This is my 100th post. Pretty good timing as I was planning this to be a look back before I knew that...
Here are some past letters to the editor that I wrote. I just found this big list in an old file sent to an old email address I haven't checked in forever:
Israel's obstacle to peace
Monday, March 10, 2003
Initially, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and many international leaders welcomed the roadmap for two states living together in peace, though Sharon would now like hundreds of changes to remove all specifics and deadlines. The "man of peace" backed away from compromise and peace most recently by adding opponents to the roadmap's goal to his government. We must condemn Israel for its new coalition government, which impedes peace and will certainly doom the roadmap to the sad fate of Oslo and other accords.
Sharon's government consists partially of the National Union, which advocates genocide ("transfer"), and the National Religious Party, "the voice of the settler movement," which rejects a Palestinian state. Here's the kicker. Sharon appointed members of NRP to housing and construction!
Sharon's goal is not a Palestinian state, as he told President Bush, but to undermine international law by annexing the West Bank and Gaza before a Palestinian state is realized. The newly appointed genocidal hard-liners will aim to move more Israelis illegally to the West Bank and Gaza and try to transfer Palestinians as seen in their platform. They will construct more roads to settlements, which will further compromise the contiguity of a Palestinian state.
Buffer zones around the settlements will eat more land and create more homeless Palestinian refugees for Sharon to refuse the right of return. It is clear that despite his words to American presidents, the man of peace is an obstacle to peace.
Israel's no friend of the United States
Chapel Hill Herald
Sunday, March 16, 2003
Criticism of Israel does not amount to anti-Semitism, as Ms. Gutman says in her March 13 response ["Screed was anti-Semitic] to Rev. Carnes letter. Israel's current practices don't fit with Judaism or any religion, so she will probably encounter many "anti-Semites."
The fact is that the U.S. has unfairly favored Israel in every way since at least Kennedy's time. We looked the other way when they were building their nuclear bombs at Dimona at the height of our nonproliferation campaign. They illegally transferred part of their population to the Occupied Territories.
They kill U.N. workers, use civilians as human shields, extra-judicially assassinate with Apache helicopters and arrest thousands of innocents. Israel violates our Arms Embargo Act by using our weapons to kill civilians, and instead of demanding compliance with international law, we give them the money, aircraft and loan guarantees they continually ask for.
Also, we impede justice by vetoing almost every U.N. resolution that forces Israel to comply with international law.
The U.S. and Israel are allies, but Israel is no friend to us. Israel obtains much intelligence, but only shares it with us when it will benefit them. In 1983, they knew a Mercedes truck was going to bomb a U.S. military installation, but gave only a general warning, so 241 Marines died.
Israel attacked USS Liberty in 1967, killing 35, then lied about it. Israel may be a democracy, but will never be a model for the region until it renounces apartheid, collective punishment and disregard for the U.N.
Tarnishing our name
Thursday, April 17, 2003
People have suggested that the anti-war camp should apologize now that the United States has "won." Apologies would be in order if I had opposed an unprovoked attack on Iraq because I thought our Army would be overwhelmed by theirs. I will not apologize (or move) because the outcome in no way changes my reasons for opposing aggression in Iraq.
We attacked a country that posed no threat to us, cut off diplomacy, accused it of having links to al-Qaida without proof, and had no proof of weapons of mass destruction. We did not achieve any of our goals, unless one of them was slaughtering hundreds of civilians unnecessarily. The people aren't liberated. They are under a military occupation that's priming a puppet regime.
The U.N. weapons inspectors had not finished their work before President Bush decided to justify attacking Iraq after a flimsy 48-hour ultimatum. Bush cut diplomacy short, so all the bloodshed in this conflict is on his hands and will tarnish our name forever.
Saturday, May 24, 2003
The Herald-Sun thoroughly covers Israeli deaths in the Middle East conflict, but fails miserably in reporting violence against Palestinians. Here are some of the stories you're missing.
On May 17, Abdulrahim Hasan and his family were taken hostage by Israeli troops. They were locked in a room in their house, not permitted phone calls, and were told that if they communicated with anyone, their children would be harmed.
At checkpoints, Palestinians are often made to strip naked in front of everyone (which conflicts with Islam and Christianity) and commanded at gunpoint to get down and bark like a dog, among other humiliating acts.
In a May 15 article on BBC online, an Israeli soldier recounted how his unit was commanded to capture a grenade attack suspect. They dragged the man out of bed amidst crying wife and kids, handed him over to another unit who put a gun to his head and told him to run. The suspect instead lay down, though soldiers kicked him before the police arrived to arrest him. No grenades were found in the house because the suspect was not the attacker, he just happened to have the same name.
Every day in the Territories illegal settlers kill or maim Palestinians for harvesting olives or plowing their fields. It's no wonder Israel enjoys such support from the US since we hear about their death and suffering while nameless, faceless Palestinians are dying unjustly at three times the rate.
Monday, June 16, 2003
Remember USS Liberty
June 8, 1967, was a tragic day in our history, yet one of the least remembered. It is the anniversary of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in which 34 American sailors were killed and 171 wounded in a crew of 294. The Israelis said it was an accident, despite evidence to the contrary. Congress believed Israel over eyewitnesses.
Astonishingly, there has never been a full congressional investigation into the incident. The survivors deserve to have justice served like others in history. The fallen sailors sacrificed no less than those in the current conflict and deserve no less respect.
Even 22 years later the President, Secretary of the Navy and other high-ranking officials would not attend or acknowledge a dedication of a memorial to the crew of the USS Liberty in the hometown of a few of the fallen sailors.
The best way to honor the USS Liberty is to uncover the truth about June 8, 1967, through a belated, but full congressional investigation in which all evidence is examined.
Thus may the survivors get the closure they deserve.
Friday, August 22, 2003
Israel accountable under rules of international law
People are waiting on the edge of their seats to see if the Palestinian response to the latest bus bombing will be acceptable to the Israelis so we can continue the peace process. This is strange for a variety of reasons.
The Israelis are violating international law by transferring part of their population to the territory it occupies (illegal settlements), imprisoning Palestinians regardless of innocence or guilt in Israeli prisons, punishing the whole population for the crimes of a few, fighting stones and guns with tanks, Apache gunships and F-16s. On top of this, they deny Palestinian citizens of Israel equal rights with Jewish citizens.
Why isn't the peace process hinging on whether or not Israelis comply with international and humanitarian law? Why must progress always depend on what is acceptable to Israelis, while they continue to ignore law, human rights, and democratic principles?
It is well known that the American media favor Israel (just watch Fox News). When was the last time you heard a Palestinian's death denounced and Israel blamed? Suicide bombings get extensive, repetitive coverage and obvious sympathy (often denouncing Palestinians) from the media.
Media coverage adds to the problem, but until both parties are held equally accountable, there will be no justice and no peace in the Middle East.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Base peace on justice
The most prominent prerequisite for peace in the Middle East is for Palestinians to end terrorism. But both the United States and Israel have severely limited Palestinians' ability to combat terror, yet they insist this must occur before Israel fulfills any of its obligations of law, human rights or negotiations. America and Israel are themselves guilty of undermining the United Nations and failing miserably to end terrorism.
If two military giants fail to stop terrorism, how can the Palestinians do it? They have no military. Israel demolished the security and police buildings and stole files compiled on terrorists and criminals. Security personnel are targeted for assassination and imprisonment. The United States and Israel have none of these obstacles, yet they fail to end terrorism. It seems America and Israel want the Palestinians to fail.
The peace process is brought to a screeching halt when Palestinians fail to meet obligations, but Israel is paid billions of dollars in loan guarantees and military aid. A peace plan based on anything but justice and equality is bound to fail. Both sides must be expected to follow international law and fulfill obligations equally.
Letters to the editor that referenced my stuff:
Friday, August 29, 2003
Israel must preserve the right to self-protection
Jennifer Hagelbarger's letter [Herald-Sun, Aug. 22] concerning the proposed road map to peace between Israel and the Palestinians contains several errors.
Israel's government is not ordering or forcibly moving Jewish citizens into Palestinian areas. Settlers moving into the disputed territory are doing so on their own because of the historical and religious connection they fervently feel.
Hagelbarger also writes that Arab citizens in Israel do not have the same rights as Jewish citizens. This is untrue. Israeli Arabs can vote and have elected several Arabs to the national parliament. The only privilege of citizenship not open to Arabs is service in the country's armed forces.
As a member of Judea Reform Congregation, I traveled to Israel in June, 2000, as part of an interfaith group which also included congregants of First Presbyterian Church and Fisher Memorial United Holy Church. At one stop we saw a group of schoolchildren who looked to be no older than ten being escorted by what appeared to be teen-age boys carrying M16 rifles. Israelis live under the constant threat of attack from Palestinians and their supporters, including possibly some governments in the region such as Syria.
Israeli citizens want to live in peace with their Moslem and Arab neighbors. The country already has long-standing peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.
I agree with Hagelbarger's point that war is undesirable. But like the United States, Israel is fighting terrorists. In the face of many suicide bombers supported by Palestinian terrorist groups who trigger explosives on crowded buses, Israel has the right to protect its citizens (and that includes Arab citizens) and freedoms against organizations whose members would annihilate them.
MARK G. RODIN
Protesters don't get it
Sunday, April 27, 2003
What is it about the outcome of the war in Iraq that the protesters do not understand? Paraphrasing letter writer Jennifer Hagelbarger ("Tarnishing our name," April 17), Iraq is not liberated, there is blood on Bush's hands and our name will be tarnished forever.
I wonder if she has a television and has been watching the Iraqi people after Saddam's regime was toppled. I suspect that this group of protesters is not protesting the war at all but is expressing hatred for President Bush.
If their hero Bill Clinton had been in office, this would have been viewed by these people as the greatest war of liberation in the history of mankind. As for Hagelbarger and others like her, I hope they pull their heads out of the sand before they suffocate.
I had been looking for this email I sent to a friend discussing my various questions about war, action in Iraq, peace and how this relates to the Bible or how Christians are supposed to react to these things. Some are questions and items are just me trying to process my Bible study and balance it with various political views. It was written about two months after our invasion in Iraq at the tender age of 25. That seems so long ago, but I guess it's not really. The first part is the letter to the friend, who may be reading this now :). I also refer to his responses and also a Bible study the young adults had on this or a similar topic at which there was surprisingly little discussion. I suppose I could have said something as well, but that wouldn't be like me. :)
Some of it is repetitive and maybe not that well thought out, but it is interesting to me to re-read. I suppose what drove me to write it was the annoyance that patriotism, support for war, support for Bush, and obeying authority read no protesting, no questioning, no criticism of the president) were being lumped together (by some) as the sum of a good Christian when it wasn't necessarily Biblical to do so. Another was Bush's cowboy pseudodiplomacy and total disappointment in someone I voted for in 2000. Yes, I am admitting to it. I thought I was doing my Christian duty (that and my dad was a Republican so doesn't that make me one too?) though I disagreed with Republicans on a lot of things, but that is something I have since called into question and probably not totally resolved.
I read this article :
Reason for War? [White House Officials Say Privately the Sept. 11 Attacks Changed Everything
W A S H I N G T O N, April 25 — To build its case for war with Iraq, the Bush administration argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but some officials now privately acknowledge the White House had another reason for war — a global show of American power and democracy.]
and this one http://www.newyorker.com/
and wondered if the reasons given for the war (intent) had an impact on any conclusion on whether or not the Bible allows war. If we gave reasons such as WMD, link to Al Qaeda, and then liberation from dictatorship, but the real reason was wanting to flex our muscle and teach the region a lesson, would this be wrong? (There are current leaders who have killed more innocent people, have more WMD and have threatened to use them more than once) Are there right and wrong reasons to go to war, like proving a point versus self-defense?
>Also, I’ve heard people quote Old Testament verses to show examples >of war and justify it. Since we’re under a new covenant and the 10 >commandments are not sufficient, is there enough new testament >justification for self defense or war? >
>Some people I have talked to say that because the Bible says submit >to government, we should support the attack on Iraq. Period. A lot >of times their logic is that Bush is appointed by God or that God >approves only of American style democracy and I don’t think that’s >what the verses below are saying exactly. After all, Christians in >other parts of the world would submit to their leaders and not ours. >‡I know we’ve covered submission before, but I’ve heard 1Pet 2 and >Rom 13 used to justify war in the same places submission was >defined. When we question our faith, we are not being unsubmissive >or unfaithful, so just raising points on the opposite side should >not be considered unsubmissive. >‡Dissent, free speech and protesting are allowed under our >government (authorities appointed by God-Rom 13), so are protesters >really resisting authority as some have implied? >‡If our government decided that we could not practice our religion >or told us to do something against God’s will, we’d obey God and not >man. It’s hard to see how this verse (Rom 13 and 1Pet) is an >adequate justification for war. It addresses the fact that if you do >wrong, the government has the authority to punish. It doesn’t say >much about what to do if you are following God and the authority is >not. >The real question is –is war right or wrong. I’m going to stop on >this now because I think I’m going around in a circle. >
>Bush’s spiritual advisor is Billy Graham. Does this present any >problems in our submitting? Many of his speeches remind me more of a >televangelist rather than a head of state, so I think Graham has >alot of influence. I guess this goes back to the question about the >government going against God’s will and what we do in this case. >
>1 Pet and Rom 13 say “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man” >and “be subject to governing authorities”. It sounds like the UN >would fit the description. The US did not go through the UN, so if >the UN is an authority, we were wrong in attacking. I was wondering >if UN Resolutions are not the ordinances of man also that we should >be submitting to? If not, then all countries are dealing with each >other by different standards and can claim theirs is the right one >because if you are a citizen of that nation you have to follow that >leader, but that‘s just my opinion.. Anyway, if nothing else, the US >agreed to be apart of it and follow the UN charter. Should we not >keep our word and comply with treaties and charters (like the UN’s ) >that our government discussed at one time, voted on and promised to >abide by? We seem to accept it’s authority when we want, (i.e we >made a big deal about Iraq undermining the UN and not following the >Resolution that said WMD are illegal for Iraq to possess and make) >and dismiss it when we don’t like it (i.e. when we could get support >for a war resolution at the time we wanted it). It seems that if the >UN has no authority for us, then our big reason for war, the fact >that Iraq had WMD and was not permitted to do so by the UN, would be >shot down. If we decide that the UN does have authority, then we >undermined it and ignored it when we attacked Iraq. Also, the rules >of war were mentioned Friday. Most of those rules, the Geneva >Conventions and all that are UN creations made to preserve order and >justice among nations, so if the UN has no authority for us then >most rules for guaranteeing human rights and justice aren’t >applicable and we can’t accuse others of not following them, unless >the US has it’s own special rules for war. In this case, I would >still have the question I talked about in my 4th paragraph- if the >Rom and 1 Pet verses are conditional, wouldn't we need to figure out >whether it is right to do that first, then accept it if it fits with >God's word. >
>This is in response to a Bible study we held on the war topic: >
>I mentioned some verses that seemed like they wouldn’t fit with >permitting war. You said that those were dealing with the individual >and not government. Does this mean that the government is not made >up of individuals- only Bush? Are there verses that exempt those in >government or authority from these verses? In those verses, the >Bible didn’t say that government is exempt. >
>It seems like the consensus was that it’s ok to kill in war even >though innocent blood is shed. Besides the verses about submitting >to government (which I will get to later), the main support was the >Old Testament distinction between killing and murder. I realize that >God told the Israelites to kill everyone including children in some >battles, but that was a direct command. God didn’t tell Bush to >attack Iraq, take it over and kill everyone. He doesn’t speak to us >in that way anymore. Is the distinction still made in the new >testament and how do we know for sure? >
>We talked about things done in war like dropping a bomb, firing in >the direction of enemy fire, and blowing up buildings (or “targets >of opportunity”, if you will) as not being murder because the >soldiers aren’t intending to kill innocent people. Soldiers have to >be pretty naïve to believe that a bomb dropped from whatever height >, firing in a general direction, and blowing up structures with >force that could kill those inside and collapse houses in the area >on top of people is only going to hit the person or facility deemed >to be evil by the government. It’s true that our weapons are more >precise now, but innocents still die. Another thing that struck me >was that just because a dozen or so planes go out so no one knows >who dropped it or pilots think about family or feel nothing when >they drop bombs except a slight bump as it is released it doesn’t >affect whether or not innocents will die or whether it is right or >wrong. These things are done just so the soldiers won’t carry the >guilt. It was also said that fewer Iraqis died in this conflict that >Hussein killed. Does this justify war Biblically or otherwise? It >sheds no light on the war question. >
>It also seemed like people agreed that we are supposed to submit to >government and buy their justification for war except if they tell >us to do or not do something that is a Biblical truth (ie. Come >together and worship). This one is logical and easy to accept-Paul >and others were told not to preach by authorities and they did >anyway. Another exception mentioned was Nazi Germany and the >holocaust even though those people had to submit to their government >like we have to submit to Bush, or “ordinances of man” or authority. >The holocaust was immediately dismissed as wrong without discussion. >Is that because the people were innocent? But we know about as much >about that as we know about reasons our government gave for war. It >seems that we’d established that we can’t know the government’s >intent and can’t trust what they say and basically can’t understand >what and why the governments do these things. (By the way, I’m not >saying the holocaust was just. I’m just trying to understand.) If >there are exceptions to submit to government, then we must determine >whether the act is right or wrong and the Rom and Pet verses can’t >be used alone because they are conditional. About those verses, >noticed some things that may be nit picking or wrong altogether, but >it made me think. 1Pet2:15 says that submitting to the ordinances of >man is the will of God and that by doing it we will silence fools. >So if the government is not doing good, we won’t be doing the will >of God or silence fools. This seems to say that if war is right, we >should have submitted, but if it is wrong, we should disagree. 1 Pet >2:16 talks about not using liberty as a “cloak for vice”. I’m not >sure if that means that reasons for war might matter. It sounds at >first glance that government shouldn’t use it’s authority to >accomplish it’s goals unless they are not vice. I’m not totally sure >what that verse is saying, though. I’m just trying to understand why >we use the Rom 13 or 1Pet 2 to justify war, but then say that it’s >ok to resist the government in the holocaust or in civil >disobedience in the 60’s. The verse doesn’t make distinctions that >I’m aware of, but we do. >
>Another thing that I wonder about is why we are supposed to believe >all the “evidence” and forgeries our government uses to gain public >support for war, but when high ranking officials come out and say >that the government may not have had the best intentions (innocent >people killed for no reason, as much as depends on us, we did not >live peaceably), then we are to dismiss this because they are just >out to get the president or make people look bad. If war is allowed, >it seems like it should be a last resort but in the Iraq case, we >threw out weapons inspectors and ignored countries that wanted to >try all possible peaceful means before war (many countries that were >opposed to war, would not have opposed it had it actually been a >last resort). I’ve heard Bush and others in his administration say >that they think war should be a last resort, (but with the evidence >they gave, all possibilities were not exhausted. Self-defense was >hardly a reason because we ended up proving their military >inferiority by the fast advances we made. Another thing that makes >me question the government’s intentions is that there was a definite >change in policy after 9/11. We changed to pre-emption rather than >attacking in self-defense. The same people were in Bush Sr’s >administration (Wolfowitz, Perle, Cheney, etc) and tried to push >pre-emption, but it leaked out and people were outraged, so they >changed it. It’s disturbing how 9/11 made people more supportive of >violence against other nations and against those who “look Arab” >including Indians and Hispanics. Needless to say, since Bush Sr’s >people are in Bush Jr’s administration and people need less evidence >now to support war, the pre-emptive policy was a big hit. It seems >like this change is more motivated by revenge than anything else or >a desire to please the public.
>You asked why has God put his people in so many wars. It was >different then. God spoke directly to people and provided food from >heaven. We're under the new covenant and some things have >changed/been fulfilled. I can't recall the cases where God told the >apostles to wipe out cities with force or Paul or Jesus doing >anything that violent. >
>Rom 13:4 says that is you do evil then the ruler can punish you for >doing evil. I guess a question I have is are we supposed to be >subject to our ruler, all rulers, only those that "do good"? Some >seem to think that American presidents have more approval from God, >so it’s ok for us to invade whoever we choose for whatever reason, >though I don’t know where they get this. Who's to say that George W >is "doing good"? It says in KJV that rulers are ministers of God for >good, so they can punish subjects for doing evil. As I mentioned >before, it seems to address what goes on if the subject is doing >evil, not if the ruler is doing evil. We mentioned the holocaust as >an "obvious" exception to having to do what rulers say and I have a >feeling the civil diobedience in the 60's would also be considered >the "right" thing to do along with resisting many other injustices. >It does not seem to give these exceptions in the Bible, yet we have >made them. If we say that rulers are from God and we need to follow >them, then Hussein's soldiers were doing right in fighting our >troops and Hitler's men were doing right by following orders and >rounding up Jews, gypsies and others that Hitler didn't want in his >perfect race. and no one wants to accept this. >
>Were Jesus and Moses parents resisting authority when they went >against the rulers decree about killing baby boys? In at least one >case, God told them to disobey the order. So what does that say >about disobeying orders when they are wrong or are not doing good?
>*** >Friend's reply: >I did have another question for you. Do you think there is ever a >time war would be justified? I mean, say all means were tried with >Hussein, WMD were found, etc. Would you still think the war was >sinful? >
>My reply: >I’m working on that one about is a war ever justified. Without >looking at the Bible, my inclination is to want to hit right back >when we are attacked, but is this right? I don’t know. I would tend >to say we were right to attack Japan after they attacked Pearl >Harbor, but the A bomb was going too far. That was more like >revenge. I have nothing to base this on and I don’t know why I think >this, it is only my feeling. >
>About the Iraq attack (also my opinion because I can’t find Biblical >proof), there isn’t much that would make it right. We didn’t exhaust >all means. That is obvious. Gen Franks was saying how it could take >a year or so to find WMD and we have the full run of the country. >Weapons inspectors in this last round should have been given at >least a year and maybe more because they may not get the access they >want all at once. Even if WMD are found now, they’d have to prove >that Iraq had the ability and machinery necessary to launch or >disburse the WMD and also prove that there was an attack planned on >us with those WMD for the near future if we wanted to use the >self-defense excuse to justify the pre-emptive Iraq attack (even if >they find “proof” you really can’t know until they attack-that’s the >danger of pre-emption. There’s a lot more chance of doing more harm >than good unnecessarily). The US used the undermining UN excuse at >the beginning because the resolution says they are not supposed to >have WMD. We can’t decide if this is an acceptable excuse until we >figure out my questions in my past few emails about the UN. If the >UN is not binding by Biblical standards, then we can’t use that as >an excuse. If the UN is binding, then our using the resolution as >justification for war then acting without the UN and against it was >undermining it and wrong. >
>(Re: your 3rd item)We don’t know what our own military was told >either. All we have are history books to tell us who was told what. >The books do say some of what Hitler’s men were told and will say >what Hussein’s men were told. My point was that everyone has their >leader to follow, so when leaders accuse other leaders of being >evil, fighting those soldiers of the “evil” leader may not >necessarily be fighting evil. We’re just killing people who re also >following their leader. >
>It seems Bush has taken a very oversimplified and controversial view >of the world with the whole good vs evil thing and “if you’re not >for us, you’re against us”, but it appeals to Christians which most >of our nation is. >