Life is likened unto two roads: one of fire and one of ice. If you walk in the one, you will be burned, and if in the other, you will be frozen. What shall one do? Walk in the middle.
THE MIDDLE GROUND
brings my two passions together:
mental health and religion
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No passion so effectively robs the mind of acting and reasoning as fear. Edmund Burke 1756
What is tolerance?
I looked it up: “A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry; sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own; the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.”
I never liked the word tolerant. It has about it an aura of begrudging acceptance rather than inclusion or accommodation or adaptation. Now tolerance has taken on higher powers. It is now the only correct response to all beliefs, rituals, customs and behaviours from around the world. We have accepted cultural relativism: no one culture is better than another; perhaps from collective white guilt over colonization that took place hundreds of years ago.
Like anything else taken to an extreme, tolerance has taken on some traits of fundamentalism. Ideologies that become sacred in and of themselves are dangerous for liberal democracies.
September 10, 2006 the former President of Iran, Muhammad Khatami, a man who tortured dissidents and denied freedom to his people, gave a lecture at Harvard titled “Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence.” He called the West “the greatest victim of over-reliance on reason.”
This is the absurdity of Tolerism as discussed by Howard Rotberg in his book Tolerism: The Ideology Revealed.
Rotberg, a lawyer by vocation, a practitioner of tikun olam by avocation, the child of holocaust survivors, has dedicated his writings to the defense of Western culture and its foundation of ethical monotheism, what Thomas Cahill referred to as The Gift of the Jews, and Winston Churchill called
“a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learning put together on that system and by that faith There has been built out of the wreck of the Roman Empire the whole of our existing civilization.”
Rotberg is defending this ideal from Tolerism and its path into the moral abyss.
Rotberg takes us on an Alice in Wonderland ride through the hypocrisy of what he calls “the scourge of Western civilization/culture;” tolerance-tolerance of behaviours that are anathema to liberal democracies. How else could a prestigious university like Harvard ever consider inviting a leader from Iran to speak about ethics, tolerance and violence to America? After 9/11? On the evening before the 5th anniversary of that act of Islamic terrorism in America?
He takes you by the hand down the rabbit hole and step by step explains how we allowed the left wing ideologues to resurrect a new kind of anti-semitism, while undermining and demonizing Israel and democracies around the world, by elevating moral and cultural relativism.
He attacks feminism for its lack of backbone, its shunning of those like Phyllis Chesler who choose to peel back the veil on the abuse of Muslim women by Islamism. Ms. Chesler, a Jewish woman, fell in love and ended up in Afghanistan but escaped to tell the story. Unfortunately, her story about the abuse of Muslim women wasn’t championed by the feminists. They weren’t interested. They remain silent, today. I have yet to hear a justification for their ignorantia affectata regarding the lack of human rights, let alone civil rights, of Muslim women.
We are taken on the journey of the development and repercussions of Islamophobia and its companion, the censorship of free speech, by the politically correct. They have no problem with Zionophobia, a word coined by McGill University professor Gil Troy which:
“singles out the Jews, holding Israel to an artificially higher standard, while ignoring Israel’s unique blend of liberal democratic and Jewish values…This double standard marks Zionophobia as a strain of a broader disease, the modern tendency to judge all western nations harshly…while absolving Third World nations of wrongdoing…”
Deborah Lipstadt in her book Beyond Belief wrote about the many ways anti-Semitism was delivered through the culture in Europe prior to WWII: movies, books, music, the media, symbols used to incite hatred of Jews, but it never occurred to me that this was happening here, in the West. It’s all around us. And this is where, in my opinion, Rotberg shines.
Rotberg opens your eyes to the many layers of anti-semitism delivered through the abuse of language and symbols in movies and books that encourage Jew hatred and negative views of Israel, to the ever-so-gentle-so well-intentioned seconding of the lesson of evil of the Holocaust. And he leaves no stone unturned in his evisceration of the President of the United States and his advisors and their role in increasing the temperature of Jew hatred including the bestowing of The Medal of Freedom on Mary Robinson who chaired the Durban Conference which became a place of active Jew hatred.
We have become infected with the ideology of tolerance to the point that we are tolerating those who wish to destroy us, in the name of tolerance. Robert Spencer, a man Rotberg considers one of the best students of Radical Islam wrote: “The strangest effect of 9/11 has been on balance, an accelerated campaign of accommodation of Islam’s law in the West.” Tolerism?
When you finish reading this well researched and surprisingly easy to read book, you will know the answer to the question Howard Rotberg poses at the very beginning:
“How did we get into the mess that so many people think that Tolerance is a more important value than Justice?”
n the spring of 1994, the Hutus of Rwanda turned on the Tutsis and within 100 days murdered almost 800,000 of them. "Why?" They asked. For being Tutsis?
They probably asked God: "Why would such a thing happen?" Is that not the universal plea?
The question was the same as the one asked 50 years earlier when six million Jews were murdered. "Why?" they asked. For being Jews?
The question coming out of the concentration camps was "Why God? Where were you?"
Answers were sought. How could God allow such horror? I remember one of the attempts to answer such a profound question.
Perhaps God lifted His gaze, just for a nano-second and looked upward, toward the future or to the other side of the universe-for just a nano-second and in that time the people were massacred.
Maybe that happened in Rwanda, too.
But I don't think so. God in His infinite compassion would never permit such a thing. It wasn't God. It was humanity. From the Nazi killing machine throughout Europe to Rwanda there was what Thomas Aquinas called an Ignorantia Affectata. "A willful lack of knowledge designed to protect one from the harm so useful that one protects it, keeps it from the light, in order to continue using it."
There was a lack of desire to aid Rwanda. Canadian General Dallair, in charge of the UN Peace keeping troops sent a warning when weaponry arrived in Rwanda from Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom, meant of course for good intentions.
Human Rights Watch called on the world to use the word "genocide" -- a term which would have legally obliged the UN to act. Yet, the US and UN security council voted on Day 12 of the massacre to remove 90% of the peacekeeping force in Rwanda. There were no soldiers for war.
Day 25 of the massacre: "Be careful... a genocide finding could commit us to actually 'do something.' US defence department discussion paper warns."
Day 45 the UN finally asks the US to provide 50 armoured personnel carriers. They argue for weeks over who will pay for them. The carriers don't arrive until July.
Day 65 as the killings continued, the French government continued to supply weapons through eastern Zaire (DR Congo). President Francois Mitterrand said, "In such countries, genocide is not too important." (Reported in the newspaper Le Figaro.)
Rather reminiscent of the world response to the elimination of Jews from Europe.
A desire not to know, an intentional "bystander."
And now we come back to the world today.
What have you heard about Burma, Tibet, Northern Cyprus? Even less than Syria, North Korea, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Don't look. Pretend it's not happening-or pretend that efforts at peace will work-if we just give it enough time. Rwanda took more than 100 days. The Jewish people waited five years. Syria has been in conflagration for three years. Talk. Talk. Talk. Well maybe there will be talk. But then who's listening. The media? There is a certain presence of an absence in far too many hot spots.
We are cultivating that Ignorantia Affectata which is just a slip down the slope to the banality of evil where it becomes easier to turn away from the cries of those in places neither glamourous nor easy to access.
I last wrote about Burma in August 2013. According to reports in February 2014, it seems nothing has changed. Why would it when the facts about Muslim ghettos, "de facto open-air prisons" ghettos are kept hidden.
Religious intolerance against the Muslim Rohingya minority and Christians from the Chin and Kachin minorities continues despite the pleas of a dozen former Nobel Peace laureates urging "an international, independent investigation of the anti-Muslim violence in Burma" June 2013.
According to the The U.N Human Rights Council "from inside Tibet and from Tibetan-populated counties of Chinese provinces regularly cite cases of Chinese security forces firing on unarmed Tibetans protesting Beijing's rule, of the beating and torture of Tibetan prisoners, and of other abuses."
You probably haven't heard about this. There seems to be a dearth of reports from Tibet. Perhaps because "China has not complied with these requests" from U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay to "allow special rapporteurs--experts charged with reporting to the U.N. on special areas of concern--to visit and observe conditions in Tibet."
Are you even aware that Northern Cyprus has been under illegal occupation by Turkey since 1974? Did you read about "systemic human rights abuses against Greek Cypriots , ethnic cleansing from ancestral homes or that 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees have been prevented from returning to their homes and lands and 162,000 colonists have been illegally transferred to the occupied area by Turkey to alter the demography of the island"?
I guess this story isn't sexy.
And then there are the continuing horror stories out of Syria. And what is the world doing? It seems we declare red lines and then ignore them and we watch. Or not watch as the case may be. Yet, there are 2 million refugees, more than half of them children, two million others displaced within the country and an estimated 11,420 children killed. And starvation is rampant.
Syria is another country where access is difficult. Satellite imagery is used to document the destruction: of buildings. The Global Heritage Fund's director of Global Projects, Dan Thompson said: "All of the country's world heritage sites have sustained damage, including the Unesco site cities, and a great many of the other monuments in the country have been damaged, destroyed or have been subject to severe looting."
And then there is Northern Korea. Slavery, starvation, mass murder. Yet we get our reports from Dennis Rodman. We all heard about Kim Jung-un's birthday party but nothing about human rights abuses until mid-February when the UN came out with its report-that took a year to collate.
Can you imagine how these innocent victims would feel if they knew the time talking heads spend on reporting about a peace deal between a democracy and an autocratic theocracy while they suffer from war, hunger, torture, devastation of their families and homes, face ethnic cleansing, live in open air prisons, become enslaved, because too few are paying attention to them?
Can you imagine what they would think if they knew the Palestinian Authority had "misspent, squandered or lost to corruption" 2.5 billion euros in aid from the European Union over the last four years. And that Egypt had lost one billion euros of aid money over six years.
Or how they would react if they knew that Palestinian refugees receive $83 per refugee while 19.2-million refugees and asylum seekers in 116 countries receive $52 per refugee.
Can you imagine how it must feel to know that the UN, EU and the USA have turned their gaze away, perhaps protecting themselves from culpability, while feeling good about another attempt at peace process between two plots on the ground that are relatively calm?
Do you think they ask themselves why their plight is so unimportant?
Sir Thomas More reminds us in "A Man for All Seasons" "silence gives consent."Read more
We are living through a time when those who believe in God are treated with disdain. The late Christopher Hitchens, and the lively Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins attack people who believe in God. Harris wrote in his book End of Faith that religion represents “the most potent source of human conflict, past and present.” Richard Dawkins said:
I am a fairly militant atheist, with a fair degree of active hostility toward religion. I certainly was hostile toward it at school, from the age of about sixteen onwards. I mellowed a bit in my twenties and thirties. But I’m getting more militant again now.
I have lost track of the number of times I have heard that religion is the greatest cause of war and death. But the facts prove otherwise.
Dinesh D’Souza, the Rishwain Fellow at the Hoover Institution, wrote:
It’s time to abandon the mindlessly repeated mantra that religious belief has been the greatest source of human conflict and violence. Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history.
Encyclopedia of Wars, authors Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod document the history of recorded warfare. From their list of 1763 wars, only 123 have been classified to involve a religious cause, accounting for less than 7 percent of all wars and less than 2 percent of all people killed in warfare. It’s estimated that more than 160 million civilians were killed in genocides in the 20th century alone, with nearly 100 million killed by the Communist states of USSR and China.
Few people are aware of the religious persecution that took place in the USSR. There are many stories about the Jews, but I have not come across many about the persecution of Christians. There is a documentary in production called Martyred in the USSR, directed by Kevin Gonzales of Twelve Points Productions that takes us to the now dismantled USSR, to eastern bloc countries where religion was attacked under communism.
Dr. Christopher Marsh of Baylor University, who is also involved in the film, said:
People in Russia today also do not know of the intense persecution of Christians and Jews that occurred in the USSR, perhaps to appear more liberal or democratic to the West.
Under communism an attempt was made to wipe out believers that led to multi-million deaths including 1.9 million Polish civilians, mostly Christians. More than three million Soviet prisoners of war died and more than two million Soviet civilians, mostly Christians, were killed.
The need for this documentary comes from the desire to bear witness before memories are lost. Witness names must be attached to accounts so that, years from now when one asks about the martyrs to religion in Russia who were martyred because they believed in God in a state culture of atheism, there will be an historic account.
Vasily Vlasivich, an Evangelical Christian who refused to take an oath to the Soviet Communist Party during World War II was immediately sentenced to death but managed to escape being executed.
Nikolai Bobarykin was a pastor in a small town in the Soviet Republic. He went to the gulag twice in his life for simply being a pastor.
The consensus figure for those that Joseph Stalin murdered when he ruled the Soviet Union is 20,000,000. Considering that Stalin died in 1953… it did not include – camp deaths after 1950, and before 1936; executions 1939-53; the vast deportation of the people of captive nations into the camps, and their deaths 1939-1953; the massive deportation within the Soviet Union of minorities 1941-1944; and their deaths; and those the Soviet Red Army and secret police executed throughout Eastern Europe after their conquest during 1944-1945 is omitted.
Why is this death by Marxism, so incredible and significant in its magnitude, unknown or unappreciated compared to the importance given slavery, cancer deaths, auto accident deaths?
Today, according to the organization Open Doors, religious persecution continues in states that are officially atheist. North Korea is ranked first.
John Das, a medical student, took an interest in the history of religion in the Eastern bloc and discovered:
Militant atheism was a cause for disaster in the entire Eastern Bloc leading to the persecution of millions of believers of many faiths.
He became the Lead Archivist for the film. He says:
The documentary: is not meant to be a political film, but rather one that documents history. However, we do hope that it will cause people to think about selectively targeting religion as the scapegoat of the ills of society and that it will encourage people to stand against similar movements of militant atheism in the present, as well as in the future.
The attacks on religion as the cause of evil continue despite the facts to the contrary. How sad that people in pursuit of promoting an agenda deny the facts, even when there are eye witness accounts. Holocaust denial comes to mind.
Can you imagine how easy it would be to undo/rewrite history if we did not have people of conscience choosing to record and bear witness to evil events?
Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), a noted German philosopher and the grandfather of composer Felix Mendelssohn, wrote that historical truths and events are only witnessed once. We learn of them through those who pass down the information.
Hence the respectability and the trustworthiness of the narrator constitute the sole evidence of historical matters. Without testimony, we cannot be convinced of any historical truth. Without authority, the truth of history vanishes with the occurrence itself.
As John Das astutely pointed out:
We know from history that the mockery of certain ethnic and religious groups often led to their persecution.
We just don’t want to believe it.Read more
Monday, January 27, 2014, is the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Auschwitz was built as part of the military-industrial infrastructure for the sole purpose of gathering, transporting and incinerating Jews -- for the crime of being Jewish. Commemorations will be taking place around the world.
Do we still need to commemorate an event that is 69 years old?
Ryan Mervin Bellerose is a proud Métis from Northern Alberta who grew up on what he calls a Métis colony with no electricity, running water or telephone.
His father co-authored the Métis Settlements Act of 1989, passed in the Alberta legislature in 1990. Bellerose founded a native rights advocacy group, Canadians for Accountability, and then became an organizer and participant in the Idle No More movement in Canada.
Although many native groups encourage identifying with the Palestinians, Ryan's experiences led him to identify with Zionism. He read about the horrific 1972 Lod Airport massacre (Tel Aviv) where terrorists shot dead 26 civilians, including 17 Christian pilgrims waiting for their flights. He read about the 1985 attack by Yasser Arafat's forces on the Achille Lauro cruise ship, where an old disabled Jewish man was thrown overboard in his wheelchair for the "crime of being a Jew."
Over the years he grew to "appreciate Israel's moral integrity in the face of brutal hatred." He came to believe that "the Jewish people and Israel should serve as an example to indigenous people everywhere. It is with the Jews -- and their stubborn survival after being decimated and dispersed by powerful empires -- that we have the most in common."
Can you imagine Ryan's response when he was told by a member of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), a man about 6'4" and 260 pounds with a smirk on his face, "I am sorry that the Nazis missed some of your family"? This was during a public Speakers Corner debate this past September in Calgary.
Ryan told me that "the saddest part was that when they found out I'm not Jewish some of them said sorry to me, but nobody apologized to my Jewish friend for something so patently offensive."
Another SPHR event October 2013 guest speaker Miko Peled is reportedt to have stated "Anybody who supports Israel is a terrorist, is a racist. You put feces in the drinking water of the Palestinians."
I want to put this in perspective. Recently Calgary United With Israel reported the hateful words of Ala'a Hamden, the former president of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, University of Calgary that she had posted on Facebook, for all to see, all over the world.
"I will soak a koffiah [Palestinian headscarf] with your blood and save it to show to your siblings...I will be named the mother of the martyr." ...
"This land will be proud that Palestinian babies are born men and women ready to spill their blood."
She called it "creative writing."
The National Post's headline writers called it "Violent martyrdom posts."
I have not been updated on a response from the police but the university responded. Ben Cannon, the University of Calgary's vice-president of student life told the National Post, "We believe in the right for a club to express their opinions and to keep the dialogue going on campus." SPHR is a pro-Palestinian organization that won an award for the best campus advocacy group.
I'd like to suggest that there are opinions and then there is hate speech.
Is this language of hate against the Jews any different in content or intent than the words of the revered Desmond Tutu: "Whether Jews like it or not, they are a peculiar people. They can't ever hope to be judged by the same standards which are used for other people." And: "The Jews thought they had a monopoly of God: Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings."
Or the words in the official sermon to be read in all mosques of Malaysia "Muslims must understand Jews are the main enemy to Muslims as proven by their egotistical behaviour and murders performed by them." There are no Jews in Malaysia.
Or the Christmas carol sung by the Dor Transilvan ensemble on Romanian public television TVR3 with lyrics that celebrated the Holocaust and called for the burning of kikes; the "N" word for Jews.
Or this. Muslim Brotherhood Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi said: "Allah has imposed upon the Jews a continuing punishment for their corruption. The last was led by Hitler. There is no dialogue with them other than the sword and the gun. We pray to Allah to kill every last one of them."
We have become inured to anti-Semitism. It passes the lips and enters the ears without shock. We don't name and shame anti-Jewish hatred. Ryan is a Métis. It didn't matter. The man who verbally accosted him thought him a Jew. Knew nothing about him and suggested it was sad he existed. This is anti-Semitism. And it has snaked its way into our speech, our institutions, especially the ones of higher learning.
It's difficult to comprehend how one hates someone or a group one has never encountered. There are 7 billion people in the world. There are only 14 million Jews. How many Jew-haters have ever met a Jew?
We need to wake up to the nastiness that pervades our vocabulary and those who speak it. From word to deed. We have lived this before. There is no excuse for a repeat in our politically correct inclusive, tolerant, accommodating culture.
And that is the reason we need to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz.Read more
The great Scottish singer, Susan Boyle, discovered on a reality show, has been diagnosed with Asperger's, a type of autism. One in five adults over 60 has autism. We usually associate this condition with young people. Can you imagine the difficulties these adults have in their lives, not knowing why they feel or behave they way they do?
Here is her story.Read more
December 10 has been declared Human Rights Day.
This is a day for all of us in the West, in particular, to pray for those who live under autocratic, theocratic, despotic regimes who deny their citizens their humanity.
There is slavery in the 21st century. While we exclaim over the movie "12 Years a Slave," we ignore those who are enslaved today in Sudan and North Korea.
In North Korea, not only are the people enslaved, their children are beaten and starved, used as forced labourers in freezing conditions in threadbare clothes. They survive on grass and rats, watch their parents get killed and are made to act as informers against their own families.
These people are treated lower then animals. Women are routinely subjected to sexual violence and, if pregnant, their babies are killed.
The regime has no trouble killing its young. "A small and very hungry girl is searched by her teacher who finds five grains of wheat in her pocket. He beats her to death in front of her classmates. A teenage boy witnesses the public execution of his mother and brother. A man is made to help load the corpses of prisoners dead from starvation, put them in a pot and burn them. A mother is forced to drown her baby in a bucket."
Thousands of men, women and children from the southern Sudan have been sold into slavery in the north as concubines, domestic servants and farm labourers. In 2008, a member of the Sudanese Parliament in Khartoum estimated that at least 35,000 were still enslaved in the borderland of Northern and Southern Sudan. Many of the slaves are Christians taken north and forced to convert to Islam or die. Their faces were branded.
Today, let's think about the abuse of the Rohingya Muslims by Buddhists in Burma. According to the Associated Press: "Human Rights Watch accused authorities in Burma, including Buddhist monks, of fomenting an organized campaign of ethnic cleansing against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority that killed hundreds of people and forced 125,000 from their homes."
This campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State has been going on since June 2012. October 2012, tens of thousands of Muslims were terrorized and forcibly relocated, denied access to humanitarian aid and have been unable to return home. It's a humanitarian crisis.
In Muslim countries women have few if any human rights. That would be approximately half the population in these countries. In Saudi Arabia "women don't have the right to drive cars and work, rent or travel without the permission of their male custodians. Some international analysts and human rights groups say that these Saudi women live the life of the seventh century. In other words, they are treated as modern-day slaves, like the foreign labor working in the country.
"The World Economic Forum ranked Saudi Arabia 10th from the bottom in its 2013 report on gender gap issues."
And let us not forget the girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan who have been denied an education. There are far too many Malalas in Islamic countries who need our support and need to feel our outrage. And we must not stop because there are those who take her story and twist it.
According to a report in the English version of Pravda, Malala's story is "increasingly become a propaganda tool of the West in the contemporary "war on terror" in the Muslim World (and beyond)." This from a country that is threatening gay athletes prior to the Sochi Olympics because of its new local laws that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Let us not forget the undermining of other human rights in Russia. Vladimir Putin has unleashed an unprecedented crackdown against civic activism. New laws restrict NGOs, undermine freedoms of assembly and expression, and discourage international advocacy. Abuses continue in the counterinsurgency campaign in the North Caucasus.
China considers many of their citizens as merely machines. Forced labour. A letter was found inside a Hallowe'en decoration purchased by a mother in Oregon in 2011: "Sir: If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Rights Organization, thousands of people here who are under the persecution of the Chinese Community party Government with thank and remember you forever[sic]" reads the letter. Notice the year 2011. Does anyone care or are we more concerned about cheap goods than human beings.
China has a system that sees inmates often "sold" to other labor camps in need of ramping up production capabilities. But suggestions about dismantling the system disappeared from China's state press almost as hastily as it had appeared.
Let us pray for the citizens in Iran. Since the 2009 election the European Union has expressed concerns about the deterioration of human rights in that country. March 2011, EU Foreign Ministers expressed their "alarm at the dramatic increase in executions in recent months and the systematic repression of Iranian citizens, including human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, women's activists, bloggers, persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities and members of the opposition, who face harassment and arrests for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."
Executions take place regularly. So far, in 2013, the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation has collected reports of more than 500 executions. During the week of September 23rd, when President Rouhani was making headlines in New York, more than 30 people were reportedly executed. As far as it is reported in the news, the victims are, for the most part but not only, alleged drug offenders, many with minor possession charges.
And then there's Iran's attitude toward gays. Not unlike the attitude of most Muslim countries. They are hanged in the public square.
When we talk about human rights we tend to focus on the same people all the time. We let these other horror stories fall by the way-side. Perhaps because they are so terrible, so not-like us, that we turn away. We don't even take the time to bear witness as by-standers.
Let us commit to making 2014 the year we truly focus on the most forgotten human beings whose only hope rests with us in the West.Read more
Edmund Burke said "For evil to triumph it takes good people to do nothing."
These words were shared by Kenneth Meshoe, South African Member of Parliament from 1994 to 2013, President of the African Christian Democratic Party since 1994, Reverend of the 3000 strong Hope and Glory Tabernacle, and a former teacher.
Born on Pretoria in 1954, a black man experiencing apartheid in South Africa with his parents and his 4 brothers, Reverend Meshoe learned at a very young age from his father, one does not back away from a fight with a bully.
It was remarkable to hear him say he won't remain silent or back down when Israel's accused of being an apartheid state.
"This ridiculous accusation trivializes the word apartheid, minimizing and belittling the magnitude of the racism and suffering endured by South Africans of color."
George Orwell said, "In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
Based on his personal experiences, Meshoe refuses to accept the apartheid designation. To him, the term apartheid makes a mockery of a grievous injustice to the citizens of South Africa and threatens to undermine the true meaning of the term. Instead he describes Israel as a miracle surviving hatred from all those around her.
Meshoe grew up in a country where a minority of whites oppressed a majority of blacks and discrimination was enshrined in law. Separation by colour: white, coloured, Indian, black, forced to live in areas based on those designations. There were government boards given the legal right to designate "colour" if someone questioned the colour of a neighbour; a child not white enough for the area. Segregated sports arenas, public restrooms, schools, stores, restaurants, and public transportation.
Inferior health care for non-whites, forced to enter the offices of white doctors (if they agreed to see them) from the back door for fear the white patients would be offended and find another doctor, No entering the front doors of stores; they were for whites only. Everyone else did their shopping through windows at the back.
Beaches were strictly segregated. Black men were not to see white women in bikinis! Stepping foot on the beach was a crime. So was sex or marriage between whites and non-whites.
So many of these laws bring to my mind the years of Jim Crow in the southern United States. I'd love to be present at a debate between Reverend Meshoe and Alice Walker.
In an attempt to make South Africa look less segregated, less racist, the government passed the Bantu Authorities Act 1951.These were Black homelands to give all tribes their own areas and a sense of independence. Except each one living in these areas lost their South African citizenship and the passport that went with it.
Meshoe acknowledged there's a small vocal group of people in South Africa who are against Israel. The majority are not anti-Semitic. He says fear keeps people quiet and not just in South Africa.
Fear of what? Fear of attack. He didn't give examples but here are a few.
In June 2006, Professor Pieter van der Horst of Utrecht University, a member of the prestigious Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and a well-regarded senior Dutch scholar of early Christianity and Judaism planned to trace an antisemitic theme from its pre-Christian roots to anti-Jewish blood libels in the Arab world today. He was told to remove all references to Muslim anti-Semitism for fear of violent reactions. The university wanted nothing to interfere with their efforts at bridge-building between Muslims and non-Muslims even if it meant rewriting history or bringing a chill to publication.
Today, at Rhodes University, South Africa, there's an intellectual organization of Zionist hatred. Jews who come out in support of Israel are branded racists, Islamophobic, and apartheid supporters.
I recently learned that Rev. Meshoe and his family have been threatened for speaking up on behalf of Israel.
Free speech seems not to be so free.
For Meshoe, calling Israel an apartheid state exposes ignorance of the laws of the country. The Israeli Declaration of Independence proclaims, Israel will "ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants regardless of religion, race, or sex."
He repeated many times that the accusation of apartheid cheapens the word and is an insult to every South African who endured the inhumanity and pain of it. President John F. Kennedy said, "No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth." Meshoe has chosen to take a stand to dispel "the big lie," what he calls "the myth of apartheid," through education.
He's established an organization called DEISI-Defend, Embrace Invest Support Israel in response to the damage caused by Boycott Divest and Sanction. The purpose is to mobilize high school and university students from South Africa to go to Israel, because those who visit Israel know the label apartheid is a lie, and then share their personal experiences on campuses all over the world. His other hope is to bring the energy of innovation from Israel to South Africa which is now denied because of the false accusations of the BDS movement.
I hear in his words a man who cares deeply for his people; a man who wants the citizens in Africa to be healthy and prosperous, have access to clean water and good crops, to media that will open the world to them; to peace from tribal warfare. He looked around and saw Israel, a small democracy surrounded by failed autocracies, that offered to provide that help and he couldn't accept the political machinations that would turn away from that outstretched hand.
I think truth is difficult to swallow when one has spent so much time choking on lies. But truth will win out.
Meshoe shared stories of people he took on tours of Israel. They'd expected to be greeted with segregation at the Dead Sea or the beaches in Tel Aviv. Instead, they saw men, women, boys, girls, all races, colours, playing together, eating together in the same restaurants, sharing the same lavatories. They were shocked by the lies they had been fed by their own government.
Meshoe told the story of his pastor friend who'd taken a trip to Israel with friends and ended up in an Israeli hospital. On one side of him was a Muslim patient, on the other a Jewish patient and here he was a black man in the middle. Palestinians receive world-class healthcare services in hospitals throughout the country. In the first half of 2013 alone, more than 94,000 Palestinians received treatment in Israeli hospitals.
Not at all like South African apartheid health care.
Meshoe spoke of the Knesset where Muslims, Jews, Christians were all represented.
Not at all like apartheid in South Africa.
Reverend Meshoe suggested the 1973 Yom Kippur war a turning point for Africa. He suggested that African leaders shunned Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, in solidarity with Egypt's surprise attack on Israel. Meshoe believes Africans have suffered for that. He used Zambia as an example of a country with a healthy economy when trading with Israel, which fell apart after the ties were broken.
He sees the decline continuing.
Even though there's a dire need for fresh water in rural South Africa and the whole of the African continent, political leaders refuse to access Israel's technology for purifying water. The ripple effect is poorer health and reduction in productivity which adversely affects the economy. Yet, Israel is building four electrical substations and providing more than
1,400 million gallons of clean water to the Palestinians annually.
Then he spoke of tribal ritual initiations in South Africa, which include circumcision, that has resulted in hundreds of young men dying from complications. The technology to provide safe circumcision is available from Israel as well as doctors prepared to help. But they won't access it.
Meshoe told the story of young man who needed special lenses to see. His doctor ordered them. When they didn't arrive he contacted the customs officials in South Africa only to be told that they had been refused because they had been manufactured in Israel.
Meshoe suggested that in order to continue to rationalize the 40 year policy of shunning Israel, leaders have promoted the false accusation of Israeli apartheid. They play on the memories of apartheid which are still strong and painful. By attaching the label apartheid to Israel, these leaders can justify denying their people access to innovative Israeli technology and assistance that can lift Africa out of poverty.
Politics prioritized over people.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy said, "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."
Perhaps, dear readers, you can explain why the "myth of apartheid" persists.Read more
I read that there is a spiritual connection between the name of the loved one and her soul. One of my granddaughters carries the name Yehudit. She is named for a dear friend of her father; a woman of beauty, laughter, inner strength, bravery and love, who died too young and without children. But she continues to live through my granddaughter.
We place great importance in Judaism on continuity; the past brought into the present as a gift to the future. That is the power of names. The name with which we bless a child speaks to our expectations, our hopes and aspirations; that the attributes of those for whom they are named will continue to shine and carry forward our obligations to repair the world.
My granddaughter is doubly blessed for she is also named for my father, her great grandfather Avraham.
As Chanukah fast approaches and we prepare for the festivities, it is a good time to remember the story of Yehudit/Judith, a young widow blessed with extraordinary charm, grace and beauty. The story of Judith, like the story of David, has affected the lives of countless others from different faiths throughout time. They are the archetypal symbols of Jewish faith and courage overcoming might; moral courage subduing evil.
There are different versions of the story of Yehudit. In the most well-known she is associated with the story of Chanukah and the Maccabees’ revolt against Syrian oppression. The Deutero-canonical Book of Judith promised that her praise would “never depart from the heart of those who remember the power of God,” and that her actions would “go down through all generations of our descendants.”
Yehudit was the daughter of Yochanan, the high priest, father of the Hasmonean family. His people were under siege by Holofernes, a mighty Syrian-Greek general.
The people were bereft. There was talk of surrender of Judea. But Yehudit, “the Jewess” spoke, invoking the name of another heroine.
It has happened before that God sent His salvation through a woman. Yael, the wife of Heber, was her name, as you well know. It was into her hands that God delivered the cruel Sisera.
Yehudit, like Yael before her was a saviour of our people: not with the power of soldiers and great might, but with a beguiling tongue, great beauty, wisdom and great faith in God to whom they prayed not for a miracle, but strength to act morally and ethically to protect the weak from evil.
Simply told, Yehudit tricked the cruel and merciless Holofernes into drunkenness and as he lay on his bed, grasped the hair of his head and with his own sword decapitated him. She handed the head of Holofernes to her faithful maid, who put it into her food pouch. They carried the bloodstained head back to Bethulia where it was hanged on the battlements for all to see. That sight spread fear amongst the Greeks who fled. Her great act of courage shattered the enemies who had risen against Judea and changed the course of history.
The story of Yehudit is so powerful it transcends the history of the Jewish people. Her story has brought comfort to those facing oppression and imminent destruction from a more powerful force.
In the 15th century when the Florentines were under attack, two great artists retold the story of Yehudit “so lovely of face and so wise of speech” through paint and sculpture. For the Florentines, Yehudit represented moral courage over evil intent. She embodies the power of the people to defeat the enemy.
In 1460 Renaissance Italian sculptor Donatello created “Judith Beheading Holofernes” in bronze. The statue was commissioned by Cosimo de Medici and stood in his palace together with Donatello’s David, not to be confused with the David by Michelangelo. For the Florentines, Judith stood for the rule of the Medici’s who saw themselves as defenders of the liberty of Florence. In the sculpture, Judith stands tall, sword held high in one hand, Holofernes held by his hair in the other. The statue was originally gilded, reflecting light in the sun.
A light unto the nations?
Renowned Italian artist, Caravaggio, painted “Judith Beheading Holofernes” in 1598-99. Known for his extraordinary use of light and dark, the technique called chiaroscuro-the strong contrast between light and dark- he used this technique well in his painting.
Light and dark: good and evil.
Caravaggio captures Judith’s strength and power by portraying the moment she is grasping Holofernes by his hair, the sword poised for the downward coup de grace. Calm yet intense. Determined and repulsed.
“Approaching to his bed, she took hold of the hair of his head, and said, “Strengthen me, O Lord God of Israel, this day! And she smote twice upon his neck with all her might, and she took away his head from him.” (Judith, 13:7-8).
Yehudit/Judith, a woman of valour, has been immortalized in time by some of the greatest artists because of her physical and moral courage. She remains today a light unto all the nations, one of the many lights we must remember on Chanukah –the miracle of light.
It is my hope that all of our children will have within them a spark of the heroine of our people ready to ignite in the face of evil.Read more
Promoting peace as Rabbi Marmur exhorts us to do makes perfect sense. What mother or father wants to send a child off to war? We have learned from history, though, that talking peace doesn’t always bring peace. Today, we also need to define peace before we can have peace.
Hazarding peace prior to WWII, when Britain was still recovering from WWI and the depression, Chamberlain offered Czechoslovakia for peace-land for peace. There was a desire for peace at all costs because the memory of war was still fresh. But to the Nazi’s this peace deal was acquiescence to Hitler’s march through Europe.
Yet, Rabbi Marmur’s correct to state that we mustn’t fall back on that failure each time peace is within our midst. We must “hazard peace.”
But what does peace mean?
Words change meaning over time, diachronically, and in time, synchronically. “Gay” doesn’t have the same meaning today as it did in the 1920’s. Fag has one meaning in England-cigarette, but another here in Canada. Defining ones’ terms is necessary before negotiating.
Before we sit down to negotiate peace between Iran and the rest of the world, and get our hopes up in Israel and Palestine we need to be sure we’re talking about the same thing.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines peace as “a state or period of mutual concord between governments; a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity.”
Peace means something else in Islam.
Islamic understanding of peace means submission or surrender. Peace comes (according to Islam) only after one surrenders or submits one’s self to Allah and his messenger Muhammad. Therefore peace (Islamic) exists only inside the Dar-ul-Islam—the house of submission, after the conversion to Islam. That is the ultimate meaning of Islamic peace.
Modern-day Islamic scholar, Ibrahim Sulaiman, says, "Jihad is not inhumane, despite its necessary violence and bloodshed, its ultimate desire is peace which is protected and enhanced by the rule of law." Submission and peace can be very different concepts, even if a form of peace is often brought about through forcing others into submission.
Shaykh Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan al-Buti’s, was the leading Islamic scholar in Syria, professor and retired Dean at the College of Islamic Law at Damascus University, and author of Jurisprudence of the Prophetic Biography , regarded as one of the best Prophetic biographies written in the 20th century.
He wrote: “The Holy war as it is known in Islamic jurisprudence is basically an offensive war, and it is the duty of all Muslims of every age…because our prophet Muhammad said that he is ordered by Allah to fight all people until they say ‘No God but Allah,’ and he is his messenger. It is meaningless to talk about the holy war as only defensive, otherwise, what did the prophet mean when he said, "from now on even if they don’t invade you, you must invade them.”
According to these scholars peace means accepting Islam.
What did Iranian leader, Rouhani really mean when he said in New York in September Iran “poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region… Let me say loud and clear that peace is within reach,” and “We are not seeking ... and looking for war with any nations. We are seeking peace and stability among all the nations in the region”?
In November Palestinian leader Abbas declared that all of Israel is occupied Palestine. When he sits downat the peace table, waht does peace mean to him?
If we are going to hazard peace as Rabbi Marmur suggests, first we need to know that all sides agree on the meaning.Read more
When our ancestors first stepped forth out of the cave to explore and to hunt, they faced many frightening moments, especially when they would come upon a lion, a large and carnivorous animal. Would the hunter be the predator or the prey? We know from neuroscience that our ancestor would have an immediate physiological response: his heart rate would go up; his breathing would become more laboured; his intestines would clench; hormones would be shooting through his body and adrenalin would be flowing. His body would be preparing for fight or flight. He is physically prepared for battle -- for his life and food for his family.
This is the automatic, unconscious physiological response of the body to particular experiences-like fear. Dr. Herbert Benson, cardiologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard University, author of Timeless Healing, noted that in the brain there is a, "complex system in which patterns of nerve cell activation are created and stored, and in which life experiences mingle with genetics, constantly shifting the cellular pathways and determine all our thoughts, movements, feelings and functions."
Jill Bolte Taylor, neuroanatomist author of My Stroke of Insight explained that the physiological response to an event like walking out of a cave and unexpectedly coming across a lion takes about 90 seconds. "Although there are certain limbic system (emotional) programmes that can be triggered automatically, it takes less than 90 seconds for one of these programmes to be triggered, surge through our body, and then be completely flushed out of our bloodstream." She suggests that we wait those 90 seconds before responding to the fear or anxiety triggered by the event, I suppose, that is, unless it was triggered by a lion at your front door.
You walk into a store and the salesperson is a different colour, a woman wearing a hijab, a young man with piercings and tattoos. You walk into a room and realize that no one looks like you. A sense of anxiety sets in from the fight/flight response to fear. That instinctual response to fear begins because we instinctively fear the unknown -- be it a place, an event, a person. Fear of the other comes from deep within our cells, our DNA. It goes back to the cave when mistaking a foe for a friend could end your gene pool.
How will you respond to the "other, the stranger"? Will it be with fear? Violence? With disdain? These are the harbingers of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, intolerance of others which come from deep within the brain, the amygdala, the reptilian brain. Or will your response be one of respect?
Our response will be based on how we have been taught to feel about the other. We are able to take a moment to think between the initial, instinctual response and our actions. There are those who have been taught to hate the other for being different. White supremacists teach hate of non-whites; anti-Semites teach hate of Jews, and religious fundamentalists teach hate of homosexuals. And then there are those who learned the Biblical teaching: "Thou shalt love your neighbour as thyself." This person may look different but is no different than me.
As Shakespeare wrote: "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?"
Love of the other, care for the other was not in vogue before ethical monotheism. The idea of all being equal came from the teaching in the biblical book of Exodus: you will care for "the other, the stranger" because you were once a stranger in a strange land. One does not have to believe in God to believe in that teaching, but that's where it came from. It was revolutionary.
Today, care for the other is thought of as common sense. But it isn't. Not yet. We're still evolving. Look around you. There are many populations, today, who continue to be involved in sectarian fighting-tribal warfare, unable or unwilling to care for the other. They are stuck in the rut of fear of the other for no other reason than it is an "other."
It is our responsibility to teach goodness to our children. Yes, you are your brother's keeper; yes, you must care for the other, the stranger. If this lesson is taught long enough, it will become part of our DNA. Goodness will become the default position.
We can overcome our fear of the other, what I think of as a precursor to all the "isms," with practice. Mingle with the "other" often enough and the fear/anxiety switch won't trigger. One day you'll notice the presence of the absence of that niggling sense of anxiety because the "other" will now be just like you.
Until we all learn that we can and we must repress our ancestral fear of the other, there will not be peace on earth, goodwill toward others.Read more
The war on terror is not being fought amongst "officers and gentlemen." There are no rules of engagement that demand that innocent lives not be put into jeopardy by using civilians as human shields or suicide bombers. The terrorism must be stopped. Drones are the West's best ethical defense against terrorism. They save the lives of our soldiers and reduce the killing of innocents.
Brandon Bryant a former U.S. drone operator recently wrote about his response to years of directing missiles/drones and observing the results. He says watching the horror of death in real-time has left him a broken man. He now has PTSD as do many drone pilots.
The intent of these pilots is to cause the least amount of harm while destroying terrorist cells from the top down and taking out munitions sites. They track high-value targets from thousands of miles away, often for long periods of time, becoming familiar with their daily lives. Like warriors of the not-too-distant past, they wait until they see the whites of their eyes, looking at the human being they are about to kill, so different from the more dehumanizing dropping of bombs or delivering an artillery barrage.
As odd as this sounds at first blush, it's a good thing they feel shaken and sick. It speaks to their humanity, our humanity; to our culture in the West that reveres life. That holds life sacred. Their response to killing others by remote control, no different than the response from thousands of regular soldiers dealing with combat fatigue and shell shock, speaks to the morals, values and ethics we hold dear. These pilots have earned our deepest respect, praise and gratitude.
Amnesty International reported "unlawful killings in Pakistan through drone attacks, some of which could even amount to war crimes," on October 22, 2013.
If these are "war crimes" what do we call the damage caused by suicide/homicide bombs and bombers in countries all over the world? Their targets are civilians on beaches, in theatres, hotels, synagogues, churches, trains, planes, cars, buses, subways, skyscrapers, embassies, malls, airports, and ships. All the injured are collateral damage because these soldiers of terror, soldiers of Allah, from the Party of God, aim for "collateral damage." They honour God through death. They pray for our defeat at their hands.
We are fighting a defensive war against people like Hassan Nazrallah, leader of Hezbollah who declared, "We are going to win, because they love life and we love death." And Osama bin Laden after 9/11 said "We loved death. The US loves life. That is the big difference between us."
There's no equivocating here. Death to our culture is their purpose. This war is no different from the one fought by the West against the Nazi hope to rule the world. And they almost succeeded because Chamberlain tried to appease them. We seem to be doing that, today. Appeasement via Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. We are told that drones, "targeted killings might strengthen the sense of legitimacy of terrorist operations, which are sometimes viewed as the only viable option for the weak to fight against a powerful empire."
Only in the West would anyone think that suicide bombs are a viable response to drones. I can only attribute our negative attitude towards drones to naivité, some kind of wishful thinking or intentional ignorance of facts on the ground. Bradley J. Strawser, a former Air Force officer and an assistant professor of philosophy at the Naval Postgraduate School concluded using drones to go after terrorists was not only ethically permissible but possibly ethically obligatory, because of their advantages in identifying targets and striking with precision.
For extremists who are plotting violence against innocents, he said, "all the evidence we have so far suggests that drones do better at both identifying the terrorist and avoiding collateral damage than anything else we have."
Other than the fact that this enemy belongs to no particular country and wears no inform, this is a war about values: freedom versus tyranny. It's pure arrogance to think we can convince Islamist soldiers of terror, their families and communities to give up their beliefs, their values any more than we would. If someone tried to convince you to put a bomb on your child and walk into a café filled with young people and explode himself, you'd never agree. We've been raised in a society that values life, every life. In religious language: "You cannot honour God from the grave."
These people are just as adamant in their beliefs: it's right to stone and flog homosexuals, oppress women by denying them basic human rights, cut off limbs for stealing, enforce honour killings and listen to Imams preach hate of and the obligations to kill the infidel. Their governments pay a martyr premium to families.
Jordan 1948, women like the mother of Ma'an Abu Nowar called out as he was leaving "Don't come back. Martyrdom my son." Umm Nidal Farahat known as "Khansa of Palestine," because of her "great sacrifices" and considered one of the prominent feminist leaders in Gaza in 2006, prepared all ten of her sons for martyrdom. In this day and age, can you imagine the damage that can be done to our lifestyle if all ten blew themselves up in ten different cities perhaps at the same time?
In Australia Sheik Feiz Mohammed, leader of the Global Islamic Youth Centre in Sydney said:
"We want to have children and offer them as soldiers defending Islam. Teach them this. There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid."
And this applied to boys and girls.
In 2001 Iranian leader Hashemi Rafsanjani "speculated that in a nuclear exchange with Israel his country might lose 15 million people which would amount to a small sacrifice from the one billion Muslims worldwide in exchange for the lives of five millions Israeli Jews."
"Victims" of drones are coming to America to complain. We are being played, made to feel guilty so that we question our methods of defence. "Outside of the context of armed conflict, the use of drones for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal."
But if it weren't drones, history tells us it would be something else. Terrorism in the name of Allah has been a military tactic for at least 250 years. Americans, Jefferson and Adams dealt with Muslim terrorism in 1786-the Barbary pirates. They were told the right to kill non-Muslims "was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in the Koran...and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise."
Haj Amin al Husseini, regarded by many as "the George Washington" of the Palestinian people, called a hero by Yassar Arafat in 2002, directed a terrorist attack in 1929 against the Jewish residents of Hebron who'd lived there for generations. Then he spent years learning from and collaborating with the Nazis. Hired by Goebbels to broadcast anti-Semitic propaganda from Berlin where he spent the war in the company of Hitler, a man he admired, he proclaimed:
"Arise o sons of Arabia. Fight for your sacred rights. Slaughter Jews wherever you find them. Their spilled blood pleases Allah, our history and religion. That will save our honour."
We have been involved in a war on terror for more than decade. We are up against people who have no qualms about calling for the death of millions in the name of their god. There is no perfect weapon against terrorists especially when they plant munitions and high-value targets in civilian areas. As long as we have pilots like Brandon Bryant who believe in the sanctity of life, then the drone is the best weapon to fight terrorism. These pilots and the drones are our best ethical response to unethical warfare.