Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Jewish People, hatred and a State

Bob Campbell, Will Spotts and Aric Clark, toward the end of the comments on my post, My answer to the Israel/Palestine Mission Network's E-mail, have edged the conversation toward what I believe is the most important part of the conversation about the Mideast and the State of Israel. That is, is it important for there to be a Jewish State for the Jewish people? Both Will and Bob believe that there must be a Jewish State. Bob does so with a personal emphatic insistence since his wife is “genetically half Jewish” and therefore so are his children. In the hypothetical situation of horrific anti-Semitism where would they go without a Jewish State?

Aric on the other hand writes, “I actually do think the idea of Israel as a "Jewish" state is a mistake. Only because I think that the best model of governance is secular and geographic rather than religious or ethnic.” He goes on to state, “Right or wrong, for better or for worse - much of the objection of the Arabs to Israel is and has always been that it was a western intrusion in their land for the sake of establishing a ‘Jewish nation.’” Indeed!

That is exactly the problem, and it was what prompted The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to include the anti-Semitic statement that most of the people who came to Israel from European countries were descendants of converts to Judaism and not related to the people of ancient Israel in their booklet Steadfast Hope. (I have proved in another posting that this is both untrue and anti-Semitic.)

The concern about Israel as a Jewish State was what prompted the half question to me in the e-mail sent to answer my question about the blatant anti-Semitic quote. That is that they assumed that my questions to IPMN were not an attempt to reduce conversations about Israel and Palestine “to an argument about genetic purity.”

That is indeed the real question troubling the nations around Israel and further afield. And might I say troubling some people in mainline Churches. And truthfully it has nothing to do with Judaism but instead with “the Jews.” That is, and there is no other way to put it, heartless, cold, anti-Christian anti-Semitism.

The State of Israel was envisioned by secular Jews to be a safe haven for the Jewish people. No more exiles from Spain or England. No more pogroms in Russia or Eastern Europe. No more fanatical lies in France. No more killings of millions in Germany and elsewhere.

No more sitting home in the United States as protesters walk down your street with signs suggesting that there should be bigger ovens. (For an example of this see
Anti-Semitism among those who march and protest Update and read comment by Allyson Rowen Taylor, Americans Against Hate Speech and Anti Semitism.)

So the only way the more radical Muslims, and some organizations within the mainline Churches including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be happy with a state called Israel is if that name is not equated with the Jewish people. And this is where the whole matter ends, on a religious foundation.

Because then one has to ask why? And for a Christian, and I am one of those, the question can only be answered with a religious answer. If you had asked the British and French, the Germans or the Russians, the Polish or even the Silver Shirts in America
[2] before World War II they would have each had a different answer but like Hitler and all anti-Semites before him and after they would be based on conspiracy theories and lies. So why this hatred?

Why shouldn’t there be a Jewish nation? Karl Barth offered several reasons for the hatred. One is that the Jew “pays for the fact that he is the elect of God.” We all look on them knowing that they are the elect and yet they are sinful like all others-so we are looking in a mirror at ourselves. In all of God’s dealings with them we are reminded of our own sinfulness.

Secondly the Jewish people have spent so many years wandering and yet they have permanence. They remind us of the grace of God. As Barth writes:

“The existence of the Jews tells us that in world history there seems to be neither security nor permanent abiding place for any nation or for any individual. No wonder this idea is repugnant to us! Do we shiver at the thought that we too might be bidden to live on nothing but the grace of God?

And how painful is the other question that arises from this thought; that with all its helplessness this race is still so permanent, so enduring! Why do we dislike to be told that the Jews are the chosen people? Why does Christendom continually search for fresh proof that this is no longer true? In a word because we do not enjoy being told that the sun of free grace, by which alone we can live, shines not upon us, but upon the Jews, that it is the Jews who are elect and not the Germans, the French or the Swiss, and that in order to be chosen we must for good or ill, either be Jews or else be heart and soul on the side of the Jews. ‘Salvation is of the Jews.”

Then after speaking of Christ, the Jew “who looks down on us from the cross,” Barth draws some conclusions. Some that we need to hear:

Without any doubt the Jews are to this very day the chosen people of God in the same sense as they have been so from the beginning, according to the Old and New Testaments. They have the promise of God; and if we Christians from among the Gentiles have it too, then it is only as those chosen with them, as guests in their house, as new wood grafted on to their old tree. The Christian community exists in the same way as the Jews; miraculously sustained throughout the years, it too is a people of strangers; and just as the anti-semites are offended by the Jews, so the Christian community will necessarily arouse the same feelings.”

So from all hatred the Jewish people need a State. A State that is Jewish.

[1] My answer to the Israel/Palestine Mission Network's E-mail
[2] See-James Ridgeway, Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1990), 45.


Aric Clark said...

The same argument could be made about the Kurds or Gypsies or Uighurs, or a dozen other nationless persecuted people's on this planet. Perhaps you are right and they each need a nation of their own. Personally I think the very idea of nationhood is a failed experiment that far from leading to security leads to greater warfare than ever in history.

But... if we are going to have nations - the most successful and peaceful variety have been secular non-ethnic geographic representative democracries. Meaning that the nation is purely defined by its geographic boundaries and equally responsible to all of its citizens regardless of ethnicity or religion.

Actually I think other kinds of nations are to varying degrees illegitimate. Imagine if the USA decided you had to be related to an original British colonist to be a citizen. Or if any nation in Europe suddenly disenfranchised all people not ethnically "french" or "german" or "swedish". The idea is repugnant.

I am not contesting Israel's right to exist, at all. Israel is there. It is not going away. It's citizens deserve protection etc.. etc.. I am merely saying that Israel would be better off (and the whole middle east and the whole world by extension) as a secular nation not tied to Judaism. Theocracy or Ethnocracy or whatever you want to call it is a bad idea under any circumstances.

Viola Larson said...

I think only the Romas (Gypsies) have been hated by all peoples for centuries and they have never had a country or a nation. That doesn't mean they shouldn't have one.
On this:
“I am not contesting Israel's right to exist, at all. Israel is there. It is not going away. It's citizens deserve protection etc.. etc.. I am merely saying that Israel would be better off (and the whole middle east and the whole world by extension) as a secular nation not tied to Judaism. Theocracy or Ethnocracy or whatever you want to call it is a bad idea under any circumstances.”
Several thoughts. Israel is there but that is the whole problem many of the Arabs States do not want her there and it has been documented that in the past they have tried to destroy her. If Israel was not a Jewish state she would soon become another Arab state and the Jewish people would again be without any safety.
And I still contend that Israel is not tied to Judaism but to the ethnicity of being Jewish. Those are two different things. Now that is debated in Israel but I don’t think the debate is over.

Anonymous said...

Again Aric makes strong points.

Ethnocratic Nationalism usually ends very badly for the country doing it.


will spotts said...

Aric - I am often amused (please - I don't mean that in any patronizing sense at all) - but I tend to be surprised that our minds seem to work in similar ways even though we most often arrive at opposite conclusions. My first question to earlier comment would have been - why is there a need for nations at all? Whether as geographic or otherwise?

Personally, I favor the concept of nations because alternative seems to be one government. And the concentration of power in fewer hands (as government administration necessitates regardless of safeguards) pretty always results in greater abuse. At least with nations one has a chance for a federalist system. I'm not optimistic - becuase I find people tend to far too trusting of those who covet power and tend only to respond too late to the loss of individual rights that accompanies that.

I would also point out that your arguemtn about secular, non-ethnic geographic representative democracies hasn't been supported in history. In cases, yes - but many of those governments which were secular, multi-ethnic, and claimed to be democratic actually killed and abused vast numbers of their own citizens.

You are quite right, of course, about the status of other stateless peoples.

Pastor Bob said...

Ethnographic Nationalism? It's rampant around the world! Check Japan. Or the problems in China. Or tribal warfare in Africa. Or the current problems Turks have in Germany. Or the fact that Chechoslovakia split into the Chech Republic and into Slovakia. Or the Baltic states.

I agree, wouldn't it be nice if countries would be like the USA when we actually live up to our ideals and welcome all (rare in my reading of history). I expect this will happen about the same time Jesus returns.

So if I was Jewish I would choose the USA for now. But I would keep an eye out to see what's coming down the pike.