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No Biblical basis for Unconditional support of the Zionist State of Israel

A theme that runs right through both Old and New Testaments of the Bible is that the gracious promises of God are not there to inspire us to act with arrogance, considering ourselves to be more worthy of God’s favour than others once we have made the initial step of acknowledging the mercy of the Almighty or to endow us with a sense of entitlement that gives license to indulge ourselves in our own personal agendas regardless of who we hurt in the process. The words of John the Baptist should ring loudly in the ears of those who wave Israeli flags at evangelical gatherings:

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our Father”. For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham “(Luke 3:8).

Here John the Baptist is simply repeating a major theme of scripture, that is,  claims of unconditional favour and support by God for Jewish people simply on the basis of their lineage to Abraham are invalid. Simply being Abraham’s descendant does not give any Israelite an entitlement to God’s blessing and escape the ethical requirements of God’s covenental relationship with the Jewish people. This theme holds particularly to the concept of the promises of land to the Jewish people. In chapter 8 of the Gospel of John, Jesus confronts His fellow Jews who also believe they have a privileged position with God due to their status as Abraham’s descendants, but Jesus rebukes them as well.

Jewish territorial theology can either be a blessing (for those who understand that God’s promises require humility and patience in waiting upon the Lord), or a curse (as in the case of those who see those promises as a justification for selfishness and the brutal grasping of what they see as their own personal entitlement).

Christian Zionists see only the promises of God to give the land to Israel and ignore the ethical demands that are inextricably linked to those very promises. Hence they see no need to criticize the Zionists unethical pattern of acquiring more and more territory in Israel-Palestine. But scripture tells a completely different story. The prophets Isaiah, Micah and Ezekiel condemn the actions of those who use the promise of land to dispossess the Jewish or Gentile inhabitants of the land:

“Woe to you who join house to house, who add field to field, until their is room for no one but you and you are alone living in the midst of the land.” (Isa 5:8)

“Woe to you…who covet fields and seize them, houses and take them away, who oppress householder and house, people and inheritance” (Mic 2:1-3)

““You are to distribute the land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled 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 the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 47:22-23 )

A good case in point regarding the proper understanding of God’s gracious promises comes in the case of the birth of Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah that was promised to Abraham by God. As the story is told in the book of Genesis, Sarah was barren and Abraham had no heir and no one to pass on his name. Though in their nineties, God promised a son to the elderly couple but in verse after verse of the Old Testament scriptures we see how Abraham foolishly tried to grasp at this promise (even sleeping with his wife’s maidservant Hagar), causing no end of pain and misery to everyone in the process. But the promises of God can not be obtained by the selfish and greedy attempts of humanity but must be waited for with patience and faith. So too the promises with regards the land of Canaan. Just as Abraham could not force the promises for a son to become a reality, so the Jewish people can not take it into their own hands to take the land of Canaan for their own purposes. The land is not theirs, it is God’s land. They are His tenants (Lev 25:23)

In the book of Genesis we see Abraham willing (quite disturbingly to our modern minds) to give his only son to the Lord rather than disobey the Lord’s command even though the boy was promised to Abraham by that very same word. So too Israel’s connection to the land can only come when it is accompanied by obedience to God. Obedience to God’s ethical responsibilities in the land trumps mere possession of the territory itself.

The Christian Zionist position regarding the current Zionist state of Israel lacks the support of any rigorous Bible study. Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College states that with regard to Christian Zionism:

“No New Testament scholar has written in its defense. Its advocacy groups such as Christians United for Israel and Camera, are generally run by political activists. Its books come from the pens of popular television preachers or lobbyists. I have been invited to debate some of their leaders and find myself with people who have no training in theology. How can such a widespread movement in the Church be successful without a thoughtful theological undergirding?” (2010,  p. 123)

The Anglican Bible scholar N.T. Wright says of Christian Zionism that it is:

” the geographical equivalent of a soi-disant  ‘Christian’ apartheid, and ought to be rejected as such.” (1994,  p 53 – 77)

Christian Zionist theology cannot be taken seriously. To unconditionally support the Zionist state of Israel on some imagined Biblical grounds is pure heresy in both Christian and Jewish tradition.

References:

Burge, G. (2010). Jesus and the Land:  The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology. Baker Academics, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Wright, N.T. (1994). Jerusalem Past and Present in the Purposes of God. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Craig Nielsen

ACTION FOR PALESTINE


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The Samaritans

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well known parables of Jesus in the New Testament scriptures. The parable has for many years been used as a means to challenge the self righteous to understand the nature of the command, “love thy neighbour”. The searing challenge to our easy definitions of loving ones fellow human beings that comes from this parable is derived from the answer that Jesus gives to the question, “who is my neighbour?”.

The explanation of this parable takes place between the fervent “expert in the law” and Jesus, when he first asks Jesus how he may obtain eternal life. Jesus responds by asking the “expert” what the Law has to say about such matters. After answering correctly, Jesus further responds to the “expert” by telling him that if he does these things he will live. The scriptures reveal that the man, wanting to justify himself, then asked Jesus the question that we all would rather Jesus did not answer in the way he did. Rather than telling the man who his neighbour is, enabling the man to then seek out such people, bestowing a selfless gift of devotion to them so as to obtain eternal life, Jesus challenged the man to understand rather what it was to be somebody else’s neighbour, in a manner that ran counter to the prevailing prejudices of those days.

The title of the parable reveals the prejudice that lies behind the reality of this famous story told by Jesus in response to the questions of “an expert in the law”. The parable would be better described as, The Parable of the Samaritan. The inclusion of the term “good” reflects the innate prejudice that has been carried down the ages towards the people that have dwelled in the region of Samaria.

It has long been understood that the sting in the tail of Jesus’ parable is that the man described in the story that behaved as a neighbour to the man who had been robbed and beaten, was a Samaritan. Samaritans were despised by “pure blood” Jews and the feelings were mutual. Jesus deliberately chose a man in the story, to stand as an example of a real neighbour, from those people whom the Jewish audience would never have naturally considered to be “good”. The Samaritans lived in the northern, mountainous regions of what is known today as the West Bank. That region had previously been over-run by the Assyrians as they conquered the rebellious Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Assyrians had intermarried with the Israelites and the resulting “pollution of the descendants of Abraham” meant that the Samarians were looked down upon by self righteous Jews. The tale has further bite due to the fact that we are told that both a priest and a Levite (highly respected figures in the Jewish culture of the day) happened upon the man who had been robbed and left for dead but cared nothing for his plight. The Samaritan, however, takes pity on the man and deals with him as a true neighbour.

The deep offence that this parable would have had for the “expert in the law” could hardly be understated. The term “expert in the law” is used to signify all those who consider themselves to be justified in their hatred for certain types of people and hence justified in their non-neighbourly actions towards them. To portray one of those for whom the self righteous keep their most fervent prejudice, as being the real neighbour to the man, and pleasing to the Lord in the process, is the ultimate counter culture parable. God brings low the self righteous by lifting up those very ones for whom the self righteous justifiably point the finger of scorn. The prejudices of the self righteous (however well founded the “experts in the law” may think they are in having them) become a millstone around their necks. Jesus exposes their prejudices and treats them with incomparable disdain.

The intensity of the irony to this story has not waned over the centuries. Never more intense is that paradox in the very region of Samaria today. Samaria is inhabited today by what could only be called the most demonised people in the world. The daily violation of their rights to self determination in their place of birth, a right considered obligatory for everyone else in the world, goes on without a blink of an eye by the self righteous purveyors of power in the free world. So intense is the prejudice against them that any who openly deny them the right to determine their own future in the land they have inhabited for centuries, can do so with complete confidence that they are behaving in the Godliest fashion possible. To even contemplate doing otherwise would be proof positive to the peers of the righteous that the devil had deluded them into rebellion against God’s plan of salvation. Any hint of sympathy, let alone solidarity, for the Palestinian’s plight is deemed Satanic. Like a litmus test of ones devotion to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; if concern for Palestinian rights is detected, warning signals go up and a legion of pointed fingers and hysterical voices are raised as one to immediately denounce the evil doer amongst us!

Godly wisdom tells us that all Palestinians and their supporters are either terrorists or complicit with terrorism, just as all those who opposed Apartheid in South Africa were communists, long haired anti-establishment hippies and general undesirables. Solidarity with such evil doers is equivalent to being a terrorist sympathiser. To hint at even just a freeze on illegal settlement projects in the West Bank is ultimate proof that your heart is sided with the devil. Nothing could be more reasonable and plain. All suffering of the Palestinian people is brought on by themselves. They are the consummate case of a people who are their own worst enemies. They foolishly elect leaders who are the cheer leaders for genocide and hatred of God’s people, just as the Devil has always done throughout history. Palestinians are the enemies of God by their own choice despite Israel’s continued attempts at trying to make peace with them; the Jewish people bending over backwards, making concession after concession to them while the Jihadists spit in the face of reason and justice in their lust for Jewish blood! Such a people can never be given their rights til they prove themselves worthy by submitting to the will of God via His chosen people, the Zionists. Palestinians must relinquish their demonically inspired desire to have rights to self determination in the land that God has given to the Zionists as an unconditional possession in an eternal covenant. Injustice to Palestinians with regards to land rights in Eretz Yisrael is as contradictory a notion as one plus one equals three. All resistance to Zionism is illegitimate and equivalent to rebellion against God Himself. The United Nations vindication of Palestinian grievances is in opposition to God and has only been thwarted by the Christian nation of the U.S. There is no oppression of Palestinians by the State of Israel; only a democratic nation acting in fairness, compassion and justice towards a savage and uncivilised people that have hatred of Jews inbred in them.

The Zionist narrative of a heroic people, the survivors of the Holocaust, bravely creating a home for themselves in the land of their fore-fathers against the pitiless anti-Semitism of the Arab world is accepted as Gospel truth. The Palestinian story of their ethnic cleansing and dispossession, at the hands of the Zionists, from the land the Palestinians and their ancestors have lived in for many hundreds of years, despite the fact that Arabs played no part in the crimes of the Nazis, is silenced completely and any attempt to revive it is looked upon with suspicion of anti-Semitic motives. The easily verifiable truth that anti-Semitism was never a part of elite or popular Arab culture, as it was in Europe, has been kept hidden from the gaze of the general public. The good relationship that Jews and Palestinian Arabs enjoyed before the Zionist invasion, as well as the overwhelming religious Jewish resistance to Zionism, is likewise kept well hidden. The destruction of 25,000 Palestinian homes in Gaza and the West Bank is fully deserved and morally respectable in the eyes of the leaders of the world’s democracies. Only Palestinians commit acts of terror against the democratic nation of Israel (in no way provoked by the actions of the Israelis but clear evidence of the Palestinians innate lack of worth as a people and displaying to the world that the withholding of Palestinian so-called rights is entirely justified). The Zionist State only wishes to live in peace and defend its borders. Surrounded by hostile Arabs who have no other wish but to push the Jews into the sea, Israel has no choice but defend itself from terrorism.

The unholy alliance of Islam and the secular left is submitted as even further proof (as if any more were necessary) of the demonic origins of Palestinian Solidarity movements, ignoring the alliance of the religious Christian Right with a secular Zionism which as been at war with Orthodox Judaism for one hundred years. Palestinian Christians must understand that God loves Palestinians despite being silent (if not applauding) as Israeli bulldozers demolish their houses. This is the Gospel of God’s love to Palestinians. It is a Gospel that assuages the guilt of European anti-Semitism by placing it at the feet of a people not involved in the horrors of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

The profound challenge of this parable to treat one another with compassion finds its roots right at the very heart of the story of the Jewish people. The message of the Exodus was that Jews should be merciful to non-Jews in the land just as God had been merciful to the Jews while they where in slavery in Egypt. They were to resist the temptation to demonise those different from them even as the Egyptians had previously demonised the Hebrews during the time of their bondage in that land.

The interpretation of this parable by the great theologian, Karl Barth, gives even greater insight. Barth sees that the parable was meant to show the “expert in the law” that it was he that lay naked in the road; battered and helpless and that Jesus was the Samaritan that behaved as a brother to him. In effect the parable says that we can not be truly merciful unless we have first received mercy. How can the Zionists be merciful to their Palestinian brothers and sisters when in their eyes all the world hates the Jewish people with merciless hatred? The answer is that they must first abandon their view that the world is or has always been merciless to the Jewish people. Only then will they give up their “destructive entitlement” in the land promised by God, by mercy and grace, to the descendants of Abraham.

Who could be more demonised than these Palestinian Arabs? Perhaps only their current oppressors, some 65 years ago when the Jewish people were demonised by a nation from civilised, Christian Europe many hundreds of miles from Palestine. How would Jesus tell this parable (The Parable of the Good Palestinian Arab) to a Jewish audience in the Knesset today? Who would be more offended by it than the Zionists and their Christian sycophants? When Jesus came to the land of Palestine the first time, he ate with sinners, tax collectors and harlots. He spoke with gentile women, Samaritans and all those who incurred the wrath of the Godly. He nullified the prejudices against them with this great parable and validated their rights to fairness and justice; determined on the same basis as such things are determined for those who pour scorn on the very ones whom Jesus stood up for and scripture calls us to do, as Jesus did then, in our time in the land of Palestine.

Craig Nielsen

ACTION FOR PALESTINE

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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