March 29, 2017
Islamophobia in America with Reza Aslan

Aslan Slider Image

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017
7:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Location: Wisconsin Union Theater
Cost: Free

Reza Aslan is an internationally renowned writer, commentator, professor, producer, and scholar of religions. His books, including his #1 New York Times Bestseller, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, have been translated into dozens of languages around the world. He is also a recipient of the prestigious James Joyce Award.

In addition to his role as a Consulting Producer on the acclaimed HBO series The Leftovers, Aslan is also the host and Executive Producer of two other original television programs: Rough Draft with Reza Aslan (premiered on Ovation), and CNN’s new documentary series, Believer. He also served as an Executive Producer on the ABC drama, Of Kings and Prophets. His book Zealot has been optioned by Lionsgate and producer David Heyman with a script penned by Oscar nominated screenwriter, James Schamus.

In 2006, Aslan co-founded BoomGen Studiosthe premiere entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Middle East—which has provided an array of targeted services ranging from strategic messaging to grassroots marketing to publicity and social media outreach, to producers, studios, and filmmakers—including Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Netflix’s The Square, Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Weinstein Company’s Miral, Discovery and TLC’s All American Muslim, and National Geographic’s Amreeka.

Aslan’s first book, International Bestseller No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, has been translated into seventeen languages, and was named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade by Blackwell Publishers. He is also the author of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age (originally titled How to Win a Cosmic War), as well as editor of two volumes: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalties, Contentions, and Complexities.

Aslan’s degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University (Major focus: New Testament; Minor: Greek), a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University (Major focus: History of Religions), a PhD in the Sociology of Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. An Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a member of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues; Narrative Four, which connects people through the exchange of stories; PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world; the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Levantine Cultural Center, which builds bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world through the arts.

Aslan is a tenured Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside and serves on the board of trustees for the Chicago Theological Seminary and The Yale Humanist Community, which supports atheists, agnostics, and humanists at home and abroad. A member of the American Academy of Religions, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the International Qur’anic Studies Association, Aslan’s previous academic positions include the Wallerstein Distinguished Professor of Religion, Community and Conflict at Drew University in New Jersey (2012-2013), and Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Iowa (2000-2003).

Born in Iran, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, author and entrepreneur, Jessica Jackley, and their three sons.

How Israel Misuses the Bible

By fuming over a U.N. resolution against Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land, Israeli leaders reveal their final solution for the Palestinians – to deny them property rights and displace them.

Daniel C. Maguire, Consortiumnews.com, December 27, 2016

Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, let the theological cat out of the bag.   When the Security Council rebuked Israel for their land thefts (euphemized as “settlements,”) Mr. Danon replied with pious indignation: “Would you ban the French from building in Paris?”

There, in all of it effrontery, is the imperial theology that birthed Zionism. David Ben Gurion said of Palestine “God promised it to us.” Yitzhak Baer wrote in 1947: “God gave to every nation its place, and to the Jews he gave Palestine.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

So in this hallucinatory theology, just as God gave Paris to France the Zionist deity gave Palestine to Jews including the right to build whatever they want wherever they want it. If the Zionist god posted a “Jews only” sign on Palestine, the presence of non-Jews is a sacrilege and their land claims are specious. If nothing is intelligible outside its history, as the Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin put it, Ambassador Danon’s French allusion can only be understood against this theological backdrop.

Yigal Allon, a commander of the Palmach, the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the paramilitary force that fought to drive the British from Palestine, did not eschew the language of “cleansing,” a term now used to describe a “crime against humanity.” He boasted that the Zionists were “cleansing” Palestine of Arabs.

The religious goal of Zionism Ben Gurion said is to “secure … that the whole of Palestine will be Jewish, and not only a part of it.” Joseph Weitz, the administrator responsible for the colonization of Palestine, stated the creed bluntly: “Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both people together in this country. … The only solution is a Palestine … without Arabs.”

In 1919, a fact-finding mission appointed by President Woodrow Wilson reported that in meetings with Zionists it was clear that the Zionists looked forward to a “complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.”

Zionist ersatz theology imagines a capricious god who is into real estate distribution, a god who hands out eternal deeds to people of his choosing. It is the will of the Creator that all others be cleansed and their property rights be negated.

Misunderstanding the Bible

Zionist theology depends on a fallacious exegesis of the Hebrew Bible. The two key words for properly understanding the Bible are descriptive and prescriptive. Many of the texts of the Bible describe the horrors of a barbaric time. They are not normative or in any sense admirable. The Bible is revered for its prescriptive texts which imagined with classical excellence a whole new social order where “there shall be no poor among you,” (Deut 15::4) and where swords will gradually be melted down into plowshares as violent power is subdued. In the prescriptive texts we see the beauty of Judaism which Zionism violates.

A section of the barrier — erected by Israeli officials to prevent the passage of Palestinians — with graffiti using President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote when facing the Berlin Wall, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (Photo credit: Marc Venezia)

The Zionists don’t know the distinction between descriptive and prescriptive. They take ugly biblical descriptive texts and use them to make imperial policy. Texts such as this from Deuteronomy: “When Yahweh your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you – the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canannites, the Perizzites, the Hivites … and when Yahweh your God gives them over to you … you must utterly destroy them. … Show them no mercy.” (7:1-11, 91-5, 11:8-9)

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In massive shift, Lutherans vote to halt US aid to Israel

Ryan Rodrick Beiler, The Electronic Intifada, 17 August 2016

Lutheran church wants US to halt aid to Israel until settlement construction and human rights abuses end. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has become the latest US denomination to take economic action against the Israeli occupation.

At its triennial assembly last week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the four million-member church, one of the largest in the US, voted on two separate resolutions targeting Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses, passing each by a landslide.

The first resolution calls for the end of US aid to Israel until it ceases violations of international human rights norms, specifically the ongoing construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

It passed by a 751-162 vote, or 82 percent, on 12 August.

The US gives Israel more than $3 billion every year, despite laws that prohibit aid to countries with persistent records of human rights violations. The Obama administration has vowed to increase that sum over the coming decade in what would be the largest military aid package the US has ever given any country.

The second resolution, adopted by a 90 percent margin on Saturday, calls for the creation of a “human rights social criteria investment screen,” specifically citing concerns raised in the church’s Middle East policy.

The Lutheran church has deep ties to Palestinian churches which are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Reverend Mitri Raheb, whose Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem is one such congregation, was one of the authors of the Kairos Palestine Document which calls on churches around the world to use “boycott and disinvestment as tools of nonviolence for justice, peace and security for all.”

“By adopting this investment screen, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is taking an important step to ensure that we are not profiting from, or complicit in, injustice in the Holy Land and elsewhere,” said church member Jan Miller in a press release from the grassroots group Isaiah 58. The group describes itself as Lutherans advocating “for an end to Israel’s occupation and a just peace for both Israel and Palestine.”

Dramatic shift

According to Tim Fries, an Isaiah 58 activist, much of the assembly was focused on getting the church to move toward taking responsibility for the ways it has been complicit in systemic privilege, “namely, white, European colonial privilege.”

Fries cited huge majority support for resolutions also put to vote at the assembly about supporting refugees and immigrants (by an 842-48 vote), and expressing solidarity with Black Lives Matter (846-73).

Resolutions on fossil fuel divestment and opposition to US military spending also passed with overwhelming support.

Still, the votes on the Israeli occupation marked a notable shift in position.

Dale Loepp, an Isaiah 58 leader, noted that at the previous church assembly in 2013, there was visible and organized opposition from the Zionist activist group Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East.

At that time, Loepp told The Electronic Intifada, the main strategy to defeat such measures was to introduce amendments that removed any economic consequences, allowing such “toothless” resolutions to pass easily.

Similar tactics were used to effectively deflect divestment actions targeting occupation-linked firms during the United Methodist Church convention earlier this year.

At the 2013 Lutheran gathering, the only amendment that introduced an investment screen targeting the occupation failed by a 70 percent margin.

“The surprising story here is that there has been a massive shift in the stance of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on the occupation in only three short years – 70 percent opposed to economic tools to end the occupation, versus 90 percent in favor today,” Loepp said. “Though these are three years that I’m sure seem like two eternities to Palestinians.”

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Unitarian Majority for Divestment; Presbyterians Take it to the Next Level!

Anna Baltzer, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, June 25th, 2016

I cannot remember a more significant day in church activism for Palestinian rights than the past 24 hours.

The largest gathering of UUs in the country just voted on whether to endorse the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)’s recent divestment from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. The general assembly achieved a simple majority while falling short of the two thirds needed for passage.

Delegate reads testimony from FOSNA citing the lack of Palestinian voices on stage.

We congratulate member group Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME), which led a dynamic campaign, building the momentum and leverage to achieve actual divestment more quickly than any other denomination has!

Just last night, the Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a series of powerful overtures by a landslide with the strong leadership of member organization Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Overtures included: 

  1. Committing the church to prayerfully consider the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) and engage with its writers; 
  2. Calling on Re/MAX, which sells homes in illegal settlements, to follow through on a new promise it made in a recent letter to the church to stop profiting from settlement sales
  3. Calling on Israel to end its gross mistreatment of Palestinian children and on the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the U.S. Senate to take active steps toward that end.
  4. Urging the IRS to investigate and possible revoke the tax-exempt status of organizations supporting Israeli settlements; 
  5. Asking the U.S. government to enforce laws requiring correct labeling of place of production of Israeli settlement goods; 
  6. Urging Congress to hold hearings into the use of U.S. military and police equipment by the government of Israel; 
  7. Recommending that the Presbyterian Foundation and Board of Pensions refrain from investments that support violence against Israelis or Palestinians.

US Campaign Steering Committee member Sydney Levy.

Supporters of Israel’s discriminatory policies tried repeatedly to introduce amendments and resolutions maligning BDS at the Presbyterian assembly. They even brought forth a resolution specifically calling on the church to distance itself from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation because of our significant role in advancing BDS nationwide. The Presbyterian commissioners soundly rejected every one of these attempts, electing instead for Presbyterians to consider the Palestinian BDS call for themselves

US Campaign staff and Steering Committee members were proud to be on the ground supporting both of these tremendous efforts with testimonies and strategic support, along with the significant and powerful contributions of member groups Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Friends Service Committee, and Friends of Sabeel-North America (FOSNA).

Waiting for the vote at the UU Assembly

Unintimidated by today’s climate of repression targeting activism for Palestinian rights, the Presbyterian and UU churches are marching steadily ahead, alongside the many other denominations and religious organizations that have already taken economic actions including the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, Quakers, Mennonite Central Committee, Conference of Major Superiors of Men, and the Alliance of Baptists

Two years ago, Presbyterians passed divestment by a razor thin margin of just 7 votes. This year, they moved boldly forward with huge majority votes on further strong measures. Meanwhile, the Unitarians achieved a majority on their first attempt at divestment (remember, the Presbyterians took 10 years!)

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April 7, 2016
Linda Sarsour on Racial Justice & Interfaith Cooperation

 

7:00 – 9:00 pm
The Crossing
1127 University Ave.
Madison, WI

Linda Sarsour is a working woman, racial justice and civil rights activist, every Islamophobe’s worst nightmare, and mother of three. Ambitious, outspoken and independent, Linda shatters stereotypes of Muslim women while also treasuring her religious and ethnic heritage. She is a Palestinian Muslim American and a self-proclaimed “pure New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn!”

She is the Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York and co-founder of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPOWER Change.
Linda has been at the forefront of major civil rights campaigns including calling for an end to unwarranted surveillance of New York’s Muslim communities and ending police policies like stop and frisk. In wake of the police murder of Mike Brown, she co-founded Muslims for Ferguson to build solidarity amongst American Muslim communities and encourage work against police brutality. She is a member of the Justice League NYC, a leading NYC force of activists, formerly incarcerated individuals, and artists working to reform the New York Police Department and the criminal justice system.

The lecture is sponsored by The Crossing Ingraham Fund in collaboration with UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine.

Questions, please contact:
Rev. J. Manny Santiago, Executive Director
The Crossing
1127 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53715
(608) 257-1039 ext. 1
(608) 255-1134 fax
manny at crossingministries.org

May 5 – 6, 2014
Mark Braverman in Madison

Mark Braverman, author of Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land and A Wall in Jerusalem: Hope, Healing and the Struggle for Peace in Israel and Palestine, will be speaking in Madison. Mark is an American Jew with deep family roots in the Holy Land. He is on the advisory board of Friends of Sabeel, co-founder of Friends of Tent of Nations (a nonprofit dedicated to supporting Palestinian land rights), and Program Director for Kairos USA (a movement to unify and mobilize American Christians to respond to the suffering and hopes of Palestinian Christians as articulated in the Kairos Palestine declaration).

Schedule:

  • Monday, May 5, 7:00 pm – “The Path to Peace in Israel and Palestine: A Jewish American’s Journey”, Pyle Center, UW campus [Map]
  • Tuesday, May 6, 8:30-10:00 am – Breakfast with pastors and lay leaders. Mark will talk about the role of faith communities in achieving peace in the Holy Land. No reservations necessary. Christ Presbyterian Church [Map]
  • Tuesday, May 6, 2:00 pm – “Toward a New Theology of Land and the Quest for Peace in Israel and Palestine”, Anderson Auditorium, Predolin Hall, Edgewood College [Map]
  • Sponsored by local Bright Stars of Bethlehem, the Southwest Association of the United Church of Christ Bethlehem Partnership, Memorial United Church of Christ, Christ Presbyterian Church, Midvale Lutheran Church, the Havens Center, Edgewood College, Pilgrims of Ibillin, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and Students for Justice in Palestine – UW-Madison.

    For more information contact Bonnie Van Overbeke at bonnievano (at) aol.com

    March 31, 2014
    Rev. Mitri Raheb at Edgewood College


    Edgewood College
    Anderson Auditorium
    Predolin Humanities Center
    3:00 pm [Directions]

    Rev. Mitri Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and director of the Diyar Consortium, will be speaking in Madison as part of a tour for his new book Faith in the Face of Empire: the Bible Through Palestinian Eyes.

    Since 1992 Rev. Raheb has founded and led a number of projects and institutions serving the social needs of Palestinians living in the Bethlehem area, focusing specifically on women, children, youth, and the elderly.

    Sponsored by local Bright Stars of Bethlehem, the Southwest Association of the United Church of Christ Bethlehem Partnership, Memorial United Church of Christ, Christ Presbyterian Church, Midvale Lutheran Church, Pilgrims of Ibillin, and Edgewood College.

    For more information contact Bonnie Van Overbeke at bonnievano (at) aol.com.

    Quakers Call For Israel Boycott & Divestment

    Breakthrough! Quakers Spanning 3 States Call For Boycott & Divestment

    Anna Baltzer, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation National Organizer, September 4th, 2013

    Quakers Call for Boycott & Divestment!
    Quakers call for boycott & divestment!

    Exciting news! Lake Erie Yearly Meeting, a regional Quaker organization encompassing Ohio, Michigan, and Western Pennsylvania, has become the first Quaker Yearly Meeting to officially endorse boycott and divestment targeting companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. The recently adopted minute states:

    “Lake Erie Yearly Meeting calls for Friends to join the boycott of products made in Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements and to divest from companies that support Israel’s military occupation and repression of the Palestinian people.”

    Congratulations to member organization Palestine-Israel Action Group of Ann Arbor Friends Meeting and the many others who helped achieve this breakthrough, the latest in a string of Quaker decisions and actions in support of Palestinian rights, including (click here for a complete list):

    • Last year, the Friends Fiduciary Corporation, which manages more than 300 Quaker institutions, divested more than $1.2 million in holdings of Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Veolia following advocacy by Ann Arbor Friends working for Palestinian rights.
    • The American Friends Service Committee implemented a screen banning investment in 29 companies that benefit from the Israeli occupation. Earlier this year, the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. unanimously adopted the same screen!
    • Illinois Yearly Meeting, Blue River Quarterly Meeting, St. Louis Monthly Meeting and Colorado Springs Monthly Meeting all came out in support of the We Divest Campaign (check out the new website!) urging financial giant TIAA-CREF to divest from the Israeli occupation.

    Now, the U.S. Quakers are setting their sights on Israel’s illegal settlement products.

    Inspired by the breakthrough, and with support from the US Campaign, Quakers nationwide are forming a new national group, Quaker Palestine Israel Network (QPIN) to further Friends’ support for Palestinian freedom through boycott and divestment campaigns. Are you a Quaker or do you know someone who is? Invite them to click here to join QPIN during this exciting, pivotal moment!

    Likewise, inspired by the MCC-U.S. decision to go occupation-free, Mennonites have organized the new Mennonite Palestine Israel Network (Menno-PIN)!

    Boycott SodaStreamClick to sign the Interfaith SodaStream Boycott petition: “Thirsting for Justice”

    QPIN and Menno-PIN could soon be the newest members of the Interfaith Boycott Coalition, a network of the US Campaign, which launched a campaign earlier this year to boycott SodaStream, an Israeli settlement product. If you haven’t yet, sign the “Thirsting for Justice” petition to show your support for the Interfaith SodaStream Boycott.

    Faith-based organizing and SodaStream boycotts will be just two of the many topics covered at the US Campaign’s 12th Annual National Organizers’ Conference September 20-22 — less than three weeks away! — at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia. Have you registered yet?

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    Israeli rabbi remarks on Palestinians deeply offensive: US

    Agence France Presse, 29 Aug 2010

    WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States on Sunday condemned as deeply offensive remarks by an influential Israeli rabbi who said he hoped Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas would vanish from our world.

    We regret and condemn the inflammatory statements by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement.

    These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace.
    Ovadia, who heads a religious party in Israel’s ruling coalition, expressed hope in his weekly sermon Saturday that all the nasty people who hate Israel, like Abu Mazen (Abbas), vanish from our world.
    “May God strike them down with the plague along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel”, he said.

    Crowley pointed out that the remarks did not reflect the view of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is due in Washington this week for direct peace talks with Abbas.

    The talks will be the first face-to-face discussions since December 2008, when the Palestinians broke off negotiations over a deadly Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip.

    Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat condemned the remarks as an incitement to genocide, and urged the Israeli government to do more about peace and stop spreading hatred.

    Netanyahu’s office dismissed the comments in a statement that said the government wants peace with the Palestinians.

    Yosef’s comments do not reflect the views of Benjamin Netanyahu or of his government which seeks a peace settlement with the Palestinians, it said.

    According to Shas MP Nissim Zeev, whose party has 11 seats in the 120-member parliament, Yosef was trying to express the wish taken from Jewish holy texts that God would eliminate the enemies of Israel to clear the way for peace.

    In the past, Shass’ powerful mentor, a Baghdad-born rabbi now in his late 80s, has referred to Arabs and Palestinians as snakes and vipers who were swarming like ants.

    He has made similar remarks about non-observant Jews, including former prime minister Ariel Sharon, whom he called cruel and evil for his plan to evict settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

    In the late 1980s, however, Yosef came out in support of a territorial compromise with the Palestinians.

    Copyright © 2010 Agence France Presse