What Makes America Great

U.S. Internment Camp for Japanese-Americans.

U.S. Internment Camp for Japanese-Americans.

Seventy-five years ago, on February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt authorized the deportation and incarceration of Japanese-Americans with Executive Order 9066. This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire West Coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona. Nearly 130,000 mainland Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated from their West Coast homes during the spring of 1942. No civilians were found to be agents of espionage.

There has been a spike in hate speech since the November elections, which has liberated people to say in public what was not acceptable before the campaign. [Read more…]

Anti-Trump Rallies

Protest Poster: "First they came for ..."

Protest Poster: “First they came for …”

Editor’s Note – Events are moving quickly. This initial story will be expanded on over time.

At Philadelphia International Airport and locations throughout the U.S., on Saturday and Sunday thousands of protestors demonstrated against President Trump’s ban on immigrants. There were frequent developments in Washington and the rest of the country as well.

 

Time Line, in Reverse Order

 

Tuesday, January 31st

Tuesday, 8 pm: Trump scheduled to announce his pick for the Supreme Court. This justice could be the crucial vote that decides the legality of Trump’s immigration ban.

Tuesday, Morning/Afternoon: Senate Democrats spoke at length about former Acting Attorney General Sally Yate’s courage in defying Trump. The Republican majority allowed them to speak, even though it delayed the vote to confirm Jeff Sessions as the new Attorney General. That vote is expected to take place on Wednesday, February 1.

Monday, January 30

Monday, Late evening: Yates is replaced by Dana Boente, who immediately reversed her directive. Meanwhile, Yates is still packing up her office after a 27 year career with the Justice Department.

Monday 9 pm: Attorney General Sally Yates has been fired for refusing to defend the ban. Earlier she had sent a letter to her staff explaining the she thought the ban was illegal and unjust. She wrote that the Justice Department would not defend the ban in court. [Read more…]

Trump Supporter Cites Japanese Internment Camps As “Precedent” For Muslim Registry

Carl Higbie, a retired U.S. Navy Seal, and Aaron Klein, the Jerusalem bureau chief of the “alt-right” Breitbart News, were identified in emails to the press as being able to give interviews on behalf of Stephen Bannon, President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial chief adviser and former head of Breitbart. The emails were sent by publicist Maria Sliwa, who claims not to be working for Bannon. While it’s not clear who hired Sliwa, she is attempting to mitigate the negative media coverage depicting Bannon as a racist and an anti-Semite, according to The Wrap.

While Higbie was being identified as an interview source for the press, he was making his own negative headlines. During an interview with Megyn Kelly on the November 16th edition of Fox News’ “The Kelly File,” Higbie cited the Japanese internment camps during World War II as precedent for creating a registry for immigrants coming into the United States from Muslim countries. In response to Kelly’s comment that she had been reading that Trump’s advisers are considering drafting a proposal for a registry, Higbie said:

Yeah, and to be perfectly honest, it is legal. They say it will hold constitutional muster. I know the ACLU is gonna challenge it, but I think it’ll pass, and we’ve done it with Iran back — back a while ago. We did it during World War II with Japanese, which, you know, call it what you will, maybe —

In the following exchange, Kelly pressed Higbie on using the example of Japanese internment:

KELLY: Come on. You’re not — you’re not proposing we go back to the days of internment camps, I hope.

HIGBIE: No, no, no. I’m not proposing that at all, Megyn, but what I am saying is we need to protect America from —

KELLY: You know better than to suggest that. I mean, that’s the kind of stuff that gets people scared, Carl.

HIGBIE: Right, but it’s — I’m just saying there is precedent for it, and I’m not saying I agree with it, but in this case I absolutely believe that a regional based —

KELLY: You can’t be citing Japanese internment camps as precedent for anything the president-elect is gonna do.

HIGBIE: Look, the president needs to protect America first, and if that means having people that are not protected under our Constitution have some sort of registry so we can understand, until we can identify the true threat and where it’s coming from, I support it.

Backlash to Higbie’s comments has already started. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) released a statement calling on Trump to “denounce the comments” and pointing out the dark history of Japanese-American internment:

The imprisonment of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II, including my parents and grandparents, is widely understood to be one of the darkest chapters in American history. More than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were accused of no crimes and received no trial before being relocated, interned, and stripped of their possessions. I am horrified that people connected to the incoming Administration are using my family’s experience as a precedent for what President-elect Trump could do.

Religious Conviction and Reality


Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat during the Oslo Accords in 1993

— by Dr. Alon Ben-Meir

The most puzzling aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be that after 65 years of violence, enmity and suffering, it remains unresolved when coexistence is inevitable and a two-state solution remains the only viable option. The Arab-Israeli conflict is generally viewed as a political and territorial conflict, yet the underlying religious component has created a certain mindset that further complicates the struggle and adds to its intransigence. Both Jews and Muslims alike have mystified the struggle, projecting cosmic significance and introducing national and religious pride into the equation.

More after the jump.
The Israeli’s own religious narrative is one that is based on the biblical connection of the Jewish people to the land of their forefathers. As Prime Minister Netanyahu reminded the US Congress in his May 24, 2011 address, “This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace.”

Most Israelis believe that no distortion of history can deny the religious component that has created a bond, spanning thousands of years, between the Jewish people and the biblical Jewish land. Since the ancient Hebrews are not historically the same thing as Jews — not culturally and not even religiously — the Hebraic tradition of 3000 years ago, having little similarity to modern Jewry, hardly means an inheritance in land for Jews. That said, and with religious faith requiring no evidence, for many Israelis it is simply unacceptable to completely relinquish control of the West Bank, known in ancient times as the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria.

From that perspective, it is inconceivable in particular for them to surrender their holiest shrine, especially the Wailing Wall (the outer wall of the Second Temple), allowing Jerusalem to be governed or fall under the jurisdiction of any other peoples or an international governing body. As a result, despite all Israelis happily accepting the 1947 UN partition plan, they have always held onto the dream of eventually repossessing all of Jerusalem, particularly the Old City.


Residents protest against the evacuation of the Israeli community Kfar Darom

This unique attachment and affinity to the holy city, which has for millennia symbolized the Jewish sense of redemption, created a powerful motivation to capture the city when it came within their grasp during the Six Day War in 1967. The fall of Jerusalem in the wake of the war remains an unmatched event and came to symbolize Jewish absolution. This historic development created a renewed awakening that vindicated the religious premise which was embedded in the Jewish psyche for centuries. The realization of what was believed to be a far-fetched dream under the most difficult of circumstances was now seen as the work of the Almighty that no force can alter. Considered in this light, we can understand or at least provide a framework for the zeal of those who are committed to keeping all of Jerusalem and much, if not all, of the West Bank under Israeli jurisdiction — they see that as the fulfillment not only of God’s promise but God’s very will.

What further explains the mindset of these believers is that no man can reason to the contrary of God’s plan. Regardless of the facts on the ground (the existence of the Palestinians and their claim to East Jerusalem), the Jews in and outside Israel consider it their obligation to do everything in their power to fulfill God’s will, which transcends humanity’s narrow perception of reality. This explains the position of many Israeli Jews who see no wrongdoing in building new and expanding existing settlements in the West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem.

From the settlers’ perspective, they are merely fulfilling what God has ordained; for the Jews to earn the right to hold onto Jerusalem they must prove that they are worthy to repossess it, even if this includes the suppression of the Palestinians and defiance of the international community. For these reasons, regardless of how powerful the resistance of Palestinians, other Arab and Muslim states, and much of the international community to the Israeli position, the religious mandate trumps any and all opposition: the settlers view themselves as pursuing God’s mission and must demonstrate unshakable resolve, tenacity and willingness to make any sacrifice necessary before He once again grants them the Promised Land.

With the recapture of Jerusalem and control asserted over the West Bank, what seemed to be destined to remain only a pipe-dream was suddenly transformed into a reality. This development was then strengthened by concerted efforts towards creating permanent anchors on the ground through building settlements and infrastructure needed to augment continuity. These efforts led to the gradual galvanization of intergroup factions, especially the settlement movement, which has gained tremendous political sway and uses it effectively to block any policy or action on the ground that could compromise the settlement enterprise. Indeed, successive Israeli governments, regardless of their ideological leaning, have bent to the settlers’ whims.

The expansion of the settlements, along with the prospect of building the young Jewish state on the entire mythological ancient homeland, has created this particular and most powerful psychological disposition. As this religious mindset has become even further embedded in the Israeli psyche, the nearly decisive power of the settlement movement has made it increasingly difficult to contemplate a return to the 1967 borders, with or without some land swaps.

Due to religious convictions tied to Islam’s third holiest shrines in Jerusalem — the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, or “Haram al-Sharif” — Muslim leaders, like their Jewish counterparts, will not compromise on Jerusalem or on recovering much of the West Bank’s land. Many Muslim scholars believe that Muhammad made his Journey from Mecca to the Al-Aqsa Masjid (literally, “furthest mosque”) in Jerusalem before he ascended to heaven. Although the Al-Aqsa Mosque was built long after the death of the prophet, Surah 17:1 states that Mohammad visited the site where the Al-Aqsa Mosque was subsequently erected. This belief is certainly not limited to the Palestinians but shared by all Muslims, further complicating any solution to the future of Jerusalem. Like the Israelis, the Palestinians too have shown absolutely no flexibility in this regard.

One other difficulty that adds to the psychological impediment in relation to Jerusalem is the Palestinians’ sense of ownership, which has been uninterrupted for centuries. Although Arabs have lived with Jews in relative peace, Jews were treated as second-class citizens, who in turn largely accepted subordination in order to maintain peaceful relations. Centuries of Arab perception of Jews as a subordinated minority make it nearly impossible for them to accept Jews as equals, not to mention as a superior power forcefully usurping land they consider their own. The Palestinians’ position in connection with Jerusalem and the entire West Bank must therefore be seen in this context as well.

Further consideration of the Arab view of Islam as the final revelation of the three monotheistic religions (including Judaism and Christianity) and of Muhammad as the last prophet accentuate Palestinian and Muslim unwillingness to compromise in what they believe to be their inherent religious duty to obey God’s final revelation. Here again, the psychological barrier embedded in religious precepts creates a mindset willing to defy reality. Yet, no one is permitted to challenge God’s decree and Muhammad’s edict.

In The Future of an Illusion, Freud made the claim that religious beliefs should be viewed as wish-fulfillments — or beliefs chiefly motivated by deep-seated human wishes, i.e. illusions. When we look without bias at the beliefs held by so many on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflagration, who could not help but agree with his assessment? Of course, an illusion could turn out to be true: the belief that the Jewish people would someday establish a mighty state on the very same land where their ancient ancestors once lived was certainly illusory only a hundred years ago. Even if we agree with Freud that religious beliefs are illusions, we cannot agree with his prediction that such illusions are likely to wither away any time soon.

In the final analysis, religion has been and will most likely continue to be the repository of our most deeply held wishes and beliefs, as it is for many Israelis and Palestinians alike. For believers on both sides, religion constitutes nothing less than the very substance of their lives, the core of their existence and world-view. The question is: can both parties be brought to reconcile their beliefs to the changed reality on the ground? Neither Israelis nor Palestinians can be expected to undermine their most cherished religious convictions, but if disappointments are unavoidable, the convictions recognized and honored by the other side and by the global community must be adapted and reinterpreted in light of new and undeniable conditions. To take a crucial example, while neither side can forsake Jerusalem without compromising their religion, they can begin to accommodate their aspirations to the prospect of Jerusalem as the dual-capital of two sovereign and independent states.

Perhaps then the historical and religious commitments of both sides can be respected. It is only through mutual realization of spiritual hopes and ideals that Israelis and Palestinians will reconcile and see the fulfillment of God’s promise of peace — and that is surely no mere pipe-dream.

Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

Are You Opening – or Closing – Your Children’s Hearts?

— by Rabbi Rami Shapiro

There are only two ways to raise your children: you either shut them down or you open them up.

  • If you shut them down you raise them in a zero-sum world of winners and losers. You teach them that the world is a pie of fixed size, and that if they want more they must see that others have less or perhaps nothing at all. This is a fearful world of endless and often violent competition and retribution; a world of haves and have-nots; a world of us versus them where the ends (the success of us) justify the means (whatever secures the failure of them).
  • If you open your children up you raise them in a nonzero-sum world where abundance is the norm, and while there will still be winners and losers-those who have more and those have less-it is not a world that allows some to have nothing. This is a world rooted in compassion rather than competition; a world of us and them rather than a world of us versus them.

More after the jump.
Are you parenting opened hearts or closed hearts?

One way to know is to analyze the stories you share with your children. I’m not talking about the storybooks you read to your kids, though these too need to be looked at; I’m talking about the stories you teach them through your faith and your dealings with others.

The other day I was in a local Wal-Mart walking down a toy isle. Two kids were eyeing the action figures. Both boys were with their moms, one of whom was dressed in a manner that identified her as a Muslim. The little Muslim boy picked up a toy and turned to show it to the other boy who moved closer to get a better look. As the boy moved closer his mom, who had been holding his hand, yanked him back, turned and walked to another isle. As she passed me I heard her say to her son, “We don’t talk to those people. They don’t believe in Jesus.”

Religion is often a means for closed-heartedness, and parallel stories could be found in any faith. Because religious stories are some of the most personality shaping stories we humans tell, we must examine them to see what kind of children we are raising when we tell them these stories.

A few months ago I met with a small gathering of Muslim and Christian clergy to draft a statement condemning religious violence. We had no problem doing this as long as the violence was this-worldly, but when I suggested we also condemn the eternal torture of nonbelievers (who are really only differently believing believers) in the world to come, I found myself in a minority of one. If God wants to burn people for believing what they believe that is His business, I was told. So yes, we should avoid telling our children that our God condones violence against those who believe differently than we do, but we should tell them that God will do just that when they die.

Of course religion isn’t the only source of heart-closing stories. Politics, nationalism, ethnicity, race can all be used to this end. And what all these heart-closing stories have in common is that they demonize the other.

So what stories are you telling your children?

When you see a homeless person is your story “There but for the grace of God go I,” or do you talk about the power of negative thinking, or do you talk about justice and injustice and our obligations to the poor? None of these stories stops you from giving money to the poor and homeless, but each speaks to a worldview that is either heart-closing or heart-opening.

  • If your story is “There but for the grace of God go I,” you are saying that God loves you more than God does the poor and homeless.
  • If your story is one of negative thinking: the homeless person attracted poverty to herself by “thinking poor” rather than “thinking rich,” you are saying that you think better than does this other person.

Both of these stories are heart-closing, but don’t imagine that telling the story of justice and injustice is automatically heart-opening. If your justice story demonizes the wealthy or makes saints of the poor you are still telling a tale that closes the heart. As long as you tell stories that pit an “us” against a “them,” you are perpetuating a world and a mindset that will force your child to live in a fearful world haunted by the specter of the other.

Telling heart-opening stories isn’t easy. It requires you to carefully examine your worldview and the stories you tell to reinforce it. It may force you to challenge cherished stories of your own: stories about being chosen and not chosen, or saved and damned. It may force you to change your story, and that may cause others who still cherish that story to reject you because you rejected it. Storytelling has real-life consequences, and because it does it is vital that you know what you telling.

If you want to raise open-hearted kids tell them heart-opening stories; stories that speak of us and them rather than us versus them; stories that link success to personal integrity, creativity, compassion, and curiosity rather than selfishness, greed, conformity, and exploiting the weaknesses of others; stories that show a world rooted in love rather than fear. And if you take on this challenge, just know that you will be doing so in the face of a culture that too often tells a very different story.


Rabbi Rami Shapiro, PhD teaches religious studies at Middle Tennessee State University and is the director of Wisdom House Center for Interfaith Studies in Nashville. He has written over two dozen books and a new series, Rabbi Rami’s Guide to God: Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Teacher. Rabbi Rami Shapiro is also a contributing author to Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning.