Only connect the Bible and the newspaper

It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.

Glen Greenwald, the Intercept

Karl Barth’s advice  is always good. The groundbreaking protestant theologian reminded  us to read the bible  next to your newspaper. The same things are happening. Human nature does not change and  there are often many links between modes of oppression

“Only connect” was the advice of the British novelist E.M. Forster

Like Sunday’s reading  at mass. Yeshayahu (Isaiah)  writes ‘in the year King Uzziah died”— 742 BCE. The prophet is very offended at the injustice  meted out by the kings. While recognizing his own sinfulness as a man “of unclean lips” he knows the demands of “lord of Hosts.” The powerful vision of the angel bringing a hot coal to cleanse his mouth  and burn away his  dishonesty frees him to prophesy and speak truth to power.

Which took me to the New York Times which I read before mass. A truly terrible but predictable article appeared by Bret Stephens,(real name Erlich) never identified as the former editor of the Jerusalem Post. James North today on Mondoweiss wrote “Stephens’s article is an earnest attempt to diminish Palestinian demands and paint anyone who stands up for them as an anti-Semite.” This argument is so cliché ridden and embarrassing that it is surprising that somebody did not take Stephens aside and tell him so.

The NYT up till recently has been a strong Zionist paper but recently has broken new ground by becoming more balanced. In particular there was a tsunami created by Michelle Alexander’s article published just before Dr King’s national holiday (Jan 15).


Alexander the  highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, legal scholar, and best-selling author of The New Jim Crow broke open the floodgates of self-censorship over Israel’s brutal occupation and theft of Palestinian land. Ms Alexander acknowledged her  fear of the Zionist thought police and Israel-sponsored trolls who have been active in the past decade putting lipstick on the pig of Israel’s brutal past and shutting down of any criticism of the apartheid state. Social media and the rapid electronic means of undeniable information has changed the whole equation. Israel’s lies and effective propaganda has covered up for decades the truth of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians.


As new research by Israeli historians (Shlaim, Pappé, Segev, Morris and sociologists (Kimmerling, Sternhell) uncovered the truth of this dispossession. Haaretz writers today (Hass,Levy, Burg et al)  regularly tell the terrible truth in front of them. Many American Jews in touch with universal Judaic values and the deep humanism of their prophets and sages have broken with Zionism naming it a colonial imperial  movement.  Simultaneously highly educated Palestinian voices (Marsalha, Khalili, the late Edward Said, Joseph Massad,) sidelined  by decades of trauma and abetted by Christian guilt about the Nazi holocaust have produced their own narrative from the underside of history. This has resonated with progressive Jews  whose story and deepest identity originates with forebears who lived as slaves under another Pharaoh in another time. Biblically sensitive Christians as well are inspired by both the prophets of Israel and by Jesus the Jew who lived as well under occupation and who proclaimed liberty to the captives.


Stephens article full of well-worn  canards and smarting from intersectional voices (Black Lives Matter) connecting Palestinian suffering with their own Jim Crow experience  of exclusion and marginalization have deeply rattled writers like Stephens. His petulant and embarrassing response full of half truths  was akin to a spoiled child who cant relate to a new sibling in the house.His article was predictably slagged by several commentators on the NYT website. One respondent Jeff M (failing to give his real name which shows you the fear extant on this issue) wrote:

It’s simple Mr. Stephens.  Being against the policies of the Israeli government is not being anti Jewish.  Being opposed to the idea that the Jews had the right to steal Palestine from the Palestinians is not being anti Jewish.  The fact that Jews now live there simply means that any solution must involve the Jews, and must treat everyone fairly.  Everyone is not currently being treated fairly.  We can’t go back in time and stop the foundation of Israel, we can just fix it now.  Any fix must be reasonable for everyone who now lives there.  The current Israeli government has no interest in any fix like that.

THE NYT as “the paper of record” has started to connect the dots which seem to have eluded Bret Stephens. It published  a brilliant piece well worth reading by Brent Staples on how the white leaders  of the abolitionist movement who did not “connect” white racism with the oppression of slavery

The “burning coal on the lips” where truth and falsehood emanate challenges all of us. the need for conversion an new sight is meant for all of us who need to move from tribalism to universal values. There is but one family in the “holy commonwealth” Jesus proclaimed. As a Jew he was simply riffing on the demands of the Deuteronomist,the final book of the Torah which recapitulates the message of the great prophets…”tzedek, tzedek tirdof…justice, justice you shall pursue  16:20.


Only the blind and the tribal, men like Bret Stephens refuse to acknowledge the deep injustice regnant in Israel/Palestine.