We have spoken with many Palestinians in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem so far in our pilgrimage, both Christian and Muslim. Their voices are seldom heard in our corporate media, so it has made sense to meet, listen to, and understand them. But of course we've met with Israeli folks too. Recently we had some particularly important conversations with Israeli Jewish voices. They agreed that there will be no change in Israeli policy until the U.S. decides to stop giving Israel a blank check.
One older Israeli gentleman explained it like this: Some Israelis, of course, fully support the occupation and don't consider the human rights of Palestinians, and many others simply choose not to think about it. But quite a few feel a deep discomfort about what's going on. They feel ashamed that their nation continues stealing Palestinian land through the settlements -- colonies that are built in strategic places in Palestinian territory, and then connected to other colonies, gradually squeezing Palestinians out. They don't like the separation fence; it reminds them of segregation in the U.S. and apartheid in South Africa. They want security -- and they deserve security -- but they are not happy about what they are becoming and their Palestinian neighbors are suffering in the name of homeland security.
However, as long as huge amounts of money flow in through U.S. military aid, they know the occupation will continue and expand, because politicians can get elected and reelected by appealing to fear much more easily than by appealing to the hope of reconciliation. So here was the sentence that really stuck with me, and all of us who heard it:
Americans must provide the alibi to allow the Israelis to make the concessions they know they need to make.
I think most Americans, if they could see for themselves what the Palestinians were experiencing, would feel like the Israelis described by this Israeli gentleman whose home we visited yesterday. We like neither what we're doing to others nor what we're becoming ourselves in the name of homeland security. We wish there were some alibi -- some motivation or reason to change directions and find another way, a better way. May God help us, and them, find it.
Jesus' words came to mind often yesterday as we walked down the Mount of Olives: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! If only you knew what makes for peace..." We could also say, "O Washington! Washington! O Tehran! O London! O Paris! O ..."
Brian McLaren is an author and speaker whose next book A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith releases Feb. 9, 2010.