Letter From USA In Spirit With Humanity
By Eileen Fleming
06 July, 2009
"While there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."-Eugene V. Debs
Since the pirate-frogmen Israeli Forces kidnapped the FreeGaza21 at gunpoint and imprisoned them all, many statements and letters from Israeli Prisons have voiced the spirit of and for Humanity.
The altruistic, courageous, righteously angry, FreeGaza21 inspired me to re-read "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" a scalding critique of American Christianity that Reverend Martin Luther King addressed to his "Dear Fellow Clergymen" who had abandoned him.
I have taken a few liberties with King's masterpiece by adding and negating some words to address the ongoing turmoil in Israel Palestine in light of the FreeGaza21.
My target audience are my sisters and brothers in Christ, in particular those that fill the pews every Sunday but have not yet connected to JC in the poor, oppressed, occupied, widows, orphans, refugees, prisoners and all other indigenous people who endure under brutal military occupations that are funded by USA tax dollars.
The misery in the so called Holy Land is also ideologically supported by legions of misinformed, uninformed apathetic American Christians who have neglected to honor what Jesus said was non-negotiable-that is if you really love him- you must and will forgive, pray for, do good towards your enemies and try to be a peacemaker [reconciler] for they are the daughters and sons of the Lord.
My spin on King:
I am on the internet because injustice can be expressed here while the net is still neutral. I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in comfort and not be concerned about what happens in Israel Palestine.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives in the world can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; examining one's motives and acting on conscience with direct action.
Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.
Too long has The Peace Process been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. We must come to see that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."
There are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.
Segregation [Translates to Apartheid in Afrikaner] distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things.
Hence segregation; apartheid, conscription and military occupation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound; it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness?
An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.
One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
Everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and it was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany.
Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever and if repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. [End of Letter from Birmingham Jail]
Our times call for extreme expressions of creative NONVIOLENCE and the FREE GAZA Movement is of its time.
In August 2008, the FREE GAZA Movement docked their first –and the very first boat in the Gaza port in 41 years. The most recent-the Spirit of HUMANITY is an international incident that the USA media and government have failed to address as of this writing.
"Never doubt that a few, thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead
The persistence of internationals, Israelis and Palestinians who with a humble flotilla of wooden boats and small yachts have sailed only in international waters to reach Gaza and bring the message that many in the world are outraged at politicians with eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear and hearts of stone who allow only small trickles of humanitarian aid and building supplies into Gaza, which was devastated by Israeli forces six months ago and it remains in the same sorry state of destruction today.
Many call the FREE GAZA activists extremists and radicals. They are. So were the founders of the United States of America.
"Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all...and passionate attachments for others should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave...a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils."-George Washington's Farewell Address – 1796
"Soon after I had published the pamphlet "Common Sense" [on Feb. 14, 1776] in America, I saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion... The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion."-Tom Paine
On her first FREE GAZA trip, Cynthia McKinney, former Georgia Congresswoman sailed on the Dignity when it was rammed three times by the Israeli navy on December 30, 2008.
On June 30, 2009, Cynthia was on board the Spirit of Humanity and while Israeli pirate-frogmen surrounded her boat she said, "This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip. President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that’s exactly what we tried to do. We're asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey.”
Fourteen FreeGaza21 remain in Israeli jails because they have refused to sign a false statement that they were in Israeli waters. Mairead Maguire, Nobel laureate is on a fast to end the siege and to raise awareness of the 11,000 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel-many children under sixteen years old.
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, King reminded his fellow clergymen that Jesus was an extremist for love who taught his follower's to "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."
The Hebrew prophet Amos was an extremist for justice, "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream."
The world is fueled by fundamentalism and pulled to change by extremism.
Our only dilemma is what will we be extremists for?
Hate or love?
God or State?
The preservation of injustice or the extension of justice which equates to equal human rights for all.
The clinging to the status quo is a form of willfully ignorant and cold hearted extremism.
Reverend King wrote from his jail cell:
Few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. Too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.
There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."'
Small in number, they were big in commitment and by their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.
If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twenty-first century.
King wondered if organized religion was too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world. He knew that "Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death."
We who claim to be Christian are called to love our enemies and that the daughters and sons of God are the peacemakers. The last words Jesus spoke to his follower's before his martyrdom was to "put down the sword" and his first words after his resurrection was "peace be with you." [Read more... http://www.wearewideawake.org/index.php?
During one of my six trips to occupied Palestine since 2005, Mohammad Alatar, film producer of “The Iron Wall” addressed my group on an Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions tour through Jerusalem and to the village of Anata and the Shufat refugee camp.
We traveled through the very area where the prophet Jeremiah in the 6th century B.C. critiqued the conflict in the Mid East, which was already old news: “I hear violence and destruction in the city, sickness and wounds are all I see.” [Jeremiah 6:7]
After we broke bread and ate a typical Palestinian feast prepared by the Arabiya family in the Arabyia Peace Center, Mohammad Alatar said, “I am a Muslim Palestinian American and when my son asked me who my hero was I took three days to think about it. I told him my hero is Jesus, because he took a stand and he died for it. What really needs to be done is for the churches to be like Jesus; to challenge the Israeli occupation and address the apartheid practices as moral issues. Even if every church divested and boycotted Israel it would not harm Israel. After the USA and Russia, Israel is the third largest arms exporter in the world. It is a moral issue that the churches must address.”
While he lived the FBI placed wiretaps on Reverend King's home and office phones and bugged his hotel rooms. By 1967, King had become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of U.S. foreign policy which he deemed militaristic. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 [a year to the day before he was murdered] King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea." –Rev. MLK
In 1986 the federal government 'honored' King with a national holiday.
What a fine day it will be, when America and her Churches honor the Spirit of HUMANITY.
Free Gaza Palestine!
Free Vanunu NOW!
Eileen Fleming, A Feature Correspondent for The Palestine Telegraph and Arabisto.com
Founder of http://www.wearewideawake.org/
Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory"
Producer "30 Minutes With Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu"