Over the last week I and my colleagues have brought you some of the highlights from the debate on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 in the House. For my final post on the matter (for now) I want to talk about an issue that has long been pillar of the Reform Movement’s advocacy, but which rarely gets much play in the press these days – nuclear disarmament.
In 1972, Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath sent me to Florida to organize Jewish students protesting the Vietnam War at the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami.
In 1990, my wife, my father and I travelled through China just a few months before Tiananmen Square.
In both situations, the moral passion and democratic hopes and aspirations of the young people we encountered were palpable. Infused with the belief that by using non-violent methods they could transform their lives, their nation, their world for the better, they set about with courage and confidence to change their future.
That was exactly the feeling I had as I spent two lengthy visits with the protestors in Gezi Park in the Taksim area of Istanbul over the past few days. There is something special happening in Gezi Park – and it is inspiring.
This article by Bob Feferman originally appeared in the Forward on Friday, June 14, 2013.
As Iran approaches another fraudulent presidential election on June 14, it is important to remember the 2009 protests in Iran over the results of the rigged election. The heart-wrenching picture of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman who was shot dead by regime thugs, was not an isolated event. Neda’s tragic death should serve as a call for us to take action, both for the sake of the people of Iran and the cause of peace.
According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur’s March 2013 report on human rights in Iran , “There continues to be widespread systemic and systematic violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
In last week’s Torah portion, Korach, we encounter a troubling text that describes the rebellion of Korach and his family’s demise. What makes us uneasy about this text is that Korach’s complaint against Moses is an understandable one: since everyone has inherent holiness, why is power concentrated with Moses (Numbers 16:3)? God punishes Korach for questioning the concentration of power by causing the earth to swallow him (16:32). This narrative leaves us with the question of whether our texts are teaching us to blindly follow our leaders and to quell our legitimate concerns about the use of power.
The Knesset is currently considering the “Begin Plan,” which, if approved, will move at least 30,000 Bedouin from unrecognized villages to recognized ones. Urging that the Knesset suspend this plan until a full review of its implications is conducted, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent the following letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis:
In anticipation of the end of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s tenure this month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appointed Dr. Rami Hamdallah to take the helm as the next prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.
Educated at the University of Lancaster in the United Kingdom, Dr. Hamdallah is a professor of linguistics and has served as president of An Nahaj National University, the largest university in the West Bank, since 1998.
Dr. Hamdallah is now tasked with the job of forming a new government, which he hopes to accomplish quickly. He has suggested that he will keep most of the ministers in the government.
The fact that little is expected to change as a result of Dr. Hamdallah’s appointment is noteworthy. Assuming Dr. Hamdallah is able to form a new government, President Abbas will not need to call for new elections. Hence, no change secures governmental stability. If Secretary Kerry can have is way, such stability might just benefit the peace process.
Last month, Hamas and Fattah reached a reconciliation deal in Cairo. With Dr. Hamdallah’s appointment, which Hamas has deemed illegal, that reconciliation has been thrown into doubt. Yet, Dr. Hamdallah has declared his intention to pursue reconciliation.
Secretary of State John Kerry was quick to congratulate Hamdallah, explaining that “his appointment comes at a moment of challenge, which is also an important moment of opportunity.” Kerry has been pushing for renewed peace talks, and hopes that Dr. Hamdallah will not only work towards the resumption of such negotiations, but will also work towards the realization of a new economic stimulus plan Kerry has promoted for the West Bank.
Image courtesy of Alaa Badarneh/EPA
At last week’s World Economic Forum in Jordan, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled a $4 billion initiative aimed at improving economic conditions in the West Bank through private investment. The initiative will be led by former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. Although it is not seen as a replacement to negotiations, the plan seeks to boost the prospects of peace. Read more…
At a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Jordan this past weekend, Israeli President Shimon Peres issued some of the strongest language of late in favor of renewed peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Whether his words will lead to action remains to be seen. Read more…