FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Georgie in Jesusland

by MICHAEL DICKINSON

On his first trip to Israel in 1998 Texas governor George W Bush read his favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace” aloud with tear-filled eyes, standing at the place where his ‘favourite philosopher’ Jesus is believed to have delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

He also toured Jerusalem’s Old City, site of the Via Dolorosa, where Jesus carried his cross toward the site of his crucifixion, and helicoptered over the Jordan River with Ariel Sharon, but he didn’t visit Palestinian territory at that time, so didn’t manage to tick Bethlehem off his pilgrimage list.

Ten years later in January 2008, visiting the Holy Land as President of America, Bush set aside some time on Thursday to visit the little town in the occupied West Bank where Jesus is believed to have been born.

After landing by helicopter, the president was whisked quickly to the Church of the Nativity in a motorcade, past Israel’s towering concrete and barbed wire barrier, military checkpoints and red-roofed Jewish settlements, too quick to notice a handful of demonstrators gathered on the outskirts of Bethlehem, waving Palestinian flags, pictures of family members in Israeli jails, and signs saying “Stop Israeli terror”, “Set our prisoners free”, “No apartheid walls”, and “Zionism is racism”.

Metal barriers were used to push small groups of onlookers back up the empty streets of shuttered shops and closed restaurants leading to the empty Manger Square, guarded by thousands of Palestinian security forces, as helicopters clattered overhead.

Snipers patrolled the roof of the sixth century Byzantine church as Bush descended into the underground chapel, the Grotto of the Nativity, where he lit a candle and prayed at the believed site of Jesus’ birth.

Emerging after less than half an hour, the president described the experience as moving. “A gift of that Almighty to each man, woman and child on the face of the Earth is freedom. And I felt it strongly here. For those of us who practise the Christian faith, there isn’t a more holy site than where our saviour was born.”

“This has to be a very personal trip, and one he has wanted to make since he took office,” said Jim Towey, ex director of the president’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. “He loves the Lord and he’s in the Lord’s front yard. … Being in these holy places must be very emotional for him and must make his heart well up with gratitude to God. In that sense, he is no different than other pilgrims.”

Despite the Lord’s instructions to ‘Love your enemies’, Bethlehem’s 72 year old Christian mayor Victor Batarseh was not invited to meet Mr Bush, because he is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an organization which the US State Department considers ‘terrorist’.

Amid his tour of Christian sites Bush also laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem on Friday morning, a site that memorializes the Jews exterminated by Nazi Germany during World War II., and an obligatory stopover for virtually every foreign leader that visits the Jewish state.

During an hour-long tour of the memorial a teary-eyed president told Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice that the U.S. should have bombed Auschwitz to halt the killing.
“I would hope if many people in the world would come to this place, it would be a sobering reminder that evil exists and a call that when we find evil, we must resist it,” he said, curiously contradicting his saviour’s words “that ye resist not evil.”

On Friday afternoon Bush flew by helicopter from Jerusalem to wind up his tour of Christian sites at the village of Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and visited the octagon-shaped Church of the Beatitudes, a Catholic Franciscan chapel built in 1938 with the support of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini on the spot where Jesus is believed to have preached his Sermon on the Mount, laying out core teachings and his call to “turn the other cheek”.

Bush was welcomed by several priests and nuns from the Chapel, and later, after two black-gowned monks had read him verses from the Bible and pointed towards the different holy sites in the area, he was presented with a statue of Jesus inscribed; “Blessed are the Peace-makers, for they shall be called the Children of God.”

While in the country Bush predicted that Israel and the Palestinians could sign a peace treaty by the end of his term in January 2009.

In the visitors’ book at the Holocaust memorial Bush wrote “Long Live Israel”, and at a press conference before leaving to continue his trip to Arab countries he said that Hamas ruling the Gaza Strip has delivered nothing but misery to the Palestinian people.

“There is a competing vision taking place in Gaza and in my judgement Hamas (who) I felt ran on a campaign that ‘we’re going to improve your life’… have delivered nothing but misery.”

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called Bush’s comments a “declaration of war”. “Bush’s visit and remarks have indicated that his visit came to support the occupation and has brought nothing to the Palestinian people but evil,” he said.

At the beginning of his term in Office as president, when asked by a reporter to elaborate why he chose Jesus as his favourite philosopher, Bush replied: “When you turn your heart and life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as the Savior, it changes your heart. It changes your life. And that’s what happened to me.”

Perhaps it’s time he had another look at the words of love and tolerance preached by his Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. 2000 years ago, Jewish Jesus lived in a country under foreign occupation and he called for peace and brotherhood. 2000 years later, modern Palestine is oppressed, divided and occupied by the Israeli state. If Jesus were alive today he would be an Arab.

MICHAEL DICKINSON, whose artwork graces the covers of Dime’s Worth of Difference, Serpents in the Garden and Grand Theft Pentagon, lives in Istanbul. He can be contacted via his website http://yabanji.tripod.com/ or at: michaelyabanji@gmail.com

 

 

 

Michael Dickinson can be contacted at michaelyabanji@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail