If you are a United Methodist and a supporter of the state of Israel, you really should take a look at this week’s newsletter from the General Board of Church and Society, in order to get an idea of what your apportionment dollars are supporting. I refer specifically to an Independence Day piece by UM missionary Janet Lahr Lewis. Much of it consists of snarky comments about the July 4 celebration at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the inconveniences of life in Israel, but then she gets to the point:

Those of us who have lived through the “bad times” here, and then the “really bad times,” followed by this tenuous respite have ears attuned to the telltale sounds that help identify not only types of explosions or gunfire, but their direction as well. Israeli guns are modern and up-to-date. They sound like the soprano section of a choir. Palestinian weapons are antique leftovers from the British Mandate era or have been acquired illegally through the black market. They resonate with the sound of age in bass and baritone.

AK-47s “resonate with the sound of age”? Those are, in fact, modern automatic weapons, and are the items that were aquired on the black market–or from the Palestinian Authority.

With the sound of fireworks and reminders of our U.S. forefathers’ fighting and dying for their freedom, it was not much of a stretch before beginning to contemplate when the Palestinians will be able to celebrate those same freedoms. They have lived for too many years under the oppressive hand of the government of Israel, which celebrates its own “independence” every May.

A lot of those freedoms–speech, religion, assembly, freedom from unreasonable search, arbitrary arrest, cruel and unusual punishment, etc.–could be enjoyed by Palestinians today, if only they weren’t ruled by fundamentalist fanatics and corruptocrats. The brutality, corruption, and incompetence of Palestinian leadership, however, is all Israel’s fault, as is everything that’s wrong with the Middle East.

For me, though, the Israel independence day evokes visions of slaughter and destruction, of forced marches and imprisonment. The U.S. Independence Day evokes thoughts of “freedom fighters” and “patriots.” Why are these terms only appropriate when referring to the U.S.’s own bloody history? Why don’t we refer to Palestinians fighting for the same rights as “freedom fighters” and “patriots,” instead of as “terrorists” and “extremists”?

How about because they deliberately target civilians? How about because they don’t fight as an army according to the rules of war, but as a gang of murderers for whom the end justifies absolutely any means as long as it kills Jews (including Arabs and Muslims in the bargain)? How about because they’ve shown every indication that Palestinian independence will be marked by tyrannical dictatorship? How about because the enemy is daily degraded in public school education and PA-operated media as subhuman? How about because the aim of Hamas isn’t Palestinian independence nearly so much as the destruction of Israel? Are any of those possible answers to your question, Ms. Lewis?

”Independence Day” only helps to remind me that for every country that declares its independence, an indigenous population has invariably been forced to become victims through loss of their own independence and freedoms. Our U.S. history stands as an example of this injustice regarding Native Americans.

I’m not certain what this means, but I think she’s complaining that when Iraq, Algeria, Libya, Sudan, and other Arab countries gained independence from their colonial rulers, Iraqis, Algerians, Libyans, Sudanese, etc. lost their independence and freedoms. Given that Arabs weren’t the only people inhabiting the Holy Land in 1948, that hundreds of thousands of them stayed at the time of the five-nation Arab invasion, that they are now the freest Arabs (along with Iraqis) in the Middle East, and that the Palestinian Arabs were ruled for two decades by Egyptians and Jordanians before 1967, I’m sure she can’t be referring to the inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank.

July 4, 2009, is history. Another year has passed without any hope for freedom for the people of Gaza, or the people who still live in refugee camps, or the people who can no longer visit their families because they live on the other side of the Separation Wall. Let us all pray that the new U.S. administration, the protestations of the international community against illegal settlements and war crimes, the pressure from the “outside,” will combine to bring the change needed so that next year we will truly be able to celebrate Independence Day: independence from oppression in all forms.

Does that mean that she hopes Palestinians will stage their own “velvet revolution”? The truth is that the quickest way to bring down the security fence, to secure a Palestinian state, and to free Palestinians from oppression would be for them to renounce terrorism and accept Israel’s right to exist. Therein lies the way, not only to peace, but to freedom.