Thursday, August 27, 2015

Between the Lines: On Zionist indoctrination in American Jewish schools

Dear friends,
today I am sharing a very good new documentary made by two young American Jewish women, which explores how Israel is taught in American Jewish Day Schools. 
According to the film makers, Ali Kriegsman and Jana Kozlowski, "Between The Lines offers a deep-dive into how Jewish Day Schools teach Israel's controversial narrative, and the students who emerge with quivering loyalty toward their community and the State. We explore the scope of content offered on Israel's history and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in various Jewish Day schools across the country."

In the documentary, Kriegsman and Kozlowski seek to explore not only the structure of Jewish day school curricula on Israel and what is and isn't taught about the Israel-Palestine conflict, but also what happens to the students when they go onto college and then feel they were miseducated or undereducated.

What is clear from the documentary is the level of indoctrination about Israel that young American students are receiving is extremely high and that much of the information they are receiving is inaccurate, biased and occurs primarily in order to politically bolster and protect the Israeli state from criticism.

The makers are Ali Kriegsman and Jana Kozlowski, and they say they want to motivate Jewish communities around the country, including “synagogues, camps, schools, programs – to stray from a whitewashed Israel narrative and instead engage alternative perspectives and current day complexities, criticisms, and accomplishments.” - See more at:

Watching the documentary, I was reminded of similar stories recounted to me by many of my American Jewish friends who had become active in Palestine solidarity movement. In particular, it reminded me of a young American Jewish woman I worked with in Palestine several years ago, who story was very similar to many of the young people interviewed in this documentary. This young woman - who has since gone on to become a Rabbi and active in the pro-Palestine BDS campaign - came from a staunchly Zionist family and recounted how during her teenage years she had been active a range of Zionist youth organisations and had regularly visited Israel with her family.  Israel was very much central to her life, so much so that she had decided she would make aliyah (ie. migrate and take up Israeli citizenshp). However, all of this changed when she began attending university in Jerusalem.

For the first time every she encountered Palestinian students who challenged the Zionist narrative she had been taught all her life.  Speaking with me, this young woman recounted how she got in heated arguments with Palestinians students about Nakba.  She refused to believe their account of what happened, refuting that Israel had stolen Palestinian land and had ethnically cleansed Palestinians in 1948. For her Israel was a saviour of people, not an ethnic cleanser. She said it was devastating to be told that Israel had carried out human rights abuses and was not the light unto all nations she had been taught. This began a journey for her, where she started to volunteer with a Jewish peace group to try and learn more. She traveled into the occupied Palestinian territories and began to speak with Palestinians. But still she held her love of Israel. 

Then when Israel began bombing Gaza once more, she organised a gathering in her home town in the USA, which involved prayers for peace and included Jewish, Christian and Muslim worship leaders. She was taken to task by her school for doing so.  My colleague went on to recount how this propelled her even more into wanting to learn why her community could not bear to engage with anything challenged the dominate Zionist narrative. She explained to me how betrayed she felt, by her school, by her religious teachers, by her family and everyone around her.  She felt she had been lied too and deceived and felt a deep sense of betrayal. Eventually, her journey brought to becoming an advocate for Palestine and rejecting Zionism. This caused a major rift with her family, as well as the rest of her community. 

I was fascinated by her story and asked if I could interview her for my blog. She agreed.  But within months of making the interview with her public, she asked me to remove it.  At first, this young woman would not tell why she wanted me to take it down. Her explanation was very confusing. Eventually she admitted that she was being targeted by Zionists at her school, where she was studying to be a Rabbi.  They were attempting to get her kicked out of the school and were using the interview she had done with me to try and get her expelled.  While I would have liked to have kept the interview on my blog, I also did not want her to have to endure any more harassment during a vital stage of her studies, so I agreed to take down the interview.

Hopefully this new documentary will go someway towards the goals that its film makers have set - to encourage American Jewish high school students to do their own outside learning when it comes to Israel's history and current events;
to encourage educators to rethink the curriculum being taught in Jewish Day Schools and Jewish communities to engage with more a critical narrative of Israel rather than continuing to promote a whitewashing of Israel history and actions.

You can check out the website for the documentary by clicking here.

in solidarity, Kim

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Settler violence a logical consequence of Israeli government policies

Dear friends,
please find below my latest article for Red Flag on the murder of Ali Dawabsha and settler violence in the Occupied West Bank.

in solidarity, Kim

Settler violence a logical consequence of Israeli government policies

Church in Palestine torched by settlers in June
Eighteen-month-old Ali Dawabsha was burnt alive in the occupied West Bank on 31 July. Israeli settlers firebombed his family’s house at 2am.

A week after Ali’s charred body was pulled from the home, his 30-year-old father Saad died from injuries sustained in the same attack. Both Saad and his wife, Reham, suffered second-degree burns to more than 80 percent of their bodies. Their other son, Ahmed, sustained burns to 60 percent of his body.

“Burning Palestinian children to death is becoming an annual event”, tweeted independent journalist Dan Cohen – noting that baby Ali’s death occurred just one year after the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir on 2 July 2014. 

Kidnapped by Israeli settlers from outside his home in occupied East Jerusalem, the 16-year-old was taken to a forest, where he was tortured and made to drink petrol before being set alight.

In the aftermath of both Muhammed’s and Ali’s deaths, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and numerous other Israeli politicians expressed “shock” at the brutal murders. In both instances, Netanyahu promised to bring the full force of Israeli law against the perpetrators.

However, the platitudes and condemnations by Netanyahu and other Israeli political figures cannot be taken seriously. They are a performance staged for international consumption. Just one day before the kidnapping of Abu Khdeir, Netanyahu issued a call for vengeance after three missing Israeli settlers were found dead in the West Bank. A week later, Netanyahu launched a murderous 51-day assault on Gaza, killing more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children.

Less than 24 hours after the Dawabshas’ home was firebombed, Israel’s army murdered two more Palestinian teenagers in cold blood. Muhammed Hamid al-Masri was shot dead in Gaza, while Laith al-Khaldi was murdered at Atara checkpoint. Both were 17 years old.

Netanyahu has been one of the leading figures bearing responsibility for settler presence in the occupied West Bank. Elected prime minister in 1996 on a platform of expanding illegal settlement construction, Netanyahu declared during a visit to the illegal Israeli colony of Ariel: “We will be here permanently, forever”.

At the time, 140,000 Israeli settlers were living illegally in the occupied Palestinian territories. Today there are more than 650,000. Campaigning for re-election in January this year, Netanyahu made clear his continued support for the illegal colonies.  “I do not intend to evacuate any settlements”, he told Israel’s Channel Two.

In the two weeks since the death of baby Ali, settlers have continued to firebomb Palestinian homes and attack Palestinian villages. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), settlers have carried out at least 120 violent attacks with impunity on Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the start of 2015.

The murders of Ali and Muhammed are not aberrations, but logical results of the Israeli government’s continued occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Allow My Dress to Introduce Me

Dear friends,
a really wonderful blog by Neveen Hammad about Palestinian women, dress and culture.  This was first published on the Arab American Institute website, but I have added some additional photos at the conclusion of the article.

in solidarity, Kim


Allow My Dress to Introduce Me
Posted by Neveen Hammad on August 04, 2015 
Tatreez_Palstn.jpgWhen a Palestinian woman wears her thobe, or traditional Palestinian dress, she is displaying her heritage on her sleeves. Palestinian embroidery, or tatreez, is the artwork featured on each woman’s thobe, and the shapes and colors of the tatreez can be read to understand a woman’s background, heritage, and struggle.

Tatreez dates back to the 8th century CE, and the arrangement of colors and patterns typically indicate what village a woman is from. 

Although it is most often found on women’s thobe, this embroidery is also exhibited on pillowcases and other home accessories. Tatreez embroidery is typically created separately on small pieces of cloth then sown onto larger fabric pieces. Common tatreez designs include geometric shapes and elements of nature, including the sun, moon, stars, mountains, and water. This embroidery is a woman’s form of expression. If a woman from Hebron desires to have children, she would embroider a doll figure on her thobe. Women from the village of Beit Dajan often embroider orange blossoms because that village is known for its orange orchards.

Examining a woman’s thobe is to read about her roots. Certain fabric and thread colors can inform you where she is from, or at least where her thobe was made. While women in the Ramallah region mainly use red for their tatreez designs, which symbolizes life and happiness, other women in Hebron mainly use brown and reddish brown for their tatreez designs. Similarly, the way a woman uses certain colors and designs can tell you about her identity and skill.

Fabrics used to make a thobe include: linen, cotton, wool, and silk. These materials are either produced in Palestine or imported from Egypt, Syria, Europe, India, Damascus, Greece, or Turkey. A type of material used for traditional thobe dresses is referred to as malak, or “royal,” which is a linen material with a high percentage of silk and is predominately used for bridal dresses in Bethlehem.

Traditionally, only a few Palestinian families specialized in the production dyes – using their own secret recipes. Red dye was created from pomegranate skins or insects; the sumac plant was used to make yellow or green dye; purple was made from crushed murex shells; walnut skins were used to produce black dye; and grape leaves produced yellow dye. While indigo fabrics were popular among Bedouins, Biltajeh is a specific indigo-dyed cotton fabric with colored silk borders and is mainly used for dresses in cities along the coast of Palestine. Citizens of Ramallah and Beit Dajan villages prefer white linen and cotton fabrics.

Women in refugee camps in countries other than Palestine still maintain this tradition, which demonstrates that women play an integral role in preserving their ancestral roots, culture, and traditions despite difficult circumstances. 

Neither war, conflict, nor displacement is capable of erasing national identity, culture, or the ability for Palestinians to unite. Tatreez keeps the Palestinian heritage alive. Some Palestinian villages may be gone forever, but tatreez will last and preserve the Palestinian identity, which continues to be under constant threat.

 Palestinian thobes

Soraya Burnat wore a traditional Palestinian thobe at the Oscars in 2014, when her husband Emad Burnat was nominated for an Oscar for  Best Documentary for his film, 5 Broken Camera about their village Bil'in and the struggle of the village and Palestinians against the Israel's apartheid wall and occupation.

                       Palestinian thobes from different Palestinian cities and regions.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

MAAN NEWS: Father of slain Palestinian infant dies from his wounds

Dear friends,
more sad news from Palestine. Sadly Saad Dawabsha, the father of baby Ali who was burnt to death when settlers firebombed the Dawabsha family home, has also passed away.  Ali's mother and older brother remain in critical condition.

I will post updates as more news comes to hand.

In solidarity, Kim


Father of slain Palestinian infant dies from his wounds

MAAN NEWS: Aug. 8, 2015 9:34 A.M.


BETHLEHEM, (Ma'an) -- Saad Dawabsha, the father of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha who was burned alive in an arson attack by Israeli extremists on July 31, died from his injuries early Saturday morning, local sources told Ma'an.

Saad, 30, suffered from third-degree burns covering 80 percent of his body, the Palestinian Minister of Health told Ma'an, and was fighting for his life for more than a week before succumbing to his wounds.

Local sources from the family's village of Duma in the northern West Bank told Ma'an that the family had been notified of the death of Saad soon after he passed, and added that the 30-year-old would be laid to rest on Saturday.
Saad's wife RihamDawabsha, remains in critical condition and suffers third-degree burns across 90 percent of her body.

Saad, along with his wife Riham and other son Ahmad, 4, were immediately taken to the hospital with severe burns after Israeli extremists torched their home in the middle of the night, burning their infant son Ali alive.

Israeli settlers reportedly smashed the windows of two homes in Duma, before throwing flammable liquids and Molotov cocktails inside, killing infant Ali, who was trapped inside the house, and critically injuring the other family members.

The crime has sparked international outrage, with many observers pointing out that settler attacks against the Palestinian community are common and often go unpunished by the Israeli authorities.