Republican Lite or Moral Vision, Texas Democrats Must Choose

Nobody is excited by Republican Lite (especially Republicans)

Nobody is excited by Republican Lite (especially Republicans)

By Alan Bean

Texas Democrats are confused.  For generations we were the party of Dixiecrat populists; defending the interests of the little guy from corporate elites, while beating the drum for white supremacy.  But when the Democratic Party became associated with civil rights, Texas politics shifted from Blue to Red.  A handful of urban districts remained dependably Blue, but the suburbs, small towns and rural sections of the Lone Star State are decidedly, triumphantly, Republican.

As a consequence, the Texas Democratic Party now consists of educated white liberals, African Americans, Latinos, and an aging cadre of white “Yeller-dogs” longing for the return of Dixiecrat hegemony.

Texas Democrats have identity issues.  We all want to “turn Texas blue”, but that’s where the agreement ends.  In the interest of party unity, we kick the vision question down the road, defining ourselves negatively, in terms of what we aren’t.

Specifically, we aren’t Tea Party conservatives.

That ain’t good enough.

There are two conflicting strategies for turning Texas Blue: we can get out the minority vote; or we can persuade moderate Republicans to abandon a party dominated by Tea Party extremists.  But we can’t pursue both strategies at the same time without garbling our message and blurring our vision.  Here’s why.

Continue reading

Why Canadian evangelicals are different: A review of Lydia Bean’s “The Politics of Evangelical Identity”

Lydia's bookBy Alan Bean

Since the presidential election of 2004, when the Christian Right was widely credited for handing George W. Bush a narrow victory, moderate and liberal religious leaders have been fussing about the “God-Gap” that gives the religious right a leg up on the secular left. Why can’t the Christian Left energize liberal politics?  Why haven’t more progressive expressions of evangelicalism taken root in America?

George Lakoff teaches progressive politicians to learn the language of moral values so they can appeal to religious voters.

Since the 2004 election, a cadre of young, post-partisan evangelicals has been challenging the marriage of evangelical theology and small-government conservatism that passes for mainstream Christian piety in America.  Christians should stand in solidarity with the poor, the new evangelicals say, they should embrace “creation care” and work for racial reconciliation.

Dr. Lydia Bean, a former Baylor sociology professor who is now organizing Black and Latino evangelicals in Texas, sympathizes with this quest to close the God-Gap, but her intense study of evangelicalism in the United States and Canada makes her wary.  Her new book, The Politics of Evangelical Identity: Local Churches and Partisan Divides in the United States and Canada (Princeton University Press) explains why American evangelicals became so closely aligned with the Republican Party.

“Partisanship and political attitudes are anchored in social group memberships and networks,” Bean says.

When Christian Right frames resonate, it is because they are woven into everyday religious practice, reinforcing a powerful connection between religious identity and partisanship.

Therefore,

if other movements want to challenge the Christian Right for their own constituency, it will not be enough to engage in top-down messaging about faith and values.  New moral issues will only take on a sacred quality if they become part of the lived religion of rank-and-file evangelicals, who are embedded in local congregations.

Liberals may be doing a poor job of translating their message into the language of faith and moral values, but that isn’t the real problem.  Until we can create new forms of religious community in which solidarity with the poor, creation care and racial reconciliation become sacred through integration into the everyday community life of real congregations, we can’t compete with the Christian Right.

Dr. Lydia Bean

Dr. Lydia Bean

Dr. Bean returns again and again to a simple affirmation: the close association between religious piety and political partisanship is a carefully cultivated phenomenon that doesn’t flow from the core tenets of evangelical theology.

When she compared evangelical congregations in the United States and Canada, Bean discovered a stark contrast.  Let’s begin south of the border. Continue reading

Al Mohler decries the Gungor heresy

Michael Gungo

Michael Gungor

By Alan Bean

Al Mohler has adapted nicely to our twenty-first century media revolution.  He even does podcasts.

Al isn’t hip.  Not even a little bit.  But he talks about hip people, albeit with disapproval.

I can’t imagine the venerable Roy Lee Honeycutt or Duke McCall (Al’s predecessors at the helm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky) dissecting the theological errors of pop artists, but Al is willing to have a go.

Take Gungor, for instance.

Who, or what, is “Gungor” you ask.

First, Gungor is a guy (Michael Gungor) and second, Gungor is the musical ensemble Michael formed with his wife, Lisa, and a few others.  The couple moved to Denver in 2007 and started a church for creative types like themselves.  If you want a taste of their music, here’s a taste:

According to Wikipedia, the album and the song “Beautiful things” (released in 2011) “were nominated for the Grammy categories Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album and Best Gospel Song, respectively.”  Relevant, a magazine for hip young Christians, has produced a number of YouTube videos if you want to hear more. Continue reading

The Day Fannie Lou Hamer Shocked America

By Alan Bean

I am re-posting this piece in honor of the 50th anniversary of Ms. Hamer’s celebrated speech to the credentials committee of the Democratic Convention in 1964.  AGB

“If the freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America.  Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off of the hooks because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”  Fannie Lou Hamer

The summer of 1964 was a watershed moment for the civil right movement and for America.  Never before had black and white Americans worked together with such common purpose.  And yet, by the end of August, black civil rights leaders were vowing never to work with white people again.   Meanwhile, white civil rights activists realized they didn’t have a home in either of the major political parties.

The voting rights movement had been building momentum in Mississippi since the Freedom Rides of 1961.  The work was dangerous, beatings were commonplace and martyrs were plentiful.  What better way to win protection and attention than to issue a call to idealistic young white people from across America to come to Mississippi for the summer of 1964?  John Kennedy had been assassinated half a year earlier and a still-grieving nation was desperate for healing.

Across the southern states, only 40% of eligible African Americans were registered to vote; in Mississippi it was 6.4%.  As we have seen, civic leaders in the Magnolia State were determined to keep Negroes out of the courthouse.  For the most part, they were successful.  To outsiders this looked like blatant injustice, but the good people of Mississippi felt they were simply preserving a cherished way of life.  Throughout the spring and early summer the young people kept coming, just as they had at the high water mark of the Freedom Ride movement.  They were young, idealistic, dedicated and often remarkably naive.  Fannie Lou Hamer had to take the white girls aside and explain why it was a bad idea to be seen in public with a young black male–no matter how good looking and entertaining he might be. Continue reading

“Jesus is my savior, but I’m a killer”

Dan Page addresses the Oath Keepers

Dan Page addresses the Oath Keepers

By Alan Bean

Dan Page, the St. Louis police officer who famously pushed CNN anchor Don Lemon, has been relieved of duty.  Pushing Lemon in front of a national television audience had nothing to do with it.  It was Page’s bizarre speech, delivered in April of 2012 to the “Oath Keepers” of St. Louis and Lake Charles, a group that describes itself as “a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Here are a few highlights from Page’s screed:

“Policemen are very cynical. I know I am.  I hate everybody. I’m into diversity. I kill everybody.”

“We have no business passing hate crime laws. None. Because we’re setting aside a group of people special.  We got a Supreme Court out of control with laws on sodomy.”  (Page then refers to the “four sodomites” sitting on the Supreme Court.)

Page says he left the army because he refused to serve under “that illegal alien who claims to be our president.”

John Belmar, the St. Louis County police chief, has suspended Mr. Page pending an internal investigation and psychiatric evaluation. “(I) apologize to the community and anybody who is offended by these remarks,” Belmar said, “and understand from me that he … does not represent the rank-and-file of the St. Louis County Police Department.”

Dan Page and CNN anchor Don Lemon

Dan Page and CNN anchor Don Lemon

I doubt Dan Page reflects mainstream opinion within the police department or the military. Continue reading

Did Mike Brown die for being black?

Image: violent protests flare after autopsy findings

By Alan Bean

Police officers in America don’t think it’s okay to gun down unarmed people, regardless of race.  If that’s so (and I believe it is) why are so many young black males dying in police-related incidents?  

To address this question you must understand a couple of things.  Gun violence in the United States is incomparably worse than in almost any western democracy you can name; and the vast majority of that violence is perpetrated by the residents of extremely poor, extremely segregated and extremely unstable neighborhoods.  

Black males are dying from gun violence at six times the rate of white males, and it is almost always at the hands of other black males.  That said, black-on-black crime does not give police officers cart blanche to gun down unarmed people who represent no immediate threat.  

Nor is it helpful to discuss the terrible gun violence tearing apart our poorest neighborhoods without inquiring into the social, economic and historical roots of the mayhem.  People aren’t dying from gun play because black people are inherently violent or because Hip Hop culture glorifies violence.  The vast majority of people who live in high-poverty communities are hard-working and law abiding.  But when jobs, opportunity and hope are sucked out of a community, an underground economy rooted in drugs and prostitution takes over and bad things happen.

Drug dealing and street gangs don’t translate naturally into high rates of gun violence.  Most gang members hate the bloodshed that surrounds them and wish it would stop.  Most gangs don’t kill anyone in an average year.  Most of the killing is driven by a handful of psychopaths who are exhilarated by gun violence and the terror it creates.  Not everyone involved in gun violence is a psychopathic killer, mind you, but the madness can be traced to a relative handful of individuals.

As one would expect, high poverty, high-crime, high-violence neighborhoods receive more than their share of police attention, but that fact itself doesn’t explain the high number of police-related deaths in America. As a recent article in the Economist pointed out, police in Britain hardly ever kill anyone, and they are rarely killed. In 2013, 30 police officers died from gun violence in the United States.  That’s not nearly as many deaths as consumers of American television might have anticipated, but it’s enough to inject high anxiety into cop culture

Police officers who spend much of their time on the mean streets easily imagine that everybody is gunning for them.  It isn’t true, but this fear becomes institutionalized and the strong-arm tactics often employed by highly militarized police departments exacerbate the problem by spreading fear and mistrust through troubled communities. The police are viewed as an occupying force that has little interest in protecting or  serving the community.

When an unarmed young man like Mike Brown is gunned down by a police officer, his friends and family automatically assume that the killing was premeditated and motivated by racial animus.

In most cases, neither assumption is accurate.  Racism is an ugly feature of American life, and police culture is hardly immune from its toxic influence.  A recent survey found that the international media outlets, almost unanimously, have interpreted recent events in Ferguson as evidence that America still has a profound race problem.  We might not like to think of our country in those terms; but that’s how we appear from the outside.  

That said, you will almost never see a police officer discharge his weapon out of simple racial malice.

Most police shootings come with a backstory.  Traumatized officers react irrationally when they are threatened sufficiently.  PTSD isn’t just a feature of military culture. Officers snap.  They go off.  It’s wrong, and when it happens there must be consequences.  But you almost never see a white officer take a pot shot at an unarmed black male just for the hell of it.

Racial profiling is part of the problem.  Although black males are associated with gun violence in the popular mind, the vast majority of these kids are non-violent by temperament, training and conscious choice.  When you live by the gun, you die by the gun and at-risk kids know it.  But faced with a threatening situation, white officers easily fall victim to their own biases.  

Race is part of the problem, but only a part.

A recent Gallup poll revealed that 59% of whites have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the police, compared with only 37% of blacks.  A full 25% of blacks and 12% of whites have little or no confidence in the police.  Put all these numbers together and its clear that law enforcement has a public relations problem.  Not all white people support the police without question; and not all black people believe the cops are out to get them; but the racial divide is pretty clear.

20140818_194356Earlier this week, I attended a public meeting in Dallas related to police shootings.  Dallas County may soon create an independent board to look into these incidents, and DA Craig Watkins, Sheriff Lupe Valdez, and Police Chief David Brown used the troubles in Ferguson to address the local situation.  

Watkins and Brown are black and both men grew up in Dallas, so they have experienced racial profiling up close and personal.  But they also share a deep appreciation for the challenges facing law enforcement, and neither man believes that police shootings result from simple racial animus.

The meeting was contentious, occasionally lurching in the direction of chaos.  Family members who had lost children and siblings in police-related shootings came to the meeting looking for answers and some long-belated justice.  Some were quiet and respectful; others addressed the public officials on stage as if they were personally responsible for the problem.  If you asked these grieving family members if their child was gunned down simply for being black, most would have responded, “Hell, yeah!”

This reaction is natural.  A mother who has identified the bullet-strewn body of a darling child in the morgue can be forgiven for feeling this way.  That’s the way it feels, no question.  

But when activists leap to the same conclusion, I have less sympathy.  Feelings are running high in the wake of the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the ham-handed, aggressive and often bizarre response of law enforcement has only fanned the flames.  

But Mike Brown wasn’t shot simply because he was black.  Racism played a role in the scenario, but when all the facts are out we will likely be able to understand the officer’s tragic over-reaction as well as we understand the sorrow of Mr. Brow’s family.  Regardless of what motivated Darren Wilson to discharge his weapon repeatedly at an unarmed man, the color of Mike Brown’s skin wasn’t the primary instigator.  

Race played a role in this incident, but it was one factor among many. If Mike Brown was a white kid, he would probably be alive today; but being black is only part of the reason he is dead.

We need to consider the role of racism and ignorance play in police culture; events in Ferguson make that painfully clear. America has a racial problem and we have a gun problem.  In Ferguson, Missouri, those problems converged in a tragic way.  But let’s consider all the issues together because they are part of the same toxic phenomenon.

Healing the cop-community divide in Ferguson, Missouri

IMG_0005-638x466By Alan Bean

Michael Brown was unarmed when Darren Wilson gunned him down. Now the  police chief of Ferguson, Missouri is suggesting that Brown was died because officer Wilson believed he had stolen a box of cigars.  

I suppose that bit of information is supposed to alter our perception of this story.

Unfortunately, a lot of people, most of them white and middle class, will be satisfied with the cigar-theory because it fits with one of their core beliefs: law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear from police officers.  Therefore, If you are shot by a police officer, you are a thug.  End of story.

We all assumed that officer Wilson started shooting after the situation had spun out of control.  He didn’t just walk up to a random black guy and discharge his weapon because he hates Black people.

But too much attention to the backstory can deflect us from the real issues.  

Under what circumstances can a police officer legitimately discharge his weapon?  If the officer’s life is threatened?  In order to stop an active shooter?

However we answer the question, the killing of Michael Brown cannot be justified.  Was Brown was the studious “gentle giant” described by friends and family?  Was he the cigar-stealing punk the police chief would have us imagine?  Was he a complicated combination of the two profiles: a punk with potential, if you will?  

It doesn’t matter.  Darren Wilson cannot justify his actions.  

But this isn’t just about a single officer and it isn’t just about Ferguson, Missouri; this is about America.  This is about you and me.

Officer Wilson is responsible for his actions, but he has also been shaped by the culture of the Ferguson Police Department and, more broadly, by cop culture.

When racial tension flares in places like Tulia, Texas or Jena, Louisiana, the media ask if old-school racism is uniquely rampant in that town or if the folks crying foul are blowing things out of proportion. When journalists and TV cameras enter the picture you will see some grandstanding, and this St. Louis suburb is no exception.  The person who screams the loudest gets on the evening news.  But the mistrust between cops and community in Ferguson is real and, more to the point, it’s a nationwide phenomStar-Wars-Stormtroopers-via-AFPenon.

Can we learn from Ferguson, Missouri, or is this just another news hook on which pedants and culture warriors can hang their hats?

We can learn a lot.

Here’s the first big takeaway: the militarization of law enforcement is a really bad idea.  

When police officers don riot gear, brandish assault weapons, and stare down at the populace from armored tanks, the cop-community divide becomes a yawning chasm.  When police officers look like Star Wars Storm-troopers they begin to act the part.  

Observers on the civil rights left and the libertarian right are reaching the same conclusion: soldiers and police officers perform very different responsibilities and should dress accordingly.  Protesters facing rubber bullets, tear gas and heavily armored men enmeshed in riot gear feel their community is being invaded and respond accordingly.

Ferguson police officers in riot gear.

Ferguson police officers in riot gear.

The mood shifted in Ferguson the second Captain Ron Johnson of the Highway Patrol arrived on the scene.  The officers under his command showed up in normal police attire and Captain Johnson set an example for his officers by wading into the crowd, shaking hands, exchanging hugs and establishing a genuine rapport with the protesters.  

The contrast in style and outcome was too stark to be ignored or explained away.  The Department of Defense must stop sending surplus military gear to local law enforcement.  They don’t need it, it’s counterproductive, and it sends precisely the wrong message.

In addition, Ferguson teaches us that the cop-community divide can be overcome.  

The best work on this subject comes from David Kennedy, a criminologist who has been studying the cop-community issue for decades.  Kennedy directs the Center for Crime Prevention and Control and teaches criminal justice at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  His book, Don’t Shoot, provides a blueprint for healing violent communities.  

A couple of quotes from my review of Don’t Shoot will give you the gist of his argument. Ferguson, Missouri is an inner suburb of St. Louis, not exactly the inner city, high-poverty, high-crime community Kennedy describes in his book, but his portrait of the problem is still on target.

When Kennedy talks about working with the community, most cops tell him “there’s no community to work with . . . Everybody . . . is living off drug money, nobody cares, there’s no community left.”   Police officers “don’t understand the anger, see only excuses and victimhood.”  Cops don’t dislike black people, Kennedy insists, and they haven’t written off black America.  Police officers, black and white alike, “have written off the neighborhoods, the communities.”

Call this racism, Kennedy asserts, and cops shut down.  It isn’t racism, as the word is normally defined, “But it’s all soaked in race, simmering every day in our real, toxic history of racism, in the racism that remains.”

David Kennedy

David Kennedy

Even in the most crime-ridden communities, Kennedy says, the majority of people are law-abiding and hard working.  Unfortunately, frequent encounters with the least functional elements of a community can warp the perspective of police officers, especially when the majority of residents see the police as an occupying force and react accordingly. 

Police officers abuse the residents of inner city neighborhoods and cut legal corners because, in their jaded and cynical eyes, every young man they see is a drug dealer and the community either endorses or tolerates their activities.  Kennedy loves police culture and enjoys being with cops, but he deplores “the kind of policing that makes citizens in these neighborhoods think, at best, that the police are not on their side, and at worst that they are a race enemy.”  If the police are viewed in this way, “there can be no rightful place for the law . . . When standing against guns and drugs and violence means standing with a race enemy, not many will stand.  When doing something means putting your own sons and grandsons and neighbors in prison, not many will do something.”

The cop-community divide was exacerbated in Ferguson because the local police department remained overwhelmingly White long after the community had become 65% Black.  But, as Kennedy insists, this isn’t just a black-white problem.  Many Black officers are eager to show that they won’t cut their own people any slack.  “I came up hard and I have made something of myself,” they tell themselves, “so I have zero tolerance for kids that won’t try.”

Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol didn’t bridge the cop-community divide because he is Black; he transformed a toxic situation because he treated protesters like citizens in good standing, people performing a civic service by demanding liberty, justice and protection for all.  

Last night, local clergy, Black and White, Protestant and Roman Catholic, linked arms in Ferguson in a remarkable sign of unity.  Real racial reconciliation can be built on that kind of foundation.

Russell Moore

Russell Moore

Tragically, most of the leading lights of the White evangelical world have paid little attention to the Ferguson story, possibly because they have nothing to say.  Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, is a blessed exception.  Here’s the concluding words of his thoughtful post:

If we start to see more churches so alive to the gospel that they are not segregated out as “white” or “black” or “Hispanic” or “Asian” or “white collar” or “blue collar,” we will start to reflect something of a kingdom of God made up of those from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language (Rev. 5:9). And as we know one another as brothers and sisters, we will start to speak up for one another, including in the public square.  Ferguson reminds us that American society has a long way to go in healing old hatreds. Our churches are not outposts of American society. Our churches are to be colonies of the kingdom of God. Let’s not just announce what unity and reconciliation ought to look like. Let’s also show it.

Moore proves that the warm language of evangelical piety can address the racial divide.  The churches of Ferguson, Missouri certainly behaved like “colonies of the kingdom of God” last night.  As a white Episcopal priest put it:

“The point is to win hearts, and we believe there is gospel truth in that voice of the young people from Ferguson. We’re not doing this against the police, we’re doing this for the police.”

Let us pray that the cop-community divide can be healed, in Ferguson, Missouri, and across our troubled nation.

Russell Moore’s critique of Ann Coulter crosses the line

Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter

By Alan Bean

Ann Coulter wrote an offensive column suggesting that Christian missionaries who work in third world countries like Liberia are driven by narcissism.  They are too gutless to fight the culture war in America, she asserts, so the “slink off” to Africa.  If they contract the Ebola virus as a consequence of their cowardice they deserve to die.

Like everything Coulter writes, the post was designed to spark outrage in all right-thinking people.  “Just look what that terrible woman is saying now,” liberals shriek as they race to their computers to spread the word on Facebook.

Soon thousands of outraged right-thinkers are telling the world that Ann Coulter is the worst human being on the planet.

The script is straight out of the old World Wrestling Federation.  It’s Cassius Clay taunting Sonny Liston so the white rubes would pay to see him get knocked out. Continue reading

Jesus and brain science agree: money kills empathy

science-103112-003-617x416By Alan Bean

Although you would never know it from listening to American preaching, Jesus linked poverty with the kingdom of God and affluence with sin.

The text of the first sermon Jesus preached was taken from Isaiah 61:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable (Jubilee) year of the Lord
(Luke 4)

Notice that all the recipients of kingdom blessing are poor, afflicted, marginalized people.

The last sermon Jesus preached prior to his arrest and crucifixion linked kingdom participation with practical ministry to the poor and dispossessed.  Kingdom people feel the pain of a hurting world and respond with creative acts of mercy that clothe the naked, feed the hungry, heal the sick, visit the prisoner, and provide justice for the oppressed. (Matthew 25)

Jesus was about feeling the pain of the world and responding with acts of mercy. Feeling pain that doesn’t belong to you (empathy) and healing action are part of the same kingdom dynamic.  What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.

The American marriage between free market capitalism and American evangelical piety makes Jesus impossible.  His words are inconvenient at best and heretical at worst.  We want to love Jesus and ascribe to an onward-and-upward, God-wants-to-succeed, greed is good ethic.  We want God and mammon; Jesus and the blessings of capitalism.

And now the counter-intuitive teaching of Jesus is being confirmed by brain science?

A recent study by Canadian neuroscientists at the University of Toronto and Wilfrid Laurier University suggests that as financial and social advancement changes our brains–and not in a good way.  As money and social standing increase, the study finds, our ability to empathize with poor and marginalized people rapidly diminishes.

If you are building your world on the rock-hard words of Jesus, none of this will come as a surprise, but what’s the takeaway?

Jesus taught that affluent people (that’s me, and it’s probably you) can’t enter God’s merciful kingdom unless we rewire our brains.  As we climb the social ladder, the harder our task becomes.  Not only will we not feel the pain of less fortunate people, we will not want to feel their pain.

Moreover, we will find ourselves surrounded by people who propound clever theories to explain why helping poor people only creates dependency.  These arguments are sleazy, silly and self-serving, but, reinforced by prominent pulpiteers, pundits and politicians, they sound like common sense.  Stay too long in this echo chamber and Jesus is the one who sounds silly.  Eventually, we can’t hear him at all.  We still talk about loving Jesus, but we are worshiping a word, not a person.

So, what’s the alternative?

The first step is to take Jesus at his word, even if that word runs counter to the messages screaming from the smart phone, computer and television screens that shape our thinking.

Secondly, we must find a circle of like-minded disciples who share our desire to take Jesus at his word.  If you don’t have such a circle, create one from scratch (I realize that this can be socially awkward, but your salvation depends on it).

There is good news.  Mounting evidence suggests that American Christianity, evangelical, mainline and Roman Catholic, is beginning to feel the deep contradiction between Jesus and American common sense.  People who take the Bible seriously can’t lie to themselves forever.

Mercifully, Jesus wasn’t subtle about this stuff.

Standing with all God’s children

Gaza childrenAmerica can’t be an honest broker in the Middle East until we celebrate the full humanity of all God’s children.

By Alan Bean

As the body count mounts in Gaza, accusations of biased coverage, and corresponding denials, are piling up in America.  Desperate to appear unbiased, mainline media outlets in the United States are working hard to provide equal time to both sides.  As a result, “we stand with Israel” propaganda competes with evening news footage of mangled Palestinian children.  The debate is being controlled by one-sided commentary that ignores the legitimate demands of both Israelis and Palestinians.

The deadly conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is mired in regional history. Unfortunately, Palestinians and Israelis preach irreconcilable versions of this history and few Western correspondents know enough to adjudicate the conflicting claims.  Besides, why should the evening news bother with the detritus of yesteryear when there’s such wonderful footage of Hamas rockets, bombed out buildings, and grieving mothers?

I won’t attempt an exhaustive history of the Middle East in the 20th century, but will confine myself to three issues.  First, the claim that the Palestinians of Gaza can’t be taken seriously because they embrace Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to the eradication of Israel.  Secondly, how a virulent strain of near-universal Antisemitism made the creation of the modern state of Israel necessary.  Finally, why America can’t serve as an honest broker in the middle east until “we stand with Israel” rhetoric is shelved in favor of a more cumbersome but more gracious slogan: “we stand with Israel and we stand with the Palestinians too.” Continue reading