Palestine May 24, 2014

My recent trip to Israel included the West Bank. It was interesting to hear locals talk about the future of the region, and also overhear American Christians who spoke in very sweeping terms about “standing with Israel” in a manner that lacks not only nuance, but any actual understanding of the realities or the history.

And so when Benjamin Corey posted about Christians in the United States being a barrier to peace in the Middle East, it resonated with me.

Of course, it is less American Christians that are the issue, and more American Christians, as well as others, but in particular Americans of various stripes. For instance, I was taken aback by the oversimplification in this video by Dennis Prager, which recently came to my attention:

By way of contrast, here’s Najla Said talking about her play “Palestine” (HT 3QuarksDaily):

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  • Matthew Wade Ferguson

    When I visited Israel and stayed in Jerusalem in the summer of 2012, I stayed right next to the Gate of Damascus during Ramadan. Things were loud at night, but the Muslims were very friendly to American tourists. I also traveled along the West Bank when going from Sefed to the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. I really wish more Americans would be in touch with the political and cultural realities in Palestine. Instead, many evangelicals in the US think of the region in terms of caricatures and ideologies.

    A Judaic Studies major posted an article on my blog about the US Christian fixation with Israel titled “The Nation of Israel and Evangelical Ideology: How the Christian Mythos Alters Hibbat Tsiyon” that echoes many of the concerns here:

  • Larinthian

    I agree with Mr.Prager’s assessment of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Except for one caveat. While it is true that Israel has and continues to abide by the land for peace approach, I disagree with it. Israel is a tiny country, there isn’t much room to give up land and for the most part, this idea has not worked. As Mr. Prager correctly pointed out, the fundamental problem is as it has always been, the Arabs want Israel to cease to exist. Until this fundamental truth is abandoned by the Arabs, there will be no peace. The Palestinians like to portray themselves as the poor victim of “big, bad” Israel. But, the reality is, the Palestinians make much of their own suffering. If the Palestinians would have redirected their priorities from trying to destroy Israel and used their energy to building an open and free country based on the rule of law and not barbarism, there could have been peace decades ago. In addition, Israel has made some extremely generous offers over the years, all they wanted in return was to be left alone. Each time the Palestinians rejected these offers. How is it that Israel could take a small, disease ridden patch of land and transform it into a thriving, modern nation, with world class universities, made many major contributions to science, technology and, medicine, All while having to protect itself against incessant attacks and terrorism by the Arabs. It all comes down to priorities. Israel has been focused on life and prosperity and the Arabs have been focused on death and destruction. Peace will only be achieved when the Arabs change this paradigm.

    • This ignores major elements of the situation, both ancient and modern, and the ways that you generalize about Palestinians and Arabs suggests to me that you’ve probably not met many yourself. I would encourage you to rectify that. You might still hold many of the same views, but I suspect that they would be tempered by an awareness that you are generalizing about real human beings in a callous manner.

      • Larinthian

        The fact remains that the Palestinians had many chances to establish their own country and each time they were rejected. Let’s remember that the settlements were a response to an unprovoked war that the Arabs lost. If the Palestinians were that worried about losing land then they shouldn’t start wars. It’s not a new concept of warfare that the victors of the war gains land. The Palestinians can’t have it both ways, they can’t be the aggressor and not pay a price. I would like you to take your own advice. Go over and live in an Arab country for a while. When you are there see what happens when you speak out against the government. Try to practice another religion other than Muslim. These countries are run by dictatorships, so there is no free elections. The educational systems in these countries are virtually non existent and what little they have is squandered on vilifying Israel. Then move to Israel for a while. See what it’s like to have rockets shot into the country. Experience the many murders perpetrated against Israelis. Not to mention the assaults that take place. Yet, with all of this violence that surrounds them everyday, Israel took a small parcel of uncultivated land and built a nation with a democratic government, world class schools. freedom of speech and religion, leaders in science, technology, and medicine. A representative government where all people are represented, a free and open press, and more. The Palestinians are bright people, they have the opportunity to do the same, but instead spend their resources on trying to destroy Israel and inculcating hatred. So, let’s get over the settlement issue and understand that the Palestinians don’t want to live like normal people without conflict against Israel, their goal remains the same, annihilation of Israel. that’s the simple truth and until this changes there will be no hope for peace.

        • I have more Israeli friends, including one who has fought in Israel’s wars and whose home has experienced shelling damage. I am opposed to dictatorship, as are many Arabs. Saying “let’s get over the settlement issue” seems to me to suggest that you have never been to someplace like Hebron, to see what occupation and settlements mean for people.

          Pointing out the positive achievements of one side and the atrocities of another is easy to do, and people who support both sides can do it, but it tends to simply perpetuate intransigence instead of leading to genuine understanding and the seeking of just and peaceful solutions, which not everyone wants, but many on both sides do, including most of the Holy Land’s Christians, who are Arabs.

          • Larinthian

            I have little sympathy for the Palestinians. You seem to be fixated on an issue that was created by the Palestinians and other Arab aggressors. The Palestinians were at one point in the area of trans Jordan. But, were thrown out of Jordan due to rampant violence and lawlessness. Whenever you initiate an unprovoked war, there is always the chance of losing and suffering the consequences of that defeat. In addition, prior to 1967, there were no settlements. Israel offered to make peace at that time as well and as usual was turned down. if the Palestinians came to a fair agreement, that was genuine and enforceable, I am sure Israel would have no problem returning the settlements. Even though it is part of Israel. How would you feel if you walked your kid to the bus stop in the morning to go to school. Everything seems normal, but just as you are returning home, you hear a loud bang and flames are in the air. You run down the street and discover, it was bombed by terrorists. How about hearing a siren going off warning of an impending rocket attack. You have about twenty seconds after hearing that siren to seek shelter, you were able to escape but a family member wasn’t as fortunate and was killed. What would you do if you were a father of a teenage girl, it is well after the time she usually comes home. as the hours pass, you are getting increasingly worried. You call your daughter’s friends asking if they saw her and they say no. Days go by and your daughter still isn’t found so you go to the police station to fill out a missing persons report. After a few more weeks pass, you finally get a phone call from the police asking you to come down to the station. When you arrive, you are ushered to the morgue. A sheet is lowered and you see it’s your daughter’s broken, battered, beaten, raped, and murdered body. It’s Friday night and sabot is about to begin. Suddenly, you hear a strange noise. four men wearing ski masked proceed to slash the throat of the entire family. Your twelve year old daughter returns from a neighbors house and walks into the house where your entire family was butchered to death. Right after this story broke, Palestinians were seen dancing in the streets and passing around candy. All of the stories i just recanted actually happened and continue to happen on a regular basis. If this is what you are defending, then there is something seriously wrong with your moral compass.

          • I had already gathered that you have little sympathy for the Palestinians. I wonder whether your strange ideas about their history are a result of that or the reason for it or both.

          • Larinthian

            My beliefs are based off of what’s right and what’s not. It’s not right to be attacked simultaneously by six different countries just minutes after being recognized as a Jewish state. It’s not right to perpetrate terrorism on innocent people. It’s not right to be pelted with rocks and Molotov cocktails, while your trying to pray. It’s not right to lie and slander other people. It’s not right to turn down every legitimate peace offer and return the favor by increasing violence and barbarism. It’s not right to try to usurp direct negotiations and try to gain statehood through the U.N. My opinions of the Palestinians are not strange at all. What is strange is that you support such devious, unscrupulous, and evil Palestinian behavior.

          • But what are your beliefs about what is right and what is not based on (not “based off of”)? And how can you judge what is right and what is not when you only accept selective historical information about events in this region? This is precisely the heart of the issue. Rarely do people believe that they are evil. Usually they are sure that they are supporting the good, but their ability to believe that depends on carefully selecting what to read, what to believe, and so on.

            I’m not sure where you got the idea that I support violence by either side, but if you read anything I’ve written you would know that I don’t. Many Israelis and many Palestinians are unhappy with the violence that those who are supposedly fighting for them do in their name.

          • Larinthian

            Perhaps there may be a few Palestinians that would like to live like civilized human beings. But, keep in mind that Abbas is a member of Fatah formerly known as the PLO, which is a terrorist group. In addition, Hamas, another terrorist group, came to power by elections. Who are voting these groups into elected office, the Palestinian people, they are well aware of what these groups represent and they openly and freely voted for these terrorist groups. A few years ago, when the “Fogul family massacre” took place, which was when a group of Palestinian terrorists broke into an Israeli family’s home and proceeded to murder the entire family by slashing their throats, what was the response of the Palestinian people. Where they shocked, no. Where they appalled, no. Were they outraged, no. Instead, we saw the Palestinians dancing in the street, singing, and passing out candy. Just as they did when 9/11 took place, and just as they did last week, when three Israeli youths were kidnapped. According to a poll, two thirds of the Palestinian people agreed with this kidnapping. This certainly does not indicate in any way that the majority of the Palestinian people want to live in peace with Israel, it does indicate that they would like to annihilate Israel. Until this mindset changes, there will be no realistic hope of ending the violence. I would also like to point out that despite what the main stream media likes to portray, Israel only responds proportionally to the level of violence that is perpetrated against them. When Hamas was attacking Israel with rockets, Israel could have easily went into Gaza and completely wiped out Hamas, which is what they should have done. But, instead they only responded to slow down the rocket attacks, not completely stop the rocket attacks. Why did Israel do this, because they knew if they were to completely stop Hamas’s rocket assaults, it would cause more Palestinian civilians to be killed. In contrast, the Palestinians stage events for the media so it will look like Israel is the aggressor. The Palestinians will even use their own children as human shields. Israel shows more concern for the Palestinian peoples welfare than their own government does. But, the Palestinian people continue to vote for extremists, that should tell you where the Palestinian peoples mindset and values are.

          • I would encourage you to actually get to know some Palestinians, and also to consider the impression of Americans that people around the world have who know only our politics and our military actions.

          • Larinthian

            My problem is not with individual Palestinians. There may be some who are reform minded and have a desire to live in peace with Israel. But, the fact remains, that the regime that is in power right now was elected by the people. This regime has had and continues to have the primary goal of not normalizing relations with Israel but instead perpetuating their long standing policy of death and destruction against Israel. I think the same can be said about getting to know Israelis. When Abbas’s wife recently needed medical attention, where did he go, not to a Palestinian hospital but to an Israeli one. Several Syrians who were badly injured by the ongoing fighting there, were sent to Israel and received life saving medical attention, free of charge. The Syrian people were so indoctrinated to hate Israel, this is the first time they got a glimpse of the real Israel and began to understand that they have been fed lies by their own government. This is the case in most Arab countries. What the Palestinians and the people of several other Arab nations need to understand is that it’s not Israel that is the cause of their suffering but their own government. As long as these regimes can continue to keep the people uneducated and misinformed, they can continue to demonize and slander Israel. This allows them to usurp responsibility for the failures of the iron fist and repressive Arab regimes that rule many of these countries.

          • I have no problem with praising the accomplishments of Israel, nor with criticizing terrorism, hatred, and prejudice. But can I assume that you’ve never been to someplace like Hebron, where one sees graffiti that says things like “Gas the Arabs,” and where the local Arab population has had to have a fence installed over their shopping street in order to keep Israeli settlers from throwing things on them from above? What I find objectionable is your distorted one-sided stance, and what I find disturbing is the fact that you seem to genuinely believe that you are being fair in your depiction of the situation.