Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Response to the "Mary & Joseph Couldn't Get to Bethlehem These Days Because of Israel" etc.....

Many people, including myself, as deeply saddend and concerned over the hardships being endured by many Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank including the city of Bethlehem. This city which brought forth both David and Jesus is virtually surrounded and isolated from the rest of the world by the new Israeli security wall, Israeli troops and a lot of fencing and barbed wire.

To capitalize on this situation, a pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel campaign has been designed to capture the sympathy of Christians. The hook is offered in the form of a statement declaring that, "today, Mary and Joseph could never get through the Israeli security forces so that Jesus could be born in Bethlehem."

The letter and propoganda materials I received today elicited the following response:

January 3, 2006

Dear Friend,

Thank you for taking the time and effort to send me the Bethlehem cards. It is important that good people act on their passion for justice.

I will not be distributing these cards to my congregation, however. My reasons are as follows:

Background: I am well aware of the history and politics of Palestine. I have recently returned from a visit to Jordan where I informally met with Palestinians, Bedouins and Jordanians (and Iraqis and Yemanis, too), discussed Islam with Jordanian Muslims and attended worship at St. George’s Coptic Church in Amman

On my flight to Jordan I sat next to a Palestinian-American who was travelling to visit his mother in East Jerusalem and brother in the West Bank. His other brother is a doctor in Bethlehem. Because of the “wall” and other security measures he was not going to be able to see his Bethlehem brother in person. He would only be able to speak with him by phone…less than seven miles away. He was flying Royal Jordanian Airlines because, even with an American Passport and American citizenship, he was forbidden by Israeli Immigration and El-Al to fly directly into Tel Aviv (because of his origin as a non Israel resident Palestinian.

I mention this to let you know that I am not naïve or closed-minded concerning the suffering, isolation and injustice imposed on the Palestinian people in the occupied West Bank.

On the other hand, I must challenge your assumptions concerning Bethlehem.

To begin with, the Christian Palestinian population has not declined because of Israel (although the occupation has been an important factor). The decisive factor in their decline has been because of the political, religious and economic oppression they have experienced at the hands of Hamas, Hizbollah and other radical Islamic organizations committed to the overthrow of the nation of Israel.

While Fatah has, at least in theory, included Palestinian Christians in their agenda (after all, Arafat’s wife was/is a Christian) the Islamic organizations do not. The disrespectful manner in which the members of the Muslim “insurgent” groups treated the Church of the Nativity several years ago (when they seized it as a place of refuge) is representative of their contempt for the Christian faith and those who practice it. These folks defecated and urinated on the floor of the church and wiped their behinds with pages torn out of church Bibles.

Ask expatriate Christian Palestinians and most will tell you that, while they may be disgusted with Israel, it was not because of Israel that they have left their homes and businesses.

You mention how Israel’s wall would prevent Mary and Joseph from even entering Bethlehem today. You seem to forget that Mary and Joseph were Jews and would not have been welcomed into Bethlehem by the vast majority of Palestinian Muslims whether there was a wall there or not! It is not the Israelis who are racist towards the Palestinians as a people….but the radical Palestinians themselves who are driven by hate and revenge towards all things Jewish.

I must agree with your quote from Desmond Tutu that, “It is unconscionable that Bethlehem should be allowed to die slowly from strangulation.”

Unfortunately, as recent events in Gaza have shown, the only existing stability in Gaza and the West Bank has been provided by the presence of Israeli forces. Their absence in Gaza has brought total anarchy and a complete disintegration of any sense of social order. There is no reason to think that the situation would be much different in the West Bank should Israel withdraw its troops along with its settlements.

Until the Palestinians and their leaders demonstrate that they are able to create and maintain social order and are, as official policy, willing to accept and affirm Israel as a sovereign nation, there is little or no hope for any solution to the continuing crisis.

Israel has not built this wall out of spite or out of any inherent hatred for the Palestinian people. It has build this wall to protect itself from the ceaseless assault on its citizens by terrorists dedicated to “driving Israel into the sea.”

The vast majority of Israelis are, in some form or another, supportive of a two-state solution. Those wielding the most power and influence in the West Bank and Gaza do not. Until this situation changes, the wall will be a damnable necessity to assist in Israel’s defense of its own nation and people.

The only reasonable way to blame Israel for the current impasse is to question its legal right to exist as a nation at all.

Either Israel has a right to exist in peace with its neighbors or it doesn’t.

Israel has shown again and again that it is willing to do so.

Its neighbors, with the notable exceptions of Egypt and Jordan, have not.

The only reason for the wall and for Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is because Hamas, Hizbollah, Fatah and all their splinter sects are still fighting a war that began in 1948 and have sworn to never quit until they have wrested all of Palestine from the hands of Israel.

My question to you is: Do you support Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation within the borders originally offered to them by the United Nations, subsequently claimed by what became the nation of Israel and which Israel maintained until 1967 when they were invaded by a coalition of Arab nations?

If your answer is “No” then you have sided with the leaders of Hamas, Hizbollah, Fatah, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, etc.

If your answer is “Yes” then you must be politically and historically naïve to believe that the present crisis is Israel’s fault and that any good would come from removing the wall or from Israel withdrawing from the West Bank under the present circumstances.

With all respect I join you in seeking peaceful resolution of this Holy Land of seemingly interminable conflict. May Jerusalem one day resemble its blessed name, which is “peace”.

Aloha In Jesus,

Mililani Presbyterian Church

PS: It is telling that, in conversation with a Jordanian Muslim who had very little good to say of Israel in general or of Sharon in particular, the following comment was made.

“If, after Israel withdraws all forces and settlements from the West Bank and Gaza; and, after Israel has granted either the “right of return” or made significant compensation to the families who were displaced; and, after a separate Palestinian nation has been
established…..If, after all this, Palestinians continue to attack Israel then to hell with them. I will withdraw all my sympathy and support for them. Whether I like it or not, Israel will stay where it is and that fact must be faced and accepted.”

This well-educated, talented man truly believes that, if given an independent Palestinian state, the terrorism against Israel will

I do not agree with him. And that, I think, may be the difference between you and me as well.