Saturday 25 December 2010

Christmas Around The World

Just click on the photo itself to advance the slides...

Martin Luther King, Jr's Last Christmas Sermon - 1967

I wish Barack Obama would take a page from MLK, Jr. in regards to Afghanistan and some of the other wars America still keeps propping up.  Here's but one excerpt:

"It's one of the strangest things that all the great military geniuses of the world have talked about peace. The conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, were akin in seeking a peaceful world order. If you will read Mein Kampf closely enough, you will discover that Hitler contended that everything he did in Germany was for peace. And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace. 

What is the problem? They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. All of this is saying that, in the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.

Now let me say that the next thing we must be concerned about if we are to have peace on earth and good will toward men is the nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. Every man is somebody because he is a child of God. And so when we say "Thou shalt not kill," we're really saying that human life is too sacred to be taken on the battlefields of the world. Man is more than a tiny vagary of whirling electrons or a wisp of smoke from a limitless smoldering. Man is a child of God, made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such. Until men see this everywhere, until nations see this everywhere, we will be fighting wars. 

One day somebody should remind us that, even though there may be political and ideological differences between us, the Vietnamese are our brothers, the Russians are our brothers, the Chinese are our brothers; and one day we've got to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. But in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile. In Christ there is neither male nor female. In Christ there is neither Communist nor capitalist. In Christ, somehow, there is neither bound nor free. We are all one in Christ Jesus. And when we truly believe in the sacredness of human personality, we won't exploit people, we won't trample over people with the iron feet of oppression, we won't kill anybody."

One can read the whole sermon here: "I Have a Dream - Revisited at Christmas"  

Thursday 23 December 2010

Christmas in Bethlehem - 2010

I hope sharing this story far and wide will help the people understand that most Palestinians are not "terrorists," that a substantial portion of the Arab population there are Christians, and that in any case there are many good examples locally where - in spite of all the oppression the population has to sustain - mutual respect and inter-faith relationships are valued and flourish!  Witness the following as a good sample of what most tourists to Israel from other parts of the world rarely get to see or experience -- a great story to enrich one's own understanding especially THIS Christmas season!   -Clair

Bethlehem, Tuesday 20/12/2010

This scene is the Arab Educational Institute holding a Nativity scene in front of the Separation Wall and the military watchtower near Rachel’s Tomb in northern Bethlehem, Palestine. To the left is the shepherd and a donkey. On the watchtower is written: “Once a Teacher of Human Rights was born.” During the occasion, the girl standing in the grotto sang “Silent Night, Holy Night”, while the women’s choir of the Arab Educational Institute performed Christmas and national songs.

Prayers for peace were pronounced that had been coming in through a Christmas appeal to send wishes and prayers to Bethlehem - an initiative of Pax Christi, the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum of the World Council of Churches, Church and Peace, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Presidency of the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions, the Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples, and the Commission for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation USG/UISG Secretariat.

The celebration was attended by some 150 civilians, including the mayor of Bethlehem, delegates of the Palestinian Ministry of Education in Ramallah and Bethlehem, dozens of Palestinian teachers and representatives of churches and mosques also from the Bethlehem and Ramallah areas. There were further a visiting group of IKV Pax Christi (a peace movement from the Netherlands), and human rights observers of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program for Peace in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

The scene preceded an occasion of the Arab Educational Institute in which Human Rights Day (Jesus as human rights activist), Teacher’s Day (Jesus as teacher), and Christmas were jointly celebrated with speeches of dignitaries, readings from the Bible and Koran, and Moslem and Christian poetry.

For more information go to:

Two Wonderful Christmas Carols From Down Under the Southern Cross

Carol our Christmas,
an upside down Christmas;
snow is not falling and
trees are not bare.
Carol the summer, and
welcome the Christ Child,
warm in our sunshine and
sweetness of air.

Sing of the gold and the
green and the sparkle,
water and river and
lure of the beach.
Sing in the happiness
of open spaces,
sing a nativity
summer can reach!

Shepherds and musterers
move over hillsides,
finding, not angels,
but sheep to be shorn;
wise ones make journeys
whatever the season,
searching for signs of the
truth to be born.

Right side up Christmas
belongs to the universe,
made in the moment
a woman gives birth;
hope is the Jesus gift,
love is the offering,
everywhere, anywhere,
here on the earth.

Authored by Shirley Erena Murray, New Zealand

Now the star of Christmas
shines into our day,
points a new direction:
change is on the way -
there's another landscape
to be travelled through,
there's a new-born spirit
broadening our view.

When the Christ of Christmas
speaks to heart and mind,
clears the clouded vision
hurting humankind,
kindred spirits gather,
drawn toward the light,
sharing revelation,
joyful at the sight.

If we choose to follow,
we may yet be wise.
Where the three kings travel,
three great faiths arise:
Jesus Christ for Christians,
Jesus, Judah's son,
Prophet for the Muslim,
wisdom in each one.

Where the star enlightens,
light is shared around.
God as drawn no borders,
faith sees common ground:
Peace the hopeful journey,
justice without bar,
God's illumination
from a Christmas star.

-S.E. Murray, New Zealand

Friday 17 December 2010

Christmas Greetings from Clair and Carole Anne, from around the world (Mennonite Mission Network) and my alma mater (Eastern Mennonite University)

Click on THIS for our 2010 Christmas Greeting for family and friends scattered around the world  It includes a Silent Night theme (animation by Jacquie Lawson) and a poignant piece by Australian poet/writer Noel Davis which I embedded at the end.  And don't forget to click on the interesting part explaining "more about the music!"  Enjoy!

And now for a nice world-wide Christmas "collage" from Mennonite Mission Network:

As the finale' on this blog's "concert" today, here's a link to a beautiful choral piece embedded in a Christmas greeting and "light show" from Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, where I studied for my undergraduate degree and graduated in 1975.  -Clair

Thursday 25 November 2010

A matter for prayer and discernment - about a very special thing going in Nigeria - and NO this is NOT a scam!

Friends around the world:

I'm sharing this in response to receiving a deep heartfelt plea (see below) for prayer and support from a good friend - Titus Oyeyemi.  He is Nigerian with a Pentecostal background and a Master of Arts in Peace Studies from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary - and now completing his doctorate degree while working constantly to build the peace with one foot in Chicago and the other in Africa.  That's what good friends do - we respond!  Titus Oyeyemi, in this and subsequent communication, outlined some important ongoing commitments he feels immense responsibility to fulfill in order to sustain the core mission and various programs of AFPLI or African Foundation for Peace and Love Initiatives. (hyperlinks in this column are in red)

However, Titus is not frantic - thought most of us dealing with similar circumstances and level of responsibility would have good reason to feel that!  Titus models something important for us all:  Though very strapped he remains hope-full, very thankful for what God is obviously doing through him and his colleagues - above and beyond his own capability and fortitude. It's without a doubt, the patient fruit of the Spirit - the "peace which passes understanding" - which sustains him and his family.

Beyond needing to meet his various significant commitments to staff and their financial support, there are real implications for successfully provisioning the supplies and outfitting the TimeOn Kairos Peace Academy* in the Lagos area in order to meet govt inspection deadlines in December - and to secure that State government's commitment in the equation.  My initial response was:  

"Titus, this is deeply spiritual as well as financially hard work.  As my father always liked to say (quoting Hudson Taylor) "God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack God’s supply."

We are feeling the need and responsibility to reach out to others who might share the passion to expand Nigeria's capacity for peace-building and conflict resolution education - to address real needs of Nigerian young people - to help create a more positive future for them and counter the increasing violence and social/spiritual pressures that tend to flourish there. 

The challenges for the average person are simply overwhelming.  Nigeria has the largest population and probably some of the deepest problems of any country on that continent, especially in the Niger Delta region which is in the news quite often.  Incredible issues related to big oil, pollution and violence abound!  Ethno-religious conflicts are rife in many parts of that nation. Yes, these are literally life and death matters afoot in that land.

I hope this grabs your imagination and concern and you're willing to read on - or at least click on a link or two - but if not, at least breathe a prayer now for my friend Titus!

I'm trusting that someone reading this column today will have a flash of insight or a suggestion, maybe a person who comes to mind who might be included in our efforts to broaden out the support strategy for AFPLI - whether among other foundations, or among the Nigerian "diaspora" in the US and other parts of the world, or among other visionary Christian business persons, and the like.  (If so, please contact me by private email - or make a comment below which I won't publish.)

I share all this sitting in Australia on a day when my friends and family in America are Giving Thanks.  And I am indeed very thank-full for some of the amazing things God is doing in Nigeria the last number of years through the outreach and ministry Titus and his colleagues have developed - but often maintained "on a shoestring."  Titus does not take a salary for himself and his wife Feh has consistently over many years ploughed all her extra income as a registered nurse into the AFPLI budget, as well.

The thing is, AFPLI is already making a huge difference.  For just one example, among many, click on this next link for a good overview of this organizations effectiveness in establishing interfaith and school-based peace clubs - affecting the quality of life and the peacebuilding skills and perspectives of thousands of young people throughout the entire education system of Nigeria!  

And did you know...
·   Titus has started the process of getting recognition for AFPLI as an official NGO. Though it may take some time, the chances of being approved for such are quite good given the fact that the United Nations Information Center officials in Lagos (UNIC) have personally witnessed the work and participated at their events on many occasions within this past year.
·   AFPLI now has an informative website to communicate the scope, focus, and impact of the various programs.  
·   To help waylay the suspicion of others that this might be "just another scam from Nigeria" - a constant battle for Titus and his faith-full colleagues...
- Finance accounts are audited in the USA by Omotosho and Associates Certified Public Accountants, LLC, 1525 East 53rd Street, Suite 620, Hyde Park Bank Building, Chicago, Illinois 60615. Tel. (773) 752-0035; Fax (773) 752-0037 and statements available to any potential contributor who asks. 

- In Nigeria financial accounts are audited by Omogoroye Okin Popoola & Co. Chartered Accountants, 58 Kudirat Abiola Way, Oregun, Ikeja, P. O. Box 6252, Ikeja-Lagos

Here is another report providing some good background - a story the Mennonite Weekly Review published on 19 October 2009 written by Dan Shenk of Goshen, IN regarding Titus and his organization. 

I will close now with what Titus has sought to impress on me in his recent communications: 

"I am doing this not for prejudice or for pity but as I have mentioned before on several occasions, just to put you in the big picture of our financial dilemmas and how, by trusting God on daily basis or shall say moment by moment; he fulfils the 'Give us this day our daily bread' supplication."  

and -  

"God has always been providing and meeting my needs. I do not bring my 'wants' before God, only my needs. I am trusting that he will meet my needs." 

Always looking forward,
Clair Hochstetler
(Still currently the APPLI/AFPLI Advisory Board Chair)

* see this for the background re: the unique name for TimeOn Peace Academy

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Titus Oyeyemi

Hi, Chaplain Clair:

As per my previous email for sharing the big picture please find attached the payroll commitment for November 2010 due this week, or latest by November 29, 2010, according to labor law in Nigeria.

The schedule that I send you does not include or reflect project expenses ongoing nearly on daily basis; some of which I you may already know, or which I may forward to you later. Nor does the schedule include heavy school fees and scholarships granted to some of my staff and other students in higher institutions and secondary schools that we are committed to support the year round. That schedule does not also reflect overheads that are payable by law. My staff are suffering and sacrificing. Given their academic qualifications, and the quality and quantity of work they do on the field, they can easily earned tripple of what they receive at AFPLI. Many of them have second degrees or are finishing their second degrees, though with my financial assistance, because this is the only way I think I can pay them back for their sacrifices and at the same time encourage their personal development that will eventually develop the organization in the future. Either by quantity or quality, this payroll will triple next year.

And as you will see from the next forwarded emails, we have no funds in hand or in the bank to meet this commitment as I write you this email. Yet I am trusting God that he will make provisions for me to pay my staff and still make provisions for December salary and the accompanying Christmas bonuses (which in Nigeria is expected at 100% of payroll).

Thank you. Shalom. Peace. KAYERO!

Rev. Titus K. Oyeyemi (JP)
President/CEO Peace Worker
African Projects for Peace and Love Initiatives Inc. nfp
TimeOn Kairos Peace Academy
P. O. Box 633, Hazel Crest, IL 60429
Tel. (708) 647-9880; Fax (708) 647-9870

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Thanksgiving in the Summertime!

Yep - it's virtually summer here in the land of Oz now, school holidays are just around the corner, and no one even thinks about Thanksgiving - unless you are Americans like us!  But we do have a LOT to be thankful for this year - in spite of the fact that yesterday Carole Anne went to her favorite grocery store to check out turkey prices and - would you believe - a turkey BREAST (no, not the whole turkey) there was priced at $50 flippin' dollars (AUD) - which was about on par recently with USD but a bit less now.  Still in shock, she found the spot to buy a frozen one, for somewhat less.  However, today I found out where we could have bought a fresh one for somewhat less than that in Fyshwick (sigh). 

Obviously, turkeys are a specialised (yes, that's how it's spelled here) market in Australia.  But we're excited because we'll be together with American friends we invited over this Thursday evening to help celebrate.'s a nice little gift for y'all to enjoy - my annual Thanksgiving "card."   (In case you didn't see it already.)  It includes my all-time favorite tune which I play on my harmonica:  Simple Gifts. ‎ Just remember to click on "Next" at the bottom to read all THREE pages of background information about that special tune - at the end of the card's animated action, of course!  Now, click here - waiting long enough for it to "load." 


Monday 22 November 2010

"Best Mates?"

Posted today, at Crikey:

When Prime Minister Julia Gillard met President Barack Obama for the first time last week, Gillard reminded the world that the US and Australia were "great mates" and Obama in turn affirmed: "The United States does not have a closer or better ally than Australia."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went one step further during her recent visit, whispering in our ear "... that the United States has no better friend than Australia."

But it seems that best friends forever isn't a promise the Americans reserve for just one country ...

America has "no better friend" than Israel -- Vice-President Joe Biden, 2010

"As the Indian people celebrate Republic Day all across India, they should know that they have no better friend and partner than the people of the United States" -- President Obama, 2009.

“I decided to come first to Britain because we have no better friend. We have no better ally." -- Condoleezza Rice, 2005

"The United States has no better friend in the world than Japan. The United States has no more important alliance in the world than the US-Japan alliance." -- US Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer, 2008

"I love this country. We could not have a better friend and ally" -- President Obama speaking in Canada, 2009.

The Australia-US alliance is very important to Australia, and Australian prime ministers love being stroked and duchessed by US presidents. But as our fledgling PM will learn, when it comes to best friends, America is a bit of a tart! (end of quote)
One of the not-so-obvious spin-offs of this extraordinary "mateship" may come back to bite Australia hard.  What do you think about this "revelation" - also posted at Crikey - by Antony Loewenstein* titled Elite Oz soldiers in covert operations for top-secret Alliance Base.  Why am I not surprised?  However, some are:

[Note: For those not set up yet with their own (free) subscription to Crikey, I'm pasting, below, the text of the Loewenstein article.  But the thing is, you'll be missing the extensive set of links and back-up proof for the research he provides, so it really is worth getting your own subscription.]

Elite Australian soldiers are involved in covert operations for the Americans in the “war on terror”, co-ordinated through the top-secret, Paris-based centre Alliance Base. There has been no public discussion about these missions, but Crikey understands the soldiers are involved in targeting, interrogation and assassinations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Australians are recruited for the jobs, and nominally remain on the army’s books though they are not working for the Australian government while in the field. They don’t wear Australian uniforms but are trained and sometimes transported into war zones by American mercenary companies. Only men with SAS training or similar are eligible for the program and dozens not hundreds are reportedly involved.

Unspoken and unasked is the role of outsourced Australian soldiers in partly privatised missions for Washington.

During the Vietnam War, the Americans ran the Phoenix Program, covert assassination hit squads to kill supposed enemies. Tens of thousands were murdered. Recent WikiLeaks revelations detail similar activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Crikey understands Australia has been engaged in such behaviour in the past decade in the Middle East, leaving Canberra and its officials open to potential charges of war crimes and prosecution in an international criminal court. Several Australians engaged in the missions have concerns about the tasks, it’s understood, including the poor quality of intelligence provided to identity alleged insurgents to be captured for interrogation. For example, they are concerned that Afghans with a grudge are passing on suspect information to eradicate local enemies.

A 2004 article by Brian Toohey in The Australian Financial Review first raised the involvement of “Australian troops conducting clandestine operations in Iraq that go far beyond what has been revealed to the Australian public or the Labor opposition”. Toohey reported the CIA trained “Australian graduates” in “assassination techniques” but they “have not yet been asked to put it into practice, as far as can be ascertained”.

Crikey understands that this is no longer the case and that Australia has been involved in preparations for assassinations.

Toohey wrote that the covert teams work for very short periods of time, earn good money, take luxury breaks in Europe to unwind and remain based in a Gulf state. The program, initiated during the Howard years, has continued since the 2007 election of the Labor Party but it remains unclear which levels of government are briefed on the missions.

One source said that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) could be sometimes involved, as Howard government legislation allowed our foreign spy service to carry weapons, allegedly only in self-defence.

Crikey has spoken to several national security journalists in Australia and overseas and discovered that very few concrete details of the program are available.

The recent cover story in The Monthly by Sally Neighbour on the intelligence services in Australia barely mentioned the role of Australia’s overseas intelligence services. Although she documented the excessive secrecy (compared to the US) of intelligence and counter-terror operations, missions involving illegality — kidnapping, assassination, rendition, etc — weren’t touched on extensively.

Crikey asked the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Mark Thomson about these top-secret Australian jobs and he said he had never heard of them. If it was happening, he stated, it was a “bad idea” because he wondered which local and international laws covered the tasks. Furthermore, possible breaches of the Geneva Convention concerned him. “There would be serious questions over accountability,” Thomson stressed.

Alliance Base was first named publicly by Dana Priest in The Washington Post in 2005 and revealed the establishment in 2002 of a Western counter-terrorist intelligence centre (CTIC) in Paris. It is headed by a French general and largely funded by CIA’s counter-terrorist centre. It hosts and trains officers from France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Britain and the US and “analyses the transnational movement of terrorist suspects and develops operations to catch or spy on them”.

Alliance Base was chosen as a name because al-Qaeda means “the base” in Arabic.

Ben Saul, co-director at Sydney Centre for International Law at The University of Sydney, also hadn’t heard of Alliance Base but told Crikey that there were some serious legal questions over the missions. The actual role of the Australian government determines its responsibility before the law. For example, Saul told me, if the individual being targeted was part of a terrorist group and this intelligence was accurate, killing them could be justified.

However, the involvement of private companies in the tasks opens up further transparency questions. The mercenary company “must comply with the laws of armed conflict, international, humanitarian law and a process of post-facto investigation into any killings”.

Saul worried that Canberra was deliberately turning a blind eye to the more extreme actions of the US in war zones. “If Australia is a partner in the program, it ups the legal responsibility.”

The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill reported in late 2009 that private mercenary company Blackwater was working at “the centre of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives, ‘snatch and grabs’ of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan.”

Scahill’s source claimed that the program is so “compartmentalised” that senior figures within the Obama Administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

Crikey understands the situation could be similar in Australia with high levels of the Australian government and defence establishment willing to use private firms to undertake some of the most sensitive “counter-terrorism” tasks. Plausible deniability is the name of the game, leaving no direct Australian government-backed fingerprints on actions that international law deems illegal.

The relationship between governments and private military contractors is massively expanding under the Obama administration. According to the essential “War is Business” blog:

“At the start of the Iraq invasion, the US military spent twice as much on its own personnel as it did on procurement from private sources. Within a few years’ time, the military was spending three times as much on outside contractors as on its own men and women in uniform.”

Australia’s bid to ingratiate itself with Washington was on display during the recent visit of Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, with the South Australian government lobbying for more training facilities on its soil. The Gillard government pledged to open the country to even more US military hardware and opportunities and Gillard spoke of an open-ended commitment to Afghanistan.

Fairfax recently exposed Australian training of Afghan warlords here in Australia despite independent reporting that indicates a surging Taliban across the country, and it’s being reported today that Australian-owned security company Compass Integrated Security Solutions has been accused of abuses in Afghanistan — including theft and corruption — by the US Senate’s Committee on Armed Services.

*Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist, author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution and is working on a book about disaster capitalism.

Friday 19 November 2010

Brave and Outspoken - the great Helen Thomas reflects on her forced resignation

And it sounds like we'll be hearing more from her in the future!
The very last minute or so of the interview is quite interesting.

Rifat Kassis responds to Rabbi Warren Goldstein's public confrontation of Desmond Tutu re: the Cape Town Opera controversy & his appeal for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions)

Dear Friends, 

The concept of BDS is something in which everyone can engage at a personal level - even if not involved at the corporate or investments levels - but it gets controversial when you call for it publicly.  You have to be prepared for passionate people from the other side of the fence who might  wave the false flag of antisemitism in your face!  What follows might help.

Today I received a copy of a thoughtful and eloquently-written letter that communicates a powerful truth about "reality" in Palestine.  From my perspective, this letter also contains much wisdom about how to respond to someone else who says they also stand for truth, peace and justice - yet their  policies and actions belie their own words, demonstrating otherwise.    

This letter was sent out by New Profile - a Jewish-Israeli peace group, but was composed by Rifat Kassis, a Christian (Lutheran) Palestinian, from Beit Sahour (near Bethlehem), formerly World Council of Churches International Coordinator and Program Manager for the Ecumenical Accompaniers Program in Palestine-Israel, and recently the co-ordinator and chief spokesperson of the Palestinian Kairos document endorsed in December 2009 by the Jerusalem Heads of Churches.

I have met and talked with Mr. Kassis personally during his visit here in July 2010 when he was involved in various meetings set up by ACT for Peace, the Ecumenical Working Group (of which I am a participant) and other awareness-raising sessions here in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia - including consultations surrounding a forum of the National Council of Churches of Australia. 

You may have read about the performance by the Cape Town Opera company, of Porgy and Bess in Tel Aviv.  It has been at the centre of controversy, including an appeal from Archbishop Desmond Tutu for that opera company not to go and perform in Israel. But there they are now.  This is Rifat Kassis' response to Rabbi Warren Goldstein's open letter of condemnation of Archbishop Tutu's stance earlier this month.  Rifat includes an solid rationale for involvement in BDS, a campaign appealing now to all persons seeking peace and justice in Palestine.

Hence, I've posted this letter from Rifat (below) for your information, interest, and further discussion in your own circles about personal involvement in BDS.

All the best,
Clair Hochstetler in Canberra

Subject: Rifat Odeh Kassis responds to Rabbi Warren Goldstein
Date: Fri, 19 Nov 2010 00:43

Dear Friends, the letter below has not yet been published.  However, I have been assured that its author would appreciate having it distributed widely.  Please, therefore, forward also to your contacts.

The author of the letter, Rifat Odeh Kassis, was active in composing the Kairos document from the Christian clergy in Palestine.  It, among other things expresses support for boycott.and divestment.  In this letter, Rifat Odeh Kassis responds to a letter by Rabbi Warren Goldstein, the chief Rabbi of South Africa, whose open letter to Archbishop Desmond Tutu was published on November 3, 2010 in the Jerusalem Post. 

“An Affront to Truth and Justice”: Occupation, Not Dissent
A Response to Rabbi Warren Goldstein
by Rifat Odeh Kassis
November 2010

As a Palestinian living in the so-called West Bank, I cannot go to Tel Aviv at all, let alone to the Tel Aviv Opera House. But I know what‟s on the program for tonight: Porgy and Bess, performed by none other than the Cape Town Opera, from November 12-27.
This collaboration between the South African and Israeli opera companies is both ironic and painful, given South Africa‟s recent era of apartheid – and our current one. In response to the news of this performance, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu contacted the Cape Town Opera‟s managing director and urged them to reconsider their visit. Kairos Palestine (co-authors of “A Moment of Truth,” which is Christian Palestinians‟ word to the world about the Israeli occupation and a call for support in establishing a just peace), of which I am the coordinator, did the same. The Cape Town Opera refused, and so they are in Tel Aviv at the time of this writing, performing Porgy and Bess (which has, as Archbishop Tutu noted, a “universal message of non-discrimination), playing their part in normalizing the fundamental injustices of the Israeli state.

Yet I write today in response not to the Cape Town Opera House, nor to the Israeli government, but rather to Rabbi Warren Goldstein, the chief Rabbi of South Africa. Rabbi Goldstein wrote an open letter to Archbishop Tutu, published in The Jerusalem Post on 3 November, which essentially condemned the Archbishop‟s commitments to peace with justice, equality for Palestinians, and boycott as an important and non-violent means of opposing the systemic atrocities of Israeli occupation – a means successfully employed for all of the same reasons in apartheid South Africa.

Thus, I will address Rabbi Goldstein directly from now on.
Rabbi Goldstein, I write in response to the many ways in which your words contribute to the apparatus of racism, denial, inequity and outright falsehood that continually oppresses the Palestinian people. You have urged Archbishop Tutu to remember the core values of truth, justice, and peace – but I have searched your letter for these values and I cannot find them. Please allow me to revisit and reflect upon some of your words.

You wrote:
1. “The truth, archbishop, is that Israel is simply not an apartheid state. In the State of Israel, all citizens – Jew and Arab – are equal before the law…Israel is a vibrant liberal democracy with a free press and independent judiciary, and accords full political, religious and other human rights to all its people, including its more than 1 million Arab citizens….”
As Professors Allan Boesak and Farid Esack state in their eloquent response to your letter, published in the Star Newspaper of South Africa on 10 November, you “[conflate] life inside Israel and life in the occupied territories.” But given that your above remarks refer to Palestinian citizens of Israel, I will also focus on this community in the following comments.

I marvel at the use of your phrase “equal before the law,” a statement both audacious and false. Since obtaining citizenship, the Palestinian population in Israel has been systematically dealt with as second-class citizens, facing exclusion and discrimination in educational, professional, political, and all other public spheres. In a heavily militarized national culture, Israel often justifies its discrimination against Palestinian citizens on the basis that they don‟t serve in the military. Palestinian schools have separate curricula; Palestinian municipalities receive only a small percentage of funds allocated by the state, per resident, to settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) or to so-called “development towns” inhabited solely by Jews; and a brutal land-expropriation policy has severely damaged Palestinian citizens‟ ability to own land, keep land already owned, or receive adequate services.

I wonder if you have ever spoken to a young Palestinian citizen of Israel attempting to rent an apartment for the first time, rejected on the basis of her last time; to a family of Palestinian citizens of Israel who seek to buy land, or keep the land their families had owned for generations; to a Palestinian university student within Israel, excluded from scholarship opportunities offered only to military veterans of specific wars; the residents of Al-Araqib, a Bedouin village in the Naqab (Negev) Desert whose residents, all Palestinian citizens of Israel, have had their homes demolished for the sixth time in the past three months; to Palestinian MKs in the Israeli Knesset who are dismissed as terrorists for criticizing any of these practices of oppression – I wonder if you have ever spoken to one of them and tried to convince them that they are equal before the law.

Again, this information specifically addresses the inequalities facing Palestinian citizens of Israel. However, the charges of apartheid (which you so confidently refute) affect the entire Palestinian population, most harshly those living under direct military occupation. As former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has said, “When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa.”

2. “The other untruth is the accusation of illegal occupation of Arab land.”
By the end of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, the Israeli military had destroyed more than 400 Palestinian villages and claimed the land on which they stood (expelling, in the process, about 780,000 Palestinians, versus the 150,000 who remained). Israel has seized what is now the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. Between 1967 and 2007, 121 official settlements, 10 “unrecognized” settlements, and many outposts (proto-settlements, if you will) were constructed in the oPt. An additional 12 settlements exist within East Jerusalem, which was annexed – illegally, according to international law – by Israel in 1967. This systematic construction was made possible by the continual theft of Palestinian land: thousands of dunams once belonging to Palestinian families, farmers, and communities have been and continue to be expropriated for settlement building.

Rabbi Goldstein, we did not invent the definition of “occupation,” nor of “illegal.” Scores of international laws and UN resolutions condemn the illegality of Israel‟s confiscation of, occupation of, and construction on Palestinian land – all practices that egregiously violate the human rights of Palestinians in the process.

3. “Archbishop, you and I as religious leaders always turn to the Bible as a source of truth.”

In your letter, you speak at length about the land promised to the Jewish people, about the inherent Jewish right to this land, about the Bible‟s statement of this connection – of the Jewish “claim,” essentially, to a holy place and its sites. My purpose in writing this article is not to provide interpretations of God‟s promises. But Kairos Palestine and I do oppose ideological readings of the Bible, and we certainly oppose any use of the Bible that legitimizes injustice, promotes inequality, endorses racial and religious domination, or otherwise severs the Word of God from its universality and love. Thus, we condemn the way in which your interpretation justifies the denial of Palestinian rights, and our very existence, in our home. This is the logic of the Israeli occupation itself, which is fundamentally a distortion of the image of God in human beings, a degradation of the way we were meant to treat and be treated by one another, and a dishonoring of God‟s love.

4. “Archbishop, the Arab/Israeli conflict is not a struggle against apartheid or occupation. It is a century-long war against the very existence of Jews and a Jewish state in the Middle East.”

This statement ignores the Israeli occupation as a driving force, a fundamental source, of conflict in the Middle East, while simultaneously ignoring the many positive steps taken by Palestinians and Arabs from other countries in order to resolve this conflict. In 1988, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) formally recognized the state of Israel; in 2002, all Arab countries expressed their willingness to recognize the state of Israel with the end of the occupation. It is misleading to pretend that the Arab world has sought to prolong the conflict forever, or that its “rejection of Israel” is the core problem. You glibly refer to many missed opportunities for peace. But justice, without which peace is meaningless, is what has been and continues to be missing from the peace process. The state of Israel has yet to act in a way that demonstrates its investment in justice as opposed to simply a “resolution” that affords it a maximum of control.

Moreover, if opposition to the Israeli occupation and the policies of the Israeli government is considered anti-Semitic (you frequently make this erroneous charge in your letter), then this is a very dangerous conflation indeed; it makes anti-Semitism into a tool used to intimidate anyone who criticizes Israeli policies. In our document, “A Moment of Truth, we “condemn all forms of racism, whether religious or ethnic, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia; and we call you to condemn it and oppose it in all its manifestations (passage 6.3). What we oppose is not and has never been Judaism: what we oppose is oppression and occupation in any form,

5. “…[U]ntil the National Party was prepared to accept that black South Africans had a place in their own country, there could be no peace. And so, too, until the Arab/Muslim world accepts that Jews have a right to a state of their own on their ancestral land, there will be no peace.”

There are many possible analogies to be drawn between the South African struggle and the Palestinian one, but yours is not one of them: this analysis is both insulting and incorrect. First and foremost, as Professors Boesak and Esack state, “The solution in South Africa was precisely NOT to accept separate black states, but to reject that „solution‟ for the lie that it was. Israel must give up the premise of separation – apartheid.” Second, you wrongly position the “Arab/Muslim world” as the National Party, as the white leadership of South Africa, in this analogy, while you position Jews as the equivalent of oppressed black South Africans. No, Rabbi Goldstein, the reality is quite the opposite. The Israeli government is an apartheid elite systematically separating the Palestinian population from the full and equal realization of their human rights and self-determination. Who is David and who is Goliath?

6. “In 2000, the Palestinian leadership launched a massive wave of suicide bombers into Israel….”
Like you, we reject terrorism and all other acts of violence, including those implemented in frameworks of religious fundamentalism. However, we also reject the idea that acts of terror occur in a vacuum. The root evil of occupation continues to generate its own worst extremes – enacted by both Palestinians and Israelis – and the cycle of violence continues to affect and involve individuals and groups from both sides. Further, I wish to raise the following question: is the definition of terrorism exclusive to those who use themselves as suicide bombers, or should this category not also include the murder of innocent people at the hands of those in uniform, using sophisticated arms, firing from tanks? We condemn the acts of terror that have killed innocent Israeli civilians. We also condemn the acts of terror that, for example, killed over 1000 innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including over 300 children, in December 2008/January2009. We must extend the definition of terrorism to everyone who perpetrates it, and we must end the cycle of violence completely.

7. “The checkpoints are on the border between sovereign Israeli territory and the disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza in order to keep civilians from being murdered….”
The idea that checkpoints are located on the “border” between sovereign Israeli territory and the oPt, and that these checkpoints exist solely as a protective measure, is gravely misleading. Of the approximately 99 numbered permanent checkpoints, only 36 are located along the Separation Wall or equivalent entry/exit points (which are often located far from the Green Line), while the other 63 permanent checkpoints are scattered within the oPt. The city of Hebron alone has 16. These permanent checkpoints form an overall structure of movement restrictions for Palestinians, yet the Israeli state also establishes multiple “flying” (temporary) checkpoints, the existence or locations of which can change on a daily or weekly basis. Together, the system of checkpoints and roadblocks also serves to divide the oPt into six geographical regions, making travel within the oPt more burdensome and fragmenting Palestinian communities even more than they already were.

In short, checkpoints do not obey a consistent territorial border; in reality, they operate primarily to limit and monitor Palestinian movement within the oPt, each one a locus of restriction and humiliation for the individuals who must pass through them.
Further, the fact that you refer to the oPt as “disputed territories” is euphemistic to the point of absurd. They are not disputed; they are confiscated, they are occupied, and this occupation is illegal.

8. “Archbishop, do not bestow respectability on an immoral sanctions campaign that is an affront to truth and justice, which prevents peace and prolongs the terrible suffering of people on both sides of this painful conflict.”
Your attitude toward the global BDS campaign is by no means unfamiliar to us. Many people criticize this campaign as “imbalanced” or overly punitive, because they still erroneously reduce the Palestinian-Israeli  conflict to a “balanced” dispute between two sides, refusing to acknowledge that the situation is irrefutably otherwise: an apartheid state, brutally militarized and shamelessly unequal. Many people complain, as you have done, that BDS “prevents peace.”

Starting from the fact that Palestinians are boycotted by Israel to begin with, I must emphasize the hypocrisy of such an argument. Rabbi Goldstein, your letter to Archbishop Tutu extols the state of Israel as a “vibrant liberal democracy.” Later, you condemn terrorism. I‟d like to remind you that boycott, divestment and sanctions are all means of non-violent protest consistent with democratic rights and responsibilities. Its methods are peaceful, and its objective is peace – for all. By affirming this tactic, we reject violence and revenge; the complete system of sanctions should lead to justice and freedom for Palestinians, and peace and security for Israelis as well.

If you reject BDS as a valid way to call for change, and as a right in and of itself – a right that should be defended by any true democracy – than what other means do you propose for creating peace in our region? In a time when bloodshed has been the primary tactic, negotiations are an exercise in humiliation, and voices like yours continue to suggest that Palestinians have no rights to defend in the first place, BDS is an effective, nonviolent tool that strengthens – and unites – Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers alike.

What is truly an “affront to truth and justice,” and what “prolongs the terrible suffering of people on both sides of this painful conflict,” is occupation – compounded by the blind support offered by so many people, including you, for its existence and its crimes.

We, too, pray for the three inseparable values you have quoted: justice, truth, and peace. We hope you will join us in these prayers.

Note from Clair:  for a well-researched 20-page BRIEFING on the current situation and realities in Palestine, compiled by Australians for Palestine, go here.

Perhaps the REAL reason US airports now deploy the controversial "Backscatter" technology in passenger security screening!

A TSA "firestorm" has ignited in America due to proliferating stories about extremely aggressive and invasive "pat-downs" of airport passengers with safety concerns who refuse to go through the "Blue Boxes" which involve backscatter technology and full-body scans.

And now....the airline pilots and flight crews are raising very serious and justifiable concerns, as well. 

But could the real reason behind this new (and potentially dangerous) technology all boil down to the selling of American privacy for PROFIT - especially since there is no real enhancement of security over alternative methods?  Be aware of this!

Wednesday 17 November 2010

The Third Beam Shined a Light on Government and Media Blackout of the Call to Reinvestigate the WTC Bldg 7 Collapse

Question 1: There were three beams of light shining in New York City this year on 9/11 instead of two.  Did you hear about that?

Question 2: Did you know that over 1300 verified architectural and engineering professionals have concluded that WTC Building 7 did a free-fall due to controlled demolition (was NOT hit by a plane) and have signed a petition calling for a new truly independent investigation by the US Congress?

Read this account - irrefutable evidence for extremely tight "MainStream Media" (MSM) control in America in the attempt to keep a lid on the truth and suppress the ever-growing people movement seeking an official new inquiry into the truth behind the collapse of the THREE towers (not just two) on Sept 11, 2001 in NYC.  

Why?  It's the "powers that  be" at the very top (the tight circle of owners of the American media empire) who make these sorts of decisions...and these business tycoons are also deep into the levers of control within the key political structures in America.  Can there possibly be any other conclusion?

Their tired old argument that "it would be insensitive to the families" simply won't work anymore!

They know that once the American people realize there was a demolition in progress perhaps they might also start to realize the "powers" they used to trust were unworthy of it, and the foundations of the entire "system" might crumble.  One thing leads to another - the original rationale for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be undermined, American foreign policy - the structure of the Military Industrial Complex - and most significantly the real conspiracy: the failure of the Fourth Estate (i.e. the Mainstream Media empire) to inform the people of the actual facts - it would all come to light.  ("The truth shall make you free!")  One can only hope...

I've been onto this, studying and reading and thinking about it all since 2002, and watched the movement grow (after weeding out the crazies) and coalesce around good verified leaders in science and physics, eyewitnesses ignored by the original 9/11 Commission, and independent investigators with good credentials and experience, in spite of a pervasive and well-coordinated government and MSM strategy to brand it all as "conspiracy theory."   

33min_Blueprint_for_Truth from AE 9/11 Truth on Vimeo.

I have a hunch that many "latecomers" to the 911 Truth Movement (i.e. the many who will most certainly become convinced due to efforts like this) will end up becoming the most vocal and ardent supporters, demanding a new and authentic investigation -- because they realize there are indeed serious consequences for failing to re-open the investigation into what really happened on 9/11/01. 

This can only grow.  Please, especially if you are an American - think - for yourself!  The rest of the world is waiting for you to "catch up!"  -Clair