Can There Be Peace? Israel and Palestine


Source: newstalk.ie

One of the most polarizing issues facing the world is that of Israel and Palestine. While one can find groups for a middle ground on a number of other issues, the Israeli-Palestinian issue seems to be cut-and-dry. Either one supports Israel in all its actions or one denounces Israel in all its actions and draws attention to the “plight of the Palestinian people.”

What everyone seemingly ignores is that both sides have legitimate claims on the land and subsequently both sides are engaging in genocidal acts and killing innocent civilians to validate their claims. One side calls on the Palestinians to stop their violent acts (and they should), but they don’t voice for the Israelis to stop oppressing the Palestinian people. Even if the Palestinian people stopped supporting violent acts against Israel, they would still be disenfranchised and forced to live in abject poverty.

Likewise, the other side calls on Israel to stop oppressing the Palestinians (and they should), but they don’t voice for the Palestinians to stop launching rockets into population centers or to stop targeting Israeli civilians. Many people on the “pro-Palestinian” side seemingly ignore or even partake in anti-Jew (it’s hard to say anti-Semitic since this would include Palestinians) propaganda. A simple perusal through the multiple Facebook groups and posts finds that the hatred extends beyond the so-called “Israeli Occupation,” but well into simply hating Jews.

It seems that those who support Israel believe the Palestinians should just up and leave, or die. It seems that those who support the Palestinians believe the Jews should just up and leave, or die. We have people who claim that the Palestinians are not really a people because they lack a culture and a language (can I use this same argument on the term “Americans”?), but turn around and you have people denying the Holocaust and saying that Jews don’t deserve to have rights. In the midst of it all, we have Christians denouncing Israel’s actions and taking up their old role of anti-Semitism, saying that the Jews persecute Christians and killed Christ, so why support Israel? Then we have Christians denouncing the Palestinians, declaring all actions of Israel justified as a way of self-preservation. In all of this blind rush to support one side or the other it seems that no one is really seeking actual peace.

What should the Christian position on this issue be? Regardless of how one feels about the Jews having their own nation (and rest-assured, for practical reasons they deserve their own nation; every other nation has persecuted them, so they need a safe-haven), the fact remains that they currently have one and it is currently located in Israel. We don’t need to turn to Biblical prophecy or anything like that to realize that Israel deserves to exist; Biblical prophecy has nothing to do with my beliefs on this (as I really don’t believe the current state of Israel to be a thing of prophecy). Rather, I think the Jews deserve to have their own land and it only makes sense for it to be in Israel, which already had a huge Jewish population in 1948.

Likewise, regardless of how one feels about the Palestinians having their own state (and rest-assured, for practical reasons they deserve their own nation; they’ve been massacred in all other nations they’ve gone to, so they need a safe-haven), the fact remains that they are people without a land and currently live in Israel. We don’t need to turn to Biblical prophecy or anything like that to denounce the existence of the Palestinians. They are people made in the image of God and therefore have certain rights.

So what’s the solution? Is there a middle ground on this issue?

Sadly, I simply don’t see a solution forming in any realistic sense. The idealists on both sides don’t realize that the only way for their solutions to formulate is for genocide to occur (either a complete killing of the Jews or a complete killing of the Palestinians). The Palestinian idealist and the Israeli idealist do share one common trait, and that is that both want to see the other side completely eradicated. For the Christian, this ought to be a far more complicated subject that it is; in short, an honest Christian cannot support the Palestinians or the Israelis. An honest Christian cannot support a system that is predominately run by radical Islamists who have no problem murdering innocent people, including their own people. Even if one admires their ends and their plight, at the point innocent civilians are targeted and treated as combatants, or used as human shields, one simply cannot support such a movement. Likewise, an honest Christian cannot support a secular state that seeks to oppress Christians as well as humans in general who aren’t of a certain ethnicity and religion. If Barak Obama attempted to pass laws in the United States against Christians that have been passed in Israel, there would be rioting and rebellion on the streets tomorrow morning. If we wouldn’t support it here, why should we support it overseas?

Ultimately, I think all political options have failed. I don’t think any amount of diplomacy will fix the problem at this point. Rather, politics has to wait for the cultures to catch up. In other words, the solution has to be found at a grassroots level among a small group of activists who just want peace. It needs to be a group that, instead of blaming one side more than the other, realizes that both sides are full of significant flaws that need to be corrected. Most importantly, they need to speak to their peers and do all they can to convince their peers that peace is far more preferable than continued bloodshed and animosity. Both sides need to find a way to avoid bloodshed and instead take on peaceful acts of civil disobedience; if bloodshed simply cannot be avoided, then it needs to stay between military combatants.

The arguments on both sides of number of Israeli deaths vs. number of Palestinian deaths, or the popular argument of “proportionate response” simply minimize this issue. The loss of life is not some brute and cold calculus that can be used to measure our response to a situation. Whether it is 18 Israelis dead to 100 Palestinians dead or 20 Palestinians dead to 40 Israelis dead, the fact is they’re dead. All military responses are inherently out or proportion to the initial attack – otherwise the military would never win. No war is won by even responses. This is the nature of warfare and why warfare should be avoided unless absolutely necessary; war will progress with disproportionate responses until one side finally says, “Enough,” or until one side is simply eradicated. Thus, to expect a proportioned response is naïve as no military that wants to achieve victory will ever do this. Instead, we need to cast aside our superfluous calculus and simply recognize that both sides are living in terror and both sides are mourning the loss of innocent loved ones.

As a Christian, I do believe that the Jews are God’s chosen people (for a more nuanced view of this, go here), but that doesn’t mean I need to support everything Israel does. Why should I support everything Israel does (a secular nation I might add, thus casting quite a bit of doubt that Israel fulfills any prophecy) when nowhere in the Bible do we find God supporting everything Israel does? Along the same lines, as a Christian I believe that all humans are made in the image of God and therefore should not be oppressed, but that doesn’t mean I should support the Palestinians in their actions against innocent civilians.

Thus, the Christian position is one that is ultimately one of non-support, but condemnation to both sides. I believe the Palestinians are made in God’s image. No amount of prophecy (or misinterpretations of Scripture), however, can convince me that God somehow wants them all wiped out or moved from the land of Israel. Such a belief is antithetical to the Gospel. At the same time, I believe the Jews are also made in God’s image. No amount of support for the oppressed, however, can convince me that the Palestinians are somehow justified in launching rockets into Israel or that all the Jews should be relocated. Again, such a belief is antithetical to the Gospel.

I do hope that one day there is peace. I hope one day the wall in Israel can be brought down, not for the sake of being brought down, but because there is no need for it. I hope one day to see two nations, not brokered by UN charters with UN “peacekeepers” at the border, but put together by both societies in a peaceful manner. I hope that one-day disputes over land are settled through negotiations and maybe even competitive trade, not through suicide attacks and helicopter gunships. Ultimately, I hope for peace, but this may just be a fool’s hope.

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Why P.Z. Meyer is Afraid


"Atheist Gothic"

Over at The Algemeiner, Rabbi Moshe Averick posted about the times he’s felt the wrath of P.Z. Meyer (which isn’t much of a wrath so much as it is a kid throwing a temper-tantrum in the middle of Toys R Us). The bigger issue that Rabbi Averick brings up is that atheists should really be embarrassed by the antics of P.Z. Meyer. After all, he openly calls people stupid, cusses out those who disagree with him, attacks the person rather than the argument (calling an argument “dumb” or “stupid” doesn’t really deal with the argument). One would think that atheists, who supposedly pride themselves on having a superior intellectual prowess compared to theists, would snub their noses at Meyer’s anti-intellectual approach to everything (including ID, where the argument Averick writes about, comparing ID to driftwood, is a weak argument).

Pictured: PZ Meyer Brute Squad

Yet, if you look to the comment section you’ll see that atheists not only aren’t ashamed of P.Z. Meyer, they’re in love with him and his tactics. Perhaps this is because Meyer released his brute squad on the website, but this begs the question of how his brute squad could be so big if atheists truly valued reason.

In fact, many of the comments go on to insult either the intellectual ability of Averick or just insult him as a person. But such tactics are becoming more and more common among atheists, to the point that one fears that if they were in the government they would be totalitarian oppressors, eradicating and removing the freedoms of anyone who is religious. After all, it’s not like fanatical secularism has cost the world millions of lives or anything. Of course, the greatest oppressor of the 20th century has been fanatics for secularism, which is what Meyer is, but we just haven’t learned our lesson.

At the core, however, what causes this blatant disregard for civility, understanding, and intellectual conversation? Certainly conversations can get heated or we can point to the ignorance of someone when speaking about an issue, but to start name-calling or using brute tactics in order to silent an opponent? Is that really intellectual? Other, more academic atheists, don’t seem to suffer from the same social disorder as Meyer does.

It’s not like disagreement should automatically cause people to be uncivil. For those who have kept up with my website, it’s no secret that I’m a conservative, orthodox Christian. Rabbi Averick and I would probably disagree on a few issues, namely the deity of Christ. Though I do not know Averick, I’d venture a guess and say that he and I could probably have a good discussion on the Deity of Christ (or lack of deity) without calling each other names or mocking the other’s belief. I could do this with a lot of Jews. I do have a few atheist friends where I could sit and talk to them about the existence of God without it ever turning into a series of ad hominem attacks. So it’s not as though disagreement itself requires us to insult those who disagree with us.

While I could point to certain philosophical underpinnings, I don’t think it would ultimately be helpful, for there are others who have the same underpinnings, but still act in a civil and respectable manner. So what is it that causes Meyer, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and their followers to be just downright nasty towards those who disagree with them? It’s not just one thing, but a multiplicity of things; they have no reason to be civil, they don’t really know what they’re talking about (on a philosophical level), they live in a world that lacks proper mystery, but most of all, they’re afraid.

Now not all outbursts are due to fear. Sometimes they come from being frustrated (this is often the case for me) because the other side just isn’t getting it. Other times it may just be because it’s been a bad day. But when your entire career and style is based upon insulting others, it’s generally out of fear. So what do Meyer and the new atheists fear? Quite simply, they fear the rise of Christianity in academia.

Prior to the 1960s it wasn’t thought that one could be a committed theist, much less a Christian, and hold a spot in a philosophy department. While such people did exist, they generally held their beliefs as a matter of private views, something that couldn’t be proven or shown to be reasonable. But we now live in a post-Plantinga world; it is through the works of Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, and other early theists that in the modern age theism – in philosophy departments – is once again viewed as a reasonable position. Even Christianity, via our Roman Catholic brothers and their Thomistic traditions, is starting to make a comeback among the academic elite.

And this has the new atheists scared. They don’t understand how someone could believe in a “magic sky fairy” or a “flying spaghetti monster” and then declare such a belief reasonable. It’s because they don’t really understand theism, nor do they understand the arguments behind theism. And as is common among humans, when you encounter something you don’t understand, but are also afraid of it, you lash out at it. Look at how many evangelicals deal with Roman Catholicism (or alternatively how many cradle Catholics deal with evangelicals). Look at how many people deal with Muslims, thinking every single one is a terrorist, but also look at how Muslims from foreign lands deal with those different from them. When we don’t understand something, yet are afraid of it, we lash out against it.

The new atheists are no different. Sadly, though they pass themselves off as intellectuals, they really aren’t. They don’t understand the arguments behind Christianity or Theism even if they feign that they do. Rabbi Alverick is merely a proponent of a theistic system (Judaism) that ultimately isn’t understood by the new atheists, but in their minds theism has caused the Crusades, the witch hunts, Hitler’s Germany (yeah, they actually make that argument…tie that one to RABBI Alverick), and a whole host of other ills. In his BBC “documentary” Root of All Evil?, Richard Dawkins implies that religion and theism, specifically Christianity, is the root of all evil in the world. So when Meyer goes after Alverick, it’s no surprise that he attacks Alverick as a person and calls him stupid and cusses at him rather than dealing with the actual intellectual arguments that Alverick offers.

Keep in mind that these new atheists, most of whom lack training in philosophy (even Harris’ undergraduate degree in philosophy is laughable when comparing it to the multiple degrees from those he attacks), are calling “stupid” men and women who are some of the most respected names in the field of philosophy. Meyer has even gone after Francis Collins, who is one of the foremost experts on genetics and one of the most respected scientists of our time. Why? Because Collins believes in God, which is something that Meyer just cannot understand and doesn’t seek to understand. It’s far more comfortable to sit in a room full of one’s own ideas, lashing out at any different ideas, than to encounter and be challenged by opposing ideas. And that’s fine, no one is saying that Meyer and the new atheists have to leave their comfort zone, but stop passing it off as intellectual. They should at least be honest and admit that they’re an emotional overreaction to the inevitable; the belief in God will continue to exist and will never die out, because as a species we simply know better.

The misery of being against all things religious


It seems that anytime a public display of religion occurs, there’s someone somewhere who finds a way to sue over it. Take, for instance, southern Illinois. About fifty years ago, a group of farmers got together to raise money to put a cross on southern Illinois’ highest point. The action was faith-based as they wanted to cross to cause self-reflection and incite a need for Jesus. As time has gone on, the cross has become much more of a tourist attraction due to its immense size (bringing in money for the state) rather than something that causes conversions.

Since the law of entropy is still in effect (and doesn’t seem to be relenting its hold on the material world anytime soon), in the last fifty years, the cross has slowly decayed. Since it does bring in revenue for the state (due to tourism), the state decided to give $20,000 to the estimated $500,000 needed for renewal. This has caused an atheist in Illinois to sue the state to get the money back, citing separation of church and state.

Now the lawsuit is, in a lot of ways, absurd. For one, let us assume in a possible world that the Greek parthenon was located in the United States. Let’s say that the Native Americans worshipped ancient gods in this parthenon. Furthermore, let us also assume that we still had the first amendment. As time went on, the parthenon began to decay. Even if some people in the US viewed the Parthenon as religious, would the US be wrong to give money to the parthenon to have it restored? The answer is no. They’re not supporting a religion by doing so, instead they’re helping to solidify what would be a tourist attraction and a historical landmark.

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