Make Palestine a State

October 3, 2011
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I have a solution to one of the problems that’s been plaguing the Middle East for some time now. Just make Palestine a state. It’s the Christian thing to do.

Wait, wait, hear me out. According to certain traditional Christian thought, the land that Israel now occupies is at least in part the land that God has promised them.According to

With Genesis 15:18 and Joshua 1:4 in mind, the land God gave to Israel included everything from the Nile river in Egypt to Lebanon (North to South) and everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River (West to East). So, what land has God stated belongs to Israel? All of the land modern Israel currently possesses, plus all of the land of the Palestinians (the West Bank and Gaza), plus some of Egypt and Syria, plus all of Jordan, plus some of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Israel currently possesses only a fraction of the land God has promised.

That’s a lot of land. For most of the last two thousand years, they didn’t occupy it (if they ever truly did). The only reason they have the part of the land they do now is because of some degree of luck and a whole lot of money. If God wanted them to have it back, all of it back, now wouldn’t he make it happen? And under what circumstances would he make that happen?

I have to ask myself, with some degree of tongue in cheek, that if I as a Christian believed those things then I’d say that God will give it back to them in one shot and he’d do it when they were obedient. As it stands they still aren’t recognizing the true Messiah (as Christians understand it) and until they do why would God reward them? If he did extend them grace, something the God of the Old Testament did do from time to time, why would he do it by half measures? I don’t think so. Of course, the joke here is that none of us has any idea what exactly God would do here, so we need to stop pretending that we do.

I say that we should leave any amount of theology, good or bad, out of the equation. I think that if this whole thing is to work out, both parties need to come back to the negotiating table and let go of their death grips on those things they hold sacrosanct. This whole thing is a nearly perfect example of what is plaguing DC right now, the unwillingness to compromise. It won’t get either party anywhere and leaves them no option other than to try and make the other party look as bad as possible to win some sort of sympathy vote (oh and in the case of Israel/Palestine, buckets of blood).

As Christians it’s our job to make peace as best we can. If we as a country are to be involved in this decision on whether or not to give them statehood, then I believe it behooves us as Christians (if we’re going to be involved at all) to move things in the direction of peace. Denying Palestinians what they want and supporting Israel’s every move hasn’t done that. I’m not saying that we should cave in to the Palestinian people, but true peacemaking can’t happen if things continue apace. Giving them statehood strikes me as the only clear option for peace to “break out”. I’m willing to be proven wrong.

This post was inspired by a previous post on this debate from a few years ago. It sparked some excellent debate and I hope this will.

9 Responses to “Make Palestine a State”

  1. Hey Scott! Long time no hear! (this is Bill from Thinklings).

    There are no easy answers. I am no expert (at all) so may very well be mistaken, but I think that the issue hasn’t been Israel’s willingness to give up land – they have certainly made efforts on that in the past decade or so. I think that, whether right or wrong, Israel feels that this is an existential risk. The Palestinian people (who certainly have a valid grief here – as do native Americans here in our country, btw) have been deprived of a homeland. But their leaders have shown no compunction to be content with land and statehood. Their stated goal (we can choose to take it seriously or not, but Israel certainly does) is the complete removal of the state of Israel. Israel occupies a narrow strip of land with the ocean on one side. There are militarily strategic areas under dispute that increase the chances of Israel being pushed into the Mediterranean, mass killings, etc.

    I don’t know how anyone gets past that. And we can’t just wish Israel would go away – as Helen whatshername (the dean of the WH press corps) did, crassly (and with limited historical appreciation, from my view) demanding that they go back to “Germany and Poland”. Egad.

    I think, by the way, that discussing this in terms of Christians wanting to defend Israel is a beside-the-point kind of thing. Israel is an ally of the US, a democracy, and, it has to be noted, they have nukes. 

    I hope there’s a solution to this problem sometime before the Messiah actually does return! But my personal feeling is that Israel is in a very, very precarious position and I’m not sure removing support from them is a good idea. 

    Interested in your thoughts.

  2. Hey Bill! Glad you stopped by.

    I agree about their being no easy answers. I’m not an expert either. I would like to know what efforts Israel has made. I definitely hope that it’s clear that I’m calling out Palestinian leaders to be content with that. Both sides need to compromise.

    I agree that we should support our allies and democracies (especially ones that have nukes) but not to a fault. I’m not saying that you are, but to say that Israel gets everything and Palestinians get nothing seems wrong to me. To say that because it’s fulfilling prophecy is flat out wrong, period. 😉

    I know that Israel’s position is certainly precarious in some fashion. Is it possible that some of that is there own fault?

  3. As Walker pointed out, the issue isn’t the establishment of a Palestinian state, but the willingness of the Palestinian political group to reside under the rule of Israel. The bottom line is that enough of the population is willing to live in a state of siege warfare that said condition is inflicted on the entire region. People who wish to be contentious will by means of that desire necessarily inflict conflict upon those around them.

    As a sideline, if you got two political parties to establish a state by compromise, it would be the first time in history. Nations are established by force of arms. No nation on Earth exists that has not established itself by force and defended its right to exist by force. Compromise is the posture and warfare the language of politics.

    The establishment of Israel as a state had little to do with Biblical prophecy and everything to do with the desire of Western governments to establish a foreign ally in the Middle East that would not be viewed as a colonial puppet. I have no problem with giving the entire region to Israel and using force of arms to take it away from the current governing bodies – provided that Israel is and will remain friendly to the US. Just because a body of people identifies themselves with a region of land or a political group or ethnic group or religious group or anything else does not entitle them to autonomy as if it were a moral right. Autonomy is a theoretical political construct, dependent solely upon the ability of a government to enforce it through force of arms.

    The same argument, by the way, applies to American citizens. The next time you think you have a “right” to live in your home, refuse to pay property taxes and see what happens.

  4. You know I’m slowly coming over to the point of view that perhaps we should just leave theology out of the equation. Or more accurately, I’m coming to the opinion that the right kind of theology should be left in; in the sense that humans are not going to stand in God’s way so we might as well go for a two state solution and let God sort it out later. And I’m toying with this idea perhaps because the resistance to a two-state solution doesn’t seem to be required in order to hold a theologically orthodox view of scripture and seems to have more to do with a pre-millennial end times interpretation that isn’t demanded by the text.

    But well, that only solves the Bible part of the problem. I mean, how far is one willing to go to see Palestine become a state? Do the PLO and Hamas have to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a condition for statehood? I think so. But if that doesn’t happen, well, I doubt then that giving Arabs yet another state (out of the what, the 20 they already have in the region?) is going to do much to advance the cause of peace since they’d still be hell-bent on erasing Israel off the map.

    It’s not like Palestinians are an ethnic group or are being denied a place of their own by Israel, either. They’re actually Arabs who used to be called Southern Syrians back when they were under colonial occupation. Israel is amazingly Arab-friendly (recently less-so to the Palestinians due to suicide bombings in the last decade or so). Unfortunately other Arab countries won’t let Palestinians immigrate, and the cynic in me thinks it’s due to wanting to keep pressure on Israel. So these folks are stuck in this kind of limbo, not wanting to recognize Israel’s right to exist, being goaded into hating Israelis, yet being treated like trash by their ethnic brethren. 

    So yeah, it’s a damn briar patch.

  5. Here’s an area where I’m a bit fuzzy. You and other people interchangeably refer to this people group as “Arab” and “Palestinian”. I’m not a student enough of history or sociology to know where the differentiation should lie. It strikes me a little like you’re saying that because they’re in some sense Arab that they shouldn’t have another state/country that’s autonomous. That sounds like the argument that Canadians make against Quebec becoming independent. So that raises the issue of, where does one have to be sufficiently different in order to warrant autonomy.

    If they are Arab and Palestinian (something that seems possible to me) then who are we to say “this spot isn’t your homeland, go live somewhere else if you want to be part of an Arab State”?

  6. Well the ethnic group that Palestinians belong to are the Arabs. The term Palestinian isn’t a reference to an ethnic group, but more of a political designation. A lot of folks don’t know there’s a difference, and perhaps that’s intentional on the PLO and Hamas’s part, I don’t know. What I do know is that no one known as ‘Palestinians’ existed prior to 1948. They were called Southern Syrians when Syria was under British colonial rule. 

    Also worth pointing out is that the only autonomous states to inhabit that land have been the three historical Israeli states. Every other time that land has been under a colonial power. 

    So historically the Palestinians are not being denied some right to statehood since they never had it. But like I said, I’m coming to see a two-state solution as a viable option provided Palestinians finally acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. That’s really the lynch pin, it seems. Until then, if Israel lays down its arms, there would be war and lots of death. But if Palestine lays down its arms, there would be peace the next day.

  7. I agree with your take Scott. Resonates with a CNN article by a Christian leader who lived in the Middle East for 12 years. Here is an excerpt:

    “Rather than allowing obscure Old Testament promises to dictate our foreign policy, what if we stuck to the clear commands of God – love your neighbor, your enemy and the foreigner in your midst – which appear in Exodus, Leviticus and three of the four gospels.
    Many Christians in America think of Jews and Christians as “us” and anything that sounds Muslim or Arab as “the other.” But the call of Jesus is to be more loving towards the “other” than towards the people we think of as “us.”This command works both ways. When I’ve had audiences with leaders in the Hezbollah or Hamas, I tell them the same thing: That Jesus said to love your enemies. Who are your enemies? Israel.”

  8. Exactly, Bob. I don’t want to reward bad behavior and I see bad behavior on both sides. I want to love both parties as best I can.

  9. I’d like an amentdment:  As humans it’s our job to make peace as best we can.  Connecting the responsibility for correcting wrongs to one religion doesn’t seem inclusive or econonomical to me. I agree with your conclusion, but only after a lot of agonizing about the aspirations and the responsibilities of both sides—and I’ve been at this since 1947.

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