April 16, 2008
Palestine Between Misguided Fantasies & Pandering Politicians
A memorable quote in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894) still carries a wealth of relevance. He writes, “They own the (Holy) land, just the mere land, and that’s all they do own; but it was our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so they haven’t any business to be there defiling it. It’s a shame and we ought not to stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take it away from them.”
Recently an influential pastor John Hagee, of the Dallas’ Cornerstone mega-church, followed his endorsement for Republican candidate for president John McCain with some telling remarks. “What Senator McCain, I feel, needs to do to bring evangelicals into his camp is to make it very clear that he is a strong defender of Israel and that he has a strong 24 years of being pro-life. And I think on those two issues they will get on common ground and have a common understanding.”
Such were the views of a man who has an ever-growing influence among an ever-swelling culture in the US — the Evangelical Christian bloc. Nothing was mentioned about the well-being of Palestinians, even those Christian Palestinians, many of whom are descendants of the early church.
And for that matter, human rights and recognition of the needs of Palestinians are quite rarely addressed by American officials, and on the rare occasion that they are, any such support must be closely linked to a strong condemnation of Palestinian terrorism.
Welcome to America’s parallel reality on Israel and Palestine, barefaced in its defying of the notions of common sense, equality and justice, ever-insistent on peeking at the Arab-Israeli conflict from a looking glass manufactured jointly in the church, in the Congress and in the news room, where the world is reduced to characters interacting in a Hollywood-like movie set: good guys, well groomed and often white-skinned vs. bad guys bearing opposite qualities.
One may become accustomed to watching, reading and listening to the chorus of support that America — its politicians, most of its mainstream media and a large conglomerate of its churches and clergies — tirelessly offer Israel. While the advocacy for Israel by various evangelical churches is both bizarre — since the ultimate objective of this crowd is the annihilation of most Jews and the conversion of some as prerequisites for the Rapture — and widely acknowledged, their influence on the political culture of America is not equally recognized. For example, Pastor Hagee — a televangelist to 99 million viewers — established Christians United for Israel (CUFI) in 2005 following the publication of his book, ‘The Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World.”
US writer Robert Weitzel explains, “Hagee envisions CUFI as the Christian version of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby whose political clout has significant influence on US foreign policy in the Middle East.”
Journalist Max Blumenthal took his cameras to the CUFI’s Washington-Israel Summit held July 2007, in Washington DC. The result was a documentary entitled, “Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour.” It opens with a dialogue with former Republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who was asked how important the Second Coming is in his support of Israel. “Obviously, it is what I live for. Really, I hope it comes tomorrow. Obviously, we need to be connected to Israel to enjoy the Second Coming of Christ.”
Weitzel reports, “John Hagee is not without fawning friends in Washington. Presidential hopeful John McCain made a campaign stop at the summit and admitted to the audience that, ‘It’s very hard trying to do the Lord’s work in the city of Satan . . .’ House Minority Leader Whip Roy Blunt followed McCain to the podium and assured the faithful that “This is a mission, this is a vision that I believe is a vision for God’s time.” Sen. Joe Lieberman was there and described Pastor Hagee as an “Ish Elokim,” a man of God.” Even President Bush sent his best wishes, “I appreciate CUFI members…for your passion and dedication to enhancing the relationship between the United States and Israel. Your efforts set a shining example for others…”
While most US politicians are self-seeking, power-hungry and would do whatever it takes to be elected, the average American, unlike what it may seem, is not born “pro-Israel,” and “anti-Palestinian.” Most Americans are pro-the-manufactured, yet misleading, images of Israel that reach their homes through television, wait at their doorsteps in the morning and confront them through the web. Israel has mastery over the language of the Western media, which, again, helped create a parallel reality that has little correlation to the real world, that of facts, numbers and actual events. That alternative universe only exists on newspapers’ editorial pages, mega-churches and the blabber of Fox News “experts.”
There is no serious or equitable debate regarding Palestine and Israel in the US corporate media, nor any other cultural, political and religious circles. If the existing narrative is to be called a debate, then it’s one with an imagined, not real, language, almost entirely irrelevant to the realities in Palestine and Israel. It’s one that is largely predicated on a narrow-minded, apocalyptic religious discourse which for decades has found itself an accepted point of departure for most politicians, even those who falsely pose as liberals.
Between the two discourses, that of misguided religious fantasies and pandering politicians, there maybe exists enough room for alternative narratives. Unfortunately, that space is too overwhelmed by cultural misconceptions, institutional bias and deliberate confusion, introduced and instilled deliberately by media producers, pundits and the other manufactures of American popular culture. Until the gatekeepers of US culture are seriously challenged, Palestine will continue to reside in the American imagination as a battle between good and evil, a “Holy Land” that must be wrestled from the hands of those who might have owned the land, at one point, but now, they “haven’t any business to be there defiling it.”
— Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London).