Today is Palm Sunday. The Pharisees are meeting in Washington
The Pharisees are still around today, only they don’t call themselves Pharisees any more. One of the names they go by is AIPAC, or that’s how I view AIPAC anyway. And in its annual “policy conference,” opening Sunday and running till Tuesday, the lobbying organization will be exploring ways of leveraging greater support for the Pharisaic, apartheid state of Israel–as if the billions a year America already gives isn’t enough and we should all be obliged to give more.
This is actually the second conference on the state of Israel held in Washington in the past week. The first took place Friday. Entitled “Israel’s Influence: Good or Bad for America?”, it was sponsored by IRmep and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and I spent about six hours yesterday watching a video of it.
Six hours is a long time to spend viewing a video, but overall the speakers were interesting, and I managed to get a few other things done while it was playing. My one criticism is that at no point during the conference–or at least not during the six-hour portion I watched–was the word “evil” ever mentioned.
You had Gideon Levy discussing Israel’s recent killing of the Khoussa children, Yassin, aged 10 and his six-year-old sister Israa; you had Dr. Roger Mattson discussing the Israeli theft of US nuclear materials to build its nuclear weapons program; you had Grant Smith talking about the influence of Israeli affinity organizations, many with tax-exempt status, inside state and federal agencies in the US, including the Justice Department as well as the IRS; and Maria LaHood of the Center for Constitutional Rights on attempts to stifle pro-Palestine activism on college campuses.
Palestinian writer Susan Abulhawa discussed the detention of Palestinian children and the bombing of schools, referring to it at one point as an “attack on Palestinian education,” and Huwaida Arraf of the International Solidarity Movement deliberated upon the 2010 Israeli assault upon the Gaza Freedom Flotilla as well as efforts in the years since, in various individual countries and at the International Criminal Court, to get justice.
All these efforts have so-far been thwarted, largely by Pharisaic power, but as Arraf made clear, they are still ongoing, and still there is some hope, no matter how faint, of eventually holding Israel accountable.
But nothing said about evil. Many of the conference speakers were lawyers, academics, political analysts and the like, and perhaps for such people the word “evil” has a few uncomfortable, out-of-place connotations. Or maybe they all simply thought calling Israel evil would be a case of stating the obvious. Best spend your allotted time at the podium discussing more concrete matters.
But a constant theme, running throughout the conference, was mainstream media distortions and misrepresentations about the conflict in Palestine–and if the media are doing such a good job deceiving so many, then maybe it would be reasonable to take an extra moment now and then to state the obvious.
And since there aren’t many conferences in America in which Israel’s killing of children (at a rate of one every three days for the past 13 years, according to one study) are a focal point of discussion, then perhaps, when such conferences do occur, it would be academically prudent to start thinking outside the box as to what might be causing this phenomenon.
While the word “evil” wasn’t uttered at Friday’s conference, at least not in a very audible manner, one word that did get pronounced was “revenge.” This was in the talk by Gideon Levy, who referred to the March 12 missile strike on the home of the Khoussa children as a “revenge” killing.
I put up a post about that attack at the time that includes pictures of both children as well as what the hut they were living in looked like after the missile exploded. You can check it out here. The attack occurred after the firing of four rockets from Gaza which landed in an open field and caused no injuries. In discussing the operation, Levy, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in addition to using the word “revenge,” also employed a measure of sarcasm:
“An American-Israeli plane in the sky, an F-16–very accurate, as we know, with the most moral pilots in the world, who never mean to kill any civilians, who never mean to kill any children…is going to Gaza to take revenge for four rockets which were sent a few hours before on Friday night. (The rockets) didn’t hit anything, didn’t harm anyone. They were all falling in open spaces, but revenge must be taken.
And this F-16 flies over Gaza, over the neighborhood of Beit Lahiya, in the north part of Gaza…and soon later the missile, the very, very, accurate and precise and sophisticated and clever missile, falls on the home–to say ‘home’ is an exageration–falls on their hut, or whatever you call it–and the two (children), Israa and Yassin, she’s six, he’s ten, are being killed. I’m not sure if they woke up before this or were they killed in their sleep. This attack, which is one of many, should be presented as it is–as a revenge operation of Israel. Nothing to do with fighting terror, nothing to do with the security of Israel.”
Since Israel has issued no apology for killing the Khoussa children, can we safely assume that the firing of the oh-so-accurate and precise missile at their home was a deliberate act? And if this is the case–that is to say, if Israel kills innocent children out of revenge–would it be valid to describe such a state as “evil”? Can we now use that word without fear of being accused of anti-Semitism?
And this, keep in mind, is the state on whose behalf the Pharisees are holding their meeting now in Washington.
It is clear from a number of passages in the gospels that Jesus was in effect waging an intifada against the Pharisees. The Arabic word “intifada” means “to shake,” or “to shake off” or “get rid of.” Jesus was trying to shake off and get rid of the power that the Pharisees held over average Jews, and as I say a number of passages strongly suggest this, the most famous perhaps being John 8:44-45:
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!
Kinda reminds you of the mainstream media lies about the conflicts in the Middle East, doesn’t it? I remember reading about a poll once which found that a good portion of Americans harbor the mistaken belief that Palestinians occupy Israeli land, rather than the other way around. It seems that when the mainstream media lie about the conflict in Occupied Palestine, as well as about the rest of the wars in the Middle East, they are speaking their “native language,” and consequently a lot of people are deceived.
Or here’s another one for you–from the 23rd chapter of Matthew:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.
This one kind of reminds us of how the Pharisees often portray Israel–as a center of high-tech innovation embodying all the noblest, egalitarian principles of democracy–when in reality what we see when we look closely at the picture is a whitewashed tomb full of the bones of the dead. In fact, as I’ve noted previously, when Palestinians are killed by Israeli forces, the Israelis often will hold onto the corpses, demanding that the families pay money, sometimes in excess of $5,000, to get the bodies of their loved ones back.
On a day nearly 2000 years ago Jesus was hailed by Jewish commoners as he entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey’s back. One week later, the Pharisees successfully conspired to bring about his crucifixion. It’s interesting for us to reflect on the fact that this year–the year 2016–both Easter and the Jewish holiday of Purim fall in the same week. Purim, which glorifies the killing of thousands of Gentiles, comes on March 23-24, while Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Christ, will be observed March 27.
Evil is not new. It’s something that’s been around for thousands of years. One thing humanity by now should have learned is that in order for evil to be defeated, it must first be identified. So maybe it’s time we at least started talking about it…and maybe it’s time also we began to “shake off” the influence of the Pharisees here in America.
Richard Edmondson is an author, novelist, poet, and journalist whose writings often focus on Middle East issues, the Zionist lobby, and religion. His latest novel is The Memoirs of Saint John: When the Sandstone Crumbles, a story about an archaeological team doing a dig in Syria and set amidst the current conflict in the country.
In 2014 Richard attended an International Conference on Combating Terrorism and Religious Extremism, held in Damascus. The book is part two in the Memoirs of Saint John series.
Two other books by Richard are Rising Up: Class Warfare in America from the Streets to the Airwaves, relating his experiences founding and operating an unlicensed or “pirate” FM radio station in San Francisco in the 1990s, as well as a volume of poetry entitled American Bus Stop: Essay and Poems on Hope and Homelessness.
Richard is cognizant of the words of the early Christian writer Tertullian, who in the second century-basically prognosticating the fall of the Roman Empire-wrote: “We have made merry amid the ludicrous cruelties of the noonday exhibition.”