Do Not Call It a Military Conflict; It’s The Occupation, Stupid

By James M. Wall

Enough already with the euphemism of “conflict”, which so conveniently covers up Israel’s absolute dominance of  US policy in the Middle East.

This is no conflict; it’s the Occupation, stupid.

Rachelle Marshall cuts through the garbage piled up by American politicians and media, starting in 1947. It is not really all that complicated, as she points out in the April issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

American Middle East policy has been weighted in favor of Israel ever since President Harry Truman rejected the advice of Secretary of State George C. Marshall and pushed through a resolution at the U.N. General Assembly giving most of Palestine to the Jews, who were then a minority of the population.

As the new state of Israel proceeded to expel the original inhabitants and seize more of their land, Washington turned a blind eye—and footed the bill.

Sixty-two years later, this harsh reality of history has been ignored, obscured and finally, all but obliterated, by the creation of a narrative that has blinded the American public to the price it has paid to create and sustain a massive act of injustice.

The conflict narrative was built around facts of history–especially the Holocaust, an horrific by-product of World War II–which were easily woven into a tale transmitted to a gullible Western public, which increasingly appears to be the English-speaking segment of the West, including the US, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Peddlers of that narrative were snake-oil salesmen in Western media, politics, military, and Christian communities, which swallowed the portion of the Israeli narrative that fit their own immediate agendas.

Media likes its stories simple; politicians like to talk to people who like to talk and who bring them money; the military is always eager to develop new weapons on a battlefield; and the churches, well, they were easily bought off, not by contributions but by free travel and release from guilt.

Did the fellow just write that the followers of Jesus, the man of peace, and Amos, the Hebrew prophet, were bought off?

Don’t act so shocked. You know the drill: Give religious folks something to feel guilty about and offer them cheap grace.

They will love you forever, especially if you toss in a few free overseas trips that allow them to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and Paul without having to walk along the Jericho Road and come upon a man who had been beaten, robbed, and left lying by the side of the road.

To really appreciate the manner in which the Israeli narrative has been peddled–a campaign which will be studied in Harvard Business School propaganda classes for generations to come–we need to look closely at Christian travelers who are the targets of this campaign.

Think of these Christians as existing in two flavors.

The first flavor is that church leader who longs to cultivate the magic of “interfaith” dialogue (the mainstream church flavor, cool and sweet). Speak to this flavor group about their church divesting from companies that support the Occupation, and they respond: Can’t do that; have to protect our fragile interfaith dialogue.

The second flavor is spicy, giving off that feeling of absolutism with a bite. This flavor is  the fundamentalist Christian flavor, church folk who love Israel as the rightful recipients of a “promise” Yahweh made eons ago.

The spicy flavor group believes that promise may now be claimed by a secular modern political state which adopted the name, Israel in 1948. It is an ethnic state, not a religious one, a concept Yahweh must be having a hard time trying to figure out.

Come to think of it, does this action describe an idolatrous people, substituting a secular modern state for Yahweh?

Don’t trouble the fundamentalist spicy folk with such theological conversations, and don’t trouble them with New Testament piety about loving your neighbor.

The spicy flavored Fundamentalists are eager to get ready for that “great getting up day” when unconverted Jews will not survive the return of Jesus. In their thinking  the Promised Land becomes a staging area for the Second Coming, a joyous time reserved for Christians alone.

Both of these American religion flavors are easy targets of the narrative that focuses unceasingly on a “conflict” which they believe, with various degrees of sophistication, dates back to a distant past. It doesn’t.

Only with the birth of colonial Zionism in the late 19th century did “conflict” within Palestine between Jews and Arabs emerge.

The picture at the top of this posting was taken in Gaza during the Gaza Freedom March, December 31, 2009. These children cry out not to be forgotten in the land of Jesus and Amos.

This is not a conflict, my friends. It is an Occupation created and enforced by superior military power over a imprisoned population.

It is an Occupation institutionalized behind a Wall that is not about security but all about protecting the Israeli public and the outside world from seeing what Israel’s right-wing rulers do daily in their name.

As folks like the Christian Peacemaker Teams report to us constantly, what is not being seen, and certainly not reported in US media, is a brutal, death-dealing, racially-oriented Occupation carried out by an Israeli government unrestrained by any outside power.

The first line of defense for the Occupation is the American Congress.

In the Introduction to his new book,Silent No More: Confronting America’s False Images of Islam, former Congressman Paul Findley describes his first awakening to the power of pro-Israel loyalties in Congress.

Findley writes that Ed Franklin, a constituent from the congressman’s downstate Illinois district had been falsely imprisoned on charges of espionage in Yemen.  The year was 1974.  Franklin’s family appealed to Findley.

The US had no relations with Yemen, which at the time was a Communist state that in 1990 was united with the Yemen Arab Republic to form the Republic of Yemen.

Like most Americans at the time, my image of the Middle East was gloomy, and official Washington did nothing to relieve my foreboding.  The US State Department viewed the government in Aden (Yemen’s capital) as the most radical of all the regimes in the Arab world.

No American official had entered the country since the June, 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and this meant I would be without the protection of the US government and would have no diplomatic assistance once I arrived.

While pondering whether to make the trip, I asked a senior diplomat what the State Department would do if the South Yemen regime put me in jail too.  His unsettling answer, “We would try and find another congressman willing to go there and try to get you out.”

Findley made the trip and to his surprise was well treated by Franklin’s captors. He was received at the airport by Yemeni officials. He was provided housing in a government guest house. Three days later the congressman met with the country’s president, who informed him that his constituent would be released into Findley’s custody.

That was the beginning of Findley’s involvement with the world’s Muslim population, which at the time, much to his surprise,  exceeded more than a billion people. He began to educate himself about the Muslim religion and culture.

He determined that he would work to eradicate the “grossly distorted public perceptions of Muslims” in the West.

Six years after his trip to Yemen, his 1980 Democratic opponent for Congress portrayed him as “anti-Semitic” because of his efforts to “bring justice to the Palestinians.” He was defended on that false allegation by Jewish colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans.

Findley won that election, but two years later, after 22 years in Congress, he lost his seat to Richard Durbin, who later ascended to the US Senate seat vacated by Paul Simon, thanks to strong support from the Israel Lobby, which did not like what it saw in Findley’s openness to the Muslim community.

Findley stands in stark contrast to Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who recently attacked President Obama for calling on Bibi Netanyahu to freeze settlement building around Jerusalem.

In March, 2009, two months after taking office, President Obama chose Charles Freeman as his National Intelligence Council Director. Schumer did not approve. He said Freeman had been too critical of Israel. Schumer prevailed and Obama withdrew the nomination.

Later Schumer bragged that he had a hand in making the White House “do the right thing.”

At the time, Greg Sargent wrote in the blog, Who Runs Gov that Schumer touted himself as a giant killer in a statement his office sent to the media, quoting Schumer:

“Charles Freeman was the wrong guy for this position. His statements against Israel were way over the top and severely out of step with the administration. I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.”

On his blog, the Washington Note, Steve Clemons commented on Schumer’s interview on a recent right wing Jewish radio program in New York.

Schumer’s screed gets to the edge of sounding as if he is more a Senator working in the Knesset than working in the United States Senate. This is the 2nd time I know of that Schumer has publicly crossed the line when it came to zealously blaming his own government and colleagues in delicate matters of US-Israel-Palestine policy.

During the third of three major efforts of the George W. Bush administration to get the recess appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton confirmed in the US Senate, Senator Schumer launched a passionate personal campaign to help Bolton succeed.

Clemons was active in the successful effort to block Bolton’s move from a recess appointment to full Senate confirmation. During his short term as UN ambassador, Bolton was openly disdainful of the UN as an institution.

Schumer passionately supported Bolton, a well-known Republican neo-conservative, going against his own party’s opposition to Bolton.

In his book, Findley reflects on his loss to Durbin, now the Illinois senior senator,  in 1982:

If I had won re-election that year, I probably would never have explored Islam or written this book [which includes stories of leading Muslims in American society]–or two books on US-Israeli relationships.

That is a positive attitude for Findley to adopt, but one does wonder: Is the Israel lobby that far reaching in its future planning to determine in 1982 it had to replace Findley with a young Dick Durbin?

At any rate, AIPAC knew Findley had to go. His eyes had been opened. Best to keep him off the Jericho Road.

The picture at the top is of Gaza children during the Gaza Freedom March.  It is from the Sabbah Report. All links to other sources are in color or underlined. I encourage readers to click on these links to explore this topic in greater detail.

For example, you may order Paul Findley’s book from Amazon by clicking on the book’s title above. Also, click on the link for that “great getting up day” for a short rendering of some great choral music. For Dietrich Bonhoeffer on “cheap grace”, click on “cheap grace” above.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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7 Responses to Do Not Call It a Military Conflict; It’s The Occupation, Stupid

  1. Cotton Fite says:

    Your reminder, Jim, that using the term occupation rather than conflict to describe the Israeli/Palestinian situation is helpful. Conflict suggests there is some kind of parity between the two, and as more of the world is coming to acknowledge, there is none. A word that accompanies occupation is resistance, and the Palestinian people have been resisting in mainly non-violent ways since its beginning. It is past time for us to actively support that resistance with some form of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions).

  2. A. Hume says:

    Thank you for this excellent article on the importance of language. Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Dec. 2008-Jan. 2009 was a “massacre” not a “war.” There was no opposing army. It was an attack on unarmed civilians and civilian infrastructure. Accurate words are necessary to tell the truth.

  3. Lorie Wood says:

    Cotton Fite says it right! Or as the Quaker that I am says it, “Cotton Fite speaks my mind.” Having experienced the Occupation more than once I can do nothing except agree and add my voice to the call an end to this disgrace of human rights violations.

  4. Ed Lewis says:

    Brovo for calling it what it is…. 62 years of occupation and human rights abuse and all the while supported with money.
    It’s about time we connect the dops.

  5. Another “flavor” of Christianity is found in Sabeel’s liberation theology movement based on the teaching of Jesus and rooted in a spirituality based in love, justice, peace, nonviolence and empowered by prayer in action.

    “No hope for change is even possible until the occupation ends…the first step is to confront and analyze the roots of the conflict and its development…to move toward a solution in Israel-Palestine, the illegal Israeli occupation must come to an end and Palestinian violence must stop…Justice [will be] done when international law is implemented…Once justice is done, peace will not be far off.” Rev. Ateek, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation Page 123-124.

  6. Rod Parrott says:

    The critique of rhetoric is well taken, but I would take it even further: when is “entangling alliance” more accurate than “treaty”; or “foreign agent,” than “member of congress”?

    The “Jewish Virtual Library,” an on-line project of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise says (; referenced April 24, 2010): “Jewish congressmen are naturally expected to be supportive of Israel and, with the exception of occasional odd votes, this is true.” Given that presumed bias, why not insist that Jewish members of Congress recuse themselves on matters affecting US/Israel relations? That might make honest representatives of folk like Lieberman, Schumer, Cantor, and the like. What to do with Durbin? Maybe a good Middle East history course and a Sabeel fact-finding trip.

  7. John Kane says:

    I, too, would take the critique of language even further — yes, it is “occupation,” but increasingly approaches (and achieves) “ethnic clensing.” The latter is, of course, a far more inflamatory term, but is it not what’s actually involved in Israely rhetoric about security and greater Israel?

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