Category: Palestine

Charley Reese and the rabbi

 You have confirmed an unfortunate suspicion. Your postscript reflects the same reaction, albeit belated, that the rabbi expressed in his letter.  I read Reese in a completely different light — he is simply suggesting that it is not in America’s best interests to support Israel and the oil-rich (or geographically strategic) despots in the region.  I am pretty sure he has never advocated the removal of Jews from Palestine/Israel although there are many who have called for the removal of Arabs from Israel/Palestine.

My suspicion is this: Israelis have enjoyed (i.e., reaped much success) being the schoolyard bully for half a century. Their aggression towards neighbors and “foreign” occupants has been by and large unabated because the school marm (America) conveniently looks the other way.  When the other kids on the playground have the gall to retaliate, they’re the ones who get punished.  However, decades of unchecked behavior have cultivated a quiet paranoia that lurks in the background of Israeli life.  Don’t get me wrong here — Israelis love and live and die and bleed and cry just like everyone else; their lives are as precious as anyone else’s.  But behind the facade of everyday life, all Israelis know that, sooner or later, the old teacher is going to die or be replaced.  People like Charley Reese evoke such strong responses from Jews because they are reminders that, unless they begin to behave nicely, there’s going to be a reckoning some day.  Right now, the personal cost of “behaving nicely” is too high for most Israelis — too many perks would have to be sacrificed.  I suspect the situation was much the same in Southern states in the decades before the Civil War — a nagging suspicion that slavery was wrong, but not a feeling so strong and dissonant that it couldn’t be pushed into the background.

Reese is like the young boy who announced the emperor’s nakedness.  If the tale were to be retold for a modern audience, the boy would have been silenced by those courtesans who benefit from the emperor’s largess.  The rabbi wrote that the “state of Israel has a right to exist as a free, independent Jewish state in its ancestral territory in the Middle East.”  I’ve always wondered what exactly that meant.  Is “Jewish” a theological or ethnic designation, and will residents who fall outside that distinction always be second-class (or worse) citizens?  If not, what will ensure that Israel remains a “Jewish” state?  If so, how will Israel ever be anything but an example of injustice and racism?  Sooner or later, the oil is going to dry up (or an alternative will emerge to obsolete it).  When America no longer needs (or can have) the Middle East’s oil, will they continue to coddle the schoolyard bully?

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2007/12/11/charley-reese-and-the-rabbi/

Out of Egypt

 Ms. Rice,

Thank you.  I just finished reading the paperback version of your novel [Christ the Lord – Out of Egypt].  I immediately detected a Catholic flavor to your tale, which is OK.  I saw it in Mel Gibson’s movie as well.  What I didn’t understand was the insertion of “Arabian” mercenaries on at least two occasions.  What was that all about?  Why did you feel it necessary to sell the notion that Jews and Arabs were adversaries even in the first century?

I was disappointed in your endorsement of Hillary Clinton.  That’s your right of course, but I was disappointed that you never discussed why you did NOT endorse Barak Obama.  In fact, his name never comes up on your website.  To me, Hillary Clinton is little different from her Republican rivals, while Obama seems much more at ease articulating an antiwar posture and discussing his Christian faith.

If you’re interested, I’ll send you this Baptist’s perspective on the current situation re. Islam in America.  You may be surprised.

Your brother in Christ.

Anne wrote back within the hour:

My comments on the Arabs were taken from Josephus, what he describes happening during those periods.  So it is based on the only primary source we have about what was going on during the turbulence in Judea and Galilee in the First Century and right before. — There might be some Roman sources, but none go into the detail, as you probably know, that we find in Josephus.  — I don’t care for Barak Obama.  He appears too young and inexperienced to be president.  His remarks about diplomacy indicate he doesn’t fully understand why heads of state meet each other only after extensive negotiations by others in the lower ranks.  His remarks about the people of New Orleans after Katrina, that they were people America had forgotten, seemed off.  It was complex, the situation there, but not everybody there who appears to be poor is in fact poor.  New Orleans has a distinct character. — I could go on.  He doesn’t impress me.  — I think Hillary will be the next president.  I think she has the wisdom, the experience, and the strength.  And she can get through the ring of fire now created by the media and the internet for every candidate.  We can’t afford another bad candidate.  Kerry and Gore were fine men but not very good candidates.  I think Hillary is head and shoulders above everybody else.  —- She’ll bring in top advisors, she’ll be thoughtful and patient in foreign affairs; and she’s dedicated to workable policies of social justice.  I think she’s definitely the best.   I hope she picks Joe Biden as her running mate, but I have a bad feeling she’s going to be stuck with Obama.  He is not at all a bad man.  Just young.  Just not ready for the White House yet.  — Thanks for writing, Anne. 

I wrote her back:

A belated postscript.  I read your piece several years ago, “What it means to lose New Orleans.”  That was wonderful.  I visited the Lower 9th Ward last winter, my first visit since Katrina, and was heartbroken.  Thanks for your comments re. why you endorsed Hillary over Barak.  I hear that a lot (i.e., his inexperience).  Around here, there’s a lot of residual anecdotal animosity towards Hillary, remnants of her years as a rather pompous First Lady when husband Bill was Governor of Arkansas.  When I remind people that William Wilberforce entered Parliament at the age of 21, and that his friend William Pitt became Prime Minister at 24, it kinda deflates their argument about the inherent superiority of seniority.  Your pro-Hillary arguments actually sound a lot like the pro-Bush arguments way back when he was first running for president and I think there’s a near-universal concensus that his reign has been disastrous.

Here’s the link to my editorial that ran this week:  http://www.missionmeeting.org/flummery/  — it was the first time in a decade of writing to newspapers that I have felt vaguely threatened.  A man with a voice that sounded like it was right out of the movie “Sling Blade” called me up and, after confirming that it I who had written the article, asked me if I was a Muslim.  When I asked him why he thought that, he responded, “Well, why would you defend THEM if you’re not a Muslim?”

I am indeed familiar with Josephus, but think that some of what he writes needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  He wasn’t exactly reporting for the BBC or Wall Street Journal.  I did appreciate what you had to say about the controversy over why the destruction of Palestine (not just Jerusalem) is never mentioned in the New Testament.  I’ve never gotten a good explanation of that from the camp that thinks the Gospels and letters weren’t compiled and circulated as a collective whole until well after the Diaspora.

Be Well.

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2007/09/02/out-of-egypt/

Debka.com

 Some first impressions about http://www.debka.com/ — it seems to be a right-wing(ish?) Jewish version of the Drudge Report.  Not surprising — I’ve been reading Haaretz for nearly 10 years and have observed that the entire country, as well as our own, is drifting in that direction.  That, or I’m in a free-fall towards the left fringe of the political spectrum (hard to believe I participated in the local Cheney rally 7 or 8 years ago)…

Here’s a pretty good site that discusses who’s behind debka.com:  http://www.embargos.de/irak/post1109/english/who_is_debka.html

My guess is they’ve been right (no pun intended) enough times to develop a following, sorta like Drudge, who is still getting mileage from his one scoop about Clinton and Lewinski.  Even a broken clock is right twice a day…  They are widely quoted by lots and lots of pro-Israel groups (including some that appear downright kooky), but I do not see them being quoted by any mainstream news outlets (which doesn’t really prove anything one way or another).

 I’m not the only one skeptical.  Here’s what someone said at http://orbat.com/site/agtw_news/2007%20news%20archive/jun%202007%20archive.htm on June 17 of this year, re. whether or not Israel was about to attack Gaza:  “Even Debka.com has not made such a claim, and it can be usually counted on to see an offensive by someone – US, Israel, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, anyone – under each rock. Though in all fairness maybe we should wait till Monday, Debka may just be off for the weekend.”

Here’s another skeptic:  “When organizations with a world-wide intelligence reach suddenly appear out of nowhere, with no substantial traceable sources of funding, you can be assured they are almost always tapping into government sources. Stratfor was started by a college professor, and almost at its inception had an instant worldwide presence of top notch economic and geo-political intelligence. The analyses on that site are suspiciously skewed along lines that would mask the real motives behind world events.  Debka.com is run by an Israeli business journalist who openly admitted to me that his sources are all government insiders. The trouble with that kind of arrangement is that a one- or two-man shop, even if sincere, can’t possibly check up on whether they are being fed disinformation or not. Sometimes they can tell, but usually they cannot.”  (http://www.joelskousen.com/hotissues_news.html)

This is the debka I am more familiar with:  http://www.sanabel-debka.com/

So, the bottom line (for me) is that if you’re looking for “news” sources that will validate and reinforce a world view aligned with just about everything George Bush and Israel and Fundamentalist Christians do, and if you see an “Islamo-fascist” conspiracy behind every act of violence anywhere in the world, from a 7-11 holdup in Hot Springs to an airport car accident in Scotland, then you should limit your consumption to outlets like Faux News and, yes, debka.com.

My own perspective is that you should read lots of different news sources and then triangulate to arrive at a semblance of reality.  Here are the Internet news sources I check more or less daily (in no particular order):

http://www.drudgereport.com/
http://www.haaretz.com/
http://www.nytimes.com/
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/
http://news.independent.co.uk/fisk/ (Fisk is one of the few Western journalists to have interviewed Osama Bin Laden; my Danish sources think he is overly pessimistic most of the time, but not lately)
http://english.aljazeera.net/English (skewed, but much less than debka.com)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/

 On a less-regular basis, I check the following sites:

 http://www.latimes.com/
http://web.naharnet.com/
http://www.atimes.com/
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/iraq_casualties.htm
http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

And then I’ve got lots of “unofficial” sources:  retired CIA agents, Palestinians who are now Americans, former alumni from my high school in Beirut, people I know “on the ground” in Lebanon and Israel, and, of course, my own parents.  Ain’t the Internet great?!

 Shalom/Salaam

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2007/08/01/debka-com/

Misery

 Sent: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 8:44 AM

In the misery that is now Lebanon it is the lowest who take the blame and the Palestinian refugees are the lowest in the pecking order.

– Børre

“They see us all as criminals” Caoimhe Butterly writing from Baddawi Refugee Camp, Live from Lebanon, 22 June 2007

Standing at the entrance to Nahr al-Bared Camp a week ago in the still, oppressive heat waiting with Fatme for her sister and her nieces to be evacuated, we watched as two large army trucks emerged from the camp. Though the backs of the trucks were covered with tarpaulin and soldiers forbade the assembled journalists from filming, as the trucks roared by we could see that each contained about thirty men and boys, handcuffed, some blindfolded, most with their heads bent down towards their laps. One youth, however, sat with his head held high, staring back at the camp, with a tasseled kuffiya draped around his shoulders. His small act of defiance and pride, of rejecting the criminalization of his people and struggle, reduced Khadija, who stood next to me, to tears as she said “I am so exhausted, I feel burnt inside, as if all beauty is gone from my life, but seeing him makes me understand that I can’t despair, that I have to stay strong — to rebuild our camp and our lives.”

Khadija has participated in a series of actions we’ve organized over the past month of the siege with friends from Baddawi and Nahr al-Bared — a symbolic die-in at the entrance to the camp, a larger demonstration and a series of press conferences highlighting the media ban and civilian death toll and attempting to put pressure on the army to allow greater access to Nahr al-Bared for ambulance services and for the distribution of humanitarian relief. As she participated in the die-in, carrying a placard with the name of a 23-year-old man who had bled to death from apparently treatable wounds, Khadija challenged an older soldier who arrived with others to forcefully make us leave — “Do you have children? Try to feel what it is like for us to stand here — knowing that our family and friends are still in the camp, feeling this road shudder underneath us as the shelling continues, not knowing who will die, today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow.”

Khadija stood next to Fatme, her arm around her shoulders, blocked from walking back into their camp and homes by five soldiers and a coil of barbed wire. When Fatme’s sister finally emerged we barely caught a glimpse of her pale, graceful face, smiling reassuredly at Fatme, before the bus in which she and a small group of women, children and the elderly were evacuated in, sped off towards Baddawi. We followed them by car and arrived back to Baddawi as they disembarked the bus into the waiting, frantic, embraces of family members waiting for them outside the Red Crescent Hospital. Fatme held her arms around her nieces, refusing to let them go, as if releasing them from the warmth and temporary refuge of her embrace would return her, and them, to the throbbing panic of the past three weeks, of her watching the scenes of the shelling on television, or them living it in the confines of an underground shelter, of dead telephone lines and the smell of death and the names of the latest confirmed dead scripted onto a banner hung in the main street in Baddawi.

Later as we crowded into the humid classroom where over twenty adults and children from Fatme’s extended family are sleeping her sister, Muna and her daughters described the conditions in the camp and the humiliation of the rough strip search, by women employed by the army, they were subjected to before being allowed to leave the camp. “I felt as though they see us all as criminals — that their fear makes them hate us.” Muna described screaming as all of the men and boys in their group were separated from the women, handcuffed, blindfolded and made to stand up against a wall. Muna’s 15-year-old son, Walid, was amongst the group and as they were being lined up Muna panicked, and struggled to reach him, before being dragged back by her daughters. “We have endured the last month of indiscriminate shelling, siege, watching civilians bleed to death because the army and ambulance services take hours to co-ordinate the entry of ambulances into the camp, having to watch our children go thirsty and hungry, surrounded by the smell of death. We had respect for the Lebanese army before — we even felt sorry for them, because they were under-armed and weak — but now they are behaving badly. How did I know that my son wasn’t in danger when I saw him up against a wall, after what we have lived through during this war?” Walid was held in military detention for two days before being released.

One of Fatme’s nieces, Radwan, is participating in a video, audio and written documentation and archiving collective we’ve initiated in Baddawi with ten women and men from Nahr al-Bared. Working together with local NGOs and popular committees we’ve been documenting the testimonies of those fleeing the camp, collecting reports of civilian deaths — amongst them an incident in which soldiers and/or militiamen opened fire on a bus of civilians fleeing the camp as it drove towards a checkpoint, killing the driver and a pregnant woman — and, over the past two weeks, the testimonies of returning detainees — those detained at Qubbeh military base in Tripoli, in the underground maze at the Yarzeh headquarters of the Ministry of Defense and those detained at random checkpoints.

The testimonies we’ve gathered, as well as those conducted by both national and international human rights organizations point to the abuse, beatings and — increasingly — torture of Palestinian detainees as being of a systematic nature. The patterns that have emerged in the interviews indicate both severe physical and psychological abuse — in a number of cases detainees have been told that they will be killed or tortured and to choose their preferred way to die. All detainees have reported being hooded or blindfolded during the beatings and handcuffed and manacled in pressure positions for days without relief. The majority of detentions have lasted for one to nine days and during that time detainees are often denied access to medical care, adequate food and drinking water. In a few cases detainees report Internal Security Forces (ISF) and local militia participation in the beatings. In two cases that we’ve documented released detainees testified as to having been suspended from chains attached to their handcuffed hands behind them. All detainees that we have met report being taunted and verbally abused and many say that soldiers verbally degraded their wives, daughters and mothers, threatening to rape them if detainees did not “confess.” There are up to four mentally disabled men being detained. There are also at least two reports of sexual abuse of male detainees.

Boys as young as fourteen years old have being held at Qubbeh and last night I interviewed 16-year-old Samer and Abu Mahmoud, his father, who were both detained and beaten at Yarzeh. We met in the courtyard of a converted playschool in which over thirty displaced families from Nahr al-Bared are sleeping. Children ran up and down the halls, past brightly-coloured murals of Palestine, re-enacting their flight from the camp — clutching the hands of their younger siblings, stumbling, while other children mimicked the sounds of gunfire and explosions. Watching them I commented on the tragedy of yet another generation of Palestinians experiencing the humiliation of exile and dispossession — of a camp built stone by stone by the exiled of the Nakba (1948 catastrophe), and Naksa (1967 catastrophe) and of Tel al-Zataar reduced to rubble, on the hypocrisy of the government, using slogans of solidarity and brotherhood in television advertisements while the indiscriminate shelling of a densely-populated civilian refugee camp, the historic and continuing denial of the most basic of civil rights and the present detentions and abuse continues.

Abu Mahmoud nodded in weary agreement with my rant before showing me the bruises and cuts on his forearms as he described his days in detention. “The beatings were severe, but bearable — but it was the insults, the humiliation of being called a dog, an animal, having my wife and daughters verbally degraded to me, that was the real assault. We slept in a corridor in the maze, many of us, piled on top of each other on the cold floor. We were kicked or punched constantly by passing soldiers — if we whispered to each other we were slapped, if during the day we raised our heads even a little bit we were slapped. When we needed to use the toilet they swore at us and would drag us to the toilet, punching or slapping us,” Abu Mahmoud said as he sat next to his son and wife. “I’ve never felt so disrespected. I’m a religious man and a worker, not a criminal — but some of the soldiers, and the Lebanese people have stopped seeing the difference. To be from Nahr al-Bared is now a crime in itself. A crime that will ensure that my sons will grow up with no sense of security or protection — that they can be detained and beaten at any time.”

Last week we organized a press conference in Baddawi Camp with representatives from Human Rights Watch, Shahid, the General Union of Palestinian Women and other organizations. In the press conference we called for an end to a culture of impunity by the Lebanese army and security forces. We condemned the beatings in detention of detainees and called for clear guidelines to be set down, in regulation with domestic and international law, for the detention and interrogation of detainees and called for the protection of minors in detention at Qubbeh and Yarzeh. We called for an end to the collective punishment of and racist attacks aimed at Palestinians across Lebanon and presented large photos of the wounds of a 16-year-old, detained and beaten by a group of soldiers at three different locations, beginning at a checkpoint in the village of Abdi. Pulled of a bus after inspecting soldiers saw his Palestinian ID, he was beaten to near unconsciousness before being refused treatment at a military clinic. The press conference was attended by all of the local Lebanese television stations and wires bar one and the majority of the newspapers. In the end it was broadcasted by Aljazeera International and Arabic but by none of the Lebanese channels. One newspaper, one of the two Lebanese papers that has to date covered the issue of the abuse of the detainees, al-Akhbar, ran a story on it, as well as a profile of a 16-year-old who was detained and severely beaten.

The increasing polarization and unquestioning support of the army in Lebanon in the last weeks, the hypocrisy of the official discourse and its criminalization of those who have chosen to stay in the camp, or are unable to evacuate themselves (there are still estimated hundreds of disabled people, elderly people and children amongst the remaining up to 3,000 camp residents) is reflected in the Lebanese media. Although there has been an official media ban in place since the beginning of the siege, with no journalists allowed access into Nahr al-Bared, there is also a degree of self-censorship in many journalists’ refusal to attempt to run with this, or other stories in which there is clear abuse of power by some of the army and security services. Condemning the siege and the lack of precautions in terms of safe-guarding civilian life brings forth the sort of homogenized responses one would expect in parts of North America — television coverage of what families we have contact with in Nahr al-Bared describe as indiscriminate shelling are narrated over with references to “terrorists being targeted,” pro-army demonstrations take place over the weekends in which thousands of Lebanese flags are waved excitedly and the majority of Lebanese media outlets still are not accurately reporting the official civilian death toll.

Hussein is a thirty-year-old father of three. Released from Yarzeh last week after nine days in detention, he points to a Lebanese flag on the window of a nearby taxi and says that “There is no place for us, as Palestinians, in Lebanon. They have shown us that by humiliating us, insulting us, reminding us that we have no rights, that we are not equals in their eyes.” Hussein was held first in Qubbeh, then in Yarzeh. “Some of the soldiers were kind to us — we could feel that they weren’t comfortable seeing the conditions we were being held in, and we said that we felt sorry for the soldiers who were killed, but that we had nothing to do with their deaths.” Over seventy soldiers have been killed over the past month, the majority of them young, from poor villages in the north and many more wounded or maimed.

“The soldiers who beat us though, they had no mercy. To them there was no difference between us and Fatah al-Islam — I explained to them that I’m a communist, that I sometimes even drink a bit of alcohol, that I like music and chatting on the net — but it didn’t change their attitude towards me.” Hussein says that he was subjected to sleep deprivation for up to 36 hours, made to stand in the same position and slapped if he dozed off. He described being hoisted off the ground by chains attached to his handcuffed hands until he passed out from the pain, to be revived with buckets of cold water. His back and arms are marked with large bruises and his wrists scarred from the handcuffs.

Ibrahim is a 54-year-old mentally disabled Nahr al-Bared resident who was arrested while trying to evacuate the camp. For eight days his family had no news of him until he limped into Baddawi five days ago. He had been beaten on the soles of his feet and the open wounds had become infected. His legs and back and forehead are bruised. When I visited his family in the classroom where they are sleeping, Ibrahim was curled up on a mattress on the floor, smoking cigarette after cigarette with shaking hands. His sister, Manal, sat next to him, stroking his head. “This is all like a bad dream,” she said. “One day we were living peacefully in our camp, having good social and business relationships with Lebanese villages around the camp, the next day we wake up to shelling and terror and, now, the understanding that we are hated here. It is a humiliation. In Palestine our opponent is clear, but here? We don’t hate the army — this is not our battle. It is not a battle to win our right to return, or to have some rights in Lebanon, so it is not our battle. But to know that we are seen as criminals, in a country which is our home until we can return to Palestine, this is humiliating.”

A few nights ago after a group of elderly people were evacuated from the camp, I watched as an old couple sat down on the steps of the hospital to wait. Their grown children had chosen to stay in Nahr al-Bared for fear of the detention and abuse of men and boys who evacuated themselves. The elderly couple had no family in Baddawi and all the schools and garages and NGOs housing displaced families were full. We left on a water distribution run and returned hours later to find the same couple, clutching their plastic bags of hastily gathered clothes and mementos, still waiting. It was almost sunrise by the time we found them somewhere to sleep. The inhabitants of Nahr al-Bared, scattered across Lebanon, are waiting — a return to their camp, a burying of their dead, an investigation into abuses, a rebuilding of the camp and their lives. But any pretence of certainty or security has been shattered and the rebuilding of that will take far longer than that of Nahr al-Bared itself.

All names of people referred to in this article have been changed.

Caoimhe Butterly is an Irish activist who has been living and working on community projects in A’ita al-Chaab, in the south of Lebanon since last year’s war. She has been in Baddawi Refugee Camp for the past month and can be contacted at 0096170824084 or at sahara78 AT hotmail.co.uk.

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2007/07/31/misery/

Open letter to Mike Huckabee

 I saw you on TV a few weeks ago (June 20 on MSNBC) when Joe Scarborough asked you what books you are reading. While it was refreshing to hear that you are reading, unlike the current president, I was very disappointed when you mentioned “Beyond Iraq” by Mike Evans. An excerpt from Publishers Weekly says this about Mr. Evans’ book:

+++

With the Bible’s various prophecies of the downfall of Babylon, one would think Christian eschatologists would have a field day with the war in Iraq. But apart from a few perfunctory prophetic exegeses — Jeremiah’s “arrows of expert warriors” are laser-guided bombs, the “plunderers of the North” are looters at Iraq’s National Museum, Isaiah’s “chariot of men with horses” is an Abrams tank — this poorly organized, fundamentalist screed touts the Bible less as a crystal ball than as a rationale for a Wolfowitzian grand strategy against the Muslim world.

On the temporal plane, Evans argues that the U.S. should use its control of Iraqi oil to break OPEC, and employ Iraq as a base (“only a short reach from the throat of Syria and Iran”) for the war on terrorism. On the spiritual plane, because Islam is “a religion conceived in the pit of hell” and terrorism is orchestrated by demons, he advocates the use of Christian prayers summoning angelic intervention to root out the evils of terror and Islamic fanaticism.

Evans, founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team ministry and author of Why Christians Should Support Israel, is especially concerned with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He opposes Bush’s “road map” initiative and insists that God apportioned the West Bank and Gaza to the Jews of the land of Israel, whose modern consolidation is a prerequisite for the Second Coming. Evans’s one-sided account of Middle East conflicts, based on fancifully symbolic readings of obscure Bible passages, concedes virtually no legitimate grievances or non-demonically inspired motivations to Muslims and Palestinians. His book is a disturbing addition to the debate on these critical areas of U.S. foreign policy.

+++

“Beyond Iraq” was written way back in the 2003, when Fundamentalists were still giddy about the prospects of a new crusade against Islam. Mike Evans’ latest book is titled “The Final Move Beyond Iraq.” It’s a call for Christians to pray that our government will soon take military action against Iran. The subtitle is “The Final Solution While the World Sleeps.” Scary, ain’t it, to think that serious presidential candidates like you are reading such codswallop about Final Solutions.

My father was in the last big war which featured a “final solution.” He was an Army Air Corps officer, a navigator on a B-17 near the end of WW2. He dropped bombs on Germany and food on starving Holland. Like so many others of his generation, the experience changed him forever. Before the war he wanted to be an architect. Afterwards, he was more interested in buildings “not made with hands” than those that time and tyrants so easily turned into piles of rubble. He pursued his theological training at a Baptist “cemetery” (seminary) in Texas, the same institution you attended a few years later when you too became a Christian minister. My parents spent the next 40 years in the Middle East as missionaries and educators. They were there when Eisenhower’s Marines stormed the beaches of Lebanon in 1958. They were there long after Ronald Reagan’s Marines had come and died and gone. My parents are retired in Oklahoma now, but they spent the biggest part of their lives “over there” among the very same people that pop-evangelists like Mike Evans are so quick to demonize.

It is distressing (and galling) that so many Americans have been fooled by the literary antics of flim-flam men who twist and torture the Bible into a manifesto for occupation and oppression. Our unnecessary war and our unrestrained enthusiasm for whatever Israel wants and does have undone nearly two centuries of positive American influence in that part of the world. Did you know that American Presbyterian missionaries were serving in the Middle East before Abraham Lincoln’s presidency? Did you know that American Baptists were working in Palestine before Israel ever became a reality in 1948? I wonder how often Mike Evans mentions that in his books? I wonder how often Mike Evans and the other peddlers of Zionism mention the traditions of co-existence between Christians, Jews, and Muslims that lasted for a millennium, until the West began carving up their post-Ottoman spoils of WW1? I wonder Mr. Huckabee, did you visit your Baptist brethren in Gaza and Lebanon on your carefully-guided tours of that bloodied corner of the planet we still call the Holy Land?

If you’re interested in a gentle primer on the realities of the Muslim world, I suggest you turn to our Canadian neighbors. Spend a little time on YouTube.com and watch reruns of last season’s “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” The Canadians get it. Instead of demonizing what they don’t understand, they laugh about it. And in the middle of the laughter, you’ll come away with a sense of the common humanity we all share. It’s an amazing little show, and you’ll be a better candidate for watching it.

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2007/07/21/open-letter-to-mike-huckabee/

Beyond Iraq?

 Gov. Huckabee,

 Thank you for taking time to respond to my concerns re. your position on the war in Iraq.  I saw you this morning on MSNBC and when asked what you are currently reading, you mentioned “Beyond Iraq” by Mike Evans. Very disappointing. An excerpt from Publishers Weekly says this:

With the Bible’s various prophecies of the downfall of Babylon, one would think Christian eschatologists would have a field day with the war in Iraq. But apart from a few perfunctory prophetic exegeses — Jeremiah’s “arrows of expert warriors” are laser-guided bombs, the “plunderers of the North” are looters at Iraq’s National Museum, Isaiah’s “chariot of men with horses” is an Abrams tank — this poorly organized, fundamentalist screed touts the Bible less as a crystal ball than as a rationale for a Wolfowitzian grand strategy against the Muslim world. On the temporal plane, Evans argues that the U. S. should use its control of Iraqi oil to break OPEC, and employ Iraq as a base (“only a short reach from the throat of Syria and Iran”) for the war on terrorism. On the spiritual plane, because Islam is “a religion conceived in the pit of hell” and terrorism is orchestrated by demons, he advocates the use of Christian prayers summoning angelic intervention to root out the evils of terror and Islamic fanaticism. Evans, founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team ministry and author of Why Christians Should Support Israel, is especially concerned with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He opposes Bush’s “road map” initiative and insists that God apportioned the West Bank and Gaza to the Jews of the land of Israel, whose modern consolidation is a prerequisite for the Second Coming. Evans’s one-sided account of Middle East conflicts, based on fancifully symbolic readings of obscure Bible passages, concedes virtually no legitimate grievances or non-demonically inspired motivations to Muslims and Palestinians. His book is a disturbing addition to the debate on these critical areas of U. S. foreign policy.

“Beyond Iraq” was written back in the 2003, when Fundamentalists were giddy about the prospects of a new crusade against Islam.  Mike Evans’ new book is titled “The Final Move Beyond Iraq” which is a call to Christians to pray (like Daniel) that our government will take action against Iran. The subtitle is “The Final Solution While the World Sleeps.” Scary, ain’t it, to think that a serious presidential candidate like you is reading such codswallop about “Final Solutions.”

You know, my father participated in the last big war which featured a “final solution.”  He was an Army Air Corps navigator on a B-17 bomber near the end of WW2.  He went on from that experience to get the same Southern Baptist seminary training that I’m assuming you received in order to become a minister.  He then spent the next 40 years in the Middle East as a career missionary and educator with the now-defunct Foreign Mission Board.  I was born and raised among the very people that pop-evangelists like Mike Evans so easily demonize.  It distresses (and galls) me that so many Americans have been fooled by the literary antics of flim-flam men who twist and torture the Bible into a manifesto for occupation and oppression.  Our unnecessary war and our unrestrained enthusiasm for whatever Israel wants and does has undone nearly two centuries of positive American influence in the region.  American Presbyterian missionaries were serving in the Middle East before Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and American Baptists were working in Palestine before Israel became a reality in 1948.  I wonder how often Mike Evans and the other peddlars of Zionism mention that, or the traditions of co-existence between Christians, Jews, and Muslims that lasted for a millennium until the West began carving up their post-Ottoman spoils of WW1?  I wonder, did you visit the Baptist church in Gaza on your last carefully-guided tour of the “Holy Land?”

If you’re interested in a gentle primer on the realities of the Muslim world, I suggest you turn to our Canadian neighbors.  Spend a little time on YouTube.com and watch reruns of last season’s “Little Mosque on the Prairie.”  The Canadians get it.  Instead of demonizing what they don’t understand (or because they know that greater understanding will conflict with another agenda), they laugh about it.  And in the middle of the laughter, you’ll come away with a better understanding of the common humanity we all share.  It’s an amazing little show, and you’ll be a better candidate for watching it.

 [Monsieur d’Nalgar] 

________________________________

From: Huckabee Mike [mailto:mikehuckabee@explorehuckabee.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2007 4:49 PM
Subject: Iraq, War on Terror

Dear [Monsieur d’Nalgar],

Thank you for taking the time to write to me and share your perspectives on the war and your concerns over how and why it has been waged. I agree with you wholeheartedly that this administration has made several mistakes in prosecuting this war, and I believe many of them are the result of not respecting the assessments of our intelligence agencies and not approaching the issue with a solid understanding of both the political and cultural dynamics of Iraqi society. This resulted in poor planning for the reconstruction and securing of a post-Sadam Iraq, and created the mess there which now threatens to create a regional war. As Commander and Chief, I will never wage war based on how I want it to be won, but the way my generals and the relevant intelligence experts tell me it can be won.

I know there is a lot of controversy over the justifications for invading Iraq, but at this point the reasons our current president had for starting this war are not relevant to what has to be done by our next president to win it. The reality of the situation is that we have created for ourselves the responsibility of protecting Iraqis from terrorists, and destroying the “incubator of terrorism” that has developed since we took over. We simply cannot afford to leave the country in the condition it is in now, for that will only guarantee that our forces have to be redeployed there under even worse conditions. As president I will not shirk our responsibility to quell the violence in Iraq nor dishonor the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers by leaving the job unfinished. It is vital to our national security and that of our allies, as well as to the future stability of the Middle East.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts on the subject, and for your interest in my campaign. I hope you will visit my website to learn more about my positions on Iraq and the War on Terror, as well as other important issues facing our nation.

Sincerely,

Mike Huckabee

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2007/06/20/beyond-iraq/

For whom do I write?

 …by Lebanese poet, Musa Shu`ayb, about the 1967 defeat.  Written in 1967 and translated/posted by As’ad at http://angryarab.blogspot.com/:  

“For whom do I write?
Do I wrote about you,
o my homeland
Do I write my sadness and bitterness
and the hopes of millions
that were buried without coffins?
Do I write about our history
which is mixed with mold
and on a time
when we lived outside of time
For whom do I write?
If I sob, they would
say a mourning poet
And if I act stoic,
they would say:
a lying outbidder
For whom do I write?
My comrades are
sellers on the market
mercenary right-wingers
leftists on paper
For whom do I write?
And rats are around me
biting what I write…
Because living in my country
is without a price
People in my country die
without a price
I heard a song yesterday
I heard a song on the radio
praising the nation of the Arabs
sanctifying the revolt of flames
spilling over with the curse of eras
I was ashamed that I was
my father’s son
I read yesterday about a man
He is named Che Guevara
He was mourned in my homeland
People cried over his death
in my homeland
They told stories about him…
and said poetry about him
Not one, of the revolutionaries
of my homeland
threw away his cup of coffee
abandoned his girlfriend
ignored the hair of his beard
Not one revolutionary,
threw his chair on the floor
walked toward death
distorting the suns of the equator
in order that flags of liberty
fly over these lands…
For whom do I write?
For the generation of dancing
in dark rooms
for the sick of Hamra street
where the revolution is planned
for Guevara who was named
a legend in Lebanon
So that they appear blameless
he became a legend
And the days of legends
have long gone in this East
For whom do I write?
I will write for the refugees…
for those who carry the sins of
centuries
for those who wash the shame
of civilizations and the sinners
with hunger, nakedness,
tears, and blood
And no homeland except
wind of illusion
and no shelter except
the humiliation of tents
I will write for those who are tired
Sprinkling on their horizon
my exhausted poetry
and swearing by death…
I will not lie.”

PS — according to this post, Musa Shu`ayb was assassinated by agents of the Syrian regime in 1980.

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2007/06/05/for-whom-do-i-write/