Friday, November 8, 2013

My letters to CSM & NYTimes RE JFK's call for religious freedom can transform places & Keep the Iraqi Jews’ Legacy Safe — in America

NEWS: The United States and Israel lost their UNESCO voting rights Friday after suspending funding to the organisation for its recognition of Palestine, a source from the UN agency November 8, 2013
RE: JFK's call for religious freedom can transform places... by Katrina Lantos Swett, vice-chairwoman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Dear Editor,

What an inspiring and uplifting op-ed!  However I can not help but wonder about the elephant in the living room:

True religious freedom would indeed curb sectarian strife and extremism.... and yes American diplomats and forward thinkers should be advocating such freedom worldwide. But how will any countries in the Middle East be able to hear that message, much less understand that message when so many  American newspapers, politicians, businessmen and religious leaders praise and protect Israel as "The Jewish State"?

We can eloquently call on people everywhere "to raise their sights, heal yesterday’s wounds, right today’s wrongs, and aspire to greater things", but our words will be sanctimonious hypocrisy as long as we are arming Israel's "Jewishness" and forcing tax payers to fund Israel's religious scholars and schemes.

Are our current efforts to help end the pernicious Israel-Palestine conflict with a negotiated settlement generating regional respect for real democracy and a fully secular end to that conflict in line with international law and firmly respecting universal basic human rights, or are our efforts being perceived as yet another way to empower Israel's "Jewishness" and the ongoing persecution, impoverishment and forced displacement of Palestinians?

Anne Selden Annab

RE Keep the Iraqi Jews’ Legacy Safe — in America by Cynthia Kaplan Shamash, a dentist in Flushing, Queens & a member of the board of the World Organization of Jews From Iraq.

Dear Editor,

Regarding the trove of Hebrew material rescued from Saddam Hussein's flooded basement in 2003, flown here to be saved... Cynthia Kaplan Shamash's impassioned plea to Keep the Iraqi Jews’ Legacy Safe — in America wisely points out "To suggest that they go to Israel, where many Iraqi Jews live now, might invite venom from Iraq."

She is absolutely right about that. Israel in insisting on being "Jewish" and in a misguided quest to make that a demographic reality, has cruelly persecuted and displaced the native non-Jewish Palestinians and played a large part in instigating and perpetuating sectarian strife and religious extremism all through out the region.

A part- just a part, and that part's actual relevance shrinks as time goes by:  The Buddhas destroyed in 2001 by religious bigots in Afghanistan.... the museums in Egypt looted just last year... the historic mosques destroyed in Iraq and Syria and Timbuktu by Islamists... the calls by Zionist ideologues to destroy the Dome of the Rock in order to build the third temple.... Obviously cultural treasures are easy targets for religious tyrants and harbingers of hate who are thriving on conflict and despair all through out the Middle East.

I very much hope for everyone's sake that negotiations for an actual end to the Israel-Palestine conflict with a fully secular, fully sovereign two state solution based on firm respect for universal human rights takes hold soon, and helps steer everyone in the region towards a more peaceful, compassionate, prosperous and productive future.

Anne Selden Annab

'It is where religious freedom is most dishonored or repressed that the forces of violent religious extremism are likely to thrive.' Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chairwoman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom: JFK's call for religious freedom can transform places like Pakistan.

Palestinian Refugees (1948-NOW) refused their right to return... and their right to live in peace free from religious bigotry and injustice.

Palestinians northeast of the separation wall near Jerusalem face an uncertain future after Israeli authorities issued demolition orders last week which could displace thousands of people

Israel levels Catholic Church property in E. Jerusalem amid ‘massive demolition’ plan

Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family By Edward Said's daughter Najla Said

This Week in Palestine: In Palestine we have no physical control over our borders, and therefore have no say in how anyone could be treated at any given moment in time. But what we do have control of is the Palestine we write about, describe, and photograph in the folds of this issue’s pages.

Support for Mideast peace ...

Dr Zogby: Focus on Palestinians’ Rights

NYTimes News October 30, 2013: 1,500 Units to Be Added in Settlement, Israel Says

At ATFP Gala, White House Reaffirms Commitment to Palestinian State, Opposition to Settlements and Settler Violence

Why Are Israelis Tone Deaf to Incitement Against Palestinians?

Ancient stone villages in the occupied West Bank have become trapped in rural poverty, while investors and donors shy away from a zone of seemingly endless conflict... Israel's restrictions affect much of Palestinian economic life. It controls every access point, which enables it to oversee all imports and exports, creating bureaucratic hurdles that Palestinians say stifle or kill entrepreneurship.

The Israelis also impose strict limits on water supply, which affects industry and agriculture. Israel has not allowed Palestinians access to 3G mobile technology, citing security concerns, rendering many smartphone apps largely useless....READ MORE

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." Eleanor Roosevelt

Thomas Paine: "Of all of the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny of religion is the worst."

"In every country and in every age, the priest [rabbi/imam/...etc...] has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own"
Thomas Jefferson

The Office of International Religious Freedom (   Given the U.S. commitment to religious freedom, and to the international covenants that guarantee it as the inalienable right of every human being, the United States seeks to:

Promote freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right and as a source of stability for all countries

Why Muslims should love secularism: Though secularism is widely misunderstood as anti-religious and iconoclastic, all it means is the neutrality of the state on religious affairs ...  "Muslims must recognize secularism as the only real path to religious freedom, rather than confusing it with an attack against religion." Hussein Ibish

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

The Golden Rule... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

"So let us put the narrative of injustice away and find the joy, if it’s the last thing we ever do. " Tala Abu Rahmeh, Palestinian poet and writer

This Week in Palestine Artist of the Month: Yazan Khalili

A quest to preserve Palestinian heritage in the digital stacks: Sami Batrawi's struggle to open an online Palestinian Library of Congress is part of a broader effort to recover lost Palestinian intellectual heritage.

Pomegranates in season along the path!

The Arab Peace Initiative
1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.
2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:
I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.
II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.
III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:
I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.

II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
Jordan's King Abdullah II explains that extremism has "grown fat" off of the longstanding conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

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