Ironies from Israel #2: die Fahne hoch!

On June 6, 1982, responding to the assassination of their ambassador, 60,000 Israeli troops poured into Lebanon in an effort to end Palestinian raids into northern Israel. Israel had invaded before in 1978, driving up to the Litani River with the help of its client army, the Christian South Lebanon Army, but on this occasion the IDF marched all the way to Beirut, precipitating a general conflict between Christian and Muslim forces inLebanon.  Their major ally in this incursion was the Phalange, a virulently anti-communist and anti-Palestinian Maronite Christian militia that had played a major role in the country since the days of the French mandate.  Under pressure from Israel Bashir Jumayyil, son of the founder of the Phalange, was elected president of Lebanon, and after his assassination Israeli support went to his brother Amin, who replaced him.  During the IDF occupation of Beirut the Phalange, with the complicity of Israeli forces, massacred hundreds of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

Israel’s best friend in Lebanon, the Phalange was organized in 1936 by Pierre Jumayyil, who modeled it after another paramilitary organization that had seriously impressed him: the Nazi Sturmabteilung (SA or Brownshirts).

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Condensed Republican Policy Guide

Economy

1. A graduated income tax is socialism.

2. Any government mandated distribution of wealth is socialism.

3. Specifically taxing the wealthy is class warfare.

4. Any wealthy person, even a market speculator, is a “job creator.”

5. Poverty is always the result of individual character failure.

6. The free market always works in our best interests.

Government 

1. Any government regulation is inherently bad, unless it is aimed at labor unions, recreational drugs or reproduction.

2. Any government plan to supply medical care is socialism, unless the care is for veterans.

3. The only valid function of government is to support a strong military and security apparatus.

4. Our constitutional rights are given to us by God.

National Security

 1. The most important element of national security is the military.

2. The defense of freedom requires giving up some freedoms.

3. Leaking any classified information, no matter how important it is for the people to know and no matter how old it is, is treason.

4. The military knows best what resources it should have.

5. The free press is inherently a threat to national security.

6. Islam is inherently a threat to national security.

7. Allowing any authority besides the military and intelligence agencies to deal with foreign and domestic enemies is inherently a  threat to national security.

Foreign Policy

 1. America is qualitatively different from and consequently better than other industrial democracies.

2. America has the right to violate the sovereignty of any other country if it feels threatened.

3. Other countries have no right to violate the sovereignty of America for any reason.

4. America has absolutely no obligation to observe international law or conventions.

5. Our only important and faithful ally isIsrael.

6. American foreign policy in the Middle East is what Israel says it is.

7. Canada is a part of the United States filled with foreigners.

Energy and Environment

 1. America’s best energy plan is to produce more oil and coal.

2. Renewable energy is inherently a threat to national security and probably socialist.

3. The natural environment is to be mastered for the benefit of the economy.

4. Hunting is the natural relationship between humans and animals.

5. God gave Christians the world to use.

6. Global warming, if it even exists, is a natural cyclical phenomenon.

Society

 1. Medical care need not be available to the average citizen to be considered “excellent.”

2. Failure is always the result of individual character defects.

3. Citizens should be permitted to practice any non-Christian false religion they wish to.

4. Catholicism may not be a Christian religion.

5. Mormonism is not a Christian religion.

6. The only valid purpose of science is to provide new technology.

7. Evolution is only a theory, unlike Genesis.

8. Sex education is inherently a threat to national security.

9. Fertilized eggs and corporations are “persons.”

Patriotism

1. A patriot may be identified by his flag lapel pin.

2. Criticizing any military action is unpatriotic and dishonors the military personnel involved.

3. A veteran, no matter how decorated, dishonors himself and his country if he criticizes the war in which he fought.

4. Criticizing the government during wartime, that is, whenever we are being threatened, is unpatriotic and inherently a threat to national security.

5. Any protestor is a “hippie,” unless it is a conservative cause.

6. Believing “My country right or wrong” is unpatriotic since our country is never wrong.

7. Democrats are unpatriotic and inherently a threat to national security.

Ironies from Israel #1: Archaeological Hypocrisy

Israel
is about to erect a building on the site of the historically renowned Mamilla
Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem.  84 leading archeologists, including Raphael
Greenberg of Tel Aviv
University, have protested this
plan, citing international rules as well as Israeli laws that were violated
during initial excavations.  They
maintain that the Simon Wiesenthal
Center knew the site was full of
thousands of human remains and consequently hurried the excavations and that
the Israeli Antiquities Authority knowingly misrepresented the extent of the
remains.  The Wiesenthal
Center meanwhile demands that
Jewish cemeteries around the world be respected.  As yet there has been no response from the
Israeli authorities.

The building to be erected on the
site: the Museum of Tolerance.

Stuff From Way Back # 6: Jesus And the Gods

The Judaic roots
of Christianity are universally recognized: the idea of the one personal
creator god who is the embodiment of the Good.
But there is the other important facet of Christianity, the concept of
the dying and resurrected god, and that ironically comes straight out of Greek
polytheism.

The inherited religion of the Greek
Archaic Age (c.750-479 BC) was that embodied in the works of Homer and Hesiod,
the world of the Olympic gods.  These
deities were perfectly anthropomorphic, differing from their mortal worshippers
in only two respects: they did not die and they wielded immense power.  Otherwise, they were perfectly human,
manifesting all the flaws and foibles of humanity and thus singularly
ill-equipped to serve as ethical role models for Greek society.  As a result, the Greeks possessed a religion
that allowed them the leeway to discover rationalism and humanism and thus
ultimately marginalize their belief system, at least for some.

The seventh and sixth
centuries were tough times for the average Greek, and men who find no justice
on earth inevitably look to heaven. But the inherited Olympic faith, primarily
a communal or civic religion, was devoid of any real inspirational quality, any
serious spiritual element that allowed the troubled suppliant to find emotional
solace. Zeus was essentially not concerned with the equitable dispensation of
justice, and as an evolving society attempted unconsciously to moralize the
Olympians, grim times only produced a grim vision of a supernatural world filled
with threats.  But men require some hope,
and as the years rolled by, these same needs and desires stirred the
development of an alternative religious form, the mystery cult.

Elements of these cults
appear to go back to prehistory, but it was the pressures of the Archaic Age
and the discovery of the individual that fostered their growth.  The cults varied in their content, but they
shared certain characteristics and all of them provided the worshipper an
intense and personal emotional experience generally missing from the civic
religion.  They focused on a single or
small group of gods, offering a more intimate involvement, and the participant
would undergo some sort of initiation (telein or myein, hence
“mystery”), which would ultimately lead him to the central mysteries of the
cult, in theory unknown to outsiders.  As
the continued popularity of fraternal organizations and secret societies
demonstrates, initiation and secrecy, which create special bonds and a sense of
elevated status for the group, are always a good draw.

The cults also revolved
around sex and most importantly the issue of death, the fear of which the cult
hoped to dispel with its rites.  The cult
of Dionysus (or Bacchus) offered temporary release from pain and suffering
through ecstatic possession, but the other important Greek mysteries, the
Eleusinian, Orphic and the later Hellenistic cult of Isis and Serapis,
possessed as central figures gods who died and were resurrected, either
literally or metaphorically, thus confronting the initiate with the terror of
death and the hope of rebirth.  It
appears that at first the cults thought in terms of a rebirth in this world,
that is, entering into a better life, but there is evidence that by the end of
the fifth century reward in the next life was expected.  Some sort of judgment based on the
individual’s behavior was involved, an element generally missing from the
everyone-goes-there underworlds of the Olympic and pre-classical religions.

In the constantly changing
and anxiety-filled world of post-Alexander Greece
the mystery cults grew in popularity, partly because of their salvationist
inclinations and partly because the old civic religion was so closely tied to
the declining polis (“city-state”) society.  In the new Greek-dominated eastern Mediterranean,
the cosmopolis (“world polis”), Hellenic culture, including its
religious forms, rubbed shoulders with non-Greek ideas, including the ancient
religious practices of the Hebrews.  This
sometimes led to friction and violence, such as the Maccabbean revolt, but in
the end produced a sort of hybrid religion, Christianity.  The idea of the dying and resurrected god, so
critical to Christianity, had played no important role in the Near Eastern
religious traditions, and while the new faith may have developed a fresh
understanding of death and rebirth, one linked to the rigorous moral code of
Judaism, the notion of the suffering god appears nevertheless to come straight
out of the Greek experience.

Hypocritically We Stand: UNESCO, Palestine and America

Once again Israel’s
iron grip on American foreign policy in the Middle East
has been vividly demonstrated, and once again the United
States has humiliated itself in the eyes of
the world.

On October 31 UNESCO, the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, voted overwhelmingly
to grant Palestine full membership
in the organization.  Of the 173 nations
voting 107 voted in favor, 14 voted against and 52 abstained.  Among those voting against the resolution
were the United States,
Canada, Germany
and Holland, while Italy
and Britain
abstained.  David Killion the US
ambassador to UNESCO, called the initiative “counterproductive” and
certain to “harm negotiations,” though he did not explain how.  The apparently aptly named Israeli ambassador,
Nimrod Barkan, called the vote a tragedy, also neglecting to explain why that
is so.

Israel’s
loudest voice in the US Congress, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, demanded
immediately that the government honor two petty and now obsolete laws passed in
the nineties and cut off the US
contribution to UNESCO.  As a result
UNESCO has now lost 22% of its $653 million budget.  Ros-Lehtinen, incidentally, has over her
career received $203,240 from pro-Israeli PACS.
It is apparently not just Wall Street that has been buying American
politicians.

While there are many legitimate
reasons to criticize the UN, since the major reforms of UNESCO in the last
decade the agency has received only praise for its work around the world.  Even former Rep. Tom Lantos, another staunch defender
of Israel and a
Holocaust survivor, spoke highly of the organization.  The recent reforms seem to have eliminated
the waste and corruption and transformed the agency from a sometime anti-American
platform to an arm of the UN that is actually focused on its mandated duties.  These include decades of cooperation with the
Palestinians building the cultural and educational infrastructure in the Occupied
Territories and attempting to
protect historically and culturally important sites around the planet.  Ironically, UNESCO has been working with the US
in developing Afghanistan,
particularly in the area of education.

In 1984 President Reagan took the US
out of UNESCO because of concerns that the organization was a mouthpiece for
the communists, but President Bush rejoined it in 2003, a demonstration of the
impact of the reforms.  Israel, on the
other hand, was booted out of the agency in 1974 for the damage being done in
its excavations on the
Temple Mount, but was reinstated in 1977 when the US threatened to withhold $40
billion in contributions.  In 2010 UNESCO
complaints about the Israeli destruction of Palestinian historical sites caused
Israel to
suspend cooperation with the organization, the Israeli foreign minister suggesting that the complaints were
part of a Palestinian scheme to discredit Israel.

Solely because of domestic political
concerns – criticize Israel
and you do not get reelected – the US
relationship with Israel
has become the “passionate attachment” that George Washington warned
against in his Farewell Address.  Continuing
and unqualified support for the Jewish state despite their increasingly
outrageous behavior and the violation of every international covenant we have signed
has seriously tarnished America’s image not just in the Arab world but around
the globe and marked us as the hypocrites that we have become.  As an example, we maintain that for some
unexplained reasons Palestine being a member of UNESCO would hinder the peace negotiations
(that have achieved nothing in the last twenty years), yet we say little and do
absolutely nothing about Israel’s continued construction of settlements in conquered
territory, a clear violation of international law and a recognized and real hindrance
to negotiations.  Even Germany,
whose relations with Israel
are for obvious reasons very delicate, is considering holding up the sale of
submarines to Israel
because of their plan to build more settlements in Arab Jerusalem.

Ironically, our credibility has
suffered even more under President Obama, whose election brought the
expectation of an at least somewhat more balanced policy in the region.  He is probably sympathetic to the plight of
the Palestinians and certainly despises Prime Minister Netanyahu, but he of
course desires to be reelected and for all his beautiful speeches he has done absolutely
nothing and has silently suffered constant insults from our “ally.”  Well, in this instance he can claim his hands
were tied by laws passed by the Congress, but not too loudly.

I am mightily ashamed of my country,
as are many caring Israelis about theirs.