Saturday, December 12, 2009

We Best Remember

I can’t believe in a God who kills innocent babies, (Exodus 12:29) and who “hardens Pharaoh’s heart” so that he can send more plagues (Exodus 11:10). I don’t believe in a God who chooses one people to bless and others to curse (Genesis 12:3). And having said just that much, there are those who will say, “But, Tom, those accounts are not meant to be taken literally.” I agree, but then why in heaven’s name do we allow our government to support Israel in bombing the hell out of the innocent people of Lebanon and Gaza? Why do we let Israel, with the support of the Christian Right, get away with brutal crimes against the Christians and Muslims of Palestine on the basis that “God gave all that land to the Jews?”

I can’t support a church that takes little snippets of the Bible from here and there to wave a theology that makes God discount the human rights of many of his people just so Jesus can come again to his throne in Jerusalem. I have no respect for preachers who “host” large groups on holy land tours and take great pride in showing where Jesus walked while ignoring what Jesus taught and its relevance to the painful situation imposed upon the people of Bethlehem, Hebron, Qalqiliya, Ramallah and Gaza City, all in the name of God.

I also admit that I am not as offended by sexist language which refers to God as “he” as I ought to be. Yet, I struggle with the Zionists language that makes no distinction between ancient Israel and the modern state. It is hard for me to pray to the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” or sing “O Come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.”

I ask myself, if the church will not speak out for justice, who will?

While I am spouting off, I am also disappointed in my political party. On January 9th, this year, the 14th day of the war on Gaza, Nancy Pelosi sponsored a bill “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza.” This was just a few days after UNICEF estimated that 800,000 Gazans did not have running water and a million were living without electricity.[1] What about the Palestinian’s right to defend themselves against attacks from Israel? Hillary Clinton falls all over herself praising Israel for “slowing” the construction of illegal settlements without one thought to what the confiscation of lands, destruction of homes and uprooting of orchards are doing to the Palestinians whose country Israel illegally occupies. Even Barack Obama makes a speech to the AIPAC pledging undying support for Israel, without a word of concern for justice for the Palestinians.

Some world leader, I don’t remember who, said, “If I kill one or two, it’s called murder. If I kill thousands, it’s just a statistic.” Israel is counting on that. Who remembers statistics? Who remembers that Israel broke the cease fire negotiated with Hamas by invading Gaza during the night of November 4th and killed six Palestinians? (The very night that most Americans and much of the world were watching the U.S. presidential election returns.) And who will remember that Israel started the war against the people of Gaza precisely at the time when children were getting out of school and its first bombs targeted a class of police trainees.

If the world will just keep on looking the other way, Israel will, in the words of Benny Morris finish the job of expulsion begun in 1948. In spite of the fact that Israel banned reporters from Gaza during its assault on 1.5 million defenseless human beings, the word got out.

Peace negotiations have been going on for more than forty years and the unfailing constant has been increased settlements, assassinations of Palestinian leaders, hunger caused by the blockade of food, medical supplies cooking gas, repair parts for water and sanitation systems, and electricity. (In June, 2006, Israel fired nine missiles into the transformers at the Gaza City Power Plant, the only electric power plant in the Occupied territories.)[2]

Every peace proposal leaves Israel in control of “the borders around them, movement between them, the air above them and the water below them.” [3]

David Bromwich, professor at Yale says, “You cannot bomb a people into partnership. You can’t obliterate a people into a just and lasting peace. You cannot drive deep into their consciousness the knowledge that they are a defeated people and when you have finished your education through violence, come to them as moral and political equals with yourself.”[4]

And, who will remember that just two years ago Israel bombed large parts of Lebanon into rubble, leaving tens of thousands homeless.

Well, we best remember. If there is ever to be peace in the Middle East and security in America, we must remember. How long will it take us to connect the dots between our governments unconditional support of Israel and the terrorist reaction of Islamic fundamentalist?

Thomas L. Are
December 12, 2009
[1] Robert Bryce, Gaza Invasion: Powered by the U.S., “Salon”, January 31, 2009.
[2] Robert Bryce, Gaza, Powered by the U.S., “Salon,” January 31, 2009.
[3] John J. Mearshiemer, Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago, Another War, Another Defeat, World News Views, January 17, 2009.
[4] David Bromwich, Professor of Literature at Yale, Self-Deception and the Assault on Gaza, The Huffington Post, January 18, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Goldstone Report

Just say it isn’t so, and the truth of Israel’s brutal assault on the unarmed civilians of Gaza is erased… like it never happened.

Judge Richard Goldstone, of South Africa led the United Nations Human Rights Council fact-finding mission to investigate war crimes committed in Gaza last winter by both Israel and Hamas. His credentials include a U.N. investigation into the war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda. He led an inquiry into the war crimes in Kosovo and had uncovered Nazi war criminals hiding in Argentina. He was an excellent choice and universally respected.

Yet, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his speech to the United Nations, was visibly angered with Richard Goldstone in spite of the fact that he is Jewish, a member of the board of the Hebrew University and a Zionist. While Goldstone accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes most of the indictment was directed toward Israel. Unable to tolerate the least criticism of anything Israel does, Netanyahu declared the report biased and unjust. Israel, he said, only acted in self-defense. “We warned them to get out, that the bombs were coming.” He was obviously speaking for the American audience. The delegates of the U.N. knew better. There was no place for the Palestinians to go. Israel had sealed the borders, locking in 1.5 million people in one of the most densely populated corners on the globe.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu’s claim of innocence was enough for 344 members of the House of Representatives to vote to kill the Report. And, as always, our State Department condemned the report as being unfair to Israel. Only 37 brave souls were more committed to the facts than to their AIPAC supporters and stood up for a through investigation of last winter’s one sided war against the people of Gaza.

Goldstone defended himself with Bill Moyers, “The only thing they can be afraid of is the truth. And I think this is why they’re attacking the messenger and not the message.” He reported that a “war” waged on an entire population was collective punishment against a people under occupation and that Israel had used its army, navy and air force to blast mosques, hospitals, schools, factories, water plants and sanitation facilities. Goldstone accused Israeli soldiers of shooting unarmed civilians who posed no threat, of shooting people whose hands were shackled behind them, of firing on ambulances and destroying thousands of homes.[1] He explained:

One thing one cannot say about the Israeli Defense Forces is that they make too many mistakes. They’re a very sophisticated army. And if they attack a mosque or attack a factory, and over 200 factories were bombed, there is just no basis to ascribe that to error. That must be intentional.

I don’t accept that the destruction of the food infrastructure is necessary to fight terrorism from Gaza.

I saw the destruction of the only flour-producing factory in Gaza. I saw fields plowed up by Israeli tank bulldozers. I saw chicken farms, for egg production, completely destroyed. Tens of thousands of chickens killed. I met with families who lost their loved ones in homes in which they were seeking shelter from the Israeli ground forces. I had to have the very emotional and difficult interviews with fathers whose little daughters were killed, whose families were killed. One family, over 21 members, killed by Israeli mortars. So, it was a very difficult investigation, which will give me nightmares for the rest of my life.

All in all, Gaza was left devastated: 22,000 buildings bombed, 1400 killed, many of them children, (Israel lost 13 including those who died by “friendly fire), thousands wounded, children traumatized and parents feeling helpless to protect them. Goldstone saw its aftershock. I wonder how many of our representatives who voted to declare his report irresponsible had been there to see anything.

It is amazing how certain we are of the things we know so little about. But, our 344 representatives had AIPAC to guide their vote so there was no need for an investigation. Netanyahu had already declared Israel innocent. Israel using "disproportionate force" and "deliberately targeting civilians"? Please, just say it isn’t so.

Thomas L. Are
November 24, 2009

[1] See Bill Moyers Journal, October 23, 2009.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jews Rethink Israel

After every conversation concerning Israel/Palestine, the question arises. Is it getting any better? Is there any hope?

Well, not from the prospect of those of us who live in the United States. We have a biased media which, for whatever reason, seldom even acknowledges the real problem of occupation and brutality. We have a gutless government afraid of AIPAC and its powerful lobby, and we hear on television day and night the idiotic and unbiblical views of the Christian Zionist who tell us that Jesus cannot come again until Jerusalem is purged of non-Jews and the temple rebuilt. There are days when it seems as though there is no hope.

However, something is changing that may have a most significant effect on Israel’s imperialism. That is the changing attitude of the American Jew.

For many years, I have tried to pay attention to the American Jewish writers who were seeking to hold Israel to the moral standards of their Jewish faith and theology. My reading was limited to Marc Ellis, Michael Lerner and Noam Chomsky. In spite of their heart felt attachment to biblical Israel and the security of identity, these powerful critics kept calling Israel to accountability. In previous blogs, I have referred to each of them. Typical is Michael Lerner, editor of the leading Jewish magazine, TIKKUN:

Israel’s attempt to regain control of the refugee camps by denying food to hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, by raiding homes and dragging out their occupants in the middle of the night to stands for hours in the cold, by savagely beating a civilian population and breaking its bones---these activities are deplorable to any civilized human being. That they were done by a Jewish state is both tragic and inexcusable.[1]

This Jewish writer amazed me. Then I read Marc Ellis:

Can Jewish Israelis continue to torture and kill Palestinian youth ad infinitum? Can North American Jews continue to support these horrible acts?[2]

Noam Chomsky was more specific in spelling out Israeli atrocities.[3]

All of these were writing twenty to twenty-five years ago.

These leaders spoke to me but they seemed to make little impact upon their own Jewish community which continued to give Israel a pass on any treatment of its neighbors, no matter how abusive.

Now, suddenly, Ellis, Lerner and Chomsky have company. There are more Jewish writers than I can keep up with, such as:

Joel Kovel, who writes on the very first page of his book, Overcoming Zionism, published in 2007, “I write this book in fury about Israel and the unholy complicity of the United States and its Jewish community that grants it impunity” He goes on to condemn Israel’s theology and practice for its imperialist behavior.

Normal Finkelstein seeking to cut through the myth of ‘Purity of Arms,’ quotes the former director of the Israeli army archives, “In almost every Arab village occupied by us during the War of Independence, acts were committed which are defined as war crimes, such as murder, massacres, and rapes.”[4]

Tanya Reinhart writes, “Israel can continue to imprison the Palestinians, to bombard them from the air, deprive them of the means of substance, steal their land in the West Bank --- and still be hailed as the peacemaker in the Israel-Palestine conflict.”[5]

Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian writes, “The 1948 War of Independence involved one of the largest forced migrations in modern history. Around a million people were expelled from their homes at gunpoint, civilians were massacred, and hundreds of Palestinian villages destroyed. Denied for almost six decades, had it happened today it could only have been called ‘ethnic cleansing’”.[6]

Last Saturday, I attended a conference in Atlanta and met Mark Braverman, the grandson of a fifth-generation Palestinian Jew who spoke of the “civil war” taking place in the hearts of many Jews, a war between their love for Israel and their recognition of the price paid by Palestinians for Israel’s “right to exist.” Growing up in Pennsylvania, he visited family in Israel for the first time as a teenager and was devastated by what he saw. After holding that pain inside for decades, with courage and scholarship, Braverman writes about Israel’s destruction of Palestine. “A growing number of Jews in Israel and outside the state see this, and for us the effect has been shattering; the shock, horror, and crisis of identity I experienced as a Jew witnessing the crimes being committed in my name are not unique.”[7]

I scratch my head and think, Wow, what is going on?

Then, the latest issue of THE NATION features as its cover story: American Jews Rethink Israel:

This year has seen a dramatic shift in American Jews’ attitudes toward Israel. In January many liberal Jews were shocked by the Gaza war, in which Israel used overwhelming force against a mostly defenseless civilian population unable to flee. Then came the rise to power of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, whose explicitly anti-Arab platform was at odds with an American Jewish electorate that had just voted 4 to 1 for a minority president. Throw in angry Israeli writings about the “rot in the Diaspora,” and it’s little wonder young American Jews feel increasingly indifferent about a country that has been at the center of Jewish identity for four decades.[8]

All this is new. Several years ago, I was invited to speak about the history of Zionism to a study group in Jacksonville, Florida. I had just begun when suddenly I was interrupted by a loud and dynamic voice. “Politics! This is all your politics and I resent it. I have a Jewish friend and if he were here, you would not be saying these things.”

He may have been right. I may have been intimidated if there were a Jew sitting in the room. However. I would have been wrong to be silent. What Israel was doing then and is still doing now is wrong and we are equally wrong to remain silent while it’s being done.

These authors are brave and they pay a great emotional and personal price for speaking out even when their concerns are for and not against Israel. They need our support.

Also, there are many authorities on Middle East affairs who tell us that unless something is done to curb Israel’s expansionism, Israel may be dragging us into a long disastrous war with the Muslim world that we are not going to win.

By the way, Marc Ellis has just published a new book. Judaism Does Not Equal Israel, which I have not as yet had time to read.

Thomas L. Are
October 27, 2009

[1] Michael Lerner, The Occupation: Immoral and Stupid. Cited in: Rosemary Ruether and Marc Ellis, Beyond Occupation, (Beacon Press, Boston, 1990.) p. 99.
[2] Ibid., p.116.
[3] Check out his, The Fateful Triangle.
[4] Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israeli-Palestine Conflict. Second Edition, Verso, 2003,)
p. 110
[5] Tanya Reinhart, The Road Map to Nowhere, (Verso, 2006.) p. 143
[6] Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. (Oneworld, Oxford, England, 2007.) Jacket blurb.
[7] Mark Braverman, Fatal Embrace, (Synergy Books, 2010) p.25
[8] Adam Horowitz and Philip Weiss, American Jews Rethink Israel: A New Generation, and a New Lobby, Challenge Old Attitudes, The Nation, November 2, 2009. p.13.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

History (Part 4) - The Six Day War

The Question omitted by the media, never addressed by the politicians, and totally distorted by the Christian Right is: Whose land is it? All of these so called “authorities” on the matter of Israel/Palestine often proclaim, “Israel has offered to give land, (mostly small disconnected enclaves like city-states surrounded by Israel’s military), back to the Palestinians in exchange for the recognition of Israel’s right to all the rest of it including control of borders, air space and water. The question remains. When it comes to the West Bank and Gaza, Whose land is it?

The biggest myth concerning the occupied Palestinian territory is the claim that the Six Day War of 1967 was begun by Egypt and poor Israel only defended itself. Those who hold to the opinion that Israel was the victim claim to know more than some of Israel’s most respected leaders. For instance:

Yitzhak Rabin - “I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.”[1]

Mattiyahu Peled - Israeli General Staff - To pretend that the Egyptian forces massed on our frontiers were in a position to threaten the existence of Israel constitutes an insult not only to the intelligence of anyone capable of analyzing this sort of situation, but above all an insult to the Israeli Army.”[2]

Mortecai Bentov - Israeli Cabinet - 1972 - “Israel’s “entire story” about the “dangers of extermination” was “invented” of whole cloth and exaggerated after the fact to justify the annexation of new Arab territories.” [3]

Menachem Begin - 1982 - “The Egyptian army concentrated on the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” [4]

Moshe Sharett - Former Prime Minister, writing years before '67 exposed the "defence/security" screen - “Israeli political and military leadership never believed in any insuperable Arab dangers to Israel. They sought to maneuver and force Arab states into military confrontations which the Zionist leadership were certain of winning so Israel could carry out the destabilization of Arab regimes and the planned occupation of additional territory.”[5]

Egypt was no threat. The U.N., the U.S., and Israel’s political leaders knew that Nasser had no intention of aggression but Israel had its excuse. Early Monday morning, June 5, 1967, Israeli jets flying low across the Mediterranean to avoid radar detection, turned south and struck the Egyptian air bases from Suez to Cairo. In less than three hours, the Israelis had broken the back of Egypt’s air force. By Wednesday, Israel had taken Jerusalem; then by Thursday, the Egyptians, who had fought a bloody battle in Suez and Gaza, surrendered. Three days later, Israel attacked the Golan Heights. By the end of the week, Israel’s occupation of Arab land was four times the size of Israel before the war. All the territory that had been allotted to the Palestinian Arab State by the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan was now under Israeli control.

During this war, Israel captured East Jerusalem, West Bank, the Golan Heights and Gaza Strip. Immediately the Israeli government and the fundamentalists, from Tel Aviv to Texas, referred to these occupied lands as “Judea and Samaria,” claiming some God endorsement for its actions. God outranks the Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.[6] At any rate, the results of this war left Israel with 78% of what had previously belonged to the Palestinians.

So, when we hear something like, “Israel, after being attacked by its Arab neighbors, only kept the land it needs to defend itself,” which is exactly what I heard someone say last week, we would do well to remember just whose land are we talking about.

Thomas L. Are
October 16, 2009
[1].Paul Finley, Deliberate Deceptions, Facing the Facts about the U.S., Israeli Relationship, (Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago,. 1993.) p. 36.
[2]. Clifford A. Wright, Facts and Fables: The Arab-Israeli Conflict, (Kegan Paul International, New York, 1989.) p.132.
[3].Paul Finley, Deliberate Deceptions, Facing the Facts about the U.S., Israeli Relationship, (Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago,. 1993.) p. 36.
[4].Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict, (Verso, London, 2003) p. 192
[5].Ralph Schoenman, The Hidden History of Zionism, (Veritas Press, Santa Barbara, California, 1988) p.59.
[6] Article 49 (1949) “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Netanyahu's Hilton Head

If it served his purpose, Netanyahu, the once again Prime Minister of Israel, could convince me that Hilton Head Island is a poverty stricken ghetto. After all, he would point out that when my county in North Georgia wanted to start a free medical clinic for those who had no insurance and little income, we went to Hilton Head to see how they helped their poverty stricken population. He would go on to declare that all over that Island homes are for sale and churches are offering food and clothes to those who live in poverty. The newspapers are full of work wanted ads and businesses are closing. Walk around Hilton Head and you will see teen agers in jeans with holes in the knees, AA operating full time and the streets full of people who have not worked at a job in years.

Apply Netanyahu logic and I am convinced. After all, he has the facts to build the case that Hilton Head is a poverty stricken ghetto. Then last week. I actually went to Hilton Head and saw what life there is really like. Wow. In spite of the fact that everything he could have said about Hilton Head is actually true, it is mostly a play ground for the super rich. The beaches are lined with multi-million dollar homes. Luxury yachts fill the harbors. Restaurants serve hundred dollar dinners for two and I could not count all the pristine golf courses.

What’s my point? Select the statistics and stories and you can paint even Hilton Head anyway you want it to be.

Now, what does that have to do with anything? I am frustrated by what I so often hear on the news and from right wing “Christian” pulpits about the Palestinians, such as: They are blood thirst terrorists. They are ungrateful, uncouth, unwashed and backward. All they want to do is destroy Israel and kill infidels. I even heard one news announcer say that the Palestinians have never had life so good as since Israel has been “helping” them. On and on it goes until the case is made that Palestinians are somewhat subhuman and nobody could live next door to them.

But, I have been there and the Palestinians are no more filled with hate than Hilton Head is filled with poverty. Palestinians are families seeking to give their children an adequate education, to offer them a degree of safety and dignity as they play in their own yard and to live a life free of bombs, assassinations, hunger, imprisonment and torture. Palestinians want the freedom to worship God without being denigrated and misrepresented by those who seek to remove them from their homes.

That is why I was so confused by Netanyahu’s speech to the United Nations. I realize that he was actually not speaking to the delegates, but to the American TV audience. The UN delegates knew him too well and they know the other side of the story. He actually compared the Hamas rockets that killed one person during the year leading up to the peace truce of last June to the Nazi blitz of British civilians during World War Two. (He failed to mention that 49 Palestinians were killed every month during that time by the IDF and settlers.) In describing Israel’s “care” in protecting the citizens of Gaza, he failed to mention the closures of the life line, denying food and medicines to desperate Palestinians. He presented the conflict as though it were a battle between two equal forces. He did not explain why Israel suffered 13 deaths, almost half by friendly fire, while more than 1400 Palestinians were killed, many of whom died a very painful death due to white phosphorus dropped on civilians by Israel.

Netanyahu even attacked the report of the UN Human Rights Fact Finding Mission appointed to investigate all violations of human rights laws in Gaza. While the Goldstone Report condemns the firing of rockets by Palestinian groups as “constituting war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity,” the weight of the report is focused on the actions of Israel:

NEW YORK/GENEVA – The UN Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone on Thursday released its long-awaited report on the Gaza conflict, in which it concluded there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity.[1]

The report includes facts that the prime minister would prefer that the American audience not hear, such as the deliberate firing on civilians, the shooting of families carrying white flags while trying to get to safer shelters, the bombing of hospitals and ambulances and locking Palestinians into buildings and blowing them up. One international human rights group after another accuses Israel of war crimes.

Palestinians are ordinary people, probably no better and no worse than the rest of us. But, in order to know that, you almost have to go there.

Thomas L.Are
October 8, 2009
[1] PRESS RELEASE, September 15, 2009, United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Israeli Road Signs

I haven’t seen anything about it in the mainstream media. I saw it first in a Middle East magazine:

The Cairo-based league of Arab States has denounced a July 13 decision by the Israeli Transportation Ministry to eliminate Arabic and English names of cities and towns on its signs and use only Hebrew ones.[1]

Israel says that replacing signs with Hebrew only names will take place gradually. However, already, all over Palestine road signs show Arabic names blacked out.

Such a program failed to catch the attention of the American television or newspaper news, but, it’s all over the internet.[2]

In a similar move in 1971, Golda Mier had the green lines, denoting the border separating Israel from Palestine, removed from all Israeli maps, even though her supporting justification stretched credibility. She declared:

It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine… and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.[3]

Today, Israel’s right wing Likud Party is doing everything it can to turn her illusion into a reality. Israel’s goal is far deeper than creating confusion for a returning Palestinians refugee. It is one more effort to wipe out an entire culture.

Few in America care that 2,500 Palestinian cities, towns and villages will have “Jewish only” names. In the meantime, tensions rise. Arabs living in Israel say, “The Minister errs if he thinks that word laundering can erase the Arabs existence in Israel and their link to the land.”

To Palestinians, it’s another major slap to their dignity. To us, we won’t even notice, except those preachers who take groups on Holy Land tours will no longer be able to escort them to the home of Jesus of Nazareth and feel that Biblical connection. From now on, he will be known as Jesus of Natsrat. To Israel, it’s just another fact on the ground.

Thomas Are
September 13, 2009

[1] Mohammed Omer, Israel’s Latest Attempt to Wipe Palestine Off the Map., The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September 2009, p.11.
[2] Google, Israel Changed Road Signs.
[3] Naim Ateek, Justice and Only Justice, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1989) p. 36

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rachel Corrie - A Trigger Event

In spite of being condemned by Amnesty International, International Red Cross, Save the Children, the International Court of Justice, it’s own B’Salam and such world leaders as Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu plus numerous Resolutions by the United Nations, Israel still does everything it can to make life miserable for the Palestinians: including bypass “For Jews Only” roads, checkpoints and closures, a separation wall, settlements, land and water confiscation, imprisonment, torture, home demolitions, brutality by military and settlers, and the theft of 77 percent of its lands, the issue of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is a taboo subject in the US. (Wow! What a sentence. It took up the whole paragraph. I just couldn’t find a place to put a period.)

We can talk about human rights violations in China or an out of control government in North Korea, but we can’t talk about Israel, either in the media, or Congress or from our pulpits.

People often ask, “What good does it do? You write your little blogs, show a heart wrenching video every chance you get and thank God for Jimmy Carter, but when you have done it all, nothing has changed.” I remember being asked that same question during the Viet Nam war. Yet, thousands of insignificant preachers in pulpits all across the US kept questioning the morality of continuing to sacrifice so many lives for such an uncertain cause. People, by the dozens would ask us, “What difference does all your preaching make?”

Then suddenly, a 1972 photograph appeared… just a picture of an absolutely terrified little girl, probably nine years old, completely naked, severely burned, and running from a napalm attack. That picture became a trigger event. Almost overnight, Americans turned against the war. But it wouldn’t have happened had not thousands upon thousands of ordinary people continued to declare their hopes for peace in spite of so many asking, “What good are you doing?”

Another example of “What good are you doing?” which sounds more like an accusation than a question, follows the multitude of white preachers and teachers who joined their black brothers and sisters in proclaiming the evils of segregation and discrimination. Then suddenly, Rosa Parks said, “I’m sorry, but I am tired and I am not going to move to the back of the bus.” Had it not been for those pulpits crying out for justice, she would have probably been simply arrested and the whole incident ignored by the media. However Rosa Parks became a trigger event following years of seemingly useless education.

Now, across the land, more and more ordinary people are beginning to speak up for the Palestinians. I had hopes that the story of Rachel Corrie would have become the trigger event to wake up America.

Rachel Corrie, a young human rights activist from Olympia, Washington dared to hope for a change. She went to Rafah in the Gaza Strip and joined a group dedicated to preventing the demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israeli military. Early afternoon, March 16, 2003, wearing a fluorescent jacket, she went out to face a sixty ton bulldozer with a seven pound bullhorn, somewhat like the student in Tiananmen Square. Only, she faced a Zionist, “chosen by God.” to steal someone else’s land. After stopping and considering his options, the driver revved up his 410 horsepower machine of destruction and crushed her to death. Rachel Corrie was 23 years old.

In the meantime, home demolitions continue in the seized territories, not by the dozens or even by the hundreds, but by the thousands, usually at night without warning with little time for the owners to salvage their belongings.

A month before her death, Rachel Corrie emailed home:

No amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it and even then you are always well aware that your experience is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face of they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells and, of course, the fact that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown., I have a home. I am allowed to see the ocean…”[1]

Two weeks later, she wrote:

I really can’t believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry about it. It really hurts me.[2]

So, Rachel Corrie became one more martyr for justice. The rest of us will keep on plugging away, asking others to join us while we wait for the trigger event that will change things in spite of those who keep asking, “What difference are you making?”

Thomas Are
August 28, 2009

[1] Huwaida Arraf, Rachel Corrie (1979-2003): An American Martyr for Palestine, Quoted in The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May 2003, p.13
[2] Ibid., p.12

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Last summer, I had an occasion to visit a synagogue. I had preached in protestant churches for forty-three years and had never attended a Jewish worship service. Well, that is not entirely true. When Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, the local synagogue invited the public to a memorial service, so I went. As you might imagine, it was a moving experience. But, I had never participated in a regular Sabbath day service.

So, I invited myself to attend Friday night worship with a Jewish friend. My biggest surprise was encountering two armed guards at the door. When my host saw me staring, somewhat in shock, at loaded pistols worn by greeters at a house of worship, he apologized. I said nothing, but I was thinking that the apology needed to come from my side. The thought that in Atlanta, in 2008, his pre-school daughters had to walk through armed guards, with weapons showing, in order to be safe in worship made me aware that anti-Semitism was not yet dead. I was embarrassed and later sent the synagogue a small check to help pay for those guards.

At the same time, I think the state of Israel, created as an answer to anti-Semitism, has become the cause and source of anti-Semitism’s revival. That insight is not original nor limited to me. Twenty years ago, Yehoshafat Harkabi, former Israeli Chief of Military Intelligence referring to Israel’s treatment of non-Jews, wrote:

Israel threatens not only Israel but Jews throughout the world. These actions weaken the Jew’s ability to defend themselves against anti-Semitism. It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish State, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also by Jews throughout the world. In the struggle against anti-Semitism, the front line begins in Israel.[1]

Just last month, Alan Hart, referring to Ariel Sharon’s harsh treatment of the Palestinians in an effort to break their will and crush their hope, referenced Harkabi’s fears, and wrote:

What Harkabi had feared could happen was happening. Israel’s “misconduct” was awakening the sleeping giant of anti-Semitism…The possibility of a new and virulent wave of anti-Semitism being provoked by Israel’s behaviour at some point in a foreseeable future was a real one.[2]

It’s time to admit that Zionism is a failure. Zionism was built upon the proposition that there was no place on earth where Jews could live in security. Thus, they needed their own theocratic state… in Palestine. The truth of the matter is that Jews then and now have lived all over the world in peace and security. Today about 16 million Jews have chosen to live outside Israel, compared to the six million now living in Israel and in illegal settlements. There has never been a time when there were not more Jews choosing to live in America than in Israel, including now.[3] (And I am glad. One of my favorite doctors is Jewish.)

And why have Jews not chosen to live in Israel? Two reasons, I think. First is that Israel is a Zionist state, not a Jewish state. Zionism violates the moral and ethical values which make up the heart of Judaism.

Also, Zionism fans the flames of anti-Semitism which has plagued Jews throughout their entire history.

I belong to a group called the North Georgia Progressives. (Some people think the name itself is an oxymoron.) Next month, we are having a speaker from the Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith who is to speak to us about anti-Semitism. I will be very respectful. After all, I will be introducing him and praying for his effectiveness. Anti-Semitism is a sick and sinful evil and should be put to death. But, if he equates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, I will caution him that he might be waking up the sleeping giant which should be left to die in its sleep.

Thomas Are
August 22, 2009

[1] Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel’s Fateful Hour, (Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1988.) p. 220.
[2] Alan Hart, Zionism, The Real Enemy of the Jews, Volume One (Clarity International,, Atlanta, 2009) p. 40.
[3] According to the American Jewish Yearbook, Vol. 50, by the end of 1949, there were a million Jews living in Israel compared to five million living in the US.

Friday, August 7, 2009

History (Part 3) - Partition and War

Modern Zionism was born around 1900. Theodore Herzl in his book, The Jewish State, claimed that Jews could have no safe place in which to live other than in their own state. Of course, millions were safely living in the United States, but he wanted Palestine. He promoted the slogan, “A people without a land for a land without a people.” Neither side of it was true. Jews were living all over the world with security and dignity and were not a people without a land. Neither was the other side of it true. Herzl’s personal delegation to Palestine reported back to him, “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.”[1] Palestine was occupied.

I ask myself, how I would feel in a similar situation. I can’t imagine it but it would be as if suddenly, without knocking, a government official came into my house and announced, “The United Nations has decided to give Georgia back to the Indians.” He then said, “The government has provided for your safety by establishing a refugee camp in Texas. No, you will not have time to gather your things or get in touch with relatives. A bus will be leaving at 3 o’clock today. Your house, land and business now belong to the Cherokees.” When I start to argue, he holds up his submachine gun and says, “Get on the bus. It’s for your own good.”

And what if that same officer announced that France thinks this whole program is a good idea and will donate, in the interest of democracy, huge sums of money to help the Native Americans landscape this backward territory into the garden they always dreamed it could be?

That’s pretty much the way it happened to the Palestinians and many of those refugees are still living in camps behind barbed wire fences and cement barrels. They wait for the world community to recognize the injustice of it.

Other than a self-serving interpretation of the Bible, there seems to be little rationale and even less justice in giving 56 percent of Palestine to the State of Israel. When I imagine myself in a similar situation, I become outraged by the thought of being dispossessed. I may be forced to yield to such a fate, but I would never accept it, even if the rest of the world looks away in indifference.

Mahatma Gandhi said,

What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct…A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. As it is, they (the Jews) are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them.[2]

Post World War II brought a migration explosion. Meanwhile, political leaders searched for a painless way to make it up to the survivors of the holocaust. Zionism had a plan…a homeland for Jews. They had even picked the place: Palestine. Everyone seemed eager to compensate Jews. What did not enter into the guilt mix was what to do with the Palestinians already living in Palestine. Zionist chose to claim, and the non-Arab world chose to believe, that there were no “non-Jewish populations” in Palestine of any significance.

In February 1947, the British Government referred its Palestine problem to the U.N. One year later, the U.N. announced a plan to partition Palestine. Israel accepted the plan. The Palestinians rejected it, claiming that the Holocaust was not their doing. Why should Arabs be forced to suffer for Hitler’s crimes? Why should Arabs have to give up 56 percent of their land, including nearly all of the best agricultural and citrus lands, 80 percent of the cereal areas, 40 percent of all Arab industry, and all the sea shore to some 560,000 Jews who actually owned less than 6 percent of the land, while only 43 percent would remain for the 1,320,000 Palestinians?

Until this day, that question has not been addressed. In fact, it is not even discussed in the United States. Yet, that question is the heart and cause of all the present day Arab/ Israeli conflicts.

On May 15, 1948, the State of Israel was established on land partitioned by the United Nations. (Of course, the UN did not own it nor were Palestinians invited to the vote.) They were up-rooted from their homes forever, given no compensation and many were separated from their families, including parents who never again saw their children.

Israel called it the War of Independence and it is celebrated all over Israel and the United States as a great day to remember. Palestinians called it Al Nakba which means, The Catastrophe.

Within a few days, Israel had 60,000 troops in uniform and armed to the teeth. All the Arab resistance forces added up together were only about 25,000. Palestinian villages were reduced from 550 to 121. The Palestinian population was reduced from 700,000 to 125,000. Many of those who survived are still there, looking across the hills at the homes that used to be theirs, now occupied by Jews.[3]

Arnold Toynbee said of it:

The treatment of the Palestinian Arabs in 1947 and 1948 was as morally indefensible as the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis...though not comparable in quantity to the crimes of the Nazis, it was comparable in quality.[4]

And, Golda Meir could say:

It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine...and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.[5]

Just a bit of history, easily ignored by most Americans including many of our friends and neighbors.

Thomas Are
August 7, 2009

[1] Avi Shliam, The Iron Wall, Israel and the Arab World, (W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 2001) p.3.
[2] The Origin of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, Published by Jews for Justice in the Middle East, P.O. Box 14561, Berkeley, CA. 94712, p.7.
[3] Exact figures are hard to obtain. However, I have been conservative in my numbers which are based on the history cited by Fred J. Khouri, The Arab Israel Dilemma, Third Edition, (Syracuse, N.Y., Syracuse University Press, 1985), p.77. and Paul Findley, Deliberate Deceptions, (Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago, Illinois, 1993.) p. 13.
[4] Na’im Ateek, Justice and Only Justice, Orbis Press, Maryknoll, New York, 1989.) p.32.
[5] Na’im Ateek, Justice and Only Justice, Orbis Press, Maryknoll, New York, 1989.) p.36

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

History (Part 2) - The Balfour Declaration

Israel’s second claim to the land of Palestine is based on the Balfour Declaration of 1917. What an unbelievable document of contradiction. In order to appear interested in protecting the Palestinians against injustice, the Balfour Declaration stated:

It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,

That’s impossible! The rational mind knew that conflict between these two nations of people would have been unavoidable even if Balfour had been serious in his commitment to equally share the land of Palestinian. But there is little evidence that he or “his Majesty’s Government” had any intentions of creating anything but a Jewish-dominant country. The Balfour Declaration started with commitment to Zionism:

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood……

How in heaven’s name did anyone think that they could plop one nation down on top of another without violating the “civil and religious rights” of the indigenous population? How could the Jews be given a homeland on top of the 700,000 Palestinians already living in the land without prejudicing their rights? History shows that Britain never intended to protect the rights of anyone but the Jews. According to Balfour’s own words, he had no desire to be fair. In 1919, in a memorandum to the British cabinet, he wrote:

In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country. So far as Palestine is concerned, we have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong and no declaration of policy which at least in the letter we have not always intended to violate.[1]

The Balfour agreement referred to the Jewish community by name. The Arabs who had been living there for thousands of years and owned over 90 percent of the land were merely referred to as the “non-Jewish sections.” In one brief statement, Lord Balfour, a dedicated Zionist, disenfranchised a whole nation of people and thirteen centuries of history.

The Zionists purpose is not and never has been merely to exploit the Palestinians. Classical imperial movements during the 19th and 20th centuries colonized weaker nations in order to capitalize on cheap labor and extract natural resources. Zionism, on the other hand, wanted to dispossess the Palestinians altogether; its goal was to substitute one people on the land for another. They went to Palestine, not to seek a haven within an existing society, but to replace that society.

In spite of Zionist propaganda that Balfour sought a reasonable solution to the Jewish predicament, history shows it as a hoax, and a justification for a one sided massacre of a weak and innocent nation.

Thomas Are
August 5, 2009

[1] Elias Chacour, Blood Brothers, (Fleming H. Revell, Chosen Books, Old Tappan, NJ., 1984)
p. 118.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

History (Part 1) A Gift from Yahweh

Israel’s claim to Palestine is based on three “historical” events. The first has nothing to do with history, the second was a hoax, and the third was an effort to legalize the longest lasting illegal occupation in modern history. First is “God’s” promise to Abraham, second is the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and third is the U.N. Partitioning of Palestine which set up a sixty-two year continuous crime against some of the most vulnerable people on earth. So, let me make my case.

We read in the Jewish Scriptures that Yahweh, the God of the Jews, promised to give Abraham land. In fact, in my lexicon, I find the word “land” listed 686 times in the Pentateuch alone. Take the word land out of the Hebrew Bible and there seems to be little left for God or Israel to be interested in. One example is:

The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes. And look from the place where you are, northward and southward, eastward and westward, for all the land which you see I will give to you and to your descendants forever. (Genesis 13:14-15)

This promise, repeated over and over in Genesis, made by Yahweh to a wondering shepherd 4000 years ago and not recorded until 800 years later, cannot stand up to history. In the 6000 years of recorded history, the area which has become known as the Holy Land has been under the sovereign control of Israel less than 500 of those years, from the time of David, approximately around the year 1000 BCE to the year 587 when Israel was carried off into captivity. All the rest of the time, until 62 years ago, Palestine was under the sovereign control of the Canaanites, Jebusites, the Philistines, Egyptians, Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Turks and British. Any one of these nations could make a similar claim to the land. Yet, Israeli prime ministers and Christian Right preachers still piously shout, “God gave the land to the Jews,” as though God himself stepped down from heaven with a suitcase full of virgin territory and made a divine donation to one tribe of people.

Although Israel unashamedly declares itself to be a secular nation, its leaders still quote from the Jewish Bible to justify its claim on the occupied territories. “This country exists as a result of a promise made by God Himself.,” declared Golda Meir.[1] Yitzhak Shamir insisted on calling the captured territories of the West Bank, "Samaria and Judea," hoping to confuse American fundamentalist Christians into believing that there is a connection between Biblical Israel and the modern state.

Ha’aretz, one of the leading newspapers of Israel quoted a Rabbi, of captain rank, justifying the 1982 invasion and massacre of Lebanon:

We must not overlook the Biblical sources which justify this war and our presence here. We are fulfilling our religious duty as Jews by being here.[2]

Not only has the promise of “Land forever” made by Yahweh never been fulfilled, Arabs will point out that the promise was made to the descendents of Abraham of whom Ishmael was the first born. In fact, when the covenant promise of land was originally made with Abraham, it was Ishmael who was circumcised. Isaac had not been born.

There are some scholars (and a part of me), who say that the Biblical accounts of God’s giving land to Israel are made up by the ancient Hebrews to justify their brutal occupation of the land. It’s ironic that this tactic is still being used today. The Zionists claim of ownership of Palestine is based on a very selective and self-serving reading of the Old Testament. When we hear Christians say, “But, God gave the land to Israel.,” at least we should know that it is not that simple. It’s a religious tradition with no more claim to history than a dozen other religious traditions. Jews may believe it to be their unique history but that’s all it is…a religious tradition. On the other hand, the religious mandate, “Do unto others…” found in every religious tradition forbids the international community from acting upon “But, God gave it to the Jews.”

The second claim of Israel to the land is based on the Balfour Declaration which, if anything is not so solid. It will be the subject of my next blog.

Thomas Are
August 2, 2009

[1] Thomas L. Are, Israeli Peace/Palestinian Justice, (Clarity International, Regina, Canada) p.85.
[2] Ha’aretz, July 5, 1982.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jews for Justice

“I appreciate your bumper sticker.” She said. I turned and there stood a lady admiring my “Free Palestine – End the Occupation.”

“And I am Jewish,” she added. “I want to support the State of Israel but right now I cannot. I hate what Israel is doing to the Palestinians but when I say that in my synagogue, I get ostracized. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one. It gets sort of lonely.”

I didn’t have the foggiest idea who she was or where she had come from but there we were talking in the parking lot for a few minutes. Then we each went our own way. As soon as she was gone, I thought of many things I wish I had said to her, starting with, “You are not alone.”

I think of Michael Lerner, editor of TIKKUN, one of the leading Jewish magazines in America which has been calling Israel to a more civilized behavior for years. Back in 1990, Lerner wrote:

Stop the beatings, stop the breaking of bones, stop the late night raids on people’s homes, stop using food as a weapon of war, stop pretending that you can respond to an entire people’s agony with guns and blows and power. Publically acknowledge that the Palestinians have the same right to national determination that we Jews have, and negotiate a solution with representatives of the Palestinians[1].

And I wish I had told her of Marc Ellis, a prolific Jewish author whom I claim as a friend. He stayed in my home while lecturing in Atlanta. Ellis has written, among other things, Beyond Innocence, (1990) a sharp indictment of Israel’s non-Jewish policies and Unholy Alliances. (1987).

And I wish I had asked her if she were familiar with the works of Noam Chomsky. My mind kept racing across the many great Jewish authors who for years have struggled to reconcile the ethical and moral teachings of their faith with the immoral and brutal practices of the modern state of Israel. If I knew who she was, I would send her a list of books by Jewish authors who have influenced me; I would begin with:

1982 – Jacobo Timerman, THE LONGEST WAR, (pp167).
Timerman was actually tortured in Argentina because he was a Jew, Yet looking at Israel, he writes:

In these past months, I have left behind many illusions, some frustrations, several obsessions. But none of my convictions. Among all these things, there is one that shatters me beyond consolation, I have discovered in Jews a capacity for cruelty that I never believed possible.[2]

1983 – Noam Chomsky, wrote a classic, THE FAITHFUL TRIANGLE,
(pp 469.)
It is long, but well worth the read.

1990 – Marc Ellis with Rosemary Rather Ruther wrote, BEYOND OCCUPATION,
(pp 298.)
This was one of the first books to open my eyes to the truth of what is happening in Palestine and Israel’s brutality.

All of these authors, writing twenty to twenty-five years ago, left me with the feeling of embarrassment. I claim to be an educated person and yet, I did not know this history. Jewish writers are still making the same claim: Israel is out of control.

2003 – Michael Lerner – HEALING, ISRAEL/PALESTINE. (pp 184.)
This marvelous book seeks to tell the story from both sides, but as the more powerful, Lerner holds Israel responsible, saying,” Israelis, have increasingly used methods to secure the Occupation that violate international standards of human rights and make a mockery of the highest values of the Jewish tradition.”

This hard hitting book documents the real history of Zionism’s conquest of Palestine.

2006 – Ilan Pappe, THE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF PALESTINE, (pp.261.) This is the most provocative book I have recently read documenting the real motive behind Israel’s imperialism and its savage brutality toward the Palestinians.

2007 – Joel Kovel, OVERCOMING ZIONISM, (pp 247.)
Kovel describes his own passion. “I wrote this book in fury about Israel and the unholy complicity of the United States and its Jewish community that grants it impunity?”

When non-Jewish authors write, they are immediately labeled as anti-Semitic. When these Jewish authors write and criticize Israel, they are writing out of a great concern and commitment to their Jewish heritage and moral standards ingrained in them by their Jewish tradition…and they must be heard and respected.

I would refer my Jewish lady to the magazine TIKKUN, published by Rabbi Michael Lerner, and ask her to Google Ha’aretz, a leading Jerusalem newspaper. In many ways, it seems that the Jews of Israel are far more free to criticize their own government than are the Jews of America.

No, she is not alone and those sharing her concerns are increasing every day. She is one among an ever growing number of Jews who have chosen to live out their faith above everything else, regardless of the cost.

Thomas Are
July 23, 2009
[1] Marc Ellis and Rosemary Rather Ruether, Beyond Occupation., p.100.
[2] Jacobo Timerman, The Longest War, Israel in Lebanon, p.158.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Dangerous Threat

On the campaign trail last year, Hillary Clinton said that if Iran attacked Israel America would be able to “totally obliterate them.” That was a foolish threat then and it's even more dangerous now. Yet, last week, she again brought up the possibility of a “preemptive strike, “ by “someone”, saying, “If they believe that the United States might attack them the way that we did attack Iraq, for example…”

George Stephanopolos interrupted her, “Before they attack, as a first strike?”

“That’s right, as a first strike … to make clear to the Iranians that their pursuit of nuclear weapons will actually trigger greater insecurity, because right now, many of the nations in the neighborhood, as you very well…

Stephonopolic interrupted her again, “Because Israel will strike before they can finish?

Clinton: “Well, but not only that. I mean, other countries, other Arab countries are deeply concerned about Iran having nuclear weapons.”

Throughout the entire interview Clinton made it, “clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States.” [1]

Is the new Secretary of State claiming the right to commit genocide against the people of Iran if their government does not cease its effort to obtain nuclear power?

My main concern is the casual way in which she addresses the subject of going to war. Has she forgotten the wars we are already in and cannot afford or seem to get out of?

Jim Wallis spoke to the Celeste Zappala, the mother of a fallen soldier in Iraq about the cost of war:

“What happens,” she asked, to the “souls of soldiers who have picked up their friends in pieces, or fearfully fired into a moving car – to discover a shattered Iraqi family a moment later?” She talked about the many victims, on two continents. “An Iraqi mother searches a morgue for the familiar curve of the hand of her child beneath the pale sheet; an American father watches his son beheaded on videotape; an Iraqi child wakes up in a shabby hospital in excruciating pain and without his arm; an American girl writes letters to her dead soldier father; a young vet wraps a garden hose around his neck and leaps away from the nightmares that beset him.” And she recites the tragic numbers: “1,950 U.S. kids lost a parent; 25,000 wounded and struggling through the V.A. system; scores and scores of suicides; 500,000 and more dead Iraqis; 2 million refugees…”[2]

No one is suggesting that there are not some dangerous people out there. But maybe pre-emptive strikes are not the best way to deal with them. Wallis says, “Fighting evil with evil, as recent events show, just adds fuel to the fire. How about overcoming evil with good? If you want to deprive jihadists of ammunition, make it hard for them to persuade others to hate us.”[3]

We could seek to put clean water in every sick and hungry village on the globe. Or, we could stop bombing Arab nations for oil. Or, we could cease protecting Israel’s crimes with our U.N. vetoes. Or, at least, we could cease threatening to obliterate Iran with our military force if it seeks to defend itself against an Israeli attack.

Do you think the Apostle Paul might have been on to something when he said , “Live in harmony with one another…Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in sight of all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God…No, if your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12: 16-21) Sounds risky, but does anyone actually still think that violence can be defeated by more violence? Can’t we find ways to defeat our enemies without killing them?

Thomas Are
June 12, 2009
[1] This Week, with George Stephanopoulos, ABC, June 7, 2009.
[2] Jim Wallis, The Great Awakening, (Harper One, New York, 2008) p.242.
[3] Jim Wallis, ibid, p. 262.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Did You Know

Did you know? I didn’t. Of course, there is little reason for either of us to know. It was covered up by our media, ignored by our politicians and justified by our loudest TV prophets. It’s almost as if it did not even happen. Or if it did, it is of so little consequence that it was hardly worth mentioning at all.

But, I ask again, did you know that last January, Israel struck a convoy on the road just north of Port Sudan and killed 119 people. It was announced by the Sudan media, but not a word in the US press. Israel claimed that those killed were smugglers. At first, the US was blamed, but eventually Israel admitted that they had killed all those Sudanese people as a “warning to Iran.”[1]

Israel acts like a cornered animal, snapping out in any direction which it considers might be a threat. Egypt in 1967, Iraq in 1981, Lebanon in 1982, Syria in 2007, Lebanon again in 2007, Gaza in 2008, Sudan in 2009.

Also, did you know that suddenly, last month, Israel warns Gazans that they will be shot if they come close to the border fence which Israel erected on the Palestinian side.

"Israeli aircraft dropped exploding boxes full of leaflets across Gaza Strip today, littering the tiny enclave with threats to shoot any Gazans who come within 300 meters of the border fence…
The Israeli military has shot multiple Gaza citizens since the end of its invasion of the strip, including several farmers whose fields were close to the border. The warning is raising concern that civilians will be in greater danger in up coming days.
In the densely populated strip, many residents live less than 300 meters from the border fence. One of the residence wondered if 'the Israelis expect these people to start migrating yet again and flee like during the war.' Blocking off 300 meters across the entire border would actually make a considerable portion of the strip into a no-man’s land, but for the enclaves 1.5 million inhabitants, it is just business as usual in their ever shrinking home."

Most repulsive of all, have you heard of the latest goal of Avigdor Leiberman (no kin to Joe Leiberman but a brother against the Palestinians). Israel’s government has moved so right-winged that an Avigdor Leiberman was the biggest winner in this year’s election, giving him enormous swing power.

According to Fareed Zakaria:

“Leiberman and his issues have moved to center stage. As fiercely as he denounces the Palestinian militants of Hamas and Hizbullah, his No. 1 target is Israel’s Arab minority, which he has called a worst threat than Hamas. He proposes the effective expulsion of several hundred thousand Arab citizens by unilaterally redesignating some northern Israeli towns as parts of the Palestinian West Bank. Another group of several hundred thousand could expect to be stripped of citizenship for failing to meet requirements such as loyalty oaths…
The New Republic’s Martin Peretz, a passionate Zionist and critic of the peace movement, calls Leiberman a ‘neo-fascist…a certified gangster…”

Expulsion of Israeli Arab citizens is more than a goal, it’s a plan. Leiberman, who is now Israel’s Foreign Minister, has prepared a bill requiring an oath of loyalty to the “current government as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state.”[4] Think about that for a minute. Of course, Israel has a right to force its citizens to respect its laws, but to require Palestinians to swear allegiance to the Zionism that massacre their parents, took their homes and usurped their culture, is expecting too much. Loyalty is a trap leading to the expulsion of 20 percent of its citizens.

In the meantime, America looks the other way. And why should it matter that we know about these kinds of things. I believe it’s important because unless Israel backs off and stops attacking its neighbors, there will be no peace for Israel…or the U.S. Are we again being dragged into a war that we cannot win, nor afford? We cannot pay for our own ”snappings” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now we are barking at Iran.

We should know, at least, that if we get pulled into a war with Iran, it may very well destroy Israel and bankrupt the U.S. Israel’s atrocity is a luxury we can no longer afford. Besides that, it is wrong.

Thomas Are
June 6, 2009

[1] Israeli Air Strike on Sudan Convoy in January Killed 119. DM Insist Attack Still Under Investigation, by James Ditz, May 25, 2009.
[2] Jason Ditz, Israel Warns Gazans will be Shot if They Come Close to Border.,
[3] Fareed Zakaria, Israel’s Biggest Danger, NEWSWEEK, February 23, 2009, p 41.
[4] Jason Ditz, Israeli FM’s Party to Introduce Loyalty Oath Bill,, 5/25/2009.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Controlling Hatred

Even though The New York Times did report on January 27 that hundreds of trucks carrying clothing, baby food, rice, juice, sugar and flour donated from around the world “sat in the hot sun, going nowhere” at the border,[1] I have given up expecting the Times to hold Israel responsible for its role in the Middle East turmoil.

For example, reflecting on the recent visits of Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas to the White House, the Times, in its top billing editorial last week, laid out a litany of “must dos” for Abbas if he is to maintain his presidency of the Palestinians. The Times even threw in a “must” for Obama and one for the Arab leaders. What was missing was a single “must” for Mr. Netanyahu:

"When Mr. Netanyahu visited the White House last week, Mr. Obama publicly pressed the Israeli leader to freeze settlements and commit to a two-state solution. Now he has set markers for Mr. Abbas, urging him to make greater efforts to rein in militants and halt incitement against Israel. We hope he will do the same for leading Arab states."[2]

I think it is somewhat disingenuous to write, “He (Abbas) must redouble efforts to halt the constant spewing of hatred against Israel in schools, mosques and media.” How can Abbas or any other leader of an occupied people halt the anger of those victimized by a calculated and brutal imperialism?

I am amazed that the Times did not address the causes of such “hatred,” including the ever expanding settlements, mostly occupied by lawless zealots who without impunity harass, steal from and sometimes shoot those whose lands they have occupied. How can the Times, as a responsible reporter of news, turn its back on the continued demolition of homes and the uprooting of olive trees? Add in, the humiliation inflicted by 600 military check points, the assassinations and imprisonment of Palestinian leaders and a wall separating farmers from their fields, kids from their schools and the sick and injured from hospitals, and who among us would not be enraged?

Just one “must” directed toward Israel would do more to diminish the level of hatred than all the punishment measures inflicted upon the Palestinians, many of whom have somehow managed to control their rage and actually seek peace with Israel.

Thomas Are
June 1, 2009

[1] Cited in The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Rachelle Marshall, Israel Changes Leaders but Not its Goal: No Palestinian State, April 2009, p.8.
[2] The New York Times, May 30, 2009, Editorial, Mr. Obama and Mr. Abbas, p. A16.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just My Opinion

Who am I to even have an opinion? There are others who live closer to the pain and have far more knowledge and experience than I who would disagree with me. But, I have an opinion and it is this: I see little hope for a two state solution in Israel/Palestine. With the domination of the wall, settlements and division of water, I am not optimistic about the chances for the survival of an independent Palestinian state. Taking into account the religious fundamentalists who now occupy those settlements because they believe “God” wants them to fight for “their” land, and given their history and theology, these zealots for Zionism will resort to terrorist attacks to bring down a young and vulnerable Palestinian state.

The only hope for Israel to survive, in my opinion, is to annex the West Bank and Gaza and become a nation for all its citizens. Of course, then Israel would no longer have a Jewish majority with a Jewish government giving preferential treatment to a Jewish citizenship. However, it would survive and share in the benefits of a democracy.

Israel needs to survive. That’s not just an opinion, it’s more like a moral declaration. There are generations of people living there who have never known any home but Israel. It would be immoral to take from innocent children their security and state just because of the irresponsible leadership of their government. Kids are innocent and should not have to suffer because of the ambitions of grown-ups. So, again, I say, Israel must survive.

Yet, I am growing more and more skeptical as to its survival possibilities. Their government is in the hands of Nazi-like racists. Nearly a century ago, the leaders in Germany tried this “chosen race” stuff. Believing that God or nature had set up Germans as a unique and superior race, the Nazis set out to establish their own nationalism.

Norman Finkelstein writes about it.

Romantic nationalists argued that more profound bonds both “naturally united certain individuals” and “naturally” excluded others. Ideally, they concluded, each such organically connected community ought to be endowed with an independent state… Jews constituted an “alien” presence amidst states belonging to other, numerically preponderant, nationalities. Anti-Semitism was the natural impulse of an organic whole “infected” by a “foreign body (or too obtrusive a “foreign” body.[i]

Sound familiar? Yet, history rejected the Nazi ideology in Germany and
will reject it again in Israel.

Even a controlled media will not be able to convince the people of America that trapping a civilian population into one of the most crowded regions on earth while massacring 1400 people should not qualify as a crime against humanity. In spite of locking the Gazans in and locking international reporters out, the word escaped. Americans cannot avoid hearing stories of Israel’s cutting off the life line of food, water, medicines and electricity without thinking: something is out of whack…and it not working.

The likes of Netanyahu and Lieberman must learn that warfare has changed. You can’t defeat a rebellious people with bombs and tanks. Every time you kill or torture one person, others will take his place filled with even more hatred and dedication to vengeance. Having the fourth largest army on the globe will not control the determination of an oppressed people seeking their freedom. Violence only generates more violence.

In spite of those standing up in pulpits and appearing to speak with some God authority, even the least informed will begin to realize that the theology promoting such atrocities comes from a “book,” written by Jews, to Jews, and on the behalf of Jews only. It seems a questionable theology at best.

Sooner or later, those Christian Zionists who justify injustice in the name of Jesus are going to stumble. History and scholarship are going to catch up with them. In spite of the powerful influence of evangelical television, more Christians are going to realize that killing, brutalizing and stealing from another people is wrong. And sooner or later, the world is going to take steps to stop it.

It is insane to think that a little nation of 7.4 million, of which 20 percent are Arabs, can continue to humiliate a billion Muslims and expect their support and partnership in such things as trade, health and environmental security, all of which are necessary ingredients to survive in today’s world.

By far, the most serious threat to the survival of Israel is the economic decline of the United States. Americans give over six billion dollars a year to Israel. Considering the financial crisis we are facing, such an enormous hand out will become more and more questionable. It is my opinion that before long we will have a significant number of US citizens beginning to challenge the rationale of sending money to lift the living standard of Israel while we have Americans sleeping under bridges and going without medical care.

In short, I don’t think Israel can survive on its current course. The time for a “chosen and privileged people” claiming God given rights over others is dying. That world no longer exist. There is no room on this shrinking planet for a racist, theocratic state.

Thus, my opinion, for what it’s worth: The only way forward is for Israel/Palestine to become one democratic nation for all its citizens. Neither state can survive on its present path, nor should it have to.

Thomas Are
May 12, 2009

[i] Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestinian Conflict, (Verso, New York, 2003) p. 8.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Seeking Balance

One of the best resources I know for keeping up to date on what is happening in the Middle East is a monthly magazine, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Every month, informed journalists and free lancers report on what’s happening on the ground. Rachelle Marshall alone is worth the cost of the subscription. However, this month, I was captivated by a letter to the editor in which the writer complained about the lack of “balance.” “Why do you keep publishing, month after month, the same anti-Israel article? Only the author’s names seem to change. ..Wouldn’t it be refreshing to publish one article presenting Israel’s point of view?” He recommended Dershowitz.

His challenge struck me because I also hear that same complaint. “Tom, you see everything in the Palestinian conflict through the lens of Israeli atrocities.” Or, “You seem to see Israel as all wrong and Palestinians as always right.” Or, “I wouldn’t criticize Tom Friedman. People really like him.” And, “You need to lighten up.”

While trying to formulate my own response to such concerns, The Washington Report said it better than I ever could. After thanking the reader for his letter, the editor writes:

Perhaps we don’t mention often enough the names of the many Israelis we admire – Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Uri Avnery, Linda Breyer, among others – as well as the fact that debate on the issue that concerns us is much more open and robust there, as exemplified by the fine publication Haaretz. Were the debate as open here, we could count on the main stream media (MSM) to do more than tout the Israeli line. Since they don’t, we try to provide “balance” by covering stories that the MSM refuses to touch (such as the Israel lobby, which we reported in Vol. 1, No. 1 of the Washington Report, published 27 years ago). And most recently, for example, The Washington Post failed to cover several local demonstrations – one in front of its very door—against Israel’s assault on Gaza.
Ultimately, what we and many others find unacceptable is the ideology upon which the state of Israel is based: that only Jews have a right to live there. We don’t see “another side” to racism or to genocide. Nor do we recall similarly “balanced” stories about apartheid South Africa, genocide in Rwanda, or Nazi Germany during World War II. Would you have demanded that Goebbels be asked to provide “balance”?

I would add such voices as that of Noam Chomsky, Marc Ellis, Norman Finkelstein, Joel Kovel, Robert Simon of 60 Minutes and Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, all courageous souls who in spite of ridicule and public pressure are trying to be faithful to the moral fiber of their Jewish tradition.

Concerning the Israel/Palestinian conflict, Americans are ignorant. It is not their fault. Americans are good people and would stand up for doing what is right if they only knew. But when the media, the pulpit and politicians of all parties choose to keep silent about what they undoubtedly know, the average American has little incentive to “go against the stream". That’s why I so appreciate such publications as the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. It only cost $29 a year.

Thomas Are
May 4, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tom Friedman, "PEP"

I have just finished reading a great book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, by Thomas Friedman. He spells out the consequences of continuing to live in a world that is suffering from global warming, over population and a vast inequity in the distribution of wealth and resources. It is an important book and I agree with what he says on 411 of his 412 pages. But, I was shocked by his comments on page 92, in which Friedman making the point that petro dictators support terrorist groups wrote:

Immediately after Hezbollah launched a reckless war against Israel from Lebanon in the summer of 2006, Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah declared that Hezbollah would begin paying out cash to the thousands of Lebanese families whose homes were destroyed by Israeli retaliation… To paraphrase the Allstate commercial, “You’re in good hands with Hezbollah”…Hezbollah and Iran were like a couple of rich college students who rented Lebanon for the summer, as if it were a beach house. “C’mon, let’s smash up the place,” they said to themselves. “Who cares? Dad will pay.” The only thing Nasrallah didn’t say to the Lebanese was, “Hey, keep the change.”

I thought, Friedman is a PEP, (Progressive Except for Palestine, a term not original with me.) He could have made his point without assigning blame for the massacre of Lebanon to either side, but he could not pass up the opportunity to defend Israel and put the blame for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict on the backs of the victims. It was Israel, not Hezbollah (or Iran) that “trashed” Lebanon, launching 12,000 combat missions killing over a thousand people, mostly civilians, 30 percent children, and displacing over a million people. And Friedman casually describes Hezbollah as thinking of the killing of so many as rich kids breaking up a beach house. Hezbollah are not rich kids who rented Lebanon for the summer. Lebanon is the only home they have. They had a home once. It was called Palestine, but they were driven out in 1948 and again in 1967. The “beach house” is all they have. They would never choose to “trash” it.

Friedman is a great writer with keen insights into many significant problems facing the US and the world today, but I don’t trust his analysis of the Israeli/Palestinian crisis. In his op-ed column in the New York Times, January 14, 2009, he describes the massacres in Lebanon and in Gaza as a successful effort to teach Hezbollah and Hamas a lesson they would not soon forget by inflicting pain on the Palestinian civilizations. He is careful not to endorse Israel’s massacres but he comes close. And he certainly does not condemn it.[1]

His casual comment that Hezbollah “launched a reckless war,” sounds like those who say, “No big deal. Jews and Arabs have been fighting each other for a thousand years.” Such a statement assumes that both sides choose the battle and have an equal chance to gain from the conflict.

The truth is, the conflict is more like a defenseless girl raped in the park who scratches her assailants face. We can’t just say, “Oh well, there is violence on both sides.” In fact, it is more unfair than that because our media seems to say, what kind of bad girl goes around scratching people? Our sympathy goes to the rapist when all we see on the news are pictures of the scratches.

I remember in 2001, Senator George Mitchell made a fact finding trip to Israel/Palestine and announced that the Palestinians were begging for U.N. observers to see what was happening to them there. Mitchell said that we couldn’t pull it off because Israel was adamantly opposed to it. So, the UN resolution for observers failed. The United States and Israel voted against it. It would have violated Israel’s sovereignty.

I have never known of a rapist who wanted a cop in the park.

“Then, why don’t the girls just stay out of the park?” Some have asked. Why? Because they were born in the park. It’s their home and they are not allowed outside the park. And they have been raped for 61 years.

Thomas L. Are
April 25, 2009

[1] Google: Glenn Greenwald, Tom Friedman offers a perfect definition of terrorism. Jan. 14, 2009, But first, Google: Tom Friedman’s Op-Ed Column, Israel’s Goals in Gaza, New York Times, January 14, 2009.