Monday, November 08, 2010


I'm thinking of preaching about Israel-Palestine during Advent.

My consciousness was raised about this at Greenbelt this year, but I still don't know much about it. Anyone know of any resources to inform me on this issue? What should local religious communities know about this issue? And what should they be doing?


Blogger DairyStateDad said...

Might I suggest this site as a starting point? My sister, a Quaker in suburban Philadelphia, Pa., has worked with them and traveled to Israel/Palestine with them. I'm not sure what kind of presence/resources they have in the UK.

7:19 pm  
Blogger Yewtree said...

Wow, Stephen. If you can get your head round it, I say go for it. It's an issue I have always struggled with. I could probably outline what I think the issues are and what the causes of the current situation are, but I have no idea what the solution is.

I do like the way the Northern Ireland situation has been defused by reconciliation, and the use of the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa, and wonder if something like that could be tried in Israel / Palestine.

1:46 pm  
Blogger Stephen Lingwood said...

I think we're a long way from truth and reconciliation in Israel-Palestine. That would have to be down the road, especially if there was a one state solution, but you can't talk about reconciliation when the powerful are still actively oppressing the powerless.

2:32 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

If religious communities the world over wish to help resolve the middle east impasse, they should first stay out of politics. The best thing to do is to assist the work of those Israelis and Palestinians who daily work at coexistence. For example:

There is a surprising amount of coexistence in Israel/Palestine that is more than often ignored by people wishing to make political points or see the situation in simplistic (Israel is evil, Palestinians are innocent victims) terms.

There are some serious issues to be resolved and the situation is far, far from being resolved, but a solution can and eventually will be found by the people on the ground, that will bring peace to that most beautiful and holy land.

8:18 am  
Anonymous Tim Moore said...

Israel-Palestine is a very complex and multi-facetted conflict. It has a long history and involves a whole region. It is an ethnic, territorial, religious and political conflict.

I want justice for dispossessed and oppressed Palestinians and I want Israel's right-wing Likud-led government called to account. I also want the constant threats made to Israel acknowledged and the oppression by other Palestinians and Arabs on Palestinians challenged.

I don't get this position from the highly selective and one-sided narrative presented to Christians in the UK by organisations like Christian Aid and Bible Lands. The representation is of Palestinians = poor, Israelis = trigger happy. I read little about the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, nothing about secular Israel's equal rights for women and toleration of LGBT people, and nothing about Hamas or its persecution of Christians, other than that Hamas was "created" by Israel. It's not to say there is no truth to Christian Aid's or Bible Lands' position, but without a lot more background and nuance, it's a narrative I won't subscribe to and one I find dangerous.

I too would advise against taking a certain side, as I think it better serves the Unitarian spirit to acknowledge that different opinions are valid, even serving the values of peace and justice. You may also find strong views on either side, which may end up being divisive.

There's information from the Council for Christians and Jews, Liberal Judaism and the Center for Jewish Arab Economic Co-operation. Joint projects by Israeli trade unions (the congress is called Histadrut) which might be worth looking into. Might also be worth speaking to Jane Barraclough if you haven't done already: Jane offered a different and refreshing analysis of the conflict in a recent sermon.

7:07 pm  
Blogger Stephen Lingwood said...

Joseph: firstly it is impossible for religion to "stay out of politics" - if religion has anything to do with ethics, it has something to do with politics. And to remain aloof from the issues of the day is a political stance, in and of itself.

This is the kind of issue when my liberal side is in tension with my liberationist side. Just because there are two sides to an argument does not mean that both sides are equally valid. All moral issues are ambiguous and complex. Stuff we think is obvious now (like slavery) were not clear-cut at the time. I'm reading the Journal of John Woolman at the moment and he's always agonising over the way to express his views, and recognising the different views other people have. Things are always messy, but I don't think that's an excuse not to make a stand.

But surely it is possible to simply come down on the rule of law? Terrorism, and the indiscriminate killing of civilians is against international law, and immoral, and so are Israeli settlements and the systematic oppression of the Palestinians. Can the international community (all of us) be agreed on that? At the minimum can we call upon all sides to obey the law?

Am I being naive? Simplistic? Ignorant?

The thing is I don't want my (our) ignorance to prevent me (us) from engaging with one of the most pressing issues of our time.

5:06 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

Please do not misunderstand me, I certainly do not advocate aloofness from that tragic conflict. When I said that it would be better for religious groups to stay out of politics I meant party politics. One has to try and understand the views of Israelis and Palestinians whether they support Likud or Labour, Fatah or Hamas. I feel that in Britain the conflict is viewed in simplistic Left-Right terms. The Left frequently display a pathological hatred of Israel over and above any other nation, and frequently distort or reinvent history to further their view. The Right often use Israel as their vicarious warrior in their own personal "war" against Islamism (and even Islam). This will not bring progress, but only compound the misery.

International Law is not as simple as many presume. I have heard many convincing arguments in favour of the legality of the settlements (I am opposed to them). In addition I do not view the UN as a particularly authoritative legal arbiter, considering that the majority of its members fail to observe even basic legal necessities. I would much prefer if our country simply held to account as much as possible both sides when they violate what we as a nation regard as basic human and legal rights.

I honestly feel that the best help we can offer is to assist those Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, who are actively working to build strong bonds of coexistence between these two noble peoples.

12:03 am  
Blogger Stephen Lingwood said...

I found the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel to be a good resource.

5:44 pm  

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