Saturday, January 13, 2007

Divergent views on Israel/Palestine

I thought I'd share this interesting back and forth with someone with differing views on the Israel/Palestinian issue.

Dear Ms. Gans,

I read your article in The Christian Science Monitor, and then logged on to your web site. I found it interesting that nowhere, anywhere, (articles, blogs, etc.) do you use the word "Jewish." Israeli, Palestinian, Christian, Muslim, Western, even Baha'i. The closest you come is to mention our "Judeo-Christian" heritage. This is interesting, since the core of the conflict about which you wrote is the adamant and abject refusal of the Muslim, (and part of the Christian) world to accept the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East. Thus you ignore events leading up to the 1967 War, as if history only begins on June 11, 1967. But prior to that date, there was no "occupation", no indignities, humiliation, inconveniences, or "deprivation of basic freedoms." Yet there was still daily terror and violence; recurrent wars, and Jews dying. Even after being attacked in 1967, the Israelis made enormous efforts to achieve a modus vivendi, give the land back, live in peace. The Arabs, and Palestinians would have none of it. After that, the increasingly severe defensive measures that the Israelis have been forced to take are almost uniquely a result of the terror to which "the regular people wanting a normal life" you spoke of, resorted. And in the end, being "DENIED ENTRY" is a heck of a lot better than being disemboweled, or having your skull crushed in by a rock, a fate meted out to Jews, simply for being Jews.

Dear Dr. _____,

Thanks very much for your email and thoughts. I urge you to read former President Carter's book for another perspective on pre and post-1967 events.

In response to my not mentioning Jews in my blogs. How perceptive of you to pick up on that. I purposely try to refrain from talking about Jews because I want to make it clear that when I refer to Israeli actions against Palestinians, it is a governmental authority's action. It has nothing to do with a religion. Put in another way, I am not condemning Jews for what Israeli authorities/military are doing in the West Bank. As a devout Christian, I respect the Jewish religion that is so closely intertwined in my own faith. As a deep student of the Bible, I am constantly reading about Jews' special and necessary place in religion.

I look forward to hearing your comments in the future.


Dear Ms. Gans,

Thank you for taking the time, and interest to respond to my note. While I respect your views, I think you are being somewhat disingenuous when you claim that you leave "Jews" out of your discussion, because it has nothing to do with religion.

First of all, as I noted, you do mention a number of other "religions", without worry that you may be condemning them. Secondly, to say the the Arab-Israeli conflict has "nothing to do with religion" is simply whistling in the dark past the graveyard. Unnerving as it may be, it is ONLY about, and ALL about religion. That is why it is so intractable. Ahmadinejad, Hamas, and Hizbullah want to kill "al yahud," all the Jews, not the Israeli government (including its Arab members.) It would also be much less "newsworthy" if the opposing religions were Copts, Baha'i, or Hindu. The fact that it is Jews who are, once again, fighting for survival, is what makes it so uncomfortable for some.

I am familiar with President Carter's book, and his views. As you know, there is a huge swath of knowledgeable opinion that vehemently disagrees with his distortion of the facts, and his presentation of personal opinion as hard history, ignoring the memoirs of those who were actually present at events that he was not. But that is another topic altogether.

You have not addressed my questions.
1) What led to "the occupation"?
2) Why were the opportunities fo a Palestinian Arab state not accepted in 1948, 1967, 2000 (not to mention several other occasions in between?)
3) Why, when the Israelis pulled out of Gaza did the Palestinians not take over the greenhouses, develop farms, schools and industry, but rather intensified rocket attacks against Israel proper, voted in a terorist group sworn to the destruction of Israel and extermination of its Jewish poipulation, and now despite crying poverty due to lack of foreign funds, are planning to expand their terrorist armed forces? Where are they getting their money, and why are they spending it on violence?
4) Why are "Chrisitian" organizations funding Palestinian schools teaching violence and open hatred of a religion to kidergarten children?
5) What, in your view, could and should the Israeli government do to ensure the survival of an independent Jewish state in the Middle East?

Finally, it has long been my view, (and that of others,) that anti-Zionism, or anti-Israelism, are a thin veneer behind which anti-Semites hide. That is not to say that criticism of the actions of the Israeli government, under the same conditions, and in the same way as any other government is criticized, is automatically anti-Semitism. But when it is ONLY the Israelis that are under the gun (U.N. Human Rights Commission), or Israeli actions, to the exclusion of Chinese, Russian, British, French actions in similar situations are criticized, that it becomes prejudicial. Indeed, the millenia-old virus of anti-Semitism is alive, and resurging, only 70 years after Auschwitz. While the taboo of calling for "Jews to the ovens" still stands on a wobbly stool in "civilized" countries of the west, it has long ago become acceptable again in nations under Islam. And those who work towards, or support the elimination of the Jewish state, do so because they know that the destruction of Israel as a country, and the loss of the beating heart of Judaism, Jerusalem, would, in high likelihood, deal a deathblow to the surviving remnant of the Jewish people. As you study your Bible deeply, please keep all of that in mind.


Dear Dr. ____,

Again, thank you for your comments and perspective.

I would like to clarify your point of my not mentioning Jewish, I actually do use the term in 7 of my blogs, where it's relevant to identify the person's religion. Also, I do respectfully disagree about your point that this is all about religion. I counter that it is mostly about LAND. To your questions, what sparked the occupation? What sparked Palestinians' rejection (and Israeli's rejection ofen veiled in the form of acceptance after "certain conditions are met" ) of many peace agreements? What is still sparking violence from Gaza against Israeli towns?
The answer is all the same:


If you look at the attached map, one can see why Palestinians and other Arabs decried the loss of land and the refugee disaster into their countries. One can also understand a continuing attempt to resist the occupation of the little land they have left. (I do not condone violence, but all peaceful resistance methods.) This is not about being against Jews. In fact, I never met a Palestinian who got fired up about "al yehud"; they acknowledged they shared traditions and ethnic background with them and were all "people of the book". What they got passionate about was their loss of land and loss of dignity with the continuing occupation. And unfortunately, I fear this is fast changing, with a younger generation becoming more radicalized and prejudiced against Jews through lack of contact due to their separation and isolation behind the wall, expansion of existing settlements in the West Bank, and increasing economic desperation. And I see the same thing happening in Israeli society--an unwillingness to enter into negotiations for peace and a hardening towards what to do with "the Arabs".

4. As for Christians funding Palestinian schools that preach violence, I'd like to hear your examples of this. Also, it's important to address the Israeli school system as well. I knew a woman in Tel Aviv (Jewish American) who had worked to establish among the first combined Jew/Arab school in Israel. She said there are very few, with most schools being completely segregated between Jews and Arabs. Also, the programs in the school focus on Zionism and history from a distinct Jewish perspective.

5. To secure an independent Jewish state, Israel should enter into the peace process with full force with not only Palestinians, but Syria and Lebanon, and be prepared to give back land it took in 1967. The Beirut summit of 2002 presents a blueprint for peace and widespread Arab recognition of Israel.

The Beirut Summit (also known as the Arab Summit Conference) was a March 2002 summit meeting, held in Beirut, Lebanon, between leaders of Arab nations to present plans to defuse the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It became especially noteworthy for the adoption, by the Arab states attending, of a proposal offering a comprehensive peace between the Arab nations and Israel, called the Arab Peace Initiative.
The proposal, from Saudi Arabia (itself something of a novelty, as the Saudis usually prefer to be less forward on the world diplomatic stage) stated that should Israel:

--withdraw from all territories occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war,
--provide a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, and
--recognize the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
--then the Arab countries would in turn recognize Israel, enter into peace agreements with it, and establish normal relations with it.

Finally, you mentioned yours and others belief that the condemning Israel's rights violations are anti-Semitic since similar accusations are not being leveled at other nations. The other nations you mentioned, however, are not illegally occupying land and opressing a foreign population. Also, they are not at the focal point of a region and an issue that is central to the West's security and is the most relevant issue of today: the Middle East. Actions that took place by those countries (even if similar) are not fanning the flames of extremism and terrorism that threaten Israel's survival and contribute to insecurity throughout the entire west.

Also, see the below excerpt from an article in this week's Economist, entitled "Second Thoughts about the Promised Land".

"The big Jewish diaspora institutions have not caught up. Their relationship with Israel is still based mainly around supporting it in times of crisis and definending it from critics. This is true of the big umbrella groups for Jewish communities, but espeically so of the pro-Israel lobby groups in America formed to influence American foreign policy in Israel's favour. Often these lobbies have ended up representing not Israel but its right-wing political establishment, with American defenders of Israel accusing critics of being "anti-Semitic" for saying things that are commonplace in Israel's own internal debate."


James Bradley said...

When his response comes back (I'd be shocked if it doesn't), please post it.

On another note, the military strategy of the Palestinian political groups has, in my opinion, poisoned the well. If you put forward that any member of your community is a potential lethal threat, why should you be surprised when people believe you? The Jewish people saw what lay down the road of appeasement in the 1940s and have chosen not to go down it.

Oh and by the way, it's rude to yell. (ex. LAND LAND LAND)

James Bradley

Janessa Gans said...

Hi James, thanks for your comment and I've just posted Dr. ___'s response. I wonder if the road of non-appeasement is getting Israel anywhere? Is the nation closer to peace today?

James Bradley said...


It's clear that the road that the Israelis have taken to date has not led to peace as they continue to have short-range rockets fired upon their nation.

As for has the road of non-appeasement gotten Israel anywhere? Well, it's gotten them the general derision of the world community (How many general votes of the UN have gone against Israel by huge margin...). It's also gotten Israel a state of affairs where the nation's children are educated and protected by men and women who are primarily Jewish.

After the Holocaust and the various Arab wars of aggression, it's not surprising that the citizens of Israel would have trust issues...

Do I have a solution for this problem? No. If a community is in a position of weakness where they can not effect a military solution and where they will not effect a diplomatic solution, what's left?

James Bradley