"I just got this memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office. It says we’re going to attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years – we’re going to start with Iraq, and then we’re going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran."
A distressed Pentagon underling conveyed this nugget from a Rumsfeld memo to General Wesley Clark just weeks after 9/11. With the election of George W. Bush, neocon political appointees throughout the government, but especially in Defense, State and Intelligence agencies, began coordinating projects to reshape the Middle East to fit their ideological agenda. Neocons finally had a chance to put into action plans which their leaders had been mapping out for years and marketing to heads of State through documents like the 1996, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm"::
Last Sunday, 60 Minutes ran a segment entitled "Christians of the Holy Land,"with Bob Simon, shedding light on the struggles of Palestinian Christians living under Israel's occupation. In the segment, Palestinian Christians affirm their commonality with Palestinian Muslims in suffering under and struggling against the same oppression. The segment also includes an interview with Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, which exposes how the Israeli government tried to censor the story.
According to Israeli government figures, tourism is a multi billion dollar business there. Most tourists are Christian. Many of them are American. That's one reason why Israelis are very sensitive about their image in the United States. And that could be why Ambassador Oren phoned Jeff Fager, the head of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, while we were still reporting the story, long before tonight's broadcast. He said he had information our story was quote: "a hatchet job."
Michael Oren: It seemed to me outrageous. Completely incomprehensible that at a time when these communities, Christian communities throughout the Middle East are being oppressed and massacred, when churches are being burnt, when one of the great stories in history is unfolding? I think it's-- I think it's-- I think you got me a little bit mystified.
Bob Simon: And it was a reason to call the president of-- chairman of CBS News?
Michael Oren: Bob, I'm the ambassador of the State of Israel. I do that very, very infrequently as ambassador. It's just-- that's an extraordinary move for me to complain about something. When I heard that you were going to do a story about Christians in the Holy Land and my assum-- and-- and had, I believe, information about the nature of it, and it's been confirmed by this interview today.
Bob Simon: Nothing's been confirmed by the interview, Mr. Ambassador, because you don't know what's going to be put on air.
Michael Oren: Okay. I don't. True.
Bob Simon: Mr. Ambassador, I've been doing this a long time. And I've received lots of reactions from just about everyone I've done stories about. But I've never gotten a reaction before from a story that hasn't been broadcast yet.
Michael Oren: Well, there's a first time for everything, Bob.
Phil Weiss and Annie write:
Half a score and two days ago Annie announced the Mondo Awards contest with unnamed prizes but big name judges for compositions of inspiration, leadership, tragic suffering, joy, and laughter emanating from the conflict in Israel/Palestine. The submissions have been rolling in, and now we are going to start rolling them out for all to see in these last days of the old year (and maybe a day or two of the new year, we got a lot of them). This being social media, we welcome comments on the submissions... We are going to number the submissions as we publish them for ease of reference. The order is like so much else at this site somewhat arbitrary; the goal is to vary the offerings...
In coming weeks, many Pacific Coast Progressive Christians will gather to contemplate what justice requires of US in Israel and Palestine. Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) is hosting conferences in the Pacific Northwest, Hawai'i and Northern California for the next few weekends.
Friends of Sabeel regional conferences are an effective tool for broadening awareness among western Christians on the issues relevant to the peoples of the Holy Land. Drawing on a rich pool of expertise in the fields of theology, biblical scholarship, church social justice teaching, regional history, international law, foreign policy and political currents, these educational events are able to attract wide participation from an ecumenical audience. Our speakers are individuals who represent the Palestinian Christian and Muslim communities as well as the Israeli Jewish community--religious leaders, scholars, writers and activists. American presenters come from all three religious traditions and from secular strands within the Sabeel movement.
Over the weekend, I posted a diary about the teachers at a Mar Elias related school being unpaid by the Government of Israel since June. The United Methodist liaison, Janet Lahr Lewis, who made the initial appeal reports that many of the early faxes did not get through:
Elias Chacour has faced many obstacles over the years in his efforts to create opportunities for Jewish, Christian and Muslim children to grow and learn together equally and peacefully in Israel. In his books, Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land, Bishop Chacour tells of how he started the project of educating children of the village of Ibillin in kindergartens and summer camps and struggles along the way as the Mar Elias Educational Institutes grew. At one point, the only way that he was able to receive the permits from the Israeli government for a high school building was through the intervention of then Secretary of State, James Baker.
Mar Elias' latest challenge is that a related school in Dabourieh has been denied state funding for teachers' salaries since June. Israel's unique system for funding schools was part of Chacour's impulse for building his first high school in Ibillin, as he writes in We Belong to the Land:
Christian Peacemaker Teams is an international organization which supports teams of peace workers in conflict areas around the world. These teams work to lower the levels of violence through nonviolent direct action, human rights documentation, and nonviolence training. CPT's commitment to reducing violence by "getting in the way " is both an expression of Christian commitment to be followers of "The Way" of Jesus and to intervene non-violently in areas of conflict.
CPT has teams in the Occupied Palestinian territories in Hebron and At-Tuwani. Part of their daily routines includes escorting children to school, and monitoring settler violence and soldier home invasions. The teams also work against the demolition of Palestinian property, such as homes, barns, clinics, and mosques.
In recent weeks, a half dozen homes and a cistern built on Palestinian-owned property near At-Tuwani have been destroyed. The IDF has demolished a road that was paved without permits and obstructed watertanks that have sought to access Palestinian villages even over unpaved roads. Even while the construction of houses at the illegal (even by Israeli standards) settlement of Ma'on have continued unobstructed.
"From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall served as editor and publisher of The Christian Century magazine. Since 1999, he has served as the Century's Senior Contributing Editor. Since 1973 Wall has traveled as a journalist to the Middle East and to other overseas assignments. He frequently writes on the issues of peace and justice, with a special concern for the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict." Originally posted at his blog, Wall Writings, this piece is reprinted with permission.
MLK: "Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly"; Time to Embrace BDS
By James M. Wall
This is not the time for U.S. denominations to keep debating inadequate, diluted, compromised resolutions on "peace in the Holy Land".
It is rather, kairos time, the moment to move against Israel’s apartheid dominance over four million Palestinians by embracing the non-violent strategy of BDS, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.
Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Palestine live and work alongside the people of Hebron and the South Hebron hills, trying to prevent abuse of Palestinian civilians by their non-violent presence and documenting abuses that do occur. Occasionally, CPT will report on abuse that happens to people they have come to know well. Their reports in recent days have highlighted some contrasts between days of normalcy and trauma for a shepherd named Kahlil in the South Hebron hills:
Several years ago, when I was very far along in my pregnancy, I was presented with a choice: I could carry the pregnancy through to term or I could abort the fetus. I had just found out that the fetus had trisomy-21 or Down Syndrome and that, if I wanted to terminate the pregnancy, it had to be done within a week. It was one of the most difficult and painful weeks of my life as my husband and I struggled to understand better how Down Syndrome might not only impact our child's life, but that of our family -- my husband, myself and our two-year-old child.
Palestinian Children encounter many obstacles to their education: harrassment and violence from settlers, impediments, such as roadblocks and checkpoints and in some cases, damage or closure of their schools. Accompanying children to school has been one of Christian Peacemaker Teams' violence reduction programs for many years in the West Bank.
A few incidentsfour years ago convinced the Israeli Knesset that children near At-Tuwani needed an escort from Israeli soldiers to protect them from settler violence:
In 2004, two CPT members, Kim Lamberty and Chris Brown in At-Tuwani were severely injured when settlers attacked them as they were walking children to school. A few days later, the team, along with Operation Dove and Amnesty International members were again attacked. In response to these attacks, the Israeli Knesset Committee for Children's Rights initiated an order to have soldiers escort the Palestinian children to school in At-Tuwani
The children continue to risk injury from settlers when their military escort is late or fails to appear.