U.S. Involvement in The Great Game Realpolitiks in Gaza

With the news of Israel’s blockade of Gaza still hot all around the world because of the Israeli attack on the activist boats- I think it is important to look back and assess how we have got to this point of chaos, confusion and rage.

I am going to offer a link to a Vanity Fair piece from April, 2008 “The Gaza Bombshell” by David Rose. What is interesting about this article is the evidence and argument that the U.S. policy-makers, starting with President George W. Bush, made the situation in Gaza much worse by meddling in the old tradition of the covert “Great Game” as practiced by the colonial powers throughout the Middle East from the time of WWI.

It is important to note the causes behind Hamas’ rocket attacks against Israel- were they in retaliation for anything Israel was doing with respect to Hamas’ personnel or the Gazan people in general? Was there ever a diplomatic pathway that was subverted or left untried, that could have prevented the rocket attacks on Israel (or severely limited their scope), and also prevented the collective suffering of the many Gazan people living in what has been described as so-called 4th World conditions- never a recipe for good relations or non-violent outcomes?

As you will read- the article details how President Bush pushed for legislative elections in Gaza to try to get some fresh blood into the Fatah political movement- despite warnings that Fatah was not ready for such elections. The fact that Hamas succeeded in those democratic elections caught our leaders completely off-guard. The response was to go covert and try to remove Hamas from power with a Fatah-coup, financed and controlled by “our guys”.  This all backfired and led to Hamas taking more-or-less exclusive control over all of Gaza, and becoming more militant all around. What is striking and challenging for me,  is that we can tolerate how our own leaders will claim to be all about giving people the opportunity to vote and have a democratic say in the Middle East and elsewhere- but apparently this is to be believed only as long as the democratic outcome is the one our leaders wanted- and if not,  then all bets are off, and nothing ,it seems, is off the table- including undermining elections and orchestrating violent coups. If this is actually true- then I have big problems as an American Catholic.

I don’t see how the amoral pragmatism of Realpolitiks- in terms of foreign relations- fits in with the global solidarity and subsidiarity principles of Catholic social teachings. We need our ‘Yes’ to mean Yes, and our ‘No’ to mean No, as individuals and as a nation. We need transparency in our communication, we need to be consistent in our moral code.  We cannot act with a mafia-style morality, where we love intensely and take great pride in our honor only as far as our family or national loyalties go. We cannot say to our neighbors, or even our enemies, “With you I play very differently- with you I lie, cheat and steal because you lie, cheat and steal”.  Thinking to ourselves: “Your morality becomes my morality- or even worse- I don’t care if you are trying to be decent, I will seek material and worldly advantage through whatever means are available to me or to my national powers.  My self-interest, or national interest, supercedes the teachings of even Jesus Christ and His Church- for I live in the “real world” not the heavenly one. “. Though many such men/women with political/economic power may also believe that God will forgive or even understand that this was all just an unfortunate means to a good or better end. It is a firm Catholic bedrock principle that the means and ends must both be morally sound.

It has been said that Christianity has not failed, it has just never been actually tried on a broad enough scale. I’m thinking of St.Augustine’s City of God thesis- how Rome fell not because of her new Christian faith, but because that Christian faith had not penetrated deep enough to prevent the moral and material collapse.  I do not want to be part of another such historical phenonomen- and so I question very intently the nature of my own nation- a superpower. I do not question because I hate my citizenship as an American, I do not hate myself, I do not hate our American government- I actually have a much more positive view of our current system of governance than most- I don’t see the problems being so much systemic,  but as being the result of inaction and indifference among too many Americans- Catholics in particular- allowing for shallow and/or corrupt types of individuals to become Representatives of “The People”.  I ran for office myself, and recommend it to anyone who is of goodwill and believes they have a solid claim on truth and morality in the socio-political issues of our times.  Now here is the article that got this ball rolling- I appreciate your time and consideration:  http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/04/gaza200804?currentPage=1

46 Responses to U.S. Involvement in The Great Game Realpolitiks in Gaza

  • Excellent analysis, especially on the historical tie between the Christian’s moral responsibility with the Roman Empire and our own responsibility with the American experiment. In this article you call to mind the sad obligation of the prophet. Amos, Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah had the unhappy responsibility to call the Hebrew community to moral accountability and unfortunately their words went unheeded and Israel had to learn through hardship and suffering. Jesus Christ also spoke the moral truth to a corrupt social power and within a generation Jerusalem was destroyed. What will be are lot.

    We seem to have such an unreflective society and this in the end will make us morally bankrupt as well. But hope in God we have and struggle we must to awaken the American population to the great values that once guided this nation and to the post war principles that it helped to create in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  • Frankly the fact that Hamas was elected in a quasi-Democratic election in Gaza is of no more moral significance to me than the fact that the Nazis came to power in 1933 in German in a legal fashion. Of course the article you cite is completely wrong-headed. Hamas has always had a stronger following in Gaza than Fatah, because Hamas is regarded, rightly, as being much more wedded to the idea of waging war ceaselessly against Israel, which is what most Gazans want. The policies followed by the Hamas government are completely in accord with what a majority of the Gazan population want. Their war against Israel, unfortunately for them, simply, and predictably, is not going well.

  • It seems that what you’re saying is that Hitler should have been supported because he was legally elected. We should not have stopped his rampage throughout Europe or his extermination plans? Or perhaps the world should have waited until Germany’s next election to vote Hitler out of office? No matter the millions of lives which would have been terminated by then? It is legal in our country to perform abortions…should we cease fighting against the extermination of life in the wombs of mothers because, after all, it is the law of the land? I don’t understand you…

  • wow- so Hamas equals Hitler? In essence the Palestinians are Nazis who are just crazy to kill every Israeli they meet? I can’t argue with such fantasies- and I won’t because it is such a worn out rhetorical device used by the Left and Right to cover their own inadequacies in presenting the facts on the ground. I’m looking for more thoughtful comments- anybody out there?

  • wow- so Hamas equals Hitler? In essence the Palestinians are Nazis who are just crazy to kill every Israeli they meet?

    Considering that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians don’t believe that Israel has a right to exist, and that many if not most have little moral problem with strapping bombs to people in order to murder scores of innocent Jews, I’d say the comparison is a little less fantastical than that.

    I’m looking for more thoughtful comments-

    You first.

  • “wow- so Hamas equals Hitler?”

    Not quite Tim. Hamas lacks the power to kill every Jew in Israel. If they had the power, based upon prior statements made by Hamas leaders, I have no doubt they would kill every Jew until Palestine was Judenfrei.

  • I think the analogy holds up fairly well if you consider that the extermination of Jews was an objective of the Nazis, but not necessarily of the German people. A good number of Germans were apathetic over what the Nazis were doing, those who would have strongly objected remained silent and inactive out of fear.

    Similarly, a distinction should be made between the Islamic Palestinian people and Hamas and other groups. Thing is the extermination of Jews has a religious character here and it seems the average Islamic Palestinian is far more likely to be inclined to support Hamas’ rhetoric and objectives than the average German was to the Final Solution. I’m distinguishing between Islamic Palestinians and Christian Palestinians because I think the Christians have have suffered at the hands of Israel and would certainly want things differently, but they don’t necessarily hate Jews and want them cast into the sea.

  • Tim,

    I agree with Donald that the Vanity Fair article is completely wrong-headed (Vanity Fair? Really?). IT starts, it seems to me, from an assumption that Israel = wrong/support of Israel = wrong.

    I also disagree with your analysis of what you describe as our Realpolitik, and I disagree that our Yes should mean Yes and our No should mean No as a practical guide to international relations. While it is an ideal to be pursued, it can’t and won’t work in our international community until *everyone* approaches international relationships this way.

    Our government’s first concern should be the preservation of the state. Our country has a right to exist (as does Israel, as does Iran, as does Turkey, etc.). One could argue that the Palestinian people have a right to a homeland too; of course, they’ve never had one (and that isn’t the fault of the US), so it’s hard to say where that should be.

    As to the way events unfolded in the West Bank and Gaza Strip…well, I for one cannot blame the Bush administration for trying. Was it a correct move to try to force Hamas out? Uh…Yeah it was. Hamas is bad. Fatah is to, but the enemy of my enemy being my friend, Fatah had to look like a pretty good compromise. Are there bad people in Fatah? Of course there are. Apparently, there were some pretty bad people among the “peace activists” on that Turkish-flagged vessel, too (good people don’t beat downed soldiers with pipes).

    Governments sanction actions that harm people all the time in order to pursue their national interests. In the case of a war, a government would sanction the killing of other people (objectively evil) in order to protect its country; cities sanction the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers against evil-doers in order to protect its citizens. Your outlook about America’s support for Israel and work against Hamas in the Gaze Strip is simplistic at best.

    THanks.

  • - I’m a bit unclear what the author of the article thinks should have been done. He blames the US for supporting elections when Fatah was not in a position to win them, but he also blames the US for not accepting the results of the elections when Hamas won. He seems to think that Fatah was a better group to remain in charge — yet he blames the US for backing them and he emphasizes their torture and killing of members of Hamas much more than he emphasizes the (at least equally prevalent) torture and killing of members of Fatah by Hamas. He blames the “quartet” for cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority, but he also blames them for trying to direct and influence Palestinian affairs. I suppose he could think that we should fund them, but not try to influence them in any way, but even then we’re left with having them in a near constant state of war with Israel, and that doesn’t seem great either.

    - Regarding the comment discussion that has developed: I’m not actually clear why comparisons of Hamas to the National Socialists are necessarily that far off. Both are militiant political parties which gained support through street fighting and popular support for their promise to restore national/ethnic dignity. Both endorse a genocidal racial policy towards a designated enemy group which is seen as at fault for the people’s sufferings — a policy which many of their supporters may not enthusiastically share, but which they are willing to overlook. Both came to power in the wake of poverty, military defeat, occupation and perceived loss of standing in the world. And both promise to reverse all of those misfortunes through greater world prestige and military adventures. It’s not a bad comparison, and unless one has particularly grotesque stereotypes about the nature of ordinary German people in the 30s and 40s, I’m not clear why it’s less flattering to the Gazan population than accuracy would demand.

  • I love it. If people discuss the way Israel seems to follow Nazi policy, we are told about “Godwin’s Law.” And that ends all conversation, like usual. But it is perfectly fine to suggest the Palestinians are like Nazis. Of course, I am sure we will also hear how Native Americans were the Nazis, too…

  • Henry,

    One of the main things people have pointed out in regards to your repeated claims that Israelis are “like Nazis” is that it’s incredibly historically insensitive. Which is true.

    In the comment thread above, the logical sequence was as follows:

    Several people pointed out that if it was necessary to support a political faction merely because they won an election, it would have been necessary to grant recognition to the Nazis after 1933.

    In return, Tim questioned whether people were accusing the Palestinians of being “crazy Nazis”.

    RL and I then both pointed out that the sense in which such a comparison might be apt would be that most Palestinians are not “crazy Nazis”, but have ended up supporting a militaristic and radically anti-Jewish faction for fairly understandable reasons — kind of like many non-Nazi-fanatic Germans did in the ’30s.

    You then show up and accuse everyone of saying that “Palestinians are like Nazis” and then go on to suggest that people will say that Native Americans “were the Nazis” too.

    How about this one: Why is it that you are convinced that Hamas is as admirable as Chief Joseph or Sitting Bull? Has Hamas ever behaved as honorably, or sought the good of their people above their own power? Hamas is an organization that routinely kills and tortures its own people, while seeking to kill Israeli civilians in order to relieve their desire for revenge. Their existence has done nothing but hurt the Palestinian people. Why do you see the need to defend them?

    Defending Hamas is not the same as defending the Palestinian people — one may care about the latter while despising the former.

  • All comparisons of present politics to Nazis and Communists that are devoid of direct connections are a stretch and should be avoided.

    With that said, Henry, there are in fact direct connections between the Nazis and Islamist Palestinians. You can begin with Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, continue to the many efforts to kill Jews for being Jews, and head right on up to the present and beyond with the Hamas charter, a document and an ideology that enjoys very strong support. All of this information is readily available, quite twisted, and beyond historical dispute.

  • Why is it necessary even to compare anyone to anyone here? Granted, there are arguably strong parallels between National Socialism and Islamic militancy as practiced by Hamas; that being said, can’t we just deal with history?

    Israel became a state in 1948, whereupon it was immediately attacked by its Arab neighbors. They one that war. Israel was again attacked in the 50′s, the 60′s (which resulted in the destruction of three countries’ military apparatus and the annexation of the Sinai, the West Bank and Gaza, and the Golan Heights. They were attacked again in 73, again in the 80′s, the 90′s and the 00′s (how do you say that in a word?). Each time, its attackers suffered military defeat at the hands of a much smaller (but better trained, equipped and motivated) IDF.

    Ya can’t blame the 48 war on Israel
    s treatment of Palestinian Arabs. Nor can one blame the ’67 or the ’73 war on that. And it is axiomatic that Israel has a right to protect its existence by any proportionate means necessary; we may argue about the definition of “proportionate”, but it is up to the National Command Authority in Israel to determine what is proportionate, and to be liable for the judgment before God.

    The Palestinians are pawns in a game whose goal is the elimination of the state of Israel. If Hamas would do as it’s been asked, this would all be over. They won’t; it’s not. Why do we beat them up so?

  • I love it. If people discuss the way Israel seems to follow Nazi policy, we are told about “Godwin’s Law.” And that ends all conversation, like usual.

    The ‘conversation’ is unnecessary because the analogy is stupid and malicious and not worth discussing. The most militant sector of public opinion in Israel (KACH, Moledet, &c) has advocating expelling the Arab population and forcing them to take up residence in neighboring states. The most precise analogy might be the post-war Czech government’s dealings with Sudeten Germans or the Croatian government’s dealings with Krajina Serbs during the recent unpleasantness in the Balkans. Neither Gen. Tudjman or Eduard Benes had a political programme that resembled that of the Nazis in the least.

    But it is perfectly fine to suggest the Palestinians are like Nazis.

    Repair to the YouTube Mr. McClarey posted a while back. There is a sector of public opinion in the Arab world which has aspirations very like that. For a majority party to advocate liquidating a neighboring state is highly unsual – nay unique – in the world today. Even absent a considered programme of extermination, such a project would comprehend a great deal of killing. The precedent in the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-18 is sadly relevant here.

  • Regarding the premise that an elected Hamas government is akin to Hitler’s Nazis being elected- so this scores points for the side that says the U.S. should feel free to use any means to upend the Gazan government- be it pouring money into political alternatives or funding armed resistance or perhaps even overt or covert plans of assassination. This is the slippery slope we are on here at American Catholic blogosphere.

    Here’s a little analogical monkeywrench to loosen up the pro-Israel crowd- and I do mean crowd around these parts.

    Let’s say that there was a “quasi-election” in a large nation and a regime that openly supported the termination of unborn children in the wombs of mothers was “elected” by a majority of the citizens. It is determined that in fact 3-4000 children are murdered each day in this hate-filled society. It is also determined that many of these mothers are profoundly disturbed enough to actually volunteer to take their unborn children into a medical clinic to have the personnel there dispose of these children God entrusted to them. This is the consequence of a mass insanity inculturated by a political and economic order that propagandizes that this is no big deal, that this is an expression of women’s rights and so forth. And the mainstream opposition to this situation is a major political party that claims only that this right to kill unborn children should be an issue decided by individual states- not at the federal level.

    Now suppose you live in another nation that universally recognizes the rights of unborn children to live and be born without fear of termination at the hands of their mothers/fathers/society. Should you use your ample resources to undermine the sovereignty of that evil nation of baby killers? Should you stop at public scoldings or should you send monies secretly to agents of influence who would use those foreign monies in ways illegal to their own nation’s electoral laws? And what about organizing a coup with some handpicked military men, or even stage an invasion if you have a superior military yourself?

    Surely, a nation that kills 3000 children a day in a genocide of unborn, unwanted persons is akin to a democratically-elected Adolf Hitler led Nazi Germany? For even as Hitler attempted to export his brand of Nazi ideology and invade other countries with his military- this modern nation exports the propaganda in many varying forms to the rest of the world encouraging the practice of murdering the unwanted unborn. And it is noted that millions of dollars of private monies are coming from the demented citizenry of this nation to actually fund the killing places on an international level. This is all occuring with an apparent majority of these citizen’s support- these people must for the most part be hideous anti-child, anti-decency- whatever comes of them can only be seen as justified by any truly decent citizen of the world. Why should the good people of the world allow for such Hitler/Nazi-like tendencies to continue without doing something now?? I’m sure there are a few decent members of that society who don’t see the killing of their own little ones as a human right, or as a state’s right to choose- but they are so few and have no powerful position in the mainstream political and economic order- they should be overjoyed for a foreign power such as ours to take control of their situation and nation- and save the children!

  • Tim Shipe:

    The most salient characteristic of the Nazi regime in Germany was its revanchism and the consequent impossibility of developing a stable political equilibrium in Europe absent submission to or destruction of the regime. It presented a much more acute problem for foreign governments than would the incorporation of gross injustices in the mundane social practice of a foreign state.

  • “Surely, a nation that kills 3000 children a day in a genocide of unborn, unwanted persons is akin to a democratically-elected Adolf Hitler led Nazi Germany?”

    The analogy only works Tim if they are engaged in forced abortions, a la China. Legalized abortion is an abomination, but our primary problem is with people utilizing the law to slay their own offspring. Neither Hitler, nor Hamas, would rely on private actors to kill the Jews. All the killing would be by actions of the State. When a regime is dedicated to that type of genocide, I weep no tears over efforts to remove it.

  • Let me get this straight:
    Claim: if it is morally acceptable for the US to intervene against NAZI policy to exterminate Jews, it should be morally acceptable for the US to intervene against Hamas policy to exterminate Jews.
    Counterclaim: If it is not morally acceptable for a hypothetical pro-life nation to intervene against US policy to not prohibit private abortions, then it is not morally acceptable for the US to intervene against Hamas policy to exterminate Jews.
    Is that really the level of argument here?

  • Tim,

    I don’t think anyone here is disputing that it’s fairly natural for those in Gaza to resent the idea of the US messing with their elections or providing support to Fatah in relation to a coup.

    The thing I don’t get about the article, though, (and perhaps you don’t support this aspect of it) is that it seems to be taking both sides and no side. The author blames the US for pushing for elections because Hamas won, but it also blames the US for seeking to leverage Hamas out of power again after the election.

    Yet if the US has simply not encouraged elections in the first place, then Hamas would not have come into power since Fatah wasn’t scheduling open elections.

    Then the author both blames the US for cutting off aid money to the PA because Hamas was elected, and also blames the US for giving aid money to Fatah to fight Hamas. But if the US had not encouraged elections, and had not stopped giving aid money in the first place, than Fatah would have been free to use the money to buy weapons and keep Hamas out of power via kidnapping, assassination, torture and street fighting — which is pretty much how Fatah and Hamas were mixing it up in the first place during the time when Fatah wasn’t holding elections because they weren’t “ready”.

    Now, if the answer is simply that the Palestinians would rather be left alone to have elections or coups or civil wars or whatever occurs, but without the US having a hand in it — which I would certainly understand that. On the other hand, cynical though this may sound, there are some benefits to being a region that the major first world powers are constantly sticking their noses into. The Palestinians have been in a state of recurring strife with the Israelis for sixty years now, and in that struggle they’re massively out-gunned. If the Middle East was an area that no one paid much attention to (like Chechnya or Congo or Sudan or Somalia) would the situation of the Palestinians be better or worse?

    Because there’s so much scrutiny on the area, if the Palestinians are able, somehow, to get some leaders who care more about them than about greed and violence, there are a lot of people who would very much like to see them become a peaceful and state. Israel and Ireland are both good examples of countries which made the transition very quickly from being terrorist states fighting much stronger regional powers to accepted members of the international community.

  • Well, guys, let’s not give the Allies too much credit, either. If the Nazis had never attacked any of their neighbors, but had simply pursued the Final Solution quietly within their borders, it strikes me as doubtful that anyone would have fought a war simply to end the holocaust — at least not till it was far too late.

    It’s the fact that Germany attacked their neighbors that ended in their being fought and defeated.

    The beef people have with Hamas is not that they include many anti-Jewist fanatics among their ranks — it that they tend to launch rockets at the country next door. If they kept things within their borders, the “land for peace” thing would have worked.

  • Perhaps Darwin, although I would note that Sir Winston Churchill was tireless in raising the persecution of the Jews throughout the 1930s in his indictment of Nazi Germany, as he sounded the alarm to a Britain still shell-shocked from World War I. He was joined in this, interestingly enough, by two Englishmen sometimes accused of anti-Semitism: G.K. Chesterton, until his death in 36, and Hilaire Belloc. There were others speaking out in England and elsewhere. Pius XII of course had some involvement in an anti-Hitler plot in January of 1940. If WW2 taught us nothing else, I suspect it is the folly of regarding the type of persecution that Hitler unleashed upon the Jews as ever being simply an internal matter. That, and that when a government has a long record of calling for the extermination of a group, do not be surprised that they will act upon it when they have the power to do so.

  • That, and that when a government has a long record of calling for the extermination of a group, do not be surprised that they will act upon it when they have the power to do so.

    So very very true Don.

  • I certainly agree that some people saw what the Nazis were up to, Don. But it wasn’t till the war started and the Germans were almost to the Channel that Churchill was actually called on to form a government. I fear he would have remained a voice in the wilderness if the Nazis had not actually invaded a British ally.

    That said: As I think about it, Tim, I should apologize for pushing the Nazi analogy further. The 30s being a period that particularly fascinates me (and rejecting the theories that are along the lines of: Ordinary Germans supported the National Socialists because they were eeeeeviiiiil) I’m particularly interested in the question of what pushes people to support extremist/militarist political factions which end up driving them into situations that only hurt them more — but as the “Goodwin’s law” point underscores, usually when Nazi’s are brought up in a conversation it’s because someone is trying to claim that a group of people are so lost to hate that one doesn’t need to think of them as human.

    And I recognize that by bringing up your views on this topic here, it’s already enough like facing a firing squad without terms like “Nazi” being discussed.

  • Darwin,

    I think there were about 800,000 Jews in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland ca. 1930. Per William Rubenstein, around 360,000 Jews emigrated from Germany during the years running from 1933 to 1939. Absent the war, < 5% of the Jewish population of Europe would have accessible to the SS, so no 'final solution'.

  • When a country faces economic and social stressors, you can have spikes of transient atavism in the political sphere. David Duke’s career in Louisiana during the years running from 1989-93 would be a minor example. The 2d incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan, which had 4,000,000 members in 1924, a quarter that in 1930, and was formally dissolved in 1944, would be another. The Nazi Party was inconsequential in Germany in 1928 and nostalgic parties even more so in the post-war period; their Austrian counterparts were a modest minority readily contained by the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg ministries. One can readily imagine a counter-factual history which would have certain contingencies breaking the other way and the Nazi Party rapidly imploding. They lost support in the last parliamentary election held before Hitler was appointed Chancellor.

    What is disconcerting in comparison is that the — uh – ambitions of Arab particularists of various strains have abided for many decades now.

  • But it is perfectly fine to suggest the Palestinians are like Nazis.

    When you consider that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was Hitler’s guest in Berlin during WWII, that there were Palestinian SS troops, and that “Mein Kampf” is a permanent best-seller on the West Bank (and indeed, throughout the Arab world), I don’t see why Henry considers this some sort of outlandish comparison.

    Godwin’s Law is in effect when you compare people who really aren’t Nazis to Nazis. When you compare people who enthusiastically embrace the goal of making the world Juden-frei to people who enthusiastically embrace the goal of making the world Juden-frei, I call that – an apples-to-apples comparison.

  • I think there were about 800,000 Jews in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland ca. 1930. Per William Rubenstein, around 360,000 Jews emigrated from Germany during the years running from 1933 to 1939. Absent the war, < 5% of the Jewish population of Europe would have accessible to the SS, so no 'final solution'.

    I suppose, to the extent it would have been easy to simply drive all the Jews out of Germany and Austria, that’s so. (Actually, as I recall, it wasn’t until part way into the war that it was decided for sure to exterminate the Jews. Prior to that, deporting them somewhere suitably out of the way, I believe Madagascar was considered, was considered by the Nazis.)

    On the other hand, I imagine that if all Jews left the Middle East, the anti-Jewish feeling in Hamas would die off pretty soon there after. It’s hard to hate someone who’s not around.

  • It’s hard to hate someone who’s not around.

    I wouldn’t bet on it. Anti-semitism is still alive and kicking in Europe, which now has very few Jews. One of the truly noxious anti-Semites I “met” on the Internet a few years back was from Wyoming. Are there enough Jews in Wyoming to form a synagogue? Yet he knew all about them, without ever having met one in the flesh.

    Just as there sure seems to be a fair number of fundamentalists living in notably non-Catholic areas who know all about the evils of the Pope and Catholicism although they meet Catholics seldom or never.

  • Well guys my impression taken from first hand observation and from the opinions of the Catholics who are actually living in the Holy Land- overwhelmingly the impression I take away is one that is radically different from the positions you hold- it makes me feel ashamed because the Catholic Church is supposed to be a universal, global brotherhood- what I find here is that most of the American Catholics here and elsewhere are so enamored with the propaganda that comes from non-Catholic sources. It seems that no one here wants to take the Palestinian Catholic viewpoint on the subject of Israel-Palestine- I’m not sure what to make of this- some sense of superiority on the part of Americans in general- you really feel a kinship with secular Jews more than Catholic Arabs? I don’t know what else it is because when facts are presented from a Palestinian viewpoint- even from the Latin Patriarch in the Holy Land- these facts and views are immediately dismissed by this crowd-

  • I’m going to move on to other issues because I feel a sick sense of being an alien in alien territory like being on a pro-abortion site and trying to present a case for the unborn- I’m kicking the dirt off my sandals on this issue on this blog in search of another front where there is at least a chance of finding common ground- there is always the easy pro-life zone- it seems to be the one place I can converse with loud and proud conservatives and not experience that sense of dread knowing what is around the next corner- a huge disconnect of mind and heart. These issues may be prudential issues but real people are being killed over them so I am deadly serious about the differences of opinion but I don’t have the time to give these things the necessary documentation to refute the overwhelming number of naysayers- I wasn hoping to attract more of my like-minded brothers and sisters to help make the case while I take care of my 3 little ones and my very pregnant wife- but alas the debate never got off the ground so I’m checking out- do few things but do them well- I can’t do this debate on my own right now- I would suggest maybe taking in Deal Hudson’s reporting- he is a devout conservative and has had lot’s of contact with Holy Land Catholics in the past few years- I have found him to be very informative- you may want to check out his reports at insidecatholic.com or email him about the Palestinians- part of the problem I do find is that the Palestinians for the most part have not defending themselves very vigorously here in the U.S.- some times it seems like I am pulling more weight on this issue than many American Catholic Palestinians- maybe they are afraid to speak out publicly? I know they have strong views when I speak to them privately- so this is a bit of a mystery- I admire the fight in those Jews who support the Israeli position here in the U.S.. I like to model my own activism on their example- even as I disagree with their position.

  • For the stray open-mind that may be reading this- for more on Middle East issues from an Arab Catholic witness- check out Monsignor Labib Kobti’s excellent web site http://www.al-bushra.org God Bless, God please bring justice to the peoples of the Middle East and the Holy Land in particular- this scandal of violence, injustice and indifference must conclude- God Willing

  • Tim,

    I recognize that this is a tough topic in a tough venue for you, so feel free not to respond to this, but I’m trying to bridge some understanding here if possible. (Grabbing a moment while my own pregnant wife is keeping the four kids under control.)

    - Do your Palestinian Christian friends agree that Hamas (and the fact that they managed to get 56% of the vote) is part of the problem, with their rocket attacks on Israel? For instance, with Northern Ireland my first instinct was always to blame the Brits for the impact their actions were having on the Catholic population — but at the same time I loathed the IRA and considered them the instigators.

    - I certainly think that living with and talking with your Palestinian friends, you probably have a better understanding than most of us as to what the impact of Israeli actions are on ordinary, non-militant Palestinians. However, do you think it’s possible that, especially given that travel is pretty locked down and news media is all controlled by one side or the other, ordinary Palestinians may often rather less appreciation for the attacks inflicted on Israel which motivate Israeli actions? For instance, on the flip side, I used to work closely with several Jews who’d grown up in Israel, and could tell stories about taking shelter during rocket attacks and seeing the carnage left by suicide bombings. Obviously, formed by this, they tended to be in favor of very militant responses to Palestinian attacks — since they were familiar with the Israeli side of the picture, which the reprisals were in “the other guy’s” territory. Might this same effect not actually make Palestinian opinion rather biased?

  • Good post, DC. I don’t doubt Tim’s sincerity or his attachment to his Palestinian Catholic friends, but it frankly, disturbs me that he appears to see it as a matter of “rooting for our tribe.”

    Rachel Corrie has gotten a tremendous amount of publicity. But she’s very far from being the only Rachel who has been killed in Israel. Here are some Rachels who had no plays written about them or ships named after them:

    RACHEL Thaler, aged 16, was blown up at a pizzeria in an Israeli shopping mall. She died after an 11-day struggle for life following a suicide bomb attack on a crowd of teenagers on 16 February 2002.

    Even though Thaler was a British citizen, born in London, where her grandparents still live, her death has never been mentioned in a British newspaper.

    Rachel Levy, 17, blown up
    in a Jerusalem grocery store

    Rachel Charhi, 36, blown up
    while sitting in a café

    Rachel Gavish, 50, killed with her
    husband and son while at home

    Rachel Kol, 53, who worked for
    20 years in the neurology lab at
    Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital,
    murdered with her husband in a
    drive-by shooting by the Fatah
    al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in
    July 2005 (in the midst of a
    supposed Palestinian truce)

    Rachel Ben Abu, 16, killed with
    her teenage friends by a suicide
    bomber at the Netanya shopping
    mall, in July 2005 (in the midst
    of a supposed Palestinian truce)

    Rachel Shabo, 40, murdered with
    her three sons aged 5, 13 and 6,
    while sitting at home

    Should we not care or sympathize with those deaths because those women were Jews and not Catholics?

    http://www.tomgrossmedia.com/TheForgottenRachels.html

    Of course, the link is from a non-Catholic source and so, I suppose, can be dismissed as Zionist propaganda.

    Yes, I realize innocents have, tragically, been killed on the other side too. And the Arab Christians there are in a very difficult bind. If the Arabs laid down their arms tomorrow, there would be peace. If the Israelis did so, they would be slaughtered pitilessly, right down to the last infant. I firmly believe that, and that thought really does kinda bother me, even though they’re not my tribe.

  • Darwin- I really appreciate your effort to understand- I do think that American Palestinians as well Americans here now from Israel will have some obvious points-of-view- it helped me in formulating my own view to spend time with both Palestinians in a village 1/3 muslim, 1/3 Catholic, 1/3 Orthodox, and then a few weeks in West Jerusalem living with an American with a Russian Emigree wife. This was in the early 90′s during a lull after the first intifada which was truly serious overkill by the Israelis- and I went into the West Bank and saw what occupation looked like in Hebron- the Israeli military was there to police the Palestinians- something like 100,000 of them so that a couple of hundred of extremist settlers could set up shop and take over some Arab homes and establishments- this was rubbed in the Palestinian faces every day- I was supposed to take a U.S. AID job teaching English there and I turned it down because I really thought that it would be tough for some Palestinians not to respond to me with violence in their frustration.

    The facts as I saw then and have read more extensively about ever since- is that no matter if Palestinians respond collectively without violence- they do not get rewarded with a true statehood on the 1967 border lines- it seems obvious to me that Israel’s leadership has simply been buying time to move more settlers into West Bank and East Jerusalem- and when they provoke violent responses like when they assassinate some Palestinian or build up some settlement- then they respond with overwhelming and extreme force- look at the numbers of Palestinians killed over the years and especially during intifada times- how many suicide bombers were there back during the first intifada in 1987? If Israel were to give to the Palestinians what has been set forth by the UN resolutions and then continued to receive the suicide attacks of rocket attacks- then I would say- yes- this is self-defense time- I would even agree that the US should make their defense of Israel a part of the peace agreement that gives the Palestinians their WEst Bank/East Jerusalem/Gaza State and gives monetary repayment to those Palestinians forced out during the 48 War- recall that as part of geneva conventions you cannot permanently settle on lands taken during war.

    Now here is Pat Buchanan on the Gaza situation: http://www.lewrockwell.com/buchanan/buchanan138.html

  • Donna- I did not see your response when I was writing one to Darwin- I am in agreement that civilian deaths all around are horrible- that is where my deepest concern begins and ends- we differ as to who is primarily to blame for the root causes of all the violence, and also what steps should we take with our American resources and clout to do everything we can to bring an end to these tragic circumstances.

    If you look back to the First uprising by the Palestinians from 1987-1993 the First Intifada- and here is a link to Wikipedia on that- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Intifada

    You find that the Palestinians were responding to Israel’s dominance and some extreme examples of violence, and that in the beginning the Palestinian citizens responded on their own with many acts of non-violent protests, and with youths mostly throwing rocks and such- the Israeli response was not to stop and listen to the just complaints for the need to allow the Palestinian people a homeland of their own to address the situation of the post 1967 borders whereupon the Palestinians of Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem were placed under Israeli occupation- instead of taking the clue that the long term peace depended upon granting autonomy to the Palestinians- Israel instead decided to try to break down the Palestinians at every level- brutal tactics, and increasing Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories just heaped gasoline on the fire and was also illegal by international legal standards- you cannot permanently settle your folks on land taken during a war- and this is exactly what Israel did and actually has continued to do for reasons that appear to indicate that they hope to one day create a duplication of the American experience with the Native Americans- squeeze them out or put them into little tribal land reservations- this strategy is what I believe is the leading cause of the violence putting the Israeli and Palestinians into a quagmire of repeated violent cycles. This has not historically been a Muslim Jihad thing if you just look at the history of the Palestinian people and their leadership- it threatens to become such with the emergence of Hamas as a new model of extreme Palestinian response to the extreme position of Israel’s establishment. If you choose to see all of this as a Hamas-Jihad problem I would suggest that you have come late to the game- I was in the area in the early 90′s and the Palestinians at that time were a mix of secularists, Christians, and Muslims, Hamas had been initially a group supported by Israel to drive a wedge between palestinians who were led by mostly secularists along the PLO model- so don’t give me the storyline that the Palestinians are just a bunch of Islamists who only know about killing infidels- that fiction is one that will only serve the cause of more and perpetual killing of future civilians.

  • Tim, DC and Donna: I was dimayed by the orginal discussion attempting which attempted to paint the issue by tossing around the “nazi” label. Louis Black’s recent contribution at the Daily show to critique this type of politically bantaring hit it home for me to dismiss this type of political arguement.

    But the conversation has thankfully moved on to address the real issues of suffering and our need to create policies of compassion. Our Catholic religious community, the Passionist, has a house in Bethany and in 2005 “The Wall” was built through our property. Priority must be given for the population that is in the midst of suffering must be listened to. Scripture reminds us that the cries of the suffering goes up to heaven. If we do not tend to these systemic forms of violence then God will tend to us for the role we did or did play in tending to our brothers and sisters in the holy land.

    Both sides of the wall have faced great pain and violence. The Palestinian community suffer from a brutal occupation. The Israeli community suffer acts of terrorism to their communities. What makes the situation difficult is that neither side wants to budge. Groups have tried to bridge this ethnic divide and the Jewish voice for Peace stands out for their great work in attempting to reconcile this ethnic violence.

    Our community has a vested interest for peace. Many of our Catholic community comes from Palestine and violence againts the Palestinians makes no distinguishing difference between Muslim and Catholic Arabs. Not that a policy for peace should but of course it is only human to be concerned primarily with ones own family member. To address this concern our UN NGO, Passionist International, has taken to work with other Catholic NGO’s to go back to the legal international framework that started this entire issue. The violence that both sides face is systemic and that system is particularly rooted in the international organization called the UN. It behooves the United States to return the international body where this situation originated and to again work at empowering this body to force both sides to come to the table by applying real international pressure (primarilly through economic pressure) If Israel knew that their military financial subsidy (which is enormous) is about to be touched don’t you think their tone would change. Likewise if the Palestinian people thought for one second that they would get an actual chance to have a real and secure state that their own political tone would not change. I am not a betting man, but I would money on that possibility. A possibility that no one has wanted to really approach because the self interest of so many players have gotten in the way. Below I will share the position for Passionist International.

  • Freedom Flotilla and Israel’s Attack:
    The attack by Israeli forces on a flotilla carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza might have left more than 10 activists dead. The survivors, mostly Turkish, have been taken to Ahshod, where dozens have been hospitalized.

    As Christians, we tend to naturally sympathize with the Jewish people because of the connection of Christian origins with Judaism, and because of the suffering the Jewish people endured with the Holocaust. Post September 11, we also tend to view terrorist organizations will little sympathy and therefore can identify with Israel, feeling it is justified in its actions of blockading Gaza. So perhaps some important clarifications are needed to gain some perspective on what is happening.

    It is true that innocents, including children, have been killed on and by both sides in the conflict that has raged between Palestinians and Israelis, and both sides have violated international law in doing so. But the violence by Israelis and Palestinians does not have the same roots, nor are the 2 sides culpable in the same way.

    Palestine has been under military occupation for some time, and this in itself is illegal. All Israeli violence in the occupied territories stands in violation of international law – specifically the Geneva Conventions that identify the obligations of an occupying power to protect the occupied population.

    The blockade is a de facto occupation of the territory, asserting control over the land and halting vital aid. The amount of material and food provided is inadequate, precipitating a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Building materials such as cement are disallowed. Occasionally, Israel will dispense with strictness and show a tempered quality of mercy, but given the destruction of homes in Gaza and the need for building materials, that quality is thin.

    Palestinian violence is the violence of resistance, and has escalated as conditions of life and loss of hope breed greater desperation. It is carried out primarily by individual Palestinians and those linked to armed factions, and is aimed mostly at soldiers and settlers in the occupied territories. The rocket attacks in recent years have targeted civilians and are themselves a violation of international law. But the overall right of an occupied population to resist a foreign military occupation, including through use of arms against military targets, is recognized as lawful under international law.

    Israel has every right to arrest and try anyone attempting to attack civilians inside the country. But it does not have the right to occupy a neighboring country, not block aid to the civilian population. And, if it is serious about ending attacks on its own civilians, it must be serious about ending that occupation.

    It is an important fact to remember that Israel’s admission to the United Nations in 1948 was conditioned on its willingness to abide by General Assembly resolution 194, which states, “Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return,” something Israel has never complied with.

    Also, Security Council Resolution 242, passed after the 1967 war, identifies “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” That is understood to mean that the territory Israel captured by war must be returned; that to keep it is inadmissible.

    Unfortunately the combination of the U.S.-Israeli “special relationship” and the vast superiority of Israel’s power in the region, with the 5th most powerful nuclear arsenal in the world and one of the most powerful conventional militaries anywhere, means that other countries in the region and around the world will tend to limit their diplomatic imagination to what they think Israel will accept. That means acquiescence to continued U.S. control of any negotiations. And here in lies the danger, for the U.S. position has never placed international law and U.N. resolutions at its centre.

    Branding activists as terrorists and denying the human situation in Gaza will not help an Israeli cause that is proving more alienating the longer it persists. If there is an inquiry into this incident, it will have to be wide ranging and international.

  • Thanks John for your extensive comments- we will see if anyone who spoke out earlier will take up your challenging perspective.

    As for my own use of the “Nazi” comparables- I did so only to show that such linkages can be cover almost any political situation where there is a conflict with Jewish involvement if one wants to play the Holocaust card in the Israel-Palestine Conflict- but it could also be applied to any situation where there are mass killings taking place with seeming public indifference of support- like the Germans who mostly accepted Hitler’s plans, or much closer to home- Americans who don’t see or don’t want to see the humanity of human lives being terminated in abortion clinics- some 50 million lives according to reports I’ve heard- so when I see the Palestinians- Hamas in particular called out as Hitler Wanna-Be’s- I think that is more than a bit much- it is way to tough to separate out how much of Hamas’ rage against the Jews is really just rage against the Machine of Israeli occupation and assassinations et al. And we have to make clear that our own society is full of contradictions such as our stated ideals of democratic self-determination and aversion to foreign influences- and then taking on the right to intervene in all kinds of ways in places all over the world without really defining how our interests are coinciding with the interests befitting a majority Christian nation.

    Finally- to Donna et al- it is important to place special interest on Catholic Palestine and take care to help with special concern the Catholic Palestinian community- this is something that the Church has always upheld- one of the defenses of the Pope during WWII was that he was compelled to attempt to defend his flock wherever they may be- the reason being is that for the Church to fulfill her evangelical mission She must spread and inculturate everywhere- The Church implanted first by foreign missionaries, is to become impregnated with indigenous priests and bishops- this is what has happened in the Palestinian community- as evidenced by the Latin Patriarchs in the Holy Land- we need to take special interest in listening to their cries, their perspectives must be taken deep, deep into our consciences especially when they are calling out their American Catholic brothers and sisters- I am and I have been listening very intently- I don’t believe that many of the commentators here at American Catholic are quite getting the significanse of this necessary point of contact between Catholic communities. If we are indeed concerned over the possibility of a global radical Islamist movement- then we should do everything in our power to assist the smaller Catholic communities in the Middle East- they are the seeds of hope for the future- to be peacemakers, to be the bridge between peoples- Middle Eastern and Western. Now according to Fr. Mitch Pacwa of EWTN, he estimates that in Israel upwards to 80% of the citizens of Israel who are “Jewish” are actually atheistic or agnostic- so “Jewish” has come to indicate something cultural/biological for some and not really connected to a belief in the Torah/Judaism. This is relevant since we are always debating the Israel-Palestine conflict along the lines of how being on the side of Israel is to be on the side of those closest to us and our way of living and believing- this would be true only if by “we” we are referring to the secular liberal American society- which I don’t think most conservative Catholic commentators are suggesting. So this is just more food for thought for those who have taken a hard position in favor of “Israel- good guy- yesterday and today- Palestinians- violent- not appreciative of Israel’s good faith offers- Islamic radicals bent on wiping out all Jews- just like Hitler”. I will continue to challenge those who pen such beliefs at every turn- they may feel like they and Israel are receiving so much unfair criticism all the time- but just follow the money and the military hardware- Israel has received billions of American public and private dollars every single year for decades- Israel has received American political support in international bodies at every turn as well- American Catholic Israel supporters are hardly the “Davids” in this debate- they are the all-time, big-time, winners if one judges by the facts of where all the American establishment clout has been directed- short answer- it hasn’t been to support the Palestinian Catholics and their leadership’s views on how Americans should act in the Holy Land. I stand with my brother and sister Catholics in the Holy Land- if you wish as Catholics to stand with the mostly secularized Israelis- that is your call- I’m just here to challenge your stated positions and check your influence as Catholic witnesses who are actually harming the Catholic peoples of the Holy Land- contradictions abound here at American Catholic.

  • No sooner did I post the above – then I read that the Vatican shares the perspective that religious freedom is vital in our relationships with Muslim countries- as I wrote a blog entry about a couple of weeks ago about- and also blame is attached to Israel for undermining the Catholic community in the Holy Land- read the article for yourself at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100606/ap_on_re_eu/eu_cyprus_pope

  • Tim,

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, I hope that you’ll feel that I live up to the tone in responding to it.

    I must admit, if I’m understanding your description of when Palestinians would see as a suitable point to consider attacks against Israel unacceptable:

    If Israel were to give to the Palestinians what has been set forth by the UN resolutions and then continued to receive the suicide attacks of rocket attacks- then I would say- yes- this is self-defense time- I would even agree that the US should make their defense of Israel a part of the peace agreement that gives the Palestinians their WEst Bank/East Jerusalem/Gaza State and gives monetary repayment to those Palestinians forced out during the 48 War

    it gives me very little hope that there will ever be peace in the region. It represents pretty much a best-case demand, and I can’t think of any situation in history where insurgent nationalists have received that. (Also, a few elements are notably one-sided: I don’t imagine anyone is stepping forward to compensate the equal number of Jews expelled from surrounding Arab countries in the ’48 war.)

    Consider, by comparison, the way the Irish won independence:

    During the Irish War of Independence of 1919-1921 (which was only the most recent of centuries of Irish rebellion against British rule), the Irish civilian population suffered frequent reprisals from British military/police organizations such as the Black and Tans. One egregious example was the football massacre on Bloody Sunday, when in reprisal for the targeted assassination of 13 British intelligence officers and military personnel, British auxiliaries sent to look for IRA gunmen at a soccer match ended up firing randomly into the crowd with rifles, pistols, and a machine gun mounted on an armoured car.

    In the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921, the Irish delegation led by Michael Collins got far less than they had hoped for. They sought a united and independent Irish republic — they got an Irish Free State, which had to acknowledge the British crown, and they didn’t get Ulster.

    In many ways, perhaps, it was the same as the situation that Arafat found himself in the Camp David Summit. Fortunately, however, Collins was a much greater man than Arafat. The treaty was put up for a public referendum, and Collins (who had won popularity through his leadership of the IRA during the war) supported it publicly.

    When the treaty was in fact passed, a significant minority of the revolutionaries refused to accept it, and the Irish Civil War began. Irish Free State leaders who until months ago had seen their comrades tortured or put before firing squads by the British, had to turn to the British for arms and supplies and fight their own former comrades in order to secure the imperfect free state.

    That was the price for freedom and peace. Once the Irish had shown themselves as a peaceful and responsible neighbor, and once the wounds felt on both sides had healed, there was no violence when Ireland declared full sovereignty in 1937, or left the commonwealth in 1949.

    Keenly though the Palestinians feel their injustices, it’s important to understand that the Israelis also believe themselves in the right — and given the amount of blood spilled at this point there will never be peace if the condition for stopping the violence is that the Palestinians get everything they want. One can only pray that there will someday be a Palestinian leader with the moral and personal courage of a Collins (who was himself killed in the Civil War).

    recall that as part of geneva conventions you cannot permanently settle on lands taken during war.

    I probably shouldn’t bring this up, since it’s a tangential point, but this strikes me as an example of how the UN and modern international agreements are sometimes more an obstacle to peace than a move towards it. The fact is, wars have, throughout history, resulted in the acquisition of territory. And indeed, there’s a certain irony that it was enacted in 1949, as from 1945 to 1950, the Allied powers had set new boundaries in Europe as a result of being the victors in the war, and engaged in the largest act of ethnic cleansing in recorded history: deporting around 14 million ethnic Germans from Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Netherlands in order to make the ethnic makeup of Europe match the newly drawn borders and assure that a resurgent Germany would never again justify aggression by claiming they were only “liberating” the German-speaking populations in neighboring countries.

    By holding out the promise that property loss 60+ years ago will somehow be made right at some point in the future, if only people will hang around in refugee status indefinitely, I think our international community probably makes nasty conflicts of ethnic nationalism (such as that in the Middle East) even worse than they would otherwise be.

  • Tim Shipe,

    The Arab leadership passed on three clear opportunities to obtain an Arab state on portions of the former mandatory Palestine demographically dominated by Arabs. That, without a lot of deal-breaking paraphenalia, is simply not a political goal of theirs.

  • The highest ranking Catholic in the Holy Land (just recently retired), has been the Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah (lpj.org). The Patriarch has been pleading for years that American Catholics need to work to change the American policy of financing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. He has stated that: “ The State of Israel encompasses 78% of historical Palestine…the remaining 22% was occupied by Israel in 1967, and this is all Palestinians want- a small part of what they had before 1947. They want that 22% to be free of occupation, all of it. Israel cannot have both things- security and occupation. They must give up occupation for security.” (As quoted in the St. Anthony Messenger). The Church has stood behind the Geneva Conventions regarding the right of people displaced by war to return to their homes, and the UN Resolutions 194, 224, and 478, as well as Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of human rights.

    I’ll stand by the Holy Land Catholics- if American Catholic commentators want to deny them and write off their view of their own immediate situation then that’s your deal- I can only urge you do some Deal Hudson type of research instead of relying on whatever dubious sources you have been up to this point- has anyone commenting here actually spent any time in a Palestinian city, town, or village?

  • By holding out the promise that property loss 60+ years ago will somehow be made right at some point in the future, if only people will hang around in refugee status indefinitely, I think our international community probably makes nasty conflicts of ethnic nationalism (such as that in the Middle East) even worse than they would otherwise be.

    Exactly so. Since 1948, the Palis have lived as human title deeds on the West Bank and Gaza. That was not done out of concern for the Palestinians’ well-being (I believe their fellow Arabs could care less) but solely out of a desire to hurt the Israelis.

    Tim, again, you might discount this source because it’s not Catholic, but the renowned Israeli novelist Amos Oz wrote back in 2002 that he recalled his parents telling him that in the Poland of the 1930′s, graffiti abounded saying “Jews to Palestine.” Now graffiti writers in Europe scrawl (and American journalists say): “Jews out of Palestine.”

    Amos said “We are not supposed to be in Europe. We are not supposed to be in Palestine. The message is: don’t be.

    Where, Tim, do you think the Jews should be?

  • This article appeared in the Asian Times:

    It may seem odd to blame the Jews for the misery of Middle East Christians, but many Christian Arabs do so – less because they are Christians than because they are Arabs. The Christian religion is flourishing inside the Jewish side. Only 50,000 Christian Arabs
    remain in the West Bank territories, and their numbers continue to erode. Hebrew-speaking Christians, mainly immigrants from Eastern Europe or the Philippines, make up a prospective Christian congregation of perhaps 300,000 in the State of Israel, double the number of a decade ago.

    The brief flourishing and slow decline of Christian Arab life is one of the last century’s stranger stories. Until the Turks killed the Armenians and expelled the Greeks, Orthodoxy dominated Levantine. The victorious allies carved out Lebanon in 1926 with a Christian majority, mostly Maronites in communion with Rome. Under the Ottomans, Levantine commerce had been Greek or Jewish, but with the ruin of the Ottomans and the founding of Lebanon, Arab Christians had their moment in the sun. Beirut became the banking center and playground for Arab oil states.

    The French designed Lebanon’s constitution on the strength of a 1932 census showing a Christian majority, guaranteeing a slight Christian advantage in political representation. With the Christian population at barely 30% of the total and 23% of the population under 20 – Lebanon’s government refuses to take a census – Lebanon long since has lost its viability. The closing of the Christian womb has ensured eventual Muslim dominance.

    Precise data are unobtainable, for demographics is politics in Lebanon, but Lebanon’s Christians became as infertile as their European counterparts. Muslims, particularly the impoverished and marginalized Shi’ites, had more babies. In 1971, the Shi’ite fertility rate was 3.8 babies per female, against only 2 for Maronite Christians, or just below replacement. Precise data are not available, but Christian fertility is well below replacement today.

    Lebanon was a Catholic project from the outset, and the Vatican’s thinking about the region is colored nostalgia for a dying Christian community and a searing sense of regret for what might have been. If only the State of Israel hadn’t spoiled everything, many Arab Christians think, the Christian minority would have wielded enormous influence in the Arab world. It is true that in many Arab countries, Christians comprised a disproportionate share of merchants and intellectuals. But the same was true of the 130,000 Jews of Iraq before 1947, who owned half the businesses in Baghdad.

    Contrary to the Arab narrative, the peak of Arab Christian influence occurred a generation after the founding of the State of Israel, when Boutros Boutros-Ghali became Egypt’s foreign minister in 1977, and Tariq Aziz became Foreign Minister of Iraq in 1983. In fact, the founding of the State of Israel propelled Christian Arabs into leadership positions in Arab governments. The Arab monarchies installed by the British in Egypt, Jordan and Iraq failed miserably in their efforts to crush the new Jewish State in the 1947-1948 War of Independence. Young military officers replaced the old colonial regimes with nationalist governments, starting with Gamal Abdel Nasser’s 1952 coup in Egypt.

    Nationalism opened the door of political leadership to Arab Christians. The Syrian Christian Michel Aflaq founded the Ba’ath party which later took power in Syria and Iraq. The rise of secular Arab movements with strong Christian influence was a response to the Arab failure to prevent the founding of the State of Israel. After the Turkish destruction of Orthodox Christian populations in the Levant, the Arab Christian elite – for centuries graced by not a single name the world remembers – saw its chance to shine. Lebanon, previously a backwater, and the pugnacious Maronite population, a marginal group except for their ties to France, improbably emerged as the focal point of Levantine Christianity.

    But Arab nationalism failed just as miserably as did the monarchies invented by the British after the Turks were thrown out. Having rolled the dice with Arab nationalism, Arab Christians were left with diminished leverage and declining numbers on the ground in the advent of political Islam. Both in politics and demographics, the Arab Christians largely had themselves to blame. Understandably, they find it more palatable to blame the Jews.

    A case in point is Father Samir Khalid Samir, a Jesuit of Egyptian Arab origin who prominently advises Pope Benedict XVI on Islam. I reviewed his fine book 111 Questions on Islam last March [1]. Samir is circulating what he calls a “Decalogue for Peace”, leaked August 9 on the website of veteran Vatican analyst Sandro Magister [2].

    According to Samir:
    The problem goes back to the creation of the state of Israel and the partition of Palestine in 1948 decided by the superpowers without taking into account the population already present in the (Holy) Land. There resides the real root of all the wars that followed. To repair a serious injustice committed in Europe against a third of the world Jewish population, Europe (supported by the superpowers) decided to commit a new injustice against the Palestinian population, who are innocent of the martyrdom of the Jews. The original decision-making was shaped largely as reparation by the superpowers for doing little or nothing to end a systematically organized persecution against the European Jews as a ‘race’.
    Samir’s plan includes international troops on Israel’s borders, recognition of the Palestinian right of return, an international commission to decide the future of Jerusalem – in short, what the Israelis would consider the end of their sovereignty and the liquidation of the Jewish State. That a prominent Vatican Islam expert would take such a stance speaks volumes about the power of nostalgia.

    There is not a single fact in place in Samir’s presentation.

    Leave aside the fact that the League of Nations in 1922 confirmed the object of the British mandate to establish a homeland for Jewish people in Palestine, and that preparations for the Jewish State were complete before World War II. Leave aside also the pope’s Biblical belief that the Jews are in the Land of Israel because God has commanded them to be there. The fact is that most Israelis, contrary to Samir, descend not from the Jews driven out of Europe by the Holocaust, but rather from Jews driven out of Arab countries after 1947.

    There were 600,000 Jews in Israel on the day of its founding; an additional 700,000 were expelled from Arab lands, including Iraq, where the Jews had lived for 1,000 years prior to the arrival of the Arabs. By expelling the Jews, the Arab countries created a population concentration in Israel that made possible the country’s emergence as a regional superpower. The results were an exchange of populations of roughly equal numbers, Palestinians leaving the new State of Israel and Jewish refugees arriving from Arab countries.

    No, Tim, I haven’t lived in or visited any Palestinian Christian communities. I haven’t lived in or visited any Israeli Jewish ones either. Have you ever considered that your closeness to Palestinian Catholics might be distorting your views a bit?

    Palestinian Christians might think they’ll get a better shake under Muslim Arab rule than under Israeli rule. The facts seem to point in a different direction.

  • Tim, your recommendation makes sense only under the assumption that American aid to Israel in an impediment to some sort of settlement. That aid gives the Jewish population the wherewithal for greater resistance, but that is not a problem for the United States and would not be much of a problem for the Arab population either if the Arab leadership and populace maintained a set of political goals which could be incorporated into a stable political equilibrium. They do not, and no amount of ‘research’ by Deal Hudson or gas from the Latin Patriarch are going to change that one bit.

    Why do the Jews have a state? Because they built one. What problem do you have in the Fertile Crescent? The entrepreneurial sector have other things to do with their lives than cope with the environment created by that region’s wretched political elite and emigrate – to the Gulf emirates, to the United States, to France. The process is most advanced on the West Bank and Gaza where the field has been left to capos, gangbangers, and ululating hags.

  • I have to say that I spent only two weeks in Israel and the West Bank. Went there with a Franciscan priest who lived there for 19 years. Met with both Israelis and Palestinians. Found both prejudiced in their own way. Felt hate towards the other by both. Israelis can be biased. Like American Catholics, so can Palestinian Catholics also be biased.

Follow TAC by Clicking on the Buttons Below
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .