Confronting Islamophobia

An op-ed for Seattle’s Real Change paper (Apr. 14, 2011)

Thank you for the important article “Debunking the myth of the violent Muslim” (Real Change issue April 13-19). The day before your story came out I attended an event directly related to this issue – or so I thought.

My exceptional local theatre company, the Taproot Theatre at 85th & Greenwood, organized an exceptional program: an audience participation discussion about the subject of their current play, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a German Christian theologian who spoke out against the Nazi regime and was killed by that regime near the end of WWII.

The evening, with four speakers and a completely filled audience of participants, was titled “Why Bonhoeffer? Why Now? Discussing the Cultural Relevance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” The panelists began and they spoke of the German churches being busy debating fine theological points while Jews were being led away to their deaths in concentration camps. And how the German Christian churches largely stood with the government and failed to stand in solidarity with the Jewish people.

After more than an hour of presentations and questions I was disappointed: the most obvious and important topic, I thought, had been left unsaid. So I raised my hand.

As a Jew who’d been twice to Auschwitz and lived five years in Israel, I said, I had a personal connection to this issue. But the most obvious group in a parallel situation today are … Muslims.

I pointed out that the U.S. is now fighting three wars in Muslim countries, occupying two of them; that we have off-shore prisons where we torture, even to death, prisoners who have no basic legal rights, and they are essentially all Muslims; and that a decade before 9/11 we had bombed all of Iraq’s electrical plants knowing it would shut off water and sewage processing, which led to an extra 46,900 Muslim Iraqi children’s deaths in the first eight months of 1991 (New England Journal of Medicine).

Since no one else had raised this “cultural relevance” of Bonhoeffer to the cultivated Islamophobia in the U.S., I didn’t know what to expect. But I said it clearly and cleanly, without anger or hatred, and I was glad that I did … whatever the reaction would be.

One woman in the balcony said she needed to speak. She said these people, these Muslims, wanted to kill us and to impose Islamic Sharia law on the United States — and we needed to defend ourselves.

But the response from the panelists was sympathetic. And, of the dozens of people who passed by me after the program on the way out, not one gave me a dirty look or said a mean word — while a significant number of them stopped to thank me for what I’d said.

There was a lesson from this experience for me: While people may be reluctant to talk about demonizing Islam and Muslims in our country, once it is pointed out many (at least in the select audience in the theatre) will recognize that truth and the danger in our doing it. My lesson is that I need to continue to speak out, in whatever skillful ways I can, and not to become a person of whom someone in the future will ask, “Where were the ‘good Americans’” when this was happening.

I think we all need to do this. I thank Real Change and Sean Hughes for their contribution to the effort. Keep it up!

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Letter to the Seattle Times about Bruce Ramsey’s column

Bruce Ramsey has done an admirable job in capturing the essence of the U.S. lawsuit against me and why I keep fighting it [“Why Bert Sacks keeps fighting,” opinion, Jan. 5]. However, in the limited space available there are necessarily many details which have to be left out.

The article says, “Sacks refused to pay [the fine]. In 2004, he sued the government, arguing that the blockade of Iraq violated international treaties on human rights. The courts ruled the treaties were not binding.”

One of those treaties is the Convention on Genocide. Federal District Judge Robart had to accept that 500,000 preventable Iraqi children’s’ deaths were genocide — given the stage in our legal proceedings where we were at. Yet, he still dismissed our case against the government for this crime.

I must admit that the judge’s ruling stunned me at the time. And it still does. The U.S. can commit genocide and there is no legal remedy.

Go to this page for Federal District Judge Robart’s ruling about genocide in our law suit.

— Bert Sacks, Seattle

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So Who is the Terrorist?

From the Christian Science Monitor of December 20, 2010:

From an article on this date, “Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday called WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a “high-tech terrorist.” What is Mr. Biden’s reasoning here? After all, that’s pretty tough language to use about someone who doesn’t carry a bomb.”

From the Madison Capitol Times of December 22, 2010:

In an article titled “Joy Gordon: U.S. responsible for human toll of Iraq sanctions,” Joy Gordon wrote, “Last week the U.N. Security Council voted to lift the sanctions that it imposed on Iraq 20 years ago. Vice President Joe Biden hailed the occasion as “an end to the burdensome remnants of the dark era of Saddam Hussein.

“What he did not say was that the sanctions were more than burdensome. They triggered a humanitarian crisis that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, and the collapse of every system necessary to sustain human life in a modern society. And he certainly did not mention that among all the nations on the Security Council, it was the U.S. — and the U.S. alone — that ensured that this human damage would be massive and indiscriminate.”

From the New York Times of March 22, 1991:

In an article titled “After The War; U.N. Survey Calls Iraq’s War Damage Near-Apocalyptic” the paper described U.S. policy this way: “Ever since the trade embargo was imposed on Aug. 6, after the invasion of Kuwait, the United States has argued against any premature relaxation [of economic sanctions] in the belief that by making life uncomfortable for the Iraqi people it will eventually encourage them to remove President Saddam Hussein from power.

It is clear — especially from the last and oldest entry — that the U.S. government has been engaged in an act of creating and maintaining “near-apocalyptic” conditions in Iraq — including “famine and epidemic” according to that same article — to coerce or intimidate the government of Iraq or the people of Iraq into overthrowing President Saddam Hussein.  That qualifies for our legal definition of the crime of terrorism.

As documented by The New England Journal of Medicine and by UNICEF, this has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of completely innocent children.  But the 1991 NYT article gives us the clue as to how our mass media is to analyze and report on those conditions: “uncomfortable” is the word the NYT would like us to use and understand.  Twenty years later, Joe Biden completes the 2-decade-long verbal coverup: “burdensome” is the word he uses to describe all those deaths.

One wonders what George Orwell would have to add to his book 1984 if he were alive today.  Perhaps only move it from the fiction to the non-fiction section of our libraries.  Please see “Chapter 1: My story of the fine & law suit (Jan. 11)” currently on our Home page for more evidence and many links in support of this belief.  And stay tuned for more postings — on the media and our courts and what we can do — by signing up for our emails.

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