Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

An appalling shallowness has descended over Mainline Protestantism.

by James M Wall

Episcopalians, United Methodists and Presbyterians are actually debating how they should deal with the Israeli Occupation

Martin Luther King, sitting in that Birmingham city jail, would most certainly inform these prelates that there is no debating evil. A brutal military occupation is not open to debate.

It is a disturbing spectacle. The collective ignorance displayed by many of the men and women—though, thank God, not all—who govern these denominations, boggles the mind.

The issue, my dear Christian friends, is justice, pure and simple. And yet, there they are, these robed religiosos, dripping with interfaith piety, proclaiming that the simple act of divestment of church funds is too harsh a tactic to use against Israel’s settlement obsessed, right-wing government.

What do they teach in seminary these days? Have those Old Testament professors who lead their Israeli-sanctioned “study groups” to the Holy Land removed the prophets from their syllabi?

Here is the Episcopal News Service report on the current presiding Episcopal bishop explaining why she, and the church that elevated her to denominational leadership, oppose the simple, non-violent tactic of targeting divestment of church funds from US corporations that profit from Israel’s military occupation:

Boycott Israel-poster

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori urged Episcopalians to “invest in legitimate development in Palestine’s West Bank and in Gaza” rather than focusing on divestment or boycotts of Israel, during a March 25 “Middle East Peacemakers” luncheon in Los Angeles.

“The Episcopal Church does not endorse divestment or boycott,” the presiding bishop told more than 200 people gathered at the California Club in downtown Los Angeles. “It’s not going to be helpful to endorse divestment or boycotts of Israel. It will only end in punishing Palestinians economically.”

She also called for “a two-state solution with a dignified home for Palestinians and for Israelis” and for “deeper engagement, people of different traditions eating together, listening to each other’s stories,” she said, adding that the interreligious, multi-ethnic gathering hosted by Bishop J. Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles was an example of what is possible.

Punishing Palestinians economically?

That statement is an incredible display of ignorance of the political realities of a brutal military occupation.

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wants investment in Palestine, not divestment from Israel’s occupation.

Who proposed that approach?

Sounds very much like the warden of the world’s largest outdoor prison inviting church members to come inside the prison and do their good works.

Cottage industries in cell block six?

Starting April 24, delegates to the United Methodist Church General Conference will debate the issue of using targeted divestment as a legislative tactic against injustice.

The United Methodist and the Presbyterian national churches have labored for many years to develop resolutions that focus tightly on US corporations that profit from the Occupation.

One of these corporations, Caterpillar, produces heavy equipment that Israel uses to build its apartheid wall, a wall that has nothing to do with security and everything to do with stealing even more Palestinian land.

Caterpillar also produces those monstrous bulldozers that tear down Palestinian homes, another “security” measure that is really designed to tighten the Occupation noose.

An Israeli soldier drove one of those American-built bulldozers over an American citizen, peace activist Rachel Corrie, on March 16, 2003, as she tried to stop an attack on a Palestinian home. In death, this young woman has become a symbol of non-violent courage to Palestinians.

Not so in the US, where neither action nor formal government protest was taken against the army that killed her.

And yet, here is an Episcopal bishop, standing before 200 of her fellow Episcopalians actually calling for Palestinians and Israelis to “eat together and listen to one another’s stories”.

This is blatant Israeli propaganda. These words were not uttered in the spirit of Amos; they sound more like an American politician scrambling for Israel Lobby money than they do of a Christian leader who must at some point in her career reflected upon, and perhaps even preached on, the call from Amos 5:4 to “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream!” (NIV).

The saddest thing about this failure of a church leader to grasp the reality of injustice is that she offers palliative words that sound more like a Southern bishop of the 1950s begging the segregated and segregator to live together peacefully.

Bless you bishop, but there are people in Palestine on protest hunger strikes. Others are dying under the boot of a brutal occupying army. This is not a problem that will be addressed by our “eating together and talking to one another”.

For an example of the pepper spray at work, see the Ammar Awad Reuters photo above of Israeli soldiers spraying a Palestinian protestor.  This took place on Land Day, when Palestinians remember their land losses.

Richard Silverstein, who writes the Tikun Olam web site, posted this photo from the New York Times and adds:

The Times headline for the slideshow presentation of Land Day images that includes this one was: Protesters Scuffle With Forces.

I don’t see protesters scuffling with Israeli forces.  I see Israeli border police mauling unarmed Palestinian demonstrators.  I see them pepper-spraying one at point-blank range.

That headline confirms once again that the New York Times is not just biased on this issue on behalf of Israel. It is simply an Israeli hometown paper. Its perspective is always that of the home team, that is, Israel.

Silverstein is Jewish, one of many Jews who knows the damage that the Occupation does to Israelis as well as to Palestinians. Fortunately, Silverstein is also a blogger with a large following.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori knows better than to speak of the Palestinian issue in the language she used.   One of my sources who follows this issue with diligence, wrote to say:

It was she who, perhaps three years ago, visited Gaza, was duly appalled, and vowed to press with all of her and her church’s authority, to end the sadistic blockade and occupation of all of Palestine.

It mystifies me that she can ignore the precedent of, and successful use of BDS, in the closest parallel, South Africa. Schori has succumbed to expedience or the copout of “interfaith” wishy-washiness-cum-cowardice.

How can one have any hope for justice and a viable existence for the Palestinians in the face of such cavalier disregard for the well-known and often courageously expressed recitations of the “facts on the ground” created by the Zionist enterprise?.

Well stated, and true. Trips by church leaders, who finally see first -hand the ugliness of Occupation, are the best way to break through Israeli propaganda.

But, based on Bishop Schori’s public display of hasbara (propaganda) in Los Angeles, the power of the Israel Lobby trumps the truth.

All is not lost. Another source, who attended the bishop’s presentation, did not find the audience very receptive to her call for kum ba yah.

Two denominations will debate divestment resolutions over the next few months, first, the United Methodists and then, the Presbyterians.

The United Methodist supporters of targeted divestments are encouraged at the feedback they are hearing from the grassroots.

Blocking their way to the passage of a divestment resolution is the denomination’s General Board of Pensions, which objects to non-financial types interfering in their decisions to maximize pension profits.

This body has determined over the years that it will not invest in corporations that profit from, for example, South African apartheid, and that old reliable United Methodist staple, alcohol.

Faced with requests that it extend its no-no list  to include three companies supporting the Occupation,  the General Board of Pensions has adopted the Episcopal mantra of “eating together and sharing stories”.

Of course, the General Conference has the final say in this matter. Starting April 24, in their Tampa, Florida, meeting, the Methodists will have their chance to remember that its founding parent,  John Wesley was not a “get along” guy; he was a justice guy.

This is the same denomination, by the way, that moved its 2012 meeting from Richmond, Virginia, to Tampa, Florida, because Richmond has a baseball team named, “The Braves”, a no-no among United Methodists who have agreed not to patronize locations with sports teams the Methodists believe denigrate Native Americans.

Good for them. Now let us see what can be done about the denigration of Palestinians.

 James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois.  From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine.  He has made more than 20 trips to that region as a journalist, during which he covered such events as Anwar Sadat’s 1977 trip to Jerusalem, and the 2006 Palestinian legislative election. He has interviewed, and written about, journalists, religious leaders, political leaders and private citizens in the region.  Jim served for two years on active duty in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF (inactive) reserve. Jim launched his new personal blog Wallwritings, on April 24, 2008.

Aljazeera English

Palestinian statehood bid ‘papers ready’

The Palestinians will not be deterred from seeking UN membership, senior officials say in response to a report that the the US is trying to head off their bid.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that the US has launched an attempt to persuade the Palestinians not to seek statehood at the annual UN General Assembly meeting beginning on September 20.

“When it comes to going to the United Nations, I think the train has left the station,” Muhammad Shtayyeh, a member of Fatah’s central committee who is overseeing the UN bid, said on Sunday.

“We’re already on the way to New York. We are very ready for this. All our papers are ready.”

The New York Times, citing US officials and foreign diplomats, said the US has tried to restart peace talks with the Israelis in a bid to convince Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of Fatah, to drop the bid.

The Obama administration has made it clear to Abbas that it will veto any request to the UN Security Council to make a Palestinian state a new member outright, the newspaper said.

But the US does not have enough support to block a vote to elevate the status of the Palestinians’ nonvoting observer “entity” to that of a nonvoting observer state, according to the newspaper report.

‘No chance for talks’

Palestinians expect “more than 150” of the 192 UN member countries to endorse full Palestinian membership.

But this would fall short of the number needed to ratify an application, which must be approved by the Security Council.

If approved by two-thirds of the General Assembly, it would allow the Palestinians for instance to gain full membership of UN agencies such as WHO, UNESCO or UNICEF.

The US argues that the Palestinians will only achieve meaningful statehood through a revival of direct peace talks with Israel.

Comment: The US never argued that “peace talks” would resolve the Sudan division and the south seeking independence. Nor did the U.S. argue that “peace talks” would ensure that Saddam Hussein and the Kuwaitis would be able to resolve their differences. So what is it about the Palestinians? Are they the Children of a Lesser God? Israel’s negotiations tactics are clear: build more settlements and negotiate grabbing more Palestinian lands!

The New York Times said the US was labouring to find language that would be sufficient to lure the Palestinians away from their bid, bring Israel to the negotiating table and be acceptable to the other members of the peacemaking Quartet – the EU, UN and Russia.

But Shtayyeh, the Fatah official, said the Palestinians had made every effort to negotiate.

“The only thing Israel wants to talk about is security, security and security,” he said. “There isn’t really any chance for negotiations with this current Israeli government.

He said that until now, the Palestinians had not received any serious offer from the international community.

“All these offers are to stop us from going to New York. They are not really about genuine peace,” he said.

EU divided

In a related development, EU foreign ministers meeting in Poland have urged both Israel and the Palestinians to return to direct peace talks while offering to take a lead role in hammering out a solution acceptable to all sides.

Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, said on Sunday the Palestinian proposal, to be formally detailed in the coming days by Abbas, could prove a failure for Israel, the Palestinians and the US.

Should the Palestinians receive widespread backing “Israel would be isolated”, the Palestinians “would face a poor tomorrow” after losing vital funding, and the US too will “face isolation”, he said.

Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, said separately that it was key to “try to influence different parties to act constructively”. Germany opposes the Palestinian initiative.

Europe stands divided on the question, with the Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands also opposed but Spain pledging to vote in favour.

Despite the fast-approaching deadline, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, insisted that a return to the talks table remained a possibility.

“We believe that we need to have a negotiated settlement as quickly as possible and that anything that can help that process is good,” she said.

The United States is ‘losing credibility by the day’ in calling for democracy in Egypt while continuing to support President Hosni Mubarak, leading dissident Mohamed ElBaradei says.

‘The American government cannot ask the Egyptian people to believe that a dictator who has been in power for 30 years will be the one to implement democracy,’ ElBaradei told US network CBS from Cairo on Sunday.

On MEET THE PRESS today, Sunday January 30, 2011, the only two worth-while guests one should listen to and learn something from, were Martin Indyk, Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Tom Friedman, Columnist, New York Times. Full scripts and video on MSNBC.

The interview really revolved more about Israel than about the Will of the Egyptians. We show no support or concern that a real democracy be installed in the Middle East. We just worry about Egypt opening its borders to Gaza – and that would break the illegal Israeli siege! No concern whatsoever to the starving Palestinians and their well being.. no empathy with Egyptians to be a free democratic state… all we are concerned about is how this revolution in Egypt will affect our – OUR – interests… the hell with everyone else! Shameful.

And we [U.S.A.] are the advocates of democracy? Do we now understand why the people – not dictators – of the Middle East don’t trust us and our politics?

Excerpts – Martin Indyk:

Egypt is at the epicenter. But not just geostrategically central, it’s the largest militarily most powerful by far the most influential country. Where egypt goes will have a tsunami effect. It may start in Yemen but the if it end up in Egypt this is very profound. Because american interests are so tied up with Egypt, what happens there will have a profound effect.

We have to walk a very fine line because some of our interests are tied up with this leadership in egypt.

[Mubarak] He’s 80 years old. He’s sick and an old man. The compact with his people has been broken. Unfortunately because he’s been a good friend of the United States, but he did not open his political space. He did not allow for the people to express themselves and now he’s reaping the consequences and basically nothing that he or we can do about its.This is such a big deal that could have profound consequences for the peace treaty and the whole process of reconciliation between Israel.. The regime is critically important. There’s a head of the military who has been put in place as vice president. They are the ones who have to hold the ring now, tell Mubarak to go and announce that there will be presidential elections within, I think six months. Omar Suleiman, the Vice President now will not stand but the military will oversee a process of democratic evolution.

I often wonder how “politicians” get their positions and speak with such eloquence ignorance!

A more intelligent outlook and foresight comes from Tom Friedman:

Excerpts – Tom Friedman, Columnist, New York Times

We got to this moment, basically, because our concern about having a stable Egypt first and foremost to preserve the Peace Treaty with Israel and later after 9/11 to be a partner in the war on terrorism. Basically let us give Mubarak a pass on democratization. For the first 15 years of his rule Egypt stagnated. I visited 12 years ago I remember writing Mubarak had more mummies in his cabinet than King Tut. Then he slowly under our pressure and pressure over globalization, started to open up.. and in the last few years actually appointed a lot of reformers to his cabinet who produced a real opening, 6% growth, I believe, last year. Egypt is in such a hole economically, David, that it needs to grow at China-India [7.5%] rates if it’s going to even remotely have chance to keep up with this population.

I think what the United States should be focusing on are three things. One, emphasizing that we hope whatever transition there, is peaceful. Two, that we hope that it will be built around consensual politics, not another dictatorship and Three, whatever regime, whatever government emerges, whether the Muslim brotherhood or not, it’s a government that’s dedicated to ushering Egypt into the 21st century.

Egypt and really most of the Arab world has been on vacation from history for the last 50 years thanks largely to oil.

Egypt didn’t have oil.. it had the peace treaty with Israel. What peace with Israel was to Egypt, oil is to Saudi Arabia: it got Egypt all of this aid [$1.5 billion a year].

Mubarak has had three decades, basically, to make the big decision of making Egypt, promoting Egypt in a transition to democratization. He did not use this opportunity all these years and now he’s got to make a big decision. Egypt’s got to make a decision not from a position of strength but at least from the government’s point of view from a real position of weakness.

You never make good decisions, you never make far sighted decisions from a position of weakness. So it’s hard to see something positive ever coming out of the Mubarak-Egyptian relationship again.

I would add that Israel today, though, I think israel should really reflect what’s going on in Egypt. It does not want to be the Mubarak of the peace process. Israel has never been stronger militarily or economically. This is exactly the time it should be looking to forge and close a peace deal with the Palestinians, not because it will change the Arab world but because it will be a huge opportunity and stabilizer for that relationship.

I think for all of us analysts inside, outside, the most dangerous thing you can do in a situation like this is confuse your hopes with your analysis. I know what my hopes are. My hopes are we’ll see a transition in Egypt that will allow the emergence of a Muslim moderate progressive center there, precisely what Mubarak never built. But my analysis and my fear, especially looking at the news, the looting today and whatnot is that when you open the lid on a society like this, where the government has done nothing basically to build civil society for the last 20 years, what comes out is anger, rage. And makes the building of a kind of a modern progressive center that much more difficult. Now the implications are enormous. One of the big questions is the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt, a huge powerful movement.. will they go for one of three strategies? One is to emulate Iran.. the other is Hamas. Or the option we hope they choose is the Turkey model, be a partner in a consensual rebuilding. Egypt and basically try to build their strength on a democratic foundation.

ATW Views

If we are really for democracy and justice, then we (the USA) should offer genuine help to the Egyptians in this process. We should respect the wishes of the people and the direction their country will take. We should get our heads out of the sand and stop the attacks on anyone and everyone criticizing Israel. When we offer Israel $4 billion in aid a year and less than half of that to a country of 80 million (10 times the size of Israel), what message are we sending Egyptians and the Arabs? Long gone are the days Israel claimed it was a victim. As Friedman said above, Israel has never been stronger militarily and economically. It’s time to treat everyone equally if we expect peace to work.

And those who are quick to blame Hamas and Hizbollah and that any aid falling in their hands will be used against Israel, look at the facts before you insert you Zionist shoe in your mouth. Palestinians have been deprived from any and all humanitarian aid by Israel. Israel continues to annex and ethnic cleanse Palestinians and openly discriminate against Palestinians whether they are Israeli-Arabs or Palestinians seeking rebuilding permits.   And the US just looks the other way. The death toll of Palestinians outnumber that of Israelis by at least 10 to 1.The chart below is from an Israeli Human Rights group: B’Tselem.

Breakdown of Deaths

Israelis Palestinians
Children Killed
(More on the impact on children.)
124
Remember These Children
1,452
Remember These Children
Civilians* Killed 731
B’Tselem
3,535 – 4,226
B’Tselem
People killed in the course of a targeted killing 1 408 or more
B’Tselem
People who were the object of a targeted killing 1 238
B’Tselem
People killed on own land 586 (54.1%)
B’Tselem
6,359 (98.9%)
B’Tselem
People killed on others’ land 498 (45.9%)
B’Tselem
71 (1.1%)
B’Tselem
  1. Our first and foremost concern should not be to worry about a dictator we continue to call ALLY! Our allies should be democracies not dictatorships we install and reward with billions!
  2. If we are against the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq and will use power to reverse such occupation, the same should be applied to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
  3. If we advocate the freedom of southern Sudanese, we should equally advocate Palestinian freedom and the right for them to have their own state – not threaten to Veto any such UN resolution.
  4. If we intend to apply U.N. resolution by force – against Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc., then the same is to be applied against Israel’s violation of over 60 UN resolutions.
  5. If we support dictatorships – whether in Saudi Arabia, Jordan or the Gulf states, then we should continue to expect a turbulent Middle East. Maybe that’s really our interest… keep it in chaos while we exploit the resources.
  6. If we are serious about a peaceful prosperous Middle East and eliminate terrorism, we should extend both hands to all, support democracies, topple dictatorships without meddling in internal politics and end-up with a European-Union type of a region.