Friday, December 17, 2010

Relationships with Jewish Family and Friends

I have had several people recently to ask about keeping relationships with Jewish friends while at the same time being critical of Israel. This can be especially difficult when dealing with a Jewish member of ones own family. So, for what it’s worth.

I think sometimes we have to opt for relationship rather than issues I have in mind my relationship with one of the most anti-Muslim, pro-Israel men in Georgia. My last blog was in response to his email that said, “it was too bad that Israel did not sink the Mava Marmara. It would have freed the world of 600 terrorist.” Trying to get a sympathetic fact by him is like trying to give a flu shot to a tombstone. So, we do not talk about anything important except kids and doctors. Mark Braverman tells us to give up on the hard liners. Marc Ellis rejects what he calls “the ecumenical deal,” which requires Christian and Jews engaged in dialogue to never mention Israel’s occupation. I have a Jewish friend who is very vocal about “being free to criticize Israel.” Yet, she spends most of her time and energy criticizing those who criticize Israel. I understand the strain on relationships.

Now to the grandmother whose daughter is married to a “fine Jewish man.” I say, Jews are good people, and intelligent. Your grand children have every right to be proud of their heritage. When I was in Mississippi, the issue was civil rights for African Americans and the leaders of this cause came from the Jewish community. I think of those three civil rights worker who were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi, two were Jews and the other was African American. Throughout history Jews have been sensitive to the needs of others. It is in their DNA to be caring and to stand up for the poor and oppressed. It’s also in their scriptures, especially the Psalms and the Prophets. Give it a little time and you will win your daughter’s heart and appreciation. Her struggle is not with you, it is with her own faith. My guess is that in years to come, her struggle will be with her children. Many, many young Jews are beginning to question the policies of Israel and some of them are angry. I would also bet that your daughter has never been there and has never seen what is going on in the West Bank and Gaza. The most passionate Jews who cry for Palestinian justice are those who have been there and are shocked by what they see.

Your daughter is absolutely right about anti-Semitism which has been a senseless stain on the Christian church for almost two thousand years. However, there are some in the Jewish community who cannot hear criticism of Israel as anything other than anti-Semitism. For those, I say we can only go on seeking justice without their approval.

Justice for Palestinians is the position of more and more Jewish authors, professors and peace advocates. I have in mind, Marc Ellis, Noam Chomsky, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Joel Kavol, Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Peppe, Gideon Levy, Jeff Halper, Sara Roy, Mark Braverman , Tanya Reinhart, Richard Goldstein and many others These brave people are not seeking to destroy Israel, but believe Israel is on a path of self destruction.

Israel is deliberately starving people, depriving them of medicines, fuel and building supplies, stealing land, and water, creating Jewish only roads that separate families and restrict movement, constructing a wall which surrounds communities separating kids from their schools, farmers from their fields and the sick from medical care, bulldozing homes by the thousands, imposing closures, curfews, and checkpoints, all in the name of exceptionalism. These actions promote anti-Semitism and the reaction of the Arab nations. I cannot understand why the Jewish community is not standing on its heels shouting condemnation of Israel’s anti-Jewish policies rather than debating supersessionism. When have you heard a Rabbi even mention the word “occupation?”

Who is going to speak out for justice if we don’t at least try? Politicians are silenced by the lobby. The Christian right declares that the Jews must drive out the Palestinians for Jesus to come back, even if it means murder, torture, cruelty and theft. The media is seldom “fair or balanced.” Israel’s aggression is reported as a “reaction.” One Israeli soldier held in captivity and everybody knows of Gilad Shalit by name. Netanyahu called it "inhumane," which it is, while the 9000 Palestinians languishing in Israeli prisons are seldom mentioned. Israel’s military is one of the most powerful and brutal on the globe and everybody in the world knows it but citizens of Israel and the US.

The argument that other governments do things that are bad or even worse, therefore we should not “pick on Israel,” does not hold up. If I am hauled before the judge, it’s a poor defense for me to say, “OK judge, I raped that girl, but Big John up the road raped two girls so it is unfair to judge me.” It makes no sense unless Israel is vying to be the most barbaric state on earth. It is our tax money that pays for Israel’s planes, bombs, and bullets. It’s our government that blocks international law from applying to Israel and vetoes UN resolutions. We, you and I, are involved in everything Israel does. We have a responsibility to speak out. So, keep up your good work, be who you are, and be guided by your moral convictions. Keep on loving your daughter but let someone else deal with her defense of Israel.

Thomas Are
December 18, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Challenge to the Church

We were a Sunday School class and we talked about “justice.” I was amazed. Many churches all over America can go for years without approaching the subject of justice, especially when it gets specific, like when relating to the injustice inflicted by Israel upon the Palestinians.

In fact, with few exceptions, I mostly agree with Brian McLaren:

My disillusionment was intensified by what was happening in the Christian community in America during the 1980s and 1990s. A large number of Protestant and Catholic leaders had aligned with a neoconservative political ideology, trumpeting what they called “conservative family values,” but minimizing biblical community values. They supported wars of choice, defended torture, opposed environmental protection, and seemed to care more about protecting the rich from taxes than liberating the poor from poverty or minorities from racism. They spoke against big government as if big was bad, yet they seemed to see big military and big business as inherently good. They wanted to protect unborn human life inside the womb, but didn’t seem to care about born human life in slums or prisons or nations they considered enemies. They loved to paint gay people as a threat to marriage, seeming to miss the irony that heterosexual people were damaging marriage at a furious pace without any help from gay couples…They interpreted the Bible to favor the government of Israel and to marginalize Palestinians, and even before September 11, 2001, I feared that through their influence Muslims were being cast as the new scapegoats, targets of a scary kind of religiously inspired bigotry.[1]

But, this church was different. It sponsored a class which struggled with these issues, especially the Israel/Palestinian situation. I left the class encouraged.

Then, I went to the worship service. Being Advent, we sang, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel." How many, I wondered, while singing this hymn made a distinction between Israel of the Old Testament and the modern state of Israel? Multiplied by every church in America, I wondered how much influence our liturgy might have in equating the nation-state of Israel with God and our understanding of ancient covenants. What else could explain our disregard for the plight of the Palestinians at the hands of one of the mightiest military forces on earth?

Every Christmas, millions of Americans sing, “The First Noel,” with its refrain, “born is the King of Israel.” We sing, "The God of Abraham be Praised" with seldom a thought that Ishmael was the first born son of Abraham. We turn to the Responsive Readings and recite, “The God of Jacob is our Refuge." I wondered how many Psalms refer to the "God of Jacob?” Psalm 72:18 reads, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.” A few pages over we celebrate God’s victory in battle for God “remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. (Psalm 98:3) and “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4)

When sexist language became a “no no” in the church, all the arguments, “surely everyone understands that ‘man’ includes all humankind, and that God ‘Himself,’ was not a sexual being,” did not overcome the emotional influence of sexist language. I wonder if the same is not emotionally true of “Israel” as God’s only chosen people, with a real estate deal which lasts forever?

How many make the distinction between ancient Israel and the modern, powerful state? Of course, we are talking more than rhetoric. It is a matter of placing the “power” of Israel over prophetic Judaism. Marc Ellis, who is best described as a faithful Jew, asks, “Can power offer liberation from suffering if another people, in this case the Palestinians, is suffering so that Jews can have power?”[2] Affirming Liberation Theology, Ellis writes:

God is against injustice and against those who structure society in an unjust way for their own benefit. These assertions are cast in theological language, which says that God in the Bible is with the poor and the marginalized and against injustice and wealth accumulated in unjust ways. This biblical God still stands with the world’s poor and marginalized. In the struggle between the poor and the wealthy God takes sides.[3]

Challenging the church, he says, “It is incumbent upon all Christians to do the same.” I agree. We need to be careful with our language lest we cover up God’s call for justice with emotional liturgy.

Thomas Are
December 4, 2010

[1] Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity. (HarperOne, 2010) p.6-7.
[2] Marc H. Ellis, Judaism Does Not Equal Israel. (The New Press, New York. 2009.) p.xix.
[3] Ibid. p.43.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Years ago, I pleaded with my Congressional representative to take a stand regarding the suffering of the Palestinians. I shared with him what I had seen on a recent visit into Gaza and the West Bank. I talked about people being shut up in refugee camps, the lack of food, water, medical care and education. “Life there is unfair, and its harshness is supported by our government.”
He thought for a while. “I am as concerned for the suffering of the Palestinians as anyone,” he responded. “But I am not going to do or say anything that will get me labeled, ‘anti-Semitic.’”
After a little more pleading, I said something like: “I am beginning to understand politicians. You are not moved by right or wrong, by justice or even your religious professions. The only thing that will get a response from you is the fear of being embarrassed. So, what if I got about 300 people out of my congregation to come down here and picked your office with signs saying that you support the torture of children?”
He registered a little surprise and said, “You wouldn’t do that.”
I came back with, “I would if I could.”

I think that what is true for politicians may also be true for Israel and her supporters. For years, the American Jewish community has uplifted Israel as a shining “miracle” of democracy and freedom, an inspiration to the world. Support for Israel has been a hundred percent with no consideration for right or wrong, justice, or Jewish ethics. However, two things are happening which seem to be an embarrassment for Zionist supporters, especially in America and especially among young Jews.

First - Research done by the new Jewish historians almost universally declares that the glorious story of Israel’s founding is more fiction than fact. The real history of 1948-1949 unveils a lop-sided blood bath of ethnic cleansing. Leon Uris lied.

Second - The attack on the Mavi Marmara and the murder of nine humanitarian aid volunteers, including an American, shocked much of the world. Before the flotilla, it was the 23 day massacre of the population of Gaza, shut in and bombarded, which killed 1390 people, according to B’tsalem. Before that the 2006 bombardment of Lebanon, dropping four million cluster bombs, killing more than a thousand people, mostly civilians, the 2003 murder of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, the 1983 massacre of unarmed refugees in Sabra and Shatila, the 1982 bombardment of Lebanon, and the 1967 Six Day War against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Uninterrupted throughout this history is the occupation with settlements, checkpoints, mass imprisonments, the stealing of land and water and the construction of an apartheid wall. Add all this up, and these are just the most outstanding crimes that cause Israel embarrassment.

Reacting to last winter’s invasion of Gaza and the midnight raid by commandos on the unarmed passengers of the Freedom Flotilla:

--Students at Cornell University lined pathways with 1300 black flags commemorating the dead in Gaza.[1]
--Turkish parliament voted unanimously to “revisit the political, military and economic relations with Israel.
-- Nicaragua suspended its diplomatic relations with Israel.
--Norway reconfirmed its arms ban on Israel and called on all other states to follow Norway’s position which excludes trading arms with Israel.
--Swedish dockworkers decided to blockade all Israeli ships and cargo to and from Israel.
--The South African trade union federation, COSATU, called for greater support for the international boycott, divestment, and sanction campaign against Israel, urging all South Africans to refuse to buy or handle any good from Israel or have any dealings with Israeli businesses.
--In the United Kingdom the largest trade union, UNITE, unanimously voted to boycott all Israeli companies.
-- In Oakland, California, union members and community activist set a historical precedent by blocking the offloading of an Israeli ship for 24 hours. And
-- The student body of Evergreen State College voted with a 79 percent majority to divest from companies that profit from the occupation.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions will not bring Israel down. The destruction of Israel is not the goal But what DBS will do is embarrass Israel and its supporters,

According to Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein, professor at City University of New York:

The increased and brutal frequency of war in this volatile region has shifted international opinion. One poll registering the fallout from the Gaza attack of 2008-09 in the United States found that Americans voters calling themselves supporters of Israel plummeted from 69 percent before the attack to 49 percent in June 2009, while voters believing that the United States should support Israel dropped from 69 percent to 44 percent.[3]

Jewish pollster, Steven Cohen in a 2005 survey found that, “the attachment of American Jews to Israel has weakened measurably in the last two years.”

The survey found 26 percent who said that they were “very” emotionally attached to Israel, compared with 31 percent who said so in a similar survey conducted in 2002. Some two-thirds, 64 percent, said they follow the news about Israel closely, down from 74 percent in 2002, while 39 percent said they talk about Israel frequently with Jewish friends, down from 53 percent in 2002. …48 percent said “Israel matters a lot” compared with 58 percent in 2002. Just 57 percent affirmed that “caring about Israel” is a very important part of my being Jewish,” compared with 73 percent in a similar survey in 1989.[4]

Hopefully, with enough embarrassment, Israel will lose more of its American Jewish support, which might be the best hope Palestinians have for some relief. At least a little embarrassment might be a good influence on our politicians.

Thomas Are
October 25, 2010

[1] “Poll Show Dip in American Voters Supporting Israel” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (June 16, 2009, Cited by Norman Finkelstein, Ever Fewer Hosannas, published in Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, Edited by Moustafa Bayoumi, p. 262
[2] Omar Barghouti, Our South Africa Moment, Cited in Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, Edited by Moustafa Bayoumi, p. 276-278.
[3] Op cit, Finkelstein, p. 256.
[4] From the same article cited by Norman Finkelstein, p. 258-93

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mavi Marmara

As you might imagine, from time to time I get responses to my blogs. Some of them express disagreement.

On June 21st, I received: “Do not single out Israel for your criticism -- should we be surprised that the world focused on 9 deaths on the Gaza flotilla (despite the fact, yes, fact, that there were people on that flotilla who were hoping to be martyrs) and almost nothing was said about the actual genocide in Kyrgystan?”

I single out Israel because my government supports Israel’s actions by giving billions of dollars every year which are used to steal land and water, imprison, humiliate and even kill the people of Palestine.

On June 16th, I received a video link showing Israeli soldiers unloading caches of arms: “A tip of the hat to Fred Leder for this Israeli Flix video. This video shows that during the unloading of the M/S. Mavi Marmara Turkish vessel in the Israeli port of Ashdod, behind the bags of flour were boxes of heavy weapons and ammunition: mortars, artillery shells, bazookas, without counting a trunk where more than one million euros was found intended for Hamas. This video should be widely distributed as evidence of why the IDF Naval commandos were dispatched to intercept the six vessels including the M/S Mavi Marmara. Clearly the Turkish AKP Islamist government is complicit in permitting this military cargo to be loaded on the 'peaceful' Free Gaza Flotilla. Please distribute this video widely. If you had any doubt about what was on the flotilla, here is the video. The French explains that the arms on display were hidden behind sacks of grain. Why these criminals were released is beyond me.”

The email invited me to react to such obvious footage. I responded that if this were an authentic filming, the Israeli government and Fox News would have been all over it. Why has no responsible news agency exposed this to the world, especially since the Turkish government inspected the ship and its cargo before allowing it to proceed to Gaza? The ships had been inspected at all ports for weapons and none were ever found.[1] This video was a deliberate hoax designed to justify an act of overpowering aggression in violation of international laws.

An email on June 3rd tops them all. “I believe that the ship should have been sunk to rid the world of all those terrorists and their supporters. I am sorry that you have such tunnel vision and I worry about your safety.”

He calls them the terrorists. The 700 participants on the Mavi Marmara represented over thirty countries. They were doctors, human rights activists, professors, a U.S. diplomat, a Nobel Peace laureate, in addition to clergy and journalist from around the world. What exposes this charge is that anyone who seeks relief for the suffering Palestinians can be automatically labeled a terrorist. The real question is how he can so casually assign heinous motives to such distinguished volunteers? Is a terrorist anyone who feels empathy for their beleaguered fellow human beings? After forty years of occupation, 90 percent of the people in Gaza have no clean water to drink, and two-thirds of the population live without adequate food, medical care, sanitation systems, electricity and fuel.

Chris Hedges, whom some look upon as the twenty-first century Amos, writes;

Name us as human beings who believe that when one of us suffers all of us suffer, that we never have to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for us all, the tears of the mother in Gaza are our tears, that the wails of the bloodied children in Al Shifa Hospital are the wails of our own children.
Let me close tonight with one last name. Let me name those who send these tanks and fighter jets to bomb the concrete hovels in Gaza with families crouching, helpless, inside, let me name those who deny children the right to a childhood and the sick the right to care, those who torture, those who carry out assassination in hotel rooms in Dubai and on the streets of Gaza City, Those who deny the hungry food, the oppressed justice and foul the truth with official propaganda and state lies. Let me call them, not by their honorific titles and positions of power, but by the name they have earned for themselves by draining the blood of the innocent into the sands of Gaza,. Let me name them for who they are: terrorist.

Of course, the Israeli government said that it would have gladly delivered the supplies by land if they had been asked to do so. However, such an offer belies that fact that what was being delivered by the flotilla was precisely those emergency supplies that Israel had denied entrance into Gaza for years. These “terrorists” carried no weapons, but were armed with X-ray machines, wheelchairs, crutches and medical equipment, seesaws and sliding boards. These were ordinary people, full of compassion, seeking to help ordinary people, deliberately denied the basic necessities of life.

Israel claims that they were only defending themselves. Then why did they confiscate all recording equipment, cameras and lap tops? Why jam the ships satellite communications systems to prevent contact between journalist and the outside world?[3] Why refuse to cooperate with any unbiased international investigation and keep all passenger isolated until Israel’s spin filled the airways unchallenged? Ben Saul, co-director of the Sydney Center for International Law, who is published by the Oxford University Press, said, “One cannot illegally attack a ship and then claim self-defense.”[4]

Why attack a ship in the darkness of night after it had reversed its course and was steaming as fast as it could away from Gaza?[5] Why did the commandoes drop percussion bombs onto the deck and fire weapons before attacking the ship? The humanitarian workers defended themselves with whatever they had such as their own bare hands, sling shots, and water hoses. According to The Guardian, nine people, including a nineteen year old American born high school student, were shot no less than a total of thirty times. Even after the passengers had “surrendered,” the Israelis refused to offer medical assistance to the wounded. Why?

So, from time to time I get responses to my blogs and I am grateful for them, even those that express disagreement.

Thomas Are
October 17, 2010

[1] Moustafa Bayoumi, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, (Haymaker Books, Chicago, 2010,) p. 2
[2] Chris Hedges, The Tears of Gaza Must be Our Tears, Hedges made these remarks August 5, 2010 in New York City at a fund-raiser for sponsoring a U.S. boat to break the blockade of Gaza. Cited in Other Voices, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2010, p. OV-6.
[3] Lara Lee, What Happened to us is Happening in Gaza, Cited in Bayoumi, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, p. 30. Filmmaker, Lara Lee said, “I decided to join the Freedom Flotilla after going to Gaza a few months before and seeing firsthand the devastation there. After hearing the pleas of the people living in Gaza to have the blockade lifted, I felt I must do something.”
[4] Moustafa Bayoumi, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, p.6.
[5] Ibid., p.3.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Peace Talk Breakthrough

My mind leapt when I read in the Christian Science Monitor of a “Breakthrough in Middle East Talks.” Maybe I have been wrong. Maybe Israel is going to finally take a step toward peace by abandoning settlements in the occupied territories. Maybe Israel is going to reroute the wall which has caused so much pain and destruction to Palestinian families, or at least, maybe Israel is going to stop taking 80 percent of Palestinian water for Israeli use only or reduce the number of checkpoints. All kinds of possibilities ran though my mind. But no, an agreement to "more talk" was the breakthrough.

After the meeting, it was all smiles as Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu appeared briefly before the press. The news of the meeting’s concrete achievement – an agreement to hold more talks later this month – was presented as a breakthrough.[1]

However, on the ground, few Palestinians have much hope in the talks. “Had this been the first round of talks, then we would have hoped for a good solution,” said Reem Abu Latif, an architectural engineer. “However, this is the 20th time, and we know the results. Now we are expecting nothing. Nor do we care.”[2]

That’s it. They have agreed to more talk. That’s the break through? In the meantime, Israel announced, not the vacating of settlements, not even a continuation of a partial freeze on building settlements. But according to Peace Now, and reported in Haartz:

2,066 new homes would be ready for continued West Bank construction as soon as a moratorium on settlement building is lifted this month, a report by the Israeli left-wing NGO Peace Now said Sunday, adding that work on another 11,000 potential units could hypothetically start as well.[3]

Two thousand! Just numbers to most pro-Israeli Americans, but not so for the thousands of Palestinians who receive demolition orders for their homes, barns, fields and greenhouses. These are real people with real problems and need to feed their families like all the rest of us but they are seldom seen by an Israeli or recognized by an American.

Israel intends to build new settlements immediately after the September 26th “slow up” is over. Abbas has pledged to walk out unless settlement building is stopped. Of course, Netanyahu knows this so his commitment is to build more settlements. I fear that Hillary Clinton does not have the political will to stand up for justice. So, where does that leave us? Clinging to straws in an ocean of rhetoric. The “peace talks” are focused far more on talk than on peace.

Thomas Are
September 25, 2010
[1] Joshua Mitnick, Abbas goes out on a limb for peace, Christian Science Monitor, September 13, 2010, p.10.
[2] Ibid, Christian Science Monitor. September 13, 2010. p. 10
[3] Chaim Levenson Peace Now: 2,066 settlement homes to be built as soon as freeze ends., Haartz, Sunday September 12, 2010.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Another Peace Talk

I look upon the “peace talks,” scheduled this week, with about as much enthusiasm as an okra sandwich served on stale bread without mayonnaise. “But, talking is better than shooting,” we hear from the news media. However, that is not the choice. When Israel is involved, talking becomes a cover for shooting. How many times has Israel come to the table talking peace only to increase settlements, destroy more homes, construct more Jewish only roads, man more check points and steal more water from the occupied territories. All the talking has not dismantled one mile of the wall enforcing all of the above “facts on the ground” which makes a joke of peace talks.

Can anyone imagine that Israel has any intention of pulling a half million settlers out of the West Bank, relinquishing control of its water, returning the Golan Heights with its rich agricultural lands or allowing the refugees of Gaza access to the world? Israel has had a dozen opportunities to grant any of those “concessions” in previous peace talks.[1] Every one has been met with more military rule, expansions and assassinations Is there any reason to think that suddenly Israel is going to have a change of heart under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu?

Or, that the United States will suddenly become an “honest broker.”

The US relationship with Israel has been one whereby the US has turned a blind eye to Israel’s breach of international law and negotiated agreements with the Palestinians. Political pressure from military contractors, oil companies, construction and high-tech companies, neo-conservative ideologies, Christian Zionists, and the “Israel Lobby” have combined to provide almost unconditional support in Congress for whatever the Israeli government says and does. No US president to date has been able to consistently or effectively resist that pressure for long.[2]

Considering the US veto of twenty-two UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel, the supply of US weapons, and the enormous financial aid given annually to Israel, can anyone believe that the US is able to be unbiased in its brokering?

However, the main reason that I am pessimistic about these talks is that Hamas, the democratically elected government of Palestine, has been banned from the conversation. In spite of several offers of peace,[3] the US and Israel still brush them off as a “terrorist organization.” Hamas resistance is called terrorism. Attacks on Palestinians by the Israeli army is always called “self defense.”

What kind of negotiation can take place when only one side has all the power and enjoys the unquestioned backing of the only super power on the globe? I am not optimistic. If only I were wrong.

Thomas Are
September 4, 2010

[1] Among them: Madrid, 1991; Oslo Declaration, 1993; Wye River, 1998; Camp David, 2000; Arab League, (22 countries) 2002; Road Map developed by the Quartet, (US, UN, Russia and EU) 2002; Annapolis Peace Conference, 2007.
[2] The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) publication, Steadfast Hope, (January 2010) p. 33.
[3] Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyah, offered “a 10 year cease-fire to create an atmosphere of calm.” Reported in New York Times, June 20, 2007.
Haniyah, in front of 11 members of the European Union Parliament said that he would accept the 1967 borders with Israel. Reported in Haartz, Nov. 9, 2008.
Hamas chief Khaled Meshal offered immediate cease-fire, including prisoner swap, and the acceptance of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with Israel. Reported in Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2009.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quiet Transfer

From the time I learned my own name until the day my mother died, any time I faced a problem, she would say, “Just come home.” I used to laugh at her simple solution. At the same time, I felt a sense of peace and security in knowing that no matter what, I had a home to come to.

I can only imagine what it must feel like to wake up in the middle of the night, hear a crash and realize that the Israelis have come to knock your house down. You may have been warned. At least, the authorities sometimes left a demolition notice somewhere on or near your property. Of course, a thousand other Palestinians have received the same notice and since Israel randomly executes the demolition of a house, it means that no one can rest easy. You never know when the Caterpillar D-9 will come rumbling down the road in search of your house.

“My morning routine,” says Neimah Dandi, whose home in Anata was finally demolished in November 2004 after a wait of eight years, “consisted of getting out of bed, going to the window to see if the bulldozers were approaching, then going to the bathroom.”[1]

Palestinian homes may be destroyed even when a neighbor draws the short straw.
Jewish author, Jeff Helper writes:

When homes are demolished in military actions or as acts of deterrence and collective punishment, there is no process. No formal demolition orders, no warning, no time to remove furniture or personal belongings, often barely time to escape the home falling down around your ears. This can happen to your home, or to the home of a neighbor whom the Israeli authorities have targeted. Nuha Maqqdmah Sweidan, a Gazan mother of 10 and nine months pregnant, was killed when the house next to hers was dynamited by Israeli troops. “We were in bed, the children were asleep,” her husband related to Amnesty International. “There was an explosion and walls collapsed on top of us. I started to dig in the rubble with my hands. First I found my two little boys and my three year old girl… My wife remained trapped under the rubble with our youngest daughter. She was holding her when the wall fell on her…”[2]

So far, over 24,145 homes have been destroyed since 1967 in West Bank and over 4,000 in Gaza during last winter’s massacre. Moshe Ya’alon. the Israeli Army Chief of Staff declared, “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”[3] I am sure that a father who cannot protect his family or provide a home for his children must feel exactly what the Chief wants him to feel, defeated. Any Palestinian, at any age, any where or at anytime, for any reason may find himself harassed, denied water, freedom of movement or homeless to make room for more Jewish only roads or settlements, even in Jerusalem, On the other hand, not one Jewish home has been destroyed to make room for anything Palestinian.

Most of us remember the announcement of 1600 new Jewish only housing units in Arab East Jerusalem. Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel to talk about another “talk about peace” when it was made. Netanyahu apologized for the “timing” of the announcement. At the same time, Elie Wiesel put a full page ad in the New York Times,[4] saying, “Jerusalem is above politics…And, contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city.” As I read that, I wondered if Wiesel was joking or deliberately lying. At any rate he is out of touch with reality. To say such a thing flies into the teeth of every human rights organization, both Jewish and Gentile, reporting on what is actually happening in his beloved city, Wiesel celebrates the fact that Jews can, “pray at the Wall, the last vestige of Solomon’s temple.” In view of evictions, home demolitions, and laws applied exclusively to Arabs that privilege Jews only, he leaves me wondering what in the world do they pray for and what kind of God do they pray to.

I thank God that my home is protected by a Constitution promising liberty and justice for all, and that I have a choice to NOT live in Jerusalem.

Thomas Are
August 31, 2010

[1] Jeff Helper, Obstacles to Peace, Published by Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, 2009, p.51.
[2] Ibid., p. 49.
[3] Jeff Helper, Obstacles to Peace, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, p.26
[4] April 18, 2010, p. 11.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nakba Denial - Now - (Part Two)

The Holocaust is over… has been for 65 years. The Nakba is still going on and has been for 62 years. We often hear of the Holocaust but seldom do we hear of the Nakba. Nakba Now is the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Another name for it is ETHNIC CLEANSING.

Uri Avnery, former member of the Israeli Knesset explains:

Ethnic cleansing does not have to take the form of a dramatic expulsion, as in 1948, it can take place quietly, in a creeping process, when more and more Palestinians simply give up. That is the great dream of the settlers and their partners: to make life for the Palestinians so miserable that they take their families and leave.[1]

Israel’s program of occupation carves up the West Bank into small, disconnected and impoverished enclaves. More than 200 settlement communities, filled with 470,000 Jewish occupiers, gobble up more and more land every day. Many settlements built right over homes that used to be owned by Palestinian families. Settler violence against unarmed Palestinians is documented and beyond debate.

Since the Oslo Accords in 1993, there are three times as many settlers and Israel has annexed 42% of Palestinian land for even more settlements. Yet, amazingly, the average Israeli citizen thinks that they are the ones compromising, that, “no concessions they make to the Palestinians will ever be enough… Palestinians will always demand more concessions until there is no Israel.”[2]

Nakba Deniers don’t even see Israel’s SEPERATION WALL.

Israel continues to build a “security fence” that turns towns into open air prisons. Its route, encircling communities and water resources, belies the purpose of security. It not only separates Palestinian families from the rest of Palestine, it isolates 350,000 Palestinians on the Israeli side of the wall, isolating them with 80% of the West Bank settlers. They no longer live in the West Bank, nor are they allowed to live in Israel. Dwelling amid an electronic fence, watchtowers, sniper posts, mine fields, surveillance cameras and patrols with killer dogs, it is hard to feel like anything more than a prisoner in your own land.

Nakba Deniers forget about POLITICAL PRISONERS and their families.

Someone said to me, “What the Palestinians need now is a Gandhi or King.” They have probably had one but he has more than likely been assassinated or is languishing among 8,000 others in an Israeli jail, who have been arrested in the middle of the night, detained without charge or convicted by “secret evidence,” which neither he nor his lawyer (if he ever had one) was allowed to see, answer or challenge. Chances are he has been convicted by confessions made while being tortured.[3]

Nakba Deniers underestimate the misery caused by the DEMOLITION OF HOMES, the epitome of Nakba denial. Human beings cannot live without a home.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) takes, as its main focus, and its vehicle for resistance, Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the occupied Territories – over 24,000 homes destroyed since 1967. The motivation for demolishing these homes is purely political: to either drive the Palestinians out of the country altogether, or to confine the four million residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza to small, crowded, impoverished and disconnected enclaves, thus effectively foreclosing any viable Palestinian entity and ensuring Israeli control. In more than 95% of the cases the homes demolished had nothing to do with security. Their inhabitants did not commit any acts of terror…; Taken against the background of Israel’s systematic destruction of more than 500 Palestinian villages, towns and urban neighborhoods in 1948 and after, and its ongoing policy of demolishing the homes of Israeli (Arab) citizens – some 20-40,000 homes in the so called “unrecognized villages” are slated for demolition – the picture that emerges is one of ethical cleansing.[4]

Nakba Deniers treat the MASSACRE OF GAZA as none of our concern.

To say that 1,387 Palestinians lost their lives is just a statistic. (As opposed to nine Israeli, four by friendly fire.) Even pointing out that most of those killed were noncombatants, including many women and children fails to grip our emotions. But the massacre was more than a statistic to 78 year old Mustapha Al Jamal when F-16s fired missiles into his neighborhood. Jamal, who survived the Nakba of 1948 when he was 11 years old, lost his home, and six sons. Today, a year after the “war,” he is still homeless. “Life is not getting better,” he said. “It’s slowly getting worse for many people.”[5]

It’s true, Hamas, over a period of eight years, fired 12 tons of rocket payloads into Israel in response to the blockade which kept food, medicines, fuel, and electricity from entering Gaza. At the same time, Israel dropped 100 tons of high explosives on Gaza during the first day of the of Operation Cast Lead, targeting schools, chicken farms, health clinics and sanitation facilities. As a result, every day, Gaza, with a population density exceeding that of Hong Kong, dumps 65 million liters of raw sewage into the Mediterranean,[6]

Rachelle Marshall writes:

A year after the invasion Israel’s three year blockade of Gaza is tighter than ever, with the results that Gaza’s crippled infrastructure has not been built and thousands of Gazans remain homeless in the midst of another winter. Because Israeli bombs destroyed the sanitation system, many Gazans are not only cold and hungry, but forced to drink contaminated water. Amnesty International’s British director Kate Allen said of the current situation, “The wretched reality endured by 1.5 million people of Gaza should appall anybody with an ounce of humanity. Sick, traumatized and impoverished people are being collectively punished by a cruel policy imposed by Israeli authorities.”[7]

Nakba Deniers accept as normal or necessary Israel’s MILITARY CHECK POINTS, which often serve as centers of humiliation and even death for those trying to get to their jobs, schools or hospitals. .

Nakba Deniers look the other way instead of calling Israel to accountability for
Nakba Deniers accept the dumping of Israeli

Little by little, with very little attention from the world community, Israel is squeezing Palestinians from their land with checkpoints, earth mounds, Black Hawk helicopters, F16 bombers, sulfur bombs, tear gas, sound grenades, guns and bullets while all the time disallowing the delivery of food, medicine, fuel and electricity to sustain life. .

In 2002, Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli Army Chief of Staff, declared, “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”[8] Arnon Sofer, father of Sharon’s separation Plan put it even stronger:

When 2.5 million people have to live in a closed off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day and every day. If we don’t kill, we will cease to exist. The only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.[9]

My adversary said, “There will never be peace until the Palestinian mothers stop teaching their children to hate Jews.” I responded, “Mothers don’t have to teach their children fear and hatred. Children look around and learn from experience. Israel has its narrative which we hear often. Until we also hear and acknowledge the Palestinian narrative, the Nakba, Israel will show little interest in ending the occupation.

Thomas Are
August 16, 2010

[1] Uri Avnery, Is a Two State Solution still Possible? A Fantasy The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July, 2010, p.16
[2] Walter Reich, The Despair of Zion, Published in The Wilson Quarterly, Summer, 2010. p. 50.
[3] According to the Middle East Study Committee Report to the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, “Some 8,000 Palestinians arrested in 2008 or in previous years were still imprisoned at the end of the year. This included some 300 children and 550 people who were held without charge or trial under military detention orders, including some who have been held for up to six years.” p. 69.
[4] Jeff Helper, Obstacles to Peace, A Re-framing of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. (Published by ICAHD, 2009) p. 1.
[5] See Mohammed Omer, Life Upside Down: One Year After Israel’s Winter War on Gaza. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2010, p.16.
[6] See Delinda Hanley, ANERA’s Bill Corcoran Describes Gaza One Year Later: Picking Up the Pieces, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 2010, p.9
[7] Rachelle Marshall, U.S. Placates Israel and Opens New War Front While Ignoring Palestinians, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2010, p. 7
[8] Jeff Helper, Obstacles to Peace, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, p.26
[9] Quoted in The Jerusalem Post weekend supplement Up Front, May 21, 2004. p.4. Cited in Helper above., p.34. “Kill as many Arabs as possible and talk as much as possible about Peace,” became the formula of political strategist Reuven Adler, used to lead Sharon and Olmert to power and repeated in Livni’s successful election campaign of 2009. Cited by Helper, p.24.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nakba Denial - Then (Part One)

It is beyond me to understand how anyone with average intelligence can deny the Holocaust. The evidence is overwhelming. The testimony of many witnesses and the scars they bare are literally “undeniable.” It is also beyond me to understand how anyone with average intelligence can deny the Nakba. (The word means “catastrophe and refers to the Palestinian narrative of Israel’s treatment of the native inhabitants of Palestine. A better word might be the “atrocity. ) The evidence is overwhelming. The testimony of many witnesses and the scars they bare are literally “undeniable.” Alan Hart, a personal friend of Golda Meir and British journalist writes, “In my view, Nakba Denial – denial of Zionism’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine – is as obscene and as evil as Holocaust denial.”[1]

Hart tells of traveling with a Jewish friend to meet Golda Mier. They visited for five hours. They both loved it. Yet, in spite of the bond of friendship sealed by years of working and socializing together, his Jewish neighbor would not read Hart’s book. “If what I believe about that war (1967) is not true, everything crumbles,” he explains.[2]

To deny the holocaust, one has to swim against the stream and choose ignorance. On the other hand, Nakba Deniers may simply go with the flow and be carried along by the media, the Zionist lobby and the Christian Right Fundamentalists. If we remember the Holocaust to insure “never again,” then awareness of the Nakba, which is still very much alive, becomes the essential ingredient to “peace.” Yet, the Nakba of 1948 lurks unnoticed, like the pink elephant in the room in any discussion of the “troubles in the Middle East.” It taints every celebration of Israel’s right to exist. We often hear of the miracle of making the desert bloom. We seldom hear the rest of the story. It is a painful history. But it must be acknowledged if we are to ever understand the rage of the Palestinians.

At the founding of the State of Israel, acts of violence were designed to frighten Arabs into fleeing for their lives. One of the best documented examples was the village of Deir Yassin. On April 9, 1948, in the struggle to rid the land of Arabs, the Stern gang, headed by Yitzak Shamir, and the Irgun, headed by Menachem Begin, conducted the massacre of the Arab village of Deir Yassin. Jews claim 100 people were killed, Arabs say it was 250. The commander of the Haganah, Zvi Ankori described what he witnessed:

I saw cut-off genitalia and women’s crushed stomachs. It was direct murder. Soldiers shot everyone they saw, including women and children. Parents begged commanders to stop the slaughter, to please stop shooting.[3]

No one denies that most of those slashed to death were women and children. Jewish terrorist shot people on their homes and threw their bodies into the streets as a message to neighboring Arab villages. Survivors of the raid tell stories of Israeli soldiers starting to kill early in the morning and continuing all day. They killed everyone they saw, including old people and children. One pregnant woman had her stomach cut open with a butcher’s knife.[4]

The attack on Dier Yassin dramatically widened the gulf of hatred and fear that separated Palestinians and Jews. Zionists say it was not terror, it was war, even justified by their Scriptures. “We have no alternative...we were just defending our land.”[5] Begin himself wrote:

Out of evil, however, came good. This Arab propaganda spread a legend among Arabs and Arab troops, who were seized with panic at the mention of Irgun soldiers. In the results it helped us. Panic overwhelmed the Arabs of Eretz Israel...Kolonia village...was evacuated overnight. Bethlehem was also evacuated.[6]

Deir Yassin was not alone. Village after village felt the sting of Israeli massacres. Unwanted villages were destroyed., Out of more than 550 villages in the territory occupied by Israel, only 121 survived. The rest were taken over by Jews or bulldozed. In the first wave of immigrants, approximately 200,000 Jews moved into abandoned Arab houses. Jewish children played with toys the Arab children had left behind when expelled from their homes.

By the end of the fleeing, only 165,000 of over 800,000 Arabs remained in Israel. Many were forced to march in blood soaked clothes through the streets of Jerusalem past jeering on-lookers, never to be seen again.[7]

The Nakba of 1948 was as if I interrupted your church service, walked up front and announced, “I am from the United Nations and we, (without your vote,) have decided to give North Georgia back to the Cherokee Indians.
No, you can’t go home to collect your belongings. Your home is no longer yours.
No, there will be no compensation.
No, you do not have time to find your children. You are to load up on the bus we are providing for you. Just follow the young men with the machine guns. Of course, this is all for your own good, you understand. You will spend this night in a barbed wire compound. Tomorrow you will be force marched over the hills. Some of you, especially the elderly will die on the march. Parents may be separated from your children, and some of you will never see your little ones again or even know what happened to them.
You are to be placed in a Refugee Camp and most of you will live behind cement barrels and barbed wire for the rest of your life. You have never committed a crime, nor have you ever been tried in any court. You just happened to live in a land that Israel wanted.

By the way, the U.N. is prepared to take care of you. In fact, the U.N. is going to spend eleven cents a day to provide you with food, shelter, clothing, health care and education for your children.[8]

You will wait every day for the world’s conscience to rise up and come to your defense, but to this day, that has not happened. In fact, most of the power brokers of the world think all this is a good idea and will donate $16 million a day to help the Cherokees break up all this concrete and tear down all these ugly parking lots and restore North Georgia to the “garden” it was before all you white folks moved in and messed it up.
You will be maligned, misrepresented, stereotyped as thieves and terrorist and frankly, the Cherokees and those who feel guilty for your mistreatment wish you would simply go away.”[9]

May 15, 1948, the State of Israel was declared by the United Nations, giving 56 percent of the land to Israel; including all the coast land, the cereal and industrial lands. Palestinians were pushed up into the hills or locked up into refugee camps. Many of those who survived are still there, in some cases looking across the hills at the homes that used to be theirs in which Jews now live. In the early years of confinement, Palestinians would sneak back into their home territory to harvest their own crops or steal food for their families, only to be labeled “thieves” and “lawless scavengers” by their Jewish occupiers.

Arnold J. Toynbee said, -

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.[10]

General history, even filled with facts and numbers, can leave us a little detached. It came across more disturbing when told by a guest in my home. When he was nine years old, his father gathered the family together. “A monster named Hitler up in Europe has been killing Jews. He is dead now but he took their money and homes from them. Soon,” father told them, “some who escaped from him will be coming to Palestine. We are going to help them get re-established. In fact, a family will probably move in with us until they can build a home of their own.”
Young Elias Chacour was excited. It was fun moving clothes and belonging out of one side of their house to make room for ‘their cousins.’ After all,” father said, “We all came from Abraham. They are our blood brothers.”
But, they did not come in as guest. Zionist soldiers had no interest in sharing anything. They broke into his house, pulled his mother by her hair and rounded up the villagers of Biram into a barbed-wire compound, leaving their homes, possessions and even loved ones behind. Elias and all the people of Biram were forced to spend days and nights on the wet and rocky ground in a nearby olive orchard. A week later, they walked over the hills to the small cross-road village of Gish. “You will live here,” the Israeli soldiers barked. “Biram is not your home anymore. It is ours. Come back and you will be shot!”
What happened to the people of Gish? No one knew until a few days later, Elias was playing ball with his friends, as nine year old boys would do, when someone knocked the ball down into a dry ravine. He ran to retrieve the ball, reached down and suddenly saw a hand sticking out of the ground. He had just discovered the people of Gish. They had been murdered and buried in a mass grave.”.

Multiply the story of Biram and Gish by thousands of Palestinians who in the coming years of Israel’s new power and every nine year old Elias kid can tell of being frightened, accused of hiding weapons, called terrorists and beaten by Jewish soldiers, all for the State of Israel, while the world looked to other way.

This partial part of the story of Nakba 1948 is disturbing. But it is a part which must be remembered if there is every to be peace and security for Israel and Palestine. The popular, sanitized version only feeds to anger, mistrust and violence.

Thomas Are
August 4, 2010

[1] Alan Hart, Zionism, The Real Enemy of the Jews. Volume Three, Conflict without End. (Clarity Press, Atlanta, 2010) p. 366.
[2] Hart, Ibid., p.370.
[3].Lanni Brenner, The Iron Wall: Zionist Revolutions From Jabotinsky to Shamir, (Zed Books, Ltd. 1984). P. 97. And Ralph Schoenman, The Hidden History of Zionism, (Veritas Press, Santa Barbara, California, 1988) p.33.
[4].Quoted in David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Root of Violance on the Middle East, Faber and Faber, 1977) p. 141. Cited in Clifford Wright, Facts and Fables: The Arab-Isreli Conflict, (London, Kegan Paul International. 1989) p.19
[5].”Rights Group Accuses Israel of Violence Against Children in Palestine Uprising,” The Washington Post, May 17, 1990.
[8] Alan Hart, Arafat, Terrorist or Peace Maker, (Sidewick & Jackson, London, 1984) p. 95.
[9]. Read it for yourself. Read Blood Brothers, by Elias Chacour, The Iron Wall, by Avi Shlaim, and Paul Findley’s Deliberate Deceptions, and Israel’s Sacred Terror, by Livia Rokach, Justice and Only Justice, by Naim Ateek, Healings, by Rabbi Michael Lerner. This history is well documented by reputable historians and scholars.
[10].Na’im Ateek, Justice and Only Justice, Orbis Press, Maryknoll, New York, 1989.) p.32.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Netanyahu's Peace Talk

Larry King should be embarrassed. During his “love fest” with the Prime Minister of Israel last week, (Larry King Live, July 7, 2010), he left so many questions unasked. Benjamin Netanyahu talked peace, bemoaning the fact that Israel wanted so much to have peace Yet others either refused to “recognize the Jewish state that exists in the Middle East, that wants to live in peace and security with its neighbors.” OR, he complained that he had no negotiating partner on the Arab side who is willing to come from Ramallah to Jerusalem to “get down together to talk peace and make peace.”

Netanyahu complained that Hamas is still holding Gilad Shalit, a Jewish soldier, in prison and has done so for four years. “I would hope that International condemnation is directed there. That’s where it belongs and not against Israel, a struggling democracy, striving to live and make peace with its neighbors.” I agree. I wish Hamas would release their one prisoner, whom the whole world knows by name. But King did not ask about the 8,000 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons, including some 300 children, some held for more than six years. We never hear their names.[1]

James Petras, in his new book analyzing the United Nation’s Goldstone Report sums up Israel’s efforts for peace. In response to the idea that the world is “picking on” Israel, he writes:

Israel holds the ‘world record’ in the number of towns and villages ethnically cleansed (over 500 and counting); number of refugees deported (4 million and counting); number of homes demolished (60 thousand and continuing); and has imprisoned more civilians per capita than any other country (250,000 and growing). Israel is the country with the highest number of protective US Security Council vetoes (over 100) preventing the world body from condemning Israeli war crimes.[2]

Netanyahu talks peace, saying that real leaders, meaning himself, are always willing to sit down together and talk. “Abbas should just come to Jerusalem. It’s only 10 minutes away. That’s when you have traffic. Without traffic, it’s seven minutes.”

As I listened to him, it became clear to me that Netanyahu wants two things: talk and Palestine.

He talks peace and the whole time he is talking, his troops are tearing down homes in East Jerusalem which have been owned by Palestinian families for generations. Suddenly, they do not have the “right to exist,” Their homes are being destroyed to make room for settlements for Jews only. All of the “go along to get along” policies of Abbas have not stopped the expansion of one settlement. While talking peace, Netanyahu continues to create “facts on the ground” which restrict the movement of Palestinians within Palestine. His so called ‘security wall” has little to do with security and everything to do with separating Palestinians from their farms, water, schools and hospitals.

Omar Hajaj, whose village is being surrounded by Israel’s “security wall” says, “We will soon be caged like a zoo animal.”[3] I wish King had asked Netanyahu how the total encirclement of Al-Walajah could lead to peace. Netanyahu talked about not leaving a stone unturned in his quest for peace and bragged about easing his siege of Gaza to allow more essential items in. However, according to Mel Frykbere, last week:

Israel has received international praise for its decision to ease its crippling blockade on Gaza following the country’s deadly assault on a humanitarian flotilla trying to bring desperately needed humanitarian aid to the coastal territory. But according to the UN human rights organizations, the easing of the blockade is insufficient in meeting Gaza’s needs.

He explains:

During the week after June 20, 695 trucks of goods entered Gaza. This compares with 2,400 per week prior to the closure and meets only 30 percent of Palestinian needs.[4]

Maxwell Gayland, UN Deputy Special and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Middle East says:

What we need to see is an improvement in Gaza’s water, sanitation, power grid, educational and health sectors. Gaza’s economy is shot to pieces and its infrastructure is extremely fragile.[5]

It seems obvious to anyone except Larry King that while talking peace, Netanyahu wants Palestine, all of it and without too many Palestinians.

Thomas Are
July 18, 2010

[1] See Breaking Down the Walls, Report of the Middle East Study Committee to the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) p.69.
[2] James Petras, War Crimes in Gaza and the Zionist Fifth Column in America. (Clarity Press, Atlanta, 2010) p. 12.
[3] Salim Saheb Ettaba, Palestinian Villagers Battle Plan to Wall Them In. (Yahoo News,) July 11, 2010.
[4] Mel Frykberg, Israel Chokes Gaza Despite Announced Easing, ( original,) July 15th, 2010.
[5] Quoted by Frykberg above.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Water, Water, and Less Water

For years, I have lived up on a mountainside in North Georgia. It’s not a mansion, but it is ours and we are happy. At least we were until some pretty rough looking guys built a house right up the road from us. I went up to investigate and lo, they had built a big house on my property. I took my case to international court and I won, but nothing happened. There is no enforcement of the law. My neighbors love guns and have a lot of them. So they keep adding to their house on my land and there is nothing I can do. Also, I noticed and smelled open raw sewage, coming from their house running down through my yard. When I went up to investigate, I saw that they had built a wall around my pond. It is my pond and my sole water source. It should be enough for both of us, but they have walled it off and are piping my water to their family on the other side of the mountain. My water supply has dried up. I have resorted to building a large water barrel on the roof on my house to try to capture rainwater, but my neighbors drive by and shoot holes in the tank just to see my little supply of water drain out on the ground. Sometimes I get frustrated.

Of course, none of this story is true for me. I live in a beautiful community with wonderful neighbors. I have all the water I need. But this is precisely what is happening to the Palestinians seeking to survive on their own land.

Soon after the 1967 war, Israel transferred control over all the sources of water in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the military. The reason is simple: 80 percent of the mountain aquifers, the region’s largest reservoirs, are located under the West Bank and Israel desires the great majority if it for her use. Though the aquifer is the sole source for residents of the West Bank, Israel uses 83 percent of its annually available water for the benefit of Israeli cities and its settlements, while West Bank Palestinians use the remaining 17 percent.[1] “Both the Jordan River and the Palestinian aquifers have been over-pumped by Israel…The average settler in the West Bank uses almost six times as much water per day as the Palestinians who live there.[2]

It is not unfair to say that Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, killing over 19,000 and making 100,000 homeless, to get to the Litani River, invaded the Golan Heights in 1967 to get to the under ground water resources of Syria, walled off the city of Qalqilya to control the largest aquifer of the West Bank and sealed off the Jordan River by roads and settlements.

Israel’s continued brutal occupation of Palestine and refusal to accept any peace treaty has very little to do with security and much to do with WATER. Water is even being used as a weapon. “Palestinians attempt to collect rainwater in rooftop cisterns...are vulnerable to Israeli rifle fire and house demolitions.”[3]

In the West Bank, about 50 groundwater wells and more than 200 cisterns have been destroyed or isolated from their owners by the construction of the separation barrier, affecting the domestic and agricultural needs of more than 122,000 people.[4]

And that part about sewage running through Palestinian yards? That’s true too.

Rajah Shehadeh, co-founder of Al-Haq tells of his feet getting wet while walking through a Palestinian village:

We soon realized that we had walked into the open sewers of the Jewish settlement of Talmon…which did not have a collection system for treating sewage, which was just disposed of down the valley into the land owned by Palestinian farmers.[5]

The London based newspaper, The Independent, reports the dumping of raw sewage into Palestinian lands;

Across the occupied West Bank, raw untreated sewage is pumped every day out of the Jewish settlements, along large metal pipes, straight onto Palestinian land. From there, it can enter the groundwater and the reservoirs, and become poison.[6]

Years ago, I sat in the home of a Palestinian family in Hizma. Looking straight out from the bullet pot-marked home was a settlement on top of the hill. To the left was another one and to the right, still another. Israel not only confiscated the land on which these huge apartments were built, but also land for parks, libraries, government buildings, schools, swimming pools and roads…and roads…and more roads, on which Arabs were not allowed to drive or even cross. However, the most devastating effect of all this encroachment was the drying up of water wells. Israel siphons off so much water that it lowers the water table and the wells of Hizma dry up. “We aren’t even allowed to dig deeper to get water in our own well,” my host explained.
“How would the Israelis know if you slipped out here and dug your well a little deeper?" I asked.
“They would notice if we reached water.” He answered.

In the meantime, the wells in Hizma are dry. And any resistance, even peaceful demonstrations, are reported in the West as acts encouraging terrorism.

Thomas Are
July 7, 2010

[1] Breaking Down the Walls, Report of the Middle East Study Committee to the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), p.80.
[2] Baylis Thomas, The Dark Side of Zionism, (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. New York. 2009.) p.232.
[3] Ibid., Thomas, p.233.
[4] Steadfast Hope, Published by Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. p. 27.
[5] Breaking Down the Walls. p.82.
[6] Ibid., p. 82.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ari Fleischer condemns Helen Thomas???

This week’s editorial in The Nation entitled Free Gaza summarizes:

The United States has had ample opportunity to change its one sided policy, which has resulted in continued warfare, occupation, misery and death for Palestinians and Israelis. Israel’s occupation would not have been possible without tens of billions in US military aid, without dozens of UN vetoes cast by Washington, without the State Department’s back-room strong-arming of other nations. It would not have been possible without the dishonesty of a US media establishment that habitually twists or simply refuses to report basic facts about the Israel-Palestine conflict -- and is often less critical then the media in Israel. It would not have been possible without the active collusion or cowardly silence of the vast majority of the Democratic Party and liberal policy establishment, which for too long has bowed under the intimidation of AIPAC and other right-wing Zionist organizations, including Christian Evangelicals, all of which claim to defend Israel but which in fact support the most retrograde forces in Israeli society – elements that are leading Israel on a path of self–destruction.[1]

Helen Thomas did not have to read a magazine to know that the press has not fulfilled its responsibility. In 2006, she wrote: “Have American journalists forgotten that their role is to follow the truth, without fear or favor, wherever it leads them”?[2] She has lived with US press deceptions for over 60 years. Perhaps she was frustrated by the biased and impotent media. Perhaps she “misspoke when she said, “Jews should get the hell out of Palestine”. But consider where she is coming from. As a child of Lebanon, she watched the 1982 invasion of her parental home with little condemnation of Israel by the US media. Robert Fish, described by the New York Times as “probably the most famous correspondent in Britain.” wrote:

“Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead – almost all civilians, most of them children and women – in Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700 Palestinian civilian dead in the Sabra-Shitila massacre; the 1996 Qana massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them children, at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were ordered from their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an Israeli helicopter crew; the 1,000 dead of that same bombardment and Lebanese invasion, almost all of them civilians.”[3]

Does Ari Fleischer, who condemned Helen Thomas for not yielding to the party line, really not see a difference in African Americans brought to this country against their will and the brutal occupation of Palestine by Zionist Jews? If American blacks had invaded “our” country by force, stolen our nation by ethnic cleansing, and claimed 78 percent of our land, we might think it was a reasonable suggestion that they return form where they came. (A better parallel might be to send whites back to Europe and give the land back to the Native Americans.)

Perhaps Ari “misspoke,” or at least let his bias dominate any sense of justice and truth. This is the guy who publically judged Jimmy Carter, saying, “I honestly don’t believe the man has a moral compass.” And it was Fleischer, when working for George W. Bush, who over and over again, linked Saddam Hussein to Weapons of Mass Destruction in order to promote an unnecessary war against Iraq. And he questions the integrity of Helen Thomas?

Perhaps Thomas is also frustrated by the political impotence of our leaders and the Christian Right’s distortions of the teaching of Jesus. Obviously, she was not talking about Israel proper, (with or without a moral right to exist). Israel is here to stay, and rightly so. There are many Jewish children who have never known any home but Israel. But, there are also Palestinian children who have never known any home but Palestine. However, this has not prevented the leaders of Israel from calling for the “transfer” of non-Jews to Jordan, Syria or Lebanon, without a word of condemnation from Ari Fleischer.

Thomas Are
June 16, 2010

[1] The Nation, June 21, 2010, p. 3

[2] Helen Thomas, Watchdogs of Democracy, (Scribner, 2006) p. xiii.

[3] Robert Fisk, Why Do They Hate the West So Much, We will Ask, The Independent, January 7, 2009

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reminds me of a Story Jesus Told

Television widely reported that Israel had sent an emergency field hospital and a team of doctors to Haiti.

I had two feeling as I watched this newsworthy event. At first, I thought, this is Israel at its best. But then almost immediately that feeling jumped to ambiguity. Right next door to Israel is the Gaza Strip which was also devastated, not by an earthquake, but by man-made bombs which destroyed hundreds of innocent lives and thousands of buildings, all deliberately imposed by Israel. Was this humanitarian aid to Haiti a smokescreen to draw attention away from the pain and misery caused by Israel on a people for whom Israel is responsible?

Rachelle Marshall writes:

A year after the invasion Israel’s three-year blockade of Gaza is tighter than ever, with the result that Gaza’s crippled infrastructure has not been rebuilt and thousands of Gazans remain homeless in the midst of another winter. Because Israeli bombs destroyed the sanitary system, many Gazans are not only cold and hungry, but forced to drink contaminated water. Amnesty International’s British director Kate Allen said of the current situation, “The wretched reality endured by 1.5 million people in Gaza should appall anybody with an ounce of humanity. Sick, traumatized and impoverished people are being collectively punished by a cruel policy imposed by Israeli authorities.[1]

Akiva Eldar, writes in Haartz, a leading newspaper published in Jerusalem, “Israel’s compassion in Haiti can’t hide our ugly face in Gaza.”[2]

As I pondered this, I opened up a Middle East magazine and there staring me in the face was a picture, taken on January 18, 2010 in Gaza City, of Palestinians bringing money and goods they had collected for the victims in Haiti. I guess victims anywhere can identify with victims everywhere.

I am dumbfounded by the lack of media coverage of this amazing gesture by Palestinians. Television reported the medical teams sent by Israel out of its abundance, but I did not hear a word about the Palestinian charity sent out of their poverty. I guess if you have spent years demonizing a people it is hard to suddenly reverse and show them as decent, sympathetic and caring human beings.

I am also wondering if former presidents Clinton and Bush will send a “thank you” note to the Palestinians. Both of these world leaders have been in Haiti raising awareness and funds for the victims of a massive earthquake which destroyed the homes and infrastructure of much of that country. The astonishing thing to me is that the Palestinians, who themselves have been the victims of enormous destruction, responded with gifts for the people of Haiti. .

Bush and Clinton seldom draw attention to the “earthquake” that has been hitting the Palestinians for the last 60 years because they both backed Israel’s program of making life for a Palestinian unbearable, including settlements, checkpoints, a separation wall, road blocks, illegal detentions and assassinations. It would be interesting to see how they would word a thank you note to the people of Gaza and West Bank.

Reminds me of a parable Jesus told about the widow’s mite.

Thomas Are
April 18, 2010

[1] Rachelle Marshall, U.S. Placates Israel and Opens New War Front while Ignoring Palestinians, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2010, P. 7.
[2] Akiva Eldar, Haartz, January 18, 2010.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Negotiating Partner

James Baker was feeling sorry last Sunday for Israel because Israel had no negotiating partner in her search for peace. Speaking to Fareed Zakaria on GPS, Baker pointed out that the Palestinians are now divided. What can Israel do? Hamas now governs in Gaza, the PA rules in the West Bank. Poor Israel. Disappointed again. No chance for peace.

Of course, it never crosses Israel’s mind to lift the siege on Gaza. Even materials needed to rebuild those 22,000 buildings destroyed by Israeli planes and tanks are not allowed in.

Freezing settlement construction and reducing the pain caused by the wall snaking throughout the West Bank would be a step toward a reasonable peace. It might even help if Israel ceased assassinating Palestinian leaders.

I wish Baker could see that it’s not the lack of peace partners, but Israel’s determination to create “facts on the ground,” and its brutal occupation that complicates any step toward peace.

Who in the world could think that Israel is the least bit interested in peace when every day more and more Palestinian land is confiscated, olive trees are uprooted, homes are demolished and young Palestinians are imprisoned? Netanyahu openly declares his opposition to any Palestinian state and Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister, threatens to wipe Palestine off the map. On assuming office Lieberman announced the Mideast peace process was dead.

Henry Siegman, Director of the U.S./Middle East Project in New York, writes:

It is now widely recognized in most Israeli circles – although denied by Israel’s government – that the settlements have become so widespread and so deeply implanted in the West Bank as to rule out the possibility of their removal (except for a few isolated and sparsely populated ones) by this or any other government unless compelled to do so by international intervention, an eventuality until now considered unlikely.[1]

He adds:

Israel has crossed the threshold from “the only democracy in the Middle East” to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.

Israel does need to negotiate, but Israel’s battle is with itself. Is Yahweh Israel’s God or is the State of Israel Israel’s God? And the Jews of the world need to choose between upholding the high ethical standards of Judaism or forfeiting its moral values in support of the continued brutality of the State.

I wish Zakaria had challenged James Baker’s bias and asked about the suffering of the Palestinians, but I guess in the American media it is not to be.

Thomas Are
February 26, 2010

[1] Henry Siegman, Imposing Middle East Peace, The Nation, January 25, 2010., p.18.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Thanks to Ben

Several weeks ago, my new friend, Ben, who was actually a U.S. Congressman from 1967 to 1975, handed me a book. Ben is a self-described conservative who comes across to me as one who would rather blow up a Muslim nation than talk with it. He is Mr. Military with strong opinions. Upon leaving congress, Ben chaired the Heritage Foundation for six years. So, you can understand my surprise when he handed me THE CLASH OF FUNDAMENTALISMS saying, “This is a great book.” Below is my response.

To my new friend Ben,

You are right about the Book, THE CLASH OF FUNDAMENTALISMS

I immediately had two surprises:
(1) I was surprised that I had not known about or read this book, and
(2) I was surprised that you had known about and read this book.
Just goes to show how easy it is for me to be wrong.

There is so much in this book that I appreciate that I hardly know where to begin. However, here are some gleanings which I wish the American public had a chance to know. In fact, I believe that we need to know if there is to be peace in the Middle East.

In his Introduction to the paperback Edition, Tariq Ali says:

My argument that the most dangerous “fundamentalism” today – the “mother of all fundamentalisms” is American imperialism – has been vindicated over the last eighteen months. (p.xiii).

Of course, this was written in 2002, when 9/11 was still strong in his mind. Looking toward the buildup of our invasion of Iraq, he asked:

Why is the current regime in the United States so determined to wage this war? There are three major considerations. The first is that Iraq, a major oil producer remains outside of the control of the United States. The second is the size of the Iraq’s army – it is now the only force in the region that could threaten Greater Israel. And third, to wean the pro-Zionist Jews away from the Democrats… the Christian fundamentalists of the Republican Party make no secret of their unflinching support for every Israeli atrocity. After all, the Old Testament decrees that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews. (p. xv)

Responding to Tom Friedman’s comment, “I have no problem with a war for oil,” Ali writes:

In reality, Friedman did not need to stray as far as East Asia to discover a rogue state that is currently far more dangerous than Iraq. There is a perfectly good example of one in the Middle East and not so far from Iraq. This is a country that regularly invades neighboring states, defies UN Security Council Resolutions, occupies territories that it was not legally permitted to steal, treats the inhabitants of these territories as if they were Untermensch and possesses an arsenal of nuclear and chemical weapons. Israel, however, is the great untouchable of American politics. After 11 September, both Congress and the Senate agreed to resolutions giving the Israeli regime a blank cheque approving all its future actions in advance… The result of all this is a tame US media which barely reports the daily suffering of the Palestinians. (p. xvii)

A few pages over, still in the Introduction, he writes:

If the Untied States had been serious in its oft-stated desire to stop the flow of recruits to organizations like al-Quida, it would have concentrated on ending the occupation of Palestine. Ariel Sharon has been supported by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in his attempt to obliterate the political identity of the Palestinians … the blank cheque given to Israel by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives is without precedent in recent history…Sharon does not even try and conceal the fact that his aim is a major ethnic cleansing (“transfer”) of the Palestinians from the West Bank. Gaza will be transformed into a modern equivalent of an Indian reservation. Thus he is pursuing with direct physical force and by making everyday life unbearable for the Palestinians living in the occupied territories.
(p. xxiii)

This was written in 2002, but little has changed. He warns:

We have to move beyond the simplistic argument that “they hate us because they’re jealous of our freedoms and our wealth.” This is simply not the case.
We have to understand the despair, but also the lethal exaltation, that drives people to sacrifice their own lives. If Western politicians remain ignorant of the cause and carry on as before, there will be repetitions. (p.3)

When I have said things similar to this, people have accused me of “Wanting America to be attacked again.” It seems to me, the only Congress person who gets it is Dennis Kucinich.

Ali is right when he says that at the creation of the state of Israel:

Palestinians became the discarded offspring of history. (p. 89) From the moment of its foundation, the Zionist leaders of Israel were determined to depopulate the country.. Palestinians were a non-people. (93). In 1938, Ben-Gurion defended the concept of “compulsory transfer” to the Jewish Agency Executive and argued, “I favour partition of the country because when we become a strong power after the establishment of the state, we will abolish partition and spread throughout all of Palestine. (p. 94).

Describing the Six Day War,

I saw the photographed children who had suffered napalm burns, but this was a stateless people ignored by the Arab world and left to rot. In the West few politicians knew or cared. Riddled with guilt for the Judeocide of the Second World War, they turned a blind eye to Israeli atrocities…At the Civil Hospital in Damascus I saw further evidence of chemical weapons. Several patients had been burnt by napalm. We were told of the disappeared doctors, of how the Israelis had captured five doctors in the medical tent on the front and shot them dead. (p.123)

I remember preaching about the abuse of the Shah. It helps to understand the takeover of our Embassy to read:

Systematic torture and corporal punishment, prohibited in Iran from the early Twenties to the late Sixties, had returned under the shah. His secret police, Savak, became notorious throughout the world, mentioned each year as gross violations of human rights and dignity by Amnesty International. (p. 135)

And it seems that we never stopped bombing Iraq:

In August 1999 the New York Times reported: American warplanes have methodically and with virtually no public discussion been attacking Iraq. In the last eight months, American and British pilots have fired more than 1,100 missiles against 359 targets in Iraq. In October 1999 American officials were telling the Wall Street Journal they would soon run out of targets – “We’re down to the last outhouse.”… Blockade by land and sea has caused still greater suffering… people are denied the basic necessities of existence, its soil is polluted by uranium-tipped warheads. (p. 145)

Ali questions the motive for invading Iraq when there is:

Israel – a state founded on an original process of ethnic cleansing – had long defied UN resolutions mandating a relative equal division of Palestine, repeatedly seized large areas of neighboring territory, and was in occupation not only of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, but a belt of Southern Lebanon at the time. Far from resisting this expansionism, the United States continue to support, equip and fund it. … Washington supervises the reduction of the Palestinians to a few shrivelled bantustans at Israel’s pleasure. … Iraq’s seizure of Kuwait was not in the West’s interest, since it posed the threat that two thirds of the world’s oil reserves would be controlled by a modern Arab state… (p.147)

He sums up his book by quoting Isaac Deutscher:

A rational relationship between Israel and Arabs might have been possibly if Israel had at least attempted to establish it… Israel never even recognized the Arab grievance. From the outset Zionism worked towards the creation of a purely Jewish state and was glad to rid the country of its Arab inhabitants. No Israeli government has ever seriously looked for any opportunity to remove or assuage the grievance. They refused even to consider the fate of the huge mass of refugees unless the Arab states first recognized Israel, unless, that is, the Arabs surrender politically before starting to negotiate. (p. 402)

Ben, this author makes arguments that I have been spouting for twenty five years. Thanks for putting me on to this book. You are right. It is a great book.

Your new friend, TOM

Ben’s response to me was. “I did not mean to imply that I endorsed this book. I just thought you would like it.” The more we talked, the more certain I was that he had not read it. But, I did and I am glad.

Thomas Are
February 17, 2010