Sunday, June 29, 2008


All that history in the last post was a prelude to this. The General Assembly endorsed The Amman Call, (See article in The Presbyterian Outlook).

While there are many things to agree with in the Amman Call, (who could not agree with a call for two states, Israel and Palestine, with secure borders and peace, with an open Jerusalem? Of course there will be great disagreement over whether Jerusalem should be an Israeli city or a Palestinian city or both and the real fight will be over freedom of religion for Jews, Muslims and Christians! When I was in Israel I was given to understand that if anyone who was not Muslim tried to pray on the Temple Mount that person was immediately hustled off by the Israeli police! And don't even get me started on the Waqf digging through archaeological areas with a backhoe!)

Whew! Anyway. I agree with the Amman Call that we need to support our Christians sisters and brothers in Israel and Palestine. What the call does not make clear is that part of the support they need is international light shining on the persecution of Christians by Muslims!

But the most important part is the part that sounds so innocuous. The call for the right of return. Read this part of the Call:

5. The premises of this action are the following:

5.2. That Palestinians have the right of self-determination and the right of return.

I'm all for Palestinian self-determination. Let them vote for whoever they want in free and fair elections. In fact they did when they voted for Hamas. The United States should have recognized the government, terrorist or not. Don't we believe in free sovereignty?

But the right of return is the real problem. Right of return means that all Palestinians who either voluntarily or involuntarily left their homes and villages since 1948 have the right to return to those homes and villages. This sounds very good but would create a variety of problems. It also does not take into account Jewish right of return.

As I stated in my last post after the 1948 war Jews all over the Middle East were forced from their homes, had their businesses taken from them, often even their personal possessions and were only allowed to take a limited amount of money with them when they left. As part of this agreement would the various Arab nations also allow their former Jewish citizens a right of return and compensation for their losses? I know the Palestinians are not responsible for what Arab governments did but why does the Amman Call make no reference to the suffering of Jews following the 1948 war? And why does it not take into consideration that there are many more Jews in Israel because the Arab governments stole from and kicked out their Jewish citizens? Should there not be justice for all? Or do only Palestinians get justice?

Quite honestly a Palestinian right of return is a deal breaker for Israel. The Amman Call says:

5.3That a two-state solution must be viable politically, geographically economically and socially.


5.5 That both Palestine and Israel have legitimate security needs.

These statements are meaningless if there is a Palestinian right of return. The reason is very simple. If Palestinians are allowed to return to their former homes in Israel then Palestinians will be the majority in Israel. In a democratic state the Palestinians would be able to vote out the Israeli government. Israel would not be a Jewish state. Then Israel would have no security concerns because there would be no Israel and no security for Jews in Israel. The two state solution would not be politically or socially viable for Israel because there would be no Israel. It wouldn't be economically or geographically viable either.

See, it's the little things that people don't mention.

One of several things would happen if there was a Palestinian right of return:

1. There would be no democratic government in Israel or Palestine. To be fair to the Palestinian people their choices of governments have been rather limited. Fatah was corrupt and really didn't want free elections. Hamas - well Hamas did get elected by a free and fair election. But Hamas has as one of its foundational statements that it pursues the destruction of Israel. If there was a Palestinian majority in Israel would Israel get a corrupt Fatah or a Hamas that wants to kick the Jews out or kill them?

2. At best there would be a secular state in which there was no Jewish majority or state. It should not surprise the world that this makes Jews very uneasy. After thinking that they were finally secure in Europe because of the Enlightenment the Dreyfus affair came along in France and then the Nazis came to power in Germany. And all through the 19th and 20th Centuries it was dangerous to be Jewish in Russia and, up until at least 1945 in Poland. Further antisemitism is on the rise in Europe. If you were Jewish wouldn't you want a land of your own in which your people were the majority and therefore there was a guarantee that no one would come and kill you just because you were Jewish? Besides rockets falling from Lebanon, (Hezbollah) and Gaza (at the very least tolerated by Hamas) suggests that Jews would not be secure in a secular state in Palestine.

3. There are more but I'll move on.

The security barrier. I've seen it. I hate it. From inside Bethlehem it looks like a prison wall. But if suicide bombers come into your country and blow up your children wouldn't you want a way to keep them out? I think the security barrier is in the wrong place. Too much of it falls on Palestinian territory. It has ruined the economic lives of Palestinian farmers. It has brought unemployment to many Palestinians. But the number of suicide bombers has gone down to almost zero. It would be wonderful if there was no need for the fences and the walls. The behavior of people in Gaza shooting missiles into Israeli towns does not suggest that the barrier is not necessary.

The other problem with the Amman Call is that it seems to assume that if Israel changed its ways everything would be fine. There are killers on both sides of the barrier. Yes there are some Israelis who want to kick all the Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza and claim all of Biblical Israel. They are a small minority. There are also Palestinians who want to kill all Israelis. There is no way to measure what percentage of the Palestinian population wants this. Those with the guns keep those who want peace very silent.

I want to think that the overwhelming majority on both sides want peace and prosperity. Certainly most Israelis will exchange land for peace if there will be a real peace. There is no way to tell how many Palestinians want this because it is dangerous in Gaza in particular to say that you want Israel to continue to exist.

Starting as far back as 1948 the Palestinians have been offered a variety of great deals. Either other nations or their leaders have always turned them down.

When the Presbyterian Church gets serious about peace in Israel and Palestine it will have to listen to both Jews and Palestinians. Until that day I will have to keep telling my Jewish friends please don't associate me with the statements of the General Assembly.

Pastor Bob

1 comment:

will said...

Pastor Bob –
Thank you for your posts on this topic. I suspect this issue gets shuffled to the background in light of other controversies within the ‘mainline’ denominations, and it does not receive the attention it requires.

You rightly point out the problems in the “Amman Call”. I did not react to this action, however, because it doesn’t represent a substantive change in official PC(USA) policy. The 2003 GA called for unqualified right of return for Palestinians only. The 2004 GA did the same. 2006 did not address the issue – being more concerned with attempting to fairly deal with the divestment controversy. PC(USA) officials have called for this at least since 2000.

I believe (hope?) that commissioners have not understood the net effect of various PC(USA) policies they have endorsed. (Frankly, Presbyterian and other mainline denominations’ policies call for a Jew free state of Palestine and a Jewish minority state of Israel.) Given the workload and the impossibility that commissioners will be familiar with all of the issues a GA addresses, I find it likely that they simply didn’t realize what they were doing.

The other factor that has played a role in the formulation of mainline policies is the existence of a small faction with vastly disproportionate institutional influence whose advocacy has been consistently marred by quantifiable anti-Israel bias, a regular reliance on anti-Judaic themes, and fairly frequent lapses into outright anti-Jewish bigotry.