Monday, August 29, 2011

My Father Was a Freedom Fighter by Ramzy Baroud

I've always considered myself a non-traditional Christian Zionist. The difference between me and traditional Christian Zionists, as I imagined it, was that they had eschatological reasons for supporting Israel at all costs (eschatology, for non-native speakers of English from Malaysia, means a theological perspective for events scheduled to happen at the end of the world). Eschatological Christian Zionists believe that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews for all time, and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 set in motion events that will culminate in the end of history as we know it. Well-known Christians preachers such as John Hagee  have built an entire career on this conviction.

A non-traditional Christian Zionist - of which I might be the only one on the entire planet - takes a slightly different perspective. I believe that Israel needs to remain planted where it is because it is impossible to undo the last 60 years of history. I also believe that a one state solution, where Israelis and Palestinians live together on the same territory, is impossible because, frankly, I don't trust Islam. Muhammad laid out as clear as a bell that according to his plan Muslims were to rule. Non-Muslims would not be forced to accept Islam, but would be required to live in subjugation to their Muslim rulers. For 1400 years Jews in Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, Tunis, and many other cities lived under those constraints. For the last 60 years they have been free, and they aren't about to go back. As long as one Muslim standing believes that the teachings and actions of Muhammad are still binding today, Israel is in danger.

Perhaps another difference between me and a traditional Christian Zionist is that the traditionals tend to support Israel no matter what. Israel is always right, and the Palestinians are always wrong. Israel is never to be blamed, and the Palestinians are never to be taken seriously. Israel is never to be criticized, judged or condemned, and the Palestinians are always to be ignored.

If I am really honest, however, I have to acknowledge there hasn't been that much difference between me and a traditional Christian Zionist. More than I would want to admit, I have accepted the Israeli narrative of what happened in the first half of the last century. Jewish settlers began to arrive in Palestine from various parts of Europe, the narrative goes, and lived in peace with the Palestinians from whom they purchased land. Arabs arrived from Yemen, Iraq, and other countries to work for the Jews in the economy that was growing there. There were minor skirmishes, but for the most part life between the two communities was peaceful and prosperous. It was only after the United Nations declared Israel to be a nation and the Palestinians refused the proposed settlement that the trouble began. Egypt's Gamal Nasser promised to drive Israel into the sea, Arab armies attacked the fledgling country, and Palestinians by the tens of thousands voluntarily left their homes thinking they would return in triumph just a few weeks later. When they realized they could never return home, they turned into relentless enemies determined to destroy both Israel and its Jewish population.

It was only when I read Ramzy Baroud's book, My Father Was a Freedom Fighterthat I experienced the eye-witness account of the Palestinian diaspora as told by a Palestinian whose parents made the trek from what is now southern Israel to Gaza. As I read I realized I had two choices. I could either choose to believe that Ramzy was exaggerating or lying, or accept that the expulsion of the Palestinians was a well-thought out and executed operation that totally ignored the rights of hundreds of thousands of people.

As a typical man, I'm always looking for solutions. Is there any possible solution to the "Palestinian problem" that will soon, no matter how much Israeli and Western politicians try to ignore it, become a serious "Israeli problem"? Allow me to make a few suggestions.

1. The first step towards true reconciliation always comes from the party in power. That party is Israel, and Israel must take the first step. Although I would not expect Israel to say it is sorry for forcibly expelling the Palestinians in 1948, they can at least admit that is what they did. And although Israel might be unable to give Palestinians the right to return to their farms and villages, they can at least pay them a fair remunerations for the land that was stolen from them.

2. Palestinians must make a clean break from Muhammad. All that the Koran and the Hadith teach about the Jews and about the need for Islam to rule must be seen as merely the teaching of a 7th century Arab tribal commander that has no relevance for today.

3. Both Jews and Muslims must take a little more seriously the teaching of a Jewish Rabbi who lived in Palestine seven centuries before Muhammad. "Love you enemies," said Jesus, "And do good to those who hate you."

An impossible, unrealistic command? Yusuf al-Qaradawi believes so. I heard him explain on al-Jazeera TV that the teaching of Jesus to love your enemy was an impossible one that no-one was able to keep. Muhammad was much more practical, continued the Shaykh, because Muhammad did not tell you to love your enemy but only to be just to him. The problem, of course, is that the justice of Muhammad leaves much to be desired.

So there you are, a three-step solution to begin solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I think it would be a great start, but whether anyone will be willing to put it into practice is another story altogether.


Susanne said...

I've heard Muslims say that those weren't Jesus' true teachings because they were unrealistic. Apparently those are parts of the NT that were corrupted by later Christians...St. Paul perhaps.

Anonymous said...

Not to make light the suffering of the Palestinians, but Israel as the bad guy in this situation is a stretch to say the least.
Blow for blow, the arabs have at most times been the instigators of violence.
Islam says a lot of things. Most of the koran comes from the torah and the bible, everything else is the vile vitriol spewed from the mouth of a violent man.
Unrealistic is why Jesus was needed.

Cyril Lucar said...

As an evangelical non-dispensationalist (those are the Christian Zionists), I have to say that I agree with you. I support Israel because it is a stable democracy, and because I believe that they are mainly in the right. Even Karen Armstrong admits that a huge amount of the land of Israel was sold by Palestinian landlords to the Jews. Many Palestinians were displaced when their Palestinian landlords sold the land from underneath them.

I don't support Israel with everything, but it's hard to not take their side when their opponents are Hamas and the PA. The Israelis treat the Palestinians a far sight better than any group of Muslims treat the Jews.

My solution? Establish two Israeli protectorates, the West Bank and Gaza. Run their borders to control the flow of goods and people. Clean them out of all military arms, leaving them with shotguns and pistols and teargas for policing. Allow them to be self-governing Happy Muslims and tell them it's permanent.

Brutally enforce restrictions against military equipment and tell the UN to stick it.

Susanne said...

What about the Palestinian Christians? There are a few.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure Jesus was quite the pacifist Christians like to believe he was. Are you all sure you aren't making Jesus the man you wish he was, rather than who he really was - much as the Muslims do with Muhammed? I think Jesus meant "love your enemy" much in the same way one would mean it in any context where the intent is to form a cohesive unit amongst a disparate group (the Army, for example). If a General in the army orders everyone to get along and refrain from killing fellow soldiers, even if they do something to deserve it, that certainly doesn't mean trade your guns for flowers and hugs. The order only applies to that specific group (tribe, ethnicity, etc...). Many of the other things Jesus is alleged to have said demonstrate that this might be a more accurate interpretation of many of his pacifist sayings.

Quotable Quotes: said...

I believe I agree with you, but when I think of "loving your enemy" I think of treating him with some level of dignity and respect. I think both the Israelis and Palestinians need to learn to do that with each other.

Geoffrey Carman said...

Something you said in here bothered me.

I think your comment of certain groups seeing nothing Israel done as wrong. Or supporting it 100% is itself part of the issue.

I think that body of people is very small, and in fact a real issue. There is plenty to critcize Israel about.

However, you need to put this in a minimum of context.

What is the standard you are holding Israel too? The level of its region? Well then clearly Israel is basically #1, and doing so much better than its neighbours that even wasting the oxygen on criticizing it is wasted and a tree should come and smack you for wasting its effort.

If you are holding it to the standard of Western democracies, then even so, Israel is nicely up there in the top few, if not #1, when you consider the region it is in, and the kind of people it is dealing with.

Lets use Canada or the US as examples. No matter how good a job they might be doing, and lack of issues of the type Israel is criticized for, consider how few people Israel has trying to bomb, shoot, fire missles, or try to kill them. Once you throw that into the mix you realize how truly good a job Israel is doing.

If you are holding Israel to a standard of perfection then your arguement is basically nonsense. (Like the Mavi Marma reports seems to be doing... I.e. It was basically Turkeys fault, but the IDF used excessive force. Excuse me? They were sent in with PAINTBALL guns as their primary weapon. Not rifles, not close quarters shot guns, not rapid fire weapons, PAINT BALL guns! I have been shot with paint balls. The little bruise hurts, but that is all it does. The did not use real weapons until they were attacked and physically overcome. Show me ANY example in the real world that beats this one in terms of use of force? The only example would be letting themselves be killed by the IHH on the boat and we tried that once before in Germany, and screw that crap ever again.)

There is no extant example of this perfect standard to show and say, see these guys were better than you. If you expect Israel to be better than everyone in the world, thats nice, and please go back to your little odd world where everybody loves one and other, sings songs and holds hands.

The real world is the standard they need to be held too, and objectively they consistently do pretty darn well.

Perfect? Heck no. And what does Israel do when after an operation like Mavi Marma, or Gaza 2008, or Lebanon 2006? They hold real credible investigations, and prosecute soldiers who do something wrong. Wrong in the real world, not wrong is some perfect world.

So of course, please criticize Israel for things it does, but also please consider the standard you are using in that critique.

You don't like the route of the security fence? Well then do what is done in a real democracy. You bring it to the Israel Supreme Court, and it has been adjusted several times successfully by such complaints. The IDF is forced to defend its routing decision, and if it is not for a valid security reason, the court has over ruled them.

Please consider how well a Mexican protesting the route of a US border fence would fare? Ah to heck with an example from a pretty darn good country, lets try Saudia Arabias significantly longer border fence. How well would a Yemeni person on the border succeed in trying to get the Saudis to reroute it? Have you stopped laughing at the concept yet?

Geoffrey Carman said...

Writing a long response in a tiny window is often error prone.

"Lets use Canada or the US as examples. No matter how good a job they might be doing, and lack of issues of the type Israel is criticized for, consider how few people Israel has trying to bomb, shoot, fire missles, or try to kill them. Once you throw that into the mix you realize how truly good a job Israel is doing."

clearly should have been
"Lets use Canada or the US as examples. No matter how good a job they might be doing, and lack of issues of the type Israel is criticized for, consider how few people CANADA and the US has trying to bomb, shoot, fire missles, or try to kill them. Once you throw that into the mix you realize how truly good a job Israel is doing."

In fact, lets add to that, and just ask how well Canada did when the native Candadians occupied that golf course in Quebec a decade back or so. Or during the FLQ crisis under Trudeau. Or how well any country tries to handle riots that get dangerous. Or any example of large scale rioting in the US. Or Britian, or any country in the Western world. There are no phasers to set on stun in the real world, so riots are ALWAYS dangerous.

Anonymous said...

@geoffrey carman
Couldn't agree with you more.
Compare the checkpoints in Israel to the muslims only signboards in Saudi Arabia. which on is bigotry and which was is self preservation.
Compare the paintball guns on the marmara to the rockets from Gaza.
Compare the separation of church and state to the prayer times in Canadian schools.
No one race or religion has the sole rights to victimhood or special positions in any country in the global village. Until that gets through the thick skulls of most backward countries in the world, nothing changes.

aemish said...

I'm dying to know your thoughts of Jack Bernstein's work, author of, 'The Life of an American Jew
in Racist Marxist Israel'...

Quotable Quotes: said...

Aemish thanks for the link to Bernstein. It's a fascinating story, although I'm not enough of a historian to know how much is accurate. I did catch one mistake - Muhammad never visited Palestine, but that little mistake does not invalidate his argument.

I heard someone comment today that the people trying to negotiate in Israel - the PLO and the Israeli government are the secular Jews and Arabs; the religious Jews and Arabs are not involved in the discussion. Perhaps the answer is for religious Jews and Palestinians to sit down and hammer out a solution.

Cyril Lucar said...

Mr Carmen,

You are absolutely right. And there is no group of Muslims who will ever agree with you. Israel belongs Muslims because they took it from the Christians around 700 and what Islam conquers it owns forever. No Jew EVER has a right to defend himself against a Muslim. If they use a weapon in defense, they have committed a crime against Islam. The liberal Jews will have to give up the belief that Muslims think like Westerners or they will find themselves slain or oppressed by the very people they were naively defending.

Anonymous said...

As far as I know some people were expelled by force and some went out by their own free will as the Arabs promissed them they would be ressetled after victory. The latter doesn't mean that they are less entitled to their lands, it seems to me as a wise thing to do. To move away from the middle of a war. The problem to me is that the Arab League obtained a partial victory in that war but never recognized the Palestinian State on the grounds that they wanted a full victory before they did. Since then the refugees were used as a political weapon. Now, most people don't know this, but there were a lot of refugees during the 40's, namely Germans that lived in Eastern Europe and were sent back to Germany because the other countries feared a new Anschluss and a lot of Muslin and Hindu Punjabis that had to move to the "right" side of the border after the Partition. All these have been long forgotten and carry on with their lives. Some Palestinians can't, others won't but it is sad since most of the ones we now call refugees are grandsons of refugees that grew in hate of a robbery that happened a long time ago. This serves the political interests of a lot of people but doesn't help the ones that live in Gaza or the West bank to get on with their lives, which they should have by now.