A memorable quote in Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer Abroad
(1894) still carries a wealth of relevance. He writes, "They own the
[holy] land, just the mere land, and that's all they do own; but it was our
folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so they haven't any
business to be there defiling it. It's a shame and we ought not to stand it a
minute. We ought to march against them and take it away from them."
Recently an influential pastor, John Hagee of the
Cornerstone mega-church, San Antonio, Texas, followed his endorsement of
Republican presidential candidate John McCain with some telling remarks.
"What Senator McCain, I feel, needs to do to bring evangelicals into his
camp is to make it very clear that he is a strong defender of Israel and that
he has a strong 24 years of being pro-life. And I think on those two issues
they will get on common ground and have a common understanding."
Such are the views of a man who has ever-growing influence
among an ever-swelling culture in the US -- the evangelical Christian bloc. No
mention was made of the well-being of Palestinians, even Christian
Palestinians, many of whom are descendants of the early church.
To be sure, the human rights and needs of Palestinians are
rarely addressed by American officials. On the rare occasion that they are, any
expression of support must be closely followed by a strong condemnation of
Welcome to America's parallel reality on Israel and
Palestine, barefaced in its defying the notions of common sense, equality and
justice, ever-insistent on peeking at the Arab- Israeli conflict through a
looking glass manufactured jointly in the church, in Congress and in the
newsroom, where the world is reduced to characters interacting on a
Hollywood-like movie set: good guys, well groomed and often white-skinned
versus bad guys bearing opposite qualities.
One may become accustomed to watching, reading and listening
to the chorus of support that America -- its politicians, most of its
mainstream media and a large conglomerate of its churches and clergies --
tirelessly offers Israel. While the advocacy for Israel by various evangelical
churches is both bizarre -- since the ultimate objective of this crowd is the
annihilation of most Jews and the conversion of some as prerequisites for
"the Rapture" -- and widely acknowledged, their influence on the
political culture of America is not equally recognised. For example, Pastor Hagee,
a televangelist to 99 million viewers, established Christians United for Israel
(CUFI) in 2005, following the publication of his book, The Jerusalem
Countdown: A Warning to the World.
US writer Robert Weitzel explains, "Hagee envisions
CUFI as the Christian version of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,
the powerful pro-Israel lobby whose political clout has significant influence
on US foreign policy in the Middle East."
Journalist Max Blumenthal took his cameras to CUFI's
Washington-Israel summit held July 2007, in Washington DC. The result was a
documentary entitled, Rapture Ready: The Unauthorised Christians United for
Israel Tour. It opens with former
Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is asked how important the
Second Coming is as a factor in his support for Israel. "Obviously, it is
what I live for. Really, I hope it comes tomorrow. Obviously, we need to be
connected to Israel to enjoy the Second Coming of Christ."
Weitzel reports, "John Hagee is not without fawning
friends in Washington. Presidential hopeful John McCain made a campaign stop at
the summit and admitted to the audience that, 'it's very hard trying to do the
Lord's work in the city of Satan . . . ' House Minority Whip Roy Blunt followed
McCain to the podium and assured the faithful that 'This is a mission, this is
a vision that I believe is a vision for God's time.' Senator Joe Lieberman was
there and described Pastor Hagee as an 'Ish Elokim,' a man of God." Even
President Bush sent his best wishes, "I appreciate CUFI members . . . for
your passion and dedication to enhancing the relationship between the United
States and Israel. Your efforts set a shining example for others . . ."
While most US politicians are self-seeking, power-hungry and
would do whatever it takes to be elected, the average American, though it may
seem otherwise, is not born "pro-Israel" and
"anti-Palestinian." Most Americans are pro the manufactured yet
misleading images of Israel that reach their homes through television, wait at
their doorsteps in the morning newspaper, and confront them through the web.
Israel has mastery over the language of the Western media, which, again, helped
create a parallel reality that has little correlation to the real world, that
of facts, numbers and actual events. That alternative universe only exists on
newspaper editorial pages, in mega-churches and in the blabber of Fox News
There is no serious or equitable debate regarding Palestine
and Israel in the US corporate media, nor in any other US cultural, political
and religious circles. If the existing narrative is to be called a debate, then
it's one with an imagined, not real, language, almost entirely irrelevant to
realities in Palestine and Israel; one that is largely predicated on a narrow minded,
apocalyptic religious discourse that for decades has found itself an accepted
point of departure for most politicians, even those who falsely pose as
Between the two discourses, that of misguided religious
fantasies and pandering politicians, there maybe exists enough room for
alternative narratives. Unfortunately, that space, too, is overwhelmed by
cultural misconceptions, institutional bias and deliberate confusion introduced
and instilled by media producers, pundits and other manufacturers of American
Until the gatekeepers of US culture are seriously
challenged, Palestine will continue to reside in the American imagination as a
battle between good and evil, a "Holy Land" that must be wrested from
the hands of those who might have owned the land at some point, but now
"haven't any business to be there defiling it."Ramzy
Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has
been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book
Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People�s
Press, London). Read more about him on his website: ramzybaroud.net.