Friday, September 23, 2011


The proposed petition to the United Nations to establish a State for the Palestinians is problematic on more fronts than people sometimes realize.

Let us be clear from the outset: the State of Israel has a right (even the obligation) to exist, and in fact to thrive, in peace and in security and in authentic fellowship with her neighbors.

Beyond that, there must be room for Palestinians who have also lived in the Holy Land for centuries. They cannot be disenfranchised and dismissed out of hand. Torah itself teaches us this:  You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt... (Ex 22:20)

As must be obvious to all but the most fanatical, terrorism cannot secure these two needs, nor can a resolution from the United Nations.

But there is a complicating factor in what is too often assumed to be a conflict between Jews and Muslims. It is that significant numbers of Palestinians are in fact Christians: typically they are Catholic or Orthodox. They are distained by Israelis as being Arab; they are held in contempt by Muslims because they are Christian. They are caught in a cross-fire that dismisses them as unimportant.

We have seen the results of contempt for Christians in the Middle East: in Egypt, in Iraq, in Syria and Lebanon. Christian Arabs are leaving in record numbers, either by their being killed, or else by self-imposed exile in the face of (I use the word deliberately) pogroms.

Too many ethnic groups have memories that are too long and too alive: what happened hundreds of years ago is kept burning as though it were yesterday. This is tragic. All have made disastrous mistakes—Jews least of all, it must be said. They have been victims vastly more often than anyone else. Given the history of European Jewry and Christendom, there is no wonder there is mistrust of motives when Christians speak well of Jews. We must move beyond that.

Muslims remember the Crusades. These began in 1095. Do Muslims also remember the Saracens’ attacks on Rome (and especially the church of St Peter’s there) in 846? The slaughter in and desecration of that church (and the tomb of St Peter) were massive, and it was in contempt of a holy place of Christians.

We must all learn to forgive, even if we do not (or cannot, or should not) completely forget. We must live in the present and face the future; pre-occupation with the past is counter-productive.
Our Mobile Trialogue (Christians, Jews and Muslims together) is an attempt to build a community of tolerance and reconciliation. It is far easier to achieve this goal here in Alabama than in the Holy Land. But perhaps with patience and prayer one day we can hold hands and proclaim (with Martin Luther King Jr) “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

1 comment:

  1. So much 'patchwork' going on politically, particularly for Israel and
    Palestine. Christians there appear undisturbed until the individual heads of state stir up the negatives abounding with ethnicity. It seems the tiny seeds of the Trialogue would barely survive. Matthew 13:1-23 explains this well. The Lord's words, in part, "The reason I speak to them in parables is that 'seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand'......applies today as it has over the ages,
    with similar results. Can ecumenism be the impetus for change?