Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy
Oxford University Press, USA, 2006
368 pp., $30.00
Coffins on Our Shoulders: The Experience of the Palestinian Citizens of Isræl
University of California Press, 2005
232 pp., $26.95
Gary M. Burge
Coffins on Their Shoulders
My first foray into the troubled world of Israeli-Palestinian politics came in the late 1980s, not long after the outbreak of the first Uprising (the Intifada). I was leading trip after trip to Israel, guiding students around the countryside teaching the Bible from a wide array of biblical sites. When I finally stepped off Israel's well-worn tourist trail, I was astonished at what I saw in the Palestinian territories. I thought I was in another country.
I wrote up these experiences in 1993 (Who Are God's People in the Middle East?) and naïvely thought that my evangelical readers would be fascinated to learn that there was another side to the story. That there was something else, some other narrative, if you just turned off the famous road to Bethlehem, if you dared go to Bet Jalla or even Hebron. Some evangelical readers were interested. Some were decidedly not. My formal work on the problem—as a theologian masquerading as a political scientist—began in the 1990s and culminated with another book (Whose Land? Whose Promise?) that set me deeper at odds with evangelicalism's political-right turn during that same decade. We had publicly decided on our narrative to explain the Middle East, and we weren't going to budge.
Most work in this area concerns the plight of those Palestinians who live under Israeli military occupation (over 3 million) or the many others (4.2 million in the Middle East alone) who have been made refugees by Israeli land seizures following a series of wars (1948, 1967, 1973). When television footage shows conflict with so-called Palestinian "terrorists" with gunfire and smoking tires, these scenes generally come from Gaza or the Occupied West Bank, areas captured by Israel in fighting that effectively took millions of Arabs captive. Two uprisings later—one that began in 1988 and another in 2000—the story continues to draw our interest. Peace proposals rise and fall; exhausted people hope and despair; the news moves on.