Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lunch with Larry

It’s been a while since my last blog , (Feb. 24th), but I have not retired from the cause. Last January, I taught a four weeks class using Steadfast Hope, an excellent study of the Israel/Palestine issue published by the Presbyterian Church.

I share this as a lead in to a challenge I received from a Jewish neighbor who was “shocked” at the report of my class because he found it to be “much misleading and inaccurate from a factual and historical point of view. I think it is you who needs to be enlightened and have a wake up call,” he wrote. He submitted a long criticism of my position to the neighborhood paper for publication. However, he offered to meet with me one on one that he might “enlighten” me. I immediately contacted him for a lunch and we finally got together this past week.

Larry is a very likable and devoted Jew, committed to the Torah and to the State of Israel. I am grateful for the time I had with him. However, I found his knowledge of Israel’s history somewhat lacking. He built his case on three arguments. Most of all, “God gave that land to the Jews and the Arabs should accept the will of God and get out.” He also declared that Jews are smart and therefore Israel is an intelligent and moral nation, the only democracy in the Middle East with the most moral army on the globe. Finally, Larry lifted up the suffering of Jews as a justification for anything Israel wanted to do. I came to believe that the only way Larry could reconcile his respect for the teachings of the prophets with the actions of Israel over the past 64 years is to deliberately avoid knowing or believe the “stories” of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Larry is unaware of, or will not admit knowing about, the ethnic cleansing of 1948. He believes the Six Day War of 1967 was the work of Nasser. And he justifies the wall by saying it stopped suicide bombers, but he had no interest in the route of the wall or the pain it causes Palestinians. He feels that settlements simply need to be negotiated, keeping in mind that Samaria and Judea were given to the Jews by God. He admires Netanyahu and cannot understand why Presbyterians would be picking on Israel. I hope I have not misrepresented Larry. I did like him. However, in my next few blogs, I will respond to Larry, but I will address only his written article, not our private conversation. The words in bold print are his words.

Larry wrote, there has “never been a country of Palestine ruled or governed by Palestinians; in fact there has never been a Palestinian people per se.”

I say, not so. In fact, there is a Palestinian people now, governed by Palestinians. I have met Palestinians who proudly presented their Palestinian passports. They were issued by Jordan but they were passports of Palestinian citizens, not Jordanians. But let’s suppose Larry is right. Just because the Palestinians had no government to protect them, would that give Israel the right to kill, destroy homes, steal water, imprison and exile because they were “not a people?” Larry is echoing what Golda Meir said, “It’s not as though we came in and drove them out and took their land, they did not exist.”[1] On page 160 of Jeff Sharlet’s The Family, he writes about the efforts of Germans to forget what they had allowed to happen during the war.

In Nuremberg, a little girl asked her mother where the Jews of “Jew Street” are. Hush, There are none, darling, there never were.

How hard it must be for those who have been oppressed for so long to admit that they have now become the oppressors.

The point is, Palestinians are human beings who share this planet with the rest of us. They work, educate and feed their children. They love and respect the rights of others, like all civilized people do, and they worship God

Larry proudly pointed out that “Israel was the first country on the ground in Haiti after last years earthquake." I agree, and this was Israel at its best.
However, Larry was shocked to learn that without much fanfare, the Palestinians in Gaza, because of their religion, and out of their poverty, took offerings for the people of Haiti

At the same time, Israel did not respond to the “earthquake” caused by Israel right next door in Gaza during December-January 2009. Rather Israel bombed hospitals, schools, sewage plants and community centers, destroying 22,000 buildings. Israel called it a war. Over 1400 Palestinians were killed, mostly women and children. Israel lost 13, six by friendly fire. Israel did drop leaflets warning Palestinians to get out. But all the exit routes were closed by Israel. Where was a mother and her small children supposed to go to be safe?

There were no medical teams like those sent to Haiti. Rather, Israel enforced a barricade blocking out fuel, food, and medicine. This closure remains in effect until this day.

None of this was acknowledged by Larry who still insisted that Israel is the most moral nation on the globe.

More response to Larry in my next blog.

Thomas Are
June 9, 2011

[1] There are numerous sources for this quote. I read it first in Naim Ateek’s, Justice and Only Justice, (Maryknoll, New York, Orbis Books, 1989). p. 36

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