It is somewhat ironic that my private Bible reading scheme, which often follows the US Episcopalian lectionary, brought me today to the Book of Joshua.
1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying,
2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.
5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.
7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.
8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
The first thing that must be said is that we are reading saga and legend here, not history. One may as well take Beowulf literally, though of course Beowulf is very informative about the life and times of its culture and milieu and reflects history, which is also true of Joshua. It is pretty much certain that what really happened was nothing like what we read in this book. I don’t find that a problem, personally. One can be inspired by the words of the last verse there without believing that verses 3 and 4 represent some real kind of divine decree still relevant in 2009. Sadly, not everyone agrees.
Israel and Palestine: A Brief History – Part I on the Middle East Web captures this quite well.
The archeological record indicates that the Jewish people evolved out of native Cana’anite peoples and invading tribes. Some time between about 1800 and 1500 B.C., it is thought that a Semitic people called Hebrews (hapiru) left Mesopotamia and settled in Canaan. Canaan was settled by different tribes including Semitic peoples, Hittites, and later Philistines, peoples of the sea who are thought to have arrived from Mycenae, or to be part of the ancient Greek peoples that also settled Mycenae.
According to the Bible, Moses led the Israelites, or a portion of them, out of Egypt. Under Joshua, they conquered the tribes and city states of Canaan…
Paragraph one indicates what really may have happened; the next paragraph recounts the hallowed legend.
Leaping forward around 4,000 years we find ourselves where we are. You can trace that in varying degrees of depth on that Middle East Web, which I referred you to in my update yesterday on A whiff of sanity.
Long term the approach I commend there will be what must happen, but in the world as it is it will be a long time before such an approach is taken seriously by those in power. The point is, however, that we have been told. What looks like good strategy in current Washington and Tel Aviv or Jerusalem – which really should be an international city as the United Nations long ago proposed – or among irredentists in the Muslim world is actually short-sighted policy. Given that Israel may attain its objectives – more about that in a moment – the true cost is incalculable. In brief it involves fuelling further the problem. It inflames further the grievances that have made too many turn to terror as an appropriate response. The present cost in human lives and suffering is only too manifest.
In today’s Sydney Morning Herald Paul McGeogh offers an interpretive report that rings true.
THE revelation of the daring objective at the heart of Operation Cast Lead calls for Israel’s air-and-ground assault on Gaza to be given a new name. As the rhetorical layers are peeled back, what we are hearing makes Mission Impossible a more worthy contender.
Tel Aviv’s early insistence that this massive military exercise was about putting a halt to Palestinian rockets being fired into or near communities in the south of Israel never rang true.
Measure it by the number of rockets – 8000-plus over eight years – and indeed it sounds like a genuine existential threat. Consider the toll – 20 Israeli deaths spread over eight years, which is about half the number of deaths in just a month of Israeli traffic accidents – and it all loses its oomph as a casus belli.
Israel does not want to deal with Hamas – it wants to annihilate the Islamist movement.
The Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, said as much when she dashed to Paris last week to head off a French push for a 48-hour ceasefire. "There is no doubt that as long as Hamas controls Gaza, it is a problem for Israel, a problem for the Palestinians and a problem for the entire region," she said.
If there was any doubt after Livni spoke, it evaporated on Friday when the Deputy Prime Minister, Haim Ramon, told Israeli TV: "What I think we need to do is to reach a situation in which we do not allow Hamas to govern. That’s the most important thing."
And at the United Nations in New York, the Israeli ambassador, Gabriella Shalev, also seemed to depart the approved script. "[It will continue for] as long as it takes to dismantle Hamas completely," she said.
Analysis and commentary through the first eight days of this conflict have been about Israel’s goal of stopping the rockets. But if the objective is obliterating Hamas, it does indeed seem an impossible task….
Yesterday in Sydney
Good luck to Obama. Let’s hope for some shift in US policy, which is critical; I am not totally despairing on that front, nor am I totally hopeful.
See Jim Belshaw’s post this morning: Gaza, democracy and the question of world government. Very thoughtful. I think Jim and I share both a certain tentativeness on the issue – which I am sure is a clear sign of intelligence!—and a desire to get beyond the reflex responses we’ve been seeing. That Jim has used one of my photos is of course a bonus.