More on Palestine …

For those who haven’t read my previous posts about Palestine, here’s the message I’m trying to get out … and I hope you will too.
1. There is a long, complex, and critically important conflict in Israel, which you can get an overview about here.
2. Every American is involved in the conflict there, because we supply huge amounts of military and financial aid to Israel. We also supply some humanitarian aid to Palestinians. The status of the Palestinians as an occupied people, together with America’s support for Israel as the occupation continues and expands, is a major fuel for radical Islamic terrorism, which affects us all directly or indirectly.
3. Many Christians in America follow a theological line of argument that unintentionally denies basic human rights for Palestinians by pledging unconditional support for Israel. This theological tradition is closely associated with Christian Zionism, most forms of Dispensationalism, and Manifest Destiny. It is promoted through books, but especially through many religious broadcasters. Most people who believe it don’t understand its negative consequences; it’s the only view they’ve been taught and it has never been challenged for them.
4. I and many others hope to support solutions that are Pro-Israeli (in that they enhance Israel’s long-term well-being, security, and prosperity), Pro-Palestinian (in that they release Palestinians from occupation and other experiences of injustice and denial of human rights), Pro-American (in that America would re-earn a reputation as fair and just rather than biased, dishonest, and uncaring), and Pro-peace-with-justice – since there is no peace without justice, and no justice that doesn’t lead to peace.
My previous posts stirred up quite a bit of attention. More responses follow the jump, with some comments from me …

This is one from a missionary in Africa:

I’ve been following your online posts regarding the current, abhorrent
situation in Israel and Palestine. I want to thank you for presenting both
sides as made up of humans, rather than making blanket statements about
entire people groups. I’m sorry for the criticism that you’ve received,
particularly the comparisons to Nazism. We both know that those comparisons
reflect an entirely uninformed view of history and the current conflict.
I’ve spent the last couple of years in East Africa as a missionary with
…, and in my mission work I have come
into contact with so many evangelical Christians with whom I have so much in
common, with whom I can discuss almost any issue with ease and goodwill; but
the one issue that cannot be discussed without tempers boiling and running
over is Israel. There is so much demagoguery and so much blind emotion.
There is so much disinformation!
I worked with an older missionary for a year, a man who had been in Africa
long enough to remember the apartheid regime in South Africa with clarity.
It saddens me to say that the situation in Israel seems to be an even
starker example of systematic violence and injustice. I applaud you for the courage and humanity that you have displayed in your writings on the topic. God bless your efforts.

In my recent visit, I felt much the same way regarding comparisons with South Africa, but it’s always dangerous to compare anyone’s suffering with anyone else’s, because when you suffer, you don’t want your suffering explained away in any way. I’ve noticed the same kind of high emotion on the subject, and it’s interesting to reflect on why that’s the case. I think for a lot of people, as soon as you raise questions about the behavior of the Israeli government, they think you’re being anti-semitic in some way, not realizing that most Jews don’t live in Israel, and that there’s a huge difference between the Israeli people and the Israeli government. Failures to uphold justice on the part of the Israeli government hurt the reputation of Jewish people everywhere, so it’s actually out of concern for the Jewish people that many of us want the Israeli state to seek peace in better ways than they have been in the past.
I appreciate your intention to respond carefully and calmly to all questions of your mission to Israel and Palestine.
In an earlier response, you mentioned sharing with mainstream Israelis who uniformly agree with your perspective on Israel’s failures and the consequent subjugation of the Palestinian people, without any hint of the failure of the enemies of Israel. I believe this is an honest statement of your experience. But it is not mine.
When I was in Israel and Palestine in 2006 and 2007, I met with Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinian (Christian) owner of a radio station in Bethlehem was seriously afraid that his station would be shut down by the Palestinian governing authority because he shared a multiplicity of viewpoints. I met with a couple of Israeli fathers in Tel Aviv who had lost their high school daughters in suicide bombings of bus stops. They were angry, sad, grieving and glad the the Wall had been erected because, in their opinion, it would protect other innocent children. I visited Sderot on the border with Gaza in 2007. On the day I was there leading a group of clergy, six quassom rockets had landed in the town. The mayor and citizens were adamant that stronger measures must be taken to protect their people. I was not allowed to go into Palestinian controlled Hebron because without escort the danger was too great for our group. When I met with the head of the independent Palestinian Human Rights group, he spoke of the numerous human rights abuses of the Palestinian Authority agains their own citizens. In Israel, I met with military officer who job it was to investigate the scene after a bombing, including gathering body parts. He spoke of returning home to his family and children completely devastated emotionally. He investigated over forty bombings before he finished his duty. When I spoke with him he was deeply angry and very supportive of every effort Israel took to protect its citizens.
Your report mentions none of these realities. Rather it paints a picture that is all too simplistic and all too common. Once the complexity of the situation on the ground is reduced to simplistic assignments of blame and innocence, reality is surrendered and so is the possibility of real peace between grieving enemies.
I’m interested in holding on to the complexity while not surrendering the quest for justice and peace for Israelis and Palestinians.