Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Bible Story and the New York Times

In "Gaza Conflict Is Just the Latest Round in a Long War", the NYTimes' Steven Eelanger suggests that

Israel’s real problem is the instability from the failure to negotiate a sovereign Palestinian state and finally fix its borders.

To be fair, he indicates that one of the main problems that exist is that

Unlike Fatah, Hamas claims the whole of the British mandate of Palestine as land granted by Allah, which cannot be ceded. In other words, Israel is illegitimate and its occupants should “go home.” The most any senior Hamas official ever offered was a “hudna,” a cease-fire, which the Prophet Muhammad offered enemies to restore his strength.

That's a really big problem. Problem?  That discounts not only peace but that even if there is a peace, there'll be no security:

Fatah controls the West Bank in coordination with Israel, which keeps Hamas suppressed. With no Israeli forces in the West Bank, Hamas might dominate there, too.

But he reserves his punchline for the Jews:

...the power of religiously motivated self-sacrifice...After all, it was in Gaza that Samson, calling on God, pulled down a temple on his Philistine enemies, making him an early kind of suicide bomber.

Well, if we are gong to use the Bible for reference and resource, let's do it properly.

Samson, like a modern-day liberal, believes in coexistence.  We read in Judges Chapter 14 that:

1 And Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said: 'I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore get her for me to wife.' 

But she betrays him in the matter of the riddle.  And then in the next chapter we read:

1 But it came to pass after a while, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said: 'I will go in to my wife into the chamber.' But her father would not suffer him to go in. 2 And her father said: 'I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion; is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her.' 3 And Samson said unto them: 'This time shall I be quits with the Philistines, when I do them a mischief.'...6 Then the Philistines said: 'Who hath done this?' And they said: 'Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he hath taken his wife, and given her to his companion.' And the Philistines came up, and burnt her [Samson's wife] and her father with fire. 7 And Samson said unto them: 'If ye do after this manner, surely I will be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.' 

Samson confronts a perverted system of social justice. A father hands off his daughter in a form of prostitution.  The community practices violence in all its intra-communal relations.  There is also disproportionality: 3,000 men of Judah bind Samson and hand him over to the Philistines.  And then Samson kills 1000 Philistines and not one Israelite is killed!

One harlot and the two posts of the gates of Gaza later, he takes up with Delilah who also betrays him.  One haircut later and the Philistines capture him and they

put out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison-house. 22 Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven. 

Constant betrayal, unwillingness to maintain the peace or fulfill obligations, taunting torture, violent behavior and more is what Samson confronts, not to mention the original subjugation of his people.

If there is a message in there, Erlanger could do much better than he did.

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