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The other day I attended the wedding of some very dear friends of mine. The wedding ceremony was very moving as both the bride and groom asked those present to spend a moment in silence to remember those family and friends who would have dearly loved to have been present at the wedding but had sadly passed away, some in very tragic circumstances.
I couldn’t help but recall the following story from Orthodox Jewish History Professor, Yakov Rabkin’s book, A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism.
“On the very day that I was completing the French version of this book, a bride-to-be and her father, both observant Jews, where chatting in a quiet coffee house on the eve of the wedding. Suddenly, an explosion shattered their plans and dreams. In a fraction of a second, a Palestinian suicide bomber had claimed 15 lives. The following day, those who had been preparing to attend their wedding found themselves instead accompanying the bodies of the father and daughter to the cemetery. A passage from the prophet Amos rang out among the crowd that had gathered to honour the deceased: “And in that day – declares my Lord God – I will make the sun set at noon. I will darken the earth on a sunny day, I will turn your festivals into mourning and all your songs into dirges” (Amos 8:9-10) But unlike so many other funeral services for the victims of acts of terror, not a word of hatred or anger against Arabs could be heard. Instead, the spirit of meditation and introspection that mark the days preceding Jewish New Year pervaded the throng of mourners” (2006, p. 224).
I just couldn’t begin to imagine the response of the people at the wedding, many of them my friends, if anyone dared to harm Jessica or Mostyn (the bride and groom) on the eve of their wedding.
Jesus tells us to forgive and love our enemies and to pray and to do good to those who persecute us. Funnily enough the vast majority of Christians who demand that the Bible must be taken literally tend to balk at taking these types of passages literally when it comes to the actions of Palestinians.
This Orthodox Jewish family put many of us Christians to shame. It is Christians who are the custodians of the Gospel of Jesus, a Gospel of reconciliation, yet this Gospel has so often been perverted to justify racism, genocide and murder. Is it possible that Christian Zionists (or anyone else for that matter) can learn from this example?
This Jewish family chose to ponder why such things as these happen, looking first to themselves and their own conduct and the conduct of their country rather than letting loose with the same sort of hatred and racism that many on both sides have given themselves license to indulge in. Somehow for them, the ethical traditions of the Torah have taught them more about reconciliation than the New Testament has managed to teach many Christians.
Christian Zionists, from the most influential like John Hagee and Pat Robertson, to the most anonymous, like the many extreme Pentecostals that weekly protest in the CBD of my hometown, Adelaide, are eager to tell us that the Zionist State of Israel must be unconditionally supported by all. In fact, Pat Robertson has said that it is only when he finally decided to support the Israelis no matter what they chose to do, did his ministry start to increase, and, in fact, it only then began to explode in numbers and wealth. God loves those who love Israel and loving Israel means supporting the Zionist state no matter what it does.
I find this type of behaviour beyond comprehension. I fully support the cause of the Arabs of Palestine in their search for justice, equality and self determination yet I would never say that I unconditionally support them no matter how they choose to achieve their goals.
I do not support the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel; I do not support suicide bombings or aircraft hijackings. I don’t support anti-Semitism by Arabs or anyone else. I do not believe in Arabs (Muslim, Christian or secular) forcing their ideas on non-Arabs.
I would not support the destruction of villages and the ethnic cleansing, murder and land theft of Jews by Arabs or anyone else if it occurred.
I would not support the demolition of Jewish homes by Palestinians; I would not support a nation that gave nationality to Arabs but only citizenship to non-Arabs. I would not support the building of a wall that separated Jew from Jew in Israel. I would not support Palestinian only settlements in Israel that hog precious water resources for themselves while denying Jewish people decent drinking water.
I would not support the detention, without charge or trial, of Jewish people (children included) by Palestinians. I would not support an Arab nation that kept 93% of its land for sale to Arabs only.
Whether or not there are Arab countries that would, or in fact already do such things is a worthy argument but the issue is that as a human being, I could not support such actions.
My point is that the state of Israel already does do such things to Palestinians and Christian Zionists proudly support the State of Israel as it does them. We either reject injustice and inequality everywhere or we do not. Zionist Israel does not get a free pass from God on this. The truth is that the Bible clearly teaches that while God unconditionally loves the Jewish people; He does not unconditionally support them in their behaviour. This point is declared in scripture in so many places that listing them would fill page after page in this blog article.
The idea that being “the apple of God’s eye” means a license to commit ethnic cleansing and discrimination against non-Jews in Israel is correctly termed heresy.Scripture plainly teaches that Jewish occupation of the Holy Land is completely dependent on the Jews adherence to the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah. Ethical traditions that leave Zionist Israel in a place of moral bankruptcy.
Any group that openly supports the state of Israel in such behaviour could never be said to be a true friend of Israel. The truth is that it is just such groups that are the true anti-Semites.
Christian Zionism maintains that the current Zionist state of Israel’s creation in 1948 can only be truly understood as the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy. The state of Israel, according to their eschatology (theology of the end times), is an unambiguous portent of the imminent return of Christ and the final judgement of the world. With God’s final apocalyptic plans for the end of the world being played out before our very eyes, all Christians need to get on board with God’s agenda in the Middle East or face the consequences of being caught on the “wrong side” of the apocalypse.
A few comments about this belief need to be made to unpack where exactly Christian Zionism goes astray on this point.
First of all Christian Zionism states that the final return of Christ and judgement of the world cannot occur until the nation of Israel is restored from its demise in 130AD. This means that in periods of history before the creation of Israel in 1948, Christians could know that Christs return could not be imminent. The trouble is, once again, that two thousand years of Christian tradition does not affirm such a concept. The consensus of the Church over the last two millennia has been that no one can know the time of Christ’s return. When it comes it will be as “a thief in the night”. Christian Zionists do all they can to deny this obvious teaching of scripture but the plain teaching of the Bible is that we are to act as though Christ’s return can occur today, tomorrow or the day after. The concept that Christ’s return cannot occur until certain specific events (be they the restoration of Israel or anything else one thinks the Bible says) take place is simply not consistent with the teachings of the New Testament.
Christian Zionists give no reason as to why this attempt to recreate the nation of Israel is the one that they demand is prophesied in the Bible. Jews have attempted to return to the Holy Land on masse on other occasions in the last two thousand years. Why this attempt is any different to the others is not known. There is nothing in scripture that says that Jews may unsuccessfully try to return to the Holy Land a number of times before the final return. One could easily argue that the current attempt of Jewish people to return to Israel has been unsuccessful. After 60 years, greater Israel officially comprises about 78% of historic Palestine: only a fraction of the total land that God promised to Abraham, with 50% of Jewish people choosing not to return to Israel. And this when Israel is a regional super-power backed by the greatest military power the world has ever known, the U.S.
The idea of illegitimate Jewish occupation of the Holy land is unknown to Christian Zionists, betraying a major lack of understanding of both testaments of the Bible as well as Jewish tradition which has acknowledged the potential illegitimacy of Jewish occupation of the Holy Land ever since the famous oaths of the Rabbis, as recorded in the Talmud, in 130 AD.
Christian Zionists also demand that Christians must unconditionally support the current Zionist state of Israel lest God will punish them for even daring to speak against His chosen people. Christian Zionists believe that being God’s chosen nation gives the Israelis a license to break His covenantal conditions in just about any manner you can imagine. The only thing that a person can criticise Israel for is if Israel allows for equal rights or rights to self determination of Palestinians.
Anyone reading scripture can see for themselves the ridiculous nature of this idea. While God clearly promises to deliver the nation of Israel in times of trouble, He also equally promises to bring catastrophe (via other nations) to Israel if they continue to ignore the Law of Moses and the testimony of the prophets He sends. The scriptures are filled with criticism of Israel. This criticism comes both directly from God, from His prophets and from both Jews and non-Jews who have grievances with Israel because of the wrong that has been done to them. God promises to hear the cries of those oppressed by Israel regardless of whether they be Jew or gentile.
But it must be said that in the end it would not matter if the Christian Zionist claims about the state of Israel are true. Even if every claim they make in their eschatology could be proven to be true, it would not even remotely mean that the state of Israel should be unconditionally supported or that Palestinian rights to justice, equality and self determination can be ignored. Oppression of the poor and dispossessed is unjust and that is all one really needs to acknowledge and this fact should be the final word on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The Craziness that is Christian Zionism
While it seems obvious, to anyone who is educated about the origins of the Israel-Palestine issue, that the root cause of the conflict is essentially non-religious in nature, millions of Christians (the majority of whom live in the U.S.) believe that their particular interpretation of the Bible gives them the inside scoop as to what is really going on in the Middle East. Disagreement with this position by anyone is seen as evidence of rebellion against God, or at the very least, compromising God’s word. As such they simply ignore all attempts to rationally discuss the issue from any perspective other than their own narrow Biblical interpretation. They see that the integrity of their own walk with God, if not their eternal salvation, depends on never letting the lies of Satan that contradict their view of the Bible ever get a foot hold in their minds. In fact I greatly suspect that many Christian Zionists see that their resistance to listening to views of the conflict, other than their own, as evidence of their faithfulness to God. The more virulent they are in unconditionally defending the state of Israel (despite the cries of injustice even by fellow Christians) and ignoring any other considerations outside their Biblical narrative, the more they prove to themselves that they are indeed walking with God.
This mentality makes it extremely difficult to engage Christian Zionists and I often feel that trying to convince them to even consider other views is much like trying to deprogram members of a mad religious cult like that of Jim Jones in Guyana. But my own example forces me to believe that repudiating Christian Zionist thinking is not futile. As a former “card carrying” member of the religious right, I can testify to how reason and logic can win out over the toxic doctrines of extremist Christianity.
With this in mind I want to go through a number of the main points of weakness of the Christian Zionist position from not only a Biblical (scriptural) position but from an ethical position which non-Christians can grasp as well.
Perhaps the most important claim that Christian Zionists make is that the Bible teaches that Jewish people have an absolute entitlement to the land of Palestine simply by virtue of their Jewishness alone according to the promises of God to the patriarch Abraham. Jewish people own the land and have the right to possess it regardless of the cost to any previous inhabitants and do with it whatever they please. Given this fact, Christians should unconditionally support the Israeli state according to Christian Zionist dogma.
The falsity of this claim is so plainly stated in scripture that it simply beggars belief that anyone would believe it. Two thousand years of Jewish and Christian religious tradition have affirmed the completely conditional nature of Jewish occupation of the Holy Land. Leviticus 25:23 plainly tells us that the proper understanding of the relationship of the Jewish people to the land of Palestine is that God owns the land and the Jewish people are His tenants. Tenants do not own the land they occupy regardless of the fact that they may possess a lease with no time limit. Outside of the conditions of the tenancy agreement, the Jewish people’s occupation of the land is illegitimate. Strict conditions apply to their occupation of the land. Conditions that require them to conform to the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah. Ethical conditions that demand equal treatment for non-Jews living in the land with eviction and exile being the consequences of breaking these covenantal conditions. Nowhere in scripture does God refer to the Jewish people as co-owners of the land with Himself. He owns the land. The Jewish people’s role is one of tenants, not landlords.
Nearly equal in importance to the above claim is the role and understanding of Biblical prophecy as they believe it relates to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
For many Christians, biblical prophecy is about the specific prediction of future events. The ability to accurately predict future events is seen as evidence of the divine inspiration of the Bible and hence, for them, prophecy plays an important role in Christian apologetics. That is, the ability of the Bible to predict future events is an apologetic tool that can be used to help convince non-Christians of the divine inspiration of the Bible and the veracity of its message to repent, believe and be saved. Biblical understanding that views the role of the prophet as more of a social critic than a seer or a soothsayer undercut this apologetic nature of prophecy. As such, those who hold to the predictive understanding of prophecy consider the social critic view as a sell out and suspect cowardly, liberal and “godless” motives behind such a view. They suspect that those who reject the predictive future events view do so because today’s secularized society frowns upon alleged evidence of the supernatural and hence some Christians change their view because they do not want to incur the ridicule of today’s modern “scientific” worldview.
On top of this issue is the idea that those who understand the proper (predictive) interpretation of prophecy have “inside” knowledge that gives the individual a feeling of empowerment over those who are “disobedient” to God’s word in that they refuse to interpret the Bible properly. Those who interpret world events through predictive prophecy will have more insight than all the political and historical analysts put together ever will. This is an incredibly empowering view and, understandably, the average Christian finds it extremely satisfying and is unwillingly to let it go without a fight.
The unfortunate reality (for Christian Zionists) is that once again, two thousand years of Jewish and Christian religious tradition have given far more affirmation to the social critic view of prophecy than the specific future events view, and with good Biblical reason.
Another aspect of Christian Zionist understanding of prophecy has to do with how it creates ethical dilemmas for the believer which, in the end, betrays many of the prejudices of the Christian Zionist movement.
In ancient mythology, having the ability to know the future, and not being able to change it, was seen as a curse. The reason why is obvious. We can easily imagine how disturbing it would be to know that a loved one is about to die horribly when we can do nothing to stop it. Specific knowledge, particularly of negative future events, would lead to an attitude of fatalism and despair. Why try to make the world a better place if you know that it can never be? This is exactly the problem with Christian Zionism. On numerous occasions I have had Christian Zionists come up to me at protests and inform me that what I am doing is useless. The world is going to disappear down a dark void of horror and there is nothing anyone can do about it! Just preach the Gospel (i.e. terrify people with hellfire and damnation if they don’t support Israel) and leave it at that!
How they harmonise this attitude with the total lack of fatalism and despair evidenced by characters in the Bible like the Apostle Paul (Christ Himself telling us that “Blessed (rather than futile morons) be the peacemakers”) is hard to imagine. Christian Zionist attitudes encourage us to give up on the peace process in the Middle East. This ultimately entails giving up on people. A view the Bible, and Jesus, has no time for. When challenged about this negative attitude, apologists for Christian Zionism point to the reprobate nature of Arabs, and thereby descend into outright racism.
I greatly suspect that anyone who vigorously adopts and defends a theology whereby consideration of human rights and equality is trumped by the dictates of the predictions that accompany their particular interpretation of the Bible, never really had any great commitment to the concepts of equality and human rights in the first place. It is not surprising then that many conservative Christians of this type never have much to say about justice for indigenous peoples or the evils of colonialism.
Just these few points should send alarm bells to anyone considering the Christian Zionist position. Many others could be mentioned. A view of prophecy and eschatology that puts God’s care and concern for justice for all peoples on the back-burner and demonises certain groups has already put itself out of the running in the realm of Christian ideas.
I’m continually told by Christian Nationalists that the idea of separation of church and state is just some lie thought up by liberals. Those liberals! They are the reason everything in the U.S. goes wrong when it does. They are the reason why capitalism never gets the real chance it deserves to let the riches of the wealthy trickle down to the poor losers who never really deserve anything better anyway! I’ll never forget how a spokesperson for a right-wing Christian ministry assured me that the real enemy of the Palestinians were their liberal supporters.
I passionately believe that Jesus is God come in the flesh and the inspiration of the Bible. It may shock readers of this blog, but I’m not much of a Darwinist either, but none of that matters in the eyes of those who believe in Christian nationalism or support the Zionist state. Once you support things like indigenous rights to self determination or , God help me, think that there may be a better way than capitalism and that western imperialism is not justified by even one conversion to Christ, then all is lost. You are a GODLESS liberal and everything you stand for instantly becomes a lie.
After years of being bombarded with the counter narratives of the religious right, I finally decided that what my faith really is about is going out and showing the same mercy that was shown to me by God. That is, unmerited favour. If anyone else out there feels the same, then read the following article posted on the Mondoweiss website on the 22nd of October 2011.
Struggling for water in Gaza
Oct 22, 2011 07:14 am | Leila al-Najar and Ishraq Othman
The Beach camp “Al-shate” is located to the west of Gaza City. Small houses are crowded together with an unbearable smell springing from the wastewater running through the alleys. As volunteers in Youth for the Right of Water and Sanitation project (YRWS) we occasionally visit homes there randomly for our case study on water problems. Residents suffer enormously from serious water problems caused by the Israeli occupation which for years has undertaken exploiting and withdrawing all our pure water resources; groundwater, the Jordan River, the Gaza valley and Lake Tiberius. Thus, all aquifers start to run out and the problem of salty water is increasingly appearing in most houses in Gaza.
We visited the home of Haider Saed Abu-Jazya, a 51 year old carpenter and a father of 14 children whose family has a long miserable history with water. “We have been suffering from water shortage and unfair distribution for 10 years. It’s only available for two days a week beginning at midnight only to run out again in the morning. Along with the problem of polluted insufficient supply another problem has emerged, salty water” said Haider who looks older than his age.
The tone of Haider’s voice tells us he is extremely worried about his family’s life. He is likely to pass on the misery he inherited from his refugee parents to his children. “Can you drink a cup of tea melted with three spoons of salt? Absolutely you cannot” he stresses. He describes how salty and polluted water negatively affects his family. For this, he is obliged to buy a 500-liter gallon supply of water which costs 15 NIS 4 US dollars a day. Sometimes he borrows from a neighbor or friend to pay for it, other times his friends have no money to offer.
Not only is pure water used for drinking but also for ordinary daily use. Haider has a big family, yet he earns a low income to cover the simplest and most important needs of life like water which must be affordable to all people as a matter of human rights.
“A house without water as quiet as a desert”, he concludes.
Once, he ran out of water for two weeks in a row, so his wife couldn’t do the house chores like cooking, washing and laundering. Thus, they had to throw their dirty clothes away, which were not laundered for days and could not be used again.
How can a human being survive in such conditions?! How can not one be infected by diseases of salty water?
“The low quality of water causes allergies and red pimples arising on my children’s skin” his wife whispers.
WHAT TO DO?!
“All dwellers of the neighborhood gathered and headed to the municipality to complain about the water problems we all face, there were promises made but never fulfilled” he said.
Haider speaks on behalf of the Palestinian nation, hoping this voice will be heard all over the planet.
To those who read this article, imagine that you cannot get a drop of pure water while your baby is strongly crying because his milk is his only food.
Palestine suffers from severe lack of water and Gaza’s water in particular is going to run out by 2020. As long as the world commits absolute silence, Gaza will turn into a wasteland. Gaza needs your help, don’t hesitate to help our people.
With almost universal agreement (except for the Christian supporters of Zionism), the international community has come to realise that the continued construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is the real impediment to justice and peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Christian Zionists need to understand that the continued support (particularly the financial support) of the illegal settlements in the occupied territories constitutes a flagrant breach of God’s command that we be peace makers, not just peace lovers. The following post was published by Philip Weiss on the Mondoweiss website on October 14th 2011.
Fat lady sings — Israel announces new E J’lem neighborhod called Givat Hamatos
by Philip Weiss on October 14, 2011
Big news. Netanyahu claims yet another spoil from his political victory over Obama: Israel has approved another new settlement in occupied East Jerusalem, a new neighborhood of 2600 homes.
“Disastrous new plan to build new settlement in southeast Jerusalem is potential killer of peace agreement,” Ori Nir of Peace Now tweeted yesterday. Peace Now, which broke word of the Hebrew announcement of the deal, calls the plan, “a game changer that significantly changes the possible border between Israel and Palestine.”
The neighbourhood is called Givat Hamatos and will be situated in the chink of land between Gilo and Har Homa above Bethlehem.
From the NYT report on the announcement:
Reacting to the news, the chief Palestinian Authority negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who was in Paris with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying it proved “the Israeli government wants to destroy the peace process and the two-state solution.”
From the Peace Now report on the new settlement:
Unlike recent plans that caused controversy in Gilo and Pisgat Ze’ev which expanded the footprint of existing neighborhoods, the new plan creates an entirely new footprint of a new Israeli neighborhood in East Jerusalem…Parts of the plan for Palestinian construction? -there will probably be those in the Israeli government who will argue that the new neighborhood will not necessarily be only for Jews. Similar protestations were voiced in defense of the construction of the settlement of Har Homa, and eventually there wasn’t even one unit built for Palestinians in Har Homa.
While I do not believe that the roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict are to be found in religious issues, it seems clear now that religious extremists have entered the fray from all sides and have made the path to a just peace even more difficult. Whether it be Christian Nationalists in the U.S., Christian Zionists, Right wing Zionists, Radical Islamists or Ultra Orthodox religious Zionists, all these groups have done nothing for the cause of justice, peace, self determination, democracy and reconciliation. This is because all of these groups place a very low priority on these values and hence find it easy to turn religious values that esteem the ideas of compassion and mercy into dogmas where hatred becomes virtuous. The following article was posted on the Mondoweiss website on 8th October 2011.
Muslim and Christian cemeteries desecrated in Jaffa on eve of Yom Kippur
Oct 08, 2011 07:17 pm | annie
From the Facebook photo album “Extremist attack Muslim and Christian cemeteries in Jaffa”:
Images of assault by the Zionist extremists on the Islamic cemetery named “Al-kazachana”, and they also made a assault on the Christian Orthodox cemetery adjacent to it.
They left racist statements such as “Death to Arabs” and “Price Tag” on the graves and walls in addition to Smashing and vandalizing a number of gravestones.
While Haaretz opens its report on the desecration of Muslim and Christian graves in Jaffa with Prez Peres’s denouncement Yossi Gurvitz over @+972 hits all the right notes: “So what can be done? We can begin by closing down the hornet’s nest, the yeshiva in Yitzhar, and ban all its teachers and students from the West Bank.”
The fact that they boil over the Green Line is not accidental. These people, after all, are the disciples of Baruch Goldstein; if they had broader horizons, they could name Abu Musab Al Zarqawi as another mentor. Their whole purpose is ending this calmness. They want blood, fire and columns of smoke. When these will appear, they will lean back and say “we told you so.” Another point worth noting is the desecration of the Christian cemetery: Contrary to the myths, it proves that the hatred of mankind of Orthodox Judaism has little if anything to do with the current conflict with the Palestinians. It is the last in a long, under-reported attacks on Christian establishments in Israel.
One further wonders whether this escalation – how many more steps to the gates of hell? – is not a response, among others, to the arrest of a suspect in the burning of the mosque in Tuba Zangaria. Terror organizations often react in this way to the arrest of their members, and the whole logic of the “price tag” pogroms is to punish Palestinians for the actions of the security forces.
The guilt resides, as Tibi noted correctly, with the government of Israel. PM Netanyahu may denounce these pogroms, but he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth: He had no problem whatsoever sitting on the same platform with Dov Lior, possibly the worst of the inciting rabbis. Shmuel Elihau, the municipal rabbi of Safed, keeps drawing his government salary despite publishing illegal calls for denying apartments to Israeli Palestinians. This is the same Eliahu who openly and clearly refused to denounce the “price tag” pogroms. He is still in office. Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar – the one suspected of kidnapping and assault, not the one suspected of receiving bribes and inappropriately touching men – said this week that the burning of the mosque in Tuba Zangria “may have been a blood libel.” (Hebrew) It’s easy to imagine the uproar had, say, a Polish bishop said he opposed the burning of synagogues, but we should first ascertain this isn’t a blood libel against good Christians. Amar keeps his job as if nothing happened; we didn’t even had a proper public outcry. In short, the government of Israel looks, when trying to fight Jewish terrorism, like the Saudi government of a decade ago, facing the Salafist terrorists: It is a main source of funds to the terrorists, and they can only exist because the government’s armed forces support them.
The West Bank pogromchiks has made a mockery of the IDF’s legal obligation to protect the indigent population from them. Now they are trying to make it plain to Israeli Palestinians that they, too, will not be protected by the Zionist regime – and the latter know it’s not that the regime can’t, it’s that it won’t.
Read the entire article. Gurvitz is Tweeting (Hebrew) from a protest going on in Jaffa right now. “More than a hundred people, in my estimation.”
Some of the ideas that inspired me to create this blog, and write my book, come from the doctrines of Orthodox religious Jews who reject Zionism in the name of the Torah. The tradition in Orthodox Judaism that takes an anti-Zionist approach is not novel in our world, as is Zionism itself, but stretches back in time to the Oaths taken by the Rabbis, and recorded in the Talmud, around 130 AD according to Jewish tradition. The early advocates of Zionism found staunch resistance from the Orthodox community to say the least. Yosef Salmon tells us that;
It was the Zionist threat that offered the gravest danger, for it sought to rob the traditional community of its very birthright, both in the Diaspora and in Eretz Israel, the object of its messianic hopes. Zionism challenged all the aspects of traditional Judaism: in its proposal of a modern, national Jewish identity; in the subordination of traditional society to new life-styles; and in its attitude to religious concepts of Diaspora and redemption. The Zionist threat reached every Jewish community. It was unrelenting and uncompromising, and therefore it met with uncompromising opposition (cited in Rabkin, 2006, p. 2).
Israeli intellectual, Boaz Evron has stated:
“Zionism is indeed the negation of Judaism” (cited in Rabkin, 2006, p. 56).
Over the last six months, a number of Christian folk, both in support of this blog and against it, have made comments that challenge the more favourable view of Judaism that I hold to in this blog. According to them, Orthodox Judaism is ultimately guided by the Talmud, particularly the Babylonian Talmud, which they say, contains teachings that are reprehensible to all gentiles and Christians in particular. The Talmud’s teachings are held up as near satanic doctrines that all Christians should be made aware of. The Christians who have made these comments are sincere in their position and tell me that their conclusions have come from years of careful study. I have decided to post some comments made by one of the Rabbis of Neturei Karta, Rabbi Beck, concerning these claims about the Talmud. Jewish Rabbis are not naive to these criticisms in any way; having come across them on many occasions. If anyone would like to chase these comments up further, I would refer them to the Neturei Karta website, the link to them can be found under the Links heading down the left hand side of my blog.
I do not claim that criticism of the Talmud is always evidence of anti-Semitism (any more than I think criticism of the New Testament is necessarily evidence of Christaphobia) and I do not think it is so in the case of those fellow Christians who have commented on this blog. Nor do I claim to be an expert on this matter, but I do think the primary way to learn about Judaism is by first listening to its advocates directly.
An Orthodox Rabbi writes in defense of the Talmud.
When G-d gave us the Torah, He also gave us an explanation of its laws, to be transmitted orally from generation to generation. For example, the Torah prohibits work on the Sabbath, but does not say exactly what “work” means. G-d explained to Moses orally that it means carrying objects in the street, lighting fires, tying knots, slaughtering animals and so on. The Torah says to take the fruit of the goodly trees on Succoth, but does not say which fruit. Oral tradition explains that it is the ethrog or citron. If you think about it, most of the laws in the Torah are impossible to observe without more explanation.
These explanations were passed down from teacher to student for about 1500 years, until around the year 200 of the Common Era. At that time the Sages became afraid that the laws would be forgotten, and they decided to write them down. This written work was called the Mishnah, and is the backbone of the Talmud. Even this Mishnah was written in a concise style and left much room for oral explanation, which went on being passed down for another 300 years. At that time it was written down, again out of fear of being forgotten, as the Talmud. All of Jewish law today is based on the Talmud, and is kept by all observant Jews.
Countless passages in the Talmud, its commentaries and legal codes show the ideals of kindness and fairness to all of mankind aspired to and practiced by the Jewish people.
Unfortunately, some individuals in our time have accused the Talmud of advocating racism and unfair treatment of gentiles. They provide short quotations, invariably taken completely out of context, that seem to support their accusations.
In reply to these accusers, we can only remind people that the Talmud contains a vast amount of material; to cover it all takes the brightest scholars a lifetime of study. Although it does contain a small number of statements directed at gentiles, most of the Talmud consists of laws and sharply-stated ethical teachings directed at Jews. For every “anti-gentile” statement the critics can find, there are ten “anti-Jewish” statements. And just as the latter must be studied in context, so too the former.
One brief example: the Babylonian Talmud was written in Babylonia as its name indicates. Yet it contains the statement, “Whoever lives outside the Holy Land is as if he worshipped idols.”
The greatest proof that the Talmud does not advocate unfair treatment of gentiles is that ever since the Talmud was completed, the Jews who follow it have lived in exile among many gentile countries. In every place where they lived, they conducted their business affairs with the local gentiles with the utmost honesty and fairness.
Many of the quotations posted online by anti-Semites are half-true but are translated incorrectly or taken out of context. You can read a good refutation to most of these accusations at:
Below you will find quotations from the major codes of Talmudic law, exemplifying the Talmud’s positions on gentiles. The Code of Jewish Law, written about 500 years ago by a Palestinian rabbi named Rabbi Joseph Caro (1488-1575), is today the universally accepted codification of Talmudic law. Before that, the codes of Maimonides (1135-1204) were prevalent.
Jews are obligated to give charity to poor gentiles as well as poor Jews (Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah 251:1)
Jews must bury the dead of the gentiles, comfort their mourners and visit their sick. (Maimonides, Laws of Mourning 14:12)
The commandment of “visiting the sick” applies to sick gentiles as well as sick Jews. (Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah 335:9)
Anyone who steals even a minor amount violates the prohibition of [Leviticus 19:11] “You shall not steal” and is required to repay [the amount stolen] whether one steals from a Jew or a gentile. (Code of Jewish Law, Choshen Mishpat 348:2)
It is forbidden to rob or to cheat even a minor amount from either a Jew or a gentile. (Code of Jewish Law, Choshen Mishpat 359:1)
It is Biblically forbidden to steal even a minor amount; even a gentile – it is forbidden to steal from him or to cheat him. And if you stole from him or cheated him you must return the stolen money or object. (Maimonides, Laws of Stealing 1:2)
Maimonides of blessed memory wrote that if one lies in his measures and thereby overcharges even to an idolatrous gentile one violates a negative commandment and must return the money. Similarly, it is forbidden to mislead the gentiles in calculating prices as it says [Leviticus 25:50] “he shall make a reckoning with his purchaser” even if he is subjugated to your authority; even more so if the gentile is not subjugated to your authority, and it says [Deuteronomy 25:16] “For an abomination to the Lord, you G-d, are all who do this.” (Sefer HaChinuch, 259)
And similiarly, lies, tricks, subterfuges, cheatings, and circumventions of gentiles are forbidden. They said, “It is forbidden to deceive anyone, even an idolatrous gentile” and even more so when it can lead to the desecration of G-d’s name. For that is a great sin and imbues in a person bad traits. And regarding all these wicked actions, G-d explained that He will be disgusted with them and with those who perform them, as it says: (Deuteronomy 18:12) “For anyone who does these is an abomination of G-d.” (Maimonides, Commentary to the Mishnah, Keilim 12:7)
Returning Lost Objects
R. Chaninah told this story: Some rabbinic scholars bought one pile of wheat from some gentile soldiers. [The scholars] found in it a bundle of money and returned it to [the soldiers]. [The soldiers] said “Blessed is the G-d of the Jews.” (Jerusalem Talmud Bava Metzia 2:5 (7a))
Once, Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach bought a donkey from an Arab. His students went and found a precious stone hanging around [the donkey's] neck. Rabbi said to him [Proverbs 10:22] “It is the blessing of G-d that enriches.” R. Shimon ben Shetach said to him “I bought a donkey. I did not buy a precious stone.” He went and returned it to the Arab and the Arab said “Blessed is the G-d of Shimon ben Shetach.” (Midrash Devarim Rabbah 3:3)
R. Shmuel ben Sustrai went to Rome when the empress had lost her bracelet and he found it. A decree was proclaimed in the region that anyone who returned it within 30 days would be paid such and such; anyone who returned it after 30 days would be beheaded. He didn’t return it within 30 days but after 30 days. She said to him “Weren’t you in the region?” He replied “Yes.” She said to him “Didn’t you hear the proclamation?” He replied “Yes.” She said to him “What was it?” He replied “Whoever returns it within 30 days will receive such and such; whoever returns it after 30 days will be beheaded.” She said to him “And why didn’t you return it within 30 days?” He replied “So that you wouldn’t say that I did it because of fear of you; rather I did it out of fear of G-d.” She said to him “Blessed is the G-d of the Jews.” (Jerusalem Talmud Bava Metzia 2:5 (7a))
Talmud, Tractate Chullin 94a. Shmuel said: One may not deceive another person, even a non-Jew. This was not said explicitly by Shmuel, but was derived from the following story: Shmuel once crossed the river using a ferryboat. He told his servant to pay the ferryman. The servant gave the ferryman a non-kosher chicken, allowing the ferryman to assume that it was kosher.
The Talmudic commentator Rashi explains: Shmuel’s law explains why the Mishnah says that one may not give a non-Jew a piece of meat from which the sciatic nerve (forbidden to Jews) was not removed. The non-Jew might not notice this and may assume that the Jew is giving him valuable kosher meat. He will then feel gratitude toward the Jew, a gratitude based on a false premise.
This law is codified by Maimonides (Laws of Sale 18:3) and by the Code of Jewish Law (Choshen Mishpat 228:6).
In summary, Judaism exhorts Jews to give non-Jews fair treatment, and thereby to sanctify the name of G-d in the world by showing mankind that those who follow His laws are just and compassionate.
Rabbi E. Beck
Have you ever met people who are not Christians but sometimes act more “Christian” than most Christians?
For a number of years I have been in contact with the Rabbis of Neturei Karta. To say that they are an unusual bunch of fellas is bit of an understatement. Some might be repulsed by all “conservative” religious types, accusing them of sexism, intolerance, racism and who knows what else. In the case of the Rabbis of Neturei Karta, they cop far worse than this from the majority of Zionist Jews that I have come across. They are continually bombarded with accusations of the worse kind for any Jewish person. “Self hating Jew” and “Jews for Genocide” are common terms that are hurled at them indiscriminately. Yet while the criticism of Zionism that comes from the Rabbis of Neturei Karta is indeed very strong, I have never heard them reply to their critics with the same hatred and malice that is generally thrown at them. I have found them to be very gracious and embracing of all peoples; not setting themselves up as being in any place of privilege over non-Jews. They have treated me like a brother in the cause rather than some unclean gentile to be ignored at best. They do not instantly suspect me of anti-Semitism just for criticising the state of Israel but rather show respect for me and my faith.Their commitment to peace and justice puts me to shame. They walk the walk while most of us just talk the talk. From everything they have ever said to me, I believe, like Jeremiah and the prophets of old, they have a deep love for the Jewish people. While I obviously have disagreements about matters of faith with them, I can not help but admire their courage and resolve. I believe that rather than traitors to the cause of Jewish people, they are leaders in the fight against anti-Semitism. Judge for yourselves in the video at the site shown below.
On the eve of the decision to be made on Palestinian statehood, it is appropriate for Christians of all denominations to remind themselves of the real nature of the biblical mandate of God for the Jewish people with regards to the Land of Israel-Palestine.Please watch my video on the Biblical perspective of ownership of the land of Palestine and read the recent article by Stephen Sizer that he published on his blog.
God Bless Jews and Palestinians
Today the Palestinian Authority will submit a request to be recognised as a sovereign independent state with recognised borders. It has been a long time coming. Many will say, what matters is what God says not the UN and they will quote selective verses from the Hebrew Bible suggesting the promises God made to Abraham about the extent of the land is the exclusive inheritance of the Jewish people today. A simple reading of some key Hebrew passages shows this to be arrogant and presumptuous.
Contrary to popular assumption, the Scriptures repeatedly insist that the land belongs to God and that residence is always conditional. For example, God said to his people, “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23). In Ezekiel, it seems the Lord anticipated the reasoning of those who arrogantly claimed rights to the land because of the covenant originally made with Abraham.
“Son of man, the people living in those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land. But we are many; surely the land has been given to us as our possession.’ Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Since you eat meat with the blood still in it and look to your idols and shed blood, should you then possess the land? You rely on your sword, you do detestable things… Should you then possess the land?’ … I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end.’ (Ezekiel 33:24-26,28-29)
The Hebrew scriptures insist, residence was open to all God’s people on the basis of faith not race. When the people of God returned from exile in Babylon, they were given these instructions:
“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe a foreigner resides, there you are to give them their inheritance,” declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezekiel 47:21-23)
Indeed, the writer to Hebrews explains that the land was never their ultimate desire or inheritance any way. The land was only ever intended as a temporary residence until the coming of Jesus Christ. Our shared eternal inheritance is heavenly not earthly.
“By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God… All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth…. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own…. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one… These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:9-10; 13-16; 39-40)
The New Testament insists the promises God made to Abraham are fulfilled not in the Jewish people but in Jesus and those who acknowledge him.
“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:16, 28-29)
So may God bless Israelis and Palestinians committed to justice, peacemaking and reconciliation and may his curse be upon those who resort to racism and violence to satisfy their greed and achieve their political aims.
Posted by Stephen Sizer at 10:59