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Ed Webb

Countering Christian Zionism in the Age of Trump | MERIP - 0 views

  • As Christian Zionists—Hagee is the founder of the main US Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and Jeffress regularly preaches the ideology on Fox news—the two men’s remarks reflect their belief that the modern state of Israel is the result of biblical prophecy. This belief centers around the idea that 4,000 years ago God promised the land to the Jews, who will rule it until Jesus’ return to Jerusalem and the rapture. Not all will benefit from this end of times scenario: While Christians will be saved and “live forever with Christ in a new heaven and earth,” those adhering to other religions who do not convert to Christianity will be sent to hell.
  • Israel’s occupation and oppression of Palestinians—including those who are Christian—is either ignored or perceived as required to achieve the end result. In this vein, Christian Zionists consider Israel’s expansion into the West Bank via illegal settlements a positive development and even support Israeli expansion into Jordan’s East Bank.
  • Jeffress, for example, once said that Judaism, Islam and Hinduism “lead people…to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” and Hagee suggested in a 1990s sermon that Hitler was part of God’s plan to get Jewish people “back to the land of Israel.” Yet when questioned about the decision to include such speakers in the ceremony’s lineup, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said, “I honestly don’t know how that came to be.”
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  • About a quarter of US adults identify as evangelical Christian, and 80 percent of them express the belief that the modern state of Israel and the “re-gathering of millions of Jewish people to Israel” are fulfilments of biblical prophecy that show the return of Jesus is drawing closer. Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, argues that Christian Zionism is now the “majority theology” among white US evangelicals.
  • the US media and political analysts often approach the Israel lobby as if it were composed solely of Jewish supporters, whose numbers are in fact far smaller than Christian Zionists—AIPAC only boasts 100,000 members, for instance, compared to CUFI’s reported five million—and who are also deeply divided on US policy on Palestine-Israel
  • Not only do other lobby groups, such as CUFI, wield as much or more influence as AIPAC (financial and otherwise), but AIPAC, as MJ Rosenberg wrote in The Nation, “is not synonymous with Jews.” Of its 100,000 members, he explained, “most are Jewish but…many are evangelical (and other) Christians.”
  • Activists argue that while Christian Zionism may be a broadly held belief, it is not deeply held. “For most people who espouse this theology, it’s not the center of their belief,” Jonathan Brenneman, a Christian Palestinian-American activist, told me. “When people are confronted with the reality of what is going on in Palestine, the theology often falls apart.”
  • While the specific tenets of today’s Christian Zionism emerged in the nineteenth century, the movement’s ideological roots go back centuries, to the era during which Christianity became part of the Roman Empire under Constantine in the third century AD, stretching to the Crusades and then European colonialism—all cases in which plunder was accomplished under the cover of Christian ideology, namely the idea of the righteousness of Christian domination over non-Christian land and people
  • evangelist John Nelson Darby, who through missionary tours across North America popularized the end of times narrative and Jews’ role in it. In 1891, fellow preacher William Blackstone petitioned US President Benjamin Harrison to consider Jewish claims to Palestine “as their ancient home”—five years before Theodor Herzl’s call for a Jewish homeland. Subsequent influential evangelists, such as Cyrus Ingerson Scofield, preached how the first telltale sign of the world coming to an end would be Jews returning to the Holy Land. Scofield’s widely read 1909 annotated Bible proclaimed these tenets.
  • Falwell and fellow Christian Zionist preachers like Pat Robertson of The 700 Club emphasized the idea that God will only support the United States if the United States supports Israel. “Robertson has described hurricanes and financial prosperity in the US as related to the US position on Israel,” said Burge, “and Falwell used to say that if America backs away from supporting Israel, God will no longer bless America.”
  • Christian Zionism’s merging of religion and politics has been the driving force behind its more recent influence on US policy. While Trump does not purport to hold evangelical beliefs, he carefully caters to his white evangelical base, gaining their support through the US embassy move and support for Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and the West Bank, as well as through the choice of Mike Pence as vice president.
  • A 2017 poll by Lifeway Research, for example, demonstrated the generational divide. Only nine percent of older respondents considered the “rebirth” of Israel in 1948 as an injustice to Palestinians, while 62 percent disagreed and 28 percent said they weren’t sure. Among younger evangelicals, nineteen percent said that Israel’s creation was an injustice to Palestinians, 34 percent disagreed, and almost half weren’t sure.
  • “Christian Zionism is an extremist ideology, but it’s also incredibly broadly held and is part of a larger Christian package of belief,” he said. “Most people who hold it don’t realize they’re holding really hateful beliefs; it’s very much based on ignorance and insularity.” Brenneman adds that such beliefs are rarely challenged, particularly because the mainstream media plays into them by emphasizing, among other tropes, the idea that Israel is always in grave danger from the Palestinians or surrounding Arab states. The result: When Christian Zionists learn of Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians, their belief system is vulnerable to disruption.
  • “The vast majority of people in the American church want to honor God and are pursuing the goodness of the world,” Cannon told me. “They are open to their mind being changed, but their underlying concern is they think if they shift their political perspective, they won’t be faithful to theology.” Cannon says using the example of Israeli settlements is productive in this regard. “It’s straightforward to show people that they are not following the basic Christian tenet of ‘love thy neighbor’ if they are supporting those who build a settlement on Palestinian farmland that’s been in that family for decades or a century,” she said. “The current realities speak for themselves. We show them that they can honor God while advocating for Palestinian rights, too.”
  • “Christian Zionism is not just the John Hagee’s of the world, but is found in Protestant mainline churches, including those that have divested from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation,” he said. “It’s a more nuanced and diffused theology found at the level of hymns as well as in the pulpit.” This phenomenon is also part of what liberation theologian Marc H. Ellis calls the “ecumenical deal” between Christians and Jews, in which mainline Christians are silent on Israel’s abuse of Palestinians to repent for Christianity’s historic anti-Semitism.
  • Abuata says the Christian movement for Palestinian rights has grown significantly in the past decade, noting that 10 years ago he wouldn’t have been welcomed into 80 percent of the mainline Christian denominations and churches with which he now coordinates.
  • While Christian Zionism has certainly internationalized in recent years, growing in popularity in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, Abuata says the movement countering Christian Zionism has as well.
Ed Webb

How Mike Pence's Office Meddled in Foreign Aid to Reroute Money to Favored Christian Gr... - 0 views

  • Decisions about U.S. aid are often no longer being governed by career professionals applying a rigorous review of applicants and their capabilities. Over the last two years, political pressure, particularly from the office of Vice President Mike Pence, had seeped into aid deliberations and convinced key decision-makers that unless they fell in line, their jobs could be at stake
  • ProPublica viewed internal emails and conducted interviews with nearly 40 current and former U.S. officials and aid professionals that shed new light on the success of Pence and his allies in influencing the government’s long-standing process for awarding foreign aid.
  • “There are very deliberate procurement guidelines that have developed over a number of years to guard precisely against this kind of behavior,”
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  • USAID regulations state that awards “must be free from political interference or even the appearance of such interference and must be made on the basis of merit, not on the basis of the religious affiliation of a recipient organization, or lack thereof.”
  • In August, as the White House was considering cuts to an array of foreign aid programs, it shielded funding for religious minorities abroad
  • Late in the Obama administration, USAID’s activities in Iraq focused on an effort by the United Nations to restore basic services as soon as cities had been liberated from Islamic State rule. By the end of 2016, the United States had contributed over $115 million to the effort through USAID, and other countries had contributed hundreds of millions of dollars more. U.S. officials credit the U.N.’s work with enabling millions of Iraqis to return to their homes soon after the fighting was done instead of languishing in refugee camps.
  • U.S. officials in Iraq were sensing dissatisfaction among some Iraqi Christians and American religious groups with the U.S. strategy and the U.N.’s work. Trying to head off problems, U.S. officials urged the U.N. in the summer of 2017 to pay special attention to the Nineveh Plains, an ethnically and religiously diverse region of northern Iraq where many of the country’s Christians live. U.N. officials were reluctant, arguing their assistance could go further in dense urban areas like Mosul, as opposed to the Nineveh Plains, a stretch of farmland dotted by small towns and villages.
  • Many career officials at the State Department and USAID supported the broader scope of the U.N.’s work. They acknowledged it wasn’t perfect — it could be slow, and the U.N. was not adept at communicating with local communities — but said the rebuilding had benefited wide swaths of territory that included both Muslims and minority groups.
  • Career officials also expressed concerns at the time that targeting federal funds toward particular minority groups on the basis of religion could be unconstitutional
  • Initially, Pence’s office and political appointees at USAID were focused on helping Christians, with little attention to Yazidis, a small, ancient sect that was targeted in an especially cruel manner by Islamic State militants, said a current official and a former foreign service officer. Over time, career officials “helped educate” political appointees on the extent of the Yazidis’ suffering, in hopes of getting their support for directing some aid at non-Christian groups, the former foreign service officer said. “There was a very ideological focus on Christians, and most of the questions were about Christians,” this person said. “We were trying to get them to focus on others in the minority communities that might need assistance.”
  • While the grant process was being worked out at USAID, Pence blindsided officials in October 2017 when he declared to an influential Christian group in Washington that Trump had ordered diplomats to no longer fund “ineffective” U.N. programs. USAID would now directly help persecuted communities, he said.
  • Mark Green, the head of USAID, expressed discomfort to a colleague about potential interference by Pence into the grant process
  • Pence’s then-chief of staff, Nick Ayers, called Steiger to demand somebody at the agency be punished for the failure to provide aid to Christian groups quickly enough, according to several people familiar with the conversation. Ayers did not respond to requests for comment. Green’s reaction was to remove Maria Longi, a career civil servant and a top official in USAID’s Middle East bureau. Though still on USAID’s payroll, she now teaches national security strategy at the National War College.
  • Concern spread even among Trump appointees that their jobs might be threatened. “What it did instill in the Middle East bureau was fear among the political appointees that they could be thrown out at any time,”
  • Five current or former U.S. officials said involvement in grant decisions by political appointees — particularly by someone as senior as Ferguson — is highly unusual. USAID grants are typically decided by a review committee and a contracting officer, all of whom are career officials.
  • “USAID procurement rules with technical review panels are strict, as they should be, to avoid any political interference on the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars,”
  • Aside from its small size and lack of federal grant experience, Shlama was an unconventional choice for another reason. Last year it received $10,000 in donations from the Clarion Project, a nonprofit organization which researchers at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative said “advances anti-Muslim content through its web-based and video production platforms.”
  • USAID is now expanding its emphasis on religious minorities far beyond Iraq. In December, a month after his email about White House pressure, Ferguson told USAID mission directors in the Middle East that agency leadership had identified up to $50 million it planned to use in 2019 for “urgent religious freedom and religious persecution challenges,” according to a second email seen by ProPublica. He asked mission directors to submit programming ideas. In a follow-up email in June, also seen by ProPublica, Ferguson wrote that in addition to Iraq, religious and ethnic minority programming was planned for Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.
Ed Webb

'The Insult,' Lebanon's first Oscar-nominated film, examines a country's deepest wounds... - 0 views

  • The film follows Yasser, a Palestinian construction worker who becomes embroiled in conflict with Toni, a right-wing Lebanese Christian, over a leaking water pipe. When Yasser confronts Toni about his grievances, Toni hurls back an insult that strikes sharply at the heart of the Palestinian struggle. The film examines the many forms our personal truths can take, how they collide, and the consequences of words in a polarized world.
  • It could happen like that in Lebanon. You could have a very silly incident that could develop into a national case.
  • we were fought because some people thought that we’re opening old wounds, and then all the people felt that, you know, we were defaming the Palestinians. Other people said we were attacking the Christians. Anytime you make a movie that is a bit sensitive — this one is a little bit more than a bit sensitive — people go up in arms. You know, they look at the film and then they immediately start projecting themselves and projecting their prejudices against it
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  • The subject came out of something I lived through, growing up in a war. Something that my co-screenwriter Joelle also lived through. It’s not like we read a book or based it on a TV interview on CNN. It’s something that we lived through, all the dynamics that you saw in the film, we are very familiar with it. You know, the Palestinian point of view, the Christian point of view. These are things that are so familiar to us. You know it’s this thing that we grew up eating and drinking and living. We were stopped at checkpoints, we hid under the bombs, we lived in shelters in Beirut in the 70s and the 80s and the 90s
  • We could have been such a lighthouse in the midst of all these other places around because we’re so interesting. Lebanon so interesting. But it’s sad that it does not fully use its potential. You know Christians, Muslims, Shiites, Sunni, liberal, it has all the potential of making a very, very interesting place
  • I had a lot of prejudice towards the Christians growing up. Like incredible. My parents were very left wing pro-Palestinian. And anybody from the Christian camp, from East Beirut, was considered a traitor, the enemy. And then you meet people from East Beirut, Christians, who were part of the Christian camp, and then you sit down and they work on your movie and and then you go have a drink and then you suddenly say, “Their story’s like mine, they suffered as much as [me].”
  • “The Insult” is about reexamining the other side. The woman who co-wrote the film with me who became my wife — we wrote four films together — she comes from the Christian camp. I come from [Muslim] West Beirut. She wrote all the scenes of the Palestinian. And I wrote the scenes of the Christians. We swapped.
  • every screening we do in the states, in Los Angeles in Telluride, in Toronto people were like so emotional about it. And then they said, “We totally identified because of what’s going on in the States today. We are living in America at a period where it feels like this entire society is tearing apart a bit.” And they look at the film and suddenly it’s speaking to them, even though that was not the intention.
  • Sometimes the country needs to go through a tear in order to heal better.
Ed Webb

Israel's Religiously Divided Society | Pew Research Center - 0 views

  • a major new survey by Pew Research Center also finds deep divisions in Israeli society – not only between Israeli Jews and the country’s Arab minority, but also among the religious subgroups that make up Israeli Jewry.
  • Nearly all Israeli Jews identify with one of four categories: Haredi (commonly translated as “ultra-Orthodox”), Dati (“religious”), Masorti (“traditional”) or Hiloni (“secular”)
  • secular Jews in Israel are more uncomfortable with the notion that a child of theirs might someday marry an ultra-Orthodox Jew than they are with the prospect of their child marrying a Christian
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  • The vast majority of secular Jews say democratic principles should take precedence over religious law, while a similarly large share of ultra-Orthodox Jews say religious law should take priority.
  • When asked, “What is your present religion, if any?” virtually all Israeli Jews say they are Jewish – and almost none say they have no religion – even though roughly half describe themselves as secular and one-in-five do not believe in God.
  • Sephardim/Mizrahim are generally more religiously observant than Ashkenazim, and men are somewhat more likely than women to say halakha should take precedence over democratic principles. But in many respects, these demographic differences are dwarfed by the major gulfs seen among the four religious subgroups that make up Israeli Jewry.
  • Most non-Jewish residents of Israel are ethnically Arab and identify, religiously, as Muslims, Christians or Druze
  • Israeli Arabs generally do not think Israel can be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time. This view is expressed by majorities of Muslims, Christians and Druze. And overwhelmingly, all three of these groups say that if there is a conflict between Jewish law and democracy, democracy should take precedence
  • Fully 58% of Muslims favor enshrining sharia as official law for Muslims in Israel, and 55% of Christians favor making the Bible the law of the land for Christians
  • Roughly eight-in-ten Israeli Arabs (79%) say there is a lot of discrimination in Israeli society against Muslims, who are by far the biggest of the religious minorities. On this issue, Jews take the opposite view; the vast majority (74%) say they do not see much discrimination against Muslims in Israel
  • Nearly half of Israeli Jews say Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel, including roughly one-in-five Jewish adults who strongly agree with this position
  • Israeli Arabs are highly skeptical about the sincerity of the Israeli government in seeking a peace agreement, while Israeli Jews are equally skeptical about the sincerity of Palestinian leaders. But there is plenty of distrust to go around: Fully 40% of Israeli Jews say their own government is not making a sincere effort toward peace, and an equal share of Israeli Arabs say the same about Palestinian leaders.
  • The vast majority of Jews (98%), Muslims (85%), Christians (86%) and Druze (83%) say all or most of their close friends belong to their own religious community
  • Israeli Jews overall are more religiously observant than U.S. Jews. Politically, American Jews are more optimistic about the possibility of a peaceful two-state solution and more negative about Jewish settlements in the West Bank than are Israeli Jews
  • Israel is no longer a predominantly immigrant society; at present, roughly three-quarters of Israeli adults are natives, and just one-quarter were born abroad. Yet with virtual unanimity, Israeli Jews of every kind – native-born and immigrant, young and old, secular and highly religious – agree that all Jews everywhere should have the right to make “aliyah,” or move to Israel and receive immediate citizenship.2 This overwhelming support for Jewish immigration may be linked, in part, to perceptions about anti-Semitism. Fully three-quarters of Israeli Jews (76%) think that anti-Semitism is both common and increasing around the world, and roughly nine-in-ten (91%) say that a Jewish state is necessary for the long-term survival of the Jewish people.
  • A solid majority of Haredim (62%) favor gender segregation on public transportation, such as buses and trains, used by members of the Haredi community. Among Hilonim, meanwhile, just 5% favor this policy. The vast majority of Hilonim (93%) are opposed to enforcing gender segregation on any public transport, even when it is used by Haredim
  • The survey asked Jews whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” Roughly half of Israeli Jews strongly agree (21%) or agree (27%), while a similar share disagree (29%) or strongly disagree (17%).3 Datiim are especially likely to favor the expulsion of Arabs. Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) say Arabs should be transferred. Hilonim lean in the other direction: Most (58%) disagree and say Arabs should not be expelled from Israel, including 25% who strongly disagree. But even among these self-described secular Israeli Jews, about one-third (36%) favor the expulsion of Arabs from the country
  • Seven-in-ten Haredim (70%) and roughly half of Datiim (52%) say being Jewish is mainly a matter of religion, while 3% of Haredim and 16% of Datiim say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture. Among Hilonim, by contrast, only 4% see being Jewish as primarily a matter of religion, while 83% say Jewish identity is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture. However, at least some members of all of these groups see their Jewish identity as bound up with both religion and ancestry/culture.
  • Arabs in Israel – especially Muslims – are more religiously observant than Jews as a whole. Fully two-thirds of Israeli Arabs say religion is very important in their lives, compared with just 30% of Jews. Israeli Muslims (68%), Christians (57%) and Druze (49%) all are more likely than Jews to say religion is very important to them, personally. In addition, more Arabs than Jews report that they pray daily and participate in weekly worship services.
  • Religious intermarriages cannot be performed in Israel (although civil marriages that take place in other countries are legally recognized in Israel).7 This is reflected in the rarity of marriages between members of different religious communities in the country. Nearly all Israelis in the survey who are married or living with a partner say their spouse or partner shares their religion. Relatively few married Muslim, Christian and Druze residents (1%) say their spouse has a different religion, and only 2% of married Jews say they have a spouse who belongs to a non-Jewish religion or is religiously unaffiliated.
  • About one-in-six Muslims say they have been questioned by security officials (17%), prevented from traveling (15%) or physically threatened or attacked (15%) because of their religion in the past 12 months, while 13% say they have suffered property damage. All told, 37% of Muslims say they have suffered at least one of these forms of discrimination because of their religious identity in the past year
  • While Muslims living in Israel, overall, are more religious than Israeli Jews, they are less religious than Muslims living in many other countries in the region. For example, about two-thirds of Muslims in Israel (68%) say religion is very important in their lives – higher than the comparable share of Lebanese Muslims (59%), but lower than the share of Muslims in Jordan (85%), the Palestinian territories (85%) and Iraq (82%) who say this.
Ed Webb

Crusaders No More: What Arab Christians and Muslims Think ...... | News & Reporting | C... - 0 views

  • One month before Evangel, Valparaiso University, a Lutheran institution in Indiana, announced in February it was dropping its own Crusaders nickname. Last month, the school rechristened its sports teams the Beacons.
  • “As a Muslim, I was embarrassed to come to Valpo because the school’s mascot was a Crusader, even though my mom and older siblings went here before me,”
  • It is somewhat of a trend among Christian institutions, however. Wheaton College dropped its Crusaders nickname in 2000, followed by the University of the Incarnate Word in 2004, Northwest Christian (now Bushnell) University in 2008, Eastern Nazarene College in 2009, and Alvernia University and Northwest Nazarene University in 2017.
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  • about a dozen colleges still use it, including the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts
  • contemporaneous Muslims, Christians, and Jews all referred to the Middle Ages conflict as “the Wars of the Franks.” It was not until about the 18th century, Mikhail said, that Muslim polemicists began translating the conflict as “the Wars of the Cross-bearers.” But today, this is the term that has universal usage in Arabic.
  • most Middle Eastern Christians stood with the Muslims against the Crusaders.
  • “Christians and Muslims both have a lot of work to do in terms of revising elements of their religious language that poison everyday relations,” Accad said. “We have to create new symbols.”
  • I would never call myself a Crusader
Ed Webb

The West is playing an old game with the minorities of the Orient | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • This is the big door through which we may penetrate into the affairs of the East …. In addition to the big door there is a smaller one. Syria, and the Christian population of Lebanon in particular, have the right to obtain from the Sultan, by virtue of a European intervention, guarantees, and in particular an administrative regulation, which may provide them with protection from the abuse they suffered under different rulers and that may secure Syria against sliding once more into chaos … We believe that it is the duty of the Christian powers, even their honour, to support this approach and push forward toward accomplishing a positive practical outcome
  • Guizot thought that obtaining the consent of Russia and Austria would neutralise Britain and make it less able to hinder the implementation of his project. Russia had been pursuing an expansionist approach within the Ottoman sphere of influence. It had close links with the Orthodox and Armenians of the Sultanate, who – and not the Catholics – constituted the majority of the Christians of the Orient.
  • The new entity would include the Christians of the East, foremost among them the Catholics of Lebanon, and would be placed under the protection of the European powers, particularly France, Russia and Austria
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  • he was seeking to establish an independent, or semi-independent, administrative status in the district of Jerusalem, which was at the time part of the Damascus governorate
  • What is astonishing is that Guizot did not ask if the Christians of the Orient, who were scattered all over the Orient, would agree to emigrate from their historic homelands to live in such a European protectorate. He did not even ask if the Muslims, who were the majority of the inhabitants of the Jerusalem Province and who also sanctified the city, would accept his project.
  • Reflecting the French Revolution’s legacy, and the spirit of state hegemony over its people, Guizot – throughout his long years in the Ministry of Education in the 1830s – endeavoured to spread public education across the country and establish at least one primary school in every community.In the meantime, the French colonial administration had started to secularise management and education in Algeria, which France had been occupying since 1830. If there is a degree of peculiarity in the Christian foreign policy of a secular and liberal minister, it is even more peculiar that Guizot was not a Catholic but a Protestant.
  • Guizot’s policy was not in any way religiously motivated. Nor was it Catholic. Guizot policy in essence was the policy of supporting minorities and using them to reinforce the status of the European powers in the confrontation with the majorities.
Ed Webb

The Many Myths of the Term 'Crusader' | History | Smithsonian Magazine - 0 views

  • the international news cycle whirred to life, attaching a charged adjective—Crusader—to a potentially unrelated object. In doing so, media coverage revealed the pervasive reach of this (surprisingly) anachronistic term, which gained traction in recent centuries as a way for historians and polemicists to lump disparate medieval conflicts into an overarching battle between good and evil, Christianity and Islam, civilization and barbarism.
  • the term should never stand alone as an explanation in and of itself. Crusades were waged by Christians against Muslims, Jews and fellow Christians. They were launched in the Middle East, in the Baltic, in Italy, in France and beyond
  • The Crusades weren’t the only events happening during these two centuries in either the Middle East or Europe. Relatively few people were, in fact, Crusaders, and not everything that fell into the eastern Mediterranean Sea during this period was a Crusader artifact. The habit of referring to the “era of the Crusades,” or calling the petty kingdoms that formed, squabbled and fell in these years the “Crusader states,” as if they had some kind of unified identity, is questionable at best. Inhabitants of this part of the Middle East and North Africa were incredibly diverse, with not only Christians, Muslims and Jews but also multiple forms of each religion represented. People spoke a range of languages and claimed wildly diverse ethnic or extended family identities. These groups were not simply enclaves of fanatically religious warriors, but rather part of a long, ever-changing story of horrific violence, cultural connection and hybridity.
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  • “In calling this period ‘Crusader,’ Israeli archaeology had, in some ways, aligned itself with a European colonial narrative about the Middle East” that privileged the experience of Europeans over those of locals.
  • The term “Crusade” has always been an anachronism—a way of looking back at complex, often disconnected movements with a wide array of motivations, membership, tactics and results and organizing them into a single coherent theology or identity. As Benjamin Weber of Stockholm University explains, the phrase “opened the way to complete assimilation of wars fought against different enemies, in varied places and often for similar reasons. ... [It] took on a legitimizing function. Any contested action could be justified by dubbing it a ‘crusade.’ It, therefore, became a word used to wield power and silence denouncers.”
  • The word “Crusade” came into use late, long after medieval Christian holy wars began. The Latin word crucesignatus, or “one marked by the cross,” first appeared in the early 1200s, more than a century after Urban II’s call to action in 1095. In English, “Crusade” and “Crusader” don’t appear until around 1700; by the 1800s, the term—defined broadly as a military campaign in defense of one’s faith—had become a convenient way for Victorian historians to mark the past as a battle between what they saw as good and evil, represented respectively by Christianity and Islam
  • claims worked especially well as supposed historical justification for contemporary European colonialism, which used rhetoric like “The White Man’s Burden” to paint land grabs as civilizing crusades against “uncivilized” non-Westerners.
  • Today, the terms “Crusader” and “Crusade” latch onto a nostalgic vision of the past, one that suggests there was a millennia-long clash of civilizations between Islam and Christianity (or “the West”)
  • historians must develop terminology that accurately reflects the people who inhabited the Middle East around the 12th century. A potential alternative is “Frankish,” which appears routinely in medieval Arabic sources and can be a useful “generalized term for [medieval] Europeans,” according to Mulder. It initially had pejorative connotations, being “kind of synonymous with a bunch of unwashed barbarians,” she says. “But as there come to be these more sophisticated relationships, it just becomes a term to refer to Europeans.”
  • Between the 11th and 13th centuries, “hybridity [in the region] is the norm. The fact that another kind of group [establishes itself in the same area] is just part of the story of everything. It's always someone. ... If it's not the Seljuks, it’s the Mongols, it’s the Mamluks. It’s you name it.” Mulder isn’t denying that medieval kingdoms were different, but she argues first and foremost that difference was the norm.
  • In the Middle Ages as a whole, but perhaps especially in this corner of the Mediterranean, objects, people and ideas moved across borders all the time
Ed Webb

William Hague intervenes over West Bank barrier - Assawra - 0 views

  • The British foreign secretary and the Archbishop of Westminster have joined forces in opposing the route of Israel’s vast barrier along the West Bank, which adversely affects a community of monks, nuns and Christian families near Bethlehem.
  • In addition to Hague’s personal intervention, the British consulate in East Jerusalem is supporting the community and the Department for International Development (Dfid) is providing indirect funding for the legal challenge.
  • a symbolic example of the impact of the separation barrier on Palestinian communities and the loss of Palestinian land. Around 85% of the barrier is inside the West Bank.
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  • British government policy is that Israel is entitled to build a barrier but it should lie on the internationally recognised 1967 Green Line, not on confiscated Palestinian land. It is concerned that the route is harming the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Under the current Israeli plan, the barrier will run between the monastery and convent, separating the two establishments and cutting off the monks from the local Christian community. It will also separate the convent and more than 50 families from land they own.
  • Many Palestinian Christians have emigrated as a result of the economic impact of the separation barrier which has already been built around the city of Bethlehem and its nearby villages. Residents have difficulty in accessing their land and exporting their produce. The hurdles in reaching Christian holy sites in Jerusalem is another factor encouraging them to leave.
  • In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the route of Israel’s barrier on Palestinian territory breached international law and was "tantamount to de facto annexation".
  • Under the present proposal, the convent’s premises will abut the barrier. The playground of a kindergarten and school, run by the sisters for more than 50 years and catering for almost 400 Christian and Muslim children, will be overlooked by military watchtowers, and 75% of land owned by the convent will be on the other side of the barrier.
  • Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, said the involvement of a foreign government in a legal battle against another government was "very odd".
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Ed Webb

Palestinian sisters dig into history of last all-Christian village - 0 views

  • Aware of the rich history of Taybeh, known as the last all-Christian village with Caananite roots in Palestine, Farah and her sister Nusra worked to compile a comprehensive database on the history of their village using local and international sources and interviewing villagers. The database grew into an encyclopedia on the history of the village that was published in January. The village of 3,000, located 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) northeast of Ramallah, is indeed the only village solely inhabited by Christians. It's known for both its history that dates back 4,000 years and its Oktoberfest, which attracts tourists who come to enjoy the local Taybeh beer.
  • The 500-page encyclopedia is written in Arabic and English. The two sisters, who paid for its production out of their own pockets, printed 100 copies that they have distributed to schools, libraries, churches and other institutions in the village. Farah said that more can be printed, adding, “We do not seek financial remuneration or profits out of this. We want each family in the village to have a copy of the encyclopedia and to keep it as a reference.”
  • Christian pilgrims who travel from Jerusalem to Nazareth visit the village because of its historical and religious importance. According to Abu Sahliya, an estimated 15,000 pilgrims visit Taybeh annually, a major source of income for the hotels and the village in general.
Ed Webb

In many countries, Millennials more inclusive than elders in views of national identity... - 0 views

  • Across a number of countries that are wrestling with the politics of national identity, younger people are far more likely than their elders to take an inclusive view of what it takes for people to be truly considered “one of us” – whether the measure is being born in their country, sharing local customs and traditions or being Christian.
  • The divide between the young and the old over birthright nationality is quite wide in certain European countries: 21 percentage points in the United Kingdom and 16 points each in Greece and Spain
  • Views on the importance of culture to national identity also split along generational lines. A majority (55%) of older Americans but only 28% of younger adults believe it is very important that a person share U.S. national customs and traditions to be truly American. There is a similar 20-point generation gap in Australia, Canada and Japan.
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  • In these predominantly Christian countries, older people are generally much more likely than younger ones to link national identity to being Christian.
  • only in Greece (65% of those ages 50 and older) does a majority of any age group believe it is very important for one to be Christian to be a true national
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    Important data for thinking comparatively about the relationship between certain aspects of identity and perceptions about national belonging.
Ed Webb

BBC News - Lebanon grants Palestinian refugees right to work - 1 views

  • he advances remain well short of the rights enjoyed by Palestinian refugees in Syria, Jordan and elsewhere in the region
  • Palestinians in Lebanon will still be unable to work in the public sector or in professions such as medicine, law or engineering, where membership of Lebanese syndicates is compulsory. They will also continue to be denied access to Lebanese state medical or educational facilities
  • Some of the youngsters who throng the camps are fourth-generation offspring whose great-grandparents fled what is now northern Israel in 1948.
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  • Giving the Palestinians more rights is so sensitive because their arrival in successive waves strengthened the hand of their fellow-Sunni Muslims in the Lebanese sectarian arena, at the expense of the Christians. During the civil war which broke out in 1975, Palestinian factions were deeply involved on the Muslim, left-wing side against right-wing Christians. Given the tough reaction of Christian groups to the new legislation, it is hard to imagine them agreeing to more liberal laws any time soon.
Ed Webb

If you mention the evangelical delegation to Saudi Arabia, I'd have to ask which one - ... - 0 views

  • it’s worth emphasizing how surprising it is that US evangelical elites are so positive about Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has an extremely conservative form of Islam as its official religion, with minimal rights for non-Muslims (including Christians). One of evangelicals’ major foreign policy priorities has been international religious freedom (IRF), so it seems strange to praise one of the most repressive states in the world. So what’s going on?
  • for some evangelicals, the emphasis of IRF efforts may be shifting. It used to be a broad-based campaign, opposing all government infringements on religious belief and practice, no matter the community affected. Since Trump came to power I’ve noticed a shift to emphasize the plight of persecuted Christians and the threat of radical movements in Muslim societies. At times it almost seems as it some IRF advocates would accept progress in those areas at the expense of others. For example, another evangelical visit to Egypt praised Sisi, its authoritarian leader, for his defense of Christians, even though he’s presided over a broad crackdown on Egyptian society
  • I’m never sure if it’s worth writing on international religious freedom, since progressives have mostly written it off and conservatives aren’t interested in my critiques. But this matters beyond this community. Again, evangelicals are a crucial interest group in Trump’s coalition. If their conception of human rights is shifting, this could have major implications for US foreign policy.
Ed Webb

Coexistence, Sectarianism and Racism - An Interview with Ussama Makdisi - MERIP - 0 views

  • What is the ecumenical frame and how does it revise Orientalist understandings of sectarianism?
  • My book seeks to offer a critical and empathetic story of coexistence without defensiveness—that is, to write a history that neither glorifies the Arab past nor denigrates the present and that explores the grim significance of sectarian tensions in the modern Middle East without being seduced by their sensationalism
  • I wanted to understand how they sought to imagine and build a world greater than the sum of their religious or ethnic parts—commitments that remain evident, if one is prepared to recognize them, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and beyond. I call this modern iteration of coexistence the “ecumenical frame” to underscore the modern active attempt on the part of individuals and communities in the region to both recognize the salience of religious pluralism and yet also to try and transcend sectarian difference into a secular, unifying political community
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  • a project of modern coexistence that not only had to be imagined and designed, but also built
  • to trace how an extraordinary idea of Muslim and Christian and Jewish civic and political community rooted in secular equality went from unimaginability to ubiquity in the course of a single century, and nowhere more so than in the Arab East after 1860
  • subject to conflicting interpretations that valorized “real” religion and demonized sectarianism, often in contradictory and conservative modes, but also in more liberal and even radical ways
  • The Orientalist view of sectarianism frequently analogizes sect as “like race” and, furthermore, it assumes that sectarian differences are inherent cultural and political differences similar to race. What do you think is the relationship of sect to race?  How should race figure in the story of coexistence you relate?
  • the Orientalists idealize the West in order to Orientalize the East. Second, as you suggest, this view transforms religious pluralism in the Middle East into a structure of age-old monolithic antagonistic communities so that one can speak of medieval and modern Maronites, Jews, Muslims and so on as if these have been unchanging communities and as if all ideological diversity in the Middle East ultimately is reducible to religion and religious community
  • The religious sect is conflated with the political sect; the secular is understood to be a thin veneer that conceals the allegedly “real” and unchanging religious essence of the Middle East. This view is dangerous, misleading and tendentious.
  • both race and sect urgently need to be historicized and contextualized—race belongs to US (and Western) political vocabulary; sect to Arab political vocabulary. Both the notion of age-old sects and that of immutable races are ideological fictions that have been manipulated to serve power
  • US scholars Barbara J. Fields and Karen E. Fields have suggested we think of “racecraft” rather than “race relations” to underscore the ideological fundament of racist thinking that appears totally natural to its proponents. As I allude to in my book, so too might we think of “sectcraft” rather than sectarian or communal relations, both to underscore the ideological aspect of sectarianism and to emphasize the amount of work that goes into making sectarianism appear to be inherent, inevitable and unchangeable
  • Tribalism, communalism and sectarianism all refer to parallel formations in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East respectively that assume an unchanging essence that separates members of a single sovereignty or putative sovereignty. They are all static ideological interpretations of pluralism, and have all, to a greater or lesser degree, been massively influenced and even in many ways formally classified and invented by Western colonial powers
  • many scholars gravitate toward using categories and experiences that emerge in the US context and apply them, sometimes indiscriminately and often very problematically, to other parts of the world. I think it is important at some level to respect the fact that in the modern Middle East, progressive scholars and laypeople, men and women belonging to different religious communities, have throughout the twentieth century typically described and conceptualized their struggles against injustice and tyranny as struggles against sectarianism and colonialism, but not necessarily as a struggle against racism.
  • the national polities of the post-Ottoman period in the Arab East were established by European colonial powers. These European powers massively distorted the ecumenical trajectory evident in the late Ottoman Arab East. First, they broke up the region into dependent and weak states, and second, they divided the region along explicitly sectarian lines
  • the colonial dimension is crucial, and it clearly separates the US and the European period of nationalization from that of the colonized Middle East
  • why the investment in and privileging of certain epistemic categories of domination as opposed to others? The question of migrant labor illustrates how race and class and geography and history are intertwined in very specific ways—the Middle Eastern cases (whether the Gulf or in Lebanon) are indeed different from that of the history of migrant labor in the United States, which has always been implicated in settler colonialism.
  • One key difference, of course, between modern Western colonialism and early modern Islamic empires is that the latter, like their early modern Christian counterparts, did not pretend to uphold liberal representation, political equality or self-determination. So, temporality is one essential difference: ethnic, racist or sectarian discrimination in the Islamic empires was not justified or imagined as a benevolent burden to uplift others into an ostensibly equal level of civilization. There was no pretense of a colonial tutelage to help natives achieve independence in the fullness of time
  • In the Ottoman Islamic empire, there were indeed professions of Islamic superiority, notions of ethnic, tribal and religious discrimination, forms of bondage and slavery, and myriad chauvinisms and prejudices tied to kinship, geography, language, culture and ethnicity and so on, but not a notion of biological racism or the obsession with racial segregation and miscegenation that has been the hallmark of modern Western colonialism
  • a new and distinctive defensiveness among leading Muslim Arab intellectuals—that is, their need to defend Islam and Islamic society from missionary and colonial assault whilst also embracing or reconciling themselves to compatriotship with Arab Christians and Jews. This defensiveness persists
  • the great problem of scholars and governments in the West who have long instrumentalized and Orientalized discrimination against non-Muslims to suggest that there is some peculiar problem with Islam and Muslims
  • I think that scholars of gender and women’s history have a lot to teach us in this regard: that is Arab, Turkish, Iranian and other scholars who have explored the long history of gender discrimination—who have defied the fundamentalists—without succumbing to racist Orientalism or self-loathing
  • really historicize! It really is an effective antidote in the face of those who peddle in chauvinism, racism, sectarianism, tribalism and communalism
Ed Webb

'All of them means all of them': Who are Lebanon's political elite? | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • From Tripoli to Tyre, and Beirut to Baalbek, Lebanese have been chanting the same slogan: “All of them means all of them.” Since its independence, Lebanon has been ruled by a clique of politicians and political families who have used sectarianism, corruption and clientelism to cling to power and amass incredible wealth. Now protesters are calling for them all to be removed, from Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, with nervous responses from the leaders themselves. Middle East Eye takes a quick look at some of the more prominent figures and parties in the protesters’ sights.
  • The Hariri family was once the darling of Saudi Arabia, but apparently no longer
  • Aoun is one of Lebanon’s many leaders who played an active and violent part in the country’s 1975-90 civil war. As head of the army in the war’s latter years, Aoun fought bitter conflicts with the occupying Syrian military and the Lebanese Forces paramilitary headed by his rival, Samir Geagea. In 1989, Aoun found himself besieged in the presidential palace in Baabda, where he now resides as president, and fled Syrian troops to the French embassy, which granted him exile.
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  • The Amal Movement was founded in 1974 by Lebanese-Iranian cleric Musa Sadr to represent Lebanon’s Shia, who had long been marginalised as one of the country’s poorest sections of society. Though originally notable for its efforts to pull Shia Lebanese out of poverty, during the civil war it became one of the country’s most effective militias and controlled large parts of the south.
  • Amal is a close ally of fellow Shia party Hezbollah, and their politicians have run on the same list in elections. However, they occasionally diverge in opinion.
  • Birthed from the resistance movement that followed Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Hezbollah has since become the most powerful political and military force in Lebanon. Iran-backed and Syria-allied, the movement was the only militia to keep its arms at the end of the civil war, as it waged a deadly guerilla war against the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon.
  • Though Israel was forced out in 2000, Hezbollah’s military capabilities have only increased, and its war against Israel in 2006 and ongoing involvement in the Syrian conflict have divided opinion among the Lebanese. The movement and its allies did well at the ballot box in 2018 and Hezbollah now has two ministers in the cabinet.
  • Hassan Nasrallah lives in hiding due to the constant fear of Israeli assassination.
  • Known as “al-Hakim” (the doctor), Geagea is a medically trained warlord-turned-politician. During the 1975-90 civil war, Geagea was one of the most notorious militia leaders, heading the Christian Lebanese Forces. He was a close ally of Bashir Gemayel, who was assassinated days before being sworn into the presidency in 1982 with Israeli support
  • he was convicted of involvement in a number of assassinations and attempted murders in widely condemned trials. Geagea was kept in a solitary windowless cell for 11 years until his pardon in 2005 following the Syrian pullout
  • The Lebanese Forces, which is an offshoot of the right-wing Kataeb party, is the second-largest Christian party after the FPM. Its three ministers resigned early in the protest movement, and the party has now attempted to join the demonstrators and help block roads, though many protesters have rejected its overtures.
  • Feudal lord and socialist, advocate of de-sectarianising Lebanese politics but also a fierce defender of his Druze sect, Jumblatt is a difficult man to pin down. Often described as Lebanon’s kingmaker, his allegiances have swung several times, a trick that may have helped keep him alive.
  • The Kataeb party has fallen a long way since its civil war heyday. Also known as the Phalangists, the party used to be the dominant Christian party, and was inspired by its founder Pierre Gemayel’s trips to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Franco’s fascist party in Spain. The Gemayel family has suffered a series of assassinations, most notably president elect Bashir Gemayel in 1982. Bashir’s brother Amin then went on to claim the presidency, and Amin’s son Sami is now heading the party. In recent years however the Kataeb party has struggled to attract votes from its offshoot the Lebanese Forces and the FPM
Ed Webb

1950s U.S. Foreign Policy Looms Large in Lebanon - New Lines Magazine - 0 views

  • the legacy of containment looms large over Lebanon. For decades, the U.S. has been the single largest financial supporter of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), in a bid to balance Iran’s influence in the economically and politically stricken country. Despite growing U.S. isolationism, the Biden administration shows no sign of reversing this time-honored interest in Lebanese security, confirming $67 million in aid to the armed forces earlier this year.
  • Washington’s reductive containment mentality only deepened complex internal fissures within Lebanon’s society and achieved little for its people
  • By hitting the panic button, Chamoun unwittingly began a new era of U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Operation Blue Bat may have been a stroll along the beach for the Marines who landed at Khalde, but the invasion was both immensely risky in the short run and immeasurably costly in the long run.
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  • At the time, many celebrated Blue Bat for having achieved a hat trick of foreign policy goals: strengthening pro-Western regimes in both Lebanon and Jordan, consolidating America’s special relationship with the United Kingdom, which was growing nervous after the spectacular loss of influence in Iraq and Egypt, and securing the steady flow of oil from the Persian Gulf into Europe. Moreover, the intervention was relatively cheap (costing $200 million), swift and bloodless; only one American service member died from rogue sniper fire, while not a single Lebanese combatant or civilian sustained injury.
  • few Arab leaders rallied to Eisenhower’s anti-communist call for the simple reason that it was politically unpopular to openly side with a Western power
  • the Eisenhower Doctrine was never fit for its purported purpose. The doctrine, Washington claimed, aimed to prevent the spread of communism by isolating Nasser and building a coalition of pro-American, anti-communist, Arab states. However, this logic only held as long as Nasser became a Soviet puppet. In the event, Egypt and Arab nationalism in general proved remarkably resistant to the Cold War dichotomy, undermining the doctrine’s central tenet.
  • One convincing theory, proposed by U.S. diplomatic historian Douglas Little, points to the role of cultural and Orientalist stereotypes in conditioning U.S. policymakers to dismiss Nasser’s ability to remain neutral. This tendency, Little argues, can be traced back to the Versailles Treaty that ended World War I. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson himself, the main architect of self-determination, was reluctant to apply the principle to the Arabs; putting such ideas in the minds of certain “races,” Wilson’s Secretary of State Robert Lansing grumbled in 1918, “is simply loaded with dynamite.”
  • By the late ‘50s, these conflicting regional currents were creating deep rifts in Lebanese society. Many Sunni Muslims sympathized with Nasser and his calls for Arab solidarity, while Christians tended to identify with Western powers, especially the pro-U.S. Chamoun — a deeply unpopular Christian president whom the U.S. had helped cling to power during the turbulent years of 1957 and 1958. Adding to allegations of corruption and election fraud, Chamoun also appeared poised to remain in office for another six-year term, contrary to the Lebanese Constitution. Chamoun brutally quashed the protests caused by the resulting constitutional crisis, killing several Nasserite protesters. A small civil war began in which Christian, pro-Chamoun militias battled Nasser-inspired Sunni and Shiite fighters.
  • Direct confrontation between U.S. Marines and the anti-Chamoun United National Front was‌ narrowly avoided, as vividly depicted in Brookings director Bruce Riedel’s recent book, “Beirut 1958.”
  • In his public statement following Operation Blue Bat, Eisenhower justified the military landing by referring to civil strife “actively fomented by Soviet and Cairo broadcasts,” while making no mention of protecting Israel, protecting Western commercial interests, countering Nasserism, Arab nationalism or even nonaligned nationalism among less developed countries.These omissions were calculated. By focusing on Soviet aggression, Eisenhower was able to shoehorn the intervention into the Eisenhower Doctrine, viewing the situation in Lebanon through the prism of Cold War ideology.
  • Communist subversion was nowhere in sight
  • Washington’s tactics during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) involved indiscriminately shelling the tiny country from warships stationed in the Mediterranean and ended in tragedy when 241 U.S. troops were killed in the 1983 barracks bombings.
  • both crises concluded with an entrenchment of the status quo — a likely outcome even without U.S. interference. In 1958, Chamoun was replaced by Chehab as president, a solution advocated by Nasser himself. In 2008, the Doha Accords reaffirmed Hezbollah’s ability to coexist with the LAF — a model that has been followed ever since and almost certainly not what Washington had in mind in 2003.
  • Eisenhower might have drawn less criticism in the Senate had he admitted from the beginning the real reasons for Operation Blue Bat: the concern that Nasser’s Arab nationalism was undermining the West’s security and economic interests in the Middle East. Beirut, after all, was a logistical and financial hub serving all U.S.-aligned conservative regimes in the region
  • While it is true that Qasim had reached an understanding with the Iraqi Communist Party, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s attempts to court the Iraqis were ultimately frustrated. By early 1959, Nasserism had emerged not as an avenue of, but rather a barrier to Soviet penetration in the Middle East. In this sense, the Iraqi coup — the event that triggered Chamoun’s invocation of the Eisenhower Doctrine — did not greatly alter the regional balance of power between the two great superpowers.
  • By continuing its Cold War mentality against Iran, Washington is in danger of simplifying Lebanon to a proxy battleground and misunderstanding Hezbollah as a mere Iranian foreign policy pawn, not as a domestic political and security player in its own right.
Ed Webb

Making It Work From the River to the Sea - New Lines Magazine - 0 views

  • Israelis, enjoying vastly superior power, remain maximalist, Palestinians slightly less so. Both seek national self-determination on their own terms. But the plain reality is that they cannot both have it, because — rightly or wrongly — they both seek it in the same place. For them both to be able to achieve true and lasting national self-determination, they must do so not in 2D, cartographically, but in 3D, holographically. Say hello to nonterritorial autonomy, a long-standing but little-discussed method of managing diversity within a state by granting dispersed groups self-government on the basis of identity rather than land, while also retaining a broader structure of power sharing.
  • Overlaying two nations on one country sounds like science fiction, but that is testament to the corrosive power of the nationalist thinking that drives the two-state solution. Partition says more about the preoccupations of the chiefly American and European politicians who cling to it than it does about the aspirations or real lives of the people who will have to live in the resulting states.
  • Partition has failed almost everywhere it has been attempted. Ireland is perhaps the starkest example, but we might also consider India and Pakistan in 1947, Pakistan again and Bangladesh in 1971, Korea, Vietnam, Cyprus, Yugoslavia, Sudan and a fistful of others. Partition has perpetuated conflict and embedded trauma down the generations. Millions have died thanks to the idea that separating supposedly irreconcilable populations solves everything.
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  • Zionism fit into Balfour’s worldview of racial supremacy and the social ideal of what we would now call ethnic cleansing. Its exceptionalism also led, as the historian Avi Shlaim has written, to another key assumption — that Jews and Arabs occupy exclusive and antagonistic ethnic categories. Shlaim himself asserts the falsity of that assumption in his self-identification as an Arab Jew, as do other notable figures including journalist Rachel Shabi, academic Ella Shohat, author Sasson Somekh and art curator Ariella Azoulay.
  • while we should strongly resist the fantasy of Palestine as paradise, we should also acknowledge that, at least until about a century ago, people generally lived the daily reality of sharing limited space more or less amicably.
  • Christians can get on with Muslims. Muslims can get on with Jews. Jews can get on with Christians. Israel’s nationalist schemer Avigdor Lieberman may have told The New York Times in 2006 that “[e]very country where you have two languages, two religions and two races, you have conflict,” but decent folk need not go along with him. As much as the region’s history is marked by spasms of religiously inspired violence, it is also underpinned by long centuries of not just tolerance but productive coexistence.
  • sectarian exclusivity is not a Middle Eastern ideal. It is European.
  • a group of European Jewish journalists and political pundits, seeking safe havens, borrowed from evangelical Christian millenarianism to promote the novel idea that Jews were a nation and so deserved self-determination in a state of their own.This was political Zionism, an ideology contrasting sharply with the spiritual longing for Zion expressed in Jewish liturgy, and it emerged in a vicious era. Civilization was understood to be an achievement of white Europeans. Its apogee, the summit of human enterprise, was the advanced ability of white people to create nation-states. They governed best, and it was the natural order for everyone else to be governed.
  • Arthur Balfour — famed for endorsing Zionism on behalf of the British government in 1917 — was able to glide effortlessly from stating that “the white and black races are not born with equal capacities” to the idea that a Zionist state in Palestine would “mitigate the age-long miseries created for Western civilization by the presence in its midst of a Body [the Jews] which is alien and even hostile.”
  • A yearning for justice — for universal civil, political and human rights under the rule of law — is what drives the one-state solution.
  • the past few years have seen a shift in Palestinian opinion away from older generations’ lingering trauma around lost land to a new focus on attaining equality of rights wherever grossly unjust conditions prevail under Israeli control.This has illuminated a long-standing slogan of liberation: “From the river to the sea” (with or without “Palestine will be free” appended). Some — wildly mistaken — choose to interpret the sentiment as genocidal, a call for the erasure of Jewish presence. Public prosecutors in Germany even tried (and failed) to criminalize it.The phrase is not new: It has been said for 60 years or more by Palestinians and Israelis alike who oppose the reality of partition
  • Faced with such absurd cruelty, “From the river to the sea” is simply a plea to be rid of it. It seeks to sweep away the divisions, to reclaim equality. It is an uncomplicated rejection of Israel’s laws of classification and segregation and an assertion of the most basic right to dignity in one state. It highlights that partition represents calamitous political failure.
  • Even with land swaps and other adjustments taken into account, supporting a “solution” that hands four-fifths of the available territory to one party seems naive at best.
  • as the lawyer and Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann has identified, a minimum of 200,000 Jewish Israelis would have to be displaced from the West Bank in order to ensure the territorial viability of a Palestinian state. Short of a land incursion by international forces and a yearslong deployment of peacekeeping troops, such an operation is inconceivable.
  • When “safe passage” across the 30 miles separating Gaza from the West Bank was written into the Oslo II agreement, dreamers advocated all kinds of schemes for bridges, tunnels, corridors, roads and rail lines. Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak proposed an elevated highway in 1999, and 20 years later U.S. President Donald Trump imagined a tunnel. Either is achievable in terms of engineering. Neither is viable in terms of security.
  • Two million Israeli citizens, roughly 20% of the population, are Palestinian Arabs. Some, or many, might accept citizenship in a partitioned Israeli state, were it to be offered. But an offer is by no means certain. If — as many in Israel want — the new state decides it has no room for Arabs, are these millions to be driven across the border into Palestine, as Muslims and Hindus were driven across the newly drawn India-Pakistan border in 1947?
  • Inasmuch as any state has a right to exist, Israel and Palestine are on an equal footing. We can consign them to unending battles over ownership of every pebble, or we can enable both to exist simultaneously in the same space — to coexist.
  • Coercion is going to be essential. In Northern Ireland in the 1990s, public weariness with fighting helped pave the way for agreement. Today, though, Palestinians and Israelis remain as determined as ever. We, the outside world, must therefore demand accountability and force a sustainable resolution
  • Nathan Thrall wrote compellingly in his 2017 book “The Only Language They Understand” about how every peace proposal has failed because, ultimately, Israel has always preferred the status quo to any other outcome. Two-state solutions would also favor Israel, on land area alone. So, for the sake of peace, we must worsen the status quo for Israel — and if the U.S. continues to refuse to impose sanctions, and the Gulf kakistocrats continue to offer deals on arms and tech, that means we must erase the Green Line.
  • Some visions of a single state between the river and the sea belong to the extremists, plotting ethnic cleansing to rid “us” of “them” once and for all; the power asymmetries mean that Israeli eliminationists, who promote annexation and demographic engineering to perpetuate Jewish supremacy, enjoy far more traction than their counterparts in southern Lebanon and Tehran. But a politically viable, morally acceptable one-state solution does not involve driving anyone into the sea.
  • Ethnic and cultural diversity is a core human good. It is moral, it benefits societies, it boosts economies, and it is worth supporting. Nonterritorial autonomy would do what the judgment in Brown v. Board of Education did: It would enable Israelis, Palestinians and the many other minorities to be integrated for the good of all whether they like it or not, protected from themselves and one another, represented by their own linked administrations, governed within a single territory. It is progressive. It takes us from zero-sum to win-win.
Ed Webb

Church Appeal on Israel Angers Jewish Groups - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • “We asked Congress to treat Israel like it would any other country,”
  • Christian leaders responded in interviews that the letter was focused only on Israel because it is the largest recipient of American foreign aid, and because the aid flows to Israel without conditions or accountability. Humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Authority was suspended last year because of violations, and Congress is re-evaluating aid to Egypt, noted Peter Makari, the executive for the Middle East and Europe in global ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), who helped write the letter. “The need to hold Israel as accountable as other countries in the region is important,”
Ed Webb

Tunis Greets an Ottoman-Era History Long Banished by Its Dictators - NYTimes.com - 1 views

  • Dictatorships have a way of manipulating historical narratives. So alongside any of the most pressing issues of the day, the past, too, is in play.The struggle to shape the past, and give it new authenticity, can be witnessed all around the Tunisian capital.Last summer, the Tunisian government restored a statue of Habib Bourguiba, the founder and first president of the republic, to its original place on the capital’s main avenue.
  • Mr. Bourguiba’s statue had replaced a humiliating symbol of colonialism: an image of the colonialist politician Jules Ferry with a Tunisian woman at his feet proffering an olive branch, he reminded Tunisians.“That used to be the symbol of colonialism, and Bourguiba is the symbol of freedom, of independence and of the modern state,” he said at the unveiling.
  • “Usually history is written by the victors, but this is the opposite,” said Adel Maizi, the president for preservation of memory at the commission. “These testimonies will reveal the truth.”
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  • “Dictatorship always tries to keep things secret,” he explained. “These kinds of testimonies are against forgetting. They will preserve memory for the country and serve as a way to guard such things happening in the future.”
  • Ridha Moumni, a curator of the exhibit, insists it is not political, but a matter of history. Yet he is displaying events that Tunisia’s dictators sought to suppress.“We have a very rich heritage that no one knew about,” Mr. Moumni said. “Our goal was to show that Tunisian modernity did not start with independence or colonization.”
  • it provides a history lesson on the significant reforms of the era — the founding of the army, the drafting of a constitution and development of diplomatic relations — that helped forge a nation
  • Among the original documents on display, one abolished slavery in 1846 — before the United States did so
  • a constitution drafted in 1860 that recognizes the rights of all citizens, including Christian and Jewish minorities, and census registers, in Hebrew and Arabic, belonging to Tunisia’s ancient Jewish community
  • Another discovery is the diversity of Tunisia’s leaders — from the Christian foreign minister, Giuseppe Raffo, to a Circassian general, Kheireddine Pasha, and the former slave Mustapha Khaznadar, who married into the royal family and rose to become the bey himself.
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