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Chosen? Reading the Bible Amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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by Walter Brueggemann
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Chosen? Reading the Bible Amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Walter Brueggemann

The seemingly insolvable conflict between the state of Israel and the Palestinian people requires our best thinking, our steadfast courage, and a deep honesty about the politically possible. The conflict is only "seemingly" beyond solution, because all historical- political problems have solutions if there is enough courage, honesty, and steadfastness.

The conflict is not a fixed, unchanging situation; rather, it is a dynamic historical reality that is dramatically changing and being redefined over time. As a result, it is imperative that our thinking not be settled in a fixed position but that it be regularly reevaluated in response to the changed and changing realities on the ground. If we should settle for a fixed solution, then we will have arrived at an ideology, which is quite unhelpful for real problems on the ground.

In my own thinking, which is much influenced by my work as a Scripture scholar, I begin with a focus on the claim of Israel as God's chosen people. That conviction is not in doubt in the Bible. It is a theological claim, moreover, that fits with compelling persuasiveness with the reality of Jews in the wake of World War II and the Shoah. Jews were indeed a vulnerable people whose requirement of a homeland was an over- riding urgency. Like many Christians, progressive and evangelical, I was grateful (and continue to be so) for the founding and prospering of the state of Israel as an embodiment of God's chosen people. That much is expressed in my earlier book entitled The Land. I took "the holy land" to be the appropriate place for the chosen people of the Bible which anticipates the well-being of Israel that takes land and people together.

Of course, much has changed since then in the linkage between the state of Israel and the destiny of the chosen people of God:

  • The state of Israel has evolved into an immense military power, presumably with a nuclear capacity. There is no doubt that such an insistence on military power has been in part evoked by a hostile environment in which the state of Israel lives, including periodic attacks by neigh- boring states.

  • The state of Israel has escalated (and continues to escalate) its occupation of the West Bank by an aggressive development of new settlements.

  • The state of Israel has exhibited a massive indifference to the human rights of Palestinians.

Thus, it seems to me that the state of Israel, in its present inclination and strategy, cannot expect much "positive play" from its identity as "God's chosen people." As a consequence, my own judgment is that important initiatives must be taken to secure the human rights of Palestinians. This changed stance on my part is reflected in the new edition of my book on the land. It is a change, moreover, that is featured in the thinking of many critics who have been and continue to be fully committed to the security of the state of Israel, as am I.

This rethinking is important both for political reasons and for more fundamental interpretive issues. A change in attitude and policy is important to help resolve the conflict. It is clear enough that the state of Israel will continue to show little restraint in its actions toward Palestinians as long as U.S. policy gives it a "blank check" along with commensurate financial backing. Such one-sided and unconditional support for the state of Israel is not finally in the interest of any party, for peace will come only with the legitimation of the political reality of both Israelis and Palestinians. As long as this issue remains unaddressed, destabilization will continue to be a threat to the larger region.

It will not do for Christian readers of the Bible to reduce the Bible to an ideological prop for the state of Israel, as though support for Israel were a final outcome of biblical testimony. The dynamism of the Bible, with its complex interactions of th

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Ebook Details
Pages: 108
Size: 493 KB
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Date published:   2015
ISBN: 9781611646122 (DRM-EPUB)

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