Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Letter Re "Truth At Last" and "Far Beneath the Desert"
Thank you very much for publishing George Bisharat's commentary, "Truth at last, while breaking a U.S. taboo of criticizing Israel."
Truth at last, indeed, and a refreshing way to start the new year. Bisharat points to the core of the conflict: "Israel's Law of Return grants rights of automatic citizenship to Jews anywhere in the world, while those rights are denied to 750,000 Palestinian refugees who were forced or fled in fear from their homes in what became Israel in 1948."
Until this injustice is rectified, peace will not be forthcoming. Jonathan Cook, Nazareth based journalist, also addresses Israeli racism:
"Israel is a racist state. Like Nazi Germany, it defines itself in ethnic terms ("Jewish" rather than "Aryan"); it refuses to demarcate its borders and is waging aggressive wars against its neighbors; it oppresses sections of the population it rules over; and it carries out policies of ethnic cleansing. And like apartheid South Africa before it, Israel is separating from and ghettoizing its subject population in the interests of racial purity. "
"1. either they [apologists for Israel] want Israel to be such a state because they are Zionists and happy with the idea of a racist state for Jews;2. or they genuinely fear what the consequences of reforming Israel would be for its Jewish population, with which they identify. "It is pointless to argue against the racists who take position 1, but it is worth trying to challenge the view of those who adopt position 2. The reform of Israel as a racist state does not entail the destruction of the Jewish population who live inside it; it simply means the racist regime has to be replaced with a non-racist one. Destroying Nazi Germany did not mean killing Germans, and wiping apartheid South Africa off the map did not require the eradication of whites. The same is true of Israel as a Jewish state."
Another story coaxing readers to applaud those plucky Israelis and a rehash of the thoroughly debunked Zionist propaganda that Israelis made the "desert bloom," when the reality is Israel's steady demolition of all that's Palestinian: villages, culture, society, lives, and environment.
According to the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem, "Overgrazing has resulted in the loss of the vegetation cover, soil erosion problems and intensive desertification" in the Eastern slopes in the West Bank.
Why? The closure of "eighty-five percent of this zone for military purposes." In fact results of Israel's land grabs have turned "large areas of the occupied territories to deserts." Bethlehem's pine forest mountain Abu Ghneim was deforested and is now covered with an ugly illegal settlement overlooking Bethlehem, Har Homa.
And speaking of Israelis' marvels with fish and the hope Israel offers for developing countries, their largesse doesn't extend to the people whose land they usurped; on December 19, Palestinian fisherman Hamdan Mahmoud Barhoum, 24, died from shrapnel from shots throughout his body while on his fishing boat by Israel's occupation forces.
Hamdan's death was unreported in the western press.
Notice the lie in the title. There is no taboo regarding criticizing Israel. It is just frowned upon when doing so in an antisemitic manner.
While there may be some aspect of bigotry in israel, it is nothing compared to the Islamic Fascist states that surround it. It is certainly nothing when compared to the racist Palestinian leadership.
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It's no longer viable. At every historic juncture since Israel was created in 1948, rhetoric has taken precedence over pragmatism in the Arab world. As a result, every one of these historic junctions has resulted, without exception, in material defeat for the Palestinians.
In 1948, roughly 700,000 Palestinian Arabs - the number remains contested and inexact - heeded calls from the Arab world and fled their homes in the newly proclaimed Israel. The result? The Palestinian position of 1948 now looks infinitely superior to the Palestinian position of today.
In 1967, Israel was invaded by its Arab neighbours in the Six Day War. The result? The Arabs lost control of the holy city of Jerusalem and the Palestinians went from Arab rule to Israeli control.
In 1982, after the Palestinians sparked a civil war in Lebanon, Israel invaded Lebanon and Jordan's army attacked the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The result? The Palestinians were crushed in Lebanon and Jordan and Israel fortified its position in the West Bank.
In 1987, the first Palestinian intifada began at the instigation of PLO leader Yasser Arafat, and suicide bombings came to Israeli life. It lasted almost five years. The result? Israel again fortified and expanded its positions and the West Bank was divided into military-controlled subdivisions.
In 2000, Arafat launched the second intifada, his response to Israel's final offer in the Oslo peace accords. It lasted six years. The result? What the Palestinians were offered in 2000 is now impossible today, because Israel has since encircled Jerusalem with settlements housing 100,000 Jewish settlers. And Israel began building the Wall.
In 2006, Hezbollah attacked Israel, in the cause of Palestine, and Hamas and other militant elements fired rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, as political opposition was Islamicised. The result? Some 175 Israelis were killed by Hezbollah, for which Lebanon paid with more than 1500 dead, and Hezbollah lost its military control of southern Lebanon. It thus lost its strategic forward position for no strategic gain.
A conspicuous critic of the wall is the former US president Jimmy Carter, who, in his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, writes: "An enormous imprisonment wall is now under construction, snaking through what is left of Palestine to encompass more and more land for Israeli settlers. In many ways, it is more oppressive than what blacks lived under in South Africa during apartheid."
Compare this fenced-off community of today with 20 years ago, before the intifadas. The Palestinian workforce was integrated into the Israeli economy, with relatively free movement into Israel. Education and health systems were built, universities opened, local governments were functioning, corruption was minimal, and life expectancy had soared from 47 under Arab rule to 68. Then came Yasser Arafat and Fatah.
"Fatah is the mafia," Abu Toameh told me. "It is responsible for most of the anarchy on the West Bank. Fatah is a monster." Nor does he think much of Hamas, though he thinks it is much less corrupt, much more competent, and more pragmatic. He believes the West erred shockingly in trusting and subsiding Fatah and has now mishandled the transition to Hamas.
"But on the Muslim side, the message has always been 'No', and 'No', and 'No'. They quote the Koran: God is on the side of the patient . . .
"And what is the West Bank now? It is six Arab cities, two refugee camps, 150 villages. A series of cantons, with no economic base. And Gaza? An awful place."
And Israel? Through all the wars, terrorist bombings and threats of annihilation, and despite intense internal divisions, Israel has grown into a muscular economy of almost 7 million, with a per capita gross domestic product far higher than any Arab neighbours, including Saudi Arabia. The Jewish population has grown from 600,000 to 5.3 million, with a birthrate higher than those in Western Europe. Per capita, Israel has the most engineers and the most high-tech economy in the world.
MAKE PEACE NOT WAR
It doesn't matter what their Arab Overlords called on them to do, they were actually scared of Jews.
Many of them still are.
Keith Ellison, the first Muslim Representative elected to the US Congress, found himself under attack when he announced he'd take his oath of office on the Koran (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) from Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode, who called it a threat to American values! (What values?)
Yet the holy book at the ceremony has an unassailably all-American provenance.
The new congressman -- in a savvy bit of political symbolism -- will hold the PERSONAL copy of a Koran once owned by President Thomas Jefferson!!
"He wanted to use a Koran that was special," said Mark Dimunation, chief of the rare book and special collections division at the Library of Congress.
Jefferson's copy is an English translation by George Sale published in the 1750s; it survived the 1851 fire that destroyed most of Jefferson's collection.
Ellison will take the official oath of office along with the other incoming members in the House chamber, then use the Koran in his individual, ceremonial oath with new Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"Keith is paying respect not only to the founding fathers' belief in religious freedom but the Constitution itself,” said Ellison spokesman Rick Jauert.
One person unlikely to be swayed by the book's illustrious history is Goode, who released a letter objecting to Ellison's use of the Koran.
"I believe that the overwhelming majority of voters in my district would prefer the use of the Bible," the Virginia Republican told Fox News, and then went on to warn about what he regards as the dangers of Muslims immigrating to the United States and Muslims gaining elective office!!!!!!!
Yeah, but what about a Koran that belonged to one of the greatest Virginians in history? Goode, who represents Jefferson's birthplace of Albemarle County, had no comment!!!!!!
Kudos to Keith!
Karin, it's just a book. Who cares? Jefferson owned it just as he owned an elephant's foot. An idle curiosity.
On January 4, 2000, when Representative-elect Keith Ellison put his hand on the Qur’an and took the oath of office, he made US history.
As the first American Muslim elected to federal office, and the first African American elected to Congress from Minnesota, Ellison sends a clear message to the world about American diversity and our values of acceptance and inclusion that have made us strong.
Despite all that is significant about this event, Ellison’s decision to use the Qur’an at his swearing-in ceremony provoked criticism from a handful of near hysterical bigots who don’t know or value the lessons of American history.
Representative Virgil Goode for example, warned of a future where “there will likely be many more Muslims elected to Congress and demanding use of Qur’an.” Radio talkshow host Dennis Prager, warned of “the Islamization of America” and said that in using the Qur’an, Ellison “undermines American civilization.” Prager, among others, also suggested that the Christian Bible ought to be required.
Most members of Congress use no book at all when taking their oath. They simply stand by their desks, raise their right hand and are sworn-in.
Only those members who choose to participate in a “photo-op” swearing-in ceremony at the Speaker’s office will bring a book.
Some Christians will bring a family Bible. Some Jewish members may bring their sacred scriptures. Ellison is bringing his.
Most intriguing here, the Qur’an Ellison brought to his mock swearing-in was once the personal copy of none other than Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States.
America’s founders had a more profound respect for religious diversity than many of their latter-day disciples.
George Washington championed freedom of worship for “Mohametens, Jews, Christians of any sect, or Atheists”. Ben Franklin shared this belief, as well.
In using Jefferson’s Qur’an, Ellison smartly reminds all Americans of their founding fathers’ convictions and the values they embraced that shaped the new American republic.
It is disturbing to me that so many conservatives have forgotten these values, putting the unique character of America at risk. (It is also ironic that Rep. Goode represents the very district from which Jefferson hailed).
Also troubling to me is that Ellison’s critics are not only ignorant of our nation’s history, they also know nothing about the Qur’an.
They’ve either never read it or have only read commentaries by those who have an axe to grind against all things Muslim.
If they had taken the time to read this book they would have found, for example, that the God of the Qur’an is the same as the God of the Old and New Testaments. (The Arabic word for God is Allah. Arab Christians, for example, use the same word for God!)
And Allah, in the Qur’an, is just and forgiving, demanding and merciful. Above all, Allah is the creator and sustainer of the universe and humankind.
But for bigots, all this won’t matter.
Blinded by their fear or hatred of Islam, their line of argumentation appears to be no more sophisticated than something like: “It’s not up to me to have read it; he shouldn’t be using it” or “I don’t have to read it; I‘ve read about it” or “Don’t you know we are at war with them?”
My response to my fellow Americans, especially those who are confused or disturbed by this great event: Take a deep breath and think about the richness of American history and the deep symbolism of this moment.
An African American, descended of slaves, was sworn into the 110th Congress using Thomas Jefferson’s own Qur’an.
That, if anything, is a great American story. It deserves to be celebrated. It is now part of our nation’s history.
In becoming the first, Ellison, like Jackie Robinson, has made us all richer and better. His election tells extremists (both at home and abroad) that America is bigger than they can imagine it to be.
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