25 November 2011

Strange bedfellows and reality

Read the whole article here: NY Times 
Pictured are Hamas and Fatah leaders, smiling, but are they really smiling?

The NY Times today published an in-depth article about the strife between Mahmoud Abbas (pictured on the right), Fatah leader since 2004, president of the Palestinian Authority and his rival, Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas. They met in Cairo, Egypt, agreeing to go ahead with elections in the Palestinian territories next year, even though they failed to resolve differences over an interim unity government to prepare for the vote. 

This is not a new reality. Hamas, the terrorist organization, supported by Syria and Iran, refuses three things: 1) to acknowledge the reality of the state of Israel, 2) to denounce violence in pursuit of its goals, and 3) to agree with past Palestinian-Israeli peace agreements. Those three conditions are required if there will ever be peace in the Middle East, and certainly if Hamas wants to be recognized as legitimate by the US, the UN, or the EU. 

Fatah, the party of Yasser Arafat, the former leader of the Palestinian Authority, and ever dressed in military garb, is not the gentlest in the conversation either. They control the West Bank. A bit of nomenclature: Its name is the reverse acronym of Harakat al-Tahrir al-Watani al-Falastini, meaning the 'Palestinian National Liberation Movement.' The name also means Conquest or Victory in Arabic.

In May this year, the rivals signed a historic reconciliation accord in Cairo, vowing common cause against Israeli occupation, a product of shifting regional power relations and disillusionment with American peace efforts. But how that plays out, and who leads the conversation in the next decade, that remains to be determined. Declarations are one thing, reality of living it out, that's quite another. The Times reported, "Israeli officials have withheld the transfer of about $100 million a month in taxes and customs duties that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians, in part waiting to see the outcome of the latest unity talks. Meanwhile, for Hamas, the Arab Spring has buoyed hopes of new opportunities for Islamist parties across the region."

So what is reality, as we have watched what they call "The Arab Spring?" Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and now Syria. What government will be there in a year, and what uprising will produce good and calm and happy citizens? The almost-nightly drama unfolds on our television sets as another country is riveted by unrest and hope for 'spring.' Spring, when everything comes to life and blooms. Spring when a man's thoughts turn to cricket and love. 

But the victory in Egypt was short-lived, and democracy is not an easy concept in which to live. It's easy to applaud, but hard to live.  

Hosni Mubarak was ousted after 18 days of demonstrations this year on 11 February. After 30 years in office (He took over after Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981.) Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak had resigned as president and transferred authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. But who will run the country is still in doubt. Just today CNN reports, "Kamal Ganzouri has agreed to become Egypt's prime minister and will form a new government, an Egyptian army spokesman said."
This development -- announced by Lt. Col. Amr Imam -- comes days after former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and his government quit en masse, and days before Monday's parliamentary elections that Egypt's military rulers vowed Thursday would go on despite ongoing unrest.

Apparently strange bedfellows don't always produce reality. WWII had Mussolini in bed with Hitler, and the result was madness and chaos and destruction. Although the phrase, "strange bedfellows" originally had to do with Shakespeare's character in The Tempest, shipwrecked Trinculo, the jester, who happens upon the fallen Caliban, a deformed native on an uncharted island. Trinculo takes the garment of Caliban, and lies with him, thus 'strange bedfellows.' However we take the phrase to mean a partnering of unusual pairs.  Charles Dudley Warner said, "Politics makes strange bedfellows" And by that he meant that opposing forces often have to agree on one item, even though they might be at great distance on others. (That said, Groucho Marx said, "Politics doesn't make strange bedfellows - marriage does.")

God wants to be in relationship with us. He finds us deformed on our native and uncharted islands of life, and takes our nature on Himself, exchanges His life for ours, and dies in our place. That's the message of the Crucifixion and of eternity. Reality may be remote to you just now, in Spring or Autumn, on Thanksgiving or late in celebrating the Festival of Lights, Deepavali.  But God's reality is worth all investigation. He loves you and wants you to know Him. He sent Jesus to die, to bring you back to Himself.  It's not strange, really; it's love.

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