Ahed Tamimi Completes High School in Prison

by James M. Wall

Ahed Tamimi (right) and her mother Nariman were released from an Israel prison Sunday. They had served dual eight-months sentences. Ahed, a 17-year-old teenager, left her cell and found a wild reception from friends, family and townspeople of her Nabi Saleh community.

Before her day of release ended, Ahed had held a press conference for the world’s media, was welcomed home by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and laid a wreath at the grave of Palestine’s first president, Yasir Arafat.

In her quiet, polished manner, Ahed also gave Israel what it dreaded, a heavy blow to its already-staggered public image of what is now a self-named Jewish state. She has become a symbol of both Israel’s 70-year Occupation, and Palestine’s future, by quietly serving her eight-month sentence for slapping an Israel soldier.

Palestinian media outlet Maan greeted Ahed by quoting leading Palestinian official, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi:

Maan wrote: “Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi welcomed the release of the 17-year-old Palestinian Ahed al-Tamimi and her mother, Nariman, who were held in Israeli prisons for the last eight months.

Ashrawi said in a statement that “Ahed and Nariman, both prominent Palestinian activists, were wrongfully and unjustly imprisoned by Israeli occupation forces in December. The motive for their vindictive arrest was political- Ahed, who is underage and turned seventeen behind prison bars, slapped an Israeli soldier who showed up with dozens of others to invade her family’s home in Nabi Saleh, and Nariman filmed the incident.

“Ahed and her humanity captured the imagination of many people around the world because of her spirit and refusal not to be intimidated by Israeli soldiers.” Ashrawi said that Ahed’s story, and the stories of her courageous relatives, expose not just the “immorality” but also the “cowardly nature” of Israeli forces.

Mondoweiss describes Ahed’s release from jail as an “incomplete freedom”. She moves from one prison back to another, occupation. The slap that sent her to eight months in an Israel prison, was filmed. It went viral. Her mother “was imprisoned for live-streaming the incident on Facebook”.

The Israeli response was hysterical. Education Minister Naftali Bennett suggested that Ahed spend the rest of her life in prison, and ‘centrist’, ‘liberal’ journalist Ben Caspit suggested that “we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras”. Lawmaker Oren Hazan (Likud) said that if it were him, he would “put Ahed in hospital” by kicking her in the face, and author of the IDF ‘ethics-code’ Asa Kasher backed her continued imprisonment because she could, God forbid, slap again.

American academic and prolific writer, Juan Cole, delivered the news in his precise and colorful manner.

Cole wrote on his blog that Ahed and her mother, Nariman, served their “petty and mean-spirited sentences of 8 months [given them] by a colonial Israeli military judge presiding over stateless, occupied people who are intensively patrolled by the Israeli jackboot while their land, water, and well-being are gradually stolen from them by the judge’s cousins.”

Tamimi, as a 17-year-old girl, slapped a couple of Israel Occupation personnel attempting to barge into her home. She and others had participated in a demonstration against Israelis squatting nearby on Palestinian land and encroaching on her home town, during which there was some stone throwing at the Israeli troops who came to stop people from protesting. Those troops shot her cousin in the head with a rubber bullet. That was when Ahed went out and slapped them.

Tamimi’s press conference was covered by Kuwait’s KUNA news service, which said in its report that “Tamimi used the experience of being jailed, as many colonial subjects in imperial detention cells have–including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi–to her advantage.” 

 Specifically, KUNA reported, “Tamimi finished high school in jail! She organized a study group of other young women, and she succeeded in completing the high school examination while imprisoned. She turned her dreary sentence, intended to deprive her of nearly a year of her youth, into an educational opportunity.”

Completing high school in jail did not come without a struggle.

In her press conference Ahed said, “I was afraid I would miss the school year, so I managed with a group of prisoners to study. We challenged the occupation, which tried to ban us from study.”

Tamimi said she plans to go to law school and that she hopes to specialize in human rights law so that she can defend Palestinian activists and prisoners on the international stage. 

On her arrival in her home town of Nabi Saleh, Sunday, KUNA reports that she said, “I am a witness that the Resistance will continue until the end of the Occupation.”

TRT World, a Turkish news channel, shared this clip on Ahed Tamimi’s release from prison, her past and her future”

Juan Cole concluded his report with a strong suggestion that international supporters of a free Palestine, as well as believers in justice, should find a way to start a law school fund for Ahed Tamimi. 

Israel lurks in the shadows waiting for its chance to return this brave teenager to prison. Ahed will need all the help she can find to smash those barriers Israel will place in her way.

Juan Cole writes that he is ready to contribute to Ahed’s law school fund. Do I see hands raised to join him?   

The clip above is from TRT World, a Turkish international news channel broadcast 24-hours per day in the English-language. The news channel is based in Istanbul, Turkey.

Posted in Israel, Middle East, Palestinians | 12 Comments

When Trump and Bibi Depart, “Pray For the Fish”

by James M. Wall

Bibi Netanyahu has long begged for others to recognize that “Israel is a Jewish state”. No one has agreed to do so. So, Bibi and his Likud right-wing party did it for themselves. 

Netanyahu is the Donald Trump of the Mediterranean. Both men are driven by a desperate need for political and economic power for its own sake, coupled with an equally strong need to be loved. Donald wants the love for himself and, by extension, his family. Bibi seeks love for himself and his tribe.

They arrived on the world political stage at just the moment to sustain each other.

In its sham negotiations with the Palestinian people, recognizing Israel as the Jewish state was always Israel’s basic demand. Bibi does not care that it is impossible to have a state that is a democracy of exclusively Jewish people. To identify Israel as a Jewish democracy is to label the nation with an oxymoron.

Both Trump and Bibi embrace non-democratic tyrants. Donald and Vladimir Putin are currently cementing their affair in public. Most recent example: The “would/wouldn’t” game Trump played against his own intelligence agencies.

Seattle-based Jewish blogger Richard Silverstein, writes that like Trump, “Bibi Netanyahu, desperate to find a few paltry allies somewhere, anywhere, has cultivated a bromance with Hungary’s Viktor Orban. Orban isn’t such a metzieh (Yiddish for ‘a find’). He is the far-right, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic anti-Semitic premier of Hungary. Netanyahu is the far right, Islamophobic, racist, anti-refugee-PM of Israel”.

Donald Trump’s embrace of strongmen tyrants will not be his downfall, even though he embraces Russian President Vlad Putin, who has intervened in our 2016 presidential election and assumed to be working to do the same in our 2018 mid-term election.

American establishment types are outraged over Trump’s blatant and undisguised racism. But Republicans nominated him while Democrats failed to defeat him. Those who voted for him, and those who did not oppose him with vigor, gave him a big electric train to keep him amused. The train is called, “the most powerful job in the world”.

Nor will Trump’s cringe-inducing sexual conduct and mindset bring him down. His sexual and financial conduct look to those who swear by him, as just good old Trump doing his thing. And even among voters not enamored of him, at least he is neither Hillary nor Barack.

Will the Mueller investigations deliver hope? Is impeachment a way to take back that electric train? Probably not. Impeachment would simply give Vice President Mike Pence the White House, where he would be a slicker, more rational Trump.

Unless Pence is dragged down with Trump by either Mueller or impeachment, he is next in line.

A conservative radio and TV talk show host in the 1990s, Pence successfully ran for Congress in 2000 where he became the House Republican conference chairman, before being elected governor of Indiana in 2012. The Republican party made him Trump’s running mate.

Trump’s soulmate Netanyahu is confronting legal findings in Israel, which could lead to his ouster. But just as Trump could be replaced by Pence, Bibi is the leader of the right-wing Likud which would replace him with an equally hard-right leader.

The two nations, partners in oppression, are now radically right in political outlook. Opposition parties in Israel and the U.S. show few signs of being able to change that outlook anytime soon.

These depressing times we are currently in puts me in mind of the Randy Travis (picture above) song, “Pray for the fish”, a country music favorite of many, including me. The song has to do with the fellow who was about as evil as any fellow in town had ever been.

One day this fellow, whose name was Eddie Lee Vaughn, recognized himself as saved. The preacher was ready to baptize him in the river on the edge of town. A big crowd had gathered. Randy Travis tells the story of what happens to the fish when Eddie Lee Vaughn was washed of his sins. Click  below for the song performed by Randy Travis.

Click here for words of the song

Voters and high-rollers with money gave us Trump and Pence, Netanyahu and Likud. What will they leave behind? And what happens to the fish still swimming in the river? Pray for them.

Posted in Donald Trump, Netanyahu | 8 Comments

Judge Kavanaugh Was Certified by Leonard Leo

by James M. Wall

When the name of Judge Brett Kavanaugh was presented to the nation as President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court Monday night, Trump was in a role he honed during his reality television years.

He was the master of ceremonies making an important announcement.

But don’t kid yourself, the choice of Kavanaugh (right) was not made by Trump. It was made by Leonard Leo, one of the most important inside players in the conservative legal movement and the man to see for those who aspire to sit on the nation’s highest courts.

After Kavanaugh’s nomination, David Savage wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

In choosing Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, President Trump went with a well-credentialed Washington insider who compiled a long record as a reliable conservative and won the respect of White House lawyers and the outside groups that advise them.

They are confident that, if confirmed by the Senate, he will move the high court to the right on abortion, gun rights, affirmative action, religious liberty and environmental protection, among other issues.

Last week, Savage alerted his readers to the fact that the second Trump Supreme Court selection will have reached this legal mountain-top through “Leonard Leo, a vice president of the conservative Federalist Society, [who] will soon have his own grateful bloc of ideological allies on the Supreme Court.

Since the 1990s Leo has been one of the most important inside players in the conservative legal movement and the man to see for those who aspire to sit on the nation’s highest courts.

Leo has been a longtime friend and champion of Justice Clarence Thomas, and he played a crucial role in promoting the two most recent Republican appointees to the high court: Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, 53, was a law clerk for Kennedy the same year as Gorsuch, has served on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006, and his more than 300 opinions have been reliably conservative.

Another top contender, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, has only a brief record on the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. She is 46 and has been a judge since November, but she has won support from conservative and religious groups across the country.

At least one television talking head speculated that President Trump may be saving Justice Barrett as a replacement if a female court member departs.

If he is confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh would be the fourth member of the current court certified as pure conservative by Leonard Leo. And he will be narrowly confirmed by the U.S Senate, unless Democrats, with some help from their friends across the aisle, develop a collective backbone, and block his nomination.

Justice Kavanaugh would join three earlier judges, who were successfully escorted to the court by the Federalist Society: Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Associate Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., both announced by President George Bush, and Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, named by Trump

What drives Leonard Leo, the justice-maker who remains in the shadows, until there arises a conservative president who needs him.

Leonard was a visionary,” said Tom Carter, who served as Leo’s media relations director when he was chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast. Carter said, “He figured out twenty years ago that conservatives had lost the culture war. Abortion, gay rights, contraception—conservatives didn’t have a chance if public opinion prevailed. So they needed to stack the courts.”

Amazingly, said Carter, Leo has succeeded in this mission with few people taking notice.

The nation will take notice when, or if,  overturning Roe v. Wade comes before the Supreme Court.

The picture of Judge Kavanaugh was made by Dennis Cook of the Associated Press.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Living Through a Nightmare “With a Little Help from My Friends”

by James M. Wall

A close friend took note of the scarcity of recent Wall Writings. I told him I was living in a nightmare in which two world figures hold the power to plunge us into an even darker nightmare. Their names are Trump and Netanyahu.

To keep describing that nightmare feels futile.

My friend wrote :

“the children are crying
the parents are crying
Rachel Maddow is crying
and I am crying.”

He continued:

“Never tell me again that Republicans are the party of family values.

Never preach to me from an evangelical standpoint and expect me to have any respect for what is said, since both Republicans and evangelicals currently lack sincerity, lack a moral compass, and fail as empathetic human beings.

They also seem to have great trouble with the truth.”

My reader makes this suggestion for a new post:

Wall Writings is on hold for the moment. I am unable to describe or analyze this nightmare because each nightmare emerges from an individual, personalized, dark experience.”

Good suggestion. 

I wrote another friend about pausing Wall Writings in a world dominated by Trump and Netanyahu. She responded:

“I agree, Jim, it’s wise to withdraw temporarily. This past week has proven that (even though it seems impossible) things CAN and HAVE gotten worse. The absence of morality is staggering…”

I must not pause without leaving readers with two suggestions for meditation during this nightmare.

First, read carefully a recent wise piece from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, which demands to be read in its entirety. Click here to do so. Here is an excerpt:

America has long been a powerful nation. In particular, we emerged from World War II with a level of both economic and military dominance not seen since the heyday of ancient Rome. But our role in the world was always about more than money and guns. It was also about ideals: America stood for something larger than itself — for freedom, human rights and the rule of law as universal principles.

Of course, we often fell short of those ideals. But the ideals were real, and mattered. Many nations have pursued racist policies; but when the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal wrote his 1944 book about our “Negro problem,” he called it “An American Dilemma,” because he viewed us as a nation whose civilization had a “flavor of enlightenment” and whose citizens were aware at some level that our treatment of blacks was at odds with our principles.

The second suggestion for meditation during a nightmare comes from a column I wrote 41 years ago for The Christian Century, five years after I began editing and publishing that publication.

This article by me was published on November 23, 1977, and later reprinted on William Fore’s site, “Religion on Line”. That reprint may be accessed here. It was written a year after the election of President Jimmy Carter in November, 1976.

Here is the start of that column, written 41 years ago: 

A recent full-page advertisement appearing in major U.S. newspapers argues for support of the State of Israel and voices concern over “the recent direction of American foreign policy” in the Middle East. The signers of the statement “are particularly troubled by the erosion of American governmental support for Israel evident” in the U.S. decision to include the U.S.S.R. in planning for the Geneva talks.

Israel has many supporters in this country, and ads of this sort are frequently carried in major newspapers. But this one is different. It comes from persons describing themselves as “evangelical Christians,” including W. A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas; entertainer Pat Boone; Harold Lindsell, present editor of Christianity Today; Kenneth Kantzer, editor-elect of that journal; Hudson Armerding, a past president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Arnold Olson, coordinator and president emeritus of the Evangelical Free Church of America. 

Four decades later, things are far worse, now that Donald Trump and Bibi Netanyahu have seized biblical literalism and turned it into a weapon of war for Satan.

These two monsters have transformed God and Country into frightful forces for evil. Pause with me to meditate on that fact. In time we may wake up. Or not.

The picture above at the border, is a Gregory Bull AP picture from the Independent, of a Mexican child clinging to his father’s leg.

Posted in Israel, Jimmy Carter, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, The Human Condition, Trump, USA | 7 Comments

This Bishop Is Not Finished With Us Yet

by James M. Wall

I first met E.J. Dionne, Jr. during my first stint as Jimmy Carter’s 1976 Illinois campaign chair. We huddled for lunch in a corner deli across the street from our Chicago campaign headquarters.

I was surprised and delighted to discover a young Washington Post reporter who was so knowledgeable about the significance of Carter’s religious faith.

Forty-two years later, after following his political coverage for more than four decades, I still trust E.J.’s sensitivity to the moral dimension of the murky world of politics. As one of my political colleagues puts it, “he gets it”.

Latest example of that sensitivity came this week when Dionne, now a columnist for the Post, captured the impact of a Royal wedding sermon delivered in London by the Most Rev. Michael Curry, the bride’s Presiding Episcopal Bishop.

Dionne began his column:

​​Maybe it takes a royal wedding to offer lessons in what a good sermon sounds like.

Maybe it takes one of the world’s most elitist institutions — a monarchy, for goodness’ sake — to provide a view of Christianity rooted not in conservative cultural warfare (or unrelenting support for President Trump) but in an egalitarian love that will “let justice roll down like a mighty stream.”

And the Most Rev. Michael Curry, who preached for a royal couple and the world last Saturday, isn’t finished with us yet.​

Next up on Curry’s calendar is a march in Washington, which the Bishop will lead.

E.J. Dionne, Jr. explains how Curry will follow his sermon, which cites Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call to action, “let justice roll down like a mighty stream”.

On Thursday, a group of Christians will march to the capital for a candlelight vigil inspired by a declaration titled “Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis.”

The presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, Curry is a prime mover of a statement suffused with a sense of urgency about “a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government.”

While Trump lurks behind almost every paragraph of this passionate assertion of faith, he is never mentioned. This reflects the desire of the endorsers to focus on what it means to proclaim that “Jesus is Lord.” The opening paragraph makes this clear: “We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.”

The nation’s soul is also receiving an extended examination by another author, Jon Meacham, whose latest book, The Soul of a Nation:The Battle for Our Better Angels is reviewed by Sean Wilentz in The New York Times.

The review begins:.

At the close of his First Inaugural Address, President Abraham Lincoln entreated the seceding slaveholders to “swell the chorus of the Union” until the nation was touched “by the better angels of our nature.” It is among the most eloquent sentences by our most eloquent president, and subsequent speechwriters and pundits have quoted it nearly to death.

But as Lincoln knew well, eloquence is not necessarily the same as efficacy. Five weeks after his inauguration, the secessionists fired on Fort Sumter and the slaughter of the Civil War began.

Jon Meacham is the latest writer to cite Lincoln’s plea, which helps suggest why his new book, “The Soul of America,” is at once so engaging and troubling. Appalled by the ascendancy of Donald J. Trump, and shaken by the deadly white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville in 2017, Meacham returns to other moments in our history when fear and division seemed rampant.

He wants to remind us that the current political turmoil is not unprecedented, that as a nation we have survived times worse than this.. . . .

Meacham begins his survey of our “worse” moments with our Civil War. Covering the century that began with slavery’s abolition, Meacham reminds us that recovery from these “worse” moments takes time.

He traces that century from the 1860s to the civil rights victories of the 1960s. To reach these victories, “the nation has required activist liberal presidents — above all Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson — to replace fear with hope and then to reverse injustice and expand equality”.  

Our better angels, Meacham implies, reside in that part of the American soul that inspired the Square Deal, the New Deal and the Great Society.

Meacham is a presidential historian who is currently a Visiting Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University.  A former Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek, Meacham was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for his book, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.

Presiding Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry, preacher and activist, is not done with us yet. Journalist E.J. Dionne, Jr. is not done with us either. Nor is presidential historian Jon Meacham. They each know the need for morality in politics. They “get  it”.

In the darkness of the era of Trumpism, these three are bright lights giving us hope that the future need not be dark. Our task is to read, write, learn and act, from our unique platforms.

The picture of Bishop Curry is a screen shot.

Posted in Episcopal Church, Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King Jr., Religious Faith | 4 Comments

A Child Dies In The Killing Fields of Gaza

by James M. Wall

History is filled with narratives about killing fields. This troubled writer looks at the killing fields of Gaza, and is driven to begin with a story:

“A man kills his mother and his father. Brought to trial, he begs for mercy because he is an orphan.”

There are times when two sides have legitimate claims to a side. The killer in this story does not have a “side”.

The story comes to mind when this troubled writer sees the deaths of Palestinians in the killing fields of Gaza and is driven to fury by the willingness of others to embrace the killer’s narrative.

I write, of course, of Bibi Netanyahu, grinning ear to ear, ordering Israeli soldiers to secure themselves behind safe mounds on the Gaza “border”, and fire into Palestinian crowds, who were protesting their imprisonment.  The New York Times, in its usual tepid “both sides” journalistic style, defends the slaughter.

On May 16, The New York Times ran a story with this headline, which on-line reads: A Child of Gaza Dies. A Symbol Is Born. The Arguing Begins.

The arguing begins?  The man who killed his parents has a side from which to argue? No, he does not. A judge who knows a phony plea for mercy when she sees one, can only utter the words, “take him away”.

And yet in this nightmare of Orwellian reality in which we live, Israel’s occupying military force continues its death-dealing ways and calls it a side.

Here is the start of the Times‘ “argument” story, written by Declan Walsh:

GAZA — Layla Ghandour, an 8-month-old girl with sparkling green eyes, was in the arms of her grandmother when a cloud of tear gas engulfed them at the protest in Gaza on Monday. The child inhaled a draft of acrid gas that set off a rasping cough and watering eyes. Hours later she was dead.

The story shot across the globe, providing an emotive focus for outrage at military tactics that Israel’s critics said were disproportionately violent. [“Israel’s critics”?, “disproportionately violent”?]

Yet within hours the family’s story was being questioned. Doctors said Layla had suffered from a congenital heart defect that, one suggested, might have caused her death. Then the Israeli military issued claims, unsupported by evidence, that it held information that disproved the family’s account. [Information that she died from tear gas sent from Israel’s “side”?]–emphasis added.

A 1984 film The Killing Fields examined deaths in the killing fields of Cambodia, an earlier story of brutal, hateful, human conduct evoked by another “complicated” colonialist conflict.

Do not look for a film about “The Killing Fields of Gaza”. But look to disperse the use of “complicated” excuses to kill those who stand in the way of empirical expansion. Search not for truth and wisdom about Israel in the pages of The New York Times.

Turn instead to independent non-corporate media outlets like Counterpunch where Saree Makdisi wrote his article on the Gaza killing fields, Kill and Kill and Kill.

He begins:

Two spectacles unfolded in Palestine on Monday, [May 14]. In Gaza, Israeli army snipers shot and killed 58 Palestinians—including six children—and injured almost three thousand others amid scenes of smoke, fire, teargas, dust, agony and blood.

At exactly the same time, to the tinkling of champagne glasses at a glittering reception barely fifty miles away in Jerusalem, Jared Kushner and an elegant Ivanka Trump oversaw the opening of Donald Trump’s new embassy there.

The juxtaposition of these two contemporaneous scenes encapsulates at a single glance the entirety of Zionism’s murderous conflict with the Palestinian people.

The Palestinians targeted and executed one-by-one by Israeli snipers had gathered to demand their right of return to their lands and homes inside the rest of Palestine, from the coastal plain up to and including Jerusalem. They or their parents or grandparents were driven from their homes during the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 for the simple reason that they are not Jewish: too many non-Jews in the putative Jewish state would not make for much of a Jewish state after all.

“There could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such state. It would not be able to exist,” the Israeli historian Benny Morris bluntly pointed out in an interview justifying ethnic cleansing with the newspaper Ha’aretz in 2004; “a Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians . . . [therefore] it was necessary to uproot them”). They have been denied the right to return to their homes ever since for the same reason: they are not Jewish, and their presence would upset the carefully-engineered demographic tables maintained by the state to preserve its tenuous claim to an exclusively Jewish identity.

The maintenance of that demographic balance and the suspension of their political and human rights are inseparable from one another: the one enables, produces and requires the other.

The demographer Arnon Sofer of Haifa University is the architect of the current isolation of Gaza. In 2004, he advised the government of Ariel Sharon to withdraw Israeli forces from within Gaza, seal the territory off from the outside world, and simply shoot anyone who tries to break out.

“When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe,” Sofer told an interviewer in the Jerusalem Post (11 November 2004); “Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.” He added that “the only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.”

There is more, much more, in Markdisi’s essay. For even more background, see his 2010 book, Palestine: Inside and Out.

Our American government opened a new embassy in Jerusalem for the sole purpose of allowing our President to satisfy the wishes of his Jewish-American financial patron Sheldon Adelson, the American casino billionaire, who attended the embassy’s opening.

Of course, American presidents, when in campaign rhetorical mode, promised to “move” the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. They knew it would be an idiotic move.  Once in the White House, they ignored the promise.

The picture above of Layla Ghandour, an 8-month-old Gaza girl, appeared in the New York Times with this caption: Credit Haitham Imad/European Pressphoto Agency, via Shutterstock.

Posted in Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians | 9 Comments

“Surely Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me”

by James M. Wall

Paddington 2 is just the right film to share this Mother’s Day. To understand why, reflect back to the original 2015 Paddington film, a creative tale drawn from a British literary series. 

In the series and in two films, Paddington is a very realistic animated bear who travels to London from his native Peru.

Paddington’s Peruvian family had been persuaded by a British explorer, that London would be a welcoming location for bear visitors. In the original Paddington film, our trusting, very realistic, animated young bear travels to London by boat and train.

Arriving at London’s Paddington Station, he looks for friendly faces. He finds some in the station, a human London family, the Browns. The mother of the family is Mary Brown, played in her usual welcoming manner, by Sally Hawkins. She insists on taking Paddington home with the family.

Henry Brown, the father of the family, is played by Hugh Bonneville, who agrees, reluctantly, to welcome Paddington for what he presumes will be a brief, but helpful visit.

The family, which also includes two children, agrees that their visitor should be named Paddington, his London arrival-point.

Paddington 2, is a 2017 film sequel, following the original 2015 release. It provides further background to Paddington’s origin story. He was rescued as a young cub from near-drowning by two adult bears. 

Paddington was raised by a mama bear he calls Aunt Lucy. She teaches him the importance of “generosity of spirit and unshakable faith in the value of good manners”, according to a Guardian review.

In Paddington, the original film, young Paddington settles permanently into the welcoming Brown home. Infused with the goodness embedded in him by his Creator, then sustained, initially. by the Creator’s helpmate, Aunt Lucy, Paddington’s goodness encounters evil in the form of someone who wants to exploit him.

He preserves against that evil attacker and lives to visit us again in Paddington 2. I encountered the young traveling bear, now Londoner, while in search of a Mother’s Day film to show to a group of retirees on Movie Night, an occasion when we honor mothers.  

My apologies for getting word of Paddington 2 to readers so late in the week, but I have been distracted by a series of world events in which evil appears to be dominating.

I decided it was time for a break from those events and a good time to remember what the mothers I have known and loved over the years, taught me about the “generosity of spirit and unshakable faith in the value of good manners”. 

But no worries, there is still time to secure a copy of Paddington 2 to show to your friends and loved ones. If not this weekend, there are others ahead.

Here is all you need to know before seeing this delightful and wise film:

Paddington misses Aunt Lucy. Her birthday looms. He looks for the perfect gift to give her.  He finds it in a very special book store. Of course, life is never smooth for any of us, including in the life of our young bear from Peru. Evil arrives to lay claim to the book Paddington wants to give Aunt Lucy.

Phoenix Buchanan is a once-famous showman, now down on his luck. He is played by an insouciant, greedy Hugh Grant, who steals the book. He views the book as his map to riches. 

Paddington and his family go in search of the book, and along the way, Paddington is tossed in jail where his goodness continues to help others, including a chef who learns that goodness can be experienced and taught.

The film is enriched by the presence of Sally Hawkins, who also played a mother, a folk artist, in Maudie, a 2016 film, and Hugh Bonneville, who played Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, in the long-running PBS television series, Downton Abbey.

Atlantic critic David Sims concludes his review of Paddington 2:

“This is a film of such open-hearted joy and grace, which feels rare in an industry that often embraces cynicism and sarcasm. Paddington 2 is gorgeous to look at, smartly written, and gleefully funny.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Fox News and the Division of America

by James M. Wall

President Donald J. Trump has held the U.S. presidency for 1 year, 3 months and 8 days, as of Saturday night, April 28, the night on which he chose to hold a political rally in Washington Township, Michigan, while skipping his second straight Washington Correspondents dinner. 

This is a President who divides. This is a President who shows not the slightest indication that he wants to unite this nation. He knows from polling that he has a “base”, a segment of the American public loyal to his worldview based on fear of outsiders, liberal government and dislike for non-whites.

That base, as measured in polls, hovers in the mid 30% of the public. The President gives every indication through his tweets, and his major television ally, Fox News, that he actually believes that through the force of his personality public opinion will come to his side of the national yard.

His actions this week confirm and underscore this. 

On Thursday morning, he called the Fox News television program, Fox & Friends. Gleefully, the three hosts, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Kilmeade, welcomed him.

For thirty minutes, with no commercial breaks, President Trump shouted out a rambling series of hostile comments aimed at his “enemies, the “fake news” media, Democrats and all others who had yet to enter his embrace.

His hosts guided him, as best they could, with quick questions that encouraged his rambling.

Two days later, this Saturday night, the President is skipping the annual traditional Washington Correspondents dinner. Instead, he is holding a political rally in Michigan, one of the three mid-western states that handed him the 2016 election.

Look carefully at the Thursday morning faces of the hosts for Fox & Friends above. Those are faces displaying complacent loyalty, the same look the President expects to see emanating from his entire staff.

These are not journalists. They are folks whose network is deeply invested in the success of this President. Fox News is owned and controlled by Rupert Murdoch, whose extreme conservative ideology and deep pockets are the driving force behind Murdoch’s media power center.

Murdoch uses that center, and his money, to reshape American society, its governments and its culture, in Murdoch’s ideological image.

Politico wrote about Murdoch’s expanding media power:

As the Australian-born mogul strips away his entertainment properties to create what he called “the new Fox” — essentially, Fox News, Fox Business Network, the national Fox sports networks, his broadcast network and local stations — several analysts suggested that the deal might provide more opportunities for Fox News to extend its footprint into the broadcast realm.

To be fair, and state the obvious, MSNBC tries to do the same thing for Progressives, though not nearly with the success of Fox.

Right now, however, in this dark hour in American history, we are looking at the Trump moment, as three Trump loyalists ask the Boss “questions” to highlight his favorite talking-points on a Thursday morning.

On this Saturday night two days later, the Trump Division Plan continues. The President is not in Washington engaging with a collection of journalists he calls “fake”. He is basking in the warm embrace of his voters in Michigan.

I close this posting by calling attention to the fact that this weekend marks the tenth anniversary of this blog, wallwritings.me. As I began the blog ten years ago on April 27, 2008, the Democratic party was involved in a heated campaign that pitted Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president. 

The Clinton campaign was attacking the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a leading Chicago preacher and the pastor of a UCC congregation where Barack Obama was a member. The Clinton campaign described sermons by Wright as “radical”, and by association with the church, Obama was also implicated as “radical”.

To celebrate ten years of this blog site, I reprint below my closing words for that first posting. To read the full first posting, click on Wall Writings.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright spoke to an enthusiastic, supportive crowd of 10,000 at an NAACP dinner Sunday night. Earlier this weekend, on Bill Moyers’ Now PBS program Friday night Rev. Wright spoke calmly of his preaching style, which is anything but calm in the pulpit.

He noted, for example, that Psalm 137 was the text he used in his sermon right after 9/11. He says the children of Israel were in exile and they were angry at those who took them into exile. He used the text to trace the history of the US mistreatment of non whites, Native Americans, African Americans, and more recently, the people of Palestine and Iraq.

The writer of Psalm 137 wanted revenge against their captors and proclaimed that the Israelites were ready to smash the heads of children whose parents had brought such pain to them. (Look it up) Wright said he told his congregation that it would be wrong to respond to 911 by seeking revenge. Preaching a few days after 9/11 he spoke in prophetic language of what happens to a nation when it mistreats others and ended by suggesting that the attack was an indication that “America’s chickens have come home to roost”.

In an Associated Press story of Dr. Wright’s speech to the NAACP in Detroit he was quoted as saying, ‘I describe the conditions in this country,’” The story noted that despite what his critics say, he is descriptive, not divisive, when he speaks about racial injustices. “I describe the conditions in this country. . . “I’m not a politician. I know that fact will surprise many of you because many in the corporate-owned media made it seem like I am running for the Oval Office. I am not running for the Oval Office. I’ve been running for Jesus a long, long time, and I’m not tired yet.”

Another man who is not tired is Jimmy Carter. He is just back from peace missions to Nepal and Israel-Palestine. His op ed column on the trip is in today’s New York Times.

Thus endeth the first Wall Writings posting from ten years ago, April 27, 2008. Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions as to changes in American politics during the past decade, up to and including, April 28, 2018.

Posted in Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Media, Obama, Television | 12 Comments

Syria Bombing Designed to Distract

by James M. Wall

After the Syria Bombing, did you have that pit-of-the-stomach feeling that you had been deceived about a military strike?

I offer here a suggestion to clarify that feeling. It will not cure it, but clarity does have a way of easing the pain.

Accept the Syria bombing as a Wag the Dog deceit, a pretense to deliver a largely harmless distraction for an ulterior motive, as in the manner of a Roman emperor staging a stadium show for the masses.

Media reports used the 1998 movie, Wag the Dog as shorthand for The Syria Bombing. In the film, Dustin Hoffman plays a movie director hired to create television news casts to distract and deceive the American public. Robert De Niro is the spin doctor who hires him.

Film critic Roger Ebert explained:

Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog cites Grenada as an example of how easy it is to whip up patriotic frenzy, and how dubious the motives sometimes are. The movie is a satire that contains just enough realistic ballast to be teasingly plausible; like Dr. Strangelove, it makes you laugh, and then it makes you wonder.

Before last weekend’s Syria Bombing, Russia appeared to be forewarned. Putin grumbled but he did not shoot back. As feigned reality, the bombing served its purpose.

The media played its role. It hyped a dramatic news conference featuring our top military and civilian leadership. President Trump was at his presidential best, carefully following his script to announce he had ordered a U.S. military attack on Syria’s chemical weapons system.

A more recent movie, Argo, released in 2012, was neither satire nor feigned reality. It was rather, a Hollywood production of a very real event; no shooting and no buildings blown up.

The event was a rescue mission that freed six American diplomats from their hiding place in the Canadian embassy in Tehran, Iran.

The six had slipped out of the Tehran U.S. embassy on Nov. 4, 1979, before 66 other American diplomats were taken hostage by Iranian militants. The six were taken in by the Canadian ambassador and hidden in his residence.

Knowing that the six could not remain hidden long, President Jimmy Carter directed his chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan, to pull together a White House team working with the CIA. 

A CIA operative, Tony Mendez, in the film by played by Ben Affleck (who also directed the film), concocted a plan in which he would pose as a Hollywood producer traveling to Tehran to oversee the making of a science fiction film.

Bringing with him six fake Canadian passports, Mendez “recruited” the hidden six to be his film crew. Back in Hollywood, news of the upcoming Tehran film-shoot was announced. Soon Tehran’s movie-loving public was in a tizzy over having its very own science-fiction film.

Mendez and his “film crew” scouted locations and then announced their “return to Hollywood”. They flew home on an Iranian airliner, after using their fake Canadian passports to leave Tehran.

Argo was based on real events. It was neither a satire nor a bit of feigned reality. It was, rather, a creative subterfuge which saved the lives of six American diplomats.

This was one of Jimmy Carter’s finest leadership moments as president. To protect the remaining 66 American hostages from retaliation, the rescue was announced as a Canadian secret operation, dubbed “The Canadian Caper”.

The story of the rescue was not fully declassified until 1997, 17 years after Carter left office.

During Carter’s four years in the White House, not a single American was killed by enemy fire, and not a single enemy combatant was killed.

After Carter’s successful secret 1979 rescue mission, this cannot be said of any succeeding U.S. president. Deceit, lying, and military ventures have become the prevailing modus operandi of succeeding American governments. 

Ronald Reagan, who succeeded Carter as president, set the new deceit tone. Negotiations to release the 66 hostages were kept secret by Reagan until after Carter left office, allowing Reagan to pose as the great savior of the hostages.

Having known Jimmy Carter when he was Governor Carter, I was not surprised to  read in The New York Times that he is still teaching Sunday School in Plains, Georgia. 

That story reminds me again of the high moral character of the man, his ingrained modesty, and the positive impact he has had, and continues to have, on the nation and the world.  

Wag the Dog was a satire, The Syrian Bombing was feigned reality, and Argo depicts a creative subterfuge orchestrated by an American president, a subterfuge meant to save, not to kill nor destroy.

Carter’s choice of a peaceful solution saved the lives of American diplomats. All these years later, he knows he chose the right path. 

Keep teaching it, brother. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

50 Years Ago They Failed to Shut Him Down

by James M. Wall

The first time I almost met Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been at his father’s Ebenezer Baptist church, in Atlanta, Georgia. I was one of three Emory University seminary students assigned to visit MLK, Sr.’s church. We were part of a class called Race.

After the Sunday morning worship service, MLK, Sr., took us to his office for an interview. As we were leaving, Dr. King invited us to return the following Sunday, adding,  “My son Martin will be delivering his first sermon after receiving his Ph. D. from the Boston School of Theology.”

None of us returned. That missed opportunity remains at the top of my personal list of Bad Decisions While Growing Up.

I told that story to MLK, Jr., when, as editor of the Christian Advocate, a United Methodist pastor’s magazine, I interviewed him more than a year before his assassination.

He was killed fifty years ago this Wednesday, April 4, 1968, shot by a lone gunman from a window in a nearby boarding establishment.

What prompted my request for an interview in Chicago, was the publication of an essay which had focused on King’s decision to broaden his movement’s civil rights focus to include opposition to the war in Vietnam and the issue of poverty.

Were Vietnam and poverty the issues that prompted that evil moment when King died? King had long faced powerful forces that wanted him shut down. James Earl Ray fired the shot that ended the life of a civil rights icon.

What the shot did not do was end the movement King inspired. 

King was in Memphis to fight for a wage increase for the city’s garbage workers. This fight was part of King’s effort to broaden his civil rights movement to include poverty as part of his Poor People’s Campaign initiative.

In his final speech The New York Times recalls King’s words that continue to inspire us to action.

In the speech delivered the night before his death, Dr. King declared: “The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers.

It was King’s Dream to lead this nation toward peace and justice. His life ended on April 4, 1968, but one half-century later, Penn State’s Joshua Inwood insists, “With over 43 million people living in poverty in the United States today, King’s ideas still hold much power.”

As Inwood wrote in his essay, King was a leader who understood the necessity of taking the long view:

In the last three years of his life and ministry King had grown frustrated with the slow pace of reform and the lack of funding for anti-poverty programs. In 1966, for example, King moved to Chicago and lived in an urban slum to bring attention to the plight of the urban poor in northern cities. His experiences in the South had convinced him that elimination of poverty was important to winning the long-term battle for civil and social rights.

Were King still with us in body as well as in spirit, I have no doubt that he would wage his struggle for peace and justice on the issues that plague us in this week’s anniversary of his death, issues like Israeli IDF snipers killing at least 17 Palestinians on the northern border of a  colonial-settler line that separates Gaza from Israel.

Or issues like the movement among high school students to bring an end to mass shootings like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In that tragedy, the number initially reported killed was also 17.

The issue is still injustice.

*********     *******

Audio of King’s final speech

Posted in Gaza, Israel, Martin Luther King Jr., Religious Faith | 9 Comments