Category: War

One more time

 

A concise defense of Palestinians

 

Dear editor,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacques d’Nalgar
Hot Springs, Arkansas

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

Sick of patriotism

America Is Exceptional—in All the Wrong Ways

By Major Danny Sjursen, March 21, 2019

 

I was born and raised in an America far more Orwellian than many now remember. Matters have gone so far off the rails since 9/11 that few seem to recall the madness of the 1980s. The U.S. had a celebrity actor for president, who railed about America’s ostensibly existential adversary—the Soviet “evil empire.” Back then, Ronald Reagan nearly started a nuclear war during the all-too-real Able Archer war game. He also secretly sold missiles to Iran, and then laundered the windfall to the Contras’ Central American hit squads, resulting in some 100,000 dead.

Looking back from 2019, at least as the contemporary media tell it, those were the good old days. Heck, even Barack Obama—faux liberal that he was—proudly and publicly admired Reagan. Oh, and one of Reagan’s favorite campaign slogans: “Make America Great Again.”

Today, matters seem to be coming farcically full circle, what with Elliott Abrams—convicted in the aforementioned Iran-Contra scandal—being appointed special envoy to Venezuela, and Uncle Sam again bullying a Latin American country. Welcome to America’s own grisly ’80s foreign affairs theme party! Which all got me thinking, again, about the whole notion of American exceptionalism. Only a country that truly, deeply believes in its own special mission could repeat the hideous policies of the 1980s and hardly notice.

Perhaps one expects this absurd messianism from the likes of The Donald, but the real proof is that America’s supposed progressives—like Obama—also obediently pray at the temple of exceptionalism. “Orwellian” is the only word for a nation whose leaders and commentariat were absolutely aghast when candidate Obama was seen without (gasp!) an American flag pin on his lapel. Even more disturbing was how quickly he folded and dutifully adorned his mandatory flair. This sort of nonsense is dangerous, folks: It’s hypernationalism—the very philosophy that brought us World War I.

So it was this week, while sitting on a plane reading my oh-so-bourgeois Economist, and getting infuriated about seeing Elliott Abrams’ war-criminal face, that my thoughts again turned to good old American exceptionalism. My opinions on the topic have waxed and waned over the course of a career spent waging illegal war. First, as a young cadet at West Point, I bought it hook, line and sinker; then, as an Iraq War vet and dissenter, I rejected the entire notion. Only now, observing the world as it is, have I begun to think that America really is exceptional after all—only in all the wrong ways.

Humor me, please, while I run through a brief laundry list of the ways the US of A is wildly and disconcertingly different from all the other “big-boy countries” in the developed world. Let’s start with domestic policy:

    • The U.S. has been the site of exponentially more mass shootings than any other nation. And unlike in New Zealand—where officials took immediate steps to tighten gun control in the wake of its recent tragedy—American politicians won’t do a thing about it. We also own more guns per capita than any other country in the world. In second place is Yemen.
    • The U.S. is essentially alone in the Western world in not guaranteeing health care as a basic human right. It spends much more cash, yet achieves worse health outcomes than its near-peer countries.
    • America is home to some of the starkest income inequality on the globe—right up there with Turkey and South Africa.
    • The U.S. keeps migrant kids in cages at the border, or did until recently. Even more exceptional is that Washington is largely responsible for the very unrest in Central America that generates the refugees, all while American conservatives proudly wear their “Christianity” as badge of honor—but wasn’t Jesus a refugee child? Maybe I read the wrong Bible.
    • America is alone among 41 Western nations in not guaranteeing paid family leave. How’s that for “family values?”
    • As for representative democracy, only the U.S. has an Electoral College. This fun 18th-century gimmick ensures that here in America—in 40 percent of its elections since 2000—the presidential candidate with fewer votes actually won. Furthermore, our peculiar system ensures that a rural Wyoming resident has—proportionally—several times more representative power in Washington than someone who lives in California.
    • Similarly, America counts several non-state “territories”—think Guam, Samoa, Puerto Rico—that don’t even get to vote for the president that it can legally send to war. But hey, why should we grant them statehood? It’s not as though some of them have higher military enlistment rates than any U.S. state … oh, wait.
    • The U.S. is essentially solo in defining corporations as “people,” and thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, has lifted limits on money in politics. Buying elections is officially as American as apple pie.
    • The USA locks up its own people at the highest rate in the world and is nearly alone among developed nations in maintaining the death penalty. Last year, the U.S. was the only country in the Americas to conduct executions and the only Western democracy to do so. But our friends the Saudis still execute folks, so it’s got to be OK. Dostoyevsky famously claimed that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” How are we doing there?

Then there’s the foreign policy of the great American empire:

    • The U.S. spends exponentially more on military defense than anyone else, and more than the next seven competitors (most of which are allies) combined.
    • America’s bloated military is all by itself in dotting the globe with hundreds of foreign military bases—by some estimates more than any country or empire in world history. As for our two biggest rivals, Russia has 21 (mostly close to home); China has maybe three.
    • Benevolent, peaceful, freedom-loving America is also the world’s top arms dealer—even selling death-dealing weapons to famous human rights abusers.
    • After Syria signed on, the U.S. became the last nation on earth not party to the Paris Climate Accord. Heck, the occupant of the Oval Office doesn’t even believe in man-made climate change.
    • Then there’s the discomfiting fact that the U.S.—along with Russia—won’t even make a “no-first-use” pledge regarding nuclear weapons. And that’s reality, not “Dr. Strangelove.”
    • The U.S. was first and, until recently, alone in flying its drone fleet through sovereign national airspace and executing “terrorists” from the sky at will. I wonder how Washington will respond when other countries cite that American precedent and do the same?
    • Only the U.S. Navy patrols all the world’s oceans in force and expects to maintain superiority everywhere. And only the U.S. boasts near total control of the goings-on in two whole continents—unflinchingly asserting that North and South America fall in its “sphere of influence.” Crimea abuts Russia and the people speak Russian—still, the U.S. denies Moscow any sphere of influence there or anywhere else. Ah, consistency.

Of course there is so, so much more, but let’s end our tour of American “exceptionalism” there in the interest of time.

What’s so staggeringly unique about the United States is ultimately this: It stands alone among historical hegemons in denying the very existence of its empire. This, truly, is something new. Kids in 19th-century Great Britain knew they had an empire—they even colored their colonies red on school maps. Not so here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. No, Washington seems to believe its own lie—and has its people convinced—that the U.S. is no empire at all, but rather a benevolent “democratic” gentle giant.

American colonies were founded from the outset as mini-empires wrested from the natives. Next, the nascent U.S. grew up enough to take what was left of the continent from the Mexicans. Since then, Washington has been trolling the world’s oceans and spreading the gospel of its own hyper-late-stage capitalism and bullying others in order to get its way. Sure, there are countries where worse human-rights abusers and worse authoritarian regimes are in power. But do we really want to be competing for last place? Especially if we’re supposedly so exceptional and indispensable?

Me, I’m sick of patriotism, of exceptionalism, of nationalism. I’ve seen where all those ideologies inevitably lead: to aggressive war, military occupations and, ultimately, dead children. So count me as over hegemony—it’s so 20th-century, anyway—and bring on the inevitable decline of U.S. pretense and power. Britain had to give up most of an empire to gain a social safety net. That was the humane thing to do.

 

Major Danny Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his podcast “Fortress on a Hill,” co-hosted with fellow vet Chris ‘Henri’ Henrikson.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

Copyright 2019 Danny Sjursen

 

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/america-is-exceptional-in-all-the-wrong-ways/

Photograph:  http://kbjake.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/america-worn-and-tattered/

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/03/23/sick-of-patriotism/

Trump’s post-truth presidency

Trump’s attack on his own intelligence services was both extraordinary and expected

By Hussein Ibish in The National, Feb 2, 2019

 

This week starkly illustrated a remarkable feature of Donald Trump’s administration: this president does not do policy; he only does politics.

Policy professionals always struggle to square sound foreign policy with the effective domestic politics that political leaders require. This tension cannot be completely resolved, although its intensity varies, depending on circumstances and personalities.

This conundrum has now sunk to its American nadir.

It’s not just that most current administration officials are internationalist hawks, while the president has neo-isolationist impulses.

It’s that Mr Trump simply does not see international strategic problems as arising against a backdrop of verifiable realities. Instead of a realistic representation of circumstances as they are, akin to a photograph, he sees a blank canvas, on which he can paint whatever surrealist landscapes best suit his agenda.

Hence, this week’s bizarre confrontation between Mr Trump and all 17 US intelligence agencies, led by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

On January 29, Mr Coats, flanked by the CIA and FBI chiefs, presented their 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment to Congress.

The annual National Intelligence Strategy document, on which it is based, is usually released in a redacted public version and a classified one for those with clearance.

This year, intelligence chiefs took the extraordinary step of issuing their entire strategy publicly.

Mr Coats said that they wanted to reassure the public that the agencies remain committed to producing “nuanced, independent, and unvarnished intelligence”, and not serving any other purpose.

That honesty and independence has been repeatedly questioned by Mr Trump who routinely denigrates US intelligence services, dismisses their findings, has compared them to Nazis and even sided with Russia’s Vladimir Putin over them.

The intelligence chiefs were essentially saying that, in light of the accusations the president has levelled against them, transparency was their best defence.

They knew they were provoking an argument they needed to win.

Certainly, they will have anticipated howls of protest from the White House, given that so many of their “independent and unvarnished” findings contradict core assertions that the president frequently cites as political rationalisations.

While Mr Trump constantly hypes the “progress” he has made with Pyongyang, the assessment finds that North Korea is “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons” because its leaders view them as “critical to regime survival”.

It states that Russia has, indeed, engaged in election meddling, information warfare, and efforts to divide the West and undermine the post-Second World War international order. Mr Trump disputes all of this. He welcomes the division of the West, denigrates the international order, and dismisses allegations of Russian interference.

The assessment holds that, for all its other malign behaviour, Iran has not yet violated the terms of the nuclear agreement, which the president cites as a major reason for withdrawing from the deal.

While Mr Trump insists that ISIS has been thoroughly crushed to justify his order to withdraw all US forces from Syria, the assessment finds that it remains a potent threat.

And, most damningly, it makes no mention whatsoever of the entirely fictional “national security crisis” that has prompted Mr Trump to deploy thousands of US forces at the Mexican border and supposedly justifies building his wall.

The fact-based reality offered by the Annual Threat Assessment flatly refutes many fundamental claims Mr Trump relies on to justify his actions.

After the gauntlet was thrown down by the intelligence community, Mr Trump, inevitably, picked it up and hurled a series of insults, via Twitter, back at the agencies he characterises as the “deep state”. These included saying the intelligence services were simply “wrong” and that they “should go back to school”.

This is a particularly disturbing aspect of the relentless campaign of deinstitutionalisation this column has been consistently tracking. Yet again, Mr Trump is lashing out at another authoritative source of information and analysis that remains free of – or is actively resisting – his control.

He has admitted that he denounces the “fake news media” to blunt bad news or criticism of him by the press. He attacks his own intelligence services to rebut their contradictions of his ceaseless false claims.

As for the FBI and other police, Mr Trump is evidently concerned about what they may uncover about his activities, and those of his associates who have not yet been arrested or imprisoned.

Astonishingly, but true to form, he quickly compounded his assault on reality by tweeting that the intelligence chiefs’ statements had been “totally misquoted”, that they never really debunked his fraudulent claims, and that this profound and serious dispute isn’t real and was fabricated by the press.

Mr Trump’s biggest advantage in political and rhetorical fights seems to be his unique shamelessness and boundless willingness to lie when almost anyone else would at least think twice.

Clearly, there’s no room for “unvarnished intelligence” and other inconvenient facts that interfere with his political imperatives.

Mr Trump only does politics, but he heads a government full of highly competent experts. For their continued professionalism, they are traduced and abused by their own chief, who then blames journalists.

During an actual crisis – and there will eventually be one – the president and intelligence services must support each other with trust and confidence. But how can they, when the chasm between them is only widening as Mr Trump’s term staggers on?

Hussein Ibish is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States ­Institute in Washington

 

https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/trump-s-attack-on-his-own-intelligence-services-was-both-extraordinary-and-expected-1.820751

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/02/03/trumps-post-truth-presidency/

What we should be talking about

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what we should be talking about.

Jacques d’Nalgar
Hot Springs, Arkansas

 

Photograph: AFP

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

My conscience leaves me no other choice

Time to Break the Silence on Palestine

By Michelle Alexander, Jan. 19, 2019

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photograph:  https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-hX02I7JY-oo/TluhEyG3WhI/AAAAAAAAA-Q/C8kqKo-euqA/mlk2.jpg or http://bit.ly/uQ6gKI

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2019/01/21/my-conscience-leaves-me-no-other-choice/

In your name

If

By Arkansas Times’ “The Observer” (David Koon), June 14, 2018

 

If you can, cast your mind back to when you were very young and recall what it felt like to be separated from your mother and father. Not just playing in the yard or another part of the house, but truly, even for a moment, lost. Recall the vice crush of panic in your chest.

If you were ever a parent, remember the feeling of being in a public place, turning around, and finding that your child is gone. They’re squirrelly little suckers, and compact. Turn your head for a second and they can vanish like smoke, even if you’re the greatest parent alive. Remember that feeling. Remember the terrible possibility. Remember the vice crush of panic in your chest at the thought of “maybe” until you laid eyes on that child again.

If you are an American, understand the things that are being done at the border right now, in your name. Thousands of children ripped from the arms of loving parents and spirited away into the night, in your name. Mothers reportedly being told that their children are being taken to be bathed, only to learn minutes or hours later that they aren’t coming back, in your name. Parents being charged with the misdemeanor — yes, misdemeanor, same as public intox and spitting on the sidewalk — of illegally crossing the border, but being sentenced on the spot to having their children snatched from them, in your name. Men and women with the American flag on their shoulders are literally kidnapping children like witches in candy houses, in your name. American police officers, duly sworn, are committing the textbook definition of terrorism against little boys and little girls who will bear the mental scars for the rest of their lives, and they are doing so in order to act as a deterrent by demonstrating the inhuman, reptilian cruelty of which Americans are now capable, even to children. In your name.

If you have ever been a mother or father, imagine your child living in a corrupt and lawless land run by criminal warlords, in the kind of grinding poverty that isn’t just situational but generational, with no hope to ever escape. Now imagine that you know that somewhere out there, there is a line, and on the other side of that line is a land of bounty and safety where any person who works hard in the hot sun can earn a sliver of that bounty for themselves and their children.

If that were your situation, what wouldn’t you do to get your child to that place? Would you lie? Would you risk your life? Would you break the law? Would you commit a misdemeanor?

If you support this madness while claiming to be a Christian, you are not. You are a servant of the creeping darkness, cruelty and despair that Jesus Christ fought and shed his blood for all his short life here on earth.

If you have ever uttered or thought or nodded along when someone said, “Well, if they didn’t want their kids taken, they shouldn’t have brought them here,” you’re not a good person. You have become, in your gluttony and narcissism, a monster, too far gone to even possess an understanding of the sheer, stupid luck of being born here.

If you still claim to be a Christian, consider Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord thy God.”

If you cling to the passages in Leviticus about hating gay people, but skim past those about loving immigrants, you should cast that cross around your neck into the dust, because it’s just jewelry now. Have yourself a tiny gold basin made instead, the basin where Pontius Pilate washed his cowardly hands of savagery. Have yourself a tiny gold truncheon made, a tiny gold jackboot, a tiny dollar bill. These are your gods now.

If you believe that history and our children’s children will not judge us all in the same light as those who remained silent while black Americans were bought and sold, while Native Americans were slaughtered and their families crushed, while Japanese Americans were rounded up and forced into camps, you are wrong.

If you are not pissed, get pissed.

If you are not loud, get loud.

If you are not informed, get informed.

If you are not ashamed of your country over this, you should be.

If you don’t believe it can change, it can, if those who want to make America truly great again act as one and say: “Not in my name.”

 

https://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/if/Content?oid=19088724

Photograph of Samar Hassan:  https://levantium.com/2011/05/07/i-am-samar/

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2018/06/20/in-your-name/

Response to the Muslim

 

Support for Morgan

Sentinel Record Letter to the Editor, Sunday, January 28, 2018

 

Dear editor:

This is my response to the Muslim, Mahmoud El-Yousseph’s letter (Sunday, Jan. 21) which was highly critical of Jan Morgan, owner of the Gun Cave Indoor Firing Range. Mrs. Morgan has declared her business a “Muslim free zone,” which made the national news in 2014.

Mr. El-Yousseph called this a cheap publicity stunt to help her to get more support for her running for governor in Arkansas as a Republican. I respectfully disagree with your criticism concerning her policy, for I believe that she has good reasons for this restriction!

It is not true that most of us believe that all Muslims are terrorists, but it is a fact that almost all terrorists are either Muslims or Muslim converts and sympathizers!

Muslims have no one else to blame but themselves if most of us don’t trust them! There really is no easy way to know who is who and who is going to do what among this group of people.

When the twin towers in New York were destroyed by two jet airliners crashing into them and killing almost 3,000 innocent American citizens, the pilots of those jets were … surprise — Muslims! A lot of us aren’t forgetting 9/11! We must not.

Also, it is worth remembering that these two Muslims were trained here in America to fly those jet airliners. Yes, America trained them how to fly, so that they could kill many of us! Wow!

I truly believe that Mrs. Morgan sincerely believes that if she helped train Muslims to become more proficient in shooting guns, that some of them might use these skills in acts of terrorism. It would be the same thing as training them to fly those jets! She is just using some good common sense concerning this matter. Who can trust them after their many acts of terrorism? This is about national security, not racism, as you claimed.

And it is actually a myth to claim that Islam is a religion of peace! That is a myth and a lie.

The Koran has a provision in it that says that it is acceptable for Muslims to lie and deceive in order to achieve their purposes! You can’t trust them to tell the truth!

The Koran says to “kill the infidels!” Who are the infidels? Everyone who isn’t of the Islamic faith. All the rest of us!

As a Christian, I certainly try to convince everyone that faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior is the only true way to be reconciled to the one true God found in the Holy Bible. However, there is no place in the Bible that commands Christians to kill anyone who won’t convert to Christianity. What a radical difference in these two religions!

Bravo for Mrs. Morgan! Those folks are on a mission to ultimately kill all the rest of us! Thanks for your courage in doing the right thing on this, Jan!

Nothing is more important than our safety and security.

You’ve got my support.

God bless,

Lloyd Hoffman
Hot Springs

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2018/01/28/response-to-the-muslim/