Archive for January 2015

Militarism on the move

January 30, 2015


The pro basketball Toronto Raptors arrived just in time for Military Sunday, the Stupor Bowl where  this Sunday once again Americans will honour those brave men and women who are keeping them safe and out of harm’s way..

There they were 2 nights ago,the Raps, dressed up in military camouflage gear for the 7th straight homage to the men and women of the Canadian Forces..

What a crock.The most violent terrorists in the Middle East have been the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan And Canada one step behind.

And who knew? Since I do not follow basketball I had no idea that this militarism had leached its way into our Canadian culture.I just caught  the camouflage  clip on the sports news. Maybe the Leafs should be suiting up as well.Oh yeah, I forgot they salute troops before every game. How about teachers, social workers,nurses etc?
Maybe the Raptors should show that awful movie hymn to violence The Sniper before the next game.

What a trifecta.Drive along The Highway of Heroes which used to be called the 401, catch the Sniper film, a hosannah to a psychopath and then cheer on the boys in camouflage.

O tempora, o mores!

Jeff Halper part 1

January 28, 2015


Minnesotan-born Jeff Halper left academia in Israel to become a full time resister to the corrupting occupation of palestinian land. He is the founder of The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) a human rights and peace organization he established in 1997 to end Israel’s Occupation over the Palestinians. ICAHD takes as its main focus, as its vehicle for resistance, Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and within Israel proper. ICAHD was awarded UN Economic and Social Council Special Consultative Status in 2010.
Jeff gave 2 talks in Toronto and he left to bring his message to the rest of Canada.
Israel’s policy since the beginning and accelerated after 1967 is to steal the land ”dunam by dunam, goat by goat’. Day by day they make it hard for Palestinians to stay in their own country, House demolitions, about 27,000 since ’67 are a favourite tactic in this violent pas de deux. Most Canadians of course are unaware of the many cruel policies used by the state to make life miserable for the original inhabitants.

Most of these disgusting tricks lie just below the radar of North Americans.They aren’t as obvious as the wholesale murder which recently visited on the trapped people of Gaza. They are like  death by attrition, a slow drip of misery on a daily basis.It is low-intensity warfare, a bureaucracy of laws meant to humiliate and frustrate Palestinians. Whether it’s land purchases—the Jewish National Fund will only sell land to Jews—and you can get a tax break in Canada for supporting this one; it may be marriage laws, lost land laws—you were chased out in ’48 or 67—too bad, you never returned. Lost land. It is arcane “administrative detention’ which can lock you up for indefinite periods; it may be constant harassment from settlers who uproot your olive trees; it may be state murder or as it is called “extra-judicial” killings…No trial in the only democracy in the Middle East. Just bang,bang you’re dead. We never liked you.

Or it may be collective punishment like house demolitions,”atavistic revenge” as Halper calls it. Between 2001-2005, according to B’tselem (the Israeli Human Rights org) figures, 664 Palestinian homes were demolished in the Occupied Territory as forms of punishment. Some 4,182 innocent people were displaced, many of them neighbours of the suspect’s family, and this often on the basis of suspicion alone .
The policy of punitive demolitions in fact grew out of the British Emergency Regulations of 1945, which none other than Menachem Begin referred to as “Nazi” regulations and worked tirelessly, though ultimately unsuccessfully, to have them cancelled during his years in the Knesset. These policies continue as halper says as “the exercise of raw, atavistic violence, unfocused revenge against suspects not yet tried or convicted part of a broad policy of repression unlinked to any political process that may resolve the conflict.
Not only do punitive demolitions violate the basic principle of due process of law, the home in question belonging only to a suspect, but the targeting and punishing of a suspect’s family members innocent of any crime through the demolition of their home constitutes collective punishment, a violation of Article 33 of The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (the Fourth Geneva Convention). That Article reads: “No persons may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed,” and it defines collective punishment as a war crime. Needless to say, punitive demolitions are only applied when the attacker is a Palestinian and the victim is a Jew; neither Israeli army or settler violence towards Palestinians is punishable, certainly not by demolishing Israeli Jewish homes.

ICAHD offers several tours in Israel/Palestine.These tours are never taken by the pilgrims who flock to “the Holy Land”.They do do not want to get e involved in “politics.”

Ottawa January 27-30
Halifax January 31-February 2
St. John’s February 3-4
Edmonton February 5-7
Winnipeg February 8-9
Vancouver February 10-12

The Palestinian Gandhi

January 23, 2015

John Dominic Crossan the eminent Catholic biblical theologian appeared via skype at the United Church Jewish-Christian Dialogue on January 20.He spoke about being in Israel just before the 6 Day War broke out,the cake walk where Israel hyped the “potential holocaust”mantra to scare the crap out of the locals and send the diaspora into a frenzy.It turned out they always knew the Arabs were no match—years later even Menachem begin admitted it.

Republican Senator Arthur Vandenburg(Mich) in ’47 told Harry Truman the secret to getting the public to buy the Red Scare :”Scare the hell out of the people.” It always works.Fear always is a great manipulator.Now French Jews may be rushing to Israel after Charlie Hebdo.

anyway,Crossan’s topic was supposed to be the anti-judaism of the gospel.he’s very good here but was less so in his socio-political commentary.”Israel may be your enemy but the other arab countries are not your friends.” Here he was correct.
but then he wondered why—and is often questioned by others, the palestinians have never had their gandhi.They could have shut the whole of jerusalem down etc.

i had to interject and remind him that the palestinians always had potential Gandhis but Israel,espercially in the nonviolent leadership of Mubarak Awad–always throw such leaders out of the country before they get traction.This they did as they did to Awad or else in “the only democracy in the Middle East”, it s an extra-judicial murder.
From NEWSWEEK August 12,2014
Israel kicked him out in 1988. Five years earlier, he had opened the doors of the Palestinian Centre for the Study of Nonviolence in Jerusalem, with the goal of fomenting mass resistance to the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Do not pay taxes, he lectured. Consume only local goods, like the Indians who followed Gandhi’s movement against British colonial rule. Engage in peaceful protest. Plant olive trees on land coveted by Jewish settlers. Above all, do not pick up the gun. March, and sit down, like civil rights protesters in the American South in the 1960s. Take the beatings, clog up Israeli jails.


Incidentally Awad’s young nephew Sami is a nonviolent Palestinian leader in Jerusalem today.Look out,Sami!

Crossan conceded that this area was not his strong suit and moved on to his briilliant biblical analysis.

Catholics absent on israel/Palestine

January 22, 2015


On January 20 the United Church and Christian Jewish Dialogue of Toronto sponsored a day long seminar on Israel/Palestine. It was billed as a day of discernment and thoughtful discussion. Anybody who paid their money could show up was welcome. About 60 people showed.
Irrespective of the dialogue that ensued, it was a good attempt at raising the issue for church and synagogue people.
The United church to its credit has been grappling publicly with this for decades and its working group on Israel/Palestine put forth a policy in 2012:

It names the Occupation as a major contributor to the injustice
It advocates the end of all settlement construction
Calls on Israel to dismantle settlements and separation barrier
It identifies equitable access to water as a critical factor
It calls on Canadian government to provide leadership
it also affirms non-violent resistance to the occupation is justified
Acknowledges with deep regret the past policy of calling on palestinians to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state as a prereq to peace.
This was the grounds for discussion.
One question: where is the Catholic dialogue on this cardinal issue?
Why the timidity of the largest church in Canada to even discuss this?

Martin Luther King Day 2015

January 19, 2015

I seem to remember  Ronald Reagan voted against a national holiday for King.

It is now celebrated every year while Reagan the darling of the right is remembered as the president who transferred more wealth to the rich than any president in history.


The movie SELMA has just arrived in theatres with a powerful reminder.In the words of the old Protestant hymn,no cross, no crown.The film of course is about the historic 1965 civil rights march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery.Though the USA president Johnson had signed the Civil Rights act the year before, the blacks in Selma, half the electorate were only 2% on the electoral rolls. The cracker way of life did not cede so easily.

Johnson still had to be pushed.The film makes this point. well. Always the supreme cynical politician Johnson always had one eye on elections. The civil rights movement ridiculed his gradualism and forced him to act.

Similarly with Selma — he held back as long as he thought the protests didn’t threaten his political future while his action would, and when it became clear he had no choice, he acted.It was the ordinary people who marched, sat in and demanded action who forced his hand.
LBJ was right,standing with the blacks cost Democrats the southern cracker states. No cross, no crown.
Those were the halcyon days in the Catholic church before the set decorator priests claimed control.SELMa was worth seeing, a great reminder of an activist age. It was worth seeing again those nuns and priests walking with De Lawd to Freedom Land.

Out of the sanctuary and into the streets.
As one of the great marchers pictured with Doc King above Abraham Heschel reminded us,”Prayer is no substitute for action.

Baird egged in Palestine

January 18, 2015


Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird brushed off protesters in the West Bank city of Ramallah who pelted his convoy with eggs and shoes on Sunday, noting that he’s seen “a lot worse.”

Dozens of Palestinian protesters hurled eggs and shoes at the convoy and carried signs protesting Baird’s visit to the West Bank, where he was set to meet with the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Maliki.

After the meeting, Baird told reporters that, as a member of cabinet in former Ontario premier Mike Harris’ government, he was used to protesters.

The fact that a man representing Canada at the highest level was in Mike Harris’s cabinet speaks volumes about the Conservative government. Baird challenges Condi Rice as the worst cabinet  Minister in recent history.

Baird’s remarks show his political styupidity even mentioning a pariah in Canadian politics, Mike Harris.

Speaking the truth about Baird who crowed about having his own rabbi the last time he visited israel, was Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat who said that Canada was standing “on the wrong side of history by blindly supporting the Israeli occupation and its apartheid policies. and hey,let’s throw the regressive stance on climate change.

Netanyahu the Non-leader

January 13, 2015


France told Netanyahu to stay home. He came anyway.

Always read the Letters to the Editor.

On online journals the anonymous crowd with their fake names often speak in a most undiplomatic way.

Also you learn things the mainline press omits like the narrowing of opinion in Israel. Imagine Jews will only be happy in Israel! I did not know that! Neither did most of the world’s Jews who say,”You gotta be kidding.’ Yair Lapid (below) is a very influential Israeli politician but look at the nonsense he spins after the killing of for French Jews in Paris.

Former Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid invoked the Holocaust to compel European Jews toimmigrate to Israel: “I don’t want to speak in terms of Holocaust, but … European Jewry must understand that there is just one place for Jews, and that is the State of Israel.” –

A saner voice was Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, who said that he regretted that “after every anti-Semitic attack in Europe, the Israeli government issues the same statements about the importance of aliyah [immigration to Israel], rather than employ every diplomatic and informational means at its disposal to strengthen the safety of Jewish life in Europe.”

And the Palestinian American blogger Ali Abunimah points out at Electronic Intifada Israel has worked to exploit the French violence in several ways:

While Netanyahu was certainly playing to a domestic audience, his presence in Paris is also part of Israel’s swift move to capitalize on the horror in France on a number of fronts: to attack the Palestinians, to sharpen the dangerous discourse of a “war of civilizations” and to speed up the population transfer of Jews from Europe.

More critical and biting commentary followed about Lapid’s incredible remarks.Here’s one from “Marnie”

Israel is a nation like apartheid South Africa – what a wonderful thing to be! And yes, you French Jews who are yearning to breath Jewish only air, drive on Jewish only roads, live in Jewish only settlements, never again have to look at a non-Jew again (well, that’s in the works, be patient, we’ll get there!). Join the Jews only party being held in your honor in Eretz Israel. Of course, your sons and daughters will belong to the state as soon as they graduate high school, hope that’s not a problem for you. We’ll have them indiscriminately kill women, children and the elderly every election cycle too, but that’s a small price to pay to live in the Jewish Disneyworld of the ME!
Give up your life, your friends, your family – family schamly – you belong to the state of Israel. You are a Jew and there’s no other place for you except this land we are steadily acquiring, inch by bloody inch. If you don’t join us you’re dead to us, lost in the assimilation, a self-hating fake Jew, Muslim-loving antisemite.

then AMIGO says this

Come to your home for Jews only , where you will be safer. Where you can live in Jews only housing and drive on Jews only roads .We are working hard to create that for you , so why not join us and be part of the movement. Come one, come all. –
Final sane word from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoga who lashed out at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for attending a solidarity event in Paris.

“Someone who fomented state terrorism with the death of 2,500 people in Gaza is now there [in Paris], waving at other world leaders and marching hand in hand with them,”

Netanyahu in Paris: an Excedrin headache

January 13, 2015


Good old Netanyahu, ya gotta hand it to his chutzpah.He goes to Paris about as welcome as a skunk at a garden party trolling his anti-Muslim screed. They sure needed him given the tension there..You can hear his booswa now—worse than Sharon’s after 9/11:Now you know what we are dealing with in Israel that awful Arab hater intoned.
The head of the largest advocate for the Jewish organizations and communities in Europe sharply criticized Israel’s call for increased immigration of the Continent’s Jews to Israel in the wake of the attacks in Paris. So says Ha’aretz.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, was quoted by the website as saying that he regretted that “after every anti-Semitic attack in Europe, the Israeli government issues the same statements about the importance of aliyah [immigration to Israel], rather than employ every diplomatic and informational means at its disposal to strengthen the safety of Jewish life in Europe.”
The rabbi said that “every such Israeli campaign severely weakens and damages the Jewish communities that have the right to live securely wherever they are.”
The “reality is that a large majority of European Jews do not plan to emigrate to Israel,” Margolin said, according to NRG.

Nor do Toronto’s Jews.For them this is the promised land where there is very little antisemitism and where they thrive and are integrated into the body politic.But leave it to Likudniks like Netanyahu.They have been coming here since 1977 sent by the scaremonger Begin, holding the gun to the heads of the community and laying guilt trips on them, holding the community to ransom.” You are doing well here. You are not making aliyah to israel.We are suffering. So please give us money for our new god, the state of israel.That rap is just about dead, certainly among young Jews who see through the propaganda and the guilt merchants.They want no part of it
Netanyahu in Paris—gimme a break. an Excedrin headache for France’s jewish community.

Rumours of Glory

January 11, 2015


Canadian troubador Bruce Cockburn just released what he calls a memoir” entitled Rumours of Glory.
The singer-songwriter described by Jackson Browne as “one of the most astute and compelling songwriters in the English language” is easily one of the most gifted practitioners of the art on the planet. If he were an American and if he promoted himself he would be acknowledged as the very best in the world.But alas and thankfully, Cockburn has never been at ease with celebrity and has allowed his art to speak for itself. And it speaks volumes and often prophetic truth to power.
What is staggering about a memoir by a person in the music biz is that it could be easily be read as a primer on an engaged Christian life.
This book hits you on the first page when the author says, “Along the way when i found Jesus Christ” you know you are in for either an emotional born again experience or a serious reflection on what it means to be a disciple in the modern age. Luckily, it is the latter. This book could be at home in a university theology class.It is that thoughtful and compelling.
The author’s knowledge of the world and how it works with all the power games governments play is quite astounding. His analysis of global politics as seen from the unique stance of life observed on the periphery is striking. Cockburn allows himself to hear the cries of the poor in Central America, Latin America, Asia and Africa. He goes to the killing fields of Cambodia,Vietnam, Guatemala, the chaos of Mozambique and the horror show of Iraq. He goes not as an expert but as a witness to the suffering and he allows it to inform his music.
Cockburn’s legitimate anger does not spare the real war criminals like George Bush ‘the half-wit Texas oilman’ whom he also calls “the King of Fools” and “His Highness” nor the bloodless US ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright whom on a 60 Minute program told interviewer Leslie Stahl that the starvation of half a million children in Iraq because of an embargo “was worth it.”
We think the price is worth it! ..
tell the universe what you’ve done
out in the desert with your smoking gun
looks like you’ve ben having too much fun
tell the universe what you’ve done (2003)
Cockburn is astonished. His disgust was palpable as it was when he in 1983 saw the murderous activity of US sponsored Guatemalan madman Rios Montt.his response then was his song,”If I had a rocket launcher, some sonofabitch would die.”
Cockburn has deep respect for the heroic Catholic bishop Tom Gumbleton whose peace missions had taken him to Vietnam, Nicaragua,El Salvador, Hiroshima,Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala and Peru and had visited Iraq seven times when Cockburn caught up with him in Baghdad. And Gumbleton correctly is just Tom and not Your Grace.
The book is chock full of some of his great songs which he contextualizes creatively. there are so many! He advises his listeners to “don’t fear the spirit when it comes to call”. He constantly pleads to ‘remain open to the touch of the Divine, a reality that is so much bigger than our day to day selves. He purposely puts spirit in lower case to allow the experience of non-Christians to percolate.

It is his observation that “we spend excessive energy shutting ourselves off from spirit, distracting ourselves from it, and hiding from our inner works and it costs us dearly.The absence of a relationship with spirit allows us to do things like murder each other by the hundreds of thousands and play foolish power games among ourselves and between nations” (p.469)

In this brutally frank memoir this essentially shy man allows us to peer into his highly personal but public life, one that is always moving, developing and deepening.His faith is deeply incarnational, enmeshed in our beautiful, broken world. Unlike too many clerics i’ve know Bruce Cockburn does not invent the human, he takes him and her where he finds them in all their glory and fallenness.He never despairs. He tells us that “my soul is rooted in the divine; and that life is,or ought to be ruled by love.who or what God might be,what the cosmos actually consists of, how love and evil are so regularly cojoined in the human heart—all are questions that hail from a deep and overarching mystery that has forever teased and tossed us.”
The mystery, as the universe keeps reminding me, deepens and opens with every breath.
In 2004 he wrote a song called Mystery. He challenges us:

Don’t tell me there is no mystery
and don’t tell me there is no mystery
it overflows my cup

this feast of beauty can intoxicate
this feat of beauty can intoxicate
just like the finest wine

Rumours of Glory is a potent invitation to hear the music of Bruce Cockburn in a deeper way

Father Abraham’s 42nd Yahrzeit

January 9, 2015

Judaism has a wonderful tradition of the yahrzeit, the anniversary of the death of a loved one

Saturday is the 42nd anniversary of the death of one of my spiritual guides Abraham Heschel.
Heschel was a controversial figure in the Jewish community—much like Jesus was in his time.He had a broad vision of what it meant to be holy. He shook up much of contemporary Judaism by suggesting that the place to be for Torah jews was on the front lines of the struggle for racial equality in America.
Prayer without action he kept insisting was meaningless.
Another rabbinic chestnut along the same line:
The human side of religion, its creeds and rituals and instructions is a way rather than a goal. The goal is “to do justice love mercy..

So when Father Abraham, as his good friend Bill Coffin called him, returned from marching with Dr.King in Alabama, he said: I felt that my legs were praying.

in many ways Pope Francis is telling Catholics to get off their culos and do something aboyt climate justrice.Leave the sanctuary and get on the road to Jericho.