Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mark's thoughts on Israel

No funny title here.

No "catch" words to make you smile or to lead you into thinking more deeply about a subject.

Instead, let me be VERY clear with what I write.

But as I do, let me also make a warning or two very VERY clear:

  • What I write is my own opinion.  You may judge it as crazy, silly, uninformed, too liberal, too conservative, or whatever label you wish to give.  But the postings in this blog are my ideas and mine alone.  So if you don't like what I have to say, then don't read it anymore.
  • I am alarmed by the escalation of rhetoric, angry speech, and everyone who seems to believe that they are required to comment on everything.  That includes myself, which is why I am restricting my comments on this very controversial subject to my very own blog.  So if you don't like what I have to say, then like I said in #1 - don't read it anymore.

Here we go:

I think the nation of Israel deserves to exist.  I think there are many places throughout the world and throughout history that have been formed in the aftermath of war, that were created to accommodate a certain group of  people, and some that were awarded to people who had seemingly "earned" either the favor or the sympathy of stronger nations.  Israel fits that bill in many ways.

However, I also think that the Palestinians also deserve a homeland of their own too.  They had one at one time, but for some pretty unusual reasons, they "lost" it...or were they actually a part of (Trans) Jordan?  I think they deserve the world's attention for this reason alone (if not for some others too).

But we don't live in the past...we live today...and today the Israelis and the Palestinians live very close to one another, they hate each other, and they don't trust each other.  Who could blame them?

The world continues to watch this situation and occasionally tries to help.  I have seen few outside countries other than the United States who have even tried to realistically help the situation, and yet we are seen as "meddlers" and "misinformed" and "colonialists" in our efforts.  Our people look at this situation and wonder, "Why can't they just settle their problems and live in peace?"

Good question.  No easy answer, especially when hate and mistrust rule the day.  There is no trust and certainly no compromise.

And now the denomination to which I belong, the PCUSA, has decided that it will get involved.  They tried twice to divest from companies that were doing business with Israel in an effort to put pressure on Israel to deal with the Palestinians fairly (2012 and 2014 General Assembly meetings).  They also seem to be taking the Palestinians' side in the whole argument over who is right and who is wrong.  I am POSITIVE that there are things in this that I am missing, but in the big picture that is what I see.  (I am not alone in that opinion.)  Evidence of this can be found in the denomination's web site (www.pcusa.org) where their store offers a product called "Zionism Unsettled" (see http://www.timesofisrael.com/presbyterian-church-group-zionism-is-the-problem/ for more information.).  If our denomination doesn't agree with the conclusions from this product, then why is it available from our store?

Everyone seems to have strong opinions on Israel.  So here are my current thoughts:

1.  I once heard a Middle East expert state that if you removed religion from the debate, all of the problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians could be solved in about 30 minutes.  I agree, but how do you remove religion from the debate?

2.  Speaking of religion, I do NOT believe that Islam is a religion of violence.  It has been used by radicals who twist the words in the Koran to explain and to justify their violent actions.  Our own Bible has been used for similar purposes throughout history, and yet Matthew 7:5 seems to be forgotten by many Christians.

3.  If Jerusalem is so important to everyone, then NO ONE should have it.  Let the Israelis set up their capital city in Tel Aviv, which they have done for many years, and let the Palestinians set their capital in Ramallah, which is where their government is currently housed.  Jerusalem covers a lot of ground, but the "symbolic concept" of Jerusalem is still important to everyone.  I wonder how it would work if Jerusalem was divided into the four quarters that are currently in place (Armenian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian).  Problem there is that the four quarters of the Old City are not even close to including all of the current city of Jerusalem.  And for a little perspective:
  • When America's own national capital was proposed, both Virginia and Maryland sold the nation some swamp land that no one wanted.  That is the site of Washington D.C. today, so don't tell me that "settling" for something other than the ideal capital city location is possible.
  • When World War II was completed, the city of Berlin was divided into four occupation zones.  Each was governed by different Allied nations, and each was as free as that nation decided it should be.  East Berlin was not free because the Soviets would not allow that.  But the other three were, so again - don't tell me that separate zones won't work.  It is already in place now!
4.  Why should Israel negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians?  Israel is not dedicated to the destruction of Palestine; can the Palestinians say the same thing about Israel?  Not even close!  In fact, they state quite clearly that the destruction of the state of Israel is their goal.  Other Arab countries also say the same thing.

5.  Where is the true support for the Palestinians from the other Arab countries?  By "true support" I don't mean weapons!  I mean food, building supplies, shelter, schools, housing, etc.

6.  I am against the separation of people.  However, sometimes it is necessary for the peace and survival of some.  Look no further than Cyprus, Korea, Northern Ireland, and Sudan for examples of this.  It is sad.  It is tragic.  It is sinful.  It is apartheid!  But if there is no other solution, then separate and build communities.  Let some time pass.  Keep talking.  See what the future generations can accomplish.

7.  Are there any Israelis and any Palestinians who believe they can live in peace?  Are there any who would be willing to compromise in order to achieve peace?  If so, then they should make themselves heard boldly.  If not, then they should learn to accept constant war and murder and tension levels that will escalate at the drop of a hat (and there are plenty of people who are willing to drop that hat!).

8.  Are the other neighboring Arab countries in the area willing to adopt a "hands-off" policy?  All of them seem to have their hands full with their own problems (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iran)...perhaps they should butt out!  Or is it too easy and too tempting to blame Israel and the West for everything that is wrong with their own countries instead of facing their problems and trying to solve them?

9.  Is the Lord present in any of this?  Or have we already decided that only a horrifying "final war" will ever bring an end to the problems in the Middle East?  Does anyone truly believe that the Lord can no longer produce miracles?  I have no idea how the Lord would solve these problems, but I truly believe that He can!

"In the days to come, Jacob will take root.  Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit."  Isaiah 27:6

Pay Attention When The Game Is On...

"For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night." 1st Thessalonians 5:2 ...