Wednesday, August 22, 2012

He Just Doesn't Get It

Back in 1957, Golda Meir said something like:

     "Peace will come when Palestinian mothers learn to love their children
     more than they hate the Jews."

She also said that there was no such thing as a Palestinian people. Of course, several years later she apologized, saying, “That was the silliest damn thing I ever said.” Well, I don’t know. I think accusing Palestinian mothers of not loving their children merits a gold medal for silliness.

Palestinian mothers do in fact love their children as do mothers all over the world. They also fear for their safety. They are concerned for their future in an apartheid state where their rights as human being are being ignored because the big superpower occupying them wants their land and water. Mothers in Palestine long for their children to have an opportunity to grow up with dignity, to have a safe place to sleep and go to school, all of which are systematically jeopardized by Israel’s military occupation. Far from choosing to hate their enemies more than they love their children, Palestinian mothers on numerous occasions have sacrificed their lives to cover their children with their own bodies to protect them from bombs, tanks and white phosphorus.

I think I first heard this little caricature of Palestinian mothers in 1988 during the first intifada. Kids who had never lived a day in their entire life free of the humiliation and the pain of military occupation suddenly began throwing rocks at Israeli tanks, trucks and troops. Israel responded with “An iron fist policy.” by killing, beating, and torture.

During the first year of the intifada:

Amnesty International reported 540 killed by Israeli troops including 159 children. Their average age was ten years old.

Save the Children reported 7000 hospitalized from beatings, 1/3 were ten years old, 1/5 five years old.

Dennis Madden, Roman Catholic Priest attested,

"If you take all the Palestinians who have been killed, the number is roughly around 1,000. The number who have required medical attention is roughly around 106,000. The over 50,000 who have been in prison, the houses that have been demolished, the thousands of trees that have been uprooted, the deportations. You take all of the statistics together...what it averages out to is that every Palestinian family has had at least two members that have either been killed, deported, arrested or tortured."(1)

And this was BEFORE suicide bombers.

According to Rosemary Radford Ruether:

Anyone arrested in the occupied territories can be held without trial or consultation with a lawyer for eighteen days. During this period (and also during extensions of this period) those arrested are typically subject to brutal treatment, ranging from kicking and beatings to elaborate form of torture...” (2)

Ari Shavit, a young Israeli soldier ordered to serve in Ansar II, one of Israel’s prisons for Palestinians, reported in Ha’aretz.

Perhaps the fault lies with the screams: At the end of your watch, on the way from the showers, you hear horrible screams...from over the galvanized tin fence of the interrogation section come hair-raising human screams. I mean that literally. Hair-raising. And you of course have read the B’Tselem report...And you ask yourself, what is going on here five meters away? Is it someone being tied in the “banana” position? Or is it a simple beating? You don’t know. But you do know that from this moment forth you will have no rest. Because 50 meters from the bed where you try to sleep, 80 meters from the dining hall where you try to eat, human beings are screaming. And they are screaming because other people wearing the uniform as you are doing things to them to make them scream. They are screaming because your state, your democratic state in an institutional systematic manner — and definitely legal — your state is making them scream.” (3)

To avoid the moral judgment of the world, Israel shifted the responsibility of their treatment of Palestinian youth onto the mothers whom they said, “sent their children out to commit violence.”

But, why bring this up now, twenty five years later? Because that old unfounded quip is still being passed around by intelligent people in an effort to give Israel legitimacy. Recently, I was referred to this very slogan to make the case that the Palestinians are really the cause of their own pain.

It was quoted by a friend who is quite superior to me in education and theological acumen. I was shocked, not so much by the quote, but that with all his credentials, he still thinks this is relevant to the Israel/Palestinian situation. In spite of his creditability in other areas, when it comes to applying his biblical faith to justice for the Palestinians, he just doesn’t get it.

Thomas Are
August 22, 2012

 1 - Private conversation with Father Dennis Madden, Tantur Institute, Jerusalem. Summer, 1991.
2 - Rosemary Radford Ruether, Herman Ruether, The Wrath of Jonah, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2002) p. 157.
3 - Marc Ellis, Beyond Innocence and Redemption, (Harper and Row Publishers, San Francisco, 1990,) p.73.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Romney Sells Out Justice for Votes

This week I received an email:

Yesterday in Jerusalem, Governor Mitt Romney made some statements that were not only wrong, but frankly, prejudiced and ignorant. Romney declared that “cultural differences” were the reason the Palestinian economy is not doing as well as Israel’s, without even acknowledging the Occupation.

This criticism of Romney’s mischaracterization of the Israel Palestinian conflict was published by none other than JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE, which called upon Romney to apologize to the Palestinian people. I respect this organization, even given money to help in their call for justice. I wish everybody would support them.(1) They are people of conscience who take seriously their Jewish faith.

Is it possible that Romney has never heard of the Occupation, or the Wall constructed by Israel which stunts economic growth? Does he not see the closures and checkpoints which prevent Palestinians from getting to their jobs, fields, health care facilities and schools as a hindrance to economic success? Could he not know about the theft of Palestinian water, the restrictions on travel and shipments of goods? Is he not aware of the prohibition of imports and exports which robs Palestinians of normal business opportunities? These restrictive policies have been around a long time. Certainly long enough for him to know.

Economic oppression of Palestine has been official Israel policy from its beginning. Twenty years ago, Frank Collins, writing for The Jerusalem Journal reports:

For 24 years of their occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Israelis have systematically done everything in their power to block the normal
development of the Palestinians’ economy. Far from allowing the growth and modernization of the economic infrastructure, the occupation authorities have gone to great lengths to thwart any progress in this direction. They have striven to make the Palestinian economy totally dependent on, and subordinated to, that of Israel… The licensing of a new Palestinian factory requires securing certification from potential Israeli competitors that they will not suffer from the new Palestinian competition. Naturally, very few licenses for new factories are granted. Water consumption by Palestinians is restricted to 1967 levels, with the results that irrigated agriculture has declined from 18 to 5 percent of the Palestinian economy.(2)

I remember visiting a mother in the West Bank village of Hisma. She lead us down a concealed path to a hidden chicken coop which provided her family with a few eggs. I asked her what would happen if the Israelis discovered her “illegal business”? She responded that she would probably be put in jail. At that time, approximately twenty years ago, I found her hard to believe. No nation could be that calculating and cruel. Today, I know better. I owe her an apology.

It is amazing that the Palestinians have managed to hold on in face of such oppression. Romney praises Israel for its business success. He then turns right around and supports the giving of billions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars to keep Israel’s economy afloat. I wonder how long Romney would stay in business in Gaza without electricity for most of the day, the resupply of materials or trucks to make deliveries.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director, Jewish Voice for Peace writes:

Governor Romney’s willful lack of understanding for facts on the ground and what appears to be racist assumptions about Israelis and Palestinians do not represent us… Romney stakes his value as a leader on his success in business. But any businessperson should know that blocking free trade and commerce, profiting from exploiting stolen land, and holding an entire economy hostage is not exactly fair play. (3)

Romney was in Israel attending a million dollar fundraising breakfast and sitting next to Shelton Adelson who has pledged a million dollars to defeat Barak Obama. The fact that Adelson bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s calling the Palestinians an “invented” people was not missed by Romney. He supports Netanyahu’s hard right rejection of any peace initiative that might lead to a two state, equal opportunity, solution.

It’s ironic that his breakfast was being served in the King David Hotel, the site of Israel’s pre-state terrorism which killed 91 people. But, that was then, when terrorism was on the other foot. Now, he could look out the window and see the wall and military control of Palestinian life, if he had chosen to. But, if you are humping for votes, such things as truth and justice get in the way. Nobody says that Romney isn’t smart. It’s his morals and ethics that are being called into question. Does anything matter to him as much as “business success”?

Thomas Are
August 2, 2012

1 - Open Letter to Governor Mitt Romney: Apologize to the Palestinian People. Jewish Voice for Peace. 1611 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA 94612;
Phone (510) 465-1777;

2 - Frank Collins, “Palestinian Economy in Chaos After Gulf War.” The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1991, Vol X, Number 2, p.23 . Cited in my book, Israeli Peace/Palestinian Justice. p.155.
3 - Jewish Voice for Peace, cited above.