President Biden Correct About Flag Issue In East Jerusalem

The Middle East trip by President Biden has included a conversation about a wide range of hot-button issues from the threat posed by Iran, global economic pressures from oil production quotas, and the need for movement among the different parties in the quest for Palestinian rights and security safeguards in a volatile area of the world.

It is a good week for the United States when our president can present the issues as the topic of the day, rather than being the topic of the day. It is good to have gravitas not only in the Oval Office and also when presented on the world stage.

Not only do the weighty conversations matter on such trips, or the policy moves and offers of assistance but so do the smaller messages and actions a president takes. The leader of the free world is not a trite phrase that no longer has meaning. The American president matters. That is why a serious person needs to always hold the office.

It was most appropriate, therefore, for the presidential motorcade, when entering East Jerusalem, to no longer bear the Israeli flags. Israeli sovereignty in the entirety of the city will need to be addressed if any meaningful and long-lasting peace accord is ever to be finalized between the two sides. While Israel has long enjoyed the land it seizes, does not mean the military conquests and occupations are geopolitically the best outcome for all the people in the region.

That Israel is not a fair player in the region has long been noted on this blog. The Biden administration has sought from the first days of the administration a reopening of the US consulate to the Palestinians. That office was previously located in western Jerusalem, but as is so typical of Isreal they have utterly refused to authorize the reopening. Diplomatic moves and creating structures for dialogue would further demand accountability from Israel, and that would be so much harder than just shooting and killing a journalist and continually undermining the dignity of the Palestinian people.

Israel, with its military might, has forgotten a truism about global affairs. Without a legitimate political process, there will be no peace. The simple, but meaningful act by President Biden of removing the Israeli flag when entering East Jerusalem underscores that fact.

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 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.

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.

‘Roadmap’ In Middle East Is Another Stunning Injustice For Palestinians

It was a most bizarre scene which played out in Washington on Tuesday.  And given what we have witnessed in Washington over the past weeks that is saying a lot.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is under indictment, was beaming alongside Donald Trump, who is undergoing an impeachment trial, as they both gleefully threw Palestinians under the bus in the Middle East.  The two legal outcasts were so proud of an idea that would allow for Jerusalem to be the undivided capital of Israel while relegating the Palestinian capital to a suburb.  It is nothing short of obscene.

I fully grasp the mouth-breathers in the Trump base have no scintilla of background about the scope of the issue at hand.  For the rest, we are aware that what has been proposed upends 60 years of bipartisan support for a negotiated process between Israelis and Palestinians, in which both make concessions and land swaps that would define the lines of a new map.  To sweep in a plan based on Jewish zeal, being pushed by Netanyahu to an under-educated and unstable person sitting in the Oval Office, is perhaps the most sickening blow towards the Palestinians since the creation of Isreal.  Before that the Balfour Agreement.

The plan is simply repulsive.  For instance, gerrymandering is at play in a way that makes what happens in the drawing of political lines in the U.S. seem like children’s play.  (Redistricting is a topic this blog has long been concerned about.)  The plan devised by the two felons-to-be would require the construction of a giant tunnel across Israel to connect two areas of Palestinian control.   Simply a most unforgivable proposal.

Neither of the international jokes who stood side-by-side Tuesday seemed at all aware that permanently legitimizing the illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank is in clear violation of international law.  Since they both have evaded laws of many kinds in both their countries what does international ones mean?

Israel has stolen land again and again.  Their ruthless policy is the reason they face so much scorn on the world stage.  The fact that too many Jews have moved to Israel that land is scarce must not be the reason for stealing yet more land.   The creation of Israel was a decision made after emotional baggage from World War II needed to be dealt with.  I get that part of it, and understand it.  But the actual creation of this state in the Middle East, while undercutting Palestinians, was always going to be the seed of hatred and tensions.  Getting deeper into the bed with the Israeli governments over the many years has not made it any better.

I must say, as one who can trace his genealogy back to Cherokee Chief John Ross at the time of the Trail of Tears, that this whole sad episode is reminiscent of the treaties in this nation from the 19th century.  Power brokers who steal land, and push others aside.  Just as the removal of Native Americans was a mistake, so was the creation of Isreal.

We see that truth with each passing decade.

Great News: Young Man Starts First Day At Harvard, Welcome Ismail Ajjawi

Ismail-Ajjawi

When I read last week that Ismail Ajjawi, a Palestinian student was denied entry to the United States, it made me sad.  We should always be in the corner of those who seek to better themselves with the power of education.  We should always be on the side of those who know the value of an education.

Today I read this young man, just 17 years of age, did get past the needless hurdles and ignorant blockages and was able to start the first day of classes at Harvard.

We all should be pleased.

Ajjawi landed at Logan International Airport in Boston on Aug. 23 and was turned back after immigration officials objected to his friends’ social media posts.  There is reason to be concerned and troubled on free speech grounds for simply espousing views on social media.  That is certainly one part of this story.  In the end, however, the United States Embassy in Beirut reviewed his case and reissued a visa.

Harvard now has another eager mind on campus.  But let us not lose sight that at the center of this story are the needless obstacles put in place by the Trump administration making it more arduous for foreign students and scholars to study in the United States.

This world needs more bright minds and curious-oriented people who seek facts and truth so to lead us into the future.  Alienating those who would otherwise be inclined to form a favorable impression of American society and be educated in our classrooms sends a most damaging perception around the world.

I am glad to welcome Ismail Ajjawi to America.  Study and learn.   And have fun, too.

Wretched Moves By Netanyahu Will Kill Palestinians For Hopes Of Electoral Success

It must be election season in Israel as the nation is about to use their military on poor Palestinians.

Israel claims that Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organization that governs the Gaza Strip, was responsible for a rocket launched overnight that destroyed a private home in a farming community.  What did, or did not happen, is not clear.

What is clear is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed a forceful response, using his strident tone to show strength as he maneuvers for an election only two weeks away.  He is even showing his ‘resolve’ by cutting short his US visit after meeting with Donald Trump.  This morning I read in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, that the military alerted some reservists to prepare to be drafted in the event of a significant escalation.  Mind you, that is the first time in years that the army has taken that move.  Netanyahu must really be wary of the electors this cycle!

What many fear, of course, is the deranged military moves may indicate that the Israeli army is gearing up for a ground incursion into Gaza.  The ones who will be most hurt are the poor and young Palestinians.

The polls in Israel show Netanyahu’s party trailing a new political alliance, the moderate Kahol Lavan (“Blue and White”) party, in part because Netanyahu is facing indictment on corruption charges. To secure a victory Netanyahu has proven he will go to any ends to win–even using the Golan Heights, captured from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War, as a tool.  There is no way to support the reckless candidate while he shows such disregard for international norms that hold permanently acquiring territory through war is illegitimate, or using military might against poor populations which is reprehensible.

Just another black eye for Zionists.