Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Akedah

Israel Diary, 1996.
In 1996, I took my son Isaac to Israel for his Bar Mitzah. The following is from my diary.
"Take now your son, your only son whom you love, Isaac, and get yourself to the land of Moriah and offer him up there as a burn offering." Genesis 22:2

Sunday February 25, three days before our departure for Jerusalem, the number 18 bus is blown up by a person wrapped in explosives who got on the bus and detonated the explosives. We arrive in Jerusalem four days later.

Sunday morning, March 3rd, the number 18 bus was again blown up, only this time we are close enough to hear the explosion. Have I taken my son, my only son, that I love, Isaac, to this holy place to offer him up as a burnt offering?

The bombing did not change our plans for the day. Isaac and his mom joined the tour group, I went off to visit an old friend who lives in Bayit Vegan. He made calls for me to find out where Isaac and I could go to hear the Megillah reading for Purim, which began on Monday evening outside of Jerusalem, but would not be celebrated in Jerusalem until Tuesday and by that time we would have been moved along by our tour group. He wrote down the name of a synagogue in Ramot Daled - a suburb of Jerusalem, not considered part of the city itself and thus they celebrated Purim on Monday, not Tuesday.

I took the bus back to the city center during rush hour. Standing in the packed bus, we passed the bombed out shell of the number 18 bus that had been blown up that morning. Workers on cherry-pickers were still scraping pieces of human flesh from the side of the building next to the explosion. All human remains, identifiable or not, had to be collected for burial. In this crowded bus, no imagination was necessary. We would all die together and our bodies would become one mass of torn flesh.

Monday March 4th - Isaac and I left Jerusalem just as the news of yet another bombing - this time by Islamic Jihad in Tel Aviv. I told Isaac that we could take a cab to the suburbs, but we would have to take a bus back into the city. I needed to know if that was ok with him, since we had been witness now to three bus bombings. His mother didn't want him to go. "As long as it's not the number 18," was his reply. I have a sense of great pride in my son, Isaac, who is not afraid to live his life. That he would trustingly come with his father and enter a bus that might turn into his own funeral pyre, moved me and filled me with love for my son. He is the perfect gentle warrior.

We witnessed a remarkable transformation in Israeli society. Just a few weeks ago, Labor was sure to win the elections scheduled for May 29th, but as each day passes it becomes more and more clear that Hamas may actually sway the vote toward Likud! It is strange that Hamas should so easily manipulate Israeli politics and that they would want to push the Israeli government to the right. Of course, the last thing anyone wants is peace, not when you have the attractions of endless conflict.

Tuesday March 5th - Road to Jericho.

Our tour was scheduled to visit Jericho, a city considerably older than Jerusalem, which is under Palestinian Authority control. Our bus was stopped by Israeli border guards on the old Roman road to Jericho, and ordered to turn around. Jericho had was being closed off from Israeli society.

The vise tightens and each day more and more soldiers appear. Now there will be a complete separation of Israelis and Palestinians. What a tragedy. When we arrived, even after the first bombing, the Arab shuk in Jerusalem was open and jammed with tourists and Israelis. Isaac insisted on going into a small shop that carried Casio watches. I couldn't believe that Isaac had come to Jerusalem and wanted to spend his money on a Casio watch that he could buy at Walmart, but it was his money, so I sat myself down and wallowed in my disapproval and disappointment. Isaac bargained the price down from $190 to $100. Much later, after we were back home in America, I asked Isaac what the highlight of the trip was for him and without hesitation he said, "buying the Casio watch in the shuk."

Outside of Jericho, our bus, having turned around, stopped at a dusty roadside rest stop. It was nothing but bathrooms and vending machines, but there was also a tent set up where an Palestinian from Jericho had set out cheap trinkets before the curfew had been imposed. He was waiting for orders from the border police to pack his stuff up and get back to Jericho.

Isaac saw something that he had been looking for since the shuk and he called to the man in the tent to ask how much it was. A Canadian tourist who was with us on the tour started screaming at Isaac, "We are at war with these people. You cannot buy from them." I was livid with anger and bellowed back at the man, "You may be at war, but my son and I are not. How dare you raise you voice at my son." Seeing the commotion, the Palestinian merchant retreated further to the back of his tent. I turned to Isaac with tears in my eyes and said, "Isaac, I wish we could buy what you want, but you see how tense the situation has become. We are surrounded by warriors - some of the them foolish tourists and others serious soldiers. I would gladly buy you what you want, but we can't jeopardize the man in the tent. Believe me, I am sorry."

Looking back on it, I realized that Isaac was right. The high point of our trip to Israel was watching my son buy that Casio watch. There, in the Arab market of Jerusalem, my son and a young Palestinian merchant negotiated a deal. Both left satisfied.
If only it were that simple.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Max Kantar's Statement

Max Kantar graduated Cum Laude from Ferris State University in 2009. In August 2010 he was arrested after reading this statement. He was not arrested for reading the statement, he was arrested for the apple pie that was pushed into Senator Levin's face after he read the statement.

Max faces eight years in federal prison. The story has gone national, but the story is all about the pie. It seems to me, the story ought to include his reason for putting his freedom at risk.

Below is the statement Max read. This is Max's opinions and they do not necessarily represent those of the blogger.

Senator Levin,

There's no doubt that you are one of the most respected senators in the United States. Coupled with three decades of senatorial experience and your role as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, this respect translates into great influence in policy making, especially in regard to US foreign policy.

Despite your relative popularity, I sincerely doubt that many of your constituents know the extent of your contributions to increasing human suffering around the world.

How many people know that you were an enthusiastic supporter of the primarily Clinton-era US-led sanctions on Iraq during the 1990s--sanctions which likely killed over one million innocent people by way of starvation, disease, and denial of medicines? Who were these victims? Certainly not Saddam Hussein and his regime--their grip on the besieged population was strengthened as a result. The victims were poor people, children, the sick, and the elderly. Publicly available declassified government documents now reveal the murderous (and ultimately successful) intentions of the US government to destroy Iraq's water system and then to systematically ban the importation of crucial items such as chlorine-- the effects of which were designed, according to top officials, to unleash "disease epidemics" which were predicted to affect "children in particular." The result? Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children were deliberately murdered, perhaps up to half a million, according to mainstream estimates. Their blood is on your hands.

For three decades you have been the strongest supporter of Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people. While the record is far too long to run through here, it is worth mentioning that just two winters ago, the Israeli military slaughtered some 1,400 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Over 1,000 were civilians according to leading Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups. Over 300 were children. Israel used F-16 fighter jets paid for by us; they used guns and ammunition, paid for by us; according to Human Rights Watch, Israel dropped white phosphorus--a chemical weapon supplied by US taxpayers which burns the flesh at 1500 degrees Fahrenheit--on Palestinian schools and incinerated children and noncombatants alive. Your response to these atrocities was to co-sponsor a Senate resolution praising the US-organized bloodbath. In fact, for years you have worked diligently to make sure that US taxpayers subsidize these campaigns of murder and oppression against the Palestinian people. Perhaps this is why you receive more pro-Israel lobby money than any other senator aside from Joe Lieberman. The blood of thousands of Palestinians living under military occupation and apartheid is on your hands.

You have repeatedly voted to allocate billions of dollars in funding for the US invasion and occupation of Iraq; an occupation and invasion which has killed, according to conservative British estimates, well over one million human beings. It might behoove you to remember that according to the ruling at the Nuremberg Tribunals following World War Two, an aggressive war is "the supreme international crime" because it encompasses and is ultimately responsible for all of the crimes and suffering that comes about as a result of the aggression. This funding--our money--is the lifeblood of a brutal military occupation which has killed, maimed, caged, tortured, humiliated, devastated, impoverished, and otherwise destroyed the lives of millions and millions of people. But you don't care how many Iraqi mothers bury their sons; you don't care how many tears are shed over the unfathomable amounts of death, destruction, degradation, and humiliation suffered at the hands of the US and its surrogates. This blood, too, is on your hands.

And power learns no lessons about human suffering. Today you urge more taxpayer support for the war in Afghanistan and for a so-called government in Afghanistan which is run by, in the words of Human Rights Watch, some of the "most notorious warlords in the country,"; warlords and criminals who killed some 50,000 Afghans during the early 1990s after the US and Russia had systematically destroyed Afghanistan in a nasty game of imperial Cold War politics. The blood spilled in every house raid and every air strike on civilians is on your hands.

Today, you continue to call for more murderous attacks in the region. You have prominently called for increasing US drone strikes in Pakistan. These cowardly bombings--which are carried out by robot planes guided by Americans sitting at computers on an Air Force Base in Nevada--have killed several hundred civilians, including women and children. Not only are these bombings wildly immoral because of this, but they also inflame and incite, quite understandably, hatred against the United States. Pakistani blood will continue to drip from your hands as long as the bombings continue.

You remain hawkish and aggressive in your posture towards other sovereign nations as well. For example, your position on Iran--a country that, in stark contrast to Israel, hasn't attacked its neighbors for centuries--is that "all options, including military options, should be on the table." In plain terms, this is a threat to bomb Iran, maybe even with nuclear weapons. Such threats are flagrant violations of the UN Charter, if anybody cares. If and when the US or its Israeli client attacks Iran, that blood, too, will be on your hands.

Senator Levin, reasonable people can disagree on policy and politics. BUT, reasonable people CANNOT disagree on basic human principles of justice and decency. It is both perverse and shameful that you claim to uphold values like freedom and justice while actively taking part in the murder, mutilation, repression, and infliction of suffering on millions of Iraqis, Palestinians, Lebanese, Afghans, Pakistanis, and many more peoples living under the whip of US imperialism, from Latin America to Africa, to Asia and the Middle East.

And back home in Michigan, you treat the people you purport to serve with equal contempt. While you go to sleep in your Detroit mansion as a millionaire each night, nearly 20,000 human beings in the same city go to bed homeless, on the streets. Do you have even the slightest idea what being homeless entails? These people could be housed with money you prefer to spend on war, or money you prefer to spend on yourself. While you sit self-righteously in Washington making laws to protect power and privilege, the police systematically brutalize and imprison our state's African-American population at rate nearly THREE TIMES that of South Africa during the years of apartheid.

The truth is that, on principle, you are no different than every other senator in the U.S. and I don't respect you. And I'm not the slightest bit interested in hearing your entirely predictable response, replete with the same old lies and apologetics for heinous crimes against humanity. If there was any justice in this country or in this world, you would be in prison and I am going to say it straight to your face.