"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

My Photo
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Monday, August 22, 2005

Rejecting Israeli Apartheid

There has been a media circus fed by a huge Israeli-government public-relations effort to drum up sympathy for the "painful" relocation of Jewish settlers from Gaza. But who are these settlers, and why were they brought there in the first place? Is Israel really leaving Gaza, or merely switching to occupying it from outside, rather than inside? Will Gaza become a large open-air prison, with its population held hostage as Israel controls its air space, natural resources, and access?

Few journalists dare ask these questions. The answers can be troubling. This tactical maneuver may not weaken but actually strengthen the Zionist project.

The Zionist project is not about 8,500 settlers who have been living among 1.3 million Palestinians (mostly refugees) in a tiny desert strip called Gaza. It is about millions of Jews' being gathered from around the world, and about the removal of the native Palestinians from most of the land of Palestine. Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and others articulated this clearly: maximum lands for Jewish immigrants, minimum for native Palestinians.

The results are obvious: There are over 4 million Jewish colonial immigrants and there are now 6 million Palestinian refugees or displaced people. Remaining Palestinians are relegated to "homelands," in a scheme similar to what was attempted by South Africa under apartheid.

The Gaza Strip is merely one such homeland. The few thousand illegal settlers in Gaza are a footnote to this story, which is unfolding much more dramatically in the West Bank.

The West Bank and Gaza were occupied in 1967 and represent the 22 percent of historic Palestine not occupied by Israelis in 1948-49. This 22 percent is all illegally occupied territory under international law. All 450,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank (including Jerusalem) and the settlers in Gaza have been illegal, put there in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

These colonial settlers took our U.S. tax money through Israeli-government incentives to live on Palestinian lands, steal Palestinian resources, and engage in violent, brutal oppression of the native Palestinians.

One of those colonial settlers just murdered four Palestinian civilians (total Palestinian civilians killed by these settlers is now over 400 in just the past four years).

Israel is relocating a tiny minority of these colonial settlers from Gaza (many with blood on their hands) to the Negev, where they will displace more Palestinians (Bedouin citizens of Israel) or live on the land of the Palestinians now living in refugee camps in Gaza.

U.S. taxpayers, again, are expected to foot part of the bill.

While the Gaza smokescreen is used to media advantage, Israel is consolidating its grip on Jerusalem and other occupied areas in the West Bank.

The media circus historically stayed away from any mention of the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. No busloads of journalists came to watch as 530 Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed and removed from Israeli maps. U.S. media outlets do not dare show the pictures of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of native Palestinians. (See http://Palestineremembered.com.)

Successive Israeli governments rejected demands of international law for repatriation and compensation for refugees. We saw little on the media here even as Israeli forces made 50,000 more Palestinians homeless in the past five years. As cameras focus on extremists arguing with Israeli-occupation soldiers, Israel continues building the illegal apartheid wall that is creating large concentration camps for the increasingly squeezed Palestinians.

Is disparity in media coverage between the United States and the rest of the world due to editors sympathetic to Zionism, or is it due to Palestinians' having brown skin and Jewish settlers' being European and American Ashkenazi (white)?

Is it easier to sympathize with a New Yorker who will have to leave Gaza because he speaks fluent English and looks like us? Are the media worried about showing a native Palestinian Christian or Muslim who cannot even visit her land behind walls and fences? Would such an exposure call into question the nature of Israel as a Jewish state?

Israel defines itself as a country not of its citizens but of "Jewish people everywhere." No other country defines itself as a country for members of a particular religion (including converts), regardless of where they live. No other country has supranational entities that have authority superseding state authority and native people's rights. The result is that land is taken from native Christians and Muslims and turned over to settlers under such anti-human-rights laws as the "absentee-property law" and the "Jewish law of return." New Zionist immigrants who settle on Palestinian lands are indoctrinated in messianic concepts of redeeming the land from "squatters."

This logic justified the atrocities committed daily against native Palestinians for the past 57 years. Palestinian resistance was as predictable here as Algerian resistance to French colonization. Arab and Muslim public sympathy and sympathy from oppressed people everywhere were predictable (as was the subservience of Arab dictators to U.S.-Israeli hegemony).

Israel is requesting billions more of our tax dollars to support the charade of "disengagement" (from reality?), while using billions of our tax dollars for its colonial project in the West Bank (including Jerusalem). If the American public were informed that we give Israel more than what we give sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Central America combined, the public would be up in arms. If informed about this conflict fairly, we would insist that aid to Israel be tied to implementation of international law, including dismantling the apartheid wall (recently judged illegal by the International Court of Justice) and allowing the return of refugees to their homes and lands.

Rejecting apartheid and advancing such universal human rights would put us firmly on the road to a durable peace. Justice for Palestinians would be recognized in America -- as it is in the rest of the world -- as one of the most important steps for advancing harmony and peace around our troubled world.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, of Orange, Conn., is a member of the steering committee of the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation.

© 2005 Projo.com

Bush vs. Benedict

Catholic neoconservatives grapple with their church’s Just War tradition.

Four months into the pontificate of Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Ratzinger, it is too soon to say what will distinguish the new pontiff’s tenure from that of his epochal predecessor—beyond the safe prediction that it will be shorter. But continuities are already clear: like John Paul II, Benedict will stand firm in the church’s teachings on sexual morality and the sanctity of human life. And like John Paul II, the new pope is a man of peace whose vision for the world does not include wars of the sort lately waged against Iraq.

The priority Benedict places on peace was apparent even in his choice of name. The sixth century St. Benedict had brought monasticism to the West, becoming a patron saint of Europe. This German pope reaffirmed the church’s commitment to the historical heartland of Christianity by his choice—as if to say that Europe is not to be surrendered either to secularism or surging Islam. But above all, he paid tribute to Benedict XV, the “Peace Pope” who occupied the Throne of St. Peter in the harrowing days of World War I. The new pope made the connection explicit on April 27 in remarks he made at his first general audience:

I chose to call myself Benedict XVI ideally as a link to the venerated pontiff Benedict XV, who guided the Church through the turbulent times of the First World War. He was a true and courageous prophet of peace who struggled strenuously and bravely, first to avoid the drama of war and then to limit its terrible consequences. In his footsteps I place my ministry, in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples, profoundly convinced that the great good of peace is above all a gift from God, a fragile and precious gift to be invoked, safeguarded and constructed, day after day and with everyone’s contribution.

Conservatives of almost all stripes had cause to rejoice in Ratzinger’s election, as even non-Catholics among them saw in him a man who would uphold the values dear to them. An ephemeral but telling sign of his support was the presence on the Internet of sites announcing themselves as the “Ratzinger Fanclub” and “Protestants for Ratzinger.” The new pope would be a sure ally for the Right in the Culture War. But where hot wars are concerned, many of Ratzinger’s most ardent admirers—Catholic neoconservatives especially—find themselves diametrically at odds with the pope.

Michael Novak, George Weigel, and Richard John Neuhaus are three of the most prominent Catholic neocons whose reading of Just War doctrine clashes with the views of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Novak and Neuhaus fit the classic mold: they were radicals in the 1960s and early 1970s, both involved in protesting the Vietnam War. Neuhaus—a Lutheran pastor before his 1991 conversion to Catholicism—founded Clergy Concerned About Vietnam alongside Fr. Daniel Berrigan and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel; Novak co-wrote with Heschel and Robert M. Brown Vietnam: Crisis of Conscience. By the 1980s, both had moved rightward, trading social democracy for Novak’s “democratic capitalism.” Today, they and Weigel, a biographer of John Paul II whose ideological background is less exotic, champion an interpretation of Just War theory that strongly favors the foreign policy of George W. Bush.

Disseminating the views of Neuhaus, Novak, and Weigel—and often making bolder statements in defense of the administration than the big three themselves—are such journals as Crisis, co-founded by Novak, and First Things, established and until recently edited by Neuhaus. In October 2004, Crisis ran a cover story touting “The Case for an American Empire”; four months later, it published an article calling for the return of the draft. First Things has, by contrast, been more genteel, even publishing a debate on war and statecraft between Weigel and the Church of England’s Rowan Williams. But a recent article by the journal’s new editor, Joseph Bottum, suggests the underlying tendency. In “The New Fusionism,” arguing for an alliance between neoconservatives and social conservatives, Bottum laments, “Much of the Roman curia seems to have fallen into a functional pacifism that threatens a damaging loss of the traditional Catholic theory of just war.”

Writing in National Review Online—a venue not explicitly Catholic or neoconservative but colored by both—shortly after the death of John Paul II, University of Reading philosophy professor David Oderberg put the neocon line bluntly. “When it comes to applying tradition to life-and-death moral issues”—such as the Iraq War—“Bush 43 wins hands down over John Paul II.” George Weigel or Michael Novak would never write such a thing, but the conclusion is one to which their arguments readily lead. Where foreign policy is concerned, for the Catholic neoconservative, it is Bush si, Benedict no.

The new pope and his predecessor have been consistent—some, like Osterberg, would say to a fault—in taking the most restrictive possible view in favor of life in matters of capital importance, whether abortion, the death penalty, or war. Neoconservative Catholics have met this papal position with defiance. They point out, correctly, that abortion and war are not parallel—the former is wrong in all instances, the latter permissible in some. Novak and Neuhaus also take care to emphasize the wording of Section 2309 of the Catholic Catechism, which states that deciding when the conditions for a just war have been met “belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good”—meaning the Bush administration, as they would have it.

Yet war is a matter of both moral judgment and prudential judgment. The church is not competent to deduce the likelihood of strategic success or to address other purely prudential considerations of Just War doctrine. But there remain moral considerations in going to war about which a pope certainly can speak with authority, if not with infallibility. Neither John Paul II nor Benedict—whose intellect neoconservative Catholics have in other contexts praised —needs reminding about what the Catechism says. In Benedict’s case, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he supervised its recent abridgement. In a May 2003 interview reported by Rome’s Zenit news service, Ratzinger was asked about the justice of the Iraq War in light of the Catechism. He agreed that Just War doctrine may require revision, as Weigel and other Catholic neoconservatives have suggested—but in a more, not less, restrictive direction.

The pope [John Paul II] expressed his thought with great clarity, not only as his individual thought but as the thought of a man who is knowledgeable in the highest functions of the Catholic Church. Of course, he did not impose this position as doctrine of the Church but as the appeal of a conscience enlightened by faith. The Holy Father’s judgment is also convincing from a rational point of view: There was not sufficient reasons to unleash a war in Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war.’

As for “preventive war,” Ratzinger flatly stated in September 2002, the “concept of a ‘preventive war’ does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” The then-cardinal’s remarks also suggested that the United Nations, rather than George W. Bush, would be the proper public authority to decide upon war with Iraq: “the United Nations … should make the final decision,” he said. “It is necessary that the community of nations makes the decision, not a particular power.”

The doctrine of papal infallibility does not, of course, extend to Benedict’s remarks as a cardinal nor even, for that matter, to any of John Paul’s opinions about the Iraq War, however well informed they were. But there is no mistaking the gravity of their views. If, as both men believed, the attack on Iraq in 2003 was unjust, support for the war becomes unconscionable. Novak, Neuhaus, and Weigel have spent much of their careers battling relativism, arguing forcefully that there is moral truth at the core of even the most contentious and divisive issues. There is a moral truth, they would surely agree, at the heart of the Iraq War—the justice of the war is not something that is ultimately moot or merely a question of perspective. The war in Iraq is a matter of moral right and wrong. Catholic neoconservatives say it was right; Benedict says it was wrong.

Faithful Catholics of conservative disposition face a difficult choice here. Their president, the Republican Party, and the leading Catholic intellectuals who identify themselves as conservatives all support a policy that the pope opposes. Yet the antiwar movement seems at a glance to consist of people whose values are unalterably opposed to a Catholic’s—a motley collection of secular leftists, many of them supporters of abortion and homosexual marriage. Even the history of faithful antiwar Catholics in America has since World War II been marked by radicalism and outright pacifism, from Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers Movement to Fr. Daniel Berrigan.

There is, however, a conservative alternative, one that does not have the financial reach or media savvy of the neoconservative press but which has a long and venerable history and which agrees with the pope on hot wars and the culture wars alike. This brand of antiwar Catholicism is to be found in periodicals like The Wanderer, a 138-year-old newspaper based in Minnesota, and the considerably younger New Oxford Review.

The price paid by antiwar Catholic conservatives for upholding the pope’s thought in foreign policy as well as in cultural battles at home has been ostracism from the respectable Right. Even the late Brent Bozell, a founding father of postwar conservatism—William F. Buckley’s brother-in-law, ghostwriter for Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative—found himself marginalized after he and the Catholic magazine he founded, Triumph, began to grow critical of the Vietnam War. The conservative movement that has built itself a big tent in so many other respects still counts dissent in the foreign-policy arena as an excommunicable offense.

Yet in the end, American Catholics are not faced with a choice between conservatism and their faith—conservatives in the realist, anti-militarist traditions of George Kennan, Robert Nisbet, Russell Kirk, and the 1930s Old Right have always held foreign-policy views compatible with Benedict’s. But between what commonly passes for conservatism today, as represented by the president’s Iraq policy, and the vision of the pope there is an unbridgeable gap, on one side or the other of which American Catholics will have to take a stand.

Andrew Bacevich, himself a Catholic and a conservative, observes in The New American Militarism, “If in the aftermath of the Cold War a religious counterweight to the evangelical influence on U.S. policy were to have emerged, that counterweight ought to have been the Roman Catholic Church. Great in numbers, political influence, and material resources, with anti-Catholicism largely a thing of the past, the church was eminently well-positioned to put its stamp on public policy.” But the opportunity was squandered by a hierarchy enmeshed in scandal. This makes the efforts of lay Catholic leaders and individual priests—people like Novak, Weigel, and Neuhaus—all the more important. Lately there have been hints that Neuhaus, at least, is beginning to re-evaluate his support for the Iraq War (“There is a lively and legitimate argument about whether, knowing what we know now, this war was justified and necessary”) even as he still makes excuses for the president (“leaders do not have the convenience of making decisions retrospectively”). Perhaps Novak and Weigel, reflecting upon Pope Benedict’s thought, will follow suit. More likely, Catholics in search of a consistent application of the principles of their faith to the realm of foreign policy will have to look to the periphery of the conservative movement—and, of course, to Rome.

Daniel McCarthy
August 29, 2005 Issue

What To Do If They Call You An Anti-Semite

Well, it finally happened, as I knew it surely would: A pro-Israel publication, Israpundit.com, hauled out that old, misused mudball - "anti-Semite" - and threw it at Cindy Sheehan.

Why? For daring to say, truthfully, that Israel was a major factor in starting our idiot war in Iraq. See the story entitled, "Cindy Sheehan: Anti-Semite" at:

So, if they call you an anti-Semite, what should you do?

First, recognize that the charge of anti-Semitism is, itself, a vicious "ad hominem" attack. It usually means that the person who accuses you of anti-Semitism is unwilling to conduct a debate on the merits of your ideas, but simply wants to discredit you on the basis of a supposed personality fault in you.

It's almost like calling you, "child molester" or "dope addict!" or "Kleptomaniac!" It tries to shift the discussion away from your ideas and onto your supposed personality flaws.

Anyone who ever accuses you of anti-Semitism has thereby demonstrated intellectual weakness in himself, by choosing to call you names rather than discussing the merits of your ideas.

However, politics can be a rough game, and a certain amount of name calling is expected, even beneficial, in the process of arriving at 'truth' and 'good policy'.

How then should you respond to a charge of anti-Semitism? I have given this question some thought, and I have come up with several options for you, depending on your personality and your objectives:

You can say . . . 1) "Your mother eats dirt." 2) "If I am an anti-Semite, then you are a Zionist Fanatic!" 3) "You are trying to avoid the issue by calling me a name."

Two rules to observe:

First, never ignore a charge of anti-Semitism. It is a serious attempt to destroy your credibility by intellectually dishonest means. You must recognize it for what it is, and send it back to the accuser, with a rhetorical bomb in it. My favorite is, "Oh yeah? Well, I heard that your mother eats dirt!" This will rattle your accuser, amuse the audience, and call attention the fact that neither accusation should be taken seriously.

Second, never apologize for what you said. Apologies merely encourage the name callers to keep on calling names in the future. It's like trying to negotiate with terrorists.

Always remember that "Ideas Rule The World," so choose your ideas carefully.

The original text page is at:
William McGinnis
United States
Published August 15, 2005
Copyright © 2005 News World Communications, Inc.

What Does Democracy Really Mean In The Middle East?

Whatever The West Decides

It makes you want to scream. I have been driving the dingy, dangerous, oven-like streets of Baghdad all week, ever more infested with insurgents and their informers, the American troops driving terrified over the traffic islands, turning their guns on all of us if we approach within 50 meters.

In the weird, space-ship isolation of Saddam’s old republican palace, the Kurds and the Shia have been tearing Iraq apart, refusing to sign up for a constitution lest it fail to give them the federations - and the oil wealth - they want. They miss their deadline - though I found no one in "real" Baghdad, no one outside the Green Zone bunker, who seemed to care.

And that evening, I turn on my television to hear President Bush praise the "courage" of the constitution negotiators whose deadline Bush himself had promised would be met.

Courage? So it’s courageous, is it, to sit in a time capsule, sealed off from your people by miles of concrete walls, and argue about the future of a nation which is in anarchy. Then Condoleezza Rice steps forward to tell us this is all part of the "road to democracy" in the Middle East.

I am back on the streets again, this time at the an-Nahda bus station - nahda means renaissance for those who want the full irony of such situations - and around me is the wreckage of another bombing. Smashed police cars, burnt-out, pulverised buses (passengers all on board, of course), women screaming with fury, children taken to the al-Kindi hospital in bandages to be met by another bomb.

And that night, I flip on the television again and find the local US military commander in the Sadr City district of Baghdad - close to the bus station - remarking blithely that while local people had been very angry, they supported the local "security" forces (ie the Americans) and were giving them more help than ever and that we were - wait for it - "on the path to democracy".

Sometimes I wonder if there will be a moment when reality and myth, truth and lies, will actually collide. When will the detonation come? When the insurgents wipe out an entire US base? When they pour over the walls of the Green Zone and turn it into the same trashed blocks as the rest of Baghdad? Or will we then be told - as we have been in the past - that this just shows the "desperation" of the insurgents, that these terrible acts (the bus station bombing this week, for example) only prove that the "terrorists" know they are losing?

In a traffic jam, a boy walks past my car, trying to sell a magazine. Saddam’s face - yet again - is on the cover. The ex-dictator’s seedy, bewhiskered features are on the front pages, again and again, to remind the people of Baghdad how fortunate they are to be rid of the dictator. Saddam to go on trial next month, in two months’ time, before the end of the year.

Six deadlines for the ghastly old man’s trial have come and gone - like so many other deadlines in Iraq - but the people are still supposed to be fascinated and appalled at Saddam’s picture. You may sweat at home in powerless houses; you may have no fresh food because your freezer is hot; you may have to queue for hours to buy petrol; you may have to suffer constant death threats and armed robbery and your city may suffer 1,100 violent deaths in July alone (all true) but, just to take your mind off things, remember that Saddam is going on trial.

I have not met anyone in Iraq - save for those who lost their loved ones to his thugs - who cares any more about Saddam. He is yesterday’s man, a thing of the past. To conjure up this monster again is an insult to the people of Baghdad - who have more fears, more anxieties and greater mourning to endure than any offer of bread and circuses by the Americans can assuage.

Yet in the outside world - the further from Iraq, the more credible they sound - George Bush and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara will repeat that we really have got democracy on its feet in Iraq, that we overthrew the tyrant Saddam and that a great future awaits the country and that new investments are being planned at international conferences (held far away from Iraq, of course) and that the next bombings in Europe, like the last ones, will have nothing - absolutely nothing - to do with Iraq.

The show must go on and I know, when I return to Beirut or fly to Europe, Iraq will not look so bad. The Mad Hatter will look quite sane and the Cheshire Cat will smile at me from the tree.

Democracy, democracy, democracy. Take Egypt. President Mubarak allows opponents in the forthcoming elections. Bush holds this up as another sign of democracy in the Middle East. But Mubarak’s opponents have to be approved by his own party members in parliament, and the Muslim Brotherhood - which ought to be the largest party in the country - is still officially illegal. Sitting in Baghdad, I watched Mubarak’s first party rally, a mawkish affair in which he actually asked for support. So who will win this "democratic" election? I’ll take a risk: our old pal Mubarak. And I’ll bet he gets more than 80 per cent of the votes. Watch this space.

And of course, from my little Baghdad eyrie I’ve been watching the eviction of Israelis from their illegal settlements in the Palestinian Gaza Strip. The word "illegal" doesn’t pop up on the BBC, of course; nor the notion that the settlers - for which read colonisers - were not being evicted from their land but from land they originally took from others. Nor is much attention paid to the continued building in the equally illegal colonies within the Palestinian West Bank which will - inevitably - make a "viable" (Lord Blair’s favourite word) Palestine impossible.

In Gaza, everyone waited for Israeli settler and Israeli soldier to open fire on each other. But when a settler did open fire, he did so to murder four Palestinian workers on the West Bank. The story passed through the television coverage like a brief, dark, embarrassing cloud and was forgotten. Settlements dismantled. Evacuation from Gaza. Peace in our time.

But in Baghdad, the Iraqis I talk to are not convinced. It is to their eternal credit that those who live in the hell of Iraq still care about the Palestinians, still understand what is really happening in the Middle East, are not fooled by the nonsense peddled by George Bush and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara. "What is this ’evil ideology’ that Blair keeps talking about?" an Iraqi friend asked me this week. "What will be your next invention? When will you wake up?"

I couldn’t put it better myself.

Robert Fisk
08/20/05 "The Independent"
© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd