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By Ignoring History, Christians—Like Many Others—Get the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Wrong

Aug. 15 2017

Enthusiastic and well-meaning Christians who naively hope to foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Robert Nicholson writes, tend to turn a blind eye to the facts:

Who has not encountered these zealous “ambassadors of reconciliation” who leap from issue to issue, injustice to injustice, driven by a Christ-like concern for the downtrodden but afflicted by a raging case of presentism? These peacemakers have little interest in how a given injustice came to be because the task of acquiring such knowledge would be so arduous as to impair their ability to parachute in and out of conflict zones with one-size-fits-all solutions. What matters is today: what I see, what I feel, what God is telling me. History is supplanted by sentiment, or—to hear them tell it—the urging of the Holy Spirit.

This approach was affirmed in a recent Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking seminar held at a popular U.S. megachurch in Chicago. Teaching a rapt audience how to facilitate reconciliation between Jews and Arabs, the speaker said, “Both sides have their own experiences of the same events. At some point it really doesn’t matter who started it if we want to play the role of the peacemaker.”

That Christians would approach the world this way is bizarre. Many writers over the centuries have pointed out that Christians, like their Jewish forebears, are perhaps the most historically-minded of all people. . . . For the Christian, transcendent meaning can only be found in an appreciation of history. “In contrast to ahistorical cultures,” Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in his book Faith and History, “biblical faith affirms the potential meaning of life in history. It is in history, and not in a flight from history, that the divine power which bears and completes history is revealed.” . . .

By way of example, Nicholson cites an article from the Economist on the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, which betrays the same sort of indifference to history:

To read [this article] is to encounter Jews resolving ex nihilo to bomb other people’s planes and take other people’s cities for no other reason than to pray in Jerusalem. That the Six-Day War was a response to an abiding and active Arab plan to destroy the young Jewish state goes entirely unstated. . .

“Fifty years after 1967,” [the essay concludes], “it has become too easy for Israel to forget that, just a short drive away, the grinding occupation of Palestinians has become all but permanent.” Here [the Economist’s author] touches on one of the most vexing issues of the conflict, subtly implying that Israel is to blame for the situation and therefore bears the burden for fixing it.

Following the logic of his article, that seems right. Following the logic of history, that seems wrong. Following the logic of the peacemaking seminar, it doesn’t really matter: whoever seems to be suffering the most right now deserves compensation from the other. Pursuing justice is noble, but this kind of indiscriminate pursuit may indeed lay the world to waste.

Read more at Providence

More about: Christianity, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Jewish-Christian relations, Reinhold Niebuhr, Six-Day War

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy