Sunday, October 3, 2010

Israel's Schizophrenic Peace Process

The history of modern Israel is a history of regional conflict. At the end of World War II (1939-1945), outrage at the atrocities of the Hitler’s holocaust added broader international support for the creation of a Jewish state in historic Palestine.

Many Zionists (supporters of creating of a Jewish State) considered Palestine the land of Israel,(promised in the Bible). Zionism provides a biblical homeland for the Jews, with international approval, but leaves non-Jewish Gentiles implied transgressors. At the time, Palestine was populated mostly by Arab Muslims (Gentiles); with only a small minority of Jews living there, and those few in relatively isolated communities.

When the United Nations passed the resolution in November 1947, Palestine became a divided state, separated as Israeli territory and Palestinian occupied land. The creation of Israel in 1948 suddenly left hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs dispossessed of any nation-state - until today.

Authors Todd Gitlin and Liel Leibovitz discuss this situation in their new publication on The CHOSEN PEOPLES America, Israel, and the Ordeals of DIVINE ELECTION (Simon & Schuster, NY, 2010). I have just finished reading section one, “A Stiff-necked People”. After a thorough overview of Jewish history and divine election, both religious and secular (Zionism), they suggest that “Israelis need to resurrect a repressed side of their own past” (63).

Thus, they conclude:
The missing alternative is to embrace the idea of chosenness in a different key: to understand it not as a mandate but as a burden to be gladly shouldered--a divine commandment to build a society that treats its sons, daughters, neighbors, and strangers with compassion and grace and at the same time renounces any claim of superiority. This is the idea that God instilled in Moses, in Samuel, and in the later prophets: the notion that the Promised Land cannot thrive without justice; the commands ‘there shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you’ (Exodus 12:49) and ‘when an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him’ (Leviticus 19:33); the idea that the Messiah will not come until the chosen people mend their ways” (emphasis added).

As it stands now, and as the authors agree, the Orthodox religious Jews hold to a totally unrealistic dream of “divine election that is not fully biblical, and which is in conflict with the majority of secular Zionists who stake their claims in the Israeli state. Religious fanatics holding to divine election, however, continue to homestead the West Bank; the secular Zionists oppose the squatters of the West Bank but cannot divest themselves of the religious dream in their heritage. This leaves the nation on the horns of an impossible dilemma and leaves them at odds with Islam and with the rest of the world.

IF Israel cannot come to terms with its internal differences, why not follow the suggestion of Gitlin and Leibovitz and embrace the “chosenness” with the biblical themes of equal justice and mercy for citizen and stranger, as indicated by the scriptures they quoted?

Several conclusions seem apparent:
1) Current Israel is a secularist nation, still dominated by a religious dream that most Israelis do not accept, and which is not biblically compliant.
2) Orthodox Judaism is a minority view in a secularist state that is out of compliance with Scriptures which a majority reject.
3) To accept the conclusion of Gitlin/Leibovitz would allow Israel to build a State that would also allow Palestinian home rule, if Israel measured up to the ethical standard of their supposed divine election.
4) There will be no peace settlement until Israel stops occupation of the west bank.
5) The nation-state of Israel returned from their first exile, found in the Old Testament, only to make further trouble for themselves and be exiled a second time by Rome in 70 A.D. This exile lasted until 1947.Today‘s nation-state is not a purely Jewish state biologically, but a biological mix of ancient Jews in whatever nation they lived (or else they are a polititical entity rather than an ethnic identity). Unless current Israel comes to terms with their own internal religious and political dilemma, and allow peace to come to the middle-east, they will end up in exile again, hooked on the horns of their own schizophrenia.

Of this I am sure; the issue will never be resolved with bullets and bombs, and of this I am equally certain: God is no respecter of nations … the God that “loved the world” (John 3:16) is a God that loves Christians, Jews, and Muslims (and atheists) equally. :-)

From Warner’s World,
I am

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