|Here are the headlines from Mondoweiss for 11/05/2012:
Wasserman Schultz brags on Obama’s continuity with Bush policies in ME
Nov 04, 2012 12:42 pm | Philip Weiss
Many times we've pointed out that the Democrats are running to the right of Romney, or trying to, on Israel. Here's more evidence. In an email recommending a Haaretz editorial that endorses Obama as good for Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, excerpted the editorial and included paragraphs linking Obama's policy with George W. Bush's neoconservative policy. A policy, says Haaretz, of launching a disastrous war to assist Israel's security. Such a statement evidently won't hurt Obama among the Democratic chair's intended audience...
Here's Wasserman Schultz:
Yesterday, Haaretz, the oldest Israeli daily newspaper, endorsed President Obama. It's a must-read. Take a look at these excerpts, then forward it to everyone you know:
Obama is good for Israel
"Tens of millions of Americans will go to the polls on Tuesday to vote for a president and vice president. It will be an important day for American democracy. This will be the Americans' day, but the outcome of the elections will impact the entire world.
For Americans in general, and American Jews in particular, the United States' attitude toward Israel is just one of many factors to consider - among internal and foreign affairs, the economy and defense - when casting their vote ...
A deeper examination of the core issues comprising the two countries' relations -- devoid of political and personal interests -- reveals no grounds for portraying Obama in a negative light.
Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, assisted Israel's defense by toppling Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq and deterring, albeit for a limited period, Iran's accelerated progress toward attaining nuclear weapons. Bush contributed to Israel's peace, even if partially, by being the first president to adopt the two-state solution. His support even enabled the evacuation of settlements from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.
Obama continued this two-way track vis-a-vis Iran and the issue of Palestinian statehood. Under his pressure, Israel suspended for the first time -- for a while -- construction in the settlements. Relations between the two countries' armed forces have never been so close. Obama's challenge in his second term, if he wins the elections, is to lead the region to a stable arrangement of peace and security.
The outcome of the elections will be determined by the voters' decision as to which of the two candidates is good for America. But if any of them are vacillating in their vote over whether Obama has been a good president for Israel, the answer is yes."
P.S. I hope you noticed Haaretz's version of the disastrous Iraq War: "George W. Bush... assisted Israel's defense by toppling Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq..." I've said that, Walt and Mearsheimer said that, Condi Rice said that. Try and say that in the public square here.
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Angela Davis: At least in the Jim Crow South the roads were not segregated
Nov 04, 2012 12:13 pm | Annie Robbins
Listen to the passion of beloved American political activist and scholar Angela Davis as she shares her experiences in Occupied Palestine. In a fantastic speech on "Incarceration, Justice and Health" at the annual meeting of American Public Health Association at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, she draws the audience in with the shared commonality of all mankind:
Davis: I'm telling you when I was there I was shocked. I was really shocked. I didn't expect to be shocked, I thought I already knew, I really thought I knew because I have been doing this work for I don't know how many decades so I thought I knew what I would encounter in Occupied Palestine but I didn't know.
And when I saw the signs, the signs didn't say white and colored like they did when I was growing up, but they say 'Authorized Persons', or 'Authorized vehicles' and I said to myself, 'I didn't know that highways could be segregated.' Because even living in the most segregated city in the South during the height of Jim Crow we could, maybe we couldn't stop and get out of the car ..
But we could still drive! But there are signs on highways that say 'authorized vehicles only' and that means if you have a Palestinian license plate (and you see there's a different kind of literacy you acquire there).. you learn and you know what license plates are Palestinian and which ones aren't. If you have a Palestinians license plate you can't drive or certain streets you can't walk down. So I urge you to find out more about what is happening in that part of the world and also to remember that not long ago some young Palestinians boarded some of those segregated buses that transport people from one illegal settlement to another and they knew they would be arrested because Palestinians are not allowed to board those buses and guess what they called themselves?
Audience: Freedom Riders
Davis: Freedom Riders yes! Freedom Riders
And therefore they were acknowledging the part, the influence of the Black freedom struggle on their freedom struggle today and I think as people would have it in this country Black or Latino or Native American or Asian American or Arab American or White or whatever we have a responsibility to support that struggle.
Justice is always indivisible and injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.
(Hat tip Karen Platt)
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Palestinian injured by settlers is then arrested by soldiers
Nov 04, 2012 11:55 am | Today in Palestine
Palestinian Injured By Settlers Near Nablus
Palestinian medical sources in Nablus, in the northern part of the West Bank, reported that a resident was injured during clashes with Israeli soldiers who invaded the Orif village, south of Nablus, and clashes with dozens of local resident. The settlers invaded the village from its eastern entrance, and started throwing stones at local residents, hitting one resident in the head. The wounded resident was identified as Waleed Sa’du As-Safady, 19; Israeli soldiers arrived at the scene and kidnapped the wounded resident taking him to an unknown destination.
link to www.imemc.org
Land Theft & Destruction / Ethnic Cleansing / Restriction of Movement / Apartheid & Occupation
Israeli gov't markets lands in east J'lem for building 5,000 housing units
Israel's land administration and its ministry of construction and housing started to market vast tracts of Palestinian lands in east Jerusalem for the construction of more than 5,000 housing units.
link to www.palestine-info.co.uk
IOF demolishes a house in eastern Jerusalem
Israeli bulldozers demolished the house of a Palestinian citizen located in Hizma village eastern occupied Jerusalem without a previous notice under the pretext of being built without permit.
IOF demolishes water well
Israeli bulldozers demolished in the late hours of Tuesday a water well in the region of Tawani south of al-Khalil, and arrested its owner before assaulting him and severely beat his daughter.
The Story of Al BustanThis is a three part story about the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan which threatened by Jewish settlers who are in control of archaeological tourism in the area. The state of Israel supports the settlers in order to consolidate its hold over Jerusalem, while the settlers are seeking control over the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount area – a site of religious importance. Part 1 of this series focuses on the destruction of homes in Al Bustan; Part 2 talks about the rise of settler archaeology; Part 3 covers the role of municipal planning which when taken all together amounts to a bureaucratic form of ethnic cleansing in slow motion.
It was not the Palestinians who blew up the King David Hotel, who blew up the British Embassy in Rome, who tried to assassinate Ernest Bevin, Britain's foreign secretary, and who succeeded in assassinating Lord Moyne, British minister of state in the Middle East. That was the Irgun, an ideological Right-wing group – and the predecessor to Israel's ruling Likud Party.
This week, on a visit to the Israel's tourism bureau in Nazareth, I came across an official brochure, “Your Next Vacation: Israel”, that suggests the answer. The brochure is supplied to travel agents around the world as well as to hundreds of thousands of tourists who arrive in Israel each year. Inside is a map, produced by the Ministry of Tourism, that shows both Israel and the occupied territories. Helpfully, it incorporates Israel’s interpretation of the territorial demarcations created by the Oslo Accords of the mid-1990s.
The doctors, merchants, and taxi drivers of the Ain al-Helweh Palestinian camp describe their chief complaints about life in the camp. At the top of the list is the never-ending conflict between armed factions and unregulated weapons proliferating on the streets.
Israeli & Egyptian Siege on Gaza
Life through the eyes of a group of Palestinian surfers, who defy both the Israeli blockade and a sea that is often polluted with raw sewage to ride the waves off the coast of the troubled territory. The programme joins Matt Olsen, the son of an American diplomat who has known Gaza since childhood, as he teaches the club's members some new skills and helps them establish a surf shack.
IOF soldiers break into Fawwar refugee camp
A large Israeli military force, accompanied by intelligence officers, raided Fawwar refugee camp in al-Khalil on Saturday morning, eyewitnesses reported.
Palestinian Injured By Settlers Near Nablus
Palestinian medical sources in Nablus, in the northern part of the West Bank, reported that a resident was injured during clashes with Israeli soldiers who invaded the Orif village, south of Nablus, and clashes with dozens of local resident.
One Palestinian Youth was arrested and four others: two Israelis and two internationals were detained during the Friday non-violent weekly demonstration in Nabi Saleh. People from the village met in the main square of the village from 11:30am onwards. At 12pm the demonstration began and everyone walked down the main street of the village singing songs and clapping along. Children were in the procession waving flags and chanting into the megaphone.
Health of detainee deteriorates in detention center
The health condition of Ammar Al-Uwewe has worsened in the Israeli Maskobeh detention center in occupied Jerusalem, his family said on Saturday.
Israeli Justice Endorses Continued Abuse of Dirar Abusisi, Richard Silverstein
Israeli Mossad agents collaborating with Ukrainian authorities kidnapped Gaza civil engineer Dirar Abusisi on a Ukrainian train nearly two years ago. He was spirited to a Kiev apartment and by some accounts drugged and shipped in a coffin to Israel. There he was imprisoned under sham charges that he was Hamas’ chief “rocket engineer.” He has languished in solitary confinement without trial during that period.
Abu Subbah calls on Egypt to save the life of prisoner Abu Sisi
Dr. Atallah Abu Subbah, urged Egypt to intervene to save the life of isolated prisoner Dirar Abu Sisi after the occupation Court extended his solitary confinement for six months.
Protests / Solidarity / Activism / BDS
Iyad Burnat, a Palestinian activist from Bil'in, was on his way to the United States to give presentations in more than 15 states describing his work for peace and justice. On Thursday November 1, Iyad was allowed by the Israelis to cross the border on his way to Amman, Jordan for his flight to the United States, but he was detained by the Jordanian border officials, who refused him entry into Jordan. He is currently back in Bil’in awaiting the resolution of this matter so that he can continue on his journey.
IOF quell W. Bank marches on anniversary of Balfour declaration
The Israeli occupation forces violently attacked the weekly popular marches in the West Bank that were dedicated this Friday to commemorating the notorious Balfour declaration.
The Palestinian cause is not a charity. The international community, however, has often failed to grasp the nature of the struggle for justice, preferring to channel funds to Palestinian "development" projects to compensate for the lack of will to put serious pressure on Israel. That mentality has been challenged by two recent reports that suggest that lip service to justice for Palestinians could be transformed into critical action.
This piece first appeared on Jewish Currents (a secular website)
. Author Donna Nevel gave us permission to republish. As Jewish activists working to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, we take exception to Philip Mendes’ criticism of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in “Why BDS is Ineffective
and Worse: But the Issue of Palestinian National Rights Will Not Go Away” (Summer, 2012).
VIDEO - Resistance as art: profile of Palestinian artist
Yousef Katalo is a 47 year old Palestinian artist working in Hebron. For him, art in Hebron is part of resisting Israel’s occupation. “It is very important for the development of the national culture in the city”, Katalo explains, adding that “settlers come with racist thoughts, take houses, close down roads, creating chaos.” But the chaos, the daily pressures of the occupation, is transformed into a message, a representation of suffering and resistance. “It is art with a cause,” says Katalo, adding that this makes it unique. “This is part of my struggle for freedom and independence” says Katalo, explaining that “most of my paintings, as the paintings of other Palestinian artists, embrace the cause of the oppressed people and each work gives life to the homeland.” “My art is an important from of resistance because I regard culture as resistance and resistance as art,” he concludes.
PHOTO ESSAY: A sprawling desert prison, for thousands of refugees, Noam Sheizaf
On Thursday, I traveled to the south with a group of journalists and bloggers to view the construction of new detention facilities around Ketsiot, near the Egyptian border. When completed, the four prisons in the area are meant to be able to hold more than 16,000 inmates, making them, together, the largest detention facility for immigrants in the West.
Hamas rejects Abbas 'right of return' remarks
Ismail Haniyeh says president's remarks apparently rejecting Palestinian refugees' right of return are very "dangerous".
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine joined Hamas on Saturday condemning remarks by President Mahmoud Abbas to an Israeli TV channel. The leftist faction said Abbas' apparent surrender of his right to return to his childhood village Safed conflicted with PLO resolutions affirming the right of return and self-determination. PFLP leader Rabah Mhanna said: “Abbas doesn’t have the right to surrender on these principles ... Abbas with his remarks lives in a dreamland and tries to beg for the American and Israeli position to hope to gain something”.
Peres: Abbas true partner for peace
President lauds Palestinian leader's remarks on borders, says majority of Israelis want two-state solution.
Abu Mazen will enter Palestinian history: he will be remembered as one of the worst Palestinians ever. He will be remembered in the same league as the Nashashibis before 1948, who along with the Hashemite royals were on the payroll of the Zionists. Abu Mazen was an accidental “leader”– if he even can be considered a leader. He, along with Salam Fayyad, have been imposed on the Palestinian people. Prior to Oslo, the PLO succeeded in preventing Israel or Jordan from imposing any Palestinian as representative of the Palestinian people. The PLO succeeded on presenting itself as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinian people, against the wishes of Israel and Jordan. Palestinians who tried to come forward (on behalf of Israeli occupation and the Jordanian monarchy) were either shunned or killed by their people. The PLO succeeded in foiling all schemes that intended to impose alternative (non-representative) Palestinian representatives.
Abbas 'refugee' comments wow Israel, enrage Gaza
Israeli President Shimon Peres on Saturday saluted as "courageous" remarks by Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas widely seen as relinquishing Palestinian refugees' right to return to their former homes in what is now Israel.
From the Balfour to the Abbas Declaration, Fadi Abu Saada
Ramallah – Arthur Balfour made his famous declaration in 1917 and promised to give Jews a national homeland in Palestine on behalf of the British Mandate. Balfour has been cursed by Palestinians ever since. His promise led to waves of immigration, some of which Britain considered to be illegal. The end result was that the new immigrants expelled the Palestinians from their land and took their place. Almost one century into the tragedy hastened by the declaration, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was asked on an Israeli news show if he would like to live in the town of Safed, located in occupied Galilee. It was where he grew up when Palestine was still under British Mandate.
Local elections have been postponed for a few years so why were they called under procedures reserved for emergencies?
Political Developments / Other News
Three Syrian tanks entered the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights on Saturday, Israel said, raising concerns violence from Syria's civil war could heat up a long-quiet frontier that has not seen such an incursion in nearly 40 years.
Egypt Islamists cause for concern: Israeli official
A top aide to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Friday he is apprehensive about the Islamic movement that brought Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi to power and sees no dialogue forthcoming between Mursi and Israeli leaders.
Keep in mind that Israelis were the dearest friends of the former dictator: Israeli official sees ‘shocking’ dictatorship in Egypt
A senior Israeli official described Egypt’s new government on Friday as a “shocking dictatorial force” and predicted there would be no official, high-level contacts between the two countries, which signed a peace treaty in 1979.
The United States on Friday expressed its opposition to a possible visit to Gaza Strip by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling it a move that could undermine peace and security in the region. The spokesman for the U.S. State Department Victoria Nuland said that Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, remained a "destabilizing force" in the region. "This visit will not be favorable to advance the cause of peace and security in the region. We urge all parties to play a constructive role to bring all parties to the negotiation table," she said at a press conference . Erdogan said Friday, according to media reports, he intends to visit the Gaza Strip and would like to set a date for his visit with the leaders of Hamas. He also welcomed the recent visit to the Gaza Strip by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. It was the first visit initiated by the leader of Qatar since 2007, while the United States said that his visit was unnecessary. Ms. Nuland said Washington had conversations with Turkey to "try to understand its intention" regarding this visit.
Is this the lobby d'Israel at work? I thought France was a little bit neutral. Netanyahu visits Francois Hollande, and Hollande kisses up to him. Haaretz reports
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Fatah leader in Gaza Yahya Rabah said Saturday that the UN bid for non-member status does not affect the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Rabah told Ma'an that the Palestinian Authority is seeking recognition as a state under occupation, pointing out that the right of return is enshrined under article 11 of UN resolution 194. The resolution states that Palestinian refugees should be allowed to return to their homes and compensation must be paid to those that choose not to, Rabah said.
The Palestinian Authority's ruling Fatah party wants to postpone deliberations over Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's recent proposal to form a unity government, Palestine's Ma'an news agency reported Saturday. Rumors circulated last week about Fayyad stepping down from his post to form a new government; they were flatly denied by PLO officials who said he was merely presenting a plan to form a government of “every faction.”
Fatah opposes Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's proposal to form a unity government now, but would consider it sometime after the UN bid, a party official said Friday. Fayyad last week presented a plan to the PLO leadership to form a more inclusive factional government, according to two executive committee members who heard the proposal. On Friday, member Hanna Amira said the proposal by Fayyad was postponed until after President Mahmoud Abbas returns from the UN where he is seeking to upgrade Palestine's status.
Patriarch Theophilus says the Church calls on its young people to be peacemakers, so serving in the army goes against its values.
Poll shows Israel opposition party wiped out
A new poll says Israel's current main opposition party would not receive enough votes to secure a spot in the next parliament.
Israeli Newspaper Endorses Obama: : Obama is good for Israel
For Americans in general, and American Jews in particular, the United States' attitude toward Israel is just one of many factors to consider - among internal and foreign affairs, the economy and defense - when casting their vote.
Analysis / Op-ed / Human Interest
Podcast: Case against the Holy Land Five "a co-production with the government of Israel"
Linda Moreno, defense attorney for Ghassan Elashi of the Holy Land Foundation, who was convicted for giving charity to Palestinian women and children, talks about the US Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case.
Eight term incumbent Rep. Mary Bono Mack is running the above ad against upstart challenger Dr. Raul Ruiz
. The New York Times recently called the race in California’s 36th District "one to watch
." Bono Mack (who is married to Rep. Connie Mack of Florida) is trailing in the most recent polls
, and looks to be pulling out all the stops. Next up: Raul Ruiz hates apple pie -- and your freedoms!
Apparently, popular resistance has suddenly been elevated to a clash of visions or strategies between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and its rivals in Gaza, underscoring an existing and deepening rift between various factions and leaderships. Addressing a Palestine Liberation Organization meeting in Ramallah in July 2011, PA President Mahmoud Abbas sounded as if he had finally reached an earth shattering conclusion, supposedly inspired by the Arab Spring.
Israel's killer vegetarians (and vegans). A brief history, Ali Abunimah
“Knowing how lethal some of Israel’s vegetarians are, I shudder to think about what its vegans are capable of doing.”
Check it out. If you have an iPhone go to wx app and type in East Jerusalem, Nablus etc. See what it says. When did this start? Anyone? The native weather app on the iPhone now lists major Palestinian cities in the WB as Palestine, no longer as WB. Even E. Jerusalem! Bravo! The flip side, type Jerusalem and it says Israel. Before it didn't list a country. It was just *Jerusalem*. Which Israeli representative is yelling at [Apple ceo] Tim Cook right now?
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Exile and the prophetic: Getting past triumphalism (in our traditions and our selves)
Nov 04, 2012 11:48 am | Marc H. Ellis
This post is part of Marc H. Ellis's "Exile and the Prophetic" feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
I assume the World Social Forum Free Palestine conference in Porto Alegre is going forward. They’ll find a way. With the internet in full gear, the virtual afterlife of the conference is as important as the conference in real time. Still, you need the actual conference to make the virtual real -at least, for now.
On the theological front, I wonder if a dispute about faith perspectives will be presented at the conference, or who's presenting and why. Maybe it’s a tempest in a teapot or even an email mistranslation. Regardless, litmus tests exist everywhere. Remember the Russell Tribunal on Palestine when a Palestinian speaker’s charge of sociocide was judged inferior to a British lawyer’s charge of apartheid?
If I had been asked to speak at the Russell Tribunal – well, let’s face it, I wouldn’t have been asked. That’s part of the problem, isn’t it? We criticize others for not allowing dissent but we organize conferences that also limit dissent. By dissent, I mean dissenting from the party line. For example, my view that Palestine isn’t a universal struggle but a particular struggle with universal import.
In Porto Alegre, my voice may have been seen as controversial. A Jewish religious voice would have been welcomed by some. It may have alienated others. The same with certain Islamic points of view.
Clearly, a number of Latin American Christian voices support the conference – and Palestinian rights.
Listen to Leonardo Boff, a heavyweight of liberation theology:
Liberation Theology was born listening to the cries of the oppressed, those whose rights, autonomy, vital space to live was denied. Today, for us, the oppressed who are in need of liberation are the Palestinians. And we, being coherent with Liberation Theology are on their side, listening to their cry. We are against oppression, and in favor of their independence, freedom and the right to their land which belonged to their ancestors so that they accomplish their history as a people, with their language and culture. Therefore, I join the cause of the Palestinians because they have rights and these rights cannot be denied. I support the World Social Forum for the Palestinian cause because this cause is of great dignity and for being fear and represent a duty. It is our duty to be on the side of the Palestinians. Because they are victims and it is illegitimate, unworthy keeping them in their current situation. We want to be with them so that they are free, our brothers. And from that freedom with autonomy accomplish the process of peace and reconciliation with the State of Israel.
Frei Betto, another liberation theology heavyweight, adds:
This is a Forum that will gather representatives from the three religions of the book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. A Forum in which we will debate the situation of all those who live in Palestine and mainly the right of the Palestinian people to have their independent State and how we can from our own religious traditions contribute to peace in the world. Considering the importance of this Forum I call upon all interested to be present in Porto Alegre as participants of the World Social Forum Free Palestine.
Then there’s Nancy Cardoso, a Methodist pastor from the Ecumenical Bible Center in Rio Grande do Sul. She has been my main contact for the conference. She explains the plans for a faith-based track at the conference:
We see the WSF Free Palestine as a key space to give voice to our Palestinian brothers and sisters from the Kairos Palestine Initiative and to deepen the discussion on Palestine, our theological approach to Israeli occupation and apartheid and our responsibility as Christians – and believers in general - to stand in solidarity with the oppressed.
You see the original Kairos document came from South Africa church folks who were drawing a line in the apartheid sand. They boldly declared apartheid to be a heresy.
A heresy is true belief offended against. When true belief is trespassed upon, God is, too.
We know that orthodoxy, as defined by religious institutional structures, is often heretical when judged from another religious point of view.Usually, heresy is defined theologically. Religious factions war over orthodoxy - ‘right’ belief.
In the original Kairos document - and in liberation theology in general - heresy is seen from the context of the poor and marginalized. Those who use religion to buttress unjust political systems like apartheid are judged heretics. Instead of belief itself, action is judged. Sometimes both are judged together. To be unjust you have to worship an unjust God. Can God be unjust?
The religious war that liberation theology is involved in isn’t about the definition of ‘right’ belief. It’s about orthopraxis – ‘right’ action.
The struggle is between orthodoxy and orthopraxis.
In the best of all theological worlds, right belief brings about right action. Right action witnesses to right belief. In our real world, things get screwed up. So, at least in the Jewish tradition, if you can’t have right belief and right action together and you have to choose between the two, choose right action.
Choosing right action, you’re good with your fellow human beings. You’re likewise good with God even if you can’t wrap your mind around God.
In the religious sphere, can practicing justice be more important that worshiping God?
In traditional Judaism it is. In liberation theology it is. But that’s because traditional Judaism couldn’t rid itself completely of the prophetic and liberation theology adopts the prophetic whole hog.
The original Kairos document was impossible without the Jewish prophetic.
In a strange twist of fate, Kairos Palestine is impossible without the Jewish prophetic.
Of course the Kairos documents appeal to their historical Christian tradition. When they go that route they make a detour. They insist on a perfect fit between belief and action. Christian triumphalism creeps back in when they go Christological.
I’m not trying to be too critical. After all, the various Kairos factions show great courage when the political chips are down.
For the most part, Christians can’t help themselves on the triumphalist score. It’s their inheritance. Christian triumphalism is hard to buck, even when you’re on the Christian Left.
But, being out of power, you can skip the Christian triumphalism of parts of the Kairos documents. After all, Jews and Muslims need others to skip our various triumphalisms to find our better core.
Much of life, isn’t it-- sifting through the triumphalism within our traditions and ourselves.
If we would only seize the Kairos moment and leave behind the rest. Could we withstand the impact without our triumphalism?
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Christian leaders will not be cowed into silence about widespread human rights violations
Nov 04, 2012 10:42 am | Rabbi Brian Walt
The following op-ed appeared in Haaretz under the title, "Christian leaders cannot be cowed into silence over Israel's abuses of human rights." Rabbi Brian Walt gave us permission to republish. --Ed
In his recent Haaretz op-ed, “Heading toward an irreparable rift between U.S. Jews and Protestants,” my colleague, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, sharply criticized the recent letter to Congress by leaders of Protestant churches that called for U.S. military aid to Israel to be contingent on Israeli compliance with American law. Nowhere in his article, however, did Yoffie mention the central concern of the Christian leaders’ letter: the overwhelming evidence of systematic human rights violations by the Israeli military against Palestinians.
Over the past two weeks, I had the privilege of leading an interfaith delegation including several leaders of the civil rights movement, younger civil and human rights leaders, Christian clergy, academics, and several Jews, on a two-week trip to the West Bank.
We were all shocked by the widespread human rights violations that we saw with our own eyes and that we heard about from both Palestinians and Israelis. Several black members of our group, including those who participated actively in the civil rights movement, remarked that what they saw on the West Bank was "frighteningly familiar" to their own experience, a systemic pattern of discrimination that privileged one group (in this case, Jews) and denigrated another (Palestinians).
Together we walked down Shuhadah Street in Hebron, a street restricted to Jews and foreigners where Hebron’s Palestinians are mostly not allowed to walk, even those Palestinians who own houses or stores on the street. This street was once the center of a bustling Palestinian city. Now the area is a ghost town with all the Palestinian stores shut down by the Israeli military.
We visited several villages on the West Bank whose land has been expropriated by the Israeli government and where their nonviolent protests against this injustice are met with rubber bullets and tear gas (we saw with our own eyes many empty canisters of tear gas made in the U.S.). We witnessed a demonstration in Nabi Saleh, watching soldiers in armored cars launch tear gas and shoot rubber bullets against children who were throwing stones. In this village, soldiers routinely enter homes in the middle of the night to arrest children, who are handcuffed and blindfolded, and taken to interrogation without the right to the presence of a parent or of consultation with a lawyer. The shocking abuse of children that we heard about from several sources, including Israeli lawyers, was particularly disturbing.
Our delegation also saw the rubble of Palestinian houses demolished by the Israeli authorities and waited in long lines at check points as Jewish motorists were waved through or passed unimpeded through special settler checkpoints.
We met with a young Palestinian man who played the part of Martin Luther King Jr. in a play about Dr. King’s life written by one of the people on our trip. This young man (like over 140,000 other West Bank Palestinians) has lost his residency rights as he went to Europe to study acting. Despite the fact that his family has lived in Jerusalem for generations, he is now unable to live in the city in which he was born. Yet I, or any other Jew, could become a citizen of Israel overnight and live in Jerusalem while enjoying many privileges available only to Jews.
Every day we were on the West Bank, we saw this pattern of discrimination: a systemic privileging of one ethnic group over another. Every day we heard about egregious human rights violations: Administrative detainees held in prison for years without any right to due process (a Palestinian due to talk to our group about prisoners was arrested two days before the presentation and is still in prison), massive land confiscation, separate roads and grave restrictions on movement.
As the Christian leaders’ letter indicated, all the violations we witnessed are made possible by unconditional American aid, in violation of American law. Rabbi Yoffie predicted that this statement may cause “an irreparable rift between U.S. Jews and Protestants.” It may be more accurate to say it may cause a rift between the American Jewish establishment and the Christian leaders who have until now been cowed with the warning that the price for “interfaith dialogue” is silence on Israel’s human rights violations.
But after these past several weeks, as I read the courageous Christian leaders’ letter and stood side-by-side with my interfaith colleagues on this remarkable delegation, I sense a new form of interfaith cooperation – one based in our mutual sacred imperative to “seek peace and pursue it.”
Rabbi Brian Walt is the Palestinian/Israeli Nonviolence Project Fellow of the Dorothy Cotton Institute. He was the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America from 2003-2008.
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