Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I am Not a Conspiracy Theorist: 9/11 Facts of Fictions?

Living in the world today can be quite difficult, especially if you feel the need to avoid the moral and intellectual pitfalls that “modern” life provides. However, this is something that only becomes difficult if you feel a need to avoid compromising your moral compass (assuming such exists), otherwise it should not be a serious impediment. There are many things about myself and my character that I like to believe are true and reasonably noble, amongst that list would be that I am willing to take correction from others when I make mistakes and that I try to be as generous of my time, energies and resources as much as I am able. While these are not the only traits that I would like to trumpet, humility is also a trait that I am aware that I have, but am in need of more.

Having said that, there is one thing that I am truly thankful that I possess, and that is the ability to reason. This is by no means a unique gift as it defines our species in our ability to look at information and make decisions based on the facts that have been presented to us. Being reasonable means that we are able to look at information and ideas even if they come to us from people and sources that we may not immediately trust and assess that information. We look at material without prejudice, allowing the truth to be revealed, allowing the obfuscations and machinations of the special interest groups, lobbyists and anyone else with something to gain by the perpetration of lies to be shut out through the acknowledgement that the truth shall, indeed, set you free.

Unfortunately, alas, that is not how the “real world” seems to operate. Alas, that seems to be just the opposite as to how things work. Before anything else is said, there is one other trait that I am very proud to possess: I am not, in any way, shape or form, a conspiracy theorist. I believe that men walked on the moon. I believe that a lone man, using a single rifle (having been trained as a Marine by the United States and having attained sharp shooter status) assassinated JFK. I believe that Area 51 is, in fact, a Top Secret (UMBRA) Military Base used for the testing and development of new aircraft for the USAF (including the U2, SR71, B1, B2, F117, F22, F35, and the UCAV’s that are currently being deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan).

I am not a believer in conspiracies.

We have not been told the truth about 9/11; we have been lied to and the people that have told the lies know that the truth has been concealed from the public; furthermore, they know that the truth is not “out there”, it has been examined by experts in their field, experts that are willing to openly dispute the “findings” of the “9/11 Commission”, a work of fantasy and fiction that fed the American people a pile of obfuscation that stank of the stench of the rotting corpses trapped in the rubble of Ground Zero.

I will never be able to forget that morning; I was in the basement working on the computer when the phone rang. My step-father’s frantic voice told me to turn on CNN; a plane had just crashed into the WTC. The rest of that day I watched. I watched, prayed, wept, cried, sobbed, prayed, and cried some more. My parents are from New York and I spent the majority of my summer vacations visiting family there; even though I had been born and raised in Canada, this felt like an attack on my own home. I was talking to a friend in Toronto when the first tower collapsed. It seemed wrong then, too fast, too symmetrical … too … perfect. Then the second tower fell.

While there seemed to be two nearly identical attacks, the facts of the matter are quite different, as we were able to see after the numerous replays of the events revealed and the still-photos began to appear all over the world. When we examine the attack of Flight 11 on WTC 1, the North Tower, there are some interesting facts that should be noted: the crash took place (according to seismic readings) at exactly 08:46:26 am, a time that is adjusted in the “9/11 Commission” to 08:46:40, for some reason.

The angle of the crash indicates that the plane was flying at an aspect of approximately 20 degrees leaning to the port (left) side, with the left wing hitting the 93rd floor and the right wing hitting the 99th floor. It is important to note that I came to this conclusion through my own examination of the photos, not through any other forensic examinations. One of my favourite hobbies is using the Microsoft Flight Simulator X which, while it does not qualify someone to be a real pilot, it does provide a basic understanding of certain aerodynamic principals (and was one of the methods used, supposedly, by the terrorists to prepare for the 9/11 attacks). Remember, my calculations would indicate that the angle of inclination encompasses (approximately) 3.5 floors for every 10 degrees away from level flight (and I may be wrong).

The second crash took place at 09:03:06 am (09:03:11 in the “Report”) and Flight 175 struck between the 77th and 85th floors. Now, every time I have seen video of this event, video that makes my stomach churn and my blood run cold, it amazes me that what I am seeing is the belly of a commercial airliner. These are not planes that you would ordinarily think of as something that capable of performing the type of acrobatics normally seen from military aircraft, but the angle that this plane was coming in at was only (according to the calculations of 3.5 floors per 10 degrees that seemed to work for WTC 1) 30 degrees. While this would not have been a comfortable position for passengers, it was certainly not something that a commercial airliner could not handle.

When commercial jets are designed they go through rigorous testing, including being asked to do things that would never be experienced during the normal operation of the plane. Boeing has performed rolls in passenger airliners, proving the structural integrity of their machines. Having heard the conspiracies that commercial planes could not have crashed into the WTC’s, I am sure that this is not the case for the simple reason that while the flying and the penultimate course adjustments towards their target were extreme, it was a scenario that was obviously not beyond the realm of imagination.

Having seen documentaries on the issues surrounding the planes striking the towers I cannot say that I agree with those who contend that these were not commercial airliners. The contention that the planes made manoeuvres that simply could not be accomplished by an amateur pilot is a compelling argument, but I must ask the following question: how much knowledge do you ever know that a person possesses? The assumption that the hijacker is unable to execute the precision flying is based on the premise that the “amateur” pilot did not have the requisite experience to handle the aircraft.

As I have mentioned, while using the MS Flight Simulator over the past two years I have learned a great deal about the handling of various different types of aircraft, including the Boeing 767-800, the most popular passenger aircraft in the world today. Both of the planes that crashed into the WTC were variants of the 767, a plane that can best be described as handling like “a dream”. This is one of the most enjoyable “big jets” to fly in the simulator for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it can fly at treetop level while making you grip the controls with white-knuckled fear … something that real-life pilots probably would not indulge in, but on a simulator it is “only a game”.

There is something very important about this, however, and that is that the program realistically models the stresses on the airframe of the plane according to what you are doing; in other words, if you over-stress your plane, you die. Well, having said that, I can also say that it is possible (with the wing tanks empty and no passenger or cargo weight) to do some seriously dramatic flying … including a full loop. Of course, this is a simulation, not real flight … but, according to the “official” story, the terrorists trained on this same program (actually, I believe it was an earlier edition).

The rest of the scenario, however, is not entirely as it would seem to appear; at least, that is what I have come to believe after carefully considering the arguments, presentation of known facts, assumptions by “experts”, reports by the officials, and rebuttals by experts who have absolutely nothing to gain (and much to lose) by taking a stance against the “official” story.

The official story, also known as “Bush’s Dream” is fairly easy to find. The Commission Report may be found here, if you desire, but remember to get the cowlick out.

I am not going to go into every nuance of every issue surrounding what is questionable regarding the “story” as we have been told; many others have already done a far better job than I could possibly do in a single article, and I do not intend to dedicate the rest of my life to this issue. An excellent site to begin with, a site that does not compromise in the way it presents the news in all of its ugliness, is run by Michael Rivera, and is called “What Really Happened”. By navigating down the left column of the page you will find links to all of the materials associated with the things relating to the destruction of the Twin Towers … the things that cannot be reconciled with the crashing of two commercial aircraft into the towers.

What disturbs me the most about the lies behind 9/11, what makes me see the most inconsistencies screaming out to be noticed, inconsistencies that make me wonder how much of the entire “story” from the “official sources” should be questioned, comes from the way the buildings collapsed. I watched as those buildings fell, a word I use intentionally. “Free fall” has been a word used to describe the way in which the THREE towers fell. Yes, there has always been that pesky WTC 7, untouched by a plane, and yet it too fell, at the speed of a building in “free fall”. Why? As one commentator I heard that day said, “it was like watching a controlled demolition.”

Controlled demolition? How can people suggest that there was a use of thermite to intentionally collapse the World Trade Centre, and WTC 7, a building that had not been struck by an airplane? The three buildings did, in fact, have something else in common that was reported on, though it would be better if we all forgot about it: even after the fires had been extinguished there was still a significant amount of molten metal preventing workers from cleaning up the Ground Zero area near the basements of each building. This phenomenon explained in the video featuring Steven Jones, a Professor of Physics from Brigham Young University, as being the result of the use of thermite in a controlled demolition.

Then there is that issue of all that pesky “ear” witness testimony (from the Complete 9/11 Timeline). I have added some emphasis in italics and bold in order to highlight a few, noticeable, comments that seem to be recurring themes.

At the time that WTC 2 Collapses:

Numerous witnesses, including fire-fighters and other rescue workers, hear explosions at the start of, and during, the collapse of the south WTC tower. Some of them report hearing a single explosion:
Jeff Birnbaum: “There was an explosion and the whole top leaned toward us and started coming down.” [Electrical Wholesaling, 2/1/2002]

Battalion Chief John Sudnik: “[W]e heard a loud explosion or what sounded like a loud explosion and looked up and I saw Tower Two start coming down.” [City of New York, 11/7/2001]

Firefighter Edward Kennedy hears “a tremendous boom, explosion… and the top of the building was coming down at us.” [City of New York, 1/17/2002]

Firefighter Edward Sheehey hears “an explosion, looked up, and the building started to collapse.” [City of New York, 12/4/2001]

Battalion Chief Thomas Vallebuona: “I heard ‘boom,’ an exploding sound, a real loud bang. I looked up, and I could see the Trade Center starting to come down.” [City of New York, 1/2/2002]

EMT Julio Marrero: “I heard a loud bang. We looked up, and we just saw the building starting to collapse.” [City of New York, 10/25/2001]

Other witnesses report hearing multiple explosions:
Journalist Pete Hamill: “We heard snapping sounds, pops, little explosions, and then the walls bulged out, and we heard a sound like an avalanche.” [New York Daily News, 9/11/2001]

Police officer Sue Keane, who is an Army veteran, is located in the north WTC tower: “[I]t sounded like bombs going off. That’s when the explosions happened.… It started to get dark, then all of a sudden there was this massive explosion.” [Hagen and Carouba, 2002, pp. 65]

Firefighter Keith Murphy, who is in the lobby of the North Tower: “[T]he first thing that happened, which I still think is strange to me, the lights went out.… I had heard right before the lights went out, I had heard a distant boom boom boom, sounded like three explosions.… At the time, I would have said they sounded like bombs, but it was boom boom boom and then the lights all go out.… I would say about 3, 4 seconds, all of a sudden this tremendous roar.” [City of New York, 12/5/2001]

Firefighter Craig Carlsen hears “explosions coming from building two, the South Tower. It seemed like it took forever, but there were about ten explosions.… We then realized the building started to come down.” [City of New York, 1/25/2002]

Firefighter Thomas Turilli, who is in the lobby of the North Tower: “[A]ll of a sudden you just heard like it almost actually that day sounded like bombs going off, like boom, boom, boom, like seven or eight, and then just a huge wind gust just came… It just seemed like a huge explosion.” [City of New York, 1/17/2002]

Firefighter Stephen Viola: “[T]hat’s when the South Tower collapsed, and it sounded like a bunch of explosions. You heard like loud booms.” [City of New York, 1/10/2002]

Firefighter Lance Lizzul: “[W]e heard some bangs. That made us look up, and that’s when the first Trade Center came down.” [City of New York, 12/10/2001]

Paramedic Kevin Darnowski: “I heard three explosions, and then we heard like groaning and grinding, and Tower Two started to come down.” [City of New York, 11/9/2001]

However, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which conducts a three-year study of the WTC collapses, will subsequently claim it found “no corroborating evidence for alternative hypotheses suggesting that the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolition using explosives” (see October 26, 2005). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 146 pdf file]

At the time that WTC 1 Collapses:

Many witnesses hear explosions during the collapse of the north WTC tower. Some report hearing a single explosion:
Reporter Mike Sheehan hears “another deafening explosion. I looked up and saw the top of the North Tower, the mast, begin to fall.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 126]

Fire Lieutenant William Wall: “[W]e heard an explosion. We looked up and the building was coming down right on top of us.” [City of New York, 12/10/2001]

Firefighter Roy Chelsen: “All of a sudden we heard this huge explosion, and that’s when the tower started coming down.” [City of New York, 1/18/2002]

EMT Jason Charles: “I heard a ground level explosion and I’m like holy shit, and then you heard that twisting metal wreckage again.” [City of New York, 1/23/2002]

Firefighter Kevin Murray: “When the tower started—there was a big explosion that I heard and someone screamed that it was coming down.” [City of New York, 10/9/2001]

Firefighter James Ippolito: “I heard an explosion and turned around and the building was coming down.” [City of New York, 12/13/2001]

Fire Lieutenant Gregg Hansson: “[A] large explosion took place. In my estimation that was the tower coming down, but at that time I did not know what that was. I thought some type of bomb had gone off.” [City of New York, 10/9/2001]

Firefighter Kevin Gorman: “I heard the explosion, looked up, and saw like three floors explode, saw the antenna coming down.” [City of New York, 1/9/2002]

Others report hearing multiple explosions:
EMT Gregg Brady: “I heard 3 loud explosions. I look up and the North Tower is coming down now.” [City of New York, 11/1/2001]

Firefighter Richard Carletti: “I remember seeing the antenna do a little rock back and forth and I could just hear the floors pancaking. I heard it for about 30 pancakes, just boom, boom, boom, boom.” [City of New York, 1/2/2002]

Fire Lieutenant Michael Cahill: “That’s when the second collapse started to come down. All kinds of noise. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, very loud.” [City of New York, 10/17/2001]

Firefighter Sal D’Agostino is actually inside the North Tower, around its fourth floor, when the collapse occurs. He says, “It’s pancaking from the top down, and there were these huge explosions—I mean huge, gigantic explosions.” [Providence Journal, 9/11/2002; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 241-242]

Firefighter Bill Butler, who is with D’Agostino inside the tower, says, “It was like a train going two inches away from your head: bang-bang, bang-bang, bang-bang.” [Providence Journal, 9/11/2002]

EMT David Timothy: “[Y]ou started hearing more explosions. I guess this is when the second tower started coming down.” [City of New York, 10/25/2001]

CTV will later assert, “When eyewitnesses claim to have heard explosions prior to the collapse, those were just the sounds of a massive building contorting and crushing anything inside.” [CTV, 9/12/2006]

How much more needs to be said before we look at this tragedy as something more than an attack on American soil? How many more American soldiers need to die in Iraq fighting a war that has nothing to do with the attack against the United States? How many Americans must die before America wakes up?

What really happened on 9/11? Perhaps we will never know, but I do know this, it isn’t what the government is telling us. Think, evaluate and reason; it is your responsibility as a human, it is your responsibility to not blindly accept that which is being fed to you as news by those who serve as the thinly-veiled mouthpieces of the government.

Think, evaluate, reason, and reject that which does not stand the test of logic. When scientists that have nothing to gain (and more to lose) are refuting the “official” findings of the government, I have to ask the question why. Then the process begins again.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Dream Lives On: 40 After MLK

While I do not usually post articles so quickly after such a lengthy post, this is a special case as this is a special day. On this day, forty years ago, one of the greatest humans to have walked the face of the earth, the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior, had his life snuffed out by the callous act of assassination; an act that, to this day, remains in the minds of many an act as unresolved as the assassination of that other icon of the 1960’s, JFK. The death of this great man came only a few short months before my birth, in August 1968, and I grew up with the collective memories of my parents and their experiences with MLK being recounted to me virtually from the day I was born.

“I have a dream,” was not something that I heard repeated as only a detached phrase, as something without meaning or context. My parents were careful to explain the importance of this “dream”; they took great pains to instil in me a respect for my fellow man, regardless of their race, religion, sex, or any other consideration. Colour blindness was something to be proud of in our house as it was evidence that we looked at the world the way it should truly be seen; looking at people the only way they should be seen, without regard for their race or religion.

The dream of Martin Luther King became something that, as I grew up, I longed for as well; longing to see a day when peoples in countries like South Africa, Chile, Israel, China, the Soviet Union, and the United States could live in true freedom, not just the surface freedoms spoken of by the talking heads that spoke for their governments. It amazed me to see, as a child, how black people in South Africa and America shared so much in common; both peoples living in a state of apartheid, though one was technically ended by Lyndon Johnson when he ended segregation and passed the Civil Rights Act.

Learning about the legacy of Martin Luther King, as a child, was something that was as normal for me as was learning about the other important things in life; the idea of how important it was to not use violence for the furtherance of one’s goal was not merely King’s message, it was the message, and yet, how much has that message been heeded? After forty years how much more is needed before that dream is realized?

Illustration © by Ben Heine

In the United States, some would say, this is the year of a dream, the year in which a woman and a black man are contending for the opportunity to contend for the highest office in the land. At the same time the very fact that I have identified one of the candidates as a black man has done a great injustice to that man, a man who is far more than an “African-American”, or anything else anyone may want to call him in an attempt to diminish what Barack Obama stands for. An article that appeared on Ben Heine’s excellent site poignantly expressed this issue in a way that far exceeds that I could hope to, so I shall direct you there (please come back!). Remember, we are more than the sum of our parts, we are more than anything that can identify us as being simply “black” or “white”, as being “Jews” or “Palestinians”; we are the culmination of all the experiences that have gone into developing our character, and it is our choice as to what that character is going to look like to the rest of the world when we are faced with adversity. Are we strong enough to follow King’s dream?

So, in the words of the Reverend King, just how far is the United States from having that “dream” of his from coming to fruition? The very fact that the remaining two candidates for the Democratic Party’s nomination for presidential candidate do not fall into the classic model of the American politician would seem to be indicative of the great number of changes that have taken place over the past forty years, but it is barely a beginning. With the signing of the anti-segregationist laws during his term in office Lyndon Johnson galvanized the Southern electoral districts so far away from the Democratic Party that they barely show up on the political radar screens these days. The extreme right, the political extremists, the racists, the “Christian” right and the various other flat-earth mentalists decided that the Republican way better represented their ideals, so long as it kept “them” out of their back yards. Founded in 1973 by conservative minister Jerry Falwell, the Moral Majority was born out of the hatred of anti-segregationism, having turned to the likes of Senator Jesse Helms at the beginning of the organization’s history.

More must be done.

The wisdom with which Reverend King spoke transcended his time, and indeed, it has transcended all time. The speech he delivered to so many supporters in Washington is a perfect example of the type of thinking that needs to be echoed, loudly, by today’s leaders, ideas that must never be allowed to be forgotten, and that must be put into practice around the world. Rather than creating strife by focusing on race it is time to forget the colour of the individual standing – or living – next to us. Their struggle is, truly, our struggle, regardless of the backgrounds that make one person so different from another.

“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.” (Complete speech here)

One short paragraph from a long speech, and yet it speaks volumes: whites were there with the blacks, side by side. They understood that the struggle for equality was one that was not borne alone by the black man, but a shared burden; so long as the black man was persecuted in America no one was free. No one is free.

If there is one thing that Americans love to talk about more than anything else it is “freedom” and the “price” of said freedom. They love to invoke the blood shed for their right to live in America and all that other jingoistic stuff that ignores the most essential facts regarding the history of the violation of rights that has taken place in the past and is currently taking place under the umbrella of “national security”. For the first time in American history the black man is probably marginally less maligned in the eyes of the institution for the sole reason that the post 9/11 racial profile doesn’t include anyone wearing an afro.

Given the number of individuals that have been detained, sometimes for months or even years, merely because they were travelling on a passport from a “suspect” nation, or they “looked” suspicious (read: they were wearing traditional Arab dress, were reading a Qu’ran, were praying, or conducting themselves in any number of other overtly threatening ways), it would seem that the “dream” has a long way to go before it is fully realized.

We can do more. We cannot walk alone.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Time for Passion; A Time for Peace

Our species has been endowed and imbued with a spectrum of emotions, not the least of which is the ability to feel things with a tremendous amount of passion. Our expressions of passion may at times seem to go beyond that which would be considered normal, or acceptable, under “ordinary” circumstances, but we must always remember that this is one of the most powerful of emotions; passion is not only connected with our ability to love and express that important feeling, it comes into play with other emotional states as well. People often speak of being passionate about their work, there is passion involved in the creative act (something that I can attest to without any hesitation), and it is very evident whenever any sort of conflict that strikes an emotional note arises.

Rather than approaching a situation with calmness and logic, passionate feelings well up to the surface and reason is swept aside. At these times we seem to be reduced to unthinking organisms guided by something akin to a reptilian brain, that vestigial portion of our brainstem that controls the involuntary nervous system (respiration, for example) and which guides crocodilians on their quest for prey. If that sounds severe, if it sounds harsh or overly judgemental, please understand that it is said from the point of view of someone who understands the situation by virtue of having learned it first hand. This is not a case of the “reinvention of the wheel”, it is merely a statement of fact: if we allow ourselves to be guided by our passions in all things, we are doomed; Period.

While it must be acknowledged that emotions are vitally important to our lives and we would not be who we are without them, it is important to understand that when we allow them to guide the way we accept things without question and form our opinions based purely on how we respond to the situation on a purely emotional level we are then in danger of missing the real picture.

Rather than experiencing the range of emotions and enjoying them we become slaves to them, slaves to the anger that is stoked by blind rage, a rage that isn’t even understood in rational senses anymore. Emotionalism prevents us from seeing the evidence that contradicts our passionate stance on a subject, to the point of detaching ourselves from the world of facts and evidence-based reality: bodies lined up in streets become propaganda from the “enemy”, props that they arranged in order to elicit sympathy. War crimes are dismissed as being improbable acts, or as having been justified by the situation.

What needs to be done in order to solve the problems facing those living in Israel/Palestine is both difficult and easy; it is a solution that stares us in the face, and yet we do not see it for the elegance of its simplicity. In a time when the concept of “common sense” has been reduced to something no better than a campaign slogan of past campaigns for neo-conservative politicians attempting to sway the electorate in a land far removed from the peoples of the troubled Middle East, true common sense is often abandoned in favour of things that fly in the face of logic; the choice of strife is made over that of peace for the simple reason that to do otherwise would be to dishonour those who have paid for the land with the blood that flowed through their veins. It is this sort of rhetoric that paints them into the corner, leaving them without an alternative that doesn’t end in violence, violence for the sake of justice and the avenging of the losses that they have experienced, sometimes in the distant past. It does not allow for an alternative that doesn’t include a fanatical approach to the “protection” of the land, even if that means the use of techniques inspired by the lessons gleaned from the darkest days of Jewish history, the Holocaust and the Pogroms.

The solution is difficult because it goes against what seems to be the character of our species: we are a passionate and stubborn people by nature. We are a people that allow our passions to guide the creature rather than allowing our intellects to lead us, though we know that we are capable of taking control whenever we put our minds to the task. Our preference is to contend that there is no fault; there is always a way to justify that something is right even when everything points to the fact that our actions are wrong. We may call this the “natural” way of our species as many times as we desire, but that will never change the simple fact that the truth of the matter is quite different; we were never designed to be controlled by the passions that have led us, more times than need to be mentioned, past the point of no return. We were never meant to be led by unbridled passions that lead directly to the deaths of innocent lives for causes that could — and should — have been solved by the greater gift that our species has been endowed with: our intellect and our ability to reason through any issue with well-devised diplomatic solutions that do not involve the deployment of military forces and the deaths of countless innocent lives.

The reason that the solution for this is easy is quite simply because it calls upon the essential humanity found in each of us: rather than looking at the conflict in Israel/Palestine as it exists today, as an ongoing conflict between two different peoples struggling over the same piece of real estate, we must first recast the situation into an entirely new paradigm that will clarify the issue into a way that even the most intellectually challenged individual will be able to grasp the simplicity of the circumstances. Without being torn apart by our passions it becomes possible to see that the problems facing the people of Israel/Palestine are not that difficult to overcome, so long as you understand the importance of a simple word, a word that even the scriptures of the Old Testament say we should hold closer to our hearts than any other; that word is love.

In the fifth book of the Torah, or Deuteronomy as it is known in the Old Testament, Moses is given the “greatest commandment” from HaShem in the sixth chapter. It is important to note that this commandment is given at the time that the Lord God Almighty first promises the “Land of milk and honey”, which the Children of Israel decided to take possession of in a state of disobedience by not following the directions given to them by the Lord. The “greatest commandment” is revealed in Deuteronomy 6, a commandment that is repeated by another – Yeshua HaMoshiach – Jesus Christ – in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt. 22:37). After the “Sh’ma” is declared (“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!”) we are given the commandment: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” In the Gospel of Matthew there is an interesting addition, which is also reflected in the teachings of Rabbi Akiva, that the second commandment is like the first, “you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:39-40).

Why would love, and something that seems to come out of a children’s television show from the 1970’s, being neighbourly with others even when they are different from us, be a required skill to be able to solve a conflict that has gone on for generations? Indeed, that is a question that resonates with intensity for many, but the answer is simplicity itself: what is the real reason for this conflict? Why are Jews and Palestinians at war with each other? Why do Arabs in neighbouring countries, for that matter, have such hatred for the Jews – a hatred that is reflected back by the Israelis? When you look at the blood of Jews and Arabs, when you look at who their ancestors were, there seems to be no reason for enmity; both claim to be descendents of Abraham, brothers with different mothers. Even if you do not accept a Biblical account of their heritage, Semites hating other Semites makes about as much sense as an Austrian from Vienna hating another Austrian by virtue of their living in Salzburg, or the very real situation of people in the Dominican Republic hating and fearing people from Haiti – people who are ethnically identical by virtue of them all having come to the island as slaves – and yet the Dominicans feel that the Haitians are, somehow, “more black” than they are.

It is time to step away from the passions that are leading us towards inevitable destruction and look at how easy it is to live together in harmony when the common goal is to move forward with life rather than towards death through ignorance. During the Cold War a great fear was promulgated by the propaganda puppet-masters behind the American press: the constant message that I remember hearing through the administrations of Ronald Reagan and even, to some extent, his predecessor Jimmy Carter, was that the Soviets were a hair-trigger away from launching an all out nuclear assault against the west – a first strike attack. I never bought into this line of thinking for two simple reasons: First of all, it simply didn’t make sense to me. The Soviets – led by Brezhnev at the time – had to know that the United States possessed the capabilities, with their nuclear submarine force alone, to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike that would obliterate the Soviet Union several times over. Thus the term MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction (or Mentally Addled Decision-makers, depending on your point of view). There is, after all, no such thing as a “limited” nuclear war and the Soviets understood this.

The second reason that I didn’t accept the premise of what the war-mongers in the west were trying to pass off as the “truth” while simultaneously whipping up a frenzy of jingoism and nationalism was even more basic and fundamental: if we accepted the hypothesis that the Soviets loved their children even half as much as the people in the United States did then they would never want to see the horrors of war visited upon their nation again. More Russian lives were lost (Soviet citizens and soldiers combined) during The Great Patriotic War, what the Russians call World War II, than any other nation that fought in the war – on either side. The famines and purges that came after the war continued to claim victims, adding to the twenty-six million that the war had taken.

There is no doubt in my mind that even the most hardened Politburo members and military advisors would have cringed over the images of the “motherland” being ravaged – yet again – at the possibility of a thermonuclear war, even on a “limited” scale. When they advised Brezhnev in regards to the deployments of their nuclear forces they would have been acutely aware of the fact that any first strike use of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union against the United States or any of her allies would be inviting a nuclear holocaust upon mother Russia such as never could be truly imagined; it was, truly, an unthinkable option. After the near disastrous outcome of the Cuban Missile Crises, an event we are still discovering details about, forty-five years after the fact, where the world was led so close to the brink of a nuclear holocaust you can still taste the tinge of a nuclear winter when it snows in North America, it seems unlikely that the Soviets would have been so eager or willing to go as far down that path with the United States as they had with JFK.

The Soviets learned from their mistakes in Cuba. Now, what can we say of the Jews? Why should Jews be concerned with the issue of living together in peace? Only for the simple reason that this simple concept nearly led to our people being wiped off the face of the earth. When the Nazi propaganda machine began churning out its lies about the Jews being the cause of the economic woes of the German economy it wasn’t being original; the Jews of Europe had been blamed for causing the spread of the Black Death in the Middle-Ages as well. Anytime a scapegoat was needed all one had to do was find the nearest Shtetl and grab as many Jews as was necessary, perhaps enough for a private Pogrom.

The Holocaust, if nothing else, should demonstrate what happens when people fail in their responsibility towards all of humanity: we are not only the brothers and sisters of those who look like us, but of everyone, regardless of their race. The answer to that age-old question, “am I my brother’s keeper?” is, in fact, “yes, you are”. You are your brother’s keeper, and your sister’s; you are your niece’s keeper and your nephew’s, and you are your neighbour’s keeper, and anyone else who happens to fall within your sphere of influence as a human. That is what makes us human, that is what defines our humanity; we have the capacity to care for one another and when we allow ourselves to arise above our petty prejudices, we do so. We do not abandon those who do not have anyone to care for them nor do we leave the weak or the sick to die by the wayside. We do not kill a child whose mother has died in childbirth, we find someone to care for them, giving them love and raising them as their own. We love; actions define our humanity, not what we call ourselves.

As the Jews who were freed from the concentration camps often discovered when they tried to return to their pre-war homes, many things had not changed; their homes, if left standing, had often been stolen by other families who would not return them unless the “dirty Jews” could prove ownership (a difficult task considering they had been taken from their homes with few, if any, personal belongings – said belongings having been taken from them at the camps). The same thing went with bank accounts, accounts that to this day are being contested by families trying to prove rightful ownership.

Does this not teach us anything? What would have happened if the German people had stood up and said, “Why should we believe these ridiculous lies? These are my neighbours and I trust them!” If asked to take up stones against Jewish business, “but what have they done to us?” Of course, there is anti-Semitism. That is, alas, a fact of this world. As warped and demented as this fact is, it is even more demented to see such hatred between two peoples who have far more in common (including anti-Semitism, though the Arabs may be experiencing a bit more post 9/11, but the Jews aren’t far behind … neck-n-neck) than the main thing that divides them, religion. There is no “official” religion of the Palestinians, though there seems to be a predominantly Sunni portion with a sizable Christian minority as well, but this should not be used as an excuse for not being able to live in peace with each other.

Religion is what has blinded the Israeli position regarding the land that they protect with higher esteem than anything else; the land that has been granted, they believe, as a sacred covenant to them by the Lord God Almighty. The belief that the division of the land is impossible is seemingly fundamental to the tenets of Judaism, and yet this belief is as erroneous as the very idea that the present State of Israel is a representation of the Biblical Holy Land, the Promised Land, the Land of Milk and Honey.

Who amongst you can relate the story of how the Jews came into the Promised Land? The story is long, quite complicated at times, and filled with some of the most unpronounceable names that you can think of … until you read the Book of Numbers. There is an important preface to the story, contained in the Book of Joshua, that is found a bit earlier, when the Lord makes the actual promise of the land to Moses, in Exodus. Moses is told: “Little by little I [the Lord God Almighty] will drive them [the inhabitants of the Promised Land] out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant [contract or agreement] with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” (Exodus 23:29-33, NKJV, parenthetical comments are my additions).

So, what went wrong? After the death of Moses and the selection of Joshua as the new Prophet of the congregation things didn’t quite go according to the script and it all centres around a simple concept: disobedience. “Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD, “Who takes counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; …” (Isaiah 30:1, NKJV). When the reputation of the children of Israel spread through the land the Gibeonites decided that the best way to survive was to avoid having to fight. They managed to convince the congregation and the leadership – including Joshua – to make a treaty [a covenant] with them, swearing it on the name of the Lord God of Israel. The result of this treaty is that the Gibeonites would serve as wood-cutters and water bearers for the Temple (they were slaves), but they were allowed to live.

Unfortunately, things did not go so well for the children of Israel. The Babylonians decided that slavery was an equal-opportunity career and thus, the Babylonian Captivity. Seventy years of … lets call it character building (2 Chronicles 36:1-21). Of course, the Jews were allowed to return to the Holy Land and they began the work of rebuilding the Temple, but that is not the end of the story (of course); rather than adhering to their covenant with the Lord, by not marrying anyone who was not of the twelve tribes, the disobedient Israelites took wives out of the pagans living amongst them (see Ezra 9)

As easy as it is to take the scriptures and point out all of the ways in which the Israelites disobeyed the word of God in regards to their inheritance, it is more important to examine the ramifications of those acts and what the reality of that situation is – for all of us – today. Whatever happened in the time before the Babylonian captivity is, as they say, ancient history. Nothing can change the fact that the children of Israel were carried away from their homes as slaves, just as nothing can change the fact that western imperialists carried millions of African slaves away from their homes to the “new world” and mistreated them for centuries. If there is any doubt that institutional racism still exists one need only look at the current presidential election (which has not even left the level of the primaries) to see the acrimony aroused as a result of racial issues (and gender); for this we should all be ashamed.

The only true solution to the Jewish/Palestinian “question” is to step back from our passions and allow reason to prevail; we must not allow ingrained prejudices to be freed to bubble up to the surface when we know they are inherently wrong, we must rise above the pettiness of racial divisiveness that makes us cringe when we see that our neighbour does not look as we do. For far too long we have lived lives of complacency, lives of disconnection from each other that permit the perpetuation of violent reactions against the people and things that do not adhere to our own way of life. There is no excuse for such barbaric behaviour; by these actions, by demonstrating that they are unable to live in peace with each other, the Zionists demonstrate that they have not learned anything from the lessons of history save for the worst, most despicable portions. The responses of violence from the Palestinians, of course, are no better, and may not be excused for any reason. Violence begets violence, and “an eye for an eye” will, in the end, leave us all blind.

Every act of inequality, every racial slur and every violent action perpetrated against our fellow man diminishes each and every one of us collectively. As neighbours in this continually shrinking world it is far past the time to put aside our differences and begin the process of living together in peace. If our neighbours do not go to our church, or synagogue, if they happen to go to a mosque, or if, God forbid, they don’t go to any house of worship at all, then so be it; let them go where they would, in peace. If that is such a difficult proposition for someone than I have another, even simpler solution: get off the planet and leave it to those who are able to live in peace with each other. The cost of war fostered by human ignorance and stupidity is far too great to be allowed to continue.