Grotesque spectacle? I rather think it was…

I refer to this account by Michelle Goldberg of the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

…The event was grotesque. It was a consummation of the cynical alliance between hawkish Jews and Zionist evangelicals who believe that the return of Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse and the return of Christ, after which Jews who don’t convert will burn forever.

Religions like “Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism” lead people “to an eternity of separation from God in Hell,” Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor, once said. He was chosen to give the opening prayer at the embassy ceremony. John Hagee, one of America’s most prominent end-times preachers, once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland. He gave the closing benediction.

This spectacle, geared toward Donald Trump’s Christian American base, coincided with a massacre about 80 kilometres away….

Indeed, indeed.

See also Philip Williams, Trump’s embassy opening in Jerusalem is a warm embrace for Israel but a strategic blow for Palestinian hopes.

 

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More on part of the previous…

But starting with a photo from April 2012, if only to show I was a little skinnier 6 years ago. It was Anzac Day.

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I see I have my Teachers Federation badge on too — it disappeared between then and now.

On my previous post KVD commented: “Be interested to know where, in Israeli law, the treatment of women or gays is anywhere near equivalent to that of Iran? ”

Or Saudi Arabia of course. Taking just the “gays” bit for now, I have posted before:

Love Is All

06 Feb 2006

Nice title, isn’t it? The blogger [on Blogspot, gone as of 2007] is a young gay man in Teheran, and I should warn you there are some pictures there which some might find offensive, sadly. He is 20 years old. The boy below is 18 and also lives in Iran. No, I don’t know either of them, except through seeing their sites.

Image hosting by Photobucket

They don’t exactly fit your stereotypes, do they? And why not ask: who wants to see either one dead?…

It is hard enough for them as it is, living where they do. If they are gay, see this. More generally, see Global Voices: Iran.

Pray that all who deal in death and hatred will lose their grip on humanity, whether those antihuman forces are of the West or of the East.

On the situation in Iran see Intimate spaces: coming out in Iran.

I never thought I’d find a boyfriend in Iran. After all, homosexuality is technically illegal here.

Consensual sex between two adult males is punishable by death. Tafkhiz – defined as the rubbing together of thighs or buttocks – is punishable by 100 lashes.

If two men not related by blood are found “under one cover without necessity” they can be given 99 lashes (for some reason the same offence with two women is 100 lashes). Curiously, “lustful” kissing between two men is punishable by only 60 lashes.

Despite this draconian statutory prohibition, homosexuality is an open secret. My friends tell me that since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – who infamously denied the existence of gay people in Iran – left office, there has been a thaw in official policy towards LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people….

But then in Saudi Arabia, whose side US policy currently prefers in the Iran/Sunni rivalry:

Saudi Arabia is considered to have one of the worst LGBT rights records in the world. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal. LGBT rights are not recognized by the government of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi social mores and laws are heavily influenced by Arab tribal customs and ultra-conservative Wahhabi Islam. Homosexuality and transgenderism are widely seen as immoral and indecent activities, and the law punishes acts of homosexuality or cross-dressing with punishments ranging from fines, floggings, to life in prison, death, and torture.

And yes, Israel is the best in the region in this area, but:

Likewise, the challenges remain. Israel’s gay and lesbian community is shaped by the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians and the Arab states. The central part of World Pride, a parade through Jerusalem, had to be postponed (to an unknown date as of this writing) for two years in a row–first because of Israel’s redeployment from Gaza, and then, because of the war that broke out on Israel’s northern border following Hezbollah’s provocations. But before the parade had to be cancelled because of regional tensions, it was shaping up as a struggle between Israel’s religious establishment and the gay and lesbian community.

The Jerusalem municipality and a veritable alliance of religious leaders united only in their opposition to homosexuality were determined to thwart the holding of the parade. An alliance of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders, both local and international, contended that such a parade would constitute an attack on the sacred character of the city. They claimed that homosexuality so contradicted the teachings of all three of the monotheistic faiths that a parade for acceptance and equality of the GLBT community would forever stain the holy city. Even many secular Israelis normally supportive of the Israeli GLBT community viewed holding an international gay pride parade in Jerusalem as an unnecessary provocation, showing just how successful Israel’s religious establishment has been in shaping a degree of obedience to its sensitivities.

Since the writing of this article, the World Pride parade was finally held in Jerusalem on November 10, 2006 without the violence that many feared. Israel also elected its first openly gay member of the Knesset, Nitzan Horowitz.

The main thrust of the first half of my previous post was what I thought a particularly intelligent response to Mr Netanyahu’s propaganda piece on Iran. All the above is more or less irrelevant to that, though undoubtedly important. Let me add more relevantly a pre-Trump article from The National Interest:

A majority of Americans, an even larger majority of Jewish Americans, the entirety of the United Nations Security Council, and a  long list of former U.S. national security leaders and diplomats endorse the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as the best possible option for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. But regardless of the merits of the negotiated agreement, some critics, like former Ambassador John Bolton, who explained why in a recent article, are unshaken in their belief that military force is the only way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This shortsighted and reckless approach would be counter-productive; as former director of the CIA Michael Hayden has explained…

We know where John Bolton sits now, don’t we? See below.

Let me add another of my own posts: Tread warily in the graveyard called Palestine/Israel.

Last Sunday afternoon the Al Jazeera documentary Al Nakba (2008) was screened at South Sydney Uniting Church. It is in fact a four part TV series so it s rather long. I wasn’t there for the screening, but I did download the entire thing so I have now seen it.

Yes, we need to know about what really happened and we need to go beyond Zionist propaganda on these matters. Unfortunately, there are some disturbing features about the Al Nakba documentary. For a start, its history of Zionism had uncomfortable resonance with the conspiracy theories the Nazis made infamous but which circulated much more widely than that and still do in the Muslim world, and of course in the KKK and Stormfront. No-one mentioned the evil and fallacious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but I couldn’t help thinking they weren’t far away. The reference to Napoleon was both gratuitous and irrelevant. There was no Zionist movement in the age of Napoleon.

Again the account of Jewish immigration into Palestine in the 1930s didn’t actually mention what was happening in Europe at the same time. That is more than an unfortunate omission.

The account of Harry Truman and the foundation of the State of Israel forgot the same Harry Truman wrote things like this:

6:00 P. M. Monday July 21, 1947

Had ten minutes conversation with Henry Morgenthau about Jewish ship in Palistine [sic]. Told him I would talk to Gen[eral] Marshall about it.

He’d no business, whatever to call me. The Jews have no sense of proportion nor do they have any judgement on world affairs.

Henry brought a thousand Jews to New York on a supposedly temporary basis and they stayed. When the country went backward-and Republican in the election of 1946, this incident loomed large on the D[isplaced] P[ersons] program.

The Jews, I find are very, very selfish. They care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered or mistreated as D[isplaced] P[ersons] as long as the Jews get special treatment. Yet when they have power, physical, financial or political neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the under dog. Put an underdog on top and it makes no difference whether his name is Russian, Jewish, Negro, Management, Labor, Mormon, Baptist he goes haywire. I’ve found very, very few who remember their past condition when prosperity comes.

Look at the Congress[ional] attitude on D[isplaced] P[ersons]-and they all come from D[isplaced] P[erson]s.

And this:

I received about 35,000 pieces of mail and propaganda from the Jews in this country while this matter was pending. I put it all in a pile and struck a match to it — I never looked at a single one of the letters because I felt the United Nations Committee was acting in a judicial capacity and should not be interfered with.

In my view the BBC documentary The Birth of Israel is much better….

Finally, there are Jewish voices none too fond of current policy directions:

John Bolton’s appointment as National Security Advisor has terrifying implications for the Middle East, the United States, and the world. Bolton is an extreme Islamophobe and an advocate of war with Iran. He has close relationships to anti-Muslim hate groups, played a key role in pushing for the war on Iraq in 2003, and repeatedly calls for bombing Iran and attacking North Korea.

Despite the fact that his appointment does not need Congressional approval, Bolton’s record should disqualify him from public service. His elevation to a key foreign policy position is dangerous and deeply alarming….

But surely we must all hope that wisdom eventually prevails.

Update

Well, it appears wisdom has taken a back seat. I venture to add that Israel is no safer than it was before…. I refer you to just one response in Foreign Policy:

As long expected, Donald Trump has bowed to his ego, his petulant envy of Barack Obama, his hard-line donors, his new set of hawkish advisors, and above all his own ignorance and walked away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the international agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Together with his foolish decision to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this is likely to be his most consequential foreign-policy blunder yet.

Noted en passant…

You may have noticed I am tending to the visual lately, rather than adding my two cents worth on what excites the news watcher. Today an exception.

First: Israel, Iran, Trumpery and all. You may care to visit some of my older thoughts first: for example (2009) — Is objectivity about Israel and Palestine possible?

I am not, never have been, a fan of Mr Netanyahu. This is a sentiment I have shared over the years with a number of Jews and Israelis, so I am not alone. I found his propaganda Powerpont on Iran’s nukes sick-making, but not in the way he wanted. Rather, see in Foreign Policy (USA) Bibi’s Infomercial for the Iran Deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dog and pony show on Monday, in which he displayed a trove of documents from Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear weapons program, had an audience of precisely one. It was part of a coordinated effort with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to kill the Iran nuclear deal. And, if you don’t know anything about Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear weapons program, perhaps it was persuasive.

But if you do — if you happen to have a blog called Arms Control Wonk, for example — you will have heard it all before. There was nothing new in Netanyahu’s presentation, at least nothing that would change someone’s mind about the nuclear deal. In fact, Netanyahu’s presentation works as an advertisement for the pact he was trying to take down….

Unfortunately he probably scored big with his target audience. Do read that whole item. Not the first “dodgy dossier” we’ve seen, is it?

You might also like to read about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal.

And now for something completely different, and very pleasing: Encounter made me realise I was wrong to oppose Safe Schools! Catherine McGregor, bless you!

I believe in God. I am a deeply flawed Christian. Yet, as scripture tells us so are we all. Redemption came from an unlikely quarter last week.

I worked with two trans men on the show along with two gay actors. One young trans man told me how much he resented me for my stance on Safe Schools in 2016 and for my life as a soldier. He found me incomprehensible. A fascist at best. And a tool of the Australian Christian Lobby in its vile war on trans people at worst.

It could easily have escalated into the pointless dialogue of the deaf that dominates Twitter. Hate uncluttered by reason. But we hugged and chatted. We are now dear friends. His name is Charles O’Grady….

Even more to my chagrin, I failed to anticipate the ammunition I offered to those like Miranda Devine and Lyle Shelton who refuse outright to accept the reality and legitimacy of trans identity.

They purr reassuringly about not wanting kids to make irrevocable mistakes before puberty. Currently, they are providing a platform for a charlatan with no medical qualifications whose position is that all trans identity is “broken” and must be lovingly “reversed”. His qualifications are in “religious freedom” and “political science”….

Safe School supporters and protesters clash in Canberra in August 2017.

Again, I am proud to refer you to a post or three of my own, such as 2016’s Show some backbone, PM!

As Malcolm Turnbull yesterday caved into his party’s religious right and announced an investigation into the Safe Schools Coalition one thing became clear: we are in the midst of a culture war. And vulnerable children are being used as cannon fodder.In a Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, February 23, Senator Cory Bernardi called for the program to be defunded, claiming it was being used to “indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism.”

Now I am such a Marxist, eh! Why only a couple of days ago on this blog I was commending Robert Service’s Comrades: A World History of Communism (2007) to my readers! A Marxist I really am not, but I do embrace diversity as a core aspect of the human condition and commend any society or program that does the same. Hence on Twitter I wrote yesterday: “I totally support #safeschools.” I also retweeted: “RT @JoshThomas87: .@TurnbullMalcolm You’re turning out to be a real shit bloke.” Among others.

First, a really really good idea is to read the actual stuff that Safe Schools offers….

Well, probably back to photos next time….

 

So many anniversaries!

The true biggie has been the 500 years since upstart priest Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door, an event that truly changed Europe and the world. See the rather irreverent post Seven reasons Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation still matter today.

On a lesser scale, but very significant in Australia and the Pacific, we have coming up in a few days the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda Track campaign.

But the one that has grabbed attention lately has been the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba. Quite a story, that. I have among my eBooks this — and am about to read it.
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It was first published in 1921, with an introduction by Sir Harry Chauvel.

It gives me great pleasure to write a few words of introduction to Lieut.-Col. Preston’s History of the Desert Mounted Corps, which I had the honour to command. In writing this History Lieut.-Col. Preston has done a service to his country which I am sure will be fully appreciated, particularly, perhaps, by those who served in the Corps, and who feel that the part they played in the Great War is but little known to the general public….

Lieut.-Col. Preston is well qualified to undertake the work. First of all in command of one of my finest Horse Batteries, and subsequently as C.R.A. of the Australian Mounted Division, he was often in touch with my Staff, being constantly employed on reconnaissance duties, in which he was peculiarly expert. He served throughout the whole of the operations of which he writes….

The Desert Mounted Corps was composed of Australians, New Zealanders, British Yeomanry, and Territorial Horse Artillery and Indian Cavalry, with French Cavalry added for the last operations; and it says much for the loyalty of all, and the mutual confidence in each other, that the whole worked so harmoniously and efficiently to one end….

In yesterday’s commemoration in Israel our PM gave a rather peculiar speech, I thought,  rather all over the place when compared with the speech of the New Zealand Governor-General. Israel’s PM Netanyahu spoke forcefully — have to award him a tick for oratory — but also delivered propaganda by the bucket load. In the course of his speech he mentioned that 4,000 years ago Abraham had been at that very spot — Beersheba. What he didn’t mention is that this hardly counts as an actual historical event, but oh the rather troubling weight that Jews, Christians and Muslims load onto this legendary figure!

Ironic too. I suggest you go to my post Before Abraham was, we are…

And the semi-mythical Abraham? Well, “according to Jewish tradition, Abraham was born under the name Abram in the city of Ur in Babylonia in the year 1948 from Creation (circa 1800 BCE).”

Way more impressive than that Australian Museum Timeline, impressive as it is, has been the ABC’s First Footprints series, which ended last Sunday night. It took three episodes before we got even close to the recent history – when Abraham, Moses and all that lot were swanning around one patch of the planet far away from here. That fourth episode punctured quite a few of our cherished beliefs about agriculture, hunter-gatherers, and civilisation.  It also included Papua New Guinea in the Greater Australia which once existed before sea levels rose around 7,000 years before Abraham. There was much reference to Bill Gammage’s seminal The Biggest Estate on Earth (2011).

The irony, if you like, is that among those brave Light Horsemen in 1917 were several descended from those people whose roots go back tens of thousands of years prior to the incursion of whatever individuals or groups might correspond to the story of Abraham in Beersheba. See ‘Not even classed as citizens’: Remembering the Indigenous soldiers at Beersheba.

Rather puts into some perspective the whole Abrahamic saga, very significant as it of course is given the good and ill it has contributed to this present world.

Finally, another picture relating to my last two posts. This is from Sydney High in 2014, a Remembrance Day ceremony with the school assembled in Moore Park. Quite an impressive photograph.Screenshot (125)

June gone already! And what a time for news!

Just as well you aren’t depending on this blog to keep you up-to-date, as there has been a bit of a break here as I nursed my remaining data allowance. And in that time we’ve had so many things happen, most recently the charging of Cardinal George Pell for alleged historic sex offences against children. He will be fronting court in Melbourne next month. I can’t help wondering what an old internet friend, Father Ken Sinclair, who died in 2005, would have had to say. Back in 2001-2 he was foreshadowing some of this stuff in conversations we had on ICQ. See my post Back to very early days–and the strange immortality of the internet.

Then today we have had Donald Trump showing what a small-minded vindictive arsehole he really is. no great surprise surely. Presidential? Pull the other one… And we’re supposed to trust the judgement of this person on the most important issues in the world? God help us all!

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And here in Oz Tony Abbott is in full feral mode. Rather liked former leader of his party John Hewson on this today.

…say what he likes, Abbott is still quite bitter and twisted about Turnbull seizing his job, and getting worse with time. His IPA speech this week was a clear example of “disloyalty”. Sure, he dressed it up as a speech of “principle” and “conviction” and true conservative “ideology”, but it was blatantly a direct attack on Turnbull, and his more “centrist” strategy, designed to undermine, and constrain Turnbull.

And a major part of the data from the 2016 Australian Census was released this week. That part concerning religion interested quite a few of us. Here are a couple of graphics from the Daily Mail.

41CA08CB00000578-4641728-image-a-8_1498523353300
41CA08B500000578-4641728-image-a-1_1498523288531The Daily Mail and the Sydney Daily Telegraph made much of a “surge in the number of Muslims”. As you might expect these days.  Headline:

Muslim population in Australia soars to 600,000 as religion becomes the nation’s second-biggest – a 77% jump in the past DECADE, according to Census

Soared to 2.6% of the population, of whom “radicals” must constitute… Well, you guess…

The really interesting figure was the rise of “No Religion” — whatever that might actually mean.

But now for the really important stats: in June the most viewed posts on this blog have been:

Home page / Archives   614 views in June 2017
Friday Australian poem: #NS6 – Mary Gilmore “Old Botany Bay”  21
Testing for English competence?   18
A week of multicultural yums   17
On terror — just for the record   15
65 years on I recall Vermont Street  12
Otto Warmbier’s death underlines plight of thousands of North Koreans  12
Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames”   11
Going, going… Myers in Wollongong  11
Neil’s Family Specials — a reminder   10
Wollongong High: more on the centenary More stats 10
Flowers and grief: for my mother  9
Tom Thumb Lagoon   9
Some great stories, and some of them new to me…  9