Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Zionism Discussed

Yesterday, in my church, our pastor along with a seminary professor taught a class on Zionism.  I was pleased. It seems that while most churches will not touch this subject because “it is too controversial,” I gathered with a couple of dozen fellow travelers in my church to discuss the goals of modern Zionism. I was glad to be involved in such a church. We did not solve much, but at least we talked about the problem.

Then I came home and read the newspaper.

Israel bombed an apartment tower in downtown Gaza City on Saturday, collapsing the 12 story building…Gaza police said a warning missile had been fired five minutes earlier and some residents were able to rush out. Still 22 people were wounded, including 11 children and five women…Witnesses said the two strikes came within seconds of each other…. About 100,000  Gazans have become homeless during the airstrikes with more than 17,000 homes destroyed or damaged beyond repair, according to U.N. figures.[1]

And while we discussed Zionism, the Zionist were attacking:

The health ministry in Gaza said that 16 Palestinians were killed and 52 wounded in Israeli strikes on Sunday…In the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, artillery shells or missiles hit a home, killing five people, including a mother and her three children… More than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting; on the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and four civilians have been killed including a 4-year-old boy.[2]

While this was going on, some Jews of conscience were sounding out, “No more killing in my Name.”  The Jewish Voice for Peace, Atlanta Chapter held a vigil in front of the Israeli Consulate and honored the names of those Palestinians killed by Israel’s policy of  collective punishment  Week after week, they publicly protest bombings, assassinations, destruction of homes, saying, “We want to be clear that our Jewish values do not support a war on civilians. We view every life as equal regardless of ethnicity.”  All across the world, 140,000 members of Jewish Voice for Peace, with chapters in every state and in 100 countries oppose Israel’s occupation. And they stand up and say it out loud.

I am a Jew represented by a state engaged in unspeakable acts of inhumanity in my name. And I am filled with an anger that has not dissipated since my first visit to Palestine in 2002 where I witnessed first-hand the devastating realities of unending occupation. I am angry.[3]

Well, I am also angry. I want to say, where is THE CHURCH VOICE FOR PEACE?  I want to say “In the name of Jesus, in the name of God, in the name of common fairness and decency, let us preach from our pulpits, pray in our worship, shout from the rooftops, challenge our neighbors, write our senators and risk being absolutely obnoxious in saying   STOP THE KILLING.

Nothing will happen unless we discuss Zionism. But, if it stops there, nothing will happen.  Israel will continue to confiscate land, build settlements, construct an apartheid wall, destroy homes and assassinate those who resist, not to “defend itself,” but to continue its occupation.

God help the church be the church.

                                                                                    Thomas Are
                                                                                    August 26, 2014

[1] Karen Laub and Peter Enav, Israel Airstrike Destroys Gaza Apartment  Tower, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday August 24, 2014
[2] Fares Akram and Isabel Kershner, Israel: Missle Strike Kills Hamas Official,  Atlanta Journal-Constitution,, Monday, August 25, 2014.
[3] Tema Okun, No More Killing in my Name, Published, The News and Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina. July, 23, 2014,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

And Then, There is Israel

The only way the world can work, as smaller nations and groups gain power, is for all people in power to agree on some rules of conduct. We live in a day when almost anyone; groups of minorities, NGOs, unions, PACs or disgruntled dissentients can bring about disruption and pain to anyone in power, including the US.  Since WW II, even superpowers with huge military forces have failed to provide safety for their own population, much less for the world at large.

For this reason, world leaders came together and created such joint organizations as the United Nations, International Criminal Court in The Hague, and the Fourth Geneva Convention, all representing a set of rules by which the world might live in a civilized manner..

That was then. Now, there is Israel which shows little regard for International Law and yet insists on being blessed and excused by the world.

Mr. Dore Gold has a very difficult job.[1] It is to sanitize Israel’s campaign against the people of Gaza in face of a United Nations Human Rights Council investigation. Gold’s defense is, “You can’t go into any kind of legal proceedings when the judge and jury have decided you are guilty before you have even walked into the courtroom.”[2] In other words, kill someone in broad daylight before hundreds of witnesses and you can claim that the jury is prejudiced.

The  purpose of a court hearing is to discern the truth of what happened and who is responsible.  However, in the case of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, there is no question as to what happened and who is responsible.  Probably most of the world and anyone with access to a newspaper or TV has seen Israel’s guilt and has reacted with condemnation. What other judgment could be made by fair minded people when:

Again, F-16s, Apache helicopters and warships bombard the densely crowded Gaza Strip day and night, blowing apart apartment houses, offices and homes. Targets were chosen seemingly at random, and aimed at punishing the whole population – half of whom are children. During the first few days alone, fire from an offshore vessel killed four small boys as they played soccer on the beach. An air strike on a center for the disabled killed two patients and seriously injured four. A bomb destroyed a seaside cafĂ©, killing nine young men who were watching the World Cup. Another missile slammed into a mosque during the even Ramadan prayers and killed 18 worshippers.

Gold is right, at least as far as I am concerned. I don’t need a court to tell me this is wrong.

With no bomb shelters to protect them, and surrounded by closed borders and unable to escape, more than 1,200 Palestinians were killed  in the first 3 weeks, including at least 200 children. Six thousand Gazans were wounded. Meanwhile Israel had cut off electricity supplies to Gaza and destroyed sewage pipes, so raw sewage flowed in the streets. On July 20, one of the deadliest days, Israel tanks invaded the crowded Shejaiya sections of Gaza City and kept up a steady barrage of artillery fire, killing 87 Palestinians and filling the hospitals with shrapnel-torn bodies.[3]

As of this writing, more than 2,000 people have been killed, twice as many children than combatants.  

Again, Gold is right.  The massacre in Gaza has not gone unnoticed. In fact, according to Desmond Tutu, writing in Ha’aretz:

If you add together all the people who gathered over the past weekend to demand justice in Israel and Palestine – in Cape Town, Washington, D.C., New York, New Delhi, London, Dublin and Sydney, and all other cities – this was arguably the largest active outcry by citizens around a single cause ever in the history of the world.[4]

Hopefully the ICC and UN will condemn Israel for its war against an unarmed civilization even though I doubt that Israel will care as long as it is backed up by the United States. At least so far, neither has shown much regard for International law which declares that Israel is legally responsible for the welfare of the Palestinian population which it seems determined to reduce to rubble.  

                                                                                    Thomas Are
                                                                                    August 19, 2014


[1] Dore Gold is an Israeli diplomat who has served in various positions under several Israeli governments. He is the current President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was also an advisor to the former Israeli Prime Minister  Ariel Sharon and to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  during his first term in office.
[2] Dore Gold, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 16, 2014
[3] Rachelle Marshall, Israel Again Wreaks Vengeance on Gaza, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September, 2014, p.8.
[4] Desmond Tutu, My Plea to the People of Israel: Liberate yourselves by liberating Palestine, Ha’aretz, August 14, 2014.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why the Cairo Peace Talks Will Also Fail

Gaza is a small country at best, five miles wide and twenty-five miles top to bottom. Blocked by Egypt to the south, Israel to the east and north and the Mediterranean Sea on their west, Gaza is 147 square miles, tip to toe. Now with Israel’s “buffer zone,” in effect, Gaza will be reduced to a mere 82 square miles.   Moshe Feiglin,  deputy speaker of the Knesset, called for Gaza to “become part of sovereign Israel and to be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel.”

“Housing crisis in Israel!” Not a word of concern for the housing crisis in Gaza. Israel’s population density stands at 964 persons per square mile. Gaza’s people are crowded into 22,000 per square mile.[1]

So far, three Israeli civilians have been killed by Hamas rockets.  Israel has killed 1,900 Palestinians, including 415 children, injured over 10,000 plus ten thousand homes destroyed and 30,000 damaged. Gaza is in a crisis with more destruction than it has ever experienced during its seven year siege.  Israel bombed Gaza’s only power plant, knocking out electricity for sewage plants and hospitals. According to Jewish Voice for Peace:

Before the crisis, Gaza had 2,047 hospital beds. That’s about one bed for every five injured Palestinians. Medical supplies, including pain medication, are in extremely low supply. “Never seen such massive destruction ever before,” is how Peter Maurer, president of the International Red Cross, described Gaza last week.[2]

So, once again, Hamas goes into “peace talks,” knowing full well what the outcome will be, and who will be blamed for the breakdown. All across the world there will be little demonstrations against Israel’s devastation but little will change. Thousands of Americans will take to the streets in protest and congress will still vote 100% to support Israel and praise Netanyahu in his slaughter of Palestinians. Obama will continue to announce that Israel has a right to defend itself.

I think it was Einstein who said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.  The Palestinians have been down this road so many times before and nothing changes.

Why? Because the “peace talks” do not focus on International law. They ignore the Geneva Convention. The talks will slide right over dozens of UN resolutions. Such things are not the goal of Israel.  All Israel wants is “calm,” and for the human rights of the Palestinians and their equality as citizens of the world. to be forgotten as soon as possible so Israel can get back to the business of occupation.

Recognition of Palestinian rights to their own land and water will be announced as a threat to Israel’s security, which is another word for “We have no responsibility for violence, no matter what we do."

Everybody knows Israel only kills terrorist. And how do we know that those killed are terrorist?  Answer: Because Israel kills them.

My father’s brother, Ismail al-Ghoul, 60, was not a member of Hamas. Hisdra, 62, was not a militant of Hamas. Their sons, Wael, 35, and Mohammed, 32, were not combatants for Hamas. Their daughters, Hanadi, 28, and Asmaa, 22, were not operatives for Hamas, nor were my cousin Wael’s children, Ismail, 11, Malak, 5, and baby Mustafa, only 24 days old, members of Islamic Jihad, the Popular front for the Liberation of Palestine or Fatah. Yet, they all died in the Israeli shelling that targeted their home at 6:20 a.m. on Sunday morning.[3]

There may be some talk by Israel of “easing” the siege at the check points, just enough to let the anti-Palestine Zionists proclaim the “generous offer” by Israel and make sure Hamas gets no credit for brokering a deal.  But, in the big picture, it will be a continuation of the status quo. Occupiers will remain occupiers and refugees will remain refugees with no right of return and little economic opportunity to meet basic human needs. In the words of Jeff Halper, Palestinians will remain “warehoused.”  Israel’s goal is not to change the facts on the ground, but to stop the exposure of its violence. If that happens, if there is a “peace deal” without a change in Israel’s choke hold on Gaza, in a few years there will be rockets and Cast Lead bombardment all over again.

Einstein is right. It’s insane.

                                                                                                Thomas Are
                                                                                                August 13, 2014

[1] Dennis Kucinich, Gaza Buffer Zone,  The Guardian August 5, 2014.
[2] Action Alert, Jewish Voice for Peace,  Stefanie Fox, Red Cross, Never Seen Such Massive Destruction. August 11, 2014
[3] Nick Wing and Samantha Lachman, 17 Things To Read If You’re Trying To See All Sides Of the Israel-Gaza Conflict., Huffington Post, August 5, 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Put the Blame on Hamas

Some have asked, “Why doesn’t Gaza just kick Hamas out, after all, they use human shields?” 

Years ago, in the heart of the Civil Rights struggle, I remember people saying, “If we can just get rid of that Martin Luther King, Jr., everything will be OK.”  So, they did. They got rid of him. King was assassinated, only to have us learn that the problem had never been King.  The problem was segregation.  When I first got involved in speaking out for justice for the Palestinians, I remember people saying, “If we could just get rid of that Yasser Arafat, everything would be OK.”  And they did, by poison or stress, we don’t yet know, but they got rid of Arafat, only to learn that the problem never was Arafat.  It was occupation.  One people taking the land, labor and resources of another people, simply because they have the power to do it.

Today, Israel assassinates Hamas leaders, kidnaps and imprisons them by the hundreds and misrepresents their goals and reason for being.  It amazes me. Israel shuts down and puts a siege on Gaza, chokes the very life out of its citizens, and I still hear people say, “If we could just get rid of that Hamas, everything would be OK.”

Does anyone think the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians really started with the election of Hamas in 2007?   The tension started 64 years ago when the Haganah, Stern Gang, Irgun and Palmach drove 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, many of whom became refugees, some of whom are still living in Gaza. Then in 1967, by means of a trumped up war which Israel was assured of winning, Israel started an occupation.

The editors of The Nation magazine write about the violence in Gaza:

Unless the deeper issues are addressed, the cycle will continue – the cycle not of violence, but of impunity. Impunity is what happens when an aggressor fractures the norms of international law and basic human rights, yet is never held to account, and so is free to commit the same crimes again and again. That is what we are seeing now, and that is exactly what the Goldstone Report – the findings of the UN investigation of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09 - so presciently warned against.[1]

But Hamas uses human shields.  At least, that is what Netanyahu said. Remember, “We use missiles to protect our people. They use people to protect their missiles.”  Sounds good, and the media loved it. It’s just not true.  Netanyahu uses missiles, bombs and rockets to kill people to protect Israel’s occupation and goal of taking over all of Palestine. He cries “human shields to cover up the blood on his hands.

Gary Burge, professor of theology at Wheaton College specializing in religion and politics in the Middle East, wrote:

The current strategy has been to use the “human shield” argument. This is common in Ukraine, where both Ukrainian nationalist and pro-Russian separatist blame civilian casualties on the other side “because they use human shields.” It has also been used by the Assad regime in Syria.  The U.S. used it in the battle for Fallujah in 2004. Now the same is being used in Gaza, and the Israelis have repeated this argument to the American media ad nauseam.[2].

The people of Gaza are being killed, not because they are being set up by Hamas, but because there is no place to run. No bomb shelters, forest in the hills or even UN schools are safe from Israel’s superior military assault.  They have no Iron Dome. Burge says, “Israel runs the risk of winning the war and losing all credibility in the world community.”

I hope we can keep our eye on the ball as to who is ultimately responsible for the violence in Gaza.  It is just too easy to put the blame on Hamas. 

                                                                                                Thomas Are
                                                                                                August 9, 2014

[1] The Nation,  August 4, 2014, p. 3.
[2] Gary M. Burga, “But They Use Human Shields!” Huffington Post July 31, 2014. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Tipping Point

While giving Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner, President, NY Board of Rabbis,  a chance to defend Israel’s massacre of Gaza on MSNBC All in With Chris Hayes, the Rabbi said, “But,. Egypt is with us.”  Hayes raised his voice, ”My lands, the government of Egypt kills a thousand people a day and condemned 800 to death in one trial. The government of Egypt overthrew the Hamas friendly Muslim Brotherhood government and seized power.  Of course, they are going to support Israel’s war against Hamas. But I don’t think that is anything for Israel to brag about.”[1]

Not only am I am encouraged by Chris Hayes,  Rowan Farrow is now talking about a “tipping point” in America’s support for Israel

Every night, we see bombed out buildings, women and children running in fear for their lives, and they have reason to be afraid;  over 1,800 Palestinians killed so far, almost 10,000 injured and 280,000 displaced.  No electricity or water because Israel bombed their only remaining electric plant.  Americans are good people and given the picture as shown in the nightly news, we will oppose such gross injustice and cruelty, in spite of media spin. We are reaching a tipping point.

CNN says Hamas “kidnapped a soldier, Kerry says he was “abducted” and the White House says it was a ‘barbaric’ violation of the ceasefire. How they can say that when Israel kidnapped and abducted 700 Palestinians, after three teens were killed, is beyond me. So it is “detain” if Israel does it, and “abduct”, “kidnap”, or worse if the Palestinians do it. “Barbaric” is a term used to describe the capturing of a Jewish soldier, but inappropriate to describe the slaughter of 300 Palestinian children. By the way, as it turned out, the soldier was not captured. He died in a fight with Hamas defenders.

And where was this soldier killed? Not in his home feeding his children, but deep inside  Gaza, seeking to destroy the tunnels which were the only means through which some Palestinian Dad has to feed his children.  

It is significant to point out that tunnels, which have become such a media propaganda tool for Israel, were never used to transport Hamas defenders into Israel before the bombing of Gaza started a month ago. No Israeli soldier or civilian had been attacked by tunnel infiltrators during the seven years Israel had Gaza locked down.  

According to the research done by General James David in an email sent on July 31, 2014, to a Jewish friend:

The Israelis try to justify their attacks by claiming that Hamas uses tunnels to infiltrate, attack, and kill innocent Jews. But, just go back this year before this war began earlier this month, July 2nd. Hamas has never attacked any Israelis and there have been no Israelis killed. On the other hand, there have been 123 Palestinians killed in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and hundreds of Palestinian homes demolished…. There have also been hundreds of attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank called, “price-tag” attacks by extremist settlers, destroying cars, uprooting hundreds of olive trees, and even beating Palestinian children.

The Rabbi may be proud that Egypt supports Israel in spite of its crimes against Palestinians.  However, he does not mention that Bolivia, declared Israel a “terrorist state,” and that Brazil, Peru, Chili and El Salvador have called their ambassadors home.[2]

Gaza has become the most tragic place in the world to live, a place where 1.8 million people, fellow human beings, live with poverty, hunger, sickness, imprisonment and humiliation every day. They live without electricity and water while depending upon charity handouts of food to survive.

I can only imagine what a Palestinian doctor must feel while trying to treat screaming children whose bodies have been torn apart. He works with limited medicines, anesthesia or sterile instruments. His shoes stick to the floor because of the blood as he tries to focus on the task at hand. He has not slept for 48 hours. The need for his care is overwhelming. And then the hospital is bombed. There is no child in Gaza who has not been frightened, wounded or killed by bombs in the past 27 days.  It’s Netanyahu’s version of “No Child Left Behind.” I can not even imagine the fear in the faces of children who have suddenly become orphans without a home or family left to care for them. I don’t have the capacity to put myself in their place.

Someone asked, “What do the people of Gaza want?”  Well, they want exactly what we want; a chance to live life without humiliation, a life in which they may care for their families and give their children a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labors in freedom and dignity.

While the Rabbi has the audacity to challenge the concern of Chris Hayes for the suffering of Palestinians and tries to picture Israel as the victim, more and more people are reaching the tipping point.  At least, I hope so.  

                                                                                    Thomas Are
                                                                                    August 3, 2014

[1] MSNBS, All in with Chris Hayes, August 1, 2014
[2] Paul Craig Roberts, South America Takes Moral Leadership Away From the Immoral West. July 30, 2014.