Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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Jerusalem bleeding

Al Quds.  Jerusalem.  Yerushalayim.  It is all of these, and it is bleeding.

President Trump performing at the western wall, Jerusalem

This week the US regime announced it would move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  In so doing it becomes the first country in the world to buy the Zionist claim that Jerusalem is the ‘real’ capital of Israel, and to break the long-held international and UN consensus that Jerusalem cannot be the capital of Israel because it is illegally occupied.

No matter.  In return for enough cash and votes in the US, the people who run that imperial country simply gave away Jerusalem to the Israeli regime.

Of course it was never theirs to give.  Neither was Palestine when the former imperial power, Britain, gave it away 100 years ago to the Zionist movement.

In a 1917 letter to Lord Rothschild, a British Zionist leader, Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour declared: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”  And so it was done, at the stroke of an imperial pen.

This week’s equivalent assault by the US can only produce more of the same ‘benefits’ the British favour has been dispensing since 1917.  More lies, more ignorance, more hypocrisy, more hatred, more repression, more suffering, more violence, more death.

From western regimes, historically biased and/or fearful of the Israel lobby, the best we can expect are a few meek murmurings of ‘cause for concern,’ but no meaningful opposition.  As usual that will have to come from the rest of us.

As I see it, the most effective way to stand with the besieged Palestinians is through the international grassroots campaign to boycott, divest from and sanction the illegal occupier, Israel.  In short, BDS.

Here I offer impressions gleaned from my own travels in Palestine-Israel.  These generated a book, Our Way to Fight, about courageous Palestinians and Israelis fighting for a just peace in the battered land that many call holy.  From those same travels also emerged Deus Vult/God wills it, a short, pungent history of Jerusalem before, during and since the Crusades.

That article follows below.  A few fragments:

…Archeological findings suggest human habitation here for at least fifty centuries.  Some linguists believe the name Jerusalem, or Yerushalayim in contemporary Hebrew, was derived from the Jebusite (a tribe of Canaan) Ur-Shalem, which translates loosely as ‘City of Peace.’  The Arabic name for the city, Al-Quds, means “the holy.”  The faithful of three religions consider it holy, with the result that peace here has tended to be rather elusive.  By one historian’s count, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times….

…..The European invasion known as The First Crusade occurred in the last decade of the 11th century.  It was sparked by Pope Urban II in 1095 with a series of ferocious sermons across Catholic Europe, in which he denounced Muslims – or Saracens, as they were called at the time, a term that evoked both contempt and fear – as pagans, rapists, defilers of Christian holy places, and all in all “a race absolutely alien to God.”  At the launch of this vicious campaign for an invasion of Jerusalem, it is reported that a great roar went up from the assembled crowd: Deus vult!  God wills it!

An estimated army of 40 – 60,000 volunteers started out on the long march from Europe to Palestine.  Along the way, many Jews were massacred by the Christian zealots.  Probably now the victims would be called collateral damage.  Also enroute, many foot-soldiers died from hunger, disease or in battle, and many defected.  Some 12 – 15,000 survivors reached Jerusalem in early June, in the roasting heat of deep summer, to besiege the thick-walled, well-defended city.  At about midday on July 15, 1099, the Crusaders managed to break through a section of the northern wall east of Herod’s Gate, a short walk from the present-day Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

According to Crusader eye-witness reports, within two days nearly all the Muslims in the city were killed.  The Jews, who had lived at peace with their Muslim neighbours, sought refuge in their synagogue; the Crusaders burned them alive.  Fulcher, a chaplain and chronicler from Chartres, wrote thus of the Christian invaders’ motives: “They desired that this place, so long contaminated by the superstition of pagan inhabitants, should be cleansed from their contagion.”  Several reports describe a triumphal procession of nobles and clergy to the Holy Sepulchre, through streets that ran with blood – some said as deep as the ankle, some the knee.  Deus vult!  the Crusaders chanted along the way. God wills it.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Read on…. Continue reading


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Awe

Human responses to a spider’s web:2006_0819Fleurs_aug19_060001

1.  Awe.

2.  Eeew.  Call the exterminator!

3.  Make metaphors.
O, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive!
– Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, 1808.

4.  Make sense. “Given the presumed metabolic effort required by the spider for rebuilding an entire web, localized failure is preferential as it does not compromise the structural integrity of the web and hence allows it to continue to function for prey capture in spite of the damage.” Cranford, S.W. et al, Nature, 2012..

5.  Make products.   In the works:  Tiny sutures for eye and nerve surgery, artificial ligaments and tendons, textiles for parachutes….

6.  Make a superhero: 700 comic issues, 2 live-action TV series, 7 animated series, 4 movies (to date), video games, backpacks, blankets, water bottles, ball-caps, action figures, costumes, weapons, the most expensive Broadway musical in history…

7.  Make military/police products.   In the works: Comfy body armour for the imperial guard…

8.  Awe.  Or its close cousin, horror.

“All knowledge and wonder (which is the seed of knowledge) is an impression of pleasure in itself.”       – Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, 1605.

I would add:  Wonder, or awe, is indispensable in the quest for knowledge.  But it goes far too easily missing along the way.  (Wonder and awe I count as degrees of the same response.)

Awe revels in the mystery, elegance and grandeur of existence.  It is rooted in healthy humility.  In awe, we know our place – in nature, not above it.  Falling out of awe, we lose our place.

Wonder is spontaneous and ecstatic.  Children feel it, uninhibited.  Then we learn how to think, and then we learn what to think.  Wonder is at risk.  If it withers enough, eventually we have to pretend it.  Or buy it.

Awe touches vast questions, some of them best left as questions.  But religion and science keep trying to answer them.

On a mid-winter walk, breath clouds under clear sky, transparent to infinity.   I watch rising sun brush grey tree-tops with a buttery glow.  For an instant I feel its warmth, and the pleasure of it draws a smile.  But in another instant, pleasure surrenders to memory – a hymn from Presbyterian childhood in another century:

When morning gilds the skies
My heart awakening cries…

A rapturous image of awe.  Then the author (unknown) delivers a message from the sponsor (unknowable):

…may Jesus Christ be praised. 

Religion can’t resist transforming awe into worship, a more governable activity.

Science does something different, but remarkably similar.  Very often it treats awe as superstition, a vestige, like the tailbone, of our primitive past.  In doing so it lures wonder away from its natural object, the universe, to be dazzled instead by the brilliance of human science as it deconstructs the universe.

The lure is beguiling.  When we reduce the universe to data it appears more manageable, less terrifying.  Not an unreasonable goal in a universe that dispenses catastrophe as casually and indiscriminately as impressions of pleasure.  But data is cold.  It shrinks, chills, and eventually freezes wonder.

In 1605 Francis Bacon also wrote:  “I am come in very truth leading to you Nature with all her children to bind her to your service and make her your slave.” – The Masculine Birth of Time.

A cruel paradox here:  Nature enslaved can no longer elicit wonder.  Yet Bacon calls wonder “the seed of knowledge.”  Without seed, what can we expect to grow?

Awe induces respect.  What we don’t respect we tend to neglect or destroy:  people we dislike, countless fellow species, forests, oceans, air, the breath of life.

A cruel paradox: What are we to do?