Every Christian should read this book. Not because it is the best written or most compelling, rather because it challenges a widely held opinion that is detrimental to global peace. Arabs and Muslims are real people with real concerns, children, jobs, and rights. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not representative of all leaders in the Middle East; Osama bin Laden is not representative of all Muslims in the Middle East and the world.
King Abdullah II of Jordan has written a book called “Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace in a Time of Peril.” It is not the most compelling or best written book, but it is an important one. I am not naive enough to think it is not a propaganda piece, but it provides a necessary beginning to balance the propaganda that overwhelms our media in the US with regard to the Middle East.
Maybe the most complex issue facing our world today is peace in the Middle East, specifically the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This is the underlying issue behind our current battle against terror. This is a must read book for every Christian because every Christian needs to begin to look at the broader issues in play in the Middle East and our blind allegiance to one party and our tunnel vision regarding reality in that complex arena needs a straight challenge from a reasoned voice. King Abdullah provides that voice and perspective. He humanizes the “other” side in the Middle East; he speaks for the moderate, reasoned Muslim. Read the book. Read all of it. Then begin to listen to the rhetoric without the blinders and start to fact check the “propaganda” – obviously both sides see and portray issues their way.
Here are some statements from King Abdullah’s book:
“Some people in the West and Israel like to portray [the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians] as the continuation of a centuries old struggle. They are wrong. It is a relatively recent conflict, rooted in Jewish immigration into Palestine in the early twentieth century.”
“The settler population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem stood at around 265,000 at the time the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. The number had risen to about 365,000 in 2000, and to over 400,000 in 2003. This growth was a reflection of the fact that Israel never stopped building in the new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a politically incendiary move…also a clear indication that Israel was not committed to a two-state solution.”
“Speaking in the name of God can all too easily serve as a justification to suppress debate. Putting yourself on a moral and spiritual pedestal allows you to condemn any challenger as morally bankrupt. And this absolutist view becomes dangerous when it is combined with politics. Suddenly, your political opponents become not merely people with differing values and ideas about how to organize society, but enemies of God.”
“…resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict is in the national interest of the United States, Europe, and the rest of the international community. The Palestinian issue is of paramount importance to more than a billion and a half Muslims across the world; as such, it truly is a global issue. Many men of violence use the Israeli occupation of Arab lands, especially East Jerusalem, as a rallying cry…Terrorist organizations exploit the legitimate frustration of Muslims over the failure to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories…it is imperative that we resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in order to deprive these extremists of one of their most potent appeals.”
That’s the must read book, here is the must change idea: “Christians are on the side of Israel by default.” It is time to challenge this widespread but fallacious idea.
Many Evangelicals equate support of Israel with a mandate from God and that the land of “Israel” belongs to Israel by divine decree, for all time. These convictions are theologically questionable and ignore 1900 years of history.
Promises made to Israel in the Old Testament are covenant promises. They remain intact as long as the covenant remains intact. The argument of Jesus and the New Testament is that the Old Testament Covenant with the nation of Israel has come to an end. The new covenant that God makes with Israel is not political or geographical in nature, rather it is a covenant that is based on the work of Christ and includes not only believing Jews, but is extended to believers of all the nations. It’s geographic focus is not on the land of Palestine, but on the globe. It’s political focus is not on national Israel, in fact it has no political component. Verses like: the one who curses Israel will be cursed, the one who blesses Israel will be blessed refer to the ancient covenant made with Israel and have no connection, logical or theological, with the present nation of Israel.
That doesn’t mean that Israel doesn’t have claim to a Jewish homeland in Palestine. It just means that we don’t view them as superior to Jordan, Syria, Egypt or the Palestinian people. The Christian view is not to back Israel because God backs Israel, rather it is to back Israel as a nation of people who have needs for economic, political and religious existence in a state of their own. The same goes for Palestinians.
As a result of this blind allegiance Christians have been exploited by politicians in the US and Israel. Our naivete has contributed to the continued inability of the parties in the Middle East to achieve a real and lasting peace. We need to admit that it has and begin to use our voice to influence change here and abroad. It is time to change our ideas about the present state of affairs in the Middle East.