Two lines in the fourth stanza of The Star Spangled Banner provide a clue to one American mindset that supports empire building.
By James M. Wall – - My Catbird Seat
Francis Scott Key included an important caveat in that couplet when he wrote, “when our cause it is just”. He did not write, “for our cause it is just”.
Wise leaders know the importance of the “justice” caveat when faced with the temptation to conquer others.
Unwise leaders create bogus causes to attack others. Three bogus causes that unwise leaders use to justify the urge to “conquer we must” are security of the homeland, fear, and xenophobia.
Director-writer M. Night Shyamalan’s 2004 film, The Village, is a seductive cinematic portrayal of how leaders exercise control by creating fear of others. Shyamalan’s narrative is set in an isolated area where the village elders instill fear in the young, warning them of the dangerous creatures that lurk in the surrounding forest.
The danger in the forest does not actually exist. But the fear is real, as the photo from The Village, above, illustrates.
The US-Israel project of conquer and control in the Middle East now beats the war drums against Iran, using the same threat of non-existent nuclear danger that took us into a disastrous war in Iraq.
Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu told the American Jewish Federation annual gathering in New Orleans last week:
If the international community, led by the United States, hopes to stop Iran’s nuclear program without resorting to military action, it will have to convince Iran that it is prepared to take such action.
The leader of a foreign nation speaks on American soil, to an American audience, and instructs the president of the United States to threaten war against Iran.
Israel’s open insolence against the US president could not have reached its current stage without the not-so-secret Fifth Column allies Israel has among White House staffers, the Congress, and the media.
(Fifth Column: Emilio Mola Vidal, a Nationalist general during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), originally coined the term. As four of his army columns moved on Madrid, the general referred to his militant supporters within the capital as his “fifth column,” intent on undermining the loyalist government from within.)
Like the adult children who turn against King Lear after he relinquishes his crown, Bibi Netanyahu attacks the US president, the leader of the nation which has given so much of its treasure and its reputation to allow Israel to expand its own branch of the US-Israel empire.
In Shakespeare’s rendering of the story, King Lear rages at his ungrateful, power-mad adult children (with the exception of one daughter who truly does love him). Lear races out into the storm, accompanied only by his Fool, who mocks him for his weakness.
(Artist William Dyce (1806-1864) captures that scene in his painting, King Lear and the Fool in the Storm, a section of which is shown here).
Power has shifted, between the US and Israel, from King to children, from Patron to Surrogate.
Confronted by the insolence of her Israeli Surrogate, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sputtered that settlement building is “unhelpful” to the “Peace Process”. Then the Secretary huddled for seven hours with Netanyahu on Thursday and begged for a 90 day extension on settlement construction.
In a Friday morning conference call with Jewish community leaders, notes of which were provided to The Cable, the National Security Council’s Dan Shapiro described several of the incentives Clinton offered Netanyahu.
They included increased U.S. diplomatic opposition to efforts to delegitimize Israel in international fora, continuing to block efforts to revive the Goldstone Report at the United Nations, promising to block condemnation of Israel at the United Nations for its raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara, and defeating resolutions aimed to expose Israel’s nuclear program at the IAEA, and increasing pressure on Iran and Syria to stop their nuclear and proliferation activities.
Do we hear a US government attack on American religious leaders for advocating boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel? We must assume the Secretary of State knows that to Israel BDS is a major tool in the “demonization” process.
Before Secretary Clinton huddled with Bibi, US Vice-President Joe Biden repeated his intimate “no light between the US and Israel” rhetoric he used last March when his “no light” mantra was greeted in Jerusalem by an announcement of yet more settlement construction in Occupied East Jerusalem.
Eight months later, speaking at the opening of the American Jewish Federation, November 7, the Vice President once again assured his listeners that there is “no light between us” .
How grateful was Bibi to the Vice President for his “no light” assurances? He promptly announced more new Israeli settlements, this time in the West Bank.
Unlike the US media, which sees nothing unseemly about this kabuki dance the Biden-Clinton team performs, the Israeli media is not so compliant. An editorial in Ha’aretz reacts to Netanyahu’s deliberate slap at Biden:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to the United States this week damaged Israel diplomatically, undermined the country’s relations with the U.S. administration and showed Netanyahu up again as a rejectionist who does nothing but look for excuses and delays to avoid making decisions.
When our vice-president is deliberately insulted by the Israeli prime minister, the American government and the American people are also insulted. Also insulted, though they don’t seem to care, are all those American Mainline Christians who insist on promoting interfaith relations rather than demanding that Israel honor the rights of Palestinians.
Do Obama, Biden and Clinton really believe that Israel’s conquering of the Palestinian land and its people is a just cause? If they do, exactly what God is it that they trust to tell them that occupation and oppression are just?
During the Christmas season, which begins soon, some of those same ”interfaith relations” Christians may travel to Tel Avi and get on an Israeli tourist bus to visit Bethlehem. As they travel, their bus ushered through myriad checkpoints, they will hear from their Israeli guides that the gigantic wall around the city of Bethlehem is solely for Israel’s security. Most of them will believe it.
On their way into Bethlehem those tourist Christians should look to the east of Bethlehem and see the foundations being laid for additional apartments, rising as part of the further expansion of the massive Jewish settlement of Har Homa.
Har Homa is a new Hebrew name, of course, for the mountain previouslu called Abu Ghenim (in Arabic, “the father of Ghenim”). The settlement is build on land that once belonged to Palestinian families who lived in the surrounding cities of Beit Sahour and Bethlehem, and the villages of Sur Baher and Um Tuba.
Through the windows of their tourist bus this Christmas, Christian visitors headed to Bethlehem will be able to see what all their interfaith promotion has helped produce, Jewish-only apartments built on the Shepherds’ Fields of Beit Sahour, where angels first proclaimed the birth of the Christ child.
Will Joe Biden reflect on his “no light between us” promise when he attends a Christmas Eve service? Will Hillary Clinton find her way to a United Methodist Church on that same night and wonder if perhaps she should have used a stronger term than “unhelpful” to describe the further enslavement of the Palestinian population?
If they sing, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, will they think of the shepherds’ field that is no more?
Will President Obama pause this Christmas season to recall the US Civil Rights movement that finally broke the segregation control the American white majority held over its African-American population?
Perhaps the president will recall the words and music of a song from that 1960s American movement that changed the land the President now governs?
The video below uses footage from the current Palestinian resistance. The footage runs under “It Isn’t Nice“, a US Civil Rights song from the 1960s, written by Malvina Reynolds, and sung in the video by Barbara Dane. The lyrics of “It Isn’t Nice”, are below the video.
The video was produced by Sana Kassem of Goldstone Facts, a website created to study the Goldstone Report. Barbara Dane, the singer, sent the following email to the video’s producer:
“At the end of this video please give credit to the writer of the words, who was a beloved singer/activist here in the SF Bay Area: Malvina Reynolds. Malvina was inspired to write the song in 1964 after taking part in a sit-in at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, which was refusing to hire black people.”
“It Isn’t Nice”, lyrics by Malvina Reynolds, copyright, 1964
It isn’t nice to block the doorway, It isn’t nice to go to jail, There are nicer ways to do it, But the nice ways always fail.
It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice, You told us once, you told us twice, But if that is Freedom’s price, We don’t mind.
It isn’t nice to carry banners Or to sit in on the floor, Or to shout our cry of Freedom At the hotel and the store. It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice, You told us once, you told us twice, But if that is Freedom’s price,We don’t mind.
We have tried negotiations And the three-man picket line, Mr. Charlie didn’t see us. And he might as well be blind. Now our new ways aren’t nice. When we deal with men of ice, But if that is Freedom’s price, We don’t mind.
How about those years of lynchings And the shot in Evers’ back? Did you say it wasn’t proper, Did you stand upon the track?You were quiet just like mice, Now you say we aren’t nice, And if that is Freedom’s price, We don’t mind.
It isn’t nice to block the doorway, It isn’t nice to go to jail, There are nicer ways to do it But the nice ways always fail. It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice, But thanks for your advice, Cause if that is Freedom’s price, We don’t mind.
Two members of the cast from the film, The Village, are Adrien Brody (left) and Judy Greer (right), shown above.
James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. He has made more than 20 trips to that region as a journalist, during which he covered such events as Anwar Sadat’s 1977 trip to Jerusalem, and the 2006 Palestinian legislative election. He has interviewed, and written about, journalists, religious leaders, political leaders and private citizens in the region. Jim served for two years on active duty in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF (inactive) reserve. Jim launched his new personal blog Wallwritings, on April 24, 2008. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
More from James M. Wall