Category: Israel

What would Jesus the Palestinian do?

Jesus in PalestineWhat do you call a Christian who opposes the occupation of Palestine by undermining its socio-economic and religious underpinnings?

By , Jan 11, 2016

 

Among other things, you might call him Christ.

There is a quiet sea of change in support for Israel among American Christians. This transformation is so powerful it might ultimately end the occupation of Palestine by shifting support away from Israel, but it has largely gone ignored. More conservative evangelical Christians, who have been a bastion of support for Israel, are increasingly scrutinizing the state’s human rights abuses. Key leaders are dropping their support, while the younger generation opposes as much as it supports Israel.

Meanwhile, more liberal Mainline Protestant churches, like the Methodists, Lutherans, and United Church of Christ, are seriously debating divestment from Israel. Mainline Protestants are core to American society and were crucial to the Anti-Slavery and Civil Rights movements. They fought and eventually overcame the Jim Crow system of racial injustices upon which South Africa modeled their own system of Apartheid. And their increasing support for Palestinian human rights could ultimately turn the tide in favor of Palestinians.

It is a great irony that American Christians often support the occupying Israel over the occupied Palestinians. Jesus lived and died in occupied Palestine, after all. And he was crucified at the hands of the occupying Romans. His mission was in many ways a response to the suffering engendered through occupation. And a substantial portion of the Palestinian population is Christian, the most well integrated in the Arab world. Jesus spends most of the Gospels comforting the marginalized, criticizing the wealthy, and preaching love. But the occupation is ever-present in the tensions with Rome, the constraints placed on the Jewish religious establishment, and most of all in his own persecution.

Biblical scholarship has in recent decades revealed a more nuanced picture of the socio-economic conditions of Israel under Roman occupation. The Biblical scholar, John Crossan, notes the people whom Jesus saved were often suffering from disease and impoverishment because the Roman occupation was milking their land of resources. And like many who suffer from such poverty and social marginalization, they had high levels of mental illness and were ready for a savior, thus making early Christianity in many ways a response to occupation. Most Biblical scholars consider substantial portions of the Gospels to be fiction, but what matters is the Jesus Christians have come to emulate.

Christians have also been primed to support Israel, though. According to Biblical legend, when Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, God commanded them to commit genocide no less than five times. God repeatedly told them to kill every man, woman, child, and living thing as they conquered the Canaanites, Amalekites, and Philistines. Recent archeological digs have turned up little, if any, evidence of these massacres or, more generally, the exodus legend itself. Most historians and archeologists have come to believe instead that the Jews were indigenous to what is now Israel and Palestine. But three millennia later, the early Zionists reenacted the exodus myth when they took these lands by force. Fleeing from oppression, they once again ethnically cleansed native Palestinians and proclaimed their victory an act of God.

The Biblical mythos that underlay the Israeli national narrative of reclaiming the Promised Land probably accounts for a substantial portion of Christian support for Israel. But it is a narrative founded on a series of falsehoods that are increasingly being exposed. Israel was advertised as “a land without a people for a people without a land,” but the early Zionists took over existing and often ancient cities. They did not “make the desert bloom,” as is so often claimed, but rather took over lands that had been in continual agricultural production for thousands of years, irrigated with waters taken from occupied Palestinian territories.

Jews at the time of Christ struggled to formulate an effective response to the Roman occupation. The Zealots fought it, the Essenes sought to escape it, and the Pharisees collaborated in the interest of religious self-preservation. But Jesus was different: he did not resist the Roman occupation of Palestine, he undermined it. He undermined the occupation by placing God above the occupying power and by using love to abolish the distinction between occupier and occupied. He undermined it by challenging religious authorities that were accommodating the occupation and by presenting an alternative vision so compelling it would eventually win over the occupiers. While Jesus was crucified by the occupying power, the Romans ultimately adopted Christianity as their state religion. Jesus’ response to the occupation was unique and hard to replicate. And it is important to recognize that if Biblical scholars agree on anything about Jesus it is that he was a Jew. But it is a model that might inspire Christian support for Palestinians, and this support may be crucial to ending the occupation.

Jesus represents a sort of middle way between violent resistance, passive acquiescence, and collaboration. There is no one-state or two-state solution in the teachings of Jesus. He challenges worldly powers without giving worldly solutions. He protests Roman rule through humility. The Biblical scholar Marcus Borg points out that he entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, for instance, on the same day as the annual Roman celebration of their power. Jesus often appears in the Gospels as a sort of anarchist, who places his faith in a higher principle of order than any humans might create. And it is just this faith that “might move mountains.” Jesus opens the way to a transformation of the heart that might ultimately bring down inner and outer walls alike. But he challenges power at every turn. Oppressed from within and from without, in a culture prone to implosion, it is a model Palestinians would do well to consider.

Meanwhile, a more historically grounded notion of Jesus challenges Christians to step out of their comfort zones and seek a higher and more just order of human affairs. It challenges anti-occupation activists to look for a wider range of forces that might ultimately erode Israeli power. And it challenges global powers to reconsider the nature of power itself. Like most scriptures, the Gospels give no definite response to power. But a more historically grounded exploration of the life of Jesus reveals a powerful if unusual Palestinian ally, sacrificing himself in an epic confrontation with occupying power and occupied collaborators alike—and ultimately winning.

Christians have been seduced by an Old Testament view of Israel profoundly at odds with the New Testament. Whereas the God of the Torah is a tribal God of vengeance, the Christian God is a God of love. It is a universal God, who commands forgiveness and is free of tribal affiliations. Judaism may be a progressive religion that has long evolved past its founding scriptures, but these scriptures both inspire and justify the occupation of Palestine. A focus on the real Jesus and his response to the occupation reframes everything. Palestinians have a friend in Jesus and we would all do well to make use of his unusually powerful connections.

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http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/01/what-would-jesus-the-palestinian-do-about-israel/ or http://bit.ly/1SONvTR

Image by Christian Cable. https://www.flickr.com/photos/nexus_icon/3207808412/

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2016/01/13/what-would-jesus-the-palestinian-do/

An embarrassing reflection of us

 

By Jacques, d’Nalgar, December 13 2015

 

the_donald2Why all the sanctimonious hand-wringing over Donald Trump’s latest bombastics?  Are we really that shocked when this unfiltered braggart harrumphs that the world’s Muslims must not be allowed to sully our exceptional, Christian America?

After all, isn’t that what most of us really want?  Sure, we may not say it in polite company, but eloquent mendacities are always lost in the cacophony of real-world actions.  And we’ve been loudly acting out our real feelings about Muslims for a long time now.  Almost a century of meddling in the Middle East to sate our unending addiction to oil.  At least two unnecessary wars that have now spawned ISIL and inspired world-wide terrors.  And at least seven decades of supporting colonial experiments and brutal regimes that scoff at quaint notions like human rights and egalitarian self-rule.  We don’t need Donald Trump to spell out how we really feel about this wretched, dusky refuse of a faraway teeming shore, these boogedy boogedy Muslims…

Fact is, our national pastime of fear and loathing isn’t limited to Muslims.  “Muslim” is just our latest code word du jour for any of the world’s homeless, tempest-tossed, huddled masses who aren’t lily-white, god-fearing good folk just like us.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve never liked any of them.

We don’t like those scattered remnants of our indigenous first peoples, who had the audacity to survive systemic attempts at wholesale extermination.  We definitely don’t like the descendants of all those Africans we brought over here, in chains, for slave labor.  To this day, we’re still trying to keep them from voting, and we routinely relegate them to second-class jobs, education, and justice.  And we sure don’t like those millions of brown-skinned people (with names like Jesus!) who routinely wander across our southern border to pick our crops, clean our homes, and patch our roofs.tattered_usa_flag

So let’s skip all the hypocrisy and admit that Donald Trump is just an embarrassing reflection of us, and of what we have allowed America to become.

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2015/12/13/an-embarrassing-reflection-of-us/

An almost Kafkaesque reality

palestinians-being-arrested-by-israeli-soldiers-palestinian-prisoners-detainees

Part 1:  I am so tired of having to explain why Palestinians deserve to live

By Dina Elmuti, November 19, 2015

 

Every day, I desperately attempt to make sense of the senseless. I feverishly try to patch and weave together the pieces of history to understand and grapple with the calamities that have bestowed us today. But reality has satirized itself too many times over. By the time we update the list of murdered Palestinians, the list is outdated. Criminal atrocities and genocidal assaults have become so commonplace and typical of the monstrous, egregious, laughable irony etched deeply in the psyche of a state founded in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

What exists today is an almost Kafkaesque reality in which the humanity of the oppressed is posthumously twisted and put on trial over and over and over again. Year after year, they’re forced to prove that they are human enough. That they’re alive enough. That their blood and flesh are worth enough, like others. Body count, political leverage and an extensive history of settler brutality exemplify one ugly reality. The media exemplifies another. The Palestinian people live under illegal military occupation and Israel holds the preponderance of military, political and cultural power over the occupied Palestinians. Palestinians have no army, no tanks, no bombers, and no naval ships. And yet, it is the occupied Palestinian people who are constantly asked to guarantee the security and ensure the well-being of their occupiers, while the occupiers are continually held accountable for nothing.

Fact becomes fiction and fiction become fact, and the unjustifiable is justified. Acute agony rips through the bodies of old and young alike, tremors terrorize small, defenseless bodies, and the world accepts it all as deplorable but necessary. Because everything Israel does is reactionary and justified under the normalization of Zionist brutality.

As I sit here watching Israeli forces stop to pose for a selfie before unloading bullets into the bodies of Palestinian youth and severing their lives in incomprehensible ways, I feel so angry, so horrified, so humiliated and burning with indignation, so raw that it’s like a fire raging with decimated hopes. I’m desperately trying to figure out how to be alive in a moment when the indifference of the world to the suffering of my people has never been more unapologetic. I don’t live under Israel’s draconian punishment system and illegal occupation, but I find myself wondering how those in Palestine have suppressed a rage so strong it threatens to tear their being to shreds. I’m crying out the ocean lodged in my throat, but I can’t seem to scream loud enough for the anonymous screams that are silenced by the fetters of bloodcurdling atrocities.

And I’m tired.

I’m so tired of having to explain why my people deserve to live. Why the beaten, exhausted victims of Israel’s cruelty and brutality have every right to rise up and fight for their dignity. I’m so tired of having to explain why young boys who look like my younger brother and young women who look my younger sister shouldn’t be hunted down like game and subsequently put on trial for their own murders. For fighting for the fundamental rights so many of us casually take for granted every day. I’m so tired of seeing Palestinian elders, who lived through the 1948 Catastrophe (al-Nakba), have to see Zionism manifest itself in the most horrific ways against the Palestinian youth they have tirelessly fought for. My heart constricts at the reality that they will leave this Earth without seeing true liberation and justice for the Palestinian people come to fruition. I’m so tired of seeing bodies shrouded in white, stored in mercilessly public morgues and placed into the ground. I’m so tired of having to see orphans abandoned and mothers bereft. I’m tired, so very tired of people reduced to nothing more than collateral damage and state-sanctioned carnage – easily interchangeable, easily removable, easily destroyed for daring to resist state-sanctioned terror and every apparatus of a colonial regime.

I’m tired of this heart-wrenching feeling of knowing that every time there’s a Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a Ali Dawabsha, a Fadi Aloun, there will be swarms of bigoted Zionist demagogues ready with a premeditated laundry list of justifications why their existences were not even worthy enough to be mourned and that their murderers deserve for their lives to be protected and continue unscathed. Because incinerating and asphyxiating children and robbing them of life are no crimes to them. There will always be mobs of Zionist zealots and supporters who will exert effort and energy if it guarantees demeaning and destroying the lives of Palestinians.

 

Part 2:  Israel dropped 800 tons of bombs on Gaza, the world didn’t blink an eye

November 19, 2015

 

Every summer, I spend time in the Palestinian village of Duma, near the city of Nablus. This past summer, I saw a side of Duma that remains etched in permanent horror. On July 31st, Reham, Saad, Ahmed, and Ali Dawabsha were immolated in an Israeli settler arson attack on their home, burning 18-month-old Ali to death. After weeks of agonizing pain, Reham and Saad succumbed to their wounds, leaving five-year-old Ahmed Dawabsha burned in over 60% of his body, fighting for his life in an Israeli hospital, and orphaned. When I visited the family home I had passed by countless times on visits to Duma, horror clotted my veins. Every step I took, everywhere I stood, the ground beneath my feet was tainted by casualty, by terrorism, by hatred, by barbarity. Blackened patches of ground were hideous hallmarks and reminders of all those who had been tortured by unspeakable pains. Nothing was left untouched by death.

Now imagine, for a second, if this situation were reversed; if this act of unmitigated savagery had been committed against an Israeli family. There would have been uproar and worldwide condemnation. But violence committed by Israelis remains excused, humanized, and justified, regardless of the extent of the damage, destruction and death toll. The recent terror attacks in Paris struck at the hearts of millions worldwide, but barely a peep was uttered when the Israeli Air Force, by its own estimate, stated that it had dropped 800 tons of bombs on Gaza. DIME bombs unearthed entire societies, dropped on rehabilitation clinics and centers for the disabled, and white phosphorus was abundantly and indiscriminately dropped on some of the most densely populated neighborhoods on Earth. Gaza was reduced to piles of smoldering rubble and people were being bombed, slaughtered and dismembered in their own homes for 51 days during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, and Israeli politicians were globally heralded as crusaders of a noble cause. Gaza remains pockmarked by craters of repeated Israeli attacks and bombings on its hospitals. It is littered with the rubble, left behind from the bombardment of residential neighborhoods and the leveling of over 10,000 homes. Broken bodies pelted with shrapnel and white phosphorus remain irretrievably broken.

The world didn’t blink an eye when over 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza – over 500 of which were innocent children – were annihilated and blasted to pieces, remaining nameless and implicitly unworthy of grief. Israel wiped out the existence of 89 families during Operative Protective Edge. Palestinian lives have proven to be so cheap to so many. There was no option to overlay the colors of the Palestinian flag on our Facebook profile pictures to show solidarity with the Palestinians being obliterated. No ‘safety check feature’ was activated so people living under the barrage of missiles and artillery shells could let their friends know they’re safe with one click. The lack of moral outrage at such unmitigated savagery is splattered in the pages of history. And the spine-chilling truth remains: In the global hierarchy of ‘grievability’ some lives are just rendered more grievable than others, and some victims simply remain unhuman in life.

Every Palestinian – irrespective of age – is not fully human in life, and if violence and terror are carried out against those who are not fully human or unreal, well then from the perspective of violence, it couldn’t possibly injure or abolish any of their lives because they were not human, alive or real to begin with. They were moving targets whose lives were already negated. Oppressors continue to ascribe value to the lives of the oppressed, and only the conscious horror of destruction creates the correct relationship with the dead. ISIS and Israel are two faces of the same coin. One night in Paris is every single night in Palestine. The only difference? The existence of the Palestinian people is flippantly erased in every discourse, and their lives are not grievable.

 

Part 3:  Palestine is a condition of resistance against the cruelty of humanity

November 21, 2015

 

When resistance becomes law

The occupation of Palestine continues to be perpetuated daily through torture, imprisonment, assassinations, humiliations at 300 checkpoints, curfews, annexation of Palestinian land through settlement expansion, home demolitions, and a systematic policy of economic deprivation and cruelty. Cruelty depends on an understanding of cruelty and the ability to choose against it. Or the ability to choose to ignore it. The Palestinian people resist because they have been deprived of everything – their freedom, their self-determination, their family, their safety and security, their sense of peace and the most basic freedoms. Every human right –sacrosanct and immitigable. And when everything is taken from you, you do everything you can to get it back.

They resist because they have endured the most brazen and depraved acts of violence and cruelty, and they refuse to celebrate passivity and non-violence in the face of those who are the most deliberately violent. They refuse to remain docile and kind when it comes to their own destruction and annihilation. They resist because they choose to be liberated from the shackles of their oppression and despair, not just to become more comfortable with these shackles. They resist because Palestine is a condition of resistance against the cruelty of humanity. Palestinian resistance is necessary and successful in corroding Zionist impunity and bloodthirsty, unrestrained and seemingly gratuitous violence and acts of terror. This has never and will never be a two-sided anything because there will never be symmetry between the oppressor and the oppressed; the occupier and the occupied.

And what we are witnessing now, thanks in great part to social media, is the baring of Zionism’s ugly face and fangs. Unlike previous Intifadas, Israel cannot control media access and the flow of information to the outside world. Social media affords us another narrative, unpolished and uncensored. And no matter how deliberately obscured it is, one simple truth remains: No human beings can tolerate to see their children, parents and loved ones executed, burned alive, bombed, traumatized, scarred and broken. No human beings.
Anywhere.

This is not a war

This is not a war. What is happening in Palestine right now is not a war. There are not two sides in equal defense of each other. Youth wielding stones in their hands up against armed-to-the-bone military forces is not a war. The murder of an occupied people by an occupier is always, always, always the murder of innocent civilians. Israel continues to play fast and loose with the term “self-defense” to describe its egregious, indiscriminate and disproportionate actions to the point where the language doesn’t appear to merit a second thought from the general public. Dubbing itself the perpetual victim of villainous actions by “terrorists” wielding knives and stones, Israel continues to commit egregious atrocities. But how does a systematic abuser of human rights, a belligerent, uncompromising, expansionist and genocidal settler state find itself under attack by the occupied and oppressed?

Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza last summer was incomprehensible in its scale and impossible to quantify was not a war. 67 years of unfettered instruments of butchery and asymmetric murderous terror campaigns that erode international standing are not wars. A military force with almost unimaginable might against a civilian population, some of whom are armed with tin-can rockets which are mere fireworks in comparison to the weapons of their enemies is not at war with an unarmed civilian population. Justifying the gratuitous mass slaughter of unarmed men, women and children is indistinguishable from the logic that justified the Holocaust. The merciless assaults on a people, particularly in the case of the epistemic violence and cruelty carried out on the fish bowl that is Gaza, is not a war. It is systematic genocide.

Genocide to the level of extermination and mass obliteration, year after year after year, to the verge of extinction. Gaza had survived several attempts to eliminate it over the years, and when the battered, beleaguered survivors of an ongoing genocide decided that they’d had enough and would resist their own annihilation, they were the ones condemned, while the murderers, terrorists, and their enablers were victimized. And worst of all, they expected a halo for their unrepentant criminality and intransigence, flaunted in the face of international humanitarian law and basic human decency.

This world has failed the Palestinian people in every conceivable way. It has become so desensitized to its own egregious hypocrisy and double standards have been woven into the very fabric of imperialism. This world is pro-justice, so long as it’s justice for the oppressor not the oppressed. There’s sympathy with the oppressed, so long as it’s sympathy for the oppressed the West deems worthy of sympathy. And there’s tolerance, so long as it means tolerating the oppressors that are intolerant of your very existence for 67 years and counting.

But anyone who really claims to care about unequivocal justice and peace will challenge this blatant hypocrisy. There are few times in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. Where we have the opportunity to stand, unequivocally, on the right side of history. On the side of the oppressed. This is one of those times. This is the power of human dignity and what should propel us to action is human dignity. The inalienable human dignity of the oppressed, but also the dignity of each of us. We lose dignity every single day we continue to tolerate the intolerable, unconscionable acts that continue to deform and mutate an entire people. Without concrete action, our words will remain hollow.

Dina is a first-generation Palestinian-American living in Chicago, working at an Urban Youth Trauma Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She works in the States and overseas with an NGO for victims of torture in the Occupied Territories of Palestine (Ramallah). Dina has written for online publications like The Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, and The Daily Beast since 2008.

 

1:  http://ahtribune.com/human-rights/152-i-am-so-tired-palestinians-deserve-to-live.html
2:  http://ahtribune.com/human-rights/154-israel-dropped-800-tons-of-bombs-on-gaza.html
3:  http://ahtribune.com/world/north-africa-south-west-asia/third-intifada/164-palestine-is-a-condition-of-resistance.html

Photograph:  https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12097-human-rights-centre-israel-brutally-humiliating-hospitalised-prisoners-on-hunger-strike

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2015/11/23/an-almost-kafkaesque-reality/

Historians and other nincompoops

Whoa there, David Cameron! Haste and rhetoric is no recipe for peace

By Robert Fisk, Sunday 22 November 2015 19:28 BST

 

Eisenhower famously sent some brusque advice to Anthony Eden in 1956 when he decided that Britain’s deceitful war in Egypt should come to an end. “Whoa, boy!” were his words. And they should be repeated now to the politicians, historians and other nincompoops who regard themselves as the soothsayers of eternal war.

Each morning, I awake to find another Hollywood horror being concocted by our secret policemen or our public relations-inspired leaders. Germany’s top spy warns us of a “Terrorist World War” – I accept his expertise, of course, because Germany has itself proved rather efficient at starting world wars – while a perfectly sane and otherwise brilliant historian compares Europe’s agony to the fall of the Roman Empire. The Paris killings are now supposed to have “changed Paris for ever” or “changed France for ever”. I would accept that the collaboration of General Pétain with Nazi Germany changed France for ever – but the atrocities in Paris this month simply cannot be compared with the German occupation of 1940. That most tiresome of French philosophers, Bernard-Henri Lévy, tells us that Isis are “Fascislamists”.

Oddly, I don’t remember the same Mr Lévy telling us that the avowedly Christian Lebanese killers of up to 1,700 Palestinian civilians in the Beirut Sabra-Shatila refugee camps of 1982 – Israel’s vicious Lebanese militia allies – were “Fascichristians”. This was a “terrorist” act with which I was all too familiar. With two journalist colleagues, I walked among the butchered and raped corpses of the dead. The American-armed and funded Israeli army watched the slaughter – and did nothing. Yet not a single Western politicians announced that this had “changed the Middle East for ever”. And if 1,700 innocents can be murdered in Beirut in 1982 without “world war” being declared, how can President François Hollande announce that France is “at war” after 130 innocents were massacred?

Yet, now the poor and huddled masses of the Middle East, according to my friend Niall Ferguson, are the Goths flooding towards ancient Rome. Ferguson admits he doesn’t know enough about fifth century Roman history to be able to quote Romans on the subject. But the Romans endowed their newly conquered peoples with Roman citizenship; and Niall might at least have bothered to study the third century when the new Roman emperor, Caesar Marcus Julius Philippus Augustus, came from Syria. He was born about 30 miles from Damascus and was called “Philip the Arab”. But let’s not allow even modern history to get in the way of our desire for revenge.

Take Mali and last week’s killings. The French “intervened” there in January 2013, after Islamists took over the north of Mali and prepared to advance on the capital, Bamako. “Field Marshal” Hollande, as he was satirised in the French press, sent in his lads to destroy the “terrorists”, who were imposing their revolting “Islamic” punishments on civilians, without mentioning that the violence was also part of a Tuareg-Malian government civil war. By the end of January, reports spoke of France’s Malian military allies killing civilians in a wave of ethnic reprisals. The French defence minister (then, as now, Jean-Yves Le Drian) admitted that “urban guerrilla warfare” was “very complicated to manage”.

By September, the Islamists were murdering Malians who had co-operated with the French. Since France was already declaring victory against the “terrorists”, few paid attention to the spokesman for the very same Islamists when he announced that “our enemy is France, which works with the army of Mali, of Niger, of Senegal, of Guinea, of Togo, against Muslims … all these countries are our enemies and we are going to treat them like enemies.”

Which makes last week’s massacre in Bamako less incomprehensible. And for those who believe that European soldiers who go clanking around African countries are not going to provoke revenge from those of Malian origin, note how we virtually ignored the background of the Isis killer of the French policewoman and of four French Jews at the Paris supermarket last January. Amedy Coulibaly was born in France to Malian Muslim parents.

And now let’s read this report on Mali from early 2013: that French “warplanes are continuing their attacks on suspected rebel camps, command posts, logistic bases and ‘terrorist vehicles’ in northern Mali. In recent days, officials said, they hit targets in the Timbuktu and Gao regions, including a dozen strikes in a 24-hour period …” Replace Timbuktu and Gao with Raqqa and Idlib and this is the same soup we’re being served up today from Paris (and Moscow) about air assaults on Isis – and into which PR Dave himself now wishes to lead our miniature air force.

Our reaction? All rhetoric, of course, brought about by our ignorance, our refusal to understand the injustices of the Middle East, our idleness in addressing conflict with political plans and objectives. If we could apply the “whoa, boy” advice today, it must be with an entirely new approach to the cult mafia that exists in the Middle East. A world conference on the region, perhaps, along the lines of the 1945 San Francisco conference where statesmen created a United Nations that would (and did) prevent more world wars. And for refugees, an offer like the Nansen refugee passport for the millions of destitute and homeless after the 1914-18 war, accepted by 50 nations.

Instead we blather on about the apocalypse, terrorist world wars and Ancient Rome. To our very own PR Dave, I can only repeat: “whoa, boy!”

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/whoa-there-david-cameron-haste-and-rhetoric-is-no-recipe-for-peace-a6744271.html or http://ind.pn/1YpPgIB

Photograph of Eisenhower, by Richard Avedon:  http://theworldofphotographers.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/3385/dwight-david-eisenhower-richard-avedon/ or http://bit.ly/lDR0hN or http://tinyurl.com/6b24aja

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2015/11/23/historians-and-other-nincompoops/

Oh brother where art thou?

 

o-brother-where-art-thou-still

 

Dear editor,

Oh my little brother, where art thou NOW?!  Week after week your letters, pregnant with petulant, prattling preachery raging against the black man in the White House, parade your naked paranoia and your ponderous morality for all to see.  Who anointed you and your amen corner arbiters of who is — and who is not — Christian?

Confessing camaraderie with radio rabble-rouser Mark Levin reveals much.  Like you, he hates Obama, hates Muslims, and dearly loves Israel, more even than he loves Dear Homeland.  Levin, by the way, thinks your Grandiose Old Party is “thoroughly corrupt, craven, unprincipled, and unconstitutional.”  Imagine what he thinks of my godless Democrats!

You and little Mark Levin.  What a team!  Despite your wild accusations, Israel has never had a better friend than this president.  Favorite spy Jonathan Pollard was just released.  Security assistance to Israel has increased every year since Obama took office and over the past three years, he’s given them nearly $10 billion just in military aid.

That’s about 20 percent higher than the remaining six dozen recipients of U.S. Foreign Military Financing combined.  And sadly, all while ignoring Israel’s plunge into the madness of fascism and apartheid.  All while Palestinians are told they must never resist, but be forever meek as sheep bound for the abattoir…

Your insinuations that Obama is a clandestine Muslim would be laughable were they not contemptible.  So what if he was?  Islam is not new to America.  The first Muslims came here in chains, as African slaves, and they’ve been coming ever since.  But now, somehow, fearing and loathing these fellow Americans is an acceptable and righteous thing.  Even before the horrors of Paris, your good-godly Republican candidates and governors were shamelessly peddling Islamophobia.  Since Paris, that clown car has only gotten louder and sillier.  I can only imagine that you and your buddy Mark Levin are giddy at the prospect of shuttered mosques and Muslim ankle bracelets.

Despair comes easily in this gathering gloom, as we witness the rise of regressives in America.  But perhaps this season of big flags and bigots masquerading as Christian patriots is the last hurrah of a frightened generation that will soon shuffle off this mortal coil.  Perhaps our long winter of malfeasance and mendacity, which neither kept us safe nor trickled prosperity, has finally run its bloody course.  Never forget that WE THE PEOPLE managed to elect — twice! — an unlikely brown-skinned Hawaiian community organizer with a Kenyan father and a middle name of “Hussein.”

Obama said it best.  “My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation.”  Pray that we soon emerge from this present darkness, from this senseless, shameful surrender to our worst impulses.  Pray that we once again find that abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation, and in the possibilities of all of us who live, together, on this amazing, beautiful world.

Your bigger brother,

Jacques d’Nalgar
Hot Springs, Arkansas

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2015/11/21/oh-brother-where-art-thou-2/

Fooled by Obama?

 

InkSpot-main_FullDear editor:

While listening to conservative talk radio commentator Mark Levin recently, he said this about Obama — “We have never had a president in the White House that hates Christians and Jews like Barack Obama does!” I personally couldn’t agree more with that statement.

But how could that be true? Doesn’t Obama say that he is a Christian? If he really is a Christian, shouldn’t he have been concerned enough to at least try to help the vast numbers of Christians persecuted by Islamic terrorists? Shouldn’t he have also been genuinely pro-Israel in his attitudes and actions? How strange!

Would a true Christian president have the reputation of being the most pro-abortion president in history? And why have conservative Christian organizations been the target of the IRS under this administration? Why has Obama favored the homosexual agenda while fighting against Christian churches that advocate what the Bible teaches on homosexuality? Does all of this sound like a real Christian?

Has it not also been proven time and time again publicly that Obama is a serial liar? Is this the behavior of a true Christian? I’m talking about habitual lying (habitually sinning)!

Here is what the Bible says about this — “We know that those who have become part of God’s family do not make a practice of sinning; for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot get his hands on them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the power and control of Satan” (1 John 5:18, 19).

Listen to what the commentary has to say about this passage in the NIV Study Bible: “Christians commit sins, of course, but they ask God to forgive them and then they continue serving him. God has freed believers from their slavery to Satan and he keeps them safe from Satan’s continued attacks. The rest of the world does not have the Christian’s freedom to obey God. Unless they come to Christ in faith, they have no choice but to obey Satan. There is no middle ground; people either belong to God and obey him, or they live under Satan’s control.”

Some may say they are a Christian, but if they persist in practicing a sinful life with no sign of remorse, such a person needs to re-evaluate their life to see if their faith in Christ is genuine. They may be fooling themselves — self-deceived.

But what about a person who is deliberately pretending to be a Christian? Did you know that the Islamic Quran has a provision in it that allows Muslims to lie and deceive in order to achieve their evil purposes? By this, a Muslim could say they are a Christian when in fact they are not!

Does any major figure come to mind concerning this possibility? Has someone in power consistently favored and sympathized with the Islamic side, as well as all of our other enemies? Is there anyone in mind who is under Satan’s control to destroy this great nation originally established by our Christian forefathers? Have we been fooled?

Lloyd Hoffman
Hot Springs

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2015/11/13/fooled-by-obama/

Correct reading, it used to work wonders

 

gerusalKamal Salibi: Scholar and teacher regarded as one of the foremost historians of the Middle East

By Robert Fisk, Wednesday 07 September 2011

 

Almost two decades ago, recording a BBC radio programme on Islam, I dropped by the American University of Beirut to interview an old Christian Protestant friend, Kamal Salibi. I asked him the same question I had already put to many Muslims: what happens after death? They, of course, assured me of their belief in an afterlife. Salibi, the great breaker of historical myth, did not share this conviction. “After life is nothing,” he said, eyes cast slightly upwards, his voice almost shaking with indignation. “It is the end. We are dust.”

I sincerely hope not. For Salibi, who died last Thursday after a stroke, was perhaps the finest historian of the modern – and the old – Middle East, fluent in ancient Hebrew as well as his native Arabic, his English flawless, a man whose work must surely shine into the future as it has illuminated the past. In one sense, his desire to deconstruct history, his almost Eliot-like precision in dissecting the false story of the Maronites of Lebanon, his highly mischievous – and linguistically brilliant – suggestion that the tales of the Old Testament took place in what is now Saudi Arabia, rather than Palestine, made him a revolutionary.

In one sense, his wish to live in a world unstifled by the texts of dictators made him one of the founders of the new “Arab awakening”, 30 years before his time and scarcely 40 years after George Antonius first used the phrase as the title of his great work on the British betrayal of the Arab revolt. History, Salibi believed, should not only draw on original sources but should have a beginning and a middle. He was a “chronology” historian – such creatures are now back in fashion, thank God – who was also the first Lebanese writer to confront the country’s civil war. His Crossroads to Civil War, Lebanon 1958-1976 was published less than 12 months after the 15-year conflict began.

Kamal Salibi never showed his age – he was born in 1929 in the Christian hill-town of Bhamdoun – perhaps because he so enjoyed the company of younger people, both his students at the American University and his later companions in the Jordanian Prince Hassan’s Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Amman. He was a gentle, simple man whose respect for the views of others was balanced by his scorn for the world’s hypocrisy. He often blamed the arrogance of Christians for their own fate in the region. How he would have loathed Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai’s recent half-support for the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Paris, an echo of the widespread Christian suspicion that only strong dictators can protect Christian minorities from Islamist extremism. Salibi, like his contemporary, the late historian Yusuf Ibish, admired the Ottoman Empire and was contemptuous of the West’s destruction of the Caliphate.

“You often forget that one of the reasons you fought the First World War was to destroy the Ottoman Empire – but the Ottomans, in their last years, they wanted to be like the West,” he told me one afternoon in his English department tutorial room, always the teacher, always mixing emotion with the kind of detail that obsessed him. “The Sultans and his closest advisers learned to paint. They learned to play the piano. The Ottomans wanted to be like you. So you destroyed them.”

He was a brave man. When thesectarian civil war began to target the Christians still living in West Beirut, he chose to stay on in his beautifulOttoman home in the Hamra district, scarcely a hundred metres from the 1920s villa in which Ibish lived. When the Lebanese army broke apart and Christian units bombarded thedistrict, Salibi fled to a neighbour as shells destroyed his home. Ibish stayed downstairs in his own house, reading Hamlet as the upper floors burned. But when a local paper drew attention to the meaning of Salibi’s name – in Arabic it means “crusaders” – he set off for Jordan to help establish Hassan’s foundation.

He quickly became a confidante and adviser and was able to give me the prince’s account of the final break with King Hussein when the latter decided that his brother Hassan should no longer be heir apparent. The prince had laid his pistol on the king’s desk and invited his brother to shoot him if he believed he was plotting his overthrow or preparing for his demise. The king – who was to die of cancer a few weeks later after making his son Abdullah Crown Prince – handed Hassan an official letter renouncing his role as the next king; Hassan heard the contents read on the news over his car radio before having the chance to open the envelope.

Several years later, after Hassan had unwisely mapped out the future of Jordan in the Middle East at a conference in London, King Abdullah was understandably enraged. Hassan sought Salibi’s advice. “I told him to go and see the king at once,” Salibi recalled for me. “And I told him to tell the king that he was very, very sorry.” Good advice from a wise man who never tried to enrage anyone. Indeed, he was the only visitor to come to my home and be warmly greeted by the family cat – a “scaredy-puss” if ever there was one, always fleeing from visitors – who would leap upon Salibi like a long-lost friend.

But Salibi made enemies aplenty when he published The Bible Came from Arabia, a long and detailed linguistic exegesis in which he claimed to have discovered – through long research into place names – that the lands of the Bible and of historical Israel were not in Palestine at all, but in Arabia; in fact, in that part of the peninsula which is now Saudi Arabia. Salibi was intensely proud of his achievement, refusing to be cowed by the storm of often abusive criticism which he provoked. Israel’s self-appointed defenders in the West condemned Salibi for trying to delegitimise the Israeli state – it is surprising how long the fear of “delegitimisation” prevailed in Israel, as it still does today – while more prosaic writers treated the author with good-humoured contempt. A reviewer in the Jewish Chronicle referred to Professor Salibi as “Professor Sillybilly”, a wonderful crack that I forbore to repeat to Salibi himself.

The Saudis, true to their fears that the Israelis might decide to take Salibi seriously and colonise the mountains of Sarawat (which Salibi believed was the real “Jordan valley” of the Bible), sent hundreds of bulldozers to dozens of Saudi villages which contained buildings or structures from Biblical antiquity. All these ancient abodes were crushed to rubble, Taliban-style, in order to safeguard the land of Muslim Arabia and the house of Saud. At the time of the Prophet there had indeed been Jewish communities in Arabia. Salibi – wisely or not – never abandoned his Arabian convictions. The last time I saw him, he was offering me a new edition of his Bible, with a laudatory new preface by an American academic, in return for a hitherto undiscovered Dumas novel about the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, caught the nature of Salibi’s work accurately when he wrote this week that Salibi sought through scientific-historical research “to overcome inherited beliefs which had taken on a sacred character”. He was talking about the book which will still be read in a hundred years, A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered in which he emphasised the place of Christian Maronites in the Middle East, insisting that they did not come to Lebanon as a persecuted minority – one of the stories which Lebanese often repeat to account for the cluster of Maronite towns in the high mountains around Bcharre. The predicament of the Christians of Lebanon had always fascinated him – his PhD at SOAS, under the supervision of Bernard Lewis, was entitled “Maronite Historians and Lebanon’s Medieval History” – and was also the subject of his greatest despair.

“I like to give my students,” he told a reporter four years ago, “a passage from an historical document and ask them: ‘What does it say?’ Also, ‘What does it not say?’…Correct reading, it used to work wonders.” It still does. Which is why, for Salibi, the end can not be dust.

Kamal Sulieman Salibi, historian and teacher: born Bhamdoun, Lebanon 2 May 1929; died Beirut 1 September 2011.

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/kamal-salibi-scholar-and-teacher-regarded-as-one-of-the-foremost-historians-of-the-middle-east-2350184.html or http://ind.pn/1N5p9DG

Photograph of the basilica mosaic in Madaba, Jordan, one of the oldest depictions of Jerusalem.  http://itis.volta.alessandria.it/episteme/ep2sped.htm

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2015/08/31/correct-reading-it-used-to-work-wonders/