Discerning “Signs of the Times” in Iowa and Israel

by James M. Wall1708287919

Jesus told his disciples they must learn to “discern the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3).

In the Iowa caucuses, Monday, February 1, voters will offer their secular versions of political signs for the future when they select two potential presidential candidates.

Democrats will choose between an establishment leader who seeks to become the nation’s first female president, and a declared Socialist Senator from Vermont, who could become the nation’s first Jewish president.

Republicans have many choices for a future president, led by a raging bully named Trump, a “non-politician” who has so far outrun all the politicians lined up against him.

Which 2016 political signs are there for discernment? For voters concerned about guns, ISIS, God, wages, and health care, signs abound. But don’t look for signs to discern the end of Israel’s continued military control over the people of Palestine.

There are none. Unless, that is, the total absence of signs, is a sign in itself.

Don’t look to the Iowa caucus results for any grasp of reality on the Palestine-Israel issue.  Look instead to corners of Israel’s media. Begin with Israel’s major moderate daily, Ha’aretz.  Its editor-publisher, Amos Shocken, began an editorial in his own publication with these clear and cogent words:

“There are many differences between conditions in South Africa during the apartheid era and those current in the land from the Jordan River to the sea, especially in the territories that Israel controls beyond its internationally recognized borders. However, there is one important feature they share: two peoples living on one piece of land.

“One people has all the rights and protections, while the other is deprived of numerous rights and lives under the former’s control. Israel determines the fate and day-to-day life of millions of people who have no influence over its decisions.

“The government of Israel is the party that will debate whether or not to accept the Israel Defense Forces’ recommendation to ease policies toward the Palestinian Authority and its people.

“In South Africa, there were similar discussions about easing apartheid for blacks. 

“Israel as an apartheid state is not a viable situation, not only because of the corruption of values but also because this predicament is liable to lead Israel, like South Africa in its time, to banishment from the family of nations.”

51kGfZMtQbL._SL300_This is from a highly respected Israeli publication. Remember how the American media and the Democratic party leaders denounced President Jimmy Carter for even his use of the term “apartheid” in the title of his 2007 book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid ?

This is a sign to be discerned. 

Almost a decade later, Jimmy Carter is still speaking the language of political realism and faith, which remains foreign to the current leaders of this nation. 

The headline and subheadline that greeted Ha’aretz readers over Schocken’s editorial are also signs to be discerned: “Only International Pressure Will End Israeli Apartheid”:

“The growing delegitimization of Israel is this country’s own handiwork. Should Israel decide to end apartheid, it will return to being legitimate in every respect.”

Later in his editorial, Schocken wrote a critique rarely found in U.S. media or any mainstream political utterance, of what Israel’s current government policies have done to the concept of Zionism:

“The nearly 50 years of Israeli apartheid are not based on security considerations. Zionism, which was always prepared to divide the land of Israel with its Arab inhabitants, was replaced by the godly promise of the Land of Israel for the Jewish people.

“This promise is being fulfilled by constant, methodical settlement in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) along with the pushing of Palestinians into defined enclaves and small, crowded population areas.

“This is the reason for the abuse of Palestinians, for the expulsion, exclusion, construction bans, lack of freedom of movement and prevention of development in Area C, which makes up roughly 60% of the West Bank.”

In speaking to his disciples, as recorded in Matthew, Jesus contrasts their ability to read the signs in the sky to guide them in their fishing plans. He said to them, in effect, you know when rain is predicted, or when clear skies lie ahead. 

But, he admonishes them, you do not read the signs that reveal the results of your conduct, nor do you read the signs that signal your failure to grasp reality.

Political candidates in Iowa refused to touch the issue for which Ha’aretz Editor Amos Schocken gave them the road map to peace.

Their silence is a sign of political impotence when seeking money and votes. 

The current US president was also silent on this issue in his two campaigns for the office. But now that he is in final year of office, he provides a sign of what a U.S. politician free of the burden of Israel’s control is able to say.

Barack Obama’s current appointed ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro (below), spoke at an Israeli conference January 18, using language that as Ha’aretz reported, was “nearly unprecedented”:3074171107

“United States Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, voiced nearly unprecedented criticism against Israel’s settlements in the West Bank on Monday. Shapiro praised progress made in the investigation into the arson-murder in the Palestinian village of Duma, but emphasized the inadequate response by Israeli authorities to settler violence against Palestinians.

“Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference in Tel Aviv, Shapiro said, “Too much Israeli vigilantism in the West Bank goes on unchecked,” adding that “there is a lack of thorough investigations… at times it seems Israel has two standards of adherence to rule of law in the West Bank – one for Israelis and one for Palestinians.”

Shapiro’s speech was a clear sign of a political figure willing to speak honestly for the good of the oppressed.  God forbid, we will have to wait another eight years to see such signs and hear such honesty. 

The picture at top was taken at a Jerusalem check point when a mother and her children stood and waited while two Israeli soldiers examine their papers before they were allowed to take the road home. It is an AP photo from Ha’aretz. The picture of Shapiro is also from Ha’aretz.

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 writings.me, 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 jameswall8@gmail.com 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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6 Responses to Discerning “Signs of the Times” in Iowa and Israel

  1. Roy Hayes says:

    Good one, Jim. I’ll be sharing it with my mailing list tomorrow. I have an extensive mailing list. What’s more, there are people on my mailing list who have mailing lists at least as extensive as my own. Cheers, Roy

  2. Pauline Coffman says:

    Same here, Roy and Jim! Good to have Dan Shapiro’s comments included. Even Washington Week in Review spoke out against settlements over the weekend, as though it were generally accepted wisdom. About time. Another eight years? Oh, please, no.

  3. Sami Joseph says:

    I am a Palestinian Jerusalemite Christian living in exile in the UK. I am pleased that the first thing I decided to do this morning is to check your admirable blog.

    Although implied but not stated, the gentlemen to whom you refer have acted out of deep concern in the very best interests of state of Israel which is nowadays regarded by enlightened people everywhere as a rogue racist entity, exposed against the odds and despite its almost near universal grip on the mainstream media. However, thanks to the internet, hardly a day goes by without seeing videos and/or pictures of savage rabid Zionist settlers’ and IDF attacks on defenseless Palestinians, most disturbingly against minors and women, triggered by lawless fanaticism that evokes unprecedented repulsion. The pictures speak for themselves.
    The excesses of the Israelis have reached such a level that, not unlike Schocken and Shapiro, I too see things have reached a boiling point where the beleaguered Palestinians have no other choice but pay the price and emulate the Vietnamese at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

    Lastly, the defeat of Zionism in Palestine could also signal the release of the western world from Zionist bondage.

  4. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Thank you, Jim. There is no doubt that nothing will change in the Apartheid state of Israel, unless it is under genuine pressure from the US. President Obama’s appointment of Mr. Dan Shapiro as US Ambassador to Israel, is a brilliant move, indeed. He cannot be falsely labeled as anti-Semitic, nor can he be labeled as a “self-hating Jew”. Being Jewish, but not an “Israel Firster”, provides the US Ambassador with some courage to speak out more truthfully and blatantly to Israel’s tyrannical occupation.
    The next President of the US may also support this move, either out of conviction, or out of convenience. It seems to me that this significant appointment is one of President Obama’s “soft” responses to Netanyahu’s “America-in-his-pocket” approach. More importantly, it is one that gives peace-with-justice a chance.

  5. Samia Khoury says:

    An excellent article as usual Jim. Highlighting the article of Haaretz and the speech of the American Ambassador in that context was brilliant. Unfortunately it is going to take more than that to end this brutal occupation especially when even Israeli Jewish voices of dissent are being harassed and paying a price for seeing the signs of the country’s downfall.

  6. oldkahuna says:

    The words of Jesus are an echo of an international film. The primary persons are fighting a losing battle against Franco in Spain. As they approach the border the lead character says, “We do not have to succeed to win. We just do our job of being present and reporting for duty.”
    “Success” in Palestine will not come from ANY single action, but as long as we keep reporting for duty, we will win.”

    One thing we can ALL count on, Jim, is that you will “keep reporting.” Thank you.

    Bernie is Jewish and he has not spoken out much about Palestine. I presume this is because OUR political climate demands co-opting with the Zionists. But Bernie hates everything Bibi does and is totally against the “Zionist” movement in Israel-Palestine. Bernie’s sense of justice will force him not to remain silent after his election and will force him to withdraw much of our support for Israel’s current version of Zionism. (Read you history of Zionism and you’ll see it has nothing to do with the current fakery.) I truly believe OUR election is a “sign of the times.” Inform yourselves and do not allow THIS occasion for us in the USA to pass by unnoticed.

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