Israel

'Innocence of Muslims' Video Suggests a Fetish for Armageddon

Actor portraying Mohammed in “Innocence of Muslims,"via Christian Piatt
Actor portraying Mohammed in “Innocence of Muslims,"via Christian Piatt

I finally sat down and watched the entire 11-plus minute video, Innocence of Muslims, which is at the heart of the recent outrage in Islamic countries in Yemen and north Africa.  Suffice it to say, I lost a healthy share of brain cells in the process. The narrative – if you can call it that – is incoherent throughout, the sound is barely audible in places and the overall production values make the Annoying Orange series look like Scorsese.

That said, there’s plenty to anger Muslims in this clip, or anyone who values religious tolerance, plural coexistence, or even basic respect for human nature.

Blindfolded Judges

MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images
n undated picture shows US peace activist Rachel Corrie, 23, in the Rafah refugee camp. MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

In the bright light of these days’ events it is helpful to be reminded of unalterable truths that transcend party conventions and oppressive governments. The political gatherings and increasing pain of the Middle East conflicts confuse the consciousness. They divert attention and trouble our slumber. Corporate callousness and individual hopelessness has set in and we have turned our faces to that which inures us from the persistent discomforting news.  

Pick your own, even if momentary distraction. For me it has been Washington National’s baseball in the drive for a championship and maybe a World Series appearance.  My spirit rises or falls on the team’s performances and batting averages of the Nats mini gods.

The biblical Job sought less superficial solace from his and the world’s sufferings. He responded to one of his “comforters” saying “when the land falls into the hand of the wicked He (God) blindfolds its judges” (9:24).

When All of Abraham’s Children Share a Table: A Moment I’ll Never Forget

Interfaith prayer, photo courtesy Jon Huckins
Interfaith prayer, photo courtesy Jon Huckins

Hebron is known as one of the most volatile cities in the whole region of Israel/Palestine. Located in the heart of the West Bank, both Jews and Arabs have had roots here for thousands of years.  Having endured years of conflict, racism, violence and separation, Hebron’s inhabitants have been covered in a narrative lacking an acknowledgment of a shared humanity

It’s in the middle of such realities that our Learning Community (part of our organization, The Global Immersion Project) feels called to listen, learn, and be radically present. Through the art of friendship making, shared tables and storytelling, we desire to promote the just heart of God by being a people of reconciliation in the way of Jesus. 

It was this posture that landed us in the underground home of a local Muslim Palestinian family who is close friends with the Jewish Rabbi who was hosting us in the old city of Hebron (he is both a host and dear friend). Having prepared a beautiful and expansive Palestinian meal, they warmly invited each one of us into their home and said, “Today, this is your home.” 

Photo Essay: 'Ramadan Kareem' at Jerusalem Checkpoints?

(photo: RRB/Activestills.org)
The hands of Palestinian men grip the steel bars at the Bethlehem checkpoint. (photo: RRB/Activestills.org)

Due to a temporary relaxation in Israeli policy, many Palestinians traveled to Jerusalem through checkpoints during Ramadan this year. But now that Ramadan is over, it’s back to business as usual.

Every day, thousands of Palestinians circumvent the Israeli separation wall by crossing into Jerusalem without permission from Israeli authorities. Israeli journalist Haggai Matar recently described this major flaw in the wall’s security rationale, even quoting a pro-barrier activist who admits:

“'There’s no problem crossing the gaps in the fence and tens of thousands of illegal workers cross it back and forth every day, and there should be no problem getting suicide bombers through with them,” stresses Ilan Tsi’on, co-founder of 'A Fence for Life.' 'So why don’t they? Because that’s the Palestinians’ choice.'”

The same logic applies to the checkpoints controlling movement within territory under Israeli occupation since 1967 — including East Jerusalem, which contains the Old City, the Haram Al-Sharif (or Temple Mount), and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Though Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem, no other nation recognizes the legitimacy of the action and international consensus still regards it as occupied Palestinian territory. That so many Palestinians routinely risk arrest and prison by circumventing these checkpoints — without incident — shows that their security rationale is absurd. While at the same time, the vast majority of Palestinians who try to play by the rules of occupation remain restricted under Israel’s matrix of control.

Is Skinny Dipping in the Sea of Galilee Sacrilegious?

Sea of Galilee, Lara65 / Shutterstock.com
Sea of Galilee, Lara65 / Shutterstock.com

More than 20 lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides, including one nude congressman, took a booze-fueled late-night swim in Israel’s Sea of Galilee last summer, Politico reported on Monday. Which leaves at least one question: Is skinny-dipping at the biblical site sacrilegious?

Not really, Christian leaders and Holy Land experts said.

“Conservative Christians, obviously, aren't for getting naked in public or drunk anywhere,” said Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

“The location of the Sea of Galilee, however, doesn't make the story any more offensive to Christians than it is to the general public,” he said.

Politics, Gaffes, and Truth

Daniel in the Lion's Den, Nicku / Shutterstock.com
Daniel in the Lion's Den, Nicku / Shutterstock.com

I have so often pondered what might have happened if the media had covered more honestly the stifling of protest that Nakba Day in 1999 and as a result the local officials and the world community had heard the cry?  Could the disaster have passed and peace with justice been advanced.

Today the media is much more candid. One wonders if we have received a rare gift of unaltered reality in this period of deepening crisis in the Holy Land and overheated atmosphere in the American presidential campaign. For this week it is being reported clearly that we have a presidential candidate, and probably millions of likeminded uninformed voters, who are apparently oblivious or uncaring about the explosive oppression of Palestinians.  

Pollster: Romney’s Israel Visit to Have Little Effect on Jewish Vote

Mitt Romney, July 23, 2012. Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images.
Mitt Romney, July 23, 2012. Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images.

WASHINGTON — Neither Mitt Romney’s trip to Israel Saturday nor President Obama’s Middle East policies will have much effect on Jewish voters this fall, according to a new report that says Jewish voting patterns are predictable and unchanging.

The report, “Making Sense of the Jewish Vote,” predicts Jewish Americans will follow historical precedent and largely vote Democrat this fall. Moreover, Jewish voters will have a negligible effect on the presidential election’s outcome, even in swing states, said Jim Gerstein, a pollster with polling firm GBA Strategies who compiled the report.

Still, the Republican Jewish Coalition recently announced a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign targeting Jewish voters in swing states Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio. “My Buyer’s Remorse” features testimonials decrying Obama’s posture toward Israel and economic policies.

Foremost Rabbinic Authority in the World Dies at 102

Western Wall and Dome of the Rock in the old city of Jerusalem, Israel.  Image v
Western Wall and Dome of the Rock in the old city of Jerusalem, Israel. Image via SeanPavonePhoto / Shutterstock.

JERUSALEM — Rabbi Yosef Elyashiv, considered by many the foremost rabbinic authority in the Jewish world, died in Jerusalem on Wednesday. He was 102.

Born in Lithuania, Elyashiv moved to Jerusalem with his family at the age of 14, where he was recognized as a budding Torah scholar. 

Throughout his life Elyashiv wielded a huge influence not only among his fellow ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews but with many Sephardi Jews as well.

His rulings on every matter related to Jewish life, usually seen as extremely conservative, have shaped the way hundreds of thousands of haredim (as ultra-Orthodox Jews are often called) conduct their lives and run their communities.

Fighting the Real Enemy: Fear

Siham Abu Awwad grew up in a Palestinian family in a small West Bank village. When Siham was 14, her mother was imprisoned for six months for demonstrating against the military occupation of the West Bank. Siham became the woman of the house, caring for her four brothers—Khaled, Youssef, Ali, and Maha.

With their mother in jail, Siham and her brothers became very close. “We had a special place in each other’s heart,” she told me. Missing her mother, and with little time for friends, Siham became especially close to Youssef. “I told him everything. He was kind and sensitive. He was like a sister!”

When Siham’s mother returned from prison, she continued her political activism and was soon arrested again, but she maintained a sense of humor and challenged her children to be kind and good.

The establishment of a nearby Jewish settlement led to ongoing seizures of land from Siham’s village, and there were frequent protests. By the time Siham was 17, her mother and all her brothers had been in and out of jail for participating in the protests that are illegal under Israeli law. Knowing she would likely be imprisoned again and concerned for her daughter’s future, Siham’s mother encouraged her to marry. Siham did, and eventually gave birth to five children.

Youssef and Ali both married too, but happiness was short-lived. Two months after his wedding, Ali was shot in the leg by a settler. Doctors wanted to amputate his leg and feared he would not survive, but his mother arranged treatment in Saudi Arabia, where Ali’s life and his leg were saved. While preparing a celebration for Ali’s return, Youssef was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint. “Youssef was our angel,” said Siham, “always with a smile.”

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Preventing an Iranian Bomb

CALLS FOR THE use of military force against Iran are dangerously misguided. Israeli bombing strikes are not capable of destroying Iran’s deeply buried and dispersed nuclear program, most experts agree. Attacking Iran would prompt a violent reaction that could plunge the United States into another war and unleash a regional conflagration. According to U.S. intelligence estimates, Iran has not yet decided to build a nuclear bomb. If attacked, Iran would almost certainly resolve to proceed.

Consider the lessons of history: Israel’s bombing of a nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981, far from ending Iraq’s nuclear program, prompted Saddam Hussein to accelerate that program and begin manufacturing weapons-grade uranium. When U.N. inspectors entered the country 10 years later, they discovered that Iraq was only a year or so from having the bomb. The inspectors dismantled Iraq’s nuclear program, succeeding where bombing had failed.

Sanctions and diplomacy offer a far less risky and more effective strategy for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. To be successful, however, sanctions must be combined with incentives as part of a diplomatic strategy designed to achieve a negotiated settlement.

The Obama administration has convinced the U.N. Security Council and countries in Europe and beyond to join in a rigorous set of sanctions that have cut off financial transactions with Iran’s major banks and curtailed purchases of Iranian oil. As a result, inflation is rising, the Iranian rial has lost half its value in the past year, and economic hardships are mounting.

Such costs have not stopped Tehran from enriching uranium and steadily enhancing its nuclear capability—and, indeed, past experience shows that sanctions alone never succeed in stopping nuclear proliferation.

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