Friday, August 18, 2017

Racism - Unjust, Ungodly and Ignorant

Whether our president should have been stronger in condemning the racism displayed by hate groups this week in Charlottesville, it is clearly condemned by the media, politicians and religious groups all across America. And rightly so. Racism is unjust, ungodly and totally based on ignorance. Racism is rejected, even in the deep south, by all people of good will. We will not condone it and we teach our children to condemn it as well. Unless…

Unless it is practiced by Israel.

In Israel, racism is protected by law. None of its shameful policies is denied or hidden under the rug. Jews are declared to be superior human beings, and are given preferential treatment in commerce, education and health care.  Most of all, Jews are treated with dignity.

On the other hand, those who are not Jews are declared a “demographic threat.”  In spite of 750,000 Palestinians driven by force from their homes in 1948, and millions more displaced in 1967, in Israel’s mind, there are still too many.  How can Israel be a Jewish State with Palestinians around to remind it of how it got to be such.  Thus, Palestinians in Israel are confined to assigned areas. Those in the West Bank are hidden out of sight by an apartheid wall, and those in Gaza are imprisoned in the world’s largest open air prison.

Marc Ellis, Jewish scholar and activist for justice, reflecting on the riots in Charlottesville over the monument to Robert E. Lee,  writes:

I think of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel as among other things, a monument. At Yad Vashem, the dark chapter of Jewish life is highlighted, as it should be. But part of that chapter of Jewish life after the Holocaust, the Nakba, is omitted.[1]

Why does the US media and government declare racism evil in Charlottesville and support it in Israel?  If there is a difference in Steve Bannon and Benjamin Netanyahu, I can’t see it.

Israel, as a Jewish state is unjust, ungodly and based on ignorance.

 Thomas Are
August 18, 2017




[1] Marc H. Ellis, On Charlottesville and Jewish Memory, Mondoweiss, August 16, 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Smothering Palestine

In a quick passing sentence in the Introduction to his chapter, A Country in Darkness, Vijay Prashad wrote:

Palestine struggles alone. Israel turns, hand on the pillow, pushing down and says, “Look, Palestine is threatening us, endangering our lives. Others look away, giving Israel license to push harder.[i]

That image of smothering Palestine caught my imagination. I picture some poor victim being pushed to the floor, thrashing about, feet and hands clawing in the air doing any and everything in his power to push away the pillow so he can breathe.

Now, make the pillow invisible and all the thrashing around looks unreasonable and out of control. Is that not exactly what our US media and politicians have done. They freely talk about the unreasonable Palestinians who simply want to deny Israel’s right to exist.  Make the pillow invisible and every reaction from rocks to rockets looks like the acts of mad men. Nobody is in control. Nobody wants peace. 

In reality:

In January 2004, Sheikh Yassin said he was willing to end armed resistance against Israel if a Palestinian state was created in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi also said that Palestinians would declare long hudna in exchange for independence.

On March 22, Israel assassinated Sheikh Yassin, On April 17, they killed al-Rantissi.[ii]  To this day, most of Palestine’s leaders have either been killed or are sitting in Israeli prisons.  But if Palestine does not resist, it will totally suffocate under the Israeli pillow. And its reaction to Israel’s theft of its land and water,  the continued enlargement of Israel’s apartheid wall, road blocks, check points, illegal imprisonment of Palestinians, including children, the cutting off of electricity, and regular bombardment of Gaza will go unnoticed.

And as long as the good citizens of the US refuse to see the pillow and allow Israel to dictate our conscience, little will change. The pain of the pillow will press down harder and harder.

Thomas Are
August 12, 2017

 [i] Vijay Prashad, Letters to Palestine, (Verso Books, NYC, 2015) p.9.
[ii] Vijay Prashad, Letters to Palestine, (Verso Books, NYC, 2015) p.8

Friday, August 4, 2017

Put the Blame on God

What a great idea. Don’t blame Israel for its cruelty to the Palestinians, blame God.

In 1937, David Ben-Gurion waved a copy of the Bible at the members of the Royal Peel Commission, shouting, “This is our land registry proof, our right to Palestine does not come from the Mandate Charter, the Bible is our Mandate Charter.”[1]

That leaves us with the question;  Whose Bible? Well, it was the Jewish Bible in which the Jewish God, spoke in a language understood only by Jews that declared enormous favor to the Jews above all their fellow human beings. It does cause one to wonder.

Yet, according to a 2013 Pew Research poll:
           
Forty-four percent of the U.S. general public replied “yes” to the question, “Was Israel given to the Jewish people by God?”[2]

When you consider that about one in five Americans claim to not even believe in God, these numbers are quite amazing. So, with American support and approval, Israel builds settlements, puts those who resist the occupation, including children, in prison, restricts travel, erects road blocks, cuts off electricity and constructs a separation wall blocking farmers from their fields, doctors from their hospitals and children from their schools... all in the name of God.

And that is just in the West Bank. Gaza fares even worse. Because “God wants Israel to have all that land purged of Palestinians”, Gaza has been barricaded from the rest of the world, mercilessly bombarded time and time again.  The U.N. has warned that because of the lack of food, water and medical care, Gaza will be uninhabitable in about three more years. According to Israel, what does the U.N. have to do with anything? God wants it this way. 

However, to come to this conclusion, Israel has to distort its own biblical claims by omitting the “conditions” upon which such a divine donation was made. Such as, the Jews, “shall be just and compassionate, and they shall not oppress the orphan, widow, alien and the poor. (Zechariah 7:9-11). At best, Israel’s claim of God’s endorsement is based on half-truths and over simplification. Again, Washington Report points out:

In order to gain membership in the United Nations, Israel promised that it would allow refugees it created in 1948 to return to their homes. Instead it demolished more than 400 Palestinian villages and killed those who attempted to return.

To this day, Israel has never declared its borders nor established a constitution. Its “democracy, for Jews only” is declared through the barrel of a gun, and it’s all done for God. How convenient.

Thomas Are
August 4, 2017



[1] Tom Srgev, One Palestine,  Complete, London: Abacus, 2001, p.401. Cited in Ilan Pappe, Ten Myths About Istrael, (Verso, 2017) p.40.
[2] God’s Expired Promise, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,  August/September 2017. p. 7.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Remember Gaza

Lest we forget: Geneva Convention Article 56:

The occupying power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory… Medical personal of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties.

Article 33, adds:

The right to health, like all human rights, imposes three types or levels of obligation on States parties: the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill…

Noble obligations to anyone with respect for human need and suffering.  Total gibberish to Israel. Almost like clockwork, Israel bombs into oblivion the hospitals, clinics, and ambulances of Gaza. Rather than health and care, Alice Rothchild, American Jewish Doctor reports of her visit to Palestine that:

Children are routinely tortured by their interrogators… threats of sexual abuse or death; they are put into solitary confinement, have fluorescent lights on twenty-four hours per day, are placed in stress positions, and beaten.[1]

Yet, a kid trying to assist a friend injured in a peaceful demonstration will be charged with assisting a terrorist. Throw a stone at an Israeli jeep and he is accused of attempted murder. Rothchild calls it the “land of official insanity.”[2] Today, there are thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prisons suffering isolation. Many are tortured. An average of two to three are killed by IDF or settlers every week.

Gaza has been under Israeli control for half a century; everything that goes in and everything that gets out. After three “Gaza wars,” 2008-9, 2012, and 2014, Gaza is a cesspool; no parks or green space, very little drinkable water or sanitation facilities, electricity only a few hours a day and no where to hide when attacked.

I worry about Gaza.  But I also worry about the kind of people we have become. From time to time, especially when one of Israel bombardment campaigns against Gaza hits the news for a short time, we might even think “how sad” after which we seem willing to push it back under the rug with a “those terrorists.” Then it’s back to life as usual. Where are Jewish values and American sense of liberty and justice for all?

Thomas Are
July 25, 2017




[1] Alice Rothchild, Condition Critical, Life and Death in Israel/Palestine, (Just Word Books, 2016) p.126.
[2] Alice Rothchild, Condition Critical, Life and Death in Israel/Palestine, (Just Word Books, 2016) p.5.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Can't Do Both at the Same Time

Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chair of the Joint Chief of Staff under Ronald Reagan, wrote about the consequences of Jewish power over the U.S. policy towards Israel:

I have never seen a president - I don’t care who he is – stand up to the Israelis. It just boggles the mind. They always get what they want. If the American people understood what a grip those people have on our government, they would rise up in arms. Our citizens don’t have any idea what goes on.[1]

Screenwriter and film director, Oliver Stone appearing on the Stephen Colbert Late Show said, “Israel interfered in the U.S. election more than Russia. Why don’t you ask me about that?” That was too rich for the American audience. CBS deleted it. Israel cannot be disparaged on national television.

But, that is the world of politics which I seldom understand.  My question is about the responsibility of the church. The Christian community in Palestine has cried for the church to be their voice and to take up their cause for 70 years. Yet, the pulpits across America have been mostly muted. Marc Ellis, years ago, wrote about the “ecumenical deal” in which the church agreed to never question the oppression of the Palestinian people by Israel in exchange for peaceful relationships with the Jewish community.

So, now, after years of failed “peace talks,” hundreds of check points, major bombardments on Gaza and a settler population of a half million, I find myself wanting to boycott the church of which I have been a part my entire life. I want to find other places for my money and support.

But, the church does so much good, I am told. And that is true. But, if to “do good,” means to sweep decades of gross injustice under the rug, I am ready to separate myself from the church and jump out of its wagon.  Let me be clear, I am not being pushed, I am choosing to jump.

If all the parts of my body work just like they should and just one organ, say, my liver, does not do its thing, I am not 99% healthy, I am 100% sick.  In the same way, if all the missions of the church function just as planned, but it has nothing to say about the injustice done to the Palestinians, supported and financed by our government, and the church remains mostly silent, the church is not almost healthy, it is totally sick.

Do I think my criticism of the church will cause it to speak up and do right.?  Of course not. But even a casual reading of the Old Testament prophets and almost any part of the Gospels should.

The church can continue to comfort its members or it can take a stand against injustice, but I don’t know how it can do both at the same time.

Thomas Are
July 12, 2017



[1] These quote from Thomas Moorer and Olive Stone are confirmed by Philip Giraldi, Israel’s Dirty Little Secret, How it drives US policy exploiting a spineless Congress and White House.,  June 20, 2017

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Money Talks

Haaretz, perhaps the leading newspaper in Israel, reported that on a tour of  Hebron in the West Bank, American rabbis were shocked by what they saw. Yet, only five of them allowed reporters to use their names:

Most of them are unwilling to have their names or photos published. Their congregations back home might not understand their decision to participate in a tour that offers a different narrative about the conflict – one that puts a human face on the other side and doesn’t paint Israel in the usual rosy colors.[1]

I understand the squeeze. In the early 1990s, I preached against the wisdom of a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Members of my congregation warned me that unless I got on board and “supported our troops,” large financial commitments to the church would be in jeopardy.  I was reminded of our commitment to building a medical facility in Ghana and the needs of hundreds of homeless men and families our church was seeking to address.  It was a tight squeeze and I felt it. However, I could not abandon the justice aspect of the gospel to which I was committed to preach.  Did it cost me my job? I would not say so, but it certainly contributed to my decision to seek a more receptive ministry elsewhere.

I feel for the rabbis who would surely loose big donors if they criticize Israel. It is a tight squeeze. At the same time, what do they, or I, have left if we sacrifice our integrity?  Most of those who would criticize them have never been to Israel, never seen the horror of the occupation, or the pain of their wall, the hunger of children or even the humiliation caused by hundreds of check points.

“Money talks,” they say. A prime example was Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to our congress in 2015.  Both he and they were well aware that in the balcony sat Sheldon Adelson, multi-billionaire who had contributed $150,000,000 to the GOP and its friends during the 2012 election cycle. Thus, it was not enough for him to hear the applause of those members of congress, they stood up, over and over, 26 ovations, to be sure that Adelson could see them standing. 

No doubt, money talks, but money has no intelligence, conscience or morals… just power.

Thomas Are
July 9, 2017




[1] US Rabbis Touring Occupation are Afraid to be Identified Lest Their Congregations Find Out. Mondoweiss.net, 7/7/2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

For the Bible Tells Me So

At that time, the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.”  (Gen. 12: 7)

How convenient. A Jewish God, spoke in some language understood by Abram, without witnesses, by the way, declaring that his children would be God’s chosen and as proof, God had in mind to give Israel, who did not yet exist, the land of another people.[1]

There are several problems with this narrative.  

In the first place, “There is no empirical evidence that any God even exist. In fact, there are no peer-review scientific articles that take God’s existence seriously,”[2] much less a God who spoke of a state called Israel three thousand years into the future.

Zionists love to quote Genesis 12:

And God said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you, I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves. (Gen. 12:1-3)

When they quote this, they hope that you will not remember that when this was written, Abram had no children. There was no person or nation named Israel.  The man Israel was born two generations in the future as one of the twelve grandsons of Abram.   He certainly was not a state. Yet, 3000 years later Jewish survivors of Hitler’s holocaust moved to Palestine saying, “That’s us.” All this is a long way from God’s promising the land of Palestine as theirs forever.

Israel’s founders claimed to be atheists. Yet, they claimed the land of Palestine to be theirs because a “God” they didn’t believe in gave it to them.  

The bottom line is this: The land of Palestine is in the hands of Israel because of military might and terrorism, not some kind of divine donation.

For those who need a book, or holy writ; The Old Testament prophets and the entire New Testament demand peace, not war. There are no exceptions. You cannot find one verse which says, in this case or that, it will be OK to take another person’s life or land.

Thomas Are
June 28, 2017




[1] It is worth noting that the first seed of Abraham was Ishmael, not Isaac.
[2] Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow, (Harvill Secker, London, 2015) p. 115.