Religious Dialogue Needed During Political Bombast, International Bloodshed

This weekend the world’s major faiths observed sacred and meaningful holidays. Passover, Easter, and Ramadan are all underway and there are many faithful people worldwide who undertake certain rites and services to meet their spiritual needs. That is all to be much applauded.

At the same time as the world seemingly slows a bit and many people are more contemplative and inner-seeking the chaos and carnage continues, either in violent outbursts or verbal bombast.

Israeli forces carried out a widespread campaign of raids into towns and cities across the West Bank, in a response to a wave of recent Palestinian attacks inside Israel that have killed 14 people. The Israeli authorities then also imposed temporary economic sanctions.

A mass shooting Saturday at a busy shopping mall in South Carolina’s capital on Saturday left 14 people injured. The mall was filled with kids and others on this holiday weekend.

In Ukraine, bombs fell, families continue to flee, and bodies are buried wherever the ground space can be found nearby to lower a loved one down into the earth.

In Ohio, Republican senate candidate Josh Mandel continued his primary campaign with an agenda of division against those who aren’t white, patriarchal, and Christian.

I bring this all to the fore as it is Easter Sunday in our home, a day of hope. For many years Sunday was also the day when Tim Russert would hold forth on Meet The Press. Many an Easter weekend I recall Russert having a special look at faith in the nation and how it intersected with all the headlines of the day.

I looked up one of those transcripts online and wish to take you back to Sunday, March 27, 2005.

(Videotape, January 20, 1961, inaugural address):

PRES. JOHN F. KENNEDY:  Let us go forth to lead the land that we love, asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  “Here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own,” Father. That’s politics and religion together in a very clearly stated way.

REV. DRINAN:  And I think that it–we all agree with that.  The problem is when some religions say that you have to impose in the law our particular beliefs.  Certain fundamentalists think that gays should be discriminated against, and that’s not in the common tradition.  There’s a common core of moral and religious beliefs, and frankly, we are in total violation of that. We are supposed to be good to the poor; we have more poor children in America than in any other industrialized nation.  We’re supposed to love prisoners and help them; we have 2.1 million people in prison, the largest of any country of the Earth.  We also allow eleven children to be killed by guns every day.  All of the religions are opposed to that.  That’s violence.  Why don’t we organize on that?

MR. RUSSERT:  What’s the answer?

REV. DRINAN:  The answer is that there is a core, as President Kennedy said, and that we had that core when we finally abolished abolition and segregation. We had that core when finally we entered the war in Vietnam.  We had that core when we passed the Americans With Disabilities Act, the best law for the disabled in the whole world.  That core is there, and you have to look back and say that President Roosevelt orchestrated it and LBJ was fantastic getting through the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.  That’s the type of religious unity that exists if we can pull it together.

Many people will observe the surface traditions and customs around the world for the holidays of which they are a part, but the larger conversations, of the type Russert engaged in and we need to hear, are far less a part of our dialogue. That lack of connection around the world between what we profess to be, and what we do, or what governments do in our name, remains a great gulf.

And so it goes.

Israel Needs To Join International Community And Enact Sanctions On Russia

It is not a pretty picture to see when Israel, which portrays itself as some arbiter of righteousness and moral certainty, shows its true colors on the world stage.

It was most unsightly to read and hear this week of Israel attempting to balance between aligning itself with its biggest funder in the world–that would be the United States–or with Russia who has committed the largest military operation in Europe since—oh, yes, the time when another madman sought to eradicate the Jews.

It was jaw-dropping to then read on Wednesday Israel could only issue a luke-warm statement that supported Ukraine’s territorial integrity—but hold on dear readers–as it did not condemn Russia. 

The statement then dropped off the cliff into the comically absurd.

“War is not the way to solve conflicts,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said.

Wow.

One only needs to read a few decades of Middle Eastern history as it relates to military actions caused by Israel as to why many in the international community are voicing concern about the fragile nature of loyalty from Isreal as it relates to Ukraine.

Events on the ground forced Israel—not some inner commitment to justice or fighting evil–to state a bit tougher language about Russian President Putin’s attempt to reconstruct the Soviet Union. Still left unstated as of this posting was the Israeli government stepping up in adult pants and joining the international sanctions against Russia. 

It must take time to climb down from the rarefied air of Israeli certainty to mix with the rest of the world leaders.

And so it goes.

Strong Female Congresswoman Challenged For Being Honest, Anti-Muslim Bias in Democratic Party

Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar made public a concern this week during a congressional hearing that has caused an uproar within the Democratic caucus. The incident underscores the bias within the elected class in Washington towards views that need to be heard but too often are marginalized.

It was during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Monday, when Omar, a Muslim woman elected from Minnesota, asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken about an International Criminal Court probe of allegations against both the Taliban and the U.S. in Afghanistan and by Hamas and Israel in the most recent Middle East conflict.

Omar later shared the exchange in a tweet that read: “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”

Late last night a dozen of her caucus colleagues put out a late-night statement criticizing her for comparing war crimes in the fashion she did. In response, Omar called her fellow House Democrats’ reaction ‘shameful’,

She is correct.

I find it lamentable that one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress needs to feel that her views and perspectives on issues which she has every right to speak out about, are to be curtailed and shaped so as to mollify the larger group. She has every right to express facts, lodge questions, foster dialogue, and seek analysis over war crimes as much as the Baptists and Catholics from all points of this nation do.

Calling out the abuses and addressing the headlines from the Middle East–whether they always make this nation’s front pages of newspapers or not–is essential. Omar is doing her work with diligence when making the comparisons and asking the questions.

Israel Apartheid Showcased In Editorial Cartoons

Not for the first time does this blog speak to the issue of proportionality when it comes to the massive airstrikes unleashed by Israel. The pounding of Gaza, such a confined area, packed with poorly protected people has led to a death toll, as reported this morning in a front-page story in The New York Times, 20 times as high as that caused by Hamas. In Gaza over 1,200 people have been injured. Nearly 200 have been killed.

The international press has reported in-depth on the carnage in this latest decades-long struggle. The editorial cartoonists have perhaps caught the moment best with the following journalism. The drawings are determined to make the point. You know you have an international conscience if these hit a nerve. Taking land in war and through an immoral settlement policy is not a good way to win respect or peace.

Ten Members Of Family Killed, Eight Were Children

An orphaned baby is brought to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City after it was injured in an Israeli airstrike, which destroyed a 3-story house and killed ten members of the child’s family.

Today Israeli bomb hit a home in the Gaza refugee camp. The house where a family had gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

A baby (pictured) was brought to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City for treatment after being injured in that airstrike, which destroyed a 3-story house and killed 10 members of the child’s family, including eight children who were located in the al-Shati refugee camp.

At least 20 other Palestinians were wounded after several nearby houses were damaged in the airstrike.

In addition, for those readers who claim to honor laws and international norms let’s start by enforcing UN Resolution 242 stating Israel must withdraw from occupied lands. The over-reach and lack of proportionality from Israel make me sick.

Let me cut to the core here. Palestinian aggression, if one wants to argue that point, could be contained rather than the wholesale murder which is now taking place. Netenyahu, however, needs to distract from his crimes. Israel has already this week attacked the most revered mosque in the world, murdered children, and lynched innocent civilians, along with now attacking news offices such as Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

Of course, that last group was going to be targeted as Israel can not abide honest and free coverage of their war crimes. Israel wants to kill Palestinians without press coverage.

Palestinians inspect their destroyed houses following overnight Israeli airstrikes in town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Same Worn Language As Biden Makes Terrible Statement Regarding Israeli Actions

Israel continues to make for casualties and destruction in the Middle East. If the headlines over the years were not about warring for more land then they were about the undermining of rights and dignity of Palestinians. All this has been going on so long that as a teenager I was reading and learning of these actions in history classes. That was over four decades ago!

This morning I awoke to learn of the latest over-reach and lack of proportionality from Israel.

The high-rise housing the AP and other media outlets were bombed by Israeli military.

About an hour after that nation’s military ordered people to evacuate a bombing strike destroyed the building housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices. Must try to stop those reporters from showing the horror of the Israeli military in Gaza!

I would mention that the building also housed residential apartments, but that would not be news. Israeli military efforts aimed at the average person in Gaza, after all, is a policy more than an exception. Meanwhile a senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a hard-right corrupt politician told NPR that Hamas military intelligence used the building, but provided “no evidence to back the claim,” according to NPR reporter Daniel Estrin.

Well of course there was no evidence, just as there was no evidence in 1939 of atrocities in western Polish towns concerning Germans being victimized. But Hitler still created the mania for press coverage and that narrative resulted in his massive invasion. While it is imperative for the press to push hard upon the events now taking place in Gaza and demand facts, history shows that the worst elements will always obfuscate and lie.

This is why it is imperative for President Joe Biden to step away from the same language and pabulum used by other administrations when Israel uses its military hardware supplied by the United States in their efforts to strike at humanity. It is essential that Biden not get caught up in the same downward spiral that results when failure to stand with Palestinians makes the White House nothing more than an Israeli puppet.

But that did not happen.

This week Biden “condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,” and also “conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians.”

To say that Israel has a right to protect itself is like saying the baboonish bully on the playground has the same right after taking the lunches of other kids. At least 115 Palestinians, including 27 children, and eight Israelis have been killed, officials on both sides have stated. That statement was being made as the Israeli military bombardment of the impoverished Gaza Strip continued.

What I found insulting from the statement offered by the White House this week was the lack of even a mention of Sheikh Jarrah. The neighborhood was not lost on this blog.

The headlines now are catching the attention of many readers but the ills that have been caused from years of tyranny from Israel towards Palestinians also need noting. Israeli restrictions on building permits in East Jerusalem, as just one clear example, have forced Palestinian residents to either leave the city–which they should not need to do– or to build illegal housing and risk demolition.

The fight over Sheikh Jarrah matters as East Jerusalem must never be allowed to be controlled by only Jewish residents. After all, that land is Palestinian territory illegally occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War in 1967.  Palestinians know that East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state. In addition, for those who claim to honor laws and international norms let them start by enforcing UN Resolution 242 stating Israel must withdraw from occupied lands.

For the Biden Administration to join forces with the Zionists who have undermined the rule of law and human decency, again, is nothing short of a dark day for the Palestinians.

And so it goes.

Israel Demonstrates Lack Of Character in Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood

My very first post on this blog in July 2007 addressed a Middle East problem, the larger aspect of it that has not been resolved in these 14 years. The recent international headlines testify to that fact. Then it concerned a soldier captured in Israel and taken to Gaza, while now the tensions are rightfully high as Israeli efforts to remove Palestinians from strategic parts of Jerusalem continue.

In 2007 I wrote that Israel through its actions only invites more anger and resentment by Arabs pointedly stating, the harsh reality is that at some point soon America needs to have a stern conversation with Israel.

Israel desires to have complete Jewish control over East Jerusalem. That is, obviously, unacceptable.

Most newspaper readers are now aware of a single Jerusalem neighborhood that is central to the larger thrust by the current right-wing movement in Israel to again marginalize and damage the lives of Palestinians. As the news was being reported late this afternoon Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, had fired rockets at Jerusalem. Then Israeli airstrikes left at least 20 Palestinians, including nine children, dead.

That offense followed Israeli soldiers raiding and actually launching grenades inside the Aqsa mosque. Let me put that in the most basic and clear context I can. That site is the Islamic world’s equivalent to the Vatican. That is the level of behavior that Israel now engages in, and somehow think the world will accept.

One word, again, sums up the actions by Israel.

Proportionality.

And with that word comes mine from over a decade ago. Israel through its actions only invites more anger and resentment by Arabs.

What Israeli government officials are allowing to happen in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem is appalling, immoral, heartless, soulless, and without anything other than pure meanness as a guiding force. Homes, families, children, pets, lives, aspirations, and plans for the future are being tossed aside as Jewish residents eye the homes and property of Palestinians. Hmmm…what does that sound like from the pages of history? Is it any wonder that many support Hamas and their threats to respond to Israeli provocations in Jerusalem?

The headlines now are catching the attention of many readers but the ills that have been caused from years of tyranny from Israel towards Palestinians also need noting. Israeli restrictions on building permits in East Jerusalem, as just one clear example, have forced Palestinian residents to either leave the city–which they should not need to do– or to build illegal housing and risk demolition.  See, I do not think that is how a ‘Godly ordained” country should act.

The Israeli occupation has been a decades-long cancer that has crippled and severely damaged the long-term interests of the rightful residents of the land–the Palestinians. To remedy, in part the behavior of the right-wing government in Israel there should be a severe cutting in the US taxpayer funding of the regime. While that will not happen due to the control of the Israeli lobby, the truth remains that nation has been a constant ache to everyone since 1967 and their wars aimed to take over lands they did not own.

That source of trouble is now front and center as it inflicts damage on the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The world stands with the men, women, and children who live there. And should be able to continue to do so.

And so it goes.

How Will Iran Retaliate?

Obviously, Iran will need to retaliate for the assassination of scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the head of the nation’s efforts to construct a nuclear warhead. No viable nation can allow for such an act to take place within their borders, by another nation, and not be expected to deliver a response to show justified anger. No matter what one feels about Iran there are certain steps that will be ‘required’ as a consequence of any nation being so attacked.

The international reporting has left little doubt about who is behind this killing. Armchair readers of news from that region need not be told that Israel was behind the attack on the scientist. While some urge restraint on Iran concerning retaliation there is no doubt what the bold reaction would be should such a dastardly act occur in France, Britain, or the United States. Iran has every right to make their move. But the type of response they deliver is the question to be considered.

This blog has been a proponent of the nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers. I was therefore not in agreement with the reckless move by Donald Trump to undermine the work that was done by so many for so long.

Trump was not aware of what the accord was meant to achieve. Very long ago we all stopped being shocked by his severe lack of knowledge on a vast array of topics. He was never aware we need to make deals with those we have international problems with, knowing those final deals are only as solid as the circumstances allow.

Trump did not understand in his one term in office (hallelujah!) that it would have been a dereliction of duty by the Obama White House not to have strived mightly for a nuclear deal with Iran. To have not pressed hard to get a document that reduced the chances of Iran getting a bomb in the next decade would have been totally unacceptable.

No one ever laid claim to any illusion that Iran was an ally or someone that could be trusted.  That is why safeguards were placed into the accord to make sure that actions that ran counter to the deal could be dealt with in a fashion that left no doubt our international partners would demand accountability.

It was therefore dangerous for Trump to so foolishly toss aside the accord of which he never understood how it was grounded within the international community. It was just one prime example of Trump not knowing the wisdom of working with other nations in a common cause.

Now many in the international community are hoping that the expected retaliation by Iran will be limited in scope so that it does not create a scenario where new efforts at refashioning relations is truly harmed in the years going forward. There is every reason for Iran to be outraged but much can be gained by not over-reacting.

International relations always play out in slow and methodical ways. As such this allows for windows to be opened at certain times which fosters results that secures stability. Iran has been attacked by a foreign power but we must hope their retaliation in the days to come can be measured. Many around the world hope that a new tone from a new president can again establish a working coalition of countries who understand the need for working in concert for the bigger goals.

Internationalism will again be a force in America’s playbook. Thankfully.

And so it goes.