The Root of Our Region's Conflict


Our community will not accept as members any who champion Jews over and against Muslims, or Muslims over and against Jews. Holding such an attitude calls into question whether we have yet understood the grace of God, which bought us at such a dear price that we no longer have the right to withhold grace from our neighbors.

Does this mean then that all is moral equivalency in the Middle East, that there is no right or wrong and we all have to just get along?

God forbid! If we're to act and speak meaningfully we must understand the root of our region's longstanding conflict. And the root is an enemy familiar to us all, regardless of our background: it's the religious self-righteousness which claims that only our group is accepted by God, and everyone else is out.

It's an enemy that afflicts rabbinic Judaism, which often seems to focus only on the chosenness of Israel and ignore the many promises to include all peoples in God's great story. To a large extent, thank God, the policies of the modern state of Israel have escaped this type of narrowness, since until now all the nation's leaders have been drawn from secular rather than religious political parties.

It's an enemy that has certainly afflicted Christianity, as our tortured (and torturing) history clearly shows. Many reformers paid with their lives to put the scriptures into the hands of common believers and start the centuries-long process of doing away with violent factionalism.

And in the Middle East today it is the enemy that has made Islam the stumbling block upon which every peace effort has floundered. In the 20s, 40s, 60s, 80s, and in the past decade, every opportunity for reasonable compromise has been scuttled by the same all or nothing, "God is either for us or for you," holy war type of approach which has dominated Muslim discourse ever since Haj Amin Al Husseini's first purge of moderate Palestinians.

Much of the world misses this point entirely, as they don't take religious language seriously. They look for social and political causes of the conflict, and increasingly lay blame on Israel for doing little more than existing. We believers shouldn't make the same mistake.

Our mission is to proclaim "God is for us and for you." His love knows no boundaries. Let's pray that each time a child crosses the border to Israel for a heart surgery the message grows a little louder.

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