“Peace for a Palestinian”

“Peace for a Palestinian” November 8, 2018

 

Ha‘it al-Mabka
The Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock     (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

 

I was pleased to see this item in the Deseret News:

 

“‘Peace for a Palestinian’ tells story of Latter-day Saint woman’s faith amid war”

 

It reminded me of these two reviews of the book, which appeared in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture:

 

“Dehumanization and Peace”

 

“Peace in the Holy Land”

 

***

 

When I was a young man, Latter-day Saints were far more reflexively and uncritically pro-Israeli than they are today.  I think that the change has been for the good.

 

Shortly after my wife and I were married, we attended somebody else’s wedding reception.  As we were going through the line, a man standing there, a relative of the groom (as I recall), asked me about what our plans were.  I indicated that we would soon be leaving for Egypt, where I was going to be studying Arabic.  “Well,” he said in response, “I’m on the Lord’s side.”

 

That naïve and uninformed assumption that the Israelis represent “the Lord’s side,” simpliciter, irked me then and it irks me now.  But I encounter it far less commonly.

 

Latter-day Saints are scripturally obligated to believe in and to support the gathering of Israel, which plainly includes the gathering of the Jews to Palestine.  But we are not obligated, in my view, to support any particular policy of the United States toward Israel, let alone any particular policy of Israel itself.

 

During my first stint of living in Israel, which occurred just before I came back to the States to marry my wife, I ran into a group of American visitors on the streets in the Sheikh Jarrah section of East Jerusalem.  We got into a conversation, and they told me that they were part of a group who were there to assure then Prime Minister Menachem Begin that all true Christians in America supported him 100%.

 

I remember that “100%” very clearly.

 

I don’t support my own government’s policies 100%.  And the thought that it is somehow a “true Christian’s” obligation to support any government’s policies fully, completely, and without any dissent or reservation strikes me as idolatrous.

 

Besides which, my feelings about Menachem Begin, of all people, representing the Christian ideal and deserving unlimited Christian loyalty were — shall we say — less than completely enthusiastic.

 

I won’t for a moment attempt to whitewash the various evils visited upon innocent Jewish people and others by Palestinian terrorism, but, unfortunately, Jewish hands are also not entirely clean in the ugliness that has afflicted Palestine for more than a century now.

 

And I’m especially bothered when I see some Evangelical Protestants, especially, treat the Arab-Israeli conflict as a battle of obvious good (represented by the righteous Jews who simply want to regain their ancestral land) against obvious evil (the heathen Muslims who seek to steal Jewish land from the Holocaust survivors who have settled upon it and made it to blossom as the rose).

 

I wish the situation were so simple and clear-cut.

 

Unfortunately, many of the Jews aren’t pious or even righteous.  And, although I don’t concede that Muslims deserve to be oppressed in the first place, many of the Palestinian Arabs aren’t even Muslims.  They’re Christians.  And they have been for many centuries — Christianity, after all, didn’t begin in Canterbury, Wittenberg, or even Rome, but in Palestine — and their roots in Palestine go back to far before the founding of the State of Israel.  Accordingly, they’re mystified when their ostensible Christian brothers and sisters in the West seem to support the alleged “biblical right” of the Jews to take their land.

 

Anyway, I hope that many Latter-day Saints will read Sahar Qumsiyeh’s book.  It will give them a different perspective on a sad historical situation and a painful continuing reality that is a great deal more complex than many Americans realize.

 

 

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