Friends in Conversation on “Palestine and Israel” Part I

dove_symbol_of_peace_on_earth

I’m intrigued by the responses and reactions generated by one rare petition I forwarded out to all my email contacts, perhaps my load of recent links sparked by the Gaza crisis, and also my participation in COMPLETE.

An interesting email came today which mentioned  the few Christian voices in Malaysia who comes across as “against Israel”.  So, I thought for the record I should state that in times of crisis showing preference in solidarity for one group of people  who is under going unimaginable humanitarian crisis is not prejudice against another group who have their own share of pain and suffering in history.  In this case it would be the Palestinians and Israelis. As far as I am concerned I grieve with every parent who has lost their child, every child who has lost their parents, all who have suffer loss in anyway.

Permission was granted to share the conversations in the email on this blog.  I have decided to allow the conversations to take centre stage.  I guess what’s important is what are the issues raised in these email conversations and also how the three Christians are working through this controversy.  So with some minor editing, let’s start.

I would like to emphasize that this is not a conversation between historical experts or political analysts. It’s a conversation between those who are “of great distress over the pitiful suffering of many, both Jews and Palestinians.”

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Dear friends,

I have of course seen all the news which is all very anti-Israel.

Meanwhile, I receive a lot of email from Christian friends saying that Israel is actually doing very reasonable defense of themselves and they try very hard not to kill civilians and it is the other side that is evil and purposely making civilian victims and faking civilian casualties, etc.

I am perplexed how to discern the truth from all these lies, who to believe.

You two are some of the few Christian voices that are against Israel, and I was wondering if you have any insight into these (see below).

The following are from emails Christian friends have sent me:


From the way the local newspapers are portraying the current conflict, you would think that the Palestinians are the only victim and Israel is the aggressor.

I am in no way condoning the violence or taking sides in this, but we all must realise that the local media is controlled by UMNO and they are not objective.
Please see this website to learn the facts.

http://terrorismawareness.org/what-really-happened/

Israel Always: Fighting Fair – What the Media Doesn’t Tell You

The other side of the story, usually unheard of…

Open the video Link below

It may help you to understand why Israel is now fighting Hamas in the Gaza strip

I’ve seen many videos and photos , but this is by far the best description of Hamas ! This video was made NOT by Israelis , but by an Arab , a Palestinian who shows you who hamas really is !

Israel has been telling this to the world for years , but the world prefers to turn the deaf ear and blind eye to the sad truth !

Hamas against the Palestinians ! This is how they succeeded in being elected – by force !
Watch and learn.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_OGhj43GAE

from

Perplexed Inquirer

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Dear Perplexed Inquirer ,

A correction, if you please.

I am hardly pro- or anti-Israel.

I am pro-accuracy and anti-irresponsible biblical theology.

1. Political grounds:

I am less concerned about the rhetoric as I am about the bombing of civilians of a country with no citizenship rights. Either the Palestinians are Israeli citizens or they are not. If they are, then its akin to apartheid. If they are not, then its an invasion of a sovereign nation.

2. Theological grounds:

If modern Israel is formed in obedience to the Bible, then it must not be a democracy but rather, a religous state – like Iran. If it is not, then evangelicals who think so are idiots who mislead the church. We can take comfort that the Hasidic Jews (who study Torah deeply) reject any claim of Zionism as heretical. The modern state of Israel (a guilt-ridden formation of an apartheid-like state shamefully disguised as a democracy) is not the ‘fulfillment’ of biblical Israel (a theocracy that died out after the conditional promise collapse). The leader is not subject to being in the Davidic line and one of them has been a woman (Golda Meir) so whatever else it is, it already violates any biblical description of what biblical Israel is supposed to be.

3. Humanitarian grounds:

You can’t respond to terrorist rockets with air-strikes directly in populated civilians zones without becoming just as barbaric as Hamas. Its like asking the US to nuke Saigon to flush out the Vietcong or to firebomb Kuala Lumpur to weed out gangsters from Chow Kit Road (am I showing my age?). Convenient but morally repulsive.

4. Missiological grounds:

To take sides in a tribal feud in the Middle East diminishes the Christian mandate to evangelize and make disciples of all nations.

5. Biblical grounds:

The oft misquoted appeal to Gen. 12:3 makes a mockery of biblical exegesis and betrays our selfish treatment of God as a personal vending machine. Most Christians shamefully quote it with a single desire – for personal advantage. The alarming this is that the verse does not even refer to that! The promise refers to Abraham and his faithful (not every) descendants who prefigure Christ until Jesus comes. It does not pertain to ethnic (there is no biological marker for ethnicity, which is a cultural fiction shaped by the adoption of language, genetic pooling and formation of geographical boundaries) Israel. There was a time when every race did not exist. So ethnicity is not a natural distinctive. In Romans 9:6, Paul tells us that not all Israelites belong to Israel because biblical israel is an association of faith – not of blood. The blessing in Genesis refers to the global community of Christians. The word ‘bless’ is a reflexive verb, meaning that the reader is invited to consider Abraham’s blessing as the standard by which to be considered blessed. Not that every Christian will be as blessed as Abraham was. A simple falsifier is that fact that every moment in time, some Christian somewhere is clearly not blessed in the way we expect. How do we reply to that? We then perform exegetical gymnastics to explain away this mistranslation and end by dying of a thousand qualifications.

6. Moral grounds:

I detest both Hamas and Hezbollah and am even disappointed by Fatah, but as a recipient of American largesse for so many years and billions of dollars of US tax-payer money, I do expect a higher moral standard from Israel. I have an affection for Israel, not because they are ‘successful’ but because of historical serendipity. I wager that if Jesus were born in Soochow, we could all be stuck with defending Maoism. The personification of God in Jesus is what makes israel special, not the other way round.

OK, nuff said. Hope this clarifies my point. I have no dog in the fight (I am, after all,  a Chinese Malaysian who grew up under islamic-influenced rule) and if anything, would be inclined to be pro-Israel. I also have many more Jewish friends here in NYC than I have of Palestinian friends. But I have no hesitation is exposing any abuse of the Bible in the name of seeking God’s will.

Hope my quick 2 cents adequately signals my position on this very sad situation.

Brother Pro-Accuracy

"It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that bothers me, its those parts that are perfectly clear." Mark Twain

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HI Perplexed Inquirer,

I really don’t know where to start, apart from attempting to focus on the human side of the conflict.  Personally, I am not uncritically pro or against Israel or Palestine. I do feel however using the "blame" game approach as well as "who shot the first missile?" approach unhelpful.

The details are complex and often convoluted. And I don’t see myself an expert in this area. The only thing is a Christian and as a pastor, I first do not want to be seen uncritically pro-Israel and especially in the recent crisis in Gaza, would be seen as pro-war.  I’m definately not anti-jew or even anti-Israel.

And yet in my engagement with my Muslim friends who are showing strong feelings as the Gaza crisis prolongs, I see my role as an instrument of peace and reconciliation as much as possible, and working towards efforts to reframe the whole controversy out of political and propaganda based rhetoric. This would require a great detail of patience and discernment. I’m not saying it’s easy.

I think Brother Pro-Accuracy has laid down helpful ways to think about it in point form. I won’t add to that apart from recommending some resources for you to further your reflection.  I think they have covered most angles whether politically or theologically.

http://www.musalaha.org/
http://www.emeu.net/index.php
http://www.alexawad.org/index.php
http://cmep.org/
http://www.sabeel.org/

My concern with a lot of the emails sent around is the underlying need to defend Israel which I’m uncomfortable, as well as the triumphalistic tone against Islam or the temptation to demonize the other which I do not think advances the message of what Christ wanted to convey.  On the contrary, creates even more distrust.

Christians need to sit down with a Muslim in Malaysia in the light of the one sidedness of Malaysian newspapers, and also understanding the kind of sentiments they feel, and with confidence, compassion and as much clarity as possible move the conversation towards the paradigm based on "reconciliation" with dimensions of justice, and peace not being ignored.  At least that is what I believe is Jesus call for us to be peacemakers in the New Testament found in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5 . Another passage in 2 Corinthians 5 calls us to be agents of reconciliation and do the ministry of reconciliation.

my 2 cents
Engaged Re-framer

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About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
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4 Responses to Friends in Conversation on “Palestine and Israel” Part I

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