Tag Archives: Censorship

British Mandate mini-series The Promise not showing in Ontario

I haven’t watched The Promise yet, the acclaimed UK mini-series about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the British Mandate, but only because I just haven’t had a chance–though now I will. (At least American viewers) can watch it on Hulu.

But apparently viewers of TV Ontario can’t watch it, despite the fact that it was previously on the schedule. It is not clear why they cancelled, but one can surmise from the detailed communication in Citizen Action Monitor that closed door talks must have gone nowhere and TV Ontario folded without, as is often the case, the decency to tell the truth.

That should come as no surprise. In many countries in which The Promise appeared, it was the subject of extensive letter-writing campaigns from Jewish organizations who complained that it was anti-Semitic and trafficked in anti-Jewish stereotypes while making Palestinians overly sympathetic. Continue reading

Jewish Community Relations Council of SF to young Jews: You can’t speak here

We said that restrictive funding guidelines written by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of San Francisco, and implemented by the Bay Area’s Jewish Community Federation, would be used as a form of good old fashioned banishment of those who don’t toe the line on Israel. In this letter just released today, see how the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) was pressured to cancel an entire panel, “Reclaiming Jewish Activism: Re-discovering Voices of Our Ancestors,” organized by members of Workmen’s Circle and Progressive Jewish Alliance. The Jewish Community Federation is a major funder of BJE.

The problem? Not the topic. Just one of the panelists’ associations. Rae Abileah, who works with Code Pink and is a member of the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace, happens to be one of the Bay Area’s most inspiring and heartfelt young Jewish social justice activists. She was going to talk about her great uncle, the Israeli peace activist Joseph Abileah.

The great news is that socially and politically diverse SF-based Congregation Sha’ar Zahav has no such problems with the panel (or, to cut to the chase: funding) and is sponsoring the panel there on May 24.

While the JCRC/Fed will argue this is not a message to all young Jews, just to Rae and her many colleagues and friends, it’s clear that this move will resonate far and wide among young people who wonder rightly if there is a future for them inside the Jewish communal world. The letter (full version embedded below) says:

From our discussions, we understand that the event was cancelled by the Jewish Community Library, in consultation with its parent organization, the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), and with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), consultant-advisor to the local Jewish Community Federation Endowment. Federation funds support many BJE programs.

The Federation’s 2010 revised funding guidelines, which prohibit grant recipients from associating with organizations and individuals who oppose its strong support for Israel, apparently triggered the cancellation. Of specific concern was panelist Rae Abileah’s work with an organization that opposes occupation profiteering and supports the boycott of products made in illegal Israeli settlements. Ms. Abileah is not officially representing her organization but speaking about the work of her great-uncle, a spiritual Zionist nominated by fellow musician Yehudi Menuhin for numerous peace awards.

Six decades after McCarthyism’s assault on progressives and their values, we reassert that censorship by association is dangerous and unconscionable: that it subverts truth, unity, and democracy. Need we point out the chilling effect of the Federation’s exclusionary funding guidelines –adopted in response to criticism of its support for the 2010 Jewish Film Festival, after screening of a documentary about Rachel Corrie — on dialogue about Israel within our community.

Here’s the whole letter. Click on first button at bottom of image for a full screen view.  Hover over other buttons to find those that allow you to share or download. Or go here.

Inspired by the attempts to police thought here in the Bay Area, Jewish Daily Forward editorial cartoonist Eli Valley has an old cartoon that refers to the “Frisco way- toe the line or say hello to the blacklist.” h/t Richard Silverstein. Seems appropriate.

-Cecilie Surasky, Muzzlewatch

Open letter in support of professor Terri Ginsburg; appealing to N. Carolina Supreme Court

Terri Ginsberg was a visiting film studies professor at North Carolina State University when she was dismissed after sharing views critical of Zionism and the state of Israel. (You can read prior coverage of her case in Muzzlewatch, the Electronic Intifada and in Ha’aretz). She filed a grievance with the university, which denied her a hearing – three times. So she took her case to the courts. Two lower courts have decided against her, and she is now appealing to the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

In the words of an open letter co-sponsored by The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), the Center for Constitutional Rights, JVP-Westchester and others:

At North Carolina State University, shortly after Dr. Terri Ginsberg made supportive political comments at a screening of a Palestinian film in 2007, she went from being the favored candidate for a tenure-track position to being denied even an interview. Her efforts at redress were summarily rejected by NCSU and two courts.

A jury should be permitted to decide whether NCSU’s real reason for firing Dr. Ginsberg was its hostility to her political views, but this legal right has been denied.

You can sign the letter here.

While the judgments against Ginsberg have been disappointing and frustrating, the litigation process forced the university to go on record citing their suppression of Ginsberg’s free speech. As Ginsberg writes in her blog,

The case entered litigation in December 2009. In May 2010, the parties underwent a mediation hearing mandated by the State of North Carolina at which no settlement was reached. A week of depositions followed, during which NCSU admitted that it suppressed my speech critical of Zionism and supportive of the Palestine liberation struggle while I was under its employ as a visiting professor, and that it chose not to interview or hire me for a tenure-track position because of my scholarship focusing on Palestine/Israel, the Middle East, and the “Jewish.” Amazingly, the University claims that it has the right to suppress, refuse and reject on the basis of these considerations!

Ginsberg’s Supreme Court appeal makes it clear that this case has implications on multiple levels: this is an issue of academic freedom, in which the university dismissed an instructor because they disliked their politics. It’s also a case of employee protections, or lack thereof, because it was Ginsberg’s politics, and not her performance, that led to her dismissal.

In her own words,

On December 20, 2011, we filed a Petition for Discretionary Review with the North Carolina Supreme Court of this outrageously cursory and dismissive  opinion (see new article in Associated Press). The petition argues that the Appellate Court decision, like that of the lower court before it, changes the standard of proof in summary judgment employment decisions, wrongfully preventing the case from a hearing before a jury. The ruling thereby eviscerates the academic freedom protections which North Carolina’s constitution provides, and gives employers carte blanche to discriminate on employment decisions. It also sets a bad example for other states in failing to protect the academic freedom of professors and, in effect, narrowing the scope of speech to which students may be exposed. [emphasis added.]

The news here is that Ginsberg is NOT giving up. The university has admitted that they objected to her views on Israel and Palestine. Ginsberg has lost her job and lost countless other job opportunities because of this experience, and young people in North Carolina and at other schools are missing the opportunity to study with this courageous scholar. But Ginsberg is fighting back. You can support her. Sign this petition.

- Muzzlewatch staff report

Getting banished by the Jewish Federation on Yom Kippur.

What does Chabad Rabbi Manis Friedman have that I don’t have? Is it the beard? The religious authority? Or is it the record of advocating for the killing of Arab women, men and children?  Why does he get to stay on the Jewish Federation’s much promoted Jewish Heroes competition list, while I was unceremoniously deleted- without explanation- this morning, less than 24 hours after a story about my nomination appeared in JWeekly, the Bay Area Jewish paper.

Friedman and I have been running in the top ten for Jewish communal professionals for weeks. And though he’s a rabbi and I’m not, I was nominated by a young rabbinic student sincere in his commitment to a Jewish future. Heck, I even once helped raise thousand of dollars for the Fed after going on a mission to Israel– and my uncle was once a 6-figure fundraiser for the Federation and board member. But my nomination represents hundreds if not thousands of Jews in communities across the US who are heroically working to make equality between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis a reality.

Which is, presumably, why it was nixed and my organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, made subject to a modern day form of Jewish banishment. This despite the competition’s tagline: “We honor those making strides to repair the world.” (Picture at left: my nomination page now says Page Not Found and is blank.  Here is the cached version-what it used to look like before today. And I’m off the leaderboard completely.)

But what about Friedman, who still remains riding high at number 4 on the leaderboard?

While he has written a lot about love, and famously brought Bob Dylan to Chabad–which gives him hipster points–that’s not what Friedman is most famous for. When asked by Moment Magazine a few years ago, “How Should Jews Treat Their Arab Neighbors?”, this was Friedman’s response as reported in the Forward:

“The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle),” Friedman wrote in response to the question posed by Moment Magazine for its “Ask the Rabbis” feature.

Friedman argued that if Israel followed this wisdom, there would be “no civilian casualties, no children in the line of fire, no false sense of righteousness, in fact, no war.”

“I don’t believe in Western morality,” he wrote. “Living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations who suffer defeat because of a disastrous morality of human invention.”

Yes, Arab men, women and children don’t even rank as civilians. After a firestorm of criticism, he gave a half-hearted apology which the people who know him well didn’t find compelling.
So, what exactly are we to conclude about Jewish Federation values? There are numerous examples of policing on the left (banning groups like JVP and other human rights organizations) while remaining wide open to supporters of illegal settlements and even groups that arm settlers and giving standing ovations to the most right-wing and destructive Prime Minister in Israeli history. Though they do not openly advocate settlements, declared illegal by international law and considered by many to be the number one barrier to peace, they have defacto historically been one of the great supporters of the settlement project.

But something else is true here- groups like JVP are fully committed to nonviolence. Not so for Friedman and supporters of offensive Israeli militarism. And so when nonviolent Jewish activists are violently attacked by other Jews, (attacks on Palestinians are daily occurrences) whether in Anatot- or the Jewish Federation General Assembly- or in Congress–or at a community meeting –and communal Jewish professionals remain silent, this silence speaks volumes. The same can be true here. What does it say that nonviolent leftists are being shunned and banished?

When I look back on the wise and amazing work of JVP members over the decades- everything we said came true. We said the occupation must end, the settlements must stop, all citizens must be treated fairly- that otherwise there would be more bloodshed and that Israel would become a pariah. It doesn’t feel good to be right, not one bit. But the knee-jerk and policing response by much of the institutional Jewish world has already been shown to be wrong. And self-destructive.
My family has a tradition of Hasidic rabbis who didn’t look or likely think that differently from Rabbi Friedman. But my parents’ generation and certainly my generation has changed in our thinking and values to embrace a more universalist view of humanity while still being committed to Jewish continuity. That generational change is being repeated literally millions of times over all over the world. Look at this amazing video of young Jewish adults and their statement of values and identity. You’re looking at the future.

Disappearing JVP’s/my nomination is the perfect metaphor for an older generation’s fearful attempt to disappear an entire generation. Their children and certainly grandchildren are increasingly embracing the values of equality, going to the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem to see for themselves the horror wrought by the illegal occupation and a dream built in many ways on the backs of Palestinians.

But we can’t be so easily disappeared with the click of a mouse. Not by a long-shot. And frankly-speaking as someone who cares deeply about a Jewish future– the Federation should be thankful for that.
There is real irony that this happened on erev Yom Kippur. It is traditionally a day when even non-religious Jews seek forgiveness, from Gd or from people in our lives who we have wronged. What a way to begin a day of introspection.
Cecilie Surasky, cecilie@jvp.org
Deputy Director
Jewish Voice for Peace

Oakland Children’s Museum Cancels Palestinian Children’s Art Exhibit Under Pressure from Local Jewish Groups

Berkeley, CA’s Middle East Children’s Alliance broke the news yesterday that the exhibit of children’s artwork from Gaza that they had worked on for months with Oakland’s Children’s Museum of Art was suddenly canceled by the board before the planned September 24 opening reception. The show featured drawings by children about Israel’s infamous Operation Cast Lead, the military assault of December 2008-January 2009 that led to the deaths of some 1,400 Palestinians, over 300 of them children.

(Check regularly at mecaforpeace.org for updates and planned actions- they won’t be taking this lying down.)

MECA said in a statement:

The Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland (MOCHA) has decided to cancel an exhibit of art by Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip. The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), which was partnering with MOCHA to present the exhibit, was informed of the decision by the Museum’s board president on Thursday, September 8, 2011. For several months, MECA and the museum had been working together on the exhibit, which is titled “A Child’s View From Gaza.”

MECA has learned that there was a concerted effort by pro-Israel organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area to pressure the museum to reverse its decision to display Palestinian children’s art.

Barbara Lubin, the Executive Director of MECA, expressed her dismay that the museum decided to censor this exhibit in contradiction of its mission “to ensure that the arts are a fundamental part of the lives of all children.”

“We understand all too well the enormous pressure that the museum came under. But who wins? The museum doesn’t win. MECA doesn’t win. The people of the Bay Area don’t win. Our basic constitutional freedom of speech loses. The children in Gaza lose,” she said.

“The only winners here are those who spend millions of dollars censoring any criticism of Israel and silencing the voices of children who live every day under military siege and occupation.”

Recognizing that the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council has an established track record of targeting Palestinian cultural expression, I wrote directly to JCRC Executive Director Doug Kahn to find out if they were involved in the board’s sudden decision to cancel the show. Indeed it seems they were, though perhaps not alone. This was his response in full:

East Bay JCRC, working closely with the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, shared with the leadership of MOCHA our concerns about the inappropriateness of this exhibit given the fact that MOCHA – an important and valued community institution – serves very young children.

(MOCHA has only stated that they received complaints “from Jewish groups as well as others in the community.”)

However, it doesn’t seem likely that this is about concerns for children’s sensitivities to war imagery. As the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out in its coverage of the incident today, MOCHA has a significant track record of showing the artwork of children living under war, including WWII, without incident. These images apparently aren’t substantively different.

This is, however, about giving voice to Palestinians-in this case children- who endured a simply extraordinary attack on an illegally captive population of 1.5 million people otherwise known as Operation Cast Lead.

The Israel government and its proxies pulled out all of the stops to undermine criticism of the Operation which drew nearly universal condemnation and triggered massive protest marches around the world. An unprecedented smear campaign was launched against a respected Jewish South African jurist named Richard Goldstone who led a UN task force examining Israeli and Hamas war crimes.

The canceling of the art show should be seen in the context of the Goldstone smear campaign, as well as previous successful efforts by a handful of Bay Area Jewish communal organizations to determine what Palestinians can and cannot say. (In contrast, exhibit organizer, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, enjoys significant Jewish support, and the Bay Area chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace is one of many exhibit co-sponsors.)

In 2007, the JCRC pressured San Francisco State University to change the content of a mural dedicated to the late great Palestinian intellectual Edward Said. It’s worth looking at the mural and then reading the JCRC’s critique to understand the depth of their fear of imagery that is so essential to Palestinian memory of fleeing or being expelled from their homes to make way for the then new state. It is odd, to put it mildly, to read Jewish communal professionals so closely aligned with the Israeli Consulate offering in depth art critiques of Palestinian symbolism in a policy-making capacity.

The JCRC was also involved in a deeply messy battle, along with the Anti-Defamation League, over the content of a San Francisco mural painted by young members of the nonprofit H.O.M.E.Y. which works with at-risk kids in San Francisco’s mission district. Not surprisingly, the groups’ insistence that they represented the vast majority of Jews in the Bay Area-an area known for its commitment to independent thought and open artistic expression– triggered significant Jewish opposition. And of course the JCRC is behind the highly controversial restrictive funding guidelines that essentially bar (or should I say threaten to bar) critics of Israel , including BDS proponents, from speaking prominently on panels of institutions funded in some way by San Francisco’s Jewish Federation.

But something tells me that this cancellation of Gazan children’s art, some of which you see here, may well cross a line for a lot of fence-sitters. While I reject the argument of parity that only applies to Palestinian stories, it certainly would have been wiser to lobby the MOCHA board to either work with MECA on adapting the exhibit or to hold an exhibit-like the Israeli government and others have – of artwork by the children of the Israeli city of Sderot rather than cancel the Gazan exhibit.  And to be fair, perhaps they were lobbied to do that but the board chose to wash their hands of the entire issue. We don’t know. I myself would have attended exhibits of children’s art from Gaza or Sderot, and brought my young son. But instead, we have what amounts to yet more erasure. The Israeli government has in essence locked the over 60% of Gazans who are children behind a wall and thrown away the key and forgotten entirely about them. Now the rest of us are supposed to forget about them too.

In the meantime, this must feel like deja vu all over again for MECA. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs reported about this incident in late 2005:

MECA had teamed up with the Berkeley Art Center and Alliance Graphics to present an exhibit last November and December called “Justice Matters: Artists Consider Palestine.” In their works 14 Palestinian and American artists addressed Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestine.

The artists, MECA and the Berkeley Art Center were attacked by the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and other people who claimed to represent the mainstream Jewish community. According to Jos Sances, curator of “Justice Matters,” “there was even an effort to close the show down and have the city withdraw its annual support for the Berkeley Art Center.”

Fourteen rabbis (one for each artist?) visited Berkeley’s mayor to condemn the exhibit. The artists were charged with glorifying violence and terrorism, perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes and even lying about their own history.

On the other hand, there was support from the community and e-mails to the Berkeley Art Center included comments like: “A powerful, scathing experience. Thank you for it” and “It was very thought provoking to see the other side.” Even an Israeli offered ”my admiration for your courage in showing this important protest art.”

MECA’s Barbara Lubin says the mayor of Berkeley stood up to pressure and the show went on. The level of denial about Israeli human rights violations has dropped so dramatically in many Jewish communities in recent years—synagogues everywhere across the country are split — that I wonder if 6 years later most of those rabbis would have the same response to challenging art. I suppose we’re about to find out.


LGBT leaders in open rebellion against Pride Toronto for censoring 2 words: “Israeli Apartheid”

Gay pride parades (now evolved into LGBTQ and straight ally parades) were originally created to give gays and lesbians a way to defy shame, embrace free speech, and fight an unjust status quo. And now in Toronto? No longer.

On June 7, over 20 high-level past and present awardees and grand marshals left their statuettes at the door of Pride Toronto following the resignation of the parade’s international grand marshals. They were protesting what will surely be remembered as one of the most shameful actions ever taken by a pride group: succumbing to pressure from Canada’s excessively right wing B’nai Brith to bar the group Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) by banning the use of the phrase “Israeli Apartheid.”

Talk about backfiring. Performers and speakers continue to jump ship and the condemnations are coming fast and furious. One can only hope that if for no other reason than the principle of it, people wearing “Israeli Apartheid” stickers will show up at pride parades all over the world, including and especially in Toronto.

The Canadian gay and lesbian paper Xtra has really remarkable coverage of the sequence of events. We wrote extensively about the story here before it was announced that the words “Israeli Apartheid” would be banned not just from the pride parade but also from the trans and dykes marches. (Presumably QuAIA can come to the party if they change their names to “Queers United Against Israeli Mmmmmmm”)

Continue reading

More controversy about Rachel Corrie’s mother at San Francisco’s Jewish Film Fest

There’s something so deeply, deeply depressing about the attack against Cindy Corrie by J Weekly, the Bay Area’s Jewish newspaper. True, it’s just one of countless examples of the moral malaise that plagues the institutional Jewish world when it comes to Palestinians, but on this day, this day when I am fresh back from Gaza, from Hebron, from Silwan, it has gotten to me.

I’m not sure which is worse- the possibility that the J’s editorial writer actually believes the morally groundless drivel he or she is writing? Or the possibility that they know full well that the moral outrage that is the Israeli treatment of Gazans is an affront to all Jews and feeling people, but that they care more about keeping advertisers happy.

While acknowledging the right of the SF Jewish Film Festival to air the film Rachel, a documentary made by Jewish-Israeli filmaker Simone Bitto , the Bay Area’s Jewish magazine has condemned in an editorial the decision to invite Cindy Corrie. Cindy is the mother of  the subject of the film, Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli Defense Forces bulldozer while protesting home demolitions in Gaza.

As a grieving mother, Cindy Corrie has our sympathies. No parent should ever have to bury a child. But as an echo chamber of her daughter’s repulsive opinions, this woman has no business attending and speaking at a Jewish event like the film festival.

We are all for free speech. We are all for scheduling controversial films. But Cindy Corrie’s appearance crosses a line. The Jewish Film Festival is under no obligation to offer a microphone to Israel-bashers.

Israel-bashers? Repulsive opinions? For free speech? Oh to have just one hour to take the J editors to Gaza to see for themselves that which the Corries have so rightfully denounced. I just returned from there, and yet again, I have never been so confronted with the fact of meaningless, cruel and vindictive suffering. This has nothing to do with Israel-bashing. In fact, if you care about Israel, and only Israel, you still will come down on the side of the Corries, for it’s nearly impossible to see a decent future for Israelis if the country continues to harm and radicalize Gazans through illegal blockades and incursions and war.

Rabbi Brian Walt has clearly been to Gaza. He knows Cindy Corrie (As do I, and I agree with every single word he says about her). He gets it:

In my position as Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America,  I have worked with Cindy and Craig, Rachel Corrie’s parents.  They are extraordinary human beings who generously support the work of Rabbis for Human Rights and other Israeli human rights and peace groups. They have visited with Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the Executive Director of RHR in Israel, and others in the RHR office in Jerusalem and have consistently supported our work.  I have been moved in my conversations with them, by their integrity and their deep commitment to a just peace.  If I were in their situation,  I would imagine that the temptation to hate  those who killed my daughter would be hard to resist.  (Forman points out that the details of Rashel’s death are disputed.  He doesn’t mention that it was Israel’s refusal to agree to an impartial investigation that prevented us from knowing the truth.  In a very similar action,  Israel recently refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission into the Gaza war, even though Judge Goldstone is a committed Jew and made it clear that he would be investigating violations by both sides.)  Despite their daughter’s tragic death, the Corries have never spoken in a hateful  way towards Israel or Jews.  On the contrary, they are deeply committed to peace and to the security of all people in the conflict, Israelis and Palestinians.

More McCarthyism in Toronto: Jewish institutions distance selves from artist because of her views, not her work.

Why is artist/Yiddishist/Klezmer performer Reena Katz losing sponsorship of her community-based art installation? Reena’s big problem is that she’s smarter, more depthful, more nuanced and more devoted to bringing back the richness of nearly extinct Jewish culture, than the small-minded groups that are funding her project.

Theirs is a simplistic, narrow and ultimately pathetic form of Jewishness which primarily worships Jewish nationalism -a form of idolatry- and tries to impose a mythical monoculture on a rich, varied and argumentative tradition- which has a history of including political Zionists and non or anti-Zionists. Today, non Zionists can do no art there, regardless of the content. Tomorrow, I suppose, they won’t be allowed in the door as visitors. When will staff have to pass a loyalty test? Why are they so insecure that they can’t allow everyone, Zionists and anti-Zionists, to be part of the same Jewish community? (The same can be said of those on the left who would like to ban anyone who identifies as Zionist from their midst.)

Taking what happened at Chicago’s Spertus Museum as an example, it’s likely the Koffler curator was supportive of the project and Reena too. It’s the people with the purse strings at the Canadian United Jewish Appeal who threw a fit, and if you want to keep your job… The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:

A leading Toronto Jewish community-funded art gallery severed its ties to an exhibit over the artist’s political associations concerning Israel.

The Koffler Centre of the Arts announced Friday that it was disassociating itself from an art installation titled “Each hand as they are called,” about life in the one-time Toronto Jewish neighborhood of Kensington Market, because of artist Reena Katz’s politics.

That’s right. Not the art project itself, which sounds extraordinary, complex, layered and beautiful. No, simply because they decided on Friday to take a peek at her public Facebook page and saw that she endorsed Israel Apartheid Week, something she had never made a secret. Of course knowing that pulling $20,000 from the project a year after it started might not look so great, they offered to let her keep the money, while pulling their name off of everything. JVoices has Reena’s entire statement, as well as the statement of project curator Kim Simon, also Jewish, also pissed off:

It is with absolute outrage and a deep sadness that we write this statement regarding our experience working with the Koffler Centre of the Arts. As a Jewish curator and Jewish artist, we were invited by the Koffler to develop a project in early 2008. Since April of last year we have been working closely on an off-site exhibition wholeheartedly approved by Koffler curator Mona Filip, Koffler Executive Director Lori Starr and the Koffler Arts Advisory Committee.

Slated to open on May 20th 2009, the project, entitled each hand as they are called, is an ambitious and considered series of ephemeral gestures reflective of life in Toronto’s historic Kensington Market. The project consists of sonic and visual performances, brings elders from Toronto’s Jewish community into conversation and play with students from Ryerson Public School, and involves a series of vivid posters designed by Cecilica Berkovic sited throughout the Kensington neighborhood. This beautiful, smart and tender project reflects a deep commitment to animating a dialogue between aspects of Toronto’s diverse Jewish/Yiddish history and its fascinating contact with other cultures. Through a queer framing of social history, this dialogue draws on the current social and economic space of Kensington Market, the trans-cultural game of Mah-Jongg, and the fusion music of the North American Yiddish song.

Continue reading

Billboards demanding end to aid to Israel taken down

Mondoweiss reports:

A few week ago we posted about ten billboards going up around Albuquerque, NM calling for congress to cut off aid to Israel. They were put up by The Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, a multi-ethnic, multi-religious coalition working to “end to the ten year commitment of $30 billion in U.S. taxpayer-funded military aid pledged to Israel in 2007 by the Bush administration.” Today, the coalition sent out a press release saying that although Lamar Outdoor Advertising had signed a contract to run the billboards for eight weeks, they care coming down after three. From the press release:

On April 8th, the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel erected the billboards throughout the  Albuquerque area in order to inform the public about the misuse of their tax dollars, denominated in human lives. The group was motivated by concern for the Palestinian people who had recently been subjected to a massive invasion of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military. Over 1,400 Palestinians – mostly civilian, including three hundred children – were killed and over 5,000 were injured. In 2007 the Bush administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Israel over a ten year period beginning in 2008. The majority of these dollars will be used to purchase American-made weapons.

The design of the billboard had been approved by Lamar and the billboards’ wording and final image were suggested by Lamar’s graphics designer.

According to information from Lamar, it appears groups claiming to be pro-Israel have conducted a campaign to pressure Lamar to remove the billboards. The Coalition believes this is a deliberate attempt to silence its right to free speech because the humanitarian message of the billboards supports equal rights for the Palestinian people, thereby necessitating criticism of Israel.