Days before the recent Israel/Hamas conflict erupted, the Presbyterian Church USA withdrew $21 million worth in investments from Israel because, as spokesman Heath Rada put it, the Israeli government’s actions “harm the Palestinian people.”
Soon after, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and was asked if he was “troubled” by the Presbyterian Church’s move. Netanyahu responded:
It should trouble all people of conscience and morality because it’s so disgraceful. You know, you look at what’s happening in the Middle East and I think most Americans understand this, they see this enormous area riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions. Then you come to Israel and you see the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians—Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East. So most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation. You know I would suggest to these Presbyterian organizations to fly to the Middle East, come and see Israel for the embattled democracy that it is, and then take a bus tour, go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq, and see the difference. And I would give them two pieces of advice, one is, make sure it’s an armor plated bus, and second, don’t say that you’re Christians.
It’s difficult—if not impossible—to argue with Netanyahu’s logic. Indeed, several points made in his one-minute response are deserving of some reflection.
First, the obvious: why is it that self-professed Christians completely ignore the horrific Islamic persecution of fellow Christians in the Middle East, while grandstanding against the Jewish state for trying to defend itself against the same ideology that persecutes Christians?
And he is absolutely right to say that the persecution of Christians in the Mideast has reached a point of “savagery of unimaginable proportions.” Perhaps the only thing more shocking than the atrocities Mideast Christians are exposed to—the slaughters, crucifixions, beheadings, torture and rape—is the absolute silence emanating from so-called mainline Protestant churches in the U.S.
Note also the nations Netanyahu highlighted for their brutal persecution of Christian minorities: Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Indigenous Christians were markedly better off in all three nations before the U.S. got involved, specifically be empowering, deliberately or not, Islamist forces. Now, according to recent studies, Christians in all three nations are experiencing the worst form of persecution around the globe:
Syria: Christians have been attacked in indescribable ways—wholesale massacres, bombed and desecrated churches, beheadings, crucifixions, and rampant kidnappings—since the U.S.-sponsored “Arab Spring” reached the Levant.
Iraq: After the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein, Christian minorities were savagely attacked and slaughtered, and dozens of their churches were bombed (see here for graphic images). In the last decade, Christians have been terrorized into near-extinction, with well over half of them fleeing Iraq.
If the Presbyterian Church has problems with governments that persecute people—in this case, the Israeli government’s purported treatment of Palestinians, hence the Presbyterian Church’s divestment from Israel—perhaps it should begin by criticizing its own government’s proxy war on fellow Christians in the Middle East.
Christians are also being targeted in the P.A. territories—by the very same elements the Presbyterian Church is trying to defend.
More recently, nuns of the Greek-Orthodox monastery in Bethany sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urging him to respond to the escalation of attacks on the Christian house, including the throwing of stones, broken glass, theft and looting of the monastery property. “Someone wants to send us away,” wrote Sister Ibraxia in the letter, “but we will not flee.”
Sadly, the hypocrisy exhibited by the Presbyterian Church is not limited to that denomination. Some time back, fifteen leaders from various U.S. Christian denominations—mostly Protestant, including the Lutheran, Methodist, and UCC Churches—asked Congress to reevaluate U.S. military aid to Israel, again, in the context of supporting “persecuted” Palestinians.
Yet nary a word from these same church leaders concerning the rampant persecution of millions of Christians at the hands of Muslims in the Middle East—a persecution that makes the Palestinians’ situation pale in comparison.
Other “leftist” Protestants do find time to criticize Muslim persecution of Christians—but only to blame Israel for it. Thus, Diarmaid MacCulloch, a Fellow of St. Cross College, wrote an article in the Daily Beast ostensibly addressing the plight of Mideast Christians—but only to argue that the source of Christian persecution “ in the Middle East is seven decades of unresolved conflict between Israel and Palestine.”
In reality, far from prompting the persecution of Christians, the Arab-Israeli conflict is itself a byproduct of the same hostility Islamic supremacism engenders for all non-Muslims. The reason hostility for Israel is much more viral is because the Jewish state holds a unique position of authority over Muslims unlike vulnerable Christian minorities who can be abused at will (as fully explained here).
They know they can count on basic human rights protection from Israel than from many of their fellow Christians in the West. After all, beyond the sophistry, distortions, and downright lies emanating from some of these Christian denominations, the fact remains: both Jews and Christians are under attack from the same foe and for the same reason: they are non-Muslim “infidels” who need to be subjugated.
In most such cases, the US does not even acknowledge its responsibility for its own lethal drone attacks, let alone issue an apology.
With a predictability that is rapidly becoming mind-numbing monotony, various US officials from the president on down have been stressing the need for Israel to exercise restraint in its counter- terror operation in Gaza so as to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties.
In addition to President Barack Obama, this concern has been voiced in recent days in one form or another by none other than US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, as well as the spokesmen for the State Department and the White House.
And just in case we didn’t get the message the fourth or fifth time it was delivered in public, both the president and the secretary of state are said to have repeated it in private telephone conversations with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
As the late Ronald Reagan might have put it, “there they go again.” And again, and again, and again.
But Washington’s recurring mantra about restraint is not merely tiresome, it is profoundly hypocritical, and it highlights just to what degree Obama’s foreign policy resembles the parent who tells his child, with cigarette in hand: “do as I say, not as I do.”
Take, for example, America’s policy of carrying out drone strikes against al-Qaida affiliates in places such as Yemen, where terrorists have succeeded in seizing territory and transforming it into a platform for violence (sound familiar?).
In a 102-page report released on October 22, 2013, by Human Rights Watch, entitled “Between a Drone and al-Qaida: The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen,” the group examined six strikes carried out by US forces in that embattled country. They found that at least 57 of the 82 people killed in the attacks were in fact innocent civilians.
In other words, for all of its sermonizing to Israel about restraint, America had few qualms about killing twice as many civilians as terrorists in its drone strikes in Yemen.
Among the incidents cited in the report was one in September 2012 in Sarar, in central Yemen, when a passenger van carrying 12 civilians was blown to bits by mistake. In another incident, in December 2009, the US carried out a cruise missile strike on a Beduin camp in the Yemeni village of al-Majalah which killed 14 al-Qaida terrorists and 41 civilians, two-thirds of whom were said to be women and children.
Whatever happened to Obama’s “serious concern about the growing number of casualties,” which a White House statement on Sunday said the president had raised with Netanyahu during a phone conversation? Apparently, as far as Washington is concerned, the ends justify the means in the war on terror, unless the one pulling the trigger to defend himself happens to be Israeli.
Interestingly, on the same day that the Human Rights Watch report regarding Yemen was made public, Amnesty International released a study of US drone strikes in Pakistan. Entitled “Will I Be Next?”, the document assessed nine drone attacks that took place between January 2012 and August 2013 in Pakistan’s North Waziristan province. Here too, there were “incidents in which men, women and children appear to have been unlawfully killed or injured,” the report noted.
These include the inexplicable US drone attack in October 2012 in which a 68-year-old grandmother, Mamana Bibi, was blasted to smithereens in front of her grandchildren while gathering vegetables in an open field.
Earlier that year, on July 6, American drones attacked and killed 18 Pakistani laborers who had gathered for dinner after a day’s work, and then carried out a second strike on the first responders who came to help the wounded.
In most such cases, the US does not even acknowledge its responsibility for such attacks, let alone issue an apology.
And it certainly does not heed calls for restraint.
NOW DON’T get me wrong. I fully support Washington’s policy of using drones to take out terrorists, a policy that has weakened al-Qaida and its affiliates in a variety of countries. But I find it hard to fathom America’s curiously selective moral calculus when it browbeats Israel to be extra careful vis-à-vis civilians in a war zone even as the US itself fails to show such caution.
Sure, the Obama administration has voiced its support for Israel’s right to defend itself. But by couching this phrase alongside an overly insistent need for restraint, Washington is in fact sending the following message: you Jews can of course defend yourselves, but only up to a point.
The bottom line is that in the first 13 days after the start of Operation Protective Edge, the Palestinians fired 1,780 rockets from Gaza at Israeli towns, villages and cities. That averages out to about 137 rockets a day, or more than five per hour, every hour, for nearly two weeks.
This is unconscionable, unacceptable and it must be stopped.
In this war, we should bear in mind the immortal words of the late General George S. Patton, Jr., who commanded the US Third Army after the invasion of Normandy in 1944. Once, before heading into battle, he reportedly declared, “May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I sure as hell won’t.”
Sounds callous? Perhaps.
But in a war of survival against a determined foe, it is the only way to prevail.
Israel’s airstrikes and ground assault on Gaza in the past two weeks have killed around 500 Palestinians and left more than 3,000 others wounded. The majority of the victims are women and children.
Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:18AM GMT
Thousands of people in Chicago marched through downtown Sunday afternoon calling for an end to the Israeli assault on the besieged Gaza Strip.
Waving Palestinian flags, holding posters and shouting into bullhorns, the protesters flooded the city’s streets to show their support for the Palestinians who have been under brutal attacks by the Israeli military, WGMtv.com reported.
The protesters say Israel is indiscriminately killing Palestinians.
Israel’s airstrikes and ground assault on Gaza in the past two weeks have killed around 500 Palestinians and left more than 3,000 others wounded. Many of the victims are women and children.
Chicago protestors lay down on the concrete to represent the Palestinians who have been killed in the conflict.
A number of different groups joined the protesters as they marched to the Israeli consulate, including Jewish organizations, the report said.
Hatem Abudayyeh with the Chicago Coalition for Justice told Newsradio that, “People across the world are coming out in condemnation of Israel’s crimes and in condemnation of US support for those crimes.”
Israel’s Deputy Consul to the Midwest says they are “defending” their citizens against Hamas rocket attacks, which have killed only a few Israelis so far.
Hamas killed 18 soldiers in ground battles with Israelis and arrested an Israeli soldier. Two of the soldiers killed by Hamas fighters are said to be American.
The US government has publicly supported the Israeli onslaught, with President Barack Obama affirming Tel Aviv’s “rights to defend itself.”
The White House said Sunday evening that Secretary of State John Kerry would head to Cairo on Monday to meet with Egyptian officials in an attempt to negotiate a ceasefire.
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The media has obsessively counted every dead body in the conflict between Hamas and Israel. They rarely explain why so many more Palestinians than Israelis have been killed: Hamas does not allow Palestinian civilians into their shelters, while using civilian areas from which to fire their rockets; Israel, on the other hand, devotes its resources to building shelters and Iron Dome protection. Put another way, while Israel uses shelters and Iron Dome to protect its civilians, Hamas uses its civilians to protect its rockets and its terrorists. A widely circulated cartoon makes this point effectively:
Recently, supporters of Hamas have argued that to say that Hamas uses civilians as human shields is a manifestation of racism and an attempt to dehumanize Palestinians. But it is Hamas’ own leaders who have long boasted of this tragic reality. Listen to Fathi Hammad, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council:
“For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: ‘We desire death like you desire life.’”
Ban-Ki Moon—who is not known for a pro-Israel bias—recently confirmed what every objective observer knows to be true: that Hamas uses hospitals and schools as shields from which to launch rocket attacks against Israeli civilians—a double war crime. Here are his words:
“We condemn the use of civilian sites – schools, hospitals and other civilian facilities – for military purposes.”
He was referring, of course, to Hamas, since Israel does not use such civilian facilities to fire rockets. That is why more Palestinians than Israelis have died in recent weeks.
During a two day period this past week while dozens of Palestinians and several Israelis were killed, the media failed to report that in neighboring Syria, 700 Arabs and Muslims were killed in just two days of fighting. This constitutes only a tiny fraction of the 160,000 people killed in Syria during the ongoing civil war. According to the Britain-Based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 53,978 civilians have been killed including 8,607 children and 5,586 women. Many if not most of these deaths were deliberate—part of calculated efforts on both sides of the conflict to maximize civilian casualties.
Yet this body count has received little notice compared to the far smaller body count in Israel and Gaza. Why is this? Is it because when Arabs and Muslims deliberately kill other Arabs and Muslims, that deserves less attention than when Israelis kill Arabs and Muslims, even in self-defense and in an effort to prevent the murder of their own civilians? If so, this is racism pure and simple, and the application of a noxious double standard. The lives of all human beings have worth, and the death of Arabs and Muslims at the hands of other Arabs and Muslims deserve as much media coverage as the deaths of Arabs and Muslims that are caused by Israel’s efforts to protect its own civilians.
The media’s exclusive focus on the death toll in Gaza—without explaining that it is largely Hamas’ fault and part of its media strategy—incites hatred and anti-Semitism around the world. It has incited violence against Jews and Jewish institutions in many cities. Much of this violence comes from radicals on the hard left and from radical Islamists. But a recent incident in Italy shows that bigoted hate can come from the mouths of intellectuals as well as the fists of rabble rousers. Gianni Vattimo, who has been called Italy’s most famous philosopher, recently announced that he would personally, “like to shoot those bastard Zionists,” calling them “a bit worse than the Nazis”. He said he was planning to launch a fundraising campaign to buy better rockets for Hamas so that this Jew-hating group can kill more Zionists, by which he means Jewish Israelis. He urged European volunteers to join Hamas and fight alongside of them against Israel, as volunteers fought against Franco during the Spanish Civil War.
If Vattimo is indeed Italy’s most famous philosopher, I cry for the current state of philosophy in a nation that has contributed so much to that field over the millennia. Vattimo reminds me of the intellectual thugs—some of them “eminent” philosophers who provided academic cover and justification for the fascist abuses of Hitler and Mussolini. It is interesting, and perhaps relevant, that Vattimo is a follower of Martin Heidegger, a philosopher who joined the Nazi Party and provided cover for its anti-Semitic policies. Hamas, after all, is an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood, which actively supported Hitler during World War II. It is also interesting that Vattimo, who vociferously supports gay rights, would have such hatred for the one country in the Middle East that accords equal rights to gays and be so supportive of Hamas which punishes gays by torture and execution. Obviously his hatred for the nation state of the Jewish people runs deeper than his support for gay rights.
It is a crime under the law of the United States and several European countries to provide material support to designated terrorist groups, of which Hamas is one. Vattimo has committed this crime and might well be banned from travel to the United States and other countries or arrested if he travels to countries that have such laws.
The media has a moral obligation to tell the whole truth when it shows the pictures of the dead and counts the bodies on each side. If it fails in this obligation, it becomes complicit in the sins and crimes of bigots such as Vattimo and in the war crimes of Hamas.