Golan Heights (earlier titled “Ilhan Omar”)

POSTNOTE March 22, 2019: Golan Heights, etc.  Read  and reflect on “Not Thinking Things Through”, Just Above Sunset for the first day of Spring, 2019.  It is an important piece for the conversation about the issue of Israel.

I have found it dangerous to express opinions on the topic of Israel, but I need to again take the risk:  for many years I have felt, and occasionally said, that Israel, even more than Oil, is the long term crisis in the Middle East.  It is the tinderbox, and all that is needed is somebody dangerous to strike a match.  I have further said that AIPAC is no friend of the Jews…it is not an easy sell…but I hope the Democrats stay away….

No different now: history is filled with splendid little wars that are valued by tyrants to validate themselves.  In the longer term, these never end well, note even the Big and Glorious ones like the Third Reich,  but oh, they feel so good at the beginning.

I’ve seen the Golan Heights, if only from a distance.  It was part of a brilliant sunrise at Nof Ginosar on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee in January, 1996.  A little later we took something dubbed the “Jesus Boat” (after an ancient relic of a boat preserved there) down to Tiberias for a fish dinner.  It was a delightful day.  I don’t know if Golan extends to the Dead Sea, but if it is, we saw it closer up at the now-resort place infamously remembered as Sodom.

The most recent splendid little war for the U.S. was Iraq, of course.  “Mission Accomplished” May 2003?  Now the Current Occupant and his assorted entourage seem to have devised their own winning formula for the Middle East.  I’ve watched the dominoes, like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran….  But tyrants are doomed to lose, but they take down with them their dreams of dominance and control.

Caveat Emptor.  Beyond the “big yawn” is a future we will regret.


(Original Post, titled Ilhan Omar, March 9, 2019)

Earlier this week came the “firestorm” of commentary about Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.  At the end of the week came the anti-hate resolution passed near unanimously by Congress.  In between came a flurry of comment about the issue within my own personal list.

Personally, I support Rep. Omar’s rights to speak out on issues, and I believe her comments were appropriate and respectful.  I think the Congressional resolution was and is appropriate, and I hope those who regularly rely on hate speech are at minimum reminded of their own abundant sins when using words to “kill” others, like “illegals”, Muslims, and on and on.

Here are two links which help describe who Ilhan Omar is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilhan_Omar and https://omar.house.gov/.

It is not lost on me that yesterday was International Women’s Day, and that, in Minnesota, debate continues about ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment.

Following is the conversation earlier this week:  (the comments are passed on with permission)

I – The comments received March 7 about my own comments;

II – My personal comments on March 6, which preceded the responses in # I;


I – (sent only to those who had commented by March 7, 2018):

I am sending this to the ten of you who have responded thus far.  I am thinking this is time to post this as a regular blog, including your comments as presented below.  I have more to say as well.
If you would rather your comments not appear, or if you have thoughts to add or revise, let me know by tomorrow.  I will probably post this later on Friday.  Many thanks for your inputs.  Sometimes tensions like this are really important to getting at crucial issues.


from long-time friend: Interesting discussion.  If I may put forth some thoughts on the subject.  Since Ilhan Omar is a Semite she can hardly be accused of making an anti-Semitic statement by just talking about the American Jews being so supportive of the Apartheid Government of Israel.

For openers you might inform your audience that Semites are a branch of the Caucasian Race, having nothing to do with religion. The primary factions of the Semites are those that descend from the Patriarch Abraham and include us Arabs, the Hebrews and two other groups whose names I cannot remember at the moment.
You might also bring up the fate of colonialism as it relates to the invasions and occupation of the continents of North America, South America, Africa, Australia and a large part of Asia.  Just as the colonists drove the indigenous peoples off their land, usurping their wealth, enslaving some of them and took control of their land, Israel is doing the same thing to the Palestinians, as per the attached chart.  There are many in this country that still don’t feel any shame for what we did to the Native Americans, so a lot of this may not have an impact upon your audience.
We have also talked about the Balfour Project, but that might be a bit too far for openers. Although Paul Waldman hints at that with his comment that“support for Israel has become increasingly associated with conservative evangelicals and the Republican Party”.  The evangelical extremes continue to push for stronger support of Israel in keeping with the Balfour Project.  [Dick: This seems a good website about BalfourProject.
I will be interested in how this all turns out.  Keep up the good work.
from Carol: I’m really interested in this.  On the one hand, the new House was elected to put the brakes on the Trump administration, and in some manner send him packing.  The Republicans love this whole flap, and it’s sucking up all the oxygen and taking away from the main goal.  But I agree with you – I don’t see that Omar has (purposefully, at least) said anything so wrong.  She obviously comes to this from a different perspective – and it’s way past time that we had this dialogue.  The rulings that those who have a contract with government must support Israel, for example, are awful.  Our own president sees fit all the time to criticize the others of our allies…  But Israel can do no wrong.
I think the House leadership was delighted to have all their new young, diverse members they could show off – but they were kinda expected to hunker down and fit in.  So now they have the nerve to have their own opinions – and express them!  Horrors.
[My Jewish friend]  tells me that most of American Jews do not support the current Israeli government, nor its treatment of Palestine.  Apparently the bulk of Israeli government supporters at this time comes from the right-wing evangelicals.
This is from my perspective: I may have said that I was raised very right-wing conservative.  And all my growing-up time I heard that Israel was “God’s chosen people,” and that if America ever turned its back on Israel, God would turn His back on US (that extended to any criticism also).  I told [my friend] that I was stunned the first time I ever heard a person in authority criticize Israel.  Obviously, we need to always have their back – but it’s really dangerous for the U.S. to have an ally that we have to pretend can do no wrong.
from Joyce: I haven’t yet had a chance to read Alan’s blog today, but I will read it soon. Meanwhile,this (Tom Friedman, NYT March 6) is powerful, and it reflects my opinion.
from Jermitt: Many of us have trouble differentiating the difference betwee Israel as a country and the Jewish Faith.  There is clearly a confliect when we consider them as one, i.e., a Jewish state.  Israel is a political geography state, as I understand it, but is a state when most of the people practice the Jewish Religion.

I too, believe there are times when politicians are pressured into supporting Israel and/or Israel’s political leaders when it has not been the best interest of the USA.  Not supporting Israel may give you the label of not supporting the Jewish community, which should not be the case.

from Norm: Omar has to learn as did Wellstone when to speak out to be taken seriously as well as when not grandstand as she has been doing and no doubt will continue to do as long as she is in congress or until she has a come to whomever talk with some who will hold her attention.

Wellstone did the grandstand bit at the Viet Nam Memorial as a protest against sending troops somewhere into SW Asia.

He quickly learned that was a dumb-ass thing to do as most VN vets thought that using their memorial as his pulpit was disrespectful of their service let alone that of their friends and buddies with names on the Wall.

He did learn quickly and well as indicated by the great number of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle coming to town for his funeral.

There were there to show their respect for a colleague with whom they often disagreed but a fellow and important colleague never-the-less.

They did not owe Wellstone a damn thing as the dumb ass Rich Kahn claimed that they did during the service beyond just showing their respect for him as they did with their attendance.

Israel is no angel here as you implied, Dick, but the Palestinians in many cases are not either.

Omar has to learn when to speak up to be effective let alone taken seriously.

I hope that she figures that out very soon but I am quite sure that she will not do that any time in the future.

She is a product of condescending political correctness and the group hug folks and, as such, does not have any good pollical sense of how to be taken seriously s a new congresswoman.

Wellstone learned the hard way how to do that and hopefully, Omar will as well…but I seriously doubt that she ever will…or will ever even want to for that matter.

from Ed: I appreciate the letter in support of Omar’s right to speak. As a member of two progressive Jewish groups who oppose the current Israeli policies on dealing with the Palestine issue, I am happy to support Betty McCollum’s positions on this controversial issue, which are close espoused by Omar.

Omar is a first term representative who would be wise to emulate Betty. Skip the Tweets and get to work like Al Franken did and become an effective representative for the 5th district.

Omar should follow the lead of Betty, a more senior progressive representative who knows how to work the system. Omar is on a self-destructive path which is sad for all her constituents. She is too eager to be in the limelight, She should shift gears now.

from Paul: Thanks for the link, Dick. It brings much clarity to this latest kerfuffle.

from Jeff: [About] Ilhan Omar and the weaponisation of antisemitism [Guardian, March 6, 2019, Joshua Leifer]

from Donna:  Another interesting article about Ilhan Omar’s statements.  Thanks for you blog.  [Washington Post Plum Line Blog March 5, 2019]

from Lillian:  I agree 100% [with your comments.  [See II below].
I was angry when Netanyahu was invited to speak to the House.  The head of another country has no place speaking in/to congress.  Which goes to Omar’s  comments of dual loyalty.
We blindly support Israel (in an attempt to prove no antisemitism? ) while they deny the whole Palestinian country basic human rights.  Omar is brave to verbalize this.
II – (My originating post, March 6, 2019)
The column, Discriminating Tastes,  is a long and, and in my opinion very important, column about the Rep. Ilhan Omar controversy and the hypocrisy surrounding it.  You need to not only read the whole column, but then reflect on your own attitudes.


Just to be clear, I have no issue with Rep. Omar.  Her District is a short 20 minute or so drive from where I type, and I am in her county often – it is where we go to church.  She has the same rights as anyone, including allies of AIPAC, to express her opinion.  At the same time, I’m nervous about writing and sending this e-mail.
It is from Rep. Omar’s district that 40 of us, half Catholics and half Jews, went on a Pilgrimage to Holocaust sites in Czech Republic and Poland, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, in 2000.  My 60th birthday was spent at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Our joint congregations have a large plaque at the Holocaust Museum in Washington.  I am told it cost $50,000 evenly split between Temple Israel and Basilica of St. Mary.  I was responsible for over $1,000 of the contribution.
It was also in her district, about a year later, when I was called by some of my Pilgrimage colleagues to explain myself at some statement I made which implied criticism of the Jews position on the Palestinians in Israel.  My colleagues knew me well enough to not “denounce” me, but I felt treated no differently than I see Omar being treated today.  I don’t recall the exact issue, but I think it was around the issue of the wall of separation (West Bank Barrier) then under construction to keep Palestinians separate and restricted.
[This] was particularly close to me, since four years earlier I had been to Israel with a group, one of whose leaders was a Christian minister who was Zionist supporter.  On my wall, to this day, is a plaque signed by Ehud Olmert,  then Mayor of Jerusalem, who later had his own legal problems. A month before we went to Israel came the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, by a Jewish ultra nationalist.
One of our first stops on our tour was at his grave.  We were in Bethlehem before the wall was built; we were allowed into the Dome on temple mount.  It was a different time, apparently.
One of my friends, back then, was the then director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.  He died over ten years ago, but he and I had civil conversations of my position that Israel was exacerbating the problems in the Middle East.  This was during the time of the Iraq War.

AIPAC and Netanyahu are not neutrals in this issue.  Over the years I’ve paid most attention to the Pro-Peace Pro-Israel group J StreetIf you go to their website you will see their position on the issue du jour.  My interest is human rights for Palestinians.

At minimum, read Discriminating Tastes, think and if you have the courage, talk about the issue.
PS:  Just days ago I sent out a link in a blog which I hope you now visit.  It is a 7 minute video, “A Night At The Garden”, New York City 1939, accessible here  (4th paragraph of blog).  It shows our country at its worst – and we’re not that far from that today, though the specific rhetoric has changed….

Near entrance to Birkenau Death Camp May 4, 2000. We had been given permission to wallk between nearby Auschwitz and Birkenau. It was a very somber reflective walk. Photo by Dick Bernard

III – There were a flurry of responses to the responses.  It is my election to close this blog with the above comments.  And to encourage  open, respectful and in-person discussion among people who have differing points of view.
When I wrote my initial opinion on March 6  (Section II above), the most significant personal statement was in second para: At the same time, I’m nervous about writing and sending this e-mail.   Even as an ordinary, old white man, I have an internalized fear of offending anyone in, shall I say, the protection of AIPAC.  I have more than one reason for saying this.  That will have to wait for another day.  Succinctly, AIPAC is not a reliable friend of the Jewish community or Israel, in my opinion; neither is another well know  fear-monger, the current President of the United States.
Of course, there are endless arguments one way or another on any issue.  Here’s one from today’s Washington Post, called outstanding by a Jewish friend.
IV – Among several other comments, here’s one which responded to this post, from a good friend in England who’s Syrian Christian.  

A few comments & quotes regarding this continuing chronicle.

You wrote: “She has the same rights as anyone, including allies of AIPAC, to express her opinion.  At the same time, I’m nervous about writing and sending this e-mail”. A few years ago the distinction was made & respected: criticism of Israel & Zionism is fine as opposed to anti-Semitism (usually taken to mean attacks on Jews & Judaism although Arabs are Semites as well) which is wrong. Nowadays criticism of Israel & its policies is becoming increasingly taboo especially in the US which is more royalist than the king – even in Israel many criticize their state’s policies. In France, where anti-Semitism is already outlawed, there is a suggestion to ban anti-Zionism & in the UK the squabble about anti-Semitism is threatening to split the labour party.


Writing about the secular Zionist leadership, Ilan Pappé said: “though they did not believe in God, He had nonetheless promised them Palestine,” & he goes on: “the Bible was not taught as a singular text that carried any political or even national connotation . . . leading rabbis treated the political history contained in the Bible, and the idea of Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel, as marginal topics in their spiritual world of learning. They were much more concerned, as indeed Judaism in general was, with the holy writing focusing on the relationship between believers, and in particular on their relations with God.” Now Pappé is an Israeli Jew living & working in the UK so I guess he can get away with such opinions without being attacked. The whole question of (a single dominant) identity has come back with a vengeance & combined with the return of unrelenting nationalism in many parts makes for an explosive mixture.


Ilhan, Ihlan let’s call the whole thing off!

2 replies
  1. Kathy Valdez
    Kathy Valdez says:

    When I heard all the hubbub about Ilhan all I could think of was David and Goliath. Ilhan speaks truth in the face of adversity. She is not polished but she, like most youth are not afraid to speak out. She is a breath of fresh air to my way of thinking. There are too many ‘good old boys and girls’ on Capitol Hill and nothing has gotten done. Ilhan has shaken the establishment and defied big money and politics. I pray she continues to speak out – maybe a small bit of what she and other freshman say will fall on fertile ears and this constipated system will begin to flush itself out of corruption, greed and self-serving behavior.


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