Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gaza. Shame on us.


It has been years since I’ve written about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Criticizing the Church is easy compared with addressing American ignorance about Palestine, where a people subjected to genocide in the past has become the main aggressor.  US power perpetuates the horror. It raises such feelings of anger and rage in me....... what it must feel like to Palestinians!

Pointing out wrongs in the Church is easy compared with addressing wrongs in government. When I write about religion I feel the long, slow but inexorable movement of evolution righting the wrongs, and I’m moving with its weight.  The situation in Palestine feels hopeless because the world’s superpower, our country, is on the wrong side.
(I add this caveat—Secretary of State John Kerry seems genuinely trying to be fair. Other US politicians in the past have tried—another long story.)

I’m biased in favor of the underdog, the Palestinians, whom I see as comparable to native Americans in this country—deprived of their homeland by immigrants. Both sides have needs and grievances, but one side has almost all the power. That’s the hell of it. Worse hell—our taxes fund the weapons killing and raining misery onto the people of Palestine.

A shallow reading of the news leads to the impression that Israel hurts Palestinians only when Palestinian terrorists first hurt defenseless Israelis. It is always Hamas that is blamed because it doesn’t accept the right of Israel to exist. But Israel does not accept the right of Palestine to exist! This has been made clear by its continual theft of more and more land and houses in the West Bank. And more cruelly by its treatment of Gazans.

I am disgusted every time I hear that Israel has “the right to defend itself.” Don’t Palestinians have the right to defend themselves?   
The truth is that Hamas is defending a population daily receiving Israeli aggression. When the world pays no attention because no rockets or bombs are flying, Palestinians go on suffering, literally and economically starved by a blockade Israel started in 2007, which stops goods coming in and going out. Although not a total siege, it essentially is the kind of strategy that has won wars.
WikiLeaks uncovered an American diplomatic cable quoting Israeli diplomats as saying they wanted to "keep Gaza's economy on the brink of collapse." It takes little imagination to realize the effect on Gaza, where 80% of the population depends on international aid.

All Gazans can muster in defense is poorly aimed rocket fire, while Israel fires with the precision and might of the world’s superpower at its back. American ignorance sends taxpayer dollars to give Israel impunity—the ability to commit crimes without being held accountable.
Hamas refuses to go along with cease fire agreements that do not also end the siege.  How can anyone fault it for this?

Over and over we hear Israel’s claim that Hamas militants use human shields. Here’s the truth. Stateless Hamas can only wage a guerilla war and Gaza is densely populated. The fighters live and work among civilians. There is nowhere else for them to go but near and in schools, hospitals, mosques, and residential places.
From USA today:
Many residents compare Gaza to an open-air prison hemmed in by Israel, the Mediterranean Sea and the closed Egyptian border.
Furthermore, Israeli military headquarters also are surrounded by civilians. The Guardian gives a reasoned, balanced overview of this human shield claim.
Partisans for Israel argue there is no moral equivalence between Hamas and the government of Israel.  I like this answer: 
That Hamas’s rocket attacks do not distinguish between military and civilian targets is criminal. But what defines the moral difference between Palestinians and the Jews of Israel is that Israelis have a state of their own, while Palestinians have lived without rights under Israel’s military occupation that has lasted nearly half a century.

During Israel’s War of Independence when the Jews of Palestine were fighting for a state of their own, they too targeted civilian areas and committed atrocities against Palestinian civilians in order to encourage the exodus of 700,000 Arabs from their homes, . . . 
Israeli authors documented the crimes and sought to justify them by arguing that there would not have been a Jewish state without them.
Why would that argument not serve to justify Hamas’s crimes as well?

Mr. Netanyahu is fond of declaring that the difference “between us and them” is that Israelis do not celebrate the deeds of terrorists. Apparently he is not aware that Israelis not only have named streets for the heads of Jewish terrorist groups (the Irgun and the Stern Gang), but elected them—Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir—as heads of state.
Henry Siegman, New York
Actual sentence in the NYTimes (reported in The Nation):
The developments followed a relatively quiet night, in which the Israeli military bombed 25 sites in Gaza.
The Goldstone Report illustrates why Americans should be ashamed of our complicity in the persecution of Palestine. The widely-respected report came from a team established by the UN to investigate alleged violations of human rights by both sides during the 2008 invasion of Gaza that killed 1,200 Palestinians. Israel refused to cooperate with the investigation and rejected the result.  Hamas first rejected some findings, then urged countries to embrace the report, which accused military forces of both sides for possible crimes against humanity. It also recommended that Israel pay reparations to Gazans.  

Here’s the thing: The US blocked the UN Human Rights Council from accepting the Goldstone Report of 2008. This followed 40 times that the US has blocked UN action critical of Israel.

Both sides are losers as this conflict continues, which could be stopped by the US. Stop its reflexive, unconditional support of Israel. Stop giving it military support. Stop the blockade. Stop excusing its crimes. Stop squeaking timidly when Israel pursues its murderous theft of Palestinian territory. 
And the media have to stop. Stop broadcasting, over and over, Netanyahu’s lies.

Shame on us for letting our government continue doing wrong.
For the voice of conscience from Jews, see Jewish Voice for Peace.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Writings, some mine


Phyllis Zagano’s latest column in NCR nails it. She says what I’ve been saying since soon after our wonderful pope was elected—he doesn’t get it about women. Kind, understanding, and even shrewd he is, but hopelessly in the dark on the subject of women in Roman Catholicism. Women, period.

We can’t do theology without femininity, he says, but nothing indicates he has a smidgin of understanding that theology HAS been done without women, leaving it twisted.  He’s hopelessly oblivious to the serious harm inflicted by the male gods of our liturgy. I’m fed up with a lord inserting himself into our prayers at every turn.

In the future—I won’t predict when—a pope will apologize for Roman Catholic abuse of women, and for promoting an exclusively male God-image.  I do not expect that pope will be Francis. He does give hope, however, by opening the Church regarding other issues, breathing fresh life into an institution damaged by the two previous popes’ attempts to turn the clock back to the 1950s.

My op-ed in the St.Cloud Times aims to inform readers about the fact of Roman Catholic women priests despite official attempts to squelch them. My latest letter in NCR (not available online) also concerned Francis and the imperative of ordaining women. Women in the Church carry out Francis’ wishes for reforming clericalism. They offer healing to cast-off members of society, the ones receiving Francis’ public compassion. They eschew the career ladder. They demonstrate the humble but courageous and compassionate, heartfelt ministry that Francis calls for.

At the insistent urging of readers and fellow writers, I have started writing a memoir. My desire always being to educate, I hope to show my spiritual evolution from a blanketing Catholic background, as described in my series in the Stearns History Museum magazine Crossings (also unavailable online), to an all-embracing consciousness. I don’t know what difference that will make for this blog.  Along with you, my readers, I’ll watch developments.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jesus a man & myth



In 2009 I wrote a series of posts I called “Man vs. Myth.”  Here “man” does NOT refer to humanity but to Jesus, a man who was turned into a myth. In this post I clarify my disagreements with conventional Christian belief about Jesus.  It may spur you to examine your own belief.

Look for all the Man vs. Myth posts in my index, right, under Historical Jesus. They produced some debate, as you can see.