Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Israel Celebrates

To this day, Israel sanctifies the massacre and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in what it calls its war of independence in 1948. The indigenous residents of Palestine were pushed into refugee camps all across Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Gaza. Israel actually brags to its own people about reclaiming the gift from God to the Jews.

Then, two decades later, Israel launched a surprise attack on its neighbors and gained what it calls “the liberation of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.” Yet, what it calls a “liberation” was actually the occupation of the land, labor and resources of a weaker and mostly unarmed people. Israel celebrates five decades of demolishing homes, stealing water, erecting hundreds of checkpoints, putting Palestinians, including children, in Israeli prisons, building a wall through the West Bank separating kids from their schools, farmers from their fields and the sick and wounded from their hospitals. Israel’s Six Day War also built an effective apartheid system.

Meretz chairperson of Zehava Galon said the celebration is of a massive human rights violation:

Israel has controlled millions of people for 50 years, treads on them every day anew and denies them rights and sovereignty.

And, that’s not the worst of it. Haaretz notes:

The 1967 war led to the growth of unbridled national arrogance, which exacted an awful price in blood over the past 50 years and turned the military victory into a moral defeat. In retrospect, it should be called the 50-Year War, and judging by the political situation, its life expectancy appears endless.[1]

This fifty years of oppression should be a source of shame, not a reason for celebration.

However, Israel does have cause to celebrate. It has over powered its non-Jewish citizens and neighbors for half a century and at the same time convinced the world, especially the United States, that all this time it has been the victim. Now, that is quite an accomplishment.

And Donald Trump grins in a total fog.

Thomas Are
April 25, 2017




[1] Both of these quotes come from Israel Will Celebrate 50th Anniversary of ’67 War in – an Illegal Settlement,  Mondoweiss, April 17, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Anywhere in the World

Did you hear what he said? I did. The Secretary State not only said it on national television, it was repeated in leading newspapers all around the world. Rex Tillerson, said:

We rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocent anywhere in the world.

Look out Israel. You must be on the top of his list. And America, too for that matter, for our crimes against the innocent children of Palestine.  Even though I have never seen one shred of evidence that Tillerson gives a hoot for the children of the West Bank and Gaza, his noble proclamation of having a heart reveals only that he either knows nothing about Israel’s brutality or he hopes that you don’t know or care.

Donald Trump speaks so passionately about the 100 children gassed by Syria, saying, “No  child of God should ever suffer such horror.”  Yet he has no word of sympathy for the 550 children blown up in Gaza in 2014 by Israeli pilots flying planes supplied by the US., nor do we hear any remorse for the “beautiful children” burned to death by white phosphorus exploding over their heads like a fireworks star-burst at a ball game. He has nothing but praise for his favorite son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose claim to fame is that Benjamin Netanyahu once slept in his bed, when he donates tens of thousands of dollars to displace Palestinian children and their families to make room for Jewish only settlements in the West Bank. I guess only children who get out of Israel’s way are “beautiful.”

Sean Spicer said, “Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”  Of course he is right, but he obviously does not have in mind all innocent people.

Tzipi Livni , considered to be among the most liberal members of Israel’s Knesset, said that the attack on Gaza in 2008-9 was necessary and important.  When Hamas fires those unguided home-made missiles into Israel, we just “go wild.”[i] And what happens to the “beautiful” children of Gaza is hard to believe.  Their homes, schools, hospitals, food and water supplies are considered “enemy bases,” and blown up, without a thought.    Chief of Staff, Gadi Eizonkot said, “They are all just collateral damage.”  According to Justice Minister Ayelet Sheked, “All these children are just little snakes anyway.  Elie Wiesel explained that when 550 children in Gaza were killed it is only because Hamas chose to sacrifice them.”[ii]

Trump is right when he says, “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” He is wrong in excluding Palestinian children from his focus of concern.

Thomas Are
April 13, 2017






[i] The Selective Concern for Beautiful Babies,  Mondoweiss, April 11, 2017.
2 The Selective Concern for Beautiful Babies,  Mondoweiss, April 11, 2017.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Ignoring Trump

Donald Trump has such little credibility that even Israel to whom Trump has sworn undying support and allegiance is saying, no thanks, we prefer to go it alone. It’s easy to understand why.

As reported on Morning Joe,[1] Trump is underwater in trying to get anything done whether overseas or at home. The world reads these numbers. Our enemies rejoice and our friends tremble.                     

Gallup Poll has Trump at        Approval 39%         Disapprove   55%
IBD TIPP Poll                         Approval 34%         Disapprove   56%
Quinnipiac University Poll
     Trumps Overall Approval Rating   Approve 35%  Disapprove  57%                                                                                                                              
                   Health Care                   28%                   64%
                   Immigration Issues       39%                   57%
                   Economy                       41%                   48%
                   Environmental Policy   29%                   61%
                   Foreign Policy               33%                   58%
                   Terrorism                       42%                   49%                        

And why is Trump’s credibility so low? 

Too many wishy-washy episodes like his dealing with Syria. Today, Trump “calls on all civilized nations to join the U.S. in seeking an end to the slaughter in Syria. However, he hopes you have forgotten that in 2013, when Syria used chemical gas against its rebel citizens, Trump lambasted Obama for wanting to get involved saying:
        Syria is not our problem
          We should stay the hell out of Syria. What will we get for our lives and $ billions?                                ZERO
            What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a long term conflict
  If Obama attacks Syria and innocent citizens are killed, he and US will look very bad.
               What I am saying is stay out of Syria
                 At least three time in May, 2013, he said, Do NOT attack Syria.

“Forget Syria.”  Over and over again Trump announced his total opposition to any US involvement in Syria.  Yet, today, he looks at the horrendous Assad attack on unarmed men, women and children and Trump has the audacity to put the blame on Obama because he did not send troops into Syria four years ago. Bottom line:  

            2013: Trump says US should stay out of Syria
            2017: Trump says US should have sent troops to Syria[2]

Yet, nothing boosts a president’s ratings so much as a war and he knows it.

Wait a minute, some reader is thinking about now; I thought this was a blog about Israel/Palestine, and you are right. So, let’s get to the point.

In February, Trump asked Benjamin Netanyahu to “hold off on settlement building.” He was speaking as the president of the United States, the number one backer and financier of Israel. But, Netanyahu reads the numbers on Trump and says the heck with him, he has no clout. So, Israel continues with its settlement building, apartheid laws, ethnic cleansing, brutal occupation, check points, walls, barbaric treatment of Palestinians, putting children in Israeli prisons, stealing water and thumbing its nose at human rights…and Donald Trump.

Thomas Are
April 7, 2017





[1] Morning Joe, April 5, 2017
[2] This report on Syria was gleaned from The  Rachael Maddow Show,  April 4, 2017. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

America Second

Trump’s budget laments that we do not have the money we need to address the problems facing America, such as health care, education, climate change and the infrastructure. That’s why he says his proposed budget puts “America First”. Yet, he seems to have vast sums for Israel. Money for Israel is not on the chopping block. His proposal for deep cuts in foreign aid  are not to effect Israel.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

The budget plan from the White House calls for slashing the State Department’s $50 billion budget by about 28%, cuts that would mostly target climate change, democracy promotion, health programs, and numerous foreign aid projects.  Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said U.S, aid to Israel, which totaled about $3.1 billion this year, would not be touched under the Trump plan. Israel gets more U.S. aid than any other nation.

Aid to every other country will come under review.[1]

Israel has a population of about 7.7 million, far less than the state of New Jersey. It is one of the most affluent nations on the globe. Its unemployment rate is less than the U.S., Yet, we neglect our problems and borrow money to send billions every year, about $8.5 million every day, to help Israel deal with its problems.

There’s still more to the story, because parts of U.S. aid to Israel are buried in the budgets of various US agencies, mostly the Department of Defense. For example, since 2006, the American Defense Budget has included between $130 and $235 million per year for missile defense programs in Israel.[2]

Add it all up and Israel,  with less than 8 million people gets more “foreign aid” than all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean combined – which have a total population of over a billion people.[3]

There are also hidden costs to our blind support of Israel, such as the oil boycott of 1973, and 9/11.  
According to Harvard professor Steven Walt:

The 9/11 Commission reported that 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s  “animus toward the United States stemmed from his violent disagreement with US foreign policy favoring Israel”. Other anti-American terrorist – such as Ramza Yousef, who led the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center – have offered similar explanations for their anger toward the United States.[4]

And, of course, the biggie. Would we have ever invaded Iraq if it were not for the pressure from Israel?

Conclusion: The only reason I give a little money to a homeless beggar on the street is because I think he needs it. I support a shelter for battered woman because the mothers and children there are hurting and hope for a better life. I even give to my church because it reaches out to suffering people in dozens of ways. But, to give vast sums to Israel which obviously does not need it, but uses it to oppress Palestinians, build settlements on what is left of their shrinking land, confiscate their water, imprison their children and exploits them as cheap labor, among many other oppressive practices, does not make sense to me.

Oh, how I wish Mr. Trump really would put America, and American ideals, first.

Thomas Are
March 25, 2017




[1] Trump’s ‘America First’ Budget puts Israel right up there, Too, Mondoweiss, March, 17, 2017
[2] Jeremy Sharp, U.S. foreign aid to Israel, Congressional Research Service, March 12, 2012. Cited in Newsobserveronline, The Staggering Cost of Israel to Americans. , May 8, 2013.
[3] Richard Curtiss, “The Cost of Israel to the American People”, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, 1998.
[4] Stephen Walt, Whiff of Desperation, Foreign Policy, April 25, 2011.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Children are Innocent

Children are innocent, but many of them are in Israeli prisons.

Shidi is 13 years old. He was 12, on December 30, 2015 when Israel arrested him, forced him to stand naked in a freezing cold prison cell for hours. No parent, no lawyer. His mother saw him across the court room at his “trial,” his hands and feet in shackles. He will spend the next two years in an Israeli prison because Israel says, “He would have stabbed an Israeli, if he had a knife.”[i]

Gideon Levy said, “There is nothing more Israeli than a court that gives a soldier who killed a Palestinian in cold blood a sentence fit for a bicycle thief.”[ii]

An 18-month jail sentence handed down to an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) recruit for the killing of a wounded Palestinian has prompted for widespread criticism for its apparent leniency in light of the severity of his crime…Yet, the ruling was a landmark case insofar as no member of the IDF has been prosecuted for actions carried out in over 12 years... The sentence he received is less than a Palestinian child gets for throwing stones.[iii]

Dr. Jess Ghannam, professor of psychiatry and global health sciences at the University of California School of Medicine notes:

Palestinian children in Gaza are exposed to more violence in their lifetime than any other people, any other children anywhere in the world. If you look at children right now who are 10 years old, they’ve been through Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009, the invasion in 2012 and the invasion and destruction in 2014. In addition to the siege, if you look at the statistics, even before Cast Lead, 80 percent of Palestinian children in Gaza have witnessed some sort of violence against them, a friend or a family member. And now they’re getting to the point where probably close to 99 percent of children in Gaza are being exposed to a level of violence where they have seen family members be killed, murdered, burned alive. There’s nothing like the levels of traumatic exposure that any child in the world has ever been exposed to on a chronic and daily basis.

According to Middle East Children’s Alliance, “Palestinian children are subject to attacks by the Israeli occupation forces and Jewish settlers on an almost daily basis, 1,518 have been killed since the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000 up to April 2013, that’s one every three days for thirteen years. Almost 250 Palestinian minors, like Shadi, are being held in Israeli prisons.

Shadi’s friends described him as full of life, loved by family, neighbors, friends and classmates. They said that he loved to dance and sing and swim. He excelled in math. Shadi sounds like a delightful kid. But, I wonder what he will be when he is released after years in an Israeli prison?  How much hate can Israel control by force.  Children do grow up.

Thomas Are
March 19, 2017



[i] Farihan Farah,  I am a Proud Woman and a Humanitarian. I am also the Mother of the Youngest Palestinian Prisoner in an Israeli Jail.  Mondoweiss, March 8, 2017.
[ii] Haaretz, Who Needs the Hague when you have Israeli Army Justice, February 23, 2017

[iii] Bethan McKernan, Five Children Get Longer Sentences for Throwing Stones than Israeli Soldier who Shot Incapacitated Palestinian Dead.  The Independent, February 22, 2017.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

In the Name of Religion

I am not Jewish and therefore should be cautious in passing judgement on what is “good” Judaism and what is phony. However, one need not belong to a religion as deeply profound and tested as Judaism in order to recognize its many virtues and values. It is on this basis alone that I, even as an outsider, can emphatically declare that Benjamin Netanyahu is NOT Jewish and what he seeks to create in Israel is a racist state, not a Jewish one.

To make my case, I refer to Rabbi Donniel Hartman, leader of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem who does speak with authority when lifting up the values and virtues of Judaism:

Speaking of the modern state of Israel, he writes:

I am trying to save my own religion from itself…  For much of our history, (Jews) were a powerless people and on the side of the downtrodden. Now, however, we find ourselves in a dramatically different reality… We not only have the ability to protect ourselves but also the power to harm others.

As such, he continues:

As the short history of Israel has revealed, it is all too often the same people who speak in the name of religion, who come down on the side of discrimination toward the non-Jewish national minorities in Israel… and who campaign most vociferously against pursuing peace with our Palestinian neighbors. (p.16)[1]

As I read Rabbi Hartman, I weep with him in the pain he feels for the distortion of his Jewish faith in the face of modern Israel. He writes:

One of Judaism’s central obligations is to “not remain indifferent” (Deuteronomy 22:3), to see the needs of others and to implicate oneself as a part of the solution. (p.20)… Moses “chose to see the injustice around him and rejected the safer path of indifference, and stood with those being wronged. (p.22)... We are all our neighbor’s keepers. (p.31) …He quotes Maimonides, “Whoever is in a position to prevent wrongdoing and does not do so, is responsible for the iniquity of all the wrongdoing he might have prevented. (p.32)

Hartman summarized Isaiah’s message:

Your prayer and fasting are worthless to me as long as there are hungry, poor, homeless, and naked people suffering just outside the walls of your religious sanctuary. Get out of the synagogue and create a society of justice. (p. 57)

Now, what does all this have to do with Benjamin Netanyahu who doesn’t even claim to be a religious Jew?  It makes the point that his understanding of Judaism is race, not religion. He would like for all, especially those of us living in the United States, to think of him as “Jewish” and have a warm feeling toward him. But, let us be clear, Netanyahu is not Jewish. He is a racist hiding behind the smoke screen of Judaism.

Thomas Are
February 26, 2017




[1] These quotes are from Rabbi Donniel Hartman’s powerful little book, Putting God Second, How to save Religion from Itself, (Beacon Press, Boston, 2016)

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