Big Brother or Hillary: A Final Muddled Choice

Carolyn Kasteer:AP Daily Beast

By James M. Wall

George Orwell’s 1984 is now dangerously close to reality. In the picture above, Donald J. Trump looms on the large screen behind the nominee, bringing an ominous reminder of Orwell’s “Big Brother”.

The acceptance speech Trump gave on the closing night of the Republican National Convention was filled with emotional shouts designed to engender fear. 

Donald John Trump’s speech echoed a tone across the years, a reminder of four of Orwell’s oft-quoted slogans from his 1949 dystopian novel, 1984: “War is peace; Freedom is slavery; Ignorance is strength; Big Brother is Watching You.”

The Democrats will nominate Hillary Clinton this week. On Friday, she announced Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her vice-presidential choice, a decision which could stir a negative convention response from Bernie Sanders’ delegates.  

It is, however, an establishment choice her delegates and donor base will embrace. 

Vote for Jill Stein’s Green Party or Gary Johnson’s Libertarian Party if you like. But remember, a third-party vote is a feel-good protest. Save it to vote for next year’s Homecoming Queen and King.

The harsh reality is that we have reached a moment of serious choice where we have the power to give the White House to Orwell’s “Big Brother” or to the Establishment’s Chosen One.george-orwell-6

Choices of this magnitude are never easy. Not to choose, however, is to hide in fear in a fox hole on our national political battlefield.

Donald Trump’s acceptance speech gave us more than enough reason to stay with the Establishment, as distasteful as four more years of neoliberal militarism will be.

Molly Ball, in The Atlantic, offered her analysis of the convention that pushed this nation to its penultimate decision for president. She began:

And so it came to pass, in the year 2016, on a sunny day in America’s heartland, in a hall smelling of sweat and popcorn and filled with a seething, roaring crowd, that Donald Trump—builder, shocker, demagogue, smasher of certainties, destroyer of the Republican Party, winner—accepted his party’s nomination, with a vow to restore order.

“Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities,” Trump proclaimed, his hand slicing the air, his pompadour gleaming with the reflection of hundreds of lights. “I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon—and I mean very soon—come to an end,” he added. . . .

Trump exploits the senseless deaths of police officers, to create fear in his listeners. It was a simplistic, bombastic Trump “toe in the water” dip into a complex domestic crisis. He promises to “restore order” to the nation “very soon”.

Does he not know? Has he not been told? Cities and states are responsible for law enforcement, not the federal government.

Trump moved deeply into his fear and hatred diatribe with many facts that were wrong. Juan Cole identified one of many distortions (he has others):

AP’s Fact Check found that as usual Donald Trump’s statistics in his GOP acceptance speech are way beyond the ‘damned lies’ level. So here are some illustrative graphs to suggest the level of his duplicity: “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years.” (Statistica)

Actually violent crime including murder has fallen precipitously in the US since 1990. The murder rate is historically low, which means that year to year statistical fluctuations can easily be exaggerated. . . .

Trump not only gave voters a display of how tyranny is born, but in so doing, he has damaged the Republican Party as the preserver of conservative values. For some, “the party died” in the Cleveland convention.

That death is painfully described in this interview with Nicole Wallace, a veteran Republican party professional:

The picture at top is by Carolyn Kasteer. It is an AP photo that appeared in the Daily Beast.

Posted in Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | 4 Comments

Our Long Trump Nightmare Grows In intensity

by James M. WallThe_Scream

The posting below originally ran in this space, March 2, 2016. Since the Trump nightmare has only grown in intensity, I am reproducing the earlier posting for the benefit of new readers, and as a reminder for all of us, that elections have consequences.—Jim Wall

Super Tuesday [March 1] performed as predicted. Hillary Clinton won six southern states with considerable African-American backing. She narrowly won Massachusetts. Sanders won Vermont, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Colorado.

The major message from this particular Super Tuesday is that Donald Trump has emerged as an even more threatening nightmare to both political parties. It is a nightmare which will only grow in intensity.

Trump’s success is rooted in the political toxins of fear and hate, symbiotic emotions generated by a political process whose dominant generating force is the manic desire to gain power and control wealth.

That force is so prevalent that a disturbingly large and expanding number of voters do not respond to the current political culture with the agonizing “scream” displayed above in the iconic composition by the Expressionist Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.

Instead of screaming in horror, those voters thrive on fear and hate, toxic forces that landed with the pious Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.

After the Pilgrims and their successors conquered and slaughtered the indigenous people of a not-so-new land, a new republic grew into an empire, but at what a cost. “We reap what we sow” is the harsh reminder of how we got to this moment that demands a “scream”.

In our current political incarnation, Republicans are directly responsible for Trumpism, while Democrats assisted in creating the cultural soil in which Trumpism was born and raised.

The Democratic Party developed a softer brand of fear and hate through its militant neoliberalism. That softer brand is now embodied in the campaign of Hillary Clinton, carrying forward the Clinton brand her husband shaped and polished in his two terms in the White House.

Nicholas Kristof describes the current Trump phenomenon in polite New York Times language when he writes:

The most likely Republican nominee for president is a man who mocks women, insults Latinos, endorses war crimes like torture, denounces party icons and favors barring people from the United States based on their religion.

He’s less a true-believer conservative than an opportunist, though, for he has supported single-payer health insurance, abortion rights and tighter gun measures. Lindsey Graham says he’s “crazy,” Jeb Bush says he would be worse than President Obama, and the conservative National Review warned that he is a “menace to American conservatism.”

alternetDonald Trump is “smarter than critics believe — he understood the political mood better than we pundits did — but I can’t think of any national politician I’ve met over the decades who was so ill informed on the issues, or so evasive, or who so elegantly and dangerously melded bombast and vapidity”.

Kristof asks the question we will hear increasingly over the next nine months, “how did we get to this stage where the leading Republican candidate is loathed by the Republican establishment?”

His answer is direct: “Republican leaders brought this on themselves. Over the decades they pried open a Pandora’s box, a toxic politics of fear and resentment, sometimes brewed with a tinge of racial animus, and they could never satisfy the unrealistic expectations that they nurtured among supporters”.

Peter Wehner is a self-described evangelical Christian and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He served in the last three Republican administrations. He speaks from the GOP side of the political spectrum and the conservative side of the religious spectrum.

The question that troubles him is why is Donald Trump “the candidate of choice of many evangelical Christians?” He probes for an answer in a recent New York Times column he wrote before Trump’s Super Tuesday victories:

Mr. Trump won a plurality of evangelical votes in each of the last three Republican contests, in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. He won the glowing endorsement of Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, who has called him ‘one of the greatest visionaries of our time.’ Last week, Pat Robertson, the founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, told Mr. Trump during an interview, ‘You inspire us all.’

Wehner adds that “Trump’s evangelical supporters don’t care about his agenda; they are utterly captivated by his persona. They view him as the strongest, most dominant, most assertive political figure they have ever seen. In an odd bow to Nietzschean ethics, they respect and applaud his Will to Power. And so the man who openly admires tyrants like Vladimir V. Putin and praised the Chinese crackdown in Tiananmen Square because it showed ‘strength’ has become the repository of their hopes”.

Set aside the fact that Mr. Trump is a compulsive and unrepentant liar. Set aside, too, that he has demonstrated no ability for statecraft or the actual administration of government and has demonstrated much incompetence at business to boot. Bracket for now the fact that Mr. Trump has been more erratic, unprincipled and proudly ignorant when it comes to public policy than perhaps any major presidential candidate in American history.

What “stuns” Wehner is how “his fellow evangelicals can rally behind a man whose words and actions are so at odds with the central teachings of our faith. They overlook, rationalize and even delight in Mr. Trump’s obsessive name-calling and Twitter attacks, his threats and acts of intimidation, his vindictiveness and casual cruelty (including mocking the disabled and P.O.W.s), all of which masquerade as strength and toughness.”

This Republican evangelical Christian points to a conclusion that has obviously disturbed him: “For some evangelicals, Christianity is no longer shaping their politics; with Mr. Trump in view, their faith lies subordinate”.

Yet it goes beyond that. Trumpism is not a political philosophy; it is a purposeful effort, led by a demagogue, to incite ugly passions, stoke resentments and divisions, and create fear of those who are not like ‘us’ — Mexicans, Muslims and Syrian refugees. But it will not end there. There will always be fresh targets.

Author and analyst Mike Lofgren identifies the source of the fear and hate that generated Trumpism, the “war on terror”:

The ‘war on terror’ is the longest continuous war in US history. Taxpayers have ponied up over $4 trillion to wage it. Yet the consensus of our intelligence community is that we are more in danger than ever. Did we spend more than $4 trillion to make ourselves less safe? Let us unpack the contradictions.

Terrorism in the United States is statistically a negligible cause of mortality: One is about as likely to die from being crushed by a flat-screen TV, and more likely to die falling in the bathtub than from terrorism. Imagine if we had spent $4 trillion to cure cancer or heart disease. Nevertheless, nearly every word US government officials have uttered about the matter during the last 15 years has been designed to instill dread of terrorism in the population. And it has worked.

Lofgren cites a study of the South Carolina Republican primary which found that voters “declared terrorism to be their foremost concern, eclipsing a stagnant, low-wage economy; deteriorating living standards leading to an actual increase in the death rate of GOP voters’ core demographic; and the most expensive and least available health care in the ‘developed’ world.”

It is not just the voters of South Carolina who see “terrorism” as our nation’s “foremost concern”. We are a people described in this statement by a foremost authority on shaping national concerns:

The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

—Hermann Goring, in an interview by Gustave Gilbert, April 18, 1946.

The reproduction of The Scream is from Wikipedia. The photo of Donald Trump is from AlterNet.

Posted in Donald Trump, US govermemt | 4 Comments

Will “Greatness” Elude Yet Another President?

by James M. Wallimages-1

Will McAlvoy (Jeff Daniels), (right), played a newscaster working for a fictional cable news network on The Newsroom, a program which ran on HBO (2012-2014).

The writer of The Newsroom series is Aaron Sorkin, creator and lead author of the earlier television political series, The West Wing.

The Newsroom is The West Wing on steroids, same rapid-fire dialogue, same personal interaction carried out by a cast which talks and walks rapidly in their search for greatness.

Sorkin has honed this style in a career that began with A Few Good Men (Jack Nicholson, “You can’t handle the truth”) and includes Michael Douglas as The American President.

In 2011, at the time The Newsroom was unveiling its first season, the Republican party was attempting to absorb know-nothing political candidates from the Tea Party, a rebellious crowd which has now morphed into a “brand movement” called Donald Trump.

In episode one of The Newsroom’s first season. a college student asks panel members, “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?”

Two panelists offer the usual platitudes, “diversity and opportunity”, and “freedom and freedom, and let’s keep it that way.”

Will McAvoy fumes a moment, and then responds: “It’s NOT the greatest country in the world. That’s my answer.”

His expanded answer has become a television classic. Click here for a clip from that episode:

It is increasingly apparent that in this era of racial discord at home and perpetual wars abroad, we are not “the greatest country in the world”. In this summer of our discontent, from Mosul to Dallas, we struggle with conflicts as we gather to nominate two presidential candidates.

A battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is generally believed to be a contest between the least popular presidential candidates in modern times (or, more accurately, in the time of polling.)

Two vice-presidential candidates will soon be selected as running mates, first, the Republican, who Donald Trump has promised will be an experienced office-holder, an obvious attempt to add to his complete lack of experience in electoral office.

The Washington Post reports three names which appear to be in contention, all elected leaders: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.).

On Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders delivered his long-delayed Clinton endorsement in New Hampshire. It may be presumed Sanders got as much as he could from Clinton in the party platform on matters related to his domestic views on college tuition and minimum wage.

Clinton, however, held on tightly to her woefully outdated stubborn obeisance to the Jewish Lobby on both Israeli occupation and settlements.

Which raises the question: How can a nation, no matter how advanced and strong, even possibly consider itself “great” when its foreign policy is run by a lobby for a foreign power?

Clinton’s eventual vice-presidential selection will almost certainly be someone who is not offensive to Sanders. If not, a vice-presidential vote during the Democratic convention could be just the contentious affair the Clinton operation wants to avoid.

In his script for the 1964 film, The Best Man, adapted from his 1960 play, Gore Vidal demonstrates just how large a role personal character plays in the selection of presidential nominees. The two leading candidates in Vidal’s script for the (unnamed) party’s nomination are Secretary of State William Russell (Henry Fonda), and Senator Joe Cantrell (Cliff Robertson).

Their fictional struggle sets up a conservative anti-communist candidate (Cantrell), against a liberal Luther-quoting intellectual (Russell). Each candidate has “mud from the past” to throw against the other. What they choose to do with the “mud” reveals much about their character.

Both candidates are eager to gain the endorsement of the outgoing popular President, Art Hockstader (Lee Tracy), a self-styled “political hick” who thrives on infighting. Tracy received a 1964 Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for this performance.

In the film, President Hockstader is prescient when (in 1964) he suggests to a banquet audience, with a smile of disbelief, that some day the American people could even elect an African American (he says “Negro”) or a woman president.

Vidal’s 1960 play has been revived on regional stages. Vidal says he has not seen any reason to revise the political machinations of The Best Man..

The short clip below, made to promote the (still available) DVD, includes dialogue which continues to feel fresh in 2016.

If any of the nights during the two upcoming conventions become tiresome, The Best Man offers some fast-paced and tense moments from the 1960s.

Of course, one thing that has changed since then, is that “the best man” is an outmoded title, a reality Hillary Clinton will most certainly exploit during the coming months.

Posted in -Movies and politics, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | 5 Comments

“Cunning of Reason” Will End Israel’s Occupation

by James M. Wallv1.bjs1MTg2NDA7ajsxNzAxNjsxMjAwOzE0NDA7MTA4MA

A search for hope began with a viewing of the 2014 film, Interstellar, the mind-stretching movie directed by Christopher Nolan, and written by Christopher and his brother Jonathan Nolan. Interstellar is one of those motion pictures that lifts the spirits because it brings hope to human experience.

After viewing the nearly three-hour Interstellar, I came across Louis Menand, a writer who cuts through the miasma of contemporary politics by carefully observing the past.  For contemplation during this nation’s Independence Day week, The New Yorker chose to publish a collection of Menand’s essays, starting with his story of the dramatic and long-delayed passage of what became the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. 

It was a bill that passed with an unplanned addition. Menand writes:

Most Americans who made it past the fourth grade have a pretty good idea who Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr., were. Not many Americans have even heard of Alice Paul, Howard W. Smith, and Martha Griffiths.

This trio played significant roles in the history of women’s rights. They opened the way to equal economic opportunity. Nearly all the gains women have made in that area since the passage of that 1964 bill may be attributed to them.  What was peculiar about the achievement of Paul, Smith and Griffith, Menand explains, is that equality for gender became law only after it was slipped into a Civil Rights Bill drafted primarily to achieve equal rights for African American men and women.

The addition of “gender” to that Bill, “was accomplished in the face of the unequivocal opposition of the liberal establishment.” (The Menand essay should be read in full to appreciate the political machinations that led to the bill’s final passage.) In his essay, Louis Menand focuses on the equality for American women in the workplace. I choose to go a step further and focus on the gross inequality of citizenship between Israelis and Palestinians.

If that sound familiar, it should, because it is that same liberal establishment that has aided and abetted the state of Israel in its murderous military occupation of the people of Palestine since 1947.

This reluctance extends to punishment of any entity which stands in the way of the military dominance of the American empire. Ask New York Governor Cuomo (below) why he signed an anti-BDS executive order in New York City, June 5, with Ido Aharoni, the Israeli consul general, standing behind him.andrew_cuomo-1

Speaking to state and local legislators and Israel lobby activists at the Harvard Club in Manhattan, Cuomo said, “If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you. If you divert revenues from Israel, New York will divert revenues from you. If you sanction Israel, New York will sanction you. Period.”

Menand examines the 1964 Civil Rights victory and points to it as a classic case of what the philosopher Frederich Hegel called “the cunning of reason, the way apparently random or anomalous events later turn out to be pieces in a larger historical design”.

Be forewarned Governor Andrew Cuomo, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there is a “larger historical design” at play and you are each building a personal case of political cowardice which will judge you and your fellow establishment leaders when that “design” emerges in full view.

As a philosopher, Hegel stayed within the boundaries of secular language. For those in the Christian tradition, there is a parallel testimony to Hegel’s “cunning of reason” in William Cowper’s 19th century hymn:

God moves in a mysterious way; His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.

Cowper’s words are his own, though they are often mistakenly attributed to the New Testament.

The “cunning of reason” is echoed in a biblical source, Romans 11:33:

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (KJV).

In this week of fireworks and celebrations of American independence, there is most certainly “a larger historical design” even now pointing to the yet-unseen, but inevitable collapse of Israel’s illegal, occupation.

b58b1240-4691-0132-417f-0ebc4eccb42fFrom film Director Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar perspective, Commander Cooper (Matthew McConaugheyleft) successfully took his space craft through a black hole into the fifth dimension where he learned what lay ahead for the planet he had left behind.

Cooper returned to his past to confirm that future to the 10-year-old daughter, Murph, he had left on earth.

When he makes another journey, Murph is now an elderly woman surrounded by her own family. As a child, she had deeply resented her father for leaving her, but she never stopped working for the future she had been promised by her father.

The childhood Murph and the elderly Murph both believe, without articulating it, that they are part of a “larger historical design”. They do not know what lies ahead, but they knew they had a role to play in contributing to those random events revealed in Hagel’s “design”.

American presidential aspirants come and go. Israeli rulers intimidate, dominate and fail. Governors take cheap shots. National church bodies sing kumbaya, (the Presbyterians a significant exception), and in so doing, endorse the occupation.

Around them all, known fully only from a higher dimension, the “historical design” continues to move forward in “apparently random or anomalous events”.

Photos from the film Interstellar are from Paramount Pictures. The picture of Governor Cuomo is by Kevin P. Coughlin of the Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Posted in Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Religious Faith | 6 Comments

Was the Brexit Vote “Good for the Jews”?

by James M. Wall

A Jewish mother hears her family cheering. She cries out, “what happened?” One of the men gathered around the radio, shouts back, “Mel Ott just hit a home run!”

She responds, “Is it good for the Jews”?

That is the version of the story I first heard in my sports writing days. Ott was not Jewish, but he played for, and managed, the New York Giants, which had a large Jewish fan base.

Stanley Fish explained the importance of the question of what is good for Jews, when he wrote in the New York Times, March 4, 2007:

When I was growing up in the ’40s and ’50s, a single question was asked in my neighborhood of every piece of news, large or small, local or national: “Is it good for the Jews?” We have now learned to identify this question in all of its versions – Is it good for the Catholics? Is it good for the Latinos?

Is it good for the gays? and on and on – as the paradigmatic question of identity politics, the politics that is derived not from some general, even universal, assertion of what is good, but from a particularized concern with insular interests. Is it good for us, for those of our kind, for our tribe?

It is no surprise that on both sides of the Atlantic, tribal media from all persuasions responded to the surprising Brexit vote with the Jewish mother’s question, “is it good for us?”

In the picture above, from Jerusalem’s Ha’aretz, Mark Regev, Israel’s new ambassador to England, meets Queen Elizabeth for a private audience at Buckingham Palace, London, June 24, the day after the Brexit vote.

It is to be assumed the rejection of the European Union by the majority of the Queen’s subjects, was a major topic of their conversation.

In a story from Britain’s Independent, Regev is described as a staunch defender of Israel’s “security”. He is the former official spokesman for Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu:

The new ambassador will be one of the most high-profile members of the London diplomatic circuit, especially following the media exposure he received in his previous job [as media spokesman]. 

He will also bring with him a reputation for great tenacity in putting forward his country’s case during times of crisis, and infuriating critics while doing so. 

From the U.S. progressive left, Robert Parry writes in Consortium, that the June 23 Brexit vote to exit the EU by the margin of 52% to 48%, could be good news for the powerless.

In the quotation below, Parry concludes with a nice turn inspired by Reinhold Niebuhr:

The United Kingdom’s “Brexit” vote may cause short-term economic pain and present long-term geopolitical risks, but it is a splash of ice water in the face of the West’s Establishment, which has grown more and more insular, elitist and unaccountable over recent decades.

The West’s powers-that-be, in both the United States and the European Union, too often display contempt for real democracy, maintaining only the façade of respecting the popular will, manipulating voters at election time with red-meat politics and empty promises – before getting back to the business of comforting the comfortable and letting the comfortable afflict the afflicted.

From Nazareth, British-born Jonathan Cook, wrote in his blog (reposted by Mondoweiss) on the Leave victory. He issues dire warnings to Israel and the established order:

The conventional wisdom, following Britain’s referendum result announced on Friday [June 24], holds that the narrow vote in favor of leaving the European Union – so-called Brexit – is evidence of a troubling resurgence of nationalism and isolationism across much of Europe.

That wisdom is wrong, or at least far too simplistic.

The outcome, which surprised many observers, attested to the deeply flawed nature of the referendum campaign. That, in turn, reflects a key failing of modern politics, not only in Britain but in most of the developed world: the re-emergence of an unaccountable political class.

The most distinctive feature of the campaign was the lack of an identifiable ideological battlefield. This was not about a clash of worldviews, values or even arguments. Rather, it was a contest in who could fearmonger most effectively.

Later in his posting, Cook focused specifically on Israel’s shaky world status:

The trends underpinning the Brexit vote should disturb Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, just as they already are troubling the political class in Europe and the US.

Like the EU, Israel too, is a pillar of the old global order. A ‘Jewish homeland. emerged under British protection while Britain still ran an empire and saw the Middle East as its playground.

After the European colonial powers went into abeyance following the Second World War, the role of patron shifted to the new global hegemon in Washington. The US has endlessly indulged Israel, guarded its back at the United Nations, and heavily subsidised Israel’s powerful military industries.

Whereas the US has propped up Israel diplomatically and militarily, the EU has underwritten Israel’s economic success. It has violated its own constitution to give Israel special trading status and thereby turned Europe into Israel’s largest export market.

It has taken decades for Europe to even acknowledge – let alone remedy – the problem that it is also trading with illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

If the EU starts to unravel, and US neoliberal hegemony weakens, Israel will be in trouble. It will be in desperate need of a new guarantor, one prepared to support a country that polls repeatedly show is mistrusted around the world.

Forward writer Mik Moore connects the Brexit vote to both Israel and the U.S.:

“Is it good for the Jews?” is as much a punchline as a question. And yet, whether the question is asked explicitly or not, there remains a corner of our community that brings a “good for the Jews” mentality to every concern. , , ,

In the immediate shadow of the Holocaust or pogroms, Jews were understandably guided by a sense of their own precariousness. That’s what should happen when governments are committed to your annihilation.

But 60 years later, particularly in the United States, it is wrong to pretend that Jews, as a community, are similarly vulnerable. Jews are the wealthiest religious group in the United States, and with the exception of Hindus, the most educated.  .  .  .

Distrust of the political class is growing by the day, and Israel is an issue on which US politicians are supremely vulnerable. It is increasingly hard to defend Congress’ historic rock-solid support for Israel as truly in American interests.

In his blog, written from Canada, Philip Lee, a native of Great Britain, expands the impact of the vote to the increasing right wing movement in Europe, under the headline: “Europe is coming apart at the seams”.:

A catastrophe looms post-Brexit and the United Kingdom has chosen to lose its voice.

European politics are in turmoil. In Austria, Norbert Hofer has narrowly failed to become Austria’s first far-right head of state. In France, Marine Le Pen has a good chance of winning next year’s presidential election. And in Poland, conservative president Andrzej Duda is intent on seizing control of the country’s media, judicial system, and constitutional tribunal (Poland’s highest court).

Government actions in Hungary were recently described by the president of the European Parliament as having the “characteristics of a coup”, and in Bulgaria the government has allocated $19 million to erect more razor-wire fences to prevent migrants from entering and has called out the army to secure its borders.

There are aggressive nationalist parties in Germany, Macedonia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Finland, Belgium, and on the “sceptred isle” itself, where extremist Britain First is trying to provoke what it calls a revolution in the streets through “militant direct action”, invading mosques, and targeting Muslim officials such as the new Mayor of London.

Philip Lee points further to Natalie Nougayrède’s article in the British Guardian which describes the vote as a wake-up call “to save Europe”.

Nougayrède writes that the vote has put “the cohesion and strength of western liberal democracies at stake in a global environment plagued with uncertainties. Now populist, far-right and anti-western forces will push forward in the belief that a precedent has been set for other ‘exits’.”

To quote Bob Dylan, the “times they are changing”, but unexpected events have a way of producing change in dramatic form. This could be one of those times.

The picture at top of Queen Elizabeth and Ambassador Regev is by Dominic Lipinsk,  for Reuters.

The picture of ballot counting is from a voting place in England. It was taken by Neil Hall for Reuters. 

Posted in Israel, Jewish faith and tradition, Judiasm, Palestinians, Politics and Elections | 7 Comments

It’s Still The Occupation, Stupid

by James M. Wallimages

Bill and Hillary Clinton swept into the White House in 1992 on the back of their campaign strategist, James Carville (right), a wise-cracking political operative from Louisiana.

“It’s the economy, stupid” was Carville’s greatest contribution to the first Clinton campaign victory. It is classic bumper sticker wisdom that cuts through inauthentic campaign rhetorical paragraphs.

“It’s still the occupation, stupid”, is a perfect way to begin all discussion within the Democratic Platform Committee relative to  Israel’s obvious, illegal and immoral occupation.

Flaunting the obvious and playing to her Zionist-honed instincts, Hillary Clinton has instructed her platform writing team to keep the word “occupation” out of the party platform.

The Clinton team cannot erase this “damn spot” any more than could Lady Macbeth. The only word that fits “occupation”, is “occupation”.

You can say a thousand times a day that there is no occupation, but it doesn’t take even a single day among imprisoned Palestinians to see the walls, check points, Israeli military forces, and children running to school through gunfire, to experience the occupation for what it is, an occupation.

Bernie Sanders’ forces within the Platform Committee are demanding that the party’s platform state the obvious. The obfuscation and language game to deny a reality are understood everywhere but in “occupied” Washington, D.C.

The citizens of Israel know it is an occupation, but most of them prefer to look the other way and stay within their “borders”. Those who do venture into occupied territory for a quick, superior-tasting falafel do so on Israeli-only highways.

The occupation is what it is, the tight control over an imprisoned people, a control that has prompted a giant hasbara (propaganda) government agency to police language and attitudes to deny the reality that any casual visitor knows to be a lie.

U.S. Christian church bodies have held, or will soon hold, national assemblies to do the church’s business. This year the pro-Israel forces within those assemblies appear to adopt a new tactic: Keep social justice debates to a bare minimum by filling the daily agendas with conflict on church procedures.

You have to wonder where that idea came from. Strange that different denominations, who rarely speak to one another except to plan annual ecumenical dinners, came up with the same tactics in the same summer.

Have we heard much news from the denominational assemblies, specifically those of the United Methodists and Presbyterians? Of course you have not because church procedures are not news for the non-religious.

Meanwhile, the outreach of the church media is not what it was in earlier times, before national church budgets were shifted toward internal divine matters.

Nevertheless, American voters of all religious and secular stripes will have to endure two national nominating conventions to confirm the Clinton-Trump upcoming election November 8.

Considering the remaining contenders, Hillary Clinton remains such an obviously superior candidate to Donald Trump, that any reasonable sane voter will have to bite the bullet and accept the reality of another Clinton in the White House, starting in January 2017.

Who is this Trump fellow who brags about his achievements and declares himself  the “greatest” with no heavyweight title to point to? Far as we can tell, Donald Trump is a financial mogul who may not have made as much money as he claims.

He is a man so obviously devoid of even minimum qualifications to be president, that even the New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, ending a column on the Orlando mass murder, compared Obama’s response to Orlando to those of Trump:

I don’t agree with Obama on all aspects of this issue, but the guy is thinking deeply and acting responsibly. Trump is shooting from the hip, spraying insults 360 degrees, telling lies, stoking fears and making threats that many in our military and the F.B.I. would refuse to implement.

If you Republican senators and congressmen support Trump for president, he will own you — and you will own everything he does. 

On the issue of Palestine, it is safe to assume that Hillary Clinton will stick to her pro-Israel rigidity and brag that she will restore the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, starting with her administration’s first invitation to the White House to her old friend Bibi Netanyahu.

He will come, of course, with a caveat that she gets him another invite to his ” bought and paid for” U.S. Congress.

Clinton has distanced herself from Obama on the matter of Israel with such fervor that at times she sounds like one of those helpless, stunned victims from a horror movie whose mind has been invaded by alien creatures.

Right now, however, she is all we have between the bullying of Trump, whose ignorance of governing is appalling, and utter international disaster.

My Approved PortraitsCan the underground forces of Bernie Sanders during a Clinton presidency offer hope for the start of a Democratic progressive party over the next four years?

We will have our first clue when we see how strongly Sanders impacts the “occupation platform plank” at the July Democratic convention.

A second clue will be revealed in the choice of Clinton’s vice-president. She could surprise us with Sanders-supporters like Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley (above right) or Robert Reich (below left), Secretary of Labor in Bill Clinton’s first term.

Robert_Reich_at_the_UT_Liz_Carpenter_Lecture_2015If she selects Israeli loyalist African American Senator Cory Booker, of New Jersey, get ready for a Sanders guerrilla-style battle looking toward 2020.

Whichever way she turns, our first Madam President must constantly be reminded that the over-arching issue on her agenda, foreign and domestic, remains the occupation.

Muslim hatred and bigotry, now so prominent in our post-Orlando era, is rooted in that occupation. Respect for domestic and international law cannot be restored without ending that occupation.

Justice for all demands the end of that occupation. Start by naming its name in the 2016 Democratic party platform.

Posted in Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Politics and Elections, Presbyterian Church USA, Religious Faith, United Methodist Church | 15 Comments

Clinton Needs Only 199 Supers to Win Nomination

by James M. Wall

(Drew Angerer, Getty Images)Following her strong 55% to 43% defeat of Bernie Sanders in the California Democratic primary Tuesday, Hillary Clinton is now within 199 delegate votes to become  the first woman ever nominated as a candidate for president for a major U.S. political party.

The New York Times reported that after returns from six states in Tuesday’s elections, Clinton had 2,184 pledged delegates to Sanders’ 1,804 pledged delegates.

The total number of delegates required for the the nomination is 2,383, a majority of the 4,765 delegates who will attend the convention.

Since the 1980s, the Democratic conventions have had two classes of delegates, pledged and unpledged. As the names indicate, a pledged  delegate is a man or woman who ran, and won, on behalf of a candidate in a state primary or state caucus.

Under the party’s “faithful delegate” rule, pledged delegates are required to vote for their candidate on the first ballot at the Democratic Convention which will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 25-28.

The unpledged delegates are party officials and leaders whose votes at the convention may go to any nominated candidate, which this year will include Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Contrary to shallow and lazy media reporting, these unpledged (“super delegates” to use a media-derived name) are announced openly in their various states. There is nothing secret about their selection. They are chosen from inside a state and include state officials and party leaders.

The only remaining secret is how they will actually vote on the first ballot.

Under Democratic party rules,  unpledged delegates are also chosen to insure that each state delegation conforms to the party rules that mandate an equal number of men and women, and minority representations that conform to a percentage of those minority voters in the state.

Clinton is now so close to her required number of delegate votes that, going into the DC primary she will need the support of only 199 unpledged delegates to give her the nomination.

Most of these super delegates announced their support for Clinton early in the primary/caucus season, long before Sanders became a serious candidate. They are free to change their minds, but given Clinton’s strong delegate lead, they are unlikely to do so.

The Associated Press interviewed a number of these super delegates and found them holding to their initial support for Clinton. The AP reported that the super delegate count is currently 571 for Clinton and 47 for Sanders.

Sanders’ final, and almost futile hope, is to keep Clinton from adding at least, her necessary 199 unpledged delegates to her current delegate total. For Sanders to “flip” promissory unpledged votes relies entirely on his argument that he would be the better candidate against the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

In her victory speech, delivered in Brooklyn Tuesday night, the near-Democratic nominee emphasized two themes for her general election campaign: Defeat Republican nominee Donald Trump, and smash a final political glass ceiling for American women.

Donald Trump now has sufficient Republican delegates to become his party’s nominee at the Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18-21.

There is no “faithful delegate” rule for Republicans, but given the fervor Trump has aroused among his supporters, faithfulness is not the problem among his delegates. There are also no mandated equal number of men and woman, nor mandated minority representation in the Republican delegations.

eaa6ceab25bf790bf48123164116ea9db22dfe8fTrump’s problem is to gain the support of Republican party leaders, an uphill climb, thanks to Trump’s unpresidential-like tirades against minorities.

The New Republic tallied up the Republican leaders who initially and reluctantly supported Trump, only to “disassociate themselves from Trump’s line that Judge Gonzalo Curiel cannot be expected to be an impartial arbiter of the case against Trump University simply because of his Mexican ancestry”.

Paul Ryan, who officially endorsed Trump only days ago, said Trump’s remarks are “indefensible” and a “textbook case” of racism. Mitch McConnell urged Trump to drop the attacks against “various minority groups in the country” and “get on message.”

Two Republican Senators withdrew their support for Trump Tuesday: Senators Mark Kirk, of Illinois, and Lindsay Graham, of South Carolina.

In the Democratic race, Clinton’s challenger Bernie Sanders, has a different problem. His last chance to defeat Clinton lies in his ability to keep Clinton from picking up at least 199 promissory notes she has received from party officials and party leaders.

There appears to be no chance he will be able to do that.

There is a contentious history to the current set of rules that govern the Democratic nomination process.  In reaction to the street-fighting experiences of the 1968 Chicago convention, the Democratic party rules slowly shifted in a progressive direction.

New rules were adopted to reduce the power of party leaders (“bosses”) to control the results. Presidential candidates chose their own delegate candidates. Party leaders rarely wanted to commit early to candidates so the party created super delegates in each state to bring them to the convention.

I live in Illinois, where the City of Chicago political machine controlled the state. When I first became active as a volunteer in politics, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley was still one of the last powerful party “bosses”.

My job as chair of the Illinois Jimmy Carter delegation at the 1976 and the 1980 New York conventions was to recruit and manage the delegation. I was also Jimmy Carter’s liaison with Mayor Daley.

Daley died after Carter’s election and inauguration in November, 1976.  It was unfortunate that he was not still with us at the 1980 New York Democratic convention.

I do not believe he would have wanted Senator Ted Kennedy to continue his campaign to the convention, lacking enough delegates to defeat the incumbent President Jimmy Carter.

Before the 1980 primary season, Kennedy gained the support of the new Chicago Mayor, Jane Byrne, who had earlier and privately pledged her support for Carter to Carter’s wife Rosalynn. That pledge came during a parade in Chicago. I already knew this was not going to  happen.

Before the convention, Mayor Byrne announced her support for Kennedy. Byrne’s switch was a striking contrast to the conduct of Mayor Daley in 1976, who had thrown his considerable political weight behind the then-Georgia Governor Carter’s campaign.

That happened after Carter won the Ohio primary, a victory which persuaded Daley to stick with Carter.

Kennedy’s 1980 convention strategy was to defeat Carter by introducing a proposed change that would overturn the party’s faithful delegate rule. Carter had sufficient delegates to gain his renomination, but Kennedy stubbornly fought to overturn primary and caucus votes at the convention.

The Kennedy family mystique had considerable clout. Mayor Byrne’s forces in the Illinois delegation roamed the convention floor, as did other Kennedy supporters, pressuring Carter’s pledged delegates to vote against the President and overturn the faithful delegate rule.

Before the rule change vote on the convention floor, a young Carter Illinois delegate came to me to say he had to go against Carter and support the rule change. He told me he was a Chicago city employee. He feared for his job unless he supported Kennedy on this rules vote.

After releasing him from his commitment, I notified our Carter floor manager that we had lost one Illinois Carter vote. That delegate later voted for Carter’s nomination.

The in-fighting on convention floors can be brutal, seldom physical but always mentally stressful. One thing I have learned in my years inside convention delegations is that media representatives rarely know what is actually happening within those delegations.

The faithful delegate rule prevailed in the 1980 convention by a vote of 1,936 to retain the rule, and 1,390 to overturn the rule. Carter had 1,981 delegates, sufficient for the nomination, while Kennedy had only 1,226, Carter lost only 45 delegate votes to the Kennedy effort to scuttle the faithful delegate role. There were 122 abstentions.

I know the identity of only one Illinois Carter delegate who gave his vote to the Kennedy “stop-Carter” effort. And that vote was pre-approved.

There is no indication that Bernie Sanders would seek to change the faithful delegate rule for pledged delegates.  He says his effort will focus on “flipping” unpledged delegates from the promissory notes they have previously given Clinton.

Sanders will meet with President Obama Thursday. Their discussion will most likely involve Sanders’ future role in the party, and in the general election.

Sanders has fought the good fight, but he has lost. We will hear from him and his supporters again at the convention, especially around Clinton’s choice of a vice president and the party’s platform where a stronger stand on the Middle East will be discussed.

 The picture of Hillary Clinton is from the Chicago Tribune. It is by Drew Angerer/Getty Images. The picture of Donald Trump is from the New Republic. It is by Josh Edelson/Getty Images.

Posted in Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Media | 6 Comments

Sanders’ Dream Team, The Platform and Palestine

by James M. Wall

Sanders0191463979430When the Democratic nominating convention meets in Philadelphia, July 25, the Platform Committee deliberations will indicate how much Hillary Clinton feels she needs Bernie Sanders’ support.

Given the dire, looming alternative of a President Donald Trump, it is tempting to stop worrying about the Bern and embrace the New York Times’ pro-Clinton narrative.

Not so fast. There is still ample time to support the party’s nominee after the Bernie Sanders’ forces make their Platform Committee stand.

Sanders has lain down a defiant marker by selecting three major pro-Palestinian Platform Committee members: Cornel West, James Zogby and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, each of whom brings a unique background to this fight.

That trio sounds like one of those powerful law firms of West, Zogby and Ellison, a team you would not want to face in the courtroom of public opinion when the issue is the continuous torture of a battered client.

The Arab American Institution posted a video introducing five progressive activists appointed by Sanders to represent him on the Platform Committee.

Sanders will arrive in Philadelphia lacking enough delegates for the nomination. But thanks to his delegates, including his progressive “Dream Team” on the platform committee, he is in a strong position to shape the platform.

The New York Times, and the rest of the establishment mainline media, constantly remind voters that platforms do not matter. And to be sure, Democrats in Congress are not guided by the party platform.

Still, the media thrives on conflict and since this should be a lively platform committee conflict, those sessions will get attention.

First, we need to debunk portions of the mainstream media pro-Clinton narrative. The Washington Post report on Sanders and his platform committee choices, began this way:

Sen. Bernie Sanders was given unprecedented say over the Democratic Party platform Monday in a move party leaders hope will soothe a bitter split with backers of the longshot challenger to Hillary Clinton — and Sanders immediately used his new power to name a well-known advocate for Palestinian rights to help draft Democratic policy.

Sanders did not suddenly gain his “new power”. A candidate still in the race for the nomination, with earned delegates, is entitled to an allocated percentage of committee seats.

Contrary to the Post, Sanders was not “given unprecedented say over the Democratic Party platform”. He earned those committee seats by winning delegates.

He was not given seats to “soothe a bitter split”, and he did not use “his new power” to name committee members. He did not get them as largesse from the DNC. He got them the “old-fashioned way”. He earned them. 

Party unity can wait until after the convention. Sanders should stay in this race as long as he and his delegates can impact the future of the party.

We may devoutly hope that a properly reported platform fight will cool down Clinton’s ardor for what the Nation magazine calls the “most-right wing government in Israel’s history”.

The recent political reshuffling in Israel’s governing coalition will put the unbridled nationalist Avigdor Lieberman in charge of the defense ministry and seal the creation of the most overtly right-wing government in Israeli history.

The New York Times doggedly clings to Israel’s version of the Palestinian struggle as it pretends its media neutrality. At times the pretense is dropped.

Recent case in point: The Times’ initial print story about two of Sanders’ platform committee appointees initially put quotation marks around the word “occupation”. Later editions. and the web version of the story, hastily removed the exposing quote marks.

Below is a screen shot captured by Mondoweiss of the original print story, with “occupation”‘ in quote marks, the publication’s way of suggesting an uncertainty of veracity. 

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Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, examined Clinton’s hard-line support of Israel in an essay for The Progressive:

While the large-scale civilian casualties inflicted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in military operations in recent years have raised concerns both within Israel and internationally, Hillary Clinton—the almost-certain Democratic nominee for President—has repeatedly gone on record defending the IDF’s conduct.

Not only has she failed to even once raise concerns about the thousands of civilian deaths inflicted by Israeli forces, she has been a harsh critic of human rights organizations and international jurists who have.

Going well beyond the normal “pro-Israel” rhetoric expected of American politicians, she has defended Israeli attacks on heavily-populated civilian areas as legitimate self-defense against terrorism, even in cases where the Obama administration and members of Congress—including Sanders—have raised objections.

Her statements raise serious questions as to what kind of rules of engagement she would support for U.S. forces in the “War on Terror”.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman typically sweetens his criticism of Israel’s ultra right-wing government with digs at Israel’s progressive critics.

In his May 25 column, “Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine”, Friedman went beyond a casual nod against the progressives. He offered what must be described as false testimony by misrepresenting BDS, dismissing it as no more than an anti-Israel American “campus movement”. He wrote:

Israel has recently been under intense criticism on the world stage. Some of it, like the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” (B.D.S.) campaign, is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique.

Friedman’s clipping service could inform him that BDS originated among Palestinian religious and secular leaders. It is anything but merely “a campus movement”, an epithet that is unfair to campus activists and to the international BDS campaign.

Take note, Thomas Friedman, if BDS is just an “anti-Israel campus movement”, then the New York Yankees are just a bunch of guys tossing and hitting baseballs in Central Park.

Closing on a brighter note. 

In January, 2009, President Barack Obama had just been inaugurated. It was a hopeful time. The nation’s first African American president was beginning his first term in office.

At the time, I wrote a posting that included the words of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, often referred to as the unofficial African-American National anthem. 

I returned to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in 2013, with a new posting which included a video provided by Emory University with the closing song on a night the school honored author Alice Walker, the noted African American author.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was written as a poem in 1899 by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) and set to music in 1900 by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954).

In the video the young man leading the singing is an Emory graduate, class of 2011. His name is Garrett M. Turner. At that time he was preparing to pursue further graduate work at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Posted in Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Religious Faith, United Methodist Church | 3 Comments

United Methodists Answer: “What Does It Profit?”

gc2016-sidebar-logoby James M. Wall

Sixty-two years after the U.S. Supreme Court banned racial segregation in U.S. public schools, the United Methodist Church ended its 2016 General Conference by voting 559-157 to continue investing its funds in U.S. corporations profiting from operations in illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories.

This do-not-divest vote rejected an effort by some delegates to the UMC General Conference to halt all investments in three American corporations profiting from Israel’s immoral and illegal behavior.

There are brothels in the state of Nevada which profit from what the vast majority of Methodists would consider to be immoral conduct. Some of these brothels would, no doubt, welcome church funds to sanctify their businesses.

Tell me, fellow Methodists, what is the difference between investing church funds in brothels and putting church funds to work in illegal Israel settlements built on Palestinian land?

While we reflect on your answer, remember that brothels in eight Nevada counties are legal under Nevada law, while the existence of Israeli settlements on stolen land violates international law.

By its vote, 559 to 157, to underwrite illegal occupation, did the Methodist delegates (559!) sanction immorality?

We will sit here and thumb through John Wesley’s book of sermons while we wait for your answer.

Meanwhile, we need to consider a history that links two tracks, secular and religious.

The Supreme Court declared racial segregation in public schools to be illegal 62 years ago. Meanwhile. over on its religious corners, the Methodist Church continued to practice segregation in its national organizational structure.

They retained that institutional segregation for fourteen more years.

It happened this way:

In 1939, the people who called themselves Methodists, not a biblical term but a derogatory term used by opponents (“these people are so methodical”), sought to unify three branches of the denomination, initially torn apart in the 19th century over slavery.

The 1939 merger was proposed to unite the Methodist Protestant Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Initially split up by the historical circumstances of race, the new denomination was not about to give up segregation, the prevailing custom of the Old South and in many parts of the rest of the nation.

The Methodists chose to continue their segregated ways in their new structure by creating a new Methodist Church, divided into five regional jurisdictions, and the Central Jurisdiction, which was set aside exclusively for African-American churches.

The Central Jurisdiction was devised to segregate African-American churches, bishops, pastors and members. There were exceptions, of course, but for the most part, especially in the Old South, the old segregated pattern continued.

Then came the 1954 Supreme Court ruling, Brown v Board of Education. Anyone with eyes to see had to know the days of segregation were numbered in all aspects of American life.  But for how many days? How long, O Lord.

A religious institution should have led the way toward nation-wide integration, but like that huge battleship turning around in the middle of the ocean, the church moves slowly in actual practice.

In 1968, The Methodist Church wanted to merge again, this time with a denomination with similar Wesleyan roots, the Evangelical United Brethren Church. To make this merger work, the segregated Central Conference had to go.  The new partner had no segregation.

Fourteen years after the 1954 segregation decision, the new Methodist Church ended its segregated structure. It was not a gesture of moral courage, but a change of practical necessity, driven by a need to run a more cost-effective organization.

Congregations were merged; seminaries came together, you know, the sort of thing a President Donald Trump would understand. 

Now, 48 years later, in the year of our Lord, 2016, the United Methodist General Conference considered another issue of racial segregation, this time in a distant land.

The land is Palestine, where an occupying Israeli army controls the lives of the people there, 24-7. 

Some Methodist members and leaders wanted to take a moral stand by divesting Methodist funds invested in illegally occupied Palestinian territories. 

The inspiration for this action came from Palestinian leaders, both religious and secular, who had devised a strategy of non-violent economic protest, organized as a program called BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). 

Of the three legs of the program, Boycott and Sanctions were strategies best carried out by governments.  Divestment from funds inside a targeted area (think apartheid in South Africa, where a form of BDS worked successfully) could be carried out by religious groups with money to invest.

Here was a chance for the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination to take a moral stand with its own money.

The 2016 General Conference delegates assembled in in the Methodist Church’s May 10-20 quadrennial gathering in Portland, Oregon, pondered and debated four separate resolutions calling for divestment. Then an overwhelmingly large number proceeded to reject all four.

The final death blow to this effort at a non-violent protest tactic, came from that 559-157 vote.

Four years earlier, the 2012 General Conference came close to ending all investments in the Occupied Territories.

This year the Methodists went back to their Jim Crow roots and voted by a huge majority to increase Methodist dollars within Israeli settlements through the profits of three U.S. corporations.

Not a very pleasant thought: Clergy retirement funds underwriting an illegal military occupation.

The book of Mark has something to say about this.

“For what shall it profit a man or a woman, if he or she shall gain the whole world, and lose their own souls?” (KJV Mark 8:36, updated)

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Posted in Donald Trump, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Religious Faith, United Methodist Church | 17 Comments

Israeli General: Holocaust Signs “Among Us Today”

by James M. Wallyair-golan

Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Deputy Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, delivered a public address on the eve of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

He spoke at Israel’s Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies, which is located at Tel Yitzak Kibbutz.

The General could not have chosen a more auspicious location for what Ha’aretz described as an “unusual speech”.

Four days later, General Golan (above, right) was “harshly criticized” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, Ha’aretz reported, told Sunday’s cabinet meeting that Golan’s remarks “were outrageous, unfounded and they wronged Israeli society”.

Ha’aretz‘ report on the Golan speech began:

In an unusual speech in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday evening, IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Yair Golan likened recent developments in Israeli society to processes that unfolded in Europe before the Holocaust.

As any critic of Israeli policies quickly discovers, linking Israel today with any reference to Nazi Germany is strictly forbidden by Israel’s propaganda machine.

This did not deter Major General Yair Golan, who declared in his Holocaust Eve speech:

If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.

Golan said that the Holocaust “must make us think deeply about the responsibility of leadership, the quality of society, and it must lead us to fundamental thinking about how we, here and now, treat the stranger, the orphan and the widow, and all who are like them.”

Then with a blazing passion that sounded more like a Hebrew prophet than a Major General, he added,

There is nothing easier than hating the stranger, nothing easier than to stir fears and intimidate. There is nothing easier than to behave like an animal and to act sanctimoniously. On Holocaust Remembrance Day we ought to discuss our ability to uproot the seeds of intolerance, violence, self-destruction and moral deterioration.

Just as Yom Kippur is a day for personal atonement, it ought to be and in fact it’s actually essential  for Holocaust Remembrance Day to be a national day of atonement.

Major General Golan did not travel this road alone.

Four days after Golan’s Holocaust Day Eve speech, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon spoke at Israel’s Memorial Day ceremony to further “his vociferous public dispute with the rest of the right-wing figures and political leaders in Israel”.

In his speech, he said, “Woe to us if we lose our way from our hallowed values that have accompanied us for generations. Compromising these values may well create a slippery slope to the abyss.”

Major General Golan, now 54, is a veteran IDF leader. He assumed command of the Israel Northern Command in July, 2011. He became IDF Deputy Chief of General Staff in December 2014.

Richard Falk, long-time U.S. peace activist and veteran of Middle East United Nations diplomacy, was inspired by General Golan’s speech to post these strong words of support: 

I write these words as.  .  . an expression of appreciation for the Holocaust Remembrance Day speech earlier this month of Major General Yair Golan, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Speaking at Tel Yitzak Kibbutz, where the Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies is located, General Golan urged that this very special day of observance in Israel be treated as an occasion for soul-searching.

He placed this call in an extraordinary context by suggesting that conditions in Israel were disturbing in ways relevant to the Holocaust, horror of horrors.

Focused almost exclusively on politics during an American presidential race, we lose sight of the potential for peace and justice among military leaders, who know the cost of war.

As Major General Golan reminds us: There is nothing easier than hating the stranger, nothing easier than to stir fears and intimidate. There is nothing easier than to behave like an animal and to act sanctimoniously.”

It is never too late for some serious political soul searching in a world where we have discovered again and again, that war is never the answer.

The picture of General Golan, above, is from the  Israeli Defense Force. 

Posted in Israel, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Palestinians | 13 Comments