Inside This Edition: On The Turning Of Things Upside Down – Some Words Of Advice From Isaiah For Ariel
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Sludge Report #89
On The Turning Of Things Upside Down
Israeli and Palestinian efforts to move towards peace are frustrating. Frustrating for the Palestinians, frustrating for the Israelis, and frustrating for the rest of the world too.
Why? Because as soon as any effort is made to understand the real issues and problems to be overcome to achieve peace in the Holy Land, it is apparent that the gulf between the two sides remains several, if not a few hundred, miles wide.
That said, Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Palestine Liberation Organisation Chairman Yasser Arafat have both come a long way in the last 16 days - since the tragic night-club queue bombing in Tel Aviv.
Indeed remarkable progress has been made towards peace. But peace still remains elusive. Armed incidents and confrontations continue, the killings continue.
We now learn in the news media, via unnamed US Administration sources, that in the hours following the Tel Aviv bombing Israel’s government was on the verge of authorising a massive military strike against the Palestinian Authority.
We can be thankful that instead of taking this, irreversible, step towards escalation, the Israeli Government led by Ariel Sharon elected instead to turn its traditional policy of immediate and harsh retaliation upside down, and adopted instead a policy of restraint.
As a result of this, and seemingly in spite of the belligerent conduct of US peace envoy and CIA Director George Tenet, we now have a limited truce/ceasefire agreement in place.
But now progress has again stalled.
Accusations are again flying between the two sides. Each accuses the other of failing to abide by the terms of the Tenet agreement. In Israel there are reportedly growing disagreements within the government on what should be done next. And in the occupied territories, no doubt, the situation is not dissimilar inside Arafat’s inner circle.
What then is to be done now? How can the small fragile flame of peace achieved thus far be fostered so as to grow to consume decades of hatred, confrontation, terror and pain?
Words Of Advice From Isaiah For Ariel
Some time ago now, nearly a year in fact, C.D. Sludge wrote a discursive comment piece on the peace negotiations then underway between the Government of Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat at Camp David under the good offices of then US President Bill Clinton. (See. Sludge Report #24 – Jerusalem and Jeremiah .)
In comparison to the obstacles to peace now faced in the holy land, Camp David was arguably close to being a cake-walk. Nevertheless the peace offers made then by Barak, and refused by Arafat, remain central to the ongoing debate over how to find a lasting peace.
Central to Sludge’s argument then was the idea that there is a tragic irony inherent in the fact that so much pain can be caused by a fight over the city that all three Judaistic faiths hold so central to their faith. That is god’s own city, the city of Melchezidek the prince of peace, and of Kind David and Solomon.
Then Sludge went looking in the bible for some support for this argument and found lots of words of warning at least in the book of Jeremiah. In the end one passage was cited, Jeremiah Chapter 4, Vs 14-18.
“O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, thou that mayest be saved. How long shall the vain thoughts lodge within thee?
For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from Mount Ephrahim.
Make ye mention to the nations: behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country, and give out the voice against the cities of Judah.
As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the Lord.
Thy ways and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it reacheth into thy heart.”
This was enough, Sludge thought at the time, to encourage some introspection.
Now, as the peace process in the Middle East threatens to once again fall off the rails, Sludge has again gone back to the good book for guidance.
And, loh and behold, in Isaiah chapter 29 their appears to be a passage directly aimed at the new Israeli PM. Certainly it is one that provides some guidance, albeit hard guidance to follow.
“Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, of the city where David dwelt!” writes the prophet, “…Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel.”
As the prophet continues it is apparent that Isaiah’s Ariel is having a tough time of things, as indeed our present day Israeli PM Ariel is at present.
As Isaiah continues the nations of the world array against Ariel. (At this point it is worth pointing out that Ariel is considered by many translators to be another name for Jerusalem.) And then a remarkable thing happens. Ariel is offered salvation. Isaiah takes up the narrative, Chapter 29, vs 12.
“And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith I am not learned.
Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
Woe to them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say Who seeth us? And who knoweth us?
Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?
And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off.
That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.
Therefore thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob [Israel], Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.”
So there it is. Clear and succinct advice from on high.
If Ariel wants to put the shame, distress and misery of the occupation of the West Bank behind him, then the solution is, in the words of Isaiah, “the turning of things upside down”.
But what does this mean?
In Sludge's opinion, admittedly not a learned opinion, it means continuing in along the path first ventured down 16 days ago, on the day after the terrible bombing in Tel Aviv. That is, a path upon which the ways of the past are turned upside down, a path of new ideas, new solutions.
There will be nothing easy on this path for the state of Israel, though it may lead to salvation. Years of attempts to work towards peace with the Palestinians have created a great deal of baggage.
For example we have the settlements, and the offers of withdrawals made at Camp David by Ehud Barak. The settlement policies did not work. And the offers of limited withdrawal made at Camp David were rejected.
If truth is told these things will never work. Why? Because this path to peace is unjust. Returning a severed, encircled Palestinian state to the PA is not a realistic option because it will again be refused Instead what has gone in the past must be turned upside down.
As Isaiah says, “the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid”, and then the answer will come.
So go to it Ariel! A challenge has been set from on high.