October 2012 Archives

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This story provides a lovely balance to the usual news of tragedy, racism and violence that (sadly) dominates this blog.

The positive light it sheds on San Francisco also provides an encouraging balance to the depressing news that came through earlier this month – that California has made criticism of the government of Israel illegal, at least in its Universities!

No wonder San Francisco is my favourite place on the US West Coast!

Father Dave

San Francisco cable car

From here to Palestine

by Zahir Janmohamed

Oct. 16, 2012

source: www.sfbg.com…

Of the many things I adore about San Francisco, one of them is that the word “Palestine” is not treated like Voldermort’s name, the one that dare not be uttered. You can say you are Palestinian here and no one will freak out. San Franciscans, most of them at least, will not tell you — as Newt Gringrich did — that your culture is invented, or that your identity (or your struggle) is not a valued part of the tapestry of this city.

I am not used to this. I spent the past nine years living in Washington DC, where I became accustomed to meeting Arab shop owners who dodged questions about their country of origin. Some feared a backlash from customers. Others worried about government harassment and eavesdropping. One Yemeni shopkeeper near the Pentagon even went as far as creating to-go boxes with Americans flags imprinted on them, the words “we are proud of you” under each flag. Unfortunately, it’s like this now in many cities in the US, where to be Arab, Iranian or South Asian is to abdicate your ethnic identity, to pretend it’s just not there.

That’s not exactly true in San Francisco. This city isn’t perfect and it has its own ugly past and current struggles with racial integration — but San Francisco at least tries to inculcate its motto on all who are lucky enough to live here: just be who you are. You can fly a Palestinian flag outside your business and chances are you may even attract more customers because of it. And if you show up to work wearing a red, white and blue covered hijab or turban in the city, people may very well laugh at you.

Last week I walked through the Mission district interviewing Palestinian American business owners. On Mission Street, I saw my friend Ashraf sitting on a bar stool at the café he opened two years ago. The San Francisco born Palestinian-American, whose parents were born outside of Jerusalem, wore an SF Giants baseball cap and adjusted it often during our meeting, revealing a full head of hair already graying at the age of 34.

Ashraf remembers car trips with his parents to the Samiramis Grocery just down Mission Street. Samir Khoury, a Palestinian Christian from Ramallah who came to San Francisco in 1953, opened the iconic grocery store in 1972. For the longest time it was the only place where Ashraf’s family could buy zaatar or rent Egyptian movies. It always had everything we had back home, Ashraf says.

Ashraf points out that within a small radius of his cafe, there are a now number of Palestinian owned businesses, including Philz Coffee and Bi-Rite Creamery.

“But no one really knows these are Palestinian owned businesses,” Ashraf says. “And even if they found out, no one would really care.”

I tell Ashraf about a sandwich shop I used to visit in Washington DC where the owner insisted on telling everyone that he was Jordanian. One day the owner pulled me aside and confessed he was really Palestinian from Bethlehem but told people he was Jordanian because he thought it “sounded better.”

When Ashraf hears this he laughs. “It’s not like that here,” he says. “In San Francisco you don’t have to play that act.”

Zahir Janmohamed is a San Francisco writer and former Congressional aide

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Free Gaza Flotilla 2008

The arrival of the first free-Gaza flotilla in 2008

This news just in from Gush-Shalom:

Israeli peace activist Yonatan Shapira, who had been a combat pilot in the Israeli Air Force and refused to take part in the bombing of Palestinian cities, has arrived on board the Swedish boat “Estelle” which is making her way towards the coast of Gaza. When the Estelle passed near the shores of Greece, Shapira and other activists made their way in a motor boat, evading vessels of the Greek Coast Guard which sought to bar their way. “Along with the Greek Coast Guard  we saw a ship which seemed very much like an Israeli Navy vessel, though it did not fly a flag” said Shapira. He was received with cheers by activists already on board. Shapira had taken part in a similar sailing last year, being taken off by Israeli Navy Commandos near the Gaza shore and spending time in police detention, but not charged with any criminal offence.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor has sent a letter calling on the United Nations to stop the Estelle from reaching her destination. To this activists on board respond: “If this means that Israel has decided to cede control over Palestinian territorial waters to the UN, this would actually be a step forward.

The UN and many other representatives of the International Community have for years characterized the siege of the Gaza strip as inhuman and incompatible with International Law.

Ship to Gaza Sweden assumes that that UN will not take over the implementation of this policy, by itself preventing a peaceful vessel from delivering humanitarian supplies.

Ship to Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla have never opposed lawful inspections of cargo and vessel by representatives of the UN, as well as  by national authorities in the ports and waters we have passed through. We welcome further inspections of this kind by the UN, once we have anchored at Gaza City. What we refuse to accept is something which also the UN and the majority of The International Community oppose: The illegal siege of the Gaza Strip, with its devastating humanitarian results.

The Estelle has now set course to Gaza and, weather permitting, is due to get there on Saturday.

Adam Keller, Spokesperson of Gush Shalom, who is in ongoing contact with the Estelle activists, says that Israel’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister still have some forty-eight hours’ grace to make a wise and courageous decision, avoid another show of Israeli brute force in international waters and let the Estelle dock at the Port of Gaza – while implementing a thorough UN inspection of her cargo, to which the activists  specifically consent.

Satellite phone to Estelle: +870773234011

Ship to Gaza-Sverige

www.shiptogaza.se

Spokespersons:

Dror Feiler: +46 702855777

Mattias Gardell: +46 703036666

Ann Ighe: +46 709740739

Victoria Strand + 46 727356564

Media coordinator:

Mikael Löfgren: +46 707983643

media@shiptogaza.se…

Gush Shalom Spokesperson

Adam Keller , +972 542340749

info@gush-shalom.org…

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Father Roy writes:   The highlights in this article are mine.  Excitement is in the air.  Al-Quds means “Jerusalem” in Arabic.  Chuck Carlson writes:  ” Pastor Lon …. knew we were not picketing the church, but challenging what he teaches.  He wanted his flock to think we were there to attack them, not to correct his own errors of scripture.”   Peace, Roy

Charles Carlson
Charles Carlson

source: charlesecarlson.com…

Al Quds Day, and a Demonstration for Peace at Mclean Bible Church

Charles E. Carlson

My story begins with my speech at a Rally for Peace in Jerusalem on August 25, organized by Muslim friends and held at Sheridan Circle, Washington DC, a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building.  It ends 48 hours later, in front of a war-making church that is actively engaged in blocking the path to peace.

Al-Quds means “Jerusalem” in Arabic.  Peace-seeking speakers from Christian, secular, and pro-peace Jewish groups added their voices to the Muslims, first in Jerusalem, and then world-wide.  The rally began not far from the Capitol Building, where war upon Iran is being planned by war-making lobbies and a willing Congress, and ended with a dinner in St Stephens Church.   I was moved by the hospitality of our Muslim hosts.

In my talk, I concentrated on the warring impact of evangelical church teaching that the state of Israel is the fulfillment of Biblical prophesy, and that to them Israel can therefore do no wrong and all the land of the Philistines, including Al-Quds, belongs to Israel.  I explained that one such evangelical church, McLean Bible Church, was only a few miles away, and is one of about 3000 mega-churches that may be the single biggest obstacle in the U.S. to freedom for the Philistines.

How can it be that a Christian church is a greater stumbling block to peace than the Israeli occupiers and the Congress that finances them? America is a war-based economy and certain identifiable evangelical churches have elevated Israel to Jesus level support the political forces who bring war upon us.  Rally attendees of all ages let me know they understood.

Christian Zionism, as I define it, is the last grass roots stronghold of the institutionalized war machine in the U.S.  Polls now show clearly that more than half of all Americans trust neither their elected Congress, nor the media that filters and distributes the news and the political ads.  Fox News, USA Today, and MSNBC are rated at the bottom for believability. Other polls show the trust rating for Congress is even lower than the media. *1. (Pew Poll)

I ask, who are the 49% of Americans who still trust the media?  If 75% of the public did not believe Congress or the media, the war-based economy would be cooked…no politician or TV station could withstand such exposure. The answer is that Americans who are brainwashed weekly in Christian Zionist churches are a large part of the 49% who still go along with the war makers.

We must realize that these churches are a part of the media, and that about one third of all churchgoers in America are taught that political Israel has a right to occupy the land of the Philistines, and that killing, maiming, and destroying for Israel’s interests is just.

The vast majority of the 40 to 70 million Americans who identify with churches like McLean Bible Church accept the notion that America’s internal problems can be solved by political regime change, so long as the new regime supports Israel’s interests.  This is what “Christian” TV networks and two or three national bible study groups preach.  The luckless Philistines are simply in the way of Christian Zionists’ support for Zionism, which often trump the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Thirty-six hours after addressing the Muslim crowd in Sheridan Circle, I joined Francis, a former member of McLean Bible Church, for a vigil outside that most successful Christian Zionist church in the DC area, led by Lon Solomon, who writes in his audio biography, what is “a nice Jewish boy like me” doing making his living in this “business.”  Some will find it odd that a self-professed, proclaiming Jew runs a huge “Christian” church. It is not unusual.

Indeed, Mclean Bible Church is ostensibly a very good “business,” occupying a group of massive structures that includes a two-story concrete parking garage that will hold about 3500 cars at one time.  Located next to a busy freeway in Vienna, Virginia. A one mile long, four-lane private highway encompasses the church. A private forest shields the entire front of the complex from the highway so that only two corners of the complex can be glimpsed through the trees.  McLean Bible Church reeks of power and money.  It has two entrances off the freeway, where on-duty local policemen spend their morning and early afternoon directing traffic in and out at taxpayers’ expense.

I stood at one entrance supporting a visual display that read WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB in the face of every auto that came in or went out past my post.  Francis stood at the other entrance, a quarter mile north of me, with a similar message.  Each of us held up a second symbolic display depicting a crucifixion with “PALESTINE” AND “IRAN” on the crossbars of bloody crosses.

I would guess a minimum of 10,000 to 15,000 attendees and thousands of passersby read our messages.  The only way an attendee could fail to see our message was to stiffen his neck and force himself to look away, but for most it was too late.  Children and youth stared as they passed.  Most mothers tried to appear indifferent, perhaps sensing that Pastor Solomon would not approve if they read the signs.  Some offered an encouraging honk or wave; a few marred the day with an obscene gesture; fewer still slowed down to exchange words…”don’t you know there never was a state of Palestine”, one challenged.

Two young men came out and reported how Pastor Lon explained our presence to the congregation: “We are being picketed…they are against Israel.” Pastor Lon may be a “nice Jewish boy” as he claims, but on August 19th he played his media card, creating his own version of the truth, just as MSNBC and Fox news do.  He knew we were not “picketing” the church, but challenging what he teaches. He wanted his flock to think we were there to attack them, not to correct his own errors of scripture.

We know Pastor Lon knew our purpose, because we sent him and most members of his large staff a two-page letter that told them exactly what we would do and why we were doing it. *2.

One of those few who came out made my day. He is a former Air Force veteran, and he showed me the spot on his substantial forearm where he said he would soon have the words from our message tattooed: “WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB.”  He said something like this: I want this on a tattoo because it is the essence of the conflict between war and Christianity.  He is one who was not afraid to face the truth….that the McLean Bible Church is part of the war-making problem.

Wrapping it up:

An Imam who spoke at the park is right, America is part of the Philistines’ problem.  Fortunately, an ever increasing percentage of all our people, are willing to say our media cannot be trusted.  America’s evangelical Christian Zionist churches are part of this media, and their false doctrine is the largest obstacle to correcting the course of our war-based economy to one that seeks justice and peace for all men.

Who would Jesus Bomb?  Maybe I am just the right age for my first Tattoo!

Charles E. (Chuck) Carlson is a pro-peace activist who, with others, organized We Hold These Truths in 1996, and phased out his business interests soon thereafter.

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Father Roy writes:   The article pasted below is dated 19 October, but the highlighted information in the concluding paragraph is the only real news.  And it hardly was mentioned:  “The Protestant organizations were disappointed at the decision by the Jewish groups and hope for further discussion on the matter.”  Jewish Groups are wise in the ways of publicity.  Not to worry.  Abraham Foxman has been nominated to receive the first “Silly Clown Award” in Cyberspace.   Peace, Roy  

A number of Jewish organizations pulled out of an interfaith meeting with Protestants on Wednesday after church leaders questioned why the United States was providing military aid to Israel in its conflict with Palestine.

The American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Conservative and Reform Jewish have all said they will not be attending the annual Christian-Jewish Roundtable, which was planned to take place in New York on Monday, The Associated Press reported.

The Jewish groups explained that their decision was based on several mainline Protestant leaders asking Congress to re-evaluate the military aid it sends to Israel and accusing the Jewish state of human right abuses.

The Protestant leaders in question include Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Gradye Parsons, a top executive of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Rosemarie Wenner, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops; and Peg Birk, leader of the National Council of Churches.

In the letter, the leaders directly state they find both Israelis and Palestinians responsible for the tension currently gripping the region, and the U.S. should not support one side over the other with military aid. “We have also witnessed widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinians,” the letter reveals.

The letter also positions that U.S. military aid sustains the conflict and undermines “the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians.” The Protestant leaders have urged Congress to investigate whether Israel has violated the human rights standards set by the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act.

The Jewish groups have strongly denied that such human right abuses are taking place, with Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, saying that the accusations are “repugnant, regrettable and morally misguided,” and get in the way of the partnership they had built with the Protestants over the eight years that the Roundtable conference has been taking place.

The Anti-Defamation League had particularly strong words to say about the letter, with Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, stating: “The blatant lack of sensitivity by the Protestant dialogue partners we had been planning to meet with has seriously damaged the foundation for mutual respect, which is essential for meaningful interfaith dialogue.”

He continued: “It is outrageous that mere days after the Iranian president repeated his call for Israel’s elimination, these American Protestant leaders would launch a biased attack against the Jewish state by calling on Congress to investigate Israel’s use of foreign aid. In its clear bias against Israel, it is striking that their letter fails to also call for an investigation of Palestinian use of U.S. foreign aid, thus once again placing the blame entirely on Israel.”

The U.S. Episcopal Church, which is also a part of the Roundtable, did not endorse the letter sent to Congress.

Tony Kireopoulos, an interfaith leader for the New York-based National Council of Churches, has said that efforts will continue to re-start the Christian-Jewish Roundtable, noting that the Protestant organizations were disappointed at the decision by the Jewish groups and hope for further discussion on the matter.
Read more at www.christianpost.com…

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Surely Noam Chomsky is one of the greatest minds of this generation, and has a heart as great as his mind!

I appreciate that Chomsky’s role as an advocate for Palestinian rights is often held up to scrutiny because of his refusal to support the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) campaign against the Israeli government. Even so, his commitment to justice and freedom for the Palestinian people is surely beyond question.

Father Dave

Noam Chomsky

Chomsky Tells Israel from Gaza: “End the Blockade”

October 19, 2012

source: www.com…

In his first visit to Gaza, American linguistic scholar Noam Chomsky on Thursday called on Israel to end a six-year blockade of the occupied territory.

During his first visit to Gaza, American linguist and Jewish-American scholar Noam Chomsky, 84, reportedly called on Israel to end a blockade of the occupied territory. Chomsky, 84, is a frequent critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and American foreign policy.

He is scheduled to deliver a speech on the Arab Spring and the future of foreign policy in the region at Gaza’s Islamic University on Saturday, reports Agence France-Presse.

“The Palestinian people have a right to live peacefully and in freedom,” Chomsky said, according to Jamal Khudari, a member of Gaza’s legislative council and head of the Islamic University administrative staff.

“Our trip to Gaza was very difficult,” Chomsky said in remarks broadcast on Palestinian television, “but we arrived here and I saw several things which I hoped before to see.”

Chomsky is a professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 2010, he was barred from entering Israel when he tried to enter Gaza through Jordan to lecture at a Palestinian University, Haaretz reported.

On this trip, Chomsky is traveling with an academic delegation and coordinated his entry through Egypt.