MCC Palestine Update #126
10 August 2006
“Fear Not!” for “The Root of War Is Fear”
Every Thursday at the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center (http://www.sabeel.org/), in Jerusalem, they hold a simple communion service. During this service, instead of delivering a sermon, Sabeel’s director Na’im Ateek offers a few thoughts reflecting on the texts of the day and encourages the rest of us there to do the same. Specifically, Reverend Ateek challenges us to reflect on scripture in the context of the situation that surrounds us, seeking to hear the word that God has for those suffering under the weight of violence, oppression, and injustice.
One of the texts read this past Thursday was from the gospel of Mark. In it, the story is told of Jesus going to meet his disciples on the Sea of Galilee, and offering the words of comfort that are repeated time and time again in the gospels: “Do not be afraid” (Mark 6:50).
“Do not be afraid.” How appropriate right now. These words brought me immediately to another reflection that is all too relevant. It was written by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton many years ago and titled “The Root of War Is Fear” (form New Seeds of Contemplation, New Directions, 1961). Merton wrote: “At the root of all war is fear: not so much the fear that men have of one another as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another; they do not even trust themselves…They cannot trust anything because they have ceased to believe in God.”
The allusions to idolatry are all too clear. The implication of this conclusion for Merton means that we no longer are able to take a look at our own selves, at the evil in our own hearts, and instead project out onto those “others” all the evil that we cannot honestly deal with. Merton says that we begin to obsess with evil and drive ourselves mad to the point where “there is no outlet left but violence.” “By that time, we have created for ourselves a suitable enemy, a scapegoat in whom we have invested all the evil in the world. He is the cause of every wrong. He is the fomentor of all conflict. If he can only be destroyed, conflict will cease, evil will be done with, there will be no more war.”
All of this fear prevents us from grasping the realization that we all have sins in need of atonement, faults and limitation, greed and self-righteousness. Realizing the subjective demands that are placed squarely on our shoulders should also move us to the realization that any prayer for peace must be consistent with our actions toward peace. Again, Merton: “It does not even seem to enter our minds that there might be some incongruity in praying to the God of peace, the God Who told us to love one another as He had loved us, Who warned us that they who take the sword will perish by it, and at the same time planning to annihilate not thousands but millions of civilians, soldiers, men, women, and children, without discrimination, even with the almost infallible certainty of inviting the same annihilation for ourselves!”
These words are a sharp indictment, especially for those of us from the U.S. where over 520 billion dollars a year is spent on the weapons of war and destruction, and from where billion of dollars are sent to the state of Israel for the same purpose, including a recent shipment of arms from the U.S. to Israel at the height of Israel’s offensives into Gaza and Lebanon (“U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis,” http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0722-02.htm).
In this part of the world Merton’s words about the root of war take on an especially deeper meaning. The British journalist Robert Fisk, who has lived in and reported form the Middle East for over twenty years now, talks about war in a similar vein as “the total failure of the human spirit”:
“If you go to war, you realize it is not primarily about victory or defeat, it is about death and the infliction of death and suffering on as large a scale as you can make it. It is about the total failure of the human spirit. We don't show that because we don't want to. And in this sense journalists, television reporting, television cameras are lethal. They cloud with governments to allow to you have more wars because if they showed you the truth, you wouldn't allow any more wars.” (http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/10/20/1411211)
The words of Jesus to “not be afraid” are always challenging. Perhaps they seem most difficult because at its core, it is a call to repentance, a call to turn away from the illusions of self-sustainability and self-righteousness, the idolatry of war and violence, and to hear the gospel’s call to conversion to a life modeled by the self-giving love of Jesus.
It is a subjective demand calling us, as Merton tells it, to a love and a humility that “can exorcise the fear which is at the root of all war.”
“So instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmakers, hate the appetites and disorders in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, than hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed—but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”
Earlier this week, at an Ecumenical Service of Prayer in Jerusalem that was sponsored by Sabeel and included representatives from a number of the church traditions in Palestine, we gathered to remember and to pray for all those suffering during this difficult time. For the gospel reading we heard from the gospel of John and again I heard the challenging yet comforting words of Jesus:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
“Do not let them be afraid.” As the situation worsens in Lebanon, northern Israel, and in Gaza—a place many have forgotten (“Gaza crisis must not be forgotten, UNICEF says,” http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article5373.shtml; “Israel's secret war: the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Palestine,” http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/
article1202850.ece), may we examine our own lives and seek the humility and the love “that casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) and continue to pray for the displaced, the injured, and the mourning who are living in areas that are being subjected daily to heavy shelling and experiencing great fear.
At the end of this update, please find several articles and statements telling more about the impact of this situation on the people of this region, including statements from MCC partner Sabeel on the crises both in Gaza and Lebanon and statements from MCC Israeli partners the Zochrot Association (http://www.nakbainhebrew.org/) and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD; http://www.icahd.org/eng/)
To learn more about how MCC is responding in both Palestine and Lebanon, please visit http://www.mcc.org/middleeastemergency/. Mennonite Church USA (http://peace.mennolink.org/israellebanon.html) is calling for “Days of Prayer, Fasting and Faxing for Peace in the Middle East (http://peace.mennolink.org/resources/hearourvoices.pdf). Please consider how you and your communities might get involved and engage these important issues.
Come Visit Palestine
Despite the difficult situation here, there are still many great opportunities to come and visit Palestine. In fact, here in Bethlehem, although the number of foreign tourists continues to be very low, the presence of Palestinians from northern Israel seeking safety away from the fighting has resulted in a little boost to the local economy (“Israeli Arabs Seek Refuge in Bethlehem,”http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2006/08/07/international/i021650D16.DTL).
The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center has just completed their first International Young Adult Conference titled “TOGETHER: Facing Challenges … Finding Hope.” After this successful experience, Sabeel will now look forward to their 6th International Sabeel Conference titled “The Forgotten Faithful: A Window into the Life and Witness of Christians in the Holy Land.” This conference, scheduled for November 2nd to 9th, through lectures, workshops, worship and excursions in the Holy Land, will provide a unique opportunity to encounter the realities of Christians in Palestine and Israel. This will be a great opportunity to meet your Christian brothers and sisters, learn about their history and present struggle, champion their just cause and advocate for peace and reconciliation for all the people of the land. For more information, see: http://www.sabeel.org/pdfs/prelim%20Brochure%20.doc.
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD; http://www.icahd.org/eng/) is offering another study tour opportunity in the fall scheduled for October 20th to 29th. “This is a crucial time in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict,” ICAHD reports. “More than ever the active involvement of the international civil society is called for. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, working in partnership with Experience Travel Tours of the UK, has organized a ten-day study tour in October designed to educate people about the conflict, introduce key figures from both the Palestinian and Israeli peace communities and empower participants to be effective advocates for a just peace upon their return home.” This trip, now in its eighth year, will include a full-day tour with Professor Jeff Halper, director the ICAHD, of the Old City, East Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma’ale Adummim. “Participants will learn ‘the lay of the land:’ the Matrix of Control Israel has laid over the West Bank, the route of the Separation Wall between Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories, and the impact of settlements on any possible peace.” Additional tours take participants to the Galilee, to Ramallah, Bethelehem and Hebron in the West Bank, as well as to Tel Aviv, where they will meet with Palestinian and Israeli peace activists, political figures and religious leaders, as well as with Palestinians whose homes have been demolished, Bedouin communities under siege and international activist groups in the field. To learn more about this study tour, contact email@example.com.
Later on this fall, another opportunity to visit will be an Olive Picking Program organized by the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA of Palestine (JAI; http://www.jai-pal.org/) and the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG; http://www.atg.ps) between October 26th and November 4th. This agricultural event is of special significance to the Palestinian economy where all energies and efforts are mobilized during this period.
“Since the beginning of the Intifada in 2000, the olive harvest has been overshadowed by the Israeli policies of repression, closure, blockage of streets, confiscation of agricultural lands, as well as repeated attacks against Palestinian farmers by Israeli settlers. Now with the construction the Apartheid Wall at the expense of the agricultural lands, many farmers are separated from their lands. Building on the experience from the previous years, the Joint Advocacy Initiative of The East Jerusalem YMCA and the YWCA of Palestine and the Alternative Tourism have planned a program for civil international solidarity with Palestinian people and farmers. The objective of this program is to mobilize as many people as possible for olive picking, especially in areas that are situated in proximity of Israeli settlements, and by-pass roads in order to help Palestinian farmers harvest their olive trees that they might be unable to harvest without international support. You are invited to participate.”
Besides picking olives, the program will feature introductory presentations about the organizing institutions, current situation in Palestine, effect of the Apartheid Wall, tours in the old city of Jerusalem and the nativity church in Bethlehem, a tour in Hebron, cultural evenings and social gatherings. For more information, see: http://www.jai-pal.org/content.php?page=298.
Please check out the websites of these organizations and think about which of these opportunities might be for you. And come Visit Palestine.
Peace to you all,
Timothy and Christi Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee – Palestine
Attachments and Links:
· Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, “The Madness of War: Hizballah and Israel,” Sabeel.org, 2 August 2006
· Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, “Israel’s Summer Rains: The Arrogance of Power,” Sabeel.org, 18 July 2006
· Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, “ICAHD Statement on Lebanon/Gaza Wars,” ICAHD.org, 4 August 2006
· Zochrot Association, “Zochrot’s Position on the War,” NakbainHebrew.org.
· Martin Accad, “Evangelical Blindness on Lebanon,” Christianity Today, 20 July 2006
· Rev. Riad Kassis, “Qana: Turning water into blood, not wine!,” Johann Ludwig Schneller School, 1 August 2006
· Anders Strindberg, “Hizbullah’s Attacks Stem from Israeli Incursions into Lebanon,” Christian Science Monitor, 1 August 2006
· George Monbiot, “Israel responded to an unprovoked attack by Hizbullah, right? Wrong,” The Guardian, 8 August 2006
· Rami Khouri, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue,” The Observer, 6 August 2006
· Amira Hass, “Their power of endurance,” Haaretz, 9 August 2006
· Virginia Tilley, “The Case for Boycotting Israel,” CounterPunch.org, 5/6 August 2006
· Lara Deeb, “Hizballah: A Primer,” Middle East Research and Information Project,” July 31, 2006
· Ran HaCohen, “Israeli Intellectuals Love the War,” Antiwar.com, August 7, 2006
· Silvia Tennenbaum, “Why Doesn't Israel Work For Peace?: Holocaust victims would decry the slaughter of innocent children during attacks on Hezbollah,” Newsday, 4 August 2006
· Tanya Reinhart, “Israel's ‘New Middle East,’” Electronic Lebanon, 26 July 2006
The Madness of War: Hizballah and Israel
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
2 August 2006
The pain! I can’t bear the pain!
My heart! My heart is beating wildly!
I can’t keep quiet; I hear the trumpets and the shouts of battle.
One disaster follows another; the whole country is left in ruins.
Suddenly our tents are destroyed; their curtains are torn to pieces.
How long must I see the battle raging and hear the blasts of trumpets?
The LORD says, “My people are stupid; they don’t know me.
They are like foolish children; they have no understanding.
They are experts at doing what is evil, but failures at doing what is good.” (Jeremiah 4:19-23 TEV)
The words of the prophet Jeremiah are our words as we feel the pain and the tragedy in our region. Nothing justifies the extent of the destruction and the number of human beings that have been killed, wounded, and displaced. It is insane and mad. After Israel’s forced termination of its 22 year occupation of South Lebanon in the year 2000, and having defied U.N. Resolution 425 for as many years, it still held Lebanese prisoners and maps of land mines in violation of mutual agreements. In addition, Israel continuously violates Lebanese airspace against international law.
On July 12, 2006, Hizballah crossed the border into Israel, killed 8 Israeli soldiers and took two captive, demanding to exchange them with Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. Israel’s retaliation came with a vengeance. Since July 12, the Israeli army has killed over 750 Lebanese and wounded thousands, the majority of casualties being civilians.
Please read more at http://www.sabeel.org/etemplate.php?id=35
Israel’s Summer Rains: The Arrogance of Power
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
18 July 2006
“For [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).
In Palestine, rain does not fall in the summer. It falls during the rainy season between November and March. People wait with eagerness and thankfulness for the rain after the hot and dry summer months. In the Gaza Strip, rain hardly falls even in the winter. It is a parched land whose only freshwater reservoirs have been depleted by decades of Israeli occupation. The name of the Israeli army operation itself reflects a callous euphemism. By calling the invasion of the Gaza Strip “summer rains,” Israel has taken the word “rain” that stands for and represents a blessing to Palestinians and to all other people and turned it into a curse. It has taken God’s wonderful gift of nature that brings life, food, and health and instead used it to shower destruction and devastation on the people of Gaza. To name this brutal aggression “summer rains” is cruel. Since June 25, over 106 Palestinians have been killed, many of whom are young children, and more than 241 injured. During the same period, six Israelis have been killed with an unknown number of injured.
Please read more at http://www.sabeel.org/etemplate.php?id=33
ICAHD Statement on Lebanon/Gaza Wars: END THE WAR! END THE OCCUPATION! END STATE TERROR! END AMERICAN EMPIRE!
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
4 August 2006
ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, condemns all attacks on civilians, whether by Israel, the Palestinians or Hezbollah. We recognize Israel’s ever-repressive Occupation as the main source of conflict and instability in our region. Had Israel taken the many opportunities it had to secure a just peace, the peoples of the region would never have reached this point of despair and futile violence. Israel believes it can achieve “quiet” and normalcy through military power while retaining its Occupation, encouraged and protected by the US. This is the true convergence: Israel’s Occupation in return for an active Israeli role in expanding American Empire.
Israel’s disproportionate attacks on both Gaza and Lebanon on the pretext of freeing Israeli soldiers is intended to destroy any resistance to the imposition of the apartheid regime represented by Olmert’s “convergence plan.” Indeed, the democratically-elected government of Hamas which had been moving steadily towards a negotiated two-state settlement constitutes the greatest threat to the perpetuation of Israel’s Occupation, as witnessed by Israel’s delegitimization of that government and its systematic campaign to liquidate Hamas leaders. Israel’s illegal and immoral use of collective punishment against the civilian population of Gaza in which 3000 houses have been demolished in recent years and its months-long campaign of starving the local population into submission continues must be condemned. ICAHD will work with the international courts to bring the military and political perpetrators of these crimes against humanity to justice.
Please read more at http://www.icahd.org/eng/news.asp?menu=5&submenu=1&item=324
Zochrot’s Position on the War
Our region is engaged in another round of mindless violence. Thousands have abandoned their homes, many of which have been destroyed, and hundreds have been killed. As an organization working to change Jewish public consciousness, we realize that (like in the Nakba of 1948) although Israel is not solely responsible and at fault for the conflict, there is no doubt that Israel is stoking its flames by displaying violent and disproportional force and by causing most of the casualties – a majority of whom are civilians.
Nowadays, Israeli politics is driven by the desire for revenge. This desire, falsely dubbed the “restoration of deterrence capability” by some, in fact aims to restore the sense of chauvinistic, militaristic nationalism that was dealt a blow when IDF soldiers in the south and the north were taken captive. This desire for revenge drives a series of violent actions that are almost entirely without restraint. The Jewish-Israeli consensus on the street, in the political system and in the media celebrates alongside the IDF the opportunity to ‘pulverize them,’ as the news headlines cry. The nationalistic rhetoric advances the sense of victimhood and prevents any possibility for reasoned action or, heaven forbid, negotiations with the “aggressor.”
Please read more at http://www.icahd.org/eng/news.asp?menu=5&submenu=1&item=324
Also, learn more about Zochrot’s work to educate Israelis about the impact of the Israeli offensives into Gaza and Lebanon on the people there at http://www.zochrot.org/index.php?id=461. In a protest against the current military campaigns, Zochrot workers scattered flyers from the rooftops of Tel Aviv that contained translated excerpts of the actual leaflets dropped by the IDF in Lebanon that call on citizens to leave their homes. “As we enter another round in the cycle of displacement and refugeehood in our region, Zochrot calls on the Jewish public to question the aims of this war and to acknowledge the roots of the violent conflict that began with the Nakba of 1948.”
Evangelical Blindness on Lebanon
20 July 2006
"Great. All we need is a nuclear-armed Iran led by a messianic president who hates Israel and believes that apocalyptic destruction is a precursor to global salvation," writes David P. Gushee in a recent Christianity Today online column, in reference to Iran's president Ahmadinejad. On the whole, Gushee's article is fairly balanced from a certain point of view, and I suppose within the limits necessary to avoid being attacked and branded by those in our churches who have but disdain for Arabs.
But how is it that he, like so many others, fails to notice that world events in the last few years—even decades—have had as their main catalyst tens of thousands of evangelical Christians with a "messianic" mentality who believe that apocalyptic destruction of all but their beloved Israel will be "a precursor to global salvation"?
"Nuclear-armed Iran"? How about the Israeli jet planes that are bombing, as I write, my country and its population, my sisters, my brothers, my fathers and mothers and grandfathers, my children and nieces and nephews? According to the Lebanese health minister, Israel is even using phosphoric bombs, which are forbidden under international conventions! Are my people to consider Iran more dangerous than this? Are we safely in good hands with such actions? Come with me to Beirut and see how inoffensive Israel is. Ask the thousands of Western nationals that are presently being evacuated by the shipload. Ask the hundreds of U.S. and other Western missionaries that are running for their lives from Lebanon as you read this, through the most dangerous routes. Ask them whether weapons of any kind are in safe hands in any bloodthirsty human hands. And if they were not bloodthirsty, why would they have them? Why would anyone have them?
Please read more at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/129/42.0.html
Also, read Martin Accad’s follow-up to this essay titled ‘Who Is My Neighbor’ in the Lebanon-Israel Conflict? at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/130/22.0.html
Johann Ludwig Schneller School
Qana: Turning water into blood, not wine!
Rev. Riad Kassis
1 August 2006
Qana is about 10 miles east of the southern Lebanese coastal city of Tyre. According to traditions it is the village where Jesus Christ performed his first miracle by turning water into wine (John 2: 1-???). The presence and work of Jesus gave the wedding a new turn and flavor. He brought in joy, happiness and gladness to all present. This is what Jesus did when he was in Qana! The story in Qana is different in 1996 and today!
In 1996, a Fijian UNIFIL compound in the village was shelled by Israeli artillery. Around 800 Lebanese civilians had taken refuge there to escape the fighting, of whom 106 were killed and around 116 others injured. Four UNIFIL soldiers were also seriously injured. This was the First Massacre of Qana!
Last night, was a noisy and fearful night as Israeli jet fighters were hovering the skies of Lebanon. While I was trying to sleep in the middle of the night I was thinking of what the morning will bring to Lebanon. I woke up to the news that an Israeli air strike hit a four-story residential building used as a shelter by Lebanese refugees in the southern Lebanese town of Qana Sunday morning, killing and wounding more than 65 people, 30 of them are infants and young children. This is the Second Massacre of Qana!
Enough of this nonsense! I am sick not only because of such excuses, but because many in the West believe these claims as well! There is and will never be an acceptable excuse for the killing of civilians most of them children and women. The excuse that the US is waiting for a “sustainable solution”, without calling for an immediate cease fire, is nonsense too. It is only a green light for Israel to continue it atrocities on Lebanon.
My great disappointment is with the international community, with fundamentalist evangelical community, with some Arab regimes! I have written on this elsewhere http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/130/12.0.html. Now as I watch the bodies of little children I am really outraged and furious! How many “Qanas massacres” are we waiting for to happen before a cease fire takes place?
As an Arab evangelical I call, at least, all Christians and particularly evangelicals who enjoy seeing the turning of water into blood in the name of end time prophecy to think seriously that their call is rather to turn water into wine of gladness, peace, and life. Are we looking for the presence of Christ in Lebanon and Israel or for the presence of US smart bombs? Are we peacemakers or angels of death?
Please read more at http://www.jlss.org/2006news/qana.htm
Also, read Rev. Riad Kassis’ essay titled The Silent Human Conscience at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/130/22.0.html
Christian Science Monitor
Hizbullah’s Attacks Stem from Israeli Incursions into Lebanon
1 August 2006
As pundits and policymakers scramble to explain events in Lebanon, their conclusions are virtually unanimous: Hizbullah created this crisis. Israel is defending itself. The underlying problem is Arab extremism.
Sadly, this is pure analytical nonsense. Hizbullah's capture of two Israeli soldiers on July 12 was a direct result of Israel's silent but unrelenting aggression against Lebanon, which in turn is part of a six-decades long Arab-Israeli conflict.
Since its withdrawal of occupation forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Israel has violated the United Nations-monitored "blue line" on an almost daily basis, according to UN reports. Hizbullah's military doctrine, articulated in the early 1990s, states that it will fire Katyusha rockets into Israel only in response to Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians or Hizbullah's leadership; this indeed has been the pattern.
In the process of its violations, Israel has terrorized the general population, destroyed private property, and killed numerous civilians. This past February, for instance, 15-year-old shepherd Yusuf Rahil was killed by unprovoked Israeli cross-border fire as he tended his flock in southern Lebanon. Israel has assassinated its enemies in the streets of Lebanese cities and continues to occupy Lebanon's Shebaa Farms area, while refusing to hand over the maps of mine fields that continue to kill and cripple civilians in southern Lebanon more than six years after the war supposedly ended. What peace did Hizbullah shatter?
Hizbullah's capture of the soldiers took place in the context of this ongoing conflict, which in turn is fundamentally shaped by realities in the Palestinian territories. To the vexation of Israel and its allies, Hizbullah - easily the most popular political movement in the Middle East - unflinchingly stands with the Palestinians.
Please read more at http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0801/p09s02-coop.html
Israel responded to an unprovoked attack by Hizbullah, right? Wrong
8 August 2006
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "more than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to US and other diplomats, journalists and thinktanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail". The attack, he said, would last for three weeks. It would begin with bombing and culminate in a ground invasion. Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University, told the paper that "of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared ... By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board".
A "senior Israeli official" told the Washington Post that the raid by Hizbullah provided Israel with a "unique moment" for wiping out the organisation. The New Statesman's editor, John Kampfner, says he was told by more than one official source that the US government knew in advance of Israel's intention to take military action in Lebanon. The Bush administration told the British government.
Israel's assault, then, was premeditated: it was simply waiting for an appropriate excuse. It was also unnecessary. It is true that Hizbullah had been building up munitions close to the border, as its current rocket attacks show. But so had Israel. Just as Israel could assert that it was seeking to deter incursions by Hizbullah, Hizbullah could claim - also with justification - that it was trying to deter incursions by Israel. The Lebanese army is certainly incapable of doing so. Yes, Hizbullah should have been pulled back from the Israeli border by the Lebanese government and disarmed. Yes, the raid and the rocket attack on July 12 were unjustified, stupid and provocative, like just about everything that has taken place around the border for the past six years. But the suggestion that Hizbullah could launch an invasion of Israel or that it constitutes an existential threat to the state is preposterous. Since the occupation ended, all its acts of war have been minor ones, and nearly all of them reactive.
Please read more at http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1839244,00.html
‘Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue’
6 August 2006
When Israeli, Arab and other journalists merely parrot their government lines, they do everyone a disservice. When they repeat the hysterical assumptions and flawed interpretations of their semi-crazed politicians - as I believe is common in Israel today - they become instruments of war, rather than purveyors of fact and dispassionate analysis. But when they cut through official spin and associated propaganda, and help their public understand the roots of the problem, and thus the path to its resolution, they rise to their highest professional and personal stature. So here's what I would say to journalists in Israel: read Deuteronomy and act on its moral and political principles.
Deuteronomy, a pivotal book of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), is supremely relevant here because it blends the three issues that I believe Israeli, Arab and international journalists must affirm in order to honour their professional dictates along with their own humanity. These are: good governance anchored in the rule of law; a moral foundation for human relations anchored in the dictate to treat others as you want others to treat you; and the towering divine commands to 'choose life' and 'pursue justice'.
Deuteronomy is an appropriate balm because it emphasises - in both human society and the divine plan - the central value of justice that is anchored in a system of codified laws that are administered fairly by compassionate and competent judges. The most beautiful and powerful part of Deuteronomy is verses 18-20, ending with: 'Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue.'
How is this relevant to the Israeli-Lebanese war today and issues beyond this round of fighting? I believe it is crucial, because the single biggest reason that Israel has found itself locked in ever more vicious wars with assorted Arab neighbours is its refusal to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians and other Arabs on the basis of the rule of law, and to resolve disputes on the basis of both parties enjoying equal rights.
Please read more at http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/comment/0,,1838405,00.html
Their power of endurance
9 August 2006
First, because the war - state cruelty - against the Palestinians is ongoing. Second, because Israel's double standard and basic contempt for anyone who isn't "us" explains better than the army's outdated equipment and faulty training why it has been receiving blows so far and will continue to receive them. Israel is convinced that in Lebanon, as in Gaza and the West Bank, its unlimited power to destroy is both a deterrent and spur to political change. It is ignoring the human factor - that the Palestinians and Lebanese' fortitude grows in lockstep with our strengthening powers of destruction.
We are justly concerned about the welfare of northern residents, proud of their fortitude, understand those who leave, are shocked by the death of each person and by every rocket hit, and identify with those suffering from anxiety. Take what the northern residents have been going through for a month, multiply it by 1,000, add an economic blockade, power and water cuts, and no wages. This is how the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been "living" for the past six years.
The Israelis allow their army to continue destroying, trampling and killing in the Palestinian territories. Here, like in Lebanon, the real intelligence and security failure is Israel's ignoring the extent of our uninhibited, unrestrained devastation and their amazing power of human endurance. This is why Israel has delusions of "victories." If the homemade rockets are still being fired at Sderot despite the Palestinians' extensive suffering, it is because they have concluded, correctly, that Israel's destruction power is not intended to stop Qassam rockets - or to free Gilad Shalit. It is intended to force them to accept a surrender arrangement, which they reject not with military victories but with their power of endurance.
Please read more at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/747999.html
The Case for Boycotting Israel
5/6 August 2006
It is finally time. After years of internal arguments, confusion, and dithering, the time has come for a full-fledged international boycott of Israel. Good cause for a boycott has, of course, been in place for decades, as a raft of initiatives already attests. But Israel's war crimes are now so shocking, its extremism so clear, the suffering so great, the UN so helpless, and the international community's need to contain Israel's behavior so urgent and compelling, that the time for global action has matured. A coordinated movement of divestment, sanctions, and boycotts against Israel must convene to contain not only Israel's aggressive acts and crimes against humanitarian law but also, as in South Africa, its founding racist logics that inspired and still drive the entire Palestinian problem.
That second goal of the boycott campaign is indeed the primary one. Calls for a boycott have long cited specific crimes: Israel's continual attacks on Palestinian civilians; its casual disdain for the Palestinian civilian lives "accidentally" destroyed in its assassinations and bombings; its deliberate ruin of the Palestinians' economic and social conditions; its continuing annexation and dismemberment of Palestinian land; its torture of prisoners; its contempt for UN resolutions and international law; and especially, its refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. But the boycott cannot target these practices alone. It must target their ideological source.
The true offence to the international community is the racist motivation for these practices, which violates fundamental values and norms of the post-World War II order. That racial ideology isn't subtle or obscure. Mr. Olmert himself has repeatedly thumped the public podium about the "demographic threat" facing Israel: the "threat" that too many non-Jews will - the horror - someday become citizens of Israel. It is the "demographic threat" that, in Israeli doctrine, justifies sealing off the West Bank and Gaza Strip as open-air prisons for millions of people whose only real crime is that they are not Jewish. It is the "demographic threat," not security (Mr. Olmert has clarified), that requires the dreadful Wall to separate Arab and Jewish communities, now juxtaposed in a fragmented landscape, who might otherwise mingle.
Please read more at http://www.counterpunch.org/tilley08052006.html
Middle East Research and Information Project
Hizballah: A Primer
July 31, 2006
Hizballah, the Lebanese Shi‘i movement whose militia is fighting the Israeli army in south Lebanon, has been cast misleadingly in much media coverage of the ongoing war. Much more than a militia, the movement is also a political party that is a powerful actor in Lebanese politics and a provider of important social services. Not a creature of Iranian and Syrian sponsorship, Hizballah arose to battle Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon from 1982-2000 and, more broadly, to advocate for Lebanon’s historically disenfranchised Shi‘i Muslim community. While it has many political opponents in Lebanon, Hizballah is very much of Lebanon -- a fact that Israel’s military campaign is highlighting.
Please read more at http://www.merip.org/mero/mero073106.html
Israeli Intellectuals Love the War
August 7, 2006
All generalizations are wrong, except this one: Israeli liberal intellectuals are against war. They have always been against it, and they even suffered greatly for their critical views, as they stress proudly. They were against the previous war, they will be against the next war, they are against all wars. There is just one minor exception, though: the present war, every present war, which they always support. Because the present war – well, that's something totally different from all those other wars! How can you even compare?! The present war is always inevitable, and necessary, and just, and worthy of support.
For those who imagine Israel's intellectual elite as a sane oasis of rational, moderate, peace-loving liberals, here are a few snapshots of Israel's intellectual cheerleaders on their current patriotic march supporting the devastation of Lebanon.
From 1984 to 1948
Rhinoceros King Ari Shavit, journalist for Ha'aretz, once a "Peace Now" activist and senior member of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), writes,
"Israel is currently waging the most just war in its history. […] Therefore, anyone who yearns for Israel to withdraw in future from occupied territories to recognized permanent borders must stand by Israel in this war. Anyone who wants peace, stability, and an end to the occupation must back up Israel in its just war." (Ha'aretz, July 18, 2006)
To put it briefly, then, War is Peace and Peace is War; and Israel is devastating Lebanon just in order to give the Palestinians their freedom.
Please read more at http://antiwar.com/hacohen/?articleid=9486
Why Doesn't Israel Work For Peace?: Holocaust victims would decry the slaughter of innocent children during attacks on Hezbollah
4 August 2006
As a Jew who escaped the Holocaust by moving with my family to America in 1938, I turn on the BBC at night. And what I see are clouds of black smoke, explosions; the dead and the dying - children crying bitterly, cities in ruins. Only yesterday, these piles of rubble in Lebanon were home to thousands. Now, the cars roll out onto the highways, white flags attached to the windshields and doors. More than half a million are homeless.
The Israelis told them to leave, but then strafed one convoy from a helicopter. The military people exert their force without pity. They win their wars proudly. They are the masters of force.
Using the most modern weapons the United States can supply to search out the Hezbollah guerrillas, the Israeli soldiers destroy Lebanon. They wreck all of Gaza, seeking to murder the leaders of Hamas.
Many American Jews gather proudly to cheer them on. The face of the American president remains blank. A patter of platitudes issues from his lips. He is not interested in peace. He is happy to see Israel do the dirty war for him. Diplomacy is a word not in his dictionary…
The time is long overdue for Jews to return to their role as the world's conscience, who come to the aid of the dispossessed, the wretched of the earth. Once again, we must join those who demand the end to unjust wars - in Iraq as well as Lebanon - and an unjust occupation in Gaza. We must honor the example of American civil rights workers Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, not that of the mass murderer Baruch Goldstein or Yigal Amir, killer of Yitzhak Rabin.
Please read more at http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0804-27.htm
Israel's "New Middle East"
26 July 2006
For the U.S., the Middle East is a "strategic playing field", where the game is establishing full U.S. domination. The U.S. already controls Iraq and Afghanistan, and considers Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and a few other states as friendly cooperating regimes. But even with this massive foothold, full U.S. domination is still far from established. Iran has only been strengthened by the Iraq war and refuses to accept the decrees of the master. Throughout the Arab world, including in the "friendly regimes", there is boiling anger at the U.S., at the heart of which is not only the occupation of Iraq, but the brutal oppression of the Palestinians, and the U.S. backing of Israel's policies. The new axis of the four enemies of the Bush administration (Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran) are bodies viewed by the Arab world as resisting U.S. or Israel's rule, and standing for Arab liberation. From Bush's perspective, he only has two years to consolidate his vision of complete U.S. control of the Middle East, and to do that, all seeds of resistance should be crushed in a devastating blow that will make it clear to every single Arab that obeying the master is the only way to stay alive. If Israel is willing to do the job, and crush not only the Palestinians, but also Lebanon and Hezbollah, then the U.S., torn from the inside by growing resentment over Bush's wars, and perhaps unable to send new soldiers to be killed for this cause right now, will give Israel all the backing it can. As Rice announced in her visit in Jerusalem on July 25, what is at stakes is "a new Middle East". "We will prevail", she promised Olmert.
But Israel is not sacrificing its soldiers and citizens only to please the Bush administration. The "new Middle East" has been a dream of the Israeli ruling military circles since at least 1982, when Sharon led the country to the first Lebanon war with precisely this declared goal. Hezbollah's leaders have argued for years that its real long-term role is to protect Lebanon, whose army is too weak to do this. They have said that Israel has never given up its aspirations for Lebanon and that the only reason it pulled out of Southern Lebanon in 2000 is because Hezbollah's resistance has made maintaining the occupation too costly. Lebanon's people know what every Israeli old enough to remember knows - that in the vision of Ben Gurion, Israel's founding leader, Israel's border should be "natural", that is - the Jordan river in the East, and the Litani river of Lebanon in the north. In 1967, Israel gained control over the Jordan river, in the occupied Palestinian land, but all its attempts to establish the Litani border have failed so far.
Please read more at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article5248.shtml