As Jason Olson returned from his mission, he was still conflicted on whether to date Jewish or Mormon gals. He decided to return to BYU to finish his studies, and studied Hebrew. He discusses some heated discussions about Israel-Palestian relations, and decided to continue his studies at Brandeis University. Check out our conversation…
Navigating LDS/Jewish Dating
Jason 03:51 Because I had dated a Latter-day Saint girl in Israel. And, it had gotten a little serious. We talked about, “Hey, whenever you get married one day, where do you want to get married?” We were just trying to be unserious about it. I was like, “Well, I really want to get married in the temple. I’m very committed to that. I want to make the covenants in the temple. I’ve been endowed. I’m a returned missionary and I want to. That’d be the next step.”
Jason 04:45 And, she was like, “Why is it such a big deal for Mormons to get married in the temple?”
Jason 04:54 And I was like, “You’re a Mormon.!” Do you know what I mean?
GT 05:00 “Why are you even asking the question?”Jason 05:02 Yeah, that really, really bothered me and I was sick to my stomach; not sick about her. She’s wonderful. She’s a wonderful person, but I just realized my priorities shifted. Well, I think my priorities were always the same, but it made me wake up to what were my priorities here?
Jason 09:51 I told him the story and we broke up. And I was sad and, and then Aaron was thinking about returning to Judaism and becoming an Orthodox Jew. Because I think his mission was so traumatic. And he just felt like there’s this underlying anti-Semitism maybe in the church or, in some members of the church that he couldn’t shake. So why don’t you date an Orthodox girl?
Jason 10:33 And I was like, “Oh.” What should I do? What am I supposed to do? And so, anyway, yeah, we have an interesting scene where I met an Orthodox Jewish girl on a bus. She had clearly shown some interest and then I had this moment of dilemma. Should I ask her out? Or, you know, because if I go down that road, then what about the temple? Because, for me, it was Latter-day Saint temple,
GT 11:07 It will be Temple Beth Shalom or something instead.
Jason 11:10 That’s right. That’s right. So, anyway, I made up my mind. And I can’t go down that road. Despite how covenant keeping these Jewish people are. They’re keeping their covenant and I respect that and support them. But I felt what God had obligated me was to pursue what I call the Cumorah covenant. Right? You’ve got the Sinai covenant. And you’ve got the Cumorah covenant. And, to me, they’re both true. They both lead you to God. And, I’m surrounded by Jewish people who were committed to the Sinai covenant, but I had through my story that now, I had committed myself to the Hill Cumorah covenant that came through the Book of Mormon and the restoration. So, so that was the underlying spiritual and religious tectonics.
Return to BYU
Jason: They were also there back at BYU. So you know, the band is all together, all these high school buddies and I start going to church. And that’s where I meet my wife, Sarah, just a couple of weeks after. After I go back to BYU, and we’re in the same Ward,
GT 20:17 Is this one of those typical BYU engagements where it was like two weeks and you were married a month later?
Jason 20:23 Not that quick, but pretty quick. Yeah, I think we, we got married about six months after we met.
Religious Studies at BYU
Jason 27:25 But to study at BYU with scholars who dedicated their whole professional lives to understanding the Bible, in its context, I mean, they get it. So, what obligations do I have under the Sinai covenant? And what obligations I have under the Cumorah covenant? These are questions that they’ve actually thought about. They can actually help me sort through, not that we’re going to agree on everything, but at least I can ask my questions and learn and fill out my belief system. And so that was really good. The Hebrew Bible major is really small at BYU, very small. I mean, I think we, I had, like, 20 people graduate with me. People that in my view build their entire lives off of Abrahamic covenants. I mean, that’s pretty sad, actually, that so few people would want to major in that.
Jason 32:27 But I also wanted to see what BYU was teaching about modern day Israel. And there was only one class about that at the Provo campus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And, as I’ve already mentioned, I was hyper-concerned about Iranian and Hamas and Hezbollah missiles. Because I was there, and I met people who had to hide in bomb shelters, right. And I’ve already expressed how I felt about it. And so I went in this class. Most of the students were the modern Middle East Studies, Arabic Major people. And now obviously, I’m very fascinated with the Middle East. I had lived in the Middle East, on my own. And the narrative of the class was that Jewish people, they’re these white European settler colonialists, who did experience a tragedy in Europe in the Holocaust, and they came to Palestine. But when they came to Palestine, they stole the land from the indigenous inhabitants. And so, Palestinian intifada/Palestinian war against Israel is justified because the Palestinian cause is trying to liberate and eject the colonialists from their land.
Jason 34:19 For me, that was a completely false narrative number one, because I knew and felt that Jewish people are also indigenous to the land of Israel, you know what I mean? Now, I’ve already explained like I believe in Palestinian human rights and I would go on a limb to say that Palestinians are indigenous to the land as well. But if you know Jewish history, there are four, holy cities: Jerusalem, Tiberius, Hebron, and Safed. Those four Jewish holy cities have been continuously inhabited by Jews. So we have this myth as Christians in general, that those evil Jews. They crucified Jesus and their punishment was they all got exiled from their land. It’s not true. It’s a myth. Archeology, history can prove it, We can literally go dig into the earth and we could see that Jews have always lived in at least those four holy cities, ever since the time of Jesus until today. Jews have always been in those cities. So they’re indigenous. Even if you’re complete secular person, Jews are indigenous. They’ve been an indigenous minority, but indigenous, so for that narrative to say that Jews just came in and they have no connection is extremely offensive and false.
GT 36:11 Where do you hear that? Because I don’t hear that. Is that like an Arab talking point or something?
Jason 36:18 That was the Caucasian Utah, BYU Professor point of view.
GT 36:26 Really?
Jason 36:26 Yes.
GT 36:29 I’m not familiar with that even though I’m in Utah.
Jason 36:33 Well, it’s the majority paradigm of modern academic Middle East Studies. We could go into that more, if you’re interested. I guess I have expertise in both but modern academic Middle East Studies, that is the paradigm. It gets worse because we started talking about Hamas rocket attacks. Right. You already know how sensitive I feel about that. I mean, I was there living with Latter-day Saints who have to hide in bomb shelters. Okay. And then, the professor starts talking about Hamas rocket attacks. From that angle, Hamas is just trying to frighten the Israelis so that they leave so that they can liberate their land. It’s justified, right? Because, after all the Palestinians are indigenous. The Jews are not indigenous. And it’s just the natives are trying to force out the colonialists. I obviously completely disagree with that. But then the professor asked for a raise of hands of how many students after all, this course narrative, believe that Hamas rocket attacks are justified. And almost all the students raise their hand.
GT 37:55 This is a BYU?
Jason 38:07 This is at BYU.
GT 38:09 Really?
Jason 38:10 Palestinian Israeli conflict class, my senior year in 2009. So I am just getting livid, an angry Jew. And I tried to get out of my little chair, my little desk. I’m fumbling around. And I finally stand up. And I’m angry. And I look at the professor and all my fellow classmates. And I say, “I am disgusted with you. How could you support terrorism?” And then I sat down.
Jason 38:51 And everybody’s like, “I have never experienced this at BYU.” This is what contention feels like. But I was just [disgusted.] I couldn’t believe it. I was just like, Jews are human beings. You know? They’ve always been in the land. You can’t just use old anti-Semitic Christian teachings that the Jews rejected Christ, so they shouldn’t even be there.
Since Dr Jason Olson is a religious studies major, I couldn’t wait to ask him some Bible questions. Is he a literalist? Where does he stand on issues like the Documentary Hypothesis? We’ll also talk about the rise of anti-Semitism. Check out our conversation….
Jason 00:34 I’ll say here that I am in full support of what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is doing in religious pluralism. If you read “The Burning Book,” (you have Rick,) you know I am I’m a religious pluralist. I literally served as a as a chaplain in the United States Navy ministering to people of all faiths. Right?
GT 00:57 Do you have any kind words for Bruce R. McConkie and Mormon Doctrine?
Jason 01:02 I don’t. I wrote about it in “The Burning Book.” Go to the book where you could see it. Yeah, I’m a religious pluralist, I think what we’re doing with Islam is wonderful. We’re reaching out the hand of religious pluralism and acknowledging Muslims in their own faith tradition. What I ask for, and I think people like Trevan and certainly I definitely feel the brethren feel this way with. They just invited Rabbi Ari Berman, who’s the president of Yeshiva University, to speak at BYU. I’m just so thrilled to see that we’re reaching out the hand of religious pluralism to Judaism. Right? Because there’s a history where of Jewish-Christian relations where we have not acknowledged Judaism for it’s on its own terms, that Judaism is its own religion, that is legitimate and valid. Right? But I mean, I’m thrilled to see that we’re doing that. Trevan has always been that way. But there’s, there’s definitely Latter-day Saint leaders and scholars who have not thought that way, like J Reuben Clark and McConkie.
Rise of Anti-Semitism
GT 07:05 Well, can you comment on the broader movement? If I remember right, it was at Charlottesville, where we had all these guys with Tiki torches. “Jews will not replace us.” I mean, it seems like anti-Semitism, especially over the last five years, 10 years has gotten worse. It seemed like it was going a lot better. And now we’re having a backlash. Do you have any comments on that?
Jason 07:36 Yeah, I mean, so I think about the far right wing and the far left wing anti-Semitism. So when you talk about Charlottesville, and “Jews will not replace us,” that comes right out of the white genocide theory and this anti-Semitic belief/conspiracy that that Jews are trying to dilute or destroy the white race.
GT 08:09 Because Jews aren’t white, apparently. Right?
Jason 08:11 Because Jews are not white. But then you got the people on the far left who say that Jews are the worst white people because they are the colonialists and the white supremacist. I’ll give you one quick tangent when you look at Sdrot, which is where those in those days were most of the Hamas rocket attacks, they didn’t have rockets that could reach Tel Aviv yet, right in those old days. But Sdrot was built mostly by Moroccan Jews and other Jews from the Middle East. So if you have this paradigm that Jews are white people who are colonialist, taking Palestinian land, and the Palestinians are the brown people where Hamas is firing rockets on the poor towns that are built by the brown Jews, the Jews that are from Arab countries. So you know what I mean. So, to think in those terms is ridiculous because it’s literally brown on brown violence. Right? Brown Hamas Palestinians firing rockets on brown Moroccan Jews, and why did they leave?
GT 14:36 Do you have anything to say because I know one of the big things, well, I think two big issues in Israel right now are annexing Palestinian territories and Israeli settlements. I think that’s one issue. And then the other one is, my understanding which may not be good, there’s basically two Palestinian areas, and sometimes you can’t even [travel between them.] I think you mentioned this in your book. A Christian living in a Palestinian area couldn’t even get to church because of the Israeli checkpoints. And so there’s no freedom of movement. I mean, is there a problem? Could the State of Israel handle that issue and settlements in a better way?
Jason 15:27 Well, it’s a tough question. The policies have become what they are for a reason. And I am in complete support that it’s fair to criticize policies and to try to get try to get better policies. Right? I would say the fundamental paradigm that I look at all of it is, Jews are human beings, deserving of a life of dignity. And Palestinians are human beings, deserving a life of dignity. So, religious freedom for Palestinians, freedom to worship, freedom to move, freedom to be, to have dignity. To me, I subscribe to a branch of Jewish interpretation that affirms all of that. And going back to Abraham Joshua Heschel as a fundamental I’m actually in touch with one of the best Israeli scholars who’s trying to bring Heschel’s teachings to Israel, and he’s translated. I mean, I’ll give him a plug. His name’s Dr. Jawbone D, if anybody wants to look him up, but he’s trying to bring Abraham Joshua Heschel’s teachings to Israeli culture. The way that Abraham Joshua Heschel looked at black people in America, could that be translated to the way Israeli Jews could view Palestinians? Right?
Jason 17:27 Now, it’s tricky, because there’s a war. That’s something that we have to acknowledge. A lot of times it’s a Cold War. Right? There’s not open hostility. But as you see, every couple of years, there’s a war between Israel and Hamas. So it’s complicated. And, Israel’s war with Hamas is not a war that Israel wants. If you go to Israel, and you just go and talk to most everyday Israelis, and I met a lot of Israeli soldiers. I mean, I went on the birthright trip with them, but I kept in touch with them. And I went to the beach with them in Tel Aviv. They don’t want to be patrolling in Palestinian territories. Now, who wants to do that? If you’re 18, 19,20 years old, you don’t want to be patrolling dangerous streets where the people don’t want you there. They don’t want to be there. They want to go to the beach, and hang out with their family and their friends, and play games and go to school and live their dreams. Have a family. They don’t want to be running a military administration in Palestinian territories. I mean, just from my own human experience, that’s the big the most important thing. And the Palestinians, they don’t want the Israeli soldiers patrolling their streets either. So, why can’t it just end? I think both sides really want that to end. But, technically as a scholar, and I didn’t have these tools when I was at that BYU class in 2009. I just had emotion. Right? “I’m disgusted with you.” But I have scholarly expertise now. The Oslo Accords, which I very much believe in that whole process. I mean, it’s very old now. But
GT 19:54 It was under Bill Clinton, in the 90s.
Jason 19:56 Yeah. But the Oslo Accords, personally, I’m only speaking for myself. I’m not speaking for the U.S. government. I’m not speaking for anybody, but my own scholarly opinion as someone who got a doctorate in the field. It’s my academic opinion, so let me preface that. But, the Oslo Accords was trying to manage the situation and you have area A, which is Palestinian security controlled and Palestinian civil control. And so I don’t have all the percentages off the top of my head, but those area A portions of Judea and Samaria, or the West Bank, depending on your political leanings. Those area A Palestinians have a degree of self determination. Right? They can they have their own police their own law enforcement. They have their own judges, judicial system. They have their own mayors. And so those area A portions, I mean, obviously, I think Israel should respect those and that’s what was agreed. Sometimes there’s terrorist problems and and terrorists are going in and killing is Israelis and Israeli military has to go into area A, and that’s very tragic. But if there’s a terrorist problem, and you’re trying to stop it, you’ve got to sometimes go into territories you don’t want to go into, and and solve the problem.
Jason 21:54 In area B, there is Israeli security control, and Palestinian civil control. So, Palestinians still have their own judicial system, and they can go to their own judges. They have their own political leadership, their own mayors and whatnot. But the Israeli law enforcement or Israeli military is still present in area B. And in the area B are majority Palestinian territories. The way I look at it is, I am an American democrat in the sense of lowercase d. I believe you should have democracy. Right? And so, if there’s Palestinian majority, the Palestinians should have some self-determination. So I do hope, that Area B Palestinians will have more self-determination over time, and that they’ll be able to have security control over area B in time. They’ll be able to live lives of dignity, and not have Israeli police or Israeli military there so that they can just live their lives.
Jason 23:29 Area C is really complicated, really complicated. Area C does not have a lot of Palestinians. But it does have all the Jewish settlements, Israeli settlements in Area C. Under the Oslo Accords, I think that Israel was able to do that. it was unclear because Israel has both security and civilian control of Area C. That was agreed in the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. So Area C is complicated, and I personally think there are some good security arguments why Israel wants to have military bases and presence in the Jordan River Valley. I mean, this is getting into very technical stuff, but Israel’s fought a lot of wars. Countries from the east have invaded it and tried to destroy it. So, Israel wants to have what’s called some strategic depth to have at least some military control of territory to be able to protect its its borders, and protect itself from invasion. You can read in the news that Iran, which is to Israel’s east still wants to destroy the State of Israel and wipe it off the map. So, you can understand why Israel might be hesitant to give up its control of any military control of any eastern territories, especially by the Jordan River, because it still get invaded from the east.
Jason 25:37 So purely from that even just totally secular point of view, the state exists in a way to prevent another holocaust. When you’ve got Iran threatening a second Holocaust, it’s a little complicated. But all that said, Area C is complicated. And I’m not going to take a position on that, because it’s just not in my purview. But all I would say is Israel’s trying to keep the status quo for a reason. But all that said, I do want a future, especially for the majority of the Palestinians. I think it’s 2.8 million Palestinians are in Area A and Area B. And I do believe and support a future where the Palestinians could have as much self-determination, have as much autonomy, have as much human rights, freedom, dignity, as absolutely possible. I don’t know what that’s going to look like. But I certainly want Israel to remain a Jewish and democratic state. Right?
GT 35:53 The flood, was it a worldwide flood? Or was it just a large, localized flood? Do you have an opinion on that?
Jason 36:04 Because there’s other flood traditions, Enuma Elis. And there seems to be a human memory of floods in other civilizations. I believe that yeah, that it was a global flood, and Noah started over. I mean, yeah. I guess I lean pretty orthodox. I mean, I would have
GT 36:39 How about the book of Esther and Ruth? Job is another one. I’ve heard a lot of people believe those three books are fiction. They never happened. There are anachronisms. Would you agree or disagree with that?
Jason 36:55 Well, I’m open to the idea of biblical fiction that you could create a fictional character in order to illustrate divine truth. We have had General Authorities that wrote books of fiction.
GT 37:19 Paul Dunn comes to mind. Are you familiar with Paul Dunn?
Jason 37:23 I am familiar with him. I don’t think I’ve read much of his stuff. But, I mean, for example, like The Work and the Glory. Right? It’s teaching.
GT 37:33 But that’s historical fiction. I mean, Paul Dunn, I remember when he spoke. I was young. I can remember having tears. And he would just tell he was a minor league baseball player, which wasn’t really true. He was in the army, which wasn’t really true. All the stories he told in General Conference [were embellished.] Then he got released. And there’s a book by Lynn Packer, I think, that talks about all the lies basically, that he represented in General Conference. He was one of the most famous, most emotional speakers ever. And then he kind of [fell from public grace.] All the yarns came undone and he’s kind of like, “Oh, Paul Dunn, he’s a bad guy.”
GT 38:24 So, I mean, The Work and the Glory, that’s marketed as fiction. I mean, you get Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites. That’s marketed as fiction, but I mean, here’s the issue with Esther and Ruth. A lot of people want to say those are fiction, but supposedly David and Jesus, their ancestors were Ruth and Esther. So, if you say, well, the stories didn’t exist, why is Jesus related to two fictional characters? I mean, that’s the question.
Jason 38:56 Well, yeah, I mean like I said, I lean towards biblical literalism. So I’m not offended if people have a different opinion. But I just believe that the biblical writers were serious people. And were prophets. We could get into authorship and all those things. But you know, I tend to believe that the biblical writers were honest, and they were trying to convey to their people, the record and the truth, and what actually happened the best as they knew it. I don’t believe that the biblical writers were trying to deceive anybody. Could they get something wrong or misunderstand history? I mean, are we saying that the biblical writers were historians? That’s not their purpose. They’re not. They were prophets. A prophet and a historian are two different things.
What are your thoughts? Is anti-Semitism on the rise? Is it a bigger problem in or outside the LDS Church? Do you have opinions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? What are your thoughts on figures like Esther & Ruth? Do they present problems if they are not literal characters? How do you think the LDS Church is doing with regards to religious pluralism?
It’s interesting to me that many members of the Church (LDS) feel a kind of kinship or brotherhood with Jewish folks. I’ve heard this expressed before at Church. And yet, you’ll hardly ever find a Jewish person who feels the same towards LDS. It’s a one-way relationship. I’ve asked many Jewish people about us (LDS) over the years and they hardly know us. It reminds me of the New York Jets during Tom Brady’s time with the New England Patriots. The Jets were obsessed with the Patriots but the Patriots hardly gave a thought about the Jets. What I’ve observed is that die hard Mormons are more anti-Catholic than they are anti-Semitic. Credit to Bruce R McConkie?
Granted, there are many more Jewish folks in the world than LDS and they’ve been around a lot longer. But not in the US: we have roughly equal membership and we’ve been around since 1830, not that far behind the arrival of the first Jewish immigrants (pro tip: I don’t include the Nephites or Lamanites in that calculation).
BYU students love going to the Church’s Jerusalem Center and I don’t detect anti-Semitism from alums who’ve done that. Quite the contrary they seem to be more pro-Israeli than any other college group I’ve ever seen.
Last week, we covered Jason’s conversion from Judaism to Mormonism. Were you aware Jason is a Jewish convert to the LDS faith?
My thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are that Americans, and particularly Mormons, don’t give Palestinians a fair shake. With the current conservative Israeli government unnecessarily stirring the pot, things are heating up. I hope the contentions can somehow be defused. But I’m not optimistic.
There is a black Jewish community in Mbale, Uganda. My family, friends, and I have done work to improve their school’s playground. I need to learn more about the colony’s origin. So far relations with their neighbors appear to be great. Many non-Jews attend their school.
“Because there’s other flood traditions, Enuma Elis. And there seems to be a human memory of floods in other civilizations. I believe that yeah, that it was a global flood, and Noah started over. I mean, yeah. I guess I lean pretty orthodox. I mean, I would have”
Sigh. Seriously. As if geological evidence, or the severe lack thereof, don’t matter. Sorry, it’s statements like these that make me not trust his scholarship. At all. Upon knowing that he believes this, why would other scholars place any stock into what he has to say? I mean, why is the issue of this being a global flood even a question? It is so obvious that there has never been a global flood.
On the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights in 1967 and without a plan as to what to do with these lands. Early on after the occupation, some Israelis contemplated using the lands as bargaining chips and eventually giving them back to Jordan and Egypt as they did with the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in 1982. But revisionist Zionists began settling the lands and claiming it as theirs with the support of Menachem Begin and other radicals. Now, more than a half a million Israelis live in the West Bank, in very nice houses with ample access to farm land, water, special roads and special infrastructure, completely stolen from the original Palestinian possessions. Their Palestinian Arab neighbors cannot go where they live. It is a pure travesty. That Israel is a democracy is a farce. 5.3 million people who essentially live in the borders of Israel cannot vote. Now remarkably, Arabs can and do participate in Israeli politics. About 1.8 million Arabs are full Israeli citizens with full rights to vote and participate. Arabic, alongside Hebrew, is an official language of Israel. Israeli Arabs can and do speak Hebrew alongside their Arabic mother tongue. But Israel is most certainly an apartheid state that occupies and forces into abject poverty millions of people within its borders. The number of Palestinians killed in the conflicts spanning from 1967 to the present far outnumber the number of Israelis killed in the conflict. In my mind, the right thing to do (although not practicable) would be to fully integrate all inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank into Israel and to give them full rights as citizens.
Of course, in so doing that the Jewish population of Israel would more than likely lose control of the government and radical Muslim groups such as Hamas, and even radical Arab nationalist groups, would take control of some levers of government. For the Palestinian Arabs would outnumber or come to outnumber very soon the Jewish populations of Israel. There are many, many radical Palestinians who are deeply anti-Semitic and talk of ethnic cleansing and mass killing of the Jewish peoples. And they have some degree of influence in the Palestinian community. The current Palestinian government is rated as one of the most corrupt governments in the world. The world’s most holy city of Jerusalem is a hodgepodge of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish groups occupying its old quarters. How you would have a two-state solution while satisfying the demands of Arab and Jewish claims to the city seems nearly impossible.
I believe that the most practicable (not just) solution is basically what we’re seeing now. It is not just, it is not right, it is not fair. But it works. Israel simply keeps Gaza and the West Bank in a state of limbo neither moving towards a two-state nor a one-state solution maintaining a heavy hand on the Palestinians. Because if Israel moves any direction, it doesn’t do so without chaos erupting. It must maintain the status quo to keep things from getting worse than they already are. It is a stark reality. But there are simply too many radical Jewish and Palestinian groups who will explode if too much ground is given in any sort of transitions.
John W: very nicely written. I would add this little quip: If the Palestinians quit fighting, there will be peace. If the Israelis quit fighting, there will be no Israel. That pretty much sums it up. This reality does NOT, in my opinion, justify Israel’s extremely heavy hand in the way it deals with Palestinians (bulldozing their houses, etc.). The Palestinians are 2nd class citizens at best. And Netanyahu seems to be ushering in a right wing fanatical government which is not sustainable. But again, Israel is surrounded by enemies in the region and around the world and they want to survive so they do what they have to do to survive.
“If the Palestinians quit fighting, there will be peace. If the Israelis quit fighting, there will be no Israel”
I’ve heard this quip before. It could use a little qualification. The issue at hand may not necessarily be so much peace. Israel and the Palestinian Territories do enjoy episodes of peace and are able to bring conflicts to a resolve, although usually on quite unfavorable terms to Palestinians. The question at hand is more one of rights and freedoms, and the Palestinians, especially those in the Gaza Strip, are hugely deprived of rights and freedoms by a combination of the Israeli government (the overwhelmingly larger depriver), corrupt Palestinian officials, and other neighboring Arab governments who refuse to integrate Palestinian refugees. Palestinian refugee camps still exist in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan from Palestinians who fled conflicts in 1948 and 1967. Only Jordan has taken measures to fully integrate refugees from 1948. Neighboring Arab countries certainly have a hand in this too.
It should be noted that Israel was founded on radical Jewish terrorism. Members of Irgun, a radical Zionist paramilitary organization, bombed the King David Hotel in Britain in 1946 in a bid for Israeli independence from Britain. They perpetrated terrorist attacks against Arabs and the British throughout 1947. Britain had a responsibility to put down rebellion and bring order to the Mandate of Palestine (the name of the territory before it became Israel in 1948), but they let things fester and neglected important diplomacy measures in the Mandate. Members of Irgun became absorbed into the Israeli Defense Forces in 1948 and their members and philosophies have infiltrated the Israeli Likud Party.
Israel had to fight for its existence, no doubt. Neighboring Arab countries conspired (although very poorly and uncoordinatedly) to destroy Israel in 1948 and 1967. But Israel, with the copious help of the West triumphed against them, quite astoundingly. But its defense against neighboring antagonists came at a cost. The cost of absorbing lots of Arab peoples into its borders without a plan for how to integrate them or afford them basic freedoms and rights. Many Palestinians have simply gotten used to being treated as second-class citizens and harbor no violent intent towards Israel. But a number of radicals routinely plot violence against Israel. Some of the violence, particularly that perpetrated by Hamas, is actually indirectly targeted at Fatah and Nationalist Palestinian Groups, and they have employed violence against Israel in order to disrupt peace talks that would hand Fatah power over a possible Palestinian state.
A complicated mess, indeed. I have many Israeli and Palestinian friends. Israelis vary incredibly in their politics as do Palestinians. I root for the best possible outcome, but ultimately Israel and Palestine’s fate is outside my control. And I couldn’t put together what the fairest solution would be.
Roger, I agree with you that Americans generally don’t give Palestinians a fair shake.
John, the purpose of this interview was primarily to share Jason’s conversion story, and his perceptions as a convert. When I found out he had a religious studies degree, I wanted to ask him about his opinions on biblical literalism. He does not really promote himself as a biblical scholar. I have been surprised, especially among protestant pastors I know, how conservative they are in their bible interpretations.
I think you share some good thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, it is a complicated mess.
I’m really surprised at Jason’s BYU experience. I found out about the attack on the first tower on Sept 11 in the HFAC, in my morning Hebrew class. One of my classmates’ knee-jerk reaction was to say we should just go bomb the crap out of all the Arab countries. Maybe a lot changed at BYU in 8 years, but in the general church, all I see is the unrequited “kinship” Josh H refers to. I’ve done my share of seething in church classrooms or through visiting teaching discussions that equate the Jewish-Arab conflict to God vs. Satan. Been screamed at by my Jewish-born, LDS dad that (geo-political) Israel’s rightness in the conflict is part of his testimony (and therefore indisputable, I gathered).
As a teen I read the book “Blood Brothers,” written by a Christian Palestinian who lived through being forcibly removed from his village by Jewish Yishuv forces, then lived through the subsequent division of land between Palestine and Israel that he (and obviously others) considered grossly unfair. That has forever colored my view of the conflict there. I have exactly 0 solutions for what can be done about it now, but I can see how Hamas FEELS justified, even if I don’t agree with their actions. But I’ve concluded that my “anti-Semitic” sympathy for Palestinians is part of a minority in the LDS church.