Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thoughts after Attending the Sabeel Conference -Part 1

We Need to Speak Out

One day after attending the Sabeel Conference on "The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel: Issues of Justice and Equality”, many possibilities for action run through my head – an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the implications of 40 years for a "temporary" occupation, showing segments of the conference DVD at a gathering, accompanying Archbishop Tutu as he walks to and speaks at all the temples in Greater Boston (-:

First of all, in response to the harsh criticism from the "leaders" of the Jewish community about the use of the word "apartheid", after listening to the speakers in the conference, I think that it is appropriate to use the word to describe what is happening in the occupied territories because it involves dominion, control, separation and racism (treating people differently because of the accident of birth).

But saying that it is similar to South Africa misses an important point - the Government of Israel's form of Apartheid is WORSE than what the white Africaaners imposed on the blacks; i.e., in South Africa there were no collective punishments (like destroying a power plant), there were no separation barriers (walls, fences), no destruction of land, no destruction of trees (olive or others), there were no closures and roadblocks, there was freedom of movement, there were no separate roads, no separate license plates, the Africaaners hired the blacks to work for them allowing them to earn a living whereas the Government of Israel uses laborers who are brought in from other countries, and there was a benign condescending attitude of the ruling class for the oppressed and no concerted effort to work towards their eventual removal from the land.

I DO agree with the speaker who said that the Government of Israel has lost the high moral ground and that the “leaders” of the Jewish community are going to become even more vocal and strident. I have adopted the phrase I read two weeks ago which describes their actions as having the “distinct odour of panic”. The vicious outrageous unjustified words and sophistry of the CAMERA op-ed piece in the Boston Globe the day before the Sabeel Conference will remain with me as a classic example.

I would like to be able to describe my feelings when I walked out from the Old South Church after 24 hours of vivid pictures, talks about and opinions of the apartheid rule of, and the brutality and cruelty being rained down on the heads of the Palestinians by, the Government of Israel and looked across the street. I saw people with signs that said something like "Stand with Israel, Stand for Peace". We were asked not to engage with them as we walked to the Anti-Apartheid rally sponsored by the Jewish Voice for Peace. I was not angry with them. I was only slightly ashamed and embarrassed for them. Were I to have engaged them, I would have simply smiled and said, "You're kidding, aren't you?"

We need to begin to be comfortable and confident in our belief almost NO ONE supports what the Government of Israel is doing to the Palestinians and that the only barrier to them saying so is the intimidation and pressure of a few vocal and "influential" members of the Jewish community.

We need to assume that CAMERA, the David Project, AIPAC and the JCRC DO NOT represent the views of the Jewish community. So many members of the Jewish community are too good and too decent and have devoted too much time to social justice to agree with those who support colonization, oppression, dominion, racism and the "breaking of bones" and call it striving for peace. In fact., their uncritical views about the violent actions of the Government of Israel over the last 40 years is one of the reasons why fewer and fewer of those born Jewish no longer identify themselves as Jewish and why fewer and fewer of those who marry non-Jewish individuals raise their children Jewish. (Message to The Israel Lobby - "How's that working out?")

Like noting that the emperor has no clothes, we need to cry out "The Government of Israel does not want a JUST peace for the Palestinians." (even as you keep in mind the possibility of consequences such as the end of personal contact which followed my saying this at dinner to a cousin who was also a longtime friend.)

And all we need to do is to speak out. In every conversation in our homes, in our work, in social gatherings, in churches, in the offices of legislators, we need to stress the importance of Ending the Occupation.

We need to assume that ALL clergy know that the actions of the Government of Israel violate the core values of ALL religious faiths (as well as humanistic principles).

Archbishop Tutu urged all clergy to stand up for the core values of their faith. While he said that they could "win" in the long run by staying silent, eventually they will corrode and finally implode inside.

I think that, as we all speak out and break the "code of silence", we will approach the day when not only Bishop Shaw but the clergy of all faiths will stand up to the Jewish “leadership” by signing a statement and holding a press conference condemning the occupation and demanding that the Government of Israel end it.

(NOTE - while I support the two-state solution (TSS) - the end of the occupation, the closing of all the settlements and the establishment of a viable contiguous Palestinian state - I find myself more and more convinced by what Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and others are saying; i.e, the TSS is no longer realistic and is therefore DEAD. That leaves two options - a one-state solution (OSS) or Apartheid. Certainly, for me, Apartheid is NOT an option. If so ...............)

And, we are also close to the day when, having the support of those in the Jewish community, the clergy will NOT thereafter have to issue an "apology" to the Jewish community and will NOT have to promise to set up a meeting with the so-called "leaders" of the Jewish community.

And with the support of the entire community, we are also approaching the day when, having agreed with everything and asking what we need to do to have them demand that the occupation be ended, our politicians will never again respond by saying "Get AIPAC to support your position."

We do not need to be worried about being attacked with the label of "anti-semite". That is the last gasp attempt to suppress the truth by those slowly sinking into the mud. Why don't we try not to be angry with them as they slowly become irrelevant? Perhaps we should not even laugh at their ranting and ravings.

The final speaker at the Sabeel convince before the beautiful loving talk by Archbishop Tutu provided the best response one could make when his or her descriptions about the inhumanity of the occupation are met by the slander of "anti-semite". Simply say "Demolishing housing is not Jewish. Destruction of olive trees is not Jewish, building separation walls is not Jewish, stealing land is not Jewish.

I saw another sign as I left the church which began, I think, with “Sabeel’s Solution” and ended with “Blame the Jews”. Funny thing, I never heard anyone say that the oppression of the Palestinians was being carried out by “the Jews”. What I heard over and over again was that the Government of Israel has taken actions grossly in violation of human rights, civil rights, international law, UN Resolutions and the teachings of Judaism and Christianity. The Government of Israel has. The Government of Israel has.

Opposing these actions of the Government of Israel in the occupied territories (and within Israel) is not anti-semitic. Opposing the military adventures of the United States is not anti-American.

Opposing the actions of both these countries is purely and simply support for peace with justice.

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