Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Open Letter to my fellow Christians

My assumption is (I know making assumptions is dangerous) that most of my friends think I'm a Cassandra ("Or am I prophet of lies, a babbler from door to door?" Cassandra. Aeschylus, Agamemnon, line 1194).

Be that as it may, I am mystified, startled, dumbfounded and constantly---day by day---grieved by my friends' reactions to my friendship with and support of the Palestinian-American and Muslim communities of North Texas.

On the day after yet another political trial in America, a trial which violated the basic premises of our historical jurisprudence, I pray that somehow, some day our nation may once again be a beacon of liberty and justice for all. The conviction of my friends Shukri Abu-Baker, Mohammad El-Mazein, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, and Abdulrahmen Odeh on charges of an alleged conspiracy to provide material support to Hamas---and their absurd immediate imprisonment---will some day be seen as exactly the same kind of bigotry and terrorism against a minority in America as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Americans, by and large, are so hoodwinked by the terrorism industry that has our government in a stranglehold that truth cannot emerge from its dicta. That is especially so when the truth that struggles to emerge concerns the Palestinian people. Americans believe there is a terrorist behind every bush in Israel. Americans believe that the Palestinian people terrorize the Israeli people (without, of course, pausing to ask themselves how a people who have been ethnically cleansed from all but about 10% of their land, who have no effective government or armed forces, who live in cities with 60% unemployment, whose farmland has been confiscated, and who are packed together in enclaves without sufficient water or electricity or gasoline or food can possibly be a threat to anyone). Americans are simply brainwashed to believe that what is not true is true. And the prosecution in the HLF case made sure that the jury abandoned all ability to think through twisted evidence to find the truth. I will be glad to sit with you and explain exactly how that is true, or you may wait until the appeals court throws the case out.

You will, I assume, say that I am once again railing about my obsession. But consider this one tidbit of fact that I pull from the infinite number I could quote. Speaking about his book, The Bin Ladens (Penguin, 2007), Steve Coll reports that, "Mohamed Bin Laden [Osama bin Laden's father] bought a house in East Jerusalem during the early to mid-1960s, while he was supervising a renovation project at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City. The property was in territory overwhelmed by Israeli forces in the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war; the house was ultimately taken over by Israel's land authority. Mohamed died in September 1967 and the family never reclaimed the property. In a legal sense, at least, although they are not native to Palestine, the Bin Ladens actually are part of Palestine's displaced population." Do you really think the status of the Palestinian people is just "another one of those world problems?"

Americans, blithely and remarkably ignorant of their own self interest, believe what our government says about "terrorism," without having a clue (or caring to understand) about the background of our diminishing place in the world. And Americans refuse to understand the importance of the Palestinian struggle for existence. As long as Americans believe that Israel's interests are our interests and that the Palestinians, the VICTIMS of sixty years of Holocaust-like destruction of their persons and their society, are the PERPETRATORS of the violence in the area, we will never have peace in Iraq or Afghanistan, or with the Iranians, or in any other part of the world where people feel themselves religiously or ethnically related to the Palestinians. This is, of course, true even aside from the moral issues of our unthinking support of Israel.

I challenge you to read the following excerpts from the monograph "The Ethics of Belief" of 1877 by the English philosopher and mathematician William K. Clifford (1845-79), and as you read, think about where your beliefs about the Palestinians, the Israelis, and terrorism in general came from. Do you believe for worthy or unworthy reasons? Are you helping our entire society to suffer “…from the maintenance and support of false beliefs and the fatally wrong actions which they lead to…?”

Yours in hope,
Harold

No real belief, however trifling and fragmentary it may seem, is ever truly insignificant; it prepares us to receive more of its like, confirms those which resembled it before, and weakens others; and so gradually it lays a stealthy train in our inmost thoughts, which may some day explode into overt action, and leave its stamp upon our character for ever. . . .
And no one [person's] belief is in any case a private matter which concerns [himself or herself] alone. Our lives are guided by that general conception of the course of things which has been created by society for social purposes. Our words, our phrases, our forms and processes and modes of thought, are common property, fashioned and perfected from age to age. . . .
Into this, for good or ill, is woven every belief of every [person] who has speech of [his or her] fellows. An awful privilege, and an awful responsibility, that we should help to create the world in which posterity will live. . . .
It is not only the leader of men, statesmen, philosopher, or poet, that owes this bounden duty to mankind. Every rustic who delivers in the village alehouse his slow, infrequent sentences, may help to kill or keep alive the fatal superstitions which clog his race. Every hard-worked wife of an artisan may transmit to her children beliefs which shall knit society together, or rend it in pieces. No simplicity of mind, no obscurity of station, can escape the universal duty of questioning all that we believe. . . .
And, as in other such cases, it is not the risk only which has to be considered; for a bad action is always bad at the time when it is done, no matter what happens afterwards. Every time we let ourselves believe for unworthy reasons, we weaken our powers of self-control, of doubting, of judicially and fairly weighing evidence. We all suffer severely enough from the maintenance and support of false beliefs and the fatally wrong actions which they lead to, and the evil born when one such belief is entertained is great and wide. (William K. Clifford, 1877)

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