Monday, December 9, 2013

Lynne Hybels and the Israeli, Palestinian problem

Lynne Hybels, wife of Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willow Creek, posted an article on her blog, “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Six Things I Believe,” giving her reasons for advocating for the Palestinians at the Bethlehem Checkpoint Conference as well as other places in the Holy Land. Hans Cornelder, Editor of linked to the article.

I agree with some of Hybels' thoughts. She honestly attempts to be fair toward both sides. She speaks of the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem and how she would not bring other people to Israel without taking them to the museum. “ How can we begin to understand this place without holding the reality of Jewish history in our conscious awareness?,” Hybels writes.

She also ate with Jewish people and “talked with Israeli families who’d lost children to the violence of suicide bombers.” This is an excellent beginning point if it is linked to understanding the Palestinian side. Hybels lists some of the things she believes about the Middle East problems, which include wanting the Jewish people to have a safe place to live. Counter wise, of the Palestinians she writes:
When I say I’m pro-Palestinian, I mean that I believe the Palestinians have an equally valid right to live in the land and should have the same civil rights that are afforded to Israeli Jewish citizens, whether that’s in one state, two states, or however many states. I believe Palestinians should be free from military occupation. They should be able to travel freely between their own communities, engage in commerce, and have easy access to the outside world
Most of us want that kind of goodness and freedom for the Palestinians. But this is where Hybels' paper begins to fall apart as she writes, “whether that's in one state, two states, or however many states.” Hybels reminds me of too many American Evangelicals who don't pay attention to history or the darker side of humanity. We are all, to often, rosy with Christian goodwill and fail to see the problems staring us in the face. Hybels wants a safe place for the Jewish people but she somehow believes that could happen with a one state solution.

A one state solution means that the Jews will be in the minority, eventually all government leaders will be Palestinian, and the Jews will once again face the possibility of becoming no more than a few leftover memories in another Holocaust Museum. Hybels has not dealt with the deep hatred against the Jews that is ingrained in Arab nations and societies. And this leads to another point she makes. When writing of violence she actually sweeps the problem under the rug and the implications for Israeli citizens are tremendous. Hybels writes:

I believe that any violence against civilians, whether carried out militarily or through guerrilla tactics, is illegal under international law, damages prospects for peace, and should be stopped immediately. I want to state that clearly, because my critics have asked why I don’t spend more time talking about Islamic extremists and Hamas and the battle between Muslims and Christians. Part of my reason is that I think we hear plenty about that. I have no desire to give more airtime to the voices of violence.
The very problems that are hurting Palestinians are caused by radical Islamic violence and Hamas is included in that. There is a wall and checkpoints because of suicide bombings. That can’t be so easily dismissed. Yes, there are problems with where some of the wall is located and there are problems with extreme settlers-the list goes on, but none of it will ever be solved from the Israel side only. Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish nation and until Hamas and other radical groups accept that right there will not be peace in the region.

I do agree with Hybels when she writes, “I believe that if we want to engage in the Holy Land as peacemakers, we must recognize that Israelis and Palestinians have very different, and often conflicting, histories and narratives, each of which must be sought out and respectfully heard.” But I would go further, and this is where I will take a leap outside of Hybels' posting. We are unable to untwist all of the threads of the conflict that began before Israel became a state and after she became a state. But as Christians we cannot accept only a subjective history. We belong to the truth and we must seek truth in every aspect of our lives.

Certainly there was a great deal of killing on all sides. There were Palestinians forced to leave their homes and the slaughter of innocent Jews, but what we do know absolutely is that five Arab nations attacked the nation of Israel. If they had not done so there would be no Palestinian refugees. Nonetheless, Hybels is right we must with compassion listen to the stories, all of the stories.

 But Hybels goes on with her views about history, and here I agree again with her, yet with one reservation. Hybels writes:

When you pay attention to both narratives, it’s easy to understand why the Jews would want a homeland and why they feel they have a legitimate claim to the Holy Land based on biblical promises. And it’s easy to understand why the Palestinians feel they have an equally valid claim on the land based on centuries of residence in the land.

Certainly, either narrative can be mythologized and distorted and used to demonize the other. So, part of our task as people seeking peace is to listen with a discerning ear, to study well, to question what we hear, and to learn from a wide variety of people.
But here again there is a missing part of the picture. (My reservation) Yes, we do understand why the Jews would want a homeland, and yes it is easy to understand why the Palestinians feel they should have a homeland. But the truth is, Israel is a nation—she doesn't just want to be a Jewish nation she already is a Jewish nation. That is reality. It must be accepted by both her Arab neighbors and Iran, or there will be no peace. The other reality is that the Palestinians do need a homeland. We should work and pray to that end, but in truth, as Christians who will not hide from the darkness on either side of this conflict.


will spotts said...

Thank you for this posting, Viola.

You do well to acknowledge the just / fair parts of Hybels's writing.

I agree that she misses a couple of very important things - without which it is impossible to offer anything constructive.

Yet, most narratives on the Israeli - Palestinian situation - either by intent of simply bias, fail to acknowledge the very legitimate differing perspectives. It is remarkably easy to create heroes and villains when, in fact, there are individual heroes on villains. It just doesn't follow that one 'people' is good and one 'people' is evil; yet that always seems to be the subtext. (I mean here in both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian 'sides'.)

Hybels also fails to realize (or fails to address) one other significant point: the role of international advocacy groups in this issue - who exactly are partners, what specifically do they advocate, and what narratives do they proffer.

From a Christian point of view, it would be impossible to be part of such an advocacy effort without clearly repudiating the goals, narratives, and tactics of certain subgroups - things that are always wrong, whatever the 'shared vision of good' - things that cannot be put into a context that makes them in any way OK.

Viola Larson said...

Will, I started to address the problem of Hybels not addressing other advocacy groups, because as you know some in the PCUSA are far left of Hybels and are, as far as I am concerned entirely anti-Semitic. But addressing all of that would have changed the subject and made my posting far too long.

Add to that, that some at the Check Point Conference have been entirely anti-Semitic suggesting that that European immigrants to Israel have no connection to ancient Israel. I would like to see other conference participants speak out against that.

And thinking of that now I was troubled by Hybels addressing the long residence of the Palestinians in the land but not mentioning that the Jews have existed in the land for as long. That would be a good question to ask her.

Al Sandalow said...

I would not agree with every point she makes, but to be honest, IMHO this is as good and balanced an article on the complicated circumstances of Israel and Palestine as I have read in a very long time. Perhaps it is not perfect, but it adds a needed perspective from a respected source.

Viola Larson said...

A friend who heard Hybels speech had this to say about her speech and what I wrote:

"You know, Viola, when I heard Hybels give her talk and, later, upon reading her text, I also understood her to be dismissing the one (binational) state vs. two state (Israel and Palestine side by side) solution concerns.

But just as I was highlighting your remarks for someone, it suddenly dawned on me that she might be talking about the future Palestine. One argument used on the pro-Israel side to indicate that it would be a very bad idea to give the Palestinians independence right now is to ask, "Well, will it be a one state Palestine, or is it going to be a Palestine under the PA and a Gaza under Hamas?"

If you read her text with that meaning in mind, I think the paragraph will suddenly make sense and seem less dismissive about maintaining a Jewish majority state. I just think the way she phrased herself was unfortunate."

I think it is only fair to point that possibility out.

Viola Larson said...

Thinking of the idea that there is a great deal of hatred in the Arab world towards the Jews, as I stated in my article, there is this documentation-a link that someone sent me_

That is a paper notice from the 19the century, it had nothing to do with the establishment of the State of Israel