“You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”

Rodgers and Hammerstein released their timeless musical, South Pacific in 1949.  It burst

South Pacific musical

South Pacific musical

on the post-WWII American society freshly aware of the people of the Pacific islands because of the war with Japan.  Two people falling in love struggle with their differences of race and background.  One of the songs, never reaching the heights of “Some Enchanted Evening,” explains that we aren’t born to hate and fear people different from ourselves.  we have to be carefully taught.   

“You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a different shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

“You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!” 

The rampant racism in America during the late 40’s could be easily seen in the “Whites RacismOnly” restaurants and public bathrooms of the deep South.  Less obvious, the segregation of black families into ghettos and inferior schools in the North.  We were not born racist.  We learned to separate ourselves from the “other.”  It took the lives of black children, young men and Martin Luther King to wake us up from the racism we had been carefully taught.  It’s still dangerous in some communities for young black men.  Trayvon Martin’s death shocked America.

The racism rampant in the land called Holy today shows up in the massive “Berlin” wall snaking through the West Bank.  It keeps Israeli citizens from the “others” meaning Palestinians.  And vice-versa.  It even separates West Bank villages from each other, along with highways Palestinians use or cross only at their peril.  On their own land, their own country.

ApartheidLaws keep people apart.  Israelis are not allowed to visit Palestinians, nor can citizens of the West Bank enter Israel, except by special permission.  Apartheid that the world fought in South Africa is accepted as law.  Ethnic cleansing continues, displacing residents from their West Bank homes and farms daily.

How can such things go on in “the only democracy in the Middle East?”  How can citizens of Israel tolerate what their government is doing?  What effect is it having on the hearts and minds of Israelis?  How can one group of people be taught to persecute another as “other” and inferior?  What gives one people the idea they are “special” and therefore have the right to expel the “others” from their land.

You must be carefully taught.  You must not mix or even get acquainted with the others.  You must go to segregated schools.  Read your school textbooks.  Live in segregated neighborhoods.  Stay behind the “security” wall.  Then you will grow up having nothing to do with the “other.”  You will realize they are dangerous, the enemy.  You will learn to call them terrorists for resisting your country’s military occupation of the “other’s” land for 46 years.

You weren’t born to think or act this way.  You’ve got to be carefully taught.

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Peeping Under the Cover

The speaker using the old overhead projector would gradually uncover his subject one line

They still make them

They still make them

at a time. He’d move the overlying paper down, but very slowly.  If you stayed awake, and if he held your interest, you wanted him to reveal his next point quickly so you could figure out where he was headed—and perhaps learn something.  You knew there was more coming, but it took so long, a little bitty line at a time. Thankfully PowerPoint put an end to the overhead projector. 

Covering carefully the hidden secrets of life in the Holy Land has remained successful in the United States.  For example, we here have never realized that the much lauded new forests we’ve financed, that “make the desert bloom” were often planted over Palestinian villages destroyed in 1948.  “…hiding their remains under vast

Village remain and forest

Village remain and forest

‘green lungs’ planted by the Jewish National Fund for the purpose of ‘recreation and tourism.’  Such a forest of pine trees was planted over the destroyed village of Lubya.  Only the diligent and meticulous work of later generations, spearheaded by Mahmoud Issa, now living in Denmark, has enabled visitors today to trace the vestiges of the village and join in the commemoration of the sixty people who lost their lives there.  (At the last main crossroad of the Nazareth-Tiberius road.)  Written by the acclaimed Jewish historian, Ilan Pappe. “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” One World Publications, 2006, pages 154-155.

Now there seems to be a crescendo of voices that are telling the stories hidden for so long to us in America.  In “Breaking the Silence,” video and print, Israeli solders tell of their abuse of Palestinian civilians, demolishing their homes and other actions they now regret.  http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/

Five BrokenTwo movies nominated for Academy Awards are available in theaters and DVD.  “Five Broken Cameras,” a heart-rending defense of a Palestinian village protesting non-violently the hated “Berlin” wall that would destroy their homes and livelihood.


Or “The Gatekeepers,” a powerful documentary of retired Shin Bet directors who share their dismay at what their own “FBI” has done to civilians in Israel/Palestine.


Last night on CNN, In the season premiere of ‘Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown,’ the host and crew make their first trip to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. While the political situation is often tense between the people living in these areas, Bourdain concentrates on their rich history, food and culture, and spends time with local chefs, home cooks, writers and amateur foodies.”


It concentrated on life and food in both Israel and Palestine.  The lack of freedom in the West Bank and Gaze came out in the warm encounters.  Perhaps the first time for some Americans to see what it is like to live under two generations of military occupation.

We could wish our Senators understood.  One recently wrote back to us on Senate Resolution 203.”If enacted, this resolution would express the U.S. Senate’s support of a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution would also emphasize the special relationship between the United States and Israel rooted in shared interests of democracy, human rights, and mutual protection. 

Mutual protection?  How can one government continue to take the homes and lands of another people, illegally, who have no protection from it by laws or a non-existent constitution.  Settlers continue to displace Palestinians.  Now 550,000 and counting.

Human rights?  For example, many children and adults currently imprisoned under “administrative detention” without legal recourse or even any charges—for six months, renewable indefinitely.  Some for years.  Arrests occur daily, children, usually at night.

Democracy?  When an entire people whose land is occupied by a stronger state, have no voice or vote in their own treatment or taxation.  We Americans rebelled in 1776.  They commit to non-violent protests only (except for a few remaining militants in Gaza.)

Peeling backThe cover is gradually peeling back for many Americans.  Are congress people looking under it, or the other way?

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Primum Non Nocere

Physicians maxim

Physicians maxim

Graduating from medical school we all raised a hand to take the Hippocratic Oath including the promise to “abstain from doing harm.”  Close to “primum non nocere except it is translated from Greek, not Latin. 

Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase that means “first, do no harm.” The phrase is sometimes recorded as primum nil nocere.[1]

Non-malfeasance, which is derived from the maxim, is one of the principal precepts of medical ethics that all medical students are taught in medical school and is a fundamental principle for emergency medical services around the world. Another way to state it is that, “given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good.” It reminds the physician and other health care providers that they must consider the possible harm that any intervention might do. It is invoked when debating the use of an intervention that carries an obvious risk of harm but a less certain chance of benefit.


As a surgeon, I needed to consider every proposed treatment to be sure that the chance of benefit outweighed the chance of making the patient worse.  Many cancers can be removed for long term survival.  But if it has  spread to distant sites, removing the primary tumor (with few exceptions) does more harm than good.  Of course other interventions may provide help, chemotherapy, radiation or now newer modalities of immunotherapy.  But sometimes  “…given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good.”

We in the United States are currently debating whether we should intervene in Syria.  Is it Dogs of warbetter to strike yet another Muslim people with huge American missiles?  To teach the treacherous Assad a lesson re: chemical weapons?  Or would unleashing the dogs of war without knowing what might follow, be doing more harm than good?  Should we do something or nothing?  What are the long term consequences of either course of action?  No one really knows.

So far we have not intervened in Syria in a major way.  That could change quickly.  But we

Israeli Army Paid For With U.S. Tax Dollars

Israeli Army Paid For With U.S. Tax Dollars

have intervened in Israel/Palestine.  Without a national debate.  Over a long time. With no public outcry.  We have funded a military machine annually at over three billion dollars for many years.  One side only.  The other state has no army at all.  It now negotiates from a position of weakness.  It wants to stop the military occupation that denies freedom to its people.

But this doesn’t make headlines in America.  In fact, most of us don’t even hear about the plight of Palestinians.  The killings and imprisonment remain hidden to us.  Being evicted from land and demolition of homes seems not to diminish our American support of the oppression.

Wouldn’t it be better to stop and think?  What are we in the U.S. doing that makes the problem worse?  That keeps peace at bay despite years of talking.  We actively support only one side.. Perhaps “primum non nocere” applies.  First, do no harm.  Stop funding the oppression, and seriously consider:  “… it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good.”

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Why Did the Arab Spring Become Winter—that American Might Can’t Fix?

Yesterday President Obama kicked back to Congress the decision to punish the Assad

Syrian genocide from poison gas

Syrian genocide from poison gas

government of Syria,  Chemical warfare notwithstanding, most Americans do not want another Iraq which again spirals toward civil war despite our efforts:  the tragic loss of  American lives, thousands of wounded soldiers and immense treasure.  The British Parliament has now refused military action to punish the Syrian government for its chemical and conventional weapons genocide.  Why this reticence?  When our gut tells us Assad should not get away with it.

What is it the Middle East that we in the West can never seem to fix?  From the Crusades to failing British and French colonial rule.  From Mubarak in Egypt, the Ayatollahs in Iran, and Gadaffi in Lybia.  From Ben Gurion to Netanyahu’s determination to drive the Palestinians from their homeland for a greater Israel.

It’s the idea that if you are not of my religion/ethnicity, you are not an equal citizen.  Or, you are not welcome to live here unless you observe my religion and its laws.  We have a religious state, and anyone who is not part of our faith, is either a second-class citizen or an enemy we must fight.

Egyptian church building aflame

Egyptian church building aflame

So Muslim Brotherhood followers torch Coptic Christian church buildings in Egypt.  Iranian Christians experience imprisonment.  Sunni Iraqis blow up Shiite markets and mosques.  Syrian Alawites brutally slaughter civilians while attacking their Sunni enemies.  Israeli settlers and soldiers evict farmers from their land and build walls to prevent their return.Because they have a “God-given” right to take the land from its owners.

Democracy is incompatible with a religious state.  When a Jewish State inevitably denies human rights to the people it rules who are “other,” is that “democracy” at work?

When religion enters a conflict, the sides become entrenched in their positions, knowing “only we are right because God told us so.”  Irrespective of what religion it is.  Jesus answered the question long ago—to avoid mixing religion and political power:http://lloydjohnson.org/2013/07/09/god-and-caesar-in-the-middle-east/

The founding fathers in the United States had that divine wisdom to avoid the pitfall of mixing religious belief with political institutions.  Some early Americans had fled Europe just to escape that marriage of Church and State.

Western governments miscalculate badly if we fail to understand these centuries-old religious/political conflicts.  Or think despite them, we can introduce western democracy overnight by warfare.  Or money.  Neither guns nor butter will work.  Multiply the 3.7 billion dollars we give to Israel every year for 60 or more years.  You do the math.  It hasn’t worked to bring peace.  The problems escalate every year.

In my surgical career, there are just some diseases we cannot overcome.  Mesothelioma is one.  In the Middle East the solution is not in not in sticks or carrots.  We can’t fix the

Hated Samaritan with injured Jewish man

Hated Samaritan with injured Jewish man

trouble.  Jesus told a wonderful story about a hated “other” who became the rescuer of an injured Jewish man.  It was in answer to the question, “who is my neighbor?”  Quoting from the Jewish scriptures about loving God intensely and our neighbor as ourselves, he said all the law is summed up in these two ideas.

The passage he quoted from Leviticus in the Torah ends with “I am the Lord.”   How can any of us possibly love our neighbor as ourselves?  Perhaps only when we understand who is Lord and who we are.  It happens in the heart and mind for those who seek him irrespective of religion.  He changes the heart…changes us.  I think the good Samaritan understood that and followed him.  I suspect there is no other solution.  We can’t seem to do it by ourselves.  Nor can anyone in the Middle East.  Jesus knew that all along.  He can be found if we look.

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“Living Stones,” More Than A Book

The phrase is well known to many around the world who concern themselves with the

Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem

Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem

tumult in the Middle East in general, and Israel/Palestine in particular.  Contrasting with the inanimate rocks forming ancient shrines, synagogues, mosques and churches, “living stones” are people.  (Centuries ago Peter wrote of “living stones” in the New Testament referring first to Jesus, but also his followers.)

Reading the headlines today of hundreds of families killed with poison gas in Syria is hard enough.  But what if one of them is your mother or son?  Understanding that most men in Palestine have spent time in Israeli jails as a youth, for nothing but attending a protest and perhaps throwing a stone at a tank brings a shrug, tough for them.  But feeling the pain of a friend who is still terrified by the thought of being re-arrested years later brings it home.  (He declined our request to record him—“Mossad (Israeli intelligence) has a long arm.”

Encountering the “living stones” in Israel and Palestine in 2008 and again living there in

Bedouin land eviction

Bedouin land eviction

2012, our hearts burned to get the stories out, of real people caught in the vice of a conflict not of their choosing.  Of friends deprived of freedom, even of their houses and lands.  Relegated to refugee camps for a lifetime, with no job or possibility of living a normal life in their own home.

Many excellent books tell what has happened from the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, a triumph for Jewish people escaping from the pogroms and holocaust  in Europe.  But a catastrophe “Nakba” for 750,000 residents of the land driven into refugee camps…if they survived.  Scholarly histories, accounts of real people’s stories and thoughtful explanations of the issues abound.  They provide a broad and deep picture to understand the current conflict.  Almost all these books are non-fiction, read by people with a special interest in the Middle East.

On return to the U.S. Marianne and I realized that the average American prefers fiction, a good story.  Why not write an action/adventure to entertain and inform?

Living-Stones-coverJPGIn “Living Stones,” an American graduate student’s adventures weave through the conflict in the Holy Land.  Ashley’s nearly killed in a jihadist synagogue bombing in Seattle and also when abducted in Jerusalem.  She grows to love Najid, a Palestinian Christian foreign student at the University of Washington.  Meeting other “living stones, “the people of  Israel/Palestine, triggers disturbing questions in Ashley about her Zionist convictions.  She’s also dismayed by the entrenched opposition of her parents to her marrying a “Palestinian terrorist.”

The book (koehler/Morgan James Publishing) is available now as an e-book, with paperback release scheduled for early September 2013.  It can be pre-ordered.  We hope you enjoy the story.  But more than that, I hope you are shocked.  I wish for you a sleepless few hours questioning what you think about the issues in the Holy Land.  Mark Braverman, Jewish author of the wonderful book, “Fatal Embrace” that means much to me, said it well in his endorsement.  I like particularly: “Don’t pick up this book if you are not willing to have your assumptions challenged.”

Lloyd Johnson has done an important and wonderful thing in bringing the reality of Israel and Palestine to the fiction reader. In Living Stones he shows us what most Americans don’t see: the real face of Palestine and of life under occupation.  Just as important, Johnson’s strong faith shines through in every page. This is a story about crossing boundaries and about forgiveness. Don’t pick up this book if you are not willing to have your assumptions challenged.  But don’t miss the opportunity—your faith will be strengthened and your horizons widened. 

Mark Braverman is the Program Director of Kairos USA and the author of A Wall in Jerusalem: Hope, Healing and the Struggle for Peace in Israel and Palestine.

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“We Lay Aside Preconceived Ideas and Listen”

Ann Gaylia O’Barr, author, commenting on “Living Stones” wrote in a note to me: “I know that living and working in the Middle East certainly changed my perspective about Americans and our relationships there.”

You can’t visit the people of the Middle East, share their lives, their joys and longings, and come away without questioning our American stereotypes of them.  Marianne and I couldn’t.  So I asked Ann to write her story as a guest blogger.  Here it is:

AG traveling

AG traveling

“I arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in November, 1990, for my first tour as an American working overseas for the U.S. State Department. Iraq had invaded Kuwait the summer before. Iraqi troops appeared poised to head for the Saudi oil fields across the border in that country’s eastern province along the Gulf. Thousands of Americans lived and worked there. The 1991 Persian Gulf war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, led by the United States, would begin in a few months.

“We were in no immediate danger in Jeddah, on the other side of Saudi Arabia. Our most important job at the U.S. consulate was to aid Americans fleeing the eastern province and waiting in Jeddah for flights out of the country. We worked with our locally hired employees to meet the needs of American citizens, including those caught up in the prelude to war.

“Two of the local staff were Palestinians. They had worked for the consulate for years, spoke fluent Arabic, and had established contacts with the Saudi government and with the airlines. They were an invaluable help in all our day-to-day work, not just with the evacuation.

“Our staff managed to find places for a few more Americans on a flight to Europe. We picked up the Americans at their hotel to deliver them for their flight. One American woman, on learning that one of our employees was Palestinian refused to sit with him. Despite the fact that he had found a way for her to escape the coming war, she didn’t trust him because he was Palestinian. This was my introduction to the ignorance of some Americans about Middle Eastern peoples.

“Americans may not understand Middle Eastern diversity. Tunisia, a small Muslim-majority nation in North Africa, began the “Arab spring” over two years ago. When I served earlier at the U.S. embassy in Tunisia, I worshiped at a Christian church in the old city. On the way, I walked past a Jewish synagogue and a Muslim mosque. Jews have been in Tunisia since at least Roman times.

“In Saudi Arabia I worshiped less openly in private homes. I never knew an American to be arrested for Christian beliefs, however. Most of the Americans I visited in prison as part of my job were arrested for making bootleg liquor or for selling X-rated movies, both forbidden in the country. Thus, I understood that pious Muslims tended to see Americans as lovers of pleasure who broke their laws with impunity.

“My sojourn in the Middle East broadened my outlook as I tasted the different flavors of a diverse society. Along the way my Christian faith strengthened. I see American Christians as exiles from our own materialistic and polarized society. Christians are called to be reconcilers here and abroad.

“In the New Testament book of Acts, God leads the Jewish Christian disciple Peter to broaden his faith when he learns that God is concerned not only for Jews but for Cornelius, one of the despised Roman occupiers.

“Christians worship a God who breaks boundaries. We, his followers, are called to break boundaries also, to reach out to those who are different. We lay aside preconceived ideas and listen to those our society labels with hateful phrases, just as Peter opened himself to listening to Cornelius. What do they have to tell us?”


Ann Gaylia O’Barr was a Foreign Service Officer with the United States Department of State from 1990 to 2004. Her assignments included tours in U.S. embassies and consulates in Saudi Arabia (twice), Algeria, Canada, Tunisia, and Washington, D.C.

Her career as a full time writer began in 2004. OakTara has published five of her novels: Singing in Babylon, Quiet Deception, Searching for Home, Distant Thunder, and A Sense of Mission. A sixth novel, Tender Shadows is under contract.

The characters in her novels broaden their faith when they encounter new cultures and beliefs. She calls her writing fiction for the global Christian.  Her website: http://www.anngayliaobarr.com/

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“Security” for Israel? For Palestine?

What does the term security mean for a nation?    Safety, refuge from harm, protection?  Most countries now employ government agencies for internal and international defense against threats domestic and foreign.  In the U.S. think FBI and CIA.  In Israel its Shin Bet and Mossad.  In Palestine, a small police force. 

Then add military forces to both defend at home and project offensive power abroad.  The U.S. #1 in world power.  Israel #4 including also its own large nuclear arsenal.  Palestine—none.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shin_Bet

Threats inside Israel include terrorist actions—bombings and rockets from Gaza.  (Now a weakened Iran.)  Most have ceased because of Palestine’s commitment to non-violent resistance of Israel’s military occupation since the second Intifada of 2002.  Not because of the incomplete wall.

Generations of European pogroms ending in the holocaust of WWII have left a legacy of fear and victimization among Israelis.  Since 1948 in Israel, displacement, killing and

Israeli settlers in Palestine

Israeli settlers in Palestine

“transfer” of local Palestinian residents produced millions of enemies among refugees in many countries.  From 1967 the Israeli army, aka “defense force” (IDF) moved into Jordan’s West Bank, Palestine, and never left.  This military occupation and now over half a million immigrant “settlers” brought in to take over Palestine complicates the search for security and peace.

“Security” demands the Israeli government “defend” itself against the enemies it has produced by attacking them, usually out of proportion to the wrong perceived.  They build high concrete walls around and within Palestinian towns and villages, separating them from each other, even from their own farms.  Israeli teen-age soldiers man checkpoints all over Palestine, limiting freedom of movement, for “security.”  Palestinians are not permitted to visit Jerusalem (special permit occasionally) or the sea.  Soldiers  invade homes at night hauling off children and adolescents to prison for months, many without charges—for being in a peaceful demonstration against the occupation.  Sometimes for throwing a stone at a tank.  All for “security.”

Home demolition“Security” demands destroying homes for Israeli settlements, evicting farmers from homes and lands, and building exclusive highways for Israelis only.  (Soldiers recently shot dead a Palestinian driving with his family on one south of Bethlehem.  “Security” results in settlers taking 80% of Palestinian water.  Whole villages and farms are being destroyed for a firing range in South Hebron Hills in the name of “security.”  Settlers burn Palestinian olive trees and crops protected by “security” forces.  You get the picture.  For the Israeli government “security” justifies almost any action to get Palestinians to leave. Thankfully, many Jewish people in Israel  and abroad disagree with their government’s actions.

How secure are West Bank people?  They live as second-class citizens in their own land.  Not knowing when soldiers will burst in at night to take away their kids to prison.  Wondering if their homes will receive a demolition order as “illegal” and therefore state property to be destroyed.  Would you feel secure approaching a checkpoint at the next village knowing you’ll be stopped and searched by hostile soldiers?  With assault rifles.  Are you secure from tax increases and rising prices prompted by Israel which controls your economy?  When you have no representation in its government?  (The infant America kicked out the British for “taxation without representation.”)  Are you secure in knowing what happens in your country is entirely at the whim of a strong hostile foreign power that wants to take over your land.  What kind of “security” is that?

“Security” for both sides will become an issue in the new negotiations sparked by Secretary John Kerry.  It will need to be defined—again:

Sec. councilUnited Nations Security Council Resolution 242 (S/RES/242) was adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on November 22, 1967, in the aftermath of the Six-Day War.

Operative Paragraph One “Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force (emphasis mine.)


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