Jennifer Loewenstein: Zionism Is ‘A Particularly Pernicious Form Of Nationalism’

Dr. Milena Rampoldi, MintPress News, June 2, 2016

Israeli soldiers and relatives of new Jewish immigrants from the U.S. and Canada, wave Israeli flags to welcome them as they arrive at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, July 23, 2013. (AP)Israeli soldiers and relatives of new Jewish immigrants from the U.S. and Canada, wave Israeli flags to welcome them as they arrive at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, July 23, 2013. (AP)

I interviewed Jennifer Loewenstein, a journalist with years of experience in the Middle East.

Jennifer Loewenstein

Jennifer Loewenstein

About her work, she wrote me:

This year I’ve been working on Iraq and Syria more than anything else. I’ve never stopped following the crises in Gaza and the West Bank, however. There are some ties between the two — not obvious or ‘conspiracy’ oriented.

As you may know, I’ve lived in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Beirut. I’ve traveled in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. I’ve also worked a lot on refugee issues. (I lived in the refugee camp of Bourj al-Barajneh in Lebanon for 3 summers, though that was a while back now — 1999-2002 — but return almost every year to visit friends.)

I haven’t been able to get into Gaza since 2010, but I follow events there closely and keep up with my contacts there. I think an important issue is how the media focus has been taken off Palestine as the Syrian Civil War continues. Both deserve a lot of attention, however. U.S. foreign policy in the region continues to trouble me, to say the least. It deserves a lot of attention and clarification.

Jennifer Loewenstein was Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Last August she moved to Penn State University. She is politically active, and writes as a freelance journalist. Her work has been featured in scholarly publications such as The Journal of Palestine Studies, and she is a regular contributor to CounterPunch.

Continue reading

One Jewish Woman’s Fight for Palestine

One Jewish Woman’s Fight for PalestineYasmin Mogahed, Nov 19, 2012

For Jennifer Loewenstein, April 19, 2002 was a “waking nightmare”. She stood silent at the edge of the camp, in disbelief–and horror.

Listening to the sound of wailing, she watched as medical workers lay out the bodies of the dead. The corpses, wrapped in white, were loaded onto the back of a pick-up truck.

“I will never forget this time,” Loewenstein recalls. “I stayed in the camp for two days, picking through the ruins and debris of people’s former lives–watching children and families look for their belongings–anything they could salvage from the wreckage.”

Loewenstein was in Jenin.

She had spent much of the previous two years working as an editor and freelance journalist at the Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza. During that time she traveled frequently to the Rafah refugee camp to visit friends. It was in that way that she came to know Rafah so well and later started the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project in December of 2002.

But Loewenstein’s decision to take on the plight of the Palestinian people was not an easy one. She has since been shunned by her community and accused of being a “terrorist sympathizer” and “self-hating Jew”–a term she considers as ludicrous as calling her a “self-hating human” for opposing human rights abuse.

Despite this opposition, Loewenstein continues her struggle to expose an injustice she wasn’t always aware of herself.

“I never really knew much about the plight of the Palestinians until I was much older,” says Loewenstein. “I didn’t begin to question all the information I’d gotten on Israel and on Arabs until I got to college (at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem).”

Loewenstein grew up in a secular Jewish family, but was instilled early on with a concern for Israel. She still remembers the day when her favorite dress was sent to her cousin overseas. She was only six, but gave up the dress because her family in Israel needed it.

Although her parents were not “avid Zionists”, their loyalty to Israel was strong. But even stronger than their loyalty to either Israel or Judaism was her family’s loyalty to peace.

“One year at Christmas/Hanukah time we refused to celebrate either holiday,” remembers Loewenstein. “Instead we made a ‘Peace Tree’ and celebrated our hope for peace.”

Her mother’s concern for peace was complemented by her struggle for civil rights. Loewenstein never forgets the day that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated because it devastated her mother so much.

Continue reading

Jennifer Loewenstein on KPFT 90.1 FM

Arab Voices, KPFT 90.1 FM, September 26, 2012

mp3 audio file

Jennifer Loewenstein

Political activist and Faculty Associate in Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is an expert on contemporary Middle East: history, politics, culture, religion, and U.S. foreign policy in the region. She is a freelance journalist, a human rights activist, volunteer for the Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, and founder of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project. In 2010 Jennifer received ADC’s Rachel Corrie Award.

Topics

The ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine and its effects on the Palestinians, the recent verdict by an Israeli court about the murder of Rachel Corrie, the U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East, Romney’s recent comments about the Palestinians, the Arab uprisings, and more.


Arab Voices is an independent radio talk show that has been broadcasting live every Wednesday since April 2002 on KPFT Radio (Pacifica Station), 90.1 FM in Houston and 89.5 FM in Galveston. The show also broadcasts live worldwide on the Internet at www.kpft.org or at www.ArabVoices.net.

Jennifer Loewenstein on Progressive Radio News Hour

Progressive Radio News Hour, Jun 12th, 2011

Jennifer Loewenstein teaches at the University of Wisconsin and is Associate Director of its Middle East Studies Program. She’s also a board member of the Israeli Coalition against House Demolitions-USA branch, founder of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and a freelance journalist.

Libya, Occupied Palestine and other Middle East issues will be discussed.

April 2, 2011
Palestine Panel at the National Lawyers' Guild Conference

National Lawyers’ Guild Regional Conference Panels
University of Wisconsin Law School
975 Bascom Mall, Madison
3:00 – 4:15 pm: Piecing Together Peace: Countering Israeli Apartheid Through Action

Featuring Jennifer Loewenstein, UW Professor, and a speaker from Minnesota’s Break the Bonds Campaign, an organization calling for the state of Minnesota to support the breaking of economic ties with the state of Israel.

A full schedule is available here.

Did UW-Madison campus Hillel ‘freak out’?

Hard questions were asked about speaker’s views toward Israel

Bill Lueders, Isthmus, May 6, 2010

Steve Horn admits he was drawn to bringing in a Palestinian speaker to a campus-based celebration of Israel in part because he “didn’t want to be part of propaganda.”

Horn, a UW-Madison junior majoring in political science and legal studies, is a member of Kavanah, a liberal-leaning student group that operates under the auspices of the UW’s Hillel Foundation. Hillel, serving the campus Jewish community, sponsored a weeklong series of events in mid-April to celebrate Israel’s independence; Horn was a member of the event’s planning committee.

In late March, Horn was approached about sponsoring an appearance by Jad Isaac, a Palestinian academic from Bethlehem. Isaac, whom the Quakers were bringing to Chicago for other events, agreed to come to Madison on April 21 to give a talk at the UW about water rights in the West Bank.

“He’s a well-known scholar on environmental issues in Israel and Palestine,” says Horn. “I was pretty excited.”

Horn approached Hillel about providing a room for the event and using money earmarked for Kavanah to cover some costs. An April 8 email from a Hillel staffer to Horn suggests it’s a done deal, asking what equipment is needed and mentioning an agreement to pay for Isaac’s hotel room.

On April 12, Horn was summoned by Hillel to a “crucial meeting,” where he says he was peppered with questions about Isaac’s views. The next morning, Horn got an email from Inbal Unger, Hillel’s director of Jewish student life, itemizing “the details I would need to know in order to proceed with this program.”

Among these was whether Isaac’s talk would include “any pro-Israel points” and “positive” things about Israel. The email asked: “Does he support Israel’s right to exist?” and “Does he believe in a two-state solution?” It also wondered whether Isaac might feel “unease” to appear as part of a celebration of Israel’s independence.

Horn emailed these questions to his contact with the Quakers in Chicago. “Hillel is freaking out a bit about Jad coming,” he related. “I apologize for their paranoia.” He says the contact tried talking to Hillel, to no avail.

Greg Steinberger, Hillel’s executive director, agrees some “hard questions” were asked about Isaac’s visit but says the main concerns came from other members of Kavanah, who in the end “stepped away from the program Steve planned in their name.”

David Meshoulam, a board member at Kavanah, and group president Eric Salitsky confirm this. “This event was handled poorly from the beginning,” says Meshoulam. “There was a lot of miscommunication.”

In the end, a compromise was struck to have the Quakers sponsor Isaac’s speech and for Kavanah to book a room in the Humanities Building, where he spoke to about 20 people. Hillel also let the group use some of its funds to take Isaac to dinner, but did not pay for his hotel or other event costs.

“I didn’t hear that anyone’s voice was stifled,” says Meshoulam, adding that Kavanah members “feel comfortable in openly criticizing Israel. It’s how we position ourselves within Hillel.” The real concern was whether the speech should be part of the larger celebration: “If Jad had come on a different week, none of this would have happened.”

But Horn, an opinion writer at the Badger Herald, says this and similar dustups show that Hillel “doesn’t allow open and honest dialogue on the Israel-Palestine issue to take place within its walls. Every time a proposal is brought forth that involves a critique of Israeli policies, hysteria unfolds.” He says such concerns don’t arise when speakers are aggressively pro-Israel.

Continue reading