Saturday, May 31, 2008

Obama Quits His Church

I think it is a good thing that Obama quit his church. Much as I like him, I do find it difficult to understand why he remained a member of the church for so long. I saw the "performance" of Rev. Michael Pfleger on CNN the other day. Pfleger "delivered a tirade against Mrs. Clinton that included fake tears, a high-pitched voice and top-of-the-lungs screaming." Pfleger is white, and the sermon seemed to me to be an attempt to (badly) imitate a black preacher's style in order to appeal to the congregation of the church. It was very strange, and I found it very offensive. I also didn't understand how he was even able to make such a partisan political sermon in the face of the Catholic Church's prohibition of priests getting involved in partisan politics.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The text of Resolution UCU 25

This is from the Stop the Boycott website:

Motion 25: Palestine and the occupation: University of Brighton - Eastbourne, University of Brighton - Grand Parade, University of East London Docklands, National Executive Committee

Congress notes the

1. continuation of illegal settlement, killing of civilians and the impossibility of civil life, including education;

2. humanitarian catastrophe imposed on Gaza by Israel and the EU;

No mention, of course, of the role of Hamas in making it nearly impossible even to bring humanitarian aid into Gaza - for example, the bombing of the crossing points by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.

3. apparent complicity of most of the Israeli academy;

This is the part of the resolution that is a demonstrable lie. Most of the Israelis whom I know who work against the occupation are, in fact, academics, teaching at a variety of colleges and universities in Israel. I would think that if one were calling for a boycott of Israeli academics that one should ascertain whether in fact they support the occupation.

4. legal attempts to prevent UCU debating boycott of Israeli academic institutions; and legal advice that such debates are lawful

Legal attempts to prevent the UCU from taking a step that is illegal under British law! Whose legal advice is it that such debates are lawful? The legal advice that was given last year, and which stopped discussion of the boycott, stated that even in discussing such a boycott the union was coming close to violation of the Race Relations Act.

Congress affirms that

5. criticism of Israel or Israeli policy are not, as such, anti-semitic;

6. pursuit and dissemination of knowledge are not uniquely immune from their moral and political consequences;

Congress resolves that

7. colleagues be asked to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues with whom they are collaborating;

8. UCU widely disseminate the personal testimonies of UCU and PFUUPE delegations to Palestine and the UK, respectively;

9. the testimonies will be used to promote a wide discussion by colleagues of the appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions;

10. UCU facilitate and encourage twinning arrangements and other direct solidarity with Palestinian institutions;

11. Ariel College, an explicitly colonising institution in the West Bank, be investigated under the formal Greylisting Procedure.

British academic union passes boycott motion

I think that the most disheartening detail in Eve Garrard's description of the University and College Union's Congress passing the motion to boycott Israeli academics was this item: "There was a real, palpable desire in the meeting to take some action against Israel. An otherwise rather somnolent audience woke up at the first mention of Palestine, and applauded every suggestion that action should be taken against Israel. A congress which had just passed very moderate motions on Burma and Zimbabwe and Sudan, about solidarity with trade unions and asylum seekers, and putting pressure on governments, quite clearly felt that these measures weren't sufficient for Israel's crimes: that for Israeli academics, nothing but punishment would do."

So Israel is worse than Burma, Zimbabwe, and Sudan? What is wrong with these people? What else is this other than anti-semitism?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

McCain repudiates Hagee - when will Jewish leaders follow?

An article in the Huffington Post - McCain Backer Hagee Said Hitler Was Fulfilling God's Will - seems to have made enough waves about pastor John Hagee to persuade John McCain it was time to reject Hagee's endorsement of him. Sam Stein, the Huffington Post writer, learned of an offensive sermon by Hagee from Bruce Wilson's website, Talk 2 Action.

A couple of days before this I was cruising the Talk 2 Action site and came across the audio clip from one of Hagee's sermons in the 1990s, in which he referred to Hitler as a "hunter" who was sent to harry the Jews into Palestine. Wilson introduced the clip by referring to Hagee's book Jerusalem Countdown: "In his 2006 book 'Jerusalem Countdown', Hagee proposed that anti-Semitism, and thus the Holocaust, was the fault of Jews themselves - the result of an age old divine curse incurred by the ancient Hebrews through worshiping idols and passed, down the ages, to all Jews now alive."

I just took a look at Jerusalem Countdown (the revised 2007 edition, available on Amazon) and discovered that Hagee put almost the same words as he uttered in his sermon into the book (pp. 132-33).

The Bible is a book of parables and word pictures describing principles of truth from God to man. The prophet Jeremiah puts his pen to parchment and paints a vivid picture of the human agents God intended to use to bring the Jewish people back to Israel.

“But now I will send for many fisherman” declares the Lord, “and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks.”
Jeremiah 16:16 (NIV)

I believe this verse indicates that the positive comes before the negative. Grace and mercy come before judgment. The fishermen come before the hunters. First, God sent the fishermen to Israel. These were the Zionists, men like Theodor Herzl who called for the Jews of Europe and the world to come to Palestine to establish the Jewish state. The Jews were encouraged to escape while there was still time. The situation for the Jews in Europe would only get worse, not better.

A fisherman is one who draws his target toward him with bait. Herzl and his fellow Zionists were God’s fishermen, calling the sons and daughters of Abraham home. Herzl was deeply disappointed that the Jews of the world did not respond in greater numbers.

God then sent the hunters. The hunter is one who pursues his target with force and fear. No one could see the horror of the Holocaust coming, but the force and fear of Hitler’s Nazis drove the Jewish people back to the only home God ever intended for the Jews to have – Israel. I stand amazed at the accuracy of God’s Word and its relevance for our time. I am stricken with awe and wonder at His boundless love for Israel and the Jewish people and His divine determination that the promise He gave Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob become reality.

This passage is part of a longer discussion about how the return of Jews to Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel fulfill God’s plan to restore Israel, as outlined in Ezekiel 37. He maintains that even though the state has physically been established, it is still waiting for spiritual life (p. 131).

At the conclusion of Ezekiel 37, the nation of Israel had been physically reborn. Today they have a flag; they have a constitution; they have a prime minister and a Knesset. They have a police force, a powerful military might, and the world’s best intelligence agencies. They have Jerusalem, the City of God. They have a nation. They have everything but spiritual life.

Like the dry bones of Ezekiel 37, Israel waits the spiritual awakening of the breath of God and the coming of Messiah.

Even without discovering the sermon, anyone who read Hagee's book could have found out that he considered Hitler to be the "hunter" who providentially made sure that the Jews (minus the six million who died at the hands of the Nazis!) returned to the land of Israel. For Hagee, Hitler did God's will. I guess those who died in the Holocaust were just the collateral divine damage to enable the state to be established, in Hagee's opinion. For Hagee, this is a sign of God's "boundless love" for the Jewish people. Mass death=love?!

I don't understand how anyone could believe in a God who would do that. As Yehuda Bauer (well-known Israeli historian of the Holocaust) wrote in 2000:

For me, the existence of God after the Holocaust is impossible from a moral point of view. It makes belief in God a vast problem, quantitatively and qualitatively. One and a half million children - of the Chosen People - under the age of thirteen were murdered! This is not a question of free choice because the children didn't have any free choice. It is the Nazis who had the free choice, not the children. So if there is a God that in one way or another controls the destiny of the world - even if that God retires and does not wish to do it, he can and he knows; otherwise he's not a God. He's responsible for the murder - no way out. No answer, human or divine, is satisfactory for the murder of one and a half million children - and if there is an answer from high above, then it is the answer of Satan, and rather than believe in Satan, I will not believe.

I don't come to the same conclusion that Bauer does - that it is impossible to believe in God after the Holocaust - but I agree with him that if one believes that God permitted the Holocaust to occur, that one believes in a Satanic God.

What's more, Hagee is saying that the only place Jews should be living is in Israel - so those of us who live in the United States and other countries are defying God's will, and presumably should suffer the divine consequences.

Tell me again why this man is considered to be "pro-Israel" or "pro-Jewish"? Tell me again why "Jewish leaders" like Joe Lieberman are willing to cosy up to Hagee because of his supposed "support" for Israel?

For my previous posts on Hagee - click here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Full-blooded Americans?

Kathleen Parker's op-ed last week in the Baltimore Sun is bizarre, especially this section:
Full-bloodedness is an old coin that's gaining currency in the new American realm. Meaning: Politics may no longer be so much about race and gender as about heritage, core values and made-in-America. Just as we once had and still have a cultural divide in this country, we now have a patriot divide.

Who "gets" America? And who doesn't?

The answer has nothing to do with a flag lapel pin, which Mr. Obama donned for a campaign swing through West Virginia, or even military service, though that helps. It's also not about flagpoles in front yards or magnetic ribbons stuck on tailgates.

It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots.
Full-bloodedness? Blood equity? Roots? What do they have to do with patriotism or heritage? Parker seems to be arguing, in an extremely inept way, that Barack Obama isn't a true American because his father was Kenyan. During the rest of the article she slams on the usual suspects of multiculturalism and illegal immigration. Her real point seems to be an insistence on a "blood and soil" definition of Americanism.


Update: Or, as Molly Ivins said of Pat Buchanan's speech at the 1992 Republican convention: "It sounded better in the original German."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why won't some people vote for Obama?

An article in yesterday's Washington Post makes it clear that some white voters don't vote for Obama because he's black (or because they believe the lie that he's a radical Muslim) - Racist Incidents Give Some Obama Campaigners Pause. Campaigners for Obama in some states have run into rank racism.

Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was all she could take: "It wasn't pretty." She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn't possibly vote for Obama and concluded: "Hang that darky from a tree!"

Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, said she, too, came across "a lot of racism" when campaigning for Obama in Pennsylvania. One Pittsburgh union organizer told her he would not vote for Obama because he is black, and a white voter, she said, offered this frank reason for not backing Obama: "White people look out for white people, and black people look out for black people."

On another race that's being decided tonight - in the Mississippi first congressional district, the Democrat (Childers) is defeating the Republican (Davis) 53% to 47%, with 58% of the vote counted. It would be remarkable if Childers defeated Davis, as this article from Talking Points Memo describes.

Lebanese bloggers

For those interested in blogging by Lebanese bloggers on the current fighting in Lebanon between Hezbollah and many others (may it not actually turn into the new Lebanese civil war), I've found these blogs very insightful:

Jeha's Nail
Blacksmiths of Lebanon
Across the Bay
Beirut Spring
From Beirut to the Beltway
Bad Vilbel

Obama and Lebanon

More on Obama and the Middle East, this time Lebanon. An aticle by Lee Smith on Michael Totten's website - The Tea Boy - calls into question his knowledge and tendencies in Lebanon, which according to his analysis might lead Obama to be much too accommodating to Syria. This would definitely not be good for Lebanon, which is backing Hezbollah in its attempt to take over the country. See also the analysis of Jeha - Between the lines. He says: "Could someone tell that neophyte that he is not yet President of the United States? He will have plenty of chances to “engage” with Syria at our expense, when or if he becomes "President of these 57 states". We may be down, but we're not out yet..."

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Obama in North Carolina and Indiana

It's very interesting watching the presidential primary results tonight. The television networks called North Carolina for Obama as soon as the polls closed, but they still haven't called Indiana (apparently because one county in the northwestern part of the state is waiting to report all of its votes until after completing the counting of all the absentee ballots). It seems unlikely, however, that he'll take Indiana, even if he does very well in Lake County. It's pretty close, though.