Salaam alaikum. We pray that Palestinians may soon live in a genuine and lasting peace.

Are you allowed to read this? We are Christians, but not part of any religious organisation whatever, so we're not trying to get you to join anything.

So why are we writing to you?

Simply to tell you that the first rule of warfare is this: know your enemy.

It's simple enough - and you've got it wrong.

You're against the Israelis, and they aren't the enemy. That sounds stupid, doesn't it, when you're surrounded by hard-faced, well-armed, trained soldiers. When surreal gigantic armoured bulldozers cut a path through the pathetic slums you call refugee camps. When your women are humiliated by body-searches. When all that you and your parents have ever known is unhappiness, suffering, death.

And we have the insolence to say Israelis aren't the enemy? Yes. You've been set up by your political and religious leaders, by Arab nations. They are the real enemy and you've fallen for it.

Here's a question for you - if you haven't stopped reading this in anger. (And anger is one of the weapons you've been taught to use as a defence against thinking.) When did you - ever - check on the so-called facts that your leaders use to inspire your hatred? What have you ever questioned? What access are you allowed to verifiable information?

You've been given rhetoric, slogans, cliches. You've been tricked. You, your women, your children, are cannon-fodder for an Arab/Moslem agenda. And if you don't believe us, check it out. If you dare. If you can.

Meanwhile: think about this...

1. You have the right to be wrong.

Many people back the wrong horse, support the wrong cause, follow the wrong religion. It happens. Just don't assume that other folk ought to think the way you do.

Take Islam. You've been brought up in it. We haven't; Jews haven't. But there's something you need to know about Judaism and Christianity. (We're not talking about the oddities in the various divisions and denominations, just the straight foundations in the Old and New Testaments.) Know this: Judaism is a revelation from God that the Jews are His chosen people. (Okay, you don't believe it, but understand it, and understand the key word is 'revelation'.) That leaves everyone else out. Then came Jesus, and by his death and resurrection, (okay, you don't believe it, but understand it) non-Jews can have a revelation (that word again) that they get chosen as individuals.

Now, if you've actually read that last paragraph, you'll understand why Jews and Christians (mostly) don't become Moslems.

You see, we - Jews and Christians - have this revelation from God that we belong to Him. Then, some 600 years after Jesus, along comes Islam saying 'Okay, fellas, the rules have changed; all that stuff is cancelled. You've got to become Moslems'.

Excuse me? God isn't like that. And if He is, we'd all need some incredible further personal revelation before we'd reconsider.

Like we said - you were brought up in it. But if you think we're going to drop our faith just because you come up with something more recent - then, logically, you're going to change from Islam to whatever the next religious novelty is to hit the streets.

2. Jews aren't going to go away.

For a couple of thousand years they've done their best to live quietly in whatever land or society they found themselves.

Read history books - especially those written before 1948, before certain editors re-wrote them to trick you. No matter where Jews lived, persecution followed them. Organised Christianity massacred them, and struck medals to celebrate the fact. Islam massacred them, although occasionally, mercifully, treated Jews as 'Dhimmis' and, as long as they wore identifying clothing, paid special taxes and acted with sufficient humility, reluctantly tolerated their existence. Russia under the Czars had repeated pogroms against its Jewish population. So, when the Russian Revolution overthrew the Czars and brought in Communism, everyone relaxed - until Stalin's persecution of Jews showed nothing had changed. Then, in the urbane and limpid civilisation of Germany, democratically elected Hitler systematically massacred 5.5 million European Jews.

Can you wonder why Jews want their own state?

(And if, in passing, you say 'So do we', let us remind you that Moslem Arabs already have twenty or more states, some 500 times the size of Israel - yet those Arab rulers won't let you in. Odd, isn't it?)

3. Jerusalem and the land of Israel is central to Judaism.

Sure, we know what your answer is to that. But hang on a moment. We're explaining why Jews aren't going to go away.

The land of Israel was given to the Jews by God, and there's documentary evidence of that going back over 3000 years. That's sufficient reason for them to grit their teeth and dig in. But there's more. Jerusalem is the centre of their worship. And the Bible - from the time of Abraham to the final prophetic pages of Revelation, is focussed on Jerusalem. Like, some 764 times.

Now, get real, guys. The Koran doesn't even once mention Jerusalem. Not once. And any connection with the Holy City that Islam might claim is based on a certain interpretation of a dream (just a dream, please note, not a visit) that your prophet once had. And until the Jews formed the state of Israel, no Moslem felt strongly enough about Jerusalem to make it the capital of anything.

And in case you try and drag Christians into the argument by saying that Israel (and Jerusalem) is holy to us, too... Yes, it is. But we're not interested in grabbing Jewish real estate - we've too much respect for God and His people to do that.

(Speaking of respect for God: Arabs have lost all their wars against Israel so far. Even the 1947 attack, which should have been an Arab walkover. Doesn't that tell you anything?)

Okay, let's get to the statement that you've been set up.

4. You don't really have a genuine identity as 'Palestinians'.

Until 1948, everyone living in that general area - Jews, Arabs, Christians, Druze - were Palestinians. (Remember the Jewish newspaper: 'The Palestine Post'?) And it is a recorded fact of recent history that almost every Arab in that area was permitted to stay when the state of Israel was formed.

But the surrounding Arab nations told you to run, because they were going to destroy every living person in the land. They promised to annihilate the Jews, then let you claim the land as your own.

Unfortunately for you, your genocidal Arab brothers were soundly defeated. (Can you wonder that we think God fought for Israel?) And instead of your Arab brothers taking you into their lands and settling you in homes from which they had just booted out their Jewish citizens, they put you in miserable concrete boxes. Refugee camps.

And told you and your children that the nasty Jews had driven you from your land. Because they needed an excuse for their plan to drive the Jews out of Israel, preferably killing them in the process.

They needed an excuse, because the Western world is militarily strong, and wouldn't easily stand for unprovoked aggression by the Arab nations.

Unfortunately for you (that phrase again) Jews in the land of Israel have been efficient and industrious. You've seen them turn waste land into farms, into cities. Build schools, universities, hospitals. And a well-trained army.

That's unfortunate? Yes, because your Arab brothers hoped that the Israelis would indiscriminately bomb the hell out of you in a blood-bath that would force a mighty Arab jihad that would exterminate Jews in the Middle East once and for all.

But Israeli soldiers are trained. Yes, trained to kill. Is that so surprising? And also trained in restraint. You may scoff at that - after all, you are fed a diet of hatred; and daily confrontation with military force doesn't make for immediate affection. But there have been no instances of carpet-bombing, have there? (Unlike American warfare.) Many of your suicide bombings have met with zero response. And we have personally watched soldiers in an Israeli army jeep which was repeatedly attacked by rock-throwing Gaza youths, merely reply by firing into the air to scatter the young mob, because 'their lives were not in immediate danger'.

So what can your political and religious leaders do to inflame the situation? They don't want you being content to find work in Israel. They want to inflame you in a way that will make the Israelis go right over the top (an 'inordinate response' is the jargon), turn the media and world opinion against the Jews, and unite the Arab world in one bloody Armageddon. (The fact that you and your children would be the first to be slaughtered doesn't matter a damn to your kinsmen, does it.)

This is how they're doing it...

5. Your leaders have been grabbing the minds of your kids.

Turning them into little killers. We've seen your tv commercials where child actors, playing the role of so-called 'martyrs', call on youngsters to join them as suicide bombers. We've seen little girls singing how their 'blood will flow in the streets of Jerusalem'.

Your leaders don't like the way Palestinians can get free emergency hospital treatment in Israel. So they pack an ambulance with explosives, and complain to the media when a woman dies because of the delay at a checkpoint when the vehicle is searched.

Your leaders send young women into Israel to be suicide bombers. Then protest that females are 'humiliated' by their treatment at border posts.

Has it ever occurred to you that you've backed the biggest loser in history? You're fighting God's people. That's about as dumb as it gets. And you're uncritically swallowing the rhetoric of people who tell lies about clearly documented events, facts, statistics, who bully, intimidate the media...

In short, you support the 'Palestinian cause' because everyone else does. Yet the fact is, 'everyone else' doesn't. It's just that nobody speaks out. The 'spontaneous' demonstrations of solidarity in Gaza, the compulsory 'sympathetic' strikes by Arab merchants in Jerusalem, may reassure you that you are right. And we believe you have the right to be wrong.

But we've talked with Palestinians who find they get a better deal under the Israelis. Palestinians desperate to leave the Middle East because they don't want their children's flesh to be shredded as heroic martyrs, even although your leaders will give the family $US28,000 as a reward.

Just a thought. You may be comfortable with your religion. And we accept that you have the right to be wrong in that matter, as in other things. But how much of that religion is just the reassurance of being part of the crowd. Group-think. Togetherness. Hindus, Buddhists and Zoroastrians feel the same, remember...

Okay, you're locked into praying five times a day. Always the same prayers, though. Why not take time out to try and get to know God? Personally. Not through study. Not through good works. Through revelation. Just talk to Him.

Direct. Not secondhand. It could save your life, one day.

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George & Eileen Anderson, Whangarei, New Zealand

This may be freely copied and distributed as long as no changes or charges are made.

(The concept of writing this Open Letter came from something with a similar title by David White. We haven't managed to get in touch with him, but we give full credit to him for the idea and any borrowed phrases. However, his thoughts are his own and ours are ours; he and we are not responsible for each other's views.)

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