Friends in Conversation on “Palestine and Israel” Part III


The is the final installment for this particular conversation, but the learning continues.  There is so much fault finding in most reactions.  In some quarters, we even feel the hatred and deep hostility in people.  The majority at least in Malaysia either are ignorant or apathetic.  When the spotlight is on the Church, some Christians don’t know how to respond because growing up with ways of reading the Bible which appears to tell them that while they can pray, they cannot be critical of the modern state of Israel. So, perhaps it’s better to remain silent. Even though there already has been significant statements and responses from different church bodies and groups.

There is so much violence and wars going around in the world, across the streets even in Malaysia, in our homes, and of course conflicts within our hearts.  We may not have enough energy to deal with everything that comes our way. However, not being able to do everything doesn’t not mean doing nothing at all! We pray and we must pray in times like this, and perhaps out of that prayerful spirit, every small effort we do can will contribute to the wider efforts in eradicating hate and cultivating hope!

Reading about someone like Andrea Cohen-Kiener and what she said in 1998 might help us along.

"I’m only one person, and my efforts are small, person-to-person, but this is where I feel I can make a difference in a region of the world I care deeply about."

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Dear Engaged Re-framer & Perplexed Inquirer,

My 3rd cent.

Both bear responsibilities of taunting each other.

To the extent that Israel is to be blamed, the nation definitely encouraged discord by building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza well after each PM pledged not to do so, in defiance of international sentiments and promises to every US president in recent memory. Yet, no sitting president (Carter waited to well after he left office to criticize Israel and took serious heat for it) would dare to hold Israel to its word.

Check out Bob Simon’s recent interview on charlie rose – Who is Simon?

To call the West Bank and Gaza non-Israel and then move 30,000 Zionists there under military guard and then build walls to separate Palestinian communities betray any pretense of settling the issues.

Palestinians on the other hand, whether out of desperation or not, consistently choose leaders who mete out violence and terrorist acts upon innocent Israeli civilians. Not all Palestinians are Arabs and not all of them are even Muslims. But they will get sympathy where they can get it.

The Palestinians have to live somewhere, and they had lived there since AD 70. The state of Israel were largely founded by European people who identified themselves to be of Jewish descent who had no interest in the land before Hitler’s rampage. We Christians must be mindful that our faith commitments must not be allowed to make us nationalists, tribalists or racists. If we cannot love those whom we criticize, we have not understood what love is. It takes greater courage to attack Hamas the old fashioned way – not by excusing ‘collateral damage’. I urge Israel to take the high ground and not punish the innocent simply because they were born into the unlucky-sperm club. Anyone of us could have been born into a Palestinian family.

BTW, I think replacement theology may be overreaching, You can’t really replace a people. Rather, Jer. 31 speaks of a new covenant, one where the laws of God will be written in the hearts of men. The Mosaic cov. was broken … by Israel itself. Hence the Babylonian exile. A new Judaism emerged – rabbinical Judaism. God can now be worshipped outside Jerusalem as well. This paved the way for the Gentilization of Judaism to become Christianity.

Now whether the Jews have a separate covenant with God is another matter. Methinks not. Think of the problem raised by intermarriage. How many percent of Jewish blood qualifies for the other covenant? Jesus was certainly not pedigree Jew, neither was Solomon (Bathsheeba was Hittite) and definitely not David either (Ruth is Moabite and Rahab Canaanite). Not to mention Othniel the Judge and Caleb – both were Cannanites (yikes!).

Finally, I am okay with my first reply being forwarded but please receive in the spirit in which it was delivered, one of great distress over the pitiful suffering of many, both Jews and Palestinians.

Bro. Pro-Accuracy

You cannot change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future

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Thanks Bro. Pro-accuracy again for reflective informed replies. I think the one line which captures the spirit we need to have in these matters is in your line, "please receive in the spirit in which it was delivered, one of great distress over the pitiful suffering of many, both Jews and Palestinians."

Here the pastoral side in me leaps out … I do not feel the "distress" in the conversations or emails I have received which usually tries to be objective by "demonizing" Hamas, or Palestinians overall, and in some cases Muslims, for example. 

I talked with a Palestinian on the other night to ask him for his perspectives.  And from the insider point of view, he sees them only as another way of advancing their cause – using violence and force if necessary.  Well, he didn’t say it on those terms, but that was what I tried to piece together through his thick accent.  What can we expect from a group driven by ideology and the experience of being oppressed or victimized (these are the words that are used commonly)?

Having said that can all of us respond to the call to a way of non-violence.  I know  without "distress", it may come across cheap and as if we are ignoring the pain and suffering of people.  But it does not have to be that way. The approach of as a model of Christian engagement is informative here even if one disagrees with their theology and politics.

Here’s my call to "Thinking Christians", let’s get our hands dirty and engage the people who would differ from us on which ever side.  Of course, we also need to work through our inner conflicts as well, but this means discussions like this cannot be in a vacuum of academic distance.  Now, the are  many opportunities talk with our neighbors and sympathetic friends.

Feel the "distress", show our own "distress" on the matter, and then we can begin to talk about the fairer picture and our vision of reconciliation because of our Faith in Christ. I think we use the word "incarnational" for this approach.

3rd cent. I can do no other.

Engaged Re-framer

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Dear Engaged Re-framer

In my own trips to Israel, it is so disheartening to see how much tolerance for suffering one can get used to – especially if its others doing the suffering. I shall always be indebted to a retired pastor-prof of OT and IT (really) who brought  a group of us to Israel in years ago to participate in an archaeological dig –

I saw first hand what few tourists get to see and we stayed at a family-run hotel in the Old City. The Christian (cultural, not confessional) family claimed to have run it for almost 500 years (yeah, my eyes rolled as well). In any case, its really like a two-tiered existence, right inside Jerusalem itself.

It was a corrective for me and a difficult one at that. I was the generation that grew up under our govt’s stupid plan to Look East Policy and demonize the use of English at schools and college, only to reverse itself later. I did my chemistry in English in the day time and in Malay in the night time. Same thing with my secondary school education. Three years after the archaeological dig, I decided to study Islam under Lamin Sanneh (a former Muslim) was stunned at encountering Muslims in class who actually know little of the Quran.

Bro. Pro-Accuracy

We love our own opinion, not because it is true, but because it is ours

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About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
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