My Life as a New York Times Reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror

A Must Read — Most instructive piece of the year, so far.  Well worth the time

By James Risen, The Intercept, 3 January 3, 2018

A first-class reporter’s struggle with the malleable managers of the NY Times who then, and now, are inclined to take at face value what the CIA, FBI, NSA, and White House say is fit — or unfit — to print.  Amazing.

After Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers and sisters,
To make music in the heart.
— Howard Thurman

Father of Jailed Palestinian Teen Ahed Tamimi Pens Letter to Israelis: “These Are Tears of Struggle”

By Bassem Tamimi, Haaretz
December 29, 2017

[ see also ]

Ahed Tamimi’s father: I’m proud of my daughter. She is a freedom fighter who, in the coming years, will lead the resistance to Israeli rule.  Here is his letter:

This night too, like all the nights since dozens of soldiers raided our home in the middle of the night, my wife Nariman, my 16-year-old daughter Ahed and Ahed’s cousin Nur will spend behind bars. Although it is Ahed’s first arrest, she is no stranger to your prisons. My daughter has spent her whole life under the heavy shadow of the Israeli prison — from my lengthy incarcerations throughout her childhood, to the repeated arrests of her mother, brother and friends, to the covert-overt threat implied by your soldiers’ ongoing presence in our lives. So her own arrest was just a matter of time. An inevitable tragedy waiting to happen.

Several months ago, on a trip to South Africa, we screened for an audience a video documenting the struggle of our village, Nabi Saleh, against Israel’s forced rule. When the lights came back on, Ahed stood up to thank the people for their support. When she noticed that some of the audience members had tears in their eyes, she said to them: “We may be victims of the Israeli regime, but we are just as proud of our choice to fight for our cause, despite the known cost. We knew where this path would lead us, but our identity, as a people and as individuals, is planted in the struggle, and draws its inspiration from there. Beyond the suffering and daily oppression of the prisoners, the wounded and the killed, we also know the tremendous power that comes from belonging to a resistance movement; the dedication, the love, the small sublime moments that come from the choice to shatter the invisible walls of passivity.

“I don’t want to be perceived as a victim, and I won’t give their actions the power to define who I am and what I’ll be. I choose to decide for myself how you will see me. We don’t want you to support us because of some photogenic tears, but because we chose the struggle and our struggle is just. This is the only way that we’ll be able to stop crying one day.”

Months after that event in South Africa, when she challenged the soldiers, who were armed from head to toe, it wasn’t sudden anger at the grave wounding of 15-year-old Mohammed Tamimi not long before that, just meters away, that motivated her. Nor was it the provocation of those soldiers entering our home. No. These soldiers, or others who are identical in their action and their role, have been unwanted and uninvited guests in our home ever since Ahed was born. No. She stood there before them because this is our way, because freedom isn’t given as charity, and because despite the heavy price, we are ready to pay it.

My daughter is just 16 years old. In another world, in your world, her life would look completely different. In our world, Ahed is a representative of a new generation of our people, of young freedom fighters. This generation has to wage its struggle on two fronts. On the one hand, they have the duty, of course, to keep on challenging and fighting the Israeli colonialism into which they were born, until the day it collapses. On the other hand, they have to boldly face the political stagnation and degeneration that has spread among us. They have to become the living artery that will revive our revolution and bring it back from the death entailed in a growing culture of passivity that has arisen from decades of political inactivity. Ahed is one of many young women who in the coming years will lead the resistance to Israeli rule. She is not interested in the spotlight currently being aimed at her due to her arrest, but in genuine change. She is not the product of one of the old parties or movements, and in her actions she is sending a message: In order to survive, we must candidly face our weaknesses and vanquish our fears.

In this situation, the greatest duty of me and my generation is to support her and to make way; to restrain ourselves and not to try to corrupt and imprison this young generation in the old culture and ideologies in which we grew up.

Ahed, no parent in the world yearns to see his daughter spending her days in a detention cell. However, Ahed, no one could be prouder than I am of you. You and your generation are courageous enough, at last, to win. Your actions and courage fill me with awe and bring tears to my eyes. But in accordance with your request, these are not tears of sadness or regret, but rather tears of struggle.

What Christmas Means

By Chris Hedges, December 24, 2017

The tale of Jesus’ birth is not for oppressors. It is for the oppressed. And what is quaint and picturesque to those who live in privilege is visceral and empowering to those the world condemns.

“In the early 1980s I was in a refugee camp for Guatemalans who had fled the war into Honduras. It was a cold, dreary winter afternoon. The peasant farmers and their families, living in filth and mud, were decorating their tents with strips of colored paper. That night, they said, they would celebrate the flight of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus to Egypt to escape the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem ordered by Herod. The celebration is known as the Day of the Holy Innocents.
“Why is this such an important day?” I asked.
“It was on this day that Christ became a refugee,” a farmer answered. … “

Ahed Tamimi has become the symbol of a new generation of Palestinian resistance

By Ben Ehrenreich, December 24, 2017

Sixteen year-old Ahed stands in a long faith tradition.  There is an interesting parallel with another teenager in Palestine; her name was Mary.

Historians speculate that Mary was around 16 when she did a very gutsy thing.  In a leap of faith, she accepted some kind of inspired messaage that she would be a mother, that she should call her child Jesus, and that Jesus’s presence in the world would cause them both — and others — a whole lot of trouble.  Still is.

There are no extant tape-recordings but, according to Luke, this is part of what she was moved to say:

“I’m bursting with God-news …
God took one look at me, and look what happened …
God’s mercy flows in wave after wave …
God bared his/her arm and … scattered the bluffing braggarts.
S/he knocked tyrants off their high horses,
Pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
The callous rich God left out in the cold …
It’s exactly what God promised,
Beginning with Abraham, and right up to now.

translation by Eugene Peterson in The Message (non-sexist language added)

Those who read Ben Ehrenreich’s article (live link above) will see what Ray is trying to say here.  Basically, it has to do with his theology, which is encapsulated in how the late Dean Brackley, SJ, described his own:  “It all depends on who you think God is, and how God feels when little people are pushed around.”

Ray has the honor of knowing Ahed and the rest of the Tamimi family.  The small Veterans For Peace delegation that spent two weeks plus on the West Bank in February-March proudly marched with them and the rest of the village of Nabi Saleh. AND, that day, re-captured and occupied the spring that had been stolen by the settlers…until it was stun-gunned and tear-gassed out of the area by police called in by VERY aggressive settlers, who went for and attacked the Palestinian women first — at which point one of the younger vets, Mike Hanes, instinctively ran over to stop them.

Now young Mike had been “special forces” Marine, was in excellent condition, and could easily have done some serious harm to the cowards attacking the Palestinian women.  Later, Ray commented to Mike that his behavior was the most graphic display of non-violence he had ever seen, given the circumstances.  He smiled, “Yes, it was partly that.  But also — well, perhaps you old Army guys have forgotten, but the first thing you have to do is find out if your opponent is armed.  Those settlers were packing serious sidearms.  I could have handled that first guy, well, handily.  But I did not want any of us to be shot by the others.”

The Veterans For Peace delegation stayed two nights in the Tamimi home, which, by the way, has been on the list for demolition for many years now.  Asked why his family took such great risks, particularly in view of the killings, wounding, and imprisonment (Bassem himself had been seriously injured and has done serious prison time) and the precarious status of the very house in which they lived, Bassem said, “How can I tell them not to do nonviolent resistance?  That would mean acquiescence in the occupation.  We will never do that.”

Thanks go to Ben Ehrenreich for writing this piece, and to The Nation for publishing it.

The Strangelovian Russia-gate Myth

By Phil Rockstroh. December 22, 2017

The Strangelovian Russia-gate Myth

The palaver of Russia-gate is embraced by many liberals as some kind of totem to ward off the vile Donald Trump who, as is well known, owes his election victory to Putin.  This dishonest process furthers the cause of American Empire and risks global destruction — whether ecological or nuclear.

Poet Phil Rockstroh addresses the catastrophic consequences of unchained hubris and greed with writing reminiscent of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Virgil, and Shakespeare — over two and a half millennia.  Nothing new, apparently, under the sun.

A literary treat for the holidays.