catapult magazine

catapult magazine


Israel and Palestine


Apr 03 2002
01:55 pm

I was listening to NPR’s talk of the Nation in the car either last week or the week before and one of the guests was talking about something similar to what Grant was saying.
The guest, and I wish I could remember his name was saying that historically the region has always been in the middle of political battles between nations to the north of Isreal and nations to the south. There has always been conflict, and there probably always will be. But one thing that would go a long way to resolving the conflict he said was that both the Isrealies and Palestinians need to stop framing the conflict in religious terms – talking about God given lands, and start talking in more political terms. This as he said would then move the conflict from a religious level to a political level where compromise could be reached.
I am not so sure about this strong devision of church and state as the guest was insinuating, but I thought it was an intriguing idea, and I wished I knew more history about the region.
I guess what I am really trying to say is that I think Grant is on to something.


Mar 05 2002
04:35 am

Has anyone been following this situation, the history of the conflict, the causes for the violence and hatred in Israel? Not that we can solve any of these complex problems ourselves, but what are some ways healing can take place there? I know the Center for Public Justice has been working on this issue. Does anyone have some thoughts about a Christian way of looking at the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?


Mar 05 2002
07:39 am

all too often, we Americans are supposed to be on Israel’s “side,” but one of my professors at North Park gave a great analogy for understanding the Palestinian perspective. it’s as if someone comes to your house one day, the house where your family has lived for many generations, and tells you that they are going to take over the first floor of the house while you can keep the second floor. then they expect you to accept this offer as graciously benevolent. what’s just about that? is it right simply because big brothers Great Britain and the US say it is?

politically, palestinians have a right to the land in contention. at this point, there’s no returning to the palestinian state the way it was. each state demands sovereignty, so there’s really no hope of peaceful coexistence under a unified governement. the only thing we can reasonably hope for now is a peaceful, satisfactory settlement in which Palestinians control the West Bank and the Gaza strip free of Israeli interference (and vice versa—no Palestinian interference with Israel).

i think a practical Christian response is to actively seek information from both sides. listen to the stories. North Park’s Middle Eastern Studies program has been expecially active in this area. the aforementioned professor actually spent some time in Israel-Palestine and wrote a play composed of Palestinian oral histories. we have all heard numerous accounts of the Jewish Holocaust, but how many of us have heard of the suffering of the Palestinian people? we Christians, in the name of justice, need to seek stories from both sides. both Palestinians and Israelis are committing horrible atrocities against one another—all we can rightfully do is attempt to perceive justice in each individual situation and constantly hope and pray for peace.


Mar 07 2002
08:42 pm

Twenty years ago, I attended a Foursquare Church in southern California. The message over and over again was that we, as Christians, had to support Israel because “they were fulfilling prophesy.” It sounded pretty off base to me then, and it doesn’t sound any better now when it seems that it what the conservative religious voice still seems to be saying. Nobody is in the right in the current Mideast conflict, is what I think.


Mar 10 2002
05:59 pm

I agree that virtually no one is right in the Middle East, the problem comes when one has to choose a side to be on. It is obviously true that when one picks their friends they pick their enemies. The only way that Israel would survive religiously is if America stepped in as “big brother” because it is surrounded by Islamic countries. So the question arises; should we as Christians always help the underdog even if the aggressor has a right to be aggressive?

I guess I really don’t have any answers, just more questions, isn’t that the way it always goes though?


Mar 11 2002
11:47 am

I know this isn’t all of the problem, but doesn’t it seem like the Jews are too hung up on holy lands? It seems like these battles over “holy” territory are exactly what Christ warned the Jews about over and over again.

I think there might be something to the theory that when Christ was informing everyone that God now dwells with his people (including the non-Jews), the Jewish religious leaders, the influential ones, I mean, must have been too busy debating that “Blessed are the cheesemakers” teaching. I don’t know what the Palestinians were doing, though.


Mar 11 2002
01:23 pm

As I understand it, while it is great for the Jews to have their own place, the place the British let them go happened to already be occupied. It sounds very much like our ancestors coming to this country, which they claimed because it was unoccupied (except, of course, by the godless heathens who were there before us). No wonder there’s a little bit of hard feelings.
What bothers me about the American Christian attitude toward all this is that, regardless of the rights or wrongs from a human justice standpoint, we have to side with Israel because they have a key role in prophesy. Does God really need our help in that way (particularly since our interpretations of prophesy over the years have been about on a par with – or worse than – predicting the weather)?


Mar 27 2002
07:32 am

This conversation is going to take radically different turn if we start looking for fulfillment of prophecy. Many of us will probably have very divergent views on that.

But to address some of the questions that are being raised, I think the land itself has a complext history. Nations lived there, then it was promised to Abram’s descendants, more nations lived there, Israelites invaded and conquered, then they lost the land, but some remained, so when a remnant returned there were Jews and Gentiles there, then it was mostly Gentile, then in the late 1800’s Jews started coming back, then there was a war, then about 4 nations made conflicting promises, then the nation of Israel defeated the surrounding Arab nations (which, politically, would give them the right to the land), but many people stayed in the land that was their home (and Syria never really admitted defeat). So now we have a lot of different agendas and cultures and they’re colliding in a very small space.

I think both sides are “right” in the sense that their claim to live in Israel/Palestine is valid. And I think there are a lot of people meeting in the middle of the spectrum and compromising. But there will always be extremists on both the Left and Right who will undermine solid efforts for peace.

I don’t think there will be real, lasting peace in the Middle East in our lifetimes; and I don’t think we have the right to exercise too much influence there until we take the time to educate ourselves and others about the situation.
(Sorry for the lengthy post – this is a Big Deal for me.)


Mar 29 2002
08:55 am

Your historical description of the conflict fleshes out the very question I was asking. Doesn’t the conflict over land display the Jews’ enduring misinterpretation of Christ’s message?

Of course land is an important part of the Biblical story. Christ alludes time and time again to significant places and events in Old Testament Jewish tradition in his own ministry. But these references to traditional lands are not meant to inflate the significance of those places above other places. These lands, these places, tell the story of God’s placing himself in our everyday lives, in our eating, drinking, dwelling etc. God’s relationship with us is an earthly one, one embodied, en-fleshed. But this does not make the places themselves holy and set apart from other places, especially since Christ dwells among humankind.

The Jews are wrong to think they have a “right” to those exclusive lands that are a part of their story. Christ makes it clear that all “lands” belong to God and are a part of the story of God’s relationship with us. In Christ, which peoples aren’t to be included in this story?

I am not saying that the Jews are the only wrongdoers in this conflict. But a Christian perspective on the situation would have to include the recognition that the conflict has its roots in the Jews’ perpetual hard-headedness when it comes to Christ’s gospel message. And this conflict should make us aware of our own stubborn deification of material.


Apr 10 2002
11:58 am

i tend to look at the whole situation from more of a political standpoint as well because i think it is more constructive to do so (as far as analyzing the remote prospects for peace that may or may not still exist).

one of the biggest problems i have with the whole situation is the occupation of palestinian lands by the nation of israel. i mean, in 1967 (and earlier) israeli troops stormed into palestinian villages and told the people they’d have to leave for a while. most of the palestinian people thought they’d be able to return to their homes in a few days. instead, here we are 40 years later. the palestinians still can’t go back to their homes and israel continues building settlements on what is supposed to be palestinian land.

kofi annan (secretary general of the united nations) has called the israeli occupation illegal according to international law. but the united states still supports israel, spending more on financial aid (read, military aid) on israel than every other country that receives aid from the united states combined. i think this implicates us in the entire situation and it doesn’t allow for objectivity when attempting to negotiate peace.

i’m not saying that i agree with the palestinian suicide bombers and i’m not an anti-semite (which some folks in the media have thrown in the face of anyone who questions anything israel does). i’m just saying that i think the fate of peace is currently in the hands of israel. they are the occupying force and they are the organized military. if they were to pull out of all of the occupied territories, then the ball would be in the court of the palestinians.


Apr 11 2002
01:47 pm

I’m not suggesting (I’m not suggesting that any of you are suggesting this) that religion should not play a prominent role in this struggle. Since every act is religious and every political structure is an expression of religious people, I’m saying that Israel ought to open their eyes to a problem in their religion that is the same problem of all religions that do not accept the gospel of Christ.

As long as the Jewish people maintain a religion of exclusion, of “set-apartness”, we will see struggles like this. I’ve been reading Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem”, and she makes a striking correlation between the NAZI desire for “ethnic cleansing” and the Judaic warnings against intermarriage with Gentiles etc. The idea for a Jewish state, that was caused by a sense of displacement, arose out of a spirit of cultural separation. This is what Germany succumbed to with the NAZI regime. Many Jewish leaders were motivated as well by this desire for a cultural safehaven, calling for Jewish statehood even before the NAZI rise to power. According to many of these Jewish leaders, having their own state would be the only way to live out their religion without having to compromise with other cultural influences (This sounds like certain Islamic/Palestinian arguments).

According to Arendt, the Holocaust gave the Jews all the justification they needed to “reclaim Jerusalem” (many Arabs blamed the Jews themselves for the Holocaust, saying that they went like sheep to the slaughter in order to ensure their own statehood after the war…Those clever Jews!). What I am saying, though, is that this desire to stay pure, to separate one’s culture from others, is the very religious problem that runs through all the parties involved, NAZI Germany, the Jewish State, Palestinian enemies of Israel, and the Islamic fundamentalists who attacked the U.S. last September.