On Leaving (October 21st, 2015)

Hey all,

First things first: I'm writing this with the full realization that discontinuing my JVP membership will likely be of little interest to anyone aside from myself. And I'm aware that writing this may appear a bit self-indulgent. Granted. That said, I'm hoping this to be a useful exercise for sorting things in my mind and that maybe there's a possibility of it being interesting/useful to someone else dealing with similar or related issues.

JVP is an excellent organization and doing important work. This includes the Chicago Chapter. I'll be happy to see it continue as I believe, on balance, it's helping to create awareness of Israel's abuse of Palestine, the Palestinians, and the U.S. But I've been bumping up against some “identity” issues (kinda hate that term, but...), and other concerns, that I can't square myself with as relates to JVP. Some bigger issues, some smaller. They add up and I can't shake 'em. It doesn't feel “right” for me personally. But to be sure: It's an “It's not you, it's me” thing.

My impression is that the most upfront and important aspect of many folks' “identity” in this chapter, and the organization's identity itself, is that they're Jewish. Or, if it's not always put forward as the primary identifier, it's consistently projected as close to the top. I'm a Jew as well, but that aspect of my identity doesn't rate so high in my own “identity hierarchy.” And while that aspect of myself is one of the reasons I'm compelled to be informed on the Palestine issue and to try in some way to act, I'm not comfortable with it being so consistently front and center in the message. For me, JVP too often over-emphasizes our being Jewish in its work on the conflict. It seems that events/issues related to the conflict are too often cast through a “Jewish” (or worse, “Jewish Values”) lens when they don't need to be. It feels like putting the messenger above the message. And I'm not comfortable with that. I don't think it's necessarily wrong. It just doesn't gel with my ideas on how to “frame” the work, and who I am personally.

A friend I made on my recent delegation to Palestine told me she thought that because I was a Jew, I carried a certain legitimacy and authority when speaking on the issue that she couldn't carry. While there's an obvious truth and logic there that I acknowledge, I feel it's a logic that needs, eventually, to be trumped and replaced by a higher, more pure logic; A logic that aligns itself more closely with justice than with ethnicity, race, or religion.

In just one of The Jewish State's many ironies, it is Israel itself which seems to have forced us into emphasizing the “Jewishness” in our criticisms of its actions, while it simultaneously works overtime at lowering the world's expectations of what that “Jewishness” might even be. I'm not ok with allowing Israel to dictate the terms of how I communicate, frame, message, or debate on this issue. And “non-Jews,” like my friend who feels she carries less legitimacy speaking on the conflict simply because she wasn't born a Jew, shouldn't be ok with it either. Allowing ourselves to fall into the trap of over-emphasizing, as some kind of credibility crutch, the fact that we're Jews when we speak out against Israel's crimes helps to turn the debate more broadly into being about the messengers instead of the message, and that can easily be unintentionally perceived as divisive. There's a real danger there.

People say, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Yes, that cliché is admittedly kinda cheesy. But there's something to it. If I want to see a world where Jews aren't automatically bestowed, through an accident of birth, some kind of artificial “street-cred” over non-Jews when it comes to criticizing Israel, I should certainly include myself, right? There's a parallel to this idea in the civil rights movement of the 60s; or the current fight against systemic racism against black people in America today. Does a white person in America have to point out their “whiteness” to legitimate their criticism of systemic racism in the U.S.? Does/should a white American's criticism of racism against blacks carry more weight than, say, an Asian American's or a black American's if they're all saying the same things? Of course the “not in my name” aspect of someone's critique can have meaning and force. But, again, it shouldn't be over-emphasized or even seen as a necessity as this emphasis has the potential danger of overshadowing the main issue. I'll grant that my threshold of where this becomes “over-emphasis” may be comparatively low. It is what it is.

JVP's identification with religion is also a problem for me, as I'm not a “believer” or “person of faith.” There's the Rabbinical Council (that's a lotta Rabbis up in there!), with a few of them regularly being out-front as spokespeople for the organization. And a good percentage of the members I've come across (in person or online) consider themselves, from what I can tell, to be practicing Jews - “practicing,” of course, being a rather fluid and loosely defined activity in the Jewish community. This leads to my getting a lot of messages and reminders about religious holidays in which I have no interest. This is certainly no big deal... Just kind of annoying. Likely on a par for many being deluged with unwanted “Merry Christmas” messaging for 1-2 months out of the year. I would never begrudge anyone's belief in G*d, and I'm a million miles away from the attitudes of the “new atheists” (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, etc.). I regularly find their presentations to be somewhat simplistic, self-absorbed, narrow-minded, and often plainly rude. But I never went to Hebrew School, never had a Bar Mitzvah, and have never considered myself religious. On my most optimistic days, I'm firmly agnostic. So JVP's religious component is a turn-off for me. The irony of this is that my attitudes on Zionism/Israel align most closely with some ultra-orthodox Jews (True Torah Jews, Neturei Karta, etc.).

On to the Z word: Non-Zionist vs. Anti-Zionist, and to Zionism generally. I've arrived at the impression that JVP, for whatever reason, prefers the term “non-Zionist” over “anti-Zionist” in reference to itself and its values. This also seems to be the case for Tzedek Chicago, which has strong ties to the Chicago JVP chapter. Do JVP & Tzedek (among others...) consider these two terms to be similar or even the same? I can “kind of” understand a person thinking that these two terms are close in meaning. But I'm not one of those people.

The prefix “non” is mainly defined, and used, in the neutral sense. It can be used otherwise, but that's not its main usage nor its primary definition. So in the term “non-Zionist,” it basically functions as the word “not.” If I tell you that I'm “not from Iowa,” what does that tell you about where I'm from? Right. Nothing. If I tell you I'm “not Buddhist,” what does that tell you about my attitude toward Buddhism? Right... Almost nothing. And it sure doesn't tell you that I'm an “anti-Buddhist.” I don't think the context of the conversation necessarily changes that meaning, either.

The obvious, and much more commonly used, prefixes to denote being for or against something are pro- & anti-. They're more common because they're CLEAR. So to me, the term “non-Zionist” connotes a certain neutrality toward Zionism. Since I'm absolutely anti-Zionist, I have a problem associating too closely with an organization that considers itself “non-Zionist.” In my mind, if you're “neutral” regarding Zionism, your neutral regarding Israel's policies, crimes, worldview, etc. (see next paragraph). And that's quite obviously not ok from my point of view. Nor, as I understand it, from JVP's. This is not semantic, linguistic nitpickery. It's very important in terms of ideology, messaging and “framing” and I know JVP takes that stuff very seriously; as it should. As Zinn said, “You can't be neutral on a moving train.” And it should be plain to all that Zionism is a moving train.

My assumption is that the argument in favor of using the term non-Zionism, or even “Liberal-Zionism,” over the term anti-Zionism is that historically there have been different strains of Zionism and that they had different goals, practices, ethics, etc.; ie: Cultural Zionism, Religious Zionism, Christian Zionism, Practical Zionism, Political Zionism, Messianic Zionism, etc... So I further assume that a “non-Zionist” is believes that some forms of Zionism were acceptable, but not others.

But there's Zionism in theory, and then there's Zionism in practice with its results “on the ground,” if you will. Whatever “strains/forms” of Zionism a “non-Zionist” may believe was the righteous one (I'm waiting for the “Compassionate Zionism” political party candidate to emerge...), the Zionism that has emerged as the undeniably dominant version for a very long time now is the version which occupies Palestine, is political and nationalist in nature, discriminates, murders, etc. The “political vs. cultural” competition within Zionism is over. The political/nationalist form won.

And whether there was ever a truly clear, total separation between these two basic conceptualizations of Zionism is debatable. As early as 1914, Horace Kallen wrote about practical and political Zionists, “there can be no 'cultural center' without a political center.” For someone as prominent in the Zionist movement as Kallen to write such a thing, as early in the movement as he did, is instructive. My understanding is that there are many other people, events, and quotes that argue toward the idea that the “political” and “cultural” versions of Zionism were never quite so very separate and unique from one another in practice. The romanticization of the early Zionists and kibbutzim as a group of agrarian, open society sweethearts is in line with other types of mythifications of the creation of Israel. I'm not claiming to be an expert, but this is what I've come to understand.

JVP's relationship with Alison Weir is another issue for me. And as you know, in this I am not alone. Unless one is prone to simplistically write off Weir as “racist,” it's a complicated issue. I've read all the statements from the parties involved and I absolutely do not believe Weir to be racist, anti-Semitic, etc. I've known about Weir's work and organization (IAK) for a long time, as I assume you have as well. About four years ago I met her at the Tree of Life conference in Old Lyme, CT where she politely allowed me film her presentation. Without going into too much detail, I agree with Weir's position that her being ostracized from JVP and U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation was basically an overblown “guilt by association” verdict and action. Weir is a major figure in the movement who has brought a principled, clear awareness of the facts and media coverage on the issue of Palestine to the American public for a long time. It feels wrong for her to have been so abruptly thrown under the bus for, what I see as, relatively weak reasons. It was, so to speak, a very disproportionate response.

Straining to make it appear as though Weir is herself racist/anti-Semitic simply because she granted some interviews to questionable, sometimes offensive, radio programs was a mistake in my opinion. In my view, JVP should've simply stated being against Weir's policy to occasionally appear for interviews on programs known to embrace racist rhetoric because merely appearing on those shows could be perceived, wrongly, as being supportive of those views. [Keep in mind, I write this not knowing whether or not Weir knew beforehand about the attitudes of these interviewers.] That would've been a reasonable statement to make as some kind of beginning to a dialogue on the issue. In my opinion, it's relatively easy to imagine convincing arguments on both sides of that issue. So publicly ostracizing Weir from the movement for having a difference of opinion on whether or not to do interviews on such shows was completely unnecessary.

But again, straining instead to simply paint Weir as a racist anti-Semite, and using that accusation as the means for forcing her out of the coalition, begs the question of whether there may have been reasons aside from the weak accusations of racism for wanting this to go down. This thought occurs to me only because I've met a good amount of people in JVP, at essentially all levels in the organization, and my feeling is that on average, most JVPers are too intelligent to have leapt to the exaggerated and unsubstantiated conclusion that Weir is herself racist/anti-Semitic. Maybe if she'd simply been asked by JVP and others in the Solidarity movement to stop appearing on certain programs moving forward, she'd have agreed? I obviously don't know. Maybe she actually was given this opportunity? I don't know. It feels as though some pertinent details about the genesis of the situation between JVP, Campaign to End the Occupation, and Alison Weir/IAK remain unknown. Or that at least many more reasonable and less destructive options were unfortunately not considered before the scene went down. For those truly interested in, and troubled by, this situation, speculation is likely to continue. As fruitless as that speculation is likely to be, I am not immune to it.

One last fruitless speculation on Weir/JVP: In addition to the weak accusations of racism/anti-Semitism, the Z word feels like it may have played a part in driving JVP's dealings with Weir. Considering what I perceive as JVP's position on Zionism (see above) vs. Weir's more straight-forward anti-Zionist stance (strongly evidenced in her recent book, to say the least), it seems this difference could be one of the reasons for JVP's cutting ties with Weir. Again, this is pure speculation. I just want to be honest and open about my thoughts: JVP's excision of Weir from the broader Solidarity coalition they're a part of feels like a calculated “strategy over principle” move. A type of ends justifying the means. The “ends,” in this case, seeming to be building up JVP's membership numbers by being “tough on racism,” while doing their best not to alienate anyone who may self-identify in any way as “Zionist.” Two birds, one stone. It's a very “political” type of strategy and during my brief time with the Chicago Chapter I did sense that things were tending toward a politically strategic direction.

Lastly, a few less important things that, for me, are still worth briefly mentioning. A good many JVP meetings and communications that I've attended and received have recently been calling for pushing to gain more “power.” Actually attaching that word/language to social justice work makes me uncomfortable. You can say it's merely a semantic point and that wanting “power” can simply mean having the desire to be able to get things done. And you wouldn't necessarily be wrong. But unfortunately I've got an oddly strong attachment to language and words, and I have a very specific reaction to that word when used in political and activist contexts. And it's not a positive reaction. I can't get past it and I'm sure it doesn't really need much explication. Power corrupts, power concedes nothing without a demand, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, yada yada. The film Primary Colors comes to mind.

Another language issue for me is that labeling your values as “Jewish” hints at the need or belief in attaching some sort of cultural/ethnic/religious ownership to a “value” or set of values. I consistently hear Jewish activists (not just JVPers) state that valuing social justice, equal rights, etc. is a Jewish thing. That they are “Jewish Values.” Well, they're not. They're a conscientious person thing. Labeling these values as Jewish nearly comes off as a type marketing to me; a kind of “branding” of Jewishness. That's offensive to me and, quite unfortunately, it's rather Israeli-like. Whether it's with conscious intent or not, labeling these “values” as Jewish (or Christian, black, feminist, whatever...) is narrow, exclusionary, self-serving, and maybe more importantly, very possibly counterproductive. It's another way of placing the messenger above the message. And like the word “power,” I can understand someone feeling I'm simply being semantic here about labeling “values.” But the term “Jewish Values” really doesn't sit well with me. And because it's used so consistently, it's a problem.

Perhaps my thoughts here can essentially be boiled down to something written by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi. In his Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel (New York: Olive Branch Press, 1992-1993), Beit-Hallahmi writes about the relatively high level of Jewish success in the modern world, due in part to many Jews' gradual secularization. He points to Marx, Freud, and Einstein as examples of this phenomenon and writes that, “They are Jews minus Jewishness[.]” While I personally represent the opposite of the type of modern success represented by the likes of Marx, Freud, and Einstein, I may have something in common with them yet: Being a Jew minus the Jewishness.

I'm not looking to burn any bridges. But if that happens, I understand. If you all ever need an event videotaped, please email me! Peace to JVP,

John Dworkin

Uncivil Rites: The Bitter and the Tweet 
(Book Review - 10/12/2015)

Steven Salaita writes, “Was I actually hired? According to contract law and hiring protocol, yes” (29). This hiring is the starting point of a frustrating, if not entirely surprising or unusual, series of unfortunate events which led directly to the publication of Salaita's appropriately scathing Uncivil Rites (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2015). The book casts an extremely wide net. But when your subjects are freedom of speech and the Palestine conflict, the related issues are vast...

Click this link for the full published review @ CounterPunch: The Bitter and the Tweet 

Unpublished/Untitled Op-ed - August 22, 2015

Over 40 U.S. lawmakers, mainly freshman members of congress including Mike Bost and Bob Dold from Illinois, returned from their educational trip to the holy land of Israel earlier this month. Coincidentally, I happened to be in Israel at the same time. My trip, organized by Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB), included 18 other travelers and was also geared toward first-hand educational experience.

Aside from timing, these trips were likely quite dissimilar. IFPB travelers paid their own way, journeying out of personal conviction; not out of obligation to their livelihoods. By contrast, our lawmakers' trip was tied to their jobs and paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF): a “charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC,” according to its rather brief webpage.

AIPAC is America's leading conservative pro-Israel lobby, which, as reported in Roll Call in 2011, also pays Richard Fishman's (AIEF's executive director) $395,000 annual salary. Rules prohibit lobbies from paying for congressional trips, which “tend to be nothing but lobbying,” according to Craig Holman from watchdog group Public Citizen, in Roll Call. As for nonprofits getting around these rules, Holman goes on to say, “I call it the AIPAC loophole.” Lose the spin, and these AIEF sponsored trips are more like Birthright trips for congress.

The trip's leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), says the trip was scheduled to “meet with key Israeli and Palestinian leaders,” including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, and take a trip to Israel's Holocaust Museum. Considering former Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner wrote for in 2012 that “Abbas... and the PA are not the Palestinians' leaders; they never were...,” this itinerary from Hoyer sounds anything but representative in terms of gaining insight from both Palestinian and Israeli communities.

Had these congresspeople been on IFPB's trip, they would have received a more informative experience. They would have spent the night with Palestinian hosts at Askar refugee camp in Nablus the night after 18 month-old Ali Dawabsha was murdered by suspected Israeli settlers just south of the camp. The father died of his burns a few days later. They would have met Israeli refusenik Sahar Vardi in occupied East Jerusalem and been invited by her to attend the Gay Pride rally later that night where another Israeli extremist stabbed six people, murdering one. The congresspeople would have gone to Bethlehem to meet soft-spoken Nora Carmi, representing the Palestinian Christian organization Kairos Palestine. They would have met multiple Palestinian Youth organizations in Silwan, Jaffa, and via Skype in Gaza. They would have met Jewish Israelis such as Bob Lang, an Israeli originally from New York living in the illegal settlement of Efrat, and a woman at the Kfar Aza kibbutz who spoke of her Zionism and commitment to the Jewish State.

According to the U.S. House of Representatives Office of the Clerk website, AIEF's previous congressional trip in 2013 included a visit (labeled “Living with the threat of rockets” in the AIEF itinerary) to the same kibbutz IFPB visited.1 They undoubtedly received a briefing on the trauma of living close to Gaza's Israeli policed border and the occasional incoming rocket fire. On the other hand, they likely did not meet with Israeli Nomika Zion, who spoke to IFPB for over an hour in nearby Sderot, a community famous for receiving this rocket fire. In addition to detailing the trauma of her her own life under threat of rocket fire, the freshman congresspeople would have also witnessed Nomika stating that Israel has “built a system which humiliates another people... [and is] a relationship of masters and slaves.” But I doubt this kind of information/education is what the AIEF pays for our congress to hear.

John Dworkin is a Chicago resident, recently returned from a two week long delegation to Israel/Palestine, and is a member of the Chicago Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace


Losing public opinion on BDS, activists turn to ‘lawfare’ 
(May 22nd, 2015)

Champions of proposed Senate Bill SB1761, which passed both houses of the Illinois General Assembly May 18th, say it’s designed to fight anti-Semitic activism and protects Israel from the existential threat posed by the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions movement (BDS). Opponents of the bill say it places the economic welfare of Israel before U.S. interests, tacitly endorses the full annexation of the West Bank into Israel, and violates our country’s First Amendment rights. The bill’s opponents are right.

See full article @ Mondoweiss here: BDS / Lawfare

Speaker of the House John Boehner proposes Constitutional Amendment

by John Dworkin - Jan. 23, 2015

Washington, D.C - Just days after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) extended his own congressional invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without consulting President Obama, Boehner has proposed legislation for the first constitutional amendment in 23 years.

“I think it's the right time,” said Boehner of the proposed amendment. “If having an Israeli American President keeps us safe from Iran and the terrorists, then I'll do what needs to be done,” Boehner said. “If we can have an African American president, why can't we have an Israeli American president? I mean, Africa and Israel share a border. It's really just nitpicking.”

The proposed amendment would allow Israeli citizens to run for the American presidency by creating a so-called 'exceptionalism provision' to the constitution granting Israelis 'dual natural born' citizenship status when requested. Asked whether the amendment conflicted with George Washington’s famous 'passionate attachment' concept from his farewell address, Boehner replied, “The terrorists cannot win.”

“We feel the amendment is overdue given our Special Relationship with Israel. It's pure anti-Semitism to deny Israelis the right to run for our highest office,” an anonymous source from Boehner's office said. In tears, the source added, “Have we Jews not suffered enough?”

The amendment is being drafted by legal scholar and The Case For Israel author Alan Dershowitz. “It should be seen as a natural extension of our two Nations' shared Democratic values and dedication to exceptionalism. This is the one I've been waiting for my whole life!,” Dershowitz said, bowing slightly and turning eastward.

“Oh that'd be exceptional alright!,” former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul said from his hospital bed. Now reported in stable condition, Paul suffered what doctors have termed a “mild, stress induced myocardial infarction” brought on by the news of the proposed amendment.

Both Fox News and The New York Times have already confirmed their future endorsements of presumptive candidate Netanyahu. In a joint statement from the Times' writers Ethan Bronner (former Jerusalem Bureau Chief), David Brooks, and Isabel Kershner, they conclude, “...and since we all have, or have had, children serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, we consider our endorsement a show of support for our troops. God forbid anything should happen to our children. Je suis Israel!,” referencing the recent killings in Paris.

Reports of waning support for Netanyahu’s upcoming campaign from inside Israel have prompted his aides to start “thinking outside the box,” an anonymous Likud party aide told this reporter. “The box being Israel,” added the aide.

In their 87th interview to date, Netanyahu told Fox News interviewer Sean Hannity yesterday, regarding his possible run for the White House, “I just hope the American people appreciate what I'm doing for them.” Hannity replied, “So do I, sir. So do I. You're a great American.” 

Relative Normal

Normal - that's the watchword. During our 2015, July/August InterFaith Peace-Builder delegation's first meeting here in Palestine, the phrase “a normal life,” and the general idea of “normalcy” was repeated by those speaking to us at the Youth Center in the al-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan. Our guide for the day spoke of just wanting a normal life. His village of Silwan suffers regular home demolitions which systematically displace Palestinians as part of this ongoing Israeli public policy. It's also known for its high rate minors (children) being illegally apprehended by heavily armed soldiers, often in the dead of night, and taken into administrative detention.

Muslim, a 15 year old boy from Silwan, spoke to us about being arrested 15 times - presumably for throwing stones - since he was 9 years old. For Muslim and hundreds of other minors subject to administrative detention, being arrested often means being beaten, deported out of your hometown or village, being separated for extended periods from your family, being afforded no legal representation, having no formal charge lodged against you, etc... One of Muslim's arrests had him jailed for 8 days, forcing him to miss a good amount of school while he was confined to a prison cell. When asked by a member of our delegation what the jail was like, he replied, “4 walls. No sun. No air.” This is the current “normal” in Silwan and many other Palestinian villages and refugee camps.

Our delegation's next meeting, via Skype, was with an American Friends Service Committee youth group in Gaza. Throughout the discussion with these young adults from Gaza (which is quite literally the world's largest open air prison), the desire for a “normal life” was specifically mentioned again. Despite being periodically assaulted over the last 6-7 years (2008-09 Operation Cast Lead, 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense, 2014 Operation Protective Edge, etc...), leveling their infrastructure, killing thousands, including hundreds of children, creating mass unemployment, etc., these kids keep moving forward. This is their “normal” since the illegal blockade of collective punishment was imposed on Gaza by Israel in 2007. These youth somehow remain vital and actually retain a sense of humor in their talk with our delegation. It is near miraculous.

In solidarity circles, the term “normalization” is oft used and is a big term in the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions movement. Our meeting with one of the main leaders of this movement, Omar Barghouti, touched on this normalization concept. There are many interpretations and shades of what this concept means, but in a general way, it means if one tries to simply make the occupation more comfortable to live under, as opposed to resisting it, one “normalizes” the occupation. Situation normal... SNAFU.

When we met with Nomika Zion (Other Voices) in Sderot, she told us that in most all of Israeli society, [T]he occupation is second nature... [This] means you don't see it anymore.” This is another way of saying that it has become normalized. And she meant this in the most negative sense. She also directly referred to the situation between Sderot and Gaza as “abnormal.” Since the illegal blockade of Gaza, Sderot is one of the Israeli towns close enough to the Gaza border to consistently receive their retaliatory rocket fire. Nomika's two references to normality were extremely tame compared to other criticisms she had for Israeli action, policy and society. For someone who has lived under the threat of rocket attacks from Gaza to still be so honestly self-critical of her own society's behavior and policy is brave and illuminating. She is a living lesson.

When Benjamin Netanyahu and countless other politicians and pundits refer to Israel as “the only Democracy in the Middle East,” they are trying to convince the West that we share a similar standard of democratic “normalcy.” And when seen through the prism of other colonial enterprises historically, Israel's illegal occupation and systematic abuse of International Law can appear, in away, normal. But in another much more profound way, when seen up close and in detail, it's gruesomely abnormal. They've transformed a perverse abnormality into their own, relatively unique, normalcy.

Israel's normalization of the abnormal is mirrored in the U.S. by the alarming rate of our cops killing our own innocent, unarmed black civilians. The situation in the states is not as bad as in Israel, but the parallels are clear. And this is not to minimize what is happening to black men and women in the U.S. It feels like it's getting noticeably worse by the week. Reading about another U.S. police officer killing another unarmed black civilian in our newspapers back home is becoming way too normal.

Last March in Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer wrote this of Israelis' relationship to their own country: “Deep down, they know normalcy is an illusion.” But it's not an illusion. It's a choice. They're choosing supremacy over normalcy.

So what's the “normal” bottom line? I see both Israel and the U.S. espousing a desire for creating a normal situation for the Palestinians and Israelis, while actively working against one. Their conception of “normal” for the Palestinians seems unfortunately, and thoroughly, linked to their own control and repression of another people. On the other hand, everything I've heard and seen here from the Palestinians themselves during our delegation points to their conception of “normal” as containing true universal and equal human rights. Something much closer to what true democratic (and hopefully still, American) ideals represent. It's about freedom, equality and justice. Got Normal?

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