Not In My Name – So Many Things

Jews under the auspices of an organization called “Not In My Name” which opposes Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, some their Palestinian friends and other allies came together of Friday, for our weekly noontime vigil in downtown Chicago. We assembled at the Tribune plaza outside of one of the most striking art deco skyscrapers in the city with jagged grey gothic ornamentation up to the twelfth floor like a grim granite medieval pair of court jester’s pants girding the building.

It was so crowded you could hardly move. There were thousands there sharing vigil over the destruction in New York. I brought an Arab woman from India who works with me to show solidarity and we looked a long time to find the Hebrew , Arabic and English signs saying held high saying “Jews and Arabs. We refuse to be enemies”. We made our way over.

She and I picked up signs in Hebrew and Arabic and held them above our heads. An American born Palestinian and close friend of mine whose parents hail from the West Bank was moved to pick up two dozen yellow roses on the way, and he handed them out one by one to participants, hugging some of them, and quoting Aristotle to me about friendship being the basis to build a successful state. The crowd cleared and only the TV cameras, hundreds of people waiting patiently to sign a memorial book, a few stragglers and our cozy group remained. The media expressed interest and there were lots of interviews and shots of us in solidarity. And for good reason.

Last night on South Side of Chicago there was a throng of anti-Arab rioters intent on storming a mosque. The police held them back. This spills onto Jews too as well as the Japanese Americans who remember what happened to them and any other thinking American who values democracy and freedom and abhors ignorance and prejudice.

I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to inform the Hispanic community about the work we do and the bridges we build by forming friendships and working together so I got Telemundo Chicago to interview me. I spoke about the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy and reminded people what has happened in the past when unbridled passions are ignited. Towards this end, I stated publicly that we have to monitor Fox news and that they are being irresponsible citizens because they are whipping up fury with little evidence, restraint or analysis.

The reporter and the cameraman raised their eyes and dropped their jaws when I said this, like they knew I had spoken the truth but were shocked anyway. Why should anyone be shocked? I just stated publicly what I tell my TV screen, whenever I can bear to listen to their coverage. I hoped they would leave it in, but they didn’t. Instead Telemundo said we were a minority group which blows my mind. Does that mean that Arabs against Jews, at least in the United States, is the majority? I refuse to understand that type of thinking. Anyway, this, for once, was not a Palestinian issue.

My Palestinian friend pointed out to me that Disney (ABC) owns oil in Saudi Arabia and reminded me that GE (CBS) has their hand in practically every ugly business. ABC and CBS. Maybe thats why not even Dan Rather is asking ‘why’ when he has the chance. He interviewed a “terrorist expert” who said that they are motivated by anger, frustration and humiliation. Probably that is true most of the time.

Then she added “at not being able to make it in the 21st century. ” The fact is they were all living here and making it in the 21st century. Even the bomber living in Montreal had a grocery job that fed, clothed and provided him shelter. By that standard, many Americans won’t make it in the 21st century either. Its reported another of the terrorists was on the local PTA. Perhaps terrorists have other motivations than blood lust? A serious intent requires a serious reason. You don’t just wake up in the morning and say “I will blow myself up in a disco or on a plane”.

At some level we sense this. During the vigil, the song God Bless America spread like wind on a forest fire but the chant of “USA, USA” was dampered as quickly as a campfire with dirt thrown upon it. Gore Vidal wrote that his blind senator grandfather taught him to listen to the false notes in the arias that politicians use to lull their citizen flock. That is a skill every American needs now more than ever.

The major networks are slicker than Fox. They aren’t rabble rousers per se, they are consensus formers which is probably even more dangerous, and harder to fight. At least Ted Koppel makes an effort, but he’s about the only one. David Broder seems to be a mild mannered O’Reilly which is disappointing, considering he is on PBS, but to their credit, they aired a documentary about Osama Bin Laden Thursday night.

All that being said, perhaps people who are so inclined might want to begin documenting Fox News’ irresponsible and racist agenda. For example, last night O’Reilly interviewed Newt Gingrich and Jeanne Kirkpatrick together on a split screen. Mrs. Kirkpatrick, responding to a previous speaker I had not heard said that she, also a professor but from Georgetown nonetheless, feels that this is a time for war and not restraint of action. Translation: Thinking about the consequences of what we do before we do it. Fine that is her opinion.

But she went on to determine that her viewpoint was that of the great majority. She didn’t even site an opinion poll although opinion polls are better suited to predict the weather tomorrow than to turn complex circumstances into a reductive conclusion based on one simple question, “Should we go to war?”.

What does that mean, we should ask when confronted with such statements. Give me your objectives and tell me how your course of action will achieve these goals. Considering she served in the Reagan administration which continued Brezinski’s stupid and short sighted policy of funding “extremists”, I wouldn’t trust Jeanne Kirkpatrick to tell me what the time is.

On the other hand, even an invasion may be better than the Taliban, but there are already groups in Afghanistan opposing them. Why haven’t they already overthrown the Taliban with U.S. help? Now on television, they are talking about a ground war in Afghanistan. That country is full of refugees from neighboring Central Asian countries whom the Soviets or British could never subdue, because they want their independence.

These are fiercely independent people who consider themselves descendants of the al-Buhkari group of scholars who authored one of two great collections of analysis on Hadith (traditions) of the prophet, which had been written to work out a system of human conduct by applying Qur’an, early caliphic modes of decision making and what the accumulated wisdom of the community believed to be the right way to act.

At moments of political tension, according to Albert Hourani, when the enemy was at the gates, the ruler might ask the ‘ulama to read selections from Bukhari as a kind of assurance of what God had done for His people.

What these scholars did for their people is similar to what the authors of the Talmud did for the Jews. Al-Buhkari scholars provided in effect an Islamic Tosefta, commenting, and expanding on the Hadith (Mishna), the basic code of conduct for all aspects of a society.

Though their luster may seem to have faded a bit since the height their golden age when al-Buhkari was written between 810 – 870, due to repeated invasions and attempts at subjugation, their memory and will has not. Usually admiration for such traits is universal. Look how well the Chechens are holding out against the Russians. To what end will it serve to tar the entire region with the ugly brush of “potential terrorist”. Listen closely for murmurings of a two front war! Will our leaders ever determine the domino effect might be good for America, and Russia too?

In Afghanistan, do we intend to oppose everybody or just the Taliban, who are primitive by any criterion. Fundamentalists of the worst sort always are. Do all Arabs look alike anyway? Recently on Fox, every two minutes or less they showed on their moving newsline “Taliban flees into hiding”. I guess our intelligence just got better for them to know that, but they offered no proof. It also left the distinct impression that they are cockroaches.

We should get Bin Laden, if he indeed is responsible, but we need to acknowledge our part for helping create him. My thought upon hearing about the accused terrorists at JFK and Laguardia on Thursday was that they were cockroaches, but that is not my gut reaction to Arabs, just terrorists.

For our Army to tell the difference will require sharper eyes than distinguishing between Christie Brinkley and Cheryl Tiegs. Refuge camp to refugee camp, door to door, cave to cave and mountain to mountain over some of the most rugged terrain on earth they will go. I hope they find him, but that won’t end the problem here. When innocent people die more terrorists are born. I don’t think this is due to an innate hate of liberty, freedom and democracy, but the injustice carried out in its name.

It has more to do with President Bush’s statement, “We are fighting for American way of life”. Does that mean we are fighting to preserve our freedom inside this country or the government’s freedom to pursue destructive counter productive and martyr making policies almost everywhere on earth? Until now the two have been mutually exclusive. Ultimately the Jewish sages got it right when they said a man who conquers his passions is better than one who conquers a city. Globally, we have a passion to rule and an obligation to obscure the realities of this at home. The real power any human being exercises is over himself. Is it unpatriotic to say such things now or is it unpatriotic to not?.

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