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When something must be done and there is nothing good to do

Jul23

by: Alan Bean on July 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »

When I reflect on the self-immolation of Charles Moore, I can’t help thinking about the Palestinians.

Neither Moore nor the leaders of Hamas have found a way to change circumstances they consider intolerable.

Rev. Moore’s response was to set himself on fire in his home town of Grand Saline, Texas.

Hamas reacts to the seeming omnipotence of the Israeli military by lobbing rockets in the direction of Jewish cities and settlements.

Both actions are deplorable; but I’m not sure I have a viable alternative to offer either Charles Moore or the Palestinians.

Like Jesus and the prophet Jeremiah, Charles Moore experienced the besetting sins of his own people in a horribly visceral way.  Most of us shrug off the racism and homophobia infecting our culture with an air of ironic resignation.  Sure, it’s disturbing that little towns like Grand Saline are still riddled with racial resentment fifty years after the Civil Rights Act passed Congress, but change is always slow and incremental.  And it is truly unfortunate that for centuries our GLBT brothers and sisters were forced into the closet and ridiculed and scorned whenever they dared step out; but we’re making progress, right?

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The Renaissance Cheapness of Life Like Today?

Jul23

by: on July 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »

During this summer, I have had some time to catch up on some pleasurable reading and, I must admit, binge watching of three TV series.

Credit: Creative Commons

“The Borgias,” an Italian Renaissance-era Showtime series, in which the Spanish-born Cardinal Rodrigo Lanzol y de Borja (Italianized “Borgia”), through ruthless ambition, deceit, and criminal activity, rises to the Papacy as Alexander VI on August 11, 1492 until his death on August 18, 1503. At the time of his ascension, he was married with a number of children. After becoming Pope, he continued having sexual relations with his collection of mistresses, and he eventually elevated his offspring to high posts.

The HBO series “Game of Thrones,” located within what could be considered as a Renaissance timeframe in terms of technological development, weaponry, and garment styles in the backdrop of the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos toward the conclusion of a decade-long summer, meshes a number of plot lines, most notably ones in which members of numerous noble houses engage in civil war for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. The series investigates issues of power, social hierarchy, religion and spirituality, loyalty and betrayal, virtue and corruption, war and rebellion, crime, murder, and punishment.

“Elizabeth I,” a two-part TV miniseries appearing originally on British Channel 4, staring Helen Mirren, covers the final 24 years of Queen Elizabeth I in her nearly 45-year reign as Queer regent of England and Ireland (November 17, 1558 – March 24, 1603). Elizabeth’s time on the throne covered a period of enormous tensions and transitions as governments consolidated power through plots and conspiracies, alliances, war, and confiscation of territories. It was also a period of great religious upheavals.

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TNR: For a moral world to exist, Israel must kill innocent Palestinians

Jul22

by: on July 22nd, 2014 | 5 Comments »

On Sunday evening, a four-story house in Gaza was decimated by an Israeli missile. At the moment of impact, 25 people belonging to four families, including 19 children, were gathered together to break the day’s Ramadan fast. All of them were killed.

Also eating with the families was, according to relatives, a guest who was likely a Hamas militant, ostensibly the strike’s target. (Israel’s military has refused to comment.) He died as well, buried the the rubble of a collapsed building along with the 19 children and six adults with whom he was eating.

What happened on Sunday isn’t an isolated incident. To date, over 3,000 Palestinians have been injured and over 600 killed in Israeli strikes, 75 percent of whom the U.N. estimates have been innocent people unconnected in any way to the violence. And many of these civilians have been killed in strikes which have either completely or nearly destroyed entire families.

According to Israel, such strikes are considered to be both necessary and unfortunate, given the unspeakable loss of innocent Palestinian lives. However, Israel claims it is not to blame for such tragic deaths, instead insisting that Hamas is responsible, not its own missiles.

It’s true that Hamas has used schools to house weapons, fires rockets from urban areas and clearly places civilians at risk with the ongoing violence. Here’s the rub, though: there is no safe space in Gaza for people to flee. Indeed, many have been killed by missile attacks in areas Israel told residents would be safe. These are not “human shields.” They are human tragedies.

The New Republic’s Yishai Schwartz agrees with Israel that, despite all this, such strikes are necessary and must continue. However, he also performs some moral gymnastics to stunningly argue that such strikes are an absolute moral imperative. That the killing of innocent Palestinians, including children, is necessary to protect a just world.

No, I’m not joking.


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Israel: Stop the Invasion of Gaza, Stop the Bombing of Gaza, Free the Palestinian Prisoners

Jul21

by: on July 21st, 2014 | 11 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons/blhphotography

According to Ha’aretz correspondent Amira Hass, the IDF has been conducting mass arrests in the West Bank, between ten and thirty every day. Twenty-four of the arrested are members of the Palestinian parliament from Hamas’ Change and Reform party. The number of those arrested since the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens already exceeds 1,000. The Palestinians are convinced that most of those detained have nothing to do with the kidnapping of the teens and that these are mainly political arrests for purposes of intimidation and revenge.

This senseless imprisonment is just the tip of the iceberg. Tens of thousands of young Palestinian men have experienced arrest, torture, loss of employment, and have been unable to protect their parents, partners, and friends from arbitrary and repressive treatment from the Israeli Defense Force Occupation forces. The surprising thing is that despite this inhumane and emasculating treatment, few Palestinians have engaged in acts of violence or desperation.

I’ve argued that acts of desperation can be self-destructive. Many Palestinians will suffer for the acts of the few Palestinian Hamas extremists. But since Hamas activists have come to believe that even if they do nothing they will still be targeted, some are saying that acting out violently against the Occupation is the only thing that can restore their dignity, since nothing will restore their land. I think that this mentality is a mistake for Gaza and the West Bank. Sometimes I think that Hamas doesn’t really even care for its own citizens in Gaza – they care more about showing that non-violence will never work to challenge Israel’s occupation, and they are willing to let the people of Gaza pay the price. Namely, the invasion of Gaza by the Israeli army with the inevitable consequence of many more deaths than the 220 Palestinians already killed in the past two weeks. And yet, it is hard to deny that the Israeli Occupation is so repressive and dishonoring of Palestinians that some young men have taken to violence, while others see those kinds of acts as the only things that can momentarily give relief from the emotional depression that years under Occupation generates. Yet the violence against Israeli civilian targets has pushed the politics of Israel even further to the Right.

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The Heart of the Problem With Israel: The Mass Expulsion of the Palestinian People

Jul21

by: Donna Nevel on July 21st, 2014 | 4 Comments »

(Originally published on Alternet)

As Israeli government violence against the Palestinians in Gaza intensifies (the latest news being an aggressive ground invasion), I saw a discussion on-line about whether Israel has become more brutal or the brutality has simply become more visible to the public.

A man looks at Jaramana Refugee Camp for Palestinians in Damascus, Syria in 1948.

The Jaramana Refugee Camp for Palestinians in Damascus, Syria in 1948. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

I remembered listening to Benjamin Netanyahu when he was at MIT in the 1970s. He called himself Bibi Nitai and said he was in self-exile until the Labor Party, which he despised, was out of power. He spoke contemptuously about Arabs, and predicted he would be the leader of Israel someday and would protect the Jewish state in the way it deserved. The immediate response many of us had was: “Heaven help us all if he ever gets into power in Israel.”

I also remember the many Israeli leaders I met in the 1970′s from Labor and Mapam and from smaller parties on the “Zionist left” who seemed kind and caring and markedly different from Benjamin Netanyahu – and in many ways they were, not just in their political rhetoric (they all said they were socialists) but as human beings, or so it seemed. But when I finally dug a little deeper and read my history, I learned how they, too, were participants – in fact, often leaders – in the plan to drive the Palestinians out of their homes and off their land. Nothing very kind or caring about that, to say the least.

The bottom line: Israel was created based on the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their land and from their homes (what Palestinians call the Nakba, the catastrophe). This is the heart of the problem.

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“What If They Gave a War and Nobody Came?”: The Israeli and Palestinian Conflict

Jul21

by: on July 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

I keep hearing in the press and in popular discourse about the “two sides” in the Middle East conflict, with the sides being the Palestinians and the Israelis. I understand that there are indeed a number of “sides,” but I believe that the Palestinian people and the Israeli people are generally on the same side.

I do not see the two opposing sides being the Palestinian people versus the Israeli people. Rather, the opposing sides represent many of the leaders verses the peace loving Israelis and Palestinians who truly want to live in harmony with one another.

Many of the Israeli leaders desire to maintain and expand current borders and territories and to impose harsh penalties (for example the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza) upon the Palestinian people, which has resulted in a great humanitarian crisis, while the Palestinian leaders, primarily members of Hamas, vow to destroy the Jews, fire rockets on Israeli civilians, and are committed to forcing all Jews into the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, those who want peace are being held hostage by their leaders.

I visited Jerusalem last year, and I talked with Israelis and Palestinians who truly desire peace, who truly desire an era in which they can live alongside one another in trust and in harmony, but they are feeling that the continuing politics of hate and fear, war, and division are preventing this peaceful coexistence.

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A Prayer for Peace

Jul21

by: on July 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Avinu ve’ emoteynu sheh ba shamayim, tzur Yisra’el ve’ go’aloe

Our Father and Mother energies in the cosmos, the rock of Israel and our salvation,

Credit: Creative Commons

Bless all the peoples of the Middle East with peace, security, environment sanity, and a sense of being genuinely cared for by the world and by the God/dess of all flesh, however they conceive of this God or Goddess, whatever names or language they give to the ULTIMATE SOURCE OF LOVE AND MEANING IN THE UNIVERSE.

In this hour of war, violence, and pain, we reaffirm the humanity and decency of all the people on our planet, and our ability to see the humanity and God-presence in the Palestinian people, the Israeli people, and all people on the planet. We understand that each of the many sides of the conflicts tearing our world apart today have their own legitimacy, but we also know that violence cannot be the path to a peaceful and safe world. We may be outraged at the behavior of governments, political parties, or groups acting in hurtful ways, but we will not accept any attempt to generalize that righteous indignation into generalities about all people of a certain nation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other such grouping.

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Setting Aside Your Humanity To Cheer “Team Israel”

Jul21

by: on July 21st, 2014 | 5 Comments »

I am not especially bothered by right-wingers who defend Israel’s indefensible onslaught against Gaza. Right-wingers who supported the Vietnam war (if they were around then) or the Iraq war, the people who want to go to war with Russia now. I get that. Right-wingers (think John McCain) like war and view it as sport; their side is always right.

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Not in My Name, Netanyahu

Jul20

by: on July 20th, 2014 | 12 Comments »

As I write these words, my hands tremble from the unspeakable images and stories I’ve witnessed in Gaza. They tremble with worry that those young Israeli soldiers losing their lives, casualties in a war they did not create, will be among those families I know, and that their numbers will grow.

My hands also tremble because, during all this, Israel’s leader – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – has repeatedly claimed to represent me, and all Jews, as Israel continues its brutal assault on Gaza, an assault which, as history shows, will neither achieve its strategic goals nor reap anything but heartache.

No, he does not speak for me.

When Netanyahu said on CNN that Palestinians benefit from “telegenically dead” civilians killed by Israel, that images of carnage helped Hamas because journalists would then ask about Israel’s actions, he did not speak for me.

A doctor cries while standing among the bodies of dead children at Shifa Hospital's overflowing morgue. [Note: journalists have captured countless disturbing images today, though I've chosen not to show them here.


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Belonging, Purpose, Pleasure

Jul20

by: on July 20th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

I’ve been trying to find the right words.I think they might be “belonging,” purpose,” and “pleasure.”

Remember in the first Clinton campaign, when the candidate became famous for a sign that summed up the essence of his message: “It’s the economy, stupid”? I’ve been trying to find a few words that do that for the big message I feel impelled to put out into the world.

Here’s what I keep coming back to: It’s all about belonging. We want to be seen and known. We want to be acknowledged for our place in the community and our contributions to it. We want to feel connected and respected. We want to see ourselves in sites of public memory; to know our histories are not forgotten; to have a stake in our common future.

Credit: Creative Commons

This is a world of multiple participation, multiple belonging. None of us is encompassed by one type of belonging. For many people, the core of belonging is about a specific place on the land. If that doesn’t matter to you as intensely as it matters to my friends who grew up on ancestral lands in Indian Country or Appalachia, for instance, consider how much it matters to those you hear about in the heartbreaking news from Gaza.

Belonging is plain language for “cultural citizenship,” in which everyone feels at home and welcomed in his or her own community, in which the connection, acknowledgement, and respect I just enumerated are fulfilled.Our need for social healing can be seen in the vast numbers who have the legal status of citizens, yet lack full cultural citizenship because those with more social and economic power treat them as inferior (or at least dismissible), devaluing their contributions, reinforcing a state of otherness with material and spiritual consequences that are the opposite of belonging.


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