From The Vicarage





One of the charities All Saints supports is "Embrace" (formerly the "Bible Lands Society) It supports the work of Christian communities in the Middle East, including the Holy Land, Jordon, Syria and Egypt. You will see the charity's magazine displayed in the rack at the back of the church. Embrace supports the work of the Christian churches throughout the Middle East, particularly in their work in education, health care, and working with children with disabilities. We in the West often forget that there are indigenous Christian communities who have been in these countries for centuries, and long before the expansion of Islam. We have supported, for example, a hospital in Gaza, which though run by Christians, serves anyone in need, regardless of race or religion.



Of all the conflicts in the Middle east, perhaps the most intractable is that between Israel and the Palestinians. The more I read on the subject, the more despondent and confused I become! It seems to me there are two fundamentally irreconcilable positions. Both sides have just claims, and both sides have been guilty of terrible violence against their enemies. For Israel, the matter is straight forward. The Holy Land is the historical home land for the Jewish people. It was promised them by God in the Bible. Though exiled by the Romans in the 1st Century, they have always longed to return. The right to a Jewish homeland was affirmed by Britain in the historic Balfour declaration of 1917. This accelerated the immigration of Jewish people to what was then Palestine. With the growth of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s, the need for a safe homeland for the Jews became more urgent. Antisemitism was nothing new. Jews had been persecuted by Christians through the centuries. The pogroms in Russia in the 19th Century brought new dangers for the Jews and strengthened the case for Zionism. The Holocaust confirmed the strong moral case of the Jews for a secure homeland. The British left Palestine when the state of Israel was declared in 1948. The declaration was met immediately with war initiated by the Arab States, who were determined to strangle the Israeli state at birth. Further wars followed in 1967 and 1973, which Israel has always believed to be at the instigation of the Arab states. Continuing acts of terrorism by Arab extermists, including Fatah, Hamas and Hezbollah, have been met with strong (sometimes disproportionate) resistance by Israel. We can only begin to understand the Israeli psychology when we remember their history. The Jews are a people who have been persecuted for centuries. The Jews are a people that a European nation tried to wipe off the face of the earth during the Second World War.



The Palestinian view of the conflict is very different. The Jews had continued to live in Palestine as a minority through the centuries. Until the accelerated immigration in the 19th Century, relations between Jews and Arabs had been largely peaceful. The British had made contradictory promises to the Arabs for a sovereign state in Palestine, in return for help against the Ottoman empire during the First World War. The wars of the 20th Century resulted in large numbers of Palestinian refugees fleeing the conflicts. There had been instances of massacres and atrocities committed by both sides. Some of those responsible would become leaders of the state of Israel. Menachem Begin had been responsible for acts of terrorism against both the British military and Arab civilians. Land that had been in the hands of Palestinian families for generations, has in many instances been taken over the Israeli settlers. Now an eight metre high wall, the symbol of the intractability of the conflict, separates Jews from Palestinians. Everywhere in Israel and the Occupied territories, there are walls, fences, checkpoints and barricades. The whole of Gaza is surrounded by an electrified fence. For Israel, these are seen as reasonable measures of self defence. For the Palestinians, it is the symbol of the oppression of an occupying power that has stolen their land.



All attempts to resolve the conflict have ended in failure. The only hope has been at the points when both sides have looked as if they were prepared to make sacrifices, for the sake of peace. When ever this point is reached, it is high-jacked by extremists, who are not prepared to allow any compromise. I would not presume to know the answer which has eluded some of the world's wisest statesmen and diplomats. Like many people, I look on from a distance hoping and praying for an end to a conflict in a land which is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Israel is now a nuclear power, is well armed, and has strong financial support, not least from the United States. The Palestinians will not prevail by force. Continued acts of terrorism will only result in suffering on both sides. Because of the overwhelming power of Israel, attacks on Jewish people will always be met with a massive response. There can only be hope with good will (in very short supply); and a patient determination to take small steps to build trust; a process that may take many decades. However, it seems to me that before all this can begin, three steps are necessary. 1. Israel is here to stay. The Palestinians and the Arab states must recognise Israel's right to exist. 2. The slow rebuilding of trust and security can only begin with an absolute renunciation of terrorism, so Israelis can leave in security. Otherwise, all the barriers and checkpoints will remain. 3. Israel and their Arab neighbours, must recognise the aspirations of the Palestinians for a homeland of their own. There can only be peace and justice when Palestinians can live freed from the poverty and oppression, which have been the breeding ground for violence and terrorism. Please continue to pray for peace in the Holy Land and for all those who work for peace. Especially for the Christian communities in the Holy Land.











Printer Printable Version
Page last updated: 15th Jun 2018 12:19 AM