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Wall Writings

Wall Writings
News analysis of politics, cinema, modern culture and the ambiguity of human existence addressed from a religious perspective.
Updated: 2 hours 31 min ago

Love, Not Hate, Must Follow the Amens

August 9, 2019 - 1:29pm

by James M. Wall

Works of film art endure when the underlying intent remain the same. One segment in John Ford’s film, The Searchers, reminds us that revenge is not a morsel best eaten when cold, but a morsel best buried with the dead.

Jesus said it best, “little children, love one another”.

I wrote a Wall Writings posting April 10, 2017, which featured The Searchers. It began:

A raid has killed members of a frontier family. Ethan Edwards, portrayed by an angry, unforgiving John Wayne, was secretly in love with one of the victims. The quick burial in a nearby hillside cemetery is conducted by a family friend, the Reverend Captain Samuel Johnston Clayton (Ward Bond).

Mourners sing, “Shall we gather at the river”. The Reverend Captain Clayton, formerly of the Confederate army, stands beside three wooden crosses. He prays.

Ethan Edwards abruptly ends the service with an angry shout, “Put an amen to it. There’s no more time for praying.”

An angry posse prepares to ride out in search of the raiders.

The scenes below from John Ford’s 1956 classic western film, The Searchers, begin a long search driven by the dark emotions of hatred and revenge.

https://wallwritings.me/2017/04/10/trump-at-the-movies-put-an-amen-to-it/

The posting from April, 2017, was provoked by an angry President Donald Trump’s orders to fire 60 Tomahawk missiles at an airbase in Syria.

It was from that base the U.S. claimed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a deadly chemical attack on a rebel-held town in northern Syria. 

It is now August, 2019, and this nation has just lived through two more mass shootings in Akron, Ohio and El Paso, Texas. We have once again had our mourning and our anger. Once again, we insist, this is not who we are.

We are wrong. Once again the hate and fear that divides us clings to hate not love. We put an end to prayers and in the spirit of a revenge-seeking John Wayne, we choose hate and denial.

This Is Us, as Mitchell Plitnick writes, in an essay of that title. Here is a pertinent  segment from his essay that should be read in full. 

Plitnick begins by sharing a brief speech he found on MSNBC, by Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr., Professor of African-American Studies at Princeton. At the conclusion of his answer to a question Glaude noted that when we see these horrific mass shootings, we ask, “Oh my God, is this who we are?”

Glaude answered his own question. “What we know is that this country has been playing politics for a long time on this hatred—we know this. So, it’s easy for us to place it all on Donald Trump’s shoulders. It’s easy to place Pittsburgh on his shoulders. It’s easy for me to place Charlottesville on his shoulders. It’s easy to place El Paso on his shoulders.” But then Glaude resoundingly proclaimed, “This is us! And if we’re gonna get past this we can’t blame it on [Trump]. He’s a manifestation of the ugliness that’s in us. Glaude hit the nail on the head.” 

Mirchell Plitnick continues in his essay:

No one should minimize the horror of the Trump presidency. We should not belittle the fact that with his every word and action, Trump is trying to create a nation where white makes right, where the poor increase in number and are increasingly unable to survive. He is trying to create a country that hates itself, directing that hate at the other, while he and his cronies laugh all the way to the bank.

Glaude is correct to point out that Trump is not inventing this, he is unleashing it, harvesting hate that has festered for decades, suppressed—but not defeated—by liberal ideals.

But as Americans so often do, we think of the Trump presidency in terms of ourselves, of what happens within our borders. For many of us, that doesn’t even extend to a place like Puerto Rico, which Trump was able to smugly neglect in a way he never would have dared to do to a mainland U.S. city. But what of our foreign policy under Trump and for years before him?

Progressive Americans are asking themselves every day how we can tolerate the separation of families at our borders, the incitement to violence frm the White House, the undermining of democracy by the Republican party, who either block legislation en masse or go meekly along with whatever the president and Senate majority leader say. How do we continue to tolerate police shootings of unarmed black men? How do we tolerate an enormous tax cut for the rich while the same people are trying to find ways to kick millions off of health insurance that they can already barely afford?

The list goes on and on. But we do far less introspection when it comes to foreign policy. Events in Gaza, Iran, the United Kingdom, Congo, Kashmir, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and other places do not exist in isolation from the United States. Sometimes by action, sometimes by inaction, the U.S. affects events all over the world. That’s hardly news. Most Americans know it. But too few of us take it seriously enough to let it influence our votes or political activity.

Mitchell Plitnick is a political analyst and writer. His previous positions include vice president at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, director of the US Office of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and co-director of Jewish Voice for Peace. His blog may be found at http://www.mitchellplitnick.com.

How may we best take seriously these words of urgency from Mitchell Plitnick and Eddie Glaude ?

Start by studying and sharing Mitchell Plitnick’s essay and Eddie Glaude’s MSNBC speech. Then find the role you may play in helping others and yourself, grasp the reality that revenge and hate must give way to love. 

 

2020 Choice: “In Your Face” or “Weasel Words”

July 7, 2019 - 7:22pm
2020 Choice: “In Your Face” or “Weasel Words” Posted on July 7, 2019by wallwritings

by James M. Wall

On Sunday, June 16, leaders of the nationalist bromance between Israel and the Trump government took one small step for tyranny and one huge step for “in your face” diplomacy.

In case you missed it, UPI circulated the story that Israel had ceremoniously named a small Golan Heights future settlement, “Trump Heights”, to honor the best friend Israel has ever had in the Washington, D.C. White House.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was joined in the naming ceremony by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman. (The picture above is his.)

The UPI story received scant attention in U.S. media outlets.

It deserves further attention. As anyone with even the slightest grip on reality is aware, the as-yet-undeveloped settlement of “Trump Heights” is not in Gaza or the West Bank, where Israel has spent decades developing settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

It is on occupied Syrian land. UPI quotes President Trump as he ignores that reality: “Trump said the United State’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty of Golan Heights ‘was a long time in the making’ and should have occurred decades ago.”

The Golan event is just the latest “in your face” diplomatic step Trump has taken. He also recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017 when he moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a step Democratic and Republican candidates routinely promise but never implement.

The 2020 reelection of Donald Trump would result in many more such perverse diplomatic steps that would further spiral down this nation into nothing less than a dictatorship of the rich riding on the ignorant prejudices of white nationalism.

What other option awaits us in 2020?

This moment in the political calendar, when the Democratic National Committee is putting on a series of debates to showcase more than 20 candidates for the nomination in 2020, we have another option.

On the issue of Israel’s wholesale theft of Palestinian (and Syrian land), our choice at the ballot box in November, 2020 is between Trump’s “in your face” ignorant Zionist-dictated diplomacy and the 20 plus Democratic presidential candidates whose street creed is built entirely on “weasel words” designed to protect vote-seekers.

First. we need to explain how we are using “weasel words” to define political evasiveness.

With due respect to one of God’s creatures, the weasel follows its instincts to survive and exist from generation to generation. A weasel does what a weasel does. If a hungry weasel enters a hen house in search of sustenance, it will steal eggs.

Google offers this definition:

“Weasel words” are a colloquial term for words or phrases used to avoid being forthright. Weasel words are used when the speaker wants to make it seem like they’ve given a clear answer to a question or made a direct statement, when actually they’ve said something inconclusive or vague.

James G. Zogby, director of the Arab American Institute in Washington, wrote a June 22 essay drawn from a recent New York Times survey on Democratic candidates answers, on camera, on key issues.

The Times asked many questions. Israel’s human rights question was answered by most of the candidates in “weasel words”. Click on this link and watch, at the very least, how your favorite candidate dances around the issue of human rights and Israel.

Zogby begins:

 The attitudes of Democratic voters toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have become decidedly more balanced in the past two decades. Favorable attitudes toward Palestinians are up while attitudes toward Israel appear to be in decline. While, overall views of Israel remain positive, substantial numbers of Democrats are opposed to Israeli policies – namely settlement construction and violations of Palestinian rights. Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, is also viewed negatively by most Democrats.

These shifts in opinion have placed many Democratic presidential candidates in a bind – especially those who have served in Congress or as Governors. As conscious as they may be of their base’s changing mood, they have also been schooled not to alienate pro-Israel donors or cross Israel’s lobbyists, who can, if aroused, distract their campaigns with a barrage of protests.

It was against this backdrop that I watched the results of a months-long New York Times’ project  in which they interviewed 21 of the Democrats running for president on a range of foreign and domestic policy issues that will confront the next president. There were questions on Afghanistan, handguns, health care, immigration, and the death penalty.

Most intriguing to me was question #4: “Do you think that Israel meets international standards of human rights?” because it was deeply revealing about each of candidates’ principles, their understanding of, and readiness to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Beginning in Iowa in February, 2020, voters will have a choice: Vote on the issue of Israel and the Palestinian occupied people for the “in your face” candidate now in office, or the “weasel words” candidate who emerges with the nomination.

Trump is currently in power and he uses that power to satisfy Zionists. The absurdity of his current economic plan, designed to buy off the Palestinians’ quest for freedom, was a non-starter. That is the best we are going to see from his “in your face” diplomacy.

The other option for Palestine will be the Democratic “weasel word” nominee. We know what we get from Mr. “in your face” Trump.

The “weasel word” Democrats have until November 2020 to give us their best. Maybe they will surprise us. We can only pray, work and hope.

Samia Khoury and Trump’s Deal of the Century

June 1, 2019 - 10:13am

By James M. Wall

Samia Khoury has been my friend since before the first Intifada. My first of 20 trips to Palestine and Israel, always as a journalist, was in 1973.  All too slowly, since that first trip, I grew to grasp the depths of the harsh reality of Israel’s oppressive military occupation of the Palestinian people.

I first met Samia Khoury when I attended a board meeting of the Palestinian Sabeel organization. We have remained in touch through our blogs and through personal notes. Through these exchanges with Samia, she has kept me informed on the politics and cultural life of Palestine.

I have quoted from Samia in Wall Writings from time to time. She has connected me to life in Palestine under occupation. What she does not know is that she has also tempered my anger over the governments of Israel and the United States, an anger she also feels I am sure, but handles with grace and if I may quote Job, “patience”.

She epitomizes the steadfastness (in Arabic, sumud), of the Palestinian people under occupation. which anyone open to human suffering, knows is an illegal, brutalizing, and well-orchestrated colonizing Israeli plan, to steal the land and imprison the people of Palestine.

Her most recent posting is such a masterful statement of this current moment in Palestine that I felt I must share it with my Wall Writings family. Since I am sharing it in its entirety, and not through quotes, I wrote and asked her permission to reprint it.

I also asked her for a few words to introduce her to my readers, She gave the permission and offered this introduction and explanation of her posting title:

“I started it as “Deal of the Century”, and that is how it was posted on my blog, but then many of my recepients were being blocked, so I changed the title to “Bribery”

I am a retired community volunteer and maintain a blog of reflections from Palestine. I used the same title for my blog as my book, Reflections from Palestine: a Journey of Hope. Samia”

I told her I would use her preferred title.  Here from Samia Khoury’s blog is:

The Deal of the Century

by Samia Khoury

The US administration has never been supportive of our cause as Palestinians.  And I specifically say the administration because we have a lot of support from the public, the main stream churches, the civil society, as well as many Jewish Americans.

The United Nations records show clearly that it was the Veto of the US at the United Nations that has hindered the implementation of the UN resolutions that would have guaranteed our rights as Palestinians, basically the right to return to our homes from which we  were evicted by force or  had to flee for our lives in 1948.

We were never even offered compensation,  and Israel  continues till this day to deny its responsibility for our plight.

But never has an administration been so blatantly pro active in its humiliation of the Palestinians and ignoring their rights like this present administration.  It actually violated  international law so as to offer Israel all that it wants on a silver platter.

First by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, then by cutting all US Aid that started flowing into the country after the Oslo agreement between the PLO and Israel was signed.

Yet the US found it very timely to close the offices of  the PLO in the USA,  as well as cutting aid to UNRWA, the organization which was established by the United Nations to take care of the basic needs of the Palestinian Refugees until they were able to realize their right of return.

So it seems like “this great democracy in the world” is taking its clue from “the only democracy in the Middle East.”  I still remember how Mr. Netanyahu in his theatrical presentation at the UN General Assembly Meeting in September 2018 thanked the president of the USA for pulling out of the agreement signed with Iran during the term of Mr. Obama, while sending a message to Iran that Israel knows what they are doing.

Will Israel be the force behind the US to wage a new war against Iran this time.  Nothing would be surprising now that more American troops have already been sent to the bases in the region.

Ironic indeed that the US has waged so many wars on other people’s lands in the name of democracy, while Israel continues to hold a whole population under occupation, and it has recently passed the Nation State Law in its Kenesset that would deprive 21% of its citizens most of their basic rights.

While the US has the liberty to impose sanctions on countries that do not abide by its rules, it takes harsh measures against any individual, or body that promotes the BDS (Boycott Divestment  and Sanctions) against Israel for violating international law, in the same way that Israel does.

After seventy one years of dispossession  and fifty two years of a brutal occupation, we get a novice in political issues to come up with the “Deal of the Century.”  First they humiliate us, then they starve us and now they want to further humiliate us by  bribing  us into accepting money for our rights in a conference in Bahrain.

Thank you, but no thank you.  In our ethics lessons, we were taught that those who bribe and those who accept the bribery are just as guilty.  But who will convict the guilty in this case?

Israel Creates A New Political Normal

May 16, 2019 - 7:00pm

by James M. Wall

Adam Shatz, writing in the London Review of Books, described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legislative victory on April 9, as a “tribute” to his “transformation of the political landscape”. He wrote:

At no point were [the legislative elections] discussed in terms of which candidates might be persuaded by (non-existent) American pressure, or the ‘international community’, to end the occupation.

This time the question was which party leader could be trusted by Israeli Jews – Palestinian citizens of Israel are now officially second-class – to manage the occupation, and to expedite the various tasks the Jewish state has mastered: killing Gazans, bulldozing homes, combating the scourge of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), and conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism.

Israel brags about its collective business successes. In his succinct summary of “the various tasks the Jewish state has mastered”, Adam Shatz writes that Israel’s success story is the achievement of a colonial state. 

To emphasize and repeat, Shatz’s list capsules that colonial state success as “Killing Gazans, bulldozing homes, combating the scourge of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), and conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism.”

That “success story” list should be posterized, emphasized, and weaponized, in the opening of any discussion of Israel as a “democracy”.

To convince the world of its success, Official Israel lives in a constant state of deceit. Fortunately there are Jewish voices within the state who refuse to join the deceit.

 In a recent Ha’aretz column, Gideon Levy exposes a governmental set of deceits as
he reacts to this week’s Eurovision song contest, underway this week in Tel Avi.

Tourist Israel describes the event:

The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Tel Aviv, Israel from May 14-18, 2019. The 64th edition of the international song contest, this will be the first time that Eurovision has been hosted in Israel for 20 years, and will be held at Expo Tel Aviv. Eurovision in Israel will be a memorable and exciting event, with international fans traveling to visit. . .Eurovision is set to be the event of the year, bringing locals and tourists together to celebrate music and unity.

Gideon Levy is well-aware that visitors to Israel under the guidance of Israelis, need
to study his, A Trip Advisor to the Real Israel. 

So you’ve decided to come, despite Roger Waters and everything. Welcome to Israel. You’re here and everything is wonderful: sunshine, alcohol, rock and roll, nice people, a terrific production, a big party. I suggest you also dedicate one day to reality. See the Israel that the video postcards shown before each song will never show you – the Israel that’s hidden from view, the dark side of the moon on which you’re now dancing.

Levy’s Trip Advisor begins its tour:

When you leave Expo Tel Aviv, walk west for a few minutes. You’ll see a huge complex of buildings. This is a security compound, and the people who work there are responsible for many of the crimes and injustices you’ll see throughout the day. From here, for example, they dispatched the agents who instructed female soldiers to conduct a rectal and vaginal search of a Palestinian woman in her home.

This is the headquarters for the abuse of the Palestinian people in the name of security. In the parking lot you’ll see a fence, and behind it some abandoned graves. This is the cemetery of the Palestinian village that stood there before 1948. Israel wiped off the face of the earth more than 400 such towns and villages, kindly leaving just the graves.

You can meet the descendants of the inhabitants, children of refugees who either fled or were expelled, when Eurovision is held in Lebanon, Syria or Jordan sometime. Oops, they’re not in Europe, but then again neither is Israel. Or you can meet them later on in our tour, in the refugee camps.

Gideon’s tour continues south to Gaza. Below is one look inside Gaza. For the entire tour click here, Make copies for anyone you know planning a trip to Israel. 

You’ve never seen anything like it. Just one hour from the exuberant Expo. It’s a place the United Nations says won’t be fit for human habitation by next year. The year 2020 will be the end for life in Gaza and no one cares. Now, with Qatari money, they’re handing out thin soup there, and the lines are getting longer. On Wednesday tens of thousands massed by the fence to mark Nakba Day, and soldiers fired at them.

This is a tour a Jewish citizen of Israel does not take. It is a reality that Israelis do not experience unless sent there in a military uniform “to keep order”.

How, then, did Benjamin Netanyahu win the legislative elections that returned him to his office of Prime Minister?

Look again at Shatz: 

With his promise to annex the West Bank, Netanyahu had won even before the election was held. It wasn’t simply Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights that sped the incumbent on his way; it was the nature of the conversation – and the fact that the leader of the opposition was Benny Gantz, the IDF commander who presided over the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, in which more than two thousand Gazans were killed.

Israel’s voters on April 9 had two choices, a manger who promised even more land-stealing, and greater oppression, against a military leader who has shown his skills in military oppression, not management.

The voters kept the manager who demonstrated he could manage with one hand and pretend peace with the other. Two choices, both operating from the “new normal” of Israel’s political landscape.

Shatz also notes that Israel had help from the U.S, political leadership in pretending “peace” when it is now obvious Israel is operating with a “new normal” in which the Occupation is part of that normal. 

Illusions about the ‘peace process’ – and Israel’s ‘search for peace’ – die hard. The hopes invested in ‘peace’ were once immense, but they have never looked so shaky, even in America, which has underwritten these fictions for decades and rewarded Israel handsomely for paying lip service to them.

American liberals no longer lament the fact that Netanyahu has moved Israel away from its preordained, conciliatory course, or hope that ‘the left’ might steer it back.

What may we expect in the future from Israel’s so-called peace camp? With the exception of a few heroic small groups,  according to Shatz,” Netanyahu’s Israel – illiberal, exclusionary, racist – is now the political center”. And it is the “political center” that dictates normalcy. 

The path ahead is dark my friends. It is a path, as Adam Shatz notes later in his essay, which began in 1948.

In 1948, Hannah Arendt, whose critique of territorial Zionism owed much to Ahad Ha’am, warned that after the Arab-Israeli war, the ‘victorious’ Jews would live surrounded by a hostile Arab population, secluded inside ever-threatened borders, preoccupied by matters of defence to a degree that would submerge all other interests and activities … political thought would centre on military strategy; economic development would be determined exclusively by the needs of war. And all this would be the fate of a nation that – no matter how many immigrants it could still absorb and how far it extended its boundaries … – would still remain a very small people greatly outnumbered by hostile neighbours.

Arendt’s prediction was in large part borne out. More remarkable still, few Israelis – or their supporters abroad, among Jews and Evangelicals – fret over this ‘fate’. Arendt’s warning that an expansionist Israel would never realise the dream of Herzl and the founders and become a ‘normal’ state has lost its charge because Israel’s abnormality is the new normal.

Which brings us to the future: Benjamin Netanyahu has served as Israel’s prime minister for 13 years and 64 days as of May 16, 2019. He has just been reelected to a new term, which means that two months from now, July 17, he will become the longest serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history. 

In that time, Netaanyahu has pretended peace, while expanding a settlement policy designed to create an Israeli state from the Sea to the Jordan River. The peace facade has been dropped. Palestinians are officially second class citizens and captives in their own ancient land. 

Donald Trump will have served four years as president of the United States in 2020. If he is reelected, barring legal problems, he will serve a total of eight years.

Out of abnormality, Bibi Netanyahu created a new normal in Israel in 13 plus years.  Donald Trump could move from his abnormal leadership to an American new normal, if he is reelected in 2020.

Democratic primaries begin in eight months. So do the Republican primaries. It
is time to reject or accept a new U.S. political normal.