Shuck and Jive

Monday, January 05, 2009

Silence Is Not A Virtue

The death toll and the violence mount in Gaza. The Israelis have opted for a military solution to a humanitarian problem. I find it curious that so many of my Presbyterian colleagues are silent about this. There are a whole lot of Presbyterian clergy and laypeople who blog. But not too many are blogging about this.

I wonder why?
  1. Perhaps the news is boring. "They always have been fighting over in the Middle East and they always will be fighting" is a mantra I hear now and again. "Ho hum. No news here."
  2. Perhaps people don't feel informed enough about the issue to make an opinion.
  3. Perhaps they don't want to anger friends and colleagues who have a different opinion than theirs.
  4. Perhaps they agree with President Bush that this is all the fault of Hamas or the Palestinians themselves and they hope that Israel will kick some butt.
  5. Perhaps, consciously or unconsciously, because the Jewish scriptures are incorporated into the Christian scriptures and the Muslim scriptures are not (ie. Qur'an), then Christians always need to be on the side of the Israelis no matter what they do.
I see it differently.
  1. I think this is news. Tragic news. There is a reason why there is fighting in Israel/Palestine. Johann Hari offers an important view.
  2. If we are not informed, whose fault is that? There are plenty of resources available. Thanks to Doug King of Witherspoon for providing some.
  3. Making opinions can cause friction. So what else is new? If you are supposed to speak for justice and peace and to witness to Christ, that is part of the job. If we take our jobs seriously regarding Jesus Christ, we should not be silent even if we disagree.
  4. Hamas generates no sympathy for lobbing rockets, that is for sure. But in desperate times, when backs are to the wall, extremists become leaders. A long history of second-class status for the Palestinian people complete with all the indignities placed upon them for decades has led to this situation.
  5. This is the 21st century. Policies based on holy books and "chosen people" need to replaced by human rights and self-determination for all people. If it matters, many Palestinians are Christian.
I visited the Holy Land in 1994 as part of a tour. It was a gift to me by members of my first congregation. It was a "visit the places Jesus walked" kind of thing. I saw quite a bit. We visited the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, and others. This was before the wall. No rockets or suicide bombers as I recall.

There was gunfire now and then. Israelis had guns. Palestinians had rocks.

One day I left the tour. A couple of us ventured on our own at one point. We took cab ride. The Palestinian driver told us a different story than what we had heard from our Israeli hosts. I heard about houses that were demolished. He showed us illegal Jewish settlements. He told us of the indignities the Palestinians experienced because they were second-class citizens. He told us that Americans need to know what is happening.

A lot has changed since 1994. The situation has deteriorated. For my own understanding, perhaps it is time for me to find a way to take another trip to the Holy Land.

The United States supports the Israelis unequivocally. Obama, so far, looks little different from Bush. Apparently, "our interests" are aligned with supporting the Israeli military. The superstition of American Christians regarding so-called biblical prophecies encourages this support.

What are the solutions?
  1. Two separate states based on 1967 borders. This doesn't seem to be working. Perhaps it could yet, I don't know.
  2. One new nation. This seems to me the logical choice. A new Holy Land that shows no distinction regarding ethnicity or religion. One country run democratically in which Jews, Christians, Muslims and all others who live there share with one vote in one government.
  3. Continue the violence. This is apparently what the U.S. wants. Fox News reports that the U.S. rejected the U.N.'s call for a cease fire.
The U.S. is the major player here. If the political will of the United States advocated for a just peace for all who live in the Holy Land, rather than unequivocal support and money for one ethnic group at the expense of the others, changes would come.

This would require U.S. citizens to become informed, to care, and to act.

This seems to me to be something worth blogging about and worth talking about. If you see it differently, let me know.

Silence now is no virtue.


  1. Don't forget how well trained we are to fear being labeled as "anti-Semitic". Never mind that the Palestinians are Semitic as well.

    Israel and the US have jointly created a culture whereby it is unacceptable to criticize policies of the Israeli government.

    We have learned in the last eight years that it is possible for the world to cry out against the actions of the US government without hating the people or even the idea of America. Israel needs to accept that as well, and soon.

    Here's some Chomsky, just for fun.

  2. you've been reading my blog, yes (rivervision)? i think you have but i'm not 100% sure. so you know i feel the same way as you do. i just wanted to gently remind you - palestinians aren't all muslim and all israeli's are jews. there is a small minority of christian palestinians there - and the minority becomes more and more of one each day as the christians leave. it's simply heart breaking. the percentages my pastor gave me was - christians made up 10% of the population and now make up 2% of the population. as i'm sure you also know - there is a fear that at some point there will no longer be any christians in the holy land.

    i'm glad you've been there and seen it. i was there this last summer with the christian peacemakers and spent most of my time in the west bank visiting palestinians. i wish i'd spent more time with israeli's - honestly - but i got a view that most westerners don't get which is the palestinian one. one thing that's come up in conversations is that if people aren't on the side of the palestinians and acknowledging the oppression, once they visit the west bank (or gaza) and see the lives they lead they then understand the oppression of the israeli government. it seems as though very few people who see it come back seeing israel as the victim (as it is portrayed in the media).

    thanks for writing and speaking about it.

  3. Snad--

    Don't forget how well trained we are to fear being labeled as "anti-Semitic". Never mind that the Palestinians are Semitic as well.

    Good point. Thanks for the Chomsky link.


    Yes I have been reading your blog and I highly recommend it. Thanks for your insights. I think you are right, that once people actually see what is going on their views change.

    Thank you for commenting and for posting about this!

  4. :) and at some point i'll talk about the 1 state vs 2 state solution. i am a one-state solution person based on what i saw with the illegal settlements all throughout palestine. i know that general assembly passed a resolution supporting the 2 state solution but my question is - what facts and thoughts went into that resolution? did they take into account having to relocate thousands of militant israelis in order to create the 2 states?

  5. Frankly, I think a good start to the problem would be for Israel to honor the agreement from 1967. As far as I can tell, they never have. Once they actually go that far, then perhaps they can come to the table with the Palestinians to make improvements or scrap it and start over again entirely.

  6. The Israelis will never agree to a one state solution. The Palestinian birthrate is significantly higher than the Jewish birthrate. Jews will be outnumbered in a short period of time and it will no longer be a Jewish homeland. Palestinian Christians as well as Palestinian Muslims were evicted from their homes in 1948. What the Brits and the Zionists did was horrible, but what they hey, they're just dirty Arabs anyway. (I am being ironic.)

    Even the propeace Jews in this country are being quiet right now. Everyone is quiet. A holocaust is taking place and no one dares to say the emperor has no clothes.

    When I was in Israel, my Israeli guide talked about the dirty Palestinians. I thought about how much he sounded like the antiSemitic folks I knew in the states, only with the object different.

    What must God think of how we treat each other.

  7. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Haaretz in late 2007:

    "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished,"

    "The Jewish organizations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us, because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents."

    I think he is giving too much credit to his American power base.

    Calling this area of the world the “Holy Land” is an oxymoron. There is nothing holy about it. It is covered in blood.

  8. aND Borrowing from the early


  9. Thanks for speaking out about his horrible situation.

  10. Thanks all. I listened to a debate tonight (part of one anyway) on Democracy Now!

    The obvious question keeps coming up. Yes, it sucks for the Israelis to have to deal with rockets, day in and day out. The rockets are wrong.

    Granted, Israel. We got that. Now what?

    The question remains: what will make for a lasting peace?

    This assault on Gaza will not. You simply create more angry, violent people with nothing to lose.

    You have to negotiate with those you consider "terrorists."

    The two state solution is the best deal the Israelis have...but it is fading away from them.