Please Donate to UFW

Via Brownfemipower:

We need to tell you about a story that will break your heart, and then we need to ask you for help so we can prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.

Hundreds attended the funeral of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez. Maria was working in a grape vineyard outside Stockton during the 1st heat wave of this year. She became ill due to the heat as the farm labor contractor and grower she worked for, like many others, did not provide the protections required by law. After a number of delays Maria was taken to a clinic.

While in route the foreman called saying, “If you take her to a clinic don’t say she was working [for the contractor]. Say she became sick because she was jogging to get exercise. Since she’s underage, it will create big problems for us.” (Click to read Maria’s story.) She was so sick an ambulance took her to the hospital. Doctors said if emergency medical help had been summoned or she had been taken to the hospital sooner, she might have survived.

The death of this young pregnant girl is hard to accept because it did not need to happen. This is not the first time farm workers have needlessly died from the heat. Ten have died over the last four years.

The UFW is sponsoring a four-day pilgrimage in her memory that will begin this Sunday, June 1st from the Lodi church where Maria’s final eulogy was held. Over the 4 days, peregrinos will walk approximately 50 miles to California’s Sacramento capitol. They will then appeal to the Governor and lawmakers to protect farm workers in the fields and ensure nothing like this ever occurs again.

This pilgrimage will cost at least $36,068 to cover the costs of buses and vans for farm workers, food, housing, and of course cool water for the hot sun. We’re asking our internet supporters to contribute 20% of the cost which is $7,214.

Please help. Maria had only one life and now it is gone. This peregrination and the good that can come of it for other farm workers can help affirm that Maria’s life was important and that she didn’t die in vain.

Click here to donate.

Speaking of Nonviolent Resistance…

This Palestinian Life: the rarely told story about a nonviolent resistance against the unjust policies of an occupying state

See the site for a description of the film and a trailer.

A “Training Manual” for “the Next Pogrom”?

My friend Anna just alerted me to Bruce Wilson’s Huffington Post article on a new Christian comic book for children,* Manga Messiah. (The images of the excerpts are too big to fit here, but do take a look at them. They’re… really something.) Looks like the Passion Play** is enjoying yet another run – the comic is apparently devoted to telling the story of how the awful, awful Jews killed Jesus. Why, those rascals even summoned Beezlebub to help out!

As a secular Jew, I’ll have to bow out of the religious particulars, but maybe Brown Shoes can tell us about the last time he invoked a Satanic demon during worship.

Give. Me. A break.

Predictably, a couple of commenters claim that we should all just calm down, that it’s only a comic, that kids won’t take it seriously. While you could claim that ancient Jews totally have nothing in common with modern Jews, though, you can’t ignore that the art style is meant to invoke a very specific image of a pan-historical religious Jewish person. Compare this image from the comic:

Jews from Manga Messiah

With this image of a real-life worshipper:

a modern Orthodox man
(from BBC archives)

The tefillin is included; the tallit is even striped. Also, although I couldn’t find a photo of it, many Jews cover their heads with the tallit while praying, which gives them the the appearance of being hooded. These aren’t ambiguous robed Israelites whom one is supposed to infer are Jewish from context. These are Jews, plain and simple, and kids are meant to make that connection.

This leads to another possible argument: Maybe, even though they’re clearly Jewish, they’re not supposed to represent all Jews, but just one particular type of Christ-killing Jew. I mean, maybe it’s just saying that the Jews who killed Christ are bad Jews, and all other Jews are okay. But as Wilson points out:

In the 1920s, automaker Henry Ford paid for a mass printing of his “The International Jew” pamphlet, a close derivation of the “Protocols”, and through such nakedly anti-Semitic literature Ford helped shape the ideological climate in Germany that fed the rise of Third Reich and The Holocaust. But, Ford did not believe he hated Jews as a people: only the “wrong” Jews.

This is how many forms of bigotry manifest. I don’t hate Black people – I just hate niggers. I don’t hate all women – I just hate sluts. I don’t hate all Mexicans – I just hate the lazy ones. I don’t hate all Jews – I just hate the ones who killed Jesus. And also Israelis. And also right-wingers. And also my boss at work and that guy down the street. But not all of them!

And I’ll be brutally honest here. My first reaction to these types of statements – even if only on a deep, semi-conscious level – has always been, “Oh, they’re not talking about me.” I’m not a religious man wearing tefillin and tallit. I’m not that kind of Jew. There are two reasons why this line of thought is counterproductive: First off, it doesn’t do much good for old men who wear tefillin and tallit. Secondly, there’s no guarantee that others will continue to make the distinction between me and them. Even if they do, the idea that gentiles get to decide who’s a good Jew and a bad Jew – and the idea that Jews must follow those instructions if we want a pat on the head – is insulting at best, and lethal at worst.

By the way, commenter preemptive love points to this article in the Marin Coastal Post on the “swarm” of American Jewry. (Also see this article on the author’s possible secret identity.) Is overt antisemitism on the rise again? Hard to tell at this point, but stay tuned.


* Heh, fifty years ago that would have been a tautology.
** Wikipedia has a description of the antisemitic overtones of passion plays, and why they’re inaccurate and un-Christian. Basically, Christianity dictates that Jews aren’t responsible for Jesus’s death – all of humanity is. So to blame his death on Jews is nothing more than scapegoating, and detracts from the real symbolism of the event.

The Oppression of Narrow Roles

Reading a post about Hilary Clinton at The Debate Link got me thinking. It’s especially true what Schraub says about Clinton having to adopt what seems to be a hawkish standpoint specifically because she’s female:

Certainly, the “man card” form of identity politics is nothing new in American elections, but there’s a reason that Clinton is not the one challenging it, just as there’s a reason Nixon was the one to go to China and not LBJ. I’d love to push political deliberation beyond the current “who can down more shots at the bar” standard, but Clinton can’t press the issue too much because she’s a woman — she’s ultimately the target that these patriarchal norms are designed to suppress.

Essentially, this places women in a double-bind: Being seen as too “feminine” makes them somehow seem weak, or ineffectual, while seeming too “masculine” gets them derided for trying too hard to be one of the guys. The current power structure forces women into a role where they must publicly deny their inherent femininity and then punishes them for it.

There is a parallel here for Jews, too. Historically, in Christian Europe, Jews were forbidden from occupations seen to be the providence of the Christian majority. Given that usury and moneylending were forbidden to Christians, this became the only avenue for Jews to succeed and thrive, and so they did.

But, much like women adopting, by necessity, a more aggressive tone in the professional world to thrive and survive, the hammer came down on them for it the moment there was trouble. The kingdom would fall on hard times and the blame would be cast on the only people able to be bankers – the Jews. Thus the public image Jews as bankers and economic calamities began – force the people into this narrow role, and then punish them for it.

Similarly, in some quarters, this is where the stereotype of Jews and their affinity for the legal profession comes into play – its true that the community’s emphasis on Torah and Talmud learning probably would prepare someone for entry into that kind of world since it’s similar to the legal system of the Western world, with its original rulings and precedents and so on, but as Naim Kattan wrote in Farewell, Babylon, at least in Baghdad, it was the only profession available to Jews by the (in that case) government of Iraqis.

And, as I referenced in my last post, this turns dangerous even when we allow it in other seemingly benign ways, like the caliber and quality of the supposed friends of Israel – we set ourselves up to be punished for seeming too utterly callous to the unfortunate collateral of Israel’s increasingly indefensible actions, when my impression is that such is quite far from the truth.

More Disturbing News from Palestine

From Roi Ben-Yehuda’s latest article on Jewcy:

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem recently released a video of an Israeli solider shooting a rubber bullet into an Israeli protester at short range. The incident took place during a demonstration against the separation wall in the Palestinian village of Bil’in. The army has said that it is investigating the incident, yet added that since Bil’in has experienced past clashes between protesters and the IDF, “security forces were ordered to employ crowd dispersal means on the demonstrators.”

People have often argued that if only the Palestinians were to use the method of Gandhi and King, then this whole crises would be over and done with. Paul Wolfowitz, for example, said, “If the Palestinians adopt the ways of Gandhi, they could, in fact, make an enormous change very quickly. I believe the power of individuals demonstrating peacefully is enormous.” While I sympathize with the idea of non-violent resistance, when applied to Palestine such thinking tends to ignore or minimize the historical record and the reality on the ground.

When you see videos like Cohen’s, videos that are in accord with the testimony of many eyewitness on the ground, you began to wonder if the likes of Gandhi or King would have stood a chance in the occupied territories in the first place. As the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh once said, if Gandhi was resisting the French instead of the British he would have given up non-violence within a week – presumably because he would be dead. Surely if the IDF’s de facto position (in contrast to its de jure regulations) is to shoot peaceful protestors, Gandhi and King would have had a very tough time getting their movements off the ground. Moreover, a serious Palestinian effort at civil disobedience will most certainly experience vigorous and violent opposition among Palestinians as well. No members of Hamas and other militant groups will allow their power to be challenged without a fight. And as we have seen in the past, Hamas and their ilk has no difficulty gunning down and eliminating opposition.

Finally, the “Gandhi in Palestine” theory also ignores the reality that the Israeli heart, like an egg in boiling water, has become hardened. It’s not that the Israeli people are lacking in compassion. It’s just that the situation has created more than one wall dividing us from the Palestinians. The only reason we pay attention to this video is because it captures an Israeli solider shooting a fellow Israeli. Were this a Palestinian, we would not have cared. Indeed, it would take a great deal of exposure to lucid raw injustice to weaken our Dershowitzian Super-Egos — those voices inside our heads that have been fine-tuned to explain away and assuage our guilt.

Sorry for the extensive quoting and snipping.

Obviously, the situation is too complicated for one to claim that nonviolent resistance will simply never ever work in Palestine; after all, Ghandi and MLK weren’t exactly fighting benevolent, understanding forces. I think, rather, that this article should serve as food for thought for the people who wonder why Palestinians don’t just lay down their weapons, link arms, and stroll up to checkpoints singing “We Shall Overcome.” I’ve heard many Palestinians say that nonviolent resistance, regardless of how it may work in the abstract, isn’t working now. In fact, emsi306 shares this story in the comment thread:

Just last week I was in a West Bank town when settlers, protected by the army, came to claim an area in the village as the site of a new settlement. Members of the community met to discuss a plan of action to protect their village from a settler take-over. The group, who is constantly committed to nonviolence, decided that a protest with signs and flags would get them nowhere and possibly injured, and so they had to think of creative alternatives to the usual peaceful protest. The group decided to turn the area that the settlers had claimed into a vibrant cultural center. The group painted the walls bright colors, brought in entertainers, set up a market, and projected movies onto a white wall. The goal was to peacefully and in a non-confrontational way tell the settlers that this land was in use and that it was not theirs to take. Unfortunately even such a creative solution showed no effect. The army came and gave the members ten minutes to clear the area or risk being shot or arrested. The group had no choice but to leave, and their efforts went unreported and unnoticed. This the difficulty peaceful Palestinians face, and this is why even Gandhi would have no chance against the Israeli army.

Let me reiterate that I don’t think it’s as simple as “Gandhi would have no chance.” But this is the reality we’re dealing with.

Rachel Moss

This isn’t strictly a Jewish issue, but it does affect Jews, as I’ll explain in a bit. For starters, though, here’s the scoop from the inimitable Angry Black Woman:

Let’s start at the beginning. A few days ago the post went up on the Something Awful forums, a site dedicated to making fun of shit. Rachel Moss, the post’s author, has some serious issues surrounding fatness, her own self-image, and understanding the difference between snark and being a total asscrab. I’m going to quote extensively here for reasons I will explain afterward, but I’m putting it under a cut for your pleasure:

[WisCon] is like any other sci-fi con, except that well over half of the attendees are female, about a third of the panels are political, there is no gaming, and absolutely everybody is a huge bitch.

Thinking Ahead: Feminists thinking about possible near and middle futures and feminist responses to them
Moondancer – A white woman who is Native American because she wears a cowboy hat and has wolves all over her shirt. And because she calls herself Moondancer. [glad you can make that scientific determination there, Rachel! –abw]

Feminism is making progress, because Moondancer’s son is a little pussy who gets beaten up by his sister and takes it. [I’m going to give you a moment to decide if the words “a little pussy” are Rachel’s or Moondancer’s. –abw]

The Joy of Fat Sex
I noticed immediately as I entered the room a lot of labored breathing.

Fat is Not the Enemy
Fat activism is, in my opinion, one of the stupidest types of almost entirely online-only activism there is. I’m sitting at a computer, and I’m super fat (well, not me actually), and I can’t get a date, so therefore I AM OPPRESSED. [note how she was quick to add: I’M CERTAINLY NOT FAT, this will be important later –abw]
But I can’t tell them that [their heroes are full of shit]…because they’ll eat me.

Fighting the Good Fight with Limited Resources
Cynthia: A polyamorous woman in a group marriage with [the fake disease] fibromyalgia [I am so glad to know that you’re here to tell us who is white, who is not, and also which diseases are real. You must be some sort of psychic doctor, Rachel! –abw]
Nabil: Seen earlier in that fat joy facillitator picture as “the skinny one.” “He” is a non-op transgendered person…a person who looks like a woman, talks like a woman, likes men, but says that I AM A MALE AND YOU WILL REFER TO ME AS SUCH. It’d be easier if he/she just drew on a beard or something. Geez. Try harder.
Marna: Another fat activist. BLEGH.

I only excerpted a portion of it; go to ABW’s site to read the rest.

Why is this so pernicious? Why not just ignore her? Stupid bigoted fucks will always exist; is there really any point to calling out their bullshit?

Yes. Notice the recurring theme in all of Moss’s jabs: Moondancer isn’t a real Native American; fat people aren’t actually oppressed; fibromyalgia is fake; Nabil doesn’t get to call himself a man. None of these people, it would seem, are authentic. Her problem with them isn’t that they’re not “normal” (at least, she’s not willing to come out and say it); her problem is that they dare to define themselves instead of accepting the dominant culture’s definition of them. If you look white, you must be white. If you’re fat, you must be lazy and self-absorbed. If you’re not coughing, you must not be sick, and if you look like one gender, you must adhere to that label. If you say otherwise, then by God, you must be lying!

And this is precisely how oppression works: by denying that oppressed people are oppressed, so that you can go on oppressing them with a clean conscience. You can play this game with anyone. Reading ABW’s entry, it was all too easy for me to imagine a Jewish counterpart: “Next up was a rich Jewish girl who sat there saying that calling rich Jews rich is somehow oppressing them! She had some blah-blah rationalization but like I was going to waste my time listening to that.” (Full disclosure – I am not rich, except by global standards.) That’s why it’s important to dissect this type of behavior when it happens. It could potentially affect any of us.

More importantly, though, we need to dissect it because even though there will always be fucks, Moss shouldn’t have the pleasure of getting away with this. Real people are getting tangibly hurt in the aftermath. (Again, see ABW’s post.)

Furthermore, shit like this is exactly how prejudiced memes get started. Let’s go back to her description of fat activists:

Fat activism is, in my opinion, one of the stupidest types of almost entirely online-only activism there is. I’m sitting at a computer, and I’m super fat (well, not me actually), and I can’t get a date, so therefore I AM OPPRESSED.

Now, all you sensible people out there can see the holes in this statement. Fat people can get dates just fine. Fat activism isn’t limited to the internet. And there are real, actual ways in which fat people are really, actually oppressed. How many times have my friends told me about being called “fat bitch” as they walked down the street? How many actresses and models are there who are bigger than a size zero? What’d the media do to Britney Spears when she lost her washboard abs? Why is it that skinny women get higher salaries than large women? And didn’t we hear something a while back about Mississippi banning fat people from restaurants? (Both links via Feministe.)

Et cetera.

Except there are a lot of people who will read Moss’s bizarre screed and, having no knowledge of the shit fat people actually put up with, think to themselves, “Wow, is that what fat activism is? Boy, what bullshit!” Because, see, we have this tendency, when we hear someone make a declaration, to assume that they didn’t just pull it out of thin air. It takes a lot of street smarts to recognize a lie. If you have the ability to immediately sense that someone’s full of shit, chances are you learned it over time. A lot of people aren’t that savvy.

And then they go and repeat those memes, because those memes must be true because, well, someone said it!

And once those memes get out of control, you find yourself potentially banned from restaurants or shot and posthumously derided or loaded into a cattle car or, oh, I don’t know, pick any atrocity – they all come from the same militant ignorance.

And yes, Rachel Moss is only a tiny part of that ignorance, and no, not all instances of bigotry result in physical harm. But that doesn’t mean we have to let it pass.

Falashmura and Israel

Along the topic of JoC, Ynet News reported on this item regarding the Falashmura and their right of return. As the Ynet article indicates,

According to a decision made by the government in 2003, all members of the Falashmura denomination who stand up to halachic criteria are permitted to make aliyah. This decision was backed by the head rabbis of Israel, who determined that these members should be brought to Israel in order to undergo conversion.

The Interior Ministry verified the eligibility of those interested and brought 15,000 immigrants to Israel over the past few years. Currently the ministry is refusing to check whether or not 8,700 more members of the Falashmura denomination could be added to the list, and these members await their fate in the camp built for them in Gundar by a Jewish-American organization.

To summarize, 8,700 of these people are still living in a refugee camp in limbo, awaiting their status in Israel or whether or not they are to return to Ethiopia, where it’s been alleged they face persecution.

It turns out, though, that it’s not so simple – as The International Middle East Media Center reports,

Proselytizing to Ethiopian Jews is a sensitive issue, as some Ethiopians claim that they were forced to convert to Christianity while in Ethiopia. Some Israelis have voiced concern that many of the Ethiopians who came to Israel in recent years claiming to be Jewish may in fact be Christian, thus adding to the tension.

Essentially, the Jewishness of the Falashmura is what is most in dispute, with many in the Ethopian Jewish community not wanting them in Israel in any capacity, claiming that they were persecuted and proselytized by the Falashmura back in Ethiopia. Unfortunately, as the Jewish Virtual Library article states, this is a problem without an easy solution, as it’s only gotten much worse over the years:

Finally, in 1997, all the organizations involved with the Falash Mura decided a solution needed to be found to empty the compounds so no more people would come. The government agreed to a one-time humanitarian gesture to bring to Israel everyone in Addis with some connection to the “seed of Israel.” Afterward, the camps were to be closed and future immigration was to be based on the criteria used for immigration from all other countries. The government agreed that would be allowed to come to Israel.

Israel decided the 4,000 Falash Mura then in the capital would be brought to Israel in groups rather than all at once. Though most did not enter under the Law of Return, they received all the benefits of immigrants who did. The only other people who were brought en masse to Israel in such a humanitarian gesture were refugees from Kosovo and the Vietnamese boat people. In 1998, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the evacuation of the Falash Mura was complete. From that point on, the government said, Ethiopians would only be allowed to immigrate on the basis of the Law of Return.

The government’s humanitarian gesture stimulated more Falash Mura to come to Addis in expectation of similar treatment. After an initial estimate of fewer than 10,000 Falash Mura, the number soon ballooned to more than 30,000. As more arrived, conditions worsened, the embarrassment intensified and the activists called for additional humanitarian steps.

The problem, at least from the Israeli side, is that there is worry that many more hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians will claim Jewish heritage if this becomes seen as a way for many to escape Addis Ababa and the situation in Ethiopia.

The other problem for many, is that the Israeli government had not lived up to its commitments to have incorporated the Falashmura community by the end of 2007, because they claimed not to have received permission from the Ethiopian government, while the NACOEJ claimed a request was never sent to the Ethiopian government on behalf of the Falashmura, leaving many of them still in limbo.

Those looking for some way to help expedite this process or donate money to facilitate the Falashmura can donate at the Operation Promise at the UJC website.

Personally, I feel, as I think many do, that their status as Jews is secondary to the humanitarian crisis that has developed – as Kosovars, Cambodians, and the Vietnamese have all been patriated into Israel as refugees in the past, I see no reason not to do the same here, at least to ease the suffering of those still stuck in the camps awaiting word of their future.