I must confess this is going to be a difficult post to make, yet it is also a necessary one. This is by way of a putting stake in the ground, where so many things have to begin, and I have every intention to make a more substantial post later on to consider the issues and the arguments. There is no shortage of relevant information in the public domain and I am trying to understand what is there. Because I don’t quite have the full grasp I would like, I will refrain from quoting / linking with any of this stuff, but rest assured I am trying to understand various perspectives on the Palestinian question, which polarizes opinions in a way few other subjects do.
While issues around Israel / Palestine have cropped up in media reporting ever since I can remember, it seems with the recently reported conflict between Israeli and Palestinian, typically that involving each side firing rockets at the other, the reporting has intensified and if it weren’t for the fact that people are weary of hearing of these things there would likely have been more. Given that in the current exchange, the Palestinians are coming of far worse, with mostly civilian, including children, casualties, with this is turning public opinion against the Israelis, interest is more than what it might otherwise had been. One of the positive things of being active on Facebook, as I am these days, is that I can engage with people of widely differing views and remain “friends”. I have been struck that people I respect, who I would regard as being thoughtful and considerate, have expressed widely differing, and sometimes diametrically opposite, views on the subject, and regrettably a good deal of which is based on ignorance and prejudice.
When I searched the Internet for a definitive statement as to what the Palestinian question is, the answer wasn’t quite as expected and certainly not as clear cut as I would like. So let me say what I think the question is or should be. Ever since the state of Israel was created, and long before then, there have Palestinians living in that land. When the land was given over to Israel to self-determine, while many Palestinians left, often as a result of the conflicts at the time and being displaced, many remained, and it is widely believed those that did/do had/have less rights than the Israelis and not the all important one of self-determination, resulting in considerable vexation by those who feel they have lost out. That has remained so until this day, despite many unresolved discussions with interested parties about giving some of the land to the Palestinians and allowing self-determination in areas where they are in a majority.
Many Palestinians feel aggrieved and, while leaving a fuller analysis of their grievances for a later post, there are many that feel those grievances, e.g. Israeli settlers taking over areas previously occupied by Palestinians and evicting those occupants in the process, to be justified, as well as a long list of social injustices and human rights abuses. This should be tempered with Israel’s own concern to maintain security and combat terrorism. The problems have been compounded when Palestinian leaders have tried to retaliate e.g. by firing rockets into Israeli dominated areas and, what often gets reported, attacks by suicide bombers. The problem is further compounded when the Israelis retaliate against the retaliation, although, depending who you listen to, either one or the other side is the instigator, which should determine how we are to respond.
Because my analysis is incomplete, I have yet to come to a view on the matter, even though I am inclined to believe that both sides make valid points and neither side is blameless or blessed with leadership that inspires me with confidence. I regret that the Palestinians are led by an extreme group: Hamas and, equally, I recoil at some of the words and actions emanating from Israel’s current Prime Minister: Benjamin Netanyahu and at the questionable leadership skills of US President Barack Obama. Looking on the world stage and where influence lies internationally, I have a sense of foreboding as political considerations and national interests invariably take priority over those of what is right or wrong and militant Islam is ever looming. But since peace, righteousness and justice are axiomatic to my own beliefs, this is not a question I can ignore, and is why I feel compelled to grasp the pertinent facts.
I have got this far without specifically discussing religion but religion is a relevant factor that cannot be ignored. It is not just because the conflict is sometimes seen as that between Judaism and Islam, although ironically many Jews of a Zionist persuasion are non believers, as well as some Palestinians and Jews who are also Christians. But given that many of my Christian friends have pronounced on the subject and have adopted views from being fully supportive of the Israeli position because Jews are God’s own chosen people, and Israel is the land that God promised to Abraham, to those who side with the Palestinians and their plight and sense of outrage, because Yahweh is a God of justice.
While I regard my own position as being somewhere in the middle, I have reflected long and hard about the position of Israel and Jews in God’s eternal plan, for example in the “Jewish enigma” chapter of my “Theological musings” book, available as a download from the Writing section of this website. I challenge my Christian friends to think theologically and argue following establishing the facts, rather than on the erroneous notion that Israel can do no wrong or being taken in by anti-Israel propaganda. It is harder to counsel my Muslim friends as I am not Muslim but I would say much the same thing and point to the respect Islam shows for “people of the book”.
I welcome people sharing their insights into this whole question and engaging with me in a respectful and intelligent way and, before I return to it in a future posting, I will undertake to do three things:
- While recognizing there are countless writings on the subject, many in the public domain, and a wide range of views to consider, many of which are pertinent, it would be nigh impossible to sift through all of these, but I will seek to study some of the more relevant writings and views in the months to come.
- I will pray to Almighty God that he grant me the wisdom of Solomon to better understand this question and be able to respond with an answer that is at least approaching the right one.
- Jesus said: “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God” Matthew 5:9. Since I want to be a child of God, I have to be involved in peacemaking, so when it comes to engaging with Jews and Palestinians alike, as well as with people outside holding widely ranging positions, that is what I will do.
We are also told to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” Psalm 122:6, but that peace will only fully come when the Messiah comes.