FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Georgie in Jesusland

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

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail