Friday, February 8, 2019

Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism Judith Butler, Reviewed by Chaim Gans, Tel Aviv University

In her book Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism, Judith Butler argues for three main theses. Her first thesis amounts to a complete rejection of Zionism because of how it has affected the Palestinians. According to Butler, Zionism aspires to appropriate the Palestinians' land and disinherit them from it. In her second argument, Butler claims that Zionist ideology must also be rejected because of how it views the Jews. She maintains that Zionist ideology aspires to appropriate Jewish identity and to impose a nationalist interpretation of Judaism on all Jews. However, the major part of the book is devoted to a third thesis that combines the first two. It is in the name of Judaism itself, so Butler argues, that the Zionist movement should be totally rejected.
Butler argues that Jewish history and experience have driven many Jews in the past to construct a Jewish identity for themselves that incorporates the non-Jew. She believes that this experience and history should prompt Jews to do the same today, not only outside Israel and historic Palestine, but also within these geographic and political spaces. She therefore proposes to construct these spaces as binational. By binationalism she does not mean a legal arrangement that allows two nations to live together side by side in one polity under equal conditions, but rather a society and a polity whose citizens are binational at the level of their personality-identity. That is, they are either Jews who have in some sense made Palestinianism a part of their identity, or Palestinians who have in some sense incorporated a diasporic identity, which, according to Butler, is the major characteristic of Jewish identity. It is this specific type of binationalism that makes her book philosophically interesting and novel. She wants Israel/Palestine to be a political entity that is inhabited by Jews and Palestinians who first have deconstructed their particular mono-national identities and then reconstructed themselves with binational identities. The political entity that would emerge as a consequence of this individual deconstruction and reconstruction would therefore be post-national.
Butler's proposal is radical on two levels. Firstly, she turns the elementary moral requirement that we be considerate of the other while preserving our own identity into a requirement to make the other a part of our identities while, at least to some degree, annulling our previous selves. Secondly, she takes the basic requirement imposed by political morality on countries whose populations are binational to reflect this binationality in their institutional structure one step further, requiring individuals living in such countries to acquire binational identities.

Judith Butler comes to her critique of Jewishness and Zionism with impressive credentials. She is widely known as a philosopher in the fields of feminist, queer, and literary theory, of politics and ethics, and her books are translated into many languages. She is a professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature and the co-director of the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. She actively works against innumerable social injustices, is on the Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and she publicly supports the BDS campaign.
At the outset, she states that “some aspects of Jewish ethics require us to depart from a concern only with the vulnerability and fate of the Jewish people. I am proposing that this departure from ourselves is the condition of a certain ethical relation, decidedly nonegological: it is a response to the claims of alterity and lays the groundwork for an ethics in dispersion.” From the standpoint too of Palestinians Edward Said and Mahmoud Darwish, she examines this ethic in secular Jewish writers Emannuel Levinas, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, and Primo Levi: is plurality and cohabitation possible, is plurality undermined by law itself and by the nation-state?
A short review can hardly do justice to Butler’s detailed exploration. I will focus on one limitation that is inherent to a philosophical approach based primarily on deduction and introspection vs a more empirical approach. For example, there is her focus about whether Jewish and Palestinian people can find commonality and a basis of mutual empathy because they are both diaspora peoples. While acknowledging the differences in the two diasporas, she neglects the fact that Zionists caused the Palestinian diaspora. Israeli leaders are very far from experiencing shame and guilt. Butler writes, elusively, that “Remembrance may be nothing more than struggling against amnesia in order to find those forms of coexistence opened up by convergent and resonant histories. Perhaps for this we still do not have the precise name.” Does resonance imply amnesia about blame? There is a psychological capacity to feel guilt. What happens historically when there is no real grappling with responsibility

President Trump’s fantastical human-trafficking claims


“Human trafficking by airplane is almost impossible. Human trafficking by van and truck, in the back seat of a car, and going through a border where there’s nobody for miles and miles, and there’s no wall to protect — it’s very easy. They make a right, then they make a left. They come into our country. And they sell people.”
— President Trump, remarks at an event on human trafficking, Feb. 1
“This really is an invasion of our country by human traffickers. These are people that are horrible people bringing in women mostly, but bringing in women and children into our country.”
— Trump, interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Feb. 3
“Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide-open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery.”
In making the case for a wall along the southern border, President Trump has increasingly drawn attention to the scourge of human trafficking. This is a serious issue, but one (like many underground crimes) that often is plagued by hyped statistics and fuzzy data.
The president is falling into the same trap, making statements that simply are not true or are unsupported by the data. He says that “human trafficking by airplane is almost impossible,” that there is “an invasion of our country by human traffickers,” and that “thousands of young girls and women” are smuggled across the border for prostitution. None of these statements are correct.

The Facts

Let’s start with the government’s own data. In fiscal 2018, the Justice Department initiated 230 human trafficking prosecutions. That’s an 18 percent decline from the year before, when 282 cases were brought.
The Justice Department regularly posts news releases about its human trafficking cases, and you have to dig far to find many that involve the southern border. Most of the cases involve U.S. citizens. The foreign national cases, contrary to Trump’s claims, generally used legal border crossings, visa fraud and airplanes.
In December, for instance, five defendants were found guilty of participating in a scheme that allegedly brought hundreds of Thai women into the United States to engage in the sex trade. The women came from poor areas of Thailand and were told they could earn money for their families back home.
“The organization also engaged in widespread visa fraud to facilitate the international transportation of the victims,” the Justice Department said. “Traffickers assisted the victims in obtaining fraudulent visas and travel documents by funding false bank accounts, creating fictitious backgrounds and occupations, and instructing the victims to enter into fraudulent marriages to increase the likelihood that their visa applications would be approved. Traffickers also coached the victims as to what to say during their visa interviews.”
Another recent case involved the son of the former president of Guinea, who along with his wife was convicted of keeping a West African girl enslaved in their Texas home for 16 years. She had come with them when they moved to the United States.
Trump at various times has described women as being kidnapped, “duct tape put around their face,” and smuggled across the border.
The Human Trafficking Legal Center, which assists victims, maintains a database of 1,435 federal court cases dating to 2009 and current as of six weeks ago. Martina Vandenberg, president of the organization, said that a search of the database found only 26 cases that included kidnapping charges and 29 that involved smuggling. There was only one case, in 2012, that mentioned “duct tape” — but that took place in Atlanta and involved a victim being required to wear duct tape during sex.
Many of the cases involved just a single case of trafficking, such as the woman who smuggled another woman into the United States from Mexico to serve as a pregnancy surrogate but instead forced her to engage in domestic labor. Or there are cases involving U.S. citizens trafficking other U.S. citizens, such as the “Horse Block Pimpin’ ” prosecution, in which defendants trafficked 55 women mostly across the Mid-Atlantic region.
A recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics said that in fiscal 2015, 92.1 percent of the forced labor and sex trafficking cases and 92.5 percent of transportation for illegal sex activity cases involved U.S. citizens.
In his State of the Union address, the president referred to “thousands of young girls and women” being smuggled between ports of entry.
It’s unclear where Trump got that statistic — the White House did not respond to a request for comment — but he appears to have picked it up from a conversation with Tim Ballard, chief executive of the anti-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad, during a White House event on human trafficking on Feb. 1. In an opinion column Monday for the Deseret News, Ballard wrote that “the State Department reports that around 10,000 children are smuggled into the U.S. annually and forced into the commercial sex trade.”
Ballard did not respond to a request for his source. The State Department appears to have no records that would validate this claim.
The Justice Department, however, said that in fiscal 2017, “the FBI identified nearly 450 victims of domestic minor sex trafficking and adult domestic and foreign national victims of sex and labor trafficking.” It’s unclear how many were from Central America, but clearly it’s less than “thousands.”
More likely than not, those foreign nationals came through legal ports of entry. Data collected by the United Nations’ International Organization on Migration, analyzing 10 years of information on more than 90,000 victims, has found that 79 percent of international trafficking journeys “go through official border points, such as airports and land border control points.” The IOM said that “about a third of official border points are crossed by bus, another third by train, and 20 percent by plane.”
But the IOM also said that cases involved in sexual exploitation were more likely to travel through unofficial routes: “Sexual exploitation makes up 15 percent of official border crossings and 22 percent of nonofficial border crossings.” Children, especially those under 10, were also more likely to travel through unofficial entry points: "Out of all the children in the sample, nonofficial border points are used in 44 percent of cases, against 20 percent for adults.”
The anti-trafficking group Polaris has contributed to the IOM project. Brandon Bouchard, a spokesman for the group, said between 2015 and the middle of 2018, the group’s tips about human trafficking were basically split between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Of foreign nationals, the most frequently reported were Mexico (over 1,500 victims), Philippines (over 460 victims), Guatemala (over 380 victims), China (over 370 victims) and Honduras (over 290 victims).

(The U.S. government issues T visas to victims of trafficking. The Fact Checker was not able to obtain a breakdown of such visas by nationality, but a Jan. 18 notice in the Federal Registersaid that from fiscal 2014 through 2016, 40 percent of T-derivative visas, for family members, were issued by the U.S. Embassy in Manila. In 2017, there were 1,141 T-visa applications received from alleged victims and 672 approved, according to government data.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

How Fox News Pushes Trump to Make Every Bad Decision

President Donald Trump’s announcement last Friday that he would end the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history without securing funding from congressional Democrats for his long-promised border wall came after weeks of brutal headlines and sagging poll numbers.
But when Trump arose the following morning, he did not devote his time to convening his White House advisers to figure out what went wrong or reaching out to Republican congressional leaders to plot their next move.
Instead, he did the same thing he’s done on countless days of his administration: He turned on his television, tuned in to his favorite program, Fox & Friends, and started tweeting about what he saw.

A Utah Orthodox rabbi said his childhood nanny sexually abused him for 10 years. Here's why he decided to tell his story for the first time


From behind the witness stand, Utah Rabbi Avrohom (“Avremi”) Zippel gazes out into the sea of faces and prepares to speak.
It's a dreary Tuesday morning, and normally, public speaking doesn’t intimidate the 27-year-old. Since he was a child — the precocious and prized eldest son of a prominent rabbi — he has revelled in the attention of a crowd.
But today, sitting in a courtroom in downtown Salt Lake City, the confidence that usually comes so easily evades him.
He fidgets nervously, his fingers playing with his long dark beard, adjusting his black suit and yamulkre, the traditional garb of observant Jewish men.
Time seems to slow to a stop, and all he can hear is the sound of his heart pounding in his ears. But then, one message rings clear in his head, as if from on high: you are doing the right thing.
He clears his throat, and in a voice barely above a whisper, begins to share a story that has haunted him for decades.
Speaking up
In a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Rabbi Zippel testified that Alavina Florreich, 69, sexually abused him for roughly 10 years — from age 8 to 18 — while she was employed as his nanny.
Florreich was arrested March 30, 2018, on suspicion of 131 counts of child abuse. She was charged in 3rd District Court in April 2018 with five counts of aggravated sex abuse of a child, a first-degree felony, and two counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony, according to charging documents.
Florreich, in interviews taped by police, said she was teaching Rabbi Zippel to be a good husband and that it was "all part of the boy's curiosity” and it was just him "learning," according to a police report.
Florreich did not testify at the hearing Tuesday, and her attorneys did not respond to multiple requests from the Deseret News for comment on the case.
Rabbi Zippel said he was inspired to come forward by the #MeToo movement, in particular by Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, who testified in court alongside 156 other women who said that former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar had sexually abused them.
But he is also making history: Rabbi Zippel may be the first Orthodox Jewish rabbi to come out during the #MeToo movement as a survivor of sexual abuse — a topic he said is rarely discussed in the observant Jewish community.

Fact-checking Trump's State of the Union address



Claim: "This new era of cooperation can start with finally confirming the more than 300 highly qualified nominees who are still stuck in the Senate — in some cases years and years waiting. Not right. The Senate has failed to act on these nominations, which is unfair to the nominees and very unfair to our country. Now is the time for bipartisan action."
This is misleading. While it is true that confirmations for Trump nominees lag behind the rate of confirmation for other American presidents, it is inaccurate to suggest that it is entirely the fault of the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.
Of the 705 key executive branch positions tracked by the Washington Post and the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, 274 have not been confirmed. While Trump and Senate Republicans sharply criticize Democrats for slowing down the confirmation process, more than half of those — 144 to be exact — are open because the Trump administration has not yet nominated a candidate.
The jobs range from ambassadorships to important undersecretary roles to governorships at the Federal Reserve board.
Overall, the Partnership analysis shows that only 54% of Trump civilian executive branch nominations have been confirmed, much lower than the 77% of Obama nominees confirmed at the same point in his presidency.
    -- Alex Rogers

    Tuesday, February 5, 2019

    Top US general says Trump didn’t consult him on Syria pullout

    The top general overseeing US military actions in the Middle East said Tuesday that US President Donald Trump did not consult him ahead of the decision to pull American troops from Syria.
    Trump last month claimed the Islamic State jihadist group had been defeated in Syria and said all US troops were “coming back now.”
    The US president had long questioned America’s multiple and seemingly interminable wars, but his withdrawal order came as a shock to Washington, upending years of doctrine in Syria.

    Monday, February 4, 2019

    Gedolim in the Trump post--Truth and alternative facts Era

    Today it seems as personality is more important than knowledge of Torah/
     a Rabbi who can inspire and gives people what they want is viewed as a Gadol.

    Torah laws can be ignored if you have enough money

    as HaRav Sternbuch told me "money can purify even the status of mamzer"

    Sunday, February 3, 2019

    Fox Host Tells Trump He's "Beacon for Repression"

    9 מוסדות חרדיים נקנסו בגלל התפרצות חצבת

    9 מוסדות חרדיים במונסי קיבלו קנסות בסך כולל של 70,000 דולר, מכיוון שהם נמנעו להציג מידע בעניין חיסון נגד חצבת.
    עקב התפרצות של כ-95 מקרי חצבת ב-12 שבועות האחרונים באזור רוקלנד קאונטי, בה שוכן כפר מונסי, משרד הבריאות האמריקאי דרש מכל מוסדות החינוך להציג רשומות של החיסונים שנערכים אצלם.
    שני שליש מהמוסדות נענו לדרישה, אך תשע מוסדות חרדיים לא שיתפו פעולה ולא הציגו את המידע הנדרש.
    הקנס על חוסר שיתוף הפעולה הוא 2,000 דולר ליום, וחלק מהמוסדות נקנסו על כך שבמשך שבועיים ימים הם לא העבירו את המידע. קנס של 14,000 דולר.
    כעת שמונה מתוך התשע החלו להעביר את המידע הנדרש למשרד הבריאות. בזכות שיתוף הפעולה הם זכו למחילה של 10% מהקנס. לעומתם מוסד אחד, 'עטרת בנות', אינו מסכים להתניות ולא משתף פעולה.
    "במהלך משבר בריאות ציבורי, אנו מצפים מכולם לשתף פעולה עם דרישות משרד הבריאות המחוזי", הכריז מנהל המחוז.

    Business Secrets from the Bible

    Psychiatrist Bandy Lee On What's Wrong With Trump's Mental Health

    Saturday, February 2, 2019

    'Willful Ignorance.' Inside President Trump's Troubled Intelligence Briefings

    In the wake of President Donald Trump’s renewed attacks on the U.S. intelligence community this week, senior intelligence briefers are breaking two years of silence to warn that the President is endangering American security with what they say is a stubborn disregard for their assessments.
    Citing multiple in-person episodes, these intelligence officials say Trump displays what one called “willful ignorance” when presented with analyses generated by America’s $81 billion-a-year intelligence services. The officials, who include analysts who prepare Trump’s briefs and the briefers themselves, describe futile attempts to keep his attention by using visual aids, confining some briefing points to two or three sentences, and repeating his name and title as frequently as possible.

    Friday, February 1, 2019