Friday, May 9, 2008

A human rights crime: The world must stop standing idle while the people of Gaza are treated with such cruelty

Jimmy Carter
The Guardian,
Thursday May 8 2008, original HERE...

The world is witnessing a terrible human rights crime in Gaza, where a million and a half human beings are being imprisoned with almost no access to the outside world. An entire population is being brutally punished.

This gross mistreatment of the Palestinians in Gaza was escalated dramatically by Israel, with United States backing, after political candidates representing Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority parliament in 2006. The election was unanimously judged to be honest and fair by all international observers.

Israel and the US refused to accept the right of Palestinians to form a unity government with Hamas and Fatah and now, after internal strife, Hamas alone controls Gaza. Forty-one of the 43 victorious Hamas candidates who lived in the West Bank have been imprisoned by Israel, plus an additional 10 who assumed positions in the short-lived coalition cabinet.

Regardless of one's choice in the partisan struggle between Fatah and Hamas within occupied Palestine, we must remember that economic sanctions and restrictions on the supply of water, food, electricity and fuel are causing extreme hardship among the innocent people in Gaza, about one million of whom are refugees.

Israeli bombs and missiles periodically strike the area, causing high casualties among both militants and innocent women and children. Prior to the highly publicised killing of a woman and her four children last week, this pattern had been illustrated by a report from B'Tselem, the leading Israeli human rights organisation, which stated that 106 Palestinians were killed between February 27 and March 3. Fifty-four of them were civilians, and 25 were under 18 years of age.

On a recent trip through the Middle East, I attempted to gain a better understanding of the crisis. One of my visits was to Sderot, a community of about 20,000 in southern Israel that is frequently struck by rockets fired from nearby Gaza. I condemned these attacks as abominable acts of terrorism, since most of the 13 victims during the past seven years have been non-combatants.

Subsequently, I met with leaders of Hamas - a delegation from Gaza and the top officials in Damascus. I made the same condemnation to them, and urged that they declare a unilateral ceasefire or orchestrate with Israel a mutual agreement to terminate all military action in and around Gaza for an extended period.

They responded that such action by them in the past had not been reciprocated, and they reminded me that Hamas had previously insisted on a ceasefire throughout Palestine, including Gaza and the West Bank, which Israel had refused. Hamas then made a public proposal of a mutual ceasefire restricted to Gaza, which the Israelis also rejected.

There are fervent arguments heard on both sides concerning blame for a lack of peace in the Holy Land. Israel has occupied and colonised the Palestinian West Bank, which is approximately a quarter the size of the nation of Israel as recognised by the international community. Some Israeli religious factions claim a right to the land on both sides of the Jordan river, others that their 205 settlements of some 500,000 people are necessary for "security".

All Arab nations have agreed to recognise Israel fully if it will comply with key United Nations resolutions. Hamas has agreed to accept any negotiated peace settlement between the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, provided it is approved in a referendum of the Palestinian people.

This holds promise of progress, but despite the brief fanfare and positive statements at the peace conference last November in Annapolis, the process has gone backwards. Nine thousand new Israeli housing units have been announced in Palestine; the number of roadblocks within the West Bank has increased; and the stranglehold on Gaza has been tightened.

It is one thing for other leaders to defer to the US in the crucial peace negotiations, but the world must not stand idle while innocent people are treated cruelly. It is time for strong voices in Europe, the US, Israel and elsewhere to speak out and condemn the human rights tragedy that has befallen the Palestinian people.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Morality in ACT-ion

Intellect (Right Reason) + Free Will (Choice)= Morality in ACT-ion

Intellect and free will are "powers" of the soul in the Aristotelian/Thomistic sense. Each one must be properly utilized for a person to perform a morally licit act.

If right-reason is followed by a proper (totally free) choice the resultant moral act will be praiseworthy. If not it will be shameful.

Choices which are not truly free that is, made by an agent exercising totally free will are not human in the fullest sense of the term. Human choices can not be compelled by external force.

Right-reason demands that authentic human dignity be served while giving glory to God who created man in HIS image. Joy* results from the human person acting with free will on the basis of right reason; ergo, it must be compatible with the will of God--to love God completely and your neighbor as yourself. The treatment of "self" in reference here must of course be in-keeping with the will of God since man is created in the Imago Dei (image of God). It is not God's will for a human being to act against his/her nature.

To treat one's neighbor fairly cannot mean to endorse virtually anything they elect to do. Each person has a warrant that is the freedom/responsibility to do (choose) good not evil. There is no freedom in the moral sense to choose or do evil since it is incompatible with the elevated nature of the human person. We have no "right" to engage in evil since any right we possess is grounded in our anthropology as derivative beings created in the image of God (being personified) and God is all good. Given the nature of that reality, it is impossible that one would have a right to do evil. One is physically free to do so but not morally justified in doing so.

All choices of any consequence which we can make as human beings of necessity involve good and evil--right and wrong. Those which do not are of no real import in the human sense. Man must recognize the truth about his nature--which is that of a derivative created being--in order to find peace and joy. Nothing but misery follows the man who believes he is either the result of a cosmic accident or completely self-sufficient!

*As contrasted with pleasure or temporary happiness which are "lower" (visceral) in a manner of speaking and of the body portion of the body/soul composite that makes up the human person. Joy in comparison is spiritual (of the soul) and higher.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Sunday, May 4, 2008

For Israel’s Sake, Moderate American Jews Must Find Their Voice


By Jeremy Ben-Ami
Tue. Apr 15, 2008, original HERE...
The Jewish Daily Forward

In just a few short years, the “two-state solution” has gone from presumed conclusion to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an increasingly distant hope. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has himself said that without such a deal, “the State of Israel is finished.”

By the dozens, Israeli dignitaries solemnly warn: The window is closing on a two-state solution, and Israel’s prospects for a second, safer 60 years grow are growing ever dimmer.

With such alarms sounding, one might expect pro-Israel Americans to be pressing for immediate, bold American action. Rarely are Israel’s allies in the United States slow to demand action when Israel faces meaningful threats to its security or survival.

Yet American politics moves in a parallel, disconnected universe when it comes to the Middle East. Here, being “pro-Israel” requires only mouthing scripted talking points about staunch support for Israel, the special American–Israeli relationship and the shared bond in the war on terrorism.

For the sake of Israel, the United States and the world, it is time for American political discourse to re-engage with reality. Voices of reason need to reclaim what it means to be pro-Israel and to establish in American political discourse that Israel’s core security interest is to achieve a negotiated two-state solution and to define once and for all permanent, internationally recognized borders.

For me, this isn’t just an abstract issue of politics or public policy. It is rooted in my family’s history and a generations-long search for safety and for a home for the Jewish people.

One hundred and twenty-five years ago, my great-grandparents arrived in Jaffa after a long and arduous journey from today’s Belarus in what became known as the “first aliyah.” They helped establish Petah Tikva, one of the first successful settlements in Palestine.

My grandparents went on to be among the founders of Tel Aviv. Family lore has it that my father was the first boy born in the city. A hard-line Revisionist, he worked closely with Zeev Jabotinsky, Menachem Begin and other heroes of the right in the struggle to create the State of Israel.

Dispatched abroad before and during World War II, he negotiated with Hitler’s henchman Adolph Eichmann over payments to smuggle Jews out of Europe and sparred with American leaders in urging greater American action to save Jews from extermination. After World War II, he was executive director of the American League for a Free Palestine, raising money and running guns to Irgun soldiers fighting the British.

I myself have lived in Jerusalem and experienced my own close brushes with terrorism on its streets. Over the past several generations, my family has suffered and survived the pogroms of the tsars, the gas chambers of the Nazis and wars with Israel’s Arab neighbors.

With this as my heritage, I say confidently that what today passes for pro-Israel politics in the United States does not serve the best interests of the people or the countries my family has lived and died for. In this, I stand squarely with a substantial portion of Israelis and American Jews.

Somehow, for American politicians or activists to express opposition to settlement expansion — or support for active American diplomacy, dialogue with Syria or engagement with Iran — has become subversive and radical, inviting vile, hateful emails and a place on public lists of Israel-haters and antisemites. For the particularly unlucky, it leads to public, personal attacks on one’s family and heritage.


In early 21st-century America, the rules of politics are being rewritten, and conventional political orthodoxy is clearly open to once-inconceivable challenges.

It is time for the broad, sensible mainstream of pro-Israel American Jews and their allies to challenge those on the extreme right who claim to speak for all American Jews in the national debate about Israel and the Middle East — and who, through the use of fear and intimidation, have cut off reasonable debate on the topic.

A new political movement is a necessity not just for Israel but for the heart and soul of the American Jewish community. By and large, we are a progressive community, among the most liberal in the United States. Over the decades, we have been at the forefront of many civil rights, social justice and other causes. Many of us proudly regard that legacy as a defining cornerstone of the Jewish place in American history.

But in recent years we have drifted. In the name of protecting Israel, some of our community’s leaders became linked with neoconservatives who brought us the war in Iraq and now seek to extend that rousing success to Iran — even as the majority of American Jews opposed the war in Iraq and military action in Iran.

Some of our leaders have struck up fast friendships with far-right Christian Zionists who now headline “Nights to Honor Israel” at our communal institutions. Yet many of these are people with whom we disagree profoundly on values and beliefs that our community holds dear, and who hold troubling views on the long-run place of the Jewish people in their plans for salvation and redemption.

In our name, PACs and other political associations have embraced the most radically right-wing figures on the American political scene from Rick Santorum and Trent Lott to Tom DeLay and George Bush — all in the guise of being “pro-Israel.”

In Washington today, these voices are seen to speak for the entire American Jewish community. But they don’t speak for me. And I don’t believe they speak for the majority of the American Jews with whom I have lived and worked.

I support Israel. My family history ingrains in me the belief that the Jewish people need and deserve a home. I know that that nation must be strong and secure and that a deep bond between Israel and America is essential to its survival.

Yet I heed those in Israel who say we are fast approaching a point of no return beyond which it may be impossible to secure Israel’s future as the Jewish, democratic home envisioned by my father, the Irgunist, and his grandparents, the socialist Zionist pioneers. An immediate, negotiated end to the conflict is, simply, an existential necessity — and the time to reach it is running out.

I also know in my heart that this is not just a matter of survival. What will it say of us as a people if at a rare moment in our communal history when we have achieved success, acceptance and power, we fail to act according to the values and ideals passed down to us over thousands of years when we were the outcasts, the minority and the powerless?

All of these factors — realism, security and justice — demand action from moderate American Jews. We must establish boldly and forcefully that nothing is more pro-Israel than pressing for immediate, sustained and meaningful American action to end the conflict between Israel and its neighbors.

This requires a dramatic change in the dynamic of discussion about Israel in the American Jewish community and in the American body politic. It demands an end to simplistic slogans and name-calling that effectively shuts down debate and discussion in a community not known as shy and retiring in expressing its opinions.

My history demands that I say this. Our future and Israel’s future demands that we act on it.