Is it possible to be pro-Palestinian without being anti-Israeli? Or indeed vice-versa?
Over the years, medical students from the Edinburgh’s Medical School have supported the international work of the E.M.M.S., the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society. In the late 1950s, my parents were two of the young medics who were due to be joing the team at the hospital at Nazareth in the Holy Land. Had they done so, then it is quite possible that I might have been born in Nazareth, and as famously – dubiously – quoted of Jesus: “What good thing can come out of Nazareth?”
Sadly, the unexpected death of my grandfather meant my mother temporarily taking on his G.P. practice, and there was a change of plan – and India is where my parents subsequently ended up serving. My childhood and upbringing was less Middle Eastern, and more South Asian instead.
However, though I have not yet managed to fulfill my ambition of visiting the Holy Land (despite managing to wave that direction from both the Suez Canal and from Cyprus), this pre-natal episode has left an indelible mark on me, and a deep interest in the country’s history and culture. Nazareth remains a fascinating place; a predominantly Arab Israeli town with a population of 65,000, made up of aprox. 2/3 Muslim population, and 1/3 Christian. The Arab/Palestinian situation is a melting-pot of complexity that I cannot begin to understand, even if it remains such a draw.
And yet (as I sometimes comment to Jewish friends & colleagues) my boss is a Jew, and Jewish culture so permeates the Christian faith too. Much of the theological training that remains with me focused on it. I love discovering more.
Last week I came across a book review, with an Israeli/Palestinian theme, posted on a blog site. The review was a little heavy handed on it’s treatment of the book author’s position. But it was the subsequent internet flurry that worried me most, as various sides began to lay blame at each others door.
Pro-Israeli and Pro-Palestinian accusations were leveled.
It became unrepresentative, and unhelpful eventually, which is why I have not linked to such an unhelpful spat. In the end, I could see significant arguments on both sides. I wanted to be pro- both.
Does being pro- one side of a ferocious debate necessarily mean that one must be anti- the other side? Does that exhibit the appalling naÃ¯vetÃ© of a distant observer, unaware of the depth of the real issues? Or sometimes, can one be so close to an issue that we think there only is one way forward, and it has to be mine?
I am more Pro-Palestinian; and more Pro-Jewish, the more I hear.