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That Burdensome Stumbling Stone
Israel - Middle East
Friday, June 06, 2014
Alf Cengia

Unless one is an irrepressible optimist (there are many) one wouldn't have had too much confidence in the Obama administration's recent initiative to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Just in case you haven't heard yet and were still hoping - it failed once again.

US Secretary of State John Kerry successfully empowered the Palestinian leadership and assisted the conflict by laying the majority of the blame for foiling "his" peace process squarely on Israel's shoulders. It was a spectacular faux pas by a diplomat who should have understood that favoring one party over the other does not help the "peace process."

Even so, there are those who read the situation like Kerry. For example, John Judis wrote:

"The talks, which Secretary of State John Kerry initiated last July with enthusiasm and promise, are floundering. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to blame the Palestinians if the talks fail, but blame should almost certainly be assigned to Netanyahu and the Israelis." (Emphasis mine)

People who blame Israel routinely ignore the hard reality there cannot be any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian Middle East conflict until the Palestinian leaders can bring themselves to recognize Israel's right to exist. Kerry failed to punctuate that point to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

As one observer commenting on Kerry's myopic position noted:

'He [Kerry] neglected to mention, of course, that Israel had already freed 78 terrorists as part of the Kerry “peace process” — including a vicious monster who bashed in a 72-year-old Holocaust survivor’s head and is now living on a $100,000 stipend from the Palestinian Authority.' (Emphasis mine)

Now, according to news media Rome Reports, John Kerry believes that Pope Francis can positively influence the outcome of the peace process:

"With Pope Francis visiting the Holy Land in May, the United States sees the Pope as a key ally in pushing both sides to the negotiating table."

Now that's a thought! Pardon my sarcasm but Israel has already been pushed to that table ad nauseam. Three words come to mind - Camp David Summit.

An objective look at that incident shows that Arafat walked away from the sweetest deal he was ever offered leaving a stunned and bitter President Clinton lying in his wake. Yet I can find people who still insist on blaming Israel for the breakdown of those negotiations.

Will Pope Francis facilitate the peace process by inviting the protagonists to the Vatican? Or is he involving himself in a matter which he may not fully comprehend?

The pope has enjoyed good relations with the Jewish community since his role as an Argentinean Cardinal. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was even in Israel for six days in 1973 as the Yom Kippur war broke out. He has been cited as saying that Catholics and Jews are “bound by a very special spiritual bond." He pledged to further advance the "renewed collaboration" with the Jews since the Second Vatican Council. This suggests he must have a somewhat informed perspective.

We must also consider that in his heart and mind must certainly be the living conditions of Christians in the Middle East. However, the pope came under criticism during his visit to Israel for referring to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas as a "man of peace."

Of course, many would agree with him. But the problems floating over that remark are two-fold:

Firstly, Abbas (Abu Mazen) isn't a man peace. He was a negotiator during the Camp David Summit when he made it clear that the "Palestinian side was unable to make concessions on anything" and that "the whole process was some sort of trap." He still refuses to recognize a Jewish State and is in the process of negotiating a new Palestinian Unity Government with terrorist Hamas.

As an aside, Abbas' conciliatory overtures towards Hamas have caused dissensions within his own faction, with some labeling him a dictator.

The second problem with the pope's declaration is that it raises the question as to why Israel hasn't obliged the "man of peace." The pope likely meant it as a peace-making gesture but it indirectly discredits Israel and obscures the reason for the suffering of Christians in both the West Bank and Gaza.

Other Christian clerics appear to delight in inflaming the Arab-Israeli conflict by their obsessive criticism of Israel. Anti-Israel activist Stephen Sizer has appeared on PressTV (known for its anti-Israel stance) inferring that prior to 1948 Palestinian Christians lived in harmony with their Muslim neighbors. Sizer further stated that 1967 exacerbated the problem for these Christians. There are no prizes for guessing where he was going with that. The caption for the program on Sizer's blog is:

"Christian-Muslim Solidarity in Palestine, born out of shared suffering."

Sizer has claimed that Israel was never God's chosen people and that attacking Christian support of Israel is consistent with the gospel. Christian Zionists and Israel supporters have also been referred to as fanatics engrossed in Middle East politics (noted in a recent Rosh Pina Project article). RPP rightly observed the irony that anti-Zionists are, in turn, preoccupied with attacking Israel.

Despite Sizer's obsession with Israel's culpability, the reason that Christians are suffering in the Middle East can be laid at the feet of Islamic intolerance.

A recent study by Justus Reid Weiner suggests that the current state of Palestinian Christians may reflect the character of a Future Palestinian State. According to Weiner:

"The Christians of the Middle East are suffering from debilitating persecution. The Muslim states...have neglected and abused the most fundamental rights and freedoms of their most vulnerable citizens."

Pope Francis' visit and comments were arguably motivated by pastoral and diplomatic concerns. The same cannot be said of those who, like Sizer, are blatant antagonists. But regardless of one's intentions, there are clear biblical exhortations against those who burden themselves against Jerusalem and, by default, Israel.

Genesis 12:3 sounds a blessing and a curse. It is often appropriated by anti-Zionists and reapplied to the church (as the children of Abraham). Yet Gen 27:29 and Zechariah 12:2-3 should invoke trepidation to any objective exegete who contemplates joining the anti-Zionist mob.

Finally, as Weiner's study suggests, a Palestinian state will not bring peace to the area because it will comprise of the same leaders who are already persecuting Christians and refusing to recognize Israel's right to exist.

Believing that the situation will change with a New Unified Palestinian State is a dangerous and erroneous assumption.

About Alf Cengia

Last week: Maranatha and Keep Looking Busy

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