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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Eileen writes on the Annapolis Meeting

Apartheid in Israel Palestine! Viability in Annapolis?

Will Annapolis end with more than handshakes and photo ops? Is a viable Palestinian state even possible?

Will the fruit of Annapolis reap justice which is the way to security and peace in the Holy Land or will we see what American Israeli peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Jeff Halper, Founder and Coordinator of ICAHD/Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions predicts?"

In the end, the Palestinians may get 80-90% of the West Bank, but they do not get a viable state. They will have sterile swatches of territory whereas Israel retains control of the borders, movement of people and goods both within the Palestinian state and between it and the countries around, much of the country's arable land, almost all its water, the Palestinians' airspace and even control of their communications. The Palestinian state is deprived of a viable economy. Given that 60% of Palestinians are under the age of 18 and that mini-state must absorb hundreds of thousands of refugees, its prospects for being a viable, stable and truly independent state are nil given the unspoken parameters outlined in the Bush letter. [1]

"There will be a Palestinian state. Israel has an urgent demographic need to get the almost four million Palestinians of the occupied territories off its hands. It might even attempt to "swap" a couple hundred thousand Israeli Arab citizens of the Galilee Triangle under the pretense of giving the Palestinians more land. The crucial question is: will it be a viable state? If it's true that Olmert intends that Israel permanently retain the settlement blocs, an Israeli "greater" Jerusalem and effective control of the entire country to the Jordan River, then we will merely be substituting a sophisticated form of apartheid for occupation. The devil is in the details.' [IBID]

In Issue 46 of Naim Ateek's, CORNERSTONE, a quarterly publication of Sabeel Ecumenical liberation Theology Center, Ateek wrote, "Israel has effectively made Gaza a big prison [one and a half million people in] a Bantustan, in which it is systematically assassinating its leaders and reducing its people to abject misery and poverty. The firing of qassam rockets provides Israel with an excuse to keep oppressing the Palestinians in Gaza.

"In the West Bank, Israel still has two major objectives: The first is the confiscation of more Palestinian land and the completion of its Separation [Hebrew: Hafrada, in Afrikaan: Apartheid] Wall. Israel seeks not only separation but the dispossession [Hebrew: nishool] of Palestinians. These two Hebrew words are essential in describing Israel's goal of apartheid." [Page 2]

"The truth which is known to all; through its army, the government of Israel practices a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies. Its army has turned every Palestinian village and town into a fenced-in, or blocked-in, detention camp."- Israeli Minister of Education, Shulamit Aloni quoted in the popular Israeli newspaper, Yediot Acharonot on December 20, 2006,

"An apartheid society is much more than just a ‘settler colony’. It involves specific forms of oppression that actively strip the original inhabitants of any rights at all, whereas civilian members of the invader caste are given all kinds of sumptuous privileges." [2]

Apartheid can also be summed up as a structured process of gross human rights violations perpetrated against a conquered ethnic majority by a state and society mainly controlled by an invading ethnic minority and its descendants, mainly immigrants that have been deemed part of the ethnic elite.

The following nine categories make up the necessary, sufficient, and defining characteristics of apartheid regimes:

  1. Violence: Apartheid is a state of war initiated by a de facto invading ethnic minority, which at least in the short term originates from a non-neighboring locality. In all main instances of apartheid most if not all members of the invading group originate from a different continent. The invading ethnic minority and its self-defined descendants then continue to dominate the indigenous majority by means of their military superiority and by their continuous threats and uses of violence.
  2. Repopulation: Apartheid is also a continuation of depopulation and population transfer. One example is seen in the obliteration of the indigenous Bedouins that Israel denies free movement to graze their herds and are silently transferring the Bedouins to new locales, such as atop of garbage dumps.
  3. Citizenship: The indigenous people are often denied citizenship in their own country by the apartheid state authorities, which are ironically and irrationally, run and staffed by the recent arrivals to the country.
  4. Land: Apartheid entails land confiscation, land redistribution and forced removals, almost without exception to the benefit of the invading ethnic minority. Usually, members of the ethnic majority are forced on to barren and unfertile soils, where they must also try to survive under impoverished and overcrowded conditions.
  5. Work: Apartheid displays systematic exploitation of the indigenous class in the production process and different pay or taxation for the same work.
  6. Access: There is ethnically differentiated access to employment, food, water, health care, emergency services, clean air, and other needs, including the need for leisure activities, in each case ensuring superior access for the favored ethnic community.
  7. Education: There are also different kinds of education offered and forced upon the different ethnic groups.
  8. Language: A basic apartheid characteristic is the fact that only very few of the invaders and their descendants ever learn the language(s) of the indigenous victims.
  9. Thought: Finally, apartheid contains ideologies or 'necessary illusions' in order to convince the privileged minorities that they are inherently superior and the indigenous majorities that they are inherently inferior. Much of apartheid thought is shaped by typical war propaganda. The enemy is dehumanized by both sides' ideologies, words and other symbols are used to incite or provoke people to violence, but mostly so by the invaders and their descendants. [IBID]
Americans for Middle East Understanding, Inc. constructed an extensive historical timeline of events that occurred simultaneously in South Africa and Israel, from which I excerpt:

On July 5, 1950, Israel enacted the Law of Return by which Jews anywhere in the world, have a “right” to immigrate to Israel on the grounds that they are returning to their own state, even if they have never been there before.

On July 14, 1952: The enactment of the Citizenship/Jewish Nationality Law, results in Israel becoming the only state in the world to grant a particular national-religious group—the Jews—the right to settle in it and gain automatic citizenship. [3]

In 1953, South Africa’s Prime Minister Daniel Malan becomes the first foreign head of government to visit Israel and returns home with the message that Israel can be a source of inspiration for white South Africans. [IBID]

In 1962, South African Prime Minister Verwoerd declares that Jews “took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. In that I agree with them, Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.” [IBID]

On August 1, 1967, Israel enacted the Agricultural Settlement Law, which bans Israeli citizens of non-Jewish nationality- Palestinian Arabs- from working on Jewish National Fund lands, well over 80% of the land in Israel. Knesset member Uri Avnery stated: “This law is going to expel Arab cultivators from the land that was formerly theirs and was handed over to the Jews.” [IBID]

On April 4, 1969, General Moshe Dayan is quoted in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz telling students at Israel’s Technion Institute that “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You don’t even know the names of these Arab villages, and I don’t blame you, because these geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either… There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”[IBID]

On April 28, 1971: C. L. Sulzberger, writing in The New York Times, quoted South African Prime Minister John Vorster as saying that Israel is faced with an apartheid problem, namely how to handle its Arab inhabitants. Sulzberger wrote: “Both South Africa and Israel are in a sense intruder states. They were built by pioneers originating abroad and settling in partially inhabited areas." [IBID]

On September 13, 1978, in Washington, D.C. The Camp David Accords are signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and witnessed by President Jimmy Carter. The Accords reaffirm U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, which prohibit acquisition of land by force, call for Israel’s withdrawal of military and civilian forces from the West Bank and Gaza, and prescribe “full autonomy” for the inhabitants of the territories. Begin orally promises Carter to freeze all settlement activity during the subsequent peace talks. Once back in Israel, however, the Israeli prime minister continues to confiscate, settle, and fortify the occupied territories. [IBID]

On September 13, 1985, Rep. George Crockett (D-MI), after visiting the Israeli-occupied West Bank, compares the living conditions there with those of South African blacks and concludes that the West Bank is an instance of apartheid that no one in the U.S. is talking about. [IBID]

In July 2000, President Bill Clinton convenes the Camp David II Peace Summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Clinton—not Barak—offers Arafat the withdrawal of some 40,000 Jewish settlers, leaving more than 180,000 in 209 settlements, all of which are interconnected by roads that cover approximately 10% of the occupied land. Effectively, this divides the West Bank into at least two non-contiguous areas and multiple fragments. Palestinians would have no control over the borders around them, the air space above them, or the water reserves under them. Barak calls it a generous offer. Arafat refuses to sign. [IBID]

August 31, 2001: Durban, South Africa. Up to 50,000 South Africans march in support of the Palestinian people. In their “Declaration by South Africans on Apartheid and the Struggle for Palestine” they proclaim: “We, South Africans who lived for decades under rulers with a colonial mentality, see Israeli occupation as a strange survival of colonialism in the 21st century. Only in Israel do we hear of ‘settlements’ and ‘settlers.’ Only in Israel do soldiers and armed civilian groups take over hilltops, demolish homes, uproot trees and destroy crops, shell schools, churches and mosques, plunder water reserves, and block access to an indigenous population’s freedom of movement and right to earn a living. These human rights violations were unacceptable in apartheid South Africa and are an affront to us in apartheid Israel." [IBID]

October 23, 2001: Ronnie Kasrils, a Jew and a minister in the South African government, co-authors a petition "Not in My Name," signed by some 200 members of South Africa's Jewish community, reads: "It becomes difficult, from a South African perspective, not to draw parallels with the oppression expressed by Palestinians under the hand of Israel and the oppression experienced in South Africa under apartheid rule." [IBID]

Three years later, Kasrils will go to the Occupied Territories and conclude: "This is much worse than apartheid. Israeli measures, the brutality, make apartheid look like a picnic. We never had jets attacking our townships. We never had sieges that lasted month after month. We never had tanks destroying houses. We had armored vehicles and police using small arms to shoot people but not on this scale." [IBID]

April 29, 2002: Boston, MA. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu says he is “very deeply distressed” by what he observed in his recent visit to the Holy Land, adding, “It reminded me so much of what happened in South Africa.” The Nobel peace laureate said he saw “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. Referring to Americans, he adds, “People are scared in this country to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful—very powerful. Well, so what? The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists.” [IBID]

On October 27, 2007, in Boston, sponsored by FOSNA/Friends of Sabeel North America, Jeff Halper, Naim Ateek, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and scores of other justice and peace seeking citizens addressed the Apartheid Paradigm in Israel Palestine to a SRO crowd.

In his Keynote address Tutu remarked, "Between the root of human solidarity and the fruit of human wholeness, there is the hard work of telling the truth. From my experience in South Africa I know that truth-telling is hard. It has grave consequences for one's life and reputation. It stretches one's faith, tests one's capacity to love, and pushes hope to the limit. No one takes up this work on a do-gooder's whim. It is not a choice. One feels compelled into it… An acute awareness of fallibility is a constant companion in this task, but because nothing is more important in the current situation than to speak as truthfully as one can, there can be no shrinking from testifying to what one sees and hears."

What do I see and hear in the Holy Land? ...I have to tell the truth: I am reminded of the yoke of oppression that was once our burden in South Africa…I have to tell the truth: I am reminded of the bitter days of uprooting and despoiling in my own country…I have to tell the truth: I am reminded of the explosive anger that inflamed South Africa, too."

Some people are enraged by comparisons between the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and what happened in South Africa. There are differences between the two situations, but a comparison need not be exact in every feature to yield clarity about what is going on. Moreover, for those of us who lived through the dehumanizing horrors of the apartheid era, the comparison seems not only apt, it is also necessary. It is necessary if we are to persevere in our hope that things can change...I have seen it and heard it, and so to this truth, too, I am compelled to testify - if it can happen in South Africa, it can happen with the Israelis and Palestinians. There is not much reason to be optimistic, but there is every reason to hope." [4]

"HOPE has two children. The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."-St. Augustine


[2] Apartheid Ancient, Past, and Present Systematic and Gross Human Rights Violations in Graeco-Roman Egypt, South Africa, and Israel/Palestine, By Anthony Löwstedt. Page 77.

[3] The Link, "About That Word Apartheid", April-May 2007, Published by Americans for Middle East Understanding, Inc.

[4] © Copyright 2007 The New York Times CompanyPublished first WAWA Blog November 25, 2007
Reporter and Editor
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dave shares about Anti-Depressants

When I was in hospital, I heard the uncontrolled weeping from 'a solid citizen,' who had an extremely well-paid job, in a profession I can't recall.
Anyway he looked the type of man who had his act totally together.
But his sobs echoed around the slumbering ward eerily.
It was 3 o'clock in the morning!
When he got up, I nodded his way. He returned my greeting-with a wordless nod.
He knew I kew he had been crying.
I wouldn't say we became friends during his stay - but we talked.
He told me he had been on scientific expeditions to the polar regions.
In fact, he had done much of the organising.
The man was in his mid to late 40s.
I could see he was used to control.
As I got to know him better ( we were both in-patients at a private psychiatric hospital ) he puzzled how he had suddenly lost control of his life, felt depressed,very depressed...and,finally, his shrink admitted him to hospital.
As well as being a semi-retired journo, I have studied mental health at TAFE.
The mind has always fascinated me since I was a kid...and when I started having 'mental' problems,I wanted to "brief" myself on what was going on.
My TAFE lecturers were very good and I came away with a clutch of certificates and a fairly good understanding of why people get depressed, suffer from schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD-my own mental groove), alcoholism (I've been there,too), substance abuse and the list goes on.
The bloke got better, his wife looked less anxious, and he left the hospital before I did.
He was on anti-depressants and they had obviously kicked in.
But,I will never forget his utter puzzlement why he had suddenly got depressed.
As I said, he had been in the driver's seat all his life.
Then,something snapped.
It shouldn't have happened-well,not to a man like him.
But,at the end of the day, he's human:not God.
We are all hard-wired to experience a plethora of emotions,so the experts tell us.
Darwinians even say getting depressed is a mode of survival.
It pulls you up, makes you rest your tired mind and body (the two can be interrelated) - so you can continue the "good fight."
In a perfect world, I guess there would be no need to take pills.
No need to raise serotonin levels in the brain.
No need, in fact, to mess around with brain functioning - at all.
But, science has discovered that the brain gets 'unwell'-just like the body.
Anti-depressants are a fix-albeit relatively primitive.
But, taking them is better than going crazy... suffering an affliction that can be worse than physical pain.
Some people come to rely on anti-depressants far beyond their 'by-use' date.
That's not good.
But, at best, they can be life-saving at a particular moment in a person's life.
Hopefully, the depression won't come back after a course of anti-depressants.
For some people it won't.
But,others aren't so lucky.
And then there's the stigma.
You've got depressed and are taking medication - instead of having a few beers to chase away what some mates may just consider having "a bad day."
That's also the worst...the stigma.
We become secretive, scared of letting the boss know-even our wives,closest mates.
We attempt to bottle it up.
But something always gives...
Thankfully,as a nation, we are waking up to what is an illness (usually not terminal).
Politicians like Jeff Kennett are "outing" themselves now.
Maybe it's because Australia only has a small population - but being a Pommy migrant, I have noticed that Australians are a lot maturer than other western countries in "owning" up to problems and doing something about them.
I got treatment for booze & depression quite early in my adult life-in Australia.
I know it would not have happened in the UK and not be subsidised by my the age of my treatment.
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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Stephen Dreams of a Church Beyond Literalism

Recently when the conference of Progressive Christians decided to hold their assembly called "Common Dreams" in the heart of Sydney, it was really interesting that they should choose the old Pitt Street Church as the place to house it. That venerable old church has once more taken its place on the front lines of Australia's religious life as the place from where a new call for a reformed and revitalised Christianity goes forth to all of Australia and perhaps throughout the world. A friend who attended wrote to me with some of the following comments:

I am reliably told that some twenty years or so ago the leaders of Australia's Uniting Church decided that the Pitt Street Uniting Church of Sydney was doomed and probably should be closed. (For those outside Oz, the Uniting church is a body that came into being in 1977 as a merger of Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists, with samplings of some other smaller Protestant bodies). Pitt Street Church's empty pews were becoming too much of a drain on the denomination's resources. Closing this church, however, which had been the flagship congregation in Sydney, would effectively bring to an end the main presence of the Uniting Church in the heart of Australia's major city. In those deliberations, someone raised the new possibility that this church's apparent demise might not be that Christianity itself had lost its appeal, but that the way this Church was projecting itself and its message simply no longer had sufficient appeal to draw people into the heart of the city. The people who lived in the city tended to be regarded more as problems than as potential members.

It was a tug of war in ecclesiastical decision making, which has been replicated in almost all Christian traditions during the last century. Finally a compromise was adopted that offered a new possibility. The judicatory leaders and the remaining members of the congregation would support a new pastor for Pitt Street Church, but they would consciously free that pastor from the expectations of running a traditional church. The new pastor would be encouraged to experiment, to take bold initiatives, to walk in new directions, in fact to reinvent what it means to be church in the heart of a great urban area. I do not know if those who forged this new approach had any expectations of great success, but this decision served as a guilt assuager. If this last chance proved to be a failure then they could all move to close this old, historic church with a clear conscience. With this new mandate, the congregation then called a remarkable pastor named Dorothy McRae-McMahon to its newly defined leadership post and as we say, "the rest is history".

Clearly from her actions, Dorothy McMahon took her lead from Jesus actions ("what ye do for the least in my kingdom...") and not the institutional high ground. She found that street people lived in her church's neighbourhood and began to address their needs. She became aware of a vital gay and lesbian population in the heart of Sydney and began to make this church a place of welcome to them. She became such a persistent advocate for the poor, the marginalised and the dispossessed that slowly, but surely, both she and the congregation emerged as one of the recognised change agents in all of the Uniting Church. Of course, she was called "controversial", all change agents are - and the traditional Christian voices, who are always fearful of new things, began to rail against her liberal innovations. Friends recall that protestors frequently picketed her church. These deeply threatened "Christians" went so far as to spread human and animal faeces on both the church and on Dorothy McMahon's home. Pitt Street Church, however, began to come alive. People who had long ago given up on the Church began to dip their toes back into Christianity at this place, tentatively at first, lest they experience a repeated rejection.

Dorothy McMahon also began to challenge publicly the traditional ways in which Christianity was proclaimed. She forced people to look with new eyes at a literal Bible that has so often been used to justify prejudices, to blame the poor for their poverty and to condemn gay and lesbian people for being who they are. That understanding had to go. Going beyond even that, Dorothy began to separate her theology from that familiar theology that wallowed in sin and helplessness and that culminated in a divine rescue operation that was said to have led to Jesus' crucifixion. Such a theological understanding of the Church did nothing, she rightly discerned, to lift the despair from the street people. The mantra, "Jesus died for my sins" was quickly replaced by a message of love and caring that started with an act of self-affirmation and grew into giving people the courage to be all that they were created to be. The infinite variety in the human family was not just tolerated in this church, it was fully celebrated. Even down here in Melbourne we heard that people of all races and ethnic backgrounds, male and female, gay, lesbian, transgender and bi-sexual people, even people of a variety of religious backgrounds or of no religious backgrounds at all found themselves welcomed in this congregation.

A new Christian order was born back then in Pitt St. It is my view that Jesus would have been in the thick of this in person 2000 years ago, and spiritually today. The new Christian order appears to be being born again in this humble old Pitt Street Church in Sydney recently with the emergence of a group of Christians prepared to find the relevance of our Lord's message in the 21st century. Common Dreams!

Well really its not so much the message, its the delivery. Unshackled from religious institutional hyperbole and irrelevant literalist thinking.

I note that the conference was condemed by certain apparently Christian groups in Sydney; proselytizing instead a dictatirial literalist position. If the media reports are anything to go by, the response from the common person seems to be disagreement. That's great, the literalists have actually provoked a response! Sydney is a lucky place. I look forward to the movement finding its momentum in Melbourne.