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Monday, December 29, 2008

A seasonal post

'To make sense of a conflict in which both sides claim to be victims requires more than an emotional response to gory pictures. I support the Palestinian right to self-determination. But I am disturbed by the rise of anti-Israeli sentiments in Britain and the West, as when my old friends on the Left declared: “We are all Hezbollah now.”

'There is a tendency to reduce the Middle East to a simplistic morality play where Good battles Evil, projecting our own victim politics on to other people's complex conflicts.

'The Israelis I met bear no comparison with the caricature of expansionist “Zio-Nazis”. [...]'

- Mick Hume reports on a visit to Israel, and puts the concerns actuating this blog into a nutshell. The tendencies he describes continue to find an echo in the churches.

Simplistic morality plays have an enduring appeal for Christians of a certain sort, and the traditional view that the festive season is incomplete without some Jewish baddies is enjoying quite a comeback - as I noted in my post on Christian Aid's 2004 Christmas Appeal. This year we've had priests saying it with carols - either by banning them or, worse, rewriting them.

There's not much to be added to this post from a couple of years ago. It's been a year in which innocent civilians in Israel have been blessedly secure from the attentions of suicide bombers. It's also been a year in which innocent civilians in Bethlehem have continued to suffer misery resulting from the Israeli security barrier. These facts are not unrelated (that the will to butcher Jews is alive and well has been gruesomely confirmed in Mumbai). The world is complicated, and surely nowhere more so in the Middle East.

To left-leaning Christians whose emotional response to the conflict has been reinforced by a pre-Advent pilgrimage: I don't want you to be silent about what the people in Bethlehem are going through (though I would like you to revise the silent assumption that Darfur, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe are of lesser concern simply because you don't choose to take your holidays there). I do want you to give it a basic level of context, to hear and tell the Israeli story too, to acknowledge that it takes two to make peace. When you fail to do that, whatever blend of naivete, political dogmatism and - just possibly - prejudice it is that actuates you, you hand the terrorists a propaganda victory to compensate them for their lost opportunities for slaughter.

One or two further messages. To Mr Stephen Hugh-Jones: thank you for your comments; be assured that I'm not ignoring you, and will have my say in due course. To the little band of regulars who have appreciated my posts, apologies that you've been having a thin time lately. It's been something of an annus horribilis for Mrs Cyrus and myself, and I've often felt blogging is the last thing I want to do after a day in front of the computer. I hope for rather better things in the New Year.

To all readers, peace and joy over the remainder of the Christmas season and in the New Year, and (I need hardly add) please continue to pray for peace in the Holy Land.

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