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There have been some very encouraging signs in the church of late regarding the Palestinian search for justice. If we can put to one side the epic failure of the US Episcopal church to get behind the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS), it seems that there is nonetheless a shift worldwide in Christian consciousness towards Israel and Palestine!

For one thing, the United Church of Christ displayed great moral courage at the very point where the Episcopalians failed. They voted to get behind the BDS!

Even more encouraging is the initiative being taken by the Pope, taking the lead for millions of Catholics around the world in recognising the state of Palestine and insisting that no one race or religion has exclusive rights to the Holy Land.

Evidently this stance has come at no small cost. Apparently the Sanhedrin is going to put him on trial unless he renounces his apostasy! Yes, you heard right – the Sanhedrin (or at least some self-appointed group calling themselves the Sanhedrin). Surely it would only be self-defeating for any such body to try to do to such a church leader what was done to her founder!

Regardless of what happens to Pope Francis, this new shift of Christian consciousness is greater even than he, and perhaps the most encouraging signs are those coming from within the Holy Land itself! 

Archbishop Attallah Hanna is Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in Israel/Palestine. As a Palestinian he has had to endure the Israeli Occupation for all his adult life, but now he has to face an additional new threat – that of ISIS, who are threatening all kinds of violence towards Christians as a part of their promised ‘liberation’ of Palestine.

The Archbishop’s response is a courageous one. He refuses to abandon either the land or the Palestinian cause, and he refuses to distance the Christian community from their Muslim sisters and brothers with whom they share their land. Moreover, he refuses to give in to hate, saying “our Christian dictionary does not include the language of vengeance, hatred and rancor”.

Father Dave

Archbishop Attallah Hanna

Archbishop Attallah Hanna

source: abouna.org…

New pamphlet by “Jerusalem ISIS” issued; Archbishop Attallah Hanna reacts

A few days following the issuance of its first pamphlet, the so called “Emirate of Beit Al Maqdis” (Emirate of Jerusalem) issued its second pamphlet on Monday, June 29 in the Beit Hanina area, north of Jerusalem, pledging to expel Christians from the areas mentioned in the first pamphlet, “except those who espouse Islam.”

For its part, a local Palestinian agency noted that “the citizens believe that such statements are produced by the Israeli occupation intelligence. They assert that they do not believe their vallidity, where neither the Palestinian National Authority nor the Palestine Liberation Organization nor even the Palestinian factions did react to these statements on the view that they do not deserve any reaction or be given any attention since they are tendentious and suspicious being designed to bring discord and division.”

The extremist group threatened on Thursday, June 25, to slaughter the Christians living in Jerusalem, if they do not leave the city before Eid Al Fitr (the feast marking the end of the month of Ramadan). The areas that would be “cleared” of Christians were identified as “Beit Hanina and Shu’fat, up to the remaining quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.”

Commenting on the pamphlet, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that “the pamphlet was distributed in areas controlled by Israel.” He alluded, in an exclusive interview with “Al Arabia” channel, to the possibility of having a suspicious relationship between Al-Nusra Front, that is fighting in Syria, and Israel. He said: “When we learn that members of this group are being treated in Israel, how can this situation be comprehended?”

Greek Orthodox Bishop of Sebastia Attallah Hanna said:”To all those who classify themselves as ISIS, we would like to tell them that we will stay in Jerusalem and in Palestine. We will continue to be the genuine children of this Holy Land, Muslims and Christians, and we will not leave our Holy Land under any pressure or blackmail, at any price.” He expected that ”these malignant and suspicious statements, aimed at our Palestinian people and rejected categorically, would not stop.”

He continued, “I ask those who issue such statements to stop the sedition and abandon their evil deeds. Do believe in God and in every human being created by God, whether Muslim or Christian.” He added: “Do repent and restore reason, for what you are undertaking is a heinous crime against your religion in the first place and secondly against your Jerusalem and homeland.” He called on them to realize the fact that “your words will only consolidate our steadfastness and increase our mutual cordiality and brotherhood.”

Bishop Atallah pointed out that “Christians are advocates of peace, love and brotherhood in this land. They, as well as their Muslim brethren, will not give up their values, morals and principles. If this statement, as is the case with other suspicious statements, is designed to erect a separation wall between Muslims and Christians in this land, we tell them that our religions are not walls that separate human beings from their brethren, but they rather set up bridges of love and brotherhood.”

The Orthodox bishop continued, “these racist ideas are doomed to dissipate because they are based on falsehood. We do not wish evil on you, but we plead the Lord to brighten your hearts and minds, so that you may repent and come back to reason.”

He concluded by saying that “our Christian dictionary does not include the language of vengeance, hatred and rancor. Our Teacher (Lord Jesus Christ) urges us to wish sinners repentance and forgiveness.”

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What follows is another excellent essay from my friend Franklin Lamb, detailing why ISIS is proving so seductive for Palestinians. Fundamentally, it seems to be the only show in town!

The allure of ISIS is the flip-side of the failure of the current Palestinian leadership to deliver. Both Fatah and Hamas seem to be equally riddled with corruption and compromise. To whom else are the Palestinians to turn?

Of course ISIS don’t really give a damn about the Palestinians. That was amply illustrated by their response to Israel’s last brutal assault on Gaza. What did ISIS do in response? Nothing! They didn’t even offer a word of criticism! Why? Because they hate the Muslim Brotherhood (ie. Hamas) more than they care about the Palestinian people. It is equally well-illustrated by ISIS more recent butchering of the Palestinians of Yarmouk in Syria.

I don’t expect to see ISIS boots on the ground in Palestine any time soon. Their goal is purely to win the PR campaign over their competitors, which only serves to highlight the need for a credible alternative – one that is genuinely committed to the needs of the Palestinian people.

Father Dave

Father Dave and Franklin Lamb in Beirut

Father Dave and Franklin Lamb in Beirut

If ISIS Doesn’t Liberate Palestine… Who Will?

Ein el Helwe Palestinian camp, Lebanon.

This is one of the questions ricocheting between Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon, posed also by ISIS (Da’ish) operatives, as the hot summer months and plummeting quality of existence raise tensions in the refugee camps and social gatherings.

With its resilience, on-the-ground “achievements”, adaptability, global franchising, copy-cat knock-offs, chameleon-like adaptations, combinations and permutations, and slick honing of medium and message, ISIS is offering oppressed and desperate populations in this region both hope and fantasy for escaping their deepening misery  The dream is to escape abject poverty and indignity by any means necessary, and joining ISIS or other like-minded cash-flush groups, which seem to appear out of thin air these days, is the most promising way to do it.

Some people in Lebanon and Syria are wondering why it took ISIS so long to present a detailed plan to Palestinian refugees to liberate their country, now in its 67th year of brutal Zionist occupation. This subjugation has has created an Apartheid state that, according to South African leader Bishop Desmond Tutu and others, exceeds even the crimes of the Afrikaner National Party. And like the Israelis, the ANP also began their racist occupation of a majority-indigenous “less civilized” population in 1948.  South African apartheid ended in 1994, but in Palestine it continues to metastasize. ISIS representatives in the camps are pledging to destroy the Zionist occupation and boast about opening up Palestine to Full Return within two years.

Who is listening to Da’ish (ISIS)?

In the early days of the crisis in Syria, many Palestinians fleeing to Lebanon quickly returned to whatever fate held back in Syria after they saw the conditions in Lebanon’s camps. But as the fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces intensified in Damascus, they became trapped in the camps. Alongside their fellow Palestinians in Lebanon, these new refugees sank ever more deeply into dire poverty.

During recent discussions with a sampling of refugees from several camps in Lebanon and Syria, it’s not surprising that the main part of the conversation quickly moves to subjects long familiar to those of us who have lived among Palestinians in this region. The list of grievances is ever-expanding and ISIS supporters and recruiters take advantage of this in order to round up recruits and sympathizers to join their growing ranks.

These grievances include frustration and anger over the perceived pervasive corruption among political and religious “leaders” who basically speak gibberish while urging patience for the next life, or promise the fruits of countless ‘dialogue’ sessions among sworn political enemies that to date have achieved absolutely nothing to help those most in need.  Lebanon’s Parliament has recently ruled against the right to work and home ownership, and this now ranks near the top of any list of refugee grievances. One could also add: severe camp overcrowding, lack of hygienic infrastructures, declining health care, rising illnesses among children due to respiratory diseases and more than a dozen easily preventable communicable  illnesses,  shortages of medicines, drugs and drug gang violence, increasing tension and gun battles among militia (this is almost weekly – most recently in the Ein el Helwe camp in Saida and this week, in the infamous Shatila camp), domestic violence, petty crime, increase in school dropout rates, and the almost total inability of UNWRA to fulfill its mandate. Typical of the latter, is the closure of some 700 schools in Gaza, which will impact UNRWA’s work in Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank, and Syria. There are also worries here that some UNWRA schools, even those now operating on two shifts, may soon close in Lebanon and Syria.

One of the most urgent crises in Lebanon’s camps is the fact that the few remaining Palestinian hospitals are also nearing collapse, particularly Haifa Hospital in South Beirut’s Burj al Barajneh camp.. The two main Palestine Red Crescent Hospitals, Gaza and Akka, closed decades ago. These problems are just a sampling of what life has become for Palestinians currently living in Lebanon, and for almost 50,000 more that have come from Syria and are still stuck here.

Da’ish – ISIS – has started to capitalize on these problems, as pressures mount under the long hot summer days and adequate water and electricity becomes ever more scarce. Some camp residents speculate about what kind of ‘explosion’ will happen during or after Ramadan begins…

What is Da’ish (ISIS) offering Palestinians? 

First and foremost, Da’ish pledges Full Return for the nearly 12 million Palestinian refugees scattered around the world. Approximately 6.4 million Palestinians had their homes and lands occupied in 1948 (55% of the total population), 4.5 million now live outside historic Palestine, and some 18 million live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Da’ish is also offering an alternative to the half-century of fake “peace processes” and an alternative what increasing numbers of refugees claim is the quisling position of the current PLO leadership.

Understandably, jihadist appeals are finding an audience. The reason for this was best expressed recently by Dr. Mohsen Saleh, of the Zaytona Center in Beirut: “The refugee issue is the core of the Palestinian issue… the issue of a people who were uprooted from the land in which they lived for thousands of years. These people existed before the Israelites came to Palestine, and were present during their existence in Palestine and after they were gone. The Zionist project could only materialize after destroying the social fabric of these people, destroying more than 400 (531 villages: Ed.) of their villages and cities, confiscating most of their land, and usurping their properties, buildings, factories, and endowments.”

On 29/10/2013, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper published a report, based on Zionist sources, documenting that the Palestinian ‘negotiating team’ had given its Israeli counterpart a “position paper” on the core issues of the conflict. Eyewitness accounts claim that the Palestinian team actually offered to waive the right of return for Palestine refugees to their land, stolen in 1948.  The Palestinian ‘negotiating team’ would give the refugees several choices: return to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, accept cash reparations, move to a third country, or stay put in one of the 59 camps and three dozen settlements.

On 8/23/2013, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking to an Israeli delegation from the Meretz Party that visited him in Ramallah, reassured and guaranteed the Israelis that the PLO will not ask to return to Jaffa, Acre (on a clear day visible from villages, including Maron al Ras, in South Lebanon) and Safad (home for one third of the 1948 Nakba refugees who were forced to leave to Syria and Lebanon).

ISIS is making plain to all who will listen that they reject this ‘sellout position’ and that every Palestinian on this planet has the inalienable right of Full Return. This right can never be ceded by any leader and the Zionist regime which has put colonials from the West on their land has no right to even one grain of Palestinian soil.

There is fierce competition between Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS to woo Palestinians. Both groups vow that soon “the Zionist invaders will experience Allah’s wrath until they have been destroyed and Palestine is liberated.”

Meanwhile, Anthony Glees, Director of the Center for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, is warning that Zionists will be among the jihadis’ main targets in the coming days.. Daesh spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani predicts that Ramadan will be a “calamity for kuffars.”

Peter Neumann, director of International Center for the Study of the Radicalization and Political Violence at King’s College London claimed this week that Jewish institutions in Europe and in Occupied Palestine will also pay the price for the growing battle for influence between Al Qaeda (al Nusra) and ISIS.

Jobs for all who need them?

Young, fit Palestinians are at last being offered a job in a country where they are forbidden by law to work or own a home. Da’ish is reportedly paying an average of $300 a month, promising two and sometimes three days off each week to visit one’s family, cash bonuses for marriage and one-time child subsidies of $400 per child.  Subsidies for food of $70 a month are also being offered, in the face of the fact that UNWRA has just reduced monthly cash for food stipends to a mere $30 per month. One can imagine what some of the camp residents are thinking: which horse is the best bet for an improved life and for full return to our own country?

Based on conversations with recently-arrived Palestinian refugees from Syria, as well as old friends in Lebanon’s camps, this observer is confident that today only a small percentage of Palestinians are responding to the siren-call of ISIS.

But tomorrow?

Franklin Lamb’s most recent book, Syria’s Endangered Heritage, An international Responsibility to Protect and Preserve is in production by Orontes River Publishing, Hama, Syrian Arab Republic. Inquires c/o orontesriverpublishing@gmail.com…. The author is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com…

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Palestinian Anglican priest, Rev. Naim Ateek, once again displays the courage of the prophets of old – telling it like it is!

The US Episcopal church had an historic opportunity at their recent General Convention to take a stand with the suffering in Palestine by getting behind the worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). They voted ‘no’.

Of course the decision was framed as being ‘pro-dialogue’ and ‘pro-ecumenism’ rather than ‘anti-Palestine’ but Rev. Ateek doesn’t pull any punches. He labels it a simple failure to stand for justice!

The ‘no’ was hard to resist, of course, when the Episcopal Bishop of Jerusalem himself was warning delegates of potentially negative repercussions for the church in Israel should the Episcopalians take a stand with Palestine. It’s part of a sad history where the oppressed get shafted while the church hangs on to its thirty pieces of silver.

Father Dave

Rev. Naim Ateek

Rev. Naim Ateek

Interfaith Trumps Justice

Naim Ateek’s response to the Episcopal Bishops’ vote

Although I expected disappointing results from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church
USA, I was, nevertheless, heartbroken when I heard the news and discovered that our Bishops,
yet again have failed to take a stand for justice.

I was asked to attend the General Convention as I have done a number of times in the past. I apologized, frankly because I felt deeply that under our present church leadership justice does not stand a chance. The concerns of the Bishops that masqueraded under the guise of “interfaith relations” or their “ability to reach out to people on both sides of the conflict…allowing [them] to be peacemakers” or “positive investment and not divestment” are tantamount to what we un-affectionately call “The Interfaith Ecumenical Deal.” The agreement is to have polite conversations and wonderful dinners with the Jewish establishment organizations provided we remain silent about justice for the Palestinians. The “ecumenical deal” looks impressive from the outside but in actual fact it silences the prophetic and smothers the truth.

In the House of Bishops, interfaith concerns trumped justice—-again.

In debating the issues that relate to Palestine and Israel, the Bishops’ seemingly well intentioned words are clichés which the victims of injustice are sick and tired of hearing because they are simply hot air, or cries of “peace, peace, when there is no peace.” Their words are void of meaning and an insult to all those who have a sense of justice and have “eyes to see and ears to hear” the reality of the oppression of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government.

Of course, this is not the first time that people that hold authority in the church and have the power to make a difference and affect change use flimsy logic so that not to act during a critical situation. Obviously the Episcopal Bishops had their reasons. However, from the perspective of the victims of injustice their silence on our conflict is perceived as betrayal. The Bishops in essence took a stand to support the status quo. They refused to see or were unwilling to respond to the dire situation on the ground.

We as Palestinians are daily humiliated by the Israeli forces; our human rights are violated daily; our homes are demolished daily by bulldozers manufactured in the United States; our olive trees are uprooted on a daily basis; our land is confiscated and turned over into illegal settlements daily; our young people languish in Israeli jails with no legal charges or due process for months on end; our teenagers are taken from their beds in the middle of the night and imprisoned by the Israeli army on an average two by night; and the Israeli government continues its daily violations of international law while the nations of the world remain silent. Is this not a Kairos moment for the church to speak a prophetic word of justice?

There are two questions that every bishop needs to answer before God: Who, in his or her opinion, has benefitted from the bishops’ vote, the Palestinians or the Israeli government? And whom did the Episcopal Church USA protect through its vote, the oppressed or the oppressor?

When all is said and done, it is basically fear that prevents Bishops and governments, or for that matter anyone, from taking a stand against the rich and powerful and on behalf of the weak and marginalized. It takes strong leaders with the courage that Jesus Christ and the prophets modeled for us to champion the cause of the oppressed and that is precisely where the church must take its stand. Sadly that did not happen.

I believe this is a shameful breach of our baptismal vows. Our vows are clear: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Instead of a resounding “yes”, our Bishops’ response was a resounding NO. This is without a doubt how it looks to our Palestinian people including the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Christians. May God have mercy on us! We need to renew and take seriously our baptismal vows.

The bishops’ vote is also a slap in the face of any bishop or any person who has a sense of justice and the courage to take a stand. It is a slap in the face of Archbishop Tutu who has said repeatedly that Israel’s injustice against the Palestinians is worse than apartheid.

In spite of the disheartening Bishops’ vote, I can still give thanks to God for the prophetic voice that was clearly heard from another sister church. The United Church of Christ General Synod was meeting about the same time as the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Thankfully, the UCC Synod by an overwhelming majority voted for boycott and divestment. And last year, the Presbyterian Church and the Quakers took a similar decision. The United Methodist Church has taken an important step in the same direction; and I believe that we will see other denominations following suit.

Indeed, God continues to speak and many faithful people hear God’s call and respond to it. We are certain that the prophetic responsibility will never die and there will always be people who, in faithfulness to God and in love of neighbor will strive “…to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.” People who have a sense of justice know that the movement of history is toward justice in the world. The words of Martin Luther King are pertinent in this regard, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” a lesson our Episcopal bishops need to learn.

The General Convention has also given us a new sign of hope. Indeed, the election of Bishop Michael Curry as the next Presiding Bishop is a sign of hope. We are hoping that his African American background gives him a sense for justice because of the injustices he has been forced to endure. We pray that through his leadership the sun of righteousness and justice will shine again on our Episcopal Church and the prophetic voice will again resound and our church will resurrect the prophetic and will once again, courageously, speak truth to power and the God of love, justice and peace will be glorified.

Naim Ateek
President of the Sabeel Board
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre

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Only a Jew of Uri Avnery’s credentials could get away with comparing the US Congress to the German Reichstag under the Nazis! Perhaps he’s being tongue-in-cheek? Even so, the comparison is chilling.

In truth, if you watch the video of Netanyahu’s speech with the sound muted and just follow the interaction between audience and speaker it is quite scary! As Avnery points out, politicians in Israel’s Knesset would never fawn over their Prime Minister the way US members of Congress do! Of course this makes the speech in Congress all the more valuable for Netanyahu’s target audience – the voters back home. Even so, the tens of thousands of Israelis who subsequently rallied in opposition to Netanyahu and his anti-Palestinian militancy suggests that the strategy didn’t work.

One thing that hadn’t occurred to me until I read Avnery’s commentary was that the vacuous nature of Netanyahu’s speech may have been due to drastic last-minute revisions in the prepared text! Perhaps he realised that the leaked Mossad cable – revealing Israel’s official intelligence assessment that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon – could not be ignored? It is hard to work up a head of steam in fear-mongering when everybody knows that what you’re saying has been flatly contradicted by your own intelligence community!

I hope and pray that these are Netanyahu’s final days and that someone with a heart for peace will take the helm in Israel soon, before it is all too late!

Father Dave

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

The Speech
by Uri Avnery

SUDDENLY IT reminded me of something.

I was watching The Speech by Binyamin Netanyahu before the Congress of the United States. Row upon row of men in suits (and the occasional woman), jumping up and down, up and down, applauding wildly, shouting approval.

It was the shouting that did it. Where had I heard that before?

And then it came back to me. It was another parliament in the mid-1930s. The Leader was speaking. Rows upon rows of Reichstag members were listening raptly. Every few minutes they jumped up and shouted their approval.

Of course, the Congress of the United States of America is no Reichstag. Members wear dark suits, not brown shirts. They do not shout “Heil” but something unintelligible. Yet the sound of the shouting had the same effect. Rather shocking.

But then I returned to the present. The sight was not frightening, but ridiculous. Here were the members of the most powerful parliament in the world behaving like a bunch of nincompoops.

Nothing like this could have happened in the Knesset. I do not have a very high opinion of our parliament, despite having been a member, but compared to this assembly, the Knesset is the fulfillment of Plato’s dream.

ABBA EBAN once compared a speech by Menachem Begin to a French souffle cake: a lot of air and very little dough.

The same could be said about The Speech.

What did it contain? The Holocaust, of course, with that moral impostor, Elie Wiesel, sitting in the gallery right next to the beaming Sarah’le, who visibly relished her husband’s triumph. (A few days before, she had shouted at the wife of a mayor in Israel: “Your man does not reach the ankles of my man!”)

The Speech mentioned the Book of Esther, about the salvation of the Persian Jews from the evil Persian minister Haman, who intended to wipe them out. No one knows how this dubious composition came to be included in the Bible. God is not mentioned in it, it has nothing to do with the Holy Land, and Esther herself is more of a prostitute than a heroine. The book ends with the mass murder committed by the Jews against the Persians.

The Speech, like all speeches by Netanyahu, contained much about the suffering of the Jews throughout the ages, and the intentions of the evil Iranians, the New Nazis, to annihilate us. But this will not happen, because this time we have Binyamin Netanyahu to protect us. And the US Republicans, of course.

It was a good speech. One cannot make a bad speech when hundreds of admirers hang on every word and applaud every second. But it will not make an anthology of the world’s Greatest Speeches.

Netanyahu considers himself a second Churchill. And indeed, Churchill was the only foreign leader before Netanyahu to speak to both houses of Congress a third time. But Churchill came to cement his alliance with the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who played a big part in the British war effort, while Netanyahu has come to spit in the face of the present president.

WHAT DID the speech not contain?

Not a word about Palestine and the Palestinians. Not a word about peace, the two-state solution, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem. Not a word about apartheid, the occupation, the settlements. Not a word about Israel’s own nuclear capabilities.

Not a word, of course, about the idea of a nuclear-weapon–free region, with mutual inspection.

Indeed, there was no concrete proposal at all. After denouncing the bad deal in the making, and hinting that Barack Obama and John Kerry are dupes and idiots, he offered no alternative.

Why? I assume that the original text of The Speech contained a lot. Devastating new sanctions against Iran. A demand for the total demolition of all Iranian nuclear installations. And in the inevitable end: a US-Israeli military attack.

All this was left out. He was warned by the Obama people in no uncertain terms that disclosure of details of the negotiations would be considered as a betrayal of confidence. He was warned by his Republican hosts that the American public was in no mood to hear about yet another war.

What was left? A dreary recounting of the well-known facts about the negotiations. It was the only tedious part of the speech. For minutes no one jumped up, nobody shouted approval. Elie Wiesel was shown sleeping. The most important person in the hall, Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Congress republicans and of Netanyahu, was not shown at all. But he was there, keeping close watch on his servants.

BY THE way, whatever happened to Netanyahu’s war?

Remember when the Israel Defense Forces were about to bomb Iran to smithereens? When the US military might was about to “take out” all Iranian nuclear installations?

Readers of this column might also remember that years ago I assured them that there would be no war. No ifs, no buts. No half-open back door for a retreat. I asserted that there would be no war, period.

Much later, all Israeli former military and intelligence chiefs spoke out against the war. The army Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, who finished his term this week, has disclosed that no draft operation order for attacking Iran’s nuclear capabilities was ever drawn up.

Why? Because such an operation could lead to a world-wide catastrophe. Iran would immediately close the Strait of Hormuz, just a few dozen miles wide, through which some 35% of the world’s sea-borne oil must pass. It would mean an immediate world-wide economic breakdown.

To open the Strait and keep it open, a large part of Iran would have to be occupied in a land war, boots on the ground. Even Republicans shiver at the thought.

Israeli military capabilities fall far short of such an adventure. And, of course, Israel cannot dream of starting a war without express American consent.

That is reality. Not speechifying. Even American senators are capable of seeing the difference.

THE CENTERPIECE of The Speech was the demonization of Iran. Iran is evil incarnate. It leaders are subhuman monsters. All over the world, Iranian terrorists are at work planning monstrous outrages. They are building intercontinental ballistic missiles to destroy the US. Immediately after obtaining nuclear warheads – now or in ten years – they will annihilate Israel.

In reality, Israel’s second-strike capability, based on the submarines supplied by Germany, would annihilate Iran within minutes. One of the most ancient civilizations in world history would come to an abrupt end. The ayatollahs would have to been clinically insane to do such a thing.

Netanyahu pretends to believe they are. Yet for years now, Israel has been conducting an amiable arbitration with the Iranian government about the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline across Israel built by an Iranian-Israeli consortium. Before the Islamic revolution, Iran was Israel’s stoutest ally in the region. Well after the revolution, Israel supplied Iran with arms in order to fight against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (the famous Irangate affair). And if one goes back to Esther and her sexual effort to save the Jews, why not mention Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Judean captives to return to Jerusalem?

Judging by its behavior, the present Iranian leadership has lost some of its initial religious fervor. It is behaving (not always speaking) in a very rational way, conducting tough negotiations as one would expect from Persians, aware of their immense cultural heritage, even more ancient than Judaism. Netanyahu is right in saying that one should not trust them with closed eyes, but his demonization is ridiculous.

Within the wider context, Israel and Iran are already indirect allies. For both, the Islamic State (ISIS) is the mortal enemy. To my mind, ISIS is far more dangerous to Israel, in the long run, than Iran. I imagine that for Tehran, ISIS is a far more dangerous enemy than Israel.

(The only memorable sentence in The Speech was “the enemy of my enemy is my enemy”.)

If the worst comes to the worst, Iran will have its bomb in the end. So what?

I may be an arrogant Israeli, but I refuse to be afraid. I live a mile from the Israeli army high command in the center of Tel Aviv, and in a nuclear exchange I would evaporate. Yet I feel quite safe.

The United States has been exposed for decades (and still is) to thousands of Russian nuclear bombs, which could eradicate millions within minutes. They feel safe under the umbrella of the “balance of terror”. Between us and Iran, in the worst situation, the same balance would come into effect.

WHAT IS Netanyahu’s alternative to Obama’s policy? As Obama was quick to point out, he offered none.

The best possible deal will be struck. The danger will be postponed for ten years or more. And, as Chaim Weizmann once said: “The future will come and take care of the future.”

Within these ten years, many things will happen. Regimes will change, enmities will turn into alliances and vice versa. Anything is possible.

Even – God and the Israeli voters willing – peace between Israel and Palestine, which would take the sting out of Israeli-Muslim relations.

For more wisdom from Uri Avnery visit the Gush-Shalom website.

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The unbelievable has happened! The Prime Minister of Israel is on his way to the US to deliver a speech to Congress, and scores of Congressmen and Congresswomen are announcing that they have better things to do than attend the speech! 

The vice-President led the boycott, followed by Earl Blumenauer of Oregan, and after that the flood-gates started to open! Admittedly, all the boycotters are Democrats, and their public statements suggest that it’s their loyalty to the President and opposition to the political manoeuvrings of the House Speaker that are motivating them to join the boycott. Even so, such a move would have been unthinkable a few years ago! 

Who can forget Netanyahu’s address to Congress where he received 29 standing ovations – more than any US President has ever received. That was in 2011 – only four years ago! Have things really changed that much in four years? In truth, things have changed drastically in the last few years, and it’s not that Congress has wised up. It’s the American people who have wised up, and Congress can’t remain oblivious to the voice of the people forever!

In 2012 Norman Finkelstein published “Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End”. In it he pointed to enormous shifts in public opinion amongst American Jews who were showing ever-increasing disinterest in the foreign state that claimed their allegiance. Surely the best example of this was the influence the Israeli Prime Minister had on the voting patterns of American Jews in 2012 when he voiced unequivocal support for Obama’s Republican rival. Netanyahu’s interventions apparently made no difference whatsoever!

And what’s true for American Jews is a reflection of the changing tide across the rest of the country. There are exceptions, of course. The Christian right seems to be clinging on as the last bastion of American Zionism. Conversely though, according to the survey referred to in the article below, only 16% of African Americans think their representative should attend the Israeli Prime Minister’s address!

Of course there’s a massive gap between boycotting a talk and seeing the end of the Palestinian Occupation. Even so, it’s a step in the right direction, and we all know that Israel can only ignore world opinion about its treatment of the Palestinian people so long as it has the world’s great super-power unequivocally behind it. But that unequivocal support is equivocating!

Father Dave

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu

www.alternet.org…

The 24 Democrats Who Have Refused to Attend Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress

Their constituents agree.

By Zaid Jilani

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) decided to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a Joint Session of Congress on Iran in early March, he probably thought it’d go a lot like it did in 2011. That year, Netanyahu received 29 standing ovations – more than President Obama got during his State of the Union that year.

But Obama turned the tables on Netanyahu, refusing to meet with him just two weeks before the Israeli elections. He also announced that his vice president, Joe Biden, would not attend the address.

Shortly after Obama’s objection, Democratic Members of Congress started to announce that they wouldn’t attend the speech, either. The first was Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who wrote in a January 29th Huffington Post column that he will “not participate in a calculated slight from the speaker and the House leadership to attack necessary diplomacy.”

Following Blumenauer’s dissent, a steady string of Democratic Caucus members, mostly in the House but in the Senate as well began to announce that they would not attend the speech. Buoyed by poll numbers showing that many of their constituents agree – a plurality of Americans believe Netanyahu’s speech to be “inappropriate” and only 16 percent of African Americans in particular want to see their Member of Congress attend – more and more members are announcing their refusals to attend nearly every day.

To see the list of 21 House Democrats and three Senate Democratic Caucus members who are so far refusing to attend the speech, see Alternet

 

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