Monday, March 25, 2019

O’Rourke says special relationship with Israel goes against US values of equality and dignity

Philip Weiss onMarch 22, 2019
On Wednesday night, Beto O’Rourke spoke at the University of New Hampshire and said that Palestinian conditions don’t meet American values of “fundamental human rights and human dignity” and that the relationship with Israel is hurting America’s image in the world.
Asked if he would condemn Israeli, Saudi and Turkish human rights violation, O’Rourke said:
These truths that we hold so dear — that we are all created equal– “all of us” needs to mean, “All of us,” not relationships of convenience for short term security gains but relationships that allow us to continue to be the example for so much of the rest of the world. And we cannot be that if we do not believe in the fundamental human rights and human dignity and safety of our fellow human beings regardless of what side of the line they may stand or sit on.
The only way that I know that we can help to secure that in the Middle East specifically with the Palestinian Authority and Israel is to have two states whose people are guaranteed their security, their safety, their dignity and their political rights. Right now of course we do not have that.
O’Rourke was responding to a Palestinian-American woman. “As an American who stands for the ideals that this country was supposedly built on, dignity justice and equality, I really want those ideals to be seen in Israel and Palestine for both Palestinians and Israelis,” she said, and then went on to ask O’Rourke if he would “hold Israel accountable for its human rights and international law violations,” as well as Turkey and Saudi Arabia too. She was cheered by the crowed.
Then O’Rourke went on for a couple of minutes in this by the questioner.
Thank you for your questions and the way in which you posed them and the context that you provided for everyone here. You’re right, we’ve got this opportunity to live our values. And these truths that we hold so dear, that we are all created equal. All of us needs to mean, All of us, not relationships of convenience for short term security gains but relationships that allow us to continue to be the example for so much of the rest of the world. And we cannot be that if we do not believe in the fundamental human rights and human dignity and safety of our fellow human beings regardless of what side of the line they may stand or sit on.
The only way that I know that we can help to secure that in the Middle East specifically with the Palestinian Authority and Israel is to have two states whose people are guaranteed their security, their safety, their dignity and their political rights. Right now of course we do not have that. And we have problems on both sides. I don’t know that we have a willing partner on the part of the Palestinian Authority.
I know that in Prime Minister Netanyahu we have someone who has openly sided with racists in that country, someone who has warned about Arabs coming to the polls, someone who seeks to exploit division and fear and hatred, that is not somebody who is negotiating in good faith.
When I visited the West Bank and met a young woman perhaps your age… What surprised me when I was talking to her about a two state solution is that she said I don’t care. Whether it’s one state or two state, I want to be treated with dignity. I don’t want to be patted down and searched every time I go to work or try to go to school. I just want to live like everyone else just wants to live.
We are about to lose the last best chance for a two-state solution. On one side wee are changing the facts on the ground. If we continue to allow settlement construction and expansion. On the other side, we are going to fail an opportunity for good faith and good will to make sure that we can guarantee the security of the Israeli people.
So, dignity, safety and security for all concerned, that has to be our policy and our actions have to follow suit.
The questioner later wrote on her Facebook page that O’Rourke had failed to answer her questions re Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, and refunding UNRWA.
While I am most definitely disappointed by Beto’s inability to answer my concise questions regarding UNRWA, BDS and accountability for our allies, I am glad that so many people in the audience during my question and after felt compelled to tell me that they also thought he didn’t answer the question and voiced their concern for the situation in Palestine as well. I am glad that the dignity and human rights is an important issue even to Americans who are disconnected from the conflict and I hope we can continue together to hold our politicians accountable and show them that we will not accept progressive politics that exclude Palestinians.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Letter to the Editor, Palestinians Do Exist


I read with interest Wednesday’s AJC DIGGING DEEPER article, “Mideast Conflict Flares up in Fulton School over Map,” with the subtitle, “Display Seems to Show Palestine Before Israel.”   The article was condemned as “a slight to Israel.” In other words, to simply acknowledge the existence of Palestinians raises sticky questions. The school Principal immediately apologized in spite of the fact that some of his students were Palestinian-Americans.  

Fifty years ago, Golda Meir said:

It was not as though there was a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country. They did not Exist.[i]

Which is exactly what they did and Israel has been singing her song ever since. However, the Palestinians are still there in spite of illegal settlements in the West Bank and the cruel occupation of Gaza.

Thomas Are
March 15, 2019

[i] Quoted in Sunday Times (June 15, 1969), also in The Washington Post. (June 16, 1969)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

My Palestinian Flag

Every Friday, I fly a Palestinian flag in front of my cottage. Have done so for years. My reward is that every now and then, someone will ask what its all about. Just last Friday, a delivery man recognized it and thanked me for showing it. Neither of us are Palestinian. He explained that he was just committed to justice and the injustice meted out against the Palestinians is blatant and well known.

While we praised each other, in Gaza, Israel killed two more young men.

Two Palestinian youths were killed by Israeli fire Friday during the weekly protest near the Israeli fence east of Gaza. Hasan Shalabi was killed by Israeli live fire to the chest. He was 14. Hamza Shtewi, 18 died after a shot in the neck. Another 17 Palestinians were shot while protesting along the fence including two journalist and four medics.

The report goes on to say:

Israeli forces shot tear gas canisters at an ambulance and sprayed demonstrators with chemically enhanced sewage water known as “skunk juice”. Palestinians have for nearly a year gathered weekly for unarmed protest since March 30, last year. Protesters are also asking Israel to end its 12 year blockade of its coastal strip.[i]

Two young men who could have become doctors or engineers and made a valuable contribution to life. Now, thanks to Israel, they are dead.

I cannot say that I am surprised. This kind of needless killing has been going on for decades. A big portion of my anger is directed toward our media. News reporters who stick their heads in the sand, more interested in pleasing their advertisers than in standing up for truth or justice.

So, in protest, I fly my flag and Palestinians continue to die at the hands of Israel and with the full support of my government.  But, every now and then, someone will stop and ask,”What kind of flag is that?” And I get to explain a little history.

Then, they will ask. ”Why don’t we hear about this on the news?” and I get to say, “Good Question.”

Thomas Are
February 14, 2019

[i] Two Palestinian teens Killed by Israel gunfire in Gaza on 46th Week of Protest.
Al Jazeera, Feb. 8, 2019.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Gangsters

Let’s be clear. Who are the gangsters? Who simply chooses to ignore even its own laws when it is convenient to do so?

The Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory clearly states:

An occupying power cannot transfer civilian population to an occupied territory, and is considered illegal.

Sounds pretty clear: Israel’s settlements are totally illegal. But, in Israel, unlike any other government in the world, if you don’t like a law, just ignore it.  Kids playing on the beach at Tel Aviv have no idea that just about an hour’s drive across the way, their government is keeping millions of people locked up behind cement barrows and barbed wire fences so they cannot get out and be noticed. Of course they could know if they chose to, but lying to themselves is the only way to live conscience free. It’s a gang mentality, a group of people who join forces to bully others and to offer each other a rationale for their lawless racketeering, according to Webster...

So, Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes, uproot their olive trees, lock up their children in military prisons, steal Palestinian water and land, while all the time hoping that by keeping them behind a wall will keep the world from knowing or caring.

However, my major concern is not with Israel. Israel is its own problem.  My anger is with my own country, the United States, which continues to support Israel’s atrocities to the tune of billions of dollars every year, continues to veto U.N. resolutions condemning Israel’s crimes, and all the time hoping a wall will keep the world from knowing.

When I speak or write about Israel, my friends ask, is there any hope?  The answer is “yes.” The gangsters do not intimidate the younger Jews in America or the younger Jews in Israel who are no longer dead locked in covering up for Israel as were their parents.  I call that hope.

Thomas Are
February 2, 2019

Friday, December 21, 2018

Blind Injustice

Trump said,

            If you want to know how effective walls are, just ask Israel.
And boy, oh boy is he right. Israel survives by walls. One huge wall snaking down through Palestinian West Bank, separating doctors and patients from their hospitals, children and teachers from their schools and farmers from their fields. The problem with walls is always what happens to the people on the other side of the wall, the people we don’t see.

In the West Bank, it means having their water stolen, olive trees up-rooted, their children imprisoned and frequently tortured and because it all takes place behind the wall, who is to object? Certainly not Benjamin Netanyahu or Donald Trump.

Albert Einstein said:

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.[i]

Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

Why is this so devastating?

Palestinians in the West Bank face – on a regular basis – violence meted out by both soldiers and settlers, long waits at checkpoints, travel restrictions, home demolitions, theft of natural resources, unfair economic practices, arbitrary detention and arrest, long prison sentences, and countless other forms of humiliation.[ii]

Even worse is Gaza, with sewage running through the streets, electricity cut off for twenty hour a day, water too contaminated to drink and the ever-present threat of bombs from fighter jets, tanks and off shore gun boats, anything Israel can do to make life in Gaza more miserable. And of course, it’s all done behind the wall, so who is to know?

I do not hold Trump responsible for creating the misery in Palestine, but I do hold him responsible for not caring and for not doing anything to bring injustice to an end, especially when it is on the other side of the wall and out of sight.  

Yet, that is precisely what Trump wants for us, the U.S.  Build a wall against Mexico. To hell with the unfortunates on the other side of the wall.  Keep ‘em out of sight and who cares?

Well, to Trump’s chagrin, many people feel that we have a responsibility to care and to hold our elected officials accountable. We owe it to one another to not let injustice be swept under the rug. 

Thomas Are
December 21, 2018

[i] Richard Hardigan, The Other Side of the Wall, Cune Press, Seattle, 2018, p. 12.
[ii] Richard Hardigan, The Other Side of the Wall, Cune Press, Seattle, 2018, p. 10.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Speaking Out

Robert Reich said

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”[1] 

Although Reich was writing about the Civil Rights movement in the U. S., I immediately thought of the people of Gaza 

Is there any thinking person in America who has not heard of Gaza and the cruelty our government supports there to the tune of $3.1 billion a year? Then are we not the good people who are silent?  Of course, that raises the question, if we are really good people, how can we remain silent.  My friend says, “Well, it just doesn’t affect me. Why should I get involved?”

Why? Because we are involved. Our government and our tax monies go to supporting the oppression and we will levy a price on anyone who challenges our “right” to do so.

The headline reads:

CNN fires Marc Lamont Hill in wake of Remarks Criticizing Israel and Calling for a “free Palestine.”[2]

As soon as Hill spoke to the UN supporting the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, he was cast as antisemitic and fired.

Cornel West, Harvard professor, philosopher, author, critic and civil rights activist, writes:

No one gets closer to peace by silencing voices critical of a lethal status quo. We need a candid debate about the grim catastrophe unfolding in Israel.[3]

I have never had much respect for CNN and probable never will as long as Wolfe Blitzer is their star, But I do have hopes in the millions of Jews around the world who out of self-respect are not guided by fear but speak out in expressing their time-honored faith in a vision of peace and justice for all.

Thomas Are
December 12, 2018              

[1]Robert B. Reich, The Common Good Are we not the good people who are silent? Good, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2018, p 38.
[2] Eli Rosenberg, CNN fires Marc Lamont Hill in wake of remarks criticizing Israel and calling for a “free Palestine”, November 29, 2018.
[3] Cornel West, Why did CNN fire a pro-Palestinian Commentator?   Dec. 4, 2018.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


From Truman to Trump, we have never had an American president to speak with integrity when calling for peace in the Middle East.

What was it?  Eleven minutes? And Truman was falling all over himself to be the first national president to “recognize” the new state of Israel.  Never mind the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who had their homes, freedom and livelihood taken from them by force. Truman celebrated “peace” in Israel.

Even a child will shout, “It’s not fair,” when forced to accept tranquility without regard to justice. When Donald Trump casually announced Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, totally ignoring the historic, emotional and religious claims of Jerusalem as their national capital, even children will respond, “It’s not fair.”

Not only that. It is not going to work. In spite of what Trump and Netanyahu wish, Palestinians are not going to just disappear. Even with the more than three billion dollars a year the U.S. sends to Israel to enforce the repression of Palestinian rights, international law and human conscience is caught in a bind facing the unlawful occupation and oppression of another people.

Let us be honest, at least with ourselves. The United States has never been an “honest broker” when it comes to Israel. From Truman to Trump, we have acted more like Israel’s defense attorney while ignoring the endless building of more and more settlement in the West Bank and Israel’s repeated bombardment of Gaza, including the destruction of sewage treatment plants, rendering what little water they have undrinkable.

In the meantime, Israeli snipers are firing live ammunition into crowds of unarmed demonstrators at the border, having already killed hundreds and wounded thousands.

What sickens me the most is that from Truman to Trump, every American president has chosen to ignore this blatant injustice and the American news media has chosen to look the other way.

Thomas Are
November 27, 2018