The ISISlamic Debate

Much has been said recently as to whether or not the Islamic State is Islamic. President Obama explicitly said in September that “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’” The White House referred to ISIS as “violent extremists” rather than “Islamic extremists”. One hundred and twenty Muslim scholars wrote an open letter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, accusing ISIS of misinterpreting Islamic law in order to justify horrific acts of violence, and arguing that not only does ISIS not represent Muslims, but that it isn’t at all Islamic (Ortega). Dar al-Ifta, a leading Islamic authority in Egypt, has even requested a change of name from ISIS to QSIS — “al-Qaeda Separatists in Iraq and Syria,” in order to reject the “stereotypes that attach the name of Islam to bloody and violent acts committed by such groups” (Taylor).

On February 16, 2015, Graeme Wood said in no uncertain terms that the “reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic.” In his 10,000-word cover story in The Atlantic, “What ISIS Really Wants,” Wood claims that the “religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam,” and while nearly all Muslims can and do reject ISIS, “pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it” (81). Wood’s article created a ripple in the media and inspired a flurry of response pieces, many taking issue with his claim of ISIS being Islamic.

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The Problem with Zero Tolerance

Parker Rice and Levi Pettit were expelled on March 10 from the University of Oklahoma, two days after the two were filmed leading their Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity members in a racist chant on a bus. Many on the bus, including Rice and Pettit, repeatedly sang, “There will never be a nigger at SAE, you can hang them from a tree, but they’ll never sign with me.”

The expulsion of these students is problematic. Whether we agree with the expulsion or not — and despite first amendment issues that exist — expelling these students for a racist chant creates a zero tolerance standard that will be too complex and almost impossible to uphold across the board. Continue reading

Dear 18-Year-Old Omri: Happy Enlistment

You get on the bus. It’s just for show, the bus only takes you about 200 meters into Tel Hashomer Base; you and all the others enlisting with you can just as easily walk. But it means something to get on that bus, for your family to see you doing it. It’s the last time they’ll see you as a civilian. You’ll come home that night or the following week or month in uniform. A soldier. You look behind you and smile, then you take a seat.

Omri Enlistment Bus

You come home that night and the uniform you have on is green and crisp and new. You look awkward wearing it. You’re not really a soldier, not yet, only by name. I look at this picture of you thirteen years later and there’s so much you don’t know, so much I want to tell you to make the following years easier for you. To put you more at ease. The truth is, I don’t remember you at that age anymore. I don’t remember what you were like. I don’t know how much of you was you back then, and how much of you was built over the following two or five or even eight years.

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War Stories

The soldier sat on a hill and assembled his missile. It was daylight, but he could do it in pure darkness just as easily and just as fast. His crewmate — who also served as his best friend and missile spotter — had been complaining quietly about his girlfriend the entire morning, but was now silent as he handed the soldier the pieces he needed, one by one. They had done this many times before; no words were necessary. The soldier’s commander knelt three steps behind them, checking radio communications. The soldier finished setting up the missile, pressed his eye into the viewfinder and quickly oriented himself within the Palestinian city of Nablus of the West Bank in Israel. He found the cafe where the terrorist was scheduled to be, according to good intelligence. This would be the most difficult and complicated shot he had ever taken; shooting the missile from one-and-a-half kilometers through electricity wires and poles, through the window of the cafe, and into the number one terrorist of Hamas. They all waited. Fifteen minutes later the terrorist entered the coffee shop and sat near the window. The soldier switched the safety off of the missile and waited for the green light to fire. Continue reading

Glorifying Inaction

This is in response to an article in the New York Times by Moriel Rothman-Zecher, titled “Why I Won’t Serve Israel,” where he explains in detail why he won’t serve in the IDF:

I have a problem with people who glorify inaction. I take issue with those who point out a problem and offer no solution. People who claim to act out of ideology and belief, when those things are only disguising selfishness. This is my problem with Moriel Rothman-Zecher and his article, “Why I Won’t Serve Israel.”

I used to have an extremely harsh attitude towards those who didn’t enlist in the military. I wouldn’t speak to them because I couldn’t accept them breaking the social contract we were all born into and that existed between us. I gave my sweat and blood, almost my life, so they can be safe. So they can go to malls and ride on buses and not blow up. That’s not an abstract notion, it’s literal. But you’re not allowed to live in our country under the safety and freedom I, and every other soldier, provide, and not extend the same courtesy. That’s not how our system works, whether you believe in that system or not. Continue reading

What I Learned from Getting Kicked in the Head — 25.12.13

I always thought that when I die, I would want it to happen slowly. Maybe not cancer slowly, but nevertheless to have those few minutes before I die to understand that this is the end. To know that I spent my whole life wondering how it would end, and now I know. I’m a true storyteller: I need to know how the story ends. To spend my whole life wondering how I’m going to die and then to not find out seems unsatisfactory. I want to be able to reflect on my life. I want to have a last thought and say it out loud if there is anyone there to hear it. To go through the process of slipping away. To understand, finally, what dying means. But getting kicked in the head changed all that.

I arrived early at Krav Maga to spar with Nils. We went three rounds and I wasn’t at my best. I remember us touching gloves and saying, “Last round.” The next thing I remember is a floating sensation. White light focusing in on fluorescents. Nils sitting me up and taking my gear off and me saying, “What? No, we can keep going.” Then asking the same three questions in a loop for twenty minutes: “What happened? I got knocked out? Did anybody see?” I had lost consciousness for three seconds; I had been knocked out. Someone offered to drive me to the ER. I said I had to go to an NYU plenary lecture and I went. I made my way to the ER five hours later and found out I had a concussion. Continue reading

Birthday Reflections on a Bike Ride — 25.10.2013

It’s one degree out but the sun is shining and the air is crisp. I’m riding my bike on the West Side Highway going north towards the George Washington Bridge, to one of my favorite spots in NYC: right after the underpass of the bridge, up a steep heel, there’s an opening on the left hand side with a view of the bridge, the river, the trees, the skyline, filled with only the sound of silence. I listen to Roar by Katy Perry as I ride. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love this song.

This is the first bike ride of my thirties. Everything I did yesterday, I did for the last time in my twenties, and everything I do today, I’m doing for the first time in my thirties. Ten years ago I turned twenty. I had just come back from Boston where I visited my very first girlfriend and we had broken up. I had spent six months in the Navy Seals at that point but was dropped a crew, so I had four months to spend at home. I had all of the army and training in front of me. A lot of fears and unknown. For my birthday we went to see Mystic River. Continue reading

Rough Diamond

It’s the last inning of your Little League baseball game with two outs and your team needs a hit to win. You’re next to bat but before you step to the plate, the coach tells you he’s subbing you out for Adam, the team star, so he can win the game.

Your dad runs over from the sidelines and tells the coach it isn’t right. Tells him to give you a chance and let you bat. He raises his voice and causes a scene. You feel embarrassed. Continue reading

Israeli vs American Politics

Originally published by Under the Arch, October 2014.

A few weeks ago an NYU student commented to a mutual friend that I was very “right wing.” I’m Israeli and the comment was made after a discussion among myself and other American students about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. No one in Israel had ever pegged me on the right side of the Israeli political spectrum (which on a military scale, left might mean more dovish and right more hawkish), which led me to wonder why the spectrum is different in New York than it is in Tel Aviv.

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Reflections on a Chicken Nuggets Box

On the north east corner of 35th street and sixth avenue, lies an empty Chicken Nuggets Box. It has just recently been dropped, it seems. People are walking by and around, taking care not to step on it. A heavyset man in a baseball cap is the first one to step directly on it and keep moving. After that a domino effect kicks in and the box is stepped on and kicked. A small Asian man, a little kid in a hoodie, a woman on her phone.

We’re almost at 36th street now. A blonde woman in a business suit kicks the box across the sidewalk next to a line of people waiting for the bus. It looks like the box is just waiting for the bus like everyone else. As if the bus will come and the Chicken Nuggets Box will get on after the old lady in front of him and swipe his metro card and ride the bus back home to his family of Chicken Nuggets Boxes. His mother will clean him up and bathe him and scrub all the shoe filth off of him and pop his corners back up until he looks fresh and good as new. She’ll tuck him into bed and tell him she loves him and that tomorrow will be a better and brighter day. She’ll kiss him and close the lights and the Chicken Nuggets Box will forget that he spent twenty minutes of the day getting kicked around by people. Continue reading