Oct 20, 2008

The Palestinians

By Jim Fletcher

I had an email chat last week with a Palestinian Christian upset over my statements about the Holy Land belonging to the Jews. I want to present this week a view that hopefully will be seen as balanced.

Having had only Psychology 101 in college, I can only assume that there is a term that describes the demonization of victims. In this context, I am talking about the daily campaign to snuff-out the Jews. This effort, by a coalition of enemies, involves a multi-layered approach: diplomatic, media-driven, terror, religious, and economic. And I am admitting my bias upfront: in my world, Jews have been slaughtered and harassed for 60 years by Arabs who feed on hate. Yet, in our culture today, Israel is blamed. This is surely a psychological disorder.

My chat friend has family in Bethlehem and bemoans the fact that they cannot move freely between that town and Jerusalem, Ramallah, or any other city. We all see things from our own perspectives. For a Palestinian, Israel restricts his or her movements. For an Israeli, those restrictions keep a lid on terror.

A recent poll in Egypt reveals that almost two-thirds view Al Qaida as a legitimate entity. Friends, that is scary in the extreme. As Middle East analyst Barry Rubin has noted, even the effort to bring in Israeli medicine to help a dying boy is not allowed by the Egyptians.

We also know that for decades, tens of thousands of terrorist acts have been perpetrated by Arabs against Jews. Arab armies have invaded Israel three times and terror organizations have initiated hostilities several more times, most recently two years ago in Lebanon.

That is a bare-bones Israeli view.

From the Palestinian view, Israel “stole” land in 1948. Jewish “settlers” took over homes and land and forced Arabs out. Today, the checkpoints and security barrier choke-off Arab movement and result in a devastated Palestinian economy and the uprooting of families. All Israeli leaders are viewed with suspicion. Before he (reluctantly) embraced the Oslo program, Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was known as the “bone-breaker” by Palestinians who decried Israeli efforts to deal with terrorists. No doubt the Israelis have dealt severely with their enemies.

That is a bare-bones Palestinian view.

American Christians who support Israel are often accused of ignoring Palestinian concerns. To be sure, there are stepped-up efforts by left-leaning Christians to disseminate the Palestinian “narrative.” From Brian McLaren and his Emergent friends to Christianity Today magazine to mainline churches, there have been plenty of opportunities for Palestinians to get their message out.

I do take exception to the charge that Christian Zionists ignore (and/or hate) Arabs. My dear friend David Lewis was a zealous defender of Israel. David also pioneered efforts to reach out to Palestinians and the wider Arab nation. I know plenty of other Christians who work to help Arabs. David’s daughter, Rebecca Brimmer, is director of Bridges for Peace, and that organization — based in Israel — feeds and clothes both Jews and Arabs.

The issue is this: both sides have grievances. The real problem — in my humble view — is that the Arabs have chosen a path of violence: unrelenting, diabolical, and murderous. Anyone who fails to repudiate murder does not have the moral authority to present his or her case.

Years ago I had a long conversation with a Palestinian regarding theological issues. I will not identify him beyond that.

I asked why Palestinians — particularly Palestinian Christians — take a generally dim view of Jews and Israel. I naively suggested that the Bible we all read gives clear evidence that God gave the land in question to the Jews.

He gave a long, detailed reply that I can sum up this way: Palestinians reject those ancient promises because they consider them unfair. There are various interpretations, such as symbolizing OT prophecies, considering them myth, ignoring them outright. But generally, they are rejected.

This is really extraordinary and demands further attention.

In essence, he was admitting a very human reaction: we don’t like something, so we simply reject it. This is the ultimate in subjective reasoning. Please allow me an admittedly weak parallel that I hope at least illustrates some truth.

I am a big fan of University of Oklahoma football. Always have been.

Last weekend, arch rival Texas upset OU and spoiled an unbeaten season. The game was hyped, OU fans were pumped-up, and early on, I thought OU would win big. Then mistakes, penalties, turnovers, and injuries sunk us. Yet I have no choice but to admit this:

Texas won. They played a tremendous game, played with passion and purpose, and won fair and square. They were the better team.

I cannot dwell on other factors, much as I would like to do that. I cannot pretend that Texas didn’t win. I cannot reject their victory and claim it is illegitimate.

Palestinians (particularly Christian) cannot simply reject Old Testament prophecies and promises because they consider them unfair or unjust. Besides, the opposite view can be taken: why isn’t it fair for Israel to have a sliver of land, when the pan Arab nation has 22 countries with a combined land-mass that dwarfs the Jewish state.

Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt! Israel turned over administration of land to the Palestinian Authority over a decade ago. As Avi Lipkin has pointed out, Israel has returned over 90 percent of territory won in the Six Day War!

But we never hear this. Like a giant satellite zooming in from space, we don’t see the gigantic Arab population and land-mass compared to Israel. The media, anti-Jewish diplomats, and terror organizations zoom-in and present Israel as a “Goliath” oppressing the tiny Palestinian “David.”

This is absurd and immoral. The ratio of Arab land to Jewish land in the Middle East is roughly 540 to 1!

My eyes were opened when I learned that the Palestinian Christians generally reject Jewish claims to the land, not on theological grounds, but simply by subjective feeling.

And further: I cannot view with equal measure the plight of a Palestinian family that cannot regularly visit family from other villages when weighed against the plight of multitudes of Jewish families who have buried loved ones murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

If we split with Palestinian brethren over this, we split. I cannot and will not allow myself to be duped by clever propaganda. This is a black-and-white issue. Murder is never justified. Rejection of the Bible because one perceives it to be unfair is never justified.

We are moving into difficult times, on myriad levels. It is my contention that support for Israel is diminishing, not growing. Her enemies are aggressive, well-funded, and do not become exhausted. Not one of these traits is shared by Israel’s defenders, generally speaking.

I do sincerely love my Palestinian brethren. But I cannot and will not be silent while Israel is in danger.