Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Another "War" with Gaza

Why are we seeing another “war” with Gaza? I can think of several reasons. None of them have to do with rockets. (See my Post of January 7, 2009, Rockets, Rockets, Rockets)

Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak are facing an election in January and need an atmosphere of fear to insure their re-election. (After all, it worked for George W. Bush.) Israel's method of operation for years has been to provoke a reaction and use that as an excuse to “defend” itself. Last week, Israel assassinated the leader of Hamas, Ahmad Jaberi, his body guard and a cameraman, by firing a rocket into their car just days after Israel had reached a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. Israel expected a response and it worked. After all, it worked four years earlier when rocket fire had stopped for four months. Suddenly Israel invaded Gaza killing six Palestinians. Hamas called off the cease fire and Israel get the war it wanted.

In the past week, Hamas has launched a thousand qassam rockets, weighing less than a hundred pounds each, into territory taken from them by Israel. One crude rocket hit a building and three innocent Israeli citizens were killed. Israel has retaliated with round the clock bombardment which has resulted so far (as of November 20th) in killing over 100 and wounding 860 Palestinians, mostly women and children. The Gaza hospitals are running out of beds, drugs and supplies.

The media calls it a war. However, one side has an army; 175,000 troops, 3,000 tanks and 786 fighter aircraft. On the other side is Hamas with 12,000 volunteers at best, ill trained and poorly equipped. However, Israel is in an uproar. For the first time, Hamas has fired “long range” (40 mile) rockets at Tel Aviv. Two rockets got through the Iron Dome, which Israel got to test with 90 percent success. One fell into the sea and the other in a field. But the psychological impact is enormous. If suddenly Hamas can reach the center of Israel's business and playground, nobody knows what effect that could have on investments, tourism and Jews who might return to Israel for the good life?

I saw on the internet a placard carried by an old man which read:

                                                                     take my water
                                                                 burn my olive trees
                                                                  destroy my house
                                                                       take my job
                                                                     steal my land
                                                                 imprison my father
                                                                    kill my mother
                                                                  bomb my country
                                                                        starve us
                                                                      humiliate us
                                                                     I am to blame:
                                                                  I shot a rocket back.

Israel's ambassador and our U.S. News media constantly explain that Israel, “Has a right to defend itself.” Noam Chomsky defends Hamas:

When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing … You can't defend yourself when you're militarily occupying someone else's land. That's not defense. Call it what you like, it's not defense.

So, add it up. Netanyahu and Barak need election propaganda, the Iron Dome defense system needs to be tested, Iran is too tough to tackle and the U.S. is bogged down in re-election adjustments and debt crisis. Wow! What better time could there be for Israel to do what it seems to do best. Attack its neighbors, especially those who are unarmed and defenseless.

Thomas Are
November 20, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Several years ago, the Christian leadership in Israel and Palestine sent out a plea known as Kairos Palestine which said, “We cry out from within the suffering in our country under the Israeli occupation... We have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people.”(1) They simply asked the Christians of America to acknowledge what is happening to them and to notice that they are being strangled to death by the ”acts on the ground” of Israel's occupation.

Last winter, a dozen people of conscience published a response to that plea called Kairos USA which said, we repent of our silence and abuse of theology which continues to allow your persecution unchallenged. They wrote:

Today, the churches of the Holy Land are calling us to stand with them in their
        nonviolent struggle. How can we do otherwise? … You cannot silence the cry of the
        oppressed nor suppress the human hunger for justice for all of God’s children.(2)

I studied these documents in Atlanta. That was last month. This month, I attended the Mountain Top Lecture Series at Amicalola Falls State Park in North Georgia which featured Brian McLaren. I was exited because I had read several of McLaren's books and knew his passion for better understanding among people of different cultures and religions. And he has a heart for peace for the Palestinians. In his latest book, he wrote:

A distorted doctrine of chosen-ness tells many sincere but misguided Christian                   Zionists that the Jews have been chosen by God to own certain land without concern for the well-being of their non-Jewish neighbors. As a result, these Christians fervently support Israel in a Domination Narrative, justifying the continued military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. They may even support the Purification Narrative that inspires some Israeli settlers and political parties to drive Palestinian Muslim and Christians from their homes, whether through sudden expulsion or gradual colonization and appropriation.(3)

However, and this is my concern, during his lecture when he came to the subject of chosen-ness, he mentioned the conflict between Israel and Palestine only among several other conflicts. But, he used as his primary illustration the Hutu/Tutsi massacres in Rwanda. He even mentioned the horrible record of Christopher Columbus, both matters safely tucked away in history. However, he did not mention Israel's abuse of the Palestinians. I sat there in amazement, thinking, this Zionist theology of chosen-ness is driving our foreign policy, pulling us into a possible war with Iran and destroying our relations with the Arab world. How can he not put this on the table?

To be fair, I think Brian McLaren is a genuine prophet of peace and reconciliation. I marvelled at what he had to say and his passion for understanding and acceptance of others. But, I hurt because of what he did NOT say.

He referred in his book to the way of Jesus as “Peace, justice and reconciliation.” However, I agree with Naim Ateek who says that the formula must be justice, peace and reconciliation, and in that order. I don't mean to single out McLaren, To be fair, as part of the Mountain Top Lectures, Bart Ehrman did not talk about the plight of the Palestinians, even when asked a question about Rapture Theology, nor did Robin Meyers. A.J. Levine, if anything, was defensive of the State of Israel and criticised Palestinian Christian leaders for their resistance.

While we spent two days talking about being a better church, Israeli rockets killed seven Palestinians in Gaza, including three children and injured 30 to 40 more. While we were in church listening to an emotional sermon about peace, Israeli bulldozers were destroying another home in West Bank.

When will justice become the concern of the Christian leaders in America?

I support what has become popularly known as the emerging church. However, I wonder. Have we become just one more retail outlet for selling a popular religion? When I asked about our having someone like Mark Braverman, Norman Finklestein, Naim Ateek or a Miko Peled to be our lecturer at the Mountain Top Series, I was quickly told by a friend that we wouldn't get twenty people interested enough to come and hear about justice for the Palestinians. He is probably right. But then, I ask, are we only interested in that which is popular?

Self disclosure – I ask myself if I am disappointed because I am genuinely concerned for the Palestinians or did I just want my ego affirmed by a celebrity? Most everyone there knew that my passion is justice for the Palestinians. I will probably never know. But either way – while we talk, Israel bulldozes more houses and drives more Palestinians into homelessness, uproots more olive groves, steals more water, erects more road blocks and check points, and imprisons more kids. Should that in itself not be enough to merit serious attention when discussing “chosen-ness”?

Thomas Are
        November 15, 2012

1 – Kairos Palestine, A Moment of Truth, (Published by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., 2010) p.13.

2 – Kairos USA, U.S. Response to the Kairos Palestine Document. (Published by Kairos USA, www.kairosusa.org. 2012) p.13.

3 – Brian D. McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Coss the Road? (Jerocho Books, New York, 2012.) p. 119