Reuters: Karnit Goldwasser sits in front of a photograph of her husband Udi Goldwasser, who was captured by Hezbollah on July 12 on the border between Lebanon and Israel, and speaks of her hope for his return during a news conference in New York on August 3. The United States, France and Britain hope for a United Nations Security Council resolution within a week that would call for a truce between Israel and Hezbollah, and maybe strengthen existing U.N. peacekeepers until a more robust force can be formed, U.N. officials said.
The Arab/Israeli crisis
This article is submitted by the Public Theology Forum, a group of local ministers of religion from different denominations.
In order to understand the Arab-Israeli crisis, it is necessary to broaden our analytical horizon, in that this war is neither a new situation nor a new enemy.
The birth pains have roots in the Suez Canal conflict, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the invasion of the Latin America-Caribbean region 29 times, the Iraq, Iran, Lebanon conflicts and the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
We are indebted to Canon Ateek, a Palestinian Christian theologian, who indicated that the present dilemma is due to four main factors: the political abuse of the Bible; the theological concept of 'A Chosen people;" the question of land; and, the misunderstanding of the nature of God.
There is a fifth factor which is very real, that is, Israel feels unsafe and so the passion to protect herself from hostile neighbours can neither be rejected nor taken lightly. This dialogue that we are initiating is to engage the Jamaican people, to discuss objectively the present conflict and to remind ourselves that we take pride in showing the world that we are a multiracial mosaic, living in harmony with Jews and Arabs.
ABUSE OF THE BIBLE
The historic fact is that the House of Assembly in Jamaica admitted Jews before the House of Commons in Britain (H. P. Jacobs, 1973)
A renowned Palestinian Christian theologian affirmed that the Palestinian-Israel crisis is exacer-bated by the political abuse of the Bible. The existence of God is not in doubt for many persons in Palestine, but what is questioned seriously is the nature and character of God.
Many questions are being asked: Is God partial only to the Jews? Is God a protector of the Palestinians? What is God really like? How does God relate to the state of Israel and the Palestinians? Does God support the use of nuclear weapons by the Israelis? Is this a God of justice and peace?
Many Christians in Israel, Palestine and outside the Middle East are asking these questions. Many Palestinian Christians argue that the God of the Bible, hitherto the God who saves and liberates, has come to be viewed by Palestinians as partial and discriminating.
The only bridge between the Bible and people is theology. It must be a theology that is biblically sound; a theology that liberates; a theology that will contextualise and interpret while remaining faithful to the heart of the biblical message (Canon Ateek, 1990)
Another theological point that is disheartening and needs to be critically analysed is that there is a feeling that some nations have a 'priority on God', to the exclusion of others.
There is a historic theological consciousness that is very active and alive in the sub-conscious psyche of Jamaican people, that Israel, being regarded as the 'Chosen People of God' or God's people, can be excused constantly, for any misdemeanour.
Alter Brueggemann stated very clearly that there is no doubt that in Israel's unsolicited testimony, Israel itself is presented as Yahweh's preferred and privileged partner.
Israel is pleased and perplexed by its own role vis-a-vis Yahweh's sovereignty and fidelity (Brueggemann, 1997).
The Deuteronomic theology reflects the keynote concept of election, which summons the entire people of Israel to a new way of life.
This allowed Israel to view itself as markedly nationalistic and a particular, favoured people. Israel is seen as Yahweh's own holy people, and is therefore meant to eliminate the other people from Palestine and not to inter-marry (Deut.7:1-6).
Exodus 19:6 predicts that God will create a holy nation dedicated to Him, with a priestly monarchy or king. Deuteronomic theology triggered a powerful influence in the future concepts of the theology of election.
The Chosen People are to act as missionaries for God and not persons who annihilate and massacre other nations (Georg Fohrer,1973) We are not implying that the Jews should not believe that they are God's chosen people, but, God's chosen people include all people of faith who have a responsibility to be partners with God in manifesting justice, righteousness and peace.
Of course not every Israeli citizen accepts the theology of them being the chosen people. It is also interesting to note that Hezbollah means 'The Party of God'.
A former CIA Agent Kathleen Christison, in a recent article entitled The Insane Brutality of the State of Israel, said that "the state lashes out in a crazed effort, lacking any sense of proportion, to reassure itself of its strength." So whose God is right?
THEOLOGY OF THE LAND
It is important for us to state that there is nothing wrong to believe that God assisted Israel to obtain land, but, the problem we have inherited is that, there is an interpretation that it is only Israel that has a right to own a particular property, and we seem to be ignoring the evidence of scripture which emphasises the universality of God as being the owner of all land on earth (Psalm.24:1; and Leviticus 25:23).
The LAND, according to Marcus defines one's cultural identity, and affirms one's destiny and history.
(i)There is the view that Abraham and his descendants were promised land, which included his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. He suggested that since it is claimed that the Jews are the descendants of the younger son Isaac, and the Arabs of the older son, Ishmael, then, they should share the land.
(ii) Before the coming of the European Jews and the establishment of the State of Israel, the descendants of Abraham were already living in the land. The inhabitants of Palestine, whether Muslims, Jews, or Christians, are mono-theistic and have strong connections with Abraham. They are Abraham's children, in terms of tradition, beliefs and racial ancestry. Abraham is their ancestor, whether physically or spiritually. Abraham was born in Iraq and when Sarah died, he asked permission for her to be buried in Hittite country.
(iii) It is very clear in Hebrew writings that the land of Canaan really belongs to God. In the Hexateuch, the land is referred to as the "land of Canaan" In Joshua 24:8, it is called the land of the Amorites. In Leviticus 25:23, the divine ownership of the land is strongly emphasised, when the Israelites occupied a portion of the land.
The Psalmist is correct when we read in Psalm 24:1 that "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world and all who dwell in it." The land dilemma perpetuates an incorrect concept of God, who is visualised as being stationary and fixed in one land, but, Old Testament reality sees God as universal. Amos taught that God was active outside of Israel.
THE WAY FORWARD
It is very unfortunate that Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and Israel responded by arresting the Cabinet members of Hamas, which intensified the conflict. There have been many United Nations resolutions and there was one which called for the disarming of Hezbollah, but U.N. Resolution 242 requested that Israel should return all territories seized in the 1967 war.
It is imperative that there is a ceasefire, that the infrastructure of Lebanon be rebuilt, that there be a U.N. investigation for the killing of the innocent persons in Israel and Lebanon and that we work towards the mutual respect for the sovereignty and recognition of the State of Israel and the state of Palestine.
Members of the Public Theology Forum are Revs. Neville Callam, Byron Chambers, Ernle Gordon, Roderick Hewitt, Stotrell Lowe, Richmond Nelson, Garnet Roper, Ashley Smith, Burchell Taylor, Karl Johnson, and Wayneford McFarlane.
The theological abuse of the Bible