Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Controlling the Narrative

Why is it important for Israel to bombard the tiny strip of Gaza over and over?  Certainly not for security, which is the reason given to and bought by most Americans.  Gaza is hardly a threat to Israel. Gaza has no planes, tanks or bombs with any explosive significance.  What Gaza threatens by its very existence is Israel’s narrative.

How do you explain locking up almost two million helpless people as of in prison, most of whom are kids, denying them access to education, health care and a safe place to sleep at night and still tell the world that you are a moral nation. There is no way to justify a Gaza, so you silence their cry.

Today, one year after Israel’s “defensive” massacre, Gaza still remains in ruins: 18,000 homes are still destroyed, 120,000 people are still homeless, living on the streets. Repair on hospitals, schools, sanitation and water systems have yet to be started. If materials were allowed into Gaza and full scale reconstruction were to begin today, the United Nations warns that it would take 30 years to bring Gaza back.[1]  Even Bassam Eid, who blames Hamas for what happened to Gaza last summer, admits a bleak picture:

2.5 million tons of rubble remains in Gaza to this day. 200,000 workers lost their means of employment. 80% of Gaza people are surviving on welfare. 40% of Gazans are living below poverty lines. 22,000 Gazan are homeless. Only 600 caravans have been provided to the Gaza Strip since the end of the war.[2]

According to the Secretary General of the UN, there are no schools – no hospitals – no electricity and no proper drinking water and this is the reality for the Gazan people these days.[3]

“Hamas is trying to rebuild Gaza, and homelessness is at the top of its agenda.” Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said. “From the first day of the war until now, Hamas has tried to support the homeless by offering relief and financial aid. Hamas offers tents, barracks and compensation for victims who lost their houses. But some of them still live in schools.”  Among the 100,000 homeless and jobless living in a school building with 100 other families is Liala Kloob. “You can’t imagine. I, and my six children, have to stand in line and wait our turn to get food, water or even go to the bathroom.”[4] 

All of this at the hands of “the start-up nation,” with the “most moral army on the globe,”  the “only democracy in the middle east,” simply fulfilling the orders of their God who “gave” everything the Palestinians owned to the Jews.”

And how does Israel get away with it when it is so blatant and contrary to human decency?  By control of the narrative, especially in America.

So, we have AIPAC, whose job, according to Mico Peled, is to convince Americans that the U.S. and Israel are essentially identical. They do so by rewarding legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda and punishing those who challenge it.

The key to Israel’s legitimacy is the Zionist narrative, and AIPAC is selling the narrative in order to maintain the legitimacy. The Zionist narrative in this country is not only accepted it is treated with religious fervor. It is seen as biblical and indisputable. One does not need to convince Americans that Israel is always right and that the Zionist narrative is true, they receive this with their mother’s milk.

And what is the narrative?

It is a mythical story that turned the history of Palestine from 1947 until the present time on its head. The brutal ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the establishment of a racist apartheid state which offers exclusive rights to Jewish people in Palestine was sold here as a story of heroism and revival. Thanks to AIPAC, the horrific brutal destruction of Palestine – from 1947 to the present day – is virtually unknown in this country.[5]

No one denies that AIPAC has done its job. But, it could not have been done without the aid of about 50 million so called Christian Zionists who support the narrative in what they call a Rapture Theology. There are many windows through which we can glimpse the core of Rapture Theology and every one of them focuses on Israel.

Rapture Theology grows out of pulling together little bits and pieces of obscure biblical texts and linking them to produce the idea that Jesus cannot come again until the temple in Jerusalem has been rebuilt.  They claim that sometime between the rapture, the time when all the true believers have been lifted up out of the world, and before the final judgment, the antichrist will cause “sacrifices to cease.” Of course for sacrifices to cease, they must be practiced and the only proper place to make sacrifices is in the temple in Jerusalem. Thus, the Dome of the Rock, the third most holy place for Muslims to worship, must be destroyed and replaced by a new temple in Jerusalem.     

If you are finding all this confusing and far fetched, I am with you. But it is supported by such TV personalities as Hal Lindsey, Pat Robertson, John Hagee, Benny Hinn, James Dobson, Sarah Palin and 80 million copies of the Left Behind series.

The late Jerry Falwell said:

God is kind to America because America has been kind to the Jews… I believe if we fail to protect Israel, we will cease to be important to God.  God has blessed America because America has blessed the Jews, his chosen people.”[6]

Two reasons why we should be concerned about Rapture Theology: One - it controls our Congress and Two - it drives our foreign policy. It is not just a harmless heresy.  It is dangerous and it causes unbelievable pain in the Middle East.  

I blame the seminaries for not combating this, the most dangerous heresy to threaten the church and synagogue, in a more aggressive way.  It should be addressed from every pulpit and Sunday School class until Christians scream for the rights of oppressed people.  Unfortunately, most Americans seem to be more committed to loosing five pounds or betting on which way a ball bounces than to becoming engaged in matters uncomfortable or controversial.  

Every now and then we stumble over truth. We see a late night news report or read something on the internet that causes us to question our blind support of all Israel does.  But, mostly, when that happens, we get right back up, dust ourselves off and go on as though we never noticed a crack in the Israeli narrative.  After all, no one wants to be labeled anti-Semitic.   

On the other hand, someone pointed out that Israel is not a religion. It’s not a race. It is a country. And it’s OK – it’s not anti-Semitic – to talk about and even criticize a country we support financially and diplomatically.

So, let me come back to where we started. Gaza, by its very existence, threatens not Israel’s security, but Israel’s narrative.

Thomas Are
July 21, 2015

[1] The Huffington Post:  Alexandra Ma, This is What Life in Gaza Looks Like, One Year After the War., Posted July 10, 2015
[2] Bassam Eid, Former Director of the Jerusalem based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. Gaza one year later: From bad to worse. Blogged July 13, 2015.
[3] Bassam Eid. Gaza one year later: From bad to worse.
[4] Asma’ Jawabreh and Mohammad Atallah, 100,000 in Gaza Still Homeless after War with Israel.USA TODAY, April 25, 2015.
[5] Miko Peled, How the Lobby Enables Israeli Policy: Views of an Israeli in America, National Press Club Conference, THE ISRAEL LOBBY, April 10,2015, Washington, D.C., Reported in A Special Supplement to the Washigton Report on Middle East Affairs.
[6] Gracce Halsell, Prophesy and Politics, Militant Evangelists on the Road to Nuclear War,  (Lawrence Hill and Company, Westport, Conn, 1986.) p. 74.

Monday, July 13, 2015

I am Flabbergasted

If you are concerned about peace in the middle east and seek security for Israel when the entire neighborhood is in turmoil, if you want to avoid a needless war with Iran, (a war  which we will not win), and if you are looking for someone with great negotiating skills and experience in understanding the needs and point of view of the other, someone with knowledge of the region and its history, someone known for diplomacy, then, where do you turn? 

Of course, you call on professional football players.  Who better to understand what it is  like to be ordinary people trying to survive in an oppressive situation than those who grew up and continue to live in what the news media calls a “culture of entitlement?” 

That’s why Robert Kraft, ultra Zionist, and owner of the New England Patriots led a delegation of 20 former National Football League players to Israel where they met with Benjamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister wanted an opportunity to explain to them why Obama’s effort to avoid a war with Iran is a dumb move.  It’s not that Netanyahu himself seeks a war with Iran where Israel would have to pay the price in lives and money, he is clear in proclaiming that he wants the United States to go to war with Iran. So, he chose the bright minds of the NFL to make his case. He put it in terms that even they could understand. Call it football diplomacy.

Iran is one yard away from the goal line. If they get nukes, the preeminent terrorist regime of our day will be armed with nuclear weapons.  That’s dangerous for the United States and for Israel and for the entire world. And our effort today is to make sure that we block them and push them back. That’s the ultimate contest and the ultimate challenge, and I hope it was advanced somewhat by this visit.[1]

“I lead my life according to the four F’s – at least phonetically,” Kraft is often reported as having said; “family, faith, football and philanthropy.  This trip has connected all those dots for me.” 

Some one needs to ask, which of these “dots” includes the right of Jews to steal land from Palestinians, kidnap and imprison their children, take their water, blow up their homes and lock them up behind cement barrows and barbed wire fences? Which of his four F’s justifies the past and on-going war crimes committed by Israel every day?

Kraft also chooses to live by a few other “F” words, such as the word foolish, or even fantasy. Or what about fiction?  It’s make believe to think that a team of football players could have a better grasp of how to deal with Iran than President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. 

Mr. Kraft needs another “F" word to connect his dots. It’s the word fairness.

Football is an entertaining game, but when it gets involved in foreign affairs, which causes so much pain to so many people, it is no longer amusing.  Mr. Kraft should stick to something he knows something about for when he gets into defending Israel, he has fumbled and somebody needs to blow the whistle on him.

When I read that wealthy professional football players are recruited to influence US policy in the Middle East, the best “F” word to describe me is flabbergasted with an equal measure of fear.

William Sloane Coffin said it well. “If what you think is right causes some one else to suffer, there is something wrong with what you think is right.”

 Thomas Are
July 13, 2015

[1] Philip Weiss, Patriots’ Owner Brings 20 NFL veterans to Netanyahu who calls them to block Obama’s Iran Deal. Mondoweiss, June 22, 2015