The schism between Israel and American Jews is at a “crisis point” with a growing number of Jews coming to realise that the dream of a Jewish and democratic state respecting liberal values has been shattered. In remarks that reveal extreme disillusion at the direction that the country is taking, Jewish-Americans have described their “horror” at watching Israel under the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu. They fear that Israel in its current manifestation has turned its back on Jewish values and Jewish communities outside the country.
At the heart of the schism is the tension between Israel’s move towards the far-right and its open display of “fascistic” tendencies, as one Jewish professor put it while exploring the reasons why the two communities are growing apart. “The history of Jews as promoters of enlightenment and universalist values… is drawing to a close,” wrote Professor Eva Illouz in Haaretz. Her article pits “the state of Israel” against “the Jewish people”. Illouz, from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said that she was “stunned” by the new alliances between Israel and populist politicians characterised by ethno-nationalism and racism.
She believes that Israel’s alliance with the likes of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban — who the sociology professor denounced for legitimising anti-Semitism — and its affinity with populist right-wing figures across the world, is driving a deep wedge between diaspora Jews with the state that claims to represent them. Illouz predicts that Israel will cease to be the “centre of gravity of the Jewish world” and suggests that a handful of Jewish billionaires and ultra-Orthodox Jews will be the only ones left supporting the state, while the vast majority of Jews worldwide will abandon the country that was once viewed so fondly.
Echoing Illouz, Rabbi Danny Zemel, who is described as “Zionist royalty” in the Washington Post, cited the nationalism and the growth of an ultra-Orthodox brand of Judaism — which he says is alien to the historical Jewish experience — for the growing split between Israel and American Jews.
Listing his grievances against Israel, Zemel, whose grandfather led the Zionist Organisation of America in the late 1930s, told his congregation last week that “the ongoing merger of this vehement nationalism wed to this biblical Orthodoxy, the growth in the boisterous ideology and violence of some of the settlers and the settler movement attacks on Palestinian Arabs and their property” were reasons to believe that Netanyahu is an enemy of Zionism. Indeed, Zemel believes that Netanyahu is dissolving America’s bipartisan pro-Israel consensus in favour of an unstable alliance of Christian and Jewish extremists and wealthy conservatives such as Sheldon Adelson. The traditional enlightened progressive values that glued Israel with diaspora Jewish communities is collapsing.
While many critics of Israel would describe its lurch to the far-right as a natural evolution of Zionism, Zemel tried to defend Zionist ideals by making a clear distinction between his version of Zionism and the state of Israel under Netanyahu which he claims is “anti- Zionist”. Explaining what many would say is a puzzling opinion of the Israeli Prime Minister, Zemel said that the Israeli government was no longer Zionist because it has aligned itself with “unacceptable” nations and movements. “It has separated itself from the bulk of world Jewry and rejected our Judaism and our moral posture,” he explained. “The current government in Jerusalem has made common cause with the leaders of other countries including those who are Holocaust deniers, stir anti-Semitic sentiments in their own countries and made public statements in admiration of Adolf Hitler. These governmental actions are so outrageous no one could make them up.”
Rabbi Zemel called on fellow Jews to “embark on a struggle to save Israel from itself.” In his estimation, the current state of Israel is “humiliating the large minority living in it” and is not a Jewish and a democratic state.
The strength of anti-Israel feelings amongst some American Jews has convinced normally loyal Jewish communities to abandon their annual fundraising for the state. Speaking about the widening fissure between Israel and Jews in America, veteran journalist Thomas L Friedman said that Israel does not recognise the Jewish community of which he is part. In his remarks, which were reported by Haaretz last week, the New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist added, “If Israel doesn’t respect what we do in the diaspora, and our way of life, why should we raise money for it?” He claimed that similar questions were being asked in synagogues across the US.
The rift described by Friedman grabbed international attention in the summer when a conservative rabbi was detained by Israeli police for presiding over a non-Orthodox Jewish wedding. The incident, Haaretz said, was the first time that Israeli police had attempted to enforce a 2013 law forbidding the performance of weddings outside the Rabbinate, carrying a sentence of up to two years in prison. The rabbi’s detention took Jews living outside Israel by surprise. In the US, they are overwhelmingly non-Orthodox; they were outraged by the incident, which prompted much soul-searching and some to call for the dismantling of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel.
While Friedman’s specific gripe was with the Orthodox Jewish community in Israel, which seems to have more sway over the interpretation of Judaism than he would like, the crisis is much deeper. It has been described as “the greatest threat to the future of the Jewish people” by none other than the President of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S Lauder.
Lauder deplored the manner in which progressive values have been jettisoned by the Netanyahu government, which he accused of “crush[ing] contemporary Jewish existence”. He expressed concerns over the “destructive actions” of the Israeli government. “For over 200 years, modern Judaism has aligned itself with enlightenment,” he pointed out. “The Jews of the new era have fused our national pride and religious affiliation with a dedication to human progress, worldly culture and morality. Conservatives and liberals, we all believe in a just Zionism and a pluralistic Judaism that respects every human being. So when members of Israel’s current government unintentionally undermine the covenant between Judaism and enlightenment, they crush the core of contemporary Jewish existence.”
In her assessment of the reasons for the chasm between Israel and American Jews, Professor Eva Illouz said, “For the majority of Jews outside Israel, human rights and the struggle against anti-Semitism are core values.” She believes that Netanyahu has deviated from this core value by offering enthusiastic support for authoritarian, anti-Semitic leaders. Illouz believes this to be a “profound shift in the state’s identity as a representative of the Jewish people.” Instead, it has become a country “that aims to advance its own expansion through seizure of land, violation of international law, exclusion and discrimination.” While this is not fascism per se, she insists that it is “certainly one of its most distinctive features.”
Prison Guard Who Had Sex With Inmate In Front Of 11 Prisoners Is Now Behind Bars
A prison guard in California now finds herself behind bars after she was caught having sexual relations with an inmate – in one case, performing the act in full view of 11 other prisoners.
Former Fresno County correctional officer Tina Gonzalez, 26, was arrested last May following an investigation by the vice unit of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office’s and its internal affairs division.
Gonzalez, who worked as a prison guard from 2016 to 2019, was investigated after authorities were tipped off that an inmate was having sex with a prison guard who had also smuggled in a phone, reports the Fresno Bee.
In one case, Gonzalez even cut a hole in the pants of her uniform to allow easier access during sexual acts with the unnamed prisoner at Fresno County Jail.
Gonzalez was also accused of having sex in full view of 11 inmates, an act that her former boss says “is something only a depraved mind can come up with.”
Assistant Sheriff Steve McComas, who once supervised the unit Gonzalez belonged to, said that in his entire career of 26 years he has witnessed some “pretty disgusting things” but none as bad as Gonzalez’s conduct.
“She took an oath which she betrayed and in doing so endangered her co-workers’ lives,” McComas said.
“But she has shown no remorse,” he added. “She continually calls and has sexually explicit conversations with the inmate in question and boasts about the crimes she carried out.”
Gonzalez pleaded no contest in April to one count of sexual activity by a detention facility employee with a consenting confined adult, one count of possession of drugs or an alcoholic beverage in a jail facility and a misdemeanor count of possession of cellular device with intent to deliver to an inmate.
When she was being sentenced, Judge Michael Idiart decried her acts as “terrible, stupid” and noted that her career had been “ruined.”
“But I also believe that people can redeem themselves and you have the rest of your life to do that,” the judge added. “Good luck.”
Gonzalez is now serving her sentence of seven months in county jail to be followed by two years of probation.
Judge Orders New Trove of Secret Ghislaine Maxwell Files to Be Unsealed This Month
A large trove of secretive files about Ghislaine Maxwell will be unsealed this month, including those shedding light on her relationship with disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein, a judge ruled on Thursday.
The documents will include details on her finances, as well as “funding received from the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation,” according to court records.
The documents are also believed to detail Maxwell’s extensive connections with powerful men such as Prince Andrew of the British royal family, reports the Daily Mail.
It has long been well-known that Epstein and Maxwell associated with both Clinton and former President Donald Trump. Clinton also reportedly met with accused Maxwell for an “intimate” dinner in 2014.
The documents are a part were filed by Epstein accuser and former “sex slave” Virginia Roberts Giuffre in a 2015 civil lawsuit against Maxwell and must be released in mid-July, Judge Loretta Preska ruled in Thursday’s telephone hearing.
Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation after she was accused by the British socialite of fabricating the sexual abuse allegations against her and Epstein in the lawsuit, which has since been settled.
Last July, a deposition by Giuffre was unsealed. In the deposition, Giuffre went into detail about alleged “constant” orgies that Maxwell and the late pedophile engaged in on Epstein’s private Caribbean island.
“There’s just a blur of so many girls,” Giuffre explained in the 2015 deposition.
“There were blondes, there were brunettes, there were redheads,” she continued. “They were all beautiful girls. I would say the ages ranged between 15 and 21.”
“The island was a place where orgies were a constant thing that took place. And again, it’s impossible to know how many,” Giuffre said, noting that she was “100 percent certain” that Maxwell took part in sexual acts with the girls.
Maxwell is accused of grooming multiple minors to engage in sex acts with Epstein, her ex-boyfriend, by befriending them to ask them about their lives and families while building friendships with the young girls alongside Epstein by taking their victims on social outings or out shopping in the 1990s and 2000s.
Maxwell has been detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, pending trial.
Her five appeals to be released from jail have all been rejected.
Epstein, 66, was found dead in a lone cell in the special housing unit (SHU) of a federal Manhattan prison in New York City while facing a potential prison sentence of up to 45 years on charges of pedophilia and sex trafficking.
2 More Catholic Churches in Canada Burned as Third Mass Gravesite for Indigenous Kids Found
An additional two Catholic churches have been the target of likely arson in Canada as anger continues to grow in the aftermath of the discovery of over 1,000 human remains belonging to Indigenous children.
The news coincides with the discovery of a third site where 182 unmarked graves were located near a discovered near a residential school in British Columbia’s interior.
Early Wednesday morning, firefighters were dispatched to respond to a fire at St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Morinville, Alberta, which was basically gutted by the blaze.
“The fire was already fully involved from the basement when the first fire crews got here,” Morinville’s infrastructure general manager Iain Bushell told CTV News. “They entered the building but there was already collapse occurring on the inside of the church so they backed out and it’s been a defensive or exterior fire fight ever since.”
Police officials have described the blaze as “suspicious.”
Roughly an hour later, a fire was also reported at the Catholic St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, reports CBC.
At least seven churches, nearly all Catholic, have come under apparent arson attacks throughout Canada in recent weeks. Activists and Indigenous advocates have also defaced Catholic churches with bloody red hand and foot prints, while demonstrations have also been staged involving stuffed animal and the slogan “we were children.”
While it remains unclear what precisely caused the fires, they are believed to be linked to the recent discovery of mass graves and unmarked graves containing over 1,000 human remains near Catholic-run residential schools for First Nations children.
The discovery came just few weeks after the grim discovery of 215 Indigenous children’s bodied by the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation in a mass grave at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Colombia.
Also last month, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced its discovery of 751 unmarked graves near the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School, which operated from 1899 to 1997 in the area.
Another site with 182 unmarked graves was announced Wednesday after an investigation undertaken by the community of ʔaq’am, near Cranbrook, British Columbia.
About 150,000 First Nations children were forcibly separated from their families and communities and forced to attend the religious schools which were established in the 19th century to assimilate Indigenous children into the Anglo settler-colonial culture of Canada.
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has confirmed that large amounts of Indigenous children fled such residential schools or died there, their whereabouts unknown. Former students have also testified to the horrific sexual, mental and physical abuse they suffered while enrolled at the schools. Myriad students died from preventable diseases that rapidly spread in unsanitary conditions, as well as in accidents and fires. Others disappeared when trying to escape. The Commission has denounced the schools for institutionalizing child neglect and for being organs of “cultural genocide.”
Indigenous groups and Canadian politicians are also demanding an apology from the Catholic Church – specifically Pope Francis. Activists have also rejected Canada Day celebrations this year to highlight the anti-Indigenous atrocities that the founding of the North American country entailed.