I Write As Long As Settlers Burn Schools

by James M. Wall

A regular reader wrote recently and asked why I write so often about Palestine and Israel.

It was a good question and after some time for reflection I have an answer for him, inspired by a 1971 Johnny Cash song, “The Man in Black”.

Cash had been asked why he always wore black. He explains that he did so because he identifies with the poor and the hungry, the prisoners, the lonely and the old, and those who are dying in a war in a distant land, at that time, the Vietnam War.

A few years later, after “The Man In Black” became a best-selling album, Cash said:

“With the Vietnam War as painful in my mind as it was in most other Americans’, I wore it ‘in mournin’ for the lives that could have been.’ … Apart from the Vietnam War being over, I don’t see much reason to change my position … The old are still neglected, the poor are still poor, the young are still dying before their time, and we’re not making many moves to make things right. There’s still plenty of darkness to carry off.”

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and our American wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, are today providing “plenty of darkness”. Together, these wars are today’s Vietnam.

I am aware that I cannot sing, or write simple, powerful poetry as Cash has done. But I must write about the darkness that covers our nation as it continues its pursuit of empirical conquest at a tremendous cost at home, under the guise of “fighting terror”. Indeed, “terrorism” is today’s version of the Communism that Nixon and Kissinger used as their excuse for “defending” South Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.

Johnny Cash originally recorded “The Man in Black”  before a college audience in May, 1971, one year after the Kent State Massacre when, during a student protest against the invasion of Cambodia, Ohio national guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

In May, 1971, Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, were still conducting a secret war, the details of which were only fully revealed on June 30, 1971, when the US Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not prevent the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the New York Times.

The story of how those Papers were finally published in the Times is vividly presented in the 2010 documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America. The title refers to Daniel Ellsberg, the Harvard professor who courageously risked his freedom to deliver the Pentagon Papers to the Times.

Henry Kissinger, who once taught with Ellsburg at Harvard, bitterly described his former academic colleague as “the most dangerous man in America.”

Ellsberg writes of his experiences in his 2002 book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.

Along with the vast majority of the American public, Johnny Cash was unaware of the Vietnam war narrative which Nixon and Kissinger tried to keep secret, when he wrote the lyrics for  “The Man in Black”. What he did know was that young Americans and many Vietnamese were dying needlessly.

The lyrics are at the end of this post.

Today, with wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the West Bank Bank and Gaza our military forces, and our surrogate Israeli military forces, are involved in an overall war against what a previous American president misnamed as “the global war on terror”.

This 2010 midterm election have essentially ignored the thousands and hundreds of thousands who are dying in distant lands because of our wars. Instead,  public attention is riveted on the craziness of the Tea Party candidates, some of whom may very well end up in the Congress.

The American public does not know about the Israeli settlers who set fire to a Palestinian girls’ school building near Nablus this past week. Juan Cole, whose Informed Comment blog is a flashing light of warning to the American public, tells the story of the attack on the school:

The phrase “ethnic cleansing” conjures up a swift, comprehensive act of expulsion. But in reality, moving a large population off its land is the death of a thousand cuts, a slow, inexorable process of stealing property, harassment, forcing people into a condition of malnutrition.

The Native Americans in the Americas, the Aborigines in Australia, and the Palestinians in Israel/Palestine were only sometimes forced off their land suddenly and en masse. The gradual processes told, in the long run.

The amazing thing about what is being done to the Palestinians in the Palestinian West Bank by Israeli illegal aliens is that it is happening in full view of the world, reported on by wire services, and yet remains invisible to Western publics.

The world reacts in horror when the Taliban in Afghanistan torch girls’ schools. But Israeli squatters just set fire to the store room of a Palestinian girls’ school, and the whole school would have gone up in flames if that warehouse had not been near a water main. The Israeli illegals left behind graffiti saying ‘regards from the hills.’

Cole also reports that earlier in October,

Israeli squatters set fire to a Palestinian mosque in Bethlehem.

[Also this autumn] there is the seasonal vandalism against olive trees in Palestinian orchards, which reached a fever pitch this year. The Israeli authorities prosecute few of these offenses and almost never hand down a punishment to an Israeli squatter.

The 10 million olive trees in the West Bank and Gaza, occupying some 45 percent of the farmland, are the matrix of Palestinian existence. An attack on olive trees is a form of economic warfare of the first water.

The American public knows far more about the fumbling responses of the Republican candidate for Joe Biden’s old Delaware senate seat, than it does about the needless death of a 2-year-old Gaza child who was prevented by the Israeli army from traveling the short distance outside Gaza for specialized treatment. The Palestinian organization, Physicians for Human Rights, has that story on its website:

Nasma Abu Lasheen died on Saturday, October 16, 2010 in Gaza. Israel failed to issue her an urgent entry permit for life-saving medical treatment at Ha-Emek Medical Center in Afula, Israel. She was two years old.

Abu Lasheen, a young resident of Gaza diagnosed with Leukemia, was referred for emergency treatment in Israel on October 6, 2010. When requests to the Israeli Army for an entry permit went unanswered for several days, by way of B’tselem, the family contacted Physicians for Human Rights- Israel (PHR-Israel) for additional help.

That very same day, on October 13, 2010, PHR-Israel contacted the Gaza District Coordination Office (DCO) demanding a permit be issued immediately to the baby and her father to enable their entry into Israel. A military approval was finally granted the next afternoon, October 14, 2010.

Abu Lasheen’s medical condition had been deteriorating rapidly and by the time the permit was received, the treating doctor in Gaza, Dr. Mohammad Abu Sha’aban, said she was too sick to travel. Nasma died in the early morning hours of October 16, 2010.

Ziad Abbas works for the Middle East Children’s Alliance on a project to bring clean water to the children of Palestine. He grew up in Palestine. He writes in Counter Punch, that his work is especially personal to him because of  his own childhood experiences of growing up deprived of water.

Israel controls and uses 89% of the water resources in the West Bank, leaving 11% for the 2.5 million Palestinians. The Israeli Occupation continues to limit Palestinian access to clean water as form of collective punishment by controlling the water resources and distribution and by destroying the water that we are able to get.

During Israeli military incursions, and especially during curfews, when we could not leave our homes, Israeli soldiers would shoot the water storage tanks on our roofs. Our water would pour down the sides of our buildings unused.

During the recent attack on Gaza, Israel targeted the entire water infrastructure including the largest water purification system in Gaza. They also targeted electrical generators that supported water purification and sewage treatment.

I write about these things because American churches are still hung up on not offending their Jewish neighbors, thus choosing interfaith harmony over justice.

I write about these things because major denominational meetings, like this past summer’s General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA, dickered and delayed and finally decided to study further how they might best deal with the “problems” in the Middle East.

Since that Presbyterian GA meeting, two-year-old Abu Lasheen died waiting for permission to travel to an Israeli hospital. Since that meeting, Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian girls school, leaving behind graffiti on the wall that said, “regards from the hills”. Something about the insensitive arrogance of that graffiti implies there was not enough room on the wall to add, in Clint Eastwoodian fashion, “we’ll be back.”

I write about the American media’s blindness to the narrative of the suffering in Palestine because Tom Friedman continues to fool his liberal readers by pretending to criticize Israel when his criticism always includes the AIPAC approved list of what he insists are “facts”, but which are either outright lies or distortions of reality.

The most recent example was Friedman’s October 20 column which calls on Israel to help President Obama line up world opposition to Iran by reaching a friendly agreement with Palestinian negotiators.

Friedman opens his column with a set of “stubborn facts” which are really just a repeat of the acceptable Israeli narrative which, of course, he assures his readers are “stubborn facts”.  Only, they are not.

Here is the start of Thomas Friedman’s latest  column, followed by corrections:

Say what you want about Israel’s obstinacy at times, it remains the only country in the United Nations that another U.N. member, Iran, has openly expressed the hope that it be wiped off the map. And that same country, Iran, is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

Israel is the only country I know of in the Middle East that has unilaterally withdrawn from territory conquered in war — in Lebanon and Gaza — only to be greeted with unprovoked rocket attacks in return.

Indeed, if you want to talk about spoiled children, there is no group more spoiled by Iran and Syria than Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia.

Hezbollah started a war against Israel in 2006 that brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese — and Hezbollah’s punishment was to be rewarded with thousands more missiles and millions more dollars to do it again. These are stubborn facts.

Friedman’s “stubborn facts” are stubborn, alright. They are falsehoods or distortions he clings to “stubbornly”.

Iran’s President Ahmedinejad never used the phrase, “wipe Israel off the map”. That was an initial mistranslation into English which the media loved and never let go. The media has refused, as Friedman does here, to go back and obtain the original statement by Ahmedinejad in a speech he gave to a Persian audience.

The Iranian president was quoting an ancient statement by Iran’s first Islamist leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, when he said that “this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time” just as the Shah’s regime in Iran had vanished.

He was not making a military threat. He was calling for an end to the occupation of Jerusalem at some point in the future. The “page of time” phrase suggests he did not expect it to happen soon. There was no implication that either Khomeini, when he first made the statement, or Ahmadinejad, in repeating it, felt it was imminent, or that Iran would be involved in bringing it about.

Another error: It is true that Israel took its military forces out of Lebanon and Gaza, but it did so because the cost in Israeli lives had become too expensive to maintain the garrisons in those two areas.

The invasions had proved to be a major loss for the vastly superior Israeli forces, a fact Friedman ignores as he praises Israel for its “unilateral withdrawal” from the two countries it had invaded and failed to control.

Friedman writes that “Hezbollah started a war against Israel in 2006 that brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese.”

Israel did launch a massive invasion of Lebanon in 2006, but who fired the first shot has been debated. Israeli sources have confirmed that Israel’s invasion plans were already on the drawing board when a border skirmish erupted, giving Israel the excuse it wanted to launch a war that, indeed, “brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese.”

Who brought those deaths, injuries and destruction to the Lebanese? Israel, of course.

Careful research would quickly demonstrate to Friedman and every other pro-Israel pundit and politician that Friedman’s “stubborn facts” are either false or distorted.

I will continue to write on Israel and Palestine as long as pundits like Thomas Friedman have access to the pages of the New York Times, and the American public remains ignorant of the actual facts on the ground in Israel and Palestine.

The Man in Black, lyrics by Johnny Cash

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black, Why you never see bright colors on my back,  And why does my appearance always have a somber tone. Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town, And I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, But still is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read, Or listened to the words that Jesus said, About the road to happiness through love and charity, Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose, In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes, But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back, Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old, For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold, I wear the black in mornin’ for the lives that could have been, Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died, Believen’ that the Lord was on their side, And I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died, Believen’ that we all were on their side.

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know, And things need changin’ everywhere you go, But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right, You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day, To tell the world that everything’s OK, But mabe I can carry off a little darkness on my back,

‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.

The photo at the top of the page is of two Bedouin girls, in school uniform, returning to their houses after a school day in Abu Farda near the West Bank city of Qalqilia on October 6, 2010. MaanImages/Khaleel Reash.

The Youtube above, and the lyrics by Johnny Cash may be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLkmC2VuXA8.

Posted in Media, Middle East Politics | 16 Comments

“It Is Very Heavy Here Right Now”

By James M. Wall2MaanImages:Abed al-Rahman Younis)

A personal friend of mine, a mother of three children, wrote from Jerusalem today:

“As I’m sure you are aware, the situation here is not good. I’ve wanted to write to all of you for two days now but have found myself very emotional and unable to properly express what is occurring here. Every morning we wake up to pictures and news of new deaths of young people. Innocent people.

“In the case of Fadi Aloon, murdered for being Palestinian and asking for help. Abed al-Rahman Shadi Obeidallah (above) was murdered at the age of 13. He was from the Aida refugee camp, where we just were, filming an uplifting video. Everywhere you drive there are remnants of the demonstrations from the night before, burned tires, stones, and communities in mourning.

“It is very heavy here right now. Everyone is waiting to see if this will turn into something even larger. The kids and I were caught in the middle of clashes with soldiers this week while returning home from school. It was a bit scary, with shooting and tear gas.”

Another friend from Chicago, AFSC peace activist Jennifer Bing, reports on a recent visit to the Israeli Ofer prison. Her report, Inside Israel’s Kangaroo Courts, Where Children are Held and Sentenced, is on the website AlterNet.

She writes:

“Israel’s Ofer military court provides a singular vantage point from which to observe the human impact of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. . .

“I knew the military court was not going to resemble a Law and Order courtroom or be like one of my visits to Chicago’s Cook County courtrooms, but as I saw Ofer’s barbed wire and concrete walls I knew I was stepping into the heart of the occupation.

This was where the state of Israel put children on trial after they were detained by heavily armed soldiers, and it was where Israeli military law allows potential maximum sentences up to 20 years for a charge of stone throwing. A new law enacted recently inside Israeli targets Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem and allows for similarly harsh penalties.”

Bing coordinates the advocacy campaign, Israeli Military Detention: No Way to Treat a Child. 

Jonathan Cook writes from Nazareth:

“Since a boy named David slew the giant Goliath with a slingshot, the stone has served as an enduring symbol of how the weak can defeat an oppressor.

“For the past month Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tried to rewrite the Bible story by declaring war on what he terms Palestinian “terrorism by stones”.

“There are echoes of Yitzhak Rabin’s response nearly 30 years ago when, as defence minister, he ordered soldiers to “break bones” to stop a Palestinian uprising, often referred to as the “intifada of stones”, against the Israeli occupation.

“Terrified by the symbolism of women and children throwing stones at one of the world’s strongest armies, Rabin hoped broken arms would deprive Palestinians of the power to wield their lowly weapon.

“Now the West Bank and Jerusalem are on fire again, as Palestinian youths clash with the same oppressors. Reports suggest soldiers killed one Palestinian youth and injured more than 100 others on Sunday alone.”

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an, reports on injuries and deaths: 

“At least 39 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli forces in the Ramallah area Tuesday, as tensions remained high across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem following a spate of killings by Israeli forces and Palestinians.

“The Red Crescent said 25 Palestinians were injured in clashes at Qalandiya military checkpoint, including five with live fire and 10 with rubber-coated steel bullets.

“A 17-year-old Palestinian was shot in the stomach, reportedly with a 0.22 caliber bullet, and underwent surgery to remove a bullet from near his spine, medics said. A Palestinian woman was also critically injured in her neck.

“An Israeli border guard was reportedly injured when a stone was thrown at him.

“A large march had set off from the entrance of Qalandiya refugee camp towards the checkpoint, with youths throwing rocks, empty bottles, and Molotov cocktails at soldiers.

“Clashes also broke out near the Beit El settlement, with dozens of Palestinians injured by rubber-coated steel bullets and excessive tear gas inhalation. Israeli forces reportedly detained a child in a supermarket in northern el-Bireh during the clashes and searched an ambulance carrying the injured to hospitals.

“Earlier, Israeli forces shot and injured three Palestinians as fierce clashes broke out in Bethlehem following the funeral of a 13-year-old boy who was shot dead by Israeli forces the day before.”

An earlier story from Ma’an reported the 13-year-old boy’s death:

“A 13-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during clashes in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem on Monday, Palestinian medics told Ma’an. Abed al-Rahman Shadi Obeidallah, was shot near the heart by Israeli forces during clashes in the refugee camp.He was taken in a civilian car to Beit Jala hospital where he immediately underwent surgery. However, doctors later pronounced him dead. The child was initially reported to be 12 years old, although medics later confirmed he was 13.”

Like many Israelis, Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy knew a third Intifada was inevitable:

“Intifada: The writing was on the wall. The writing has been on the wall because Israel’s conduct, in all its insufferable arrogance and imperviousness, cannot fail to lead to another terrible explosion.

“The West Bank has been quiescent for nearly 10 years, during which time Israel has consistently proven to the Palestinians that quiet will be met only with an intensification of the occupation, settlement expansion, more home demolitions and more mass arrests – including thousands of so-called administrative detainees who are incarcerated without trial, continuing confiscation of land, wholly useless incursions and arrests, and an itchy finger on the trigger resulting in dozens of needless human deaths and countless provocations inflaming Muslim sensibilities regarding al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount. Are Palestinians to assent to all of this in silence?

“To show restraint when the Dawabsheh family is burnt alive in Duma and no one is arrested or brought to trial by Israel, while Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon boasts that Israel knows who perpetrated that shocking crime but, to safeguard its intelligence network, will not arrest them?

“What people could maintain restraint in the face of such a sequence of events, with the entire might of the occupation in the background, without hope, without prospects, with no end in sight. No negotiations are underway, even in secret, the two-state solution is apparently permanently dead and Israel has no alternative to offer – and the Palestinians are to accept all of that and sit still? Nothing like that has ever happened anywhere, nor will it ever.

“While quiet has been sustained on the other side of the Wall for nearly 10 years, Israel has proven that there is no chance it will act as a partner for serious negotiations about the status of the West Bank, and that it has no intention of ending the occupation, with or without terrorism.

“A government that has the president of the United States wound around its little finger, incurring no punishment in return, has become drunk with power toward the Palestinians too. That’s what happens when the world permits Israel to run rampant in Gaza and the West Bank, inflating Israel’s arrogance and intoxication of power beyond all boundaries.”

What will stop this madness?

For an answer, start by looking in the mirror. Wherever you are, there are institutions, religious and secular, that are silent, media that are biased, and politicians who are indifferent to the suffering.

Wake them up before this “intoxication of power beyond all boundaries” dooms us all to permanent grief and sorrow. 

The picture at top is a Maan Image by Abed al-Rahman Younis.

Posted in Israel, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Palestinians | 4 Comments

Pope Francis Confronts Right Wing Media Vitriol

by James M. WallPOPE-hp-07-largeHorizontal375

American right-wing media commentators are trying desperately to gang up on the head of the Catholic Church.

A video compilation of some of the venom and hatred which greeted Pope Francis on his first ever Papal trip to the U.S. are a series of false and ignorant hatred rants.  

Pope Francis responded by turning the other cheek. Addressing the U.S. Congress Thursday morning, the Pope:

“challenged Congress and by extension the mightiest nation in history on Thursday to break out of its cycle of polarization and paralysis to finally use its power to heal the “open wounds” of a planet torn by hatred, greed, poverty and pollution.”

Anticipating the Pope’s tone of healing, right wing media fired salvo after salvo of venom at the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics before the Pope even spoke to Congress.

Put together by Media Matters for America, the right-wing clips directed at the Pope offer a series of examples of the racism, hatred and ignorance now pervading elements of our society.

Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman provides a more upbeat report on the Pope’s visit. (Click here to view Goodman’s program.)

She cites one segment of the Pope’s address to the U.S. Congress which highlighted the lives and works of four “great” Americans, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

“In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement,” the pope said. “Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the gospel, her faith and the example of the saints.”

He went on to say, “A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.” 

Right-wing media failed in its effort to persuade a necessary number of members of Congress to kill President Obama’s historic Iran nuclear deal.

It will fail again to defeat a humble man wearing the mantle of religious power, quietly displaying that spiritual power in the halls of the U.S. Congress.

Right wing media commentators are no match for the Pope’s Four Horsemen of Lincoln, King, Day and Merton.  

The video clips compilation above is from Facebook. Thus far, the posting has reached over 8 million readers.

Posted in Religious Faith | 4 Comments

Israel’s Colonial Creep Has Echoes in Texas

Israeli riot police keep position at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators following Friday prayers on March 8, 2013. Palestinians enraged by reports that an Israeli policeman mishandled a Koran battled riot officers at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound with stones and petrol bombs, police and witnesses said. Photo by Mahfouz Abu Turk

By James M. Wall

Israeli riot police are shown above “maintaining peace” at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound. This picture was taken on March 8, 2013, during “clashes” between Palestinian defenders and Jews who claim they only want to pray on land sacred to them. 

These so-called religious clashes erupt when Israeli settlers provocatively arrive at the al-Aqsa compound, especially on Jewish holy days, protected by Israeli police.

The latest incursion of the compound came this week during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year when repentance is the order of the day.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at his weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, blamed Palestinians for inciting “the recent uptick in violence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem”. He called for “harsher measures” against stone throwers. 

Jordan’s King Abdullah reiterated his criticism of Israel’s response to the escalation in violence during a meeting with members of the Joint (Arab) List in Amman. The King asked, “What is Netanyahu trying to achieve with this action; is he trying to cause an explosion?”

The King promised to put the violence in Jerusalem on the agenda of the upcoming UN meeting.

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an went deeper when it reported on a recent paper by Nur Arafeh, a Policy Fellow of  Al Shabaka the Palestinian Policy Network, entitled  “In Jerusalem, ‘Religious War’ Is Used to Cloak Colonialism.”

Nur Arafeh (right) is also a consultant at the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of nur-e1438722686215International Studies at Birzeit University. The introduction to her paper warns:

“The escalating clashes between Israeli settlers and Jerusalemite Palestinians are the harbingers of a major eruption with incalculable consequences.

Immediately billed as a “religious war” by the media and Israeli right wingers, they are in fact the outcome of longstanding Israeli plans to Judaize the city and empty it of its Palestinian inhabitants.”

Nur Arafeh has recommendations to Palestinian leaders who, she feels, have failed to give adequate support to Palestinian Jerusalemites. “First and foremost”, she writes:

“Palestinians need proactive leadership that will propel the status of Jerusalem to the forefront of government commitment and to the heart of the national struggle as a matter of urgency. It is vital that Palestinians project a clear vision of Jerusalem to counter the prevailing Israeli vision. Information and communication are key tools to counter Israel’s re-writing of history and silencing of the Palestinian narrative.   

“In particular, Palestinian leadership should confront Israeli attempts to frame its colonial policies in religious terms and should remind the world that the core issues are those of occupation, dispossession, and land theft. It is imperative to challenge the power of the Israeli discourse by exposing its shameful record of oppression in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territory.”  (emphasis added).

Nur Arafeh ends her paper with this additional warning:

“Without concerted efforts by Palestinians with Arab and international support to uphold Palestinian rights in Jerusalem, the present small fires in the city could turn into a conflagration with permanent damage to Palestinian and Arab heritage in the city and to the Palestinian Jerusalemite presence in the city of their ancestors.”

A significant area of that heritage is the al-Aqsa mosque compound (also known as the al-Haram al-Sharif (holy sanctuary), which contains the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, and the Dome of the Rock, where, as Muslims believe, the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

From the Jewish religious perspective, the compound (known by Jews as the Temple Mount) is seen as a Jewish sacred site, derived from their belief that it was once the location of two ancient Jewish temples.

Acknowledging these conflicting sacred claims, the newly-victorious Israeli government chose to reach a so-called agreement with the newly-defeated Palestinians, by setting up a 1967 status quo understanding under which Jews were forbidden to pray at the al-Aqsa mosque compound.

Keeping the peace in the newly conquered West Bank at that particular moment in Israel’s ambitions in the region, was for Israel a politically sensible move.  They knew there would be time, as Israel’s power in the region was further consolidated, to eventually eliminate that particular status quo agreement.

Israel’s pragmatic choice was imposed on a newly conquered population. There are no “agreements” between the victor and the vanquished.

As a military occupying power facing no serious opposition from an occupied population,  and little interference from its chief sponsor, the American government, Israel has steadily expanded its initial colonial base to encompass the area of what Israel politicians are now openly calling Judea and Samaria.

I had my first “Judea and Samaria” moment during an early 1980s media trip to the region. I displayed my media badge and asked an Israeli official a question about the occupied West Bank.

His snide answer was both revealing and chilling.

“West Bank? I don’t know any West Bank, I do know of a Bank Leumi, but I don’t know of any West Bank.”

Many years after that encounter, Israel’s Bank Leumi is still doing a brisk corporate business. Ha’aretz recently reported, for example, that Bank Leumi had “agreed to pay $400 million to settle two separate investigations into whether it helped its American clients evade U.S. taxes”.

The actual occupied West Bank continues to suffer from the encroachment of Ultra Orthodox Jewish settlers who, aided and abetted by Israel’s secular conservative politicians, have steadily established settlements in “Judea and Samaria”.

What mindset would see “others” as these invasive Ultra Orthodox Jewish settlers see Muslims? Watch the U.S. Republican presidential nomination debates.

Or, check out this Texas mindset reported by The New York Times from Dallas, Texas:

17CLOCK2-master675“Ahmed Mohamed’s homemade alarm clock got him suspended from his suburban Dallas high school and detained and handcuffed by police officers on Monday after school officials accused him of making a fake bomb.”

National figures reacted in a different manner. 

“By Wednesday, Ahmed Mohamed’s clock earned him an invitation to the White House, support from Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg, and a moment of head-spinning attention as questions arose whether he had been targeted because of his name and his religion”.

Questions arose? There can be no questions. There can only be lamentations over the conduct of a Texas school system which functions from the same narrow vision as those Ultra Orthodox Jewish settlers living illegally in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Media Matters collected right-wing media responses to Ahmed Mohamed’s arrest and found expressions of caution in these “dangerous” times. Here is a sample from Fox News:

“On the September 18 edition of Fox News’ The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Fox contributor Mike Gallagher repeatedly compared Ahmed’s homemade clock to a bomb, and suggested that the student should have been more “forthcoming” when he was interrogated by the police.”

Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, the Israeli settler narrative dutifully swallowed by the media, continues to describe the clash between the invading settler Ultra Orthodox Jews and the Palestinian defenders of al-Aqsa, as an inevitable age-old “religious conflict”.

On the contrary, this is not a “religious conflict”; it is a larcenous seizure of property by Israel’s right-wing government which delivers suffering to Palestinians who are deprived of their freedom and their land. 

As an example of the extremism of the Ultra Orthodox-driven settler movement, Nur Arafeh writes that “on July 27, 2014, extremists among these settlers posted on YouTube, the video below of what a group calling itself the Temple Institute describes as ‘a third temple replacing al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock’.” 

Replacing al-Aqsa with a third Temple would enflame the Islamic world.  Still, if history has taught us anything, it has warned us what happens when politicians gain power on fear instilled in their citizens, coupled with an ugly ignorance of the “other”.

This toxic combinations of fear and ignorance enables politicians to make stupid and disastrous decisions. Messing with the al-Aqsa compound could conceivably be an extreme example of one such decision.

Nur Arafeh’s paper concludes with policy recommendations for the PLO/PA, Palestinian academics and analysts, and the international solidarity movement. 

These policy recommendations to Palestinians are essential, to be sure, but there is also eye-opening wisdom for western readers in Nur Arafeh’s analysis.

Her analysis is a harsh reminder that controlling Palestinian land from the sea to the river has been the below the radar economic and military impetus behind Political Zionism since the late 1800s.

Israel’s creeping colonial movement is but the latest and darkest chapter of that Political Zionist enterprise, a narrowly focused desire to control the many for the benefit of the select few. 

Political Zionism is not a religious movement. It is rather, an heritical corruption of the spiritual power and beauty of the Jewish faith.

When you stop to think about it, Political Zionism operates very much like those Texans officials who love God on Sunday and arrest a Muslim boy during the week. 

The picture of the al-Asqa mosque compound “guarded” by Israel soldiers, was taken by Mahfouz Abu Turk. It is an APA image retrieved from https://al-shabaka.org/briefs/in-jerusalem-religious-war-is-used-to-cloak-colonialism/.jpg. The picture of Nur Arafeh is from the same source. The picture of Ahmed Mohamed is an AP photo from the Dallas Morning Times. The video of the teenagers is from YouTube, posted by The Temple Institute. 

Posted in Israel, Jewish faith and tradition, Judiasm, Media, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Palestinians, Politics in Religion | 2 Comments

A Fly in the Ointment of Colbert’s Opening Show

by James M. Wall

Colbert's Late ShowWhile awaiting the final congressional vote that will confirm that President Obama has defeated the Zionist juggernaut which spent millions to block the Iran Nuclear deal, we must pause to consider a major moment in entertainment television.

The entertainment news has to do with the CBS network arrival of Stephen Colbert, who last week succeeded David Letterman as host of The Late Show (11:30 EST).

Even there, alas, the Zionist juggernaut lurks. You will have to look closely to see it, but there was a fly in the ointment of the otherwise successful launch of the next chapter of Colbert’s career.

Supporters of the BDS movement were quick to identify the fly.

Pretending to hate having to allow Corporate America to interrupt his non-stop comedic attacks on the establishment, Colbert snuck in an ad promoting a dip delicacy called Sabra hummus.

Not content with stealing Palestinian land and locking up its people behind a misnamed “security wall”, Israelis have created Sabra hummus, a name that insults Arabs everywhere by linking “Sabra”, a name for native-born Israeli Jews, with “hummus”, a popular Arab dish that is a combination of chickpeas and tahini.

Plain and simple, hummus is an Arab dish, as this hummus website explains:

“The simple fact is that hummus is an authentic member of the Arab kitchen, and has been so for at least the past few generations – and maybe long before that.

“It’s also pretty clear that hummus first became popular in Israel in cities where there’s a large Palestinian population, such as Haifa, Jerusalem and Acre (Akko).”

When Colbert launched his new network show with an ad for Sabra hummus, it prompted even the New York Times to report:

“A comedic product placement for Sabra hummus near the start of Stephen Colbert’s first episode as host of “The Late Show” on Tuesday night earned him praise from marketing experts, but catcalls from supporters of a movement to boycott Israeli-owned companies.

“In a segment that simultaneously mocked paid endorsements and was one, Mr. Colbert explained to viewers that he had made a deal with a demonic amulet, which gave him the chance to host the show but required “certain regrettable compromises,” like endorsing Sabra-brand hummus” (emphasis added).

The Times, ever sensitive to its Liberal Zionist readers and advertisers, acknowledged that “While most of Mr. Colbert’s viewers were quite likely unaware of any political implications of the tongue-in-cheek endorsement, fans who support a Palestinian-led campaign to pressure Israel through boycotts, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, were dismayed by the gag.”

Sabra hummus is produced in the United States, but it drew a call for boycott from BDS backers because it is produced in a joint venture between the American corporate giant PepsiCo and the Strauss Group, an “Israeli food company that has provided financial support to the Israel Defense Forces’ elite Golani Brigade”.

In a piece written by Ron Friedman five years ago (December 14, 2010), the Jerusalem Post offered this earlier background on the BDS versus Strauss struggle:

“The Strauss Group, one of the country’s foremost food and beverage companies, has returned its website banner in support of the IDF after it was removed following pressure and boycott threats in the US.

Three weeks ago the Post reported that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement in Philadelphia had initiated a campaign against Sabra and Tribe humous, produced by Strauss under its American logo, the Sabra Dipping Company, purportedly in protest of the company’s public support for the IDF. (note: “hummus” is the Arabic spelling; “humous” is preferred by the Post.)

The Post added that “BDS activists held demonstrations in supermarkets and called on them to stop selling Strauss’s products.”

To further explain the corporate squirming of Strauss, the 2010 Post story continued, “Until recently, the Petah Tikva-based Strauss Group affirmed its support for the IDF on its website under the banner of ‘Corporate Responsibility,’ with a statement that read:

‘Our connection with soldiers goes as far back as the country, and even further. We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support, to enhance their quality of life and service conditions, and to sweeten their special moments. We have adopted the Golani reconnaissance platoon for over 30 years and provide them with an ongoing variety of food products for their training or missions, and provide personal care packages for each soldier that completes the path.”

“The Strauss Group dropped the statement from its website when the boycott campaign was launched, but has recently posted a new section with altered text.

“It now reads: “As part of its donations program, the Sales Division of Strauss Israel has made a contribution to the men and women who serve in the Golani Brigade.

“The funds are designated for welfare, cultural and educational activities, such as pocket money for underprivileged soldiers, sports and recreational equipment, care packages, and books and games for the soldiers’ club.”

The struggle over Sabra hummus, parallels a successful BDS campaign to call attention to the presence of a Sodastream plant in the West Bank which led to the plant’s move to Israel. The Guardian reported on September 2. Scarlett-Johansson--011-2

“For the BDS movement, SodaStream’s pullout from the West Bank was part of a domino effect that would see more companies sever interests to spare their bottom line.’This is a clear-cut BDS victory against an odiously complicit Israeli company,’ said Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the movement.

“He said it would continue to target SodaStream because its new factory is located in an area where Israel has in the past proposed to resettle Bedouin Arabs. The company employs more than 300 Bedouins.

“SodaStream made headlines in 2014 when the actor Scarlett Johansson parted ways with the international charity Oxfam because of a dispute over her work as brand ambassador for the Tel Aviv-based company.”

An inference could be drawn, or perhaps it would be unfair to point out, but the fact of the matter remains, that this same Scarlett Johansson was a featured guest on Stephen Colbert’s second The Late Show program last week.

Nothing was said between them that suggested either Sodastream or Palestine. But Johansson on the program one night after the ad for Sabra hummus? 

We will be watching Stephen Colbert to see where his comedy takes him next.

The picture of Stephen Colbert is from his first program on CBS. The picture of Scarlett Johansson is from the Guardian. It was taken by Rex Rex/REX.

Posted in Advertising, Iran, Israel, Television | 12 Comments

Obama Defeats Netanyahu In Iran Accord Battle

by James M. Wallmondoweiss

Updated: Tuesday, September 8, 2015:

Benjamin Netanyahu’s AIPAC-controlled U.S. minions lost their battle to destroy President Obama’s nuclear accord with Iran and the P1-5 world powers.

A final, crucial vote was announced when Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md) became the 34th Democratic Senator to support the carefully constructed firewall needed to sustain a Barack Obama veto.

One day later, Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ) padded Obama’s veto-proof party vote with his support of the accord. With Mikulski and Booker on board, Obama now had 35 Senators who will vote to defeat a Republican-backed resolution of disapproval.

On Tuesday, September 8, the Los Angeles Times reported: 

“Three more Democratic senators announced their endorsement of the Iran nuclear pact [Tuesday], creating a 41-vote firewall of support, but it remains unclear if Democrats will use their numbers to filibuster and block a vote on a GOP-backed resolution of disapproval. 

Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Gary Peters of Michigan announced they will back the deal. President Obama has all but locked up support to sustain a veto of the disapproval resolution in both the House and Senate, but the Democratic senators now backing the president could deny opponents the 60-vote threshold needed to advance the measure to the White House.”

In his statement, which echoes other statements made with nervous glances toward AIPAC, Booker said, “Backing away from the nuclear pact at this point would leave the United States and its allies with few options to restrain Iran’s ambitions.”

One by one, as the days dwindled down to a precious few before a final vote in mid-September, Democratic Senators are stepping forward to endorse Obama’s decision to choose diplomacy over military action.

The White House worked with Senate and House Democratic leaders to orchestrate this drip-by-drip destruction of Netanyahu’s plan to control U.S. foreign policy.

The New York Times described a meeting between undecided Democratic Senators and senior diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. The meeting occurred before the Senate left for its August break.

The diplomats delivered a blunt message to the wavering Senators. The nuclear agreement with Iran was the best the Senate could expect.  Furthermore, the five world powers had no intention of returning to the negotiating table.

So much for the AIPAC demand for a “better deal”. The diplomats unanimously agreed in their meeting with the Senators, “this is as good a deal as you could get and we are moving ahead with it.”

Somewhere, President George Washington smiles in appreciation. In his final address in 1796, Washington uttered these prescient words:

“a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils.”

Washington continued: “Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification”.

These are words for reflection by both Democrats and Republicans when the Congressional vote to reject the agreement reaches both chambers before September 17.

In the same week that Prime Minister Netanyahu lost his battle with Obama, Israel received a second serious blow to its already sagging world image. A video of an Israel soldier trying to arrest a 12-year-old Palestinian boy with a cast on his arm during a protest, went viral.

The boy resisted. His family rushed to free him from the soldier’s grip. One teenage girl pounded on the soldier. The soldier was rescued by another soldier who dragged him away.

When media reports swept across international social media, millions of viewers viewed the military occupation in action.  The viewers also saw how furiously Palestinians fight to protect their young.


The Jerusalem pro-government Times of Israel described what happened. 

“Their faces covered in bandanas, a group of adolescent Palestinian boys led the march from the West Bank Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh toward the neighboring Jewish settlement of Halamish. Behind them was a large crowd of villagers — some older and some younger — activists and members of the media. Some were waving Palestinian flags; some were holding gas masks; many had cameras.

Down the road, Israeli Defense Forces soldiers awaited them, as they do every Friday, in an effort to prevent the demonstration from reaching Halamish and the main road.

reutersThis routine protest against settlement construction in Nabi Saleh set the stage for an incident that was caught on video and made news headlines worldwide: Palestinian women and children preventing an IDF soldier from arresting 12-year-old Muhammad Tamimi, who was suspected of stone-throwing. The altercation left the soldier with light wounds, and Israel with a black eye on the world stage.”

An Haaretz editorial expressed its anger and frustration over a scene of an occupation soldier holding a 12-year-old Palestinian child in a chokehold.

“The scene from Nabi Saleh encapsulates all the insanity, injustice, stupidity, purposelessness and pointlessness of the occupation.”

And let the people say, Amen.

The picture of President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a Reuters picture from Mondoweiss. The video of the Nabi Saleh encounter is from the Arabic site, www. RoyaNews. The picture of the soldier holding the child appeared in Ha’aretz. It is by Reuters.

Posted in Iran, Israel, Media, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama, Palestinians | 8 Comments

More Democratic Senators Support Iran Deal

by James M. Wall220px-SenatorGillibrandpic

Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York and leader of the pro-Israel forces in the Senate, announced on August 6, that he would oppose President Obama’s effort to gain Congressional support for the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran.

At the time, Schumer’s move was seen as a major setback for Obama. It did not work out this way. Three weeks later, Schumer has been joined by only one other Democratic senator, Robert Menendez, of New Jersey.

Instead of a rush to join the pro-Israel lobby forces in standing with Israel’s opposition to the deal, the number of Democratic senators who favor the deal is growing.

Kirsten Gillibrand (above), the junior Democratic Senator from New York, came out in favor of the agreement on the same day as Schumer’s announced opposition.

As an indication of how the mood in the Democratic Senate caucus is shifting toward favoring the agreement, Senator Gillibrand was an early supporter of the bill which might be described as the kill the Iranian nuclear pact legislation.

That bill, introduced in January, 2014, was co-authored by Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk and New Jersey’s Senator Menendez.

Senator Gillibrand is now an announced supporter of the Iran nuclear agreement.

This past weekend, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) joined Gillibrand, by promising not only to vote in favor of the agreement, but pledging to do “everything in my power to ensure that it stands.”

He has been joined by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Red State Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, of Missouri, and Tuesday, Senator Patty Murray of Washington State, announced her support of the deal.

If Reid and Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) can hold their Democratic caucus to fewer than six defections, Republicans will lack the votes to get the disapproval resolution the 60 votes it needs to clear the Senate. That would spare Obama from having to veto it.

In a Wall Writings posting on July 23, 2015, I wrote:

“In an analysis for Forward, Nathan Guttman, wrote: ‘Thirteen U.S. Senators is all President Obama needs to ensure that the nuclear deal with Iran does not get derailed by Congress’.”

wydenThe pro-Israel forces were targeting a specific 13 Democratic Senators as recently as July 24. The targeted 13 included Senator Schumer, now on the record as opposing, Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly, who has since announced his support of the agreement, and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (left), whose Jewish parents fled Nazi Germany. 

Senator Wyden remains undecided, but Portland House member Earl Blumenauer, a Wyden ally, has announced he would support the Iran deal. Oregon is a liberal state which also may weigh heavily on Wyden.

Gary Peters, junior Democratic Senator from Michigan, also remains undecided. Some reports indicate he is influenced by his Chief of Staff, Eric Feldman, a strong backer of Israel, who came to work for Peters after working for former White House Chief of Staff and Congressman Rahm Emanuel, also a strong pro-Israel politician. 

Emanuel, however, has indicated his support for the Iran accord. He says he would have supported it were he still in Congress. Emanuel is now Mayor of Chicago.

A New York Times analysis suggested Senator Peters could be guided to support the deal, by “Michigan Representative Sander Levin of Michigan, the longest-serving Jewish House member [who has] endorsed the agreement”.

Another Jewish House member, Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler, of New York, has endorsed the deal. As a result, he has received strong “personal attacks on his loyalty to Israel, from the Orthodox community in Borough Park”. 

The Democratic caucus in the House is not strong enough to avoid a negative vote on the deal, but a veteran colleague like Nadler, with his strong Jewish credentials, could encourage freshman Michigan Senator Peters to move from undecided to support the agreement.

Congressman Nadler represents a large segment of New York City. His district includes “the largely liberal Upper West Side through conservative Brooklyn neighborhoods of Midwood and Borough Park [and is] said to be the most Jewish congressional district in the country”.

Nadler is the first Democrat from the New York area to support the agreement.

So far, the Republican Senate caucus remains solidly in opposition to the deal. Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake had been targeted for support of  the agreement, but he has announced he will vote with his Republican caucus against the deal.

Meanwhile, outside the halls of Congress, public support for the agreement is growing.

A full-page ad in the New York Times ran on Thursday, August 20, signed by former Jewish leaders who support the Iran deal. “Out of concern for Israel”, these leaders say, they are supporting the deal.

Mondoweiss described signees of the ad as “Big Jews”, former powerful heads of numerous Jewish Federations, a former head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, and three former chairs of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The ad begins with a quote from “former Israeli Navy commander and Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon, who said that ‘when it comes to Iran’s nuclear capability, this [deal] is the best option among those actually available to the international community’.”

The Times ad was organized and published by a non-profit organization, No Nukes for Iran Project, a group assumed to be working with a White House team. 

A group of 51 religious leaders issued a statement of support this week. Their statement is signed with their names and religious organizations.  They give their reason for support:

“After decades of hostility, the international community has crafted a nuclear accord to limit Iran’s nuclear program and prevent the United States from moving closer toward another devastating war in the Middle East.”

The religious leaders also assert that the agreement “will dramatically shrink and impose unprecedented constraints on Iran’s nuclear program. In exchange, the international community will begin to lift sanctions on Iran. It also establishes the most robust monitoring and inspection regime ever negotiated to verify Iran’s compliance with the restrictions on its nuclear program.”

Politicians who endorse the agreement do so with statements hedged with everlasting love and praise for Israel.

So far, however, it appears that U.S. public’s repulsion from the bullying tactics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his open participation in our political process, may end up as a part of a growth process in which Americans learn more about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The deadline for a final vote on the agreement has been set in Congress for September 17. It could be close.  The New York Times suggests:

“The last, most important voice might be that of Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and a religious Jew with his eye on Israeli opinion.

But Mr. Cardin also tends toward optimism on diplomacy, and many Democrats believe he will come out in favor of the nuclear accord — possibly at the last moment.”

This means the final vote may be so close that the outcome could come down to Senator Cardin, “a religious Jew with his eye on Israeli opinion”. Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote so eloquently of The Irony of American History, must be enjoying this current chapter.

Posted in Iran, Israel, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama | 6 Comments

Two States Never an Option for Netanyahu

by James M. Wall7:10:15 wsoctv.com (AP Photo:Matt Rourke, File)

Juan Cole reports that President Jimmy Carter was “brutally frank” in a recent interview with England‘s Prospect magazine.

Carter was on a tour for his new book, A Full Life: Reflections at 90, when he told journalist Bronwen Maddox, “all hope for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict has ended. At this moment, there is zero chance of the two-state solution.

Cole wrote in Truthdigthat while most analysts have agreed that the two-state solution is no long viable, Carter went further with an assertion that the solution died when:

“The Netanyahu government decided early on to adopt a one-state solution … but without giving them [the Palestinians] equal rights.”

Cole adds that Carter “accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having pursued, upon his election in 2009, a deliberate policy of relentlessly annexing and colonizing the Palestinian West Bank, ensuring that it will end up as part of Israel.”

Since 2009, Carter said:

“Netanyahu conspired to ensure that the 4.2 million Palestinians under Israeli occupation remain stateless and without rights.

As Cole sees it, “Carter is simply stating the obvious”. 

The obvious, however, is not the prevailing narrative in “the world of international diplomacy”.

Carter’s “brutally frank” interview violates the conventions of the standard “two sides” political discourse. Carter blames Israel, “the occupying authority, for its illegal actions, rather than [blaming the Palestinians] the helpless, occupied population.”

Far too many secular and religious U.S. leaders have embraced the “two sides” subterfuge by while turning their backs on the harsh occupation reality and ignoring  the truth-telling of moral leaders like Carter.

Fortunately there are exceptions. A growing number of religious leaders have abandoned the conventional “two sides” nonsense and joined the BDS movement launched by Palestinian religious and civic leaders.

One notable religious breakthrough came this summer when the United Methodist Kairos Response, co-chaired by Susanne Hoder and the Rev. Michael Yoshi, sent an open letter to United Methodist laywoman Hillary Rodham Clinton, currently the leading candidate for the presidential nomination of her Democratic Party.

The letter begins:

“As a United Methodist, you know that our church has had a long history of defending oppressed people, both at home and abroad. As our founder, John Wesley, famously said, ‘The World is my parish’, and we consider that to be true today.”

In this letter, the UMKR asks Clinton to “acknowledge the moral nature of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] movement to end the human rights abuses taking place against the Palestinian people by the government of Israel”.

This is not “tea and cookies”, or “can’t we all just get along” talk. Rather, these United Methodists call on Hillary Rodham Clinton to reverse her earlier anti-BDS position expressed in her letter to Haim Saban, the Israeli-American entertainment mogul who has been a longtime major Clinton donor.

Clinton’s letter says BDS “seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict. This is not the path to peace.”

“I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority,” Clinton wrote. Then she adds,  “I am seeking your advice on how we can work together – across party lines and with a diverse array of voices – to reverse this trend with information and advocacy, and fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.

Art of occupied PalestineThe mind boggles to think of the mean ole BDS “punishing” poor little nuclear-armed Israel with a non-violent tactic that was effective against apartheid South Africa. 

Clinton has been around this track before. She knows better than to write that BDS is “punishing” Israel. BDS does not punish; it shames. 

Palestinians also use shame against the occupation with art as a major weapon. The example above is one of many available on the Facebook page, The Art of Occupied Palestine.

Clinton’s fawning letter to Saban closes with her hand-written note — “look forward to working with you on this.”

Think about it, the woman who could be this nation’s next president, has promised to work with Israeli-American Haim Saban to further subdue an occupied population.

Enough with the fawning. Clinton must listen to her fellow American United Methodists who have “implored” her to reconsider her opposition to BDS.

As a senator, Clinton was wrong when she supported the 2003 Bush invasion of Iraq. She is wrong again on BDS.

The picture of President Carter at top is an AP Photo by Matt Rourke.

Posted in Hillary Clinton, Israel, Jimmy Carter, Netanyahu, Palestinians, United Methodist Church | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Jimmy Carter Has Cancer

LAT Sara Saundersby James M. Wall

The news came from NPR: A loved one has cancer.

Former President Jimmy Carter made the announcement from the Carter Center in Atlanta.

He did not mince words. He has cancer and it has spread.

His announcement was candid and truthful.

The cancer, which was first identified in his liver, has “spread to other parts of his body”. He expects to hang around for a while; his travel schedule is only cut back, not canceled. How long will a “while” last? We will just have to wait and see.

In Georgia where I grew up, a “loved one” is a family member, or someone who has joined the family circle.

Jimmy Carter, this nation’s 39th  president, is an adopted “loved one” in our family. He is also a fellow Georgian.

It was my great blessing and privilege to work for him through his two campaigns for the White House. Since he and Rosalynn left the White House, we have stayed “in touch”.

After learning of the cancer, I wrote immediately to inform him it is too early for him to leave the battlefield. And, God willing, he won’t leave anytime soon.

I have been reading stories of his cancer announcement. I have also perused the reviews and interviews from his most recent book tour.  

One interview in the Los Angeles Times, was especially well done. Written by the Times‘ Carolyn Kellogg, it was on target, with this headline: “In ‘A Full Life,’ Jimmy Carter at 90 remains a wise truth teller”.

Carter’s book demonstrates his consistent “truth telling”.  It is entitled, A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety.  

Kellogg’s interview lifts up the truth-telling characteristic of Carter’s that is at the center of his life as a man and as a world leader. She writes:

“One challenge of Carter’s presidency was that he spoke the truth, even though during his years in the White House (1976-80), the truth was often bad news. He faced an energy crisis, a capsizing economy, opposition from Congress, and the revolution in Iran than led to American hostages being held captive 444 days.”

Kellogg concludes her interview:

 “In A Full Life, Carter puts the long arc of his story together the way he sees it. The book includes his accomplishments as a negotiator and peacemaker in the humblest way — as a man who was at work on a larger project, something he continues to be. A primer for the generations who don’t know his work and a personal retelling for those who do,  A Full Life may herald the reappraisal he deserves.”

In the months and years ahead, as the nation and the world reflect on Carter’s life, “the reappraisal he deserves” should dominate the reflection.

When you travel with a candidate, as I did with Jimmy Carter through two campaigns in Illinois, where I served as his state chair, you come to know him. How well you know him will depend on his openness, his candor and his patience.

From my experience, I can testify that he has an abundance of all three. 

Thinking back on our first Illinois campaign together in 1976, one incident stands out. It is not an important incident. But it taught me all I needed to know about this nation’s next president.

Carter was a former governor of Georgia when he launched his 1976 Illinois campaign. I had arranged a campaign stop in the south side of Chicago where the Reverend Jesse Jackson was a dominant political figure. 

I had made the very major political mistake of taking Carter to an African-American church without clearing the location with Jackson. A leading political figure in Jackson’s circle, a strong woman with a forceful manner, called me several days before the stop. 

She was adamant.  “You cannot go to that church without my approval” was the gist of her message to me. I told her it was too late to make a travel change. I remember her words vividly, and they taught me a political lesson: “You can’t come into our house without first coming through the kitchen”.

I apologized for my ineptness. She remained adamant.  

I spoke to Governor Carter. “Call Andy”, was his response, referring to African-American civil activist and political leader, the Rev. Andrew Young, in Atlanta, Carter’s home base.

Carter already knew Chicago politics better than his state chairman.  Young was later a Carter appointee to the United Nations, a congressman and a future mayor of Atlanta.

Andy mollified the strong personalities involved. We stuck to our original plan. 

The night Carter spoke at the church, one of our staff members talked to the crowd as it assembled, a crowd not as large as Jesse Jackson would have produced, but adequate.

I was holding Governor Carter “backstage” until he was introduced. Chicago Sun Times political writer Basil Talbott cornered Carter with a question about our choice of that particular church.

Basil also had another political question about the Illinois campaign, which was just in its early stages.

Carter said nothing. He merely nodded to me to handle the mess I had gotten him into. I said not a word about the “kitchen” I had failed to enter earlier.  I mumbled a few words about campaign plans unfolding.

Carter smiled, and then went out and wowed the crowd.

Incidents like that one either destroy a relationship or solidify it.  I remain thankful to this day for Jesse Jackson, and for his lady advocate. I also remain thankful for Andy Young, Basil Talbott, and above all, for Jimmy Carter, for helping me survive a major stumble.

We survived because Carter knew when to ride behind error-prone associates, and when to stand alone, if needed, to speak the truth when the truth was largely hidden.

Carter’s courageous truthfulness is interwoven with his stubbornness and his determination to see a larger picture as it unfolds. When he sees the truth, he follows it, regardless of the consequences.

We all saw that later in his achievements against heavy opposition during his White House years, and throughout the remarkable career he has had as a truth-teller and problem-solver in troubled regions of the world.

51+RXdWiHNL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_It was Carter’s truth-telling in his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which forced the Israel-Palestine issue into the light of the world’s attention.

Without that book, which cost him dearly in the circles of power in the nation he led for four years, the truth of Palestinian occupation might still be struggling to gain a hearing in the court of world opinion.  

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to play a small part in getting Carter safely through the Illinois political shoals. So many others took him the rest of the way to the White House. 

Carter’s struggle is not over, which it is why it is far too early for Jimmy Carter to leave this earthly battlefield. The pending freedom of both Israelis and Palestinians from the bondage of conflict, owes a great deal to this man. 

There is work yet to be done, sir.

The picture of Carter is from the Los Angeles Times. It is by Sara Saunders.

Posted in Cancer, Jimmy Carter | 9 Comments

House Members In Israel for Obama-Bashing

by James M. Walldefense-large

On Wednesday, August 5, President Obama spoke for an hour at American University, the  site of the 1963 speech by President John Kennedy, when Kennedy outlined his vision for peace with the Soviet Union during the early age of nuclear threats. 

While President Barack Obama was speaking about the people’s business, and his Kennedy-like preference for diplomacy over war, freshman members of the U.S. House of Representatives were either 5,000 plus miles away in Israel, or preparing to go there to be feted and educated by a foreign power which opposes the nuclear agreement the U.S. has reached with Iran and major European powers.

A U.S. delegation of Democratic freshman Congress members had been in Israel for two days when Obama spoke.  Their freshman Republican colleagues will join them in Israel August 8.

In his American University speech, President Obama was blunt and insistent. This is how Obama’s speech was reported by ABC News:

“President Barack Obama assailed critics of his Iran nuclear deal Wednesday as “selling a fantasy” to the American people, warning Congress that blocking the accord would damage the nation’s credibility and increase the likelihood of more war in the Middle East.

Besides challenging opponents at home, Obama cast Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an isolated international opponent of the historic accord, saying, “I do not doubt his sincerity, but I believe he is wrong.”

The President explained what was in the agreement:

“The agreement would require Iran to dismantle most of its nuclear program for at least a decade in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions. But Netanyahu and some critics in the U.S. argue that it would not stop Iran from building a bomb.

The president’s blunt remarks, in an hour-long address at American University, were part of an intense lobbying campaign by the White House ahead of Congress’ vote next month to either approve or disapprove the international agreement. . . .

The stakes are high, Obama said, contending that it isn’t just Iran’s ability to build a bomb that is on the line but also “America’s credibility as the anchor of the international system’.”

Those Democratic freshman Congress members who may or may not have heard the Obama speech, are traveling in Israel (all expenses paid) courtesy of an educational nonprofit “affiliated with” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the American Israel Education Foundation, AIPAC’s charitable arm.

What “affiliated with” means is that AIPAC runs the trip while its “education foundation” pays the bills.

The two congressional trips — this year with 22 Democrats, and 36 Republicans — are a fixture in Washington, an AIPAC travel-educational reward for recently elected House members every two years.

imrs.phpThe Washington Post reports that shepherding the new members on this trip are House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), right, whose Democratic trip began August 3, and  Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) left, who will shepherd his party’s members on their trip, which begins August 8.

“Hoyer and McCarthy’s offices declined to share the names of the lawmakers traveling on the trip, as did AIPAC. 

But PowerPost confirmed the trip includes a number of House Democrats that many lobbyists consider critical votes on the deal, including Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Mark Takai (D-Hawaii), Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), Gwen Graham (D-Fla.), and Hoyer himself.” 

These Democrats should be watched as the September 17 deadline approaches

This year’s trip comes during the 60-day study period when new members will be confirmed in their decision on whether to support their President on a crucial foreign policy issue, or else support a foreign leader, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Republican House members are expected to say no to the agreement. After President Obama’s expected veto of the House bill, the GOP will have to deliver sufficient votes to override that veto.

The Hill reports that Israel is especially eager to meet (solidify relations?) with three freshman members, Reps. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and Mimi Walters (R-Calif.).

McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and the first U.S. female combat pilot, told The Hill, “I’ve had six deployments to the Middle East and Afghanistan in my time in uniform, and I’ve been over to Israel as a tourist.”

She added that this is a critical time to be going “to hear from our close ally.” McSally is on record as opposing the deal. So why does she need to “hear from our close ally” if her mind is already made up?

We can only hope that the retired colonel found time to hear her Commander-in-Chief’s speech Wednesday as she prepared to head for Tel Aviv to hear from “our close ally”.

The New Yorker’s Robin Wright writes that Obama “framed the deal as the latest step in a half century of American policy to avert nuclear confrontation, invoking Kennedy’s diplomacy during the Cuban missile crisis and the arms negotiations with the Soviet Union launched by Ronald Reagan.”

“Under both Democratic and Republican Presidents, he said, the historic Non-Proliferation Treaty and the SALT and START treaties introduced arms control. . . .

Obama mentioned that he had been forced to make a lot of tough calls as President. “But whether or not this deal is good for American security is not one of those calls,” he said. “It’s not even close.”

The Republican-introduced resolution of disapproval of the agreement with Iran will be voted on no later than September 17th.

Obama called this congressional vote “the most important since its vote on the 2003 invasion of Iraq”.

Without naming George W. Bush, the President contrasted his own use of diplomacy with Bush’s rush to war, noting that the Iraq adventure cost nearly a trillion dollars, took thousands of American lives, and left Iraq ripped apart by sectarian violence.

Obama condemned the “knee-jerk partisanship” in Washington, which “renders every decision made to be a disaster, a surrender. ‘You’re aiding terrorists! You’re damaging freedom!’ ” He also went after lobbyists and pundits who had suddenly become “arm-chair nuclear scientists.”

California Republican Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced language for the resolution of disapproval Tuesday.

“The agreement gives Iran permanent sanctions relief, but in exchange only temporarily restrains Iran’s nuclear program,” Royce said. “If this agreement goes through, Iran gets a cash bonanza, a boost to its international standing, and a lighted path toward nuclear weapons.” The United States will be less able to challenge Iran “across the board,” he said. “As Iran grows stronger, we will be weaker to respond.”

Among American Jews, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is lobbying hard against the agreement. The more liberal JStreet has supported it.

Democratic Jewish members of the House are especially important to the White House as it works to obtain a needed vote total to sustain an Obama veto.

Robin Wright reports on a setback for the White House, in which , “three Jewish Democrats—Representatives Nita Lowey and Steve Israel, of New York, and Ted Deutch, of Florida—announced Tuesday that they will vote against the deal.

“Lowey is the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. Deutch is the senior Democrat on the House Middle East subcommittee.”

The only international opposition to the agreement is, of course, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, usually touted as “America’s closest ally in the Middle East”.

In a Webcast address to American Jewish organizations (and anyone else who turned in), on Tuesday, Netanyahu made his case that the deal “would give Iran two paths to a bomb: either by keeping to the terms of the deal over its limited time period—after which it will be a “threshold nuclear-weapons power”—or by violating it outright.”

Playing his usual fear card, Netanyahu told his American Webcast audience, as he will no doubt tell his two congressional delegations who are, or will be, in Israel for their educational tour:

“As a result of this deal, there will be more terrorism, there will be more attacks, and more people will die,” Netanyahu warned.

To counter this fear campaign by Netanyahu, Robin Wright adds that in his speech:

“Obama ticked through the main arguments against the deal. To cheat, Iran would have to build a massive covert operation and many covert facilities. “No nation in history has been able to pull off such subterfuge when subjected to such rigorous inspections,” he said.

The prohibition against making a bomb is permanent—not limited to any of the ten-to-twenty-five-year time frames for various aspects of a program. U.N. inspectors will be allowed daily access to nuclear sites, as well as the right to look at suspicious undeclared sites. “This access can be with as little as twenty-four hours’ notice,” Obama said. “And while the process for resolving a dispute about access can take up to twenty-four days, once we’ve identified a site that raises suspicion, we will be watching it continuously until inspectors get in.”

He argued that proposals to walk away from the deal and either maintain sanctions or try to get better terms were ‘selling a fantasy’.”

Obama again “invoked Kennedy” when he appealed to Americans to contact their representatives in Congress during the final weeks of debate. Also in his speech, Obama said:

The world avoided nuclear catastrophe, and we created the time and the space to win the Cold War without firing a shot at the Soviets,” he said. The deal with Iran, reached after twenty months of negotiations, “builds on this tradition of strong, principled policy diplomacy.”

Should Congress prevail in undermining “this strong, principled policy diplomacy”, we would have reached a shameful moment in U.S. foreign policy.

Looking back on these days prior to the final September 17 vote in Congress, we will have to remember two traveling congressional delegations who by their trips to Israel, will have contributed mightily  to that shame.

Leaders of the two congressional delegations did not release the names of the members on the trip. The web site Mondoweiss, however, posted this picture of 20 of the traveling Democrats.


The Washington Post concluded that “Democrats are expected to be the swing votes in the pact because most Republicans already oppose the agreement.”

“Congress can vote to reject the nuclear agreement, but it would take a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to override a presidential veto of any attempt to derail the deal.” 

Whatever the outcome of the final vote on the Iran nuclear agreement, history will record that three freshman Democrats chose not to travel with the delegation to listen to Obama-bashing on foreign soil.

They chose diplomacy over “a fantasy”, as President Obama put it this week.

Their names: Representatives Don Beyer (D-Virginia), Debbie Dingel (D-Michigan) and Norma Torres (D-California). Remember them well. 

The picture of Congressional leaders House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images). The picture of President Obama is from Defense One.

Posted in Iran, Israel, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama, Palestinians | 7 Comments

Iran Political Fulmination Versus Diplomatic Deal

by James M. Wall1809923496

Blessings upon New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof for pointing out that “fulmination” is the right word to describe opposition to the diplomatic deal President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have just reached with Iran and the P5+1 major world powers. 

Fulmination is exactly the term to describe the political and pundit “arguments” now being used against the agreement.

That’s right, fulmination, as in “to issue a thunderous verbal attack or denunciation”.

Or, if your thinking runs more to the ecclesiastical, fulmination is the best way to describe “a sermon that was one long fulmination”.

In an internet introduction to his Times column on his support for the deal, Kristof testified with the quiet dignity of a man who comes to the altar after sitting through “one long fulmination” which he finds totally unconvincing.

“I’ve covered Iran and North Korea for years, and have been to each country a number of times. One of the things I’ve seen is that American politicians want to practice fulmination rather than diplomacy, but fulmination doesn’t block a nuclear program.”

In his column, on line and in print, Thursday, July 30, Kristof wrote:

“The U.S. didn’t get all it wanted (and neither did Iran) in an imperfect compromise. True, we didn’t achieve anywhere, anytime inspections, yet the required inspections program is still among the most intrusive ever.

Remember too that this deal isn’t just about centrifuges but also about the possibility that Iran will come out of the cold and emerge from its failed 36-year experiment with extremism”.

The cool, rational language with which Kristof explains “why I think the deal makes us safer”, contrasts with the bombastic, irresponsible language employed by politicians and pundits who prefer to fulminate to the voting masses, in language eagerly broadcast by media outlets.

Fulmination is mindless language shouted against the mindful expressions of a thoughtful analyst like Nicholas Kristof.

During the 60 day period Congress has to consider the deal, polls offering to describe public opinion on the deal John Kerry reached with representatives of Iran and the P5+1 major nations should be read with several tons of salt.

The P5+1 offers a strong array of international powers. The term P5+1 refers to the UN Security Council’s five permanent members (the P5); namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; plus Germany.

One conservative poll operation fed the fulmination fervor with a misleading question that skewed its findings against the deal.

“A poll by Secure America Now in coordination with Caddell Associates and McLaughlin & Associates suggests that 54 percent of voters agree with opponents of the Iran nuclear deal, based on a misleading question that falsely likens the deal to ‘the one North Korea violated to build nuclear weapons'”.

Yes, that is the same Pat Caddell who was George McGovern’s pollster in McGovern’s 1972 failed try for the presidency. Sad to say, from one who worked with Caddell on that campaign, the Pat Caddell of today appears to me to be as politically far right as he was politically far left in that 1972 campaign.

Viewers and readers should question polls, whether reported by CNN or Fox or MSNBC with the same vigor the old Chicago News Bureau once counseled, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out”.

Public displays of support or opposition to the Iran deal are more reliable.

Witness, for example the picture above from Thursday’s New York Times, capturing the moment when Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who has served Illinois’ 9th district since 1999, hugs a young Code Pink demonstrator in Chicago, in an expression of common agreement supporting the the deal.

Schakowsky is Jewish;  her district has a heavy Jewish constituency. She is recognized as one of Israel’s strongest supporters in the Congress. She did, however, signal her caution in giving Israel the doubt in every issue, when she chose not to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-Iran deal speech to Congress in March.

In a press release this week, Schakowsky points to a poll from Public Policy Polling which reaches a different conclusion from the Caddell poll.  

The PPP poll finds that “there’s strong support nationally for the Iran deal, that voters want their members of Congress to let it move forward, and that there’s no potential political backlash for members who do support the deal”.

Schakowsky stands with her Democratic Minority House leader, Nancy Pelosi, who has represented California’s 12th congressional district for 27 years.

 The Hill reported Thursday:The Hill Getty

House Democrats will provide the necessary support to finalize President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) predicted Thursday.

Asked if the Democrats could sustain a promised veto of the Republicans’ expected disapproval measure, Pelosi didn’t hesitate.

“Yes,” she replied.

Pressed about the reason she’s so confident, she said: “Because of the nature of the agreement.”

She added that the agreement is a “diplomatic masterpiece”.

Prominent figures in the world of entertainment and world politics have joined the battle between fulmination and diplomacy. In a video released by Global Zero, they make the case that diplomacy is the only answer to the present crisis.

Included in the video are Jack Black, Morgan Freeman, Natasha Lyonne, Farshad Farahat, Valerie Plame, Queen Noor of Jordan, and former U.S. Amb. Thomas Pickering.

For those who do not respond well to fulmination, the testimonies above, beginning with the New York Times‘ Nicholas Kristof, make a strong case for diplomacy.  

The picture at top is from the New York Times. It is by Reuters.. The picture of Nancy Pelosi is from The Hill.  It is a Getty photo.

Posted in Iran, Israel, John Kerry, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu | 4 Comments