By the time this gets posted, President Obama will have wrapped up his brief visit to the Palestinian West Bank on day two of his Middle Eastern tour.
On which occasion, I’d like to ask:
Where else in the world would we not just accept but actively promote the idea of two separate states formed along ethnic lines?
Almost everyone talks about the two-state solution — which appears less viable with every new Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory — as the only path toward peace.
While it may be the best (or perhaps only) way forward at this point, it seems worth pausing to ask: Would we accept such a solution elsewhere? Would we accept it on our own soil?
Would we accept a state or community in our own backyard that was defined largely on the basis of ethnic homogeneity (or at least the apparent desire for such homogeneity)?
What would happen if someone proposed carving up America into three separate ethnic states: a black state, a white state, and a Latino state?
We would immediately reject any such proposal with all due revulsion, that’s what.
And yet we don’t even blink at the thought of carving up 25,000 square miles of Mediterranean soil along ethnic divisions.
I know the counterargument: that Israel isn’t entirely homogenous, that there are many Israeli citizens who are Arab. And there are. But they are often treated as second-class citizens and spoken of as a threat to the rest of the population — Israel’s “demographic bomb.” Besides, the price of their citizenship is that they have to acknowledge and submit to a state that defines itself according to one ethnicity.
To put that into perspective, let’s imagine a parallel a bit closer to home. What if someone said it’s only OK for blacks to live in the United Stated if they affirmed it to be fundamentally a “white state”? Or what if someone said it’s only OK for Catholics, Muslims, and Jews to live here if they affirmed it to be fundamentally a Protestant Christian nation?
Sadly, there are people who have thought along these lines before. You’ll recognize them by their white hoods and their flaming crosses.
So where did those of us who are Christian get the idea that such thinking could ever be part of God’s plan for the world?
How can we defend policies of apartheid-esque nation building — wherever they may be found — while praying to a God whose aim was to “[destroy] the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” between nations?
If, as we read in Scripture, God intends to bring all nations (Greek, ethnos) back together — and in fact began doing so the minute Christ ascended to heaven — then how do we justify our support for policies that seem geared toward doing the opposite?
One final question . . .
Let’s say you believe the modern-day state of Israel is somehow connected to the biblical version. Let’s say your interpretation of Scripture leads you to the conclusion that they are forever entitled to the land because of a promise God made in the Old Testament. Setting aside for a moment the dangers of basing foreign policy on one religion’s sacred text at the expense of another’s . . . what are we to make of the prophet Ezekiel’s directive to his fellow Israelites returning home from exile some 2,500 years ago?
You are to allot [the land] as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you . . .
Can this be reconciled with the current state of affairs otherwise known as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
If you’re a Christian, this is not just bad policy. It’s bad theology.