(Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily by Brant Rosen)

In the wake of the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s recent decision to divest from three companies that profit from Israel's occupation, Jewish establishment leaders have been expressing their displeasure toward the PC(USA) in no uncertain terms.

Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman stated last week that church leaders have "fomented an atmosphere of open hostility to Israel." Rabbi Noam Marans director of inter-religious relations at the American Jewish Committee, declared that "the PC(USA) decision is celebrated by those who believe they are one step closer to a Jew-free Middle East." And Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, publicly accused the PC(USA) of having a "deep animus" against "both the Jewish people and the State of Israel."

Given such extreme rhetoric, it may come as a surprise to many that the same overture that called for the Presbyterian Foundation and Board of Pensions to divest from Caterpillar, Inc., Hewett-Packard and Motorola Solutions also included the following resolutions:

- (To) reaffirm Israel's right to exist as a sovereign nation within secure and internationally recognized borders in accordance with the United Nations resolutions;

- (To) declare its commitment to a two-state solution in which a secure and universally recognized State of Israel lives alongside a free, viable, and secure state for the Palestinian people;

- (To) reaffirm PC(USA)'s commitment to interfaith dialog and partnerships with the American Jewish, Muslim friends and Palestinian Christians and call for all presbyteries and congregations within the PC(USA) to include interfaith dialogue and relationship-building as part of their own engagement in working for a just peace.

- (To) urge all church institutions to give careful consideration to possible investments in Israel-Palestine that advance peace and improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis."

Do these sound like the words of a "hostile" church committed to a "Jew-free Middle East?"

In truth, these are the words of a religious community struggling in good faith to walk the path of justice while still remaining sensitive to the concerns of their Jewish sisters and brothers.

Such a description certainly comports with my own personal experience. I attended the Presbyterian General Assembly last week as part of the Jewish Voice for Peace delegation and had lengthy conversations with numerous GA commissioners. When I asked them to share their feelings about the divestment overture, the majority responded with a similar refrain: in their hearts they wanted to vote in favor, but they hesitated because they were worried what it might do to their relationships with their Jewish family and friends and colleagues.

This theme occurred repeatedly during the committee and plenum debates as well. Commissioners who opposed the overture relied less on political arguments than upon their concern for their personal relationships with Jews and with the Jewish community at large. Many commissioners who spoke in favor of the overture expressed similar concerns even as they decided to cast their votes as a matter of deeply held conscience.

In the end, the process that led up to the final vote on divestment was one of genuine discernment and faithful witness. To be sure, the final wording of the overture is a nuanced statement by a church that clearly seeks to follow its sacred mission of justice in Israel/Palestine even as it cherishes its long-standing relationship with the Jewish community.

As a Jew, I was deeply saddened that so many Jewish establishment leaders saw fit to resort to what can only be called emotional blackmail in order to fight against a Presbyterian overture that they didn't like. But for all the undue pressure, I have no doubt that the heavy-handed nature of these tactics ultimately contributed in no small way to the success of the final divestment overture.

Notably, during the plenum discussion, one commissioner commented that he was "offended" to see some Jewish opponents to the overture wearing T-shirts that said "Love us or Leave Us." Another asked if Reform movement President Rabbi Rick Jacob's offer to broker a meeting in Jerusalem between Presbyterian leaders and Benyamin Netanyahu if they voted down the overture was somehow a thinly veiled threat.

As a Jewish supporter of divestment, I will say without hesitation that this vote was first and foremost a victory for Palestinians, who continue to suffer under Israel's illegal and immoral occupation. On a secondary level, however, we might say that this was a victory for a religious community that refused to let their sacred convictions be stymied by cynical pressure.

As for us, the Jewish community is left with the very real question: Are we truly prepared to write off one of the largest American Christian denominations over this vote - a vote that was taken in good faith and with profound deliberation? And on a deeper level, we might well ask ourselves honestly, have the Jewish communal establishment's bullying tactics finally reached the end of their usefulness?

Indeed, when it comes to the issue of Israel/Palestine, the unwritten rule of the Jewish establishment has always been, "toe our line or feel our wrath." By voting for divestment, the PC(USA) declared itself ready to stand down this ultimatum.

There is every reason to believe other denominations will now follow suit. Will our community continue to respond with cynical threats or will we finally be ready to model an approach to community relations grounded in trust, understanding and mutual respect?


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The role of armed resistance and guns in the Black Freedom Struggle is one of America's hidden histories. The mainline Civil Rights Movement was publicly non-violent: this was essential for Dr. King's strategy of public shaming and provocation. It is also important to note how the Black Freedom Struggle's demands were/are remarkably centrist while simultaneously being radical in opposition to American Apartheid.

If it was widely known by the white American public that the Black Freedom Struggle included a component of armed self-defense (which included the Deacons for Defense, Rob Williams, other groups and individuals, and how even Dr. King's home contained firearms for his own protection) the moral certainty and superiority of the movement over the defenders of Jim and Jane Crow would have been jeopardized.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to discuss that hidden American history during a great conversation with Professor Mark Grimsley on the podcast series for my site We Are Respectable Negroes (WARN).

Over the last few weeks, the left and right-wing media have discovered the role played by armed resistance in the Civil Rights Movement (and longer Black Freedom Struggle) with the release of Charles Cobb Jr.'s new book This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible.

Media as varied as NPRThe RootAlternet, as well as Right-wing propaganda operations such as Hot Air and Breitbart, have reacted with a mix of surprise, fascination, and joy to Cobb's observation that:

I'm very much concerned with how the history of the southern freedom movement or civil rights movement is portrayed. And, I'm very conscious of the gaps in the history, and one important gap in the history, in the portrayal of the movement, is the role of guns in the movement. I worked in the South, I lived with families in the South. There was never a family I stayed with that didn't have a gun. I know from personal experience and the experiences of others, that guns kept people alive, kept communities safe and all you have to do to understand this is simply think of black people as human beings and they're gonna respond to terrorism the way anybody else would.
The novelty of Cobb's claims about black armed resistance are compelling because they stand against a white washed, childish, and flat version of the Civil Rights Movement, a narrative which robs it of complexity and ignores the radical politics that were the movement's beating heart.

In reality, as part of the long Black Freedom Struggle with origins dating back to the 17th century, the war against Jim and Jane Crow was an insurgency that involved many different actors, agendas, and theaters of struggle. Americans like simple stories; the effort to fold the Black Freedom Struggle into liberal consensus politics necessitates that some of its aspects are emphasized while others are left as footnotes and books known mostly by historians and archivists.

The Right-wing media's interest in Charles Cobb Jr.'s book This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed reflects a broader political agenda that fetishizes guns and is determined to sacrifice America's children on the altar of the gun gods. However, because contemporary conservatism is mated with white supremacy, such a relationship and idealization of "negroes with guns" does not neatly cohere.

The Gun Right's effort to stop any effort at reasonable gun control--or to treat gun violence as a preventable public health problem--finds cover behind the nobility of the Civil Rights Movement. If lions and American icons such as Brother King, the Freedom Riders, and other resisters can be somehow linked to the gun, then to criticize "gun rights" is "racist", and by extension a crime against human "liberty" and "freedom" as couched in the struggle against Jim and Jane Crow.

The facts are not kind to the Gun Right's insincere efforts to piggy back off of the Black Freedom Struggle. Movement conservatism has embraced the Neo-Confederacy and its language, ideology, and symbolism of Jim and Jane Crow. The white racists in the South are now solidly Republican.

Movement conservatism's racist bonafides in the post civil rights era and the Age of Obama are many (see: Birtherism; voter suppression; the Southern Strategy; the embrace of the Confederate Flag; the language of "Secession" and "nullification"; overt white racial appeals and "dog whistle politics"; etc.).

In all, the White Right and the Tea Party GOP of today are more likely to have used guns against African-Americans (and others) who were fighting for their rights in the Civil Rights movement than to have been marching with them.

For example, research on racial attitudes, gun ownership, and concealed carry laws has revealed a clear relationship between symbolic racism and racial animus by whites towards African-Americans. Here, white gun owners and supporters of concealed carry laws are more likely to be racist towards black people.

As a complement to the above findings, it is important to highlight how stand your ground laws are both racist in their application and enforcement, and are part of a long tradition of de jure and de facto rules and practices which empowered and enabled whites in the South and elsewhere to use guns as a means of controlling, terrorizing, and murdering people of color in order to maintain a white supremacist racial order.

Movement conservatives and the Gun Right like the idea of black freedom fighters with guns in the abstract. They do not like "negroes with guns" as neighbors. Nor, does the White Right embrace the principles and goals of the Black Freedom Struggle that armed resistance during the Civil Rights Movement helped to sustain and protect.

The knot of hypocrisy, racism, and conservatism is not easily untied.

Consider the following.

If two black men in the "New Black Panther Party" were a source of white rage and terror on Fox News and throughout the Right-wing media echo chamber, imagine the panic and "threat to national security" hysteria that would be ginned up if Cliven Bundy and his goon squad of "freedom fighters" were African-American.

The Gun Right's sick and twisted fantasies of white masculinity often involve using guns to stop "black" criminals and to suppress "urban uprisings".

As such, the online sewers of the White/Gun Right have produced such gun porn as the widely read "How America's Cities May Explode in Violence" in which "brave" white men with firearms protect suburban domesticity from blood thirsty rioting crowds of blacks and Latinos who are running amok because their food stamps and welfare monies have been suspended.

One does not have to think very hard about how the narrative surrounding the Trayvon Martin case would have been inverted by the White Right and the Right-wing echo chamber if Martin was armed and stood his ground against George Zimmerman, a man who hunted down and killed him for the "crime" of walking while black in a white neighborhood.

The Gun Right is part of a network of relationships that comprise movement conservatism in the post civil rights era. This alliance is tied together by hostility and racism towards people of color. A thinking and critical person should be immediately suspicious of any efforts by the White Right to claim ownership over, or to praise, any aspect of the Black Freedom Struggle. Why? The freedom and full equality of African-Americans is antithetical to the deep investment in white supremacy and white privilege which sustains and gives life to movement conservatism and the Tea Party GOP in the Age of Obama.



(Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily by David Harris-Gershon)

In a contentious vote guaranteed to be met with outrage by hawkish U.S. politicians and some Jewish leaders, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted 310-303 to divest from three major U.S. companies engaged in "non-peaceful pursuits" in Israel-Palestine.

PC(USA) voted on Friday evening at its 221st General Assembly in Detroit to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions, three companies which provide equipment and technological implements utilized by the IDF in its military occupation of the Palestinians in the West Bank. The church's divestment overture focused only on these three companies, and was careful not to align itself with the international BDS movement or with any efforts to divest from the State of Israel (per a passed amendment during the proceedings).

At the General Assembly before the vote, Caterpillar was singled out for providing the IDF with equipment used in home demolitions, the construction of settler-only roads and the uprooting of Palestinian farmlands illegally appropriated by Israel; HP was singled out for providing biometric scanners used on Palestinians at checkpoints and customized software for the Israeli Navy; and Motorola was singled out for providing surveillance systems used by the settlements in the West Bank.

Two years ago, a similar divestment overture was voted down 333-331. This year's vote represents real movement within the church, particularly after the collapse of U.S.-led peace talks, to recognize that it must act, albeit largely symbolically, to help Palestinians attain those human rights which have been denied them for decades.

The vote also mirrors a growing recognition within America that nonviolent pressure - outside of the political process - must be brought to bear on Israel to end its settlement expansions and military occupation. That recognition, particularly prevalent amongst younger Americans, is showing itself both among progressive American rabbis and college students, particularly those who support the BDS movement. However, it is also a view which is beginning to be shared by those who oppose the BDS movement, but who feel that peaceful pressure must be brought to bear for real progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be made.

Before the divestment vote, PC(USA) distanced itself from a publication released by the Israel/Palestine Mission of the church called, "Zionism Unsettled." The paper, which strongly critiques the ideological underpinnings of Zionism as well as the real-world human rights abuses which have occurred over many decades, has been slammed by a number of Jewish leaders across America as anti-Semitic. While the church passed a resolution stating that the paper does not represent the views of the denomination as a whole, it will remain available for purchase through PC(USA) to avoid the spectre of the church bowing to censorship pressures.

That the divestment vote passed given this contextual backdrop further speaks to the distance the church has moved on this issue, and on feelings that actions of conscience needed to be taken as Israeli settlements expand at increasing rates. And the vote was made knowing that, despite explicit language stating otherwise, the Presbyterian Church would be misrepresented by some as anti-Israel and as divesting from Israel.

While the financial impact of PC(USA) divestment on U.S. companies will be minuscule, the vote will reverberate strongly both here and in Israel, where its significance will likely be downplayed by those who most vocally condemn it, thus giving the vote even more symbolic weight.

If nothing else, the vote will amplify a conversation which remains too quiet in mainstream America - a conversation about the true realities of the suffering experienced by both Palestinians and Israelis in an asymmetrical conflict. A conversation about what we, as a society, can and must do to change a status quo our elected officials have failed to alter for far too long.


David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.


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Comics Heather Gold (@heathr) and Katie Halper (@kthalps) look at the headlines and ask: Is it good for the Jews? This week, we talk to Brazilian journalist Mariana Rebuá Simões about the World Cup, and naked soccer players and their hair. Plus, who is the one Jew in the entire World Cup? Found out! And celebrate how soccer is the only professional sport which lets us objectify men!

unhappy tot
As a former shelter director, I confess that big and little infractions by families staying at our shelter sometimes annoyed the snot out of me. If I knew then what I know now….

Homelessness has gained more awareness, but unfortunately the stereotypical guy begging on the street corner image prevails despite the reality that families and youth without homes far exceed HUD’s “chronically” homeless individuals, last reported as 610,043 (Jan. 2013).  And despite documentation that homelessness among children/youth has increased more than 70% since 2006, homeless kids don’t seem to count. Schools have identified 1,168,354 students, a record number that doesn’t include babies, toddlers and youth outside school systems. Congress hasn't learned that helping kids and families is cost effective, not to mention the right thing to do.

The families in our shelters taught me their circumstances were never simple. Sadly, family-unfriendly policies and practices prevail. In my book, Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness, I share stories of families and offer a multi-choice menu of causes of homelessness. Even that doesn’t cover the gamut.

Unenlightened shelter staff and bureaucrats can be quick to condemn the parent, typically a single mom, pointing out flaws in her behavior, choices and lifestyle. Too many shelters turn away hard-to-serve families.

A new report, Service and Housing Interventions for Families (SHIFT), produced by the Wilson Foundation in collaboration with the National Center on Family Homelessness, documents needs of women with children experiencing homeless and explores effective approaches. In the process, it points to the common shortcomings of our family shelter “system.”

The report focuses on women and their children in emergency, transitional shelters and permanent supportive housing in the Rochester and western New York region, not in metro areas. From what I’ve seen in my 9 years of HEAR US Inc. travels, the NY findings appear to reflect homelessness among families similarly sized communities.

The report’s key findings:

  • 93% mothers had a history of trauma.
  • 81% experienced multiple traumatic events.
  • 79% had experienced trauma in childhood.
  • 56% had multiple childhood traumas.
  • 82% experienced trauma in adulthood.
  • 64% experienced multiple traumas in adulthood.

Other significant findings:

  • Obviously “the most powerful predictor of residential stability for homeless and low-income families is vouchers or housing subsidies,” but Congress is poised to drastically cut the already inadequate vouchers.
  • Doubled up was the 2nd most common option when families moved out of shelters.
  • The average childhood traumas experienced, 3.2.
  • Sexual assaults, often in childhood, were common. (Watch our film on the edge: Family Homelessness in America to hear from women with firsthand experiences.)
  • Despite the high rate of women experiencing PTSD-inducing trauma, only 5% reported receiving treatment.
  • A significant number, 20%, reported being homeless as a child, with even more, 24%, spending time in foster care.

The report gets even more valuable, pointing out often-ignored realities:

  • Depression is common, yet tragically untreated.
  • Women in permanent supportive housing reported higher rates of sexual abuse, bipolar and other mental illnesses, and psychiatric hospitalizations. The connection between PTSD, substance abuse, and depression is significant, and under-treated.
  • The mother’s mental health was tied to the frequency of separation or the proximity of her children, commonly either removed by authorities or farmed out to survive unstable housing circumstances.

We need a better way of helping vulnerable women with kids. Kicking out or denying service to hard-to-serve women (likely depressed or experiencing other mental health issues), penalizing and incarcerating, or berating doesn’t work. Worst case example, the death of a mother who had been locked up for failure to pay school fees.

But since our federal government has yet to prioritize, much less fund, efforts to end family homelessness, we’ll be hashing this issue around for years to come, wondering why kids fail to thrive, parents fail to parent, jails are filled, schools stumble, and poverty soars. That annoys the snot out of me the most.

Once again, the Right-wing in America shows us who they really are. We should not be surprised.

On Monday, the "serious" thinkers at the Heritage Foundation hosted a panel on the faux Benghazi scandal. A Muslim-American woman named Saba Ahmed dared to ask a question about the panel's stereotypical assumptions regarding people of her faith. They harangued and bullied her. The Benghazi fetishists in the audience clapped with approval.

American movement conservatism is racist and xenophobic. In a healthy political society, the treatment which Ahmed received at the Heritage Foundation would be an outlier. It is not. Bigotry and racism are the trademarks and brand name of the Republican Party in the Age of Obama. To deviate from those values would cost the Republican Party the support of its voters.

The ugliness of the Tea Party GOP and its media is now expected by the America people. Thus, there is no consequence or substantial punishment for their bad behavior. Moreover, because of the extreme political polarization that the Right-wing media has helped to nurture, create, and expand, there is a whole public which embraces such bad behavior as proof of ideological purity and virtue. Compromise and civility are markers of weakness for the authoritarian bullies on the Right. Normal politics is imperiled because the basic principles that make it possible are no longer mutually shared across the divides of party and ideology in the United States.

Saba Ahmed's treatment at the Heritage Foundation has been much-discussed. However, the more interesting, and I would suggest even more important aspect of Monday's events, is the role played by panelist Brigitte Gabriel.

People buy the sizzle not the steak. Pointing out the ugly Islamophobia of the American Right-wing as exemplified by the Heritage Foundation's panel on Benghazi is easy and satisfying.

The more useful task is to detail who the players and participants are in a episode of political theater. Because politics is professional wrestling, every member of the show has a role to play.

The role can be explicitly detailed and told to the participants on a panel, news show, rally, or like event. The participants' performance can also be a direct reflection of their temperament, track record, and style.

The most "entertaining" moments in political theater are likely a function of both those variables.

Brigitte Gabriel, born Nour Saman, is a professional bigot and bomb thrower. Brigitte Gabriel's own (and some say discredited) personal life story as a Lebanese Christian whose family was threatened by "Islamic militias", gives credence and legitimacy to her Islamaphobia and hatred.

Brigitte Gabriel is proof of my observation that like black conservatives, women who hate feminism, and gays and lesbians who hate themselves, one of the easiest and fastest ways to become rich in America is to be a member of a marginalized group and to publicly criticize and disparage said group for the benefit of the Right. Professional excuse-making for the bigotry of movement conservatism is great work if you can get it.

Brigitte Gabriel's guiding principles in that role are summarized by her quote that she speaks up for, "what many in America are thinking but afraid to say out loud, for fear of being labeled a racist, bigot, Islamophobic, or intolerant."

Brigitte Gabriel is the character she embodied on the Heritage Foundation panel.

It is rumored that mafia hit man and serial killer"The Iceman" Richard Kuklinski was initially hired to be a leg breaker and debt collector. However, Kuklinski so enjoyed violence and hurting people that he was not able to moderate and control his behavior. Killing was joy for him.

The Right-wing propaganda machine deploys the likes of Brigitte Gabriel as the tip of the spear for their racism and bigotry in post civil rights America. The verisimilitude of her anti-Muslim bigotry is real because she is being herself "with the volume turned up".

[Saba Ahmed's role in the theater that was the Heritage Foundation panel, and Republican politics more generally, is very curious as well.]

"Public opinion" is not natural. It is shaped, massaged, and manufactured by elites and other actors. If the American people want to understand why the public discourse has become so ugly and coarse, and the political system so broken, they will need to ask basic questions about the players and stars in the show. Suspension of disbelief by the audience is the foundation, the buy-in, for a good and entertaining movie, play, TV show, or book. When pushed to the extreme, such a habit is a disservice to the common good and a healthy political culture and society.

The masses are asses. They were not necessarily born that way, someone had to teach them to behave in such a manner.

(Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily By Cantor Michael Davis and M.J. Rosenberg)

Editor's Note from Rabbi Michael Lerner: We invited the Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement and J Street, both of which have opposed the Presbyterian divestment resolution, to respond to those who support the Presbyterian resolution. Neither agreed to do so. Tikkun has sought to be a safe space in which both sides could present their thinking. But it's hard to get the two sides in the Jewish world to sit together and discuss the issues, since anyone who supports even the very limited form of divestment proposed by the Presbyterians is, as J Street's Jeremy Ben Ami said recently in explaining his opposition to any form of Boycotts, Divestments or Sanctions, crossing "a red line" and hence, in the view of the Jewish establishment, automatically suspect of being anti-Semitic. We believe a public debate is a more healthy way to conduct this discussion, and so we are disappointed that neither J Street nor the Reform Movement accepted our invitation.

Presbyterian Divestment - A Jewish Perspective
by Cantor Michael Davis, Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council

The first time I wore a kippa and talit outside of a synagogue setting was four year ago outside a hotel in downtown Chicago overlooking the Chicago river. I was singing with a group of my colleagues, local Reform cantors, to protest the mistreatment of hotel workers. I had the privilege of getting to know worker leaders, edit a national clergy report into worker conditions and organize my fellow clergy in Chicago. This was an exciting time - we took over the lobby of a Hyatt hotel with a flashmob, met with senior executives, collaborated with Christian clergy, traveled to other cities and on and on. Last summer, four years after their last contract expired, the Hyatt workers finally won a fair labor contract from management.

The lessons I learned from this successful worker justice campaign have relevance for me in thinking about how to end Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank.

The lasting lesson this experience taught me was that in any dispute between two parties of disparate power, the more powerful party will object to the involvement of third parties. In the case of the Hyatt labor dispute, management argued that this should be resolved between management and labor; the public should stay out of it. Israel, is by far, the more powerful side in the Israel-Palestine conflict: militarily, financially, politically. In Israel's case, American Jews are told that only the Israelis have the right to an opinion on the Palestinians. After all, their future is at stake not ours. Americans, including Jews, have been accused of anti-Semitism or being fellow travelers of Jew-haters. We are told to stay out of it.

Yet our involvement in Israel-Palestine as Jews and as Americans is necessary and valuable. In the case of Hyatt, management was clearly disturbed by the public's engagement with the issue. Hyatt Corporation's most senior executives devoted many hours to meetings with clergy - particularly rabbis - who supported the workers. In the case of Israel, the international movement speaking up for Palestinian human rights is of great concern to Israel.

In Detroit, in a couple of days, the Presbyterian General Assembly will debate divesting from three companies that are complicit in Israel's military occupation and colonization of the West Bank.

I, an Israeli national who served three years in the IDF, and who has served the Jewish community in Chicago for over 20 years, support the right of our Presbyterian friends to freely explore their conscience on divesting from American companies that benefit from Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank. I will be at the Presbyterian General Assembly arguing for divestment. I believe, along with a growing number of Jews and Israelis that BDS is the best non-violent option to stop the downward spiral to inevitable violence. For Jews - and for Christians - divestment is a principled position. As a supporter of BDS myself, I know how much effort the mainstream Jewish community is putting into shutting down this debate and excluding BDS supporters from the Jewish community. I would challenge those who are trying to shut down the Presbyterian debate to show how the motives of those supporting divestment are anything less than honest. This is unworthy of us as Jews and particularly egregious when directed at our Christian neighbors.First, we should note that under international and American law, Israel's occupation of the West Bank is illegal. Any business involved in the occupation is therefore illegal too. That alone should be enough to keep American companies away from the Occupation. The Israeli government argues that the occupation is necessary in order to keep Israel safe. How does building Jewish cities on stolen Palestinian land or the daily harassment and humiliation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians make Israelis more safe? All indications are that antagonizing Palestinians imperils Israeli lives.

But more importantly, for us as Americans and Jews, the argument itself is irrelevant. The law does not recognize Israel's perceived self-interest as legitimate grounds for making another population suffer. Jewish tradition teaches the same lesson. On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, we read of the education of the Prophet Jonah. Jonah was commanded by God to prophesy to the city of Nineveh: let them repent their evil ways and be saved. But Jonah boards a boat to escape that mission. Rashi on the first verse of the Book of Jonah explains Jonah's thinking: "the non-Jews will likely repent. If I prophesy to them, they will turn to God. And so, I will have shown Israel in a poor light since the Jews do not heed the words of the prophets". Jonah was willing to let a non-Jewish city be destroyed, fearing what saving them might mean for the Jews. The ancient rabbis selected this reading for Yom Kippur to teach us that even when saving others in immediate danger now may imperil Jews later, we must choose to save our fellow human beings. If that is the reason for the Occupation, then Jewish tradition rejects that argument.

Let us also remember that the Presbyterian resolution does not call for divestment from the State of Israel, from Israeli companies, from individual Israelis or even from Jewish-owned companies. Rather the resolution calls for divestment from three American multinationals implicated in documented human rights abuses.

The Presbyterian General Assembly will consider divestment from three companies: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.

Caterpillar (CAT) sells heavy equipment used by the Israeli government in military and police actions to demolish Palestinian homes and agricultural lands. It also sells heavy equipment used in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the construction of illegal Israeli settlements, roads solely used by illegal Israeli seIlers, and the construction of the Separation Wall extending across the 1967 "Green Line" into East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The number of outstanding demolition orders in East Jerusalem alone has been estimated at up to 20,000.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) provides biometric ID equipment to monitor only Palestinians at several checkpoints inside the West Bank. 2.4 million West Bank Palestinians are required to submit to lengthy waits as well as the mandatory biometric scanning, while Israelis and other passport holders transit without scanning or comparable delays. The biometric ID is also used to regulate residency rights of non-Jews in Jerusalem. Since 1967, Israel has revoked more than 14,000 Jerusalem residency cards, with 4,557 being revoked in 2008 alone. HPQ sells hardware to the Israeli Navy that enables it to maintain the ongoing naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. This blockade has included interdicting humanitarian supplies and attacking Palestinian fishermen.

Motorola Solutions (MSI) Motorola Solutions provided an integrated communications system, known as "Mountain Rose," to the Israeli government which uses it for military communications. It also provided ruggedized cell phones to the Israeli army utilized in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The company also sold wide-area surveillance systems for installation in the illegal Israeli settlements.

Plainly put, corporate revenue is built on the back of Palestinian suffering. And Jewish tradition is clear in its rejection of ill-gained profits.

Caterpillar profits from the destruction of Palestinian homes and the uprooting of Palestinian orchards by supplying the armor-plated and weaponized bulldozers that are used for such demolition work. Destroying homes is not a Jewish value.

Motorola Solutions profits from many aspects of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including developing perimeter surveillance systems installed around dozens of Jewish- only settlements in the West Bank, built on Palestinian land. Defending stolen property is not a Jewish value.

Hewlett-Packard provides ongoing support and maintenance to a biometric ID system installed in Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank which deprive Palestinians of the freedom of movement in their own land, allows the Israeli military occupation to grant or deny special privileges to the civilians under its control, and denies residency rights to a number of nonJews in Jerusalem by virtue of not being Jewish. Discrimination and segregation are not Jewish values.

Christians, like Jews, have a special interest in what happens in the Holy Land and a special responsibility to its peoples. The Presbyterian Church should be free debate the issues on their merits without fear of being branded as anti-Semites or any of the other harsh responses that have been circulating recently in the Jewish community. Friends allow friends to have their own opinion and to freely discuss their ethical choices.

Let us show our Christian neighbors the same respect that we expect and enjoy from them. Hillel said: Love your neighbor as yourself, this is the whole Torah.

To Support Israelis Fighting The Occupation, Presbyterians Should Vote "YES" On Divestment

by M.J. Rosenberg

A number of people have written to ask if I support the motion before the Presbyterian Church to divest from three companies which produce machinery Israel uses to sustain the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. The companies are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.

Why those three companies?

Caterpillar manufactures the bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes to make way for settlements. Hewlett-Packard supplies Israel with the hardware to maintain the blockade of Gaza and the software to enable Israel to segregate and separate Palestinians at West Bank checkpoints. Motorola provides the surveillance equipment used to monitor Palestinian civilians throughout the West Bank.

These three are to the occupation what Dow Chemical was to the U.S. war in Vietnam.

The Presbyterian Church, with some $9 billion in investment assets, is being asked to divest from all three companies.

Actually, I don't understand why any religious group would invest in any of these companies in the first place. All three are members in good standing of the military industrial complex and have been involved in unsavory activities around the globe. But that argument is for another day.

Right now, the Presbyterian Church has the opportunity to say NO to the occupation in a tangible, concrete way. It has the opportunity to support Palestinians without harming Israelis. I can hardly imagine any progressive voting NO on this resolution, choosing big corporations over the people of both Palestine and Israel.

Don't overlook the latter: the Israelis. There are hundreds of thousands, maybe a few million. good Israelis who are desperate for outside help to end the occupation. Due to the quirks of their political system, they are saddled with Binyamin Netanyahu and his coalition of religious extremists and settlers. Time after time, they have looked to the United States for help and, time after time, the Netanyahu government and its lobby have blocked the Obama administration from providing any.

This resolution provides hope.

For the record, I oppose the Boycott, Divestment & Sanction of Israel in general because I believe that the BDS approach targets all Israelis, not just the government and certainly not just the occupation. The Presbyterian resolution targets only the occupation which is fair and right. If I thought it was anti-Israel in any way, I would not support it. But I believe that being pro-Israel requires opposing the occupation.

This resolution is pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian and, above all, pro-peace. It must be approved. Voting "NO" is a vote for the occupation. 


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Ketchup king H.J. Heinz Co. announced last week that it’s working with Ford to convert tomato waste into auto parts. Now that’s an innovative Fusion!

In addition, it is further proof that Americans can do anything. They sent a man to the moon and a rover to Mars. They discovered a way to inoculate against the scourge of polio. They invented the slinky and the Internet, jazz and baseball. They overcame a civil war and the Great Depression.

Americans have proved over two and a half centuries that they can do anything when imbued with the exhilaration of self-determination. Americans fought a revolution to secure this self-empowerment. They would control their own destinies, not some arbitrary king. That, however, is all threatened because right wingers on the Supreme Court gave a minority – the wealthy – legal sanction to buy the government. Now, democracy-loving Americans are demanding a constitutional amendment to return governing to the majority.  

In a series of decisions, conservatives on the Supreme Court took power from the people and gave it to corporations and the rich. This began, oddly, in the U.S. Bicentennial year with the Buckley v. Valeo decision that asserted money was speech. Then in 2010, the court decided in the Citizens United case that corporations were people and could spend as much money on political campaigns as they wanted.

Finally, earlier this year, in the McCutcheon case, the court lifted campaign donation limits so that now the uber-wealthy may spend virtually as much as they want to influence the election of not just their own representatives in city halls and state legislatures and Congress, but also the politicians who are supposed to represent other people.

All of this has so emboldened billionaires that one of them, Tom Perkins, said earlier this year that citizens should get one vote for each tax dollar they pay. No more one person one vote. Perkins thinks the rich have the right to buy government.

His plan would kill American democracy. A Perkins Plutocracy is not what Americans sacrificed their lives and limbs for during the Revolutionary War. But Perkins doesn’t care about all that. He believes his billions entitle him to sovereignty.

Though billionaires’ tax dollars can’t buy them thrones yet, they’re using the Supreme Court decisions to secure control. For example, the billionaire Koch Brothers have promised to spend at least $125 million to purchase right wing supplicants of their choice nationwide.  And that’s just the 2014 Koch budget for purchasing government.

While the conservatives on the Supreme Court contended that gifts to politicians of $125 million are fine and dandy, the majority of Americans disagree. And for good cause. They have watched as their so-called representatives pass legislation that makes it crystal clear they really represent someone else – wealthy donors and corporations.

The majority of Americans want the minimum wage raised, unemployment insurance extended, Social Security protected, and infrastructure like highways improved, but that’s not what Congress is doing. Instead, it is slashing the budget in ways that the majority hates, including cutting food stamps and preserving tax breaks for corporations.

Princeton University professor Martin Gilens writes about this phenomenon in his new book, “Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America.” After studying thousands of proposed policy changes, he determined that the rich get the legislation they want, whether the majority agrees or not. But the reverse is not true. The majority does not get what it wants if the wealthy object. 

That’s not how a real democracy works. In a real democracy, all citizens, regardless of wealth or title, celebrity or status, beauty or brawn, have equal access to government officials and equal influence on government policy. Democracy is majority rule; not minority reign.

To restore democracy, America needs a constitutional amendment. One has been proposed to overturn Valeo and Citizens United and McCutcheon, to limit campaign spending by corporations and the wealthy and to return power to the people. A vote on the amendment by the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled for early next month. 

Amending the Constitution sounds audacious. Particularly when a proposed amendment to guarantee women equal rights failed. But it can be done. It has been done. Recently too.

The 27th Amendment passed in 1992. Before that, the 26th Amendment was proposed in March of 1971, and four months later, 18 year olds received the right to vote. That set the record for quick approval.

Working to get this done are groups like Move to Amend, People for the American Way, Common Cause and Public Citizen. They are joined by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

They’ve got 43 co-signers in the Senate, more than 2 million names on petitions, and the endorsement of 16 states, 500 communities and retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

And more. They’ve even got the backing of some rich people. On May 1, Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center on Ethics at Harvard, launched the Mayday PAC, which is a super PAC to end all super PACs.

Non-rich democracy lovers gave $1 million to the Mayday PAC by the middle of May. Wealthy democracy lovers matched that. Among those rich donors were conservatives, like PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, and liberals, like LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman.

Now Lessig is raising more, seeking $5 million in contributions of $10,000 or less from Americans who cherish a republic of one person, one vote. Again, the plan is for this to be matched by wealthy donors who believe in a government of the people, by the people, for the people that won’t be conquered by cash.

That Lessig raised $1 million in small donations for the Mayday PAC in the first two weeks shows Americans strongly support this idea.

Americans can do anything. They certainly can amend their constitution and preserve their democracy. 

Arch-homophobe and wannabe mogul of an online “Christian publication” (BarbWire, which can be best described as an extension of his vile psyche) Matt Barber has a column out predicting that churches in America will soon be forced to marry gay couples.

Never mind reading the entire thing because its his usual psycho wannabe John The Baptist babble. However, the first sentence caught my attention and should catch yours:

Churches in Denmark are now compelled, by law, to host same-sex “weddings.”

Even on a technical basis, Barber is wrong. I recognized that sentence from an earlier article I posted in my news briefs. At the time, it was Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association spinning this lie:

According to the London Telegraph, a new law passed by the Danish parliament “make(s) it mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages.” No options, no exceptions, no choice. Homosexuals are to be married wherever they want, regardless of whose conscience is trampled and whose sanctuary is defiled in the process.

Sarah Jones for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State refuted Fischer:

 While it is certainly true that in Denmark, same-sex couples have a legal right to be married in a church in some cases, Fischer neglects to mention the reason why that is so: Denmark has a state church. The law applies quite specifically to that state church.

“With the legalization of gay marriage, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark [which is the state church], is required to allow same-sex couples to marry in churches,” the Pew Research Center notes in a 2013 explainer on same-sex marriage laws around the world.It’s hardly a blanket rule: Pew goes on to state that other religious groups are exempt from the law.

Catholic churches, for example, aren’t required to host same-sex marriage ceremonies, a fact the Vatican noted just this week. “For the moment we [the Catholic Church] are not worried,” Niels Messerschmidt, a representative of the Catholic Diocese of Copenhagen, told Vatican Radio.

Fischer omitted this crucial fact in his fear mongering, as did Matt Barber.

And how much do you want to bet that if any speaker at the National Organization for Marriage’s silly march later this week brings up this law (because they probably will), the truth behind the meme they will spin about “churches are being forced to marry gay couples in Denmark will magically elude them?

The sad part about the entire lie is that in the comments section of One News Now where Barber’s mess is published, the true story is pointed out. However it still doesn’t dissuade the notion from some folks that gays are plotting to force churches to marry them.

On that note, the entire blame for this lie can’t be shouldered by Fischer or Barber.

When you have people so willing to scared in spite of being told that their fears are groundless,  who can blame Barber, Fischer, or any anti-gay spokesperson for taking advantage of their stupidity?

Earlier this week, I outlined how the Right-wing media will use Goebbels' principles to lie about and obfuscate the basic facts regarding the Las Vegas white supremacist shooters. Right-wing media "watchdog" and "advocacy" group Accuracy in Media took the bone dangled in front of them: apparently, Jerad and Amanda Miller are actually "Left-wing" "liberals" because they support the legalization of marijuana, and any effort to connect them to movement conservatism is a ploy and trick by the "liberal media." Cliff Kincaid offers up the following Right-wing comedy-propaganda:

John Avlon’s dishonest column on the cop-killers in Las Vegas should be studied by journalism students as an example of how to exploit a tragedy for political purposes. It is a shame he gets on CNN as an “analyst,” which gives him undeserved authority and prestige, when he deliberately confuses and misleads people. In this case, he tried to blame conservatives for the murders of two policemen. His Daily Beast column carried two titles, one of them being, “The Bonnie and Clyde of Ultra-Right Hate.” He said Jerad and Amanda Miller killed two metro cops while shouting, “This is a revolution!,” and then they “flung the Tea Party’s favorite coiled snake Gadsden flag and a swastika on the still-warm corpses and then moved to a nearby Walmart to murder a shopper before turning the guns on themselves.”
The reference to the Gadsden flag being “the Tea Party’s favorite” was an obvious effort to link the Tea Party to the murders. The flag dates back to the American Revolution and is used by various groups and people to protest Big Government. Miller’s notion of “Big Government” was a government that interfered with his marijuana smoking. A simple search of stories about his background revealed a series of confrontations with law enforcement over his drug habits.
Avlon wrote that Miller’s Facebook pages “detail a descent into a murderous rage, railing against a tyrannical government and parroting talking points from fright-wing radio hosts such as Alex Jones and militia movement groups such as the Three Percenters while ‘liking’ the pages of conservative activist groups ranging from the Heritage Foundation to Freedom Works and the NRA. Miller’s profile picture was a skull wearing an American flag bandana against a backdrop of crossed knives over the word ‘Patriot.’”

To lie so consistently and so brazenly takes a remarkable amount of discipline. I commend Cliff Kincaid for his efforts. Once again, groups such as Accuracy in Media demonstrate that the Right-wing echo chamber is akin to a trough urinal where a bunch of men with small penises are complementing each other on their "huge" lingams while mixing the streams of their pee together.

The Right-wing media is following a script designed to satisfy and make comfortable its authoritarian viewers. As such, the Right-wing echo chamber attracts ignorant people whose ignorance is in turn amplified and reinforced by the "news" sources they watch, read, and listen to. Goebbels is smiling. He wrote the playbook. It is hiding in plain sight for anyone who chooses to read it.