Category: Christianity

One more time

 

A concise defense of Palestinians

 

Dear editor,

Cherry-picking Torah is a [favorite] hobby of fundamentalist Christians, but Israel is not America’s [magical] lucky charm. Rather, Israel is a festering injustice that only incubates fanaticism and terrorism [around the world]. On the [assumption biblical presumption] that truth will set you free, consider this alternative to the voodoo exegesis that excuses seven decades of brutal colonial occupation in Palestine.

What scant archaeological evidence exists suggests ancient Israelites were just one of many tribes in Canaan. Their particular regional deity was Yahweh.

And they were hardly monotheistic – fertility goddesses were routinely incorporated into their idols and religious practices.

It must have worked. Stories of bloody smiting and conquest are a lot sexier, but Israelites eventually emerged as the dominant tribe through plain old fertility – assimilation and population growth.

Of course, [chest-thumping] dominance only lasted as long as they were [ignored flying under the radar]. Whenever regional superpowers showed up, Jewish kingdoms quickly collapsed. Aristocrats were killed or taken away as hostages. When these exiles returned, they discovered left-behind peasants had “moved on up” – and that’s when Torah’s creation myths were discovered in the nick of time to reassert the old pecking order. The aristocracy and hereditary priesthood were back in town, large and in charge. Uppity peasants were shuffled back to their fields of labor.

Funny thing about creation myths. Like [Cecil B. DeMille’s and] Charlton Heston’s exodus from Egypt.  There’s absolutely no archaeological evidence to back any of it up. It could have just as easily happened along the western coasts of Yemen and Arabia.

By the time an itinerant rabbi from Nazareth wandered onto the scene, more Jews were living outside of Palestine than in it. In other words, the infamous Diaspora had already happened. The “Holy” land, and especially Jerusalem, had already faded in importance. Only a few nationalistic zealots [clung to the fantasy of fantasized about] an independent [Jerusalem kingdom].

Apocalyptic preachery [popularized popularizes] the notion that the Roman Empire completely emptied Palestine in 70 AD, leaving it desolate for the next thousand years. Modern historians revisiting logistical requirements for wholesale ethnic cleansing have concluded that theory is ludicrous. Major cities like Jerusalem were indeed devastated, but rural villages and farmlands were not.

Which means that today’s Palestinians are direct descendants of those same Jews and pagans and pilgrims and assorted mystics who lived in Palestine while Jesus was among them. A few[, now known as the Mizrahim,] clung to their Judaism, but most became Christians and, later, Muslims.

Early Zionist thinkers were well aware of this. Yitzhak Ben Zvi, who became president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, both stated (long before 1948) that the peasants of Palestine were descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea.

So maybe Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are right after all. And maybe Jeanine Pirro really is a dangerous idiot. Read Gary Burge’s book, “Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to ‘Holy Land’ Theology.” But consider yourselves warned – the bedrock of your fundamentalism is a[n slippery] illusion. It [can will] turn to quicksand when exposed to truth.

Jacques d’Nalgar
Hot Springs, Arkansas

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/04/08/one-more-time/

Items of interest

 

Morgan to address Republicans

 

Jan Morgan, commentator and local Hot Springs businesswoman, will be the featured speaker at the next monthly meeting of the Republican Party of Garland County on Thursday.

The RPGC meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Family Center of First Church of the Nazarene, 3804 Central Ave. Morgan will speak after the monthly business meeting. The public is welcome to attend. Admission is free.

“Morgan is an award-winning television journalist and during the past 27 years has been a contributor to numerous national publications, and television and internet news networks. She has appeared as a political analyst on Fox News, CNN, One America News, NRA-TV and ‘Gun Owners of America.’ Morgan has more than 1.5 million social media followers,” RPGC said in a news release.

Morgan is a certified firearms instructor and owns and operates The Gun Cave, which is located in Garland County.

Morgan is a member of the Republican Party of Arkansas TUSK Club, the RPGC, the 4th District Republican Committee and Garland County Republican Women. She is the National Chair of 2A Women and National Spokesperson of Citizens for Trump.

 

Photograph and hyper-inflated biography provided by (who else?) Jan Morgan.

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/03/30/items-of-interest/

A worrisome weasel affectation affliction

Socialist bandwagon

Dear editor:

Where is that little Hollywood elitist weasel Sean Penn? A few years ago he was making news palling around with his communist buddies in Cuba and Venezuela and now that millions have fled and millions are starving where is the little socialist communist weasel along with some of his other Hollywood elitist America hating friends like Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte?

This is what these elitist socialist weasels do best — they promote their extreme liberal agendas and all they cause is poverty and misery everywhere they go because that’s what socialism does whether here or some other country. Then, after they get some attention and it goes south, as in the case of Venezuela, they crawl back into the rat hole they came out of. Some of them might not have run down to Venezuela, but they’ll jump on Bernie’s socialist bandwagon or their newest socialist hero with her Bad Deal, AOC and the Hollywood elitist will be pouring money into their campaigns to, what, make us Venezuela?

Speaking of that socialist weasel Bernie Sanders, he owns three homes. He just built a multimillion dollar lake home in Vermont, hopefully, for his retirement and, like all of them including the Hollywood elitists, they fly around in their private jets. Their carbon footprints are 50 times most of ours and they then tell us to drive a Prius while their schemes lead to welfare and poverty. Anyone with half a brain should tell that socialist weasel and his other Democrat socialist friends to go to Vermont and jump in Bernie’s socialist lake.

They bring up this socialist nonsense even though we should know by now it doesn’t work. Here, it leads to pockets of poverty, and there it leads to starvation. They do this because there is always another generation that has to be indoctrinated with the so-called benefits of socialism. Millennials beware; it’s capitalism that brings prosperity, just like what has happened since Trump was elected. More jobs than people to fill them leads to a shortage of workers which leads to higher pay and benefits. Then allow just enough immigration to help fill those shortages. Don’t be fooled by liberal nonsense!

Larry Bauer
Hot Springs Village

 

Photograph of Bob Dylan during rehearsals for the Ed Sullivan show on May 12, 1963 (CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images).  http://time.com/3847730/bob-dylan-ed-sullivan-john-birch/

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/03/13/a-worrisome-weasel-affectation-affliction/

Full response

What Did Ilhan Omar Say? Here’s the Full Transcript of Her Response to a Question about Anti-Semitism

Institute for Policy Studies, March 6, 2019

 

This is the transcript of the Rep. Ilhan Omar’s full response to the question about anti-Semitism from the Busboys & Poets event. Her response begins around 1:00:00:

Andy Shallal: [ question about dealing with accusations of anti-Semitism]

Rashida Tlaib – […] this conversation is about human rights for everyone, this conversation around what this looks like is not centered around hate, it’s actually centered around love.

Ilhan Omar – I get emotional every time I hear Rashida, and I think I’m just gonna stop hanging out with her, she’s messing with my [style?].

I know that I have a huge Jewish constituency, and you know, every time I meet with them they share stories of [the] safety and sanctuary that they would love for the people of Israel, and most of the time when we’re having the conversation, there is no actual relative that they speak of, and there still is lots of emotion that comes through because it’s family, right? Like my children still speak of Somalia with passion and compassion even though they don’t have a family member there.

But we never really allow space for the stories of Palestinians seeking safety and sanctuary to be uplifted. And to me, it is the dehumanization and the silencing of a particular pain and suffering of people, should not be ok and normal. And you can’t be in the practice of humanizing and uplifting the suffering of one, if you’re not willing to do that for everyone. And so for me I know that when I hear my Jewish constituents or friends or colleagues speak about Palestinians who don’t want safety, or Palestinians who aren’t deserving I stay focused on the actual debate about what that process should look like. I never go to the dark place of saying “here’s a Jewish person, they’re talking about Palestinians, Palestinians are Muslim, maybe they’re Islamophobic.” I never allow myself to go there because I don’t have to.

And what I am fearful of is that because Rashida and I are Muslim, that a lot of Jewish colleagues, a lot of our Jewish constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel, to be anti-Semitic, because we are Muslim. And so to me, it is something that becomes designed to end the debate. Because you get in this space, of like, I know what intolerance looks like and I’m sensitive when someone says that the words you use Ilhan, are resemblance of intolerance. And I am cautious of that and I feel pained by that. But it’s almost as if every single time we say something, regardless of what it is we say, that it’s supposed to about foreign policy or engagement, that our advocacy about ending oppression, or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get to be labeled in something, and that’s the end of the discussion, because we end up defending that, and nobody gets to have the broader debate of “what is happening with Palestine?” [applause]

So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is ok for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. And I want to ask, why is it ok for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby that is influencing policy? [applause] And I want to ask the question, why is it ok for you to push, for you to be… there are so many people… I mean most of us are new, but many members of Congress have been there forever. Some of them have been there before we were born. So I know many of them were fighting for people to be free, for people to live in dignity in South Africa. I know many of them fight for people around the world to have dignity to have self-determination. So I know, I know that they care about these things.

But now that you have two Muslims that are saying “here is a group of people that we want to make sure that they have the dignity that you want everyone else to have!” …we get to be called names, we get to be labeled as hateful. No, we know what hate looks like. We experience it every single day. [applause] We have to deal with death threats. I have colleagues who talk about death threats. And sometimes… there are cities in my state where the gas stations have written on their bathrooms “assassinate Ilhan Omar”. I have people driving around my district looking for my home, for my office, causing me harm. I have people every single day on Fox News and everywhere, posting that I am a threat to this country. So I know what fear looks like. The masjid I pray in in Minnesota got bombed by two domestic white terrorists. So I know what it feels to be someone who is of a faith that is vilified. I know what it means to be someone whose ethnicity that is vilified. I know what it feels to be of a race that is, like I am an immigrant, so I don’t have some of the historical drama of some of my sisters and brothers have in this country, but I know what it means for people to just see me as a black person, and to treat me as less than a human.

And so, when people say “you are bringing hate,” I know what their intention is. Their intention is to make sure that our lights are dimmed. That we walk around with our heads bowed. That we lower our face and our voice. But we have news for people. You can call us any kind of name. You can threaten us any kind of way. Rashida and I are not ourselves. Every single day we walk in the halls of Congress and we have people who have never had the opportunity to walk there walking with us. So we’re here, we’re here to stay and represent all the people who have been silenced for many decades and many generations. And we’re here to fight for the people of our district who want to make sure that there is actual prosperity, actual prosperity, being guaranteed. Because there is a direct correlation between not having clean water, and starting endless wars. It’s all about the profit and who gets benefit. There’s a direct correlation between corporations that are getting rich, and the fact that we have students who are shackled with debt. There is a direct correlation between the White House and the people who are benefiting from detention beds that are profitized. So, what people are afraid of is not that there are two Muslims in Congress. What people are afraid of is that there are two Muslims in Congress that have their eyes wide open, that have their feet to the ground, that know what they’re talking about, that are fearless, and that understand that they have the same election certificate that everyone in Congress does. [applause]

 

https://ips-dc.org/what-did-ilhan-omar-say-heres-the-full-transcript-of-her-response-to-a-question-about-anti-semitism/

Photo of Rep. Ilhan Omar by Tom Williams (CQ Roll Call via Getty Images). https://www.dailywire.com/news/44155/top-democrat-foreign-affairs-committee-condemns-ashe-schow

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/03/12/full-response/

AIPAC bares its arse

The Long Life of a Racist Smear

By Ashley Reese, March 5, 2019 CE

 

Cleanliness is next to godliness, and in the imaginations of racists, it is also next to whiteness—the next best thing or maybe even the same thing. In its absence, so the racist lie goes, you will find everyone else: black people, brown people, immigrants of all shades, groups of marginalized people. Dirty. Filthy.

There too, Trump campaign advisor Jeff Ballabon found Representative Ilhan Omar. On Monday, Ballabon called Omar “filthy” during a Fox Business interview while accusing the progressive congresswoman of being an anti-Semite due to her criticisms of Israel and its right-wing leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.

This is by now an old smear, told again and again about the Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, but the most recent iteration of the cycle started last week. The New York Times reports that during an event at a Washington, DC bookstore, Omar, responding to accusations of anti-Semitism, “questioned why it was acceptable for her to speak critically about the political influence of the National Rifle Association, fossil fuel industries, and ‘big pharma,’ but not the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.”

Soon after, Fox Business host Stuart Varney invited Ballabon to comment on the matter, asking if there was room for both Omar and Jewish voters in the Democratic Party. Ballabon said there isn’t. “The problem is that her beliefs are deeply rooted in hatred and anti-Semitism,” Ballabon said. “She is a hater. I’m going to say it, she is filth.”

Varney noted that “filth” was a very strong word to use.

“Yes,” Ballabon agreed. “She is a filthy, disgusting hater. So what if she’s in Congress? That’s the problem.”

Ballabon did not use such strong language when asked in 2017 about the neo-Nazis who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia in a fascist protest in 2017 that left one woman dead. Instead, he said they were simply “people who play dress up Nazi.” But of course, this isn’t really about anti-Semitism.

In the Fox Business segment, Varney gave Ballabon room to retract his statements given his position as a representative of the president, which is amusing considering his boss also employed the same racist tropes: Trump referred to African nations and Haiti as “shithole countries.” This kind of explicit racism is also baked into the vocabulary (and policy) of the administration as a whole: Trump’s former Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a speech on the U.S.-Mexico border in 2017 decrying undocumented immigrants, and at the last minute omitted a line in his prepared remarks that read: “It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.” Invoking yet another racist trope about subhumans and invading hordes, the White House has referred to members of the MS-13 gang as “animals.” The same vocabulary is also familiar enough of Varney’s own network: In December, Tucker Carlson even wondered if immigration makes America dirtier.

Epithets of uncleanliness have long been used to dehumanize nonwhite peoples and groups perceived, at a time, to fall outside of whiteness: In 1911, lynch mob organizer and future governor of Louisiana John Parker said that Italian immigrants were, “just a little worse than the Negro, being if anything filthier in [their] habits, lawless, and treacherous.”

And as Carl A. Zimring, author of Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States, wrote for the Washington Post, these racist associations were injected into everything from soap advertisements at the turn of the 20th century to politics:

Racism conflating nonwhite immigrants with filth originated in that era — though then, unlike now, the population of immigrants considered “unclean” was more expansive, including Eastern and Southern Europeans, along with peoples originating from the Americas, Africa and Asia. Epithets like “greaser” and “sheenie” became common insults. These terms presupposed that Italians, Mexicans and Jews had greasier, oilier skin and hair, and that this condition was a biological fact and social problem.

It’s impossible to divorce Ballabon’s use of the term “filth” from Omar’s blackness or her identity as an immigrant. In Ballabon’s frame, and the history he invokes, nonwhite people are not just dirty, but less than human.

The smear has also traveled beyond the conservative circles where it first cropped up. This week, House Democrats plan to vote on a resolution in response to Omar’s comments on Israel, a move similar to a resolution taken up over comments made by Iowa’s Steve King, an actual white nationalist. An opinion piece in the Washington Post took the false equivalency a step further, calling Omar the “Steve King of the Left.”

These attacks serve two functions, both of which Omar has named clearly: They intend to shut down conversation about American foreign policy and the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, and to strip her of her personhood and credibility as a lawmaker. Omar has rightly refused to accept these as the terms under which she must speak. Earlier this week, she tweeted: “We must be willing to combat hate of all kinds while also calling out oppression of all kinds. I will do my best to live up to that. I hope my colleagues will join me in doing the same.” Whether they will or not remains an open question.

 

https://theslot.jezebel.com/the-long-life-of-a-racist-smear-1833043318

Photograph of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, speaking during a press conference calling on Congress to cut funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and to defund border detention facilities, outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington Feb. 7 (AFP-JIJI).

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/03/06/aipac-bares-its-arse/

What we should be talking about

 

Seems a mea culpa – Latin for “Oops!” – is in order. Who knew our prodigal practitioner could issue a challenge and then dictate rules of engagement for any who dared?  My last ramble apparently strayed far afield from doctor’s orders.

Oops! #2 – my last letter left the impression that China’s “Great Wall” was something of a success.  It was not.  Like Sam Cooke’s song, don’t know much about history.  Especially sixteenth century Ming Dynasty history.  It is a wonderful world, but I’ve got to admit – don’t know much about Chinese history during any century.

Then I read Michael Schuman’s article “China Built a Big, Beautiful Wall, Too. It failed.”  Everything I thought I knew about that wall was wrong.  So wrong it reminded me of an unscripted television moment in 2008.  MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough was attempting to defend the indefensible, reciting all the usual excuses for yet another assault on besieged Gaza.  Israel calls it “mowing the lawn” – a genteel euphemism for its periodic butchery of a trapped people with nowhere to run.

Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was a guest on Joe’s show that day. When finally allowed to respond, Brzezinski was brutal. “You know, you have such a stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on that it’s almost embarrassing to listen to you.”

Reading Schuman’s article (in Bloomberg.com) it was obvious I, too, had a “stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on” in sixteenth century China.   Schuman’s conclusion is a sobering, cautionary tale for our own times.

“The ultimate lesson of the Great Wall of China is that a physical barrier, no matter how expensive and impressive, will fail if detached from a broader set of policies to alleviate the sources of insecurity along the border. The Ming never figured that out. Hopefully Washington’s mandarins will.”

Still part of that dwindling minority fired up for Trump’s big, beautiful wall that Mexico will pay for (when hell freezes over)?  Ask yourself what it is about this particular border in the year 2019 of the Common Era that preserves it for all eternity. Why not the borders of 1845 or those that may exist a thousand years from now?

Trump’s “Great Wall” is an exercise in arrogance, a billboard for bigotry. “On this side we are exceptional Americans. On that side, you are not exceptional – stay away.”  Walls deny our own sordid history.  For centuries we have meddled where we did not belong and we have stolen what is not ours.  Like it or not, Americans play a part in much of today’s human misery.

We who have much have a duty to repair what we can, to apologize and pay for what we cannot, and to learn to see our neighbors as equal to ourselves regardless of color or creed or which side of a border we find ourselves on.

This is what we should be talking about.

Jacques d’Nalgar
Hot Springs, Arkansas

 

Photograph: AFP

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/01/25/what-we-should-be-talking-about/

My conscience leaves me no other choice

Time to Break the Silence on Palestine

By Michelle Alexander, Jan. 19, 2019

 

On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped up to the lectern at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. The United States had been in active combat in Vietnam for two years and tens of thousands of people had been killed, including some 10,000 American troops. The political establishment — from left to right — backed the war, and more than 400,000 American service members were in Vietnam, their lives on the line.

Many of King’s strongest allies urged him to remain silent about the war or at least to soft-pedal any criticism. They knew that if he told the whole truth about the unjust and disastrous war he would be falsely labeled a Communist, suffer retaliation and severe backlash, alienate supporters and threaten the fragile progress of the civil rights movement.

King rejected all the well-meaning advice and said, “I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice.” Quoting a statement by the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, he said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal” and added, “that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.”

It was a lonely, moral stance. And it cost him. But it set an example of what is required of us if we are to honor our deepest values in times of crisis, even when silence would better serve our personal interests or the communities and causes we hold most dear. It’s what I think about when I go over the excuses and rationalizations that have kept me largely silent on one of the great moral challenges of our time: the crisis in Israel-Palestine.

I have not been alone. Until very recently, the entire Congress has remained mostly silent on the human rights nightmare that has unfolded in the occupied territories. Our elected representatives, who operate in a political environment where Israel’s political lobby holds well-documented power, have consistently minimized and deflected criticism of the State of Israel, even as it has grown more emboldened in its occupation of Palestinian territory and adopted some practices reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow segregation in the United States.

Many civil rights activists and organizations have remained silent as well, not because they lack concern or sympathy for the Palestinian people, but because they fear loss of funding from foundations, and false charges of anti-Semitism. They worry, as I once did, that their important social justice work will be compromised or discredited by smear campaigns.

Similarly, many students are fearful of expressing support for Palestinian rights because of the McCarthyite tactics of secret organizations like Canary Mission, which blacklists those who publicly dare to support boycotts against Israel, jeopardizing their employment prospects and future careers.

Reading King’s speech at Riverside more than 50 years later, I am left with little doubt that his teachings and message require us to speak out passionately against the human rights crisis in Israel-Palestine, despite the risks and despite the complexity of the issues. King argued, when speaking of Vietnam, that even “when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict,” we must not be mesmerized by uncertainty. “We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”

And so, if we are to honor King’s message and not merely the man, we must condemn Israel’s actions: unrelenting violations of international law, continued occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, home demolitions and land confiscations. We must cry out at the treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, the routine searches of their homes and restrictions on their movements, and the severely limited access to decent housing, schools, food, hospitals and water that many of them face.

We must not tolerate Israel’s refusal even to discuss the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as prescribed by United Nations resolutions, and we ought to question the U.S. government funds that have supported multiple hostilities and thousands of civilian casualties in Gaza, as well as the $38 billion the U.S. government has pledged in military support to Israel.

And finally, we must, with as much courage and conviction as we can muster, speak out against the system of legal discrimination that exists inside Israel, a system complete with, according to Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, more than 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinians — such as the new nation-state law that says explicitly that only Jewish Israelis have the right of self-determination in Israel, ignoring the rights of the Arab minority that makes up 21 percent of the population.

Of course, there will be those who say that we can’t know for sure what King would do or think regarding Israel-Palestine today. That is true. The evidence regarding King’s views on Israel is complicated and contradictory.

Although the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee denounced Israel’s actions against Palestinians, King found himself conflicted. Like many black leaders of the time, he recognized European Jewry as a persecuted, oppressed and homeless people striving to build a nation of their own, and he wanted to show solidarity with the Jewish community, which had been a critically important ally in the civil rights movement.

Ultimately, King canceled a pilgrimage to Israel in 1967 after Israel captured the West Bank. During a phone call about the visit with his advisers, he said, “I just think that if I go, the Arab world, and of course Africa and Asia for that matter, would interpret this as endorsing everything that Israel has done, and I do have questions of doubt.”

He continued to support Israel’s right to exist but also said on national television that it would be necessary for Israel to return parts of its conquered territory to achieve true peace and security and to avoid exacerbating the conflict. There was no way King could publicly reconcile his commitment to nonviolence and justice for all people, everywhere, with what had transpired after the 1967 war.

Today, we can only speculate about where King would stand. Yet I find myself in agreement with the historian Robin D.G. Kelley, who concluded that, if King had the opportunity to study the current situation in the same way he had studied Vietnam, “his unequivocal opposition to violence, colonialism, racism and militarism would have made him an incisive critic of Israel’s current policies.”

Indeed, King’s views may have evolved alongside many other spiritually grounded thinkers, like Rabbi Brian Walt, who has spoken publicly about the reasons that he abandoned his faith in what he viewed as political Zionism. To him, he recently explained to me, liberal Zionism meant that he believed in the creation of a Jewish state that would be a desperately needed safe haven and cultural center for Jewish people around the world, “a state that would reflect as well as honor the highest ideals of the Jewish tradition.” He said he grew up in South Africa in a family that shared those views and identified as a liberal Zionist, until his experiences in the occupied territories forever changed him.

During more than 20 visits to the West Bank and Gaza, he saw horrific human rights abuses, including Palestinian homes being bulldozed while people cried — children’s toys strewn over one demolished site — and saw Palestinian lands being confiscated to make way for new illegal settlements subsidized by the Israeli government. He was forced to reckon with the reality that these demolitions, settlements and acts of violent dispossession were not rogue moves, but fully supported and enabled by the Israeli military. For him, the turning point was witnessing legalized discrimination against Palestinians — including streets for Jews only — which, he said, was worse in some ways than what he had witnessed as a boy in South Africa.

Not so long ago, it was fairly rare to hear this perspective. That is no longer the case.

Jewish Voice for Peace, for example, aims to educate the American public about “the forced displacement of approximately 750,000 Palestinians that began with Israel’s establishment and that continues to this day.” Growing numbers of people of all faiths and backgrounds have spoken out with more boldness and courage. American organizations such as If Not Now support young American Jews as they struggle to break the deadly silence that still exists among too many people regarding the occupation, and hundreds of secular and faith-based groups have joined the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

In view of these developments, it seems the days when critiques of Zionism and the actions of the State of Israel can be written off as anti-Semitism are coming to an end. There seems to be increased understanding that criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government is not, in itself, anti-Semitic.

This is not to say that anti-Semitism is not real. Neo-Nazism is resurging in Germany within a growing anti-immigrant movement. Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose 57 percent in 2017, and many of us are still mourning what is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jewish people in American history. We must be mindful in this climate that, while criticism of Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic, it can slide there.

Fortunately, people like the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II are leading by example, pledging allegiance to the fight against anti-Semitism while also demonstrating unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people struggling to survive under Israeli occupation.

He declared in a riveting speech last year that we cannot talk about justice without addressing the displacement of native peoples, the systemic racism of colonialism and the injustice of government repression. In the same breath he said: “I want to say, as clearly as I know how, that the humanity and the dignity of any person or people cannot in any way diminish the humanity and dignity of another person or another people. To hold fast to the image of God in every person is to insist that the Palestinian child is as precious as the Jewish child.”

Guided by this kind of moral clarity, faith groups are taking action. In 2016, the pension board of the United Methodist Church excluded from its multibillion-dollar pension fund Israeli banks whose loans for settlement construction violate international law. Similarly, the United Church of Christ the year before passed a resolution calling for divestments and boycotts of companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Even in Congress, change is on the horizon. For the first time, two sitting members, Representatives Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, publicly support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. In 2017, Representative Betty McCollum, Democrat of Minnesota, introduced a resolution to ensure that no U.S. military aid went to support Israel’s juvenile military detention system. Israel regularly prosecutes Palestinian children detainees in the occupied territories in military court.

None of this is to say that the tide has turned entirely or that retaliation has ceased against those who express strong support for Palestinian rights. To the contrary, just as King received fierce, overwhelming criticism for his speech condemning the Vietnam War — 168 major newspapers, including The Times, denounced the address the following day — those who speak publicly in support of the liberation of the Palestinian people still risk condemnation and backlash.

Bahia Amawi, an American speech pathologist of Palestinian descent, was recently terminated for refusing to sign a contract that contains an anti-boycott pledge stating that she does not, and will not, participate in boycotting the State of Israel. In November, Marc Lamont Hill was fired from CNN for giving a speech in support of Palestinian rights that was grossly misinterpreted as expressing support for violence. Canary Mission continues to pose a serious threat to student activists.

And just over a week ago, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama, apparently under pressure mainly from segments of the Jewish community and others, rescinded an honor it bestowed upon the civil rights icon Angela Davis, who has been a vocal critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and supports B.D.S.

But that attack backfired. Within 48 hours, academics and activists had mobilized in response. The mayor of Birmingham, Randall Woodfin, as well as the Birmingham School Board and the City Council, expressed outrage at the institute’s decision. The council unanimously passed a resolution in Davis’ honor, and an alternative event is being organized to celebrate her decades-long commitment to liberation for all.

I cannot say for certain that King would applaud Birmingham for its zealous defense of Angela Davis’s solidarity with Palestinian people. But I do. In this new year, I aim to speak with greater courage and conviction about injustices beyond our borders, particularly those that are funded by our government, and stand in solidarity with struggles for democracy and freedom. My conscience leaves me no other choice.

Michelle Alexander became a New York Times columnist in 2018. She is a civil rights lawyer and advocate, legal scholar and author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” 

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/19/opinion/sunday/martin-luther-king-palestine-israel.html

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