Tuesday, March 11, 2008

a rebuttal from a friend

Last weekend St. Paul's hosted Ibrahim Abu Rabi, a Moslem scholar from Hartford Seminary. Ibrahim grew up in Nazareth and is a Palestinian Arab. He is a citizen of both Israel and the U.S. Ibrahim made several comments about the suffering that his people experience from Israel.

My friend and parishioner Sterling Tucker challenged Ibrahim's interpretation, and wasn't satisfied with the answer he received. He's written Ibrahim an email and asked me to post his challenge on my blog. Although it is different from what I usually post, I'm happy to help give Spencer voice. Here is his note to Ibrahim. Below that is Ibrahim's response. Please feel free to offer your own thoughts to the conversation.

Please read the story in the link below.
The Palestinian guy who visited our church as part of the Tippy McMichael Lecture series last weekend obviously thinks the kind of behavior exhibited today is okay and justified. He thinks it's justified that Hamas can shoot rockets from Gaza into Israeli neighborhoods. He thinks it's justified that suicide bombers can blow up innocent non-combatants. And he wants to draw a distinction between the Palestinians and Hamas?
You heard his answer to my question Sunday; that such actions are justified because Israel has F-15's and the Palestinians don't. The reason why they are called terrorists is they use these terror tactics against innocent people. The Israelis use F-15s because they have been persecuted by Arabs, who have wanted to wipe them from the face of the Earth for the last 2000 years! Why is our House of God giving him a forum?
I submit that this Middle Eastern guy, like the others I've listened to, is using our tolerance against us. It's one of the West's best qualities; we are certainly more tolerant than the Islamists would be. The women of our church would be stoned to death in his land for what they do in their private lives. Him talking about human rights is like a Korean talking about animal rights.
His agenda was obviously to get our liberal church to call our senators and representatives to refrain from financial aid to Israel. "'The Palestinian Issue' could be over in two weeks", was his quote. That's not a constructive solution to anyone who has half a brain, and I'm insulted that he would come into our church and propose such a thing. I'm actually insulted that he was there at all, especially under the guise of objectively explaining "Islam and Modernity", when his agenda was transparently self-serving.
I would hope that the next time someone like him is invited, that we could have an Israeli there at the same time to debate him. Only in an environment of such dialectic will the truth have a chance to be heard.
Lowell, feel free to post this email to the church blog. I would be most interested to know if I was the only person who thought something was wrong with that picture.
Sterling Tucker

Ibrahim responded thus:

Dear Lowell:
Thanks for this. If Mr. Sterling is so concerned about the fate of civilians, why does not he condemn the Israeli attacks on Gaza that have left over 900 civilians dead this year alone, many of whom are babies and children? I do condemn any kind of attacking civilians on both the Israeli side and the Palestinian side. If Mr. Sterling thinks he is a liberal, then he should at least listen to the Palestinian perspective and the Israeli perspective on the conflict, and not just one side.
The Arab-Israeli conflict has been a long tragedy and our government is prolonging this. Please see this article:

The Gaza Bombshell: Politics & Power: vanityfair.com

Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources .... David Rose exposes the White House’s covert plan for a coup against the ...
www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/04/gaza200804 - Similar pages




At 8:42 AM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

Sterling's point of our tolerance being used against us should remind us that it is okay to engage and listen, but we do not have to tolerate evil doers on either side.

At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was surprised and happy to see two posts this morning, then impressed by the content. Congratulations to St. Paul's for engaging in a discussion about the Israeli/Palestinian issue. And congratulations to Mr. Abu Rabi for keeping his response on point. I want to believe that most rational people in the Middle East condemn (like him) attacks against civilians. It's not clear to me that the West actually does have an enormous amount of tolerance to be used against it, as Mr. Tucker suggests; it seems that the US tends to pick a side and back that side fairly ruthlessly.

It is hard for me to imagine that the people on both sides whom we view as "evil" are really evil in their own eyes. I don't know whether these people need to be "tolerated", but they need to be addressed, and thanks to St. Paul's for doing that. The Zacchaeus of Luke 19:1 probably didn't think of himself as a sinner, and it only took seven verses for him to be turned around after he met Jesus.

At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Sterling Tucker said...

I, too, am pleased that there is a dialogue now. Monologues are traditionally one-sided, and not good for much.

Mr. Abu Rabi and the Palestinians have a bit of a PR problem at the moment. If someone were launching rockets at your home, wouldn't you be expected to retaliate to stop the attacks?

My most sincere wish is that Mr. Abu Rabi would use his influence with his fellow Palestinians to stop launching rockets and suicide attacks against Israel. It should be noticed that Israeli counter-offensives happen only when they are attached. And, I submit, the Israeli government has the right, if not the obligation, to do whatever is necessary to stop these rocket attacks against their citizens and families.

If you abuse a dog by poking it with a stick, you can expect that one day it will bite back. The dog would have nothing to be sorry about.

Yes, the U.S. has unfortunately followed questionable foreign policies, such as propping up a brutal Saudi regime, and playing the Iranians and Iraqis against one another (by supporting both sides during their 10 year war). This has been done all because of one U.S. interest: OIL. But, that's another subject for another day.

Both Israel and the Palestinians both have the right to exist, and this has been proposed numerous times in a "Two State Solution". It can happen, but not through lecturing Episcopalians in Fayetteville, AR.

Hamas, Hezbolla, Iran and Syria are, however, all committed to the destruction of Israel, and have stated their desire that Israel and the Jews be "wiped off of the map". As their actions have shown, these threats cannot be taken lightly.

Again, I would hope that EACH AND EVERY Middle Eastern moderate, such as Mr. Abu Rabi would lecture the extremists back home about stopping the violence, rather than lecturing us. The extremists in his own country (Hamas) are leading the unfortunate Palestinian people down the path to never-ending war, and it's time the moderates in those countries confront the trouble makers at home.

However, it will be tough; not because of some U.S. foreign policy; but because a Two State Solution would put terrorists and Arab hate-mongers out of business. And, they are not ready to hang their going-out-of-business sign up yet, while Israel still exists.


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