Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Israel is a Run Away Truck

To more and more people watching the carnage of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza last summer, it seemed that Israel is like a run away truck; picking up speed, engine red hot,  exhaust spewing out poisonous gas, racing downhill, no one at the wheel and heading for a crash. The question is, will we, the U.S., crash with it?

It seems that our congressional leadership is determined to keep its blinders on even as more people around the world see that we are on the wrong side of history.  

Last month, the Swedish Prime Minister announced that his country would become the first in the European Union to recognize Palestine as a state. A week later, the British Parliament voted 274 to 12 to do the same, saying that the British public is fed up with Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestinian land. Last month’s war against Gaza was the last straw.  Some of the moral concerns expressed by the parliamentarians sounded like a foreign language to our congress:

One lawmaker says that the occupation is “much worse” than apartheid in South Africa. Another says that the Balfour Declaration of 1917 now seems like a “sick joke,” because it never guaranteed freedom to Palestinians. Many members offer frank descriptions of Israeli detention of children and unending settlement expansion. Several describe Israeli actions in Gaza as war crimes. One mentions the use of terrorism by Mandela and Begin long before Palestinians used the tactic. Labor and Conservative members alike speak of the role of the Israel lobby in the United States.[1]

Of course, recognition does not solve much. In fact, it hardly solves anything. Recognition without rights is next to meaningless.  After a cease fire and recognition, Gaza will still need food and medicine, water and electricity. More than 450,000 people have been run over. According to the United Nations:

At least 2,168 Palestinians were killed, 519 children and 77 % were civilians.[2]  11,321 Palestinians were injured, 108,000 are currently homeless and over 1000 children will be permanently disabled.  142 families lost three or more family members in the same incident.  At least 220 schools were damaged, with 22 completely destroyed.  62 hospitals were damaged, 278 mosques (73 completely demolished).  Some of the mosques were historical sites that dated back to the 7th century.  The Gaza power plant remains inoperable - with electricity outages for 18 hours a day in most areas.
George Galloway,  member of Parliament, identified himself as a life time friend of Israel, abstained from voting on the Parliament’s recognition of Palestinian as a state because he said that such an act will not solve the major problems facing Gaza:

I cannot support this motion as it accepts recognition of the state of Israel, does not define borders of either state or address the central question of the right of return of the millions of Palestinians who have been forced to live outside Palestine. Israel was a state born in 1948 out of the blood of the Palestinians who were hounded from their land. Since then it has grabbed ever more land from the Palestinian people. In the last five years it has twice launched murderous assaults on the Palestinian people of Gaza, some 1.8 million people crammed into what is in effect a prison camp. In the wake of the most recent war on Gaza, Israel has announced its biggest land grab in the Occupied West Bank so far. Israel has defied UN resolution after UN resolution with impunity…[3].

Richard Ottaway, long time supporter of Israel said that Israel has made him “look like a fool. I have to say to the government of Israel that if they are losing people like me, they will be losing a lot of people.”[4]

Of course, it’s hard for the United States government to condemn Israel for its barbaric bombing of innocent unarmed people when we are providing the bombs to do it.

Marc Ellis asks:

What is to be thought of world leaders who know the score in private and continually lie in public? They are little better than the Israelis gathered on the border of Gaza who cheer each Israeli bomb strike.
            Maybe those Israeli bomb cheerleaders are not far off. Israel was born through violence. Israel has expanded through violence. Israel makes sure that there won’t be a Palestinian state through violence.[5]

What recognition does do is send a message to the world and especially to the U.S. Congress that Palestine has not yet been pushed under the rug.  It also sends a message to the people of Palestine that they have not been forgotten in spite of all the efforts of self-serving politicians, irresponsible media and silent pulpits. The British Parliament, along with Sweden and 130  other countries have said, we have not forgotten you.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that the church (synagogue and Mosque) has three obligations to the State. First, to ask the State if its actions are legitimate. Second, to aid the victims of State despotism. And third, to jam the wheels of State when it runs over people.  When a mad man drives down a crowed street, we must put spikes in the spokes of the truck.[6]

Of course, the Israeli government never heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and couldn’t care less about the British Parliament. But, an increasing number of people both in the U.S. and around the world watched the news from Israel/Gaza and are saying, there is something wrong with this picture. And that angers Israel, which in itself makes me feel that we may be clogging the wheels of the Zionist truck.

                                                                                                    Thomas Are
                                                                                                    October 22, 2014

[1] Mondoweiss,  British Parliament Sends a Message to Obama:  The People see Israel as a “Bully., Oct. 15, 2014
[2] Palestinian Center for Human Rights
[3] George Galloway, Why I Cannot Support This Motion on Palestine,  Information Clearing House,  Oct.  14, 2014.
[4] Philip Weiss, British Parliament Votes Overwhelmingly to Recognize Palestinian State,  Mondoweiss, Oct. 14, 2014
[5] Marc H. Ellis, Burning Children, A Jewish View of the War in Gaza, (New Disapora Books, 2014) p.51
[6] Eric Metaxas,  Bonhoeffer, (Thomas Nelson, 2010) p.153-4. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

War with Iran ... Foolish and Immoral

For years, we have heard Benjamin Netanyahu try to push America into a war with Iran. Just last month, while at the United Nations, Netanyahu:

Declared Iran the “gravest threat” to the world, saying that defeating ISIS without also defeating Iran “is to win the battle and lose the war.”  
          He said that he did not believe Iran is actually opposed to ISIS even though Iran has had troops in Iraq fighting ISIS for months.[1]

Again, the next day, meeting with President Obama, it is reported that his main agenda was to “not let up on sanctions against Iran.” Referring to what he called a “global concern” about Iran’s nuclear program, he declared that in order for diplomacy to work, those pressures must be kept in place.”[2]

I remember John McCain, when running for president, responding to a reporter’s question as to what he would do about Iran.  Glibly, McCain referred to a popular singing group, and with a smile said, “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

The same people who were so eager for us to attack Iraq several years ago, saying that it would be a “cake walk,” that our troops would be greeted with flowers,” are at it again. They assured us then that a war with Iraq would cost us nothing. It would pay for itself.  Yet, two decades later, we are still stuck in Iraq and paying an enormous price.  It is amazing that none of the war-hawks who are now saying, “no friendly relations with Iran.” are willing to admit that invading Iraq was a mistake.  Forget Iraq, they say. Attack Iran.

I think an attack on Iran would be foolish.  Iran is much stronger than Iraq. Some say, twenty times stronger. If there would ever be a case of smacking the tar baby, bombing Iran is it. Some problems do not have a military solution. Attacking Iran could very well cause more problems than it solves.

The problem is not Iran, it is salafism. Salifism is a radical Islamic fundamentalism which rejects everything modern and everything Western. The salafist are not Shia nor Sunni. They hold no loyalty to any denomination or nation.  Their goal is to force a society based on the seventh century world of Mohammad and sharia law. Salafism is dangerous and a threat to many people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. But, it is an idea. You just can’t stop an idea with a bomb.[3]

The analogy is often used that we must cut off the head of the snake.  Sounds easy, but salafism is not a snake.  Recent history shows that salafism is more like a star fish. Cut off the leg of a star fish and it just grows another leg, and the leg you cut off becomes another star fish.   When Osama bin Laden and his salafist cohorts flew planes into the towers in New York and crashed into the pentagon, it was estimated that less than one percent of the world’s Muslims would call themselves salafist.  Today, nobody knows how many there are. Some estimate as many as 10 percent.  But this much is certain.  Every time we pull off an Abu Ghraib,  a Guantanamo Bay,  or bomb another Muslim nation, the salafist groups around the world go into a recruiting mode.

It would be foolish to attack Iran, but not only that, it would be immoral.

We have often heard that Ahmadinejad threatened to destroy the State of Israel and annihilate the Jews.  But, the quote referred to by Israel’s Prime Ministers did not say that Ahmadinejad threatened  to drive Jews into sea. Reading his words in the Farci language, what he actually said was, “This regime occupying Jerusalem must disappear from the pages of time.”[4]  This sounds more like a moral condemnation, that a physical threat.

Another consideration when casually talking about a war with Iran is that back in 1982, when Iraq attacked Iran, even after more than 200,000 Iranians had been killed, “20,000 by poison gas launched by Iraq, 100,000 severely injured by nerve agents, even after the war, 55,000 people were being treated for illness from chemical weapons,”[5] Iran did not retaliate:

The real reason for Iran’s failure to use chemical weapons was not the inability to formulate the necessary mix of chemicals but the fact that Ayatollah Khomeini had forbidden it on the grounds of Islamic jurisprudence.[6]

Chemical weapons violate Islamic morality.  Now here is the point.  The same Islamic restriction against killing innocent people that applied to chemical weapons also  applies to nuclear weapons:

Khomeini’s wartime fatwa prohibiting Iran from manufacturing or using chemical weapons and Khamenei’s 2003 fatwa against the manufacture, possession, or use of nuclear weapons – provided concrete evidence that religious prohibitions on WMD by the supreme leader have not been mere propaganda but have played a decisive role in determining Iran’s policy on both chemical and nuclear weapons issues.[7]
For what it’s worth, there has never been an Iranian suicide bomber and in the past two hundred and fifty years, Iran has attacked no one.

In 1988 the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian airline killing all 290 people.  President Reagan announced that the Vincennes was under attack, that the airliner was not in its assigned corridor, that it was descending, that its transponder made erroneous signals. Yet, when all of these excuses proved to be false, Iran launched no retaliation.

I wish our media would give fair press to Iran.  In the days after 9/11, thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran to hold candlelight vigils for the victims in America:

Tehran asked nothing in return from the Bush administration for its help, which included putting the Northern Alliance at the United States disposal as the primary ground force component in the campaign to topple the Taliban. … Khatami asked to visit Ground Zero that he might offer prayers and light a candle in memory of the 9/11 victim … Tehran also offered to send terrorism experts to open an American-Iranian counter-terrorism dialogue. Bush rejected both proposals and condemned Iran as an “axis of evil” in his next State of the Union Address.[8]

In the meantime, Israel assassinates Iranian scientist and threatens to bomb its people.

Again, It would be foolish and immoral for the U.S. to allow Israel to pull us into a war with Iran. For peace in the Middle East, it would be far more just and wise for the US to make a serious effort to bring about a fair and moral solution toward the rights of the Palestinians still under Israeli occupation.
                                                                                    Thomas Are
                                                                                    October 12, 2014

[1] Jason Ditz, Netanyahu: Iran Worse Than ISIS, ISIS Equal to Hamas,,  September 29, 2014
[2] Huffington Post, Israel’s Netanyahu Meets With Obama. September 30, 2014.
[3] See The Good Fight, by Peter Beinard, and The Battle for God, by Karen Armstrong.
[4] See Flint and Hillary Mann Leverett, Going to Tahran, (Metropolitan Books,  New York, 2013.) .p. 19.
Their research is backed up by The Guardian, The Washington Post and the New York Times.
[5] Gareth Porte Manufactured Crisis, (Just Word Books,, 2014)   p. 59.
[6] Ibid.  p.63.
[7] Ibid., p.75.
[8] Leverett, Going to Tehran, p,118-119.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Netanyahu Just Can't Let It Go

Monkeys can outrun and outclimb a man every time, and they both know it. Yet, the monk often finds himself caught in the man's net. The man knows he could never catch a monk by trying to outrun him. So, he weaves a basket, places a coconut inside and makes the neck just open enough for the monkey to get his hand in but not get the coconut out.  Along comes the monk. He thinks, smells like a coconut. Reaches his hand in. It is a coconut. Not only that, it is his coconut. God must have meant for him to have it. But, the man is coming, which does not bother the monk. He can outrun the man anytime. All he has to do is get his coconut out of that basket tied to the tree. Suddenly he is tangled up in a net.  

I think that is the story of Israel. Like the monk, Israel can let go of the occupied territories at any time and have peace, but Israel refuses to turn loose the coconut. And now, Israel is beginning to feel the net.

Netanyahu had claimed that “ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.” Alan Dershowitz, Israel’s American Defense Attorney,  brought it even closer by declaring, “ ISIS is America’s Hamas.”

ISIS is an extremist Islamist organization that doesn’t play by the rules, has prepared to behead Americans, smuggle Americans and Europeans into America with evil intentions on their mind. The only difference is, ISIS is much further away from the United States than Hamas is from Israel, but they use the same tactics.[1]

Really?  Hamas is an elected  body of government and finds support in many foreign governments. Its goal is to get Israel’s boot off of the Palestinian neck and has offered peace in exchange for freedom on many occasions. Nathan Thrall pointed out in the August 1 issue of the London Review of Books:

It was only after Israel arrested hundreds of Hamas members in the West Bank in early July, and Israeli airstrikes killed seven Hamas members, that Hamas began firing rockets into Israel.
            The most frequently repeated myth especially in full pro-Israeli newspaper ads, is that Hamas’ main objective is the destruction of Israel. It is a charge that was once true but has since been modified by pragmatic Hamas leaders, who ever since the late 1990s have offered Israel a long term truce in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal to its 1967 borders. In 1997 King Hussein of Jordan conveyed to Israel a letter from Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal offering a 30-year truce on those terms.  Israel’s response was an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Meshal.
            In 2002, Hamas supported the Arab peace initiative offering Israel full recognition and normal relations if Israel withdrew from the occupied territories, an offer Israel ignored. In 2006 Gaza’s former Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh sent a letter to George W. Bush offering a truce “for many years” on the same terms. That letter was also ignored. Finally in 2010 Hamas announced it would honor any peace plan approved by a majority of Palestinians in a referendum
            Gershon Baskin, an Israeli peace activist, recounts that in November 2012 he and Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari had completed a draft agreement containing mechanisms for maintaining a permanent truce, with Jabari agreeing to end all military attacks on Israel. Israel aborted the agreement by assassinating Jabari.
            Israel again had the opportunity to achieve both peace and security when Hamas and Fatah adopted a reconciliation agreement setting up a government pledged to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to past agreements with Israel…But instead of agreeing to work with the interim government Israel condemned it as “terrorist,” and maintained the blockade of Gaza.[2]

On the other hand, ISIS is a pure salafist ideology which holds no loyalty to any state and has few, if any friends in the political world. Hamas’ main demand in cease-fire talks is to end the occupation of the Gaza Strip. It has no stated plan to invade anyone.

Dershowitz asks, “If we had tunnels coming into the U.S. from Mexico or Canada, there is no doubt we would put boots on the ground to destroy those tunnels.”

This is amazing coming from a famed lawyer. Can he make a case only by denying context and history. We have not imprisoned the Mexicans for the past 66 years and we have not bombed Canada into devastation. And Dershowitz knows it. He just hopes the US media will not point it out and the average American will not care.

Last week, Netanyahu announced that he was coming before the UN, (Pretty courageous, I thought, since Israel is the most blantent violator of the UN General Assembly’s resolutions)  to refute “the lies of Mahmoud Abbas,” who said:

Forget about the Palestinians continuing to meet and discuss while Israel continues to construct settlements and ignore even the simple commitments it agreed to, such as the release of prisoners… The Palestinians will not return to any negotiations that do not take as a starting point the final objective of  a Palestinian state alongside Israel, based on the ’67 borders, and a binding timetable for its establishment.

Abbas used such words as “colonial occupation,” “racism,” a war of genocide,” “massacres,” and a nation above the law.” But has he lied?

Has Israel not been an occupying force in Palestine since 1967?  Is a Jewish state with rights and privileges for Jews only not racism?  As for a war of “genocide,” has this not been the stated goal and practice of Israel since 1948?  And as for “massacres and a nation above the law,” even Americans saw the bombing and destruction in Gaza last summer: more than 2,000 people killed and 11,000 injured, 3,000 of them children, 1000 permanently disabled with 1,800 orphaned.  As much as Netanyahu tries to deflect criticism of Israel as “lies.” the nets of world opinion are closing in on him.  Netanyahu’s strategy of we will keep on killing your people, assassinating your leaders and blowing up your children until you stop hating us, is clearly not working.  Palestinians are determined to hang on. 

“But Hamas used their children as human shields,” is often proclaimed.  For the sake of discussion, let’s pretend for the moment that a Palestinian mother did come to the door with her child held out in front of her to protect the terrorist behind her.  I have watched a lot of TV cop shows and never once when the robber came out of the bank holding a hostage in front of him have I  seen the police shoot down the hostage to kill the bad guy. Yet, Israel excuses the death of over 500 children by claiming that they were shields.  Now, stop pretending. There is not one shred of evidence reported by the world’s press of Palestinians  using children or anyone as shields. Because Netanyahu says it ad nauseam does not make it true. It is simply his desperate effort to cover up the senseless killing of civilians including children. I understand his panic.

He is being closed in by his own “refuseniks,” those military personnel who, at risk of their own freedom, refuse to serve the goals of “the most moral army on the globe:” because of its ruthless attack on an unarmed and cornered people.

Another concern of Netanyahu is the threat of Abbas to go to the International Criminal Court with charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes against Israel.  The ICC has already declared settlements illegal.  Obama has referred to settlements as, “unsustainable,” while Marc Ellis, Jewish scholar and prolific writer asks, “When does “unsustainable” become “unconscionable?”  I would guess when it is brought before the ICC.

And then comes BDS, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.  People of conscience all over the globe , from main line churches to the dock workers in Oakland, California, use BDS as a means to get the attention of Israel.  It is a movement of moral non-violent resistance which cannot be stopped by Netanyahu’s military might or AIPAC’s money.  BDS is unstoppable and is growing.  It worked in South Africa and it is putting the squeeze on Israel.

And then there is Jewish Voice for Peace, which is a small but rapidly growing Jewish community which seeks to take their historical faith seriously.  They oppose Zionist Israel because of the high moral and compassionate standards of the Prophets.

Add all of this together and unless Israel finds a way to pull its fist out of Palestine and let go of its agenda to become a Jewish only state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean,  the net is inevitably closing in. At least, I hope so.

                                                                                                Thomas Are
                                                                                                October 3, 2014

[1] Melissa Clyne, Alan Dershowitz:ISIS is America’s Hamas,  Newsmax Media, Sept. 12, 2014
[2] Rachelle Marshall, Cease-Fire Follows Cease-Fire But Gaza Remains a Prison. Published in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 2014, p.10.