Thursday, February 16, 2017

Settlements Are the Issue

Netanyahu says, “We want peace with the Palestinians but they teach their children to hate us and to try to destroy the state of Israel.”  When someone asked about the settlements, he answered that the settlements were not an issue. It’s just that they teach their children to hate.

Netanyahu and Trump gushed all over each other bragging about how Israel and the US value life and live by the same moral standards.

Yet, any eye witness who visits Palestine will tell you that settlements are the issue.

Come into my neighborhood, knock down my house, build hundreds of Jewish only apartments on my land, surround it with Jewish only roads, keep me boxed into a small bantustan and it would be an issue with me.

I wish just one of the reporters in the Netanyahu/Trump news conference would have brought up the fact that Israel destroys Palestinian homes by the hundreds, steals 80 percent of Palestinian water, has built a separation wall, snaking down through the West Bank separating doctors from their hospitals, farmers from their fields and children from their schools. I wish someone would have had the integrity to ask about the number and treatment of Palestinians, including children,  in Israeli prisons, Someone could have asked about the skunk juice sprayed on Palestinian homes, the uprooting of Palestinian olive trees and the hundreds of check points.

I wish someone would have asked about Israel’s bombardment with planes and tanks and missiles from ships on the unarmed people of Gaza whom Israel keeps locked up like animals in an open air prison. Someone should have asked how Israel feels about the number of children who were left homeless and with no way to fight off the freezing cold of winter. And why does Israel deliberately limit the number of calories allowed for each person.

Netanyahu doesn’t care and Trump doesn’t have a clue. Mix apathy with stupidity and the outlook will be grim, every time.

When those two talk about shared values, they are not talking about my values or the values of any faithful Jew I know.

Thomas Are
February 16, 2017

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Football Deplomacy

I am not usually into football. I keep thinking that half of the people on the globe are hungry, millions are oppressed and abused, and we are flirting with a climate change catastrophe, so, what difference does it make which way a ball bounces. Yet, I find myself interested in Sunday’s Super Bowl because it includes the New England Patriots. It’s not just that the Patriots have such a close tie with Donald Trump, but because Robert Kraft has such a close tie to Israel.

About 20 months ago, I wrote:

If you are concerned about peace in the middle east and seek security for Israel when the entire neighborhood is in turmoil, if you want to avoid a needless war with Iran, (a war  which we will not win), and if you are looking for someone with great negotiating skills and experience in understanding the needs and point of view of the other, someone with knowledge of the region and its history, someone known for diplomacy, then, where do you turn? 

Of course, you call on professional football players.  Who better to understand what it is  like to be ordinary people trying to survive in an oppressive situation than those who grew up and continue to live in what the news media calls a “culture of entitlement?” 

Robert Kraft, ultra Zionist, and owner of the New England Patriots led a delegation of 20 National Football League players to Israel where they met with Benjamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister wanted an opportunity to explain to them why America’s effort to avoid a war with Iran is a dumb move.  It’s not that Netanyahu himself seeks a war with Iran where Israel would have to pay the price in lives and money, he is clear in proclaiming that he wants the United States to go to war with Iran. So, he chose the bright minds of the NFL to make his case. He put it in terms that even they could understand. Call it football diplomacy.

Iran is one yard away from the goal line. If they get nukes, the preeminent terrorist regime of our day will be armed with nuclear weapons.  Our effort today is to make sure that we block them and push them back. That’s the ultimate contest and the ultimate challenge, and I hope it was advanced somewhat by this visit.[1]

“I lead my life according to the four F’s – at least phonetically,” Kraft is often reported as having said; “family, faith, football and philanthropy.  This trip has connected all those dots for me.” 

I want to ask, which of these “dots” includes the right of Jews to steal land from the Palestinians, kidnap and imprison their children, take their water, blow up their homes and lock them up behind cement barrows and barbed wire fences? Which of his four f’s justifies the past and on-going war crimes committed by Israel every day?  Mr. Kraft needs another “F” word to connect his dots. It’s the word fairness. When I read that wealthy professional football players are recruited to influence US policy in the Middle East, the best “F” word to describe me is flabbergasted with an equal measure of fear.

Football is entertainment, but when it gets involved in foreign affairs, which causes so much pain to so many people, it is no longer amusing.  Mr. Kraft should stick to something he knows something about for when he gets into defending Israel, he has fumbled and somebody needs to blow the whistle on him.

William Slone Coffin said it well. “If what you think is right causes some one else to suffer, there is something wrong with what you think is right.”

Thomas Are
February 4, 2017

[1] Philip Weiss, Patriots’ Owner Brings 20 NFL veterans to Netanyahu who calls them to block Obama’s Iran Deal. Mondoweiss, June 22, 2015

Monday, January 30, 2017

Israeli Apartheid

I grew up in South Carolina. Never heard the word apartheid but I lived in an apartheid system.  We simply referred  to it as “our way of life.” We defined it as “separate, but equal.” In reality, we were far more committed to keeping things separate than equal. I went to the better school while the black citizens in my community went to that ol’ fire trap on the south side of town. No matter what we called it, it was an evil system and it took years of external pressure (from the federal government,) and a lot of education to grow out of it. Thank God, the people of conscience rejected apartheid and our “right to exist as a white state.”  

Now, look at South Africa. Apartheid, which means “apart-ness” was sustained by all kinds of legal and emotional justifications.  Keeping blacks in Bantustans was “good for everybody.”  They were inferior human beings that just could not take care of themselves and as long as they provided a supply of cheap labor for the Afrikaners, apartheid worked until the world woke up to the pain inflicted upon millions of weak human beings and its conscience took over. The United Nations regards apartheid as a crime against humanity. Apartheid is now rejected by every civilized nation with the exception of Israel.

Today, Israel is an apartheid state. Of course, Israel rejects the title and prefers to call itself a “democracy” but changing the vocabulary does not change the fact of Israel’s brutal dominance of the occupied territories. Oren Ben-Dor explains:

Israel never officially annexed those areas to Israel (i.e., to ‘pre-1967 Israel’); on the other hand, instead of calling them ‘occupied, it insist on defining them as ‘held’ territories. Israel created this legalistic subterfuge to enable it to claim that articles 47 to 78 of the Geneva Convention that pertain to ‘territories occupied in war’ are not relevant there and to ensure that the state can be selective in the way it applies official Israeli law.[1]

It is amazing that so many people who openly opposed the apartheid system in South Carolina and South Africa are willing to give a pass to Israel.

It’s even called a separation (apartheid) wall. Add to that, hundreds of checkpoints, illegal settlements,  home demolitions, curfews, bombardment of unarmed Gazans, thousands of political prisoners and you have the face of Apartheid Israel.

Thomas Are
January 30, 2017

[1] Ilan Peppe, Israel and South Africa, The Many Faces od Apartheid,  (Zed Books, London, 2015.) p. 78.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Two Letters

Both to the “editor” of the Atlanta Journal/Constitution. One by me and the other by James David. They did NOT publish mine. I was disappointed, but not surprised. I titled it:

John Kerry is being called a backstabber and betrayer because he failed to “protect Israel” against a UN vote declaring settlements illegal.  He did not veto the vote of Britain, France Russia and Egypt who voted with the 14 to 0 in favor of condemning Israel’s five decade long policy of settlements. Israel now subsidizes housing to more than 600,000 “squatters” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Where in the world did Kerry get the idea that settlements were illegal?  Well, he probably read Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which even Israel is a signatory:

The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

Building settlements in occupied territories is illegal under international law, period.

However, the Journal/Constitution DID publish a letter by my friend James David, a military General with a heart for justice. He titled it: OBAMA RIGHT NOT TO SUPPORT ISRAEL.

President Obama’s decision to abstain and let the latest U.N. Resolution condemning Israeli settlements pass is an early Christmas present. Many of his critics are calling it bad for peace. (“U.S. abstains as U.N. vote blasts Israel,” News, Dec. 24.)

So, I guess Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land, demolishing thousands of Palestinian homes, uprooting their olive orchards, spraying their homes with sewage, the building of an apartheid wall, the construction of thousands of illegal Jewish settlements, and the daily harassment, collective punishment, unnecessary killings of dozens of Palestinian men, women, and children, and the daily human rights abuses on the Palestinian people is good for peace?  

The only criticism that I have on President Obama’s decision to abstain is that I wish he would’ve voted in favor just as all 14 other nations in the UN voted. This unanimous vote should awaken the world.

Both as a military professional and as a private citizen, James David has knowledge of Israel’s abuse of the Palestinians which is seldom reported in the media or expressed by our politicians. His commitment in speaking truth to power is in itself powerful. People of conscience all around the world are grateful for his leadership. I am one of them.

Thomas Are

January 14, 2017

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Armed with Crayons

Question? What do ginger, jam, vinegar, nutmeg, chocolate, preserves, seeds, nuts, biscuits and sweets, potato chips,  gas for soft drinks, dried meat, plaster, wood, cement, salt, plastic, glass/metal containers, margarine, tarpaulin sheets, fabric, fishing rods, nets, buoys, rope, nylon nets, tractor parts, heaters, musical instruments,  paper, pens and pencils, note books, newspapers, toys, sewing machines, heaters, horses, donkeys, goats, cattle and chicks  have in common?

Answer: These are just some of the items listed as a threat to Israel and banned “for security reasons” from entrance into Gaza. The fact that these kind of things are necessary for any meaningful life is simply considered by Israel as a bonus.

When I shared this list with a friend, he said, “You can’t be serious.”  Whether I am serious or not is of little consequence, but believe it, Israel is serious.

When concerned people of conscience tried to bring such items as these into Gaza by boat, the flagship of the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, was boarded by Israeli commandos in international waters who stormed the ship firing live ammunition, killing nine unarmed peace activist. Netanyahu explained, “Our soldiers had to defend themselves.” 

Jeremy Hammond quotes Sargent S., who shot six of the nine, “They were without doubt terrorists. I could see the murderous rage in their eyes.”       

When asked why the Obama administration hadn’t condemned Israel for killing nine peace activist, including an American citizen, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs replied, “Nothing can bring them back now.” Eric Cantor, a leading Republican  in the House of Representatives:

Called on the Obama administration “to veto any biased UN resolutions reining in Israel’s right to defend itself.” He didn’t bother to explain how an attack on an unarmed ship on a humanitarian mission in international waters that resulted in the killing of nine civilians could possibly constitute an act of self-defense.”[1]

Thomas Friedman summed it up by explaining that the victims wanted to die and had practically begged the commandos to execute them as part of a plot to make Israel “look bad.”[2] No one bothered to ask him for the source of his information.

Besides that, who could blame Israel? Those terrorists were armed with coloring books and crayons.

Thomas Are
December 17, 2016

[1] Cited in Jeremy Hammond, Obstacle to Peace, US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, (Worldview Publications, 2016) p.214.
[2] Jeremy Hammond, Obstacle to Peace, US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, (Worldview Publications, 2016) p.221.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Remembering Gaza

Funny thing about the human brain; it has a tendency to put out of mind those things that make us uncomfortable. But, to do so is a little like saying that “your end of the boat is sinking.” Who wants to remember such things as our slaughter of native Americans, slavery or our invasion of Iraq.  But, as it has been said, those who dismiss the past are prone to repeat it. And sooner or later, our conscience begins to disturb our peace.

The “sins” of the past are done and there is no way to un-ring that bell. However, our sin against Gaza is ongoing and we must not put it out of mind.

Gaza – that little strip of land in which almost two million people try desperately to scratch out a living. Gaza is completely surrounded and totally controlled by Israel which is dedicated to never allowing its situation to improve. Last year, the United Nations reported that Gaza “could be uninhabitable by 2020.”

Ninety-five percent of its water is unsafe to drink. Repeated bombing of its sewage treatment plants causes rampant water-borne diseases and bombing power plants leaves Gaza unable to produce electricity. Seventy-two percent of Gazan households suffer from food insecurity. All imports are controlled by Israel. The Israeli Defense Ministry has established mathematical formulas for how many calories each man, woman and child will be permitted to consume to keep them just at the level of survival, saying, “The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won’t die”. Gaza has endured three major military invasions leaving nearly 90,000 people displaced and living in rubble. Gaza is closed in by barrier walls manned with automated gun towers. Overhead warplanes constantly shatter the night with the deafening breaking of the sound barrier and the day by the constant buzzing of military drones.[1]

If Israel were treated in any way like Israel treats the people of Gaza, its leaders would be screaming to high heaven. But, Israel is safe. Few governments, including its victims, are so calloused and cold hearted as its Ashkenazi leadership to commit such crimes against its fellow human beings. Only by convincing yourself that you are “God’s chosen,” and interpret that chosenness as being for privilege and not for responsibility, by implying that all others are less deserving, less worthy and less human can you trick the mind into believing that what you are doing to other people is civilized.

Sooner or later, even the mind of Israel will run out of tricks and when it does, remembering Gaza, will destroy its hope for peace.   

Thomas Are
December 5, 2016

[1] Gleaned from, Countdown to the Next Chernobyl – Gaza, By Jeffery Abood, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August, 2016, p. 13-14

Friday, November 11, 2016

Aid to Israel

So, we give 38 billion more to Israel.  We know most of that goes to policies that we do not support but most Americans feel that as long as it’s "no skin off my back", there are other issues that deserve our attention.

But, what if we all realized that our income tax payments have gone up by $300 to support our give away to Israel. According to Gideon Levy:

One hundred and fifty dollars or $300 for each U.S. taxpayer for the next ten years. Not toward America’s considerable social needs, not to assist truly needy countries – imagine what $38 billion would do for Africa – but to provide weapons for an army that is already one of the most powerfully armed in the world.[1]

Levy goes on to say, “The last thing Israel needs is more arms, which will push it toward more acts of violence… some of the money will go for defense systems, but another part will go for maintaining the occupation and especially to fund violent showy actions in Gaza and Lebanon.”

There is no way to deny it, every settlement built on Palestinian land is financed by the U.S. and every child killed by Israel is paid for by our $300 per tax payer with our having no say in it.

And what do we get for it in return? Nothing! Except the contempt of every lover of justice on the globe. Levy asks, who can be proud of making war against the barefoot, hungry and broken people of Gaza?

So, we say, “Sorry” to the homeless mother and her children sleeping under a bridge in winter time. There is no affordable housing for her, but you see, we have to send billions of dollars a  year so Israel can continue to subsidize its Jewish only housing in the occupied West Bank.

And we say, “Sorry” to the parents of a sick child, we would love to help but you see, Israel wants universal health care.

We say, I wish your $300 tax increase would be used for such things as education, health care, affordable housing, our infrastructure, addressing the effects of climate change, caring for our veterans or simply going to pay down our national debt among other desperate needs across the United States, but, you see, keeping the people of Gaza imprisoned is expensive.  

I wish we could put your $300 extra tax burden to better use.

I bet you do, too.

Thomas Are
November 11, 2016

[1] Gideon Levy, With New Israel Aid Deal, Obama is Patron of the Occupation. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November, 2016, p. 14.