Thursday, December 28, 2023

Grab bag

I liked this video with a few corrections.

The video posted this afternoon and the host wants you to know he's going out on a limb here but he'll do it, he'll be the first to call US House Rep. Mike Johnson a closet case.

The first?

Tuesday (yesterday) Marcia posted "Closet case Mike Johnson wants to destroy democracy" and, guess what?  Not the first time this month that Marcia had covered this.

I spoke to her about it and she noted "African-American and lesbian?  How could I get overlooked?"  She was being sarcastic.  She also noted, "When I started doing that, you had already been doing it and C.I. was doing it way before either of us." I don't remember doing it here.  I'll take Marcia's word for it.

But I did research on whether C.I. had been doing it for some time.  Yes, she has.  In fact, I was able to go back all the way to November 29th, this is from the report she and Ava did, "Media: They tried to destroy the parade and they failed:"

Idiots like Speaker of the House Mike Johnson may say that the United States is "irredeemable" due to the fact that 1/4 of high school students label themselves as LGBTQ+ but grasp that the 1/4 of students have brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors.  That's a lot of people who support them.  Who knows, if Mike's really the closet case he seems (and the one people whisper about), he might even support them privately.

So, no, showing up today and noting that Johnson comes off like a closet case isn't being the first to do so.

Okay, next topic.  

Aren't you tired of whiners?  Especially wealthy ones?  Me too.

Denied Secret Service again! It’s not just about me. It’s another example of weaponization of government against Biden’s political opponents. They know that 30¢ of every campaign dollar goes to keeping me safe.

That's Junior, baby whiner.  Robert F. Kennedy Junior has $15 million dollars.  But he wants to soak us, tax payers, to pay for his protection?  Our money needs to go to people who need it, not millionaires.  He's such a fake ass.

Fake ass?  Yeah, let's move over to Doo-Doo DeSantis.  Sarah K. Burris reports:

Former president Donald Trump isn't shy about the fact he thinks little of Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom he frequently mocks over alleged lifts in the Florida Republican's boots

On Wednesday, the public mockery kicked into overdrive after a photo of a seated DeSantis taking part in a podcast appeared on social media.

"DeSantis IS so small," posted Republican strategist Ana Navarro-Cárdenas who appears sometimes on "The View."

"DeSantis should sit out rest of campaign," quipped former Florida attorney general candidate Daniel Uhlfelder. He went on to remark: "I love that DeSantis campaign keeps posting this video of him without his booster seat."

"Why does Ron DeSantis look like a child in that chair?" laughed Gabe Sanchez of "What Was That Show."

Little Doo-Doo.  Give him fifty more years and he might be man-size.  Maybe not. 

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, December 27, 2023.  The assault on Gaza continues, the continued assault bleeds out across the region.

Yesterday, we ended on Iraq, today we start there.  REUTERS reports, "Iraq's government condemned on Tuesday overnight U.S. air strikes on Iraqi military positions that it said killed one serviceman and wounded 18 other people, calling them a 'clear hostile act'."  The strikes took place Monday night and left at least three US service members injured.  Sarah Fortenisky (THE HILL) wrongly types that the attacks are "credited to a militia group backed by Iran."  Nope.  As we've noted repeatedly, several years ago the militias were folded into Iraqi army.  They are not "Iran-linked," they are members of the Iraqi military.  This did not happen yesterday, it happened December 19, 2016 (that's when the November 2016 law passed by Parliament was approved).  Seven years ago.  You'd think the US press would try to get the facts right.  Then again, as Ava and I just noted in "," CBS NEWS gets their 'facts' from WIKIPEDIA -- yes, that's what passes for research in the news division of a major network.

CBS NEWS will never correct their story because facts really don't matter in what passes for news which explains this nonsense from Ellie Cook (NEWSWEEK):

The Iraqi government has condemned U.S. airstrikes against Iranian-backed militants in the country as a "clear hostile act" after three U.S. personnel were injured in a drone strike.

The U.S. carried out precision strikes on three facilities in Iraq used by Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq, U.S. officials said on Monday.

No, liar, it's used used by the Iraqi military.  You're drawing a line between the militias and the Iraqi military  that no longer exists, that hasn't existed for seven years.  Do you feel good about being stupid or you proud that you lie daily?  I  have no idea but you're not instilling a sense of trust in the media among Americans when you regularly lie.

Yes, the Iraqi government is offended.  Their military was attacked.  You're only surprised by their offense if you've swallowed the lies of the US press.

The Iraqi government said that its security forces are dedicated to safeguarding diplomatic missions in the country and that Baghdad has previously defined the attacks against them as “hostile acts,” but stressed that the US airstrikes are “unacceptable” and a “violation” of the country’s sovereignty.

“The Iraqi government condemns what transpired early this morning, Tuesday, December 26, 2023, during which Iraqi military sites were targeted by the American side justifying the act as a response… This constitutes a clear hostile act. It runs counter to the pursuit of enduring mutual interests in establishing security and stability, and it opposes the declared intention of the American side to enhance relations with Iraq.,” read a statement from the government, adding that the 18 people who were injured in the attacks also included civilians.

"Iraqi military sites."  Get it?  The Iraqi government is not drawing the line that idiot reporters in the US are.  The attack was on the Iraqi military.  For seven years now the militias have been folded -- officially and legally -- into the Iraqi military.

The spillover from the ongoing slaughter of Gaza is inflaming the region and is putting the globe at the risk of another world war.  THE NATIONAL notes, "American naval forces shot down attack drones and missiles launched by Yemen's Houthis at vessels in the Red Sea, US Central Command said on Tuesday."  Bethan McKernan (GUARDIAN) adds, "Israel is engaged in a 'multi-front war', its defence minister has said, hinting at military operations across the Middle East as the war in Gaza showed new signs of a dangerous regional escalation."  Last week at THE GUARDIAN, Christopher S. Chivvis noted, "A broader war could span Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel and Iran itself. It would come at an already precarious moment in global security when the US is struggling to supply more aid to Ukraine and manage rising tension in east Asia over Taiwan and the South China Sea. Regional and global effects would be unavoidable and could last decades, plunging the US back into large-scale Middle East conflicts it can ill-afford."  Few in the US seem to be aware of that and certainly the better part of media prefers remain uninformed.

At WAR ON THE ROCKS, founder Ryan Evans shares his analysis of what's taking place:

What took America about two-and-a-half years from the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Israel accomplished in weeks. In the wake of the attack, President Joe Biden flew to Israel, where he delivered a strident message of support to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders, while cautioning them to avoid the mistakes that the United States made after the 9/11 attacks. But that advice fell on deaf ears amidst the rage, shame, and political maneuvering in the wake of Hamas’ bloody rampage. Despite America’s considerable leverage, Biden has not yet been willing to do what it takes to restrain Israel. The result has been a horror show for Palestinians in Gaza, as well as for the hostages held in Gaza and their families.

Israel’s military operation in Gaza is both strategically and morally unrecoverable. The legacy of this maximalist assault will haunt Israel for years. Its costs have cascaded around the world and acutely affect Israel’s closest partner, the United States. U.S. policy ought to reflect these realities, first by threatening to withhold further material and political support to Israel unless it announces an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to flow, complies with the laws of war should combat resume, and commits to a positive political program on Palestinian governance of Gaza. 

Yesterday on DEMOCRACY NOW!, Amy Goodman noted, "Meanwhile, human rights groups are demanding an investigation after video reportedly taken by an Israeli photojournalist appeared to show hundreds of Palestinians civilians, including children, held by Israeli soldiers in a Gaza stadium at gunpoint, stripped to their underwear, bound, and forced to sit on open ground."

Gaza remains under assault.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is now well over  20,000. NBC NEWS notes, "The vast majority of its 2.2 million people are displaced, and an estimated half face starvation amid an unfolding humanitarian crisis."  ABC NEWS notes, "In the Gaza Strip, at least 20,915 people have been killed and more than 54,900 others have been wounded by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry and the Government Media Office."  Actually, that figure has already been updated.  This morning THE GUARDIAN notes, "Israeli military action has killed 21,110 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since Israel began its campaign against Hamas on 7 October, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Hamas-controlled health ministry in the territory. The ministry reported that 55,243 people had been wounded. It said 195 people were killed and 325 injured in the last 24 hours."  In addition to the dead and the injured, there are the missing.  AP notes, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."  Max Butterworth (NBC NEWS) adds, "Satellite images captured by Maxar Technologies on Sunday reveal three of the main hospitals in Gaza from above, surrounded by the rubble of destroyed buildings after weeks of intense bombing in the region by Israeli forces."

ABC NEWS notes, "Gaza is facing another telecommunications blackout, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society. 'This presents a significant challenge for emergency medical teams in reaching the wounded and injured,' the organization warned."  REUTERS adds, "The Palestinian Red Crescent reported a complete loss of communication with its teams working in the Gaza Strip due to the disruption of telecommunications and internet services."  What's going on?  Among other things, what Rebecca ("liars try to distract us from the genocide") and Elaine ("Gaza") pointed out last night -- the Israeli government doesn't want reality getting out.  It's why the Israeli government is attempting to keep United Nations workers from getting into Gaza.

FACEBOOK is also trying to hide reality.  Doha Madani (NBC NEWS) reports:

Human Rights Watch has accused Meta of stifling pro-Palestinian content on its Instagram and Facebook platforms in what it described as a “pattern of undue removal and suppression,” in a 51-page report.

“Human Rights Watch found that the problem stems from flawed Meta policies and their inconsistent and erroneous implementation, overreliance on automated tools to moderate content, and undue government influence over content removals,” the group said today on Instagram.

Instead of reality, we gets distortion and distraction from many outlets.  Like THE DAILY MAIL which served up this nonsense:

Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been slammed for her Christmas post that called Israel a violent occupying force and likened Jesus to the Palestinians. 

Posting on Instagram on Christmas Eve, AOC shared a photo of a child lying on a pile of rubble surrounded by wooden nativity scene icons. 

Accompanying the photo, the New Yorker wrote: 'In the story of Christmas, Christ was born in modern-day Palestine under the threat of a government engaged in a massacre of innocents.'

She went on to compare Jesus being hunted by King Herod to the 'right-wing forces' currently 'violently occupying Bethlehem.'

Her post sparked a fierce backlash online with some accusing her of 'Jew hate.'

Really?  A backlash?  Because the Pope said the same thing that the U.S. House Representative did.  Did they miss this:

Pope Francis said in his Christmas messag eon Monday (December 25) that children dying in wars, including Gaza, are the "little Jesuses of today," and that Israeli strikes there were reaping an "appalling harvest" of innocent civilians.


AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in the occupied West Bank in the city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. City and church leaders canceled all Christmas festivities in the Holy Land this year to mourn the more than 20,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza. The landmark Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem created a nativity scene with the figure of baby Jesus in a keffiyeh, surrounded by rubble.

Later in the show, we’ll be joined by the church’s pastor, the Reverend Munther Isaac, but we begin by airing his Christmas sermon, which he delivered on Saturday.

REV. MUNTHER ISAAC: Christ Under the Rubble.

We are angry. We are broken. This should have been a time of joy; instead, we are mourning. We are fearful.

More than 20,000 killed. Thousands are still under the rubble. Close to 9,000 children killed in the most brutal ways, day after day. One-point-nine million displaced. Hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed. Gaza as we know it no longer exists. This is an annihilation. This is a genocide.

The world is watching. Churches are watching. The people of Gaza are sending live images of their own execution. Maybe the world cares. But it goes on.

We are asking here: Could this be our fate in Bethlehem? In Ramallah? In Jenin? Is this our destiny, too?

We are tormented by the silence of the world. Leaders of the so-called free lined up one after the other to give the green light for this genocide against a captive population. They gave the cover. Not only did they make sure to pay the bill in advance, they veiled the truth and context, providing the political cover. And yet another layer has been added: the theological cover, with the Western church stepping into the spotlight.

Our dear friends in South Africa taught us the concept of the “state theology,” defined as “the theological justification of the status quo with its racism, capitalism and totalitarianism.” It does so by misusing theological concepts and biblical texts for its own political purposes.

Here in Palestine, the Bible is weaponized against us — our very own sacred text. In our terminology in Palestine, we speak of the empire. Here we confront the theology of the empire, a disguise for superiority, supremacy, chosenness and entitlement. It is sometimes given a nice cover, using words like “mission” and “evangelism,” “fulfillment of prophecy,” and “spreading freedom and liberty.”

The theology of the empire becomes a powerful tool to mask oppression under the cloak of divine sanction. It speaks of land without people. It divides people into “us” and “them.” It dehumanizes and demonizes. The concept of land without people, again, even though they knew too well that the land had people — and not just any people, a very special people. Theology of the empire calls for emptying Gaza, just like it called for the ethnic cleansing in 1948, a “miracle,” or “a divine miracle,” as they called it. It calls for us Palestinians now to go to Egypt, maybe Jordan. Why not just the sea?

I think of the words of the disciples to Jesus when he was about to enter Samaria: “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” they said of the Samaritans. This is the theology of the empire. This is what they’re saying about us today.

This war has confirmed to us that the world does not see us as equal. Maybe it’s the color of our skins. Maybe it is because we are on the wrong side of a political equation. Even our kinship in Christ did not shield us. So they say if it takes killing 100 Palestinians to get a single “Hamas militant,” then so be it. We are not humans in their eyes. But in God’s eyes, no one can tell us that.

The hypocrisy and racism of the Western world is transparent and appalling. They always take the word of Palestinians with suspicion and qualification. No, we’re not treated equally. Yet, on the other side, despite a clear track record of misinformation, lies, their words are almost always deemed infallible.

To our European friends: I never ever want to hear you lecture us on human rights or international law again. And I mean this. We are not white, I guess. It does not apply to us, according to your own logic.

In this war, the many Christians in the Western world made sure the empire has the theology needed. It is thus self-defense, we were told. And I continue to ask: How is the killing of 9,000 children self-defense? How is the displacement of 1.9 million Palestinians self-defense?

In the shadow of the empire, they turned the colonizer into the victim, and the colonized into the aggressor. Have we forgotten — have we forgotten that the state they talk to, that that state was built on the ruins of the towns and villages of those very same Gazans? Have they forgot that?

We are outraged by the complicity of the church. Let it be clear, friends: Silence is complicity. And empty calls for peace without a ceasefire and end to occupation, and the shallow words of empathy without direct action, all under the banner of complicity.

So here is my message: Gaza today has become the moral compass of the world. Gaza was hell before October 7th, and the world was silent. Should we be surprised at their silence now?

If you are not appalled by what is happening in Gaza, if you are not shaken to your core, there is something wrong with your humanity. And if we, as Christians, are not outraged by the genocide, by the weaponization of the Bible to justify it, there is something wrong with our Christian witness, and we are compromising the credibility of our gospel message.

If you fail to call this a genocide, it is on you. It is a sin and a darkness you willingly embrace. Some have not even called for a ceasefire. I’m talking about churches. I feel sorry for you.

We will be OK. Despite the immense blow we have endured, we, the Palestinians, will recover. We will rise. We will stand up again from the midst of destruction, as we have always done as Palestinians, although this is by far maybe the biggest blow we have received in a long time. But we will be OK.

But for those who are complicit, I feel sorry for you. Will you ever recover from this? Your charity and your words of shock after the genocide won’t make a difference. And I know these words of shocks are coming. And I know people will give generously for charity. But your words won’t make a difference. Words of regret won’t suffice for you. And let me say it: We will not accept your apology after the genocide. What has been done has been done. I want you to look at the mirror and ask, “Where was I when Gaza was going through a genocide?” …

In these last two months, the psalms of lament have become a precious companion to us. We cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Gaza? Why do you hide your face from Gaza?”

In our pain, anguish and lament, we have searched for God and found him under the rubble in Gaza. Jesus himself became the victim of the very same violence of the empire when he was in our land. He was tortured, crucified. He bled out as others watched. He was killed and cried out in pain, “My God, where are you?”

In Gaza today, God is under the rubble.

And in this Christmas season, as we search for Jesus, he is not to be found on the side of Rome, but our side of the wall. He’s in a cave, with a simple family, an occupied family. He’s vulnerable, barely and miraculously surviving a massacre himself. He’s among the refugees, among a refugee family. This is where Jesus is to be found today.

If Jesus were to be born today, he would be born under the rubble in Gaza. When we glorify pride and richness, Jesus is under the rubble. When we rely on power, might and weapons, Jesus is under the rubble. When we justify, rationalize and theologize the bombing of children, Jesus is under the rubble.

Jesus is under the rubble. This is his manger. He is at home with the marginalized, the suffering, the oppressed and the displaced. This is his manger.

And I have been looking and contemplating on this iconic image. God with us precisely in this way, this is the incarnation — messy, bloody, poverty. This is the incarnation.

And this child is our hope and inspiration. We look and see him in every child killed and pulled from under the rubble. While the world continues to reject the children of Gaza, Jesus says, “Just as you did to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.” “You did it to me.” Jesus not only calls them his own, he is them. He is the children of Gaza.

We look at the holy family and see them in every family displaced and wandering, now homeless in despair. While the world discusses the fate of the people of Gaza as if they are unwanted boxes in a garage, God in the Christmas narrative shares their fate. He walks with them and calls them his own.

So this manger is about resilience. It’s about sumud. And the resilience of Jesus is in his meekness, is in his weakness, is in his vulnerability. The majesty of the incarnation lies in its solidarity with the marginalized. Resilience because this is very same child who rose up from the midst of pain, destruction, darkness and death to challenge empires, to speak truth to power and deliver an everlasting victory over death and darkness. This very same child accomplished this.

This is Christmas today in Palestine, and this is the Christmas message. Christmas is not about Santas. It’s not about trees and gifts and lights. My goodness, how we have twisted the meaning of Christmas. How we have commercialized Christmas. I was, by the way, in the U.S.A. last month, the first Monday after Thanksgiving, and I was amazed by the amount of Christmas decorations and lights and all the commercial goods. And I couldn’t help but think: They send us bombs, while celebrating Christmas in their lands. They sing about the prince of peace in their land, while playing the drum of war in our land.

Christmas in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, is this manger. This is our message to the world today. It is a gospel message. It is a true and authentic Christmas message about the God who did not stay silent but said his word, and his word was Jesus. Born among the occupied and marginalized, he is in solidarity with us in our pain and brokenness.

This message is our message to the world today, and it is simply this: This genocide must stop now. Why don’t we repeat it? Stop this genocide now. Can you say it with me? Stop this genocide —

CONGREGATION: Stop this genocide now.

REV. MUNTHER ISAAC: Let’s say it one more time. Stop this genocide —

CONGREGATION: Stop this genocide now.

REV. MUNTHER ISAAC: This is our call. This is our plea. This is our prayer. Hear, O God. Amen.

AMY GOODMAN: The Reverend Munther Isaac, the pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, delivering his Christmas sermon on Saturday. He titled it “Christ in the Rubble.” Coming up, Reverend Isaac will join us from Bethlehem in occupied West Bank. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Song to the World,” a version of the popular Christmas song “Little Drummer Boy” sung by the Ramallah Friends School in the West Bank. The three Palestinian college students who were shot in Burlington, Vermont, last month are graduates of the Ramallah Friends School and met there in the first grade. The three students who were shot now go to Haverford, Trinity and Brown in the United States. In the video shared by the school, current students sing in Arabic with English subtitles. The school wrote, “Our hearts come together in prayer for the safety of the children in Gaza. May our shared prayers echo for peace and justice, weaving a tapestry of hope that goes beyond borders, embracing the shared humanity we all hold dear.”

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman in New York, with Juan González in Chicago.

“Christ in the Rubble.” That was the name of the Christmas sermon we just heard from the Reverend Munther Isaac, the pastor of the landmark Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem. Reverend Isaac’s church gained international attention for creating a nativity scene with the figure of baby Jesus in a keffiyeh, surrounded by rubble.

Over the Christmas weekend, Israel carried out raids across the West Bank, including in Bethlehem, in Jenin, Nablus, Jericho and Ramallah. The Reverend Munther Isaac joins us from Bethlehem, where Christmas festivities were canceled this year to mourn the more than 20,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza.

Reverend, welcome to Democracy Now! I wish I could wish you happy holidays, but they are far from happy this year. I’m wondering if you can talk about the message we just heard. It was clear it was not just for your congregation in Bethlehem, not just for the Occupied Territories and Israel, but you were really sending out a message to the world, and particularly talking about the United States. Why you feel where we are talking to you from, where you just recently were, is so important when it comes to the almost 21,000 Palestinians dead since October 7th, since the Hamas attack on Israel?

REV. MUNTHER ISAAC: Yeah. Good morning. Thank you for having me.

This was a service we held the day before Christmas for Gaza, and it was Jesus under the rubble, from Bethlehem to the world. And as I said in the introduction, we are broken, as Palestinians, by the magnitude, the horrific killing of our people in Gaza. But I also wanted to speak not just for the people of Gaza, for all Palestinians, who are appalled by the silence of the world and the dehumanization that has been taking place of the Palestinian people, especially those in Gaza, the dehumanization that allows such atrocities to take place with the world watching, and with Gazans themselves filming their own execution.

We are really tired and troubled from seeing, day after day after day, images of children and families being pulled from under the rubble. We can’t understand how the world is OK with this. And as a pastor who regularly speaks with churches around the world, I can’t understand how we can preach the gospel of love and justice, while ignoring and, in some cases, justifying what is happening in Gaza. It’s unfathomable to me and to many Palestinians.

And as such, I felt the need to deliver such a message with very direct and clear language. This is not the time for soft diplomacy, especially with the genocide still happening day after day after day. And I’m grateful for those who enabled us to broadcast this service to the world. And I am grateful that it is reaching. It’s not that we’re going to stop what’s happening in Gaza. I wish we could. We’re trying all we can through messaging and lobbying. But I hope that people will feel the weight of responsibility that they have. And I’m talking about not just Western government. Many churches, they have enabled what is happening right now in Gaza. And I felt we need to send this message.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Reverend Isaac, you mentioned that you were recently in the United States. You went to Washington, D.C., with a group of Christian leaders from Bethlehem. You spoke to congressional leaders. And you also delivered a message to the White House — a letter to the White House. What was your sense of how the political leaders in this country are regarding what’s going on there right now in the — with the Israeli attacks on Gaza?

REV. MUNTHER ISAAC: We received a mixed reaction. But I left really depressed. And clearly, back then, we saw the intention and that as if everybody has given in to the idea this war is going to last for long.

I left with several impressions. A lot of it has to do with how unwilling to even have a good conversation some congressmen — I’m talking about their staff — are willing, you know, to do. I mean, you share from the heart of our suffering and pain, and then you just get the response, “Well, Congressman so-and-so or Senator so-and-so has made it clear that this war wants to continue.” And they speak with so much distance from the fact and also almost with lack of empathy whatsoever.

When we met in the State Department and the White House, to be honest, you know, they understand the details of what’s happening. When I told them that this war is definitely not bringing any results other than killing innocent people, you know, they seemed to agree. But they seemed to have, as I said, given in to the idea that this war must continue. And I was — you know, I challenged them: “How do you allow such a government in Israel, such leaders, to drive you into committing a genocide?” I can’t understand it, especially with some of the, quote-unquote, “ideals” many of these American politicians keep bragging about or calling for. Yet when it comes to the Palestinians, it seems no one is willing to extend these human rights and international principles to us.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you lay out the significance of Palestine for the Christian faith? It’s not only the birthplace of Christianity, but also the site of several key events described in the Old and New Testaments.

REV. MUNTHER ISAAC: Yeah, Palestine is where it all started. And in addition to the sites themselves that church fathers have called the fifth gospel, meaning that the geography speaks about what happened here over the years, I think we have to realize that Palestine also hosts the oldest Christian tradition in the world. Christianity started here and never ceased to exist here. So, not only is this the land where it all started, this is the land that continued to witness nonstop and give the Christian message.

We always emphasize that Palestine without the witness of its people means nothing. And I hate to see Palestine one day turned into a museum of holy sites for these Western pilgrims who come and visit only interested in certain sites that relate to the Scriptures, without acknowledging the presence of people, without acknowledging the presence of a church that has long carried the Christian witness in Palestine for 2,000 years. But, sadly, we continue to be ignored.

And I think even Palestine, apart from being the destination for pilgrimage, is somehow — you know, people view the biblical land as somehow a mythical land, a land from another universe. You know, we just celebrated Christmas, and millions sang about Bethlehem and read about Bethlehem. I wonder if they know that Bethlehem is a real city, in Palestine, with people, with a long cry for justice. But it seems that, you know, for some reason, people don’t make that connection and are not as much concerned with the plight of Palestinian Christians and even Middle Eastern Christians.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Isaac, can you describe for us — half of our audience is television; they see the nativity scene. Half is radio; they cannot see it. Can you describe the nativity scene that was right next to you as you delivered your Christmas sermon? Describe it in detail and why you chose to do this this year, as Christmas celebrations were canceled in your city of Bethlehem.

REV. MUNTHER ISAAC: So, we created this nativity scene earlier this month, in the beginning of the Advent season, from rubble, bricks, that resemble a destroyed house. So it’s a pile of bricks that resemble a house that was bombed. And on top of it, surrounded by bricks, we had baby Jesus. And the characters in the — usually in the manger, the shepherds and the magis, are all outside, surrounding the rubble, watching in as if they’re looking for any sign of life, looking for Jesus. And we’re sending a message that Jesus is under the rubble.

We created it because this is what Christmas looks like in Palestine today. But we created it because, you know, there is a strong message we wanted to send from it, which is that in a time when the world continues to justify and rationalize the killing of our children, we see the image of Jesus in every child pulled from under the rubble.

These have been very difficult times for us as Palestinians. We ask difficult questions, including: Where is God in the midst of suffering? And I’ve been saying God is under the rubble. God is with those who suffer. God suffers with us. So, with Christmas coming, the connection to me was natural: Jesus as a baby who survived a massacre, Jesus as a baby who became a refugee with his family to Egypt, identifies with us in our suffering. He was born with the marginalized. So the connection was natural.

And we created this manger to send a message to the world: This is what Christmas means to us as Palestinians. It was a message to our people. I know that everyone saw it in the international media, and it resonated with — I mean, it created maybe a shock to many. But for the Palestinians, it sent a very strong message. And many, many Palestinians reached out to us, to our church and to myself, thanking us for explaining the true meaning of Christmas, for sending a message of comfort and hope in the midst of very, very difficult times.

And so I spoke even in my sermon that this manger somehow resembles our resilience as Palestinians. From the midst of destruction, we will rise. And I’m convinced of that. It sounds so dark right now. We’re traumatized. I mean, honestly, we’re traumatized as a people. And I can’t even think of the people of Gaza. But I know that we will rise.

And I’m pleased that this manger was able to bring a small sense of hope to our people, but that it also sent a powerful message to the world about the reality in Palestine. This is what Christmas is in Palestine: displaced families, destroyed homes and children under the rubble.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Munther Isaac, I want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian Christian theologian, pastor at the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem. He titled his Christmas sermon “Christ in the Rubble: A Liturgy of Lament.”

When we come back, we look at how a growing number of U.S. labor unions are calling for a Gaza ceasefire. Back in a minute.

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