Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Today’s will be a much shorter post, since (surprise!) I agree with much of what Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson has to say about Genesis 19, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, in his third post on homosexuality in the Bible at the Washington Post. He writes:

In the Genesis story of Sodom after welcoming two men (whom the story identifies as angels) into his house, Lot is confronted by all the men in the town, who surround the house and demand, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.” There is some debate about the word “to know” here. Most scholars would agree that it has the sexual meaning here – but it is very clear that we are talking about homosexual rape, a violent act of aggression – and clearly something we would all condemn and deem worthy of God’s punishment.

I think that’s right, and as such it doesn’t directly bear on the issue (especially since Lot’s sending his daughters out to be raped is just as reprehensible). I do disagree that this is primarily about “inhospitality,” which seems like an extremely weak term for acts embodied in sexual violence, but the primary point is that the Sodom story is about a constellation of sins, including but not limited to sexual immorality (Ezekiel 16:49 explicitly says, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” Jude 1:7 mentions sexual immorality and pursuing “unnatural desire,” but that’s not enough to hang an ethics of sexuality on by itself. So I’m going to let this one pass, let those who disagree fight it out in the comments, and move on tomorrow to his next passage.


The PCUSA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network wants Presbyterians to believe that it is in accord with the denomination’s stated positions regarding possible solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The official position of the PCUSA is that peace will be be achieved through a two-state solution that secures Israel’s sovereignty and grants the Palestinians a state of their own. “Breaking Down the Walls,” the 2010 report of the Middle East Study Committee, stated as passed:

Given the daunting and mounting obstacles to the viability of a “two-state solution,” and following from the above principles, the 219th General Assembly (2010) affirms with greater urgency our historic Presbyterian stances with specific regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling for

j. the immediate resumption by Israel and Palestine of negotiations toward a two-state solution.

Today, IPMN communications director Noushin Framke makes clear that in fact what the network wants to see is the destruction of Israel, its incorporation into a single state of Palestine, and the domination of Israeli Jews by the Palestinians. Writing at Ecclesio:

As we Americans prepared to travel for Thanksgiving week to gather with family and friends and give thanks for our many blessings, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) delivered the final nail in the coffin for the two-state solution on Israel/Palestine. The Knesset voted 65 to 33 to require a national referendum vote on handing over any “annexed” territory. That sounds democratic, what’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, it’s about who gets to vote. You guessed it; not the Palestinians.

This is the latest bit of hysteria going around the anti-Israel sites. Before handing over annexed territory, Israelis will vote, which means the end is here. Apparently Framke doesn’t realize that the annexed territories include only the Golan Heights (which was Syrian, not Palestinian) and East Jerusalem, which is going to be the subject of an extraordinarily complicated deal in any case. Why this is so much worse than just the Knesset voting on something–last time I checked, West Bank Palestinians didn’t have any votes there, either–I’m not sure. But this is typical: Framke is upset because people who are not citizens of the country giving up the territory in question don’t get to vote. As I recall, there was no Palestinian vote when Jordan annexed East Jerusalem back in 1948, either.

As it has become painfully clear for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, the historic land of Palestine was never “a land without a people for a people without a land,” even if there are still people who believe Golda Meir’s abhorrent and distorted quote that there’s no such thing as a Palestinian. On the other end of the spectrum, Israeli historian, Shlomo Sand said in his best-selling book The Invention of the Jewish People, that it is highly likely that today’s Palestinians are in fact the descendants of those Jews from the biblical era who stayed in the holy land and converted first to Christianity and then to Islam. Whether you agree with Golda Meir or Shlomo Sand, both positions are contentious and controversial.

Funny thing about that link to Meir’s quote. It’s from a letter to the New York Times explaining and defending her! Seems she was saying something that would universally recognized if there was any honesty in the world: that there is no ethically distinct “Palestinian people.” Rather, there are Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews, which is to say that the residents of the area called Palestine fall into two categories, Jewish and Arab. Before 1967, everyone knew that; after 1967, there was suddenly a distinct people called “Palestinians,” who all happened to be Arabs, who had a claim on the land. As for Sand, his book has already been debunked as politicized pseudo-history, but it keeps turning up on the anti-Semitic sites as “proof” that “the Jews” are really “Khazars” with no historic connection to the Holy Land, which presumably is why Framke mentions it.

I prefer to look through the lens provided by historian Tony Judt who was the longtime director of the Remarque Institute at NYU and who recently succumbed to ALS Disease….Judt famously called Israel an anachronism, saying it was a good idea for the nineteenth century but an idea whose time had passed in the 21st century. Judt said Israel arrived too late: “The very idea of a ‘Jewish state’—a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded—is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.”

Judt’s article was roundly criticized at the time for its ideological rather than factual description of Israel, and the quote Framke takes from it is a perfect illustration of why. The expression “from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded” is internally self-contradictory, as well as shown to be nonsense by the facts. Palestinian Arabs who are citizens of Israel have the right to vote, have served as ambassadors, members of the Knesset, and cabinet members. They have free speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. Does that mean there’s no discrimination or racism in Israel? Of course not. But the claim that Israeli Arabs are the victims of some kind of apartheid regime is nonsense. Oh, and here’s a message to Framke and her anti-Israel buddies: just because a Jew says something bad about Israel doesn’t mean it’s right, and doesn’t give you license to repeat it as though it is.

Today, the question is no longer where the borders will be for the two states, but rather what kind of rights the populations will have in the defacto ONE state. The fact of the matter is that Israel and the Occupied Territories are in fact one state, controlled by one group. Furthermore, nobody in their right mind believes Israel is going to remove up to half a million Jewish Settlers from the Palestinian West Bank. Realpolitik dictates that these settlers will stay put.

Here’s where she starts making the argument that a single state is what’s needed. But notice the reference to the settlers. She assumes that two states are impossible, because there’s no way the settlers will leave. So, how about giving them the option: stay in a state in which they are a minority, or move to Israel? But no, there’s no way the settlers can be allowed to stay in the West Bank. The Palestinian territories, if they are to become a state, must be Judenrein. It’s not apartheid, but….

Unfortunately, Israel has already wiped The West Bank off the map – politicians, government agencies and school textbooks do not use the term “West Bank” which is officially called Judea and Samaria by Israel. In the minds of Israelis, it’s a done deal. The question is how long Israelis, and their supporters, the American taxpayer, are willing to maintain a segregated state with unequal rights. As many Israelis and Palestinians are saying now, the “one state solution” is not a solution but a consequence of killing the two-state solution. When Israel refuses to declare its borders, by definition we are left with one state. When Israel doesn’t give the Palestinians their civil rights, we are left with an apartheid state. This is not a sustainable situation.

Leaving aside the repeated, incorrect, and inflammatory use of the word “apartheid” (officially rejected by the PCUSA General Assembly as a description of the situation in the Holy Land), she is correct. This situation can’t go on forever, which is why so many Israelis, up to and including the Prime Minister, have concluded that it will be necessary to give the Palestinians a state of their own. But Framke is headed down the road of rejecting that, thinking that the Israelis will never give in to every single Palestinian demand, which is correct. In short, she doesn’t want negotiations, she wants capitulation. Since that won’t happen, another road will have to be taken.

In 1948 at the founding of the state of Israel, David Ben Gurion famously said that Israel, the dream, was three things: All the biblical land, a democracy, and a Jewish state. But in 1948, Ben Gurion also said that Israel could only have two out of these three at the same time. Right now, it has control over all the land and it is a Jewish state, meaning Jewish citizens have more rights than others do. (Contrary to popular myth, since not all the people who live in the land have the same rights, it cannot be considered a democracy).

More nonsense. What she is saying here is that Israel is not a democracy since the West Bank Palestinians don’t have the full rights of Israeli citizens, even though they are not citizens of Israel and most have no desire to be. What she has done is set up a construct in her mind that goes like this: Israel controls the West Bank, so the land from the Med to the Jordan is essentially one state, but since Palestinians on the West Bank aren’t treated identically to Israeli citizens, Israel is actually an apartheid state. This is like saying that because the residents of the American zone of occupation in post-World War II West Germany couldn’t vote in American elections, America was therefore an apartheid state.

The rubber hits the road with the next quote:

Again, by definition, as Prof. Walt Mearsheimer says, Israel is a de facto apartheid state: “Regrettably, the two-state solution is now a fantasy.  Instead, those territories will be incorporated into a ‘Greater Israel,’ which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa.  Nevertheless, a Jewish apartheid state is not politically viable over the long term.  In the end, it will become a democratic bi-national state, whose politics will be dominated by its Palestinian citizens.  In other words, it will cease being a Jewish state, which will mean the end of the Zionist dream.”

Going back to the Ben Gurion prophecy, unless Israel wants to remain an apartheid state and since it will not give up any land, then it will have to give up being a Jewish state. [Emphasis added.]

So this is where Framke, and presumably the IPMN for which she speaks, wants to head: a single national entity in the Holy Land, dominated by the Palestinians, in which Jews will be at the mercy of their rulers. Given the history of Jewish communities in the Middle East under Muslim rule, it’s fair to say that the end result of that will be the expulsion of all or most of the Jewish population, just as was the case over the twenty or so years after the founding of Israel in 1948. This time, Jews will be told to go to the United States, or perhaps back to Europe, as Helen Thomas so famously said they should (the Sephardis, who would not be allowed back to their homelands in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, and so on, would presumably be on their own).

I applaud Framke for her honesty. Now all members of the PCUSA can see whether the IPMN is in fact working at cross purposes with their denomination or not.

PS–Given the trajectory of this article, I had to laugh to note that three times in the last few days, the IPMN has trumpeted on its Facebook page the news that nations outside the Middle East (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and now France) have “recognized” an “independent Palestine.” No word yet on when said independent state will be swallowing Israel whole.