11 February 2012

The Israel Factor: Part 4 of the series on American Evangelicals, war, and Iran

So is Iran the threat they're being made out to be? Does Ahmadinejad want to see a mushroom cloud over Tel-Aviv? Santorum would say absolutely, but most geo-political analysts would say it's quite unlikely.

That's not to say the situation isn't dangerous. Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs know that a mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv means their destruction. We don't know if the Pentagon would annihilate Iran but no matter what...the Islamic regime installed in 1979 would end. An attack like that would sign their own death warrant. To suggest they wouldn’t use an offensive nuclear weapon is pretty much common sense and the way this argument is being defeated in the Right-wing narrative is to portray them as fanatics, people who have abandoned reason for the sake of their cause. People willing to self destruct. Of course it might be argued Santorum is also a fanatic but I'll leave that for someone else to work out.

Many reputed analysts try to hide the grins on their faces when talking about the Holocaust denial coming out of Tehran. I tend to agree that Ahmadinejad knows full well there was a Holocaust. Iran is very anti-Israel and speaking this way is to directly attack modern Israel's narrative, their raison d'ĂȘtre being rooted in the Holocaust and Zionism. Iran’s rhetoric is a challenge to Israel's moral claims for the existence of the modern Zionist state.

I don't want to be misunderstood here. The Jews of the post-2nd Temple Diaspora are the most persecuted people throughout history. The Holocaust was just the capstone on a house of horrors going back to the Middle Ages. Growing anti-Semitism in the 19th century inspired Herzl to develop Zionism and the Holocaust gave it a moral and political mandate.

However the Jews going back to the Levant and re-establishing a state is akin to English and Americans of Norman (Viking) ancestry setting up in Norway, claiming it as their homeland. I’m directly descended from Vikings who settled in Normandy and later crossed with the Conqueror in 1066. This same family, my paternal line left England in the 1650’s to get away from Cromwell’s regime. They settled in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Let me put it this way….my claims to land in Norway are probably better than European Jews claiming the Levantine littoral, the lands west of the Jordan river, the land we today once more call Israel. It is of course absurd and no one would seriously consider the claim.

By the way I’m not boasting in my ancestry. I don’t consider it anything to be proud of. The Normans were an impressive lot but in just about every case I would identify with the side resisting them.

Now, if some regime came to power and rounded up everyone in the British Isles and North America who had Norman ancestors and tried to kill them all and succeeded in killing more than a 1/3 of us…would the world feel sympathy? Of course. Would we have a right to seek redress? Of course. Would we have the right to go and conquer a big swath of Norway claiming it as our ancient homeland, claiming that we had to have it in order to be once more secure? I think not.

The Palestinians are Arabized but genetically they are largely the descendants of Jews and Canaanites that have been living there since antiquity. The disastrous breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the imperial scheming of the French and English drew many of the lines on the map we know today. Though the lines are invented, the people are not. That the Arabized peoples in that region came to be called Palestinians at a later date in no way even suggests they aren't historical residents. History, anthropology and much more point to that.
The British and Americans helped the Jews establish a new state. In 1948, the United Nations was still functioning as a department of the American government. It continued to be dysfunctional as an international body for several more years. While it is hardly relevant today, at least it is accessible to all peoples, though only a select few actually can accomplish anything.

While there are undoubtedly some in the Anglo-American establishment who really believe the Jews have moral or perhaps theological claims to the ‘land’, most are more concerned with Wilsonian ideals of democracy, geopolitical posturing, a wedge, a reason to have interests and influence in one of the most pivotal regions on the planet, a region with vast political implication and proximate to the greatest resource prize in the history of the world.

Some have tried to blame the Palestinians because they were offered a two-state solution at the time of Israel's formation. They didn't accept the offer so now it is argued, six decades later they no longer have any right to argue thus.
But why would they have accepted? Would the Norwegians accept it if a bunch of Norman descendants arrived off the coast of Trondheim? I don't think so.

Would they be upset if over the course of a couple of generations the Norse-Norman returnees forced large segments of the population into ghettos, restricted their movements, endlessly harassed them and when they showed resistance...send in an air force using planes and missiles purchased from the United States?

Would the other nations of Europe appreciate this? Assuming for a moment (which I don't) all the European nations are Christian...let's say the Norwegian conquest included a reversion to Odin worship and the Normans started imposing that religion and its values on the people there. I'm being absurd but I'm trying to paint a weak portrait of why Israel's presence and existence is so outrageous and offensive to the people around it. My illustration doesn't even begin to touch on the severity of their actions, and the implications of Israel’s existence when tied in with Western Imperialism.
True they've been attacked and have proven valiant fighters, but their expansion in 1967 and the increase of settlements ever since has only made the situation much worse. I'm not going to pretend there isn't plenty of guilt to go around. But the choice of the Jews to establish an Imperial-backed state, essentially a Western satellite in the direct center of the Middle East, was just inviting trouble. The Zionists play a hard political game. Though they're hated, they are admired and respected. But they're a cold hearted group. They would nod their heads and say... they have to be.

Who cannot be moved at what happened to them under the Third Reich? That's why it's so bizarre and ironic that they've turned around and treated others in the way they have.

Dispensationalism has led many an American Christian to turn a blind eye to the sufferings and valid claims of the people who lived in that portion of the Ottoman Empire going back to Roman and Byzantine times...the people we today call Palestinians.

If the Bible doesn't teach the Jewish people are still the 'plan A' and will go back to being God's primary covenant people when the Church is 'Raptured' out...If the Bible doesn't teach a return to Temple Judaism at any point after Jesus Christ, then the modern Jewish state and the land it has demarcated does not belong to anyone in particular, and those living there whatever their claims, don't deserve a special theological consideration. There are many Jews who reject Zionism and don't believe the Jews can return to the land unless a prophet arose who communicated God's will for them to do so. On that point, they're right. And I promise them it will never happen. That Prophet was here almost 2000 years ago. The Kingdom he established was one they rejected and continue to do so.

The actions of the Zionists must be weighed and considered in the same way we would look at any other people.

The Magyars or Hungarians presumably came out of Central Asia in late antiquity, many claiming to be descendants of Attila’s horde. In the 9th century they crossed the Carpathians and settled in today's Hungary. What if they claimed 'holy' sites back in Central Asia? What if they decided tomorrow to carve out an enclave from Eastern Kazakhstan to the Chinese frontier of Xinjiang? Would anyone really accept that claim? I can give endless examples of this kind of argument that no one would accept...but the Middle East is supposed to accept the Zionist state of Israel?

What should the Jews have done after 1945 to find autonomous peace and security? I can think of several options but re-establishing Israel would not have been one of them. And in no way has it made them secure or safe.

While Christendom has all but disappeared or rather been replaced by Westernism, Islam's situation is a bit different. The Islamic world, like Christendom was never really able to maintain any kind of unity, and it's no different today. Yet there are certain issues which can bring about a kind of unity...a powerful tool to leaders. Israel has proven quite useful in this way. It's a focal point for anger and resentment and he who takes up the mantle, he who wields the scimitar against this enemy becomes a hero...a Sobieski, a Martel, a Winston Churchill to the Islamic world. A regime in danger needs distractions; it needs to be a hero fighting a dragon. An Islamic regime needing a dragon to fight so it can become the saviour/hero...need look no further than Israel…the great offender, the bride of the Western Empires.

Though some truly want Israel eliminated, I don't think that's even remotely true for the majority of leaders and thinkers in the Islamic world. The costs and consequences are too great. And in terms of politics, it's convenient to have an adversary that can be pointed to and blamed. Israel is the object of everyone’s convenient scorn.

Democracy at work in Egypt has recently empowered the Islamists. This is largely a backlash against the American proxy Mubarak and the continued domination by the Egyptian army which also is closely tied in with the Americans. But once the Islamists are in power, what will happen? Most likely the people will in time grow disgusted with corruption, mismanagement, and restricted freedoms... and if the Islamists won't hand over power willingly they'll be forced out.

But actually that won't happen. Why? Because the West will meddle and manipulate, corrupt the democratic process and either install a puppet through a coup or revolution or the people will back the Islamists all the more due to resentment and anger at the interference. Or, a new dictator or group of clerics will arise and use the external threat as a way to maintain legitimate power.

And after many years, and many dead, a new generation will be born loathing and hating the United States. They don't hate us because we're free, because we vote in money-corrupted elections, or because we eat pizza and watch American Idol. They hate us because we murder and kill and bring evil to their lands. And to add insult to injury we do it with a Wal-mart smiley face telling everyone how good we are.

And what would the Christian politicians in this country have us do? Keep meddling. Keep intervening in Egypt, Iran, Syria, Turkey and on it goes.

We can't be Isolationists they argue. So anti-Isolationism means we have to conquer the world? We have to insert ourselves in every country on the globe to make sure our interests and the interests that might affect our interests and the interests of our friends who are protecting our other interests aren't affected?

This is Christian statesmanship? Christian geopolitics? This is the Christian Worldview being applied to government, war, and international relations? This is what Paul had in mind in Romans 13? I read that one today and it raised an eyebrow, I can tell you.

This is called making a name for yourself. This is called building the Tower of Babel and putting a cross on top of it.

This all must be taken into account as we address this question of America, Iran, and Israel, that is if we're interested in actually looking at this truthfully. Truth it seems to me is probably a good factor to consider in trying to formulate a Christian approach to the world. Why can't I find any of it coming from the mouths of Christian teachers and leaders when it comes to these issues?

Go to part 5


17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Proto!
You really laid it out.
Thank you very much for that.

Once upon a time I would read the articles on Rapture Ready and participate in their forum.
There was so much hatred for liberals, democrats, Muslims...they referred to Ahmadinejad as "amadmaninadinnerjacket". When I tried to talk to them of not fighting against flesh and blood and of praying for our enemies - I was accused of all sorts of things - like being a liberal, democrat, Muslim, Obama-voter...And I thought - this is not the place for me.
They were going to kick me off there pretty soon anyway.

I listened to one of Ahmadinejad's speeches. He's not a holocaust denier - like many say. He knows it happened. He's angry with the fact that any time anyone criticizes "the Jews" for anything - they play the holocaust card.

Thank you for laying this out so clearly. Looking forward to more.
Lisa

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this Proto, very informative, and I'm really enjoying reading these. Not the same old, same old, 'story' one keeps hearing
about.
Lorena

Just a Sinner Saved By Grace. said...

Thanks,

This is very timely. I just posted the other day on a social networking site, that due to my keen intelect, grasp of history, and knowledge of current events, we will be at war with Iran shortly before the election, so our President can appear in charge, and I also prognosticated back a bit that we were reliving the previous election and this time Gingrich was the foil in lieu of McCain, and the goal then and now was/is to side track the Mittster.

I see us with four more years of Obama, and frankly I care not, and see him as Bush Light. I shudder however when I see Jeb Bush's name today bandied about as a possible late entry.....

As you know Proto, I speak with my tongue planted firmly in cheek mostly, but it is fun to sit on the sidelines and call the plays on occasion before they happen.

My wife spent many years in Honduras and she is able to provide a perspective quite un american which is a help.

Blessings to you young man,

Marshall.

my moniker has changed due to some blogging of my own, and I took a cue from my nephew, and removed most revealing info ;)

Gabriel M said...

"Who cannot be moved at what happened to them under the Third Reich? That's why it's so bizarre and ironic that they've turned around and treated others in the way they have."

It's not bizarre and ironic because it's not remotely true and this is the real giveaway when discussing Israel, the perpetual resort by its critics to claims that are completely detached from reality:

1) Reality: Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have more civil and political rights than the majority of Arabs in the Middle East and are less likely to be the victims of state violence.
Narrative: OMG NAZIS!

2) Reality: There are over 4 times as many Arabs living between the river and the sea now as in 1948.
Narrative: Israel is committing genocide and ethnic cleansing.

3) Reality: No Arab state except for small Gulf States with lots of oil and a majority non-Arab population are prosperous peaceful countries.
Narrative: If it wasn't for Israel the Palestinians would be living in a prosperous, peaceful country.

4) Reality: More new homes are built by Arabs within the state of Israel, both legally and illegally, than by Jews in the Occupied Territories.
Narratives: Zionists are stealing all the land.

5) Reality: Some people were evicted from their homes after a protracted legal case in which the owner of the title deeds asserted they had not paid rent for over decade.
Narrative: Arabs are ethnically cleansed.

etc. etc.

Now, as it happens I am an isolationist, I oppose all military and economic aid to Israel and I don't think Iran would use a nuclear bomb (except in the sense that Pakistan uses their nuclear bombs, namely to openly fund attacks of mass terrorism within India and then say "what you going to do about it".). Nevertheless, I just don't get opposition to Israel. Let's say it's founding was unjust? So what? We should turn the land over to Arabs so they can have another country to trash? Why? We would lose a respectable net-contributor to world economy, responsible for numerous medical and technological advances that make people's lives better in order to create another basket case. This just strikes me as the same kind of hyper-moral nihilism [sic!] that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in Zimbabwe because white minority rule wasn't "fair".

Protoprotestant said...

1. Simply not true. Could you provide a link or article to read?
2. The world population is over 3x more today than in 1948. What are you suggesting...a conspiracy to move people into the land? Without a modern industrial economy, no the land can't support as many people. There weren't as many living there in 1948. Their populations have grown exponentially like much of the rest of the world. Israelis don't have as many kids. What's your point?
3. Okay so they're Arabs. Arab societies have problems? Of course you do realize not all Palestinians or Arabs for that matter are Muslim right? You do realize that some of the key figures in the PLO were Christians? Of course that word is meaningless in all these political contexts.
So because they're Arabs and Arabs are bad...therefore treat them like dirt. Got it.
4. Prove it. And how is it illegal anyway when they were living there to begin with?
5. Does anyone have the right to conquer and steal land from another people? This of course is a problem for Americans. Our patriotism informs our ethic on this point. If we grant it we delegitimize ourselves for we too are conquerors and land-stealers.
'It's founding was unjust, so what?'
Well, that's certainly a moral response. Blacks were treated like garbage in S.Africa. So what? Tibet has been destroyed. So what?
I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone on the Left who would support Mugabe. British rule was wrong. Mugabe has made things worse. He betrayed his own movement and followers.
Realpolitik is fine with me, but don't pretend that it's Christian, if that's what you're saying.

Gabriel M said...

First of all I am not a Christian.

Secondly, my point is simply to illustrate the gap between rhetoric and reality when it comes to Israel. I provided some typical examples, but it was strictly speaking unnecessary since your comparison to Nazi oppression really is all you need. It says a lot about you and, plainly, nothing whatsoever abut Israel.

I'm not going to get dragged down by your counter-arguments since they are plainly based on a misapprehension of my point, which I will now expand on.

It is clear that the issue of Israel functions as a lightning rod for all sorts of other contemporary obsessions.

1) That successful peoples who have got their act together should destroy themselves in an orgy of guilt whereas peoples who have made a mess of everything should take pride in their moral status as victims.

2) That any entity which fails to conform to some abstract ideal should be dissolved forthwith regardless of how many actual human lives are ruined by it and how little positive difference it makes to anyone else.

3) Because of past misdeeds certain people are irrevocably burdened with inherited sin, which renders automatically invalid all their attempts at eeking out for themselves a decent life.

4) What matters is that our souls are pure, not the havoc we have caused. (i.e. the guilt of those who brought about the end of white rule in Rhodesia for the hundreds of thousands it led to, despite their being warned that precisely that would happen and the abundant evidence from other African examples that it would happen, simply by their "not supporting" Mugabe)


Now as it happens, I don't disagree with you that these principles are expressions of true Gospel Christianity, in fact, I fear you may very be correct.



Protoprotestant said...

Gabriel,
Thanks for taking the time to write back and I appreciate your honesty.
I guess for me what seems like having 'their act together' is often code for figured out how to get the best of someone. I won't in any way dispute that many 'victims' have made their situation much worse.
The Palestinians have not helped their situation. The Arab world hasn't either. In fact many Arabs speak with great shame about the failures of their people. Bad leadership, a failure to unify, treachery, pettiness.
Let's go further and run the risk of stepping on some toes. Blacks in America have not helped themselves. Their families are in shambles and we know that alone would help them in so many ways. Just the stability of a family would eliminate so many other social problems.
So yes, people do bring a lot upon themselves. But I always think of a family member of mine. Bear with me. Her mother died shortly after birth. The father had abandoned them. Living with relatives she was molested by an uncle all through her childhood. She thought this aunt and uncle were her parents and then when they divorced when she was about 10, she found out they weren't her parents, and found out the awful truth about her real parents. Sent to live with some other relatives she was molested again. Then toward the end of high school, her boyfriend and you can imagine given the circumstances how close she would have been to him...commited suicide.
She launched into adulthood and fell into promiscuity and drug use. She pretty much destroyed her life. Along the way she had some children and as you might imagine, they didn't grow up so good. Now adults, they're even worse off in some ways.
At what point is she responsible? It's hard to say. At some point she has to take responsibility for her actions. No one made her sleep around or do drugs. No one made her make bad financial decisions and get into one crisis after another.
But can't you at least empathize with her and even to some degree her children? They never had a chance. Is she responsible? Yes. Can it be frustrating, aggravating, and maddening to deal with such a person? Yes. But the fact that this person doesn't have 'their act together' is no excuse to trash them either.

Protoprotestant said...

And those who harmed her do bear some responsibility. They helped make the mess. It's complicated and in many ways cannot be remedied.
There are many peoples around the world that corporately speaking are in the same boat as this relative of mine. I'm speaking metaphorically of course. They've lived in a world of lies and death and there doesn't seem a way out. They've been kicked around by powerful empires and they're a wreck. But treating them worse doesn't help or justifying mistreatment doesn't help either.
Many are bitter toward American blacks and their 'victim' status. Many can't figure out why they won't assimilate. Look at my relative. You're told this is the way to be. This is what is respectable. But what she sees is the power that abused her and the system that backs it up. Is she right? Yes...and no.
When I see a young black man who wears his clothes a certain way and talks a certain way....he may not even quite understand why he's doing it...but in a sense I can understand what's happening. Why would he want to be like me? I represent the system that enslaved his people. Okay things are better but now in order to get along he has to act like me, dress like me, talk like me? That's pretty insulting.
As a Christian I think only the Holy Spirit can work on our hearts and help us get past these things. Only then can we see how messed up it all is and that in many cases....there's no solution. There's no real justice that can be done. The world is under the curse of sin.
And then the poor guy if he grasps all this and just tries to 'get along'....dress conventionally, talk conventionally etc... he finds he's still no accepted and now many of his own people look at him like he's a traitor to boot or at the very least an Uncle Tom.
This doesn't excuse any kind of delinquent ghetto behaviour, but I have to at least try...though I will fail....I have to try to put myself in their shoes if I wan to be honest about the way things are.

Protoprotestant said...

In the case of Israel, it was pure madness, especially for secular Zionists to return to a land they had not controlled since the 1st century. Genetically many of the people living there are just apostate Jews that converted to Islam and were Arabized culturally. They have as much of a claim to it as anyone.
I figured you might be a Christian Zionist and would have to argue with that error, but that's not the case here. I understand your point, in fact at one time I would have argued the same.
But now they've been there for 65 years officially. Obviously the settlement started in earnest in the late 1800's. I realize there were Jews living there and I'm aware of all the arguments against Palestinian identity etc...
It's a mess. Israel isn't going to pack up and go. They're not going to move back to Europe or America.
But their treatment of the Palestinians just makes it worse and in this country Christian Zionists are feeding the fire.
1. Right of return
2. Settlements
3. Contiguous borders of a new state
4. Security
These questions can't be resolved because of the tensions between the Islamic world and the United States, because of the refugee situation... no one wants them. Pride plays no small role.
I am not the least bit surprised that Israel acts the way they do. Historically it's ironic, but in terms of my understanding of anthropology...it makes sense.
But I'm also not surprised the Palestinians act the way they do.
What I'm upset about is that fact that Christians wade into this and try to claim this or that is Christian. They're being dishonest about the mess of it all. It ends up just being a case of might makes right and then just look for arguments to defend it.
I don't think Israel has a moral case for conquering those lands. Yet, were I a European Jew in 1945... wow, I can certainly see why they did what they did. Enough was enough.
Begin and Sadat via Carter were able to make peace at Camp David because they set aside all the moral issues. It was pure pragmatics. Security. What do you need? And they had a deal.
While Christians can't approach the world in that kind of neutral fashion, in fact in the realm of power...that's about the best we can hope for. Christians were upset with Nixon's Realpolitik and his visit to China. It galled them that he shook Mao's hand. Yeah, I wouldn't have done it. But in the power game, Nixon realized at the end of the day if he stayed estranged that wasn't going to help the people in China either. His visit might or might not help, but staying away would do nothing. Nixon of course didn't give a rip about the millions dying in the Cultural Revolution. He was playing his own game and from the standpoint of American power...he definitely made a brilliant move.

Gabriel M said...

I used to agree that Palestinian political culture was so bizarrely and, might I say, comically self-destructive that it could only be a sort of mass psychotic reaction to oppression, but I don't think it really holds. I realise this is anecdotal, but, pound for pound, my limited research suggest that Syrians, Egyptians, Iraqis etc. are rather more unhinged and prone to self-destructive and violent behaviour as well as hateful, insane rhetoric. Now, it's true that the Arabs were net losers from he colonial era, but hardly more so than, say, the people of Hong Kong who built one of the most prosperous countries in the world on a barren rock. Or take Israel itself. Even if we were to agree that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is Nazi-like, they've managed to pick themselves up build up a pretty successful country for themselves. If anyone had an excuse to destroy themselves they did, but they didn't. Recently, I've been reading about how Israel has solved it's once chronic water shortages through desalination, allowing for the farming of wide areas that were once desert. Conversely the surrounding countries overuse their reservoirs, allowing seawater to run in, which ruins them for decades.

So, on to my main point, in the abstract I agree that Christian Zionism is pretty ludicrous, but I think in practice it plays a useful role in balancing out (just barely) post-Christian anti-Zionism, which I shall now explain.

Most Europeans and liberal Americans believe, basically, that by virtue of being born white and prosperous that have a stain on their souls that an only be solved by, as Christ said to the Roman soldier, giving away all their goods to the poor. But they are not actually going to do that so they outsource their guilt. First came Rhodesia, which was actually a relatively civilized arrangement, unbelievably so by African standards, which gave way to an ongoing epic disaster. Then it was South Africa, which was much worse, and which hasn't been so disastrous, but is still - by any rational measure - a worse place post-Apartheid. In both cases, western opinion could have campaigned for reform, for black rights to be respected, for a gradual process of integration etc. but only majority-rule-right-now would do, regardless of how many people got hurt. Now the focus is Israel, which has become an obsession of European discourse in a way that is really quite absurd. (I am British, by the way. Anti-Semitism also has a bit to do it, as does appeasing the growing Muslim minority, but the religion of white guilt is certainly the driving force.)

Now, who gains from a Palestinian state? Not the Israelis, obviously. Not the Palestinians who are very, very unlikely indeed to find themselves in a better run state and, on top of that, will not be able to resist the temptation to provoke endless conflicts with Israel that they will lose badly (as has happened in Gaza). Not the world, which will just have another basketcase to support and will lose contributions made to the global economy by Israeli settlers in hi-tech, chemicals and agriculture. The case is obviously even more extreme for an Arab dominated one-state solution, which many people support.

Gabriel M said...

Apart from a few gulf states who do not have an exportable economic model, the Arabs with the best lives in the Middle East are those who are citizens of Israel. I'm sure they suffer discrimination and what not and perhaps they still would even if the conflict were solved, but, nevertheless, they have it astoundingly good by regional standards. That is why whenever land swaps are proposed which would swap settlement blocs for areas of Israel that are majority Arab, like the Nazareth region, they are the biggest opponents. The number of Arabs inside Israel proper today is larger than the total number of Palestinians in 1948. If people really cared about the Palestinians as human beings, they would advise them to cut their birth rate, and campaign to be a minority in a Jewish state, which would be much better for them than to be a majority in their own state. But people don't care about them, they care about what's 'fair', what's 'just' what keeps their soul pure.

The thing about the Christian mind is that it is constantly looking for its next source of vicarious atonement for a stain that it can never wipe clean. Sometimes this is harmless, as with indulgences, sometimes it is not. And that is why I see Christianity as a religion of misery and death. Sometimes, I admit, this can be a good thing: take Mother Teresa, for example. I'm never going to be as good a person as her. But ultimately I believe in creation, production, happiness, success and life. And even though I realise that, from the perspective of the Gospel that is the voice of Satan, I'm not ashamed of it.

So, anyway, my basic point is that Israel's unfortunate status as lightning rod for the latent (and in your case not so latent) religious impulses of the post Christian West leads people to say things about it that have no real grounding in reality i.e. the Nazi comparison. I think you have one of the best blogs on the web and going through various posts of yours has been very stimulating, even though I oppose your whole worldview. Your comments on Israel, in context, diminish you, which I is why I was moved to post in the first place.

Protoprotestant said...

Gabriel M,

There's no doubt Israel in many ways is an amazing country and their resilience is hard not to admire. Even many in the Middle East will admit it in private. Israel shames them on many fronts. It was sort of an all or nothing gambit and largely it has paid off. In fact among the Christian Zionist community the near miraculous aspects to their success are for them only further vindication of Divine approval. Of course they wouldn't say the same about post-Mao China would they?
Yeah... Rhodesia. I have some Afrikaner friends and we talk a lot about S.Africa, Zimbabwe and the whole region. It is a shame. It's worse than a shame, it's a crime. To fix one crime they've committed another. Yes there's a lot of guilt with regard to colonialism and over the years the more I've looked into it I'm surprised people aren't more outraged.
I don't have the answers. Would Europe do better under German economic management? Perhaps but people won't have it. Would many poor minority communities do better if they're lives were taken over by the people who formerly oppressed them. Perhaps, but again...there's pragmatics and an ethic attached to pragmatics but there are also transcendent ethics that often overrule the pragmatic.
We watched this last night at a family graduation. Some relatives are divorced. Would it all work better if the mom and dad would just get along, take the photos together, sit together in the auditorium etc...? Sure. In many ways it would just work better and make sense. You could even argue it would be better for their kids and other family members and ultimately for the community. But it's not going to happen. There's been betrayal. They can be civil but to ask any more is to ask too much.
As far as Europe with the whole Muslim problem..... big problems on the horizon. It's not working. LePen, Golden Dawn, Wilders, and BNP they're all going to grow in popularity. I talk fairly regularly with one Englishman who lives here but is still pretty tied to Britain and he's definitely moving from Tory to UKIP. Have the Muslim immigrants made it worse for themselves? Sure. But it's not that simple.
I can resonate with what you're saying about the Arab citizens within Israel. Would that make the most sense? On a practical level, but there are a lot of emotions involved, a lot of crimes that have to be glossed over.

Protoprotestant said...

The world wants justice. I'm afraid the Palestinians, Jews and everyone else are dreaming if they think they're going to find it.
The world under sin is given over to futility. I believe the only justice we can hope for is found in Christ. I look for justice but at the Judgment and thankfully for me God won't show me justice, that is I won't get what I deserve. The debt is paid, but someone else paid it for me.
I can see why you would think Christianity is misery and death. It is about self-denial which is the exact opposite of what we call 'the world' teaches us. It gets confusing I'm sure to many because a good number of those who use the label Christian have embraced success and power.
We too believe in creation, production, happiness, success and life but for us that's only possible in Christ. When it's attempted apart from him, then it just ends up being another tower of Babel or Babylon. And at this point I do differ with many Christians in that I would say those expectations are only truly realize in heaven. Due to the futility generated by the curse of sin all of our labours, joys and advancements are bittersweet and do not satisfy. Ultimately this is not our home. We're here to be martyr-witness proclaiming the glory of God, to put our old nature death, to deny ourselves and proclaim the grace of God. It is attractive and brings joy but it takes the Holy Spirit's work to enable someone to see that. More than misery those who reject the Gospel see it as simply foolishness.
I'll grant you the Nazi comparison is extreme. The refugee camps are obviously not Auschwitz but the comparison resonates in so many ways because the whole moral foundation of the Israeli state rests on the Auschwitz narrative. It's the moral hypocrisy of the thing that draws the comparison. I realize this is just speculative but it deserves to be asked. If the world wasn't watching and criticizing Israel's actions, how much more would they do? What would Netanyahu do if he wasn't held in check a bit? What would they have done in the wake of the Six-Day War if there had been no restraint at all? Call me a bit of pessimist with regard to human nature but I think it could have grown quite ugly.

Protoprotestant said...

Of course I find it abominable that Christian Zionists would frankly support concentration camps...maybe a milder version like Kitchener's in the Boer War...if not outright cleansing and/or extermination. They wouldn't want to see smokestacks belching ash, but they wouldn't shed tears over Israeli death squads. Look at what happened in Latin America? They whitewashed the deeds. They would do it all the more with Israel because of the religious element.
Carter was probably more correct to identify it as Apartheid. However militant racial nationalism that crushes people can be called lots of things. South Africa often played the proxy for American interests during the Cold War and bounced around Africa getting into things, but they never quite took the aggressive posture toward their neighbours that Israel does. But at the same South Africa didn't have neighbours who wanted to see them wiped out and at times had the means or were trying to generate the means to do it.
From a non-Christian standpoint, again I can see why the Jews did what they did post-1945. And I can see why they behave the way they do today. I still think it was nuts for them do it there but whatever. I understand it but I think they've squandered any claims to moral uprightness or superiority they might have claimed in 1945. I think America never had any moral superiority to claim post 9/11 but they certainly did and many seemed to go along with it. But that too was completely squandered within just a few years.
Well, despite the disagreements I'm happy to have you reading my posts and please feel free to keep commenting on this thread or any other. You're obviously a pretty thoughtful person and have insights that would not only stimulate me but others who read here as well. I'm dying to ask you what part of the UK you're from but if you don't want to say that's quite alright.

Protoprotestant said...

GabrielM,

You may have already read it, but 'A Peace to End All Peace' by D. Fromkin is a good work dealing with the whole WWI/Post-Ottoman mess.

I found the book a little too anti-Arab and a little too pro-Churchill, but that might actually resonate with you. (smile)

Nevertheless it is an excellent work and very helpful. It's a tough read, even for someone who has a general familiarity with the geography and the historical personalities. You have to kind of wade through it. It's slow in places and some people I think find it quite boring but I have to say for me, parts of it were an absolute page turner.

Protoprotestant said...

This was a comment I left in response to an article that suggested the Palestinian people didn't exist until they were created in the 1960's.

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I've heard this many times before but it's not quite that simple. First, while it is true there wasn't a national identity before the late 19th and early 20th century that doesn't mean the people didn't exist.
Our concept of nationhood and identity is something we just take for granted. We're Americans. But for many people around the world, their identity was locality based. You were from a tribe or a village. Later people began to put things together and say...hey, all these tribes are speaking the same language and have the same customs etc... and then they began to forge a political identity viz., united for security and/or power.
This happened in Central Asia. Before the creation of the USSR there wasn't really a Tajikistan or an Uzbekistan. When the USSR broke up these peoples who had some notion of common identity began to form a political block.
When the Ottoman Empire was broken up and the British began to encourage Jewish settlement this led to a crisis. The land was in part underpopulated but also it had a different economy. It was far more agrarian and primitive at that, meaning it sustained less people per acre etc...
The concept of Palestinian began to form. Before this all the people who lived there Jews, Christians, Arabs etc... were reckoned Palestinians.
Genetically most of the Palestinians are the same people who have always lived there. Frankly a lot of them are Jews who converted to Islam during the Middle Ages. Since then they've been Arabized and no doubt there's been a mixing of people and intermarriages etc...
What's both sad and interesting is the number of Palestinian Arab Christians who have since the troubles been driven out...but used to make up a significant part of the population. Americans never paid any attention to this. We only like Christians in other countries when it's politically convenient. The fact that you had a bunch of anti-Zionist Christian Palestinians running around wasn't something American Evangelical audiences wanted to hear. There were Christians in the PLO and they didn't consider themselves to be terrorists either.
Of course ethnic Christianity is theologically bogus. I only point it out because it's not employed with any kind of sincerity or consistency.
I'm afraid many have used this 'Palestinians didn't exist' argument to excuse great evil. They didn't in a political sense, but they certainly did. I always ask though...where did they come from then? A massive conspiracy? That's usually what they think.
In terms of the population. Yes, it has exploded. Trapped in refugee camps, they've had a lot of kids. Normally under that kind of population density, people would be branching out, emigrating, expanding. But they can't. They're stuck. And so they keep growing. Gaza's about the mostly densely populated strip of land on the planet.
Just wanted to throw in my two cents....

Protoprotestant said...

I'm not trying to beat a dead horse here but I keep encountering articles related to this discussion. Here's one....

http://www.christianpost.com/news/understanding-the-evangelical-christians-support-for-israel-97200/

I posted the following comment:

It's both. For certain segments of the population there is a strong religious element. Even men like Balfour and Churchill who weren't the most ardent of Christians (if at all) were moved by the religious element. 19th century Postmillennialism while not exactly holding to the Dispensational narrative concerning prophecy still had an expectation of massive Jewish conversion to Christianity. And for many of them this 'moving' of the Jews was tied in with a restoration to the Levantine region.
There are many secularists, even secular Jews who view the question in terms of international law. Certainly the genesis of the modern Israeli state begins with Balfour, but the political mandate and the moral impetus behind it rests on Auschwitz. It is the Holocaust itself that provides the internationally accepted raison d'tre for the events of 1948.
However for many this mandate has been squandered. While many were willing to accept Al-Nakba in 1948, it's the events of 1967 and after which many find unacceptable. This is difficult for both sides. Israel struck pre-emptively and ended up expanding territory. I reject Just War theory as unbiblical but those who support it have a hard time justifying Israel's actions in '67 and after. The Palestinians of course are hardly free of blood-guilt but any people placed in an impossible situation will be driven to desperate action. Is the dog at fault because it strikes the hand that beats it? That can go both ways of course.
We are left with the irony that an ethnic-based militarist and highly nationalist state is a position of suppressing a population within their borders. This in itself (considering Israel's historical mandate) is not only historically ironic but essentially moral and superlative hypocrisy. For those who (for various reasons) reject the Jewish claim to that land, the situation is morally dubious and in the end fomented by Jewish claims and seizures of the land. If there's no solution, the only way to lay blame is to regress the argument. In the end if the Zionists hadn't tried to take the land, and Western Empires hadn't meddled in the affairs of others, then none of this would have happened.