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Freethought Today

Vol. 21 No. 3 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
April 2004

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Broadcasts by Dishonest Religious Network Block Middle East Peace

By George H. Beres

George Beres
Photo--S. Samaras

Our little Honda was down from the heights of Oregon's Coastal Mountain Range, and we were picking up speed for the last 30 miles home to Eugene. After a spiraling drive to the Pacific Coast, the landscape at sea level was--as we'd remarked on previous trips--much like what we remember of the rolling hills west of my Illinois hometown.

Something else was familiar: the sound of the radio broadcast we picked up while surfing the dial. We'd heard it or its counterpart on visits to Central Illinois (Pekin): a Hal Lindsay program dealing with an "International Intelligence Briefing." It sounded authoritative. The subject was the Christian theory of Armageddon and a fundamentalist view of what it would take for that "end day of all end days" to happen. It soon was evident Israel is central to the happening.

Fundamentalist Christians closely linked with the temple of Judaism of Israel? That was the program's scenario, evoking the image of strange bedfellows. It sounded especially ironic because of a current clash between those religious cultures: angry Jewish reaction to alleged anti-Judaic effects of Mel Gibson's startling new movie, "The Passion of the Christ."

Still, the premise of the radio show was clear: Christian fundamentalists need to give full support to the effort of the Israeli military of Ariel Sharon to gain control of all Palestine. Then this extreme interpretation of biblical scripture would allow for the "rapture," the supposed second coming of the Jew who is the Christian Christ.

Significance of what we heard didn't register until the next day, when I opened the hometown daily that came in the mail. There I read a column by a woman whose writing usually is on family values.

Not this time. Her column was headed, "Hatred Formidable Barrier to Peace Plan." Fine, I thought. Then I saw her main point of reference was a televised version of the program we'd heard on the radio: Lindsay's Trinity Broadcasting Network show. The format, she wrote, looked at current events in the Middle East "in light of end-times bible prophecy."

She described the producer as "HonestReporting," a New Jersey organization that reviews the media, and urges editors to "practice objectivity and accuracy." Judging by the name it gave itself, I had my doubts. Further reading verified how misleading the name is.

What viewers saw on TV was dishonest "HonestReporting" of the trauma between Israel and Palestine. It told of the human tragedy that continues in the clash between them. But it gave just half the story, only Israeli propaganda. To its credit, the newspaper refused to hide that fact. An editor's note said the program is sponsored by a Jerusalem fund founded by Rabbi Noah Weinberg.

There were no scenes of Israeli military killing civilians along with Hamas terrorists, nor its destruction of Palestinian homes, while Israeli settlers continue to encroach on Palestinian land. There were scenes of PLO leaders screaming their anger at Israel, and classroom views of Arabic children being taught "songs that express hatred of Israelis and Americans."

Those were not fictitious, posed videos. They are happening. What the dishonest reporters fail to give us is the reason we also are objects of hatred: longtime collaboration of the U.S. in giving $3 to 10 billion in aid to Israel annually, while repeatedly vetoing U.N. resolutions against Israeli behavior. Are the resolutions justified? If not, would the U.S.--long complicit in Israeli actions--be the only U.N. nation to oppose them?

Both sides have stubborn leaders whose unprincipled actions lead to death for innocent Israelis and Palestinians. A lasting peace plan is needed. That proposed by this U.S. administration is a sham. It will remain a blot on our national character until we use an obvious wedge to force Israel to a just table of reconciliation: the threat to cut off aid, and discontinue our vetoes.

What can we as individuals do? A start is for well-meaning reporters to refuse to acccept propaganda. They also might choose to warn Christians who tend to blindly support Israel that there is at least one biblical warning worth heeding: to guard against false prophets.

Today, false prophets come in all guises--including TV and radio programs that proclaim their Christian identity and claim honesty, but feed us lies.

George Beres is a Eugene writer with Greek Orthodox Christian roots. He later moved to Unitarianism and what he today terms "mature awareness."

April 2004 Excerpts