Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Help me make sense of the news . . .

If you are like me, you have heard things on the news about Obama, the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and problems.  The whole Middle East thing seems like one big huge mess.  Here is an attempt to help you sort through some of it . . . it is very basic, but it may help clear up a little confusion.

Barak Obama: He's our president - smart guy, wants to do what is right - that much is easy.

Benjamin Netanyahu: He is the leader of Israel - educated in America and now Prime Minister of Israel for the second time.  He is conservative in his views.  He wants to do what is right for his people.

Palestinians - A group of people who have ties all over the ancient Mediterranean - the Palestinians are what the Bible calls "Philistines" - they have been there that long, residing in Biblical times along the coast of the same area of land that Israel has claims to.  For the last three to four thousand years both Israel and Palestine have legitimate claims of nationhood.  They just can't seem to get along.

The History:  After WWII, the United Nations (out of sympathy for the horrors of the holocaust) made sure that Israel would take up residence in a permanent Israeli state.  It was the right thing to do, but there were Palestinians who were living on that land who were a little upset.  In fact, they felt like they got cheated - and in some ways they are right.  Imagine a judge saying your ex-wife now gets your house when the divorce was 10 years ago.  Some got a little hot and started up organizations dedicated to the destruction of Israel.  This is where things get scary.

Of course the way that Israel has dealt with the Palestinians has made the Palestinians feel like they are the terrorists.  Both have a point.

Six Day War:  In 1967, Arabs (who are Muslim and don't necessarily like the Jews) from all the countries that border Israel invaded.  In a stunning response, Israel not only staved off the attacks, but also took land from these neighbors in an effort to prevent something like that from happening again.  It is like someone who gets in your face and you push them out of your face and take a couple steps to give yourself some room.

Statehood:  The Palestinians have been wanting a state of their own . . . but they also want to see Israel destroyed.  In fact there have been several leaders of Palestine who have encouraged terroristic acts, which makes having a state hard to justify.  Imagine a group of people in New York City who want to have their own city block - separated from the rest of the city - and devoted to the destruction of the city.  By giving Palestine its own state, would Israel be empowering its closest neighbor to attack it?  It makes things thorny.

So . . . Obama the other day argued that Palestine should be a state.  This is good.

But then he argued that Israel should go back to its previous borders (pre-1967) which means to give all that land back that was established as a buffer zone. This is a great idea in a perfect world, but it is scary to the people who feel threatened.   For the Jews, it is like removing a restraining order from that guy down the street who stalks you and wants to kill you.  Yikes.

So it is understandable that Netanyahu spent his time in front of the camera lecturing Obama on why this can't happen.  Essentially the Prime Minister of Israel said that he supports a permanent Palestinian state but he has yet to hear Palestine reciprocating . . . and he has a good point.

So how do we get out of this mess?  How do you solve a problem that dates back into thousands of years?

Oh that people could forget the past and create a future that is peaceful.  Maybe that is why God talks about returning one day . . . because we can't do this on our own.


  1. Nice summation here. And, trying to think about this issue logically or practically, is to miss the mark, too. The issue is too charged with emotion from all sides. Nonetheless we are to continue to pray and work towards peace, even when we can't know what that peace will look like.

  2. You do the debate a disservice by conflating the modern state of Israel with the biblical Hebrew people or Israelites. Likewise in conflating modern Palestinian Arabs with ancient Philistines. This debate is not millenium old. Does not date back to Isaac and Ishmael. It dates back about one hundred years. Jews starting buying land in Palestine in the late 1800s and slowly resettling a critical mass of people there. The British were in control of Palestine--it was their colony. After a terror campaign against the British led by Mechin Begin and other Jews the British relented under what is known as the Balfour Declaration. President Truman, against the wishes of the State Department and other allies, recognized an independent state of Israel (that's one reason why most jews vote Democrat). The UN mandate was later, as my history serves.

  3. @anon - Thanks for your comment, you give a good rebuttal. However, your focus on the last 100 years comes from a view that is too influenced by our American context. And it was Menachem Begin that you are saying was promoting terrorist tactics - which I had mentioned in my article. Anyhow, the problem dates back centuries and is land/economic in nature.

  4. I love you John, but this is one convoluted post. You make some pretty hefty assumptions. First, "Obama is smart", maybe book smart, but this guy has no street smarts. He has a pollyanna view of the world and basically offers words over actions. "Obama wants to do what is right" again I don't see how making an ally (Israel) that is the only democracy in the middle east capitulate to the PA is right. Also, how inept is Obama to articulate the idea of going back to the 1967 borders without speaking with Israel about it. Obama knows Netanyahu is coming the very next day, and he floats this horrible idea the day before the visit. Talk about sandbagging an ally. "Obama the other day argued that Palestine should be a state. This is good." Really? Right above this statement, you undermine this assertion. Your example of a block in NYC seceding and calling for NYC's destruction is apt. Problem is, it destroys the statement, "Obama the other day argued that Palestine should be a state. This is good." How about demanding concessions from the PA such as recognizing Israel's right to exist. How about demanding that they disassociate themselves from Hamas (An organization that our own state department has labeled a terrorist organization)? How about demanding that they no longer teach that Jews are sub-human? The only way out of this mess is to show the PA that terroristic violence will not solve their problems and until they abandon all forms of it they will have no support from the U.S.

  5. @Anon - Thanks for posting (and leave your name, for goodness sakes . . . no one will beat you up here). When I said it was a good idea, I meant in theory. It would be a good idea if everyone could have a homeland and get along. So you are right, for them to have their state and plan attacks against the Jews would be awful. Great point!

    About Obama - I try to stay away from political views on this blog and keep things neutral and not everyone shares your views.


  6. Good summation John. One thing you leave out is that Obama's remarks about the 67 borders included mutually agreed upon land swaps. The old boprders are just the starting point. It's the same thing the previous president had suggested.

  7. God provided us with us with imagination. I can see us working out a problem that is thousands of years old with love.

    Lamb power would suggest that kings are not going to do it.

    Lamb power also suggests that not everyone is going to get it at once, and that more blood will be spilled.

    We should be discussing this more. Thanks for the forum.

    John, just for insight, what was the border of Israel like in 1967 BC?



  8. In context...America took land upon which American Indian tribes were living (I'm not saying that was bad or good...just sayin'). Has anyone suggested we go back to borders established, say, in 1620, or earlier? How could Obama make such a request of Netanyahu with a straight face?

  9. The request has been made before, by other US Presidents.

    Is there another way to attain peace?


  10. I wanted to say that Christ pointed to the solution. Change attitudes of the heart. Love. No matter what the leaders offer, the people have to find a way to get along. It is terrible, but love can be terrible. We can not give up just because previous generations have failed to one degree or another. The Cross points towards the answer. Don

  11. I have a few points to make. I don’t profess to be a Biblical scholar; however I have been looking at these Middle East issues for a few years and have come to a few conclusions. Of course I will stand corrected if I have made an incorrect statement!

    The U.S abandoning Israel would actually be no surprise to me. The Old Testament clearly states through the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Joel that Israel will be abandoned in the last days, and then the whole world will turn against her. In the process of turning against her the nations will tear her apart and divide the Land of Israel, this would include the division of Jerusalem as well. The New Testament further confirms this. This is not to insinuate Christ's return is eminent, however since no one knows the date and time, it could of course be possible.

    I don’t believe Palestine was ever considered a country or a nation, nor quite frankly, would it do the world any good to recognize a puppet state that is influenced by anti Semitic nations like Iran and Syria. The people living there have no heritage to the land either; they are descendents of Arabs that moved into the area after the UN created Transjordan, not Palestine.

    After WWII the UN carved out a sliver of land and returned it to the Jews, this was about 2,000 years after it was taken from them. The reason: everywhere the Jews went they were mistreated or worse yet slaughtered. The sliver of land that was granted was desolate and swampy but the courageous and diligent Jewish people toiled over the earth drained the swamps and created prosperity there. Jews from all over the world returned to their homeland bringing their skills and their money to help develop Israel to what it is today. Israel and specifically Jerusalem is God’s gift to the Jews, no one else. I believe the Bible again states that several times. To see Jerusalem split would certainly not be pleasing to God.

    The land that was given to the Arabs was much larger, had much in the area of resources (water, fertile land, trees, and metals) and quite frankly was the better land grant! But that has never been enough for them. Even though they got the best grant of land, certain Arabs have never been satisfied and have been after the elimination of the Jewish people and Israel ever since.

    So the important point is they have already been given their own country -- it is called Jordan. But it is not good enough. It might be hard to swallow, but the bottom line is radical Islam hates the Jews and Gentiles as much as Christ followers love Jesus ... yes, hate is real. They will not rest until the Jews are pushed out of Israel, but I believe that will never happen.