A Shockingly Blunt Essay on Israel and the Palestinians

And a summons to theology to separate itself from the national interests of Israel:

Für den Friedensprozess im Nahen Osten erachtet die internationale Politik den Ausgleich der Interessen zwischen Israelis und Palästinensern als fundamental an. Doch das Selbstverständnis des Staates Israel steht dem im Weg. Jochen Vollmer rekonstruiert die Konfliktlage historisch und politisch und plädiert für eine Befreiung der Theologie aus nationalreligiösen Engführungen.

And so truly does the essayist insist

Die Theologie muss befreit werden aus ihrer nationalreligiösen Gefangenschaft, aus einem partikularen und exklusiven Missverständnis Gottes zugunsten von Israel auf Kosten der Völker, aus der missbräuchlichen Vereinnahmung der Bibel für nationalreligiöse Interessen.   Wenn Ben Gurion im Blick auf die palästinensischen Araber betont »Unser Gott ist nicht der ihre«, dann erliegt er genau dem exklusiven Missverständnis Gottes, das Gottes Dasein für Israel und die Völker und damit die Heiligkeit eines jeden Menschen verleugnet. Es geht um die Befreiung der Theologie aus ihrer nationalistischen Gefangenschaft zur Erkenntnis der Universalität Gottes für Israel und die Völker wie zur Erkenntnis der Heiligkeit und unantastbaren Würde eines jeden Menschen.

This is a timely word and one that needs to be heard everywhere, by everyone.

Still, needless to say, the essay has taken some heat, though I think quite wrongly:

Ihre “Abscheu” vor einem Beitrag in der August-Ausgabe des „Deutschen Pfarrerblatts“ haben Präsidium und Vorstand des Deutschen Koordinierungsrates der Gesellschaften für christlich-jüdische Zusammenarbeit (DKR) in einem Brief an den Vorsitzenden des Rates der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland (EKD), Präses Nikolaus Schneider, zum Ausdruck gebracht.

The fear of being accused of antisemitism merely for criticizing Israeli political policy is SO STRONG that even theologians are afraid to speak the truth.  I applaud Jochen Vollmer for his truthfulness and courage.

Go to the link to the provocative essay and read it all. It’s quite long but so worth it.

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One thought on “A Shockingly Blunt Essay on Israel and the Palestinians

  1. arenmaeir 25 Aug 2011 at 9:10 am

    Jim,
    I know you will say that my answer is obvious before I start, but here it is anyway:
    1) Personally, I always look at pontifications on the part of European theologians in a somewhat suspicious manner. They have some 1700 years of intense explaining to do, before they can lecture anyone, about anything… (BTW – including Luther – despite the fact that you tried to defend his anti-Semitic stance).
    2) The article is a mixture of facts, semi-fact, and inaccuracies, which make the case somewhat problematic. I have not intention of going through this one by one, but I can point out a few points:
    a) Jews lived in the land of Israel continuously from ancient times. There was never a break in their settlement in the Land. Palestinians, which means the inhabitants of the land from Roman times onwards, always included Jews, and from the time of the Muslim conquest, Muslims, some locals (pagans, Christians and Jews) who had converted, and Muslims who had come from neighboring countries. Playing a “I was here first” game denies one side or the other their rights. Both sides should have rights – even if they deal with different lengths of time.
    b) Just as many Jews came to the land of Israel from the 2nd half of the 19th cent. CE and onwards, so did many Arabs from neighboring Arab countries.
    c) After the Palestinian leadership and the Arab countries did not accept the UN partition plan, Israel did not start a process of kicking out the Arabs. Rather, the Arabs started a campaign, first by “irregular” troops (but who were supported by the Arab countries), and then by the regular Arab armies to attack the Jewish settlements in the land.
    d) There is a lot to improve in the rights that the Arab minorities in Israel have – but one can hardly call this lack of rights. This is simply not true. They are represented in the government, in the Knesset, in the Army, etc., etc. They have free speech and press, full access to social benefits, etc.
    e) Yes, the State of Israel is defined as the homeland of the Jews (the only county in the world) and yes, a sovereign state does have the right to define its cultural and social background.

    Etc., etc.

    I suggest that the tendentious theologian who wrote this piece concentrate perhaps on the 1700 years of vile conduct on the part of just about all Europeans towards the Jews. Since he does not appear to accept the Jewish claim for cultural connections to the land, or the historic background of the founding of the state of Israel in pall of the holocaust, perhaps he should ask why Jews had to run from Europe….

    Denying rights does not solve any issues. Both sides have rights, and both can be met, as long as BOTH sides are willing to compromise. While not all Israeli leaders have shown this, some have. To the best of my knowledge, when push came to shove, time and again, none of the Palestinian leadership, from 1948, until this day, were willing to compromise in a clear cut manner which would enable the State of Israel to continue to exist as a Jewish state.

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