Their Hearts Are Far From Me

I was more angry on Saturday than I have been for a long time. I heard on the news that the Israeli Parliament is debating whether to knock down the synagogues in the Gaza Strip (the alternative presumably being waiting to see if the Palestinians do it when they move in). The report went on to explain the pros and cons of each course of action. At the end, in a rather offhand way, it said “they’ve already knocked down the settlements, now they just have to decide about the synagogues.”

I’m sorry? They’ve done what?

You are about to hand over some land to a group of people who are extremely poor, and you knock down the houses on it before giving it to them, even though they are of no use to you? How can anyone be so horribly spiteful?

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

(Deuteronomy 15:11)

The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men.”

(Isaiah 29:13)

17 thoughts on “Their Hearts Are Far From Me

  1. This wasn’t a unilateral decision, and it certainly wasn’t spiteful. See for example

    Earlier this month, a senior Palestinian official said that if Israel did not demolish the homes, the Palestinian Authority would – and that they would be replaced by high-rise apartment blocks that would provide a more effective answer to the needs of the crowded Strip than the low-rise, red-roofed, single-family settler homes, with their gardens.

    “If Israel does not destroy settlers’ homes, we will destroy them,” said housing and public works minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. Most Palestinian cabinet members, he said, backed demolition. The reason: the Palestinians need to make more efficient use of scarce land resources in Gaza. The rubble from the demolitions, he said, could be used to construct a port in the Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean Sea.

    If we’re quoting Biblical texts, how about Matthew 7:1?

  2. Why do you ignore the fact that Israel has EVERY reason to be “spiteful”? Why do you hold Israel to EVERY standard, while holding Palestinians to NO standard? They cleared the land. The ball is, again, in the Palistinian’s court…

    Your viewpoint is so typical European, and, unfortunately, so typically wrong!

    Thanks for your contribution to Mozilla!

    PS. Perhaps the Bible is not the best (or even a good) source for truth, justice and reason. ;-)

  3. Simon: that article provides no support for saying “it wasn’t spiteful”. According to that report, at least, at no time did concern for the Palestinians ever enter the thinking of the Israelis. They wondered whether to knock them down or not because they didn’t want to see the Palestinians “triumphantly” occupying them, and were worried that their soldiers might get killed if they stayed any longer!

    If the Palestinians want to knock them down when they move in, let them. That doesn’t mean the Israelis should do it.

    Peter: your characterisation of my position is a caricature, and does you no credit – as neither does your ridiculous assertion that there is a “typical European position” on the Israel/Palestine question. It would be just as easy (and incorrect) for me to characterise the “American position” as one of unconditional support for Israel, no matter what atrocities or human rights violations they commit. After all, I’ve seen bumper stickers saying “Wherever I stand, I stand with Israel”!

    I have done neither of the things you assert; I think that both sides try very hard to be as nasty as possible to the other, and I call on them both to work for peace. If I “hold Palestinians to no standard”, then I would support suicide bombings – which I clearly do not.

  4. Gerv, There was more than one story both online and on the radio (US listening to NPR) that the Palestinians wanted the settlments down. They surely want the synagogues down too. They do not want to have things handed to them, they want to create their own naion. They do not want the Israeli homes. As was pointed out, they are needed for other uses not the houses that the Israelis built with pools.

    If you can understand the above and the Palestinian authority has told that to the Israelis, then why not do them the favor and tear them down? Sure there were Israelis that are spiteful. Sure there is the element of a political need to not allow the settlers houses to not be reoccupied. But I think everyone had agreed that when the Palestinians moved into the regions that Israelis had seized would be a flattened land.

    I know that many are currently very suspicious of the Israeli actions (and I cannot blame people for that – they have earned little trust, especially announcing that they will never pull out of the West Bank and seizing more land there) but I really hope that this is a good first step towards peace. It shows that Israel can be moved towards momentous difficult choices. I hope that leads to the proper action in other seized land. I fear that the only thing it taught the Palestinians is if you apply enough pressure, Israel will crack and not that they are a peace partern. To me that is the fear and the sad thing in terms of the ordeal in Israel/Palestine this summer, not the destroyed houses that everyone wants down.

  5. Whatever spin that article puts on it, the plain fact is that the decision to demolish the houses but leave the public buildings standing was by mutual agreement at a summit meeting between Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas held last June. Your editorial characterization of the demolitions as “spiteful” is apparently based on an assumption that Israel acted unilaterally.

  6. Gaza strip is one of the most crowded location on earth. Colons mono-familiar houses were absolutely incompatible with palestinians needs so are going to be replaced.


  7. Why do people sometimes quote some passages from the Bible to try to prove a point, who the hell cares what the Bible says?

    Religion is primitive, so drop it.

    About the houses… The settlers didn’t want their property to go to the hands of the “enemy”. Some even came back to witness their house being destroyed, just to be sure the Palestinians don’t get it.

    You have to realize that the settlers are right-wing extremesits, so don’t be surprised.

    I pretty much agree with Simon here, and what pisses me off the most is that only Israel is being criticized… I bet you don’t have any blog posts about what the Palestinians are doing wrong.

    /me expects a reply of this sort: “Of course that we all condemn terrorism, but you can understand the Palestinians because of the state they’re in.”

    Believe me, they have been poor, and they will always be poor, with Gaza or without it. So how about commending Israel for the good things that it has done, instead of always complaining?

  8. Why do people sometimes quote some passages from the Bible to try to prove a point, who the hell cares what the Bible says?


    I pretty much agree with Simon here, and what pisses me off the most is that only Israel is being criticized…

    If you’d like me to email you a critical note next time there’s a Palestinian suicide bombing, let me know. The reason I mentioned Israel is because it’s that one particular thing which struck me. I’ll happily commend Israel for pulling out of Gaza.

    It’s interesting that often, when someone comments on an issue relating to the Israeli/Palestinian question, loads of people say “it’s not fair that you are criticising side A when not criticising side B”, rather than looking at the actions being commented upon. The word “smokescreen” springs to mind…

    Simon: if there was a unilateral agreement to demolish them, then I guess I have to change my view that it was spiteful. But it still seems a terrible waste, and I’m very surprised that the Palestinians agreed to it. Even if they didn’t want the houses, the building materials (bricks etc.) could have been reused.

  9. On the surface demolishing the beautiful communities the Israelis have built seems wasteful and -yes- spiteful. But as others have already pointed out, the decision wasn’t made in a vacuum. The greenhouses, for example, which are world-class and the Palestinians can use, were saved. The houses, built for comparatively affluent and smaller Israeli families, were of no use to the Palestinians, who tend to live in large family units (immediate and extended.)

  10. There is another incisive quote which you forgot:

    �From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.� � Karl Marx (1875)

    Some old aphorism about ends and means might also help you out.

  11. 1. What this bullshit have to do with mozilla. Had the mozilla foundation (or whatever it is being called now) become a political organization, and I should decide whether I use FF/TB according to my agreement with its views?

    2. It is always great fun to listen to the BBC reporting from Gaza and the west bank about the occupied palestinans, failing to mention that most of them are quite free (especially in Gaza) since the Oslo agreement of 92. It is good to know that the British still like the news with less complicated facts.

    3. It was a unilateral withdraw. No one prevented from the plestinians to negotiate and make it an agreed withdraw. Nether the less, there was an agreement with the plalestinian othoroties that israel will leave the greenhouses, while destroying the rest.

    4. It seems that the palestians themself don’t share your view, as they destroyed the synagoug which were left there, and could have been used by them.

    5. This post come in a day in which Tony Blair was 1 inch close to declare that the holocaust hadn’t happened and that the israelies kiilled milions of palestinians. I think that someone already had written about european hypocracy.

  12. Gerv, I’m going to try not to critize your writing, but truth be told, I really don’t think this is the place for it (discussing the Gaza pullout). Your blog is aggregated by both the Feedhouse at Mozillazine and at Planet Mozilla (which, to the best of my knowledge, is a subdomian of

    Gerv, you are a voice of the Mozilla community. Don’t let it get weighed down with potential political remarks that could potentially have a negative effect on the Mozilla Foundation/Corporation.

    I am not encouraging the censoring of Mozilla blogs. I am just suggesting a little common restraint when blogging.

    Gerv, please think of the effects this may have before you post.

  13. Way to miss the true injustice, Gerv. Jews are kicked out of their homes in the Promised Land, and you’re worried that some Islamo-Nazi terrorists aren’t awarded free homes, courtesy of the Jewish State?

    Let’s look at some verses relevant to the core issue.

    This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites: from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite (the territory of the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron�that of the Avvites) – Joshua 13:2-3

    This is the inheritance of the tribe of Judah, clan by clan: … Ashdod, its surrounding settlements and villages; and Gaza, its settlements and villages, as far as the Wadi of Egypt and the coastline of the Great Sea. – Joshua 15:20,47

    And for those Christians who think that the older testament is obsolete:

    To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child.” – Acts 7:2-5

    Ariel Sharon had the IDF condemn the Jewish homes in Gaza to prevent the residents from returning to them after the expulsion. Everything else is still there for the Muslims’ enjoyment: the electrical, sewage/plumbing, and telecommunications infrastructure, all the public buildings – schools, yeshivas, children’s nurseries, offices, community centers, factories, stores, gas stations, warehouses, shelters, and notably, 90% of the greenhouses. Don’t cry for the terrorists. They’ve won the Disengagement Jackpot, so don’t go “Boo hoo, Hamas and the PLO didn’t get 100% of their victims’ booty.” Where is your concern for the Jews who were forced out of those homes and are now refugees with no place to go? –whose close-knit communities were shattered and real estate and business assets given freely to the terrorists who attacked them daily? Where is your outrage over this injustice?

    Gerv, I know you to be a good person, but the European air has corrupted your senses.

  14. Relax people. Gerv made a mistake by not fully researching the issue. Without knowing the full details, it does seem rather perverted to destroy perfectly good homes.

    And it’s funny how the ignorant right-wingers reply with all their zeal. Yes, you know who you are. You convince noone by branding millions as “Islamo-Nazi terrorists” or labelling Gerv as a communist. Grow up kids.

  15. American: I hope no Christian would argue that the Old Testament was obsolete. I’m also disappointed by your quotation of that part of Stephen’s sermon. The ultimate point of the sermon, which all the historical examples support, is 7:51:

    You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers [about whom I’ve been talking for the last chapter]: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

    Stephen is not making a point about the Jewish homeland and the occupancy thereof, he is making a point about the unbelief of the Jews – much the same point as the part of Isaiah I quoted in the original post. Such out-of-context prooftexting seems to be the only way that “Christian” Zionists can justify being so partisan in a conflict where it’s clear to a neutral observer that there are serious faults on both sides.

    The New Testament makes it clear that those who follow Jesus are the spiritual children of Abraham, and the true heirs of that promise to him. Paul points this out in Romans 9, as part of his wider explanation about how God saves by grace and not by birth.

  16. frankly, we israelis stopped caring one bit about the well being of the palestinians, once they started exploding buses in our streets. the argument wether to destroy the houses or not was completely internal, without regard to what the palestinians want or need.

    another consideration was that many people felt it wasn’t moral, that terrorists who murdered men, women and children in the setlements will be able to live in their homes.

    and one note: the parliament makes laws, not operative decisions. the government deciced on the demolition.

  17. Tsahi: can you see how that attitude, when replicated in reverse on the Palestinian side, just leads to ever-increasing violence?

    You should also realise that all Palestinians are not the same – they don’t all support exploding Israeli buses. Grouping them together in your mind under that heading makes hating them easier, but it’s not a true reflection of the situation.