Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Retribution or Distribution

Amos 5:24 (New International Version)

“But let justice roll on like a river,
Righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

I received an interesting comment from Dr. John about yesterday’s post:

“Hamas didn’t get elected because of their virulent hatred of Israel.”

“The Palestinians have lived under an incredibly corrupt regime for all of the time the PA has been in charge. The West has been incredibly generous with assistance to the PA, which the leadership stole, hid, used as bribery fodder.”

“In the destitute neighborhoods of Gaza and the West Bank, the PA cannot deliver so much as the most rudimentary services. Hamas stepped in and filled that void. Potable water, prenatal care for expectant mothers, education facilities, even trash removal. The Palestinian population, of course, is backing those who can deliver on what they promise – like a lot of us, they are fed up with corruption and are now ready to back any alternative to the status quo. In the case of Hamas, they are backing an organization that they have see is able to deliver the goods.”

There’s some truth in that. There’s no doubt that corruption played a role in the election. But there’s a larger truth here. Hamas has a charter, and the blueprint of what they intend to do is there. As I said yesterday, it’s unambiguous. This is a political party with murderous intent and Israel and the Jewish people are the targets:

“So what is left for Hamas and all Muslims to do? Despite Hamas’ pro-forma statement that “humane” Hamas will tolerate Jews and Christians only under the impossible condition that they live under Islamic fundamentalist domination (Article 31), the genocidal logic of Hamas' foundational document is explicit: “Hamas has been looking forward to [implementing] Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree.” (Article 7)

While I have no doubt that there is a great need for reform within the Palestinian political movement, I cannot in good faith let it cloud my judgment and assume that Hamas’s political victory will translate into good will toward the Jewish people. In truth, the overriding dream of Hamas, the landslide winners of the Palestinian elections, is the destruction of the state of Israel and death to any Jew, anywhere. That’s what was voted into office.

I learned this much from working closely for two years with a professional associate from Palestine. No one in our organization was sure how things would work for us when he was assigned to my team. Some thought putting a devout Muslim and a devout Christian together was like mixing oil with water. But, they were wrong. We found over our time together that we had a lot in common. We both had strong a strong work ethic. We both shared a deep desire to do our very best every day. There wasn’t even a hint of professional jealousy in our relationship.

Even when it came to matters of religion we found areas of agreement. We came to see that while our theology diverged, our humanity converged. While we often debated, usually over lunch, we never let the differences fracture the good relationship we’d established.

Even though there were things we could share in common, though, we found a significant gap in our discourse. There were a lot of things I could reason with him about, but when the subject was Israel, the Jewish people, and the right of the state of Israel to live peacefully within its borders, things changed. He could never bring himself to accept a two state solution. We could agree that there was a pressing need for reform within the Palestinian political movement. We could agree that the international community, including the United States, needed to support the right of the Palestinian people to establish a state within the family of nations. I even found myself in lock step with him when others expressed dismay at his “clinging to a few acres of dirt.” I knew that he, like many of my Jewish friends, hold that this land is special. I knew that both lay claim to it as a Divine gift. I never saw it as a trivial matter.

We could never agree, however, on the subject of Israel and the Jewish people. His view, which he said was held by the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, was that Israel had to be driven to the sea and that the Jewish people should to be wiped from the face of the earth.

Does the rhetoric sound familiar?

I would plead with him, trying my best to let him know that I believed that God had given promises to two of Abraham’s sons:

Genesis 17:19-21 (New Living Translation)

“19But God replied, “Sarah, your wife, will bear you a son. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my everlasting covenant with him and his descendants. 20As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will cause him to multiply and become a great nation. Twelve princes will be among his descendants. 21But my covenant is with Isaac, who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year.”

But nothing I said, or could say, would change his mind or heart. There was no room for compromise. The nation of Israel and the Jewish people had to be exterminated.

Two sons. Two destinies intertwined. The Biblical view leaves room for both sons to be blessed. Unfortunately, Muslim theology rejects this as fabrication and replaces the Biblical account with Ishmael being the object of the sacrifice, and consequently the blessing of God (Surah 37:101-107).

This is the point of great division. This is the root of the problem. What began with two sons and two promises has become the source of the bitterness, hatred, and bloodshed we see on an almost daily basis. Two people who should be living together in harmony cannot find any path to peaceful co-existence. It’s a tragedy of epic proportions.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen the attempts to find a peaceful solution. And, I’ve seen them all fail. No accord seems to work. Each roadmap offered seems to be nothing more than paper filled with roads leading nowhere.

Nowadays, the fashionable answer is to blame Israel and the Jewish people for the problem. I cannot accept that view. While I’m realistic enough to know that Israel is not a utopian state, I’m also wise enough to know that the Palestinian people want more than reform. They want Israel destroyed. That’s one of the things they voted for. Hamas may be seem to be deferring that plan right now, but the 1988 charter is still in force

This has been clear for generations now. In 1937, for example:

“The Peel Commission recommended a partition plan by which to resolve what it characterized as an “irrepressible conflict…between two national communities with the narrow bounds of one small country. Because of the general hostility and hatred of the Jews by the Muslims, “national assimilation between Arabs and Jews is…ruled out.” Nor could the Jews be expected to accept Muslim rule over them, especially since the grand mufti made it clear that most of the Jews would be transferred out of Palestine if the Muslims gained complete control. The Peel Commission concluded that partition was the only just solution.”

A plan was offered, and:

“The Jews reluctantly accepted the Peel partition plan, while the Arabs categorically rejected it, demanding that all of Palestine be placed under Arab control and that most of the Jewish population of Palestine be “transferred” out of the country because “this country (cannot) assimilate the Jews now in the country.”

That’s the sad reality we’re still living with. Should it be the reality? Of course not! But, when the political aim of one people is the destruction of another, reason and brotherhood cannot prevail.

Despite this seemingly hopeless situation, I know we must keep trying to find a way to reclaim the promise made to two brothers of a homeland, a destiny, and peace. I dream of a day when the people of Israel will see:

“The plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.
14And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
15And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.”

And, I also dream of a day when the people of Palestine will find peace, justice, and reconciliation. As it is written:

“But those who believe and work righteousness will be admitted to gardens beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever with the leave of their Lord. Their greeting therein will be: “Peace!” (Surah 14:23)

I believe that the promise of peace and good will is there for both heirs of God’s promise to embrace. But, it cannot be grasped by one until it accepts the viability of that promise for the other. To that end, Hamas, the Palestinian people, and the Arab world must work toward accepting Israel and the Jewish people as neighbors in this great garden of promise. This vision of distributive justice must supplant the retributive justice now being fostered. Until that happens, there will be no peace.

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JollyRoger said...

I don't think you and I disagree on the aims of Hamas. My observation was confined strictly to how Hamas managed to get itself elected.

History is full of these kinds of things-when you think that there is nobody else who is "honest," you may well hold your nose and go for the "honest" scoundrel. Germany in 1931 is a good example of this-while most rank-and-file Germans did not harbor the ambitions and hatreds of Hitler, he was seen by many as the "alternative" to the near-chaotic state wrought by the Weimar Republic.

prying1 said...

I have hope for a bright future in the Middle East and indeed the world. I'm confident that the Living God desires it too...