Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.
          Psalm 122:6

It is not possible to say anything about Israel-Palestine without seriously offending someone. American Jews are offended when American Christians are critical of Israel for its policies and treatment of the Palestinian people, for the continuing construction of Settlements in the face of international and American opposition, on land needed for a future Palestinian state, for civilian casualties as Israel pursues militants who are in the process of planning and carrying our rocket attacks which target Israeli civilians, and for what seems for all the world as a simple lack of commitment to any process that might result in an independent Palestinian state.

American Christians are offended when Jewish neighbors imply, and sometimes outrightly accuse, any criticism of Israel as anti-semetic. Christians remember how Jews and Christians stood shoulder to shoulder in a powerful partnership during the Civil Rights Movement, challenging unjust laws and practices in this country and wonder why few Jewish voices and organizations are not raised in criticism of Israel’s continuing construction of Settlements.

Indeed, efforts to say and do something positive, investing in Palestinian businesses for instance, are met with skepticism and criticism, from the left for not holding Israel accountable for human rights violations, and from the right for supporting a government that either sponsors or chooses to ignore rocket attacks on Israeli citizens.

Polls , in the meantime, continue to suggest that everyone understands that peace depends on a two-state solution, an autonomous, viable and secure Palestinian state sharing a border with a safe and secure Israel.

Why doesn’t it happen? Political dynamics inside Israel are more than complex. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu did not receive a majority vote in the last election. He governs on the basis of a coalition which includes parties representing the growing far right. Those parties and their leaders seem to have no interest whatever in finding a way toward peace with the Palestinians. Netanyahu faces a national election in the near future. Should he more toward engaging the Palestinians, his right wing partners would abandon him and he could lose the election. People who are close to the situation understand that the greatest threat to the Prime Minister is from the right, not the left.

The Palestinian territories, the West Bank and Gaza, meanwhile are governed by two different and competing entities. Fatah, in the West Bank, is by far the more moderate. Hamas, which governs Gaza, continues to call for a Palestinian state on the entire area including what is currently the state of Israel. Hamas, on paper at least, is committed to Israel’s demise and Hamas leaders consistently refuse to back away from or soften that commitment.

American church commitments to the Palestinian people’s sovereignty and security lead not only to criticism of Israeli policy but also efforts to influence that policy by targeted boycotts and divestment, which were a factor in ending Apartheid in South Africa, and , most recently a letter from a group of American denominations asking congress to reconsider military aid to Israel in light of Israel’s violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people. The statement was remarkable, not only in that no one seems to have paid any attention to it, but also its failure to recognize the very real threat Israel faces. Hamas and Fatah are moving closer to each other. Hamas wants Israel to be destroyed and either sponsors or ignores persistent rocket attacks on Israeli citizens. Egypt’s newly elected government may be influenced by Islamists who are far less tolerant of Israel’s existence. In Syria, a popular uprising that has evolved into a full-scale ciivil war, may topple the Assad regime and be hijacked by militant Islamists who are flooding into Syria to fight the regime. Jordan’s friendly government is also under pressure from an unhappy citizenry. And at that moment, with exquisitely bad timing, American Christian churches suggest that military aid to Israel be reduced.

So, Israelis are afraid and American Jews are uneasy.

The most hopeful thing I have read recently was a recent New York Times front page report about the Rabbis and lay leaders of an Upper West Side Synagogue who sent an e mail to congregants supporting the vote by the United Nations to upgrade Palestine to to nonmember observer status. The statement called the vote a “great moment for us as citizens of the world…an opportunity to celebrate the process that allows a nation to come forward and ask for recognition.

Jews and Christians join to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” It is not always clear what specifically we should pray for. Personally, I am praying for political leadership in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and the United States, with courage to take the risks peace will require. A starting point might be for Israel to stop building settlements on land the Palestinians will need for a viable state. And for Fatah and Hamas to stop arguing long enough to control and eliminate rocket attacks on Israel and to move beyond threats to Israel’s existence.

Comments

  1. Jeff Nguyen says:

    Israel is Goliath to the Gaza’s David. Last I checked, God always seems to take the side of the oppressed and forsaken.

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