Friday, November 30, 2012

My evolving views on the Middle East

Until recent years I've always had a staunchly pro-Israeli view on the Middle East.  These were influenced by:

1.  My belief in the Bible, that the Jews are a chosen people, and Palestine is their homeland
2.  Israel is an underdog amidst a sea of hostile Arab countries
3.  Arabs played unfairly with airline hijackings, Olympic village killings, suicide bombings, terrorist tactics
4.  Cultural, political, and economic alignment between Israel and USA
5.  Jews deserved a break after the Holocaust

As I've read a number of books about the Middle East, traveled there, and as my daughter and her family live there, my views have changed to be much more even-handed.  I no longer give Israel a free pass on any action or policy, nor do I believe Israel's interests are always in America's best interests.

This last point is made clearly in a landmark (for me) book that I read, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy", by Mearsheimer and Walt.  The book makes a strong case showing the disproportionate influence the Jewish and Israeli lobby has on legislative, economic, and foreign policy with regards to Israel and the Middle East.  The obvious negative result for the United States is the prevailing view in Arab and Muslim countries of that unfair alignment, and subsequent suspicion and hatred it provokes.  In short, it makes our dealings with these countries and people very difficult, and is a significant factor in the growth of radical and militant Islam in those countries.

When we visited Syria we always heard "welcome to Syria", and "we love Americans but hate your government", and "be sure to tell everyone we are not all terrorists".  In fact, we found the Syrian people to be delightful -- honest, friendly, God fearing, and family-friendly.  Islam is a wonderful influence in the lives of the great majority of the population.  I am greatly saddened by the Civil War turmoil that rages there today.

I do believe Israel deserves the right to a Jewish state, and should be protected from those powers that openly advocate her annihilation.  But I also believe Israel is in the wrong with her West Bank settlements and general treatment of the Palestinian people.  I think Israel should withdraw to her 1966 borders as part of a general peace plan.


  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this subject. My views have changed a lot on Israel during the last five years, and becoming more educated on the subject (reading, meeting Arabs both Christian and Muslim, traveling to Syria, talking to Americans who have lived in the Middle East) has certainly made an impact.

    I believe I have a more balanced view now, and no longer do I think 'blessing Israel' means we give a thumbs-up to everything that country does. God never did in the examples provided in the OT.

    Does this evolved stance ever put you in conflict with your friends, family or acquaintances or are they open to your new viewpoints as you share what you have learned? Or is this topic not important enough to people in your life that they simply don't care what your opinions are on Israel?

    1. I can't think of a time my moderating views have created conflict with family or friends. I will say that many family members worry about Bridget living in the UAE (and formerly Syria), and they worried about me traveling there. It is good I can share my positive perceptions of Arabs and Muslims as individuals and a society. Perhaps if I had Jewish friends this could be a more volatile subject matter in discussions.