Archive for Forward.com

Forward.com: Christians Called to Serve Jewish Settlers

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2012 by loonwatch

Christians helping Jewish settlers cultivate stolen land

Evangelical Christians are heeding the call to help Jewish settlers occupying Palestinian land harvest  crops. They are doing so because the “Bible” says so.

So the Bible legitimates the confiscation of other people’s land, driving them out and then aiding the occupiers and initiators of violence in reaping the harvest from land that they stole?:

Christians Called To Serve Jewish Settlers

(Forward.com)

PSAGOT, WEST BANK — It is a typical, even stereotypical, West Bank settlement scene: bearded young men pruning vines while enthusing about the Chosen People’s God-given right to this region. But in this case it is Jesus, and not Jewish identity, that animates these tillers.

For years, Westerners have flocked to the Israeli-occupied West Bank to help Palestinians with their olive harvest, as part of left-wing activist groups like the International Solidarity Movement. Among other things, the activists seek to resist efforts by settlers to disrupt the Palestinians’ reaping.

Now, the settlers have international harvest help of their own. The young Christians working in the Psagot Winery’s vineyards near Ramallah in mid-March were members of HaYovel. Last year, this Tennessee-based evangelical ministry started a large-scale operation to bring volunteers to tend and harvest settler grapes. They attach epic importance to their work.

God’s Work: Volunteers come to the West Bank to further a Biblical mission.

NATHAN JEFFAY
God’s Work: Volunteers come to the West Bank to further a Biblical mission.

“When you see prophecy taking place, you have the option to do nothing or become a vessel to it,” said volunteer pruner Blake Smith, a 20-year-old farmer from Virginia.

HaYovel preaches the old-school ideology of Religious Zionist settlers with one innovation: a sacred role for Christians.

The group’s members believe that the establishment of the State of Israel, its subsequent conquering of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and specifically the flourishing of agriculture in the occupied areas are fulfillments of biblical prophecies. Like many settlers, HaYovel cites a prophecy by Jeremiah that refers to the Samaria region of the West Bank: “Again you shall plant vines on the mountains of Samaria.” And like them, HaYovel believes that the settlement movement will help to bring the Messiah to Jerusalem — the only difference being that the volunteers anticipate a second coming.

But these Christians also focus on a prophecy rarely cited by settlers, who tend to place ideological value on using only avoda ivrit, or “Hebrew labor,” whenever possible. “And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and foreigners shall be your plowmen and your vine-dressers,” Isaiah prophesized to the Israelites.

Basing itself on this verse, HaYovel — which takes its name from the Bible’s twice-a-century agricultural jubilee — has made reverence of settlers into a central religious virtue.

“Being here, we just want to serve — and to bless the Jewish people in building up the land,” said Joshua Waller, a HaYovel ministry leader and one of the 11 children of Tommy Waller, the group’s founder and spiritual head. During a lunch break, a settler with yarmulke and sidelocks came to address volunteers. They keenly asked him to explain why the international community is wrong and the West Bank is not really occupied, and seemed prepared to accept what they were told. “We are not here to teach anything, just to learn,” Joshua Waller said shortly before the talk began.

To some of the volunteers, becoming settler laborers is a way of righting a historical Christian wrong. “This is a crazy time,” said Joe Trad Jr., a 23-year-old college dropout from Missouri. Over 2,000 years of contention, he said, “we saw Constantine and the Holocaust. Yet today, in this spot of the world, you have Christians and Jews for the first time with the same goal.”

The volunteers are a mix of people who, like Smith, had a mainstream Christian upbringing and were drawn to HaYovel out of curiosity; people from families that gave up the organized church to develop their own brand of religion, one they see as closer to Judaism, and some people who are emerging from personal crises.

Trad, a former alcoholic and cocaine addict, went through rehab and became a Christian two years ago. He described his volunteering as a way of giving thanks “for what the Lord has done for me in my life by freeing me from these addictions.”

Aaron Hood, a 21-year-old HaYovel staff employee, comes from a Tennessee family of 14 children that gave up on any organized church and started observing the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible according to its own understanding. The family observes Saturday, not Sunday, as a rest day.

Forward: Israel Fails To Rein In Jewish Extremists

Posted in Loon Violence, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2012 by loonwatch

Israeli settlers attack Palestinians daily

Israeli settlers attack Palestinians daily

Something tells me the below numbers are very conservative:

Israel Fails To Rein In Jewish Extremists: Report

by JTA (Forward)

Israel is not doing enough to stop the large increase in attacks on Palestinians by Jewish extremists, according to an internal European Union report.

The report by the 22 heads of mission of EU countries’ ambassadors in Ramallah said there were 411 assaults in 2011, compared to 266 in 2010 and 132 in 2009, according to Euobserver.com, which saw the report. The Netherlands was the lone country that refused to endorse the report.

The attacks ranged from throwing stones to gunfire, and uprooting olive trees to burning mosques. Three Palestinians were reported dead and 183 injured by the attacks.

Eight Jewish settlers, including five members of the Fogel family, were killed and 37 injured.

The report said that a small “hard-core” group of Jewish settlers carried out the attacks, according to Euobserver. But the diplomats also called the settler attacks part of a broader Israeli campaign to get rid of the Palestinians, saying they “effectively force a withdrawal of the Palestinian population away from the vicinity of settlements, thereby increasing the scope for settlement expansion.”

The EU report said that more than 90 percent of complaints filed by Palestinians ended with no indictment.

Israel has set up a police task force to stop settler attacks and Israeli leaders have roundly condemned such attacks, an Israeli official told Euobserver. The EU report also acknowledged that Israeli soldiers helped prevent attacks during the Palestinian olive harvest last year.

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/153021/israel-fails-to-rein-in-jewish-extremists-report/#ixzz1pDnjTTRV

Forward.com: Holiday Proposal Sparks French Outrage

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2012 by loonwatch

An interesting read on the backlash from French politicians when MP Eva Joy proposed allowing Jews and Muslims be allowed to take the day off from school and work on their holiest religious holidays.

Holiday Proposal Sparks French Outrage

by Robert Zaretsky (Forward.com)

The political tempest spawned in France by Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the country’s credit rating has transfixed outside observers. They have thus paid little attention to a different storm now roiling the waters of French society: the question of whether or not French Jews can take the day off on Yom Kippur.

In early January, the Green Party’s candidate for president, Eva Joly, a naturalized French citizen raised in Norway, proposed that French Jews and Muslims should be given the right to take off from work or school on their holiest religious holidays. Observing that official holidays were accorded with Christian celebrations like Easter, Joly affirmed, “Each religion must benefit from equal treatment in the public realm.”

Joly made this declaration at an evening event called the “Night of Equality.” For critics on both the political right and left, “night” suddenly took on a deeper and more disturbing meaning than the soirée’s organizers had intended. Laurent Wauquiez, minister of higher education, took the opportunity to recall what any student of Western civilization already knew: “Our history and roots are Christian.” One of the consequences, he continued, was that this “led to a certain number of national holidays on our calendar.” Wagging his finger at Joly, he concluded, “Toleration in France cannot be built on the negation of our past.”

Eva Joly

GETTY IMAGES
Eva Joly

No less eager to slap down the proposal were the Socialists. Michel Sapin, a spokesman for presidential candidate Francois Hollande, also cited the imprint of the past, but unlike Wauquiez, he dwelt on the imperative of a fully secular society. “Eva Joly would do well to always recall this principle,” Sapin harrumphed.

No surprises here: The left has long emphasized the principle of laicism, the right has long praised the force of history and the two sides have long met somewhere in the middle. What might seem surprising, though, was the reaction of the very groups that Joly sought to rally to her cause. France’s head rabbi, Gilles Bernheim, was eager to disassociate his community from the proposal. Refusing to offer his own opinion, Bernheim quickly added that no Jewish institution played a role in Joly’s declaration. At the same time, Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, made a great show of indifference: “Our country has a Catholic calendar: So what?” As for French Muslims, the head of the Great Mosque in Paris was the only one to confess his admiration for the proposal, but in the same breath he added that the law could not be easily enacted or implemented.

When the proposal itself was not immediately attacked, it was instead dismissed as a transparent effort by Joly to resurrect a floundering campaign. But the speed with which her idea was mauled or mocked reflects a deep malaise among the French, one that suggests it is time to move beyond the revolutionary ideal of a society of free and equal individuals for whom religious practice and identification remains a private affair. This ideological variant of “the same size fits all” is both obsolete and an obstacle to better relations among France’s religious groups.

In the late 19th century, following a bitter and centuries-old struggle between republican governments and the Catholic Church, the French Third Republic embraced the notion of laicité. The English word laicism only begins to convey the emotional and ideological power of the original French term. Laicité was, quite simply, the religion of the republican state. In place of Christian saints, the Republic offered secular saints, ranging from Voltaire to Victor Hugo, whose mortal remains are entombed at the Panthéon.

Other efforts to blot out France’s Catholic past were less successful. For example, in 1793 the First Republic simply tossed out the Gregorian calendar, replacing it with a revolutionary calendar based on the decimal system, including 10-day weeks and 10-hour days. Moreover, the traditional names of the months were replaced with naturalistic ones — Pluviose for the rainy days of January, Germinal for the spring month of April — and the saints’ days were bagged and given instead to the names of plants, vegetables, farm animals and occasional revolutionary exhortation.

By 1805, when Napoleon tore the calendar off France’s walls, he made official what public opinion had long before made a fact: The calendar was a massive flop. Furthermore, the vast majority of the French were, if not believers, at least nominal Catholics. Whether or not they prayed to a particular saint, they all recognized a day by his or her name — a habit they did not want to give up.

Even the Third Republic, in its own battle with a hostile church, did not try to replace the calendar. Instead, the republicans, many of whom were agnostic or atheist, used the schools as their pulpits to broadcast the gospel of laicité. Tensions came to a head in 1905, when the national assembly passed the law establishing the full separation of church and state.

The law has not changed, but the country has. France has always been a nation of immigrants. A century ago they hailed from other European countries shaped by Christianity. As for the tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, they were eager to leave behind their traditions and language for a republican religion chanted in French. They embraced, as historian Philip Nord noted, “the republic as a secular incarnation of values embedded in Jewish tradition.”

But all this is history. The struggle between Catholics and secularists is over: The old ideological stakes have faded in France’s new demographic dispensation. The country has become home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, and even its Jewish community has tilted to Sephardic from Ashkenazi. These new generations of Frenchmen and women are proudly republican, but no less proudly members of vibrant religious communities.

The struggle is now over France’s future. The nation has become multicultural — a fact that even its religious representatives seem terrified to acknowledge, much less ask the French state to do so. Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme right-wing Front National, has transformed her party from a den for Catholic extremists into the defender of republican laicité. The move has poleaxed the mainstream parties and propelled Le Pen’s popularity: Polls reveal that she is now more or less tied with President Nicolas Sarkozy for second place.

Joly might be pleased to know that she is echoing a call made several years ago by the son of Polish Jews who immigrated to France. Jean-Marie Lustiger, who converted to Catholicism and became archbishop of Paris, asked: “Is there a republican religion that prohibits one from being a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, a Muslim — even a skeptic? The republican ideal of citizenship does not claim to be a substitute for religion.”

By following the lead of such citizens as Lustiger and Joly, perhaps France can regain its triple-A rating as a republic for the 21st century.

Robert Zaretsky is a professor of history at the Honors College at the University of Houston. His most recent book is “Albert Camus: Elements of a Life” (Cornell University Press, 2010).

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/149830/#ixzz1kDbd9wUs

Forward.com: Zionist Groups Stoke Fear of Islam for Political Profit

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on September 24, 2010 by loonwatch

After we published our article on The Connection Between Zionism and Organized Islamophobia — The Facts, we had some knee jerk responses by people who obviously hadn’t read the article claiming that we were dabbling in anti-Semitism. This was of course a wrong headed and false charge as many have since admitted and now a leading Jewish magazine has opined as much.

Some Zionist Groups Stoke Fear Of Islam for Political Profit

Opinion

By Matthew Duss

After the last several months, it should be clear that the controversy over the Park 51 Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero is about more than sensitivity to the families of the 9/11 victims and the sacredness of the site where their loved ones were murdered. In places as far from Lower Manhattan as Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Temecula, Calif., Muslim houses of worship, and the people who pray in them, have come under attack by conservative activists as representing an American beachhead for Muslim extremism.

Whether it’s Newt Gingrich peddling false stories of “creeping sharia” (strict Islamic law) to an audience of very serious people at the American Enterprise Institute, or the Washington Times running endless editorials and op-eds from conspiracy theorists like Frank Gaffney warning that President Obama “may actually still be a Muslim,” or Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney shamelessly and falsely asserting that Park 51 leader Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has “terror-related connections,” it’s clear that quite a few conservative elites see political profit in stoking Americans’ fear of Islam.

Such hostility toward Muslims is unfortunately not marginal in the pro-Israel community — unless one is prepared to define the huge annual policy conference of one of Washington’s foremost lobbies as “marginal.” At an AIPAC conference in March 2009, to take just one example, terrorism expert Steve Emerson spent 40 minutes stoking the worst fears of the mostly elderly attendees with a talk called “Tentacles of Terror: The Global Reach of Islamic Radicalism.” It could just as easily have been called “Scaring the Living Crap Out of Bubbe and Zayde.” As long as Jews are encouraged to believe that scary Muslims are hiding under every American bed, the idea is perpetuated that support for the Jewish state is a zero-sum contest between favoring Israel and favoring Arabs and Muslims. For too many American Jews, smearing Islam is seen as a legitimate expression of Zionism.

Groups like The Israel Project, the Middle East Media Research Institute and Middle East Forum seem to exist for no other reason than to spotlight the very worst aspects of Muslim societies. Magazines like Commentary and the Weekly Standard regularly traffic in the crudest stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims, and promote the harshest measures for dealing with them. Musing over the appropriateness of targeting Palestinian civilians during the Gaza conflict, Standard contributing editor Michael Goldfarb wrote approvingly, “To wipe out a man’s entire family, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t give his colleagues at least a moment’s pause.”

Martin Kramer, a fellow at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, president of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and frequent AIPAC panelist, took things even further, suggesting that Israel’s siege on Gaza, could, by depressing population growth, “crack the culture of martyrdom, which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men.”

In 2007, in what could be seen as a precursor to the current uproar over the Park 51 Islamic cultural center, Middle East Forum Director Daniel Pipes played a key role in flaming controversy over the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a planned New York City public school emphasizing the study of Arabic language and culture. Pipes asserted that such a school represented a potential threat simply by virtue of teaching Arabic.

It would be wrong, however, to pretend that these sorts of smears have been the work solely of conservatives. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a liberal who promotes himself as Israel’s leading public defender, regularly rehearses the most clownish calumnies against Israel’s adversaries, real and perceived. Citing the Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini’s collaboration with the Nazis, Dershowitz wrote, “the Palestinian leadership, supported by the Palestinian masses, played a significant role in Hitler’s Holocaust.” The obviously ahistorical stupidity of that claim aside, it hardly needs pointing out that a similar attempt to lay collective blame upon Jews would be immediately — and rightly — condemned, by Dershowitz and others.

Hatred of Arabs has also had a home in one of America’s oldest and best-respected liberal magazines, The New Republic, for over three decades, courtesy of owner and editor-in-chief Marty Peretz, who never seems to tire of identifying ways in which Arab society is “hidebound and backward,” as he wrote in 2007. Observing the devastation in Iraq, Peretz wrote: “I actually believe that Arabs are feigning outrage when they protest what they call American (or Israeli) ‘atrocities.’ They are not shocked at all by what in truth must seem to them not atrocious at all. It is routine in their cultures.” Peretz reiterated that view in September of this year. “Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, especially for Muslims,” he wrote. “This is a statement of fact, not value.”

While it’s tempting to dismiss Peretz as a racist old kook, he does serve as editor-in-chief of a major magazine, and he has been able to help define the boundaries of acceptable liberal discourse for 30 years. And he has chosen through those years to place the most retrograde anti-Arab, anti-Muslim bigotry — including constant denials of Palestinian nationhood — within those boundaries.

It wasn’t so long ago that Jews in America were targets of similar slander and knee-jerk opposition. Liberal American Jews have been at the forefront of all of America’s struggles against bigotry, but they need to do a better job of calling out the hate in their own communities. Moderate Muslims are often called upon to condemn the extreme rhetoric of their co-religionists. It is not too much, at long last, to call upon moderate Zionists to do the same.

Matthew Duss is National Security Editor at the Center for American Progress.