Mormon Support for Israel

Today, we watch as the Israeli military continues the forced abandonment of Gaza. I am reminded how I lack the conceptual tools to realize a just and peaceful ending.  Like others, history and politics are blended into my amalgam, but there is also my Mormonism.

I think Mormons have trended toward our Evangelical friends when it comes to Israel. Certain strains of eschatology flavor popular thought. Waiting for the Rapture.  We also have the Book of Mormon and we project its words onto the contemporary State of Israel (e.g., 2 Ne 6:12-15 or 2 Ne 10:7-8). The tendency is to associate the "gathering of Israel" with the post-WWII return of the Jews to Palestine. This is understandable when you see verbiage like"carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance."

We have the 1845 Proclamation of the Twelve:

And we further testify, that the Jews among all nations are hereby commanded, in the name of the Messiah, to prepare, to return to Jerusalem in Palestine, and to rebuild that city…

And also to organize and establish their own political government, under their own rulers, judges, and governors, in that country.

While I appreciate modern Israel and have many grand aspirations for it, I don’t necessarily believe that the current State is the fulfillment of our prophecy.  The Book of Mormon qualifies that such a gathering is predicated on the Jew’s conversion to Christ.  The Proclamation also declares:

For be it known unto [the Jews] that we now hold the keys of the priesthood and kingdom which is soon to be restored unto them.

Therefore let them also repent, and prepare to obey the ordinances of God.

Israel is the closest thing to a democracy in the region. However, the concept of a Jewish state is disconcerting.  We have no problem dismissing Minister Farrakhan’s precept of a separate black state. I don’t believe our Zion will ever be a separate Mormon state in mortality.

I am left with a sincere sorrow for each individual that will lose their home to the bulldozer in the coming days. I wish I could conceive of any way in which the Israeli-Palestine conflict could be assuaged.  In spite of our sympathy, perhaps it is time we reconsider our perceptions of the contemporary State of Israel.

Comments

  1. Whatever your “grand aspirations” for modern Israel are, they apparently don’t include the existence of the state. It seems that you’re suggesting that the State of Israel should just roll over and die while you stand by to feel sorry for Israelis individually. Not an attractive offer for the Israelis, nor for those who truly do wish the best for the Middle East’s only stable democracy.

  2. While I have sympathy for Israel and support its existence and prosperity, I don’t have much sympathy for the Gaza settlers. In my opinion, they simply don’t belong there. This withdrawal is a step in the direction of peace because it removes an additional source of constant irritation and friction between these two peoples.

  3. GST, a few thousand Israeli settlers in Gaza do very little to preserve the existence of Israel as a state. This withdrawal is not a signal by any means that Israel is about to “roll over and die.” Far from it.

  4. Fiorentino says:

    gst–

    Even those who criticize Israel may, in fact, be committed to its existence and survival. Some of its policies are, in my opinion, clearly not in its own best interest. The Gaza pullout is a good step–although the cynical side of me sees it as a PR ploy of Sharon’s so he can get traction in the West. (I’ll be more convinced when Israel stops expanding its settlements in the West Bank.)

    J. is raising a bigger question than the current pullout, though: what are we, as Mormons, to think of the state of Israel? Like him, I find the knee-jerk reaction among members to support Israel (or U.S.-Israel policy) highly problematic. There has to be a way to distinguish between a proper (Mormon) understanding of the gathering of Israel and the current political incarnation of the Israeli state. Perhaps this thread will help articulate that distinction.

  5. Danithew: I didn’t express an opinion on the Gaza withdrawal.

    Fiorentino: I don’t doubt that some critics of Israel support its existence. Nothing in J. Stapley’s post, however, suggests that he’s one of those. Rather, he says, among other things: 1) the concept of a Jewish state is “disconcerting” and Farrakhanesque; 2) he can’t imagine a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and so 3) maybe it’s time that we “reconsider our perceptions of the contemporary State of Israel.” All of this after explaining why Mormons shouldn’t necessarily be inclined to support modern Israel. Is he not suggesting that we give up on the Jewish state?

  6. I thought he was suggesting that we give up on the idea as well.

    Quick note: I have read numerous times that the current majority jewish population of Isreal is made up of refugees from the Arab world. The Arab governments forced them out over the last 50 years.

    So the jews are refugeees to? “I will trade you the arabs who lived in Isreal prior to 1948 for the jews that lived in Arab countries.”

  7. a random John says:

    I was sure there was an Ensign article on this in the last ten years, but this
    is all I could find.

  8. And if J. Stapley is making that argument, by all means, let him make it, but don’t expect us to swallow “I appreciate modern Israel and have many grand aspirations for it.”

  9. Can’t one support the state of Israel while disagreeing with many of their tactics? Just as one could support a Palestinian state while condemning most of their actions?

  10. J. S.

    Do you find a majority Muslim and majority Arab state disconcerting like you do a Jewish state?

  11. Clark: yes and yes.

  12. GST, point taken. And that language of “Farrakhanesque” does deserve some criticism. After all they have suffered in history, it doesn’t seem unjustified for Jewish people to want to have a state where they are a majority and where they can live in security.

    As for the issue of what Mormons should think …

    To me, the timing and wording of Orson Hyde’s dedication of the land for the ingathering of the Jews is pretty significant. For that reason I feel the establishment of Israel does have some kind of spiritual and prophetic significance, though I’m fully aware that Israel’s founders were not holy or even very religious people.

    Even when one accepts that Israel’s existence has some kind of spiritual significance, that shouldn’t mean that Israel has carte blanche or that Israel is above criticism in any action it takes towards the Palestinians and surrounding Arab states.

    What frustrates me with the Israeli-Arab conflict is when a person wholly takes one side and is wholly against the other side. The Israelis and the Arabs each have their merits and their failings in what is a very complicated situation.

  13. hmmm…I do realize that some people believe that Israel cannot exist except as a Jewish State. I’m not one of those people, any more than I believe Utah should be a Mormon state.

    I think that making racially exclusive governments is extraordinarily problematic and not consistent with my readings of the Gospel.

    I’m saying a number of things:

    1) A democracy is a good thing

    2) A democracy that is racially exclusive is not unless there is naturally no diversity (which to my understanding doesn’t exist anywhere)

    3) Mormons project our prophecies onto the modern State of Israel in a manner that is, I believe, unfounded

    4) I really can’t think of a good way to resolve the conflict. Do you in a way that doesn’t conflict with #2?

  14. B. Bell, I find them *way* more disconcerting. However, we don’t project our prphecies on to them so much.

  15. Fiorentino says:

    J.’s critique of Israel needs elaboration, to be sure. Personally, I see no virtue in the idea of a Jewish state as such. The rightness of Israel’s policies should be evaluated by the same measures as those of other states. What vexes me is when Israel is granted a free pass because of the unique definition of its polity.

    B. Bell–

    Many Jews residing in Arab countries were effectively forced out following the 1948 war. This is often pointed out by defenders of Israel to justify denying the “right of return” to Palestinian refugees–we won’t grant it without a reciprocal arrangement. It can also sometimes be a smokescreen to deflect moral scrutiny from the ongoing Israeli occupation of (pre-1967) Palestinian territory.

  16. J.S., as to your second point: Democracy in Israel is neither racially nor religiously exclusive.

    And as to your main point: My support for Israel is not founded in my Mormonism, but rather primarily in my support for liberal democracy. I suspect that’s true of most Mormon friends of Israel.

  17. gst – perhaps we are closer than we think. I am a pragmatic and typically outspoken supporter of Israel. I will differ with you in that I believe that Israeli policy is designed to control demographics.

    If your assertion that most Mormons’ support Israel for reasons primarily outside of their religious conceptions is correct then I have made a serious empirical error and my essay is mute.

  18. Fiorentino says:

    J., I think you mean “moot” (although “mute” is quite clever). Frankly, I don’t find gst’s assertion probable. In my experience, most Mormons are predisposed to support Israel because of how they have interpreted scriptural and prophetic statements related to the gathering of Israel.

    Further, I think that supporting Israel simply because it is a “democracy” and other countries in the region are not is not compelling. Democracy is not a virtue-in-itself that atones for unjust policies.

  19. Isreal grants the right to vote and all the rights of citizenship to its Arab minority. Its a liberal democracy in every way. Its neighbors are all totalitarian states of some form. Hence Isreal holds the high ground in regards to it form of government

  20. I think members tend to forget that Arabs too are a chosen people and children of the promise. They are descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son (the Jews being descendants of Isaac). The Abrahamic covenant applies to them just as much as it applies to the Jews—part of that covenant is ownership of the promised land. As then-Elder Howard W. Hunter once taught about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

    “Both the Jews and the Arabs are children of our Father. They are both children of promise, and as a church we do not take sides. We have love for and an interest in each.”

  21. By the way, the Hunter Quote is from “All Are Alike Unto God.” BYU Speeches of the Year, 1979.

  22. The problem with a “Jewish state” and democracy is accute. The problem is that if Israel were just to make the entirely Palestinian area a democracy then the Palestinians who outnumber the Jews significantly would merely vote away the rights of the Jews.

    Democracy in and of itself is problematic unless accompanied by civil rights, rule of law, and the right to association. Even in our country we recognize this with our Federalism. (Although the degree of Federalism obviously changes with time)

    So I honestly can see Israel wanting to be a Jewish state.

    Further *any* democracy in the mideast will have to engage with the religious issues.

    As to the Mormon angle, I confess to taking a more traditional view of the prophecies of the last days. While I’m quite open to Israel bringing many problems on themselves, the fact is that they are surrounded by enemies who wish to destroy them and have wished to since 1948. They’ve tried many times and stopped only because they kept loosing. Even Hamas, who is in danger of coming to control the Palestinians, doesn’t merely want a Palestinian homeland. They want the Jews destroyed. And that, to me, does suggest the prophecies of the last days.

    That doesn’t justify many of the actions of Israel. But even their wrong actions often make sense given the events around them. One wishes that Arafat had never led the Palestinians and that a leader who could compromised had led the Palestinians back in the 70’s.

  23. Fiorentino says:

    Clark–

    In its more virulent rhetoric Hamas does indeed avow its commitment to the destruction of Israel. But, frankly, that rhetoric sounds as bombastic to many Palestinians as it does to us. I suspect that a significant majority of Palestinians are absolutely willing to accept an accomodation with political realities and are not ideologically driven to endlessly pursue conflict. No state actor (with the possible exception of Iran) is still committed to attacking pre-1967 Israel.

    In discussing Israel with member friends I am surprised (and frustrated) by the degree of latitude some are willing to accord Israel by virtue of its being a Jewish state, the telos of the gathering. I no longer have much patience for facile dichotomies of terrorists vs. democracy. Even correcting for American antipathies toward Islam, I wonder: Where is the sympathy for our co-religionists, the Palestinian Christians, who continue to suffer under occupation? (Although I suppose, in a certain sense, we might view Jews as quasi-co-religionists.) In talking with my Arab friends, I always try to distinguish between my view of Zion and Zionism–a word that, for them, conjures up oppression and aggression. Official statements from church leaders (like the one Stef cites) reflect this distinction, but I would like to see it more widely embraced among the Mormon masses.

    My frustration with Israel’s policies has likely been shaped by my experiences living in the Middle East (primarily Israel and Egypt). I’m sure hours of watching Al-Jazeera has had its influence as well. I befriended several young Israelis this summer in Istanbul, and that helped put a human face on the Israel-Palestine conflict. It also reminded me that not all Israelis are enamoured of current policies, either. Danithew’s reminder–that there’s plenty of fault to pass around on both sides–is important.

  24. Fiorentino (#15): I can scarcely think of a single nation in the history of nations that gets fewer “free passes” than Israel.

  25. Fiorentino says:

    gst–

    Certainly Israel has had a great deal of adversity. The “free pass” I referred to was based on my observation that members of the church (and probably Americans in general) are predisposed to assume Israeli policy is right, exempting it from the kind of scrutiny one would normally expect.

  26. Clark, you make very good points. It seems that you state what is laudable in government (civil rights, rule of law, etc.) then imply that a “Jewish state” is the only way to ensure that. I’m too ignorant to repudiate that idea, but it seems to me that you could ensure good government without being racially divisive. I hope so, at least. At least they could change the concept from a “Jewish” state to a “Liberal democratic” state.

  27. A more recent Ensign article is available here.

  28. Thanks for the link, Justin. Some prime quotes in there – Speaking of the conflict:

    There seems to be a natural human tendency to take sides. We seem to believe that there is a right and a wrong to every situation. But partiality can breed divisiveness and closed-mindedness. It can also create distrust and inhibit an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding needed for peace. If we take sides in a political context, we compromise our ability to reach out to both sides.

    The article is a little disheartening, though, in that it posits that there won’t be peace until the end.

  29. Fiorentino, I wish more Palestinians were anti-Hamas. However most evidence suggests they are more popular than I’m comfortable with. Far more popular than say the insurgency in Iraq is there.

  30. J. Stapley, I think one could. I just don’t think one could in the middle east with the people there now.

  31. Elder Hunter’s talk is available here.

  32. The hatred of Isreal and the Jews runs very deep inside the Palestinian masses. Its the mainstream view in my opinion. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem spent much of WW2 in Berlin with Hitler. “The Protocols of Zion” is accepted as fact ETC.

    If the surounding Arab states were strong enough they would invade Isreal and literally drive the Jews into the sea.

    Oh wait, I have been reading my scriptures about the second coming……

  33. “No state actor (with the possible exception of Iran) is still committed to attacking pre-1967 Israel.” #23

    This is simply because the surrounding states lack the military power and they have bowed to the reality

  34. Actually I think Israel’s acquiring atomic weapons had a lot to do with it. Reportedly they were prepared to use them in the last war.

    The nuclear arms race in the middle east is rather disconcerting and it is an open question what Israel will do about Iran’s attempt to obtain nuclear weapons.

  35. Fiorentino says:

    “The hatred of Isreal [sic] and the Jews runs very deep inside the Palestinian masses. Its [sic] the mainstream view in my opinion.”

    Frankly, this borders on slander. Having had a reasonable amount of experience with Palestinians, I can say that many if not most of them are able to distinguish deep unhappiness with and distrust of the state of Israel from rabid anti-Semitism. We should be able to do the same. This is not to say that some Palestinians and other Arabs don’t buy into anti-Semitic lies and conspiracy theories. Some do (I have many stories), but to insinuate that this group represents the majority is unfair at best, and more likely mean-spirited.

    In any case, thank you for unwittingly providing an example of what frustrates me about the Israel discourse among Mormons: caricature the Arabs in a crude way and assume the best about Israel.

    “If the surounding Arab states were strong enough they would invade Isreal [sic] and literally drive the Jews into the sea.”

    Which Arab states? How do you know this? In my experience in the Arab world, the “drive the Jews into the sea” rhetoric is now voiced at the margins, and certainly not in the state discourse. (It was part of Nasser’s discourse, but his dream died on a June day in 1967.) The western media hype it up when they find it, of course, and opportunists exploit it for their own purposes. But the majority of Arabs (and Israelis) want peace, not more war. Also, I’m always puzzled when told that Arab states are actually crazed fanatics disingenuously posing (for the time being) as rational actors; I’m not sure one can have it both ways.

  36. Fiorentino, I believe the view that this is a deep seated view comes out of the polls of Palestinian views of Israel. You are of course free to say these are misleading. But I think the skeptics among us would want more than a few anecdotes.

    The last poll I heard found that 59 percent of Palestinian Arabs believe that Hamas and Islamic Jihad should continue their violence against Israel, even if Israel surrenders all of Judea, Samaria, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem. That’s a pretty astounding figure.

    I wish the Palestine you present lined up with what I see.

    As for whether current Arab states would attack Israel were they stronger. I think that while it is the kind of counterfactual difficult to verify, there is reason to believe it. First off most Arab states view (somewhat rightfully) that Israel has subjugated the Palestinians. Second, any state that did this would be a hero in the region almost immediately. Thirdly, even among more secular Arabs, the notion of Muslim lands is deep seated and the existence of Israel undermines it.

    Once again I might be wrong. But it seems the evidence for this suspicion is much stronger than against. Obviously not all Arabs feel this way. But I think many do. Further given that most states in the region are quasi-dictatorships, diverting opinion to Israel would help them retain power. Perhaps the only state I could see not doing this is Jordan. But even there it seems there is often a tension between the leadership and the people over many of these issues.

  37. Fiorentino says:

    Clark–

    Thank you for your very reasonable comments. I’d be interested in seeing the poll about Hamas you mention. Those numbers do not correlate with my experiences in Israel and Egypt (and with Palestinian students in the States), but, as you point out, I can only rely on anecdote. I think anecdote can be an important corrective to impersonal statistics but, naturally, it cannot be as scientific. Perhaps the poll was taken of Palestinians in the Gaza strip, who tend to have more militant views. Or perhaps my view has been unduly influenced by my friendships.

    As for the counterfactual “the Arabs would destroy Israel if they could” scenario, I think you have underestimated the degree to which many Arabs (and certainly Arab states) have accepted the de facto existence of Israel–I mean really resigned themselves to it, not just given it lip service. I just do not see that the “drive the Jews into the sea” zeal is mainstream anymore. (In fairness, you do not use those words, but B. Bell did in #32.) The wars with Israel were a terrible material and human waste for the Arab states, and they know it. The Arab states are playing with different ideological variables than western democracies, but at the end of the day their actions are more or less motivated by rational concerns, just like everyone else. Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon–for all of these countries, I highly doubt the ideological “rewards” could justify the incredible material expense such an endeavor would require. (I can, however, imagine certain scenarios–Israeli destruction of Islamic structures on the Temple Mount, forced removal of Palestinians from the West Bank–where even the secular Arab states would be obliged to mount an attack to appease Islamic and pan-Arab sentiment.)

    It would not take the destruction of Israel to win a country the adulation of the Arab world; all it would take is forcing Israel to give Palestinians an equitable settlement. Since the United States is the country most able to do that at the moment, I am sad that we do not do it. All it would take is making our military aid and loan packages to Israel contingent on achieving a just peace. We would see results.

    In a certain sense, this speculation is all beside the point. My concern is this: why should an unverifiable (and quite possibly false) counterfactual assertion be used as an argument in support of Israel? Where are those willing to give the Arabs the benefit of the doubt? It seems that in the Mormon eschatological drama, it is assumed that the Arabs will fill the role of antagonist fighting the true protectors of Zion. Perhaps this is indeed how it will play out. Who am I to know otherwise? My concern is that since this is seen as a foregone conclusion, as a people we are too quick to dismiss Arab concerns and rights in the here and now. With LDS interlocutors, I have generally found little sympathy with and concern for Arab appeals to justice. I fear that speculations and beliefs about what the future holds unfairly influence our ability to live up to President Hunter’s counsel (cited in #20) to have an interest in “both sides” in the present.

    J., I apologize for turning this thread into a bit of a platform. I’ll just observe from here on out.

  38. “the concept of a Jewish state is disconcerting”

    As was Brigham Young’s vision of the State of Deseret?

    “While I appreciate modern Israel and have many grand aspirations for it, I don’t necessarily believe that the current State is the fulfillment of our prophecy. The Book of Mormon qualifies that such a gathering is predicated on the Jew’s conversion to Christ.”

    The Scriptures also tell us that the Jews will not know or recognize Christ until he appears to them at the Second Comming. It would be illogical to expect that the 1845 Proclamation would be given and the next day all Jews worldwide would repent and accept Christ.

    The Scriptures continually tell us that Christ is comming “soon”. Well we’re still waiting. Point being, these things take time. History shows that the Zionist movement grew thoughout the last half of the 1800’s and gained stength into the early 1900’s before the holocaust. To say that the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, 103 years after the 1845 Proclamation, is not in part (if not whole) a fullfulment of the Proclamation seems cynical at best.

    “I think that making racially exclusive governments is extraordinarily problematic”

    1/5 of the citizens of Israel are non-Jewish Arabs who have full rights and representation in the government.

    —-

    Cudos to Sharon for taking this step. It will be interesting to see if absent the Israelis in their midst the Palestinians will turn on each other in the inevitable land grab that is bound to result. I hope for the best but fear the worst.

    Cudos again to Sharon for calling the shootings in the West Bank by a Jewish settler an act of “Jewish Terrorism”. It sends a strong signal to the Palestinian Authority to publicly do the same in all instances of terrorism committed by Palestinians.

  39. “Since the United States is the country most able to do that at the moment, I am sad that we do not do it. All it would take is making our military aid and loan packages to Israel contingent on achieving a just peace. We would see results.”

    I do not believe that Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and portions of the West Bank are out the goodness of Sharon’s heart. I believe that they are a direct result of demands from the US to achieve peace sooner rather than later. Since 9/11 the US has more vested in this happening than ever before, and the pressure on Israel to retreat from policies and sacred cows such as settlements in the occupied territories has been increased 100 fold since those attacks occurred.

  40. I double checked the date on that poll and it was actually from two years ago. So I tried to find some more recent ones. A great resource is The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. In January things were a tad more hopeful, with many Palestinians supporting the old Clinton plan. (Although far from a significant majority) “Only” 48% supported continued violence against Israel due to the situation in the West Bank.

    The positive statistic though was, “Among Palestinians 63% support and 35% oppose the proposal that after the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the settlement of all issues in dispute, including the refugees and Jerusalem issues, there would be a mutual recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and Palestine as the state of the Palestinian people.”

    Of course that assumes Jerusalem and the right of return would be resolved the way Palestinians wish. But that means still 35% – more than a third – reject even recognizing Israel in any sense. Among Israelis 70% support and 16% oppose the mutual recognition of identity proposal.

    Once again events are rapidly changing. Elections in Iraq, despite the problems of the insurgency. Arafat dead. A battle for the soul of the Palestinians between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Even if Hamas wins, it might find governing harder that a revolution calling for the total destruction of Israel.

  41. BTW – I do agree with Talon regarding prophecy. It seems that Israel only accepts Christ when he comes to the mount. The events predicted thus deal with war prior to their joining the church. Exactly what the prophecies mean, such as the two prophets who protect Israel for a while, is unclear. But it seems hard to understand why the prophets (according to many accounts the transfigured Enoch and Moses, or perhaps Elijah) would protect Israel unless Israel deserved it in some sense.

    Thus I think I can condemn many actions of Israel while supporting their struggle overall.

  42. R.W. Rasband says:

    When was the last time you saw Palestinians tear themselves apart for the sake of the possibility of peace, like the Israelis are by forcibly evicting these settlers? When was the last time Palestinians sacrificed *anything* to help Israel or help secure the peace?

  43. Fiorentino,

    Here’s something really easy to do–

    Go over to “Wikipedia” and search under “terrorist attacks against Israel”.

    I’m sorry, but until the Palestinians can refrain from bombing school buses I’m going to have difficulty siding with your anecdotes.

  44. My blog focuses on the Arab world, so those interested in Israel and Palestine issues might want to visit. I have supported the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in principle since it was announced, but have come to oppose it in practice recently because of the nature of current conditions. Namely, security has almost entirely broken down in Palestinian areas, expecially Gaza, with different factions tied to the ruling Fatah party even shooting at each other. Meanwhile, terrorist Islamists, primarily Hamas, have the support of close to half the Palestinian population.

    Isreal needs to leave Gaza, but under these conditions, I fear it will be a catastrophe. I explained why I modified my view on this, as well as proposed an alternative plan, in this post: Time to Stop Gaza Pullout – My Proposal.

  45. Florentino,

    It is good to have someone who has had a close relationship with both Jews and Palestinians commenting here.
    I am one who sympathizes more with the Jews than with Palestinians and I’ll explain why.
    First, my grandfather fought in WWI. He was one of the soldiers who celebrated Christmas with the German soldiers and the next day fought against them. He had no bad feelings against them, they were people just like him. My father fought in the 2nd World War in Africa and Italy. Again he harboured no ill will against the Germans.
    Now, based on their experiences, should we view the German attempt to conquer Europe, wipe out 6 million Jews, etc. in a different light.
    The problem is that we often can’t separate our emotions from the leadership that directs a people. The few moderate voices in the Palestinian Authority are paraded before the press to elicit public support, but the execution of policy is done by hardliners who seek to destroy Israel.
    It is difficult to empathize with the ordinary Palestinian, or to know his/her true feelings when suicide bombers, missile attacks, abd child killers are a constant threat to Israel.
    The vast majority of Palestinians are not indigenous to the area of Palestine. In fact, until the Jews turned it from a desert wasteland into a fruitful field, the Arabs wanted nothing to do with it.
    I am grateful that you can share the attitudes of the average moderate Palestinian, because it demonstrates that they too are good people, but until they control the government and rid them of terrorists, how can I view the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, etc. any differently than we view Germany, historically, in spite of the experiences of my father and grandfather.

  46. Seth Rogers says:

    The scriptures give me no reason to favor the Israelis over the Palestinians.

    Truth be told, it’s quite likely that there is more “Israelite blood” in the Palestinian settlers being bulldozed ought than in the many transplanted Russians who pass themselves off as Jews.

    Also, the scriptural view claims that all the world will turn against the Jews. Presumably, this includes the US. But it never once suggests that Israel will be an “innocent” victim. Furthermore, that bit about the Jews accepting Christ has nothing to do with sincere conversion. They will more or less, be forced to acknowledge His divinity (every knee shall bow and every tongue confess …). They might sincerely convert or they might not.

    A couple more disjointed thoughts to think about:

    I read a few years back that a common tactic for those wishing to emigrate to the US is to claim some Jewish heritage (plausible or not) and head for Israel, after a few years living there, it’s much easier to get a visa for the US.

    Another interesting tibit: I read in a book on international crime that the large influx of Russians into Israel has brought with it the Russian mafia. Just about anywhere you get a large influx of Russians, you get Russian organized crime as well. According to the book, the Russian mafia is so influential in Israel that they are even running their own minority party in the parliament.

    Frankly, my religion gives me no reason to be more concerned about Israel than I am about Slovakia.

    Politics on the other hand give me great reason to worry about Israel. The nation is a flashpoint for all sorts of international trouble.

    But as far as my religious beliefs are concerned, Israel is just another political entity with no particular claim to any religious sympathy from me.

  47. Seth Rogers says:

    “until the Jews turned it from a desert wasteland into a fruitful field, the Arabs wanted nothing to do with it.”

    That’s not the view of the history books I’ve read. Where exactly did you get that idea?

  48. I stand by my comments about the desire of the Arabs in the middle east to kill the Jews as a mainstream opinion. Over the weekend the PA radio station broadcast a sermon by a leading cleric advocating the slaughter of the Jews. This is like Billy Graham or the Pope advocating wholesale murder. The hatred is mainstream. Go to http://www.memri.org. It does not get any more mainstream than that. I also propose that Gaza will turn into a terrorist state similar to Afghanistan.

    No solution except the military defeat of one side or the other. Until then it will be a low scale conflict

  49. Recheck your history books. The only people there were shepherds. There was nothing there.

  50. Seth,

    I guess we should stop Italians, Asians and Chinese and Arabs from immigrating as well. In fact, immigration should be a non-policy – all we get from it are some criminal elements…right?

  51. I’m on Israel’s side, but I’m on the Palestinians side.

    Which is to say I feel for everybody. I think the problem goes to mothers: if somebody shoots your child, you want to shoot their child. I would. And it never ends.

    But isn’t it supposed to be inevitable that Israel just goes to all out war in the last days? Doesn’t that make all the rhetoric and facts uh…irrelevant? Isn’t it just going to happen no matter what?

  52. A member of the twelve goes and dedicates palestine in preparation for the establishment of Israel and, lo an behold, the miracle of the existence of Israel as a political entity is not suffeciently miraculous to play a part in that dedication. Orson Hyde climbed the Mt. of Olives and prayed that God would remove the “barrenness and sterility of this land”. But no, the land becoming fertile under the management of the Israelis has nothing to do with the fulfillment of that prayer. The return of the Jews to Palestine and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, of course, has nothing to do with D&C 77:15. Emphatic statements on the part of prophets, both ancient and modern, that the Jews are to return to their homeland can in now way be construed as having anything to do with the current state of affairs in Palestine.

    If we were living in the days of King David or Solomon there would be no doubt whatsoever in our minds that the establishment of Israel in those days was not ordained of God because, forsooth, they were killing their enemies.

    We accept the miracle of the restoration. We accept the miracle of the Gentiles being set up as a free people in the promised land. We accept the miracle of the Lord pouring out His spirit upon all flesh. We accept the miracle of the hearts of the children turning to their fathers. We accept all of these things but we cannot accept the miracle of the Jews returning to their homeland when it has happened right before our very eyes.

    It’s as if we can’t accept these things because the Israelis have not managed their affairs perfectly. Oh! Oh! Well then I guess the church is not ordained of God because of bufoonery and debotchery among the saints. Joseph Smith wasn’t a prophet because he kicked a man’s arce for offending him in his own home. A child isn’t baptized because her father hadn’t confessed his serious sins prior to performing the ordinance.

    Who among us doesn’t understand that God is no respecter of persons? We know that God loves the Palestinians every bit as much as he does the Israelis or any other people and that He will reward them for the good that they do. We know that in almost every case wherein the Lord has established His people they have failed to live up to His laws. But that doesn’t mean His hand was not in their establishment.

    Israel has been brutal in many ways and is by no means innocent in this conflict. And yet, I cannot but agree with the anonymous axiom “If the Palestinians would lay down their weapons there would be peace. But if the Israelis lay down there weapons there would be no Israel.”

    That said, I admit that I’m troubled by the disparity in numbers of casualties between Israelis and Palestinians. I’m also trouble by the lack of reliable data. It’s difficult to trust any source on such a divided issue. However, there are two things that seem clear to me. 1) Israel suffers at the hands of terrorists on a daily (daily!) basis. And 2) No matter what the numbers say, Israel’s superior defenses are going to shed a bad light on their side of the conflict when viewed only in terms of cold hard statistics.

  53. SETH-
    “the scriptural view claims that all the world will turn against the Jews. Presumably, this includes the US. But it never once suggests that Israel will be an “innocent” victim.””

    Just curious- Could this scriptural reference be about the years prior to the war during which Jews (and others) were being annihilated by Stalin and Hitler while the ‘whole’ world stood by and watched… and then afterwards the United States closed it’s doors to immigration while those that survived and escaped death were trying to find new homes by taking horrible boat trips across the ocean.
    Are you implying, simply by lack of suggestion, that Israel will not be an innocent victim? That seems a bit presumptuous to me.

  54. But isn’t it supposed to be inevitable that Israel just goes to all out war in the last days? Doesn’t that make all the rhetoric and facts uh…irrelevant? Isn’t it just going to happen no matter what?

    annegb, I’m afraid that if we take such a stand it will be a self fulfilling prophecy.

  55. J.

    Isn’t all prophecy self-fulfilling? Otherwise, why would the Lord give it to us?
    The one sure way to tell if a prophet is a prophet is that which he prophesies comes to pass.
    Ergo, if it doesn’t come to pass we can dismiss all ancient and modern prophets, who have foretold of this event, as charlatans.
    What’s wrong with having a foreknowledge of the event and watching for it’s fulfillment?

  56. Kirk, I think that you are right. I really think that Sharon is pulling out because he doesn’t believe the Palestinians can rule themselves and he would much rather have them killing each other than Israelis. I have seen nothing to indicate that his assessment is inaccurate at this point.

  57. Larry, sure, but who is to say that now is the last days? Who is to say that we can’t have peace for a couple of hundred years? I would be a pathetic loss to loose even one year, let alone several hundred, to our abandonment.

    Every Prophet of the 19th century thought they would live to see the coming of the Lord. If it where not for Woodruff’s patience (in spite of his belief), the church probably would not exist today. Similarly, if we don’t work towards peace, in spite of any eschatological beliefs, then we are likely going to waste time, peace and many many lives (if history is to be any precedent).

  58. I think most prophecies are vague enough so as to make their self-fulfillment difficult.

  59. J.: “Who is to say that we can’t have peace for a couple of hundred years?”

    Who’s to say we can’t have peace for a *thousand* years? (nyuk, nyuk)

    Clark: “I think most prophecies are vague enough so as to make their self-fulfillment difficult.”

    This is true, generally. And yet the Lord thumps us on the head for not being able to discern the “signs of the times”. And so we go on doing our best to discern, but no matter what we come up with it has to be revised by each new generation. That’s why I don’t care for books on the Second Coming–they’re outdated within a decade.

    I like to think that understanding the fulfillment of prophecy is like going to Disneyland the first time. You go in with preconceived images in your head as to what the place is going to look like, but upon experiencing it first hand you see that it’s completely different from what you had imagined. However, what you see makes sense because of how it relates to your previous notions (which notions are generally fulfilled to one’s satisfaction by the reality). You can say, “oh that mountain over there must be the Matterhorn ride” because you associate a mountain with that particular ride (that is, if you’ve gleaned enough information about Disneyland from all of your friends who–much to your dismay–got to go before you did).

  60. Seth Rogers says:

    My ONLY real point was that the scriptures give absolutely zero reason to favor the Israelis over the Palestinians in their current conflict. So we can feel free to put our scriptures away when justifying or condemning the actions of the current Israeli government.

    The other two items of info were just random thoughts I felt an inexplicable urge to commit to this thread. Neither has a great deal to do with the main discussion. Happens a lot to us compulsive personalities.

    Larry, implying from my statements that I oppose Russian immigration to Israel is just silly. I didn’t say that now did I?

  61. Seth,

    Think about what you said.
    “Another interesting tibit: I read in a book on international crime that the large influx of Russians into Israel has brought with it the Russian mafia. Just about anywhere you get a large influx of Russians, you get Russian organized crime as well. According to the book, the Russian mafia is so influential in Israel that they are even running their own minority party in the parliament.”
    In this discussion you introduced the problem of allowing Russians into Israel, disallowing for the fact that Jews were heavily persecuted in Russia, and looked forward to going “home” to Israel.
    What else would I deduce from your statements regarding Israel and it’s problematic role in the Mid-East.
    Import Russians you get Russian mafia. Don’t let Russians in and, ergo, no Russian mafia. I stand by my statement.

  62. R.W. (42)

    A cynic would note that the Palestinians have given nothing to the peace process because everything that is now Israel’s ought not to be. I’m not advocating the dissolution of Israel, as it isn’t viable to simply remove them from the land after nearly sixty years of statehood.

    But surely you can see that the reason that we wouldn’t want Israel to be disbanded is basically the same reason that Palestinians are pissed off about the events of the 1940s, right? What’s the substantive difference?

  63. The events in the 1940’s and before occurred in a land that: a)wasn’t a country and
    b)was sparsely populated
    The Palestinians didn’t even think of occupying that piece of desert until the Jews came in.
    Since most Palestinians are refugees from other Arab countries, and that since the Jews came in, what gives them any more right to the land than the Jews.
    At least the Israelis have created a productive, and innovative (which they freely share with their Arab neighbours), democratic country.
    Is their an Arab country surrounding it, or even in existence that comes close to doing what Israelis have done?

  64. Just to add to Larry’s comment,

    While the history of this conflict is complex and difficult to desipher because of the strong bias on both sides, can it be disputed that the Israelis purshased the land (at least most of it) they live on? And that from Arab land owners? Of course, we may disagree with their methods of evicting the previous tenants, but even some of that is up for debate. I don’t think (generally) that we really have a good fix on how the whole problem escalated prior to 1948.

  65. Seth Rogers says:

    Once again, their are lots of social, political and historical reasons for supporting either the Israelis or the Palestinians.

    But this thread is about the religious reasons for Mormons supporting either side.

    My answer: there aren’t any that are largely independent of the social/political/historical ones I mentioned above.

    Larry, the logical conclusion to my statement is to oppose organized crime, not to oppose immigration. If you still can’t see that distinction, I’m not going to waste anymore time explaining it.

  66. There are a lot of things with this issue that Mormons in general are either unaware of, or that they just disregard –especially when it comes to doctrinal justification of the Israeli Occupation.

    Nephi had a lot to say about the Gathering of the jews, and seems to me to teach that the jews returning to their land is contingent upon their accepting Christ.

    2 Nephi 6: 11

    Wherefore, after they are driven to and fro, for thus saith the angel, many shall be afflicted in the flesh, and shall not be suffered to perish, because of the prayers of the faithful; they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated; nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that WHEN THEY SHALL COME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THEIR REDEEMER, THEY SHALL BE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAIN TO THE LANDS OF THEIR INHERITANCE.

    2 Nephi 25: 16-17

    And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from genereation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind–and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.
    17: And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.

    2 Nephi 30: 7

    And it shall come to pass that the Jews which are scattered also shall begin to believe in Christ; and they shall BEGIN to gather upon the face of the land; and as many as shall believe in Christ shall also become a delightsome people.

    Based on these three scriptures, I believe that the physical gathering of the Jews is contingent upon the spiritual gathering. Seeing the State of Israel as the fullfillment of the gathering of the Jews, then, seems ridiculous when you bear in mind that 70% of them are aetheist, and the rest are still looking for the Messiah.

    I can consider the State of Israel part of the prophecy, but in now way was the foundation of the state justified in the way they did it. Israel came about because Britain didn’t want to deal with the problems of Arab and multi-national jews fighting. They were supposed to have a plebiscite, but turned it over to the UN instead.

    Regarding the Wilkipedia’s mention of “Palestinian cases of terrorism,” this is just a semantics issue. Blowing yourself up in a market is just as bad as bull-dozing that person’s extended family’s houses with people still inside. Ever notice how in the American media, it’s always, “Two Israelis were killed while 3 Palestinians died” How it’s always “Palestinian militants” but “Israeli armed forces?” There is a slant in the media that inherently affects how we perceive these issues, and i suspect that’s reflected in the Wilk. IMHO neither side has commmitted more wrong than the other, so you can’t pick sides based on who’s right and who’s wrong, or even who has committed more heinous acts.

    As for Mormons supporting Israel for religious purposes, what about the three verses above and Israel’s aetheism?

  67. I appreciate Seth trying to get this thread back on track but maybe first we need to get some facts straight.

    Larry, I’m not quite sure how you get the idea that “the Palestinians didn’t even think of occupying that piece of desert until the Jews came in.” Occasionally even today there are some Zionists who will say that “a people without a land” (meaning the Jews) came “to a land without a people.” I think Bibi Netanyahu uses that line in one of his books. But anyone who looks at historical events and the difficulties that Zionists had in their acquisition of the land (whether by purchase or conquest) will plainly see that this perspective is sheer nonsense.

    Yes the Palestinians came late to nationalism and were in a bit of identity limbo after the decline of the Ottoman Empire. They may have imagined they would belong to Greater Syria or to Hashemite Transjordan or some other nation/entity/identity. What they knew was that they had Arab-Muslim brothers in adjoining countries who were supposed to help them ensure that no other group would occupy that land. That didn’t happen — and part of what led to a firm sense of Palestinian-ness was the alienation and supreme discouragement many Palestinians felt as a result. Regardless, “that piece of desert” had been occupied by many Arabs for many generations. The 1948 War (whether you call it a “war of liberation” or “the Nakhba disaster”) caused hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee from their homes and lands.

  68. Thanks Danithew, I was goingg to say something similar but I didn’t want to threadjack.

  69. I went back a little bit and tried to read more of this thread. Even as far back as comment #49, Larry wrote:

    “Recheck your history books. The only people there were shepherds. There was nothing there.”

    That is just plain nutty. It’s ridiculous. There were A LOT of people there. My guess is that this reasoning is based on quotations from Mark Twain’s book “Innocents Abroad.” Basically Mark Twain traveled through the area and visited a number of the Biblical sites. He then wrote a book describing the area as largely desolate and without inhabitants. However, his visit there did not make him an authority on the history or the demographics of the area. He was simply wrong. However, his writings are often quoted by those who want to push that point of view for political reasons.

  70. pneal,

    We should remember that the “Jews” were not merely of one specific lineage, but a composite of all peoples who dwelt in the area of Judea anciently. The term “Jew”, therefore, may be considered the title of one who associates himself with a particular socio-political entity as well as a particular lineage. That said, I think it is note-worthy that there are, infact, christian Israeli citizens–albeit their numbers are few (under 3% I believe). But those “few numbers” might play a significant role in terms of prophecy–much like the Lord’s people as seen by Nephi scattered throughout the earth whose numbers where “few”.

    Also my pointing to Wikipedia and mentioning the bombimg of school buses was (partly) to show Fiorentino that I could be just as anecdotal as he was in my views. Do we really think that a visitor could get a good grasp of the U.S.A. by getting on a bus, seeing the sights, and talking to a couple of students to get the “inside scoop”? I have no doubt that his experience was more in depth than what I’m describing, but there wasn’t much more than that offered in support of his views on this thread.

    Danithew,

    No doubt, you are much more of an historian than I am. But isn’t it true that most Arabs dwelling in Palestine have their roots in other Arab countries? And isn’t it also true that, though Arabs have dominated that region since around 700 AD, there has always been a Jewish contingent in that area, however small?

  71. Jack, I think most of the Arabs dwelling in Palestine have their roots in that immediate area — going back for centuries . Many perhaps even for millenia, though I’d want to read more to be sure on that one. I’ve never done a study but I’m positive that most Palestinians are more “Palestinian” than most Americans (whose ancestry derives from Europe) are “American” … if that comparison makes any sense at all.

  72. Danithew,

    This is obviously an area that most are simply speculating on. in fact, most Palestinians are first or second generation residents. There was nothing there for them before the Jews came in.

  73. Larry, where in the world are you getting the basis of this information that the Palestinians had only been in the land of Palestine for one or two generations before the Jews arrived? I’ve never heard such a thing. The common Arab saying I have heard of in regards to the Jews is that they “didn’t want their honey or their sting.” In other words, the European Jews brought technological improvements that would improve the agriculture and lives of Palestinians — but the Palestinians would have preferred to do without these improvements rather than lose political sovereignty.

    No scholar I know of has ever argued that the Palestinians had absolutely nothing (to improve upon) or weren’t in the land until a generation before the Jews arrived. Again, that sounds completely nutty.

    Show us your sources on this point.

  74. Here’s an article in Wikipedia that discusses the ancestry of the Palestinians. In the very first line it discusses how the arabization of the inhabitants of Palestine began sometime back in Ummayad times. That sounds about right to me.

    The article also discusses how the area has been referred to as “Filisteen” (Palestine) by “the earliest medieval Arab historiographers.”

    It is true there are questions about the ultimate Palestinian ancestry and origins … but that is after one traces their history way back in time. Their roots to this land are certainly not so shallow as one or two generations back in time. These people lived in the land and were identified with the land for centuries. That is common knowledge.

  75. Arabs are chosen people but they are not choosing people. The Arabs would trump all claims if they established pluralist democracies that recognized everyone’s rights. But Muslim ideology will not allow it so the Jews who have a nominally religious state but respect the rights of Arabs win hands down. I support the Jews 100%.

  76. TV, I hope you are wrong. I truly hope that we will see stable democracies exist in Muslim-majority places. There have been positive signs in Iraq (don’t forget all those masses of purple fingers), Afghanistan and even (despite many difficulties) in Palestine. There have been elections in Lebanon too. And these haven’t been the sham single-candidate elections where victors walk away with 97% or more of the vote. We now know for a fact that when they are given the opportunity, Muslims will travel far and risk their lives for the chance to vote.

    The idea that in all the Middle East only Israel can operate as a stable democracy may yet be disproven, insha’Allah. I don’t say this as a barbed statement against Israel — but as a hope for the Arab countries.

  77. Once again, I think this thread has gone way off the original intent of J. Stapley’s original blog, but isn’t that how nearly every topic ends up?

    TV: A Jewish state that respects the rights of Arabs? How about the right families have to keep their own homes in Jericho, Bethlehem, and East Jerusalem? Hundreds of thousands were kicked out, many of them at gunpoint.

    My analogy for this is very simple: How many mormons would take up arms if millions of Thai BACs moved into Salt Lake in the period of twenty years, kicked the Mormons out of Utah Valley, and said, “thish land belongs to us because three thousand years ago our ancestors lived here and our book says we get it back?” Mormons would be forced to relocate to Nevada, Arizona, So Cal, and Idaho (where there are lots of other Mormons). Some of the Thai would want to demolish temple square, but they would form a stable government, in a large part due to the help (financial and political) of the Chinese (who would be the one world power). The Chinese, who don’t really understand mormons because there are almost none living in China, would really misunderstand the Mormons, and the media would blast them because Mormons would have been attacking the Thai ever since they arrived in Salt Lake. I mean, the Thai came to claim what was rightfully theirs, right? I mean, there were only a couple million mormons there in the valley in the first place, right? And they hadn’t even been there for more than a few generations, so what’s the big deal?

    Hopefully, this will help you to see why Arabs still don’t consider Israel a valid state. Do you see why even 60 years later there hasn’t been much progress in Palestine? They’re not going to get over it and they’re still trying to get back to square one.

  78. Tomorrow I have been asked to give a talk in church on the topic of “What I learned while living in Jerusalem.” I want to thank this thread for helping me come up with a few ideas … :)

  79. Aaron Brown says:

    Great, danithew, but don’t forget to bear solemn testimony of how inspirational BCC was at the end of your talk! Give the full website address too: http://www.bycommonconsent.com. Thanks, in advance.

    Aaron B

  80. No problem Aaron. Still, at this stage of the game and with this audience I think it is vital to begin with first principles and ordinances: 1) blogging; 2) open-source
    3) WordPress.

    Speaking of website addresses, I’ve been pestering Mr. Evans but I still can’t find a link to my blog up there. Harrrumph. I do intend to have actual written comment at my blog eventually — I’m just trying to get a particular plugin adapted to my peculiar and pretentious blogging desires. :)

  81. Danithew,

    Okay, let’s start from a practical position. What was the economy of Palestine historically? What was the population base there historically? What nationalist forms of gov’t existed there that made it a nation, or gave it an identity with sovereignty?
    I have my sources, but I am willing to make them of no consequence (Twain wasn’t one of them) since you have lived there, and have dialogued with both sides.
    However, there must be no spinning. I am completely willing to acknowledge that those of us who have not been there can be uninformed, regardless of the reading we have done.
    Take the floor and inform us and we will be grateful. You are a credible source and I am prepared to acknowledge that.

  82. “Israel grants the right to vote and all the rights of citizenship to its Arab minority. Its a liberal democracy in every way. Its neighbors are all totalitarian states of some form.”

    Israel is not a liberal democracy in every way, though it is a decent society. Its neighboring states are not totalitarian–at least not in the sense that the label is used in political science (though they are authoritarian with various democratic undertones).

    Rather, Israel is what political scientists call a national democracy, not a liberal democracy, and founded for, and on behalf of, a particular nation. This should be obvious to anyone who cares to compare (other examples include countries such as Croatia where minorities are granted certain rights, but are by definition second-class citizens). The Israeli state was founded to protect a homeland for all Jews, not just Israeli citizens. Arab Americans, for instance, do not have a claim to Israeli citizenship, but Jewish Americans do.

    Arab Israelis do have the right to vote and the right to form political parties, but this does not necessarily mean that Arab Israelis are treated as equals to Jewish Israelis, individually or collectively, by the Israeli state and public policy. There are plenty of solid, academic studies that suggest Arab Israelis receive fewer and poorer quality services and have less recourse to power than Jewish Israelis. Start with a Google of the work of Sherry Lowrance at the University of Georgia. She has some recent and very interesting empirical work on the position and future of Arabs in Israel. BTW, she is also LDS.

  83. Larry, I’m not trying to say that the Palestinians were a wholly organized or unified group by any means. The sources will show that hundreds of villages existed and that many of these villages were autonomous or semi-autonomous. There was a bit of disconnect between many of them. The picture I have of the 1948 war is that, for the most part, the Israeli forces were fighting and conquering the territory village by village. Yes there were some Arab forces that were a bit more organized. Even as it was, with the Arabs in that area being less organized and fragmented — the Israelis still found establishing their state to be challenging and hazardous work.

    There are two particular books that I can think of off the top of my head that give a very up-close sense sense of the number of villages that were involved. One is Benny Morris’s “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949″ … I read the first edition but not the more recent “revisited” edition.

    The second would be Walid Khalidi’s book “All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated By Israel in 1948.” This book comes with photographs of the remains of the villages.

    When one views the scale of conquering and destruction and the great number of Palestinian villages involved, it becomes clear that these were people who had been established in the land for a very long period of time.

    All I have been trying to do is to get us away from this notion that the Palestinians or local Arabs suddenly showed up to a place where they hadn’t been before, to take advantage of the good things Jewish people had to offer.

  84. Greg,

    I’m assume that you’re merely stating facts without deriving a moral argument from such. But just in case you aren’t, I would like to point out that the Jews really have no choice but impose a double standard. If it were not so, the Arabs could easily vote them out of existence.

  85. Sheesh. I need to start previewing my comments before I post. Sorry, for the mess.

  86. Jack,

    Right. I was not trying to rank the moral claims of Jews and Arabs (Muslim and Christian) to disputed property. Though, I would argue that the Israeli state generally provides a more decent society for citizens and visitors than the neighboring authoritarian regimes. That said, Israel is not a liberal democracy as understood in the West.

    I’m not sure what you mean by the “Jews have no choice but to impose a double standard. If it were not so the Arabs could easily vote them out of existence.”

    How do you vote people out of existence?

    Arab Israelis are no more than about 15-20 percent of the Israeli population and rather easily marginalized by the state.

  87. Greg,

    My expression is (as usual–being the hot-head that I am) a little over the top. But even so, if Israel were a “liberal” democracy–much like ours, there would be a greater influx of Arabs into the state because of a more liberal attitude toward immigration. No doubt there would be bitter internal political strife of a magnitude never seen in any previous democracy. The reality is that it’s a moot point because it’s just plain impossible to conceive of anything more “liberal” in terms of government on the part of the Jews at this point. Any drift in that direction is (imo) a drift toward extinction as a state. Truthfully, I’m amazed at how well they’ve managed being as liberal as they are–comparatively speaking.

  88. Seth Rogers says:

    You know, everyone assumes that an Islamic state would be a bad thing.

    I don’t know, maybe in the context of the modern international political scene, an Islamic state would be a bad idea.

    But consider, throughout the middle ages, while Jews were being burned at the stake in Europe, thriving Jewish enclaves survived in Morrocco, Egypt and elsewhere in the Muslim world. The two groups actually got along very well. Historically, there have been examples of enlightened religious government that did just as fine a job of governing fairly as our over-hyped democratic forms.

    Never forget: the ideal form of government from a Mormon perspective is NOT a democracy! It is a monarchy with God at the head.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with an Islamic state, as long as it is run in an enlightened and fair fashion.

  89. Seth wrote: I don’t know, maybe in the context of the modern international political scene, an Islamic state would be a bad idea.

    With that I agree.

  90. Seth,

    In lieu of our inabiltiy to successfully establish a “monarchy with God at the head” I’ll take our “over-hyped democratic forms” over anything else out there on the horizon.

    I think you are right that, historically, the Arab Islamic empire was comparatively quite benevolent to those of other religions under its rule–only after being forced to concede to the empire by the sword, however.

  91. It’s interesting to me that whether the two cases are analogous or not, the arguments Larry is citing in favor of Israeli legitimacy are the same used by many to justify the decimation and relocation of Native American populations in North America in the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (there aren’t many of them, they’re not using the land productively, etc.). And those claims were always bolstered with the claim that divine providence had already justified it.

    FWIW, probably not much.

  92. In comment #88, Seth Rogers wrote: There’s nothing inherently wrong with an Islamic state, as long as it is run in an enlightened and fair fashion.

    We have some attempts at creating an Islamic state in recent history to look at. Iran, Sudan, the Taliban in Afghanistan (before they were overthrown) and to a certain extent Saudi Arabia. If they are proximate at all to what an Islamic state should be, then there are some very serious problems to consider:
    1) the installation of the hadud punishments — violent punishments that lead to stoning the adulterer (rajm), amputating the hands of thieves, beheadings, killing apostates (those who convert from Islam to another religion), etc.
    2) Isolation and oppression of women. This has been worse in some “Islamic states” than others). I still am not a fan of the burka and when it is legally imposed on women in general I feel it is a form of religious gender oppression.
    3) Authoritarianism or “mullahcracy” that puts sever limits on free expression or anything not approved by the religious government
    4) Religio-centric education systems
    5) A general resistance to modernity except for the acquirement of advanced weapons technology
    6) Organizational resistance to music, movie theaters, non-religious holidays (Valentine’s Day, for example) or just about anything that smacks of fun
    7) Outright hatred or unusual ambivalence towards the West
    8) Complete and total opposition to non-Islamic missionary work
    9) The establishment of a martyrdom culture that encourages young men to get themselves killed. This isn’t merely sending young men off to war but about encouraging them to want to die while they are fighting.

    I suppose that a person might object or quibble with some of the things I’ve listed here or the way I’ve expressed myself. But I feel there are enough serious problems with Islamic regimes that their value or contribution to society should be seriously questioned and doubted. Those who try to establish “God’s will” as the law of the land end up imposing a religious tyranny about 99% of the time. It is exactly this desire to establish Islamic governments that drives all the Islamic militant movements in the world.

    Admittedly, Seth had qualified what he said by saying that such a regime would be ok if it were “run in an enlightened and fair fashion.” I don’t think we’ve seen an example of that yet and I have never seen anyone advance a description of how that would be accomplished.

    I also am less inclined to express nostalgia and admiration for the liberal, egalitarian and free-wheeling nature of older Islamic empires. It is true that in comparison to Europe, the Islamic empires treated Jews and other minorities better. But due to the atrocities Europeans committed, that isn’t a hard standard to meet. Jewish people and other religious minorities in the Middle East still had plenty of their own experiences with bias and humiliation.

  93. Seth Rogers says:

    Well, like I said, the reason I am skeptical of any current attempt to establish an Islamic state is because of the current political and sociological excesses that accompany such movements today (as danithew listed).

    However, I would point out that many of the examples listed come from political, not religious, sources.

    Others come from a flat out misapplication of the spirit of the Koran. Of course the biggest weakness of Islam is that Muhammad is dead. There is no living prophet to apply the Koran to the modern day. Neither is there any institutional mechanism for dismissing the nut-jobs.

  94. Seth, Islamists do not distinguish between the political and the religious and consider the differentiation/separation of the political and the religious to be a Western heretical innovation. That is the major reason why they fight to install Islamic government.

  95. Regarding the original post: I have NO sympathy for the settlers. Israel obviously has the right to exist, and it does, but just like any other country, its power stays within its borders.

    What if I bought a house in Canada. If I live there, can I call my house a part of the United States? Can I insist that Marines come and keep me safe? Can I petition the US government to build me a special road that only I can use to get to “mainland US”? No way! That is clearly a carzy idea! Why do we view Jewish settlers in any other light?

    Let them live in Gaza if they want as long as they recognize they are under Palestinian rule.

  96. J. Staply,

    In reading your original post again I have to wonder at what you think is going on if the current Israeli State has nothing to do with the prophecy that the Jews will one day return to their homeland. It’s clear in the prophecies that they will return and rebuild the city of Jerusalem. That’s happening. No where do I get the idea that they will return at anytime before they begin to become converted. Do you? (I ask that sincerely)

    Unless I haven’t read the prophecies carefully enough (which is likely), it seems clear to me that their return is an indicator that they are beginning to come to Christ. I don’t know how to view it otherwise. I’m willing to concede to your opinion on this if you can prove (scripturally) that the current situation does, in fact, fly in the face of prophecy in that it is possible to find room in the prophecies for a return of the Jews to their homeland followed by another dispersion and yet another return when they are converted according to your (our) reading of what conversion means.

    As mentioned already by a different commenter, the Jews will not recognize the Messiah until he shows them the wounds in his hands after appearing to them in their own land. How do we factor in that prophecy along with the rest? What about those Jews who are converting to christianity (though there numbers be few)? Can this not the beginning of their conversion?

  97. Sorry,

    “Can this not *be* the beginning of their conversion?”

  98. Interesting questions, Jack. There are a couple things that I find important, but the short answer is: I don’t know. It seems that the Book of Mormon is pretty explicit in its discription of their conversion as an antecedent to the Lord’s gathering them.

    I think think that there is a significant amount of populat belief that stems from the McConkie/JFS interpretation of the final days. Looking at scripture and the revelations, I don’t see why much of the interpretation has to be considered doctrine.

  99. Fratello Giovanni says:

    I think think that there is a significant amount of populat belief that stems from the McConkie/JFS interpretation of the final days. Looking at scripture and the revelations, I don’t see why much of the interpretation has to be considered doctrine.

    Especially when you consider how much of that had a Cold War framework.

  100. The question I brought up remains. Why do the prophets defend Israel in the last days when arguably they’ve not accepted Christ yet?

    “My analogy for this is very simple: How many mormons would take up arms if millions of Thai BACs moved into Salt Lake in the period of twenty years, kicked the Mormons out of Utah Valley, and said, “thish land belongs to us because three thousand years ago our ancestors lived here and our book says we get it back?””

    Doesn’t our own history answer this? We move. The plan was that if we couldn’t stop the attacks on Utah during the 1850’s that we’d burn SLC and go to Mexico. As I recall when the army was advancing houses were prepared for destruction. This fits with what happened back east as well. Mormons were willing to launch some small scale guerilla movements, as we saw in both Missouri and Utah. However they were unwilling to wage the kind of indefinite war that we see in Israel.

  101. The question I brought up remains. Why do the prophets defend Israel in the last days when arguably they’ve not accepted Christ yet?

    It seems to me that the prophets (at least in recent years) have defended the Palastinians equally. No?

  102. From what I gather, President Hunter was particularly keen on being objective in the Church’s relations with Israel and Palestine or in relation to Israel and its Arab neighbors. There’s some kind of story involving an Ensign article that showed an Israeli flag and map — and I believe a correction was made or an apology issued to make sure that it was understood that this article didn’t represent a Church stance on Israeli-Palestinian politics.

  103. I think you miss my point. I don’t mean rhetorical defending of actions. In that the prophets have done so and I fully agree with them. Rather I was talking about the prophecies of the last days where two prophets literally stand on the streets of Jerusalem and literally defend Israel from armies using the priesthood. i.e. in terms of violence.

    As I said in my initial comments, I think many Palestinians have been wronged by Israel. But that’s not really the point of the thread. Is there a religious reason to believe the current Jews ought be there?

  104. That is where I think the controversy lay, Clark. I think that the scenario you describe requires a hefty amount of interpretational support from the McConkie/JFS body of thought. I don’t see why it has to go down like that.

  105. J. Stapley,

    One could argue that our notion of “conversion” is based in a “McConkie/JFS interpretation” as well thereby rejecting all other interpretive considerations which may be drawn from a broader view of the conversion process. Certainly this approach would narrow our view of (say) the restoration to more of an event than a process.

  106. Interesting. I like the idea of the restoration as a process; however, I think the Book of Mormon is pretty explicit on the matter of the gathering of the Jews and their acceptance of Christ.

  107. I confess I don’t see how this is a McConkie interpretation. Indeed this is a very important issue of interpretation that goes through 2000 years of history. McConkie actually limits it more than one finds in historic readings (where unlike McConkie the two prophets are Moses, Elijah or Enoch)

    I’m open to this being an interpretation of McConkie. But I’d like someone to explain how.

  108. Just to add, we have to deal not just with the interpretation of these two figures in the ancient world, the medieval world, and on up through the near pre-modern to the period of Joseph Smith. They are rather ubiquitous. However Joseph Smith’s own comments seem to significantly undermine the reading I see expressed in this thread.

    “They are two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation in the last days, at the time of the restoration, and to prophesy to the Jews after they are gathered and have built the city of Jerusalem in the land of their fathers. ”

    I just don’t see how this can express anything but some kind of support for a gathered Israel prior to their acceptance of Christ. (Note the time frame they appear in)

  109. “We might bring up, also, the declaration of John in relation to the two witnesses who are to prophecy about that period. They are to prophecy three and a half years, and their field of labor will be Jerusalem, after it shall have been rebuilt by the Jews. By means of their prophecies and the power of God attending them, the nations who are gathered together against Jerusalem will be kept at bay, these Prophets will hold them in check by their faith and power. By and by these nations overcome the two witnesses and, having finished their mission, they are slain, and their bodies will lie three days and a half in the streets of the city. Then a great earthquake will take place, and these two witnesses will be caught up to heaven.” Orson Pratt, JD 16:329

  110. Clark, I’m going to take some time to get back with you. I want to do a little research to make sure I’m not way off base here (which is not uncommon). I’ll probably also post it at Splendid Sun.

  111. Clark,

    That’s the scripture I was pointing to in my comment (#52) when I said in a sarcastic tone: “The return of the Jews to Palestine and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, of course, has nothing to do with D&C 77:15.”

    It’s nice to know I’m in good company. Though I would like to know exactly why you seem to feel that the presence of the two witnesses supports the idea of Israel being gathered prior to their conversion–not that I disagree. I’m just curious, and quite frankly, hungry for anything that supports my own take on the prophecies.

  112. Clark, as mentioned, I’ll post more on this elsewhere, but it seems that, in context, what you cite would support my premise.

    Orson Pratt, stated that after the missionaries are taken from the gentile nations, they will be sent to the Jews:

    The Jews dispersed among the Gentiles will not come and sing in the height of Zion, or but very few of them, they will go to Jerusalem. Some of them will believe in the true Messiah, and thousands of the more righteous…will receive the Gospel before they gather from among the nations. Many of them, however, will not receive the Gospel, but seeing that other are going to Jerusalem they will go also; and when they get back to Palestine, to the place where their ancient Jerusalem stood, and see a certain portion of the believing Jews endeavoring to fulfill and carry out the prophecies, they also will take hold and assist in the same work.

    …The Lord will raise up two great Prophets, they are called witnesses, in the Revelations of St. John. (JD 18:65)

    Parly Pratt:

    …after the city and temple are rebuilt by the Jews, the Gentiles will tread it under foot forty and two months, during which time there will be two prophets continually prophesying and working mighty miracles.

    …Suffice it to say, the Jews gather home, and rebuild Jerusalem. The nations gather against them in battle. The armies encompass the city, and have more or less power over it for three years and a half. A couple of Jewish prophets, by their mighty miracles, keep them from utterly overwhelming the Jews; until at length they are slain. (A Voice of Warning pg. 42-43

    It was McConkie, as far as I can tell, that was the first to say that the two prophets would be LDS apostles (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary vol. 3 pg 511)

    To be fair to JFS, he cites P. Pratt and does not go towards the McConkie interpretation in his Church History and Modern Revelation (vol. 2 pg. 72)

  113. Jack, the teachings seem to be that the Jews in general only accept Christ when he comes. The presentation in the scriptures is that they are shocked at who the Messiah is. The two prophets come before this happens, as D&C 77 makes clear. In other words they’ve gathered, but they’ve not converted.

    John above mentions that some Jews are converted. But I think that’s true now. Both directly to Mormonism as well as the Messianic Jew movement which is more its own kind of vision of Christianity.

    The question is who will be attempting to carry out the prophecies? Orson Pratt suggests (and it is just his speculation) that they’ll see Christian Jews doing it. Well, who are those Jews who accept the prophecies? Typically Conservative Jews and Messianic Jews. The Orthodox Jews don’t accept it and accept something more akin to what others have mentioned: that Israel is only valid as a nation when the Messiah gives it to the Jews. Likewise secular and liberal Jews don’t really care because their views of prophecy and the like are so liberalized. So who are the people looking for the red hefer and other such things that need be restored? Those who’ve been more Christianized.

    I think it an error to assume this refers to Mormon jews or a massive conversion to Mormonism.

    I’d add that a lot of the attempt to fulfill prophecy is funded by American Christians.

  114. BTW – here’s a nice list of the relevant scriptures that I found. Not the best, but a great way to check quickly on the verses.

    I should add that I’m not convinced that these two figures will literally be Moses and Elijah or Enoch. It might be someone functioning as Moses or Elias. (Something we’re familiar with in the restoration)

  115. OK Clark, I see.

    I thought there was something I was missing in particular about the mission of the two witnesses–something other than their placement in the chronology of events that was shedding further light on the discussion.

    I tend to agree with your statement: “the teachings seem to be that the Jews in general only accept Christ when he comes.” This, to my thinking, strengthens the notion that a turn toward christianity on the part of a few may be what we’re looking for as the beginning of their full conversion as people.

  116. Clark, do you not consider the BoM verses about the restoration of the Jews to be eschatological in nature (e.g., 2 Ne 10:7-8)?

  117. Verse 7 of 2Ne 10 reads:

    “But behold, thus saith the Lord God: When the day cometh that they shall believe in me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh, upon the earth, unto the lands of their inheritance.”

    Forgive me for being redundant but this verse seems to imply that they will NOT return until they believe in Christ. Now perhaps I’ve been reading to much into this. Perhaps they have yet to be *restored* (as the verse says) to the land of their inheritance in the sense that they will have full undisputed claim on those lands–which is not the case at present. But then again, those verses surrounding verse seven which speak of the Jews being gathered from the “isles” and the “four quaters of the earth” and being “nursed by the Gentiles” and so forth, seem to smack of the current gathering.

    Then there’s a more goofy interpretation of verse seven which would suggest that their restoration “in the flesh” may have to do with the resurrection–much like Job seeing God in the flesh, etc. I don’t really buy it, tho.

  118. I’m not sure I understand what you mean by eschatological. Certainly they are eschatological. But if we are in the end times that doesn’t really help clarify things much. Secondly even if they deal with the end times the issue is the chronology or order within the end. As for 2 Ne 10, I agree with it. And do tend to think that the gathering of most of the Jews will await the coming of the savior. But I don’t see how that addresses the gathering that is going on right now of various.

    You seem to be reading it as if there is no physical gathering until they accept Christ. In one sense that’s quite true, and is repeated 20 – 30 times in the Book of Mormon. I personally think that the two prophets are part of teaching the gospel to Israel. (Part of the reason I tend to favor McConkie’s theory that they are Mormon apostles acting as Moses and Elija) The question though is whether the physical gathering is totally illegitimate until they turn to Christ.

    I should add that this notion that the gathering of Israel is tied to their relationship with God is hardly unique to the Book of Mormon. It’s found throughout the OT, especially Jeremiah. Thus fitting Nephi and Jacob in terms of era.

    I’d also note that McConkie agrees with this. He actually believes that the two prophets are primarily missionaries preaching the gospel in a manner analogous to Christ during his ministry and that this happens after the building of the temple. Since there is no temple yet, we have a ways to go. And this isn’t just a temple built under the Aaronic order to which the Jews have a right. According to McConkie and many others there must be MP organized as well.

  119. In rereading some of this thread I can see that I owe Fiorentino an apology for lashing out at him. He clearly owned up to being anectdotal in his approach which, as I now see, is onely natural because of the topic of the thread. He his certainly more informed than I am on this issue.

  120. For those interested, I have put a post about JFS’s perceptions of the gathering of the Jews at Splendid Sun.

  121. The entire Palestinian state stuff is nonsense.

    First, there is a Palestinian state in Palestine. It’s called Jordan.

    Second, Britain won all of Palestine (which for the geographically challenged is pretty much modern Israel and Jordan combined) at the end of Word War I fair and square; it was called British Mandate of Palestine, and colonialism was legal and ethical back then. The Brits supported the Zionists who wanted to set up Palestine as a Jewish national home, and began instituting policies to effect this. After World War II, Britain gave 60% of Palestine (the transjordan) to the Palestinians, and this eventually became known as Jordan. It gave the rest to the UN which made it a protectorate (specialists in “international law” have been trying to make sense of this ridiculous notion for decades), and Israel declared Independence.

    The people who say that the Jews in Gaza are a meaningful barrier to peace were the same ones who felt that the presence of so many Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails was an obstacle to peace during the negotiation of the Dayton accords. They were wrong: it was an obstacle to a peace agreement. And this peace agreement was never kept by the Palestinians, although the concessions they won in return for it were irreversible.

    The real obstacle to peace is the Palestinians themselves, because they generally refuse to accept the legitimacy of Israel as a state. Basically, they are willing to accept the outcome of every war in history except the last few in which they’ve lost.

  122. DJL, you forgot about the Hashemites.

  123. DKL,

    I honestly don’t understand how the Transjordan affair is viewed by the Palestinians. The Israeli’s claim that they only got about 25% of the whole of Palestine because they lump Jordan into the original equation–which does not sound unreasonable to me.

    That said, I’m not ready to assume that all Palestinians are completely unreasonable. So I’m left to assume that there must be some kind of legitimate reasoning on their part that would exclude Jordan from the equation.

  124. I remember the Hashemites well, J. Stapley. I’m just avoiding the common mistake of reserving the term Palestinian for residents of modern Israel. This is quite similar to the mistake of calling Palestinian ex-patriots “refugees” (when you’re gone for 60 years, at some point you cease to be a refugee) insofar as it assumes that there’s something non-native or illegitimate about Israel’s governing regime.

  125. Jack, keep in mind that Arafat cut his teeth as a terrorist in Jordan fighting its regime. When finally defeated and cornered by the Jordanian army, he abandoned his men, disguised himself as a woman, and fled. Then he started his second career as a terrorist in Israel. That’s the origin of this entire “Palestinian State in Israel” thing, and it’s never been separate. Israel is the only country in the region that lets it’s Palestinians vote or affords them the freedom of a free press. Quite frankly, Palestinians are better off living under Israel’s government than any regime of their own making.

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