Sitting here in my study in Aotearoa-New Zealand, I am a world away from the people of Israel. You can’t get further away from Jerusalem or Gaza than here in what the Psalmist called ‘the uttermost parts of the earth’ (although David probably didn’t have us Kiwis in mind when he wrote it!) but I can’t keep silent about Hamas’s latest slaughter of the innocents on Oct 7 and your nation’s response.
I’m not Jewish. I’m a follower of the first century CE rabbi from Nazareth. But my heart is wholly with Israel in this war, not because I’m sentimental but because I believe in the simple justice of your cause.
For five decades as a minister, I have closely studied Israel’s 4,000 year history as well as the last turbulent 100 years of mandatory Palestine and the creation of Jordan, and most of the modern Arab states (save Egypt) and the reborn Israel. I have read the eloquent writings of Palestinian writers Edward Said, Naim Ateek, Alex Awad, and Elias Chacour, as well as the polemics of Western journalists Robert Fisk, John Pilger, and Gywnne Dyer, and anti-Zionist Jews such as Norman Finkelstein and his mentor Noam Chomsky, as well as Israeli historians Benny Morris and Ilan Paape, and many others. I’ve considered the massacres at Deir Yassin, Lydda, Chatila, and Sabra but also at Haifa, Kfar Etzion, and the Hadassah medics.
Twice I have visited your remarkable country, talking with Palestinians at every opportunity to ensure my perspective is loving, humane, and enlightened by personal contact and testimonies. Always, I hope, willing to be corrected on matters of fact and figures, here’s my perspective from the uttermost parts of the earth.
Beyond all doubt, what the Arabs call the 1948 Nakba which led to the displacement of 711,000 Palestinian refugees (UN figures) was just as catastrophic for the 856,000 Jewish refugees from the Arab nations.
Happily, the reborn nation of Israel absorbed 620,000, which doubled your Jewish population, but the Arab nations accepted none at all then, and still won’t, forcing the Arab refugees to live as perpetual outsiders, propped up by UNWRA, half of whose funds come from the USA and Germany.
The Arab nations caused the problem then; they alone can solve it today. Rather than pouring vast funds into arming the likes of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad, they could instead look after the truly wretched Palestinians who rely on the West for charity and blame Israel.
For a global perspective on that era, just look at South Asia in 1947 when population transfer was the only answer for India to end the appalling atrocities and massacres of Hindus and Sikhs by Muslims, and Muslims by Hindus and Sikhs, in which 1 million were killed! The Partition meant that 7.2 million Muslims had to leave Hindu and Sikh-controlled areas while 7.3 million Hindus and Sikhs had to leave Muslim-controlled areas which were then renamed Pakistan and Bangladesh – 14.5 million had to move!
Decades earlier, after the Turkish genocide of the Armenians and Greeks, the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 required the expulsion of 1.5m Greeks and Christians from Turkish territory, and 800,000 Turks and Muslims from Greek territory. This population transfer of 2.3 million was the only solution.
Isn’t it racist to believe that Arabs can’t be as compassionate and accepting of their refugees as the Greeks, Turks, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Jews? Why should Israel alone accept responsibility for all 1.6m Arab and Jewish refugees who wanted to stay in the Middle East in 1948?
So, I wonder, why aren’t the UN, the media, and our universities calling out the often ostentatiously wealthy Arab nations for corralling the Palestinian refugees into 58 official and 10 unofficial permanent refugee camps? Or for massacring them by the thousands, as they did in Jordan during Black September in 1970, in Lebanon in the 70s and 80s, and Syria in the last decade? Shouldn’t we care about these Palestinians killed by their Arab brothers?
It’s time for some simple justice for all Jews and Palestinians.