I wondered, reading the “Letter From Gaza and the West Bank” (Correspondence, October), what the author would recommend as a suitable basis for peace negotiations, now so far advanced, other than dismantling the state of Israel. He takes a position that the Palestine Authority has not adopted.

As a Zionist for life, I was saddened by the essay, which, on the Jewish-Israeli side, could find good words only for an apostate from Judaism. And as a faithful practitioner of Judaism, I wondered why this American Protestant so off-handedly dismissed the claim upon the Land of Israel accorded to the People of Israel by Scripture. From Abraham forward, God leaves no doubt that the Land of Israel marks his covenant with the People of Israel—a covenant that Christianity, from Paul in Romans to the present Pope, has never denied.

        —Jacob Neusner
St. Petersburg, FL

Mr. Jenney Replies:

As Professor Neusner asserts, it is undeniable that the Hebrew Scriptures established a special relationship between the People of Israel and the Land of Israel. However, while a vast majority of Jews—both religious and apostate—have been partisans of Zionism, there has also been a minority, especially in Orthodox sectors, which has regarded the 20th-century Israeli nation-state as a blasphemy, a sham Israel set up by sham Messiahs like Ben-Gurion and company.

Regarding Paul’s Letter to the Romans, I find much evidence of the special relationship between God and the People of Israel, and of the affinity between Jews and Christian Gentiles. However, I fail to find any reference in Romans to the Land of Israel, let alone to the modern State of Israel. I suspect that Paul might have had a problem with the modern State of Israel, which was not founded by the person he regarded as the Messiah (i.e., Jesus of Nazareth). Even so, I am not ready to condemn the existence of the State of Israel on theological grounds. However, I will continue to decry the injustices visited upon the Palestinian people during the last 50 years, and the decrying of true injustice always has a theological component.

Further, I am not in favor of the utterly unrealistic idea of “dismantling the state of Israel.” Israel is here to stay. It has mostly made peace with its neighbors. It remains to be seen if it will make peace with the people of the occupied territories. Any peace settlement will require sacrifices from both sides. The Palestinians have made a great many sacrifices over the past half century. In 1947, they still had 93 percent of the land, the other seven percent having been settled by Zionists. Then the U.N. partition offered them 44 percent of the land. By the time the fighting ended in 1949, they had only 33 percent left. That was taken in 1967. If all goes well in the peace talks, they may end up with ten percent. The fact that Israelis continue to build settlements in the occupied territories makes me wonder how serious the Israeli government is about making sacrifices.

I’m sorry that Professor Neusner was saddened by my essay. I was saddened by what I saw in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.