Friday, September 4, 2009

Words Games Continue. Isr is "in", Pal is "out"

Here we go again. Will the Obama administration advance over the "deeply regret" phase popularized by Dubya? Where is courage? How long do we play games and hide behind "words" that are meaningless? Our paper Tiger has no bite. Is is time for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions? As in a beginning stage. Even to make public that the US is THINKING about BDS? JRK

Israeli plan for settlement building angers US
By STEVEN GUTKIN, Associated Press Writer Steven Gutkin, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM – Israel said Friday it will construct hundreds of new housing units in West Bank settlements before any slowdown in building, an announcement that drew harsh criticism from Washington, which demands a complete settlement freeze as a prelude to renewing Mideast peace talks.

Israeli officials painted the move as a concession to the U.S. demand because it might bring a temporary halt to other construction. But since it would also mean building the new units and finishing some 2,500 others now under construction, it looked more like defiance than acquiescence.

Israel's proposal also does not include any freeze in building in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians hope to make their future capital.

The Obama administration's response did not mince words.

"We regret the reports of Israel's plans to approve additional settlement construction," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement Friday. "As the president has said before, the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Marlin Vis Has Truth. Listen In

Finding what we seek ...

“Everyone finds in the Bible exactly what he/she seeks,” Professor Isaiah M. Gafni, Hebrew University (The Challenge of Hellenism). “Furthermore, we often read back into the text that which was never intended, not even in the original writing.”

Professor Gafni does not intend this declaration to be damning, but rather a statement of what is, in fact, fact! Gafni painfully points out that the case for an afterlife, for example, does not become a Hebrew, and therefore a Jewish theological concept, until after the influence of Hellenism (Greek culture). Then, he says, Jewish thinkers revisited Hebrew texts to find support for that which they now believed to be so – i.e. life after death.

He does not say that this means there is no life after death, no heaven or hell, but rather that the belief in such came later in the collective religious life of Jews, and as the direct result of Hellenistic influence.

“Everyone finds in the Bible exactly what he/she seeks.”

Mike Huckabee just returned from a visit to Israel/Palestine. He proclaimed, with just the right touch of sobriety, that the land belongs to the Jewish people, and therefore the Palestinian people ought to do the right thing and leave. And if they do not leave then the Jewish people ought to be given liberty to do whatever is necessary to get them out. I have no idea how far he would take this, but I get the feeling that “no holds barred” would be pretty close. Of course, all this in a spirit of Christian love, albeit, tough love, because Pastor/Governor/Talk Show Host/President Wanabe Huckabee is, after all, a decent, loving Christian man.

And for his proof, he goes, of course, to the Bible. But to what part of the Bible? He turns to the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament. He quotes from several of the hundreds of texts that proclaim this to be fact: God gave the land to the Jewish people, therefore the land belongs to them, both back in the then, and in the now, and in fact, in the forever – the land belongs to the Jewish people.

And who can argue with this, right? Anyone who dares is immediately assailed as someone who does not take the Bible seriously, because the case of Jewish ownership of the land is too obvious to dispute.

So the Palestinians are toast!

And, sadly, so are we.


I mean, if we are going to read the Bible as a book that was written to determine ownership of land, and borders for ethnic groups, and this for all time, then eventually, we’re all doomed. We’re all potentially victims of the reading back into scripture by whomever has the power to follow through on whatever it is they wanted to find there.

“Everyone finds in the Bible exactly what he/she seeks.” The truth in this statement would be even more frightening then it is except for the fact that not everyone has to power to follow through on whatever it is they find as they seek.


Apartheid in South Africa was supported by the Dutch Boers because their Reformed theologians found in the Bible exactly what they sought. Slavery in America was as well. “Everyone finds in the Bible exactly what he/she seeks.” For centuries Jewish people were persecuted, oppressed and even murdered, on the pretext of truth sought and found in the Bible – New Testament texts that were interpreted to blame the Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus.

“Jews killed Christ!” The Bible says so, right? Wrong! The Bible does not say this, not at the deepest level of what the Bible has to say about the death of Christ. The Empire of Rome killed Jesus just as empires like Rome have killed rebels like Jesus for centuries before and for all these centuries to follow. Corrupt, misled, and frightened leaders of religion contributed to the execution of Jesus, just as corrupt, misled and frightened leaders of religion have killed their prophets before and kill them still.

And when we allow innocent people to suffer because of a shallow reading of the Word of God, then, over and over again, we continue to kill God-in-the-flesh-and-blood of Jesus. We kill truth. We kill justice. We kill Jesus! And this done by good and decent people like you and me, and yes, Mike Huckabee too.

Every square inch of the Universe belongs to the God who created every square inch of the Universe, and this God did this creative God-thing with great joy in, and with great hope for, a Universe where justice and righteousness would kiss. This Sovereign God owns every square inch of the Universe that this God created, even the air we breathe, along with that air that we cannot breathe, because this air leads through some black hole to a place only God knows where. No one people, and no one person owns any of this created space that God created out of God’s own creative self. God owns it all. And thanks be to God, who being as generous as God is creative, allows us to live on this land that God fashioned, and to breath this air that originally came from God’s own breathing.

And how shall we live? With awe-filled awareness that none of this belongs to us, not one square inch of it! We live by grace. How shall we live? With justice and righteousness for the widow, the orphan and the stranger! Why? Because we are all one phone call away from being any one of these three! How shall we live? In love and peace with our neighbors, even, and even especially, with those who are enemies with us! Why? Because tomorrow or next year or ten years from today, these same enemies will be discovered to be people not so different from us, and will be our friends, and we will be wondering why we wasted all this time and all this energy hating them and killing them and raging against them. How shall we live? As Jesus lived, boldly and bravely and honestly, and die like Jesus died too because death is a part of life, so we die like Jesus died, with forgiveness on his lips, and reconciliation in his mind, and if we are wise as Jesus was wise then we will do this before we die!

HOW SHALL WE LIVE? We shall live in the Word of God, with respect to what God intended, and with the constant reminder ringing in our ears and reverberating in our minds, that some of what was said there was meant only for then and there, and not necessarily for now and forever.

How shall we live? Humbly trying to discern what was for then and there, and what is for now. And then, with fear and trembling, we determine what is forever. And somehow, God helping, we do this together! And I submit to you, that the primary focus of the Bible is not to determine who owns what, but rather, to declare that nobody owns anything. It is all of grace. And for that grace we are to be grateful. Thank you very much Heidelberg!

Do Jewish people have a right to live in the land of their ancestors? Of course! But Palestinians have the same right, and the right they have comes from the same Word! The responsibility of people like Mike Huckabee, and you and me, is not to travel to this land and glibly determine who has the right to live where, but rather to humbly and submissively come along side both people and encourage them to live humbly, gratefully, and justly with one another. This is the Word’s word on how we all should live, both then and there, and now and forever.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Can a Soldier/Professor Call for Boycott?

Friend Gideon Levy adds his bit to the bruhaha over Prof. Neve Gordon, Ben Gurion University, with thanks to the Isr/Pal Mission Network, PC(USA), JRK

Gideon Levy: The Last Refuge

Aug. 27, 2009

http://www.haaretz. com/hasen/ spages/1110514. html

The timing of the mini-maelstrom over an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times by Neve Gordon, who teaches politics and government at Be'er Sheva's Ben-Gurion University, calling for a boycott of Israel, was somewhat grotesque. Hardly have the throats dried of those calling for his dismissal, for his citizenship to be revoked, for his expulsion and, if all else fails, his stoning, when another petition has surfaced on the Internet, this one calling for a boycott of Ikea. A bad article on the back page of a Swedish tabloid is enough to produce a call here for a consumer boycott to which thousands sign their names. Turkey has barely recovered from the boycott that our package tourers imposed on it because its prime minister had the gall to attack our president, and already we are cruising toward our next boycott target. It's our right.

It's a safe bet that most of the boycotters of Antalya and Ikea are the same people who want to tar-and-feather the Israeli professor who dared promulgate the use of the very same civic weapon. According to the Israelis who railed against Gordon, the imposition of a boycott is a legitimate, perhaps even effective, means of punishment that can be invoked against our enemies, real or imagined. Gordon, an Israeli patriot who served in the Paratroops and is raising his two children here, thinks that a 42-year-long criminal occupation should generate at least as much international protest as an article in a Swedish newspaper, and that this protest can and should be translated into concrete measures. The Israelis think that one scurrilous article is enough to warrant punishing everything Swedish, and that one comment by a prime minister is enough to do the same to everything Turkish. Gordon thinks the occupation is a sufficiently important motive to boycott everything Israeli.

Since the time of the ban imposed in the Jewish community by Rabbeinu Gershom at the turn of the first millennium, which applies to offenses of considerably less severity than mistreating 3.5 million people - namely, marrying more than one woman, divorcing a woman without her consent and reading private correspondence without the owner's consent - the boycott has been a just and appropriate civil weapon. And since the boycott of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the boycott has also been an effective weapon. Israel is demanding its invocation against Iran, America wants it imposed against North Korea and both of them are demanding it against the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, and worse, against all the residents of Gaza. Israel, and with it most of the international community, imposed a boycott on 1.5 million Gazans only because they did not vote for the right party in the democratic elections that the international community demanded.

A country that constantly demands boycott from the world and also imposes boycotts itself, cannot play the victim when the same weapon is turned against it. If the election of Hamas is cause for boycott, then occupation is a far more potent cause. The fact that Israel is living a lie - pretending that the occupation does not exist, that it is just, temporary and unavoidable - does not make the struggle against it any less legitimate. So let us admit the truth: The occupier deserves to be boycotted. As long as the Israelis pay no price for the occupation, the occupation will not end, and therefore the only way open to the opponents of the occupation is to take concrete means that will make the Israelis understand that the injustice they are perpetrating comes with a price tag.

Anyone who champions the struggle against the occupation is no less of a patriot than a soldier who shoots a bound Palestinian or a settler who plunders land and builds his house on it, in defiance of every law. They are giving Israel a far worse name than a lecturer who calls for a struggle against the occupation - just ask Israel's critics. It is precisely the Gordons, those who fight from within, who are repairing slightly the horrific damage that has been done to Israel's image in the past few years. They are proving to the world that despite everything Israel is not monolithic, that not all Israelis speak with the same voice, that not all Israelis are Liebermans or Kahanists, and that maybe Israel is, after all, a type of democracy with freedom of expression, at least for its Jewish citizens.

Gordon went one step further. Boycott is the next logical step, he believes, because all else has failed. Forty-two years of fruitless fighting from within and an occupation that is only growing stronger, dictate stepping up the struggle. We tried demonstrations but the masses did not come; we tried conferences but they led nowhere. All that's left is to give in, to go on with the routine of our lives, like all the Israelis, to shut our eyes and hope for the best - or to intensify the struggle, in conjunction with the intensification of the occupation. The Israeli soldiers who shoot at civilian demonstrators in Bil'in or Na'alin, almost like in Iran, are perpetrating a far more illegitimate act against the state's rule of law than those calling for an international boycott. But no one will urge the revocation of their citizenship.

Gordon chose not to follow the herd, unlike most of his cowardly colleagues or the nationalists. It is one's right to think that an Israeli who does not boycott Israel does not have the right to call on others to take that step, or that the call for an external boycott is the last option of Israeli patriots who do not want to abandon the country or throw up their hands. There is, however, no place for the vicious attacks on Gordon. The height of ludicrousness was achieved by the President of Ben-Gurion University, Prof. Rivka Carmi. She was appalled by the article published by a member of her faculty, fearing it could affect the university's donations from American Jews. Here, then, is a new criterion for good citizenship and morality: the harm it wreaks to our schnorring. It's also a new gauge for academic and civic freedom of expression: If something miffs the donors from Beverly Hills or Miami Beach, then we must not speak it aloud. Quiet - people donating.

The reactions from official Israel, and from the street, have lately become more irritable and more aggressive. An article in a Swedish paper or in an American paper, a report by Breaking the Silence or Human Rights Watch, whatever does not conform to the official right-wing, militaristic, nationalist line, is reviled, delegitimized and subjected to an outpouring of hate. This is an encouraging sign. Only when Israel, at both the official and the popular level, begins to understand that something went awry here, that something is morally rotten, that maybe protest, documentation and exposure are justified, then what remains is the last weapon in the hands of the defenders, the weapon of unrestrained attack on the protesters and the documenters.

If Israel were sure it is right, it would not be so frightened and be so aggressive against everyone who objects to its official line. If we were convinced that the soldiers of Breaking the Silence are making up stories and that Gordon's call for a boycott and his description of Israel as an apartheid state are unjust, we would not be so abusive toward them. Not only Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi, from Shas, but also Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who expressed "disgust," and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, who called for Gordon's dismissal - two ministers who are supposed to be in charge of imparting education and values - were in the forefront of the assault against Gordon. It is not just a question of basic intolerance for different and even subversive opinions, whose expression is a fundamental value in every democracy. It is also a manifestation of edginess and aggressiveness that prove what Gordon and others like him want so much to show in Israel and abroad: that something very basic and very deep is flawed in the third kingdom of Israel.