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The Heart of the Matter
Its seems patently obvious to me that colonialism is something that must be resisted, in practice and in theory, by anyone truly concerned with human rights and human dignity. The act of any nation entering into lands, not previously lived in by the peoples of those nations, and claiming them as their own and in the process dispossessing those who previously lived there, is obviously reprehensible. We know this by the simple fact that we would not like this being done to us. Rabbi Hillel (1st century BC) tells us that
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah.”
And Jesus reminds us that:
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
I can’t think of anyone who would not cry “injustice” if they were to be dispossessed from the land they had chosen to live in by people from another land.
Colonialism is not mere immigration. It is the act of taking for yourself that which is not yours. It is theft. It is an act of theft that verges on the act of murder as it places people’s very existence at risk.
While those who protest against asylum seekers coming to this country stir up fear in our community, they are very often the ones who say they cannot understand why some Aboriginals want to burn the Australian flag. They can’t understand why Aboriginals are upset over the history of land theft, dispossession and murder that they suffered at the hands of British colonialism. A history not properly acknowledged by vast numbers of Australians of non-Aboriginal heritage. These non-Aboriginal people would have no problem with the idea of burning the Japanese flag if Australia had been conquered and colonised by Japan during World War 2.
Apparently Aboriginal Australians should be thankful that they were colonised by the British rather than some “barbaric” nation.
Well, I guess a woman who gets raped by someone wearing a condom is possibly better off than a woman who has been raped by someone not “civilised” enough to use a prophylactic, but that is really not the point.
Some slave owners in America’s southern states did not abuse their slaves as others did but that is not the point either. The immorality and evil that slavery was and is, is not reduced by the fact that some slave owners were more humane than others.
Just imagine if an allegedly repentant rapist entreated his victim to forgive him and “get over it”, based on an argument that he deserves to be forgiven since he used a condom unlike other barbarians! One would be forgiven for thinking that this type of argument is not made in a true spirit of repentance and reconciliation.
As Christians, we recognise that the Gospel is a Gospel of reconciliation, not colonisation. If we seek reconciliation with others we will have no time for arguments like the ones used to justify British colonialism by non-Aboriginal Australians.
Christians recognise that God has reconciled us to Himself and hence we seek to live in reconciliation with others. This is the primary role of Christians in the world.
While others are first or even second, to go to or call for war, Christians should be the last, if ever, to do such things. When Christian Zionists are the first to call for war, we know that something is deeply wrong. If we have a theology that tells us that a certain people group are simply beyond reason and deserve nothing but destruction, we have entirely missed the very essence of the Gospel.
Christian Zionist dogma, proclaiming that Arabs, be they Muslim or otherwise, are in such a state of reprobation that we should not even attempt to try and see things from their perspective, is demonic heresy. Such mean spirited self righteousness betrays attitudes not inspired by the mercy of God to sinners.
And invoking images of the Nazis every time we speak of reconciliation with those who have deep grievances with the west is likewise dishonest and not in keeping with the Gospel of Christ.
Our mission as peace makers, not just peace lovers, is not abrogated by our eschatology. If it is, then our eschatology is wrong, not our mission of reconciliation. If the cause of reconciliation suffers the temporary setback of war, then we can only let this unfortunate occurrence inspire us to greater efforts in the future. Negativity and fatalism concerning the hope for a better future is not a fruit of the spirit.
Even many Christians, who are critical of the state of Israel, still go off on a tangent when discussing the rights of Palestinians and usually it concerns some idea about prophecy, the end times and the Zionist states roll in all of this.
My point is that such arguments are irrelevant when talking about our commitment to human rights, dignity and equality for Arabs and Jews. I would not remotely care if anyone could prove to me, beyond doubt, that the Zionist State of Israel is an unambiguous portent of the return of Christ. The belief that Israel is such a portent does not affect in the slightest whether or not we should be pursuing the cause of justice, peace, and equality for all in the Holy Land.
Jesus calls us to be ready for His return by ensuring that we are doing what we are called to upon his return. What we are called to do does not depend on how close we think we are to His return. Claims that Christs return is near should not affect our view of our neighbour and how we treat him. We would not want others to treat us poorly based on their understanding of prophecy or destiny and so we should not do that to them.
The Exile of the Jewish People and the Zionist state of Israel
Christian Zionists are quick to remind all who stand up for Palestinian rights to self determination in their land of birth, that the Jewish people own the land of Israel. The patently obvious fact that the Bible clearly teaches that Jewish occupation of the Holy Land is conditional upon their adherence to the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah, is ignored. Texts like Leviticus 25:23 …
“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.” (Lev 25:23)
are rarely if ever even considered. The Zionist government has, according to Christian Zionist dogma, the divine right to dispossess and ethnically cleanse Arabs in Israel-Palestine despite the fact that Zionism, as a secular ideology, repudiates the Torah and hence violates the divine mandate to treat non-Jews in the Holy Land with total equality with Jewish people.
Orthodox Judaism has taught for some three thousand years that exile of the Jewish people from the Holy Land occurs as a result of the sins of the Jewish people. Exile is therefore just as mandated by God as is entrance to the Land in the first place. The end of exile in scriptural references is always accompanied by a declaration by major prophets of God, telling the Jewish people that a return to the land is safe. The famous Oaths of the Talmud underline the fact that a return to the land by Jewish people not in accord with the desires of God is just as dangerous as disobedience while in the land.
Christian Zionism ignores the crucial question of whether or not the exile of the Jewish people is over. The mere fact of the existence of the state of Israel is not in any way or fashion confirmation that the exile is over. The very existence of the Oaths of the Talmud, tell us that from a Biblical perspective, Jewish people can occupy the land illegitimately. If such an illegitimate occupation was not even a possibility, then the Oaths taken forbidding such an occupation would be meaningless.
To get an Orthodox view of the concept of exile, I posted an article on the Mondoweiss website in which I talked about my understanding of this topic. An Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, Rabbi Beck, emailed me about my understanding of Jewish exile and gave some insights into the nature of the various attitudes that exist towards Zionism and Israel in today’s world.
“I saw your article. What you said that “Virtually every Orthodox Jew on earth agrees to the fact that the exile of the Jewish people has not ended. The exile is a spiritual problem and cannot be solved by nuclear arsenals or secular European colonialist ideologies” is absolutely true and I don’t see why any Jew had a problem with it. Every Orthodox Jew, even the Zionist settlers, fasts on Tisha B’av, the Jewish day of mourning for the Temple and the exile, which will be abolished when our redemption comes. Every Orthodox Jew recites the prayers that say, “Because of our sins we were exiled from our land.”
‘However, to say that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews are against Zionism would unfortunately not be the truth. The percentage is closer to 50%. Orthodox Jews are defined as Jews who believe that the Torah and Talmud are the word of G-d, are legally binding, and believe in the 13 Principles of Faith. The Zionists believe all of the above yet they are able to twist the meaning of the texts to suit their purpose. But they are Orthodox because they accept the authority of the same texts as we do, and therefore it is possible to convince an Orthodox Zionist that he is wrong by showing him the true meaning of the texts, whereas we could never convince a non-Orthodox Zionist because he doesn’t accept the authority of our proof texts.”
“One person commented on your article: “Orthodox look at Zionism in three ways (yes, this is an oversimplification); support of Eretz Yisrael, support for Medinat Yisrael, and anti-Zionism. Only a small fraction of Orthodox Jews are anti-Zionist. I know some graduates of Yeshivas that preach support of Medinat Yisrael and some that preach support of Eretz Yisrael. I don’t know which group is larger, but the anti-Zionists are tiny.”
“His mistake is that he separates the “support of Eretz Yisroel” (by which he presumably means the Haredim of the Yeshiva and Chassidic worlds, outside of the Satmar Chassidim) category from anti-Zionists. The idea of “support of Eretz Yisroel” is very vague, and it can mean many things. If the person supports the state but just wishes it were named Eretz Yisroel instead of Medinat Yisrael and wishes it had a more religious character, then that is nothing but religious Zionism. But most of the Yeshiva and Chassidic worlds don’t think that way. Rather, they recognize that Zionism is wrong and they believe the state has nothing whatsoever to do with redemption. They will go to visit Eretz Yisroel, the Holy Land, now just like they would visit it if it were ruled by any non-Jewish government. Their visiting or studying there does not constitute approval of the idea of a Jewish state. And if concern for the Jews of the Holy Land is what makes them “supporters of Eretz Yisroel” then anti-Zionists also support Eretz Yisroel. So there’s not much that separates them from the anti-Zionists, except for certain practical matters such as the question of whether it is hypocritical to accept funding from the Israeli government. “
Rabbi E. Beck
Later, Rabbi Beck added that…
“Even religious Zionists don’t claim the exile is completely over. They just say that their state is an early stage of the redemption. They admit that if a Jew has an important reason to be in other countries, for example if he is teaching other Jews, or if he has a source of income there but will not have in the Holy Land, then he can stay. That explains why there are still hundreds of thousands of religious Zionist Jews living outside the Zionist state.”
“You are correct, however, that half or more of the Orthodox population outside the Zionist state believes that the state has no connection whatsoever to redemption, and is simply one country among many where Jews live. These Jews, usually classified as Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox, do not attach any special importance to the state, do not say any prayers for it or fly its flag. Many of them actively oppose the state; others are unfortunately not educated about the Torah’s prohibition to have any state at all during exile, but they at least recognize that the exile is still in full force.”
Rabbi E. Beck
The Christian supporters of Israel need to understand that from a Biblical perspective, true friends of the Jewish people are the ones that take into account this aspect of the relationship of the Jewish people to the Holy Land. The following comments made by an Orthodox Jew from the True Torah Jews website is revealing…
“Supporting the true Israel, that is the Jewish people, is indeed a good thing. The state created in 1948 that bears the name “Israel” is not really Israel at all. It is a country founded by non-believing Jews who did not understand the historic destiny and belief system of the Jewish people. We Jews appreciate the friendship of gentiles like you. We stress, however, that if someone truly likes Jews, they will want to have Jews as neighbours, not encourage them to run off to the other side of the world to a place where their gentile neighbours do not appreciate their activities.”
Christian Zionists will climb every mountain and ford every stream to find one Arab that is pro-Zionist while closing their ears to the many thousands of Jewish people (religious, secular and even those who have converted to Christianity) who criticize Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. Ignoring the prophetic traditions of the Old Testament which call God’s people to cry out against injustice in Israel, they think that demonizing Arabs in Palestine is their Godly mission. How can anyone who reads the Bible come to any conclusion other than that God cares for the poor and the marginalised, be they Jew or Gentile? Christian theology teaches that all Christians should be able to identify themselves as at one time, “enemies of God”. You might think God’s mercy on Christians, who know what it is like to be out of favour with God, would inspire them to empathize and stand up for those who are despised as God’s enemies today! But…nothing doing!
The following article appeared on the Mondoweiss website as well as the Palestinian Chronicle.
Israel’s nightmare: Jew against Jew
Jan 13, 2012 11:30 am | Lillian Rosengarten
I have such a problem with Zionism today, some kind of distorted incarnation of what was once created from the ashes of the Holocaust to be a safe haven for Jews within a model of a secular nation state. I rage against attempts to blur the distinction between Zionist nationalism and Jewish religion. Of course some Jews are Zionists but I am a secular non-Zionist Jew who strongly believes in the separation of church and state for a country to be truly democratic.
From my view, nationalism in any form is dangerous. It means exceptionalism, an attitude of moral superiority, a hotbed for racism that is heightened by propaganda. Israelis in general do not know Palestinians. They are taught from an early age that all Palestinians are terrorists, that they hate Jews and want to drive them into the sea. This form of Islamophobia has spread through Europe and the US. This is the terrorism of fear. Israelis are taught Palestinians are dirty and they raise their children to be suicide bombers or to be used as human shields. Palestinians cease to be human and Israel behaves to its citizens and to tourists as if Palestinians do not exist. They have reduced them to sub-human monsters. It all sounds too familiar. Nothing about the caricature of Palestinian life is based on reality. It is a dirty myth used as a means to put an end to the Palestinian “problem.” Tragically, Israelis send their own children into the army to fight the “reviled unknown enemy” and this is considered patriotic. We know Jews have suffered and have been victims. Is it that mentality behind the wall Israel has built? Are they still “victims” of paranoia and fear? I say no! Yet, this is the justification for abominable actions perpetrated on their Palestinian neighbors and gives power to the idea of a Jewish State that belongs only to Jews. This is a dangerous road, as we know. Jews who love Israel must recognize that Jews can also do wrong and they must question and speak up against human rights abuses. The Jewish Community throughout the world but especially in the US and Europe, must distinguish the between secular Jew and Zionist Jew. This gives permission to stand up and say “No” and to debate the issues from a human rights perspective. To support the apartheid directives and the brutal forms of ethnic cleansing is to do an enormous disservice to Israel. To pretend Israel is a peace loving democracy is to be cajoled into a deception that pretends Israel is something it is not. Most important what has been done to the Palestinians by the Zionists in the name of Jews is false. What is being done to Palestinians by the Israeli Zionists will never be in my name as a Jew. To dissent is to rescue Democracy from death behind closed doors. (Molly Ivins) To dissent is not to be an anti-Semite.
I have evidence to exemplify a crucial component of Jew against Jew. As my readers most likely know, I along with six other elderly Jews set out to sail to Gaza. Human rights activists who believe in justice, we know that without justice, there can be no peace. Our mission was to show that we were Jews who did not support Zionist Israel’s agenda. In Gaza we were to be welcomed by a waiting crowd. We never made it but from the moment the IDF navy surrounded our little boat and kidnapped us to Ashdot, from the moment our beloved Yonatan Shapira, an Israeli refusnik who was tasered in the heart, from the moment I watched the Israeli navy in their scary uniforms with high boots and guns I wondered, how could Jews do this to Jews. We were not criminals, we were dissenters who speak out against Zionist Israeli policies. I was deported and cannot enter Israel for 10 years. To these soldiers, we were enemies of the state. For us, it was insanity, a state gone crazy, paranoia startlingly strong: a fear of it’s own destruction. A military state created by fear and desire for power where dissent is criminal. It is sickening, but torments me as well because I am ashamed of what Israel stands for.
When an American who runs for president states there is no such thing as Palestinians because there is no Palestine, one recognizes both racism and dishonesty. This talk was given to a Jewish audience. A pandering for votes and I suspect an enormous contempt for Israel and Jews. Lies such as this perpetuate man’s inhumanity to man and the failure to acknowledge some of the worst human rights abuses existing right in front of our noses. No, perhaps it was not meant as anti-Semitism but anti-Palestinian. What’s the difference? Hate is hate.
Nationalism has tainted the heart of Israel in its efforts to rid the country of people who also call Israel/Palestine their home. One must visit occupied Palestine and Gaza to see the truth of the deplorable crimes perpetrated on the hated neighbors. Tourists do not see outside the myth of Israel as a beautiful free democracy. Why is it anti-Semitic to shout against such abuses? If there were in Israel a separation of church and state, the boundaries that are now so blurred might be less likely to justify silencing dissenters on charges of anti-Semitism. Dissent against Israel is not anti-Semitic for it is not a statement against Jews. It is a statement against a nationalist Zionist movement that is guilty of gross human rights abuses. Incongruous as it sounds, it is the actions of the Zionist government against its Palestinian neighbors that has shaped a world response.. How can this not create anti-Jewish sentiments? What blindness prevails that propels Zionist Israel to detach itself from the humanity of Palestinians as people just like them? This is why it is so important to make a distinction between Jews and the rabid nationalism of the government of Israel. One must be awake to the painful intermarriage of religion and politics that has deepened the Israeli crisis and creates a distortion of who is a Jew. How can there be a democracy as Israel continues to hold Palestinians hostage in order to fulfill the fantasy of a Jewish State, a dream that explodes into a nightmare on the backs of the cruel occupation and murder of Palestinians?
Against a background of fragmentation, hate, violence and a police/military-run state, as Israel strives to become a Jewish majority, Charlie Rose in an interview with Ehud Barak asked, “Is a one state solution the worst thing that can happen to Israel?” Barak’s chilling response reinforces a profound failure for the hopes of Israel as a democratic state. “Israel has been established to become a Zionist Jewish state and to create a solid Jewish majority for generations.” It is Israel’s contempt and intolerance for other religions and cultures and the desire to be a “Jewish” state that is doomed to failure.
In Gaza, where I visited this past October, living conditions are a squalid hell. Hate, racist disregard to human life, harsh, brutalizing collective punishment aimed to destroy, not the lame excuse to target terrorists. What is destroyed is infrastructure required for a viable form of sustained life. What is destroyed are schools, power lines, waste facilities, water supplies, water purification systems, hospitals, homes, killing of families, killings and confiscation of the bare, sad little fishing boats used to catch a meager fish supply that may still inhabit the waste filled Mediterranean. Yet the Palestinians struggle on amazingly. It is something to see, their pride and hopes for freedom. They are a dignified people and to be witness to their suffering as well as the work they do for the Gazan population is beyond anything I have seen. Yet, it is not difficult to understand how brutalization invites hate. We can only guess how the children of Gaza who grow up amidst the endless violence, suffering, death and so much hopelessness, will grow up to despise the people (Jews) who are their enemy.
A Jewish state created through subjugation, occupation, collective punishment and humiliation of Palestinian neighbors, is not a democracy. This is not news. But these same people cry “Anti-Semitism” at the courageous ones who deplore Israel’s actions and dissent in any form it takes. I wish to reiterate, as I have written about many times about a government that has fallen into a black hole without the ability to reflect or empathize: Israel’s hard line has taken away its humanity and poetry. It is not healthy to occupy another country, for it violates the rights of individuals to be free, to live their own culture and religion with dignity. Israel’s poets must write of death for love cannot live in the presence of racism and apartheid. Listen before it is too late, for hate begets hate until there is no point of return.
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.”