Friday, August 19, 2016

A Look at Yesterday

British historian, F. W. Maitland wrote:

We study the day before yesterday in order that yesterday may not paralyze today, and that today may not paralyze tomorrow.

Which is a fancy way of saying, what really happened does matter.[1]  In a similar vein, John Dominic Crossan said something like, if we get yesterday right, we have a chance of getting today better.  So, let’s look at yesterday.

Back in 1956, David Ben-Gurion, possibly struggling with his conscience, confessed:

If I were an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural, we have taken their country. Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We came from Israel, it’s true, but that was two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? [2]

“God promised it to us”?

Not so fast. More and more scholars, Jewish and humanist, are questioning the exodus story and that “promise”.  Rabbi David Wolpe raised just that provocative question before his congregation of 2,200 at Sinai Temple in Westwood, California back in 2001, saying:

After a century of excavations trying to prove the ancient accounts true, archeologists say there is no conclusive evidence that the Israelites were ever in Egypt, were ever enslaved, ever wandered in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years or ever conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership.[3]

Teresa Watanbe continues:

The modern archeological consensus over the Exodus is just beginning to reach the public. In 1999, an Israeli archeologist, Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University set off a furor in Israel by writing in a popular magazine that stories of the patriarchs were myths and that neither the Exodus nor Joshua’s conquest ever occurred.[4]
Think about that. Outside of the Jewish Bible, there is not one shred of evidence that Israel was ever in Egypt to be rescued by God in the first place.  Even in the Bible, the Pharaoh is not named, nor is the context identified.  There is no record in Egyptian history of two million people suddenly making an exodus nor of a labor shortage when a third of its workforce disappeared almost overnight. Disregarding the sociopathic image it makes of God sending plague after plague upon innocent Egyptian families who had no power to do what Moses demanded and discounting the fact that rivers just don’t suddenly part to allow people to walk across, there has never been one piece of pottery, (the archeologist best friend) found in the Sinai to indicate that a couple of million Jews roamed around there for forty years. Nor is there any   record in Canaan that suddenly an invading army came and conquered them with or without God’s blessings. In other words, it was made up hundreds of years after it was supposed to have happened to justify Israel’s presence and occupation of Canaanite land.

To be fair, I am not just doubting Jewish traditions.

I don’t believe stars ever roamed across the sky no matter how many times we sing Star of Wonder, Star of Night in our Christmas carols. Nor do I believe that virgins have babies or that dead people suddenly rise up out of their graves in mass as described in Matthew 27:52-53.  In more than forty years of preaching, I have never preached on that text, nor have I been asked to.

And not to leave the Muslims out, I don’t believe that a huge rock called out to a Muslim warrior saying “There is a Jew hiding behind me, kill him,” as is recorded in the Hadith. Or that Mohammed heard about Jinns (angels) from a tree, that Adam was ninety feet tall or that roosters crow and donkeys bray because they see Satan.

What I DO believe is that there is a call for peace and justice in all three Abrahamic religions.  If we took seriously the compassion mandate that we all share, if we accepted the responsibility to feed the hungry, bring water to the thirsty and justice for the oppressed, there would be little energy left to fight over our imagined traditions.

Thomas Are
August 19, 2016

[1] Alfred M. Lilienthal, What Price Israel, (Infinity Publishing, Haverford, PA. 2003) p. xv.
[2] This quote is documented in numerous sources. I refer to the book by Don Wagner and Walt Davis, Zionism and the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land. (Pickwick Publications, 2014)  p.21. And Chas W. Freeman, Jr. America’s Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East, (Just Word Books, 2016) p.48.
[3] Teresa Watanabe, Doubting the Story of Exodus, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2001
[4] Teresa Watanabe, Doubting the Story of Exodus, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2001

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

He Dares to Speak Out

About 30 years ago, Paul Findley, Congressman from Illinois for twenty-two years, published a book, They Dare to Speak Out, in which he tells his own story of being labeled untrustworthy by the Israeli lobby.  In spite of having a near perfect record of supporting everything Israel had asked for, he began to feel uncomfortable with Israel’s brutal policies toward the Palestinians.  Without threatening to diminish his commitment to Israel, he felt conscience bound to simply speak with Yasser Arafat. Immediately AIPAC, The Anti-Defamation League and The American Jewish Committee pounced, “Paul, Paul, he must go. He supports the PLO,”[1] and poured money into his political defeat.   

Fast forward three decades and I fear the same for my Congressman, Hank Johnson. He is being criticized for speaking up for justice.  Mondoweiss reports:

Representative Johnson offered insightful comments on the diminishing prospects for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, citing Israel’s ongoing settlement activity – which violates international law and US policy going back decades – on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, a point consistently made by both the Obama and Bush administrations. He analogized this settlement to that of termites hollowing out and undermining a structure, noting that settlement expansion has made the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the occupied territories all but impossible.[2]

Zionist scream, how dare he use Israel’s gobbling up Palestinian land and resources and destroying people’s lives in the same sentence with “termites”? They found his analogy offensive, too close to the facts on the ground. 

Note, for what it’s worth, he did NOT call settlers termites.

Of course, It was no big deal when Moshe Dayan, Israel’s Chief of Staff of the IDF, said in the early 1970s, “We have no solution…You  (Palestinians) shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave.” Or Rafel Eitan, a decade later also Chief of Staff of the IDF, said, “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle.”[3]  

I can only imagine what the Zionist would be screaming had Hank Johnson said anything like that.

Hank Johnson is not reckless. He would not take an unpopular position without checking it out for himself.  That is why he and several other congress people went on a fact finding trip to Palestine to see what is happening there first hand. It is quite obvious that he is courageous and puts truth above popularity. He speaks out of a heart committed to oppressed people. And he is willing to commit his life and career to correcting the injustice causing so much pain to so many people, none of whom, I might add, can vote for him.  That is what leadership does. I am proud that he is my Representative.

When it comes to re-election time, Hank Johnson will get my vote and a few dollars. I hope he will also have your support. May his tribe and influence increase.

Thomas Are
August 3, 2016  

[1] Paul Finley,  They Dare to Speak Out.  (Lawrence Hill Publishers, 1985) p. 17. In this powerful book, Finley documents the influence of AIPAC on US government, military, college campus and Christian Theology.
[2] Mondoweiss, Support for Rep. Hank Johnson Following mischaracterization of his remarks on Settlements.
[3] Mondoweiss, The Palestinians, in Israeli Officials’ Own Words. May 3, 1983
[4] This quote is documented in numerous sources. I refer to the book by Don Wagner and Walt Davis, Zionism and the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land. (Pickwick Publications, 2014)  p.21. And Chas W. Freeman, Jr. America’s Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East, (Just Word Books, 2016) p.48.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Well, Israel, you have finally done it. You have not only turned the world against you, you have brought the US down with you.  I hate that, but you are not totally to blame. You had a lot of help from our misguided politicians, the media and millions of right wing fundamentalist who call themselves Christian Zionists.

When I think of our invasion of Iraq, sanctions against Iran causing the death of half a million children, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, waterboarding and the indifference to Palestinian suffering, I ask myself, what happened to the America in which I grew up?

Chas Freeman warns:

For a long time, we have enabled Israel’s self-injurious behavior. This has made it possible for Israel to choose land over peace, to corrupt its democracy, to deviate from the core values of its official religion as understood by Jews abroad, to empower racism and bigotry among its Jewish majority, and most recently, to humiliate the president of the United States while extracting twenty-nine kowtows from Congress.

No one now harbors any real hope that America can either deliver peace or help Israelis, Palestinians, and those with whom they share their region to achieve it.[1]

I don’t care how many times Hillary Clinton calls for bilateral negotiations between the two parties, she knows that no fair solution can come from such grossly unequal parties unless some outside party is willing to redress the imbalance of power. Israel also knows that if her support were to suddenly compromise her ambitions for power and wealth, she would drop them as quickly as she dropped her embrace of Yasser Arafat when she decided to run for the Senate in New York.

Israel today is being more and more ostracized and boycotted by people of conscience all over the world because of its racism, arrogance and violence against the Palestinians. I say, “Thank goodness. It’s about time.” But I hate to see the US being dragged down with it.

It seems that Arab leaders are finally learning that they cannot count on the US to control international blowback to Israel’s dysfunctional and unpopular relations with its neighbors.  Other than the US, Israel does not have a friend in the world.  With years of failed “peace talks,” financing settlement building, while objecting to them, and standing by paralyzed while Israel bombards Gaza over and over, who is going to respect anything the US has to say about seeking peace in the Middle East?

In 2002, the Arab League offered a revolutionary peace proposal including recognition and normal relations with Israel in exchange for a return to the ‘67 borders and peace with the Palestinians. Israel nor the US ever responded. To this day, Israel has never offered a “peace plan” for living side by side with the Palestinians.

Today, we still can’t get the words "occupation” or “illegal settlements” in the party platform of either presidential candidate for fear of losing large pro-Israel donors.  The occupation has gone on for 50 years. When are we going to admit that we can’t claim to be progressive and remain silent on the incredible misery and unbelievable suffering meted out against the Palestinians?

Thomas Are
July 15, 2016

[1] Chas W. Freeman, America’s Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East. (Just Word Books, 2016.) p.107.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Like an Animal

With the headlines reporting that a Palestinian kid killed a thirteen year old girl in an Israeli settlement last week, and with the killing of four Israeli citizens in Tel Aviv, it is easy to lose the context of this conflict. While no one interested in peace condones terror attacks, and let’s be clear, terror is what these actions were about, we must, in the interest of fairness seek to understand why such acts of violence are taking place in the first place.

The per capita income of an Israeli is $18,000 and the average for a Palestinian is $1,100. While Israel has the highest economy in the region, Palestinians are homeless, without adequate drinking water, health care, education or protection from air and sea bombardments. Pleas for justice from Israel are met with “Death to Arabs.”  After decades of occupation, abuse and indignities and watching every week as more land, labor and resources are stolen from what’s left of Palestine, little concern is raised by the world’s media. When the most powerful nation on the globe denies their rights as human beings, acts of frustration are bound to overflow even if they are called “terrorism.” Such acts may not be beneficial, but they are understandable.

The Mayor of Tel Aviv understands:

We might be the only country in the world where another nation is under occupation without civil rights… You can’t hold people in a situation of occupation and hope they’ll reach the conclusion everything is alright.[1]

While Netanyahu tries to focus attention on the murder of a 13 year old child, complete with pictures of her bloody bed, teddy bear and grieving parents, Israel attacks Palestinian children by the hundreds.  According to The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:

Each year, the Israeli military arrests and prosecutes some 700 Palestinian children. Like adults, Palestinian children in the West Bank are subject to arrest, prosecution and imprisonment under an Israeli military detention system that denies them basic rights. Israeli Jews living in illegal West Bank settlements are subject to Israeli civilian laws, and afforded all the protections one would expect in a democracy. This constitutes “separate and unequal” policies.

Defense for Children International found that during and after an arrest, 75 percent of Palestinian children were subjected to physical violence, with 97 percent denied access to legal council, and had no parent with them during interrogation.

UNICEF reports that ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli detention system is “wide-spread, systematic, and institutionalized.”[2]

I can’t believe that Americans don’t care when such abuse of children is carried on in our name and with our tax dollars. But, I can believe that Americans are ignorant. The media, church and politicians operate out of agendas to keep us ignorant.

I ask myself; How would I feel if I were a Palestinian living under Israel’s boot? And what would I do?  Can I picture myself picking up a gun and killing four occupiers in Tel Aviv?  I hope not. But, I honestly cannot answer that question because I do not know.  Put me in a cage, treat me like an animal, and who knows, I may just act like an animal.

Thomas Are
July 4, 2016

[1] Common, With Latest Denial of Rights, Israel Maybe Guilty of “Collective Punishment’ UN, Army Radio, June 10, 2016.
[2] Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Post card to Political leaders. June/July 2016, facing page 26.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Israel Laughs

As a kid, I loved the circus. It was a full show of nonstop excitement; high wire walkers, trapeze flyers flipping from one bar to another, and most of all, clowns. Nothing fascinated a small child as much as clowns under the big top; dressed in ridiculous costumes, floppy shoes ten times too big, hats and capes and baggy pants that kept falling down revealing poker dot underwear. I could laugh for hours.

Today, as an adult, I no longer find clowns quite as amusing, especially when the clown is my own country.

And who is laughing at America today? Not the world. Most countries around the globe find our circus act frightening.  The one laughing is Israel.

We keep talking about a two state solution. Both “presumptive” presidential candidates applaud the two-state solution, knowing full well such is a fantasy. One state is a dominating power of privilege and the other is a prison.

Last year, when Sweden decided to recognize a Palestinian state, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had a fit, “The decision of the Swedish government to recognize a Palestinian state is a deplorable decision… relations in the Middle East are a lot more complex than the self-assembly furniture of IKEA.”[1]

After years of US media and politicians singing the tune of a two-state solution, Israel has come clean and admitted this was not going to happen and it has never been seriously considered.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter:

"Netanyahu does not now and has never sincerely believed in a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine", and accused him of deciding early on to adopt a one-state solution, but without giving them [the Palestinians] equal rights.[2]

I laughed when the clown leaned over, stepped on his own necktie and struggled to stand back up. It is funny when the clown acts like a fool. It’s another thing when we are the clown.  While demanding a two-state solution, we, the US, has been financing the settlements and Jewish only roads in the occupied territory which Israel now says makes a two-state solution impossible.  If it were in the circus, it would be funny, but when it means the loss of land, water, lively hood, health care, life and dignity for millions of Palestinians, and we are responsible by our gift of billions of dollars every year and veto cover at the United Nations, it is not funny.

Netanyahu openly declares that he is not concerned about the American conscience saying that America can easily be manipulated:

They asked me before the election if I would honor the Oslo Accords. I said I would, but I’m going to interpret the Accords in such a way that will allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67  borders.

            How do we do it?

Nobody said what “defined military zones” were. Defined military zones are security zones. As far as I’m concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone.[3]

When asked about American concern for justice and fair play, Netanyahu says:

I know what America is. America is a thing you can moved very easily.

If there is any question about his image of Americans, just remember his address to the US Congress in March of 2015. By-passing the White House, he chose to accept the invitation of the opposing party to address our Congress. It was a Netanyahu pep rally. “Congress interrupted to applaud 39 times. 23 of these were standing ovations.” More than one-fourth of his speaking time was listening to applause and standing ovations. Like a circus full of “Jacks in a Box,” members of our legislative branch jumped up and down every minute or so to flatter a foreign head of state as he undercut our president’s efforts to avoid a military confrontation with Iran.

I repeat, while declaring that settlements are an obstacle to peace, we send billions of dollars to support the building of settlements.  Israel laughs.

Such is laughable, but when it comes to the murder of American citizens by Israel, it is no longer funny.

I think of 23 year old Rachel Corrie crushed to death, while seeking to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in 2003. And Israel’s deliberate attack on the USS Liberty, killing 34 US sailors in 1967. And in 2010, the nineteen-year old American high school student on board the Mavi Marmara, seeking to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza in 2010, and the US Government has done NOTHING in protest

The biggest joke under the big top is that we still speak of Israel as a democracy. Israel has no constitution to protect its own citizens.  Democracies have a government of the people with a military. On the other hand, Israel has a military with a government to do its bidding. Even more painful is the fact that Israel has never declared the boundaries over which its “democracy” rules, which means that no one is safe from its goals of expansion. The will of the people, which is the hallmark of democracy, has no say in how they are governed. I don’t know what to call that, but it is not a democracy. 

Israel shows little respect for International law, makes a mockery of the Geneva Convention of which it is a signatory and daily violates the common rules of human decency.  Nevertheless, strike up the band and America dances like a clown. Just like Netanyaho said we would.

Thomas Are
June 8, 2016

[1] Lieberman: Sweden’s Decision to Recognize a Palestinian State is “Deplorable.” Middle East Monitor, October 10, 2014.
[2] Carter: Zero Chance for Two-state Solution,, August 13, 2015
[3] Media Education Foundation documentary, The Occupation of the American Mind.  2016

Monday, May 16, 2016

Child Abuse

Listen to Susan Abulhawa:

They start terrorizing us at a young age. At any given time, Israel typically holds hundreds of Palestinian children in administrative detention, where they are interrogated and tortured without charge, without trial, without their parents, without a lawyer, without an advocate. They’re often kidnapped on their way to and from school, playing in the streets and throwing rocks at tanks, as they have a right to do, or pulled from their beds and dragged away in the middle of the night. They’re shot and murdered or maimed wherever they stand.[1]

And to Rabbi Joseph Berman, Government Affairs Liaison for Jewish Voice for Peace who says:

Almost half of the 5 million Palestinian people living under military occupation are children. These young people who should be free to play, learn, develop, and grow, must live with the constant fear of home demolitions, physical violence and even imprisonment at the hands of Israeli forces… Every year, hundreds of Palestinian children are being arrested, held in inhumane conditions, and denied their rights of due process by Israeli military kangaroo courts. Every year, 75% of those children suffer documented abuse or mistreatment at the hands of Israeli forces. And Israel just brought back  “administrative detention” for children, allowing the IDF to lock up children indefinitely, without even bringing a charge.

           440 Palestinian children, some as young as 12, are locked up in Israeli military prisons. Pulled            from their beds and dragged away in the middle of the night

I can only imagine the pain felt by children watching their parents being abused by Israeli kids in uniforms carrying guns. In their young life they have lived not only with the theft of their homes and water but also their history and dignity. Their parents have no way of protecting them and they know it.

However, with all the injustice, suffering and humiliation inflicted upon Palestinian children, what Israel is doing to its own children is child abuse at its worse.

Israel teaches every day by its rhetoric and actions that because they are Jewish, somehow they are superior to other children, that it’s OK to rob and kill other human beings because Jewish kids are “God chosen people.”  Even if the children of Israel do not as yet know what is being done in the name of their Jewishness, they will someday learn. Perhaps then, they will be embarrassed, or worse. They might buy into their role of living above the rules of civilization.

The pain will come when they grow up to live in a world that will not see them as superior, but simply as arrogant. When that happens, Jewish children will have one of three choices; Live in isolation, which in the modern world is getting harder and harder to do. Or accept the fact that they have been terribly abused as children by their own people and government. Or put on blinders and blame their loneliness on anti-Semitism.  Regardless, they will have been assigned to a life of isolation and loneliness.  

I call this the worst form of child abuse. I cannot imagine anything that would infuriate me more  than to have someone come along and tell my children that they do not have to live by the same rules of courtesy and justice as everyone else because they are exceptional.  I cannot imagine anything that would guarantee more unhappiness. Not only would they be miserable, they would spread their misery to anyone who loves them.

Golda Meir said, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”  Well, I have news for her. It was not the “Arabs” who turned her children into killers. It was their own Jewish superiority culture. Israel’s attitude that Jews are superior human beings and all who are not Jews are less deserving simply because they are not Jews. I find myself asking, what are the parents of these children thinking. Then I remember, they were abused in exactly the same way when they were children. 

Thomas Are
May 16, 2016

[1] Susan Abulhawa, Why We’re Suing the U.S. Treasury Department.  Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.  May 2016, p.55.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Raining Rockets

Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. said on CNN,  “We have thousands of rockets raining down on our citizens.” In fact, we hear over and over again, “rockets are raining” down on Israel.  It makes a strong impression.

Advertisers will tell you that the essence of propaganda is repetition.  So, we hear on FOX News, repeated reports of “rockets raining” down on Israel.  It is such an important image that Israel will do anything to keep it alive, even when rockets stop. In the summer of 2008, Palestinian sources reported 8 rockets in June, 12 in July, 11 in August, 4 in September and 2 in October.  An Israeli Intelligence Report issued by the Israeli government to international journalists  states, “Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire.” There were no deaths by rockets because there were no rockets.[1] 

Not the image of “rockets raining” that Israel wants.  An average of four drops per month hardly qualifies as a rain.  When I look out on my front drive and see four drops, I hardly expect to read in the paper that we had a rainy day.  If there are not enough drops to wet the street or water my hedges, I don’t expect my neighbor to say, “Wow! What a rainy day.”

Back in 2008, Israel had a dilemma. How to maintain the victim image of rockets raining down on innocent women and children when there are no rockets? After six month of rocket absence, on November 4th  Israel invaded Gaza and killed six Palestinians.  Did you get that date? November 4th was election night in the US when Barack Obama was elected president. Israel planned its invasion precisely at a time when it was almost guaranteed no one in America was watching news from Israel. We were all saturated in the counting of votes so significant to our own lives.  When Gaza responded by firing rockets, Israel screamed of being attacked and was defending itself. 

Israel bombarded Gaza with 600 tons of rockets, killing over 1400 Palestinians. Americans expressed shock. Israeli spokespersons simply asked, what would you do if rockets were raining down on your family?

So, what would you do? Maybe ask what made Palestinians with no power, so desperate that they fired a few weak, unguided missiles into Israel.  Could it be that it’s the only way to remind the world that they are still suffering oppression under a brutal occupation?

Thomas Are
May 10, 2016

[1] These statistics and quotes are lifted from the Media Education Foundation documentary, The Occupation of the American Mind, 2016.