Let the Pope preside over Jerusalem
For the Jews, it belongs to the descendents of Isaac. For the Arabs (and most of the world’s Muslims) it belongs to the descendents of Ishmael. It is the most fought-over strip of land in the history of the world. Yet ‘an eye for an eye’ has become ‘an arm and a leg for an eye’, and the injustices are being compounded with injustices, and the human toll is becoming intolerable, if it were not already so.
There can be no political solution to this dispute until there is a theological solution. There will be no peace in the world until there is peace between the world’s religions.
Cranmer recently referred to four possible solutions (Plans A-D), and the hopelessness of each.
Well, His Grace has a cunning plan (which may be called ‘Plan E’).
Why not invite the most respected theologian on the planet to intervene?
Since the descendents of Isaac and those of Ishmael have not managed to come to an agreement over millennia of bloodshed and disputation, give the Pope Jerusalem, and he can govern it through a neutral administration, ensuring that both the Jews of Israel and the Muslims of Palestine obtain justice.
Yes, Cranmer knows this has been tried before, and there will be the inevitable echoes of the Crusades, but this time the Pope shall not send his legions to rape, murder and pillage, or to liberate (depending on one's point of view), but be invited by the governments of both Israel and Palestine.
He could travel intermittently to the region, ministering to the Jews, the Palestinians, the Syrians, Jordanians and Egyptians. He could skilfully craft his message to suit the sensitivities of their histories, geographies, ethnicities and theologies. He could assist in negotiating bilateral treaties between each of these states, concerning land, economics, rights and religion, and it would be incumbent upon each state to eradicate their respective anti-the-other groupings.
The Holy Land might then cease being the unholy mess that it is, and become a land flowing with milk and honey as was intended. The ‘People of the Book’ could share it, nicely.
The Isaac-Ishmael dispute most certainly has a theological solution, and it centres on the term ‘promised son’, which is used in the Torah, the New Testament and the Qur’an. Cranmer has a thesis, but this is a mere blog (albeit one of manifest intelligence and erudition), and the details of the theological nuances lie in a myriad of footnotes to which this medium is not conducive. But essentially all of these sacred texts agree that Abraham was promised a son, and that Isaac was that son (Gen 17:15-21; Heb 11:17; Js 2:21 cf. Surah 11:69-73, 37:112-113, 51:24-30), because he was conceived miraculously. It becomes more interesting when one considers that Ishmael (Isma’il) is never named in the Qur’an as the son Abraham offered to sacrifice. The references are, at best, ambiguous. Herein lies the beginning of a credible theological solution to an intractable political dilemma.
The Jew Jesus taught that our enemies are our neighbours and that neighbours should be loved. He also taught that we should do good to those who hate us, and turn the other cheek.
Cranmer doubts there will be many conversions on the road to Damascus; he is not deluded that transformation will be instant, but real transformation is internal, and this involves the changing of hearts, not the manipulation of minds.
Cranmer can think of no better solution to the Israel-Palestine problem than religio-political mediation. And it would be preferable to have a credible, theological heavyweight do this (His Holiness) than a superficial lightweight who knows little (Tony Blair). Pope Benedict XVI understands Islam for he is a studied theologian; Tony Blair understands Islam inasmuch as he has read the Penguin edition of the Qur’an and had talks with the MCB.
Then let the world hear the response of Iran and MPAC to the wisdom of His Holiness, and then we shall see a turning point in the propaganda war, and the light of truth of history and theology might even become self-evident.