|Gustave Doré's rendition of Jacob's struggle with the angel.|
Israel was Jacob's nickname, the name given to him by God, as it was prophesied he would become the father of a nation of twelve tribes - just as it is was prophesied of Ishmail, the first born son of Abraham or Ibrahim, as he is known to the Muslims.
According to legend, Judaic, Christian and Islamic alike, Ishmail became the father of the Arab tribes. It was, in a sense, his compensation for being cast out into the wilderness, as Abraham did on the bidding of his Hebrew wife, after she gave birth to Isaac.
Ishmail was the son of Hagar, Abraham's concubine, as a result of Sarai believing herself to be barren; she literally told Abraham to go and sleep with Hagar so he would have an heir.
One generation later another fraternal dispute fostered the second Semitic power, as Jacob and Esau were born almost simultanously - so fierce was Jacob's ambition, according to the Biblical story, that he grasped Esau's heel during their mother's labor, attempting to come out first and thereby securing for himself the inheritance as the first born son.
The question has been raised: "What would be God's will in Israeli, Palestine debate?"
It is from the very birth myth of the Jewish people we may derive the first answer to this question.
The Cultural-Historical Entitlement
Before I describe the three different ethical perspectives you may derive on Israel-Palestine from the Bible, let me digress and describe why even asking the question makes some sense:
The US played a significant role in the creating and establishing Israel as a superpower in the Middle East.
The strong influence of evangelical Christianity in America, and the enormous influence of the Zionist lobby in Washington, have reactivated arcane mythology in a modern geopolitical context.
Israel is perceived as culturally and religiously entitled to a territory it possessed 2000 years ago. Today the ownership is firmly established in the minds of many Christians, including cultural Christians of a secular leaning.
However, when Israel was established in 1948, it was an unprecedented event: To recognize cultural entitlement based on an 1878 year old historical claim would fundamentally alter the world map as we know it.
Going even 1000 years back the Danes, descendants of the Vikings, might claim England, all of Scandinavia, some of Western Europe, and the Baltics, with Denmark having new borders to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
Italians could contest such a claim, going back even further, to before the division of Rome, claiming half of the British Islands, Western Europe, North Africa and, in fact, the entire Mediterranean, including Palestine.
Macedonians could claim Greece, Turkey, Egypt and most of South East Asia, all the way to India, citing Alexander's conquests, and so forth. Iranians, on the basis of Persian Empire, could draw their boundaries all the way to the Mediterranean and beyond, and the same goes for Iraq.
The absurdity of the Zionist cultural-historical claim to Israel would be obvious, if it wasn't for three major factors: The religious argument, the historical anti-Semitism of Europe culminating with the Shoah, and what may be called fait accompli - Israel is already established and recognized.
It is, so to speak, an error that has already been made. Much of Israel's policy is based on building on top of that achievement, establishing fait accompli when comes to population of the occupied territories.
Israel is, today, a nuclear power, a regional military superpower twice tested in open military confrontation, and highly unlikely to just simply go away or "be driven into the sea."
The Gordic Knot of the 21st Century
The recurring use of arguments revolving around Judaic holy sites and ancient Israeli legacy in Jerusalem in negotiations, the 20th and 21st century negotiations between Israel and Palestine have featured some extraordinary lapses due to the issue of cultural and religious entitlement.
The flash point of failed negotiations of the so-called "1967 borders plus swaps" have been the division of Jerusalem, and even today leading Zionists pound on Israel's religious claims to Eastern Jerusalem, whenever Israel is under pressure.
This article is not going into the details of the territorial disputes, or investigate the various options for a peace treaty. It is my assessment that peace is virtually impossible at this point. We have to go through a long series of motions, before the necessity of peace becomes apparent to all.
Palestinians cannot reasonably be expected to accept Israeli incursion into their territory on any level whatsoever. Hamas, however fanatical the party may seem, has always represented the cold, stark truth of the matter: Israel is a colonialist project carried out at the expense of the indigenous population. It has never been anything but that, and the Law of Return proves it.
It was never Israel's intention to form anything but a Jewish nation-state, and in doing so it systematically sidetracked the indigenous population in her quest for "lebensraum." That is what the settlements, regardless of temporary retreats, testify to. The Hamas-Fatah unification, however politically unfortunate, reflect the undeniable historical and political reality running beneath the peace rhetoric, in both camps.
Oppositely, as a nation-state, Israel cannot reasonably be expected to agree to empower a Palestinian nation united in enmity against Israel, unwilling to accept her right even to territory that would be conceded by the Palestinians in a potential peace deal. Under the current conditions Israel cannot even be expected to put her faith in a written statement to recognize Israel.
So deep is the distrust between the parties at this point that Israel's claims to "defensible borders" must be considered politically legitimate. This will direct the swaps, and in those negotiations a billion complicating factors will arise, each with the potential to derail the process, none more than Jerusalem.
In short: None of the parties can be satisfied. Israel may hold the strongest cards, but the country can never hope to have peace. That is the curse of Zionism - to triumph, but to ever live in fear.
The Biblical Story of Israel (Jacob)
At this point the question of entitlement and legitimacy in the Middle-East conflict has become philosophical.
Since someone bothered to ask the question "What would be God's will in Israeli, Palestine debate?" it may even make sense to try to answer it.
I have already laid out, using the standard instruments of Christian and Judaic theology, how modern day Israel cannot be perceived as an invention of God. The classical Christian Zionist doctrine collapses under scrutiny.
There are, however, some parables in the Bible that may be useful in order to point to a way out of the quagmire.
The first is, as I hinted, the story of Jacob.
The maning of Jacob's name in Hebrew is "heel-grabber", but can also be understood as "he who supplants" or, through various puns on the name, "to track or follow", or even to "swindle."
Jesus, in the New Testament, insults the Jewish intellectuals by calling them "sons of Jacob", playing a word game with the name, suggesting they are, like Jacob, driven by greed and prone to scheming.
Jacob was, indeed, a prankster, ambitious and cunning, and somewhat of a coward. In his youth, still possessed with the idea of being first and inherit "his father's blessing" Jacob swindled Esau, using Esau's hunger and a moment of weakness to barter him for the blessing, repaying him with a bowl of warm lentils.
On the death bed of Isaac, their father, Jacob perpetuates his swindle, fearing Isaac will refuse to acknowledge the sordid bargain: Jacob masquerades in front of the dying patriarch and thus steals the blessing one more time.
It is suggested that Esau is punished for his disregard for the family traditions and the blessing, and that God reinforces Jacob's swindle, but also that Jacob's immense intellectual arrogance and cerebral narcissism cannot go unpunished in the long run.
In the New Testament Paul, in an off-hand remark referring to some text or tradition that is not included in the Canon, states that "Esau sought to repent with tears, but was given no opportunity."
The Genesis follows mostly Jacob on his ventures: He flees from the wrath of his stronger, more physical brother, finds occupation, suffers hardship under an even more unscrupulous capitalist than himself, Nabal, but also finds a wife and makes a fortune in his exile.
But destiny finds him: He has to flee from Nabal, who is angry about another scheme Jacob has pulled, and after settling the matter with a diplomatic agreement not to disturb each other, Jacob seeks to return home. However, Esau is waiting for him, and he is still sore - and he has grown even stronger and powerful enough to raise an army against Jacob.
Jacob divides his herds and his possessions, hoping to at least salvage half in case of an attack. Then he sits down to ponder his terrible circumstances. His past has finally caught up to him, and he must expect a violent death.
There, in the wilderness, Jacob is visited by an angel. The angel isn't a sweet, cuddly messenger singing psalms. It is vigilant, even violent. It attacks Jacob, and Jacob wrestles it, fearing for his life.
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”It is apparent that Jacob understands, at some point, that the man is vastly more powerful, but has no intention to utterly destroy him. It is dawning on him, so to speak, that he can afford no more enemies, particularly not one who can effortlessly maim him. He is clever that way, and his insight speaks in his favor.
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.
The angel, an aspect of God, a blinding thought emanating from the divine mind, blesses him because he humbles himself appropriately. His hip is broken, but his life is saved.
It is understood that if Jacob had continued to wrestle until dawn he would have seen the face of God, and he would have been destroyed. It was a lesson in knowing when to stop, even if you are not ahead.
After this, Jacob's approach changes. Instead of cowardly seeking to avoid confrontation with Esau, he confronts him, and meets to his surprise a gracious Esau, happy to receive him. Humbled, Jacob falls on his face and insists on giving his brother a gift from his flocks and herds.
“If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.It is conveyed, through the very words "to see your face is like seeing the face of God", that Jacob understands that the favorable disposition suddenly possessing Esau is a product of his own repentance, his change of heart.
And this change of heart could not have occurred, if Jacob had not wrestled with the angel, and if the angel had not maimed him brutally, rendering him limp for life and unable to outrun the consequences of his own scheming as it was his habit. Jacob was broken for his own sake, to make way for peace with his brother, who had a legitimate quarrel. That is the meaning of the story of the angel.
That is how Jacob earned his name, Israel. Confronting guilt is the essence of the fable of Israel's origin.
Solomonic Justice: The Least Destructive Wins
Taken as a parallel, Israel has tricked the land from Palestine. Using deceit as well as more constructive intelligence, and favored by time and chance, Israel has established a modern, industrialized and liberal democracy. These things speak in the favor of Israel, but like Jacob Israel cannot hope to outrun the past.
The consequences of the calculated land-grabbing will linger on for as long as Israel attempts to rewrite history. The facts cannot be changed. There was something sordid, something deeply unethical about the way Israel rose to power.
"We must expel Arabs and take their places", declared David Ben Gurion already in 1937.The take-over involved not only scheming, but massacres and dispossession and terrorism, a necessity for Israel in order to achieve statehood and legitimacy for the violence.
The two wars Israel won, and the special relationship with USA, does not change that. Might does not make right, at least not forever. At some point, for every individual and every nation, the proverbial chickens come home to roost.
When Gideon Levy, a columnist for the Ha'aretz newspaper, asked Ehud Barak (Prime Minister of Israel
1999 - 2001) what he would have done if he had been born a Palestinian, Barak replied:
"I would have joined a terrorist organization."Israel is still wrestling the angel. It is night, not day, for Israel, as the country can look forward to the establishment of new Arab democracies, fierce anti-Zionism in the Middle East and ever stronger world powers to back those countries.
“The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve", US President Barack Obama warned Israel when he spoke to AIPAC on May 29, 2011.That is one way to view it. Israel must stop hoping to outrun the past. Israel must cease to rely on cunning, and on superior skills of deception. Israel must not offer "painful concessions" with a straight face, while secretly seeking to reaffirm past policies of exploitation. Israel must change its heart.
However, this may seem like a one-sided, narrow-minded view of things from the perspective of the Israeli Jews, surrounded on all sides by enemies and offered no reliable avenue to peace.
It may seem like less than justice, and much too ethereal for the world of geopolitics, where everything comes down to realpolitik, if you apply enough pressure.
An alternative perspective may be that of Solomon's famous verdict, possibly the most famous judicial decision ever made:
Two women, both harlots, come to him and claim a newborn baby as their own. The women live together. Both women have recently given birth to a baby boy. One of them has accidentally killed her son in her sleep, suffocating him.
They do not have DNA testing. It wasn't invented. What is Solomon to do?
Solomon orders that the child is cut in two, and a part given to each of the women. This effectively means the death of the child. One woman cheers this loudly, calling it a great ruling. The other woman falls down and pleads with Solomon not to kill the child; give it instead to the other woman, she begs.
Solomon recognizes that the woman who is willing to hand over the child is the true mother - she would rather that it was raised by the other woman than see it die by the sword right in front of her eyes.
The moral of the story is sentimentalist, understood in the academic meaning of the word, as a moral derived from the belief that empathy is the foundation of all ethics.
There is no such thing as objective justice. Objectivity is not humane. Objectively nobody has the right to anything. Objectively nothing matters, because eventually it will pass away.
The parable, as brilliant as it is, cannot easily be transferred to the Middle East conflict. A simplistic, linear interpretation, superimposing the characters in the fable on the political reality, will not produce convenient talking points for either side in the contention.
First of all, separating Israel and Palestine will not by necessity kill off the land. Admittedly, it may lead to war and to total destruction, as a consequence of unresolved enmity. That is a realistic outcome. But the two-state solution does not equate automatic destruction, like the splitting of a human body in half.
The geography of a country is not organic in the same sense as a human body; it's boundaries aren't fixed by nature.
Secondly, it is very difficult to discern which side in the Middle East conflict plays the role of which woman. You can make the argument on both sides. Both sides have offered and rejected the two-state solution. None of the sides have expressed humility or affection to the point of waiving all rights to make it a conflict.
Therefore, we end up with a scenario in which the world community weighs destructivity.
In spite of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks on Israel, and stone throwing by skinny little boys, and ineffective missile launching, and the occasional kidnapping of an Israeli soldier named Gilad Shalit, it remains a fact that Israel has killed over six times more Palestinians than the other way around:
Since September 9, 2000, roughly 6,430 Palestinians and 1,084 Israelis have been killed in the conflict, according to B'Tselem, The Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, not counting Palestinians who died in suicide attacks, Israeli friendly fire, or Palestinians who died as a result of inability to reach medical care due to Israeli road blocks.
We must also take into account that the Palestinians don't have a regular army. Israel is waging war against a civilian population, and opening fire against children who merely throw rocks. Overwhelmingly many of the victims in the conflict are Palestinian children. Generations of Palestinians have been imprisoned, and the occupants of Gaza are effectively living in a concentration camp.
Who is the most destructive in numbers? That would definitely be the Israeli Defense Force. Traumatized by ages of persecution, culminating with the Nazi German Shoah, Zionists have developed a paranoid-vindictive identity, avenging every death and every insult at the rate of the vengeance of Cain and approaching the level of Melech, the madman, who sang:
For I have killed a man for wounding me,The world opinion, however, tends to factor in Israeli cultural accomplishments, creating an amiable face for the lethal force, and a level of structural stability the Palestinian authority is incapable of producing.
Even a young man for hurting me.
If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
The very oppression of the Palestinian people and their desperate responses to it, like in the case of a rebellious teenager, speaks against it: The imperialistic Westerners, at least, unfamiliar with or uncomfortable with the experience of the oppressed - as it confronts them with their own history of massive oppression, exploitation and murder, a historical fact upon which their wealth and affluence is built - tends to side with Israel as the probable "best mom" in a zero-sum analysis. Israel can produce most affluence and, unchallenged by others, perhaps also most peace.
This is something for Palestinian hardliners to consider. Even as the Middle East countries turn democratic, as it will likely happen, and even as BRIC rise to power, as it will undoubtedly happen, there will be a gentrification of those developing countries, and with the establishment of middle-classes also a repulsion to violence and to the methods of terrorism.
Philosophically, moral equivalence may apply, but in reality the majority of people have a slight preference for the orderly violence conducted by military authority under civil rule and police forces. They represent order, and as such the social contract described by Hobbes: Exchange of autonomy for safety.
The waning of Western hegemony does weaken Israel, but over time, and in a process that also changes the rest of the world: The new power structure of the world is not a blank check for extremism.
If considered the most destructive part, or nihilistic, or incapable of mercy or remorse or empathy, either side will find itself condemned according to the Solomonic principle.
The Mysterious Case of Ishmail
Hobbes' Leviathan is the perfect spring-board for the third and final Biblical perspective you may lay down on the Middle East conflict: In the eyes of God all nation-states are merely beasts.
In every single vision in the Bible, New Testament as well as Old Testament, the beast is consistently used as a metaphor for centralized power and the population encompassed by it. Powerful tribes, nations, empires, all tend to act in unison according to the dynamics of predators.
The 6000 year old book of Chinese wisdom, I Ching, is the fountain from which the diverse Oriental philosophies like Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism drew their inspiration. In this book, in the second chapter, in the typical condensed style of Asian literature, it is said:
"Two dragons are fighting in the wilderness. Their blood is blue and yellow."It describes a condition where all order is lost. The transformation into the bestial nature has been completed. War is reality, and total, and regardless of what side wins, immense loss is incurred on both sides. Nobility and humility, all signs of humanity, are lost in the process.
The Bible covers the rise and fall of many such nations and empires, and ultimately their greatness and their fall can raise no more than a shrug from people today. However much passion was invested in these ancients struggles, and however much blood was spilled, it is of little consequence today, and even the names of the conquerers escape us, as much as the names of the victims of conflict.
"All is vanity and vexation of spirit", says Ecclesiastes repeatedly.Everything under the sun is illusory, and elusive, slipping away as we speak. This is the hardest to acknowledge.
How can that form the basis of a divine judgment? How does that answer the question raised: "What would be God's will in Israeli, Palestine debate?"
Going back to one generation before Jacob, to his father Isaac and the dispute about the birth right, we land in the middle of a central conflict between the Judeo-Christian and the Islamic interpretation of the event.
First of all, we must understand that just as knowledge of the Quran is limited among Westerners, Muslims are generally not knowledgeable about the Bible, even if they do refer on occasion to Tawrat, (Torah, or rather Pentateuken, the Five Books of Moses in Old Testament), Zabur, (Psalms), and Indjil, (Gospels) as sacred scriptures only inferior to the Quran.
Muhammed did not have intimate knowledge of these scriptures, but mostly relates to oral tradition. From the Judeo-Christian perspective his understanding was fragmented, and "facts" jumbled.
However, it is common ground that Ishmail is the ancestor of the Arab tribes. The question is what his role is. In Islam it is the belief that Ishmail was the first born son, and as such the one through whom the blessing of God was passed down.
In Judaism, and subsequently Christianity, Ishmail remains a marginal figure. It is the belief that the blessing is passed down through Isaac, because Isaac was the product of a specific blessing bestowed in person by God as he visited Abraham and Sarai.
This overrides the fact that Ishmail was the first-born. It is, so to speak, a case of divine injustice or exceptionalism, to which the believer can usually say little more than: "God works in mysterious ways. Whatever he does, it is his prerogative. He is God."
Genesis, however, states some prophesies about Ishmail that would deeply disturb Jew and Christian alike, had they knowledge of it, and had they faith to believe what they learned.
Because not only does the Old Testament state that Ishmail was to become the father of a 12 tribe nation similar to Israel, one generation before Jacob fathered the 12 sons who gave name to the 12 tribes - the Bible also states that "God was with Ishmail."
Even more disturbingly to those Christian who adhere to the modern doctrine of Islam as a heresy, or an artificial invention, it is prophesied about Ishmael and, by symbolic extention the Arabs, that...
"He will be a wild man; his hand (will be) against every man and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” (Genesis 16:12)The translation of this verse comes with the usual variations and subtleties in meaning. Other translations have:
"He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”Yet other translations has "zebra" or "wild horse" instead of donkey, and say that "he will live across the lands of all his brothers."
Either of those translations may be true. The common point shines through, in every variation. Even to an atheist or a sceptic the prophesy, given to Ishmail's mother Hagar directly by an angel, have an astonishing resonance throughout time, almost as if it was true.
Similar prophesies are given to each of the 12 tribes of Israel by Jacob in his death bed. In the case of Ishmail, however, individual prophesies for the 12 tribes are not given. But the prophesy is given directly by God in the shape of an angel, and the context of it must be daunting to Jew and Christian alike:
"...Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her." (Genesis 16:6)The angel looked up the miserable Hagar by an oasis in the desert, where she was hiding. The angel urged her to go back and suffer the abuse of the jealous wife of Abraham, promising in return:
“I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”It is in this context the prophecies are to be understood. It is a recognition of the deep injustice done to Hagar, subjected to slavery, ravished on the explicit order of Sarai and later subjected to persecution for the very same reason. It is a fate so harrowing and so befitting the plight of the Palestininians it tempts the mind to superstitiously imagine it was written for their sake.
Ishmail is her redressing, her satisfaction, the knowledge that endless affliction for the offspring of Sarai is to be inflicted by the offspring of Ishmail. It is divine justice in abysmally unintelligible form.
"The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”The verse is often used by Orientalists and Arabists to describe or stereotype the Arabs, but it is understood that for a man, or a tribe of people, to be able to live like this, in a struggle on all fronts, takes enormous strength of will.
If, in reality, the Arabs and later in history the Islamic nations can be encompassed by such a description, then it must be acknowledged also without the racism that so is often attached to it that it is the will of God. Abraham circumcised his son, Ishmail, and
"God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer."The mystery is deep: Even today there are two tribes in the world known to circumcise their infant boys, the Jews and the Muslims. The God of the Bible, the God of Jew and Muslim alike, did not reject Ishmail. If the prophesies relating to Ishmail relate also to the descendants of Ishmail, then Arabs are people of divine purpose.
It is understood that this fate is the will of God. Even the protestant reformist, the bigoted Martin Luther, who saw Islam as a competing religion, as derivative of Judaism and Christianity, and as heresy, described Islam as "a scourge of God" to explain the preeminence and power of the Ottoman Empire.
He considered the rise of such a rival power a punishment for the transgression of the Christian world and a testimony to how the Europeans had fallen out of the grace of God.
If prophesies are true, which they very well may not be, then the Islamic world, and particularly those Muslims who descend from Ishmail, are an immovable force. It is almost like an anonymous stranger coming out of the dark to wrestle you.
Learning the Value of Brotherhood
I repeat: According to the spiritual reading of the relevant Bible passages throughout Christian history Arabs are an immovable force. They are destined to live to challenge their brothers, living "across their lands" as Arabs now do, not only in Israel, but all over the world, and displaying at times that austere spirit of the wilderness - but not necessarily demonic or especially bestial for that reason.
Muslims are no less just than Christians, and no less entitled than Jews, and their power may reside in their rebelliousness alone and the fear it invokes in those who seek to oppress the world. In the West Ishmail is a name that has become synonymous with autonomy, rebelliousness of spirit, but also integrity and lucidity: The greatest novel produced in America is Moby Dick, and the most famous opening line of any novel is taken from this book: Call me Ishmail.
In this modern parable - one of the few stories to compete with Biblical books in density and complexity of philosophy - the West is described as a whaling ship, Pequod, on a self-destructive mission, not so much for the precious oil inside the whale, but for personal vengeance. The captain of the boat, Ahab, lost one of his legs in a battle against the gargantuan legend of the deep, the Great White Whale named Moby Dick. The ship contains people of all races, nations and creed, all loyal to Captain Ahab's mad hubris, and doomed by their servility.
Only Ishmail, the narrator, stands out by not embracing the quest, and ultimately only Ishmail survives the confrontation with the atavism, a symbol of Nature herself.
The mystery is deep: In Palestine, to this day, the name of an uprising - the uprising that has inspired the whole Arab world - is called an intifada. Intifada literally means "to shake off", and it is the motion of a donkey or a zebra or a wild horse. It is untameable. You cannot ride it. You cannot oppress it. Even when you think you have brought it to submission, it will revolt, and throw you off, particularly if you mistreat it.
"It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization, or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands", declared Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Foreign Minister, addressing a meeting of militants from the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, November 15, 1998.Ariel Sharon also triggered the Al Aqsa intifada in 2000. The current Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, when speaking to students at Bar Ilan University in November 24, 1989, stated:
"Israel should have exploited the repression of the demonstrations in China, when world attention focused on that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the territories."Towards the world Israel shows one face, cunningly describing itself as modern, liberal and progressive, while internally exhibiting total ruthlessness. Against such deceit the West is a helpless victim, but cunning and disingenous does not work against the spirit of their brothers, the Arabs, who deal with such treachery without subtlety.
Against the Israeli cunning they exhibit fierce honesty: It is the spirit of freedom, the love of the wilderness, the desire for vast horizons, and an unquenchable thirst for justice. It is the perspective of the archer, the intense focus, the unrivalled brilliance in strategy and tactics against overwhelming force.
It is pride in an age that hails shame, and honor in an age of disloyalty and deceit. It is backbone, and martial virtue, for good and for bad, just as with Jewish intelligentsia and "the white man's burden."
These are the characteristics overlooked by Westerners, by shallow Christians and disingenous Jews, negating even what their own tradition points out: These people are our brothers, and according to the Bible on which we base so many of our traditions and cultural institutions and ethical values, Arabs exist in this world, and have grown powerful, for a specific reason. The irony is that the reason is to cross us.
"The settlement of the Land of Israel is the essence of Zionism. Without settlement, we will not fulfill Zionism. It's that simple", declared the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, in 1997.Still, the Zionists have managed to present to the world a narrative of Palestinians walking out of peace treaties with no good cause, and Palestinians being greedy and unreasonable in their demands:
"The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more", claimed Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000.The reality is that millions of Palestinians have been driven into exile, and the land upon which the remaining Palestinians live has decreased into thin slices:
That is the conclusion, if Christians look for a Biblical perspective on the Middle East conflict, or Jews look for a solution to their conundrum - because Zionists can never ever achieve fait accompli against 1.6 billion Muslims who will not forget the Nakba, the disastrous day when Israel declared its independence.
If there is one thing to be known about this tribe of warriors, it is that they will endure humiliation for ages, but never forget an injustice. This is a matter long forgotten to the delicate, sophisticated and hipocritical middle and upper classes of the affluent Western nations, who will sit in safety and endorse wars of greed that kills millions, carried out by remote control and with the use of banned weapons.
We may speak of terrorism, of honor killings, of cultural backwardsness, appalling standards on human rights, and whatever else we can concuct with our one-sided and myopic cultural criticism, but we never look ourselves in the mirror, until we are forced to do so.
Quite conveniently, we never confront our own shortcomings, our own cultural decadence, the oppression we exercise, and the injustices we commit, with anything near the same fervor as we condemn what we choose not to understand. In our age, the most reprehensible atrocities, the most egregious cases of mass murder, torture and rape and sexual abuse has been conducted by Western forces and thrown right back in our faces as a shameful reminder of the evils we represent to the rest of the world.
The mystery is deep: At the very point of the decline of the West, as China rose as a superpower, and in the wake of a devastating financial crisis, and at the point of US federal bankruptcy and global economic disaster, and in a state of nearly total moral corruption, and following betrayal upon betrayal of the democratic and humanist values we declare... who rose to remind us of the nobility of rebellion?
Who set in motion a collective uprising to revalidate the inherent thirst for freedom in every man? Who rekindled the fire and produced the hope, inspiring even demonstrations in Europe?
It wasn't staged by the West - no government, institution or conspiracy holds that level of power. And who would stage such a mega-event that holds as many promises of our discomfort as our benefit? And who can hope to control such a historical turmoil, and turn it to their own advantage?
The Arab Spring rose from the heart of a habitually derised culture, as a response to ages of unfathomable oppression and reprehensible racism. And while it may have been facilitated by the use of Internet, the fuel was not technology - the fuel was the will of humans to be recognized as human, and to have the freedom in which humans naturally thrive.
If - and I do say if, because never shall I be counted among the religious - the Bible holds any truth and value, then the same must go for the prophesy regarding Ishmail.
And that would be the last of the three Biblical perspectives you may superimpose on the Middle East conflict.
"What would be God's will in Israeli, Palestine debate?" the question was phrased.
Judging from the Bible, God's will would be exactly what we see: The hubris, the immense conceit of the Western powers, challenged from beneath by sheer will power. The Palestinians may exist for this simple reason. Islam may strike fear in the hearts of Westerners, simply because that is what Westerners need right now: They need to learn the proverbial fear of God.
Perhaps, if there is a God or karma or a balancing principle in our universe, God has a beef with injustice, and maybe, just maybe, he will keep pounding on the same issue, until it is recognized, and keep on giving enemies of those who think themselves beyond reproach an occasion to diminish such pride. Perhaps that is the will of God.
The I Ching has a line in which it is stated that someone is "led to good through means that are evil."
Likewise, the Arab uprising comes as if god-sent to a complacent Western world at the brink of collapse, infested with corruption in their corporations, their governments and their financial institutions, and with the people almost paralyzed by an entertainment culture robbing them of every sense of self, including of dignity.
The Islamic countries may need freedom, and development, and civil institutions, and parliamentary democracy, and human rights. Granted, they do. It is fair to say the Arab populations have proven they acknowledge that they do. There is an honest admittance of need.
But there is an exchange in the process, a process of exchange, and it involves more than oil and petro-dollar. The Arab uprisings revitalize us, and it reminds us of the value of our values, rather than detract from them. The Arab countries may not know exactly what they want, but we have certainly forgotten what we have.
When the new world was born, and USA and France nearly simultanously underwent democratic revolution, the European enlightenment ideals were summerized in three words:
"Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood"The West has been very productive in the areas of Freedom and Equality. No matter the depth of your anti-Americanism or your skepticism about the West, there can be no doubt that the former slave-trading nation that initated its financial supremacy on the basis of black cotton workers in the slave industry is, today, the most free and the most racially and sexually egalitarian society in the world.
Economic disparity may be glaring. Corruption may be appaling. The war machine horrific. But with all her flaws, USA has risen again and again, like a Phoenix, to produce women's emancipation, institutions of freedom, unions and civil rights organizations, human rights ideals, and racial integration.
However, in all of this progress, one thing has always been lacking: Brotherhood. There is little loyalty in the West, almost no kinsmanship, and no such ability to act in unison as what drives the Arab protests. The deep sense of community has not been lost in the Arab world, and it is the force behind the Arab uprising. It is the reason the Islamic world prevails, in spite of being the epicenter of global turmoil due to the vast oil ressources, in spite of extremism from within and gross exploitation from without.
What is the godly, the divine, the spirited, the enlightened, the ethical and true perspective on the Middle East conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian question?
Brotherhood. We are one, and we always were. The solution to the Middle East conflict, and the solution to every conflict in the world, lies in that realization, in this neglected and mistreated and almost antiquated concept.
That's the Lesson to be learned, the inner Truth of our current circumstances, the great Meaning of it all.
When that realization gains universal acceptance, and transcends race, tribe, nation, and even class and political persuasion - when responsibility for each other overcomes our differences - then we are like god, and any god will like us.
It will be as if we were blessed by an angel.
Whatever seems impossible now could be achieved.
Peace would be the least of our problems. Peace would no longer be a process, or a project, or even a hope. It would be our natural condition.
Peace is our natural condition.
At peace we are like gods, but by war we are made devils.