When and How Did Evangelicals Become Zionists?: Thomas R. Getman

Delivered to The Israel Lobby and American Policy 2018 conference March 2, 2018 at the National Press Club

The Israel Lobby and American Policy conference was solely sponsored by the American Educational Trust, publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep). This is a rush transcript.

Dale Sprusansky: Our next speaker is discussing the topic of Christian Zionism. For those of you who don’t know, Christian Zionism is the belief that the establishment of the modern state of Israel in the Holy Land is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and thus deserves unrelenting support from Christians. When President Donald Trump announced in December his intention to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, many attributed his decision to the power of Christian Zionists, who are a key Trump constituency and have a powerful and devoted member in Vice President Mike Pence. But just how powerful the Christian Zionists are is up for debate, and we will address that today.

There are also theological questions about Christian Zionism and the extent to which it is a legitimate interpretation of scripture and the extent to which it is heretical. I like that word. Finally, questions as to how it started, where is it going, and who is challenging the evangelical community. 

To discuss this today, we have Thomas Getman. He is a partner in a private consulting group that specializes in international, United Nations, and nongovernmental organization affairs. He got his start in South Africa, in fighting for justice there, and later discovered the Palestine issue. He has worked primarily, as many of you know, for World Vision, where he worked continuously for Palestinian issues in the West Bank and Gaza.

With that, I would like to introduce him to discuss Christian Zionism.

Thomas Getman: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks to the wonderful organization of our sponsoring groups and for your being here to discuss these important issues with us.

As the resident theologian today, I must tell you that, particularly this morning, I was reminded that we operate within a very secular climate – but we also operate in an aura of the creation ordinances. And sometimes that’s forgotten. I cut my eyeteeth on human rights in the Middle East because the likes of [Archbishop Desmond] Tutu and [Rev. Allan] Boesak and [Rev.] Beyers Naudé and people like that said to me, if I really wanted to prove my bona fides in terms of human rights, I should turn my eyes to the Palestinians. I really am grateful for that, because I was, truth be told, a complicit evangelical Zionist – like the polling data today showed – but unwittingly. I didn’t even know what it meant.

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William Astore on Ending America’s Cult of the Warrior-Hero

Every now and again I look over my dad’s letters from World War II. He was attached to an armored headquarters company that didn’t go overseas, but he had friends who did serve in Europe during and after the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944. Also, he had two brothers, one who served in Europe attached to a quartermaster (logistics) company in the Army, the other who served in the Pacific as a Marine.

Reading my dad’s letters and those from his friends and brothers, you get a sense of the costs of war. They mention friends who’ve been killed or wounded in action; for example, a soldier who lost both his legs when his tank ran over a mine. (His fellow soldiers took up a collection for him.) They talk about strange things they’ve seen overseas, e.g. German buzz bombs or V-1 rockets, a crude version of today’s cruise missiles. They look forward to furloughs and trips to cities such as Paris. They talk about bad weather: cold, snow, mud. They talk about women (my dad’s brother, Gino, met a Belgian girl that he wanted to marry, but it was not to be). But perhaps most of all, they look forward to the war’s end and express a universal desire to ditch the military for civilian life.

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Four Hours in My Lai (Documentary)

Four Hours in My Lai is a 1989 television documentary made by Yorkshire Television concerning the 1968 My Lai Massacre by the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. The film includes interviews with soldiers at the massacre, and the later trials of those involved. The film won an International Emmy Award for Best Documentary.

The documentary tells the story of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade, from their training through deployment in South Vietnam. It interviews former U.S. servicemen and massacre survivors; both describe the background of the area near the village of My Lai. The documentary also shows photographs of U.S. servicemen torturing civilians before the massacre and tells of U.S. servicemen raping South Vietnamese women and children prior to the massacre. After the massacre, the trials of the soldiers at My Lai are examined. The documentary also aired on the PBS series Frontline as “Remember My Lai”.

Watch on YouTube:

Ali Abunimah: Israel Versus Russian Media Influence

Delivered to The Israel Lobby and American Policy 2018 conference March 2, 2018 at the National Press Club

The Israel Lobby and American Policy conference was solely sponsored by the American Educational Trust, publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep). This is a rush transcript.

Grant Smith: Our next speaker is Ali Abunimah. He’s been an active part of the movement for justice in Palestine for 20 years. He’s a journalist and the co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, which is a widely acclaimed publication. It’s a non-profit independent online publication focusing on Palestine.

A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Chicago, he is a frequent speaker on the Middle East, contributing regularly to numerous publications. He is the recipient of the 2013 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship.

If you’re a reader of The Electronic Intifada or get the digest via e-mail, it quickly becomes quite obvious that covering censorship, debunking disinformation, and providing insights that are available nowhere else is really what it’s all about.

He’s the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and The Battle for Justice in Palestine. He will be available to sign both during the reception.

Before he comes up, I just want to remind you again, please send up the question cards. We’ll categorize them and get through them efficiently. And that reception is going to be a very, very big deal this year, so make sure you don’t just jump in the car and run away at 5 o’clock. You need to stay for the reception. So please welcome Ali Abunimah.

Ali Abunimah: Thank you. All right. Are you going to run that timer with 18 minutes on it? I received a letter several weeks ago from Grant informing me that I had 18 minutes to speak. I had never seen such a precise organization. Now it’s running. It’s very intimidating. Right. 

Well, I’m delighted to be here and among so many people who have been working hundreds of years, collectively – maybe thousands of years – on this issue, and a real depth of knowledge and commitment. I’m very glad to be among you.

The title of the talk is really just to let me kind of have a starting point to say whatever I want. But of course it’s a good starting point, because here in Washington, a city I very rarely travel to, Russiagate is all the rage. If you turn on the television or look at The New York Times or MSNBC or CNN, that’s all they talk about. Of course, now, more than a year into the Russiagate hysteria, there’s nothing to the central narrative that there was collusion between Donald Trump and his team and Russia to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. I think Hillary Clinton was very capable – in fact, I don’t want to take credit away from her – she was entirely capable of losing that election on her own.

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End the US Enabling of Saudi War Crimes in Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Zaid Jilani reports that the U.S. military has no idea what missions are carried out in Yemen by the coalition planes that they refuel:

In a surprising admission on Tuesday, the head of U.S. Central Command – which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia – admitted that the Pentagon doesn’t know a whole lot about the Saudi airstrikes in Yemen that the United States is supporting through intelligence, munitions, and refueling.

U.S. CENTCOM Cmdr. Gen. Joseph Votel made the admission in response to questions from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“General Votel, does CENTCOM track the purpose of the missions it is refueling? In other words, where a U.S.-refueled aircraft is going, what targets it strikes, and the result of the mission?” Warren asked.

“Senator, we do not,” Votel replied.

If the U.S. military doesn’t track what the coalition planes do after they are refueled, it can’t honestly claim that it isn’t aiding and abetting coalition violations of international law. They don’t know what the coalition planes they refuel do later on, and perhaps they don’t want to know. If the U.S. isn’t tracking how our assistance is used, it isn’t credible to say that our government is using that assistance to change the coalition’s conduct of the war for the better. The U.S. is blindly enabling indiscriminate coalition bombing without making any effort to understand the effects of our support.

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Corrected: Gina Haspel Did Not Torture Zubaydah, Apparently

Not only did the new CIA Director personally oversee the torture of Abu Zubaydah, she did so in order to lie you and your mom into supporting the aggressive war against Iraq.

From David Rose’s report “Tortured Reasoning“:

Some of what he did say was leaked by the administration: for example, the claim that bin Laden and his ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [Zarqawi was not an ally of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden -editor] were working directly with Saddam Hussein to destabilize the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. There was much more, says the analyst who worked at the Pentagon: “I first saw the reports soon after Abu Zubaydah’s capture. There was a lot of stuff about the nuts and bolts of al-Qaeda’s supposed relationship with the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The intelligence community was lapping this up, and so was the administration, obviously. Abu Zubaydah was saying Iraq and al-Qaeda had an operational relationship. It was everything the administration hoped it would be.”

Within the administration, Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation was “an important chapter,” the second analyst says: overall, his interrogation “product” was deemed to be more significant than the claims made by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, another al-Qaeda captive, who in early 2002 was tortured in Egypt at the C.I.A.’s behest. After all, Abu Zubaydah was being interviewed by Americans. Like the former Pentagon official, this official had no idea that Abu Zubaydah had been tortured.

“As soon as I learned that the reports had come from torture, once my anger had subsided I understood the damage it had done,” the Pentagon analyst says. “I was so angry, knowing that the higher-ups in the administration knew he was tortured, and that the information he was giving up was tainted by the torture, and that it became one reason to attack Iraq.”

Says here Zubaydah wasn’t moved to the black site in Poland until late 2002. Not that I know she wasn’t there too, but “soon after Zubaydah’s capture” means on Haspel’s watch in Thailand it seems fair to conclude.

By the way, Zubaydah was not even a member of al Qaeda at all, much less their “Number 3 Lieutenant.”

Update: Pro Publica has completely retracted their story claiming that Gina Haspel was in charge of the torture dungeon in Thailand at the time Abu Zubaydah was held there.

He was still tortured into lying us into war with Iraq, but not by her, apparently.