Tuesday, December 26, 2006


"Blood Diamonds"--the Israel Connection

Blood Diamonds--another reason to boycott Israeli goods.

From "Director Zwick excavates the bloody price of 'Diamonds' " (12/08/06) by Steven Rosen in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles:
Sierra Leone is now at peace, achieved with the help of international intervention, and trying to recover from its strife. But its recent history makes for many harrowing scenes in "Blood Diamond." The fact that the rebels sold diamonds to support their monstrous acts, relying on a worldwide "lust for bling," might make some moviegoers wonder about their own unwitting complicity in all this.

It is an issue directly tied to the Jewish community. The diamond industry has traditionally employed many Jews in all its manufacturing and sales aspects. Here in Los Angeles, Jews -- including many who are Orthodox -- are well-represented as merchants in the downtown Jewelry District.

On its Web site, the Israeli Diamond Industry claims to manufacture two-thirds of all gem-quality diamonds in the world, and the World Diamond Congress held its annual meeting in Israel this year. The German-Jewish Oppenheimer family led De Beers to become the worldwide leader in the mining and sales of rough diamonds, although its patriarch reportedly converted to the Anglican Church in the 1930s. De Beers also has a worldwide retail operation, including a store on Rodeo Drive.

According to author Edward Jay Epstein, who wrote "The Rise and Fall of Diamonds," Jews turned to diamonds as an asset during the Spanish Inquisition, because they could be easily concealed and instantly redeemed wherever they were forced to move. When they fled Lisbon and Antwerp, for instance, they moved to Amsterdam and established diamond-cutting factories.

"One of the great historical ironies is the fact Jews needed a currency for the Diaspora -- something small, something that can be taken with them -- and that led to roles within this industry," Zwick said. But he also added that the "conflict diamond" problem "is more about an industry than a religion."

Or is it?

"Yes, it's a Jewish issue because [so many] of the diamond dealers in the world are Jewish," said a Jewish Los Angeles diamond merchant, who asked not to be named for security reasons. "Think of how many people are employed in the diamond industry in Israel and how vital it is to that economy."

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Monday, December 25, 2006


I Heard You Malachi

On November 3, 2006, Malachi Ritscher (pictured at right) died of self-immolation in Chicago. His death was an act of protest commited during morning rush-hour traffic at a prominent site near the Kennedy Expressway. Considering the details, very few people know of his death. Below are some excerpts from his "mission statement."
My actions should be self-explanatory, and since in our self-obsessed culture words seldom match the deed, writing a mission statement would seem questionable. So judge me by my actions. Maybe some will be scared enough to wake from their walking dream state - am I therefore a martyr or terrorist? I would prefer to be thought of as a 'spiritual warrior'. Our so-called leaders are the real terrorists in the world today, responsible for more deaths than Osama bin Laden.

... When I hear about our young men and women who are sent off to war in the name of God and Country, and who give up their lives for no rational cause at all, my heart is crushed. What has happened to my country? we have become worse than the imagined enemy - killing civilians and calling it 'collateral damage', torturing and trampling human rights inside and outside our own borders, violating our own Constitution whenever it seems convenient, lying and stealing right and left, more concerned with sports on television and ring-tones on cell-phones than the future of the world.... half the population is taking medication because they cannot face the daily stress of living in the richest nation in the world.

I too love God and Country, and feel called upon to serve. I can only hope my sacrifice is worth more than those brave lives thrown away when we attacked an Arab nation under the deception of 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'. Our interference completely destroyed that country, and destabilized the entire region. Everyone who pays taxes has blood on their hands.

... It is strange that most if not all of this destruction is instigated by people who claim to believe in God, or Allah. Many sane people turn away from religion, faced with the insanity of the 'true believers'. There is a lot of confusion: many people think that God is like Santa Claus, rewarding good little girls with presents and punishing bad little boys with lumps of coal; actually God functions more like the Easter Bunny, hiding surprises in plain sight. God does not choose the Lottery numbers, God does not make the weather, God does not endorse military actions by the self-righteous, God does not sit on a cloud listening to your prayers for prosperity. God does not smite anybody. If God watches the sparrow fall, you notice that it continues to drop, even to its death. Face the truth folks, God doesn't care, that's not what God is or does. If the human race drives itself to extinction, God will be there for another couple million years, 'watching' as a new species rises and falls to replace us. It is time to let go of primitive and magical beliefs, and enter the age of personal responsibility. Not telling others what is right for them, but making our own choices, and accepting consequences.

"Who would Jesus bomb?" This question is primarily addressing a Christian audience, but the same issues face the Muslims and the Jews: God's message is tolerance and love, not self-righteousness and hatred. Please consider "Thou shalt not kill" and "As ye sow, so shall ye reap". Not a lot of ambiguity there.

What is God? God is the force of life - the spark of creation. We each carry it within us, we share it with each other. Whether we are conscious of the life-force is a choice we make, every minute of every day. If you choose to ignore it, nothing will happen - you are just 'less conscious'. Maybe you are less happy (maybe not). Maybe you grow able to tap into the universal force, and increase the creativity in the universe. Love is anti-entropy. Please notice that 'conscious' and 'conscience' are related concepts.

Why God - what is the value? Whether committee consensus of a benevolent power that works through humans, or giant fungus under Oregon, the value of opening up to the concept of God is in coming to the realization that we are not alone, establishing a connection to the universe, the experience of finding completion. As individuals we may exist alone, but we are all alone together as a people. Faith is the answer to fear. Fear opposes love. To manipulate through fear is a betrayal of trust.

What does God want? No big mystery - simply that we try to help each other. We decide to make God-like decisions, rescuing falling sparrows, or putting the poor things out of their misery. Tolerance, giving, acceptance, forgiveness.

... Many people will think that I should not be able to choose the time and manner of my own death. My position is that I only get one death, I want it to be a good one. Wouldn't it be better to stand for something or make a statement, rather than a fiery collision with some drunk driver? Are not smokers choosing death by lung cancer? Where is the dignity there? Are not the people the people who disregard the environment killing themselves and future generations? Here is the statement I want to make: if I am required to pay for your barbaric war, I choose not to live in your world. I refuse to finance the mass murder of innocent civilians, who did nothing to threaten our country. I will not participate in your charade - my conscience will not allow me to be a part of your crusade. There might be some who say "it's a coward's way out" - that opinion is so idiotic that it requires no response. From my point of view, I am opening a new door.

What is one more life thrown away in this sad and useless national tragedy? If one death can atone for anything, in any small way, to say to the world: I apologize for what we have done to you, I am ashamed for the mayhem and turmoil caused by my country.

... Without fear I go now to God - your future is what you will choose today.
The knee-jerk reaction of some reading this may be to dismiss Ritscher's protest as an act of mental illness. Here are part of Nitsuh Abebe's apt reflections on the subject:
Malachi Ritscher is one of fewer than 10 people in American history to have done this. And as of 2006, it's hard to imagine how an American could successfully use self-immolation as a form of protest. You can't tell anyone about it: Most people would try to dissuade you, or even have you committed for your own protection. It's something you'll inevitably do alone; it's something that major media will not widely report; and it's something most people will conclude was the work of a very ill person.

Back, then, to the question everyone's asking, the question you probably already have strong opinions on: Was Malachi Ritscher a political martyr or a mentally troubled suicide? Let me tip my editorial hand and claim something: The argument is a distraction, and it's the wrong question to ask. It assumes too much. It assumes that the two things are mutually exclusive, or binaries, and that they can't be jumbled intractably in someone's thinking. It assumes that there's a clear, distinct line between rational politics and personal emotions. And it assumes that a troubled person can't legitimately mean what he says, even if his way of expressing it is tragic.
See also:

Friday, December 22, 2006


Merry Christmas, Bethlehem

See Open Bethlehem

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006


The Repressed Religious Right

Reuters is reporting that "A second Colorado evangelical leader in little over a month has resigned from the pulpit over a scandal involving gay sex, church officials said on Tuesday." It's not a novel idea to suggest that much of the homophobia and transphobia from the Religious Right is rooted in internalized self-hatred and repression. Some of the conservative clergy clearly "doth protest too much" although Paul Barnes--the latest Evangelical pastor to"come out" does not seem to be one of them.
Paul Barnes has resigned from the 2,100-member Grace Chapel, a church he founded in suburban Denver, said church spokeswoman Michelle Ames.

Barnes' resignation follows last month's admission by high-profile preacher Ted Haggard that he was guilty of unspecified "sexual immorality" after a male prostitute went public with their liaisons.
Ames said Barnes told his congregation in a videotaped message on Sunday he had "struggled with homosexuality since he was five years old."

Barnes was confronted by an associate pastor of the church who received an anonymous phone call from a person who heard someone was threatening to go public with the names of Barnes and other evangelical leaders who engaged in homosexual behavior, Ames said.
Best wishes to Paul Barnes. The vilification of him from Right and Left is already in evidence on the internet. Truth Wins Out strikes the right tone, I think:
"After the fall of Ted Haggard and Paul Barnes, it is time for conservative churches to admit that their approach to homosexuality is an experiment that has failed," said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out, a non-profit organization that monitors so-called ex-gay ministries. "How many lives will be shattered, families destroyed and careers ruined before the religious right accepts gay people for who they are?

"Instead of tired anti-gay apologetics, the evangelical church should offer apologies to the gay and lesbian community and move swiftly to change their out-of-touch anti-gay positions," added Besen.
See also:Red Kettle Boycott: Just Say "No" to the Salvation Army

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Update on Hasbara--The Zionist War on Truth

The image at right is from a web site hosted by Regents of the University of Minnesota.

Last July, I wrote about "Hasbara--The Zionist War on Truth." Late last month, The Guardian (UK) ran an article by Stewart Purvis called "Israel ups the stakes in the propaganda war." Purvis reported from the David Bar Ilan conference on the media and Middle East in occupied (1948) Palestine (a.k.a. Israel). There, Israeli propaganda minister Amir Gissin "faced an audience of Israelis who were unhappy about the way the propaganda battle with Hizbullah was fought and lost during the war in the Lebanon. They wanted to know how it could be done better next time, because most people in Israel seem to think there will be a next time with Hizbullah soon."

Here's another excerpt from the article:
Gissin said the words of his English-speaking spokespeople could not compete with the power of the pictures of civilians killed in the Israeli attack on Lebanese towns like Qana. And the Israeli parliament will not spend the money on an Israeli counterpart to al-Jazeera.

But Gissin was not down-hearted. He declared there to be a "war on the web" in which Israel had a new weapon, a piece of computer software called the "internet megaphone".

"During the war we had the opportunity to do some very nice things with the megaphone community," he revealed at the conference. Among them, he claimed, was a role in getting an admission from Reuters that a photograph of damage to Beirut had been doctored by a Lebanese photographer to increase the amount of smoke in the picture. This was first spotted by American blogger Charles Johnson, who has won an award for "promoting Israel and Zionism".

To check out the power of the megaphone, I logged onto a website called GIYUS (Give Israel Your United Support) last Wednesday afternoon. More than 25,000 registered users of www.giyus.org have downloaded the megaphone software, which enables them to receive alerts asking them to get active online.
See also: Israel's Foreign Ministry provides Free Internet Tool to online activists (Electronic Intifada)

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