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.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.
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.