Palestinian recognition at the UN

December 4, 2012

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On the 29th November observer status was granted to the Palestinian Authority by the United Nations.

Israel’s government has strongly condemned this move, that unilaterally bypasses the already-battered Oslo Accords.

In turn, Israel’s responses to the move of the Palestinians and the United Nations have drawn unprecedented criticism, even from those who did not support the UN’s decision.

Israel now stands more isolated than ever – a phrase repeated so often in the past few years that it deserves further consideration.

What does it mean for our nation to be isolated among the other – seemingly united – nations?

Jewish tradition points us in at least two different directions.

The prophecy of Bilaam (Numbers 23:9), that presents the Hebrews as:

הֶן-עָם לְבָדָד יִשְׁכֹּן, וּבַגּוֹיִם לֹא יִתְחַשָּׁב  

It is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.


And on the other hand the adjuration from Talmud Bavli (Ketubot 111a):

שהשביע הקדוש ברוך הוא את ישראל שלא ימרדו באומות העולם

The Holy One adjured Israel not to rebel against the nations of the world.


Which approach would seem to be more relevant and applicable today?

Is isolation our fate, or the result of our actions?

What are the existential costs or the benefits of such isolation?

Case Studies


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These are the four case studies we worked on at GJFIII. The pdfs are downloadable here, and we list links to further information regarding these topics.

The Silent Judge

A full activity by Makom addressing Hatikvah

Hatikvah in Arabic?

An anthem for all?

What’s in a name? To Full Post

Supreme Court: Challenges of Jewish Sovereignty in Israel


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Flexing Ethical Muscles

“Taking power and the costs of power…have become central concerns of the Jewish people… Ethical muscles not flexed for centuries are now used; sometimes they are stiff and sore…”                                                                                                                 – Rabbi I. Greenberg

This lesson explores the great responsibility that comes with having power and decision-making ability. The lesson uses two legal judgments made by Israel’s Supreme Court to expose the students to the complex nature of this responsibility. To Full Post

Delegitimation and Dissent – Prof. Michael Walzer

September 20, 2011 by

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Delivered by Professor Michael Walzer at the Global Jewish Forum – a Makōm seminar for the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, Jerusalem, June 2011/Sivan 5771

Michael Walzer is Professor Emeritus at the School of Social Science of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, the editor of Dissent magazine, author and editor of more than twenty books, including Just and Unjust Wars, The Company of Critics and the Jewish Political Tradition.

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The Oldest Democracy in the Middle East

February 16, 2011 by

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It looks like Israel’s slogan, “the only democracy in the Middle East,” will need to soon be replaced. Successful in the corridors of Washington and in much of American public opinion, this claim – with all its truth about life within the Green Line – didn’t work in some corners of the world when it was viewed in the context of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

Israel’s democracy is messy. Personally, I have strong feelings about Israel not really being a secular democracy and I am pained by the infringements on civil rights that stem from Israeli law not allowing for state marriages that are not performed by its official very right-wing Orthodox rabbinate.

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Zionism and Democracy

January 27, 2011 by

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In amongst the turbulence across the world this week, with a horrific suicide bombing attack in Russia, the ‘Palestine Papers’, Lebanese, Tunisian, and now Egyptian upheavals, I went parochial.  

In Britain many of my friends are mobilizing to protest the non-decision of the Board of Deputies. The Board of Deputies of Jews is kind of the parliament of Jews in Britain, and it refused to adopt a motion supporting “the Two State solution”. Petitions are being signed to urge the Board of Deputies to reconsider.

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Does Judaism back critique of Israel?

January 14, 2011 by

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I am a Zionist. Every day I marvel at Israel’s achievements, I am awed by the soldiers who risk their lives so that I can be here, I am uplifted by a democracy where an Arab judge can sentence the Jewish ex-President to jail and I treasure the privilege of walking the streets of the Promised Land.

But living here comes with a price tag. Sometimes the harsh realities of Israel displace my Zionist dreams and the daily papers carry disturbing news of rampant government corruption and the harshness of the occupation. Edmund Burke is famous for saying that “All that it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to remain silent”; should this be our guiding principle, leading us to speak openly and critically about Israel’s flaws?

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Stuck in traffic

October 28, 2010 by

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This week I was roundly derided for my choice of traffic routes. Apparently the beltway, a high speed road created to bypass traffic congestion, is in fact a low speed highly-congested traffic jam created to move you back onto local roads. If this is common knowledge, with hoards of people laughing smugly at my ignorance, who are all those drivers making up the traffic jams on the beltway, and why has no one told them? I am sure that there is a mind-numbingly obvious solution to my question, so please send your answers on the back of a 20 dollar bill…

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Why I’m supporting the Israeli actors’ boycott, but not the American one

September 13, 2010 by

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I thought I could sit this one out; not post links from Haaretz on my facebook page; avoid the emails asking my opinion about the artist boycott of the Ariel Cultural Arts Center in the West Bank; not personally take a stand, lest I risk the wrath of segments of our deeply divided Jewish community, a portion of which surely sides with the Israeli Minister of Culture, Education and Sport who vilified the protesting artists, and with a few members of Knesset who assailed the artists as “treasonous” and “anti-Zionist.” Certainly, I know over a dozen on the list of sixty protesters to be among the most talented, thoughtful and humane Israeli Zionists in the land, a good number of whom have shared their talents with audiences in DC and been resident artists with us at Theater J. But this was an acrimonious fight within Israel, among Israelis.

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A Visit to Hebron with Breaking the Silence

October 7, 2009 by

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I have been in Israel for two weeks, and I have not yet been to the old city, but I have been to Hebron. This has been far from a conscious decision; I have been meaning to go to the old city since I got here. But there has been much here to keep my roommates and me busy in terms of setting up our apartment, so we have spent more time in areas with stores that sell household items and food, such as Emek Refaim Street, which is a ten minute walk away from where we live, and our favorite place to buy delicious produce, the shuk.

I went to Hebron with an organization called Breaking the Silence, which was started by a group of Israeli soldiers who felt strongly that the general public–both Israelis and non-Israelis–should know what is going on in Hevron. The most striking part of this day trip for me was not the political-religious perspectives and implications of the groups and individuals we encountered. I am generally uncomfortable with extreme opinions from both sides, and this trip helped me explore to a larger degree why I feel that way. Physically standing in a place about which there is so much controversy–and actually experiencing the tensions there–was a raw, unparalleled learning experience for me.

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