Category Archives: United Nations

Real Questions, Thoughtful Answers, Part 5: The Jews and Israel as Gifts to our World

Several friends and colleagues have asked me to comment on the upsurge of anti-Israel protests throughout the USA and the West, especially the work of the BDS (Boycott-Divest-Sanction) and SJS (Students for Justice in Palestine), and continual United Nations condemnations. Anti-Israel groups claim they are not anti-Jewish – they are just against the injustices perpetrated by the modern State of Israel. They see Israel as an “apartheid state” that denies basic rights to Palestinian Arabs in the “occupied territories.” Some reveal their agenda and question the legitimacy of the nation of Israel, calling it “colonialism” or “a colonial-settler project” or a “Western imposition born of Holocaust guilt.” And these are the mild critiques. Jihadist Islamic groups and leaders call for overt elimination of Israel and the extermination of the Jews as a religious obligation. In the past decade, diverse voices have expressed the wish that Hitler has “finished the job.” How do we respond to these comments?

History helps here.

“Palestine” is a term coined by the Roman Empire in the wake of the Jewish revolts of 66-70 AD and 132-135 AD. Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea were exiled and the entire region was renamed, “Palestine” as an insult to the Jews. The term Palestine arises from Philistine, a group from Crete who settled in Gaza and constantly opposed the people of Israel (See the early chapters of I Samuel for more here, including David’s defeat of the Philistine giant Goliath). Jewish presence in Jerusalem and surrounding regions has been continual for over 3000 years.

Today’s Palestinians have coalesced into a community and they deserve a better government that the current groups that are actually oppressing them, namely the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. This sense of national identity is a creation of the KGB-PLO in the 1960s, uniting disparate Arab groups under a mission to destroy Israel.

Jews have been subject to horrific persecution for most of their history after being exiled from their land. Antisemitism comes in three basic forms: political, religious, and racial. Politically, a variety of empires and nations have distrusted the separateness of the Jews, even if they pose no military or political threat. Religious antisemitism is found in Church history (though NOT in the Christian Scriptures), with far too many leaders of every tradition forgetting the Jewish roots of the faith and misinterpreting the paid mob’s shouts of, “Crucify him!” and “His (Jesus’) blood be on us and our children” as theological license to marginalize and oppress. Both the Qur’an and the Hadith (accepted Islamic interpretations and teachings) often declare the Jews the enemies of Islam and call for their oppression and sometimes death.

All of this terrible history metastasized in the late 19th and early 20th century into biological or racial anti-Semitism, rooted in facile Social Darwinism (Darwin would have utterly rejected these ideas). Historical alienation, exile, pogroms, second-class status, and persecution were minor compared to the eliminationist ideology gradually developed by ethnocentric nationalists and industrialized by the Nazis. The Holocaust was an unspeakable and unprecedented evil that far too many people chose to ignore and still try to either minimalize of normalize.

Concomitant with the rise of this mutation of antisemitism were a variety of Zionist movements calling for a restored Jewish homeland. From the 1860s to the 1930s, thousands made their way to their ancient land, much to the chagrin of some Arab leaders and later the British colonial rulers. Here are some facts about this period, for the current revisionist propaganda wants the world to think that Jews returning to their homeland was some kind of imperialist plot to destroy or displace the local Arab populations:

  • With few exceptions, all lands occupied by Jewish families and settlements were legally purchased from the local Arab populations under the Ottoman Empire. Much of it was desert and swampland, requiring huge amounts of work for it to flourish. Cities like Haifa and Tel Aviv were transformed as international culture flourished.
  • The British Government approved a Jewish homeland in principle with its Balfour Declaration of 1917. A crumbling Ottoman Empire in 1918 left a vacuum filled by European “mandates” and renewed Arab nationalism, including radical jihadist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • The League if Nations approved a homeland for the Jewish people during meetings in 1919-1920. In 1922, a plan was approved for a Jewish homeland within the Kingdom of Transjordan, but radicals undermined this.
  • In the 1920s and 1930s, multiple plans for modest Jewish settlements were offered and always rejected – often with violence – by radical Arab leaders, especially the Mufti of Jerusalem (the mentor of Yasser Arafat, supporter of Hitler, with plans to bring the Auschwitz gas chambers to the Middle East).
  • After 1939 the British halted any Jewish emigration, and even at the height of the Holocaust in 1942-1944, they refused to ease their restrictions.
  • In 1947, the United Nations approved a new Jewish state in a tiny section of the Palestinian territories – the boundaries were drawn to limit displacements. May 1948: The Jewish State is formally declared…and immediately Arab armies from six nations mobilize to destroy Israel. This call for destruction is the origin of today’s phrase, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.” In other words, death to Israel and exile or death to the Jews therein.

Since her birth, Israel has offered peace on generous terms, but these offers are always rejected. Several Arab states have normalized relations and received the economic and security benefits of an alliance with the only democracy in the region. A few more facts about Israel will help us see through the anger and hatred spewed by anti-Semites:

  • Israel is not perfect, but she is the only pluralistic democracy in the Middle East, with rights of conscience, active political parties, almost two million Arab citizens, and equal rights for women and minorities.
  • Israel is a global leader in humanitarian compassion, medical research, technology, ecological innovation, business development, and cultural creativity.
  • Israel is not an apartheid state, mistreating Arab populations in various territories. She has the challenging task of providing security for her citizens, and finding ways to cooperate with Palestinian leaders desiring her destruction.

Today’s hatreds are really a mishmash of old antisemitic themes joined with agitation propaganda for consumers who are ignorant of history. It is time for thoughtful people to reject the eliminationist slogans and recognize the gift Israel is to our world. Years ago, Israel handed Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority, removing the Jewish settlements and leaving 800 thriving businesses intact to help the new regime. The results? Destruction of businesses and the establishment of a terrorist state under Hamas that constantly proliferates violence against Israel. A few resorts exist and about a thousand jihadist leaders are millionaires while the populace lives in squalor. Meanwhile Israel is blamed for every problem that is the result of a refusal to make peace.

There is no moral equivalence of Israel and the Palestinian Authority government. The former desires peace and democracy, the latter jihad and oppression. Israel is ready for peace, and the PA is led by a Holocaust denier and one of the financiers of the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games of 1972. Yes, there are many narratives of Arabs displaced by war and suffering because of these conflicts. All that can end if moderate voices are heard and peacemaking wins over violence. Let’s pray for the peace of Jerusalem and refuse to listen to shrill voices.

Hope for Peace

Peace among nations is a noble goal worth pursuing. It is also impossible without the other facets of peace being in place. Treaties are mere scraps of paper without transformation of hearts and minds. As we pray for our leaders and for concord among all cultures, here are some pathways to peace essential for human flourishing:

Personal peace with God and oneself. Conflicted, guilty and wounded hearts are underneath so much pathological activity and strife. This peace comes when individuals are reconciled to God and with their own pasts.

Peace among families. In 1967, Neil Diamond wrote and recorded a powerful song, Husbands and Wives, containing these words, “It’s my belief/pride is the chief/cause of the decline /in the numbers of husbands and wives.” It is time for spouses to decide ahead of time that they will remain faithful in body and spirt to their partners and their children.

Peace within and among churches. The local church is Jesus’ Plan A for his mission and the hope of the world…and all too often a place of discord and power struggles. May the faith, hope and love of the Gospel bring humility and mutual respect among all members.

Peace among diverse classes and cultures, educational backgrounds and ethnicities. Global ideals are only as strong as their local applications. When we make friends across classes and cultures and work for the common good, there is a ripple effect that becomes influential across the street and around the world.

And the key to all these facets of peace? A decision on the apart of at least 2 people to think of God’s glory and the good of others before themselves. In other words, letting love and humility, courage and wisdom win out over ambition and ego.

May this Advent find all of us at peace with Christ and fostering peace in our families and neighborhoods. We do not need the State house, the Beltway or the UN to lead the way – it begins in our hearts and homes.

Myths and Facts in the Middle East

The proto-state of Palestine, held together by a coalition that is ambiguous at best toward peace with their neighbor Israel, has made her bid for UN recognition. The process is a bit akin to Roman Catholic sainthood, except that the Vatican has a more objective process. The USA is obligated to veto such a move, even though President Obama has staked his world reputation and his Nobel Prize for hope on a resolution to current the impasse in the Middle East.

A cursory review of news outlets blames Israel’s refusal to halt new settlement construction for the breakdown in negotiations a year ago. While there is some merit in this, such a facile explanation betrays ignorance of the real issues underlying the current conflict. There is much myth masquerading as truth about The Arab-Israeli conflict. Sorting fact from legend – even for historical events less than a century old – requires intellectual integrity and patience, two virtues lacking in our instant-information-and-analysis Internet Age.

Myth: Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is the reason for the “cycle of violence.”
Fact: Israel is not blameless in this conflict; however, she has come to the table again and again, signed peace accords (Campd David, 1978; Oslo, 1993; others in 2000) and watched jihadist radicals subvert the process.

Myth: Palestinian national identity and historic claims to the land are equal to Jewish aspirations.
Fact: Palestinian “national identity” is a recent construct, though many families and villages have deep roots in the land. Jewish connections are unbroken for nearly 3000 years.
Special fact: the tragedies of war in 1948 created a refugee disaster still festering, with the descendants of 400,000+ Arab refugees living in squalor and exile.

Myth: The 1947 UN Resolution establishing a Jewish State place forced the displacement of over 700,000 Palestinians and gave control of a large piece of territory to a minority group.
Fact: The UN Partition Plan gave the Jewish population of Palestine a small portion of land in which the Jews were a majority. The plan also called for both Transjordan (the first Palestinian state)and Israel to respect minority civil, property and religious rights.

Myth: Jewish terrorism was equal to Arab terrorism and the Jews massacred civilians and destroyed Arab villages on a large scale in 1948 and 1967. “Remember Deir Yassin” became an Arab war-cry.
Fact: The unauthorized work of the Irgun did result in scores of Arab and British casualties. The legitimate Israeli authorities punished such acts when possible. The exigencies of war did cause up to 400,000 Arabs to leave their homes; however, nearly 200,000 remained and many of them and their descendants have become Israeli citizens. The Mufti of Jerusalem went well-beyond any Zionist rhetoric when he stated unilaterally, “Kill all the Jews!” Egypt’s ruler in the 1967 conflict, General Nasser, made it clear that his goal was the destruction of Israel. By the way, more than 600,000 Jews were forced to leave Arab homelands as a result of the 1948 conflict.

Myth: Israel started the conflicts in 1948 and 1967.
Fact: There was low-level fighting in 1947-1948 as both sides positioned themselves before the departure of the British military. The British equipped the Arabs, gave no help to the new State of Israel and washed their hands of any responsibility. The 1967 war was preceded by scores of Arab missile and guerrilla attacks, the closing of borders and waterways and the movement of Arab armies on all sides of Israel. The Israeli “pre-emptive strike” was a brilliant response to the violence and brought a rapid victory. It also cemented Israel’s nationhood and wounded the pride of the nations around Israel.

Myth: Israel is a Western imposition arising our of Holocaust guilt.
Fact: The Holocaust DID accelerate world sympathy and UN action toward the new state. The problem with this line of reasoning is that many of its adherents are either Holocaust deniers or exaggerators of Israel’s “apartheid” policies.
Special fact: Current PA leader Abbas remains a Holocaust denier and refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist in peace next to a new (and second) Palestinian state.

Myth: Israel does not want an independent Palestine as a neighbor.
Fact: Israel has repeatedly negotiated toward a “two-state” solution – Camp David and Oslo both point the way. She has given up much land for peace and will even negotiate settlements in the West Bank – IF her neighbors will fully recognize her legitimacy, renounce terrorism and produce maps for their schools that include her name! Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated this time and again recently and even suggested another settlement freeze in exchange for direct, good-faith negotiations.

Israel is not perfect. She has
* Caused the displacement of many Arabs
* Invaded Lebanon and allowed her “allies” to wreak havoc among refugee camps.
* Erected a border fence that will make peaceful travel between two states difficult.
* Refused to look at creative solutions for Jerusalem – perhaps a shared capital of both nations?

But current Palestinian leaders have not
* Renounced terrorism – especially the killing of innocents.
* Recognized Israel’s right to exist peacefully and in perpetuity.
* Demonstrated any ability to treat minority populations with equity.
* Realized that their (exaggerated number of) descendants of the 1948 refugees cannot be allowed to settle within the political boundaries of Israel. Many could, however, help a new Palestine flourish.

Israel remains the only pluralistic democracy in a region of extremism and intolerance. If the USA was not so dependent of Arab oil, we would have helped popular secular movements topple several regimes long ago. Even this year’s “Arab Spring” is shrouded in mythology as the Islamicist Muslim Brotherhood takes control in multiple locales. The vandalizing of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo is a sign of what awaits these “revolutions” that are the darlings of the anti-Israeli Left in Europe and the USA. It is an insult to all decency to allow the Iranian leader on US soil. The greater tragedy is that thousands of unthinking students and chattering class members parrot his calls to destroy Israel. Ignored in all of this are the arrests of dissidents in Egypt, the “ethnic cleansing” of Blacks in Libya and the non-existence of anything resembling pluralism in the nations surrounding Israel.

The Palestinians deserve better leaders who want to live in peace and create a thriving region in partnership with Israel. When Israel left Gaza to the PA, the result was destruction and more violence. Hundreds of intact businesses were destroyed for no reason. Infrastructure was sabotaged. All this in the name of jihad.

Peace is possible, with direct negotiations and honest US leadership. But first we must know the facts and reject the myths.