Thursday, September 24, 2015

Child Abuse

I have in mind a frightened Palestinian kid, probably 8 years old, being held by four Israeli soldiers, fully armed for combat. He was so terrified that he had wet his jeans and there was no one, no parent, pastor or city mayor to protect him and tell him that he was going to be all right.  They knew full well that he was not going to be all right. In fact, he was going to be subjected to isolation and inhumane treatment. And he knew it.

Israel has no conscience even when it comes to abusing children.

Jewish scholar and author Marc Ellis made me aware of this when 25 years ago he wrote of a local mukhtar being ordered by an Israeli captain to round up twelve Arab boys:

The soldiers shackled the villagers, and with their hands bound behind their backs, they were led to a bus. The bus started to move and after 200-300 meters it stopped beside an orchard. The “locals” were taken off the bus and led into the orchard in groups of three. Every group was accompanied by an officer. In the darkness of the orchard, the soldiers shackle the Hawara residents’ legs and laid them on the ground.  Officers urged the soldiers to get it over with quickly, “so we can leave and forget about it.” Then flannel was stuffed into the Arab’s mouths to muffle their screams and the bus driver revved up the motor so that the noise would drown out their cries. The soldiers obediently carried out their orders; “to break their arms and legs by clubbing the Arabs, to remove their bonds after breaking their arms and legs and to leave them at the site.” Their mission was carried out.[i]

Soon after reading this, I had the opportunity to talk with Ellis. “Did this actually happen?” I asked. “Or is this some effort to slander Israel?” Immediately, and with tears in his eyes, he said, “I did not write a novel.”

During the first Intifada, according to the Washington Post, during the first 30 months of the uprising, Israeli soldiers have shot and killed 159 children and beaten thousands. More than 50,000 children were treated for injuries, including 6,500 wounded by gunfire. The average age of children killed was ten.  What was their crime?  Heaving stones, scribbling slogans on walls, or displaying Palestinian flags.[ii]  Save the Children concluded that one-third of beaten children were under ten years old, and one fifth under the age of five. Nearly a third of the children beaten suffered broken bones[iii]

Of course, that was twenty-five years ago.  Someone said that it must have involved extenuating circumstances. (Of course, when Israel is involved, it is always extenuating circumstances.)

So, what has changed?  According to Middle East Children’s Alliance:

Today, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children are growing up in decrepit refugee camps, with more arriving every day. Meanwhile children in Palestine continue to suffer “Israel’s acts of aggression” in their daily lives under occupation… Just since the year 2000, more than 1,400 Palestinian children have been killed.  (That’s one child every three days for thirteen years.)  Also, by the end of April, a total of 196 Palestinian children were imprisoned and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system. Each year, approximately 500-700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years, are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system.[iv]

In the past year, Israel’s abuse would include the murder of over 500 children in Gaza. According to Na’im Ateek, their crime included being born on the wrong side of Israel’s wall, playing soccer on the beach or taking refuge in UN “safe” places  Yet, our media has little to report about the torn and burned little bodies of innocent children.[v]  Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a designated shelter in Gaza,” said Pierre Krahenbuhi, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. “Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today, the world stands disgraced.”[vi]

In addition to the deliberate killings, when Israel demolishes homes by the thousands, uproots olive trees by the tens of thousands, blows up sewage and water treatment plants, when over half a million people are displaced and 10,000 wounded, it doesn’t take much imagination to know that children suffer the most.

Then there is the burning alive of 18 month old Ali Dawabsheh by settlers who tossed a fire bomb into his home, a bomb which also killer both of his parents.  A crime which has gained little attention in the US media.

And even in Jerusalem. Just last week (Sept 20, 2015) Israeli forces “fractured the skull of Mohammad Issa, a 13 year old boy.”  Two days earlier (Sept 18) 10 year old Yousef Sami Yehya Dari remained in the hospital for nine days receiving treatment for a gunshot in the back causing painful injury to his spleen from which he may never recover.   And last  night (Sept 20) Israeli forces entered a Palestinian family home and kidnapped an 8 year old girl and arrested three young men. No reason was given. Even walking to school can be dangerous with multiple checkpoints where children as young as 4 years old are subject to bag-searches, frisking, detention and arrest by heavily armed Israeli soldiers, who often without warning fire tear gas grenades.[vii]

No wonder that little kid wet his pants.  I would have too.

Thomas Are
September 24, 2015

[i]  Rosemary Radford Ruether  and Marc Ellis, Beyond Occupation,  (Boston: Beacon Press, 1990.) p. 1
[ii] “Rights Group accuses Israel of Violence Against Children in Palestinian Uprising,” Washington Post, May 17, 1990. Cited in my book, Israeli Peace/Palestinian Justice, (Clarity Press, 1994) p.16.
[iii] From same article,  Washington Post May 17, 1990
[iv] UN Day for Children Victims of Israel’s Acts of Aggression,  Middle East Children’s Alliance, June 4, 2014.
[v] Na’im Ateek, For the sake of the Burning Children of Gaza, Sabeel Ecumenical  Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem, July 30, 2014
[vi] World stands Disgraced as Israel Bombs Another UN-Designated Shelter in Gaza. Published by Common Dreams, july 30, 2014
[vii] Israeli Forces Fractured Teen’s Skull as Jerusalem Demonstrations Continue,  Mondoweiss, September 21, 2015. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Drinking Poison

Someone said, “A fool drinks poison expecting his enemy to die.”  I can’t think of a more fitting image for Benjamin Netanyahu.   Know it or not, he is killing himself.

There is a fascinating children’s story about an emperor who wears no clothes. The point of the story is that the emperor walks around naked and he is the only one who does not know that he is wearing no clothes. I think of Netanyahu. He is drugged on his own propaganda, chosenness, power and wealth and does not know that he is actually choking  himself.

He is poisoned by his own propaganda.  While the whole world saw television images of the senseless bombing of Gaza, the deliberate killing of men, women and children, the targeting of schools, hospitals, ambulances, electrical and sewage plants plus the destruction of agricultural fields, live stock and farms, Netanyahu still spoke of Israel as having “the most moral army on globe”.     He looks at five year old kids and can only see terrorists and justifies their massacre as an “act of self-defense”.  His nation supports two sets of laws, one for Jews and the other for non-Jews and he still speaks of Israel as the “only democracy in the Middle East”.  He steals land, labor, and resources, including water, from an occupied people and with a straight face calls Israel the “start-up nation.”  It is sad to see a man in power poisoned by his own propaganda.

And Chosenness.   I don’t know that Netanyahu has ever claimed to be a religious person. However, he loves that part in the Jewish scripture about God blessing those who bless Israel and cursing those who curse Israel.  Of course, this was recorded by a Jewish scribe who claims to have heard it from the Jewish God in a Jewish language and recorded it in his Jewish scared literature for all non-Jews to read and obey.

However, if we believe in monotheism, that there is one God over all, then when Israel celebrates Joshua’s victory over the Canaanites, was not God also God of the Canaanites? And if God won, does this not mean that God also lost?   More to the point, even in the Jewish Bible, chosenness carries with it the basic Jewish values of justice and charity. The land is held conditionally and is losable.
Wow! Chosenness really gets complicated.

Most outsiders would recognize that Netanyahu is poisoned by power.  Constantly having to outdraw and out shoot all his neighbors to survive is exhausting.  There has to be a better way to feel safe.  It’s an old saying, but true, that the only way to get rid of an enemy is to make a friend of him.  Israel had its chance but chose the poison of power as a means of dominating its enemies.  Thus Israel must invest more and more resources into maintaining its military might, and like salt water, the more it drinks, the more thirst it feels.  Never having enough power to feel secure, I wonder if Netanyahu lies awake at night yearning for more weapons, military aid and people without conscience to maintain his oppression of its neighbors.

When I remember how viciously the Nazis treated the Jews less than a century ago, it is impossible for me to understand how Netanyahu can turn around and abuse another people. He does it, not because he has a right, but simply because he is drunk with power.  His mind and heart must be so toxic until he is beyond memory, feeling or reason.  

Finally, Charity can become an addictive poison, especially when your very existence depends upon itIsrael survives only by handouts from other people, mostly Americans.  In addition to the three to six billion dollars every year put in Israel’s cup by the US tax payer, hundreds of private, tax free, organizations send hundreds of millions of dollars to keep Israel afloat. However, with the ever growing needs of American people at home, even Netanyahu must realize that his “blank check” life line is in jeopardy.  More and more political leaders, especially Democrats, are beginning to ask why the fourth most powerful nation in the world needs our charity.  

There is no doubt that Israel has enemies. I can understand why.  I am an enemy of its policies. Yet, having said that, I do not wish harm to Netanyahu. I would strip him of his power if I could, which some believe would kill him, but I do not wish him dead.

Whether he believes in it or not, I believe his scripture, that he too is created in the image of God.  And, some day, maybe late in life, he is going to be lying on a bed and begin to feel a few qualms. Just because of the “image of God” in which he has been created, even Benjamin Netanyahu will realize that for most of his life, he has been drinking poison. And on that day I will feel sorry for him.

Thomas Are

September 3, 2015