Monday, August 27, 2007
CNN: God's Warriors
Last week CNN presented a three part, two hour each, series of programs on terrorism entitled, "God Warriors". Christine Amanpour, veteran foreign correspondent was the author of this project which took eight months to prepare.
It was very well done, especially in light of the often mediocre quality of many U.S. documentaries. One big plus: it did not attempt to be "infotainment," which would have been a stretch considering the topic.
The photos are (in order) Amanpour and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem; a Jewish warrior who planned to blow up the sacred Muslim shrine, The Dome of the Rock; two sisters holding up a photo of their martyred brother; Ron Luce Christian warrior and head of activist Teen Mania Christian organization.
(Caveat: This blog is not meant to a thorough summary of the program. It touches on parts and there is much in the blog of my own views gathered not just from the program but other sources.)
Some may consider the title, God's Warriors, a euphemism --- feeling that the title should be something like -- Religious Terrorists. However, as I watched the six hours, I came to understand that most of these religious terrorists -- see themselves as God's Warriors. Their faith is just that strong. They are true believers.
I checked the Oxford Dictionary's definition of terrorism: the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. What sprang immediately to mind as a good example of terrorism is America's attack on Iraq --- Shock and Awe. Fits the definition perfectly.
Here a few thoughts about the first segment.
Jewish God's Warriors: There were two settlers, one a woman and one a man who did not take part in any terrorist activities themselves, and who did not believe in this approach --- yet they strongly believed that God gave the "Holy Land" to the Jews. And that God's decision overrides any secular authority. They both think that Israel should not return any of the land to the Palestinians. I admired their quiet faith in being able to live where God wants them to live.
Then there were some that believed that Israel should strike back, if necessary, a hundred fold for any attack upon the Jewish people. And, if the government didn't do this --- God's warriors should. One Jewish warrior planned to blow up one of the holiest sites in Islam the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which sits above the place where the Jewish temple once existed. (The western wall of the Temple still is in place and is sacred to the Jews.)
I tried to find the answer to this question online: What rights do the Palestinians have to Palestine, and what rights do the Jews have? I was surprised that the answers were very difficult to find. Most of the sites were either Palestinian or Jewish in perspective. I was looking for a reputable academic site -- not beholden to either point of view. As I recall, I did not find even one.
The Palestinian sites argue that the Palestinians can trace their ancestors back to the ancient Canaanites -- whom the Jews under Joshua conquered. They also contend that there have been "Palestinians" living in the "Holy Land" ever since. In the last 100 years before the 1948 decision of the United Nations these people could be divided into three groups: town people, workers of the land, and nomads.
The counter-argument states that there has not been a continuing group of Arab people living in this land over the years. That there has never been a Palestinian nation with a separate culture and identity. That Palestine, in many cases, was considered part of Syria -- not a separate country.
Many religious Jews argue as mentioned before that God gave this land to the Jews. And this ends the discussion!
The Muslims have a belief that when an area is once ruled by Muslims -- as was the case for the "Holy Land" for many years under the caliphs --- that it is always Muslim land from then on. This Muslim belief would supersede the Jew's claim on this land. Why? Because Islam by God's design is the fruition of God's plan for mankind. First - Judaism. Second - Christianity; Third and the final word and mandate of God -- Islam.
IMO, it would have been much simpler, more realistic, and less destructive --- if the Palestinians accepted the U.N. partition in 1948 -- as the Jews did. Since then there have been five wars between the parties. In 1967, the Jews were spectacularly successful in the "Six Day War," in which they defeated five Arab armies and greatly enlarged Israel through territory occupied.
Perhaps, it would have simplified things, if the Jews simply said --- by right of conquest in what they considered a just and defensive war --- "This land is ours." However, they made peace with Egypt by returning the Sinai Peninsula to them. However, at that point, Israel could have said "The rest is Israel." They take not take this firm stand.
The Palestinians (with the urging of other Arabs) kept demanding land that they said belonged to them and that Israel should withdraw.
Eventually, armed conflict, especially by Palestinians "terrorists" and retaliation by Jewish armed forces (regarded by the Palestinians as acting like terrorists) -- started the unending conflict which is still going on.
Once again. Israel could have withdrawn to their pre-1967 boundaries, but they would fearful that the Palestinians would become entrenched and be a source of ongoing attacks upon the Jewish state. The Palestinians could have agreed to recognize Israel's right to exist according to the UN partition --- but they adamantly refused.
Eventually, especially under Ariel Sharon and with the urging of religious Jews who insisted all of the land conquered belonged to the Jews anyway since God had given it to them --- settlements began to be built especially in what is known as the West Bank, but also in Gaza (now removed) and successful efforts were made to buy Arab property in Arab East Jerusalem.
Now the map of the West Bank looks like a piece of Swiss Cheese with the holes being Jewish settlements that are protected by a wall and connected by new highways (also protected) for the use of Jewish citizens only.
It seems to me that by Palestinian unwillingness to recognize Israel's right to exist and its boundaries, the animosity and violence between the two people, and Israel's settlements and wall ---- both parties have boxed themselves in.
There were opportunities not taken that could have avoided this mess. This "mess" has reverberations throughout the world. 9/11 just is just one.
Another subject covered in the CNN special is the powerful U.S. Jewish lobby.
The U.S. gives Israel $5 billion annually. This amount includes $1.2 billion in economic aid, $1.8 billion in military aid, and $2 billion in federal loan guarantees. Taking these numbers into consideration, U.S. foreign aid to Israel is the largest sum of money given to a country, and amounts to 30 percent of the total U.S. foreign aid budget. (Source: http://www.svsu.edu/clubs/vanguard/stories/628)
The most recent issue of Rabbi Lerner's Tikkun Magazine makes a case I find compelling.
The U.S. Jewish Lobby is---
Bad for the World: Its funds and actions promote Jewish fixation on absolute military superiority and lessens Israel's willingness to talk with the other side and move towards some type of resolution. This has resulted in the settlement predicament we have today.
Bad for the United States: The U.S. has pledged itself to the protection and support of Israel. Almost all American politicians take this stand. Why? They want to be re-elected.
Israel has often ignored our recommendations and even our direct pressure. They know that they can do this because of the Jewish Lobby's power, especially, the main lobby group -- AIPAC.
If the Israel/Palestinian conflict could be settled the U.S.A. would be a lot safer, as would the rest of the world. Israel' s lobbyists are urging behind the scenes an American attack on Iran. Why? Iran's president has vowed to eliminate Israel. Problem: This man makes all sorts of "wild" statements -- much of it rhetoric, the type of rhetoric not unfamiliar here in the words and actions of Bush and the neocons. In Iran, the president cannot take any actions in the area of foreign policy without the support of the supreme religious leader. And he is opposed to rash and counterproductive military escapades.
We should not be tied to the fortunes of another state, as we are now. However, we lack the intestinal fortitude to cut off part or all funds to Israel.
Bad for Israel: The power of the U.S. Jewish Lobby caters to the extreme right wing forces in Israel, makes them feel that they can indulge their impulses, e.g. invading Lebanon, dropping cluster bombs all over the place in the very last days before they withdrew. holding thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prison camps in which, like Guantanamo there are very few real terrorists. Excessive retaliation, building settlements, using torture, hassling Palestinians at checkpoints. One could go on and on. Where are all these troublesome, and, at times self defeating actions, leading. Not to a solution, but to a reckoning with the Arabs that may be a disaster for the world.
Bad for the Jews: "For the last two decades many in the organized Jewish community have been agonizing over their inability to keep a large number of the younger generations
connected to their Judaism." (Tikkun) Many younger generation Jews are becoming fed up with the constant pressure and propaganda from the Jewish Lobbies to support Israel -- right or wrong. Jewish Political Correctness and the values of the Jewish Lobby permeates every aspect of American Jewish life. No criticism of Israel is accepted. Those who do are labeled "self-hating" Jews. There can be no debates within the regular Jewish communities. The older Jews may tolerate this propaganda and pressure -- even though they mutter under their breath -- but the younger Jews rebel against being force fed that which seems open to criticism.
The next blog on the CNN series will focus on the Islamic Warriors of God.