The Roots of Suffering in the Context of Israel-Palestine

I recently spoke at an Islamic Center about the psycho-spiritual roots of suffering and conflict. The speech I gave is unique because I explain why, at its core, the Israel-Palestine tragedy is not a political, ideological, religious, cultural or humanitarian problem. It is a psycho-spiritual problem. I begin at 4:45 and speak for about 36 minutes. A Q&A period follows the talk.
https://boards.wetransfer.com/board/s7goiwsvgbf77xi7p20190808233843/latest/s9unzpaf3kzjb0w8f20190808233843 .

UNVEILING THE HIDDEN ROOTS of SUFFERING as REVEALED THROUGH THE ARCHETYPE of ISRAEL-PALESTINE

With Rich Forer, author of BREAKTHROUGH: TRANSFORMING FEAR INTO COMPASSION

March 24 @ 5:00 PM

Jefferson Unitarian Church (in the Chapel)

14350 W. 32nd Ave, Golden, CO

                                 Free Admission

Rich will articulate the fundamental roots of suffering, especially as revealed through the tragedy of Israel-Palestine, which has become an archetype or model for how we create a world of suffering for self and other. He will illuminate the unconscious thought processes that shape our world and that induce so many who ordinarily believe in justice to support injustice; and will show the self-destructive nature of the unexamined mind that projects its suffering onto the other and then blames or scapegoats the other for its suffering.

FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, HELEN THOMAS

Anyone with an interest in the Israel-Palestine Conflict should not miss an opportunity to attend one of Richard Forer’s talks. The insight he brings to this seemingly endless dilemma has the ability to transform the entire debate and create a just resolution for all sides.

AWARD WINNING PRODUCER/AUTHOR/HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ANNA BALTZER

To my knowledge, there has never been a book that takes on the daunting challenge of describing and deconstructing the unbelievably complex emotional and intellectual journey from prejudice to compassion on this issue… until now!

GILL DYE, PAST DIRECTOR of the ELIJAH TRUST (a UK Charity) & ASSOCIATE OF ELIAS CHACOUR, PAST ARCHBISHOP of the MELKITE GREEK CATHOLIC CHURCH

I have been working in the Israel/Palestine arena for nearly 20 years. I believe that you and your book are an answer to our prayers over many years. May God speed it, and may it be dispersed and read widely across the English-speaking world.

Dickinson, TX Discriminates Against its Most Compassionate and Informed Citizens

Dickinson, TX Discriminates Against its Most Compassionate and Informed Citizens

In this, the year of category 4 hurricanes, Dickinson, Texas, population 20,000, a small town south of Houston, was among the most battered victims of Hurricane Harvey. With speeds reaching 130 mph, the hurricane made landfall in the Houston area on August 25, where it carried out its devastation over the next seven days. By the time Harvey moved on, 7,000 of Dickinson’s homes and 88 of its businesses were destroyed or seriously damaged. Most were not covered by flood insurance

Thankfully, the United States and local governments go to great lengths to assist victims of natural disaster. In addition to government aid, the generosity of individuals, organizations and corporations also contributes to mitigating the suffering.

The city of Dickinson has received generous donations for its rebuilding efforts. By making these funds available to individuals and businesses that reside within city limits, the local government hopes to maintain property values as well as sales tax revenue. Residents are, therefore, encouraged to apply for assistance.

However, the application contains a clause not normally seen when seeking assistance for the injuries that often stem from impersonal acts of God. Titled “Verification not to Boycott Israel,” the offending clause requires that “By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has called this requirement an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths. . .”

The ACLU is correct, but what is particularly egregious is that a leadership that prides itself on the “American values,” that are imbedded within the “greatest democracy on Earth,” is so willing to violate those values. I am speaking here of willful blindness. For example, if I were to ask the mayor of Dickinson or the congregants of one of the Houston area’s Christian megachurches to tell me what they know about the Israel-Palestine problem, I am certain they would respond in one of two ways. They would avoid the question and insist that the Jews must populate the promised land as a mandatory step toward the Second Coming of Christ, or they would accuse the Palestinians, with their stones and slingshots, of fomenting violence against the world’s third or fourth most militarily powerful nation on earth.

If I were to describe Israel’s relentless seizure of Palestinian land, its blatant contempt for international law, its deliberate dismissal of numerous international agreements that it is signatory to and its fifty year occupation of the Palestinian people, 20% of whom are Christian, I am sure these good Christians would dismiss as ignorance any evidence that does not reinforce their unresearched and self-serving views.

The city’s suppression of free speech against a terrible injustice and the support the city and the many churches in the area provide Israel is itself in violation of basic norms of decency and heartfelt concern toward fellow human beings. Turning away from the light of truth, this support is solely based upon interpretations of Christian scripture that betray Jesus’s teachings on love, tolerance, and inclusion.

Although I can’t prove it, the offending clause in the application for assistance is not only a violation of the first amendment’s right to free speech, it is a violation of the constitution’s implied separation of church and state. The leadership of Dickinson is attempting to suppress the right to free speech by imposing its religious beliefs onto a humanitarian situation and onto the most compassionate and well-informed victims of this situation. Citizens who exercise their right to speak out against injustice are being penalized by a government that enables injustice in the name of justice. This is the unexamined mind that projects its own suffering onto the other and then blames or scapegoats the other for its suffering.

Dickinson, TX Discriminates Against its Most Compassionate   and Informed Citizens

Breakthrough available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

Breakthrough may be purchased directly from Amazon in Kindle and as a paperback.

To my knowledge, there has never been a book that takes on the daunting challenge of describing and deconstructing the unbelievably complex emotional and intellectual journey from prejudice to compassion on this issue… until now!
– Anna Baltzer, from the Foreword

Breakthrough is a powerful, disturbing, enlightening must-read for anyone who cares about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and knows the present trajectory is a tragic cul-de-sac..
– Rabbi Irwin Kula, Author of Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life.

UN Resolution Opposing Israeli Settlements Is “Too Little Too Late”

The following interview, “UN Resolution Opposing Israeli Settlements is ‘Too Little Too Late’,” was published on January 28 2017 by Fars News and is reprinted here.

On December 23, 2016, the United States withheld its veto, allowing United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to pass by a vote of 14 to 0.

The resolution demands “that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” and comply with its legal obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits an occupying power from transferring parts of its own occupation into the territories it occupies.

The resolution further states that Israel’s settlements have no legal validity and it condemns “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status” of the occupied Palestinian lands.

The Israeli government responded by calling Resolution 2334 “shameful” and made clear it has no intention of complying with its provisions.

With the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States, political analysts across the world do not believe that Resolution 2334 reflects American objectives for Israel and the Palestinian people.

Richard Forer, the author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict, is a former member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC wields tremendous influence within the halls of the U.S. Congress where it shamelessly promotes Israeli policy. Forer believes that like his predecessors Obama’s reluctance to confront AIPAC allowed Israel to “make a mockery of the democratic values and human rights” that the United States was founded upon. Forer also believes that Israel has always put the seizure of Palestinian land ahead of a fair peace with the Palestinian people.

In an exclusive interview with Fars News, he discussed the passage of UN resolution 2334 and Obama’s decision to abstain. Below is the text of the interview.

Q: UN Resolution 2334 passed because the Obama administration abstained from using its veto power. How do you assess the US decision to abstain?

A: The Obama Administration’s decision to abstain from vetoing UN resolution 2334, which condemns Israel’s illegal colonization of the Palestinian West Bank, is a feeble attempt to convince the Jewish state to come to its senses and comply, at long last, with international law. It is President Obama’s parting shot at an Israeli government that he – and anyone who has actually studied the issue – knows has had no intention of making a fair peace with its Palestinian subjects. Resolution 2334 is too little too late.

Like virtually all US administrations before his, Obama’s paid the usual lip service to democratic values and human rights while simultaneously allowing Israel and its American proxies, such as AIPAC and virtually all of Congress, to make a mockery of those values and rights. With his term about to expire, Obama’s long overdue act of conscience can hardly repair the eight years during which he did little to stop Israel’s heartless theft of Palestinian land for Jewish only settlements and its creation of facts on the ground intended to obstruct any two-state solution.

Q: In his remarks following passage of Resolution 2334, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, connected 2334 to his country’s effort to save the two-state solution. Did you find his speech to be sincere?

A: Kerry’s speech, in which he criticized Israel’s obstructionism, was sincere but he ought to have delivered it years ago. Unfortunately, knowing how the Israeli government and AIPAC would have reacted and how the U.S. Congress would have followed along, Kerry (and Obama) refrained from delivering remarks such as Kerry’s until the tail end of Obama’s term in office. Had Kerry’s remarks been delivered by any ranking administration official at the beginning of Obama’s term it would have had far more effect than it could possibly have today.

Q: Now that Donald Trump is president, how do you regard the future of US-Israel relations?

A: For one thing, the Trump administration has not only signaled it has no intention of acknowledging 2334, it has hinted that it might agree to Israel’s annexation of Area C of the West Bank. For another, as I’ve already alluded to, the reluctance of American governments, past and present, to enter into the political pandemonium Zionist entities such as AIPAC and its congressional sycophants would spark if Israel were held accountable under international law has emboldened Israel to flaunt its territorial ambitions and contempt for peace.

One day, after Israel has seized as much of the land it deems practicable and has ethnically cleansed as many Palestinians as possible, it will grudgingly grant the remaining population a greater degree of autonomy and allow a demilitarized and quasi-Palestinian state to exist on non-contiguous Bantustans or Native American-like reservations in the parts of the West Bank known as Areas A and B. When this comes to pass, the state of Israel will have added at least 65% of the West Bank to the 78% of historic Palestine it now calls its homeland. The Palestinians will be left with approximately 7% of their ancestral homeland.

Q: Do you see a chance to bring about the changes envisioned by UN resolution 2334?

Any change envisioned by 2334 is impossible if the United States allows Israel and its American lobby (AIPAC) to dictate what policies the executive branch and Congress must follow. The one potentially positive consequence of 2334 is that the International Criminal Court at The Hague (ICC) will be more willing to move forward with an investigation and prosecution of Israel’s probable war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2015 the ICC made clear that it needed UN Security Council guidance before it could tackle this subject. The investigation is expected to focus on Israel’s violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which was adopted in 1949 in response to Nazi atrocities. Israel is a signatory to this Convention. Justice, the possible outcome of the ICC’s prosecution, is what Israeli leaders fear the most. However, I do not exclude the possibility that by contracting out its dirty work to the US Congress and Trump administration, the Israeli government and AIPAC could put so many roadblocks in the way of the ICC that Israel will, as it always has, escape responsibility for its decades of disruptive and infantile behavior.

Understanding the Fundamental Roots of Conflict and Suffering

Mondoweiss has just published an interview with me titled “Understanding the fundamental roots of conflict and suffering.” Although the ideas presented in the interview apply to all of humanity, the interview primarily focuses its attention on, and inquires into, the deepest roots of the Israel-Palestine problem, which are not political, religious, cultural, territorial or humanitarian in nature.

I am pretty certain that the perspective communicated in this interview, especially as it relates to Israel-Palestine, has never before been introduced by a single well-known media outlet.

If you want to know why so many normally decent people who believe in justice support indecency and injustice or how easily so many can become supporters of violence in the name of nonviolence please read this interview.

If you agree with me that the interview contains valuable, even critical insights please share it with your friends. I think this interview can make a difference in the Israel-Palestine debate and draw in many people who are still on the sidelines. I particularly think it can stimulate a great deal of conversation within the Jewish community, so please share with your Jewish friends, no matter where their loyalties lie. Thanks, Rich

PERPETUATING DISTRUST AND CONFLICT: ISRAEL’S USE OF CHARACTER ASSASSINATION

The government of Israel has always taken pains to disparage Arabs and attribute to them the genocidal designs of the Nazis, history’s most infamous mad men. This character assassination has kept world Jewry fearful of another holocaust and acquiescent when it comes to Israeli actions executed in the name of security, no matter how inhumane these actions are, and no matter how ultimately self-destructive and insecure they make Jews.

Even before Israel’s establishment, Jewish leaders had begun targeting one Palestinian in particular, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. For Jewish leaders, al-Husseini symbolized the apparent Arab thirst for the extermination of the Jewish people which, in turn, stimulated Jewish fear and hatred of Arabs.

Under Ottoman law, which the British had largely incorporated into their administration of mandatory Palestine, a Muslim electoral college was responsible for nominating three candidates to the position of Grand Mufti. Although al-Husseini was not among the nominees, in 1921 British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel, a Jew, rejected tradition and unilaterally named the twenty-four year old to the post.

Two months ago, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the 37th Zionist Congress, made the following unproven and dubious allegation:

Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews,                    and Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come                      here.’ ‘So what should I do with them?’ [Hitler] asked. [Husseini] said, ‘Burn them.’

About sixty years ago, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who had ignored peace overtures from Egyptian president Gamal Nasser, called Nasser “the Hitler of the Middle East,” a phrase that reverberated throughout Jewish communities all over the world. As a child the images that description conjured in my mind contributed to my distrust of Arabs and my fear for Israel and my people’s survival.

A variety of Israeli institutions, formally or informally, assist the Israeli government’s hasbara campaign. Schools and synagogues instill prejudice within the minds of impressionable children and reinforce fear of the other. Emotional trips to Polish concentration camps, where Jews were warehoused, tortured and murdered, are the backdrop for advanced and sustained indoctrination.

Then there is Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the holocaust. Yad Vashem contains biographical material about many of the criminals who carried out the extermination of two-thirds of European Jewry.

Here, the material about al Husseini, a name the vast majority of American Jews have never heard of, is twice as long as the material on either Joseph Goebbels or Hermann Goehring, longer than the articles on Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich combined and longer than the article on Adolf Eichmann. Of all the biographical material in Yad Vashem, only Adolf Hitler’s is greater – by a small margin – than Husseini’s.[1]

Husseini did in fact hate Jews, likely because of how they treated his people, not because of his upbringing, but his efforts to promote a pro-Nazi movement among the Arabs of Palestine were a failure. Nonetheless, the state of Israel’s depiction of him as not only responsible for the holocaust but as the evil embodiment of all Arabs has borne fruit to the point that it has become a rallying cry for the latest generation of Israeli leaders.

[1] “HOLOCAUST ABUSE, The Case of Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husayni,” by Michael A. Sells. JRE 43.4:723–759. © 2015 Journal of Religious Ethics, Inc.

 

LACK OF SELF-REFLECTION LEADS TO MORAL DISINTEGRATION

The following article appeared in the Denver Post on November 27, 2015 under the title “Guest Commentary: Look to roots of violence, not just deeds.”

According to the Global Terrorism Index Report, over the past fifteen years there has been a “dramatic rise” in terrorism, with “conservative estimates suggesting a fivefold surge since the year 2000.” Apparently, the vaunted war on terror has been counterproductive.

Western leaders’ reactions to the terrorist attacks in Paris are as predictable as they are clichéd. Demanding revenge and flaunting xenophobia, the demagoguery of politicians only serves to exacerbate the factors that encouraged the violence in the first place.

The reason Western policies have been counterproductive is because their formulators are not interested in addressing the root causes that swell the ranks of violent extremist organizations. Our politicians prefer to take advantage of emotionally painful events such as Paris by pandering to hatred and fear. If their empathy for humanity matched their passion for political gain they would ask WHY? Why do people become terrorists? Why do they want to kill Americans, French and others? What are the stimuli for their behavior; and, especially, have we in some way provoked their behavior? If our leaders really want to end the carnage these are some of the questions they must ask. But I have not heard a single politician inquire into anything like this. Nor do I detect even a hint that they understand a deeper reality, which is that nothing occurs in a vacuum and that there are direct and proximate causes that contribute to all manner of behavior.

It was inevitable that groups seeking revenge would rise from the ashes of policies that decimated large swaths of the Middle East, contributed to the deaths and displacement of millions, and nurtured despair. Thousands of disaffected youth, no longer able to conceive of a meaningful future, have been driven into the arms of ISIS. When there is no future there is no hope. Without hope, people have nothing left to lose.

ISIS is a fundamentalist, apocalyptic cult that targets Muslims as much as it targets other religious groups. Its ideology is founded upon an interpretation of religion that divides the world into believers and apostates. But most of ISIS’s recruits are not so much drawn to its religious ideology as they are drawn to the opportunity for revenge. Joining ISIS gives them a sense, nihilistic though it is, that they can exercise some control over their destinies.

Frankly, their lust for revenge is similar to the revenge motives we commonly hear from some political leaders. And in their minds, I am sure, they believe that by taking the initiative and doing something, no matter how abhorrent, they will die with dignity, no longer passive victims of western imperialism.

At least President Obama is demonstrating some common sense by rejecting the rhetoric of politicians who call for a total ban on Arab Muslim immigration or a religious test to determine if immigrants can enter America. These politicians either don’t care or don’t understand that most Arab immigrants are casualties of the west’s foreign policy, and that most of the Paris terrorists were citizens of either France or Belgium. Should the United States ban entry of French and Belgians to its shores?

In any case, how can we put our trust in those who, while expressing outrage against ISIS, fail to criticize a Saudi government that beheads people, about 200 this year alone, for crimes such as sorcery, witchcraft and gay consensual sex?

If our leaders and politicians are upset with the actions of what some refer to as “radical Islamic terrorism,” why don’t they speak out against radical Jewish terrorism, which routinely harasses Palestinians and even burns infants to death, all with impunity, and which occupies an entire people under some of the most deplorable conditions on Earth?  How can anyone who enables such brutality be trusted?

Politicians, who view the world through the prism of Us against Them, are selective in their concern for human life. They mourn the suffering of those they identify as Us but ignore the suffering of those they identify as Them.

For all the proclamations of sympathy for its victims, as long as our society refuses to look into the root causes of despair and anger, fear and discrimination, as long as it fails to self-reflect and recognize that it too is just as capable of violence as ISIS, it will continue to sow the seeds for more violence and more self-destruction. Societies that lose touch with their ability to self-reflect inevitably lose touch with their humanity. Then, their moral disintegration is but a heartbeat away.

 

IT’S ABOUT FAIRNESS AND IT’S ABOUT THE RULE OF LAW

http://ahtribune.com/human-rights/41-palestine-fairness-rule-of-law.html

IT’S ABOUT FAIRNESS AND IT’S ABOUT THE RULE OF LAW

In 2008 the United States and the government of Israel agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), in which the U.S. would “help Israel meet its security requirements.” The terms of the agreement provided Israel with, on average, three billion dollars in military assistance annually for a ten-year period to begin in 2009 and end in 2018. The three billion represents approximately twenty-five percent of Israel’s military budget, effectively making the United States a partner in Israel’s military enterprise. If you want to become a realtor click here to get financial help.

In 1976 the U.S. Congress passed the Arms Export Control Act. Section 2754 of the Act requires that international governments use America’s military assistance “solely for internal security, for legitimate self-defense.” However, if you find that this act doesn’t protect you we recommend contacting a lawyer.

The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FISA) prohibits the United States from providing assistance to “any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges….” One of the factors that is considered when determining if a country is in violation of FISA is “the extent of cooperation of such government in permitting an unimpeded investigation of alleged violations of internationally recognized human rights by appropriate international organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, or groups or persons acting under the authority of the United Nations….”

Over the past few months the U.S. and Israel have been discussing an increase in the Jewish state’s military package to $4.0 to $4.5 billion dollars per year, for an additional ten years. It is a near certainty that Congress will approve the increase. When finalized, America’s stake in one of the world’s most powerful militaries will grow to about thirty-five percent. This increase is in addition to the compensation the U.S. has agreed to give Israel for the Iran nuclear deal. The deal frees up about $150 billion in Iranian assets, and Israel is worried that Iran will use some of those assets to boost its sponsorship of jihadist terrorism. To alleviate those concerns President Obama has promised to accelerate military aid to Israel for the development of anti-missile systems and tunnel detection technologies.

The United States government publicly advocates the rule of law, but its actions belie its rhetoric when it comes to Israel. Israel continuously disregards United Nations Resolutions, defies the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition against an occupying power transferring parts of its own population into the territories it occupies, and obstructs investigations by U.N. agencies into its disproportionate use of force, collective punishment and other human rights violations, as it did after Operations Cast Lead (2008-2009) and Protective Edge (2014). The U.S. has not frozen assistance to Israel in accordance with the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act; instead, Israel continues to receive assistance. It remains exempt from American laws meant to hold rogue nations accountable for acts of violence and discrimination against the most vulnerable of peoples.

The U.S. insists it wants peace between Israel and the Palestinian people; however, its non-compliance with its own laws arms Israel with the resources it needs to sustain its illegal occupation of the Palestinians.

Moshe Dayan, one of the most revered figures in Israel’s history (and, believe it or not, among Israeli commanders one of the friendliest to Palestinians) once said: “Let us approach them [Palestinians in occupied territory] and say that we have no solution, that you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wants to can leave – and we will see where this process leads.” He also said, “Your [Israeli Jews] duty is not to stop; it is to keep your sword unsheathed, to have faith, to keep the flag flying. You must not call a halt – heaven forbid – and say ‘that’s all; up to here. . .’ For that is not all.”

This year, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s commitment to violence: “I’m asked if we will forever live by the sword — yes.” Just this week, with tension and violence everywhere in Jerusalem, Israeli deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely told the Knesset that her “dream is to see the Israeli flag flying over the Temple Mount. This is the holiest place for the Jewish people.”

Israeli demagoguery is not empty rhetoric. Palestinians under occupation have no rights. Their freedom of movement is restricted; they are subject to imprisonment without charge; torture and sexual blackmail are common; their homes can be demolished at the whim of the Israeli government; and they have no protection from fanatical settlers who poison their wells, cut down their olive trees and harass their children, beat them and sometimes kill them, all with impunity. Palestinians have no recourse to the rule of law because the laws that govern them were specifically written to deny them their rights.

While the US enables Israel’s contempt for the rule of law, it is about to cut economic aid to the Palestinians by twenty-two percent, from $370 million to $290 million per year. A U.S. State Department official stated that the decision to cut aid was made this past spring and was because of “unhelpful actions” on the part of the Palestinian leadership.

What unhelpful actions? This last year Palestinians looked for the justice they’ve been denied for generations and joined the International Criminal Court, filing war crimes and crimes against humanity charges against Israel. The charges focus on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Israel’s 2014 invasion of the Gaza Strip, in which seventy percent of the more than 2,100 people killed were civilians, including over 500 children. By bringing their case before the ICC, Palestinians challenged the pretense that the U.S. is an honest broker in search of a fair peace. Joining the ICC was an admission by the Palestinians of what the rest of the world has known for some time: The U.S. is the principle enabler of the occupation.

What about unhelpful actions by Israel? Israel has refused to arrest the sadists who burned to death eighteen month old Ali Dawabshe and his father, maiming the infant’s mother and brother in the process. The Israeli Defense Force has been on a rampage of arrests in the West Bank, rounding up and detaining hundreds of Palestinians. Last week Netanyahu made the accusation that the Palestinian people, not Adolf Hitler, were the cause of the Holocaust.

America’s use of punishments and rewards signals, at least with regard to the Israelis and Palestinians, that the oppressed must play the game according to the oppressor’s rule book, no matter how biased and dirty those rules are.

This last year, at the 29th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the U.S. was the only country in the world to oppose a resolution calling for Israel to be held accountable for war crimes. The U.S. voted against “ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in [the Occupied Palestinian Territories].”

When inhabiting Israel’s shadow world, basic fairness and the rule of law are turned on their heads. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) imposes a brutal occupation on a largely defenseless people – and all the while the President of the United States, whoever he is, repeats the mantra that Israel has the right to defend itself. The International Court in The Hague rules unanimously (including the American judge) that all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem belong to the Palestinians and must be returned to their rightful owners – and every month Israel announces new settlements and Palestinian home demolitions. The IDF unleashes nightmarish massacres on Gaza, five times in the last decade; it enforces a strangling blockade that has reduced Gaza to a virtual open-air prison – and American politicians make annual pilgrimage to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to pledge their slavish support for Israel.

The Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has lasted almost half a century. For the sake of fairness and justice, for the sake of the Palestinians and the end to their suffering, for the sake of the moral integrity of my country and Israel, it is time – it is long past time – for the lies and disinformation to cease and for the people of the world to insist that Israel end the Occupation and the United States end its enabling of that Occupation.

THE ROOT CAUSE OF DELUSION, PREJUDICE, SUFFERING AND CONFLICT

The root cause of delusion, prejudice, suffering and conflict is the attachment to a presumed, mortal and limited identity and to the beliefs and images that emanate from and reinforce this presumption. For example, growing up Jewish, I possessed a Jewish lens, conditioned over thousands of years of history, that colored the way I viewed and interpreted the world. This lens led me to assume that a significant part of the world’s population held anti-Semitic views. With such a dominating internal logic, I was bound to interpret the ideas and behavior of the other as predisposed to incite or ignore the suffering of my people. The primary consequence of this error in perception is a world of suffering for self and other.

All of us are receptive to ideas and behaviors that fit within the framework of our identity. Ideas and behavior that fall outside this framework – that originate from the other – are interpreted as possible threats. Fear arises. We look at the world through this filter of fear and unconsciously superimpose enemy images onto the other. We automatically reduce to objects all that we perceive as the enemy. Then, we hide from, disable or destroy these objects so as to restore apparent security into our lives.

Many Jewish people, influenced by collective memory, equate Arabs with Nazis and other persecutors. A core belief among Jews is that Israel, the Jewish home, is a shelter from violence. This belief is an underlying aspect of Jewish identity. To maintain this identity we are, therefore, compelled to justify Israeli policy as a necessary response to an unremittingly violent people.

Dualistic thinking such as this conceives of a world of us against them, good against evil. Our emotions, our attitudes toward others, how we interpret events, what we notice and what we don’t notice will mirror our world view, thereby strengthening and authenticating it. In short, we create the world we live in. This is how the unexamined mind projects its content onto the world. An unexamined mind necessarily accompanies the attachment to a presumed, mortal and limited identity.

One example of dualistic thinking is victim identity. If we are indoctrinated into the belief that we are victims of an oppressive world, in other words if victim becomes a part of our self-image or identity, our unconscious minds will inevitably create conditions that confirm we are indeed victims. Then, we can justify oppressive policies against our so-called victimizers.

Accusations of anti-Semitism, often meant to silence criticism and to hide historical fact, are common tactics in the Israel-Palestine arena. Accusers, seeing themselves as the real victims in this struggle, allege that virtually anyone who criticizes Israel is an anti-Semitic bigot or a self-hating Jew. Many years ago, David Ben-Gurion admitted that Israel had “stolen” the land from the Palestinians. Was he an anti-Semite or self-hating Jew? Was Yitzhak Rabin guilty of self-hatred when he lamented that “ruling over another people has corrupted us?”

So where is the hatred? The hatred is in the minds of those who are afraid to ask why someone is critical of Israel. Indifferent to the suffering of an entire people and refusing to do honest research to refute or confirm the criticism, the accuser panders to his feelings of fear, confusion and anger, all of which are animated by unexamined beliefs and images within his own mind. This mind colors his perception so that he sees the world in terms of personal victimhood versus the world’s hostility.

Most accusations of anti-Semitism are projections. The actual bigotry resides in the minds of those who are afraid to ask why someone is critical of Israel.  Accusers simultaneously abdicate and then project onto the other responsibility for their feelings of fear, confusion and anger.

Because the accuser is unconscious of the effect his feelings have on his perception, he can only project his perception onto the world and then assume that the world he sees proves the reality of his perception. Creating his own suffering, he narcissistically scapegoats and blames the world (in this case Palestinians and their sympathizers) for his suffering. Triggered through denial, this inner thought process attributes to Palestinians and their sympathizers the accuser’s own hatred. In other words, the accuser makes the “other” responsible for, and the repository of, his unresolved pain. He objectifies the other and rejects his humanity. Then he supports inhumane policies, which he justifies under the guise of an existential danger to Israel. In so doing, he brings the world’s anger down upon Israel which reinforces and perpetuates the cycle of perceived victimhood. This entire process is a defense mechanism that stems from the fear of inquiring into one’s presumed identity through the questioning of one’s beliefs and images.

It is true that a small but growing percentage of critics is anti-Semitic and would like to do to Israel what Israel does to the Palestinian people. But most critics simply want Israel to comply with international law. They do not want to harm Israelis. They want to prevent Israelis from harming Palestinians. They advocate equal rights for all because they know that equal rights lead to peace.

If criticism of deliberate violations of international law is anti-Semitic bigotry, what is turning one’s back on the suffering of millions? If caring for Palestinians is anti-Semitism then all Palestinians must be anti-Semites. After all, what Palestinian would not cry out against the destruction of his culture, the theft of her lands and the torture and killings of family members and friends? If caring about the other is tantamount to hating Jews we are forced to conclude that not caring about the other is a foundation of Judaism. Doesn’t logic like this characterize the Jewish people as an immoral and inhumane people and justify anti-Semitic attitudes?

Those who justify the oppression of Palestinians often assume that concern for Palestinian rights equals contempt for Jewish rights. The dualistic mind thinks this way: If you are pro-Palestinian, you must be anti-Israeli. What this mind is really saying is that if you are pro-Israeli you have to be anti-Palestinian.

Real anti-Semites incite anti-Semitism. I don’t know anyone who does that more effectively than the Israeli government and its defenders. And after inciting anti-Semitism, they complain that the world is anti-Semitic. Then they justify inhumane policies on the basis of a need for security against anti-Semites.

I have not met one defender of Israeli policy who has impartially studied the actual history. If they had the decency to do so, most would discover that they have character assassinated the Palestinians and facilitated their misfortune. The real conflict for these defenders is not Israel versus a hostile world or Israel versus Palestinians. The real conflict is the inability to integrate the hard-to-believe but inescapable awareness of Israel’s treatment of non-Jews with unquestioned loyalty to the Jewish state. One consideration recognizes Israel’s dark side. The other denies the dark side exists. If these defenders want to distinguish the source of conflict and find peace they need to inquire within.

Only by committing myself to the truth was I able to apprehend the astonishing reality that criticism of Israel was never a serious concern. Incredibly, I had never defended Israel, at least the Israel that actually exists. I had always defended an idealistic image of Israel that was projected or superimposed upon the Israel that actually exists. This projection enabled me to repress or deny painful insights that I would have learned about Israel and about myself if only I had looked without the influence of an unexamined mind.

Denial and projection go hand in hand. What I denied about Israel and about myself, I projected onto the other who automatically and necessarily became my enemy. My reaction to criticism was motivated more by the fear of taking on the challenge the criticism posed to my identity than by genuine disagreement. This challenge was a threat because, for a split second, it gave me an unwelcome glimpse, a vague awareness, into the prejudice that had induced me to deny the humanity of the other. But I quickly repressed the implications hinted at by this vague awareness.

Remaining willfully blind to documented evidence, in order to avoid an encounter with my lack of humanity, I consented to the subjugation of millions. I judged Palestinian violence as a pathological expression of hatred, not the response of an oppressed people, a small minority of whom resort to violence as the only way they know to retain a measure of self-respect in the face of generations of violence inflicted upon them. Thus, the rationale I used to condone Israeli aggression was security. But stealing a people’s land and replacing one population with another fosters paranoia which, in turn, demands security. Then, in order to maintain this inhumane circumstance, repression is required. The Israeli government, through this behavior, incites anti-Semitism and then complains that the world is anti-Semitic.

Like me once, my Jewish friends and relatives who defend Israel are not conscious of their prejudices against Arabs. My friends think their ideas about Arabs are merely a reflection of what is happening in the world. The opposite is true. What is happening in the world is a reflection of their ideas, of the enemy images that inhabit their minds, in the subconscious and unconscious.

Imagine the confusion that exists within a mind that justifies oppression yet claims it wants peace. This mind is so afraid of challenging its thought patterns that it cannot comprehend that when we oppress people and deny them basic rights, they have legitimate reasons to resist. Instead, it labels the resistance terrorism and acts accordingly. The fear-based dualistic mind is not just narcissistic and self-destructive, it is fascistic.

The path to freedom from these enemy images is self-inquiry. Anyone who takes on the work of self-inquiry, of challenging the mind’s core beliefs and images, will eventually discover that our common humanity precedes exclusive identification with any group. Eventually we will be relieved of the illusion of identity. Accompanying that relief is the realization that we are all Muslims, Christians and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis.

One of the fruits of self-inquiry is the recognition that the real enemy is not someone or something outside of us. The real enemy is the unexamined mind that unconsciously projects its suffering onto the world and then scapegoats the world for its suffering. We can end this cycle of denial, projection, blame and rationalization by inquiring into our beliefs and images and, thereby, coaxing the unconscious into consciousness.

There are few limits to how far people will go to protect core identities. Look at how many people, rather than inquiring into their nationalistic or religious identities, are willing to send their children to war to kill or be killed. At an unconscious level their presumed identities are more precious than the lives of their own children. Because our attachment to core identities and fear for their demise obstructs our ability to see clearly, our intrinsic yearning for peace becomes muzzled by the ego identity’s compulsion to be right. From the false perspective of identity or ego, being right is more important than peace.

Without the self-inquiry or self-reflection necessary to recognize our immoral or self-destructive policies, we easily turn over responsibility for the fate of our children to the prevailing consciousness that shapes policy and influences behavior within our society. Our thoughts are, to a large extent, determined by the self-serving cliches of the powers that be. We become convinced that we are morally superior to the so-called other. The result is that we lose our morality and our humanity.

A principal reason it has been so difficult to solve the Israel-Palestine dilemma, is that fundamentally we are not dealing with a political problem; nor at the deepest level are we dealing with a territorial, religious, cultural or humanitarian problem. What we are dealing with is a psycho-spiritual problem. From a psychological perspective, denial, projection, blame and rationalization reinforce the dilemma. From the bedrock or  spiritual perspective, the illusion of identity, of self and other, creates the dilemma in the first place.

I could never have understood the dilemma until I understood my own mind and my presumed limited and mortal identity. In my research into the dilemma, I quickly ran up against my identity, my indoctrination into a lifetime of propaganda about myself and my so-called people. The confrontation was shocking. The painful feelings I discovered in myself were a wound. But the wound was necessary because it was the doorway to the end of existential fear and confusion. One’s presumed identity is the root of fear and confusion. Whether I am a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, an Israeli, a Palestinian or American, whatever I may be, my identity and its associated beliefs and images are the lens through which I perceive the world.

 

DENNIS ROSS: STOP BLAMING THE PALESTINIANS

Please share my short response to the recently published New York Times article by former chief U.S. Middle East negotiator, Dennis Ross. I provide documentation to back up my critique of Ross’s position.

DENNIS ROSS: STOP BLAMING THE PALESTINIANS

Dennis Ross has done it again. In “Stop Giving Palestinians a Pass” (NY Times, January 4, 2015), he blames the Palestinians for the lack of peace with Israel. Citing “three serious negotiations”– the 2000 Clinton parameters, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 proposal, and the recently ended negotiations led by Secretary of State John Kerry – Ross implies that Palestinian refusal to compromise spoiled each of these opportunities.

I remember when Ross appeared on the MacNeil Lehrer News Hour in 2000 and claimed that the collapse of that year’s Camp David Summit was due to unreasonable demands Yasser Arafat had made of the Israelis. Ross’s commentary was the decisive advantage that I, an American Jew, seized upon to convince Israel’s critics that the Jewish community’s long-held belief that Israel had always wanted peace but the Palestinians did not was unequivocally true. Years later, I discovered that Ross’s claim was disputed by many observers, including Israeli negotiators, who characterized Ross as more pro-Israel than they were.

In his book, The Much Too Promised Land, Aaron David Miller, a member of Ross’s negotiating team at Camp David, quoted Israel’s chief negotiator at Camp David: “[I]n the words of . . . Shlomo Ben-Ami, [Prime Minister Barak’s] idea of the concessions required of Israel for such a sweeping accord ‘fell far short of even modest Palestinian expectations (p. 297).’”

Later in 2000, President Clinton presented his parameters, which became the basis for the January 2001 negotiations at Taba, Egypt. Although an improvement over the Israeli position at Camp David, the parameters gave Israel control over portions of East Jerusalem, all of the Jordan Valley and provided no direct Palestinian access to Jordan. Former Israeli Chief of Staff, General Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, a member of Israel’s negotiating team, said: “Taba was not aimed to reach an agreement. Taba was aimed to convince the Israeli Arabs to vote” [Quoted in The Truth about Camp David: The Untold Story about the Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process by Clayton Swisher, p. 403]. Referring to the forthcoming Israeli elections, Lipkin-Shahak was suggesting that Barak had used Taba as a charade in order to get out the Israeli-Arab vote in a last ditch attempt to defeat Ariel Sharon.

Olmert’s 2008 peace offer was a further improvement over previous proposals, yet Olmert refused to give Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas a copy of the Israeli map, which outlined the future borders of both states, unless Abbas first initialed it. Furthermore, Abbas was told by Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni not to accept the Olmert offer. The Palestinians planned on continuing negotiations after Olmert left office but were stuck with Benjamin Netanyahu, who, as Ross well knows, has been relentless in sabotaging negotiations, putting up roadblock after roadblock, or should I say settlement after settlement.

With regard to John Kerry, Ross is certainly aware that the secretary’s proposal took Israeli bottom lines as its starting point, nullified a Palestinian right of return and would not, in any case, have left Palestinians with a state of their own. The point is moot anyway, as virtually everyone involved knows that Netanyahu, who has bragged openly about undermining the Oslo agreements, never had any intention of making a sensible peace, hewing instead to his Likud ideology, which explicitly rejects a Palestinian state and calls for the Jordan River to be the easternmost border of the Jewish state.

With his considerable influence on Middle East issues, Ross knows that his comments affect the attitudes of large numbers of people, especially in the critically important Jewish community. Presumably, Ross would like to see peace between the two sides. Paradoxically, by unfairly portraying Palestinians as incapable of compromise, while aligning himself with Israel’s contempt for international law and racist ideology, Ross’s irresponsible remarks will make peace between the two sides less likely.

REPORT FROM MY FRIEND RANA IN GAZA

In November 2012, I was part of an Inter-Faith Peace Builder delegation to the Gaza Strip. While there, I was able to arrange for my friend, Rana Alshami, to join us for a full day of activities, including visits to a refugee camp, a cement factory and meetings with a variety of organizations attempting to carve out a reasonable degree of normal human existence in the face of water, food, sanitation and other unconscionable deprivations imposed by Israel.

I had first met Rana on Face Book a couple years earlier and we had developed a warm relationship. Rana, who recently completed her undergraduate degree, helped with interpreting at some of our meetings.

I have been in touch with Rana every day – sometimes two or three times a day – of Israel’s latest bombing and now, ground invasion. Each time we speak the sky over her home is filled with Israeli war planes, the sea with battleships. Today, there were nine heavy explosions within the first minutes of our chat.

Rana lives in Khan Younis, near the southern part of Gaza. Every day, all day, every hour, bombs go off in Khan Younis and other parts of Gaza. Rana’s house sometimes shakes while we are chatting. She often expresses her fear that she will die. Human beings, often children, do die while we chat. Sleeping is a luxury if you are a Palestinian imprisoned in Gaza, a lombard real estate lawyer is trying to get some help out of all this situation, those conditions are not for a human being, people should live in a house where they know the’ll be safe.

Yesterday, two of Rana’s cousins were killed and one was injured and then arrested by Israeli troops. All three were returning to their homes in Khan Younis from the Fajr (dawn) prayer, the first of the five daily prayers that collectively form one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Had they arrived at their homes they would have seen only rubble, compliments of the Israeli air force.

The two dead are twenty-six year old Mohammed Hamdan Alshami, and thirty-five year old Hani Asaad Alshami. I didn’t get the name of the arrested cousin, but none were members of Hamas or involved in violent resistance. They were simply Palestinian, an ethnic group that carries a death sentence with no formal date of execution.

Although Khan Younis has been bombed into submission, Israel has dropped leaflets on villages such as Abassan Al-Kabira and Beni Sahila urging residents to flee the forthcoming ground invasion for the safety of Khan Younis. How perverse can Israel get? Is it really safer to be an indiscriminate target of bombs than of artillery shells? I am sure that Israel, with its malevolent hasbara machine, will find some way of spinning this story so that Jews around the world are deceived into thinking that normal residents of Gaza, like Rana’s cousins, are really Nazis who want to bomb them, shoot them and deprive them of, among other things, water, food, sanitation and sleep.

Every day when I wake up, I turn on my computer, log on to Facebook and check to see if Rana is still alive.

Richard Forer is author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion –A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict.

GAZA IS ALREADY UNLIVABLE AND ISRAEL IS MAKING IT EVEN WORSE

Friends,

Please take a moment to read this short article by my dear friend, Rana Alshami from the Gaza Strip. She wants the world to know what is happening to her people. Please share with your friends and colleagues. Thank you!

 

GAZA IS ALREADY UNLIVABLE AND ISRAEL IS MAKING IT EVEN WORSE

Israel has launched yet another campaign against the Palestinian people. This time their excuse is the kidnapping of three teenage “boys.” Israel is using this incident to once again collectively punish my people. According to international law, collective punishment is a crime.

Israel worries about these children of illegal colonizers who threw my people off of our land, but what about the thousands of Palestinians, including young children, who have been abducted by Israeli soldiers and thrown into Israeli jails without charge? What are our children guilty of to be imprisoned and trapped in cages? Did they fire rockets into Israel in reaction to the many times more rockets Israel fires at our homes and lands?

You must not forget these crimes, nor should you forget Israel’s bloody massacres of my people.

My people suffer behind walls and the rest of the world remains ignorant and silent. Thousands of Palestinian children have been tortured in Israeli jail cells. No one knows the pain we live with. What proof is there that we really kidnapped the “boys?” And if Palestinians did kidnap these Jewish boys, you must know they did so as a result of the atrocities they and their families have been subjected to their entire lives.

Beginning over forty-five years ago, Israel began building settlements in order to prove their claim to all of our land, which they stole by virtue of their greater strength and cunning. They build new settlements and continue expanding existing ones. Chedi Klibi, former Secretary-General of the Arab League, outlines three basic objectives of Israel’s expansionism:

1). The annexation of more Arab lands, including the displacement of the inhabitants which lead to demographic changes that increase the Jewish population; expropriation of Palestinian property and the necessary and continuous repression required to prevent us from keeping what is rightfully ours.

2). The preemption of any attempt by the Palestinian people to affirm our human rights, among which is the right of self-determination in our own land. Thus, the original and long term objective of proliferating and expanding settlements is to eliminate my people and our recognized national rights from the political map of the region.

3). To use the settlement issue to foil any political solution that doesn’t concede full Israeli sovereignty over occupied Palestinian territory. Israel is saying, in effect, that it will accept nothing less than surrender, even though it insists on calling this surrender “Peace.”

Dear reader, do you know what it means to be a Palestinian? It means you are not able to move here or there; you don’t have many of the basic requirements needed to live a decent life. We are even deprived of our sleep and the only thing the powers that oppress us expect us to do is to remain ignorant. As Palestinians, curses follow us everywhere we go. For example, last year I went to Cairo to be interviewed for my Visa. I did the interview very well but the officer smiled at me and said, “Rana, sorry, but we can‘t issue your visa to the US.” I asked, “Why?” His only answer was “because you are Palestinian.” My American friend spent $1,000 on the visa application, travel expenses to and from Cairo and three days of food and lodging for my mother and me. The U.S., which assists Israel in making life difficult for us, made us go through an expensive and time-consuming process that it knew all along would result in rejection.

How much longer will the world stay deaf? Is our blood free of charge? What crime have our children committed that they are forced to live in hell? We are human beings, not aliens. We are exactly like you. Regardless of color, sex, nationality, or religion we just want to live like you in peace and under good conditions.

Imagine sleeping when, suddenly, you are awakened in the middle of the night to the sounds of rockets and warplanes, and children screaming. Tell me, how are you going to deal with this situation? What would you tell your child if he came to you crying and shouting because of the bombing? Last night, unable to sleep, my fourteen year old brother said to me, “Rana, I put the bicycle on the door of the balcony because of the strong explosion I heard.” When he told me this, I felt helpless knowing I could not do anything to stop the bombing.

Israeli forces shoot gas bombs on my people. Israel practices repression as a major cornerstone of its policy in our occupied land.

Raise your voices and stand by the truth no matter how much it costs. Our children want the same freedom you have. They want their human rights. All the world should know what life is like here in Gaza. Only justice will heal the wounds of my people.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN AND BDS

Norman Finkelstein has recently been subjected to strong if not vicious criticism for his views on the BDS movement by the very people who once appreciated his scholarship and his willingness to take on Israel’s propagandists. By uttering a single sentence in an interview with Frank Barat, “The BDS movement is a cult,” many of Finkelstein’s admirers turned on him, shunned him and have treated his name in much the same way the aforementioned propagandists treat them. Their reaction to Finkelstein’s criticism of BDS is virtually identical to the reaction the propagandists have to criticism of Israel. Both are afraid of what they might discover if they look at evidence that led their detractors to formulate their views. And both resort to slander and name-calling while remaining immersed in denial. I find these reactions rather cultic, and considering all that Finkelstein has sacrificed over the decades to enhance public awareness of the truth of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people, I also find the reaction of these BDS supporters stunning in its lack of compassion and humanity.

I believe the consternation BDS supporters experience when confronted with Finkelstein’s analysis renders them incapable of understanding what he is trying to tell them. As a result, both Finkelstein and his analysis are being misrepresented. Because I am in accord with Finkelstein’s and the BDS’s common goal of ending the occupation, I will do my best to clarify what I think Finkelstein is trying to impart. His insights could strengthen the BDS movement and make it more understandable to larger segments of the public. I want to disclose that I have not conducted a thorough research of his views on BDS. However, this video seems to me to be a good synopsis of those views: www.youtube.com/watch?v=iggdO7C70P8.

Finkelstein refers to Israeli propagandists’ accusations that the BDS movement wants to “destroy” Israel. The BDS movement doesn’t take a stand on one or two states, preferring to base Palestinian equality on Israeli adherence to international law, but some of its leaders, e.g. Barghouti, Abunimah, have publicly favored one democratic state. Since such a result would be the end of Israel as a Jewish state, the propagandists are not entirely irrational. Of course, their fear of destruction is an effect of their racist mentality and that mentality only allows them to extend democracy to the state’s Jewish citizens, while supporting flagrant violations of international law.

Israeli policies are not as irrational as they may seem. Any student of Israeli history knows that the Jewish government would not be stealing more and more Palestinian land if it thought the end result would or could be a single democratic state. The Israeli government has in all likelihood thought this through and has contingencies in place for most, if not all, possible reactions to its policies. Being a practical man with a deep understanding of Israeli thinking, Finkelstein probably considers dreams of a single democratic state to be unrealizable and, therefore, unhelpful to the Palestinian cause.

And of course, proponents of Palestinian equality do not want – and should not want – two states in which Palestinians in the state of Israel continue to be treated as second class citizens. The fact is, however, that if a state of Palestine came into being on the 1967 border, the adjoining state of Israel would, of course, have a large Jewish majority; but in thirty or so years, Palestinians would become the majority (even without an influx of refugees) unless the government of Israel continues its ethnic cleansing. It seems to me that Finkelstein is trying to get people to understand that because BDS does not directly and forthrightly address this reality, it will not achieve its goals. Instead, it will be exposed for its lack of disclosure or forthrightness. He is pointing out that because the BDS movement is not analyzing itself, it is in danger of sabotaging its stated goals.

I have heard people claim that Finkelstein opposes BDS. This is incorrect. He does support BDS. His argument is that the strategies used by the BDS leadership are self-destructive. Considering that BDS is a Palestinian Civil Society initiative led by Palestinians, Finkelstein‘s argument, consciously or not, is consistent with Israel’s strategists and leaders’ long-time analysis of Arab strategists as unable to figure out Israeli thinking, the effect of which is that they been continually outmaneuvered.

Finkelstein points to the hypocrisy of basing a movement on international law while ignoring or not acknowledging international law that calls for recognition of Israel as one of two states on the 1967 border; and he predicts that under this scenario, Israeli propaganda will win the hearts and minds of the public.

Personally, I am not sure if BDS specifically addresses how a two state solution would (or would not) include recognition of Israel. I should do more research on this issue. However, given that it is possible that Israeli propaganda will win out, BDS supporters ought to take Finkelstein’s prediction seriously and even seek out his advice. And it is a shame that, rather than consider what this meticulous researcher says, some of these supporters – virtually all of whom have demonstrably less knowledge than he – ignore his warnings and even slander his character.

Finkelstein’s reasoning reminds me of Noam Chomsky, who bases his analyses not on what he wants the results to be but on what is best for the victims. Both are realists, not idealists. And this presents for me what I see as a serious problem among so many who are involved in the struggle for Palestinian freedom, and why Finkelstein calls the movement a cult. That is that if BDS followers insist on believing something because they want it to be true while ignoring or denying something, such as his warnings, because they don’t want it to be true, their personal and collective states of mind possess characteristics of a cult. More importantly, this cultic or magical thinking does not help Palestinians living under occupation.

Since I first became involved in this issue over seven years ago, one inescapable observation I’ve made is that many activists tend to be ideological, even extremely so. They put their ideologies, which are based on unexamined beliefs, ahead of what is best for victims of the oppression. I have met people who ignore (as in hiding their heads in the sand) the probability that their obsession with their ideologies could lead to many deaths. Their attachment to their beliefs takes precedence over or occludes recognition of that probability. They slip into denial so as not to face the consequences of their ideologies.

When I have suggested, as an example, that if they want a single democratic state it might be wiser, if many lives could be saved, to accept a fair two state solution with a long-term goal of eventually merging the two states, their response is almost invariably a subtle change of subject or contempt for my making the suggestion. Their state of mind, in this case, is similar to Israel’s defenders who, in fact, do not defend Israel. Rather, they defend idealistic images of Israel that are superimposed or projected onto the real Israel. Their projection allows them to remain opaque to painful insights they would realize about Israel and about themselves if only they would stop denying and projecting.

Finally, the successes BDS has had, which are regularly touted with great fanfare, are good steps but in the whole scheme of things they are, nonetheless, small steps. This is what Finkelstein is stressing. And again, I have been a bit taken aback with how ecstatic people become from a single success. I am not demeaning the success, but none of the BDS successes to date has had a significant real-life impact on the lives of Palestinians. I prefer that people forego the ecstatic celebration and replace it with self-analysis in order to remain vigilant to what needs to be done, what tactics can be altered for maximum success, and how best to reach the public and gain its trust.

As Professor Chomsky wrote to me, “The successes of BDS – which usually have nothing to do with the BDS movement, e.g., the important EU actions – are in protest against Israel’s actions in the occupied territories, which is what Finkelstein supports. When the BDS movement has sought to initiate protests against Israel itself, it has almost always backfired, leading to reactions that were harmful to the Palestinians. I presume that’s Finkelstein’s point too….”

Richard Forer is author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict

 

Finkelstein points to the hypocrisy of basing a movement on international law while ignoring or not acknowledging international law that calls for recognition of Israel as one of two states on the 1967 border; and he predicts that under this scenario, Israeli propaganda will win the hearts and minds of the public.

Personally, I am not sure if BDS specifically addresses how a two state solution would (or would not) include recognition of Israel. I should do more research on this issue. However, given that it is possible that Israeli propaganda will win out, BDS supporters ought to take Finkelstein’s prediction seriously and even seek out his advice. And it is a shame that, rather than consider what this meticulous researcher says, some of these supporters – virtually all of whom have demonstrably less knowledge than he – ignore his warnings and even slander his character.

Finkelstein’s reasoning reminds me of Noam Chomsky, who bases his analyses not on what he wants the results to be but on what is best for the victims. Both are realists, not idealists. And this presents for me what I see as a serious problem among so many who are involved in the struggle for Palestinian freedom, and why Finkelstein calls the movement a cult. That is that if BDS followers insist on believing something because they want it to be true while ignoring or denying something, such as his warnings, because they don’t want it to be true, their personal and collective states of mind possess characteristics of a cult. More importantly, this cultic or magical thinking does not help Palestinians living under occupation.

Since I first became involved in this issue over seven years ago, one inescapable observation I’ve made is that many activists tend to be ideological, even extremely so. They put their ideologies, which are based on unexamined beliefs, ahead of what is best for victims of the oppression. I have met people who ignore (as in hiding their heads in the sand) the probability that their obsession with their ideologies could lead to many deaths. Their attachment to their beliefs takes precedence over or occludes recognition of that probability. They slip into denial so as not to face the consequences of their ideologies.

When I have suggested, as an example, that if they want a single democratic state it might be wiser, if many lives could be saved, to accept a fair two state solution with a long-term goal of eventually merging the two states, their response is almost invariably a subtle change of subject or contempt for my making the suggestion. Their state of mind, in this case, is similar to Israel’s defenders who, in fact, do not defend Israel. Rather, they defend idealistic images of Israel that are superimposed or projected onto the real Israel. Their projection allows them to remain opaque to painful insights they would realize about Israel and about themselves if only they would stop denying and projecting.

Finally, the successes BDS has had, which are regularly touted with great fanfare, are good steps but in the whole scheme of things they are, nonetheless, small steps. This is what Finkelstein is stressing. And again, I have been a bit taken aback with how ecstatic people become from a single success. I am not demeaning the success, but none of the BDS successes to date has had a significant real-life impact on the lives of Palestinians. I prefer that people forego the ecstatic celebration and replace it with self-analysis in order to remain vigilant to what needs to be done, what tactics can be altered for maximum success, and how best to reach the public and gain its trust.

As Professor Chomsky wrote to me, “The successes of BDS – which usually have nothing to do with the BDS movement, e.g., the important EU actions – are in protest against Israel’s actions in the occupied territories, which is what Finkelstein supports. When the BDS movement has sought to initiate protests against Israel itself, it has almost always backfired, leading to reactions that were harmful to the Palestinians. I presume that’s Finkelstein’s point too….”

Richard Forer is author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict

FIGHTING SLANDER AND OPPRESSION

AIPAC and other pro-Occupation organizations have mounted a campaign to discredit the American Studies Association (ASA) for its resolution in support of the academic boycott of Israel. I recently wrote a very short response to this hysterical campaign. Here it is:

Defenders of the Israeli government’s relentless dispossession of the Palestinian people accuse the ASA of anti-Semitism, based on the latter’s resolution endorsing the academic boycott of Israel.

Despite the fact that the ASA made clear that it opposes “all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism,” these defenders claim the ASA is not only attempting to delegitimize Israel, it is seeking, ultimately, to destroy Israel. Their cries of victimhood are utterly transparent, for in their fabricated and spiteful accusations as well as in their denial of Israeli human rights abuses, it is they who are attempting to delegitimize the ASA and it is they who are seeking to destroy an entire people.

By their very nature, actions intended to dehumanize, humiliate and oppress the “other” automatically delegitimize the perpetrator, for they link him with other perpetrators throughout history whose behavior caused immense suffering and reduced to ashes the innocence, the hopes and the dreams of millions.

By reflexively attacking groups and individuals, who yearn for equality and freedom for all peoples, including Jews, Israel’s defenders make it possible for Israel, in the name of the Jewish people, to carry out its inhumane agenda. In short, Israel and its defenders incite anti-Semitism and then claim that the world is anti-Semitic.

The irony is that by supporting behavior that brings the world’s anger down upon Israel, these defenders are reinforcing and perpetuating their very own self-created cycle of perceived victimhood.

Israel Opened the Gates to Two Dams. Now Gaza is Sinking

In November 2012, I was a member of an InterFaith Peace Builders delegation to the Gaza Strip, where I witnessed the hardships, including food deprivation, Gazans live with. Most are a direct consequence of Israel’s long-term blockade that limits supplies of building material, fuel and food and enervates agricultural and fishing yields.

In 2006, Dov Weisglas, chief adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” At the time, many thought Weisglas was speaking in hyperbole. In 2012, however, as a result of a successful legal challenge by Israeli human rights group Gisha, Weisglas’s comment was revealed to be not hyperbole but policy. Cold-bloodedly, Israeli health officials had calculated the per capita number of calories required for a subsistence diet and then interpolated that figure into truckloads of food. The final figure did not even attempt to take into account food spoilage due to long delays at border crossings.

The inhumanity of this policy is magnified by the fact that more than half of Gaza’s population is children, under age sixteen. Malnutrition, anemia and stunted growth are common. The government is know promoting my vitamins voucher code site to make supplements more affordable.

Of the Gazans I met during my visit, Rana stands out. She and I had been in communication for a couple of years and finally met in person when she spent a day with our delegation.

Because the blockade of Gaza would not be possible without the billions of dollars provided Israel by the U.S., Rana wants Americans to discover a greater awareness of what life is like for her and her people. Here is her message.

My name is Rana. I have lived in the city of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip all twenty-one years of my life. What is happening in Gaza is not fiction but a bitter reality, which we lack the means to defend ourselves against. In the last few days, an unusually powerful storm has flooded many areas, displacing hundreds of residents from their homes. Children are without shelter from the cold and rain. Entire neighborhoods are sinking.

My family and I spent four days in darkness in below freezing weather: no electricity, no water, and no heat. I was so cold, I couldn‘t leave my bed and the small comfort it and my blankets provided. The cold felt like it penetrated my bones. Yet, I am lucky. I witnessed many people as they became homeless, their children desperate for food and warmth.

Friends called to tell me about the flooding and freezing in their areas. I felt bad, unable to help.

Power lines are down and our streets are filled with raw sewage. Greenhouses have been destroyed, affecting farmers and reducing the already minimal food supply we Gazans are forced to survive on.

Making conditions worse, Israel opened two dams, releasing a torrent of water that inundated many homes. As their houses sank, some of my neighbors nearly drowned. Fortunately, rescue workers came to their aid.

All of this was not enough for Israel. Its soldiers have been shooting at civilians in the village of Khuza’a, to the east of my city. Unarmed residents, women and children, attempting to flee the flooded town, were driven back for fear of being shot.

Israel’s action, assisted by the world’s silence, increases our suffering. Where is the international law we hear so many people talk about but never implement? Where is the community that talks about justice and humanitarian support? If my people are prevented from obtaining the basic requirements of life at least we should speak up and raise our voices.

Another storm is expected to hit my vulnerable homeland next week, bringing with it more suffering and more homelessness. When will the world wake up and treat us like human beings?

Rana Alshami, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip

 

 

 

 

THE GAZA STRIP IS DYING

Today at 1:30 PM MST
An hour or so ago, I was online chatting with Rana Alshami, my friend and a 21 year old college student from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. It is Zero degrees right now with a new storm forecast for later in the week. Many of Rana’s neighbors are in the hospital. The streets are filled with sewage. Israel let loose a couple of dams, the sole purpose apparently to make life harder than it already is for the people of the besieged Gaza Strip. Electricity is available only a few hours per day. People are freezing to death and starving.
      This is not warehoused slaughter like Nazi Germany, just the opportunistic use of bad weather to wear Palestinians down and to let them know that their destiny is being manipulated by and is subject to the whims of a cruel and sadistic oppressor with no regard for their well being..
     Please contact your congresspeople and state department officials and let them know that decent people do not support the Israeli government’s assault on the indigenous people of the land it claims exclusively for itself, nor do decent people pander to phony claims of security by a nation whose behavior in the name of security and in the name of the Jewish people incites anti-Semitism, making Jews around the world less secure.

THE ROOT CAUSE OF CONFLICT

Growing up in the United States in the 1950s and 60s, regularly attending synagogue and spending summers at the Jewish Community Center, I never questioned the stories I was taught about the establishment of the Jewish State. In Sunday school I studied the Exodus and learned about my people’s endless struggle to survive against the hatred of our enemies, each of whom seemed committed to our destruction. After thousands of years, this hatred reached its climax in the Holocaust. Yet, out of the ashes of suffering and sustained by the courageous work of remarkable men like David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann, on May 14, 1948 a miracle appeared: Israel was born. But the struggle was not over, for our enemies were unyielding in their refusal to accept a people finally returning to their God-given home and wanting only to live in peace.

For the first fifty-eight years of my life my perspective was that at its core, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people resulted from irrational, even genocidal, hatred toward Jews.

In 2006, while Israel was bombing Lebanon, I began to ponder whether such a one-sided understanding reflected reality. Were the people of Israel so innocent and the Arab world, especially Palestinians, so guilty? Or was something missing from my understanding? I decided to find out. Thus began an intensive course of study into the history of Israel/Palestine.

When I began my research, my uncompromising identification with Israel and the Jewish people encompassed countless beliefs and images. For example, I assumed that a significant part of the world’s population held anti-Semitic views and that Israel, the Jewish home, was a shelter from a violent world. I had never questioned these beliefs, nor had I recognized that a disturbing corollary had been added to them: insuring Israel’s existence justified its aggressive policies toward its neighbors and the Palestinians.

In virtually all areas of my life I held tolerant views. Generally, I was rational and capable of an even-handed discussion of almost any subject. But when it came to Israel/Palestine I was righteous and reactive. I negatively stereotyped Arabs and Muslims and was nearly impervious to reasonable arguments to the contrary. My thinking was dualistic, embodying a world of us against them, good against evil. I insisted I wanted peace but I was not even at peace with myself. That didn’t stop me from claiming to possess the understanding and inner resources that could lead to peace.

Although I was unaware of it at the time, existential fear permeated my thinking. Fear induced me to interpret ideas and behavior that fell outside the framework of my identity as potential threats. I looked at the world through this filter of fear and unconsciously superimposed enemy images onto the other, automatically reducing to objects all that I perceived as the enemy. Then, in order to restore apparent safety to my life, I gravitated to policies and ideologies dedicated to disabling or destroying these objects.

What I learned during my study transformed and redeemed me. Most people who do objective research conclude that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is based not on culture or religion but on land – two peoples competing for one land – and they recognize that cultural and religious disparagement between the sides is a consequence of that competition. I agree that land is a primary issue but what I discovered goes deeper and that is that the root cause of conflict is the attachment to a limited identity and the beliefs and images that emanate from and reinforce that identity.

Learning a more accurate history of Israel-Palestine helped me relinquish my enemy images and relieved me of one-sided beliefs that blinded me to the humanity of the other. Finally being able to see the other as a human being was a great relief. Not only was his humanity restored, my own humanity was restored. And, realizing that I was as much Palestinian as Israeli, as much Christian or Muslim as Jew, my unquestioned attachment to a limited identity was set free. In this transformation, compassion replaced fear and clarity replaced confusion.  

Compassion is the ability to stand in the shoes of the other and see from all perspectives. Therefore, along with compassion clarity arises. Compassion and clarity, seeking to understand all behavior, ask why the other acts as he does. What are the stimuli for his behavior? Have we in some way provoked his behavior? Compassion and clarity understand that no behavior occurs in a vacuum and that each of us is responsible for the suffering in the world and each of us contributes to the collective mind of mankind.

Peace is only possible when we acknowledge that all sides are equally entitled to self-determination. We don’t have to like the other but without this acknowledgement peace has no chance and the people we claim to care about will continue to suffer – in Israel, in Palestine and throughout the world. They will suffer because our true intention is not their well being. Our true intention – unconscious though it may be – is to hold onto a presumed and mortal identity. This comes before the fate of the entire world.

Richard Forer is the author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict, which is available at Amazon.

The Hypocrisy of Criticizing One Country for Crimes Against Humanity but Defending Another Country for Its Crimes Against Humanity

Two years ago Susan Modaress of Press TV interviewed me about my transformation from reflexive loyalty to the State of Israel to advocacy for human rights and equality for all people. We discussed the documented history of Israel-Palestine as well as my insights into how so many people support injustice in the name of justice – See interview here. This morning I received an email from a Jewish man who said:

“Richard is going on PressTV, the Ayatollah state controlled TV, which says 9/11 was done by the Jews, the Syrian rebels gassed the Syrians and not Assad. Do you realize Iran is helping Assad slaughter thousands and thousands of Syrians and you talk about humanity and and go on this Islamo fascist network. Shame on you!”

Here is my reply: I was on Press TV about two years ago. Would it have been OK if I’d had the exact same interview on American TV? You obviously were threatened by the insights I shared in the interview and you clearly have not even a basic understanding of what I was talking about. If you had you would know I condemn the brutality of the Assad regime as well as many of the rebel groups. I KNOW YOU! Your narcissism betrays you. Yours is the same ignorant and unconscious mind that has been at the heart of cruelty, sadism and abuse throughout history. Like others who support Israeli cruelty and oppression, you pretend to care about the lives of Syrians but are so filled with fear and stupidity that you completely ignore, deny and rationalize Israel’s decades long abuse and murder of innocent civilians. You refuse to see the effects of Zionism on the entire Middle East as well as the U.S. and much of the world. You also probably could care less that the US sabotaged democratic movements over the decades in places like Chile, Congo, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Iran, Vietnam, killing millions of innocent people in order to install vicious, murderous dictatorships so as to prevent the spread of governments that did not kowtow to the US.
SHAME ON YOU for parroting the usual slanderous and inhumane positions that have caused so much suffering in the world. I will speak at virtually any venue where I can communicate my message of clarity through compassion. The problem with you and all who constantly deceive themselves into believing that the world is anti-Semitic is that you refuse to research the actual history. Instead, you allow yourselves to be easily manipulated by fear to support brutality and injustice in the name of justice. Your position is so inhumane and hypocritical that you support the murder and dispossession of millions of people and could care less how many people throughout the world, including Jews, suffer. This hypocrisy and inhumanity is due to your fear of inquiring within and challenging your indoctrinated beliefs and images. If not for you, governments like Syria, Iran, Nazi Germany, Israel etc could not get away with their sadistic behavior. The fact is that THE REAL ENEMY IS THE UNCONSCIOUS MIND THAT UNCONSCIOUSLY PROJECTS ITS SUFFERING ONTO THE WORLD AND THEN SCAPEGOATS THE WORLD FOR ITS SUFFERING. That is exactly what you are doing every moment of your existence.
I KNOW WHO YOU ARE! You don’t care about Israel or Jewish people and you certainly don’t care about the Syrian people, let alone the Palestinians. The only thing you really care about is holding on to your presumed and mortal Jewish identity. That is more important than the fate of the entire world. You would sacrifice millions of people, including millions of Jews, in order NOT to look in the mirror. In fact millions of people throughout history have suffered and died because of people just like you, people who allow themselves to easily be indoctrinated into losing their humanity and into supporting the inhumanity perpetrated upon millions. Are you afraid to study the actual history of Israel-Palestine? Do you simply believe what AIPAC and the Israeli government and your rabbis, who also have never had the courage to study the history, tell you to believe? I know that the answer is a resounding YES! The suffering of millions and the rise in anti-Semitism attest to this fact.
Israel has used chemical weapons and depleted uranium for decades upon the Palestinian people. It refuses to ratify the 1993 chemical weapons convention or the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Israel routinely tortures Palestinians it arrests with or without charge, including children. It deliberately blockades Gaza to the point that Gaza is becoming unlivable and people are starving. You and Israel incite anti-Semitism throughout the world, while I mitigate it, and then you claim that it is me and those who criticizes Israel for its non-stop human rights abuses who are anti-Semitic. I imagine you often say that Israel is the “only democracy in the Middle East,” while rooting for Israel to continue its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Right now Israel is throwing tens of thousands of Bedouins out of their homes in the Negev in order to build more Jewish settlements. The Bedouin villages pre-date 1948 and the only reason they are being thrown out is because they are Goyim.
When are you going to wake up and start caring about other people? When are you going to begin to look at reality instead of conning yourself into believing in mostly myth? If your house was stolen from you and your children arrested without charge and tortured what would you do? Would you praise the government that did such a thing or would you resist? What if people were stupid enough to label you, in your mostly nonviolent resistance, a terrorist? Would you agree with them and join their side and do to others what was done to you? It sure seems like you would!

REMEMBERING HELEN THOMAS

I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) on my car radio, driving to the east coast from Colorado, when I heard the news that my friend, pioneering journalist Helen Thomas, had died. Over the past three plus years I’d been privileged to have dinner with her a few times and honored that she had attended talks I gave in Washington D.C., even introducing me to the audience at one of them.

The last two times I saw Helen were in late 2012 when I visited her in her D.C. apartment. Her health was declining to the point that she described her condition as “decrepit.” Even so, her mind was sharp and she was as interested as she’d always been in learning more about the world and wanting answers to questions that had perplexed her.

More than once, Helen told me that Abe Foxman of the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) and Ari Fleischer (George W. Bush’s Press Secretary) had been “after her” for many years. Like others who are incapable of rational thinking when it comes to Israel-Palestine, these men were unrelenting in their eagerness to label Helen’s criticisms of Israel’s violations of international law as expressions of anti-Semitism. Slandering Helen was far easier than asking why she, or anyone, would voice such criticisms. So frightened were these men of what the criticisms revealed about them, they could not see the humanity at the heart of the criticism.
Obviously upset, Helen told me that in the wake of her widely publicized comments that Israelis should “get the Hell out of Palestine” and “go back to Poland and Germany,” institutions that over the years had conferred honorary degrees upon her were being pressured to rescind them. But then she would say, “Well, I know who I am.” In turn, I would say “Too bad they don’t know who they are” and I would share with her that despite the fact her comments were untactful, I knew that what she was really saying was that European Jews should never have come to Palestine in the first place if their intentions were to humiliate and steal land from the indigenous people.

Being Jewish and having acquired a unique insight into the unconscious thought processes that lead ordinarily decent people to support indecency, Helen often asked me what motivated some to react with unbridled hostility whenever she or anyone (even Palestinians) showed concern for the lives of mostly innocent Palestinians. I explained that when one’s identity is challenged, in order to defend that presumed identity, denial sets in along with projection. The slurs directed toward her were, more accurately, descriptive of the intentions of her attackers, who could not conceive that concern for one people did not have to be accompanied by a lack of concern for another. This was the projection. By attributing to Helen and others a callous disregard for Israel, her attackers were unconsciously exposing their own callous disregard for Palestinians.

I first met Helen shortly after her provocative comments and quick departure from Hearst Newspapers. During a conversation, my friend Paul Kinzelman urged me to contact her. He reasoned that without a full-time position, Helen would not only be more available, she would be more willing to review my book. The first thought that came to me was “Paul is at it again, telling me to contact someone who is too well known and insulated from average people to speak with an obscure author like myself.” Previously, he had suggested Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Oprah. Of course, I’d already thought of each of these people and had, for a number of months, unsuccessfully tried contacting other influential people. Both of us were convinced that any celebrity with an open mind and a conscience would be impressed with my message of internal transformation.

Anyway, I told Paul it would be a waste of time trying to wade through the layers of secretaries and other barriers that were certain to obstruct my efforts. After we hung up the phone, however, it occurred to me that no matter how slim my chances, the worst that could happen was that I would waste an hour or so of my time. So I went online and googled Helen. What I found amazed me. Despite a decades–long career in journalism, marked by awards, respect and public affection, the first links that appeared were all vicious denunciations.
One of the links gave the phone number to Hearst Newspapers egging people on to phone Hearst and demand that she be fired. I knew Helen had already left the paper but I called them anyway. After a couple rings, a man answered:

Hearst Newspapers.
Hi, I was wondering if you could give me Helen Thomas’s phone number.
She doesn’t work here anymore.
I know, but I thought you might have her contact information.
Well, I can’t give you her phone number but I can tell you where she lives.
OK, that would be fine.

The man then proceeded to give me Helen’s street address in Washington D.C. I searched for her in the white pages and, to my great surprise, found her name along with a phone number and the address I’d been given. Thinking that this was too easy and figuring that someone other than Helen would answer her phone and tell me that “Ms Thomas doesn’t take calls from strangers,” I dialed the number in spite of myself. After a few rings, I heard a click. Someone picked up the phone and said “Hello.” The voice was unmistakable – I’d heard that voice for nearly fifty years.

I told Helen who I was, how sorry I was for all the trouble she’d gotten herself into and what my book was about. She was fascinated. We must have talked for thirty minutes. After I hung up I mailed her a signed copy of the book, which she read and positively reviewed. And thus began a lovely friendship.

Two qualities that made Helen a revered journalist were her honesty and open-mindedness. She wasn’t willing to merely repeat what she’d been told, to follow the herd. These qualities also protected her from losing her humanity, from demonizing the “other” simply because the other did not submit to the prevailing consciousness of the times. It is unfortunate that American media, to a large extent, does not exhibit Helen’s values. If it rediscovered the courage to do so, our politicians and society might very well be more compassionate and self-reflective; and so much unnecessary suffering throughout the world could be avoided.

NEW SHORT INTERVIEW WITH GLOBAL EDUCATION MAGAZINE

Friends, Here is a fairly short interview I did with a Spanish magazine. The interview appears in full below and can also be accessed here.

– You were a stalwart follower of Israel during your whole life, but nowadays you are not anymore – or not as much as before. Can you explain to us what made you change your mind?

As I explain in greater detail in my book, in July 2006 Israel invaded Lebanon in retaliation for a cross-border raid into northern Israel by Hezbollah, the nationalistic Lebanese political/military organization. I fully supported Israel’s action, without regard for the consequences to Lebanon’s civilian population. Although I was not fully aware of it at the time, the real motivation for my one-sided perspective was Fear. Being Jewish, I identified with the Israeli soldiers who had been killed and abducted in the raid by Hezbollah. As a Jew, I identified with all Jews everywhere, who, I believed, were eternal targets of Hezbollah, Hamas and, in my mind, the entire Arab world. Without bothering to do any honest research to confirm my assumptions, I took for granted that this world was pathologically anti-Semitic (I define anti-Semitic as an aversion toward the Jewish religion and its people) and, therefore, a threat to my life.

Please note, in particular, two things I just implied: First, I did not indicate any identification with the people of Lebanon, the vast majority of whom were innocent victims of a devastating invasion. Because my identification was limited, in the sense that it did not include all people – and because I saw the Arab world as an enemy of my world – I was unmoved by the displacement of over one million Lebanese and the deaths of hundreds. In other words, my limited identity (in my case as a Jew) functioned as a lens through which I saw the world and it necessarily blinded me to the suffering of the other. In my mind, the other did not warrant the same humanity as did my people. As long as I defined myself as Jewish, my analysis of Israel’s behavior was inevitably predetermined. And documented facts were only relevant if they conformed to what I wanted to believe. If they did not conform, they were automatically dismissed.

The second thing I implied was through my reference to “my life.” I could have used the language of my past and said “my people,” but what I later discovered, when I became sensitive to the suffering of the other, is that the proclamations I made pertaining to alleged threats to my people were not precisely honest. I made use of the phrase “my people” to convince myself that I was not being selfish, that my concern was for my entire family of Jews, but what I was really concerned about was my perceived and personal sense of self, my presumed mortal identity. My concern was narcissistic, egotistical. Information that challenged the beliefs and images that formed a significant part of my identity was interpreted, at an unconscious level, as a mortal threat.

All of us are attached, to greater or lesser degrees, to unexamined beliefs and images and to the identities that arise out of or are reinforced by these beliefs and images. But if our beliefs and images are unfounded, what are the implications for our identity? If, for example, we are brought up to believe that throughout history our people have been innocent victims of anti-Semitism, that because we are Jewish we are victims, we will be compelled to interpret events, such as the Israel-Lebanon War, in a way that preserves that belief.

Nowadays, I find it amazing when Israeli loyalists talk about the suffering of Israelis, who are in the line of rocket attacks from Gaza, without the slightest concern for the far greater suffering of Palestinians who are subjected to infinitely more destructive rockets from Israel, not to mention an economic blockade that has caused immense suffering on every level of existence.

Getting back to what made me change my attitude toward Israel, in order to deal with the anxiety that arose as a result of Hezbollah’s provocative action, I started talking with close non-Jewish friends about what I referred to as the Arab world’s hatred toward all Jews. I explained to them that Arabs in general were so consumed with hatred that they were willing to sacrifice their own children to the goal of wiping Israel off the face of the earth. To my great disappointment, these friends disagreed with me and criticized Israel for its disproportionate use of force and the killing of civilians, both war crimes according to international law. My friends’ inability to understand the existential threat that Jews constantly faced only hardened my stance toward the Arab world and further convinced me that only fellow Jews could understand our people’s suffering.

A few days after these conversations, I received an unexpected phone call from a Jewish friend who I had known my entire lifetime. During our two hour conversation, which consisted mostly of me complaining about Arab society, my friend just listened. He did not offer any resistance. Occasionally, he disagreed with a few of the “facts” I shared but he was emotionally and intellectually non-judgmental. At the end of the call he suggested that I look into the writings of a couple of Israeli-Jews, who, he said, were well-respected historians. When I hung up the phone I thought to myself, “I can do that. I have never really studied the history of the Arab-Israeli problem. Maybe there is some information that I should be aware of.”

So that telephone conversation encouraged me to do something I had never previously thought of doing: to find out for myself what is true and what is false. I then began a long and meticulous study of the history of Israel’s relationship to the Arab world and, in particular, to Palestinians. What I discovered shocked me. I learned that virtually everything I thought I knew about the history, everything I had been taught from the time I was a child, beliefs I thought were unassailable, were either total fabrications or gross distortions of the actual history.

This remarkable repudiation of what I had taken as sacred triggered what I call a revolution in consciousness, in which my personal and collective identification as a Jew dissolved and was replaced by the understanding/recognition that I was as much Palestinian as Israeli or American, as much Muslim or Christian as Jew. Fear was replaced by compassion and confusion was replaced by clarity. Fear arises with the presumption of a limited identity, or separate self, and colors the way we see the world. It prevents us from seeing the world as it really is. Therefore, confusion always accompanies fear. Compassion, on the other hand, is the ability to stand in the shoes of the other and see from all perspectives. Therefore, clarity always accompanies compassion.  

So now, if I define myself at all, I define myself as pro-humanity. That makes me both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli. My support for Palestinian equality is not because I like Palestinians or dislike Israelis. It is because I believe that all people – not some people – are entitled to the same rights as any other people. If the roles of Palestinians and Israelis were reversed I would be doing exactly what I am doing now, fighting for freedom for the oppressed.

But when we live within the paradigm of Us against Them, which is always based upon fear, we become so confused that we cannot conceive that someone who cares about Palestinians could also care about Israelis. We assume that if someone is pro-Palestinian they must also be anti-Israeli. This is the kind of dualistic thinking that is doomed to perpetuate conflict.

– You just published a book called “Breakthrough. Transforming Fear Into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict.” Could you kindly explain to us what your new vision contributes to resolving the conflict?

The vast majority of people who would seriously study the history of Israel-Palestine would conclude that the primary issue is land, two peoples competing for one land. And they would acknowledge that the religious and cultural disparagement between the two sides is a consequence of that competition. However, I see Israel-Palestine as primarily a spiritual problem. From my perspective, the root cause of the problem is, as you might deduce from my answer to your first question, the attachment to a limited identity and the beliefs and images that emanate from and reinforce that identity.

The real solution to this problem is for each of us to transform our consciousness from Us against Them to tolerance and understanding. Once enough individuals have made that leap in consciousness, society itself will be transformed.

So my vision requires each of us to practice what I call – and many of the great spiritual masters of mankind’s collective inheritance call – self-inquiry. We must begin to inquire within. We need to develop a capacity for self-reflection and inquire into our indoctrination, into the beliefs and images we have absorbed through our culture, our parents, our schools, our religions, etc. If we do this, we will find that much of what we have taken as fact is simply untrue and is designed to support a certain world view that keeps us imprisoned in this world of separate selves, or egos, that creates, for its own apparent self-preservation, a world of separation, of Us against Them. And society needs to educate its members to develop critical thinking skills, to question everything they have been taught.

If each of us takes responsibility for our beliefs and if society teaches us to think for ourselves we will be free from the indoctrination that favors one group and demonizes another. We will be freed from our life-negating enemy images. We will no longer unconsciously superimpose these images onto the world and then assume that the world we see is reality. Then we will no longer scapegoat particular others as being solely responsible for the state of our world. Our interpretations of our religious teachings will also be transformed. We will see that the objective of every true religion is to transcend the religion itself, to go beyond being a Jew, a Muslim or a Christian to being a human being who is part of an infinite and interconnected mystery that every human being contributes to. The bottom line is that before we can find peace in the world we first must find it within ourselves. 

– The day after the United Nations voted to give Palestine observer status, Israel announced plans to build a new settlement close to Jerusalem which will further divide the West Bank into two parts and will create a huge problem in the future. What is your opinion about this?

First of all, we have to understand that for every Israeli government since Israel became a state in 1948, peace has been secondary to the acquisition of more land. One only has to read the history as found within Israeli state archives and the writings of Israel’s leaders to come to this obvious conclusion. Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement that Israel will build in area E-1 and make impossible a contiguous Palestinian state is in line with the objectives of the Jewish only settlement project that began in 1967 with the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The Likud platform, Netanyahu’s political party, explicitly rejects a Palestinian state and calls for the Jordan River to be “the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.”

Year after year we hear Israel claim that it wants peace while it continues to make peace impossible. Seizing Palestinian land, throwing Palestinians out of villages they have lived in for generations, stealing their water, destroying their olive orchards, restricting their movement and their access to education and medical care, allowing settler fanatics to terrorize women and children while the army looks on with approval are not the actions of a country that is interested in peace. Nor would a country interested in peace declare that Jerusalem is and must be the “undivided” capital of a Jewish state. All of Israel’s leaders know that any Palestinian leader who would surrender a right to East Jerusalem would become a pariah throughout the Muslim world.

Most of the world is upset with Israel’s treatment of its non-Jewish inhabitants, but its immoral and illegal abuse of non-Jews will not stop until the United States government finds the courage to stand up to Israel’s powerful lobby and put justice ahead of the prejudice that enables and encourages the abuse.

– Thousands of Palestinians have died since 1948; five million live as refugees… most people around the world see Netanyahu with the same eyes that they used to see Hitler because actually, he is doing the same things Hitler did. Do you think Israel’s colonization of Palestinian territory will end some day?

I would not go so far as to say that Israel is doing the same thing to Palestinians as Hitler did to Jews. There are no extermination chambers and, as far as I know, no plans to warehouse and murder Palestinian men, women and children. However, I do not want to minimize the hatred many Israeli politicians and religious leaders, not to mention soldiers and settlers (colonizers), routinely express toward Palestinians. When a rabbi writes a book, endorsed by other rabbis and barely criticized by Israel’s government, that claims the Torah allows for the killing of Palestinian infants because they will grow up to be “terrorists,” I can only conclude that segments of Israeli society have fallen to a level of inhumanity that is a threat not only to Palestinians but to the integrity of Judaism itself.

Briefly, I want to say that I do not condone Palestinian violence toward Israel, but it has to be understood within the context of the Occupation. The fact is that Palestinian resistance has mostly taken the form of nonviolence. However, Israel has so delegitimized Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party and their attempts to nonviolently come to a peace agreement with Israel, not to mention deported, arrested and assassinated over decades many of the leaders of Palestinian nonviolence that one has to consider the possibility that Israel is more comfortable with violence than with nonviolence. Certainly, Israel can more easily divert the world’s attention from its colonization of Palestinian land towards Palestinian violence.  

Regarding Israel’s colonization, at some point either the world, with the United States in the decisive role, will sanction Israel like it sanctioned South Africa and force the colonization to end or Israel will complete its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to the extent it deems necessary to fulfill the Zionist dream of a Greater Israel; and the Palestinians will be left with a few cities and small pockets, or Bantustans, that will be separated from other Palestinian areas. And the world will hold up its hands and say that it is too late to do anything about it.

– The last ‘war’ between Israel and Gaza ended about one month ago (November 22). It all started when an Israeli air strike killed Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari. Nevertheless, International Media said a rocket launched by Hamas started the war. What is your opinion about International Media?

I was part of a human rights delegation, sponsored by InterFaith Peace Builders, which visited Gaza from November 5 to November 11. On November 8, Israeli artillery fire killed thirteen year old Hamid Abu Daqqa while he was playing soccer with his friends in front of his house in the village of Abassan Kabira. The next day, our delegation went to the boy’s funeral. We met with his family and with his friends who witnessed the killing. We went to the boy’s house and saw exactly where he was shot. Abassan Kabira is about one and-a-half kilometers from the border with Israel. Israel has created a buffer zone that is supposed to extend three-hundred meters into Gaza where only Israeli Occupation forces are allowed to enter. However, Israeli soldiers sometimes enforce the buffer zone up to a kilometer away. Furthermore, prior to the “war” Israeli tanks entered Gaza on average six days a week. When the tanks enter, Israeli soldiers begin shooting indiscriminately. A woman I met in Abassan village asked me a rhetorical question: “Do you sleep with your shoes on?” Gazans who live close to the border are terrorized almost every day by Israeli soldiers. They sleep with their shoes on so they can get up out of bed at a moment’s notice and run to areas that provide them with greater safety.

International media that claims the war was started when Hamas shot a rocket into Israel are irresponsible. The war started with Israel’s occupation that began over forty-five years ago. It started when Israel killed a boy who was playing soccer with his friends, something millions of boys do every day all over the world. And it started when Israel violated a two day old truce by killing Jabari, who had agreed to a longer term truce.

If international media wanted to provide their readers with real and useful information, they could report on a joint statistical analysis performed by the University of Tel Aviv, MIT and a Harvard graduate student that demonstrates that 79% of all ceasefires were violated by Israel, 8% by Palestinians and 13% by both sides on the same day; and that of twenty-five ceasefires lasting longer than a week Israel violated twenty-four; and that Israel violated all fourteen ceasefires that lasted longer than nine days.[1]

– How do you perceive the ideological bent of the news and what do interests obey?

In the United States, the mainstream news favors the Israeli government perspective. Actually, perspective is not the most accurate word. Propaganda would be more appropriate. One example is the constant reference to rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza. There is nothing inherently wrong with reporting on such incidents, but what is egregious is that little or no mention is ever made of the fact that rocket attacks into Gaza from Israel are far more lethal and far more numerous. According to Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, from 2000 through 2008 Palestinian groups fired a total of 8,088 mortars and rockets into Israel. Contrast that figure with the nearly 8,000 rockets and mortars Israel launched into Gaza in the nine months between September 2005 and June 2006.

Most American journalists use language that has been cultivated for many years and favors the Israeli side. For example, Israelis who shoot at and kill Palestinians are soldiers but Palestinians who shoot at Israelis are terrorists. When the government of Israel attacks a Palestinian village it is defending itself in the name of security, but when Palestinian groups shoot projectiles into Israel they are terrorizing an innocent population. Critics of illegal Israeli policy toward Palestinians want to delegitimize the Jewish state but Israeli behavior that brings on the criticism is not seen as delegitimizing the prospects for peace. And as I said earlier, people who care about the rights of Palestinians are labeled anti-Israeli, whereas people, especially U.S. Congressmen, who enable Israel’s daily violations of international law, are friends of Israel who simply want peace between the two sides.

– Have you ever planned to return to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza to do some type of activity?

Currently I do not have plans, but I expect to return in the near future. I will go anywhere I think my message can educate and bring a measure of clarity to people. Peace through internal transformation is the heart of my message. And this transformation can take place much more easily when people make themselves available to hear the truth, even when the truth is not congruent with the beliefs and images that constitute their indoctrination.

Thank you so much to Richard Forer for being with us while you are very busy in this period and share with us your thoughts; our readers will really appreciate it and wish you all the best.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers.



[1] Nancy Kanwisher, “Reigniting violence: How do Ceasefires End?” January 6, 2009, .huffingtonpost.com/nancy-kanwisher/reigniting-violence-how-d_b_155611.html

 

IMPORTANT INTERVIEW- THE UNCONSCIOUS AND TRUE ROOTS OF CONFLICT

Please take a look at my interview with Father Yago Abeledo of the Center for Justice and Peace Building. The interview is the first that explains the roots of the Israel-Palestine problem. If there is any article or interview that has the potential to reach the as yet unreachable this is it. Others have written about their change of heart in their understanding of the history, about how they came to see that Israel was not the innocent victim of an irrational Arab world. That is highly commendable but all of those writings are still stuck in the same old paradigm, what I refer to as the Illusion of Identity. Peace is not possible until that illusion is shattered. If you like the interview please share it. I have posted the entire interview just below or you can go to the Breathing Forgiveness website to read it there.

ANTI-SLAVERY CAMPAIGN INTERVIEW SERIES RICHARD FORER

ENSLAVEMENT OF THE FALSE SELF

Transforming Fear Into Compassion

Yago: Recently you spoke at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) about your book, Breakthrough. Transforming Fear into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict. You shared your personal transformation towards a new understanding of your identity and of the Israel-Palestine conflict. This blog aims to deconstruct the energy of enslavement that penetrates today’s world in many dimensions. In your witnessing, you expressed openly how we can become enslaved by rigid ideologies, wrong perceptions of the world and the illusion of being separated from the world. The energy of enslavement can destroy the beautiful gift of our humanity. Listening to you, Martin Luther King Jr.’s words resonated deep within me: “As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery.” I would like very much to welcome your own journey in this blog.

My first question is related to the very origins of your life and how the “indoctrination” took place. What do you remember from your childhood that began shaping your mind and identity in a clear dualistic way? What role did the collective unconscious of the Jewish people play?

Rich Forer: Children are more receptive than adults, more innocent. As children, we take on the beliefs of our parents and teachers, our collective of ethnic and/or religious groups, and our society. Although much of our learning is taught to us directly, many of the ideas we incorporate are taught to us indirectly. For example, we absorb beliefs that are expressed, subtly or not so subtly, through feeling, especially the feelings of our parents or other caregivers. Just as we unconsciously model our speech and physical patterns on these caregivers, our view of the world is likewise influenced by these models. We begin to develop an internal logic, a way of seeing the world that is influenced by the people and institutions around us.

This logic has a quality that is unique to each individual. It also has a quality that is unique to the society or collective each individual grows up in. For example, when I was a kid I attended Sunday school. I remember seeing, probably in my first-grade classroom, photographs of David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann. Ben-Gurion was Israel’s first Prime Minister and Weizmann its first President.

At that time, about nine years after the end of the Holocaust, the atrocities perpetrated upon the Jewish people were very present in the minds of Jews. Most of the Jewish adults I knew had relatives or friends who were killed in the Holocaust. I absorbed their ideas, their knowledge of the terrible suffering of the Jewish people, their horror that human beings are capable of such acts of hatred. When I would look at the photographs of these great men, who had created the one safe haven for the Jewish people, I saw men who wanted to protect and save life, not men who wanted to destroy it. These were the leaders of our people and they were making sure that another Holocaust would never again happen.

Along with this thinking, this way of interpreting the information that I, a kid, had available, there seamlessly arose the view that Jews would never do to others the shocking things that Adolf Hitler and others had done to Jews. After all, it never occurred to me to want to do such things. And the Jews I knew were basically caring people, so it obviously had never occurred to them to do such things. They were ipso facto incapable of committing such crimes. What they were capable of was planting millions of trees and turning an arid desert into a land of milk and honey.

With a childlike faith in the goodness of my people, it was a natural progression in thinking to presume that the non-Jewish world, much of which had remained silent while Jews were being murdered, was different than the Jewish world.

In other words, for some inexplicable reason, or perhaps because we were special, Jews were more humane than non-Jews. When I looked at Israel, it was obvious that Jewish soldiers were merely defending their land from the irrational hatred of those who, like Hitler, wanted to harm us.

Our internal logic colors the way we see the world. It leads us to interpret the world in ways that reinforce our mind’s conception of reality. The logic of my youth continued basically intact into my adult life. So, when I heard that Israeli soldiers had killed children and other civilians, I automatically responded with skepticism if not outright denial. My “logical” mind explained what really must have occurred, which is that these children and civilians were killed because Hamas or Hezbollah, whoever the enemy was, embedded their soldiers within civilian populations. Children were killed not because of Israeli bullets but because these organizations were so filled with hatred they were willing to sacrifice their own children in order to murder Jews.

This is how the unexamined mind projects its content onto the world and creates the way the world is constituted.

Yago: During your childhood and adolescence you were indoctrinated to see the world as an enemy to the Jewish people. The horrors of the Holocaust and the pain-body (collective trauma) of the Jewish people were passed on, consciously and subconsciously, from generation to generation. You mention in your book and you just indicated that all your life you had an unexamined belief system that operated and guided you at the subconscious level. How do you describe that?

Rich: Every human being is born into a particular society and is given a name and told who he or she is. In these and other ways, each of us assumes the matrix of an identity. In my case, I was told I was a Jew and an American, this is my family and this is my history. These labels, which in truth are only concepts and beliefs, delineated the boundaries of my worldview. My thinking developed along a spectrum from idealism – Jews are good and their leaders honorable – to cynicism – others are neither good nor honorable. I had in fact created a gulf between myself and others, and I was extremely reluctant to question my worldview. The belief that Jews are more humane than other people, that Jewish people would never willfully harm other people became the limit of my ability to see clearly. This was the boundary created by my unquestioning acceptance of the conditioning of my youth.

This was also a boundary on my ability to feel. The fear and horror I felt when I read about non-Jewish victims of atrocities could not compare to the fear and horror I felt when I read about Jewish victims. I was so identified with being a Jew, that I couldn’t really put myself in the shoes of non-Jews. This selective sympathy had become so habitual that it seemed perfectly natural and justified.

I am convinced that the great majority of those who defend Israel are in the same position I was in. When they learn that hundreds of Gazan children are being killed by Israeli bombs, their reaction is nowhere near as agitated as when they learn that even a single Jew was killed by a Hamas bomb.

The root of the limit on the ability to see clearly and feel fully is one’s presumed identity. Whether I am a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, an Israeli, a Palestinian or American, whatever I may be, my identity is the lens through which I perceive the world.

I say “presumed identity” because the conventional worldview in which we identify ourselves as separate and limited individuals is just a presumption. It is not the truth of our existence. It is more like an idea that is so axiomatic it is never questioned. But it has the same limitation as any other idea. It has nothing to do with knowing who we are. One of the realizations that arose out of my spontaneous awakening, which I write about in my book, was the recognition, the knowledge, that I was as much Palestinian as Israeli or American, as much Christian or Muslim as Jew, and that the so-called other is an image in the unexamined mind. This image of self and other is a primal error, and it creates a world of us against them.

Let me interject something. I am not denying that there are people who want to harm Israelis. There are always some who want to harm others. In the case of Palestinians, if you investigate the documented history, you find that only a small percentage has used violence against the state of Israel. And even that violence must be looked at in the context of the history, of the taking of Palestinian land and a brutal occupation.

What I am saying is that we distort our ability to see clearly. We reduce things to a primitive and inaccurate orientation. We create the other by superimposing or projecting onto him the beliefs and images we have absorbed and created within our minds, our imaginations. When we look at the one we define as the other, we don’t see who he or she really is. We see a reflection of our beliefs about them superimposed upon who they really are. How we see the other, how we interpret his words, what we think he is thinking, what we think his objectives are with regard to Jewish people, all of this is a result of the indoctrination that most of us have accepted without question.

A phrase I hear a lot in Jewish society, especially among the ultra-Orthodox, including my own family, is “all Arabs want to kill all Jews.” This belief is part of the collective Jewish mind. If we have not inquired into and seen the inaccuracy of the belief, inevitably when we encounter Arabs we will superimpose this belief upon them. Notice the projection. When we fear that all Arabs want to kill all Jews, wouldn’t we feel safer if our leaders incapacitated all Arabs? And so we manufacture ideas that enable us to rationalize policies that remove or even kill Arabs day in and day out – until they are no longer a threat. “All Arabs want to kill all Jews” becomes “We want to kill all Arabs.” In fact, I’ve heard a number of ordinarily good-hearted Jews express this exact sentiment. Similarly, the fear of genocide against Jews becomes genocide against Arabs. This type of language is frequently encountered, in particular, amongst Israel’s extreme right-wing.

I am virtually certain that the principle reason it has been so difficult to solve the Israel-Palestine dilemma, is that fundamentally we are not dealing with a political problem; we are dealing with a problem of identity. This is how it was for me. I could never have understood the dilemma until I understood my own mind and my presumed identity. In my book I describe what motivated me to begin a thorough research of the conflict. But quickly, I ran up against my presumed identity, a lifetime of propaganda about myself and my so-called people. The confrontation was shocking. The anger and shame and sadness I discovered in myself were a raw wound. But the wound was necessary; it was the doorway to the end of fear and confusion.

It is hard work to examine our minds and question our identities. Core beliefs are so ingrained that we cannot conceive of letting them go. They are a part of our mortal identities, and they cannot be talked away. They operate in visceral ways, in the subconscious and unconscious. To question them seems unimaginable. In truth, we are terrified of letting go of these beliefs because doing so means death. It means the end of our presumed identity. This is why, rather than inquiring into the patriotic beliefs and images tied to their American identities, so many were willing to send their children to Iraq in 2003 to kill or be killed. Their patriotic identities were more precious than the lives of even their own children.

Our identities are mental constructs. From the awakened perspective, they are fictional or illusory. When we let go of the limits set by our indoctrination, we recognize our inherent oneness or connection to all of life. And our prior way of relating to life is seen as dreamlike, not fully conscious of what we were doing or why we did it.

Yago: The unexamined belief system goes with another expression of yours that we live in a mental prison. Indeed, we can be slaves of our own minds. This has been said throughout history by the wise men of all traditions. In this regard, Gandhi stated that “freedom and slavery are mental states.” What can you say about that?

Rich: We may have all the freedoms promised by any charter or constitution. We may come into possession of the entire land of Canaan, and populate it with Jews only, thereby fulfilling what we believe is God’s covenant with the Jewish people. But what if, in order to have satisfied this hunger, which is a consequence of our collective worldview, we gave up our personal integrity and sacrificed our humanity at the altar of dogma and greed? Are we free or are we enslaved to an unexamined mind?

If we had to choose between on the one hand fulfilling all of our pseudo-religious and material fantasies while losing our humanity and, on the other hand, living as actual slaves, but with our humanity intact which is the right choice?

So I would agree that we are slaves of belief systems. Until we inquire into our core beliefs, we will never be free. If, as we are bound to do, we look at the world through the prism of unexamined beliefs and images, our conscious attention may not even accommodate an awareness of what is most threatening to our self-images; and what it is aware of will be limited and distorted. Thus, our understanding or interpretation of the information available to us will likely be biased and inhumane. In my book, I say “where a man cannot look he cannot feel and where a man cannot feel he has not really looked. Without both, he will never understand.

The goal of all spiritual work, be it Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or Judaism, is to go beyond beliefs, beyond the separate selves that are framed by beliefs. Once we release our attachments to these beliefs, we will recognize our true nature, which is beyond description, self-identification, or separateness. We are all part of the whole. And because we are all part of the whole, each of us contributes to the collective mind of humankind and each of us is responsible for the suffering in the world.

Yago: What role has the Holy Scriptures, the Torah, played in your life? How did your interpretation of the Torah keep you in a state of indoctrination, caught in a mental prison? Could you experience inner freedom and liberation through the Scriptures?

Rich: Many people have been brought up to believe that God is an omnipotent, omniscient, infinite yet human-like Being. This belief is the hardest to let go of because it stimulates and appeals to one’s imagination. It is imbued with fear, mystery and wonder, of a Being who created us and can destroy us. This underlying belief resides in the unconscious.

As I suggested a moment ago, many Jews and Evangelical Christians believe Jews are the chosen people to whom God gave the land of Israel. This belief is a form of consolation that inflates one’s self-image (identity or ego). They believe it because they want to believe it. They crave the consolation. With this belief, they can rationalize all kinds of abominations – the theft of Palestinian land, the behavior of fanatical Jewish settlers who raid Palestinian villages, poison their wells, destroy their olive orchards, and abuse men, women and children.

Many, who take advantage of this belief to rationalize such abominations, also claim that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. The two ideas cannot coexist. Yet, the contradiction never occurs to these claimants. Furthermore, any proclamation about Israel’s political structure cannot magically disguise the inequality and lack of democracy that is made possible by these very people. Because they operate out of self-interest, they promote narcissistic points of view that care only about their personal identities and the collective or tribe with which they identify. They are incapable of compassion towards those who are not part of their collective.

Let me add that a prominent rabbi who was brought up in the ultra-Orthodox tradition and who reads Aramaic and Hebrew, told me that the Torah does not call Jews “The Chosen People,” it calls them “A Chosen People.”

To your question if the scriptures can guide us to inner freedom, I would say that perhaps sections of the Scriptures can serve as guides on the path to freedom but freedom can only be found when one gets in touch with one’s heart and allows the heart to be the guide.

We have to learn to trust our heart-based intuition. This is not easy because we have been indoctrinated into giving up our power and our reasoning to religious texts and all kinds of authorities. We’ve lost touch with our inner wisdom which, at its most unobstructed, flows from the heart. No text or authority figure, if only we would get in touch with our deeper selves, knows our hearts better than we do.

Yago: Could you share how your mind maintained its vicious circle of indoctrination?

Rich: Growing up, I experienced some anti-Semitism. I also experienced what I construed as insensitivity toward me and my people. In elementary school our classes would celebrate Christmas and Easter, but there was never a celebration of Hanukkah or Passover. I thought that was unfair. I saw it as an insult to who my people were and to our long history.

The hurt I felt from being exposed to anti-Semitic attitudes and insensitivity caused me to retreat more forcefully into my Jewish identity. I became more dogmatically loyal to my people. This loyalty, along with the common belief in Jewish and American society that the Palestinians were always sabotaging Israel’s sincere efforts to make peace, reinforced my certainty in the innocence of my people, which in turn contributed to the certainty that I myself was innocent. It never occurred to me that my unquestioning loyalty to Israeli policy made me complicit in the subjugation of another people.

Instead, I held onto the idea that Israel had always wanted peace but the Palestinians did not and that the Palestinians were willing to sacrifice their own children in order to drive the Jews into the sea.

Even though I was not religious and did not attend synagogue, whenever I would encounter someone defending Palestinian behavior, or hear of a suicide bombing, I would become more zealous in defense of Israel, which was really a defense of my self-image or identity. I concluded that Palestinian society was pathologically hateful towards Jews. I generalized the activities of a minority onto the totality of Palestinian society.

In the mid nineties, I read From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters. I was led to believe this book was a well-documented history of the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian people. Without bothering to validate the claim, I blindly accepted that the book was in fact well-documented. I did so because what the book said conformed to and strengthened what I wanted to believe.

Peters’ main thesis was that the Palestinians were an invented people. They never existed. They were Arabs from other parts of the Arab world who had come to Mandatory Palestine in the first half of the Twentieth Century to work for Jewish landholders, who paid them more than they could earn in their own countries. Because the book added credibility to my belief system, it became a kind of Bible for me. Whenever someone criticized Israel I resorted to Peters’ book to refute their argument. I later discovered that From Time Immemorial had been thoroughly debunked by Israeli and American scholars.

Then, in the summer of 2006, Hezbollah, the Lebanese nationalistic political/military organization, crossed over into Israel and killed three Israeli soldiers and abducted two. Israel immediately retaliated with immense firepower. While many accused Israel of disproportionate force and the targeting of civilians, I insisted its response was necessary. In my mind it was obvious that Hezbollah and the entire Arab world would stop at nothing to destroy Israel and the Jewish people. Just three weeks earlier, Hamas had captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on the Israel-Gaza border, so I saw the two provocations as proof that my analysis that the Arab world wanted to destroy the Jewish people was accurate.

Yago: Let’s move to the awakening. What provoked this peak experience? How did you manage to break the chains of slavery in your mind?

Rich: Hamas and Hezbollah’s behavior and the war in Lebanon outraged me. I complained to a couple of non-Jewish friends about the Arab world’s hatred of Jews and its obsession with destroying Israel. These were intelligent men, whom I admired for their insight and wisdom. In the past they had been critical of Israel but this time, considering that two “terrorist” organizations had instigated hostilities, I was sure they would see things from my perspective. To my surprise and disappointment, however, they disagreed with me. They said that Israel was using disproportionate force, and that this was a continuation of Israeli behavior that had gone on for decades.

Their response to my perspective not only fortified my resistance to their perspective, it also fortified my attachment to my Jewish identity. It made me realize that only Jews can understand the suffering of our people. This was yet another belief that separated me from the rest of humanity.

A few days after those conversations, a Jewish friend I’d known all my life phoned to tell me he would be attending a Bar Mitzvah out West and would be visiting me in New Mexico, where I lived at the time. I then took the opportunity to complain to him about Hezbollah, Hamas and the entire Arab world. I went on and on for two hours. During my diatribe he mostly let me talk. Occasionally he interrupted, usually saying “that’s not right, that is incorrect,” but he was non-judgmental, basically neutral and unemotional about the subject.

Now, I knew that he had studied Israel-Palestine more than I had, so when, at the end of the conversation, he recommended I read two well-regarded Israeli historians for a more comprehensive understanding of the issues, I was open to his suggestion. Because he didn’t resist my point of view, or judge or criticize me, he opened up a space where I was able to say to myself: “I can do that. I have never really studied the history of the Arab-Israeli problem. Maybe there is something I should be aware of.”

After we hung up, I went online to Amazon to look for the authors he recommended. When you type in the name of one author, the names of other authors in the same discipline appear. So I compiled a list of books, my chief qualification being that the author had to be Jewish. I was afraid that if I read non-Jewish authors I would suspect bias. I took this list to the local library, checked out two books, came home and put them aside.

The next day I picked up Beyond Chutzpah by Norman Finkelstein. I hadn’t yet heard of Finkelstein, so I didn’t know what a controversial figure he was. From the very beginning of the book, he was critical of Israel, with no criticism of the Palestinians. I thought this a little odd, but I wasn’t yet ready to reject the book, especially because it was brilliantly written and meticulously documented. I wanted to see where the book was going.

I figured that since the Israeli view was very well known, perhaps Finkelstein wanted to present the Palestinian point of view. Alternatively, I was also open to the possibility that he was a self-hating Jew with a talent for distortion. And the subtitle of his book is On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. I thought: “Who is misusing anti-Semitism, he or I?” So I kept reading.

I read about awful things Israelis were doing to Palestinians: home demolitions, stealing land, the use of violence by Israeli soldiers in situations where there was no threat of violence from the other side, lethal violence against children and institutionalized torture of prisoners. At a certain point, I needed a break from this powerful material. When I put the book down, I hadn’t yet differentiated all the feelings I had gone through while reading. I was aware I had experienced a range of feelings but I had been so absorbed by the book’s content that I hadn’t consciously registered them.

So I put the book down and closed my eyes. The next thing I knew, I came out of a space that in retrospect I call nothingness. I don’t know how long in chronological time I had been in this timeless space, but the first thing I noticed is that I felt cleansed and purified. The negative feelings I’d experienced while reading were completely gone, without a trace, but now I was able to delineate those feelings. The contrast between my new feeling and the feelings I had experienced earlier was so stark that I instinctively looked around the room, searching for my old feelings. I looked in my bookcase and in the corners of the room, wondering, “Where is the shock, where is the anger at Israel and at myself, where is the shame and embarrassment, where is the sorrow for all that the Palestinians have been put through?” These were the specific feelings that had been stimulated while reading, but now they were nowhere to be found.

So I just sat there, in a state of bliss, in the Eternal Present, free of negativity, without a desire to be anywhere or do anything. Then I felt a mild pressure upon my eyes, as if a cloth was covering that part of my face. I quietly acknowledged this sensation. After about a minute, the cloth began to unravel in a spiral motion, first uncovering the left eye and then the right. There was a soothing quality to the unraveling. When the cloth was finally gone, I saw that the world as it really is is empty of all qualities, that in Reality it is a reflection of my inner states of consciousness. I saw that the world is my creation; it is a projection or superimposition of my mind’s content. The veil that had obstructed this recognition had fallen away.

Yago: In your book you describe this process as moving from fear to compassion and from confusion to clarity.

Rich: The next thing I noticed was that I could not find any attachment to a particular identity. There was simply a feeling of non-separateness. And in that moment I understood that I was as much Palestinian as Israeli, as much Muslim or Christian as Jew.

Next, I started seeing the dynamics of how we project our perception onto the world and then presume that the world we see proves the reality of our perception. In a never-ending cycle of unconsciousness, we persist in creating the same reality or worldview over and over again. This process imbues our internal logic with the deluding certainty that the world truly is the way we perceive it.

When my core Jewish identity could not be found, I was no longer imprisoned by beliefs and images that had once emanated from and reinforced that core identity. Nor was I compelled or condemned to identify with one group to the exclusion of any other. Therefore, I could see the world from any perspective, without bias. I understood that the real enemy is the unexamined mind that projects its own suffering onto the world and then blames or scapegoats the world for the suffering.

Throughout my being, I felt a tangible sense of peace and realized that peace cannot be found in the world unless it is first found within one’s self.

Fear is an inevitable component of separateness, of the attachment to or belief in an exclusive or limited identity. A limited identity implies the existence of something outside its limits. Just as our limited identity is presumed to be our self, whatever is interpreted as falling outside our identity is presumed to be the other and is seen as a possible threat. This is the world of Us against Them or Good against Evil.

Having somehow let go of fear, I realized that fear had been a lens that colored the way I saw the world. And because fear prevents us from seeing the world as it really is, it is always accompanied by confusion. But once fear vanishes, we can more easily empathize with the suffering of others. Thus, in place of fear, compassion arises.

Compassion is the ability to stand in the shoes of the other and see from all perspectives. Thus, in place of confusion, clarity arises.

Yago: You describe your transformation as a letting go of the mind and journeying towards the heart. Could you explain what really occurred?

Rich: Letting go of the mind set free the natural intelligence of the heart. This intelligence is always available, but in order to access it we must first let go of the indoctrination that blocks its access. A passage through the darkness of ignorance into the light of understanding is a journey that each of us must make at some point if there is ever to be peace.

Yago: It looks like a kind of dis-identification from the thinking process. You were able to discover that you were much more than your thinking process.

Rich: Exactly! And there is not a single thought that has to be believed. We can accept thoughts as having relevance but we don’t need to believe them as the absolute, as reality itself. Anything we believe can be looked at and questioned. We can ask of any belief: Is it really true or is there a possibility that it is false or not always true?

Yago: Listening to your transformation, I recall the words of Richard Rohr in his book, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer: “Real religious conversion can, in fact, take care of years of therapy. To really experience the absolute is to experience the essential pattern. When we are reconnected at our core, we leap over years of problem-solving and years of asking questions about ourselves (…) True religious experience dissolves the fortress of ‘I’ by abandoning its defenses.”

Life is a constant journey of shadowboxing. I would like to know how you are integrating and processing this new sense of identity and understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Rich: I would say that sharing my journey and the insights gleaned from it is integrative and part of my commitment to peace. And although the Israel-Palestine issue is the context through which I share these insights, the insights are applicable to all human beings under all conditions.

However, in my opinion Israel-Palestine is the core foreign policy issue of our time. It is an archetype of conflict and it can become an archetype of peace. A just resolution can serve as a model for future generations. The Book of Isaiah refers to the Jewish people as “A light unto nations.” Well, Israel and its Jewish supporters are certainly not operating in the light now. But if they can penetrate their darkness and come out into the light of transformation, they can shine that light upon other nations and help the Palestinian people heal from their traumas. For it is only when the Palestinian people are healed that the Jewish people themselves will be healed. And this healing can herald a whole new consciousness of compassion for the world.

The key is education and critical thinking. We need to find out for ourselves what is real and what is false. People are mostly decent. Once they learn what is actually happening, they will demand that Israel make a fair peace with the Palestinians. For this to happen, though, we have to stop relying on our leaders for answers to our problems. Leaders are often the most attached to their identities. Their status or sense of importance can be a trap that lures them into a prison of inflated self-images and hinders the ability to empathize with the other.

When we open to the possibility that things are not always as they seem, and become curious as to what the real history is, we will begin to see that the behavior of people, no matter how bizarre or self-destructive, does not take place in a vacuum. We will recognize the necessity of taking responsibility for how our inertia, obliviousness and apathy affect the behavior of others, of our society and the world. We will see how interconnected we all are.

Yago: During the last months you have been invited to give talks, TV and radio interviews. What impact are you having?

Rich: I speak wherever I am invited, though invitations are rare. I want to point out that no matter which side of an issue people identify with, they all have their own self-images to contend with. And as I just said, leaders, and others who are looked up to, tend to be more ensnared by their self-images than the average person.

My message of self-inquiry challenges self-images, but especially the self-images of those who think they are more important than other people. A sense of specialness or importance acts as a barrier to fresh and unique ideas. The challenge I speak of makes it difficult for me to be invited to speak at conferences sponsored by organizations with a leadership hierarchy. Many leaders have vested interests and are not interested in someone who says that a spiritual problem, a problem of identity, is at the root of the Israel-Palestine dilemma; and that the antidote is inquiring within. They would rather invite speakers who stick with the history.

Yago: You talk about the difficulty of getting your voice heard. You also mentioned the difficulty organizations have in accepting your perspective. Let’s look at the positive impact you are having. What kind of people and networks are you engaged with? Who is welcoming and encouraging you in your honorable task? What are your areas of influence?

Rich: There are a lot of ordinary people who’ve read my book, watched my TV interviews or come to one of my talks, and they are inspired. My description of how our attachment to a limited identity affects the way we see the world helps them find clarity.

Further, my explication of what is really going on in the minds of those who accuse me, because I am critical of Israel, of being a self-hating Jew or anti-Semite, makes a great deal of sense to my audience. Briefly, what I say is that these accusations are, together, a reflexive defense mechanism or projection that is used to deny what my critics are afraid of seeing within themselves. When, for instance, I criticize Israeli attacks on civilians, Israel’s defenders automatically label me an anti-Semite or self-hating Jew. This tactic lets them off the hook. After all, if their label fits, my criticism must be nothing more than slander founded upon an irrational prejudice toward Jews. But what is really happening is that my criticism functions as a mirror. These defenders cannot look in the mirror out of fear that the face of inhumanity will be exposed, that in persecuting the other the way their people were once persecuted and in denying the humanity of the other, they have sacrificed their own humanity. Looking in the mirror would reveal that their criticism of me is actually true of themselves. It is they who are acting out of hatred and irrational prejudice.

I explain why it is so common for those who justify Israel’s oppression of Palestinians to equate concern for the lives of Palestinians with hatred toward Israel. The dualistic mind works that way. It infers that those whom it perceives as a threat possess qualities that are opposite of the qualities it presumes of itself. If you are pro-Palestinian, you must be anti-Israeli.

The dualistic mind supports oppression as an apparent path to peace. People quickly grasp the absurdity of this proposition. A mind of oppression can never lead to peace, not in the world and certainly not within one’s self. If we want peace we have to go beyond duality, beyond pro-this and anti-that. We have to go beyond labels and the effect labels have on our perception of reality. If we must use labels, let us say that we are pro-humanity, which is both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli. That label at least points to the path to peace.

Imagine the confusion that exists within a mind that justifies oppression yet claims it wants peace. This mind is so afraid of confronting its self-destructive thought processes that it cannot comprehend that when we oppress people and deny them their rights, they have legitimate reasons to rebel. Instead, it labels the rebellion as terrorism. At the same time, it is oblivious to the terror that it, as an enabler of oppression, inflicts upon a people who every day are denied the same rights it demands for itself. The fear-based mind is not just narcissistic, it is fascistic.

Yago: You talk about apathy in today’s world, especially apathy from people who govern. Many politicians appear egocentric and indifferent to the suffering of the world. They protect themselves within their own world of artificial well-being and small pleasures. What can you say about apathy in today’s world?

Rich: Apathy gives leaders permission to disregard the consequences of their actions and enables them to mislead us about things they have already done. It encourages them to do things they might not otherwise do if they knew the eyes of the world were focused on their behavior and that they would be held accountable.

There is a great deal of economic stress in the United States. When people have to struggle to survive, they don’t have time to pay attention to issues that do not appear to impact them directly. I doubt that more than five percent of Americans have much awareness of the effect the policies of their government has on the Israel-Palestine issue. This is a shame, because if more people became aware, for example, that America gives more money to Israel to spend on its military than Israel spends itself, the outcry would force the United States to change to a foreign policy that focuses on peace rather than on supporting the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. This change would in turn free up resources that could be used to alleviate suffering in this country.

Yago: What role does your understanding of the Torah (Jewish Holy Scriptures) play in the on-going conflict between Israel and Palestine?

Rich: Instead of cultivating beliefs that conform to the wisdom of their scriptures, people commonly make the meaning of scriptures conform to their pre-existing beliefs. They pick and choose passages that seemingly support their beliefs while ignoring passages that challenge them.

Although the Torah, which is considered the word of God, is used primarily by Jews, it is also used by Christians. Many Jews spell the word G-d. The missing letter acknowledges that God is a mystery, incomprehensible to the mind. Yet many of these believers claim with conviction that they know God’s intentions, that He intended to give the land to the Jewish people. They justify the dispossession of an entire people and the humiliating tactics used to facilitate the dispossession by resorting to this dogmatic and self-serving belief.

Likewise, they ignore the many prohibitions in the Torah against scheming, stealing and breaking contracts. And they pay no attention to the practice of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world, in which every Jew is obligated to rectify injustice. They wait for the coming of the Messiah, but they ignore the very practice the Torah says will make the world a dwelling place for the Divine. Is there anything less Jewish than denying God a dwelling place by exploiting His word so that the covetousness of one people can be satiated at the expense of another? In my talks I emphasize that, rather than resorting to dogma, opening ourselves to the intelligence of the heart is how we prepare a dwelling place for God. This is Tikkun Olam, and it is the same wisdom all the great scriptures of mankind intend to transmit.

Yago: In your book you make reference to the Book of Deuteronomy, quoting the passage: “You shall love the stranger;” and you also find similarities between the Koran and Torah. You are pointing out a common message in the three monotheistic traditions. Could you elaborate on this?

Rich: Some form of “love the stranger” is found in every religion. In Christianity “love thy neighbor” is a core principle. A Muslim friend of mine, who read my book, told me that I had made a mistake in citing the Talmud as saying “Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world; and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world.” She told me that the quote comes from the Koran. I learned that this wisdom exists in both religious traditions.

Over time wise people in all religions have discovered basic truths, including the truth of our real nature, beyond the mind or separate self.

Yago: Your transformation has allowed you to compassionately enter into the worldview of the other, in this case the Palestinian people. Looking back at your life before the transformation, what does it mean and feel to be imprisoned in indoctrination or, in this case, the collective pain-body of the Jewish people? How is your compassion and sense of oneness reflected at the level of feelings towards Jews who are still caught in a narrow and partial view of the conflict? Do you know in your own living experience what they are going through?

Rich: I do know what Jews are going through because I went through the same thing. Nonetheless, I sometimes become angry when I hear someone exclaiming: “Palestinians are terrorists who want to kill us all,” or when I hear people justifying the killing of children. It is difficult for me not to become angry. And although mine may be a righteous anger, I know that I can be more effective in encouraging people to look into the history when I discipline myself and remember their point of view, which was once my own situation. So it is important that I stay aware of my thoughts and feelings.

I want to emphasize that my goal is not to convince someone that my point-of-view is more accurate than theirs. I often say in my talks that I do not want anyone to believe what I say. Rather, I want them to find out for themselves the history of this subject. Only personal investigation, with an uncompromising intention to discover the truth, allows one to take responsibility for their role in the suffering of others.

I need to add, though, that I have not met a single Israeli loyalist who has impartially studied the actual history. If they had the decency to do so, most would discover that they have character assassinated the Palestinians and expedited their misfortune. The real conflict for these loyalists is not Israel versus the Palestinian people. The real conflict is the inability to integrate the hard-to-believe but inescapable awareness of Israel’s treatment of non-Jews with unquestioned loyalty to the Jewish state. One consideration recognizes Israel’s dark side; the other denies the dark side exists.

Only by committing myself to the truth was I able to apprehend the astonishing reality that criticism of Israel was never my principal concern. I had never defended Israel, at least the Israel that actually exists. I had defended an idealistic image that was projected onto the real Israel. This projection enabled me to repress and deny painful revelations that I would have learned about Israel and myself if only I had looked without the influence of an unexamined mind.

Denial and projection go hand in hand. What I denied about Israel and about myself, I projected onto the other, who automatically and necessarily became my enemy. My reaction to criticism was motivated more by the fear of taking on the challenge that criticism of Israel posed to my identity than by fear for Israel’s survival.

Yago: We are invited to face and dialogue with conflict with a Yes of “basic acceptance” of what is occurring, but at the same time to say No to the injustices that undermine a human being’s true potential. To be able to combine both attitudes simultaneously, we need to integrate that sense of oneness that you experienced in your transformation, to incorporate a compassionate, non-dualistic mind in our journey in the midst of conflict.

Rich: It would be naive to expect people to go through as radical a transformation as I underwent, though it may occasionally happen. Most people are capable of applying themselves in pursuit of the facts of history. This is why I emphasize that the most effective path is to find out the history for oneself. If we do, we will finally figure out that we have been deceived by propaganda and one-sided belief systems. We will recognize that we have supported injustice and we will understand the various forms that Palestinian resistance has taken over the years, both violent and nonviolent. This is a more compassionate view of the world. And the compassion liberated in our new understanding of this particular conflict will affect the way we see conflict in general.

In a peaceful world people will be less anxious. They will be more capable of self-inquiry. Mankind’s journey toward a more humane consciousness will accelerate and our materialistic society will move closer to spiritual values as greed and acquisition begin to lose their seductive allure.

Yago: We are moving towards the end of the interview, I know you were in Gaza in November, 2012. What is the current situation there?

Rich: Gaza is virtually unlivable. The economy is dying. Between 1996 and 2000, exports averaged 1,736 truckloads per month. In 2011 exports averaged twenty-five truckloads monthly. I am not kidding. I did say twenty-five.

The Israeli blockade only permits enough food into Gaza to keep its residents at a subsistence level. Anemia, malnutrition and stunted growth afflict substantial portions of the population. Eighty percent of residents are dependent on UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) for food. Israel has created buffer zones inside Gaza that seal off access to thirty-five percent of Gaza’s agricultural land. If a farmer dares to venture inside or even near these zones there is a high probability he will be shot. Gaza used to have thriving citrus and olive industries. Neither industry exists anymore, destroyed by Israel.

Ninety percent of the water is so polluted it is undrinkable and the availability of clean water is limited, so that per capita water consumption is well below the minimum standards set by the WHO (World Health Organization). Ninety thousand cubic meters of sewage is dumped into the sea every day, yet Israel does not allow Gazan authorities to build water treatment plants. High levels of nitrates and chlorides, related to blue baby syndrome, kidney disease and prostate cancer, are found in the water. Every one hundred meters along stretches of the Mediterranean are wells from which Israel takes clean water for its Jewish residents, none of which is available to Gazans.

Over 100,000 tons of garbage sits on the streets of Gaza. Everywhere I went I saw garbage. Israel does not permit the government to import garbage trucks.

The Oslo Accords stipulated that Palestinian fishermen could sail twenty nautical miles out to sea to harvest their catch, but Israel reduced the limit to three nautical miles. To catch the large fish, fishermen have to go at least eight miles out to sea. After Operation Pillar of Cloud, which ended in November, the fishing limit was extended to six miles. Nonetheless, just as happened prior to Pillar of Cloud, Israeli military vessels frequently confront fishermen within the limit, force them to swim to the Israeli boats, strip off their clothes and swim back to their vessels.

The effective rate of unemployment, when you include people who have given up looking for a job, is over fifty percent. Young people with college degrees cannot find work. They are prime targets for recruitment by extremist groups.

There are nowhere near enough construction materials, schools, houses, medical supplies, hospital beds, doctors, nurses, etc. I could go on and on. According to UNRWA, by 2020 Gaza will have reached the point where life is untenable. All of this is economic warfare, collective punishment at its worst. And none of it adds to Israel’s security. If anything, by flaunting its contempt for non-Jewish life, these restrictions inflame anti-Semitism throughout the world.

The international community has to insist that Israel abide by international law. For the sake of Palestinians, Israelis and Jews worldwide, it must demand that Israel’s government respect the dignity of human life. Think about it. If all countries adhered to these laws, which have evolved over centuries to safeguard the well being of all peoples, the vast majority could look forward to a future for themselves and their children. This vision may be idealistic on my part but it is a future we all must work towards.

Yago: Are you networking with Palestinians or Jews who have gone through a similar experience of integration of a compassionate and non-dualistic approach to the conflict? Or do you feel alone in this process?

Rich: I do feel alone, but there are a lot of people who appreciate my point of view; and even though they haven’t had such profound an awakening as I had, they understand that peace can only prevail when both peoples are treated equally.

One of the things I often say is that the human rights movement, at least with regard to the Israel-Palestine issue, is very small. There is a need for many more people so that we can reach a critical mass where our support for the rights of all, not some, will begin to be felt within the halls of Congress and other centers of power.

Another thing is that people, who are into non-traditional types of spiritual practice, such as Buddhist meditation or A Course in Miracles, as well as teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie, must get involved in human rights. The world needs their wisdom and their support. Their numbers probably exceed by a wide margin the numbers found in the human rights field. I think the two fields should be combined so that one completes the other. Spiritual seekers need to understand that their search for enlightenment, liberation, happiness, whatever they call it, cannot truly be fulfilled if it is merely about them. They need to understand that we are all Palestinians. Of course, we are all Iranians, Americans, Chinese and Israelis too. And, as I said earlier, we are all responsible for the suffering in the world. But the Palestinian people, to a large extent, have become an archetype for loss and suffering. As such, their healing can play a critical role in the future of the planet.

People involved in human rights, and there are some amazing people, need to work toward a deeper insight into the nature of reality. They need to combine their activist approach with self-inquiry or self-reflection. If they fail to do so, the ancient paradigm of victim becoming oppressor, of one group being made a scapegoat for another will continue.

Yago: My final question is in line with your last words, which for me are fundamental. Could you summarize the characteristics of a peace builder in the context of today’s world?

Rich: We have to become more self-aware and we have to acquire self-understanding. To acquire self-understanding we need to inquire within and discover how our indoctrination influences the way we see the world and how it convinces us to favor one group over another. This is how we find our real humanity. When we find our humanity we will recognize the humanity of everybody else. We will see that we are all in this together. If we engage this process, prejudices we were never aware of will reveal themselves and be resolved.

Next, we need to put our new understanding into action by finding out, in the case of any subject that affects people’s lives, the actual documented history. Regarding Israel-Palestine, this commitment will take us beyond the myths and false beliefs that are so characteristic of the issue.

I always tell people “Don’t believe what I tell you. If you simply believe what I tell you without finding out for yourself, you may believe the next person who comes along, especially if he is more persuasive than I. And that person may be promoting a self-serving worldview.So we need to initiate a practice of doing our own research and finding out, as best we can, the real history. This is not as difficult as it seems. Israel-Palestine is the most legally documented conflict in Mankind’s history.

If we do our research we will understand why people behave the way they do. We will see the effects of fear and greed. We will understand the despair and hopelessness that can lead people to commit acts of desperation. We will discover how, by denying the humanity of the other, we lose our own humanity; and we will recognize the internal logic that induces us, in the name of security, to brutalize the other. We will have acquired greater compassion and clarity. The world will begin to transform itself into a realm where each of us has the opportunity and the resources to pursue our dreams.

Yago: Rich thanks a lot for the wonderful contribution to this blog.

Rich: Thanks to you, Yago!

 

TWO TALKS ON THE GAZA STRIP TO BE HELD IN WASHINGTON D.C.

THE GAZA STRIP – TWO TALKS

RECENTLY RETURNED FROM GAZA, RICHARD WILL SHARE HIS PHOTOS AND OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE PEOPLE, THE CONDITIONS AND THEIR FUTURE 

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1, 9–11 AM, BUSBOYS and POETS, LANGSTON ROOM (2021 14th St NW Washington, DC 20009)

SUNDAY DECEMBER 2, 6:30 PM, THE MUSIC ROOM at ST. COLUMBA’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, 4201 Albemarle St. NW, Washington, DC (Tenleytown Stop on Metro Red Line; One Block West of Intersection of Wisconsin Ave and Albemarle St. NW)


 

Rich to Speak in Ramallah

FRIENDS INTERNATIONAL CENTER IN RAMALLAH PRESENTS

Richard Forer, Author of

Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion

Speaking on THE PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL ROOTS OF CONFLICT

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 / 6:00 pm

#9 Main Street, Ramallah

ANNA BALTZER, NATIONAL ORGANIZER FOR THE U.S. CAMPAIGN TO END THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION:

To my knowledge, there has never been a book that takes on the daunting challenge of describing and deconstructing the unbelievably complex emotional and intellectual journey from prejudice to compassion on this issue… until now!

GILL DYE, COLLEAGUE OF ARCHBISHOP ELIAS CHACOUR AND PAST HEAD OF THE ELIJAH TRUST, A CHRISTIAN CHARITY BASED IN THE UNITED KINGDOM:

I have been working in the Israel/Palestine arena for nearly 20 years. I believe that you and your book are an answer to our prayers over many years. May God speed it and may it be dispersed and read widely across the English speaking world.

Until 2006 Richard Forer had been a loyal defender of Israeli policy and a member of AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee), a powerful Washington D.C. lobbying group. A series of conversations with close friends persuaded him to begin an intensive study into the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Open to the possibility that a lifetime of beliefs might contain a few inaccuracies, he secretly hoped to obtain information to discredit scholars whose findings he considered anti-Semitic. With an uncompromising commitment to the truth, he went far beyond his original intention. Reaching into the depths of himself, in a remarkable moment he underwent a spontaneous spiritual transformation in which he awoke to his true identity. Forer discovered that in Truth we are all Muslim, Christian and Jewish, Palestinian and Israeli.

In his talk Richard will share how blind loyalty to Israel obstructed his ability to empathize with the suffering of Palestinians and induced him to support self-destructive policies that are doomed to perpetuate conflict and suffering on both sides.

Richard Forer has Ultra-Orthodox relatives living in Israel. His identical twin brother is a prominent member of an Ultra-Orthodox sect of Judaism. His younger brother is a former president of one of the largest synagogues on the East coast.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL + 972 (0) 2-297-1314

Accusations of Jewish Self-Hatred and Anti-Semitism are a Strategy to Hide from One’s Self-Reflection

Anyone who follows the debate over Israel-Palestine knows how automatic and routine it is for one side to label those who disagree with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people as self-hating Jews, Israel haters or anti-Semites. Hoping to calm the hysteria and add much-needed clarity to the issue, and unwilling to be silenced by these accusations, I’ve decided to share a brief adaptation from the “The Self-Hating Jew” chapter of my book, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict. As an American Jew with Ultra-Orthodox relatives living in Israel, a former member of AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) and a reflexive defender of Israel for more than fifty years I believe I am as qualified as anyone to share my insights.

 

The Self-Hating Jew

 by Richard Forer

In the past the label self-hating Jew, though rarely used, was associated with Jews who were ashamed of or who hid their religious and cultural heritage. But as the debate over Israeli policy toward the Palestinian people has intensified, self-hating Jew, like anti-Semite, has become a routinely brandished and emotionally charged retaliatory weapon. The idea that a three-word label can encapsulate the character of a person is problematic. A human being is far more than what a single phrase can say about him, and self-hating Jew is so divisive that it makes tolerance and cooperation impossible; and it eradicates the possibility for real understanding.

For some Jews, support for Israeli policy is unconditional, even if it conflicts with traditional Jewish values. For other Jews, these values are primary and ought to be associated with Israel’s compliance with international law. If the former would make an effort to discover why the latter campaign for Palestinian equality, they would learn that they are making a conscious choice not to remain silent when witnessing one group’s denial of basic human rights to another group. These Jews see their people, like the rest of mankind, as complex beings, capable of acts of inhumanity as well as acts of kindness. They are able to concede that at times Israel does violate the rights of others, that it has used torture and mistreated and killed innocent people, and that its leaders do not always tell the truth about these acts. They believe that the Israeli government has hijacked their heritage by replacing morality and brotherhood, once so valued in Judaism, with bigotry and exclusion. Nearly every Jewish critic I’ve met believes that by opposing policies that relegate Palestinians to lives of second-class citizenship, that they are rescuing the integrity of their religious tradition. They are, therefore, true friends of Israel.

A true friend will admonish his friend when he sees him acting irrationally toward his neighbor. These critics have no desire to harm the state of Israel. Their desire is to prevent the state of Israel from harming Palestinians. They advocate equal rights for all because they know that equal rights lead to peace.

This begs the question: What exactly is self-hating (or anti-Semitic) in such a position? Is honoring the humanistic values many Jews were taught at synagogue a betrayal of their Jewish roots? Is caring about another people synonymous with hatred? Is learning about a painful subject likewise symptomatic of hatred? Isn’t thirst for knowledge a hallmark of Judaism and isn’t it fundamental to solving problems? If criticism of deliberate violations of international law expresses hatred, what does turning one’s back on the suffering of millions express? If calling on Israel to end its human rights abuses expresses hatred, are we to forsake a people who cry out against the destruction of their own homes or the traumatizing of their own children?

So where is the hatred? The hatred is conceived in the minds of those who are afraid to ask why someone is critical of Israel. Rather than conducting honest research to refute or confirm the criticism, the accuser victimizes himself with self-generated feelings of fear, confusion and anger, all of which are animated by unexamined beliefs and images within his own mind. This mind colors his perception so that he sees the world in terms of personal victimhood versus the world’s hostility.

Because he is unconscious of the effect his feelings have on his perception, the accuser can only project his perception onto the world and then presume that the world he sees proves the reality of his perception. Creating his own suffering, he narcissistically scapegoats and blames the world (in this case Palestinians and their sympathizers) for his suffering. Triggered through denial, this inner thought process attributes to Palestinians and their sympathizers the accuser’s own hatred. In other words, the accuser makes the other responsible for, and the repository of, his unresolved pain. He objectifies the other and rejects his humanity. Then he supports inhumane policies, which he justifies under the guise of an existential danger to Israel. In so doing, he brings the world’s anger down upon Israel which reinforces and perpetuates the cycle of perceived victimhood. This entire process is a defense mechanism that stems from the fear of inquiring into one’s presumed identity through the questioning of one’s beliefs and images.

Labeling as hateful or anti-Semitic honest criticism of Israeli oppression is no different than labeling as anti-American honest criticism of America’s history of oppression toward people of color. And holding Israel to normative standards of conduct does not delegitimize anyone. What delegitimizes Israel are the behavior and attitudes that humiliate an indigenous people.  

I have not met one defender of Israeli policy who has impartially studied the actual history. If they had the decency to do so, most would discover that they have character assassinated the Palestinians and facilitated their misfortune. The real conflict for these defenders is not Israel versus a hostile world or Israel versus the Palestinians. The real conflict – and the basis for claims of self-hatred and anti-Semitism – is the failure to integrate the hard-to-believe but inescapable awareness of Israel’s treatment of non-Jews with unquestioned loyalty to the Jewish state. One consideration acknowledges Israel’s dark side. The other denies the dark side exists. If these defenders want to distinguish the source of conflict and find peace they need to inquire within. But there are no excuses! Under certain conditions, willful blindness is a crime against humanity.  

Only by committing myself to the truth was I able to apprehend that, in reality, criticism of Israel was never a serious concern. Incredibly, I had never defended Israel, at least the Israel that actually exists. I had always defended an idealistic image of Israel that was projected or superimposed upon the Israel that actually exists. This projection enabled me to repress or deny painful revelations that I would have learned about Israel and about myself if only I had looked without the errant influence of an unexamined mind. Denial and projection go hand in hand. What I denied about Israel and about myself, I projected onto the other who automatically and necessarily became my enemy.

The perspective formed from my projections revealed more about how I wished to see my people than how they really are when looked at in an honest light. My attachment to certain beliefs and images was a defense designed to preserve a childlike faith in Israel as guardian of freedom and humanity. Somehow, I had to reconcile my treasured images with the reality that conflicted with them. However, rather than making use of the tension between these forces as a gateway to transformation, I spurned reality and adhered to the safety of indoctrination. When friends I normally trusted pointed to Israeli deeds that seemed out of character, I reacted by ignoring or rationalizing the suffering of Palestinians.

Equating Palestinian freedom with Palestinian terrorism, I worried that if Israel relinquished strict control over its subjects, the lives of its citizens would be imperiled. Fearing annihilation, I unconsciously superimposed Nazi images onto the Palestinian people, and then refused to believe that the Jewish state could act indefensibly toward them. Fear prevented me from empathizing with the pain of Palestinians and it blinded me to the likelihood that a country I had invested so much faith in could administer such brutal policies.

I indoctrinated myself into the idea that some Jews were willfully ignorant of the evil intentions of the Palestinians, and that their willfulness demonstrated support for that which my unexamined mind feared most: the annihilation of the Jewish state.

Truthfully, my reaction to criticism was motivated more by the fear of taking on the challenge that the criticism posed to my identity than by genuine disagreement or fear for Israel’s existence. For a split second, though, before denial and repression set in, this challenge reflected the prejudice that induced me to deny the humanity of the other. And in order to avoid encountering my own lack of humanity, I ignored documented evidence, thereby consenting to the subjugation of millions. I judged Palestinian violence as a pathological expression of hatred, not the response of an oppressed people, a small minority of whom resort to violence as the only way they know to retain a measure of self-respect in the face of generations of violence inflicted upon them. By turning my back on the suffering of others, I had sacrificed the very values Israel once personified.

****

How is it that a person can be devoted to the well being of one group and hostile to the well being of another? Is it true that there is an inherent difference between two peoples that justifies devotion to one and hostility towards the other? Are such feelings real or has something been added that distorts feeling? In my view, the determining factor is the labels that are applied to a people and the beliefs and images associated with the labels. These labels are the mind’s attempt to resolve fear and gain security, but they occlude the very mechanism that can achieve these aims.

The ability to look and to feel is what achieves security. This ability is inherent and it functions perfectly when there is no recoil from the circumstances of existence. In simple practical situations it makes itself known. Everyone has experienced it. There is a moment when you just know there is danger, when you know that a person is not to be trusted. Then you act accordingly. You do not need one iota of belief about the situation. You have no preconceptions and you are not recoiled from the situation. You are simply being present. Then there is the real feeling that something is amiss.

What I am talking about is natural intelligence as the means for practical security. If we look and feel, then certain things become clear. But we have to renounce labels, we have to renounce the philosophy of us against them, and we have to end our recoil from the human reality of the conflict. There is nothing to fear; we needn’t wait. Do we wait until we discover the nationality, race or origin of a person before we feel concern or neglect for him or her? If so, then there is no real feeling at all. Our concern and our neglect are false. Both are manifestations of fear and confusion. Our automatic identification with one side of a conflict is selfish, founded upon an attachment that keeps us so inextricably bound that we have lost our connection to humanity. We may tell ourselves we support an end to conflict, but as bearers of inner conflict we constantly subvert our goals.

Beyond the mind lies a vast expanse of freedom, unqualified by our presumed mortality as a separate person. In this space of freedom true feeling arises; it flows from the heart. In the field of human relations its expression is compassion. Compassion is the expression of peace and the means of peace. When we know it then we also know that peace for the world is achievable.

****

I never used the term self-hating Jew. I am thankful I didn’t. I believe the label is a powerful barrier to understanding. The key to understanding is dispassionate intelligence. Fear and anger permeated every argument I made in defense of Israel. Invariably I moved from the quandary of fear to the apparent certainty of anger. But I never crossed over into hate. There is a special feeling that accompanies the words self-hating Jew. The key is in “hate.” Characterizing someone in any way with this word introduces viciousness to the mind. This viciousness makes the mind utterly dualistic – and utterly obtuse. The subtle awareness that my ingrained perspective was perhaps incorrect would have been extinguished if I had described Israel’s Jewish critics as self-hating. As it was, because I did not become involved in hate, I remained open to a dispassionate investigation of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

****

The notion that any Jew who dedicates him or herself to justice for all people and who protests the unfair treatment of the downtrodden harbors self-hatred defies common sense. Given the self-esteem it takes to stand for justice amidst fierce denunciation, a more accurate assessment is that they are self-loving Jews.

 

Rana wants to leave Gaza for further education and opportunities in life

Dear friends,

Please read this short appeal from my friend Rana, who lives in Gaza. She wants the same opportunities so many of us have had in life. If anyone can help her come to the U.S. or Europe to attend college please let me know. Here is a little bit of her story, written by her with some editing by me.

My Life Story

I wonder how to begin writing about myself. There is so much to say that I don’t know exactly where I should start?

My name is Rana. I am a Palestinian girl, nineteen years old. I am studying English Literature at the Islamic University in Gaza. I have finished two years and am about to start my third. Because of the situation here in Gaza, it is very difficult to study and make progress.

No one can bear to live here. Gaza is in crisis: economically, socially and culturally. We suffer from a lack of electricity. The fuel that supplies the main station is in short supply. Our world is filled with war, medical problems, emotional problems and all kinds of physical problems. Who is responsible for all of these terrible things? The people of Israel? The government of Israel? Who is responsible?  Every day the number of dead and injured steadily increases. Our lives have turned to hell. People want to leave for other countries. But Israel won’t let very many leave.

Our education system is not bad at all. Our students graduate with degrees in science but what is their future? There are no jobs here. Unemployment is high and widespread. There is nothing to do in Gaza. That is why people spend their time in the streets doing bad things or sitting in front of their computers spending hours on the internet. This is what is going on in Gaza.

I want to tell you my story. Four years ago when I was fifteen, Israel destroyed my home with a rocket. The dream I had worked for since I was a little girl was also destroyed, but I told myself “it’s OK. I’m still alive and I can find a new dream.” My dream had been to leave Palestine and study medicine in a foreign country and then to use my knowledge to help my people.

In the beginning, my Dad wanted me to become a doctor, but I only received a score of 82% on my exams. This wasn’t high enough. I felt ashamed. When I heard the results I stood beside the wall and cried. But then I realized that what I was doing was a sign of weakness so I washed my eyes and sat peacefully in my room, collecting my thoughts and ideas.

My father was disappointed in my low score also, because that was his dream too. He used to call me Dr. Rana. I told myself that I will work hard to break down the barriers that are in my way and overcome all the challenges that I face in my personal life, at school and even in my community, that one day I will make my father proud of me.

I decided to enter the faculty of arts, a new field and a new dream. Having to start all over again from zero was very difficult. In my two years at the university I have had low grades, but I still have chances. I believe in myself and I know what my talents are.

I want to travel from Palestine but I don’t know how? I know it is time to rely on myself without having to depend on anyone, not even my Dad. I have to prove myself in all areas of my life, to trust in myself and make my own decisions. I can work hard and I can work under pressure to reach my goals. Traveling abroad is at the top of my priorities. Hand in hand, heart to heart we can achieve our dreams

I want to stop taking money from my Dad. I feel embarrassed whenever I ask him for money. I hope I will get a job in my field of study. I look forward to challenges and am always working to improve myself. I take risks, love adventure and have an open mind.

I know I have the power to live a positive life. I know that life is not a bed of roses, so I need to work on my patience. I trust God and I trust myself. There are those who just want to break me down. They call me a failure but when I smile I destroy their illusions and they see how strong I am.

I want to show the world what is happening to us in Gaza. I want to represent my country and show the silent world how Palestinians are killed every day while Israelis and Americans are enjoying their lives.

Damn! Where is the humanity in the world? How can people lose their humanity? We will never give up fighting until the Israelis give us back our rights and release all Palestinian political prisoners from their jails. We don’t want more blood, more massacres; we just want peace and security. These are the conditions that everyone in the world needs in order to live a good life.  Rana

Response to Congressman Howard Berman’s Letter to the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel

The Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel was established in Albuquerque, NM and has erected billboards in a number of cities throughout the U.S. A few days ago Congressman Howard Berman sent a letter to the Coalition that appeared in a number of publications. Below is my response to the Congressman.

As a past spokesperson for the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel I would like to respond to Congressman Berman’s letter to that organization. My aim is to engender a more accurate understanding of who we really are and what we really advocate.

Mr. Berman’s use of language is founded in an Us against Them mentality. As such, it is inherently polarizing. Thus, he mistakenly interprets our call for Congress to end military aid to Israel as anti-Israeli. He also suggests that the current relationship between the U.S. and Israel demonstrates international leadership. We respectfully disagree with both claims.

First, America’s extraordinary monetary and diplomatic assistance is a key factor in enabling Israel to carry on its daily violations of international law and the denial of basic civil rights for millions of Palestinians. This misguided support allows Israel to divert resources it would otherwise use for military purposes to its settlement – really colonization – project and its forty-five year occupation of an indigenous people. Without the billions of dollars given to Israel by American taxpayers, its leaders would very likely be compelled to negotiate a peace that would be fair to both sides.

Mr. Berman’s claim that it is Mr. Abbas who is the obstacle to peace betrays his bias as well as a serious lack of research into the subject. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud party have always rejected a Palestinian state and have even called for Israel’s eastern border to extend to the Jordan River. In this light, along with the undeniable fact that Israel continues to gobble up more and more of the land it allegedly is willing to negotiate over, I ask Mr. Berman how anyone could possibly believe that Israel has ever negotiated in good faith with any interest in a real peace that honors fundamental rights to self-determination and equality for all people.

Second, the way to demonstrate international leadership is not to enable our friends’ daily violations of international law that enrage much of the world but to insist that our friends, just as much for their sake as for anyone else’s, respect international law. A true friend does not make excuses for his friend’s behavior when he sees him humiliating and terrorizing his much weaker neighbors. If Mr. Berman really wants to be a true friend to Israel we encourage him to put aside any political motives he may have and to undertake an honest and objective research into the history of Israel-Palestine, even if it means that he could become an object of the kind of false accusations that he and his friends, such as the ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, have made against our Coalition.

Finally, Mr. Berman says: “I am not going to stand by and remain silent as some outside group comes into our community with these outrageous billboards calling for an end to our security partnership with Israel.”

The Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel is not going to stand by and remain silent as the United States, in the name of democratic values, and Israel, in the name of the Jewish people, make Americans and Jews around the world less secure as a result of their outrageous refusal to recognize the democratic rights of a non-Jewish people.

RICH FORER TO SPEAK ON MAY 16 AT ILIFF SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY, DENVER, COLORADO – PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL ROOTS OF CONFLICT

The talk at Iliff School of Theology will be held in the Bartlett Room at 2201 S. University Blvd .- from 11 AM to 12:45. The talk itself will be around 45 to 50 minutes followed by Q&A.  Parking is available in the first lot, which is located on E. Iliff Ave. right off of University. Please let your friends in the Denver area know about this event.

The Dehumanizing Nature of Accusations of Anti-Semitism

Perhaps the most dominating and confusing accusation emanating from one side of the Israel-Palestine debate is that virtually anyone who criticizes Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people hates Israel and is, ipso facto, an anti-Semite or self-hating Jew. What is it about criticism of Israel that provokes such an extreme reaction? After all, anyone with the decency to find out what sparks the criticism would learn that the vast majority of critics, including prominent Israelis and other members of the Jewish community, are motivated not by hatred but by justice; and that their intention is not to harm the state of Israel but to prevent the state of Israel from harming Palestinians.

So where is the hatred? The hatred is in the minds of those who are afraid to ask why someone is critical of Israel. Rather than doing honest research to refute or confirm the criticism, the accuser panders to his feelings of fear, confusion and anger, all of which are animated by unexamined beliefs and images within his own mind. This mind colors his perception so that he sees the world in terms of personal victimhood versus the world’s hostility.

Because he is unconscious of this deeper thought process, the accuser can only project his perception onto the world and then assume that the world he sees proves the reality of his perception. He creates his own suffering and then scapegoats the world (in this case Palestinians and their sympathizers) for his suffering. Triggered through denial, this thought process attributes to Palestinians and their sympathizers the accuser’s own hatred. In other words, the accuser makes the unknown “other” responsible for, or the repository of, his unresolved pain. He objectifies the other and rejects his humanity. Then he supports inhumane policies, which he justifies under the guise of Israel and the Jewish people’s security. In so doing, he brings the world’s anger down upon Israel which, in turn, reinforces and perpetuates the cycle of perceived victimhood.

The real conflict, then, is an inner one and can only be resolved through self-reflection or inquiry into the beliefs and images the accuser takes for granted that form a large part of his personal and collective identity. Without inquiring into his beliefs and images, or indoctrination, he will not be able to integrate the hard-to-believe but inescapable awareness of Israel’s treatment of non-Jews with unquestioned loyalty to the Jewish state. One consideration acknowledges Israel’s dark side. The other denies the dark side exists.

If the accuser can find the courage to commit to the truth – to the best of his ability – and take advantage of the clarifying tools of research and inquiry, he will inevitably apprehend the astonishing reality that, as regards Israel-Palestine, criticism of Israel has never been his principal concern. In fact, he has never defended Israel, at least the Israel that actually exists.

What he has always defended is an idealistic image of Israel that he unconsciously projects or superimposes upon the Israel that actually exists. This projection enables him to deny painful revelations that he would otherwise discover about Israel and about himself if only he would look at Israel and the world without the errant influence of an unexamined, or indoctrinated, mind.

The fruits of the accuser’s sincere efforts will be the transformation of fear into compassion and confusion into clarity. He will know that no behavior occurs in a vacuum and that each of us is responsible for the suffering in the world. The unnecessary and self-created boundaries of his mind will dissolve, the intelligence of his heart will awaken and he will recognize his connection to all of humankind. Finally, he will understand that peace must first manifest within his inner world before he can see its manifestation in the outer world.

 

WHERE’S MY FRIEND by Sam Bahour

At Mr. Bahour’s request I sent the following letter to Israeli PM Netanyahu. I also sent a similar letter to Minster of Defense Ehud Barak. Bahour’s letter can be read here. Please consider sending a letter yourself to these officials.

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
As an American Jew with relatives living in Israel I am appalled and deeply concerned at your government’s treatment of its Palestinian wards. Walid Abu Rass (ID #: 9-9702819-6) is under administrative detention because, I suspect, he cares about his people. Mr. Rass is Finance and Administration Manager for the Health Work Committees (HWC, at www.hwc-pal.org). Why does your government, in the name of the Jewish people, routinely persecute individuals who are trying to make life a little easier for a citizenry that has had so much taken from them? Are they being persecuted because, unlike you, they were not born to Jewish mothers?

Prime Minister Netanyahu what kind of image of Israel and the Jewish people are you attempting to send to the world? Are you aware that the behavior of your government incites anti-Semitism throughout the world, just as the behavior of Islamic extremist groups incites Islamophobia? Are you aware that many of your fellow Jews are becoming more and more disgusted with policies that are designed to treat the Palestinian people as subhuman? What kind of world do you think you are creating with such inhumane behavior and what kind of legacy do you intend to leave for the Jewish people? Have you considered the effect of your policies upon Jews around the world?

As a Jew who has not lost his compassion and humanity I ask that you look into your heart, find some compassion for other human beings and immediately release Walid Abu Rass. I ask that you cease persecuting non-Jewish individuals simply because they are committed to the health and well-being of their people. Sincerely, Richard Forer

South Carolina Resolution Affirming that Israel’s Biblical Claims Trump Human Rights

In keeping with the great American tradition of bigotry and hatred, South Carolina’s legislature unanimously passed a resolution in support of Israel. Based on the resolution, anyone who supports human rights in the Middle East hates both Israel and the U.S.. The resolution does contradict itself (sort of) when it says that God commanded that “governance must be in one law for all without drawing distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, as contained in Leviticus 24:22.” Of course many orthodox Jews interpret Judaism and Jewish law as asserting that non-Jews must be subservient to and under the authority of Jews. The resolution is a disgrace to the meaning of democracy and human rights and to anyone who recognizes that the greatest teaching is found in one’s heart. Any teaching that separates one from his/her heart and prevents one from thinking for one’s self is a false teaching. To read the resolution click here

Rich Forer to Speak in Washington D.C.

I will be giving two talks in Washington D.C. If you are in the area I hope you can make one or both and please bring friends. If you are not in the area please notify your friends who are:

1) September 27 from 7pm to 9pm at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church at 42nd St. & Albemarle St. NW – Go up the main steps through the doors.
2) September 28 from 5:00 to 6:30 at Busboys & Poets – 2021 14th St NW (14th St NW and V). Famed journalist Helen Thomas will be joining me for this talk.

Richard Forer to Speak in Denver/Boulder Colorado

Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Sunday, September 11, 2011

3-5 pm at Montview Presbyterian Church
1980 Dahlia, Denver (corner of Montview Blvd. and Dahlia)
All lectures are free and Open to the Public—Light Refreshments served

For more information: Jan Miller, janlmiller@q.com

Information for the Boulder talk the morning of September 11 will be provided in the next two weeks.

Letter to US Embassy in Greece regarding the Audacity of Hope

To Ambassador Daniel B. Smith and diplomats from the American Embassy in Athens, Greece:

As a Jewish American and former AIPAC member I request your assistance in encouraging the Greek government to release from captivity John Klusmire, the captain of the Audacity of Hope, one of the boats in Freedom Flotilla II. I do not believe the captain would have been arrested by Greek authorities if not for collusion between the U.S. and Israeli governments. The captain was part of a mission whose purpose was to shine a light on the collective punishment of the people of Gaza by the government of Israel. For American federal employees from the president on down to ignore the rights of its own citizens while acting on behalf of Israel’s illegal claim to international waters seems treasonous to me and an affront not only to international law but to the Constitution of the Untied States.

In short my request is that you do your duty to act on behalf of peaceful American citizens who believe in the values upon which the United States was built rather than on behalf of a foreign government whose intention is to bring harm to those citizens. Sincerely, Richard Forer