A Jewish Man Branded with a Swastika

Had the above taken place, the dastardly act would have preempted  all the networks’ programs, including the Republican Presidential debate, the raging fires and storms across the globe, the  tragic Ukraine blood-letting, Trump’s myriad misdeeds, Biden’s faltering numbers, the economy, and the catastrophic heat dome that has enveloped the globe. And it would have been a 24/7 story for an entire week’s worth of news cycles, with AIPAC and politicians of every stripe  leading the charge that anti-Semitism  has reared up its ugly face.

Had the above happened, condemnation from all quarters, especially from the faith-based groups should, indeed, be expected.

On August 22, 2023 The Israeli Mishtara ((police) branded the star of David on the face of a Palestinian man. More sadly, only one news outlet reported this heinously ghastly act. This is only one of myriad dastardly and malevolently abhorrent crimes perpetrated on an entire Palestinian citizenry. Egged on by their xenophobic leaders and a handful of rabbis, Israeli soldiers and  citizens run wild in Palestinian communities. And thousands of Jewish settlers are given free reign to carry out pogroms, wiping out entire villages, killing and maiming people of all ages. Palestinian children have been particularly targeted.

And on August 22, 2023, I sent the following missive to a handful of friends, former colleagues, and the editors/contributors of Good Faith Media, an online religious outlet claiming to be a progressive Evangelical entity.

While the aforementioned is indeed more progressive than most Southern Baptist Evangelical groups, their editors’/writers’ indignation (with one exception) about acts of violence and human rights violations is, at best, selective.

The Dear All missive stated:

To those who see Israel through the prism of end of times lunacy, today’s God’s chosen are no different from their ancestors, who used the God they created in their image (not the His image of the Torah) to justify their hatred, killing,  avowed racism,  pettiness, deception, theft, xenophobia, misogyny,  and greed. And these are the people who hold the Holocaust as an aberrant event in history (yes,  it was) will accuse me of being an anti-Semite – even though I am a Semite. Heil, Israel, Heil, Netanyahu, Heil US politicians funding the Apartheid cauldron of hatred called Israel.

And Jesus wept!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In deep sorrow,


Sent to some 15 people and penned by The Telegraph’s James Rothwell, the following paraphrased report, dated August 22, 2023, Is a chilling  one:

After brutally beating Mr. Sheik Ali in the Shuafat refugee camp, the Israeli police are said to have  branded “a Palestinian man’s face with a star of David while violently arresting him without recording the incident on their body cameras.” A photograph taken by Mr. Ali’s lawyer “showed wounds on his left cheek, underneath a black eye, which seemed to resemble the Jewish religious symbol.” As always, the Israeli police “disputed [the use of force and claimed that the mark] was ‘presumably’ caused by pressure from a shoelace on an arresting officer’s boot.”

O yeah, These must be special boot shoe laces.

The shuafat refugee camp is located in occupied East Jerusalem. As “the video footage emerged of a separate incident in which Israeli police officers shot an unarmed Palestinian man in the back of the head, …violence has worsened over the past 15 months with frequent Israeli raids [and] assaults [by settlers] on Palestinian villages.”

Since Netanyahu’s reelection hardly a day goes by without Israeli soldiers/settlers’ killing of 1-3 Palestinians per day. Of course Palestinians are sub-human terrorists who deserve to be killed and maimed by God’s chosen. Their villages are kosher targets for pogroms, and entire neighborhoods deserve to be destroyed, “So sayeth the Lord, the only God, the God of Israel. ”

It is telling that “One Israeli forensics expert in Jerusalem has cast doubt on the official explanation by police for the star of David incident.”  And Dr. Avner Rosengarten, the head of the Israeli Forensic Science Institute told the media that “the markings were created by a metallic tool or instrument … first of all, the width of the laces is not suitable. Secondly, the laces can’t leave this kind of imprint, as the edges [of the wound] are bleeding, it must be a solid instrument.” Others also argued that laces can’t leave this kind of imprint.

Dr. Rosengarten added that “the laces don’t have the pressure and force required to create this mark, because laces are flexible and soft, and remain the same no matter how much pressure one might put into a shoe.”

Further, a judge referred the case to police internal affairs because “no reasonable explanation has been provided for the lack of video footage of the arrest.” The arrest involved 16 officers.

As usual, Palestinians are always to blame for their deaths. According to a police officer, “ At a certain juncture, the suspect escalated the situation by resorting to violence, physically assaulting police officers and vehemently resisting arrest.”  And, he added, “this necessitated the involvement of multiple officers to lawfully apprehend the individual. … [thus] presumably the resemblance of a triangular shape [originating] from an article of clothing worn by one of the officers.”

Not only did the police dismiss the branding claim as “misleading and distorted,” but they also insisted “that a patterned shoelace on an officer’s boot was ‘presumably’ imprinted  on the suspect’s face while they were restraining him.” As proof, the “police issued a photograph to Israeli media outlets of the type of boot which they said may have been [emphasis mine] responsible for the triangular mark.”

Presumably? How come out of the 16 marauding officers not a single one had his camera on? And, how come the thousands of Shin Bet (Israeli secret police) prying security cameras positioned in every Palestinian town, village, and hamlet – were turned off?

Whether in the US,  Banana Republics, or autocratic regimes around the world, the police, unless the ocular video footage is produced as evidence, always get away with their brutal misdeeds.

And Israel, the poster boy of police and settler brutality,  is notoriously leading the pack.

Yeah, sure, the shoe laces of the Israeli Apartheid military regime must have magical powers!!!

I received two responses to my email, the first from Wendell Griffen, a retired jurist and a preacher, and Dr. Randall O’Brien, former Baylor University Dean of Theology and President Emeritus of Carson Newman University. Both have had stellar careers.

Raouf, I am a pastor who rejects “God’s chosen” and  “promised land” terminology. I also challenge other conventionally accepted notions concerning the Israeli regime. While it is true that my view is not the best known (nor most widely held), it is important – to uplift it. That’s my way of “letting my little light shine.”

President Jimmy Carter has been the only US president who bluntly declared that the Israeli regime is committing apartheid. I don’t think it is mere coincidence that he is viewed by an increasing number of people with the greatest respect among all recent US presidents.

In solidarity,

Wendell Griffen

Randall O’Brien’s response:


Yours, in my view, is today’s  “Voice crying in the wilderness,” with double meaning: crying as shouting/screaming and crying as weeping. Like other prophets before you, apparently you speak, to quote Heschel, “one octave too high.” We sinful mortals can’t hear you.

Thank you for 50 years of trying and crying, Raouf!

 Agree, Reverend Wendell, agree. President Carter has cried out, too. As we know he was subsequently “crucified” for his book, “Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid.” We read it and cheer! Even the great man, however, seemed to have withered & withdrawn somewhat—-tragically—-under relentless, diabolical attacks for his bold indictments of Israel’s “crimes against humanity” (my words, not his).

But not Raouf. For 50 years, Watchman Halaby has cried out from mountain peaks and from emphatic valleys of Gehenna . Death alone will silence my hero, when he will join his Palestinian sisters and brothers slaughtered by those who remember the 1940s and hypocritically cry out, “Never Again,” while they themselves do it again. Every. Single. Day!

Crying with you, Raouf.

Randall O’Brien

My response was:

Dearest Wendell and Randall, two men of the cloth whose faith is neither piety nor the standard religiosity; rather, your faith springs from your core values. And I can say the same about a few others listed above.

Funny you two mention Jimmy Carter, a man reviled by the fawning hypocrites who’ve sprouted in myriad TV and online venues, always telling us that they will lead us to the promised land – and reminding us (much like Chaucer’s Pardoner)  to put our spare change in the mail – along the way, in exchange for a prayer shawl or some other trinket.

Ironic it is that I am currently reading Jimmy Carter’s biography (The Outlier) penned by Kai Bird (who coauthored Oppenheimer). And most ironic it is that during my last year in Jerusalem Kai was my schoolmate at a private English school. As the son of a US diplomat, Kai crossed the border every morning (Mandelbaum gate) to attend school. He is younger than I am. As for us, we crossed that dastardly gate once a year to spend either 24 or 36 Christmas hours with relatives.  This, after going through searches and demeaning human/animal/style herding of Palestinian Christians through concertina wire  and cattle guards – as is still being done, 60 years later. Christmas during those early years of my life was not always pleasant, and one never knew whether the Israeli border guards would steal our Christmas gifts – as happened in the mid 1950’s when a red model of a battery operated Morris Mini Minor toy was confiscated – for security reasons.

And as long as there is breath in my lungs and blood running in my veins I shall stand up for justice in Palestine, the US, or anywhere around the world where the strong prey on the weak and hegemonic designs abuse and disposes  the oppressed and destitute children of God.

Mary Trolan (listed above) and her brother lived in occupied Palestine as well; Mary and I were classmates at the Jerusalem-based Sisters of Rosary School and the private English school. She is the epitome of Palestinian womanhood.

Tomorrow the weatherman promised Arkadelphia a heat index of 118, a sign of the times.  In gratitude to those who keep me hopeful and remind me that there is goodness in this world – YET.

And Jesus said: ‘Blesséd are the peacemakers, for they shall ….’


Like me, there are hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live under infinitely more dire and restrictive conditions, crying from the Israeli-imposed Valley of the Shadow of Death. They are crying for freedom, for hope, for mercy, for justice, crying to an apathetic world to hold Israel accountable for its crimes and to make the Israeli Apartheid regime  take its boot  off their necks.

Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor Emeritus of English and Art. He is a writer, photographer, sculptor, an avid gardener, and a peace activist. halabys7181@outlook.com