We Need to Talk about Israeli Genocide

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It’s probably natural that, after the month of genocide we’ve seen carried out by Israel in Gaza, people would want to shift their focus elsewhere. Over and over again, we’ve seen images of Palestinians wandering shell-shocked through the wreckage of Gaza: Palestinians holding their slaughtered infants, Palestinians murdered playing soccer on a beach, Palestinians simply staring blankly at their viciously, needlessly destroyed homes.

It’s important to note, right now, that there are no comparable images of murdered Israeli children circulating on social media, in the press, or anywhere else in the universe. That’s because those images don’t exist. Those images don’t exist because what’s happened in Gaza over the last month isn’t war between Israel & Hamas. It’s a genocide being executed out by Israel against the Palestinian people.

I’ll take the statistics from CNN because no sane person could argue that CNN is pro-Palestinian or anti-semitic:

The Palestinian death toll in Gaza stands at more than 1,800, with nearly 10,000 wounded, Gaza’s Health Ministry said Sunday. More than 300 children have died, the ministry has reported, as the United Nations repeatedly raises concerns about the high number of deaths in Gaza.

On the Israeli side, 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have died since fighting began more than three weeks ago.

Again, this is not a war; it’s a slaughter. It’s brutal and disturbing and I can understand why people might want to think about other things.

Jewish Americans (like myself) might be particularly desperate to find other things to talk about. Growing up Jewish in the U.S. meant, for me and for many of us, aggressive indoctrination into militaristic, xenophobic Zionism. No matter how many soccer-playing kids the Jewish state’s military murders, a part of me still wants to think they’re the good guys.

But the reality is, there are no photos of dead Israeli children on the beach. There are no Israeli universities bombed into oblivion. No schools sheltering Israeli civilians have been obliterated by Hamas’s rockets.

And while I find anti-semitism frightening and abhorrent, I’m confused about the recent spate of cautionary articles about prejudice against Jews in the U.S. media at a time when the Jewish state is carrying out genocide against the Palestinians with direct, aggressive U.S. support– and when the Anti-Defamation League reports that U.S. anti-semitism is at a low point. Fantastic hypotheticals wherein Palestinian forces have the resources to dominate the Israeli military don’t seem particularly helpful at the moment. Make-believe violence isn’t my primary concern at the moment; there’s more than enough actual violence to deal with.

Right now, it seems like we might want to follow the lead of the Jewish survivors of the Nazi genocide (and their descendants) who have stated, unequivocally, that during this slaughter, their concern is for those who are actually victims, rather than those who might be:

As Jewish survivors and descendents of survivors of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world. We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia…

We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!

This is all we need to talk about: end the genocide and end the occupation. As these Holocaust survivors say, “never again” means “never again for anyone.”


Newsflash! Old Testament God Wants Zionists out of Israel


Did you know that God, the guy from the Old Testament, doesn’t like Zionists? In fact, it turns out he doesn’t like anybody who forcibly evicts people from their homes, butchers their children, and then dances on their corpses!

Don’t believe me? Well, thankfully Naomi Wolf, a far more diligent Jew than I’ll ever be, recently checked the facts and posted her findings on her Facebook page:

“…if you read Genesis Exodus and Deuteronomy in Hebrew — as I do — you see that God did not ‘give’ Israel to the Jews/Israelites. We as Jews are raised with the creed that ‘God gave us the land of Israel’ in Genesis — and that ethnically ‘we are the chosen people.’ But actually — and I could not believe my eyes when I saw this, I checked my reading with major scholars and they confirmed it — actually God’s “covenant” in Genesis, Exodus and Deuteronomy with the Jewish people is NOT ABOUT AN ETHNICITY AND NOT ABOUT A CONTRACT. IT IS ABOUT A WAY OF BEHAVING…

[God] never says: ‘I will give you, ethnic Israelites, the land of Israel.’ Rather He says…IF you visit those imprisoned…act mercifully to the widow and the orphan…welcome the stranger in your midst…tend the sick…do justice and love mercy…THEN YOU WILL BE MY PEOPLE AND THIS LAND WILL BE YOUR LAND. So ‘my people’ is not ethnic — it is transactional. We are God’s people not by birth but by a way of behaving, that is ethical, kind and just. And we STOP being “God’s people” when we are not ethical, kind and just. And ANYONE who is ethical, kind and just is, according to God in Genesis, ‘God’s people.’ And the ‘contract’ to ‘give’ us Israel is conditional — we can live in God’s land IF we are ‘God’s people’ in this way — just, merciful, compassionate. AND…It never says I will give this land JUST to you. Remember these were homeless nomads who had left slavery in Egypt and were wandering around in the desert; at most these passages say, settle here, but they do not say, settle here exclusively. Indeed again and again it talks about welcoming ‘zarim’ — translated as ‘strangers’ but can also be translated as ‘people/tribes who are not you’ — in your midst.”

Holy moly! That’s the opposite of what I learned in Hebrew school, where Mr. Weinstein taught us that Israel’s military had the right to kill as many Arabs as they wanted if those Arabs were interfering with the Jews’ enjoyment of the land God granted us.

It turns out that God would boot the Zionists right out of his holy land, since their political movement has carried out the merciless, unethical, violent persecution of the Palestinian people. God hates that kind of stuff!

It’s Okay to Shout When Your Children are Being Slaughtered

gazaThe Daily Show ran a segment last week titled “We Need to Talk about Israel.” Apparently an attempt to illustrate the difficulties journalists face when covering the ethnic cleansing Israel’s military is carrying out in Gaza, the segment showed Jon Stewart getting alternately shouted down by Zionists and opponents of ethnic cleansing. The shouting was so aggressive that Stewart never actually got to talk about Israel which was, apparently, the punch line.

The sketch was notable because it was a rare instance where supporters of the Israeli military were portrayed by American media as aggressive and irrational. The obvious takeaway, however, was that journalists can’t get into Israel/Palestine because people on both sides of the slaughter won’t just keep calm and carry on. If only they’d stop shouting, we could actually start to understand what’s happening over there, and why.

The idea that American journalists are the beleaguered victims here is absurd. American journalists– Stewart included– have never had any problem ignoring supporters of the Palestinian cause before, no matter how loud their voices were. For decades, mainstream media in the U.S. have offered uncritical support of the violence waged by Israel against the Palestinians. They’ve had no problem demonizing the Palestinians and regurgitating the Israeli government’s justifications for its crimes against humanity.  But that’s not the main problem here.

The problem here is the idea, which I’ve heard more and more as the slaughter has continued, that both sides are behaving equally irrationally– and that this inability to behave rationally is what keeps the conflict going. The truth is that calls for calm in the face of slaughter always serve the interests of those in power, those doing the slaughtering. As Tom Whyman argued in his recent essay on contemporary fascism:

“The injunction to behave properly, to smile and get on with it, is precisely a way of shutting down any form of social resistance…To be nice, to ‘behave properly,’ is simply to behave like an infantilized middle-​class subject. Thus every marketing campaign or government public service announcement that passive-​aggressively preaches niceness is really a violent enforcement of reactionary values that serves to preserve a crisis-​stricken status quo.”

Right now, the Israeli government is pursuing its stated aim of eradicating the Palestinian population of Gaza to clear the area for Israeli settlement and America’s political leaders on both sides of the aisle are vocally defending the rightness of Israel’s cause. In the face of this insanity, calls for calm seem, well, insane.

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I Never Learned THAT in Hebrew School! Part 1

hebrew school 1Earlier this week, I posted about my religious education and its colorful, militaristic curriculum. Writing that essay got me thinking about what a crappy experience Hebrew school was: I had to go to more school after school AND I got fed a lot of misinformation by my Zionist instructors.

Thinking about that crappiness got me wondering: what kinds of Jewish history was I missing out on while Mr. Weinstein effused about the Israeli military’s ability to needlessly defile Islamic holy sites? So, this week I’m going to write about some little known tidbits from Jewish history that may be of great interest to others who suffered through an anti-historical Hebrew school curriculum– and to gentiles as well!

Today’s fun fact: Did you know that in their earliest days, Israeli military forces were partially funded by THE NAZI SS? This isn’t some wacko conspiracy theory: it’s been well documented by none other than the incomparable Christopher Simpson in his highly recommended and wonderfully titled book, Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis and its Destructive Impact on our Domestic and Foreign Policy.

Simpson describes recovered SS records which document an agreement between the SS and the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary in British-controlled Palestine that later became the Israeli Defense Force: Israel’s military. Simpson writes (on page 253, if you’re curious):

Under the arrangement the Haganah was permitted to run training camps for Jewish youth inside Germany. These young people, as well as certain other Jews driven out of Germany by the Nazis, were encouraged to emigrate to Palestine. [Haganah Commander Feival] Polkes and the Haganah, in return, agreed to provide the SS with intelligence about British affairs in Palestine. Captured German records claim that Polkes believed the increasingly brutal Nazi persecution of the Jews could be turned to Zionist advantage–at least temporarily–by compelling Jewish immigration to Palestine, and that the Haganah commander’s sole source of income, moreover, was secret funds from the SS. (emphasis mine)

So, to recap, the forerunner to Israel’s military received funding from the SS– the Nazi Party’s “ideological executive force”–in exchange for providing the Nazis with intelligence about the British. According to Simpson’s account, the Haganah’s Nazi-funded activity took place between 1932-1939, the years when the Nazi party consolidated its control over Germany, passed the anti-semitic Nuremberg laws, and intensified its persecution of the Jews.

Pretty weird, huh? I never learned THAT in Hebrew school!

Travels with Ayn: Pronouns and Stuff

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I’m up to page 13 in Atlas Shrugged. The bum long gone, Eddie Willers is now wandering around the streets of New York City thinking about his childhood. And the author’s style is beginning to reveal itself:

“He thought of a summer day when he was ten years old. That day, in a clearing of the woods, the one precious companion of his childhood told him what they would do when they grew up. The words were harsh and glowing, like the sunlight. He listened in admiration and in wonder. When he was asked what he would want to do, he answered at once, ‘Whatever is right,’ and added, ‘You ought to do something great…I mean, the two of us together.’ ‘What?’ she asked. He said, ‘I don’t know. That’s what we ought to find out. Not just what you said. Not just business and earning a living. Things like winning battles, or saving people out of fires, or climbing mountains.’ ‘What for?’ she asked. He said, ‘The minister said last Sunday that we must always reach for the best within us.'”

There are a few more sentences in the paragraph, including more embedded dialogue, but I think you get the idea. Among other things, she likes her pronouns. She likes her pronouns better than she likes their antecedents. And she doesn’t like pressing the “return” key on her typewriter, even though the first rule of writing dialogue is to start a new paragraph each time there’s a new speaker. She prefers long paragraphs with multiple speakers in conversation. She likes them.

Travels with Ayn: The Bum

I just finished the first page of Atlas Shrugged. It’s very interesting. In summary:

A man named Eddie Willers is walking down the street, minding his own business, when he is accosted by a bum. The bum asks him a question that I gather is the key to this gigantic book: “Who is John Galt?” It’s not clear if the bum will be a central character in Atlas Shrugged, if the bum is actually John Galt, or why Eddie Willers is perplexed by the bum’s question. What’s very clear is that Ayn Rand likes using the word “bum.”

In the book’s first 16 sentences, she uses the word “bum” six times. She uses masculine pronouns to identify the bum, but never once refers to it as a “man” or a “person.” Apart from identifying him as a bum, she refers to him as “the voice” and “the shadow that had no face.” From Rand’s language, it is not entirely clear that the voice questioning Eddie Willers is a human one.

It’s been a while since I heard anyone call a homeless person a bum though, to be fair, Rand doesn’t describe the bum in unflattering terms. She even says its eyes are “intelligent.” Maybe as the book progresses, Rand’s bum will assume a critical role and develop into a complex character worthy of the reader’s respect and attention. Maybe Eddie Willers will adopt the bum as a sort of pet. I guess I’ll find out. Only 1068 pages to go…

Travels with Ayn: The Journey Begins

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I’ve never read Ayn Rand. I’ve heard about Ayn Rand and I’ve talked about Ayn Rand. I’ve made fun of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and argued with people who’ve called her a serious thinker. But I’ve never actually read a word she wrote.

I don’t think that’s necessarily the worst thing in the world. People attack Marx all the time when they clearly haven’t read any of his work (at least with any degree of comprehension). It’s okay to have opinions about things you haven’t experienced first-hand. With Ayn Rand, it’s hard not to have an opinion. Her supporters promote her work zealously and leave the uninitiated with three choices: 1. Argue. 2. Keep silent. 3. Read the books.

Well, I’m ready to go with option 3 and here’s why. Her work is powerful and it seems, based on personal experience, to have a particular power over adolescent readers. Since I try to be a writer, I’d like to understand where the power of Rand’s work comes from and since I work with teenagers, I’d like to understand what it is about her writing that pulls these folks into her orbit.

Based on some preliminary research, I determined that I should begin my study with Atlas Shrugged. Over the coming months, I’ll keep a journal of my travels into the world of Ayn Rand in the hopes that I can find and reveal the source of her power and attraction. I hope you’ll join me.

Which Ayn Rand Book Should I Read?

Last weekend, I read a very provocative piece in the NY Times that got me curious about Ayn Rand. While I’ve heard lots about Ms. Rand and her objectivist teachings, I have to confess I’ve never read her work. So, I’ve decided it’s time to take the plunge and dig into one of her books. Which of her books is the best introduction to her style and philosophy? If I’m only going to read one (and they’re very long, so I’ll probably only read one), which should it be? Thanks!

Are Michelle Rhee’s Children At Risk?

At The Exhauster, we care about America’s children. All of them. Like Eva Moskowitz, who has bravely included wealthy communities in her charter school revolution, we believe that rich kids deserve just as much care and attention as poor ones.

It has come to our attention that Michelle Rhee’s daughters may be at risk. Here are the facts:

  1. Rhee has verbally abused her daughters in public– repeatedly. In January and July of last year (and likely on countless other occasions), Rhee publicly ridiculed her daughters, stating that they “suck at soccer” and noting that she “routinely” tells these defenseless children that their skills are “lacking.” At one public event, Rhee’s daughters sat “cringing” behind her while she humiliated them for the crowd’s entertainment.
  2. Rhee has physically abused children in the past. When she was a first-year teacher, Rhee taped the mouths of her innocent second-grade students shut. According to Rhee, “The skin [was] coming off their lips and they’re bleeding. Thirty-five kids were crying.”
  3. Rhee’s behavior has been extremely erratic for the past 15 years. Since the mid 1990’s, Rhee lied on her resume, helped her husband with “damage control” after he allegedly sexually assaulted a Sacramento woman, falsely claimed that The Wall Street Journal and Good Morning America had praised her work, and presided over a massive testing scandal in our nation’s capital.

As a teacher, I am required by law to report any suspected abuse or maltreatment of children to the proper authorities. Thankfully, Rhee’s daughters spend most of their time living in Nashville with their father (Rhee’s first husband), so they may not be in any immediate danger. That said, Rhee keeps a residence in Nashville, presumably so that she can have regular contact with her children.

Based on the above evidence, The Exhauster believes that Michelle Rhee poses an emotional, and possibly physical, threat to her daughters. We request that the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services investigate this situation immediately.

Welcome to The Exhauster!

Are you tired of reading the same old blogs written in that same old pompous, blogtentious voice? Have you found yourself surfing the internet in the wee hours of the night, growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of scintillating blogosphere content? Is the internet starting to bore you?

If you answered YES! to any of these questions, The Exhauster is for you! We don’t understand what’s going on in the world and we won’t pretend to. We just have some questions that we’d really like answered so we decided to put them on the internet. Thanks for stopping by!