Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Let's Be Careful About Casting Blame (and about who we quote as a source of news)

I've been following the (discouragingly few) developments in the situation of the Christian Peacemaker Team members who were abudcted in Iraq by looking every day at the relevant portion of the Quaker Blog Watch There is a link there right now that troubles me in a different way than I expected.

The link says If the State Took our Brothers, Then
We Must be Having a Powerful Effect
. Clicking this link brings one to a blog called "Cytations" whose ownership and point of view I can't quite place. I at first took it to be something sponsored by the Christian Peacemaker Teams, but I have started to strongly doubt that it is. Maybe someone can enlighten me about that.

Anyway, what first troubled me about this blogpost was the reference to "If the State Took our Brothers" coupled with some pictures of the Christian Peacemaker Team captives. As far as I know, there has been no evidence that "the state" had anything to do with the capture of these four peacemakers. At first, I considered that the title might refer to the more recent and very brief arrest of some other Christian Peacemaker Team members in Israel, but there is no mention of that arrest in the post.

The body of the post is a statement by Peggy Gish which actually is a very good statement. Whether she had anything to do with putting it on the Cytations blog is another question. One of her points is that "One of the effects of kidnappings, killings, and bombings, whether they are done by the resistance or the state, is to instill fear in the people. This fear leads to feelings of helplessness and paralysis." Her purpose seems to be to counteract this helplessness and paralysis by asserting that the work CPT is doing is having an effect. I have no quarrel with this statement, only with the title it is given in the post, and with the link that appears just below it.

The link that appears just below it is to another post called Who is Holding the Christian Peacemakers? and the internal title of that is "Israelis Still Holding Christian Peacemakers in Iraq". It states that "Israelis have practically confessed to the kidnapping by smearing Rachel [Cory] at the old discussion." This old discussion, meanwhile, turns out to be yet another post accusing the Israelis of being behind the kidnapping of the Christian Peacemaker Team members. There are some hateful, violent, and obscene comments on that post directed against Rachel Cory by someone who is alleged to be an Israeli, but nothing remotely constituting either a "confession" or "evidence" that Israel had anything to do with the kidnapping of four Christian Peacemakers in Iraq.

The other evidence "Cytation" cites in this latter post consists mostly of the fact that the Christian Peacemaker Teams have never harmed Moslems and have sometimes offended Israelis. The argument is that it would therefore make no sense for Moslems to kidnap them. The thing is, though, that lots of things that really happen "make no sense". The attack on the World Trade Center "made no sense" from one point of view, and it too has sometimes been blamed by conspiracy theorists on Israel, notwithstanding that Osama Bin Laden seems pretty proud of taking the credit for himself.

No reasonable person thinks that serious and devout well-informed Moslems deliberately kidnapped the Christian Peacemakers. I have been very moved by and grateful to many people in the Islamic world who have appealed for release of the captives. Israelis, however, are not very likely alternative candidates for the villain-role in this story.

Who are the kidnappers? The so-called Swords of Righteousness Brigade may be misguided would-be Moslems (either Sunni or Shiite or other), or Moslems ill-informed about their own faith, or Moslems ill-informed about the Christian Peacemakers and their work. Or they may not be Moslems at all. They may simply be common criminals who took advantage of the breakdown of law and order in Iraq (created by the invasion and occupation) to kidnap some people who looked like they might be useable in collecting ransom monehy from their fellow Westerners. The fact that the CPTers, as pacifists, refused military protection probably made them fairly easy targets.

As long as we don't really know, it would seem the better part of wisdom to not assume. And in view of the long history of "blood libels" (not to mention pogroms and genocide) directed against Jews and crusades directed against Moslems, I think it is particularly important for the friends of these peacemaking Christians not to start throwing reckless accusations at either of those other traditions.

I also want to state (though I wish I could assume that it's a given) that I don't think Israel should be any more immune to critiques and denunciations for specific actions than any other state. I do not equate opposition to particular Israeli policies with anti-Semitism. I do feel, however, that unsupported inflammatory accusations are a different matter.

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Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Hi Rich,
Please feel free to email me anytime you think there's a weird link on the Quaker blog watch. I usually have about eighteen seconds to read everything and occasionally I miss something. I just saw the interesting Peggy Gish quote.

There's a lot of more-or-less "wacko" sites out there that have mentioned the Christian Peacemakers. You've mentioned the Israeli-as-kidnappers theory but there's also the US-as-kidnappers and it's-all-a-leftwing-peacenik-hoax theories. It is disturbing to see how many of these fringy sites are taking liberties with the ongoing ambiguity of the kidnappings to feed their pet worldviews. The situation is bad enough as is without having to resort to conspiracy.

7:14 PM, January 11, 2006  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Thanks to Martin Kelley for his quick response to my post. I was by no means suggesting that he or the Quaker blog watch endorses the "wacko" conspiracy theories. Since the link to "Cytation" was already on the Quaker blog watch, though, I decided to comment on it first and e-mail Martin afterward (just a few minutes later, actually).

- - Rich

10:45 PM, January 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inflammatory? Isn't it inflammatory to accuse Muslims of 9/11 without evidence and a real investigation? It caused two pogrom wars (Afghanistan and Iraq).

Israel pushed for the Iraq war, and many Israelis are there as Mossad and contractors, managing and manipulating the war. This is not speculation.

Just ask Iraqi Sunnis about the Israelis in Iraq.

1:02 AM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:08 AM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

For the record, I do not accuse "Muslims" of 9/11, since there are millions of Muslims in the world and only a very small number of people participated in this attack. Osama Bin Laden accuses himself and openly rejoices that the attack occurred. Whether he counts as a "Muslim" is not for me, as a non-Muslim, to say.

10:11 AM, January 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Osama Bin Laden denied involvement in 9/11. No bodies of Arabs were found in any 9/11 airplane remains. "Atta" was on Abramoff's casino boat. It was probably an Israeli gambler who claimed he was Atta.

Peacemakers should not trust official stories. WMD lies and Niger forgeries are not the only lies here and not the first lies. Wars are started by lies.

Muslims are blamed for terrorism but never convicted of terrorist acts. We have not seen much that will hold up in court. Have you ever served on a jury? What is happening with Muslims is lynching by inuendo.

Read my website before you jump to conclusions.

10:29 AM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Well, I am not an expert on Osama Bin Laden. According to Al Jazeera, this website is a transcript of a taped speech by Osama Bin Laden in which he takes credit for the 9/11 attacks.

I am leaving Cyte's comment on my blog despite its absurd claim about an "Israeli gambler" impersonating Mohammad Atta, but I will delete any future posts of that nature.

Those who wish to discuss Cyte's point of view at Cyte's site are welcome to do so.

- - Rich Accetta-Evans

10:57 AM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger john said...

Martin's CPT blogwatch is also featured at and I almost always look it over before Chuck does the daily update. When this entry popped up, I was somewhat surprised by the unFriendly editorial slant of the site, especially when I surveyed the main index of articles.

Tom Fox is a friend and mentor of mine, and I look forward to hearing from him soon. I give thanks to Martin for his support on this, and also to you, Rich, for keeping vigil with us and continuing to hold this in prayer.

As we shift from emergency mobilization to long term witness (from "urgency," to "priority," Tom would probably say), it is becoming evident that there is a great need for us to assess the big picture and develop a better grounding in the social, moral, and theological landscape in order to discover in what ways we can support Tom and his service at home and abroad in the long term.

To this end, I've been working on a very provisional resource that small groups in meetings and churches might use to focus on these concerns. The actual document is in need of a lot of revision, but I am presently working with the group that has convened at my meeting to look into the concerns raised by the present ordeal.

2:39 AM, January 23, 2006  

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