Sunday, December 23, 2012


Imperialism has been defined as a stronger nation taking the land, labor and resources of a weaker nation for its own gain.

In our local newspaper, several weeks ago, a Jewish friend wrote to complain to the editor about an article concerning the recent presidential election. However, his main concern seemed to be an article written several years ago by the same writer which contained criticism of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. He wrote:

I do not know how this woman gets away with such large press. She is either blindly naive or truly has a frightful agenda. Her previous “opinions” on Israel are unconscionable as she portrays Israel as the big bad bully. Israel for its proportion of the world population (less than  .02 percent of the world population) has contributed more to modern society, medicine, science, technology and humanitarianism than any other nation.
          The Jewish people over the centuries have contributed more to civilization than any other people in proportion to their population size in terms of moral-ethical values, human rights, science, medicine, philosophy. Count how many Jewish Nobel prize winners compared to Muslim prize winners … with 16 million population of the Jewish faith compared to a billion Muslims. (1)

I do not know anyone who says that Jews are not smart. The debate is over the morality of the Zionist government of the State of Israel. The Germans, in the 1930s, were smart people. Brian McLaren raises the question of how a country like Germany, “the epicenter of the enlightenment with it rationality and its mind-set could sink into the barbarism of Nazism and all it entailed.”

The intellectuals realized that Nazism was an excessive growth of confidence ---confidence in their national ethos, in their rational and interpretive powers, in their scientific prowess, and so on. When this confidence grew out of proportion, it became malignant, giving the “us” of Germany a kind of manic hyper-confidence to claim racial superiority and global dominance even if that meant extermination of those who were determined to be “other,” “them” or “not us” (2)

The holocaust happened because good people turned a blind eye to evil policies. This does not take anything away from the IQ level of the German people, it simply points out that smart people can choose to ignore the darker side of their own government. Just this week, Israel announced 3,000 new settlement units and the world is still waiting for the outcry of the “moral-ethical values, human rights” Nobel prize winning Jews of Israel and America to shout, “stop it.” Surely they are smart enough to know what is going on.

The simple question facing the population of the world is: Is Palestine a part of Israel? That is not a hard question. Israel with its Knesset and Supreme Court has had 62 years to figure it out. Does Palestine belong to Israel? Yes or No?

If the answer is yes, then why does democratic Israel not have all its citizens living under the same law? Why not equal treatment? If the answer is “no,” then by what right, moral or otherwise, does Israel have to tear down Palestinian homes and replace them with Jewish only houses, to transfer water into Israel, to exploit labor by denying opportunity for Palestinians to work for themselves? What right does Israel have to keep 2.5 million Palestinians shut up as in a prison?

My Jewish friend has every right to defend Israel's expansionism, but at least he should have the integrity to call it what it is: Israeli imperialism.

Thomas Are
December 24, 2012

(1) Smoke Signals, Letters to the Editor, November 2012.
(2) Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change, (Thomas Nelson, 2007) p.36.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Wish Obama were listening

To tell you the truth, I am disappointed in Barak Obama's anemic response to the Israel/Palestine crisis. I remember well his beautiful declaration in Cairo in 2009.

It is undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years, they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in the refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation.

So, let there be no doubt, the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate aspirations for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.

Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist. At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestinian's [right to exist]. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

These was the most encouraging words spoken by a president in my life time, and millions of people dedicated to peace through justice around the world remember them well. I wish that Obama also remembered them. But it seems that he is choosing to wash his hands of the whole Israeli/Palestinian mess. Peter Beinart in Newsweek writes, “Even though E1 has long been an American red line.(1) And even though the Israelis alerted the White House mere hours before they announced the decision, the Obama administration's response was pro forma and bland. Publicly, Obama said nothing. It was the first sign of what senior administration officials predict may be a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Obama's second term: benign neglect. (2)

In what terms can the silence of Obama be described other than that he has in fact “turned his back on the Palestinian people?” He obviously knows that the United States is up to its ears in supporting Israel's illegal activity with our money, weapons and UN Security vetoes.

Roger Waters, addressing the United Nations on November 29, 2012, spelled out Israel's guilt of international crimes in five terms: apartheid, ethnic cleansing, collective punishment, violation of Geneva Convention and use of illegal weapons. At risk of diminishing the power of his full address I will summarize his presentation.

APARTHEID – to establish on a racial basis the domination of any one group of persons over any other group of persons and systematically oppressing them, as has been the policy of Israel towards the Palestinians since 1948.

ETHNIC CLEANSING - as in the systematic expulsions of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 and 1967.

COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT – as in the punishment of an entire civilian population, explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Convention. Israel has violated its obligation as an occupying power by the virtual imprisonment and blockade of the entire population of Gaza.

VIOLATION OF GENEVA CONVENTION - which prohibits an occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory.

USE OF ILLEGAL WEAPONS – such as dropping white phosphorus on civilians, which sticks to the skin like jelly and burns at 1500 degrees, declared to be a war crime.

To those who say, “But, Hamas started it all.” Roger Waters responds. How we understand history is shaped by when we start the clock. Start the clock in the afternoon with rockets flying into Israel and Hamas looks guilty. Israel is simply defending itself. But, start the clock earlier that same morning when a 13 year old boy was shot dead by an Israeli soldier as he played soccer, and history looks a little different. Start the clock even earlier, like in 2009 and 271 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers. During that same time, not a single Israeli was killed.  In fact, Waters, said, “IT” actually started in 1967 with the occupation of Gaza and West Bank. The crisis of rockets is rooted in occupation.

Obviously the rest of the world takes these facts into consideration. I only hope Obama is listen.

Thomas Are
December 17, 2012

1 – The geographical area of Palestine between the West Bank and Jerusalem.
2 – Peter Beinart, Why Obama Will Ignore Israel, Newsweek, December 17, 2012. p.22

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Recognition by the Unite Nations

I have never thought of Israel as being afraid of annihilation as much as Israel being afraid of exposure. Let us be clear, the U.N. Resolution was not about the destruction of Israel, it was and is about the human rights of Palestinians. Mahmoud Abbas, President of Palestine, speaking before the UN, while seeking to upgrade Palestine to a “non-member observer state, said:

We did not come here seeking to delegitimize a state established years ago, and that is Israel. Rather we came to affirm the legitimacy of a state that must now achieve its independence and that is Palestine. The moment has come for the world to say: enough of aggression, enough with settlements and occupation.(1)

Israel and the U.S. cast off the Palestinian bid as merely a meaningless gesture saying that the vote by the UN to recognize Palestine is no more than a symbol. If that's the case, it's strange how hard Israel and the U.S. worked to stop it from happening, even threatening to withhold tax funds due for services in the West Bank. And the US sent Bill Burns, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, to visit Muhmoud Abbas in his New York hotel room to urge him to “reconsider” his request for recognition.

Why so much panic over a mere symbol?  Because this “symbol” allows the Palestinians access to the International Criminal Court and there's the rub.

Suddenly, a people whom Israel had hoped would remain invisible will have a channel of revealing to the world 62 years of continuing “criminal” conduct by our “closest ally.” If Americans actually knew the history of Israel's oppression of the people upon whom it planted its nation, we might begin to ask questions. Questions such as, Why is there “no daylight” between the US, which publicly declares its commitment to democracy, and the State of Israel, which publicly declared itself a theocracy, a state for Jews only?

Some might even ask why the US refuses to recognize the democratically elected government of Gaza instead of broad brush declaring Hamas a “terrorist” organization. Worse still, why do we continue to give Israel more than $8,000,000 a day in foreign aid to build settlements when every news program on TV talks about the horrible financial situation we are having at home?

Some might even begin to wonder if our blind support for Israel's criminal activity could have contributed to 9/11 which ultimately got us bogged down in two wars, which threaten to bankrupt our nation. Some might even ask for an investigation into the crushing death of Rachel Corrie or Israel's deliberate attack on the USS Liberty.

Exposing Israel in a trial before the International Criminal Court would surely raise questions. Our US political leadership might be forced to use more honest language than Hillary Clinton's, “a step that will not bring us closer to peace,” which she immediately followed it up by declaring, “America has Israel's back,”(2) and Barak Obama's declaring that the Palestinian bid for recognition was “unhelpful.” Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador explained, “Today's unfortunate and counterproductive resolution placed further obstacles in the path for peace, that is why the United States voted against it.”(3)  Perhaps, exposing Israel also exposes us.

Henry Seigman in Foreign said, the U.S. uncritical stance “confirms America's irrelevance” in resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It dooms President Obama's efforts to renew peace talks as an “empty and purposeless exercise.” Unless the U.S. demands that Israel accept its 1967 borders as a starting point, negotiations have “no prospect of producing anything other than cover for Israel's continuing colonial behavior.” (4)

Immediately, the day after 138 nations voted to recognize Palestine, Israel announced the construction of 3000 new houses in Palestinian. The location of these new settlements is significant in that they will cut off the West Bank from Jerusalem and put an end to any hope of a Palestine with contiguous territory. Dani Seidemann, a Jerusalem lawyer and peace activist, described Israel's latest settlement plans as “the fatal heart attack of the two-state solution” and said Mr. Netanyahu was wielding “the doomsday weapon.” (5) All that over a “mere symbol.”

Thomas Are
December 12, 2012

1 – Reported by John Glaseer, UN Votes in Favor of Upgrading Palestinian Status,, November 29, 2912.
2 - Housing Move in Israel Seen as Setback for a Two-State Plan, Jodi Rudoren and Mark Landler, New York Times, November 30, 2012.
3 – John Glaser, UN Votes in Favor of Upgrading Palestinian Status. November 29, 2012.
4 - Housing Move in Israel Seen as Setback for a Two-State Plan, Jodi Rudoren and Mark Landler, New York Times, November 30, 2012.
5 - The Week, The Israeli-Palestinian Rift Deepens. December 14, 2012. p.3.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Another "War" with Gaza

Why are we seeing another “war” with Gaza? I can think of several reasons. None of them have to do with rockets. (See my Post of January 7, 2009, Rockets, Rockets, Rockets)

Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak are facing an election in January and need an atmosphere of fear to insure their re-election. (After all, it worked for George W. Bush.) Israel's method of operation for years has been to provoke a reaction and use that as an excuse to “defend” itself. Last week, Israel assassinated the leader of Hamas, Ahmad Jaberi, his body guard and a cameraman, by firing a rocket into their car just days after Israel had reached a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. Israel expected a response and it worked. After all, it worked four years earlier when rocket fire had stopped for four months. Suddenly Israel invaded Gaza killing six Palestinians. Hamas called off the cease fire and Israel get the war it wanted.

In the past week, Hamas has launched a thousand qassam rockets, weighing less than a hundred pounds each, into territory taken from them by Israel. One crude rocket hit a building and three innocent Israeli citizens were killed. Israel has retaliated with round the clock bombardment which has resulted so far (as of November 20th) in killing over 100 and wounding 860 Palestinians, mostly women and children. The Gaza hospitals are running out of beds, drugs and supplies.

The media calls it a war. However, one side has an army; 175,000 troops, 3,000 tanks and 786 fighter aircraft. On the other side is Hamas with 12,000 volunteers at best, ill trained and poorly equipped. However, Israel is in an uproar. For the first time, Hamas has fired “long range” (40 mile) rockets at Tel Aviv. Two rockets got through the Iron Dome, which Israel got to test with 90 percent success. One fell into the sea and the other in a field. But the psychological impact is enormous. If suddenly Hamas can reach the center of Israel's business and playground, nobody knows what effect that could have on investments, tourism and Jews who might return to Israel for the good life?

I saw on the internet a placard carried by an old man which read:

                                                                     take my water
                                                                 burn my olive trees
                                                                  destroy my house
                                                                       take my job
                                                                     steal my land
                                                                 imprison my father
                                                                    kill my mother
                                                                  bomb my country
                                                                        starve us
                                                                      humiliate us
                                                                     I am to blame:
                                                                  I shot a rocket back.

Israel's ambassador and our U.S. News media constantly explain that Israel, “Has a right to defend itself.” Noam Chomsky defends Hamas:

When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing … You can't defend yourself when you're militarily occupying someone else's land. That's not defense. Call it what you like, it's not defense.

So, add it up. Netanyahu and Barak need election propaganda, the Iron Dome defense system needs to be tested, Iran is too tough to tackle and the U.S. is bogged down in re-election adjustments and debt crisis. Wow! What better time could there be for Israel to do what it seems to do best. Attack its neighbors, especially those who are unarmed and defenseless.

Thomas Are
November 20, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Several years ago, the Christian leadership in Israel and Palestine sent out a plea known as Kairos Palestine which said, “We cry out from within the suffering in our country under the Israeli occupation... We have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people.”(1) They simply asked the Christians of America to acknowledge what is happening to them and to notice that they are being strangled to death by the ”acts on the ground” of Israel's occupation.

Last winter, a dozen people of conscience published a response to that plea called Kairos USA which said, we repent of our silence and abuse of theology which continues to allow your persecution unchallenged. They wrote:

Today, the churches of the Holy Land are calling us to stand with them in their
        nonviolent struggle. How can we do otherwise? … You cannot silence the cry of the
        oppressed nor suppress the human hunger for justice for all of God’s children.(2)

I studied these documents in Atlanta. That was last month. This month, I attended the Mountain Top Lecture Series at Amicalola Falls State Park in North Georgia which featured Brian McLaren. I was exited because I had read several of McLaren's books and knew his passion for better understanding among people of different cultures and religions. And he has a heart for peace for the Palestinians. In his latest book, he wrote:

A distorted doctrine of chosen-ness tells many sincere but misguided Christian                   Zionists that the Jews have been chosen by God to own certain land without concern for the well-being of their non-Jewish neighbors. As a result, these Christians fervently support Israel in a Domination Narrative, justifying the continued military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. They may even support the Purification Narrative that inspires some Israeli settlers and political parties to drive Palestinian Muslim and Christians from their homes, whether through sudden expulsion or gradual colonization and appropriation.(3)

However, and this is my concern, during his lecture when he came to the subject of chosen-ness, he mentioned the conflict between Israel and Palestine only among several other conflicts. But, he used as his primary illustration the Hutu/Tutsi massacres in Rwanda. He even mentioned the horrible record of Christopher Columbus, both matters safely tucked away in history. However, he did not mention Israel's abuse of the Palestinians. I sat there in amazement, thinking, this Zionist theology of chosen-ness is driving our foreign policy, pulling us into a possible war with Iran and destroying our relations with the Arab world. How can he not put this on the table?

To be fair, I think Brian McLaren is a genuine prophet of peace and reconciliation. I marvelled at what he had to say and his passion for understanding and acceptance of others. But, I hurt because of what he did NOT say.

He referred in his book to the way of Jesus as “Peace, justice and reconciliation.” However, I agree with Naim Ateek who says that the formula must be justice, peace and reconciliation, and in that order. I don't mean to single out McLaren, To be fair, as part of the Mountain Top Lectures, Bart Ehrman did not talk about the plight of the Palestinians, even when asked a question about Rapture Theology, nor did Robin Meyers. A.J. Levine, if anything, was defensive of the State of Israel and criticised Palestinian Christian leaders for their resistance.

While we spent two days talking about being a better church, Israeli rockets killed seven Palestinians in Gaza, including three children and injured 30 to 40 more. While we were in church listening to an emotional sermon about peace, Israeli bulldozers were destroying another home in West Bank.

When will justice become the concern of the Christian leaders in America?

I support what has become popularly known as the emerging church. However, I wonder. Have we become just one more retail outlet for selling a popular religion? When I asked about our having someone like Mark Braverman, Norman Finklestein, Naim Ateek or a Miko Peled to be our lecturer at the Mountain Top Series, I was quickly told by a friend that we wouldn't get twenty people interested enough to come and hear about justice for the Palestinians. He is probably right. But then, I ask, are we only interested in that which is popular?

Self disclosure – I ask myself if I am disappointed because I am genuinely concerned for the Palestinians or did I just want my ego affirmed by a celebrity? Most everyone there knew that my passion is justice for the Palestinians. I will probably never know. But either way – while we talk, Israel bulldozes more houses and drives more Palestinians into homelessness, uproots more olive groves, steals more water, erects more road blocks and check points, and imprisons more kids. Should that in itself not be enough to merit serious attention when discussing “chosen-ness”?

Thomas Are
        November 15, 2012

1 – Kairos Palestine, A Moment of Truth, (Published by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., 2010) p.13.

2 – Kairos USA, U.S. Response to the Kairos Palestine Document. (Published by Kairos USA, 2012) p.13.

3 – Brian D. McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Coss the Road? (Jerocho Books, New York, 2012.) p. 119

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Grew Up Guilty

I grew up guilty. It was not that I just felt guilty, I was guilty. In my little home town in South Carolina, there lived a whole community of black people with whom I seldom, if ever, had a conversation, shared a meal or knew much about the life they lived. But, in spite of attending a segregated school, a segregated church, and listening to talk about how important it was to keep things segregated, I knew. Deep down, I knew that the people on my side of town benefitted from the exploitation of those African Americans who lived on the other side of town. Few people ever talked about it but I knew. And to this day, I still carry the remnants of that guilt.

I grew up hearing that “they” were lazy, not as smart as white people, and always smelled bad. While I took baths in hot water, it never occurred to me that they did not have indoor plumbing and were forced to wash outside, even in winter. I seldom connected the dots that my privilege was connected to their suppression. Oh, there were some, a few, black people who “made it.” Johnny owned and operated a dry cleaning business and someone ran a little grocery store down by the school, but by and large, most black people were dependent upon the economic handout from the white community. But, there were times, when I would think about it, I had to confess, at least to myself, that I lived a privileged life simply because of the accident of birth. I even thanked God that I had not been born black.

My parents never told me that black people were inferior, but the entire system in which I lived said they were. I went to the new high school while they attended class in the old fire trap on the poor side of town. I wore clean clothes, washed by our black maid, while their shirts were wrinkled and often torn. I had no trouble in accepting things as they were and, along with all my friends, accepted it as something for which God was responsible. Yet, down deep. I knew better, and I felt guilty. I still do.

I feel sorry for Mitt Romney. There is going to come the day, when like George Wallace who, broken in heart and spirit, rolled down to the front of the African American church in Montgomery, Alabama and said, “I was wrong and I am sorry.” Mitt Romney is so caught up in doing anything he can right now to gain money and votes until anything goes to out-do Obama in proving his loyalty to Israel. He shows no concern for the illegal policies for Israel’s Zionist government, no matter how extreme. To heck with UN resolutions, international law and human decency. He spoke to a wealthy Jewish audience in Israel and according to The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, said:

That Israel’s GDP per capita was $21,000 while that of the Palestinians was $10,000. Romney showed “a dramatic, stark difference in economic vitality.” The actual figures are $31,400 for Israel and less than $3,000 for the Palestinians – but that is not because, as he said later, “culture makes all the difference,” but because of occupation, discrimination and oppression.(1)

Then to put icing on the cake, he declared Jerusalem to be the forever capital of Israel. He brags about his close personal friendship with Benyamin Netanyahu and totally ignores the plight of the Palestinian. Not unlike my days in high school, he just did not see across the hill to the poverty and squalor in which those living under Israel’s military rule are forced to live.

Maybe he really does not see. Maybe his understanding is distorted by the sheltered and privileged life he has always lived. The rules of life, including his economic success have been so rigged that he is blinded by his own advantage and wealth. Maybe he does not know that Israel’s economy is built upon handouts and theft. It may be years before he will allow himself to see what he has become a part of, whether he does or does not win this election next month.

But, I have to believe, the average Jew living in Israel knows, whether he will admit it or not. He knows that his country was started by confiscating the land and homes of more than 700,000 innocent people who were expelled from 78 percent of their historic Palestine, not unlike the land on which I live was taken from the Cherokee Indians. He knows when he is taking a hot shower, the water is diverted from the Palestinian West Bank. He also knows that the modern highway on which he rides was built by the cheap labor of those forced to work in Israel. He knows that his economy grew at an amazing rate because of the control on the production of Palestinian banks and production. He knows about the settlements, the wall, checkpoints and the uprooting of olive trees. He knows that his privilege is paid for by hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who are living in refugee camps. He knows. And deep within himself, he feels guilty. For that reason, he will not allow himself to engage in a conversation with, or even about, the plight of the Palestinians and will gladly sell his conscience to a shyster like Mitt Romney. He is trapped. To admit what he knows produces more guilt than he can handle and he knows it.

I once heard a Palestinian say, “I thank God that I was not born a Jew.” I immediately thought of that as anti-Semitic, and rejected him, But, the more I listened to him I realized that he had no dislike for the Jews. He earnestly felt compassion, even pity. The Jew, he declared, cannot enjoy his privilege because deep down he knows that it was stolen from another people and he will live with that guilt forever.

I understand. I still struggle with mine.

Thomas Are
September 20, 2012

[1]  John Lee, Romney on the Palestinians: It’s not the “Culture,” It’s the Occupation,  Washington Report in Middle East Affairs,  October 2012., p.16.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

More Than One Way

There are many ways that we can approach the problem of seeking justice for the Palestinians.

One, is a head on confrontation with Israel. You hear those who hold this view saying such things as: Israel will never voluntarily give up power or give up claiming Palestinian land for its own use. Therefore the only solution is force. The Palestinians need a sponsor, they say, some Arab nation willing to risk suicide to send an army up against the state of Israel which has the fourth strongest military on the globe. Or, they say, “The Palestinians need a PAC. They need to organize enough financial resources to bribe US politicians into taking up their cause.” Those in this camp are pessimistic about anything of this caliber ever happening. Therefore, they say such things as, “It’s sad, but the Palestinians are a lost people.

This position leads some to justify Israel’s brutal control over the Palestinians and assault on its neighbors by declaring, “Israel lives with a siege mentality. They know if they let down for one moment, the Arabs will push them into the sea. Israel is forced to operate under a no tolerance policy against any threat, real or imagined.” Thus, Israel kills 1400 citizens in Gaza in the winter of 2008 because some renegade fired homemade rockets into Israel. “Israel can only survive by pouncing upon anyone who appears to be gaining power in the region.” Besides,” they say, “Nothing is going to be gained by criticizing Israel, especially in an election season.”

There is another camp of opinions which advocates, “allowing the two parties involved to work it out between themselves. Those who take this position say such things as, “Until both sides want peace enough to compromise, it’s not going to happen.” This seems to be the position of Hillary Clinton who says, we won’t do anything to help the Palestinians until they come back to the negotiating table.

This proposal sounds noble, but it’s a little like telling the slaves in 1830 to just work it out with the overseer. The problem is, only one side has power. Only one side has an army The weak side lives behind an apartheid wall and is controlled by the stronger.

Then, there are those who seek peace by bringing hearts together.. This group brings Jews and Arabs together to work and study toward accomplishing some goal beyond just talking about how to get along. The results of this effort, (I want to say ministry) is that individuals get to know each other. They hear one another’s narrative. By the end of their time together, they have developed a relationship of respect and affection.

This works. I have seen it in the youth camps run by Roscoe Possidenti where Jews and Palestinians hug and weep on the others shoulders. Elias Chacour, a Melkite priest in the West Bank village of Ibillin built a school in which the faculty is half Jewish and half Arab. The student body is also equally divided. The goal is education, but the result is united hearts. Jim Crupi brings together business and community leaders for training. The participants in his seminars include those of ethnic and religious backgrounds from numerous Middle Eastern nations. In the long run, this may be the best solution to bringing about harmony among some very hostile nations and people.

However, all these approaches to peace are too slow. Before Israel comes to any just agreement, or the Palestinians find a big brother, or enough hearts are changed, there will be no Palestine. Israel will have very well claimed the total of Palestinian land and natural resources, including water, except for a few Bantustans here and there. .

There is another possibility. What I think will happen and what is happening, which will result in peace and citizenship for the Palestinians, is that Israel will not be controlled from the outside but will crumble from within.

The conscience of the world, including many young Jews, both in the US and in Israel, are rejecting the brutality of the right wing Zionist regime. Today’s younger Jews are not as emotionally tied to the holocaust, or to the state of Israel, as are their parents. Non-Jews simply find it hard to stomach the stories of cruelty coming out about the actions of Israel. And Israel is being trapped by its own Jewish theology. The story of Naboth’s vineyard found in the Book of First Kings, and such texts as Amos, “Let justice role down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream,” cannot be reconciled with the bombing of civilians, building of settlements, check points, restrictions on travel, demolition of homes, the assassination of neighboring scientists and treating a whole people as subhuman. This “God gave your land to me" theology, just does not fit with historical Judaism’s mandate for justice.

I honor those who chip away at the hard line Zionist agenda. I teach classes, lead discussions, donate money, give away books, show documentaries and put a bumper sticker on my car in an effort to support the “chippers”. I believe their method of seeking justice is the only hope for peace for Palestine and Israel and I believe it is working.

Thomas Are
September 2, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

He Just Doesn't Get It

Back in 1957, Golda Meir said something like:

     "Peace will come when Palestinian mothers learn to love their children
     more than they hate the Jews."

She also said that there was no such thing as a Palestinian people. Of course, several years later she apologized, saying, “That was the silliest damn thing I ever said.” Well, I don’t know. I think accusing Palestinian mothers of not loving their children merits a gold medal for silliness.

Palestinian mothers do in fact love their children as do mothers all over the world. They also fear for their safety. They are concerned for their future in an apartheid state where their rights as human being are being ignored because the big superpower occupying them wants their land and water. Mothers in Palestine long for their children to have an opportunity to grow up with dignity, to have a safe place to sleep and go to school, all of which are systematically jeopardized by Israel’s military occupation. Far from choosing to hate their enemies more than they love their children, Palestinian mothers on numerous occasions have sacrificed their lives to cover their children with their own bodies to protect them from bombs, tanks and white phosphorus.

I think I first heard this little caricature of Palestinian mothers in 1988 during the first intifada. Kids who had never lived a day in their entire life free of the humiliation and the pain of military occupation suddenly began throwing rocks at Israeli tanks, trucks and troops. Israel responded with “An iron fist policy.” by killing, beating, and torture.

During the first year of the intifada:

Amnesty International reported 540 killed by Israeli troops including 159 children. Their average age was ten years old.

Save the Children reported 7000 hospitalized from beatings, 1/3 were ten years old, 1/5 five years old.

Dennis Madden, Roman Catholic Priest attested,

"If you take all the Palestinians who have been killed, the number is roughly around 1,000. The number who have required medical attention is roughly around 106,000. The over 50,000 who have been in prison, the houses that have been demolished, the thousands of trees that have been uprooted, the deportations. You take all of the statistics together...what it averages out to is that every Palestinian family has had at least two members that have either been killed, deported, arrested or tortured."(1)

And this was BEFORE suicide bombers.

According to Rosemary Radford Ruether:

Anyone arrested in the occupied territories can be held without trial or consultation with a lawyer for eighteen days. During this period (and also during extensions of this period) those arrested are typically subject to brutal treatment, ranging from kicking and beatings to elaborate form of torture...” (2)

Ari Shavit, a young Israeli soldier ordered to serve in Ansar II, one of Israel’s prisons for Palestinians, reported in Ha’aretz.

Perhaps the fault lies with the screams: At the end of your watch, on the way from the showers, you hear horrible screams...from over the galvanized tin fence of the interrogation section come hair-raising human screams. I mean that literally. Hair-raising. And you of course have read the B’Tselem report...And you ask yourself, what is going on here five meters away? Is it someone being tied in the “banana” position? Or is it a simple beating? You don’t know. But you do know that from this moment forth you will have no rest. Because 50 meters from the bed where you try to sleep, 80 meters from the dining hall where you try to eat, human beings are screaming. And they are screaming because other people wearing the uniform as you are doing things to them to make them scream. They are screaming because your state, your democratic state in an institutional systematic manner — and definitely legal — your state is making them scream.” (3)

To avoid the moral judgment of the world, Israel shifted the responsibility of their treatment of Palestinian youth onto the mothers whom they said, “sent their children out to commit violence.”

But, why bring this up now, twenty five years later? Because that old unfounded quip is still being passed around by intelligent people in an effort to give Israel legitimacy. Recently, I was referred to this very slogan to make the case that the Palestinians are really the cause of their own pain.

It was quoted by a friend who is quite superior to me in education and theological acumen. I was shocked, not so much by the quote, but that with all his credentials, he still thinks this is relevant to the Israel/Palestinian situation. In spite of his creditability in other areas, when it comes to applying his biblical faith to justice for the Palestinians, he just doesn’t get it.

Thomas Are
August 22, 2012

 1 - Private conversation with Father Dennis Madden, Tantur Institute, Jerusalem. Summer, 1991.
2 - Rosemary Radford Ruether, Herman Ruether, The Wrath of Jonah, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2002) p. 157.
3 - Marc Ellis, Beyond Innocence and Redemption, (Harper and Row Publishers, San Francisco, 1990,) p.73.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Romney Sells Out Justice for Votes

This week I received an email:

Yesterday in Jerusalem, Governor Mitt Romney made some statements that were not only wrong, but frankly, prejudiced and ignorant. Romney declared that “cultural differences” were the reason the Palestinian economy is not doing as well as Israel’s, without even acknowledging the Occupation.

This criticism of Romney’s mischaracterization of the Israel Palestinian conflict was published by none other than JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE, which called upon Romney to apologize to the Palestinian people. I respect this organization, even given money to help in their call for justice. I wish everybody would support them.(1) They are people of conscience who take seriously their Jewish faith.

Is it possible that Romney has never heard of the Occupation, or the Wall constructed by Israel which stunts economic growth? Does he not see the closures and checkpoints which prevent Palestinians from getting to their jobs, fields, health care facilities and schools as a hindrance to economic success? Could he not know about the theft of Palestinian water, the restrictions on travel and shipments of goods? Is he not aware of the prohibition of imports and exports which robs Palestinians of normal business opportunities? These restrictive policies have been around a long time. Certainly long enough for him to know.

Economic oppression of Palestine has been official Israel policy from its beginning. Twenty years ago, Frank Collins, writing for The Jerusalem Journal reports:

For 24 years of their occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Israelis have systematically done everything in their power to block the normal
development of the Palestinians’ economy. Far from allowing the growth and modernization of the economic infrastructure, the occupation authorities have gone to great lengths to thwart any progress in this direction. They have striven to make the Palestinian economy totally dependent on, and subordinated to, that of Israel… The licensing of a new Palestinian factory requires securing certification from potential Israeli competitors that they will not suffer from the new Palestinian competition. Naturally, very few licenses for new factories are granted. Water consumption by Palestinians is restricted to 1967 levels, with the results that irrigated agriculture has declined from 18 to 5 percent of the Palestinian economy.(2)

I remember visiting a mother in the West Bank village of Hisma. She lead us down a concealed path to a hidden chicken coop which provided her family with a few eggs. I asked her what would happen if the Israelis discovered her “illegal business”? She responded that she would probably be put in jail. At that time, approximately twenty years ago, I found her hard to believe. No nation could be that calculating and cruel. Today, I know better. I owe her an apology.

It is amazing that the Palestinians have managed to hold on in face of such oppression. Romney praises Israel for its business success. He then turns right around and supports the giving of billions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars to keep Israel’s economy afloat. I wonder how long Romney would stay in business in Gaza without electricity for most of the day, the resupply of materials or trucks to make deliveries.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director, Jewish Voice for Peace writes:

Governor Romney’s willful lack of understanding for facts on the ground and what appears to be racist assumptions about Israelis and Palestinians do not represent us… Romney stakes his value as a leader on his success in business. But any businessperson should know that blocking free trade and commerce, profiting from exploiting stolen land, and holding an entire economy hostage is not exactly fair play. (3)

Romney was in Israel attending a million dollar fundraising breakfast and sitting next to Shelton Adelson who has pledged a million dollars to defeat Barak Obama. The fact that Adelson bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s calling the Palestinians an “invented” people was not missed by Romney. He supports Netanyahu’s hard right rejection of any peace initiative that might lead to a two state, equal opportunity, solution.

It’s ironic that his breakfast was being served in the King David Hotel, the site of Israel’s pre-state terrorism which killed 91 people. But, that was then, when terrorism was on the other foot. Now, he could look out the window and see the wall and military control of Palestinian life, if he had chosen to. But, if you are humping for votes, such things as truth and justice get in the way. Nobody says that Romney isn’t smart. It’s his morals and ethics that are being called into question. Does anything matter to him as much as “business success”?

Thomas Are
August 2, 2012

1 - Open Letter to Governor Mitt Romney: Apologize to the Palestinian People. Jewish Voice for Peace. 1611 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA 94612;
Phone (510) 465-1777;

2 - Frank Collins, “Palestinian Economy in Chaos After Gulf War.” The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1991, Vol X, Number 2, p.23 . Cited in my book, Israeli Peace/Palestinian Justice. p.155.
3 - Jewish Voice for Peace, cited above.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment

TIAA/CREF drops Caterpillar from its investment portfolio because of the specially equipped bulldozers sold to Israel for their construction of an illegal wall, twice as high and four times longer than the Berlin wall, and specially equipped to demolish homes in the occupied territories. Alice Walker refuses to allow her award winning play The Color Purple, to be published in Israel because of apartheid policies and the persecution of the Palestinian people. Friends Fiduciary, a Quakers investment organization holding assets of more than $200 million, is divesting from Caterpillar because of profits derived from selling weaponized bulldozers to Israel.(1) On and on it goes.

The solidarity movement has scored significant success with the organization of a boycott of Israeli products, including the decision by British University and College Union to boycott Israeli academics; the amazing decision of more than 7 million people to join the BDS campaign; the decision taken by Hamshire College and some US churches to refuse to invest in the Israeli occupation; and the decision of Norway and Denmark to divest from Israeli military companies. (2)

Artists by the hundreds, from South Africa to Canada, have pledged support of BDS, especially since the massacre in Gaza in the winter of 2008-09 and the murder of nine humanitarian workers on the flotilla bringing aid to the suffering people of Gaza in 2010. In spite of peace talks, attacks on Palestinians have become even more harsh, with more home demolitions, the building of more and more settlements, an apartheid wall, road blocks, and armed response to nonviolent demonstrations. Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman cancelled appearances at the 2010 Film Festival. Dock workers from Sweden to California refused to unload Israeli ships right after Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara. Students at Berkeley have advocated BDS for more than ten years and are influencing students on other campuses to do the same.

For all these reasons, the Church of England several years ago divested from companies profiting from the occupation. Now, this week, even as I write, my church, the Presbyterians, after several years of trying to influence Caterpillar, to no avail, will have the opportunity to uphold DBS or choose the safe and popular position of looking the other way.

I quote Desmond Tutu:

Without a doubt, we South Africans who fought apartheid have been unanimous in finding Israel’s methods of repression and collective punishment far, far worse than anything we saw during our long and difficult liberation struggle. Israel’s indiscriminate, widespread bombing and shelling of populated areas with scant regard for the civilian victims, was absent in South Africa because the apartheid system relied on cheap black labor. Israel rejects outright an entire people, and seeks to eliminate the Palestinian presence entirely, whether by voluntary or enforced “transfer.” It is clearly this that accounts for Israel’s greater degree of sustained brutality in comparison to apartheid South Africa. This provides all the more reason why it is necessary for world opinion and action to assist the beleaguered Palestinian people. (3)

So, the Presbyterians will decide, do we stand up for peace and justice or do we side with the Christian Zionists who are anxious for Armageddon and with the arms industry which seeks more profits derived from conflicts. Some would say that to vote against BDS is to partner with those who promote Israel’s crimes against the men, women and children of Palestine. I would be one of them.

Thomas Are
July 1, 2012

1 - Friends of Sebeel, May 18, 2012.

2 - Mustafa Barghouthi, Freedom in Our Lifetime, Cited in The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, Edited by Audrea Lim, p. 8.
3 - Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Realizing God’s Dream for the Holy Land, Boston Globe, October 26, 2007, Cited by Ronnie Kasrils, Sour Oranges and the Sweet Taste of Freedom in The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, Edited by Audrea Lim,, p. 109.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Seven Years Later - It's Even Worse

Seven years ago, in 2005, Ariel Sharon, with great media fanfare, pulled 8,000 settlers out of Gaza. Women screamed and cried as soldiers dragged them from “their” homes. Sharon took bows. What a great humanitarian act and what a generous step to give independence to the people of Gaza. Of course, he did not have to project such harsh scenes of settler pain. All he had to do was announce that the thousands of IDF troops stationed in Gaza would be pulling out. The exodus of settlers would have followed without as much as a whimper.

Also, it may not have seemed so generous had the public known that at the very same time 8,000 settlers were moving from Gaza, Israel was building 13,000 units for Jews only on Palestinian land in the West Bank, and those moving from Gaza were offered $227,000 to relocate. Palestinians driven from their homes in 1948 and 1967 were given no compensation for the lives and land taken from them by force.

Sharon’s disengagement was hardly a liberation. It’s hard to feel liberated when surrounded by a hostile army. Israel maintained control of all crossing points, sea and air space. Gaza would remain alive only as an outdoor prison. Yet, we saw on the news only how much Israel was “giving up” to offer peace and prosperity to the Palestinians.

So, let’s take a look at what is not mentioned on the evening news, or in the chambers of Congress or even from Christian pulpits in America.

According to British based Save the Children:

Gaza’s only fresh water source is now too dangerous to drink and is contaminated with fertilizer and human waste.

Miko Peled, son of IDF General Matti Peled, continuing his father’s criticism of Israel writes:

Israel is getting away with murder, and it’s making me sick to sit around here and do nothing. Innocent people are being killed, children are hungry, there is mass unemployment and poverty, and it’s happening an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv. None if this was caused by a natural disaster. It was caused because Israel deliberately caused these conditions, and no one in America says a thing. … Israel’s restrictions on travel and movement and the import and export of goods, plus the occupier’s complete control over land and sea have created a siege that is choking one and a half million people, including 800,000 children. Gaza has essentially been turned into an enormous prison camp. (1)

In 2008, Sarah Flounders, co-director of the International Action Center, an activist organization opposing war and racism, wrote:

Conditions today in Gaza are desperate; Israel severely restricts and in some cases even denies the entrance of even basic food, fuel and electricity. Water filters, water pumps and bottled water are barred. The most basic supplies, from soap to batteries for hearing aids, are prohibited. No spare parts of any kind are permitted. Even desperately needed incubators for babies or dialysis equipment cannot be repaired or replaced. In the cold and crowded wards of Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, the dispensary is out of 85 essential medicines and is close to using up almost 150 others. (2)

And this was before Israel bombed Gaza for 22 days in 2008-2009, killing 1400, of whom 1200 were unarmed civilians, wounding 5000 and destroying no less then 22,000 buildings.

When human rights activist attempted to enter Gaza bringing humanitarian aid, at least nine of them were murdered in international waters by Israel. When Rachel Corrie tried to stop a bull dozer from destroying a Palestinian home she was crushed to death. Even now, when kids wave flags and protest Israel’s occupation, they are shot to death. And what do our political leaders, preachers and news broadcasters do? They tremble in fear that someone might say that they are less than lovers of Israel.

Pictures of the suffering in Gaza would make most of us sick. Yet, without much objection, we Americans have been aiding this crime against a defenseless people for more than sixty four years. We support it through our taxes and remain silent when our politicians look the other way. The United States actually blocks actions of others, including the United Nations, when they speak out to condemn Israel’s atrocities. How the church can continue with “business as usual” while this tragedy continues is beyond my understanding. Politicians ignore it for money and votes. I guess the church does it for the same reason.

Thomas Are
June 23, 2012

1 - Miko Peled The General's Son, (Just World Books, 2012)  p. 157
2 - Cited in Joyce Chediac, Gaza, Symbol of Resistance.  (World View Forum, 2011)p. 31

Monday, April 2, 2012

Israel's Ultra-Orthodox

“Pappy” loved to sing in Sunday School. One of his favorite songs ends with the refrain, “Jesus love me, Jesus loves even me." However, Pappy, week after week stood up and sang at the top of his voice, “Jesus loves me. Jesus loves ONLY me.”

When it is sung by a senile old man, it is humorous. When it is lived out by fanatical settlers, it is serious. The ultra-Orthodox settlers are convinced that they are the only ones loved by God, the only ones God wants to live on the land. No body else belongs there. They see their task of settling Jews in the occupied territories as commanded by a God who “loves only me.”

This “me only” theology creates havoc not only for the Palestinians whose land, water and crops are stolen, these ultra-Orthodox are threatening the stability of Israel itself. Ronald Krebs, professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, writes:

Subsidies for the ultra-Orthodox are one of the reasons that the overall tax burden on Israel’s citizens is high, helping propel a slow exodus of largely secular Jewish elites from the country. In recent years, Israel has suffered from a brain drain, in which large numbers of its most talented citizens have gone abroad to complete advanced degrees and have not returned.[1]

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics found that between 1990 and 2009, 260,000 more Israelis left the country than returned.[2] It’s easy to see why.

Under the pressure of boycott campaigns, a stream of international investigations into Israel’s military conduct, potential lawsuits in foreign courts against Israeli soldiers and officials for alleged human rights violations, the Palestinian quest for statehood at the UN, and deteriorating relations with Egypt and Turkey, Israelis have not felt this alone and embittered for a generation.[3]

My Republican friends detest the idea that the government might subsidize welfare recipients who “work the system.” Yet, they support Israel’s hand outs to non working ultra-Orthodox families who do nothing but study Torah and justify Israel’s theft of Palestine. The burden on Israel’s economy is immense even though much of that growing welfare is passed along to the US taxpayer.

The number of ultra-Orthodox in Israel is 470,000[4] and estimated to double in the next twenty years. Stanley Fischer, governor of the Bank of Israel said, “We cannot have an ever-increasing proportion of the population continuing to not go to work. Without a change now, within ten years the situation will be a catastrophe.”[5]

But, that is not the worst of it. I wonder what the parents of our young men and women who are being prepared to go to war with Iran would think if they knew that some 50,000 military aged ultra-Orthodox men are excused from military service in Israel.

In fact, according to Gershom Gorenberg, Israel is in trouble:

By keeping the territories it occupied in the Six Day War, Israel has crippled its democracy and the rule of law. The unholy ties between state, settlements, and synagogue have promoted a new brand of extremism, transforming Judaism from a humanistic to a militant faith. And the religious right is rapidly gaining power within the Israeli army, with catastrophic consequences. In order to save itself, Israel must end the occupation, separate state from religion, and create a new civil Israeli identity that can be shared by Jews and Arabs.[6]

It will not be easy. Even if the government ordered a withdrawal from the West Bank tomorrow, the military cannot count on its officers to carry out its orders to leave.

Israel has too many ultra-Orthodox singing, Yahweh loves me. Yahweh loves ONLY me.

Thomas Are
April 2, 2012

[1] Ronald Krebs, Israel’s Bunker Mentality, Foreign Affairs, November 2011., p.17
[2] Ibid. p17.
[3] Ibid. p. 13.
[4] Gershom Gorenberg, The Unmaking of Israel, (HarperCollins, 2011). p. 177.
[5] Ronald Krebs, Israel’s Bunker Mentality, Foreign Affairs, November 2011. p. 16.
[6] Gershom Gorenberg, The Unmaking of Israel, (HarperCollins, 2011). Front jacket cover.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Now It's Solar Panels

“We had no choice,” explained Sen. Robert Wexler. “We had to cut the funds from UNESCO. They accepted Palestine as a member and the U.S. has a twenty year old law that denies funding to any UN agency that recognizes Palestine.”[1] The United Nations Economic, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) mission statement includes the building of peace and the alleviation of poverty. But, we had no choice, Wexler said, because we are the good guys and we want what is best for Israel and Palestine. Our responsibility is to force them to meet and negotiate their differences without outside interference.

So, we cut our $60 million pledge to an organization that seeks water for 950,000 refugees, promotes education in South Sudan, provides relief to tsunami victims and is teaching 3000 Afghan soldiers to read.

Peace talks between Israel and Palestine have been going on for more than 20 years and the sides are further apart now than they have ever been. Israel brings preconditions to the table, such as; existing settlements will become permanent parts of Israel,

As the year ended, plans were going ahead for 3,690 new apartments in East Jerusalem and 1000 in nearby settlements. Peace Now reported a 20 percent increase in settlement construction in 2011, with 1,850 new units going up in settlements east of the separation wall, and 3,500 elsewhere in the West Bank. Human Rights groups noted a corresponding increase in home demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Palestinians not only have settlements on their land, they have to deal with settlers who harass, intimidate, steal and seem to have no limits to their brutally.

In late December, a coalition of human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, reported that during 2011 settlers destroyed hundreds of homes, water wells and farm structures, as well as 10,000 olive trees.[2]

Another precondition demanded by Israel; The separation wall will become the new border, encircling West Bank’s valuable water aquifers and more than 40,000 acres of its prime agricultural land, enclosing another 10 percent of Palestine pushing the Palestinians back onto 12 percent of what used to be their home land instead of the 22 percent they are asking for. What is left is cut up by Jewish only roads.

Now the Israeli government declares war on solar panels which provide the only electricity for many Palestinian villages. Others, more fortunate, may purchase electricity, at inflated rates, from Israel.[3] It seems that Israel is saying to the Palestinians that your land is ours, your water is ours, your agriculture is ours, your homes are ours and now, even your sunshine belongs to us.

Still, our politicians declare Hamas as the enemy of peace.

Thomas Are
March 22, 2011.

[1] Interview with John Oliver, Daily Show, 3/15/12.
[2] See Rachelle Marshall, Israel’s Current Demand: Most of the West Bank., The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March, 2012, p.8-9.
[3] Phoebe Greenwood, Palestinians Prepare to Lose the Solar Panels that Provide a Lifeline. The Guardian, Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Spear Head of Justice

Gilad Atzmon writes:

The lack of capacity to reflect upon oneself from the futuristic perspective, explains the Israeli collective complicity in some of their horrendous war crimes. This should be enough to explain why the Israelis sliced up the Holy Land with separation walls and barbed wires. It explains why Israelis drop White Phosphorous on their next door neighbors as they seek shelter in a UN shelter. It also explains why Israeli Navy Seal commandos ended up executing peace activist on the Mavi Marmara on the high seas. It also explains why newly-born Israel was quick to expel the vast majority of the Palestinian indigenous population just three years after the liberation of Auschwitz… People who defy history never look in the mirror.[1]

I heard Gilad Aztmon speak in Atlanta just last week. (3/10/12) He shared with us how his grandfather had been a prominent commander of the Irgun, the terrorist gang involved in the massacre of Deir Yassin. Grandfather was also, according to Gilad, “pretty cross with the Palestinians for dwelling on the land he was sure belonged to him and his people, given to them by God.” Gilad grew up believing "it was only Jews who were associated with anything good.”[2] The greatest thing that he could do with his life was to become a martyr for Israel. Then in 1982, at 18 years old, he joined the army and was sent to Lebanon where he first encountered Palestinians. His illusions crumbled, “I knew that our leaders were lying, in fact, every Israeli soldier understood that this was a war of Israeli aggression.”

Atzmon is not very different from many other Jewish celebrities, (he is a world renowned saxophonist.) but the passion with which he spoke of justice for the Palestinians amazed me. He said something like, ‘The point of the spear for international justice is focused on how Israel treats the Palestinians.’

I sat there thinking, how right he is. If we can’t see the daily injustice inflicted on the Palestinians then what chance is there for justice anywhere? We might as well give up to a dog eat dog world, every man (and nation) for himself and to hell with the needs and pains of anyone else. The injustice in Palestine is so obvious:

Palestinian children face many obstacles:

*** 10 percent of children in the West Bank and Gaza Strip suffer from chronic malnutrition.
*** 19 percent of children under 5 are anemic
*** 23 percent of Palestinian families with children are in poverty ($2 a day or less.)
*** 25 percent of Palestinian children do not attend primary school.[3]

That’s not the worst of it.

In the last two days, Israeli forces have killed at least 15 residents of the Gaza Strip and wounded over 30. Among the dead are two young boys.[4]

If Gilad Atzmon has the moral courage to speak out against his own heritage, family and nation, can we not at least learn about the issue, speak out in our churches, inform our friends and write our politicians?

Thomas Are
March 16, 2012.

[1] Gilad Atzmon, The Wandering Who, (Zero Books) p. 181-182.
[2] Ibid., p.2
[3] Sources UN, PCBS, cited in Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2012. p.2
[4] Max Blumenthal, Israel’s Bogus Case for Bombing Gaza Obscures Political Motives, Mondowweiss, March 11, 2012.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

An Act of War

Two years ago I blogged:[1]

Does anyone think that we, or Israel can drop bombs on Iran, dust off our hands and come home declaring “Mission Accomplished,” and think that will be the end of it? If we, or more likely Israel, attack Iran, it’s a whole new war. We can’t get out of the ones we are already in. Even after five years, 4000 of our troops dead, 30,000 wounded, many of them injured for life, a half trillion dollars down the tube… and that’s against a nation whose military had been broken by U.S. victories in 1991 followed by ten years of bombings and sanctions.

It is easier said than done. To bomb Iran, Israel would have to fly over a thousand miles of hostile air space, refuel in the air and hit numerous targets at the same time. The worse part is that Israel does not have the bunker buster bombs which would be required to knock out the estimated 12 to 20 facilities built into the side of a mountain and heavily fortified. Israel would have to get them from the US. Automatically such an attack would be an act of war and we would be right in the midst of it for God only knows for how long.

It’s easy for political hopefuls to talk about a “line in the sand,” and all options being on the table. But has anyone asked the next question. I keep waiting for the news media to ask, “After we have bombed their plants and killed no telling how many people, what happens next?” Iran has 70 million people, missiles capable of sinking ships, an army of over 850,000 troops, 1600 tanks, 21,000 armored vehicles, 70 warships and 3 submarines.[2] I hope somebody is counting the cost this time.

Another question is, “What will Iran do with a nuclear bomb even if it has one.” To use it would invite a retaliation that would pulverize its nation. Eric Margolis writes,

The US Congress pulsates with war fever, fuelled by oncoming elections and huge cash donations. North America’s media pounds the war drums.” Why would Iran risk nuclear vaporization by Israel or the US just to launch a small number of its inaccurate missiles at Israel? US and Israeli early warning satellites would spot any Iranian missiles at launch and bring down a nuclear holocaust on the Islamic Republic.

It’s hard for me to think that Israel actually fears a nuclear attack. What Israel does fear is Iran’s support of Hezbollah and Hamas, which are the two organizations interfering with Israeli’s ambitions to destroy the Palestinians and take their land.

The best way for Israel to gain security would be to bring a just end to the Palestinian crisis. Do we risk a long time war, with missiles, terror retaliations and unprecedented oil prices to protect Israel’s expansion into Palestine?

Thomas Are
March 9, 20112
[1] September 7, 2008
[2] Eric Margolis, Politicians Want War With Iran,, February 8, 2012.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Obama's Apology

The question is, what would Newt do? He is clear that to apologize to the Muslim world is “astonishing” and embarrassing, or any other word he can think of to belittle the actions of Barack Obama. But, what would Newt do?

If apologizing to those who already see us as arrogant, at war with Islam and occupying their country will lead to one more step toward peace and understanding with Islam, then I, for one, am glad to have a president big enough to say, “I am sorry for what happened.” Being sorry does not mean that we were all wrong or that they are all right. It simply means, let’s try for a better relationship.

One thing has been demonstrated without question. Violence only produces more violence. Are we not getting tired of war after war trying to force other people to do it our way? What does it hurt to try something new? The president’s apology did not cause the death of Americans but it may have prevented more bloodshed. There is no way to know. What we do know, is that his apology strengthened the hands of those millions of moderate Muslims who are pleading for peace and a better expression of Islam.

Newt wants to come across as a military tough guy, but he sounds more like a moral mosquito. If what we want most in the next decade is more and more violence, any president can provide that, even start a war. It takes leadership to prevent one.

Thomas Are
February 28, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Is It Moral to Murder?

My lands, have we come to that? A national magazine’s cover story feature is entitled, IS IT MORAL TO KILL IRAN’S SCIENTISTS?

When Hamas does it, it is terrorism. When Hezbollah does it, it’s terrorism,” said Tod Robberson in The Dallas Morning News. So presumably, it was also an act of terrorism last week when two men on a motorcycle raced through morning rush hour traffic in the streets of Tehran and stuck a magnet bomb to a car carrying Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, deputy director of Iran’s nuclear enrichment plant. Roshan, 32 was killed, along with his bodyguard, becoming the fifth Iranian nuclear scientist to die a violent, mysterious death in recent years. No one doubts that Israel’s Mossad is behind these sophisticated assassinations, probably with U.S. help.[1]

Do we have to vote on murder? Assassinations are not only immoral, they are stupid. You can’t stop intelligence with a bomb.

Does anyone think that Iran will suddenly say, “Oh my. We would like to build nuclear capabilities such as that of our neighbors, but we must not upset the Americans or the Israelis?” Or, will killing a scientist or even bombing a reactor only increase their determination to speed up their progress? It might set them back a couple of years, but does anyone think that this is going to be the end of it? It is only a matter of time before the rage in Iran will strike back. Of course, our media will cry about the lack of Islamic morality and report the retaliation as a naked act of hostility. Killing top scientists will increase their determination to strike back at Israel and the U.S. Can you imagine the outrage if Iran started killing American scientists?

There are three reasons why the hawks are willing, or even eager to go to war with Iran. One: they will not have to do the fighting and dying. Two: they will not have to pay for it. And three: they are certain that we will win it. Let the politicians talk about imposing a universal draft, including their own sons and daughters, talk about raising taxes immediately to pay for it, and admit right up front that a war with Iran will not be a cake walk and would probably drag on for decades with no certain outcome, and suddenly we might start hearing different rhetoric coming from our leaders.

Before we allow Israel to drag us into another war, someone needs to ask whose army is going to fight it, how are we going to pay for it, and how in the world are we going to get out of it.

Thomas Are
February 9, 2012

[1] The Week, A Death in Tehran, January 27, 2012, p.4.