"On October 21 (1948) the Government of Israel took a decision that was to have a lasting and divisive effect on the rights and status of those Arabs who lived within its borders: the official establishment of military government in the areas where most of the inhabitants were Arabs."
– Martin Gilbert, Israel: A History
I had given up on finding an American with a moral conscience and the courage to go with it and was on the verge of retiring my keyboard when I met the Rev. Thomas L. Are.
Rev. Are is a Presbyterian pastor who used to tell his Atlanta, Georgia, congregation: "I am a Zionist." Like most Americans, Rev. Are had been seduced by Israeli propaganda and helped to spread the propaganda among his congregation.
Around 1990 Rev. Are had an awakening for which he credits the Christian Canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem and author Marc Ellis, co-editor of the book, Beyond Occupation.
Realizing that his ignorance of the situation on the ground had made him complicit in great crimes, Rev. Are wrote a book hoping to save others from his mistake and perhaps in part to make amends, Israeli Peace/Palestinian Justice, published in Canada in 1994.
Rev. Are researched his subject and wrote a brave book. Keep in mind that 1994 was long prior to Walt and Mearsheimer’s recent book, which exposed the power of the Israel Lobby and its ability to control the explanation Americans receive about the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Rev. Are begins with an account of Israel’s opening attack on the Palestinians, an event which took place before most Americans alive today were born. He quotes the distinguished British historian, Arnold J. Toynbee: "The treatment of the Palestinian Arabs in 1947 (and 1948) was as morally indefensible as the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis. Though nor comparable in quantity to the crimes of the Nazis, it was comparable in quality."
Golda Meir, considered by Israelis as a great leader and by others as one of history’s great killers, disputed the facts: "It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."
Golda Meir’s apology for Israel’s great crimes is so counter-factual that it blows the mind. Palestinian refugee camps still exist outside Palestine filled with Palestinians and their descendants whose towns, villages, homes and lands were seized by the Israelis in 1948. Rev. Are provides the reader with Na’im Ateek’s description of what happened to him, an 11-year old, when the Jews came to take Beisan on May 12, 1948. Entire Palestinian communities simply disappeared.
In 1949 the United Nations counted 711,000 Palestinian refugees.
In 2005 the United Nations Relief and Works Agency estimated 4.25 million Palestinians and their descendants were refugees from their homeland.
The Israeli policy of evicting non-Jews has continued for six decades. On June 19, 2008, the Laity Committee in the Holy Land reported in Window Into Palestine that the Israeli Ministry of Interior is taking away the residency rights of Jerusalem Christians who have been reclassified as "visitors in their own city."
On December 10, 2007, MK Ephraim Sneh boasted in the Jerusalem Post that Israel had achieved "a true Zionist victory" over the UN partition plan "which sought to establish two nations in the land of Israel." The partition plan had assigned Israel 56 percent of Palestine, leaving the inhabitants with only 44 percent. But Israel had altered this over time. Sneh proudly declared: "When we complete the permanent agreement, we will hold 78 percent of the land while the Palestinians will control 22 percent."
Sneb could have added that the 22 percent is essentially a collection of unconnected ghettos cut off from one another and from roads, water, medical care, and jobs.
Rev. Are documents that the abuse of Palestinians’ human rights is official Israeli policy. Killings, torture, and beatings are routine. On May 17, 1990, the Washington Post reported that Save the Children "documented indiscriminate beating, tear-gassing and shooting of children at home or just outside the house playing in the street, who were sitting in the classroom or going to the store for groceries."
On January 19, 1988, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, later Prime Minister, announced the policy of "punitive beating" of Palestinians. The Israelis described the purpose of punitive beating: "Our task is to recreate a barrier and once again put the fear of death into the Arabs of the area."
According to Save the Children, beatings of children and women are common. Rev. Are, citing the report in the Washington Post, writes: "Save the Children concluded that one-third of beaten children were under ten years old, and one-fifth under the age of five. Nearly a third of the children beaten suffered broken bones."
On February 8, 1988, Newsweek magazine quoted an Israeli soldier: "We got orders to knock on every door, enter and take out all the males. The younger ones we lined up with their faces against the wall, and soldiers beat them with billy clubs. This was no private initiative, these were orders from our company commander…. After one soldier finished beating a detainee, another soldier called him ‘you Nazi,’ and the first man shot back: ‘You bleeding heart.’ When one soldier tried to stop another from beating an Arab for no reason, a fist fight broke out."
These were the old days before conscience was eliminated from the ranks of the Israeli military.
In the London Sunday Times, June 19, 1977, Ralph Schoenman, executive director of the Bertrand Russell Foundation, wrote: "Israeli interrogators routinely ill-treat and torture Arab prisoners. Prisoners are hooded or blindfolded and are hung by their wrists for long periods. Most are struck in the genitals or in other ways sexually abused. Most are sexually assaulted. Others are administered electric shock."
Amnesty International concluded that "there is no country in the world in which the use of official and sustained torture is as well established and documented as in the case of Israel."
Even the pro-Israeli Washington Post reported: "Upon arrest, a detainee undergoes a period of starvation, deprivation of sleep by organized methods and prolonged periods during which the prisoner is made to stand with his hands cuffed and raised, a filthy sack covering the head. Prisoners are dragged on the ground, beaten with objects, kicked, stripped and placed under ice-cold showers."
Sounds like Abu Gharib. There are news reports that Israeli torture experts participated in the torture of the detainees assembled by the American military as part of the Bush Regime’s propaganda onslaught to convince Americans that Iraq was overflowing with al-Qaeda terrorists. On July 23, 2008, Antiwar.com posted an Iraqi news report that the Iraqi government had released a total of 109,087 Iraqis that the Americans had "detained." Obviously, these "terrorist detainees" had been used for the needs of Bush Regime propaganda. No one will ever know how many of them were abused by Israeli torturers imported by the CIA.
Rev. Are’s book makes sensible suggestions for resolving the conflict that Israel began. However, the problem is that Israeli governments believe only in force. The policy of the Israeli government has always been to beat, kill, and brutalize Palestinians into submission and flight. Anyone who doubts this can read the book of Israel’s finest historian Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (06).
Americans are a gullible and naive people. They have been complicit for 60 years in crimes that in Arnold Toynbee’s words "are comparable in quality" to the crimes of Nazi Germany. As Toynbee was writing decades ago, the accumulated Israeli crimes might now be comparable also in quantity.
The US routinely vetoes United Nations condemnations of Israel for its brutal crimes against the Palestinians. Insouciant American taxpayers have been bled for a half century to provide the Israelis with superior military weapons with which Israelis assault their neighbors, all the while convincing America essentially a captive nation that Israel is the victim.
John F. Mahoney wrote: "Thomas Are reminds me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: an active pastor who comes to the unsettling realization that he and his people have been fed a terrible lie that is killing and torturing thousands of innocent men, women and children. Not without ample research and prayer does such a pastor, in turn, risk unsettling his congregation. The Reverend Are has done his homework and, I suspect, has prayed often and long during the writing of this courageous book."
Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran theologian and pastor who was executed for his active participation in the German Resistance against Nazism.
Professor Benjamin M. Weir, San Francisco Theological Seminary, wrote: "This book will make the reader squirm. It asks you to lend your voice in behalf of the voiceless."
Americans who can no longer think for themselves and who are terrified of disapproval by their peer group are incapable of lending their voices to anyone except those who control the world of propaganda in which they live.
The ignorance and unconcern of Americans is a great frustration to my friends in the Israeli peace movement. Without outside support those Israelis who believe in good will are deprived, by America’s support for their government’s policy of violence, of any peaceful resolution of a conflict began in 1947 by Israeli aggression against unsuspecting Palestinian villages.
Rev. Are wrote his book with the hope that the pen is mightier than the sword and that facts can crowd out propaganda and create a framework for a just resolution of the Palestinian issue. In his concluding chapter, "What Christians Can Do," Rev. Are writes: "We cannot allow others to dictate our thinking on any subject, especially on anything as important as Christian faithfulness, which is tested by an attitude towards seeking justice for the oppressed. It’s a Christian’s duty to know."
Duty, of course, has costs. Rev. Are writes: "Speak up for the Palestinians and you will make enemies. Yet, as Christians, we must be willing to raise issues that until now we have chosen to dodge."
More than a decade later, President Jimmy Carter, a true friend of Israel, tried again to awaken Americans’ moral conscience with his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Carter was instantly demonized by the Israel Lobby.
Sixty years of efforts by good and humane people to hold Israel accountable have so far failed, but they are more important today than ever before. Israel has its captive American nation on the verge of attacking Iran, the consequences of which could be catastrophic for all concerned. The alleged purpose of the attack is to eliminate nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapons. The real reason is to eliminate all support for Hamas and Hezbollah so that Israel can seize the entire West Bank and southern Lebanon. The Bush regime is eager to do Israel’s bidding, and the media and evangelical "Christian" churches have been preparing the American people for the event.
It is paradoxical that Israel is demonstrating that veracity lies not in the Christian belief in good will but in Lenin’s doctrine that violence is the effective force in history and that the evangelical Christian Zionist churches agree.