Bush-Sharon declaration approaches: Fundamentalism at the gates?

He said to them, "Not yours is it to know times or eras which the Father placed in His own jurisdiction.

But you shall be obtaining power at the coming of the holy spirit on you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in entire Judea and Samaria, as far as the limits of the earth."

--So Spake The Jesus, Acts 1:7-8 (Concordant Bible).

Bush is set to meet with Ariel Sharon at the White House tomorrow during a very climactic moment. It is encouraging, I suppose, that he's offering to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, much to the fury of the settlers and Israeli right-wing parties within the government. It's nice to actually see settlers forced to protest. (The Guardian adds the context so ominously lacking in American media)

We can't underestimate the importance of the effect of Sharon's Gaza gambit on the West Bank's future. Sharon seeks nothing less than leveraging America's power to permanently secure the vast majority of the settlements, along with the seized and fenced land around them, representing somewhere between 40 to 60% of the West Bank.

On this topic, President Bush's motives have always seemed very shadowy. In his time, Poppa Bush strongly believed in checking Israel's land grab, leading to quite a bit of friction between him and the Israelis. No doubt this stemmed from his realpolitik outlook, as well as an oil-man's firm goal of maintaining decent relations with the Arab world.

So is Bush just another Christian fundamentalist, blithely unconcerned, or even pleased, that Jewish settlers are displacing Arabs and slicing up the land? I tend not to think so. In his addled life, Bush has been treated to a spectacular spiritual education from Billy Graham and the other southern Christians, but I think that Graham does not teach the sons of rulers the same sort of pap his media empire propagates. To control fundamentalists and secure their loyalty, you can't think along the same lines they do. All along Graham whispers to Bush the key slogans needed to bring them into line while the outward operation levels their minds.

I saw Graham's creepy daughter Anne Graham Lotz pimping her new fundie book, "Why?" on Hannity & Colmes and other Fox outlets for the Easter season. Besides her disturbing wrenched-facelift appearance, I was struck by her final statement that the Sept. 11 hijacking plot was essentially birthed in hell, and furthermore that those causing all the trouble in the streets of Iraq that day didn't worship the same God "as us." Both of these statements strike me as heretical and dangerous to the Christian faith, because they elevate Sept. 11 from the mundane to the spiritual or eschatological plane of existence. They reinforce Bush's false and anti-Christian notions of ultimate good, accessible at the Pentagon, pitted against ultimate evil lurking in the Arab shadows. These ideas are designed to compel Christians to throw everything away and march mindlessly to the end of the world and the All-Consuming Battle of Good and Evil.

Ultimately Lotz's declarations are heretical for the very reason that Jesus laid out: Not yours is it to know times or eras which the Father placed in His own jurisdiction. Planes flying into buildings are not the ultimate harbingers of spiritual collapse, unless we permit them to be.

If Bush has been huddled this whole Easter vacation praying at the ranch as Iraq goes up in flames, that would concern me more. And I suspect he probably has.

What kind of God resides in the infinite space between his two temples? What loosed fears and imagined demons nip at his eye sockets when he stumbles through another unnerving press conference?

The wild theories about how Leo Strauss encouraged his followers to strike a pose of prophetic piety while cynically claiming divine inspiration come to mind when consider the attitude taken by the Moralizing Mega Leaders around him. The idea that the nihilistic real leaders would lead along the naïve religious "gentlemen" of society fits over today's situation too well. But it's paranoid. Is Bush the top gentleman or the nihilist leading the other gentlemen?

Why have Israel and the West Bank become so crucial? Why does Bush go through all these hoops to protect, extend and underwrite Israel's policies? It still doesn't add up, and it probably won't until the dust settles. And the dust won't settle until the "final status agreement," so in the meantime young and confused people like me speculate endlessly.

I will add the obvious facts: support for the Israeli settlement project is close to a political freebie for right-wingers scooping up fundamentalist Christians. It's also highly profitable for the military-industrial engine, once the unchallengable priority of continuous annexation is locked into place. These are some of the prime movers, but it fails to explain why Bush thinks as he does.

In what seems like a thousand years ago, I reached the conclusion that the morality of Palestinian violence could only be judged alongside the fact that Israel's multi-party government incorporates several parties that openly advocate the ethnic cleansing of Arabs. I felt that those parties' Jewish supporters in the West Bank enjoyed a political shield and even encouragement of their aggressive activities. The Likud, as the umbrella right-wing party, is hardly innocent of prodding Israeli Jews to invest in seizing more land.

I first ran across the little Scripture quote above in some fundie literature that was of course devoted to helping the Jews settle Judea and Samaria, to ultimately bring about the end of the world and the collapse of the Jewish people, a suppressed logik bomb in the Likud-fundamentalist alliance. I've heard other fundies talk about how we should witness Judea and Samaria, and pay attention to what the (white) Christians who've been there report.

But unfortunately, I am all too aware that it in great part it is the Palestinian Christian population that bears the crushing pressure of this horrible, profitable war. Especially in Bethlehem, they are the ones squeezed between Fatah and Hamas on one side, and the expanding "suburbs" of Jerusalem upon their farmland. Hence, with what means they still have, many have chosen to leave the Holy Land for Jordan and points elsewhere.

So, in my cheeky atheist way, I took that verse of the Bible to signify that Jesus would want good people to witness all transpiring in the ancient land. Seeing past the unpredictable violence of Islamic militants, Jesus would be more than a little upset that those ancient communities are getting rolled aside for another bypass highway, another self-defeating expanse of red-roofed homes. Jesus would want us to understand that a sturdy peace, not annexing a bloc of settlements on Holy land, is the only goal that a good Christian would work towards.

If in fact the U.S. acts to secure these settlements, who can predict what the reaction will be across the Arab world? Who knows what the Iraqis will do, now that they've determined how to kill and injure the U.S. military at an unprecedented rate?

Hear Ye! The time is nigh to visit Armageddon Books. :)

The ongoing news and some opinions: As always, some of the most clear and incisive views come from within Israel. "Caving in to terror, back to 242" by Amir Oren:

It took a mere eight companies - paratroopers, Golani and Border Police. They secured the open, fragile borders of Israel in Gaza and Sinai, in the Arava and along the length of the West Bank, in the Galilee and in the Amakim region, right up to the May 1967 alert and the subsequent Six-Day War. That was the entire ground force the Israel Defense Forces was asked to commit to maintaining security along the confrontation lines with Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. There was no fenced, electronic obstacle line covered by air power.
....
Ninety-two is more than eleven times eight - and 92 companies is the force the army needed after the Six-Day War to guard the new lines and patrol the territories. That was before the number of commands was inflated, and the numbers increased even further with the intifada of the 1980s and then again with the fighting under way since September 2000.
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In a new study of the IDF from 1967-1973, recently completed by Maj. Gen. (res.) Haim Nadel, Sharon is quoted at telling a general staff meeting around the time Eshkol and Johnson were meeting: "We generals have all the full right not only to express ourselves, but to influence matters. A lot will be dictated to Israel by the IDF's position. These borders are not only borders for peace, they are borders to prevent war, borders to prevent the danger of eradication ... We are now in an ideal situation; there won't be normalcy for decades to come ... the borders to keep are the current ones, without any retreats, without any arrangement that doesn't guarantee absolutely our military control over the territory. And that means maintaining the current situation."

The recent holiday proved that Israelis don't really want to spend time in the West Bank, despite the wishes of Tourism Minister Benny Elon of the Moledet Party, who lives in a West Bank settlement, according to Avirama Golan:

It would be interesting to know how Tourism Minister Binyamin Elon felt this morning. I mean, there hasn't been a Pesach like this one in years: More than a million people thronged to the countryside, hiking, picking cultivated buttercups, visiting the parks, touring archaeological sites and filling every possible hotel and guest house. Even the Negev knew joy.
...
But from the perspective of the tourism minister, who wakes up in the morning in [West Bank settlement] Beit El, the rush to nature is somewhat one-sided. The vast majority of the hiking and traveling takes place inside the Green Line. There are a few specific sites in Yesha (the Hebrew acronym of Judea and Samaria) that are blessed with physical beauty and historical significance (national significance, too, in the eyes of many)...
....
In the Negev, Galilee and center of the country, in the parks and forests, everyone holidayed - religious and secular, hawks and doves. With their feet and tires, they marked out the Green Line.

That was the strongest proof of the Israeli aspiration for normalcy. If the settlers' claim that the terrorism wiped out the Green Line were correct, and that there is no difference between Afula and Ofra, why did most families prefer to spread their blankets out in Horshat Tal, barbecue on the banks of the Yarkon River, pick cotton on a kibbutz, suntan along the shores of Lake Kinneret and put up tents in Eilat? Maybe because it's that small, old, crowded Israel, blossoming in a cornucopia of colors and the fragrances of flowers is in the hearts, and the land of messianic salvation is the one that failed?

Here is an article from Salon about Tourism Minister Elon and his connections with American fundamentalists.

The Palestinian Prime Minister Qureia is infuriated that this plan will help clear the way for annexation, and naturally it's Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading the charge to demand that the Likud Party annex:

Sharon expects guarantees from Bush in support for the disengagement plan, assurances that no other plan will replace the road map, backing in the fight against terror emanating from territories from which Israel has withdrawn, and a declaration that Israel will not be required to return to the 1967 borders.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said Tuesday that Sharon's plan to retain and expand five large West Bank settlement blocs destroys any chance for peace. Qureia said the plan "may destroy the whole peace process."

"These tactics destroy any hope for peace," he said. "We will not accept any settlement blocs. And we will not accept any decisions unless the Palestinian Authority is a part of the decision-making process."
....
Hours before leaving the country at around 2 A.M. Tuesday, Sharon said the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim would be included in the "Jerusalem envelope" section of the West Bank separation fence. The prime minister also specified five other West Bank settlement areas that would remain under Israeli rule.
....
Sharon wants the American letter to contain declarations regarding the future permanent status, which can be taken as support for the annexation of large blocs of settlement in the West Bank and the elimination of the Palestinian refugees' right of return to Israel. Sources said a final agreement may not be reached until Wednesday's meeting with Bush.

Sources in Jerusalem also said the exchange of letters will not be public, but that the Americans will not be averse to Israel's publication of the letters.

PM names settlements to remain under Israeli rule: Speaking at the start of the traditional Moroccan post-Passover Mimouna festivities in Ma'aleh Adumim, Sharon said the settlement - which is adjacent to Jerusalem - was one of six areas in the West Bank that would remain under Israeli control.

"Ma'aleh Adumim will remain part of the state of Israel forever and ever," Sharon said about the largest settlement in the West Bank. "It will be included in the envelope fence around Jerusalem in order to avoid terror atacks on it and in its environs."

The prime minister also said the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, Givat Ze'ev, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, and enclaves in the West Bank city of Hebron would all remain under Israeli sovereignty. This was the first time Sharon has detailed the settlements Israel wants to keep.

"Ariel, the Etzion Bloc, Giv'at Zeev will remain in Israeli hands and will continue to develop," Sharon said. "Hebron and Kiryat Arba will be strong. Only an Israeli initiative will keep us from being dragged into dangerous initiatives like the Geneva and Saudi initiatives."

On the other hand Yoel Marcus is more optimistic that the Gaza move will finally bring about an end to the occupation. Keep in mind that Benjamin Netanyahu is leading the efforts to build as much fence around settlements as possible:

Netanyahu has no intention of supporting the disengagement plan until Sharon builds a fence around the Ariel, Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim and other enclaves.... “At the moment”, Netanyahu told his followers, “not a meter of that security barrier is being built in the direction of those enclaves. Sharon is building the fence on the Green Line, or next to it, without anybody noticing. I suggest he start taking me seriously. Only when the barrier is built, and I mean by that the route approved by the government, only after that will I get behind him. I will force him to fulfill that condition. And I’m not just saying that, not threatening. This is for real”.

Tonight comes the long-belated press conference. I wonder what demons will peer out from his eye sockets this time.

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