Archive for August 2006

Molly Ivins and the Cow Whisperers for Peace

August 30, 2006

AlterNet

Cow Whisperers Against the War

By Molly Ivins, AlterNet
August 29, 2006
http://www.alternet.org/story/41020/

I know it’s bad form to brag, but I am now a graduate of Texas A&M University, and you can’t stop Aggie pride. I became a diplomee of the great institution in College Station after successfully completing the three-day short course in beef cattle this summer. I specialized in forage management and graduated “Quel fromage!” meaning “avec distinction.”

It is also true that I was banned from the campus of Texas A&M many years ago after some students invited me to make a political speech. Also Quel Fromage! So you see how far we have all come.

The most amazing part of cow college was meeting the cow whisperer. Think of everything you know about moving cattle from one place to another — for shots, round-up or loading into trucks for market — just physically moving a lot of cattle. GEE, GIT ON, GO DOGIE, whistle, whip crack, move ’em out, chase ’em down. Turns out all these years we’ve been doing it wrong.

What happens when you scare a cow by making a lot of noise and chasing it down and forcing it to move where it doesn’t want to go is the cow responds by relieving itself. And since a cow has three stomachs, it can unload up to 20 percent of its total weight at one go, the last thing you want just before you take it to market to sell.

So the latest thing in cattle handling is cow whispering (I’m not making this up — this is straight from A&M). Either on foot or horseback, you just kind of sidle around your herd without upsetting them, talk to them gently and suggest they might like to go THAT way for a while, and then perhaps a tour along the pen line, and then perhaps some consideration of the gate and another little tour of the pen line. But all of this is done without loud noise, sudden movements or eruptions of testosterone. It’s such a revolutionary development of an American macho tradition it’s a little like watching NFL teams come onto the field in tutus. But it also works a lot better on the cows.

I bring this up because I recently attended a women’s peace movement meeting, sponsored by the Code Pink group founded by Medea Benjamin, Jodie Evans and Diane Wilson. (Ha, now you think you see where I am going.) The women peacemakers also included Cindy Sheehan, writer Anne Lamott and Col. Ann Wright, who served 29 years in the Army and more than 15 years in the Foreign Service, before resigning in protest over Bush’s drive to war in Iraq.

I must say, they were a lot more emphatic than the cow whisperer. In fact, as I left, they were saddling up to ride down to President Bush at his ranch with a people’s posse peace warrant. Lots of whooping about it.

Women peace activists, as rule, have totally solved the gnarly old dilemma: What do you do about hating the haters? If you’re a woman peace activist, this is Step 101 — you spill love and calm and reassurance and, well, peace all over them. (Which is why it’s especially funny that George Bush is so afraid of Cindy Sheehan.) For those of us who have not mastered this advanced technique, a Revolution in Favor of Kindness and Libraries seems like a nice idea.

Anne Lamott, one of the funniest people in America, has developed a scenario for a Revolution With Good Manners, in which we are all extremely Nice to one another. Good manners never hurt anything. “Our Revolution decrees that we will fight tooth and nail for these things, politely.”

I am still lamentably stuck in the middle — not that I hold with hating the haters, we can all see where that leads — but I am always tempted to shout them down. “One, Two Three, Four: We Don’t Want Your F-ing War.” Now does that repel more potential supporters or attract more people who really NEED to sound off?

What I learned from Code Pink is that this is not an either-or question. The peace movement is a matter of And and And and And. You just keep adding more people, from those like Sheehan, who lost her son Casey in the stupid debacle, to the Iraqi Veterans Against the War, easily the strongest, most moving group of young people in America. They have learned in the hardest way what politics is.

War is about rounding up people with Shock and Awe and really loud noises, and about thinking you can herd them by hurting and killing them. Politics is what you do if you’re not so stupid you walk into an unnecessary and unprovoked war. I’m founding Cow Whisperers Against the War.

Molly Ivins writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Homophobia in the church

August 25, 2006

I was part of a two-session panel discussion about the church and homosexuality a couple of weeks ago. One of the speakers was Jack Rogers, author of Jesus, the Bible, And Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church; the other speaker was a good friend of mine, a gay man who is retired Presbyterian clergy; and then there was me–a lesbian Presbyterian elder. This took place at a local Presbyterian-related retirement community, and was organized by one of the residents there (whose children include a lesbian daughter).

I have participated in a number of LGBT-related speaking gigs over the years. The first one was in 1974, shortly after I came out, speaking to a group of students at a private alternative high school in Sonoma County… basically, a bunch of kids who had grown up at peace demonstrations and love-ins. A pretty easy group, even with teen-age awkwardness about anything to do with sexuality.

Retired Presbyterian clergy are pretty well divided on this subject. Those who came to listen to us skewed toward the supportive side.

One thing I have found to be true whenever and wherever I have spoken or otherwise self-identified as queer: people want to share their stories. They tell me of friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members, and occasionally themselves. There is so much negativity in the church as a whole that people have the need to talk, but they fear the reaction that they will encounter. People need a safe space in which to share.

Since this event took place, I have had several people quietly buttonhole me to tell me their stories. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a gay or lesbian child who, for all intents, just didn’t exist in public conversations. And not because the parent is ashamed of their offspring, but because they don’t want the reaction to their loved one to be negative, to hear the words of condemnation that some people think are okay to speak–because “the Bible says so.”

That brings me to part two of the discussion, which took place this past week. The two speakers were a psychologist who is a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary (and a Methodist), and a local Presbyterian pastor. The first speaker went on and on and on, apparently an “abbreviated” version of a presentation he had made at the California-Pacific Methodist Conference this summer; he went on for well over an hour. It was all of the vitriolic hate-speech that I’ve heard before in the church. He even decided it was okay to graphically describe a particular sexual practice to a bunch of 70- and 80-year-old retired clergy and missionaries.

If someone had spoken this way in the corporate world, they would be disciplined–or fired! But in the church, it’s somehow become acceptable to talk this way.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And Jesus replies, “‘You shall love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” –Matthew 22

My friend who had coordinated these sessions was serving as the host of the event. After he had introduced the speakers, he sat up at the front of the room facing the assembled audience. I kept watching his face throughout the presentation. And I felt so sorry for him. At least I was sitting with my friend and co-presenter from the previous session, and he and I could make little quiet remarks to one another to ease the tension.

After they were finished speaking there was little time for Q&A, because the first speaker had gone on for so long. But that was okay, because there didn’t seem to be many questions that people wanted to ask anyway. And then there was the inevitable after-event gathering, where people of like mind and heart checked in with one another. I had yet another person “come out” to me as a parent of a gay man (another who will have nothing to do with the church…).

It’s too bad that the speakers, the Christian homophobes, weren’t able to witness the consequences of their hate-speech. I don’t know if it would make any difference to them–because they truly feel that they are on the side of the Bible. But it isn’t the case that they would see the consequences of their actions.

I can’t see any way that Jesus–the God of love come to us in human form, the advocate for the downtrodden and the outsiders–would be pleased with this.

Another from Arthur Waskow

August 24, 2006

A prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, & American life

When the Torah Meets a Stand-up Comic

Dear Friends,

One of the most interesting studies of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) that I know is a book by Evan Eisenberg, The Ecology of Eden. It is a fusion of history, anthropology, ecology, and archeology with his own spiritual exploration. It gives an ecological grounding to the spiritual struggle of the Western Semitic peoples in the face of the emergence of imperial monocrop agriculture in Sumeria. That spiritual struggle resulted, Eisenberg suggests, in the birth of Torah. Torah does not include Eco-Judaism; Torah IS Eco-Judaism.

Eisenberg looks sardonically not only at ancient empires, but also at those in seats of power today. (In this he echoes one book of the Bible: the Scroll of Esther, which is a funny and bitter critique of arrogance in power.) I am sending his sardonic Torah commentary on this week’s portion and on passages from Genesis, the Gospels of Matthew and John, and Ecclesiastes which he calls “THE KING GEORGE VERSION” of the Bible.

You will also find my comments on three books:

a new gender-sensitive translation of the Torah – that is, “the five books of Moses” – published by the Jewish Publication Society;

a heart-stirring study of war, soldiers, and post-traumatic stress in its most lethal form – suicide.

Middle Church by Rev. Bob Edgar (general secretary of the National Council of Churches and a former Congressman from Pennsylvania. Edgar looks at the religious commitment that lay at the heart of his congressional terms, and at the commitment to social justice that lies at the heart of his religious task. He finds the religious right profoundly wanting in religious understanding.

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THE KING GEORGE VERSION

by Evan Eisenberg

“And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them…” — Deuteronomy 17:18-19.

Genesis 1:1-28

In the big inning God created the Prescott and the Bush.

And the Bush was uninformed and void, and darkies was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of Dad flew over the water.

And God said, Let them be white. And they was white.

And God saw the whites, that they were good. And God divided the whites from the darks.

And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our whiteness; and let him make his millions over the oil of the sea, and from fouling the air, and over the battle, and over net worth, and over every creepy thing that creeps do on earth.”

And God dressed him, and God said to him, Eat Fruit Loops and multiply, and drill the earth and undo it; and have your minions over the executing ranch, and the vegetative ranch, and the prejudicial ranch.

Matthew 5:1-9

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a broadcast booth; and when he was set, and made up, his advisers came unto him:

And he opened his mouth, and read the prompter, saying,

Blessed is the boors and nitwits, for theirs is the kingdom at present.

Blessed is they who are well-born, for they shall be comfortable.

Blessed is the cliques, for they shall inherit the perch.

Blessed is they with a hungover thirst after rightwingness, for they shall be filled.

Blessed is the purseful, for they shall obtain purses.

Blessed is the sure in Karl, for they shall succeed Dad.

Blessed is the warmakers, for they shall be called the children of Saud.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

To every thing there is a fleecing, and a dime to every purpose under the heaven.

A dime for trees shorn, and a dime to mine; a dime to plant fibs, and a dime to talk up that which is planted;

A dime to kill, and a dime to make squeal; a dime to make drown, and a dime to build YUP;

A dime to weep, and a dime to smirk; a dime to yawn, and a dime to prance;

A dime to get tapped for Bones, and a dime to gather Bonesmen together; a dime to scapegrace, and a dime to retrain for scapegracing;

A dime to pet, and a dime to schmooze; a dime to grease, and a dime to fax DeLay;

A dime to pretend, and a dime to snow; a dime to keep silence, and a dime to leak;

A dime for mud, and a dime for hate; a dime for war, and a dime for Reconstruction.

John 3:16

For Dad so loved the world, that he gave his first begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not flourish, but have desert-blasting strife.

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Gender in Torah:

Months ago I got an intriguing note from Rabbi David E. S. Stein, who had been commissioned by the Jewish Publication Society to review their translation of “The Torah”: Were words that had been translated with specific gender — “man,” “Lord,” “his”, etc. -— really intended by the writers/editors of our Hebrew text to mean that, or should they be retranslated?

His letter asked for advice from me and fifteen others about how to translate the famous four-letter Name of God -– “Yud-hei-vav-hei.” The JPS translation uses “LORD”; some translations use “Eternal”; I usually translate It as “Breath of Life,” drawing on the sound the four letters make when “pronounced” without any vowels (and on a theology more interested in connection than hierarchy).

What I recommended is that Rabbi Stein do what Everett Fox did in his translation of the Torah: instead of translating, simply transliterate as “YHWH.” That would leave the question up to each reader to wrestle with, one might say, the most literal—letter-by-letter version of “Godwrestling.” (“Godwrestler” is the translation of “Israel” that the Torah itself asserts, in Gen. 33:29.)

Now the book is out, entitled The Contemporary Torah. Stein walks the “Godwrestling” path one step further: he uses the four Hebrew letters themselves. Neat!

In other aspects of the new translation, Stein carefully distinguishes when the Torah used “ish” to mean “man” and when it meant “person.” He has even found a few cases when a Hebrew word was translated by his predecessors in a gender-neutral way when history and sociology make clear the reference was male.

I am grateful for his work, and still find the Fox translations, The Five Books of Moses and Give Us a King! (the books of Samuel) give the best access to the Hebrew itself, with its puns, its key leading words, and its breathing patterns.

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The Pain – and perhaps the Healing

If breaking your heart is one way of opening it, then take the risk of reading Penny Coleman’s book Flashback (Beacon). She reports in vivid language her painful research into the truths of those who have returned with wounded souls from the wars of the last 150 years. And between each chapter there are a few pages from an interview with one or another woman whose Vietnam-veteran husband, beset with the nightmares that do not end in daytime, has killed himself.

By the time you have finished the book, you know that post-traumatic stress is not a disease; it is only a symptom. The disease is war.

These lives, through Coleman’s artistry, have conquered death. It is up to her readers to conquer war.

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Middle Church

Religion is supposed to be the comforter of broken hearts, the healer of broken souls. But only, Bob Edgar reminds us, if it heals our shattered peace, our shattered homeless, our shattered earth.

Despite Edgar’s use of the phrase Middle Church for his title, the book is absolutely relevant to Jews and Muslims as well as Christians. Bob Edgar is unusual among clergy in that he finds God in the Bible, in the communities of faith, on the streets, and in political hubbub. His is one of the best of the new genre of books on the prophetic and progressive roots of our religions, and how to help them flower today.

Just as he was a Member of Congress who actually listened to human suffering –- imagine! -– he is a clergyperson who actually speaks his truth instead of referring it to a committee. As he is fond of saying, “the Prophets never won an electoral majority.”

Shalom, Arthur

Our postal address is:

Shalom Center
6711 Lincoln Drive
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19119
United States

from Shalom Center: EXEMPTIONS FROM THE ARMY: TORAH & TODAY

August 24, 2006

EXEMPTIONS FROM THE ARMY: TORAH & TODAY

Dear friends,

Several times a year, I write a “word of Torah” for the “People and the Book” column of the Jerusalem Report. One of those essays is being published this week. It addresses the regular weekly Torah portion Jews will read this Shabbat in synagogue.

Among other matters, the Torah portion lists reasons for exempting young men from military service. Practically on Torah cue, just a few days ago, Lt. Ehren Watada faced a pre-court-martial hearing for becoming the first Army officer to refuse assignment for duty in Iraq.

Part of a Time magazine article on this event appears below my essay from the Jerusalem Report.

What do YOU think about the Torah provisions? About Lt. Watada’s action??

This essay and report are posted on our Website at http://www.shalomctr.org/node/1171
and you can comment there at the bottom of the entry. Please do!

And if you use this commentary in your own Torah discussion this weekend, please let us know there too what you and others said.

Shalom, Arthur

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Soldiers, Kings, and the “Gentle Heart”: Torah Today

The Torah portion that early asserts, “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (which means “Just ends by just means,” said the rabbis) is deeply concerned with putting limits on political and military power.

The “perek hamelekh” (passage on the king; Deuteronomy 17:14-20), puts constitutional limits on royal power: the king may pile up no horse-chariots for an aggressive war; no wealth out of payoffs for favors; no series of sexual conquests. He must not “send the people back into Mitzrayyim” – the Narrow Place of slavery, Egypt — to pay the costs of his army. He must drink in precisely the teachings that limit his powers and empower the poor, by both reading them and writing his own copy of them.

And the Torah portion knows that with kings come wars–and that when military service becomes onerous or wars become unpopular, some disaffected soldiers might breed more disaffection in the army. Yet exempting them might encourage and strengthen opposition to the war. What to do in this dilemma?

The Torah teaches (Deuteronomy 20: 5-8):

Then the officials shall address the troops: “Is there anyone who has built a new home but not yet dedicated it? Let him go back to his home, lest he die in battle and another dedicate it. Is there anyone who has planted a vineyard but has never harvested it? Let him go back to his home, lest he die in battle and another eat from it. Is there anyone who has paid the bride-price for a wife, but who has not yet married her? Let him return to his home, lest he die in battle and another marry her.” The officials shall go on addressing the troops and say, “Is there anyone afraid or rakh halevav“[gentle-hearted,” or “disheartened,” or “faint-hearted,” or “soft-hearted”]? Let him go back to his home, lest he melt the heart of his brothers, like his heart!’

I Maccabees 3:56 reports that even when the land was under occupation by the Hellenistic empire ruled by Antiochus, and the Temple had been desecrated — the most extreme imaginable moment, when imaginably no one would have been exempted from military service — Judah Maccabee applied this passage of Torah. He ordered back to their homes the newly married, the new homebuilders, the new vine-planters, and those who were frightened or gentle-hearted.

About three centuries later, Rabbi Akiva (Tosefta, Sotah 7:22) commented, “Why does the verse [after specifying ‘the fearful’] then say ‘and the disheartened’? To teach that even the mightiest and strongest of men, if he is compassionate (Rachaman), should turn back.” So both those who are afraid to be killed and those who are afraid lest they become killers must be exempted.

Perhaps this provision operated as a rough public check-and-balance, to measure whether the people really believed a specific war was worth dying for and worth killing for. If a king, or a council of middle-aged men, sent the young to kill and die in a worthless war, the young still had a way out.

The provisions limiting royal power and those limiting military power may have been intertwined in the Torah’s mind with the possibility of “seeking to achieve justice by just means.”

What would happen to modern nation-states, military forces, and wars if these passages of Torah were our model, or even just our teaching?

Would we deny our national leaders the offensive weapons that are the “horse chariots” of today? Would our armies send home exactly the young who now make up the bulk of them — first-time home-owners, the newly married, those just entering a first career? Would fear of being killed, rather than being scorned as cowardice, become a reason for exemption? Would simply claiming “conscientious” objection be sufficient reason for exemption — rather than being surrounded by suspicion and demands for proof?

These issues appear anew in every generation; seldom do we consider the wisdom of millennia and generations past in shaping the political structures of our world.


FIRST REFUSAL OF U.S. OFFICER TO OBEY ORDERS TO DEPLOY IN IRAQ[My article in Jerusalem Report is complete at that point. But almost on cue for the Torah reading comes a real-live case in the present. What follows is a report from Time magazine.]

August 18, 2006

When he refused to deploy to Iraq in June, Army Lt. Ehren Watada said he was following his conscience and upholding his duty not to obey illegal orders. But that didn’t impress military officials, who promptly charged him with violating Army rules and sent him on a path toward a likely court-martial.

In doing so, they set up an unusual collision between a man who is believed to be the first officer to refuse duty in Iraq and a military justice system that is now effectively being asked to rule on the war’s legality.

In a packed hearing room on this Army base south of Seattle Thursday, lawyers for Lt. Watada used the opportunity to put the war itself on trial, trying to prove he was right to see the war as “manifestly illegal,” and as a result, to refuse to participate. “A soldier has an obligation to disobey illegal orders,” said Francis Boyle, a Harvard-trained professor of international law who testified on behalf of Lt. Watada and whose mentor wrote the Army’s field manual for land warfare. “Under the circumstances of this war, if he had deployed, he would have been facilitating a Nuremberg crime against peace.”

Boyle, along with a former United Nations Undersecretary-General and a retired army colonel, argued that the U.S. decision to attack Iraq in 2003 without U.N. authorization made the war illegal from the beginning. He went further, arguing that the failure of the Bush Administration to find either weapons of mass destruction or a provable link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks showed that Congress was persuaded “by means of fraud” when it voted to authorize the war.

Lt. Watada, 28, joined the Army after Sept. 11 and initially served in South Korea, where he received stellar marks from his superiors. As recently as last summer he was willing to go to Iraq. In January, after he became convinced that the war was illegal, he tried to resign rather than go to Iraq, but the Army wouldn’t let him do so. As a compromise, he asked to be sent instead to Afghanistan, a war he supports. His request was not granted.

REMEMBER TO CLICK TO http://www.shalomctr.org/node/1171 AND WRITE YOUR COMMENTS ON HOW YOU SEE THIS ISSUE

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A prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, & American life

Catching up

August 22, 2006

I haven’t had much of an opportunity to write or even post for the last couple of weeks. Melinda has been traveling a lot. When she got home, it was time for me to leave again. My mom is elderly, blind, and has dementia. She lives in a skilled nursing facility in Fresno County, and I go to visit her when I can. My brother and my sister and her family also live there.

I have my laptop, which I take with me when I travel, but my brother (rightly) pointed out that we had hardly spent any time together my previous visit. I had been taking care of church business. This time, I tried as much as possible to stay off of the computer and spend time with him. That is WAY more important while I’m there.

Anyway…

The results of the Dr. Pepper contest are in, and (unfortunately) my friend Billy Rugh from Creative Planet School of the Arts didn’t win the first prize of $23,000. He was one of the runners-up. As such, he receives $2,300–money that will be well-used. Thanks to everyone who voted in the contest.

If you’d like to see more about the school, a Yahoo production crew came out to the school/church and did a great video of Billy and the students, which can be found at http://advision.webevents.yahoo.com/drpepper/videos/BillRugh.wmv. Take a few minutes and watch it! It’s really inspiring.

More later…..

Hizbullah, Zionism, and the Ideology of late Imperial America

August 10, 2006

Hizbullah, Zionism and the Ideology of late Imperial America: Awakening the Resistance

By JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN

08/10/06 “CounterpunchThousands of Lebanese, Palestinians and others made a kind of pilgrimage to Fatima’s gate in the summer of 2000 to celebrate the end of Israel’s 22 -year occupation of south Lebanon. ‘Fatima’s gate’ denoted a stretch of land on the Lebanon-Israel border newly controlled by Hizbullah after it pursued the retreating Israeli forces back into Israel. Yellow Hizbullah flags flew everywhere. The atmosphere was festive and light. People set up souvenir stands selling Hizbullah memorabilia – flags, key-rings, postcards, pens – to commemorate the historic event. Families strolled up and back along the road pa! rallel to the border, pointing out the Israeli towns in the distance. Friends strode along together talking politics and stopping to stare at the last wreckages of the event, the burned out jeeps and cars, the bullet holes and shrapnel wounds in the facades of the walls and buildings left behind by the retreating Israelis. Parents and children alike gazed at these remains; some took pictures posed next to them. Others passed by more solemnly, wary of disturbing the near-sanctity of these symbols of struggle and of the years of adversity they recalled.

Across a stretch of land demarcated by barbed wire and signposts stood a lone Israeli watch-tower. From Fatima’s gate one could just make out the shapes of helmeted soldiers within, behind a small rectangular window of bullet-proofed glass: the hapless targets of rocks hurled continually across the border by all who could manage to throw them and the cheering on-lookers applauding each lob.

The summer of 2000 has taken on the transient quality of a landscape brightened by a break in the clouds for an all too brief interlude.

That was the summer Lebanon began to awaken again; to bloom into a metropolis of culture and scandal, nightlife and slums, commerce and tourism, stretching, yawning and weeping with sorrow and relief. The stiflingly hot streets of Haret Hreik in the south suburbs were neighbors the of the Bourj al-Barajneh, Chatila and Mar Elias Palestinian refugee camps all full of the squalor and pulsing of life, the worlds within worlds of poverty, hope, despair and faith. There in the slums of the city a young, intelligent doctor from the camp hospital invited me to his home to meet his mother and sister and to explain why he, a Sunni Muslim and a Palestinian, had chosen to become a member of Hizbullah. Safwat was an anomaly then, or so I believed. But now, when I traverse the str! eets of Haret Hreik in my mind, the fruit and vegetable stands, the phone stores and electronics shops, the clothing stores, restaurants and cafes, the banks and Internet stops, the grocery and household supply marts where one could purchase all her daily necessities, it is clear that the seeds of a vast resistance had just begun to germinate. It was unclear to me then just how fully it would bloom; just how tenacious its roots would become.

Today, the bustling streets of Haret Hreik are gone. Where families lived and thrived, struggled and laughed, is an emptiness of rubble-–the bombed ruins of a greedy imperial war that stops at nothing. Today Lebanon stands behind Hizbullah. The Lebanese have become the bitter, cheering on-lookers of the resistance which lobs its out-dated missiles relentlessly across the border as the Israeli war machine refuels again and again. But US precision guided bombs, cluster bombs, white phosphorus, unmanned aerial drones, drones to guide the bombs, helicopters armed with missiles, F-16s, gun ships and state-of-the-art armed and trained ground forces with night vision surveillance and combat goggles have succeeded in uniting far more than the Lebanese behind the daring defiance of Hassan Nasrallah.

Sixteen years of civil war, of murderous sectarian acrimony, of inter-ethnic killing, suspicion and paranoia and today-–after 28 days of hell unleashed upon it by the arrogant racism of a militant and ideological Zionism— 89% of Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims, 80% of its Christians, 80% of its Druze and 100% of its Shiite populations support Hizbullah’s resistance against Israel and the United States.

At least as telling are statistics showing that 97% of Palestinians support Hizbullah’s position toward Israel including 95% of Christian Palestinians. Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian territories and Iran are not the only places where support for Hizbullah has increased dramatically in the last month. Among the populations of the American-backed Arab states, notably Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, there is also widespread support. Indeed, seizing ! upon the corruption and obsequiousness of these regimes and their tacit support of Israel, Nasrallah intoned in a recent address, “there will be no place for [you] if you abandon your moral and national responsibility… For the sake of your thrones I say to you gather [up your humanity] and act for one day in order to stop this aggression on Lebanon.” He understands, as do they, that their unwillingness to condemn the insouciant murder of more than a thousand people will cost them dearly. Suddenly these merciless, sell-out regimes are left scrambling to help author a ceasefire agreement less embarrassing than the Bolton-Gillerman diktat that left the Israeli military in place in south Lebanon while seeking to disarm Hizbullah.

Are we really surprised by the vast, Hizbullah-led resistance? By the linkage it makes with people across the boundaries of national insult, defeat and humiliation? Are we really surprised that 40 years after Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights and 6 years into its continued occupation of the Shebaa Farms in Lebanon that people are have had enough? Are we really surprised that 3 and a half years into the US occupation and devastation of Iraq, 5 years after the US invasion and destruction of Afghanistan and decades of killings, intrusions, violations, abductions, assassinations, meddling, economic sanctions, pilfering and exploitation of the people, lands and resources of the Middle East that the reckless, racist, power-drunk mercenaries of empire should finally be met with a legitimate popular resistance?-–not an outgrowth of displaced fana! ticism, not an al-Qaeda gang of killers, but the beginnings of a grassroots pan-Arab and pan-Islamic movement seeking to heal the wounds of perpetual subjugation?

What message have the purveyors of state power brought with them that their listeners should wish to continue to bow in subservience? The conditions are not right for a ceasefire, say George Bush and Condoleeza Rice. First burn down the house and then we can discuss how to put out the flames. We are not just fighting Hizbullah, says Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, but Syria and Iran as well. Accept our vision of a Starbucked-MidEast; a Middle East with sanitized Muslims appointed by the corporate board of Ziocondriacs who break into hives at the words “Islam” and “Arab;” whose peace imposes fast food franchises; whose freedom is the right to purchase arms at the Great Mall of the Gulf States; whose riches are the oil wells mortgaged to Texas; and whose water resources run through the processing plants of the Ariel and Gush Etzion settlement blocs.

They tell you that a Jewish state is democratic but a Muslim state is evil; that Palestinians living in Palestine have no rights and no state but Jews living in the rest of the world can ‘return’ and live there as rights’-bearing citizens; that Jesus wants you in Palestine unless you are a Palestinian or a Muslim; that Washington, London and Tel Aviv can produce nuclear warheads but that Tehran is a global threat for daring to enrich uranium; that legitimate resistance is terrorism but state terrorism is “self-defense”; that the desert state of Syria is Nasrallah’s courier and puppeteer but that Washington is an honest broker and a partner for peace; that Iran is a rogue state for arming Hizbullah but that America is freedom-loving for arming Tel Aviv; that we cannot talk to Damascus or Tehran unless they renounce themselves out of existence first; that expansionism and regime change are necessary for American and Israeli national security but that the Arab and Muslim winners of free and fair democratic elections should be arrested in the middle of the night and imprisoned in secret police detention centers for attempting to rule.

They tell you that three soldiers captured by Hamas and Hizbullah are worth the collective destruction of Palestine and Lebanon but that civilians kidnapped by Israel are not worth the price of a printed page; that the tens of thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails and the hundreds of Afghanis, Pakistanis, Arabs and others at Guantanamo Bay are worth less than the abandoned pets of the residents of North Israel fleeing to the bomb shelters. They sing sanctimonious hymns to the glory of international law as they veto it into the oblivion of a million shell fragments.

Don’t count the blackened bodies of the peach farmers of Qaa laid out in the afternoon sun along the roadside. Don’t weep for the petrified, death-stolen children under the concrete rubble of Qana. Don’t suffer the incinerated of Marwaheen, the blasted of Srifa and Khiam and Tibnine. Don’t list the villages lost or the homes destroyed; don’t number the dead of Beirut and Tyre. Don’t listen to the wailing on the beaches of Gaza. Don’t mourn the lost lives of Khan Yunis or Beit Hanoun, people of the sand and the dust; of corrugated iron and uprooted orange groves. Don’t number the fallen in Nablus or Jenin: the old shepherds, the young rebels, the pregnant wives and weary husbands, the somber schoolgirls and the angry boys in the lost alleys of the camps. We will hear all of their voices again; see their likenesses in the shattered streets of the Levant. They will gather beneath the cedar and the minaret; carry with them the kuffiyeh and the Qur’an; they will speak the language of the resistance that we have breathed into them like fire.

Jennifer Loewenstein is a Visiting Research Fellow at Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre. She has lived and worked in Gaza City, Beirut and Jerusalem and has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, where she has worked as a free-lance journalist and a human rights activist. She can be reached at: amadea311@earthlink.net

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FYI: Religion in Lebanon

August 7, 2006

Lebanon’s Religious Affiliations

  • Muslim – 59.7% (Shi’a, Sunni, Druze, Isma’ilite, Alawite or Nusayri)
  • Christian – 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant)
  • other – 1.3%

note: 17 religious sects recognized

Ben Weir on Lebanon: “Pray Fervently”

August 7, 2006

August 4, 2006

Ben Weir: Middle East peace failure spawned Lebanon violence

U.S. has lost credibility, former hostage and GA moderator says

by Jerry L. Van Marter

 

Photo of Ben Weir
Photo of Ben Weir

LOUISVILLE – The failure of Israel, the Arab states and the international community to reach a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East is at the root of the violence that is tearing Lebanon apart, says former Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) missionary and hostage there Benjamin Weir.

“Hopes for peace are not on the horizon,” Weir told the Presbyterian News Service in an exclusive Aug. 1 interview, “because the Arab-Israeli issue has not been addressed forthrightly.”

Weir, who with his wife Carol served as PC(USA) missionaries in Lebanon for nearly 30 years, was kidnapped off the streets of Beirut on May 8, 1984, by an Islamic fundamentalist group, Islamic Jihad, that later morphed into Hezbollah. He was released 16 months later. Shortly thereafter he was elected moderator of the 1986 General Assembly and has been one of the most world’s most respected voices for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East for the past 20 years.

“This tragic situation today brings back bitter memories of previous invasions of Lebanon,” Weir said. “These two antagonists, Israel and Hezbollah, have brought deep wounds on themselves.”

Weir said Hezbollah was “very unwise” to precipitate the current round of warfare by snatching two Israeli soldiers in a border incursion earlier in July. “Hezbollah has brought down the Lebanese house around itself and when the dust settles I expect there to be a strong reaction by the Lebanese public.”

But to lay the blame solely on Hezbollah is to see the situation in the region too simplistically, Weir insisted. “It’s not just Hezbollah, but anger generated throughout the Middle East about the whole Palestinian issue,” he said. “The anger is coming from Arab people generally, not just Hezbollah, about the inability of both Israel and the Palestinians to reach a [peace] agreement.”

And by its one-sided, unwavering support of Israel — together with its ill-advised war against Iraq — the United States “has lost much of its credibility in the Middle East,” Weir lamented, calling it a “great tragedy.” The U.S., he added, “has not played an honest broker role and so the baton has been passed to the European community and the United Nations.”

Weir said he’s “thankful that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the ecumenical community have appealed to the U.S. government for justice and fairness — there is a desperate need to reorient ourselves to a more equal understanding of the whole situation.”

Weir said there’s “no doubt” that Hezbollah has “received tremendous support from Iran,” but that support, too, needs to be placed in historical context. “The Shiites in Lebanon and Iran have family ties that go back generations,” Weir noted, recalling meeting a Lebanese family in Tehran 40 years ago who were there visiting relatives.

“Back in the early 1970s, when Carol and I were living in south Lebanon, there were Lebanese leaders speaking out against the plight of the people there and about the only support they got was from fellow Shiites in Iran — that was more than 30 years ago!

“Generations of Shia living under oppression in south Lebanon and other places have looked to Iran as a model for overcoming their oppression,” Weir said, “though very few support that particular political model.”

And because the Lebanese government is very weak — and weaker still because of the current war — “ the Lebanese will not be free from influence from many directions for the foreseeable future.”

Lebanon’s future, Weir continued, depends on the international community. “The plight of one million displaced Lebanese, and the deep loss and sorrow caused by such extensive destruction calls for both massive emergency aid as well as negotiations to create a meaningful ceasefire,” he said. “Early this year there were rising hopes that Lebanon would once again begin to see prosperity and stability. Now there has been a great letdown leading to hopelessness.”

Weir, who has been on the phone and email continuously since the violence began, said none of his closest colleagues in Lebanon have been killed or injured. The Near East School of Theology, where he taught while serving as a missionary and for which he and Carol tirelessly work to raise financial and other support, has become a refugee shelter, as have other Christian schools and institutions in the country.

“There’s lots of good will — Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is working with the Middle East Council of Churches and Action by Churches Together (a Geneva-based relief agency of which the PCUSA is a part),” Weir said, “but in the total picture its only a drop in the bucket.”

Weir also praised General Assembly Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, who he said “sent a very helpful letter to our partner churches in the region. In such circumstances it’s so easy to feel isolated.”

And though he realizes passions run deep “with fear and distrust of Israel’s military establishment a reality,” Weir said, “I hope that Lebanese can become aware that Israeli civilians have suffered, too.”

Weir said he has been deeply touched, as he talks with Presbyterians around the country, “by the many expressions of horror and empathy for the plight of Lebanese seen nightly on TV in the midst of such suffering and devastation.” Many, he said, ask what they can do?

“Pray fervently,” he tells them.

“But beyond that is the larger issue: How can we address internationally at early stages situations of friction and injustice before they erupt in armed confrontation?” he said.

“There are no easy answers,” Weir said. “But I am glad to be part of a Presbyterian Church that takes peacemaking seriously, and close to Middle East Christians who know that is their calling, too.”

Courts do what churches won’t

August 5, 2006

By Michael McManus

— In recent weeks, courts in six different states have taken the conservative position that state legislatures, or the public in a referendum, have the right to limit marriage to a man and a woman.

Such decisions might have been expected in states like Georgia and Nebraska, but were delightfully surprising in “blue states” Washington and New York.

The Washington State Supreme Court overturned lower court cases permitting gay marriage by stating that the Legislature “was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to the survival of the human race and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological parents.”

Even the high court in New York state came to the same conclusion, that the state constitution “does not compel recognition of marriages between members of the same sex. Whether such marriages should be recognized is a question to be addressed by the Legislature.”

However, before concluding that a federal marriage amendment is not needed, remember two facts. First, the liberal New Jersey Supreme Court appears likely to endorse same-sex marriage in a case it has been sitting on for months.

Second, the winds of change are rushing through major Christian denominations. The Presbyterian Church voted in June to allow local presbyteries and churches to declare the church’s constitution’s prohibition of ordaining practicing homosexuals as “non-essential.”

By a vote of 298-221, the church’s 217th General Assembly allowed a “local option” which sets aside the ordination requirements that a person be either married and faithful or chaste, if single. Practicing gays or lesbians had been effectively proscribed from ordination.

However, 30 of the 173 presbyteries have already ordained gays or conducted same-sex “blessings,” so the local option decision simply ratifies what has been going on.

Nevertheless, a coalition of conservative Presbyterians denounced the decision as “a profound deviation from Biblical requirements, and we can not accept, support or tolerate this decision.”

The denomination lost 65,000 members in 2005 alone, and even the national church predicts a loss of 85,000 in 2006. The 4.3 million Presbyterians in 1965 has fallen to 2.3 million.

The future of these mainline denominations can be seen in the United Church of Christ. A year ago, it voted to grant marriage rights to same-gender couples. Since that decision, the 1.1-million member church (down from 2.1 million in 1965) has lost 196 congregations.

Religious leaders are supposed to be America’s moral leaders. It is ironic that many courts are assuming that role.

Copyright © 1999-2006 cnhi, inc

Give me your tired, your poor … or not

August 3, 2006

At one point in my life, I tried to live somewhere other than California. I hated every minute of it, and couldn’t wait to get back to my “homeland.” I love traveling, and would happily go anywhere… but moving is a completely different story. And that’s just me; Melinda has lived in Southern California all of her life. As much as she travels (close to half of the time), she has never seriously considered living anywhere else.

California has made progress in our legal rights, certainly, with the domestic partnership package that is available here. But it’s still a two-tier system–an unequal system. Many of the “big ticket” items are part of that package, but some, such as joint state tax returns, are missing. But it will never be complete until the state has one system, and the federal government recognizes those contracts.

As the author says in the article below, “In another handful of decades, same-gender marriage and full equality for non-heterosexual Americans will have been locked into place — and history will regard our one-time opponents as shamefully as it now views Bull Connor, Orville Faubus, Lester Maddox and other legendary Apostates of Hate.”

But what do we do in the meantime? Do I stay or do I go? Well, for us, we stay. And fight!


Give me your tired, your poor … or notBy Steve KlugerWith advocacy groups and state courts pushing for new laws to bar same-gender marriage, gay adoption and civil unions — even though other nations are opening their doors (and their hearts) to the same issues — the global image that the United States has been laundering for well over 50 years seems to have developed ring-around-the-collar. In fact, the emperor is stark naked. But that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention.

On Dec. 29, 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt dubbed America “The Arsenal of Democracy.” And he probably meant it. After all, he was rich, he was popular, his wife did all the grunt work, he had just been elected to an unprecedented third term and the Republicans detested him. What could be more democratic than that?

On the other hand, it might have been a second martini talking. When FDR signed Executive Order 9066 just over a year later, The Arsenal of Democracy promptly consigned West Coast Americans of Japanese descent to prison camps. These euphemistic “internees” were given 48 hours to dispose of belongings and to terminate the lives they had been living for as long as half a century. No other options were afforded.

African-Americans, too, had always encountered a similar paucity of choices: To be set on fire in their own Oklahoma neighborhoods; to be lynched in the South; to be beaten to a pulp in the North; or to develop hot licks on a trumpet and change their names to Louis Armstrong.

But that was a long time ago. The Arsenal of Democracy doesn’t visibly hate African-Americans or citizens of Japanese descent anymore. That’s because it inadvertently mined the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community — and discovered it had struck the eternal mother lode. Big mistake. Never oppose a minority that knows how fabulous it is.

The modern gay rights movement was born in the early hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in New York’s West Village, when a bar full of patrons decided they had had enough of police harassment. Led by a group of drag queens in high heels, the riots went on for two days — and it was the cops who gave in by agreeing not to harass gay bars anymore.

Credit the gay baby boomers who started the ball rolling. Since then, we’ve overcome such formidable enemies as Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell and the U.S. Supreme Court; we’ve learned how to take care of ourselves and each other during the AIDS pandemic after a silent Ronald Reagan refused to acknowledge the health crisis until thousands of us were dead; we’ve earned our own martyrs and heroes, such as openly gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk and intrepid writer-activist Larry Kramer; and we’ve re-drafted the book on Respect.

And yet.

For every same-gender marriage performed in Massachusetts, there are at least as many demands to amend that state’s constitution to the contrary. For every proposed high school Gay-Straight Alliance designed to promote understanding among the kids, there’s always some crackpot who claims a secret homosexual agenda to recruit children. Comments such as these can hurt like hell, especially when 37 years of relentless abuse has worn down your armor.

But unlike our African-American forbears or the Issei and Nisei imprisoned in the World War II internment camps, none of whom was any more welcome elsewhere than they were here, we might be the first persecuted minority that has the option to emigrate from The Arsenal of Democracy to other nations where we and our spouses will be recognized and embraced as the best-dressed refugees you’ve ever seen — much as the hounded immigrants from Eastern Europe once set their sights on Ellis Island.

Indeed, the number of countries that sanction same-gender marriage or civil unions is becoming its own multiplication table: Denmark. Norway. Sweden. Iceland. Finland. The Netherlands. Belgium. Great Britain. Spain. France. Luxembourg. Argentina. New Zealand. And, of course, Canada. Twenty years ago, we were losing our friends to AIDS. These days, we’re losing them to Vancouver and Toronto.

“There’s something to be said for Canadian politeness and that inbred sense of live and let live,” observes Richard Labonte, a journalist and bookseller who moved from San Francisco to a farm in Ontario with his partner of 14 years, Dean. “When we went to the nearest small town for a marriage license, the male clerk remarked that we were the first same-sex couple to apply, and he congratulated us.” Dean, born and raised in the homophobic Deep South, admits that he still finds the friendliness and acceptance unnerving.

To be sure, there’s an ethical dilemma here: In another handful of decades, same-gender marriage and full equality for non-heterosexual Americans will have been locked into place — and history will regard our one-time opponents as shamefully as it now views Bull Connor, Orville Faubus, Lester Maddox and other legendary Apostates of Hate. But our predecessors had no alternative except to stay put and fight, proving their birth rights as Americans over and over again until it was no longer necessary — while gay boomers are able to plan our remaining 20 or 25 years under democracies that actually want us.

Are we allowing the gay-bashers to win? Do we have the moral authority to move on and bequeath the battles to the next generation? Or do we belong here in the trenches until we drop?

One fact is certain: We still have the freedom to choose. That’s in the Constitution.

Like a lot of things.

Steve Kluger is a novelist and playwright.

Find this article at:
http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20060802/oplede02.art.htm

Creative Planet School of the Arts – HELP!

August 1, 2006

Dear friends,

The Creative Planet School of the Arts is located at the First Presbyterian Church of Baldwin Park. We consider them to be our partners and our friends.

The founder and principal of Creative Planet, Mr. Billy R., is in the finals of the Dr. Pepper community activist contest. He needs your votes! Read about him here, and then click on the link below to cast your vote. Since this contest is co-sponsored by Yahoo!, you need to log in with your Yahoo ID (if you have one–or if you’re willing to set one up for free).

Thanks,

Sonnie

p.s. Please forward this on to folks who might want to help. For more about Creative Planet and Billy, go to cpsoa.org or to http://voteforbilly.blogspot.com/.

finalists

Vote for this person Bill R of Duarte,CA
On Behalf of the Creative Planet School of the Arts
Billy R. is a creative genius and an inspirational community leader. Five years ago he set out on a mission to provide high quality, gifted-level arts and academic training to low income children throughout Los Angeles. Today, he has achieved this mission and then some by offering advanced academic and artistic training at an extremely low tuition and by creating full scholarships for families with economic hardships. And he’s done all this while paying himself only the most minimal of salaries. His non-profit school, Creative Planet School of the Arts, is a haven of learning and creativity for students who were previously deemed at-risk, learning disabled or undisciplined. I have seen first hand how many children’s lives have been changed by Billy and his amazing school. These kids can paint a masterpiece; sing in four-part harmony; dance ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap and modern; play the piano; and act a Shakespearean monologue, all while scoring in the top 20 percent of the nation on their SATs. Billy peppers our community with creativity every day…inspiring the hearts, minds and talents of the youth of Los Angeles to pepper their community with hope for tomorrow.

Now go to http://advision.webevents.yahoo.com/drpepper/getpeppered/vote/vote.php to vote!

Now We Have Three Swamps

August 1, 2006

Tim Simpson of the Christian Alliance for Progress writes the following e-mail about the mire that we find ourselves in. It contains more ideas of what we as individual citizens of America and the world must do.

 

Christian Alliance for Progress

 

Now We Have Three Swamps

Five years ago, after September 11th, President Bush announced that the US invasion of Afghanistan was intended to “drain the swamp” of the terrorists who had proliferated under the Taliban regime after the Soviets had withdrawn. The sad fact is that where there once was only one such swamp, now there are three.

Swamp # 1

Afghanistan has largely dropped off the radar of the American public due to the debacle in Iraq and because the Western press has closed down their bureaus in that country and now only occasionally send someone there for an update. But what has been trickling out is extremely disheartening, given the fanfare with which we pledged just a couple of years ago to transform Afghan society and create a democracy which would chart a new course for that war-torn nation. For once the cameras were turned off, the soldiers started being redeployed to Iraq and the reconstruction funds disappeared. Now the Taliban are once again in control of sections of the countryside, the opium trade is expecting a record yield from this summer’s harvest, and President Karzai’s authority has bottomed out.

Swamp # 2

Iraq has become the “mother of all swamps” to borrow a phrase from its erstwhile dictator. No one but the delusional believes that the country is any better than when Saddam was in power, as the sectarian violence in combination with the anti-American insurgency have turned the entire country upside down. The unfortunate fact is that the delusional souls who believe Iraq is better are running our country and are thus pouring more money and troops into the ever-widening abyss.

Swamp # 3

The most recent tragedy is in Lebanon, where the US has urged on the Israelis in their counter-productive efforts to smash Hezbollah. There is no question that Hezbollah’s assaults on Israel, both their indiscriminate rocket attacks and the cross border killing and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, are immoral and that the Israelis were within their rights under international law to respond with force. However, as Michael Walzer, the widely-acknowledged authority on Just War wrote in The New Republic last week, one may be justified in rooting out launching sites for rockets or taking down the guerillas who pose a threat for more raids into Israeli territory, but it is quite another matter to destroy the entire Lebanese infrastructure–power plants, water treatment facilities, airports, roads and bridges, banks and other such public facilities. This goes far beyond the kind of proportionate response that any understanding of Just War would allow and instead becomes simple revenge and retribution that while apparently making the Israelis feel better, in the end will not make them any safer.

Ostensibly the Israelis want the Lebanese government to rein in Hezbollah and control its southern border, rather than leaving that area under Hezbollah influence. That is a perfectly reasonable demand, but their actions have made this outcome a virtual impossibility for many years to come. The already weak Lebanese government has been crippled further by the destruction of the national infrastructure, by the flight of the business class out of the country, and by its failure to protect the Lebanese people and their property from three weeks of unrelenting attack. Whatever hope that there is that the Lebanese government will be both a stabilizing and restraining force within its own borders is fading fast.

Instead of trying to head off this impending disaster, the Bush administration, which seems never to have met a war it didn’t like, have done nothing to stop the Israeli advance. The US support for Israel’s actions has become so lopsided that the Lebanese President actually refused to meet with Secretary of State Rice this past weekend, since he can no longer afford even to be seen with her while his nation is under attack with American blessing.

The Israelis and the US have made a colossal blunder. Hezbollah’s stock is soaring in the Middle East as I write this, with nearly 90% support according to an international poll taken this weekend. A month ago regimes all across the region wanted little to do with the group, whose Islamic fundamentalism is at odds with and even a threat to places like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Now, however, with images of dead children, flattened buildings and a nation of refugees on the run, the Muslim street has turned even more against both the Israelis and Americans. Worse, the chaos in Lebanon has once again created the seedbed of terrorism, which we know from experience around the world will be the next stage of what develops there. Sadly, our leadership seems to be asleep at the wheel with no coherent policy other than that force is good, which has made our already shaky diplomatic reputation around the world even less respected. As New York Times columnist Tom Friedman said today, the Bush Administration has lots of moral clarity, but no moral authority. We cannot afford the peace and stability of both the nation and the world to be endangered by the poor decisions and declining influence of our leaders. Something has to be done immediately.

What You Can Do

  1. First of all, every Christian needs to be in serious prayer for peace in the Middle East. What is happening to Lebanon is tragic, but so is what has happened in Israel, where over 2,500 of Hezbollah’s missiles have landed in the past three weeks. Israelis, like their Lebanese counterparts, have also been forced to evacuate their homes and businesses and are watching their futures being dismantled because of the violence. All of these people, whatever their nationality or religion need our prayers and support during this difficult time.
  2. Second, every Christian needs to pressure our government to do what it can to rein in the Israeli war machine as quickly as possible. We give the Israelis nearly $3 billion a year in aid (in comparison to $40 million a year to Lebanon, who really needs the help) and sell them sophisticated weapons that are wreaking havoc on Lebanon right now. You should call the White House, your Senator and Congressional Representative and tell them that the Israeli incursion into Lebanon has to end and that rather than refusing to talk to the principal players in this dispute that the US should be leading those conversations.
  3. Third, we need a regime change in the US, one in which reason and faithful values replace reactive and unreflective policies, and we need your help to shape the conversation that will make this happen. The Fall elections will allow American citizens to express their displeasure with the course of events our nation has followed that has brought us to the sad place where we have three swamps in that region of the world, not just the one that did us so much harm in 2001. The peace of the world is at stake in the present crisis and our current leadership has done nothing but exacerbate the problem. Please help us as we move with God’s help to point our nation toward a more just and equitable course which will reflect the values of Jesus Christ and his coming reign.