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Posts Tagged ‘cultural’

Romney’s Boston HQ Refuses to Accept JVP Petition

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Jewish Voice for Peace members said its members were rebuffed as they attempted to deliver a letter to the Boston headquarters of Mitt Romney.

A half-dozen members of the group attempted to deliver the letter on Monday calling on Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, to apologize for saying in Jerusalem that the differences between the Israeli and Palestinian economies were due to cultural differences.

The group said it collected slightly more than 17,000 signatures on the letter, which claimed that Romney’s statements on the growth of the Palestinian and Israeli economies “were inaccurate and misleading.”

“Essentially they refused to send someone out,” said Rabbi Joshua Berman, who chairs the Boston Jewish Voice for Peace chapter. “We wanted to deliver the petition and they refused to talk to us.”

The petition says that “Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian land makes it impossible for the Palestinian economy to succeed, not ‘cultural differences.’ Your comments were not a reflection of the values Jews, Americans, and our allies hold dear. We call on you to apologize to the Palestinian people for your willful lack of understanding of the facts on the ground and the racist assumptions behind them.”

In a prepared statement, Berman said that “Governor Romney is ignoring the elephant in the room, which is Israel’s 45-year-old military occupation of Palestinian lands.”

The group’s website says it opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression.

The Anti-Defamation League has included Jewish Voice for Peace on its list of top 10 anti-Israel groups.

See also: US Jewish Peace Group Calling Romney Racist over Palestinian Culture Comment.

Balabasta Nutty Summer Festival

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Just in time for its 100th birthday, the ever-evolving Machane Yehuda market has transformed itself once again, this time into one of Jerusalem’s hottest summer cultural venues. On Monday nights throughout August, the shuk hosts “Balabasta” (literally, “come to the shop-stall”), a centennial carnival of sorts, complete with street performances, a collaborative wall-of-origami project, live video art projections, watermelon giveaways, chili eating contests, concerts, giant puppets, sets by DJs and bands, produce carving workshops and the first-ever “Shuk Olympics.”

It’s a veritable cacophony of music, art and food – with many of the cafes and restaurants staying open late to serve the crowds and culinary tours of the shuk’s hottest kitchens. The Hagigit collective, which strives to bring art to a wider public audience, is organizing production-set photo shoots (pictured, with white backdrop) and walking around in costume throughout the Balabasta events.

Read and see more.

UCLA Officially Protects Promotion of Anti-Israel Boycott

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

A professor of World Arts and Culture who specializes in Native American cultures at the University of California at Los Angeles, David Delgado Shorter, has been given the official green light to continue using university resources to promote the boycott of Israel by the university’s Committee on Academic Freedom.

Several months ago a California-based group focused on protecting Jewish students from academic anti-Semitism, AMCHA, learned from UCLA students that Shorter prominently features links to the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel on his official class website.  The students who brought the anti-Israel concerns to AMCHA were too worried about retribution to complain either to Shorter or to anyone else at UCLA.

The founders of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel have openly stated that their ultimate goal is the dismantling of the Jewish State.  Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. State Department’s former Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, has called their campaign anti-Semitic.  It is AMCHA’s position that all boycotts of Israel are deliberate assaults on the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

AMCHA took the students’ information and approached UCLA administrators, asking whether UCLA considered it within the parameters of academic freedom to promote the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.  According to Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Lecturer in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University of California Santa Cruz, and co-founder of AMCHA’s Investigative Taskforce on Campus Antisemitism, there was never any intention to either censor or punish Shorter.  They simply wanted to know, on the record, the answer to their question.

And now they do.

In a letter to Shorter dated July 9, 2012, the UCLA Academic Senate CAF determined that promoting the boycott of Israel on a professor’s class website was “consistent with professional standards,” and therefore that Shorter’s promotion of that boycott, in the context of his classroom, would be protected by UCLA.

AMCHA points out that such a position conflicts with the UCLA Regents Policy on Course Content, which states that the misuse of the classroom for “political indoctrination” constitutes misuse of the University as an institution.  Shorter’s promotion of the academic boycott of Israel on his UCLA class website also appears to be a clear violation of the California Education Code , which prohibits the use of the name of any UC campus for the support, endorsement, or advancement of political or partisan activity or program, with “boycott” specifically named.

But the UCLA CAF was not content to simply exonerate Shorter.  Instead, much of its two page letter to Shorter excoriated Leuchter for listening to an “outside group.”  Apparently the UCLA CAF imposes the same stringent standards for filing complaints as do United States courts: “The only parties who should have the standing to complain about whether the content of a course threatens academic freedom are members of the University directly affected by the content of a course (e.g., students or teaching assistants).”

Efforts to reach a member of the University of California Board of Regents have not yet been successful.

The Holders of Absolute Truth

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

A few days ago, en route to the south of Italy, where the cultural climate is less influenced by Europe than it is by the Mediterranean, there was a row even before the plane took off, a heated exchange between the Italian chief steward and two Egyptian sheikhs wearing the robes of Egypt’s premier religious university, Al-Azhar. The dispute had erupted over where the two sheikhs were to sit: the steward insisted they sit in their assigned seats in the economy class, while they insisted on moving to business class seats. When, as the conscripted interpreter of last resort, I explained that they had to sit on the seats specified on their tickets, they expressed their extreme displeasure at what they called European arrogance and inflexibility. There was eventually no choice but to point out that as they had paid for economy class tickets, they had no right to business class seats. This seemed to incense them even further; their anti-European tirade grew even more ferocious. The situation was finally resolved by the captain, who explained to his enraged passengers that they had only two options: either to sit in their assigned seats or to get off the plane. Acknowledging defeat, the Azharites accepted the first, and settled into the economy class seats they had paid for.

Returning to my seat, I recalled another Azharite sheikh who had travelled to Europe in 1826 as an escort and mentor of a group of young Egyptians sent by Mohamed Ali to study in a number of French institutes of learning. A luminary of Egypt’s intellectual regeneration in the nineteenth century, Sheikh Rifaa Rafii al-Tahtawi [1801-1873] lived in France for five years. After his return in 1831, he wrote a number of books introducing Egyptian readers to the civilization and culture he had known during his five-year sojourn in Paris, the most impressive of which areTakhlis al-ibriz fi talkhis bariz, Al-murshid al amin fi tarbiyat al-banat wa al-banin and Manahij al-albab al-misriyya fi manahij al-adab al-casriyya. In addition to his own writings, Tahtawi translated more than twenty-five books from French into Arabic. This great Azharite, despite going to France not as a student but as the spiritual preceptor, orimam, of the mission, used his time to delve deeply into a variety of subjects. Blessed with a curious and contemplative mind, as well as with a wholesome personality, Tahtawi was a great admirer of the achievements of Western civilization, not only in the field of applied sciences but also in the cultural, intellectual and moral fields. He was apparently particularly impressed with the importance accorded to modern education in Europe; the respect in which men held women; the plans and cleanliness of the towns; the integrity of Europeans, and their solid work ethic. The incident on the Cairo to Rome flight underscored a serious flaw in the cultural foundation of the two Azharite sheikhs. Although apparently living in Rome for five years, neither spoke any language other than Arabic. Moreover, they could see none of the merits of Western civilization. In direct contrast to their insularity, Tahtawi learned to speak French fluently even though he could not speak a word of it before 1826. In fact, he learned the French alphabet on the ship taking the mission from Alexandria to Marseilles. What he admired most in France, he said, was democracy, respect for the individual, respect for women and the great importance accorded to education and learning. The two Azharite sheikhs on the plane, who refused to observe the rules of civilized behavior, were the antithesis of their great precursor, Rifaa Rafii al-Tahtawi, a man able to appreciate and celebrate not only his own great civilization, but also the achievements and contributions of other great civilizations, from the time of the earliest, whether it was on the banks of the Nile, or on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates in the land now known as Iraq.

In southern Italy, at the extreme southern tip, stands the town of Brindisi (the name in Latin means the “deer’s antlers”), which overlooks the Adriatic. There you can see a portrait of the outstanding Italian scientist Galileo Galilei that should cause a pang in your heart if you compare the debased cultural environment we are living under in Egypt today and that in which the great scientist [1564-1642] lived. Known in advanced societies as the father of modern science, Galileo, in his 70s, was put on trial on charges of heresy for saying that the Earth goes around the sun — a “crime” for which his predecessor, Giordano Bruno, a few years earlier, had been burned alive at the stake. Galileo was taken to a dungeon where he was shown the instruments of torture that would be used on him unless he recanted; and spent the rest of his life not allowed to leave his house. Bruno’s and his findings had run counter to Scripture at a time when a culture of strict religious orthodoxy held sway, when not only society but scientific truths were subordinated to what the religious establishment believed to be religious truths.

Islam’s Threat to Diversity

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Egyptian identity, like so many others made up of several layers, begins in Ancient Egypt, a civilization that flourished for nearly thirty centuries. Further layers derive from the Coptic Age, when Egypt in its entirety was an Eastern Christian society. Then there are countless layers from the Islamic and Arabic-speaking Egypt. There are still more layers deriving from modern Egypt, the founder of which, Mohamed Ali, ruled from 1805 to 1848, and whose kingdom continued for over a century after his death.

Finally, there are the many layers produced by Egypt’s geographical location as a Mediterranean society, more specifically, as an Eastern Mediterranean country with its opulent diverseness from trade.

This complex construct, which formed over millennia the rich and multi-layered Egyptian identity – a product of fruitful interaction and cross-fertilization among different civilizations and cultures – is today in grave peril, facing as it does systematic and deliberate attempts to destroy its very essence as represented in the many layers that make up its variegated character.

It is these layers that distinguish Egyptian society from various surrounding societies which seem to have a less-developed civilizational and cultural formation as a result of their one-dimensional composition.

The trend of political Islam is exulting as it stands poised to take over the reins of power in Egypt. However, the domination by this trend over the country’s political and cultural landscape poses a real danger to the multi-layered nature of the Egyptian people.

Because of the grip the conservative schools of thought have acquired over the minds of most Muslims today — with the rampant spread of the ideas of ibn-Hanbal and his disciples, ibn-Taymiyah, ibn Qaiym Al-Juzeya and all the Salafi schools – the spread of a cultural wave that is opposed to the non-Islamic dimensions of the Egyptian identity is a likely – and exceedingly dangerous – development. We are already hearing ominous mutterings about the ungodliness of “pagan” relics of Ancient Egypt, and threats to destroy the pyramids and other splendors of one of the most glorious civilizations in history.

We are also likely to see the spread of values opposed to the Other — whatever form “otherness” may take — representing yet another very dangerous threat to Egyptian diversity.

There is also the serious fear that the Islamic trend will redesign educational programs to promote the Islamic and Arab dimension at the expense of the other layers that make up the luxuriance that is Egypt.

This possibility is far from remote in the context of a legislative assembly dominated by a single trend. The mindset of the Islamic lawmakers who preside over the education committee is certainly opposed to religious or cultural diversity. There is no doubt that this trend will focus on magnifying the importance of the Islamic and Arab dimension while downgrading all the other dimensions that make up the richness of Egyptian identity. This is all that can be expected from a theocratic Parliament claiming a divine commission.

Unfortunately the trend to foster a one-dimensional identity actually began some years back as Islamic religious thinking came to permeate the minds of those responsible for the all-important sector of education in our society. Nowhere is the success of this trend more apparent than in the way the Arabic language and the Arabic literature curricula have evolved over the last few years. Instead of presenting literary masterpieces by such luminaries as Ahmed Lotfy el-Sayed, Taha Hussein, Abbas el-Aqqad, Abdul Qader el-Mazny, Salama Moussa, Tewfik el-Hakim, Naguib Mahfouz, Youssef Idris, Nizar Qabbani, Badr Shaker el-Sayab, Mikhael Na’ema an others, Arabic language and literature courses are now virtually indistinguishable from religious courses.

The well-known Lebanese author and intellectual, Amin Maalouf, rightly describes any one-dimensional identity as “destructive.” For in this day and age, a monolithic identity that attributes itself to a single source is bound to clash with the values of pluralism, diversity, analytic thinking, critical questioning, and acceptance of the Other, not to mention the recognition that the various civilizations and cultures have all contributed to the higher ideal of a common humanity.

There are those who claim that the Islamization of Egyptian society reflects “the will of the people.” But history teaches us that the will of the people is not always beneficial. Eight decades ago, the will of the German people brought Adolf Hitler to power, plunging mankind into genocidal wars and massacres that claimed more than fifty million lives. This example allows us to criticize the current cultural wave sweeping over Egypt – one that threatens to sweep away the non-Islamic components of Egyptian identity and to transform us into a society with a one-dimensional identity, like the desert societies that surround us. Even if the present state of affairs came about by “the will of the people,” we would do well to remember that, as Voltaire said: Even if repeated by a thousand people, a mistake is still a mistake.

When Rules Don’t Count, Anything Goes

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

UNESCO proved once again that UN rules mean nothing if they get in the way of furthering an anti-Israel agenda.

It will be recalled that last October, an overwhelming majority of UNESCO members voted to recognized “Palestine” as the organization’s 195th member despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority did not, by any measure, meet the established standards for statehood. Last week, UNESCO again broke its own rules and indulged the Palestinians by accepting a Palestinian bid to list the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and to have it located in “Palestine.” The PA is nominally in control of day-to-day governance in Bethlehem but Israel remains in overall authority as to who and what goes in and out.

This prompted a statement by Hanan Ashwari, who leads the PLO Department of Culture and Information, applauding the development as “a welcome recognition by the international community of our historical and cultural rights in this land.”

Further, not only were the rules for statehood again ignored by the “Palestine” reference, but the church was also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which UNESCO’s technical and administrative staff advised was wholly inappropriate, since it in no way met the operative standard of “imminent danger.” And while UNESCO fictively attributed the “danger” to damage from water leaks, Palestinian officials spun the listing that the site itself is endangered by Israel.

Thus, Ms. Ashwari said in a statement that the UNESCO decision

emphasizes that Israel must be bound by international law and treaties, particularly pertaining to its illegal and detrimental measures as a belligerent occupant and as a major threat to the safety and the responsible preservation of that important segment of human civilization in Palestine.

Palestinian officials briefing reporters also claimed the UNESCO action represented a vote in favor of self-determination and cultural rights for the Palestinian people.

Predictably, the PA is now saying that following its UNESCO success respecting the Church of the Nativity it will seek to have additional religious West Bank sites recognized by UNESCO as endangered World Heritage sites. And given past experience, they will be successful. Regrettably, these obvious farces have gained legitimacy in the anything-goes universe of anti-Israel activism.

UN Sending Fact-Finding Mission to Jewish Settlements

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

The United Nations’ top human rights body has appointed three independent experts to conduct a fact-finding mission on how Israel’s Jewish settlements affect Palestinians.

The president of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Uruguay Ambassador Laura Dupuy Lasserre, on Friday named three women to the panel, The Associated Press reported.

Dupuy Lasserre said their mission will be to discover how the Israeli settlements affect “the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people,” the AP reported.

The delegates are Christine Chanet of France, Unity Dow of Botswana and Asma Jahangir of Pakistan.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/un-sending-fact-finding-mission-to-jewish-settlements/2012/07/07/

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