Friday, June 28, 2013

LONGREADS OF THE YEAR: April-June 2013

Forget Marriage Equality; Israeli Gays Want Surrogacy Rights”, by Zvika Krieger, The Atlantic, April 4, 2013

Having children in Israel carries a certain nationalist resonance, as well. Israel struggles to retain a Jewish majority in the land it controls between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. According to some estimates, however, the Arab and Jewish populations are coming precariously close to parity. This is part of the reason why Israel’s policies on in-vitro fertilization (IVF) are among the world’s most liberal, and why IVF is generously subsidized through the national healthcare system. (Israel leads the world in most IVF treatments administered per resident, with a ratio that is 13 times that of the United States.) “In my conversations, I hear having children described as the queer contribution to the building of the Jewish state,” says Frederick Hertz. “I don’t think an American gay dad would talk about having kids as building the American state.”

Losing a Friend at the Front”, by Tal Kra-Oz, Tablet, April 12, 2013

Alex was older than me when he died and now he is years younger. As the rest of us grow older and have children of our own, the tragedy and loss will only deepen, as will the guilt. Alex was better than most of us; he certainly worked much harder in life than most of us. Yet his potential, which should have grown larger every year, remains increasingly unfulfilled. Like so many of the other fallen soldiers we honor in Israel today, Alex died “before his time, his life’s song in mid-bar stopped,” to quote H.N. Bialik, Israel’s national poet. But Alex has a legacy far richer than that of many who outlive him, one of decency and kindness and friendship beyond measure. He died a completely unnecessary death, but his meaningful life, short as it was, surely outweighs that.

The Outsider”, by Debra Kamin, Foreign Policy, April 12, 2013

"Sayed wouldn’t accept my saying it, but I think that the series made a great change in Israel society," says Shai Capon, director of Avoda Aravit and one of Kashua’s closest confidants and drinking buddies. “It’s the first time that you see an Arab as a vulnerable human on Israeli television. Not as a terrorist and not as a victim. It took the first fear out of the title ‘Arab,’ and the audience, the Jews, could see … someone who just wants to be loved.”

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

LONGREADS OF THE YEAR: January-March 2013

The Death of the Party”, by Michael Cohen, Tablet, January 10, 2013.

But for all that Yachimovich does, it is what she doesn’t do that has garnered so much ill will, particularly in the run-up to the Jan. 22 election. During this campaign, she has given no major speeches or comments about the occupation, about Iran, about the Arab Spring, about the future of the settlements, and so on. Unless she is asked, she has practically nothing to say about any of these issues. In her political manifesto titled Us she remarkably makes no mention of the issues that have been at the heart of Israeli politics since the country’s founding. It is the most startling element of her rise to power: She is the head of a party long associated with the vision of a two-state solution and yet has nothing to say about the existential questions that will shape Israel’s future. When asked about how she would bring about peace with the Palestinians, Yachimovich regularly mouths the platitude that she supports the Clinton Parameters from more than 12 years ago—but not much else.

The Party Faithful”, by David Remnick, The New Yorker, January 21, 2013.

Much of Naftali Bennett’s support comes from mild-mannered religious suburbanites on both sides of the Green Line, but he has also been blessed by some of the more vehement fundamentalists on the scene. Avichai Rontzki, from 2006 to 2010 the chief rabbi of the I.D.F. and now the head of a yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, helped Bennett form the Jewish Home Party. Rontzki has said that soldiers who show their enemies mercy will be “damned,” and, after a prisoner exchange with the Palestinians that he opposed, he said that the I.D.F. should no longer arrest terrorists but, rather, “kill them in their beds.” Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of the settlement of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, once called Baruch Goldstein “holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust”; he endorsed Bennett before moving on to a smaller, more reactionary party.

Israel’s Alaska, the Golan, stays calms amid the gathering storm”, by Mitch Ginsburg, The Times of Israel, February 20, 2013.

Khallas and his wife Michal – they get along far better than their biblical namesakes – settled in the Golan Heights in the summer of 2006. When they arrived there was still talk of land for peace. Both of them moved knowing there was a certain chance they would be uprooted. Since then, they have brought two children into the world and acquired a dog. They have built their house with their own hands. They have helped invigorate a wizened HaShomer HaTzair kibbutz, creating a thriving secular and religious community in its place. And so, when it came time to choose their 30-dunam plot for agriculture, a gift of the government, they considered the virtues of tangerines over olives and of different soil types but never gave any thought at all to Syria.

“I didn’t think about the border at all. There were 40 years of absolute quiet here,” said Khallas. “It was the quietest place in the country.”

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 Friday, March 1, 2013 Thursday, February 21, 2013 Thursday, February 14, 2013 Monday, February 11, 2013 Tuesday, January 29, 2013 Monday, January 14, 2013 Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Homeland: Refuting the Charge of Islamophobia

The original charge, by Laila al-Arian for Salon:

I started watching “Homeland” because I was bored. All of my favorite shows were coming to a (season’s) end, and I needed something new to watch. I’m drawn to smart scripted dramas, but I was immediately suspicious of the show when I learned that its creators were also the ones behind “24,” the Fox drama that somehow became the chief piece of evidence for the effectiveness of torture and was a favorite of Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh. But I kept an open mind and was riveted by the first episode, which laid out the intriguing mystery: Is Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody the POW who’s been turned against his country by al-Qaida and its leader, the nefarious Abu Nazir? Soon CIA agent Carrie Mathison is seen spying on Brody and family in scenes reminiscent of the Stasi’s voyeurism in the Academy Award-winning film “The Lives of Others.” But as we learn more about Brody’s back story, the plot becomes increasingly absurd and insidiously Islamophobic. All the standard stereotypes about Islam and Muslims are reinforced, and it is demonstrated ad nauseam that anyone marked as “Muslim” by race or creed can never be trusted, all via the deceptively unsophisticated bureau-jargon of the government’s top spies.

First, in The Atlantic, Yair Rosenberg:

Now, naturally, any television show about the modern war on terror in the Middle East is going to have Middle Eastern terrorists, both Arab and Muslim.Homeland certainly has those. But what’s remarkable about the show is how many non-Arab and non-Muslim villains it features, including in the highest echelons of the US government and its security agencies. Most notably, there is the corrupt Vice President William Walden (Jamey Sheridan), who publicly lies about a drone strike that killed 83 children to further his political career and ultra-hawkish foreign policy, and the CIA counter-terrorism director David Estes (David Harewood) who helps him cover it up. In a conspiracy worthy of the feverish imagination of America’s worst foes, the two even plot to assassinate Brody, who has knowledge of the strike, to prevent their wrongdoing from coming to light.

In other words, the show questions the security state, reveals the horrific collateral damage of America’s drone program, and pointedly demonstrates how such unaccountable power can lead to corruption. In episode after episode, monochromatic moral thinking—an “us or them” mentality—is shown to be the true villain, rather than one particular nationality or ethnic group.

Then, Zach Novetsky in Tablet:

Part of the genius of Homeland is that by making an All-American war hero into a terrorist, it does exactly the opposite of what al-Arian condemns: Homeland challenges the stereotypes of who is a terrorist. Brody’s conversion to Islam is a red herring. Islam, itself, is a red herring. If the show was Islamophobic, Brody’s martyr tape would focus on Islam. It does not even mention the word Islam. Instead, Brody explicitly states political reasons for his terrorism: “This is about justice for 82 children whose deaths were never acknowledged and whose murder is a stain on the soul of this nation.”

Homeland also challenges conventional notions of terrorism by forcing the viewer to confront terrorists who are morally and emotionally complex, who struggle not only with mundane issues but also with fundamental moral questions of whether terrorism is actually ever justified. These larger, more fundamental themes, however, were totally lost on al-Arian.

Read both ripostes in full:

“‘Homeland’ Is Anything But Islamophobic” [The Atlantic
“‘Homeland’ Is Obviously Anti-Semitic” [Tablet]