The Palestinian question (1)

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.


4 thoughts on “The Palestinian question (1)

  1. Paul Fox says:

    I have just received this, from “The Jewish Voice for Peace” There is a peace movement in Israel.——-

    I’m asking you as an Israeli–we need you to tell Israeli leaders you won’t accept racism, you won’t accept human rights violations, you won’t accept occupation and the killing of civilians.

    This is not the time for silence.
    Sign the Open Letter.

    Dear Paul,

    My name is Eran Efrati, I am Jewish, a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, and a 7th generation Jerusalemite.

    What I’ve seen in Israel over the last few weeks is beyond anything I have witnessed in my life.

    I’ve seen terrified Palestinian children in Hebron and Halhul, sitting on the ruins of their homes.

    I’ve seen mobs in the street chanting “death to Arabs” and pulling out Palestinian men from their stores to beat them as other Israelis stood idly by. I’ve seen soldiers lined up at the Gaza border, ready at a moment’s notice to invade.

    And now, like you, I’ve seen the climbing death toll in Gaza, over 100 dead and some 500 injured –all by Israeli missiles, with no end in sight.

    As much as it pains me to say it, I don’t think I can do a lot about it. But I believe you can.

    American voices – and especially Jewish American ones – are probably the most critical voices in the world right now.

    We need you to tell us – Israeli politicians, the Israeli media, Israeli society – that you can’t support this. That you can’t support human rights violations. That you can’t support racism. That you won’t support the idea that Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian lives.

    Join me and sign this Open Letter now—if they get another 10,000 signatures, Jewish Voice for Peace will take out ads in Haaretz and the Jewish Forward with our message.

    We know the roots of this are long and deep. But the truth behind this latest assault has finally coming: as J.J. Goldberg wrote in The Forward, the Israeli government lied, and created this situation.

    For weeks, the government knew that the three kidnapped teenagers were dead. But they instituted a gag order on the media, lied to Israelis and the world, and falsely claimed the mass arrests and collective punishment of Palestinians was all in the hopes of finding the teenagers alive.

    In other words, their chosen response was to kidnap the mind of an entire country.

    From the very beginning, this has been about punishing Palestinians. From the beginning, the government has been willing to manipulate and use its own people for that goal.

    Overhead, I hear airplanes headed to Gaza all day long, and I know there’s nothing I can do to stop them. And now we all know the lengths they’ve gone to justify this attack, and how fully Israeli society has bought into it. And I don’t think we can stop it from within.

    But I think you can.

    Please join me and sign this statement: We oppose the occupation, the bloodshed, the privileging of Jewish lives over others lives.

    Eran Efrati

    Contact Info:
    Jewish Voice for Peace
    1611 Telegraph Ave, Suite 550
    Oakland, CA 94612

  2. Sarah Connolly says:

    Thank you for writing this piece John, I understand a little more for reading it but It is an absolute mine field to me and I am so aware of my lack of factual knowledge and the wealth of differing points of view available via Facebook etc brings no clarity at all. I feel totally useless and incapacitated yet my heart tells me that God would want me to do something instead of being a mute on the horrific situation. I feel totally frustrated and feel as a Child of God I should be doing something. It’s not enough to ”like” things we see on Face Book. I recently met a peace loving street busker while on holiday in Australia. He had just returned from the Holy Land and reaffirmed his Muslim faith. We chatted about shared desire for a vision for peace, tolerance and to be at one with our fellow brother and sisters world wide. It was a clear God encounter and a remarkable moment of mutual respect and acceptance of our differences.
    I have fear at times to share my views due to lack of understanding theologically, historically and politically but from a humanitarian view we are all Children of God we all bleed the same color blood. Killing each other can never be right My view is so simple really. I am praying about this as I believe that God has given me a heart for community and for justice and I have a strong desire in my heart for peace but have no idea at this time how be useful except to pray of course.
    I recently spoke to Rick B about the situation and also gained some insight into the Zionist movement which helped me to understand a little better.
    I pray that God also gives me wisdom and knowledge to respond in some way that would aid peace and compassion but I feel totally frustrated right now.
    I just wanted to take the time to respond to your blog and let you know that it is appreciated. God bless.

  3. Paul says:

    Dear John, Have you been to the West Bank? and met, and had meals with our fellow Christians, who are Palestinians, and can tell you how they feel that they are the forgotten Christians but can trace their line back to the first Christians. Please, if you can go to Bethlehem. and meet our friends Ibrahim and May, and many others like the Bethlehem Bible College, and SABEEL (Liberation theology movement.). I was very pro Israel, until my visit. We had 2 Jewish children stay in our house in the last war, when I was 8. Nobody would take them in. I visited Mounhausen, (concentration camp, in Austria ) when I was 19, and my daughter, spent 6 months in a Kabuts with my encouragement.

  4. eric siverson says:

    It is clear to me the whole world is coming against the Jews . Take the city of Jerusalem the capital city of Israel . The city every Jew has prayed to be in for 1000’s of yrs and ended their prayer with next yr in Jerusalem Don’t you suppose the Muslims insist Jerusalem must be their capital city too .The Muslim’s have the Koran their holy book , that doesn’t not once mention the Holy city of Jerusalem .. The Christian Church has also tried to take over Jerusalem they want Jerusalem to be under control of the Vatican .or even the United Nations Just anybody but Israel .. That brings me to the United Nations resolutions . Over half of their recommendations have been against the 1 little country of Israel .rather than the gross violators that have killed millions of people through out the world over the last 70 yrs . The whole world is completely nuts , worried about Jews mistreating the Palestinian Muslims . There never were Palestinians before the Jews moved back to Israel . The Egyptians , Jordanians and Syrians that lived with the Jews in Palestine were residence of the Ottoman empire .considered themselves Arabs .After the first W War Jews started moving into Palestine and called their new country Israel .The Jews were also forced out of the Muslim countries surrounding Israel . So they have to live in Israel . I don’t think Israel has been mistreating their Muslim residence to bad , Their population is growing , they are not forced to leave , But they are allowed to leave if they want too . Very few Israeli Arabs have shown any interest in leaving Israel . The problem is the Arabs want to run the whole show and don’t want the Jews to own any land or even live in Israel . Several Arab countries have attack Israel several times and been beaten back everytime . In 1967 the Arabs lost control of east Jerusalem and the West bank . It looks to me the Palestinian Arabs can’t lick the Jews so it is time to join the Jews . If the rest of the world would just keep their nose out of Israel’s buisness that most likely would have happened a long time ago . But every Muslim terrorist organization wants to prove that Jews can’t beat Muslims And the United States sends aid to both sides

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