Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Yisrael Medad-Ralph Lord Roy Correspondence

In a previous posting, I mentioned a letter that was published in the NYTimes on Friday.

I decided to search out the writer's e-mail address, was successful and began a correspondence with him. I believe in dialogue and communication.

What follows is a rather long posting but I think you'll find it interesting and informative.


Please see my blog at My Right Word wherein I wrote:

In another letter there, the Rev. Ralph Lord Roy of Southington, Conn., asks two questions:

How does the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank contribute to peace? Why do so many Americans have a blind spot when it comes to compassion for the suffering Palestinians?...Why can't we be pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian at the same time?

Well, Reverend, let's be devilish and ask the question this way:

Would the contraction of Arab settlements in Israel contribute to peace (and security)?

I know this is an unfair question to ask. It probably will upset you terribly. But the fact of the matter is that it must be asked because it goes right to the root of the Arab-Israel or Jewish-Muslim conflict. It leads to the real question that you and other supporters of the "Palestinian" must ask of them which is:

Have any of the Arabs, any Arab, genuinely come to terms with the existence of Israel

a) as the Jewish state;

b) as a sovereign state;

c) as a state anywhere in any area the Jews consider their national homeland.

Okay, now I know this may come as a shock to you, being a pacifist and grace-seeking Christian as I presume you are, but ever since Jews initiated the political process of reestablishing their state (the one that all the Prophets in the Bible assured all mankind was the object of the design and desire of the Divinity), no Arab has come to that basic realization.

We Jews have consistently in the past 100 years or so, in addition to reestablishing communities all over the Holy Land - what we refer to, dear Reverend, as the "Land of Israel", what Jesus knew of as Judea, Samaria and Gaza ["Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza."" - Acts.8.26 and "And they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles" - Act 8:1], what we know as YESHA, have been comrpomising our territory, the territory promised us by the highest forum of international law at the time, the Supreme Council of the League of Nations which, in 1922, granted us the right to "close settlement" on the land.

Really Reverend.

And the Arabs responded consistently with violence, killing espeically the undefended: women, children, old men, religious recluses. They burnt fields, destroyed crops, cut down trees. And I am talking about the 1920s and 1930s. And when they were promised an Arab state in truncated Mandate Palestine, whittled down, the rejected that and went to war, a war they have never stopped pursuing. A war that now has brought us, 13 years after a peace treaty process at Oslo was begun, the grandmother of all suicide bombers,

But one last comment before you say to yourself 'well, he never answered the question'.

"Expanding settlements" (Jewish communities, towns, villages, to you) is the most natural thing to do. And it will surely bring peace because peace must be between peoples. If I can't live at Shiloh among Arabs, why should Arabs live asmong Jews in Haifa? Should we dissolve Arab villages in the Negev and Galillee? Should we create two Arab states out of the Mandate (don't forget Reverend, Jordan was also part of the original area set aside for the Jewish national home) and just one small Jewish one?

These communities will obstruct the establishment of an independent Palestine which has but one raison d'etre: the eradicate Israel.

So, the Yesha committees, Reverend, are the best way to reach peace. A true Peace.


Hi Mr. Medad:

Received your response to my letter in the NY Times. I opened it just after receiving another call accusing me of Jew-hating, saying I should go f---- myself, telling me to go live among the Arabs, demeaning my style of Christianity, and other vigorously bigoted accusations. Your communication was direct but kinder.

It would take both of us books of emails to deal with this huge and complex issue, and neither of us has the time. Just a couple of brief comments.

I am quite aware of the history of the area. Well-informed Christians probably know as much as most Jews, often more, about the history of ancient Israel. Millions of fundamentalist Christians, of course, believe that God gave the area to the Jews forever, that they are God's chosen people, etc. As a liberal Protestant I am not a literalist when it comes to scripture. That in itself is a deep and vast subject.

There is a big difference between Arabs living in Israel where they were in 1948 and Israelis developing new settlements deep in the West Bank. Frankly, I see no objection to the settlements if the settlers are willing to live in a Palestinian state. You and I know that that won't happen. Too many of settlers feel that the Arabs are the intruders. They would like to drive them out. Tragically, most Israeli governments have encouraged settlements with extra subsidies, etc.

I hope you and I agree that the Palestinians have a right to a state (resisted by Israel until quite recent years). What worries me is that the Palestinians have been frustrated for so long that they now are too quick to embrace extremism as represented by Hamas. But wise policies can change that. We saw the Mau Mau become transformed in Kenya, the Soviet Union fall asunder, China grow less and less Stalinist - and the list could go on and on and on.

I fear that the alternative could be a world conflagration - Christians and Jews against Muslims - and many of us are simply not willing to go along with that. I don't believe America will buy that, either. The growing antagonism of the public toward our invasion of Iraq is a sign that we will only go so far in the Middle East. Israel should have taken advantage of its victory in 1967 by initiating a Palestinian state instead of coveting the Palestinian land.

Just so you are aware, I was jailed in 1961 as a Freedom Rider and against in 1962 working with Dr. King in Albany, GA. As a result, one of my closest friends among the clergy is a Reform Rabbi, my cell mate on both occasions. He and I largely agree on Middle East policy, though he (naturally) has a stronger emotional tie to Israel than I do. It is our Holy Land, however. I was privileged to visit there on four occasions and we pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Where you and I differ seems principally: how to gain that peace.

There's so much more to say. But must get to answering other emails and other duties. I do want to investigate your blog as time permits. Happy Hanukkah!

Ralph Roy


Thanks for responding promptly and thoroughly.

And yes, I try to be kind and sensitive (well, in most cases) because I feel that usually it is not so much a deep-seated animosity that drives persons such as yourself but rather, on the one hand, not the fullest of acquaintance with problems such as the conflict here and, on the other, an outlook that I think we both can define as liberal, progressive and very well-intentioned which means to me, at least, a willingness to "wish" problems to become solved more than acknowledging with the problems are in order to solve them. And here's an example:

You write - "What worries me is that the Palestinians have been frustrated for so long that they now are too quick to embrace extremism as represented by Hamas." But the Arabs have from the very beginning and without let-up, for over 80 years now, have consistently chosen the path of terror and extremism. Riots and pogroms took place in 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936-39 and in between. Every single attempt by Britain, other powers, Arab states, etc. during those years of the Mandate to intervene and mediate and even Zionist willingness to territorial compromise made no difference.

And then came the UN resolution of partition in 1947 which the Zionists accepted and the Arabs rejected. Between 1949-1957 we had Arab terrorists called fedayeen. In 1964, Arafat founded the Fatah-PLO and initiated terror on January 1, 1965. Two and one-half years later, Israel assumed control of the area of Judea and Samaria. My point after this complex history (actually for me, quite simple and plain) is that "settlements", what I refer to as communities, were not the cause of the 1967 war - because there were none there and neither was an "occupation" a cause because there didn't exist one. And so, as you suggest, doing away with the "occupation" and removing the "settlements" has nothing to do with the Arab problem with Israel. And until people like you convince the Arabs that enlightened world opinion regards the Arab claims as illogical and until a very basic sea-change occurs (halting anti-Israel and even anti-Jewish educational themes in the schools - btw, where do you thinkk all these young suicide bombers are being recruited from if not from a post-Oslo school network over the past dozen years which has - instead of breathjing life into these kids - has inculcated into their souls hate and a desire for death, their own and that of schoolkids in buses and tourists in restaurants.

I am aware of your history having skimmed Google a bit and that is why I decided to reach out to you. I find it hard to comprehend why someone as yourself, with a proven record of dedication to good works and non-violence would so readily pinpoint the one issue that (a) has nothing to do with Arab deep-rooted animosity to any activity a Zionist would accomplish; and (b) goes against all recognized history that the Jews surely have a right to live in Shiloh, Beth-El and Hebron.

Now, as you say "Frankly, I see no objection to the settlements if the settlers are willing to live in a Palestinian state. You and I know that that won't happen." And I'll repeat the point I raised, theoretically, that if that is your position, would you accept the expulsion of the Arabs from the state of Israel? If removing one populace (the Jewish one which now numbers, including east Jerusalem which the Arabs consider theirs, there are one-half million Jews in this category if not more) and the creation of an uni-ethnic Arab state of Palestine will bring peace, why not have a "better" peace and create a second uni-ethnic state called Israel with no non-Jews resident? Of course that is not going to be nor should it but why do liberal, progressive folk seek to promote that idea only in regards to "Palestine" (and I am not going to get into the issue of whether there should be or if there ever was a Palestinian state).

I'll stop here. We've lit the Chanukah lights and a guest has just walked in.

Hope to be "hearing" from you.



Hi -

Thanks for your continuing dialogue. I presume what bothers me more than anything (and why I wrote the letter) is that there seems to be no tolerance of any sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians. Often I have felt and said that here are 'two rights' that are adding up to a troubling 'wrong' - continual hatred. Surviving European Jews had faced total evil during WWII and needed a homeland, but what had the Palestinians done to lose their space?

I really don't have time at the moment to go into detail. I'm quite aware of what you have written and have a small library on the matter from diverse viewpoints. We get the pro-Israeli view regularly in the mass media and I visited the Holy Land four times (the Holy Land, of course, includes modern Israel and the occupied territories). My principal purpose is to seek peace and justice through reconciliation which will benefit both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Obviously, there are extremists on both sides. As I mentioned, one phone caller here on Friday, for example, called me every vulgar name you can imagine. I hope I understand. Loyalties run deep. Propaganda on all sides can be very effective. Look at Nazi Germany and WWII Japan. We are not entirely rational beings and our gut allegiances heavily influence our opinions. We usually believe what we want to believe.

One point only at the moment. No, I do not favor removing Arabs forcibly from Israel. They were already there. Jews moved into the West Bank after it was conquered in a conflict that Israel launched as a preemptive war, rather like our invasion of Iraq in some respects, and settlements built after 1967 clearly violate international law. And the wall, insofar as it is built within occupied territory, is quite outrageous. But, as I think I stated (and I am responding to several angry emails re the NYTimes letter and may mix things up), I don't believe Jews should have to leave the West Bank either, if they are willing to live in a Palestinian state - which I doubt. Many of them, including American settlers, hold on to the concept of God's chosen people who have been deeded that land forever, a concept I find not only offensive but racist in the extreme. We're all equally God's chosen people. In this, of course, I part company with those of my Protestant faith who are both Zionists and fundamentalists and who take every word of scripture literally. We have little in common when it comes to theology - rather like Orthodox and Reform in Judaism.

I have to go now. Every mail brings many Christmas cards and years ago we adopted the policy of trying to respond to all. Serving thousands of parishioners at various churches over the years makes it impossible to do it any other way. If they send, we then send.

Did I mention that I spent twenty years in NYC - at Columbia Law School, Union Theological Seminary (across from Jewish Theological Seminary) and fourteen years serving African-American churches in Harlem and Brooklyn? Most Methodists (and Protestants generally) in NYC are members of minority groups, especially African-Americans. We also have many Asian-American churches, especially Korean. You probably are aware that sympathy for the Palestinians is very strong among many African-Americans. Don't confuse this with anti-Semitism, however, as some quickly insist on doing. Derskowitz seems to fall into that trap regularly. It's possible (and right) to be sympathetic to both sides in this tragic, continuous conflict.

Again, happy Hanukkah. Keep well and joyful.

Ralph Lord Roy

PS If the situation isn't solved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the American people eventually may tire of it and withdraw altogether. I hear more and more sentiment like that. If the Sunnis and the Shiites, the Israelis and the Palestinians, the various factions in Lebanon can't solve there problems, our best route is to exit from that scene. Why invest more American lives and billions of our tax dollars in trying to straighten out such conflicts that go back hundreds of years? Not our responsibility. And we only seem to make new enemies. That's the view of many, and growing.


I know that I am perhaps straining the dialogue but since you did emphasize an aspect, allow me just to respond to that.

You wrote: "Jews moved into the West Bank after it was conquered in a conflict that Israel launched as a preemptive war, rather like our invasion of Iraq in some respects, and settlements built after 1967 clearly violate international law."

I'll be brief but need to amplify why outisde people get caught up in the intricacies and then get upset by criticism.

a) How did the Arabs, any Arab, get to the Holy Land if not by conquest in 638? Logic would lead one to say that if their presence is justified by conquest, then another "conquest" in 1967 would be similar, no? Did you know, and I presume you do, that the ruling family of Jordan, the Hashemites, are actually refugees from Saudi Arabia who were kicked out by the Wahabis. One brother got himself kicked out of Damascus and ended up in Iraq (as long as you've mentioned Iraq) and the younger brother, Abdallah, "marched" into Ma'an in the fall of 1920 and the British decided to buy him off and not to cause them problems with the French and ensconced him, with all expenses paid, in the territory, which, I thjink, should properly be called "Hashemite occupied territory".

b) International law is kind of tricky. You do know that in taking over the area that became known as the "West Bank", several Jewish communities, - some ancient and other recent, but all had civilian populations, - were destroyed by invading Arab forces. The four kibbutzim in the Etzion Bloc area, Beit Ha'Aravah in the Jordan Valley, two northern Jerusalem neighborhoods of Neveh Yaakov and Atarot and others are among the attempted - and for 19 years, - successful ehtnic cleansing operation committed by Arabs. Were those communities "illegal" then? Or were they proper and legal but only became "illegal" after 1967?

As a man who respects the word of the Lord and strives to act in truth, I am sure you'll mull just those two items over. I am enjoying my holiday and hope you will enjoy yours.


(to be continued?)

No comments: