The American public doesn’t want to go to war unless there is something out there that frightens them.
Which explains why all of our wars have been preceded by dire warnings of what will happen if we don’t militarily engage the enemy.
In President Obama’s Wednesday night speech. he repudiated his own caution and prudence by falling in line with those who think there is no fear out there that war cannot overcome.
The New York Times editorial board sonorously endorsed the President’s decision under a headline that informs the nation that the drums of war have had their efffect: “The Attack on ISIS Expands to Syria.”
Gail Collins’ Times column the same day, “A Man With a Plan”, questions the wisdom of her editorial bosses, pointing to samples of the strategy congressional fear/war mongers employed to influence the President’s decision:
Collins cites a Texas senator:
“President Obama’s chronic passivity has helped the jihadists,” John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Senate Republican, said in a floor speech this week. Cornyn slammed the administration’s “don’t do stupid stuff” mantra, claiming Obama “doesn’t seem to fully grasp the magnitude of the threats and challenges that America is now dealing with.” (To continue reading, click here.)
“Israel has the right to defend itself” was the Orwellian doublespeak Israel used to justify its latest invasion of Gaza, carried out at the same time as its under-reported increased military action inside the West Bank.
President Obama, eagerly joined by would be presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul, and Elizabeth Warren, rushed to endorse Israel’s 51-day August assault against the Palestinians, by proclaiming, “Israel has the right to defend itself”.
Prompted by AIPAC, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to embrace the doublespeak Israeli claim that it was killing Palestinians “because it has the right to defend itself”. The vote was taken on the final day before the senators went into their annual summer recess.
Were there any among that list of endorsees who understood the meaning of “doublespeak”, which Wikipedia defines as “language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words?”
Did that “right to defend”, give Israel the right to kill 11-year-old Khalil Muhammad al-Anati, just before he was to begin the sixth grade in the Al-Fawwar refugee camp school south of Hebron? (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
The personal report that begins below, first appeared in the website, Mondoweiss.
This report conveys the horror of war experienced by young Palestinian college students in Gaza during recent summer weeks of unrelenting and vicious attacks by Israel.
The author, Nazmi Al-Masri, a professor at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), writes, “This day is carved in my memory”. He continues:
As all academics in Gaza, I had given much thought to my students who were suffering all sorts of agonies and worries caused by Israel’s aggression.
After 40 days of atrocities caused by heavy bombardment and random artillery shelling, which destroyed thousands of houses and devastated countless families, the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) did everything it could to make use of the three-day temporary ceasefire, which was extended for five days and then for another 24-hour period before it ended at midnight on August 19th, 2014.
They decided to resume the classes on Saturday, August 16 that had so crudely interrupted summer semester. I was unsure what to say to my students in my lecture class. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Israel still retains absolute mind control over the western world, thanks to the selling of an Israel narrative which was boosted high into the literary lights and onto movie screens with the fictional Israeli narrative written by Leon Uris in 1954.
After its publication, the novel Exodus became the guide book for all who studied, traveled, or gave even the slightest attention to the start of the modern nation of Israel in 1947-48.
How powerful is a movie image? The Guardian reported that when Ronald Reagan first arrived at the White House as president, he wanted to see the “war room” which he had seen in the movie, Dr Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb.
He had to be told that the Strangelove war room was a movie set, (shown below) built at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England. In reality, the real war room is much smaller.
Exodus, the novel by Leon Uris, was far removed from the reality of Palestine in 1948.
Undeterred by reality, the novel grew into a 208 minute, 1960 movie version, with Paul Newman as Ari Ben Canaan, a leader of the Hagannah (the Jewish underground), and Eva Marie Saint, as Kitty Fremont, his love interest.
In one scene, Kitty sits beside Ari on a hill overlooking what he tells her is the ancient Valley of Jezreel. He then informs her, pointing, that below are the ruins of Megido. He also points to Mount Tabor.
She gazes up admiringly at the Jewish underground leader, hanging on his every word. Ari asks Kitty, “Do you know your Bible?”
Overwhelmed by his superior biblical certainty, she answers quietly, “In a Presbyterian sort of way” Having established his biblical knowledge superiority, Ari tells Kitty how his people conquered this land centuries ago.
Today, sixty years after the novel Exodus first appeared, the Palestinian narrative has great difficulty being heard in the cacophany of a culture shaped for more than six decades by propaganda (hasbara) campaign, each defended with bogus cries of “anti-semitism”.
Over time, however, reality continually forces hasbara spin masters to launch new campaigns. The latest: The sudden discovery and immediate peddling, of a series of “rights”, promulgated simplistically by advertising spin masters. (To continue reading, click here.)
Cease fire talks between Israel and Hamas have been extended for an additional five days.
The extension in the talks was made possible because the Gaza Palestinians are standing firm in their humanitarian demand that Israel lift the siege on Gaza, while Israel is feeling the negative worldwide vibes over its massive military assault.
The vibes are negative everywhere, that is, except in the U.S., where in an Atlantic interview, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to kick off her 2016 presidential campaign with a ringing endorsement of Israel’s massive assault on the Palestinians of Gaza.
For his part, as the man who holds the reins of responsibility, President Obama has called a halt to U.S. Hellfire missile shipments to Israel until arrangements are made to clear with the White House all future transfers of Hellfire missiles.
The President is clearly disturbed over his discovery of the free-flowing weapons pipeline from the U.S. to Israel via the Pentagon.
by James M. Wall
Thursday night, Ha’aretz reported that the talks were “stalled”.
Friday morning, when the 72 hour agreement ended, the New York Times reported both sides resumed cross-border firing.
These shots could be “warning shots” to signal a resumption of the conflict, or they may be part of the negotiations strategy on both sides.
The conflict is asymmetrical, suggesting that more exchanges of fire would be especially harmful to the Palestinians in Gaza.
The one-sided nature of the now 30-day conflict, is seen in the human toll of Israel’s third “mowing the grass” project in Gaza. Thus far, Israel has killed 1900 Palestinians, the great majority of whom were civilians, including 400 children.
To agree to an extended cease fire with no more firing from either side, Hamas, the ruling government of Gaza, has laid out its simple requests. There is nothing radical nor threatening about them.
Israeli analyst Gershon Baskin says of the Hamas demands for an extended cease fire, “When Palestinians look at the Hamas demands, they say, ‘this is what we want, what all Palestinians want.’” (To continue reading, click here.)
The situation in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza at mid-afternoon Friday (U.S. CST; 11 p.m Gaza time), is both chaotic and horrifying. This posting will be updated as further reports become available.
Amy Goodman’s current report on Democracy Now is broadcast from Washington and Gaza. This edition of Democracy Now, posted early Friday afternoon, runs for roughly ten minutes.
It includes an on the scene set of interviews with two Palestinians, Raji Sourani, award-winning human rights lawyer, and Gaza City-based Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer, award-winning Palestinian journalist who is originally from Rafah.
The New York Times identified the missing Israeli as Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old officer in an infantry brigade. (To continue reading and access the Goodman interviews, click here.)
By James M. Wall
Once every two years or so, depending on the U.S. and Israeli strategic and political calendars, Israel, the fourth largest military power in the world, descends on Gaza to “mow the grass”.
That obscene phrase, used to describe Israel’s military engagements with Gaza, was described by the Jerusalem Post as a legitimate Israeli tactic:
“Israel is acting in accordance with a “mowing the grass” strategy. After a period of military restraint, Israel is acting to severely punish Hamas for its aggressive behavior, and degrading its military capabilities – aiming at achieving a period of quiet.”
The “mowing the grass” image is an all-out Israeli air and ground attack on a largely helpless civilian population of 1.8 million Palestinians, all of whom are trapped inside prison-like Gaza walls.
Amira Hass, veteran Israeli writer for Ha’aretz, describes how difficult it is for Israel to understand that the Palestinians “refuse occupation”.
“There is method in madness, and the Israeli insanity, which refuses to grasp the extent of its revenge in Gaza, has very good reasons for being the way it is. (To continue reading, click here.)
One day after a U.S. congressional committee voted to send more U.S. tax dollars to bolster Israel’s Iron Dome shield, four Palestinian boys were killed on an open beach by Israeli shelling from a naval ship offshore.
Defense for Children International reported on the Israeli shelling:
“Eight children in Gaza were killed on Wednesday [July 16], including four boys who died as they were playing on the beach in Gaza City when they were directly targeted by the Israeli navy. Israel’s military offensive on the Gaza Strip has killed at least 45 children according to DCI-Palestine documentation.”
DCI-Palestine identified the four boys killed, as Zakariya Ahed Subhi Baker, 10, Ahed Atef Ahed Baker, 9, Ismail Mohammad Subhi Baker, 9, and Mohammad Ramez Ezzat Baker, 11.
The boys were all cousins from local families. They had been playing with a soccer ball on the beach in Gaza City’s harbor before they were killed in a missile strike just after 4 pm.
Hamada Baker, 13, was struck by shrapnel from one of the missiles fired from the Israeli ship. He and other boys ran or were carried, to the al Deira Hotel next to the beach where the four boys were killed.
Many western journalists. housed at the hotel, helped the wounded with first aid kits they brought down to the hotel terrace. One of them was William Booth of the Washington Post. Booth filed his account of the attack:
“I had just returned to the hotel to type up some notes and file inserts on the day’s news when there was a large explosion on the quay at the port, a little after 4 o’ clock in the afternoon. . . We saw a small fisherman’s shack on the quay, churning with gray smoke.” (To continue reading, click here.)
On the sixth day of its asymmetrical war against Gaza, Israel destroyed a home for the handicapped in Eit Lahiya, killing two handicapped residents, and wounding three others, including the caretaker.
The destruction of the home came on an early Saturday morning while only five of the 19 severely handicapped residents were in the building.
Jamila Elaiwa, who founded the center 20 years ago, told the New York Times the remaining 14 residents of the Mabaret Palestine Society home were visiting their families.
Ms. Elaiwa spoke to the Times at Gaza’s Shifa’s hospital’s burn unit. She was there visiting the wounded survivors of the building’s destruction, two of whom were Mai Hamada, 30, and Salwa Abu al-Qomssan, 53, the caretaker, both of them with severe burns.
Jamila Elaiwa, the founder of the Mabaret Palestine Society, suggested the attack must have been pre-planned, and was not one of Israel’s unfortunate “accidents”, as Israel claimed was the case with the bomb that killed eight Gazans sitting on the beach watching a TV presentation of a World Cup football match. (To continue reading, click here.)
The headline for Jodi Rudoren’s July 5 New York Times story captures the ugly report in all of its appalling harshness.
“Autopsy Suggests Palestinian Teenager Was Burned to Death After Abduction”
The picture at right, from the New York Times, is that of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir’s father, greeting guests at his home Saturday.
Standing with him is Mousa Zaloum, 8, a boy from a neighbor’s family, whose neck was said to have been cut in a kidnapping attempt.
The Times story begins:
“Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, spent his last hours before being abducted, beaten and most likely burned to death in one of his favorite places, doing some of his favorite things.
Until about 1 a.m. Wednesday, a close cousin said, Muhammad was at the recreation center named for his respected, expansive Palestinian family in the ancient section of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, impressing friends with his defensive prowess at the foosball table and watching World Cup matches on a flat-screen television he recently helped install.”
The Associated Press reported Sunday that Israeli police have arrested several “Jewish suspects” in connection with the crime. No names were released.
Palestinians believe the death of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, “was a revenge killing for the earlier deaths of three Israeli teens” near Hebron, in the West Bank.
The Jewish Voice for Peace web site reported this week that the Israeli government has responded to the recent rash of violence by sealing off Palestinian towns, arresting more than 400 Palestinian and raiding over 100 homes. Israel has also carried out bombing raids in the same time period.
At a time when American Protestant church leaders continue to debate how best to respond to the asymmetrical struggle between Israel, the military occupation power, and the Palestinian people, the cycle of violence builds with all the furor of a fierce storm. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
These words from Sir Walter Scott (1808) describe the political template of the modern state of Israel.
Israel is a nation built on deceptive lies, preserved by deceptive lies. Israel is a nation practiced in the art of using whatever is available to keep alive their carefully “tangled web” of deceptive lies.
The latest addition to this tangled web came June 12, when three Israeli teenagers disappeared in the occupied territory of the West Bank. The boys were from three Orthodox Jewish settler families living in illegal settlements in the Hebron area.
Their families had placed them in a danger zone. Juan Cole writes:
“It should be fairly obvious that if you take adolescents into the middle of the Palestinian West Bank and steal Palestinian land and build houses on it and shoot at Palestinians trying to harvest their crops nearby and bulldoze down their homes or dig tube wells so deep as to cause the Palestinian wells to run dry– if you engage in this settler-colonial enterprise, then you are exposing those adolescents you drag with you into it to danger.
It is still wrong. Violence in anything other than direct self-defense is always wrong, and innocent non-combatant life must never be taken. A resistance movement is legitimate, but its quarrel must be with soldiers.”
The latest narrative of Israel’s tangled web continued as Israel sent its occupying army on an extensive search for the teen-agers.
The search extended well beyond the reasonable area where the boys might be found. Instead, it focused on homes and areas known to house Hamas supporters and leaders, the Palestinian party Israel wants to prevent from joining a unified Palestinian government.
From the outset the search was a deceptive lie. (To continue reading, click here.)
Ten years after the start of their divestment campaign against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and people, the Presbyterian Church (USA) anti-occupation forces have finally removed that denomination’s funds from the occupation.
In their 221st biennial General Assembly Friday, PCUSA commissioners (delegates) voted 310-303 to divest all financial involvement in three U.S. corporations whose products are used to enforce Israel’s occupation: Hewlett Packard, Motorola and Caterpillar.
Hewlett Packard manufactures eye and face scanning devices used at Israeli checkpoints, Motorola provides communications facilities within the occupied areas; while Caterpillar makes bulldozers used by Israeli authorities to destroy Palestinian homes.
The removal of PCUSA investments in those firms will neither end the occupation nor change Israel’s tactics over a captive population. Total PCUSA investment in these firms is but a tiny portion of the Israeli military budget, a substantial amount of which is derived from annual U.S. gifts and loans.
The vote was not about the money; it was a moral vote against the occupation.
Through their divestment vote, U.S. Presbyterians are telling Israel, we do not support your occupation, no matter how hard you try to incorrectly shape the conversation as anti-Israel and anti-Hewlett Packard, Motorola and Caterpillar. (To continue reading, click here.)
PCUSA Tries Again to Divest from Occupation
The Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA) is holding its biennial national General Assembly this week in Detroit, Michigan (June 14-21).
A number of overtures (resolutions) will be debated and voted on during the Assembly by 654 commissioners (elected representatives).
One overture before the Assembly will offer Presbyterian General Assembly commissioners the opportunity to have the denomination divest from three major corporations–Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola–that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
As of December 31, 2013, the PCUSA Board of Pensions’ total investment assets were $9.2 billion. The PCUSA has a membership of over 1,800,000 members related to 10,262 congregations.
The overture on pension funds and the Palestinian occupation has been presented to the General Assembly by the PCUSA’s “socially responsible investment committee”. It is a hard-hitting overture that follows ten years of failed discussions with representatives from the three targeted companies. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Demonization of an American Soldier
My experience as a member of the U.S. armed services was a long time ago. It was also far removed from a battlefield. I was an Air Force public information officer during the Korean War.
I was part of a team, serving my country. All these decades later, I still feel a loyalty to, and a deep respect for, anyone who signs up for active military duty.
For this reason, though far removed from my own active duty days, I can still feel an intense fury toward the journalists and politicians who have stumbled over themselves to demonize a U.S. army sergeant who has just been saved from enemy captivity through a prisoner exchange orchestrated by his Commander in Chief.
Do these people have no shame? Do they not see that because of their need to either attack or stand apart from the President’s decision, they are acting as jury and judge against an American citizen?
Do they, some of whom have also served on active duty, like Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, realize that those who judge U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, expose themselves as political sycophants? (To continue reading, click here.)
Searching for Justice In Church and On Campus
In less than two weeks, elected representatives of the Presbyterian Church USA, will gather in Detroit, Michigan, June 14-21, for their biennial General Assembly.
Meeting in solemn assembly, they will debate and vote, again, on how best to speak to the state of Israel.
To those who do not follow American church politics closely, it pains me to report that, yes, the Presbyterians still remain divided on the issue.
Israeli Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy has delivered to the Presbyterians, and indeed, to the entire world, one of the most eloquent messages to Israel I have yet to encounter.The fact that the statement comes from a native Israeli journalist, written for a mainstream Israeli newspaper, makes it even more compelling.
Written in a tone of sadness tinged with hope, Levy’s recent column is entitled, “International Kowtowing to Israel Must End Now”. He begins:
If there is a world, let it appear immediately. For now, there’s the sense of an ending of the international intervention in Israel. The Americans folded, the Europeans gave up, the Israelis rejoice and the Palestinians are lost. (Too continue reading, click here.)
What the Pope Did Not Say
It is what the Pope did not say that should disturb the world.
The Turkish World Bulletin’s New Desk points to crucial words missing from his Holy Land Papal trip May 25-26:
“Although the Pope has prayed at the separation wall in Bethlehem and called for a Palestinian state during his visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Al-Quds (East Jerusalem), he has not commented on Israeli abuses or on the blockade on 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza.”
Also missing was the essential point that the Pope’s visit was made in a political environment in which Israel and the U.S. have once again insisted on their “two sides” recurring diplomatic dodge.
President Obama repeated the dodge following the collapse of the latest round of “peace talks” between Israel and Palestine:
“What we haven’t seen is, frankly, the kind of political will to actually make tough decisions, and that’s been true on both sides.”
Not so, by any standard of political realism. The prisoner is never equal to the jailer. Naim Ateek, the Palestinian Anglican priest who founded Sabeel, told Time magazine before the Pope’s trip: (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel Hides Behind its Own Special “Catch 22″
Following yet another round of failed peace talks, Palestinian leaders have seized the initiative to create their own future.
Knowing that Israel has consistently demonstrated no interest in reaching a peace accord, Palestinian leaders defied pressure from Israel by signing their own reconciliation agreement.
The agreement is between the mainstream PLO faction, Fatah, and the Islamic Liberation group, Hamas.
Not only Palestinian leaders, but the Palestinian people appear ready for their own Palestinian unity, not one designed by Israel.
The unity government agreement was reached in Gaza City, April 23, after talks between Hamas leaders and a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) delegation headed by Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior figure in president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party.
Immediately, Israel threatened to adopt “draconian measures” against the Palestinian Authority (PA) in case the latter dared implement the agreement with Hamas on the ground. The punitive measures include (the usual) halting the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinians as well as a series of other restrictions and harassments.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was quoted as saying on Friday (May 16) that the PA would have to choose between Hamas and the peace process. (To continue reading, click here.)
“Zionism Unsettled”: Neither False Nor Misguided
by James M. Wall
The battle has begun over Zionism Unsettled.
The Christian Century opened round one by publishing an attack on Zionism Unsettled, a study guide developed for the study of Zionism, a secular ideology formed in the 19th century, which has had a major impact on Jewish–Christian relations.
The battle will continue June 14, when the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) gathers for national deliberations in Detroit, Michigan.
The attack ran under the headline, False witness: A misguided ‘study guide’. The guide was developed, and published in January of this year, by The Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), one of 40 networks approved by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and funded by each network’s church members.
The picture above is not from Zionism Unsettled. It is from an Amnesty International blog that appeared in the Albany, NY, Times Union. It was taken in Hebron, Palestine, during a “round-up” of Palestinian children by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). (To continue reading, click here.)
Time for Obama to Earn His 2009 Nobel Prize
President Obama has suggested a “pause” following the failure of the most recent Israel-Palestine peace negotiations.
A pause is an option, of course, but it needs to be a “pregnant pause”, defined by one source as: “A pause that gives the impression that it will be followed by something significant.”
It was Edmund Burke who once wrote, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” During his peace talks pause, Obama should look back to 2006, the last time the U.S. and Israel “trusted” the Palestinians to speak for themselves. That was the year of the remarkable 2006 parliamentary elections in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The U.S and Israel did not actually trust the Palestinian voters in 2006, they tolerated them. Their “experts” on the ground assured them the election would end in victory for the Fatah party, known then for its loyalty to the Israeli-U.S. axis. The election was won by Hamas. Wikipedia provides the election results: (To continue reading, click here.)
A Tale of Two Tapes
Two tapes have surfaced in recent days. Thereby hangs a modern tale of the “best of times and the worst of times”.
It is a bit of a stretch to use Charles Dickens to link the best of times represented by John Kerry, and the worst of times, embodied in the owner of an American professional basketball team.
But stretch is required in a world gone awry with both power and money much more than usual in the wrong hands. Hence, we have a tale of two tapes.
Tape number one is getting considerable media play because it involves the racist ravings of the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, one of the better teams in the National Basketball Association.
Tape number two draws less attention, of course, but it happens to be of far greater significance, because it reveals U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry telling a group that Israel is in danger of heading toward international isolation as an apartheid state.
Charles Dickens begins A Tale of Two Cities: A Story of the French Revolution, in this manner:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. (To continue reading, click here.)
Unity Agreement Evokes Israeli-U.S. Threats
We all remember the schoolyard bully, the girl or boy who set the rules and forced the rest of us to play by those rules, enforced by threats of the loss of backpacks and lunch money.
In the past few years I have found it impossible to look at the current Israeli government as anything other than that bully on the Middle East playground.
The latest example arrived this week when the Jewish Telegraph Agency reported:
The Fatah party, led by P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, on Wednesday signed an agreement with Hamas that would lead to a unity government within five weeks.
Actually, that news lead was in the fifth paragraph of the JTA story. Setting the tone for all international mainstream media coverage, JTA’s solemn report began:
Israel formally suspended peace talks with the Palestinian Authority over the P.A.’s national unity accord signed with the Hamas authority in the Gaza Strip. “The Cabinet today unanimously decided that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction,” said a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released Thursday afternoon.
Oh, the irony: Israel “formally suspended peace talks” they were determined to destroy from the outset. (To continue reading, click here.)
It Is Time to Bury the Honest Broker Deception
In John Ford’s film, The Searchers, Ethan (John Wayne) is talking with his bother Aaron. Ethan has been away from the family for several years.
AARON: How’s California?
ETHAN: How should I know?
AARON: But Mose Harper said…
ETHAN: That old goat still creakin’
around?…Whyn’t someone bury him?
It is time for President Barack Obama to be the leader who steps forward and finds a presidential way to “bury the old goat”.
The “Peace Process” is finished. The U.S. charade as an “honest broker” has been on its death bed for decades.
There has never been anything even closely resembling honesty in this U.S. charade. The U.S. was never a broker; it has always been”Israel’s lawyer”, to recall the description originally coined by Henry Kissinger.
Of course, should you prefer the guidance of the Gospel of Matthew rather than that of the Gospel of John Ford, here is a biblical version of the same burial recommendation:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27.
In his book, Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. has undermined peace in the Middle East,” Obama’s onetime University of Chicago colleague, Rashid Khalidi, has conveniently delivered the funeral oration for the Fordian “old goat”, and Matthew’s hypocrites.
“I Once Was Blind. . . But Now I See”
In a scene from the 2006 movie, Amazing Grace, set during the lifetime (1759 – 1833) of William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd, right), Wilberforce presents his anti-slave trade bill to the British Parliament. It is a task he performs annually.
Wilberforce is following the advice of his former preacher, John Newton (played in the film by Albert Finney), author of the hymn, “Amazing Grace”, who tells him that sometimes change occurs only through steady drips.
The purpose of Wilberforce’s annual legislative “drip” is to eventually persuade the majority of the Parliament to make it illegal for British ships to transport slaves from Africa to the New World.
At a crucial turning point in the film, speaking to an indifferent body of law-makers, many of whom have financial ties to the shipping industry, Wilberforce begins his annual plea:
“It is with a heavy heart that I bring to the attention of this House a trade that degrades men to the level of brutes and insults the highest qualities of our human nature. I am speaking of the slave trade.” (To continue reading, click here.)
“What we got here is failure to communicate”
John Kerry’s April 29 deadline for a negotiated framework between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, is only a few weeks away.
Without waiting for what is still a “flexible” end point for this round of “peace talks”, the two negotiating parties have entered the “blame game” utilizing the weapons they have at hand.
One party has the military and police strength of a major world military power. The other has the power to sign 14 international treaties, which include the Geneva Conventions and treaties on racism, genocide, and civil and political rights.
Writing for Al Monitor on its Israel page, Ben Caspit offered his observation on the blame game. [Bold emphasis added]:
“Everything that has happened to Kerry’s initiative this week was smeared in block letters on every wall en route to this impasse that we have just reached.
What we had here was a foretold chronicle of a breakdown on one hand, and a sweeping and somewhat childish enthusiasm with which Kerry sank his teeth into the negotiations on the other.
Had Kerry studied and examined the history of the last 20 years, he would have discovered that what he had undertaken was a mission impossible.”
Had Caspit studied and examined the two films he slips into his report, he would have discovered that Cool Hand Luke and the Mission Impossible series witness to the familiar reminder that “the arc of history bends toward justice”. (To continue reading, click here.)
GOP Aspirant Christie Apologizes To Adelson
Your heart has to go out to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Last weekend Christie went to Las Vegas to roll the dice in the “kiss Sheldon Adelson’s ring”, Republican primary.
One of four Republicans who may enter the real presidential primaries for the 2016 nomination, Christie stumbled in Las Vegas.
Halfway through his public address to the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), a convenient cover event for Adelson’s ring-kissing primary, Christie uttered a huge Zionist “no no”.
Here is a poor guy doing his best to pivot from the grime and scandal of New Jersey politics to the sunny environs of Nevada, where he wanted to do nothing more than display his deep and abiding love for Israel.
Such a pivot should have been a welcome and easy transition for a man who has spent months fighting public and legal attacks over Bridgegate, ”a scandal about a traffic jam”.
Desperate to connect to his Jewish audience, and of course, to kiss the ring of Zionist Casino Oligarch Adelson, Christie looked back fondly to a 2012 trip he made with his family to Israel.
Did he not know? Had he not heard? A governor who has displayed considerable obfuscation skills while denying involvement in his staff’s possible use of a bridge barrier to punish a political opponent, Christie slipped up on this one, big time: (To continue reading, click here.)
The U.S. Cannot Resuscitate What Never Lived
The game must go on. John Kerry performs his negotiator role. Benjamin Netanyahu goes through his role as the leader of an “endangered” state.
Mahmoud Abbas? Well, he (at right) is just sitting by at the peace table, with future diplomacy on his mind.
Trouble is, not even a hard-working John Kerry can resuscitate that which has not been suscitated in the first place
Yes, that is exactly the word we need here. Less than a month away from Kerry’s deadline for Israel and Palestine to agree on a framework to continue the current round of talks.
The Alpha Dictionary explains why:
“This word [suscitate] is not obsolete, just left behind in the dust of progress. . . Before you can resuscitate something, it should have originally been suscitated, [as in] “How do you suscitate curiosity in your students?”
Has there been a single Israeli prime minister who has ever been serious about giving Palestinians a viable state of their own? Of course not. A colonial power does not give political power back to the people whose land it has stolen by force and by guile. (To continue reading, click here.)
Will Abbas be Followed by Dahlan or Barghouti?
The headline on a New York Times story sounded innocent enough:
Palestinians Criticize Abbas for Public Fatah Feud at Delicate Time Diplomatically.
This is not an innocent story. It is a Times hasbara presentation that pretends to be “about” criticism by Palestinians of their president for starting a “feud” with Muhammad Dahlan.
Here are key paragraphs in the Times‘ story:
“Some of Mr. Abbas’s current difficulties are of his own making. Palestinians say they are baffled by Mr. Abbas’s decision to open up another front within his own Fatah movement by beginning a nasty, public campaign against a onetime ally who Mr. Abbas now sees as a rival, Muhammad Dahlan, a former Gaza strongman and Fatah security chief.
In the two weeks since Mr. Abbas’s opening salvo against Mr. Dahlan, who is living abroad, the Arabic media has been filled with unproved accusations by Mr. Abbas about the long-ago killings of prominent Palestinians, and by both men about collaboration with Israel and financial corruption.” (To continue reading, click here.)
Northeastern Joins Zionist BDS Campus Attacks
Forget about the so-called Peace Process, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to use as a cover for Israel’s territorial incursions into Palestinian Occupied Territories.
Start worrying, instead, about Zionist incursions into American universities.
Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges reports on the latest example of how universities and colleges are kowtowing to Zionism by banning and blacklisting student groups that “challenge the official Israeli narrative”:
The banning of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Northeastern University in Boston on March 7, along with a university threat of disciplinary measures against some of its members, replicates sanctions being imposed against numerous student Palestinian rights groups across the country.
The attacks, and the disturbingly similar forms of punishment, appear to be part of a coordinated effort by the Israeli government and the Israel lobby to blacklist all student groups that challenge the official Israeli narrative. (To continue reading, click here.)
Does The IDF Target Palestinian Soccer Players?
Two Palestinian youth soccer players were shot and badly wounded near a check point in the Palestinian West Bank on January 31.
Ma’an, the Palestinian news outlet, reported the shootings of Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17.
The players were shot by Israeli soldiers as they were walking home from practice in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium in al-Ram in the central West Bank.
Medical reports indicated that “Jawhar was shot with 11 bullets, seven in his left foot, three in his right, and one in his left hand. Halabiya was shot once in each foot.”
Doctors at Ramallah governmental hospital said the pair “will need six months of treatment before they can evaluate if the two will even be able to ever walk again, at best.”
Ma’an also reported that “Israeli forces opened fire in their direction without warning as they were walking near a checkpoint. Police dogs were subsequently unleashed on them before Israeli soldiers dragged them across the ground and beat them.”
The story did not surface in western press outlets until Dave Zirin wrote in the Nation:
Their names are Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17. They were once soccer players in the West Bank. Now they are never going to play sports again. Jawhar and Adam were on their way home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium on January 31 when Israeli forces fired upon them as they approached a checkpoint. (To continue reading, click here.)
Pope Francis Plans Second Visit to Jerusalem
Pope Francis currently plans to visit Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, May 24-26. This will be his second trip to Jerusalem.
The Pope’s first visit was 41 years ago. On that trip, he arrived in Jerusalem in October, 1973, just before war began between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
That war was fought between a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria, against Israel. The war lasted from October 6 to October 25.
On his second trip to Jerusalem in May, 2014, there will be no war to interrupt the Pope’s journey. There is, however, a labor strike by Israeli diplomatic personnel which began this week. The unions are striking for higher wages and better working conditions.
At first it was believed the Pope’s trip would be delayed or cancelled, since diplomatic personnel are needed to handle such a high profile visitor. However, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, has said that while the strike has caused “some apprehensions”, the trip will not be delayed.
The Vatican is especially eager to have the Pope’s visit coincide with the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s visit, the first in modern times. Since that 1963 visit, two more Popes have come to visit, Pope John Paul II in 2000 and Benedict XVI in 2009. The Times of Israel reports that in October 1973, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, made his first visit to Jerusalem. (To continue reading, click here.)
Barack to Bibi: “Time is running out”
When President Obama consented to an interview with Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, the President sent an ultimatum to israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
“Time is running out”.
Obama does not choose a reporter for an individual interview without a clear purpose.
In this case, his purpose could have been to use Goldberg as a journalist-messenger, trusted by Israel, but also a columnist for an American media outlet.
In his younger years, Goldberg served in the Israeli army as a prison guard. He even produced a book out of the experience, Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror.
The interview with Goldberg is the template President Obama keeps in front of his Israeli visitor, both in Washington and into the future.
Prime Minister Netanyahu came to Washington Sunday night. He met with President Obama Monday and on Tuesday he will address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference.
The AIPAC conference customarily functions as a pep really for AIPAC funders and supporters. At this annual event, through speeches and small group meetings, attendees receive legislative marching orders, essentially a list of legislation AiIPAC wants passed in the American Congress
One key demand that was expected to be high on this year’s AIPAC list was pulled, as AIPAC yielded to intense pressure from the White House. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Rachel Corrie was killed March 16, 2003, by an Israeli soldier who crushed her to death with an American-built Caterpillar bulldozer.
Eleven years later, March 16, 2014, on the anniversary of her death, Rachel Corrie (right) will be remembered by her family and friends.
She will also be remembered on this anniversary, by those who celebrate and cherish a young American woman who said no to Israel’s occupation and no to the constant attacks on Palestinians and the destruction of Palestinian homes.
What happened when an American citizen is killed by an Israeli soldier driving an American-built bull dozer? Mother Jones had Israel’s official reaction in 2003:
“The Israeli government, which rarely acknowledges the deaths of Palestinian civilians killed during its military operations, went into damage-control mode. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised President Bush a “thorough, credible, and transparent investigation.” Later Israel declared the killing a “regrettable accident” and blamed it on overzealous Corrie and the other activists working as human shields.”
Subsequent calls for Congress to investigate Rachel Corrie’s death were ignored. A civil lawsuit brought by her family against the Israeli military, was introduced in Israeli courts, March 15, 2005. The Israeli justice system responded slowly. Seven years after the suit was filed, and nine years after Rachel Corrie’s death, an Israeli court reached a final verdict. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Spirit of Judah L. Magnes Lives On
A New York Times column, A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel,” opens with an interview with Orthodox Jewish scholar Charles H. Manekin.
In his column, Mark Oppenheimer describes Professor Manekin as a “rarity”, an apt description because in addition to his academic tasks, Manekin writes a hard-hitting blog, which he calls, The Magnes Zionist., named for:
Judah L. Magnes, an American rabbi who, until his death in 1948, argued that a Jewish return to the Middle East did not require a nation-state.
Wikipedia recalls Judah Leon Magnes (1877 – 1948) (pictured above), as “a prominent Reform rabbi in both the United States and the British Mandate of Palestine”.
Magnes was a leader in the World War I pacifist movement and was “one of the most widely recognized voices of 20th Century American Reform Judaism”.
The spirit of Rabbi Magnes lives on in the work of Professor Manekin, who shares his “at odd with Israel” tab with a small group of observant Orthodox Jews interviewed by Mark Oppenheimer. (To continue reading, click here.)
What Ike Feared “Has Come Upon US”
by James M. Wall
On February 3, Illinois Sixth District Republican Congressman Peter Roskam introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress that would defend Israel against any criticism from U.S. academics.
Roskam is responding to the December, 2013 vote of the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli academic institutions for their role in the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The American people were told this day would come. In his Farewell Address, delivered on January 17, 1961, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower (above) warned the nation to guard against the “unwarranted influence” of “the military-industrial complex”.
Fifty-three years later, to paraphrase Job, ”that which Ike feared has come upon us.”
Melvin A. Goodman, a 24-year veteran of the CIA, and now a professor himself, was an undergraduate student at John Hopkins University in 1961. In his book, National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism, Goodman writes:
“In 1959 President Dwight Eisenhower began a dialogue with his brother, Milton, the president of Johns Hopkins University, regarding U.S. military policy. In the spring of 1961, a small group of undergraduates met with Milton Eisenhower to discuss the president’s farewell address. (To continue reading, click here.)
Super Bowl Ad And SodaStream
A television ad which ran during the fourth quarter of the Denver Broncos-Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl game Sunday, featured Hollywood film star Scarlett Johansson (shown here in a poster picture).
The ad, for which the company SodaStream, paid $4 million, features Johansson as a sexy, convincing sales person for SodaStream’s home carbonation product.
Johansson should be easily recognized in the TV ad by younger viewers who would know her from her featured role in the movie series, The Avengers. In that series Johansson plays the Black Widow, one of several Marvel Comic characters who fight evil powers as a team. The picture of Johansson is from a poster from the yet to be released Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which she plays the Black Widow. That picture will be in theaters, April 4.
Johansson has been in many other films, most recently as the off-screen voice of Samantha, the computer-generated “her” in the film Her. In that film, the unseen Samantha establishes a love relationship with a lonely man played by Joaquin Phoenix. The film is set in the future when computers, supposedly, have developed human emotions.
A more recent Johansson film, Under the Skin. premiered in 2013 at the Toronto Film Festival. It will be released to theaters later this year. Two more Black Widow films will be released over the next two years. The Black Widow, that is, Scarlett Johansson, is also engaged in a real life fight, now being fought largely out of sight of the average Super Bowl viewer.
That fight is being waged in a BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign against SodaStream, an Israeli company which operates one of its factories in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. BDS is gathering steam as an effective, non-violent program designed to call world attention to business and companies which illegally operate in Occupied Palestine. (To continue reading, click here.)
Village Destruction in the Jordan Valley
British journalist and author Victoria Brittain traveled to the Jordan Valley to see the actual conditions and latest developments in one of the areas under discussion in the peace negotiations John Kerry is conducting between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
A people under military occupation, prisoners in their own land, controlled by outside forces, live in the area in which Victoria Brittain traveled.
She later wrote of her mid-January trip and the people she met in Open Democracy. One man she interviewed was Burhan Bisharat (above), whose home in the village of Kirbet al Makhoul has been destroyed four times.
Brittain began her trip northeast of the Palestinian city of Nablus, traveling along a road toward the northern Jordan Valley and the international border with the country of Jordan. The area through which she traveled contains rocky brown hills, riddled with what she describes as “concrete posts every hundred yards inscribed ‘DANGER’ Firing Zone”.
Her journey covered one part of Area C, designated as land under Israeli total control under an earlier agreement reached under President Bill Clinton known as Oslo 2. One particular part of Area C in which Brittain traveled is described on UN maps with the occupier’s euphemism, “Israel’s Nature Reserve”. Much of the area map is shaded with the equally euphemistic identification, “an Israeli closed military area”. (To continue reading, click here.)
16 Dem Senators Join AIPAC Against Iran Deal; Feinstein and TV’s Chris Hayes Support Obama
by James M. Wall
Sixteen Democratic U.S. Senators, including two with higher political aspirations, have joined Republican senators as co-sponsors of Senate \legislation which might better be described as “the kill the Iranian nuclear pact” legislation.
The Senate bill, labeled the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act. would impose additional sanctions against Iran, thereby destroying the carefully negotiated nuclear pact Secretary of State John Kerry has worked out with Iran.
On January 15, Chris Hayes devoted a segment of his MSNBC All In television program to a heated attack on the 16 Democratic senators who have turned away from President Obama and followed, instead, the marching orders of the Israel Lobby, led by AIPAC.
To view Hayes’ four minute segment on the 16 Democratic senators who follow AIPAC’s bidding, click here. (Not counting the ad, sorry about that, stop the video after 4:03 minutes unless you want to hear more about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and who needs more of that.)
Hayes is not alone in opposing “the kill the Iranian nuclear pact” Senate legislation. He provides media backing to California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (above left) who spoke on the Senate floor against the Kirk-Menendez legislation. (To continue reading, click here.)
Ariel Sharon Dies After Eight Years in a Coma
Ariel Sharon died January 11, 2014, eight years and one week after he suffered a stroke January 4, 2006. At the time of his stroke, Sharon was the 11th Prime Minister of Israel.
The stroke left him in a permanent, brain dead, vegetative state. It was not the final chapter of life a proud man could have wanted.
A medical blog described Sharon’s final years: ”With the help of modern medicine, his body soldiered on. His kidneys no longer worked, and he received dialysis to keep them operating. In 2013, he even underwent surgery to treat an infection related to his kidney failure”.
Deprived of dignity, his body systems sustained by modern technology, Sharon lingered for eight years, largely forgotten by the world. Ramifications of his legacy, however, remain very much alive in Israel. Sharon embodied and acted on the worst elements of intolerance, racism and greed a nation can embrace. (To continue reading, click here.)
Netanyahu’s “Shibboleths” Scuttle Peace Talks
“No partner for peace” is one of several “shibboleths” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and his cabinet are now using to scuttle any peace agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas, no matter how often U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Tel Aviv.
As readers of Judges 12:6 are well aware, pronunciation of the word “shibboleth” is used to separate friends from enemies.
In episode eight of the second season of the television series West Wing, for example, President Josiah Bartlett used “shibboleth” to determine that Chinese immigrants were truly Christian and therefore deserved admission to the U.S. To assert that Israel “has no partner for peace” is a verbal signal, a “shibboleth”, which quickly certifies that the speaker is “with Israel”, without reservations.
When John Kerry returned last week to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks for his tenth visit, he brought with him a proposal to discuss “four core issues” with the peace negotiators. Because he is a master diplomat (another reason to regret his failure to defeat incumbent President George W. Bush in 2004), Kerry knew Netanyahu would find ways to defer progress toward peace.
Kerry’s “four core issues” were quickly expanded by Netanyahu and members of his cabinet, to “six core issues”. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israeli Aggression Leaves Little Hope for Peace
The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. That conflict began on July 28, 1914. It did not end until November 11, 1918.
Keep those dates in mind because by July 28, 2014, it is possible that we will witness the start of another conflict, driven by the same stupidity, greed and lust for power that produced the First World War. That repeat of history was evident in the bad news for the Palestinians that preceded the arrival in Tel Aviv on Thursday of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The bad news came in the verbal bluster and actions of Israeli political leaders who insist Israel will continue to aggressively build settlement housing on Palestinian territory. The demand by Israel that IDF units must continue to patrol the Palestinian Jordan Valley is one more egregious step Israel is taking to guarantee that Kerry’s attempts to form a peace agreement will never succeed. The houses shown above are in the Jewish settlement of Maale Efrayim in the Palestinian Jordan Valley where, Foreign Policy reports,
Israel’s interior minister will on Thursday inaugurate a new neighbourhood in a Jewish settlement in the Jordan Valley, in a gesture of defiance that will coincide with US secretary of state John Kerry’s latest visit to the region to push forward peace talks.
Into this atmosphere of Israeli expansionism, the Secretary returned to the region this week for his tenth visit, bringing plans for discussion by Israeli and Palestinian leaders. (To continue reading, click here.)
Iran And The Season of Peace and Goodwill
This is the season which celebrates the hope of peace and good will among humankind. The New Testament testifies to this hope in Luke 2:8-20.
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:8-20 New KJV
The key to this passage is the announcement, “You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” The Babe is Jesus, born of Mary, in the town of Bethlehem (modern city shown above). In the time recorded by Luke, the Babe lies in a manger, helpless and vulnerable. When we speak of the Babe we see him as an embodiment of future hope, a promise of what could be.
Today, in the land where Jesus was born, there is another fragile and vulnerable hope for peace. A nuclear peace agreement between Iran and major western powers waits to grow into a mature reality. Unlike the child described by Luke, this peace agreement is not perfect; it was created by political leaders, not by God. (To continue reading, click here.)
If Talks Fail, Boycotts Will Arrive “On Steroids”
John Kerry returned for talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah this week, bringing a warning that if the peace talks fail, Israel could confront a “boycott campaign on steroids“. The U.S. Secretary of State also brought a “framework agreement” for the two sides to discuss.
Learning of the contours of the proposed agreement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was quick to voice his opposition. The agreement reportedly calls for the stationing of Israeli military forces in the Jordan Valley under the noxious pretense that Israel needs that extra layer of protection for its security. Ira Glunt, writing in Mondoweiss, offers more details on the Ramallah meeting:
As reported in Ha’aretz, according to a senior Palestinian advisor, the atmosphere at the meeting last night was not good because of “American pressure.” The Americans want an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley for a period of 10 to 15 years. The Palestinians have publicly stated that they would accept an international military presence in their future state, but would not agree to any Israeli military deployment on their territory.
On his return to Jerusalem from Ramallah, the Secretary had his expected 30 minute drive delayed for more than two hours. Such a delay would be typical for Palestinians on the same journey, but it was not checkpoints that delayed the Secretary.
He was driving through the heaviest snowstorm to hit Jerusalem in decades. Kerry’s proposed “framework agreement” is described by Ha’aretz as “an attempt to achieve a breakthrough in the impasse and to force leaders to reach decisions”. Kerry has five months left in his self-imposed time frame to reach a peace agreement.
He is trying everything in his diplomat notebook. He warns Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu of a flood of boycotts he could face. He warned Abbas of a delay in the scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners at the end of December. The two threats are hardly comparable, but then, the status of the occupied and the occupier are also anything but comparable. (To continue reading, click here.)
Mandela Had “A Unique Moral Authority”
Nelson Mandela died at his Johannesburg home on December 5. The man who led South Africa out of the bondage of national apartheid, died at the age of 95. The world has responded with an outpouring of praise for the man who served as South Africa’s first post-apartheid president. Leaders from western nations, where Mandela was once scorned as a “terrorist” revolutionary, rushed to get in line to recall him as a great leader. A public memorial service is planned for Tuesday in a Johannesburg outdoor stadium. Mandela will be buried at his ancestral home in Qunu, Eastern Cape, on December 15. The British newspaper, the Independent, took note of Mandela’s moral authority:
Nelson Mandela was the most respected, and probably the most loved of all world leaders in the late 20th century, and the most enduring of the heroes who emerged from the political convulsions of the 1980s. . . . For 27 years in jail he refused to compromise his principles, while for most of that time his own party, the African National Congress (ANC), was broken. But he emerged in February 1990 to become the dominant influence in his country, without whom peace was unlikely. When he was elected President in April 1994, he was accepted by whites as well as blacks as the embodiment of his country’s new democracy, with a unique moral authority.
Among those who quickly announced that they will travel to South Africa to honor this man of ”a unique moral authority” were U.S. President Barack Obama and two earlier U.S. presidents, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Jimmy Carter, another former U.S. president, will travel to Johannesburg with a delegation of The Elders, a group of “independent, progressive leaders committed to peace, justice and human rights”. The Elders group was founded by Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg on July 18, 2007, his 89th birthday. (To read further and to see and head Mandela’s 1990 television interview with Ted Koppel, click here.)
Netanyahu’s Flawed Vatican Charm Offensive
With the U.S. Congress safely in his back pocket, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has turned his charm offensive on the Vatican. How is that working out for him? It does not look promising. The Prime Minister forgot the first rule of charm school: Target your prey gently. Avoid all punches to the mid-section. The international Jewish News Agency (JTA) reported on Monday’s meeting between Netanyahu and Pope Francis:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Vatican audience with Pope Francis reportedly invited the pontiff to visit Israel. No date has been set for a visit by Francis to Israel, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. Netanyahu on Monday presented the pope with a book about the Spanish Inquisition written by his father, the late historian Benzion Netanyahu.”
An invitation to drop by for a visit to Tel Aviv along with a gift to the Holy Father recalling the dark moments of the Spanish Inquisition? Bad form, Mr. Prime Minister. The book delivered to the Pope was written by Netanyahu’s father, Ben-Zion Netanyahu, who died recently at the age of 102. The pride of a son could be one justification for the gift. The book, The Origins of the Inquisition in 15th Century Spain, is considered the elder Netanyahu’s finest work. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was quick to note the incongruity of a book as a gift to the Pope which denounces the sins of Pope Francis’ 15th century predecessor, one that “largely revolves about Spanish Catholics questioning, torturing, and punishing Jewish converts to Catholicism,” a practice first legally sanctioned by Pope Innocent IV in 1252. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Secret Mission of William J. Burns
Congress and Israel Against Obama and Kerry; “Which Side are You On?”
John Kerry: Unfiltered In His Own Words
by James M. Wall John Kerry took the unusual step of agreeing to a November 6, Jerusalem television interview with two reporters, an Israeli and a Palestinian. He did so in order to send a public message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An Israeli writer for the right-wing Jerusalem web site, Times of Israel, got the message. He did not, however, like what he heard. He relayed his negative reaction in his story:
For the first time since he managed to restart the [Israel-Palestine peace] talks in July, Kerry dropped his statesman-like public impartiality, and clearly spoke from the heart — and what emerged were a series of accusations that amounted to a forceful slap in the face for Netanyahu. It was a rhetorical onslaught that the prime minister cannot have expected and one he will not quickly forget. (emphasis added by blogger)
The writer with that perspective is Raphael Ahren, diplomatic correspondent for theTimes of Israel, a Web-only, English-language Israeli newspaper, launched in February earlier this year by Seth Klarman, a wealthy American Jewish investor. Klarman, according to Wikipedia, has also been the longtime chairman and a financial supporter of The David Project, a Boston-based group which sponsors pro-Israel advocacy programs on American college campuses. Using words from Kerry’s TV interview, and then filtering them through the Times‘ right-wing perspective, Ahren continues: (To continue reading, click here.)
Do Peace Talks Point to a Carthaginian Peace?
by James M. Wall On December 24, 2009, the Israeli oil exploration company Givot Olam, posted two media announcements a few hours apart. Givot Olam’s first announcement revealed that “significant quantities” of oil had been found in the mud of Meged 5, a drill site close to the Palestinian village of Rantis, north west of Ramallah. Rantis is located close to the Green Line, the 1967 line that initially separated Israel from the West Bank. Israel had been searching for oil around Rentis since at least 2002, an action in violation of international law as well as a violation of the Oslo Agreement, which required that Israel and Palestine refrain from any unilateral exploration of national resources in the occupied territories. Oil development in the West Bank would boost the Palestinian economy. It could also help develop a strong Palestinian nation on the east side of the Green Line. The game Israel has played with its decade long development of an oil field that clearly extends well into the West Bank, is a game Israel intends to win. The Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ), describes the village of Rantis where the game is being played.
Rantis, is a small Palestinian village located to the northwest of Ramallah district in the Palestinian West Bank. It has a total population of 2688 inhabitants and a built up area of 458 dunums (115 Acres). The village is inhabited mostly by 6 clans (Wahdan, Hallaf, Ballot, Dar Abo Salim, Al Yahee, Hawashe. Most of Rantis villagers depend on agriculture as their main source of income. (To continue reading and for more on a carthagenian peace. click here.)
“Laying by time” Gives Diplomacy a Chance
U.S. Jews Battle Over Blumenthal’s “Goliath”
by James M. Wall Max Blumenthal is a young Jewish American journalist whose father, Sidney Blumenthal, was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton from August 1997 until January 2001. Preparing to write his latest book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, Max Blumenthal (shown here) spent four years reporting from Israel and occupied Palestine. His father’s political connections did not pave the way for his interviews. All the son needed was his American passport and Jewish identity. Both Palestinians and Jews wanted to tell their stories. In his research Blumenthal had easy access to major Israeli literary figures like Israeli novelist David Grossman. In his interview with Grossman, which he reports in his book, Blumenthal refers to his father’s earlier career in the Clinton administration. What provoked this rare reference to his father was Grossman’s emotional defense of Israel as an essential safe haven for Jews. Blumenthal writes:
For Grossman and liberal Zionists like him, the transformation of Israel from an ethnically exclusive Jewish state into a multiethnic democracy was not an option. “For two thousand years” Grossman told me when I asked why he believed the preservation of Zionism was necessary, “we have been kept out, we have been excluded. And so for our whole history we were outsiders. Because of Zionism we finally have the chance to be insiders.” (To continue reading, check here.)
Israel Hides Nukes Behind “Ambiguity” Wall
Bob Dylan: “For the times they are a-changin”
by James M. Wall “For the times they are a-changin”, is a line from the third verse of Bob Dylan’s 1964 classic American protest hymn, released as the title track of Dylan’s 1964 album. In 1985, Dylan told Cameron Crowe, who was writing cover copy for a later Dylan album:
“This was definitely a song with a purpose. It was influenced, of course, by the Irish and Scottish ballads …’Come All Ye Bold Highway Men’, ‘Come All Ye Tender Hearted Maidens’. I wanted to write a big song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time.” (Wikipedia)
I was reminded of Dylan’s “song with a purpose” while attempting to decipher the reaction to two recent United Nations General Assembly speeches, specifically, one from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and another from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The positive response to Rouhani is startling compared to the surprisingly negative reaction evoked by Netanyahu. Times are most certainly changing when an Israeli leader is trumped on the world stage so decisively by a leader of Iran. (To continue reading, and to view Bruce Springsteen singing “For the times they are a-changin”, click here.)
Netanyahu and Obama Seek “The Truth”
by James M. Wall Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the United States this week, vowing to expose “the truth” about Iran. The exposure vow from Netanyahu was just the opening barrage in what is expected to be a four-day visit with ample diplomatic fisticuffs. Obama spoke last week to the United Nations General Assembly and pledged to turn his attention to a pursuit for peace in the Middle East. Specifically, he said he would focus on resolving the issue of Iran’s nuclear development and finding a path to peace between Israel and Palestine. In Obama’s UN speech he forcefully pointed to the two issues which will consume his diplomatic energies “in the near term”:
America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Arab- Israeli conflict. While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace. (To continue reading, click here.)
Iran’s Rouhani: “The World Has Changed”
by James M. Wall On July 30, 2009, conservative columnist Pat Buchanan wrote a column in the American Conservative. He called it, “Tell Israel No”. Here is a key paragaph:
“Israel has been saying for years an Iranian bomb is months away. Where is the proof? Where is the evidence to justify a new U.S. war in the Middle East to destroy weapons of mass destruction that may not exist in Iran, as they did not exist in Iraq?”
This column appeared four years ago. Nothing has changed except the date. Israel continues to cry nuclear wolf. The U.S. consistently indulges Israel in its desire to make Iran a pariah among nations. This indulgence could start to change this week when, and if, President Obama meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The two leaders are scheduled to speak to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday. There are strong signs they will meet somewhere at the UN. The meeting could be serious, or it could just be accidentally on purpose. But it will happen. President Rouhani set his agenda for a serious meeting by asserting, “the world has changed”, in a column published in the Washington Post. (To continue, click here.)
Peaceful Pause Delivers “Stunning” News
No one ever said diplomacy was easy. Many have said it is messy. But one thing is certain: Diplomacy is better than destruction. Thanks to diplomacy, which weathered recent negative media cries of incompetence, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has announced that the U.S. and Russia have reached what one news outlet called a “stunning” agreement. The Secretary made the announcement from Geneva mid-day Saturday, after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The Daily Beast report by Christopher Dickey, begins:
“In a stunning agreement that could lead to the end of the Syrian crisis, Russia and the U.S. announce a plan to eliminate Assad’s chemical arsenal. The diplomatic breakthrough in Geneva today is simply stunning. The “framework agreement for elimination of Syrian chemical weapons” reached by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov delivers, in writing at least, just about everything President Barack Obama demanded when he threatened to attack the Assad regime earlier this month. The agreement calls on Syria to declare in detail its entire chemical arsenal within weeks and destroy it – along with everything involved in making it – within five or six months.”
Obama Pauses Again; Peace Wins, AIPAC Loses
Monday, September 9, was planned as a day for the White House to persuade Congress to support military strikes on Syria. The highlight of the day’s “persuade Congress” plan was a White House appearance by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After a luncheon meeting with President Obama, Clinton pledged her every effort to gain “yes” votes from Congress for a military attack. Midway through her statement she had to shift, however, from attack mode to peace mode. A rapid series of “surprise” developments swept through London, Moscow and Damascus before dark in Washington Monday. We may not know until the tell-all book on President Obama’s second term is published. But it sure looks like the Obama team spent this past weekend changing its “persuade Congress” plan to a “further pause for peace” plan. Whatever it was, something led to the weekend shift in White House plans. The Obama team had read the polls. It was obvious that the majority of the American public wanted no part of more U.S. military presence in the Middle East. Members of Congress read the same polls. At first only the most hard line pro-Israel members of the House and Senate raised their hands to give a yes vote for an attack. A strange assortment of Republicans, Democrats, progressives and conservatives lifted their hands to defiantly vote no to an attack. (To continue reading, click here.)
Obama Pauses; Calls for Debate in Congress
Is Israel Serious About Peace?
Will Palestine Retain Its Natural Gas Fields?
by James M. Wall For the moment, all is quiet on the Israeli-Palestinian peace front. Is it “too quiet”, as they once asked in movie westerns? That depends entirely on what kind of peace is being discussed. Does danger lurk, or does a just peace lie ahead? U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry could be working furiously behind the scenes for a just peace. If so, he would be demanding that the natural gas fields off the Gaza coast remain under Palestinian control. An industry web site , offshore technology.com, describes the potential of the Gaza coast gas fields:
Gaza Marine gas field is located 30km off the coast of the Gaza Strip, in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It lies at a water depth of 603m. The development of the Gaza field has been on hold for several years due to disputes between Israel and the Palestinians.
Not surprisingly, Israel has already treated the gas fields as its personal property. On June 16, 2011, Oil Price.com wrote:
Earlier this week Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure authorized Noble Energy, a crude oil and gas exploration U.S. based company based in New York, to begin developing a natural gas field off the Gaza Strip coastline. (To continue reading, click here.)
Peace Talks Begin Despite Political Resistance
“God of our weary years, God of our silent tears”— James Weldon Johnson
by James M. Wall This blog has an internal statistics page which reports a daily compilation of the number of “visits” to the current posting. The same page also reports on visits to previous postings. A few days ago I noticed a few “visits” to the January 20, 2009, Wall Writings posting. That posting, entitled, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, began:
After Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president of the United States, he delivered a stirring inaugural address that called on Americans to join with him in addressing the problems facing the nation. “Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily nor in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.”
Further along in the 2009 posting, I added this about the inauguration:
Obama’s speech was followed by a benediction from 87-year-old [The Reverend] Joseph Lowery (above), from Atlanta, Georgia, whose opening words must have sounded familiar to the millions of African Americans in the crowd and around the nation. Lowery’s prayer began with the third verse of James Weldon Johnson’s hymn, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, which, since it was written in 1920, has emerged as the “national anthem” of the African American community.
During these late summer weeks, as we await the closely-guarded news from the ongoing “peace talks” between Israel and Palestine, the third verse of “Lift Every Voice” appears even more relevant today than it was in 2009. Here are the words that begin the third verse: (To continue reading, click here.)
Kerry Stumbles Into a Peace “Bully” Role
Nicola Nasser, a blogger from Bir Zeit, Palestine, has delivered a stinging rebuke to John Kerry on the eve of the meetings with the U.S., Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. Nasser’s blog, allarabi. exposed a “new tactic” in Kerry’s preparation for the peace conference,scheduled to begin Monday. When preparations for the talks began, Kerry asked Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas not to comment on the conversations they had with Kerry prior to the Washington meeting. Sorry, Mr. Secretary, but If the Edward Snowden/NSA fiasco has taught us anything, it is this: There are no secrets in the internet age. The U.S. Secretary of State cannot meet with a delegation from the 22-member Arab League in Petra, Jordan. as Kerry did on July 17, and expect his strategy to retain confidential. Certainly not with bloggers like Nasser writing under this blunt headline, ”Kerry Uses Arabs to Bully Palestinians”, This is how Nasser began his posting:
A new tactic by US Secretary of State John Kerry is causing a split within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) ranks regarding further talks with Israel. Kerry is apparently using the Arab League’s Follow-Up Committee on the Arab Peace Initiative (FCAPI) to bully the Palestinians into accepting new ground rules for the talks to which they had objected in the past. (To continue reading, click here.)
Livni Warns Israel It Faces A Worldwide Boycott
by James M. Wall Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is the Israeli cabinet minister with the task of finding a way back to peace talks. At the moment, she is one more frustrated negotiator. Livni was so frustrated that she kicked off the month of July with a speech in which she said that if negotiations with the Palestinians don’t start up again soon, Israel will face a worldwide economic boycott. The Jerusalem Post reported on her speech:
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni warned Monday at an accountants’ conference in Eilat that lack of progress on the Palestinian track could lead to a potential disaster for Israeli exports. “Europe is boycotting goods,” said Livni, head of Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians. “True, it starts with settlement [goods], but their problem is with Israel, which is seen as a colonialist country. Therefore, it won’t stop at the settlements, but [will spread] to all of Israel,” she said.
This is not what we expect to hear from an Israeli minister. Nor it is usual for a minister to address the youth of her country with this reminder:
During her Eilat speech, Livni said she was impressed that youth in the country protested against the government decision to export natural gas. “I appreciate the fact that they care and are thinking about the future, and obligating us to think about the future,” she said. “But the time has come for the same youth to ask, to what kind of state do they want to leave the gas reserves? (To continue reading, click here.)
“One Day Ramallah Will Rise Up”
by James M. Wall “One Day Ramallah Will Rise Up” is the title of a current column by the provocative Ha’aretz writer, Gideon Levy. During this same week, Uri Avnery, another Israeli provocateur, entitled his Gush Shalom column, “The Human Spring”. He sees, and clearly feels, the presence of a “hidden mechanism” pushing the world forward in this post-Arab Spring period. I would not suggest Levy and Avnery conspired to deliver a common theme to our in-boxes during this first week of July. But there is no doubt that Levy and Avnery have sensed the presence of a “hidden mechanism” of change in Palestine. It is a change happening in Ramallah, Palestine’s temporary capital, and in the rest of the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and in Gaza. Uri Avnery opens his “hidden mechanism” column:
When asked what he thought about the French Revolution, Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Communist leader, famously answered: “It’s too early to say.” This was considered a typical piece of ancient Chinese wisdom – until somebody pointed out that Zhou did not mean the revolution of 1789, but the events of May 1968, which happened not long before the interview in question. Even now it may be too early to judge that upheaval, when students tore up the cobblestones of Paris, confronted the brutal police and proclaimed a new era. It was an early forerunner of what is happening today all over the world.
It was in May of 1968 when young people demanded change they longed for, focused primarily on freedom. The Arab Spring, and what follows it, is our current generation’s tangible response to this same demand for political freedom. (To continue reading, click here.)
Kerry Undertakes One Last Anti-War Mission
by James M. Wall John Kerry is back in Washington after his fifth official trip to the Middle East. He is already planning his return to the region. Despite the lack of any visible signs of success, the U.S. Secretary of State remains determined to resolve what is generally seen in official Washington as an intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine. In a June 30 editorial, The New York Times saw little prospect for success, despite the fact that “Mr. Kerry keeps doggedly plowing forward.” Indeed, as the Times reports, the Secretary is giving every impression that he sees progress ahead. He sure acts that way. Note his travel schedule:
“On Thursday [June 27], he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, then drove to Amman to confer with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, on Friday. He later flew by helicopter back to Jerusalem for another meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, then one with President Shimon Peres of Israel. On Saturday and Sunday, he shuttled between the leaders again.”
This is not Kerry’s first political rodeo. There is nothing quite like rising from his role as an anti-war Vietnam veteran to become a U.S. senator, a U.S. presidential candidate and chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, to teach someone the art of politics. John Kerry’s first appearance on the American political scene was as a young Navy lieutenant appearing before the same Senate Foreign Relations Committee which he would one day chair. (1971 picture of Kerry testifying above). It was in that senate committee testimony that a young navy veteran told the senators that he and his fellow veterans against the Vietnam war were “undertaking one last mission” to end a war. (To continue reading, click here.)
“Poor George, he can’t help it . . .”
by James M. Wall “Poor George, he can’t help it — he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” This memorable line from future Texas Governor Ann Richards was aimed at soon-to-be President George H. W. Bush. It was included in Richards’ keynote address to the 1988 Democratic National Convention, which nominated Michael Dukakis as its candidate to oppose Bush. It is a superb Texas sweet-talking barbed description, dripping with sarcasm and righteous anger. It came to me that this is a term that fits all sizes of U.S. politicians who “can’t help it” when it comes to Israel. They were born into political life with the silver foot of the Israeli narrative dictating their every political move. The video of Richards’ famous line is at the end of this posting. I recalled the impact of that 1988 “Poor George” line when I read what former President Bill Clinton said at an event honoring Israeli President Shimon Peres on the occasion of Peres’ 90th birthday:
“The longer the Palestinian conflict remained unsolved, the more acute the demographic challenge would become for Israel. […] No matter how many settlers you put out there, the Palestinians are having more babies than the Israelis as a whole… You’ve got an existential question to answer.”
Poor Bill, he can’t help it. He talks about Palestine and Israel as though Palestine is not in the room. He can’t help it. Demographics is the problem? Please. Clinton’s speech was delivered on the opening night of the fifth annual Israeli Presidential Conference, held in Jerusalem. It was an upbeat look to the future by the famous guests. (To continue reading and to view the Richards’ video, click here.)
Clinton and Netanyahu Not Good for Obama
Kerry Delays Orwellian Trip to Middle East
by James M. Wall Secretary of State John Kerry has delayed his fifth “peace process” trip to Israel/Palestine. The Secretary will remain in Washington to attend strategy sessions on Syria. The delay in starting his fifth trip should give Kerry time to add the writings of George Orwell and Rashid Khalidi to his Tel Aviv flight reading assignment. The Washington strategy sessions on Syria which delayed Kerry’s trip, were hastily arranged after a major military encounter at Al-Qusayr, Syria. Hezbollah, which the New York Times recently described as “the powerful Lebanese Shiite Muslim organization”, (eschewing, surprisingly, the usual pejorative media phrase: “which Israel and the US consider a terrorist group”) joined President Bashar al-Assad’s regular Syrian army forces in a major military victory in the Syrian civil war. Here is how the Times reported on that battle in the city of Al-Qusayr, which as the map above reveals, is a crucial border crossing point between Lebanon and Syria, which is a matter of considerable interest to Israel.
“Last week, Hezbollah fighters helped the Syrian government seize the strategic crossroads town of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, from rebels who had held it for more than a year. . . . Hezbollah’s core followers in Lebanon have been unwavering in their support for the group’s recent escalation of its role in Syria, even as dozens of Hezbollah fighters have been killed or injured fighting in Syria against fellow Arab Muslims — a new kind of battle for a group that was founded to fight Israel.”
Al-Qusayr complicates John Kerry’s task as a peace envoy when next he travels to Tel Aviv. The “peace process” of which this next trip is just the latest episode, has been built on decades of deceit. Increasingly, that deceit has been exposed for all to see, and except in Israel, lament. (To continue reading, click here.)
Have Church/State Leaders Endorsed Injustice?
by James M. Wall The two political leaders pictured here are U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Middle East Quartet Representative and former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair. The two men are walking next to a wall at the Villa Taverna, the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Rome, Italy, on May 9, 2013. Less than a month later,Secretary Kerry spoke to the World Economic Forum in Amman, Jordan, where he introduced an initiative he hopes will break an “impasse” between Israel and Palestine. Kerry called his initiative,“Breaking The Impasse.” He claimed that his plan would:
triple tourism to the occupied Palestinian territories, double or triple Palestinian agriculture production, increase the Palestinian GDP by 50 percent, and foster the construction of a whopping 100,000 new, energy efficient Palestinian homes in the West Bank.
Tony Blair was to be in charge of the initiative. This is the same Tony Blair who was given an assignment to organize for peace on behalf of the Quartet, which hired him for that purpose. The Quartet is composed of leaders from the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia. We have to believe that Kerry’s “ambitious initiative” was developed on walks like the one Kerry and Blair took last month in Rome. At some point, we must also assume a staffer hauled out a dictionary to make sure the parties involved (both English-speakers) understood that an “impasse” is a ”road or passage having no exit; a cul-de-sac”. Furthermore, a “cul-de-sac”, as we all know, is designed purposely not to be broken. (To continue reading, click here.)
Why Gitmo Was Not Closed from the Get-Go
by James M. Wall On May 23, 2013, our still young, but now greying, President Obama delivered what he hoped would be “a change speech”. The speech was delivered to National Defense University, at Fort McNair in Washington DC. Reuters began its report on the speech:
President Barack Obama on Thursday (May 23) shifted the United States away from a “boundless global war on terror,” restricting deadly drone strikes abroad and signaling that America’s long struggle against al Qaeda will one day end. In a major policy speech, Obama narrowed the scope of the U.S. targeted-killing campaign against al Qaeda and its allies and took new steps toward closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison – controversial elements of the U.S. counterterrorism fight that have drawn condemnation at home and abroad.
The speech dealt with a larger policy of the Obama administration, a pledge to narrow the “scope” of the targeted-killing drone campaign which Obama inherited and which he has shown little sign of wanting to give up. His progressive critics believe it is time Obama did more than narrow the “scope” of the drone program. They want it ended. Obama also dealt with a more specific action, closing the US military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba. Obama has promised to close Guantanamo during his campaign for president. He failed to do so in his first term. Reluctant to criticize specific actions of his presidential predecessors, Obama missed an opportunity to appropriately lay the blame for the existence of the Guantanamo prison squarely at the feet of President George W. Bush. How are we to understand this moment in history? We may start by thinking of an earlier moment in our history, captured by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in a poem entitled, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. (To continue reading, click here.)
Ten Years After US Invades Iraq, Israel Eager to Take the US Into Round Two
Hawking Stuns Israel With Conference Boycott
Israel Claims Its Attack On Syria Was “To Stop Iranian Missiles Reaching Hezbollah”
by James M. Wall The civil war in Syria between rebel forces and President Bashar Assad’s Syrian army, escalated this weekend when Israel bombed Damascus, the capital of Syria. With its standard rationale familiar to Gaza residents, Israel released an official story that claimed the bombing was carried out for defensive purposes. The Reuters story in the Jerusalem Post, reported that the Israeli airstrikes, which killed “dozens of Syrian soldiers close to Damascus”, were “downplayed” by Israeli leaders. The “downplaying” consisted of Israel’s claim it was not attempting to influence the Syrian civil war, but wanted only to “stop Iranian missiles reaching Lebanese Hezbollah militants”. To bolster its official version of the raid, veteran Israeli lawmaker Tzahi Hanegbi, a confidant of Netanyahu, told Israel Radio that ”Israel wants to avoid “an increase in tension with Syria by making clear that if there is activity, it is only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime.” (It should be noted that Hezbollah and Assad’s government are allies) The Post rushed past the fact that “dozens of Syrian soldiers” were killed outside Damascus. There was no mention, not even a sympathetic nod to the possibility, that civilians may also have died in the attacks. Instead, the Post story got to the heart of the matter, the heart, that is, for Israel:
Oil prices spiked above $105 a barrel, their highest in nearly a month, on Monday as the air strikes on Friday and Sunday prompted fears of a wider spillover of the two-year old conflict in Syria that could affect Middle East oil exports. (To continue reading, click here.)
Conquerors from The Congo to The Jordan
by James M. Wall In the late 19th century, Henry Morton Stanley (of Stanley and Livingston fame),(right) was the “king’s man”—more accurately, a hired colonist conqueror—working for Belgium’s King Leopold II. Stanley’s assignment: Seize and conquer for Belgium, the vast and unexplored territory surrounding Africa’s Congo River, a territory that stretched from Stanley Falls in the north to the mouth of the river, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Stanley and King Leopold worked with the conqueror’s template, one which the 19th and 20th century Zionist movement also utilized to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The formula used by Leopold and the Zionists is a well-worn conquerors’ formula of deceit, deception, destruction and seizure. In his book, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, Adam Hochschild tells the sordid and sad, but still illuminating story, of Stanley’s successful conquest of Central Africa in the 19th century. One description of the book offers a dark description of King Leopold:
Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million–all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian.
Hochschild’s book focuses on King Leopold, but the modern reader should see the historical parallel of Belgium’s African empire with the Zionist movement’s (still on-going) seizure of Palestinian land. (To continue reading, click here.)
Kerry Forgot Rule Number One: Never Question the Sacred Israeli Narrative
by James M. Wall If you believe the Israeli and US pro-Israel media, the new US Secretary of State, John Kerry (right) is “confused” in his new job. What led to the confusion? To those who embrace his negative media coverage, the Secretary forgot the rules. He forgot what US Diplomats must never forget. What is that? To paraphrase a quote from the movie Fight Club:
The First Rule of US diplomacy: You do not question the Sacred Israeli Narrative. The Second Rule of US diplomacy: You DO NOT question the Sacred Israeli narrative.
Kerry was attacked by defenders of these Rules when in a fit of compassion, he questioned one verse in one chapter from the Book of The Sacred Israeli Narrative. Annie Robbins explains: Under the headline: Kerry likens Boston victims to ‘Mavi Marmara’ victims, Robbins reports: (To continue reading, click here.)
At Boston Interfaith Service, Obama Calls for Justice and Compassion
by James M. Wall A Boston Marathon Interfaith memorial service, “Healing Our City”, was held at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross Thursday, April 18. It was a service that concluded with remarks delivered by President Barack Obama. The National Journal’s Matthew Cooper called Obama’s remarks “an emotional rallying point for the city”. It was also, Cooper writes,
“a moment for Obama to speak to the nation and strike a tone between remembrance and optimism, a call for justice and a call for compassion.”
The service included a local children’s choir, prayers and remarks by political and religious leaders. The service was held three days after two deadly explosions struck cheering bystanders at the Boston Marathon’s finish line. Three people died, two young women and an 8-year old boy, all of whom were spectators cheering for the runners. As many as 176 were injured, some of whom will lose one or both legs. Thursday’s memorial service was held to mourn the dead and support the wounded. The service included Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders. Prominent state and local leaders were present, including Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and Obama’s rival in last year’s presidential election. (For update and to continue reading, click here.)
Cardoza Law School Ignores Dershowitz To Honor Jimmy Carter
Confronting the “Moral Bankruptcy” of Iraq War’s Liberal Supporters
by James M. Wall Prior to the start of the Iraq War on March 19, 2003, New York Times journalist Chris Hedges (right) occupied a lonely perch among major media journalists. He opposed the war. Today, Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize winner and now a columnist for the website Truthdig, continues to write with the passion of a man set free from corporate control. His latest posting is a perceptive analysis of both the role this nation’s political and media “liberal hawks” played in launching the Iraq war, and the ”rewriting of history” by those “liberal hawks” on the 10th anniversary of the start of that war. In his Truthdig column, “The Treason of the Intellectuals“, Hedges asks, how did the liberal Iraq war boosters react to the tenth anniversary of the war they initially supported?
Some claimed they had opposed the war when they had not. Others . . . argued that they had merely acted in good faith on the information available; if they had known then what they know now, they assured us, they would have acted differently. This, of course, is false. [They] did what they always have done: Engage in acts of self-preservation. To oppose the war would have been a career killer. And they knew it. . . . Those of us who spoke out against the war, faced with the onslaught of right-wing “patriots” and their liberal apologists, became pariahs. (To continue reading, click here.)
Obama: “Look at the world through [Palestinian] eyes”
by James M. Wall Many political progressives have harshly criticized President Obama’s recent trip to Israel and Palestine. They claim he was too warm toward Israel and too lukewarm toward Palestine. Did these critics pay close attention to what the President actually said and saw on this trip? I don’t think so. The president declined to speak to the Israeli Knesset, asking instead for a younger audience. In his speech to Israeli youth, the President said:
[T]he Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes — look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day.
In the picture above one of those Palestinian children watches his father show his papers to an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint. Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun (below with the President) told Dauod Kuttub she was especially pleased that the arrival of a khamsin* sand storm that hit the area on Friday, forced the president to forego an Israeli helicopter. (To continue reading, click here.)
“We Have No 3G in Palestine”
by James M. Wall Unless security forces have torn it down, the poster (shown here) was one of the sights President Obama would see if his motorcade made its way to Ramallah, Palestine on a West Bank highway. The poster was posted on a corner after the road passes through the Qalandia checkpoint separating the West Bank from east Jerusalem. Of course, the President would miss the poster and miss seeing the highway if he traveled to Ramallah in a helicopter. That would be unfortunate because he would miss seeing the poster which says in Arabic and English:
“President Obama, don’t bring your smart phone to Ramallah. You won’t have mobile access to Internet — we have no 3G in Palestine!”
The poster would be one of more hospitable messages a disappointed Palestinian public would offer the visiting President on his visit to the West Bank this week. (To continue reading more on the Obama trip, click here.)
Khalidi to Obama: Time For a New Course
by James M. Wall The New York Times performed a valuable service for its readers on Wednesday, March 13, exactly one week before President Obama is scheduled to arrive on his first-ever presidential visit to Palestine and Israel. The Times contrasted the major media voice of the liberal Zionism of the American ruling classes, with that of the voice of a champion for the Palestinian people. Which of these voices do your leaders, political, media, or religious. respond to? As President Obama prepares to fly to Tel Aviv, this would be a good time to visit, write or call those leaders and ask them. The Times paired its resident liberal Zionist columnist, Thomas Friedman (Mr. Obama Goes to Israel), with Palestinian-American Middle East scholar Rashid Khalidi (Is Any Hope Left…”?), Obama’s University of Chicago academic colleague and good friend. In his column, Friedman reiterated liberal Zionism’s formulaic belief that the Middle East must be made over entirely in an empirical US/Israel image. Friedman wants Obama to say to Israel’s leaders:
After all, you have a huge interest in trying to midwife a decent West Bank Palestinian state that is modern, multireligious and pro-Western — a totally different model from the Muslim Brotherhood variants around you.
Who defines “decent”? And who determines if Israel qualifies as “multireligious”? The answer is, Thomas Friedman, the media maven of US liberal Zionism. (To continue reading, click here.)
Will Congress Fund Iron Dome Over Head Start?
Hagel Confirmed Despite Petulant Senators
by James M. Wall Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel assumed command of the Pentagon this week. Hagel was sworn in after an extended and contentious encounter with neocon, petulant Republican senators, each in his or her own way, determined to damage both the nominee and President Obama. Not since Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy hunted non-existent communists in Dwight Eisenhower’s executive branch, has the country seen such a vitriolic legislative performance Paul Craig Roberts wrote for Global Research, “lawmakers owned by the Israel Lobby” shamed America by their attacks on Hagel.
The most embarrassing behavior of all came from the craven Lindsay Graham, who, while in the act of demonstrating his complete subservience by crawling on his belly before the Israel Lobby, dared Hagel to name one single person in the US Congress who is afraid of the Israel Lobby. If I had been Hagel, I would have written off the nomination and answered: “You, Senator Graham, and your 40 craven colleagues.”
This would have indeed, “written off his nomination”. Hagel, however, refused to take the bait Graham offered. (To continue reading, click here.)
Right Wing Media Pushes “Friends of Hamas” Rumor
UPDATE The Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Pentagon chief in a 58-41 vote, ending the most contentious confirmation fight for a Defense secretary in U.S. history. Only four Republicans backed Hagel, a former GOP senator from Nebraska whose controversial statements on Israel, Iran and other issues made him a lighting rod on the right and led to the first-ever filibuster of a nominee to lead the Pentagon. GOP Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Mike Johanns (Neb.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) voted to confirm Hagel.
One rumor in the anti-Chuck Hagel campaign started as a joking question that quickly swept through the right wing media machine until it reached Fox News business guru, Lou Dobbs. It was such an outlandish charge that it should have been ignored and tossed into the “birther” trash can. The rumor “implied” that Hagel might have received funds from an organization called “Friends of Hamas”. Dan Friedman, the New York Daily News reporter who inadvertently launched the “Friends of Hamas” rumor, was shocked to see how quickly a joking question he posed casually over the phone, went from nowhere to everywhere. He tells his sad tale in the Daily News:
On Febrary 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did [Chuck] Hagel’s Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had addressed? Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the “Junior League of Hezbollah, in France”? And: What about “Friends of Hamas”? The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.
Friedman was wrong. The right wing media machine swung into action, sending Friedman’s joking question on its mission to destroy Hagel. (Click here to continue reading.)
Republicans Block Hagel for Ten More Days
GOP Descends Into Its Winter of Discontent
A major archaeological discovery was announced in Leicester, England this week. Experts have confirmed that skeletal remains found during the excavation of a Leicester parking lot are those of Britain’s King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings. Richard (at right portrayed by Kevin Spacey) was killed in 1485 by Tudor enemies during the Battle of Bosworth Field. British officials authenticated the remains through the thoroughly modern method of DNA “fingerprinting” connecting King Richard to a 21st century male descendant of Richard’s sister, Anne. The serendipitous timing of this archeological discovery has prompted Michael Hirsh, writing in The National Journal, to engage in a nifty bit of colligation, a 17th century word rarely used today, but one most appropriate this week, since colligation refers to “”the abstract tying together of things not previously seen as connected”. Hirsh does not refer to colligation (I take full blame), but he does embody the term when he connects what he “ranks as one of the most titillating archaeological discoveries ever”, to the current US Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on the confirmation of Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary. (To continue reading, click here.)
CUFI and the Ugly Face of Hagel’s Opposition
Are Liberal American Zionists “Delusional”?
by James M. Wall Shortly after the polls closed in Israel’s Knesset election this past Tuesday, two American Liberal Zionist groups, J Street and Americans for Peace Now (APN), were out with triumphant emails to their peace-oriented members:
Israel voters have chosen a new government that will “revive the peace process with the Palestinians and make vital moves to “save” Israel”.
Writing for Mondoweiss, the website co-edited by Philip Weiss and Adan Horowitz, Alex Kane bluntly rejects that optimistic conclusion: In his scathing criticism of the optimism of J Street and APN, Kane sets the stage for what will most certainly be an intense struggle within the American peace camp over the meaning of this Knesset election:
The liberal Zionist wing of the American Jewish community are deluding themselves about the results of the Israeli elections. (To continue reading, click here.)
Election Could Push Israel Further To The Right
by James M. Wall Israel’s 19th general election, Tuesday, January 22, is almost certain to be won by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. There is no serious Liberal election opposition to Likud. What is serious, however, is the very real possibility that after this election, the Israeli government could turn even harder to the political right. In the final weeks of the campaign, Likud has been losing votes to a party even more conservative than Likud. The brash newcomer is the previously little-noticed Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party. The leader of Bayit Yehudi is a 40-year-old charismatic newcomer to Israeli politics, Naftali Bennett (shown above), who has emerged as the hottest new personality on the Israeli political scene. Bayit Yehudi has languished in the shadows of recent Israeli elections. It currently has three members in the Knesset. Some polls indicate that number could rise to as many as 15 seats, elevating Bayit Yehudi to a third place finish among the 20 parties currently represented in the Knesset. The two leading parties are expected to be the right-wing alliance of Likud and Avidor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu. Joel Greenberg, reporting for the Washington Post, noted the combination of religious and nationalist themes in one Bayit Yehudi campaign event:
It was a mostly young crowd that turned out on a chilly winter night to hear Naftali Bennett, the leader of the religious nationalist party Jewish Home [Bayit Yehudi], deliver an appeal for understanding — not between Israelis and Palestinians, but among Israelis themselves. (To continue reading, click here.)
Take It to the Bank, Hagel Will Win
By James M. Wall The war against Chuck Hagel followed a predictable pattern. It will end soon when the U.S. Senate votes to confirm Hagel as President Barack Obama’s next defense secretary. This is one of those rare occasions in American politics when you may ”take it to the bank“, that in a struggle between a U.S. presidential nominee, and the pro-Israel lobby, the presidential nominee will win. The political war the Lobby will lose began when Lobby forces launched their initial attacks against former Republican Nebraska Senator Hagel’s rumored nomination. Led by its media and political “myrmidons” (myrmidon: A faithful follower who carries out orders unquestioningly) the Lobby’s plan followed the usual pattern:
Strike early, suggest a safer nominee, provide liberals with political cover, and then, to whip up emotions from the dark side, play the anti-Semitic card.
Obama made the nomination at the White House on Monday, January 7. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Hagel Narrative the Neocons Want
Al Jazeera has purchased the struggling U.S. network, Current, which was created by former Vice President Al Gore and Joel Hyatt. Current has failed to compete in the American market but it does have outlets which Al Jazeera covets. Al Jazeera has developed a world wide reputation as a responsible non-ideological network, a fact that must have made the sale more acceptable to Gore and his partners. In addition, according to the New York Times story on the sale:
Hagel Defenders Battle Neocon Opposition
By James M. Wall The Washington Post wrote in a lead editorial, December 18, that President Obama should not nominate former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as his Defense Secretary because the President “has available other possible nominees who are considerably closer to the mainstream and to the president’s first-term policies.” Daily Beast columnist Andrew Sullivan responded to the Post editorial in his best high dudgeon fashion:
“Considerably closer to the mainstream” is not a good thing if the mainstream (including the Washington Post) led us to endless, pointless, fruitless occupations and wars that have deeply wounded American credibility and credit, as well as costing up to a hundred thousand innocent lives? We need less mainstream thought in Washington, not more.
The Post editorial reads like a set of instructions to a pro-Israel media/political hit squad on how to block Hagel as Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary. Is Hagel doomed to suffer the Charles Freeman treatment? (To continue reading, click here.)
Will Israel Block Hagel as Defense Secretary?
“The fate of human dignity is in our hands.”
Israel Plans a “Doomsday Settlement” for E1
Palestine Granted UN Observer State Status
by James M. Wall
Clinton In Middle East As Ceasefire Begins
by James M. Wall To read a Wednesday update of this story, (click here.) On her trip to the Middle East this Thanksgiving week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Tel Aviv, Israel, to meet, first, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After this stop, the Secretary will fly to Cairo, Egypt, where Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is attempting to negotiate a ceasefire to Israel’s “Pillar of Cloud” assault on Gaza’s population. Of course, her first stop would be to set up a photo op with the leader of her government’s “best friend” in the Middle East. Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, finds this friendship troubling:
A central premise of US media coverage of the Israeli attack on Gaza – beyond the claim that Israel is justifiably “defending itself” – is that this is some endless conflict between two foreign entitles, and Americans can simply sit by helplessly and lament the tragedy of it all. The reality is precisely the opposite: Israeli aggression is possible only because of direct, affirmative, unstinting US diplomatic, financial and military support for Israel and everything it does. . . . .Pretending that the US – and the Obama administration – bear no responsibility for what is taking place is sheer self-delusion, total fiction. It has long been the case that the central enabling fact in Israeli lawlessness and aggression is blind US support, and that continues, more than ever, to be the case under the presidency of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel Looks To Exodus In Gaza Invasion
by James M. Wall The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) selected two names for Israel’s current military assault against an imprisoned Gaza population. This is a military that thinks seriously about naming its military assaults. The first name given the second Gaza invasion in four years is “Pillar of Cloud” (Amud Anan, in Hebrew). It was intended for use in Israeli media and was for Hebrew-speakers. The second name,”Pillar of Defense” was designed for the rest of us, those who are, presumably, less biblically informed. The Tablet magazine, a U.S.-based, openly Jewish, Israeli-friendly, publication, explains that “Pillar of Cloud” comes from “a direct biblical allusion to the divine cloud which guided the Israelites through the desert and shielded them from those who might do them harm”. Exodus 14:19-20 is the biblical source:
“Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.”
From its pro-Israel perspective, The Tablet justified the use of the two terms with this rather supersillious explanation: (To continue reading, click here.)
Voters to Obama: Move Now on Palestine
Memo To Obama: Bring Back Chas Freeman
by James M. Wall Less than a month after his 2009 inauguration, President Barack Obama made a move that quietly told the Israel Lobby there was a new sheriff in town. He selected an experienced diplomat, Chas Freeman, to serve as the new administration’s Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). In retrospect, it it is clear that this was one appointment he did not clear with any lobbyists, no matter how much the special interest crowd hung around the White House armed with their own suggestions for important assignments. Laura Rozen wrote the first story about Freeman on February 19, 2009, in The Cable, a Foreign Policy blog. Since the position of NIC Chairman did not require Senate approval, it was largely unnoticed among the large number of appointments made by the President early in his first term. This was how Laura Rozen broke the story of Freeman’s appointment:
Sources tell The Cable that Chas W. Freeman, Jr., the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will become chairman of the National Intelligence Council, the intelligence community’s primary big-think shop and the lead body in producing national intelligence estimates. Freeman has told associates that in the job, he will occasionally accompany Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair to give the president his daily intelligence briefing.
Romney’s “Peculiar Sense” of Geography
by James M. Wall After eight years of running for president, Mitt Romney has yet to master the geography of the Middle East. His knowledge appears limited to what he sees from his hotel room in Jerusalem, following the example of Sarah Palin, who is reputed to have said she understood Russia because she could see the country from her back porch. To paraphrase Ann Richards’ memorable reference to George Bush the First, in her 1988 Democratic National Convention keynote speech, “Poor Mitt, he can’t help it, he was born in a country that has abandoned the study of geography”. In a piece she wrote on the subject, Christina Salas lamented:
In the wake of the recent presidential election, an increased level of interest has surfaced in this country over foreign issues. While domestic economic issues arguably dominated the political scene, both candidates were repeatedly asked questions about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea and all of the other so-called rogue nations. . . . [Unfortunately,] The education system in this country has never done a satisfactory job in pushing geographic knowledge. Just as U.S. students are losing ground in the international education rankings, so too is geography falling completely off the map in secondary education.
Sad to relate, that analysis appeared four years ago on December 10, 2008, following the last presidential campaign in which Mitt Romney sought, but failed to gain the Republican nomination. Four years later, the Republican nominee is back, still lacking a basic grasp of Middle East geography. (To continue reading on Romney and Harry Potter, click here.)
New York Times Flacks for Jewish Groups Against 15 Major Christian Leaders
by James M. Wall You have to know American Jewish leaders are really riled up when they call on the New York Times to flack for them against 15 leaders of Christian churches who had the audacity to send a letter to the US Congress, which said, with proper Christian indignation: As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel. Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued U.S. military assistance to Israel — offered without conditions or accountability — will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories. We request, therefore, that Congress hold Israel accountable to these standards by making the disbursement of U.S. military assistance to Israel contingent on the Israeli government’s compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies. Is that clear? These church leaders are saying it is their moral responsibility to tell the Congress that it must hold Israel accountable to U.S. laws and policies when it disburses money to Israel. So what’s the big news angle in the New York Times story for Saturday, October 20, following the release of the letter from the 15 leaders to Congress? The lead of the story should be that “American Jewish leaders defend the action of a secular state that receives more U.S. foreign aid than any other nation in the world”. (To continue reading, click here.)
Romney’s Israeli Friends Desert Him
by James M. Wall In a foreign policy speech delivered Monday at Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Governor Mitt Romney sounded, well, to be charitable, like a man in an echo chamber.
I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have.
I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf the region – and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions – not just words – that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.
A “Bad Moon Rising” Over An Obama Victory
by James M. Wall Those voters looking forward to a second term for Barack Obama, were shocked by the President’s sub-par first debate performance. A month before the election, it now appears that an Obama victory is no longer a certainty, pending a final judgment, of course, on the findings of post-debate polling. If Obama continues his laid-back style in upcoming debates, Romney may persuade enough voters, especially in crucial swing states, that his vision of Republican conservatism, is superior to the current policies of the President. In the first debate, the President displayed a surprising indifference to attacks from Romney. One debate performance does not a defeat make, but it does remind Obama supporters that no politician can avoid the threat of “a bad moon rising”. The President failed to bring up the fact that money is corrupting our politics. In a recent Carter Center speech, former President Jimmy Carter (above) provided him with his text. Carter issued “a blistering indictment of the U.S. electoral process”, saying the process “is shot through with ‘financial corruption’ that threatens American democracy.” (To continue reading and to see the video of Bad Moon Rising, click here.)
NYT to Obama v. Romney, “let’s you and him fight”
by James M. Wall Scott Shane’s New York Times story Friday, linked President Obama to President Jimmy Carter. Shane maintains that Obama, like Carter before him, could also be a one-term president. The Times must have gone into a panic mode for its editors to set Shane loose on such a comparison. There is a good reason for that panic. Polls show that, especially in crucial swing states, President Obama’s lead is increasing over his challenger, Mitt Romney. Even Benjamin Netanyahu (above, during his UN speech) has thrown in the towel, promising to hold off his attack on Iran until after the election. The Times hit the panic button not because it wants Romney to win. What frightens the Times is the same realization that hits sports editors when a football team loses both its star quarterback and leading receiver just before the Super Bowl. A month is a long time to cover a political fight when the outcome is already determined. What to do? What is a profit-oriented publication giant to do with all those political news pages to fill? Not to worry, the Times knows narratives can be generated. It also knows the best narrative is the conflict narrative. As the old city editor always said, “conflict is what sells papers, kid, never forget that.” (To continue reading, click here.)
Obama’s UN Call For “the right to practice free speech” Does Not Embrace Beit Ommar
By James M. Wall President Barack Obama was at his eloquent best when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly this week. Until, that is, he inserted a jarring note that was anything but eloquent. It sounded, in fact, like a left over paragraph from Obama’s last speech to AIPAC. Note the following contrast between the President’s explanation of why the United States does not ban even ugly and demeaning speech like that which appeared in the recent movie trailer that blasphemed the Prophet Muhammed. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Video That Could Doom A Candidate
by James M. Wall The presidential election is still four and a half weeks away, but the video that tells us about Republican Mitt Romney’s inner beliefs on Palestine and U.S. tax payers, may already have doomed his candidacy. Mother Jones, a non-profit progressive publication, obtained the video of Candidate Romney speaking at a $50,000 per guest fund raiser on May 7, in Boca Raton, Florida. It is difficult to see how the Republican ticket can survive the fall-out from what it reveals about Romney. Romney had started his current spectacular slide when he chose Clint Eastwood to speak before Romney’s nomination acceptance speech in Tampa. The off-color humor that Eastwood used was inappropriate and tasteless. It also upstaged Romney’s dull content-less speech. Of course, Romney’s slide to a possibly doomed candidacy was already greased by Romney’s refusal to come clean on his personal finances, some of which have been stashed away in tax-free havens overseas. Three presidential and one vice-presidential debates await the candidates. The Republican ticket of Romney and Paul Ryan could start a major comeback with those debates, but nothing in their campaign rhetoric thus far indicates they are ready to speak to any but their right-wing admirers. (To continue reading and to see the clips from the video that could doom a candidate, click here.)
How A Hate-Driven Anti-Muslim Film Led to the Death of Four U.S. Diplomats
by James M. Wall Leave it to Juan Cole to come up with just the right metaphor to interpret the events in Libya and Egypt this week. Cole knows the Middle East and he has the writing skills to clarify the complexities of the region and how they intereact with U.S. politics as they unfold. Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger (Informed Comment) and essayist. He is also the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. After reflecting on the chaotic series of events that began with a clumsy, fraudulent YouTube preview of an anti-Muslim film produced in California, Cole offered “the butterfly effect” as the metaphor which explains how a small film led to the deaths of four U.S. diplomats in Libya, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens. Cole begins his blog posting:
The late science fiction writer Ray Bradbury authored a short story about time travelers. They were careful, when they went back to the Jurassic, not to change anything, but one of them stepped on a butterfly. When they got back to the present, the world was slightly different. When scientists studying complexity put forward the idea that small initial events could have large effects in non-linear, dynamic systems like the weather, they chose the term ‘butterfly effect.” One of the images students of weather instanced was that a butterfly flapping its wings might set off minor turbulence that ultimately turned into a hurricane.
Cole’s butterfly metaphor begins this narrative describing the death of four U.S. diplomats, with a man initially known as “Sam Bacile”, who claimed to have directed the film, The Innocence of Muslims. The Associated Press traced the history of this “Sam Bacile”, and discovered that he most likely does not exist. The false name is a persona used by a convicted Coptic Egyptian fraudster, Nakoula Bassely Nakoula. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Night An Unscripted Moment of Democracy Surprised the Democrats
By James M. Wall To have seen it, you had to be watching either a public or a cable network. You also had to be watching closely. Otherwise, early Tuesday evening in the Democratic National Convention, you missed an ever-so fleeting unscripted moment of democracy at work. The old axiom, “Never watch sausage nor legislation being made”, fits that moment perfectly. What happened was not pretty; in fact, it was downright ugly with a ruling from the presiding officer, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (right), saying the “ayes” sounded stronger than the “nays”, a dubious ruling, at best in a vote requiring a majority. If the vote needed more than a majority to pass–this is not made clear–then it is not just dubious, but obviously wrong. As it often is, unfortunately, with the making of sausage and legislation. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israeli Court Blames Rachel Corrie: She “Put Herself in a Dangerous Situation”
by James M. Wall An Israeli civil court’s decision to exonerate the Israeli Defense Force in the death of Rachel Corrie, was not a surprise. Rather, the decision, written in Israeli narrative language, reinforces the obvious: Israel’s judicial system has become a legal front that protects the power of Israel’s military dictatorship. The court’s verdict blamed the victim with all the subtlety of a court describing a rape victim who invited trouble by wearing provocative clothing. Gary Spedding, a Huffington Post blogger from Belfast, Ireland, writes:
After waiting for almost ten years for today’s court verdict the family of Rachel Corrie have left an Israeli court in Haifa this morning feeling the bitter sting of injustice from Israel’s politicized justice system. Early Tuesday morning the Israeli court rejected accusations that Israel was at fault over the death of US citizen Rachel, who was crushed by an army bulldozer during a 2003 pro-Palestinian demonstration in the occupied Gaza strip. (To continue reading, click here.)
Corrie Family Waits For Tuesday Verdict
by James M. Wall Rachel Corrie’s parents, Craig and Cindy (right), and her sister, Sarah, are in Israel this week, waiting for a verdict from the Haifa District Court on the family’s suit against the government of Israel. The verdict from Judge Oded Gershon, is expected to be announced Tuesday. The civil suit was filed two years ago over Rachel’s 2003 death when an Israeli Defense Force bull dozer killed her as she stood with a bull horn protesting the IDF’s destruction of a Palestinian home in Gaza. Israel’s official response was that the death was an accident. Amira Hass, West Bank and Gaza correspondent for Ha’aretz, reported Thursday that U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, told the Corrie family that
Israel’s investigation into the death of American activist Rachel Corrie was not satisfactory, and wasn’t as thorough, credible or transparent as it should have been.
The U.S. government position is “not new” to the Corries, but their attorneys told the family that hearing it only a few days before the verdict was “important and encouraging [to the family],” because it signals to the Corrie family that the U.S. government will continue to demand a full accounting from Israel about their daughter’s killing, regardless of how Judge Oded Gershon rules”. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel Delivers “Or Else” Demands To Obama
by James M. Wall A message from Israel arrived on our shores this week. It came from the prime minister and defense minister of Israel. The message was not sent in a diplomatic pouch. Nor did it come in a private conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barak Obama, though we have to assume the same message had already been sent to the White House. The message was a warning that the Strong Man of the Middle East will go to war against Iran before Election Day, November 6, unless Barack Obama meets two Israeli demands. The warning was delivered by the New York Times in a news analysis, “Israeli Leaders Could Be Dissuaded From Striking Iran”, by the Times’ Jerusalem correspondent, Jodi Rudoren. A former Israeli national security adviser said Wednesday that the prime minister and the defense minister told him this week they had not yet decided to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and could be dissuaded from a strike if President Obama approved stricter sanctions and publicly confirmed his willingness to use military force. Got that Mr. President? Only you can prevent this forest fire from engulfing the Middle East. Israel has lit the flame. Netanyahu has sent the warning: Either you do exactly what we demand—stricter sanctions and a public statement that the U.S. is willing to use military force against Iran—or else we will ignite the deadly flame of war against Iran. (To continue reading, click here.)
Ten Swing States Could Decide the 2012 Election; Obama Leads in Nine of Them
by James M. Wall With less than three months left before voters decide between President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, Obama has a strong lead in the latest Politico poll figures. Politico identifies ten swing states that will most likely decide the 2012 election. Obama leads in nine of them: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Romney leads Obama by one percent in the swing state of North Carolina. If these swing vote states hold up in an election that requires 270 out of 538 electoral votes to win a majority, Obama would gain 111 electoral votes to Romney’s 15. States that appear solid or leaning for Obama give him an addiitional 221 electoral votes. Romney’s solid or leaning state electoral votes total 191. These figures add up to 332 for Obama and 206 for Romney, more than enough to give Obama the winning total. A major reason we might safely assume these numbers will hold up can be found in an ABC-Washington Post poll which found that only 40 percent of voters “hold a favorable view of Romney”. In a late May poll, that number was 41, suggesting a downward trend. Low favorability numbers this late in the campaign does not portend well for the challenger. (To continue reading, click here.)
Romney Visits Culturally “Superior” Israel; Totally Ignores the Occupation
by James M. Wall Mitt Romney traveled to Jerusalem earlier this week. He was not there on a fact-finding mission. He was raising money for his presidential campaign. He was also cultivating American voters who live in Israel, while stroking his pro-Israel voters back home with pictures like this one (right) of the candidate praying at the Western Wall. The only attention the Palestinians received came in a back-handed slap delivered by Romney when he spoke to a luncheon sponsored by his wealthy U.S. backer, casino owner Sheldon Adelson. Romney told 40 wealthy donors at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel that Israel has a far superior GDP per capita than “the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority”. Displaying a total ignorance of the prison-like occupation under which the Palestinian people must struggle, Romney explained that the ”dramatically stark difference in economic vitality” was due to Israel’s superior culture. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel Creates A Settler “Samaria” University
by James M. Wall Few developments shout stability and permanence quite as loudly as the establishment of a university. There is something about those green-covered campus lawns growing in a water-starved desert land interspersed with eager young students hurrying to class, that stirs pride in the hearts of citizens of an expanding city. That pride was turned up another notch this week after ABC news reported an Associated Press story which began: “A settler body voted Tuesday to grant university status to Israel’s only West Bank settlement college, overruling objections by Israel’s Council on Higher Education and potentially stirring a new round of international condemnation against Israeli policies in the West Bank. Upgrading the college in the Ariel settlement has touched off a debate inside Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been driving a string of pro-settler measures — including a state panel’s recent conclusion that Israeli settlement of the West Bank is legal.” Let the international condemnations rain down. And pay no heed to that debate inside Israel. What matters to Ariel and the politically potent settler movement, is that Israel has firmly planted its first university in what they call Samaria, on Palestinian land. (To continue reading, click here.)
What Protestants Could Learn from Ron Paul
by James M. Wall When the gavel fell on the Episcopalian convention July 10, three major U.S. Protestant denominations had formally ended their 2012 discussions on how much religious support they were willing to give Palestinians under occupation.
Judging by the degree of hostility stirred up inside the Zionist opposition, the Presbyterians and United Methodists, took the most advanced pro-justice positions in the Sturm und Drang religious political struggles. The last of the three to meet, the Episcopal Church, ran pretty much in place, sticking with investment over divestment. According to the Episcopal News Service, the Episcopalian “House of Bishops, concurring with deputies, have overwhelmingly supported a resolution on positive investment in the Palestinian Territories”. The Episcopalians also “agreed to postpone indefinitely the conversation on corporate engagement,” hardly a prophetic call to arms against injustice. Indeed, all three denominations have come very close to invoking the divine thunderbolt promised in Revelation 3:16, an action best left in divine hands. (To continue reading, click here.)
Pro-Divestment Presbyterians Win By Losing
by James M. Wall Do you really want to know what happened at the just-concluded 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian U.S.A. denomination? As a veteran watcher of Protestant church political struggles, I urge you to remember that neither the cross nor the crown are free of an eagerness to grasp deliberate obfuscation in struggling to win each political battle. The winner of the obfuscation battle in Pittsburgh was, hands down, the anti-divestment crowd. The pro-divestment crowd, on the other hand, won by losing a key vote in the Assembly. The presumed “winners”, the anti-divestment forces, operated with a strategy that set up a “stalking horse” to enter the field of battle. Faced with the huge problem of how to persuade delegates to vote against basic human rights for Palestinians living under occupation, the anti-divesment forces created a “stalking horse” of “investments that will benefit Palestinians”. Seriously, that is what they put forward. (To continue reading, click here.)
Presbyterians Next Up for Divestment Vote
“The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights. Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.”
Carter’s focus is on “moral authority”. This is the same authority that must, in all cases, motivate the nation’s churches. (To continue reading, click here.)
44 Senators Tell Obama To Do Israel’s Bidding
by James M. Wall War, as General Sherman once said, is hell. It is also widely perceived to be a failure of diplomacy. Which would explain why it is that when war-promoting lobbyists want to generate congressional enthusiasm for the next war, all short-term congressional memories must be wiped out. Wiped out, that is, with the efficiency of that “cricket clicker” used by Agents Kay and Jay, played by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith (shown here), in the Men in Black film series. In the films, one click aimed at a targeted subject erases all recent memory; the clicker also works amazingly well in US elections. Which is one explanation of why after yet another click-call from AIPAC, 44 US senators found that they no longer remembered what happened the last time the neocons took us to war against a Middle East nation, a war that has thus far cost 4,000 American military dead at a cost of more than $800 billion.(To continue reading, click here.)
Five Years and Counting: Israel Creates and Manages Its “Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza”
by James M. Wall Drawing from a report by Save the Children, Electronic Intifada’s Managing Editor Maureen Clare Murphy, describes what she correctly terms, Israel’s managed “humanitarian crisis in Gaza”. A humanitarian crisis that is managed? Wait a minute; “managing” means controlling what happens. Yes it does. Which is how it comes about that Israel is managing “Gaza’s humanitarian crisis”. Aided and abetted by the United States, Israel has for five years deliberately and systematically blockaded Gaza with militarily-enforced “restrictions placed on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza”. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not come from floods, hurricanes, or earthquakes. This on-going crisis comes from the official policy of Israel. American tax payers are funding this evil and deliberate crime, through annual doles in the billions, and the continued presence of corporate US interests that support and contribute to the managed crisis. (And which American church leaders refuse to condemn.) How could it be that American tax payers permit a blockade that “has been the single greatest contributor to endemic and long-lasting household poverty in Gaza”, an act that prevents families from access to food, medicine and medical care. (To continue reading, click here.)
New Jersey’s 9th CD Voters Say No to AIPAC
by James M. Wall One election night victory in one New Jersey congressional district does not represent a major shift in American politics. But shifts do occur, and they must start somewhere. On the night of June 5, 2012, this was the news the Star-Ledger reported from the Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ.
In an upset, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell has defeated fellow incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman in the Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District.
What makes the news from Passaic County so surprising was that Pascrell’s election to a House seat from New Jersey’s new 9th district was not supposed to happen. How could it, two years after the news broke that Bill Pascrell was one of 54 House members who signed a 2010 letter to President Obama urging him “to use diplomatic pressure to resolve the blockade affecting Gaza.” The letter reads, in part:
The unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts. . . . The current blockade has severely impeded the ability of aid agencies to do their work to relieve suffering.
Signing that letter was a risky political move for Pascrell. (To continue reading, click here.)
Obama Emerges as the US Warrior President
by James M. Wall Memorial Day in the United States is a time for hot dogs, overcooked burgers, too much beer, and a massive dose of militaristic patriotism. It is also a good time for Americans to begin thinking seriously of who should be elected president this November. This year, President Obama kept his focus on his own reelection campaign and, at the same time, announced himself as the US warrior president. The president has apparently decided a warrior president is a better image to project for his reelection in a downward spiraling economy. Don’t take my word for it. Check out a story released on Memorial Day. It was orchestrated by the Obama White House for The New York Times. The story appeared in the Times‘ internet edition on Memorial Day, and in the print edition the next day. With the help of White House operatives, past and present, the Times portrays the president as a man carrying the heavy moral burden of deciding when a US-desginated suspected terrorist will die in a drone attack. (To continue reading, click here.)
Will Elections Penetrate Israel’s “Impenetrable, Dangerous, Ideological Shield”?
by James M. Wall It has been 25 years since Jewish historian, and Israeli critic, Simha Flapan, described the dominant narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his 1987 book, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities. Even though Israel has the most sophisticated army in the region and possesses an advanced atomic capability, it continues to regard itself in terms of the Holocaust, as the victim of an unconquerable, bloodthirsty enemy. Thus whatever Israelis do, whatever means we employ to guard our gains or to increase them, we justify as last-ditch self-defense. We can, therefore, do no wrong. The myths of Israel forged during the formation of the state have hardened into this impenetrable, and dangerous, ideological shield. At the time of its publication, Flapan’s book was exhilarating to anyone who by the mid-1980s, was running up against what Flapan termed, Israel’s ” impenetrable, and dangerous, ideological shield” This summer, that impenetrable wall has begun to show cracks of possible penetrability. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Incompatibility of Nakba and Neutrality
by James M. Wall Neve Gordon, a 47-year-old Israeli-born professor and author, greeted this year’s 64th anniversary of the Nakba with an essay for CounterPunch that included this revealing confession:
I first heard about the Nakba in the late 1980s, while I was an undergraduate student of philosophy at Hebrew University. This, I believe, is a revealing fact, particularly since, as a teenager, I was a member of Peace Now and was raised in a liberal home. I grew up in the southern [Israeli] city of Be’er-Sheva, which is just a few kilometres from several unrecognised Bedouin villages that, today, are home to thousands of residents who were displaced in 1948. How is it possible that a left-leaning Israeli teenager who was living in the Negev during the early 1980s (I graduated from high-school in 1983) had never heard the word “Nakba”?
It is an honest question. It is also a question that every one of us must confront if we are ever to grasp what is at the core of the so-called “debate” within American churches about the role Christians must play in ending the agony of the Israeli occupation.(To continue reading, click here.)
Your Hard-Earned US Tax Dollars and Church Pension Funds at Work for Israel
by James M. Wall Mass demonstrations in support of 2500 Palestinian hunger strikers swept through the West Bank this weekend. Marchers moved through the streets of Hebron, Kafr Qaddoum, Nablus, Nabi Saleh, Ni’lin, Ramallah, al-Walaja and outside of Ofer prison. The picture here was taken in Hebron. It shows an Israeli soldier with his knee firmly planted on a young Palestinian’s neck. The picture also shows how American tax dollars and church pensions are at work on this Mothers Day weekend, a commercially-driven event in which American teenagers and their families annually honor mothers with gifts and family meals. On this particular American Mothers’ Day weekend, a large contingent of Palestinian teenagers joined their mothers and other family members to offer their support to prisoners on lengthy and dangerous hunger strikes. Laura Kacere wrote in A Nation of Change, that Mothers Day had a different meaning when it was initially launched. In fact, the Palestinian mothers who marched this weekend in support of hunger strikers, some of whom may have been their children, are demonstrating in a manner more akin to the original purpose of Mothers Day.
Methodists Boycott Settlement Products
By a vote of 558 to 367, a strong majority of lay and clerical delegates to the United Methodist General Conference called this week for a boycott of Israeli companies operating in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The resolution denounces the Israeli occupation and the settlements in a sweeping indictment. It calls for “all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.” The resolution was focused specifically on the settlements, not on the state of Israel. It states:
“The United Methodist Church does not support a boycott of products made in Israel. Our opposition is to products made by Israeli companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories.”
That was not an easy vote. It also was an important victory for anti-occupation forces in Tampa since it calls attention to one of three actions in the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that Palestinians have adopted as a non-violent way to attack the occupation. The vote on a resolution calling for the UMC to divest its pension funds from three US Corporations, Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Systems, was brought to the floor on Wednesday afternoon. That resolution was a long shot from the outset. It lost after a series of votes that ended in a final 685 to 246 decision that the UMC would continue to finance the occupation. (To continue reading, click here.)
Methodists Delay Vote Until Later This Week
by James M. Wall The United Methodist Church has delayed a vote on a resolution on divestment from three US companies which ““aid and abet”* Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The vote was initially set for Tuesday, but has been delayed until later this week. There is speculation among General Conference delegates in Tampa, that a move will be made to limit debate on the final resolution to two short speeches on each side. Supporters of divestment are hopeful they will prevail. Prominent Palestinian visitors have made convincing speeches in meetings around the Conference. The outcome, however, remains uncertain. Meanwhile, while we wait, let us use our time creatively by pondering another vote scheduled in the US in November. That would be the election between the incumbent US President, Barack Obama, and the presumed Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. That election offers an ominous connection to the resolution process currently facing United Methodist delegates in Tampa. The November election campaign has begun. President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan overnight Tuesday where he was greeted by US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Lt. General Mike Scaparrotti, Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. (picture above.) (To continue reading, click here.)
Methodists Face Moment of Occupation Truth
by James M. Wall The mainstream media does not know it, and far too many high steeple church folk do not want to know it. But in Tampa, Florida, this week, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church will make a decision. They will spend the week writing and rewriting. Some, like Alissa Bertsch Johnson, a campus minister at Washington State University (at right), will passionately state their case. Before the gavel falls on the last session of the 2012 General Conference, the people called Methodists will have responded, one way or another, to the call from Palestinian Christians that they take one small step toward ending the Israeli Occupation. They may vote to endorse a targeted divestment resolution. Or, they may declare that such action is not needed, forgetting that in doing so, they follow the path of those segregation-tolerating Birmingham church leaders who wrote to Martin Luther King, Jr., in words to this effect, “it is too soon to attack this evil. We must wait until our people are with us.” (To continue reading, click here.)
“Throw Their Dirty, Filthy Ships Out of the Water!”
by James M. Wall “Throw Their Dirty, Filthy Ships Out of the Water!” In the 2006 movie, Amazing Grace, John Newton shouts these words at William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament who was the leader of a 19th century fight to force the British government to bar British ships and ports from participating in the slave trade. The “dirty, filthy ships” to which Newton refers are slave ships which sailed from England to Africa and then to the New World. Newton (Albert Finney) delivers his demand to his younger friend Wilberforce at a time when the younger man was faltering in his struggle against pro-slavery members of Parliament This conflict is captured in precise and dramatic detail in the film, as Wilberforce and his allies in the Parliament, and from anti-slavery groups, visit slave ships and meet with former slaves. John Newton had been the owner and captain of one of those ships. Following a major storm in the Atlantic that almost sank his ship, Newton repented of what he knew was a great sin, the mistreatment of fellow human beings. Newton returned to England to become what he later termed, “an old preacher”. He also wrote hymns, the most famous of which was Amazing Grace, which contains the line, “I once was lost but now I am found, was blind, but now I see”. Newton had known Wilberforce for many years, constantly encouraging him to continue his long abolitionist struggle, first to bar all slave ships from English ports and then to eliminate slavery throughout the United Kingdom. At the time pro-slavery members of Parliament argued that the slave shipping trade brought economic benefit to England. Some even maintained that slaves were content with their lot; others argued slaves were sub-human. Amazing Grace, directed by Michael Apted, traces the friendship of Wilberforce and Newton. It also examines Wilberforce’s growth as a political leader, and not so incidentally, as a friend of William Pitt, his friend who became Prime Minister at the age of 24. Pitt was a cautious politician. He was also a supporter of Wilberforce’s idealism. Another important historical figure who is not portrayed in the film, is John Wesley When I revisited the film this week, less than a week before the United Methodist Conference opens, I was struck by a historical parallel, and most especially, I was moved by Newton’s violent outburst to Wilberforce. (To continue reading,click here.)
Does Israel Interfere in US Elections?
Israel’s ambassador to the US, former American citizen Michael Oren, (at right) trotted out a classic Zionist strategy when he sent a letter to the New York Times denying that Israel is “interfering” in the American presidential campaign. Oren’s letter was reported in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on April 12, under the headline:
“Israeli ambassador to New York Times: Netanyahu does not interfere in U.S. elections”
This Ha’aretz headline was followed by a sub headline, stating:
Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, submits letter to the editor to NYT, complaining about an article detailing the close relationship between Netanyahu and likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The problem with Oren’s attack is that the Times story did not use the term “interfering”. The ambassador denies something the story does not claim. Oren’s letter skillfully ignores the facts of the story under a theoretical cloud of his own making. He also manages to bring attention to his Israeli public to a story which promises good things ahead if Romney is elected. (To continue reading, click here.)
Gunter Grass Exposes Israel As a Nuclear Power that “Endangers” a Fragile World Peace
A stunning new poem by German novelist Gunter Grass, has “broken the silence” on Israel as a nuclear power. Western journalists and politicians have long enforced that silence by unspoken and unwritten common agreement. The silence was successfully imposed for two reasons: The Holocaust and the fear of being called anti-Semitic. Gunter Grass (pictured above) has broken that silence with his poem, Was gesagt werden muss (What must be said). (To continue reading, click here.)
Church Leader Tells Palestinians and Israelis “eat together and listen to each other’s stories
by James M. Wall (New Comments Posted Below) An appalling shallowness has descended over Mainline Protestantism. Episcopalians, United Methodists and Presbyterians are actually debating how they should deal with the Israeli Occupation Martin Luther King, sitting in that Birmingham city jail, would most certainly inform these prelates that there is no debating evil. A brutal military occupation is not open to debate. It is a disturbing spectacle. The collective ignorance displayed by many of the men and women—though, thank God, not all—who govern these denominations, boggles the mind. The issue, my dear Christian friends, is justice, pure and simple. And yet, there they are, these robed religiosos, dripping with interfaith piety, proclaiming that the simple act of divestment of church funds is too harsh a tactic to use against Israel’s settlement obsessed, right-wing government. What do they teach in seminary these days? Have those Old Testament professors who lead their Israeli-sanctioned “study groups” to the Holy Land removed the prophets from their syllabi? (To continue reading, click here.)
The View From Israel/US In 1977 and 2012
The editorial comment below is reprinted from the Christian Century magazine of November 23, 1977.
At the time the editorial appeared, I was the editor of the Century. This was the week’s lead editorial. In 1977, I had been editor for five years, a position I held until 1999.
President Jimmy Carter was inaugurated in January, 1977. Menachem Begin was head of the Likud Party, which won a majority in the Knesset elections held on May 17, 1977. Menachem Begin became Prime Minister in June, 1977.
At the time this editorial appeared, the new American President had come to the United Nations to meet with the new Israeli Prime Minister. I was at the meeting in an editorial capacity. (To continue reading, click here.)