1. I put my money where my mouth is.
In my twenties in the U.S., I became intensely “pro-Israel.” I avidly followed its affairs, wrote letters to the editor, even got on the phone to solicit funds for it. I spoke of “the Israelis” as a race of ideal people, heroes; but that was guilt talking. I had to be honest with myself: what I was doing was not enough.
Now I’m here; I’m not just an observer or a fan from afar, but a player. Whatever happens here, for good or bad, happens to me. I walk the walk. I’m morally at peace with myself.
Last week I explained that I was in the dating game from 1996 to 2007, and described four mistakes I made (of course, there were others, too) that kept me in the game by taking me on detours that led nowhere.
As I also mentioned, one day in 2007 (it was July) I had a truly successful date, creating a situation that lasts till today. I’m now thinking about what, in the early days of this partnership, were some of the signs that it was promising and headed in the right direction, and what made it different from those other attempts that were ill-starred.
I divorced in 1996, and in 2007 I blessedly struck it rich on a blind date and have been in a stable situation ever since.
Looking back at the eleven years I spent in the dating game (or more accurately, in and out of it), I’m struck by how many pitfalls there are and how many of them I did not manage to avoid. A retrospective review might shed light on how to arrive at a good place without taking all sorts of detours that just lead you right back to the dating game.
One of the most handy, readable, informative books about near-death experiences (NDEs) is Jeffrey Long’s Evidence of the Afterlife. In it Long, a radiation oncologist, offers nine lines of evidence for why NDEs are real and not just dreams or hallucinations.
Among those nine lines of evidence, Long considers one of the strongest and most dramatic to be the fact that, during NDEs, blind people can see—including people blind from birth. People with that unfortunate condition do not see even in dreams. They know that vision exists, but can’t imagine what it is—as if someone had told you about some additional, unimaginable sense.
Yet, in NDEs, even blind-from-birth people see—in full, vivid detail. Long calls it “medically inexplicable.”
Probably the best-known case is that of Vicki Umipeg-Noratuk. Her story was first told in a 1998 study of blind people’s NDEs (and OBEs, out-of-body experiences) by Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper of the University of Connecticut. Ring, a professor of psychology, and Cooper went on to publish Mindsight, a book based on their study.
Are you just a physical entity, ultimately reducible to the physical entity known as your brain? Is that organ—a bundle of neurons weighing about three pounds—the source of all your thoughts, feelings, and any illusion you may have of a “soul” or a “spirit”?
I recently finished reading a 600-plus-page book by a group of academic psychiatrists, psychologists, and philosophers, called Irreducible Mind, that argues exactly the opposite. The book presents a huge body of evidence from scientific studies of psychokinesis, split personalities, psychic healing, near-death experiences, and other phenomena that seems to constitute powerful proof that, while the mind and the brain obviously interact, the former is not reducible to the latter and there are circumstances where consciousness clearly exists and functions independently of the brain.
Irreducible Mind is a subversive endeavor, swimming against the tide of about a century of scientific reductionism (though not, it should be stressed, in quantum physics) that says all phenomena, including your most delicate or exalted sentiments, are ultimately physical. The book has definitely had some impact; googling the title gets almost two million results, and though published back in 2007 it keeps selling well on Amazon.
One of the coauthors is Bruce Greyson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia and leading researcher of near-death experiences. A few months ago a video surfaced of a lecture Greyson gave in India in 2011. It’s about an hour long, fascinating, and seems to point to even more dramatic findings since Irreducible Mind was published seven years ago.
Greyson presents four lines of evidence for the mind as an independent entity, which I’ve taken the trouble to summarize, and they could be an eye-opener. First he gives this caveat:
The evidence that I’m going to discuss…is derived entirely from scientific research. But I do not want to give you the impression that this evidence is…accepted by Western scientists. In fact, most Western scientists are completely unaware that this evidence even exists.
On Monday evening and Tuesday, Israel marks its 66th Independence Day. Each year this day is preceded by Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers. The one holiday segues into the other, a few minutes after sundown, with the raising of the national flag on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem from half-staff to full height.
That moment, one of the most defining and resonant in Israeli life, signifies that the country owes its existence to those who have been willing to sacrifice for it. And with Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers coming only a week after Holocaust Remembrance Day, it also represents a subtle, profound shift from mourning to celebration.
Getting to sleep at night has never been one of my talents. As a kid, fears kept me awake. As a teenager, I found the night the most intense time and didn’t understand why one was supposed to sleep during it. As an adult… if it wasn’t one thing that kept me awake at night, it was another.
Just recently I’ve been on a new regimen, and it’s actually working. There are three things I’ve been doing differently, and I’ve been sleeping with little or no trouble most nights. As for why I made these three changes, it did not come from any conscious decision but, apparently, from something on a subconscious level, some push for greater purity, a byproduct of which has been successful sleep.
I should add that if exercise is not one of the three things, it’s not because I don’t practice it but because I’ve already been practicing it for decades. I find it indispensable to decent mental and physical functioning. No, by itself it did not solve my sleep problem; but without it I wouldn’t have slept at all.
Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day fell this year on yesterday evening and today. Yom HaShoah (literally “Day the-Holocaust” in Hebrew) was declared a national memorial day in Israel in 1953, five years after the state’s establishment, and is now observed throughout the Jewish world.
Unlike much older Jewish holidays, Yom HaShoah has had to be improvised. By now, in Israel (where I’ve been living for almost 30 years), the day has a structure and contents that rather effectively convey somberness and an intense identification with the Holocaust’s victims.
Yom HaShoah begins in Israel (at sundown) with a ceremony in a square beside Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. I’ve been watching it on TV now for years and generally find it tactful, authentic, and moving. It includes speeches by the prime minister and the president before an honor guard, the lighting of six torches (symbolizing six million victims) by Holocaust survivors, musical presentations, and most of all the heart-wrenching singing of the prayer “El Malei Rahamim” by the chief army cantor.
Yom HaShoah is a regular workday, but with places of entertainment closed and all TV and radio programs devoted to Holocaust-related themes. At 11 a.m. sirens blare throughout the country and all traffic and motion stops. Drivers exit their cars and, like the surrounding pedestrians, stand for the two-minute duration of the siren in silent commemoration. These are moments of eerie, slightly frightening power.
The first three months of 2014 saw a rise in aliyah—Jewish immigration to Israel. A 312% increase from France, 70% increase from Ukraine, 100% increase from Brazil. The absolute numbers are not huge; if the current rate continues, the total for this year will be about 20,000—compared to, for instance, much higher numbers of former-Soviet Union Jews who came to Israel in the 1990s.
The present uptick, though, appears likely to continue and could accelerate. Amid rising antisemitism, about two-thirds of French Jews are considering emigrating, and half of those are considering Israel. Similar, if somewhat less dramatic, numbers are reported among Jewish communities elsewhere in Europe.
I read such reports with elation, as if reading that I personally had won some prize or had some other good fortune coming my way. This is rather interesting in light of the fact that I’ll soon have been living in Israel for 30 years. More than enough time, of course, to get over romantic visions, to be inducted into the many dimensions of ordinary, flawed human reality that constitute Israel as they do other societies.
And yet, after almost 30 years, nothing—essentially—has changed the feeling I had when I came to live here on September 6, 1984. That this is the true home, that no other place where Jews live can come close to it.
Editor’s Note: Please check out the previous installments of this ongoing series.
Songs have played a huge role in Israeli nation-building. With Jews immigrating to the land from all over the world, an incredibly diverse mix of influences had to be sifted into the musical melting pot. And yet, even in pioneering days well before the declaration of statehood in 1948, songs of distinct, unmistakable Israeli (or what came to be called Israeli) character started emerging.
The Zionist enterprise was not an easy one, beset with economic hardship and violent attacks, and songs were a huge morale-booster. Public sing-a-longs, often with dancing, were a staple of life in the rural settlements and also became part of the general culture. Songs ran the gamut of human experience, but love for the restored land, and heroism and mourning connected to wars and battles, were common themes especially on the collective level. Songs using biblical motifs and passages were also very popular.
Women have been among Israel’s greatest creators and performers of songs. Here I can only offer a few examples from dozens of worthy cases.
Passover, which began Monday at sundown and lasts for seven days in Israel and eight days in the Diaspora, is one of the major, constitutive holidays of the Jewish people. It commemorates the Jews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt 3300 years ago, which led to the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai and an arduous 40-year trek to the Promised Land.
The basic instructions for Passover are laid down by God in Exodus 12:
And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever….
And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
The “feast” is the Passover seder practiced by Jews all over the world to this day; the “unleavened bread” is the matza eaten at the seder and all throughout Passover by observant Jews. Passover is a joyous holiday, and in our era it has the added spice of the return to the Promised Land and the rise of a free and independent Jewish state.
Passover coincides this year with a dramatic political event—the crisis and possible demise of yet another Israeli-Palestinian “peace process,” this one shepherded earnestly, passionately, and futilely by U.S. secretary of state John Kerry. We are now at a juncture that offers two options: to remain enslaved to the same flawed assumptions that lead again and again to failure; or to finally get liberated from them and reach a Promised Land of understanding and rational policy.
Golda Meir was Israel’s fourth prime minister, serving from 1969 to 1974, and the world’s third female head of government. In her seventies at the time, she charmed much of the world with her “Jewish grandmother” image—especially as juxtaposed with her defense minister Moshe Dayan, a tough sabra (native-born Israeli) with an eye-patch.
Unlike Dayan, Meir was not a sabra; she was born Golda Mabovitch in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1898. Her first memory was of her father boarding up the front door because of rumors of a pogrom. In 1905 her father moved to Milwaukee by himself in search of work; a year later, having found a job in a railroad yard, he brought the rest of the family over.
Golda showed leadership qualities early, forming something called the American Young Sisters Society. She was also drawn to socialist Zionism, then an energetic enterprise devoted to creating pioneering settlements in the Land of Israel. She joined a socialist-Zionist youth movement, and in that context she met Morris Meyerson. They got married in 1917, and in 1921 they left to join the fledgling Jewish community in Palestine. (Golda later Hebraicized the name Meyerson to Meir.)
Golda Meir’s story stirs a certain nostalgia. The current Israeli Labor Party—a descendant of socialist Zionism or, as it came to be called, Labor Zionism—is a pallid, even ludicrous remnant. It hardly has the spunk and grit that Golda Meir embodied. True, the decline of socialism left a void for this ideological trend; but it’s not only that.
Observers like Caroline Glick, Michael Curtis, and popular blogger Elder of Zion have all noted the strange fact that feminists tend to beat up on Israel while giving the Arab (and larger Muslim) world a free pass.
As Glick points out:
if being a feminist means attacking the only country in the Middle East where women enjoy freedom and equal rights, then feminism…has become at best, a meaningless term…. The deception at the heart of the feminist movement is nowhere more apparent than in the silence with which self-professed feminists and feminist movements ignore the inhumane treatment of women who live under Islamic law…. Leading feminist voices in the US and Europe remain unforgivably silent on the unspeakable oppression of women and girls in Islamic societies….
On December 30, 2010, Moshe Katsav, who had served as president of Israel (a ceremonial but significant post) from 2000 to 2007, was convicted of rape and sexual harassment by a three-judge panel. The judges were two Jewish women, Miriam Sokolow and Judith Shevah, and an Arab man, George Kara.
It was an illuminative moment in several ways:
● Whereas in Israel rape, including marital rape, is a felony, most Arab countries explicitly or tacitly allow marital rape; rape is currently endemic particularly in Egypt, Syria, and Yemen; and in many Arab countries the victim of rape is the one who is charged with an offense.
● There could be no parallel phenomenon of a Jewish judge sentencing an Arab defendant, let alone a former high official, in an Arab country, not least because almost all the Jews who lived in those countries had to flee because of persecution.
● Whereas there are very small percentages of female judges in a minority of Arab countries (and none in the rest), in Israel half of all magistrate and district-court judges are women, and for years the Supreme Court has included at least one woman.
Even if it doesn’t fit the warped view of today’s feminists, the difference between Israel and the Arab world on women’s rights (and human rights generally) is night and day.
As of 1996, if you were a woman, you could be a pilot in the Israeli air force. As of this year, you can keep being one even if you’re pregnant.
The Times of Israel reports that “the IAF…has opened the skies to pregnant pilots and navigators” and that “transport plane pilots will be allowed to fly until the 25th week of pregnancy.”
It was in 1995 that an Israeli woman named Alice Miller, who was already a civilian pilot and an IAF officer, petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to strike down the IAF’s ban on female pilots. In 1996 the court ruled in her favor, and since then about 35 women have received their wings from the IAF.
It’s part of a general trend where more and more women are filling combat roles in the Israel Defense Forces. About 3% of its combat soldiers are now women, including 70% of the Caracal infantry battalion, 10% of the artillery corps, and 6% of the Border Police. Also this year the IDF appointed Oshrat Bachar as its first-ever female battalion commander.
One might think all this would make Israel a hero of the feminist left. But you’d be more likely to stumble upon an Israel Apartheid Week exhibit on a campus than see the left give Israel credit for much of anything these days.
Meir Har-Zion, an iconic Israeli military figure, died at 80 on March 14. He never pursued a political career and you probably haven’t heard of him. Indeed, his military exploits were mostly confined to a three-year period in the 1950s. Yet his fame in Israel never wore off, and a 2005 poll ranked him 15th out of the 200 greatest Israelis of all time.
Moshe Dayan—another iconic Israeli figure who was a chief of staff, defense minister, and foreign minister—called Har-Zion “the finest of our commando soldiers, the greatest Jewish warrior since Bar Kochba,” referring to the leader of the 2nd-century-CE revolt against Rome. It was Dayan who had Har-Zion appointed an officer even though he had never undergone officers’ training.
In eulogizing Har-Zion, current defense minister Moshe Yaalon called him “one of the greatest warriors in the history of the IDF—an audacious, distinctive commander whose influence in molding generations of fighters and units was pivotal.”
“I went down a tunnel, I saw a light.” It has become such a standard part of near-death-experience accounts that it’s almost a cliché. Near-death experiencers report moving through a (usually dark) tunnel and emerging at a different place, where they may encounter a being of light, deceased relatives, heavenly landscapes, a review of their lives—usually some combination, or all, of those elements.
The tunnel experience is common though not universal. Some NDErs seem to go directly to the other world, without passing through a tunnel. Tunnels seem to be considerably less common in Hindu NDEs. Japanese NDErs report moving along rivers instead of tunnels.
At least in Western NDEs, though, tunnels are more common in cases where NDErs are actually clinically dead. All this suggests that the tunnel is a metaphorical representation of the transition from one world to the other. What is, however, universal is that the world encountered in the NDE is very different from the earthly one—and in the vast majority of cases, a lot better. To such an extent that NDErs—no matter what their earthly responsibilities and attachments—usually want to stay in the transcendent world, and regret—sometimes quite painfully—having to return to the earthly one.
The wackiest of the many holidays on the Jewish calendar is Purim, which falls this year on Saturday evening and Sunday (and a day later in Jerusalem). Purim commemorates the Jews’ deliverance from a genocidal decree of the Persian Empire sometime in the 5th century BCE. Its story is told in the Book of Esther, the last of the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible to be canonized.
Purim, as laid down in the ninth chapter of Esther two and a half millennia ago, is a joyous day, marked by a festive meal, the sending of food gifts, the giving of charity, and the public reading of Esther (mostly in synagogues, though in Israel you can tune into synagogue readings on TV). The Talmud even tells you to get drunk on Purim until you can’t tell the difference between “cursed be Haman” (the villain of the Book of Esther, who is eventually hanged) and “blessed be Mordechai” (a good guy, who eventually becomes the king’s second-in-command).
At some point in medieval times Purim also became a costume holiday. While, in today’s Diaspora, Purim is mostly celebrated by observant Jews, in today’s Israel it’s a countrywide event and you can see colorful, often bizarre costumes everywhere, along with carnival processions on city streets (a custom begun in a then brand-new city, Tel Aviv, in 1912).
Skepticism is the right attitude if it means you insist on real, strong proof before being persuaded of something. It is not a good attitude if it means you’re set to deny and belittle proof of something no matter what.
Skeptics about whether near-death experiences are real tend to be in the second category. Millions of people have undergone them since the 1960s; a good summary of the confirmative evidence that arises from this vast trove of experience is here.
As The Blaze told it:
Brian Miller, 41, was hospitalized after suffering a major heart attack. While he was doing well at first, his heart eventually went into a deadly arrhythmia called Ventricular fibrillation, described by the Mayo Clinic as “a … rhythm problem that occurs when the heart beats with rapid, erratic electrical impulses.”
From that point, Miller was out cold. As a nurse affirmed, “He had no heart rate, he had no blood pressure, he had no pulse…. His brain had no oxygen for 45 minutes….”
In other words, Miller was in the state known as clinical death. Before the advent of modern CPR techniques, there would have been a simpler name for it: death. He would have been seen as beyond any hope of revival.
Brian Miller, of course, revived—but how it happened, and even whether the medical team’s efforts were solely responsible for it, is not at all clear.
“HEAVENLY Father,” take to thee
The supreme iniquity,
Fashioned by thy candid hand
In a moment contraband.
Though to trust us seem to us
More respectful—“we are dust.”
We apologize to Thee
For Thine own Duplicity.
That’s by Emily Dickinson, the wonderful 19th-century American poet who churned out almost two thousand poems in almost total obscurity, too shy to publish more than a handful of them during her lifetime.
“Heavenly Father” is a retort, couched in acid irony, and also a plaint. We are not supposed to be anything much—dust, iniquity. Creating us was a momentary lapse, a glitch. The father is not presumed to be proud of what he has wrought.
And yet, if the creations are that flawed, why blame them for their failings? It seems like a double insult—to be fashioned as something iniquitous, then also held accountable for it. Dickinson raised here a profound question about moral responsibility and the relationship of the creator to his imperfect handiwork.
The poetess died at 55 in 1886, and “Heavenly Father” is considered one of her later poems. That means she wrote it about a hundred years before the publication in 1975 of Raymond Moody’s Life After Life, the first major, groundbreaking book on near-death experiences. At that time, thanks to advances in resuscitation medicine in the 1960s, there was a sudden surge in the numbers of people—ordinary people, not mystics or spiritualists—saying they had had a direct experience of the deity. They gave descriptions of a being more logical, or reasonable, than the one Dickinson had accosted.
Editor’s Note: Click here for Part 1 of P. David Hornik’s new series: Near-Death Experiences—A New Take on Life, Part 1: Sam Parnia Explains Where the Field Is Leading. And click here to see his previous articles on the subject here: Do You Believe in Life After Death?
Out-of-body experiences, tunnels, bright lights, deceased relatives, a being of light—and life reviews. These are the most commonly reported elements of near-death experiences. They have been reported now for decades from all over the world, across cultures and religions. Of all of them, the life review may be the most difficult to imagine and “otherworldly.” Out-of-body experiences, encounters with dead people, mystical experiences of a deity—all these have long been on record outside of NDEs as well. The tunnel experience seems to have been represented in a painting by the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch over five hundred years ago. Life reviews, however, may be the most “exotic” compared to our familiar modes of perception. Dutch cardiologist and NDE researcher Pim van Lommel quotes this life-review account of one of his patients:
All of my life up till the present seemed to be placed before me in a kind of panoramic, three-dimensional review, and each event seemed to be accompanied by a consciousness of good or evil or with an insight into cause or effect. Not only did I perceive everything from my own viewpoint, but I also knew the thoughts of everyone involved in the event, as if I had their thoughts within me. This meant that I perceived not only what I had done or thought, but even in what way it had influenced others, as if I saw things with all-seeing eyes…. Looking back, I cannot say how long this life review…lasted, it may have been long, for every subject came up, but at the same time it seemed just a fraction of a second, because I perceived it all at the same moment. Time and distance seemed not to exist….
This is only one account, but anyone who has delved even modestly into the NDE literature as I have knows there are numerous other, remarkably similar ones.
Sam Parnia is one of the world’s leading experts on death—on how people can medically be brought back from the dead, and on what happens to the mind, or soul, or consciousness, after people die.
Of UK origin, Parnia works these days as assistant professor of medicine at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. He is also directing the joint American-Canadian-British AWARE study, which he calls “the world’s largest ever study of mind and brain during cardiac arrest.” And he is the author, most recently (with Josh Young), of Erasing Death, an up-to-date exploration of both of Parnia’s areas of expertise—resuscitation from death, and death itself.
About half of this book focuses on resuscitation science—which, since the 1960s, has been able to bring people back from states of clinical death. What Parnia has to say is interesting and informative, though it is not the reason I got hold of the book; I’m more interested in what could be called the mystical angle.
Basically, in Parnia’s telling, resuscitation science is both making unprecedented advances and not doing that well. Thanks to the new technique of cooling the body of a clinically dead person, cell deterioration in the body can be slowed down, and people can be resuscitated for ever-longer periods after death has occurred. On the other hand, survival rates—the percentages of people who are actually brought back to life—are still low and have not improved since the 1960s. “It’s really amazing,” Parnia says, “but absolutely true.”
What’s needed, Parnia contends, is for the resuscitation field to be much better organized, standardized, and coordinated. At this point, the quality of resuscitation care you get at a hospital—or whether you even get it—is pot luck. Parnia thinks the situation can be drastically improved, which would not only mean bringing a lot more people back to life, but restoring a lot more of them intact instead of in vegetative or brain-damaged states.
Louis Farrakhan, born in New York City in 1933, started out in life as a talented musician. Training intensively on the violin from the age of six, he played with the Boston College orchestra and the Boston Civic Symphony, appeared and won an award on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour, and won national competitions as a teenager. In the 1950s Farrakhan—or Louis Wolcott as he was then known—took a different musical tack as a calypso performer. He recorded albums, toured, and in 1955 headlined a show in Chicago called “Calypso Follies.” In other words, Louis Wolcott could have gone on contributing something positive to society as a musician and entertainer.
But that year, 1955, in Chicago, he embarked on a different path. Through a friend, Wolcott came into contact with the Nation of Islam, an antiwhite, antisemitic, African-American organization founded in the 1930s. Wolcott joined, converted to Islam, renounced music, and—in a profound sense—was no more, having morphed into Louis Farrakhan. And Farrakhan quickly rose through the Nation of Islam’s ranks, becoming its leading figure by the early 1980s. He has also been, for decades, America’s most vicious antisemitic rabble-rouser, poisoning thousands of minds or exacerbating poison that was already there. As Discover the Networks notes:
For many years, Farrakhan has ranked among the most influential black figures in America. He draws enormous, standing-room-only crowds of listeners wherever he speaks. An October 1992 lecture he gave in Atlanta actually outdrew a World Series game played there that same night….
Farrakhan’s October 16, 1995 “Million Man March” [in Washington] drew several hundred thousand attendees….
Farrakhan’s venues for speeches include mosques, churches, and universities, as well as online lectures. At Madison Square Garden in 1985, he addressed a notable but typical statement to Jews: “And don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!”
Students for Justice in Palestine is a vicious, violent, antisemitic organization that hopes to contribute to Israel’s destruction. With U.S. campuses a hotbed of antisemitic and anti-Israeli agitation driven mainly by Muslim and leftist organizations, the Anti-Defamation League has called SJP the “most ubiquitous” of these groups.
SJP was founded by Islamic and Marxist activists at Berkeley in 2001. One of its cofounders, Hatem Bazian, is a senior lecturer at UC Berkeley who won notoriety in 2004 by calling for an intifada in the United States. Before cofounding SJP, Bazam was a student activist at San Francisco State University and, according to Rabbi Doug Kahn, “more responsible than any other student on campus for trying to make life miserable for Jewish students.” That included working to keep students with Jewish last names out of student government.
SJP’s other cofounder is Snehal Shingavi, a Marxist and member of the International Socialist Organization. Shingavi, now at the University of Texas at Austin, made a national splash in 2002 when he offered a course at Berkeley on “Palestinian Resistance” and said conservatives need not apply. He has praised the Taliban, Iraqi terror, and Hamas, and his collaboration with Bazian was a classic case of the Red-Green Alliance.
SJP, which is closely allied with American Muslims for Palestine, has kept growing and now has about 90 chapters at American universities. It held its first national conference at Columbia in 2011. There it promulgated its “Points of Unity,” which state that SJP is
committed to ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands…. It calls for respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194.
In line with this destroy-Israel agenda, based in part on a nonbinding GA resolution that was unequivocally rejected by the Arab world at the time, SJP mounts “apartheid wall” displays on campuses, campaigns for divestment from Israel, equates Israelis with Nazis, disrupts events with Israeli and pro-Israeli speakers—and worse.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was for a long time a particularly harsh critic of Israel. The criticism had a special edge, a sneer, to it. The Israelis were such idiots he almost couldn’t believe it.
As in a November 2009 column where Friedman asserted:
Right now [America] want[s] [peace] more than the parties…. Today, the Arabs, Israel and the Palestinians are clearly not feeling enough pain to do anything hard for peace with each other…. [T]hen I say, let them enjoy it. I just don’t want to subsidize it or anesthetize it anymore. We need to fix America. If and when they get serious, they’ll find us. And when they do, we should put a detailed U.S. plan for a two-state solution, with borders, on the table….
Full disclosure: Israelis don’t like this sort of thing. We don’t like being derided by a comfortable American Jew like Thomas Friedman for “not feeling enough pain,” not wanting peace. We don’t like being told that we and our rather peace- and democracy-challenged neighbors are on the same peace-refusing page, and a “detailed U.S. plan” is all it would take for flowers of harmony to sprout.
Then there was the March 2010 dust-up when Vice President Biden was here, and the Israeli Interior Ministry committed the terrific faux pas of announcing plans for apartments—for Jews, no less—in a Jerusalem neighborhood. Biden, Friedman wrote,
should have… flown home and left the following scribbled note behind: “Message from America to the Israeli government: Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk. You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total contact with reality. Call us when you’re serious….”
Again, those damn idiot Israelis. If one were to veer into the psychological, one would note that in these outbursts Friedman himself is suffering embarrassment over what he sees as his boorish country cousins, and contrasting this rather emphatically with his American allegiance.
And there were other instances, as when, writing from Tahrir Square, Cairo, in February 2011, Friedman celebrated what he called a “Facebook-driven, youth-led democracy uprising” and jeered at Israel’s leadership—after all, what did these country rubes know about the region they lived in?—for being so “out-of-touch, in-bred, unimaginative and cliché-driven” as to think that the fall of Hosni Mubarak would usher in the Muslim Brotherhood.
All this, again, was especially nasty criticism, but not antisemitism. But if there’s one thing you learn from looking into antisemitism in today’s world, it’s that the severe and persistent Israel-critics have a larger Jewish problem.