Category: Israel

Not running to be a god


A King for Jesus: What the Religious Right Sees in Trump

By Roger O. Friedland, October 26, 2016


What does the love of Jesus have to do with Trump? How to explain his overwhelming support from evangelical voters, who—for more than three decades—have formed the bastion of the Christian right? According to a Pew June 2016 survey 89% of evangelical voters wanted a President with strong religious beliefs. Trump cannot even pretend to qualify.

A number of analysts, particularly liberal ones, see it as the big reveal, that the Christian right is right, not Christian. The political right has captured the Christians, not the reverse. It’s about politics, class and honor, not God.

Arlie Hochschild, in her new book, Strangers in Their Own Land, based on her ethnography of Calcasieu Parish in Southern Louisiana, explores the paradox that white low-income citizens who depend on the state both hate it and love Trump. Her subjects were almost all believing Christians, mostly Southern Baptists and other evangelicals. Her account reveals the feelings of humiliation and rage behind their support of Trump, and the “ecstatic high” he provides them in his rallies where one of the posters proclaims “Thank you Lord Jesus for President Trump.”

White workers who can barely pay their bills, with stagnant wages and declining job prospects, are enraged and humiliated when they look at the taxes they pay. These are monies that could help them get by, tax monies that support people who do not work, and a government that is allowing others to “cut in line ahead of them” for those jobs that do exist through affirmative action for women and non-whites, and tolerance of illegal immigrants.

And to top it off, they get the message that their plight is their own fault—primitive, uneducated, racist, ignorant, fat believers.

These things may all be true. They fit with the sociological instinct to look behind the curtain. In this moment these kinds of explanations are comforting in thinking about Trump’s embrace by the godly. It’s about power, politics, status, class and race: How else can one explain their support of a man who has celebrated his sexual liaisons, his lust and his luxuries, who never asked God for forgiveness, who has even defended the amplitude of his penis in the Republican primary debates?

Some argue, particularly in this last erotic mud-wrestling month, that this is the end of the Christian right, that evangelicals like Jerry Falwell Jr, President of Liberty University, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, and Franklin Graham, CEO of his father’s evangelical empire, have sacrificed their Christianity for the sake of political power.

I don’t think so. It is not just their deal with the devil. There is a consonance between their Christianity and their support for Trump.

Trump is not a Christian warrior; he is, however, a warrior for Christ. Conservative evangelicals may want Jesus to save them, but not to rule them. It is not the character, but the capacity, of the candidate, that moves them. Culture warriors have not been able to move their agenda forward. If anything it is the reverse. A candidate’s faith, virtue and public praying have not converted to national political power—and it is political power to protect and promote their agenda they want.

The difference between evangelical and Republican leaders’ response to the revelation of Trump’s past predatory sexual behavior—“I moved on her like a bitch”—couldn’t be more stark. Scores of Republican leaders have repudiated Trump. While there has been some popular evangelical erosion, particularly among women, the leadership has not flinched. It was degrading and offensive, they said, but he had apologized, had shown contrition. “We’re all sinners, every one of us. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t,” Jerry Falwell Jr. declared.

Power Not Purity

“‘Pastor, don’t you want a candidate who embodies the teaching of Jesus and would govern this country according to the principles found in the Sermon on the Mount?’” the interviewer asked Robert Jeffress, a Baptist pastor with a congregation of 12,000. “‘Heck no,” he replied. “I would run from that candidate as far as possible, because the Sermon on the Mount was not given as a governing principle for this nation.”

Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, declared that if Jesus were running for office against Trump, he would vote for Trump. Government is to be a strongman to protect its citizens against evildoers. When I’m looking for somebody who’s going to deal with ISIS and exterminate ISIS, I don’t care about that candidate’s tone or vocabulary, I want the meanest, toughest, son of a you-a you-know-what I can find — and I believe that’s biblical.”

In their eyes America is now locked in a cosmic battle against evil, an apocalyptic war. On the inside there are secularists, like “Killary,” who allow women to take the lives of the ensouled through abortion and who violate the sanctity of marriage by providing access to that sacrament to gays and lesbians. On the outside there is the rise of political Islam before which American geo-politics have been relatively ineffective.

Trump is racializing the American nation. But conservative evangelicals are not white nationalists; they are Christian nationalists: Only as a people chosen by God can America stand strong. A majority of Republican voters subscribe to the view that Islam is fundamentally contradictory to Western values. For old-guard conservative Christians, there is not a contradiction; there is a war. “Islam is at war with us – we’ve witnessed its evil face,” Billy Graham’s son Franklin, tweeted in response to the Paris attacks in 2015 in opposition to Pope Francis.

And it is Trump who calls out the struggle not only as a war against terror, but against Islam, who claimed that “thousands” of New Jersey Muslims cheered the 9/11 bombings, who hammers on violence and exile experienced by Christians in the Muslim world, who would ban Muslim immigration. And it is Trump, who – since it started in 2011 — led the charge that President Obama is not only foreign born, but himself a Muslim. With Obama’s election the enemy had made it not only inside the national gates, but inside the hearts of a naïve and vulnerable American populace.

Trump has committed himself to empower his politically mobilized evangelical base. Not only has he vowed to appoint anti-abortion judges to the Court, he has promised to build their political muscle by overturning IRS regulations forbidding partisan endorsements as a condition of their tax exemption. The Washington Post reported on Trump’s high level powwow with the evangelical leadership: Trump emphasized that America was hurting due to what he described as Christianity’s slide to become “weaker, weaker, weaker.” He’d get department store employees to say “Merry Christmas” again and would fight restrictions on public employees, such as school coaches, from being allowed to lead sectarian prayer on the field.”

In a war, one does not need a God who forgives and loves, but one – like the God of the Israelites, who fights and vanquishes, who delivers His people to a pre-millennial greatness. “To be blunt,” opined Ken Crow, former Tea Party head, “America needs a hard-charging, outspoken, politically incorrect, borderline jerk at the moment. We need someone who loves our nation, makes our enemies quiver in fear…”

Fundamentalists evaluate Trump as an instrument of divinity, not as a holy man, not unlike the sexually voracious David, who sent Uriah to his death in order to bed his wife Bat-Sheva, a man from a marginal tribe who went on to both unify the nation and conquer its enemies. Steeped in the Hebrew Bible, they point to myriad cases where God used the ungodly to achieve His purposes, like the Persian King Cyrus who freed the Jews from Babylonian exile to return and rebuild the Temple.

Some of them read Trump in the apocalyptic frame that arose in 20th century American Protestantism in which a battle with evil forces is a sign of the end-times before Jesus’ return. “I know that Donald Trump is not a Christian,” the preacher and editor of End Times News Geoffrey Grider declared, but “God is preparing to shake the nations of the world and I believe he is going to use Donald Trump to do it.”

And there is the much-cited firefighter Mark Taylor, who back in 2011 had a prophetic vision while watching Trump on TV.

The Spirit of God says, I have chosen this man, Donald Trump, for such a time as this. For as Benjamin Netanyahu is to Israel, so shall this man be to the United States of America!…America will be respected once again as the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth, (other than Israel). The dollar will be the strongest it has ever been in the history of the United States, and will once again be the currency by which all others are judged.

In the eyes of many conservative Christian Trump supporters the other Christian Republican primary contenders – like Cruz and Rubio — tried to use God to reach for power. The truth is now apparent: God is using Trump.

Who’s Your Daddy?

At the Republican convention, the crowds did not chant “Yes, we can.” They rather shouted, “Yes, you will.” Trump is the leader who will make America strong and impenetrable, the powerful son of a powerful father. His campaign is organized around his person, not around core ideas or policy proposals.

Like a myth or a wrestling-match it is the feelings he evokes that count: the feeling of humiliation, the feeling of threat, the feeling of imminent, even apocalyptic danger, that enemies outside and inside are coming to tear us apart, and the feelings of fierce determination and anger that that they will not get away with it.

Hillary Clinton is cast as the handmaiden of our enemies, on the one side an avatar of globalism, a woman in a pantsuit who has lived off the money of foreign nations who feed the coffers of the Clinton Foundation. She is the leader of a global multi-culturalism refracted in our own nation, emblematized in her chief of staff and closest advisor, Huma Abedin, an Indian Muslim raised in Saudi Arabia. The sources of threat and emasculation sit at the table.

Insidious workings are afoot. Trump is the political master of conspiracy theories, of infiltration and deceit, imagining amazing things such as the Chinese invention of global warming to undercut American production. Right-wing religious, too, tend to look behind the surface flux for both divine and nefarious forces, for the finger of God and the devil. Clinton is the latter. If you are keyed into the plotline of Left Behind, the highest selling drama on apocalyptic tribulations, Hillary stands in as a female anti-Christ whose global talk heralds the end times.

A large percentage of the evangelical voters are voting for Trump because they are against Clinton. He is not her. But this is not just an ordinary sexism, a preference for men over women: It is an affirmation of political patriarchalism. Trump is a powerful father who, while he fornicates with whom he likes, will protect the homeland, not a mother who endures a president husband who allows a lowly intern to fellate him in the Oval Office and makes deals with the Iranian mullahs.

Opposition to Hillary has cosmic meaning, a desire to reinstall government authority based on the original order of things, a nation pleasing to God.

Trump’s vaunted, old-school machismo qualifies him for office. It will enable him to take down Hillary and ISIS. Trump’s seemingly unhinged jump in the second debate from his apology for “locker room talk” to his capacity to protect the American body politic from the real predations of ISIS and immigration signaled to his followers that the same masculine power that led to the excesses of the first would power the needed response to the second.

“And women have respect for me,” he said. “And I will tell you that I’m going to make our country safe. We’re going to have borders in our country which we don’t have now.” His intrusion into Hillary’s speaking space, hovering there as she took her turn, was not rude; it was an assertion of masculine primacy. Only men like him can stand strong, ready to move, at the border.

Two thirds of Trump’s followers believe that America has become “too soft and feminine,” according to a PRRI poll this last April. A majority of evangelicals feel likewise. Trump embodies masculine power; he manifests an indomitable will, defeating the Republican king-makers, saying the gross and the unthinkable.

Power Politics

Trump’s business enterprises exemplify power’s role. Real estate, the core of his holdings, is a fixed territory whose capitalization depends on the ability to secure the support of the state: on roads, zoning, tax abatements, subsidies. Real estate is about power, and the rents that accrue to that power, as much as it is about markets.

“That’s business,” Trump blithely replied when Clinton excoriated him for not paying taxes, for exploiting the rules. In Trump’s eyes, the economy, and the global market, is “rigged.” The terms of trade are political. American manufacturing workers lost their jobs because of our political submissiveness, not because of the product cycle. China and Mexico have taken us to the cleaners.

Trump is no market liberal: The free market is anything but. So he would naturally use the state’s power to countermand the property rights of corporations who export their jobs and plants abroad. He attributes his own market failures to his lack of power.

He has only run one public company, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts in Atlantic City between 1995 to 2009. Subject to stockholders and a board of directors, Trump was a disaster. His company went bankrupt; his investors lost everything. In Trump’s eyes this was not because of anonymous market forces. Just like elections, opinion polls, political debates, the news media, he thinks the stock market is “rigged.” “I believe it’s a false market,” he said of the equity market. “I don’t even invest in the stock market.

He wants to be the sole decider, the absolute sovereign who intimidates or beguiles, who bends or even breaks the law to protect and promote his turf, who gets things done—like the long-languishing skating rink in Central Park. He is the one who can say: “You’re fired” – without remorse or justification. There is no reason to believe he would not do likewise as the American executive.

Here is a man who announces that, if elected, he will use his executive authority to imprison his Presidential rival.

Trump is part of the anti-institutional posture afoot in our land. He is a charismatic figure; Clinton is not. An anti-institutional stance is at the core of what Max Weber meant by charisma, somebody who garners authority because of the extraordinariness, the exceptionalness, of his person. Clinton, in contrast, is the institutional candidate – backed by the party elites, the darling and beneficiary of Wall Street financiers who have refused to back Trump’s enterprises, the one who grounds her ability to act in her expertise, in her mastery of the rules, the evidence and the law.

Hillary reads her script; Donald speaks his mind. He may lie, but it is his bullshit.

Trump represents a return to the masculine principle as the ground of the order of creation, and most importantly in the current circumstances, to the order of destruction, the capacity to kill and subordinate those who would do us harm, to smash the interest-groups who hobble American policy-making, who somehow convert their interests into America’s. Trump is an action figure of our times.

Conservative Christian politics are likewise grounded in the divine exception, His power to make and to take life outside any law, to enter in history against the enemies of Christ, to save the day.

Trump is not running to be a god, but a king chosen by a chosen people, a people long in exile, awaiting the man who can defeat their enemies and deliver them to greatness.

Roger O. Friedland is a professor of religious studies at UC Santa Barbara. His current work focuses on politicized religion worldwide.

Painting (modifed) of King David:

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The good of the state

35-israeli-afpIt’s Every Israeli’s Right, and Duty, to Speak Up – Including at the UN

By Michael Sfard, Oct 24, 2016 8:18 PM


Long ago, when I was a high school student in Jerusalem, I had a civics teacher who explained something quite astonishing to my class. The state is a means, he said, and human beings are always the end. The social organization is intended to serve people and only people and, therefore, there is no such thing as “the good of the state” distinct from the well-being of its subjects.

That was a million years ago, when the education minister was the leader of the National Religious Party and an extreme leftist in today’s terms, Zevulon Hammer, and it was still possible to articulate ideas out loud without putting the teacher through the Via Dolorosa that civics teacher Adam Verete traversed nearly three years ago for voicing leftist views in a classroom.

And that was also before the nation that gave Western culture many of its cardinal values prohibited them in its own state, and before Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook’s disciples obtained a monopoly on “Jewish consciousness.”

Because of that teacher and because of my parents, who agreed with him, I ended up damaged – an innocent child corrupted by the belief that loyalty to the state isn’t loyalty to a metaphysical, organic entity with an existence and value of its own, but rather, loyalty to the human rights of everyone under its rule.

And to the belief that a state has no right to exist if it does not aspire and strive to create the conditions to further the happiness and personal development of all its subjects, and does not do everything it can to avoid causing suffering to human beings.

Political loyalty to a political entity is solely and entirely loyalty to the values for the sake of which that state was created, and not loyalty to its existence only for its existence’s sake.

The debate about the legitimacy of B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad’s recent appearance at the UN Security Council, in which he called for its members to take measures that will advance the end of the occupation, more than anything else was born of the political hysteria of Israel’s government – which is feeling the flames of international revulsion toward its settlement policy coming close to its nether parts.

However, if we give the benefit of the doubt to some of El-Ad’s critics and suppose that at the heart of their criticism is a divergence in values and disagreement in principle with the idea that an Israeli is entitled to criticize his country and to call for taking measures against it in an international forum, then this position is based on a total lack of understanding of the concept of the social contract.

For the sake of full disclosure, I will add that this May, I too spoke at the Security Council, on behalf of the nongovernmental organization Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, of which I am the legal adviser.

I, too, called upon the members of the Security Council to take steps that would push Israel to stop violating international law and end its settlement policy.

For 50 years now, the State of Israel has been oppressing millions of people with a heavy hand. Hundreds of thousands of people have been born and lived their entire lives without rights that would enable them to influence their fate and future. And hundreds of thousands have ended their lives without ever having tasted political freedom.

As El-Ad said in his speech at the Security Council, “With every breath they take, Palestinians breathe in occupation.” To that, I would like to add: With every breath, the concentration of oxygen decreases, stolen by the settlements and the settlers, and the Palestinians’ asphyxiation increases.

However, the fact that we have before us an enormous violation of human rights is not enough to indict the state. Sometimes, such violations are an exigency dictated by the reality, a necessary evil.

In the most justified of defensive wars, innocent people are liable to suffer. The harsh result from the human rights perspective alone is not a sufficient smoking gun indicative of guilt on the part of the state. A key question is the extent to which the hurtful policy was forced or freely chosen by the government.

It is difficult to come up with an example more incriminating than the policy of Israel’s governments, and at its peak Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current government, regarding the occupation and settlements.

Fifty years of colonization that robs the occupied civilians of their private and collective property, of the legal anchoring of segregation and discrimination between people in accordance with their national origin, of consistent and resounding refusal of peace, of entrenching the occupation for generations – and all this from a position of strength and by choice, and in breach of international law.

What is a human rights activist who knows all this about the occupation supposed to do? The right’s answer sends her to the people, to convince the Israeli public to end it. And as long as she doesn’t manage to do this, she can sit quietly and accept the majority’s decision.

However, this answer expresses the view of democracy as a technical matter and ignores the majority’s obligation to advance the values for which the state exists. A state that steals – a robber state that imposes an apartheid regime on a national minority with no rights – cannot claim legitimacy derived from the majority’s choice, nor can it expect that human rights activists will accept its ruling.

Moreover, directing the activist to the Israeli public ignores the fact that the occupation is not an internal Israeli matter. And even if it were, human rights are always a matter for the entire international community. Human rights activists from all over the world, and also from Israel, are supposed to be dedicated to the advancement and protection of human rights, thereby manifesting their loyalty to the political frameworks of which they are members. And everywhere the state acts intentionally to inflict severe damage upon the rights of those under its rule, addressing the world by means of the available legal channels is not only legitimate but also an obligation.

Last week, human rights lawyers from the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights – a well-known human rights organization – submitted an expert opinion to a court in France in support of summoning the former legal adviser to the U.S. Department of Defense, William J. Haynes, for questioning in connection with his part in approving the use of torture techniques in Guantanamo Bay. The creation in the U.S. legal system of immunity for the torture criminals obligated human rights activists there to go outside their country.

Therefore, do not expect Israeli human rights activists to celebrate the jubilee year of the occupation together with you, in silence and with bowed heads. The occupation is not legitimate; the policy of the Israeli government is not legal and is not moral. It is impelled by ideological greed that ignores the tremendous suffering it inflicts upon millions of human begins who are asphyxiating under its weight everyday of their lives. No majority is entitled to impose a sentence of oppression like this on a minority, and especially on a minority that does not participate at all in the taking of decisions about its future. And no human rights activist is entitled to relinquish any nonviolent tool, national or international, for fighting such a long and cruel occupation.

Until it shatters into smithereens.

The writer is a lawyer who represents human rights organizations and activists.

Photograph of Israelis on a hill overlooking Gaza in 2014 (AFP).

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Shimon Peres was no peacemaker. I’ll never forget the sight of pouring blood and burning bodies at Qana

By Robert Fisk, Wednesday 28 September 2016 11:00 BST


When the world heard that Shimon Peres had died, it shouted “Peacemaker!” But when I heard that Peres was dead, I thought of blood and fire and slaughter.

I saw the results: babies torn apart, shrieking refugees, smouldering bodies. It was a place called Qana and most of the 106 bodies – half of them children – now lie beneath the UN camp where they were torn to pieces by Israeli shells in 1996. I had been on a UN aid convoy just outside the south Lebanese village. Those shells swished right over our heads and into the refugees packed below us. It lasted for 17 minutes.

Shimon Peres, standing for election as Israel’s prime minister – a post he inherited when his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated – decided to increase his military credentials before polling day by assaulting Lebanon. The joint Nobel Peace Prize holder used as an excuse the firing of Katyusha rockets over the Lebanese border by the Hezbollah. In fact, their rockets were retaliation for the killing of a small Lebanese boy by a booby-trap bomb they suspected had been left by an Israeli patrol. It mattered not.

A few days later, Israeli troops inside Lebanon came under attack close to Qana and retaliated by opening fire into the village. Their first shells hit a cemetery used by Hezbollah; the rest flew directly into the UN Fijian army camp where hundreds of civilians were sheltering. Peres announced that “we did not know that several hundred people were concentrated in that camp. It came to us as a bitter surprise.”

It was a lie. The Israelis had occupied Qana for years after their 1982 invasion, they had video film of the camp, they were even flying a drone over the camp during the 1996 massacre – a fact they denied until a UN soldier gave me his video of the drone, frames from which we published in The Independent. The UN had repeatedly told Israel that the camp was packed with refugees.

This was Peres’s contribution to Lebanese peace. He lost the election and probably never thought much more about Qana. But I never forgot it.

When I reached the UN gates, blood was pouring through them in torrents. I could smell it. It washed over our shoes and stuck to them like glue. There were legs and arms, babies without heads, old men’s heads without bodies. A man’s body was hanging in two pieces in a burning tree. What was left of him was on fire.

On the steps of the barracks, a girl sat holding a man with grey hair, her arm round his shoulder, rocking the corpse back and forth in her arms. His eyes were staring at her. She was keening and weeping and crying, over and over: “My father, my father.” If she is still alive – and there was to be another Qana massacre in the years to come, this time from the Israeli air force – I doubt if the word “peacemaker” will be crossing her lips.

There was a UN enquiry which stated in its bland way that it did not believe the slaughter was an accident. The UN report was accused of being anti-Semitic. Much later, a brave Israeli magazine published an interview with the artillery soldiers who fired at Qana. An officer had referred to the villagers as “just a bunch of Arabs” (‘arabushim’ in Hebrew). “A few Arabushim die, there is no harm in that,” he was quoted as saying. Peres’s chief of staff was almost equally carefree: “I don’t know any other rules of the game, either for the [Israeli] army or for civilians…”

Peres called his Lebanese invasion “Operation Grapes of Wrath”, which – if it wasn’t inspired by John Steinbeck – must have come from the Book of Deuteronomy. “The sword without and terror within,” it says in Chapter 32, “shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of grey hairs.” Could there be a better description of those 17 minutes at Qana?

Yes, of course, Peres changed in later years. They claimed that Ariel Sharon – whose soldiers watched the massacre at Sabra and Chatila camps in 1982 by their Lebanese Christian allies – was also a “peacemaker” when he died. At least he didn’t receive the Nobel Prize.

Peres later became an advocate of a “two state solution”, even as the Jewish colonies on Palestinian land – which he once so fervently supported – continued to grow.

Now we must call him a “peacemaker”. And count, if you can, how often the word “peace” is used in the Peres obituaries over the next few days. Then count how many times the word Qana appears. or

Photograph by Kursat Bayhan, of a mother weeping before her baby’s grave, before the funeral for 27 killed in Qana.–israel-war/24beyrut or

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The full measure of its guilt

justice_lg“Some People Push Back”: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens

By Ward Churchill, September 12, 2001


When queried by reporters concerning his views on the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963, Malcolm X famously – and quite charitably, all things considered – replied that it was merely a case of “chickens coming home to roost.”

On the morning of September 11, 2001, a few more chickens – along with some half-million dead Iraqi children – came home to roost in a very big way at the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. Well, actually, a few of them seem to have nestled in at the Pentagon as well.

The Iraqi youngsters, all of them under 12, died as a predictable – in fact, widely predicted – result of the 1991 US “surgical” bombing of their country’s water purification and sewage facilities, as well as other “infrastructural” targets upon which Iraq’s civilian population depends for its very survival.

If the nature of the bombing were not already bad enough – and it should be noted that this sort of “aerial warfare” constitutes a Class I Crime Against humanity, entailing myriad gross violations of international law, as well as every conceivable standard of “civilized” behavior – the death toll has been steadily ratcheted up by US-imposed sanctions for a full decade now. Enforced all the while by a massive military presence and periodic bombing raids, the embargo has greatly impaired the victims’ ability to import the nutrients, medicines and other materials necessary to saving the lives of even their toddlers.

All told, Iraq has a population of about 18 million. The 500,000 kids lost to date thus represent something on the order of 25 percent of their age group. Indisputably, the rest have suffered – are still suffering – a combination of physical debilitation and psychological trauma severe enough to prevent their ever fully recovering. In effect, an entire generation has been obliterated.

The reason for this holocaust was/is rather simple, and stated quite straightforwardly by President George Bush, the 41st “freedom-loving” father of the freedom-lover currently filling the Oval Office, George the 43rd: “The world must learn that what we say, goes,” intoned George the Elder to the enthusiastic applause of freedom-loving Americans everywhere. How Old George conveyed his message was certainly no mystery to the US public. One need only recall the 24-hour-per-day dissemination of bombardment videos on every available TV channel, and the exceedingly high ratings of these telecasts, to gain a sense of how much they knew.

In trying to affix a meaning to such things, we would do well to remember the wave of elation that swept America at reports of what was happening along the so-called Highway of Death: perhaps 100,000 “towel-heads” and “camel jockeys” – or was it “sand niggers” that week? – in full retreat, routed and effectively defenseless, many of them conscripted civilian laborers, slaughtered in a single day by jets firing the most hyper-lethal types of ordnance. It was a performance worthy of the nazis during the early months of their drive into Russia. And it should be borne in mind that Good Germans gleefully cheered that butchery, too. Indeed, support for Hitler suffered no serious erosion among Germany’s “innocent civilians” until the defeat at Stalingrad.

There may be a real utility to reflecting further, this time upon the fact that it was pious Americans who led the way in assigning the onus of collective guilt to the German people as a whole, not for things they as individuals had done, but for what they had allowed – nay, empowered – their leaders and their soldiers to do in their name.

If the principle was valid then, it remains so now, as applicable to Good Americans as it was the Good Germans. And the price exacted from the Germans for the faultiness of their moral fiber was truly ghastly. Returning now to the children, and to the effects of the post-Gulf War embargo – continued bull force by Bush the Elder’s successors in the Clinton administration as a gesture of its “resolve” to finalize what George himself had dubbed the “New World Order” of American military/economic domination – it should be noted that not one but two high United Nations officials attempting to coordinate delivery of humanitarian aid to Iraq resigned in succession as protests against US policy.

One of them, former U.N. Assistant Secretary General Denis Halladay, repeatedly denounced what was happening as “a systematic program . . . of deliberate genocide.” His statements appeared in the New York Times and other papers during the fall of 1998, so it can hardly be contended that the American public was “unaware” of them. Shortly thereafter, Secretary of State Madeline Albright openly confirmed Halladay’s assessment. Asked during the widely-viewed TV program Meet the Press to respond to his “allegations,” she calmly announced that she’d decided it was “worth the price” to see that U.S. objectives were achieved.

The Politics of a Perpetrator Population

As a whole, the American public greeted these revelations with yawns.. There were, after all, far more pressing things than the unrelenting misery/death of a few hundred thousand Iraqi tikes to be concerned with. Getting “Jeremy” and “Ellington” to their weekly soccer game, for instance, or seeing to it that little “Tiffany” and “Ashley” had just the right roll-neck sweaters to go with their new cords. And, to be sure, there was the yuppie holy war against ashtrays – for “our kids,” no less – as an all-absorbing point of political focus.

In fairness, it must be admitted that there was an infinitesimally small segment of the body politic who expressed opposition to what was/is being done to the children of Iraq. It must also be conceded, however, that those involved by-and-large contented themselves with signing petitions and conducting candle-lit prayer vigils, bearing “moral witness” as vast legions of brown-skinned five-year-olds sat shivering in the dark, wide-eyed in horror, whimpering as they expired in the most agonizing ways imaginable.

Be it said as well, and this is really the crux of it, that the “resistance” expended the bulk of its time and energy harnessed to the systemically-useful task of trying to ensure, as “a principle of moral virtue” that nobody went further than waving signs as a means of “challenging” the patently exterminatory pursuit of Pax Americana. So pure of principle were these “dissidents,” in fact, that they began literally to supplant the police in protecting corporations profiting by the carnage against suffering such retaliatory “violence” as having their windows broken by persons less “enlightened” – or perhaps more outraged – than the self-anointed “peacekeepers.”

Property before people, it seems – or at least the equation of property to people – is a value by no means restricted to America’s boardrooms. And the sanctimony with which such putrid sentiments are enunciated turns out to be nauseatingly similar, whether mouthed by the CEO of Standard Oil or any of the swarm of comfort zone “pacifists” queuing up to condemn the black block after it ever so slightly disturbed the functioning of business-as-usual in Seattle.

Small wonder, all-in-all, that people elsewhere in the world – the Mideast, for instance – began to wonder where, exactly, aside from the streets of the US itself, one was to find the peace America’s purportedly oppositional peacekeepers claimed they were keeping.

The answer, surely, was plain enough to anyone unblinded by the kind of delusions engendered by sheer vanity and self-absorption. So, too, were the implications in terms of anything changing, out there, in America’s free-fire zones.

Tellingly, it was at precisely this point – with the genocide in Iraq officially admitted and a public response demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were virtually no Americans, including most of those professing otherwise, doing anything tangible to stop it – that the combat teams which eventually commandeered the aircraft used on September 11 began to infiltrate the United States.

 Meet the “Terrorists”

Of the men who came, there are a few things demanding to be said in the face of the unending torrent of disinformational drivel unleashed by George Junior and the corporate “news” media immediately following their successful operation on September 11.

They did not, for starters, “initiate” a war with the US, much less commit “the first acts of war of the new millennium.”

A good case could be made that the war in which they were combatants has been waged more-or-less continuously by the “Christian West” – now proudly emblematized by the United States – against the “Islamic East” since the time of the First Crusade, about 1,000 years ago. More recently, one could argue that the war began when Lyndon Johnson first lent significant support to Israel’s dispossession/displacement of Palestinians during the 1960s, or when George the Elder ordered “Desert Shield” in 1990, or at any of several points in between. Any way you slice it, however, if what the combat teams did to the WTC and the Pentagon can be understood as acts of war – and they can – then the same is true of every US “overflight’ of Iraqi territory since day one. The first acts of war during the current millennium thus occurred on its very first day, and were carried out by U.S. aviators acting under orders from their then-commander-in-chief, Bill Clinton. The most that can honestly be said of those involved on September 11 is that they finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course.

That they waited so long to do so is, notwithstanding the 1993 action at the WTC, more than anything a testament to their patience and restraint.

They did not license themselves to “target innocent civilians.”

There is simply no argument to be made that the Pentagon personnel killed on September 11 fill that bill. The building and those inside comprised military targets, pure and simple. As to those in the World Trade Center . . .

Well, really. Let’s get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire – the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to “ignorance” – a derivative, after all, of the word “ignore” – counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in – and in many cases excelling at – it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.

The men who flew the missions against the WTC and Pentagon were not “cowards.” That distinction properly belongs to the “firm-jawed lads” who delighted in flying stealth aircraft through the undefended airspace of Baghdad, dropping payload after payload of bombs on anyone unfortunate enough to be below – including tens of thousands of genuinely innocent civilians – while themselves incurring all the risk one might expect during a visit to the local video arcade. Still more, the word describes all those “fighting men and women” who sat at computer consoles aboard ships in the Persian Gulf, enjoying air-conditioned comfort while launching cruise missiles into neighborhoods filled with random human beings. Whatever else can be said of them, the men who struck on September 11 manifested the courage of their convictions, willingly expending their own lives in attaining their objectives.

Nor were they “fanatics” devoted to “Islamic fundamentalism.”

One might rightly describe their actions as “desperate.” Feelings of desperation, however, are a perfectly reasonable – one is tempted to say “normal” – emotional response among persons confronted by the mass murder of their children, particularly when it appears that nobody else really gives a damn (ask a Jewish survivor about this one, or, even more poignantly, for all the attention paid them, a Gypsy).

That desperate circumstances generate desperate responses is no mysterious or irrational principle, of the sort motivating fanatics. Less is it one peculiar to Islam. Indeed, even the FBI’s investigative reports on the combat teams’ activities during the months leading up to September 11 make it clear that the members were not fundamentalist Muslims. Rather, it’s pretty obvious at this point that they were secular activists – soldiers, really – who, while undoubtedly enjoying cordial relations with the clerics of their countries, were motivated far more by the grisly realities of the U.S. war against them than by a set of religious beliefs.

And still less were they/their acts “insane.”

Insanity is a condition readily associable with the very American idea that one – or one’s country – holds what amounts to a “divine right” to commit genocide, and thus to forever do so with impunity. The term might also be reasonably applied to anyone suffering genocide without attempting in some material way to bring the process to a halt. Sanity itself, in this frame of reference, might be defined by a willingness to try and destroy the perpetrators and/or the sources of their ability to commit their crimes. (Shall we now discuss the US “strategic bombing campaign” against Germany during World War II, and the mental health of those involved in it?)

Which takes us to official characterizations of the combat teams as an embodiment of “evil.”

Evil – for those inclined to embrace the banality of such a concept – was perfectly incarnated in that malignant toad known as Madeline Albright, squatting in her studio chair like Jaba the Hutt, blandly spewing the news that she’d imposed a collective death sentence upon the unoffending youth of Iraq. Evil was to be heard in that great American hero “Stormin’ Norman” Schwartzkopf’s utterly dehumanizing dismissal of their systematic torture and annihilation as mere “collateral damage.” Evil, moreover, is a term appropriate to describing the mentality of a public that finds such perspectives and the policies attending them acceptable, or even momentarily tolerable.

Had it not been for these evils, the counterattacks of September 11 would never have occurred. And unless “the world is rid of such evil,” to lift a line from George Junior, September 11 may well end up looking like a lark.

There is no reason, after all, to believe that the teams deployed in the assaults on the WTC and the Pentagon were the only such, that the others are composed of “Arabic-looking individuals” – America’s indiscriminately lethal arrogance and psychotic sense of self-entitlement have long since given the great majority of the world’s peoples ample cause to be at war with it – or that they are in any way dependent upon the seizure of civilian airliners to complete their missions.

To the contrary, there is every reason to expect that there are many other teams in place, tasked to employ altogether different tactics in executing operational plans at least as well-crafted as those evident on September 11, and very well equipped for their jobs. This is to say that, since the assaults on the WTC and Pentagon were act of war – not “terrorist incidents” – they must be understood as components in a much broader strategy designed to achieve specific results. From this, it can only be adduced that there are plenty of other components ready to go, and that they will be used, should this become necessary in the eyes of the strategists. It also seems a safe bet that each component is calibrated to inflict damage at a level incrementally higher than the one before (during the 1960s, the Johnson administration employed a similar policy against Vietnam, referred to as “escalation”).

Since implementation of the overall plan began with the WTC/Pentagon assaults, it takes no rocket scientist to decipher what is likely to happen next, should the U.S. attempt a response of the inexcusable variety to which it has long entitled itself.

About Those Boys (and Girls) in the Bureau

There’s another matter begging for comment at this point. The idea that the FBI’s “counterterrorism task forces” can do a thing to prevent what will happen is yet another dimension of America’s delusional pathology.. The fact is that, for all its publicly-financed “image-building” exercises, the Bureau has never shown the least aptitude for anything of the sort.

Oh, yeah, FBI counterintelligence personnel have proven quite adept at framing anarchists, communists and Black Panthers, sometimes murdering them in their beds or the electric chair. The Bureau’s SWAT units have displayed their ability to combat child abuse in Waco by burning babies alive, and its vaunted Crime Lab has been shown to pad its “crime-fighting’ statistics by fabricating evidence against many an alleged car thief. But actual “heavy-duty bad guys” of the sort at issue now? This isn’t a Bruce Willis/Chuck Norris/Sly Stallone movie, after all.. And J. Edgar Hoover doesn’t get to approve either the script or the casting.

The number of spies, saboteurs and bona fide terrorists apprehended, or even detected by the FBI in the course of its long and slimy history could be counted on one’s fingers and toes. On occasion, its agents have even turned out to be the spies, and, in many instances, the terrorists as well.

To be fair once again, if the Bureau functions as at best a carnival of clowns where its “domestic security responsibilities” are concerned, this is because – regardless of official hype – it has none. It is now, as it’s always been, the national political police force, an instrument created and perfected to ensure that all Americans, not just the consenting mass, are “free” to do exactly as they’re told.

The FBI and “cooperating agencies” can be thus relied upon to set about “protecting freedom” by destroying whatever rights and liberties were left to U.S. citizens before September 11 (in fact, they’ve already received authorization to begin). Sheeplike, the great majority of Americans can also be counted upon to bleat their approval, at least in the short run, believing as they always do that the nasty implications of what they’re doing will pertain only to others.

Oh Yeah, and “The Company,” Too

A possibly even sicker joke is the notion, suddenly in vogue, that the CIA will be able to pinpoint “terrorist threats,” “rooting out their infrastructure” where it exists and/or “terminating” it before it can materialize, if only it’s allowed to beef up its “human intelligence gathering capacity” in an unrestrained manner (including full-bore operations inside the US, of course).

Yeah. Right.

Since America has a collective attention-span of about 15 minutes, a little refresher seems in order: “The Company” had something like a quarter-million people serving as “intelligence assets” by feeding it information in Vietnam in 1968, and it couldn’t even predict the Tet Offensive. God knows how many spies it was fielding against the USSR at the height of Ronald Reagan’s version of the Cold War, and it was still caught flatfooted by the collapse of the Soviet Union. As to destroying “terrorist infrastructures,” one would do well to remember Operation Phoenix, another product of its open season in Vietnam. In that one, the CIA enlisted elite US units like the Navy Seals and Army Special Forces, as well as those of friendly countries – the south Vietnamese Rangers, for example, and Australian SAS – to run around “neutralizing” folks targeted by The Company’s legion of snitches as “guerrillas” (as those now known as “terrorists” were then called).

Sound familiar?

Upwards of 40,000 people – mostly bystanders, as it turns out – were murdered by Phoenix hit teams before the guerrillas, stronger than ever, ran the US and its collaborators out of their country altogether. And these are the guys who are gonna save the day, if unleashed to do their thing in North America?

The net impact of all this “counterterrorism” activity upon the combat teams’ ability to do what they came to do, of course, will be nil.

Instead, it’s likely to make it easier for them to operate (it’s worked that way in places like Northern Ireland). And, since denying Americans the luxury of reaping the benefits of genocide in comfort was self-evidently a key objective of the WTC/Pentagon assaults, it can be stated unequivocally that a more overt display of the police state mentality already pervading this country simply confirms the magnitude of their victory.

 On Matters of Proportion and Intent

As things stand, including the 1993 detonation at the WTC, “Arab terrorists” have responded to the massive and sustained American terror bombing of Iraq with a total of four assaults by explosives inside the US. That’s about 1% of the 50,000 bombs the Pentagon announced were rained on Baghdad alone during the Gulf War (add in Oklahoma City and you’ll get something nearer an actual 1%).

They’ve managed in the process to kill about 5,000 Americans, or roughly 1% of the dead Iraqi children (the percentage is far smaller if you factor in the killing of adult Iraqi civilians, not to mention troops butchered as/after they’d surrendered and/or after the “war-ending” ceasefire had been announced).

In terms undoubtedly more meaningful to the property/profit-minded American mainstream, they’ve knocked down a half-dozen buildings – albeit some very well-chosen ones – as opposed to the “strategic devastation” visited upon the whole of Iraq, and punched a $100 billion hole in the earnings outlook of major corporate shareholders, as opposed to the U.S. obliteration of Iraq’s entire economy.

With that, they’ve given Americans a tiny dose of their own medicine.. This might be seen as merely a matter of “vengeance” or “retribution,” and, unquestionably, America has earned it, even if it were to add up only to something so ultimately petty.

The problem is that vengeance is usually framed in terms of “getting even,” a concept which is plainly inapplicable in this instance. As the above data indicate, it would require another 49,996 detonations killing 495,000 more Americans, for the “terrorists” to “break even” for the bombing of Baghdad/extermination of Iraqi children alone. And that’s to achieve “real number” parity. To attain an actual proportional parity of damage – the US is about 15 times as large as Iraq in terms of population, even more in terms of territory – they would, at a minimum, have to blow up about 300,000 more buildings and kill something on the order of 7.5 million people.

Were this the intent of those who’ve entered the US to wage war against it, it would remain no less true that America and Americans were only receiving the bill for what they’d already done. Payback, as they say, can be a real motherfucker (ask the Germans). There is, however, no reason to believe that retributive parity is necessarily an item on the agenda of those who planned the WTC/Pentagon operation. If it were, given the virtual certainty that they possessed the capacity to have inflicted far more damage than they did, there would be a lot more American bodies lying about right now.

Hence, it can be concluded that ravings carried by the “news” media since September 11 have contained at least one grain of truth: The peoples of the Mideast “aren’t like” Americans, not least because they don’t “value life’ in the same way. By this, it should be understood that Middle-Easterners, unlike Americans, have no history of exterminating others purely for profit, or on the basis of racial animus. Thus, we can appreciate the fact that they value life – all lives, not just their own – far more highly than do their U.S. counterparts.

The Makings of a Humanitarian Strategy

In sum one can discern a certain optimism – it might even be call humanitarianism – imbedded in the thinking of those who presided over the very limited actions conducted on September 11.

Their logic seems to have devolved upon the notion that the American people have condoned what has been/is being done in their name – indeed, are to a significant extent actively complicit in it – mainly because they have no idea what it feels like to be on the receiving end.

Now they do.

That was the “medicinal” aspect of the attacks.

To all appearances, the idea is now to give the tonic a little time to take effect, jolting Americans into the realization that the sort of pain they’re now experiencing first-hand is no different from – or the least bit more excruciating than – that which they’ve been so cavalier in causing others, and thus to respond appropriately.

More bluntly, the hope was – and maybe still is – that Americans, stripped of their presumed immunity from incurring any real consequences for their behavior, would comprehend and act upon a formulation as uncomplicated as “stop killing our kids, if you want your own to be safe.”

Either way, it’s a kind of “reality therapy” approach, designed to afford the American people a chance to finally “do the right thing” on their own, without further coaxing.

Were the opportunity acted upon in some reasonably good faith fashion – a sufficiently large number of Americans rising up and doing whatever is necessary to force an immediate lifting of the sanctions on Iraq, for instance, or maybe hanging a few of America’s abundant supply of major war criminals (Henry Kissinger comes quickly to mind, as do Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton and George the Elder) – there is every reason to expect that military operations against the US on its domestic front would be immediately suspended.

Whether they would remain so would of course be contingent upon follow-up. By that, it may be assumed that American acceptance of onsite inspections by international observers to verify destruction of its weapons of mass destruction (as well as dismantlement of all facilities in which more might be manufactured), Nuremberg-style trials in which a few thousand US military/corporate personnel could be properly adjudicated and punished for their Crimes Against humanity, and payment of reparations to the array of nations/peoples whose assets the US has plundered over the years, would suffice.

Since they’ve shown no sign of being unreasonable or vindictive, it may even be anticipated that, after a suitable period of adjustment and reeducation (mainly to allow them to acquire the skills necessary to living within their means), those restored to control over their own destinies by the gallant sacrifices of the combat teams the WTC and Pentagon will eventually (re)admit Americans to the global circle of civilized societies. Stranger things have happened.

In the Alternative

Unfortunately, noble as they may have been, such humanitarian aspirations were always doomed to remain unfulfilled. For it to have been otherwise, a far higher quality of character and intellect would have to prevail among average Americans than is actually the case. Perhaps the strategists underestimated the impact a couple of generations-worth of media indoctrination can produce in terms of demolishing the capacity of human beings to form coherent thoughts. Maybe they forgot to factor in the mind-numbing effects of the indoctrination passed off as education in the US. Then, again, it’s entirely possible they were aware that a decisive majority of American adults have been reduced by this point to a level much closer to the kind of immediate self-gratification entailed in Pavlovian stimulus/response patterns than anything accessible by appeals to higher logic, and still felt morally obliged to offer the dolts an option to quit while they were ahead.

What the hell? It was worth a try.

But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the dosage of medicine administered was entirely insufficient to accomplish its purpose.

Although there are undoubtedly exceptions, Americans for the most part still don’t get it.

Already, they’ve desecrated the temporary tomb of those killed in the WTC, staging a veritable pep rally atop the mangled remains of those they profess to honor, treating the whole affair as if it were some bizarre breed of contact sport. And, of course, there are the inevitable pom-poms shaped like American flags, the school colors worn as little red-white-and-blue ribbons affixed to labels, sportscasters in the form of “counterterrorism experts” drooling mindless color commentary during the pregame warm-up.

Refusing the realization that the world has suddenly shifted its axis, and that they are therefore no longer “in charge,” they have by-and-large reverted instantly to type, working themselves into their usual bloodlust on the now obsolete premise that the bloodletting will “naturally” occur elsewhere and to someone else.

“Patriotism,” a wise man once observed, “is the last refuge of scoundrels.”

And the braided, he might of added.

Braided Scoundrel-in-Chief, George Junior, lacking even the sense to be careful what he wished for, has teamed up with a gaggle of fundamentalist Christian clerics like Billy Graham to proclaim a “New Crusade” called “Infinite Justice” aimed at “ridding the world of evil.”

One could easily make light of such rhetoric, remarking upon how unseemly it is for a son to threaten his father in such fashion – or a president to so publicly contemplate the murder/suicide of himself and his cabinet – but the matter is deadly serious.

They are preparing once again to sally forth for the purpose of roasting brown-skinned children by the scores of thousands. Already, the B-1 bombers and the aircraft carriers and the missile frigates are en route, the airborne divisions are gearing up to go.

To where? Afghanistan?

The Sudan?

Iraq, again (or still)?

How about Grenada (that was fun)?

Any of them or all. It doesn’t matter.

The desire to pummel the helpless runs rabid as ever.

Only, this time it’s different.

The time the helpless aren’t, or at least are not so helpless as they were.

This time, somewhere, perhaps in an Afghani mountain cave, possibly in a Brooklyn basement, maybe another local altogether – but somewhere, all the same – there’s a grim-visaged (wo)man wearing a Clint Eastwood smile.

“Go ahead, punks,” s/he’s saying, “Make my day.”

And when they do, when they launch these airstrikes abroad – or may a little later; it will be at a time conforming to the “terrorists”‘ own schedule, and at a place of their choosing – the next more intensive dose of medicine administered here “at home.”

Of what will it consist this time? Anthrax? Mustard gas? Sarin? A tactical nuclear device?

That, too, is their choice to make.

Looking back, it will seem to future generations inexplicable why Americans were unable on their own, and in time to save themselves, to accept a rule of nature so basic that it could be mouthed by an actor, Lawrence Fishburn, in a movie, The Cotton Club.

“You’ve got to learn, ” the line went, “that when you push people around, some people push back.”

As they should.

As they must.

And as they undoubtedly will.

There is justice in such symmetry.


The preceding was a “first take” reading, more a stream-of-consciousness interpretive reaction to the September 11 counterattack than a finished piece on the topic. Hence, I’ll readily admit that I’ve been far less than thorough, and quite likely wrong about a number of things.

For instance, it may not have been (only) the ghosts of Iraqi children who made their appearance that day. It could as easily have been some or all of their butchered Palestinian cousins.

Or maybe it was some or all of the at least 3.2 million Indochinese who perished as a result of America’s sustained and genocidal assault on Southeast Asia (1959-1975), not to mention the millions more who’ve died because of the sanctions imposed thereafter.

Perhaps there were a few of the Korean civilians massacred by US troops at places like No Gun Ri during the early ‘50s, or the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians ruthlessly incinerated in the ghastly fire raids of World War II (only at Dresden did America bomb Germany in a similar manner).

And, of course, it could have been those vaporized in the militarily pointless nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There are others, as well, a vast and silent queue of faceless victims, stretching from the million-odd Filipinos slaughtered during America’s “Indian War” in their islands at the beginning of the twentieth century, through the real Indians, America’s own, massacred wholesale at places like Horseshoe Bend and the Bad Axe, Sand Creek and Wounded Knee, the Washita, Bear River, and the Marias.

Was it those who expired along the Cherokee Trial of Tears of the Long Walk of the Navajo?

Those murdered by smallpox at Fort Clark in 1836?

Starved to death in the concentration camp at Bosque Redondo during the 1860s?

Maybe those native people claimed for scalp bounty in all 48 of the continental US states? Or the Raritans whose severed heads were kicked for sport along the streets of what was then called New Amsterdam, at the very site where the WTC once stood?

One hears, too, the whispers of those lost on the Middle Passage, and of those whose very flesh was sold in the slave market outside the human kennel from whence Wall Street takes its name. And of coolie laborers, imported by the gross-dozen to lay the tracks of empire across scorching desert sands, none of them allotted “a Chinaman’s chance” of surviving.

The list is too long, too awful to go on.

No matter what its eventual fate, America will have gotten off very, very cheap.

The full measure of its guilt can never be fully balanced or atoned for.

Ward Churchill (Keetoowah Band Cherokee) is one of the most outspoken of Native American activists. In his lectures and numerous published works, he explores the themes of genocide in the Americas, historical and legal (re)interpretation of conquest and colonization, literary and cinematic criticism, and indigenist alternatives to the status quo. Churchill is a Professor of Ethnic Studies and Coordinator of American Indian Studies. He is also a past national spokesperson for the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. His books include Agents of Repression, Fantasies of the Master Race, From a Native Son and A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust.


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A Palestinian child

Palestinian woman and children at Taybe checkpoint

What Ari Shavit Doesn’t Understand About Palestinian Children and Jews

By Ziona Ziyona Snir , Sep 14, 2016 9:56 AM


Dear Ari Shavit,

Despite my bemusement at your demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state 68 years after it was recognized as such by the whole world, I don’t mean to get into that issue. I want to focus on one sentence in your article: “Only when every Palestinian child in Dheisheh and Balata knows that there’s a Jewish people that also has rights in this land will peace begin.” That is because today’s children are tomorrow’s adults.

So, I wanted to tell you something that every Palestinian child knows about the Jewish people. The only Jew that a child in Deheisheh or Balata knows is a soldier, who at best stands across from him with weapon drawn or, less fortuitously, is already firing a gas grenade, or rubber or lead bullet, or waking him in the dead of night and humiliating his parents, all this taking place in an environment ruled by wretched poverty and absent of hope.

A Palestinian child in Qusra, Jalud, Faroun, Burin, Madama or Yanoun will also recognize another sort of Jew – the settler. He’s the one who sets fire to the cars in his village, who uproots trees, tears down fences and casts smoke grenades into houses. Other Palestinian children see the bulldozers of the State of Israel uprooting the olive or almond grove their forefathers cultivated for years, on the ruins of which the land is prepared for expanding the settlement already squatting on their family’s land.

If the Palestinian child is a Bedouin born in the Jordan Valley, he sees how the bulldozer sent by the Jewish State tears down the tent in which he dwells, leaving him exposed to blazing sunlight and 48-degree heat, with no shade. Sometimes, as happened to 6-year-old Ibrahim from Fas’il some weeks ago, he may need medical care after suffering from sunstroke. And when another of the valley’s children grows up and prepares to wed, along comes the Jewish bulldozer and tears down the awning his father built to shelter the guests from the sweltering sun. That very thing happened just a few days ago.

Sometimes the Bedouin child in the valley also knows that he cannot just turn on the faucet and quench his thirst, because there’s no water in the pipeline. If that water tank that his father was gouged for hasn’t arrived, and there’s no bottled water, he will stay thirsty. His father or grandfather probably tell him how they once grew vegetables but now, not only isn’t there water for irrigation – there isn’t any for washing, either.

The Jewish child in the next-door settlement meanwhile plays in the shade of the green trees, or paddles in the swimming pool, even though the family of the Bedouin child lived in the region long years before the Jews arrived.

If the Bedouin child lives in Duma, then every day he passes by the ruins of the home of Sa’ad Dawabsheh, his wide Reham and their baby Ali, and is wracked with anxiety lest some Jewish lad, probably a neighbor living in an illegal outpost, might come in the dead of night and burn him and his family alive, as his friends burned the Dawabsheh family alive.

The parents of the Palestinian child can’t call in soldiers to protect the family home, because they live under occupation. The occupying army that, according to the rules of occupation, should protect that family home, is not fulfilling its duty. That is why the child in Duma feels that even his parents cannot protect him.

And you, Ari Shavit, sit there comfortably in your air-conditioned home and demand that the Palestinian child, denied basic human rights in his own land, you demand that child, whose day-to-day encounters with the Jewish people are as described, you demand that he knows “that there’s a Jewish people that also has rights in this land.” Not only does the regime in your country not acknowledge the national rights of this child, de facto; many, including in government, don’t even acknowledge him to be human.

Few Palestinian children meet Jews under positive circumstances – as far as they’re concerned, Jews who bring a smidgen of light to their lives. People like the bereaved father Buma Inbar (his son Yotam was killed in Lebanon in 1995), whose good deeds include bringing clothes to children in Deheisheh and driving children to hospital; or people like the members of “Fighters for Peace,” who help by building shaded areas for children to play in the heat of the valley (which the Jewish bulldozers also raze often enough). Or like the Parents Circle – Families Forum, which knows the pain of both the peoples, or like the women of Machsom Watch, which takes Palestinian children for a day of fun at the beach – a matter of routine for Jewish children and a rare experience for Palestinian ones.

The Jewish child in the next-door settlement meanwhile plays in the shade of the green trees, or paddles in the swimming pool, even though the family of the Bedouin child lived in the region long years before the Jews arrived.

If the Bedouin child lives in Duma, then every day he passes by the ruins of the home of Sa’ad Dawabsheh, his wide Reham and their baby Ali, and is wracked with anxiety lest some Jewish lad, probably a neighbor living in an illegal outpost, might come in the dead of night and burn him and his family alive, as his friends burned the Dawabsheh family alive.

The parents of the Palestinian child can’t call in soldiers to protect the family home, because they live under occupation. The occupying army that, according to the rules of occupation, should protect that family home, is not fulfilling its duty. That is why the child in Duma feels that even his parents cannot protect him.

And you, Ari Shavit, sit there comfortably in your air-conditioned home and demand that the Palestinian child, denied basic human rights in his own land, you demand that child, whose day-to-day encounters with the Jewish people are as described, you demand that he knows “that there’s a Jewish people that also has rights in this land.” Not only does the regime in your country not acknowledge the national rights of this child, de facto; many, including in government, don’t even acknowledge him to be human.

Few Palestinian children meet Jews under positive circumstances – as far as they’re concerned, Jews who bring a smidgen of light to their lives. People like the bereaved father Buma Inbar (his son Yotam was killed in Lebanon in 1995), whose good deeds include bringing clothes to children in Deheisheh and driving children to hospital; or people like the members of “Fighters Combatants for Peace,” who help by building shaded areas for children to play in the heat of the valley (which the Jewish bulldozers also raze often enough). Or like the Parents Circle – Families Forum, which knows the pain of both the peoples, or like the women of Machsom Watch, which takes Palestinian children for a day of fun at the beach – a matter of routine for Jewish children and a rare experience for Palestinian ones.

The author is a member of Machsom Watch and a retired lecturer at the Seminar Hakibbutzim Teachers College.

Photograph of Taybe Checkpoint.

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Get over it

3369942388Judaism is not a major player in the history of humankind

By , Jul 31, 2016


Though many Israelis are convinced that the history of the human race revolves around Judaism and the Jewish people, in truth, Judaism has played a relatively minor role in the annals of our species. Unlike such universal religions as Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, Judaism is a tribal creed. It focuses on the fate of one small nation and one tiny land, and has little interest in the fate of all other people and all other countries. For example, it cares little about events in China or about the people of New Guinea. It is no wonder, therefore, that its historical role was limited.

It is certainly true that Judaism begot Christianity, and influenced the birth of Islam – two of the most important religions in history. However, the credit for the global achievements of Christianity and Islam, as well as the guilt for their many crimes, belongs to the Christians and Muslims themselves, rather than to the Jews. Just as it would be unfair to blame Judaism for the mass killings of the Crusades (Christianity is 100 percent culpable), so also there is no reason to credit Judaism with the critical Christian idea that all human beings are equal before God (an idea that stands in direct contradiction to Jewish orthodoxy).

The role of Judaism in the history of humankind is a bit like the role of Newton’s mother in the history of science. It is true that without Newton’s mother, we wouldn’t have had Newton, and that Newton’s personality, ambitions and opinions were likely shaped to a significant extent by his relations with his mother. But when writing the history of science, nobody expects an entire chapter on Newton’s mother. Similarly, without Judaism you would not have had Christianity, but that doesn’t merit giving much importance to Judaism when writing the history of the world. The crucial issue is what Christianity did with its Jewish legacy.

This idea may shock and annoy many Israelis, who are educated to think that Judaism is the central hero of human history. Israeli children usually finish 12 years of school without receiving any clear picture of global historical processes. Though they learn about the Roman Empire, the French Revolution and World War II, these isolated jigsaw pieces do not add up to any overarching narrative. Instead, the only coherent story offered by the Israeli school system begins with the Hebrew Bible, continuous to the Second Temple era, skips to various Jewish communities in the Diaspora, and culminates with the rise of Zionism, the Holocaust, and the establishment of the State of Israel. Most students leave school convinced that this must be the main plotline of the entire human story. For even when pupils hear about the Roman Empire or the French Revolution, the discussion in class focuses on the way the Roman Empire treated the Jews or on the legal and political status of Jews in the French Republic. People fed on such a historical diet have a very hard time digesting the idea that Judaism in fact had relatively little impact on the world as a whole.

It goes without saying that the Jewish people is a unique people with an astonishing history (though this is true of most peoples). It similarly goes without saying that the Jewish tradition is full of deep insights and noble values (though it is also full of some questionable ideas and of racist, misogynist and homophobic attitudes). It is further true that, relative to its size, the Jewish people has had a disproportional impact on the history of the last 2,000 years. But when you look at the big picture of our history as a species, since the emergence of Homo sapiens more than 100,000 years ago, it is obvious that the Jewish contribution to history was very limited. Humans settled the entire planet, adopted agriculture, built the first cities, and invented writing and money thousands of years before the appearance of Judaism.

Even in the last two millennia, if you look at history from the perspective of the Chinese or of the Native American Indians, it is hard to see any major Jewish contribution except through the mediation of Christians or Muslims. Thus the Hebrew Bible eventually became a cornerstone of global human culture because it was warmly embraced by Christianity. In contrast, the Talmud – whose importance to Jewish culture surpasses that of the Bible – was rejected by Christianity, and consequently remained an esoteric text hardly known to the Arabs, Poles or Dutch, not to mention the Chinese and the Maya. Though Jewish communities that studied the Talmud spread over large parts of the world, they did not play a key role in the building of the Chinese empires, in the early modern voyages of discovery, in the establishment of the democratic system, or in the Industrial Revolution. The coin, the university, the parliament, the bank, the compass, the printing press and the steam engine were all invented by gentiles.

Ethics before the Bible

Israelis often use the term “the three great religions,” thinking that these religions are Christianity (2 billion believers), Islam (1.5 billion) and Judaism (15 million). Hinduism, with its billion believers, and Buddhism, with its 500 million followers – not to mention the Shinto religion (50 million) and the Sikh religion (25 million) – don’t make the cut. This warped concept of “the three great religions” often implies in the mind of Israelis that all major religious and ethical traditions emerged out of the womb of Judaism, which was the first religion to preach universal ethical rules. As if humans prior to the days of Abraham and Moses lived in a Hobbesian state of nature without any moral commitments, and as if all of contemporary morality derives from the Ten Commandments. This is a baseless and somewhat racist idea, which ignores many of the world’s most important ethical traditions.

Stone Age hunter-gatherer tribes had moral codes tens of thousands of years before Abraham. When the first European settlers reached Australia in the late 18th century, they encountered aboriginal tribes that had a well-developed ethical worldview despite being totally ignorant of Moses, Jesus or Mohammed. Indeed, scientists nowadays point out that morality has evolutionary roots, and that it is present among most social mammals, such as wolves, dolphins and monkeys. For example, when wolf cubs play with one another, they have “fair game” rules. If a cub bites too hard, or continues to bite an opponent that has rolled on his back and surrendered, the other cubs will stop playing with him.

In one hilarious experiment, the primatologist Frans de Waal placed two capuchin monkeys in two adjacent cages, so that each could see everything the other was doing. De Waal and his colleagues placed small stones inside each cage, and trained the monkeys to give them these stones. Whenever a monkey handed over a stone, he received food in exchange. At first the reward was a piece of cucumber. Both monkeys were very pleased with that, and happily ate their cucumber.

After a few rounds, de Waal moved to the next stage of the experiment. This time, when the first monkey surrendered a stone, he got a grape. Grapes are much more tasty than cucumbers. However, when the second monkey turned over a stone, he still received only a piece of cucumber.

The second monkey, who had previously been very happy with his cucumber, became incensed. He took the cucumber, looked at it for a moment in disbelief, and then threw it at the scientists in anger, jumping and screeching. He’s no sucker. Equality and social justice were central values in capuchin monkey society hundreds of thousands of years before the prophet Amos complained about social elites “who oppress the poor and crush the needy” (Amos 4:1), and before the prophet Jeremiah preached, “do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow” (Jeremiah 7:6).

Even among Homo sapiens living in the ancient Middle East, the biblical prophets were not unprecedented. “Thou shall not kill” and “thou shall not steal” were well-known in the legal and ethical codes of Sumerian city states, pharaonic Egypt and the Babylonian Empire. A thousand years before Amos and Jeremiah, the Babylonian king Hammurabi explained that the great gods instructed him “to make justice prevail in the land, to abolish the wicked and the evil, to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak.”

Meanwhile in Egypt – centuries before the birth of Moses – scribes wrote down “the story of the eloquent peasant,” which tells of a poor peasant whose property was stolen by a greedy landowner. The peasant came before Pharaoh’s corrupt officials, and when they failed to protect him, he began explaining to them why they must provide justice and in particular defend the poor from the rich. In one colorful allegory, this Egyptian peasant explained that the meager possessions of the poor are like their very breath, and official corruption suffocates them by plugging the passage through their nostrils.

Many biblical laws copy rules that were accepted in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Canaan centuries and even millennia prior to the establishment of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. If biblical Judaism gave these laws any unique twist, it was by turning them from universal rulings into tribal codes aimed primarily at the Jewish people.

Jewish morality was initially shaped as an exclusive tribal affair, and remained so to some extent until the 21st century. The Bible, the Talmud and many though not all rabbis maintained that the life of a Jew is more valuable than the life of a gentile, which is why, for example, Jews are allowed to desecrate the Shabbat in order to save a Jew from death, but are forbidden to do so if it is merely to save a gentile (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma, 84:2).

Some Jewish sages argued that even the famous commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself” refers only to Jews, and there is no commandment to love gentiles. Indeed, the original text from Leviticus says: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), which raises the suspicion that “your neighbor” refers only to members of “your people.”

It was only the Christians who selected some choice morsels of the Jewish moral code, turned them into universal commandments, and spread them throughout the world. Indeed, Christianity split from Judaism precisely on that account. While many Jews to this day believe that the so-called “Chosen People” are closer to God than other nations are, the founder of Christianity – Saint Paul the Apostle – stipulated in his famous Epistle to the Galatians that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

And we must again emphasize that despite the enormous impact of Christianity, this was definitely not the first time a human preached a universal ethic. The Bible is far from being the exclusive font of human morality (and luckily so, given the many racist, misogynist and homophobic attitudes it contains). Confucius, Laozi, Buddha and Mahavira established universal ethical codes long before Paul and Jesus, without knowing anything about the land of Canaan or the prophets of Israel. Confucius taught that every person must love others as he loves himself about 500 years before Rabbi Hillel the Elder. And at a time when Judaism still mandated the sacrifice of animals and the systematic extermination of entire human populations (the Amalekites and Canaanites), Buddha and Mahavira already instructed their followers to avoid harming not only all human beings, but any sentient beings whatsoever, including insects.

Jewish physics, Christian biology

Only in the 19th and 20th centuries do we see a truly extraordinary Jewish contribution to humankind as a whole – namely, the role of Jews in modern science. In addition to such well-known names as Einstein and Freud, about 20 percent of all Nobel Prize winners in science have been Jews, though Jews constitute less than 0.2 percent of the world’s population. But it should be stressed that this has been a contribution of individual Jews rather than of Judaism as a religion or a culture. Most of the important Jewish scientists of the past 200 years acted outside the Jewish religious sphere. Indeed, Jews began to make their remarkable contribution to science only once they had abandoned the yeshivas in favor of the laboratories.

Prior to 1800, the Jewish impact on science was limited. Naturally enough, Jews played no significant role in the progress of science in China, in India or in the Maya civilization. In Europe and the Middle East, some Jewish thinkers such as Maimonides had a significant influence on their gentile colleagues, but the overall Jewish impact was more or less proportional to their demographic weight. During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Judaism was hardly instrumental to the outbreak of the Scientific Revolution. Except for Spinoza (who was excommunicated for his trouble by the Jewish community), you can hardly name a single Jew who was critical to the birth of modern physics, chemistry, biology or the social sciences. We don’t know what Einstein’s ancestors were doing in the days of Galileo and Newton, but in all likelihood they were far more interested in studying the Talmud than in studying light and gravity.

The great change occurred only in the 19th and 20th centuries, when secularization and the Jewish Enlightenment movement caused many Jews to adopt the worldview and lifestyle of their gentile neighbors. Jews then began to join the universities and research centers of countries such as Germany, France and the United States. Jewish scholars brought from the ghettos and shtetls important cultural legacies. The central value of education in Jewish culture was one of the main reasons for the extraordinary success of Jewish scientists. Other factors included the desire of a persecuted minority to prove its worth, and the barriers that prevented talented Jews from advancement in more anti-Semitic institutions such as the army and the state administration.

Yet while Jewish scientists brought with them from the yeshivas excellent discipline and a deep faith in the value of knowledge, it is hard to say that they also brought a helpful baggage of concrete ideas and insights. Einstein was Jewish, but the theory of relativity wasn’t “Jewish physics.” What does faith in the sacredness of the Torah have to do with the insight that energy equals mass multiplied by the speed of light squared? For the sake of comparison, Darwin was a Christian and even began his studies at Cambridge intending to become an Anglican priest. Does it imply that the theory of evolution is a Christian theory? It would be ridiculous to list the theory of relativity as a Jewish contribution to humankind, just as it would be ridiculous to credit Christianity with the theory of evolution.

Similarly, it is hard to see anything particularly Jewish about the invention of the process for synthesizing ammonia by Fritz Haber (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1918); about the discovery of the antibiotic streptomycin by Selman Waksman (Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1952); or about the discovery of quasicrystals by Dan Shechtman (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 2011). In the case of scholars from the humanities and social sciences – such as Sigmund Freud – their Jewish heritage perhaps had a deeper impact on their insights. Yet even in these cases, the discontinuities are more apparent than the surviving links. Freud’s views about the human psyche were very different from those of Rabbi Joseph Caro or Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, and he did not discover the Oedipus complex by carefully perusing the Shulhan Arukh (the code of Jewish law), or the Mishnah.

To summarize, the Jewish emphasis on education and learning probably made an important contribution to the exceptional success of Jewish scientists. However, it was gentile thinkers who laid the groundwork for the achievements of Einstein, Haber and Freud. The Scientific Revolution wasn’t a Jewish project, and Jews found their place in it only when they moved from the yeshivas to the universities. Indeed, the Jewish habit of seeking the answers to all questions by reading ancient texts was a very significant obstacle to Jewish integration into the world of modern science, where answers come from observations and experiments. If there was anything about the Jewish religion itself that necessarily leads to scientific breakthroughs, why is it that between 1905 and 1933, 10 secular German Jews won Nobel Prizes in chemistry, medicine and physics, but during the same period not a single ultra-Orthodox Jew or a single Bulgarian or Yemenite Jew won any Nobel Prize?

Lest I be suspected of being a “self-hating Jew” or an anti-Semite, I would like to emphasize that I am not saying Judaism was a particularly evil or benighted religion. All I am saying is that it wasn’t particularly important to the history of humankind. For many centuries, Judaism was the humble religion of a small persecuted minority that preferred to read and contemplate rather than to build empires and burn heretics at the stake. Anti-Semites usually think that Jews are very important. Anti-Semites imagine that the Jews control the world, or the banking system, or at least the media, and that they are to blame for everything from global warming to the September 11 attacks.

I would say to the anti-Semites: Get over it. Jews may be a very interesting people, but when you look at the big picture, you must realize that they have had a very limited impact on the world. Throughout history, humans have created hundreds of different religions and sects. A handful of them – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism and Buddhism – influenced billions of people (not always for the best). The vast majority of creeds – such as the Bon religion, the Yoruba religion and the Jewish religion – had a far smaller impact. One of the central and most beautiful values of Judaism is modesty. We would do well to take this value to heart.

Prof. Yuval Noah Harari lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” and of “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” (forthcoming in English). His website:

Photograph is of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man as he writes some of the last words in a Torah scroll before it is taken from the Western Wall into the Hurva synagogue in Jerusalem, Sunday, March 14, 2010, by Dan Balilty, AP.

Permanent link to this article:

Once upon a time




The name “Mission: Meeting” is sort of an inside joke for missionaries and MKs (children of missionaries are called “missionary kids” or “mishkids”) who endured endless¹ “mission meetings” (planning and business meetings). It also conveys the idea that this project’s mission is to allow web site visitors to “meet” real people of the Middle East from the points of view of Americans who actually lived and worked among them.

Hopefully, the perspective of unimpeachable (e.g., American + Christian) eyewitnesses will be difficult to reconcile with the hatemongering prevalent in America’s post-911 culture and especially among Christians and Jews preoccupied with end-times silliness and pop-preaching that suggests Israel is always right and Arabs/Muslims are always evil. A little cognitive dissonance might be all that’s needed to erode the foundations of a simplistic “us versus them” world view.

If nothing else, “Mission: Meeting” is to be a historical/academic archive where the thousands (perhaps millions) of photographs and letters and stories by missionaries from the last two centuries can be preserved and catalogued before they are lost forever. It is NOT intended to be a religious/evangelism effort, nor is it to have an overt political agenda.

The project may later expand to include the recollections and photographs of missionaries from outside the USA as well as non-missionaries (ARAMCO, diplomats, spies, etc.), but this is a first step towards unraveling the fascist fiction that God favors the evil Westerners do in the Middle East…

Jacques d’Nalgar

¹Seen on an MK’s t-shirt: “Lord, if I have just one more day to live, let it be at a mission meeting because it seems like they last forever!²”


Origins in the Post-911 Era

Labor Day, September 2, 2002


Dad, Dr. Barnes, Randal, and Steve,

Following is a draft outline for a proposal to create a non-profit organization to record and aggregate and communicate the recollections American missionaries to the Middle East have (or had) of their life among Arabs.


I have been CONCERNED for many years that there is, in America, widespread ignorance about the Arab world and uncritical acceptance of any injustice towards Arabs, particularly Arabs living within Israel’s 1967 borders and in the occupied territories (Golan, Gaza, and the West Bank).

I have also been DISMAYED that much of that acceptance, especially since 9-11, seems to be based on efforts, often from American pulpits, to present the modern Jewish state as a loyal friend to Christianity and a reincarnation of the same divine favoritism ancient Israel experienced (off and on) prior to their occupation and eventual destruction and dispersion by the Romans.

I have become ALARMED that America’s love affair with Israel seems to require corollary efforts to portray the Arab world, and especially Palestinians, as a faceless anti-Christian horde, an infidel behemoth from the East arrayed against all that is Western. Americans are being conditioned to believe that violence towards Arabs, however arbitrary, is justified in the name of “fighting terror.” I believe we are being prepared to accept a final solution — ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians from territories Israel covets.

Belling the cat:

My father (Dr. Jim d’Nalgar) and I have occasionally discussed the idea of somehow interjecting the collective voices of retired missionaries into our national dialog on American foreign policy. Individual missionaries are actively speaking and writing, but their experiences and opinions are muted by their relative isolation. What galvanized my desire to unite a virtual chorus of concerned missionaries was a recent trip from Oklahoma to Arkansas. We were driving into the small town of Sulphur, Oklahoma (population less than 5,000) just before dawn on August 17 when I noticed a small church with two flagpoles in its front yard. One was flying the American flag — the other was flying Israel’s blue and white Star of David. I realized (hoped, really) that if a small church in a small town in the middle of America was proudly flying Israel’s flag, they surely were not seeing the desperate, daily hopelessness and suffering of millions of Palestinian men, women, and children — fellow human beings who shared the same basic yearnings for freedom and opportunity as all Americans.

On August 27, in St. Louis, I met with Dr. Emmett Barnes and two of their sons, Randal and Steve (Randal and I graduated from ACS in 1974). Mrs. Barnes prepared an excellent meal and over the chicken and rice and hummus and cake and coffee, we discussed the current situation and what we could do to advance the case for the humanity of Palestinians (and Arabs in general) to the American people. We semi-solemnly pledged to do SOMETHING, even though we weren’t sure exactly what it was we were agreeing to. Once we had joined hands and rendered that grunting version of “Huzzah” that is peculiar to American males in sporting situations, we settled down to the serious work of “what next?”

Much of the conversation revolved around who should participate and how. In general, we agreed that our initial effort should be limited to retired evangelical American missionaries who wished to preserve their experiences-with and impressions-of life among their Arab neighbors. We also agreed that the Internet would be the best medium for making their unique perspectives generally available to news outlets and the American public. Finally, we agreed that I would draft an outline of the project’s purpose and scope, subject to review and revision by Drs. d’Nalgar and Barnes, and Randal and Steve Barnes.

Why is this important?

First of all, week after week, ordinary Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories are suffering and dying. If we can do SOMETHING but do not, we are indirectly complicit in their repression. In the 1970s and 1980s, a crescendo of world opinion finally ended apartheid in South Africa. In these first years of the third millennium, can we do any less in the face of state-sponsored bigotry and terrorism against Arabs, especially when it is justified and legitimized in the name of Christianity?

Secondarily, from an academic and historical point of view, the opportunity to capture and preserve a unique American view of the Middle East will soon pass. The ranks of retired missionaries who were eyewitnesses to the events that led to the present situation are already diminished by death. It is important that we act NOW, even if there are unresolved details.

Mission statement:

The stated purpose of this organization should be to archive the anecdotal experiences and recollections of retired American missionaries who lived among and worked with Middle Eastern Arabs. The secondary purpose should be to continuously publish these archives and actively encourage their use in our national dialog as an Arabist resource with a uniquely American perspective. The tertiary purpose (which should perhaps be left unstated) should be to mobilize public opinion against policies and military actions (foreign and domestic) that deny basic human rights in the Middle East. Our own Declaration of Independence says it best: We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men (where does it say “only American Christians and Israeli Jews?”) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Organization name:

R.A.H.A.B. — Any ideas about turning “Rahab” into an acronym? Retired Americans Helping Arab… I like the Old Testament account of Rahab’s family being saved from the destruction of Jericho by hanging a red rope out her window. I see a symbolic parallel in that these archives can become a “red rope” of difficult-to-impeach information, a counterpoint to the raucous trumpeting of misinformation and the shouting propaganda that encircles the “Jericho” of modern-day Palestinians and Arabs. I can even envision an easy-to-recognize logo based on an abstraction of the window and red rope metaphor…

Archival content:

Anecdotal vignettes of real Palestinians and Arabs telling their everyday stories to American missionaries. Their aspirations, their trials and tribulations, their day-to-day experiences shopping, cooking, educating, birthing, burying, marrying, fleeing, surviving, etc. Contributions should NOT be evangelical or political in nature, but illustrative of daily life among Arabs of all faiths.

Biographical content:

Contributors should provide personal biographies which can be linked to stories they submit — places of birth and upbringing, high school and college and seminary education, military experience, years served in the mission field, etc. The intent here is to convey the idea that these archives come from ordinary Americans with extraordinary credibility and experiences.

Content contributors:

Retired “evangelical” (Baptist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, etc.) American missionaries to Lebanon, Syria, Palestine (before 1948), Israel (after 1948), Jordan, Gaza, Egypt, and Yemen. We can always expand this later, to active missionaries, Catholics, State Department employees, etc., but this initial group is least likely to be dismissed as politically-biased or having “an axe to grind” — or to be targeted for retribution.

Inappropriate content:

It is not the intent of this project to evangelize or convert anyone to Christianity. This organization will have greater stature and credibility among the press, academia, and others who influence national and foreign policy if it steers clear of expressing a particular religious point of view. Likewise, editorializing about events and policies will diminish the effectiveness and legitimacy of the effort by allowing detractors to dismiss it as biased or agenda-driven. Above all, no content can be allowed that could be construed as anti-Jewish or invite legal action against the organization.

Suggested content categories, by historical period:

Before 1940, 1940 until 1960, 1960 until 1980, since 1980.

Suggested content categories, by geography:

Lebanon, Syria, Palestine (before 1948), Israel (after 1948), Jordan, Gaza, Egypt, and Yemen.

Next steps:

Find out how much interest there is in really doing this (vs. just me talking about it); pro bono legal work to set up non-profit organization or foundation to support/house this effort; organization name and logo development; website domain (URL) research and purchase; branding: logo and website development; funding; contributor recruiting.

Jacques d’Nalgar


Conversation with James d’Nalgar

James d’Nalgar (Dad): Have read your paper a couple of times, and here are some questions and reactions: I first thought that a “plan” to unite our voices would involve circulating among like minds a letter we wanted to send to a congressman or cabinet member or the president and after getting the views of all concerned rework the letter and send it. Send it in the name of the “organization.”

Jacques d’Nalgar (Jd’N): “My” plan is a bit sneakier. I think individual contributors should still be politically active, but I see this foundation/archive filling the role of supporting gravitas. I’d like to see it positioned as an academic/historical project, not a PR arm of any particular ideology.

Dad: What you have in mind is less subjective.

Jd’N: Yes.

Dad: Who would be the target of the organization’s research? How would that church in Sulphur be enlightened by our writings?

Jd’N: I see the web presence as being more or less supporting documentation for the idea that Arabs are not somehow less than human. The church in Sulphur is probably a lost cause until such a time as the underlying quasi-religious superstition that promotes unquestioning support of Israel is discredited. Hopefully, editorials to newspapers in OKC and Dallas and even Sulphur would reference the web site — perhaps a member of the church in Sulphur would be influenced directly or indirectly by reading or hearing a different point of view.

Dad: I take it that at first there would be a web site on which would be posted from time to time the results of our research. How would we direct people to this site? Would we rely on surfers?

Jd’N: Web sites are like specialty stores on dead-end streets — you rarely get curious walk-in customers. There would have to be supporting activities: newsletters, editorials, letter-writing campaigns, etc. that direct traffic to the site. There would need to be, at least for a while, a constant influx of new material to keep interested visitors coming back to read more. I can’t see where the site would have “results” — it would be simply an organized collection of recollections.

Dad: Who would maintain the site? Who would edit the material sent to the organization? There might be a lot of material coming to this editor.

Would he have a committee?

Jd’N: Between me and the two Barnes boys, we’ve got three web developers. Yes, there would have to be some kind of review board to accept/reject material to be published. That’s one of the reasons we need to be very explicit about what the mission of the project is, and what types of contributions would be acceptable and unacceptable.

Dad: This approach would not prohibit any of the members or supporters from firing off a letter to an editor or leader. And there might be a time when the organization should compose a response to an action taken by our or some other government.

Jd’N: I would prefer to see the organization set up as apolitical (academic/historical). I think that as soon as it is seen as political, its ability to sway opinions will be diminished. It’s easier said than done, but we’d need to find a way to reference the organization’s content without the organization endorsing the speaker/writer’s comments.

Dad: The PLO has or had a very effective organization for collecting and distributing information related to Palestinians. One of their offices which was near the dentist we used in Beirut (Dr. Haddad) was blown up by some who, I think, didn’t agree with the work of this fact-finding organization. (History is unkind to bigots.) Maybe we should see what this organization is doing so we won’t be reinventing the wheel. Nor should it be seen as an arm of the PLO’s propaganda apparatus.

Jd’N: Agreed. What would set this project apart from any others, such as the PLO’s, is its uniquely American perspective. If it becomes a vehicle for recording stories that are not exclusively written from the point of view of the missionaries who heard or saw them, then you are right, it’s not much different than a thousand other projects. Hopefully, the stated apolitical mission of the project would insulate it from overt persecution. Hopefully, but sometimes you have to take risks…

Dad: It’s good that you mentioned that we are not out to convert people to our faith. Yet I wonder if our writings might not clash with some church’s views on eschatology.

Jd’N: There was a hispanic kid in class last week from Laredo, Texas. He told me he wasn’t a practicing Catholic, but he pulled out his dying grandmother’s rosary and confessed he never flew without it. That’s illustrative of the type of theology driving the eschatology that in turn leads to flying Israeli flags (and American flags) in front of churches. In my opinion, a clash over eschatology is way overdue — the prevalent view weakens churches, promotes a nationalism that is anti-Christian, and causes Christian indifference and even rejoicing over the repression of people of other faiths.

Dad: How do you propose to “screen” the list of possible contributors? What is the approximate budget for such a project? Would the material be copyrighted?

I feel, Jacques, that there should be room for a “subjective” response to any action, legislative or otherwise, that we feel violates the rights the organization purports to defend. Maybe such response should be left to individuals but such response from a larger group might be more effective.

I’ve thought a little about the acronym for the organization. RAHAB is well known by people of the Bible Belt. Any non-Christians might, if they investigate her, ridicule us for using a harlot as our hero. The writer of Hebrews seemed not to care what her past or trade was. I tried my hand at a “name”. A short one could be American Advocates for the Arab World (AAAW) or AOA (Advocates of Arabs). AA is already used by other advocates.

When you discussed this project with the Barnes, did they suggest any names for a founding committee? Frances Fuller and Nancie Wingo are also concerned about Arab rights.

Jd’N: I reluctantly agree that you’re right that the organization will have to take and defend a position statement re. human rights in the Middle East — I just don’t want it to come across as negatively anti-Israel so much as positively pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian. There are plenty of Arab regimes that deserve as much criticism as Israel; maybe I’m being naive, but I’d like to think that if Americans can come to see the common humanity of a suffering and repressed people, criticsm of governing or occupying states will naturally follow, even if left unstated.

As far as the RAHAB acronym, that was just an idea. I had kinda figured there would need to be a short introductory essay explaining the symbolism to folks who don’t know the story. That Rahab was a harlot is part of what I like about the story — there are multiple layers of rescue and redemption and ultimately triumph. I seem to recall that Gentile Rahab was part of Ruth’s geneology, who in turn was part of David’s, and in turn, Christ’s. (A brief calvinistic commentary: there was a TV show many years ago where the cigar-chomping hero was always saying, “I love it when a plan comes together!”) Because this effort will be documenting the viewpoints of Americans who also happen to be Christians, the so-called “Bible Belt” (which, in my opinion, is a big part of the problem) is going to be a natural target audience — if we can only change hearts and minds there, we will have accomplished much.

There would have to be some kind of review board that would accept/reject submissions — perhaps it could convene electronically in that as soon as a majority agreed upon the action to take regarding a particular item, it would automatically be returned to the author as rejected (or for rework, with comments), or it would be immediately posted on the web site. I built a somewhat similar application for submitting work requests from anywhere in the hospital to my department…

Funding the project is going to be an interesting conversation. One of the reasons it needs to be a non-profit organization is so “it” can seek donations. The cost of the web site, once the mechanics of submitting and reviewing content are worked out, won’t be much (I may even pay for it myself if there is sufficient interest) — less than $500 a year. The greater cost will come from promoting the ideas of the organization — advertising the site’s existence, mailing newsletters, contacting news outlets, paying speakers’ travel costs, etc.

I knew there were other retired missionaries with an interest in doing SOMETHING, but the Barnes and I wanted to limit the initial discussion until we had a solid plan worked out. Maybe someday this idea can grow into another “Amnesty International” but it doesn’t have to start out that big.

It sounds like the very first item of business may need to be a web-based, members-only discussion group to air the pros and cons of various ideas in such a way that everyone involved can see what’s being discussed. Unless we can physically get together at regular intervals and hash out all the details, this kind of back-and-forth conversation needs to be done in such a way that we don’t have to constantly re-state our individual points of view.

Dad, this whole idea is going to require a lot more commitment and activity on the part of the missionaries who lived and worked with Arabs — not on the project’s organizers (we’ll be fairly transparent). If you feel that there isn’t sufficient interest to warrant all this planning and speculation, tell me and I’ll just drop it. I just want to do SOMETHING that will make a difference…

Dad: You’re right, Jacques. What you’ve outlined will require commitment and cash. But this is not a month-long project. It might extend way beyond my life span. I gather that the Barnes are enthusiastic about the venture. Who else are you thinking of sharing the idea with? David King is pretty busy traveling and writing. Dean Fitzgerald is now in retirement. I’ve had little contact with him. One of his sons is about Steve’s age and is a surgeon in Dallas.

One of my friends began a center for Islamic studies in Richmond, VA. He was a missionary in Bangladesh. At first he had just a short newsletter. Then it got larger. Now he has a building in Richmond and offers classes on Islam! But it took him over l0 years to reach this stage. Oh yes, he still sends out the newsletter, and it’s quite sophisticated.

Jd’N: Something that occurred to me over the last two days is that missionaries have thousands of slides — a tangential function of this project could be an effort to preserve those images digitally — a perpetual mission-meeting slide show. We hated those as kids, but we’d love to see them now and pass them along to another generation. Again, this emphasizes the anthropological/preservation/historical aspect to the project. What I mean by that is that pictures of village women making mountain bread would be preferred over a picture of Camille Chamoun at a country club.

You’re right that this cannot be a flippant overnight effort — it will take careful planning and oversight. That’s one reason I’d rather see the board in the hands of MKs instead of the missionaries themselves — I’d like to see this project survive beyond the generation of missionaries who served in the last century. The primary role of the missionaries themselves would be to document what they saw and felt.

As far as WHO would participate — I never saw it as being restricted to SBC missionaries only. The thrust of the project should be “The American Christian experience in the Middle East” — the Weirs were mentioned at my St. Louis meeting with the Barnes, and I can see other evangelical organizations like YFC getting involved, as long as they understand what the project is trying to accomplish.

You brought up the question of copyrighting in an earlier message. That’s the type of thing we need legal advice for. I can’t see a need for it unless it serves to point the curious back to the organization. I certainly don’t foresee any financial reimbursement to authors as part of the setup…

Dad: Jacques, I don’t have any objections to MKs leading in the formation and function of the organization. And I welcome all contributors, regardless of race or denomination.

Your idea of archiving slides and other materials sounds good. Just one word of caution: don’t over extend yourselves.


Emmett Barnes

September 25, 2002


But now I have examined your proposal and have some thoughts. I have not yet adapted to email with the possibility of many partial responses to something. I still think in terms of writing a long and complicated letter.

First I want to tell you that I am so happy that you have the interest and enthusiasm to want to do something which is historical and archival in nature. I have been telling Paul Smith for some time that he needs to write a book about the cultural aspects of the Arabs. He has lived in Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He also lived among the Kurds of Iraq so he knows that too.

I also appreciate your desire to do something which will have political and religious results. We share your feelings at the way that the politicians are following the leading of Israel to the great hurt of the Palestinians. Then the churches with a strange idea of Christianity turn a blind eye to the brutality and ethnic cleansing of that country.

Having said that, perhaps our personal and individual efforts perhaps should be in two areas. One would be to archive what we know for a historical record. Probably the second would be to privately engage in writing opinion essays which would be submitted to newspapers to comment on the political situation.

My reasoning that we should have two different personal efforts is like this: As hot as we get thinking about what is being done we probably distort the historical aspect of our work to the point that we will produce something which is more polemical and dated than historical. Also, the very urgency that we feel would probably not be answered by a historical project which depends on interested people reading and changing their attitudes and the attitudes of the people in their churches.

We do need to “do something” and I am confident that many feel the same as we do. We live in an age of new communication and archival possibilities which can make our task considerably easier than it was for earlier generations. So we need to use what we have. So let’s think now about the historical and archival aspect and leave the present political situation for another letter. We do have to be comforted a bit with our faith in God. That does not mean that we do nothing political, but basically the load of justice is not all on our shoulders. Now about the other area…

Concerning a name, I think that we should have a name which is descriptive spelled out in full. I believe that the acronyms are overrated and confusing. I think that RAHAB, AAAH, OOOH (Ordinary Overseas Observers, Holy) (just joking) or other such names only provide an unnecessary jargon. The name will come. The acronym would be for private usage.

I think that your vision is of an electronic magazine in which would be issued on a regular basis with back issues always available for reference.

Is that right? That is a wonderful idea and I think that it is an obtainable objective. This is how I think that it could work.



  • Small group which could include more than just missionaries or MKs
  • Would make organizational and editorial policy decisions


  • Responsible for pulling everything together
  • Responsible for the finances


  • Would contribute articles three or four times a year
  • Would recommend published articles
  • Would review each publication before release


  • New issue every two months


  • Web site open to all who want to read
  • We could offer automatic announcements of articles to contributors and interested people


  • Private contributions


  • Contributions by the missionaries and MKs as you recommended earlier
  • Contributions would be sent by email if possible for ease in reproduction

Not all contributors would be listed as “contributing editors” because they would not be invited to review all the work. Also we want to gather material from many people.

Probably the organization should be incorporated to protect individuals from lawsuits. Incorporation is not difficult but it requires regular reporting and a yearly fee ($45 in Missouri). Of course this would be a non-profit organization.

This is what I think now. I do have ideas about who could well serve on the board and as contributing editors. We need to bring Steve Fitzgerald and Tim Smith into this discussion soon. I think that the MKs will be more interested in doing this than the parents. I will send them a copy of this.


Conversation with Steven Barnes

October 1, 2002


I agree that MKs may be more ready to do this than many of their parents.

However, who would carry more weight with the average pastor and church–which may or may not be flying the Israeli flag out front? The missionaries would, for a number of reasons. I think we should actively try to persuade retired M.E. missionaries to join the cause and speak up. It is a moral issue, about which they have first hand knowledge, while living among people who have the power to make a difference, but do not understand.

I know that many retired M.E. missionaries feel the same way as we do about this, but may need some courage to speak up–especially after being conditioned/required over many years to be apolitical.

Jd’N: I think you’re right about the missionaries’ voices needing to be heard and carrying more weight/credibility than what we could bring to the table. Think of us MKs as the slide projector operator — we’re in a support role until this present generation fades into history. And then our job becomes making sure that history is not forgotten.


Postscript or a New Beginning?



Several years ago, I dreamed up an idea to counter the misinformation routinely propagated about Arabs in general, and Muslims in particular. Some of you asked about the state of the project last week at the DC reunion [for American Community School alumni], and reiterated how badly it was needed. Others asked my parents about it the week before at a Waco, Texas reunion for retired ME missionaries. Because of the interest, I have purchased a virtual “store front” just in case I can figure out how to get this thing started.

Since then, “Mission: Meeting” hasn’t progressed much beyond becoming a place for posting articles and images related to interfaith and diversity advocacy. The need for truth and light is even greater today than it was immediately after 9-11 (yes, that church in Sulphur is still flying the Israeli flag). Your ideas for next steps are always welcome.


Jacques d’Nalgar


²Full disclosure: That joke about the t-shirt is completely bogus. It was adapted from an old joke about swim meets seeming to last forever…

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