The film, Queen of the Desert, begins with a distant image of a small group of travelers moving across a vast desert. Two sentences flash across the screen, setting the stage for what is to follow:
The onset of the First World War hastened the demise of the Ottoman Empire, which had ruled the Middle East for five centuries. The colonial powers set their eyes on dividing the spoils.
The film then moves to a small room in which British army officers gather around a table with a minister from the War office, the future British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
The officers and Churchill are looking at a map of the colonial “spoils”. Churchill asks: “How do we delineate the borders?. . . Who knows best about the tribes? . . .Who knows best about the Bedouin tribes?”
The officers reluctantly agree among themselves, “That woman”. (Click here to continue.)
October Arrives With Martin Luther at 500
By James M. Wall
October Sky begins on the night of October 5, 1957. Residents of the town of Coalwood, West Virginia, peer into the October sky, some with binoculars, searching for a brief glimpse of Sputnik, the first Russian-launched satellite.
The film is based on Rocket Boys, a memoir written by Homer H. Hickam Jr. The memoir tells the true story of four boys in a coal-mining town in Appalachia, each determined to build a rocket that will soar into the sky. It is a serious project. The boys want to help get America back into the “space race.”
At the film’s conclusion, we discover what their experiences as “Rocket Boys” prepared them to do as adults.
The celebration of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union is the first of two anniversaries in October, 2017.
The second will arrive October 31, preceded by other events, all pointing to the day 500 years ago when Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis on a door in the small German town of Wittenberg. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Bernie Sanders went to Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri, Thursday, and delivered a policy speech in the same academic setting that brought former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, to Fulton, 71 years ago, March 5, 1946.
Churchill’s historic “Iron Curtain” speech. is seen as the opening salvo in the Cold War. This week, Bernie Sanders had a different focus.
The 2016 Democratic primary candidate who opposed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, came to Fulton to lay out a U.S. foreign policy not for war but for peace and equality. (To continue, click here.
A foreign nation is having an impact on the Illinois Democratic 2018 primary campaign for governor.
Israel’s lobbies, led by AIPAC, is demanding absolute loyalty to Israel from all leading candidates.
Few Illinois voters know the difference between Ramallah and Ramla.
Israel’s lobbies do not care what voters know.
What they do care about, is that the Illinois Democratic nominee for governor, must be loyal to Israel. (To continue, click here.)
Another day, another Donald Trump tweet. This one came Thursday, August 17, a few hours after a van plowed into a crowd on the Barcelona pedestrian mall of Las Ramblas, Spain.
The Islamic state claimed credit for the attack. President Trump tweeted, via iPhone:
Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
The Atlantic debunked the story:
It seemed to be a reference to a story Trump told at campaign rallies during the 2016 primaries, which in turn was a garbled version of an Islamophobic meme that has made its way around the internet for years. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Updated 5:45 MST Tuesday, August 22
Defying Mayor Greg Stanton’s request that he cancel his Tuesday night rally in Phoenix, the New York Times reported that the Trump rally and the protests would go forward.
Large protests are expected near the president’s rally in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday night, his first such event since he drew wide condemnation for his comments on the violence in Charlottesville, Va., this month.
The rally, scheduled for 7 p.m. local time at the Phoenix Convention Center, is Mr. Trump’s first visit as president to Arizona, where he made fiery remarks on a signature issue — immigration — during his election campaign last year. . . .
To hold, or not to hold, a Trump rally in Phoenix next Tuesday: that is the question Donald Trump should be asking himself right now.
The Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, Greg Stanton, (left) has asked President Trump to postpone his campaign-style rally scheduled for the Phoenix Convention Center, on Tuesday, August 22, because “our nation is still healing from the tragic events at Charlottesville.”
Trump has said he wants to pardon former Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio. If that is Trump’s intention for the Phoenix rally, the Mayor said, “then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame tensions and further divide our nation.”
To hold or not to hold, is the Hamlet-like question Trump must ask himself. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Professor asks”: “What could be worse than the soul-shredding evil of racism during the era of human bondage?”
This question is posed by a professor of African and Middle East History at the University of North Texas. Her name is Constance Hilliard.
Fortunately for the rest of us, she also writes a blog, Soul Wisdom.
Again: “What could be worse than the soul-shredding evil of racism during the era of human bondage?”
In her recent blog posting, Dr. Hilliard offers her answer to her question.
My answer would be creating a world of make-believe so fortified by lies that those who lived within it could believe that slaves didn’t mind it in the least when their children were sold from their trembling arms or when their wives were sexually assaulted by the plantation owner.”
Current parallel examples abound that link this nation’s period of slavery and continued segregation, to our current period with Donald Trump as our president. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Last week brought more ill-informed, mean-spirited acts from our current President. Before reviewing some of those acts, pause with me for a moment to give thanks for Jimmy Carter.
Here is just the latest reason to be thankful for our 39th President.
President Carter delivered a speech from his White House Oval Office, July 15, 1979, which John Farmer, Jr. describes as “a prophetic 1979 warning of Trumpism”.
Farmer, former attorney general of New Jersey, and now a professor at Rutgers school of law at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, wrote a guest column for the Newark, NJ, Star-Ledger, on January 16, which examines Carter’s speech
“We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own. Our people are losing that faith … “
Farmer writes that President Carter’s speech “offers an uncannily prescient perspective on the urgent question: how did we get here”? (To view a clip from 20th Century Women, which includes a portion of the speech, and to read the full posting, click here.)
by James M. Wall
A power-sharing Gaza leadership agreement involving two Palestinian childhood friends, Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Dahlan may be “slowly taking shape”.
What led to the reunion of Sinwar and Dahlan is an intriguing story that involves two Palestinian leaders who have known one another since childhood.
Ynetnews reports on that history:
Dahlan, now 55, and Sinwar, now 54, grew up in the same neighborhood of southern Gaza’s Khan Younis refugee camp. They later attended the same UN school and were students together at Islamic University.
Dahlan and Sinwar took different political journeys. They joined rival political factions, Fatah and Hamas. (To continue reading, click here.)
Jack G. Shaheen, retired professor of communications at Southern Illinois University, died Sunday, July 9, after a short battle with cancer. He was 81.
His death brought to a sudden end, his five-decade fight against the stereotyping of “Bad Arabs” in movies and television.
I have maintained regular contact with Jack since our first encounter in 1978. My most recent email from him arrived in March of this year, informing me that he had once again sent this blog’s link to his list.
Our first encounter came in August, 1978, when I was the editor of The Christian Century magazine in Chicago. Jack sent me a manuscript “over the transom”, media jargon for “unsolicited”.
We immediately accepted it, using Jack’s title, “The TV Arab”. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Bibi Netanyahu and Donald Trump have one thing in common: They both have as much credibility as the man who killed his parents and then begged the judge for mercy because he was an orphan.
Why should we believe what they say? President Trump is an accomplished prevaricator in a job he is clearly not qualified to hold.
But we know that already.
What concerns me at the moment is the way in which Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu follows the classic colonial playbook by living a lie and inducing the colonized to fight among themselves.
The current internal Palestinian conflict involves a severe drop in medical care and adequate electrical power in Gaza, two essential elements which must be provided for a civilian population. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Have you seen the Hollywood film that flashes back to February, 2006, when Palestinians elected a Hamas party parliamentary majority.
I didn’t think so, because there is no such film available.
An honest film on Palestine’s current situation would begin in present-day Gaza. A Palestinian baby lies in a tiny crib, dying because the hospital lacks sufficient electricity to keep her alive.
The poorly-maintained portable generator outside in the yard, would have run out of fuel.
Then, in a flashback, the film would show long lines of voters in occupied 2006 Palestine, waiting their turn in an election monitored by outsiders including President Jimmy Carter. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
At 2:30 in the morning of June 17, 1972, forty five years ago this weekend, five men were arrested as they attempted to place wire taps in the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Washington, D.C. Watergate hotel and office complex.
Those arrests are being recalled after 45 years, as President Donald Trump faces his own potential Watergate Scandal. Both ABC News and MSNBC are airing Watergate specials this weekend.
History has shown that the Nixon-authorized break-in was a colossal act of paranoid misjudgment. Nixon did not need the break-in to win. Utilizing his presidential platform, Nixon campaigned vigorously as a foreign policy expert, traveling in 1972 to China (February 21) and the Soviet Union (May 22).
The 1960s frightened insecure politicians like Nixon, but the radical passions of that era made even more voting enemies than it did adherents.
Trump had more reason to stretch outside the law to win, if indeed, that is what he did, because unlike the incumbent Nixon, he was a nobody from reality television. Still, the suspicion grows daily that “Watergate Two” threatens, thanks to news stories like this one Thursday from The Washington Post. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Fifty years after the June 5-10, 1967, Six Day War, Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people offers a business opportunity for some, and massive oppression for others.
We will begin with the business opportunity, as it is seen from the perspective of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. We will get to the oppression part a bit later from B’Tselem.
Alex Kane, writing in the alternative publication, Indypendent, sets the stage: “On March 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo flew to Israel to show solidarity with Jews amidst an uptick in anti-Semitism in New York. But the trip also doubled as the kick-off for a new project meant to bring Israel and New York closer together.”
Smart man, that Cuomo; he does business that helps his city, while he makes nice, very nice, with his voters and donors. (To continue, click here.)
By James M. Wall
Hillary is back; the Hillary who ought to be in the White House instead of the man our archaic electoral system gave us November 8, 2016.
The Hillary Clinton who is back, relaxed and at ease, was interviewed for more than an hour on a California stage Wednesday, telling the world in clear understandable language, what she perceives to have happened in her 2016 election loss.
I report on this interview because I want citizens like my grand daughters and my great grand daughters, to look with justified pride at this woman who broke the glass ceiling as the first female nominee for president from a major political party, and who won the popular election by almost 2.9 million votes.
She is back after taking a few months to reflect on the national train wreck which put Donald Trump in the White House. To continue, click here
By James M. Wall
The full text of Matthew 25:42-43, condemns the sins of those who neither see, hear, nor care about those who suffer.
. . . For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. (KJV)
Do not think for a single moment that Jesus was referring solely to a “brief, but helpful visit” to a prisoner’s cell. “Visit” in this context means attention must be paid and action must be taken. With absolute power in its hands, and only scattered opposition from outside, Israel is especially hard on Gaza families. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
His name is Muhammad Majid Bakr. He was a 23-year-old Palestinian fisherman killed by an Israeli rifleman patrolling on a naval boat in the Gaza Sea.
When he was shot, Muhammad Majid Bakr (left) was fishing at 8:30, Monday morning, 69 years since the day the Nakba began.
Muhammad was shot in the chest when he and his brother Umran Majid Bakr, were in their small fishing boat in the waters of the Gaza Sea.
Bleeding profusely, Muhammad was taken to an Israeli hospital where he died, the latest Palestinian victim whose death came, Israeli officials claim, because his boat had “deviated from the designated fishing zone”.
The Bakr brothers had entered the Gaza Sea the morning of the day Muhammed died, to fish for food to eat, to share, perhaps to sell. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
In the Prologue (below) to Shakespeare’s Henry V, The Chorus speaks
O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Has there been a moment in recent history like the “swelling scene” which struck with such force May 9?
The headlines shouted, “Trump Fires FBI Director”.
The Chorus speaks of France and Henry’s England. We speak here of the American states, red and blue. We speak of Rachel, Chris and Lawrence against the Mighty Fox. We speak of the Times and the Post. We speak of The Nation confronting Breitbart and Conway. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
It is a well-known fact of history that to the victor belongs the spoils.
And one of those spoils is the ability to reshape history. Donald Trump has won the presidency. He is now busy reshaping history.
On Wednesday, President Trump met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House. The usual “we want peace” talking points were exchanged. The word “justice” was not included.
Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike were ignored by Trump. Sean Spicer, Trump’s press spokesman later claimed the President suggested to Abbas that he cease funding families of political prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Since that would be both inhumane to the prisoners and politically devastating to President Abbas, he most certainly would have brushed aside such an idea. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Ma’an reported Thursday that a general strike has begun in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
As part of the strike, Palestinians shut down their shops and businesses in solidarity with the more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners now enduring the 11th day of their “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike.
The Arabic graffiti above means, “Salt and Water,” the only nutrients striking prisoners allow themselves. Placed on the locked door of a Palestinian sh0p, “salt and water” signals support for the strike which was organized by imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi.
The general strike calls for a Day of Rage on Friday, April 28, during which Palestinians are expected to show their solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners’ movement
The deserted streets and closed shops evoke memories of the First Intifada, which began in 1987, when Palestinians held general strikes as part of a civil disobedience campaign against Israeli forces. (To continue reading, click here. )
by James M. Wall
The Irish writer is Eimear McBride. The scholar is a fellow named Chas Freeman. They did not actually walk into a bar together. Most likely they have never met. But they are soul-mates.
Chas and Eimear have each recently offered readers a deeper look into the evils of Israel’s occupation. The old “walk into a bar” line is merely a device to entice you to read what they want to share.
Eimear McBride speaks first. She is back from her first visit to Palestine. She is angry. She has brought many pictures with her. She slams one of them on a table. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
A raid has killed members of a frontier family. Ethan Edwards, portrayed by an angry, unforgiving John Wayne, was secretly in love with one of the victims. The quick burial in a nearby hillside cemetery is conducted by a family friend, the Reverend Captain Samuel Johnston Clayton (Ward Bond).
Mourners sing, “Shall we gather at the river”. The Reverend Captain Clayton, formerly of the Confederate army, stands beside three wooden crosses. He prays. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Larry Derfner’s memoir, No Country for Jewish Liberals, is must reading for anyone even slightly interested in the “issue” of Palestine and Israel. Read it before he arrives at a location near you.
The author is expected to arrive in the U.S. soon to begin a book tour arranged by his American publisher, Just World Books. (To continue, click here.)
Nikki Haley, the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, (right) was greeted as a rock star at this year’s AIPAC Washington Conference.
The former governor of South Carolina wowed the crowd of 19,000, in an on-stage interview in which she bragged that she blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to a high UN position, solely because he is a Palestinian. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
In a 1935 stage production of Billy Rose’s Jumbo, Jimmy Durante is leading an elephant down the street. A policeman stops him and asks, “What are you doing with that elephant?”
Durante responds, “What elephant”? That line became a 1935 nightly show-stopper. Durante repeated the same question in the 1962 film version of Jumbo (right).
Wikipedia speculates that this line may have contributed to the phrase, “the elephant in the room”, which refers to the denial of something as a reality, when that something is obviously in the room.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres last week became the latest official to deny the obvious presence of the apartheid elephant enforced by the state of Israel. (Click here to continue.)
by James M. Wall
Writing in the current issue of In These Times, American History scholar Theo Anderson follows the modern political conservative movement’s rise to power from the founding of the Heritage Foundation in 1973 through Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
It is a story of an ideological movement dedicated to the creation of “an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish.”
In 1980, that movement rode initially to White House power on the coattails of an amiable movie actor, Ronald Reagan, while picking up crucial political allies among evangelical Christians. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
On Monday, March 6, the Israeli Knesset passed a travel ban which strongly resembles a U.S. travel ban scheduled to go into effect the middle of next week.
The U.S. ban is a second effort by the Trump White House to ban travelers entering the U.S. from six predominantly Muslim nations, a white nationalist action which strongly resembles Israel’s travel ban against supporters of boycotts against Israel, Israeli settlements or Israeli institutions. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
When I learned of the courageous decision made recently by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, I remembered my 1973 trip to Israel.
Bennett (right) made headlines when he pulled out of an Israeli government-sponsored trip to Israel designed for NFL players.
He refused to be a part of Israel’s hasbara campaign.
Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, interviewed Bennett after he had written an open letter in which he said:
One of my heroes has always been Muhammad Ali. I know that Ali always stood strongly with the Palestinian people, visiting refugee camps, going to rallies, and always willing to be a ‘voice for the voiceless.’ I want to be a ‘voice for the voiceless’ and I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel.”
I made a similar trip just after the 1973 war, a trip arranged, but not paid for, by the American Jewish Committee. It was a journey with a surprise ending. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
In response to a question about Antisemitism, President Trump summarized his answer with one of his typical non sequitur closings: ““you’re going to see a whole lotta love.”
What we are getting from Trump is not even remotely related to love. What we are receiving from the result of the disastrous 2016 election, is the huge package of hate Trump promised in his campaign, and now implements as president.
Trump deports undocumented immigrants because he now has the job his White Nationalist supporters helped him win.
The Congress, and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, set up and oiled the mechanism for deportation under the direction of the “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an American federal law enforcement agency under the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).” (Wikipedia).
In a Democracy Now interview posted by Amy Goodman Wednesday, the nation Trump rules, now has an ICE force that implements the hatred he generated in his campaign, a campaign that began, we must never forget, with Trump’s Big Lie about Barack Obama’s birth place.
The ICE is intended to carefully identify undocumented immigrants for depotation.
Under President Trump, the ICE is riding on a Trump-instigated wave of hatred to conduct “a deportation force on steroids”. (To continue reading, click here).
by James M. Wall
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump approached the waning days of his first month in office with what he hoped would be a significant foreign policy event, his first White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
At their joint press conference, the real estate tycoon now occupying this nation’s highest office, became Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), from the 2005 Coen brothers movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou. In the film, Delmar and his pals, Everett (George Clooney), the dominant figure who evokes military occupier Bibi Netanyahu, and Pete (John Turturro), in the role of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, have escaped from a Mississippi chain gang.
Still linked together by the chains of Occupation, Everett and Pete argue heatedly over which of them should be the Decider of the future.
Ha’aretz writer Ilene Prusher analyzed Wednesday’s Trump-Netanyahu press conference, under this harsh headline: Trump Is Delusional and Ignorant About Israel. His Meeting With Netanyahu Proved It.
Prusher opened her analysis by pointing to what she calls a bizarro moment: “Trump departed from decades of U.S. policy of all administrations, Republican and Democratic, when he said that America was no longer determined to reach a two-state solution to end the conflict”.
Trump’s exact words were: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.”
The answer drew laughs. Delmar could not have said it better. (To continue reading and see videos from the press conference, and for Trevor Noah’s take on the exchange, click here.)
by James M. Wall
One of those new words–snollygoster–arrives just in time to apply to Republican members of Congress, who shut down Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) as she was reading a letter from Coretta Scott King on the Senate floor.
According to Merriam-Webster, a snollygoster is “a shrewd, unprincipled person”. The word has a history in American English as far back as 1846.
The dictionary cites one use by former President Harry Truman who “lamented that Dwight Eisenhower had given in to congressional ‘snollygosters’—unprincipled politicians”.
One of the darker moments in this one-sided cabinet battle in a Republican controlled Senate, came when Senator Warren was not allowed to participate further in the Senate debate over Senator Jeff Sessions, to become Attorney General.
Following a second straight all-night session, Warren’s Democratic colleagues came to her support. Several male senators took to the floor to read the letter. They were not shut down for “breaking Rule 19”.(To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
When President Donald Trump spoke by phone Saturday, January 28, with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, he was speaking (above) from the White House, before an audience of two aides, National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn and his top strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.
Trump’s conversation with the leader of a major U.S. ally, was supposed to last an hour. Instead, Trump hung up after 25 minutes.
The Washington Post reported: “It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week”.
Instead, President Trump “blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win”. The details of the call were leaked from “senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange”.
Trump’s diplomatic style is, to say the least, different. “At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladimir Putin — and that ‘this was the worst call by far’.” (To continue reading, click here.)
In his final hours as President, Barack Obama ordered authorized funds for the Palestine Authority to be sent to Ramallah.
The funds had been “delayed” by two Republican members of the House, Ed Royce of California, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Kay Granger of Texas, a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Those two GOP House members had placed “holds” on the funds, which has been authorized by Congress in budget years, 2015 and 2016.
Royce and Granger said their reason for holding the funds were “moves the Palestinian Authority had taken to seek membership in international organizations”.
News of Obama’s decision to release the authorized funds were reported by the Associated Press, and reported in several publications, including The Times of Israel.
The Times explained that “Congressional holds are generally respected by the executive branch, but are not legally binding after funds have been allocated”.
Congress members Royce and Granger had their reasons for delaying the funds. Among those reasons could be the influence of the Israel Lobby which shapes American politics toward what it perceives to be in Israel’s best-interests. (To continue, click here.)
President-elect Donald Trump posted several insensitive and ill-informed tweets against Congressman John L. Lewis on the Saturday before Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.
The tweets displayed an ignorance of the facts about both Lewis’s history of public service, and of the 5th congressional Georgia district Lewis has served since 1987.
They also displayed an indifference to a time when the nation pauses to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Instead, our next president acted with a naughty child’s petulance over a congressman’s questioning of his election victory.
If Trump’s staff and family allow him to keep his personal twitter account, we can only assume our next president will display that same unfettered ignorance and insensitivity, for four years, through January 20, 2021.
What led to Trump’s attacks on Lewis? Marlee Kokotovic reports on the site Nation of Change that in a television interview, Congressman Lewis said, “I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others to help him get elected. That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not the open democratic process.”
Lewis added that he would not attend the Friday inauguration. (To continue, click here.)
One week before his inauguration, President-elect Trump was dealt an irresponsible, “warped and self-destructive” blow by the CIA and its allies in the media.
This conclusion was reached by Glenn Greenwald, in The Intercept.
Greenwald was quick to point out that the “serious dangers posed by a Trump presidency are numerous and manifest. There is a wide array of legitimate and effective tactics for combating those threats: from bipartisan congressional coalitions and constitutional legal challenges to citizen uprisings and sustained and aggressive civil disobedience”.
But, as Greenwald also noted, “cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive”. . .
This subversion involved the granting of official credence to a salacious, unsubstantiated document by a former British MI16 operative which claimed to have proof of conduct in a hotel room by President-elect Trump while he was in Moscow.
The document, which became known as the Trump dossier, originated from “opposition research” funded by enemies of Trump, first by Republicans who opposed his nomination, and then by Democrats who wanted him to lose to Hillary Clinton.
The salacious document, Greenwald writes, “was just an anonymous claim unaccompanied by any evidence or any specifics.” (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
As soon as the Congress arrived back to do the nation’s business on January 5, it bowed to Tel Aviv.
Politico reports that “the House voted overwhelmingly [342 to 80] to rebuke the United Nations for passing a resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction, a bipartisan slap that also targets the Obama administration while signaling a rocky road ahead for U.S.-U.N. relations under soon-to-be-President Donald Trump”.
The encouraging sign, however, is that while 342 members supported the resolution, 80 members opposed House Resolution 11: Objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 as an obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace, and for other purposes.
To see how your local House member voted, click on this link
Alternet examined that list and found that only four Republicans voted against the resolution, joining 76 Democrats who voted to support President Obama. Given a choice between Israel’s far-right government, 109 Democrats voted with Israel, while 76 stood with the UN and Obama.
Democratic PEPs (Progressive except for Palestine) stayed with Israel. (To continue, click here).
A New York Daily News headline published October 30, 1975, is one of the most famous headlines in modern journalism.
The headline did not quote President Gerald Ford, but it editorialized exactly what the Daily News wanted to convey.
The headline read: “Ford to City: Drop Dead“.
The succinct reference was explained by writer Frank Van Riper in his opening Daily News paragraph: “President Ford declared flatly today that he would veto any bill calling for ‘a federal bail-out of New York City’ and instead proposed legislation that would make it easier for the city to go into bankruptcy.”
Van Riper’s second paragraph from 1975, conveyed more of Ford’s distress over the city: “In a speech before the National Press Club, Ford coupled repeated attacks on the city’s fiscal management with a promise that, if default came, the federal government would see to it that “essential public services for the people of New York City” would be maintained”.
President Ford was not dismissing the people of New York. He was dissing their political leadership.
The headline on this posting (above) does not quote former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. It is intended, rather, in the spirit of the New York Daily News, to convey Reich’s meaning. (To continue reading, click here.)
In a hard-hitting, long-overdue speech, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday strongly criticized Israel’s government, saying that Israel’s settlements put the two-state solution “in jeopardy”.
Barak Ravid, diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz, reported that Kerry said “trends on the ground are leading to a one-state solution”.
In his speech, delivered 23 days before the U.S. turns the presidency over to Donald Trump, Kerry said:
“If the choice is one-state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both and it will not ever live in peace.”
Kerry also presented the principles of a what he described as a “future final status agreement: An Israeli and a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines; full rights to all citizens; a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue; Jerusalem as the capital of both states; an end to the occupation, while satisfying Israel’s security needs, with a demilitarized Palestinian state; an end to all claims by both sides”. (To continue reading, click here.)
President-elect Donald J. Trump will be sworn in January 20th as the nation’s 45th president, following the most contentious, hate-filled presidential campaign in the nation’s history.
Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic challenger, won the 2016 popular vote by more than a 2 percent majority. According to the Cook Political Report, Clinton’s final vote was 65,844,610, compared to Donald Trump’s 62,979,636. That is a difference of 2,864,974 in Clinton’s favor. The total number of votes for other candidates was 7,804,213.
How did this happen? History will blame Trump’s victory on the archaic Electoral College. But that will not be accurate. We, the American voting public, did it to ourselves.
The Electoral College has been the basis of our presidential elections since the Founding Fathers at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, arrived at a compromise to keep the smaller states within the newly formed democracy.
Meanwhile, we have to accept the fact that on Monday, December 19, the 538 Electoral College electors met in their respective state capitals to confirm Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States, and Mike Pence as vice-president. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
President-elect Donald J. Trump will soon hold the power of the White House. Any comment on “What Will Trump Do”, depends on which Trump emerges to exercise that power once he is inaugurated.
There is the scripted Trump who does on occasion emerge with a largely-overlooked comment like his recent promise that the time for military Western-managed regime change in the Middle East is over.
That scripted Trump is running contrary to the American neo cons who want to control the world in the “best interest” of the American empire. In a Wall Street Journal report, Trump appeared to signal: No more foolish neo con-inspired attacks on countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.
As the Journal noted, Trump was quite specific when he said, “We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks.”
His call for no more regime change through military power, was largely ignored by other media outlets. If Trump holds to that position, he would launch a major shift in American foreign policy.
Will the anti-regime change Trump emerge when unexpected events explode in the Middle East? Or was regime change just his thought for that particular day? (To continue reading and to see Bob Dylan honored in Sweden, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Times’ columnist Charles Blow was not at the meeting. The next day he wrote: “I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing.”
Blow spoke for many of us after the president-elect’s comment to the Times‘ journalists, when he wrote: “Let me tell you here where I stand on your ‘I hope we can all get along plea.’ Never.”
You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions.
I don’t believe you care much at all about this country or your party or the American people. I believe that the only thing you care about is self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. Your strongest allegiance is to your own cupidity.
Blow concluded with a personal pledge: “I’m thankful to have this platform because as long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.” (To continue reading, click here.)
In his Op-ed column in The New York Times, Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, sent an urgent request to Barack Obama, the 44th President:
“The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on Jan. 20, is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, and help it achieve full United Nations membership”.
That column appeared on the morning of November 29, seven weeks and three days before President Obama leaves office.
President-elect Donald Trump’s attitude toward the Palestinian issue is unclear, though an Israeli right wing minister believes Trump’s election has ended Palestinian hopes for a separate state.
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday that the possibility of a Palestinian state being established had ended after the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, calling for an end to the issue that has been at the center of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for years.
In the film, The Best Man, written by Gore Vidal, a candidate for president, Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson), is arguing with his more principled opponent, William Russell (Henry Fonda).
Exasperated at one point, Cantwell says to Russell, “I don’t understand you”.
Russell responds, “I know you don’t. Because you have no sense of responsibility towards anyone or anything. And that is a tragedy in a man, and a disaster in a president”.
The Best Man first appeared as a play in 1960. The film was released in 1964. More than five decades later, our newly-elected 45th President, Donald J. Trump, may be the disaster Gore Vidal warned us about.
Check the record. Start with Trump’s campaign comment on John McCain (pictured above).
“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
Rebecca Gordon. the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco.
She has a more nuanced approach to our newly-elected president. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
One week after Donald Trump won the presidency, he is running his transition the way he ran his campaign, like a neophyte circus ringmaster who walks into the center ring with absolutely no idea of what to do next.
The clowns are bolting from their small crowded car, the acrobats are swinging high from their wires. The elephants are standing by quietly, perhaps recalling the plains of Africa.
Lurking over in the far edge of that circus ring is a mysterious figure, maybe a lion, or maybe another being, hungry for power. It is not a presence we expected to see at this circus. The audience pays him no attention.
What about that audience? It is now living with the consequences of the second presidential election in 16 years in which voters gave the popular vote victory to the loser of the Electoral College race, the one that counts?
The audience mourns or is gleeful. Some, but sadly not all, watch and read to see what happens next. (To continue reading, click here.)
By James M. Wall
The early morning after Donald Trump’s shocking upset election victory, the first thought that came to my mind was Job’s dark lament: “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me”. KJV Job 3:25.
My mother seared that verse into my consciousness the moment she quoted it, when my wife and I traveled 45 sad miles to tell my mother of the unexpected death of her son, who was also my oldest brother.
Job’s lament was her immediate reaction, followed by her quoting to me another line from Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him”.
When I recall that exchange that took place in my childhood home in Monroe, Georgia, it is a memory in a different context, consistent with the distress I felt in response to Trump’s victory.
It is a response not shared by more than half of those voters who gave Donald Trump the presidency.
Stunned by that final vote, and yet bolstered by the memory of my mother’s testimony of faith in the midst of her darkness, I turned to John Wesley’s Notes.
This is how Methodism’s founder understood Job’s lament: (To continue, click here.)
To make any sense of the presidential election which concludes Tuesday, we must acknowledge that Donald J. Trump seized upon the fears and anger of voters and exploited them like the television con-man he is.
Trump voters, not Trump himself, have understandable fears and angers. Trump preys upon those emotions by promising to be their savior.
Trump is no savior. He is a documented narcissistic abuser of women, minorities, and, lets face it, all of us within the sound of his voice and the vision of his hand-clapping cheer leading.
In an August 2014 issue in Psychology Today, Carrie Barron, a medical doctor, wrote an essay entitled If You Are the Target of Narcissistic Abuse. Troubled about Trump two years later, that title caught my attention.
We are all targets of Donald Trump’s “narcissistic abuse”. He and his gang of enablers, those Trump-backing Republican politicos and media conservatives who are even now counting their pieces of silver from a future Trump administrations.
This democracy and all its inhabitants are targets of Trump’s abuse. Dr. Barron’s thoughts are pertinent to understanding what we are experiencing. (Click here to continue reading.)
With two weeks to go be Election Day, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is vigorously campaigning for Hillary Clinton.
Sanders is also making plans to lead his fellow Senate liberals in opposition to any President Clinton efforts to back away from the current Democratic Party platform.
Thanks to the aggressiveness of Sanders’ platform committee delegates, the platform includes strong domestic progressive planks,
Unfortunately, thanks to pressure from Clinton delegates, the platform failed to take any position on the decades-long, illegal, U.S.-funded Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
In an interview this week with John Wagner, of the Washington Post, Sanders said “he and other senators have started plotting legislation that would achieve many of the proposals that fueled his insurgent run for president, including a $15 federal minimum wage, tuition-free public college, an end to ‘mass incarceration’ and aggressive steps to fight climate change.”
Sanders said he and his Senate allies plan to push for the breakup of “too big to fail” banks and to pressure Clinton to appoint liberals to key Cabinet positions, including treasury secretary. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Atlantic, a magazine in print since 1857, does not hand out a presidential endorsement except when it feels one of the two choices is a serious danger to the nation.
It has made a U.S. presidential endorsement only three times in its history.
The first was in 1860, when James Russell Lowell, the founding editor of The Atlantic, argued that the Republican Party, and Abraham Lincoln, the Republican nominee, “represented the only reasonable pathway out of the existential crisis then facing the country”.
That crisis was one of the animating causes of The Atlantic’s formation in 1857, the abolition of slavery.
The Atlantic’s second presidential endorsement came 104 years later, when in 1964 the publication endorsed incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson, over his Republican challenger, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.
Edward Weeks, writing on behalf of the magazine, cited Lowell’s words from 1860, before making his case for the election of President Johnson, who would, The Atlanticbelieved, “bring to the vexed problem of civil rights a power of conciliation which will prevent us from stumbling down the road taken by South Africa.”
The Atlantic’s third endorsement arrived this month, 52 years after its Lyndon B. Johnson endorsement.(To continue, click here.)
Hillary Clinton is our final protective barrier against a massive Trump forest fire now raging across our land.
She is the firewall standing between a fire which should have been stopped when it began June 15, 2015, as an anti-Obama racist birther flame.
On November 8, voters will have to choose: Support Hillary Rodham Clinton; make a naive gesture for a third party candidate; vote for a retired general or Aunt Maud; or vote for Donald J. Trump.
I chaired George McGovern’s Illinois convention delegation in 1972 when one young McGovern delegate told me she would cast her vice presidential nominating vote for her mother.
That irresponsible act was an early warning to me of misguided idealism in politics. It revealed an immaturity on the Miami convention floor in 1972. In 2016, it flames the fires of tyranny. (To continue reading, click here.)
On January 20, 2017, Barack Obama will give up his presidency, leaving him fifteen weeks to fuss and fume over his inability to dislodge the Israeli elephant which sits on his back.
For evidence of that elephant’s heavy and humiliating presence, start with Bibi Netanyahu’s latest in-your-face insult to the departing Obama.
Ha’aretz announced the news Wednesday under the headline: “U.S. Blasts Israel’s Plan for New West Bank Settlement, Says Netanyahu Broke His Word”.
The subhead continues: “In unusually harsh statement, State Department ties timing of construction plans to signing of aid deal. U.S. official says White House was livid over timing of approval of plans, which seek to resettle residents of Amona”.
How is Obama expected to respond? He is a lame duck. Bibi revels in that fact. So, for the moment, Obama issues responses.
His options are small in number? The Congress belongs to Israel. It is, as Pat Buchanan once said, “bought and paid for”. Mainstream TV and print media, likewise. Cable television, ditto.
American Christian churches? Also bought and paid for in guilt chits and free trips. What Obama gets from the churches are resolutions issued periodically. (To continue reading, click here.)
The moment on the debate stage Monday night which was most revealing was not one of Donald Trump’s nervous deep breaths.
The most revealing moment came immediately after the debate ended. Hillary Clinton moved quickly down the steps to greet supporters who were rushing to shake her hand.
Donald Trump waited until his family and two aides joined him on the stage. He stood there briefly for photos. Then, the most uninformed and politically inexperienced nominee in the nation’s history, left the stage.
On November 8, Donald Trump could receive full control of this nation’s nuclear arsenal.
Dare we trust him with such awesome power? Dare we trust a man about whom we know virtually nothing other than what we have seen on television reality shows, or promoting beauty contests? (To continue reading, click here.)
It is no surprise that the guaranteed $38 billion gift from U.S. taxpayers to Israel over the next ten years was not discussed Wednesday when President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu met at New York’s Lotte New York Palace Hotel.
The $38 billion gift was not discussed in the meeting because it was already a done deal, which Netanyahu hated.
Netanyahu was in New York to speak. Obama was there to deliver his speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
Because the U.S. mainline media does such an ineffective job of covering anything to do with what Israel likes or dislikes, the $38 billion ten-year deal was made to look like Obama had caved in to Netanyahu.
That was not the case. Nehemiah Shtrasler wrote in an opinion piece in Ha’aretz that far from being an Israeli triumph, the $38 billion agreement was not that big a deal. It was, instead, filled with caveats Netanyahu fought against.
Shtrasler explains that both leaders were smiling through their pro forma meeting, “but Obama will be enjoying the last laugh. He has waited a long time for this moment, and now he’s ready to serve his revenge to Netanyahu, cold as ice.” (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Syria’s cease-fire, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, began Monday night on Eid al-Adha, the Islamic festival which commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to follow Allah’s command to sacrifice his son Ishmael.
The agreement, reached last Friday, began under a cloud of opposition within the U.S. and Israeli governments. The plan would lead to American and Russian forces jointly targeting terrorist groups.
The New York Times reported that the cease-fire exposed “an increasingly public divide between Secretary Kerry and U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter”.
Secretary Carter “was among the administration officials who pushed against the agreement on a conference call with the White House last week as Secretary Kerry, joining the argument from a secure facility in Geneva, grew increasingly frustrated”.
In the end, Secretary Kerry prevailed. After hours of debate, on Friday President Obama approved the cease-fire, even as Pentagon officials “remained unconvinced”.(To continue reading, click here.)
The Commander-in-Chief Forum, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, was televised Wednesday night. The Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America, a veterans organization based in New York City, joined NBC and MSNBC in hosting the event.
Billed as a precursor to three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate, starting September 26, the Forum was described by The New York Times as “a high-stakes political moment, far from the chummier confines of the ‘Today‘ show and, for Matt Lauer, NBC’s stalwart of the morning, a chance to prove his broadcasting mettle on the presidential stage.”
The Times adds, “The consensus afterward was not kind.” Among the harsher criticism of Lauer was New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait’s, evisceration of Lauer’s performance entitled, “Matt Lauer’s Pathetic Interview of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Is the Scariest Thing I’ve Seen in This Campaign”.
Chait explained what scared him about the Forum:
I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major-party candidates. Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking. The shock, for me, was the realization that most Americans inhabit a very different news environment than professional journalists. . . . . Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer.
Jonathan Chait is right to be scared. We should all be scared at the prospect that Donald J. Trump might actually be elected president of the United States.
But don’t blame Lauer for not digging deeper into this danger. (To continue reading, click here.)
In recent weeks, I have studied Spotlight, a film that should explain why our current presidential election is about none of the critical issues facing our nation.
This Clinton-Trump campaign, is, most certainly, not about the critical foreign policy issue of Israel’s expansive and repressive grip on Palestinian freedom.
Spotlight is the 2015 Academy Award winning real life examination of a team of journalists working to uncover, and identify, those at fault in a massive church cover-up.
The title comes from The Boston Globe‘s investigative team of reporters which spent eight months examining the role of the Boston archdiocese hierarchy in covering up sexual abuse of children by priests.
Early in the film, two men, Boston Cardinal Bernard F. Law (Len Cariou) and Martin Baron (Liev Schreiber), the editor of The Globe, are in a quiet conversation.
The Cardinal says to the editor, “The city flourishes when its great institutions work together,” The editor politely dissents, arguing that the paper should stand alone.
Their conversation, New York Times critic A.O. Scott, wrote, “sets up the film’s central conflict”. (To continue reading, click here.)
On one of my earliest reporting trips to Israel/Palestine in the early 1980s, I was assaulted by an Israeli government official wielding a wicked instrument called hasbara, Hebrew for propaganda.
I had latched on to a group of tourists who were being lectured to by an Israeli government official. I asked the official a question about the West Bank.
He whirled around to face me, his face contorted in a condescending smile.
“I know nothing about any West Bank”, he answered. “We have a Bank Leumi branch near here, but no West Bank”.
We both knew he was lying when he threw that verbal bomb at me, a weapon that Israel uses constantly to preserve a false narrative.
To sustain its invading colonial project, Israel constructed its own narrative history, utilizing a steady outpouring of hasbara (propaganda).
Hasbara tolerates no attack on Israel’s false narrative. My encounter in the 1980s was with an official who did not want “West Bank” to enter the minds of the tourists he was busy brain-washing. (To continue reading, click here.)
In the beginning was Donald J. Trump’s false birther tweet, posted four years ago.
The Los Angeles Times‘ Matt Pearce remembers: “On Aug. 6, 2012, the Twitter account @realDonaldTrump posted an important public announcement: “An ‘extremely credible source’ called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud’.”
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign began with that false statement from an “extremely credible source”.
The birther allegation was so obviously false that it should have fallen into the trash heap of absurdity. Instead, an alarming number of Republican voters took the birther nonsense seriously enough to launch Trump’s campaign for president, a campaign one final election away from placing “birther” Trump in the White House.
Trump’s style of short falsehoods embellished with insulting adjectives (“crooked Hillary”), is tailor-made for Twitter. (To continue reading, click here).
How long, O Lord, must we suffer outbursts of dangerous rhetoric from Donald J. Trump? The latest example, this time in Wilmington, North Carolina, is reported in the New York Times:
The Republican nominee, reports the Times, “appeared to raise the possibility that gun rights supporters could take matters into their own hands if Hillary Clinton is elected president and appoints judges who favor stricter gun control measures to the bench.”
The candidate then “warned that it would be ‘a horrible day’ if Mrs. Clinton were elected and got to appoint a tie-breaking Supreme Court justice.”
‘If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,’ Mr. Trump said, as the crowd began to boo. He quickly added: ‘Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.’(To continue reading, click here.)
As the November 8 election looms larger with each passing day, Republican party leaders are now in a “panic mode”.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Timesreported, “Donald Trump’s relations with the Republican Party – and his political fortunes – worsened dramatically as party leaders fretted openly about the inability of his campaign staff to control him and even began to discuss what to do if their unpredictable nominee suddenly quit the race.”
Donald Trump bulldozed his way to the Republican nomination for president in a campaign in which the “unfit” charge was raised and ignored by an alarming majority of Republican voters.
So it comes down to the final bout between Trump and Clinton. (To continue reading, click here.)
Two days later, Trump tweeted that he was referring to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a speaker at the convention.
Is this the first of many moments in the Trump so-far “non” campaign, when the Republican nominee builds a case that he is not really serious about winning the election?
By James M. Wall
On August 18, 1920, the U.S. Congress ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote.
On Thursday night, July 28, 2016, just short of 96 years later, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was nominated by the Democratic National Convention to become the next president of the United States.
Almost a century after women gained the right to vote, a woman is now one election away from becoming president.
On August 18, 1920, the U.S. Congress ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. (To continue reading, click here.)
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. (To continue reading, click here.)
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. (To continue, click here.)
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.” Below is a three-minute clip from that episode: (To continue reading, click here.)
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. (To continue reading, click here.)
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. (To continue reading, click here.)
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 is a bumper sticker that has power, because it is true.
“It’s still the occupation, stupid”, is a perfect way to begin all discussion within the Democratic Platform Committee relative to Israel’s obvious, brutal, ugly, illegal and immoral occupation.
Flaunting the obvious and displaying 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. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
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 2184 pledged delegates to Sanders’ 1804 pledged delegates.
The total number of delegates required for the the nomination is 2383, a majority of the 4765 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. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
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. (To continue reading and to access two videos below, click here.)
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. (To continue reading, click here.)
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. (To continue reading, click here.)
The United Methodist Church has begun its ten-day General Conference in Portland, Oregon.
The Conference will consider resolutions to join other mainline Protestant denominations in divesting from three American corporate giants, Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard.
These companies profit from businesses that operate inside the occupied Palestinian territories. The UMC resolutions are aimed directly at the American companies, a tactic which worked well to reshape the government of South Africa.
The state of Israel hides behind “anti-Semitism” as it fights these divestment efforts. This often-used fear tactic originates in Israel and spreads like a virus deliberately introduced into different settings.
The tactic came up in recent British elections. When the “anti-Semitism” trope is on the table, you know Israel is afraid of being exposed as a fraud. Israel has never been the “only democracy in the region”. Instead, as Ilan Pappe writes, Israel is “the last remaining, active settler-colonialist project”. (To continue reading, click here.)
Updated Friday, May 6
Thursday, May 5, elections were held in Great Britain for four mayors and 124 local councils.
The two major British parties are Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, and the Conservative party, headed by David Cameron, the current Prime Minister.
These two leaders know that these local elections are critical to national elections yet to come.
British-born journalist Jonathan Cook (above) lives in Nazareth, Israel, where he writes The Blog from Nazareth. Cook, now 51, has served as a Middle East correspondent for major publications. He knows this link between local and national elections.
His latest posting, The True Anti-semites, Past and Present, examines the May 5 local elections, one of which will be in London, where the Labour candidate is Sadiq Khan (left), a member of Parliament and a Muslim with family roots in Pakistan.
Cook finds a familiar “generated anti-semitism” dominating those local elections, in which the Labour and Conservative parties will wage political combat. (To continue reading the update, click here.)
The ugliest, meanest, primary-caucus season in modern history, is over.
History will record the ending came when Republican champion Donald Trump swept five states in Tuesday’s primaries while Democratic winner Hillary Clinton won four out of five primaries.
Other primaries will continue through June 7, but the winners have been chosen: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the insult bully and the Israel Lobby’s favorite war hawk, will face off in the General Election, November 8.
Our Hillary a war hawk? How can this be?
Her record is out there. Her preference for military solutions was never more obvious than in the New York primary debate, Thursday, April 14.
Asked about his earlier statement that Israel had a “disproportionate response” to Palestinian rocket fire against Gaza, Bernie Sanders responded on behalf of an embattled people under occupation.
Clinton’s response, in sharp contrast, was pure AIPAC, a perspective that merges her pro-Zionism with her militarism. (To continue reading and view the debate excerpt, click here.)
The New York Times editorial board was absolutely right when it declared the day following the New York primaries, that it is too soon for Bernie Sanders and John Kasich to concede the nominations to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
In its editorial, the paper called on Kasich and Sanders to stay in their respective campaigns. The Times calls on them to “let the remaining states have their say”.
Furthermore, the Times writes,
This should be a wake-up call to leaders of both parties. They are missing something big about their own members’ priorities, and their mood.
A spirited nominating season might teach them what voters actually want from their president. So far, voters are saying they aren’t willing to settle for a party favorite, and don’t want to be cheated out of a choice.
After their strong victories Tuesday, Trump and Clinton called on their opponents to give up, and rally around the party flags for November. The post-primary narrative makers are asking, why should the two losers continue to fight? The answer lies in the song lyric, “It ain’t over til its over”
We need to hear more from Bernie Sanders, a rarity in national life, an authentic, passionate socialist candidate who, over a lifetime, has drilled to the core of this nation’s militaristic, empirical dark side. (To continue reading and to access The Band video, click here.)
by James M. Wall
So obsessed is U.S. media with this year’s headlong dash for the White House, that Israel’s increase in settlement construction has gone by us like a snake sliding into a back yard recycling bin.
The Paris-based news agency, AFP reported from Jerusalem this week that “the number of West Bank settlements Israel plans to build” has more than tripled “in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period last year”.
Israeli-based Peace Now, a settlement watchdog, said in a statement “that between January and March, projects for 674 housing units passed at least one of the steps in the planning approval process, up from 194 in the first quarter of 2015”. The absence of media attention to such a development is no surprise. The mainline media narrative on Israel/Palestine is already conditioned to treat Israel as a 51st U.S. state, surrounded by “terrorists”.
With attention directed more than usual to a domestic conflict between and within two political parties, what happens in Israel/Palestine stays in Israel/Palestine. Local U.S.conflicts are better copy especially if they involve name calling and ugly inuendoes
It is not just the settlements. At the end of March, Israel’s Knesset, voted in favour of a “Suspension Law” designed “to allow lawmakers to suspend an elected member of the Knesset (MK) with a three-quarters majority”. The impact of this Israeli law on American readers/viewers slides by virtually unnoticed. (To continue reading, click here.)
The race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders reached a watershed in Tuesday’s Democratic Wisconsin primary.
Secretary Clinton, the presumptive party nominee, lost to Sanders for the sixth straight time. His Wisconsin margin of victory was a substantial 57 to 43.
On Saturday, April 9, Wyoming will hold its Democratic caucus, a western state venue that favors Sanders. On April 19, the two will meet again in the delegate-rich New York primary, a state in which Sanders was born and Hillary served as a U.S. Senator.
Forty years ago, it was in the 1976 Wisconsin primary that Jimmy Carter was transformed from “Jimmy Who”, as even his home state Atlanta Journal once called him, to a candidate on the fast track to his party’s nomination.
Carter was outside the establishment mainstream, making him an outlier not unlike this year’s candidate, the avowed democratic socialist senator from Vermont. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic essay, “The Obama Doctrine”, opens with two contrasting conclusions which could be drawn from events on Friday, August 30, 2013.
It was either the day Barack Obama “brought to a premature end America’s reign as the world’s sole indispensable superpower”, or, it was the day Barack Obama “peered into the Middle Eastern abyss and stepped back from the consuming void.”
In President Obama’s mind, August 30, 2013, “was his liberation day, the day he defied not only the foreign-policy establishment and its cruise-missile playbook, but also [defied] the demands of America’s frustrating, high-maintenance allies in the Middle East.
Barack Obama’s presidential “liberation day” began with a “thundering speech” given on his behalf by Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Kerry’s uncharacteristically Churchillian remarks”, were delivered in the State Department’s Treaty Room. It dealt with the gassing of Syrian civilians by the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were among the invitees to the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee meeting which this year happened to coincide with the start of Holy Week.
I do not know if candidate Clinton attended a worship service on Passion/Palm Sunday, the day before she gave her keynote address. If so, she might have heard a reading from the Gospel of Luke, which records that the authorities said to Jesus: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
The authorities were complaining about the shouts of praise which greeted Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Stones cry out to deliver a message when others remain silent. Stones cry out with messages of last resort in the hope the words will penetrate the shields surrounding those who remain stubbonly oblivious to reality.
Candidate Bernie Stone did not attend the AIPAC conference. He sent his eponymous message which he also delivered at a campaign event. One sample: “to be successful, we have got to be a friend not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian people, where in Gaza unemployment today is 44 percent and we have there a poverty rate which is almost as high”. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Clinton won, by comfortable margins, in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida, In Missouri she finished slightly ahead of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
In an unsettling display of her nagging vulnerabilities, Clinton had to hold off a late surge from Sanders, to gain a narrow victory in her home state of Illinois.
What really matters in these primaries, however, is not the popular vote, but the number of delegates won.
Clinton’s impressive victories in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida gave her enough delegates to leave her with an almost insurmountable total of delegates in her campaign to return the Clinton family to the White House. She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, lived and served there from 1993 to January, 2001.
Clinton’s pro-Israel stance had projected easy victories in Florida and Illinois, two states with heavy Jewish voting pockets. She did win impressively in Florida but she almost lost Illinois in the popular vote totals. (To continue, click here.)
by James M. Wall
It is not difficult to explain Clinton’s success. Democrats have grown accustomed to her face in the White House, the Senate and on the international scene.
Voters who knew her face and wanted her to be president were not sufficient to enable her to defeat Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic nomination.
After eight more years in the public arena, Clinton’s political identity is more fully formed, and her financial backing more firmly fixed by her favorability rating on Wall Street.
Clinton now appears poised to win the Democratic nomination. Trump’s victory at the Republican Convention, also appears almost certain.
Like Clinton, he is a familiar face. He gained familiarity as a (for real) billionaire television star who played an uncouth talk show bully. In the political arena, Trump has honed that same image to emerge as a successful (still for real) billionaire uncouth political bully.
One Israeli media commentator who has covered and analyzed his own local share of uncouth bullies in political office, has written a succinct and on-target explanation as to why and how, Donald Trump emerged.
Ari Shavit is a senior correspondent at Jerusalem-based Haaretz and a member of its editorial board. In a recent column on the U.S. election, Shavit offers three reasons why a billionaire like Trump, with no political background, has risen so high and so fast in his race for the presidency. (To continue, click here.)
Super Tuesday 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”. (To continue reading, click here.)
It is still early in the U.S. presidential nomination races.
It is not too early, however, to harbor a pretty strong suspicion that on November 8, the election will provide a choice between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
Of course, surprises could emerge that could lead voters to create a different pairing for November 8. Democrat Bernie Sanders, a secular Jewish radical socialist, could face Marco Rubio, now emerging as the Republican establishment candidate.
Given those competing scenarios, what will American voters do?
One answer may be found in the observation, often attributed to Winston Churchill: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else”.
What will be the right thing to do on November 8? As the kid in the back seat keeps asking, “are we there yet?” Absolutely not. The journey ahead is filled with turns and dips before each individual voter finally decides, driven by heart and/or head, preferably both.
Will voters make a disastrous decision? Or will they choose a leader who, at least. has the potential to pull the nation out of its current political mire? (To continue reading, click here.)
Some of my friends support Hillary; some of my friends support Bernie. Me? I’m with my friends.
I first heard those fence-straddling words of wisdom from a wise old Chicago politician. It is a good way to approach the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders race this early in the year.
Why not wait until a few more states vote before we agree on the strongest candidate to run against which ever Republican emerges from the hard-right options currently wallowing in the muck of the GOP primary and caucus races.
Strong support from minority voters in Nevada and South Carolina (on February 20, 23, and 27) could deliver twin victories to Clinton over Sanders. On Tuesday, March 1. voters in 13 states, American Samoa and Democrats Abroad, will make their decisions between the two Democratic opponents.
If that leader is Clinton, a nagging question must be asked:
Is she too military-minded for the Democratic liberal base she needs to win a general election?
Clinton may look like the strongest candidate to defeat any Republican. But will she take the nation back to the bellicose military policies favored by Israel and corporate military interests?
Is that a fair question? Maybe not, but Clinton’s critics are asking it, and her strongest supporters are worried about it. (To continue reading, click here.)
Two weeks before the Iowa caucus, New York magazine’s Frank Rich delivered a campaign analysis for New York magazine under the headline, “Getting serious about Bernie“.
Rich admits, “I have never believed — and still don’t — that [Bernie Sanders] can be elected president even though I prefer almost everything about his views and record to Clinton’s”.
Rich pointed to three problems Sanders would face in a national election:
“He’s 74; he can be stigmatized as a nominal “socialist” (though that nomenclature may not carry much weight, negative or otherwise, to 21st-century American voters, beyond the claque who think every Democrat is a socialist); and he’s Jewish, a fact that few want to discuss as a possible hindrance to a national general-election candidacy.”
Breaking through those three barriers in his first two campaign contests with Hillary Clinton, Sanders exceeded all expectations, narrowly losing in Iowa, and handily winning the New Hampshire primary (to use one of his favorite adjectives) by a “huge” 60%-38% margin over Clinton.
Beaming with home team pride, the Jewish News Agency eagerly reported:
In New Hampshire on Tuesday night, he handily won the Democratic Party contest, becoming the first Jew to win a presidential primary. (To continue reading, click here.)
British critic Patrick McCray has described the Marx Brothers’ 1933 film, Duck Soup as “an absurdist essay on politics and warfare. . . which can stand alongside (or even above) the works of Beckett and Ionesco.”
Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) is Groucho Marx’ perennial comedy sparring partner. In Duck Soup, she is the wealthy benefactor of Freedonia, a 1933 female equivalent of the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, or Haim Saban.
In relating to Mrs. Teasdale, Groucho is as insulting to her gender as Donald Trump is to any woman who crosses him. In his attitude toward diplomacy, Groucho sounds as clumsy and adolescent as Ted Cruz when he calls for carpet-bombing.
The narrative of Duck Soup’s Freedonia, envisions U.S. politics between Monday’s Iowa caucuses. the New Hampshire primary, Tuesday, February 9, and the presidential election November 8.
Freedonia is bankrupt. Mrs. Teasdale appoints Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) as the country’s new president. Sensing a weakness in the new leader, the bordering nation of Sylvania sends in two spies, Pinky (Harpo Marx) and Chicolini (Chico Marx) to set the stage for a revolution.
The Sylvania ambassador comes to see President Firefly (Groucho). The 2 minute video clip below, captures that encounter: (To continue reading and view clip. click here.)
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 the editor-publisher of Jerusalem’s major moderate Ha’aretz publication, Amos Schocken. (To continue reading, click here.)
On October 10, 2010, I gave a talk to a small group at a United Methodist Church in Naperville, IL, a city in the western suburbs of Chicago.
In the talk I referenced the film, Grapes of Wrath. Recently, while searching the internet for information on the film, the talk popped up. Along with other references to the film was the line, “Draft: Talk on 10/10/10″.
The United Methodist Church (UMC) will gather in its General Conference, a quadrennial legislative assembly, in Portland, Oregon, May 10-20.
UMC leaders have asked its delegates, and the church members they represent, to prepare spiritually for that upcoming gathering of its largest legislative body.
One way to prepare spiritually for this Conference, is to look back at one moment when U.S. church leaders were slowly beginning to confront what was euphemistically referred to as the “Palestinian issue”.
The talk that I gave on October 10, 2010, was given at a specific point in recent history. It is, therefore, tied to that moment, five years and four months ago.
I share it now as a small contribution to the UMC General Conference delegates who will discuss many important matters May 10-20, none more important than the “Palestinian issue”.
Below are segments of that talk which I trust will resonate with many others who have made, or will in the future, make the same spiritual journey I began in December, 1973. (To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
The $20.9-billion Pension and Health Benefits Fund of the United Methodist Church has placed Israel’s five largest banks off limits for investment, placing them on what The New York Times terms the church’s “black list”.
The denomination’s Pension Board does not use the term, “black list”, a deliberately-chosen pejorative term designed to evoke memories of an ugly anti-communist era.
The United Methodist Pension Board’s actions carefully distinguishes between Israel’s overall economy and its specific illegal occupation expenditures. This action relegates the banks to what in hockey is known as “the penalty box”.
But hey, look on the bright side, the Times did report the Pension Board’s body blow to Israel’s on-going and increasingly desperate struggle to preserve its positive image.
The “people called Methodists” came by that name in the days of John Wesley, the church’s founder, because they were methodical in their preaching and in their procedures.
Standing on tombstones, or on the city corners, wherever they could find an audience, these methodists were never vague about the Good News, they were specific. (See illustration above.)
Specifically, in 2016, the latest Good News is that the United Methodist Pension Fund has withdrawn its funds (divested) from two Israeli banks it had previously held in its portfolios, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi, both of which it determined, after careful study, had aided and abetted Israel’s illegal occupation. (To continue reading, click here.)
By James M. Wall
Duma is a Palestinian town 25 kilometers southeast of Nablus in Northern Palestine. It is an old town, surrounded by olive trees (above). Pottery sherds from the Hellenistic and Roman eras have been found. Southwest of the village is a spring called Ayn Duma, where water has been collected in ancient small pools, some hollowed out of rock.
Along with the rest of Palestine, Duma (also known as Douma) was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517. In the 2006 census, it had a population of 2,220 inhabitants.
Duma has been under Israel’s illegal occupation since 1967, an occupation which is constantly criticized, though never seriously deterred by the outside world.
Today there are more than 500,000 illegal settlers living in 100 illegal settlements which surround villages like Duma.
Palestinians are subject to terrorist random attacks from those settlers who are rarely punished by Israeli authorities. Hiding behind international inter-faith pretensions of neutrality, the world allows this brutal occupation to expand without hinderance.
Five months have passed since July 31, 2015, when 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsheh, his father Sa’ad, his mother Reham, and his 4-year-old brother Ahmed, were sleeping in their beds when their Duma house was fire-bombed.
Ali died in the attack. His father Sa’ad, 32, and his mother Reham, died later from severe burns. Ahmed clings to life in Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. (To continue reading, click here.)
As the nation enters 2016 in search of a new president, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton seems certain to derail Bernie Sanders while anti-immigrant Republican candidate Donald Trump is expected to recover quickly even if he loses the Iowa Republican caucus, February 1, or the New Hampshire Republican primary, February 9.
The South Carolina Republican primary is next on February 20. After that, the nation will experience a series of primaries, caucuses, and endorsements, that will beg for our attention even though the Trump versus Clinton outcome, at this point in time, appears a foregone conclusion.
It is precisely at a this point where the enthusiasts for good government. as it should be practiced, must not lose hope. Bernie Sanders may catch enough momentum with a New Hampshire victory to pose a threat to Clinton.
Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush may break through to stop Trump. Don’t lose hope until the summer conventions. Or as we say in my business, the Lord works in mysterious ways.
The Republican Convention will be held at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18-21. The Democrats will gather July 25-28 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Not a promising sign for good government as it should be practiced. The names of the two convention sites celebrate the true religion of the nation and its political structures: Big Money.
Quicken Loans and Wells Fargo embody what the U.S.Supreme Court codified in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, granting corporate contributions unfettered access to political candidates. (To continue reading click here, or on the headline above.)
by James M. Wall
Bethlehem, Palestine, was once a small village where Jesus was born. Today, it is a city surrounded by what is essentially a 30-foot high concrete prison wall.
In less than two weeks, Christians around the world will once again celebrate only half of the scene in the painting above. They will sing, clap and enjoy seeing their children dressed like the shepherds shown above in the work by British graffiti artist Banksy.
This Christmas, few churches and few clergy leaders, will focus on the wall in Banksy’ prophetic vision because it shouts into Bethlehem’s quiet night what President Obama’s newly-appointed ISIS czar Rob Malley, said in a different, but highly relevant context, this week in a New York conference:
“‘resolving the Israel Palestine conflict is necessary to defeating Islamist extremists’ because [ISIS] ‘extremists ‘refer constantly’ to the situation of Palestinians”.
Malley, now the senior advisor to Obama “for the Counter-ISIL Campaign in Iraq and Syria” and White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, told the conference, co-sponsored by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the New Israel Fund :
“ISIS would lose a recruiting tool if the matter were resolved. And the failure to resolve the conflict makes it ‘very difficult’ to get ‘the kind of open cooperation that we really need to get changes on the ground’”.
Who is this man who states the truth with such clarity? (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
What you may not yet know is that she is so confident in her nomination and subsequent victory over whichever Republican candidate arises from the shambles of the GOP nomination process, that she looks the other way from Israel’s 67-year-old illegal and immoral. oppressive and unrelenting occupation, of Palestine.
The latest example of Clinton looking away from the occupation and embracing Israel, was starkly presented in a speech she delivered to the pro-Israel Saban Forum in Washington.
Philip Weiss was there and described his outrage:
“Yesterday (December 6) Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Washington at the Saban Forum of Brookings that included more pandering to Israel than any speech I’ve heard from any American politician. It was endless. Israel is a brave democracy, a light unto the nations, a miracle, its “prowess in war” is “inspiring,” and we must take the US-Israel relationship to the “next level.”
Our presumptive next president wants the US-Israel relationship to go to the “next level”? (To continue reading, click here, or on the headline.)
by James M. Wall
On May 24, 2000, I wrote a column for The Christian Century magazine reflecting on yet another “peace agreement” between Palestine and Israel. I wrote that to the U.S. government, then led by President Bill Clinton, the impending agreement “will appear fair and just, at long last bringing security to Israel and a truncated state to the Palestinians”.
I began the May 24, 2000, column this way:
“Family members gather in a Liverpool hotel ballroom to learn the fate of loved ones who were traveling on the Titanic. Everyone is frantically seeking information on survivors. Suddenly an old polar bear walks into the room. He looks sad, and there is a tear in his eye as he asks, ‘Have you got any news of the iceberg? My family were on it, you see. Have you got any news of the iceberg? They mean the whole world to me.’
It hadn’t occurred to the grieving relatives that a polar bear’s family might have been on the iceberg that collided with the Titanic. It is, you see, a matter of perspective.
The story about that polar bear, which comes from an old British comedy record I own, came back to me as I brooded over the imminent peace agreement between Israel and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.”
In these waning days of the final month of 2015, I returned to this column because 15 years later, it is depressingly clear that a “fair and just” agreement is even further away from reality than it was in 2000. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
It did not take long for a group of opportunistic U.S. Governors to respond to the horrors of the Paris bombings.
They did so with racist, religiously bigoted responses against Muslims.
Their responses were degrading to their collective state offices, and hateful to a major world religion. They also display a collective naked ignorance of the fact that governors have absolutely nothing to do with U.S. immigration policy. (To continue reading, click here or on the headline.)
by James M. Wall
MSNBC, the PEP (Progressive Except for Palestine) cable network, stumbled into the glaring light of truth on an October 15 broadcast.
In-house MSNBC guardians of Israel’s false narrative must have been on a coffee break when four maps (see above) were displayed, clearly demonstrating modern Israel’s theft of Palestine land between 1946 and the present.
Caught with their pants down, or to be a bit more delicate, caught in their unrelenting major theft of Palestinian land, not by some earnest blogger laboring in obscurity on the internet, but by MSNBC, a major cable television network, Israeli narrative protectors exploded into action with the bullying anger of operatives from George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth in his dystopian novel, 1984. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel tells Father America it will pass new laws to “frisk and search” all Palestinians. Why? As a “security measure” for Israeli citizens.
Israel knows as long as it couches all its sins in claims of victimhood, Father America will give Israel whatever Israel deems to be its pleasure.
” Security measures” are a cruel joke on a captive population. “Security measures” are mere window dressing by a so-called democracy where justice prevails for Jewish citizens.(To continue reading, click here.)
Missy (the Time Lady formerly known as The Master) asks Clara, “What is that look on the Doctor’s face?” Clara responds, “It is a look of shame.”
This exchange comes in this season’s opening episode of the BBC television series, Doctor Who. The Doctor’s look of shame is derived from something he did, or failed to do, years ago.
That look of shame is the appropriate metaphor for a formidable sea of faces. If you are a tax payer and a voter, a Doctor Who look of shame deserves to be on your drivers’ license, because our tax dollars fund Israel’s arms currently in use to kill protesting Palestinian stone throwers and knife wielders. (To continue reading, click here.)
A personal friend of mine, a mother of three children, wrote from Jerusalem today:
“As I’m sure you are aware, the situation here is not good. I’ve wanted to write to all of you for two days now but have found myself very emotional and unable to properly express what is occurring here. Every morning we wake up to pictures and news of new deaths of young people. Innocent people. (To continue reading, click here.)
American right-wing media commentators are trying desperately to gang up on the head of the Catholic Church.
A video compilation of some of the venom and hatred which greeted Pope Francis on his first ever Papal trip to the U.S. are a series of false and ignorant hatred rants.
Pope Francis responded by turning the other cheek. Addressing the U.S. Congress Thursday morning, the Pope:
“challenged Congress and by extension the mightiest nation in history on Thursday to break out of its cycle of polarization and paralysis to finally use its power to heal the ‘open wounds’ of a planet torn by hatred, greed, poverty and pollution.”
Anticipating the Pope’s tone of healing, right wing media fired salvo after salvo of venom at the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics before the Pope even spoke to Congress.(To continue reading and view video clips, click here.)
By James M. Wall
Israeli riot police are shown above “maintaining peace” at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound. This picture was taken on March 8, 2013, during “clashes” between Palestinian defenders and Jews who claim they only want to pray on land sacred to them.
These so-called religious clashes erupt when Israeli settlers provocatively arrive at the al-Aqsa compound, especially on Jewish holy days, protected by Israeli police.
The latest incursion of the compound came this week during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year when repentance is the order of the day.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at his weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, blamed Palestinians for inciting “the recent uptick in violence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem”. He called for “harsher measures” against stone throwers.(to continue reading, click here.)
While awaiting the final congressional vote that will confirm that President Obama has defeated the Zionist juggernaut which spent millions to block the Iran Nuclear deal, we must pause to consider a major moment in entertainment television.
The entertainment news has to do with the CBS network arrival of Stephen Colbert, who last week succeeded David Letterman as host of the Late Show (11:30 EST).
Even there, alas, the Zionist juggernaut lurks. You will have to look closely to see it, but there was a fly in the ointment of the otherwise successful launch of the next chapter of Colbert’s career.
Supporters of the BDS movement were quick to identify the fly. (To continue reading posting, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Updated, Tuesday, September 8, 2015:
Benjamin Netanyahu’s AIPAC-controlled U.S. minions lost their battle to destroy President Obama’s nuclear accord with Iran and the P1-5 world powers.
A final, crucial vote was announced when Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md) became the 34th Democratic Senator to support the carefully constructed firewall needed to sustain a Barack Obama veto.
One day later, Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ) padded Obama’s veto-proof party vote with his support of the accord. With Mikulski and Booker on board, Obama now has 35 Senators who will vote to defeat a Republican-backed resolution of disapproval. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York and leader of the pro-Israel forces in the Senate, announced on August 6, that he would oppose President Obama’s effort to gain congressional support for the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran.
At the time, Schumer’s move was seen as a major setback for Obama. It did not work out this way. Three weeks later, Schumer as been joined by only one other Democratic senator, Robert Menendez, of New Jersey. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Juan Cole reports that President Jimmy Carter was “brutally frank” in a recent interview with England‘s Prospect magazine.
Carter was on a tour for his new book, A Full Life: Reflections at 90, when he told journalist Bronwen Maddox, “all hope for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict has ended. At this moment, there is zero chance of the two-state solution.” (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
The news came from NPR: A loved one has cancer.
Former President Jimmy Carter made the announcement from the Carter Center in Atlanta.
He did not mince words. He has cancer and it has spread. His announcement was candid and truthful.
The cancer first identified in his liver, has “spread to other parts of his body”. He expects to hang around for a while; his travel schedule is only cut back, not canceled. How long will a “while” last? We will just have to wait and see. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
On Wednesday, August 5, President Obama spoke for an hour at American University, the site of the 1963 speech by President John Kennedy, when Kennedy outlined his vision for peace with the Soviet Union during the early age of nuclear threats.
While President Barack Obama was speaking about the people’s business, and his Kennedy-like preference for diplomacy over war, freshman members of the U.S. House of Representatives were either 5,000 plus miles away in Israel, or preparing to go there to be feted and educated by a foreign power which opposes the nuclear agreement the U.S. has reached with Iran and major European powers.
A U.S. delegation of Democratic freshman congress members had been in Israel for two days when Obama spoke. Their freshman Republican colleagues will join them in Israel August 8. In his American University speech, President Obama was blunt and insistent. This is how Obama’s speech was reported by ABC news:
“President Barack Obama assailed critics of his Iran nuclear deal Wednesday as “selling a fantasy” to the American people, warning Congress that blocking the accord would damage the nation’s credibility and increase the likelihood of more war in the Middle East.(To continue reading, click here.)
Blessings upon New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof for pointing out that “fulmination” is the right word to describe opposition to the diplomatic deal President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have just reached with Iran and the P5+1 major world powers.
Fulmination is exactly the term to describe the political and pundit “arguments” now being used against the agreement.
That’s right, fulmination, as in “to issue a thunderous verbal attack or denunciation”. (To continue reading click here.)
Most U.S. media attention is focused this summer on Donald Trump and the latest outbreak of domestic violence in movie theaters. But look carefully at the internet and you will find Roland Nikles reporting for Mondoweiss on a story of far-ranging significance.
He finds Peter Beinart in Ha’aretz explaning the pending congressional vote on the Obama-Kerry negotiated Iranian nuclear deal:
“Israel and the United States (and the other members of the P5+1) have conflicting interests at stake when it comes to the Iran deal. Meanwhile, many in Congress are behaving like they represent Benjamin Netanyahu instead of the American people.(To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
Harper “Nelle” Lee, now 89, has published a second book. Her first, To Kill a Mockingbird, is considered a classic of American literature.
Her second, Go Set a Watchman, arrives this week as a timely gift. It reaches readers as our first African American president continues in the final two years of his presidency.
The new book draws its title from Isaiah 21:6, the King James version, of course, for this is a writer from southern Alabama who grew up in a Methodist church, where King James is sacred.
“For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” (To continue reading about Harper Lee and Chas W. Freeman, Jr., click here or on the headline.)
The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops on Thursday condemned the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) strategy.
The bishops spoke the language of the market place. They made no effort to theologically justify their condemnation.
Instead, they were pragmatic, not prophetic. Why? Because they have invested in institutions.
Matthew Davies, reporting for the Episcopal News Service (ENS), issued the official word from the Bishops in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Episcopal Convention is currently in session.
Davies reported that the bishops sent “a strong and clear message that divestment from companies and corporations engaged in certain business related to the State of Israel is not in the best interests of The Episcopal Church, its partners in the Holy Land, interreligious relations, and the lives of Palestinians on the ground.” (To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
The United Church of Christ (UCC) General Synod has voted overwhelmingly in favor of resolutions that require UCC church funds to be divested from companies with business in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
The UCC General Synod vote was 508 in favor of divestment, 124 against, with 38 abstentions.(To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
When Barack Obama began his first term as the 44th president of the United States, he delivered a stirring inaugural address that called on this nation to join with him in addressing the problems facing the nation.
It was an address of realism and challenges, as he noted:
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily nor in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.
Racism was one of the major challenges our first African-American president had in mind.
Racism, in all its violent hatred, exploded in Charleston, South Carolina during a Wednesday night Bible Study in the basement of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, June 17. (To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
What happens to a dream deferred?
The question comes from Langston Hughes’ poem, Harlem, which inspired Lorraine Hansberry to write her drama, A Raisin in the Sun, the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway.
Her play was made into a 1961 movie which featured Sidney Poitier (above), as Walter Lee, the angry and ambitious son of a mother trying to give her family a safe and secure home.
Hughes’ poem, Harlem, is short and prophetic:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet? (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Stanford University professor David Palumbo-Liu alerted his Salon readers to a “secret”meeting held last weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada:
If you did not know that this weekend some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world will meet in the Las Vegas desert to plot a massive and well-financed campaign against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, it’s not your fault.
Four days after the Salon posting appeared, The New York Times buried two paragraphs about the Vegas event inside a longer story which featured the success Israel was enjoying in gaining anti-BDS support in state legislatures in South Carolina and Illinois.(To continue reading click here or on the headline above)
The Times of Israel, Israel’s leading right wing newspaper, can usually be counted on to lead the cheers for any Benjamin Netanyahu Israeli government. Not this time.
After his recent narrow election victory Netanyahu turned to a right wing collection of politicians to construct his latest coalition.
Haviv Rettig Gur, The Times’ political correspondent, wrote that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition-building has been “a disaster,” even “a farce.” He blames it on Netanyahu’s strange amalgam of cabinet ministers.
The list of seemingly incoherent appointments is a long one. The minister of justice has no background in law, the minister of science none in science, the minister of tourism is also in charge of the police and prisons.
There is a full minister in the Communications Ministry, but he’s not the communications minister; that title is reserved for the prime minister, who is also the minister of health (but promises not to act as such) and of foreign affairs, a portfolio effectively leaderless at a time of growing diplomatic tensions. The absorption minister is also the strategic affairs minister, while the transportation minister is also in charge of a newly christened “Intelligence Ministry.” And on and on.
In the 1933 movie comedy classic, Duck Soup, Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx, shown above) is building his own coalition to govern Freedonia.
Netanyahu’s series of appointments to his 2015 Israeli cabinet reads like the draft for a movie sequel to Duck Soup, in which Freedonia’s next-door enemy Sylvania, sends two spies to infiltrate Groucho’s government, Chicolini (Chico Marx) and Pinky (Harpo Marx).(To continue to read more about Netahyau’s cabinet and Duck Soup, click here or on the headline above.
All that is said or written about President Barack Obama during these final days before 2016, must be said or written within a darkness that reminds us that our current president will soon be replaced by either Hillary Clinton, or any one of a dozen right wing Republicans, anyone of whom will, in comparison, make Obama look like St. Francis of Assisi.
Before his nation’s Memorial Day week-end, President Obama managed to make us even more aware that the Candidate of Hope is certainly no St. Francis. (To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
The New York Times’ Jerusalem bureau slavishly responds to unfolding Israeli stories as though the computers there are set on robotic control to: “Divert, Divert”.
The most recent Times “Divert, Divert” example came in an overlong Times examination of what Pope Frances said in a Vatican private exchange with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
Former President Jimmy Carter has concluded his trip to the West Bank area of Palestine. He “deeply regretted” that he was unable to visit the Gaza enclave of Palestine.
President Carter traveled with former Norway Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. It was their fourth Elders’ mission to Israel and Palestine since 2009.
The two Elders were prevented for security reasons from seeing for themselves, in Carter’s words, “Gaza’s 1.8 million people [who] are besieged, isolated and desperate”.
As the occupying military power controlling both Gaza and the West Bank, Israel offered no explanation as to why it could not provide adequate security for Carter and Brundtland. (To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
Former President of the United States Jimmy Carter and Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, concluded their trip to Israel and Palestine with a statement calling for “meaningful steps to stop the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and reconcile the different Palestinian factions”.
The statement, released by the Elders’ media office, said Carter and Brundtland “regretted that they were unable to go to Gaza on this visit but expect to have future opportunities to travel there, to witness the situation firsthand”.(To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
Former President Jimmy Carter, and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, met with Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amir, Thursday, at the Council of Ministers in Ramallah.
During the meeting, Carter and Brundtland discussed with Dr Abu Amir, “matters concerning Palestinian reconciliation”. (To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
The Turkish Anadolu Agency (AA) reported Sunday that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is expected to arrive in the Gaza Strip on Thursday to meet with Palestinian Hamas officials.
A Palestinian security source, who requested anonymity, told the Agency “Carter will arrive in Gaza on Thursday through the [Israeli-controlled] Erez border crossing to meet with leading Hamas officials,”
Maher Abu Sabha, head of the Palestinian border authority, told AA that the director of Carter’s office would arrive in Gaza Sunday accompanied by a security delegation to prepare for Carter’s “imminent visit”.(To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
Two news items surfaced Tuesday, April 21, that offer contrasting world views of Israel’s Occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
Item number one is from the daily news report issued by the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC).
Item number two is an alert from End the Occupation informing readers that Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin has introduced an anti-BDS amendment to a pending bill in the Senate Finance Committee. (To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
Gideon Levy is a veteran columnist for Haaretz, a leading newspaper in Israel. He is a prophet, a man passionately committed to telling truth not just to power, but to people.
As part of his mission, Levy came to Washington last week to speak at the National Press Club. (To continue reading, click here or on the headline above.)
Iran and six world powers (including the U.S.) have reached an unexpected political agreement for a final Iran nuclear deal.
Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif broke the news on April 2, with a twitter message that the negotiators have “found solutions; ready to start drafting immediately”.
We have “succeeded in making history,” Zarif said at a follow-up press conference at Lausanne, Switzerland. He added: “If we succeed, it is one of the few cases where an issue of significance is solved through diplomatic means.” (To continue reading, click here, or click on the headline above).
Jewish author Ilan Pappe points to three significant outcomes emerging from Bibi Netanyahu’s victory in Israel’s 2015 Knesset elections: An invigorated Likud, a defeated Labor Party, and a united Palestinian representation.
Score two for the settler colonialist state,Israel, and one for the Palestinians living in Israel, whose politicians finally got smart and ran a unified slate. (To continue reading, click here.)
Reality crashed down on those who had hoped the March 17 Knesset elections might lead to a more moderate future Israeli leadership.
The election returns brought the news, Benjamin Netanyahu had won again.
He won in large part by revoking his earlier pledge to support a Palestinian state, and by using last-hour racist warnings to bring out hard right voters. (To continue reading, click here or click on the headline above.)
A week before Prime Minister Netanyahu’s March 3 campaign speech to the U.S. Congress, Secretary of State John Kerry warned the Congress that the Israeli leader was up to his old tricks.
Not only did the Israeli leader shamefully interfere in delicate U.S. foreign negotiations, he also inspired an embarrassing ill-informed letter from 47 senators to “Iranian leaders”, designed to undermine President Obama’s negotiations with Iran. (To continue reading, click here.)
Three days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, President Barack Obama delivered a stinging response to the latest in a series of Netanyahu diplomatic insults.
The President chose Robert Malley (right) as Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region.
Special Assistant Malley will begin his new assignment April 6.
The news of the Malley promotion raised hardly a ripple in U.S. mainstream and cable news media, currently obsessing over Hillary Clinton’s email servers. Pro-Israel media outlets, however, rushed to sound the alarm. The word went out to Israel’s staunch U.S. backers, “Obama has struck back with the dangerous Malley”.
National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice, made the announcement on March 6:
“Philip Gordon, Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region will be stepping down, and will be succeeded by Rob Malley, currently NSC Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf States. Dr. Malley will assume his new position on April 6, 2015.”
And no, newly-minted Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who feels qualified to lecture the world on U.S. governmental procedures, Malley is not subject to Senate approval. (To continue reading, click here.)
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D:Mass) did not attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Tuesday morning speech to Congress.
A possible 2016 presidential candidate, Warren was the highest profile senator to join the list of senators and representatives who were no-shows.
In a statement before the speech, Warren said she is “deeply concerned” about the prospect of a nuclear Iran but said Speaker Boehner’s actions “have made Tuesday’s event more political.
Warren was among 8 senators and 48 representatives who announced in advance that they would not attend, according to a count by The Hill.
“Skip the speech” numbers were slow to grow, thanks to the robotic fear that continues to grip members of Congress any time an Israeli leader pushes their Pavlovian buttons.
Ironically, this time it was not AIPAC pushing the buttons. It was Netanyahu, with his U.S. media, economic and political Fifth Column soldiers, doing the button pushing. That team got what it wanted. Netanyahu delivered what is essentially a “campaign speech” to the U.S. Congress.
“Campaign speech” in this instance is both for Netanyahu’s reelection as Prime Minister of Israel March 17, and his campaign to build a veto-proof U.S. Senate that will undermine President Obama’s peace negotiations with Iran. (To continue reading click here.)
During a speech at this week’s White House conference on countering violent extremism, President Obama described the enemy that calls itself ISIL: “We are not at war with Islam; we are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”
That statement is sensible and it is clear. It represents the President’s careful separation of ISIL (initially self-designated as the Islamic State in the Levant) from the world’s Muslim population.
ISIL is not remotely representative of Islam. It steals its language the way extremist out of Jewish and Christian backgrounds steal the language of those religious communities. ISIL is not Islamic, it is a gang of thugs who have perverted the historic Islamic faith to kill, rape and destroy, in a murderous rampage seeking political dominance.
ISIL’s gang has thus far recruited 20,000 fighters, not 200,000, as GOP presidential aspirant Jeb Bush recently stated in his initial venture into foreign policy speech making, a number he later reduced to the correct 20,000.
ISIL easily receives the public exposure mass murderers always crave. ISIL employs social media and produces its own chillingly evil reality videos which are immediately lapped up by the world’s media. Simplistic hate is ISIL’s mantra; a video that trumpets that mantra is the media’s favorite message.
In the U.S., ISIL has simplistic-minded political allies who dislike anything said by President Obama, and are eager to denounce him at every opportunity.
The latest ISIL political ally to surface is Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, and an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2008. (To continue reading, click here.)
Good Morning America: Do you know who has stolen your Congress? In two weeks you could hear from one of the culprits.
On March 3, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak to what was once your United States Congress. Prime Minister Netanyahu will speak to the Congress and tell the members that President Obama is wrong. Netanyahu promises to say the President is wrong to think it is possible to negotiate Iran back from the brink of adding further to the world’s nuclear arsenal.
Benjamin Netanyahu will tell the Congress that negotiations are wrong because only the threat and application of military power will succeed in stopping Iran from beginning to build its own nuclear weapons arsenal, a collection of deadly weapons that could rival Israel’s Middle East nuclear military control.
A control, that is, snugly resting and hidden in a secret stash of more than 400 Israeli nuclear weapons, a secret protected by the United States’ refusal ever to mention its existence, even during negotiations about Iran’s nuclear future
The Israeli Prime Minister will be greeted by cheers and applause from those members of Congress who will be in attendance. Some members will not attend. How many will skip the event could depend on voters who demand their absence. (To continue reading, click here.)
President Obama’s speech at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast February 5, was not a speech. It was a sermon. “Those fortunate to see the speech witnessed President Obama as Preacher in Chief.”
This critique was rendered by Egberto Willies, a Contributing Editor for Daily KOS. In good sermonic form, Obama proclaimed:
“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
The president’s critics, including “Republican pundits, and GOP presidential candidates have attempted to force the President to equate the religion of Islam with atrocities perpetrated in Islam’s name”. The President emphasized that “it is the people perpetrating the heinous acts and not the religion that must be condemned”.
The full text of Obama’s speech is available at whitehouse.gov. A four-minutes video of speech excerpts may be viewed here. (To continue reading and access the video, click here.)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been “reaching out”, as the New York Times delicately puts it, to Democratic leaders in the U.S. Congress who were blindsided by Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress March 3.
Netanyahu’s office confirmed Thursday, according to the Times, that the Prime Minister had called Democrats and “other friends” in Congress in recent days, and that he “reiterated that the survival of Israel is not a partisan issue.”
AIPAC usually handles “reaching out” for Israel when needed among power players in Washington. Not this time. AIPAC, according to U.S. Jewish sources. did not know about the speech in advance of Boehner’s invitation.
The damage has to be cleaned up by Netanyahu, if he wants to save his plan to address the U.S. Congress two weeks before he faces reelection in Israel March 17. As a rule, political calls between Israel and the Congress are not made public. This uproar, however, calls for naming names. The Times provides them:
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said Thursday that Mr. Netanyahu had called him the previous afternoon to explain why the White House had been circumvented before he was invited to speak before Congress. The prime minister has also called Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat.
Secret talks began three weeks ago between Netanyahu, his American-born ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer (pictured above), and Boehner. (To continue reading, click here.)
On Monday morning, January 12, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
An unidentified senior American official said that Obama warned Netanyahu “not to meddle in the battle” Obama was “waging against Congress over the sanctions legislation”.
Ha’aretz, reported the firmness with which Obama addressed Netanyahu: “Obama stressed to Netanyahu that he is seeking to reach an agreement with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons and assure the international community in a verifiable fashion that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only,
One week later, after secret meetings with Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner invited Israel’s Prime Minister to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress February 11.
It is unprecedented for a House speaker to invite a foreign leader to speak to the Congress without prior consultation and agreement with the President of the United States. Obama is aware that new sanctions legislation would probably sabotage negotiations between Obama, Iran and five other countries. For this reason, Obama has promised to veto any new sanctions legislation.
Nevertheless, the Speaker readily agreed when Netanyahu asked Boehner to shift the invitation to speak to the Congress from February 11 to March 3, only two weeks before Israel’s March 15 elections where Netanyahu faces strong opposition.
Netanyahu has a second reason to ask Boehner to move the date of his speech. According to Boehner, Netanyahu wanted to give his speech to the U.S. Congress during the time of the pro-Israel AIPAC conference in Washington, March 1. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
On Thursday of last week, President Barack Obama spoke to a group of Democratic senators in a private meeting during a Baltimore hotel political retreat.
He asked the senators not to support a bill, drafted by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) (left) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), which would add further sanctions on Iran during this time of delicate nuclear negotiations between the U.S., its allies and Iran.
One unnamed senator in the room told the New York Times that Obama said that “as a former senator himself, he understood how outside forces — like special interests and donors — can influence senators to act”.
The president urged the lawmakers to “take the long view rather than make a move for short-term political gain”. Seated in front of the podium, Senator Menendez stood up to say he took “personal offense” at the president’s remark.
The New Jersey Democrat told the president that he (Menendez) had worked for more than 20 years to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and had always been focused on the long-term implications. What “special interests and donors” did the President have in mind that caused Senator Menendez to take “personal offense”?
The unnamed source did not say. Neither did the New York Times. CNN, which credited the Times as its source for the reference to “special interests and donors” also refrained from identifying the “special interests” that brought Senator Melendez out of his chair.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced that the Palestinian Authority will join the International Criminal Court (ICC), a long overdue action which potentially could bring the state of Israel to an international courtroom at the Hague.
Al Jazeera reported that “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted the documents ratifying the Rome Statute that established the court last Friday, the last formal step to becoming a member of the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal.”
Instead of preparing to defend its conduct as an occupying military power, Israel has fallen back on its usual form of punishment, withholding tax funds it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
Why, we must ask, does Israel collect tax funds from Palestinians and then return the funds to the Palestinian Authority to finance its government? The quick answer is that Israel is the controlling military and economic master on all such matters in the West Bank and Gaza.
The international community knows that this control of a neighboring people is illegal and its length unprecedented. And yet, the international community stands mute, with only the occasional peep of protest.
“There is something rotten in the state of Israel”, sounds an alarm for modern times, updated from Marcellus’ warning as he spoke with Horatio about Denmark in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. (To continue reading, click here.)
Richard Ford’s latest novel, Let Me Be Frank With You, begins when Frank Bascombe drives into a suburb of Haddam, a New Jersey town recently destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
Frank had been a real estate salesman in the community. A former client wanted to meet him at the site of a house he had purchased from Frank.
The novel opens with a description of what Frank experienced in the aftermath of Sandy’s destructive power:
“Strange fragrances ride the twitchy, wintry air at the shore this morning, two weeks before Christmas. Flowery wreaths on an ominous sea stir expectancy in the unwary.
It is, of course, the bouquet of large-scale home repair and re-hab. Fresh-cut lumber, clean, white PVC, the lye-sniff of Sakrete, stinging sealants, sweet tar paper, and denatured spirits. The starchy zest of Tyvek mingled with the ocean’s sulfurous weft. . .”
I could read no further. I was immediately thrown back into the memory of the cities and towns of Gaza, where this past summer a military destructive force pounded a narrow strip of Palestinian land, packed with Palestinian people.
“The strange fragrances” which Frank Branscombe smells in the fictional New Jersey coastal town, are the smells of rebuilding, with “fresh-cut lumber” and “the lye-sniff of Sarkese, stinging sealants, sweet tar paper, and denatured spirits”.
There are no rebuilding smells of “fresh-cut lumber” in Gaza. There are only the continued smells of garbage, putrid water, death and destroyed structures, left behind by Israel’s unrelenting three-week bombardment of Gaza.
There is no rebuilding in Gaza. How can this be so when all those nations promised so much money for rebuilding? The London Independent’s Kim Sengupta, traveled to Gaza to find out:
“Four months after last summer’s bloody war, Gaza remains in ruins, with little or no reconstruction, a continuing blockade, unemployment rising towards 70 per cent and a desperate and angry population. . .(To continue reading, click here.)
By James M. Wall
Psalm 2:3 (above) is sung in George Frideric Handel’s Messiah before the arrival of the triumphant Hallelujah chorus, when audiences rise to their feet, following the tradition set by England’s King George II at the Oratorio’s first London performance.
Handel’s Sacred Grand Oratorio, which had its first performance in Dublin, Ireland, on April 17, 1741, has been described as “the most famous piece of sacred music in the English language”.
Recently, while listening to a live performance of the Messiah, I remembered an article by John Pilger (right) which he adapted from his Edward Said Memorial Lecture presented in Adelaide, Australia, September 11.
The Adelaide lectures have been presented annually since 2005 in honor of the late Edward Said, the Palestinian scholar and political activist who was as a major face and voice of Palestine.
I had been thinking about the absence of Christian outrage and action from the institutional Christian church over this summer’s Gaza massacre. Pilger, an Australian-born film-maker and author, who now lives in England, connected Said for me, to Psalm 2:3. He did so with a statement Pilger quotes from Said:
“There is a taboo,” said the visionary Edward Said, “on telling the truth about Palestine and the great destructive force behind Israel. Only when this truth is out can any of us be free.” (To continue reading, click here.)
In October of this year, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon came to Washington to visit with his counterpart, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
He asked for visits with other U.S. leaders, including Vice President Joe Biden. The White House was not inclined to meet his requests.
The U.S. and Israel media were quick to dub this a major “snub” related to recent Israeli verbal attacks on President Obama.
The “snub” did not prevent Ya’alone from conducting his business with Chuck Hagel while he was in Washington. He and Hagel finalized a weapons deal that they say benefited the U.S. and Israel.
At the time of the October meeting of the two defense leaders, the weapons story received no media attention. The “snub” from Obama was the story.
The weapons deal was not even reported until Friday of this past week, when the Jewish Forward site provided the details for a story it headlined “Huge Israeli Arms Buy Nobody’s Talking About”.
When Israel gets the F-35s it wants, as Arlo Guthrie might put it, what care they about snubs, real or imagined? After all, Israel is the nation that has invaded Gaza and killed Palestinians in the thousands, while destroying their homes and infrastructure in three separate assaults since 2007. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced this week that on February 15, 2015, Major General Gadi Eisenkott (right) will be sworn in as Chief of Staff of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces).
General Eisenkott is well-known in Israel as the author of Israel’s military Dahiya Doctrine, which he first enunciated in October 2008 while serving as commander of the IDF’s northern front.
The Doctrine is not well-known outside of Israel, as a cursory glance at even recent Western media reveals. For the West, General Eizenkott is just another Israeli military leader.
Within Israel, the right-wing Times of Israel omitted the Dahiya Doctrine from its announcement story. Dahiya? Already well entrenched in Israel’s military strategic structure. Look at the record.
The record is unmistakable and distressing. Israel deals with its Palestinian and Lebanese neighbors in terms of total annihilation, a reality known to those Western political leaders who rushed to support Israel’s 2014 Gaza invasion with a mantra dictated from Tel Aviv, “Israel has a right to defend itself”.
American leaders, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and virtually every politician facing future reelection campaigns, will have to confront whatever ultimate judgement awaits them, knowing the words, “Israel has a right to defend itself” are inscribed on their eternal ledgers. (To continue reading, click here.)
Early Tuesday, November 18, two young Palestinians broke into a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of West Jerusalem’s Har Nof.
Armed with a gun, knives and axes, the assailants killed three rabbis and a fourth worshipper.
The New York Times reported that in the gun battle that ensued, one Israeli policeman and the two Palestinians intruders were killed.
In its coverage of the Har Nof killings, the Washington Post put “Americans” in its headline, leaving the impression they were tourists. They were not. They were Orthodox rabbis with dual citizenship, American and Israeli.
Few media outlets have taken note of the glaring fact that a circle of violence connects Har Nof to Deir Yassin, the Palestinian village destroyed before the formation of the modern state of Israel by the terrorist Jewish group, the Irgun, on April 9, 1948.
Deir Yassin was part of the “ethnic cleansing” strategy of the invading Israeli army. It was this strategy that launched the Nakba. This strategy is well-documented in Jewish scholar Ilan Pappe’s book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.
Should the media have acknowledged the circle of violence in the Deir Yassin-Har Nof connection? If the murder of six contemporary Americans occurred outside Washington’s Ford Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was killed, would that be an ignored connection? I don’t think so. (To continue reading, click here.)
When President John F. Kennedy told the world on June 26, 1963. “Ich bin ein Berliner”, he was asserting his solidarity with Berliners separated by a wall.
Thomas Putnam, director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, wrote in the Atlantic blog:
“Other than “ask not”, [“Ich ein bin Berliner”] were the most-famous words [Kennedy] ever spoke. They drew the world’s attention to what he considered the hottest spot in the Cold War.”
Barack Obama, the current successor to John F. Kennedy, has not stepped forward to update JFK by saying, “Ich bin ein Palestinian.“
Kennedy’s personal solidarity with walled-in Berliners, Putnam writes, “endures because of the pairing of the man and the moment. John F. Kennedy’s defense of democracy and self-government stand out as a high point of his presidency”. (To continue reading, click here.)
Amira Hass is a Jewish journalist who has worked since 1993 as correspondent for Ha’aretz in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
Born in Jerusalem in 1956, Hass has been with Haaretz since 1989. She has lived in the West Bank city of Ramallah since 1997.
Prior to 1997, Hass was posted to Gaza for three years, an assignment which led her to write her book, published in 2000, Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege, essential reading for understanding the impact of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
One comment on her book may still serve an accurate description of Amira Hass’ current Ha’aretz columns, all written from within the Palestinian Occupied Territories:
Full of testimonies and stories, facts and impressions, Drinking the Sea at Gaza makes an urgent claim on our humanity. Beautiful, haunting, and profound, it will stand with the great works of wartime reportage.
Hass wrote extensively about Israel’s latest invasion of Gaza. She is widely acclaimed and just as widely disdained within Israel, for her honest reporting on her country’s actions in the occupied territories. One recent column is, The Genius of Israeli Evil: It Poses as Concern and Compassion. (To continue reading, click here.)
National U.S. congressional elections come around every two years. The latest arrives Tuesday, November 4.
The election will relieve U.S. television viewers of a steady diet of noxious attack ads funded, in an alarming measure, by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.
Advance predictions point to the Republican Party winning the Senate and increasing its control of the House of Representatives.
Will the change make any difference to Palestinians in Gaza now suffering under their third Israeli military invasion in six years, each invasion funded by, and approved by, U.S. political leaders?
The answer is no. When it comes to foreign policy it makes little difference which political party controls the Congress. It is the President of the United States who determines if Gaza will continue to suffer under an immoral and unjust military occupation. . . (To continue reading, click here.)
Irish Senator Averil Power (at right) stood before the Senate of Ireland this week and offered a motion which calls for the Irish Government to:
“formally recognize the State of Palestine and do everything it can at the international level to help secure a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The government parties agreed to the motion “without us actually having to push it to a vote,” Power said.
Are you listening, U.S. leaders? If you are listening, be aware, Ireland is way ahead of you in taking a stand for justice for Palestine.
The Times of Israel recalls that “Ireland was the first European country to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization.” Ireland joins Sweden and the British House of Commons to express support for Palestinian statehood. A similar motion is pending before the Spanish Congress. (To continue reading, click here.)
Near the end of Arlo Guthrie’s classic 1967 folk tale, Alice’s Restaurant, Guthrie sings these words:
“Can you imagine, three people walking in singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out, they may think it’s an organization. And can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day, walking in singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out, well friends, they may think it’s a movement.
And that’s what it is, the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement. And all you got to do is sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar, with feeling.”
Well friends, I am here to tell you that the Parliament of the United Kingdom, seated in all its regal splendor in the Palace of Westminister, heard the guitar come around. They have sung, in unison, a bar of Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement.
by James M. Wall
In the Damon Runyon-inspired Guys and Dolls, a movie musical tale of “gangsters, gamblers and dolls”, Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra, left) descends to the sewers of New York with Big Julie, a gambler from Chicago.
Big Julie is looking for action. “Let’s shoot craps”, he says. Nathan needs Big Julie’s money to set up “the oldest, established, permanent, floating, crap game in New York”. The game begins.
Big Julie: “I’m rolling a thousand. And to change my luck I will use my own dice.”
Nathan Detroit: “Your own dice!”
Big Julie: “I had them made for me especially in Chicago.”
Nathan: “They’re blank.”
Big Julie: “I had the spots taken off for luck. But I remember where the spots formerly were.”
Israeli Prime Minister (Bibi) Benjamin Netanyahu remembers, “where the spots formerly were.” His worldwide network of media and political backers, and their names are legion, embrace Bibi’s memory. They are a well-trained legion.
Veteran American journalist Barbara Erickson is not among the legion. Her task is to identify where the Times slavishly adheres to the boundaries of Netanyahu’s reading of the spots on the dice.
In a recent posting on her web site, Time warp, Erickson picks apart New York Times columnist Roger Cohen’s embrace of Netanyahu’s version of Israel’s summer Gaza invasion. (To continue reading and to view a video clip by word artist Remi Kanazil, click here.)
by James M. Wall
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson spoke earlier this week in Ottawa, Canada. At one point in his Tuesday remarks to the Canadian American Business Council, Johnson followed the current fear/hate U.S./Israel script when he said:
“ISIL is a stateless group of depraved criminals, rapists, kidnappers, killers and terrorists who control territory. There is no religion, including Islam, and there is no God, including Allah, that would condone ISIL’s violent tactics.”
That is a half-truth. It is also a half-lie. What is nearer to the whole truth is that ISIL is but the latest progeny of the colonialist-driven Sykes-Picot agreement.
In a pivotal scene in the 1962 David Lean film, Lawrence of Arabia, a British diplomat, Mr. Dryden, explains the Sykes-Picot agreement to Lawrence. Dryden, finding it hard to believe that Lawrence had not known about the agreement, says to him:
“You may not have known, but you certainly had suspicions. (pauses). If we’ve told lies you’ve told half-lies. And a man who tells lies, like me, merely hides the truth. But a man who tells half-lies has forgotten where he put it.”
The history of the Middle East from the day the Sykes-Picot agreement was signed, until the day the U.S. began bombing ISIS, is filled with lies and half-lies.
The film clip from Lawrence of Arabia, and the script of the scene, may be viewed at the end of this posting below. (To continue reading, click here).
On Friday, September 26, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told the United Nations General Assembly, “The time has come to end this settlement occupation.”
The New York Times described Abbas as “visibly enraged” when he spoke to the General Assembly.
In her analysis of the address for Ha’aretz, Amira Hass wrote that Abbas was obviously not directing his angry words to the Israeli public. His message, she notes, was directed primarily to the west. Abbas wanted the west to know:
“The negotiations with Israel, as they have been held until now, are over; forget about the Palestinians returning to them. Forget about the Palestinians continuing to meet and discuss while Israel continues to construct settlements and ignore even the simple commitments it agreed to, such as the release of prisoners.”
“The Palestinians will not return to any negotiations that do not take as a starting point the final objective of a Palestinian state to stand alongside Israel, based on the ’67 borders, and a binding timetable for its establishment”.
Hass points to words in the speech that sounded more like a prosecutor addressing a jury determined to prove to that jury, the guilt of the accused. In his address directed to the west, Abbas used such words as “colonialist occupation,” “racism,” “a war of genocide”, massacres, and a nation above the law.” (To continue reading, click here,)
Writing in Intercept, Glenn Greenwald delivered bad news to progressive Democrats under the glaring headline: Elizabeth Warren Finally Speaks on Israel/Gaza, Sounds Like Netanyahu.
As I reported in an earlier posting, the information on Warren’s views on the Israeli invasion of Gaza emerged during a political gathering in Hyannis. Massachusetts.
The report came from C. Ryan Barber, writing for the Cape Cod Times.
At Hyannis, on July 17, Senator Warren (at left above) was asked about her “yes” vote to give Israel supplemental funding. Her response was disheartening to progressives who had just lived through the dark summer days of Israel’s Gaza invasion. She put it this way:
“I think the vote was right, and I’ll tell you why I think the vote was right. America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”
This was how the Massachusetts senator defended an invasion that killed 506 children and every member of 81 extended Palestinian Gaza families, in a brutal one-sided military assault. (To continue reading, click here.)
The American public doesn’t want to go to war unless there is something out there that frightens them.
Which explains why all of our wars have been preceded by dire warnings of what will happen if we don’t militarily engage the enemy.
In President Obama’s Wednesday night speech. he repudiated his own caution and prudence by falling in line with those who think there is no fear out there that war cannot overcome.
The New York Times editorial board sonorously endorsed the President’s decision under a headline that informs the nation that the drums of war have had their efffect: “The Attack on ISIS Expands to Syria.”
Gail Collins’ Times column the same day, “A Man With a Plan”, questions the wisdom of her editorial bosses, pointing to samples of the strategy congressional fear/war mongers employed to influence the President’s decision:
Collins cites a Texas senator:
“President Obama’s chronic passivity has helped the jihadists,” John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Senate Republican, said in a floor speech this week. Cornyn slammed the administration’s “don’t do stupid stuff” mantra, claiming Obama “doesn’t seem to fully grasp the magnitude of the threats and challenges that America is now dealing with.” (To continue reading, click here.)
“Israel has the right to defend itself” was the Orwellian doublespeak Israel used to justify its latest invasion of Gaza, carried out at the same time as its under-reported increased military action inside the West Bank.
President Obama, eagerly joined by would be presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul, and Elizabeth Warren, rushed to endorse Israel’s 51-day August assault against the Palestinians, by proclaiming, “Israel has the right to defend itself”.
Prompted by AIPAC, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to embrace the doublespeak Israeli claim that it was killing Palestinians “because it has the right to defend itself”. The vote was taken on the final day before the senators went into their annual summer recess.
Were there any among that list of endorsees who understood the meaning of “doublespeak”, which Wikipedia defines as “language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words?”
Did that “right to defend”, give Israel the right to kill 11-year-old Khalil Muhammad al-Anati, just before he was to begin the sixth grade in the Al-Fawwar refugee camp school south of Hebron? (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
The personal report that begins below, first appeared in the website, Mondoweiss.
This report conveys the horror of war experienced by young Palestinian college students in Gaza during recent summer weeks of unrelenting and vicious attacks by Israel.
The author, Nazmi Al-Masri, a professor at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), writes, “This day is carved in my memory”. He continues:
As all academics in Gaza, I had given much thought to my students who were suffering all sorts of agonies and worries caused by Israel’s aggression.
After 40 days of atrocities caused by heavy bombardment and random artillery shelling, which destroyed thousands of houses and devastated countless families, the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) did everything it could to make use of the three-day temporary ceasefire, which was extended for five days and then for another 24-hour period before it ended at midnight on August 19th, 2014.
They decided to resume the classes on Saturday, August 16 that had so crudely interrupted summer semester. I was unsure what to say to my students in my lecture class. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Israel still retains absolute mind control over the western world, thanks to the selling of an Israel narrative which was boosted high into the literary lights and onto movie screens with the fictional Israeli narrative written by Leon Uris in 1954.
After its publication, the novel Exodus became the guide book for all who studied, traveled, or gave even the slightest attention to the start of the modern nation of Israel in 1947-48.
How powerful is a movie image? The Guardian reported that when Ronald Reagan first arrived at the White House as president, he wanted to see the “war room” which he had seen in the movie, Dr Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb.
He had to be told that the Strangelove war room was a movie set, (shown below) built at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England. In reality, the real war room is much smaller.
Exodus, the novel by Leon Uris, was far removed from the reality of Palestine in 1948.
Undeterred by reality, the novel grew into a 208 minute, 1960 movie version, with Paul Newman as Ari Ben Canaan, a leader of the Hagannah (the Jewish underground), and Eva Marie Saint, as Kitty Fremont, his love interest.
In one scene, Kitty sits beside Ari on a hill overlooking what he tells her is the ancient Valley of Jezreel. He then informs her, pointing, that below are the ruins of Megido. He also points to Mount Tabor.
She gazes up admiringly at the Jewish underground leader, hanging on his every word. Ari asks Kitty, “Do you know your Bible?”
Overwhelmed by his superior biblical certainty, she answers quietly, “In a Presbyterian sort of way” Having established his biblical knowledge superiority, Ari tells Kitty how his people conquered this land centuries ago.
Today, sixty years after the novel Exodus first appeared, the Palestinian narrative has great difficulty being heard in the cacophany of a culture shaped for more than six decades by propaganda (hasbara) campaign, each defended with bogus cries of “anti-semitism”.
Over time, however, reality continually forces hasbara spin masters to launch new campaigns. The latest: The sudden discovery and immediate peddling, of a series of “rights”, promulgated simplistically by advertising spin masters. (To continue reading, click here.)
Cease fire talks between Israel and Hamas have been extended for an additional five days.
The extension in the talks was made possible because the Gaza Palestinians are standing firm in their humanitarian demand that Israel lift the siege on Gaza, while Israel is feeling the negative worldwide vibes over its massive military assault.
The vibes are negative everywhere, that is, except in the U.S., where in an Atlantic interview, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to kick off her 2016 presidential campaign with a ringing endorsement of Israel’s massive assault on the Palestinians of Gaza.
For his part, as the man who holds the reins of responsibility, President Obama has called a halt to U.S. Hellfire missile shipments to Israel until arrangements are made to clear with the White House all future transfers of Hellfire missiles.
The President is clearly disturbed over his discovery of the free-flowing weapons pipeline from the U.S. to Israel via the Pentagon.
by James M. Wall
Thursday night, Ha’aretz reported that the talks were “stalled”.
Friday morning, when the 72 hour agreement ended, the New York Times reported both sides resumed cross-border firing.
These shots could be “warning shots” to signal a resumption of the conflict, or they may be part of the negotiations strategy on both sides.
The conflict is asymmetrical, suggesting that more exchanges of fire would be especially harmful to the Palestinians in Gaza.
The one-sided nature of the now 30-day conflict, is seen in the human toll of Israel’s third “mowing the grass” project in Gaza. Thus far, Israel has killed 1900 Palestinians, the great majority of whom were civilians, including 400 children.
To agree to an extended cease fire with no more firing from either side, Hamas, the ruling government of Gaza, has laid out its simple requests. There is nothing radical nor threatening about them.
Israeli analyst Gershon Baskin says of the Hamas demands for an extended cease fire, “When Palestinians look at the Hamas demands, they say, ‘this is what we want, what all Palestinians want.’” (To continue reading, click here.)
The situation in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza at mid-afternoon Friday (U.S. CST; 11 p.m Gaza time), is both chaotic and horrifying. This posting will be updated as further reports become available.
Amy Goodman’s current report on Democracy Now is broadcast from Washington and Gaza. This edition of Democracy Now, posted early Friday afternoon, runs for roughly ten minutes.
It includes an on the scene set of interviews with two Palestinians, Raji Sourani, award-winning human rights lawyer, and Gaza City-based Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer, award-winning Palestinian journalist who is originally from Rafah.
The New York Times identified the missing Israeli as Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old officer in an infantry brigade. (To continue reading and access the Goodman interviews, click here.)
By James M. Wall
Once every two years or so, depending on the U.S. and Israeli strategic and political calendars, Israel, the fourth largest military power in the world, descends on Gaza to “mow the grass”.
That obscene phrase, used to describe Israel’s military engagements with Gaza, was described by the Jerusalem Post as a legitimate Israeli tactic:
“Israel is acting in accordance with a “mowing the grass” strategy. After a period of military restraint, Israel is acting to severely punish Hamas for its aggressive behavior, and degrading its military capabilities – aiming at achieving a period of quiet.”
The “mowing the grass” image is an all-out Israeli air and ground attack on a largely helpless civilian population of 1.8 million Palestinians, all of whom are trapped inside prison-like Gaza walls.
Amira Hass, veteran Israeli writer for Ha’aretz, describes how difficult it is for Israel to understand that the Palestinians “refuse occupation”.
“There is method in madness, and the Israeli insanity, which refuses to grasp the extent of its revenge in Gaza, has very good reasons for being the way it is. (To continue reading, click here.)
One day after a U.S. congressional committee voted to send more U.S. tax dollars to bolster Israel’s Iron Dome shield, four Palestinian boys were killed on an open beach by Israeli shelling from a naval ship offshore.
Defense for Children International reported on the Israeli shelling:
“Eight children in Gaza were killed on Wednesday [July 16], including four boys who died as they were playing on the beach in Gaza City when they were directly targeted by the Israeli navy. Israel’s military offensive on the Gaza Strip has killed at least 45 children according to DCI-Palestine documentation.”
DCI-Palestine identified the four boys killed, as Zakariya Ahed Subhi Baker, 10, Ahed Atef Ahed Baker, 9, Ismail Mohammad Subhi Baker, 9, and Mohammad Ramez Ezzat Baker, 11.
The boys were all cousins from local families. They had been playing with a soccer ball on the beach in Gaza City’s harbor before they were killed in a missile strike just after 4 pm.
Hamada Baker, 13, was struck by shrapnel from one of the missiles fired from the Israeli ship. He and other boys ran or were carried, to the al Deira Hotel next to the beach where the four boys were killed.
Many western journalists. housed at the hotel, helped the wounded with first aid kits they brought down to the hotel terrace. One of them was William Booth of the Washington Post. Booth filed his account of the attack:
“I had just returned to the hotel to type up some notes and file inserts on the day’s news when there was a large explosion on the quay at the port, a little after 4 o’ clock in the afternoon. . . We saw a small fisherman’s shack on the quay, churning with gray smoke.” (To continue reading, click here.)
On the sixth day of its asymmetrical war against Gaza, Israel destroyed a home for the handicapped in Eit Lahiya, killing two handicapped residents, and wounding three others, including the caretaker.
The destruction of the home came on an early Saturday morning while only five of the 19 severely handicapped residents were in the building.
Jamila Elaiwa, who founded the center 20 years ago, told the New York Times the remaining 14 residents of the Mabaret Palestine Society home were visiting their families.
Ms. Elaiwa spoke to the Times at Gaza’s Shifa’s hospital’s burn unit. She was there visiting the wounded survivors of the building’s destruction, two of whom were Mai Hamada, 30, and Salwa Abu al-Qomssan, 53, the caretaker, both of them with severe burns.
Jamila Elaiwa, the founder of the Mabaret Palestine Society, suggested the attack must have been pre-planned, and was not one of Israel’s unfortunate “accidents”, as Israel claimed was the case with the bomb that killed eight Gazans sitting on the beach watching a TV presentation of a World Cup football match. (To continue reading, click here.)
The headline for Jodi Rudoren’s July 5 New York Times story captures the ugly report in all of its appalling harshness.
“Autopsy Suggests Palestinian Teenager Was Burned to Death After Abduction”
The picture at right, from the New York Times, is that of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir’s father, greeting guests at his home Saturday.
Standing with him is Mousa Zaloum, 8, a boy from a neighbor’s family, whose neck was said to have been cut in a kidnapping attempt.
The Times story begins:
“Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, spent his last hours before being abducted, beaten and most likely burned to death in one of his favorite places, doing some of his favorite things.
Until about 1 a.m. Wednesday, a close cousin said, Muhammad was at the recreation center named for his respected, expansive Palestinian family in the ancient section of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, impressing friends with his defensive prowess at the foosball table and watching World Cup matches on a flat-screen television he recently helped install.”
The Associated Press reported Sunday that Israeli police have arrested several “Jewish suspects” in connection with the crime. No names were released.
Palestinians believe the death of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, “was a revenge killing for the earlier deaths of three Israeli teens” near Hebron, in the West Bank.
The Jewish Voice for Peace web site reported this week that the Israeli government has responded to the recent rash of violence by sealing off Palestinian towns, arresting more than 400 Palestinian and raiding over 100 homes. Israel has also carried out bombing raids in the same time period.
At a time when American Protestant church leaders continue to debate how best to respond to the asymmetrical struggle between Israel, the military occupation power, and the Palestinian people, the cycle of violence builds with all the furor of a fierce storm. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
These words from Sir Walter Scott (1808) describe the political template of the modern state of Israel.
Israel is a nation built on deceptive lies, preserved by deceptive lies. Israel is a nation practiced in the art of using whatever is available to keep alive their carefully “tangled web” of deceptive lies.
The latest addition to this tangled web came June 12, when three Israeli teenagers disappeared in the occupied territory of the West Bank. The boys were from three Orthodox Jewish settler families living in illegal settlements in the Hebron area.
Their families had placed them in a danger zone. Juan Cole writes:
“It should be fairly obvious that if you take adolescents into the middle of the Palestinian West Bank and steal Palestinian land and build houses on it and shoot at Palestinians trying to harvest their crops nearby and bulldoze down their homes or dig tube wells so deep as to cause the Palestinian wells to run dry– if you engage in this settler-colonial enterprise, then you are exposing those adolescents you drag with you into it to danger.
It is still wrong. Violence in anything other than direct self-defense is always wrong, and innocent non-combatant life must never be taken. A resistance movement is legitimate, but its quarrel must be with soldiers.”
The latest narrative of Israel’s tangled web continued as Israel sent its occupying army on an extensive search for the teen-agers.
The search extended well beyond the reasonable area where the boys might be found. Instead, it focused on homes and areas known to house Hamas supporters and leaders, the Palestinian party Israel wants to prevent from joining a unified Palestinian government.
From the outset the search was a deceptive lie. (To continue reading, click here.)
Ten years after the start of their divestment campaign against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and people, the Presbyterian Church (USA) anti-occupation forces have finally removed that denomination’s funds from the occupation.
In their 221st biennial General Assembly Friday, PCUSA commissioners (delegates) voted 310-303 to divest all financial involvement in three U.S. corporations whose products are used to enforce Israel’s occupation: Hewlett Packard, Motorola and Caterpillar.
Hewlett Packard manufactures eye and face scanning devices used at Israeli checkpoints, Motorola provides communications facilities within the occupied areas; while Caterpillar makes bulldozers used by Israeli authorities to destroy Palestinian homes.
The removal of PCUSA investments in those firms will neither end the occupation nor change Israel’s tactics over a captive population. Total PCUSA investment in these firms is but a tiny portion of the Israeli military budget, a substantial amount of which is derived from annual U.S. gifts and loans.
The vote was not about the money; it was a moral vote against the occupation.
Through their divestment vote, U.S. Presbyterians are telling Israel, we do not support your occupation, no matter how hard you try to incorrectly shape the conversation as anti-Israel and anti-Hewlett Packard, Motorola and Caterpillar. (To continue reading, click here.)
PCUSA Tries Again to Divest from Occupation
The Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA) is holding its biennial national General Assembly this week in Detroit, Michigan (June 14-21).
A number of overtures (resolutions) will be debated and voted on during the Assembly by 654 commissioners (elected representatives).
One overture before the Assembly will offer Presbyterian General Assembly commissioners the opportunity to have the denomination divest from three major corporations–Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola–that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
As of December 31, 2013, the PCUSA Board of Pensions’ total investment assets were $9.2 billion. The PCUSA has a membership of over 1,800,000 members related to 10,262 congregations.
The overture on pension funds and the Palestinian occupation has been presented to the General Assembly by the PCUSA’s “socially responsible investment committee”. It is a hard-hitting overture that follows ten years of failed discussions with representatives from the three targeted companies. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Demonization of an American Soldier
My experience as a member of the U.S. armed services was a long time ago. It was also far removed from a battlefield. I was an Air Force public information officer during the Korean War.
I was part of a team, serving my country. All these decades later, I still feel a loyalty to, and a deep respect for, anyone who signs up for active military duty.
For this reason, though far removed from my own active duty days, I can still feel an intense fury toward the journalists and politicians who have stumbled over themselves to demonize a U.S. army sergeant who has just been saved from enemy captivity through a prisoner exchange orchestrated by his Commander in Chief.
Do these people have no shame? Do they not see that because of their need to either attack or stand apart from the President’s decision, they are acting as jury and judge against an American citizen?
Do they, some of whom have also served on active duty, like Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, realize that those who judge U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, expose themselves as political sycophants? (To continue reading, click here.)
Searching for Justice In Church and On Campus
In less than two weeks, elected representatives of the Presbyterian Church USA, will gather in Detroit, Michigan, June 14-21, for their biennial General Assembly.
Meeting in solemn assembly, they will debate and vote, again, on how best to speak to the state of Israel.
To those who do not follow American church politics closely, it pains me to report that, yes, the Presbyterians still remain divided on the issue.
Israeli Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy has delivered to the Presbyterians, and indeed, to the entire world, one of the most eloquent messages to Israel I have yet to encounter.The fact that the statement comes from a native Israeli journalist, written for a mainstream Israeli newspaper, makes it even more compelling.
Written in a tone of sadness tinged with hope, Levy’s recent column is entitled, “International Kowtowing to Israel Must End Now”. He begins:
If there is a world, let it appear immediately. For now, there’s the sense of an ending of the international intervention in Israel. The Americans folded, the Europeans gave up, the Israelis rejoice and the Palestinians are lost. (Too continue reading, click here.)
What the Pope Did Not Say
It is what the Pope did not say that should disturb the world.
The Turkish World Bulletin’s New Desk points to crucial words missing from his Holy Land Papal trip May 25-26:
“Although the Pope has prayed at the separation wall in Bethlehem and called for a Palestinian state during his visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Al-Quds (East Jerusalem), he has not commented on Israeli abuses or on the blockade on 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza.”
Also missing was the essential point that the Pope’s visit was made in a political environment in which Israel and the U.S. have once again insisted on their “two sides” recurring diplomatic dodge.
President Obama repeated the dodge following the collapse of the latest round of “peace talks” between Israel and Palestine:
“What we haven’t seen is, frankly, the kind of political will to actually make tough decisions, and that’s been true on both sides.”
Not so, by any standard of political realism. The prisoner is never equal to the jailer. Naim Ateek, the Palestinian Anglican priest who founded Sabeel, told Time magazine before the Pope’s trip: (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel Hides Behind its Own Special “Catch 22”
Following yet another round of failed peace talks, Palestinian leaders have seized the initiative to create their own future.
Knowing that Israel has consistently demonstrated no interest in reaching a peace accord, Palestinian leaders defied pressure from Israel by signing their own reconciliation agreement.
The agreement is between the mainstream PLO faction, Fatah, and the Islamic Liberation group, Hamas.
Not only Palestinian leaders, but the Palestinian people appear ready for their own Palestinian unity, not one designed by Israel.
The unity government agreement was reached in Gaza City, April 23, after talks between Hamas leaders and a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) delegation headed by Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior figure in president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party.
Immediately, Israel threatened to adopt “draconian measures” against the Palestinian Authority (PA) in case the latter dared implement the agreement with Hamas on the ground. The punitive measures include (the usual) halting the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinians as well as a series of other restrictions and harassments.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was quoted as saying on Friday (May 16) that the PA would have to choose between Hamas and the peace process. (To continue reading, click here.)
“Zionism Unsettled”: Neither False Nor Misguided
by James M. Wall
The battle has begun over Zionism Unsettled.
The Christian Century opened round one by publishing an attack on Zionism Unsettled, a study guide developed for the study of Zionism, a secular ideology formed in the 19th century, which has had a major impact on Jewish–Christian relations.
The battle will continue June 14, when the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) gathers for national deliberations in Detroit, Michigan.
The attack ran under the headline, False witness: A misguided ‘study guide’. The guide was developed, and published in January of this year, by The Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), one of 40 networks approved by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and funded by each network’s church members.
The picture above is not from Zionism Unsettled. It is from an Amnesty International blog that appeared in the Albany, NY, Times Union. It was taken in Hebron, Palestine, during a “round-up” of Palestinian children by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). (To continue reading, click here.)
Time for Obama to Earn His 2009 Nobel Prize
President Obama has suggested a “pause” following the failure of the most recent Israel-Palestine peace negotiations.
A pause is an option, of course, but it needs to be a “pregnant pause”, defined by one source as: “A pause that gives the impression that it will be followed by something significant.”
It was Edmund Burke who once wrote, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” During his peace talks pause, Obama should look back to 2006, the last time the U.S. and Israel “trusted” the Palestinians to speak for themselves. That was the year of the remarkable 2006 parliamentary elections in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The U.S and Israel did not actually trust the Palestinian voters in 2006, they tolerated them. Their “experts” on the ground assured them the election would end in victory for the Fatah party, known then for its loyalty to the Israeli-U.S. axis. The election was won by Hamas. Wikipedia provides the election results: (To continue reading, click here.)
A Tale of Two Tapes
Two tapes have surfaced in recent days. Thereby hangs a modern tale of the “best of times and the worst of times”.
It is a bit of a stretch to use Charles Dickens to link the best of times represented by John Kerry, and the worst of times, embodied in the owner of an American professional basketball team.
But stretch is required in a world gone awry with both power and money much more than usual in the wrong hands. Hence, we have a tale of two tapes.
Tape number one is getting considerable media play because it involves the racist ravings of the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, one of the better teams in the National Basketball Association.
Tape number two draws less attention, of course, but it happens to be of far greater significance, because it reveals U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry telling a group that Israel is in danger of heading toward international isolation as an apartheid state.
Charles Dickens begins A Tale of Two Cities: A Story of the French Revolution, in this manner:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. (To continue reading, click here.)
Unity Agreement Evokes Israeli-U.S. Threats
We all remember the schoolyard bully, the girl or boy who set the rules and forced the rest of us to play by those rules, enforced by threats of the loss of backpacks and lunch money.
In the past few years I have found it impossible to look at the current Israeli government as anything other than that bully on the Middle East playground.
The latest example arrived this week when the Jewish Telegraph Agency reported:
The Fatah party, led by P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, on Wednesday signed an agreement with Hamas that would lead to a unity government within five weeks.
Actually, that news lead was in the fifth paragraph of the JTA story. Setting the tone for all international mainstream media coverage, JTA’s solemn report began:
Israel formally suspended peace talks with the Palestinian Authority over the P.A.’s national unity accord signed with the Hamas authority in the Gaza Strip. “The Cabinet today unanimously decided that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction,” said a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released Thursday afternoon.
Oh, the irony: Israel “formally suspended peace talks” they were determined to destroy from the outset. (To continue reading, click here.)
It Is Time to Bury the Honest Broker Deception
In John Ford’s film, The Searchers, Ethan (John Wayne) is talking with his bother Aaron. Ethan has been away from the family for several years.
AARON: How’s California?
ETHAN: How should I know?
AARON: But Mose Harper said…
ETHAN: That old goat still creakin’
around?…Whyn’t someone bury him?
It is time for President Barack Obama to be the leader who steps forward and finds a presidential way to “bury the old goat”.
The “Peace Process” is finished. The U.S. charade as an “honest broker” has been on its death bed for decades.
There has never been anything even closely resembling honesty in this U.S. charade. The U.S. was never a broker; it has always been”Israel’s lawyer”, to recall the description originally coined by Henry Kissinger.
Of course, should you prefer the guidance of the Gospel of Matthew rather than that of the Gospel of John Ford, here is a biblical version of the same burial recommendation:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27.
In his book, Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. has undermined peace in the Middle East,” Obama’s onetime University of Chicago colleague, Rashid Khalidi, has conveniently delivered the funeral oration for the Fordian “old goat”, and Matthew’s hypocrites.
“I Once Was Blind. . . But Now I See”
In a scene from the 2006 movie, Amazing Grace, set during the lifetime (1759 – 1833) of William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd, right), Wilberforce presents his anti-slave trade bill to the British Parliament. It is a task he performs annually.
Wilberforce is following the advice of his former preacher, John Newton (played in the film by Albert Finney), author of the hymn, “Amazing Grace”, who tells him that sometimes change occurs only through steady drips.
The purpose of Wilberforce’s annual legislative “drip” is to eventually persuade the majority of the Parliament to make it illegal for British ships to transport slaves from Africa to the New World.
At a crucial turning point in the film, speaking to an indifferent body of law-makers, many of whom have financial ties to the shipping industry, Wilberforce begins his annual plea:
“It is with a heavy heart that I bring to the attention of this House a trade that degrades men to the level of brutes and insults the highest qualities of our human nature. I am speaking of the slave trade.” (To continue reading, click here.)
“What we got here is failure to communicate”
John Kerry’s April 29 deadline for a negotiated framework between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, is only a few weeks away.
Without waiting for what is still a “flexible” end point for this round of “peace talks”, the two negotiating parties have entered the “blame game” utilizing the weapons they have at hand.
One party has the military and police strength of a major world military power. The other has the power to sign 14 international treaties, which include the Geneva Conventions and treaties on racism, genocide, and civil and political rights.
Writing for Al Monitor on its Israel page, Ben Caspit offered his observation on the blame game. [Bold emphasis added]:
“Everything that has happened to Kerry’s initiative this week was smeared in block letters on every wall en route to this impasse that we have just reached.
What we had here was a foretold chronicle of a breakdown on one hand, and a sweeping and somewhat childish enthusiasm with which Kerry sank his teeth into the negotiations on the other.
Had Kerry studied and examined the history of the last 20 years, he would have discovered that what he had undertaken was a mission impossible.”
Had Caspit studied and examined the two films he slips into his report, he would have discovered that Cool Hand Luke and the Mission Impossible series witness to the familiar reminder that “the arc of history bends toward justice”. (To continue reading, click here.)
GOP Aspirant Christie Apologizes To Adelson
Your heart has to go out to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Last weekend Christie went to Las Vegas to roll the dice in the “kiss Sheldon Adelson’s ring”, Republican primary.
One of four Republicans who may enter the real presidential primaries for the 2016 nomination, Christie stumbled in Las Vegas.
Halfway through his public address to the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), a convenient cover event for Adelson’s ring-kissing primary, Christie uttered a huge Zionist “no no”.
Here is a poor guy doing his best to pivot from the grime and scandal of New Jersey politics to the sunny environs of Nevada, where he wanted to do nothing more than display his deep and abiding love for Israel.
Such a pivot should have been a welcome and easy transition for a man who has spent months fighting public and legal attacks over Bridgegate, ”a scandal about a traffic jam”.
Desperate to connect to his Jewish audience, and of course, to kiss the ring of Zionist Casino Oligarch Adelson, Christie looked back fondly to a 2012 trip he made with his family to Israel.
Did he not know? Had he not heard? A governor who has displayed considerable obfuscation skills while denying involvement in his staff’s possible use of a bridge barrier to punish a political opponent, Christie slipped up on this one, big time: (To continue reading, click here.)
The U.S. Cannot Resuscitate What Never Lived
The game must go on. John Kerry performs his negotiator role. Benjamin Netanyahu goes through his role as the leader of an “endangered” state.
Mahmoud Abbas? Well, he (at right) is just sitting by at the peace table, with future diplomacy on his mind.
Trouble is, not even a hard-working John Kerry can resuscitate that which has not been suscitated in the first place
Yes, that is exactly the word we need here. Less than a month away from Kerry’s deadline for Israel and Palestine to agree on a framework to continue the current round of talks.
The Alpha Dictionary explains why:
“This word [suscitate] is not obsolete, just left behind in the dust of progress. . . Before you can resuscitate something, it should have originally been suscitated, [as in] “How do you suscitate curiosity in your students?”
Has there been a single Israeli prime minister who has ever been serious about giving Palestinians a viable state of their own? Of course not. A colonial power does not give political power back to the people whose land it has stolen by force and by guile. (To continue reading, click here.)
Will Abbas be Followed by Dahlan or Barghouti?
The headline on a New York Times story sounded innocent enough:
Palestinians Criticize Abbas for Public Fatah Feud at Delicate Time Diplomatically.
This is not an innocent story. It is a Times hasbara presentation that pretends to be “about” criticism by Palestinians of their president for starting a “feud” with Muhammad Dahlan.
Here are key paragraphs in the Times‘ story:
“Some of Mr. Abbas’s current difficulties are of his own making. Palestinians say they are baffled by Mr. Abbas’s decision to open up another front within his own Fatah movement by beginning a nasty, public campaign against a onetime ally who Mr. Abbas now sees as a rival, Muhammad Dahlan, a former Gaza strongman and Fatah security chief.
In the two weeks since Mr. Abbas’s opening salvo against Mr. Dahlan, who is living abroad, the Arabic media has been filled with unproved accusations by Mr. Abbas about the long-ago killings of prominent Palestinians, and by both men about collaboration with Israel and financial corruption.” (To continue reading, click here.)
Northeastern Joins Zionist BDS Campus Attacks
Forget about the so-called Peace Process, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to use as a cover for Israel’s territorial incursions into Palestinian Occupied Territories.
Start worrying, instead, about Zionist incursions into American universities.
Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges reports on the latest example of how universities and colleges are kowtowing to Zionism by banning and blacklisting student groups that “challenge the official Israeli narrative”:
The banning of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Northeastern University in Boston on March 7, along with a university threat of disciplinary measures against some of its members, replicates sanctions being imposed against numerous student Palestinian rights groups across the country.
The attacks, and the disturbingly similar forms of punishment, appear to be part of a coordinated effort by the Israeli government and the Israel lobby to blacklist all student groups that challenge the official Israeli narrative. (To continue reading, click here.)
Does The IDF Target Palestinian Soccer Players?
Two Palestinian youth soccer players were shot and badly wounded near a check point in the Palestinian West Bank on January 31.
Ma’an, the Palestinian news outlet, reported the shootings of Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17.
The players were shot by Israeli soldiers as they were walking home from practice in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium in al-Ram in the central West Bank.
Medical reports indicated that “Jawhar was shot with 11 bullets, seven in his left foot, three in his right, and one in his left hand. Halabiya was shot once in each foot.”
Doctors at Ramallah governmental hospital said the pair “will need six months of treatment before they can evaluate if the two will even be able to ever walk again, at best.”
Ma’an also reported that “Israeli forces opened fire in their direction without warning as they were walking near a checkpoint. Police dogs were subsequently unleashed on them before Israeli soldiers dragged them across the ground and beat them.”
The story did not surface in western press outlets until Dave Zirin wrote in the Nation:
Their names are Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17. They were once soccer players in the West Bank. Now they are never going to play sports again. Jawhar and Adam were on their way home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium on January 31 when Israeli forces fired upon them as they approached a checkpoint. (To continue reading, click here.)
Pope Francis Plans Second Visit to Jerusalem
Pope Francis currently plans to visit Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, May 24-26. This will be his second trip to Jerusalem.
The Pope’s first visit was 41 years ago. On that trip, he arrived in Jerusalem in October, 1973, just before war began between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
That war was fought between a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria, against Israel. The war lasted from October 6 to October 25.
On his second trip to Jerusalem in May, 2014, there will be no war to interrupt the Pope’s journey. There is, however, a labor strike by Israeli diplomatic personnel which began this week. The unions are striking for higher wages and better working conditions.
At first it was believed the Pope’s trip would be delayed or cancelled, since diplomatic personnel are needed to handle such a high profile visitor. However, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, has said that while the strike has caused “some apprehensions”, the trip will not be delayed.
The Vatican is especially eager to have the Pope’s visit coincide with the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s visit, the first in modern times. Since that 1963 visit, two more Popes have come to visit, Pope John Paul II in 2000 and Benedict XVI in 2009. The Times of Israel reports that in October 1973, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, made his first visit to Jerusalem. (To continue reading, click here.)
Barack to Bibi: “Time is running out”
When President Obama consented to an interview with Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, the President sent an ultimatum to israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
“Time is running out”.
Obama does not choose a reporter for an individual interview without a clear purpose.
In this case, his purpose could have been to use Goldberg as a journalist-messenger, trusted by Israel, but also a columnist for an American media outlet.
In his younger years, Goldberg served in the Israeli army as a prison guard. He even produced a book out of the experience, Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror.
The interview with Goldberg is the template President Obama keeps in front of his Israeli visitor, both in Washington and into the future.
Prime Minister Netanyahu came to Washington Sunday night. He met with President Obama Monday and on Tuesday he will address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference.
The AIPAC conference customarily functions as a pep really for AIPAC funders and supporters. At this annual event, through speeches and small group meetings, attendees receive legislative marching orders, essentially a list of legislation AiIPAC wants passed in the American Congress
One key demand that was expected to be high on this year’s AIPAC list was pulled, as AIPAC yielded to intense pressure from the White House. (To continue reading, click here.)
by James M. Wall
Rachel Corrie was killed March 16, 2003, by an Israeli soldier who crushed her to death with an American-built Caterpillar bulldozer.
Eleven years later, March 16, 2014, on the anniversary of her death, Rachel Corrie (right) will be remembered by her family and friends.
She will also be remembered on this anniversary, by those who celebrate and cherish a young American woman who said no to Israel’s occupation and no to the constant attacks on Palestinians and the destruction of Palestinian homes.
What happened when an American citizen is killed by an Israeli soldier driving an American-built bull dozer? Mother Jones had Israel’s official reaction in 2003:
“The Israeli government, which rarely acknowledges the deaths of Palestinian civilians killed during its military operations, went into damage-control mode. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised President Bush a “thorough, credible, and transparent investigation.” Later Israel declared the killing a “regrettable accident” and blamed it on overzealous Corrie and the other activists working as human shields.”
Subsequent calls for Congress to investigate Rachel Corrie’s death were ignored. A civil lawsuit brought by her family against the Israeli military, was introduced in Israeli courts, March 15, 2005. The Israeli justice system responded slowly. Seven years after the suit was filed, and nine years after Rachel Corrie’s death, an Israeli court reached a final verdict. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Spirit of Judah L. Magnes Lives On
A New York Times column, A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel,” opens with an interview with Orthodox Jewish scholar Charles H. Manekin.
In his column, Mark Oppenheimer describes Professor Manekin as a “rarity”, an apt description because in addition to his academic tasks, Manekin writes a hard-hitting blog, which he calls, The Magnes Zionist., named for:
Judah L. Magnes, an American rabbi who, until his death in 1948, argued that a Jewish return to the Middle East did not require a nation-state.
Wikipedia recalls Judah Leon Magnes (1877 – 1948) (pictured above), as “a prominent Reform rabbi in both the United States and the British Mandate of Palestine”.
Magnes was a leader in the World War I pacifist movement and was “one of the most widely recognized voices of 20th Century American Reform Judaism”.
The spirit of Rabbi Magnes lives on in the work of Professor Manekin, who shares his “at odd with Israel” tab with a small group of observant Orthodox Jews interviewed by Mark Oppenheimer. (To continue reading, click here.)
What Ike Feared “Has Come Upon US”
by James M. Wall
On February 3, Illinois Sixth District Republican Congressman Peter Roskam introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress that would defend Israel against any criticism from U.S. academics.
Roskam is responding to the December, 2013 vote of the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli academic institutions for their role in the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The American people were told this day would come. In his Farewell Address, delivered on January 17, 1961, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower (above) warned the nation to guard against the “unwarranted influence” of “the military-industrial complex”.
Fifty-three years later, to paraphrase Job, ”that which Ike feared has come upon us.”
Melvin A. Goodman, a 24-year veteran of the CIA, and now a professor himself, was an undergraduate student at John Hopkins University in 1961. In his book, National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism, Goodman writes:
“In 1959 President Dwight Eisenhower began a dialogue with his brother, Milton, the president of Johns Hopkins University, regarding U.S. military policy. In the spring of 1961, a small group of undergraduates met with Milton Eisenhower to discuss the president’s farewell address. (To continue reading, click here.)
Super Bowl Ad And SodaStream
A television ad which ran during the fourth quarter of the Denver Broncos-Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl game Sunday, featured Hollywood film star Scarlett Johansson (shown here in a poster picture).
The ad, for which the company SodaStream, paid $4 million, features Johansson as a sexy, convincing sales person for SodaStream’s home carbonation product.
Johansson should be easily recognized in the TV ad by younger viewers who would know her from her featured role in the movie series, The Avengers. In that series Johansson plays the Black Widow, one of several Marvel Comic characters who fight evil powers as a team. The picture of Johansson is from a poster from the yet to be released Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which she plays the Black Widow. That picture will be in theaters, April 4.
Johansson has been in many other films, most recently as the off-screen voice of Samantha, the computer-generated “her” in the film Her. In that film, the unseen Samantha establishes a love relationship with a lonely man played by Joaquin Phoenix. The film is set in the future when computers, supposedly, have developed human emotions.
A more recent Johansson film, Under the Skin. premiered in 2013 at the Toronto Film Festival. It will be released to theaters later this year. Two more Black Widow films will be released over the next two years. The Black Widow, that is, Scarlett Johansson, is also engaged in a real life fight, now being fought largely out of sight of the average Super Bowl viewer.
That fight is being waged in a BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign against SodaStream, an Israeli company which operates one of its factories in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. BDS is gathering steam as an effective, non-violent program designed to call world attention to business and companies which illegally operate in Occupied Palestine. (To continue reading, click here.)
Village Destruction in the Jordan Valley
British journalist and author Victoria Brittain traveled to the Jordan Valley to see the actual conditions and latest developments in one of the areas under discussion in the peace negotiations John Kerry is conducting between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
A people under military occupation, prisoners in their own land, controlled by outside forces, live in the area in which Victoria Brittain traveled.
She later wrote of her mid-January trip and the people she met in Open Democracy. One man she interviewed was Burhan Bisharat (above), whose home in the village of Kirbet al Makhoul has been destroyed four times.
Brittain began her trip northeast of the Palestinian city of Nablus, traveling along a road toward the northern Jordan Valley and the international border with the country of Jordan. The area through which she traveled contains rocky brown hills, riddled with what she describes as “concrete posts every hundred yards inscribed ‘DANGER’ Firing Zone”.
Her journey covered one part of Area C, designated as land under Israeli total control under an earlier agreement reached under President Bill Clinton known as Oslo 2. One particular part of Area C in which Brittain traveled is described on UN maps with the occupier’s euphemism, “Israel’s Nature Reserve”. Much of the area map is shaded with the equally euphemistic identification, “an Israeli closed military area”. (To continue reading, click here.)
16 Dem Senators Join AIPAC Against Iran Deal; Feinstein and TV’s Chris Hayes Support Obama
by James M. Wall
Sixteen Democratic U.S. Senators, including two with higher political aspirations, have joined Republican senators as co-sponsors of Senate \legislation which might better be described as “the kill the Iranian nuclear pact” legislation.
The Senate bill, labeled the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act. would impose additional sanctions against Iran, thereby destroying the carefully negotiated nuclear pact Secretary of State John Kerry has worked out with Iran.
On January 15, Chris Hayes devoted a segment of his MSNBC All In television program to a heated attack on the 16 Democratic senators who have turned away from President Obama and followed, instead, the marching orders of the Israel Lobby, led by AIPAC.
To view Hayes’ four minute segment on the 16 Democratic senators who follow AIPAC’s bidding, click here. (Not counting the ad, sorry about that, stop the video after 4:03 minutes unless you want to hear more about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and who needs more of that.)
Hayes is not alone in opposing “the kill the Iranian nuclear pact” Senate legislation. He provides media backing to California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (above left) who spoke on the Senate floor against the Kirk-Menendez legislation. (To continue reading, click here.)
Ariel Sharon Dies After Eight Years in a Coma
Ariel Sharon died January 11, 2014, eight years and one week after he suffered a stroke January 4, 2006. At the time of his stroke, Sharon was the 11th Prime Minister of Israel.
The stroke left him in a permanent, brain dead, vegetative state. It was not the final chapter of life a proud man could have wanted.
A medical blog described Sharon’s final years: ”With the help of modern medicine, his body soldiered on. His kidneys no longer worked, and he received dialysis to keep them operating. In 2013, he even underwent surgery to treat an infection related to his kidney failure”.
Deprived of dignity, his body systems sustained by modern technology, Sharon lingered for eight years, largely forgotten by the world. Ramifications of his legacy, however, remain very much alive in Israel. Sharon embodied and acted on the worst elements of intolerance, racism and greed a nation can embrace. (To continue reading, click here.)
Netanyahu’s “Shibboleths” Scuttle Peace Talks
“No partner for peace” is one of several “shibboleths” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and his cabinet are now using to scuttle any peace agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas, no matter how often U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Tel Aviv.
As readers of Judges 12:6 are well aware, pronunciation of the word “shibboleth” is used to separate friends from enemies.
In episode eight of the second season of the television series West Wing, for example, President Josiah Bartlett used “shibboleth” to determine that Chinese immigrants were truly Christian and therefore deserved admission to the U.S. To assert that Israel “has no partner for peace” is a verbal signal, a “shibboleth”, which quickly certifies that the speaker is “with Israel”, without reservations.
When John Kerry returned last week to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks for his tenth visit, he brought with him a proposal to discuss “four core issues” with the peace negotiators. Because he is a master diplomat (another reason to regret his failure to defeat incumbent President George W. Bush in 2004), Kerry knew Netanyahu would find ways to defer progress toward peace.
Kerry’s “four core issues” were quickly expanded by Netanyahu and members of his cabinet, to “six core issues”. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israeli Aggression Leaves Little Hope for Peace
The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. That conflict began on July 28, 1914. It did not end until November 11, 1918.
Keep those dates in mind because by July 28, 2014, it is possible that we will witness the start of another conflict, driven by the same stupidity, greed and lust for power that produced the First World War. That repeat of history was evident in the bad news for the Palestinians that preceded the arrival in Tel Aviv on Thursday of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The bad news came in the verbal bluster and actions of Israeli political leaders who insist Israel will continue to aggressively build settlement housing on Palestinian territory. The demand by Israel that IDF units must continue to patrol the Palestinian Jordan Valley is one more egregious step Israel is taking to guarantee that Kerry’s attempts to form a peace agreement will never succeed. The houses shown above are in the Jewish settlement of Maale Efrayim in the Palestinian Jordan Valley where, Foreign Policy reports,
Israel’s interior minister will on Thursday inaugurate a new neighbourhood in a Jewish settlement in the Jordan Valley, in a gesture of defiance that will coincide with US secretary of state John Kerry’s latest visit to the region to push forward peace talks.
Into this atmosphere of Israeli expansionism, the Secretary returned to the region this week for his tenth visit, bringing plans for discussion by Israeli and Palestinian leaders. (To continue reading, click here.)
Iran And The Season of Peace and Goodwill
This is the season which celebrates the hope of peace and good will among humankind. The New Testament testifies to this hope in Luke 2:8-20.
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:8-20 New KJV
The key to this passage is the announcement, “You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” The Babe is Jesus, born of Mary, in the town of Bethlehem (modern city shown above). In the time recorded by Luke, the Babe lies in a manger, helpless and vulnerable. When we speak of the Babe we see him as an embodiment of future hope, a promise of what could be.
Today, in the land where Jesus was born, there is another fragile and vulnerable hope for peace. A nuclear peace agreement between Iran and major western powers waits to grow into a mature reality. Unlike the child described by Luke, this peace agreement is not perfect; it was created by political leaders, not by God. (To continue reading, click here.)
If Talks Fail, Boycotts Will Arrive “On Steroids”
John Kerry returned for talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah this week, bringing a warning that if the peace talks fail, Israel could confront a “boycott campaign on steroids“. The U.S. Secretary of State also brought a “framework agreement” for the two sides to discuss.
Learning of the contours of the proposed agreement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was quick to voice his opposition. The agreement reportedly calls for the stationing of Israeli military forces in the Jordan Valley under the noxious pretense that Israel needs that extra layer of protection for its security. Ira Glunt, writing in Mondoweiss, offers more details on the Ramallah meeting:
As reported in Ha’aretz, according to a senior Palestinian advisor, the atmosphere at the meeting last night was not good because of “American pressure.” The Americans want an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley for a period of 10 to 15 years. The Palestinians have publicly stated that they would accept an international military presence in their future state, but would not agree to any Israeli military deployment on their territory.
On his return to Jerusalem from Ramallah, the Secretary had his expected 30 minute drive delayed for more than two hours. Such a delay would be typical for Palestinians on the same journey, but it was not checkpoints that delayed the Secretary.
He was driving through the heaviest snowstorm to hit Jerusalem in decades. Kerry’s proposed “framework agreement” is described by Ha’aretz as “an attempt to achieve a breakthrough in the impasse and to force leaders to reach decisions”. Kerry has five months left in his self-imposed time frame to reach a peace agreement.
He is trying everything in his diplomat notebook. He warns Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu of a flood of boycotts he could face. He warned Abbas of a delay in the scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners at the end of December. The two threats are hardly comparable, but then, the status of the occupied and the occupier are also anything but comparable. (To continue reading, click here.)
Mandela Had “A Unique Moral Authority”
Nelson Mandela died at his Johannesburg home on December 5. The man who led South Africa out of the bondage of national apartheid, died at the age of 95. The world has responded with an outpouring of praise for the man who served as South Africa’s first post-apartheid president. Leaders from western nations, where Mandela was once scorned as a “terrorist” revolutionary, rushed to get in line to recall him as a great leader. A public memorial service is planned for Tuesday in a Johannesburg outdoor stadium. Mandela will be buried at his ancestral home in Qunu, Eastern Cape, on December 15. The British newspaper, the Independent, took note of Mandela’s moral authority:
Nelson Mandela was the most respected, and probably the most loved of all world leaders in the late 20th century, and the most enduring of the heroes who emerged from the political convulsions of the 1980s. . . . For 27 years in jail he refused to compromise his principles, while for most of that time his own party, the African National Congress (ANC), was broken. But he emerged in February 1990 to become the dominant influence in his country, without whom peace was unlikely. When he was elected President in April 1994, he was accepted by whites as well as blacks as the embodiment of his country’s new democracy, with a unique moral authority.
Among those who quickly announced that they will travel to South Africa to honor this man of ”a unique moral authority” were U.S. President Barack Obama and two earlier U.S. presidents, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Jimmy Carter, another former U.S. president, will travel to Johannesburg with a delegation of The Elders, a group of “independent, progressive leaders committed to peace, justice and human rights”. The Elders group was founded by Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg on July 18, 2007, his 89th birthday. (To read further and to see and head Mandela’s 1990 television interview with Ted Koppel, click here.)
Netanyahu’s Flawed Vatican Charm Offensive
With the U.S. Congress safely in his back pocket, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has turned his charm offensive on the Vatican. How is that working out for him? It does not look promising. The Prime Minister forgot the first rule of charm school: Target your prey gently. Avoid all punches to the mid-section. The international Jewish News Agency (JTA) reported on Monday’s meeting between Netanyahu and Pope Francis:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Vatican audience with Pope Francis reportedly invited the pontiff to visit Israel. No date has been set for a visit by Francis to Israel, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. Netanyahu on Monday presented the pope with a book about the Spanish Inquisition written by his father, the late historian Benzion Netanyahu.”
An invitation to drop by for a visit to Tel Aviv along with a gift to the Holy Father recalling the dark moments of the Spanish Inquisition? Bad form, Mr. Prime Minister. The book delivered to the Pope was written by Netanyahu’s father, Ben-Zion Netanyahu, who died recently at the age of 102. The pride of a son could be one justification for the gift. The book, The Origins of the Inquisition in 15th Century Spain, is considered the elder Netanyahu’s finest work. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was quick to note the incongruity of a book as a gift to the Pope which denounces the sins of Pope Francis’ 15th century predecessor, one that “largely revolves about Spanish Catholics questioning, torturing, and punishing Jewish converts to Catholicism,” a practice first legally sanctioned by Pope Innocent IV in 1252. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Secret Mission of William J. Burns
Congress and Israel Against Obama and Kerry; “Which Side are You On?”
John Kerry: Unfiltered In His Own Words
by James M. Wall John Kerry took the unusual step of agreeing to a November 6, Jerusalem television interview with two reporters, an Israeli and a Palestinian. He did so in order to send a public message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An Israeli writer for the right-wing Jerusalem web site, Times of Israel, got the message. He did not, however, like what he heard. He relayed his negative reaction in his story:
For the first time since he managed to restart the [Israel-Palestine peace] talks in July, Kerry dropped his statesman-like public impartiality, and clearly spoke from the heart — and what emerged were a series of accusations that amounted to a forceful slap in the face for Netanyahu. It was a rhetorical onslaught that the prime minister cannot have expected and one he will not quickly forget. (emphasis added by blogger)
The writer with that perspective is Raphael Ahren, diplomatic correspondent for theTimes of Israel, a Web-only, English-language Israeli newspaper, launched in February earlier this year by Seth Klarman, a wealthy American Jewish investor. Klarman, according to Wikipedia, has also been the longtime chairman and a financial supporter of The David Project, a Boston-based group which sponsors pro-Israel advocacy programs on American college campuses. Using words from Kerry’s TV interview, and then filtering them through the Times‘ right-wing perspective, Ahren continues: (To continue reading, click here.)
Do Peace Talks Point to a Carthaginian Peace?
by James M. Wall On December 24, 2009, the Israeli oil exploration company Givot Olam, posted two media announcements a few hours apart. Givot Olam’s first announcement revealed that “significant quantities” of oil had been found in the mud of Meged 5, a drill site close to the Palestinian village of Rantis, north west of Ramallah. Rantis is located close to the Green Line, the 1967 line that initially separated Israel from the West Bank. Israel had been searching for oil around Rentis since at least 2002, an action in violation of international law as well as a violation of the Oslo Agreement, which required that Israel and Palestine refrain from any unilateral exploration of national resources in the occupied territories. Oil development in the West Bank would boost the Palestinian economy. It could also help develop a strong Palestinian nation on the east side of the Green Line. The game Israel has played with its decade long development of an oil field that clearly extends well into the West Bank, is a game Israel intends to win. The Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ), describes the village of Rantis where the game is being played.
Rantis, is a small Palestinian village located to the northwest of Ramallah district in the Palestinian West Bank. It has a total population of 2688 inhabitants and a built up area of 458 dunums (115 Acres). The village is inhabited mostly by 6 clans (Wahdan, Hallaf, Ballot, Dar Abo Salim, Al Yahee, Hawashe. Most of Rantis villagers depend on agriculture as their main source of income. (To continue reading and for more on a carthagenian peace. click here.)
“Laying by time” Gives Diplomacy a Chance
U.S. Jews Battle Over Blumenthal’s “Goliath”
by James M. Wall Max Blumenthal is a young Jewish American journalist whose father, Sidney Blumenthal, was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton from August 1997 until January 2001. Preparing to write his latest book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, Max Blumenthal (shown here) spent four years reporting from Israel and occupied Palestine. His father’s political connections did not pave the way for his interviews. All the son needed was his American passport and Jewish identity. Both Palestinians and Jews wanted to tell their stories. In his research Blumenthal had easy access to major Israeli literary figures like Israeli novelist David Grossman. In his interview with Grossman, which he reports in his book, Blumenthal refers to his father’s earlier career in the Clinton administration. What provoked this rare reference to his father was Grossman’s emotional defense of Israel as an essential safe haven for Jews. Blumenthal writes:
For Grossman and liberal Zionists like him, the transformation of Israel from an ethnically exclusive Jewish state into a multiethnic democracy was not an option. “For two thousand years” Grossman told me when I asked why he believed the preservation of Zionism was necessary, “we have been kept out, we have been excluded. And so for our whole history we were outsiders. Because of Zionism we finally have the chance to be insiders.” (To continue reading, check here.)
Israel Hides Nukes Behind “Ambiguity” Wall
Bob Dylan: “For the times they are a-changin”
by James M. Wall “For the times they are a-changin”, is a line from the third verse of Bob Dylan’s 1964 classic American protest hymn, released as the title track of Dylan’s 1964 album. In 1985, Dylan told Cameron Crowe, who was writing cover copy for a later Dylan album:
“This was definitely a song with a purpose. It was influenced, of course, by the Irish and Scottish ballads …’Come All Ye Bold Highway Men’, ‘Come All Ye Tender Hearted Maidens’. I wanted to write a big song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time.” (Wikipedia)
I was reminded of Dylan’s “song with a purpose” while attempting to decipher the reaction to two recent United Nations General Assembly speeches, specifically, one from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and another from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The positive response to Rouhani is startling compared to the surprisingly negative reaction evoked by Netanyahu. Times are most certainly changing when an Israeli leader is trumped on the world stage so decisively by a leader of Iran. (To continue reading, and to view Bruce Springsteen singing “For the times they are a-changin”, click here.)
Netanyahu and Obama Seek “The Truth”
by James M. Wall Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the United States this week, vowing to expose “the truth” about Iran. The exposure vow from Netanyahu was just the opening barrage in what is expected to be a four-day visit with ample diplomatic fisticuffs. Obama spoke last week to the United Nations General Assembly and pledged to turn his attention to a pursuit for peace in the Middle East. Specifically, he said he would focus on resolving the issue of Iran’s nuclear development and finding a path to peace between Israel and Palestine. In Obama’s UN speech he forcefully pointed to the two issues which will consume his diplomatic energies “in the near term”:
America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Arab- Israeli conflict. While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace. (To continue reading, click here.)
Iran’s Rouhani: “The World Has Changed”
by James M. Wall On July 30, 2009, conservative columnist Pat Buchanan wrote a column in the American Conservative. He called it, “Tell Israel No”. Here is a key paragaph:
“Israel has been saying for years an Iranian bomb is months away. Where is the proof? Where is the evidence to justify a new U.S. war in the Middle East to destroy weapons of mass destruction that may not exist in Iran, as they did not exist in Iraq?”
This column appeared four years ago. Nothing has changed except the date. Israel continues to cry nuclear wolf. The U.S. consistently indulges Israel in its desire to make Iran a pariah among nations. This indulgence could start to change this week when, and if, President Obama meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The two leaders are scheduled to speak to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday. There are strong signs they will meet somewhere at the UN. The meeting could be serious, or it could just be accidentally on purpose. But it will happen. President Rouhani set his agenda for a serious meeting by asserting, “the world has changed”, in a column published in the Washington Post. (To continue, click here.)
Peaceful Pause Delivers “Stunning” News
No one ever said diplomacy was easy. Many have said it is messy. But one thing is certain: Diplomacy is better than destruction. Thanks to diplomacy, which weathered recent negative media cries of incompetence, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has announced that the U.S. and Russia have reached what one news outlet called a “stunning” agreement. The Secretary made the announcement from Geneva mid-day Saturday, after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The Daily Beast report by Christopher Dickey, begins:
“In a stunning agreement that could lead to the end of the Syrian crisis, Russia and the U.S. announce a plan to eliminate Assad’s chemical arsenal. The diplomatic breakthrough in Geneva today is simply stunning. The “framework agreement for elimination of Syrian chemical weapons” reached by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov delivers, in writing at least, just about everything President Barack Obama demanded when he threatened to attack the Assad regime earlier this month. The agreement calls on Syria to declare in detail its entire chemical arsenal within weeks and destroy it – along with everything involved in making it – within five or six months.”
Obama Pauses Again; Peace Wins, AIPAC Loses
Monday, September 9, was planned as a day for the White House to persuade Congress to support military strikes on Syria. The highlight of the day’s “persuade Congress” plan was a White House appearance by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After a luncheon meeting with President Obama, Clinton pledged her every effort to gain “yes” votes from Congress for a military attack. Midway through her statement she had to shift, however, from attack mode to peace mode. A rapid series of “surprise” developments swept through London, Moscow and Damascus before dark in Washington Monday. We may not know until the tell-all book on President Obama’s second term is published. But it sure looks like the Obama team spent this past weekend changing its “persuade Congress” plan to a “further pause for peace” plan. Whatever it was, something led to the weekend shift in White House plans. The Obama team had read the polls. It was obvious that the majority of the American public wanted no part of more U.S. military presence in the Middle East. Members of Congress read the same polls. At first only the most hard line pro-Israel members of the House and Senate raised their hands to give a yes vote for an attack. A strange assortment of Republicans, Democrats, progressives and conservatives lifted their hands to defiantly vote no to an attack. (To continue reading, click here.)
Obama Pauses; Calls for Debate in Congress
Is Israel Serious About Peace?
Will Palestine Retain Its Natural Gas Fields?
by James M. Wall For the moment, all is quiet on the Israeli-Palestinian peace front. Is it “too quiet”, as they once asked in movie westerns? That depends entirely on what kind of peace is being discussed. Does danger lurk, or does a just peace lie ahead? U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry could be working furiously behind the scenes for a just peace. If so, he would be demanding that the natural gas fields off the Gaza coast remain under Palestinian control. An industry web site , offshore technology.com, describes the potential of the Gaza coast gas fields:
Gaza Marine gas field is located 30km off the coast of the Gaza Strip, in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It lies at a water depth of 603m. The development of the Gaza field has been on hold for several years due to disputes between Israel and the Palestinians.
Not surprisingly, Israel has already treated the gas fields as its personal property. On June 16, 2011, Oil Price.com wrote:
Earlier this week Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure authorized Noble Energy, a crude oil and gas exploration U.S. based company based in New York, to begin developing a natural gas field off the Gaza Strip coastline. (To continue reading, click here.)
Peace Talks Begin Despite Political Resistance
“God of our weary years, God of our silent tears”— James Weldon Johnson
by James M. Wall This blog has an internal statistics page which reports a daily compilation of the number of “visits” to the current posting. The same page also reports on visits to previous postings. A few days ago I noticed a few “visits” to the January 20, 2009, Wall Writings posting. That posting, entitled, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, began:
After Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president of the United States, he delivered a stirring inaugural address that called on Americans to join with him in addressing the problems facing the nation. “Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily nor in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.”
Further along in the 2009 posting, I added this about the inauguration:
Obama’s speech was followed by a benediction from 87-year-old [The Reverend] Joseph Lowery (above), from Atlanta, Georgia, whose opening words must have sounded familiar to the millions of African Americans in the crowd and around the nation. Lowery’s prayer began with the third verse of James Weldon Johnson’s hymn, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, which, since it was written in 1920, has emerged as the “national anthem” of the African American community.
During these late summer weeks, as we await the closely-guarded news from the ongoing “peace talks” between Israel and Palestine, the third verse of “Lift Every Voice” appears even more relevant today than it was in 2009. Here are the words that begin the third verse: (To continue reading, click here.)
Kerry Stumbles Into a Peace “Bully” Role
Nicola Nasser, a blogger from Bir Zeit, Palestine, has delivered a stinging rebuke to John Kerry on the eve of the meetings with the U.S., Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. Nasser’s blog, allarabi. exposed a “new tactic” in Kerry’s preparation for the peace conference,scheduled to begin Monday. When preparations for the talks began, Kerry asked Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas not to comment on the conversations they had with Kerry prior to the Washington meeting. Sorry, Mr. Secretary, but If the Edward Snowden/NSA fiasco has taught us anything, it is this: There are no secrets in the internet age. The U.S. Secretary of State cannot meet with a delegation from the 22-member Arab League in Petra, Jordan. as Kerry did on July 17, and expect his strategy to retain confidential. Certainly not with bloggers like Nasser writing under this blunt headline, ”Kerry Uses Arabs to Bully Palestinians”, This is how Nasser began his posting:
A new tactic by US Secretary of State John Kerry is causing a split within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) ranks regarding further talks with Israel. Kerry is apparently using the Arab League’s Follow-Up Committee on the Arab Peace Initiative (FCAPI) to bully the Palestinians into accepting new ground rules for the talks to which they had objected in the past. (To continue reading, click here.)
Livni Warns Israel It Faces A Worldwide Boycott
by James M. Wall Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is the Israeli cabinet minister with the task of finding a way back to peace talks. At the moment, she is one more frustrated negotiator. Livni was so frustrated that she kicked off the month of July with a speech in which she said that if negotiations with the Palestinians don’t start up again soon, Israel will face a worldwide economic boycott. The Jerusalem Post reported on her speech:
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni warned Monday at an accountants’ conference in Eilat that lack of progress on the Palestinian track could lead to a potential disaster for Israeli exports. “Europe is boycotting goods,” said Livni, head of Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians. “True, it starts with settlement [goods], but their problem is with Israel, which is seen as a colonialist country. Therefore, it won’t stop at the settlements, but [will spread] to all of Israel,” she said.
This is not what we expect to hear from an Israeli minister. Nor it is usual for a minister to address the youth of her country with this reminder:
During her Eilat speech, Livni said she was impressed that youth in the country protested against the government decision to export natural gas. “I appreciate the fact that they care and are thinking about the future, and obligating us to think about the future,” she said. “But the time has come for the same youth to ask, to what kind of state do they want to leave the gas reserves? (To continue reading, click here.)
“One Day Ramallah Will Rise Up”
by James M. Wall “One Day Ramallah Will Rise Up” is the title of a current column by the provocative Ha’aretz writer, Gideon Levy. During this same week, Uri Avnery, another Israeli provocateur, entitled his Gush Shalom column, “The Human Spring”. He sees, and clearly feels, the presence of a “hidden mechanism” pushing the world forward in this post-Arab Spring period. I would not suggest Levy and Avnery conspired to deliver a common theme to our in-boxes during this first week of July. But there is no doubt that Levy and Avnery have sensed the presence of a “hidden mechanism” of change in Palestine. It is a change happening in Ramallah, Palestine’s temporary capital, and in the rest of the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and in Gaza. Uri Avnery opens his “hidden mechanism” column:
When asked what he thought about the French Revolution, Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Communist leader, famously answered: “It’s too early to say.” This was considered a typical piece of ancient Chinese wisdom – until somebody pointed out that Zhou did not mean the revolution of 1789, but the events of May 1968, which happened not long before the interview in question. Even now it may be too early to judge that upheaval, when students tore up the cobblestones of Paris, confronted the brutal police and proclaimed a new era. It was an early forerunner of what is happening today all over the world.
It was in May of 1968 when young people demanded change they longed for, focused primarily on freedom. The Arab Spring, and what follows it, is our current generation’s tangible response to this same demand for political freedom. (To continue reading, click here.)
Kerry Undertakes One Last Anti-War Mission
by James M. Wall John Kerry is back in Washington after his fifth official trip to the Middle East. He is already planning his return to the region. Despite the lack of any visible signs of success, the U.S. Secretary of State remains determined to resolve what is generally seen in official Washington as an intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine. In a June 30 editorial, The New York Times saw little prospect for success, despite the fact that “Mr. Kerry keeps doggedly plowing forward.” Indeed, as the Times reports, the Secretary is giving every impression that he sees progress ahead. He sure acts that way. Note his travel schedule:
“On Thursday [June 27], he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, then drove to Amman to confer with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, on Friday. He later flew by helicopter back to Jerusalem for another meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, then one with President Shimon Peres of Israel. On Saturday and Sunday, he shuttled between the leaders again.”
This is not Kerry’s first political rodeo. There is nothing quite like rising from his role as an anti-war Vietnam veteran to become a U.S. senator, a U.S. presidential candidate and chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, to teach someone the art of politics. John Kerry’s first appearance on the American political scene was as a young Navy lieutenant appearing before the same Senate Foreign Relations Committee which he would one day chair. (1971 picture of Kerry testifying above). It was in that senate committee testimony that a young navy veteran told the senators that he and his fellow veterans against the Vietnam war were “undertaking one last mission” to end a war. (To continue reading, click here.)
“Poor George, he can’t help it . . .”
by James M. Wall “Poor George, he can’t help it — he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” This memorable line from future Texas Governor Ann Richards was aimed at soon-to-be President George H. W. Bush. It was included in Richards’ keynote address to the 1988 Democratic National Convention, which nominated Michael Dukakis as its candidate to oppose Bush. It is a superb Texas sweet-talking barbed description, dripping with sarcasm and righteous anger. It came to me that this is a term that fits all sizes of U.S. politicians who “can’t help it” when it comes to Israel. They were born into political life with the silver foot of the Israeli narrative dictating their every political move. The video of Richards’ famous line is at the end of this posting. I recalled the impact of that 1988 “Poor George” line when I read what former President Bill Clinton said at an event honoring Israeli President Shimon Peres on the occasion of Peres’ 90th birthday:
“The longer the Palestinian conflict remained unsolved, the more acute the demographic challenge would become for Israel. […] No matter how many settlers you put out there, the Palestinians are having more babies than the Israelis as a whole… You’ve got an existential question to answer.”
Poor Bill, he can’t help it. He talks about Palestine and Israel as though Palestine is not in the room. He can’t help it. Demographics is the problem? Please. Clinton’s speech was delivered on the opening night of the fifth annual Israeli Presidential Conference, held in Jerusalem. It was an upbeat look to the future by the famous guests. (To continue reading and to view the Richards’ video, click here.)
Clinton and Netanyahu Not Good for Obama
Kerry Delays Orwellian Trip to Middle East
by James M. Wall Secretary of State John Kerry has delayed his fifth “peace process” trip to Israel/Palestine. The Secretary will remain in Washington to attend strategy sessions on Syria. The delay in starting his fifth trip should give Kerry time to add the writings of George Orwell and Rashid Khalidi to his Tel Aviv flight reading assignment. The Washington strategy sessions on Syria which delayed Kerry’s trip, were hastily arranged after a major military encounter at Al-Qusayr, Syria. Hezbollah, which the New York Times recently described as “the powerful Lebanese Shiite Muslim organization”, (eschewing, surprisingly, the usual pejorative media phrase: “which Israel and the US consider a terrorist group”) joined President Bashar al-Assad’s regular Syrian army forces in a major military victory in the Syrian civil war. Here is how the Times reported on that battle in the city of Al-Qusayr, which as the map above reveals, is a crucial border crossing point between Lebanon and Syria, which is a matter of considerable interest to Israel.
“Last week, Hezbollah fighters helped the Syrian government seize the strategic crossroads town of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, from rebels who had held it for more than a year. . . . Hezbollah’s core followers in Lebanon have been unwavering in their support for the group’s recent escalation of its role in Syria, even as dozens of Hezbollah fighters have been killed or injured fighting in Syria against fellow Arab Muslims — a new kind of battle for a group that was founded to fight Israel.”
Al-Qusayr complicates John Kerry’s task as a peace envoy when next he travels to Tel Aviv. The “peace process” of which this next trip is just the latest episode, has been built on decades of deceit. Increasingly, that deceit has been exposed for all to see, and except in Israel, lament. (To continue reading, click here.)
Have Church/State Leaders Endorsed Injustice?
by James M. Wall The two political leaders pictured here are U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Middle East Quartet Representative and former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair. The two men are walking next to a wall at the Villa Taverna, the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Rome, Italy, on May 9, 2013. Less than a month later,Secretary Kerry spoke to the World Economic Forum in Amman, Jordan, where he introduced an initiative he hopes will break an “impasse” between Israel and Palestine. Kerry called his initiative,“Breaking The Impasse.” He claimed that his plan would:
triple tourism to the occupied Palestinian territories, double or triple Palestinian agriculture production, increase the Palestinian GDP by 50 percent, and foster the construction of a whopping 100,000 new, energy efficient Palestinian homes in the West Bank.
Tony Blair was to be in charge of the initiative. This is the same Tony Blair who was given an assignment to organize for peace on behalf of the Quartet, which hired him for that purpose. The Quartet is composed of leaders from the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia. We have to believe that Kerry’s “ambitious initiative” was developed on walks like the one Kerry and Blair took last month in Rome. At some point, we must also assume a staffer hauled out a dictionary to make sure the parties involved (both English-speakers) understood that an “impasse” is a ”road or passage having no exit; a cul-de-sac”. Furthermore, a “cul-de-sac”, as we all know, is designed purposely not to be broken. (To continue reading, click here.)
Why Gitmo Was Not Closed from the Get-Go
by James M. Wall On May 23, 2013, our still young, but now greying, President Obama delivered what he hoped would be “a change speech”. The speech was delivered to National Defense University, at Fort McNair in Washington DC. Reuters began its report on the speech:
President Barack Obama on Thursday (May 23) shifted the United States away from a “boundless global war on terror,” restricting deadly drone strikes abroad and signaling that America’s long struggle against al Qaeda will one day end. In a major policy speech, Obama narrowed the scope of the U.S. targeted-killing campaign against al Qaeda and its allies and took new steps toward closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison – controversial elements of the U.S. counterterrorism fight that have drawn condemnation at home and abroad.
The speech dealt with a larger policy of the Obama administration, a pledge to narrow the “scope” of the targeted-killing drone campaign which Obama inherited and which he has shown little sign of wanting to give up. His progressive critics believe it is time Obama did more than narrow the “scope” of the drone program. They want it ended. Obama also dealt with a more specific action, closing the US military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba. Obama has promised to close Guantanamo during his campaign for president. He failed to do so in his first term. Reluctant to criticize specific actions of his presidential predecessors, Obama missed an opportunity to appropriately lay the blame for the existence of the Guantanamo prison squarely at the feet of President George W. Bush. How are we to understand this moment in history? We may start by thinking of an earlier moment in our history, captured by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in a poem entitled, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. (To continue reading, click here.)
Ten Years After US Invades Iraq, Israel Eager to Take the US Into Round Two
Hawking Stuns Israel With Conference Boycott
Israel Claims Its Attack On Syria Was “To Stop Iranian Missiles Reaching Hezbollah”
by James M. Wall The civil war in Syria between rebel forces and President Bashar Assad’s Syrian army, escalated this weekend when Israel bombed Damascus, the capital of Syria. With its standard rationale familiar to Gaza residents, Israel released an official story that claimed the bombing was carried out for defensive purposes. The Reuters story in the Jerusalem Post, reported that the Israeli airstrikes, which killed “dozens of Syrian soldiers close to Damascus”, were “downplayed” by Israeli leaders. The “downplaying” consisted of Israel’s claim it was not attempting to influence the Syrian civil war, but wanted only to “stop Iranian missiles reaching Lebanese Hezbollah militants”. To bolster its official version of the raid, veteran Israeli lawmaker Tzahi Hanegbi, a confidant of Netanyahu, told Israel Radio that ”Israel wants to avoid “an increase in tension with Syria by making clear that if there is activity, it is only against Hezbollah, not against the Syrian regime.” (It should be noted that Hezbollah and Assad’s government are allies) The Post rushed past the fact that “dozens of Syrian soldiers” were killed outside Damascus. There was no mention, not even a sympathetic nod to the possibility, that civilians may also have died in the attacks. Instead, the Post story got to the heart of the matter, the heart, that is, for Israel:
Oil prices spiked above $105 a barrel, their highest in nearly a month, on Monday as the air strikes on Friday and Sunday prompted fears of a wider spillover of the two-year old conflict in Syria that could affect Middle East oil exports. (To continue reading, click here.)
Conquerors from The Congo to The Jordan
by James M. Wall In the late 19th century, Henry Morton Stanley (of Stanley and Livingston fame),(right) was the “king’s man”—more accurately, a hired colonist conqueror—working for Belgium’s King Leopold II. Stanley’s assignment: Seize and conquer for Belgium, the vast and unexplored territory surrounding Africa’s Congo River, a territory that stretched from Stanley Falls in the north to the mouth of the river, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Stanley and King Leopold worked with the conqueror’s template, one which the 19th and 20th century Zionist movement also utilized to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The formula used by Leopold and the Zionists is a well-worn conquerors’ formula of deceit, deception, destruction and seizure. In his book, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, Adam Hochschild tells the sordid and sad, but still illuminating story, of Stanley’s successful conquest of Central Africa in the 19th century. One description of the book offers a dark description of King Leopold:
Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million–all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian.
Hochschild’s book focuses on King Leopold, but the modern reader should see the historical parallel of Belgium’s African empire with the Zionist movement’s (still on-going) seizure of Palestinian land. (To continue reading, click here.)
Kerry Forgot Rule Number One: Never Question the Sacred Israeli Narrative
by James M. Wall If you believe the Israeli and US pro-Israel media, the new US Secretary of State, John Kerry (right) is “confused” in his new job. What led to the confusion? To those who embrace his negative media coverage, the Secretary forgot the rules. He forgot what US Diplomats must never forget. What is that? To paraphrase a quote from the movie Fight Club:
The First Rule of US diplomacy: You do not question the Sacred Israeli Narrative. The Second Rule of US diplomacy: You DO NOT question the Sacred Israeli narrative.
Kerry was attacked by defenders of these Rules when in a fit of compassion, he questioned one verse in one chapter from the Book of The Sacred Israeli Narrative. Annie Robbins explains: Under the headline: Kerry likens Boston victims to ‘Mavi Marmara’ victims, Robbins reports: (To continue reading, click here.)
At Boston Interfaith Service, Obama Calls for Justice and Compassion
by James M. Wall A Boston Marathon Interfaith memorial service, “Healing Our City”, was held at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross Thursday, April 18. It was a service that concluded with remarks delivered by President Barack Obama. The National Journal’s Matthew Cooper called Obama’s remarks “an emotional rallying point for the city”. It was also, Cooper writes,
“a moment for Obama to speak to the nation and strike a tone between remembrance and optimism, a call for justice and a call for compassion.”
The service included a local children’s choir, prayers and remarks by political and religious leaders. The service was held three days after two deadly explosions struck cheering bystanders at the Boston Marathon’s finish line. Three people died, two young women and an 8-year old boy, all of whom were spectators cheering for the runners. As many as 176 were injured, some of whom will lose one or both legs. Thursday’s memorial service was held to mourn the dead and support the wounded. The service included Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders. Prominent state and local leaders were present, including Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and Obama’s rival in last year’s presidential election. (For update and to continue reading, click here.)
Cardoza Law School Ignores Dershowitz To Honor Jimmy Carter
Confronting the “Moral Bankruptcy” of Iraq War’s Liberal Supporters
by James M. Wall Prior to the start of the Iraq War on March 19, 2003, New York Times journalist Chris Hedges (right) occupied a lonely perch among major media journalists. He opposed the war. Today, Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize winner and now a columnist for the website Truthdig, continues to write with the passion of a man set free from corporate control. His latest posting is a perceptive analysis of both the role this nation’s political and media “liberal hawks” played in launching the Iraq war, and the ”rewriting of history” by those “liberal hawks” on the 10th anniversary of the start of that war. In his Truthdig column, “The Treason of the Intellectuals“, Hedges asks, how did the liberal Iraq war boosters react to the tenth anniversary of the war they initially supported?
Some claimed they had opposed the war when they had not. Others . . . argued that they had merely acted in good faith on the information available; if they had known then what they know now, they assured us, they would have acted differently. This, of course, is false. [They] did what they always have done: Engage in acts of self-preservation. To oppose the war would have been a career killer. And they knew it. . . . Those of us who spoke out against the war, faced with the onslaught of right-wing “patriots” and their liberal apologists, became pariahs. (To continue reading, click here.)
Obama: “Look at the world through [Palestinian] eyes”
by James M. Wall Many political progressives have harshly criticized President Obama’s recent trip to Israel and Palestine. They claim he was too warm toward Israel and too lukewarm toward Palestine. Did these critics pay close attention to what the President actually said and saw on this trip? I don’t think so. The president declined to speak to the Israeli Knesset, asking instead for a younger audience. In his speech to Israeli youth, the President said:
[T]he Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes — look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day.
In the picture above one of those Palestinian children watches his father show his papers to an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint. Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun (below with the President) told Dauod Kuttub she was especially pleased that the arrival of a khamsin* sand storm that hit the area on Friday, forced the president to forego an Israeli helicopter. (To continue reading, click here.)
“We Have No 3G in Palestine”
by James M. Wall Unless security forces have torn it down, the poster (shown here) was one of the sights President Obama would see if his motorcade made its way to Ramallah, Palestine on a West Bank highway. The poster was posted on a corner after the road passes through the Qalandia checkpoint separating the West Bank from east Jerusalem. Of course, the President would miss the poster and miss seeing the highway if he traveled to Ramallah in a helicopter. That would be unfortunate because he would miss seeing the poster which says in Arabic and English:
“President Obama, don’t bring your smart phone to Ramallah. You won’t have mobile access to Internet — we have no 3G in Palestine!”
The poster would be one of more hospitable messages a disappointed Palestinian public would offer the visiting President on his visit to the West Bank this week. (To continue reading more on the Obama trip, click here.)
Khalidi to Obama: Time For a New Course
by James M. Wall The New York Times performed a valuable service for its readers on Wednesday, March 13, exactly one week before President Obama is scheduled to arrive on his first-ever presidential visit to Palestine and Israel. The Times contrasted the major media voice of the liberal Zionism of the American ruling classes, with that of the voice of a champion for the Palestinian people. Which of these voices do your leaders, political, media, or religious. respond to? As President Obama prepares to fly to Tel Aviv, this would be a good time to visit, write or call those leaders and ask them. The Times paired its resident liberal Zionist columnist, Thomas Friedman (Mr. Obama Goes to Israel), with Palestinian-American Middle East scholar Rashid Khalidi (Is Any Hope Left…”?), Obama’s University of Chicago academic colleague and good friend. In his column, Friedman reiterated liberal Zionism’s formulaic belief that the Middle East must be made over entirely in an empirical US/Israel image. Friedman wants Obama to say to Israel’s leaders:
After all, you have a huge interest in trying to midwife a decent West Bank Palestinian state that is modern, multireligious and pro-Western — a totally different model from the Muslim Brotherhood variants around you.
Who defines “decent”? And who determines if Israel qualifies as “multireligious”? The answer is, Thomas Friedman, the media maven of US liberal Zionism. (To continue reading, click here.)
Will Congress Fund Iron Dome Over Head Start?
Hagel Confirmed Despite Petulant Senators
by James M. Wall Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel assumed command of the Pentagon this week. Hagel was sworn in after an extended and contentious encounter with neocon, petulant Republican senators, each in his or her own way, determined to damage both the nominee and President Obama. Not since Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy hunted non-existent communists in Dwight Eisenhower’s executive branch, has the country seen such a vitriolic legislative performance Paul Craig Roberts wrote for Global Research, “lawmakers owned by the Israel Lobby” shamed America by their attacks on Hagel.
The most embarrassing behavior of all came from the craven Lindsay Graham, who, while in the act of demonstrating his complete subservience by crawling on his belly before the Israel Lobby, dared Hagel to name one single person in the US Congress who is afraid of the Israel Lobby. If I had been Hagel, I would have written off the nomination and answered: “You, Senator Graham, and your 40 craven colleagues.”
This would have indeed, “written off his nomination”. Hagel, however, refused to take the bait Graham offered. (To continue reading, click here.)
Right Wing Media Pushes “Friends of Hamas” Rumor
UPDATE The Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Pentagon chief in a 58-41 vote, ending the most contentious confirmation fight for a Defense secretary in U.S. history. Only four Republicans backed Hagel, a former GOP senator from Nebraska whose controversial statements on Israel, Iran and other issues made him a lighting rod on the right and led to the first-ever filibuster of a nominee to lead the Pentagon. GOP Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Mike Johanns (Neb.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) voted to confirm Hagel.
One rumor in the anti-Chuck Hagel campaign started as a joking question that quickly swept through the right wing media machine until it reached Fox News business guru, Lou Dobbs. It was such an outlandish charge that it should have been ignored and tossed into the “birther” trash can. The rumor “implied” that Hagel might have received funds from an organization called “Friends of Hamas”. Dan Friedman, the New York Daily News reporter who inadvertently launched the “Friends of Hamas” rumor, was shocked to see how quickly a joking question he posed casually over the phone, went from nowhere to everywhere. He tells his sad tale in the Daily News:
On Febrary 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did [Chuck] Hagel’s Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had addressed? Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the “Junior League of Hezbollah, in France”? And: What about “Friends of Hamas”? The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.
Friedman was wrong. The right wing media machine swung into action, sending Friedman’s joking question on its mission to destroy Hagel. (Click here to continue reading.)
Republicans Block Hagel for Ten More Days
GOP Descends Into Its Winter of Discontent
A major archaeological discovery was announced in Leicester, England this week. Experts have confirmed that skeletal remains found during the excavation of a Leicester parking lot are those of Britain’s King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings. Richard (at right portrayed by Kevin Spacey) was killed in 1485 by Tudor enemies during the Battle of Bosworth Field. British officials authenticated the remains through the thoroughly modern method of DNA “fingerprinting” connecting King Richard to a 21st century male descendant of Richard’s sister, Anne. The serendipitous timing of this archeological discovery has prompted Michael Hirsh, writing in The National Journal, to engage in a nifty bit of colligation, a 17th century word rarely used today, but one most appropriate this week, since colligation refers to “”the abstract tying together of things not previously seen as connected”. Hirsh does not refer to colligation (I take full blame), but he does embody the term when he connects what he “ranks as one of the most titillating archaeological discoveries ever”, to the current US Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on the confirmation of Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary. (To continue reading, click here.)
CUFI and the Ugly Face of Hagel’s Opposition
Are Liberal American Zionists “Delusional”?
by James M. Wall Shortly after the polls closed in Israel’s Knesset election this past Tuesday, two American Liberal Zionist groups, J Street and Americans for Peace Now (APN), were out with triumphant emails to their peace-oriented members:
Israel voters have chosen a new government that will “revive the peace process with the Palestinians and make vital moves to “save” Israel”.
Writing for Mondoweiss, the website co-edited by Philip Weiss and Adan Horowitz, Alex Kane bluntly rejects that optimistic conclusion: In his scathing criticism of the optimism of J Street and APN, Kane sets the stage for what will most certainly be an intense struggle within the American peace camp over the meaning of this Knesset election:
The liberal Zionist wing of the American Jewish community are deluding themselves about the results of the Israeli elections. (To continue reading, click here.)
Election Could Push Israel Further To The Right
by James M. Wall Israel’s 19th general election, Tuesday, January 22, is almost certain to be won by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. There is no serious Liberal election opposition to Likud. What is serious, however, is the very real possibility that after this election, the Israeli government could turn even harder to the political right. In the final weeks of the campaign, Likud has been losing votes to a party even more conservative than Likud. The brash newcomer is the previously little-noticed Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party. The leader of Bayit Yehudi is a 40-year-old charismatic newcomer to Israeli politics, Naftali Bennett (shown above), who has emerged as the hottest new personality on the Israeli political scene. Bayit Yehudi has languished in the shadows of recent Israeli elections. It currently has three members in the Knesset. Some polls indicate that number could rise to as many as 15 seats, elevating Bayit Yehudi to a third place finish among the 20 parties currently represented in the Knesset. The two leading parties are expected to be the right-wing alliance of Likud and Avidor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu. Joel Greenberg, reporting for the Washington Post, noted the combination of religious and nationalist themes in one Bayit Yehudi campaign event:
It was a mostly young crowd that turned out on a chilly winter night to hear Naftali Bennett, the leader of the religious nationalist party Jewish Home [Bayit Yehudi], deliver an appeal for understanding — not between Israelis and Palestinians, but among Israelis themselves. (To continue reading, click here.)
Take It to the Bank, Hagel Will Win
By James M. Wall The war against Chuck Hagel followed a predictable pattern. It will end soon when the U.S. Senate votes to confirm Hagel as President Barack Obama’s next defense secretary. This is one of those rare occasions in American politics when you may ”take it to the bank“, that in a struggle between a U.S. presidential nominee, and the pro-Israel lobby, the presidential nominee will win. The political war the Lobby will lose began when Lobby forces launched their initial attacks against former Republican Nebraska Senator Hagel’s rumored nomination. Led by its media and political “myrmidons” (myrmidon: A faithful follower who carries out orders unquestioningly) the Lobby’s plan followed the usual pattern:
Strike early, suggest a safer nominee, provide liberals with political cover, and then, to whip up emotions from the dark side, play the anti-Semitic card.
Obama made the nomination at the White House on Monday, January 7. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Hagel Narrative the Neocons Want
Al Jazeera has purchased the struggling U.S. network, Current, which was created by former Vice President Al Gore and Joel Hyatt. Current has failed to compete in the American market but it does have outlets which Al Jazeera covets. Al Jazeera has developed a world wide reputation as a responsible non-ideological network, a fact that must have made the sale more acceptable to Gore and his partners. In addition, according to the New York Times story on the sale:
Hagel Defenders Battle Neocon Opposition
By James M. Wall The Washington Post wrote in a lead editorial, December 18, that President Obama should not nominate former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as his Defense Secretary because the President “has available other possible nominees who are considerably closer to the mainstream and to the president’s first-term policies.” Daily Beast columnist Andrew Sullivan responded to the Post editorial in his best high dudgeon fashion:
“Considerably closer to the mainstream” is not a good thing if the mainstream (including the Washington Post) led us to endless, pointless, fruitless occupations and wars that have deeply wounded American credibility and credit, as well as costing up to a hundred thousand innocent lives? We need less mainstream thought in Washington, not more.
The Post editorial reads like a set of instructions to a pro-Israel media/political hit squad on how to block Hagel as Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary. Is Hagel doomed to suffer the Charles Freeman treatment? (To continue reading, click here.)
Will Israel Block Hagel as Defense Secretary?
“The fate of human dignity is in our hands.”
Israel Plans a “Doomsday Settlement” for E1
Palestine Granted UN Observer State Status
by James M. Wall
Clinton In Middle East As Ceasefire Begins
by James M. Wall To read a Wednesday update of this story, (click here.) On her trip to the Middle East this Thanksgiving week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Tel Aviv, Israel, to meet, first, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After this stop, the Secretary will fly to Cairo, Egypt, where Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is attempting to negotiate a ceasefire to Israel’s “Pillar of Cloud” assault on Gaza’s population. Of course, her first stop would be to set up a photo op with the leader of her government’s “best friend” in the Middle East. Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, finds this friendship troubling:
A central premise of US media coverage of the Israeli attack on Gaza – beyond the claim that Israel is justifiably “defending itself” – is that this is some endless conflict between two foreign entitles, and Americans can simply sit by helplessly and lament the tragedy of it all. The reality is precisely the opposite: Israeli aggression is possible only because of direct, affirmative, unstinting US diplomatic, financial and military support for Israel and everything it does. . . . .Pretending that the US – and the Obama administration – bear no responsibility for what is taking place is sheer self-delusion, total fiction. It has long been the case that the central enabling fact in Israeli lawlessness and aggression is blind US support, and that continues, more than ever, to be the case under the presidency of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel Looks To Exodus In Gaza Invasion
by James M. Wall The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) selected two names for Israel’s current military assault against an imprisoned Gaza population. This is a military that thinks seriously about naming its military assaults. The first name given the second Gaza invasion in four years is “Pillar of Cloud” (Amud Anan, in Hebrew). It was intended for use in Israeli media and was for Hebrew-speakers. The second name,”Pillar of Defense” was designed for the rest of us, those who are, presumably, less biblically informed. The Tablet magazine, a U.S.-based, openly Jewish, Israeli-friendly, publication, explains that “Pillar of Cloud” comes from “a direct biblical allusion to the divine cloud which guided the Israelites through the desert and shielded them from those who might do them harm”. Exodus 14:19-20 is the biblical source:
“Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.”
From its pro-Israel perspective, The Tablet justified the use of the two terms with this rather supersillious explanation: (To continue reading, click here.)
Voters to Obama: Move Now on Palestine
Memo To Obama: Bring Back Chas Freeman
by James M. Wall Less than a month after his 2009 inauguration, President Barack Obama made a move that quietly told the Israel Lobby there was a new sheriff in town. He selected an experienced diplomat, Chas Freeman, to serve as the new administration’s Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). In retrospect, it it is clear that this was one appointment he did not clear with any lobbyists, no matter how much the special interest crowd hung around the White House armed with their own suggestions for important assignments. Laura Rozen wrote the first story about Freeman on February 19, 2009, in The Cable, a Foreign Policy blog. Since the position of NIC Chairman did not require Senate approval, it was largely unnoticed among the large number of appointments made by the President early in his first term. This was how Laura Rozen broke the story of Freeman’s appointment:
Sources tell The Cable that Chas W. Freeman, Jr., the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will become chairman of the National Intelligence Council, the intelligence community’s primary big-think shop and the lead body in producing national intelligence estimates. Freeman has told associates that in the job, he will occasionally accompany Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair to give the president his daily intelligence briefing.
Romney’s “Peculiar Sense” of Geography
by James M. Wall After eight years of running for president, Mitt Romney has yet to master the geography of the Middle East. His knowledge appears limited to what he sees from his hotel room in Jerusalem, following the example of Sarah Palin, who is reputed to have said she understood Russia because she could see the country from her back porch. To paraphrase Ann Richards’ memorable reference to George Bush the First, in her 1988 Democratic National Convention keynote speech, “Poor Mitt, he can’t help it, he was born in a country that has abandoned the study of geography”. In a piece she wrote on the subject, Christina Salas lamented:
In the wake of the recent presidential election, an increased level of interest has surfaced in this country over foreign issues. While domestic economic issues arguably dominated the political scene, both candidates were repeatedly asked questions about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea and all of the other so-called rogue nations. . . . [Unfortunately,] The education system in this country has never done a satisfactory job in pushing geographic knowledge. Just as U.S. students are losing ground in the international education rankings, so too is geography falling completely off the map in secondary education.
Sad to relate, that analysis appeared four years ago on December 10, 2008, following the last presidential campaign in which Mitt Romney sought, but failed to gain the Republican nomination. Four years later, the Republican nominee is back, still lacking a basic grasp of Middle East geography. (To continue reading on Romney and Harry Potter, click here.)
New York Times Flacks for Jewish Groups Against 15 Major Christian Leaders
by James M. Wall You have to know American Jewish leaders are really riled up when they call on the New York Times to flack for them against 15 leaders of Christian churches who had the audacity to send a letter to the US Congress, which said, with proper Christian indignation: As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel. Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued U.S. military assistance to Israel — offered without conditions or accountability — will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories. We request, therefore, that Congress hold Israel accountable to these standards by making the disbursement of U.S. military assistance to Israel contingent on the Israeli government’s compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies. Is that clear? These church leaders are saying it is their moral responsibility to tell the Congress that it must hold Israel accountable to U.S. laws and policies when it disburses money to Israel. So what’s the big news angle in the New York Times story for Saturday, October 20, following the release of the letter from the 15 leaders to Congress? The lead of the story should be that “American Jewish leaders defend the action of a secular state that receives more U.S. foreign aid than any other nation in the world”. (To continue reading, click here.)
Romney’s Israeli Friends Desert Him
by James M. Wall In a foreign policy speech delivered Monday at Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Governor Mitt Romney sounded, well, to be charitable, like a man in an echo chamber.
I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have.
I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf the region – and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions – not just words – that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.
A “Bad Moon Rising” Over An Obama Victory
by James M. Wall Those voters looking forward to a second term for Barack Obama, were shocked by the President’s sub-par first debate performance. A month before the election, it now appears that an Obama victory is no longer a certainty, pending a final judgment, of course, on the findings of post-debate polling. If Obama continues his laid-back style in upcoming debates, Romney may persuade enough voters, especially in crucial swing states, that his vision of Republican conservatism, is superior to the current policies of the President. In the first debate, the President displayed a surprising indifference to attacks from Romney. One debate performance does not a defeat make, but it does remind Obama supporters that no politician can avoid the threat of “a bad moon rising”. The President failed to bring up the fact that money is corrupting our politics. In a recent Carter Center speech, former President Jimmy Carter (above) provided him with his text. Carter issued “a blistering indictment of the U.S. electoral process”, saying the process “is shot through with ‘financial corruption’ that threatens American democracy.” (To continue reading and to see the video of Bad Moon Rising, click here.)
NYT to Obama v. Romney, “let’s you and him fight”
by James M. Wall Scott Shane’s New York Times story Friday, linked President Obama to President Jimmy Carter. Shane maintains that Obama, like Carter before him, could also be a one-term president. The Times must have gone into a panic mode for its editors to set Shane loose on such a comparison. There is a good reason for that panic. Polls show that, especially in crucial swing states, President Obama’s lead is increasing over his challenger, Mitt Romney. Even Benjamin Netanyahu (above, during his UN speech) has thrown in the towel, promising to hold off his attack on Iran until after the election. The Times hit the panic button not because it wants Romney to win. What frightens the Times is the same realization that hits sports editors when a football team loses both its star quarterback and leading receiver just before the Super Bowl. A month is a long time to cover a political fight when the outcome is already determined. What to do? What is a profit-oriented publication giant to do with all those political news pages to fill? Not to worry, the Times knows narratives can be generated. It also knows the best narrative is the conflict narrative. As the old city editor always said, “conflict is what sells papers, kid, never forget that.” (To continue reading, click here.)
Obama’s UN Call For “the right to practice free speech” Does Not Embrace Beit Ommar
By James M. Wall President Barack Obama was at his eloquent best when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly this week. Until, that is, he inserted a jarring note that was anything but eloquent. It sounded, in fact, like a left over paragraph from Obama’s last speech to AIPAC. Note the following contrast between the President’s explanation of why the United States does not ban even ugly and demeaning speech like that which appeared in the recent movie trailer that blasphemed the Prophet Muhammed. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Video That Could Doom A Candidate
by James M. Wall The presidential election is still four and a half weeks away, but the video that tells us about Republican Mitt Romney’s inner beliefs on Palestine and U.S. tax payers, may already have doomed his candidacy. Mother Jones, a non-profit progressive publication, obtained the video of Candidate Romney speaking at a $50,000 per guest fund raiser on May 7, in Boca Raton, Florida. It is difficult to see how the Republican ticket can survive the fall-out from what it reveals about Romney. Romney had started his current spectacular slide when he chose Clint Eastwood to speak before Romney’s nomination acceptance speech in Tampa. The off-color humor that Eastwood used was inappropriate and tasteless. It also upstaged Romney’s dull content-less speech. Of course, Romney’s slide to a possibly doomed candidacy was already greased by Romney’s refusal to come clean on his personal finances, some of which have been stashed away in tax-free havens overseas. Three presidential and one vice-presidential debates await the candidates. The Republican ticket of Romney and Paul Ryan could start a major comeback with those debates, but nothing in their campaign rhetoric thus far indicates they are ready to speak to any but their right-wing admirers. (To continue reading and to see the clips from the video that could doom a candidate, click here.)
How A Hate-Driven Anti-Muslim Film Led to the Death of Four U.S. Diplomats
by James M. Wall Leave it to Juan Cole to come up with just the right metaphor to interpret the events in Libya and Egypt this week. Cole knows the Middle East and he has the writing skills to clarify the complexities of the region and how they intereact with U.S. politics as they unfold. Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger (Informed Comment) and essayist. He is also the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. After reflecting on the chaotic series of events that began with a clumsy, fraudulent YouTube preview of an anti-Muslim film produced in California, Cole offered “the butterfly effect” as the metaphor which explains how a small film led to the deaths of four U.S. diplomats in Libya, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens. Cole begins his blog posting:
The late science fiction writer Ray Bradbury authored a short story about time travelers. They were careful, when they went back to the Jurassic, not to change anything, but one of them stepped on a butterfly. When they got back to the present, the world was slightly different. When scientists studying complexity put forward the idea that small initial events could have large effects in non-linear, dynamic systems like the weather, they chose the term ‘butterfly effect.” One of the images students of weather instanced was that a butterfly flapping its wings might set off minor turbulence that ultimately turned into a hurricane.
Cole’s butterfly metaphor begins this narrative describing the death of four U.S. diplomats, with a man initially known as “Sam Bacile”, who claimed to have directed the film, The Innocence of Muslims. The Associated Press traced the history of this “Sam Bacile”, and discovered that he most likely does not exist. The false name is a persona used by a convicted Coptic Egyptian fraudster, Nakoula Bassely Nakoula. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Night An Unscripted Moment of Democracy Surprised the Democrats
By James M. Wall To have seen it, you had to be watching either a public or a cable network. You also had to be watching closely. Otherwise, early Tuesday evening in the Democratic National Convention, you missed an ever-so fleeting unscripted moment of democracy at work. The old axiom, “Never watch sausage nor legislation being made”, fits that moment perfectly. What happened was not pretty; in fact, it was downright ugly with a ruling from the presiding officer, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (right), saying the “ayes” sounded stronger than the “nays”, a dubious ruling, at best in a vote requiring a majority. If the vote needed more than a majority to pass–this is not made clear–then it is not just dubious, but obviously wrong. As it often is, unfortunately, with the making of sausage and legislation. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israeli Court Blames Rachel Corrie: She “Put Herself in a Dangerous Situation”
by James M. Wall An Israeli civil court’s decision to exonerate the Israeli Defense Force in the death of Rachel Corrie, was not a surprise. Rather, the decision, written in Israeli narrative language, reinforces the obvious: Israel’s judicial system has become a legal front that protects the power of Israel’s military dictatorship. The court’s verdict blamed the victim with all the subtlety of a court describing a rape victim who invited trouble by wearing provocative clothing. Gary Spedding, a Huffington Post blogger from Belfast, Ireland, writes:
After waiting for almost ten years for today’s court verdict the family of Rachel Corrie have left an Israeli court in Haifa this morning feeling the bitter sting of injustice from Israel’s politicized justice system. Early Tuesday morning the Israeli court rejected accusations that Israel was at fault over the death of US citizen Rachel, who was crushed by an army bulldozer during a 2003 pro-Palestinian demonstration in the occupied Gaza strip. (To continue reading, click here.)
Corrie Family Waits For Tuesday Verdict
by James M. Wall Rachel Corrie’s parents, Craig and Cindy (right), and her sister, Sarah, are in Israel this week, waiting for a verdict from the Haifa District Court on the family’s suit against the government of Israel. The verdict from Judge Oded Gershon, is expected to be announced Tuesday. The civil suit was filed two years ago over Rachel’s 2003 death when an Israeli Defense Force bull dozer killed her as she stood with a bull horn protesting the IDF’s destruction of a Palestinian home in Gaza. Israel’s official response was that the death was an accident. Amira Hass, West Bank and Gaza correspondent for Ha’aretz, reported Thursday that U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, told the Corrie family that
Israel’s investigation into the death of American activist Rachel Corrie was not satisfactory, and wasn’t as thorough, credible or transparent as it should have been.
The U.S. government position is “not new” to the Corries, but their attorneys told the family that hearing it only a few days before the verdict was “important and encouraging [to the family],” because it signals to the Corrie family that the U.S. government will continue to demand a full accounting from Israel about their daughter’s killing, regardless of how Judge Oded Gershon rules”. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel Delivers “Or Else” Demands To Obama
by James M. Wall A message from Israel arrived on our shores this week. It came from the prime minister and defense minister of Israel. The message was not sent in a diplomatic pouch. Nor did it come in a private conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barak Obama, though we have to assume the same message had already been sent to the White House. The message was a warning that the Strong Man of the Middle East will go to war against Iran before Election Day, November 6, unless Barack Obama meets two Israeli demands. The warning was delivered by the New York Times in a news analysis, “Israeli Leaders Could Be Dissuaded From Striking Iran”, by the Times’ Jerusalem correspondent, Jodi Rudoren. A former Israeli national security adviser said Wednesday that the prime minister and the defense minister told him this week they had not yet decided to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and could be dissuaded from a strike if President Obama approved stricter sanctions and publicly confirmed his willingness to use military force. Got that Mr. President? Only you can prevent this forest fire from engulfing the Middle East. Israel has lit the flame. Netanyahu has sent the warning: Either you do exactly what we demand—stricter sanctions and a public statement that the U.S. is willing to use military force against Iran—or else we will ignite the deadly flame of war against Iran. (To continue reading, click here.)
Ten Swing States Could Decide the 2012 Election; Obama Leads in Nine of Them
by James M. Wall With less than three months left before voters decide between President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, Obama has a strong lead in the latest Politico poll figures. Politico identifies ten swing states that will most likely decide the 2012 election. Obama leads in nine of them: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Romney leads Obama by one percent in the swing state of North Carolina. If these swing vote states hold up in an election that requires 270 out of 538 electoral votes to win a majority, Obama would gain 111 electoral votes to Romney’s 15. States that appear solid or leaning for Obama give him an addiitional 221 electoral votes. Romney’s solid or leaning state electoral votes total 191. These figures add up to 332 for Obama and 206 for Romney, more than enough to give Obama the winning total. A major reason we might safely assume these numbers will hold up can be found in an ABC-Washington Post poll which found that only 40 percent of voters “hold a favorable view of Romney”. In a late May poll, that number was 41, suggesting a downward trend. Low favorability numbers this late in the campaign does not portend well for the challenger. (To continue reading, click here.)
Romney Visits Culturally “Superior” Israel; Totally Ignores the Occupation
by James M. Wall Mitt Romney traveled to Jerusalem earlier this week. He was not there on a fact-finding mission. He was raising money for his presidential campaign. He was also cultivating American voters who live in Israel, while stroking his pro-Israel voters back home with pictures like this one (right) of the candidate praying at the Western Wall. The only attention the Palestinians received came in a back-handed slap delivered by Romney when he spoke to a luncheon sponsored by his wealthy U.S. backer, casino owner Sheldon Adelson. Romney told 40 wealthy donors at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel that Israel has a far superior GDP per capita than “the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority”. Displaying a total ignorance of the prison-like occupation under which the Palestinian people must struggle, Romney explained that the ”dramatically stark difference in economic vitality” was due to Israel’s superior culture. (To continue reading, click here.)
Israel Creates A Settler “Samaria” University
by James M. Wall Few developments shout stability and permanence quite as loudly as the establishment of a university. There is something about those green-covered campus lawns growing in a water-starved desert land interspersed with eager young students hurrying to class, that stirs pride in the hearts of citizens of an expanding city. That pride was turned up another notch this week after ABC news reported an Associated Press story which began: “A settler body voted Tuesday to grant university status to Israel’s only West Bank settlement college, overruling objections by Israel’s Council on Higher Education and potentially stirring a new round of international condemnation against Israeli policies in the West Bank. Upgrading the college in the Ariel settlement has touched off a debate inside Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been driving a string of pro-settler measures — including a state panel’s recent conclusion that Israeli settlement of the West Bank is legal.” Let the international condemnations rain down. And pay no heed to that debate inside Israel. What matters to Ariel and the politically potent settler movement, is that Israel has firmly planted its first university in what they call Samaria, on Palestinian land. (To continue reading, click here.)
What Protestants Could Learn from Ron Paul
by James M. Wall When the gavel fell on the Episcopalian convention July 10, three major U.S. Protestant denominations had formally ended their 2012 discussions on how much religious support they were willing to give Palestinians under occupation.
Judging by the degree of hostility stirred up inside the Zionist opposition, the Presbyterians and United Methodists, took the most advanced pro-justice positions in the Sturm und Drang religious political struggles. The last of the three to meet, the Episcopal Church, ran pretty much in place, sticking with investment over divestment. According to the Episcopal News Service, the Episcopalian “House of Bishops, concurring with deputies, have overwhelmingly supported a resolution on positive investment in the Palestinian Territories”. The Episcopalians also “agreed to postpone indefinitely the conversation on corporate engagement,” hardly a prophetic call to arms against injustice. Indeed, all three denominations have come very close to invoking the divine thunderbolt promised in Revelation 3:16, an action best left in divine hands. (To continue reading, click here.)
Pro-Divestment Presbyterians Win By Losing
by James M. Wall Do you really want to know what happened at the just-concluded 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian U.S.A. denomination? As a veteran watcher of Protestant church political struggles, I urge you to remember that neither the cross nor the crown are free of an eagerness to grasp deliberate obfuscation in struggling to win each political battle. The winner of the obfuscation battle in Pittsburgh was, hands down, the anti-divestment crowd. The pro-divestment crowd, on the other hand, won by losing a key vote in the Assembly. The presumed “winners”, the anti-divestment forces, operated with a strategy that set up a “stalking horse” to enter the field of battle. Faced with the huge problem of how to persuade delegates to vote against basic human rights for Palestinians living under occupation, the anti-divesment forces created a “stalking horse” of “investments that will benefit Palestinians”. Seriously, that is what they put forward. (To continue reading, click here.)
Presbyterians Next Up for Divestment Vote
“The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights. Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.”
Carter’s focus is on “moral authority”. This is the same authority that must, in all cases, motivate the nation’s churches. (To continue reading, click here.)
44 Senators Tell Obama To Do Israel’s Bidding
by James M. Wall War, as General Sherman once said, is hell. It is also widely perceived to be a failure of diplomacy. Which would explain why it is that when war-promoting lobbyists want to generate congressional enthusiasm for the next war, all short-term congressional memories must be wiped out. Wiped out, that is, with the efficiency of that “cricket clicker” used by Agents Kay and Jay, played by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith (shown here), in the Men in Black film series. In the films, one click aimed at a targeted subject erases all recent memory; the clicker also works amazingly well in US elections. Which is one explanation of why after yet another click-call from AIPAC, 44 US senators found that they no longer remembered what happened the last time the neocons took us to war against a Middle East nation, a war that has thus far cost 4,000 American military dead at a cost of more than $800 billion.(To continue reading, click here.)
Five Years and Counting: Israel Creates and Manages Its “Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza”
by James M. Wall Drawing from a report by Save the Children, Electronic Intifada’s Managing Editor Maureen Clare Murphy, describes what she correctly terms, Israel’s managed “humanitarian crisis in Gaza”. A humanitarian crisis that is managed? Wait a minute; “managing” means controlling what happens. Yes it does. Which is how it comes about that Israel is managing “Gaza’s humanitarian crisis”. Aided and abetted by the United States, Israel has for five years deliberately and systematically blockaded Gaza with militarily-enforced “restrictions placed on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza”. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not come from floods, hurricanes, or earthquakes. This on-going crisis comes from the official policy of Israel. American tax payers are funding this evil and deliberate crime, through annual doles in the billions, and the continued presence of corporate US interests that support and contribute to the managed crisis. (And which American church leaders refuse to condemn.) How could it be that American tax payers permit a blockade that “has been the single greatest contributor to endemic and long-lasting household poverty in Gaza”, an act that prevents families from access to food, medicine and medical care. (To continue reading, click here.)
New Jersey’s 9th CD Voters Say No to AIPAC
by James M. Wall One election night victory in one New Jersey congressional district does not represent a major shift in American politics. But shifts do occur, and they must start somewhere. On the night of June 5, 2012, this was the news the Star-Ledger reported from the Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ.
In an upset, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell has defeated fellow incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman in the Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District.
What makes the news from Passaic County so surprising was that Pascrell’s election to a House seat from New Jersey’s new 9th district was not supposed to happen. How could it, two years after the news broke that Bill Pascrell was one of 54 House members who signed a 2010 letter to President Obama urging him “to use diplomatic pressure to resolve the blockade affecting Gaza.” The letter reads, in part:
The unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts. . . . The current blockade has severely impeded the ability of aid agencies to do their work to relieve suffering.
Signing that letter was a risky political move for Pascrell. (To continue reading, click here.)
Obama Emerges as the US Warrior President
by James M. Wall Memorial Day in the United States is a time for hot dogs, overcooked burgers, too much beer, and a massive dose of militaristic patriotism. It is also a good time for Americans to begin thinking seriously of who should be elected president this November. This year, President Obama kept his focus on his own reelection campaign and, at the same time, announced himself as the US warrior president. The president has apparently decided a warrior president is a better image to project for his reelection in a downward spiraling economy. Don’t take my word for it. Check out a story released on Memorial Day. It was orchestrated by the Obama White House for The New York Times. The story appeared in the Times‘ internet edition on Memorial Day, and in the print edition the next day. With the help of White House operatives, past and present, the Times portrays the president as a man carrying the heavy moral burden of deciding when a US-desginated suspected terrorist will die in a drone attack. (To continue reading, click here.)
Will Elections Penetrate Israel’s “Impenetrable, Dangerous, Ideological Shield”?
by James M. Wall It has been 25 years since Jewish historian, and Israeli critic, Simha Flapan, described the dominant narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his 1987 book, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities. Even though Israel has the most sophisticated army in the region and possesses an advanced atomic capability, it continues to regard itself in terms of the Holocaust, as the victim of an unconquerable, bloodthirsty enemy. Thus whatever Israelis do, whatever means we employ to guard our gains or to increase them, we justify as last-ditch self-defense. We can, therefore, do no wrong. The myths of Israel forged during the formation of the state have hardened into this impenetrable, and dangerous, ideological shield. At the time of its publication, Flapan’s book was exhilarating to anyone who by the mid-1980s, was running up against what Flapan termed, Israel’s ” impenetrable, and dangerous, ideological shield” This summer, that impenetrable wall has begun to show cracks of possible penetrability. (To continue reading, click here.)
The Incompatibility of Nakba and Neutrality
by James M. Wall Neve Gordon, a 47-year-old Israeli-born professor and author, greeted this year’s 64th anniversary of the Nakba with an essay for CounterPunch that included this revealing confession:
I first heard about the Nakba in the late 1980s, while I was an undergraduate student of philosophy at Hebrew University. This, I believe, is a revealing fact, particularly since, as a teenager, I was a member of Peace Now and was raised in a liberal home. I grew up in the southern [Israeli] city of Be’er-Sheva, which is just a few kilometres from several unrecognised Bedouin villages that, today, are home to thousands of residents who were displaced in 1948. How is it possible that a left-leaning Israeli teenager who was living in the Negev during the early 1980s (I graduated from high-school in 1983) had never heard the word “Nakba”?
It is an honest question. It is also a question that every one of us must confront if we are ever to grasp what is at the core of the so-called “debate” within American churches about the role Christians must play in ending the agony of the Israeli occupation.(To continue reading, click here.)
Your Hard-Earned US Tax Dollars and Church Pension Funds at Work for Israel
by James M. Wall Mass demonstrations in support of 2500 Palestinian hunger strikers swept through the West Bank this weekend. Marchers moved through the streets of Hebron, Kafr Qaddoum, Nablus, Nabi Saleh, Ni’lin, Ramallah, al-Walaja and outside of Ofer prison. The picture here was taken in Hebron. It shows an Israeli soldier with his knee firmly planted on a young Palestinian’s neck. The picture also shows how American tax dollars and church pensions are at work on this Mothers Day weekend, a commercially-driven event in which American teenagers and their families annually honor mothers with gifts and family meals. On this particular American Mothers’ Day weekend, a large contingent of Palestinian teenagers joined their mothers and other family members to offer their support to prisoners on lengthy and dangerous hunger strikes. Laura Kacere wrote in A Nation of Change, that Mothers Day had a different meaning when it was initially launched. In fact, the Palestinian mothers who marched this weekend in support of hunger strikers, some of whom may have been their children, are demonstrating in a manner more akin to the original purpose of Mothers Day.
Methodists Boycott Settlement Products
By a vote of 558 to 367, a strong majority of lay and clerical delegates to the United Methodist General Conference called this week for a boycott of Israeli companies operating in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The resolution denounces the Israeli occupation and the settlements in a sweeping indictment. It calls for “all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.” The resolution was focused specifically on the settlements, not on the state of Israel. It states:
“The United Methodist Church does not support a boycott of products made in Israel. Our opposition is to products made by Israeli companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories.”
That was not an easy vote. It also was an important victory for anti-occupation forces in Tampa since it calls attention to one of three actions in the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that Palestinians have adopted as a non-violent way to attack the occupation. The vote on a resolution calling for the UMC to divest its pension funds from three US Corporations, Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Systems, was brought to the floor on Wednesday afternoon. That resolution was a long shot from the outset. It lost after a series of votes that ended in a final 685 to 246 decision that the UMC would continue to finance the occupation. (To continue reading, click here.)
Methodists Delay Vote Until Later This Week
by James M. Wall The United Methodist Church has delayed a vote on a resolution on divestment from three US companies which ““aid and abet”* Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The vote was initially set for Tuesday, but has been delayed until later this week. There is speculation among General Conference delegates in Tampa, that a move will be made to limit debate on the final resolution to two short speeches on each side. Supporters of divestment are hopeful they will prevail. Prominent Palestinian visitors have made convincing speeches in meetings around the Conference. The outcome, however, remains uncertain. Meanwhile, while we wait, let us use our time creatively by pondering another vote scheduled in the US in November. That would be the election between the incumbent US President, Barack Obama, and the presumed Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. That election offers an ominous connection to the resolution process currently facing United Methodist delegates in Tampa. The November election campaign has begun. President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan overnight Tuesday where he was greeted by US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Lt. General Mike Scaparrotti, Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. (picture above.) (To continue reading, click here.)
Methodists Face Moment of Occupation Truth
by James M. Wall The mainstream media does not know it, and far too many high steeple church folk do not want to know it. But in Tampa, Florida, this week, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church will make a decision. They will spend the week writing and rewriting. Some, like Alissa Bertsch Johnson, a campus minister at Washington State University (at right), will passionately state their case. Before the gavel falls on the last session of the 2012 General Conference, the people called Methodists will have responded, one way or another, to the call from Palestinian Christians that they take one small step toward ending the Israeli Occupation. They may vote to endorse a targeted divestment resolution. Or, they may declare that such action is not needed, forgetting that in doing so, they follow the path of those segregation-tolerating Birmingham church leaders who wrote to Martin Luther King, Jr., in words to this effect, “it is too soon to attack this evil. We must wait until our people are with us.” (To continue reading, click here.)
“Throw Their Dirty, Filthy Ships Out of the Water!”
by James M. Wall “Throw Their Dirty, Filthy Ships Out of the Water!” In the 2006 movie, Amazing Grace, John Newton shouts these words at William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament who was the leader of a 19th century fight to force the British government to bar British ships and ports from participating in the slave trade. The “dirty, filthy ships” to which Newton refers are slave ships which sailed from England to Africa and then to the New World. Newton (Albert Finney) delivers his demand to his younger friend Wilberforce at a time when the younger man was faltering in his struggle against pro-slavery members of Parliament This conflict is captured in precise and dramatic detail in the film, as Wilberforce and his allies in the Parliament, and from anti-slavery groups, visit slave ships and meet with former slaves. John Newton had been the owner and captain of one of those ships. Following a major storm in the Atlantic that almost sank his ship, Newton repented of what he knew was a great sin, the mistreatment of fellow human beings. Newton returned to England to become what he later termed, “an old preacher”. He also wrote hymns, the most famous of which was Amazing Grace, which contains the line, “I once was lost but now I am found, was blind, but now I see”. Newton had known Wilberforce for many years, constantly encouraging him to continue his long abolitionist struggle, first to bar all slave ships from English ports and then to eliminate slavery throughout the United Kingdom. At the time pro-slavery members of Parliament argued that the slave shipping trade brought economic benefit to England. Some even maintained that slaves were content with their lot; others argued slaves were sub-human. Amazing Grace, directed by Michael Apted, traces the friendship of Wilberforce and Newton. It also examines Wilberforce’s growth as a political leader, and not so incidentally, as a friend of William Pitt, his friend who became Prime Minister at the age of 24. Pitt was a cautious politician. He was also a supporter of Wilberforce’s idealism. Another important historical figure who is not portrayed in the film, is John Wesley When I revisited the film this week, less than a week before the United Methodist Conference opens, I was struck by a historical parallel, and most especially, I was moved by Newton’s violent outburst to Wilberforce. (To continue reading,click here.)
Does Israel Interfere in US Elections?
Israel’s ambassador to the US, former American citizen Michael Oren, (at right) trotted out a classic Zionist strategy when he sent a letter to the New York Times denying that Israel is “interfering” in the American presidential campaign. Oren’s letter was reported in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on April 12, under the headline:
“Israeli ambassador to New York Times: Netanyahu does not interfere in U.S. elections”
This Ha’aretz headline was followed by a sub headline, stating:
Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, submits letter to the editor to NYT, complaining about an article detailing the close relationship between Netanyahu and likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The problem with Oren’s attack is that the Times story did not use the term “interfering”. The ambassador denies something the story does not claim. Oren’s letter skillfully ignores the facts of the story under a theoretical cloud of his own making. He also manages to bring attention to his Israeli public to a story which promises good things ahead if Romney is elected. (To continue reading, click here.)
Gunter Grass Exposes Israel As a Nuclear Power that “Endangers” a Fragile World Peace
A stunning new poem by German novelist Gunter Grass, has “broken the silence” on Israel as a nuclear power. Western journalists and politicians have long enforced that silence by unspoken and unwritten common agreement. The silence was successfully imposed for two reasons: The Holocaust and the fear of being called anti-Semitic. Gunter Grass (pictured above) has broken that silence with his poem, Was gesagt werden muss (What must be said). (To continue reading, click here.)
Church Leader Tells Palestinians and Israelis “eat together and listen to each other’s stories
by James M. Wall (New Comments Posted Below) An appalling shallowness has descended over Mainline Protestantism. Episcopalians, United Methodists and Presbyterians are actually debating how they should deal with the Israeli Occupation Martin Luther King, sitting in that Birmingham city jail, would most certainly inform these prelates that there is no debating evil. A brutal military occupation is not open to debate. It is a disturbing spectacle. The collective ignorance displayed by many of the men and women—though, thank God, not all—who govern these denominations, boggles the mind. The issue, my dear Christian friends, is justice, pure and simple. And yet, there they are, these robed religiosos, dripping with interfaith piety, proclaiming that the simple act of divestment of church funds is too harsh a tactic to use against Israel’s settlement obsessed, right-wing government. What do they teach in seminary these days? Have those Old Testament professors who lead their Israeli-sanctioned “study groups” to the Holy Land removed the prophets from their syllabi? (To continue reading, click here.)
The View From Israel/US In 1977 and 2012
The editorial comment below is reprinted from the Christian Century magazine of November 23, 1977.
At the time the editorial appeared, I was the editor of the Century. This was the week’s lead editorial. In 1977, I had been editor for five years, a position I held until 1999.
President Jimmy Carter was inaugurated in January, 1977. Menachem Begin was head of the Likud Party, which won a majority in the Knesset elections held on May 17, 1977. Menachem Begin became Prime Minister in June, 1977.
At the time this editorial appeared, the new American President had come to the United Nations to meet with the new Israeli Prime Minister. I was at the meeting in an editorial capacity. (To continue reading, click here.)