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The Chris Hedges Report with Rabbi Shaul Magid on Zionism and the subversion of Judaism. Adam Coley

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Has Zionism, especially Liberal Zionist, exhausted itself? The humanistic constructs of liberal Zionism, always in conflict with itself because of its refusal to grant Palestinians equal civil and political rights, has led many Israelis to embrace a far more chauvinistic and fanatic religious Zionism. What does this mean for Israel? And, as important, what does this mean for Judaism? The Zionist movement, which became a dominating force with the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, sought to shut out Jewish critics.  It not only maligned Jews that did not embrace Zionism, but labeled them anti-Jews, self-hating Jews or counter-Jews. This war within Judaism between those who put Israel at the center of Jewish identity and those who did not ripped apart and continues to rip apart the Jewish collective. As Rabbi Shaul Magid writes, “The Talmudic sages teach that the heretic (apikorus or min) is actually worse that the idolater. In their estimation, unlike the idolator, the heretic subverts Judaism from the inside.” Rabbi Magid goes on to argue that the demand for the full Zionization of American Jewry is an attempt to brand all who do not give their primary loyalty to the State of Israel Jewish heretics, apostates.  This battle within Zionism raises crucial questions. What role does exile play in Jewish belief? What role does the state of Israel play in Jewish belief? Is Zionism the only true refuge for Jews? Are Jews who reject Zionism and Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians, who embrace lives outside of Israel, upholding or defying Jewish tradition? Is the nation-state the best or healthiest collective structure for Jews? Is a Jewish homeland, known by Jews as the Land of Israel, connected to sovereignty? Judaism existed, of course, long before the concept of sovereignty and the Land of Israel has been the homeland of the Jews for millennia without sovereignty. Is the concept of “homeland” or in Hebrew morasha (inheritance) dependent on statehood or even residence in Israel? Or is this concpet, in its origins, atheological concept? Joining me to discuss Zionism and its relationship to Jewish belief is Rabbi Shaul Magid professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College and Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University and the author of “The Necessity of Exile: Essays from a Distance.” 

 

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June 18, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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My First Job, at the Stanford Internet Observatory Julia Steinberg

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Like a zillion other bright-eyed Stanford undergrads, I was drawn to work at a place that promised I’d “learn about the abuse of the internet in real time,” writes Julia Steinberg. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)

The Stanford Internet Observatory—a research center tasked with rooting out “misinformation” on social media—is shutting its doors. Chances are if you’ve heard of the SIO it was in a scathing piece from Michael Shellenberger or Matt Taibbi, who have accused the center of being a key node in the censorship-industrial complex.

It was also my first employer. Like a zillion other bright-eyed Stanford undergrads, I was drawn to work at a place that promised to “learn about the abuse of the internet in real time, to develop a novel curriculum on trust and safety that is a first in computer science, and to translate our research discoveries into training and policy innovations for the public good.” To me, that meant ending internet abuse like the glamorization of anorexia on social media or financial scams that steal billions every year. But mostly I worked on the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), which SIO ran during the 2020 and 2022 elections. The purpose of that project was to identify so-called “fake news” spreading on social media. 

In actuality, SIO hired a load of interns to scan social media for posts deemed to be mis- and disinformation. It turns out that the posts we students flagged were often sent along to moderators at Twitter (now X), Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, which took them down in order to quash dissenting viewpoints—viewpoints that sometimes ended up being right, as in the case of Covid likely being the result of a lab leak, or Hunter Biden’s hard drive being his actual hard drive—not Russian disinformation. 

Thanks to the work of independent journalists, the SIO’s work has come under a lot of scrutiny, including in Washington. A recent House Judiciary Committee report alleges that, by cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security, the SIO’s Election Integrity Partnership “provided a way for the federal government to launder its censorship activities in hopes of bypassing both the First Amendment and public scrutiny.” 

The SIO has stated that “Stanford has not shut down or dismantled SIO as a result of outside pressure. SIO does, however, face funding challenges as its founding grants will soon be exhausted.” But on June 13, Platformer reported that much of SIO’s staff was on the way out: “Its founding director, Alex Stamos, left his position in November. Renee DiResta, its research director, left last week after her contract was not renewed. One other staff member’s contract expired this month, while others have been told to look for jobs elsewhere, sources say.”

The Supreme Court will soon rule on a case, Murthy v. Missouri, that addresses whether the U.S. government should be able to collaborate with social media companies to censor commentary. The plaintiffs, in their brief, lambast SIO for its role in abetting government censorship. We’ll be watching that case closely.

Julia Steinberg is an intern at The Free Press. Read her piece on the college dropout who unlocked the secrets of ancient Rome using AI. And follow her on X @Juliaonatroika.

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My Promise to Palestine Chris Hedges

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When I accepted the Tafik Diab Prize for my writing on the genocide in Gaza in Cairo on June 10 I explained why the cartoonist Joe Sacco and I are planning to do our next book together on Gaza.

Written speech:

I would like to start with a story that happened to me in Gaza on October 5, 2000. One day I was working on a report at Natzarim (Jewish settlement). There were Palestinian boys near me. The boys threw rocks towards the Israeli army. A soldier shot one of the boys — and the boy died. Four boys each lifted up a limb and we ran. The incident aftected me to such an extent that I did not shave for three weeks. After three weeks, I went to visit the boy’s house to meet his family. I told his mother I was with her son when he was killed. The mother told me that when her younger son heard that his brother had been killed he went into the kitchen, and then he left the house. After ten minutes she asked her husband where her son had gone. They went out to look for him and saw him in the street with a knife in his hand.

She asked him, “Where are you going?”

He answered, “I am going to kill Jews.” I have never been able to forget that child. I often wonder where he is. He would be a man in his thirties now. Is he still alive? Married? Does he have children? Are he and his family frightened of the bombing? Where have they taken refuge? God willing, I will write a book on Gaza with the cartoonist Joe Sacco, the author of “Palestine” and “Footnotes in Gaza.” During that time I will look for him, I will complete his story and the stories of many others. Israel is determined to erase them from existence and from history. This is my promise.

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