It’s Not American “Aid” To Israel. It’s Tribute.

In the brilliant recent BBC documentary The Violence Paradox the psychologist Steven Pinker explores the reasons why we may be living in the most peaceful period in human existence. A customary glance at the news headlines may suggest otherwise, especially recently with the conflict in Palestine flaring up once again, as it seems to every 4 to 5 years.

In the same documentary the historian and professor Carolyn Roberts declares that “Humans are a hot mess” and right now there is no greater example of this than Palestine, where many of the residents ended up literally as a hot mess.

One of the main problems with the whole Palestine issue is that of context. The mainstream media present a pro-Israel viewpoint, some of them subtly (such as the BBC and CNN), and others unashamedly (Fox News and Sky News). The average TV watcher therefore ends up with a skewed perspective. They think that both sides are of equal strength and both have legitimate reasons for their actions. This is most definitely not the case. This is perhaps why tens of thousands marched in London yesterday in support of Palestine.

For a start, Israel is backed by America, the most powerful nation on earth. If you want to understand why America brazenly and blindly follows Israel, then watch another documentary, ‘Til Kingdom Come: Trump, Faith And Money. It can be a bit slow at times, but it is well worth a watch as it gives a different perspective that many perhaps are not aware of. Another documentary that shows just how subservient America is to Israel is Dead In The Water, which is about the tragic circumstances surrounding the USS Liberty. Again, worth watching.

In a bid to bring some much needed balance, please find below a selection of hand picked quotes from recent articles that hopefully present angles and nuances that many of us may not be aware of. We start with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, an American Muslim scholar, on the sanctity of holy places. There are some old quotes from Chris Hedges, but still relevant to current events. There is also a link to a short clip from Michael Brooks, a political commentator and comedian who sadly passed away in July 2020, but he left us with his brilliant analysis of what is really happening in Israel.

We end with a full article from the international lawyer John Whitbeck, who further explains America’s groveling relationship with Israel. I know there is a lot to read, but trust me please, the quotes are well worth it, as indeed are the articles in full. Please also give Michael Brooks several minutes of your time. As best as one can in these trying times, enjoy…

For Muslims, the month of Ramadan serves as one of the most important means of getting close to God. For that reason, a state of tranquility and calm pervades the Muslim practices during the month. If accosted, a believer is told to respond calmly, “I am fasting.” Hence, the brutal assault of the Israeli forces on the third holiest site for Muslims, while horrific in itself, is all the more heinous given it is occurring in the sacred month of Ramadan, on the holiest day of the month, during the last ten days in which Muslim are particularly devotional, often spending the entire night in prayer vigil. The assault on people praying and worshipping has no justification in any faith or secular tradition. The people at the sacred precinct had no weapons. While some were seeking refuge in that sacred space from the clashes below, most were simply observing their prayers in peace. These continued aggressions on the Palestinian people, both Muslim and Christian, have created an environment that makes the possibility of peace and prosperity for both peoples all the more distant. Events such as this current crisis demand that Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders raise their voices in unison and condemn any violence at or assault on peaceful worshippers or their places of worship. Empathizing with the plight of the Palestinians in such situations should not be difficult. This is akin to an assault by government forces on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher during Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve or on the Wailing Wall during Yom Kippur. When one of our sanctuaries is violated, all of them are. For believers, this is surely a cause for alliance to protect the sanctity of sacred spaces and the people within them. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, 10 May 2021, from the article The Sanctity Of Sacred Spaces

It’s easy to say no one benefits. But it’s not true. Netanyahu has a whole lot to gain from this assault — among other things, it may keep him out of jail. More broadly, Israel’s strategic military planners have been waiting for another attack on Gaza. And for Israel’s arms manufacturers, assaulting Gaza is what the leading Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz has called “a cash cow.”…Netanyahu is on trial and facing years in jail for a wide range of corruption charges. As long as he remains prime minister, he can’t be jailed — but if he loses his ruling coalition, as he was on the verge of doing just before this crisis, he could go to prison. So for Netayanhu, maintaining public support is not just a political goal but an urgent personal necessity…These frequent attacks on Gaza have provided a critically valuable testing ground for the Israeli weapons manufacturers whose export deals — worth $7.2 billion in 2019 — represent a huge component of Israel’s GDP. During the height of the 2014 assault, Ha’aretz reported that the company’s factories “worked around the clock turning out munitions as the army tested their newest systems against a real enemy. Now, they are expecting their battle-tested products will win them new customers.”…Far beyond some claim of “self-defense,” are there other reasons Israel might once again be on the attack? When you look at who benefits, the answer might not be so complicated after all. – Phyllis Bennis, 20 May 2021, from the article Qui Bono? Understanding Israel’s Latest Assault On Gaza

No one is blameless in the ongoing violent conflict between Israel and stateless Palestinians. Both sides target and kill civilian noncombatants. But let’s put an end to false equivalence. “A pox on both houses” is not a moral or political response to the one-sided war between Israel and Hamas. Israel wants war. If it wanted peace, it would have it…In this struggle Israel is the clear aggressor…Israel enjoys every advantage over its adversary. It has a seat at the United Nations…it has the most powerful ally on earth, the United States, which gives it $4 billion a year. Israel’s GDP is 13 times that of Palestine…Israel is a fully-integrated part of the international community…If the Palestinians were able to fight “fairly” as the IDF and its allies in the media say they would prefer, they would be full-fledged citizens of a fully-sovereign Republic of Palestine, they would have a seat at the U.N. and none of this would be happening again. – Ted Rall, 19 May 2021, from the article Israel Chooses War Over Peace

Netanyahu’s decision to allow the continued Jewish colonization of the West Bank — territory meant to be part of a future, sovereign Palestinian state — has convinced large numbers of Arabs, many of whom identify as “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” that the state is incapable of seeing them as full and equal citizens. “If I had to sum it up in one sentence: Yes, Netanyahu is completely to blame,” said Yaël Mizrahi-Arnaud, a research fellow at the Forum for Regional Thinking, an Israeli think tank…The violence of the past week does not have one single cause. It’s the convergence of multiple trends and events at one time, a kind of perfect storm that produced the current cycle of violence. And Netanyahu, more than anyone else, bears responsibility for this dark convergence. – Zack Beauchamp, 15 May 2021, from the article Israel’s Unraveling

What we are in the streets protesting about now is not one killing or one violent raid, but a whole regime of oppression that destroys our bodies, our homes, our communities, our hopes – just as the protests for Black lives that spread across the US last year were not only about George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or any one killing. This is what colonialism does: it suffocates every part of your life, and then it finishes by burying you. It is a strategic, deliberate process, and it is only obstructed or delayed because oppressors are almost always confronted and challenged by those under their rule. In the end, who wants to be chained down for being born who they are? – Mariam Barghouti, 16 May 2021, from the article Why Are Palestinians Protesting? Because We Want To Live

With the explosion of Israeli violence this last week, Palestinians are experiencing a level of terror that is both new and painfully reminiscent of the terror of 1948…The reason that there is a conflict at all is because one group of people has for 70 years been seeking to lay claim to territory occupied by another, and to remove them by any means necessary. In the past, that tended to be at the point of the bayonet or in the wake of a massacre or pogrom; today, it’s more likely to come in the bureaucratic form of a court order issued by a legal system—the very embodiment of the banality of evil—that institutionally and systematically privileges the rights of Jews over those of Palestinians…To make this clear: While the Israeli courts and the Israeli state routinely enable the establishment of new Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, there is simply no mechanism in the Israeli legal system for a Palestinian family to reclaim land or property forcibly taken from them by Zionist settlers or the Zionist state or its auxiliaries, such as the Jewish National Fund. On both sides of the 1949–67 armistice line, the state demolishes Palestinian homes and builds Jewish ones. There ought to be no surprises here: The entire program of the state is, and has always been, built around the project of removing Palestinians and replacing them with Jews. Is it any wonder, then, that Palestinians resist—and that they have been resisting since long before anyone heard of something called Hamas?…The stark reality is there for all to see…The Nakba is now. – Saree Makdisi, 17 May 2021, from the article The Nakba Is Now

Gaza is a window on our coming dystopia. The growing divide between the world’s elite and its miserable masses of humanity is maintained through spiraling violence. Many impoverished regions of the world, which have fallen off the economic cliff, are beginning to resemble Gaza, where 1.6 million Palestinians live in the planet’s largest internment camp. These sacrifice zones, filled with seas of pitifully poor people trapped in squalid slums or mud-walled villages, are increasingly hemmed in by electronic fences, monitored by surveillance cameras and drones and surrounded by border guards or military units that shoot to kill. These nightmarish dystopias extend from sub-Saharan Africa to Pakistan to China. They are places where targeted assassinations are carried out, where brutal military assaults are pressed against peoples left defenseless, without an army, navy or air force. All attempts at resistance, however ineffective, are met with the indiscriminate slaughter that characterizes modern industrial warfare.

Because it has the power to do so, Israel — as does the United States — flouts international law to keep a subject population in misery…As the world breaks down, this becomes the new paradigm — modern warlords awash in terrifying technologies and weapons murdering whole peoples. We do the same in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

What is happening in Gaza, like what is happening to people of color in marginal communities in the United States, is the model. The techniques of control, whether carried out by the Israelis or militarized police units in our inner-city drug wars, whether employed by military special forces or mercenaries in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq, are tested first and perfected on the weak and the powerless. Our callous indifference to the plight of the Palestinians, and the hundreds of millions of poor packed into urban slums in Asia or Africa, as well as our own underclass, means that the injustices visited on them will be visited on us. In failing them we fail ourselves.

Chris Hedges, 19 Nov 2012, from the article Elites Will Make Gazans Of Us All

All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes. It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories — required under the rules of American journalism — although we know they are untrue.

There is a perverted logic to Israel’s repeated use of the Big Lie — Große Lüge — the lie favored by tyrants from Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to Saddam Hussein. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit — racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.

By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters. The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in Gaza is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on Hamas.

George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.” The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous. The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort — a comfort they are desperately seeking — in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.

Chris Hedges, 04 Aug 2014, from the article Why Israel Lies

It’s Not American “Aid” To Israel. It’s Tribute.

John Whitbeck, 12 May 2021,

In the wake of the recent Human Rights Watch report on Israeli apartheid and persecution and the ongoing Israeli brutalities in Jerusalem, a slowly growing handful of brave American politicians is daring to defy President Biden’s publicly proclaimed assertion that it would be “absolutely outrageous” to ever condition American “aid” to Israel on any Israeli behavior and to assert that such “aid” should indeed be conditioned, at least to some degree, on Israeli violations of human rights, international law and America’s own laws with respect to the use of American-provided weapons.

While this modest trend in principled support for human rights and international law by even a mere handful of American politicians must be viewed as encouraging, the tradition of characterizing the U.S. government’s payments to Israel — currently a baseline minimum of $3.8 Billion per year, negotiated and agreed by a departing President Obama for the next ten-year payment cycle, inevitably supplemented by numerous add-ons — as “aid” should also be questioned.

Israel is not a poor country. In the latest UN rankings, its annual per capita GDP of $46,376 ranked it 19th among the UN’s 193 member states, ahead of Germany (20th), the United Kingdom (24th), France (26th) and Saudi Arabia (41st).

The guaranteed payments which U.S. governments negotiate with Israeli governments and commit to pay to Israel are not negotiated and paid because Israel needs the money.

They are negotiated and paid as public manifestations of American submission and subservience.

The accurate and proper word for such payments is “tribute”, for which the dictionary definition is “a payment made periodically by one state or ruler to another, especially as a sign of dependence.”

Ever since Israel attacked the aptly named USS Liberty in 1967, killing 34 Americans, wounding another 171 and inflicting 821 rocket and machine-gun holes in the ship, and President Johnson ordered a cover-up which constituted a virtual surrender, the U.S. government has been taking orders from and paying tribute to Israel, with consequences for America’s reputation and its role in the world vastly more costly than mere money.

Indeed, the American relationship with Israel deprives the United States of any credibility when it accuses countries that it dislikes for other reasons of violations of human rights or international law.

If popular perceptions and discourse in the United States could be transformed so as to recognize that the U.S. government’s payment commitments to Israel constitute tribute to a dominant power rather than “aid” to a needy nation, there might be some hope for a long overdue American declaration of independence and a more constructive and honorable American role in the world.


Ramadan Is The Ultimate Pattern Interruption

We are well into the second half of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. As happens every year, I cannot believe how quickly this month has come and seems to be going. Ramadan is nearly Ramadone (sorry). Even though we can see the finish line fast approaching, I thought it would still be worthwhile to share some quotes and videos that hopefully enhance the overall experience for Muslims during this blessed month. And for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, hopefully they will also increase our knowledge and understanding of the many dimensions of Ramadan and fasting.

According to Professor Tariq Ramadan, one of the world’s foremost Muslim academics, this month is when we master hunger, bodily appetites, and our human impulses so we can release the noblest energies of our being. To put it another way, as is commonly said about fasting, we starve the body to feed the soul.

Before we get to the quotes, I wanted to share my views on what Ramadan means to me. Ramadan is the ultimate pattern interruption, a phrase I first heard from my favourite Muslim scholar Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. In a lecture Shaykh Hamza spoke about an incident involving the Prophet Muhammad and one of his companions, Anas Ibn Malik. Anas was politely asked by the Prophet to do something, to which he abruptly replied no. Instead of censuring him, the Prophet smiled and walked out the room. He came back a few minutes later and asked Anas if he had done what had been asked of him earlier. This time Anas calmly replied that he would get to it right away.

Modern psychology refers to this as pattern interruption, a technique where you do something unexpected to completely offset somebody, thus interrupting an expected pattern. In this case Anas would have expected the Prophet to get angry and perhaps raise his voice. However, instead of reacting negatively, this pattern was interrupted by the Prophet simply smiling and exiting the room, leaving Anas to gather his thoughts.

The month of Ramadan is an entire month of pattern interruption. For 11 months of the year we behave in a certain way, but during this one month every pattern in our lives is interrupted. Eating, sleeping, working, travelling, mornings, evenings, socialising – patterns that we are used to being so dominant throughout the year are altered during this month. Ultimately what is in our hearts should also change, for this is the month of forgiveness, not just asking forgiveness from God, but also from and to each other. Ramadan is also the month of the Qur’an, so our reading patterns should also change to incorporate this blessed book as much as possible.

Below are a few other views from Muslims and non-Muslims. We start with a few quotes from Professor Ramadan, all taken from one brilliant article [] that is well worth reading in full. We end with American comedian Hasan Minhaj giving us his view on Ramadan. There are also two videos, one from a non-Muslim doctor on the benefits of fasting, and another from the world-famous Mufti Menk on the least that Muslims should do during this month. As always, enjoy!

Ramadan is a month of discipline that teaches us the deepest meaning of dignity and liberty for humankind, among humankind…Ramadan teaches us that our humanity demands full awareness and full-time commitment, for ourselves and for our fellow human beings. – Professor Tariq Ramadan, 20 Aug 2012,

Fasting is, first and foremost, an exercise for identifying and managing adversity in all its forms. With faith, in full conscience, fasting calls women and men to an extra degree of self-awareness. Instead of looking outside of ourselves and counting potential enemies, fasting summons us to turn our glance inward, and to take the measure of our greatest challenge: the self, the ego, in our own eyes and as others see us. – Professor Tariq Ramadan, 20 Aug 2012,

The aim of fasting is to gain mastery over ourselves, to become aware of our illusions, to become the agents of our actions – and not the object of our own pretensions or someone else’s gaze. The philosophy of fasting calls upon us to know ourselves, to master ourselves, and to discipline ourselves the better to free ourselves. To fast is to identify our dependencies, and free ourselves from them. – Professor Tariq Ramadan, 20 Aug 2012,

Fasting requires that we rediscover all that is alive around us, and reconcile ourselves with our environment. Fasting with our bodies enables us to see more clearly with our hearts: the Qur’an reminds us that hearts become blind, not eyes. A blind heart sees nothing but self and its illusions; it cannot contemplate nature, the living creatures around it, and those like it. – Professor Tariq Ramadan, 20 Aug 2012,

Fasting teaches us the secrets of reconciliation, of transcending our weakness and our human contradictions: there can be no freedom without discipline, no true peace without struggle and resistance. Fasting reveals humanity’s curious destiny: the serenity of unbound conscience can only be won by a struggle against the dictatorship of illusion, of false needs or of despots. – Professor Tariq Ramadan, 20 Aug 2012,

The most important aspect of the Ramadan fast is to focus on the painful fact that it is we who are poor. Each and every one of us. However much we appear to be, or to have, in reality we are all absolutely impotent, absolutely weak, absolutely poor, absolutely needy and absolutely dependent…All that we have and all that we are is dependent for its existence at each moment on the grace, generosity, compassion, wisdom, and will of the All-Glorious Creator. Unless we get in touch with our poverty, we cannot possibly give worshipful thanks to our Creator, Who is utterly Self-Sufficient and devoid of all lack or need. If we think we are something, or have something, we cannot get in touch with our reality, which is utter dependence, at every moment, on the continuing grace and munificence of our Lord and Maker. Only by understanding what we are not can we even begin to understand what He is. – Dr Colin Turner, 27 Apr 2021,

Fasting is a perfect quieting of all our impulses, fleshly and spiritual. Fasting is not meant to drag us down, but to still us. It is not meant to distract us from the real, but rather to silence us so that we can hear things as they most truly are. – Thomas Aquinas

Prayer is reaching out after the unseen; fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God. – Andrew Murray

One way to begin to see how vastly indulgent we usually are is to fast. It is a long day that is not broken by the usual three meals. One finds out what an astonishing amount of time is spent in the planning, purchasing, preparing, eating, and cleaning up of meals. – Elisabeth Elliot

If the solemnities of our fasting, though frequent, long, and severe, do not serve to put an edge upon devout affections, to quicken prayer, to increase Godly sorrow, and to alter the temper of our minds, and the course of our lives, for the better, they do not at all answer the intention, and God will not accept them as performed to Him. – Matthew Henry

By fasting, the body learns to obey the soul; by praying the soul learns to command the body. – William Secker

The purpose of fasting is to loosen to some degree the ties which bind us to the world of material things and our surroundings as a whole, in order that we may concentrate all our spiritual powers upon the unseen and eternal things. – Ole Hallesby

Fasting in the biblical sense is choosing not to partake of food because your spiritual hunger is so deep, your determination in intercession so intense, or your spiritual warfare so demanding that you have temporarily set aside even fleshly needs to give yourself to prayer and meditation. – Wesley L Duewel

There are five pillars of belief in Islam. Some Islamic schools of thought include a sixth pillar: jihad. True jihad in Islam is mostly about the personal struggle to be faithful to God. In that sense, Ramadan may be seen as a form of jihad…My husband managed a construction company in Saudi. Once we decided to go to the local Pizza Hut in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for iftar. I love pizza! They had a pizza buffet, so…yeah, sign me up! We got there early and grabbed a table. The restaurant was packed with hungry Saudis. When it was almost time to break the fast, waiters started bringing out pizzas of every kind – thin, thick, supreme, Hawaiian, pepperoni, meat-lovers…We waited patiently. But when it was time to eat, there was no pizza. Everyone else had gone to the buffet ahead of time and piled their plates with slices – I mean, people had the equivalent of an entire pizza pie on their plates, and there was nothing left for those of us who had waited. It was gross. Eventually more pizzas arrived, and we had our turn. As we left, we looked around at the tables, now deserted, and saw tons of half-eaten slices left behind. It was sad. That was not jihad. – Kathryn Shihadah, 13 Apr 2021,

Ramadan is the time where we should, once more, rediscover our collective strength…Ramadan should be a time of spiritual reflection and a reordering of our collective priorities. Unfortunately, in the age of globalisation, unmitigated consumption and self-centred, individualistic approach to life, our relationship with Ramadan is veering off from its intended goal to something else entirely. Ramadan is usually the most charitable month for Muslims, a time that is dedicated to prayer, to giving, to seeking forgiveness. It is an amalgamation between the individual’s spiritual rebirth. It is during this month that it feels as if political boundaries are removed and Muslims claim a new sense of collective identity, regardless of where they are in the world. Their point of unity becomes their mutual fast and the associated communal activities — feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, caring for the orphans, and so on…Ramadan is not a time for eating, but fasting; it is not a time for singing and dancing, but reflecting and praying; it is not a time for the accumulation of wealth, but for generosity and charity. More, Ramadan is the time where we should, once more, rediscover its collective strength, for the sake of all Muslims; in fact, for the sake of humanity at large. Ramadan Mubarak. – Ramzy Baroud, 21 Apr 2021,

For the majority of our life during the year we build spirituality around the day-to-day responsibilities of the world, of dunya. “I’ll pray Isha a little bit later…maybe I’ll sleep through Fajr…I’ve got a meeting so I’ll skip Dhohur…maybe I won’t go to Jumma because I really have to go to this other thing.” And Ramadan for me is this reset where spirituality becomes the core and then I try to build the world around that. And it’s a really good reminder for me to really understand what is this all about, why am I here, what is my purpose on earth? One of the cool things about generosity, specifically in Ramadan, and it got me to become closer to my faith, is that the concept of zakat and giving is about giving back because it doesn’t belong to you. One of the things we often forget here in America is that there’s a sense of entitlement. “I earned this, I deserve this, this is my money, this is mine, I owe it to nobody.” Zakat specifically is about giving because you were lucky enough to be bestowed with wealth or health, and it’s your job and duty to share it. What it has done for me is it’s allowed me to have a connection to the present collective, so it makes me think it’s my duty to be of service to others. Covid exposed the fault lines in society that we already saw, but those cracks got even deeper and even uglier. So now you can’t look away from the fault lines of the haves and the have-nots, the rent and eviction crisis, furloughs, layoffs. These are really, really, sad, sad things, and that separation between people who got it and people who don’t, that chasm has become bigger. So, for me during Ramadan, if you’re lucky enough, you’re employed, you’re able to maintain employment, you’re able to hang on to some level of savings. One of the things this month hopefully will do for us is give us an opportunity to look to those who, unfortunately due to circumstances because of the pandemic or not, don’t have the resources and so it’s our job to help them. My one overriding prayer or hope for this Ramadan would obviously be for the health and wellness of friends, family and everyone I know around the world, and then just for myself is to be a person of service, to give more than I take. – Hasan Minhaj