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And Now Your Moment of Reason


Today, a tale of two activists. One rational and one completely deluded.

Recently Noam Chomsky and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu were among the speakers at a conference in Boston sponsored by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization.

(See Democracy Now for audio/video/transcript.)

Both of their talks focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict, coinciding with a US sponsored summit (or more accurately, a US sponsored exercise in hypocrisy) on the conflict attended by everyone involved except the democratically elected Hamas, who wasn't invited.

Prof. Chomsky, being the rational, humanist sort of guy he is, starts with eloquence:
Before saying a word, I’d like to express some severe personal discomfort, because anything I say will be abstract and dry and restrained. The crimes against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and elsewhere, particularly Lebanon, are so shocking that the only emotionally valid reaction is rage and a call for extreme actions. But that does not help the victims. And, in fact, it’s likely to harm them. We have to face the reality that our actions have consequences, and they have to be adapted to real-world circumstances, difficult as it may be to stay calm in the face of shameful crimes in which we are directly and crucially implicated.

At once humble, forceful, rational, scathing, responsible and compassionate. He goes on to draw similarities between apartheid South Africa and Israel, and recalls some history involving US support for the Israeli Apartheid State and repression of Palestinians.

he concludes with this:
...in the coming weeks and the longer term, there’s plenty of educational and organizational activity that will have to be carried out among an American population that happens to be largely receptive, though deluged with propaganda and deceit. And it’s not going to be easy. It’s never been easy. But much harder tasks have been accomplished with dedicated and persistent effort.

A fine conclusion to a presentation devoid of rhetoric, fantasy, delusion or arrogance.

Now for your dose of rhetoric, fantasy, delusion and arrogance. Enter Archbishop Tutu. He starts out well enough, graciously accepting an apology from St. Thomas University for having cancelled a speaking engagement of his because of comparisons between Israel and South Africa.
But then he gets loopy. At once reinforcing the fantasy of Israeli's being the chosen people of god and celebrating the violent nature of his god. Speaking of South Africa:
We were able to revive and sustain our people’s hope for their vindication and the ultimate triumph of good over evil, of freedom over injustice and oppression, by our references to our biblical traditions.

Which biblical traditions are those? The tradition of god the murderer? The tradition of god the genocidal maniac? The tradition of god the sociopath? No no, of course not. Instead he engages, like every other Christian leader in existence, in selective memory. Later he says god will come to save us:
Yes, our God will come down to open the prison doors and lead our leaders from prison and lead our leaders back from exile, for we had learned from our Jewish tradition that God, our God, is notoriously biased, forever taking the side of the weak, the oppressed, the downtrodden, against the kings and the powerful oppressors.

And God vindicated us. Apartheid’s rulers bit the dust, as all oppressors have done always, for this is a moral universe. Right and wrong matter. It cannot happen that evil, injustice and oppression can have the last word. No, ultimately goodness, justice, freedom—these will prevail.

So, god, the bloodthirsty god of the Bible, Koran and Torah is responsible for the end of Apartheid. Not human beings all over the world who took a moral stand and forced the South African government to change, but god. Gee, thanks big guy. Nice work. Funny how god is quite selective in who he saves. He never seems to explain why he lets things like the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide to happen, or the Iraq War to continue. Luckily AB D. Tutu is around to clear things up.

His main point seems to be that faith and belief in a vengeful, irrational deity who has decreed the Jewish people above all others to be his chosen people will somehow set Palestinians free. This is completely absurd. Is this not one of the main reasons why the Israeli Apartheid State exists? Isn't this the common cry among Israelis, that they have a right to the land because god said so?

Granted, this sentiment is being exploited by military-industrial forces intent on power, and the segment of the Israeli population supporting the settlements seem unable to understand that they are being manipulated.

Chomsky's speech is conductive to justice and change because he places responsibility where it belongs: with human beings. Tutu simply perpetuates confusion and superstition and continues to unwittingly justify the very situation he claims to be speaking out against.

(post updated Jan 30)

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