Monday, April 18, 2016

America and Israel's Original Sin


John Kleinheksel’s report on the KUSA/FOSNA Chicago conference, April 14-16, 2016

Jim Wallis is right, but let me expand on it. Racism is not only America’s original sin; it is the sin of every ethnic group that wants to view the world from “our” perspective only. American Caucasians (“white privilege”) do it. Afro-Americans do it. Palestinians do it; Israelis do it.

We take what is only part of the whole and make it the whole ball of cheese, excluding the other existing parts. It’s called idolatry. What will it take for separate ethnic groups to see the greater whole and work for an integrated society?

That was the chief question Kairos USA and Friends of SABEEL North America (FOSNA) had us address on April 14-16, 2016, on the campus of Garrett Evangelical Seminary in the heart of Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

I joined Western Seminarians Jenna Harms and Mark Mares to see the parallels between the deaths of African-Americans in Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, Oakland and Chicago; and the deaths of Arab Palestinians in Gaza, Beit Liqya and Jerusalem. The conference exposed the similarity of militarized force against civilian blacks and Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Professor Stephen Ray (an African-American from Garrett Seminary) kicked off the colloquy by helping us see that modern states are racially based and self-protective. Rabbi Brant Rosen (a Reconstructionist Jew from Evanston) insisted that 19th Century European nationalism hijacked Judaism to colonize and replace the indigenous people of Palestine. He appealed to fellow Jews to follow the “Exodus God” (deliverance from captivity), instead of the “Conqueror God” adopted by the settler movement in Israel today. For an elaboration of this theme, read Jewish dissident Robert Cohen’s blog here:

Many speakers pointed out that the ethnic group in control thinks they are the only ones with the right to use violence. For those in control, even those who “resist” have no right even to nonviolent resistance. Rev. Iva Carruthers, one of the mothers of the resistance movement in Chicago lifted the phrase of Eric Garner (“I can’t breathe”) to mythic proportions, making it a metaphor for the oppressed of every land. White privilege in the US and the Israel Defense Force (IDF) in Israel paint law enforcement as under attack and unjustly maligned. More sensitive Americans (and Israelis) have come to realize there is more to it than that.

At the end of the conference, Dr. Beth Corrie led the participants in examining: “Where do we go from here?” After sharing her resolve personally to read more Afro-American literature empathetically, during the silence she provided, I resolved to look at and admit my own complacency with “white privilege”. When Dr. Corrie gave 15 minutes to groups of 2 or 3 persons to discuss how to live going forward, it was a perfect space and time for Mark, Jenna and me to talk.

We agreed to hold each other accountable in learning more about minority points of view in W. MI. Classis Holland (Reformed Church in America) held a Black Lives Matter event recently which I blew off.

We pledged to work with Kairos West Michigan (KWM) to bring the valid Palestinian narrative to US consciousness so the grassroots will finally lift the heavy concrete of Congress and the White House off its AIPAC-inspired unquestioning support of Israel.

New director of FOSNA, Palestinian Tarek Abuata closed the conference with the challenge to see Palestinian suffering as the speck of sand in the Israeli oyster that will fashion a Pearl of Great Price as an end result. He pointed out that when Palestinian civil society called in 2006 for BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) it was not even on the US computer screen. Such actions are now being discussed even in the Main Stream Media (MSM) and even among Jewish students in colleges and universities (with some successes, as with G4S vowing to suspend operations in the West Bank).

We in KUSA and FOSNA agree that it is misreading Hebrew and New Testament scriptures to equate the modern Jewish State with God’s supposed promise of land to a reconstituted Israel. For Jesus of Nazareth, re-installing the Jewish (tribal) state was never the goal of the Kingdom of God he was ushering in (read Acts of the Apostles).

Tarek Abuata concluded his stirring challenge this way: “Jews will often remark, ‘You Palestinians are a demographic threat to us. You want to overwhelm us’”; to which Mr. Abuata replied: “What do you think you Jews have become to us? You have truly been a demographic and nationalistic threat to the existence of Arab Palestinians!”

Rabbi Brant Rosen’s blog is “Shalom Rav”. A link to his latest entry is here: