Eugene Cho

one perspective on israel and palestine

Like many of you, I have been following the recent escalation of tension and Israel’s “all our war” on Gaza with much sadness, frustration, and prayer.  As a usual sympathizer with Israel for various reasons, I have been appalled at the current assault and the lack of strong condemnation by the U.S. leaders including both the current president and president elect.  

The issues are immensely complex and Hamas had “something coming” [in my opinion] but the fallout on this “all-out assault” will only escalate to more deaths – on both sides and on both sides of the ocean.  As you’re reading up on news wherever you are, also check out these additional news sources: BBC News  and Al Jazeera.

I’m currently on vacation so I don’t have time to write more but I do want to “share” couple posts by others – today and tomorrow to engage your thoughts.  This is a note that one of our church folks, Cyra, wrote and I thought it was worth sharing [with her permission].

Question:  What do you think?

****************************************************************

Here’s Cyra’s thoughts on Israel and Palestine:

I’m no blogger, but Matt’s at work, and he’s sick of listening to me vent about Israel and Palestine anyway.

One of the hardest parts of growing up, I think, is learning that some of the things you were taught as a child are just wrong. Fortunately for me, as my worldview has shifted, so has my parents’, so we are able to agree that some of the things they taught me were wrong. One example is the relationship between Israel and Palestine.

As a child, all I ever heard about Israel and Palestine was that Israel is constantly under attack and that as Christians it is our duty to support Israel (since the Jews are God’s chosen people) and encourage our government to do the same. I heard this at home, but mostly I heard this at the various churches I attended. Just writing this, I can feel anger swelling up inside me toward all the people who propagated this lie, until I remind myself that many of those people, my parents included, were simply unaware of the truth of the situation and had been lied to themselves.

The (nutshell) facts of the story (I AM an history teacher afterall):

Post-World War II, the Jews want their own land. And after Nazi Germany, who can blame them? Many sites are proposed (including areas of Argentina), but under pressure from Zionists (who committed some terrorist acts of their own to get their way), Great Britain opened up the land of Canaan (which was under British control) for Jewish settlement. The problem? The land was already inhabited by the Palestinians.

War breaks out in 1947 as Jews flood into Canaan and begin pushing Palestinians out of their homes. Many Palestinians flee during this war to the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The United Nations steps in and divides Canaan into three parts: Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. The Jews are given Israel, and the Palestinians are given Gaza and the West Bank. Thus the two countries of Israel and Palestine were born. Why is Gaza part of Palestine? To give the Palestinians access to the Mediterranean. What is the problem with that logic? Israel controls the area between Gaza and the West Bank, and therefore decides whether the Palestinians in the West Bank can actually make use of their Mediterranean access.

So this was the plan: two separate countries. Israel, though, started moving into the West Bank and creating “settlements”, which has been the onus for much of the current strife between the two people groups. Jews are paid to move into the West Bank, Palestinians retaliate against the occupation, and then the Israeli government “defends” itself by building walls all through the West Bank, cutting off routes between Palestinian cities, and randomly bulldozing Palestinian houses.

Is this story sounding vaguely familiar? Think of our own history. The United States pushes the Native Americans to the western part of the continent. Later, it pays citizens to settle the western part of the continent (40 acres and a mule!), when the Native American tribes resist this settlement, the US sends in troops to defend its people.

These are the documented historical facts. Then, I learn about events like Israel’s current bombing campaign in Gaza, and I literally get sick to my stomach. The Gaza strip is 139 sq. miles, with a population of roughly 1.4 million Palestinians. That’s a population density of roughly 10,000/sq. mi. The strip is surround by a wall, controlled by Israel on the east and north, and Egypt on the south, and the Mediterranean sea (which has Israeli gunboats patrolling just off shore). So where can the civilians go when the bombs start dropping? Nowhere. They are sitting ducks. Of course, Israel claims to only be aiming at Hamas targets (recognized by the US as a terrorist group, recognized by the Palestinians as their democratically elected leaders), but with 10,000 people packed into every square mile, there are bound to be some civilian casualties – currently 62 women and children according to the UN, with an unknown number of civilian men – totaling 320 Palestinian casualties and 1400 injured.

This current bombing campaign is in response to Hamas rockets being propelled over the wall into Israel. I do not, at all, excuse Palestinian violence, and I feel as deeply for the Israelis who loose their lives due to suicide bombings and rocket launchings, but I sympathize for the Palestinian’s feeling of desperation. When you have been pushed off your land, your refugees have not been allowed to return home, the land you had been given is being occupied, UN resolution after UN resolution created on your behalf has been flagrantly disregarded, and your oppressors are backed by the most powerful country in the world, what other choices do you have?

I do not propose taking away Israel’s statehood. Given the history of my own country, I would be a hypocrite unless I also proposed reverting the United States to tribal land. Both suggestions are, at this point, completely impractical. There are, though, two main solutions proposed to this problem: keep working on the two state solution, or create one state. Clearly, the two-state “solution” is not a solution at all. This has been the plan since 1947, and since 1947 there has been horrific violence. The other option, which is less talked about, is to combine Israel and Palestine into one country. In reality, since Palestinians have very little control over their UN-granted land, this is already the case. The difference, though, is that Palestinians are very much second-rate citizens (think South Africa under Apartheid and you will get an idea of what kinds of freedoms the Palestinians have). South Africa was able to come out of that dark period of its history, and I pray that Israel will be able to as well. I pray that the violence will stop on both sides, that all the land will be opened to all Israelis and Palestinians, and that the two groups can live together as equal citizens under the same law, with the same rights and freedoms. Will this be easy? Absolutely not. Is it possible? Absolutely. Israel will need to recognize that it is indeed oppressing the Palestinians and take responsibility for its contribution to Palestinian violence. World powers, most notably the US, need to stop supporting Israel’s oppressive policies, and begin pressuring Israel to change. The people of the world need to, at the very least, be educated about what is actually happening in the region. And most importantly, Christians everywhere need to stop blindly supporting Israel and support instead love, compassion,and justice for ALL the people of the world.

Filed under: politics, religion, , ,

17 Responses

  1. Daniel says:

    But where was the condemnation from you and national leaders when these rockets from the Hamas and other were repeatedly being fired at civilians in Israel. And I meant repeatedly over years…

  2. Cyra-I love you. You summarized the situation very well. I think if more Christians new the history and context of Israel State/Palestine, the majority of the church wouldn’t blindly support the state of Israel. “Blindly” being the important factor, not general support for Israel (which i think many people would continue to do). But as Christians I feel like we are suppose to stand up for justice (for all people) and love our enemies as our self. I’m currently reading Philip Yancey’s “Soul Survivor”, and I’m starting to think a non-violent movement may be the only way forward. There is a small group of Israelis that have started this: http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/
    I think it would be great if the “catholic” church could support their effort and encourage a group of Palestinians to start a similar group (standing it the way of those firing rockets, ect.).
    I believe peace is possible because history shows us that fact. And in most of those cases it was the teachings/example of Jesus that inspired the movements.

  3. Will says:

    Wow. That was really one-sided overview of things there. Mostly true but missing some pretty important facts/explanations. I don’t know which explanation would be worse – that they purposely ignore/minimize the other POV or that they just don’t know about it.

  4. jorgebautista says:

    Thanks for the post. I can relate with Cyra’s story. When I first started going to church I was a Zionist and it wasn’t until I attended college in Chicago that I realized I was misguided about the issues between Israel and Palestine. In Chicago I met Palestinians and become good friends with many of them. What became surprising is these Palestinians were Christians. I was surprised, and here I began to ask many questions. See, at church when Palestinians were spoke of, they were only spoken as Arabs who were all terrorist and Muslims, there was no talk of Palestinian Christians. They were only spoken of trying to get rid of God chosen people and how it is our responsibility to support Israel, because if we supported God chosen people than we will be blessed by God, and if we didn’t support God’s chosen people than we will be judged by God wrath.

    Anyhow, my point is there is definitely a misunderstanding about Palestinians, and truly what they believe in. Also, the fact the Hamas was chosen by the people should have been respected by the States and Israel. By Israel attacking Hamas, again elected by the people, it is an attack on democracy. This will also amplify terrorist groups to gain more anger towards us as Americans and Israel. In addition, It is clear that Israel is not only targeting Hamas but the Palestinian population, so Israel is not only attacking, so called terrorist, they are attacking Christians, but this you will not here in the pulpit. Israel is trying to obliterate the Palestinian population, and this is clear when you have F-16’s dropping over one hundred bombs.

    What is more depressing is Americans and others, have become desensitized. I myself is a victim of this. All we will do is speak about it and our lives will carry on. As a Christians it is sad for me know that every time a bomb is dropped in Gaza it means that I have supported that bomb by living in American and paying taxes. The question then arises in what is my responsibility as a Christian, and what else can I do aside with praying.

    Peace,

    Jorge Bautista

  5. Matt says:

    Thanks for posting on this.

    Cheers,
    Matt

  6. Tobias says:

    The christians are God’s People. That said, I still fully support the secular Israel in this particular conflict. The entire Arab world calling for Israel’s genocidal end each and every day. Meanwhile, Israel has no similar pledge of killing muslims.

    So what would you do? Allow yourself to be extinguished? I hope not. I think you’d fight for your own survival, that you and your kids and grandkids could have a place to live and go to school and operate businesses and worship. Why should the Israelis just allow themselves to be wiped off the earth?

    I think you have to stand up for the underdog here.

  7. [...] feel threatened and act in some way.  The article below in the NY Times is a good read as was the post I shared yesterday. I am not a radical Zionist since I don’t even quite know what that means anymore. As much as [...]

  8. Arthur says:

    The original post is absurd, naive and slanted to such a degree it is not worth rebutting line by line. If one wants to align themselves w/ the propaganda machine of radical terrorist organizations that will soon wish the death and annihilation of America once their done exterminating the Jewish state so be it. Targeting terrorists and their infrastructure does not being to morally compare w/ the repugnancy of launching suicide attacks and rockets aimed at civilian populations. BTW could you imagine any Arab state tolerating and allowing 1.3M Jews to participate in the democratic process (if any were democratic other than Iraq), but yes that’s exactly the rights Israel grants its Arab population.

  9. David F says:

    I like Cyra’s summary of the conflict, though there are some points I don’t agree on.

    I was raised in a very liberal Jewish American family where Israel was not looked on favorably, because my parents thought of it as a Zionist state, not a Jewish one. At various times in my life I have leaned towards supporting both the Israelis and the Palestinians. I am now both horrified and completely confused by the current situation.

    I do not think that we here in America get the complete story and what we do hear in the news media is slanted in favor of Israel. This makes knowing the truth and “taking sides” all the more difficult I think.

    Having said that, I believe that only a two-state solution will work, but it will take a great deal of give and take on both sides to make it work, a prospect made all the more difficult by the current events and invasion (or defensive action, take your pick) by Israel.

    What is needed to make a two state solution come to pass?

    From the Israeli side, I think they must be willing to give enough land to create a true nation for the Palestinians, not just enclaves within the larger nation of Israel. This would have to include giving up many settlements currently built on Palestinian lands. As I understand it, their current proposals are more like the black townships and Bantu settlements in South Africa under apartheid.

    From the Palestinian side, I think that Hamas and others must fully recognize Israel’s right to exist, stop terrorist acts directed at Israel, and stop acting as pawns for Iran and others who do not have their best interest at heart.

    Unfortunately, I’m not hopeful about the situation, and only pray that both sides will realize the madness of going down the current path, regardless of who is to blame (or more correctly, who we standing on the outside would like to blame). Is this an impossible hope? Maybe. But I look to other times and places where impossible blocks to peace and understanding were overcome.

  10. Teri Kirby says:

    Actually, millions of Jews have existed throughout the Arab world for thousands of years. In Iraq, Yemen, Tunis, Morroco, Algeria, Lebanon, Palestine… So we cannot really ask “what Arab atate would tolerate and allow Jews to participate in the process..” because the list is quite long. That changed when Israel was created, at the cost of 450 Palestinian villages, simply because the inhabitants of those villages were not Jewish. Arab history, unlike Europe, does not have episodes of anti-Semitism, the hostility only began after Zionism, and it is political, not racist.

  11. David F says:

    Teri, I agree that Jews have existed in middle east for a long time, and as ‘people of the book’ were afforded certain protections in Muslim countries. But this did not stop them being persecuted in many cases, with severe restrictions on where they could live, how they made a living, what they were allowed to learn, and they were often isolated in ghettos. The treatment of Jews in Yemen was an extreme example of this.

    There is no question in my mind that there have been severe actions on both sides, and I don’t believe that Arab Israelis are not all that welcome by a majority of the Jewish population of Israel. That said, at some point, an eye-for-an-eye retribution must stop, otherwise there will be no hope for reconciliation.

    David

  12. Kester says:

    Thank you for even mentioning the situation. I have been shocked at how few Christian bloggers have given it any mention at all.

    I’ve read the NY article. I spent a week in the West Bank and Israel in October, and have been in Gaza recently too. And I just can’t see anything other than this being a totally disproportionate response, one that they know will not lead to increased security for Israel. It’s pure cynicism: Bush is on his way out, there may not be so supportive an administration coming in, let’s bomb their infrastructure out of the ground.

    As for Arab Israelis, the law in Israel is effectively racist: they simply don’ t have the same rights. That’s abundantly clear and cannot be disputed. Check the Arab Association for Human Rights if you want to go deeper.

  13. Andy Larsen says:

    Eugene,

    Can I get Cyra’s contact information? I’d like to borrow this post for something I’m writing for my blog…which by the way is being updated. I’m inspired to be more faithful to regular blogging and am expanding a bit to include some dry runs on my book idea with sample sections and also launching a larger photo section. I want to offer my stuff for worship and sermon slides.

    Anyway, as you may know I was in Palestine twice this last year and made some new friends from both Gaza and the West Bank, some Christians and others Muslims. Some amazing stories and interesting people. One is actually on the cabinet with President Abbas. I need to bring this into my blogging but also like the succinct condensation of the history of the conflict from your friend.

  14. Andy Larsen says:

    Kester…yes, you are correct about the unequal scales between Palestinians and Israeli. I was with a group of Palestinian leaders in September for a conference, in Jerhicho. Their stories were sad and true and most of what we do in the West exacerbates issues of justice and fair play. It really stinks. Actually it is worse than that. Like Cyra and Eugene posted, I am no fan of Hezbollah or Hamas but our unequal treatment of the situation and players in the region is empowering the bullies on both sides.

  15. eugenecho says:

    @andy: welcome back.

    i’ll shoot you an email directly.

  16. Bruno says:

    Hello everyone! I totally agree with Cyra’s thoughts. I think that everybody in the world should share some informations about the war. I’m from Brazil and here we have a lot of jews and arabs living together in peace. I believe the biggest problem is the press, specially american / jewish press. The biggest product created by western and powerfull countries is the “terrorist” term. If you have enemies, they’re terrorists. “we can explode the whole Hamas infrastructure because they’re terrorists”. Of course the source is almost the same but we have differente points of view about this war in my country. Every newspaper is considering this as a new Holocaust, happening in Gaza. I am from a arab family but I have nephews from a jewish family. I’m sorry but I’m totally against the israel politics. They can’t do what they’re doing!

  17. dee anne says:

    I’m in Indianapolis and am currently on the board of the Indianapolis Peace and Justice Center.
    It has been very difficult to have rational, civil discussions regarding the conflict that rages in Gaza and the rest of the country.
    I have tried to encourage my fellow peace activists to stop personalizing the conflict by demonizing either side. People like to think in terms of numbers. One life here, 100 lives there. But to me, one life taken is one too many. There are many reasons either group has to be angry and to wish retaliation. But, these reasons do not justify violence as a way to resolve the greivances. As an American, I can only hope that we no longer become the supplier of death-maker weapons. We could be the greatest influence for peace if we would learn to walk the walk ourselves. But we’ve sold out with our own invasions over the past many years. Panama, Nicarauga, Grenada, Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Libya…and the list goes on. How can we ever expect other nations to resolve their conflicts with reason and the courage to “make” peace rather than with guns and bombs if we, ourselves cannot?
    As an American of mixed Jewish heritage, I am in deep pain watching the Israeli military slaughter thousands of innocent lives. I also painned equally when militants strapped bombs to themselves and blew up buses loaded with humans.
    I would like to see the United Nations unite and surround the area denying weaponry into either place.
    American in the Islalmic and Jewish communities must come together and resolve to stop supporting any violence in the name of peace.

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One Day’s Wages

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Today is the last day of my 3 month sabbatical. That went by so fast... On the first day, our family went to Santa, Cruz, California. The first thing we did after we arrived at the San Jose airport was to go straight to In-N-Out. If these kids grow up and feel like they need counseling because their Dad didn't show them love, I'm gonna show them this picture as well and say, "I'VE GOT PROOF. I TOOK YOU TO THE BEST BURGER JOINT WITH NICE CHRISTIAN VERSES UNDER THE DRINK CUP." My prayer life always becomes a little more active when I go fishing. #NameItAndClaimIt #ComeOnSalmon Seattle. Home, sweet home. And home of the Super Bowl champions. Thank you, New York and NJ. You're beautiful. Appreciate your warmth & hospitality. Morning hike. My features over at @miir are hosting a book.giveaway + their world.class  tumblers. "Hot off the press! Eugene Cho, founder of @onedayswages, has a new book titled Overrated that will challenge you to actually change the world. We've got two signed copies to give away. Like this post AND tag a friend for your chance to win both copies and #MiiR tumblers."

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