It’s bad enough when a Republican or some would-be Jerry Falwell type attempts to use religion for a reactionary political purpose like banning gay marriage, but even more egregious is the use of the pulpit to propagandize in favor of state-sponsored murder and terrorism — a rather common phenomenon that tends to receive little attention from the mainstream media.
Indeed, it seems only when a religious leader uses his or her position to oppose government-organized slaughter and to preach against the killings of others — even when sanctioned by our noble, democratically elected leaders — does the media pay any attention, as the much-maligned Jeremiah Wright
learned. John McCain, after all, was only forced to distance himself from crazed “Christians United for Israel” leader and Iran war advocate John Hagee after some old tapes surfaced of him claiming the Jews brought the holocaust upon themselves.
During the Bush years many liberals became aware of the role religion appeared to play in regard to U.S. foreign policy, at least in terms of ramping up support among the religious right for armageddon-inducing wars and unflinching support for Israeli military actions. Besides being sacrilegious — it’s hard to imagine the Creator of all things endorsing militarism of any kind, “humanitarian” or not — the use of religion to bolster the policies pursued by secular nation-states is a sure way to suppress dissent.
Perhaps that’s why I found the following event listed in the January 7th Reuters Daybook so disturbing:
(MIDEAST/GAZA/CARDIN) EVENT — Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Sallai Meridor; participate in a Jewish Community Relations Council forum “to assert Israel’s right to self defense and hold Hamas responsible” for the conflict in Gaza.” [sic] Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett also speaks.
Location: The Sixth and I Synagogue, 600 I Street NW
While I suppose every religious congregation has a right to hold the events and support the policies of its choosing, it strikes me as exceedingly offensive for supporters of the Israeli government — a secular state, mind you, which represents only a minority of Jews — to pretend to speak on behalf of the Jewish faith in defending whatever military actions the Israeli Defense Forces deign necessary, however brutal. If Senator Cardin and the Israeli ambassador wish to defend Israel’s invasion of Gaza, let them do so at the National Press Club rather than hiding behind their religion at a synagogue and pretending to speak on behalf of Jews everywhere. Or is that too much to ask?
For what it’s worth, when Israel was engaged in its last destructive and counterproductive war against Lebanon in 2006, I asked Cardin’s fellow Maryland senator, Democrat Barbara Mikulski, whether the U.S. government’s increased shipments of cluster bombs to Israel along with its refusal to call for a ceasefire in the conflict (which killed more than 1,000 Lebanese) just might encourage acts of terrorism against the United States. Her response was telling, for just as supporters of the current assault on Gaza seem incapable of any cogent argument other than shouting “rocket fire” to defend Israeli military aggression, she simply repeated the same old talking points about Israel-as-besieged-democratic-ally, declining to answer the question of whether dropping U.S.-made and paid-for munitions on innocent civilians was the best way to win Muslim hearts and minds.
The most depressing aspect of the current war on Gaza, at least from my comfortable perch in the U.S., just might be the fact that apologists for the Israeli state seem incapable of developing any new forms of argument. Instead, many only appear capable of repeating the same old tired tripe that is trotted out year after year to rationalize whatever Israeli war crimes are taking place, which “journalists” like NBC/GE’s David Gregory
are all too ready to parrot. Sigh.