Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The reason I left Dr. Mikhael's workshop on Joshua...it's because of the Jewish people

How many times have the Jewish people had to deal with libel? From The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to stories of Jewish ritual murder of Christian children to false charges against Alfred Dreyfus, the French army officer falsely accused of treason in 1894, the Jewish people have had to live with the withering stories spread by both the malicious and the uninformed.[i]

That was the first thing that came to my mind, the libel of Jewish ritual murder, as I, hardly without thinking about what my body was doing, gathered my purse and bag and left the workshop, Horizon’s Bible study “Joshua: A Journey of Faith.”

Oh, the workshop leader, the author of the new Bible Study, did not mean to be malicious and she though she was informed when she told the story, but Dr. Mary Mikhael isn’t quite ready to admit she told a false story about Jewish people, soldiers in this case, when she responded to my comment.

My comment during the workshop had been that, Dr. Mikhael, who will also be part of a continuing interfaith dialogue with Muslim Dr. Muhammad Sammak, had simply stated that “war broke out” when Israel became a state in 1948. She failed to say that five Arab nations had attacked Israel.

Dr. Mikhael first responded by explaining that she was against all wars on either side but she went on to state that in the end the “root” of the violence was Israel’s fault since they had ejected 750, 000 Arabs from the new state. This in itself is simplistic but not the problem I am writing about. She enlarged on her subject to say a young woman who was Jewish, who stayed with her overnight in Lebanon on her way to Gaza, had e-mailed this horrific story about Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinian children.

Supposedly Jewish soldiers entered a Gaza home and insisted that the mother give five of her children to Israel. When she refused the soldiers shot five of the children. And as Dr. Mikhael explained you can find it all over the internet. (But you can’t, just in a few places mostly with a retraction.)

Here is the first statement, part of Barbara Lubin’s e-mail:

“Out of all the devastation I have seen so far, there is one story in particular that I think the world needs to hear. I met a mother who was at home with her ten children when Israeli soldiers entered the house. The soldiers told her she had to choose five of her children to “give as a gift to Israel.” As she screamed in horror they repeated the demand and told her she could choose or they would choose for her. Then these soldiers murdered five of her children in front of her. The concept of “Jewish morality” is truly dead. We can be fascists, terrorists, and Nazis just like everybody else.”

Here is the second statement by the Middle East Children’s Alliance:

"Barbara Lubin and all of us at the Middle East Children’s Alliance believe that we should have confirmed the story about the Gaza woman who was told by an Israeli soldier to choose which five of her ten children should die, and then witnessed their murder. We are doing everything we can now to verify the story, but have been unable to do so. We ask that you do not publish or post this story on the Internet. If you have already done so, please post this statement, as well.
Barbara Lubin went to Gaza to deliver four tons of medicine and other aid to the people there. When she arrived in the immediate aftermath of the Israeli assault the scene she encountered was chaotic and the people traumatized. She heard and retold many horrifying accounts, and saw for herself the devastation to homes, schools, businesses, land and lives.

In these catastrophic circumstances, it’s not difficult to see how Barbara would find this story credible. Unfortunately, we sent it out before taking the time to verify it.”

There is more in both comments you can read them here.

Here is the third statement which entails a second story when read carefully has nothing to do with the first and is itself suspect.

“ A massacre did happen, though not the one as originally outlined during the current assault by Lubin who has offered this to correct her account.

Excerpted from a letter to Barbara Lubin from Talal Abushawish

It’s not so far from from what you reported because the victims are the same…the story happened in Bourij Camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip. The Israelis called the woman, Manal Albatran, and told her that they wouldn’t kill her or her husband Hussein Albatran, instead they would make them die of sadness because they would kill her children. The next day they shot her house with a rocket killing her and 5 of her children.”

Remember this is by way of a fourth party.

Today I went to talk to Dr. Mikhael about my sadness that she would tell a story like this to a workshop of over a hundred women. She stated that someone had e-mailed her yesterday giving her the same link I have shown in this posting.

But she said that she still did not know if it was true or not because so many other atrocities had happened. She said she would not retract her statement in her next workshop because she didn’t want to deal with it again and besides she would never have told the story if I hadn’t made my comment.

Dr. Mikhael also stated that she was not anti-Semitic because she is herself a Semite. Interestingly, one of her editors, the day before had also explained that to me.

When I explained that the word anti-Semitic refers to someone who hates Jews she quickly insisted that she does not hate the Jewish people. And of course she does not, I know she does not. But when she, as a scholar and a Christian tells an unsubstantiated story such as this story to group of people who accept her authority she abets those who do hate the Jewish people.

This is how it begins, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the tales of Jewish ritual child murder the lies about individual Jewish people. As the people who belong to Jesus Christ may we not be guilty of that particular sin, slander.

[i] For the Dreyfus affair see W. Eugene March, God’s Land on Loan: Israel, Palestine, and the World, (WJK 2007), 31.


Adel Thalos said...

An anti-Semite, in my opinion, may or may not "hate" Jewish people, or may subconsciously hate Jews, but might not be consciously aware of it.

What is evident in the experience that you describe is an extreme bias against Israelites by Ms. Mikhael who is willing to believe the worst in regards to Israel. Even when she is shown that the story is doubtful, she chooses to not retract, or even make a moderating statement. This is a clear albeit moderate form of anti-Semitism.

Anonymous said...

What's the line associated with Dan Rather's bogus Bush National Guard documents? "Fake but true" was the expression, I think. This also puts me in mind of the old expression, "don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up!"

Anonymous said...

At a dinner hosted by a member of my church a few years ago, the guest of honor was Dr. Mary Mikhael. The group had been discussing the Middle East, and several of us had benefit of decades there as missionaries or professors. I made the observation that if the Palestinians had adopted the tactics of non-violence used by Gandhi, they would have had their state already. In fact, I believe, the story would have turned out so very differently that there's little in the way of blessing that would not have come to all Palestinians. (This wasn't exactly a novel statement, as readers of a number of journals could remind me.)

Dr. Mikhael gave me a rather angry stare and informed me plainly that the Palestinians indeed exercise non-violence each and every day that they refrain from massacring the Zionists, who "understand nothing but brutality and force". This remark then led to rather complicated efforts at polite conversation during dessert.

It was one of those moments that remind you how language is but loosely tied to meaning, and that you must add heaping amounts of worldview in order to communicate. (Before the angry emails come in to your blog Viola, let me say that Dr. Mikhael's view is not that of *all* other Christian Arabs.)

Underlying your blog, and also underlying writing done by Dexter van Zile and Will Spotts among others, is an invitation to do something much prized in a Western worldview -- honest self-critique. Openhearted reflection is fundamental to our momentum. We measure cultural eras in units of "Change", and change comes (we believe) after we explicitly name the things we do badly. Correct what you did badly and things improve for next time (and that, we believe, starts you on a journey called "progress"). This is one of the first noticeable differences when you live there between the many cultures of the Arab world and that of the West.

I genuinely believe Dr. Mikhael cannot speak otherwise. You critique her comments; she insists that all discussion be about Zionists instead. You say you want to name the facts clearly; she says they are too hard to discern. Her protests notwithstanding, too much of the commentary from our Arab brothers and sisters has little more to offer apparently than the counter-factual statement that there is only one set of claimants to Palestine.

For someone who holds such a view (even those who argue similarly from the Zionist side) to meet you in a project of critique would require a fundamental shift in perception. I'm reaching a point where I'm not sure even a scholar like Dr. Mikhael can cross that divide. There is an Arabic proverb that says el-tabiah lil-qabr which is literally, (human) nature is (lasts) to the grave.

Kyle Smith
Berkeley, CA

Viola Larson said...

Thank you, Kyle,

Your comment is very helpful and is welcome before any angry e-mails come.

Red_Cleric said...

The one saying that comes to mind is "never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity". The shame is that the many others out there will go home, repeat the story & concept and from there it will spread out even more.

Perhaps I'll use this as an observation during my sermon on James and the use of the tongue.

the one in Portland

Anonymous said...


That's a really bad story. God knows I am no anti-Semite. My Grandfather went to his grave telling my father and I that we were converted Jews, and proud of it. I too am proud of my Jewish heritage, if he was right.


I was watching CNN the day that plane landed in the Hudson. CNN was showing pictures of burning white phosphorous on the UN compound in Gaza that the Israelis had dropped. CNN had been showing without comment several weeks worth of the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza cities. Every night there were these air burst of jellyfish looking things, white puffs of smoke and burning white tentacles falling on the heavily populated cities of Gaza. No comment. Until the day they landed on the UN compound.

Then they cut to the miraculous landing in the Hudson and we never heard from the White Phosphorous story again.

White Phosphorous is amazing. If it gets moist and gets in contact with air it catches fire. Really hot too.

People with fragments of white phosphorous embedded in them have a real problem. Try to dig it out, and they catch fire. Leave it in, and it poisons them to death.

The Nazis used it in anti-aircraft shells against our air-force crews in WWII.

The use on of white phosphorous on civilians is against the Geneva convention of war. Its use on civilians is, by definition, a war crime.

I doubt the IDF ever did what your story tells. It is obviously fabricated. But I watched several weeks worth of white phosphorous being dropped on heavily populated cities in the Gaza without a peep of protest here in the US.

I am proud to be part Jewish. But I could never sanction the use of white phosphorous on women and children. For that I am deeply ashamed. For Israel, for Jews, for Christians, for Jesus, for God.

And to make it worse, we all looked the other way.

It breaks my heart.


Mac said...


The use of white phosphorous is not, per se, a "war crime." WP is used as a marker and as an incendiary weapon.

When calling and adjusting artillery, it is usual practice to use WP becase it is so visible when compared to high explosive rounds.

The "war crime," if any there be, is the practice of the Palestinian combatants (and others in other theaters) who hide among the civilian populace and then engage in combat.

By way of example. If I set up a hospital to treat the wounded and properly mark it, an attack on the hospital is a violation of the law of armed conflict by the attacking party. If, however, I set up a mortar battery in the middle of the hospital, I have stripped the hospital of its protection under the Geneva Conventions. If the other side attacks the mortar position and also kills patients in the hospital, a violation of the law of armed conflict has occurred--and I have committed it.

Pastor Bob said...

Let's be specific: it is not Israeli government policy to kill Palestinians who make no individual or group armed threats to Israeli citizens or property. On the other hand there are settlers who steal land from Palestinians and who also have a tendency to shoot at unarmed Palestinians. BTW some of them are also opposing Israeli police and army with armed force too.

Are checkpoints often humiliating to Palestinians and do Palestinians have to wait in long lines and are some unable to go to jobs or work their farms because the security barrier? Yes.

When the government of Israel attacked Gaza last winter were civilians killed and wounded? Yes. Why? Some, probably with the approval or the help of Hamas were shooting rockets into Israel. After months of putting up with this Israel responded with an attack against Gaza. Did those who were attacking Israel with rockets hide their munitions in civilian areas and buildings? Yes.

Has there been an organized nonviolent attempt to achieve Palestinian goals. No. Both intifadas were violent.

Were stories told that were not true and were there news reports faked? Yes.

We want this to be simple. It isn't.

Curiously the period between the first and the second intifadas were times of economic growth for Palestinians and joint economic enterprises between Israelis and Palestinians. The second intifada ended that.

I don't like the fact that there is a security barrier but I understand the necessity. Suicide bombing has dropped off to almost none. I do wish that the barrier was on the green line.

There is wrong on both sides. Lies do not help.

Bob Campbell
Same bat time same bat channel

Anonymous said...


The Red Cross--hardly an Israeli front--would disagree with you:

The International Red Cross said Tuesday that Israel has fired white phosphorus shells in its offensive in the Gaza Strip, but has no evidence to suggest it is being used improperly or illegally.

The International Committee of the Red Cross urged Israel to exercise "extreme caution" in using the incendiary agent, which is used to illuminate targets at night or create a smoke screen for day attacks, said Peter Herby, the head of the organization's mines-arms unit.

"In some of the strikes in Gaza it's pretty clear that phosphorus was used," Herby told The Associated Press. "But it's not very unusual to use phosphorus to create smoke or illuminate a target. We have no evidence to suggest it's being used in any other way."

(Jerusalem Post, January 13, 2009)

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Viola Larson said...

Thanks for the comments. I have been stuck in Huston after my plane had problems on the ground--for two hours--in Louisville. I just got home about an hour or so ago. But keep talking: )

Viola Larson
Sacramento (heaven right now) Ca

will spotts said...

Viola - This is saddening. And maddening. And par for the course.

But thank you. Thank for challenging it, and thank for walking out. That is something more people need to do in the face of actual gross slander that is coming through many of our churches.

will spotts said...

Question for you, Viola:

Was it Dr. Mikhael's contention that the refugees were the cause of the 1948 war?????? As opposed to an effect of it?

Anonymous said...

David, (and Kyle)

Not the Red Cross's finest moment. And not the last word on the topic.

But they were trying to walk a fine line: Provide aid to civilians, and alert the world to what was going on while remaining neutral, without getting kicked out of Gaza.

But I know what I saw on live TV.

The Human Rights Watch later wrote a long report detailing the indiscriminate use of White Phosphorous in Gaza. They even traced the shells to Thiokol Aerospace, made in Louisiana in 1989. They documented the injuries, the targets, whether or not there was Hamas activity in the area, (sometimes yes, sometimes no) and the fact that as a smoke screen, the IDF had homemade alternatives they could have used instead.

It does not help the US in its fight against terrorism to have easily identified American munitions used where civilians can be easily hit. Little boys whose sisters get mangled by our weapons grow up to be our worst enemies.

White Phosphorous is not a surgical weapon. About the best thing you can say for it is that it is not radioactive.

Was it a war crime to use it in Gaza? It may have been. But we will never know if we just look the other way, will we?

That's exactly how the Holocaust happened. The rest of the world just chose to look the other way while the Germans became more and more hostile to the Jews, until finally the stench in the woods overpowered even the hardest of battle hardened combat veterans.

It would not be anti Semitic to have the US government investigate the use of weapons it provided to its ally. Nor would it be anti Semitic for the Hague to conduct an investigation. It would simply be the human thing to do. The same simple human thing that could have prevented the Holocaust. Innocent civilians, widows and orphans, should always be protected.

Jesus said so. The Prophets said so. Common decency says so.


Viola Larson said...

she was confusing on that, she did believe that Israel had caused all of the 750,000 refugees to leave Israel. The funny thing is she had as her editor for content and recommends the book by Dr. Eugene March on the Middle East situation. He gives a fairly good history but she over looks it.

You should, if you are interested order the study from Presbyterian Women it is plainly slanted.

By the way leaving the workshop was almost automatic. It was sad to hear the women clapping for her as I left.

Viola Larson said...

It’s amazing. It’s as though you never read anything anybody else wrote. When you say "it’s a really bad story" I don't know what you are referring to so it is as though you have not commented on my original story at all.

How about the posting date of the article you are referring to like David provided or better yet a link?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Viola,

Here is the reference:


It is dated March 25, 2009.

I read with interest what you and everybody else wrote, and my comment was that the story of IDF soldiers telling a woman to give five of her children to Israel is clearly a fabricated story. Designed to demonize, mislead and confuse.

But there were other more credible stories just as horrifying.

My point is that the true stories are just as bad. Beats me, honestly, why someone would repeat obviously fake ones, when they could just as easily make their case with true ones.

The easiest way to discredit someone is to get them to publicize easily refutable stories.

Perhaps it is a story planted by an intelligence agency. Such stories carry "watermarks" that allow them to be traced back to the original source. Been known to happen.

As Christians we should side not with the powerful and those that use weapons and terror and propaganda strategies to manipulate us to join their side or oppose some other side. Mac even goes so far as to suggest that it is OK to kill hostages to get at the hostage takers.

I think rather we should side with the hostages, whoever they are, with the poor, the hungry, the orphans and the widows, regardless of where they live, and protect them, just as the Scriptures command us.

We do not need to resort to fabricated stories of terror to do so. Or even fight against them. All we need is to open our eyes and see the people that Jesus saw as He saw them. They are everywhere. Even in Gaza.

And that it is a shame that all they know of us is that we made the fire and brimstone that rained on them. "Made in USA"

(Ironic because everything else seems to be made in China these days)


Kattie W. Coon said...

Oh for goodness sake Viola! Tom gave you all the information you need to look it up for yourself.

The denial is as thick as white phosphorous smoke around here.


Dr. Mikhael should endeavor to provide factual information, but let's not try to deny that war crimes happened, probably on both sides of the line.

Huntsville, Al

Viola Larson said...

Tom & Kattie I think there is enough information in the comments on this page to answer the link that you sent me to. And I do thank you for the link.

Tom--After this comment, "The easiest way to discredit someone is to get them to publicize easily refutable stories.

Perhaps it is a story planted by an intelligence agency. Such stories carry "watermarks" that allow them to be traced back to the original source. Been known to happen," causes anything you say to lose all creditability.

Kattie W. Coon said...

Let me make sure I understand your position.

Are you saying it's ok to drop white phosphorous shells in populated areas and on hospitals as long as you can claim that you are just trying to create a smoke screen or illuminate a target? Are you saying it's ok to shoot human shields as a matter of course?

Huntsville, Al

will spotts said...

"Perhaps it is a story planted by an intelligence agency."


The sheer volume of manifestly false (and refutable) stories circulating among various advocacy communities makes this highly improbable.

More significantly, your premise is flawed. The failure to own that the story was false is what discredits the speaker. Repeating a falsehood in good faith - i.e. because you believe it - is quite different than repeating one once it has been demonstrated to be false. This is the fault of a great many speakers in this advocacy community.

It is, perhaps, understandable, but biased - that the initial belief in the story reflects a rather persistent willingness to believe the worst about the particular group of people the speaker doesn't like. However, it's analogous to all those 'spam' emails that get passed around the internet years after they were found to be hoaxes.

Viola Larson said...

No Kattie, that is not my position at all. Is it possible that you have reading problems?

Kattie W. Coon said...

Then why are you silent concerning these atrocities when they are perpetrated by Israelis?

BTW, Mac draws a very poor analogy. It seems he would like us to believe that Palestinian militants build hospitals and then place mortar batteries in their midst, or other similar activities. The facts don't support those kinds of tactical behaviors.

Huntsville, Al

Viola Larson said...

Kattie have you heard the story about the man who was asked why he killed his wife before he was asked if he killed his wife?

Also your comment to Mac: "It seems he would like us to believe that Palestinian militants build hospitals and then place mortar batteries in their midst, or other similar activities. The facts don't support those kinds of tactical behaviors."

Lets put that a different way, some Palestinians build hospitals, work in hospitals, care about hurt children and others, etc. other Palestinians mainly Hamas place mortar batteries in their in their midst.


Viola Larson
Sacramento, Ca

Kattie W. Coon said...

"Lets put that a different way, some Palestinians build hospitals, work in hospitals, care about hurt children and others, etc. other Palestinians mainly Hamas place mortar batteries in their in their midst."

Exactly my point Viola. Good for you! Now go back and read what Mac wrote again.

So I guess what you're saying is that the IDF should be able to get away with violating just war principles without criticism from us Christians? No one is saying that Palestinian militants didn't endanger the lives of innocent Palestinians, far from it. What really makes me want to vomit though is that the IDF treats innocents as acceptable collateral damage, seemingly with our (not mine but possibly your) blessing.

Huntsville, Al

Viola Larson said...

Kattie I am tired of having both my words and other's words twisted. I don’t mind hearing your opinions but I do mind having my thoughts jumbled by you. I am sorry but since you seem incapable of reading and understanding what we are saying I will not post your comments about the subject matter of this particular post again.