Thank you for your email about balanced reporting. Sadly, balance is not something one comes to expect much of these days from our mainstream media reporting and, when it isn’t mainstream, there is generally an angle, typically pro-Zionist or pro-Palestinian in the case of the Gaza situation. But you are quite correct – the article you refer to does help vindicate the actions of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), and if we compare their actions with those of the allies in World War 2, or more recently in the Iraq wars, they may well have done better in limiting civilian casualties whilst carrying out actions they deemed necessary to protect Israel’s security against the excesses of Hamas. As this is not the sort of reporting people get to see, they are sold the idea (you say lie) that the IDF and their political masters are the bad guys in this whole sorry business. Having said that and while we are talking about the morality of the IDF I have recently got hold of a video that suggests they are anything but moral. So where does the truth really lie?
As you will no doubt concede, we agree on many things and often concerning matters where most people see things differently to how we see them. Both of us are driven by the fear of God and a desire to understand the word of God, the Bible, and act accordingly. Even on the subject of Israel, there are major areas where we do agree. Both of us are concerned over the onslaught of radical Islam, not just in the Middle East but in places such as Sub-Saharan Africa and even on our own doorstep and regret the ineptitude of Western governments and the apathy of the people they serve in protesting against this. We agree the Jews are still God’s special people; God’s blessing or curse depends partly on how we treat the Jews; there is a bright future for Israel (land and people); somehow the return of the Jews to Israel is part of the end time events foretold in the scriptures that will eventually lead to Armageddon, and the return of the Messiah to reign in Zion. I even agree with the principle of the state of Israel occupying some of the land promised to Abraham, with the salutary warning that in Bible times Israel went off the rails and lost the plot whenever its rulers were ungodly, as is currently the case. What happened then and I fear will happen now is that Israel will be given over to its enemies, as occurred many times in the scriptures. Despite his special love for Israel, God won’t tolerate disobedience.
Where I take issue, concerns interpreting events preceding what is happening today, going back to the establishment of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century and the British mandate following taking over the land of Palestine from the Ottomans. Like many a trouble spot, it is possible to trace some of the causes to past wrong actions. Looking back to the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, it is quite likely that things were done that shouldn’t have been and I believe history will show atrocities committed by Jews and Arabs and errors of judgement by Britain and its international partners.
But we are where we are. The issue is compounded due to elements that won’t accept an Israel state and are dedicated to its destruction. As an impressionable young Christian, I was sold the idea that the land of Israel belonged to the Jewish people by right and in many cases (that I still sadly) Israel cannot do wrong when it comes to the way those who are not Jews are treated. I can see now this led to an unholy alliance between Christian Zionists and atheistic, Jewish Zionists. And if we cite God’s promises when He said he will bless Israel by giving them the land and blessing them, do these not depend on its obedience, both in terms of accepting Jesus, its true messiah, maintaining social justice and upholding human rights?
While the subject of the need to follow Jesus a controversial one, even though you and I are (I hope) agreed on the matter, I am also concerned that almost every day I receive something pointing out some injustice or human rights abuse toward Palestinians, initiated by the Israelis, as well as those going back before the present conflict begun, and every day people who think like you remain silent on the matter and deny there is an issue. This is the latest and there is much more, all raising questions that pro-Israel apologists fail to address or conveniently ignore or side step when they point to the need to defend Israel, following the latest Palestinian misdemeanor. (Update: things move fast in the Internet world and that clip is no longer available – rather than look for a suitable replacement might I respectfully suggest not just that you examine alternative arguments but you check out for yourself the evidence that Israel has acted wrongly. Like me you may get overwhelmed and perplexed but for integrity’s sake we can’t ignore the challenge.)
Of course, not all accusations are valid but some I am convinced are (and is why I have devoted some of my recent blog postings to this subject). Moreover, I regret, that in spite of the overwhelming evidence that Israel (or rather those who rule the country and control the propaganda machine etc.) are wronging the Palestinians, at least some of them, that people who think like you too often ignore, what to many is glaringly evident, because of a misguided belief based on dubious biblical exegesis that Israel can do no wrong or can be excused because they are God’s chosen people.
I have a number of concerns though. As you point out, we need reporting that is fair. Most reports that come to me are biased. One of the reasons I read “Israel Today” is that it serves a counter to the pro-Palestinian propaganda I am frequently subjected to. That is not to say I believe Israel Today is fully balanced. It may be more balanced than some media sources but it is still unbalanced for the reasons I have given, including its pro-Zionist position. What I long to see, but fail to see, is seekers after the truth trying to find where that balance truly lies, finding out and weighing facts, discerning the will of God. I would like to see those who think like this, whatever their position, respectfully engage in constructive debate. Some have said that getting a true balance on the matter is impossible. While I see rare evidence of balance being achieved, I believe we should urgently seek it, for is it not written: “A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight“, Proverbs 11:1?
The other concern we share, with not too many others, is about Christian unity, recalling that our Lord Jesus prayed: “they all (including you and me) may be one” John 17:21. While we may feel this is prayer is still a long way from being answered, and at best we agree on essentials and kindly agree to disagree on non-essentials, my reading is that some who are of a more Zionist ilk will regard their views as essential (and the same may go for those who are anti-Zionist). My fear is that if we were to come together in prayer, we might end up upsetting each other if we feel the other is praying on the basis that God is on either the side of the Jews or the Palestinians. The truth is that God is on His own side, and He loves Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, dare I say it, equally, and so should we. The principles of truth, righteousness and justice are paramount in God’s dealings and we are not beholden to support any human agenda, including atheistic or unjust Zionism and fundamentalist Islam, intent to take over the whole region. In fact we pray the Lord’s prayer which is all about His righteous will being done here on earth and looking forward to His Kingdom.
Christian Zionists come to that view largely based on them having found themselves in a set-up that interprets the Bible in a certain way or, if we are more generous, having worked it out for themselves. Of course there are variants, and each new generation finds the certainties of the previous one not so certain after all, but in essence these are the last days and the Lord may return at any time. Among trying to match world events with specific Bible prophecy, there is the return of the Jews to the promised land and having experienced further tribulation find salvation. All this I accept, and I know you do to and, whatever I think, I share the hope articulated by St. Paul: “all Israel shall be saved” Romans 11:26.
There is also another thought that should be added to the mix and one I am pretty sure you have concerns over and insights into, more than most. It is about the whole Middle East situation. I both agree and disagree with some Zionists who accuse the West of so focusing on the Palestinian issues that they ignore some of the, at least just as important, happenings in countries that are Israel’s neighbours and the manifold resultant ramifications. We mustn’t do so of course, and sadly western governments have done too little to protect the innocent and safeguard security. But neither should they ignore the wrongs of and prop up a corrupt Israeli regime in order to safeguard their own interests in the region and take a passive position in order not to upset the powerful sponsors they are beholden to.
So here goes with my quick tour of how I see things in the region, all of which I have touched on in my writings. We have persecution of religious minorities, especially Christians, in several Arab nations, some considered as friends of the West; the worrying threat of Iran flexing its muscles even further, ever looms; the Iraq situation is far from being sorted; the Arab Spring while bringing down some corruption and tyranny has opened the way for hostile Islamic extremists to come to power and has added to regional instability, not least due to ISIS who, as a result of their brutal conquests, already control large sections of Iraq and Syria, not content with anything less than the Islamification of the rest of the world. The setting up of an Islamic state in the Middle East and beyond, with a particular focus on Israel are no longer mere words; we are seeing it happen. One of the main things standing in its way is the State of Israel, something those who criticise Israel, as do I, will do well to remember. This also raises the stakes and why the matter of Israel acting with impropriety to its non-Jewish citizens need to be addressed and I would that we be of one mind on the matter.
It seems to me that USA led western governments see the cost of propping up an unjust Israel, as value for money insurance for safeguarding world peace against hostile Arab / Islamic powers, but when does two wrongs make a right? The response of interested onlookers, including those with power like the USA, has in the main been woefully inadequate and turning a blind eye when it happens to suit them, ignoring the act righteously imperative, including responding to the plight of the suffering Palestinian people. This should fill us with anguish and cause us to cry out to Almighty God.
Where do we go from here? I have already written about issues relating to the events taking place, in Gaza in particular, on a number of occasions, on my blog, and don’t feel I need to repeat here. I am all too aware concerning these matters “we see through a glass, darkly” 1Corinthians 13:12, and every day I see new things such that my search for balance remains and my understanding is shown to be incomplete. I will continue to pray into this situation, seek out the truth and what God thinks on these matters, and speak and act accordingly. I hope splits, including schism in the church, that has so often happened in the past, will be avoided, although the signs aren’t good, for such are the times in which we live.
It is right of course we seek better understanding on matters that are profoundly complex. It is right too we speak out concerning these matters, acknowledging we will see things differently. When it comes to prayer, the Lord’s prayer should be our model, as we pray “Thy will be done, Thy Kingdom come” etc. One thing is clear – the issues will not be settled by human ingenuity, even though we might commend those who try. When I consider the leaders of the main players: USA – Obama, Israel – Netanyahu, Palestine – Mashal, I am not filled with hope, and it is just as well I can hope in the Lord God of Israel, and Him alone. But we remain here to pray to our heavenly Father and to serve the Israeli, Palestinian and everyone else, and we eagerly anticipate the righteous reign of His Son.
Let me close here and I do so by invoking that well-known, ancient Hebrew prayer: “The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious to thee; the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” As well as praying this for you and your loved ones, I would like to pray this for the people in Gaza and Israel alike. Jehovah Shalom!
Shalom, salaam, peace
Note: Alex is a real person, but that is not his real name. The letter is also real although I have added bits since I first wrote it. I have no intention to embarrass my friend, or those who think similarly, by naming names. Also, I have posted three times already on “The Palestinian Question” (one, two, three), and these represent my current thinking on the matter and serves as a context for this letter. It should be stated the issue that gave rise to my writing the letter was around a report defending the ethics of the Israel Defence Force in its handling of the current conflict. As is invariably the case, things move on, but the overriding issue around Israel’s handling of the conflict remains and, while such actions cannot be viewed in purely black and white terms, these do need to be challenged. Sadly, we don’t appear much closer toward seeing a just settlement.