Monday, 25 November 2013

Talking about Palestine

Before coming here, I read a tiny bit about the present Israel-Palestinian situation, and, in passing, I noticed something slightly odd without giving it much attention to it.

A few years ago prominent Palestinian Christians produced a Kairos document, titled in homage to the Kairos declaration which defined the ultimately successful anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa including the significant boycott campaign which contributed to that success.
This summer there was a form of re-launch of this in England which was reported on in a number of mainstream Christian websites.  These understandably attracted positive and negative comments.  The thing I half noticed was the way some of the hostile comments were lengthy, detailed and carefully crafted pieces of writing – quite unlike the splurge of personal opinion one might expect – more like pre-prepared packages.

As I say, I didn’t pay much attention, until I learnt here that public statements drawing attention to the situation of the Palestinian people often attract a level of hostile attack which can look quite calculated.  There is nothing wrong with well planned lobbying, of course, especially if it looks as if the legitimacy of a State of Israel is being attacked, but the tone and volume can look almost intimidatory.

I'm told that the volume of comments is sometimes swamping, and that the accusation is sometimes made that the original item was anti-semitic simply because it criticised the way the State of Israel is governed, but I don't have personal encounters with either of these.

In this sort of situation there is always a simple but effective interpretative tool.  Look at the counter arguments which are being put forward – there may well be things about the original report which need balancing or correcting.  But also, if these comments look at all as if they might be calculated or even intimidatory, let them be exactly the thing which draws your attention to the precise points they might appear to be trying to drown out.

In the case of the comments which I first half-noticed, the points were the language of apartheid in relation to the State of Israel and the call for forms of boycott to tackle this.

As far as the apartheid accusation is concerned, the level of objection to it would lead one seriously to consider whether it is an appropriate term to use in relation to the occupied State of Palestine in particular where things like access to systems of justice, use of particular roads, the ability to bring a foreign spouse into the country and the provision of water is different depending on whether the individual or community is Arab or Jewish. 

At present the headline issue within the State of Israel itself is proposals to move Israeli citizens who are Bedouin from villages the state chooses not to recognise into other designated towns so that new Jewish villages can be built in their place.  Individuals have to judge what language they think is appropriate about that.

As far as the calls for boycotts are concerned, the suggestion is that there is now particular diplomatic time being put in by some embassies to address and counter what some churches are investigating and saying.  It is understandable that any State would want to do this if it feels misinformation is being spread about the State.  In each specific case, individuals have then to judge from which side they feel misinformation is coming.

The picture was taken in Jericho yesterday.

1 comment:

Joy Davis said...

A very interesting and well balanced post Peter. Thank you.