Yesterday Larry Helyer sent me a comment on the flotilla issue which I suggested we post here as a guest post, to which he agreed. Larry earned his Ph.D. at Fuller Theological Seminary, California, and has also studied in Jerusalem. He has taught at Taylor University, Indiana, since 1978, and has various publications in biblical studies, theology and archaeology. He is joining King's as a distance learning tutor from September 2010.
I have followed the Mideast Crisis regularly since 1968. I continue to be amazed by the conflicting versions of violent episodes that, tragically, regularly occur. One might think the Israelis and the Arabs (to simplify a rather complex situation) live in different universes.
The rhetoric employed and conclusions drawn often defy rational discourse. Why is it that the Arab press and diplomatic spokespersons typically resort to "over the top" language when reporting on or responding to these tragedies. Can one take seriously the Turkish prime ministers' accusations of "state terrorism" perpetrated by Israel? What is perplexing to me is that this pattern is endemic in the Arab world. I can list example after example of this kind of distortion. We all laughed at the nonsense of the Iraqi minister of information during the most recent Gulf War. He maintained with a straight face that U.S. troops were being beaten back from Baghdad when in fact they were virtually right outside his office. The Six Day War affords so many examples of absolutely false and hysterical reports it's wearisome. The psychology of this is mystifying.
Now, on the other side, Israel practices state censorship and often prevents journalists from having direct access to information or events. This creates in the minds of many the impression that they are not trustworthy and are hiding something. In some instances, they have indeed hid things.
Bystanders must make a choice: they can accept uncritically either the Arab version or the Israeli version; they can dismiss both as completely self-serving and disingenuous; or they can sift through the conflicting versions and assess which version corresponds more closely with what actually happened. In my opinion, the Israeli version has proven more reliable than its Arab counterpart over the years.
In the flotilla episode we now have competing videos of the affair! The evidence is quite clear that this was a premeditated, staged event for media consumption. Tragically, the consequences were worse than probably both sides anticipated. It will, however, serve as fodder for the Arab media's unrelenting attack against the "Zionist Nazis."
American sympathies tend to favor the underdog. Those without any biblical or theological commitment to a future for Israel in God's plan tend to identify with the plight of the Palestinians. I personally lament the deep suffering and oppression of the Palestinians. I have personally known Palestinian families and have grieved over the harassment and penalties they have had to endure. But I also resent the way their leadership and the Arab leaders of Israel's neighbors have so poorly served them. A peace agreement and a two-state solution could have been achieved years ago had moderate voices prevailed. Alas, such has not been the case.
Though it is politically incorrect to say it, Islamic ideology lies at the taproot of this ongoing crisis. Palestine lies within the Islamic domain. The notion of a Jewish state within their midst is abhorrent. This then colors everything and influences the rhetoric of this conflict.
At Taylor University, Daud Kuttab (a Palestinian Christian) paid a visit and shared his apparent optimism for a Palestinian state in 2011. After listening to him, I must sadly declare that nothing he said leads me to share his optimism. As an example of what I view as totally unrealistic, he listed the several items that he felt must be realized for a Palestinian state. The very first condition he laid down was the following: Israel must take full and complete responsibility for the refugee problem. This is a deal-breaker! And it is so obviously unbalanced and distorted that I come back to my starting point. How can we account for such distorted explanations of the situation? Perhaps we fallen human beings simply cannot be objective when we find ourselves in such emotional distress. So now I conclude with a question: Can the Holy Spirit enable individuals deeply committed to a deeply held political cause to transcend biases and seek the truth and nothing but the truth? I want to believe he can.