Wednesday 20 March 2013

Enemy Territory

Why has Barack Obama gone to Israel?

Even if he needed to seek re-election, which he does not, then he would still have a considerable record of beating the Israel Lobby out of the park. It pulled out all the stops to prevent his nomination. He was nominated. It pulled out all the stops to prevent his election. He was comfortably elected. It pulled out all the stops to prevent his re-election. He was re-elected by a landslide. Has he gone there just to gloat?

If he fancied being harangued and insulted by people with a pathological hatred of him based on the colour of his skin, then he could make his way over to Capitol Hill. Even if not necessarily for much longer, since few of those people were re-elected last year and even fewer will be next year.

In Israel, he serves as a proxy for the fact that there are hardly any secular Ashkenazi nationalists, the meaning of the word "Zionists". Their numbers are still in decline, with no sign of ever reaching rock bottom. For which they have only themselves to blame, as surely as have those who burn in their bones that there will probably never again be a time when both the President and the Vice-President of United States are fair-skinned native speakers of English.

In Israel, there are now few even of those who are really Americans, and who had inherited an attitude to black Americans from their families of slum landlords, sweatshop employers, and teachers who refused to give black children anything other than the training necessary for menial work.

For there is little relationship of migration between the United States and Israel, or vice versa. There is no formal military alliance between them, nor has there ever been one. There is little or no trade. And so on. The only significant connection between the two countries is the enormous Israeli spy network on American soil. A network which is in fact maintained entirely at the expense of the American taxpayer, who spends more on "defending" Israel than on defending the United States.

At least neither the British Empire nor the Soviet Union, each of which also maintained an enormous spy network on American soil, had the effrontery to expect the Americans themselves to pay for it. No less a person than President Shimon Peres himself has already had the sheer gall to present the man on whose country he is financially dependent with a petition demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard. Who has had the sheer gall to sign that petition? None other than over 200,000 more dependants of the country that Pollard betrayed for monetary gain.

The next time that Netanyahu graces or disgraces Washington with his presence, will President Obama or his successor present him with a petition demanding justice for the victims of attack on the USS Liberty? Other than here, purely online, they have no memorial anywhere, like our own fallen in Palestine.

They could share ours when, as ought to happen, Britain is shamed by a war memorial such as probably could not currently be erected in Jerusalem, and certainly could not currently be erected in Nazareth, but probably could be in Bethlehem. A memorial to those killed by Irgun, Lehi and all the rest of them. And also to those who died aboard the USS Liberty? Why not? Speaking as the son of a veteran of the British Mandate, although obviously the son of one who survived, it would be an honour to share that memorial with them.

Blessed in the sight of the BBC by, among others, the Latin Patriarch and the Anglican Archbishop. Both visibly robed as such, and both introduced as such by the reporter for the benefit of the folks back home. Cue a subsequent explanatory piece, complete with interviews with any surviving veterans. Newspaper articles within a three-day radius, we all know the drill.

And a member of the Royal Family in attendance, laying a wreath? If not, why not? After all, two of the most prominent are serving officers. The explicit invitation should be included in the announcement from Ramallah that this memorial was to be erected. After all, Ramallah is already sending its Officer Cadets to Sandhurst, and they are passing out with Palestine listed as their country. Commonwealth membership beckons.

Mention of the Latin Patriarch and of the Anglican Archbishop reminds us that it was the Latin Catholics and the Syrian Catholics, the Melkites and the Maronites, who with the Arab Orthodox and the ancestrally Orthodox Palestinian Anglicans (it's a long story) founded Arab nationalism in general and the whole concept of Filastin in particular.

They provided almost the latter's entire leadership inside the Green Line until 1973, despite the overwhelming Sunni Muslim majority among Israeli Arabs, as among Palestinians generally. The former Balad MK Azmi Bishara, who was driven into exile as recently as 2007 because of the bombardment of Lebanon, was a Catholic from Nazareth, where, in an echo of the roots of the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority, he was educated by the Southern Baptist Mission.

Oh, yes. American Protestant missionary activity has had an important impact. Its universities, untainted by association with British or French colonialism, nurtured generations of Arab nationalist leaders, Muslim as well as Christian. As did those with the most interest in defining the local and putatively national identity as Arab rather than Islamic, namely the ancient indigenous Christians. That was, and it very largely still is, Arab nationalism: the fruitful encounter between indigenous Catholicism and Orthodoxy on the one hand, and the educational opportunities opened up by American "mainline" Protestants on the other.

Alas, the numerical decline of Episcopalianism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism and Methodism in American society has had an impact on, especially, the Republican Party. Meanwhile, the decline of those bodies in doctrinal and moral orthodoxy, and the transformation of the Baptists, especially the Southern Baptists, into something utterly different in a different but no less heterodox way,  has cut them off from the wider Anglican, "Calvinist", Lutheran, Methodist, and more that you might think Baptist worlds.

But the Middle East is still part of those worlds. The wonderful Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Galilee, Elias Chacour, one of the greatest men of the present age and whose Nobel Peace Prize is long overdue, has founded and heads the first Arab university within Israel's pre-1967 borders. It is a branch of the University of Indianapolis, an institution of the United Methodist Church, the largest "mainline" denomination. He also holds honorary doctorates from Duke and Emory, both of which are United Methodist foundations, and he has been honoured with the World Methodist Peace Award. And the most sought after school in the West Bank is still run by the American Quakers.

The presence of those traditions' representatives in the Holy Land alongside those of Catholicism and Orthodoxy at a ceremony dedicating a memorial to, among others, the crew of the USS Liberty, would be an important sign on American television. Assuming that anyone in America would televise it.

Where did these Christians come from? Did you really just ask yourself that? Their ancestors were the people whom the Bible clearly describes the Israelites as having conquered but never exterminated. They founded Jerusalem. They became Christian when the Roman Empire did, those who had not already done so by then.

They adopted Arabic, not much of a change from what they were already speaking, during an Islamic Conquest which occurred exactly when the Anglo-Saxons were conquering another abandoned former Roman province, so that Palestine and England are exactly as old as each other. When the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, it was an entirely Christian city. Add together the post-Constantinian Roman, the Byzantine, the Crusader and the British periods, and Christian sovereignty is far and away the Holy Land's historical norm.

Remember all of that when you hear Obama indulge his own bitterest enemies and his country's own most criminally ungrateful supplicants by parroting some ludicrous myth of the indigeneity to that Land of Russians who refuse to eat kosher food and who insist on taking their Israeli Defence Force oaths on the New Testament alone, of Russian Nazis, of East Africans who have invented a religion based on the Old Testament brought by Christian missionaries, of Peruvian Indians "converted to Judaism" and then put on the plane in a single and remunerated action, of absolutely anyone at all.

Even the Pashtun, who are now classified as a Lost Tribe with a view to airlifting them to Israel in future, since at least they are not Arabs. They are Sunni Muslims, of course. But that is not the same thing. Not the same thing at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment