American Hyperbole and Her Enemies


A lot has been made at Miscellany101 of the lies that were advanced by American government to justify occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.  It turns out this was not a problem unique to the Bush administration, but rather is a problem of government and especially government that relies on an industrial military complex to sustain itself.  In order to continue to receive money necessary to feed this monstrosity lies are dished out to politicians and the general public alike which exaggerate the prowess of perceived enemies and the necessity of America to fight in lands far away in order to avoid fighting on the shores of America.

The methods employed have been at times very simple and transparent, at times shrouded in enough mystery to cause doubt and at other times  sophisticated enough to convince even the most die hard skeptic of the necessity of government intervention and a military response to a perceived threat to America’s national security.  At different times in recent American history different political groups have hijacked this penchant to latch onto the military desire for supremacy at the expense of the Nation’s soul.  The desire to topple Cuba’s Fidel Castro with the exaggerated threat of his tiny island country to the United States was seized upon by expatriates of that country to settle their scores with the petulant, nascent communist ruler and ruined an American presidency.  In the process it spurred Operations Northwood which called for the US government to engage in acts of terrorism in order to justify an invasion of Cuba.  Sound familiar?

The Vietnam war, a war that wasted the lives of over 58,000 Americans and countless others as well as the “Cold War” was worked over by groups that touted the fear of communism and the need to fight everywhere to stop its spread.  Getting the government to go along with a lie in order to promote one of the largest military buildups in recent history to fight an agrarian based society we had originally promised to support, the proponents of military occupation were able to get America to offer up the lives of her sons and daughters for a war that was based on a lie that was revealed only recently.

With regards to the Soviet Union and the  threat it posed, it now turns out the hype was all a lie, and the latest document released  underscores that point. In it the hypothesis is America and especially the Reagan administration did everything it could to play down Soviet Russia’s attempt at rapprochement instead inflating the Soviet threat and increasing the chances of war with a non-existent threat and a potential non-existent enemy.  At a time when Russians wanted peace and did everything in their power to prove that by inviting scientists and non governmental officials to come and inspect Soviet facilities,  the Reagan American administration was continuing the drum beats for war and rattling the sabers in an attempt to increase American military coffers  as well as possibly  goad the Soviets into war when fighting was the last thing the Russians wanted to do.

It shouldn’t take another 20-30 years for us to see the same methods were used to get America to invade Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria or any other Middle Eastern country, that of deception and intimidation, but unfortunately we’re already seeing the roots of it with regards to Iran, who since 2003 has sent overtures of peace and wanting to work with an American administration to solve diplomatic impasse only to have such efforts rebuffed by ‘the powers that be’.  This has become a common theme between America and her enemies, that whenever they have attempted to or sent signals of peace to an American administration that claims it wants peace, such overtures  are rejectedand or ignored and belligerence, war and destruction become the order of the day between the two sides.   At some point the American public has got to demand more and better from its representatives and stop offering up human sacrifices to a philosophy that promotes death and denigrates peace.

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First Person Account of Racism in liberal France


A Jewish Voice Against the Burqa Ban

Even as a Jew in New York, I know of what it is like to be Muslim in France.

While studying abroad in the French city of Strasbourg in 2007, I decided to grow a bushy beard. Little did I know that in France, only traditional Jewish and Muslim men don anything but the most finely trimmed mustache or goatee. Since I did not wear a yarmulke or other head covering, people who saw me on the street assumed that I was Muslim.

I felt that police officers and passersby treated me with suspicion, and even on the crowded rush hour bus, few chose to sit next to me if they could avoid it. On one occasion someone followed me home and tried to start a fight, only to find that I was a bewildered American, not a French Muslim.

Never before, and never since, have I experienced disdain of this sort. On a daily basis, I was made to feel badly because of my appearance — and what was presumed to be my corresponding religious affiliation. So when I read of the effort by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his supporters to criminalize the burqa (and other garments that fully cover a woman’s body, head, and face) in France, I understood it to be far more than a measure to protect women’s rights or preserve the concept of a secular society, on which the modern French state is built.

In my opinion, it is easy to see how the “burqa ban” might be misused as a part of a broader effort to stigmatize a religious population, one that already perceives itself to be on the margins of society.

Admittedly, I am fundamentally opposed to any garment or religious practice — including those found in my own Jewish tradition — that suggests that women hold a different or subservient position. But the burqa ban in France will not achieve the aim of gender equality. If anything, it will strengthen religious conservatives in France’s Muslim population by convincing members of the moderate majority of Muslims that the rest of French society will never accept them.

While there are said to be only 2,000 women who wear burqas in all of France today, the entire Muslim population, estimated to be around five to six million, will take umbrage at another measure that singles out their community.

If we assume that Sarkozy is genuinely motivated by the belief that the burqa “hurts the dignity of women and is unacceptable in French society,” according to an April 21 article in the New York Times, his best response would in fact be to enact measures welcoming Muslim citizens more fully into French society. Such affirmations would undercut efforts by the small minority of religiously conservative Muslims to gather a following among disaffected coreligionists who feel unable to overcome anti-Muslim prejudice.

The need for the French government to treat religious minorities with respect is bolstered by its own history. In 1781, the enlightened German thinker Christian Wilhelm von Dohm made what at the time was a revolutionary suggestion: “Certainly, the Jew will not be prevented by his religion from being a good citizen, if only the government will give him a citizen’s rights.” But it was the French who first put Dohm’s prophetic vision into action.

In 1806, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte emancipated French Jews by passing laws to improve their economic and social status. He invited them to live anywhere they pleased and recognized their religion, affirming its permanent place within the private sphere of French life. Though he did renege on several of his early commitments, Napoleon’s efforts ultimately enabled Jews to become a full part of French society.

Through these acts of profound tolerance over 200 years ago, France set an example for all of Europe and proved that its open-mindedness was more than rhetorical.

Modern France would do well to follow its own admirable example and truly treat Muslim citizens as equal participants in society. Foregoing the burqa ban would be a sensible first step.

Jerusalem Belongs to More than One Tribe


The battle for Jerusalem goes on but Miscellany101 wants to highlight some voices that too often get drowned out in the cacophony  that is designed to confuse and distort.  Before getting to the heart of the refutation that Jerusalem belongs only to Israel’s Jews, it’s necessary to excerpt the post that started it all.

For me,(Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor,  who took out full page ads in major American newspapers to express his views on the city of Jerusalem) the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture — and not a single time in the Koran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming. There is no more moving prayer in Jewish history than the one expressing our yearning to return to Jerusalem. To many theologians, it IS Jewish history, to many poets, a source of inspiration. It belongs to the Jewish people and is much more than a city, it is what binds one Jew to another in a way that remains hard to explain. When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming. The first song I heard was my mother’s lullaby about and for Jerusalem. Its sadness and its joy are part of our collective memory.

Since King David took Jerusalem as his capital, Jews have dwelled inside its walls with only two interruptions; when Roman invaders forbade them access to the city and again, when under Jordanian occupation, Jews, regardless of nationality, were refused entry into the old Jewish quarter to meditate and pray at the Wall, the last vestige of Solomon’s temple. It is important to remember: had Jordan not joined Egypt and Syria in the war against Israel, the old city of Jerusalem would still be Arab. Clearly, while Jews were ready to die for Jerusalem they would not kill for Jerusalem.

Today, for the first time in history, Jews, Christians and Muslims all may freely worship at their shrines. And, contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city. The anguish over Jerusalem is not about real estate but about memory.

Jerusalem must remain the world’s Jewish spiritual capital, not a symbol of anguish and bitterness, but a symbol of trust and hope. As the Hasidic master Rebbe Nahman of Bratslav said, “Everything in this world has a heart; the heart itself has its own heart.”

Jerusalem is the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul.

There is so much wrong with Mr. Wiesel’s claim that Christians and Muslims are allowed to build anywhere in the city it’s laughable.  However, one Reverend Frank Julian Gelli took it seriously enough to write this scalding rebuttal to Wiesel’s soliloquy.

‘For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics’, you declare. As a priest, a messenger of peace, I could not agree more. But you add that Jerusalem ‘belongs to the Jewish people’. Astonishing. Because that is an exquisitely political statement. To belong to means to be the property of someone. Jerusalem belongs to, is the property of the state of Israel, you therefore must mean – unless some occult, cabbalistic meaning is intended. How can you then say that Jerusalem is above politics? You are contradicting yourself, methinks. Being illogical is not being unethical, no. Just a little intellectually inconsistent. Join the club – but, from a messenger to mankind I would expect a tad more rigour.

Jerusalem ‘is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture – and not a single time in the Koran’ you assert, inferring politics straight from theology. Puzzling contention. Because statistical and numerical arguments are tricky. Consider: Mecca, the holiest city of Islam, is named explicitly only twice in the whole Qur’an – a third time under the name of ‘Bakka’. Would you then conclude that Mecca is only of minor importance to Muslim? Absurd.

‘Jerusalem must remain the world’s Jewish spiritual capital’, you contend. Once again, I wholeheartedly agree. But two points. First, a spiritual capital is not the same as a political capital. Rome is the spiritual capital of Roman Catholics. It is not, however, their political capital. Canterbury is Anglicanism’s spiritual centre but Anglicans have no political allegiance to it. Orthodox Christians still regard Constantinople as their spiritual navel, but few would ask the Turks to give it back…..

Second, spiritual imperialism must have limits. Jerusalem is not sacred only to Jews. This is not a political claim. It is a straightforward factual, historical statement. In the New Testament – as you are fond of statistics – Jerusalem is named 159 times – a very high number, given also that the NT is much smaller than the OT. You might have heard a Jew called Jesus of Nazareth once preached, taught, suffered, was crucified and arose from the grave in the very city of David.

You know, my heart overflows with emotion and my eyes with tears when I think about my beloved Lord’s life, his ministry, his passion, his agony in Jerusalem. So you see, you are not the only one to be moved, anguished or rejoiced, by ancestral memories connected with the holy city. Christians are, too.  And amongst mankind, Christians – nominal or actual – number 2.1 billion. It is fair to conclude they too have at least as rightful and as strong a claim to the spiritual Jerusalem as 1.5 billion Muslims and 14 million Jews.

It’s sad that the apartheid state of Israel where nationality is a religious not a civil designation somehow or another enlists the support of a Nobel Peace prize, 1986 winner to wax eloquently about the importance of Jerusalem to Israeli Jews while the homes of Palestinian Christians and Muslims are being destroyed and their lives wantonly disregarded. A state that uses such internationally reknown mouthpieces to mask its death and destruction should not be the recipient of American largesse or respect.

Pornography and the Israeli Defense Force


Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.  It’s pretty strange to read how Israel is pimping its male soldiers but here it is in black and white.  As far as Israel is concerned, it seems sex sales.

Well I never. Another Holy Land surprise that’ll have you wondering what else you don’t know about Israel…oh yes, if you’re familiar with the amazing, historical sites to see in Israel, get yourself ready for the latest addition to that long, regal list of Holy Land attractions: the boys of the Israeli army!In yet another move that seems to confirm Israel’s (perhaps more accurately Tel Aviv’s) status as gay-friendly capital of the Middle East, if not Europe, tourists can now visit an army base where they can mingle with hot, rugged Israeli male soldiers, and even have their picture taken with them.

The company behind the idea, Lucas Entertainment, is actually a porn producer, but is adamant that the tourist angle is genuine. Apparently, a planned tour package for next month is already getting considerable interest (and bookings). And a hot date with sexy Israeli army guys is already in the works.

If you were wondering how the heck the Israeli army would allow tourists into an army base, and then photograph its soldiers, the man behind Lucas Entertainment, porn actor Michael Lucas, is a donor to Friends of the IDF and all donors are usually allowed to visit army bases.

Me, I’m all for advertising the Israeli army in a better light. They obviously don’t get the press in the world, and perhaps seeing a few rugged, soldiers smiling with a few tourists isn’t such a bad thing. Personally, I would say the girls of the Israeli army do a much better job of promoting all that is good about Israel. Nothing quite beats a cute 19 year old Israeli army girl, with long flowing hair and a Uzi strapped to her shoulder…

Bishop Desmond Tutu on Divestment


It shouldn’t come as a surprise, oppression is oppression and those who have suffered under its inhumane yolk are far quicker to recognize it for what it is and demand an end to it, that  Bishop Tutu would take such a principled stand against Israel’s apartheid.

Dear Student Leaders at the University of California – Berkeley

It was with great joy that I learned of your recent 16-4 vote in support of divesting your university’s money from companies that enable and profit from the injustice of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and violation of Palestinian human rights. Principled stands like this, supported by a fast growing number of US civil society organizations and people of conscience, including prominent Jewish groups, are essential for a better world in the making, and it is always an inspiration when young people lead the way and speak truth to power.

I am writing to tell you that, despite what detractors may allege, you are doing the right thing. You are doing the moral thing. You are doing that which is incumbent on you as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights, and that all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings.

I have been to the Ocupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. Students played a leading role in that struggle, and I write this letter with a special indebtedness to your school, Berkeley, for its pioneering role in advocating equality in South Africa and promoting corporate ethical and social responsibility to end complicity in Apartheid.I visited your campus in the 1980’s and was touched to find students sitting out in the baking sunshine to demonstrate for the University’s disvestment in companies supporting the South African regime.

The same issue of equality is what motivates the divestment movement of today, which tries to end Israel’s 43 year long occupation and the unequal treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them. The abuses they face are real, and no person should be offended by principled, morally consistent, non-violent acts to oppose them. It is no more wrong to call out Israel in particular for its abuses than it was to call out the Apartheid regime in particular for its abuses.

To those who wrongly accuse you of unfairness or harm done to them by this call for divestment, I suggest, with humility, that the harm suffered from being confronted with opinions that challenge one’s own pales in comparison to the harm done by living a life under occupation and daily denial of basic rights and dignity. It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli government, but with hope, a hope that a better future can be made for both Israelis and Palestinians, a future in which both the violence of the occupier and the resulting violent resistance of the occupied come to an end, and where one people need not rule over another, engendering suffering, humiliation, and retaliation. True peace must be anchored in justice and an unwavering commitment to universal rights for all humans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, national origin or any other identity attribute. You, students, are helping to pave that path to a just peace. I heartily endorse your divestment vote and encourage you to stand firm on the side of what is right,

God bless you richly,

+Desmond Tutu.
Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town.

Americans Kill Muslims Like Roaches


The American attitude about war in Islamic lands and the genocide nature of that action is so apparent to even the most casual observer, I want to post this article from another observer.

The current American imperial offensive “has all the characteristics of a race war,” and is viewed as such by much of the world. “In Muslim nations, the U.S. treats the inhabitants like roaches, stomping human beings underfoot and cursing them when they scurry to get out of the way.”

The latest American atrocity in Afghanistan – the wanton slaughter of civilians on an inter-city bus near Kandahar – is yet more bloody proof that the United States military offensive in the Muslim world has all the characteristics of a race war. The men, women and children in the packed, full-size bus found themselves suddenly boxed in between two American convoys on a highway of death – a place where the natives are instantly liquidated if they are unfortunate enough to find themselves in proximity to U.S. soldiers. Such highways of death inevitably appear whenever U.S. troops are deployed among populations that Americans think of as less than human.
In Iraq, the road between central Baghdad and the airport was also known among the natives as the “highway of death.” American convoys routinely fired on commuters on their way to work if they felt the Iraqi vehicles got too close. Civilian employees of the United States share in the imperial privilege of killing Muslims at will. In 2005, British mercenaries took a leisurely drive along Baghdad’s “highway of death” playing Elvis Presley records while shooting Iraqi motorists for sport. So confident of impunity were the soldiers of fortune, they videotaped their ghoulish joyride, to entertain friends and relatives back home. And they were right; neither the mercenary killers nor their corporate employers were punished.
In 2007, Blackwater mercenaries opened fire on commuters trapped in a traffic jam in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, killing 17 and wounding at least 20 – apparently because they were bored. But, why not? U.S. troops had been committing mass murder in villages like Haditha for years. Early in the war, they leveled Fallujah, a city larger than Birmingham, Alabama, after first bombing the hospital. Casual killing is a prerogative of imperial occupiers when the natives are considered sub-human.
“They would never behave in such a manner in European.”

In the newly-released WikiLeaks video of a 2007 aerial human turkey-shoot over a suburban Baghdad neighborhood, the voices of the American helicopter pilots and gunners are testimony to the endemic, pathological racism of the U.S. occupying force. The Americans beg their commanders for permission to kill Iraqis milling about on the street below, presenting no threat to anyone. They are thrilled when their cannon fire rips into over a dozen men, including two journalists. “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” says one G.I. When they fire on a car that stopped to aid one of the victims, severely wounding two children, the Americans crack that it served the Iraqis right for bringing children into a battle. But there was no battle, just Americans bringing casual death into an Iraqi neighborhood.

Americans seem unable to resist raining death from the skies on wedding parties in Afghanistan. Apparently, any gathering of Afghans, anywhere, for any reason, is sufficient cause for Americans to unleash high-tech weapons of destruction. They would never behave in such a manner in European countries because, well, people live there. But in Muslim nations, the U.S. treats the inhabitants like roaches, stomping human beings underfoot and cursing them when they scurry to get out of the way. This is race war, pure and simple. The fact that it’s commander-in-chief is a Black man does not alter the character of the crime, one iota.