and religious-infused fiction."

I then asked this gentleman:
Does any group of people have a greater claim to indigeneity to the land between the River and the Sea than do the Jewish people?
His response is worth quoting in full:
I never participated in the silly game of "who was here first?" and "who was here longer?" Because - independent of who plays it - at its core, it is never an attempt to prove one's own roots in this soil. It is always an attempt to prove that the "other" has less rights, less roots, should be ignored, needs to leave - or at least accept the rule of his adversary. The same applies to the even sillier game of "whose side can claim to be a real people and whose side is an invented people."

What is the desired end-result of these debates? That Mohammed, whose family has been living here for 500 or 1000 years, gets the idea that Jews had a temple around 2000 years ago - and another one before that - and that he and his fellow Palestinians agree that they are not really Palestinians, hand you the keys to the Temple Mount and proceed to pack their bags and leave these parts?  
What is it for the other side? That David, whose family has been dreaming of returning to the Holy Land for 2000 years will agree that he is not really Jewish, but a colonizing occupier, that his rights here have expired long ago - and then proceed to move back wherever his parents of grandparents came from?

Honestly, it is depressingly sad to see so many intelligent minds, who could spend their time improving this country that has so many other problems - wasting it on these decade-old silly debates and attempts to win an argument.

The simple fact is that both sides feel a deep connection to this land and both sides have a right to feel it. So all those intelligent minds should get busy and develop concepts for peaceful coexistence. Those who do - and there are people here who have worked on that for decades despite all the frustrations - have my respect. The others - well - I (and I think Sarah does the same) am trying to convince them to stop being part of the problem - and become part of the solution.
Indigeneity, of course, is not about "the silly game of 'who was here first?'"

Indigeneity refers to the roots of a culture and the people who comprise that culture in all of its branches... even including New York Jews who live in California.

The Jewish people are the indigenous people to the Land of Israel because that is the place where our ancestors forged the beginnings of a multivariant culture and cultivated the Hebrew language and the Jewish religion and those other aspects that bring us together as one.

From a practical standpoint, however, this scholar asked an important question:
What is the desired end-result of these debates?
The desired result cannot be to convince Arabs that they should respect Israel as the indigenous homeland of the Jewish people.

I agree, that this is simply not going to happen... history or no history, because the "Palestinian narrative" will not permit.

However, we can stop equivocating in the face of the enemies of the Jewish people, and their congresses and parliaments and advocates... yes, including even restauranteurs like Reem Assil in my town of Oakland who venerate ideological Jew Murderers.

The truth, of course, is that the "Palestinian narrative" of pristine victimhood is nonsense.

The Jewish people are a people who remain under siege within the very home of our ancestry.

What we can do is bang that truth into the skulls of the European Union, the United Nations, the Democratic Party, and, at long last, the US Department of State.

Until we stand up for ourselves, no one else is going to do so.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Sarsour, Ashrawi, and Palazzi

Sar Shalom

A popular explanation for Arab and Muslim vitriol against Israel is that Islam, through the Koran and Hadiths, commands such vitriol. However, this explanation fails to explain certain things. To start, consider Linda Sarsour who is secular and only wears a hijab as a matter of cultural identification and because that cultural identification transformed her, as she claims, into a "person of color." Given her religious sensibilities, one would expect such Koranic injunctions and Hadiths to have as much influence on her as Leviticus 11 has on the average American Jew's diet. Yet, Sarsour is as vitriolic against Israel as any imam from Hamas. If she demonstrates a willingness to deviate from religious dictates, why would she be so fastidious to that dictate?

Yet, one could argue that she picks and chooses what aspects of sharia she observes. She might not bind herself with her religion's dictates on permitted and forbidden foods, as a possible example, but she does bind herself to her religion's dictates of holding onto Dar-al-Islam. If that is so, why is Hanan Ashrawi equally vitriolic towards Israel? For those who don't know, Ashrawi is Christian and thus any religious dictate of Islam would have no authority over her.

Yet, one could argue that Ashrawi is motivated by proleptic dhimmitude and thus indirectly influenced by Islamic dictates. However, how does Abdul Palazzi, the leader of Italian Islam, fit the claim that Islam prohibits acceptance of Israel? Palazzi is someone who unambiguously supports Israel, going so far as to interrupt a visit in New Haven in order to join Avi Weiss for a protest at the Palestinian UN Mission, support the Jewish community of Hebron, and support for Jews on the Temple Mount. He is someone who takes any religious requirement of Islam seriously, and indeed writes that Islam requires recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

I am not going to suggest an alternative theory for vitriol aimed at Israel from the Islamic world because the source of that vitriol is unimportant. Whether this vitriol stems from religious decree, culture, or brainwashing from fake news, all that is important is that it is real and that it is not based on anything that liberals would recognize as a casus belli. However, attributing it to religious dictate advertises that your objection is not to their racism directed at us, but to who they are. Doing that turns away potential allies, and for what gain? If you're not dealing with how to turn people away from opposition to Israel, just ignore their motives.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

This Week on Nothing Left

Michael Lumish

Nothing Left
SPECIAL SHOW ... This week Michael Burd and Alan Freedman feature high profile broadcaster and conservative commentator Dennis Prager ahead of his visit to Australia, and then hear from Mosab Hassan Yousef, aka the Son of Hamas who spied for Israel for 10yrs.

The fellahs then hear from American-Israeli talk show host and expert on Syria Yaron Brook, and then speak with Eran Hermoni, the Secretary-General of the Israeli Labour Party on how their policies differ from those of the current government.

3 min Editorial: The Greens  Israel Problem

9 min Dennis Prager on his upcoming visit to Australia

39 min Mosab Hassan Yousef, ‘Son of Hamas’ in Australia

51 min Yaron Brook, Ayn Rand Institute explaining Syrian conflict

1 hr 11 Eran Hermoni, Sec-General Israeli labour Party in Australia

The podcast can also be found on the J-Air website.

Or its Facebook page.

NOTHING LEFT can be heard live each Tuesday 9-11am on FM 87.8 in the Caulfield area, or via the J-Air website

Contact Michael and Alan at Nothing Left:

Friday, March 9, 2018

Acknowledging Ryan Bellerose

Michael Lumish

{Also published at Jews Down Under and Elder of Ziyon.}


Ryan Bellerose is a friend of the pro-Jewish / pro-Israel community who, like many of us, has grown increasingly skeptical of the two-state solution.

I met the guy online when he arrived at Israel Thrives a couple of years ago for the purpose of kicking the holy crap out of one of my regulars.

Bellerose is a Métis from the Paddle Prairie settlement of northern Alberta - I want to stress northern Alberta - and a fighter for the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples, including the Jewish people.

This makes him highly unusual among indigenous rights activists because he is with the very few who recognize Jewish indigenous rights. Jewish people, for progressive-left internal political reasons, have been left out of the Indigenous Rights Club.

Instead, we are considered white, imperialist, racist, militaristic, colonialist, inhumane, apartheid-lovers.

In a recent article for Tablet, Bellerose writes:
Now, to understand indigeneity, one must also understand indigenous people, how we see ourselves, and how we see the world. At its simplest, indigenous status stems from the genesis of a culture, language, and traditions in conjunction with its connections to an ancestral land, most commonly derived from ties to pre-colonial peoples. Once a people have such a cultural, linguistic, and spiritual genesis as well as a coalescence as a people, they are generally acknowledged as an indigenous people.
Bellerose's discussion of indigeneity is grounded in a 1981 report to the United Nations Economic and Social Council written by anthropologist José Martínez Cobo.

Bellerose, it should also be understood, stands up on the street as well as in the pages of Tablet. 

I very much wish that he had been around during the vigils for Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner.

Reem Assil, of Reem's antisemitic restaurant, for reasons that defy the moral imagination, venerates the genocidal Jew murderer, Rasmea Odeh. Furthermore, she is now actually being rewarded for that hatred.

The New York Times recently published a piece concerning Assil's joint by Rebecca Flint Marx entitled, An Arab Bakery in Oakland full of California Love.

Full of California Love.

One of the hysterical things about this article is that Marx made a correction in the body of the text shortly after it was published reading:
In 1970, Ms. Odeh was convicted by Israeli courts for her role in the murder of two students.
So, the Times acknowledges that Odeh is a convicted murderer, yet the headline still reads, An Arab Bakery in Oakland full of California Love.

The only conclusion that I can come to is that the New York Times thinks that you're a bunch of idiots.

Furthermore, Justin Phillips of the San Francisco Chronicle tells us that Reem Assil continues meteoric rise with new fine-dining restaurant at Jack London Square.

Oh, joy.

{But I digress.}

The reason that Bellerose matters is because he encourages a widening of our understanding of the conflict.

By rightfully insisting upon the indigeneity of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel he forces an expansion of the conversation both geographically and historically.

This is not a fight merely between Israelis and Arabs residing within the Jewish home. This is a fight between the indigenous Jewish population and their former Arab and Muslim conquerors who have yet to give up on reinstating theo-political domination. This makes it a struggle between the tiny Jewish minority in the Middle East and the far larger Arab and Muslim populations that surround them.

That is the obvious implication of insisting upon Jewish indigeneity because the very idea of Jewish indigeneity to the Land of Israel contradicts Arab and Muslim imperial ambitions within the Jewish home.

It is inescapable.

Another obvious implication is that this is not merely a modern conflict. History did not begin in 1948, nor 1967.

Anyone with even a glancing understanding of the history of the region acknowledges that between the time of Muhammad until the failure of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Jewish people - and other such dhimmi-sorts - lived as second and third-class non-citizens.

The late professor Martin Gilbert described dhimmi status under Muslim rule as follows:
There could be no building of new synagogues or churches.  Dhimmis could not ride horses, but only donkeys; they could not use saddles, but only ride sidesaddle.  Further, they could not employ a Muslim. Jews and Christians alike had to wear special hats, cloaks and shoes to mark them out from Muslims.  They were even obliged to carry signs on their clothing or to wear types and colors of clothing that would indicate they were not Muslims, while at the same time avoid clothing that had any association with Mohammed and Islam. Most notably, green clothing was forbidden...

Other aspects of dhimmi existence were that Jews - and also Christians - were not to be given Muslim names, were not to prevent anyone from converting to Islam, and were not to be allowed tombs that were higher than those of Muslims.  Men could enter public bathhouses only when they wore a special sign around their neck distinguishing them from Muslims, while women could not bathe with Muslim women and had to use separate bathhouses instead.  Sexual relations with a Muslim woman were forbidden, as was cursing the Prophet in public - an offense punishable by death.

Under dhimmi rules as they evolved, neither Jews nor Christians could carry guns, build new places of worship or repair old ones without permission,or build any place of worship that was higher than a mosque.  A non-Muslim could not inherit anything from a Muslim.  A non-Muslim man could not marry a Muslim woman, although a Muslim man could marry a Christian or a Jewish woman.
Martin Gilbert, In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2010) 32 - 33.
The conflict is greater in scope both geographically and historically then most people realize and that is particularly true of progressive-left enemies to the Jewish people who see the conflict as a result of twentieth-century "Zionist" aggression.

By insisting upon the indigeneity of the Jewish people to Israel, Bellerose forces us to rethink dominant formulations around the conflict in two fundamental ways.

1) The Jews are the colonized indigenous population who managed to free themselves from thirteen centuries under the boot of Arab and Muslim imperialism.

2) This is not a conflict between "Zionists" or Israelis versus Palestinian-Arabs. What we are seeing, rather, is the current moment in the long Arab and Muslim war against Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East grounded in Koranic malice.

The concept of indigeneity is key and while Bellerose knows it, most Jews do not.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"Wine-Washing" and the Question of Jewish Indigeneity

Michael Lumish

{Also published at the Algemeiner.}

UC Berkeley does not like Israelis.


On Monday, February 5, professor Ariel Handel lectured at the University of California Berkeley's Center for Middle Eastern Studies on his recent paper entitled, Wine-washing: colonization, normalization, and the geopolitics of terroir in the West Bank's settlements.

One would think that since the San Francisco Bay Area, and surrounding regions, are home to some of the finest grapes in the world that an Israeli expert on indigenous levantine grapes would have been met with considerable expectation.

He was not.

In truth, he was snubbed.

If there are any colleges outside of Evergreen State in the United States that are in no mood to speak with pro-Israeli Jews, those schools most definitely include San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley... the former home of free speech.

Handel is visiting California from the University of Tel Aviv to discuss, among other things, the meaning of the grape within the contest between Arabs and Jews around questions of ethnic authenticity and indigeneity within the Land of Israel.

In that paper, Handel, along with his co-authors Galit Rand and Marco Allegra, discuss how local Israeli wine producers use the ancient Marawi grape as a site of political-cultural dispute over the question of Arab versus Jewish indigeneity.

The question of indigeneity is the sport and, along with falafel and hummus and fattoush, Marawi grapes represent a ball-in-play.

Handel, Rand, and Allegra argue that, “the usage of sophisticated wine language enables normalization of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank in a paradoxical way that is emphasizing their location and blurring it at the same time.”

Central to Handel's thesis is the vinicultural concept of "terroir."
Terroir describes a set of special characteristics of a given place - geography, geology, climate, and human agricultural traditions - that incarnates in the uniques taste of its products, usually wine.
The notion suggests that the flavor of a wine is due to the character of its natural environment and how it is nurtured by the indigenous population and thus reflects its land and people. It is because Chardonnay, for example, is native to the Burgundy region of eastern France that its quality will never be quite the same as when grown in, say, the Jezreel Valley in the Lower Galilee and, therefore, can never really represent the terroir of that region.

The Question of Indigeneity

Handel insists, fairly, that "the grape is mute" on Jewish versus Arab claims to the Land of Israel.

Nonetheless, some scholars, such as Dr. Shivi Drori from Ariel University, use the vine as a means of establishing Jewish historicity.

In a recent New York Times piece, Jodi Rudoren quotes Drori:
All our scriptures are full with wine and with grapes - before the French were even thinking about wine, we were exporting wine... We have a very ancient identity, and for me, reconstructing this identity is very important. For me, it's a matter of national pride.
Rudoren also quotes Amer Kodash, the export director for Cemisan Cellars, a monastery near Bethlehem, claiming:
As usual in Israel, they declare that falafel, tahini, tabouleh, hummus, and now jandali grapes, are an Israeli product... I would like to inform you that these types of grapes are totally Palestinian grapes grown on Palestinian vineyards.
What I fail to understand, however, is how it is that professor Mandel, as a political scientist, is mute.

History as a field of knowledge is closely related to political science and is not silent on the question of Jewish indigeneity in the Levant and the Land of Israel.

It tells us very clearly that the Jewish people are the only remaining indigenous people within the small strip of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The Jebusites are gone.

The Hittites and Amorites are gone.

Even the neighboring Romans and ancient Egyptians are gone.

The Arabs who now call themselves "Palestinian" come from elsewhere.

Handel is correct that the DNA of an ancient seed of the vine cannot tell us who grew the plant.

The fact of old wine and new bottles cannot establish indigeneity between Jews and Arabs on that land.

Only history as a field of knowledge can do that.

Anti-Zionist Rhetoric within Middle East Studies

Handel's writings with Rand and Allegra in Wine-washing are riddled with the kind of anti-Zionist propagandistic language that is eroding the field of Middle East Studies because it no longer even bothers with any sense of historical justice or fair-play to non-Muslims throughout the region.

For example, in Handel’s introduction we read:
The process of growing integration between pre-1967 Israel and the West Bank has been the object of a large study of scholarship...
For millennia that region has been referred to as Judea and Samaria (or, in Hebrew, Yehuda and Shomron). It only became known as the "West Bank" after the Jordanian annexation in the spring of 1950.

So, the question becomes, why would a scholar use terminology that erases Jewish history within a question of Jewish history?

Handel refers to the "banalization of the Jewish presence in the West Bank."

What a strange phrase for an Israeli professor to employ.

Hannah Arendt famously used the "banality of evil" to describe Adolph Eichmann in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The idea then, as Handel knows, is to suggest that there is a normality, or conventionality, to evil.

Arendt described Eichmann as a functionary, a big cog in the big wheel.

Handel's usage is the same, except that instead of referring to the murderers of millions of Jews, he and Rand and Allegra, use it as a reference to Jews who wish to live on the traditional land of the Jewish people.

The implicit comparison is not only unjust and ahistoric, but vaguely grotesque.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A Friend Stands Up

Michael Lumish

I am no longer a Democrat, but it is important for the pro-Jewish / pro-Israel community to support those Democrats who are opposing the antisemitic anti-Zionist trend growing within their party.

Susan George - who is not Jewish - was one of the speakers at the vigils at Reem's racist restaurant in Oakland.