When Journalists Accept Confusion

As regular readers here know, I have Palestinian in‐laws and grandchildren, for my oldest daughter is Muslim (of which, I highly approve) and is married to a man who was born in Palestine but was forced to relocate to Jordan in the wake of the six‐day “war” in his homeland. This has forced me to do my own study of the history of the conflict in the region, because my window to the world is likely quite different than yours. I’ve nothing to “sell” in this regard; I’m simply being the journalist I was trained to be and practiced for 45‐plus years in the industry.

Image result for activist Alison Weir
Alison Weir

In viewing videos from California activist Alison Weir (and Executive Director of If Americans Knew) via YouTube, I’ve found a kindred spirit whom I wasn’t aware existed until now, thanks to my son‐in‐law. And, her explanation of the ignorance she once knew is very similar to my own. The timeframe for this quote is the mid‐2000s:

“Five years ago, I guess it was, I knew almost nothing about Israel and Palestine. I skimmed the headlines on the topic. I accepted the confusion of what I read, and like most people, I just moved on. It seemed distant and really irrelevant to my daily life.”

After seeing images of children throwing rocks against Israeli tanks during the second infatata, Weir began to take it seriously and wonder what was really going on. Her research as a journalist lifted the veil of ignorance and opened her eyes to the truth, that American media provides only a HIGHLY propagandized — and therefore one‐sided — version of reality in the Middle East.

I’ve had the same revelation, and I’ve come to believe that this is available to anyone who searches for it. It begins with this statement by Ms. Weir:

“I accepted the confusion of what I read.”

This is a remarkable admission for any journalist. What is it about confusion that favors our just giving up on it? Accepting confusion is a terrible habit, especially if that confusion is fed by somebody’s lies, but if I’m to be truthful, I must admit to the same acceptance prior to 2006. That’s when I visited my daughter’s family in Amman, Jordan, where my confusion was multiplied by stories of oppression and violence by the Israelis that bordered on the unbelievable. No wonder I was confused. Among these seemingly preposterous exclamations was the story of armed Israeli settlers who roamed the roads in the West Bank in automobiles, shooting and killing Palestinians at will. I simply couldn’t bring myself to accept what I was being told.

Confusion, it seems, is a balm given to those who look the other way in the face of evidence to the contrary. I’d rather be confused than accept that reality is really quite simple. I need it to be confusing, because I need to embrace Israel as the birthplace of my faith. Poor, innocent, lovable Israel.

After I returned stateside, I began investigating the particular claim I’d heard. I found that the NBC News Bureau in Israel was run by a former coworker of mine during my years in Milwaukee, so I called him one day. To my utter amazement, he confirmed completely the story I’d been told in Amman, that cars filled with armed Israeli “settlers” regularly drove around the West Bank killing Palestinians with impunity. How, I asked him, was it that I’d never heard of, much less seen, such a story? Why, I asked, didn’t he do stories on such things? “We do them all the time,” he responded, “but they get spiked in New York.”

So there it was, right in front of me, and I still had trouble believing such atrocities. I began to look deeper and seek out sources of information beyond the mainstream. My family was a great help, for the entirety of the Arab press wrote about such. I found Mondoweiss, an online publication specializing in stories about the Palestinian crisis but told from the perspective of non‐Israelis. It is quite an eye‐opening experience to subscribe to the daily Mondoweiss newsletter. There’s little attempt at balance here, but reading it helps me realize that there still is a remarkable “other side” to the story we are fed by Netanyahu, the Israelis, and the American press.

The confusion lifted, and my view became clearer and clearer the more I investigated via the web. One thing that had colored my view was my history working with Pat Robertson and The 700 Club. We owned a radio station in Lebanon and gave aid to the Marjayoun Hospital (of which the IRS was concerned). We were “with” the Israelis every step of the way, but not because we were in the least concerned about the conflict involving Palestinians. Rather, we were in for a pound, because we preached (as did other evangelicals) that 1948 was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy regarding the return of Jesus Christ for his 1,000 year reign (depending on your view of the Rapture). Israel had to return to Jewish Nation status before this would happen, so we preached that the end was near. Moreover, his return has to be in Jerusalem, which is why Christians are so happy with Donald Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol.

Zionism, the political movement, and Judaism, the religion of the Jews, are not the same thing, no matter how the Netanyahu government presents it in discussions of antisemitism, the expressions of those who “hate” the Jews. Israel is not a theocracy, and its government is certainly of man. It’s okay to criticize Zionism without being automatically labeled anti‐Semitic, although Netanyahu wants the two connected for propaganda purposes.

The defense of Zionism begins with the Holocaust, and Israel’s right wing is quick to reference it and to do so with regularity. Zionists need the connection to maintain any semblance of moral high ground in denying Palestinians any rights whatsoever. Consider the IDF celebrity Elor Azarya, who served just nine months in prison for the extrajudicial execution (a.k.a. murder) of Palestinian teenager Abdel Fattah al‐Sharif. He was convicted of manslaughter, but the people of Israel refused to accept it. Here’s a part of what I wrote in December of 2017:

The people of Israel — not just the government, the people — want Azarya released, because they view him as a hero and his extrajudicial execution of a Palestinian teenager in the streets of Hebron last year as completely justified. I’m serious. Azarya was 19‐years old when he blew the brains out of an incapacitated and bleeding Palestinian who was lying prone on his stomach in a pool of blood. Azarya pulled his rifle, walked a few steps to get close to his victim and shot him in the head. All of this was caught on videotape. This blatant murder was reduced to manslaughter with Azarya sentenced to 18 months in prison, four months of which was immediately suspended. The people of Israel want him released, and the latest news is that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin might just pardon him. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Azarya, “Everyone’s son” in calling for his release. You should also know that there are questions about the belief that Azarya’s victim was, in fact, the man who attacked an Israeli soldier with a knife on the day he was executed. The whole mess stinks, and yet Azarya’s smiling face is plastered all over the country as a symbol of the fine young men who defend Israel and her government.

Forensics revealed that it was Azarya’s bullet that killed al‐Sharif, but it didn’t matter. This is a blatant example of Israeli treatment of Palestinians but by no means unique. Many of these murders have been captured on videotape, but no one in the West is moved whatsoever. It’s just too darned confusing.

Americans ARE confused by events, because everything we read is driven by the Israelis and their propaganda practice, hasbara. Although Zionism has been around since the 19th Century, it was the 20th Century and the German Holocaust that energized it in such a way as to bring about the modern nation of Israel. For Israel to be justified, it must continue to lean on the Holocaust in such a way as to present itself as a lamb surrounded by wolves.

It is hardly that. Israel has nukes. Israel has a powerful military with cutting edge technology and weaponry that’s the envy of the world. It also receives from the U.S. $10 million each and every day (weekends included) to sustain its edge in controlling its corner of the world.

And, so, the question that needs to be asked most is “what do we get out of this?” It’s a fair question and one that journalists shouldn’t be prohibited from asking. And, perhaps if that happened, we wouldn’t be nearly so confused as we are.

It’s time for the press to notice Israel

I’ve been asked a hundred times how Christians — specifically white evangelicals — can support a corrupt, racist, lying President who doesn’t appear to be even close to qualified for the office, a man who is cozying up to our enemies while destroying the characteristics that made America great in the first place. It’s a tough and complex question, but the behaviors described above just aren’t important when it comes to the Christians’ political agenda. They want Roe v Wade overturned, religious liberty (that borders on license) in all areas of life, and support for Israel expanded. In Trump the President, they’re getting exactly what they want.

While the country and the American press focus on the President’s misdeeds, fake news claims, morality, and especially his relationship with Russia, Israel’s far right wing radical Zionists — headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — have taken a giant step forward in seizing title to the entirety of the Holy Land. This includes rapid settlement development not only in the West Bank but also East Jerusalem, the home of Trump’s new American embassy. Moreover, the President’s tweet threatening the nuclear annihilation of Iran is directed more at boosting Israel than protecting any of America’s interests in the region. All of this sits amazingly well with Trump’s base support — the white evangelical Christians — who care nothing about the legality or morality of Israel’s behavior, only that it’s all a prelude to what they believe is the imminent return of Jesus Christ and what they believe is his thousand year reign of peace.

Tourism is absolutely booming in Israel with Trump supporters wanting to see the sacred Biblical sites but also activity in the West Bank and especially Jerusalem, where in their view Armageddon will begin. Israel’s economy is also booming, especially in the technology sector where Tel Aviv ranks fourth globally. It’s great to be an Israeli zealot in the era of Donald Trump. It’s also great time to be a fundamentalist end‐times Christian, because (with a little help from them) an alliance between Gog and Magog (Russia), Gomer and Togarmah (Turkey), and Persia (Iran) is forming. These people believe this alliance will come against Israel, and that will usher in the return of Jesus. I’m serious. Support of Donald Trump is support of this foolishness, but it’s not without consequence.

Life for Palestinian Arabs in the area just keeps getting worse and worse, and this, too, escapes the view of the American press, because they’ve got seemingly bigger issues to watch at home. Israel commits horrible atrocities regularly and with impunity, because that’s the nature of U.S. support under the Trump administration. At least the State Department under Barack Obama would loudly object each time settlement extremists reached further into territory that doesn’t belong to them. These acts are illegal under international law, but that is irrelevant absent enforcement, and Netanyahu knows this. The settlements in the West Bank are especially troublesome, because the latest are splitting the land still occupied by Arabs into two pieces, which will make it easier to take it all. Building in Jerusalem is squeezing out land that used to belong to Palestinians. The resulting squalor and isolation the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank are left to live in is worse than anyone in the West can imagine.

While Israel points to the incompetence of Hamas in Gaza, it is Israel that provides the real government there. Utilities are provided by Israel, which means cutting electricity and water is easy. In the West Bank, water goes to the settlements, not the Arabs who legally live there. Israel rations water and electricity supplies to Gaza, including electricity than powers sewage treatment. The whole idea is to make life so miserable for Arabs that they will flee or bow to so‐called “negotiations” wherein they will be subjugated as a permanent minority.

The U.S. gives $10 million each and every day to support Israel’s “democracy,” while President Trump is cutting aid to Palestinians that goes to fund, among other things, medical clinics in Gaza. As Mondoweiss reports, these clinics are beginning to close:

Since January, US financing for humanitarian programmes serving the Palestinians has been suspended, with Washington saying it is being reviewed. President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to force the Palestinians back to the negotiating table with Israel.

When Arab groups of especially young people object to not only the occupation but also to the living conditions they are required to endure, Israeli Defense Force snipers shoot to kill, celebrating when a protester falls with a bullet to the chest or head from long range. Israeli claims of being forced to defend itself become the automatic operating narrative, which provides appropriate justification for any atrocity while the world sits by and watches. This narrative positions all threats as existential, because the country is surrounded by nations who mostly object to their presence in the region. This would be believable, if it were true, but Israel has the military capability to absolutely overwhelm any enemy that might come against it, which makes Israel’s power the only existential threat in the entire Middle East. To the rest of the world, however, Israel presents itself as a helpless and isolated potential victim of rampant anti‐semitism it faces each and every day. Bearing the banner of the Holocaust and a standard that says “Never Again,” Israel gets a pass no matter what crime it commits against humanity. This demands our truthful examination.

Even something as seemingly innocent as the construction of a museum in Jerusalem carries the stench of manipulation and expansion purpose. Simon Wiesenthal’s Museum of Tolerance is being built in East Jerusalem to open next year. It is incredibly controversial, however, as described in the Architecture publication Inexhibit:

The … problem is the presence of a highly regarded Muslim historic cemetery (known as Mamilla Cemetery) within the building site; therefore the construction of a relatively large building in a sacred burial site – with all which it implies, including excavations and removal of tombs, has been considered offensive and an “act of colonialism” by many Palestinians and by the Muslim religious authorities, who consider the museum actually just a part of a larger strategy aimed to physically and culturally remove Palestine from Jerusalem.

When Christians look at Israel — even through their own tours — they see the land of milk and honey promised by God to the Jews, a lush oasis of plenty on the desert seacoast where American‐style avarice demands protection from envious neighbors. They see this as God in action in modern times, a narrative that impacts each of them individually through its links to Bible prophecy and the absolute surety with which they view their version of the faith.

I often wander down the path of the God of my understanding to ponder what He must be thinking as all of this unfolds. This whole business pits regional politics against Life, and, as Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic World says, “Life always finds a way.”

My admonition to the white evangelicals — many of whom are my brothers and sisters in the Lord — is this: Make sure that your own house is in order before you throw stones at others, especially in the Middle East, for all is definitely not as it seems.

My Deep Disappointment in “Christianity Today”

Christianity Today (CT) is doubtless the most influential media outlet within Christianity (The 700 Club notwithstanding), but it regularly proves that its point‐of‐view is decidedly political and of the right‐wing, evangelical variety. Would that it would define itself as such, for the world view it promulgates often drifts over into false witness, and readers need to understand that CT is a long way from “thus saith the Lord.”

Founded by Billy Graham, it defines itself as follows:

Since 1956, Christianity Today has been a trusted beacon spotlighting the way in which Christians can live gospel lives for the strengthening of church and society.

Christianity Today consistently demonstrates through all its media how the true, good, and beautiful gospel can not only transform lives but bring hope and flourishing to individuals, cultures, and communities.

This movement now directly reaches over five million Christian leaders every month.

Christianity Today advocates for the church, shapes the evangelical conversation, brings important issues to the forefront, and provides practical solutions for church leaders.

Time and again, CT proves its anti‐ecumenism bias and its rooting for the haves (always remember that ministries need those big contributions) in what is represented as “strengthening” society. Even when articles are offered that seem to present the opposite, a careful reading reveals they are always selling their politically conservative point‐of‐view. This week for example, Christianity Today provides an article about how Christians should respond to Palestinians with “Beyond the Nakba: 7 Ways Christians Can Affirm a Positive Future for Palestinians.” The subhead is “How to understand the “catastrophe” of 1948 and its impact on today’s Israel.” By using the word “Nakba” in its headline, the editors hope to show their understanding and empathy for the Palestinian people, but in the end, this is just another piece in support of the Zionist political narrative about the region.

Here are the “7 Ways:”

1) Recognize that it happened—and why. Sounds like a good start, but the “why” drifts a bit into propaganda (the Arabs started it).
2) Recognize the humanity of all Palestinians. Wow, this might really be good after all.
3) Recognize the Palestinians as a real people who deserve security and self‐determination. Can I get an “Amen?”
4) Push back against demonization of the Jews. Wait, what? Where did that come from? I thought we were talking about the Palestinians.
5) Reject support for violence. This one seems hopeful, but it turns out to be about violence against the Israelis. I feel like I’ve been duped.
6) Support those seeking peace. Again, this is about supporting Israel’s view of peace.
7) Encourage a positive vision for the future. Here we have an apologetic for a view that doesn’t “negate” Israeli rule, saying, “It may be that the best response to the Nakba is to help Palestinians to move beyond it.” So there it is, Palestinians. Get over it already. That’s the sum total of Christian advice.

I guess what galls me the most is that here we have a document alleging advice for “Christians” on how they should approach “their Palestinian friends” about the “conflict” in the Middle East. Nowhere does it offer even a word about Israel’s behavior in the extra‐judicial executions of Arabs that occur seemingly every day. Neither is there a word about the living conditions the Palestinians must endure, the ghettos and open‐air prisons they are forced to call home, the severe restrictions on water and electricity, the expansion in the West Bank, or anything even remotely causal assigned to the Israelis regarding the conflict. In the narrative that Christianity Today embraces, Israel is always seen as defending themselves and Palestinians are always presented as aggressors holding some unjustified grudge against the good guys.

The Nakba isn’t something that can be assigned to the dustbin of history, for it is ongoing. For people who are commanded to judge righteous judgement, this so‐called “Christian” article is hot off the press of evil. Why don’t we have the same “get over it” attitude with regards to the Holocaust? Yeah, it happened, but that was history, so just “move beyond it.” Can you see the sloppy thinking on display here? Well, Terry, you can’t compare the Nakba with the Holocaust. After all, one was genocide; the other just moving a few people out of the way, legally I might add. Right.

So what is our truly best response? To love them as we love ourselves. Get over it? Sounds like a typical right‐wing plank in the platform of mischief towards the poor and disenfranchised.

And, remember, folks, the U.S. gives Israel $10 million every day, including weekends.

Muslims once again deal with terror’s fall‐out

Twenty to thirty uniformed men arriving in SUVs attacked a Sufi Muslim mosque on the north coast of Egypt’s Sinai Desert during Friday prayers last week, killing over 300 worshippers, many of whom were children. In terms of scope, think of it as Las Vegas times six! It was a professional hit on a scale beyond anything we’ve witnessed in the past. Think of the outcry if, God forbid, something like this were to happen in a church here. And yet, we’ve already dismissed it — the press has already dismissed it — as irrelevant to living our holiday lives.

This was an especially heinous act of savagery by a group of men wearing the markings of Daesh (ISIS) and armed with bombs and automatic weapons. No group has formally claimed responsibility, but that hasn’t stopped Western journalists from describing the massacre as one sect of Islam versus another. This is the approved script that the press follows in trying to help Western minds understand the seeming chaos of the Middle East, to place it within an acceptable box labeled “Islamic Terrorism.” This narrative helps promote Islamophobia in the U.S., an acceptable fear depending on your political persuasion.

For example, Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake describes it this way in an opinion piece “Muslims Are Often the First Victims of Muslim Terrorists.”

“The terror in Egypt on Friday is only the latest grim reminder that Muslims are often the first victims of Muslim fanatics…The West’s quarrel is with the extremists of political Islam, or the sect of the faith that seeks to impose Islamic law on others — not the entire religion.”

Well, no. The problem here — and with all who attempt to frame violence in the Middle East as a product of Islam — is that it’s not only deliberately — and conveniently — misleading; it’s totally false, and the West is not well‐served by forcing the narrative into its version of history. There is no “political Islam” or “sect of the faith that wishes to impose Islamic law on others.” That is a myth, exacerbated by Zionists, Jews, and Christians who use the story of Isaac and Ishmael to paint a picture of nomadic wanderers constantly at war with each other. Islam, of course, didn’t come into existence until thousands of years later (to which comes the response, “Well, God knew that it was coming), and yet this “seems” true enough to the “extremists of political Christianity.” See how silly that sounds?

This false narrative is helped along by an Israeli agenda that garners propaganda points from the promotion of it. Much of the Israeli press is a conduit from Israel to the West, one that rarely speaks of Arabs in any voice other than condescension or a threat. Consider this article from The Jerusalem Post, a paper published only in English and French and that describes itself as “the leading news source for English speaking Jewry since 1932.” The story is headlined, ‘WESTERN CHRISTIANITY IN DENIAL ABOUT RADICAL ISLAM,’ specifically “radical Islam’s goal to eradicate Christianity.” The article refers to the thinking of Italian journalist and author Giulio Meotti, cultural editor for Il Foglio.

The Media Research Center found that US television devoted more than six times the amount of air time to the death of a gorilla in comparison to the air time given to the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya in 2015.

“How is it possible that the killing of a gorilla moves the Western public more than 19 Yazidi girls burned alive in a cage?” he (Meotti) said. “Few people saw the photograph of Khaled al‐Asaad, the brave archaeologist who refused to lead ISIS to the antiquities of Palmyra. The henchmen of ISIS beheaded him and hung him upside down. We turned away in horror.”

…The Unity Coalition for Israel, which monitors attacks against Western democracy and the State of Israel, echoed Meotti’s statements following the New York terrorist attack this month.

“Let’s be clear: radical Islamic terrorists have been launching attacks here in the United States for years, with the deadliest occurring on September 11, 2001,” the group’s Democracy Under Attack editorial said. “These attacks are not going to stop unless we first admit that we have been and are under attack and – finally – take strong steps to prevent further attacks.”

Again, the emphasis is that all these global acts of terrorism flow from Islam, which is painted as an archaic religion of intolerance and, especially violence, people who “want to take us back to the Seventh Century.” Nothing could be further from the truth, so then why are we so convinced of the opposite? Because the people writing today’s draft of history are telling us so. If you can bring yourself to step far enough away from current events, you’ll see that terrorism — whether committed by Arabs or Caucasians — is either an ongoing political statement or a desperate attempt at personal attention, neither of which are birthed in the religion of the people either claims to represent.

When it comes to the Middle East, Arabs who have roots in Palestine have another explanation. Zionism requires a constant threat in order justify its continuing existence, and such a narrative works better if that threat is against the religion that undergirds Israeli politics. After all, Hitler’s final solution to the “Jewish Question” in Europe — that people of Jewish descent refused to assimilate into the cultures around them — was the gas chambers, and there can be no more heinous threat. Modern Israel is portrayed as a response to the Holocaust, but Zionism as a political movement had been growing for fifty years prior to Hitler.

To be sure, Zionism must sustain the idea of a threat to Israel’s religion in order to continue to plead its case to global opinion, which it needs at core in order to survive. The U.S. gives $10.1 million in military and other aid to Israel every day of every year, and Americans wouldn’t be so eager to bless this, if they believed anything other than Israel using it defend the Holy Land. Beyond being a home for Jews, Israel also — and perhaps more importantly — serves as a bulwark in the protection of American business interests in the whole region. This means obvious and not‐so‐obvious stakes in our relationship with Zionist Israel.

I hate coincidences, especially in world events, because the truth is they rarely are coincidental. Disney built his whole empire on the concept of the “plausible impossible,” and that’s often the way I feel about coincidences. Was it a coincidence, for example, when ISIS burst on the scene in Hollywood style with Jihadi John on July 14, 2014? I don’t know. However, this was at the very height of global disdain being thrust upon Israel for its killing of over 2,000 Palestinians, including 500 children in Gaza during the weeks prior. The worldwide discussion pressured the UN, foreign governments, charitable organizations, and others into a position of citing Israel for war crimes, when all of the sudden, we had a whole new, highly‐produced‐for‐television enemy that burst upon the scene with the heinous beheadings of Westerners. Certainly, we can’t blame world opinion for shifting from Gaza to ISIS, can we? Each subsequent ISIS event was more horrible than the previous. A Jordanian pilot was burned alive. Irreplaceable antiquities were destroyed. ISIS became public enemy number one, and the cries of atrocities in Gaza simply faded into the noise of history.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, because I have no evidence of the whos or hows of any of this. Were secret Western agencies involved in the Sinai massacre of over 300 innocents? How would anybody begin to investigate such wild theories anyway? Like I said, I just hate coincidences and especially those that seem to come out of nowhere to automatically strengthen the Zionist narrative of “everybody hates the Jews.” Zionism is not the helpless and blameless lamb that it wishes to portray to the world, historically persecuted people who’ve paid a horrible price for their submission to Almighty God. Zionist acts against people of Arab descent are generally bloodthirsty, brutal, and merciless, and they’re delivered with a shoot first, ask questions later mandate. What are the modern crimes of Zionism? How about ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and colonization. Knife attacks, for example, a Palestinian reaction against well‐armed soldiers at border crossings, hardly require the extrajudicial execution of the attacker, but that is the self‐justified response by the Israeli Defense Forces. Occasionally there are attacks against settlers who the original residents view as occupiers, but most of these knife attacks are done against soldiers as a reaction to their brutality. Palestinians are humiliated, forced into ghettos with no rights, cut off from their own land, and simply murdered for protesting the squalid and inhuman conditions forced upon them due to their birthright.

The truth of what happens between Israelis and Palestinians is kept from Western eyes and ears by highly skilled proclaimers of approved Hasbara.

Hasbara is a form of propaganda aimed at an international audience, primarily, but not exclusively, in western countries. It is meant to influence the conversation in a way that positively portrays Israeli political moves and policies, including actions undertaken by Israel in the past.

Israeli government eyes watch social media closely through special offices set up to monitor Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms for anything that — in their opinion — might “incite” others to violence against the state. The same is true with the BDS movement, which attempts to pressure the world into boycotting Israeli products in the name of drawing attention to its treatment of Arabs. If these sleuths find anything, they demand that it be taken down, and who’s to argue with the Zionist government? Narrative control that requires this degree of diligence isn’t natural; it’s artificial, and that, too, adds another layer of distrust to the hasbara mix.

My fellow journalists tell me that the Middle East is just too complicated to spend the time and effort necessary to get to the truth, but that’s just an excuse based in the deliberately confusing Zionist hasbara. It’s not complicated at all, if you can bring yourself to cut away all the crap. What may be upsetting about it is that it demands a willingness to deconstruct what you believe to be truth, and that takes more courage than most people have.

And that’s too bad, because the Middle East is a gold mine of material for real investigative journalism.

Resistance is the postmodern way

Up in Manitoba Canada, a Star Trek fan has had to give up his personalized Borg license plate ASIMIL8 because it was judged offensive to indigenous people. The Borg, of course, are a fictional evil species that force assimilation with the clever marketing phrase “Resistance is Futile.” It has absolutely nothing to do with indigenous Canadians, but the suggestion that it does isn’t frivolous in the least. It has broad ramifications for Western culture and bears a few words as a post‐colonial gesture.

You could say that the Borg represent the very essence of Colonialism, the demand that those being colonized assimilate into the culture of the conquerors, the colonists. This means everything from adopting commercial, legal, and language norms to religious faith. The conquering merchants are happy, because the colonies produce profit. The conquering churches are happy, because it means more members and their tithes. This, of course, is all completely disguised as the betterment of those being colonized, but that’s mostly just hooey. Self‐centered gain has always been the real motive of the “civilized” colonists, which was brilliantly played out in the Starz television series “Black Sails.”

There is, however, another critical form of assimilation in Western history and that is the requirement that those becoming new members of the colony from the outside be required to likewise assimilate. This is the birthplace of the thinking that all who wish to be American must speak English, fully embrace American customs, traditions, laws, commerce, and submit to all forms of government. This was the basis of “The Jewish Question” or “The Jewish Problem” in Europe that began in the Nineteenth Century and ended in Hitler’s “Final Solution.” The issue was the refusal of the Jews to fully assimilate into the cultures they called home, instead choosing to remain fully Jewish, with their own customs, traditions, and beliefs. This is arguably problematic for the home culture, yet it’s seldom discussed as relevant to the evil of the Holocaust and in its wake, the creation of the Zionist State, Israel. The irony of Israel’s assimilative demands of Palestinians is not lost on observers of conflict in the Middle East.

At home, assimilation is a major concern involving Muslims, for the government of Donald Trump is demanding a rising degree of assimilation than its predecessors ever imagined. The message to Muslims in America today is xenophobic: assimilate or go back to where your appearances and practices are the cultural norm. Join us or go home. The same mandate is placed upon refugees from Mexico and beyond. Speak our language. Join our society. Pay your taxes. Or go back home.

So this business of the fictional Borg versus the indigenous people of Canada is more than appears on the surface, for one must ask the question, “Where does it stop?” At what point is it proper to demand assimilation and at what point is it not? In the early part of the Twentieth Century, the demand was made that refugee Catholics be rejected, because they couldn’t fully assimilate into mostly Protestant America. Were the Catholics offended? Did it matter? Is the patriarchy right to demand assimilation of women? Do we care if women are offended by such? It would seem this question is of lasting importance to our Constitution and the very things that Mr. Trump assumes make America “great” again. It is a fundamental matter for anyone attempting to govern diversity. Do you take the hard road of encouraging diversity or the tried and true method of demanding assimilation? They cannot fully coexist.

Milton wrote the famous line, “License they mean when they cry Liberty.” Those who would fall on the side of liberty understand the value of voluntary assimilation just as they do the right of free people to function as a colorful thread in the tapestry that America has become. Those who fall on the side of license, however, demand assimilation and seek primarily the freedom to take anything and everything that benefits their own demands.

We are at a crossroads with this matter, my friends, and we’re each going to be asked to be counted for our own place along this spectrum.

Israeli soldier guilty…or not!

For the first time since 2004, a member of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has been convicted of manslaughter in the death of a Palestinian who had earlier participated in the stabbing of another soldier in the West Bank community of Hebron last March. The conviction of sergeant Elor Azarya was applauded by military leaders who are trying to maintain discipline through a code of ethics, but the big story is the remarkable reaction of an Israeli public that thinks Azarya should not even have been charged. He wouldn’t have had another Palestinian not videotaped the shooting and made the video public. Watch for yourself as Azaria first helps put the slightly injured soldier into an ambulance, then pulls his rifle, and kills the helpless man on the ground.

Azarya’s supporters said he fired in self‐defense. Right. Military commanders, however, said his actions were unbecoming of a soldier.

Azarya will be sentenced on January 15th, but he is likely to be pardoned, given the protests by Israelis and statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We have one army that is the basis for our existence. IDF soldiers are our sons and daughters, and they must remain above all disputes,” he said. But making no direct mention of the military court, he said: “I support granting a pardon to Elor Azaria.”

This incredible turn of events reveals the extent of anger and hatred towards Palestinians from people who honestly believe the man that Azarya killed “deserved to die” as a terrorist. That the execution was extrajudicial matters not one bit to this mob. But this also reveals how deeply Israeli hasbara has penetrated the very souls of the people who call Israel home and the impossibility of peace in the face of that narrative.

I repeat to my American journalist colleagues that Israel is home to the most remarkable laboratory for the study of human nature and the manufacture of consent that exists in the Twenty‐First Century. It is a textbook case of the conflict between narratives in the quest for political advantage and historical validation, and the justified violence of such a conflict. It is not as simple — nor is it as complicated — as you might think, and I challenge reporters everywhere to do their jobs in covering the truth of the region.

Trust me; you have no idea based on what’s published in the American press.