A diet too-long confined to nothing but the thin soup of Fox News has unfortunate consequences. Among them is acute cognitive indigestion when cherished beliefs are challenged by contrary points of view. Such were the symptoms that manifested themselves yesterday.
[Jane], a relative newcomer to an ongoing email discussion of Middle Eastern realities (between ex-expats who once lived “over there”), has been steadfast in her recitation of standard Tea Party fare — simplistic, jingoistic drivel about who’s right (Israel, always) and who’s wrong (Muslims, always, everywhere).
Challenged by a barrage of facts and opinions that would not properly align with spoon-fed sensibilities about what is proper, patriotic American fear and loathing, [Jane] angrily responded with a frenzy of flummery — a litany of Islamophobic creed and pro-Israel apologetics. Here is the condensed version:
What on earth is wrong with YOU guys?
God gave the Jews that land long before Mohammed ever took his first breath…
WAKE UP!!! The Muslim Brotherhood and all their splinter organizations… They want Islam and Sharia Law to rule the world…
Have you guys seen Iranium The Movie yet? Worth watching (one hour long).
My first instinct was to respond to [Jane] with this silly movie clip:
…but there were two excellent responses I am posting here, with their authors’ permission. Parts of my own response are in the comments section following.
From: David Allen
Sent: Saturday, February 19, 2011 6:55 PM
Subject: RE: What on earth is wrong with these people?
God gave the Jews that land long before Mohammed ever took his first breath.
Wrong; but a common misunderstanding that comes from a profoundly eisegetical, rather than exegetical reading of the Bible. This is one of those cultural fallacies that has crept into our reading of the Bible similar to the belief that it was an apple that Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden, even though Genesis never says apple in the story.
If you believe the Bible and study the Bible God gave the land to the descendants of Abraham, not “Jews.” One can get argumentative and say that the land defined today as Israel/Palestine is promised to the descendants of Isaac, not Ishmael. Even by that argument today’s Jews lose the Biblical claim. Genetically the Palestinians are almost certainly purer descendants of Isaac than are the Ashkenazi Jews who colonized modern Israel.
At the time of Jesus there were a number of Jewish sects, the two primary ones identified in the New Testament being the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Soon after, of course, there was another Jewish sect, the Christians. What we identify today as Jews are Talmudic or Rabbinical Jews, an even later developing sect, but perhaps primarily theologically descended from the Pharisees.
The Diaspora, of course, started well before the time of Jesus; so the genetic scattering and intermarriage of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was well underway by the time of Jesus. The Samaritans of Jesus time were the Palestinians of today; the indigenous Jews who remained behind during one exile and then were treated poorly by the returning Jews because during the exile they had morphed into a somewhat different ethnic group. In A.D. 70 and 135 there were “Jewish” revolts against the Romans that led to some more minor offshoots of the Diaspora. Contrary to propagandistic mythology Palestine was not depopulated at that time. A large indigenous population remained. In the centuries between those revolts and the coming of Mohamed the population of that land became primarily Christian. With the Muslim conquests a significant part of the indigenous population converted nominally to Islam. One of the ironies of the crusades was that the cruelty and xenophobia of the Crusaders probably accelerated and cemented the conversion of much of the indigenous population from Christianity to Islam. Genetically though the population remained primarily descendants of both Jews and Christians and the indigenous people who predated both, not Saudi Arabs. There would have been some Arab, or “Ishmaelic,” blood introduced into the geographic area but it would have been mainly among the ruling classes, and a definite minority.
There is good reason why the results of DNA studies in modern Israel have been suppressed. They would almost certainly show that the strongest genetic claim to descent from the Jews of Jesus time belongs to the Palestinians and, probably, that many of the Palestinians are more closely related to some Jewish groups than to the Saudis. Interestingly one of the results of the DNA studies that has come out, is that the Kurds are genetically more closely related to the Jews than other Middle Eastern groups. Does that mean the Kurds should have the Right of Return?
And politically, as an American, all of the above, no matter what my personal religious or racist beliefs is arrant nonsense as claims for political hegemony. True American republican democracy means a belief in self-determination and representative government not based on religion or ethnic divisions. Given those political beliefs the two-state solution could never be more than a stop-gap measure that should be a blip in history; just as South and North Vietnam, and South and North Korea were not anybody’s true desire for a final outcome. Ultimately there can only be a one-state solution for Israel/Palestine. What we all need to work toward is educating the peoples of that region in true democracy, not a Jewish Israel or a Muslim Palestine (and what of the Christians, Druze?).
What is deeply disturbing is that any American who has lived in the Middle East can believe in the nonsensical fear-mongering of “driving them into the sea.” That speaks unfortunately to how many of us lived overseas contentedly in American ghettoes, going to American schools, American community churches, and lived in the section of town where all the foreigners lived. Nobody who lived among Arabs as neighbors and made friends with them, could really believe that Arabs are somehow inherently more racist than Israelis. I have yet to become aware of any Arab political leader in an equivalently prominent leadership position who is as openly, significantly racist as an Avigdor Lieberman.
And once and for all, at least among those of us who know the real Middle East, let’s drop the nonsense of “the only functioning democracy in that region of the world.” What of Turkey? What of our own poor Lebanon? It may be a flawed democracy with its Christian, Muslim, and Druze quotas but certainly no more so than Israel with its institutionalized favoritism to one ethnic group. The minute Israel dropped its insistence on being a Jewish state, as opposed to a true democracy, it would have millions of allies in the Arab world; then a true democracy in which Jews could live safely could become a reality. That is not pie-in-the-sky dreaming. The willingness of many in the Arab street to ally themselves with a truly democratic Israel against their own despotic regimes is very real; but the controlling political parties in Israel from the very beginning have rebuffed any overtures from any Arab group and insisted on being deeply discriminatory against the indigenous population.
From: Richard Hanna
Sent: Sunday, February 20, 2011 12:22 AM
Subject: Re: What on earth is wrong with these people?
Thank you, David and Andy and others for marvelous rebuttals to the long commentary about God giving the land of Israel to the Jews. Excellent! I hope that any who read them will reflect both theologically and politically on this deeply troubling issue. My mother was born and raised in Acre, Palestine, and according to her accounts, Arab Muslims, European and native Jews and Arab Christians all got along well – until it became clearer and clearer that the Jews, most of whom came from Europe, weren’t just content to share the land – they wanted to take it. And with the help of Western nations they did. The last 63 years the Arabs have been trying to get their homes and their land back. I imagine that if I had experienced such a great injustice – and all calls for justice appeared to be falling on deaf ears – I would grow bitter and resort to violence to make my voice heard. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)
Now, I agree with the one who said, “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Their record in not unflawed. But they have been the victims of terrible injustice – and are still living with the awful consequences of that injustice today. Our government needs to do its part to help right that wrong.
Richard Hanna, ’73
PS: David, my best friend from my Senior year of High School and a fellow Presbyterian elder, I was VERY IMPRESSED with your theological analysis and commentary. Brilliant.