Thursday, October 25, 2007

CAMERA Comedy Troupe

Four of us went to see the “Jimmie Tingle for President” performance last Saturday night. I have attended a number of shows at his Somerville theater over the last five years and, if I did not always laugh at his political humor throughout each one, I always felt good about supporting Jimmie Tingle. At his core he is simply a good, decent person. (I had the opportunity to have lunch with him once when he provided the local Tikkun group with the space for a speaking engagement for Michael Lerner.) But it was a bittersweet evening. Jimmie is shutting the doors next week. I will miss the theater but expect that I will be seeing him perform in other venues in the near future.

I wondered who would take his place and provide us with the highly sophisticated comedy that I had come to expect. This morning’s Boston Globe provided the answer – welcome to the CAMERA Comedy Troupe.

I used to get angry reading CAMERA stuff.

Now, I just love what they do. I can’t quite figure out if they are more like Stephen Colbert or Laugh-In.

What is sad is that I think they probably want to support the Government of Israel. What is sad is they probably think what they say is profound and serious. What is not sad is that come off as a caricature of a ridiculously foolish propaganda machine.

In an op-ed by someone described as its “Christian media analyst” the writer from CAMERA in “Hate at the altar” paints a vivid picture with nooses hanging from trees just prior to a lynching of an “African-Americans” to the Old South Church and Sabeel. What a cool backdrop for the presentation!

The star of this version of the “Perils of Palestine”, the man with the black cloak and the wide mustache, is Dr. Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center “an international peace movement initiated by Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land, who seek a just peace based on two states—Palestine and Israel—as defined by international law and existing United Nations resolutions.”

(NOTE you might want to have a little background of Dr. Ateek that the CAMERA Comedy Troupe failed to provide. Naim Ateek had just turned eleven when his town of Beisan (Beth Shean) twenty miles south of the Sea of Galilee was occupied by Israeli soldiers on May 12, 1948 during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Ateek family, with Naim, were Christians in a predominantly Muslim community. For two weeks they lived under occupation when finally the military commander informed his father that unless the family left straightaway, they would be killed. All the Christians were relocated to Nazareth and the Muslims were deported to Jordan. This traumatic and sudden dislocation was the Ateek family's personal version of the event the Arabs call, the "Nakba" (the catastrophe). When the Ateek's were finally permitted to travel to Beisan a decade later, they discovered their former home was now occupied by a Jewish family. Shortly after, Ateek's father suffered a paralyzing stroke. Naim earned his BA degree from Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas in 1963, and his Master of Divinity degree in 1966 from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP), Berkeley, California. He then returned to Galilee where he started his ministry after being ordained priest in the Episcopal Church. In 1974, Naim was married to Maha Fuad Aranki of Birzeit, West Bank (Palestine) In the early 1980’s he returned to the United States where he completed his doctoral studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Dr. Ateek has also received honorary Doctors of Divinity from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, California and the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the distinguished alumni award from San Francisco Theological Seminary. This year, Dr. Ateek received the Sayre award from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship USA. After 30 years of parish ministry, Naim took an early retirement and dedicated his time to the ministry of Sabeel, the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center that he helped to found at the beginning of the 1990’s. As the president and director of Sabeel, he expanded Sabeel’s ministry both inside the country as well as abroad. In addition to the work of justice and peace, it includes the ecumenical ministry within the Christian community and the inter-faith work between Christians and Muslims.)

So here we have the portrayal of this person who has devoted the last nearly twenty years to working with Sabeel for peace in Israel/Palestine – listen as we hear his words of the man in the mustache as he strokes it with the evil grin – “The Government of Israel is like Herod.”
And don’t we know what Herod did? He ordered that all infants be murdered in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus “according to the Christian gospel”.

And don’t we know what that means that Dr. Ateek means

drum roll please …………..

He is saying that Israel (and, in case you don’t get the message, that includes any of you who are reading the Boston Globe this morning who are of the Jewish persuasion) attempted to murder the infant Jesus.

(Stagehand enters left and posts sign for the audience – hhhhhiiiiiissssssss!!)

So that’s what Dr. Ateek was trying to say wasn’t he?

That’s all there was to Herod, wasn’t it?

Not really.

He accomplished a lot like the expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the development of water supplies for Jerusalem, building fortresses such as Masada and Herodium, and founding new cities such as Caesarea Maritima.

But he could have been criticized for burning alive Judas and Matthias and their students. He did murder one of his ten wives. He did execute two of his sons, Aristobulus and Antipater, causing the emperor Augustus to joke that it was preferable to be Herod's pig (hus) than his son (huios). He may have ordered the violent destruction by fire of the monastery at Qumran, the home of the Essenes, suffered a violent and deliberate destruction by fire in 8 BCE. He may have ordered the murder of all children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem.

And, by the way, wasn’t Herod Jewish? He was an Idumaean. When Idumea was conquered in 140BC all Idumaeans were required to obey Jewish law or leave and most converted to Judaism. King Herod identified himself as a Jew and was considered as such by some but not by others.

Could it be that Dr. Ateek was trying to say that the Government of Israel - in its brutal treatment of Palestinian men, women and children by demolishing their homes, by overreacting to unjustified acts of violence by killing innocents, by caused substantial economic harm by preventing the harvesting of olives, by neglecting their unemployment and their poverty, by allowing the death of soon-to-be born babies because of delays at checkpoints – was acting in a way that was similar to the cruelty of Herod?

The irony is that on other pages of the Boston Globe this morning are two stories: the first about intruders (thought to be Jewish extremists) who broke into a Jerusalem church and set the building on fire – one that was rebuilt 25 years ago after being burned down by ultra-Orthodox extremists; the other about a plan (not public yet) whereby the Government of Israel will shut off the electricity to Gaza after every rocket attack. (This reminds me of the comments of one of the women of the Jerusalem Women Speak panel. Her cousin was paralyzed after being hit by an Israeli missile and is being kept alive in Gaza by medical equipment which is electrically operated.).

Since I am getting tired laughing, I will leave to another time more credit to this comedy team for the other two jokes: how “the Israel government crucifixion system is operating” and “Palestine has become the place of the skull.” means that he is accusing Israel of “the crucifixion of Jesus the prophet”; and how “Ateek compared the Israeli occupation to the stone blocking Christ’s tomb” means that he blames Israel ”for blocking the resurrection of Christ the Savior”

But seriously, folks, this is so far beyond intellectual dishonesty as to be farcical.

Isn’t this a stereotypical example of a smear campaign?. Isn’t the writer throwing a huge glob of mud on the wall connecting non-existent dots to accuse Dr. Ateek of saying that the Jews killed Christ?

But now, here comes the writer with his best and most hilarious skit, you know the one where he says

“Taken to its logical end, language like this suggests that the only solution to Palestinian suffering is Israel's elimination, which Sabeel called for in a 2004 document that stated the organization's "vision for the future" is "one-state for two nations and three religions."

Oh, so that’s what it means to call for the one state solution does it – the elimination of Israel?

That is certainly the final straw – he is suggesting a one state solution.

But if you are going to attack someone just because they are trying to bring about a one state solution, wouldn’t that mean that I would not be able to attend any program where a speaker is an official of the Government of Israel. Isn’t it the Government of Israel that over the last 40 years: has promoted and supported the creation and expansion of the settlements, has created now over 500 checkpoints closures and barriers, taken control over 42% of the land in the West Bank for military and other purposes, spent billions of dollars building a Jewish only road system leading to “facts on the ground” that no longer make the establishment of a viable contiguous Palestinian state an option?

And would I be able to attend any program where a speaker is an official of the Government of the United States. Didn’t President Bush in a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on April 14, 2004, recognize the permanence of major Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, stressing the irreversibility of “new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers?”

And, of course, we must not forget to ban attending any program where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is speaking since today’s Boston Globe this morning reports that she said yesterday that a “two-state solution” in the Middle East is in jeopardy and that “our concern is growing that without serous political prospect for the Palestinians that gives to moderate leaders a horizon that they can show to their people that indeed there is a two-state solution that is possible, we will lose the window for a two-state solution”.

How dare she even imply that there might be an alternative to the two-state solution? I wonder what that might be?

Stay tuned – soon appearing in a theater near you – CAMERA Comedy Troupe

You really have to try to laugh!!!

Ha Ha!!

No comments: