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