Then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, "You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying ‘This house shall be like
Shilor, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?" (Jer 26:8) Jeremiah eventually escaped death for saying Jerusalem would be destroyed if the people did not follow the law
of the Lord (though Jerusalem was indeed destroyed). Would he escape punishment if he said the same thing today? I am not at all certain.
Can matters in Israel/Palestine get worse even as the violence lessens? I think it is happening now. There is certainly violence around, but the Israeli Defense Forces have pretty much assumed
total control of both Israel and the West Bank. They enter at will whatever city they wish and execute whomsoever they wish. The withdrawal from West Bank cities, forced by international pressure,
was but a very temporary thing. They re-occupied the same cities within a couple of weeks. The indications now are that both Israel and the West Bank are simply police states. The army does
anything it wishes in the name of security.
Twice in recent weeks the IDF has simply ignored the Israeli Supreme Court. Once was the issue of settler-occupied property in Hebron that the Supreme Court ordered vacated. A second was the
checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah that stops not only Palestinians but several thousand tax-paying citizens of Jerusalem who live beyond it. The Supreme Court ruled it illegal, but the
checkpoint remains. On 11 June the Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on a petition that has drawn international protest even before the decision is made: authorization is being sought to remove
all Palestinians from an area in South Hebron. Scholars from around the world had a full-page ad in this morning’s (June 10) paper warning that this will be only the first of such removals if it
Expatriates are also suspect. A major controversy now is the new Israeli practice of stopping even diplomatic automobiles for search, contrary to all international practice. Many diplomats are
refusing, and yesterday’s paper carried several examples. I spoke with one last night who waited six hours while his own country and Israel fought by telephone. Another expatriate, whom we know
only slightly, had the IDF knock on his door at 5:00am and take him off for questioning, along with his computer. They later released him, but why did it happen? It is speculation, but he had been
openly critical of Israeli practices.
There have been other instances of the crushing of dissent. A few weeks ago a famous Israeli singer had her concert in Tel Aviv cancelled because she disagreed with current practices. An Arab
member of the Knesset was stripped of immunity because he had been critical, (treason, in the official language). The international press had many instances during the April incursion when their
rights were denied.
And now there are the fences. The army, with Prime Minister Sharon’s approval, is building fences around many Palestinian areas. The argument is that the Gaza fence has been effective in
reducing the number of suicide bombers from there, so let us do the same thing elsewhere. Unfortunately the Gaza fence stops EVERYONE, commercial or otherwise, and has also succeeded in making
Gaza the most densely populated area on earth and one of the poorest. The fences are controversial even within Israel. The settlers are afraid the fences are the first step in abandoning the
settlements, despite Sharon’s assurance it will not happen. Moderates see the fences as an ill-conceived strategy doomed to make matters worse in the long run. But the army wants them, and the
army is in control.
Few governments welcome dissent. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos were hardly popular in court circles even in their day, but it is such prophets as those that call us back to the reality that God
expects certain standards of His people. We must not kill, steal, or lie. We must not seek revenge. We are to treat all of our neighbours as ourselves. (Lev. 19) Christianity has always seen Jesus
as the fulfilment of the Law AND the Prophets. Christianity and Judaism should join in calling the Israeli government back to the standards of God, as Jeremiah said so many years ago.
This article was first published as the Dean's e-mail message on 10 June 2002.
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