Does American credibility with the Arab world depend on repositioning U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East -- becoming neutral, rather than supportive of Israel?
That's what The New York Times argued on Monday. If that's true, we're in trouble. What country will respect a great power that abandons its ally and, after pledging to fight terrorism around the world, rewards leaders who commission homicide bombers? And how can we ignore the clear indications that if Israeli Jews had to live under Palestinian authority, most would be exiled or killed?
Providentially, President Bush has a justified scorn for big media drumbeats. He is more knowledgeable than those pundits who simplistically think that an Israeli retreat will create an advance to peace. Treating Palestinian homicide bombings and Israeli responses as morally equivalent obscures the difference between deliberately targeting civilians and going after terrorists.
This is not one of American journalism's finest hours. Some, moved by Palestinian poverty, have become Arafat apologists. Others, seeing Muslim millions and aware of Muslim oil, have become appeasers. It's time for a biblical response, starting with the declaration in chapter 23 of Exodus: "You shall not fall in with the many to do evil ... nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit." Instead of siding with either rich or poor, we should peer through a biblically objective lens.
Some Christians and Jews say the Bible gives today's Israelis clear title to the land on which they stand. They quote God's statements to Abram (later called Abraham), "To your offspring I will give this land." They quote God's statement to Moses in Deuteronomy, "View the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession."
Other scholars note that Abraham's descendants are primarily defined by belief, not blood. The Bible teaches that God adopts many into His family and does not automatically reserve a spot for those who have scorned their birthright. A biblical case can certainly be made that Israelis who are atheists have tossed away their inheritance just as Esau did.
If Israelis do not necessarily have a God-specified right to their real estate, they still have a claim on it by possession -- but so do Muslims, who loosely held the land for over a millennium. In a confused ownership situation, we can biblically examine usage. Christ's parable of the talents (Matthew 25) teaches that we are expected to make good use of the material resources we have, not just sit on them.
The Israelis have shown the right stuff in that regard. Through following the wisdom of Proverbs, they have turned a land of sand and poverty into a country of computer chips and honey. They have formed an island of democracy within a sea of dictatorship, so that they transfer power by debate and election rather than by terrorism and assassination.
Bottom line: the United States should continue to support Israel and oppose those in the Middle East who, through government-controlled media and government-financed school textbooks, are fomenting anti-Jewish hatred. Last week, half a dozen conservative Christian leaders sent a letter to President Bush, on Southern Baptist Convention stationery, that called upon him to denounce such scurrilous attacks on Jews.
We should also embrace something that neither The New York Times nor foreign policy journals tend to mention: It's called prayer. As Patty Griffin sings (in a different context), "Diamonds, roses, I need Moses, to cross this sea of loneliness, part this red river of pain."
It appears that nothing short of a miracle will suffice to bring peace to the Middle East, but even in recent years we have seen miracles such as the downfall of the Soviet empire, so there's no reason not to pray for another.