Mormons and Palestinians: Justice and only Justice

With the tragic recent escalation of conflict in Israel-Palestine, my thoughts have turned to experiences I had while living there, first as a naive undergraduate for a semester abroad at the BYU Jerusalem Center and then later as a visiting graduate student at the Hebrew University. My first experience was eye-opening and really life-changing in terms of providing an impetus to developing a more critical and reflective perspective on religion and my own faith in particular. Through merely a process of cultural osmosis, I had grown up with a traditional Utah Mormon view about the conflict in Israel-Palestine. I believed that the place was at the center of the eschatological drama that would unfold in the end times, that the wars and rumors of wars that had occurred during the last century only presaged more conflict and bloodletting to come, and most importantly, that the establishment of the Jews in Palestine was a fulfillment of prophecy and ordained of God. Before arriving in Jerusalem, I knew next to nothing about Palestinians. They were a dark, amorphous, and indistinct conception in my mind. For the most part I saw Palestinians (often conflating them with terrorists) as the opponents of the state of Israel and therefore in some sense the opponents of prophecy and the divine will.

What I actually found upon experiencing Israel-Palestine in person was disorienting and uncomfortable. Surprisingly, the Israel-Palestine conflict of myth that had been formulated in my mind had almost nothing to do with reality on the ground. I discovered through personal experience that Palestinians were a good and open-hearted people, a people with a rich and vibrant culture, a people who had been at odds with the aims of the state of Israel (some of them violently) but who for the most part wanted to live in peace and justice. On the other hand, I discovered that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians had discernible political and historical causes. Palestinians were not the stereotyped “bad guys” in a sharply differentiated conflict of cosmic good and evil, but more than anything else victims of a terrible historical tragedy: suffering dispossession from the land of their fathers and mothers at the hands of a Zionist and British project to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century and in recent decades experiencing the violent and deadly by-products of a colonizing military occupation.

The experience had a profound impact on my life. In addition to influencing my immediate choice after returning to BYU to pursue a major focused on the study of Arabic and the modern Middle East, I began to think deeply about why LDS culture had views about the conflict and about the state of Israel and Palestinians that seemed to be so disconnected from reality. Why had I been taught to believe that God was essentially on the side of the nation of Israel, that its establishment and continuing maintenance had been effected through divine providence, when it seemed clear that the construction of a Western-backed and ethnically Jewish nation-state in the modern Middle East has had such disastrous consequences for Palestinians, for other peoples of the region, and for Jews and Israelis themselves? Why do Mormons seem to automatically assume that Palestinians are in the wrong and Israel in the right?

I have since realized that LDS attitudes toward Palestinians and the state of Israel are complex and have been shaped by many factors, including ignorance of what life is actually like for Palestinians living under occupation, cultural and political affinity with the Westernized state of Israel, an American media that until recently tended to present the conflict largely from the perspective of Israel (focusing on dramatic Palestinian terrorist acts rather than the daily injustices and violence meted out against Palestinians), participation in the more general historic American/Christian prejudice against Islam and Arabs, and finally, perhaps the most important, a Mormon theological tradition that itself is an adoption of a long-held American Protestant theological interpretation of the Bible that sees Jewish control of Palestine and the state of Israel as the product of God’s will. As I do not have time to explain this latter tradition here, I will try to do so in future posts.

Fortunately, Mormons and the institutional church have gotten somewhat better in recent years in trying to take a more evenhanded approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some Mormons have been more outspoken in standing up for the legitimate rights of Palestinians, while the institutional church and the Jerusalem Center itself have become increasingly sensitive to how ones-sided attitudes have had a detrimental effect on the image of the church and its interests there and elsewhere in the Middle East.

But prejudice and misunderstanding are obviously still a real problem, as reflected in Mitt Romney’s quasi-theological rhetoric about supporting the state of Israel during his recent presidential campaign. When I was living in Israel as a graduate student at Hebrew University during 2006-2007, I would attend church with my family at the Jerusalem Center. On a regular basis I would hear statements from LDS tourists at sacrament meeting I felt very uncomfortable with, statements that were totally oblivious to the lives of real Palestinians in the neighborhoods surrounding the center, statements that referred to Palestinian violence in abstract, decontextualized terms, statements that took comfort in the fulfillment of prophecy in Israel’s blossoming as a rose,  statements whose glowing descriptions of the “Holy Land” seemed so self-absorbed.

In the interest of helping to build bridges between Mormons and Palestinians, I thought I might share a particular experience I had shortly after arriving to live in Jerusalem for the second time. This is taken from an email (mildly edited) sent on November 6, 2006:

Hello Family,

This weekend I had a special experience I would like to share with you all. Since Friday was my day-off from school (like our Saturday in the US) and the Hebrew U. library was closed, I decided to take the opportunity to go exploring near the old city of David. I had learned in my archaeology class that week that the modern old city, the well-known part of Jerusalem surrounded by archaic-looking walls, actually had nothing at all to do with the Biblical city of David. The Jerusalem where ancient Israelites lived from the time of David until well after Ezra (500 years) was in reality located on a hilly spur which climbed 120 meters from the bottom of the Kidron valley to the Ophel south of the temple mount. The area is now inhabited by Palestinian Arabs and is known as the village of Silwan, a densely populated and poverty-stricken neighborhood somewhat isolated from the wealthier west Jerusalem.

My goal was to explore without any specific agenda, to let my feet and heart guide me to what I needed to see and experience. As I climbed down into the Kidron east of the Temple mount and began walking down the wadi, I was, admittedly, somewhat cautious. My Arabic was limited (the colloquial Palestinian dialect is very difficult for me to understand) and tourists had generally avoided this section of Jerusalem since 9-11. But something inside me told me that this was where I needed to go. As I passed through a neighborhood where some people were out harvesting their olive trees, a little boy came up with a big smile and introduced himself in broken English. We conversed and I asked where the spring was. He responded in Arabic with “maim,” or water, and beckoned for me to follow. We walked a short distance to a building, unfortunately locked up, which housed what I knew to be the Gihon spring, the main water source for Bibical Jerusalem and ancient site of the coronations of Israelite kings. I could hear the lapping of the water and feel its coolness behind the metal gates at the bottom of the stairway. When I was about to turn away, my little friend called to a girl peering out of a window three stories above us, who produced a small booklet which fluttered to the pavement below. For 10 shekels, which I gladly paid, I got a helpful guide to the archaeological sites in the area.

I continued on my journey down the Kidron noting various archaeological sites and giving friendly greetings to the people I met. Eventually I came to the intersection of the Kidron and Hinnom valleys and decided to walk up the latter, as I had never explored it before. In the Hinnom, I immediately came upon what seemed to be a large and relatively well-groomed orchard of olive and fig trees, with several people harvesting the olives. I was fascinated with the process and wanted to learn more. One nice old man tried to explain to me what he did with his olives, how much money he made by kilo and its use for making oil for food, but I could hardly understand anything he said. His Arabic was so different from the classical Arabic I had studied at BYU! Discouraged, I left the orchard and began to climb out of the valley with the intention of returning to the old city, but then something told me that I should turn back and try to find someone else to talk to. I felt that I needed to move further out of my comfort zone. When I passed back through the orchard I happened to notice a small family made up of a young boy, girl, and mother on the other side of the road harvesting olives. As I approached, I could immediately sense a mixture of curiosity and slight discomfort. Why was this American interested in them? The woman, presumably their mother, moved behind the tree as if to avoid my presence and the boy and girl stared at me as if I was an alien. Fortunately, just at that moment the father appeared on the hillside above us and welcomed me with a gracious Ahlan wSahlan! (welcome, welcome!). He invited me into the shade and offered me tea, coffee, water, pickled olives, and a delicious fruit I had never seen before. His limited knowledge of English and my Arabic allowed us to converse to a considerable extent. I found out that his name was Omar, that he was a Muslim, had six young children, was poor but better off than many other Palestinians because his family owned the orchard, planted by an ancestor over two hundred years ago. He told me that he had been working in the orchard since four o’clock that morning! When I asked him if life was hard, he said that he was mabsoot (happy), which impressed me greatly. Shortly thereafter, his father came over and joined us. He could speak no English whatsoever and was partially blind, but I found him to be very gracious and hospitable. He called me habibi (a term of endearment) and made me feel like one of the family. Omar told me that his father had worked for years at the local Orthodox Christian church just down the road, which was interesting considering that he was a Muslim.

When they went back to picking olives, I joined them to get firsthand experience. The way it worked was someone (generally the father) would pull the olives off the limbs from above while someone below (generally the women and children) would gather the olives from a tarp spread out to catch them. Most significant to me was the respect that Omar had for his trees. Some people, he said, would beat their trees with a stick to get the olives off, but to him olive and fig trees were sacred, as both were mentioned in the Quran. He showed me how to gently and deftly pull the olives off without harming the tree. Around Omar I couldn’t help but feel that the olive trees were sacred. We moved to several different locations in the orchard, spending probably about an hour at each tree. At lunch break they gave me yogurt, pita bread, tomatoes and cucumbers, food which I knew they had brought for themselves to eat while working in the orchard. I stayed with them picking olives into the late afternoon until Omar invited me to his home to eat dinner. We began to walk up the hill, with him carrying a large bag of olives, when suddenly he tripped and fell down. It gave me the opportunity to carry the heavy bag (almost too heavy for me!) to the top of the hill until he could take over.

His house was tucked back in a neighborhood that was reached by stairs that Dr. Seuss would be proud of. We sat down on his porch and soon children from neighboring houses began to gather to see the strange visitor. Everyone was so friendly and interested that even I was surprised. I played soccer with the boys who thought I was quite the soccer star. Dinner was served, a rice dish wrapped in grape leaves and chicken, spicy but very good. After dinner I leafed through a Quran and one of the boys recited some of its suras (chapters). I can’t begin tell you how welcome I felt, how simple but happy a family they were, how beautiful their children were, how their values and way of life so closely matched what I feel to be our family-centered Mormon way of life. When I left, Omar invited me to come back again and made me feel like I had known him longer than one short day. As I walked back to the old city I felt inwardly gratified that my little attempt to show interest in a Palestinian family had been rewarded tenfold. I had gone hoping to share something of myself, to build bridges between different cultures, but it was I who had been inspired, humbled, and had received.

 

 

 

 

  • Richard_K

    What a beautiful experience, thank you for taking time to retell it. As a believing and practicing Mormon, I have long been appalled at the Mormon cultural attitude toward Palestinians. Forgive me for posting a link, but what helped to open my eyes was an article by Sandy Tolan, published at TomDispatch several years ago. I admit; however, that I’d have rather had your experience …

    http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=100409

  • Kevin Barney

    Thanks for the great reminiscence. From what I’ve heard, the rethinking of attitudes towards Palestinians is a common, almost de rigueur experience for young Mormon students attending the BYU Jerusalem Center.

  • Zen

    I can not think of the Arabs/Muslims without thinking about the Lamanites. There is an honest threat there, but so much potential. It will be interesting to see how prophetic the Book of Mormon is in this instance. They seem like very close parallels.

  • http://www.symphonyofdissent.wordpress.com Daniel Ortner

    I am an Israeli American convert to the church and I have also spent a lot of time in the Holy Land studying the conflict. My assessment as a rather recent convert is that the church on the whole actually has VERY good relations with Palestinians and other Arabs as opposed to other Christians in the Holy Land and that institutionally the church has been a force for peace and tolerance ( albeit a small one as its influence is small). As always, members reactions lag behind prophetic leadership and remains at times intolerant and biased.

  • Ray

    Thanks for your comments. I enjoyed them.

  • RT

    Thanks Richard_K for the comment and link.

    Kevin, yes rethinking Palestinians is a part of the academic experience at the Jerusalem Center. I experienced this aspect of the center myself in 2000 and then while living in Jerusalem during 2006-2007 was closely associated with the center by virtue of being one of the relatively few expatriate members who attended church there. But the number of students who have had the opportunity to attend the Jerusalem Center over the last two decades is relatively small, meaning that their influence on the broader church has not been all that significant. And even those who have participated often have their attitudes changed only minimally because of the issues that I alluded to above. I have watched a lot of students go in and out of the center and I can honestly say that for all the efforts of those in charge to encourage students get a balanced perspective, the center is still very much a bubble, a Provo bubble if you will, and if students don’t want to get outside of that bubble, they don’t have to.

    Daniel, thank you very much for your comment. I’m sure we could talk a lot about your unique perspective as an Israeli American convert. I agree with your assessment that the institutional church, especially as that embodied in the Jerusalem Center, has developed very good relations with Palestinians. I have personally known some of the individuals involved and have great respect for them. Yet while I think the church has indeed been a modest force for peace and tolerance with their immediate Palestinian and Israeli neighbors in Jerusalem, I believe on the whole it has been inadequate, highly localized, and ad hoc, largely because members of the church approach the conflict with so much ideological baggage they are never truly able to overcome it. Meanwhile, the church back home in Utah is religiously supportive of the state of Israel, which de fact means being unsupportive of the Palestinian cause and generally misunderstanding the nature of the conflict.

  • Tom D

    RT, you have clearly been converted to the Palestinian cause. There is, no doubt, some merit to it. There also seems to be merit to the Israeli cause. I’d rather not choose between the two. In the end both sides are children of God. My prayer is for peace and mercy between both peoples.

    I expect that the Church will remain neutral and encourage peace as much as possible. “Justice and only Justice” may be a fine rallying cry, but justice for both sides (or even one) in mortality is probably impossible.

  • Brian T

    I think you mistake an LDS point of view with an American point of view. I’ve been in a lot of wards, and I’ve never heard anti-Palestinian discussions or pro for that matter. It’s not as if it has a part in the doctrine.

    I’m not sure your experiences mean anything relative to the conflict, similar stories could have been and have been told about WWII Germany. It doesn’t change the fact the Nazis wanted all the Jews dead. The Hammas has the same desire. A vast majority of Palestinians want the same thing. It’s naïve to think anything else is going on in the middle east, most of the population wants the Jews dead. Since the Nazis fell, we heard people say never forget the atrocities, stories like these remind me how short the human memory is, history will repeat itself unless people come to their senses.

    I think it was Netanyahu who recently said, if the Palistinians stop fighting it would be an end to the war, if the Israelis stop fighting, it would be the end of Israel.

  • RT

    Tom D,
    I’m not suggesting that anyone simply choose a side. Both Palestinians and Israelis are, as you say, children of the one same God, and I do not discriminate in my desire that all people be treated with the dignity they deserve. The problem with your statement that both Palestinian and Israeli “causes” have legitimacy and that the institutional church (or do you mean the members?) should just remain neutral is, first, that it fails to recognize that 1) it is the Palestinians who lack a state and true self-determination, not the Israelis; 2) it is the Palestinians who live under occupation and have been inhumanely corralled into aparteid-like cantons and ghettos; and 3) when it comes to loss of civilian life and sheer innocent suffering, it is the Palestinians who have gotten the short end of the stick by any objective analysis (for example, in the Gaza war of 2008-09, anywhere between 700 to 900 Palestinian non-combatants lost their lives, while only three Israeli non-combatants were killed). Secondly, the posture of neutrality may seem like the moral high ground, but it assumes that we are dealing with two parties of basically equal power and status, so that given the right conditions they should be able to work their differences out. But this is clearly not the case. There is no military or political or economic parity here. The position of religious neutrality on political issues and conflicts may be morally justifiable in certain situations, but there are times when neutrality becomes something less than ethical, when sins of omission become just as serious as sins of commission.

  • RT

    Brian,
    You’re right that there is convergence between typical American (actually Protestant Evangelical) views and Mormon views about the conflict. But Mormons have a particular brand of Christian Zionism that is distinct and grounded in their particular theology. I never said that church members are openly and explicitly anti-Palestinian. As I mentioned above, they are just de facto unsupportive and unsympathetic of Palestinians because they are so biased in favor of Israel.

    Your impression that Hamas or the “vast majority of Palestinians” are anything comparable to Nazism reflects gross ignorance and is completely unfounded. I would suggest that you look for some alternative news sources.

  • JR

    People, especially LDS, need to educate themselves about the history of the region. The history is complex. We in the West do not necessarily want to know history. We tend to pick sides without studying both sides of an issue. Sometimes without meaning to I end up with the 700 Club on television and they definitely support Israel so I would assume other religious groups do also. I have had mixed feelings about the issues between Israel and Palestine. I FINALLY found out four years ago that my ancestry is from the Middle East, and I have had a fascination with it (I now know why). There are people in every Middle Eastern country with my last name. Thank you for a firsthand point of view. We need more of this type of information.
    Daniel Ortner, so true about what you said.

  • Paul brown

    Abraham was promised the land. He had two sons, and the descendants of each still claim the land. A conundrum.

  • RT

    Thanks for your comment JR. For anyone interested in well-researched and politically nuanced information about the Middle East and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in particular, I have found MERIP, The Middle East Research and Information Project, to be very helpful.

    http://www.merip.org/

  • Darren

    RT;

    Your post is somewhat critical of the LDS favoritism towards Israelis against the Palaestinians in that the LDS only carry an abstract perception of the Israeli-Palastinian conflict. Well, your post as well, favors Palestinians as presented in an abstract manner. First, what civil rights are being violated against he Paalestinians from the Israelis? My understanding ist hat the Palastinians are 100% free to vote so long as they are a citizen of Israel. They are also 100% free to worship according ot their conscience. Can a Jew free vote in a Palastinian occupied land? May they freely worship according to their conscience?

    Second, as for your email, that cannot be more abstract. Who is it from? Would you vouch for the person’s integrity? How valid is the stroy of the email? On the surface I’ve no doubt that there are great wholesome fmailies in Palestinian lands. Likewise, there were many great and wholesome families in Nazi Germany and in Emperical Japan some 80 years ago. That did not negate the need to militarily defeat them. Likewise, neither the general LDS population, nor the general US population favor killing Germans or the Japanese just because they were German and Japanese. Not even the encampment of Americans who were of Japanese decent, which was grossly imoral in and of itself, came close to doing that. In modern-day times I do not hear calls to hurt good Palestinian families, in fact, Israel’s been very explicit in that it will NOT harm any Palestinian if the Palestinians cease their attacks.

    Your counter argument to Tom D says:

    “it is the Palestinians who lack a state and true self-determination, not the Israelis”

    What was the Palestinian state with self determination before the Jews occupied Israel? My understanding is that the modern-day Palestinian refugees are made up in significant part from exiled Syrians and Jordianians who outright refuse to repatriate them. How accurate would you say that is? furthermore, the Aryans did side with Hitler against the Jews during WWII. Should there be any consequences to that?

    “it is the Palestinians who live under occupation and have been inhumanely corralled into aparteid-like cantons and ghettos”

    My understanding is that immediately after enering Gaza, the Palestinians (no, not everysingle one of them but collectively) burned down buildings the Jews left behind and soon after began lobbing missiles into Israel. I’m not one who believes that poverty breeds terrorism but that terrorism breeds poverty.

    “when it comes to loss of civilian life and sheer innocent suffering, it is the Palestinians who have gotten the short end of the stick by any objective analysis (for example, in the Gaza war of 2008-09, anywhere between 700 to 900 Palestinian non-combatants lost their lives, while only three Israeli non-combatants were killed)”

    If this is so tragic than why do the Palestinians use human shields? They fight from residential apartement buildings, hospitals, mosques, and the like. This makes said locations viable targets. Period. If Israel truly wanted to massacre the Palestinians, it would have been done long before now.

  • RT

    Darren,

    The personal email was only meant to be a representative sample of the countless positive experiences I have had with Palestinians. It should not be interpreted as saying that because this Palestinian family was nice, you should ergo support the Palestinian cause. The experience was mine, and my only purpose in telling it was to aid in demystifying this people who have been usually unfairly represented in the West.

    My views about the conflict are based on considerable experience traveling in Palestine and Israel, talking to people there ‘on the ground’, and many years of study. Most of the notions that people here in the US have about Palestinians and the conflict are simply wrong and disconnected from reality, such as your claims that Palestinians are Syrian or Jordanian refugees, or that they were complicit in Nazism, or that they use human shields, or that they pose a direct existential military threat to Israel.

    If you are interested in learning more about the conflict, I could suggest a lot of helpful reading material. See, for example, the article by Jeff Halper, a Jewish Israeli I greatly admire, at the website I mentioned above: http://www.merip.org/mero/mero091109

  • Darren

    “Most of the notions that people here in the US have about Palestinians and the conflict are simply wrong and disconnected from reality, such as your claims that Palestinians are Syrian or Jordanian refugees, or that they were complicit in Nazism, or that they use human shields, or that they pose a direct existential military threat to Israel.”

    They didn’t side with Nazis during WWII against the Jews? They don’t commit acts of war against Jewish Israel and then hide within the generl population? Do they wear distinct uniforms to identify themselves as Palestinian soldiers so that they and only they may be targetted by a militarty Israeli response? Or do you purport that the hundreds of civilians the Israelis killed was because Israsel targetted them merely because they were Palestinians and should be killed? Are are you now diminishing their military threat to Israel? They launch rockets upon Israel (a blatant act of war, no matter how you look at), comtniue to do so, Israel ramps up for war, the world community pressures Israel to “stay calm”, Israel “stays calms” and holds off on a massive counter strike, Israel agrees to a cease fire, the Palestinians then rearm only to relaunch rockets upon Israel in the future. Am I missing anything here? What am I misrepresenting? As an active member of the LDS faith, how “should” I view the Palestinian threat to Israel? Am I wrong in that it is Israel who holds their hand against the Palestinians? As far as their not posing a “direct existential military threat to Israel”, how much pf a “direct existential military threat to Israel” would you say the Taliban held against the United States as of September 10, 2001?

    Regarding my “claims” of the Palestinians being Syrian and jordanian refugees, I said, “My understanding is that the modern-day Palestinian refugees are made up in significant part from exiled Syrians and Jordianians who outright refuse to repatriate them. How accurate would you say that is?” In other words, I’m veruy open to the idea that this perception may not be accurate and sked for your input. Simply saying it is not true does not further any form of dialogue. My perception is based upon what i have read regarding the Palestinian/ Israeli conflict and my premises is that thjere was no Palestinian country before the Jews were granted the land of Israel by the UN,nor was there any form of Palestinian “self determination”. At best there were dividd tribes in conflict one with another and the only time in recent histroy which that specific part of the world was unified under one government is after Israel was created. The Palestinians, right from the beginning were invited to paticipate in that government and many refused. Even today, Palestinians have as much freedom as a Jew in Israel. The “apartheid” is a result from terror attacks against Israel, not because of differences in race, ethnicity, or religion. And, frankly, I fail to see anything equal offered by the Palestinian leadersghip for Israelis

    What I see in you post is that there’s good people in Palestine. I don’t doubt that. Nor do I in any weay, shape, or form, oppose offering acts of kindness and service for Palestinians and their families. But, likewise, this does not negate the grave threat the Palestinians pose upon Israel and her values which you and I share. The Palestinians do not create flourishing societes. And don’t say it’s because of Israel’s opporessive policies upon the Palestinians. As poined out, in Gaza, immediately after they were given land to control fully automonously, they burned down Jewish buildings and fired missiles upon Israel. As an LDS member in good standing with the Church, am I wrong to say this? Is my perception off? Am I being ignorant? Do you know much more about the conflict because you’ve “been there” and somehow finally live outside what you ortrayed as some sort of Utah bubble of ignorance? Speaking of which, you’re very vague in details regarding all the ignorant comments the visiting LDS members say. Do they wat to kill every single Palestinian or do they seek resolution by choosing a side based upon their values?

    There being good familis in Palestine should be a no brainer. I myself took direct issue with someone I know (not LDS) who supported killing all Palestinians over the age of four or something like that. Yes, that notion sickened me greatly but while I do not support in any way targetting alestinians for death simply because they are Palestinians, nor do I support the notion to not respond with military strength and decisiveness to Palestinian agression, even if that does hurt good families. As I said before I’ve no doubt there were good families in Germany and Japan and who were killed by US bombs. Nor would I change that if I could if that meant changing the end result sway from favoring the United States. Nor do Icondemn the US for having killed good German and Japanese families during WW II. War is a very ugly business but once committed I favor victory and the Palestinians are not the right side to be victorious. There’s nothing in their societies which I desire to se implamented on a age scale. Yes, he values you pointed out of being good should undoubtedly spread but frnakly if the Palestinians were to control all of Israel, why should I believe that freedom to vote and to practice one’s religion would blossom? It is the Israelis which protect *all* people’s freedom of speech, religion, and to vote, not the Palestinians .

  • Darren

    RT;

    From the first paragraph of your link:

    “Almost a decade ago I wrote an article describing Israel’s “matrix of control” over the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It consisted then of three interlocking systems: military administration of much of the West Bank and incessant army and air force intrusions elsewhere; a skein of “facts on the ground,” notably settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, but also bypass roads connecting the settlements to Israel proper; and administrative measures like house demolitions and deportations. I argued in 2000 that unless this matrix was dismantled, the occupation would not be ended and a two-state solution could not be achieved.”

    Do you have any idea why those houses were bulldozed? It’s because the Palestinians were using them to launch attacks upon Israelis and killed Israelis. Israel could have *easily* bombed these homes in response and would have been 100% justified in doing so but insstead they chose a course much more dangerous *to themselves* and sent in the troops to clear out (physically remove; not necessarily kill) all occupants of each home one by one before bulldozing them. This tells me a) the Palestinians use human shields and b) it is Israel who is the restrained people, not the Palestinians.

  • RT

    Darren,

    When you try and understand events from history or the present or from another culture you have to always try to take them in context. Displacing them from their context and viewing them in a context far removed from the actual situation only creates misunderstanding. That is why it is important to get as much information as possible that derives from the local context, whether historical or cultural. This means that to understand the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, you have to try and get information that allows you to see the perspectives of both sides.

    Honestly, Darren, where do you get your information from? If you are actually interested in learning about Palestinian history or culture or their role in the conflict, there is plenty out there. For a Palestinian Christian account of the conflict very accessible to a western audience, see Mitri Raheb, Bethlehem Besieged (2004), or I am a Paletinian Christian (1995).

    This is not the place to respond to your specific claims about Palestinians and their role in the conflict, since their is an abundant amount of fair-minded information available if you are willing to make the effort to read it. But as to your firs claim, I will say that yes Haj Amin Husseini and a few other Palestinians were openly supportive of Hitler and Nazism, nevertheless their views have to be taken in context. At the time they saw the land of their ancestors being gradually turned into a homeland for European Jews and were understandably anxious and feeling threatened. This doesn’t excuse their actions or calls for violence, but it does help you to understand and situate them better. And you also ignore the fact that most Palestinians did not really hold to the views of the Grand Mufti and should not be held responsible for them. Are you aware that the LDS church in Germany was supportive of Nazism and excommunicated Helmuth Hubener, a German youth, for his subversive activities? Does this make the church as a whole complicit with Nazism? Your correlation of Palestinians and Nazis is simple propaganda. See for example, http://www.palestineremembered.com/Acre/Palestine-Remembered/Story420.html
    You have to understand that anti-Jewish sentiment among Palestinians has really nothing to do with the kind of anti-Semitism found in Europe. Anti-Jewish feeling among Palestinians has always been based on real or perceived injustices arising out of the ZIonist project.

  • Manuel

    Thank you for this experience! I am a Mormon who was born and raised in Mexico. I spent quite a bit of my adult life in Utah going to school. Because I was raised in Mexico, I missed the general Zionist background many Americans have resulting from misguided Protestant teachings and political biases. In Mexico, we see in the news brutalities from both sides, and the Zionist/Israel side is as brutal and as unjust as the worst terrorist within Palestine. But at the end of the day, it is the Palestinians who are being unfairly colonized/occupied by Israel.

    My experience in Utah for the most part was like you describe yourself in your first paragraph. A strong bias rooted in ignorance and misguided information with a well intended but also misguided trust in Zionism. I hope more and more people begin to be open to more possibilities and experiences and they reach the understanding you describe subsequently in your post. Thanks!

  • Darren

    First off, no the LDS Church did not support the Nazi government any more than they supported the Roosevelt government. The LDS Church, as you know, practices a position of neutrality and this neutrality, I believe, was already in place during WW II. The LDS Church does believe that people are subject to governmental authority so I can see why one would be excommunicated for committing acts of treason within a country. I’d probably be excommunicated myself if a Nazi-like government took control of the US.

    I do not disagree with you whatsoever in that the best way to get one’s history is to be with the people you are seeking ta historical account from. Your position is that we should understand the Palestinians based upon what the Palestinians say and how they live. You cite your personal experience with the Palestinian people. That’s fine. God bless them and especialy the ones that live good, wholesome lives. But frankly you can do the same for any group of people. You can go to Great Britain and see their point of view of taxing the colonies. Afterall, it was mother England which financed the war against France and their Indian allies within the American colonies. They colonists wshould pay “their fair share” of the war burden. You can see differing points of view between notherners and southerners regarding the Civil War. Likewise, you could have gone to to Japan or Germany during the Second World War and have come away with their perspective of justification. However, in any case, this does not negate any act of war committed from one group to the other. As soon as an act of war is committed, all parties involved or interested must pick a side or stay neutral. From your front page post as well as from your comment posts, it seems clear that you take the side of the Palestinians as being subverted, oppressed, and denied a place of their own. To justify your position you cite first hand experience living with them. This experience of yours you now use to refute the position that the Palestinians cause trouble for the Israelis. That the Palestinians are only defending their land from the Israeli occupation which was thrust upon them by the Europeans. I simply do not agree with your conclusions.

    I do not know of any official Palestine state before the Jews began to immigrate there on a massive scale. The Ottoman Empire fell creating chaos. The British promoted the Palestine mandate which included selecting local leaders in Palestine and to allow Jews to immigrate to Palestine. This is where the conflict between the Palestinians versus the Jews begin regarding the establishment of a homeland for the Jews.

    Some people, like Haj Amin Husseini opposed Jewish immigration to their land. I find little reason to support the assertion that he was doing this only to protect his homeland. This had more to do with hating Jews than anything else. Husseini not only openly supported Hitler in combating the Jews, but formed formidable orgganizations in Palestine and in circumvential areas to oppose Jewish occupation, period. Husseini was a key founder of the Muslim Brotherhood who now control Egypt and why did they fire rockets into Israel? The Muslim Brotherhood will and does recruit anyone who will commit acts of open war against Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood is closely allied with Hamas who is the governmental body of Gaza today. It is in Hama’s own charter to destroy Israel. So, yes, Husseini’s actions do have consequences for the Palestinians today.

    Also, do not ignore the fact that after Israel was formed (I tink in 1948) around 700,000 Palestinians fled the coutnry, riled up Egypt, Jordan, and Syrian against Israel and these countries launched a war against Israel. Huesseini, no doubt, had a significant influence in these Palestinians to flee. The Jews did not compel them to leave. They could have stayed and participated in the new Jewish government, the first central government in that area and for that exclusively for that area in centuries as far as I can tell. These Palestinians chose to flee and wage war upon Israel and subsequetially not allowed to be repatriated in Israel. Two countries, Syrian and Jordan, while content to use them as propts to wage war in upon Jewish Israel, had no interest in partiating them as neither. As far as Egypt, I do not know of teir decision to take in any of these Palestinian refugees but as of today neither Syria nor Jordan have any interest in helping the refugee Palestinian decendents.

    This post is now off the front page and it is at that point when I usually move on to other posts. I do appreciate your opinions and your sharing of your experience. While I do not accept ignoring acts of war it is important to remember that all are children ofthe same God and thus love and compassion should burn within us all one for another.

  • RT

    Darren,
    I would urge you to get a hold of some reliable information on the conflict instead of the propaganda that you seem to hold so dear.

    But I can say a vigorous amen to your concluding comment, “that all are children of the same God and thus love and compassion should burn within us all one for another.”

  • Darren

    “I would urge you to get a hold of some reliable information on the conflict instead of the propaganda that you seem to hold so dear.”

    Eh…

    “But I can say a vigorous amen to your concluding comment, “that all are children of the same God and thus love and compassion should burn within us all one for another.””

    Hallelujah!!! :>)

    /OK, I think I’m done with this thread. Good chatting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wwandelt Wojciech Wandelt

    Dear Author (RT),

    I have been listening closely to the whole discussion. I have read all the posts including links provided by you and fellow users. Would you like to know what is my comment?

    Firstly, you keep continuously repeating yourself in abruptly negating all citings of facts by Darren etc. without providing any explanation.
    At the same time u put in links of unknown legitimacy and …. frankly containing the most extreme views on the topic, I have ever come across.

    You said your article and arguments are based on extensive experience while living and traveling across Israel and Palestine.
    Living in a country for only 1 year doesn’t give you the right to make such clear and outspoken judgements. I understand u were a student there. Yes studies are beautiful time to explore the world and take vivid discussions into seeing the whole of the matter. But RT please do remember that to do that you hear out all sides arbitrarily and investigate from all the angles. Being a MORMON u should know this from Book of Mormon.
    You simply FORGOT TO DO SO.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wwandelt Wojciech Wandelt

    Second, I am a Mormon like you. I also visited Israel on many occasions and have had an opportunity to travel across Israel and Palestine. More so, I been to places like yucatan Mexico border with Belize, poor districts of Shanghai etc. Do you know what are are my thoughts?

    In every country you have people who will welcome you to their homes. Even if you end up in a war zone, you will meet some one good. So the TV does not provide you with the whole picture. It simply focuses on important issues.
    Friend, just as in Nazi Germany there were good people so in Western countries you got perpetrators and terrorists. Except for radical factions, Islam is a peaceful religion. I have many friends Muslims.
    Don’t compare Palestinians to Arabs because they are a completely different culture. Further just as Darren have said, today Palestine is not really Palestinian although there are still some living there.

    Sincerely, I would not make such ugly and unrighteous judgements based on 1 or 2 experiences.
    So RT read history first, investigate all the facts; not just your own antagonisms and ONLY then record your conclusions.

    Peace with you friend.

  • RT

    Wojciech,
    I”m sorry I didn’t notice your comment until now. Thank you for expressing your concern that I try to hear all sides of an issue such as the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Although it may seem to you that my views are one-sided and based merely on a short period of living in Palestine-Israel, that is not actually the case. I believe that my perspective is actually far more balanced and reasonable than those typically articulated here in the US. I”m interested in a just peace that treats Palestinians as human beings, which will ultimately provide for real security for both Israelis and Palestinians. In addition, my arguments are not based on the short time I lived in the country, but on the fact that much of my undergraduate degree was focused on Modern Middle Eastern Studies and I have spent a considerable amount of time keeping up on issues since then.

  • RT

    Can you tell me what “ugly and unrighteous judgements” that I have made?


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