Early last week, the drug firm Mylan stomped on the Stars and Stripes as it ditched America for the Netherlands. Then, on Friday, the drug company AbbVie similarly renounced America. For 30 pieces of silver, it will become Irish.

Medical device maker Medtronic deserted America for Ireland last month. The pharmacy chain Walgreens recently announced it may be next. It plans to dump the land of the free for the bows and scrapes of royal subjects.

Walgreens is willing to prostrate itself before Queen Elizabeth because the British corporate tax rate is lower. Anything for money, right AbbVie? These firms will still park their assets and staff and sales in America. They just won’t pay taxes on foreign income to the country that nurtured them, protected them from patent violators and unfair competitors, and provided them with educated workers, federally-sponsored research and development, and myriad other public services. Now, they can freeload instead. As a result, their U.S. competitors, as well as hardworking Americans, will pay more to cover the shirkers’ share.

This foreign address squatting is formally called inversion. A large American corporation seeking to evade its tax responsibilities hooks up with company in a low tax country. It makes sure the foreign firm ends up with at least 20 percent of the combined company’s stock, so the American corporation can legally change its address. It’s called inversion because the big buyer takes the smaller subsumed entity’s address instead of the other way around. Dozens of corporations have done it in the past couple of years.

At least one former chief executive officer condemned the practice. That would be Bill George, who wrote in the New York Times about an inversion proposed by Pfizer:

“Is the role of leading large pharmaceutical companies to discover lifesaving drugs or to make money for shareholders through financial engineering? Does anyone believe pharmaceutical companies can create long-term shareholder value by chasing lower tax venues and cutting research and development spending?”

But a month later when George’s alma mater Medtronic launched the same tax dodge maneuver, well, then it was a completely different story. For Medtronic, George said, tax evasion was hunky-dory:  

“The only reason they’re doing the inversion is to free up the cash overseas. . . That money today can’t be put to good use right now.” That, of course, isn’t true. It could be put to good use immediately if Medtronic paid the federal income tax the company owes on it. 

Medtronic has about $14 billion squirrelled away offshore. It would have to pay between $3.5 and $4.2 billion in federal taxes to bring the money back for use at its headquarters in Minnesota. That’s the difference between the official U.S. tax rate of 35 percent and the 5 to 10 percent rate Medtronic already has paid to other countries where the money was made. Instead of paying its American taxes, Medtronic will spend $43 billion to buy an Irish firm.

When George was Medtronic CEO, he worked to lower the firm’s tax rate. And he succeeded masterfully. Like the vast majority of U.S. companies, Medtronic doesn’t pay anywhere near the official 35 percent. It pays 18 percent. That’s still too much, according to George, who told the New York Times: “The taxes are simply too high in this country.”

Too high for AbbVie as well. It paid 22.6 percent last year and projects that renouncing America will lower its rate to 13 percent by 2016.

George called for another corporate tax holiday during which multi-nationals could repatriate their foreign earnings without paying all of the taxes owed. Great for them, of course, but not for the federal budget deficit. And, frankly, unfair to working Americans never granted tax holidays.

Medtronic does plan, however, to arrange an excise tax holiday for its corporate executives and board members. To discourage inversions, Congress imposed a 15 percent excise tax on the options and restricted stock of inverting corporations’ officers and board members.  Medtronic says it will pony up about $60 million to pay off those tax bills.

Partly because of shell games like that, the excise tax has failed to deter corporations from shifting their tax responsibilities to working Americans.

Last week, between the Mylan and AbbVie announcements, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew urged Congress to take new action to halt the desertions. Stopping inversions would raise $17 billion for the U.S. Treasury over a decade, according to the administration. That’s a $17 billion smaller national debt.

The administration proposes that before an American company could contend it had moved to a tax haven, the purchased company would have to get half of the new company’s stock, instead of 20 percent. U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Ron Wyden and U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, all Democrats, have proposed a two-year moratorium on inversions retroactive to May 8.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, got anti-inversion legislation passed earlier this month with the help of libertarian-leaning Republicans. It’s limited to companies that move to the tax haven islands of Bermuda and the Caymans, but she’s working on expanding it.

It’s ingenious. It bars inverters from getting federal contracts. It should definitely be extended to include Medtronic, which was awarded $484 million in federal contracts over the past five years.

In the case of Walgreens, it should be broadened to bar Medicare and Medicaid recipients from filling prescriptions there if the pharmacy joins shiftless corporations with sham headquarters overseas.

And the likes of Walgreens, Medtronic, Mylan and AbbVie need to keep their mouths shut as Congress debates these penalties. It has been a crime since 1966 for foreign nationals to donate money to American political campaigns. These corporations lost their freedom to buy politicians when they renounced America for money. 

***

Flag Photo by Mark Sardella on Flickr.

 

Last weekend, The New York Times offered a palliative for triumphalist American anti-racist triumphalism with its essay "The Data of Hate".

Conservatives and liberals both indulge in the habit; the Times' piece should be a wake up call and incentive to see the world as it actually is, not as one would like to imagine it being.

The Right is desperate to portray white supremacists as throwbacks and rare outliers in order to advance the twin lie that white racism no longer exists as a significant social problem in the United States as a means to advance a narrative of white victimology where the end goal is maintaining white privilege and white power.

The Left enjoys anti-racist triumphalism as a way to declare moral superiority over conservatives and while also celebrating the hard fought victories of the civil rights movement which (in the popular imagination) culminated in the election of Barack Obama.

"We" want to believe that white supremacists are toothless wonders, hillbillies, or country rube Southern primitives who put on Klan robes and shoot cockroaches with guns. Those easy caricatures exist to fulfill a fiction of social/racial integration and cohesion along the color line that legitimates America's multicultural corporate liberal democratic political regime.

The NY Times' "The Data of Hate" subverts those stereotypes:

VIKINGMAIDEN88 is 26 years old. She enjoys reading history and writing poetry. Her signature quote is from Shakespeare. She was impressed when the dialect quiz in The New York Times correctly identified where she was from: Tacoma and Spokane, Wash. “Completely spot on,” she wrote, followed by a smiling green emoji.

I gleaned all this from her profile and posts on Stormfront.org, America’s most popular online hate site.

I recently analyzed tens of thousands of the site’s profiles, in which registered members can enter their location, birth date, interests and other information. Call it Big Hatred meets Big Data...

POLITICAL developments certainly play a role. The day that saw the biggest single increase in membership in Stormfront’s history, by far, was Nov. 5, 2008, the day after Barack Obama was elected president.

The top reported interest of Stormfront members is “reading.” Most notably, Stormfront users are news and political junkies. One interesting data point here is the popularity of The New York Times among Stormfront users. According to the economists Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, when you compare Stormfront users to people who go to the Yahoo News site, it turns out that the Stormfront crowd is twice as likely to visit nytimes.com.

Perhaps it was my own naïveté, but I would have imagined white nationalists’ inhabiting a different universe from that of my friends and me. Instead, they have long threads praising “Breaking Bad” and discussing the comparative merits of online dating sites, like Plenty of Fish and OkCupid.

White racism is not an opinion. It is a fact. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz's empirical work in "The Data of Hate" buttresses that reality.

The "backstage racism" of the post civil rights era has moved to cyber-space. White supremacy is remarkably adaptable. Print, radio, TV, film, and other media have been used to circulate and sustain it. Cyber-racism is the most recent iteration of how white supremacist ideologies adapt to new technologies.

Anti-racist triumphalism is comforting because it makes the members of the post civil rights and "post racial" generations feel safe and secure. Of course, the facts undercut the illusion. There has been an increase in the number of white hate groups in the United States since the election of Barack Obama. Anti-black and brown hate crimes remain all too common. The KKK and other white supremacist organizations are recruiting both active duty and newly retired members of the United States military.

The White Right is resurgent and its brand of white supremacy, nativism, and racism has fully taken over the Republican Party. White supremacists have infiltrated the Tea Party and identified its members as prime candidates for full conversion to their ideology. The Republican Party's electoral strategy involves the use of white racial resentment to motivate white voters while also limiting the ability of black and brown people to vote.

The contemporary Republican Party--what political scientists call a "party in government"--is a de facto white supremacist organization. The pundit classes bloviate and hand wring over Tea Party GOP obstructionism as though the origins of the behavior are a "great mystery" when the answer requires no great riddle. The Republican Party is a racist organization that must, by definition and commitment to its members and brand name, destroy the United States' first black president.

Social scientists have documented how racists are more fearful of social change, have high levels of out-group anxiety and a need for in-group solidarity, use basic decision rules and cognitive schemas for decision-making, and are more prone to authoritarianism and social conservatism. Racists are not necessarily less intelligent than their peers: many white racists who score high on traditional measures of intelligence are very skillful at hiding their racial attitudes as they conform to the public "colorblind" norms of the post civil rights era.

However, one must be careful in how they interpret the above findings: macro-level analysis does not tell us a great deal about individuals or their personal behavior.

Anti-racist triumphalism yearns for the racist throwback. But, what of the more dangerous white supremacist who works as a school teacher, college professor, banker, police officer, financier, doctor, attorney, military officer, politician, or in the mass media? Anti-racist triumphalism provides cover for their social evil.

"The Data of Hate" details how white supremacists who frequent the website "Stormfront" are not necessarily stupid. They are socially unenlightened and lack cosmopolitan virtues. White supremacists (and white racists more generally) are also racially tribalistic.

It is easy for the public and the media to shame racists such as Cliven Bundy, George Zimmerman, Donald Sterling, Ted Nugent, or Paula Deen. Throwing garbage and rotten tomatoes at the designated racist "freak of the week" is easy sport. Confronting white elites, everyday white supremacists, and those black and brown conservatives who are their sycophants and boot lickers, that support, maintain, and advance a system of institutional white supremacy is much harder work. Thus, it is avoided by all but the most brave (or foolhardy?) souls.

"The Data of Hate" concludes with the question, "why do some people feel this way?"

This is a weak closing written to provoke thought and speculation by readers in the face of the faux "great mystery" that is white supremacy and white racism.

White supremacists hate people of color, Jews, those who are not "Christian", and the Other because they want to maintain, protect, appropriate, steal, and transfer any and all types of power, material, capital, and other resources to themselves while also sustaining and expanding the psychological wages of whiteness.

White supremacy is a social and political invention whose goal is maintaining white in-group dominance over people of color and "non-whites". Anti-racist triumphalism, and its idealistic dreamers on both the Left and the Right, want to deny the influence of white supremacy over American life and culture.

In reality, white supremacy is one of the core tenets and beliefs of the American political project, specifically, and "American civilization", more broadly. If anti-racist triumphalism blinds a person to that fact, they too, however unintentionally, are also doing the work of maintaining white supremacy.

As I introduce my new Center Against Religious Extremism report Hobby Lobby Case Linked To Secretive National Prayer Breakfast Group, "The Family"), "In 2010 on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, author Jeff Sharlet publicly accused "The Family", which hosts the National Prayer Breakfast, of being directly responsible for the notorious Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill, signed into law in early 2014. As this Center Against Religious Extremism (CARE) special report demonstrates, The Family is also tightly linked, through its affiliate The Gathering, to the controversial Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case which gave broad new religious freedom rights to private corporations." Last September, three generations of the Green family - owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and central plaintiffs in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Case - attended The Gathering 2013 along with a Christian nonprofit that played a supporting "air traffic control" role in the Hobby Lobby case and also litigated Conestoga Woods v. Sebelius. Also present at The Gathering 2013 was the National Christian Foundation, which has funded the law nonprofits that litigated both the Conestoga and Hobby Lobby cases. Because gay rights was the initial analytic vantage point from which I began studying "The Gathering", this new CARE report of mine is packed with with material on The Gathering as a central hub of evangelical anti-LGBTQ activism. But this concerns far more than gay rights. As I describe in my report,
"[The Gathering is] a community of quietly but deeply radical billionaire Christian patrons helping bankroll a mounting global onslaught against LGBT rights, who have led attacks on public schools and unions and heavily fund creationism and global warming denialism".
The Gathering is now trying to re-brand itself - with two NYT op-ed writers scheduled to speak at The Gathering 2014. But funding of the culture wars by The Gathering foundations has, over the last decade, actually increased quite dramatically (see: http://www.twocare.org/the-gathering-the-religious-rights-cash-cow/), and the Alliance Defending Freedom - which has participated in the World Congress of Families and worked with Russian legislators pushing anti-gay legislation - gave a presentation at The Gathering 2013. On other politics of The Gathering - one interesting fact which says a lot is that the Winter 2005 issue of The Gathering's quarterly newsletter featured an op-ed from a Christian Reconstructionist pastor who argued that disobedient and morally incorrigible children should be executed, per Leviticus 20:9. The pastor argued that Jesus held that position. The Gathering has extensive ideological and organizational links to the Christian Reconstructionism movement. The largest foundation which attends The Gathering - the National Christian Foundation - gave out roughly $670 million in grants in 2013 and is now ranked the 12th biggest nonprofit foundation in America that raises money from private sources, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. NCF funding of anti-gay organizations and ministries, active from Uganda to Russia, is so extensive that I've taken to describing the NCF as the most prolific funder of anti-gay activism in the United States. One of my ongoing CARE projects has been the creation of a growing mini-encyclopedia just to catalog and describe all the anti-gay causes that the the National Christian Foundation bankrolls. ( see: The National Christian Foundation Anti-LGBT Funding Encyclopedia.) I'd post the whole report here, but it's a bit too long. Some other useful bits:
"The community represented at this annual event - whose membership and foundations give upwards of one billion dollars a year in grants - serves as the financial wing of The Family and represents the main private funding stream bankrolling the ongoing culture wars (see Twocare.org special report, The Gathering: The Religious Right's Cash Cow), including the mounting international onslaught on LGBT rights and the legal campaign against Obamacare." [...] Last year, from September 12-15, 2013 at the plush Phoenician Hotel in Scottsdale - a Versailles of the desert which bills itself as "Arizona's premier luxury resort destination", leading American evangelicals on the hard religious and political right, members of multimillionaire and billionaire clans - including owners of the Hobby Lobby chain - who represent some of the world's biggest fortunes gathered, socialized, dined and, as they do every year at The Gathering, laid plans for the slow motion religious, cultural, legal, and governmental re-engineering of, and Christian supremacist hegemony over, America and the world. The Gathering community includes many of the richest family dynasties on the Christian right. In any given year at the Gathering one might find members and representatives of the billionaire Green, Coors, DeVos, Prince, Friess, Maclellan, DeMoss, and Ahmanson families, as well as heads of the Templeton foundation and the gargantuan National Christian Foundation, now the 12th biggest charitable foundation in America that raises money from private sources according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The NCF is one of the biggest single funders of The Fellowship Foundation and the Wilberforce Foundation, The Family's two key nonprofits (see footnote.) NCF funding of these two nonprofits, from 2001-2012, topped $5.4 million dollars. Giving their testimony of faith at the inaugural speech of The Gathering 2013 - inside the lavish air-conditioned hotel ensconced by The Phoenician's water park and 27-hole golf course sustained by extravagant irrigation amidst the red crumbling hills of drought-plagued Arizona - were Mart and Tyler Green of the Green Family, whose patriarch Hobby Lobby founder David Green has been identified by Forbes magazine as the "Biblical Billionaire Backing The Evangelical Movement", the biggest funder of evangelical causes in America. Enthused Mart Green, "We enjoy having three generations here at The Gathering." His family's credo, he explained, was: "Love God intimately, live extravagant generosity." Green spoke about his ongoing project to facilitate the translation of the Bible into developing world languages; his son Tyler talked of the burden of wealth - the need to give wisely. It was not the first time Greens had addressed The Gathering - in 2008, Mart Green briefed The Gathering community on his family's $70 million-plus bailout of financially troubled Oral Roberts University. But there was nothing in Mart and Tyler Green's brief, almost perfunctory 20-minute testimony to explain what pressing reason might have led three generations of Greens to make the nearly 1,000 mile multi-generational pilgrimage from their Oklahoma City area homes to Scottsdale, near Phoenix, Arizona, to attend The Gathering 2013. But suspiciously close at hand were the Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Conestoga Woods v. Sebelius cases destined to soon be merged into the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case in which, in a momentous and highly controversial June 30, 2014 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the contraceptive mandate that had been added to the Affordable Care Act by the Department of Health and Human Services and held that private corporations such as Hobby Lobby can have religious freedom rights. Joining the Greens at The Gathering 2013 was Alan Sears, president of the biggest Christian law nonprofit in America, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was then litigating a whopping 19 out of the 40-odd lawsuits - including the Conestoga Woods v. Sebelius case - filed in Federal district courts across the country that sought to exempt private for-profit corporations from reproductive health care mandates in the Affordable Care Act. The choice to hold The Gathering 2013 in Scottsdale is quite suggestive of the major role the ADF played in the event - Scottsdale, Arizona happens to be the headquarters of the massive Alliance Defending Freedom. And it was not the first time The Gathering has been held in the Arizona location. In 2006, as legal battles over same-sex marriage were breaking out across the nation, The Gathering was also held in Scottsdale. Then in 2009 - as the pivotal Hollingsworth v. Perry case challenging the constitutionality of California's anti-same sex marriage ballet amendment Proposition 8 was underway, with Alliance Defense Fund lawyers litigating in favor of Prop 8 - The Gathering was again held in Scottsdale, though the official program of the conference made no mention of an ADF briefing. Hollingsworth v. Perry was one of the ADf's rare defeats; the law nonprofit boasts that it has won 80% of its cases. [Note: The Gathering members, and Gathering-funded nonprofits and their board members represented an astonishing 7 out of the top 12 contributors who funded the 2008 pro-Proposition 8 campaign. Howard Ahmanson, Jr.'s Fieldstead & Co. gave $1,395,000; John ("Jack") Templeton, head of the John Templeton Foundation, gave $1,100,000; the National Organization for Marriage gave $1,041,134.80; Focus On the Family chipped in $539,643.66; the American Family Association contributed $500,000; Elsa Prince-Broekhuizen, mother of Erik Prince and Betsy DeVos, and who has served on the boards of several NCF and The Gathering-funded nonprofits including Focus On The Family, Focus On The Family Action, and the Council For National Policy, gave $450,000; Concerned Women for America kicked in $409,000.] During a special ADF briefing at The Gathering 2006, ADF President Sears - who is co-author of the 2003 anti-gay book "The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing The Principle Threat To Religious Freedom Today", which accuses the LGBT rights movement of having "followed a strategy akin to what Hitler used in the 1920s and 1930s to take over Germany" (page 27) - painted for his Gathering audience a bleak portrait of the dark days prior to the launch of the ADF in 1994: "Hillary Health Care was on its way... Much of country's religious heritage had been decimated..."

(Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily by Cat Zavis)

I have been struggling with how to respond to the current crisis in Gaza (and frankly, the craziness of so many things in the world right now - including the horrific reality that Obama is closing our doors to refugee children sending them back to their countries to face horrors unimaginable).

My heart is broken. At Shabbat services Friday night, as we sang a prayer for healing, my thoughts turned to all the victims in Gaza - images of their maimed and murdered bodies (that I had unfortunately seen on the internet) flashed before my eyes, resulting in tears running down my cheeks and sobs of sorrow and grief), just as I mourned the death of the three Israeli teenagers. I sometimes feel a sense of hopelessness at the current situation and know many people don't have any idea what to do to stop this madness, nonetheless I am now working to expand our Network of Spiritual Progressives to help spread a different worldview and to bring a voice of compassion and empathy to the situation.

Israel, with its overwhelming power, has a moral responsibility to stop bombing Gaza. Israel is killing innocent civilians under the guise of wiping out Hamas when in fact, this sort of attack will only strengthen militant forces and voices in Palestine who will use the attacks to further their position that Israel (and "Jews") are murderers and only care about controlling all of Israel and Palestine. In addition, this behavior by Netanyahu only perpetuates anti-Semitism and puts Jews at greater risk around the world. When the actions of the State of Israel are equated with the actions of Jews, Jews ultimately suffer.In fact, just today I read about pro-Hamas protesters in Paris trapping hundreds of Jews in a synagogue, chanting "Death to Jews" while throwing rocks and bricks at the synagogue. The police dispersed the crowd. The members left the synagogue - two were lightly injured. Anti-Semitism, like any form of racism, is always illegitimate. But when so many institutions of the organized Jewish communities around the world line up in solidarity with whatever military or political action the State of Israel takes, I can easily see how easy it is for some to equate the activities of the State of Israel with the entire Jewish people (unfair though that is).

At the same time, Hamas is playing into the hands of the Israeli government and Netanyahu. By responding by launching rockets into Israel (even though such rockets do not result in any physical injuries or deaths to people, but nonetheless terrorize the citizens of Israel - and yes, not at all in proportion to the suffering or terror of the Palestinians) Hamas is only perpetuating and bolstering the discourse in Israel that Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the planet and we need to wipe them out once and for all. Hamas would serve the Palestinian people much better if they put down their weapons and engaged in a massive nonviolent response, and publicly accepted Israel's existence as a legitimate homeland for the Jewish people. After all, who wants to negotiate with an enemy who still says that their goal is to wipe you out entirely? But if they changed their discourse, and really allowed themselves to accept that Israel is here to stay and is not going to disappear, they would deliver a mortal blow to the right wing militarists in Israel. If they adopted this kind of nonviolent strategy, Israel would have two options - either continue to bomb Gaza even though there is absolutely no justification for it and lose any credibility it has left or stop bombing and return to a cease fire - thereby ending unnecessary suffering and deaths.

I desperately wish that saner voices would prevail in Israel, Palestine, the United States as well as around the world. And we at the Network of Spiritual Progressives are trying to help build an interfaith movement of such voices because we know that for American policy to change (which is a key part of changing the dynamic in Israel/Palestine) it will require voices from across the religious, spiritual, and secular society.

So what can you do? Challenge the public discourse - again and again - on social media, in the press, in conversations with others, EVERYWHERE.

Educate yourself about the situation - change the discourse from one of us/them to one of understanding and compassion. I know this is extremely difficult to do - how can we have compassion for a state that occupies another people and drops bombs on innocent civilians or for a group that says it wants to wipe a country off the face of the earth? And yet, that is what we have to do. The demonizing of either side only serves to bolster and perpetuate the violence and serves those promoting violence. We have to help people understand that both sides have suffered and that they continue to suffer, while also understanding that the suffering of Palestinians exceeds that of Israelis. If you are Jewish and have been raised in the discourse of Zionism, that Arabs want to kill us, etc., I implore you to read stories from Palestinians experiences of the situation. To open your heart to the possibility that you may not know all the facts - may not see the "Other" as equal.If you are Palestinian and have suffered at the hands of Israel, I also encourage you to read stories from the perspective of Jews and Israelis. To open your heart to their suffering, not in the hopes that you will no longer feel your own suffering but because your desire for peace, your desire to be able to live a normal life depends on it.Do this with compassion for yourself because unpacking a lifetime of stories on which you formed your identity and the identity of your people is no easy task.

I know this because this is exactly what I did 30 years ago - I started to read the history of Israel/Palestine, not from the perspective of my Jewish/Zionist roots, but from a broader perspective that included the stories and histories of Palestinians. I joined Palestinian solidarity groups, became friends with Palestinians and Muslims and broke down the stereotypes I was raised to believe - ones I am not proud of! No, it was not easy - it is never easy to realize that the stories you believed, the "truths" you believed, on which your entire worldview is based, are in fact only one side of the story and that life is actually much more complex than you thought. But I am so grateful I did - life is much more rich when you can see its complexities, its nuances, and its uncertainties. In fact, compassion, empathy and peace cannot be achieved without it.

To help you gain a greater perspective on the history, I encourage you to read Embracing Israel/Palestine. In this book, Rabbi Lerner presents an understanding of the history of both sides. Unlike other accounts that focus solely on the "facts," Rabbi Lerner provides an understanding of the psychological history of both sides in the hopes that doing so will help you understand why certain actions only serve to perpetuate violence, throwing one side or the other into trauma and fear. When humans are operating from a place of trauma or fear, the normal human response is to fight, flight or freeze. As we have seen again and again in Israel and Palestine, the prominent voices and actors choose to fight, causing untold suffering and hardship for the rest of their societies.

It is not enough to know that something is wrong and that people are doing things that are causing great harm and suffering and that this needs to stop, you need to understand how to contribute to a healthy discussion of what are strategically sound and smart ways to respond - ways that will lead to empathy, compassion, understanding and ultimately peace rather than feed the fears of either or both sides. This requires a much more nuanced understanding of the history and peoples than you get elsewhere.

We, at the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), are working to build a spiritually progressive popular, political movement that will bring to the forefront of discourse on all issues spiritual principles and values of love, kindness, generosity, care, seeing and treating each others as sacred beings worthy of respect and dignity like each of us, and responding to the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement. It is our belief if we choose to respond in this way to the crises in Gaza and around the world we will be able to slowly find a path to reconciliation, healing, peace and justice. And, I believe that to do so, we have to start where I did in this piece - with allowing the pain and suffering and sorrow of the world to course through our bodies, to move us to tears, to break open our hearts, to feel the depth of our grief because grieving is the birthplace of healing, repair and transformation (tikkun) of self and the world. There are plenty of movements with rational plans for the Middle East - but none has managed to crack through the cynicism and propensity on all sides of this struggle to believe that security can only be achieved through "power over" others. We at the NSP seek to work at this core level, the emotional blocks that must be exposed and then healed if we are to ever achieve peace, justice and true reconciliation between Israel and Palestine. They cynics will say, "It will never happen." But as Rabbi Lerner says, you never know what is possible until you put your life energies, money, and time to promote what is desirable."

I hope that you will join the NSP (to do so, go to our website and click on the join or donate button) and form a local chapter or affinity group so that you can explore these issues in a supportive community of people who share your values and vision for a new worldview. We are working to bring peace, justice and compassion to Israel and Palestine - if this is what you want too, please join our efforts. If you have questions or want support in your efforts, please email me at cat@spiritualprogressives.org.

To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails or visit us online. You can also like Tikkun on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

In a recent interview with ABC, Attorney General Eric Holder told the truth about the role played by white racial resentment and racism in the White Right's opposition to Barack Obamawhere he said how:

“There's a certain level of vehemence, it seems to me, that's directed at me [and] directed at the president,” Holder told ABC. “You know, people talking about taking their country back. … There's a certain racial component to this for some people. I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there's a racial animus."

The readers' comments in response to Holder's statement are boilerplate "colorblind" conservative racism: they follow the tired, but still very revealing script, where white racists use racist logic and speech to deny that they are in fact racists.

Movement conservatism is a white supremacist ideology. Its adherents and advocates are unable to reason outside of that framework; white supremacy is their normal and foundational assumption about the nature of empirical reality. Moreover, white conservatives become extremely agitated and rageful when the role of white supremacy as a unifying ideology for their political belief system is exposed.

Religious fundamentalists act the same way when the concept of God is challenged as a childish myth and fantasy. Contemporary conservatism is a cult where white supremacy is one of the godheads. Both rage at their heretics and those others who are non-believers.

This is not the first time that Holder has stated some plain and obvious facts about how the election of a black man to the office of the President of the United States of America has caused a racist fever state among Republicans and Tea Party zealots.

Eric Holder is a "race man" who is more willing to tell the direct and raw truth relative to Obama's more restrained, "politically correct" and (too my eyes) pragmatic and tolerant (in the worst way) political personality. Holder was not elected; Obama has had to navigate the pressures of reelection. Those dynamics have guided how and to what degree both are willing to talk about white supremacy and white racism as the raison d'etre of conservatism in the post civil rights era.

On this point, Politico's very revealing and sharp examination of Holder's tenure as Attorney General suggested that:

But there’s another explanation, and according to the two dozen current and former Obama administration officials and confidants of both men I’ve spoken with in recent weeks, it may well be the main reason the first black president of the United States has stood so firmly behind the first black attorney general of the United States: Holder has been willing to say the things Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t say about race.
“He’s a race man,” says Charles Ogletree, a longtime friend of Holder’s who taught and mentored Obama and his wife, Michelle, as Harvard Law School students in the 1980s. “He’s gone farther and deeper into some issues of race than the White House would like, but I know he has the president’s well-wishes. It’s clear [Obama and Holder] believe in the same things.”

Holder himself recently told another African-American friend that he feels part of his job is “to talk about things the president can’t talk about as easily.” Asked to describe Holder’s role, one of his former top aides described him as “Obama’s heat shield.”

There is a paradox at the heart of white racial resentment and rage towards Barack Obama and Eric Holder.

Obama has done remarkably little to directly improve the life chances of Black Americans. Eric Holder presides over a prison industrial complex which disproportionately and unfairly incarcerates black and brown people. The White Right should be clapping at the relative lack of racial progress during the last few decades, and Obama's essentially conservative, center right approach to the politics of race in the United States. They instead to choose to hate the United States' first black president. The symbolic politics of Barack Obama as President of the United States of America are too much for those who are psychically invested in whiteness to accept.

Why is Eric Holder finally telling the truth about deep union between white conservatism and white supremacy in the Age of Obama?

Is he the mouthpiece for Obama's private frustrations where both men are now thinking about their historical legacies as "race men", either real or perceived?

Or is Eric Holder trying to goad and provoke the bigots in the Tea Party GOP into an overreaction, one that will further reveal their white supremacist allegiances?

 

It has been four years since Thomas Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health was suspected of pharmaceutical conflicts of interest. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, he assured the dean of the University of Miami medical school that if the dean hired Charles Nemeroff, government money would not be denied to U. of Miami.

 

Why was it in danger of being denied? Because Nemeroff, a disgraced Emory researcher, had a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant terminated, a rare occurrence, after a Congressional investigation probed his unreported drug industry income. At the time that Insel downplayed the revocation of Nemeroff's government money, Insel was leading NIH efforts to stamp out conflicts of interest and supposedly a steward of our tax dollars, says the Chronicle.

 

Why the largesse? Press reports said Insel wanted to repay Nemeroff for getting Insel a job at Emory University when Insel lost his NIH position in 1994. Nice old boys' network, revolving door work, if you can get it.

 

Recently Insel was again in the news, this time writing a blog on the National Institute of Mental Health web site that more children are being medicated for emotional and behavioral problems because more children likely have emotional and behavioral problems. Reacting to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that as many as US 10,000 toddlers are on stimulants like Ritalin, Insel wrote that that a "bigger problem" than over-medication of children and toddlers may well be "under-treatment." Ka-ching.

 

Insel was an early believer in the biomedical model of mental health, reports the New York Times--which is behind drugging children. A passionate animal researcher, Insel directed the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center once he was at Emory, one of the world's largest centers for research on monkeys and great apes, before returning to NIH.

 

Unlike other animal-based industries like the meat industry, animal research is scrupulously hidden from public view.  Scientists say it is because average citizens cannot judge scientific merit, especially when experiments looks cruel. (And even though we are usually subsidizing it with our tax dollars.)

 

But you do not need a PhD to see the banality and inhumanity of many animal experiments which have less to do with scientific advancement than the government conferring "pork" on academic research centers.

 

Have you ever heard of Henry Harlow, the infamous primate research who subjected baby primates to "Iron Maiden" mothers and what he shamelessly called the "pit of despair"? Insel's experiments on primates continue the same chilling tradition.

 

In one experiment, newborn monkeys were "removed from their mothers within 48 h of birth," and subjected to  "stressors" (use your imagination) without being "able to use a social companion to buffer their response to a stressor." What did this Harlow-like experiment add to scientific knowledge? "As expected from previous studies, monkeys removed from their mother shortly after birth and raised in standard nursery conditions develop a syndrome characterized by decreased affiliation, increased aggression, and increased self-directed, repetitive behavior," write the researchers.

 

In another experiment  conducted by Insel on voles, a mouse-like mammal, "an animal was placed in the start box" with 2-8 days old pups. "Parental behavior was recorded as time spent with pups, either nursing, grooming or crouching during a 5-min period. Females were decapitated the same day." What?

 

With disturbing links to cronyism, pharmaceutical conflicts of interest, overmedication of children and cruelty to animals--why is this person heading a government institute? Supported by our tax dollars?

 

 

 

Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative journalist who covers food and drug safety and regulation. Her acclaimed expose, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency, with 30 cartoons, is now available as an ebook.

 

“Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”  William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar", Act 3, Scene 1, Line 273

“Justice delayed is justice denied”; these salient words apply in full to the conditions and prospects of religious liberty in the U.S. Air Force (USAF). What lies at stake is the alteration (and possible evisceration) of one of the only protective barriers restraining the brutal spread of ruthless fundamentalist Christianity spread throughout the U.S. military: Air Force Instruction 1-1, specifically Section 2 .11 (AFI 1-1).

Would the United States Air Force sooner throw the basic religious rights of Air Force personnel into a stinking garbage heap than “court controversy” with Tea Party bigots and religious extremists in the United States Congress and their incestuous gangs of fundamentalist Christian, parasitic parachurch organizations like the Family Research Council (FRC), the American Family Association (AFA)Focus on the Family (FOF) and the Officers Christian Fellowship (OCF) to name only a few of these rapaciously religious extremist entities?

Sadly, telltale signs of dubious, constitutional queasiness and pathetically faux ambivalence by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III have clearly revealed that this may well be the case. The floodgates of state-sponsored evangelizing/proselytizing and fundamentalist Christian supremacy, exceptionalism and primacy by newly emboldened “Hobby Lobby”-style Christian fundamentalists within the Air Force are set to literally fly open, with devastating effect.

It should be a no-brainer: AFI 1-1 and similar protections and regulations on religious expressions should, if anything, be strengthened – not deliberately and so shamefully diluted. Instead, the changes being considered by the USAF, as it craters and cowers before these fundamentalist Christian lawmakers and their private sector parachurch persecutors, will authorize “witnessing,” preaching and proselytizing on the tax-payer’s dime provided the “tormentor” airman is projecting his/her “sincerely held” religious beliefs upon the “tormentee” airman. Prohibition on such “testifying” would ONLY apply if these expressions are determined to “have a real, not hypothetical adverse impact” (according, of course, to the subjective, arbitrary and clearly conflicted determination of Air Force leadership).

Look, let’s just call it what it is. “Spiritual rape” perpetrated by “fundamentalist Christian religious predators” is how we at the civil rights organization I lead — the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF)— describe the profound sense of vicious, personal violation that is being mercilessly inflicted upon tens of thousands of our MRFF military clients, 96% of whom are practicing Christians themselves.  Forced religious indoctrination, mandatory prayer sessions, active, abusive measures towards the promotion of one or another fundamentalist Christian sect, the shaming and savaging of freethinking, atheist, and agnostic service members – these barbaric tactics define the monstrous modus operandi of the Christian dominionist hegemony that lies as a cancerous plague metastasizing briskly across the whole of the Air Force and the U.S. Military.

By fatally handicapping and consciously crippling the hard-fought AFI 1-1, top USAF brass will be effectively legalizing hate speech, coercive proselytizing, and religious extremist extremism. It’s REALLY that damn serious, folks. Anti-LGBTQ bigotryanti-Semitism,Islamophobia, racism, and heinous misogyny – all will be gleefully allowable if the views of any and all superior ranking tormenting airman are (cue the harp music please) “sincere”, heartfelt, “and have a real impact”. To the well over 37,000 armed forces clients currently being represented by MRFF, it’s akin to stating that domestic violence and abuse aren’t “real” unless there are clear bruises, black eyes, scars, and broken bones. The word “unconscionable” comes immediately to mind. There are other (unprintable) words of unbridled outrage that also more than merit being screamed from every mountaintop.

In fact, the preposterous, proposed changes go even further and actually assert that EACH and EVERY one of the respective criteria constituting a USAF regulation violation must be fulfilled and proven before the restrictions come into effect. Thus, a superior ranking officer who regularly proselytizes his or her defenseless subordinates will only be potentially found in violation of regulations if it’s proven that the officer’s words deleteriously affect military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, morale, discipline, health, safety, AND military accomplishment. One can violate without repercussions any combination of the foregoing, minus one, any one at all, of the above constituent elements – the health and morale of subordinates, to provide just one example. However, unless ALL of the other elements are likewise measurably breached, the matter at hand can NEVER rise to become even a possibility of a violation. Not enough yet to enrage you? How about we assume that a USAF leader has somehow managed to actually violate ALL of the above “new AFI 1-1” infraction criteria; can he or she receive ANY meaningful punishment even in such a nearly impossible-to-conceive of scenario? Ready to be thunderstruck, for the answer is a resounding NO!  Believe it or not, there is additional proposed language, being seriously considered by senior USAF leadership, which would actually bar or fully immunize any USAF supervisor or commander found guilty of exercising religious bigotry or prejudice under this “new AFI 1-1” from suffering any criminal and administrative consequences (to include that he or she may not be removed from their position as a supervisor or relieved from command.) Are you getting the picture now, my friends? The legions of the victims of fundamentalist Christian oppression in the USAF, the “battered,” in this case, know much better – hence the terribly critical necessity for such basic guidelines of “Do’s and Don’ts” that came in the form of layers of the original, unadulterated AFI 1-1 protective shield which went into effect on August 7, 2012.

AFI 1-1’s specious revision threatens to subsume and absolutely obliterate religious liberty in the Air Force, setting a horrific example for the other service branches. One can only imagine if similar policies were laid out regarding sexual assault, harassment, and racial discrimination. Unless USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Welsh makes the right decision, USAF airmen will be universally discouraged from filing complaints on the basis that their justified anxiety and grief will be shrugged aside as merely “hypothetical” rather than “real.” Then, oh my, my, my, just watch as the USAF chain of command “reprisal and retribution games” begin in earnest for those who had the temerity and integrity to try stand up and seek redress and help for their civil rights suffering in the Brave New World of the now gutted AFI 1-1, “as amended”.

The men and women who bravely serve in our Air Force deserve better than that, far better.

Hey, wait a minute. Has the United States Supreme Court ever ruled on the legality of “protecting” the First Amendment “right” of military leaders to freely proselytize their helpless subordinates? For that is the entire justification utilized by the fundamentalist Christian supremacists in Congress (and their adoring legions of parachurch organizations and Pentagon sycophants) for the obliteration of the formidable current AFI 1-1 protections. Surprise! Indeed our nation’s highest Court HAS so opined, and over 40 years ago, by one of the most conservative Chief Justices ever to sit on the Court. In a 6-2 decision in Parker vs. Levy (1974), written by the extremely “non-liberal” Chief Justice William Rehnquist and still considered to be unimpeachable law to this very day, the Supreme Court said the following about whether it’s permissible to place limits on the Constitutional rights of armed forces members (for instance, as presently appropriately exists with the not-yet-destroyed-but-about-to-be AFI 1-1) which might otherwise NOT belabor them if they were civilians instead:

“This Court has long recognized that the military is, by necessity, a specialized society separate from civilian society. We have also recognized that the military has, again by necessity, developed laws and traditions of its own during its long history. The differences between the military and civilian communities result from the fact that “it is the primary business of armies and navies to fight or be ready to fight wars should the occasion arise. … An army is not a deliberative body. It is the executive arm. Its law is that of obedience. No question can be left open as to the right to command in the officer or the duty of obedience in the soldier. … While the members of the military are not excluded from the protection granted by the First Amendment, the different character of the military community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections. The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it. …  In the armed forces, some restrictions exist for reasons that have no counterpart in the civilian community. Disrespectful and contemptuous speech, even advocacy of violent change, is tolerable in the civilian community, for it does not directly affect the capacity of the Government to discharge its responsibilities unless it both is directed to inciting imminent lawless action and is likely to produce such action. …  In military life, however, other considerations must be weighed. The armed forces depend on a command structure that, at times must commit men to combat, not only hazarding their lives but also ultimately involving the security of the Nation itself. Speech that is protected in the civil population may nonetheless undermine the effectiveness of response to command.  If it does, it is constitutionally unprotected.”

Our United States Supreme Court and Chief Justice Rehnquist could not POSSIBLY be more clear: permitting “free-ranging”, limitless, fundamentalist Christian proselytizing by USAF superiors to their defenseless subordinates on the justification of the “free speech” and “freedom of religion” rights of those very same USAF superiors is simply and absolutely WRONG and ILLEGAL!The civil rights religious views (or lack thereof) of all USAF airmen must remain utterly inviolable, precisely as envisioned by those who drafted our magnificent United States Constitution and its beautiful Bill of Rights.

Civil “rights” indeed. They are NOT merely  “civil privileges”. Everyone who is a U. S. citizen gets them, especially junior and subordinate ranking members of the USAF. Particularly if they choose NOT to accept the fundamentalist Christian religious faith of their “Purpose Driven Life”, USAF oppressors who are tormenting them as mean spirited and/or even “Good News”, glad-handing leaders, commanders and superiors.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at  helpbuildthewall.org.

Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the six-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated  Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the “Iran-Contra” Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of  “With God On Our Side” (2006, St. Martin’s Press) and  “No Snowflake in an Avalanche” (2012, Vireo).

 

Growing up outside of Atlanta, I learned to crawl with Bob Dylan’s “Only A Pawn In Their Game” as my soundtrack, anti-war posters hanging on the walls, beckoning me and my raw knees forward. I was weaned with the voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. reverberating downthe narrow halls of my parents’ apartment, formed my first words as though delivering a soliloquy on equality.

In first grade, I asked the teacher if the ‘Indians’ still celebrated Thanksgiving. When she asked why I wanted to know, I responded, “Because the people they ate with took their land,” something I’d learned from an honest mother. During a Little League game, my father intervened when coaches tried to initiate a prayer circle, wanting us to give thanks in Jesus’ name. He fiercely believed in the separation of church and, well, everything.

As an American Jew, I was mostly instilled with progressive values as a child. Rather, I was instilled with progressive, American values – particularly those which aligned with liberal, Jewish ones. A love of social justice, human rights, equality. A disdain for racism, fundamentalism, colonialism. Sure, I attended Hebrew school, but my scripture was more the Bill of Rights than the Torah, and my anthems came from hip-hop and rock, not the Book of Psalms (תהילים).

Despite this, my early love for progressivism was accompanied by a love for the State of Israel. As a short, Jewish kid who wanted to be an NBA star, I was naturally inclined to root for the underdog. And at synagogue, we were taught that Jews were the ultimate underdogs, miraculously surviving the Holocaust and a history of oppression to create a contemporary “light unto the nations” which fought with dogged determination against evil and had a cool flag. And I was taught that I was vulnerable, that there were people who wanted me dead, and that Israel was a safe haven, a beacon, a garden to which I could always escape.

Palestinians, accordingly, were portrayed as just one in a series of people who have risen up throughout history to destroy us, being painted as a caricature of evil. As a boy, I nodded and understood. Israel was not just good, it was necessary.

One Sunday morning, my parents dropped me off at our local, liberal synagogue for what was billed as the youth group’s pancake breakfast. Once inside, we were surprisingly herded into a multi-purpose room and sharply ordered to sit against the walls by masked men carrying plastic assault rifles. Stale bread was thrown on the linoleum floor toward me and my friends, perplexed and unsure what the hell this was all about, but smart enough to know it was not actually a dangerous situation. Younger children started crying.

This is what the enemy is like, some teachers told us when it was over.

I nodded. We were the good ones.

–§–

As an adult, I’ve moved away from such naiveté while holding on to both my Zionist and progressive leanings, despite the growing struggle for coexistence between the two. And it’s not as though I’m mildly informed about the region or mildly invested in Israel and my Jewishness. The opposite, in fact, is the case. I’m a Jewish studies teacher at a day school, yeshiva-educated with a master’s degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I’ve authored a memoir about my experience with terror and reconciliation, and write extensively about the region, often critiquing Israel from a progressive perspective while maintaining my desire for a two-state solution to the conflict.

As an adult, I’ve learned about the cleansing of Arab villages which took place from 1947-1949 to make way for the Jewish state. I’ve learned about the ongoing settlement enterprise, the appropriation and bifurcation of Palestinian lands. I’ve learned the horrors of Israel’s decades-old occupation of the West Bank, about the suppression of basic human rights and the atrocities committed. I’ve studied Israel’s use of indefinite detentions, home demolitions, restrictions on goods and movement, and the violence visited upon those being occupied.

I’ve learned that – and this is just one example of many – a Palestinian child has tragically been killed every three days for the past 14 years. That bears repeating, since such deaths are rarely, if ever, given any attention in America: Palestinian parents have had to bury a child every three days for the past 14 years.

Knowing all this, I’ve still held fast to my ‘progressive Zionism,’ hoping Israel could become that beacon of liberalism I was presented as a child, a beacon which never truly existed in the first place, despite the country’s socialist roots. Why have I done so? For two reasons: 1) deep down, I still believe in the promise of Israel, and 2) I can’t shake the notion that a Jewish state is absolutely necessary for our security.

Over the last decade, I’ve formed alliances with progressive Americans and the Israeli left, working in my own, small ways to try and move Israel away from those illegal, geopolitical policies causing so much suffering for Palestinians and undermining Israel’s ability to not just thrive, but survive. All the while, I’ve watched the anti-war movement in Israel weaken, watched racism flourish and religious fundamentalism grow, watched Israel’s government build settlements at a record pace and make clear it has little interest in peace.

These realities have forced me to consider the incongruity between my American-borne progressivism and my Zionism. They have forced me to admit, like Peter Beinart, that in order to continue supporting Israel as a Jewish state, with everything it continues to do, I must compromise my progressivism.

However, the mind-numbingly horrific events of the past week have forced me, for the first time, to wonder whether such compromising can be sustained.

–§–

What has happened? This: on June 12, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped while hitchhiking in the West Bank by Palestinians belonging to a rogue branch of Hamas. I, along with friends and loved ones, worried they would become three more Jewish victims (added to the 1,100 killed since 2001) in an unending conflict, and watched closely as the Israeli military began combing the West Bank for them. Only, it soon became clear that soldiers weren’t looking for them so much as collectively punishing Palestinians for the crime of a few people. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu falsely blamed the kidnapping on Hamas – a move likely aimed at derailing the PA-Hamas unity government – and vowed they would “pay a heavy price.” But it was Palestinian civilians who paid a heavy price as for weeks soldiers raided over 1,600 sites in the West Bank, indefinitely detained hundreds, and killed five Palestinians.

Israel placed a gag order on details surrounding the teens’ abduction, and reports surfaced that Israeli officials knew the boys were dead, but wanted to justify ongoing military operations under the hope of bringing the boys back. (Alas, it seems such reports may have been accurate.)

And then, on June 30, the tragic news suddenly came: the three teens had been found dead. And just as suddenly, calls for blood and vengeance echoed from Israel, starting with Netanyahu, who turned a Chaim Bialik poem on its head by using it to call for blood:

In turn, calls for blood and revenge began echoing throughout Israel and on social media, with a Facebook page dedicated to such calls quickly receiving 35,000 likes. It featured soldiers posing with weapons, asking for permission to kill, along with countless Israelis calling for revenge:


On the left, Israelis hold a sign that reads,"Hating Arabs isn't racism, it's values! #IsraelDemandsRevenge," while on the right, a soldier post a picture with the caption, "Let us simply spray (them with bullets)."

After the funeral for the three slain Israeli teens on July 1, angry mobs of hundreds began roaming the streets of Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs,” attacking Palestinians and promising bloodby nightfall.

Chemi Shalev of Haaretz, witnessing the genocidal chants from Israelis and reading reports of Israeli police saving Palestinian citizens from the mobs, wrote the following:

Make no mistake: the gangs of Jewish ruffians man-hunting for Arabs are no aberration. Theirs was not a one-time outpouring of uncontrollable rage following the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped students. Their inflamed hatred does not exist in a vacuum: it is an ongoing presence, growing by the day, encompassing ever larger segments of Israeli society, nurtured in a public environment of resentment, insularity and victimhood, fostered and fed by politicians and pundits.

By nightfall, with the ink of Shalev’s pen barely dried, horrific news came that a Palestinian teen from East Jerusalem had been abducted and killed by Israeli settlers in an act of revenge, with reports revealing the unspeakable: he was likely burned alive.

Since that night on July 1, parts of Israel have been burning, and clashes between Palestinians and police in Shuafat, the East Jerusalem neighborhood where the killed teenager lived, have been particularly intense. The police have beenunrelenting, raining rubber bullets and tear gas down upon a grieving neighborhood. And the scenes have been difficult to watch.

Perhaps the scene that has put me over the edge is one that should hit close to home: an American teenager from Tampa visiting Israel, who happens to be a cousin of the slain Palestinian teen, was almost beaten to death by police, ostensibly for throwing rocks, and remains in Israeli detention. [Video of the incident.]


Mother of the American teen beaten told ABC, "He wasn't recognizable."

I have no words.

–§–

There are parts of me right now that feel defeated. Yes, there have been calls for peace and the denouncing of extremism in Israel, but such calls feel as though they have been drowned out by those still craving revenge. And as Shalev notes, this isn’t an isolated incident – this is the result of a real shift in Israeli society concurrent with the ongoing occupation.

The past week’s events have shaken me to my core, and have forced me to look long and hard at my personal politics. For if this were any country but Israel, my progressive values would not allow me to support, much less love, such an enterprise. Yet the reality is this: I do.

I’m not ready to abandon the dream of a Jewish state that lives up to its democratic promises, and continue to hold tenuously onto the idea of two states for two peoples. However, I have begun, for the first time, to consider what a single, bi-national state might look like, to consider that it might finally end this madness.

And here’s the irony: Israel’s extreme-right leaders, embracing various one-state solutions, have forced me to do so. Hell, Israel just elected as its President a one-state proponent. How can I not consider what that might look like?

As it happens, during all of this, I’ve just finished Ali Abunimah’s The Battle for Justice in Palestine, which makes an impassioned case for a democratic, bi-national state as the only way to end this conflict.

The progressive American in me agreed with much of his arguments. The Zionist in me was scared by its premise.

The humanist in me just wants all of this to end. Wants all of the suffering and pain on both sides to end.

If not now, when?

-§-


David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.

Homeless child
To the good people of Sarasota, I’ve waited long enough. From what I’ve read in the Herald Tribune’s article (July 8, 2014), you are stumbling in a very important responsibility—how to help homeless families in your county. 

 

I used to live in Sarasota, and I’ve returned many times, rekindling fond memories of this delightful area. I’ve cringed as I’ve followed your struggles to cope with a significant homelessness population. I could tell it wasn’t going well, but I waited to see what would happen. This latest account alarms me. 

 

I've worked with homeless families for 3 decades, including 15 years running volunteer-based shelters; spent time in other shelters nationwide; chronicled lives of homeless families/youth in documentary films; wrote a reader-friendly book about homelessness; advocated for improved state and federal policies; addressed countless audiences nationwide on the topic; and, most importantly, spent a lot of time listening and observing homeless families. I am qualified to offer opinions.

 

I’ll focus on families, a vulnerable population that will benefit by the right steps. Here’s a starting list of concerns to be addressed:

 

HIGH MOBILITY—a devastating state of mind for those in stress. Many families without homes have been shuffling around for years, with much uncertainty as to what’s going to happen. That’s hard on kids and adults.

 

CAPACITY—how many families can be served at the emergency shelter(s)? I suspect you’re underestimating, based on the number of families identified by the county schools’ count. While you can’t help every family, just getting the tip of the iceberg might not be most effective. Over 1,200 homeless students have been identified, a ghastly number not including babies and toddlers or parents.

 

STABILITY—the time needed to get back on one’s feet varies, but certainly is more than 2-6 weeks, as proposed by the plan to move families from their (up to) week at the emergency shelter into one of five homes. Again, families are devastated by high mobility. What they need is stability, not a plan to shuffle them from place to place.

 

FAMILY PROMISE—a tremendous family shelter program, but they have limits. They’re highly mobile, shifting week by week, open only at night. Put yourself in place of the family. Think of the logistics. And this program is dependent on significant support from the community, especially people of faith. They’ll need sites willing/able to host a handful of families a week at a time. Families won’t automatically become economically solvent, and FP has a time limit, 90-days, a very short time to regain stability.

 

HARVEST HOUSE—a commendable, faith-based program that focuses on addictions. For all the good they can do, it’s not a program for every family. Their religious focus might be hard for some families to adapt to, for a variety of legitimate reasons. And their capacity is quite limited. 

 

TRAUMA—many homeless families have experienced a tremendous amount of trauma that shapes their lives and impedes their ability to comply with standard shelter approaches to ending homelessness. A recent report points to this overlooked fact. Addressing the multitude of challenges families experience requires the work of patient, knowledgable professionals and the availability of significant resources.  

 

HOUSING OPTIONS—because of significant cutbacks in federal housing assistance programs, foreclosures, bankruptcies, rising rents, and more, it’s hard for families with limited income to find decent housing. This sobering housing affordability calculator will confirm what thousands of Sarasota County residents know.

 

REALITY—no one can deny the devastation of the past 8+ years of economic turmoil. Jobs paying living wages are scarce, belts are tightened squeezing out the vulnerable, those with even minor credit or legal issues are passed over in job or housing searches, and those finding themselves on the edge of—or in—homelessness are often treated as lepers. 

 

You’ve paid a consultant plenty of money to advise your community. The above issues don’t seem to have been addressed adequately. Let’s see what happens next. But put yourselves in the place of families needing help. How much longer can they hang on?

 

As we begin another week in the midst of all this drama regarding the so-called culture war, I thought I would talk about something near and dear to my heart.

For over a year, I have driven you all crazy and I appreciate your patience and support but now we are almost at the end of one part of a journey.

My online booklet, How They See Us: Unmasking the Religious Right War on Gay America is less than 4,000 hits from reaching 1,000,000. It’s a remarkable achievement fueled by all of the support I received from the netroots. And it’s very timely. Things have changed tremendously since January of last year when I published this booklet. Thanks to the recent Hobby Lobby decision, the anti-gay religious right is gaining traction with their bogus “religious freedom” argument.

Granted, we can still count on them to accuse lgbts of attempting to “recruit children” or being “oversexed all-around public health menaces. However,  just like the Klan tried to retool its reputation by claiming they are not “anti-black,” just “pro-white,” the anti-gay religious right is cleverly retooling their arguments by saying they aren’t anti-gay, just “pro-traditional marriage.” They also claim that they are unfairly being targeted for not “celebrating” the so-called “gay lifestyle.”

Of course we know the truth.

Their “religious freedom”  or “religious liberty” argument is another tactic in a long line of tactics and arguments going back decades And the goal has always been the demonization and stigmatization of lgbt individuals in order to deny the lgbt community our God-granted right to equality.

They will never own up to what they have been doing.  They won’t bring up any of the anti-gay lies, homophobic language, or willful scientific distortions they have been guilty of throughout the years.  And  let’s be honest about something –  neither will the media, particularly the Washington Beltway media.

If the lgbt community is waiting for a latter-day Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite to swoop in and save us by exposing the religious right, we are going to be waiting for a pretty long time.

That job belongs to us, i.e. the recipients of all of their anti-gay vitriol. And that is the purpose of How They See Us.

If you haven’t already, check out How They See Us. It is short, but graphics intensive booklet, which I consider a definitive history on anti-gay propaganda. Download it, and above all, PLEASE share it. Our desire for full equality is noble and true, but we have to deal with crafty enemies who hide their homophobic animus behind Scripture and the claim of “deeply held religious beliefs.”  It’s a lie and using their own words and images, How They See Us proves it.

You can read an embedded copy of How They See Us directly on the Scribd site or go to this second site where you can download an adobe acrobat copy.

If you desire to fight back against homophobic lies, then realize that knowledge is the first key. Passing along this knowledge is the second one.

(And just to clear things up, this booklet is free. I don’t get a dime for it. I created it because I am tired of talking about lgbt equality on the terms of the religious right. I'm tired of not having a good resource on hand to call out anti-gay propaganda. The lgbt community – particularly lgbt youth – should have something like this. We all should have had something like this a long time ago.)