Peoples climate march but where’s Cardinal Dolan?

September 19, 2014

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“It would be wonderful if there were a strong Catholic presence at the march, to indicate our prayerful support of God’s creation,”Cardinal Dolan of New York said about the huge climate justice walk expected to bring over 100,000 to Gotham City.
Dolan is typical of those John Paul ll prelates ,way behind the curve of where the Holy Spirit is, where too many Catholics are.

 
Some of the religious orders like the Franciscans, Jesuits and female religious have moved on and represent the cutting edge of the church.

 
The major moral issue of our time and the best Dolan can says is “It would be wonderful if there were a Catholic presence”. So much for episcopal leadership when it is most needed.

 

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No pastoral planning, no public leadership on the issue, no personal witness or leadership from a church leader who should be at the front of this march.

 
Like so many other bishops who are absent from such issues, they simply provide links on their websites. Links however are no substitute for personal witness. Dolan is smart enough to know that he better say something or he will become almost totally irrelevant.

 
His absence is a dereliction of duty. It is an old story among Catholics who see the institution arrive a little bit late and a little bit out of breath.

 
Pope Francis is doing his best to goose these recalcitrant bishops but it’s a huge uphill battle.

 

 

Meanwhile with the collapse of institutional leadership there is a greater awareness that ordinary people have a sensus fidei that “the Holy Spirit anoints them and equips them for that high calling, conferring on them a very personal and intimate knowledge of the faith of the Church…As a result, the faithful have an instinct for the truth of the Gospel. (Sensus Fidei, 2014) .There is great encouragement for Catholics to go deep, to listen in their depths to what the Spirit is saying and it s obvious that the cry of the earth is addressed to all of us not just Cardinal Dolan.

Climate Justice

September 18, 2014

 

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I have set before you life and death. choose life that you and your descendants may live.
Deuteronomy 30:19

 
Fundamentally the task is not to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis—embedded in interdependence rather than hyperindividualism…
Naomi Klein This Changes Everything

 
On the climate issue, the world’s biggest corporate polluters and pushers of unsustainable rates of consumption are hell bent on maintaining ‘business as usual’ and are working alone and in groups [and at the UN] to ensure that climate policies will not interfere with the profitability of their operations.
Polaris Institute.

 

The marvelous pastor and founder of Sojourners Magazine in Washington Jim Wallis struck a deep chord when he said about meetings in parishes: If they are not connected to a movement outside they are wasting their time. It’s like navel gazing. This would describe most of the parishes in Toronto’s GTA and I imagine most cities. There seems to be little awareness that the gospel mandate is to transform cultures and worlds. and this can only be done by movements, and joining with others. Think the abolitionist Movement and Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. Pictures of those latter years saw nuns, priests and rabbis marching with Dr. King. Nowadays if Catholics aren’t leading the parade they are not in it. Control is the name of the game.

 
Many years ago a great friend of mine took over a parish and immediately handed the basement over to the Peace movement. He was a sophisticated prelate who understood the above insight. It’s about being the leaven in the loaf, the powerful gospel values of shalom, peace and sustainable creation. Most parishes have no clue. More are depending on foreign clergy who have no sense of Canadian Social Teaching. They tend in varying ways to a sacramental model of church offering religious services but never engaging in a socially prophetic solidarity praxis with other groups. Certainly some good things go on but they offer no challenge to the broader culture and in terms of climate justice, they are ignoring the greatest sacrament of all, planet earth and the damage being done to it.

 
Can they be this obtuse to the ravaging of the climate? Are they not aware that that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased last year at the fastest rate in 30 years, in Naomi Klein’s words “gases that will trap heat for generations to come, creating a world that is hotter, colder,wetter. thirstier, hungrier, angrier.”. Do they watch the news? Are the signs of the times that hidden? Do they really believe that band aids like recycling, changing light bulbs and re-using are the answer? Talk about a parallel universe!

 
This weekend in New York City the biggest climate justice march in history is taking place in New York City. over 1000 groups are backing the march. It would be interesting to see how many parishes are joining in. Why was I not surprised when I found out the Jesuit parish St Francis Xavier was big on promoting the march. In the bulletin I read the following

 
Join Us for the People’s Climate March – Sep. 21st
Let’s participate as a parish to let the world know that we are concerned about climate change as a moral and social justice issue, that we care about creation, and we care about protecting the most vulnerable from extreme weather events and other catastrophes caused by climate change.
This is a model for what all parishes should be doing. Hats off to the Jesuits and also to Pax Christi USA.

 
Certainly in Toronto there is absolutely no episcopal leadership in dealing with the greatest moral issue extant today.  If my friend were alive today he would have a Serra Club or Friends of the Earth club in his basement. He would be connecting with others bringing the gospel mandate of care for creation into the larger stream.

 

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The brilliant secular Jew Naomi Klein in her latest prophetic tome This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate uses language which is deeply religious and which mirrors the fire that the mad followers of the Galilean carpenter exhibited and which inspires engaged Catholics today: the power of ferocious love. It is this power which is beginning to mobilize against the rape of the earth and the depredations of the turbocapitalism we see today. It is this economic model so beloved by our Prime Minister Stephen Harper which is waging war against the common good and against all kinds of life on earth.

 

May the four days of protest in New York keep the fire going

The smell of formaldehyde permeates the institution

September 17, 2014

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To destroy other species carelessly is not only to violate the sacramental nature of creation; it is also to turn away from the promise embedded in all of creation….When we fail to protect our planet, when we hasten the demise of species, we erase testimony to divine goodness in the world.
Sr. Elizabeth Johnson

The ecological crisis is a moral issue
Pope John Paul ll

 

Often when you go into a Catholic church today, the smell that hits you is formaldehyde. Many of these edifices in the Toronto area are falling down and the poor pastors are on the nut for the necessary repairs.

 
But I am thinking of deeper repairs as in St. Francis admonition, “Repair my church.” Jelly Roll Morton the great New Orleans composer wrote,”open the windows and let the bad air out.” As a matter of fact this was one of the reigning metaphors when Vatican ll started—open the windows and as the great pope John XXlll said “Surely it is high time, and surely it would be to everyone’s advantage to ‘shake off the dust of the Empire that has gathered since Constantine’s day on the throne of St. Peter”.

 
Well the stale air has slowly crept back into the institution as the Vatican ll priests are departing and lay people have moved on into kingdom-like movements. Many of course remain hoping that a Vatican ll pope can create some hope at the base. But this is a long term project as reactionary bishops appointed by the previous two popes are running major dioceses.

 
Many faithful people have departed the institution as more and more it appears that it is either living in a parallel universe wholly disconnected from the great movements of history or it continues to be buried under mounds of earth, the dust of empire. It is   a model of church which has become almost totally irrelevant. These Catholics are indeed responding to the omnipresent and often stark “signs of the time” the rallying cry of the great Council. We were told to pay attention to the outbreak of the divine in history holy sparks and divine shafts of light. They are Spirit moments of the reign of God. We have had some dramatic ones since the early 60s: the cry of women, the cry of the poor and now the dramatic cry of the earth: climate justice.

 

 

I look around these churches, read the bulletins and again the smell of formaldehyde. They seem to be in a parallel universe, totally out of touch with “the signs ‘of the times’. They continue to believe that the Holy Roman Church owns the Spirit but John’s gospel warned us that “the Spirit blows where it wills” and today a holy gale force win=d is howling in pain as Mother Earth is being desecrated.

 

 

John Paul ll came late to this party but woke in 1990:a new ECOLOGICAL AWARENESS is beginning to emerge which, rather than being downplayed, ought to be encouraged to develop into concrete programs and initiatives. The pope flagged poverty, war and consumerist lifestyle as constitutive parts of the ecological problem. At the conclusion of his prophetic message the pope addressed the Catholic faithful:I should like to address directly my brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church, in order to remind them of their serious obligation to care for all creation.

 

 

Alas the formaldehyde parishes continue on almost totally ignoring this invitation. It’s business as usual at the local, a massive disconnect from the cry of the earth. We baptize and confirm outside of history As Sr. Elizabeth Johnson says, It’s as though the planet were undergoing its agony in the garden, and we, the disciples of Jesus, are curled up fast asleep. Waking up to our own role in this crisis will require a dramatic course correction, a reorienting of our ethical compass away from ourselves alone and toward all creation. In a word, ecological conversion requires profound humility.

 
Nietzsche maintained that the churches were the graves of God. more and more that’s how the young are perceiving them. Not that some good band aid charity work goes on but the deep call of justice is not heard. So the young move on.

 

This weekend 200,000 are gathering in New York City to channel the cry of the earth. The international climate justice movement has stated correctly I believe that the march in New York and mobilizations worldwide will be historic, but that these events are just the beginning

 
You can bet there will be many Catholics there but not their institutional leaders.

More tomorrow,

Zionism and the holocaust

September 15, 2014

 

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In fact very many orthodox Jews not only in Palestine but all over the world view with the deepest misapprehension, not to say dislike, this principle of a Zionist home in Palestine…The scheme of of a Zionist Home seems to make Zionist political predominance effective in Palestine by importing into the country extraneous and and alien Jews from other parts of the world..
Lord Islington in the British House of Commons June 21, 1922

 
Judaism has been corrupted by its politicization.  For some, a form of idolatry seems to have been embraced, making Israel an object of worship, much like the golden calf in the Bible.  It is not only Palestinians who have been the victims of this enterprise, but Jewish moral and ethical values as well.

Allan C Brownfeld, the American Council for Judaism,
Aug 9, 2014

 

It is commonly accepted that knowledge of the Nazi holocaust had a profound psychic effect on people after the end of World War ll. Before television carried horrific images at breakneck speed around the world, people relied on radio, newsreels and the printed word Even then most people were staggered by reports of Nazi cruelty. Such monumental evil seemed beyond category. It simply exploded our mental horizons. News of Hiroshima had the same effect.How could humans act like this?
The death of so many however was a boon to Zionism. Three million Jews remained in Europe after the war, many having been saved by decent people. Various governments responded to the calamity and were prepared to aid the struggling remnant.

 
In this period Zionism hardly distinguished itself. Another “new historian” Tom Segev unearthed this embarrassing fact. It seemed that Ben Gurion was more committed to Jewish sovereignty in Palestine than rescuing Jews caught in the Nazi net. This infamous clinical attitude was best summed up in the Zionist leader’s famous 1938 remark:

 

If i knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England but only half by transporting them to Palestine I would choose the second-because we face not only the reckoning of those children but the historical reckoning of the Jewish people.

 
Was Ben Gurion that cold hearted? Hardly but he had committed his whole life to the formation of the Jewish state in Palestine. He was never interested in a mere “homeland”. He would never be satisfied with anything but a state with no room for the Palestinian people.

 
After the Peel Commission (1937) recommended partition as the only solution to the growing Palestinian resistance, the wily leader accepted this as a mere stop gap to Jewish sovereignty. He fully understood that the Palestinians “had legitimate fears and grievances”. He stated to party members in 1937:
We will abolish partition and expand to to the whole of Palestine. I do not see partition as the final solution of the Palestine question…it is not the end but the beginning…we will expel the Arabs and take their place.

 
One must be aware that the deepening global understanding of the Zionist endgame and its hypocritical face to the rest of the world slowly come about through the pioneering work of the humanist Israeli historians. They have unearthed what so long has been covered up.

 

 

As it was becoming obvious in the mid 40s that Nazism was headed for a catastrophic defeat the American president Franklin Roosevelt sent his close fiend, a New York Jewish lawyer Morris Ernst around the USA to galvanize support for the rescue of broken European Jewry. Ernst was stunned at the lack of support of Jewish leaders. He discovered to his great chagrin that almost to a person They were committed not to a Jewish homeland but a Zionist state.

 

 

Getting the Jewish survivors to emigrate to Palestine would have filled the Yishuv with much needed recruits in filling the country. No Jew would be forced to go anywhere much less to Palestine. Ernst again was shocked at the response he received. ”I was thrown out of parlors of friends,” he wrote. ”They said, Morris you are undermining the Zionist movement.”

 
It turned out that the sophisticated Roosevelt understood the Jewish community better than his bosom friend. He had predicted to Ernst

 
They (Zionists) know they can raise vast sums for Palestine by saying to donors ”there is no other place this poor Jew can go.” But if there is a world political asylum for all people irrespective of race, creed or color, they cannot raise their money. Then the people who do not want to give the money will have no excuse to say “What do you mean there is no place they can go but Palestine?They are the preferred wards of the world.”

 

Ernst many years later later said that everywhere he found “ a deep genuine often fanatically emotional vested interest in putting over the Palestinian movement” in men “who are little concerned about human blood if it is not their own.”

 

Roosevelt and Ernst were universalists. They had met their match in men who were tribalists. The progressive values of the early idealists were gradually being trumped by a movement whose core belief rested on land, and nationalism. They had little understanding of the moral . price to be paid. In their enthusiasm they were unable to see what would happen when Torah was replaced by an Israeli flag.

 
The brilliant Orthodox scholar Yeshayahu Leibowitz (d.1994) put it this way:

 

 

The historical Jewish people, despite all its contradictions and despite all the division that arose within it never considered the state apparatus—that is the force of organized power under which the people live—as one of the constitutive elements of its national essence. The same holds true with regard to the land…In its historical consciousness the people existed outside outside all territorial attachments…Its national identity is incarnated in one specific, immanent element—Judaism.

 
Ben Gurion was a secular Jew whose prime aim was to was to convert Jews to become members of a secular nation. He needed bodies fast to fill the country. For him the historical Judaism of mercy, charity, compassion and introspection was dead. Zionism needed strength, self-affirmation and power. Brilliant tactician that he was, Ben Gurion sent out his operatives into the DP camps to basically force these survivors to come to Palestine. Soldiers were needed for the upcoming battle. Many of course did not want to go. America not Israel was the goldene medine (the promised land). The same holds true for American Jews today. Israel has turned out to be no safe haven at all.It is the most dangerous place in the world for Jews.

 

Less than half of the European Jewish remnant came to Israel. One can understand why so many resisted the often crude pressure of the Zionists. What could Palestine offer them? It was not even a country with a highly developed infrastructure. Many had been coerced into coming to a strange land. Zionists had seized control in these holding camps and they did everything in their power to steer people to Palestine.

 
How things would have been different had Zionists simply agreed to a homeland. The land could have been shared but the age-old virus of nationalism, so foreign to Judaism won the day and we see the tragic results today.

Palestinian Humiliation and Terrorism

September 12, 2014

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We in the West paid no attention to the massive injustice done to the Palestinian people in years after the founding of the Jewish state (May 15,1948). There were many reasons for this. The first was the widespread feeling that after the holocaust and suffering of European Jewry a homeland was owed to the Jewish people. The fact that it was in an area called Palestine populated for 12 centuries by largely Muslim citizens seemingly did not register. Then in 1967, 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes. These people who had nothing to do with the European massacre were made to pay the price. While few argued against finding a refuge for the war-torn Jews of Europe was necessary the idea of founding a state in the midst of the Arab world and displacing the indigenous population was a fundamental error.It is now only coming to be understood as a historical wrong.

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In the post-war period the Arab countries of course were incensed at the Zionist coup but they were never any match for the powerful military of the new state, built up by largely American support. The two major wars led by Egypt ended in defeat and humiliation for Arabs of the Middle East. Often these countries were at each others throats and were never united enough to win the land back or demand the return of refugees despite the resolutions (242, 93) of the newly formed United Nations.It is now known despite the massive propaganda that Israel was never in at risk in being defeated. As Mordecai Bentov a member of the israeli government candidly admitted,”The entire story of the danger of extermination was invented in every detail exaggerated a posteriori to justify the annexation of of new Arab territory.”

The United States came out of World War ll as a colossus. It had 50% of the world’s wealth and only 6% of its population. Europe was in ruins and most importantly within the republic American Jews were formidable actors in the defense of Israel. The Arab voice in America was negligible. All US presidents from Truman on toed the Israeli line . The USA  so accommodating to Jewish refugees showed no interest in alleviating Palestinian suffering. No people likes to be disappeared treated as the disposable flotsam and jetsam of history so the inevitable happened. Palestinians reached for the gun and resorted to terror like the Israelis had before them—kidnappings, hijackings and assassination. It had worked for the Zionists and they figured it would work for them.

On May 5,1974, 26 years to the day that Israel was declared a state, three fedayeen( guerillas), members of the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP) stormed a school in Ma’alot (formerly the Arab village of Tarchiha) on the Lebanese border. They wished to enact a prisoner exchange. Rather than wait for the 6 o’clock curfew the Israeli Defense Force stormed the school and in the chaos 16 young people were killed either by Palestinian grenades or Israeli bullets. The PDFLP spokesman later stated that no harm would come to them if the demands were met. American public opinion stoked by Israeli propaganda went wild. In Israel another picture unseen in in the west was seen. The IDF leader Moshe Dayan was attacked by the Ma’alot Council Chairman Eli ben Yaacov who screamed at him “You have made us the stepchildren of Israel—because most of us are from Morocco.” This was a reference to the well known discrimination against Jews from Arabic countries. The very next day the Israeli air force killed 52 civilians in a reprisal raid on an impoverished refugee camp. 36 American supplied Phantom jets had efficiently done their work.

The day before the Ma’alot disaster a young 25 year old Palestinian was interviewed in Beirut and he made the point of this article: I am a Palestinian and I am not concerned with world opinion including american which has done nothing for our very fair cause through more than 26 years. The world can respect you only when you are strong enough to stand in the face of the world and fight for your cause.

From then on until the work of the New Israeli Historians the Palestinians to our way of thinking were nothing but terrorists.. They had sprung seemingly full-blown out of Medusa’s head for no earthly rhyme or reason. One of the reasons we must have hope in Israel is that there have always been sterling Jews of conscience who understood at a deep level the historical plight of the Palestinian people..One of the many was Ya’acov Talmon(d.1980) the Polish-born a professor of Modern History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Talmon

In 1969 Talmon wrote a letter to the Minister of Information Yisrael Galili. Talmon noted that the Jewish national home had been imposed on the Arabs by the great power. He told the minister that he did not recognizethe Arabs of Palestine as a moral or legal entity in Palestine. Why should you therefore wonder when the Arabs or other describe you as colonizers and claim that they cannot reach and agreement with you because you do not recognize the principle of mutual respect but look only toward expansion…and I ask you in your capacity as Minister of Information what shall I answer the thinkers and educated people of other nations when they ask me why should not the Arabs join the ranks of freedom fighters when he hears the words of Galili?You deprive him of the right of his right to national existence and self-determination. When the British attempted to do the same to with you didn’t he Haganah, the Irgun and the Stern gang resort to terror and violence. Yes, Mr. Minister what do you expect my answer to be?”

Bob Feller, Jesus and Charles Hammond

September 11, 2014

When Bob Feller broke into major league baseball as a 19 year old prodigy in 1936, people were stunned at his overwhelming power. Where did this kid come from? Out of nowhere, it seemed. A small hamlet in iowa called Van Meter. Hall of Famers like Gehrig and Hank Greenberg were New Yorkers and well scouted but this kid came from the sticks, a small farming community. ”The Heater from Van Meter” stood pro baseball on its ear and proved that you never know where lightning is going to strike.

And the wandering rabbi himself Jesus of Nazareth, was no big town kid, but came from a similar backwater a dusty Galilean town. “Nazareth? what good can come from there” a character named Nathanael says in John’s gospel.

You never know when lightning will strike.

Or when dark clouds will descend like the time a priest friend on the inside told me that a totally reactionary bishop was about to be named. No attempt to send out those “sub secretos” probes quietly sent to locals about the suitability of a candidate). Fuggedabout it! Nobody would have put this guy on their ballot so far out on the Richter scale he was but Papa in Rome knew best and ignored all the pastoral priests and named Bishop Orthodoxy who like all the other automata had to swear they would promote the birth control encyclical and never ever raise the issue of women priests. The predictable result followed. The local church was set back decades.

Lightning on the other hand can be a sudden insight, a burst of clarity from an unexpected source. And today’s winner from the small Michigan town of Ubley is Reverend Charles Hammond.

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Hammond seems to be one of those Vatican ll priests who did his best in a time of institutional Catholic dysfunction and a massive failure of nerve in implementing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. At the time it was considered by the bishops and most of the people as “the greatest grace of the century” then the inevitable forces of reaction set in in the one papacy of John Paul ll and his enforcer Benedict XVl. The bishops raised up by these two popes were a very timid lot, long on institutional concerns but fairly immune to the ‘signs of the times’. They became obsessed with pelvic orthodoxy and after 30 years this seems to have run its course.

Meanwhile Rev Hammond and many brave pastors carried on the best they could. I knew several who gave up after 20 years and simply hung on. They were out of energy, depressed at topdown autocratic rule of Rome which ignored the communal thrust of the great Council. There was little attention paid to the  sensus fidelium, how the Spirit was speaking in the whole church. Suddenly they were out of style with the my way of the highway diktat of the papacy.

Rev Hammond writes in the National Catholic Reporter (Aug 29,2014)
During the last 35 years, no Second Vatican Council priests have been named bishops. The result has been a very lopsided church, in terms of leadership, characterized by legalism and clericalism.
Many priests ordained in the 60s and 1970s have felt isolated and unsupported. Even if Pope Francis initiates changes in this trend, they feel it wouldn’t affect them, and the institution is just waiting for them to retire or die out.
Meanwhile they are given isolated pastoral assignments (which they actually consider a blessing). But instead of being in in a “passive retirement” mode many are very much alive in pastorally implementing the spirit of Vatican ll not by confronting the institution but by personal ministry inspired by jesus, one person at a time. They do not want to waste the rest of their days bemoaning this situation but continuing to do what they’ve always done: responding to the needs of people in a spontaneous and unstructured way.
In contrast to the faithful Charles Hammond, I heard about the clown bishop still around who said, he was not a Francis 1 bishop but a Benedict XVl one.

I guess I’m a John XXlll man myself

Hats off to priests like Charles Hammond who never became a bishop but stayed the Vatican ll course

Read the Letters to the Editor

September 11, 2014

 

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Always read the letters to the editor first—especially these days when most newspapers are echo chambers for a power elite. In Canada we had 26 of 28 dailies editorialize for our Republican Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a man who has done his best to turn Canada into a pale imitation of our friends to the south, the mighty United States of Amnesia as Gore Vidal named it.

As a teacher I can tell you the young have abandoned newspapers as a serious brake on the corporate takeover of our country. The Fourth Estate as an entity which challenges “the malefactors of wealth” who dominate society here and south of the border seems to have fallen asleep on the job. Or maybe they are wide awake and doing the reactionary work of their owners. In 1907 President Teddy Roosevelt took a shot at this group as “…a few ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization’. A .J. Liebling was closer to the mark when he wrote that “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

The one paper which has struggled to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” has been the Toronto Star. The Atkinson Principles based on the philosophy (and his Methodist religion) of Joseph Atkinson who was the editor of the Star for 50 years until 1948.

Atkinson believed and the Star struggles to continue this belief that “a progressive newspaper should contribute to the advancement of society through pursuit of social, economic and political reforms”. Atkinson obsessed about injustice, be it social, economic, political, legal or racial. The  Star continues in this vein. It was one of two dailies that rejected Harper in the last federal election. Usually a left Liberal paper, it supported the NDP.

Young people,at least a creative minority are still idealistic, that’s why they have abandoned newspapers and found online journals or blogs which have the same values that Joe Atkinson had.
As far as letters to the editor go, I saw one yesterday that really hit home as a truthful description of the sagging fortunes of the institutional Catholic church.

Tomorrow!

The other Exodus

September 9, 2014

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Above all, let me reiterate, the refugee problem was caused by attacks by Jewish forces on Arab villages and towns and by the inhabitants’ fear of such attacks, compounded by expulsions, atrocities, and rumors of  atrocities, and by the crucial Israeli Cabinet decision in June 1948 to bar a refugee return.

Benny Morris, “Revisiting the Palestinian Exodus of 1948

We came and turned the native Arabs into tragic refugees. And still we have to slander and malign them, to besmirch their name. Instead of being deeply ashamed of what we did and trying to undo some of the evil we committed…we justify our terrible acts and even attempt to glorify them”
Nathan Chofshi, Jewish Newsletter, New York, 9 February 1959, cited in Erskine Childers, ‘The Other Exodus’ in Spectator, London, 12 May 1961

After WW ll the world recoiled at the plight of European Jews. At that time there was no television, internet or instant graphic reproductions of human suffering. There were however radio newspapers and newsreels and all justifiably recorded the fact of the Shoah. It permeated Western consciousness and created waves of sympathy and compassion for the bedraggled remnant of survivors. It also paved the way for the creation of the Jewish state, Israel.

For all intents and purposes, the Palestinians became invisible. As Israel was declared a state on May 14,1948 and as 750,000 indigenous people were expelled from their homeland with their property confiscated, the world shed few tears for Palestinian refugees living in tents, wards of the United Nations. They seemed absolutely impotent in pleading their just cause as Zionists had for Jewish refugees.

Immediately the hasbara began. Hasbara a common Hebrew word meaning explanation,public relations or advocacy>the modern state of Israel is masterful at this, employing thousands particularly in North America to put the most positive spin on Israel’s actions. after the latest massacre in Gaza, israeli diplomats are fanning out and lobbying Canadian MPs.

In 1945, there was little competition to the hasbara.The Palestinians were stunned, unorganized, trying to survive after the Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe.

The world bought the line that Palestinians left of their own accord thinking they would return when Arab armies would liberate them. It took decades for the truth to emerge but with the rise of the new historians in the 70s and 80s the facts were clear. The Palestinians were terrorized into retreat and two of the biggest terrorists were former PMs Menachem Begin (Irgun) and Yitzhak Shamir (Stern Gang).

Just before the state was proclaimed in May, on April 9 1948 91 men, women and children were murdered i the small village of Deir Yassin. Most of the men were working in Jerusalem when the attack came and when Jacques de Reynier of the Red Cross arrived he found many bodies tossed into a cistern and about others thrown to the side. 30 babies wee among the murdered which today after much research is considered to be 93. The survivors were stripped and paraded in open trucks on King George V Avenue in Jerusalem. Further indignities awaited them.

So shocking was this brutal event that the future PM Ben Gurion apologized to King Abdullah of Jordan. “Now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being is shaken” said agriculture minister Aharon Cizling in November of that year. There was no doubt however of the psychological import of the massacre. According to the brilliant Hungarian-British writer Arthur Koestler this bloodbath was “the decisive factor in the exodus of Arab refugees.” Israel historian Ilan Pappe (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine) reiterated the same analysis(The has meticulously recorded 31 massacres, from December 1947 to January 1949.

It would be many years before Palestinians recovered from their catastrophic expulsion from their homeland. It would be 30 years before the Israeli historians uncovered the lie of Palestinians voluntarily leaving their homes.

There seemed but one way out, one sure way that people would sit up and take notice. That was the age old tactic of all liberation movements:terror. the age old tactic of resistance to such an intolerable situation. Others of course called this terrorism. Palestinians were driven to neighbouring countries like Jordan (almost 1 million) the West Bank(700,000) and adjacent Arab countries. The USA so accommodating to Jewish refugees showed no interest in alleviating Palestinian suffering. There simply was no domestic counter valence to the fact of the holocaust and Jewish American political clout.

The powerful western media had virtually disappeared Palestinian suffering. Sadly the only force which makes people sit up and take notice is terror and that was what captured global media attention.

This next move was aptly phrased by a young Palestinian Maher Yamani who hijacked an airliner in Athens

What could we do? We tried all ways possible, until we found the way of the gun…we Palestinians cannot accept a piece of our own land as charity from another country.”

Catholics and Zionism

September 5, 2014

 

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We seemed to have thought of everything except the Arabs
Judah Magnes

In London deranged thug attacked British MP George Galloway in broad daylight breaking his jaw al the while screaming about Hitler and the holocaust. The kicker is the assailant identified himself as a Catholic Zionist.

I was one once. Right after the war and into the 60s you couldn’t help being a Zionist. At that time Catholics did not have language for our support for the little country in the Middle East which was founded to be a safe haven for Jews.

In my case it was natural. Growing up as I did in a largely Jewish area of downtown Toronto, Jews were my friends and team mates. With the exception of the eastern European accents of their parents they were no different than others in the great stew I found myself in.

In retrospect I was blind to the plight of the Palestinians and the tragedy of the Nakba, their shocking dispossession from their historic homes. They were as invisible to me as they were to the early Zionists of the dawn of the 20th century.

By pure happenstance by geography and upbringing my life trajectory was steered in the right direction. At an early age I became aware of antisemitism and racism. It formed my worldview and I naturally carried it into my teaching. I wrote about this in my memoir Never Neutral: A Teaching Life. I thought Catholics should know about the holocaust and as an act of reparation and of deep gratitude I exposed my students to the holocaust and its lessons.

It took sometime however for the scales to fall from my eyes. One of the main reasons I suspect was that Arabs in general were off my radar. Like most people in Anglo Toronto I saw them as kind of exotic creatures, desert nomads. They were a total abstraction, devoid of any history. Jews I knew but who knew Palestinians or Arabs?

The world was legitimately enthralled by the portraits of Jews building a new home in this small country after the ravages of Nazism. Let nobody stand in their way. Sadly the Palestinians who bore no responsibility for the Jewish tragedy subconsciously became the new enemy.

We had no understanding of the early years of Zionism (1882 and on) when the population of Palestine was 96% Palestinian and Muslim. In 1945 the Jewish population of this same area was less than 7% of the total. we had no idea that Jerusalem for example had been overwhelmingly Arab since the seventh century. For us true believers Zionism had the exclusive right to this patch of land. Facts of the incremental dispossession of the indigenous people were seldom heard in the West. So powerful was the dream of Zionism and fellow supporters like myself. We were literally caught in a romantic trance. In the 60s and 70s we could have easily reiterated the words of The Zionist founder Theodore Herzl’s good friend Max Nordau who one day in 1897 exclaimed to him,”But there are Arabs in Palestine. I did not know that!”

This slowly began to change.

Sad to say it the reason for the change was the sudden appearance of Arabs on the screen and in the news.

The Catholic Zionist

September 4, 2014

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Your honour we present to you. Mr Neil Masterson, age 39.He is accused of attacking the Honorable George Galloway, six time elected MP (Bradford West) of the Respect Party.

In a bizarre assault the 39 year old Masterson put the boots to the 61 year old Galloway in the Notting Hill district of London on Friday Aug 29. Even with a broken jaw Galloway got up and followed the thug and pointed him out to police.

Interviewed later Galloway said that his assailant wore an Israeli Defence Force t-shirt and was “shouting support for Israel and opposition to my views on Israel” as he unleashed a “torrent of punches and kicks.”

Ironically, Masterson whose rage sent Galloway to the hospital overnight was charged with “religiously aggravated assault” as well as common assault on a passerby who jumped into the fray.
Masterson will appear as Hammersmith magistrate Court next Monday.

Now the term “religiously aggravated” appears to fit the assailant as he described himself as a Catholic Zionist and Anti Islamic. He threatened to slit Galloway’s throat on his Facebook page. As he beat on the face of the well known critic of Israel’s policies, Masterson ranted about Hitler and the Holocaust.

Immediately a drive to cover Masterson’s costs raised $4,000.

In Today’s Telegraph,a Conservative paper, political commentator Peter Oborne took the very high road and made some very salient points:

There is something very disturbing about the response to this event by the mainstream British political establishment. Mr Galloway has received no public message of sympathy from a single MP from any party – nothing from Speaker Bercow, from the Prime Minister, or from any of the other elected political leader.

I know that Mr Galloway is a very controversial figure and that many people, for honourable reasons, disagree very strongly with his views. Yet that is irrelevant. The attack on Mr Galloway is beyond doubt an attack on British democracy itself.

It is a basic principle of our political culture that men and women must be able to speak up for the causes they believe in without threats or violent reappraisal. Had an MP been attacked by some pro-Palestinian fanatic for his support of Israel, I guess there would have been a national outcry and rightly so. Why then the silence from the mainstream establishment following this latest outrageous assault on a British politician?

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When I read all of the above, I mused that I too was a Catholic Zionist when I was Masterson’s age. This was before I became a Groucho-Marxist and believed what I saw rather than what was fed to me by books like Leon Uris’s Exodus which I devoured in 1958. That was before I understood the meaning of the biblical Exodus, the exegesis of which has totally escaped the illiterate Catholic Zionist, Neil Masterson.

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