Israel versus Palestine and The Bible’s Presence at the Heart of Western Culture

Yaacov Lozowick / יעקב לוזוביק‎
Yaacov Lozowick / יעקב לוזוביק‎

Historian Yaacov Lozowick, author of Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel’s Wars, offered on his blog, yesterday, the following rumination about the power of biblical stories:

… I noticed a fellow reading the sports section of today’s paper. The title of the story, splashed over half the width of the page, was “The Battle Between David and Goliath!!!”.

This immediacy of the Biblical stories, their automatic presence at the heart of Western culture, ensures that the Palestinian efforts to criminalize Israeli archeology won’t succeed. Or could they? …

Yaacov Lozowick - Right to exist
Yaacov Lozowick - Right to exist

The Bible certainly retains a powerful influence in Western culture. However, a powerful idea can sometimes be transformed in unexpected ways, even producing the opposite meaning or effects from its past meaning and effects. It all depends on the ever-developing concerns and structure of the society which reads those biblical stories. One of the worst U.S. Presidents in recent decades, Ronald Reagan was well immersed in the Bible and cited it often during his presidency. Yet even this B-movie-actor-cum-President could grasp that Israel’s resort to an unjustifiable use of force in 1982 – nullum ius ad bellum – could dramatically reverse public opinion:

In Washington, Ronald Reagan, by instinct a warm supporter of Israel, reflected that in the public perception, Israel had been transformed from the “David” to the “Goliath” of the Middle East.
– William E. Smith, “Crisis of Conscience”, Time Magazine, 4 October 1982.

The Bible is a powerful ideological tool in the West, but it’s one able to be wielded for quite opposite purposes. And that’s possibly a conclusion with which Yaacov Lozowick wouldn’t disagree…


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